Politics

The Republican prison experiment: How the right-wing conquest of the GOP altered political reality

The Republican prison experiment: How the right-wing conquest of the GOP altered political reality

attribution: NONE

SALON

How a stodgy, mainstream party was reinvented as a den of lunatics and monsters — and why it was no accident

Every so often I conceive the bizarre desire to help save the Republican Party from itself. This is futile even by the standards of futile campaigns launched by columnists, given the obvious fact that Republicans do not want my help and have good reason to mistrust my motives, and that if anyone in the GOP leadership actually read my advice, they would immediately do the opposite.

It isn’t that I feel some fervent nostalgia for the good old days of moderate Republicanism, although it’s true that the Nixon-era GOP was only microscopically to the right of today’s Democratic Party on most major policy questions – and decidedly to its left on healthcare and social spending. (Which United States president actually proposed a nationwide, single-payer healthcare system? Well, I’ve already given you the answer.) Go back to Dwight Eisenhower, who presided over a more progressive and redistributive tax code than anything seen before or since, and sent federal troops to desegregate the schools in Little Rock, and in relative terms it looks like Lenin and Trotsky trying to out-radical each other. (The top marginal tax rate on the wealthiest Americans in 1960 was 91 percent. Just try to convince your Fox News uncle of that one.)

All of that is amazing and incomprehensible today, as is the fact that the first African-American elected to the U.S. Senate was a Republican (Edward Brooke, in 1966), and so was the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress (Margaret Chase Smith, elected to the House in 1940 and the Senate in 1948). But the real point lies a little deeper. It isn’t so much that the old Republicans were awesome, but at least they existed in the real world and practiced real politics. They had vigorous internal debates about numerous issues and represented a broad coalition of interests, holding to a reasonably coherent ideology of limited government, social order and support for business.

Those words are still used, of course; they are closely identified with the Republican brand. But thanks to the Matrix-like magic of our altered political reality, they do not mean what they used to mean. “Business” refers only to the infinitesimal ruling caste of multinational capital. “Limited government” means a limitless, borderless police state with low internal taxes and little or no social safety net. “Social order” means the stealth revocation of citizenship rights, first for blacks and women, to be sure, but ultimately for everyone else too.

There is no silver lining to the fact that one of our nation’s two political parties has disappeared into a self-concocted ideological fog of delusion and denial that has cut it off from political reality, American history, basic economic facts, international law and even its own past. The evil zombie sock-puppet condition of the GOP is the most gruesome single symptom of our failing democracy, and one that has inflicted immense harm not just on our country but the entire world. It didn’t happen by accident.

I would contend that the Republican Party has been the subject, willing or otherwise, of a version of the Stanford prison experiment, conducted on a grand scale. I wrote about that famous 1971 simulation, now the subject of a new feature film, earlier this week: A group of normal, middle-class California college students eagerly embraced roles as sadistic guards and abused prisoners, submitting almost immediately to the social order of an entirely fictional institution they knew had no real power. Properly understood, the Stanford experiment is not about prisons or schools or other overtly coercive social institutions, although it certainly applies to them. It is about the power of ideology and the power of power, about the fact that if you change people’s perception of reality, you have gone most of the way to changing reality itself.

The Republican Party did not organically evolve into a xenophobic, all-white party of hate that seeks to roll back not just the Civil Rights movement and feminism, but the entire Enlightenment. It did not accidentally become untethered from reality and float off to the moons of Pluto. Those possibilities were already present, but they had to be activated. Partly as a result of its own ideological weakness and internal divisions, the GOP was taken over from within and from above: In the first instance, by a dedicated core of right-wing activists, and in the second by the ultra-rich, super-PAC oligarchy epitomized by the Koch brothers. The two forces sometimes worked separately, but ultimately the first was funded and sponsored by the second.

One key element of this ideological conquest was that the party’s understanding of itself and its place in American politics and American history was reshaped to conform to a fictional narrative that is now widely believed to be true. Ultimately the Republican prison experiment has replicated itself on an even larger scale, remaking not just the GOP but American political reality.

Among other things, the GOP’s flight to Crazytown has permitted leaders of the Democratic Party to crawl ever more cozily into the pockets of Wall Street bankers and to become ever more intertwined with the national security state — while still proclaiming themselves, in all innocence and with considerable plausibility, to be less noxious than the alternative. So we see millions of well-meaning people getting ginned up to vote for Hillary Clinton, despite the nagging sensation that the political universe in which she represents the best available option is a cruel hoax. Pay attention to that feeling! It’s the reality we have discarded, banging on the door.

It’s true that the re-engineered Republican Party, with its counterfactual and frequently contradictory worldview, appeals most strongly to a shrinking minority of Americans, most of them white and male and rural or Southern. But despite that, or in some sense because of that, it has been an enormous success. Not only has the zombie GOP driven the Democrats much further to the right that at any point in their history, it has paralyzed the legislative process, driven electoral participation to historic lows and turned the deep American current of political apathy and mistrust into a majority sentiment. Whether or not the Republican prison experiment was consciously intended to produce a period of oligarchic rule in which political parties and elections become increasingly irrelevant and increasingly ignored, that has definitely been the outcome.

Some participants in Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo’s 1971 experiment began to believe, after just a few days, that they were real prisoners in a real prison, and that the outside world no longer existed or mattered. At any rate, they began to behave as if that were true, which in functional terms is much the same thing. Zimbardo himself became so engrossed in his fictional role as the prison warden that he lost all perspective on the morality and ethics of his experiment. Is it any wonder that after 30 to 40 years of sustained psychological warfare, most Americans who consider themselves conservatives believe that the current Republican Party represents undying, bedrock American principles that have never changed and never will? Freedom isn’t free, chump. These colors don’t run.

Any discussion of what those bedrock Republican and American values might be, beyond jingoistic clichés about freedom, is to be avoided at all costs. That might pierce the veil of unreality and reveal things that have been declared to be untrue, including that the Republican Party was not always anti-immigrant, not always opposed to socialized healthcare, not always committed to a fundamentalist reading of the Second Amendment and, for the love of Christ, not always obsessed with abortion.

Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak had to remind me about that one, in her discussion of the recent right-wing attack video purporting to show a Planned Parenthood employee discussing the sale of fetal body parts for nefarious purposes. Planned Parenthood is constantly and unanimously vilified by today’s Republicans as a Satan-worshiping, baby-killing feminist cult. But in 1970 it was granted federal funding by none other than the guest star of today’s show, President Richard Nixon. Furthermore, here’s what Nixon said at the time: “No American woman should be denied access to family-planning assistance because of her economic condition.”

I know: Mind blown. Read that quote to any of the 97 current Republican candidates for president and watch their heads explode. That Communistic rhetoric coming from the lips of Tricky Dick strikes me as noteworthy in several ways. Many leftists of my gender, it must be said, have a hard time focusing on how far the political climate around reproductive rights has eroded in the last 40 years. There were prominent pro-choice Republicans as recently as the mid-1990s, but the party’s official ideology on abortion has been reshaped by an activist minority just as the party itself was, through the use of emotionally charged symbols and images and the banishment of such wussified abstractions as facts, logic, history and context. Did Ronald Reagan need that kind of crap when he personally tore down the Berlin Wall, shot Hitler and freed the grateful slaves? He did not.

Lastly, there’s the most unlikely part of Nixon’s startling pronouncement: Its direct reference to economic inequalities and the need to address them. No Republican would say any such thing today, of course, and even for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, the commitment to equality comes surrounded by an ideological hedge: Healthcare for women, sure, but we’ll have to find a way for the market to provide it. I do not delude myself that Nixon cared about poor women or their health, but in the political climate of the time he was obliged to say he did. That political climate was exactly what had to be changed, from the point of view of the overlords who designed the Republican prison experiment, because it posed a long-term threat to their economic and political supremacy.

Social wedge issues like abortion and guns and immigration have been important elements in consolidating a more extreme Republican ideology and in firing up its core supporters. (Gay marriage worked that way for a while but has now been pitched overboard, except by poor, sad, sincere Rick Santorum.) But the powers behind the Republicans’ terrifying metamorphosis either don’t much care about those things or are being actively duplicitous, as with the immigration issue. They’re OK with pouring endless billions in wasteful deficit spending into the empty theater of border security (hey, at least it’s not going to poor people!), but they have no intention of cutting off the flow of low-wage labor, which benefits Big Capital in any number of ways.

Does anyone suppose that the Koch brothers, a pair of globetrotting culture-vultures whose names are carved in marble on the front of every New York fine-arts institution, give a single solitary fuck about all those Megachurch Dad-Pants Yahoo Apoplexy issues at the supposed heart of the supposed Republican ideology? Unless and until it impacts the bottom line, that stuff is just the icing on the delicious cake the Kochs are baking, a rich and eggy batter of soft corporate fascism inside a candy shell of imitation democracy. Can you smell it? It’s in the oven right now.

Progressives often view the zombified 21st century GOP with an understandable mixture of apprehension and bewilderment: How the hell did this happen? Can it really be working? The answers to those questions are that it was the result of a brilliant long-term strategy to alter the dynamics of American politics – to change perception, and then to change reality — and that it’s working much better than most people perceive. As Phil Zimbardo can tell you, when you’re inside the experiment it’s hard to see how much it has shifted your perspective.

Furthermore, those who comfort themselves with statistics about the dying Republican voter base, or political-science bromides about “the emerging Democratic majority” (which we have been promised for at least 20 years) are whistling past the graveyard. No doubt the Koch brothers will do their damnedest to get their boy-toy Scott Walker elected president, and I’m sure their dislike of Hillary Clinton is sincere. But they are shrewd enough to understand that it might not work, and also that the real prize is much bigger than one candidate or one party. They have redrawn the playing field of American politics and rewritten the rules of the game so effectively that even when they lose, they win. To put it another way, what good are the Democrats without democracy?

H/t: Don B.

Barack Obama’s Long Game

AP Photo.

POLITICO MAGAZINE

Barack Obama is not a modest man, but when it comes to assessing his or any president’s place in the long American story, he has been heard to say, “We just try to get our paragraph right.” Yet the way a raft of recent events have broken sharply in his favor, Obama suddenly seems well on his way to writing a whole page—or at least a big, fat passage—in the history books.

From the Supreme Court decisions upholding his signature health care plan and the right of gay Americans to marry, to contested passage of fast track trade authority, the opening of normal diplomatic relations with Cuba and an international agreement to curtail Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Obama is on a policy and political roll that would have seem unimaginable to many in Washington only a few months ago.

“Obama may be singular as a president, not only because of his striking background,” says Kenneth Adelman, who was Ronald Reagan’s arms control negotiator with the Soviets three decades ago, and who has his doubts about the Iran deal. “It may turn out that unlike virtually any other president, his second term is actually better than his first.”

Rallying his cabinet in January in the wake of the Democratic Party’s decisive defeat in last fall’s midterm elections, Obama himself maintained, “Interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter.” This president has always been something of a clutch player, but his command of recent events—from his soaring eulogy for the victims of the Charleston church massacre, to his commutation of more sentences for non-violent criminal offenders than any president since Franklin Roosevelt—goes a good way toward proving the prescience of his words.

For much of the last five years, it had seemed Obama’s peculiar misfortune that the biggest achievement of his time in office—the adoption of his health care plan—might also prove his biggest defeat, because of the bitter and unyielding political and legal backlash unleashed by its narrow passage on a strict partisan vote.

Simultaneously, Obama’s ability to take decisive unilateral action on foreign policy—often a source of succor and satisfaction to second-term presidents—seemed highly limited, if only because he remained saddled with the ugly aftermath of the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the rise of the ISIL threat.

Not so long ago, much of the chattering class was reading the last rites over the Obama administration, and turning to the 2016 election as a test of whether anything would be left of the president’s legacy if a Republican succeeded him. That’s still an open question, of course. But the Court’s recent rulings and Obama’s own seemingly unplugged and swing-for-the-fences attitude on questions from race to criminal justice has given his presidency a sharply re-invigorated viability and relevance.

“It’s an unfinished chapter,” says presidential historian Richard Norton Smith, who is writing a new biography of Gerald Ford. “But he has already defied the second-term curse and the wisdom of just six months ago. ‘What can a president do if he doesn’t have either house of Congress?’ Well, guess what, he can reverse a 50, 60-year-old policy toward Cuba. But, more than that, he can still, even without the traditional televised Oval Office version of the bully pulpit, to a large degree set the terms of the national debate.”

The president’s very demeanor in his White House news conference on Thursday bespoke a renewed intensity and determination to make the most of the time he has left.  Much of the time, he fielded questions in a relaxed posture, leaning on the lectern with one elbow, but some of his answers were emphatic bordering on brusque. As the session wound down, he canvassed the East Room for more questions about the Iran agreement with a kind of “Hit-me-with-your-best-shot” bravado, as if to show how important he believes it to be. With a blithe air that belied the seriousness of the issue, he quoted that noted diplomat Ricky Ricardo to say that if Iran mined more uranium than it was supposed to, “They got some ‘splainin’ to do.”

“It is a measure of the times in which we live that we start the legacy discussion a year and a half before the end of a presidency,” says David Axelrod, Obama’s former longtime strategist. “But he’s had the most productive period he’s enjoyed since the first two years: Cuba, the climate agreement with China, action on immigration, fast track on trade, the SCOTUS decisions on health care and marriage and now this agreement on Iran. These are big, historically significant developments, in most cases the culmination of years of commitment on his part.”

Obama himself said he hoped Congress would debate the Iran agreement on the facts and the merits, but added, “We live in Washington and politics do intrude.” The sharp and instantaneous denunciation of the president’s comments by Republicans was a sure sign of the parallel universes that constitute American politics these days. Former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show that Obama was a “very, very naïve man,” who “cannot put the dots together,” while Glenn Beck’s daily email newsletter subject line was, “Obama continues to destroy the country.”

The Republicans are not the only obstacle that Obama faces. He won his fast track Asian trade authority with largely Republican support, and the Iran agreement has stirred significant Democratic skepticism, among even the party’s leaders in Congress. If the Greek financial crisis engulfs Europe and spreads to Wall Street, there is no telling what the American economy might look like when Obama leaves office in 18 months.

By definition, the success or failure of the Iran agreement will not be known until long after Obama has left office, and critics like Adelman worry that even if Iran cheats on its obligations, international sanctions will never be re-imposed, because violations will be so hard to prove and the global investment in Iran will be so entrenched that it cannot be unwound.

Continue reading here>>>

“Scott Walker, Please Come Home” says Major Wisconsin Editorial

Gov. Scott Walker speaks during the North Carolina Republican Party convention in Raleigh, N.C., earlier this month | Associated Press

DAILY KOS

The headline just says it all. Things are so bad here in the Legislature that the newspaper is begging Scott Walker to come home, if only for a short time.This isn’t from The Onion, but from the most highly read Wisconsin newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. One that has endorsed Scott Walker, tends to ignore his bad news, and prints his talking points like Gospel.

But here in Wisconsin, the budget he proposed last winter is foundering, and not because of Democratic opposition but because his Republican colleagues can’t come to terms. Last week, Republican leaders were sniping at each other over whether Assembly Republicans wanted to delaythe reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange to build pressure for increasing the gas tax or vehicle registration fees.The impasse is apparently over how to pay for the transportation budget and how to finance a deal for a new arena in downtown Milwaukee. These are big issues, and they deserve Walker’s attention. In addition, as an editorial on Friday on this page noted, there are a host of items in the budget that simply shouldn’t be there. Mainly, they’re non-budget items sneaked into the budget with little discussion or public input, a practice that candidate Walker decried in 2010. In an informal Journal Sentinel poll last week, readers overwhelmingly were giving the Legislature an F grade on its handling of the budget.

(bolding is mine)I’ve also written about the mayhem that Republican Legislators brought to the budget process while Walker has been out campaigning (unannounced) for President. And, in an editorial last week, the newspapers’ editorial staff seemed to agree.

But there’s another problem with this budget: It’s so full of non-budget dead weight that it’s kind of amazing it doesn’t just sink of its own accord.On their own, many of these items are worthy of discussion and may be even worthy of passage. But most are policy matters that have little or nothing to do with the state’s fiscal books. They deserve full and separate consideration — including public hearings and a healthy public debate — before they become law. Instead, they’ve been quietly inserted into the budget, often in the wee hours, to avoid public scrutiny. Citizens should demand they be removed from the budget; legislators should have the decency to do so.

(bolding is mine)

It’s bad enough that Walker has not only completely flip flopped on his 2010 campaign promise to not use the budget for non-budgetary items, but crammed his policy agenda into each and every budget (starting with busting the unions of all public employees in Wisconsin in his infamous Budget Repair Bill).  Now Republican Legislators have followed Walkers’ lead inserting every item on their policy wish list into the budget this year.

For example, in 2010, Gov. Scott Walker’s  campaign website proclaimed he would “Strip policy and pork projects from the state budget. The budget process should be about funding essential government services based on the taxpayers’ ability to pay. It should not be about horse trading for special interest groups or establishing talking points for the next campaign.”The governor was right then, but his office turned its back on that sound good government philosophy by loading up this budget with policy items, including items on education, long-term health care and natural resources. And then the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee got into the act.

Walker has found it to be a great strategy for getting policy items passed since there are so many of them that most go unnoticed in an 1800 page budget. And even those that do get noticed, like his recent attempt to change the mission statement of our State University system, are only occasionally removed when lame excuses (“the University requested the change” – lie) and placing blame elsewhere (“it was a drafting error” – lie) don’t work. The rest simply pass right on through with no debate and no discussion.

Loading up the budget with non-budgetary items is no way to run a government. Walker acknowledged that in 2010.

Yes, he acknowledged that in his campaign. By now, however, we know that Walker says one thing during a campaign and then does something else after he’s elected;  and this should serve as a warning to Republican primary voters. He doesn’t keep his promises.What you get with Walker is government by surprise. Well, not so much “governing” either. It become more like imperial “ruling” than governing. Using his elected office to repay donors and batter real or imagined enemies.

Walker has serious problems back home which have worsened with him away. WEDC, his “job creation agency” is awash in corruption, the budget has turned into a carnival side show, and Republicans, who dominate the State Legislature, are bickering like toddlers over who gets to toss more goodies into the State Budget.

As terrible as Scott Walker has been as Governor of Wisconsin, his absence has created a leadership vacuum that far too many Republicans are fighting to fill. And that chaos is being noticed.

In the Sunday editiorial, they’ve finally remembered Walkers’ campaign pledge last year that he “only wants to be Governor”.

When he was running for re-election last year, he told a group of Journal Sentinel opinion writers and reporters that he really wanted to be Wisconsin’s governor, and that he would act as such in his second term. He would actually govern. I don’t think he’s doing that; and that’s certainly the perception of many in the public, who think he’s running for president full-time. Maybe he’s working behind the scenes, but if he is, it’s so far back that no one knows he’s there.

Walker wants the Presidency so badly that he’s not even pretending to be Governor anymore. And when your media pals and supporters notice that, it isn’t good.Your media pals need you so come on back home, Governor. Fluffing you up is hard enough already considering how much damage you’ve done to the state. And the current evident corruption and mayhem make your media poodles have to work even harder.

Sue

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?

Ted Cruz Hints At Presidential Bid With “Yes We Can” Ad (VIDEO)

aaorielly

Thanks Ted for the email showing what a tool Ted Cruz is…

Liberals Unite

Tea Party darling Ted Cruz has put out this new video and it appears this is his way of hinting that he will be the first official conservative to get into the 2016 GOP clown car.

It’s no secret he is loved by the dwindling and out-of-touch with reality Tea Party and he’ll definitely put on a great show.

It’s a little early to be campaigning and maybe Cruz should have waited to come up with his own  campaign slogan instead of swiping Obama’s “Yes We Can.”

His platform is completely unsurprising: Defund Obamacare – blah blah blah. YOU CAN’T HAVE MY GUN, blah blah blah. Abolish the IRS, blah blah blah.

You can tell he is serious because his voice goes up several octaves and he clenches his fists when he’s making a point. He almost growls when he speaks.

Constitution…First Amendment…Guns…Grrrr…Grrr.

Oh, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

 

 

Anderson Cooper Slams Senator Who Doesn’t ‘Know Anyone In Arizona That Would Discriminate’

Post image for Anderson Cooper Slams Senator Who Doesn’t ‘Know Anyone In Arizona That Would Discriminate’

The New Civil Rights Movement

Monday night, CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewed Arizona Republican state senator Al Melvin, who is running for governor and is the only candidate actively supporting SB-1062, the anti-gay “religious freedom” license to discriminate bill. Senator Melvin could not give Cooper any examples of religious discrimination that SB-1062 would prevent in the Grand Canyon State. He used the phrase “religious freedom” a lot, but, despite the ten-minute unedited interview, was at a loss for words to support the existence of the bill that currently sits on Gov. Jan Brewer‘s desk.

In fact, Anderson Cooper was forced to repeatedly state, “but you can’t cite one example where religious freedom is under attack in Arizona.”

Crickets.

“Not now, no, but how about tomorrow, Sen. Melvin offered, after pausing.

“Well — I don’t understand what that means,” Cooper responded. “I mean, if you can’t cite in the entire history of Arizona, one case where religious freedom has been under attack, or even in the last year where it’s been under attack, is this really the most important thing for you to be workin’ on in the state House and the Senate?”

“We’re doing many things, sir,” Sen. Melvin replied. “We are trying to stop Common Core from being implemented in the state, we’re trying to secure the border… We can do multiple things here, and this is one of them — to protect religious freedom.”

Cooper then offered an example of an unwed mother and a divorced woman who, under SB-1062, could easily be targeted by those exercising their “religious freedom.”

“I don’t know where you’re getting your hypotheticals,” Melvin said. “Who would be against an unwed mother?”

Cooper, again, was forced to educate the Senator. “Jesus spoke against divorce,” he told the Arizona Republican. “He never said anything about gay people.”

“I think you’re being far-fetched with all due respect sir,” Sen. Melvin told Cooper. “As a Christian, as most God-fearing men and women would respect unwed mothers, divorced women — who would discriminate against them. I’ve never heard of discriminating against people like that.”

Melvin refused to consider Cooper’s purely plausible examples.

“You know, all of the pillars of society are under attack in the United States. The family, the traditional family, traditional marriage, mainline churches, the Boy Scouts, you name it. All of the pillars of society as we know it today are under attack, including religious freedom.”

(The irony of Sen. Melvin telling an openly-gay man that “all of the pillars of society,” including “traditional marriage,” “are under attack in the United States,” escaped the Senator.)

Cooper then asked, “Under attack by who?”

“Well, Melvin responded, “it’s throughout the country. We had a ballot measure a few years ago, to define marriage as between one man and one woman… and it passed and that now is part of our constitution.”

Cooper then reminded Melvin that, “no florist is going to be forced to participate in a gay wedding, because, ‘a’ — you don’t have gay weddings in Arizona, and you’re not going to any time soon — and ‘b’ under Arizona law, it’s OK to discriminate against a gay person, to refuse them service already.”

“With all due respect sir, I don’t know anyone in Arizona that would discriminate against a fellow human being.”

“Discrimination doesn’t exist in Arizona?,” Cooper, shocked, asked, noting he knows people in New York who discriminate.

“Well, maybe you ought to move to Arizona. We’re more people-friendly here, apparently.”

Senator Melvin’s lack of understanding of the bill, the intended or unintended consequences of the bill, and what discrimination actually means and that it exists is appalling and embarrassing.

Sen. Melvin closed by reminding Cooper that he is “the only candidate for governor in Arizona who is promoting and defending this bill.”

Exactly.

Below is the video. Part two includes NYU Law Professor Kenji Yoshino who defended Cooper’s analysis.

Towards the end of part two, Cooper blasts Melvin who refuses to state whether or not he believes firing an LGBT person for being LGBT is discrimination.

“You’re going to be governor of gay and lesbian people, and you can’t even go on the record and say if a gay or lesbian person is fired simply for being gay or lesbian, that’s discrimination?” Cooper incredulously inquired. “You can’t even make that leap and say, ‘Yeah, that would be discrimination’?”

“I don’t know of any case like you just cited, sir,” Melvin responded.

Visit CNN to watch video…

Keeping Tabs on Obama’s Church Attendance Is No Way to Gauge His Faith

Photo by Pool photo by Drew Angerer

The Daily Beast

President Obama has demonstrated the depth and breadth of his faith in numerous ways and in a variety of settings since taking office.
An article in the New York Times last week tallied up the number of times President Obama has attended church while in office: more than Reagan, less than Bush, and when it comes to all presidents, probably somewhere in between. The piece sought to make a broader point about the president’s religiosity based on these rough metrics–but that equation misses a lot else in the process. So I thought it might be illuminating to provide just a glimmer of Obama’s faith, a few moments out of many that stood out to me over the years of working and praying with our president.One of my favorite memories in church with Obama was from 2007, at Brown Chapel A.M.E. in Selma, Alabama. The young senator was at Brown Chapel to worship and mark the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the day in 1965 when civil rights activists faced dogs and batons as they marched from Selma to Montgomery.

Obama took the pulpit to deliver a powerful sermon–one of my favorites, later called “The Joshua Generation” speech, in which he masterfully linked his own diverse lineage, the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s, the journey of the people of Israel from Egypt to Canaan, and the political moment of that day.

But it was what happened before his formal remarks that really stood out to me. We staff had prepared a standard “acknowledgments card” for Obama to read, with the names of clergy, elected officials, and other dignitaries to thank before his speech. He read those acknowledgments but when he was finished, Senator Obama said there was one more person who hadn’t been recognized.

He looked out into the packed congregation and saw a wizened face sitting several pews back, an old man who looked to be well north of 80 years. None of the other speakers had noticed the man at that point, and we had not introduced him to Senator Obama before the service began. But Obama pointed to him and said, “and finally friends, here with us today is Dr. C.T. Vivian. Let’s pause and thank him. That’s the man Dr. Martin Luther King called the greatest preacher to ever live.”

Vivian’s smile grew wide and eyes teary at the unexpected acknowledgment. Several of us marveled at how we had missed the great Dr. Vivian–whose activism precipitated the 1965 march in the first place–and how Obama had picked his face out from so many others in the crowd. It was a beautiful nod across generations, a pause from that pulpit that I’ll never forget.

There were many other remarkable moments of worship. I remember being at Allen Chapel A.M.E. in Washington for Easter services in 2010, when the entire Obama family–Barack, Michelle, Malia, Sasha, and Ms. Robinson–knelt to take the bread and wine of communion. A week earlier, a drive-by shooting had rocked that same neighborhood, taking five lives and injuring four. The First Family’s attendance at that Easter service added a bit of temporal healing in that community to the eternal hope symbolized by Christ’s body and blood.

Continue reading here…

H/t: DB

There was nothing high-minded about the budget deal

Smiles before the debt storm.

Smiles before the debt storm. Photo: (T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)

The Week – Taegan Goddard

Many recent articles have trumpeted the “bipartisan breakthrough” that led to a federal budget deal. Don’t believe any of them. Partisan warfare is very much alive.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a key broker of the budget deal, signaled that a standoff over the debt ceiling is coming soon.

Said Ryan: “We, as a caucus, along with our Senate counterparts, are going to meet and discuss what it is we want to get out of the debt limit. We don’t want ‘nothing’ out of the debt limit. We’re going to decide what it is we can accomplish out of this debt limit fight.”

The comments show how broken our legislative system has become. Just days ago, Ryan agreed to a budget deal that increases the federal debt — and hailed it in a series of interviews — but now he won’t agree to raise the debt ceiling mandated by the very same budget deal.

In the last fiscal standoff in October, the Obama administration held firm and refused to negotiate over the debt ceiling. Expect the same reaction this time.

Of course, the real reason there was a budget deal is that Republicans felt it was politically advantageous. With the White House on the defensive for nearly two months over the ObamaCare implementation, Republicans don’t want to do anything to distract from their woes.

Newt Gingrich said it best: “I think this is mediocre policy and brilliant politics. It doesn’t get them what they want on policy terms, but it strips away the danger that people will notice anything but ObamaCare. And the longer the country watches ObamaCare, the more likely the Democrats are to lose the Senate.”

He’s right. The budget deal probably is good politics — at least in the very short term.

So as both sides move the country to the edge of the fiscal brink early next year, remember it’s all about politics. But will the politics still be good for either side?

A Progressive Pope is Driving the Wingnuts Batty

Daily Kos

As Pope Francis comes more and more out of the Progressive Closet he begins to gain more and more pushback from the Rightwing who have long claimed that their Unrepentant Greed was Godly.

Unfortunately it isn’t, and the Pope has been most clear on this.

“As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems,” the pope said in the 224-page document that essentially serves as his official platform.

And the response has been truly amazing.  For example Palin’s overreaction to the Pope’s statements on Twitter actually made her do something she seems to never done before.  (Except for one other time to John McCain for possibly, maybe, making him LOSE!)Apologize.

She didn’t apologize for TrooperGate.  She didn’t apologize for “Refudiate”.  She didn’t apologize for quitting in the middle of her Term as Governor of Alaska.  She didn’t apologize for defending Dr. Laura’s N-Word use with “Don’t Retreat, Relaod! She didn’t apologize for her BLOOD LIBELaccusations.

But she apologized to the Pope.  I think something unique and different is going on here. 

The Pope’s comments apparently got deeply under the skin of Fox Business Host Stuart Varney.

The Raw Story

“Capitalism, in my opinion, is a liberator,” he said. “The free choice of millions of people is the essence of freedom. In my opinion, society benefits most when people are free to pursue their own self-interest. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but it is not. When individuals are free, we collectively are better off in every way, financially and spiritually.”

It doesn’t seem to matter to Varney that the Pope didn’t criticize “People’s Freedom or Self-Interest” – he criticized The Markets. He criticized the manipulation of those markets using financial speculation. It’s not an accident that Varney gets this wrong, because he’s a knave. A lapdog of the Markets.  His job is to make sure that his True Religion – Unfeterred Greed – is never questioned, never criticized and if it is that persons veracity and character has to beDestroyed.It just becomes a little difficult when that person – Is the Holy Pontiff.

See how he tries to rewrite and redefine the Pope’s words for him.

“I go to church to save my soul,” Varney said. “It’s got nothing to do with my vote. Pope Francis has linked the two. He has offered direct criticism of a specific political system. He has characterized negatively that system. I think he wants to influence my politics.”

A political system?  He criticized a Political System? No actually, he didn’t.  He criticized aFinancial System, by putting that system into a Moral Context.  A context in which it is sorely, severely lacking.  Politics is about how people make choices in who their Political Leaders will be.  In this case Varney is confusing Politics with Finances, and not hardly by accident.For years we’ve been hearing from the Right-wing how the U.S. is a “Christian Nation”.  How we should and must let our Christian Value guide how we vote, and how we govern.  That such considerations are what drives the anti-Choice movement, and the Prayer-In-Schools movement and the Creationist/Anti-Science movement – yet when the Head of the Largest Christian Organization in the World says that our financial systems should have a moral component.

Continue reading here…

 

DNC Wants To Help You Talk With ‘Your Republican Uncle’ On Thanksgiving

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You gotta love this idea from Democrats.  Just in time for the holidays at that…

TPM LiveWire

The Democratic National Committee is launched a Thanksgiving-themed website Wednesday called YourRepublicanUncle.com that purports to help people deal with “lively discussions with Republican relatives about politics” that occur during the holiday season.

YourRepublicanUncle.com features talking points Democrats can use during hypothetical political conversations with their family members.

“This time of year, the only thing more annoying than holiday traffic is an awkward conversation with family about politics,” DNC Digital Director Matt Compton wrote in an email announcing the site. “We designed YourRepublicanUncle.com so that it look greats and loads quickly on your phone — no getting ambushed when you go back for seconds on stuffing.”

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