The constant debate is whether politicians and commentators who say patently ridiculous things in the public square actually believe what they say. Whether execrable clowns like Beck, Limbaugh and the other shills of the conservo-GOP propaganda machine believe what they say is not important, because like all demagogues, they’re looking to rile up the weakest minds with the shortest fuses to parrot their nonsensical rhetoric, loudly (and buy their merch)!

The line between those performers and elected officials that quote Jesus to justify hate, or misstate the laws of economics, have been blurred because they too want those ratings, in the form of contributions to ones PAC, names on a donor list, and yes, buy their merch!

The greater question is how is it that given the empirical reality that everyone can see, how is it that so many adhere to ideological beliefs that do not stand up well when faced with the real world?

How do conservatives so internalize the religious and patriarchal traditions so that despite the success of women, and the women they personally know, they still believe they have to protect women from themselves?

In a country with such strong fundamentalist religious traditions like America, we all know people who grew up in religious, patriarchal families with beliefs that feel medieval. Some of those people grow up, face a world that does not fall neatly into the emotional and intellectual cubby holes carved out by their religious training and evolve. And some never do. Like in “Footloose” some people will figure out that rock and roll and dancing don’t compromise you morally, and some never will stop believing in their inherent immorality.

Religious conservatives simply persist in believing what they learned when they were comforted by religion, whether when they were children, or when they were “saved.” So in small, homogenous, rural towns everywhere, but especially in the South and Midwest, you find people who grew up in a tradition, never moved away to have a broader experience, never confronted by opposing viewpoints, except in the media. But that media comes from the sinful big cities on the coasts. They’re liberal, Jewish, secular, homosexual – you can’t trust them. They’re not the real America. And they’re probably influenced by the Devil. They dance to rock and roll.

Because I’ve never lived in such a small homogenous place, I’ve known every type of person possible. Including religious fundamentalists. Also, because of where I met them, in most cases the religious fundamentalists I’ve known were not raised that way. They came to it in adulthood  because they had led shitty lives till then. They grew up secular. They grew up poor. They grew up in very questionable circumstances with parents that did not comfort them. They fell into sin, in their parlance. And then they were “saved.” And just as if they had been raised in a small town in Kansas they became John Lithgow in Footloose. 

Now I’ve known other people who fell into fundamentalism in the course of their lifelong search for a religion. They just kept spinning the wheel and moving from faith to faith, always seeking a new set of ethos that comforted them, temporarily.  

But mostly what I’ve seen is people who lied, stole, were promiscuous and dishonest, and adopted a worldview that held that everyone lies, everyone steals, everyone is promiscuous, everyone is dishonest – no one is to be trusted. They were all ready to accept that they are sinners, everyone is a sinner. But they are forgiven (what a relief). They can change and they can be saved. They fall into a community of people who seem kind, and it is often the first time in their hard lives they have felt kindness. 

Besides being forgiven, they learn that it is only God/Jesus that can keep you straight. Through Bible study and tithing, and service to the Church community they can have the kind of lives they dreamed of – real American lives. They cocoon themselves in their Church and accept it’s teachings as Gospel.  So at that point, like any cult, they are at the mercy of how connected to reality or willing to distort it to their ends their church is.

The American conservative movement, in conjunction with the fundamentalist churches have created a mythology that works perfectly together. In short, like I said earlier, we believers are the only ones that have truth, can be trusted, are real Americans. Everything that comes from sources that are not us (ie. liberal media), are at best unreliable sources and are probably inspired by evil. They live in a world that combines the Bible with Norman Rockwell 1950s America. White, male led families are the fulcrum of life. Everyone else needs to know their place. Even white females would do better to let the men do the thinking.

Obviously not everyone can think this way. It’s not just that we weren’t raised this way, it’s that we aren’t constitutionally amenable to such undemocratic and religiously inspired mythological belief. But those people who are inclined to think this way are very difficult to deprogram or even enter into fair-minded debate with. They’ve armored themselves against opposing viewpoints, creating an alternative conservative media that encompasses Fox News, talk radio, certain online outlets, that constantly reinforce their beliefs, filtering out the conflicting information, and rationalizing the failures of the belief systems and its avatars. 

So conservatism never fails, people fail conservatism. The Founding Fathers were Christian Republican conservatives who did not believe in the separation of church and state. Progressives are racists for their pandering to get minority votes while conservatives exhibit their color blindness and fairness by not helping anyone. Bush won Florida. Reagan never raised taxes. Budgets need to be balanced like in households. Homosexuality is sin. Abortion is murder.

And there is no compromise on these things because they’re not politics, they’re faith. There’s no dancing here.

Same Supreme Court That Couldn’t See Any Potential Problems with Citizen’s United Faceplants Again

Five members of the Supreme Court (Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, Alito and Kennedy) in 2010 looked at the democracy strangling dysfunction of the Swiss cheese-like, nearly unlimited, campaign finance scheme of the time and decided that the answer was even more freedom of speech for elderly billionaires – a veritable bacchanalian orgy of money. They could not imagine that declaring unlimited money the perfect amount of money and very little disclosure just enough could be deleterious to a republic that aspires to democracy. Alito famously mouthed “not true” when Obama called out the Fab Five’s decision during his State of the Union address. Alito, Scalia and Company are the anti-Cassandras. They couldn’t see the future even 3 seconds in front of them. Could not imagine what has always fucking happened when the wealthiest people in society are allowed to buy politicians like so many bottles of Johnny Walker Blue to get literally drunk with power on. Their reasoning was so egregiously shitty that they might as well have announced that Jesus so obviously loves the wealthy, who are we to not help them too?

The Roberts Five brought that same mighty intellect to the Voting Rights Act and once again they can… not… imagine that the elimination of some modicum of oversight over jurisdictions that have continuously tried to undermine the very idea of every adult citizen’s right to vote might not work out so well. I mean, just because the Justice Department has had to step in 74 times since 2000 to stop violations of the 15th amendment by invoking the VRA does not mean it would ever happen again! Florida, Texas and Alabama were just horsing around. Good old boys will be good old boys.

I’m no constitutional scholar like Antonin Scalia, but it seems to me that the 15th amendment is pretty clear that Congress has the power to enforce such amendment (Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.) So what do you do if you’re on the Supreme Court and you hate the Voting Rights Act? You ignore Section 2 of the 15th amendment, which would deny you the right to deny Congress’s ability to pass and reauthorize the Voting Rights Act. You ignore the dozens of attempts to inhibit people’s ability to vote by the jurisdictions covered by the VRA and claim “it’s a different time, it’s not 1965” (which is true, it’s not 1965 any more, hasn’t been since 1965, but Shelby County, Alabama still acts as if Petula Clark and the Beatles are playing on the radio). And lastly you have to, once again, use the mighty power of blindness. Shutting your eyes and humming so you can’t see or hear unpleasantness is a prerequisite to high court excellence.    

Miami is Doomed, it’s Not a Matter of If. It’s a Matter of When – as a Jets Fan I’m Not Unhappy

I know it’s sick and all to applaud the inevitable disappearance of an entire American city, I know. But it’s Miami. It’s Florida. It’s hard to get too upset. It’s the Dolphins, the Marlins, South Beach. Would we miss it? Jeff Goodell in Rolling Stone tells the story:

The reason climate change dooms Miami is a combination of sea level rise, the inevitability of ever more severe storms and storm surges — and its fateful, fatal geology and topology, which puts “more than $416 billion in assets at risk to storm-related flooding and sea-level rise”:

With just three feet of sea-level rise, more than a third of southern Florida will vanish; at six feet, more than half will be gone; if the seas rise 12 feet, South Florida will be little more than an isolated archipelago surrounded by abandoned buildings and crumbling overpasses. And the waters won’t just come in from the east – because the region is so flat, rising seas will come in nearly as fast from the west too, through the Everglades.

Add to that the sink hole problem – ever notice how many sink holes happen in Southern Florida? The geology is a Swiss cheese of lime stone. Water flows in and around it freely leaving the ground soft.

You would never know it from looking at Miami today. Rivers of money are flowing in from Latin America, Europe and beyond, new upscale shopping malls are opening, and the skyline is crowded with construction cranes. But the unavoidable truth is that sea levels are rising and Miami is on its way to becoming an American Atlantis. 

Now New York City is also in danger of sea level rise, as we saw with Sandy. But NY is on top of it while Miami is fiddling while the planet burns.

“South Florida doesn’t have the power of New York,” says Daniel Kreeger, the South Florida-based executive director of the Association of Climate Change Officers. “We don’t have any major cultural institutions, we don’t have Wall Street, we don’t have any great universities. The unpleasant truth is that it will be all too easy for the rest of the nation to just let South Florida go.”

Honestly, would we miss it? 

Volkswagen Officials Stand Up For Their TN Workers – Danke!

VW has 60 plants around the world and the only one that does not have a works council that represents labor with plant management is their Chattanooga, TN plant. An expansion of that plant is being held up by VW management in Germany because of that lack of representation. Germany has maintained a very high union density largely because labor is constitutionally represented on the boards of German companies. Such strong union protections have kept Germany from falling victim to the ravages of globalization and outsourcing. 

A German newspaper reported that VW Group deputy council chief Stephan Wolf said, “We will only agree to an extension of the site or any other model contract when it is clear how to proceed with the employees’ representatives in the United States.”

The UAW is trying to get a foothold in this plant and is being supported by the German management of the company. The answer to who is against this and how many tacos are they short of a combo meal is predictable, respectively TN politicians and several tacos short are the right answers.

On Friday, Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd, a past critic of UAW efforts, wouldn’t comment on the works council.

But he said the union has “a horrible track record in North America” and that “they virtually put Detroit out of business.”

“The taxpayers of Tennessee have invested over $554 million,” Boyd said, citing the cost of tax incentives provided by state and local governments to gain the Chattanooga plant. “The UAW hasn’t invested a dime.”

Right, it was the unions that have decimated Detroit. Those ghost towns that used to be Detroit suburbs were caused by the workers all moving to Mexico? It wasn’t management making  horrendous business decisions or shoddy engineering or health care costs driving up the price of lousy cars, it was the commie unions who hate jobs. Thanks County Commissioner Boyd for standing up for proving once again that the mentally challenged can win elections. And nice touch noting the UAW’s lack of investment in the plant that your government banned them from any involvement in – that’s what we smart people call a straw man nice use of a grown up debate tactic.

This spring, VW’s board member in charge of human resources globally said the automaker was talking with the UAW about setting up a German-style works council at the Tennessee plant. It would be the first U.S. auto plant to have such a labor board, experts have said.

The step also would provide a much-sought-after foothold by the UAW at a U.S. auto plant owned by a foreign automaker.

The Chattanooga Chamber and Republican Gov. Bill Haslam have criticized the effort, saying the UAW isn’t needed.

Hopefully, VW shames BMW, Mercedes and Audi to likewise afford the same protections to their third world workers in the American south that they give to their German workers. We saved the Germans from fascism once, it’s their turn to save us.

Connie Schultz – GOP Abortionpalooza Making More Democrats

Connie Schultz notes the puzzlement that she gets from average people about the GOP’s wacky abortion fetish.

I was a bit surprised when the Q & A portion of our program turned so quickly to women’s reproductive rights, as in: Why are Republicans still screwing around with them?

I expect such spirited discussions in big cities and even midsize towns, but until recently, I wasn’t on the receiving end of this righteous indignation in places such as rural Ohio.

It’s not that they’re all suddenly pro-choice; it’s more that they’re feeling forced to declare themselves pro-woman. Despite the election defeats in 2012, the majority of Republican legislators apparently still think it’s a good idea to rally the worst among us — they call them their “base” — by trafficking in superstition, misogyny and outright lies to endanger the lives of our daughters. Hence, we have the U.S. House of Representatives’ latest, most extreme anti-abortion bill — called, in the absence of scientific proof, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act — which is bound to go nowhere.

This remembrance from her days as editor of her college newspaper made me laugh out loud:

We decided on several front pages to the topic. It was a birth control extravaganza, complete with diagrams, photographs and detailed instructions on how to prevent unplanned pregnancies. For weeks, we were inundated with phone calls and letters, many from outraged parents who apparently believed that their children planned to spend their four years of college holed up like monks in their dorm rooms.

Thirty-four years later, I still recall one particular father’s call. “You listen here, young lady,” he shouted into the phone. “I will never let my daughter stick an IUD up her rectum.”

“Good for you,” I said, “’cause that’s not where it goes.”

In 1979, that father sounded like an uninformed loon.

Today, he could be a Republican member of Congress.

Progress- Citizen’s United Amendment Introduced in the Senate

Has it been 7 days since my last post? I usually only stretch Father’s Day to a long tequila soaked weekend but I suppose a new precedent has been set. Take that liver!

Sens. Tester and Udall each proposed amendments on Tuesday the 19th of June to address the ravages of the Citizen’s United ruling and unlimited dark money in politics.  This follows on the 15 states and the District of Columbia who have voted to support an amendment.

Tester introduced an amendment that would end corporate personhood rights, overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Tester’s measure is similar to the “People’s Rights Amendment” that Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) introduced in the House. Udall’s bill would give Congress and the states the ability to limit spending in election campaigns, similar to another McGovern bill in the House.

Money and gerrymandering are the prime culprits in the slow lingering death of American democracy.  The two not so easy steps to get us back to the experiment in democracy that started in 1776 and continued until around 1980 are

  1. declare that corporations are not people and money is not speech; and
  2. end gerrymandering by party affiliation creating safe noncompetitive seats in Congress.

I’ve talked about Item 1 until I’m, blue in the face, which goes great with my nice Tommy Hilfiger shirt and makes my blue eyes really pop (so I’m told).

Item 2 is just as important because right now all those “safe” seats mean that the holders of those seats do not have to worry about a challenge from the other party. Nope. Because their districts are set up to be predominantly populated by people from their party, all they have to fear is a primary challenge. Which means that are compelled to placate the far extremes of their party and pretty much ignore just about everybody else to keep their phony baloney jobs. That is what is driving the GOP further off the edges of the Earth.

Theoretically this mechanism should be driving the Democrats further left too.  Some would say the Blue Dog Democrat is on the endangered list because of it but that’s not true. The Blue Dogs are dying out because, for the most part, they’ve competed with Republicans by trying to our-Republican them and we all know that if the choice is between a real Repub and a fake Repub, they’re going to choose the real one. Like butter over margarine – every time.

Ideologically, at this time there just is no real true radical leftist agenda that compares with the radical right wing agenda that oozes from every aspect of the political debate. See this post for that discussion.

Washington NFL team hires propagandist Frank Luntz to help defend their name

For purposes of this piece the Washington NFL team shall be known as the Racist Slurs.

Salon’s Alex Pareen makes the point that when you have to hire Frank Luntz to help you defend your team’s name then you already know your position is indefensible and you need to just change it.

The Washington DC-area NFL franchise has commissioned veteran Republican pollster Frank Luntz to conduct some focus groups to see how American football fans feel about the franchise’s name, which is a vile racial slur.

…he is basically Fox News and the House Republicans’ message-crafter-in-residence. He renamed the estate tax “the death tax.” He told the GOP to refer to Democratic healthcare reform as “a Washington takeover” and financial reform as a “big bank bailout bill.”

I’m always amazed that the a team name like the Racist Slurs can exist. I’m more on the fence about names like the Chiefs, Braves and Indians which could be seen as honoring Native Americans (although the Cleveland logo (below) is ridiculous), but I don’t get to make that call. If the team names were the Heebs, the Kikes, the Good with Moneys or the Rabbis I’d probably see them all as anti-semitic. 


The Cleveland Indian’s logo. Come on! How is that okay?

The Washington Racist Slur’s history is informative:

This Washington football team was named by one of the most vehement racists in the history of American professional sports. When George Marshall bought the team in 1932, they were called the Boston Braves. He changed the name — to a slur, because he was a racist — and moved them to Washington. He made “Dixie” one of the team’s fight songs and refused to hire black players well into the 1960s. The NFL integrated in 1946 but Marshall’s team held out until the federal government actually forced them to field black players in 1963. The all-white Washington teams of the 1950s and 1960s were among the worst in the league, but segregation was more important to Marshall than winning football games. The NFL had actually already been racially integrated until black players were suddenly banned in 1933. Interviews with owners suggest that Marshall was responsible for the ban.

It’s time to change it.  Really.

Leonard Pitts, Jr. – We’re Surrendering Our Civil Liberties

The always read worthy Leonard Pitts, Jr.:

It will not be with guns.

If ever tyranny overtakes this land of the sometimes free and home of the intermittently brave, it probably won’t, contrary to the fever dreams of gun rights extremists, involve jack-booted government thugs rappelling down from black helicopters. Rather, it will involve changes to words on paper many have forgotten or never knew, changes that chip away until they strip away precious American freedoms.

I feel that Mr. Pitts is like me in that the particulars of the NSA programs are troubling but maybe not run to the ramparts troubling. More troubling is that so many Americans are not troubled at all. It’s all okay, nothing to see here, don’t even have to think about this one. That includes the Republicans that were okay when Bush did it and the Democrats that are okay now with their guy in the big chair.

Having watched the HBO documentary on Pussy Riot, the Russian punk band/performance artist /provocateurs that were arrested on charges of “giving offense” and “hooliganism”, two of whom  languish in a Russian jail today, one gives thanks for our Bill of Rights, system of justice and tradition of civil liberties. The 1st and 4th amendments were revolutionary when they were written and adopted and above everything else in the new Constitution and the soon added Bill of Rights, instrumental in making America the land of the free.  It’s at least worth a little consideration, a little time away from the NBA Finals or the Voice to make sure we’re not eroding one of the very real bulwarks given us against real-ass tyranny (as opposed to fake-ass tea party tyranny that is as easy to summon as banning Big Gulps).

Maybe it’s because we’re so used to these freedoms that we take them for granted. Watching three young Russian women go to jail, for years, for performing a song in a church is a reminder of what the architects of the Constitution had seen as routine in the world in their time and wanted to change.  

Maybe we don’t even know what civil liberties are any more.  I realize now that the idiot reflexive Obama defenders on Twitter who keep calling Glenn Greenwald a “libertarian”, which he is certainly not, have mistaken that term for “civil libertarian”, which he and many of my heroes most certainly are!  Have we completely lost the idea of fighting to defend the Constitution against the erosions of “precious American freedoms” that will always be attempted by the powers that be?    

We should know this, yet we fall for the same seductive con every time: We are afraid, but the state says it can make us safe. And all it will take is the surrender of a few small freedoms.

It makes you want to holler in frustration, especially since the promise is so false. Yes, the state can interdict a given terrorist plot, but even if it took every last freedom we have, it could not guarantee complete security. That is a plain truth with which we must make peace.

We will never be “safe.” But we just might, if we have the courage, be free.

So yeah, sigh, what Ben Franklin said: Those who can give up Essential Liberty to obtain a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Libertarianism: the indefensible dream

Conservatism, especially today’s brand of conservatism which is more of a radical populism (aimed at the nostalgic older white male who happens to own a confederate flag), is only the second most provably wrong headed political philosophy circulating in the idea pool today. Libertarianism has always struck me as the least credible, least defensible, most nonsensical philosophy, wielded by smug pseudo intellectuals who confidently, and generally soooo humorlessly, find that they can analyze every issue to within an inch of its life in order to prove that both the conservatives and the liberals are, sadly,  fatally flawed in their thinking about everything. Which leaves them, the humble libertarian, the only ones with the real answers. God bless them they are always the smartest person in the room (and we all know from “Broadcast News” how awful that is) despite the stupid fucking things they say.

Michael Lind in Salon asked the big question (no, not the “When did you decide to be straight?” question that lays homophobes to waste): if libertariansm is so bloody wonderful, why is there no country on earth that has ever tried it

Why are there no libertarian countries? If libertarians are correct in claiming that they understand how best to organize a modern society, how is it that not a single country in the world in the early twenty-first century is organized along libertarian lines?

It’s not as though there were a shortage of countries to experiment with libertarianism. There are 193 sovereign state members of the United Nations—195, if you count the Vatican and Palestine, which have been granted observer status by the world organization. If libertarianism was a good idea, wouldn’t at least one country have tried it? Wouldn’t there be at least one country, out of nearly two hundred, with minimal government, free trade, open borders, decriminalized drugs, no welfare state and no public education system?

Ooh, ooh I know why. Because when libertarianism comes up against the reality of governing nobody in their right mind chooses it open borders, no public schools, deregulation. They might choose the free decriminalized drugs, but that’s about it. Business people might like it because it would allow them to accumulate whatever wealth they can by the abundance of wit and the absence of conscience.

Lacking any really-existing libertarian countries to which they can point, the free-market right is reduced to ranking countries according to “economic freedom.” Somewhat different lists are provided by the Fraser Institute in Canada and the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Libertarianism is so seductive to the simplistic thinking of youth – minimal government, economic freedom (does this sound familiar?) but it discounts the community, the unfortunate, the disenfranchised. What do you do with them?  “Let ’em die!” as a GOP debate audience shouted at Ron Paul?  

E.J. Dionne looked at Lind’s article and saw the similarities with the tea party and their hypocrisy.

The strongest political support for a broad anti-statist libertarianism now comes from the Tea Party. Yet Tea Party members, as the polls show, are older than the country as a whole. They say they want to shrink government in a big way but are uneasy about embracing this concept when reducing Social Security and Medicare comes up. Thus do the proposals to cut these programs being pushed by Republicans in Congress exempt the current generation of recipients. There’s no way Republicans are going to attack their own base.

But this inconsistency (or hypocrisy) contains a truth: We had something close to a small government libertarian utopia in the late 19th century and we decided it didn’t work. We realized that many Americans would never be able to save enough for retirement and, later, that most of them would be unable to afford health insurance when they were old. Smaller government meant that too many people were poor and that monopolies were formed too easily.

Right. We got as close as we’ll ever get (fingers crossed) to a libertarian utopia in the Gilded Age and it was the injustices and inequalities caused by those policies that gave rise to the Muckrakers, the progressives, the Wobblies and labor unions, the New Deal and the Great Society. They were the answers we came up with in our democracy to rectify the rampant problems in society caused by conservative/libertarian policies.

This matters to our current politics because too many politicians are making decisions on the basis of a grand, utopian theory that they never can — or will — put into practice. They then use this theory to avoid a candid conversation about the messy choices governance requires. And this is why we have gridlock.

Actually E.J. you’re being generous. Much of what libertarians and tea party conservatives espouse had been tried, not on purpose really, but as part of past, less civilized, less enlightened societies. Because while today’s libertarians portray themselves as sophisticates, their ideas are derived from the savage, dog eat dog world of the exploiters and the exploited that we evolved away from. These ideas were deemed to be excessively cruel and inhumane, wanting in the areas of justice and humanity and incompatible with the spirit of our democracy. They were discarded for the social democracies of today, as we discarded gas lamps, whale oil, buggies and outdoor privvies.

Libertarinism should likewise be flushed down history’s crapper.

NYC Restaurant Sushi Yasuda Pays Workers a Living Wage – so no tipping

Hat tip to The Price Hike blog for this story about Sushi Yasuda, It’s one of a small but hopefully growing handful of restaurants in the country that have eliminated tipping by paying their wait staff a living wage.

  • “Following the custom in Japan, Sushi Yasuda’s service staff are fully compensated by their salary. Therefore gratuities are not accepted. Thank you.”

Let’s hope this is a trend for the 21st century.