Tag: Republican Revolution II

Thoughts in October 2014: Flu Vaccines, Political Example-Stories, Confederate Ghosts in the Fog, and Mobile, Alabama memories

Posted by – October 29, 2014

“Down in Mobile they’re all crazy, because the Gulf Coast is the kingdom of monkeys, the land of clowns, ghosts and musicians, and Mobile is sweet lunacy’s county seat.”—Eugene Walter

So I was in Mobile, AL, a port city as complex as it is old, the Confederacy’s “undefeated” city, and my hometown, and I move from the Fox News in the pulmonologist’s office to the Fox News in the psychologist’s office.
It’s late 2004. George W. Bush already won reelection and both camels of Congress are firmly Republican-controlled. This is a red state epicenter, and the receptionist slowly shakes her head at all the evils of them dadgum liberals in Washington.

The Fox News reporter on screen is in Iraq, sandy winds off the desert dunes whip his polo shirt’s sleeves back, and he tries to keep his pencil-like physique upright as he shoves his big fuzzy Fox News-emblazoned microphone into soldiers’ faces. He was asking almost Colbert-like questions of the desert camo-wearing Army men, like how much have Senate Democrats harmed the war effort? and do you think the recent comments of Senate Democrats constitute treason?

More than one serviceman laughed the guy off.  None of them knew what comments Democrats had made. The questions were totally removed from the Army’s mission in Iraq and mostly seemed the ramblings of another clueless civilian or rear guard patriot.  Really apparent was the complete disconnect from the composition of government: Republicans unified the federal elected bodies and the executive branch under their control from 2002 and gained even biggier majorities in the 2004 elections, but it sounded like the Senate Democrats ran everything on Fox News.  The ever-present librul conspiracy is all-powerful and ALWAYS the problem.

This idea of eternal opposition is easy to understand in the undefeated city, our lady of perpetual defiance. This I understand easily, the rebellion is deeply ingrained in Mobilians’ DNA. Over time, surrounded by Confederate ghosts (some of them your relatives) and architecture, the big bronze Admiral Raphael Semmes statue looking at you, marinating in that culture and place and tripping over its ghosts in the lit beams of fog, you start to understand that the port cities have a different narrative from that of the plantationocracy, that for the urban South it’s more utopian.

Standing figure of Admiral Raphael Semmes. He wears confederate attire, including a long coat which extends to his knees, and a cap on his head. His left arm is bent so that his fist rests on his hip, with sword hanging immediately behind. His right arm is at his side with binoculars in his hand. Erected in 1899, the bronze aged to deep green long ago like the Statue of Liberté in New York. The base features three bronze plaques, including one which depicts the C.S.S. Alabama at sea.

Big bronze statue of Admiral Semmes @ The Loop, intersection of Government and Royal, City of Mobile.

Yes it’s about a slave economy and getting them dadgum liberal Abe Lincolns off your lawn, but it’s also this idea of Alabama knowing how best to build Alabama.  There’s nothing libertarian about the state that they would choose; the vision is more Thomas Paine than Edmund Burke. There’s this idea and utopian dream of all types of creation-energy and creativity and building being unleashed once you get that damnable federal boot off your neck.

It’s mostly a pipe dream—AKA a dream you get after hitting dat pipe o’ opium—and also there’s NOTHING morally justifiable much less utopian about the reasons why the feudal lords of the Southern interior supported secession, that is slavery slavery and slavery. But the port cities that were bustling centers of New World civilization already when George Washington was in diapers really complicate whatever narrative of the Confederacy you have. They resist simplicity. The port cities (Charleston, Mobile, New Orleans) are/were full of madmen and poets and dreamers like Eugene Walter described. And they were not only about wiping out the invaders, but also trying to create a better society that isn’t trying to out-hustle the North but wants to make a nation that is culturally if not economically independent (slavery spreading because of capitalism on steroids, often with northern financing).
As uber lefty cultural historian Morris Berman often says, a Southern victory in The WONA (“War of Northern Aggression”) would not have necessarily “given us a better world–slavery having been the obvious dark aspect of the Southern way of life–but the destruction of a gracious, slow-moving, community-oriented society in favor of a frantic, commercial one is nothing to crow about.”

So I always try to understand the ideas behind the arguments. Wanting to get dem dadgum bluebacks out of your hair I understand.
But if your side never has to shoulder the responsibility of governance, is perpetually in opposition vs. having a share of the credit and consequences of success or failure as part of a ruling coalition, your party can become badly warped.

I think it’s advantageous to understand all sides as much as possible. I got really confused during the federal gov’t shutdown of 2013, especially as to the predominant ideas underpinning it, so I listened to right-wing talk radio for the week and tried, to the best of my ability, to explain Teapublican thinking at the time on this blog.  I think that it is more radical to attempt to get your head around the other side’s ideas than to knee jerk oppose, and more interesting.

GOP uernica – Daryl Cagle’s fascinating and ‪hilarious‬ GOPelephant parody of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica.

Even the SHUT IT DOWN extremism I could eventually understand somewhat, but there are things I seriously can’t grasp at all except as purposefully misleading, disinfo more than misinformation, especially with Fox News. It worries me about our nation’s ability to learn, to adapt to multiple decades of scientific data, move forward and lead the way so humans  don’t end up extinct.

Concerned about Fox Newsification of Medicine and Science

On the medical front, there are obvious policy differences on substantive issues, like the stem cell lines kerfuffle early on in Bush Jr’s presidency, but I mean things like blaming John Edwards and “librul trial lawyers” for the flu shot shortage of 2004. This was a talking point on Fox News repeated again and again, part of the “scandal of the day” format Faux News sticks with throughout its lineup of programs.

Like the disloyal Democrats’ comments brought up over and over again, even by FNC’s Iraq correspondent in lieu of actual reporting, there’s this consistent appeal to some story example that acts as a code word or proof-text of Demonrat perfidy—this time the librul conspiracy has gone too far!!  A good contemporary example is Benghazi, which for several years now is a code word for Barack Obama is a radical Islam and MURDERED that ambassador to cover up his traitorous support for terrorists OMG!!
In a way I understand this as coming from the story-example way of communicating so prevalent in the South, you can look back at 19th century newspapers and see how the openly partisan news media of the South would fixate on whatever meme of “Yankee radical” treason or perceived slight and milk it.

21st century partisan news media fixates on whatever obscure example and rides it for as many news cycles as possible, but an important difference is the whole South understood the example stories of 19th century newspapers, more or less, whereas the example stories of Fox News are little known outside of the conservative media bubble. Few know what Benghazi is or understand why Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl being brought home from being a Taliban POW per no man left behind is another traitorous plot of the Obama. Example narratives like these circulate only among the conservative media niche, have no traction outside that narrow audience and even within the alternate reality of the Rightosphere they create a terrible hew and cry but aren’t salient past the few news cycles they’re designated talking points for…

So on this day, Faux News’ librul conspiracy meme of the day was this thing about John Edwards and the dadgum ambulance chasing trial lawyers. The pulmonologist and nurse were discussing the flu shot shortage crisis affecting us and the other patients, and that the lawsuits pursued by John Edwards and his parasitic ilk are the primary cause of vaccine factory closures and the shortage of flu shots. Conservative media was citing this as a proof of lawyers ruin health care and pass legislation to further immunize vaccine makers from lawsuits! 

I’d understand employing this example, if it were true.  But Snopes wholly debunked the claim.  It is 100% false.  John Edwards never sued vaccine manufacturers nor did his firm. Few suits have ever been filed on the flu shot, the controversy is primarily over the early childhood immunization schedule, MMR vaccine, DPT vaccine, the use of thiomersal and so forth. So the ramping down of flu vaccine manufacturing had nothing to do with lawsuits—no one was seeking redress of grievances against the flu shot—the low supply of flu vaccines in 2004, Snopes explained, had to do with flu vaccines losing money, and with vaccine makers transitioning production to the scary “live virusintranasal spray FluMist®.

When story examples are more important than fact and there is ONLY opinion, where does that lead us?

Nick

 

Key link: snopes.com: John Edwards and flu vaccine shortage

 

Public Health Back on the Frontburner with Ebola Panic

Posted by – October 22, 2014

Nick Analysis: Focus on Long-term Policy Choices

This attack ad put out by “The Agenda Project,” an org that apparently exists solely to place anti-GOP TV spots, is aimed at the electorate voting in the upcoming decisive midterm races for House and Senate. And it is unique in several ways.
Most obviously, the ad is almost singularly brutal, tying the Ebola outbreak to the years of budget cutting to NIH that has meant harsh limits on vaccine and related infectious disease research along with rollbacks in all NIH’s areas of research.  The images and sounds expertly scare the crap out of you. The use of medical equipment like a heart monitor, the ominous beat of the machine, or using respiratory aids (here, the sound of an Ambu® bag pumping at the beginning and end of the spot) to invoke the patient on the brink, the tension of the emergency that could go either way, is definitely unsettling. When you yourself, like me, are on a ventilator, you notice these things more, and it is more troubling.

guy in hazmat suit grasping a TV remote & saying to his wife

Political cartoon by Mark Streeter of the Savannah Morning News

But despite the utter shamelessness of this ad, it contributes something important by raising (or suggesting) a key question: do you really want a smaller government in a world where we need a robust response to infectious diseases like Ebola?

Cut cut cut everything has consequences. The end result is that the significant resources you need when diseases spread and shit gets real aren’t there. Our health infrastructure was and is largely unprepared for deadly plagues like this. Look at the awful state of our emergency departments, even at prestigious academic hospitals, to begin to understand HOW unprepared we are.

The ad spins events to fault only the Republicans for the budget slash and burn, when Democrats are deeply complicit: their compromise, “sequestration,” cut deep across the board. As I wrote back in August, some of the same Congresscritters who sequester-hammered the NIH, cutting the crap outta research into ALS and other neuromuscular diseases with everything else, doused themselves with ice buckets for ALS research when the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral.
Abusive boyfriend bringing you flowers, it felt like, except the victim is a vast chunk of the population that is sick and need all the help they can get.

It is more radical to tell the truth on the failings that exist on all sides, the Democrats too. I want the truth, man, and will never be a sycophant.

As for President Obama and his role in all this, he has sometimes prioritized other things in budget battles, sometimes gone to bat for CDC funding. But it would be false not to include the context: all of the budgets this president signed that ended up cutting preparedness-for-public-health-emergencies were compromise budgets. The Congressional Republicans decide on an extreme scorched earth budget, slash and burn to everything across the board except for “essentials” like arming jihadis against Assad in Syria or continuing the notorious non-flying F-35 program, then the president threatens to veto the budget until a compromise is forged.  Instead of making his own budget and selling a real and compelling alternative to austerity, inspiring the country to support his vision, he compromises, signs the scorched earth lite budget and then goes golfing with CEOs.

To simplify: President Obama’s compromise budgets have been nearly as bad for public health funding as the Republicans’ first offer-budgets.

The Republicans are expected to win both camels of our bicameral legislature in DC (Congress) on November 4th. I worry that the scorched earth budgets will get even scorchier.
Hopefully the issue of funding for infectious diseases stays on the frontburner, at the forefront of budget debates at least, after the Ebola panic is out of the news cycle and past its usefulness as campaign ammunition, long-term.

The key questions that affect the America we will live in over the long haul, what gov’t should do and not do, how public monies should be allocated, how we regulate the dumping of toxic waste, civil liberties vs. a police state, these should be what we debate and focus on solving.

The Ebola outbreak is scary, a much more serious pandemic than the swine flu. The H1N1 porcine influenza was initially hyped as super deadly, but the strain that spread in the U.S. was ultimately no deadlier than normal seasonal flu (regular influenza is horrendous—I’ve had it—so don’t get me wrong). But when there was so much unhinged fearmongering over H1N1, New York stopped releasing the numbers of influenza patients amidst the panic, and people were being pressed to wear surgical masks that don’t protect against the microscopic flu virus, I blogged against it.
I would never blog against Ebola over-caution like that. Ebola is a hemorrhagic fever like the BLACK DEATH that wiped out nearly 2/3 of the European population. Ebola hemorrhagic fever isn’t as contagious as that history reshaping bubonic plague, but it’s apparently VERY contagious in the end stages when the victim’s viral load is highest and they are hemorrhaging like crazy. This Ebola outbreak has already proven devastating, killing over 5,000 people in West Africa as of this post’s time of posting.  Not taking Ebola seriously, not taking reasonable precautions isn’t liberal or conservative, it’s just DUMB!

But infectious diseases have a life cycle in the aggregate as well as on the individual level, and all outbreaks end.  Ebola will be long forgotten by this time next year, whereas the policy choices on health care infrastructure, how we fund public health will be just as important and relevant then and always. Remember the long-haul!

Nick

 

What Right-wing Radio Reveals About the Shutdown Fiasco and the Republican Party

Posted by – October 27, 2013

Learning about views you disagree with

iTunes gives you the ability to tune in to pretty much any radio station across the country, so during the government shutdown I listened in to the right-wing echo chamber that is talk radio, trying to understand what’s going on, what’s driving the Tea Partier rage. Very few activists listen and try to grok the “other side of the aisle,” as we increasingly customize our information diet. The future of the Information Age in general and the news/current events commentary media world in particular tends to limit information instead of broadening it, as we ghettoize ourselves in front of voices we agree with, whether that’s TV and radio—plenty of folks in my hometown of Mobile, AL find themselves going from Fox News on public or office TVs to right-wing talk radio in the car to Fox News at home—or the web, which can give you only the sites that echo your worldview, which could mean you only visit certain sites or have content delivered from your self-curated, self-segregated RSS reader. It’s never been easier to retreat into intellectual ghettos, even limiting our news to only the stories that our party or faction or regional subfaction cares about. This is bad in so many ways. It shelters us from potentially important news. Worse, it disconnects us from the grievances and concerns of half or over-half of our countrymen; I would go so far as to call that dangerous.

So…it’s unusual but I listened and tried to understand what’s driving the right-wing activists push for the federal government shutdown.  I vehemently oppose so much of what these guys spout, the overheated rhetoric and the false premises, but I want to be fair here.  I honestly think much of the rage expressed by the Tea Partiers is either directly springing from legitimate grievances or legitimate anger that’s been misdirected (e.g. people who’re saying essentially “in the 80s-90s neoliberals/neocons offshored the jobs previously available to rural whites like me, everyone I know is marginalized in a post-industrial hellscape and without economic hope, but all the problems are *because Obama*“).

So it was October 14th, the Monday before the nation was due to default on the 17th, and what were the activist talk radio guys saying?  Tuning to WABC Radio NY/NJ, Sean Hannity was expressing disappointment that the Republican leadership is going “to cave” to the Obama and open the government.  None of the talk radio guys were enthusiastic supporters of the Republican leadership (Boehner, McConnell, et al) and the members of Congress that seemed radical in the ’90s “Republican Revolution” are increasingly marginalized as too soft, as “the establishment” that needs to be pushed or overthrown entirely by Republican Revolution II, though the different radio hosts each have very different approaches to the developing political ecosystem.  After Hannity on WABC is The Mark Levin Show, and Levin is very different; he’s one of the most extreme anti-federalists out there, believing that anything not among the enumerated powers in the United States Constitution is out of bounds for the U.S. government.  Given this “strict constructionist” view of the Constitution, the states should control nearly all domestic policy, regulations and services and most of the things that the federal government does at present are unconstitutional and illegitimate.  Mark Levin is a really angry guy, and though his ideology would logically put most Republicans and Republican federal policies beyond the pale as well, his wrath is mostly reserved for the Democrats, and there’s definitely a lot of running-up the partisan scoreboard on his show.  The messages given by each of these hosts is surprisingly different.

"Rage radio," political cartoon, painted by Nick Dupree, October 24th, 2013

“Rage radio,” political cartoon, painted by Nick Dupree, October 24th, 2013

There’s scant unanimity among the right-leaning hosts in general, but they were unanimous that hitting the debt ceiling that following Thursday isn’t so bad.  Sean Hannity said that there are more days before default than advertised by the “scare tactics” allegedly put forward by the administration.  Tuning to NewsRadio KLBJ Austin, Glenn Beck was saying that the worst thing that could happen if we hit the debt ceiling is a cut in runaway entitlement spending, an unambiguous positive in his mind, underpinned by the unspoken assumption we’d keep paying foreign creditors while stiffing pensioners.  Really disturbing to hear such unanimity on being outside of financial reality, up is down and defaulting on your debts somehow “fiscally conservative.”  But note the huge gap between what Hannity was saying “few extra days” before default and what Beck and Levin are saying, “default is good.”

Levin and Beck also are really different from Hannity on the future of the Republican Party too.  While Hannity is exasperated with the GOP leadership and wants to push them, I get the sense the furthest he’d go is elect Ted Cruz-types everywhere, whereas Glenn Beck wants to replace the GOP.  Beck said that the GOP is “over,” to be taken over or displaced because of its corruption and willingness “to cave” on Obamacare and the deficit, replaced like the Whig Party was replaced by the Republican Party in the 1850s.  Beck tends to take you down this rabbit hole of elaborate historical exegesis, an alternate history of the 20th century that casts Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson as villainous “progressives” that ruined the United States.  Both parties are too “progressive,” the Republicans are “progressive lite,” he says, and because of this, he predicts we’re on the verge of our political system being wiped out and America being “reborn” in some sort of financial and/or ACTUAL armageddon, which maybe will include a cleaning out of the immoral; a great purging via apocalyptic violence is certainly hinted at occasionally.  Beck and Levin both emphasize the illegitimacy of our national system and the need for state, local and hyper-local leadership and organizing—and stockpiling food and ammo in your fortified bunker—but Beck actually flames the Republican leadership.  If John Boehner is mentioned at all on The Glenn Beck Program, it’s to call him “awful” or “orange and crusty.”

What I’ve Learned

So, what are the pertinent lessons to take away?

1) I wasn’t entirely correct when, in a previous blog post, I described the House GOP members behind the government shutdown as “regressed from comparably responsible businessman-types to incoherent lunatics so rage-inebriated that they’re about one notch above tantrum-ing toddlers scribbling ‘WHO IS JOHN GALT’ in their own feces on the walls of the Capitol rotunda.”   The current crop of Congress-critters don’t command much respect to be sure, the toddler-esque aspect and the “rage inebriation” certainly is present, but I’ve learned they’re not unhinged ideologues, they’re businessman-types pretending to be unhinged ideologues in order to CYA and look out for #1.  They definitely are convinced they’ll lose their jobs and possibly get pulled down into the political “dustbin of history” with a GOP collapse if they vote for a hike in the debt ceiling.  All these guys, even House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, want immunity from primary challenges, so can’t leave themselves open to accusations they capitulated on the debt ceiling and long-term “deficit catastrophe.” This explains why Cantor supports the shutdown even though it has meant furloughing a broad swath of the working age population of his northern Virginia district. House Republicans are trying to stay relevant to the increasingly radical fundraisers and activists that could oust them.  The government shutdown was ultimately a craven attempt to reassure the activist base that elects and reelects Republican candidates “we’re true believers too.”  The House majority wants to cater to the activist base as the activist base increasingly slides into radical, unhinged Ayn Rand-land.  The credit rating of the United States is getting downgraded because certain Congressmen wanted political cover.

2) the Republican party is rapidly changing.  We’ve not seen a party so in flux in my lifetime.

Rhino.

Guys I didn’t think could be more conservative are being branded as RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) and overthrown in primaries across the U.S..  Such flux could bring about unexpected changes, but it’s doubtful that “the establishment” or more moderate elements of the GOP (like consultant Mike Murphy) is going to win out, for the same reason that John Kerry’s talk about “a cadre of hard core moderates” to fight Assad and steal the jihadists’ thunder in Syria is so ridiculous.  Radicals always are more motivated and the deck is stacked in their favor.  In terms of the establishment GOP pushing back at the Tea Party types, what little there is isn’t covered beyond what Tea Partiers would call “the liberal media.”  In talk radio land, the activist base has monopolized all the megaphones and created a hermetically-sealed echo chamber devoid of non-Tea Party Republicans.  If the only Republicans devoted to fighting back against the Tea Partiers are like Murphy, who doesn’t really engage the underpinning economic pain behind the arguments or offer much substance aside from “shooing away tomorrow’s voters to pander to yesterday’s,” the far-right has already won.

“Teapublican Party” logo

Conclusion: in the most probable scenario, the GOP is all-but-completely transformed into the “Teapublican Party” prior to the key midterm primary elections in 6-9 months and the general elections to seat the 114th Congress in 12 months.  But after the far-right is running the show unopposed, we don’t yet know which direction the party will go or which faction will dominate.

3) Rage radio is symptomatic of real anger, real grievances that spring from a legitimate place, and so I do try to be fair.  Glenn Beck is saying stuff like “don’t let them tell you America is over,” that we will be reborn, that you can still find a place to thrive.  He’s wrong in so many ways but at least he’s responding to the post-industrial agony out there.  When I tuned in last Friday night, Beck was talking about getting suicide emails, men who have lost a job, a home, a wife, a life.  Hannity is helping people find jobs on the air, in a climate where a good job is something you only get if you win a reality show.

Our political and intellectual leaders shouldn’t be dismissive of the despair and desperation driving Tea Partier rage.  Ignoring the economic marginalization of “flyover country” is going to come back to bite us big time. Already our clueless liberal class—I say this as an activist who’s part of said liberal class—is wondering aloud why the heartland is sending radicals to Congress.  Radicalism is always a byproduct of poverty, whether financial, social, or spiritual poverty, and I’d say the U.S. has all three, in spades.  Why they’re going for far-right radicalism instead of far-left radicalism isn’t clear to me, but it’s possible they end up with some far-left ideas because they hurtle so far right on the weird mobius strip that is the political spectrum that they’ve come ’round the other side.where right blurs into left.  I certainly understand why hatred of the federal government is a prominent part of the movement, as federal economic policies have put sustainable livelihoods—and a chance for a positive male role, to be a provider instead of a “loser on food stamps”—out of reach for millions of Americans.    I don’t fully grasp how that anger ends up channeled into a movement to gut food stamps and other economic assistance, but I think that this has a lot to do with how deep-seated the ethos of bootstraps-individualism and self-reliance is in our psychosocial fabric, especially in the red states, and intensely acculturated in men and the male gender roles Americans yearn to retrieve.  There’s a dilemma on how we bring a program of economic inclusion to great swaths of the country that despise the government; it might require a Republican president.  I worry that another decade without a program of economic inclusion to ratchet down the desperation could lead to a future where our pondering on the left could be “how come this Mussolini with a Texas drawl just disbanded Congress?”

To summarize:

• listening to “the opposition” will give you insights you won’t get elsewhere

• Republican Revolution II is transforming the GOP and the country. The Republican party is in revolutionary flux and we don’t yet know what it will become.  Stay tuned!

• we ignore the desperation and despair in the rust belt and heartland, and resulting crisis in healthy male gender roles, at our own peril.

 

Nick

Insightful Blogging in the Wake of the Gov’t Shutdown

Posted by – October 22, 2013

October 2013 Roundup: Acts of Bloggery in the Shutdown’s Wake

My picks for the blogosphere’s most valuable insights into the shutdown insanity:

Moral lens:

The 8 immoral ways the government shutdown is hurting the needy On Faith – the shutdown inflicted pain on people already struggling and making due on government aid amidst the post-2008 “economic realignment,” cutting or threatening to cut already weakened social programs, though this has been badly underreported. 

The Day After | Talking Philosophy – The Philosophers’ Magazine Blog –  applies the measures of philosophy to the shutdown crisis, who has the moral responsibility and perceived “moral blame?” It’s a strenuous task to be sure, but valuable.

Unexpected impacts:

Government shutdown hits comics | The Comics Beat – the government shutdown’s impacts seemed to leak into every nook and cranny of American life.  Even comic books were impacted, new books delayed, stuck at the docks waiting to be cleared through customs.

Student projects interrupted by US shutdown | Nature – because of the shutdown, Siddharth Hegde’s extremophile PhD experiment at NASA Ames, after carefully nurturing and growing his extremophiles, might have died off for want of feeding since the Lab was locked up and 98% of NASA personnel were ruled non-essential and furloughed. It’s not known whether the extremophile experiment survived the extremophiles in Congress (I put the question to Hegde) but if the cell samples died he won’t be able to re-do the experiment, as his visa is only for three months.

Cartoon:

“Shutdown” by POLITICO’s Matt Wuerker

“Shutdown” by POLITICO’s Matt Wuerker

Political assessments:

In Washington and in Lansing, tea party zealots are costing us a fortune as they waste our hard-earned tax dollars | Eclectablog – “This is what happens when you elect people who hate the government to run the government.”  Eclectablog’s Chris Savage chronicles the heavy economic price paid for the shutdown shenanigans that were advertised as helping ease the deficit but did the opposite.

Lessons Learned? | Official Artur Davis – in this interesting assessment by (deeply strange black ex-Democratic Congressman—7th district—from Alabama) Artur Davis, who—after losing the black vote in Alabama—has re-made himself as an advisor to Republicans on winning the black vote, he says “The haziness of wishful thinking, overshadowed by a deeper failure to appreciate that shutdown itself validates the obstructionist label, the impression of being too inflexible to govern, that so threatens the party nationally and is even starting to creep into red states like Georgia and Louisiana.”   and “…conservatism has been painfully slow to distance itself from the radicalism that has surged in the party…”

Historical perspective:

The Philosopher’s Stone: A REPLY TO ANTHONY TSONTAKIS – philosophy professor Robert Paul Wolff reflects on the right-wing’s fierce opposition to the Affordable Care Act… are there core philosophical differences?  Wolff doubts there are deep ideological underpinnings to the opposition, noting that “the central features of the ACA entered public discourse in America as a set of conservative Republican proposals put forward by the right-wing Heritage Foundation…”

History Unfolding: How Much of a Victory? – after the shutdown ended, historian David Kaiser tried to put the House Tea Party guys in historical context, difficult given the unprecedented events involved.   “I have tentatively decided, after much thought, that perhaps the best historical analogy for the Tea Party are the Radical Republicans of the post-civil war era.   I must apologize for the analogy insofar as I admire the goals of those Republicans, namely, the full enfranchisement of freed slaves, while I feel the Tea Party is trying to undo all the good that the US government has accomplished over the last century.”

And this is just a slice of the ongoing discussion.  Will keep ya’ll posted.

Nick

Do The Orwellian Police State Cha-Cha!!

Posted by – September 30, 2010

Last week, like the careful student of political science I am, I was reading the full text of the Pledge to America, the new policy platform for the GOP’s Fall Election campaign…
The thing that disturbed me the most is that the text so emphasizes the Constitution and a return to the Constitution, all this restoration language,

House Republican Leader John Boehner and posse, behind a podium with a shiny "Pledge to America" sign, introduce their new Pledge to America (photo credit: Drew Angerer/The New York Times)

but despite unprecedented law enforcement overreach in recent years, COMPLETELY IGNORES civil liberties (Bill of Rights, Amendments 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, etc)!! The text explicitly mentions the Tenth Amendment, and of course they’re all about THE RIGHT TO OWN A GUN (even automatics, heavy weapons, bazookas, RPGs, etc) but evidently the rest of the Bill of Rights simply doesn’t exist!

Does no Republican behind this pledge think of civil liberties as part of the Constitution?

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (in California) just ruled that police placing tracking devices on cars in private driveways is totally legal because “there’s no expectation of privacy in driveways.” Unless you’re rich and can lock your vehicle in a garage or behind a fence with private security guards, that is.

Government agents can sneak onto your property in the middle of the night, put a GPS device on the bottom of your car and keep track of everywhere you go. This doesn’t violate your Fourth Amendment rights, because you do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy in your own driveway — and no reasonable expectation that the government isn’t tracking your movements.

That is the bizarre — and scary — rule that now applies in California and eight other Western states. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers this vast jurisdiction, recently decided the government can monitor you in this way virtually anytime it wants — with no need for a search warrant.

It is a dangerous decision — one that, as the dissenting judges warned, could turn America into the sort of totalitarian state imagined by George Orwell. It is particularly offensive because the judges added insult to injury with some shocking class bias: the little personal privacy that still exists, the court suggested, should belong mainly to the rich.

This case began in 2007, when Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents decided to monitor Juan Pineda-Moreno, an Oregon resident who they suspected was growing marijuana. They snuck onto his property in the middle of the night and found his Jeep in his driveway, a few feet from his trailer home. Then they attached a GPS tracking device to the vehicle’s underside.

After Pineda-Moreno challenged the DEA’s actions, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled in January that it was all perfectly legal. More disturbingly, a larger group of judges on the circuit, who were subsequently asked to reconsider the ruling, decided this month to let it stand. (Pineda-Moreno has pleaded guilty conditionally to conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and manufacturing marijuana while appealing the denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained with the help of GPS.)

Excerpted from: The Government’s New Right To Track Your Every Move With GPS – TIME

Neither Team Donkey nor Team Elephant have expressed the slightest concern. Not a word.

This editorial cartoon by Adam Zyglis depicts President Obama as Uncle Sam in one of those WWII-era Army recruitment posters, but with the banner "I HEAR YOU," and the words "Expanded Surveillance" printed on his big ears.

Not a word either concerning the new FBI/Obama Administration proposal to make every data method tappable and un-encryptable!!!

To counter such problems, officials are coalescing around several of the proposal’s likely requirements:

  • Communications services that encrypt messages must have a way to unscramble them.
  • Foreign-based providers that do business inside the United States must install a domestic office capable of performing intercepts.
  • Developers of software that enables peer-to-peer communication must redesign their service to allow interception.

“It would be an enormous change for newly covered companies,” he said. “Implementation would be a huge technology and security headache, and the investigative burden and costs will shift to providers.”

Several privacy and technology advocates argued that requiring interception capabilities would create holes that would inevitably be exploited by hackers.

Steven M. Bellovin, a Columbia University computer science professor, pointed to an episode in Greece: In 2005, it was discovered that hackers had taken advantage of a legally mandated wiretap function to spy on top officials’ phones, including the prime minister’s.

“I think it’s a disaster waiting to happen,” he said. “If they start building in all these back doors, they will be exploited.”

Susan Landau, a Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study fellow and former Sun Microsystems engineer, argued that the proposal would raise costly impediments to innovation by small startups.

“Every engineer who is developing the wiretap system is an engineer who is not building in greater security, more features, or getting the product out faster,” she said.

Moreover, providers of services featuring user-to-user encryption are likely to object to watering it down. Similarly, in the late 1990s, encryption makers fought off a proposal to require them to include a back door enabling wiretapping, arguing it would cripple their products in the global market.

But law enforcement officials rejected such arguments. They said including an interception capability from the start was less likely to inadvertently create security holes than retrofitting it after receiving a wiretap order.

They also noted that critics predicted that the 1994 law would impede cellphone innovation, but that technology continued to improve. And their envisioned decryption mandate is modest, they contended, because service providers — not the government — would hold the key.

“No one should be promising their customers that they will thumb their nose at a U.S. court order,” Ms. Caproni said. “They can promise strong encryption. They just need to figure out how they can provide us plain text.”

Excerpted from: U.S. Tries to Make It Easier to Wiretap the Internet – NYTimes.com

In a normative political system, we would have an opposition party to oppose these kinds of outrageous excesses; part of any political system is supposed to be the people raising cain when there are rights violations, but neither party gives us an outlet for that. Right now, the Republican party is supposed to be the opposition party; that’s why I brought up the “Pledge to America.” But they don’t oppose unlimited surveillance and limited civil liberties, in fact, they’re like “bahbah-bahbahBAAHH, I’m lovin’ it!!” Even though they’re calling for a return to the Constitution, they’re acting like the Bill of Rights doesn’t include civil liberties of any sort (other than gun rights).

In the Republican party’s defense, we expect Republicans to be the authoritarian police state party, they are supposed to have that Big Brother ideology. And, in opposition, the Democratic party is supposed to be chock-full of “card-carrying members of the ACLU” who stand up for civil liberties and defend all forms of art (even pornography) and freedom of speech and privacy in the Bill of Rights, etc. The problem is how the Democrats have completely caved and sold out on their traditional positions. Why? Just so they’re not labeled “unserious” and barred from the good parties in a post-9/11 neoliberal authoritarian climate? How did we, the American people, divinely-appointed guardians of human freedom around the world, allow it to go so far?

Right now, there is NO opposition party against America sliding into an Orwellian police state. If we’re to keep the U.S. a Republic in any sense, that has to change!

An image with Benjamin Franklin and his famous quote "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

Nick

The Cost of Denial For People with Disabilities

Posted by – September 25, 2010

To respond to the comments made during WBAI radio’s roundtable discussion about my latest blog essay “Why It’s Time For Survival Politics For People with Disabilities…”

The last statement in the radio segment about my blog was Josie Byzek saying that (my paraphrasing) the Tea Party may win big in the midterm elections, but then there could be a backlash at the ballots in two years (in the 2012 elections).
I don’t think the problem of inadequate services for people with disabilities will just go away with a political pendulum swing in two years. The dramatic changes that have already happened and will keep happening will ensure that these monkeys stay on our backs; because we squandered the budget for so many years on tax cuts and wars, budgetary realities will force severe benefit cuts, even if you had a 100% Dem Congress. No Congress will be able to govern in the way we’d all like, because of these very severe budgetary and political realities. Yes, part of the political reality is the Tea Party; those Tea Party activists and candidates who embrace an extreme form of Randism are more comfortable with disabled people’s blood on their hands than any political group has been in my lifetime; they’re completely comfortable demonizing people on public benefits as “robbers,” “leeches” and “parasites” and (I would argue) they’re completely irreconcilable with Judeo-Christian morality. Tea Party candidates and their Rand philosophy will be shaping the debate and helping define what is achievable legislatively like never before, and people with disabilities need to know about this, educate themselves, because this is a force that will affect our lives. But overlaying that is the larger problem of “we outta money.”

In this Dave Granlund cartoon, poor jobless people with a HELP sign reach out to Uncle Sam, but he just pulls out his empty pockets and says "I was going to ask you the same."

We’ll be paying the price for decades for the decision to try and pay for two simultaneous wars with tax cuts and “just go shopping!” and paying for it in numerous ways, some very painful. We gotta pay the piper, and we’ve run up a huuuuuuge tab. If history tells us anything, it’s that the tab is always borne by the poor and disabled, the most vulnerable and least able to pour money into campaigns to fight back.

Josie Byzek herself touched on the budgetary realities when mentioning sales tax revenue that helps fund state Medicaid isn’t the same anymore, the bottom fell out. We’ve got *apocalyptic* job loss, the last of the manufacturing sector exiting en masse, etc. Those hardhat-type 9-5 jobs won’t be coming back and you’d have to visit China to see them. The information tech world will be the source of jobs, but it hasn’t adapted and kept up enough to provide that yet, and it may be another lifetime before that happens. This will be a really ugly transition.

This Concord Coalition graph shows how Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, in addition to interest on our enormous debt, continue to bloat the budget by % of GDP. In order to sustain benefit spending, we would need to HUGELY grow the economy, but currently, it's shrinking. Terrible choices are coming soon.

I’m arguing that technology, the economy, and politics are drastically shifting, and Medicare and Medicaid will soon change BIG TIME, so disability community leaders need to get in front of this and negotiate hard for the services we want to preserve most, because a lot of them ARE going away, and we have to get out of denial and start coping and adapting NOW! Catastrophic institutionalization, re-segregation, will happen unless we acknowledge that economic and budgetary realities mean that a lot of services are inevitably going away and negotiate hard for keeping select services we can’t go without (i.e. HCBS, Home and Community Based Services) using a cost-effectiveness argument. Congress won’t give a damn about us, but will care about cost if we make the case.

and y’know how Obama’s health reform bill increases Medicaid eligibility? It gives subsidies to help pay for the increased enrollment, but that enhanced FMAP is temporary. Then what? Then FAIL!! I’ve written about this in detail here; the eligibility mandates will hit the poorest states the hardest and they are already slashing programs to the bone to the extent they’re leaving us in our own waste. Once the eligibility mandates fully take effect in 2014, will the poorest states have to drop most care for people with disabilities? They could have to dump the people most in need, in favor of reshaping their programs to bring them in line with the new requirements, i.e. providing major medical coverage to low-income (able-bodied) adults. This is one of the worst parts of health “reform,” so very disconnected from the needs on the ground and the harsh realities we face.

This is a map of the worst and best Medicaid agencies in the U.S., with the reddest being the worst, and the lightest being the best. What I'm telling you is, this map will soon get much, much redder across the country.

In light of the situation, we need to be having conversations like “yes, we know that Medicaid dentistry and ophthalmology and free eyeglasses and prosthetics and leg braces and numerous things we’re accustomed to are going away, but we have to protect HCBS or the nursing facilities will cost the states EVEN MORE.”

We can’t afford the COST OF DENIAL. We can’t stay in denial that benefits will be changing; we can’t stay complacent! I’m saying WAKE UP, the societal, technological, economic and political changes are so great that benefits will be changing dramatically, and we aren’t prepared and we aren’t identifying priority areas to protect because there is an unwillingness to sacrifice ANYTHING, so Congress will likely cut EVERYTHING. Failure to get in front of this thing, staying in denial, will mean Congress will just impose 20% or 30% austerity across the board on all departments without understanding the issues involved.

Nick

Nick’s Crusade Blog Featured On Local Radio WBAI!

Posted by – September 23, 2010

My blog posts are making waves! My new blog essay about the affect of the Tea Party and the related drastic benefit changes on people with disabilities was the subject of a roundtable discussion this morning on local WBAI radio’s disability chat show “The Largest Minority.”

You can listen to the radio discussion here.


Sept. 23 “The Largest Minority” on WBAI radio, featuring a reading of my blog essay “Why It’s Time For Survival Politics For People with Disabilities” and a roundtable discussion with cohosts T.K. Small & Lawrence Carter-Long, and guest Josie Byzek, New Mobility magazine

Listen to the discussion. I don’t agree that the shift in social services spending is a temporary problem that will be “all better” after the political pendulum swings back away from the Tea Party agenda.

I’m arguing that society, technology, the economy, and politics are drastically shifting, and Medicare and Medicaid will soon change BIG TIME, so disability community leaders need to get in front of this and negotiate hard for the services we want to preserve most, because a lot of them ARE going away, and we have to get out of denial and start coping and adapting NOW!

More on the important argument I’m making here: The Cost of Denial For People with Disabilities

Nick

Why It’s Time For Survival Politics For People with Disabilities

Posted by – September 22, 2010

To listen to WBAI radio’s roundtable discussion about the below essay, go here.

This isn’t “The Great Recession,” it’s “The Great Change.” The recession–that is just a symptom of these enormous tectonic shifts going on (societally, technologically, economically, politically) and our inability to keep up has caused disruptions and economic downturn. That economic downturn is not the disorder, it’s just a symptom of the rapid changes spinning around us and our inability to cope. The change has come and will keep coming. Obama promised political change to help us adapt to all the other changes, but failed because of immediate backlash. Now, the backlash (led by the Tea Party) is bringing political change, and we’re headed for an upheaval that will radically shift ideas about the publicly-funded services and supports that keep people with disabilities alive and participating.

The Tea Party agenda is incredibly important for people with disabilities to learn about and understand because those ideas are here and will soon be back in the halls of power, BIG TIME.
Understand; the Tea Party movement is just the newest part of a self-described revolutionary movement that began in the ’60s with Ronald Reagan and first gained broad federal legislative power with the “Republican Revolution” brought by the 1994 midterm elections. The Republican Revolution brought us Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, Tom DeLay, the leaders of the Revolution, and dozens and dozens of loyal soldiers under them. Those foot soldiers, Senators and Congressmen first empowered by the ’94 revolution, the “Revolutionary guard” if you will, make up the bulk of the Congressional GOP today. And they’re worried now because the Tea Party is leading a second revolution, and they want their seats. Rick Lazio is a good example. Lazio was yet another foot soldier for the Republican Revolution and its policy platform, the Contract with America (which demanded lower taxes, eliminating welfare, tougher anti-crime laws and a balanced budget amendment making deficits unconstitutional). That was no longer right-wing enough for conservative voters; Lazio got crushed by Tea Partier Carl Paladino in the GOP gubernatorial primary. You have to hate much more to be a real conservative. This is like one of Robespierre’s purges of earlier revolutionaries; it’s not enough to support the revolution and oppose the enemy, you have to show a frenzied enthusiasm for every facet of the revolution and consistently revile the enemy publicly, or face the guillotine. Paladino painted Lazio as a “liberal Republican” throughout the primary, an INSANE claim, and won because a huge plurality of Republicans actually believes this. Rick Lazio must feel like his head’s rolling down the palace rug right now, poor bastard. Republican Revolution of ’94 wasn’t enough; now, foaming ultra-conservatives demand Republican Revolution II!

Republican Revolution II has already started; they even use the language of revolution, openly. Example: from Carl Paladino’s victory speech: “The ruling class knows — they’ve seen it now — there’s a people’s revolution.”


Watch CBS News Videos Online
This video is a great primer on the Tea Party and what they’re all about.

This survey of the Tea Party shows that Tea Partiers are 89% white. Taken from the above CBS News video.

This survey of the Tea Party reveals that 58% of Tea Partiers keep guns in the home, and 63% (an overwhelming majority) get their political news from FOX News Channel. Taken from the above CBS News video.

Even if the GOP doesn’t take over the Senate and the House, the populist groundswell it has generated (and incumbents’ fear of losing their jobs) will severely limit what Congress can do.

What ideas are the Tea Party/Republican Revolution II based on?

Reaction. The primary idea/emotion of this movement is that Obama’s presidency and the Democratic Congress are threatening their way of life and they have to “take our country back.” Conservapedia, which often seems like a Colbert-penned parody but actually is a serious project founded by Andrew Schlafly (youngest son of early segregationist and anti-feminist leader Phyllis Schlafly), has a good article on the Tea Party movement and its founding motives, all of which are a reaction to Democrats and their policies. It really is akin to Italy’s Blackshirts; it’s an authoritarian mass movement (and is being studied as such by authoritarian psychology scholars). It fits the authoritarian blueprint to a tee, right down to the outcry of an oppressed “majority” against what they see as “radicals,” scapegoating (and fear-baiting) of minorities, fear of redistribution of wealth to the “lesser,” and rallying cries to return to a heralded, idealized past. They believe that if only Republicans (especially Tea Party-endorsed Republicans) controlled the government, the rapid changes affecting their lives and the economic anxieties and fear of losing privileges they cause would be reduced. Fear and rage animate this movement.

92% of Tea Partiers think Obama is turning America into a socialist state, according to this recent poll. Image taken from the above CBS News video.

Commentators online, including Michelle Malkin and Christopher Hitchens, have turned this AP Photo into the "Islamic Rage Boy" political meme that still floats around the blogosphere today.

It’s almost analogous to the infamous “Islamic Rage Boy” from Kashmir, in furious reaction to the Indian government that the protestors feel will eradicate their way of life. The Tea Party also sets up a battle for their way of life, absolute good vs. absolute, unadulterated evil, with no shades of gray in between.

The followers are reacting to economic anxieties, but the leaders are of an Ayn Randist-bent. If you’ve been an internet activist for over a decade, you could find them saying the same things they are now (staunch anti-federalism, strict constructionist view of the Constitution that damns all federal social programs as unconstitutional, blaming FDR and the New Deal for federal overreach and all subsequent economic problems, near-deification of Ronald Reagan, fundamentalist belief in Voodoo Economics to the point that they know that tax cuts can create enough new revenue to fund anything, white supremacy, extreme persecution complex, paranoid conspiracy theories about an all-controlling liberal elite) back in the Clinton and Bush years on web forums like FreeRepublic.com. Those wingnut views are now heard much more often as we allow the fringe to creep into the mainstream, but the hard-right ideas are not new. Online communities like FreeRepublic and their ilk would disgust most people in the first 20 minutes browsing threads; these are hard-right echo-chambers that have an incredibly radicalizing affect on their followers, environments where reviling “the other” is essential for being in the “in-crowd” and cross-pollination with known far-right extremist groups is vibrant and unconcealed. These guys have a hardcore agenda, and always sought to build a grassroots movement to primary out GOP incumbents and push the party to the fringe, but were never able to until the recession and widespread economic fear gave them a vehicle.

A neon green paper sign at the Tax Day Tea Party in Boston reads

What does the Tea Party mean for people with disabilities?

The Tea Party leaders’ Rand philosophy label us who use social services “robbers,” “leeches” and “parasites” because we suck up the wealth rightfully earned by the labors of others. Judging by this video of hate activists yelling abuse like “If you’re looking for a handout, you’re in the wrong part of town! Nothing for free here, you have to work for everything you get!” at a disabled man at a Tea Party rally, and throwing money at him in revulsion, this movement embraces Social Darwinism, and they really do intend hatred for us people with disabilities and cutting off our services. Though I too would like an end to UNNECESSARY government interventions (especially in the area of civil liberties, which conservatives seem to have abandoned en masse) what counts as necessary government intervention is where Rand-bots and I differ, because they see nearly every intervention as unwarranted tyrannical intrusion into private matters. For them, even saving people from dying of decubitus ulcers from lack of personal care is unwanted government overreach.

There are opponents of this extreme agenda within the conservative leadership, for example, the New York Conservative Party said: “If Carl Paladino wins this thing, it will cause severe damage — it could be for decades — to the Republican Party of New York State.” Many (correctly) predict an internal struggle over policy once the GOP wins Congress. If Tea Party candidates run the table, expect radical change in the services provided to us people with disabilities. More likely, incoming freshmen Congressmen will be unable to oust Leader John Boehner (R – Oompa Loompa) and compromises on policy goals are expected.

How should we adapt to survive drastic changes in social spending?

I call on disability community leaders to seek a meeting with future Speaker Boehner, as well as likely GOP budget planners Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy (who, during their book tour rolling out the 2010 Roadmap for America’s Future legislation, have been asking voters and fellow Congressmen for an adult conversation about how best to handle the coming scaledown in social services) and meet with them to discuss PRESERVING the most cost-effective services for people with disabilities: home and community based services (HCBS). If we people with disabilities have the needed home and community based services, we stay in our homes with our loved ones, producing value in our communities, paying sales taxes, property taxes, etc. But if those services are yanked out from under us, we end up in insanely expensive nursing facilities, or worse, dead. Conservatives are usually penny smart and pound foolish on this issue, slashing “optional” HCBS funding while leaving nursing home costs to continually balloon. That “institutional bias” has to change, or the affect on people with disabilities will be just devastating as political winds keep changing and funding streams dry up. The budget arithmetic just doesn’t work, so benefits have to scale down; stop thinking this won’t change, it IS changing!

Unless the disability community wakes up to the realities that Medicaid and Medicare will soon be drastically changing and we get IN FRONT OF the issue and begin educating and negotiating hard for our top 5 most essential services to preserve, our quality of life will go down the drain. Those of us in New York will be living with services like they have under Alabama Medicaid, and Alabamians with disabilities will fall to the level of Dominican Republic or Colombia or India. We have to prevent that. It’s time for hardcore SURVIVAL POLITICS!!

In Alabama, Medicaid policies really took a vicious turn after the first Republican Revolution took over Congress after the ’94 elections. Ideas about social services changed drastically overnight. In ’96-’97 I was fighting Alabama’s stated plan to end home nursing completely and ship every last one of us to institutions out-of-state. I won, but not before several people I knew died. After George W. Bush took over the presidency in 2001, Alabama Medicaid, began saying openly that they can’t afford home care and that it should be the responsibility of families and communities, not the state. Spending on home care dropped dramatically, to unprecedented lows. I had to lobby the state legislature, and eventually sue, to keep my care from being dropped when I turned 21. I won, and saved my younger brother, but my friend Chris died because no caregiver was at home to hear his disconnect alarm. Now with unprecedented yawning budget gaps, home and community based services are scant to non-existent in the red states. I escaped to New York just in the nick of time.

Please realize that the change is here already in most of the country, even California now–thanks to the Governator and a weak legislature. Too many in the NY disability community are happy, comfortable and complacent; ya’ll don’t see the tectonic shifts coming. It’s coming because of the growing consensus that we no longer want to pay for/can’t afford Medicaid and Medicare as it is now, the growing consensus for insane, rugged individualism. People with disabilities, WAKE UP! The time for soul-searching and tough negotiating with conservatives is NOW.

Listen to Paul Ryan talking about his “Roadmap.” Understand that soon we’ll have no choice but deep sacrifices and tough compromises, so the best approach is to negotiate hard for our biggest priorities, and start NOW!

Nick

New York GOP’s Gubernatorial Candidate Tries To Brush Off Racist, XXX and Bestial Emails

Posted by – September 19, 2010

As I detailed before, the New York Republican party elected far-right candidate Carl Paladino to run on their gubernatorial line, and he’s been embroiled in controversy over racist, XXX and bestial email forwards he sent.

I talked about this in my last blog post; I don’t support and never post such crass material, but I think if I’m going to discuss these emails, in order to be fair I have to give you a chance to see them and judge for yourself. Again, WARNING WARNING WARNING: contains hardcore pornographic images (including one with bestiality), vile racism and the N-word. Not for those under 18, not for the faint hearted or weak stomached, and definitely NSFW (Not Safe For Work).

Also, I think if I’m going to criticize these emails as I did in my last blog post, in order to be fair I have to post the Paladino camp’s explanations in their own defense.

When one recipient complained about the “Obama inauguration” email, calling Paladino a racist, Paladino responded by apologizing “if that is offensive.” He added: “I’m not a racist and have never related Obama’s color to my political distaste for him….I’m not sensitive to ethnic humor.”

Other emails from Paladino are here. All the emails were either originally sent, or forwarded, by Paladino, WNYmedia confirms. The emails went to a long list of Paladino associates, in local and state government, politics, and business.

In a statement to TPMmuckraker, Caputo, the campaign manager, said:
“Carl Paladino has forwarded close friends hundreds of email messages he received. Many of these emails he received were off color, some were politically incorrect, few represented his own opinion, and almost none of them were worth remembering.
“We’re not surprised the political establishment feels threatened by Carl’s drive the take Albany back for taxpayers. Our campaign won’t be wading through the details of what is just another liberal Democrat blog smear. It figures that members of the Party who brought us record taxes, record spending and record debt would want to change the topic from reform to having sex with horses and S&M parlors.”

The S&M parlor is a reference to one of Paladino’s rivals for the GOP nomination, Steve Levy, who, it was reported today, once lived with an ex-con who had pleaded guilty in a mortgage fraud scheme involving an S&M club.

Excepted from Tea Party NY Gov Candidate’s E-Mails Exposed: Racism, Porn, Bestiality | TPMMuckraker

So, Paladino’s campaign manager, Michael Caputo, brushed off concerns over the emails as “just another liberal Democrat blog smear.” Ok…

Carl Paladino himself explained it this way:

“My humor is irrelevant to my temperament. If you go and Google me, you’re going to see what Carl Paladino is about. And sure, I’m not perfect. And sure, I’m not human,” he said, before correcting himself. “I’m human, forgive me – hahaha. I’m human. I’ve had my careless moments. I didn’t think twice about sending to my firends a bunch of obscene emails.

“But, I apologized. I apologized to the people that were offended. People that I meat since that thing first became public, they’re interested in the high crimes and misdemeanors of Albany, They could give a hell about Carl Paladino and his emails.”

Excepted from The Bumpy, Impolite and Offensive Campaign of Carl Paladino – WNYC

Carl Paladino, looking slightly mafia-ish

Here is another way he explained the forwarded emails, when grilled by Anderson Cooper.

What is it with older people (often holding older–’50s–political views and prejudices) and email? especially email forwards. The statistics show a divergence in behavior between age groups here (only 11% of young people still send email daily, our communication is mostly through texting, twittering, and social networking) whereas older people’s email use has stayed relatively steady. I’ve never really understood the appeal of forwarding on chain mail, comments and jokes to everyone in your address book, but LOTS of people of Paladino’s age and mindset do this, including some of my own relatives (and I think everyone has at least one friend or relative forwarding them junk). I find it sad that forwarding other people’s words often replaces communication from the heart, real words of love or insight or encouragement (which you get more of on social networking sites; maybe that’s why they’ve grown so fast?)

Anyhow, even Republicans are lining up against Paladino. “He is dangerous, at the least, he is mean spirited and he tries to divide people,” New York’s last GOP Senator, Alphonse D’Amato, told WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell. Along with former New York City Mayor Ed Koch and former State Comptroller Carl McCall, D’Amato also signed his name to an open letter declaring Paladino unfit for office:

The victory of Carl Paladino in the Republican Primary was a disappointing day for all New Yorkers. This state has a long history of electing highly qualified, forward-looking statewide candidates — both Democrats and Republicans. Yesterday, however, anger overcame reason and enabled a fringe element to choose the Republican nominee. The end result was the selection of Mr. Paladino, a divisive figure simply not fit to lead this great state.

Excerpted from Alphonse D’Amato on Carl Paladino: ‘Dangerous’, ‘Mean-Spirited’ And Unfit For Office

I’m sympathetic to the argument that citizens have much more important things to worry about than obscene emails, I really am, but this has caught my attention because of Paladino positioning himself as the “conservative principles and traditional values” candidate, opposing abortion in all cases, opposing gay rights in all cases, essentially, judging other people morally. And even after his hypocrisy has been exposed (his spreading images of “Miss France 2009” porn and the infamous horse sex, and his multiple extramarital affairs and child by a mistress) he is still carrying the banner of “egomaniacal belief in one’s own rightness and purity” (which David Brooks listed as one of the Tea Party’s “worst excesses”).

I understand the overwhelming urge to throw Andrew Cuomo (another inside player, leading a status quo, frequently corrupt Democratic establishment) under the bus and vote for the “outsider” promising to “clean up Albany,” but…really Christians, you’re going to elect this adulterer who forwards around hardcore pornography? Downstaters, will you really vote in a Buffalo businessman (fun fact: the demonym is Buffalonian) who’s said he “hates” Manhattan and Brooklyn because of “the traffic” and will surely skew everything toward upstate interests? It’s clear that Paladino doesn’t understand Downstate issues, which is just inconceivable for a governor of a state whose population lives 68.42% Downstate! People with disabilities, will you vote for a candidate who promises to cut Medicaid by 30%, something that could put you in a nursing home, or out on the street, or worse.

Seriously Values Voters, you’re gonna go to the polls in droves and vote for the bestiality guy??? Seriously?? And still quote Leviticus’ prohibition on homosexuality at us? What about Leviticus chapter 18, verse 23 “And thou shalt not lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith; neither shall any woman stand before a beast, to lie down thereto; it is perversion.” What about that one?

Nick

Republican Revolution II: Electric Bugaloo

Posted by – September 16, 2010

Terrifyingly far-right candidate Carl Paladino crushed state GOP-endorsed Rick Lazio Tuesday night and won the Republican nomination for Governor, meaning he will go head-to-head against Democratic nominee Andrew Cuomo for Governor of New York in the November 2nd election.

Photo of Republican Gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino at a podium

Paladino is known for his “controversial” bigoted comments and extremist stances on the issues.

Here’s a snippet of what CBS News’ Political Hotsheet had to say about Paladino’s primary victory:

Paladino’s victory over Rick Lazio doesn’t much change Republican prospects in the gubernatorial race, with Democrat Andrew Cuomo expected to cruise to an easy win. But it could prove a drag on Republicans in downballot races in the state and also embarrass the GOP establishment.

In April, Paladino acknowledged forwarding emails including images of bestiality and derogatory characterizations of President Obama, including one offering a video clip of African tribesmen dancing that characterized the video as “Obama Inauguration Rehearsal.”

The Tea-Party backed candidate reportedly sent an e-mail depicting a horse having sex with a woman and another that included a pornographic video and the headline “Miss France 2008 F[***]ing.” He also reportedly sent out an e-mail depicting President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as a pimp and prostitute and one showing an airplane landing near black men with the caption “Holy Sh*t. run ni**ers, run!”

Paladino also made headlines for saying last month, as the Associated Press reported, that “he would transform some New York prisons into dormitories for welfare recipients, where they could work in state-sponsored jobs, get employment training and take lessons in ‘personal hygiene.'” The program, he said, would be voluntary.

He waded into the debate over the proposed Islamic cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero, going even further than many other Republicans by suggesting he would invoke eminent domain laws to block what he calls a symbol of “conquest.” He believes global warming is a “farce.” He has what one New York tabloid called a “10-year-old love child.” If the state budget is late, he promises to shut down the government. He defended a friend who called New York Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, an Orthodox Jew, “an Antichrist or a Hitler.”

In endorsing Lazio before the vote, the New York Times said that by nominating him the GOP “could avoid the national embarrassment of a Paladino candidacy.”

The state GOP tried to keep Paladino off the state ballot, but he got enough signatures to force his way on; he was then able to capitalize on voter anger against the Albany establishment to overtake Lazio, a mainstream figure who had been widely-expected to easily win the nomination (and then lose to Cuomo). Paladino’s victory looks like more bad news for a weakening Republican party in New York – and good news for Democrats who now have a potent symbol to feed their preferred narrative that Republicans are too far out of the mainstream for most Americans.
Excerpt from Carl Paladino’s Controversial Statements Could Embarrass Republicans – Political Hotsheet | CBS News

These email forwards are real; thanks to WNYmedia, a muckraking upstate blog, you can see all of the emails here, if you can stomach hardcore pornography (including one with bestiality), vile racism and the N-word.

These profane emails have garnered LOTS OF attention; you don’t want the governor of New York, who would be responsible for one of the most diverse, dynamic immigrant populations in the world, to be neck-deep in casual racism like this! Even Murdoch’s right-leaning NY Post came out against Paladino after WNYmedia exposed the emails, and Paladino’s extramarital affairs and 10 year-old love child surfaced (while Paladino attacked Governor Paterson‘s affairs as part of “Albany’s corruption”). Given conservatives’ penchant to angrily legislate publicly against the very behavior they continually engage in privately, you can expect Paladino to crackdown on pornography and other things if elected governor.

Unfortunately, the scandalous headlines have obscured even scarier facts about Paladino: his plans for New York. He wants the state budget slashed by 20% overall, even if he has to shut down the government to do it, he wants to axe the New York Power Authority, which would presumably transfer the NYPA‘s 4.2 million kilowatts of clean hydroelectricity to profit-hungry businesses, and he wants to put poor people into “voluntary” labor camps in converted prisons. Most disturbing is his proposed $20 billion cut to New York Medicaid, which would shrink state Medicaid/DOH by 30%, and would be inconceivably devastating for those of us with severe disabilities who rely on in-home care to stay alive and in the home.

Via the Adirondack Daily Enterprise:

Aside from consolidating government, Paladino said he would drive down Medicaid costs by $20 billion, which would reduce expenses for counties. The entire cost of the program is $52 billion, of which half is paid by the federal government and the rest divided between the state and the counties. Paladino said he would “slash” Medicaid and social welfare benefits, and require applicants to produce identification and be fingerprinted and drug-tested.

If we have the needed services and supports, we stay in our homes with our loved ones, producing value in our communities, paying sales taxes, property taxes, etc. But if those services are yanked out from under us, we end up in insanely expensive nursing facilities, or worse, dead. Conservatives are typically penny smart and pound foolish on this issue, and merely two years ago it was unimaginable that the hard-right agenda would have this level of prominence and influence.

Republican Revolution (1994), which Rick Lazio was a foot soldier for in Congress, and wanted budget cuts, elimination of welfare, law and order and anti-union laws, is no longer conservative enough for Republican voters. You have to hate much more to be a real conservative. This is like one of Robespierre’s purges of earlier revolutionaries; it’s not enough to support the revolution and oppose the enemy, you have to show a frenzied enthusiasm for every facet of the revolution and consistently revile the enemy publicly, or face the guillotine. Paladino painted Lazio as a “liberal Republican” throughout the primary, an INSANE claim, and won because a huge plurality actually believes this. Rick Lazio must feel like his head’s rolling down the palace rug right now, poor bastard. Republican Revolution of ’94 wasn’t enough; now, foaming ultra-conservatives demand Republican Revolution II!

It seems the entire country has lurched to the right; America is being driven insane by economic anxieties and the drastic changes in so many things (the economy, technology, politics and society). All the changes have triggered a huge reactionary push-back, but, even more, a tectonic shift that makes the nuttiest elements in politics more powerful than even four years ago under the Bush Administration. For such an extremist candidate to win the GOP nod, even in New York, with its proud tradition of moderate/liberal Republican governors and senators, for the right-wing nuts to conquer the home of the old Rockefeller Republicans, you know that politics has shifted DRAMATICALLY.

The right-wing nuts are more powerful now than four years ago, even though with Obama (hope and change!) the exact inverse was supposed to be the case. Support for the First Amendment is shockingly low, and support for discrimination is shockingly high–just look at the support for a nationwide ban on mosques, espoused by former Speaker Gingrich. Why has politics slid so easily to the far-right?? WHY IS THIS? what happened?!

My theory for what happened is basically: it’s Democrats’ fault! Even amidst soaring, Bobby Kennedy-esque optimistic rhetoric, Democrats delivered the same crappy, tepid leadership and status quo, making lies out of “yes we can.”
Obama isn’t up for election on November 2nd, and that makes it BAD for Democrats’ chances, because none of the people running have Obama’s rhetorical gifts, and most of what’s left for voters is the Democrats with long records being corrupt and craven and ineffectual and impotent, the Democrats suck at campaigning and suck even more at governing, Like Charlie Rangel, along with the rest of the leadership (Pelosi, Reid, etc.) who are deeply corrupt. They gave up 3/4 of progressive aims on the health care bill, in exchange for campaign bribetributions. We ended up with a love letter to the health insurance industry, one of the most evil industries in the world (I believe that one day there will be a memorial for all the victims of this industry). The vast majority of the health care bill’s crazy $1 TTTTTTrillion price tag is subsidies to the health insurance industry, a sector that is already bloated, inefficient, and unethical. When you subsidize something, you’ll inevitably get more of it; in this case we’re subsidizing EVIL. If there were any justice, the health insurance cartels would be broken up via antitrust actions (like what happened to Ma Bell), rather than maintaining stable monopolies in each state. But wait, the health insurance industry is specifically exempted from antitrust law, and the Democrats chose to leave it that way!
Those who were suspicious of the health reform effort had their suspicions confirmed, and then some; the health reform bill truly does increase the power of health insurance companies over our lives. Democrats could have done health care reform the right way, guided by their better angels, and be heralded as heroes in this election; instead, they used Massachusetts’ fascist RomneyCare as their model and refused to adopt and build on proposals from a more classical liberal view, like Sen. Ron Wyden’s plan. Democrats were on their worst possible behavior, showing the whole world how craven and corrupt they can be. That means Democrats’ credibility is shot. Thus we have no real counter to the unAmerican monsters dominating the Right (when internment camps for Muslims and nationwide bans on mosque construction become mainstream in your party because no one will “refudiate” such extremism, you are officially monstrous). The Democratic party doesn’t have the testicular fortitude to fight back; hell, they cowered instead of force a vote on health care for 9/11 rescue workers!

We liberals now have no choice but to abandon the binary, up/down, Democrat/Republican, black/white, thinking that leads us to act as if we only elect more Democrats, everything would be peachy. We know that a progressive agenda is desperately needed in this country, but go wrong in assuming that the Democratic party will always pursue those goals. We need to primary the hell out of a lot of seats until we can purge the corruption and get some actually good candidates elected.

Meanwhile, we’re boned. We’re going to see a repeat of what happened to the Democrats in the ’94 elections, that ushered in the “Republican Revolution” (Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, Tom DeLay & company). At that time, the Democrats had caved to their corporate masters as well, and liberal voters were dispirited, while conservative voters were in a frenzy. The same thing is coming to you live on Nov. 2nd. But, of course, Republican Revolution II: Electric Bugaloo is looking much scarier–they’ve gone all Jacobin; it’s dogmatic purity or the electoral guillotine.

some of the players in Republican Revolution II: Congressman John Boehner, media wanker Tucker Carlson, and dark queen Sarah Palin

Once Republican Revolution II starts, John Boehner will likely win Speaker of the House

Republican congressmen are already openly tweeting about what they want to do, an extended government shutdown (like Gingrich did). With the economy already tanking, a disruption in government services could trigger a disaster. But I’m even more concerned about fundamental shifts in American values, social services, and escalating confrontation with the Islamic world.

I don’t feel like I am living in “the age of Obama,” already I feel like I am living in the age of Glenn Beck.