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What? A Guy Can’t Cut A Deal?

Senator Rick Santorum is probably sorry one of his aides didn’t rush him off before the public had a chance to submit questions on the “Overtime” segment of the popular HBO “Real Time” political series from August 28th 2015, which takes place after the popular HBO cable series signs off. Americans want to know why Republicans are so upset about Obama’s recent diplomacy successes in Iran.

To those of you who are as tired of Reagan worship as I am, this might interest you. Let me try to capsulize a little American history for you here.

Near the end of the seventies, president Jimmy Carter was humiliated every night by Ted Koppel’s “Nightline” program, which started out every night with a countdown of how many days our second worst enemy – behind Russia – had held American hostages in that “terrorist” country. The American media still avoids touching on what Republican operatives did to gain political prominence during those times.

To make a long story short: Republicans made a secret deal to sell weapons to the “terrorists” in Iran so they could use them against our “friends” in Iraq, while at the same time, making Carter look weak by requiring Iran to detain our hostages until the very moment Reagan was sworn in. Cute. :(

That’s what Maher is alluding to in this video, which was not broadcast on his cable show. The lesson Democrats are supposed to learn, is that only Republicans can negotiate with “terrorists”. When THEY do it, it’s called a “deal”. Notice the, I got caught, look on Santorum’s face. He’ll be telling the same lie starting tomorrow.

Vote Republican. :(

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Utah State Reps Margaret Dayton and Mike Noel Join The Tin-foil Hat Brigade

According to a recent article:

Two Utah lawmakers on Tuesday speculated that federal environmental officials might have deliberately triggered the Colorado mine release that sent 3 million gallons of toxic sludge into a San Juan River tributary, and asked Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to investigate the possibility.

Yep.  They asked for that.

Utah’s Sen. Margaret Dayton (R) and Rep. Mike Noel (R) have no evidence for their claim — it’s more of a feeling, really — but the two have asked the state Attorney General Sean Reyes to investigate anyway.

Because we all know the absence of evidence is evidence of a conspiracy.

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Re-Organizing the Political Rules?

I won’t say I agree with every word, but Nancy LeTourneau’s article at the Washington Monthly, “President Obama on Power and Change”, is one of the better articles I’ve seen lately.  In it, LeTourneau describes President’s Obama’s approach to policy and political negotiations as “conciliatory rhetoric as a ruthless strategy.”

In the article, she quotes Mark Schmitt:

The reason the conservative power structure has been so dangerous, and is especially dangerous in opposition, is that it can operate almost entirely on bad faith. It thrives on protest, complaint, fear…One way to deal with that kind of bad-faith opposition is to draw the person in, treat them as if they were operating in good faith, and draw them into a conversation about how they actually would solve the problem. If they have nothing, it shows. And that’s not a tactic of bipartisan Washington idealists — it’s a hard-nosed tactic of community organizers, who are acutely aware of power and conflict.

Obama’s approach to negotiation has been to put something on the table and challenge his political opponents to respond. Republicans have repeatedly fallen into the trap of having nothing or having only proposals so extreme they were clearly not serious. In a world not distorted by a media entranced of the “both sides do it” narrative, this strategy could have yielded greater results. As LeTourneau describes it:

As the story was told to the American public, it came across as “Washington is gridlocked because both sides have dug in.” According to former Republican Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren, that is exactly what Republicans had in mind.

I’m not a fan of the “Barack Obama plays eleven dimensional chess” school of thought.  Instead, I like this explanation of his often seemingly timid approach.  He’s not doing politics as usual, instead he’s playing the game differently, he’s playing by a different set of rules. Arriving in a DC up-ended by the seemingly endless failures of the Bush administration, it was obvious something different had to happen.  Well it has been happening and the progress has been achingly slow, but it has been progress.

The question for me is – “Can we expand on the foundation that’s been laid?”

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Anchor Babies Are Back, Thanks to Trump

Anchor babySo-called “anchor babies” are now an issue in the Tea-GOP presidential primaries, with most candidates saying they would like to cancel the constitutional right of citizenship.

Since Donald Trump came out Sunday against birth right citizenship, Bobby Jindal and Lindsey Graham have followed suit. Scott Walker is also with Trump on this.

Chris Christie says we ought to “reexamine” the 14th Amendment. John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush says birth right citizenship is one of “like 10 things I would change in the Constitution.”

If the Tea-GOP prevails, the children of a disfavored class will be disqualified from citizenship – rejected by the land of their birth. Despite the fact that birthright citizenship has been part of our Constitution for nearly 150 years, no precedent is sacred to the Tea-GOP. For them, there is no such thing as settled law.

Of course, the anchor baby myth is pure fear mongering without basis in fact. Assuming anyone cares about facts. Children born to undocumented immigrants get deported all the time, along with their families – precisely what Trump proposes. Even though they are U.S. citizens, most are not entitled to come back to this country until they are 21 years of age.

What’s more, there would be a significant cost to “solving” the nonexistent anchor baby problem. The parents of every child born in this country would have to go through a lengthy and expensive individualized assessment of their child’s citizenship. The Center for American Progress points out that such assessments currently cost an average of $600, essentially a birth tax. The alternative would be legal limbo, without U.S. citizenship — or possibly having no citizenship in any nation.

More info:
Donald Trump Tells GOP To Jump On Immigration, Candidates Say ‘How High?’
Donald Trump’s First Policy Plan Is Even More Racist Than You Think It Is
Wikipedia: Anchor Baby

UPDATE:
To be fair, some Tea-GOP candidates don’t advocate taking away the right of citizenship to everyone born in the USA.

John Kasich has reversed his position, telling CNN earlier this month, “I think we need to get over that. I’m not for it anymore. Let these people who are born here be citizens and that’s the end of it. I don’t want to dwell on it.” Mike Huckabee also opposes changing the 14th Amendment.

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A Few Thoughts on Phil Lyman’s Saga

I haven’t paid much attention to the brouhaha about Phil Lyman and his saga.  He’s the in-law of an in-law, so beyond some family discussion along the lines of “oh his poor family”, I haven’t given it much thought.

Lyman knew his ride up the canyon was illegal.  He did it anyway. It wasn’t much of a protest. One might reasonably expect a county commissioner to have other avenues by which to make his case. Lyman may think of himself as someone in the grand tradition of Ghandi or MLK but he’s more like Cliven Bundy, i.e. not really the grand rebel he seems to believe he is.

He’s doing his best to confuse the issue (Judge Shelby knows someone in SUWA!).

He seems wildly unlikely to actually go to jail, unlike say real activist Tim DeChristopher.

Large chunks of Utah, like many other western states, is controlled by the Federal Government.  Rural Utah, like the rest of rural America, is struggling economically. If Lyman wants to bring attention to the problems of rural Utah, there were and are better ways.

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America’s New and Unstable Political System

Back in March, Tom Engelhardt posted this question: Is a New Political System Emerging in This Country?

He argued the emerging political system in the US has five primary characteristics.

  1. 1% Elections
  2. Privatization of the State
  3. The De-legitimization of Congress and the Presidency
  4. The Rise of the National Security State as the Fourth Branch of Government
  5. The Demobilization of the American People

Each of this characteristics represents a risk to the democratic process and state.  As part of his conclusion, Engelhardt observed:

In the meantime, let me be as clear as I can be about something that seems murky indeed: this period doesn’t represent a version, no matter how perverse or extreme, of politics as usual; nor is the 2016 campaign an election as usual; nor are we experiencing Washington as usual.  Put together our 1% elections, the privatization of our government, the de-legitimization of Congress and the presidency, as well as the empowerment of the national security state and the U.S. military, and add in the demobilization of the American public (in the name of protecting us from terrorism), and you have something like a new ballgame.

While significant planning has been involved in all of this, there may be no ruling pattern or design.  Much of it may be happening in a purely seat-of-the-pants fashion.  In response, there has been no urge to officially declare that something new is afoot, let alone convene a new constitutional convention.  Still, don’t for a second think that the American political system isn’t being rewritten on the run by interested parties in Congress, our present crop of billionaires, corporate interests, lobbyists, the Pentagon, and the officials of the national security state.

In the twilight of American empire, something very worrying is happening indeed.  The old system fell apart, the new one arose in an ad-hoc fashion, improvised fashion.  The problem, from where I stand, is that this new system is incredibly unstable.

Over the years, the US has had several iterations of governance and politics, called the various party systems, i.e. the First Party System and so on.  The New Deal Party system was forged in the 1930s and (depending on who you ask) lasted until the late 1960s or the early 1990s.  The New Deal Party System was incredibly powerful and stable for man years; I personally date its demise to the 1994 mid-terms when Republicans re-took control of Congress.  However, rather than a new system arising, we’ve been stuck in a long, grinding, and unproductive period of gridlock.

Some of the problem is that the US’s political architecture is inherently resistant to change – the US Constitutional government has so many veto points that change of any sort is a Herculean effort.  Republicans have too much invested in actively sabotaging government to seek any form of governance that might be productive and are left with nothing but obstruction.  Democratic politicians, by contrast, are in the odd position of fighting to maintain the advances achieved by the New Deal and Great Society programs.  The result is a bizarre inversion by which the party which seeks reform ends up defending the status quo while the conservative party has embraced irredentism and conservative identity politics.  Today’s Republicans are a radical, destructive force trying to roll back 100 years of policy.  We’re not living with anything like politics as usual or governance as usual.

The emerging political system is one of stumbling crisis to crisis with little or no governing philosophy or theory behind it, economic disequilibrium, and a growing and unhappy struggling populace.

At the end of the day, the American populace is unlikely to stay demobilized, which means they will be unlikely to accept the delegitimatization of the President and Congress and will demand the state be returned to the public.  Sustaining the emerging system requires economic disparity and inequality, and the continued valorization of the 1% and given that many of them seem to be grade A morons and buffoons, I fail to see how that happens.

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“Fatigue” or “Two Futures”

Ed Kilgore has a short and fascinating post at Washington Monthly today.  In it, he observes that following 2014, Republicans largely convinced themselves that the political landscape was tilting to the right.

A lot of Republicans came out of their 2014 landslide fully expecting to keep the party going right into the presidential cycle. There were a lot of reasons to doubt that optimism, from the change to a presidential cycle with less positive turnout patterns for the GOP, to the end of a six-year midterm dynamic that was sure to fade, to an improving economy.

Ed points to a Pew poll that shows the Republican party is viewed extremely negatively by Americans to suggest that the landscape is not favorable for Republicans.

He concludes by saying:

Any way you slice it, any thoughts by Republicans that the landscape is tilting in their direction in this cycle really come down to the fairly abstract notion of an electorate that thinks it’s time for a change after the Obama administration. If contrary to that notion this turns out to be a “two futures” election in which voters are simply comparing the two parties and their candidates, the landscape just isn’t tilting Right.

In essence, Republicans are counting on “Obama” fatigue but Democrats will try to make it a “two futures” campaign.  In 2008 and 2012, Democrats were very successful at the “two futures” approach.  I hope they repeat that success.

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Conservative Christians now Targeting Liberal Christians

Jack Jenkins offers an interesting observation – after a few, relatively quiet years, conservatives Christians are stepping up their attacks on liberal Christians.

Granted, conservative Christian denunciation of people who hold different beliefs than they do isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. Organizations such as the Institute on Religion and Democracy, which has spent years lobbying against LGBT equality from within several Christian denominations, have long sought the eradication of liberal theology. Right-leaning Catholics and evangelical Christian leaders such as Franklin Graham have repeatedly made sweeping claims as to what “Christians” believe, implying that people of faith who don’t share their views are not, in fact, Christians. What’s more, faith communities — conservative or otherwise — have lashed out at each other almost since their inception, so it’s not necessarily surprising that conservative Christians, having lost legal battles over LGBT issues, are now sliding into a theological debate with fellow believers.

Shrewdly, Jenkins follows up on this observation with:

Yet the newest push against liberal Christianity appears hypocritical, as it coincides with a massive campaign waged by various right-wing Christians to insist that the political left respect their “religious liberty” — namely, the right to deny jobs and services to LGBT people in the public sphere, private business, and in Christian schools by invoking faith.

The Religious Right in the US has spent decades trying to convince themselves and everyone else that they and they alone know what constitutes Christianity and they and they alone can speak for the Christian faith.  Liberal Christians are a problem for them because they are a public and often eloquent witness that a different kind of Christianity exists.

Of course, having lost the legal battles over marriage equality, the Religious Right is going to lash out.  And they will lash out at their insufficiently faithful brethren first.

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How Could They?

Why Don't They Ever Represent Me?

Why Don’t They Ever Represent Me?

A short rant about losing one of our most important freedoms, and about the only thing you can do to keep it. Good luck.

After all these years of Americans fighting for “internet neutrality”, against the corporations who want control of the internet, and finally winning an important ruling by the FCC recently, the corporations got the house of “representatives” to sneak language into a funding bill that would stop the FCC’s ability to carry out it’s own ruling.

This bipartisan effort brought Americans from every political party together in staggering numbers in a common cause to protect our freedom to be heard and participate in the course of our lives. The internet provides the most exciting innovative possibilities imaginable, by allowing everybody – not just corporations – the unfettered ability to create new ideas for our future and even our survival.

Our collective congress doesn’t seem to care if our country has an open internet as long as they secure a campaign donation, or maybe they’re just tired of not being able to control it more to their liking. There hasn’t been a peep about this from the congress or our media. I’m sure ABC, NBC, CBS, print media and the politicians liked it a lot better when they had complete control over public discourse before the internet. I don’t share that sentiment.

DO THIS! It’s designed to be super fast and super easy. It even dials the phone for you! Can’t possibly take more then a couple of minutes and it might even be therapeutic. No excuses for you, Bubba!

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“Confederate Madness”

At the Daily Beast, there is a thoughtful and insightful article talking about the Confederate flag as a pure representation of the logic of war.

There is, however, a thoughtful line that struck me powerfully. “The policy of the rabid secessionists had been to rule or ruin the federal government.”

That connected to an earlier article I read describing the tea party as a confederate party, summarizing:

The essence of the Confederate worldview is that the democratic process cannot legitimately change the established social order, and so all forms of legal and illegal resistance are justified when it tries.

That worldview is alive and well. During last fall’s government shutdown and threatened debt-ceiling crisis, historian Garry Wills wrote about our present-day Tea Partiers: “The presiding spirit of this neo-secessionism is a resistance to majority rule.”

Today’s conservatives aren’t fighting to preserver America, they’re fighting to recreate the Confederacy.  I’ve said it before – the essence of American conservatism is the fight to preserve the established social order against all comers. It’s long been that way.

To quote the article from the Daily Beast ” Southerners were growing ever more confident about their ability to defy the federal government and destroy national institutions that did not bend to their will, including the Democratic Party, which they had long dominated.” Replace “Southerners’ with “Conservatives” and and “Democratic Party” with “republican Party” and you have an apt description of how things stand today.

In 2004, following George W. Bush’s re-election, American conservatives were riding high – they had a dogmatic conservative president in George W. Bush, they controlled Congress, conservative policy was everywhere – then it all turned to disaster. Under Bush, a major American city was lost in the flood waters of hurricane Katrina. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan collapsed into disaster. The economy crashed and the hated federal government had to rescue “free enterprise” from the consequences of its own bad choices.

To add insult to injury, Barack Obama became president, and began pursuing progressive policies. The Obama administration has used diplomacy, not guns. They passed the first ever comprehensive healthcare reform bill.  They used government as an agent for good. The unhinged loathing of conservatives from Barack Obama is as much about his skin color as it is about his policies. He is doing what they simply cannot accept.

Do I believe we’re headed for another Civil War? No, I’m not so cynical as that. But we are flirting with a different kind of disaster – a collapse into dysfunction. Johan Galtung once predicted that the end of US empire would result in a period of fascism in the US. The tea partiers and their enablers in the republican party sound remarkably like fascists in their jingoistic nationalism, their dehumanizing of “the other”, their valorization of “the family” their mindless love of the military and love of violence.

For all his failings and shortcomings, I think we need to acknowledge that Barack Obama is a political genius. Despite controlling congress, the political right is weaker now than it was before and President Obama’s careful and sometimes maddeningly cautious politics are part of that. Obama’s approach has often allowed his political opponents to destroy themselves. We can learn something.

The Confederate welcomes open confrontation and conflict. They thrive on it and will do everything and anything to create it. It ultimately serves their cause better than careful negotiation and diplomacy precisely because those things represent change.

The Confederate sees a divinely ordained way things are supposed to be, and defends it at all costs. No process, no matter how orderly or democratic, can justify fundamental change.

When in the majority, Confederates protect the established order through democracy. If they are not in the majority, but have power, they protect it through the authority of law. If the law is against them, but they have social standing, they create shams of law, which are kept in place through the power of social disapproval. If disapproval is not enough, they keep the wrong people from claiming their legal rights by the threat of ostracism and economic retribution. If that is not intimidating enough, there are physical threats, then beatings and fires, and, if that fails, murder.

We have a nation divided – a conservative minority prepared to destroy it rather than accept change, a muddle majority open to change.

An article at The American Prospect, by Harold Meyerson, summarized the real divide in America as an economic one in which the Southern economic order of first no wage labor in the form of slavery and today as low wage labor through the suppression of unions, minimum wages and other forms of labor reform is driving the divide.  Meyers concludes ominously:

Barack Obama came to national prominence in 2004 hoping to bridge the divisions between blue states and red. Instead, these gulfs have deepened. Federal remedy is stymied; the public policies of the red and blue states are racing apart; and the fundamental divisions that turned one nation into two in 1861 loom larger today than they have in a very long time.

As I said before, I’m not so cynical that I believe we’re headed for another Civil War. The fears driving the Confederate Tea Partiers are driven by rapid change to a mutli-racial nation and by rapid economic and social change.  Social change is happening whether the tea partiers want it to or not.  The question facing us is whether or not they’ll engage with the rest of us in society or try to tear it apart if they don’t get their way.  Consider, as I write this, Donald Trump is leading in the GOP presidential race, I’m deeply worried.

8 Comments

Congress on Track for Another Government Shutdown

House Speaker John Boehner has refused to negotiate with Democrats on the federal budget, setting the conditions for another government shutdown at the end of September.

The House goes on vacation until after Labor Day at the end of the month. If no deal is in place, it will leave just three weeks to craft a budget compromise before funding for the government expires on Sept. 30.

Senate Democrats have promised to block passage of any budget bills that lock in sequestration cuts. Nothing has yet come to a vote in the Senate. President Obama has threatened to veto any such austerity budget bills.

Over in the House, the Tea-GOP has been unable to gather enough votes for the Interior-Environment appropriations bill (that includes crippling budget cuts to the EPA, would prohibit regulation of fracking or implementation of carbon emission standards for electric power plants, block new clean-water rules, and stop the government’s marine and coastal planning efforts to respond to climate change) because it contains an amendment allowing the confederate flag to be displayed in national parks. Speaker Boehner has placed a complete hold on appropriations bills until the impasse is resolved.

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War of Aggression Cancelled?

Cartoon bomb

If all goes well, the U.S. military won’t have to invade Iran on behalf of Israel after all. I recall there were times during the Bush administration when I thought we were just days away from another illegal war of aggression – a really big one against a country of 77 million people.

Some important points:

Really, this whole brouhaha isn’t about nuclear weapons at all. It’s about regime change. Or you could also say, it’s about punishing ordinary Iranians because their government doesn’t like Israel.

More info:
Iran Nuclear Deal: World Powers Reach Historic Agreement to Lift Sanctions
Confused About The Iran Deal? This Cartoon Bomb Will Help
“Treason”: Right-Wing Media Lament Historic Deal To Curb Iran’s Nuclear Program
Lindsay Graham: Iran Deal ‘Akin To Declaring War On Israel’

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