Browsing the archives for the Wingnuts Being Wingnuts category.


Blowing Up the Deal

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Middle East, Obama Administration, Republican Party, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

I haven’t had time to look into specifics, but Iran and several world powers have agreed on a framework for a nuclear deal. Greg Sargent writes,

The preliminary deal would limit continued operation of centrifuges to one site, while converting a second one — which had been the subject of controversy — to a research facility. The Arak nuclear reactor could no longer be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

In exchange, sanctions against Iran will be lifted by the U.S. and European countries, after the International Atomic Energy Agency verifies Iran has taken those steps.

Naturally, congressional Republicans already are against it, because Obama. Blowing up any deal the President makes, no matter what it is, is a key litmus test among the 2016 presidential hopefuls. Because Obama.

Scott Walker told an interviewer that if he is elected POTUS he would not only blow up any deal with Iran on his first day as president, he would do so even if all of our allies want the deal to continue.

I asked Peter Juul, a Mideast analyst for the Center for American Progress, to explain what the consequences of that might be. He told me:

“The big questions would be, How would Europeans and Iranians react? It’s hard to believe that the Iranians would stick to their end of the deal. That would leave Iran open to take their nuclear program as far as they want.

“The Europeans would probably try to keep their portion of the deal in place and try to salvage it. This would place the burden of having blown up the deal on us. This would be particularly ironic, considering that a major Republican and conservative talking point is that the Obama administration is breaking faith with our allies. We would be alienating and breaking faith with our European allies right out of the gate. You’d be irreparably damaging our transatlantic relationships for however long Scott Walker were in office.

“Putin is not going to leave power anytime soon, unless he keels over. For all the talk about the Russian threat, it would be odd to throw our European allies under the bus on Iran at the same time they are facing down a Russia that is not particularly friendly.

“There would be a lot of ripple effects around wherever the U.S. and Europe have security cooperation. This is a reckless, irresponsible, shoot first, don’t-ask-questions-ever approach. It’s just not a viable strategy if your goal is to keep Iran from getting a nuclear bomb.”

But for the idiot children like Walker who hope to be on the GOP ticket, the goal is not to keep Iran from getting a nuclear bomb. The goal is to stick it to Obama.  It’s a bit like what the incoming Bush Administration did in 2001 when it assumed Clinton people like Richard Clarke, who were yammering about that dangerous al Qaeda thing, were just being hysterical.

All of this should theoretically lead to at least some kind of pressure on members of Congress who are looking to kill a deal — not to mention the 2016 GOP hopefuls — to say what they support doing instead beyond thwarting Obama. “The bottom line is that it’s unclear what Walker and others who think like him want out of this process,” Juul says. “If no deal could possibly satisfy them, they should say so.”

It’s a bit like Obamacare. Republicans keep saying they have a better way, but the better way really is to just go back to the way things were before.  And then make that even worse.

Salon has a roundup of reactions to the proposed Iran deal. The Right thinks the proposed deal with either bring back the Third Reich or usher the Apocalypse.

Paul Waldman:

I can make that prediction with certainty as well, because we’ve already heard plenty of them. But as I discuss at the Plum Line today, we should be absolutely clear what those who talk about Munich are saying:

Many of us roll our eyes and poke fun at endless Hitler analogies, but in this case their use is extremely revealing. If you believe that the negotiations with Iran are the equivalent of those in Munich in 1938, what you’re basically saying is that war with Iran is inevitable, so we might as well get started on it right away. After all, it isn’t as though, had Chamberlain left Munich without an agreement, Hitler would have retired and gone back to painting. The whole point of the “appeasement” argument is that the enemy cannot be appeased from his expansionist aims, and the only choice is to wage war.

That’s what Iran hawks are arguing: We shouldn’t pussyfoot around trying to find a diplomatic solution to this problem when there’s going to be a war no matter what.

You can call this clear-eyed realism, or you can call it terrifying lunacy. But it would be nice if they would admit that war is indeed what they’re advocating. Up until now, only a few conservatives have been willing to say so. I’d like to hear their argument, and not a bunch of “all options should be on the table” hedging, but a real case for why launching a war on Iran really is the best of the available options.

The idiot children really must be pushed hard to be explicit about what they actually intend. Over and over and over. I’m really certain the American people just want the Middle East to simmer down and stay out of the headlines, not more war.

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Neocons Attempting Another Con

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Obama Administration, Terrorism, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

They don’t quit. The neocons at National Review — including Stephen Hayes, who will insist on his deathbed that before 9/11 Mohamed Atta did too meet with agents of Saddam Hussein in Prague — now are flogging documents that “reveal” Osama bin Laden had secret ties to Iran.

Yes, and I’m Shirley Temple’s zombie.

If you keep reading the articles, it turns out that these documents say nothing about secret ties to the Iranian government, just that a small number of al Qaeda operatives had been in Iran, somewhere, doing something, including “training.” But for all we know their long-term plans were to set off bombs in Tehran, not attend parties with the ayatollahs.

The documents were among those recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound and were introduced in court in the trial of “a terrorism suspect.” I believe they are referring to Faruq Khalil Muhammad ‘Isa, a Canadian national currently on trial in Brooklyn for murdering five U.S. servicemen in Iraq in 2009. However, for some reason, the National Review propagandists are not calling this suspect by name or imagining he has secret ties to Iran. I guess they have no beef with Canada. Yet.

The thrust of all of the National Review‘s articles on this new “evidence” is that the Obama Administration didn’t take the continued threat of Osama bin Laden seriously.

The files do not support the view, promoted by some in the Obama administration, that bin Laden was in “comfortable retirement,” “sidelined,” or “a lion in winter” in the months leading up to his death. On the contrary, bin Laden is asked to give his order on a host of issues, ranging from the handling of money to the movement of terrorist operatives.

Hmm, let’s see — which President was it who declared that Osama bin Laden had been marginalized back in 2002?

And, let’s see, which President actually got the guy? Hmm, it’ll come to me …

Seriously, does the crew at NR assume we all have Alzheimer’s?

From what I saw, at no point in any of this coverage does NR use the words Sunni or Shia. Al Qaeda is a radical Sunni sect opposed to all heretics, which in their minds would include Shia. The government of Iran is controlled by a bunch of strict Shia who consider Sunni militants to be their sworn enemies. The odds that these two are working together now are about the same as the odds that the GOP will throw the 2016 presidential election in favor of Bernie Sanders. Larry Johnson says that about 20 years ago there was a brief movement toward rapprochement between Osama bin Laden and the Shia in Tehran, but that those days are long over, and the two groups are more radically opposed to each other than ever.

Obviously, the neocon crew at NR are up to their old tricks and trying to stampede us into a war with Iran, which men of extended military experience like Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes (cough) think will be just the thing to fix all that misbehavior in the Middle East. They don’t quit. And they don’t learn.

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But Can He See Russia From His House?

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts, Wisconsin

It’s CPAC time, boys and girls!

And the fun has begun! Scott Walker actually said this:

“I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists do not wash up on American soil. We will have someone who leads and ultimately will send a message not only that we will protect American soil but do not take this upon freedom-loving people anywhere else in the world,” he responded. “We need a leader with that kind of confidence. If I can take on a 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.”

Because a crowd of unarmed and peacefully if loudly protesting teachers and farmers is just like ISIS. That was so stupid even the National Review called him on it.

[Apparently Walker has made noises in the past tying unions to Communism (see Steve M). This actually echoes some very old history involving Wisconsin. Way back when Wisconsin’s infamous Senator Joe McCarthy first won a seat in the Senate, but before his infamous “I have in my hand” speech that gained him national attention for his witch hunt seeking Communists in the State Department, his signature issue was unions. He was the anti-union senator, ceaselessly arguing that labor unions were Communist fronts. (This is documented in a book by historian David Oshinsky titled Senator Joe McCarthy and the American Labor Movement [University of Missouri Press, 197-something].) As with his later fruitless witch hunts none of the people he targeted were ever found guilty of anything, but wingnuts insist up and down that McCarthy  was “right” about Communism and that the Venona papers  prove it. However, none of the people McCarthy targeted are mentioned in the Venona papers. So he remains zero-for-whatever in uncovering actual Communists.]

[Also, too, today a New York Times editorial complains that "Republicans’ support for anti-union legislation is at odds with their professed commitments to helping the middle class." Ya think?]

By all accounts Walker wowed the crowd at CPAC, who gave him a standing ovation. But Walker never struck me as someone who could get traction in a national campaign, unless perhaps he put himself in the hands of a Lee Atwater/Karl Rove sort of handler who could craft the impression that Walker has a personality. Rove himself seems to have passed his sell-by date, however, and I don’t see anyone else on the Right ready to step into the void. As we saw in 2012, it’s not that hard to become the Darling of the Right for 15 minutes or so with a masterful tossing of anti-Obama red meat, but that act doesn’t play so well outside of the Rightie Bubble.

Jeb Bush is supposed to speak at CPAC today, and there’s a move afoot among the more rabid teabaggers to walk out of the speech. Pass the popcorn.

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Putting the Con in Conservative

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

I don’t often link to right-wing sites to approve of something, but recently John Hawkins of Right Wing News published the results of a study showing how right-wing PACs spent contributors’ money. And — what a not surprise — there are many PACs soliciting money for “conservative” politicians that are spending little to no money on behalf of those politicians. Even PACs that are allegedly linked to a particular candidate aren’t spending money on behalf of that candidate. For example, the National Draft Ben Carson for President PAC spent only 4 percent of nearly $13 million received on efforts to draft Ben Carson for President. It may actually surprise you not in the least that SarahPAC spent maybe 7 percent of more than $3 million to help political candidates, which is the ostensible purpose of SarahPAC.

The PACs are not necessarily guilty of criminal activity. There are all sorts of legal ways to move money around to confound oversight. A PAC might set up a couple of vendors, possibly owned by people associated with the PAC, and send the vendors $100,000 each. The vendors then print $1,000 worth of fliers and pocket the rest. But on the PACs paperwork, it shows $200,000 spent on political action.

The Good Roger Ailes is derisive of Hawkins’ work, mostly because — duh, you didn’t know this already? Plus Hawkins’s analysis has lots of blind spots, some willful. But the larger point stands.

There is much speculation on rightie blogs that left-wing PACs are just as bad and probably worse. And I welcome similar analysis of leftie PACs. One of my gripes about progressivism going back many years is that, until the last decade or so, about the only activism going on was coming from single-issue advocacy groups that incessantly raised money but never seemed to accomplish anything. I may have told the story about how I stopped giving money to NARAL back in the 1980s, because as far as I could tell my donations were all being spent on salaries and office furniture.

But progressives across the board have been much more opposed to no-holds-barred contributions and want significant campaign finance reform that would stop a lot of this, whereas conservatives oppose reform and like the system just as it is, thank you, except they’d like to be able to bar unions from political activity if they could. But just unions; not the Koch Brothers.

And the even larger point is that the Right is mostly a grift, anyway. Characters like Richard Viguerie, Ann Coulter, etc., have been cashing in for years by doing nothing but raising alarm about the Coming Darkness of Liberalism When You Will Be Forced to Convert to Islam and Eat Babies. I wrote awhile back:

If bank robbers rob banks because that’s where the money is, grifters infest the Right because that’s where the gullibility is. People who can be made to believe in death panels can also be sold on dubious investment schemes, survivalist kits and quack arthritis cures. It’s too easy. See especially Rick Perlstein, “The Long Con.”

At least, I’m not aware of anyone using leftie political networks to sell cancer cures, dubious investments schemes or the leftie equivalent of survivalist kits, whatever that might be.

There are also subcategories of specialized grifters such as the NRA/firearm industry and climate change denialists/petroleum industry. But it’s all of a piece, really.

I wrote recently that the only substantive difference between the “extremists” and the “moderates/establishment” in the Republican Party is that “the ‘moderates’ realize elections have to be won, and the ‘extremists’ don’t know that, or don’t care.” When you look at someone like Ted Cruz, who unlike many others may not be crazy or stupid, one suspects his long game isn’t winning the White House. The long game is making a ton of money. In this country, once you become a reliable supplier of red meat for the Right, you are set for life. Whether you ever actually accomplish anything that’s good for anyone is irrelevant.

Now Paul Waldman writes about how rich conservatives are bilking the rank and file:

This particular con is just one variant of a wider system, one that has been in operation for decades. While there may be some cases of similar scams on the left, they’re absolutely rampant on the right, because they’ve been so central to the conservative movement for so long. In the 1960s, conservatives realized that the nationwide grassroots network that activists built to support Barry Goldwater could be an ongoing source of funds, not only for conservative causes but for people wanting to sell snake oil. Lists of names and addresses became a valued commodity, built, bought and sold again and again for the benefit of those who controlled them and those who used them (Rick Perlstein lays out that history here).

That tradition continues, but in new and more complicated ways that I like to call the circle of scam. Organizations like the Heritage Foundation and FreedomWorks pay radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity big money to offer on-air endorsements that are the radio equivalent of “native advertising.” Future presidential candidate Mike Huckabee sells his email list on “miracle cancer cures” hidden in the Bible. Conservative media figures like Dick Morris solicit contributions that somehow are never turned to the political ends they claim. Nobody wants to upend the system, because too many people are getting a taste.

The common thread can be found in the marks: the little old lady in Tupelo who sends in $50 thinking that she’s striking a blow against Barack Obama, the couple in Topeka who hopes Mike Huckabee’s biblical cancer cure can save their daughter’s life, the man in Toledo who thinks that the group with “Tea Party” in its name is going to have an impact on his state’s races. What none of them know is that their money is just going to make somebody who’s already rich a little bit richer.

It’s been a hugely successful scam. However, there are signs more and more people are getting elected who don’t know it’s a scam. Could The Stupid eventually become so blatant even wingnuts notice? Hmm, I’m not holding my breath until that happens. But maybe Peak Wingnut will finally come to pass.

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The Real Road to Serfdom

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

In the last post I argued that Republicans have reversed John Locke’s “life, liberty and property,” putting property (or the wealth of the wealthy) first, liberty second, and life a distant and expendable third. Now Paul Krugman agrees

If you look for an overarching theme for overall conservative policy these past four decades, it definitely isn’t liberty — by and large the GOP has been enthusiastic about expanding the security and surveillance state. Nor is it in a consistent fashion smaller government, unless you define military and homeland security as not government. Instead, it has been about making the tax-and-transfer system harsher on the poor and easier on the rich. In short, class warfare.

It seems that several Republican governors, whose “conservative” economic policies strangled their states’ economies, are proposing tax increases to make up for loss of revenue. However, Krugman writes, “in every case the tax hike would fall most heavily on those with lower incomes, and many are proposing simultaneous tax cuts for business and/or the wealthy.”

In short, doing more of what hasn’t worked before. Erik Loomis writes,

Watching how Republican presidential possibilities have been talking in the last couple of weeks, it’s pretty clear that they are going to focus on income inequality, but define income inequality as a problem that exists because the rich pay too much in taxes and the poor don’t pay enough. I know this sounds like a terrible strategy for the Republicans, and maybe it is, but I do believe in their ability to obfuscate an issue and twist meanings that the message of income inequality I hope the Democrats run on in 2016 will have a lot of difficulty motivating the public.

Unfortunately, I think he’s right. A substantial portion of the American public will be persuaded that “income inequality” means the rich are being soaked so that the poor can lounge around living high on the hog and food stamps.

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Life, Liberty, Property, but Not in That Order

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Thomas Jefferson’s “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” was presumably inspired by John Locke’s “life, liberty and property.”  Locke’s thinking influenced the U.S. Founding Guys more than any other single philosopher, and Locke said government is obligated to protect the life, liberty and property rights of the people. You would think teabaggers/Republicans would know this and respect it.

However, if you pay attention you notice that they’ve reworked the order — property first, then liberty, but life gets bumped off the list unless you are a fetus. Mark Joseph Stern provides several examples of Republicans putting liberty and property ahead of life. These include putting a right to refuse vaccination ahead of public health and their frantic crusade to stop the government from paying for health care.

Republicans are currently cheering on an anti-Obamacare lawsuit that could strip millions of health insurance. They’re willing to put Americans at risk of death just to score points against a law they hate. … Many conservatives are cheerfully unconcerned by this lawsuit’s potentially fatal consequences. In one op-ed titled “End Obamacare, and People Could Die. That’s Okay,” Michael R. Strain of the American Enterprise Institute insisted that the Supreme Court should have no compunction about rendering a decision that will kill Americans. A higher mortality rate, Strain wrote, is “an acceptable price to pay for certain goals,” including “less government coercion and more individual liberty.”

Liberty trumps life, in other words. Better dead than taxed, or something. If anyone knows on what planet that makes sense, do raise your hand. The Michael Strain op-ed is a chilling thing to read, but you know this “acceptable price” stuff is conventional wisdom among the privileged crew he rubs elbows with. They’re never going to have to pay that price, of course. But they’re kicking some of us to the curb for the Greater Good, and we’re supposed to be grateful. Yay, freedom!

I’ve been particularly infuriated by reports that the Koch Brother-led Americans for Prosperity has been going around strangling any movement toward expanding Medicaid in the non-Medicaid-expanding states, most recently Tennessee. Apparently the Koch Boys love freedom so much they’re determined to kill any poor, sick hillbillies that get in the way.

So, obviously, liberty is ranked ahead of life. But I would argue that for all their rhetoric about liberty, in truth the U.S. Right puts property ahead of liberty. The late 19th century Supreme Court was notorious for putting property rights above civil liberty, so this is not without precedent. But the base has been well trained to unquestioningly support everything from Citizen’s United to more tax cuts for the rich at the expense of everyone else to climate change denialism, because it’s in the best interests of the 1 percent to do so, and those policies are not promoting anyone’s liberty. Indeed, if you pay close attention you may notice that a lot of their arguments for “liberty” are mostly in favor of unrestricted acquisition of wealth.

It’s property first, then liberty when it doesn’t get in the way of property, and life for the post-born can be bumped off the table as necessary.

Update: How could I have forgotten that gun rights also trump life?  Little children killing themselves with guns is the price we pay for the freedom to keep loaded guns anywhere we want, right?

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Free Speech Hypocrites

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conservatism, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Does anyone else remember the Chocolate Jesus? Back in 2007 the artist Cosimo Cavallaro sculpted a crucified Jesus out of 200 pounds of milk chocolate, and the piece was displayed in a Manhattan gallery. There was a huge hue and cry about it, mostly because Cavallaro left out a loincloth. You might remember that Little Lulu threw a fit over this affront to Christianity (Jesus had a weenie? Who knew?), and the sculpture was removed.

It seemed obvious to me that the nudity was not just for shock value but added to the poignancy and vulnerability of the image of the crucified Christ, and the medium was a powerful statement on the commercialization — and trivialization — of Easter. But American righties argued that in the U.S. only satire poking at Christianity is allowed, but that satire of, say, Islam is not, and that’s not fair.

And I say satire by definition requires that the target be something that is established, powerful and privileged.  Ridicule of a relatively powerless minority group, which Islam is in the West, is not satire, but “bullying.” See also “When Operas Attack,” and don’t forget the many efforts by the American Right to shut down performances of Terrence McNally’s play Corpus Christi.  Yes, in the U.S. the Left tends to push back against expressions of racism and sexism, but the Right has a long record of attempting to shut down genuine artistic expression that it finds offensive.

I’d never heard of Charlie Hebdo before this week, and I only know it from the cover images and cartoons that have been reproduced on the Web. (Oddly, if you go to the Charlie Hebdo site now you can’t get to the back issues but can see only a “Je suis Charlie” statement. Keeping the content available would have been gutsier.) But what I’ve seen reminds me of the old underground comix that were popular in the 1960s counterculture — a lot of vulgarity and shock for the sake of shock. Which is not necessarily bad; some of those comix were brilliant, as I remember. And who didn’t love Mr. Natural?

But what happened to them? The 1970s happened, and then the 1980s. The country got more conservative. IMO it wasn’t primarily “political correctness” that killed them, as Alice Robb claims, but prudery.

It’s interesting to me that one of the few people to recognize the Right’s hypocrisy is Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, one of the people who led the charge against the Chocolate Jesus. Donohue is opposed to free expression, but at least he’s consistent about it and not calling for a different standard for different religions.

As a people, we’re either for freedom of expression, or we’re not. If we’re only in favor of allowing expression with which we agree, we’re not.

Update: One of the best responses to the Paris massacre I’ve seen so far.

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Stuff to Be Grateful For

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

I am, of course, grateful for all you readers. But I’m also glad I don’t take investment advice from Glenn Beck or Ron Paul. Dave Weigel writes that the poor saps who bought up gold are watching their investment go down the drain. “Gold reached an all time high price of $1911 per ounce on August 23, 2011, during the debt limit crisis. By election day 2012, gold had fallen to $1777 per ounce. That amount of gold sells, today, for just $1178.”

We were supposed to buy gold so we would be protected when President Obama tanked the economy. Except the economy didn’t tank, and the stock market is soaring. See also Krugman. Beck still has a banner ad for Goldline on his website, I notice.

Meanwhile, we see once again that being a supply-side economist means you’ll never say you’re sorry. No matter what.

Kansas very stupidly re-elected Gov. Sam Brownback in spite of his record, and on December 1 some schmuck named Rex Sinquefield, writing for Forbes, gushed,

In the two years since Kansas’ tax-reform measures went into effect, the promises of Governor Sam Brownback’s administration are becoming a reality. I challenge tax-and-spend naysayers to dispute the following facts:

  • 8,400 seasonally adjusted non-farm jobs have been added since September;
  • Workers saw their earnings grow by 3.3 percent in a year; and
  • The Sunflower State’s unemployment rate is now 4.4 percent, down from 5.2 percent a year ago.

Note the name Rex Sinquefield. Remember to not take investment advice from him, either.  The Kansas City Star reported on December 19:

The new Kansas jobs numbers were released Friday morning, bringing horrible news to state taxpayers and Gov. Sam Brownback.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the total number of nonfarm jobs in Kansas fell by 4,100 in November.

Kansas’ disturbing experience was at odds with how much of the rest of the country did. A total of 37 other states gained in employment in November, while only 13 others, including Kansas, dropped.

What Sinquefield failed to mention was that his numbers came from a brief hiring blip in October. In fact, the economy of Kansas is in even worse shape than was known on election day. Brownback is proposing even more draconian budget cuts and wants to raid pension money to make up the difference.

The supply-siders are struggling to put lipstick on the Kansas pig, saying that Brownback’s mistake was that he did too much too soon. All that supply-siding has to be more gradual.  Yeah, that’s it.

So, be grateful you are not Sam Brownback.

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When Stupid Is an End In Itself

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economy, Obama Administration, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a crucial point —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sparkly Things That Distract Us From the Really Bad Stuff

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elections, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

The Washington Post has a story about evidence that non-citizens sometimes manage to vote in U.S. elections. The story is a bit squishy about actual numbers, however. It seems to be a very small number, although in an extremely close local election a small number of votes matters.

Note also that the story says there’s no evidence requiring photo IDs at the polls makes any difference. People who manage to register and vote without being citizens don’t seem to have a problem getting photo IDs. Duh. Interestingly, the authors of the article suggest that non-citizens most likely to vote possibly don’t understand they aren’t legally allowed to vote. More educated non-citizens are less likely to try.

Anyway, since these non-citizens tend to vote for Democrats, the wingnuts are freaking out.  The Right increasingly has to depend on gerrymandering and voter suppression to win elections, so it’s understandable that they’d seize upon any excuse for why it’s becoming harder for them to win elections fair and square on an even playing field.

But while the Right is having an outrage spasm over what may be a relative handful of illegal votes — as I said, the article is squishy about actual numbers — millions of dollars in dark money are underwriting much of the current campaign season. Thanks to Citizens United, we have no way to ensure that voters aren’t being “educated” and influenced by ads and literature paid for by foreign governments, companies and interest groups. And those foreign interests may not have America’s interests in mind.

Nicholas Confessore writes,

More than half of the general election advertising aired by outside groups in the battle for control of the US Congress has come from organizations that disclose little or nothing about their donors, a flood of secret money that is now at the center of a debate over the line between free speech and corruption.

The advertising, which has overwhelmingly benefited Republican candidates, is largely paid for by nonprofit groups and trade associations, some of which are established with the purpose of shielding the wealthy individuals and corporations that contribute. More money is being spent on advertising by the secret donors than by super PACs, the explicitly political committees whose fortunes have dominated attention with the rise of big money in politics.

Andy Kroll wrote back in 2012,

… for the secretive nonprofit groups pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the 2012 elections, the rules are different. These outfits, organized under the 501(c) section of the US tax code, can take money from foreign citizens, foreign labor unions, and foreign corporations, and they don’t have to tell voters about it because they don’t publicly disclose their donors. What’s more, with a savvy attorney and a clean paper trail, a foreign donor could pump millions into a nonprofit without even the nonprofit knowing the money’s true origin.

We don’t know that foreign interests are trying to sway the election, but we don’t know that they aren’t. We have no way to know. Although foreign money is supposed to stay out of our elections, thanks to Citizens United it wouldn’t be impossible for foreign elements indifferent or even hostile to American interests to influence how Americans vote. And if such interests haven’t tried it yet, they’ll get around to it eventually.

But you can’t get most wingnuts to understand why that’s a problem. Our righties are simple critters, easily distracted by the little stuff so they don’t notice the big stuff.

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