Without historical reference, conservative James Wigderson unwittingly reprises FDR's Fala accusations. It seems the Obama dog is wasting tax dollars in military travel. These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on President Obama, or his wife, or on his daughters. No, not content with that ... they now include his little dog, Bo.
Okay, the answer to James was already given on September 23, 1944:
Mad Mike's America hears about a sort of mad conspiracy hybrid. It involves a large combo of Obamacare, gun lists, and ... well ... electroshock. Well, someone has to do it.
- PZ Myers, writing for Pharyngula, gets some negative blowback from Christians after he publishes a piece in the Washington Post on how atheism can find true happiness. I have a hard time forgiving anyone who manages to get published in the Washington Post. But it is hard for me to relate to any Christian outrage against atheistic happiness. Atheism doesn't work for me, but that's about as far as I can take it.
The time is now arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states' rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.
- Hubert Humphrey, Mayor of Minneapolis, MN, July 14, 1948.
The Democratic Convention in Philadelphia in 1948 had become contentious.
The liberal faction wanted the party to declare an important principle. Civil Rights, including the right to vote, should be a national standard.
The conservative faction regarded human rights as a state matter. Don't tell us how to treat our people. Strom Thurmond, the governor of South Carolina had already put the issue of states' rights in more colorful terms.
These big city machine bosses and their puppets in office ... should once and for all realize that the question of social intermingling of the races our people draw the line.
All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into their homes, their schools, their churches and their places of recreation and amusement.
- Strom Thurmond, Governor South Carolina, May 11, 1948
The liberal contingent managed a narrow victory. The Democratic Party was on record. Human rights, the right to be served in restaurants, to attend schools, the right to vote, was a national standard. It ought to be enforced by national laws.
Strom Thurmond and delegates from several states walked away from the Democratic Party. They held an alternate convention in Birmingham, Alabama. Human rights were a state concern. Moves to nationalize the rights of minorities comprised a form of totalitarianism.
Sixteen years later, the 1964 call by the Democratic Party for strong Civil Rights and Voting Rights began the great migration of conservatives to a more accommodating Republican Party.
That same Voting Rights law was declared to be partially unconstitutional this year by the Supreme Court. They struck down the requirement that some sections of the country with an unfortunate history of human rights violations had to pre-clear changes in voting practices to be sure minority rights were protected.
But the court left intact another procedure, a harder one to follow. If enough proof could be presented, a state or parts of a state, could be put back into the pre-clearance requirement. It just had to be proven that voting practices were deliberately intended to discriminate. The courts would decide.
So the Attorney General of the United States announced that the Department of Justice will file in court to do just that. The first target would be the state of Texas.
More than most states, Texas has been forthright in trying to keep a significant minority population from voting, and from having their votes count for as much if they do vote. A series of measures have been passed by the state to make it harder for Hispanic voters to actually vote.
More than most states, Texas has established a documented record of deliberate motivation. Legislators are very much on record as specifically wanting to keep Hispanic voters from voting. They are indeed being targeted by the state. They are also being targeted to keep those candidates Hispanic voters might want from actually taking office.
Extreme redistricting is the very first practice to be challenged. Lines are drawn that go against well established legal standards for compactness and common interest. In this case, the Department of Justice is pushing for more than just overturning bad districting lines. The DOJ also wants to get courts to put Texas back on the pre-clearance list.
Texas has put in draconian photo ID laws. Those with drivers licenses need not worry. They are grandfathered in. Those who walk or ride the bus to work will be required to get new alternate IDs. Offices issuing such IDs have been moved way away from Hispanic areas. Their hours have been reduced. Documentation that will be demanded in order to qualify for the new IDs has gotten to absurd levels, way beyond mere proof of identity.
What provides the heart of the DOJ brief is evidence of motivation. Texas legislators have recorded phone calls, written letters, sent emails, and otherwise generated a paper trail that pretty much proves they just wanted to keep Hispanic voters from voting, or from electing those they want to elect.
Texas has responded with one of the strangest arguments a court will be likely to hear for a while. They have filed their own brief, arguing that discrimination against Hispanic voters should be allowed if it is for purely political reasons.
If Hispanic voters are denied the right to vote for the folks they want because legislators hate Hispanics, that is wrong. But if Hispanic voters are denied the right to vote for the folks they want because legislators want to keep them from electing Democrats, that is okay.
Senator John Cornyn, (R-TX) has issued a bitter denunciation of the Department of Justice and President Obama. His statement essentially echoes part of the old Strom Thurmond plank about the right of each state to determine which minorities will be allowed to vote.
As Texans we reject the notion that the federal government knows what's best for us. We deserve the freedom to make our own laws and we deserve not to be insulted by a Justice Department committed to scoring cheap political points.
- Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), August 22, 2013
This new assertion of the right of a state to deal with minority rights however they want, with no fear of interference, does not carry the same fire as Strom Thurmond's old speeches. But the surrender of human rights in favor of states' rights is identical.
We don't need to wonder what the Hubert Humphrey or Strom Thurmond of 65 years ago would say about this year's controversy. They would recognize what we should recognize.
If we side with Humphrey, we should know that Texas politicians are determined to avoid the bright sunshine, finding comfort in those dirt filled, shadowy corners he urged us to reject.
CIA operatives close in on bin Laden. Finally, years of effort bring a few brave Americans into position in Afghanistan. The world's most notorious terrorist is in our sites.
Telephone contact is established to a Clinton official back in the United States. "We're ready to load the package. Repeat, do we have clearance to load the package?"
The official breaks into a sweat. He hesitates, holding the phone in shaking hands. Finally he speaks. "I don't have that authority." The brief opportunity is gone. The World Trade Center is later lost. Part of the Pentagon is destroyed. Four aircraft with passengers and crew are lost.
All because of one out-of-his-depth liberal.
Viewers saw it all in a dramatization on ABC in 2006. And the incident actually happened. It is part of documented history.
Having bin Laden in our grasp, a sweaty palmed official nervously whimpering his refusal to authorize: It all really occurred.
Except the refusal to go after bin Laden happened a couple of years later during the Bush Presidency. The whimpering official was a Bush administration staffer. During the Clinton administration, every request for authorization to kill or capture bin Laden was approved. No exceptions. Ever.
The ABC drama was filled with such reversals of fact. The effort to achieve balance can be overpowering. Sometimes truth is sacrificed. In this case, it was simply more blatant than usual.
Democrats were outraged at the defamation. Republicans were delighted.
This year, NBC is planning a biographic presentation about Hillary Clinton. The content is unclear. CNN is planning a documentary.
The Republican Party has announced it will prohibit candidates for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination to participate in any debate hosted or moderated by NBC or CNN.
I can well remember the number of prospective debates to be hosted by ABC which were prohibited by the Democratic party in 2008. It's an easy number to remember. Zero. None. Not any at all.
George Stephanopoulos moderated the ABC debate on August 19, 2007 in Des Moines, Iowa. Charles Gibson moderated on January 5, 2008 in Goffstown, New Hampshire. Democrats were encouraged to participate.
There is some speculation that the GOP is reacting less to any free publicity for Hillary than to the unspeakable horror show Republican debates became in 2011 and 2012. As Bachmann and Perry and Cain and Gingrich fell into the drowning pit, Mitt Romney looked good by virtue of not swallowing his hair and turning his head inside out.
But I suspect the damage to the Republican party came from the audience. Republicans booed a gay man fighting in Afghanistan for their freedom to boo. Conservatives cheered the number of people executed in Texas, when the possibility was mentioned of killing those who might be innocent of any crime. The Republican audience cheered at the prospect of an uninsured hypothetical victim of illness dying for lack of care.
I confess my suspicion is influenced by my own theory about the future of the Republican Party. I don't think there is any future after the next several years, except for dying embers in some Southern areas.
The destiny of the party is not in the hands of politicians or consultants or opinion leaders. Strategic decisions by office holders are not to blame for the decline of the Republican Party. Extreme advocacy by media personalities will not be not the culprit.
The party is under the firm control of its rank-and-file membership. That membership is shrinking. Polls this year show the number of voters identifying themselves as Republicans at new lows. The range is consistently in the very low 20s. As the party shrinks, it is less extreme members who leave. As more extreme members stay, the party grows more extreme, and the cycle holds.
The general public may remember the Bush administration for mindless invasion of Iraq and the bobbling of Katrina rescue in Louisiana.
A majority of Republicans still believe weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq.
More Republicans in Louisiana improbably blame President Obama for mishandling the Katrina rescue during the Bush Presidency than blame President Bush himself.
In Nashville, a Tennessee Republican told a little girl who was born in the United States that he wants to deport her father, who was not. Conservatives will find his sad position reasonable, if brusquely explained. It is more difficult to reconcile the reaction of the audience, breaking into enthused applause at the prospect of separating the little girl from her father.
The downward spiral is led by the base. It can't be described as any variation of the tail wagging the dog. For one thing, the base of a party is supposed to be the dog. For another, it's the entire dog, from nose to hind paws, that is howling at the moon.
For those who believe the Republican Party will rebound in 2015 or 2017 or sometime later, their's is less a prediction based on evidence than it is an article of faith.
It is faith in the Biblical sense: the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
The re-election of Barack Obama was not a wake up call for the Republican Party after all. But the months since have been a bit of a alarm clock ring for pundits. Snooze buttons are a popular feature, but fear of imbalance can only carry denial so far.
My own epiphany came before the election of 2010. That was the Tea Party election. As Republicans celebrated in anticipation of that sweeping win, I predicted the demise of their political home.
The basic pattern has been with us since political parties came into being. As the clarion call to ideological purity echoes its trumpet sound, the party grows a bit more extreme. A few of those guilty of insufficient fervor are driven out. Those who remain are, by attrition, a little more extreme. The party shrinks, which causes the party to get a little more extreme, which causes the party to shrink.
The process brings the reverse chicken and egg question of politics into play. Which comes first, the attraction of non-extremists back into the party or the turn to moderation?
In the past, the question was answered by a sort of intervention. When the party, any party in that downward spiral, ran into the icy wall of election defeat, ideologues woke up. The call to moderates went forth. The painful dialogue began.
Why hasn't that happened to the Republican Party? The party has lost the popular vote in 5 out of the last 6 Presidential elections. The exception was 2004, when the incumbent President managed to channel popular rage against terrorism into election victory. How many icy walls must Republicans slam into before looking to another path? Why hasn't the last quarter century been enough? Why is this string of defeats different from past history?
I have suggested the difference is technological. Past election interventions have been accompanied by unwelcomed voices, voices reinforcing the bad news of election reality. Even partisans who did not wish to listen were pretty much forced to hear. Now they aren't.
The early 1990s saw the growth of a new form of communication. The internet began to provide choices that went beyond the mainstream. The addition of cable television completed the circle. Republicans are not breaking out of the downward helix because they don't really have to. If Fox or Rush or Drudge waiver in providing a soothing message, others are waiting to take their place.
Little signals of pressure from the Republican base, reflected in echoes of agreement from Republican politicians, are beginning to achieve notice as they form a discernible pattern.
This week, the Republican governor of Maine is reported by fellow Republicans to have casually told an audience of donors that President Obama hates white people. The fact that he feels compelled to deny it reflects how believable such stories have become.
This week, New Jersey's Republican candidate for the United States Senate sent out an image about his opponent. The titled read: "just leaked — Cory Booker’s foreign policy debate prep notes." The image was a crude map of Newark with the words "West Africa, Guyana, Portugal, Brazil" and "Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, plus Bangladesh and Trinidad." The Republican stood by the message, insisting he could not see anything about it that was racist.
This week a lone supporter of the probable Republican candidate for governor of Texas posted a message about Democrat Wendy Davis, calling her a "retard Barbie." It would have been unnoticed, by virtue of being unnoticeable, had the Republican not publicly thanked the citizen for his support.
This week, in Virginia, a Republican consultant who has never switched parties, broke that lifetime record. He vowed to work for the election of the Democratic candidate for governor. He called the Democrat "the clear choice for mainstream conservatives."
This week in Iowa, the co-Chair of the Polk County Republican Party made public his resignation. He said the party was moving in the wrong direction.
It’s my opinion that rather than fix the problems that led to such a massive 2012 defeat, the GOP does not seem to seriously want to fix the issues. I think helping a dysfunctional Party that does not want to address its problems is enabling. I do not believe in enabling. I debated this for weeks and am certain this is the only course.
- Chad Brown, former chair Polk County Republican Party, August 5, 2013
About the only thing that might reverse the trend would be if extremists started leaving, while accusing the party of insufficient purity. Then moderates might take another look, perhaps reversing the trend.
I wouldn't bet my shoes on that happening.
A band of right-leaning hard-liners left the Maine GOP, resigning from various state Republican offices, while issuing a letter critical of the national party as well as key politicians in Washington and Augusta.
Leaving were a Maine Republican National Committee member, a former U.S. Senate candidate and six members holding county committee seats.
- Reported by the Maine Sun Journal, August 19, 2013
Anybody want to bet against an old pair of shoes?
In Response to Burr Deming's Sissy Jesus, Egypt, Grading Education, Slippery GOP Slope
A few weeks ago, my friend T. Paine, who writes at Saving Common Sense offered his own proof of God. Ryan at Secular Ethics answers. There are, he explains, dangers to arguments based on intuitive knowledge. I have learned to anticipate with some glee those invariably wise and thoughtful posts from Ryan. But I confess a certain bias in all this. I use a variation of what Ryan describes as T. Paine's logic in support of a different point.
- Burr Deming, August 17, 2013
On one hand, we want to be able to think of goodness as a collection of dispositions that we ought to have and behaviors that we ought to perform.
On the other hand, some of us want to think of goodness as a collection of dispositions and behaviors that we "just know" to be good.
The first approach requires that we establish precisely what we mean by "ought" and then analyze our choices. The second approach requires that we merely "listen to our conscience" and "just do what is right." The only way to reconcile these two ways of thinking of goodness is to declare that what we should do is always identical to what we think or "just know" we should do.
But there are countless examples of people doing what they "just know" to be good and later realizing that they ought not to have done it--or of disagreements over the content of this intrinsic moral knowledge. It seems that, after all, knowledge and the feeling of knowledge are not the same.
So the apologist argues that these errors and disagreements reflect not some failure of just-so moral knowledge, but instead of our ability or willingness to distinguish between just-so moral knowledge and false just-so moral inclinations. Our "fallen nature," you see, interferes with our reception or perception of the truth.
This response is needlessly complex and unconvincing, particularly because there is no empirical or even rational support for the idea that we have such knowledge or that we have a fallen nature that prevents us from grasping it. Most importantly, however, it leaves us with the original problem: how do we determine what is good? If we are fallen or otherwise potentially unable to grasp true moral knowledge as evidenced by our mistakes and disagreements, then we cannot depend on the certainty of our feelings about goodness. Without an actual method beyond "just knowing," we are left to disagree with each other over arbitrary feelings.
In short: whether or not we have access to some kind of non-rational, non-experiential moral knowledge, we are unable to know what is good with any justified certainty without the use of reason or experience. And if that is so, then it is a waste of time to argue on behalf of the concept of just-so moral knowledge, which to an empiricist or rationalist comes across as a misguided elevation of strong feelings to cosmic truths.
In addition to his well reasoned contributions here, Ryan also writes for his own site where strong feelings, like calm waters, seek their own level. Please visit Secular Ethics.
Mike is one tough character. A former Philadelphia police officer, he makes evil a profession. And he has high professional standards. He kills people via gunfire, poison, and bravado. He works for a ruthless drug kingpin and, when that employer is killed, partners with those who killed him. Throughout it all he maintains a slow, weary, persona.
One co-conspirator is simply too much for him to stomach. She is in a panic. She begs him to eliminate loose ends that might lead authorities to her, and to Mike. She wants him to arrange the assassinations of those he has hired. He responds.
Now I don’t know what kind of movies you been watching, but here in the real world, we don’t kill eleven people as some kind of prophylactic measure.
I can't be described as anything close to an aficionado of Breaking Bad. It isn't preference. I make a point of watching when I can. The descent of a cancer ridden high school teacher into the depths of personal evil is compelling. But scheduling and a chronically poor memory for time slots put me into perpetual confusion about plot and characters.
When I do remember to watch, it isn't hard to see parallels to the everyday world of office machines, automobiles, raising kids, and writing about politics and policy: things that have a lot less to do with murder, drugs, and intrigue.
The sanitizing of the drug aspect troubles me a little. Some mob movies do focus on life-and-death chess games, ignoring the tragedy of those whose off-screen destruction finances the enterprise. The Godfather did that. Who would get outsmarted? Who would do the outsmarting? The unpowerful victims of extortion and rackets are not considered, unimportant as they are to the entertaining plot line.
I haven't seen much on screen about the physical agony of mothers, fathers, children in the grip of the deadly product being produced. That's not a flaw. It's a feature. Audiences are attracted to deadly contests between powerful and ruthless people. Watching a protagonist with blood on his hands is more entertaining if that blood belongs to other very bad people.
Some of the drama goes to choices. What is the strategy? What are the risks? At what point will a betrayal have more benefit than cost? In the scene with the panicky associate, the question is easily answered when it comes to executing hirelings who are pledged to secrecy. The price is high. The benefit is non-existent, because there is no need.
As the storyline moves on, the question becomes active again. This time it centers on whether to dispose of the anxious associate herself. Should she be killed?
Within each strategic tradeoff is an implied standard. We don't cross or betray or kill people without some pronounced need, never as "as some kind of prophylactic measure."
That's easy enough to apply to the real world.
Bosses don't fire people because they might, in the future, commit some theft of company property. Children are not punished by parents just in case they broke a rule.
And legitimate voters are not denied the right to vote just in case.
The just in case is voter fraud. That would be people who vote while they are not eligible, or people who vote more than once. One authoritative study found that five million voters will be denied the right to vote because of photo ID laws.
Photo ID laws do have a lot of support, mostly from those who haven't thought about it enough to realize that some folks don't have drivers licenses. Some people commute to work by bus or metro train. Some are retired. When the issue gets a little publicity, like it has in North Carolina recently, public support drops like a stone.
The fact that some folks don't have photo IDs because they don't drive is only one side of the equation. The other side is that the problem that is being address, voter fraud, pretty much doesn't exist.
The Bush administration, in 2007, revealed the results of an intense nationwide investigation into voter fraud. The investigation lasted five years and covered every election, local, state, and federal. If you voted after 2000 and up to 2007, you were part of the investigation. The total number of cases found couldn't quite make it to double digits.
There were nine cases of people voting when and where they weren't supposed to. That's over 5 years in every election in every state, that would be all 50, and every territory in the US. Nine cases.
Eight of those cases were clerical errors. People thought they were registered when they weren't.
In the one case remaining, a woman knowingly registered under a false name. She was trying to escape detection by a violent ex-husband.
There have been other cases since 2007. In Pennsylvania, a city commissioner from Philadelphia made headlines a while back. He had found 700 cases of voter fraud. As investigators poured over records, eliminating from the count people who were completely legitimate voters, the number shrank and shrank again. Finally, the grand total of voter fraud cases was announced.
More recently, the Colorado Secretary of State found 155 cases of voter fraud. That's out of 2.5 million voters. Let's see. One percent of 2.5 million would be 25 thousand. One percent of one percent would be 255. So even one percent of one percent of all voters would be more than the actual number of voter fraud cases found by the Colorado Secretary of State.
The names were turned over to local authorities for prosecution. Most District Attorneys glanced over the lists with less than complete confidence. Some jurisdictions are small enough for many names to be recognized by local people. They were legitimate voters.
The District Attorney of Boulder County took things more seriously. He was given 17 names for prosecution. His office investigated all 17. He found that all 17, all of them, every one, was a legitimate voter.
It turned out that the Secretary's office had rounded up the names of immigrants who had registered and voted. What the Republican official forgot is that lots of immigrants become citizens. That's how they came up with the 155 names of people they wanted to prosecute.
A series of photo ID laws have been passed by Republican state legislatures around the country. Constitutional requirements dictate that some alternate ID has to be available. But additional measures have been routinely included that make that alternative harder. State Offices issuing non-driver IDs have been closed or moved far away from minority areas. Hours have been restricted. Requirements have been instituted that go way, way beyond what is needed for identification.
The object does not seem to be to defeat the non-existent voter fraud.
Some individual incidents hit the news.
A great-grandmother is denied the right to vote because the name on her wedding license is misspelled. The news value comes because she has voted in every election in the past, even in days of Jim Crow. But her case reflects many more who don't make headlines.
A state worker is reported to have laughed at repeated efforts of one elderly to keep coming back with more documentation. Most folks give up. That tells us something about those who give up before they are laughed at.
State workers are instructed to refuse to give directions to ID offices. One, in Ohio, is fired for questioning the order.
It has to have become apparent to even the most rabid conservative that denying 5 million legitimate voters their right to vote is not the unfortunate price that is to be paid to prevent 9 cases of voter fraud. Keeping those 5 million voters from casting ballots is the only purpose of voter suppression.
I will continue to watch episodes of Breaking Bad when schedule and memory align to achieve the needed juxtaposition. I have to confess I continue to be slightly disappointed, though.
The dialogue should have gone like this:
Mike: Here in the real world, we don’t kill eleven people as some kind of prophylactic measure.
Lydia: It isn't a prophylactic measure. I don't want them dead to prevent anything. I'm a Republican. I just want them dead.
But it is fictional television show.
You can't expect it to be completely realistic.
Listen As You Go -
Republican Ice Storm Politics- Defund Obamacare (6:32) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
Amazing Lifetime Record of Non-Racist Contacts (7:40) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
Taking Away Voting Rights for Non-Racial Reasons is Okay (3:45) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
Vincent of A wayfarer's notes discovers that looking for a literary agent is like seeking a second date. Except, with Vincent, a lot more entertaining. Anyone who knows an agent might want to do that agent a favor, and point out Vincent.
When I was a kid, I came upon a sermon, second hand. The preacher said he did not believe in a namby-pamby Jesus. His Jesus was a strong man with callused hands, angry, overturning tables. Our friend Why do we have to do this, Sir? goes on the parallel trail of Luke 12, talking about Jesus the divider.
A few weeks ago, my friend T. Paine, who writes at Saving Common Sense offered his own proof of God. Ryan at Secular Ethics answers. There are, he explains, dangers to arguments based on intuitive knowledge. I have learned to anticipate with some glee those invariably wise and thoughtful posts from Ryan. But I confess a certain bias in all this. I use a variation of what Ryan describes as T. Paine's logic in support of a different point.
Earlier this year, conservative James Wigderson took a look at public education and an effort to grade the graders. This week he publishes a response from an education official. All of which demonstrates facts about two personalities: James is a gentleman and the official makes a reasonable case and does it reasonably.
Like Dan Quayle, I'm no Secretary of State. Just an interested citizen. That's enough to allow me an opinion or two about Egypt. At The Moderate Voice Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes offers a bit more, an account of Egyptians she has known as friends, including a childhood playmate. She fears many are suffering now.
Max's Dad finds virtue in a two party political system, and invents a sort of reverse IQ test to determine which political party best suits you. Scientific. Matchmaker type of thing. Only ... you know ... not.
I remember the beginning of Bizarro World in the Superman universe of DC Comics. Everything was the opposite of Earth. For example, on Earth intelligence was valued, and on Bizarro htraE, lack of intelligence was honored. News Corpse brings a report of Breitbart News starting an opposite-of-Media-Matters watchdog site. If they weren't Bizarro, they would start with Breitbart. Newscorps offers a few suggestions.
Tommy Christopher of Mediaite fame reacts to a new Buzzfeed scoop. It seems MSNBC has been engaged in an undercover strategy: airing as television personalities those who use twitter a lot. You may not think of the Buzzfeed scoop as much of a scoop. But wait until their story on the great color plot. Snow is white. Leaves are green. The sky is blue.
- Jack Jodell, at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST, does his research. He profiles Sean Hannity. Jack seems somewhat disapproving, but refrains from rant.
What are we to think of the resonant image of government troops firing into a crowd of protestors?
One incident amid a bloody struggle explains much.
In this case, a single sentry seems to have ignited one out of many such conflagrations. A small group taunted a lone sentry at a government building. According to several eyewitness accounts, the soldier began to lose it and started yelling back. The exchange of insults attracted attention. The group became a crowd. The crowd became a mob. The sentry was surrounded.
Word of a soldier in trouble got out. Reinforcements arrived. There were only seven or eight troops and the rescuers were themselves surrounded. We know from witnesses that the simple fact that they were there enraged the already angry crowd. A few threw objects at the troops. Others taunted the handful of soldiers, daring them to fire at them.
Accounts diverge at that point. Some say a single soldier fired into the crowd, followed by the rest. Others say the sole officer on the scene, a captain, ordered the shooting. Five Americans were killed by the small contingent of British troops.
Many say the Boston Massacre marked the beginning of the American Revolution. Others point to the battle on the hill at Concord, Massachusetts. There is little disagreement that the firing into a crowd in Boston provided much of the anger that fueled the colonial will to keep fighting.
As I watched films smuggled out of Egypt, I thought about the fury historians say gripped the American colonies at the news that armed British troops had fired into a protesting crowd. As of this writing the death toll in Egypt is reportedly at somewhere between 600 and 700. It rises by hundreds every few hours. Thousands are among the injured.
Journalists, spokespeople, and partisans will debate whether equivalencies are false. Eventually, participation in that debate will extend to historians. Some anti-government violence has been spectacular - an armored car with soldiers inside being thrown off a bridge.
But some events have been unequivocal. Some of the dead were in simple sit down demonstrations. Some were incontrovertibly non-violent.
Add to the volatile mix of religious fervor and ham handed suppression, a hundred Boston Massacres. Technological speed has augmented word-of-mouth. Propaganda in such an atmosphere is pointless. Everyone with a cellphone owns a spin machine.
We are watching more than the making of history. We are witnessing the birth of a new mythology.
The United States will be known in Egypt for generations as a part of that mythology. A lot depends on whether the popular narrative includes a distant America on the side of a popular resistance or on the side of a Cairo Massacre.
The only influence the United States seems to have comes from money. The legalistic avoidance by the United States State Department of the word "coup" is calculated to keep military and economic aid flowing. That legalism is now almost impossible to maintain. More to the point, it is unwise.
The United States should suspend all aid to Egypt.
We should do it now.
Last winter, my loved one went on an exercise kick. At one point she decided to walk, rather than drive, to a nearby market. It was not an exceptional accomplishment, except ... well ... it was during an ice storm.
She described the trip. "I made it there," she said, "and I got part of the way back." At that point, she rested for a few moments at a public bench. And while she rested, she reached an interesting introspective insight. "That's when it occurred to me that I am insane."
I was thinking of her experience as I read the latest research by the conservative Heritage foundation. It involved a poll.
There are polls and there are polls.
For the most part, internal polling, that released to the public by candidates, is meaningless. It isn't because any given internal poll was unfairly worded or that selection methodology was slanted. In fact, that is unlikely to happen with internal polling by political campaigns.
Internal polling that is released to the public is either selectively chosen, which makes it indicate pretty much nothing, or it means the candidate is clinically insane. Only a candidate experiencing an out-of-mind condition would release a poll to the public that had not been carefully selected, the best out of many.
Public polls, those not sponsored by a political candidate, can also be inaccurate.
Sometimes polls ask leading questions. Fox News occasionally does that. Would you rather vote for a Democrat who eats live kittens or a Republican who thoughtfully sends flowers to elderly widows in the neighborhood?
Sometimes polls ask questions of non-representative samples. That's what Republicans accused mainstream polling organizations of doing last year before the Presidential election. It turned out Republicans were wrong and mainstream polls correctly predicted President Obama's win. But, had they been right about the methodology of choosing a representative sample, they would have been on firm ground in their accusation.
Occasionally we find some private group releasing a survey that indicates respondents favoring this policy or that. The Chamber of Commerce does that. Such polling is often conducted by sending a questionnaire only to their own membership. It's a variation of all-my-friends-like-me logic. Not quite a tautology, but close. If survey participants did not agree with the goals of organizations they join, they would be likely not to be members for long.
Congressional Republicans very much want to hold the American economy hostage, shutting down the US government if Democrats don't agree to dismantle Obamacare. Congressional leadership has been begging them not to do it. The leadership argument relies on political history. In 1995 Republicans briefly shut down the government and voters became angry at them.
The Heritage Foundation has been trying to convince Republicans that the leadership is wrong, that the Republican Congress ought to hold the economy hostage, that they ought to shut down the government, that voters will not blame them.
They released a poll to prove that last argument, that voters will not blame Republicans if they shut down the government. Sure enough, that's what the poll showed. The poll was not national, but it was conducted in 10 districts the Heritage foundation found to be competitive. The poll was calculated to show that Republicans would not lose any competitive districts.
This is how MSNBC reported the news:
The poll, which was conducted by Basswood Research from Aug. 7-8, also found that 28 percent of respondents in the 10 districts would blame Republicans for a shutdown over Obamacare, while 22 percent would blame Obama himself, and 19 percent would blame Democrats in Congress. Seventeen percent of respondents would spread blame among all three groups.
The poll also found that almost 60 percent of respondents would support a "temporary slowdown in non-essential federal government operations, which still left all essential government services running" in order to extract an agreement from the president to at least slow health care reform’s implementation.
- MSNBC online Report, August 14, 2013
Steve Benen is a skeptic. In the interest of full disclosure, I must reveal that Benen holds a prominent place in my Pantheon of Heroes.
Benen quotes the Heritage preface, which was read to every participant before the questions were asked.
As you might know, major parts of the Obama health care law will soon be implemented, including the mandate that requires every individual to buy health insurance or pay a fine, and the government-sponsored health insurance exchanges that are affecting private sector health care premiums and access to doctors.
- Heritage Poll introduction, August 7-8, 2013
This is his reaction to the poll.
"Heritage apparently forgot to ask, 'Don't you think Democrats, who are notorious for having cooties, are less cool than the super-awesome Republicans?'"
He then adds the punchline:
Heritage Action for America claims this is a reliable poll, but it clearly isn't. Heritage claims the survey was conducted in relatively competitive congressional districts, but it was really conducted in Republican-led districts.
And Heritage claims that the results should set GOP minds at ease, but even after asking truly ridiculous questions, a plurality of respondents in this so-called poll still said they'd blame Republicans for a shutdown.
- Steve Benen, August 14, 2013
Congressional Republicans do have solid selfish reasons for voting the party off a cliff. Most were gerrymandered into Republican districts. This tends to insulate them from national opinion. Even if the national party suffers, they will be personally safe.
So the poll may have been conducted more to reassure more strategic minded constituents that the national party won't lose out in the end.
But some of those in Congress are genuinely rabid in what they seem genuinely to believe.
If they actually are convinced by the Heritage poll, they may want to devote part of next winter to walking through ice storms.
For the exercise, you know.
As most of us will remember, 2004 was a very tough time to be anything but the most rabid conservative. President Bush was about to win a second term, swift boating his Democratic opponent. Karl Rove's private ruminations were revealed here and there. He was about to implant a permanent Republican majority. He speculated about the permanent destruction of the Democratic Party. Progressives in general, and Democrats in particular, were lethargic, resigned.
Some of us found refuge in fiction. The West Wing was a comfortable retreat for me.
Carla Axtman is made of sterner stuff. She began blogging as a sort of informed protest against prevailing wisdom. She got better at it each day. She is a justifiably famed photographer by day, and a wonderful chronicler of important events pretty much all the time.
She, and many like her, bring us significant insight that is usually unavailable through more traditional sources.
She brings us news of the current state of the Republican Party in Oregon. It strikes me as a national portend.
The party has been a frustration for conservatives. Republicans in Oregon are getting very used to losing, and they are not happy about it. Murmurs turned to discernible speech, then angry shouts. The state leader of the GOP resigned just before Republicans were ready to throw her out.
Her replacement is from outer space. Well ... not literally. But Art Robinson has ... um ... views.
You might think that making Social Security voluntary could come across as dangerously radical. But each day's new idea makes yesterday's seem tame. Art Robinson's own voice kind of drowns itself out.
He explains that public schools are a form of child abuse and racism. So abolishing public education is the way to a better future.
Public education (tax-financed socialism) has become the most widespread and devastating form of child abuse and racism in the United States. Moreover, people who have been cut off at the knees by public education are so mentally handicapped that they cannot be responsible custodians of the energy technology base or other advanced accomplishments of our civilization. These ignorant people vote and their votes are beginning to destroy our way of life. Can this problem be corrected? Yes. Can it be corrected by improving the public schools? No — only by abolishing them.
- Art Robinson, via Newsletter, 1997
Faced with the possibility voters might regard abolishing public education as an unusual approach, Republicans can take comfort. The public will see that as a minor issue at best. Consider this:
All we need do with nuclear waste is dilute it to a low radiation level and sprinkle it over the ocean - or even over America after hor-mesis is better understood and verified with respect to more diseases.
- Art Robinson, by newsletter April 01, 1997
The Republican Party has been shrinking. That, in itself, does not mean defeat at the polls. Electoral victory comes from attracting votes, not membership. Non-members of the GOP, those who see Republican views as sufficiently close to their own, are likely to vote for Republican candidates.
But a shrinking party base is also accompanied by an increasingly shrill and extremist message. That is because, as the party shrinks, those remaining tend to be more extreme than those who leave.
National Republicans today are satisfied with suggestions that Medicare be replaced with vouchers, and that the retirement age be raised, and that nutrition programs for little kids and for the working poor be ended.
These views were once considered the province of John Birch types, beyond consideration for normal folks.
As the party continues to go small and smaller, the views of Oregon conservatives will find a new home in national discourse.
It's raining nuclear waste.
Anyone want an umbrella?
Now perhaps I am wrong and I have only been blessed with ever having come into contact with non-racist conservatives all of my life. Perhaps the majority of the rest of my political fellow travelers are the rabid racists you insinuate they must be.
- T. Paine, Commenting at FairAndUNbalanced.com, April 25, 2013
My good friend, T. Paine, had objected to my strong suggestion that much of the current hatred toward President Barack Obama is, in fact, racist.
Others have raised similar objections to identical observations. Two conservative writers whom I admire come to mind.
James Wigderson suggests, of folks like me, "They’re even screaming racism if someone criticizes the president."
The Heathen Republican, whose contributions (sadly) have been restrained by an intense personal schedule, asks how anyone can "honestly say that racial or racist opinions are 'conservative opinions'? Simply put, they can’t."
The argument of the Heathen Republican rests largely on ignoring the great migration of conservatives to the GOP beginning in the late 1960s. He conflates "conservative" with "Republican" and suggests that conservatives opposed slavery over the objection of liberals. Similarly, he conflates "liberal" with "Democratic" and cites segregationist Democratic opposition to Civil Rights legislation in 1964.
T. Paine objected specifically to what I had written.
I offered my own reactions during the Presidency of George W. Bush as a parallel, a useful case study. I suggested that my own strong policy objections, although there were many, did not completely cover my distaste for that White House occupant. Personal mannerisms really set my teeth on edge.
Here is how I put it:
The chest thrust, the strut, the noble scanning into the distance as others spoke, and, of course, the smirk. That reaction on my part is irrational, but those things contribute to a discernible irritation.
It's not fair. I have tried to compensate for that.
I suggested that policy objections carried much the same inadequacy in explaining the strong hatred conservatives express against President Obama. In my case, policy objections were joined by a distaste for several personal mannerisms. I suggested a lack of discernible personal mannerisms that could explain conservative reaction to President Obama.
Policy differences had been inflated by hyperbole. The President had offered a health care plan that was nearly identical to that invented by a conservative think tank during the Clinton presidency. It had been embraced by conservatives in those days as an alternative to President Clinton's health care proposal. Conservatives were enthusiastic in those days about their market oriented proposal.
Conservatives applauded its success when one Republican governor later implemented it on a state level. In 2004, Republicans responded warmly to Mitt Romney's Massachusetts record on health care.
That is not to say that conservatives had an ideological obligation to perpetual support. Even ideologues can change their minds. But the screams of socialistic death panels and the end of American freedom were less a reaction to the plan than they were a reaction to the one proposing the plan. This was not a policy disagreement. This was personal.
The strength of that personal element can be seen in an endless series of incidents. Some are truly groundbreaking. Beginning with Woodrow Wilson, every President of the United States has delivered the State of the Union Address to Congress in person. President Obama was the very first to be interrupted with a cry of "liar!"
Incidents this past week have not been all that unusual, illustrating the strength of that very personal opposition.
We saw the rebirth of the "birther" issue, the accusation that President Obama was smuggled into the country as a baby, having been born in Kenya. The charge was echoed by Congressional Representative Blake Farenthold (R-TX) at a town meeting. He expressed some helplessness on the fraudulent President.
I’ll give you a real frank answer about that: If we were to impeach the president tomorrow, you could probably get the votes in the House of Representatives to do it. But it would go to the Senate and he wouldn’t be convicted.
- Blake Farenthold (R-TX), August 10, 2013
Concerns about a Canadian born conservative have yet to surface. Conservative Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is considered by some to be the front runner in Iowa. A cynic might regard that lack of conservative concern, that unselfconscious enthusiasm, with some sense of irony.
Here in Missouri, a largely conservative crowd cheered as a rodeo performer wearing an Obama mask dodged a charging bull and an announcer asked who wanted to see "Obama run down by a bull." I suppose the more pedantic among us could argue about whether the incident, and the reaction of the crowd, was one of racial prejudice. Seems obvious to me. One onlooker called the symbolic attack "blatantly racist" and added "If an old country boy picks up on something like that, imagine what a person of color would think."
Conservatives gathered to protest as the President's motorcade passed them in Orlando. If the children of the President and First Lady happened to look out the window, they would have seen signs reading "Kenyan Go Home!"
It is a matter of opinion, I suppose, as to whether this was any worse than similar events staged by conservatives. Last week in Phoenix, the signs read "Impeach the Half-White Muslim!" The chants included "Bye Bye Black Sheep" and "47 Percent Negro".
Such people are an unknown quantity to some blessed individuals.
"Now perhaps I am wrong and I have only been blessed with ever having come into contact with non-racist conservatives all of my life," writes my friend T. Paine.
He suggests that I may be insufficiently sensitive to what, in addition to policy, irritates conservatives. "The fact that you cannot see the personal mannerisms, in addition to the policies of President Obama, that others might find disquieting doesn’t mean that they don’t exist."
I am, he says, blind to what conservatives know to be arrogance. "You don’t suppose that it is possible that, like me, most true conservatives and libertarians dislike President Obama simply because of his arrogance and his policies?"
Most of us see arrogance as an overrating of self, taking on an importance that is not really there. I can imagine those whom my friend says he has never, ever met, thinking that the President sees himself as too ... what would be the word ... uppity. "Arrogant" is a description that would appeal ro those carrying signs and leading chants in Orlando and Phoenix.
My friend is a truly exceptional individual, one who has led a truly exceptional life. He has, by his own testimony, come into contact only with non-racist conservatives. No exceptions.
Quite a record.
The Voting Rights Act, protecting minorities from denial of the right to vote, was seriously weakened by recent Supreme Court rulings. A section applying to certain sections of the country with a history of racist actions aimed at denying minorities voting rights.
But there is another section that allows the courts themselves to put jurisdictions back on that list.
The problem is the burden of proof shifts. Before, a state or locality had to show the Justice Department was wrong in saying a change in voting laws or regulations discriminated. Now the Justice Department, or private groups or individuals who sue, have to proof changes do discriminate.
That's what Attorney General Eric Holder must do in suing Texas for intentionally discriminating.
Texas presents an interesting argument. If the discrimination is motivated by political calculation instead of racism, the voting rights law does not apply. Texas can discriminate against minorities if it's only to win elections and not out of racial hatred.
We have noting against Hispanics or black people. But, because these groups are mostly Democratic, we can discriminate against them. The fact that the reasons are not racist makes racial actions okay.
The pertinent passage is on page 19 of the Texas brief (pdf):
DOJ’s accusations of racial discrimination are baseless. In 2011, both houses of the Texas Legislature were controlled by large Republican majorities, and their redistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party’s electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats.
It is perfectly constitutional for a Republican-controlled legislature to make partisan districting decisions, even if there are incidental effects on minority voters who support Democratic candidates.
- State of Texas, in US District Court, filed August 5, 2013
The Texas case deals mostly with changes directed against Hispanics. The changes were in district boundaries. Gerrymandering goes on every ten years in every section of the country. When race is the primary calculation, it is kept quiet.
Texas is the first that I know of that makes ethnic discrimination official policy, even to the extent of including it in arguments made to a federal court. They are saying that actions against a racial or ethnic group are okay if the motivation is not racist.
The rationale could apply equally to other actions taken against Hispanic voters. For example, voter photo IDs that non-drivers generally don't have are now to be required. Lot's of Hispanic voters walk or take public transportation to work.
There are places where such IDs can be gotten, but office hours have been restricted, and locations moved away from areas with large Hispanic populations. Required documentation goes way beyond proof of identity.
The idea is that it is okay to take such actions against Hispanic voters as long as it is only because such voters would tend to vote for Democrats.
The argument is similar to that made by conservatives in other jurisdictions, as actions calculated to make it harder to vote are justified as non-racial.
We won't target minorities because we hate minorities.
We will target minorities because so many are Democrats.
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A large proportion of folks my age and older have been uncomfortable with Barack Obama as President. At The Moderate Voice, Ron Beasley tells us support for Republicans among the elderly may be in decline as a party intent on destroying retirement care loses some of its quaint attractiveness. Racial identification loses its charm when the goal is to slash Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to finance tax loopholes for the wealthy.
Who can forget the breaking news revealed by the conservative website, the Daily Caller? A US Senator had a sexual relationship with an underage prostitute. Except the story turned out to be bogus. Now Tommy Christopher of Mediaite checks out another scoop. It seems Ebony magazine, the publication with a mostly young African-American readership, fell for a hoax, reporting it as fact. HaHaHa, silly minority owned magazine. One detail, though. The folks at the Daily Caller forgot to read Ebony before making fun of them. Ebony mocked a story about conservatives boycotting the magazine. The primary joke here seems to be the Daily Caller. Silly non-minority news site!
Racism is often experienced as a series of "misunderstandings." Mad Mike's America brings us a clerk who doesn't recognize Oprah, but seems to recognize her skin color. Couldn't possibly afford to be there. Racism is typically more frequent and more severe.
Lots of right wing hoaxes these days. Last Of The Millenniums tells us of a viral email from a very bigoted Bill Cosby. As you may expect it's a fake, made up by a conservative presumably from Massachusetts. The real Bill Cosby turns out to be a very ticked off non-bigot.
You think Steve King says stupid things about Hispanic valedictorians? Max's Dad explains the latest entry by the Representative from Iowa for idiot of the year. Climate change is okay because Steve King likes to be warm.
Jack Jodell, friend of the working blogger at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST, is upbeat. It's contagious as he provides inspirational wisdom from historical personalities.
- Vincent of A wayfarer's notes listens to a BBC program on the writing experience and describes the only way he knows how to write. He describes it as a limitation. If he gives up that handicap, I just hope he knows what he's doing. He's astonishing now, probably because of "limitations."