Browsing the archives for the Obama Administration category.


Texas Textbooks Up the Crazy

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Obama Administration

The infamous Texas textbook adoption committee has just approved new social studies books for the state’s public schools.

Critics said that some of the government and world history textbooks, for example, exaggerate the influence of biblical figures — such as Moses and Solomon — on the nation’s founding and Western political tradition. A few of the books include material that critics said  undermines the constitutional concept of the separation of church and state. They say some world geography textbooks give short shrift to the role that conquest played in the spread of humanity while at the same time negatively portraying Islam and Muslims. Others criticized some of the books as being too sympathetic to Muslims, revealing the spectrum of political views among the critics.

I don’t know how much of these claims are accurate:

Christian conservatives win, children lose: Texas textbooks will teach public school students that the Founding Fathers based the Constitution on the Bible, and the American system of democracy was inspired by Moses.

On Friday the Republican-controlled Texas State Board of Education voted along party lines 10-5 to approve the biased and inaccurate textbooks. The vote signals a victory for Christian conservatives in Texas, and a disappointing defeat for historical accuracy and the education of innocent children.

The textbooks were written to align with instructional standards that the Board of Education approved back in 2010 with the explicit intention of forcing social studies teaching to adhere to a conservative Christian agenda. The standards require teachers to emphasize America’s so called “Christian heritage.”

In essence, Christian conservatives in Texas have successfully forced a false historical narrative into public school textbooks that portray Moses as an influence on the Constitution and the Old Testament as the root of democracy.

On the bright side, apparently some passages denying climate change were toned down.

Also I found it interesting that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt pulled out of the review process at the last minute.

According to the latest documents posted publicly, the publisher declined to make changes in its government textbook that would add greater coverage of Judeo-Christian influence — including Moses — on America’s founding fathers.

A Houghton Mifflin representative said the company decided to remove the book, which did not meet all Texas curriculum standards, from the state’s process because the text was designed for a national market.

I wish I still had contacts in the textbook industry. I’m guessing that HMH decided that publishing a Texas-only edition wasn’t profitable enough to bother about. Otherwise they’d probably give Texas whatever it wanted.

For years publishers have been cranking out Texas editions in a way that required a simple black plate change on the presses. In other words, usually the national and Texas editions looked identical, page for page, but here and there “national” text was swapped out and replaced by Texas-specific text when required. Or, in some cases, a blank space in the national edition would be filled by Texas-specific text in the Texas edition. But this can only be done if the differences between the Texas and national edition are minor. If the differences require the Texas edition to have its own page layouts and features, the cost of cranking out a separate edition go up quite a bit, and HMH must have decided the textbooks would be unsalable in other states.

However, I also understand that textbook publishers are phasing out the big honking expensive textbook series that I used to produce and moving toward providing digital content, making boutique textbooks a lot more affordable.

The textbook industry these days is pretty much dominated by just three companies — Harcourt Houghton Mifflin, McGraw Hill and Pearson — so one of them deciding to not play the Texas textbook committee’s games is pretty significant.

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Capture the Agency!

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Obama Administration

The “capture” of federal regulatory agencies by industry insiders has been going on for awhile and is one of the several hundred reasons government doesn’t work for the people any more. It peaked during the Bush II Administration, in which Dubya and Co. pretty much invited industry insiders to regulate themselves and even write laws benefiting themselves.

Early on President Obama’s choices for regulatory agency heads were a big improvement. But for most of his administration Republicans have cut funding for regulatory agencies and were able to block many appointments until Harry Reid dropped the nuclear option in the Senate a year ago.  I believe some agencies are still without heads, though.

But dang if the House hasn’t kicked agency capturing up a notch. It passed a bill that would — get this — restrict scientists from testifying on their own research to the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board, but would pave the way for corporate paid shills experts to testify instead. Lindsay Abrams writes,

The bill is being framed as a play for transparency: Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, arguedthat the board’s current structure is problematic because it  “excludes industry experts, but not officials for environmental advocacy groups.” The inclusion of industry experts, he said, would right this injustice.

But the White House, which threatened to veto the bill, said it would “negatively affect the appointment of experts and would weaken the scientific independence and integrity of the SAB.”

In what might be the most ridiculous aspect of the whole thing, the bill forbids scientific experts from participating in “advisory activities” that either directly or indirectly involve their own work. In case that wasn’t clear: experts would be forbidden from sharing their expertise in their own research — the bizarre assumption, apparently, being that having conducted peer-reviewed studies on a topic would constitute a conflict of interest. “In other words,” wrote Union of Concerned Scientists director Andrew A. Rosenberg in an editorial for RollCall, “academic scientists who know the most about a subject can’t weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can.”

President Obama is threatening to veto this bill if it gets past the Senate. If he does, watch the Fox News bloviators scream about the President stifling science. See also House Republicans Pass Yet Another Underhanded Attack on Science.

Republicans are forever telling us they are not scientists.

For now, “I’m not a scientist” is what one party adviser calls “a temporary Band-Aid” — a way to avoid being called a climate change denier but also to sidestep a dilemma. The reality of campaigning is that a politician who acknowledges that burning coal and oil contributes to global warming must offer a solution, which most policy experts say should be taxing or regulating carbon pollution and increasing government spending on alternative energy. But those ideas are anathema to influential conservative donors like the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch and the advocacy group they support, Americans for Prosperity.

We’re perpetually being told the two major parties are just alike, but while the Dems have their flaws, I can’t see them doing anything this blatantly corrupt.

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Dem Jellyfish Syndrome

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Democratic Party, Obama Administration

The 2012 Democratic convention, with its ringing calls for economic populism and commitment to civil liberties, had me persuaded that Dems had finally grown spines. But now, reflecting on the midterm loss, it seems they’re reverted to being invertebrates again.

After the midterms a great many people pointed out that the Dem candidates who lost often were the ones who ran furthest and fastest from President Obama’s record. Of course, we’re told over and over again that President Obama is “unpopular.” And why is that? Jeff Schweitzer wrote shortly after the election that public perceptions of the Obama Administration have been painted by Republicans and often bear little resemblance to, you know, what the Administration actually is doing.

But I can’t lay blame just on those lying weasel Republicans, because the Obama Administration itself has failed to connect with people and make the case for its own accomplishments. This is partly because the Dems lack the media infrastructure the Right has built, and partly because the allegedly leftist media still allows right-wing voices to dominate talk shows and opinion pages. But it’s also the case that Dems turn into jellyfish way too easily.

Kevin Baker writes,

Today’s Democratic Party, with its finely calibrated, top-down fixes, does not offer anything so transformative. It seems scared of its own shadow, which is probably why it keeps reassuring itself that its triumph is inevitable. It needs instead to fully acknowledge just how devastating the recession was for working people everywhere in America, and what a generation of largely flat wages did to their aspirations even before that. It needs to take on hard fights, even against powerful forces, like pharmaceutical and insurance companies that presume to tell us the limits of what our health care can be or energy companies that would tell us what the world’s climate can endure. It means carving out a place of respect for working men and women in our globalized, finance-driven world.

Invite us to dream a little. You don’t build an enduring coalition out of who Americans are. You do it out of what we can be.

It may be that the GOP’s only message is to scare people to death, but at least it has a message.

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War on Christmas: Lock and Load

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Obama Administration

Sorry I’ve been absent; I’m hysterically busy these days. I’m cross-posting something I just wrote on my religion blog, so here’s something.

The Christmas television commercials preceded Halloween this year, and I see some of my neighbors have their Christmas decorations up already.

Yes, folks, the annual War on Christmas season has begun.

At Patheos, Zen teacher and Unitarian Universalist minister James Ford writes “Why I’m Afraid of Christians: Or the Briefest Meditation on Wishing Happy Holidays to All.”

There is something hanging in the back of my mind when living in a country dominated by a group of people who have an ideology that puts me at the moment of my death firmly into the fires of hell for, well, forever. And it’s hard not to be vaguely aware of how easy a step it is from seeing someone as firewood in the future to seeing one as killable in the present tense.

Of course, it isn’t the only example of this latent threat of violence. Politicians decrying that atheists can vote comes to mind, too. Pandering to the religious majority, with just a hint of violence in the air. Just a hint. And personally I don’t see much different in the historical rhetoric of jihad and crusade.

But the constant declarations today of people in the religious majority lamenting how they’ve been put upon by having to share space with people of other religions or none is the really scary thing. Violence against religious minorities is a once, and I see no reason to think not, a future thing.

How likely is it that reactionary Christians in the U.S. might become violent? Violence linked to religion is on the rise around the world, according to the Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project. Is it possible religious violence might increase in the U.S. as well?

This may seem unlikely, but do see “Rumblings of Theocratic Violence” by Frederick Clarkson. Clarkson documents that there is indeed a large and well-connected subculture of extreme Christians in the U.S. who are calling for armed insurrection against the government. Some of these extremists are forging ties with the neo-confederate movement and forming paramilitary units.

As I wrote in Rethinking Religion, “religious” violence often is about something else and is just packaged as religion. What we’re seeing around the world is a lot of right-wing reactionism pushing back against cultural change and modernity generally, and for some reason right-wing reactionism these days likes to dress itself up as religion. Hence, a rise in what appears to be “religious” violence.

But there are two qualities found in most violent mass movements that need to be understood —

Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both. — Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (1951)

I propose in Rethinking Religion that fervent belief in a holy cause — which doesn’t necessarily have to be religious — by itself doesn’t usually drive people into violence. A holy cause combined with a fanatical grievance, however, will do nicely. If you look at violent groups around the world today, I believe you will see they all harbor fanatical grievances. In their minds, they have been wronged and abused and are entitled to payback.

The last couple of posts, “’Religious Violence’ Isn’t Just Religious” and “The Christian Right’s Pitiful Rearguard Action” both discuss the way the U.S. religious Right cherishes a belief in its own martyrdom, and that holding them to the same anti-discrimination laws as everyone else amounts to discrimination against them. And this is what makes them dangerous. The stronger their sense of fanatical grievance, the more dangerous they are likely to become.

I’m not saying the U.S. religious Right is going to become as extremely dangerous as ISIS. The provocations are not quite so strong — we haven’t experienced war here since 1865, and have not suffered occupying foreign powers. But I think the threat they pose is real, and it’s a big reason their increasingly hysterical screams of martyrdom have me concerned.

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Politics of the Id

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elections, Obama Administration, Republican Party

I avoided political news yesterday, but this morning I bit the bullet and took a look at a few postmortems. I think Charles Pierce comes closest:

I think it was contemplating the fact that both Sam Brownback and Paul LePage both may have survived as governors that was the last straw for me tonight. Brownback has wrecked his state. Even Kansas Republicans believe that. LePage is a local embarrassment who became a national embarrassment in the final days before the election. Even Maine Republicans believe that. But Brownback will go back to wrecking his state, and LePage will go back to embarrassing his because of an attitude that Republicans, and the conservative movement that has powered the party, have cultivated carefully over the last three decades. They have engaged, quite deliberately and quite successfully, in a concerted effort to convince the country that self-government is a game for suckers. Nobody does what they say they’re going to do, so ignore the fact that our candidates have drifted so far to the right that they’ll be falling into the Thames any minute now because they’re not going to act on their fringe beliefs, and just go out there and vote your Id. Once you’ve divorced the act of voting from the conviction that voting will have any connection to what the government actually does, voters do not vote their desires, they vote their anger and their fear. And Sam Brownback goes back to wrecking his state and Paul LePage goes back to embarrassing his own.

Seriously, if we’d all taken a drink every time some election night bobblehead declared voters were tired of “politics as usual” or “fed up with Washington” we’d still be passed out. The bare-assed facts of the results would suggest that voters want more of the same. They want more wreckage, more gridlock, more drama, more stagnation. Except, they probably really don’t. They’re probably mostly really disgusted. So they vote for the candidate who personifies their disgust. As Pierce says, they are voting their Id. That’s the only explanation that makes sense.

Also, too:

Let us dispense with some conventional wisdom before it petrifies. First of all, the president’s basic unpopularity was unquestionably a factor, but not anywhere near as much of a factor as was the reluctance of the Democratic party — from the president on down — to embrace the actual successes that the administration has achieved. The economy is, in fact, improving. It is the responsibility of the president and his party that we have the paradoxical polling that indicates that the elements of the Affordable Care Act are popular, while “Obamacare” is not. (Mitch McConnell told a transparent lie that Kentucky could get rid of the ACA and still keep its very popular state exchange. He didn’t suffer at all for that.) The senatorial candidates who lost were senators who ran away from the administration.

I think President Obama’s single biggest mistake as President is that he has allowed himself to become too remote. It seems to me we don’t see as much of him as we have seen past POTUSes while in office. He’s a likeable guy, and while I don’t always agree with him he’s turned the economy around quite a bit and considerably lowered the deficit. How many Americans actually know President Obama has reduced the deficit? I’d be willing to bet real money that if you stopped people randomly in the street and asked them whether the deficit has gone up or down under Obama, 99 out of 100 would say “up.”

And, of course, a lot of the reason for this is that news media don’t inform the public of anything the public needs to know about their government. All we ever hear is the spin. News for the Id.

Second, I think it’s generally true that Democratic politicians campaigning for higher offices now probably started their political careers in the 80s or 90s or early 00. They learned that the way to succeed is to not stick their necks out for progressivism. So their don’t offer a real contrast to the Republican candidates except for seeming, well blander. No Id appeal. Combine that with apparently successful voter suppression efforts, and there’s nothing to stop the Republicans from swamping the ship of state.

Last, and I hate to break this to Tom Brokaw, and to Kasie Hunt, who talked about how the Republicans know they have to “govern,” but this election couldn’t have been less of a repudiation of the Tea Party.

That’s the other howler we heard over and over election night — the GOP establishment prevailed; the Tea Party has been leashed. Seems kind of the other way around to me.

Now the bobbleheads are putting on their best suits and telling us in their polished and resonate baritones that the Republicans will have to govern. No, they don’t, and they have no intention of doing so. In fact, The Editors of National Review have declared governing to be a trap. The reasons, boiled down, are these:

  1. Governing may require compromise which may require giving Democrats something they want.
  2. If we attempt to pass legislation Democrats will just obstruct us, doing to us what we did to them. The nerve.
  3. If we actually do something it might piss off the Tea Party.
  4. If government actually started working while a Democrat is in the White House, voters might elect another Democrat in 2016.
  5. Because of the four reasons above, instead of trying to pass legislation that would require compromises with Democrat and which might not be vetoed by a Democratic President, we should focus on what we will be able to accomplish after 2016 when we are in complete control.

Seriously, look for yourself. That’s what they’re saying.

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Election Returns

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Obama Administration

Pennsylvania will have a Democratic governor next year. Tom Corbett is out. The winner’s name is Tom Wolf. The GOP has picked up one Senate seat, in West Virginia. Mitch McConnell and a bunch of other incumbents have been re-elected. It’s probably going to be awhile before we know much

(Update) I see that the Republican, Tom Cotton, has won the Arkansas Senate race over the incumbent Mark Pryor. So that’s two pickups for Republicans.

I’m watching MSNBC and for the past half hour we’ve been told over and over that Mitch McConnell won. Move on already. Also I turn the sound off for the speeches. They’re too annoying.

Actually it’s better with the sound off all the time.

(update) Al Franken wins another term. Scott Brown lost in New Hampshire, Jeanne Shaheen wins another term.

(update) Wendy Davis lost in Texas. She was running for governor.

(update) The Louisiana Senate race is going to go to a runoff. It won’t be settled until December. I’m not waiting up.

(update) The Republicans picked up another Senate seat, in Montana.  That’s four.

(update) Mark Udall lost to the Republican challenger Cory Gardner, so that’s five. Republicans need just one more win to take over the Senate.

(Update) Damn. Scott Walker won.

(Update)  I’m seeing on the Web that Rick Scott was re-elected in Florida, but I don’t think I’ve seen this on MSNBC.

(Update) Looks like Pat Roberts is going to return to the Senate, too. Damn.

(Update) Ernst wins in Iowa.

Well, I’m depressed enough now, so I’m calling it quits for tonight.

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Bring Back MWO

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elections, News Media, Obama Administration

Not to bum you out or anything, but it appears Iowa is about to elect a certifiable whackjob to the Senate. Molly Ball writes at The Atlantic,

Joni Ernst is an Iowan, born and bred, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, and the Republican nominee for the Senate in Iowa. She has also flirted seriously with wacky conspiracy theories, especially Agenda 21, which takes off from an innocuous, voluntary UN resolution and turns it into a sinister plot which, as the John Birch Society says, “seeks for the government to curtail your freedom to travel as you please, own a gas-powered car, live in suburbs or rural areas, and raise a family. Furthermore, it would eliminate your private property rights through eminent domain.” And she has made comments about Americans totally dependent on government that make Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” observations look almost populist by comparison.

She’s a Michele Bachmann clone, in other words, but she’ll be in the Senate where she can do a lot more damage than Bachmann could in the House. Thanks loads, Iowa.

However, we might not entirely blame Iowans. Molly Ball also writes that news stories and profiles of Ernst in mainstream media make her seem harmless, even charming.

The other day, The Washington Post carried a front-page profile of Joni Ernstby feature reporter Monica Hesse. The piece was particularly striking—a long, warm, almost reverential portrait of a woman candidate charming Iowans by doing it “the Iowa way”—no doubt, an accurate portrayal by a veteran journalist. Hesse did suggest, in passing, that Ernst has taken some controversial positions in the past, such as supporting “personhood,” but emphasized that she has walked them back. Not mentioned in the piece was Ernst’s flirtation with one of the craziest conspiracy theories, or her comments on dependency—or her suggestion that she would use the gun she packs if the government ever infringed on her rights.

For those of you who don’t remember, the MWO in the title refers to one of the first liberal blogs that made an impact, Media Whores Online. MWO was the blog everybody talked about in 2002, but then it ceased to be, sometime in 2003 I think. As I remember it, MWO was instigated in part to rage against the fawning deference and considerable slack news media had given GW Bush in the 2000 campaign, as opposed to the pubescent piling on of Al Gore, who was treated as the kid nobody wanted at his lunchroom table.

Ball writes that media is falling into its old habit of writing The Narrative. The Narrative is the story of the campaign, or the general theme in which political coverage is framed. Use of The Narrative is a natural storytelling device that makes politics news stories more interesting to the public at large, I suppose, but it also  introduces considerable bias.

I found an article from the 1990s discussing the media’s tendency to create frames that are “frequently drawn from, and reflective of, shared cultural narratives and myths and resonate with the larger social themes to which journalists tend to be acutely sensitive.” Although it goes back several years I think what it describes is still going on. See also “The Master Narrative in Journalism” by Jay Rosen.

Molly Ball writes,

The most common press narrative for elections this year is to contrast them with the 2010 and 2012 campaigns. Back then, the GOP “establishment” lost control of its nominating process, ended up with a group of extreme Senate candidates who said wacky things—Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Sharron Angle—and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in races that should have been slam dunks. Now the opposite has happened: The establishment has fought back and won, vanquishing the Tea Party and picking top-flight candidates who are disciplined and mainstream, dramatically unlike Akin and Angle.

It is a great narrative, a wonderful organizing theme. But any evidence that contradicts or clouds the narrative devalues it, which is perhaps why evidence to the contrary tends to be downplayed or ignored. Meantime, stories that show personal gaffes or bonehead moves by the opponents of these new, attractive mainstream candidates, fit that narrative and are highlighted.

However, by all accounts Ernst and some of the other “establishment” GOP candidates are every bit as wacky as Akin or Angle, but the public wouldn’t know this by media coverage. The “establishment” Republican candidates are being fluffed, but as Ball describes, their Democratic opponents are not. Media are, possibly unconsciously, attempting to give the Senate to Republicans.

Steve M agrees but thinks Ball is missing the bigger story on The Narrative.

It’s also that the press agrees with the GOP (and much of the public) that Barack Obama is a terrible president who needs to be punished. Journalist resent Obama because he hasn’t always been nice to them (why weren’t they allowed to watch him play golf with Tiger Woods?). He hasn’t been the guy they thought he was in 2008, the the cool, hipster bro capable of solving all of America’s problems without breaking a sweat. He let them down, so no matter what it does to the country, they’re going to put the boot in as he gets stomped. Plus, they’ve already got a crush on a whole new crop of dreamboat frat boys — Rand, Jeb, Christie, Ryan. And besides, if they’re nasty toward the Democrats, maybe right-wingers will stop denouncing them as “the liberal media.” So what if that’s never happened before? It could totally happen now, right?

It’s Bush v. Gore coverage all over again. At least it’s just a midterm.

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Please Let’s Retire PC

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Obama Administration

I well remember that I first heard the term “political correctness” back in the 1970s used as a kind of self-deprecating joke about the many often clumsy strategies for getting gender and racial bias out of language in academia and leftie activist circles. We had to stop using “men” as a synonym for “the human species,” for example. The suffix -man was replaced with -person — spokesperson, chairperson. This was all exceeding strange at first, and sometimes got silly. Once when I was working in the textbook industry I came across a passage in which “Viking oarsmen” was changed to “Viking oarspersons” (I changed it back). We struggled with the nomenclature for racial and ethnic groups and the physically challenged (a prime PC term). I understand the term “political correctness” was borrowed from communist literature, but I’ve never read much communist literature so I wouldn’t know about that.

But for a long time PC has stopped meaning what it used to mean. It was taken over by the Right as a kind of all-purpose defense against hate speech, as in “you’re just being PC.” The Right actually sees what they think is PC as a kind of censorship, or a strategy by which the Left is trying to silence opposition. If it were, I think we can all agree it doesn’t work. It also seems to me that the Right screams more loudly and more often about language they don’t like than the Left, but I’ll leave that for another post.

Bill Maher’s loudly expressed hate speech against Islam got him dis-invited from speaking at UC Berkeley. I have mixed feelings about the young folks’ proclivities for canceling speech invitations, but it’s their campus, and at least they give a damn. And it’s not as if Bill Maher is not being heard elsewhere. The First Amendment protects your right to speak, but it doesn’t guarantee a venue. Nor does it include protection from disagreement.

At The Atlantic, Peter Beinart isn’t having it, and says political correctness is back. It had left? Well, never mind. Beinert recalls the horrors of the past —

In 1987, the University of Michigan reprimanded students working at the school radio station for broadcasting racially insensitive jokes. In 1990, after Stanford students painted a picture of Beethoven black, and added big lips, the university passed a speech code that prevented “personal vilification of students on the basis of their sex, race, color, handicap, religion, sexual orientation, or national and ethnic origin.” In 1991, George Mason punished fraternity students for dressing in blackface before being prevented from doing so by a federal judge. In 1993, African-American students at the University of Pennsylvania protested a student columnist’s denunciations of Martin Luther King by dumping 14,000 copies of The Daily Pennsylvanian in the trash. Later that year, Penn tried to punish a white student for yelling “Shut up, you water buffalo” at a group of largely African-American sorority sisters who were making noise outside his window.

Hey, Beinart, I can remember when a thousand paratroopers were deployed to Little Rock so that a handful of African American students could safely attend high school classes. I remember when a U.S. Air Force veteran named James Meredith had to sue the University of Mississippi to be allowed to attend, because he was black. Meredith had to be protected by U.S. Marshalls on campus. The white segregationist riots that accompanied this event resulted in two deaths. Trashing 14,000 copies of the Daily Pennsylvanian isn’t exactly in the same ball park, is it?

The fact is, when you leave academia and get a job you can get fired for racial and gender insensitivity, so you might as well learn to can it while you’re still in college. Much of the Real World doesn’t put up with that crap, either. You’re free to say what you like, but you are not free from the consequences.

Beinart wrings his hands because everybody feels victimized.

Once again, campuses are witnessing a clash of the supposedly victimized. Maher paints himself as a man bravely violating politically correct orthodoxy to tell truths about Islam that many American liberals fear acknowledging. Muslim students on campus want their campuses to be a refuge from what many consider the demonization and persecution of Muslims in post-9/11 America. And once again, the clash is bringing out the worst in both sides.

And it appears students at UC Berkeley chose to stand with their Muslim fellow students and have told Maher to take his bigotry somewhere else, and that’s also an example of free speech in action. Maher has a very public venue for expressing his opinions, and I’m sure other venues are open to him, so his freedom of speech is not being squelched. It could be argued that Maher should have been allowed to speak and that the students who objected to his speech could just not go. But, as I said, it’s their campus, and at least they give a damn.

But my larger point is that “political correctness” wasn’t originally about blatant hate speech, and bigotry is not “politically incorrect.” It’s bigotry.

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Why We’re Doomed, Part the Infinity

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Obama Administration

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When Stupid Is an End In Itself

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economy, Obama Administration, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Of all the many signs the U.S. is no longer a great nation — big, still wealthy, powerful, conspicuous, yes, but not great — the fact that we can no longer organize ourselves to so much as fix the flippin’ bridges, never mind build new ones, stands out. Much of the nation’s greatness, and weatlh, came from doing big, splashy things — the transcontinental railroad; the Panama Canal, the Hoover Dam, the moon landing.  Some of these things were done primarily by government, and some by public and private partnership. For example, while the transcontinental railroad was built by private companies, those companies depended on government land grants and loans, and the route itself was laid out by government surveyors. If Washington hadn’t pushed it, it never would have been done.

Paul Krugman writes that infrastructure investment is precisely what the country needs, economically and otherwise. It would both boost the economy by getting more dollars into peoples’ pockets and, y’know, fix the bridges before they fall down. But because of current prevailing political ideology, no, we can’t.

And it’s all about ideology, an overwhelming hostility to government spending of any kind. This hostility began as an attack on social programs, especially those that aid the poor, but over time it has broadened into opposition to any kind of spending, no matter how necessary and no matter what the state of the economy.

We’ve reach point at which stupid is an end in itself.

You can get a sense of this ideology at work in some of the documents produced by House Republicans under the leadership of Paul Ryan, the chairman of the Budget Committee. For example, a 2011 manifesto titled “Spend Less, Owe Less, Grow the Economy” called for sharp spending cuts even in the face of high unemployment, and dismissed as “Keynesian” the notion that “decreasing government outlays for infrastructure lessens government investment.” (I thought that was just arithmetic, but what do I know?)

Here’s a crucial point —

Never mind that the economic models underlying such assertions have failed dramatically in practice, that the people who say such things have been predicting runaway inflation and soaring interest rates year after year and keep being wrong; these aren’t the kind of people who reconsider their views in the light of evidence. Never mind the obvious point that the private sector doesn’t and won’t supply most kinds of infrastructure, from local roads to sewer systems; such distinctions have been lost amid the chants of private sector good, government bad.

If you look closely at most of the prominent Republicans in Washington, one of the striking things about them is that their bios often reveal them to be the creatures they claim to hate — lifelong political / government apparatchiks.  Although they pride themselves on being friends to business, most of them have worked most of their lives in government and politics. I’m sure there must be some exceptions, but most have never actually run a company or so much as managed an assembly line. Paul Ryan is a good example; according to bios I have read, his only non-political private sector employment was a summer job for Oscar Meyer, during which he got to drive the weinermobile.

I can never tell how much they believe their own crap, but basically we’re dealing with people who are long on ideological theory and short on experience. Unfortunately, you can say the same thing for most of our Captains of Industry, most of whom have no idea how the products they are selling actually get made.

It’s like a perfect storm of derp. The people in charge of things, public and private, have no idea how stuff gets done and no idea what stuff needs to get done. And the country is at their capricious and greedy mercy.

And it hardly matters that the states that have put the “Spend Less, Owe Less, Grow the Economy” mantra into practice have had disastrous results. See, for example, “The Great Kansas Tea Party Disaster” by Mark Binelli:

“That word, “experiment,” has come to haunt Brownback as the data rolls in. The governor promised his “pro-growth tax policy” would act “like a shot of adrenaline in the heart of the Kansas economy,” but, instead, state revenues plummeted by nearly $700 million in a single fiscal year, both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s downgraded the state’s credit rating, and job growth sagged behind all four of Kansas’ neighbors. Brownback wound up nixing a planned sales-tax cut to make up for some of the shortfall, but not before he’d enacted what his opponents call the largest cuts in education spending in the history of Kansas.

“Brownback hardly stands alone among the class of Republican governors who managed to get themselves elected four years ago as part of the anti-Obama Tea Party wave by peddling musty supply-side fallacies. In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich – whose press releases claim he’s wrought an “Ohio Miracle” – has presided over a shrinking economy, this past July being the 21st consecutive month in which the state’s job growth has lagged behind the national average. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker, whose union-busting inadvertently helped kick off the Occupy movement, cut taxes by roughly $2 billion – yet his promise to create 250,000 new private-sector jobs during his first term has fallen about 150,000 jobs short, and forecasters expect the state to face a $1.8 billion budgetary shortfall by mid-2017. A recent analysis by the Detroit Free Press, meanwhile, laid out how the tax policies of Gov. Rick Snyder, a wealthy entrepreneur who campaigned in Michigan as a nerdy technocrat, have resulted in businesses paying less ($1.7 billion less per year, to be exact), individuals paying more ($900 million per year) and – here’s the kicker – job growth slowing every year since Snyder’s cuts have been enacted.”

It will not matter that teabag economics crash and burn in the real world, because stupid has become an end in itself. Not taxing and not spending is an end in itself; that it sinks budgets and costs jobs does not matter.

And when the bridges begin to buckle, some Reince Priebus clone will trot out and say those bridges were built by Democrats and the fact that they finally collapsed after decades of neglect proves government doesn’t work.

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