Browsing the archives for the Wingnuts Being Wingnuts category.


Why Nothing Will Change

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economy, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Going back to my post of a couple of days ago, on the S&P report on income inequality — There have been some more reactions to this. Basically, from the Left we’re hearing “Duh. What we said.” And from the Right it’s “[denial].” So, as usual, people believe what they want to believe, facts be damned.

One progressive reaction is at The Daily Beast, of all places, by Monica Potts, titled “The Big, Long, 30-Year Conservative Lie.” Potts concludes [emphasis added]:

Closing the gap by lifting low-income families out of poverty could do more to help the economy than any number of tax credits for “job creators” might, which is what Hanauer argued in Politico. And the S&P report puts more support in his corner.

On the question of what to do, there is widespread agreement on boosting educational attainment and increasing salaries at the bottom end. Policymakers have had a lot of time to think about how to help the middle class, since real wages began declining in the mid-1970s. Many of the problems of inequality have policy solutions ready to go, spelled out in a white paper stuffed in someone’s desk drawer. Why has it taken so long to think about addressing it? Was the political might of the right so overwhelming that they couldn’t speak up until people like Hanauer saw, as he warned in his essay, that the pitchforks would be coming for them?

The answer to Potts’s questions are in the several hundred comments, the bulk of which read like this one:

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Similarly, we can provide opportunity, but you can’t make folks take advantage. So instead you have massive government welfare programs designed to redistribute the earnings of hard-workers to those who prefer the outcome be guaranteed for them with zero effort.. This way, we try to even outcomes. Maybe the inequality gap is growing because, when government incents folks to avail themselves of government largesse, folks lose ambition. Meanwhile, ambitious workers keep earning, and the gap grows.

Never mind that this entire line of argument was directly demolished in the S&P report. At this point, the Right cannot change.They’ve spent more than 30 years brainwashing Americans to believe what the commenter above believes — poor people are just lazy government moochers, and anyone can get rich if they just work hard enough, and if we can just cut taxes for job creators a bit more everything will be fine. And this is what the Republican base wants to hear, facts be damned. Any Republican who even gives off the appearance of being soft on moochers is asking to be primaried by some foaming-at-the-mouth bagger.

And, of course, much of their support is coming from the infrastructure of  “think tanks” and astroturf organizations funded by a relative handful of right-wing family trusts like the Koch Boys and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, many of which can be traced back to the old John Birch Society. But these are the people with the money bags and the influence. So …

The best Republican politicians can do is make speeches laced with buzzwords that suggest they understand the problem while proposing policies that wouldn’t actually fix it. Paul Ryan is particularly good at this, or at least, he’s gotten away with it so far.

Paul Krugman also hopes people pay attention to the S&P report.  He points out that the factors that cause an economy to grow or shrink are not as simple as just moving dollars around, robbing Peter to pay Paul. Programs like food stamps that provide nutrition support for poor children lead to healthier poor children and a more productive workforce in the long run, for example.

Not that anyone on the Right gives a hoo-haw about healthier poor children. Even the “this benefits you too” arguments fall flat because they require comprehending complex dynamic influences on economic growth, and a standard characteristic of righties is that they are stuck in simplistic and rigidly literal thinking. You might as well explain physics to a toaster, in other words. So ten thousand S&P reports won’t change anything.

Related: Timothy Egan writes about wildfires in Washington State: “People who hate government most are the loudest voices demanding government action to save their homes.”

Smart foresters had been warning for years that climate change, drought and stress would lead to bigger, longer, hotter wildfires. They offered remedies, some costly, some symbolic. We did nothing. We chose to wait until the fires were burning down our homes, and then demanded instant relief.

As a nation, we have lost the ability to actually do anything about anything, except to attempt to put out fires.

The nation that built an interstate highway system, and cleaned up its filthiest rivers and most gasp-inducing air, has become openly hostile to long-term investment or problem-solving, says Paul Roberts in “The Impulse Society — America in the Age of Instant Gratification,” a cautionary tale to be published next month.

“We can make great plasma screens and seat warmers and teeth whiteners and apps that will guide you, turn by turn, to the nearest edgy martini bar,” writes Roberts. “But when it comes to, say, dealing with climate change, or reforming the financial system, or fixing health care, or some other large-scale problem out in the real world, we have little idea where to start.”

And they can’t change, because tribal loyalty to ideology — which I write about in the book — trumps actual evidence and reasoning. Apparently even watching their own homes burn doesn’t wake people up to realizing why there’s a fire.

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OMG There’s a Leftie Google Group!

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Does the FBI know?

A low-profile Google Group used by over 1,000 state and national leftwing leaders and activists has been discovered thanks to Wisconsin’s open records law. A Media Trackers inquiry into the actions of a University of Wisconsin professor turned up records and communications from “Gamechanger Salon,” an online community that provides a forum for leftwing activists and leaders to share tactics, strategies and opinions.

Operating as a closed Google Group, much of what the network does is unavailable for public review. However, a document listing the network’s membership and a policy manual describing the mission and ground rules for the entity were accessible when Media Trackers discovered a non-password protected link in the emails obtained through an open records request of a University of Wisconsin professor.

Media Trackers also attempted to join the group but our request to join was denied.

My next question is, on what planet would this be the least bit scandalous or shocking? Yes, there are closed Google groups. I’ve belonged to some in the past, including one where we talked about leftie politics, although none are active any more. Another one was for religious leftie political activists. Depraved, huh?

Just because the groups were secret doesn’t mean we were planning anything illegal. It’s just nice to be able to schmooze with like-minded folks without having discussion threads broken up by right-wing trolls. One of the closed Google groups, for a group of freelance writers, morphed into a closed Facebook group, which is better because it doesn’t clutter up my email inbox so much. We vent a lot.

So again, on what planet is a closed Google group of leftie activists and policy wonks somehow shocking? On Planet Wingnut, of course. Here’s what Sourcewatch has to say about Media Tracers:

Media Trackers is an investigative non-profit launched in 2011 in Wisconsin, sponsored by American Majority, to “dig up dirt on the left” rather than continuing to be “on the receiving end of damaging stories developed by liberal groups such as Media Matters and the Center for American Progress.” American Majority’s Drew Ryun “envisions a state-based network of similar non-profits.” So far, Media Trackers “has gotten considerable in-state pick-up on quick-hit videos and pieces aimed at what it says are errors, hypocrisy or offensive behavior by labor unions and their Democratic allies.”

And these super sleuths have discovered a closed Google group. I bet they’re waiting for their Pulitzers even now.

Media Trackers also published the Google group’s policy manual, which clearly describes a group that’s about sharing ideas and views among colleagues.

On Planet Wingnut, of course, anything lefties do is, by definition, evil. So lefties are not to be allowed private conversations. We must be publicly monitored at all times. And don’t doubt that if these whackjobs ever had complete control of the government they’d probably make us all wear monitors and register with the government as public menaces, because Freedom.

Idiots.

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No Room at the Inn

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

… either tough love, or very soft hate …

America welcomes refugee children not with open arms, but with arms openly carried.

A few of the protesters who marched against a proposed shelter in Vassar, Mich., on Monday were armed with semiautomatic rifles and handguns. In Virginia, an effort to house the children at the shuttered campus of Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville caused such an uproar that federal officials pulled out, even though a five-month lease had been signed. Someone spray-painted anti-immigrant graffiti on a brick wall at a former Army Reserve facility in Westminster, Md., that was being considered as a shelter site.

Some cities have raised health and security concerns. Northeast of Oyster Creek, League City passed a resolution opposing any shelters from opening even though the federal government had no plans to do so. The resolution claimed that “illegal aliens suffering from diseases endemic in their countries of origin are being released into our communities.”

A number of faith-based groups have come together to assist the children and try to shelter and sponsor some of them. But even these efforts are being met with ridicule by the Right. I guess there’s still no room at the inn.

According to the Breitbrats, militia groups have called themselves up to “patrol” the border.

The alert to the civilian militia groups, which includes many groups who showed up at the Clive Bundy ranch in Nevada, calls on all able bodied militia members to converge on the Laredo sector of the Texas/Mexico border. A man who identified himself on a national conference call as “Ruthless” said their objective it to “put up a man-fence” to prevent the illegal aliens from crossing the border in their area of control.

As I think gulag said yesterday — don’t shoot until you see the whites of their diapers.

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Reform This

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conservatism, Republican Party, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

The 2014 Texas Republican Party Platform really says this:

We strongly support a woman’s right to choose to devote her life to her family and children.

Ed Kilgore provided this quote, and I could not rest until I had verified this and seen the entire context for myself. And here it is —

Family Values – We support the affirmation of traditional Judeo-Christian family values and oppose the continued assault on those values. We strongly support a woman’s right to choose to devote her life to her family and children. We recognize her sacrifice in the face of the assault on the family. Additionally, we recognize the challenges of single parents and applaud their efforts in creating a stable and moral home.

This is the entire “family values” section. From here it goes on to saying human trafficking is bad.

If this were a game show, our choice would be Door Number One and, um, that’s it. Door Number One.

Seriously, this document is distilled and concentrated crazy. Hendrik Hertzberg and Charles Pierce, with all their rhetorical skills, still were challenged to describe how crazy this thing is, although Pierce has the stronger conclusion: “We allow ourselves only two major political parties. One of them is completely out of its fcking mind. This is a national problem.” Please read either Hertzberg or Pierce, though, so you can fully appreciate the truly epic nature of the crazy.

The other thing I’ve been reading about today are the “Reformicons,” described by Paul Waldman:

A small band of thoughtful conservatives has been saying, for some time, that if the Republican party is going to survive—and, more specifically, win a presidential election in the next decade or two—it has to change. It has to get serious about policy again, grapple with contemporary economic and social realities that simple appeals to free markets and small government don’t address, and find a way to attract voters from outside the demographic of old white people.

That sounds grand, but the actual members of this “small band,” according to Sam Tanenhaus, include people like Kate O’Beirne and Ramesh Ponnuru. And according to E.J. Dionne, the reform standards are being defined by the likes of Ross Douthat — called one of the “founding fathers” of reform — Michel Gerson, and David Frum. From what Dionne writes about it, this crew isn’t really coming up with groundbreaking new policies as much as repackaging the same crap they’ve been selling for years. Dionne writes,

At times, reform conservatism does seem more concerned with the box than its contents—more infatuated with the idea of new ideas than with new ideas themselves. But it’s also true that the Obama years produced such a large lurch to the right within conservatism that many Reformicons accept the need for readjustment and for something that looks like a governing agenda.

“Looks like” being the operative term here. This appears to me to be mostly an exercise in rhetoric rather than reform. For example —

Douthat offers a two-part test in the form of principles: First, that while our “growing social crisis” can’t be solved in Washington, “economic and social policy can make a difference nonetheless”; second, that “existing welfare-state institutions we’ve inherited from the New Deal and the Great Society … often make these tasks harder” by crowding out other forms of spending, hindering growth, and contributing to wage stagnation. So, says Douthat, “we don’t face a choice between streamlining the welfare state and making it more supportive of work and family; we should be doing both at once.”

What the hell does any of that mean? Is this anything other than arguing that we have to cut “entitlement” programs to please the several fairies of conservative dogma — the Fiscal Discipline Fairy, the Incentive to Get a Job Fairy, and probably Paul Krugman’s favorite, the Confidence Fairy?

It hardly matters, however, because however skillfully the reformicons dress up their weak tea to make it look like actual policy, the base will shoot it down. Actual government policy? The Texas platform calls for eliminating the jobs of all “unelected bureaucrats” in the federal government, which presumably means all federal public employees who are not in the military. This is not a crew interested in “reform.” They just want to destroy. Obviously, “reform” amounts to posturing for news media, which desperately wants to believe that Republicans can be reasonable, and for sucking in a few voters who are not old white people.

Pierce:

It seems almost pointless to mention this but there is simply no state Democratic party in any of the 50 states that is so clearly, obviously demented. This is the Republican Party. Yuval Levin and Ramesh Ponnuru are not. In fact, I think all those bold conservative thinkers of whom the New York Times thinks so much should bring their Big Ideas down to the next Texas state Republican convention and see how far they get. John Boehner, and Mitch McConnell, and especially obvious anagram Reince Priebus, who nominally presides over Bedlam, need to be asked every day which parts of the Texas Republican platform they support and which parts they don’t. They don’t get to use the crazies to get elected and then hide behind fake Washington politesse when the howls from the hinterlands get too loud.

I agree completely.

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Watch All the Nasty Beasties Crawl Out From Under the Rocks

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts, Women's Issues

Although you’d think the Right couldn’t do anything to surprise me any more, I have been unsettled by the visceral disgust of female sexuality that’s spewed forth from the Right in the past few days. In tweets, on blogs, in most of the usual quarters, the monster being revealed is something terrible to behold.

But let us not forget this is an old beast that’s been with us all along. It’s just that recent events have coaxed the creature into the light of day.

That right-wing extremists see women as a substandard Other is a given; it is, in fact, a universal characteristic of reactionary politics and religions, in all their many forms. But it’s been fifty years since The Pill became available, and wingnuts still can’t handle the thought of women as sexual free agents. Male sexuality is fine with them, of course. I don’t see objections on the Right to Viagra, or the idea of health insurance paying for Viagra, even though its primary application is to allow some men to have more sex. But The Pill, which has a variety of medical applications beside contraception, is Evil and Immoral because it allows women to have “consequence-free sex,” a condition not placed upon Viagra-enhanced men. And Erick Son of Erick is not the only troglodyte spouting that line.

Even though religion is the most common excuse given for this sick view of women, there is nothing in the Bible that forbids women from using birth control. I don’t know enough about the Q’ran to comment on that, but it appears opinions against birth control are coming only from the most conservative parts of Islam.

I’ve never heard of objections to birth control coming from Buddhism or any other Asian religion, even though Asian cultures often are as patriarchal as cultures get. However, these cultures generally are less hung up about enjoying sex.

Some religious traditions, such as Orthodox Judaism (although not Conservative or Reformed), point to the “be fruitful and multiply” line from Genesis to declare that God forbids birth control. But notice that nobody’s running around demanding restrictions on the sale of condoms. This is because of deeply entrenched sociocultural values, not religion. Those values say “consequence-free sex” is a birthright for men. It’s only when women are given some power over their own sexuality and reproduction that alarm bells go off, and the sickos grab frantically for anything they can grab to support their bigotries. And some grotesque misapplication of religious dogma is about all they’ve got, although I have seen some other even more bizarre and fact-free appeals to “science” and “nature.”

If you’ve read my book (Rethinking Religion: Finding a Place for Religion in a Modern, Tolerant, Progressive, Peaceful and Science-affirming World), or if you’ve read up on current research in sociology, you know that our moral views are mostly dictated by our emotions, and the “moral judgments” we create in our rational minds are all post hoc. See, for example, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt (Pantheon Books, 2012).

Why is this craziness apparently coming from right-wing Abrahamic religion? This is from my book —

… Haidt says that’s basically what we’re all doing — allowing our rudimentary emotions to dictate what we think. And the rudimentary emotions come from our cultural programming and many other influences, such as the groups we hang out with. Researchers have found they also can influence people’s responses to moral questions by exposing them to foul odors, giving them something pleasant or unpleasant to drink, or even keeping a hand sanitizer within view. Reason actually has little to do with it, however much we might want to think otherwise.

When you understand that much of “morality” is about rudimentary emotions and biases, you might also understand why conservative and dogmatic religions of all persuasion tend to get hung up on sex and on keeping women under control, often going way outside the teachings of revered founders as they do this.

For example — going by the Gospels, Jesus said very little about sex and nothing at all about homosexuality, abortion, or birth control. And we know that there was homosexual sex, abortion, and attempts at birth control going on in his time, and he must have been aware of these things. But it appears he didn’t bother to address them.

Instead, he went on and on about loving God and everybody else, including your enemies. He was also big on feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and visiting prisoners. The episode with the money changers in the Temple suggests he was not keen on people trying to make themselves wealthy on other peoples’ piety. For a man of his time and culture he was extraordinarily courteous to women, sometimes speaking to them in public (which was a tad scandalous, I’m told) and telling Martha that Mary didn’t have to go to the kitchen to make coffee and sandwiches if she’d rather listen to his sermon.

Flash forward to today’s right-wing Christianity. See the difference? Do I really have to point it out to you?

The obsession with sex and repressing women and their tempting ways is one of the most common features of conservative, dogmatic religion, whether we’re talking about Christianity or Islam or any other major spiritual tradition. Currently factions within Islam are going to unprecedented and grotesque extremes to subdue women. But I say there are factions within many other faith traditions that differ from the Taliban only in degree, not in kind.

And this tells me that the men in charge of things are channeling their own anxieties about sex and women and projecting them into their scriptures. In doing so, they sometimes wander quite a distance from what their scriptures actually say, revealing how pathologically deep those anxieties are.

Ultimately, all this flap about birth control has nothing to do with genuine religious devotion. It’s coming from sick, neurotic weenie-men (and some women, e.g. Ingraham and Coulter, who notably are unmarried and childless, although Ingraham has adopted children) who are terrified of female sexuality and can’t deal with the world unless women are kept under control. They are using the authority of religion — with assistance from conservative men in the courts — to impose their bigotries and emotional pathologies on the rest of us.

So let us be clear that the Great Divide in the birth control issue is not between the secular and the religious; it’s been the emotionally healthy and the deranged.

See also:

Why Patriarchal Men Are Utterly Petrified of Birth Control — And Why We’ll Still Be Fighting About it 100 Years From Now

Rape Victims At Christian College Told To Repent For Their Sins

Clergy Pass Out Condoms at Hobby Lobby in Protest

Biblical birth control: The surprisingly contraception-friendly Old Testament

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Why the Tea Party Is Doomed, and Why It Won’t Go Away

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Republican Party, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

The baggers continue to demonstrate why they will always and forever be a movement of bigoted, white bitter-enders.

As the dust settles on the recent Cochran-McDaniel Mississippi Senate primary, those looking at the data say that it appears African-American voters gave Cochran the victory. This does not surprise me; you could see it coming as soon as the baggers announced they were sending “poll watchers” to keep an eye on those sneaky Mississippi (and mostly black) Democrats.

And it didn’t hurt Cochran that McDaniel’s self-promotion sales pitch is well-larded with racist dog whistles.

Take these clips from his radio show, circa 2006, where he mocked complaints of racism, railed against hip-hop as a “morally bankrupt” culture that “values prison more than college,” and promised to stop paying taxes if reparations were ever passed: “How you gonna make me pay for something that I had nothing to do with? How you gonna do that to me? I don’t get it.”

As a state senator, McDaniel has spoken to gatherings of the Sons of Confederate Veterans—a neo-Confederate group that promotes present-day secessionists—and delivered the keynote to a SCV event last fall. Indeed, his rhetoric decries the rise of a “new America” and pines for days of old. “There are millions of us who feel like strangers in this land, an older America passing away, a new America rising to take its place,” he said in a speech after the June 3 election. “We recoil from that culture. It’s foreign to us. It’s alien to us. … It’s time to stand and fight. It’s time to defend our way of life again.”

His voters get the message, lashing out against those people who siphon dollars from hard-working Americans. Here’s the Times with more:

Still apparently insensitive to what the phrase “poll watchers” stirs in the hearts of African Americans, and still apparently not realizing that black voters heard those dog whistles, too, the baggers and their spokesmouths are blaming the loss on the ignorance of African American voters.

I wonder what the campaign slogan was in Mississippi the past few days, ‘Uncle Toms for Thad’? Because I thought it was the worst thing you could do as an African American, vote for a Republican. The worst thing you could do,” Limbaugh said on Wednesday. “But somehow they were made to believe that voting for old Thad would be fine and dandy. And why? Because they were told Thad’s done a lot for black people in Mississippi. Must be the first time they were told that.”

It’s like Rush thinks “they” live in a separate media universe and aren’t seeing exactly the same news and advertising as “us.”

And many on the Right are blaming a flier proclaiming that “The Tea Party intends to stop blacks from voting on Tuesday.” I don’t know who printed and distributed said flier, but I suspect it was superfluous. The announcement from the baggers that they were sending “poll watchers” proclaimed the same message, loudly and clearly.

McDaniel still has not conceded, I don’t think, and plans to “investigate” the votes. He “knows” many of those “crossover” Democrats voted illegally? And how would he know this? Ed Kilgore explains:

How do we know these are “crossover” voters, since there’s no party registration? Because they are African-Americans! Can’t have African-Americans voting in our White Man’s Primary, can we?

That’s right; there is no party registration in Mississippi. People are just registered voters, not registered Republicans or Democrats. So, strictly speaking, there can be no “crossover” voting unless you assume one can tell what party a person “belongs” to some other way. Like, maybe, race.

Demographic projections tell us that a “white people’s party” is not politically sustainable in the U.S. except in the short term. So we can watch these guys and note how utterly insensitive and purely clueless they are about how they come across to anyone who isn’t them. And we can look at their string of mostly failed election campaigns and assume they can’t keep this up.

However, we’ve had these “populist” right-wing reactionary movements in the U.S. pretty much all along. Over the years they’ve given themselves different names and sometimes vary the specific issues they care about. But, like the phoenix, they keep rising from the ashes.

We use the term repressive populist movement to describe a populist movement that combines antielite scapegoating (discussed below) with efforts to maintain or intensify systems of social privilege and power. Repressive populist movements are fueled in large part by people’s grievances against their own oppression but they deflect popular discontent away from positive social change by targeting only small sections of the elite or groups falsely identified with the elite, and especially by channeling most anger against oppressed or marginalized groups that offer more vulnerable targets.

Right-wing populist movements are a subset of repressive populist movements. A right-wing populist movement, as we use the term, is a repressive populist movement motivated or defined centrally by a backlash against liberation movements, social reform, or revolution. This does not mean that right-wing populism’s goals are only defensive or reactive, but rather that its growth is fueled in a central way by fears of the Left and its political gains.

The first U.S. populist movement we would unequivocally describe as right wing was the Reconstruction-era Ku Klux Klan, which was a counterrevolutionary backlash against the overthrow of slavery and Black people’s mass mobilization and empowerment in the post-Civil War South. Earlier repressive populist movements paved the way for right-wing populism, but did not have this same backlash quality as a central feature. [Adapted from Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons. 2000. Right–Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford Press]

The Tea Party brand may fade from view eventually, but the movement is not going away.

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Facts Versus Conservatism

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

To one extent or another we all live in a bubble of psychological projection and confirmation bias that we mistake as “reality.” As I wrote in My Book, no one can begin to be rational until he perceives his own irrationality. Otherwise he’s just pretending.

I’ve seen people all along the political spectrum utterly lost in their own projections. But if you’re looking at prominent voices for progressivism and conservatism — popular books, websites, the handful of columnists and politicians we actually respect — most of the time the voices on the Left are at least trying to tether opinion to some form of objectively verifiable data or real-world circumstance. If a right-wing figure is criticized on the Left, most of the time — I believe I know of some exceptions but most of the time — the criticism is founded on information in the public record, something that has been documented the subject really did or really said.

The Right, on the whole, knows no such restraint. Entire libraries could be filled by books written by wingnut authors that are filled with nothing but rumors and invective they’ve copied and pasted from each other. Peggy Noonan, for example, is a master of this genre; her The Case Against Hillary Clinton contains entire chapters and long “quotes” of Clinton pulled entirely from Noonan’s imagination, as Noonan herself admits. It’s apparent Noonan believes that if she imagines something to be true, that it must be true, and made-up “facts” in support of her point of view are perfectly acceptable “proof” that she knows what she is talking about.

You might remember the way David Brock, once a fair-haired darling of the Right, had a crisis of faith while writing what was supposed to be a “hit” book on Hillary Clinton. He realized that much of his earlier work — on Anita Hill and on “Troopergate” — had been based on information he had been given by right-wing colleagues, but had not personally corroborated, and which he later realized were y all expedient lies. He decided to not write anything about HRC that he couldn’t personally corroborate, and the result wasn’t even close to the red-meat buffet he’d been commissioned to write. That, and his emergence from the closet, made him persona non grata on the Right.

But nothing brings out the right-wing Muse more than Hillary Clinton, and now that she’s apparently planning to campaign for the 2016 presidential nomination expect a new round of Hillary Hit Lit. Seriously, hoard every exclamation point you can find before they’re used up.

The newest entry to the Hit Lit parade is Blood Feud by Edward Klein, being excerpted in the New York Post. It is reviewed by Betty Cracker as a “steaming load of anonymously sourced horseshit” and Steve M as “a bad pulp novel, disguised as non-fiction, made up exclusively of right-wing gossip, right-wing talking points, and right-wing punch lines.” Typically of the genre, the book is made up of quotes from conversations the author couldn’t possibly have heard and dialogue that is credible only if you believe the Clintons and Obamas routinely pepper their dialogue with terms they read at NewsMax.

It may be that relatively few people will read Klein’s book. But the real purpose of such books is not to be read, but to be cited. Wingnuts on radio and television can just say “Edward Klein wrote in his book …” and repeat the lies, knowing that their hamster-headed audience will assume it must be true, because it’s in a book.

I’m sure if we looked we could find claims made in books popular on the Left that turned out not to be true. Sometimes even careful researchers get bum information and believe it. But I’m not aware of any leftie publisher or interest group knowingly fabricating lies and packaging them to be inserted into our national political dialogue.

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Impulse and Ideology

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conservatism, firearms, Religion, Social Issues, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Some guy at MSNBC argues that it makes “little sense” to call Jerad and Amanda Miller, the Las Vegas shooters, “right-wing extremists.”

He said right-wing extremists typically focus their anger on federal authorities, not local law enforcement officers like these.

“They weren’t the ATF, they weren’t the FBI. They couldn’t be seen as the representatives of a repressive government,” Levin told NBC News. “There are some militia group members who believe that the only valid authority is at the county sheriff level. In fact, many right-wing extremists love the police. They feel kinship to local law enforcement.”

So we’re just supposed to ignore the white supremacist literature, the shooters’ attempt to join the crew at the Bundy ranch and the “don’t tread on me” flag.

I wrote in my first post about the Las Vegas shooting that I doubted the shooters were working with the Bundy crew, who have decided only the federal government is evil. But the remarks at MSNBC reflect a basic misunderstanding of the connection between ideology/belief, whether political or religious, and violence.

This is something I spend a lot of time on in My Book, Rethinking Religion: Finding a Place for Religion in a Modern, Tolerant, Progressive, Peaceful and Science-affirming World, because I think understanding this connection and how it functions is critical to dealing not only with our ongoing domestic violence problem but also with understanding religious violence around the world.

My thinking on this issue is very much influenced by Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind. Very simply, Haidt makes a strong argument that our moral choices — including the choice to be violent — and our political and religious beliefs are rooted deeply in the subconscious. We are born pre-wired to interface with the world in particular ways, and this pre-wiring disposes us to leaning left or right, say, or determines whether we are likely to be dogmatists or open-minded. And, of course, the way we perceive, interpret and experience ourselves and the world also is very much influenced by cultural and other conditioning.

As we meander through our lives and bump into myriad phenomena, including religious and political beliefs and moral issues, all of this pre-wiring and conditioning and whatnot clanking around in our psyches churns up emotional responses. These include feelings of comfort and discomfort. We naturally want to affirm those things that make us feel good while denouncing the stuff that frightens or disgusts us. We then call on our rational minds to craft a narrative that justifies our feelings. These narratives are merged into our primary narrative, or personal myth, which is the ongoing story we tell ourselves about who we are and what the events in our lives might mean.

Another factor is what Buddhists call “mental formations,” or our states of mind, which can become habitual. This (in part) refers to the way some people tend to easily become defensive and critical, while others in the same situations are understanding and accepting. This also speaks to our basic orientation toward the world and whether we feel integrated with it or estranged from it.

By the time we are adults this wiring/conditioning “stuff” has become extremely complicated, and I doubt any two human beings who ever lived have identical inner stuff. But it’s important to understand that, ultimately, we are drawn to our beliefs and ideologies because of the stuff, not because it appeals to our rational mind. For this reason, what an ideology or political position represents to an individual on a subconscious or even metaphorical level is more critical than intellectual consistency.

This is what the guy on MSNBC doesn’t get. From their own words and actions, it’s obvious that right-wing anti-government rhetoric and the Bundy ranch drama resonated deeply with Jerad and Amanda Miller and represented something enormously significant to them, even if how they understood the “movement” differed in some particulars from most of the rest of the Bundyites.

More crudely, they wanted to kill police because they wanted to kill police, and in their minds the militia anti-government movement gave them permission, and even made killing police a righteous and praiseworthy act. They weren’t being logical, no. But does anyone seriously think the crew in the desert pretending to be at war with the federal government got there because of logic?

This is why the “he did it because of mental illness” excuse for Elliot Rodger didn’t fly for me. Crazy is a continuum, and we’re all on that continuum. None of us are entirely rational. Everyone feels a violent impulse now and then. But except for those who are demonstrably psychotic, we are capable of choosing to not act on those impulses. And Rodger was not psychotic. His writing was ordered and organized, even if the ideas he expressed were outrageous. This means he was rational enough to choose to not do what he did, as were the Millers. They all knew perfectly well they were breaking laws. Had they lived, it’s enormously unlikely they would have gotten off on an insanity plea.

But what Rodger and the Millers had in common was that they had seduced themselves into believing that their impulses were righteous and justified. And this is where public rhetoric and hate-group subcultures really do get people killed. Within the misnamed “men’s rights” subculture, talk of violating and killing women meets with social approval. Women as a class are perceived as evil and dangerous; violence against women is therefore justified, even heroic. Likewise, the right-wing anti-government rhetoric permeating American society can make killing government officials seem justified, even if some are a little hazy about the distinction between state and federal government officials.

I don’t think extremist right-wingers are inherently more prone to violence than extremist left-wingers. But at this moment in American history, the “extremist” Left is the fringe of the fringe, and it is absent from mass media. I’m not even sure it has much in the way of an internet presence. The applicable political spectrum here goes from a liberal/progressive Left that is well within the mainstream of American political traditions to a Right that stretches deeply into the tin-foil-hat section of the Twilight Zone.

And while you can find individuals on the Left expressing violent impulses, on the Right it’s not just individuals; it’s major media personalities and politicians serving in high-level state and federal offices. It’s coming from positions of authority, in other words.

This is why public rhetoric has consequences (see, for example, Paul Waldman, “How much does right-wing rhetoric contribute to right-wing terrorism?“). We’ve been having this conversation since Columbine, and the hate-speakers on the Right simply refuse to acknowledge any responsibility for the ongoing right-wing domestic violence. I have no solution to this impasse. I fear it will have to get worse before it can get better.

But this is why splitting hairs over whether the Millers were truly “right-wing extremists” because they killed local cops instead of federal BLM agents is stupid.

I’m seeing the same misunderstanding among western “Buddhalogists” in academia. There is a faction of western religious studies professors who are combing through Buddhist doctrines to find the “cause” of the Buddhist violence against Muslims in Burma, and some other places. And they are “finding” it by misinterpreting scriptures and even projecting meaning into scriptures that just plain isn’t there; I walked through an example of this in My Book.

The plain fact is that the violence violates everything the Buddha taught. The impulse is not coming from Buddhist teachings, but from racism and jingoism, and it’s being fueled by political expedience. “Buddhism” is not just a religion to the majority in Burma; it’s part of their ethnic and national identity. And a faction of monks has been cranking out rhetoric that justifies violence as “defending Buddhism.” So in spite of what it teaches, Buddhism has become a symbolic permission slip for violence in Burma.

And weirdly, in America, “patriotism” has become a symbolic permission slip for sedition. Looking for logical reasons for this is a fool’s errand.

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Thoughts on the Mass Shooting du Jour

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firearms, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Initial reports are notoriously unreliable, and it may take a few days before we can sort fact from rumor. But some of alleged details of Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas really need clarifying asap —

The Las Vegas Review-Journal says the murdered police officers were covered with a Gadsden “don’t tread on me” flag. According to neighbors, the alleged shooters have been talking about the Bundy ranch and how they planned to kill police officers.

The Review-Journal says the pair exchanged gunfire with a bystander carrying a concealed weapon. Other accounts say they exchanged fire with police before retreating into the Wal-Mart and killing themselves.

Several stories have said a lot of white supremacist literature was found in their apartment.

Again, initial reports are unreliable. None of the above may be true. But let’s go with the theory that the two shooters, a man and a woman, were anti-government white supremacists.

I’d be really surprised if they were affiliated in any way with the meatballs sovereign citizens who made a cause out of siding with cowboy/welfare kingpin Cliven Bundy. I doubt that crew could plan/organize itself out of a wet paper bag, but never mind. The meatball fantasy war is with federal agents, not Las Vegas cops.

The shooters may have had no affiliation with anything but their own fantasies, but it appears right-wing anti-government rhetoric had inflamed their un-tethered imaginations. Will the sovereign citizen crowd take a page of the NRA and dismiss what the shooters did as “mental illness” (e.g., their ideology had nothing to do with the shootings; the pair was just crazy)? Watch for that. This shooting appears to be right-wing domestic violence, and if the facts support that appearance this must be publicly acknowledged. No sweeping reality under the rug.

Notice to gun nuts: You cannot possibly argue that these shootings took place in a “gun free” zone.

General notice: When your scary neighbors who are always angry and live in camouflage pants talk a lot about killing police or anyone else, you might want to let local law enforcement know about this.

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Some Poor Are More Deserving Than Others

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

The House GOP continues its war on the poor by underfunding agriculture and food safety programs, but this part of their budget proposal is really, um, special —

And in a surprising twist, the bill language specifies that only rural areas are to benefit in the future from funding requested by the administration this year to continue a modest summer demonstration program to help children from low-income households — both urban and rural — during those months when school meals are not available.

Since 2010, the program has operated from an initial appropriation of $85 million, and the goal has been to test alternative approaches to distribute aid when schools are not in session. The White House asked for an additional $30 million to continue the effort, but the House bill provides $27 million for what’s described as an entirely new pilot program focused on rural areas only.

Democrats were surprised to see urban children were excluded. And the GOP had some trouble explaining the history itself. But a spokeswoman confirmed that the intent of the bill is a pilot project in “rural areas” only.

Gee, I wonder why they’d have issues about aid to urban but not rural children (she said, not really wondering). See also Josh Marshall.

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