Browsing the archives for the Wingnuts Being Wingnuts category.

Is the Libertarian Moment Over?

Libertarians, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Rand Paul’s presidential bid is all but over. He hasn’t announced dropping out yet, but he’s at 1 percent to 3 percent in the various polls. Reports say he is putting more time and effort into his re-election campaign for the Senate.

Current polls say the front runners for the GOP nomination are Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Marco Rubio, usually in that order. (A very recent Investors’ Business Daily / TIPP poll has Carson ahead of Trump and Rubio ahead of Fiorina, but it’s Investors’ Business Daily.)

What does this tell us about the Republican base?

I have yet to figure out the appeal of Ben Carson, unless people have persuaded themselves he can steal the coveted Black Vote from the Democrats. He may be attracting the evangelical / culture warrior vote, but that’s the only explanation I can think of.

Fiorina doesn’t stand for anything except Fiorina. What stands on issues she has taken are all GOP boilerplate, and she’s failed to say much about many domestic issues, such as social security. So her appeal can’t have anything to do with issues. She has recently added an “answers” feature to her website, in which one may ask a question about her stand on an issue and get “answers.” I typed in “what do you plan for social security,” but none of the “answers” that came up had anything to do with social security. I did learn she plans to get tough with China, though.

That leaves us with Trump and Rubio. Trump is clearly the least libertarian candidate in the field. He’s essentially promising to be a dictator and get stuff done by ordering it done. Rubio seems to be the only conventional politician with a shot at the moment, possibly because he’s not Jeb!, who is fifth in all the recent polls.

Anyhoo — Awhile back libertarian-leaning Republicans were certain that a small-government, pro-liberty, Randian economics libertarian position represented the future of Republicanism. But it seems the base didn’t get that memo. They want a tough guy (or Fiorina) who will be dictator and break heads and get tough with foreign people. Oh, and they want someone who will stick it to liberals.

A month ago Michael Lind wrote that Donald Trump’s popularity among the teabaggers exposed them for what they are — not “small government” freedom fighters but old-fashioned right-wing populists.

Think William Jennings Bryan or Huey Long, not Ayn Rand. Tea Partiers are less upset about the size of government overall than they are that so much of it is going to other people, especially immigrants and nonwhites. They are for government for them and against government for Not-Them.

Today, Conor Lynch writes,

Trump has vindicated the left’s suspicion that the Tea Party is not a small government libertarian movement, but a kind of white-identity populism akin to the 1960s reactionary movement led by politicians like George Wallace. Right-wing populists have long been dubious of foreigners, immigrants, minorities and elitists — both in the intellectual and monied sense. Sound familiar?

Trump has taken advantage of the fears and insecurities of a significant portion of white Americans, who see the influx of non-white immigrants — Hispanic, Asian, Muslim — as a threat to their way of life. In their view, Muslims are terrorists (i.e., Syrian refugees are members of ISIS — even though half are children), Mexicans are rapists and job-stealers, foreigners are cheaters, black people are lazy, and so on. They also distrust intellectuals and experts. Consider, for example, the denial of scientific realities like climate change and evolution. Even though the vast majority of scientists agree that human beings are warming the planet with their carbon output, most Republican supporters simply refuse to believe. Overall, the Tea Party movement appears to be a combination of white-identity politics and anti-intellectualism.

This is not exactly earth-shattering news for most of you, of course. I think the only ones caught by surprise are actual libertarians.


The Crash and Burn Party

Republican Party, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

First, enjoy the highlights of Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards congressional testimony yesterday:

Charles Pierce explains how the Democratic Republic of Congo got mixed up in this:

You may be baffled by the sudden appearance in the colloquy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, arguably the worst place in the world right now. What the fck does Chaffetz care about the DRC? That’s because you do not spend 20 hours a day marinating in the right-wing media crackpot crockpot. Here are the ingredients: a) the fact that the DRC is a nightmarish place where children are forced into prostitution and trafficked freely; b) that there is AN E-MAIL! that revealed that Bill Clinton once did not speak at an event at which Joseph Kabila, the vampirish leader of the DRC would be in attendance, and c) PP is active there in trying to make sure that the women caught up in an epidemic of brutal sexual violence stay relatively healthy and that they do not get pregnant by their rapists if they do not want to do so. It’s Fetus-Fondling Bingo. Oh, and by the way, the staunchly red state of Missouri concluded its investigation of Planned Parenthood’s activities in that state.

Like the several other states that have investigated Planned Parenthood since the hoax videos came out, Missouri found nothing.

Conventional wisdom says that right-wing crackpot Kevin McCarthy will be the next Speaker. McCarthy is expected to become the next John Boehner in other ways as well. Norman Ornstein writes,

The major issue in our current dysfunction is the struggle within a Republican Party that is not the traditional battle between moderates and conservatives — there are no moderates any more to speak of — but between radical insurgents and right-wing realists. The realists, like Boehner, understand that divided government requires compromise; the radicals’ credo is “never give up, never surrender.”

Paradoxically, the radicals were encouraged in those views by establishment conservatives who channeled their anger and outrage into House and Senate G.O.P. majorities in 2010 and 2014 by promising that they could defeat Obama and along the way bring him to his knees; the radical outrage now has been amplified by the failure of those promises. Boehner’s departure does not heal the breach; it enhances it. Radicals have won, forcing Boehner out. Now the big target will be Mitch McConnell, and Boehner’s successor, almost certainly Kevin McCarthy, won’t be far behind.

McCarthy is as right-wing as they come, but news stories say he’s a “pragmatist,” meaning he has a dim idea that reactionary Republicans are unlikely to gain absolute power by throwing temper tantrums. This will be McCarthy’s doom.  Gary Legum:

If McCarthy wants an example of what can happen to a congressional leader who makes promises to the extreme conservatives and then doesn’t deliver, he should look not to his friend John Boehner but to one of his co-authors of the 2010 book “Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders.” The cover of that book shows McCarthy smiling with Rep. Paul Ryan and then-House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, a one-time Tea Party favorite who helped hold the Republican coalition together to fight every legislative initiative proposed by the Obama administration. Then he was booted from office by a hardcore conservative named David Brat, who promised to not only fight Obama, but also roll back his legislative successes.

That there is no plausible path to this goal so long as the Republicans do not have a filibuster- or veto-proof majority in the Senate, or while Obama and his veto pen remain in the White House, does not dissuade Brat and like-minded conservatives, who still think Republicans can force the president to sign legislation repealing all of his accomplishments if they only try super-duper really extra hard.

Currently McCarthy’s chief rival is Daniel Webster of Florida, who unfortunately is not THE Daniel Webster. The new Daniel Webster is arguably a worse whackjob than McCarthy:

Webster’s association with IBLP and its homeschooling program, the Advanced Training Institute, made national headlines when he first ran for Congress in 2010. Alan Grayson, the firebrand incumbent Democrat, criticized Webster, who had served 28 years in the Florida legislature, in an ad characterizing him as “Taliban Dan.” The ad showed clips from a Webster speech to an IBLP conference during which he spoke of a biblical command that wives submit to their husbands. Webster, who went on to win the election, insisted the clips were taken out of context.

IBLP also is opposed to public education, contraception, “humanistic” laws, and rock music.


This Says a Lot

Congress, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Catholic Congress Critter Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) explains why he’s boycotting the Pope when His Holiness addresses the House of Representatives:

Many believed, like I did, that this was an opportunity for the Pope to be one of the world’s great religious advocates and address the current intolerance of religious freedom. An opportunity to urgently challenge governments to properly address the persecution and execution of Christians and religious minorities; to address the heinous and senseless murders committed by ISIS and other terrorist organizations. An opportunity to address the enslavement, belittlement, rape and desecration of Christian women and children; to address the condoned, subsidized, intentionally planned genocide of unborn children by Planned Parenthood and society; and finally, an opportunity for His Holiness to refocus our priorities on right from wrong.

Gore, sex, death, Islamophobia and more sex and death, plus persecution. Who wouldn’t be quivering with anticipation?

Media reports indicate His Holiness instead intends to focus the brunt of his speech on climate change.

Jeez, Popes can be buzzkills sometimes.

More troubling is the fact that this climate change talk has adopted all of the socialist talking points, wrapped false science and ideology into “climate justice” and is being presented to guilt people into leftist policies.

“Leftist” policies like taking care of the poor and the earth?

If the Pope stuck to standard Christian theology, I would be the first in line.  If the Pope spoke out with moral authority against violent Islam, I would be there cheering him on. If the Pope urged the Western nations to rescue persecuted Christians in the Middle East, I would back him wholeheartedly. But when the Pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician, then he can expect to be treated like one.

There’s theology, and then there’s other theology. I say to those who take delight in wallowing in persecution porn and fomenting hate speech against those tagged as an “enemy” might want to read their Bibles — Matthew 5:43-46

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”

Yeah, we all know ISIS and other violent extremists in the Middle East are really awful and doing bad things. Standing on the other side of the world and bloviating about it doesn’t so much as butter toast, however. On the other hand, ratcheting down the wrathful rhetoric might make a small contribution toward slowing the spread of radicalization.

Anti-Christian persecution is really happening in the Middle East, and it’s genuinely terrible. ISIS is behind much of it. But, let’s see, where did ISIS come from … oh, a U.S. military prison? As an unintended consequence of the U.S. invasion of Iraq? Maybe we’re not the ones to talk. And, anyway, there’s little we can do about it, from what I see. Making speeches about how awful it is won’t change a thing. And Pope Francis has spoken out against it already.

And don’t get me started on why the allegations against Planned Parenthood are a hoax.

Instead, His Holiness will lecture the U.S. House on global climate change, which is actually happening in spite of the Right’s dogged efforts to pretend otherwise.

What is it about global climate change that’s different than Islamic violence, the persecution of Christians, and something alleged about Planned Parenthood that isn’t happening?

The U.S. could actually do something about global climate change, that’s what.

In other words, His Holiness wants Congress to do something. What a concept.


What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Y’all predicted this

The Oath Keepers, the anti-government “Patriot” group that mounted an armed standoff with the Bureau of Land Management at the Bundy Ranch, stationed armed guards outside of military recruitment centers after the Chattanooga shooting, and unsettled Ferguson protestors when they showed up carrying assault rifles, is now offering anti-gay Kentucky clerk Kim Davis a “security detail” to protect her from further arrest if she continues to defy the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling.

Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes announced yesterday that he had reached out to Davis’ lawyers at Liberty Counsel to offer the protection of his group, which he says is already forming a presence in Rowan County, Kentucky, where Davis was recently released from jail after prohibiting her office from issuing marriage licenses. Rhodes said in a statement that his position has nothing to do with gay marriage, but rather his conviction that Davis had been illegally detained by the federal judge who held her in contempt for violating multiple court orders. …

… Rhodes said that the Rowan County sheriff should have blocked U.S. Marshals from detaining Davis, but since neither the sheriff nor the state’s governor will do their “job” and “intercede” on behalf of Davis, the Oath Keepers will have to do it instead. “As far as we’re concerned, this is not over,” he said, “and this judge needs to be put on notice that his behavior is not going to be accepted and we’ll be there to stop it and intercede ourselves if we have to. If the sheriff, who should be interceding, is not going to do his job and the governor is not going to do the governor’s job of interceding, then we’ll do it.”

Would nonsense like this be tolerated in any other allegedly functioning nation in the world? Steve M writes,
A shootout between these self-important bastards and the authorities might be the what finally makes clear to America that conservatism has gone stark raving mad, but there won’t be any bloodshed — at worst, these guys will show up armed and the authorities will back down, sensibly seeking to keep the peace. The crazies will get a win, it’ll be a one-day story at best, and we’ll just shrug and forget all about it as a nation, because nobody died.

In all seriousness, do we get to use the term “domestic terrorist” and actually have it mean something if armed goobers like this are going to butt heads with U.S. Marshals after Davis inevitably violates her court order?

Bonus question:  Do these guys show up at the Rowan County Clerk’s Office to “protect” Davis from same-sex couples wanting to get married?

Double bonus question: if you’re publicly announcing your intent to “interfere” with county sheriffs and U.S. Marshals, why are you not having a nice conversation with law enforcement in a little room with no windows?

Because as long as they are politically useful to the Right, they’ll be protected.

Meanwhile, the Nooz says that Mike Huckabee thinks Dred Scott is still the “law of the land.”

Huckabee appeared on conservative radio host Michael Medved’s show to defend Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who went to jail for contempt of court after refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses. The former governor compared the Supreme Court’s recent decision to legalize same sex marriage to the Dred Scott decision, which upheld slavery.

“Michael, the Dred Scott decision of 1857 still remains to this day the law of the land which says that black people aren’t fully human,” he told the radio host. “Does anybody still follow the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision?”

Huckabee needs a long rest and lots of drugs, methinks.


Kim Davis: Feature or Bug?

Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Kim Davis has been released from jail with the admonition that she not interfere with her clerks’ issuing of marriage licenses, including licenses to same-sex couples. However, her lawyers are saying she’s going to block the issuing of licenses as before. So we may not be done with her yet.

I agree with Steve M that there probably are forces within the Republican Party that want Ms. Davis and her homophobic dog whistles to go away. A Rasmussen poll shows that two-thirds of the public think Davis should get over it and issue the licenses. Fox News is not supporting her, it seems. She’s sucking up attention that they’d probably like to re-direct to Hillary Clinton’s emails, and gay-baiting is no longer a winner for Republicans in general elections.

Some  conservative commenters are sympathetic to her, of course, but the talking point that developed over the weekend is that all this Sturm und Drang would go away if the state of Kentucky would change their marriage license regulations so that the licenses would not have to be issued in Davis’s name (apparently the clerks have been issuing licenses without Davis’s name on them, and there is some question about whether that is legal). And yes, that would be a solution, but a federal judge can’t do that, and neither can Davis, unilaterally. So until the Kentucky legislature gets off its ass and offers that remedy, I don’t see that as an out to our current impasse.


Don’t Blame Jesus

Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

By now you’ve all been following the jailing of Kim Davis, the four-times-married Kentucky county clerk who disapproves of same-sex marriage. At this point the story is the fallout. Davis’s shenanigans have pushed most of the GOP nomination contenders into declaring support for Davis.

The exceptions are Miz Lindsey Graham (like anybody cares) and Donald Trump. At this point I think Trump could announce he eats live puppies for breakfast and his poll numbers would go up five points. Jeb! managed to come down rather squishily on both sides of the issue. The rest of the field is in full-on Christian martyr mode.

I strongly suspect this is not something GOP insiders wanted to happen. I haven’t seen any polls on Ms. Davis, but polls taken in July showed that American adults tend to favor same-sex marriage, 54 to 39 percent, according to Pew. Being strongly anti-same-sex marriage isn’t going to help anyone win the general election.

BTW, Ms. Davis is in jail not only because she refused to issue marriage licenses herself (to anybody, I understand), but because she wouldn’t allow anyone in her office to issue them, either. She was offered a deal that would have allowed her to stay out of jail if she had stepped aside and let her clerks issue the licenses, and she refused.

So she’s in jail, and the clerks are issuing licenses, anyway. They don’t want to piss off the judge.  The judge can keep Davis in jail about as long as he likes, unless and until she agrees to comply with court orders. Heh.

The other development is that the crowd fundraising sites are refusing to allow Davis to use their services. That hasn’t stopped others from using Davis in their own fundraising pitches — Mike Huckabee and the homophobic National Organization for Marriage is working this hard. But Ms. Davis herself possibly won’t be picking up quick cash from donors. She had better hope she gets a decent book deal.


Those Sneaky Canadians

abortion, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Sting videos just ain’t what they used to be. James O’Keefe just released one, with great fanfare, that allegedly showed “illegal activity conducted by high-level employees within Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.” What the video actually showed was a Project Veritas operator purchasing $75 of Hillary Clinton campaign swag and giving it to a Canadian.

In the five-minute video, a Project Veritas member approached the booth at the event on New York’s Roosevelt Island alongside an apparent Canadian citizen, who Project Veritas says it did not know but was in line with by “pure happenstance.”

The Canadian citizen asked if she could purchase some campaign gear. The campaign staff at the booth — which included Director of Marketing Molly Barker and Compliance Manager Erin Tibe — informed her that since she was not a U.S. citizen, she could not legally contribute to the campaign. The undercover Project Veritas member then offers to take the Canadian woman’s cash and make the contribution for her.

The video then jumps to a printout of Federal Election Commission laws, which prohibits foreign nationals from contributing to a campaign, directly or indirectly.

“Molly Barker broke the law by allowing our journalist to become the middleman,” the video says.

I watched the video. You can clearly hear the Clinton campaign staffers telling the Canadian woman she could not purchase Clinton hats and T-shirts unless she is a U.S. citizen. They asked if she had a U.S. passport or even a green card. She did not. Then the O’Keefe operative piped up and argued with them, saying the woman had come all the way from Canada to support Hillary. Then when the Canadian herself appeared to be ready to leave, the operative offered to buy stuff for the Canadian. When the operative asked if she would be allowed to do that, the Clinton staffer clarified that “you [which I take to mean the operative] would just be making a contribution to the Clinton campaign.” Then later, the Clinton staffer said that if it weren’t for federal law they would accept donations from foreigners. The video plays this up as if the staffer had said something shocking.

That’s it. That’s the “sting.” Reporters were, um, underwhelmed.

(Earlier this week, Scott Walker was reported to have said that building a fence along the Canadian border was an idea worth reviewing. I say that if politics here gets any crazier, Canada might build it.)

Oliver Willis wrote,

Project Veritas last month released a video showing their operative undercover with the Clinton campaign, discussing the registration process and whether they can register people who don’t support Clinton.

A Clinton campaign staffer is then shown telling the Project Veritas operative that they will register anyone who asks, regardless of their presidential preference. As Time reported, “Nothing in the video shows the Clinton campaign violating the law, or the campaign’s own policy. But Veritas claims, nonetheless, that the campaign is ‘skirting the law’ by first asking whether potential voters are supporters before making the registration offer. This approach to training volunteers is standard operating procedure across field campaigns, according to a Republican field staffer, who requested anonymity.”

Well, so much for that. The crew of anti-reproductive rights extremists releasing the scam Planned Parenthood videos has another one out, and this time it appears the scammers are confused about the mechanics of pregnancy.

This video actually targets Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc., which the Fetus People call “the small and secretive company that has harvested and sold fetal body parts at Planned Parenthood clinics longer than any other entity.” ABR is a non-profit foundation that provides human tissue for scientific research. According to the Fetus People, an ABR “procurer” told a prospective “buyer” that getting an intact fetus is easy; they find a woman in an advanced stage of cervical dilation, and the fetus just “falls out.” Later in their press release the Fetus People called this a “second trimester” operation, meaning that any cervical dilation would have been induced, a point overlooked in the press release. WebMD explains how dilation is used in second trimester abortions; the fetus doesn’t “fall out.”

FYI, independent analysis has shown that even the “unedited videos released by these clowns have been doctored.

Glenn Simpson, a partner at the firm and a former Wall Street Journal reporter, assembled three teams of neutral experts to comb through the tapes using special video software. He said the teams found that all of the videos analyzed — even the supposedly “full,” unedited footage the CMP released — were missing large sections of time and misleadingly altered so that separate conversations appeared to take place in an uninterrupted take. Moreover, the forensic team found that the transcripts CMS released with the videos were frequently erroneous.

“It appears they commit what I would call ‘wishful thinking’ about what was said,” Simpson told reporters Thursday.

The videos show Planned Parenthood doctors discussing the donation of fetal tissue after abortions — a legal practice. But the CMP edited the videos into episodes that make it look as though Planned Parenthood is selling fetal parts for profit and changing abortion methods to deliver intact specimens. The family planning provider strongly denies both charges, and five separate state investigations into Planned Parenthood have cleared the organization of any wrongdoing.

Simpson said his team of experts found that the subtitles in the videos do not correspond to the actual dialogue, and that the CMP may have simply invented parts of the conversation when the recordings were too low-quality to determine what was really being said.

But, y’know, it’s all about the propaganda. A pollster is claiming that 54 percent of Republican voters think President Obama is a Muslim, so we’re not talking about advanced critical thinkers here. They’ll believe whatever they are told to believe.


The Constitutional Anchor Baby Crisis, Revisited

American History, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

On the Right the Shiny Object de la semaine, if not du jour, is birthright citizenship. This is the legal right to citizenship of all babies born in the U.S. regardless of the status of their parents. From time to time conservatives get whipped up into a Nativist frenzy and demand that birthright citizenship be ended, and now is one of those times.

It’s widely believed that birthright citizenship is established by the 14th Amendment, and that it would take a constitutional amendment to change it. But many on the Right deny this. They don’t think the 14th says what it says, and they think birthright citizenship could be ended through an act of Congress. For example, Edward J. Erler wrote in National Review,

A correct understanding of the intent of the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment and legislation passed by Congress in the late 19th century and in 1923 extending citizenship to American Indians provide ample proof that Congress has constitutional power to define who is within the “jurisdiction of the United States” and therefore eligible for citizenship. Simple legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president would be constitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment.

I don’t have time to write a long post explaining why Erler is wrong. Fortunately, I already wrote that post, more than five years ago. In the earlier post (The Constitutional Anchor Baby Crisis) I respond to a George Will column that made nearly identical arguments to Erler’s. And those arguments are taken pretty much wholesale from the minority opinion in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898) . The detail that Will and Erler both hope nobody notices is that the majority opinion in Wong Kim Ark disagreed.

Erler also tries to argue that Wong Kim Ark only applies to children born of legal aliens, but I read the Wong Kim Ark opinion, and that’s not apparent to me. For one thing, I’m not sure “illegal aliens” was conceptualized then as we conceptualize it now. In any event, Wong Kim Ark was a man born in the U.S. to Chinese laborer parents who were considered “subjects of the Emperor,” at a time when Chinese laborers were strictly excluded from the U.S.  But Wong Kim Ark claimed citizenship by right of birth, and the Court agreed with him.

So here’s most of the earlier Anchor Baby post, and you can substitute “Erler” for “Will” if you like.

Now, most legal experts say that because of the 14th Amendment, Congress does not have the power to deny citizenship to so-called “anchor babies.” Doing this would require a constitutional amendment. But righties are arguing no, because the 14th Amendment doesn’t say what it says. This argument was presented by none other than George Will a few days ago, and it is a tortured argument, indeed. But when I read Will’s column I didn’t have the time to research what he was saying to see if it could hold mayonnaise, never mind water.

But lo, yesterday, while researching something else entirely, I ran into a discussion of United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898) (see also Wikipedia discussion of Wong). Wong Kim Ark was a man born in the United States of ethnic Chinese parents. At the time, the Chinese Exclusion Act was in effect. You probably remember that this barred anyone of the Chinese “race” from entering the U.S., and it denied citizenship to ethnic Chinese people already in the U.S. Wong challenged this law, and in a 6-2 decision the Supreme Court agreed with Wong, and said he was a citizen of the United States by virtue of being born here. And it seems to me there’s a made-for-television movie script in there somewhere.

Anyway, as I read about the Wong decision I realized that the dissenting argument in the Wong case is exactly the same argument being made today by Will and the Republican lawmakers.

The dissent was based on an interpretation of the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” Will and the two SCOTUS dissenters (John Harlan and Melville Fuller) say this phrase means “and not subject to any foreign power.” In their dissent of Wong, Harlan and Fuller point out that native Americans were (at the time) not citizens of the U.S. because the Civil Rights Act of 1866 had given citizenship to “all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed.”

This act became law just two months before the 14th Amendment was proposed. So, the argument is, this wording gives us insight into where lawmakers’ heads were at the time. And thus, if the parents are subjects of a foreign power, then their baby born in the U.S. is not eligible for citizenship. This was the dissenting opinion in Wong in 1898, and Will repeated this same argument in his Washington Post column. Will doesn’t bother discussing that pesky Wong majority opinion, however.

Will argues further,

What was this [the jurisdiction phrase] intended or understood to mean by those who wrote it in 1866 and ratified it in 1868? The authors and ratifiers could not have intended birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants because in 1868 there were and never had been any illegal immigrants because no law ever had restricted immigration.

As far as I know, the Chinese Exclusion Act was the first attempt to render any sort of immigration illegal, and it didn’t become law until 1882. Congress had passed an earlier version of the exclusion act in 1878, but this was vetoed by President Hayes. But the Wong majority decision says plainly that an act of Congress making Chinese immigration illegal, and denying citizenship status to ethnic Chinese, did not override the clear language of the 14th Amendment.

So, whether Will and the Republican lawmakers like it or not, SCOTUS already nixed their argument.

The majority opinion in Wong is based partly on English common law, which said that babies born in England are English, with the exception of the children of diplomats and children born to hostile forces occupying English territory.

In addition, at the time native American tribes were not considered subject to U.S. jurisdiction and were therefore not citizens. Another case decided in 1884 (Elk v. Wilkins, 112 U.S. 94) had declared that a native American who left his tribe and went to live in a white community didn’t automatically get citizenship, although he could be considered a citizen if he went through whatever naturalization process existed at the time and paid taxes.

Will leans heavily on the example of non-citizen native Americans to argue that the 14th Amendment was not intended to confer citizenship to babies of foreigners who happened to be in the U.S. at the time. But the Elk decision (which Will doesn’t mention, either) did not consider Indian tribes to be foreign states. A tribe was an alien political entity which Congress dealt with through treaties, but not the same thing as a foreign nation.

So, it seems to me the Wong decision — the majority opinion, anyway — more closely speaks to the circumstance of babies born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants than does the Elk decision. And I think I just blew by nerd blogging quotient for the day.

Update: Read more about Wong Kim Ark in “The Progeny of Citizen Wong.”

And thank goodness for archives.


Conservative-Industrial Complex

conservatism, Republican Party, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

My only quibble (so far) about “‘They Don’t Give a Damn about Governing': Conservative Media’s Influence on the Republican Party,” published by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, is that “conservative media” is just one part of a larger, integrated right-wing infrastructure that has been driving U.S. foreign and domestic policy for at least 40 years.

Conservative media are the most visible part of the infrastructure, but conservative media alone wouldn’t be anything without what the study’s author calls the Conservative-Industrial Complex. This would be “the network of no-compromise advocacy groups financed by the Kochs and other right-wing patrons,” the author, Jackie Calmes, writes.

David Roberts at Vox spells it out

There are now hundreds of conservative media outlets, not only the national ones you’ve heard of but regional, local, and niche outlets that speak directly and exclusively to the conservative (read: older white male) demographic. It’s a full media ecosystem; there’s no longer any need for conservatives to stray outside it to stay informed, or “informed.”

Alongside the growth in media (and funded by many of the same people) has emerged a newly muscular ideological machinery. Together they form what political scientist Richard Meagher half-jokingly calls “the vast right-wing conspiracy”:

Conservative talk radio, print publications, television networks, and internet sites have numerous connections, both direct and indirect, with the think tanks, advocacy organizations, academic research centers, and foundations that develop and promote the Right’s policy agenda.

If you spend much time at Sourcewatch, you begin to see how the whole infrastructure, from media outlets, Heritage Foundation and other “think tanks,” and the mostly astroturf advocacy organizations are all being funded by a relatively small group. Oh, and don’t forget ALEC. Time and time again, you run into the same few names.  The Koch boys are prominent, of course, but other names that come up frequently include the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Scaife Foundations and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation.

In short, dozens of allegedly independent right-wing organizations are all being bankrolled by a relatively small group of foundations. And as Charles Pierce keeps pointing out, it’s these people who are driving the Right’s agenda, not the Republican Party.

It has been an article of faith in this shebeen almost since we opened it in 2011 that there is no actual Republican party in any real sense any more. Ever since the Supreme Court legalized influence-peddling in its Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions, there only has been a loosely held group of independent franchises who are doing business for themselves under the Republican Party brand. This is why the suits belonging to obvious anagram Reince Preibus are so very empty.

Put another way, the Republican Party has lost control of this monster and really isn’t in charge of anything any more. The GOP exists only as a facade, or as part of the nominal political infrastructure that must be used in elections.

The take-aways from all this:

  • Calmes is right that they don’t give a damn about governing. The puppet masters (the Koch boys et al.) have no interest whatsoever in governing. They are looking out for their own interests.
  • A big chunk of the American electorate now gets all of its “information” about current events from the right-wing media infrastructure, meaning they soak in propaganda 24/7 and have no clue what’s actually going on.
  • There is no leftie equivalent of the right-wing infrastructure.

Operatives in both parties and independent observers generally agree that left-wing media do not come near conservative media in terms of the number of outlets, size of audience and political influence, despite the frequent parallels drawn between Fox and MSNBC, for example, or RedState and DailyKos, Hannity and Rachel Maddow. “It’s my conviction that there’s no comparison,” said Price, the Democratic congressman and political scientist. Pressure on Democratic politicians like him, Price said, comes less from left-leaning media than from liberal advocacy organizations like labor unions, environmental groups and women’s and minority rights organizations. …

…Arceneaux, the political scientist whose focus is partisan media, said politically engaged Americans on the right and the left “just consume news in a different way.” Liberals favor comedy satire shows like Jon Stewart’s, for example. Leftwing pundits initially had a bigger presence than conservatives among bloggers when the Internet first took hold, though no longer. As for radio and TV talk shows, Arceneaux said, “For whatever reason, liberal ideologues aren’t drawn to that.” One reason is suggested by Hemmer, who in her coming book Messengers of the Right also writes of less successful messengers of the left. “MSNBC, and earlier, Air America” – a short-lived network for liberal talk-radio shows – “were trying to replicate what they saw as the political influence of conservative media and they were unsuccessful at it,” Hemmer said in an interview. “Conservative media – and the habit of consuming conservative media that is so central to conservative political identity – have been something that has a half-century of history. And liberals don’t have that same history. To the extent that liberalism has a base, it doesn’t come out of media, it comes out of organizations – like labor unions, or groups like MoveOn.”

  • “Mainstream” media remains remarkably clueless about what’s really going on. News organizations think that “fairness” means neutrality, and neutrality means a “view from nowhere” — it’s an artificial impartiality that is maintained by doggedly pretending that the reporter is standing in the middle between two equivalent political forces. As a result, the meltdown into insanity of one of America’s major political parties, going on right before our eyes, is ignored. Politicians who express views that ought to get them committed are treated as “serious.” And political elites, the so-called “Villagers,” are just as bad.
  • Individual reporters may be catching on, but they fail to grasp the scope of things. Roberts of Vox continues,

One of the longstanding critiques of mainstream media on the left, from the very beginning of the blogosphere, was that reporters in the Beltway “Village” failed to grasp modern conservatism and wrote about it in such a way as to sand down and mute its extremity. Their attachment to a certain mental model of politics — “both sides” with their mirror-image extremes and centers — made them blind to“asymmetrical polarization.” In fact, people are still making that critique; here’s Paul Krugman from just a few days ago.

… there are still plenty of mainstream political reporters who cling to the both-sides illusion to this day, imagining politics as a sober business conducted by Very Serious People in suits, premised on a shared set of facts and assumptions. But as the far right sends the Republican Party through an ever-more-absurd series of showdowns and tantrums, the illusion is fading. Now lots of established journalists seem to have moved on to the bargaining stage of grief, holding out hope that the Adults will once again take charge.

But see Steve M on this point; he thinks Roberts is being too generous to the established journalists and the “Villagers.”

We’re seeing evidence that the Republican Party is getting a clue it has lost control. I don’t think the GOP bargained for the fact that the puppet masters and the activists, who don’t care about governing, don’t care about the GOP, either. The Party was just a host, and the activists are like parasites devouring their host. But I’m not seeing a bottom yet, either. And I’m not seeing anyone approximating an Adult who can take the mess back into hand.


Conservatives and the Conceit of Happiness

conservatism, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Steve M has a worthwhile post up about an NY Times column by Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute. A.C. Brooks thinks we Americans should be more optimistic. In particular we need optimistic leaders, he said, and politicians have to choose whether they will project optimism (good) or pessimism (bad).

While the citizenry may vacillate, leaders generally have to select one disposition or the other. Pessimism arouses fear and anger, while optimism inspires hope. Hope can accompany fear in times of extraordinary sacrifice (such as war), but this is rare. As a practical matter, a leader must choose.

This is rich, considering that it’s the U.S. Right that stays in power by keeping its base whipped into a seething frenzy of resentment and outrage. A.C. then claims a study found optimistic leaders to be more effective, and Steve M informs us that’s not what that study found. What it actually said was that leaders who project happiness are perceived to be better leaders, but they actually aren’t by any objective measure.

But I noticed a long time ago that righties place high value on a perception of happiness. For years we’ve been told that “studies say” conservatives are happier than liberals, and for years I have refused to believe this. They certainly don’t act happy (see above about seething frenzy of resentment and outrage). The “happiness” claim seems especially odd in light of a number of studies that have found conservatives to be more fearful than liberals. Fear and happiness do not co-exist.

I commented on this discrepancy back in 2006, noting that the “studies” showing conservative happiness were based entirely on self-reporting; in other words, conservatives must be happier because they rated themselves as happy.

So back then I speculated that “Conservatives on the whole are less introspective and more conformist than liberals. Thus, they are more likely to say they are happy because (a) they’re in denial about their own unhappiness, and (b) that’s what they think they’re supposed to say.”

Turns out that I was right. More recent studies based on more objective measures such as behavior and language analysis gave liberals an edge in the happiness department. Conservatives are more likely than liberals to “self-enhance.” Self-enhancement bias is defined by the science geeks as “the tendency to describe oneself more positively than a normative criterion would predict.” This is illustrated by the words of the great Anne Richards, who said of George H.W. Bush that he was born on third base and thought he’d hit a triple.

But then I continued to reflect whether I’ve ever much cared if my political leaders are “happy.” I’d say having a healthy sense of humor is a plus, but when you speak of happiness as a quality that is intrinsic to an individual, and is not just a passing condition, IMO you’re getting into trouble. And if you have to lie to yourself (see above about self-enhancing) to persuade yourself you are “happy,” does that even count?

(BTW, Buddhists make a distinction between happiness as an emotion and happiness as a cultivated mental state. The emotion happiness is a reaction to an object or circumstance, such as a gift or good fortune. This kind of happiness, while pleasant, is a temporary and empty thing. Happiness as a cultivated mental state is something like a mental habit of remaining balanced and content no matter what is going on “out there.” The way to achieve the second kind of happiness is to let go of self-clinging, greed, fear, and all that. More of a self-releasing than a self-enhancing.)

Reagan fans always make much of Saint Ronald of Blessed Memory’s famous “sunny disposition.” It always seemed to me that the “sunniness” was wrapped around a sour core of umbrage, as if he were perpetually reacting to a personal insult. The “sunniness” was largely an affectation, IMO. The guy was an actor, after all.

One might infer from this that righties want to believe Real America is just like Little House on the Prairie, except with cars and microwaves. And when they look out upon the land and can’t see what they want to see — largely because it isn’t there — it enrages them. Gosh darn it, they would be happy except for that dadblamed reality thing.

And this takes me back to the other Brooks, who petulantly whined that Ta-Nahisi Coates didn’t appreciate the American Dream and was in fact “dissolving the dream under the acid of an excessive realism.” Yes, when you wake up, dreams do dissolve. That’s generally not considered an argument for staying asleep, though.

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