When I first saw this headline I felt genuine panic — Court Rules That Subsidies in Obamacare’s Federal Exchange are Illegal, Dealing Huge Legal Blow to Health Law. That’s the headline at Hit & Run, where the Koch-funded libertarians probably are doing cartwheels around their desks. You can look it up if you want to read it.
Here’s the story on Talking Points Memo. The two Republican judges on the three-panel D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the state insurance exchanges run by the federal government may not offer subsidies, or the tax credits offered by the IRS. The one Democrat called this bullshit.
“This case is about Appellantsâ€™ not-so-veiled attempt to gut the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” Edwards wrote in his dissenting opinion. He called said the majority’s reading of the statute amounts to “a poison pill to the insurance markets in the States that did not elect to create their own Exchanges. This surely is not what Congress intended.”
My initial panic was mollified somewhat by the realization this decision does not affect the New York exchange, which is run (somewhat clumsily) by New York. Still, it’s a hell of a mess, and it’s not clear to me if this will go into effect immediately. If so, a lot of people are about to lose the insurance they’ve had for less than a year.
The White House is going to ask the full panel to rule on the decision, which could possibly reverse it.
….In point of fact, there were plenty of things Obamaâ€™s Democrats could have done that might have put the right out of business once and for allâ€”for example, by responding more aggressively to the Great Recession or by pounding relentlessly on the theme of middle-class economic distress. Acknowledging this possibility, however, has always been difficult for consensus-minded Democrats, and I suspect that in the official recounting of the Obama era, this troublesome possibility will disappear entirely. Instead, the terrifying Right-Wing Other will be cast in bronze at twice life-size, and made the excuse for the Administrationâ€™s every last failure of nerve, imagination and foresight. Demonizing the right will also allow the Obama legacy team to present his two electoral victories as ends in themselves, since they kept the White House out of the monsterâ€™s graspâ€”heroic triumphs that were truly worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize. (Which will be dusted off and prominently displayed.)
I see this kind of thing all the time on the right. If only we had a candidate who refused to sell out conservative values! A candidate who could truly make the American public understand! Then we’d win in a landslide!
It’s easy to recognize this as delusional. Tea party types are always convinced that America is thirsting for true conservatism, and all that’s needed is a latter-day Ronald Reagan to be its salesman. Needless to say, this misses the point that Americans aren’t all reactionaries. In fact, as the embarrassing clown shows of the past two GOP primaries have shown, even most Republicans aren’t reactionaries. There’s been no shortage of honest-to-God right wingers to choose from, but they can’t even win the nomination, let alone a general election.
(Of course you never know. Maybe 2016 is the year!)
But if it’s so easy to see this conservative delusion for what it is, why isn’t it equally easy to recognize the same brand of liberal delusion? Back in 2009, was Obama really the only thing that stood between bankers and the howling mob? Don’t be silly. Americans were barely even upset, let alone ready for revolution. Those pathetic demonstrations outside the headquarters of AIG were about a hundredth the size that even a half-ass political organization can muster for a routine anti-abortion rally. After a few days the AIG protestors got bored and went home without so much as throwing a few bottles at cops. Even the Greeks managed that much.
I think they both make good points. Yes, President Obama let some opportunities slip by him, especially those first couple of years. He could have done a much better job taking his arguments to the American public and making some leverage for himself.
On the other hand, it’s still the case that right-wing politics dominates our political culture as well as news media, and even for those two years the Dems had a majority in the Senate and House, a big chunk of those Dems were Blue Dogs who voted with Republicans as often as not. He never had a majority of progressives who supported him. So there have always been real and tangible limits to what he could accomplish, no matter what he did.
As for “demonizing the Right” — those people are demons, metaphorically speaking. There is no bottom to their nefariousness.
The public, having been fed a near-pure diet of right-wing propaganda since at least 1980, and I would argue longer than that, is leery of progressive policies. It’s less leery than it was ten years ago, as the financial crisis and subsequent economic hardships softened them up a lot. But progressives still have a lot of work to do to sell their agenda to the public.
I still run into lefties who honestly believe the country was ready to embrace single payer health care in 2009 and it was only President Obama who stood in the way. This is proof that it’s not just righties who live with their heads up their asses.
The truth is that there are big chunks of the country in which progressive voices are never heard except by those who go looking for them on the Internet. Public political news and discourse runs the gamut from Ross Douthat to Ted Cruz to Cliven Bundy. This is not to say that there aren’t folks in those places who might respond well to progressive ideas if they ever heard any. But until that happens, we don’t know.
I’ve been saying all along that it’s going to take a long game, several election cycles, and a lot of work to turn things around. That’s still true.
The priority right now is to be sure Dems keep the Senate, which is do-able. In this we should be following Elizabeth Warren:
Meanwhile Warren, the progressive elected the same time as Cruz, is touring the country campaigning for Democratic Senate candidates, even some who are more centrist than she is, like Kentuckyâ€™s Alison Lundergan Grimes and West Virginiaâ€™s Natalie Tennant. Sheâ€™s focused on growing the Democratic Party, not cutting down colleagues who are less progressive.
While packing the Senate with less-progressive Dems in order to hold on to it is not ideal, letting the GOP have it would be much worse.
It’s true that several gay-rights groups have withdrawn support from ENDA — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — but their reasons are understandable. They say the bill has been so carved-out and watered down as to be useless. And they’re probably right. I’m not seeing any objections from other lefties.
Wallis fools a lot of people because he presumes to speak for the religious Left, and he’s written some books, such as God’s Politics, that spoke against the influence of extremist right-wing religion in U.S. politics. But over the years it has become plain he is no progressive himself; he just plays one on the Tee Vee.
Actual progressive religious people such as Frederick Clarkson have been calling out Wallis’s bullshit for years. Here’s just one article about Wallis out of a whole lot of others at the website Talk to Action.
There was a time the word liberty actually meant “liberty.” Y’know, as in “the state or condition of people who are able to act and speak freely,” or “freedom from arbitrary or despotic control,” as it says in the dictionary. Between the baggers and the randbots, however, it now seems to refer to maintaining power over others, especially in the sense of being the despot in a despotic state or the privileged class in some feudal system.
For the dim, this new usage of liberty is, of course, a grand bait-and-switch. You might have heard of those guys in Germany several years back who called themselves the “national socialists” even though they hated socialism. Socialism was popular; co-opting the label was a good marketing strategy. Now liberty is the logo being used to package plutocracy, and it has been working pretty well.
Since coming to Congress, she co-sponsored a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, voted against bills that would protect the LGBT community from hate crimes and discrimination in the workplace, against the equal pay bill for women, against federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and she opposes legal abortions in the case of rape or incest (unless the motherâ€™s life is in danger). The Pensacola Christian College grad did, however, co-author a bill â€œrecognizing Christianityâ€™s importance to Western civilization.â€
By the old definition of the word, nothing at all in Rodgers’s background says “liberty.” Liberty, to the American founding fathers, was about empowering people to throw off the shackles of despotism, which is “a system of government in which a ruler has unlimited power.” Liberty in the Koch boy’s world, however, is the concentration of power in some dominant class, so that it freely may exploit everything and everyone else for its own enrichment.
Ames, for example, found some pretty nasty things lurking in old back issues of Reason:
And then thereâ€™s the uglier, darker side of the Kochsâ€™ libertarianism on display in Reasonâ€™s archives: the fringe-right racism and fascism that the movement has tried to downplay in recent years to appeal to progressives and non-loonie techies. Throughout its first two decades, in the 1970s and 1980s, Reason supported apartheid South Africa, and attacked anti-apartheid protesters and sanctions right up to Nelson Mandelaâ€™s release, when they finally dropped it.
In May 1976, just before the Soweto Uprising when South African police slaughtered hundreds of black youths â€” Reasonâ€™s South African correspondent, Marc Swanepoel repeated a common theme in Reasonâ€™s pages: libertarianism and the white race are one and the same:
â€œLet the people who advocate immediate majority rule in South Africa and Rhodesia take note. It would be very nice to have a minimal libertarian government and that is what South African libertarians would like to achieve. But as long as the choice is between being governed by a relatively informed white minority and a Socialist black majority, â€˜apartheidâ€™ in South Africa will stay.â€
Throughout the 1970s, Reasonâ€™s pages dripped with racist justifications for apartheid, on the racial-economic theory that whites stood for free market libertarianism and individual liberty, while blacks were genetically predisposed towards socialism and looting. Therefore, libertarians could not support majority rule, which was merely a trick to destroy libertarianism.
To be fair, it should be noted that many of the commenters accuse Ames of cherry picking and misrepresenting Reason. However …
There are different threads of libertarianism, of course. The Koch boys are mostly updated McKinley-era Gilded Agers. I’ve said before that Ron/Rand Paul libertarianism, or what might be thought of as the populist wing of the movement, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. President Eisenhower’s sending of troops to enforce a school desegregation order pulled all kinds of triggers in people who were not just racists and segregationists. These were people who had grown up listening to Grandpappy expound Gone-with-the-Wind revisionist history of Reconstruction, when Ulysses S. Grant sent troops (including colored regisments!) into the South to force white people to eat radishes (out of the gardens they still owned) or starve. The hardened attitude that “government oppression” is something only the federal government can do, while rooted in old “states’ rights” theory, lives and breathes today mostly because of the post-Brown v. Board of Ed period. This I have seen myself.
And then there’s this (emphasis added):
For Reasonâ€™s libertarians and pro-apartheid whites, this was the great tragedy that loomed: the loss of their free-market paradise, their â€œliberty,â€ to black majority rule. Majority rule and socialism were one and the same; for Reason, apartheid was the only thing safeguarding â€œliberty.â€ The logic was insane; but it was accepted as a matter of faith in the pages of Reason.
It’s important to never forget that libertarianism is, ultimately, anti-democratic and opposed to representative government, which some of us think of as the foundation of liberty. As Erik Kain wrote awhile back:
I donâ€™t want to live in Libertopia. And while libertarians may say they donâ€™t want to live in my welfare state either, at least I can say â€œThen go vote against it.â€ In Libertopia no such option would exist. That doesnâ€™t smell like freedom to me.
The Ames article is a Part I, and the Part II promises to be more about whether Koch-style libertarianism and Silicon Valley libertarianism really are that close of a match.
But while I’m on the subject …
I’m sure I complained about it at the time, but one of the most surreal things I ever found in Reason was a 2010 article titled The Truth About Tibetan Buddhism. If one did not know the real truth about Tibetan Buddhism one might think the author, Brendan O’Neill, had a point. Basically, O’Neill went to Lhasa and noted that Tibetans there didn’t seem happy, and assume this was because of Buddhism, not Chinese oppression.
He recounted an interview with a monk without noting that the monk would have been supplied by the local Communist Party. The interview couldn’t have happened otherwise. Indeed, any monk who was not a good Party member was rounded up and shipped out of Lhasa back in 2008. The monk repeats standard Chinese Communist Party revisionism about the role of the Dalai Lama in Tibetan Buddhism, which O’Neill accepts at face value.
He describes the temples in Lhasa as “golden Buddhas surrounded by wads of cash,” without mentioning that the these days the temples essentially are run by the Party as tourist attractions, and the monks are employees who run the temples under Party direction and live on stipends from the Party. (For the real truth about Tibetan Buddhism, see “The Disneyfication of Tibet” by Pearl Sydenstricker.)
For something like this to be in the allegedly anti-Communist Reason is, as I said, surreal. What’s actually going on in Tibet is big-government oppression on steroids, yet the words “China” or “Communist” did not appear in the piece at all. If Tibetans are being oppressed, it is only Buddhism oppressing them, O’Neill says.
Granted, O’Neill is a professional troll who writes really stupid things. But Reason published this. Reason allowed itself to be a conduit of Chinese Communist Party propaganda. Is this because they are so insulated from real oppression they no longer recognize it? Or is it because in their hierarchy of causes, weird Asian religions are worse than a totalitarian government that has been pretty good at making money in recent years, after all …
Consensus is settling on the belief that Malaysia Airlines 17 was brought down by Russian-backed Ukranian insurgents who believed it to be a Ukrainian military cargo jet. This audio tape is the chief evidence:
After more thorough investigation we may yet learn that something or someone else was responsible for the 298 deaths. However, the Guardian is reporting that the insurgents are destroying evidence.
A wildly messianic nationalist who cultivates an air of lumpy intrigue, [Igor] Strelkov has found his way to the battlefields of Chechnya, Serbia, and Transnistria. He is now helping to run the separatist operation in Donetsk. Like the radical nationalists and neo-imperialists in Moscow, who have easy access to the airwaves these days, Strelkov has a singular point of disagreement with Putin: the Russian President hasnâ€™t gone nearly far enough; he has failed to invade and annex â€œNovorossiya,â€ the separatist term for eastern Ukraine. Pavlovsky said that people like Strelkov and his Moscow allies are as delusional as they are dangerous, somehow believing that they are taking part in grand historical dramas, like the Battle of Borodino, in 1812, or â€œthe novels of Tolkien.â€
â€œStrelkov is well known for leading historical reÃ«nactments of Russian military battles, like you have in the States with the Civil War reÃ«nactors,â€ Pavlovsky said. â€œIt used to be a fantasy world for people like him, but now they have a realm for their imaginations.â€
In other words, they’re the Russian equivalent of the Cliven Bundy militia, armed with surface-to-air missiles. Josh Marshall wrote,
So that’s who you’re dealing with: some mix of civil war reenactor or Tea Partier decked out in revolutionary garb, with a mix of reckless aggression and comical incompetence. Here we have them break into nursing homes to photographs senator’s comatose wives; there Putin gives them heavy armaments designed for full scale land war in Europe.
There are a number of articles out today about why Putin is doing this. In brief, beside the fact that his ego is bigger than Russia, he’s also got ideas about nationalism that should have been left behind in the 19th century. His games in Ukraine also appear to have boosted his approval ratings among Russians.
And of course, on the GOP/Bagger American Right, the plane crashed because Obama.
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 Paulâ€™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 â€œillegal aliens suffering from diseases endemic in their countries of origin are being released into our communities.â€
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 â€œRuthlessâ€ said their objective it to â€œput up a man-fenceâ€ 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.
Since About.com shut down the blog section of my Buddhism site, and since I have a book to promote, I’ve started a new Rethinking Religion blog to focus on religious issues. I’ll still be ranting about politics here, of course. I’m cross-posting today because I thought you might like this one:
If you’ve read my book Rethinking Religion, you know how much I want reactionary Christians to stop trying to force the rest of us to bow to their tribal totems. If it were up to me, there’d be no Ten Commandments monuments or Nativity scenes on pubic property. No store clerk would ever be harassed for saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” There’s be no special legal favors for “Christian” corporations, no proselytizing anywhere, and separation of church and state would be global policy.
Although achieving this happily tolerant state won’t be easy and won’t happen in my lifetime, I think it could happen some day. But there’s a smart way to work toward a religiously tolerant world, and there’s the stupid way.
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For examples of stupid, see 5 atheist and Muslim billboards that drove the Christian right nuts at Salon. One is a large billboard with a picture of Santa Claus, captioned “Keep the MERRY.” Under that is Christ on the Cross, captioned “Dump the MYTH.” Another billboard reads “Who Needs Christ During Christmas? Nobody!” The name “Christ” is crossed out. These billboards were both sponsored by the group American Atheists.
The Salon article quotes American Atheist president David Silverman: â€œâ€œWe all love this time of yearâ€¦Christianity has been trying to claim ownership of the season for hundreds of years. But the winter solstice came first and so did its traditions. The season belongs to everybody.â€ I agree. I also think that’s what they should have said on their billboards — The season belongs to everybody. Ridiculing Jesus was unnecessary.
Seriously, atheist dudes, the Christian Right is not Jesus’ fault. The CR may have adopted Jesus as its team mascot, but it’s ignored his teachings for years. And seeing Jesus ridiculed is as jarring to Christians — including the tolerant, progressive ones — as watching their mothers being publicly humiliated.
This is not a way to win hearts and minds; it’s just a cheap self-indulgence.
Before buying any more billboard space, I suggest that American Atheists sit down and have a good, long think about what they are trying to accomplish. And then they should take a look at current research in cognitive science and social psychology to craft a smarter way to achieve their goals.
For example, is the goal (a) to wean humankind from religion completely? Or is it (b) to foster a society in which religion is respected as a private matter and not something we’re perpetually hassling each other about?
I can tell you right now (a) is not going to happen in your lifetimes. Or this century. Likely not in this millennia. Something that has been part of civilization since there has been civilization doesn’t disappear that easily. I’m not even going to try to persuade you that (a) wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing, although I don’t think it would be. I’m saying it’s a fool’s errand to even try.
If (b), now we’re talking. That is more do-able. And a lot of religious people, like me, would happily join you in the effort. Even then it won’t be easy, but I think enough people are getting fed up with the antics of religious extremists that a smartly run campaign might actually work.
“Smartly run” brings us to the cognitive science and social psychology. Google “motivated reasoning” and read up on it. Rmuse at Politics USA explains,
What results of the several studies demonstrate is that once a partisan is confronted with unwelcome facts about their beliefs, the centers of their brain associated with emotional distress light up and remain active until their defective brains â€œrationalize away the unwanted information.â€ According to one of the scientists conducting the studies, when conservatives and Christian zealots rationalize away unwanted information, the centers of their brains associated with positive feelings turn on and â€œoverlap substantially with those activated when drug addicts get their â€˜fix.â€™â€
The studies also prove that despite showing conservatives, Republicans, gun fanatics, and evangelical special interests facts, scriptures, and even video evidence that their strongly held beliefs are pure fantasy or absolutely wrong, conservative (and some liberal) brains automatically reject facts because they refute their personal beliefs. Research teams at Yale and Dartmouth discovered, for example, that highly skilled mathematicians will, more often than not, deliberately reach an incorrect answer if data leads to a conclusion that is contrary to their political worldview. There are myriad examples of conservatives and evangelical fanatics disputing hard data, the Constitution, and the Christian bible because they are programmed by conservativesâ€™ buzzwords, memes, and outright lies into believing their errant conclusions and faith are fact.
I doubt that surprises anyone, but do re-read the first paragraph of the excerpt. If your message is one that triggers a negative emotional reaction in most folks, including those who might be persuadable, you are hurting your cause more than helping it.
Negative attack ads work in elections — usually, anyway — because they can whip up enough low-information voters to vote against the guy the ads are attacking. Especially in a close election, just a few hundred voters can change the outcome.
But, dear atheists, you aren’t trying to be elected to a county commission. You’re trying to change society itself. That’s a whole ‘nother thing. And your “target audience,” the people whose minds you are trying to change, are not the hard-right religious extremists, because their minds will not change.
Your audience is everybody else, religious and not-religious.
Take a cue from same-sex marriage advocates. They are winning public opinion by engendering public sympathy. They are changing minds by presenting a positive image of themselves as loving, responsible and family oriented, not by bashing their opposition.
Years ago I formulated a basic rule for successful demonstrating that I call the “Bigger Asshole” rule. The job of public protesters is not to change the minds of the powerful people they are opposing, but to gain public sympathy for their cause. Especially in politics, the powerful won’t change until they are compelled to do so by a sufficient critical mass of public opinion saying they must.
So the job of protesters and demonstrators is to make the people they are protesting look like bigger assholes than they are. But if the protesters come across as bigger assholes than the protestees, the public will side with the establishment. And I assure you that, in terms of the Bigger Asshole rule, ridiculing Jesus is a losing strategy.
LGBT activists are winning public opinion by making gay-bashers look like the bigger assholes. And considering there’s a lot of overlap between homophobes and religious extremists, atheists ought to be able to do the same thing.
You must not miss this story about an Arizona Republican who was nearly weeping about the poor immmigrant being bused to a shelter — this is not compassion, he said — when he was informed that the bus was actually carrying local kids going to a YMCA camp. D’oh! But, y’know, I wish he’d been pressed to explain what would be compassionate, considering the children are here. Making them re-cross the Rio Grande under gunfire? The wingnuts weep crocodile tears for these children but coming up with no response but “deport them.”
And I must say I’m disappointed with Gov.Martin O’Malley, who doesn’t want children sent to a facility in Maryland, but I appreciate his reasons:
Oâ€™Malley told MuÃ±oz not to send any of the children to the facility in Westminster, Md., that the White House was looking at. Itâ€™s a conservative part of the state, he warned. The children were at risk of getting harassed, or worse, he said.
Gov. O’Malley’s aides say he’s looking for another facility that would be more suitable.
Republicans are nearly gleeful that they’ve finally found “Obama’s Katrina.” I’m not sure most Americans fully understand what’s going on, but I don’t think most Americas are yet so depraved they would throw refugee children into a meatgrinder to score political points. In time this could backfire on the GOP.
Thomas B. Edsall, who is even older than I am and definitely a geezer, writes that today’s young people might not grow up to be Democrats, after all. That’s because a new Pew Research poll says the young folks are more interested in personal and sexual autonomy than in economic inequality.
Geezer Dude: This is because they are young folks. You could have said the same thing about the Boomers when we were young folks, including the left-wing antiwar ones. Economic issues were not on our radar at all, as I remember. This was partly because the economy had been, on the whole, pretty sweet through most of our lifetimes, and we naively assumed nothing could screw that up. The 1960s- and early 1970s-era New Left was even opposed to labor unions, mostly because unions were run by old white guys who fought integration and badmouthed affirmative action, and partly because we didn’t appreciate what could happen without unions.
Teens and young adults are always primarily concerned about personal and sexual autonomy, because that’s the standard life phase associated with being a teen or young adult. It’s normal. If you’re still struggling with those things when you’re 50, though, that’s a problem.
Teens and young adults also may not yet fully appreciate how screwed up The System is and how everything is skewed to favor the socially and economically privileged. People who are privileged their entire lives often never learn that lesson, of course. They build on familial wealth and connections and consider themselves to be “self-made men” (or women).
Much of the Boomer generation was reasonably well insulated from real hardship in part because of the accumulation of wealth from the end of World War II to 1972, when it all peaked and started to slide backward. And even those of us who missed the economic security boat often were well into middle age before we realized our assumptions were wrong, that we were never going to catch up to where we expected to be, and that economic injustice is terribly and ruthlessly unjust, indeed. If anything, seems to me, the young folks are learning that lesson a whole lot sooner than we did.
In short, I seriously doubt a majority of today’s 20-somethings who aren’t already libertarian randbots will ever embrace some future warmed-over version of Reaganomics. While there is no way to predict where today’s 20-somethings will be when they are 50-somethings, I doubt it will be anywhere today’s Republicans want them to go.
They do all want to pretend the 1960s either never happened or that they can still be avenged against it (remember the brilliant campaign to get college students to burn their Obamacare cards?). Recently Re. Renee Ellmers (NC-R) actually said,
Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level. Many of my male colleagues, when they go to the House floor, you know, theyâ€™ve got some pie chart or graph behind them and theyâ€™re talking about trillions of dollars and how, you know, the debt is awful and, you know, we all agree with that … we need our male colleagues to understand that if you can bring it down to a woman’s level and what everything that she is balancing in her life â€” thatâ€™s the way to go.
The Congresswoman was born in 1964, Wikipedia says. This is the same year Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique.