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A Conservative Awakens

Michael Stafford is probably someone who I would vehemently disagree with on most things.

He was one of the soldiers of the Republican machine for most of his life — a member of the Federalist Society and an officer in a state Republican party — my ideological enemy.

In a piece on a website called The Cagle Post, however, he finally comes to terms with what the modern Republican Party is. And quits.

As a local GOP official after President Obama’s election, I had a front-row seat as it became infected by a dangerous and virulent form of political rabies.

In the grip of this contagion, the Republican Party has come unhinged. Its fevered hallucinations involve threats from imaginary communists and socialists who, seemingly, lurk around every corner. Climate change- a reality recognized by every single significant scientific body and academy in the world- is a liberal conspiracy conjured up by Al Gore and other leftists who want to destroy America. Large numbers of Republicans- the notorious birthers- believe that the President was not born in the United States. Even worse, few figures in the GOP have the courage to confront them.

Republican economic policies are also indefensible. The GOP constantly claims that its opponents are engaged in “class warfare,” but this is an exercise in projection. In Republican proposals, the wealthy win, and the rest of us lose- one only has to look at Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget to see that.

I still shake my head at the ideological blinders that allow someone like Stafford from seeing that this was a clear and inevitable progression from the policies and tactics of Reagan-era GOP foot soldiers.

Stafford’s piece does provide a small sense of relief that there are some people in the opposition who see the same things thoughtful citizens on all sides of the divide have been documenting and decrying for the last 30 years:

As Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein have written, “the Republican Party, has become an insurgent outlier—ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.” Its reckless behavior helps drive the political dysfunction crippling our nation.

In the end, it offers a dystopian vision of our future- a harsher, crueler and more merciless America starkly divided between the riders, and the ridden.

As opposed as I am to his ideas, I give Stafford props. He had the guts and a sense of personal integrity to quit — not an easy decision to make in a time when the most radical voices of the extreme far right are ascendant. A good number of elected officials who did not meet the Tea Party Litmus test have been steamrollered out of their jobs.

As someone whose ideas have evolved over the decades of my adult life — often through grudging consideration of ideas from my partisan opponents — I see no way in which this country can continue when one side is controlled by a rabid cadre of ideologues who will not compromise, listen to any form of reason, or countenance dissent.

Stafford’s personal choice gives me a tiny spark of hope that things may change.

-Chris

June 13, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Conservative Logic In Progress

Spot on.

Adam Strange on Conservative Logic

Justin Rosario at Addicting Info has an explanation for the ending of the video:

If you’re unfamiliar with the woman laying on the floor while the police step over her, her name was Anna Brown and she was left to die on the floor from am easily treatable condition. The hospital had her dragged away by the police because she was black and poor. Proof that not only do hospitals not always provide emergency care if they think they won’t get paid (they didn’t run a single test on her) but that there are death panels. Not the paranoid delusional ones of the right, but the very real ones brought about by the profit motive of our current system.

-Chris

April 11, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Journalist and correspondent Juan Williams spe...

Journalist and correspondent Juan Williams speaking at Chautauqua Institution in 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, I was browsing Andrew Sullivan‘s Dish today when I came across a post about Fox News commentator Juan WilliamsWall Street Journal piece
about the Trayvon Martin tragedy.

Apparently, Juan is utterly confused about why African-Americans never protest black-on-black violence.

Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic  takes Williams apart:

Why Don’t Black People Protest ‘Black-on-Black Violence’?

As Coates correctly points out,

This is an interesting question. It’s also one that Juan Williams, who’s been writing about race for almost three decades, should be able to answer. Moreover, Williams is an award-winning journalist. Should he not know the answer, it would suit him to do his job and find out.

No matter.

What follows are a number of videos of just such protests happening in the last decade around the country.

Example:

http://cdn.abclocal.go.com/static/flash/embeddedPlayer/swf/otvEmLoader.swf?version=&station=wls&section=&mediaId=7416989&cdnRoot=http://cdn.abclocal.go.com&webRoot=http://abclocal.go.com&configPath=/util/&site=

Either way you look at it, Williams should be ashamed of himself.

If he simply failed to check the resources available at his fingertips, he’s a embarrassment as a journalist.

If he was making assertions he knew would bring comfort to the elderly white Americans who make us the vast majority of Fox News viewers, then he’s a hack following the well-worn script of the far right:

In the world of many Republicans, racism evaporated in 1964 with the Civil Rights Act.

The only REAL racism in America is that practiced by the half-dozen members of the New Black Panther Party, which explains why Fox devotes countless hours to covering their shenanigans.

Like all right-wing meme hacks, Williams never lets facts get in the way of a good story.

-Chris

April 3, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quotes About Conservatives

Addicting Info posted this amusing list a few days ago:

33 Quotes About Conservatives/Republicans That Liberals Should Know About

My favorites:

1. “Today’s so-called ‘conservatives’ don’t even know what the word means. They think I’ve turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right. It’s not a conservative issue at all.”
~Barry Goldwater

and

18. “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
~John Kenneth Galbraith

-Chris

February 20, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Contraceptives And Religious Freedom

English: Picture Of Ortho Tri-Cyclen oral cont...

Image via Wikipedia

I have weighed in a few times on Facebook regarding the suddenly controversial contraceptive mandate and wasn’t going to go into it here.

After all, it’s the same old story of politicians on the right scrambling for a wedge issue to bash Obama with.

However, having read the magnificent piece by elder-statesman of the press Bill Moyers on Salon.com, I have to say –

Exactly:

Freedom of religion is freedom from religion

As Moyers details, Obama has responded brilliantly to the feigned outrage of the right by being — well — reasonable.

Now, Obama says insurance companies (not employers) will provide this coverage to those who want it for free. No employer will have sully their “conscience” by offering contraceptives to women in their health care plans.

This, of course, hasn’t satisfied the Catholic bishops, but the Republicans are mistaken if they think they have found in them a steadfast ally or a way to bring Catholic voters into their fold en mass:

But here’s what Republicans don’t get, or won’t tell you. And what Obama manifestly does get. First, the war’s already lost: 98 percent of Catholic women of child-bearing age have used contraceptives. Second, on many major issues, the bishops are on Obama’s side — not least on extending unemployment benefits, which they call “a moral obligation.” Truth to tell, on economic issues, the bishops are often to the left of some leading Democrats, even if both sides are loathe to admit it. Furthermore — and shhh, don’t repeat this, even if the president already has — the Catholic Church funded Obama’s first community organizing, back in Chicago.

Just to point out how deeply felt this principle of contraceptives and religious freedom is to the earnest members of the GOP, they recently held a press conference — with humorous results.

From Talking Points Memo:

GOPers Only Enraged By Birth Control Rule When Obama’s Pushing It

The lawmakers called a press conference rolling out the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act,” sponsored by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), a House version of the Roy Blunt bill. It’s aimed at making sure no objecting employer has to cover contraception in their health care plan (although it goes beyond that and lets them omit other services too).

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), a GOP leadership member, warned that the mandate will “reach in and manipulate the conscience of Americans.” He accused the President of “trampling precious First Amendment rights.”

After about 10 of them took turns issuing similar missives against the mandate, while dismissing Obama’s religious accommodation as a gimmick, I put the question to them: Would any of you refuse to support a presidential candidate who enacted a similar mandate?

You see, when GOP front-runner (who oddly keeps trailing at the ballot box) Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts he instituted RomneyCare, which mandates that ALL employers provide contraceptives as part of their employee plans.

If you couldn’t guess, none of these principled defenders of religious freedoms wanted to take a stand against Mitt, whose plan (following Obama’s recent modification) is now “worse” than the administration’s contraception provisions.

After pointing out that Republicans have already really lost this battle, and in a larger sense, the culture wars, Moyers brings it home:

So here we are once again, arguing over how to honor religious liberty without it becoming the liberty to impose on others moral beliefs they don’t share. Our practical solution is the one Barack Obama embraced the other day: protect freedom of religion — and freedom from religion. Can’t get more American than that.

Exactly.

-Chris

February 17, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Climate Change Deniers Caught Astroturfing

Scientific studies on climate helped establish...

Image via Wikipedia

You may have heard of “Climate Gate“, the totally fabricated non-scandal perpetuated by climate change deniers in an effort to discredit the scientists who actual study the very real phenomenon of Global Warming.

If not, the basic story is that hackers broke into the email server and stole hundreds of emails between climate scientists.

The hackers attempted to use the email out of context to try to show a conspiracy to hide the “truth” behind what they are trying to portray as the hoax of human-caused climate change.

They failed. Three inquiries into the emails found that the science therein is sound and does overwhelmingly support the conclusion that human activity is causing the world to warm up.

Now the shoe is on the other foot.

Hackers have stolen emails from an outfit called The Heartland Institute.

This oil industry front group, the emails show, has been paying scientists to preach the gospel that Global Warming is a lie.

A new Salon piece shows the scope of their attempts to drown out the actual science:

Secret papers turn up heat on global-warming deniers

Heartland, which bills itself as anti-regulatory and libertarian, annually produces climate change “denier” conferences and pays expenses for elected officials to attend. For example, the budget shows that Heartland allocated $304,704 for scientists supporting its contrarian views in 2012.

One of these scientists is Fred S. Singer, a physicist and National Weather Bureau satellite center founder, who is said to receive $5,000 a month. The same day as the document leak, a science watchdog named John Mashey released a detailed investigation into Singer and his Science and Environmental Policy Project, indicating that he failed to properly fill out income forms for the foundation. Singer has previously worked with Heartland arguing that secondhand smoke is harmless. One of Heartland’s funders, according to the documents, is Phillip Morris.

Other scientists, researchers and pseudo-scientists on the Heartland payroll include a former California TV weatherman, Anthony Watts, who runs an anti-climate change science blog called WUWT (Watts Up With That). Heartland budgeted him $90,000 for a “special project.”

On his blog yesterday, Watts admitted taking an unspecified sum:

Heartland simply helped me find a donor for funding a special project having to do with presenting some new NOAA surface data in a public friendly graphical form, something NOAA themselves is not doing, but should be. I approached them in the fall of 2011 asking for help, on this project not the other way around.

The Heartland budget allocates more than half a million dollars for “government relations” and another $800,000 for communications. Besides the big-budget annual climate conference, another $25,920 was budgeted for eight “Heartland Capital Events” identified as “events in state capitals for elected officials,” at $3,240 each.

Some of these documents may get the Astroturf organization into hot water with the feds — as a 501(c)(3) it is illegal for Heartland spend money to lobby for or against legislation, which some of the documents show it intended to do.

As climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, a scientist with NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies put it:

“The big issue is that they are using charitable status to lobby,” Schmidt asked. “They are not an educational outfit. They are doing this to influence legislators. To what extent is it appropriate for them to be filing nonprofit status?”

Organizations like Heartland are opening a war on many fronts; paying scientists to reach the conclusions they like, influencing legislation, and going after the reputations of scientists actually doing the science to determine what is going on in our warming world.

One document even shows the operation putting together programs to take into the schools to indoctrinate American children (Heartland only denies the authenticity of this one document that purports to outline the plan).

The one front they don’t seem to be part of is actually funding any actual scientific inquiry to provide evidence for their position.

That’s not surprising, as they are more than likely aware of the gargantuan mountain of peer-reviewed evidence that proves that their position is the lie.

-Chris

February 17, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s The Matter With Red States?

English: Protester seen at Chicago Tax Day Tea...

Image via Wikipedia

I didn’t catch this until after I posted previously about parasitic Red States — Paul Krugman is on point:

Moochers Against Welfare

Rick Santorum declares that President Obama is getting America hooked on “the narcotic of dependency.” Mr. Romney warns that government programs “foster passivity and sloth.” Representative Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, requires that staffers read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” in which heroic capitalists struggle against the “moochers” trying to steal their totally deserved wealth, a struggle the heroes win by withdrawing their productive effort and giving interminable speeches.

Many readers of The Times were, therefore, surprised to learn, from an excellent article published last weekend, that the regions of America most hooked on Mr. Santorum’s narcotic — the regions in which government programs account for the largest share of personal income — are precisely the regions electing those severe conservatives. Wasn’t Red America supposed to be the land of traditional values, where people don’t eat Thai food and don’t rely on handouts?

The article referenced by the columnist is:

Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It

For my part, I point out these things to underline the hypocrisy of the right-wing position and to puzzle about why people vote against their own self interests.

I know why these states receive more than they pay out in tax dollars — they are poorer than the other states. I really don’t begrudge them the safety net that they pay into as individuals (despite my hyperbolic suggestion at the end of the last post).

Krugman again:

Now, there’s no mystery about red-state reliance on government programs. These states are relatively poor, which means both that people have fewer sources of income other than safety-net programs and that more of them qualify for “means-tested” programs such as Medicaid.

But he also shares my confusion as to why people continue to vote for people who will screw them into poverty.

He offers three explanations:

1. The GOP exploits social issues like gay marriage, abortion and religion to whip people up.
2. The wealthy in red states tend to be very socially conservative, while the blue state affluent are socially liberal. These two groups drive the debate in their respective states.
3. Red state beneficiaries do not understand their place in the system, frequently stating in polls that they don’t benefit from the Federal government while at the same time receiving Medicaid/Medicare, Social Security, Welfare and Unemployment.

Regardless of the forces at work, the outcome is that a bunch of people are railing to end policies that they themselves benefit from; simply because they think these programs are only provided for the idle poor.

As stated in my previous post and as study after study has found, the beneficiaries of these programs are overwhelmingly elderly, poor and working folks who have paid into the system.

But with the economy starting to recover, unemployment slowly diminishing, and no ideas of their own to run on, Republicans are desperate for a boogeyman.

Like Reagan’s non-existent “Welfare Queens” of the 1980’s, the GOP needs a boogeyman to run against, and the strawman caricature of the secret Muslim socialist president has played out for most voters.

-Chris

February 17, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Benefits From Social Programs?

2008 popular vote by county. Brighter red repr...

Image via Wikipedia

 Despite right-wing rhetoric, it isn’t  lazy freeloaders in blue states.

The Center for American Progress site has an overlooked piece from December that demolishes those GOP talking points:

The Facts About Americans Who Receive Public Benefits

As it turns out, the majority of the folks who receive benefits from these programs are elderly, blind or disabled and have paid into the programs when they were working:

Within these social insurance programs, most of the participants have paid into them, through payroll taxes taken out of their own paychecks and through contributions paid on their behalf by their employers. Like private life or property insurance, everyone makes regular contributions with the expectation that when a certain event occurs (in the case of public benefits, that event could be retirement, disability, or temporary job loss), they will be protected and able to collect benefits they have paid for.

Conservatives focus on how the costs of these programs have grown over the past several decades, but so too have the public’s payments into them. Currently payments into social insurance programs represent an estimated 37 percent (or $807 billion) of federal receipts in 2011, compared to 17 percent (or $124 billion) in 1961 and 31 percent (or $455 billion) in 1981, including federal employees’ payments into their retirement accounts (the historical numbers are adjusted for inflation).

So, clearly the deadbeat able-bodied city-dweller on the dole is mostly a strawman.

When you look at the recent piece in Mother Jones, you should see why Republican politicians are so eager to direct fire away from the real culprits — the denizens of Red States:

Most Red States Take More Money From Washington Than They Put In

As a recent New York Times article documents, even as fiscally conservative lawmakers complain about deficit spending, their constituents don’t want to give up the Social Security checks, Medicare benefits, and earned income tax credits that provide a safety net for the struggling middle class.

This gap between political perception and fiscal reality is also reflected in the distribution of tax dollars at the state level: Most politically “red” states are financially in the red when it comes to how much money they receive from Washington compared with what their residents pay in taxes.

Here is the list of the states receiving the most federal tax money versus their tax payments:

1. New Mexico: $2.63
2. West Virginia: $2.57
3. Mississippi: $2.47
4. District of Colombia: $2.41
5. Hawaii: $2.38
6. Alabama: $2.03
7. Alaska: $1.93
8. Montana: $1.92
9. South Carolina: $1.92
10. Maine: $1.78

I bolded and underlined the blue states above.

Of all of the red states, only three paid more than they took in: Arkansas, Nebraska and Texas.

On the blue side, 14 blue states paid more than they received.

Take a look at the interactive map on the Mother Jones page. Keep in mind that they defined “blue state” as any state that went for Obama in 2008 and “red states” are those that went for McCain/Palin.

For example, taxpayers in the “blue states” of Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada and New Mexico each took more than they paid in federal taxes.

So clearly there is an inequality here — but if there are freeloaders, they aren’t the ones being targeted by the GOP frontrunners and propaganda machines.

It seems that the people who most resentful about government waste and overspending on social programs are those who are receiving the largess.

In other words, the real “blue states” like New York and California foot the bill for the Tea Party crybabies in Missouri, Arizona, Utah and Alaska.

Maybe we should limit federal payments to states to what they actually pay into the system. That might take care of some of the burgeoning deficit that Republicans suddenly became concerned with when they lost the White House in 2008.

-Chris

February 17, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Poor Pay No Taxes Myth

Poverty

Poverty (Photo credit: Teo's photo)

This is a trope you continue to hear from mentally diminished Fox parrots.

They argue that since the middle class and wealthy and pay income taxes, all those poor people who pay no income taxes are getting a free ride.

Wrong.

A new study of state taxes from the Corporation for Enterprise Development  shows that the poor pay a much higher percentage of their income in taxes — sometimes six times more than the parasitic caste (thanks David Brin) that makes up the top 1%.

The Assets and Opportunity Scorecard breaks down by state what the tax rate burden is for both the top 1% and the poorest 20%.

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones has taken the data and created an enlightening table:

Soaking the Poor, State by State

The most fair places to live? Washington, DC, Vermont, South Carolina and New York.

The most unequal? Nevada, South Dakota, Florida and Washington state.

On average (Mississippi) the poor pay twice as much in all taxes than the extremely wealthy.

February 7, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Failed Economic Arguments Won’t Die

Any American who is thinking about voting in November should have a firm grasp of the economic arguments the candidates are making.

The Republicans are all pushing supply-side, top-down economics, which HAS NEVER BEEN SHOWN TO WORK.

Voodoo economics is alive and well in American, despite failing to prevent or curtail the current downturn.

The wealthy are taxed less than they have been in my lifetime, and none of the “trickle-down” benefits have yet made an appearence.

President Obama is firmly in the Keynesian camp, and despite some acknowledged problems, this was the model that got us out of the last Depression and paved the way for a half century of prosperity in America.

David Brin lays it all out in a brilliant post:

Must the Rich be Lured into Investing? Who are the Real “Job Creators?”

Also see his:  A Primer on Supply-Side vs Demand-Side Economics

My favorite bit of irony from Brin’s primer is that Supply-Side Economics (SSE) is a Marxist idea:

Interestingly, the most famous proponent of this approach was Karl Marx, who maintained that the owner-capitalist class propels industrial development by re-investing profits in plants and equipment, thus building up society’s capital stock and the means of production. SSE is, in that respect, an entirely Marxist theory.

Of course, Marx then looked farther ahead. He hypothesized an eventual “completion” of this capital-formation process, a final phase when all the factories are finished – an image we now find ludicrous, since productive capacity must be updated at an accelerating pace. (Hence there will always be a need for capitalists.) Still, it seems kind of sad that SSE supporters won’t ever acknowledge this fundamental root of their theory. They do not study their ideological forebear. Nor do they try, as Marx did, to extrapolate where their prescription may eventually lead.

In the new post on the investment incentive of cutting taxes on the wealthy, Brin does a lengthy takedown of the underpinnings of SSE

Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Image via Wikipedia - Father of Supply Side

and compares it to the actual success of the Keynesian approach:

What we need in this depression – and by most of the metrics it has been a depression, not a recession – what’s needed is what ended the last one. The circulation of high velocity money that goes hand to hand very quickly, generating economic activity with every transaction. Not the exact opposite, money that sits in portfolios, not helping capitalize industry but simply fostering the aggrandizement of a parasitic caste. One of the founding father of free enterprise – Adam Smith himself – quite despised.

“All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. As soon, therefore, as they could find a method of consuming the whole value of their rents themselves, they had no disposition to share them with any other persons.”

So, for some reason we have an uphill struggle against proponents of an idea that has failed spectacularly on many occasions. Meanwhile a tried and true approach to getting the economy roaring is mocked and relagated to the status of “liberal fantasy”.

With the current example of failed European austerity policies (in the place of government spending), you would think that most people who pay attention would begin to understand that the “parasitic caste” that Brin describes is pulling the wool over people’s eyes.

-Chris

February 7, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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