Browsing the archives for the Wingnuts Being Wingnuts category.


The Route

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Obama Administration, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

While acknowledging it’s just symbols and there are still real battles to fight, I am finding the sudden political retreat on symbols of the Confederacy fascinating, if only as a socio-cultural phenomenon. Josh Marshall wrote

I still cannot believe the Charleston Massacre has triggered quite this total a collapse of support, not just for flying the Confederate battle flag in places of honor at Southern state capitols, but for public display and honor for the Confederacy and the War of the Rebellion in almost any form. Whatever the precise cause or convergence of under-noticed trends, there now seems like no doubt that we are witnessing a watershed in the country’s long, wretched and denial-ridden wrestling with the public memory of the Civil War.

As the song says — There’s somethin’ happenin’ here; what it is ain’t exactly clear

For years, most of the American Right has defiantly refused to give up the Confederate flag and all symbols of the Lost Cause. Now, all of a sudden, it’s like some of them can’t put the Confederacy behind them fast enough. What happened?

Someone writing from Charleston made the point that one of Dylann Roof’s victims, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was also a state senator, and he was a well-known and popular figure. The writer continues,

I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of Republican Senators who have come forward to release very personal statements about Sen. Pinckney’s death, especially among the Lowcountry delegation. The statements made about him strike me as more than just the generic nice things one is supposed to say.

Put another way, Roof made the very amateur mistake of killing people who couldn’t be turned into “thugs” by right-wing media. Every single outrageous harming or killing of a black citizen in recent memory has been followed by an avalanche of smears of the victim. Even the petite teenage girl roughed up by a cop at a Texas pool party was smeared on Fox News, I understand. Maybe I’ve missed it, but I haven’t heard any such smears this time.  

It was a Bible study group, after all, killed by a teenage punk who had been planning it for months. No excuses this time.

This explanation is probably closer to it, though.

The Confederate battle flag — that bellicose assertion of a Southern “heritage” otherwise known as “white supremacy,” that defiant, “fuck you” of a symbol in whose honor the blood of far more than nine people has been shed — it wasn’t suddenly toxic because of last week’s massacre in Charleston. Multinational corporations, and the politicians they keep on retainer, weren’t disowning the flag because of a popular movement. The people hadn’t had the time to organize. The pavement on this road to Damascus was still wet.

Instead, what was actually happening, behind the scenes, wasn’t nearly so romantic. No one was breaking from their usual habits. Everyone, in fact, was doing what they always did. The profit-seeking entities were trying to maximize future earnings; and the state-level politicians were following their demands. This wasn’t a case of the powers-that-be doing something they resented. No one was pushed here; everyone was ready to jump.

In other words, all that white supremacy stuff is bad for business.

Not for the first time in 2015, the conservative movement has found itself on the losing side of a culture war battle it once routinely won. And just as was the case in Indiana, when a petty and combative anti-gay law inspired national boycotts and a business-sector backlash, movement conservatives cannot fathom how liberals aren’t to blame. It’s conservatives, after all, who man the ramparts to protect capitalism and big business. As he was ranting about “the left’s” war on the Confederate flag on Tuesday, one could almost hear Rush Limbaugh transform into Walter Sobchak from “The Big Lebowski,” bellowing, “Has the whole world gone crazy?!”

The conservative movement fancies itself to be pro-business, just as it fancies itself to be pro-national security. But, increasingly, their ideas are out of touch with reality on both fronts.

Yet for all the right’s professed belief in “common sense,” the reason why businesses were, metaphorically, setting the flag to the flame continued to elude conservatives, even when it was staring them in the face. As CNN, the Associated Press and others reported, the Amazons, eBays, Sears and Walmarts of the world weren’t acting out of fear or sentiment. Their motivations were straightforward, cold, and rational. Walmart wants to shed its reputation as a Red State phenomenon; Sears wants to prove it’s not exclusively for dads; Amazon’s politics are, if anything, probably “liberaltarian”; and it’s hard to imagine eBay’s pro-Confederate market was ever that big.

To paraphrase the Dao De Jing — Capitalism is not sentimental; it treats all things as straw dogs. Ironically, and incomprehensibly to the fellow quoted in the New York Times yesterday, the route of Confederate symbols isn’t the beginning of Communism. It’s Capitalism that decided Confederate symbols had to go.

So it’s probably not true, as someone else said, that Dylann Roof is pretty much singlehandedly responsible for the fall of the Confederate Flag. However, he did help create the moment that made the Route possible.

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Peak Cluelessness

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

This one belongs in a bell jar in the Utter Obliviousness Museum.

Here’s another one:

At some point, the rest of us are going to have to exact that price. The stars and bars can go, and if Bedford Forrest, who may have been a singular cavalry officer but did, after all, serve as first Grand Wizard of the Democratic Party’s 19th-century terrorist arm, goes with it that’s not an unbearable loss to anyone’s heritage. But while we’re scrubbing the bad baggage from our culture, can we have a merciful end to the painfully stupid leftist obsession with cop-killing racists such as Mumia Abu Jamal, communist terrorists like Bill Ayers, and psychopathic Marxist white supremacists like Che Guevara? How about, as Victor Davis Hanson suggested, an end to racist Leftist institutions like the Congressional Black Caucus and La Raza? If we’re to crack down on the cultural cachet of the Old South, can we conduct a similar purge of the New Black Panthers?

I say, in the interest of fairness, that every single public monument in the U.S. erected to honor Mumia Abu Jamal (a name I haven’t heard in a few years, btw), Bill Ayers, and Che Guevara come down immediately, and every single street named after one of these guys can be re-named George Washington Avenue. How about that?

The rest is a little more problematic, but since the New Black Panthers are, what, a couple of guys in Philadelphia? We could ask them politely to rename themselves, or something.

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Ahimsa-based Morality

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

As you know I generally ignore Ross Douthat. The boy’s not that bright, and his views on just about anything are rigidly predictable. But I got sucked into reading a blog post by Ross because of the title — “The Liberalism of Adult Autonomy.”

Yeah, respecting the autonomy of adult humans is a pretty liberal thing to do. But this is Ross Douthat we’re talking about, so if adult autonomy is “liberal” you know he’s going to be against it. I had to look. Tell us how autonomy is bad, Ross.

Reflecting both on Caitlyn né Bruce Jenner and the Gallup data that inspired my own sojourn into polygamy, Damon Linker argues that social conservatives (in particular, his friend and mine Rod Dreher) are wrong to portray the rise of social liberalism as a matter of individualism unbound from all moral restraint. Rather, it represents the triumph of one distinctive moral code, the morality of rights, over another, the morality of ends.

I lack the strength to check out Ross’s sojourn into polygamy, although you are welcome to go there if you want to. If you do, give us a report.

Anyway, according to Douthat and his buddy Linker, there are two kinds of morality, that of ends and that of rights. And having read both essays, I have concluded neither one of these guys has thought things through.

Basically, the morality of “ends” is the idea that morality is based on some arbitrary notions of what’s allowable and what isn’t that mostly come from entrenched cultural bias often connected to Iron Age scriptures. The “ends” people like to believe that their ideas about morality are eternal and external — written in the sky someplace — but that’s an obvious delusion, considering that such ideas are continually shifting from one generation to the next. Go back a few generations, and you can find white European Christians approving of slavery and the creation of castratifor example. Go back a little further, and you find a culture in which it wasn’t immoral for a nobleman to kill a serf, even for capricious reasons.

The ends people are certain they have the right — indeed, the obligation — to use force to stop people from engaging in behaviors that they, the ends people, don’t like. This sort of thing was more acceptable in times past, when populations were more culturally homogeneous, and most people in a population shared the same biases.  But now the ends people are a minority, and it upsets them that others find them narrow-minded, meddling and tiresome when they see themselves as noble and principled.

But I also reject the notion that the only alternative is a morality based on rights. Rights are a kind of entitlement; morality has to do with how we treat each other. Obviously there’s a lot of overlap, but one is not necessarily the other.

This brings me to ahimsa, a Sanskrit word that means “do not harm” or “do not injure.” It has been described as advocating total nonviolence, but for now I’d prefer to say it’s a value of not causing harm, or perhaps following the path of least harm. Isn’t that what we’re talking about when we speak of morality — causing no harm to each other and to ourselves?

Damon Linker touches on this when he writes,

If you’re committed to an overarching (religious or philosophical) vision of human flourishing that precludes gender reassignment surgery, then an expression of disapproval and perhaps even disgust at the Vanity Fair cover would seem to be in order. But if you’ve left behind any such comprehensive morality of ends in favor of a morality of rights, then it’s hard to see what’s wrong with Jenner’s actions, or with the magazine in promoting them publicly on its cover. No one is harmed as a result, and the harm Bruce Jenner felt as a woman trapped in a man’s body has (one hopes) been alleviated by undergoing the surgical transformation into Caitlyn.

Again, why would one hold an “overarching (religious or philosophical) vision of human flourishing that precludes gender reassignment surgery” other than bias? Those who are disgusted are not disgusted for logical reasons; this is just visceral reaction dressed up to look virtuous.

Linker mentions harm. One can argue that Jenner’s wife was harmed — I honestly don’t know what she felt about it — but since Jenner’s decision really only affects herself and immediate family, I don’t see what business it is of mine, nor is it clear to be what moral issues are involved here without knowing the impact on her family.

On the other hand, as Douthat points out, there are people who mutilate themselves for reasons other than gender reassignment. Apparently there is a kind of neurological/psychological syndrome in which healthy people feel compelled to cripple themselves, amputating limbs or insisting on living in wheelchairs and braces when they have no physical injury. Here I’d say there is a moral issue, because these people are not only harming themselves, they are unnecessarily making themselves a burden to others. To me, this is entirely different from gender reassignment surgery.

Do they have a right to do this? As I’ve said before, you may have a right to smear yourself with honey and sit on an anthill, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. You may have a right to do all kinds of things that could harm yourself or others, which IMO makes it immoral.

People are frustrated with being forced into “ends” morality because it often is harmful. This is especially true in matters of sexuality; see, for example, the Duggar family. They were packaged as paragons of “ends” morality, and it turns out this was and is just an illusion. I feel sorry for all the kids, including the sons.

People are realizing that what consenting adults do in private is just not society’s concern, and in fact it’s best for all of us if people can be open and honest about their preferences and not pretend to be one thing while doing something else — see Denny Hastert.

Douthat continues,

At the same time, however, rights-based morality has been around for quite a while, while our contemporary social liberalism is a more recent, post-1960s flowering. It is a very particular and context-bound theory of rights, in other words, with particular definitions of what those rights cover and what counts as harm and victimhood. And in its specific vision of who has rights, how they can be exercised, and which harms violate them, today’s liberalism does tend to push for widening adult autonomy (eroticized and otherwise) in ways that an alternative vision might not.

I’m not entirely sure what’s clanking around in Douthat’s head here, but if “widening adult autonomy” translates into letting adults make decisions about their own lives whether Douthat approves or not, I’m all for it. And while he doesn’t bring up abortion, somehow I suspect placicng women’s rights over fetal “rights” is lurking somewhere in his thinking. He also implies that maybe adults shouldn’t be allowed to divorce if their children disapprove — seriously — which I think is weird.

So once again, the common thread across these issues is not simply a broad morality of rights and harms and consent. It’s a particular definition of which rights matter most, which harms are meaningful and which are trumps, and whose consent is required to justify a particular decision. The current definitions advanced by social liberalism do not make individual autonomy the measure of all things; they do not simply instantiate a will to power or self-fulfillment. But they do treat adult autonomy as a morally-elevated good, and rate other possible rights and harm claims considerably lower as a consequence.

I’m still struggling to understand how adult autonomy is not a moral good, especially given our individualistic culture. A dictionary defines autonomy as “independence or freedom, as of the will or one’s actions: the autonomy of the individual.” We’re not to have independence and freedom? We’re not supposed to have something to say about our own will or actions?

Like I said, weird.

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Not So Free in Muskogee

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Republican Party, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Gotta read this column by Thomas Edsall:

In the fall of 1969, Merle Haggard topped the Billboard country charts for four weeks with “Okie from Muskogee,” the song that quickly became the anthem of red America, even before we called it that.

“We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee, we don’t take our trips on LSD, we don’t burn our draft cards down on Main Street, we like livin’ right and bein’ free,” Haggard declared. “We don’t make a party out of lovin’, we like holdin’ hands and pitchin’ woo.”

Times have changed.

Today Muskogee, Okla., a city of 38,863, has nine drug treatment centers and a court specifically devoted to drug offenders. A search for “methamphetamine arrest” on the website of the Muskogee Phoenix, the local newspaper, produces 316 hits.

In 2013 just under two-thirds of the births in the city of Muskogee, 62.6 percent, were to unwed mothers, including 48.3 percent of the births to white mothers. The teenage birthrate in Oklahoma was 47.3 per 1,000; in Muskogee, it’s 59.2, almost twice the national rate, which is 29.7.

Need I mention that Muskogee voters proudly vote Republican?

… the Baltimore riots have become a vehicle for conservatives to point to the city as an emblem of the failure of liberalism and the Democratic Party. The current state of affairs in Muskogee suggests that the left does not deserve exclusive credit for social disorder.

Rightie politicians and media have been crowing that Baltimore represents a failure of liberalism. I could link to umpteen hundred such rants, but here’s just one.

Jeb Bush says the strife in Baltimore proves the war on poverty “failed” to expand opportunity in America’s most disadvantaged communities. In a Chicago Tribune op-ed published Wednesday, the presumptive 2016 candidate writes that Democrats are wrongly responding to the unrest with calls to increase government spending and reform the criminal justice system.

And, of course, from a progressive perspective just the opposite happened; there’s no part of America untouched by Reaganism and right-wing anti-tax, trickle-down nonsense lo these past 30 plus years. See, for example, an in-depth report by Emily Badger in the Washington Post, “How Baltimore and cities like it hold back poor black children as they grow up.” There are places in the U.S. that are something like economic and social black holes, and it’s nearly impossible for people who grow up there to escape. Programs — you know, the government spending thing — that enable greater mobility actually appear to work. I suspect investing in better public schools and transportation systems wouldn’t hurt either, but of course conservatives hate public schools and transportation and fight spending on such things tooth and nail. And, dude, do you not see that the criminal justice system seriously needs reforming?

Edsall mentions this:

John Nolte, who writes for Breitbart.com, Tweeted at 9:26 p.m. on Monday, April 27, “Baltimore is what happens when you replace the two-parent family with a welfare check & union-run public schools.” An hour later, Laura Ingraham, a talk-show host, followed suit: “No fathers, no male role models, no discipline, no jobs, no values = no sense of right & wrong.”

I’ve yet to see evidence that breaking up teacher’s unions improves public schools, and if we want to talk about lacking a sense of right and wrong let’s talk about the police.

But what happened to Muskogee? Edsall presents copious data showing that while rates of out-of-wedlock births are slowing down among blacks they are speeding up among whites. Since 1980 the rate of out-of wedlock births has increased by 4 percent among blacks (and decreased in recent years) but has risen by 33 percent among whites. Further,

The highest rates of white teenage pregnancy in the 30 states with available data are in red states. While the national white teenage pregnancy rate in 2010 was 38 per 1,000, white rates were at least 10 points higher in nine states: Oklahoma (59), West Virginia (64), Arkansas (63), South Carolina (51), Alabama (49), Mississippi (55), Tennessee (51), Kentucky (59) and Louisiana (51). Each of these states cast decisive majorities for Romney in 2012.

The high pregnancy and birthrates among white teenagers in states where the Christian right and Tea Party forces are strong reflect the inability of ideological doctrines stressing social conservatism to halt the gradual shift away from traditional family structures.

In fact, the map in the second chart [see article] shows that the Southern Baptist Convention, one of the most socially conservative denominations in America, is dominant in every one of the nine states with the highest white teenage pregnancy rates, with the sole exception of West Virginia.

And on and on. The Red States really are going to hell in a handbasket.

Edsall points out that Republicans are in complete control in 24 states, and in most of those states the legislatures are waging all-out culture war. But they are so focused on blocking access to abortion and stopping same-sex marriage they are oblivious to the very real social and economic problems going on under their noses. Edsall again,

The problems of majority black Baltimore are extreme, but many of the trends found there are as extreme or more so in majority white Muskogee.

The Baltimore poverty rate is 23.8 percent, 8.4 points above the national rate, but below Muskogee’s 27.7 percent. The median household income in Baltimore is $41,385, $11,661 below the $53,046 national level, but $7,712 above Muskogee’s $33,664.

If conservatives place responsibility on liberal Democrats, feminism and the abandonment of traditional family values for Baltimore’s decay, what role did the 249 churches in and around Muskogee play in that city’s troubles?

Right-wing politicians have been given too big a pass for way too long.

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Self-Terrorism at Work

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Terrorism, Texas, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

ISIS may be evil and deranged, and they may lack any sort of capability of striking in the U.S., but I fear they have our number.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack outside a Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest in Texas — and warned of more attacks to come.

In a broadcast on its official radio channel Tuesday, the group said two Al Khilafa soldiers opened fire outside the event in Garland, a Dallas suburb. Al Khilafa is how ISIS refers to its soldiers.  …

…While ISIS claimed responsibility two days after the attack, there was no immediate indication that the terror group in Iraq and Syria had contact with Simpson or Soofi, who both lived in Phoenix.

Odds are the gunmen were wannabees with borderline personality disorder who had as much contact with ISIS as they had with Santa Claus, although the gunmen and ISIS operatives appeared to be following each other on Twitter. But we’re living in a country in which Wal-Mart has to refute rumors that the feds are building tunnels under closed stores to facilitate a military takeover of Texas. ISIS doesn’t have to lift a finger to scare Americans; we are champs at terrorizing ourselves. Claiming responsibility for the Texas shooting was actually brilliant on their part. The baggers will believe it and reach new heights of irrational paranoia.

Reminds me of the Twilight Zone episode where the townsfolk panic over rumors of space aliens and start shooting each other. The actual space aliens observe this and decide the easiest way to conquer Earth is to let the paranoid humans destroy themselves.

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Hey, Texas! BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA!

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

The state of Texas has reached new heights of absurdity, not to mention stupid. The wingnuts therein became convinced that U.S. Army training exercises in the American southwest are a cover for a federal government takeover of Texas. And we’re not talking about fringe basement-dwellers here; Gov. Greg Abbott  has ordered the Texas Guard to “monitor” the federal troops just in case. Sen. Rand Paul promised to look into it. It’s even come up at White House press briefings. See also the Dallas Morning News.

What do you want to bet the people who have gotten themselves worked up into screaming hysteria over this are the same ones who can’t so much as buy a doughnut without strapping on an AK 47?

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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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