Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lessons in the Obvious

More than 12 years ago, the current leading intellectual of the GOP presidential field, Newt Gingrich, wrote the following in his book Lessons Learned the Hard Way:
The idea of a grand showdown on spending had long been a staple of conservative analysis. Even before Reagan's inaugural, he had been approached by one prominent conservative who urged him to force a showdown over the debt ceiling and simply refuse to sign on to one until the Democratic Congress reined in its spending plans. Reagan rejected this idea with a comment I wish I had understood better at the time. The conservative activist who told me that story was convinced that Reagan would have won such a showdown. For fifteen years I agreed with him, but I was to learn something about the American people that too many conservatives don't appreciate. They want their leaders to have principled disagreements but they want these disagreements to be settled in constructive ways. That is not, of course, what our own activists were telling us. They were all gung ho for a brutal fight over spending and taxes. We mistook their enthusiasm for the views of the American public.
Where did this enlightenment go, particularly within the cerebral cortex of Newt's brain? This kind of nuance has disappeared underneath the scorched-earth, talk-radio-fueled insanity that has characterized the Rush/Hannity/Palin mega-conservative era.

Overdue Response to Reader

I missed this in the reader comments for this post:
If you were walking on a pier and looked down to see someone obviously in distress, would you throw them a life preserver? Would you try to get someone to help them? Or would you keep to your own business? If you were in a car with someone and they turned the wrong way down a one way street, would you point it out to them? If you saw a movie that you really enjoyed, wouldn't you tell a friend? If you found a medicine that cured a disease you've struggled with all of your life, wouldn't you want to tell everyone else who is suffering from that condition? If you saw a parent beating a child in the store, what would you do? The word "evangelism" comes from the Greek for "Good News." At its best, the evangelistic movement in Christianity is just that: sharing good news. "This is what works for me, it might work for you."
To the reader's credit, he does acknowledge the arrogance in this attitude. If the reader quietly used the sharing of good news approach with me, I'd be open and willing to have that conversation. And I believe that a great many Christians would approach me in this way. The problem I've had, throughout my adult life, is that there is an underlying belief that the way I believe is wrong and will result in my spending eternity in hell. So the discussion takes on a sense of urgency, or worse, of judgment that I'm inferior. Because of that experience, I admit to having my guard up against proselytization. I admit that I am defensive against anyone who thinks his belief system is more spiritual, more enlightened, or more perfect, than my own. The reader wants non-believers to make Christians compete in the world of ideas. The trouble is, religion isn't an idea, or at least a grounded, rational one. Religion is based on irrational, emotional, and uncertain things like faith. Anyone who views his faith as anything except something personal, subject to doubt, and incomplete is not a person of faith. He is a spiritual bully.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chart of the Day

Matthew Yglesias at Think Progress mulls over a chart breaking down how different religious blocs within the GOP view the field of possible 2012 candidates. Interesting highlights:

  • Among Evangelicals, Huckabee's way out in front. Bubba has yet to throw his hat into the ring. Running a distant second and third are Palin and Romney, respectively.

  • Among "mainline" Christians, Romney is the fave over Gingrich by about 6%, followed by Huckabee and Palin

  • Catholics also prefer Huckabee over Romney or Gingrich by over 10%

  • Other religious blocs (or those with no affiliation) like Romney best, with "None/Don't Know" as their next best choice. Mitt bests Palin in this category by more than 2 to 1.

  • Tim Pawlenty, who with Newt is the only real candidate at this point, failed to do better than 5% among any religious bloc.
Given how dominated the GOP is by Evangelical and other Christian groups, Romney is going to have a very hard time securing the nomination. If Huckabee doesn't run, that leaves Newt, Palin, and Romney to try to outdo each other among the loony fringe Tea Party bloc, which is almost exclusively white, Christian, and socially conservative. That further hurts Mitt's chances, and most certainly puts Newt's three marriages and other moral failings in sharp contrast. Andrew has said it before, and it bears repeating: this race is truly Sarah Palin's to lose. If she sits it out, she could either be squandering a very good opportunity, or simply holding off until 2016 when there won't be an incumbent sitting in the White House. My bet is on the latter, which makes her all the more dangerous because so far I see absolutely no one on the Democratic side who looks more centrist than the President or who looks like a liberal firebrand who can really energize the party. Hillary will be too old by then, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker could not overcome the idea of back-to-back African Americans in the White House. Retiring Virginia Senator Jim Webb is too conservative (though very appealing to middle America). Still, there's time for someone to rise to the surface and surprise us all.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Small-c conservativism

Andrew Sullivan, again. Money quote:
Income tax rates are now lower than they were under Ronald Reagan and far lower than they were under Eisenhower. And yet it has become a Norquistian non-negotiable that no taxes can be raised at all on anyone, let alone the beneficiaries of the last thirty years - and those who differ must be "leftists" - even when the US is facing debt of historic and dangerous proportions. Someone advocating what Eisenhower was perfectly comfortable with would be regarded by the Republican right today as a communist. And yet, of course, Eisenhower was emphatically not a Communist, whatever the John Birch society believed. In retrospect, he might even be seen as the most successful small-c conservative of the 20th century. (This was indeed Paul Johnson's take in Modern Times.)
And yet, he goes on, anyone with the idea that Obama is a radical leftist has to understand and accept the FACTS that moneyed interests in this country (the rich, corporations) are far better off under his administration than they were under Reagan and GW Bush, by far.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Clever Ad Watch

For the Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner.

Link of the Day/Week/Month

Andrew Sullivan ponders the parallels that have been drawn between neoconservatism and fascism. Personally, I see the former as a "lite" version of the latter. Money quote:
[W]hat they are really about is the increase of American global power under the guise of democracy. ...

That's one reason neocons were utterly unconcerned with a presidency that gave itself unlimited powers in an unlimited war: the power to seize citizens and non-citizens at will without due process under emergency laws, the power to torture victims to procure rationales for future warfare and retroactive casus belli, and the power to ransack anyone's private property (John Yoo found the Fourth Amendment as "quaint" as the Geneva Conventions). Every time you hear Bill Kristol blithely say that someone does not need to be granted due process in order to be jailed or executed, the veil slips a little.
At this point, all the neocons need is to dominate the executive and legislative branches (they nearly dominate the judicial at this point and could overrun it in the next 10 years or so), and we would have the foundations in place for a total fascist state. "Freedom" as a gift to those who serve the state. To those who do not so serve, constant threat of observation, initimidation, arrest and the complete loss of all freedoms.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The GOP: White, Christian, and Now... Male!

After Maureen Dowd's column in yesterday's NYT in which she suggested that President Obama has been getting most of his guidance from his most senior female advisers (Sec'y of State Hillary Clinton, UN Ambassador Susan Rice, and Nat'l Security Advisor Samantha Power), the GOP punditry has jumped all over this to suggest that Obama has somehow been feminized.

Courtesy of TPM, we can see Pat Buchanan making that argument on MSNBC's Morning Joe.

But let's not stop there. Pat Buchanan hasn't had an original thought in years, so it must have come from someone else. And, indeed, Frank Gaffney, who writes for Republican guru Andrew Breitbart, bloviated three days ago about Obama his "anti-Israel troika of female advisors."

Nothing yet from Drudge about this, but it wouldn't surprise me if he started this whole pseudo-meme.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Republican Hypocrisy 101

Steve Benen at Washington Monthly sums it up in one paragraph:
I'd be remiss if I neglected to mention how amusing it is to hear Mitch McConnell express concern about the debt. The Kentucky Republican voted for the Bush tax cuts, and added the costs to the national debt. McConnell then voted to finance the war in Afghanistan by adding the costs to the national debt. He then voted to put the costs of the war in Iraq onto the national debt. McConnell supported a massive expansion of the government's role in health care, Medicare Part D, and voted to pile all of its costs right onto the national debt, and then backed the financial industry bailout, and added the bill to the national debt. All the while, McConnell had no qualms about voting to raise the debt limit.

But now McConnell is willing to risk default unless Democrats agree to a plan to help clean up the mess McConnell helped create. Fascinating.

I'd say pathetic, disgusting, slimy, odious, populist, and fecal before I'd call it fascinating.

Obama, were he to "go there" with the Republicans and with McConnell, would call their fiscally insane suggestions and his discussion of allowing a government shutdown exactly what they are: a terrorist act and a terrorist threat against the middle class in America.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Massive Quake Rocks Japan

My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan after a massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck Friday afternoon local (Japan) time. People in the Pacific Rim are all on the watch for massive tsunamis, including southern California at around 8 am Pacific time.

Having been through a very large (6.7) earthquake in 1994, I know only too well what that feels like, but I can't imagine the devastating effects of a quake as large as yesterday's, the fifth largest ever recorded.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Love you, Rachel Maddow!

My favorite MSNBC commentator (yes, even more than former Countdown host Keith Olbermann) on Monday aired a brilliant, and deliciously sarcastic, commentary on the announcement by Senator John Ensign (R-NV) that he would not seek re-election to the Senate in 2012.

She also managed to get fantastics swipes in against Senator David Vitter (R-LA), who was caught up in the D.C. Madam scandal, and Newt Gingrich, who divorced not one, but two, wives while they were sick (and who recently delivered a barn-burner of a speech at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's latest gathering). And who, incidentally, gives us fantastic quotables like this about how his personal life has no bearing on his role in politics:
It doesn’t matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.
How charming.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Only in Orange County?

Last month, a Muslim relief organization held an event in Yorba Linda, CA (in the northeastern corner of Orange County, an upscale city which hosts the Nixon museum and birthplace). The fundraiser was disrupted (outside) by a group of protesting whiteys, supported by politicians who were, unfortunately, indistinguishable in their idiocy from the rest of the crowd except for the microphones in their hands.

This video was compiled from footage on local media and supplemented by video shot by Muslim attendees. It makes me sick, but it's essential to remind ourselves that this hatred exists.

I first saw this video posted on Digby's blog, which I found through Sullivan's link. I cringed when I heard the protesters call them "terrorists," or tell them to "go home and beat your wife like you do every night." Most, if not all, of these Muslims are probably American citizens.

I'm afraid that Orange County is not the only place to find this hatred. There are states all over this country which are passing laws outlawing Shariah law (as if it could possibly supplant our Constitution). We are witnessing the complete breakdown of the former white ruling class in this country, morhping into something more peaceful, brilliant, and inclusive to all citizens. As Dick Cheney said, "They are in their last throes."