I recently saw this quote on a bumpersticker: “I Love My Country—But I Hate My Government.” Where does one acquire such a plaque?
- - Frederick Park, January 2, 2008
John McCain has an idea for revitalizing the moribund Republican Party.
We Republicans have to recruit and elect Hispanics to office. And I don't mean just because they're Hispanics, but they represent a big part of the growing population in America. And we have a lot of work to do there. And I am of the belief that unless we reverse the trend of Hispanic voter registration, we have a very, very deep hole that we've got to come out of.
Demographics support his point. Spanish speaking Americans with ancestry to the south of the US are a growing part of the nation. Many are culturally conservative, and a good number have a history of supporting the GOP. But that support is largely swinging to Democrats.
So it would seem that Republicans like McCain would have no trouble making their case. Notables like Representative Henry Bonilla, strategist Frank Guerra and others join McCain's cause. But conservative groups like the Buchanan founded American Cause aren't having it. They refuse to “pander to pro-amnesty Hispanics and swing voters,” as chairman Marcus Epstein put it. Other activists are more explicit:
“Most Americans don’t mind a little ethnic food, some Asian math whizzes, or a few Mariachi dancers — as long as these trends do not overwhelm the dominant culture.” That is the former editor of Forbes, Peter Brimelow.
Instances of intolerance by conservative leaders are not difficult to find. The Sotomayor nomination put them front and center. Newt Gingrich joined Tom Tancredo and Rush Limbaugh in accusing her of backing what Tancredo called a "Latino KKK" because of her willingness to agree with the goals of a noted civil rights group. Nativist bigotry is brought to bear on every issue.
Why do they do it? It has always worked. "When these illegals come here it's like they won the lottery," said one angry protester to a reporter. "They drop babies all over the place. Then they go back and bring in another bunch. They murder, they rape, they steal. They hurt us."
The GOP has been tapping such anger for a generation. Though Hispanics may be put off by anti-immigrant bigotry, the Buchanans of the political world point out that American descendants of Europeans still outnumber Hispanics. They are correct in those numbers.
But there is a flaw in Republican calculations. The electoral danger is amplified by one fact not covered by demographics. Not all white folks are evil at the core. Not all black voters are put off only by racial hatred. Non-Hispanics of good will, those of all races, are also repulsed by nativist bigotry. The GOP plays with fire that is not entirely Spanish speaking.
Describing Reform of Health Care:
A denial of how God designed and created our economic and social systems to actually work in the real world.
The company was in an uproar. The aging President had decided that profits were not nearly enough, and planned to double and triple prices. We were a manufacturer of neck wear. I was the newest manager, leading a small sales team targeting corporations needing distinctive clothing for special events.
The weekly meeting was grim. Managers presented their case against the move. Some were quite emotional. The company might not survive. With each presentation, the old man was more adamant. He would not be moved. At last he asked me for my opinion. I suggested that our responsibility was to maximize return. "We are not in the tie business. We are in the profits business." The President nodded approvingly.
We needed to set a price that would give us the greatest bottom line. It was clear that a price of zero would put us out of business, since we would lose money on each tie. But a price of a thousand dollars per tie would also put us out of business because nobody would buy our ties at that price. The most profitable price would be somewhere in between. I proposed a short term analysis involving each manager and the corporate accountant to find a price level resulting in the most return. I became briefly popular as the fellow who had saved the company from a disastrously impetuous move.
Supply side economics was not invented by Arthur Laffer. Economist John Maynard Keynes knew that, in some extreme situations, lower tax rates could increase revenues. But Laffer presented it over dinner to Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney as the secret of the ages. He sketched a bell curve on a napkin. Lower taxes would always result in higher revenue. Republicans at that historic meeting forever fell under the magic spell of that enchanted napkin. The national consequence has been horrible. The Bush depression-lite was only the culmination of the GOP fantasy.
But economics is a strange twisted business of hypothetical theories. Arthur Laffer remains the Emperor of a persistent movement.
I drive an elderly lady to and from worship service each Sunday. It is my contribution to public safety. I laughed inwardly at her comment that government had better not get mixed up in her Social Security. I thought of her when President Obama mentioned a letter he had gotten opposing government involvement in Medicare. It is in such moments that we see both the influence of Republican policy arguments and their absurdity.
I thought again of the innocent outrage of my friend as I read of the most recent wisdom of the sage of Supply Side. The Emperor of the movement had this to say: "If you like the Post Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles and you think they're run well, just wait till you see Medicare, Medicaid and health care done by the government."
Does the Emperor have no clothes? Evidence shows Professor Laffer was in his underwear from the calamitous night of that apocalyptic dinner meeting.
In sorrow about the overturning of teaching Creationism as Science
We've been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of our culture.
They call it AstroTurf. It is a fake grassroots effort funded by big money. The idea is to intimidate decision makers in the only way they should be intimidated: by a majority of voters. But the majority is faked.
In the past, corporations have ginned up a majority with advertising, word of mouth, successful slogans, and, all too often, misinformation and lies. In the 1960s Medicare was the big socialism scare. I remember a relative talking about a dentist ready with the needle of anesthetic, stopping to ask his patient about whether she was as opposed to socialized medicine as he was. Instead of a convert, he lost a patient. Medicare is with us today.
In the December, 1970, President Nixon asked the silent majority of Americans to write in support of his war policies. Letters to newspapers and congressional representatives followed. One began this way: “I write this letter, not in any sense of anger but simply out of sorrow… that you and your colleagues had utterly struck out when you tried to take the president on in his press conference.” That letter and others were traced back to the White House. It turned out the GOP had been faking support from the public.
Those were different times. The expectation was that debate, even that which could not really be considered debate, would at least be genuine. You could count on talking to someone who was actually mouthing their own words. So folks were put out by the faked letters. It was uncalled for.
Now, it turns out, such tactics are considered routine. Representatives in Congress have been getting angry letters from the NAACP and a local Hispanic civil rights group. It seems these groups don't much care for President Obama's plans to protect the environment from corporate polluters.
But it turns out the letters were fakes, written by right wingers funded by coal companies. One Congressional representative dug through and found a half dozen such letters. The organizations are kind of ticked off. The question is how many more were written as if from other groups without their knowledge. The AARP found similar tactics paid for by pharmacological companies opposed to plans to help the elderly get drugs at less cost. AstroTurf.
Conservative activists have been marshaling their efforts to disrupt public meetings with protesters bused in with instructions to pretend they are local residents. A memo from Robert MacGuffie was revealing. The behind the scenes effort seems to be well coordinated and well funded. AstroTurf.
It brings back memories. Al Gore got more votes in 2000 but still lost, failing in the quirkiness of the electoral college. A friend of mine was quite animated about defending the intent of the original founders. He pointed to their distrust of the passions of common folk, their greatest fear being mob rule.
Conservatives today no longer have qualms about mob rule, but they do distrust actual voters. Some traditions survive.
Repeatedly preventing discussion about Health Care at a Town Meeting
You're lying to me. Just because I don't have sophisticated language, I can recognize a liar when I see one.
- - Don Jeror, Conservative Activist screaming at Representative Steny Hoyer
The internet is abuzz with the latest proof that Obama is not really President. The birthers, lost souls who believe in their hearts that the man who was elected President of the United States last November was not eligible to become President, base their argument on their faith that Obama was not born in the United States. Article II Section 1 of the Constitution is quite clear, although an extra comma sort of messes up the syntax.
No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President;
A person, unnamed for fear of death from well known goon squads (we all know what happened to Vince Foster and Kathleen Willey's pet cat), has turned over a photo of a document to the head birther herself, Orly Taitz, the Dentist, lawyer, real estate agent, and conservative activist.
Skeptics will never be convinced, of course. They nitpick this clear proof because of a few petty details. For example, the date of the birth certificate is three years after little Barack's actual birth. It is on a document from the "Republic of Kenya" which, at the time the document is dated, did not exist by that name. And the document is photographed rather than reproduced by reliable methods. Picky, picky, picky.
Actually, this latest fantasy does merit our attention. It shows a structural problem that is transforming the GOP to a regional party. The country at large does not believe the birther theory. 77 percent are sure the President is actually an American. About the same, I think, as believe the Earth revolves around the sun. 11 percent say he is not, and 12 percent are not sure. But among Republicans, the story is different. A majority have doubts. Only 42 percent of the GOP say the President is an American.
The dichotomy puts pressure on those office holders who are 1) Republican and 2) sane. The GOP base fervently believes that health care is all about murdering our grandmothers, that Democrats intend to confiscate all guns, that conservatives are about to be banished from radio, and (I'm not making this up) that "Barack Obama" is, with a few substituted consonants, the ancient Hebrew pronunciation for the spawn of Satan. The base, in meeting after meeting, is furious with the few GOP turncoats who maintain that any of these conspiracies do not exist. But the electorate at large tends to view such opinions as kind of crazy. It's a no-win situation for GOP legislators.
The only forceful response so far is from Eric Cantor (R-VA). He maintains that the birther conspiracy was actually generated by the White House to discredit Republicans. Which pretty much explains it.
You see, the conspiracy theories are all part of a conspiracy.
...about four out of five Americans (79%) correctly respond that the earth revolves around the sun, while 18% say it is the other way around.
Serious problems need to be solved, and government is deadlocked by party zeal. This is what we abhor when we think of partisanship. We consider the pointless enmity of party bickering over petty issues. For a while, that described California's efforts to remain functional.
The reputation of the Golden State as the center of national partisanship died a quick death when New York took over the honor. Republicans had held the New York State Senate since Hector was a pup. But that changed in November, 2008. Democrats got a razor thin majority. That meant more than power. The majority ran committee investigations. And decades of GOP rule left a lot to uncover. But a couple of Democrats decided to vote with the Republicans, giving the GOP a one vote majority. Oh my.
So Republicans took over for a nanosecond. Then one Senator switched back, producing a tie. Usually such a tie would be broken by the Lieutenant Governor. Except New York doesn't have one. Governor Eliot Spitzer had been caught dallying with prostitutes, the same group he had been putting in jail with enthusiasm as a prosecutor before his election. He had resigned and David Paterson, the Lieutenant Governor became Governor, leaving the office of Lieutenant vacant.
And so the Hounds of Hell were loosed. It was a soap opera of locked doors, a proposed session on a summer lawn, and purloined keys. The deadlock was broken only when the lone renegade Democratic Senator was bribed into switching back. His reward was becoming Senate Majority Leader.
Over the last few years, we have seen legislative party loyalty result in bitter enmity and petty bickering. The civility and courage we associate with independence has been missing from politics. We crave the dispassionate judgment and nonpartisan decision making that we imagine the founders having intended. We do not normally associate courage and patriotism with politicians unless it is clothed in bipartisanship.
Lack of GOP cooperation is the reason given by such luminaries as columnist David Broder for criticizing President Obama's efforts to enact health care reform. Broder has no substantive objections, but he opposes the effort for a lack of bipartisanship. The President is accused of proceeding without GOP votes.
Max Baucus (D-MT), chair of the Senate Finance committee, is a Broder believer. He has been blocking passage of health care reform while he negotiates away heavy lifting already done by the House. He is dealing for a few Republican votes. There are 40 Republicans left in the Senate after the public had their say last November. The Baucus-Broder approach has given this legislative minority unexpected veto power. Not only can they say no, but Broder types will blame the President for their rejectionism.
Bipartisanship is turning into a pretty good deal for conservatives.
Health security is an issue that affects all of us. Every person has a fundamental human right to quality healthcare --- healthcare that is affordable, accessible, and compassionate.
- - Catholic Healthcare West in Health Security Index, Spring 2007
This is a court that is willing to reverse itself to limit the rights of individual Americans. This is a court that is more than willing to overturn Congress to achieve its own agenda of what is right.
- - Senator Al Franken, D-Minnesota July 28, 2009
From the tragic and hopeful continuing story that has become Iran, we hear an echo from our own recent dementia. The Christian Science Monitor carries news that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President who was recently force fed to an unwilling electorate, is dealing with yet another controversy.
Obsessed with the unfounded conviction that the United States, or perhaps Great Britain - hard to know which, has been at the root of popular unrest in Iran, he pushed police, prison, and intelligence sources to uncover the secret plot no matter what means were necessary to accomplish the task.
Imprisonment without trial? No problem. Mistreatment in prison? If needed, sure. Individual "enhanced interrogation?" Whatever it took to get at the truth as he saw it. Iranian television has been the target. Airtime is soon to be filled with the desperate confessions of those captives who have finally reached the limits of human endurance.
His Head of Intelligence objected, and a heated exchange was followed by the dismissal of Gholam Hossein Mohsen Ezheie from his Intelligence post. Some conservatives find torture distasteful. A detention facility, famed for harsh methods, has been ordered closed, over Ahmadinejad's objections.
If this seems oddly familiar, it may be because it eerily parallels recent stories about the late lamented Bush-Cheney administration. The attitude of the Vice President toward his intelligence people was simple: I'll tell you what assessment to give to me. His approach to legal issues was identical: when I want your legal opinion, I'll give it to you. And the resultant treatment of captives was the logical culmination. When I want your information, I'll tell you what to say, then beat it out of you. There was reason for the madness.
The ruins of the Twin Towers smoldered. The dead had vanished in flame within the Pentagon. A madman sitting in a cave halfway around the world could not possibly have been responsible for such devastation. bin Laden was a comic book villain, not to be taken seriously. There had to have been state sponsorship. A lifetime of cold war experience reinforced the conclusion. The administration was trapped by the power of an idea.
All that was needed was evidence. Cheney was obsessed with validating his conviction that Iraq was behind the 9/11 attacks on America. That validation would come no matter what had to be done to get it. It was never about revealing plots of future attacks. It was about synthesizing corroboration.
Torture is useless in obtaining truthful information, but it is quite effective at forcing confession. It was true of Cheney then. It is true of Ahmadinejad now.
The current drama is singularly Iranian. The Obama administration treats it with wise caution. But we look to a brighter future when, healed, our nation regains the moral authority to lend our voice to the cause of human rights.
Memories often seem tidier, crisper, and more comfortable than day to day reality. So it may be an aging liberal's daydream, but I do recall a time when conservatism seemed to have emerged from the George Wallace-Strom Thurmond axis into the rational bright light of Bill Buckley and company.
Buckley had his faults, to be sure. He had opposed civil rights for black folks because it was an imposition of federal force on states rights. He lost a famous televised dispute with the ever-slimy Gore Vidal, not because of Vidal's ability but rather because of Buckley's temper. In fairness, it is hard to recommend a purely cerebral reaction to a blood libel, and Vidal had seriously accused our hero of being a secret Nazi.
But Buckley had repented of his segregation-supporting sin. He single handedly destroyed the John Birch Society. And he eviscerated the frequent liberal guests on his weekly television show with polite finesse. He preferred to out-think, rather than out-shout, his liberal visitors.
Today's right-wing seems more attuned to racial resentment and conspiracy mongering than serious thought. It is not so much a deteriorating debilitation of once-attained heights, I think, than a reversion to more comfortable ground. Conservatives have always been suspicious of intellect. The election of George W. Bush brought this sad characteristic into full force. There was no serious attempt to present our President as a new millennial sage. A lack of visible intelligence was his link to common people.
Viral emails perform the heavy lifting in today's discourse. President Obama is visually presented as a half-naked witch doctor to conservative mirth. His legitimacy is challenged. He was secretly born in Africa, his Presidency a decades old plot. His skin color itself is not the paramount concern. But he is suspected of an intemperate empathy with what Pat Buchanan calls "America's pampered minorities." Obama is suspected of liking black people.
Policy debate has taken a hit. The issue of the day is health care. Reform has been attacked on policy grounds. Cost, private enterprise, efficiency, and other issues have been debated. But as an actual bill slowly edges nearer to passage, these limp wristed considerations are shunted aside.
A thousand urban legends haunt us. People die unlikely but entertaining deaths in automobiles. The AIDS virus is passed along by stealth and sabotage. Gangs assassinate folks for flashing their headlights.
These are now joined by the latest GOP approach to health reform. It is all a plot to deny care to old people, or to kill them outright, depending on who is spinning the tale. Rush Limbaugh, World Net Daily, Representative Paul Broun, and a thousand others in and out of Congress are spreading the word. In a way, fear already has its final victory. Rationality has been abandoned. Such is the current state of contemporary conservative thought.
Planning Memo for Public Meetings:
Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.
- - Bob MacGuffie, Conservative Activist (pdf), May 28, 2009