to get episodes automatically downloaded.
As George W. Bush took office, social activist Barbara Ehrenreich finished up an experiment. She left her life, went undercover, and took a series of jobs at minimum wage. Her experiment lasted for three months.
Her account of the experience received good reviews. She turned out to be a pretty good writer. And now she knew what it was like to be part of the working poor.
Except, it occurred to me, she didn't. Not really.
She knew a little more than most of us. But sometimes a bit of secret knowledge can crowd out real understanding. Nobody could know what it was like to live forever in that life, if they secretly knew they had a clear path out.
Most of those who live day-to-day have no light at the end, no three month finish line. A long, hard day at minimum pay is a different experience if you know it will come to a comfortable close in a few weeks.
I thought briefly of Barbara Ehrenreich's personal exploration of poverty as I heard Hillary Clinton describe her own experiences with economic hardship.
We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt. We had no money when we got there, and struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea's education. You know, it was not easy.
- Hillary Clinton, June 9, 2014
Pundits and analysts consider the numbers. PolitiFact runs a balance sheet. Were the Clinton liabilities truly greater than their assets?
I tried to find a quote from many years ago. A real estate mogul suffered a huge financial loss. For a while his liabilities became a multiple of his assets. As he plotted his way back to solvency, he passed a man sleeping on a public bench. He remarked, "He's worth more than I am right now."
The mogul may have been correct in a literal sense, just as Hillary Clinton may have been correct. Balance accounting and financial spreadsheets can prove it one way or the other.
But such remarks reveal more than insulation from the day-to-day experience of ordinary Americans. Those who do not worry about mortgages in the plural on houses in the plural, who worry instead about eviction or food, experience negative cash flow very differently than a down-on-his-luck developer or an ex-First Family.
Accepting abuse from debt collectors by telephone or from abusive bosses form a collection of denigration that undermines a sense of self. That knot in the stomach at the sound of a knock on the door or a ringing phone is unknown to someone who lives in a world of mere numbers.
The former Senator who may become our next President did later try to explain what she really meant. "Let me just clarify that I fully appreciate how hard life is for so many Americans today," she began. Within a few moments, she wobbled off again into how many millions the family had owed. "We have also gone through some of the same challenges as many people have."
Back in those nearly forgotten days of my youth, I do recall listening to a favorite story. My dad told of a preacher who always strove to empathize with each parishioner.
The pastor would think back to some experience from his own past that would allow him to say "I know just how you feel." I-know-just-how-you-feel became a continuing refrain with him. A woman struggling with a difficult pregnancy responded, "How?"
When John F. Kennedy toured West Virginia, visiting mining families, walking through very tough workplaces, he did not pretend to "fully appreciate how hard life is." What he saw was so different from his own world, he was openly troubled. That was enough.
I like Hillary Clinton. She has put herself on the line for the good of those who will never have her advantages. The public vilification, the gross hostility, the suffering she has endured is different from anything I will undergo. I do not pretend to understand her sacrifice,
Just as I will never know what it is like to grow up in a ghetto, so she will never know the lesser hardships that I and others know as a daily part of life.
Her recognition of that fact, and her ability to transcend that separation, is what will enable her to become President. It will guide her to becoming a better President.
In response to Ryan in comments following his Understanding Conservatives Will Not Justify Hatreds
Since I know that you are familiar with Haidt, I know that you are also familiar with the concept of "moral disgust." Conservatives have been found to be more inclined to associate disgust with immorality.
- Ryan, June 19, 2014
Haidt was almost an apologist for the republican stance on disgust and morality. He put it largely under the control of reflex, just as any other stance on morality is. Haidt was an extreme liberal psychologist who attempted to understand how conservatives could be so nutty.
In conducting the study, he converted himself. He is now more of a moderate with an equal respect for many aspects of the conservative mind (equal to that of a liberal, but with more foundational backing).
Since you brought Haidt up, what would you think it means if all passionate arguments we make are formed by internal attorneys who are trying to support “knowledge” we already have with reasons other than those mentioned in the argument? What would this say about conservatives? What would it say about liberals? Where do you think the conservative is getting his “knowledge?” Where do you think the liberal is getting his “knowledge?”
I think your notion of republicans being revolting could be answered in this question. I think you will conclude that the liberal gets his knowledge from utilitarianism in some way and the conservative gets his from …. ?
I agree that conservatives associate disgust with immorality. I posit that this is because the disgust is triggered by moral certainty. I think moral certainty is very dangerous, whether a liberal or a conservative owns it. As a liberal, I prefer a liberals moral certainty to that of a conservative. I consider most forms of certainty to be benighted.
As a very wise man once said:
“The man who is certain has no need to inform himself further,
And his education is complete when he declares that it is,
And there is no way to challenge his logic, which is certain, and beyond thought.”
[Quoted from memory. I hope I did not mangle the quote too badly].
If you mix that inclination (and a dash of opposition to what is not "traditional") with the belief that one's "moral sense" is dependable and in line with those of an omnipotent and omniscient Creator who will one day smite or at least "purify" the infidels, you can get the revolting sort of people I've described.
Sure you can, or you don’t have to. Islam has similar parallels, often with action to backup it. This does not mean that Moslems are revolting.
Not coincidentally, I don't find libertarians, who are less squeamish or at least less inclined to make others adhere to their own tastes, to be revolting. Dangerous, perhaps, but not revolting.
Funny, overall I generally have more respect for Republicans more often. I get most of the Republican main arguments. I see their foundations. I usually don’t see them as heartless.
Libertarian passion for the treatment of the poor and anyone who is less capable than they is all too often utterly revolting to me. Many of the arguments they make are clearly insincere, such as “let charities feed the poor. They are better at it anyway, and if you tax less, people will have the money to fund charities.” Libertarians don’t even try.
That said, I don’t find libertarians revolting either.
John Myste's respect for opposition may not always extend to the arguments of opponents, but will always go to opponents themselves.
to get episodes automatically downloaded.
It was, perhaps, naive to believe a mere change in a national government would signal an end to hundreds of years of unreasoning hostility. The hatreds run much deeper than many of us had imagined.
Not everyone living with that sort of division is an extremist, of course. Extremists tend to extend their hatreds to moderates. Those on their own side of the divide who are inadequate in their intolerance can easily become the enemy.
Human history is filled with such divisions. Protestants and Catholics killed each other in Northern Ireland for generations. Occasionally, non-extremists took brave steps. It wasn't until the late 1990s that peace took hold.
Throughout Europe, history has seen different Christian sects dislike, or hate, or kill each other.
Hatreds based on such divisions go to antiquity. Racial supremacy accelerated in the 1600s. The dividing lines in ancient times were ethnicity and religion. Romans considered themselves superior to those they conquered. The technology of water and war brought to Romans stereotypes of outsiders as dirty and weak.
I was thinking of parallels between ancient and modern times as I watched a television special a while ago on one of the surviving remnants of Roman architecture. Parts of Hadrian's Wall still exist across Britain.
There is some speculation about the Emperor Hadrian's true intent. The wall may have been defensive, or it may have been a sort of immigration control. It might have been a demonstration of Roman power. It could have been a sort of public works project, keeping a restless military occupied during a time of relative peace.
What is often unexamined in popular history is the attitude of Roman elites toward the Emperor in those days. Hadrian was the chosen heir of the very popular Emperor Trajan. The military liked Hadrian, especially since the first few years of his reign were spent touring outposts on the fringes of the Empire.
But the higher classes of Roman society thought of Hadrian as unworthy. He was the first leader of Rome who was not considered a real Roman. He was, you know, a Spaniard. He came from one of the conquered territories. For centuries, Roman society had looked down on such people. They were inferior, uncivilized, unclean. They were to be tamed, not to be followed.
It got worse. He defied tradition. He did not wear the robes associated with Roman rule. He dressed as a soldier. He loved foreign culture, especially that of the Greeks. More conservative Romans were offended by his unsophisticated appearance. He wore a beard.
He was later regarded as the third of the Five Good Emperors. Five in a row that brought peace and prosperity to Roman subjects. In fact, he was the only emperor who chose, not only his successor, but his successor's successor - history's philosopher king, Marcus Aurelius.
During the two decades Hadrian ruled, his every act was seen by the official representatives of Roman aristocracy, the Senate, through the twin prisms of incompetence and tyranny. As an outsider, a ruler who was not a real Roman, he simply did not know his place. Everything he did had to be part of an underlying pattern. He was either attempting a new level of intrusive authoritarianism or he was woefully out of his depth.
Today's civil war in Iraq comes from centuries of antagonism between Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims. The most extreme of the Sunnis form the core of ISIS, taking hatred for Shiites to a murderous rage.
President Obama is attacked by conservatives for taking us out, then keeping us out, of that civil war. Even that has an ancient parallel. The most virulent criticism during Hadrian's early years was the lack of expansion of the Empire. In fact, he even backed off from some less defensible Roman conquests.
There is, of course, a more obvious parallel: A national leader whose very existence defies tradition, who shares an ethnicity with people conquered and forced into a subservient class, a leader who does not know his place. Most of all, a leader whose actions are seen by casual opponents as alternate examples of complete incompetence and total tyranny.
Both leaders subject to antagonisms that go back hundreds of years.
They kept building the same village for the Empress as she traveled downstream. She's back today as John McCain.
Remember when President Bush dodged a shoe? What is often overlooked is the reason he was visiting Iraq to begin with.
A State Senator says a constituent can leave Missouri if she doesn't like his vote on blocking coverage for the poor.
to get episodes automatically downloaded.
Fox News uncovers the story. President Obama released the fanatic who then went on to found ISIS, the al Qaeda offshoot that is marching on Baghdad. News Corpse checks the documentation and the dates and discovers the truth is very, very different. Very.
Conservative James Wigderson goes way hyperbolic on Planned Parenthood. A spokesperson claims the organization provides other services as well as birth control. "For many patients, the clinic provided their only health care options and gateway to other resources, even for non-reproductive issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure..." On the surface that does seem plausible. James compares the plea with a claim to be "the next best thing to a miracle at Lourdes..." Lourdes, James?
Jack Jodell at The Saturday Afternoon Post gets introspective about personal beliefs on Jesus, the Tea Party, A potential woman President, and Cheneyites.
His faithful readers will know that Tommy Christopher, at the Daily Banter, sometimes goes to unusual places to gain insight. This time he watches an interview with Stephen Colbert to get into the mind of Jay Carney, recent Press Secretary serving President Obama. As usual, the insights turn out to be ...well... insightful.
- Vincent at A wayfarer's notes reprises a visit 15 years ago to Manukan Island in Malaysia. As is often true of Vincent's writing, the visit is a launching point for an examination of the nature of being human. Consider just one sentence as he watches a succession of waves: "This is the heartbeat of eternity, directing its message to any shipwrecked mariner on the ocean of life."
to get episodes automatically downloaded.
The incident became the inspiration for silent movie plots that brought laughter to early audiences. A few historians wonder if it actually happened. The story is just too perfect.
Catherine II, Empress of Russia, decided to take a trip through the Crimea in the late 1700s. The area had been taken from the Ottoman Empire in a series of brutal battles, and a Russian governor had been installed. His task was to bring in Russian settlers and then rebuild. Catherine wanted to see how it was going.
This put the governor in a bit of an awkward position. He had exaggerated the progress he had been making.
As the Empress and her entourage made their way down the Dnieper River, the governor had his men erect a fake village and dress up as peasants. As soon as the procession was out of sight, the village would be disassembled, hastily transported down the river before the Empress could arrive, and then reassembled.
The Empress and her group saw dozens of healthy, productive villages, populated by industrious peasants who looked remarkably alike.
The governor was Gregory Potemkin. The term "Potemkin Village" comes from that history.
In the 1920s, the new Soviet Union tried to impress foreign visitors with showcase communities complete with happy residents living in prosperity. It didn't work. The term Potemkin Village came to mean pretty much any effort to impress by using a false facade to cover up a less impressive reality.
When Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev visited the United States in 1959, he wanted to visit Disneyland, but security arrangements could not be worked out in time. A shame, actually. Still, I doubt anyone would have thought to convince him that Disneyland was a typical American town. America was not a land of Potemkin villages.
Everyone likes to put their best foot forward. When that best foot turns out to be a disconnected Prada fur trimmed shoe, it becomes a Potemkin display.
In 2007, John McCain paid a visit to Iraq. He was taken through the Shorja market in Baghdad. Shelves were well stocked and merchants were conducting a fast paced business. Life was good. The Senator was impressed.
What he had not noticed was more telling than the signs of prosperity. Attack helicopters circled. American snipers were assigned to every rooftop. Armored Humvees manned by hundreds of soldiers patrolled side streets. Traffic was redirected around the area, as selected "shoppers" were sent in.
Merchants tried to break through to tell the American visitors things were actually terrible. They were turned away. And things were terrible. In the two month prior to Senator McCain's visit, more than 60 people had been killed in the very streets he toured. After he left, taking the soldiers, the Humvees, the snipers, and the helicopters with him, things went back to deadly normal. The following week, over 20 people were killed.
There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods, today.
- John McCain, in a radio interview, March 26, 2007
Supporters of the war insisted the conflict was ending successfully. We had it won. The Iraqi government would soon stand on its own. We wanted the troops out. Iraq wanted us out. President Bush had negotiated an agreement to get us out by the end of 2011.
Today, Republicans insist that we did have it won, but we didn't have it won enough to leave. This won-but-not-won status of continuing war could have been maintained indefinitely, had President Obama simply kept our forces there.
John McCain appeared on MSNBC this week to drive home the two points. We had it won and yet we could not leave.
The fact is, we had the conflict won. And We had a stable government. And a residual force such as we have left behind, we even have forces in Bosnia, Korea, Germany, Japan, where we could have. But the president wanted out, and now, we are paying a very heavy price. And I predicted it in 2011."
- Senator John McCain, June 13, 2014
Had the conflict won. Had a stable government. Walk anywhere in Baghdad.
Senator McCain should know.
He saw it with his own eyes.
In response to comments by John Myste about Republican Revolution in Virginia
The underlying motivations for the “revolting” philosophies we find in conservatives as a body are not hate, not a desire to discriminate and not racism or xenophobia, as you called it. They are love of God, morality as they see it, and commitment to positive ideals, such as we all should strive to do our part and a subset should not be required to fill in for those who refuse...
- John Myste, June 17, 2014
I said very little about motivations. My focus was on the revolting ways in which they
think and feel about certain groups of people and express those thoughts and feelings and
- claim moral superiority by virtue of a religion that they practice as they see fit and use as justification for laws that affect people from other or no religions.
The second concern cannot be justified; it is hypocritical and abusive. The first concern can only be justified by the nature of the groups that they resent, but those groups do not deserve the resentment.
Understanding conservative motivations, whether they are what you listed or otherwise, leads to understanding conservatives, but not to justifying their behavior. They don't have to think that homosexuals or women or black people are inferior beings to do the things that I find revolting.
When people start from different points in believe, they come to different conclusions. Even when those conclusions are contradictory, that does not make them hypocrites.
- John Myste, June 17, 2014
If this is directed at my comment about hypocrisy, let me clarify with an example:
If some behavior X must be illegal because it is wrong according to the Bible, then all behaviors that are wrong according to the Bible must be illegal. And yet, while there is much political talk over the horrors of gay marriage, there is little to none on the matters of divorce, marriage between non-Christians, marriage between Christians and non-Christians, totally secular marriages, and adultery.
Plenty of conservative Christians have a problem with at least some of these for the same purported reason that they oppose gay marriage, but virtually all political energy (and hatred) is focused on gay marriage alone.
To bring this back to your point about motivations, there is more going on here than love of God, morality as they see it, and positive ideals. Something else motivates them to focus on one issue over another, when the two issues are otherwise equally important from a Biblical, social, or economic perspective.
In this case, gay marriage gets so much attention primarily (I believe) because conservatives regard homosexuality (and even homosexuals) with such disgust and associate that with a "moral sense." There are other reasons, such as their perception of the "homosexual lifestyle," but these tend to be equally flimsy as justifications for legislation against homosexuals.
You can say this, without knowing it, and then saying it is pointless.
- John Myste
I didn't follow this line.
I know lots of conservatives personally. I like most of them. I think you would too.
I get along with them as well as I do with non-conservatives unless I hear about "the gays" and their agenda or morally bankrupt atheists or our black welfare queen epidemic or filthy "A-rabs" or our "Kenyan Muslim usurper" or any number of other ridiculous and insulting talking points.
If I am not forced to interact with such people, I make a point to not do so again. If I am, I try my best to avoid all religious and political discussion.
Ryan is a frequent contributor of thoughtful posts and an even more frequent contributor of insightful comments. We are always grateful for his thoughts and insights.
to get episodes automatically downloaded.
This is the farewell kiss, you dog!
This is from the widows, the orphans, those killed in Iraq.
You are responsible for the death of thousands of Iraqis.
- Iraqi Journalist, throwing one shoe, then another, at President George W. Bush, December 14, 2008
The man was arrested by Iraqi Security forces, tried, and taken to prison. He was sentenced to three years, which was eventually reduced to 9 months.
Some sources, including his brother, alleged that he was severely beaten while in prison. In most of the Arab world, he was treated as a hero. He was defended at his brief trial by the head of the Iraqi Bar Association.
The positive reaction was not entirely confined to the Arab world. The British paper The Guardian invited him to write his own story, "Why I threw the shoe".
The reaction of some of us was worry. The incident seemed to illustrate the vulnerability of our leaders. I wrote at the time, "..some of us now wonder about the apparent lack of reaction by the Secret Service after that first shoe was thrown."
For the most part, that is how the incident, the trip itself, and the last few days of the Bush Presidency are remembered. Shoes were thrown. They missed. The President was amused.
What is often overlooked is the reason President Bush was visiting Iraq to begin with. He was standing with Iraq's Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, as they jointly announced the terms of United States withdrawal from Iraq.
The new Status of Forces Agreement had two deadlines. The United States would be out of major cities by the end of June 2009. We would be pretty much out of Iraq by the end of 2011.
Some experts thought the United States should stay a lot longer. The time frame of our stay should be anywhere from a few more years to a few more generations. Mostly they were the same experts who had marched us into Iraq.
But Iraq's Prime Minister, not to put too fine a point on it, turned out to be an astonishing jerk.
The vision President Bush had embraced of spreading inclusive democracy throughout the Middle East, indeed basic fairness, depended largely on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The tense, very tense, relationship between Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims has wavered for hundreds of years between blood feud and unfriendly peace. The Sunni minority in Iraq had ruled over a resentful Shiite majority for a long time. The US had tossed most of the Sunni government out of power. Shiite Muslims moved on in.
Now we relied on the new leader to open the new government to the religious minority. But the Prime Minister greeted the Sunni minority with an iron fist. The opportunity to settle past scores was irresistible. He grabbed at every chance to multiply that repayment. He would grind the religious minority face first into the dust.
The real deal breaker for President Bush was the uncompromising stand Nuri al-Maliki took toward members of the United States military. At issue was whether any future criminal accusations against military service people would be adjudicated by the United States or by the government of Iraq.
No American administration would agree to having US soldiers tried and sentenced by a foreign government. Not the outgoing President George W. Bush. Not the incoming President Barack Obama. Never had before. Never would in the future. Never.
After President Bush left office. President Obama refused to compromise about US military forces. As had President Bush, Obama also pressured Maliki to include Sunnis in the government. The Prime Minister responded with bellicose anti-American rhetoric.
The same folks who negotiated the early departure of US forces, the people assigned to negotiate by President Bush, those folks are now attacking President Obama for not finding a way to get Prime Minister Maliki to sign a new agreement.
They urge the President to send troops or, at least, to use American air power to turn away the tide of a new Sunni march against the Maliki government.
The lack of defined targets is of no concern to critics of President Obama. A Presidential reluctance to get re-involved in a religious civil war is interpreted as weakness.
Conservative attacks seem to be based less on events in Iraq than on a continuing distaste for President Obama. As much as the anger that sometimes erupts between Sunnis and Shiites, the anger that motivates at least some of those critics goes back hundreds of years.
As difficult Presidential decisions are made, most of the rhetoric from the grandstands is little more the verbal equivalent of throwing shoes.
In response to Burr Deming's Republican Revolution in Virginia
Republicans are increasingly seen by voters as revolting.
- Burr Deming, June 11, 2014
I want to make something very clear: I do NOT see Republicans as revolting, and I don't think most of us should. It is easy to do, because their philosophies are so revolting to liberals (and vice versa).
I do find Republican philosophy to be revolting.
Using our resident conservative here as an example, though, I find Republicans to be quite lovable.
T. Paine is one of the most honest and honorable people I have met on the web. I have "known" him for four years. I have seen him, time and time again, in heated battles, scenes that tend to bring out the worst in people.
He has repeatedly earned my respect in such settings. He gets annoyed, as we all do, but he maintains a certain level of integrity, nonetheless. Additionally, his revolting philosophy is not all there is to him.
He finds reasons to be a good person, just as we try to do. They are not the same reasons we find, and his macro-philosophies are different from ours. I think, at a more micro-level, he and I, and most of us here, have very similar ideals.
We disagree about how to achieve them. We see the world as it is through very different lenses. I don't think we see the world as it should be as that different at all, once we disregard approaches and policies.
If I were in battle and had to rely on the integrity of the guy next to me to help me survive, I would be perfectly pleased to have revolting Republicans like T. Paine by my side.
John Myste is a frequent contributor whose comments often serve to advance debate. His thoughts are greeted with gratitude.
to get episodes automatically downloaded.
The conflation of patriotism with boisterous conservatism is nothing new. In the late 1960s many of us went from support to opposition to the Vietnam War. It became obvious that it was wrong. It wasn't long before it became obvious it was dumb.
Our intervention in a sectarian civil war between a Buddhist population and ruler holding to a peculiar brand of conservative Catholicism was based on ideology more than on facts. We knew for an absolute fact that Communism was a monolithic conspiracy directed from a single room in the Kremlin. Better keep the world domination plot a few hundred miles further away.
Those who became persuaded that this was wrong found patriotism challenged. America! Love it or leave it.
A couple of generations later the phrase had become passé, but the sentiment had not. The invasion of Iraq, with all the stories of mushroom clouds over Manhattan, was bought by the public on a simple principle - we had to get them back for September 11, them being Muslims in that part of the world.
If you were an American Muslim, or if you didn't hate Muslims, or even if didn't want to kill them over there so they didn't make it over here, you simply weren't an American. Did the militant Sunni hate group, al Qaeda, target Shiite Muslims? Did they target fellow Sunnis who did not adequately hate Shiites? Forget all that. They were all Muslims. Same as the 9/11 murderers.
Ten years later we see the results on the nightly news. I am struck by the latest irony. As Sunni tribes join associates of the remnants of al Qaeda on the march toward Baghdad, our latest nation of American nightmares, Iran, makes moves toward alliance with the United States. Iran is Shiite and does not want to stand by as comrades in religion are slaughtered in its neighboring country.
The Love It or Leave It mentality has, at its heart, a rejection of traditions important to representative democracy. Sometimes ideas that I embrace, and candidates that agree, are rejected in elections.
I still have a chance to persuade. Ideas do occasionally gain acceptance as policies have an effect.
And we always have a chance to try again in the next election, or the one after that.
One obligation of traditional democracy, when my side wins, is to be open to debate. We need to be aware that those with whom we disagree have the right to oppose. We argue. We do not suppress.
Both sides play by the rules and, over time, things get settled. Consensus emerges.
Missouri Republicans seem to have a different tradition.
These are folks who recently placed a statue in the rotunda of the legislature, the Missouri Capitol, of Rush Limbaugh. There it stands, a proud symbol of the show-me state.
They have joined Republican legislatures in several other states to reject expansion of Medicaid coverage for folks working their way out of poverty.
Current law says states can exclude large numbers of the working poor from coverage. The Affordable Care Act included a provision that expands Medicaid coverage to all people earning below a certain level. The increase is financed by the federal government. Missouri has refused the money and denied the coverage.
State Senator Republican Ed Emery wrote to one citizen who protested Republican blocking of insurance for low income residents. Part of Ed Emery's letter was an invitation:
We live in a nation and an era that facilitates physical moves between states. Individuals and families are free to consider moving to states with differing and even contrasting government policies.
- State Senator Ed Emery, May 13, 2014
No kidding. That's what our state representative said.
He later backtracked a little. He was not really telling his constituent that she should darn well leave the state. He was just explaining that it as an option.
This is how he explained it to KCUR in Columbia Missouri: "We’re free to move from state to state if a state has policies that we like versus policies that we don’t."
There you have it. Two friendly options: Missouri! Love it or leave it.
Domestic Terrorism - Warnings from 2009 Revisited (8:03) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
If we had listened back then, if we had been less insulted, how many would be alive now? So why didn't we listen?
With each oscillation of modulus 4 years, Republicans win, when they win, by a smaller margin. When they lose, they lose by an ever widening gap.
All the vital, angry, deadly issues in this prisoner exchange come down to a few decisions. Each of those few decision involves priorities.
This true of the President. This is true of each conservative critic.
What is most important?
to get episodes automatically downloaded.
Her father was murdered. She is a veteran of temporary homes and a homeless shelter. The Intersection of Madness and Reality relates the message of inspiration she delivers as Validictorian of Anacostia High School in DC. Oh, by the way, she'll be attending a prestigeous college.
- T. Paine, at Saving Common Sense, hears of the most important part of a cemetary marker and relates that lesson beautifully to the love of his life and a brave in-law. Makes me sad for never knowing her, and glad for knowing him, if only through the internet.
to get episodes automatically downloaded.
The Counterterrorism Division of the FBI had existed for only a couple of years when President Bush took office. It had been set up during the Clinton administration and was focused on terrorist threats. The task was not just investigation. It was threat assessment. Trends and capabilities were the focus. Figure out what the bad guys will do before they even know. It was a small fledgling effort.
One item of interest was the hijacking of a French airliner and a failed attempt to fly it, and its passengers, into the Eiffel Tower. Could something similar be tried elsewhere?
Republicans mocked the idea of a terrorism analysis division and disbanded the office as the Bush administration moved in. After all, the FBI was supposed to be the Federal Bureau of Investigation, not the Federal Bureau of Analysis. Ha Ha Ha.
In 2009, President Obama had not been in office for 3 months when his very new Secretary of Homeland Security announced a new report that had been in the works for over a year. It had mostly been prepared during the Bush administration. The FBI had helped put it together.
It dealt with domestic terrorism. It was an intelligence assessment of economic and social conditions that might lead to threats, and an assessment of capabilities.
The report was explicit in stating that it was not the result of an investigation and that it was not a warning about a specific threat: "...no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence..."
But the assessment did go back to the closest previous period during which such threats had materialized. It had been during the Clinton administration a decade and a half before: Economic problems, the winding down of war, social change, and a liberal Presidential administration. This time we could add a black President.
Extremist groups back then had tried to recruit returning troops. Right wing rhetoric had gone to incidents of violence, then escalated until a bombing in Oklahoma City killed 168 people, and injured 680 more. Many of the dead were little kids.
The 2009 report warned that analogous conditions were coming together again.
[The division] has no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, but rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues. The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment.
- Homeland Security,
Extremism and Radicalization Branch (pdf)
Homeland Environment Threat Analysis Division, April 7, 2009
Conservative reaction was swift:
By contrast, the piece of crap report issued on April 7 is a sweeping indictment of conservatives.
- Michelle Malkin, April 14, 2009
Janet Napolitano continues to thrash around for any rationalization she can find for the DHS report that painted political organizing on abortion, federalism, and immigration as potential national-security threats and called returning military vets a danger to the country they served.
- Ed Morrissey, April 20, 2009
Conservatives could read between the lines. They perceived a message the went far beyond what most of us saw as words on paper. We read about a risk assessment based on economic conditions. Conservatives read out name calling. Where many of us saw the words "domestic rightwing terrorists," Conservatives saw ... well... conservatives.
Republicans in Congress joined in. The most prominent was House Minority Leader John Boehner.
Furthermore, the Secretary of Homeland Security owes the American people an explanation for why she has abandoned using the term ‘terrorist’ to describe those, such as al Qaeda, who are plotting overseas to kill innocent Americans, while her own Department is using the same term to describe American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats are taking our nation.
- John Boehner, now Speaker of the House of Representatives, April 14 2009
American citizens who disagree with Democrats? Really?
Let's apply John Boehner's vocabulary to what has happened since.
Dean Obeidallah summarized a few days ago what those American conservatives who disagree with Democrats have managed since the report was issued.
American conservatives who disagree with Democrats concocted a plot in 2011 in Georgia to bomb a federal building and release deadly ricin in Atlanta;
American conservatives who disagree with Democrats attacked a Sikh temple in Wisconsin that killed six people;
American conservatives who disagree with Democrats placed bombs along the route of a Martin Luther King parade in Seattle;
American conservatives who disagree with Democrats killed a TSA officer and wounded another in November 2013
Two American conservatives who disagree with Democrats executed two Las Vegas policemen and then draped the Gadsden flag used by the Tea Party onto the dead officers’ bodies.
- American conservatives who disagree with Democrats launched numerous plots against, or actual killings of, law enforcement officers.
And on and on.
In fairness, Dean Obeidallah did not ascribe any of these incidents to conservatives or to American citizens who disagree with Democrats. Nor did the report warning us about conditions conducive to rightwing extremist violence. Obeidallah used words like
- members of a Georgia militia group
- a white supremacist on a Sikh temple
- another white supremacist
- the anti-government LAX gunman
- Jerad and Amanda Miller
Similarly, the Homeland Security report back in 2009 did not warn us about
- returning military vets
- political organizing on abortion,
- those who are against federalism
- opponents of immigration
or even American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats.
The report was a warning about domestic rightwing terrorists
and rightwing extremists.
So can anyone dispute the fact that the actual report, the warnings in 2009 about rightwing extremists and domestic terrorists, came true?
Let's ask John Boehner today. What about the the murders of police in Las Vegas? Where the murderers draped the Tea Party flag over the bodies? The killers who, as they stood over the police they had just shot to death, shouted their hopes for the start of a revolution? Was this domestic terrorism?
I -- I'm not sure how I'd describe it. But clearly we had a couple of sick individuals who engaged in a horrific crime. And our hearts go out to those families, especially the families of those two officers who went down.
- Speaker John Boehner, June 10, 2014
Our hearts do go out to the victims. Especially since resources were not appropriated and directed to heed the warnings issued back in 2009.
The warnings about domestic terrorism.