We interrupt your regularly scheduled media frenzy over yet another act of insane bloodlust, to bring you this tidbit from Charlie Brooker way back in 2009. Brooker, of course, is the Guardian’s media critic and he’s easily among the most pointed and entertaining in the English language. It’s worth sharing with others, so that they too might be able to defend themselves from the onslaught of bubble-headed asininity that always follows in the wake of these things.
My latest op-ed at Al Jazeera English is here. It begins like this:
NATO Summit Highlights Neo-con/Neo-liberal Overlap
More similar than different, both of America’s recent imperial ideologies have failed.
By Paul Rosenberg
As the general election phase of the American presidential election gets underway, the recent NATO summit serves as a potent reminder of just how little difference there ultimately is between the neo-con extremists who dominated US foreign policy under George W. Bush, and the neo-liberals who run just about everything in the Obama Administration.
Most notably, dozens of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans returned their medals in a mass action that recalled Operation Dewey Canyon III, in April, 1971, when more than a thousand members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War held five days of marches and demonstrations against the Vietnam War in Washington, DC, including a memorial service near the Tomb of the Unknown and a ceremony on the Capitol steps where more than 800 veterans returned their combat medals.
Sgt. Alejandro Villatoro introduced the other veterans at the NATO protests: “At this time, one by one, veterans of the wars of NATO will walk up on stage. They will tell us why they chose to return their medals to NATO. I urge you to honor them by listening to their stories. Nowhere else will you hear from so many who fought these wars about their journey from fighting a war to demanding peace. Some of us killed innocents. Some of us helped in continuing these wars from home. Some of us watched our friends die. Some of us are not here, because we took our own lives. We did not get the care promised to us by our government. All of us watched failed policies turn into bloodshed.”
To read the whole piece, click here.
Cross posted yesterday at Notes on a Theory.
Today, Up With Chris Hayes featured a good discussion of wrongful convictions and the death penalty. But Chris repeated a misleading claim about public opinion on the death penalty that highlights a larger problem. The claim was that Americans overwhelmingly support the death penalty, and therefore efforts to repeal the death penalty face a serious challenge in terms of changing people’s minds. Chris pointed to a poll showing that a solid majority of Americans said the death penalty was morally justified. More typically, people point to polls that ask simply if people support or oppose the death penalty.
Writing at New Economic Perspectives, Bill Black goes into inevitable territory during an election cycle, in which we are being asked to choose between two brands of “austerity”: The Democratic Version or The Republican one. He’s lays out the problem on very realistic ground and let’s us know who the greater enemy to our economy really is: The Democrats.
After this election is finally over, the Democrats are going to go full bore on Social Security and every other social program they can get their grubby hands on. Nancy Pelosi, openly (and ironically) supported by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, have already signaled their intent over the last few weeks. It’s just a shame we can’t have a debate on this before the election, when it might do more good.
So this piece is well-timed and very worthy of your attention. In my not-so-humble opinion:
To many people, it seems paradoxical that conservatives target not the worst social programs, but the best. There is no paradox. Bad government programs are desirable from the right’s perspective – they discredit government intervention. Good government programs pose an existential challenge to conservative memes, so they are the prime target for attack.
The attacks from the right, however, do not provide any guarantee of success. The right’s immense success has come from convincing large numbers of moderates and liberals to join the assault on successful government programs. The major financial deregulation bills that have shaped the criminogenic environments that produced the epidemics of accounting control fraud that have driven our recurrent, intensifying financial crises have enjoyed strong, even overwhelming, governmental support. The Garn-St Germain Act of 1982, the state S&L deregulation laws in Texas and California that “won” the regulatory “race to the bottom”, the “reinventing government” assault on financial regulation, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, and the Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000, all enjoyed broad bi-partisan support. Laws making it extremely difficult for victims of securities fraud to obtain civil remedies passed with such strong bipartisan support that supporters were able to override President Clinton’s veto.
Just as only a conservative Republican like Nixon could begin to normalize diplomatic relationships with China without bearing a crippling political price, only “liberal” Democrats can safely begin the process of attacking Social Security. The rationale for the liberal assault on Social Security is “there is no alternative” (TINA). TINA is a particularly nonsensical argument in this context, however, because we are trying to recover from a Great Recession. There are vastly superior alternatives to cutting Social Security benefits, which could force the economy back into recession. There is also no need to cut Social Security benefits. The funding required to meet fulfill our promises is modest (relative to the U.S. economy) and poses no threat to our economy.
The progressive austerians are all the more remarkable because the economists and economic theories they rely on were wholly discredited even before Europe’s suicidal experiment with austerity. The neoclassical and Austrian economists that push austerity were the same economists who (1) propounded the anti-regulatory policies that caused the global crisis, (2) the opponents of counter-cyclical fiscal policies who predicted that pro-cyclical U.S. fiscal policies would speed the U.S. recovery while counter-cyclical policies would fail to spur growth and would cause inflation, and (3) the deficit hawks who claimed that counter-cyclical U.S. monetary and fiscal policies would cause hyper-inflation. The predictions of the proponents of austerity have proven consistently wrong and the proponents of counter-cyclical fiscal policies have proven consistently correct. The predictions of the proponents of counter-cyclical fiscal policies proved correct as to both the direction and the magnitude of the economic recovery. We argued from the beginning that the stimulus package was far too small and that there would be a financial disaster among many states and localities absent a program of federal revenue sharing.
Please do read the whole thing. It’s worth every minute of your time.
From Huffington Post:
WASHINGTON — Facing political pressurefrom Republicans and farming groups, the White House has decided to scrap rules proposed last year that would have prevented minors from performing certain agricultural work deemed too dangerous for children.
The Labor Department announced the decision late Thursday, saying it was withdrawing the rules due to concern from the public over how they could affect family farms. “The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations,” the department said in a statement.
Just a few paragraphs below this remarkable quote, this very same story points out that actual family farms were exempt from these rules. It follows that parents passing along traditions have a rational self-interest in not seeing their kids’ legs cut off under a combine. Corporations, unfortunately, have no such interest… which is why these rules were sought in the first place.
I’m guessing this piece was hastily put together, since a little further down, Sarah Palin is quoted thusly: “If I Want America To Fail, I’d Ban Kids From Farm Work.”
It would seem then, that the Obama Administration and Sarah Palin see roughly eye-to-eye on the matter of exploiting child labor on factory farms. How can one call this “pressure” from the GOP when the two parties clearly agree on something?
Now perhaps I’m wrong about this, but the thought occurs that most parents (or even people who simply appreciate their own non-exploitive childhoods), would be aghast at what’s happening on factory farms. This could be a good issue to attack a party that wants to roll back all of our child labor laws and state so every chance they get.
This is just the latest example of why this election cycle is full of petty, personal attacks that amount to nothing… while real issues of import are almost completely ignored.
My latest Al Jazeera English Op-Ed is here. It begins as follows:
Tet Offensive echoes In Afghanistan attacks
The attacks in Afghanistan on April 15 were a faint echo of the Tet Offensive, and the message was strikingly similar.
As I first heard about coordinated attacks in the heart of Kabul and three other locations across Afghanistan last Sunday, my thoughts turned immediately to the Tet Offensive, the totally unexpected nationwide military offensive launched by South Vietnam’s Viet Minh guerrilla forces in 1968 that finally broke through the wall of denial in Washington DC, and convinced the American people that the Vietnam War could not be won.
The offensive was eventually turned back, and the forces who launched it were almost entirely wiped out – only to be replaced by a massive influx of North Vietnamese forces. Years later, American conservatives would rewrite what happened to make it a story of US military victory, turned into defeat by the hated – even traitorous – liberal media. But this US-centric view of things had nothing to do with the reality of Vietnam. The Vietnamese had been fighting outsiders for almost 2,000 years. Mostly they had fought the Chinese, then the French, then the Japanese, then the French again, and then the United States.
From a nationalist perspective – broadly shared, well beyond the communist’s base – major offensives like Tet, or the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in the spring of 1954, were a necessary part of their defensive wars against much more powerful foreign forces. But their real strength was their capacity simply to keep on fighting, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, however long it took, and whichever foreign power they were fighting against. A Tet or a Dien Bien Phu might succeed or fail militarily, but that was not really the point. The point was political: to force the foreign power to realise that the Vietnamese people would never stop fighting for their own self-determination, however many years – or generations – their struggle might take. Surely the descendents of Lexington, Concord and Valley Forge could understand this – if they only wanted to. If they only tried.
The same, of course, can be said of Afghanistan, long famous as the “graveyard of empires”.
Read the whole article here.
The sun is shining a wee bit brighter this morning, as the nation of Brazil has decided to defend their ocean ecosystem against the kind of rapacious corporate wankery that we Americans have come to see as perfectly normal in our own environs.
Via CommonDreams, it seems 17 Transocean and Chevron executives were prevented from leaving Brazil, so they could be charged with Crimes Against Nature. If convicted, they face upwards of 31 years in prison.
Eduardo Santos de Oliveira, the lead prosecutor for the case, toldReuters he was tired of oil companies escaping accountability, including large fines and jail time, for environmental crimes. ”We need to change the parameters,” he said. “If companies don’t listen to millions, we have to ask for billions.”
Oliveira accused the oilmen of creating a “contamination time bomb.” While the spill was not enormous compared to very large spills like Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, Oliveira says Chevron’s subsea oil reservoir was damaged by reckless drilling, raising the specter of future catastrophic leaks.
Brazilian authorities estimate that 2,400 barrels of crude were spilled, which led authorities to suspend all of Chevron’s drilling operations and to deny the company access to huge new offshore fields. Evidence shows that oil seapage continues near the drill site, furthering fears that the damage is much worse than first thought, and certainly more negatively impactful than Chevron and Transocean have argued.
For a mere 2,400 barrels of spillage, people face prison time and billions in reparations. Imagine that!
In the US, of course, spilling millions of barrels of crude into the oceans that give us sustenance, results in federal guarantees of future profits, tax cuts, bonuses and overt protection from future prosecution. This, of course, is only one of many reasons why our country is in decline. In the US, crime definitely pays.
Brazil, on the other hand, is a rising economy and in this case, it shows in a very positive fashion. It seems they have an interest in protecting that which they depend on for food. What a concept!
My new AJE op-ed is here. It begins as follows:
Mitt Romney, ‘Welfare Queen’
The private equity business model that Romney’s wealth is based on is founded on tax-payer subsidies, says the author.
Ever since Brown v. Board of Education, conservatives have been complaining about judges “legislating from the bench”. It was a brilliant strategy: “We’re not racists,” they could say. “There’s a matter of high principle involved here.” But it was not until 56 years later, with the Citizens United decision, and conservative justices ruling the roost, that we got to see what an earth-shattering example of legislating from the bench really looks like – and the Republican presidential primary is the number one surprise casualty. It’s just the sort of unintended consequence you’d expect in the absence of a thorough legislative fact-finding process, and the fine-tuning of final legislation. It’s not that the legislative process is flawless – far from it. But this sort of staggering bolt-from-blue consequence is precisely the sort of thing that the legislative process is intended to avoid, and that the judicial process is ill-equipped to anticipate. Oops!
So now the GOP has gotten a taste of their own medicine, with lurid, hyperbolic attack adds dominating the electoral process. And they do not like it, not one bit. Two deeply-flawed candidates have emerged as frontrunners in a process that has exacerbated and amplified those flaws a thousand fold. The tide may have finally turned, Mitt Romney may have finally learned how to punch back, and the tide of establishment money may have finally swamped Newt Gingrich for good as a serious threat – though he’s unlikely to quit. But even if Gingrich were to quit today, months and months of videotaped debates, press conferences, attack ads and various other vicious odds and ends are not just going to go away. They’ll be back when the general election campaign really heats up next fall.
More importantly, the Republican primary has unwittingly validated the Occupy movement in spades, laying the groundwork for a potentially very different sort of campaign environment not just in the fall, but starting right now. Mitt Romney’s limited tax-form release validates what we already knew: He’s not just a member of the 1 per cent, he’s in the 1 per cent of the 1 per cent – perfectly positioned to illustrate everything that’s wrong with the existing system. Seen through the lens of Romney’s own example, it’s not capitalism per se that’s the problem, but the dramatic shift away from a form of capitalism that benefited almost everyone to a form that only benefits a small handful. And it is Gingrich’s campaign that has forcefully made this point, on the stump, in debates and in the half-hour video, When Mitt Romney Came to Town, which starts off with a paen to capitalism as the source of the US’ strength before turning dark with its focus on Wall Street, leveraged buyouts and Romney’s Bain Capital in particular.
Although Gingrich attacks Romney for what he’s done to American workers, there’s an even deeper jujitsu criticism to be made of his business mode: Mitt Romney is a welfare queen. As we’ll see below, without the tax-breaks given to interest payment, the private equity business model would never have been born. Those tax-breaks are nothing but a taxpayer subsidy, paid for by everybody else picking up the slack for Mitt Romney and his crony corporate raiders. But let’s not spoil our appetites by starting with dessert.
To read the whole article, click here.
Fresh off one of the dumbest, emptiest State Of The Union addresses in recent memory––and that’s saying something, given the circumstances of the last couple decades––I couldn’t get the visage of Ronald “Jelly Beans” Reagan off of my mind. Maybe it was the sappy militarism. Maybe it was Obama aping the Reaganite Lincolnism about government doing as little as possible for human beings… but no more. In any case, this song from the Minutemen, also from the Age of Bonzo, came to mind:
From an Associated Press story today:
Just months after he was deployed to Iraq in 2008, a Marine veteran now suspected in the deaths of four homeless men in Southern California sent his family a short, upbeat video greeting.
The video, which was mostly in Spanish, showed Itzcoatl Ocampo wishing his father a happy Father’s Day and reading an excerpt from Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” to his then 10-year-old sister.
The former Marine’s 17-year-old brother, Mixcoatl Ocampo, recalled how happy his family members were when they got the video in the mail that summer. They all gathered around the television in the living room to watch Itzcoatl Ocampo, who appeared in fatigues and talked against the backdrop of an American flag.
“We hadn’t seen my brother since he got deployed,” he said. “Dad saw the video, and when he first saw it he was thrilled.”
According to friends and family, a much darker Ocampo returned home after he was discharged in 2010. His parents separated, and his father eventually became homeless.
Now, Ocampo’s family is left trying to reconcile the smiling, slightly nervous-sounding soldier in the video greeting friends and family with the blankly staring man in the police mug shot accused of murder.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. Tuesday to announce charges against Itzcoatl Ocampo. The 23-year-old is expected to be charged with four counts of murder in the serial killings of four homeless men since late December.
He was arrested Jan. 13 after a locally known homeless man, John Berry, 64, was stabbed to death outside an Anaheim fast-food restaurant. Bystanders gave chase, and police made the arrest. Ocampo is being held in isolation at the central jail in Santa Ana for his own safety because of the notoriety of the case, according to Lt. Hal Brotheim, a spokesman with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
And on my Facebook page today, I saw this link from a Martin Luther King speech that I’d forgotten, The Casualties of War in Vietnam:
I would like to speak to you candidly and forthrightly this afternoon about our present involvement in Vietnam. I have chosen as a subject, “The Casualties of the War in Vietnam.” We are all aware of the nightmarish physical casualties. We see them in our living rooms in all of their tragic dimensions on television screens, and we read about them on our subway and bus rides in daily newspaper accounts. We see the rice fields of a small Asian country being trampled at will and burned at whim. We see grief stricken mothers with crying babies clutched in their arms as they watch their little huts burst forth into flames. We see the fields and valleys of battle being painted with human blood. We see the broken bodies left prostrate in countless fields. We see young men being sent home half men, physically handicapped and mentally deranged. Most tragic of all is the casualty list among children. So many Vietnamese children have been mutilated and incinerated by napalm and by bombs. A war in which children are incinerated, in which American soldiers die in mounting numbers is a war that mutilates the conscience. These casualties are enough to cause all men to rise up with righteous indignation and oppose the very nature of this war.
But the physical casualties of the war in Vietnam are not alone catastrophes. The casualties of principles and values are equally disastrous and injurious. Indeed, they are ultimately more harmful because they are self perpetuating. If the casualties of principle are not healed, the physical casualties will continue to mount.
What Itzcoatl Ocampo did, apparently murdering four homeless men (he’s not been tried or convicted), clearly is wrong. But we as a society also bear culpability. Sending people off to war is not without predictable hazards. And those hazards extend beyond likely death and destruction of our soldiers and the civilians they encounter. The hazards also extend to those soldiers who return home.
To willfully damage people like Itzcoatl Ocampo, adding a burden to his family and community, for oil or payback in Iraq and whatever the reason was for Afghanistan, that’s profoundly immoral. It violates human decency and requires people be held accountable legally, especially in the case of Iraq which apparently was pursued with lies. To think Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush can retire, that we’ll all get over their stupidity or whatever motivated them, is to ignore people like Itzcoatl Ocampo and his (apparent) victims, the community they live in and Mr. Ocampo’s family.
The AP piece also includes these timely details, given the economic injustice in our country:
Ocampo’s father, 49-year-old Refugio Ocampo, said his son came back a changed man after serving in Iraq, expressing disillusionment and becoming ever darker as his family life frayed and he struggled to find his way as a civilian.
The father said he lost his job and home, and ended up living under a bridge before finding shelter in the cab of a broken-down big-rig he is helping repair.
Just days before his elder son’s arrest, Itzcoatl Ocampo came to visit his father, warning him of the danger of being on the streets and showing him a picture of one of the victims.
“He was very worried about me,” Refugio Ocampo told The Associated Press on Sunday. “I told him, ‘Don’t worry. I’m a survivor. Nothing will happen to me.’”
And this bit, which every person who hates illegals should be forced to read:
A neighbor who is a Vietnam veteran and the father both tried to push Itzcoatl to get treatment at a Veterans hospital, but he refused. Refugio Ocampo said he wanted his son to get psychological treatment as well.
“He started talking about stuff that didn’t make any sense, that the end of the world was going to happen,” he said.
While Refugio Ocampo lives away from his family, they remain close. He saw his children every day, and his wife brings food to the parking lot where the truck is located in the city of Fullerton.
Refugio Ocampo, who said he was educated as a lawyer in Mexico, immigrated with his wife and Itzcoatl in 1988 and became a U.S. citizen. He described building a successful life in which he became a warehouse manager and bought a home in Yorba Linda. In the past few years he lost his job, ran out of savings, lost his house and separated from his wife.
Standing near the truck where he sleeps, Refugio Ocampo fought back tears as he described the changes he saw in his son in the year since returning home.
Yet another American, playing by the rules, doing most everything right, loses everything and has nothing left but family. And a son who comes back from a war and apparently cannot handle what he experienced.
My son the other day asked me what this poem meant and it seems relevant in every era:
‘No Man is an Island’
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
We need more people like Dr. Martin Luther King, don’t you think? Our country would be, could be, a much better place for families like the Ocampos.
My latest Al Jazeera English op-ed has been published here. This is how it begins:
Enshrining the lies of the US’ 1%
What chance does truth have, if Americans cannot cast off lies that directly steal money from their own pockets?
Last week, in an act of profound deception, the American “fact-checking” organisation, PolitiFact, chose a true statement as its “Lie of the Year”. The pseudo-lie? “[House] Republicans voted to end Medicare”, as part of the GOP’s “Ryan Plan” last April. The reality? As the Wall Street Journal’s Naftali Bendavid wrote at the time, in a preview of the vote that Democrats would then cite to justify their claims:
The plan would essentially end Medicare, which now pays most of the healthcare bills for 48 million elderly and disabled Americans, as a programme that directly pays those bills. Mr Ryan and other conservatives say this is necessary because of the programme’s soaring costs.
There is a potential lie-of-the-year in that paragraph. It’s just not the one that PolitiFact thinks it found.
The real lie is the claim that Ryan’s plan “is necessary because of the programme’s soaring costs”. In fact, the problem isn’t Medicare per se, it’s the entire cost structure of American medicine as a whole, which is roughly twice the per capita cost of healthcare spending in other advanced countries – even those that have 50 per cent more people aged 65+than the US has.
The reason for that cost structure is non-competitive private oligopolies – insurance companies, drug companies, hospital chains, etc., – in sharp contrast to other countries with their government-run systems of various different kinds. There’s another name for these oligopolies -they are the cash cows of the one per cent. Paul Ryan is their man, and PolitiFact is part of their protection system.
You can read the whole op-ed here.
My latest AJE Op-Ed is here. It begins like this:
The dual failure of conservative policy and liberal politics
Politicians must ‘recognise and nurture a new sort of dialogue between two different ideologies’, author says.
Last week I wrote about Newt Gingrich’s incredibly destructive record and mindset. But as I wrote then, “If you want to know why the American political system can’t solve even most routine problems anymore, the reasons are larger than any one person”.
They are even larger than one party or one ideology. For the me-too-but-not-so-much style of “opposition” that the Democrats have increasingly practiced over the past 30 years is as problematic in its own way as Republican conservatism has been. After all, Wall Street deregulation was a bipartisan project, even though the Democratic base was ignored in the process. So, too, were NAFTA, the Iraq War, the no-strings TARP bailout, “No Child Left Behind”, and countless other initiatives that have chipped away at the New Deal legacy, the most successful governance system – or “political regime” – that the United States has ever known. The New Deal system took the US from the depths of the Great Depression to the pinnacle of world power while also giving birth to the largest middle class ever known in human history, and tearing down the legal barriers to full citizenship for women and minorities.
But conservatives saw this triumphant success as a nightmare that threatened the “natural order” of established privilege and power. Democratising opportunity and power, which liberals see as an unvarnished good, is deeply threatening to conservatives. With the legalisation of mass labour unions and collective bargaining in the 1930s, the democratisation of higher education and home-ownership in the 1940s, and the elimination of second-class citizenship for women and minorities in the 1950s and 60s, the US became a much freer and equal place to live than it had ever been before. This rapid expansion of “liberty and justice for all” resonated powerfully with the promise of the US as a liberal democracy.
Yet, this same promise and its progressive unfolding deeply scared and angered conservatives – and helped drive their activism. Backed by enormous private wealth, they set about organising a multi-generational movement to overthrow what the New Deal system created from the 1930s to the 1960s.
You can read the whole op-ed here.
Congress spared the 100-watt incandescent light bulb from a government-enforced phaseout in a win for Tea Party activists over manufacturers who said they are already switching to more energy-efficient products.
Lawmakers cleared legislation today to fund the government through Sept. 30, with a provision barring the Energy Department from carrying out the elimination of the pear-shaped bulb. Groups backing small government urged Republican allies to block the requirement, calling it an example of regulatory overreach in keeping with the health-care overhaul and the Wall Street bailout.
The federal standards limit the “freedom of average Americans” to buy whatever type of bulb they wanted, Representative Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican, said yesterday in an interview before the House voted 296-121 for the bill. The Senate voted 67-32 today and sent the legislation to President Barack Obama.
But here’s the interesting bit:
While business groups back Republican efforts to repeal or delay clean-air standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, light-bulb makers including General Electric Co. (GE) joined Democrats and environmentalists to defend the light- bulb law signed by President George W. Bush.
U.S. manufacturers invested millions of dollars updating factories to produce more efficient bulbs — including a halogen version with the incandescent model’s pear shape — according to Kyle Pitsor, vice president for government affairs with the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, whose members include Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE and Royal Philips Electronics NV (PHIA) of Amsterdam.
Other companies may exploit regulatory uncertainty and continue to sell the 100-watt bulbs, leaving manufacturers that comply at a disadvantage, Pitsor told reporters yesterday on a conference call with organizations that support the efficiency standard. He didn’t name those companies.
The provision creates “confusion in the market for every American who is interested in securing their own energy savings for their families and their communities,” Philips said in an e-mailed statement.
One more case where Republicans and their subsidiary, the Tea Party™, refuse to acknowledge the existence of the public interest. It’s apparently okay for every individual to do whatever they want no matter the cost to our larger society. We have no right to intervene in sensible ways to avoid predictable bad outcomes like climate change. Presumably they draw the line at murder. And clearly they don’t draw the line at Wall Street criminality. This also is a case where harnessing the selfish economic interests of companies like GE can be put to good use. The difference between a politics of selfishness and a politics of public interest could not be more stark, even on such a small issue.
And I hate these new bulbs, waiting 5-10 minutes for them to fully light. But I’m happy to put up with it if doing so helps achieve a larger goal.
Talking Points Memo highlights the National Review‘s Newt-bashing issue, and asks, “[W]ill rank and file Gingrich supporters accept the increasingly loud message from party elites that he’s a disaster? Or will they just resent it?”
A further question might well be, “If they DO derail Newt’s nomination, will this fuel enough resentment to undermine Romney in November and otherwise further deepen the GOPs internal conflicts?” Maybe even push them to the breaking point?
The big problem behind Newt’s surge is that it’s not just about Newt. Yes, Newt’s a problematic individual, so be sure, as my recent AJE op-ed argued. But he’s also quite integral to the conservative movement’s successes as well as failures.
The common conservative approach is simply to ditch anyone who becomes an embarassment (ahem! George W. Bush) and take up the line that they’re not a “true conservative”. So ditching Newt would be totally in keeping with conservative tradition. But the problem is, conservatives STILL haven’t figured out how to reinvent themselves after Bush. Being anti-Obama is the most unifying theme they’ve got.
Yes, they’ve tried that whole “constitutional conservative thing”, but beyond wearing silly hats, and confusing the US Constitution with the Confederate one, what more is there? That may be enough to win the House in an off-year election with unemployment through the roof, but that’s REALLY not saying a lot. And if the M$M weren’t so much in the tank, it would be painfully obvious how little the conservatives have going for them… even with Obama doing everything conceivable to keep them in the game, so that he can pull off his beloved “grand bargain” going-out-of-business sale.
This is why Newt appeals. There ISN’T any more substance left to be added to the mix. It’s all been discredited by reality, with it’s well-known liberal bias. But Newt with his spectacular bombast can keep this reality at bay MUCH better than any other “credible candidate” can. You take that away, and you face the very real risk that the entire conservative ediface may start to crumble back into its constituent parts–the Wall Streeters, nakeder than ever, the religious right, more reconstructionist than ever, and the Paulite libertarians with their insatiable thirst for the 19th Century… without, of course, the publically underwritten canals, railroads, Louisana Purchase, Homestead Act, Morril Land Grant College Act, and, oh year, THE CIVIL WAR, etc. that made it, however flawed, a century of dramatic, if erratic economic progress.
Yes, the right has TONS of money to paper over all of this. But that’s all it is… PAPERING OVER. Without Obama hatred to unify them, they’de have so little they’d be on the brink of tearing each other apart. Newt may be a crazy-quilt sociopath, but he’s THEIR crazy-quilt sociopath. And as of right now, crazy-quilt sociopathy is all they’ve got left. Toss that out, and they’ve got nothing.
p.s. Which just may be enough to get by, thanks to the neo-lib losers running the Democratic Party.
My latest Al Jazeera op-ed is here. It begins like this:
Newt Gingrich’s ‘Heart of Darkness’
Behind the smokescreen, Gingrich’s true accomplishment is being a master of propaganda.
I last wrote about Newt Gingrich in May – “Newt Gingrich, Eternal Victim”- as his presidential campaign exploded onto the scene and imploded on arrival. Now, amazingly, Newt is back – not just back, but back on top. Whether or not Newt ends up as the GOP nominee, his resurgence makes him once again a key figure for understanding today’s GOP, American conservatism, and American politics in general.
The picture that emerges is not a pretty one – even for those nominally on the same side as him. He was a disastrous leader as Speaker of the House – deposed by his own allies just shy of serving two terms – and the GOP establishment can’t put their faith in him. In fact, GOP pundits are “freaking out” as Gawker put it in their quote roundup, which featured David Brooks saying, “As nearly everyone who has ever worked with him knows, he would severely damage conservatism and the Republican Party if nominated”. Peggy Noonan also chimed in: “He is a human hand grenade who walks around with his hand on the pin, saying, ‘Watch this!’”
Of course, these are voices of the GOP establishment, whom Tea Partiers tend to hate. But Newt’s lucrative Washington insider career doesn’t jive at all with the Tea Party’s official anti-Washington narrative. By all rights, they ought to despise him as well. If he winds up being their man, nothing they claim to stand for can be taken seriously.
But deep as those failings may be, Newt has been far, far worse for the United States as a whole. He has played a key role in making American politics much more nasty, polarised and dysfunctional. If you want to know why the American political system can’t solve even most routine problems anymore, the reasons are larger than any one person. But the Washington Post‘s straw man argument that Newt didn’t do it alone hides much more than it reveals. Newt understood, as well as any other figure on the right, that conservatives had to make America dysfunctional in order to take it over, and Newt lead the way in doing so in the House, as I’ll explain in a moment.
To read the whole op-ed, click here.