Politics News

It’s Elizabeth Warren’s party now! How to remake it in the liberal heroine’s image

Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama | (Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque/Yuri Gripas/photo montage by Salon)

I’ll just say, I hope she runs in 2016…

Salon

If they’re smart, liberals could use Warren’s new power to make the changes to the party that are so badly needed

Despite being so notoriously difficult to get right, predictions are part of the pundit’s stock-in-trade. So once you’ve got some grains of salt ready to toss into the mix, please indulge me for a moment as I make one of my own.

Here it goes: Twenty years from now, assuming climate change has not yet ended the world as we know it, most American liberals won’t think of this fall as the time when Republicans finally retook control of the U.S. Senate. And they won’t think of it as the brief pause that separated the era of Barack Obama from that of Hillary Clinton. Instead, when the liberals of our near future look back on the current moment, they’ll remember it as the hour when the Democratic Party began to move decisively to the left, thanks in no small part to the continued ascendance of Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Pessimist that I am, I’ll readily grant that this is very optimistic. In fits and starts, the party’s been moving leftward for a number of years now, and I’ve little doubt that the midterm blowout will be cited by some as proof that Democrats must become even more centrist. Yet unlike the talk surrounding a historically ignored election, which will dissipate quickly (especially if I’m right about the return of government-by-crisis), the opportunity raised by the Democratic Party’s recent decision to make Warren part of its Senate leadership has the potential to be far more enduring. But only if liberal activists know what to do with it.

At this point, it’s not entirely clear what the folks nominally in charge of this infamously disorganized party are trying to do by elevating Warren. Because the former Harvard Law professor has been prominent in liberal circles since the launch of her brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it can be easy to forget that she’s only been in Congress for a couple of years. And coming as it does after a truly disastrous midterm showing, this seeming vote of confidence from Democratic bigwigs has the risk of being a “glass cliff” situation. My former colleague Brian Beutler, for example, has guessed that Senate Dem leadership may have opted to bring Warren into the fold because they’ll need a popular spokeswoman to deliver the next two years’ worth of bad news to the “professional left.”

Still, even if Warren’s promotion isn’t motivated entirely or primarily by idealism and generosity, it could nevertheless be a major turning point for activists looking to push the Democratic Party in a more left-wing direction. After many years of kvetching about their paltry influence — and following decade after decade of enviously watching the conservative movement refashion the GOP in its own image — lefty ideologues and organizers now have the chance to turn Warren into a kind of trojan horse for a resurgent politics of economic populism (or, as it used to be called, liberalism). And if they adapt and adhere to the script used many years ago by visionary right-wingers, who famously responded to an electoral drubbing in 1964 by staying the course and propelling a true believer to the White House less than 20 years later, it just might work.

It’s not a perfect analogy, I admit. There are fundamental, irresolvable differences between liberals and conservatives, and they extend well beyond ideology and into the realms of psychology and sociology. (Liberals are less hierarchically minded, more demographically diverse.) Further, in spite of all the mythology about conservative movement turning the GOP into the “party of ideas,” the fact is that the men (and women, but mostly men) who transformed the party of Lincoln into the chief vehicle of the Reagan Revolution spent much more time talking about and organizing around what they were against — taxes, the welfare state, the civil rights movement, feminism, LGBT equality, the separation of church and state, etc. — than what they were for. And while there are certainly some recent Supreme Court decisions they’d like to see reversed, a politics centered around a return to the glorious past is, for liberals, not really an option.

But notwithstanding all of that, I still think the conservative example offers activist liberals unhappy with the Obama record –which is most of them — some valuable lessons.

For one, if left-wing troublemakers want to make Sen. Warren a Goldwater of their own, they’ll have to ignore the 2016 presidential race as much as possible. That doesn’t simply mean giving up on the lost cause of forcing Wall Street favorite Hillary Clinton to reinvent herself as a true progressive. And it certainly doesn’t mean wasting resources on a quixotic primary challenge, which in the present circumstances will do little more than help Clinton get back in the swing of triangulation. Instead, it means building institutional support from the bottom up by creating funding networks and community spaces outside of the Democratic Party’s reach, so lefties can feel personally invested in their cause without having D.C. grandees step in and tell them to be “serious.” That’s what right-wing activists did through churches, think tanks and mailing lists; and the often successful Internet-based organizing from people at Daily Kos and the Blue America PAC has already offered a hint of how those on the left can do it again.

For another, the conservative precedent suggests that even if policy is overrated when it comes to deciding the outcome of elections, it’s extremely important to be in control of the policymaking apparatus for the time that comes next. Our political culture may pay an inordinate amount of lip service to the idea that policy is a translated version of the people’s will, but the reality is that most partisans and politicians choose their policy views by following where their party leads them, not the other way around. Conservative dominance over the grants, scholarships and think tanks that comprised the GOP’s policymaking infrastructure was integral to the dramatic lurch to the right the party platform experienced between 1960 and 1976 (before Reagan’s coronation, you’ll note). And as the Tea Party’s recent takeover of influential right-wing policy shops like Cato and Heritage shows, the value of this approach has not over time been diminished. As Grover Norquist, one of the leading right-wing activists of his generation, noted in 2012, controlling the GOP policymaking machine made it so all conservatives needed in a Republican president was the ability to use a pen.

Last but not least, the success of right-wing activists from the past and present indicates that there can be long-term benefits in a short-term stint as the minority. To be clear, it’d be taking things too far to say that it’s a good thing Democrats now only control the White House. As the last four years have taught us, the powers of the imperial presidency don’t seem to extend very far into the realm of the domestic (at least not yet). So having a majority in Congress is vital, still. At the same time, there’s value, to a degree, in having a party with ideological coherence — increasingly so, I’d argue, in an era of institutional failure and partisan polarization. Most of the Democrats dissolved in the red tides of ’10 and ’14 were “blue dog” conservatives, and while their absence has stripped Democrats of control over Congress, it’s offered lefties within their ranks the chance to redecorate, as it were, now that the majority times have ended.

Perhaps more than anything else, though, what lefty activists should learn from their right-wing counterparts is this: In a dysfunctional two-party system such as ours, in which voters are perpetually unhappy and ready for any excuse to throw the bums out and start all over, it’s only a matter of time until the losers of yesterday are once again ascendant. And as the GOP has shown in the years since its back-to-back wipeouts in ’06 and ’08, responding to electoral defeat by moderating is no longer necessary, while moving further away from the center is no longer a death sentence. Now that they have a political superstar and ideological true believer as their behind-the-scenes agent, lefty activists with an eye on the long term have a chance to, in the words of Warren, “frame the issues for the next few elections” and ultimately make the Democratic Party truly progressive.

10 insane, fear-mongering GOP lies this election cycle

No attribution

Salon

Whether they’re attacking Obama or Michelle Nunn, Republicans are resorting to some of their dirtiest tactics

Halloween has come and gone, but the Republican Party is offering up its own scares, pulling out its worst scaremongering tactics to try to use fear to get voters to the polls for their candidates. AlterNet has rounded up 10 of the worst fear-mongering lies.

Halloween has come and gone, but the Republican Party is offering up its own scares, pulling out its worst scaremongering tactics to try to use fear to get voters to the polls for their candidates. AlterNet has rounded up 10 of the worst fear-mongering lies.

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1. Michelle Nunn Is Pro-Terrorist Because She Worked With A Muslim Charity: In Georgia’s remarkably close Senate race, GOP nominee David Perdue ran a smear commercial claiming her charity was linked to terrorists because of its work with the Islamic Relief USA. Poltifact found the claim so outlandish it gave it one of its coveted “Pants on Fire” ratings.

2. Obama Cut A Secret Deal To Bring Ebola To The United States: Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) had this revelation on Sean Hannity’s radio show: “I can’t help but believe, just based on the way we’ve got all these nebulous excuses why not to have a travel ban, this president, I guarantee you, we’re going to find out, he has cut a deal with African leaders. They’re going to bring people in.”

3. ISIS Is Coming Over The Border Due To Discovered Prayer Rugs That Are Actually Adidas Jerseys: Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst claimed that ISIS prayer rugs were recently found at the border, signaling a possible invasion. The prayer rugs turned out to be Adidas jerseys.

4. Sexual Assault Is A Result Of Taking The Bible Out Of Schools: Jody Hice, the GOP nominee for Georgia’s 10th congressional district, which is currently represented by extremistRep. Paul Broun (R-GA), warned that if we don’t stop taking prayer out of public school, we’ll see more of the kind of sexual assault that took place at Penn State.

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5. ISIS Will Send Ebola-Infected Fighters To The U.S.: Topping Gohmert and Dewhurst, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) went as far as to say that ISIS will weaponize Ebola suicide bombs. “Think about the job they could do, the harm they could inflict on the American people by bringing this deadly disease into our cities, into schools, into our towns, and into our homes. Horrible, horrible,” he said.

6. Arm Yourself, Just In case The Government Tries To Take Away Your Guns: Iowa Senate GOP candidate Joni Ernst warned that she carries her pistol just in case the government tries to confiscate it: “I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere. But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”

7. If You Vote For Democrats, They’ll Let Loose Violent African-American Inmates: In Nebraska’s second congressional district, Republicans are running a Willie Horton-esque ad that implies Democrats were responsible for a mentally ill violent inmate being released and then going on a murder spree. The ad juxtaposes the Democratic candidate with the African American inmate.

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8. Obama Is Going To Import Terrorists Into Our Neighborhoods: The RNC cut an adwarning of Obama’s “plans to bring terrorists from Guantanamo to our country,” implying that under any successful executive action somehow terrorist suspects will be walking American neighborhoods rather than be sitting in maximum-security prisons.

9. Equal Pay Laws Would Scare Employers And Put Women Out Of Work:Monica Wehby, running for Oregon’s Senate seat, said that she opposed equal pay laws for women because it would “make it more difficult to hire women, because of the fear of lawsuits. They would tend to steer away.”

10. Social Programs Are Leading To Suicide: Rep. Don Young (R-AK) said that government social programs are leading to a rise in suicides due to corresponding decline in support from family and friends. He eventually apologized.

What’s scarier, these lies or the fact the GOP thinks Americans will fall for them?

The right’s sham Christianity: How an attack on John Kasich exposes the fraud

The right's sham Christianity: How an attack on John Kasich exposes the fraud

Gov. John Kasich (OH-R) | (Credit: AP/Tony Dejak)

Salon

Ohio’s GOP governor was the darling of the right — until he sought to help poor people, in the name of Christ

Could Republican Gov. John Kasich run for president? According to the Washington Post, he’s poised to, and he certainly seems to be among the better options out there, with the other obvious choices either clearly deranged (Ted Cruz) or totally uninterested (Mitt Romney). But conservatives have not been roundly pleased with Kasich, in part because he is evidently something of a committed Christian.

Last year, Kasich fought doggedly to expand Medicaid coverage in Ohio, extending healthcare to some 275,000 poor people. When queried as to why a conservative would push for expanded coverage, Kasich explained his reasoning thus:

“I had a conversation with one of the members of the legislature the other day. I said, ‘I respect the fact that you believe in small government. I do, too. I also know that you’re a person of faith.  Now, when you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.’  ”

Conservative critics did not have a good answer. If Kasich’s challenge required a faith-based, well-reasoned critique of Medicaid to defend Republican animus, that wasn’t what it received. Instead, Kasich’s right-wing opponents produced a series of attacks that seemed straight out of the Richard Dawkins school of rhetoric. At RedState, for instance, Jason Hart complained that “Kasich leaned heavily on his Christian faith to push the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” and glossed over Kasich’s explanation of his Christian reasoning as: “anyone who opposes Medicaid expansion will have to answer for their opposition when they die.”

Of course, Kasich didn’t suggest that anyone who opposes Medicaid expansion will have to answer for such at the pearly gates; he merely pointed out that, at this point in time, Medicaid expansion is the only option for extending healthcare coverage to poor people in Ohio, making it the most sensible Christian option. Were there other options – that is, if Republicans had some small-government program that resulted in equal or better coverage – Kasich’s argument would fall out in favor of that. But as it stands no such substitute exists. It’s notable that misrepresenting Kasich’s Christian defense of Medicaid expansion remains a popular smear. Consider the National Review’s Avik Roy:

Roy’s lie is as glib as it is lazy, suggesting two simultaneous pathologies: first, that conservatives have mostly given up on an actual faith-based critique of extending healthcare coverage to poor people; second, that unless Christianity is acting as a helpful crutch to prop up libertarian fiscal policies, it’s more or less a joke.

True to form, the Wall Street Journal had an absolute field day making fun of Kasich’s Christian reasoning. “Believe it or not, there are still a few disciples with faith in an ObamaCare higher power,” the article titled “Medicaid and the Apostle Kasich” opens, and the faith-themed snark just rolls on from there. Both theologically tone-deaf and redolent with Hitchensian disdain of Christian thought, the piece sneers that Kasich “really must feel like he’s guided by the Holy Spirit” (perish the thought!), and sniffs that Kasich’s “government-as-thy-brother’s-keeper riff needs some moral fine-tuning.” But the most damning line is the last: “Republicans get a vote before St. Peter does.”

It seems this is where Kasich and his critics depart: For the governor, and for any faithful Christian, Christian ethics precede party politics. For some time the line from Christian politicians like Paul Ryan has been that their faith inspires their political affiliation, not vice versa. But the response of various conservative venues to a Christian argument that, while theologically orthodox and sensible, nonetheless reverses a cherished partisan position, suggests another situation of priorities.

Kasich’s sin is to present a vision of fiscal conservatism that is limited rather than necessitated by Christian ethics. His argument, despite what Roy, Hart and the Wall Street Journal would present, is actually sophisticated: He points out that Christian doctrine directly requires the consideration of the poor ahead of the interests of profit. It is not that Christian doctrine has traditionally held that any profit from business is wrong (though more radical strands have moved in that direction), but that excess wealth has generally been viewed by Christian authorities as acceptable only insofar as the needs of the most vulnerable have been met. This is foundational, ancient Christian teaching, ranging from the earliest church fathers to the medieval scholars and into the modern day.

Naturally, Kasich’s critics don’t bother to attempt a reversal on theological grounds. Instead they suggest, pace Hart, that there is some small-government solution directly at hand that Kasich has ignored. Yet they have roundly failed to produce it. If you could link to a policy proposal that better accomplishes the goal of ensuring the poor healthcare coverage, why sneer about “hating Jesus” instead?

Because, it seems, the comedy of Christian sentiment opposed to conservative dogma is rote among right-wingers. Conservatives are smart to saturate airwaves with turf wars over social issues, wherein they’re more than happy to prop up Christian views; but Christian voters should be wary of the swiftness and viciousness with which conservatives seem prepared to dismiss even perfectly solid Christian reasoning altogether when it no longer suits them. If party policy is that the interests of the GOP precede the interests of the Prince of Peace, there’s not much room for negotiation.

Russell Brand absolutely demolishes Fox News over Ferguson coverage

Russell Brand absolutely demolishes Fox News over Ferguson coverage

Russell Brand (Credit: AP/Ellis O’Brien) 

Say what you will about Russell Brand but that fact is, every now and then he makes salient points on his video program.  This is just one example…

Salon

On the latest episode of his Web series, the British comedian takes Fox to task for its one-sidedness

Russell Brand eviscerated Fox News’ coverage of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, on Thursday, blasting the network for its one-sidedness.

“It’s so outrageous,” Brand said on the latest episode of  his show, “The Trews.”

“It’s almost art.”

Brand criticized Fox News for its nearly unanimous support of Darren Wilson, the white Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown earlier this month, and for its deeply negative attitude toward protesters in the Missouri city.

“I think what’s interesting about Fox News’ coverage is the complete evisceration of any compassion in the argument,” Brand said. “Pain and suffering is the lifeblood of their channel. There’s no one so disadvantaged, so oppressed, that Fox News can’t get some mileage out of exploiting or condemning them.”

Beginning his takedown, Brand homed in on Greg Gutfeld’s comments on “Red Eye,” where the host said that “the media, like humanity, can only handle two sides to a story, and they almost always flock to one side — and it’s David, never Goliath.”

Cutting in, Brand cannily responded: “Yeah … When you look at the Bible, you think, ‘Hang on here! Should we revise this clearly allegorical story about David and Goliath? What about Goliath — the hapless, lovable giant?’ No, you don’t — Goliath is clearly there to demonstrate oppressive power, isn’t he?”

Brand continued his assault on Gutfield, playing a segment where Gutfield called the overwhelming support for Brown whom the “Red Eye” host deemed the “underdog” the result of “decades of pop culture, deeming what’s cool and what isn’t.”

Interjecting, Brand offered his rebuttal.

“It’s not ‘cool’ to stick up for the people of Ferguson, who after a century of oppression and the only limited success of the civil rights movement, have decided that after the killing of an unarmed man to protest. They’re doing it because they like some of their trainers,” Brand said, referring to expensive athletic shoes.

Brand also took aim at Fox News contributor Jason L. Riley, author of the book “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed.” Riley, who consistently has attempted to explain black crime as a pathological deficiency, recently lambasted President Barack Obama for his comments that “black crime stems from poverty, or a racist criminal justice system, which is nonsense!”

Brand wouldn’t stand for it.

“That’s outrageous,” Brand said. “Of course there’s an economic aspect to the argument. Of course there’s a social aspect. You can’t just bring out the author of the book ‘We Deserve to Be Shot’ to bring out arguments just so Fox News can keep being as they are.”

He continued: “People don’t just spontaneously have an attitude toward the criminal justice system …Like the same way you might not have an attitude to your dishwasher. If your dishwasher doesn’t do anything except wash the dishes, you won’t just suddenly wonder one day, ‘You know, it’s really unjust the way that dishwasher keeps shooting unarmed black men!’”

Watch the whole clip here:

NYPD drags a 48-year-old naked woman from her apartment as neighbors protest and tape arrest

NYPD drags a 48-year-old naked woman from her apartment as neighbors protest and tape arrest

NYPD outside of the United Nations General Assembly Building | AP

A friend emailed me today and asked me why hadn’t I reported some of the malicious treatment by police officers against alleged “perpetrators” in recent weeks.  I think I wrote back saying that I have in fact reported on police violence in the past but wanted to stick to the tagline of this blog: Sorting out the crazies.

The truth of the matter (and my friend touched on this in his email) I probably didn’t want to offend the readers of this political blog with stories of police misconduct across the nation.  Perhaps there’s even a deeper reason…

So, I have decided to include some of the police misconduct craziness going on across the country (especially in the northeast) perpetrated by poorly trained, unprofessional cops everywhere.   (H/t: LTL)

Hence, the following story:

Salon

Disturbing video captures the NYPD arresting a woman as she shouts that she needs her oxygen. The woman was dragged naked from her Brownsville, Brooklyn apartment by NYPD.

Denise Stewart, a 48-year-old Brooklyn woman was dragged by NYPD from her apartment and arrested in the late hours of July 13, New York Daily News reported. The grandmother had just taken a shower and was only wearing a towel and pair of underpants when NYPD pounded on her door.

The NYPD officers were responding to a domestic violence 911-call made from the Brownsville apartment building. However, according to the Daily News, they did not know the apartment number. After hearing shouts from Stewart’s apartment they banged on the door at 11:45 PM. According to the Daily News, Stewart told the police they had the wrong apartment and attempted to close the door. Denise Stewart was then dragged by the NYPD cops into the hallway.

Neighbors captured part of the arrest on video, which shows male officers struggling to subdue the woman, and Stewart calling for her oxygen.

“For approximately two minutes and 20 seconds, Stewart was bare-breasted in the hallway as additional police officers tramped up the stairs and through the hallway, glancing at her as they passed by,” the Daily News reported. Eventually a female officer covered her with a towel.

Shouts of “Oxygen, get my oxygen” can be heard int he video.

“Ok, ok,” a police officer says, and leaves the frame.

“Her asthma! Her asthma! Her asthma,” shouted bystanders.

Stewart, who has asthma, fainted during the arrest, according to the Daily News.

The NYPD arrested Denise Stewart and charged her with assaulting a police officer — she bit an officer’s finger during the scuffle. Denise Stewart’s 20-year-old daughter Diamond Stewart was arrested and charged with acting in a manner injurious to a child, resisting arrest and criminal possession of a weapon. Stewarts’s 24-year-old son Kirkland Stewart was charged with resisting arrest.

Stewart’s 12-year-old daughter was also taken into custody. According to the police, the 12-year-old had injuries on her face and claimed that her mother and sister hit her with a belt. The 12-year-old daughter later resisted arrest, and allegedly kicked out a police van window, cutting an officer’s chin. She was charged with criminal mischief, criminal possession of a weapon and assaulting a police officer.

Denise Stewart’s lawyer, Amy Rameau, was told by a Legal Aid lawyer that the original 911 call came from a different apartment at the Kings Highway address. The NYPD allegedly arrived at Stewart’s apartment by mistake.

“They manhandled [Stewart] and behaved in a deplorable manner,” Rameau said. “She feels completely mortified. This is about human dignity.”

Rameau also explained that the Administration for Children’s Services investigated and found no evidence of neglect.

 

Related Stories:

HOMICIDE: Medical examiner says NYPD chokehold killed Staten Island dad Eric Garner

Video shows cop apparently putting arm around neck of seven-months pregnant Brooklyn woman

Neocons never learn: Why their new warmongering is so shameless

Neocons never learn: Why their new warmongering is so shameless

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) (Credit: Reuters/Samantha Sais)

Salon

The same hawks who suckered us into war with Iraq are at it again. It’s time they be held accountable

This article originally appeared on The Globalist.

In the history books, the U.S. Republicans will never live down the fact that they “Iranified” Iraq, disrupting thousands of years of calibrating regional balance. That country long served as a buffer state for one purpose only — to suppress the implosion of the region. True, the Democrats who backed the invasion aren’t much better, because they were swayed by the idiotic “patriotic” fervor of 2003.

But at least they seem to recognize the error, even if it should have been visible at the time: Any U.S. leaders who take an action that, historically speaking, must inevitably hand Iraq to Iran and restore Iran as the dominant regional power needs to have their heads examined.

It is well known that John McCain, the former U.S. presidential candidate and prisoner of war, likes to pour oil into any fire he sees. It is in his nature to do so. The question is why we let him do so without at least first forcing him to pay penance for his past sins of warmongering.

BOMB, BOMB, BOMB

The senior senator from Arizona now wants to take his pyromaniac style of foreign policy into Iraq once more, echoing his “bomb, bomb, bomb” spirit of a decade ago. In that, he is guided not by any sense of patriotism, but by all the impetuousness of an anarchist that he can muster.

McCain is not only one of the chief propellants of the American pyromania that destroyed Iraq, but also one of the most senior still holding political office.

The most basic fact of the matter is this: Anybody who was out to topple Saddam Hussein — and thereby turn all of Iraq into a powder keg — at best showed complete ignorance of the history of the region.

A deep-seated sense of religiously fueled enmity throughout the ages has shaped life in West Asia for ages. Shiites and Sunnis, when pitted against each other, and then presented with an opportunity, have always been inclined to make a blood sport out of the pursuit of the other.

The crucial role that Iraq has traditionally played in that kind of highly combustible environment was that it served as a satellite buffer state that essentially separated the Levant and Asia Minor from Iran/Persia, providing a check on the expansion of empires from either direction.

Internally divided due to shifting borders and occupiers from repeated conquests, Iraq has often stood at the crossroads between large Western Sunni powers and the Shia Persian power to the east.

Even before the rise of Islam and its factions, the area was the dividing zone between western and eastern empires. Even Rome sometimes held Mesopotamia, during its long-running struggle with what is now Iran.

However, with the Cheney/Bush/McCain clan’s resolutely amateurish move into Iraq, that crucial buffer disappeared and turned itself into a wall of fire.

Their collective amateurishness is only superseded by the ahistorical U.S. foreign policy-making in the region.

THE UK GOVERNMENT FAILED

The whole Iraq episode and the current conundrum also show what a terrible ally the United Kingdom has been for the United States over the past decade or so.

True, the post-Empire UK has long made it a habit of punching above its weight class, usually by acting as America’s sidekick. But for all the immense ambitions that this points to, traditionally the UK government has at least usually been mindful of history.

To be sure, the British Foreign Office had enough smart people who knew about Iraq’s historic role inside the Muslim world as a buffer state — to keep religious emotions from exploding.

Evidently, Tony Blair was so eager to please his American master that this most critical advice was suppressed. Even if the American ally had been unprepared or unwilling to listen, it would have been all the more incumbent on the UK to speak out loud.

That is what good allies do. In fact, that is what Germany and its then-Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, did at the time, when he warned the U.S. government publicly of an ill-advised “adventure.”

Which is exactly how this all turned out to be. But that public courage, of course, didn’t keep Schroeder from becoming the U.S. political establishment’s favorite bête noire. Yes, it is true that once he left office, he made some distasteful career choices.

But that does not in any sense invalidate the character he displayed while in office, when he warned the Americans of the inferno(s) to come.

Tony Blair, meanwhile, the snake-charming, bomb-throwing sidekick to George Bush, is still in the good graces of many Americans. The only promising step of sorts toward penitence that Blair has made since then is that he has converted to Catholicism.

While that is very unusual for a (former) British leader, he is at least on the right track. He has much to atone for. It will take a long line of Catholic priests to hear all the confessions Mr. Blair still needs to make.

On the U.S. side of the disaster initiated in 2003, however, it seems that all such confessions of guilt will go entirely unspoken. If the recent round of cheerleading for re-invasion is any indication, McCain and friends are not only unrepentant but still actively in denial that they ever made any mistake in the first place.

NRA’s “really big problem”: Why it’s dependent on a dwindling fringe

NRA's "really big problem": Why it's dependent on a dwindling fringe

Cliven Bundy, Wayne LaPierre (Credit: Reuters/Steve Marcus/AP/Evan Vucci)

Salon

Gun lobby is now reliant on an increasingly radical right-wing sect — and that spells trouble, an expert explains

During a Tumblr Q&A earlier this week, President Obama said that one of his biggest frustrations since entering the White House has been how “this society has not been willing to take some basic steps” in order to prevent the kinds of mass shootings that have become so horribly prominent as of late. “We’re the only developed country on Earth where this happens,” Obama continued. Speaking of Congress’ inability to buck the NRA and pass even a meager background check bill, Obama said lawmakers should “be ashamed.”

The source of lawmakers’ fear is, of course, the NRA and its massively influential, and feared, lobbying apparatus. Indeed, it’s likely that no organization is as feared in Washington as the NRA, despite the fact that its views — as embodied by the odious Wayne LaPierre — are clearly outside the mainstream and far too close to those usually associated with the kind of right-wing terrorists who recently murdered three people in Las Vegas. Put simply, the NRA is not only abnormally influential, but abnormally extreme, too.

Hoping to learn more about how the NRA has managed to associate itself with dangerous right-wing extremists like the Las Vegas shooters, Salon called up Josh Sugarmann, executive director and founder of the Violence Policy Center, a pro-gun safety nonprofit that has done extensive work toward exposing the NRA’s diseased politics and the cynical business model that undergirds them. Our conversation can be found below, and has been edited for clarity and length.

What’s your reaction to the recent shootings in Las Vegas as well as Oregon?

I think right now we’re living in America that most people really could not imagine, and the fact that what were once rare events in this country — mass shootings in public spaces — are becoming increasingly common. I think when you look at these issues and you look at the gun debate in this country, we’re reaching a tipping point where to remain a civilized society, we have to do something.

Like what?

Well, I think the first thing that has to be done is we have to take a step back, we have to take a long view to see the changes that have occurred in the gun industry, in the NRA, in how guns are used in our country, and not try and fit short-term solutions to specific shootings. We have to take a step back, look at the changes in the gun industry, changes in gun ownership in this country, changes in how guns are marketed, and from that start constructing a policy that really would have a real effect on gun death and injury in this country. One of the most striking things and one of the most unique about the gun industry is that it’s the only manufacturer of consumer products that is not regulated for health and safety by a federal agency.

You say there have been changes in how the NRA and manufacturers are marketing guns. What kind of changes?

All this occurs against a backdrop that, when the industry and the NRA talk amongst themselves, they’re very open about, but rarely do they concede it when making public statements. And that’s a fact that gun ownership in the U.S. is on a steady decline. In 1977, 54 percent of American households had a gun in them. By 2012, that number had dropped to 34 percent. (And this comes from the general social survey that’s done by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. It’s the most cited social survey in the country. It’s the only survey that has consistently looked at this issue.) So what the industry is faced with is the fact that gun owners are aging; they’re dying off. And the constant pressure [the NRA] faces is two-fold. One is, how do you resell current gun owners? And the second is, how do you market to, for lack of a better phrase, “replacement shooters”? Just like the tobacco industry [has “replacement smokers“].

So, for current gun owners, lethality has been the [marketers’] focus. And this starts from marketing high-capacity semi-auto pistols through assault weapons to new-generation what you call “pocket rocket pistols”: smaller in size, greater in capacity to, today, [a] new generation of assault pistols and then literal crossover military technology, like 50 caliber sniper rifles. The other marketing focus today, looking at the current gun-owning population, is concealed carry. The concealed carry wasn’t viewed solely in a political context, but in fact it represents one of the last great marketing efforts by the industry. The fact is that not only can you sell people more handguns; you can sell them all the accessories, the training, everything that goes along with it, down to clothing. There’s a fairly famous quote that Tanya Metaksa, who was the NRA’s former top lobbyist, offered in 1996 in sort of a burst of honesty, when she told the Wall Street Journal as the NRA launched the concealed carry campaign, “The gun industry should send me a basket of fruit” because [she] created a whole new market for them. The other issue is [an] attempt to market to women, [an] attempt to market to young people, including children, and that’s been an ongoing effort…

Do you think the Millers, the couple who killed those people and themselves in Las Vegas — and who reportedly bragged about how many weapons they owned — are the kind of fringier, more radical gun enthusiasts the NRA is now marketing to?

The NRA has a really big problem — and that’s being the NRA. They can no longer rely on increased gun sales [and] increased gun ownership as a whole for new members. So, what we’ve seen is they’ve taken for the most part two approaches. The first is that … they’ve basically cemented their relationship with the gun industry. Back in 1967, in the NRA’s official history, they bragged or just stated that they accepted no money [from and] had no relationship with gun manufacturers, distributors, jobbers. [There] was a complete bright line between the two. By 2013, soon after the Newtown shooting, the president of the NRA, then-president David Keene, said when asked this question about the relationship between NRA and the industry … said, “We get some” — and basically, to paraphrase it — “and we’d like to get more!” [T]he first shift is that the NRA and industry are working together to market guns. If you go to the NRA’s website, it is almost awash in sponsorships from the gun industry, from specific manufacturers … The head of Smith & Wesson, James Debney, basically has said, “The NRA” — this is a quote — “is our voice.”

The second [change] is because of the shift we’ve seen in the demographics of gun ownership, the NRA has reached out, and reached out to a segment of gun owners, they know is very, very engaged, and basically [in order] to engage that segment of gun owners, they’ve relied upon paranoia and fear and [hyping] anti-gun rhetoric. This can be traced back during the Clinton administration to some high-profile events: Waco, Ruby Ridge. But when Clinton came in, the NRA said, this was one of their covers, “The final war has begun.” And there was a complete attack on [the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives], the FBI, and really, putting out there, the idea that the government is the enemy, and not only are you at risk in a political sense from, say, gun laws, but your personal safety is at risk. The thing that’s most important about this is: The NRA plays a validating role for people’s fear and suspicion and anger. You know, they can think the government’s the enemy; they can think law enforcement is the enemy. But it’s the NRA that basically validates it and helps feed this fear and feed this anger … The first time that this kind of broke into the public consciousness was the Oklahoma City bombing, where … the NRA said “The final war has begun” and [Timothy] McVeigh set the date.

After that, the NRA reacted. They basically ratcheted down their rhetoric. They brought on Charlton Heston, whom they viewed as sort of a soft face for the organization, and the final war that had been sort of been the centerpiece under Tanya Metaksa and other NRA leadership members turned into Charlton Heston’s culture war, and that was sort of a softer focus for much of the same language but without the confrontational aspect. Since then, the NRA recognized that they have to appeal to — I mean, hunting, hunting as an activity is fading away — so what you’re finding is that the activists … the NRA relies upon are those who buy into its paranoid language and truly believe the government is the enemy … [W]hen the NRA is criticized for this or confronted with their own language, they fall into this excuse of  ”it’s just direct mail rhetoric; it’s just articles to engage our membership. It really is a risk-free activity,” and what we’re seeing is, that’s not the case. It’s not risk-free activity. The NRA’s validating role cannot be matched by any other organization, and most importantly — and this is where it all comes full circle — the NRA’s the organization assured that those who want to live out these wild fantasies have the exact tools to accomplish it.

And that’s what brings us to the shooting in Las Vegas, where you had a couple that, you know, on their Facebook, liked the NRA, loved guns and hated the government and [reached] the point of draping the Gadsden Flag — which is something the NRA embraced in 2010 — on their victims’ bodies. They brought the Gadsden Flag emblem into their line of clothing to appeal to, at best, Tea Party members; at worst, people like the Las Vegas shooters. And that’s where we are today. [T]he deadly combination of the anger the NRA validates and the ability, and their working to make sure they have the tools to act on it is what many of, is what is leading us down this lethal path.

Besides embracing the Gadsden flag, what are some other dog-whistles and other subtle nods to extremist views that the NRA engages in?

When they talk to this segment of their membership, the cues are the United Nations, the Obama administration, government as a whole, various arms of government (like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), foreign countries, and really, it gets down to you start with that and you work your way down to institutions like the news media, foundations—basically, everybody who’s not the NRA, one or the other ends up on the NRA’s enemies list. It really is a concerted attempt to personalize the threat that you face according to the National Rifle Association, and the answer to whatever the threat is, you know, is going to be a gun. I was doing a presentation the other day, and I was just looking at the NRA’s cover of the Americans’ First Freedom Magazine, and just some examples, sort of, as I mentioned earlier, of fueling the paranoia. There’s a cover with the UN. There’s “Gun Owners Under Siege.” There’s Barack Obama. There’s the state of Connecticut. There’s Michael Bloomberg … [I]t’s this effort to create a world not just that you should be fearful of, but that’s actually out to get you, such as it concerns the federal government.

You mentioned that the NRA announced the launch of the “final” war during the Clinton presidency and that Obama, himself, is a popular hate-figure for NRA members. So how much do partisan politics play into this? Are there more mass shootings under Democratic presidents?

don’t know the answer to that. I’d have to go back and look at the numbers. I mean, overall, we have seen a decrease in gun deaths in this country over the past decade or so. I think certainly — and there are experts in the field who know much more than I do — that we do see a dramatic increase in this anti-government rhetoric, the power of say, the Patriot Movement, the engagement of these groups, when there are Democratic presidents. Certainly the NRA, which is driven not by political need but financial needs, does everything it can to fundraise off of any Democratic president …

I’d like to return to what we spoke of earlier and talk about what specific remedies lawmakers can embrace that would take into consideration how the NRA has changed and how the market for guns has changed.

The first thing that needs to be done is we need to recognize that the common thread that runs through mass shootings and that really shapes gun violence as we know it today is a combination of semi-auto firearms, detachable ammunition magazines, and it ranges from high-capacity pistols to semi-automatic assault rifles. The first thing we have to do is recognize changes we’ve seen in the industry to help feed this violence. The second thing we have to do is bring the industry into the gun debate and basically expose what they’ve become … If you make a gun that’s 50 caliber or less and it’s semi-auto and has a barrel of a certain length, you can make anything you want. And they’ve taken grotesque advantage of that with the application of military technology to the civilian marketplace.

I think most Americans would be shocked at the gun industry has become. I think they view it through this lens of the guns that their parents or their grandparents had. You know, hunting rifles and shotguns and six-shot revolvers. That gun industry doesn’t exist anymore. It’s been replaced by one that embraces lethality as measured by firepower and capacity. The first thing is to bring industry into the debate to reveal what they’ve become. Second, we need to ratchet down the firepower in civilian hands. We need to get assault weapons off our streets and off the gun store shelves … We should ban handguns … if we have the opportunity to do it under the Supreme Court’s rulings, we should look at that issue and have an honest debate about it. And finally, I think that short of that, we need to look at what policy would be put in place that would limit the availability of increased firepower in the civilian population and make sure that, with those who do buy firearms, we do the best that we can to make sure that they fall outside of restricted categories that are contained in federal law.

How optimistic are you that any of this may be accomplished soon? Do you think we’re reaching a kind of tipping point in terms of these spectacular, public acts of gun violence?

I think if we do nothing, we’re going to continue down a path that will change the way we live as a nation. I don’t believe that we’re going to become so numb to gun violence that events that we’ve seen in the past … are going to become acceptable to us. So I think I am optimistic and have the faith in the American people that at some point, parents, employers, communities are going to rise up and say, “Enough is enough.”

 

 

7 worst right-wing moments of the week — Ann Coulter’s climate-change insanity

7 worst right-wing moments of the week — Ann Coulter's climate-change insanity

Ann Coulter (Credit: AP/Jose Luis Magana)

Salon

Coulter claims that solving climate change would cause genocide, while an ex-TV host says Satan’s behind evolution

1. Pat Sajak: Climate scientists are unpatriotic racists. Huh?

Apparently, “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak is not content with merely solving inane word puzzles and coming out against Obamacare. He also really likes to tweet things. This week, he staked out an absurd position on climate change denialism with this tweet:

“I now believe global warming alarmists are unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading for their own ends. Good night.”

This makes him the first conservative to conflate science with racism. What the hell does patriotism have to do with it? And why the “Good night” at the end of the inexplicably incendiary tweet? Makes no sense. Of course, Sajak never explained what he meant despite a storm of ensuing outrage. The frequent tweeter went mysteriously mute. Two days later he finally claimed he was kidding. It was “hyperbole,” he said. Can’t you people take a joke?

The game show host has a long history of incendiary tweets and conservative stances. Here’s a hilarious one he recently posted to make fun of Michelle Obama’s participation in the #BringBackOurGirls campaign:

“Hard to imagine Eleanor Roosevelt holding a sign reading #Don’tInvadeTheRhineland,Adolph.”

Resorting to Hitler and Nazi imagery is a favorite tactic of right-wingers in this country. So is the use of historical anachronisms.

Tell you what, Pat. No need to buy a vowel, we’ll spell this out: You’re the joke. No hyperbole.

2. Ann Coulter defends Pat Sajak’s right to be an absolute idiot by being an absolute idiot herself.

“Wheel of Fortune” gained a new fan in Ann Coulter, who just couldn’t agree more with Sajak on climate change and liberals being Nazis and to blame for everything. Coulter helpfully pointed out the humor in Sajak’s tweet to CNN’s Erin Burnett and then she upped the ante, because… she was on TV, and saying outrageous things is her brand. “We all have to believe in global warming, we all have to believe in immigration — either lots of immigration or even more immigration,” Coulter said. “We have to believe that Trayvon Martin was killed by a brutal racist, and if you don’t you get called all of these crazy names that Sajak is referring to.”



(Note: Even George Zimmerman’s former neighbor, a longtime white supremacist now admits Zimmerman is a racist.)

But back to Pat and Ann. The liberal thought police, who for some reason believe in science, are so mean, Coulter says. They compare climate change deniers to “Holocaust deniers.” She also, totally inexplicably, said dealing with climate change would lead to genocide.

Here’s where Coulter parts company with Sajak. He should not have said he was “just kidding” in her view. She is not kidding when she asserts her multitude of ignorant positions, nor will you ever catch her being the least bit funny. Or human, for that matter.

h/t Mediaite

3. Canceled HGTV host: Satan is why they teach evolution in schools.

Virulently anti-gay brothers David and Jason Benham, who almost got a show on HGTV before their hateful views were exposed, aren’t merely bigots. They’re also science deniers who see Satan’s work everywhere. They chalked up their firing to “demonic possession,” and this week opined that Satan is behind the teaching of evolution in school. Everything has been going downhill, the brothers wrote in a recent blog post, since the Scopes Trial in 1925, which allowed evolution (science) to be taught in schools. That’s when Satan gained his “toehold” here. A “toehold” that has morphed into a foothold and from there into a stronghold.

An excerpt:

“There are other strongholds in America as well. At first, Satan got a toehold on life in the 1920′s with the Scopes Monkey Trial (evolution can be taught alongside creation). Eventually, of course, this toehold became a stronghold to where creation can no longer be taught at all. And the result, 1973′s Roe v. Wade. Without a Creator we now become the determiners of life instead of God.”

Hoo boy. See how Satan connects all those dots?

h/t Raw Story

4. Duck Bro Phil Robertson talks more shit about gay people.

Enlightenment is a funny thing. For some people, it never comes. Never ever. One such person is Bible-thumping, 68-year-old Phil Robertson, the “Duck Dynasty” star who gained notoriety and numerous right-wing friends by saying racist, anti-Semitic and gay-bashing things, like explaining to men why women’s vaginas are more preferable for screwing than men’s anuses. Thanks, Phil. Needed that.

Now that spouting ignorant things has become so much a part of Robertson’s everyday to-do list, he needs to keep it up. On Thursday, “Radar” revealed a new video of Robertson. In an Easter sermon at his church he referred to the GQ interview that brought him his fame, saying: “Is homosexual behavior a sin? The guy asked me. I said, do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Don’t be deceived.”

Then, mistaking Easter for an Old Testament event, rather than a celebration of Jesus, who preached love and never actually had a bad word to say about same-sex love, Robertson cited Corinthians, or his version of it. “Neither the sexually immoral, nor the idolators nor adulterers nor male prostitutes, nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves, nor greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

5. Rep. Steve King challenges Chuck Schumer to a duel. What’s a duel again?

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Iowa Tea Partier Steve King, famous for his xenophobic remarks about immigrants having “cantaloupe calves.” Apparently, his reputation for being an all-out lunatic is not sitting well with him. It seems even his fellow Republicans think he’s crazy and are blaming his frothy, racist stance for keeping a GOP “immigration reform” bill from coming to the floor.

So, he did what any reasonable person would do under these circumstances. He challenged pro-immigration Democrat Chuck Schumer to a duel, conjuring up Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, but then apparently thinking better of it and suggesting different weapons.

“If we’re going to have some kind of a challenge of rhetoric bouncing back between the House and Senate, let’s do it face to face,” King speechified on the House floor on Thursday, “Let’s do it eye-to-eye. Let’s have that duel — not like Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton — but… like real men do it today. Not dueling pistols at 50 paces; let’s do this with microphones within arm’s reach.”

Some might call this a debate. Schumer did. Not King, who suffers from the scourges of xenophobia, malapropism and historical anachronicity.

h/t: Salon

6. Ted Cruz: Democratic senators want to ‘repeal the First Amendment.’

Someone get a doctor. Tea Partier Ted Cruz is going into hysterics. Not the laughing kind. He’s having hysterical visions. This week Cruz warned some of his fellow religious nutcases that, “This year, I’m sorry to tell you, the United States Senate is going to be voting on a constitutional amendment to repeal the First Amendment,” at a gathering of pastors called Watchmen on the Wall sponsored by the far-right Family Research Council. Specifically, Cruz said, those big bad Democrats want to “muzzle” pastors.

Oh, no, the crowd gasped audibly. Whatever could the idiot junior senator from Texas mean? Oh, he’s talking about the fact that Senate Democrats are going to try to undo some of the horrific damage wreaked on democracy by the U.S. Supreme Court decisions deregulating campaign financing in the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases, by voting on a bill called Senate Joint Resolution 19. Unfortunately, it stands no chance of passing.

The right (and the Roberts court) has equated money with speech, and more money with more speech. So any attempt to roll back or regulate the amount of big money flowing into candidates’ coffers is then characterized by these absurd ideologues as a full-on assault on free speech.

“I am telling you, I am not making this up,” Cruz said. “Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has announced the Senate Democrats are scheduling a vote on a constitutional amendment to give Congress the authority to regulate political speech, because elected officials have decided they don’t like it when the citizenry has the temerity to criticize what they’ve done.”

What a bunch of hooey!

7. Arizona GOPer: Democrats are usually the shooters in mass shootings.

An Arizona rancher and Republican congressional candidate bizarrely asserted last week that the vast majority of mass shootings in the United States are committed by Democrats.

There is, of course, not a scintilla of evidence for that claim, though when has that ever mattered?

“If you look at all the fiascos that have occurred, 99 percent of them have been by Democrats pulling their guns out and shooting people,” said Gary Kiehne, who hopefully will get nowhere in his quest for a congressional seat, during a GOP primary denate. “So I don’t think you have a problem with the Republicans.”

Then he bragged about all the many guns and ammunition he owns.

Which is fine, because he’s not one of those shoot-em-up Democrats.

Diagnosing Paul Ryan’s psychopathy: Arrogant, manipulative, deceitful, remorseless

Diagnosing Paul Ryan's psychopathy: Arrogant, manipulative, deceitful, remorseless

Paul Ryan (Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

Salon

Paul Krugman revealed Ryan’s big con years ago. It’s gotten worse. Why does anyone take him seriously on policy?

If the GOP as a whole has pretty much given up on the whole “rebranding” thing, their 2012 vice presidential nominee, Congressman Paul Ryan, most definitely has not. In fact, rebranding is pretty much his thing, regardless of how credible — or incredible, actually — his efforts may be.

For years, Ryan touted himself as an avid Ayn Rand disciple, until he didn’t in early 2012, even calling it “an urban legend” that he had anything serious to do with Rand at all. He then tried to present the latest iteration of his draconian soak-the-poor/shower the rich budget proposal as grounded in Catholic social teaching, rather than Rand’s fiercely anti-Christian philosophy, a claim that the conservative U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops soundly rejected, writing that his proposed budget failed to meet certain “moral criteria” by disproportionately cutting programs that “serve poor and vulnerable people.”

Now, seeking to put all memory of the “47 percent” campaign behind him, Ryan’s trying to take that reinvention to a whole new level. He’s still touting a budget that dramatically slashes spending on programs that benefit Americans of limited means — 69 percent of all cuts — including $137 billion from food stamps, 24 percent or $732 billion from Medicaid, and $125 billion from Pell Grants, among others — while giving millionaires an average tax cut of at least $200,000. Yet, at the same time, Ryan is trying to reinvent himself as someone who’s serious about fighting poverty, only from a conservative perspective.



Setting the massive contradictions aside for the moment, it’s not an absurd idea in theory. The modern European welfare state was actually invented by conservatives, beginning in Germany, under the first post-unification chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. But this happened in the face of a powerful socialist movement, amidst tremendous dislocations, as well as international pressures that gave German elites powerful reasons to want to make life in Germany much more tolerable for the German people as a whole. In short, when the real-world political incentives are there, history shows that conservatives really can find effective ways to help fight poverty. The only problem is, the solutions they come up are the very thing that cause conservatives today, like Ryan and his Tea Party brethren, to foam at the mouth, and call “socialism!”

And so he came up with his 204-page report, The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later, a con job, as Paul Krugman called it, but that was hardly a surprise. Con jobs are a Ryan’s specialty, More on that later.

What was a surprise, at least to some, was the utter clumsiness of how Ryan’s new focus on poverty got him into trouble on race. He went onto Bill Bennett’s radio show and channelled Newt Gingrich from the 2012 primaries:

We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.

Ryan also cited Charles Murray, white nationalist author of “The Bell Curve.” While many people took him to be speaking in racial code, it was arguably even worse if he was not, as Brian Beutler pointed out:

But if Ryan genuinely stumbled heedless into a racial tinderbox then it suggests he, and most likely many other conservatives, has fully internalized a framing of social politics that wasdeliberately crafted to appeal to white racists without regressing to the uncouth language of explicit racism, and written its origins out of the history.

Of course, something like this has actually happened repeatedly throughout the history of white supremacy in America: True origins are constantly being erased, nefarious intentions hidden, unspeakable injustices naturalized. But what I find fascinating about Ryan is how self-assuredly he switches from all-knowing to naif, without for a moment even thinking this might tarnish his moral authority in any way. He later said his comments had “nothing to do” with race, and the next day issued a statement saying, “After reading the transcript of yesterday morning’s interview, it is clear that I was inarticulate about the point I was trying to make.” There was no sense of moral responsibility at all, no sense that he owed anyone an apology. (This is all quite typical of a psychopathic personality — as will be touched on below.) But he did have to do something, from a political point of view.

And so he met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus this Wednesday, in order to try to pretend to have a dialogue on poverty. It was not very much of a success. “We didn’t get a whole lot accomplished,” CBC chair Marcia Fudge said to the press afterward, but Ryan found it easy to pretend otherwise. “What is good out of this is that we need to talk about better ideas on getting at the root cause of poverty, to try and break the cycle of poverty.” Ryan also spoke about the need to “improve the tone” in the conversation about poverty — something that he himself might have thought about earlier, no?

Continue reading here…

Paul Krugman slams Wall Street for “undermining our economy and our society”

Paul Krugman slams Wall Street for "undermining our economy and our society"

Paul Krugman (Credit: AP/Lai Seng Sin)

I know this is the second consecutive Salon article, but economist, Paul Krugman has something to say and I wanted to share it…

Salon

The New York Times columnist argues that America’s large financial sector has done more harm than good

In his latest column for the New York Times, best-selling author and award-winning economist Paul Krugman argues that the financial sector of the American economy is not only outsized but that it’s hurting the economy and making Americans’ lives worse.

Citing journalist Michael Lewis’ new book on high-frequency trading — which opens with a story about an expensive tunnel being drilled for fiber-optic cable to cut down the communication time between Chicago’s futures markets and the stock market in NYC by three milliseconds — Krugman argues that American public policy has become overly influenced by high finance, with inequality and economic instability as a result. “[American] society,” Krugman writes, “is devoting an ever-growing share of its resources to financial wheeling and dealing, while getting little or nothing in return.”

After claiming that the large financial sector in the U.S. doesn’t increase overall prosperity and doesn’t promote economic stability, Krugman writes that its primary function seems to be to prey off of less powerful economic actors. “[Wall Street’s] playing small investors for suckers,” Krugman says, “causing them to waste huge sums in a vain effort to beat the market.” The result, Krugman posits, is a select few Wall Street players making a lot of private profits while contributing little to the overall public.

Krugman continues:



In short, we’re giving huge sums to the financial industry while receiving little or nothing — maybe less than nothing — in return. [NYU Professor Thomas] Philippon puts the waste at 2 percent of G.D.P. Yet even that figure, I’d argue, understates the true cost of our bloated financial industry. For there is a clear correlation between the rise of modern finance and America’s return to Gilded Age levels of inequality.

So never mind the debate about exactly how much damage high-frequency trading does. It’s the whole financial industry, not just that piece, that’s undermining our economy and our society.