Hey Tea Party-Republicans: The Founders Are Not Your Guys

by Harvey Wasserman

This is a Greco-Roman nation, gathered in a Hodenosaunee longhouse.

As they wrap themselves in the Constitution they mean to shred, that is the self-evident Truth the Tea/GOP Party ultimately cannot face.

Our legal godfathers---the ones Glenn Beck loves to conjure---were Deistic liberal humanists whose core beliefs he hates.

They dumped that tea because they despised the corporation that owned it and the idea of empire it (and today's corporate-military right) stood for.

The very first phrase of this nation's defining document, the Bill of Rights, says:

"Judaeo-Christian? Not a chance."

The grassroots farmers that made the Revolution were free-thinking hemp growers. Their favorite scribe, Tom Paine, was the son of a Quaker whose Age of Reason assaulted the church with unsurpassed fury. Today's Tea/GOP would have it burned.

Our greatest genius, Ben Franklin, was a proud and joyous sexual adventurer. His very presence today would induce howls of (envious) outrage from the religious right.

It was Franklin who most loved Native America. He introduced himself to the French as "an American savage." He stamped the Hodenosaunee (Iroquois) gifts of personal freedom and a democratic confederation into the soul of the new nation.

More formally, our tradition of direct voting, still alive in many New England towns, where the Revolution was born, was conceived in Athens, 508 BC. The Republic ("if you can keep it," as Franklin warned) came from Rome, 509 BC. Long before the "Christian Era."

The federal structure adopted in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, was---with Franklin's mentoring---based on the Iroquois Confederacy. That union was born at latest 1540 AD. It sustained a functioning democracy for at least 250 years, still longer than the US has been in existence.

The matriarchal Hodenosaunee were defined by a love of nature and communal land stewardship. Open dialog was as easily accepted as abortion and homosexuality. Along with so many other lethal diseases, Original Sin was an unwanted import.

It is the humanistic liberalism of America's Founders that STILL enrages today's neo-Puritan Tea/GOP. The Jefferson they love to claim fathered at least five children with his slave Sally Hemings, thirty years his junior. Some were conceived while he lived "alone" in the White House.

He and Franklin and Madison and Paine had no time for the Christian faith. It's by their intelligent design that Jesus appears nowhere in the Constitution. Their liberal Deism said a Creator got the universe going, installed the laws of nature, endowed humans with free will (and inalienable rights), then left.

Franklin's disdain for church services spices his autobiography. Jefferson clipped all references to a divinity for Jesus out of his personal Bible. Paine's Age of Reason still enrages the official church. Madison's First Amendment enshrines disdain for an official religion. Unitarianism in all its liberal diversity was shared by presidents two through six, including two Adamses, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe.

Their system of checks and balances was based on the Socratic proposition that with the freedom to dialog, human reason will prevail. Thus the First Amendment's very first phrase exalts freedom from Religion, ie separation of church and state, a phrase coined by Jefferson, demanded by the new nation as a whole.

Like virtually all other American farmers, Washington and Jefferson raised serious quantities of hemp, and made good money from it. Franklin owned a paper mill that ran on it. All may well have smoked its psycho-active cousin, now known as marijuana. If you told them the nation they founded would make this versatile herb illegal, they would laugh at you.

They'd be equally horrified to hear the Foxist Tea/GOP claiming them as icons in a sectarian crusade for repression and empire.

Today's religious right is an unholy fusion of theocratic authoritarianism---which our Founders hated above all---and corporate tyranny, whose tea they pitched in Boston harbor.

Along with George III, there's nothing they loathed more than the anti-human hypocrisy we hear from the Foxist Legion.

Likewise, Beck, Pailn, Limbaugh, O'Reilly and their ilk would have shrieked with rage at the actual Franklin and Paine, Jefferson and Madison, not to mention the populist farmers and sailors, workers and women who fought and died for the Revolution we all Revere (yes, him too!).

So next time those Tea/GOP phonies gaze off in the distance to claim kinship with the Founders, remind everyone you know who really did win that Revolution and write that Bill of Rights.

Those hemp-growing, tree-hugging, corporate-hating deistic free loving and free thinking present-at-the-creation Americans believed above all that the Truth would keep us free.

Now more than ever, it's our patriotic duty to prove them right.

Harvey Wasserman's SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH, A.D. 2030, is at www.solartopia.org. He is senior advisor to Greenpeace USA and the Nuclear Information & Resource Service, and writes regularly for www.freepress.org.

The Founding Fathers were capitalists.

The founding fathers were free-market capitalists who openly opposed democracy. They threw tea into the harbor because they wanted a free market where they could buy and sell tea to and from anyone they chose. They believed people should have the right to decide for themselves what way to live their lives. They believed people should be allowed to own guns and use them to defend themselves against the government. They believed in limited government and low taxes. They were against any form of welfare. They would be appalled at social security and all our other current "safety nets" which are just handouts to people who have done nothing to earn them.

They believed in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They did not promise happiness to anyone, all they wanted was to provide Americans with the freedom to pursue their own individual hopes and dreams.

They believed in the sovereignty of the individual over the state.

Would all the "progressives" and "socialists" in the country who believe in any of these things that the founding fathers believed in please raise their hands. Anyone? Yeah, I didn't think so.


You seem to have been drinking koolaid, not tea.

I doubt your appeal to others to join you in your delusions will find much traction here or any place else except at a Koolaid, err, Tea Party rally.

But keep kiciking the myth. It gives the rest of us the chance to surround you.

Be Honest

The founding fathers were free-market capitalists who openly opposed democracy.

Come on, be honest. What you really mean is that YOU oppose democracy.

No doubt the Founders had issues. That slavery thing, for instance. They saw slaves as a property issue, not as a human rights issue. Of course, what you'd really like would be to return non-white people to slavery. And if you give the vote to slaves, they might actually vote to abolish it. That would be just too much democracy. Better in your tiny reptilian mind to count them as 3/5 of a person -- and let some white folks claim them in the census count so that you can claim more representation in Congress.

I can see where you're going and I don't like it.

You can't see where I am going because you have blinders on.

How did you get anything racist out of "The founding fathers were free-market capitalists who openly opposed democracy."? They opposed democracy because its a system of majority rule that forsakes the rights of the individual in favor of the whims of the angry mob. But don't take my word for it, lets go to the source on this one:

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!"
Benjamin Franklin

A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.

Thomas Jefferson

    I Like this quote I dislike this quote

The United States of America is a constitutional republic based on objective rule of law. Laws based on protecting the rights of the individual. America is NOT a democracy. Democracy and liberty cannot co-exist for any length of time because they will eventually come into conflict with each other. Allow me to explore, if you will, a subject very near and dear to the "progressive" crowd: gay marriage. Marriage is, at its core, an institution based on individual liberty. People should have the right to marry whomever they choose, because its a personal choice that is key to their pursuit of happiness. But many states have voted to outlaw gay marriage. Hence the conflict.

If you say you believe in democracy you have no basis to oppose gay marriage bans as long as they were voted upon by the people. But by voting to outlaw gay marriage individual rights have been abused.

If you say you are in favor of gay marriage you are denying the validity of democracy because the issue was decided by a legitimate democratic vote. If you say you favor democracy you cannot oppose the outcomes if they are based on the will of the people; which they are. The founding fathers believed that individual rights were not subject to being voted on, which is what happens in a democracy; hence their open hostility to it.

Of course you can always pick and choose which times you support democracy and which times you support individual liberty and hope no one notices the hypocritical double standard.

Now I didn't mean to spin this thread into a debate about gay marriage. I just felt it was a good illustration of the point I was trying to make. It may make you scratch your heads a little when you realize that capitalism is a philisophical system based on individual rights. Which is why capitalists favor gay marriage and abortion rights, and oppose racism, war, and imperialism. Take a moment to really get to know us and we might suprise you.  




If The Capitalists Are So Oppressed...

If the capitalists are so oppressed, how come they ended up with $7,000,000,000,000 of our money -- on top of what they squeeze out of working people every day?

Then there's this gem:

"If you say you are in favor of gay marriage you are denying the validity of democracy because the issue was decided by a legitimate democratic vote."

Strange logic, very strange logic.

I won't even begin to speculate what that means or what it mean about you.

Or you're just trolling.

Quit trying so hard to save capitalism's virtue. It doesn't exist, you're not John Galt and Ayn Rand wrote tediously bad books.

Most of all, it is really hard to believe that someone exists who tops the News-Gazette for sheer pandering to profit. Congratulations, you get the cake.

But I've not read anything by you that involves dedication "to addressing issues that the mainstream media neglects" that I've read here. You might try that angle, although it will be a stretch for you.

But really? Really!?! You've never tuned in Fox News? They do your schtick 24/7/365. Trust me on this. You'll be much more pleased with thereservice. make new friends, chat with people you find interesting, rather than infuriatiing, although they do tend to force people to pay.

Or are you here just because you're cheap? What did you expect for free?


Why can't we be friends?

"how come they ended up with $7,000,000,000,000 of our money"

They didn't end up with "your" money. They created a large amount of money through intelligent, hard work. Wealth is not a zero sum game. The earth didn't start out with a pile of money that is being divided amongst everyone. Wealth can be created and destroyed. And capitalists create wealth. All they ask is that they be allowed to keep what they create.  

"on top of what they squeeze out of working people every day"

No one anywhere is forced to do any kind of business with anyone they don't wish to. Capitalists can't "squeeze" anyone because no one is forced to do business with them. Well, that was until Obama passed a freedom-killing massively unconstitutional healthcare bill.

"Strange logic, very strange logic."

No its not strange logical. It's just logic. Which might seem strange to someone who forms their values and world views on what feels correct instead of what is logically correct.

"you're not John Galt"

I never once claimed to be. Although if we are making literary references I prefer 1984. You may have read it. Its about a capitalist named Winston Smith who is tortured with starving rats in order to brainwash him into believing in socialism. And all because he chose personal happiness over the socialist collective.  

"really hard to believe that someone exists who tops the News-Gazette for sheer pandering to profit."

I'm not sure what the News-Gazette has to do with this debate, but whatever.

And then there is all the stuff about Foxnews, finding new friends; and something about me being cheap. Its a little incoherent, but I think what you were getting at is that you are mad that someone is posting on this sight that you don't agree with, so you want me to shut up and go away. 

In all your posting you've never once offered any arguments against my points. You've just tried to push me into a racial debate. Which, in my experience, is the go-to move of a person that can't come up with any actual logical arguments. So let me wrap up this post with one little thought for you. Racism is about ignoring a persons character and individuality and assigning them to a societal collective. Socialism does the exact same thing.

It's Going to Break Your Heart

But you're about as wrong as you can possibly be about Orwell's motivations in writing 1984. Your view that the novel is "about a capitalist named Winston Smith who is tortured with starving rats in order to brainwash him into believing in socialism..." is one that amounts to a tortured and naive misrepresentation.

As a scholar myself, I understand one has to take Wikipedia entries with a certain amount of skepticism, but they generally represent a consensus view of factual and historical information. On Winston Smith's clash with authority, it is generally accepted that this was a universal critique of any system that oppressed the individual in the name of a supposedly greater good. Orwell clearly intended this critique of oppressive authoirty of any brand.

As for your assertion of some epic capitalist vs communist clash being the sub-text of 1984, again you're just wrong. Let's reference Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four):


In the essay "Why I Write" (1946), Orwell described himself as a Democratic Socialist.[21] Thus, in his 16 June 1949 letter to Francis Henson of the United Automobile Workers about the excerpts published in Life (25 July 1949) magazine and The New York Times Book Review (31 July 1949), Orwell said:

My recent novel [Nineteen Eighty-Four] is NOT intended as an attack on Socialism or on the British Labour Party (of which I am a supporter), but as a show-up of the perversions . . . which have already been partly realized in Communism and Fascism. . . . The scene of the book is laid in Britain in order to emphasize that the English-speaking races are not innately better than anyone else, and that totalitarianism, if not fought against, could triumph anywhere.
Collected Essays [22]


Furthermore, the principal critique was just as much about the evils of nationalism -- something certainly manifest in the 20th century -- as it was about whatever political system that manipulated it for it's own power.

Readers should consider your persistent entreaties to spring to the defense of capitalism for what they are: a feeble effort to paint some happy faces on the destroyed livelihoods of millions of Americans so that the bankers can get back on their feet.

Sounds like you're Orwellian to me.

Because you're simply delusional if you see socialism breaking out around you. Maybe you ought to see about an internship with Glenn Beck?

Personally, I'd be OK with a whole lot more socialism in Obama's program. Because with a net socialism content of 00.0001%, he's just not doing it for me.

Cast Out the Beam in Thine Own Eye

...capitalists favor gay marriage and abortion rights, and oppose racism, war, and imperialism.

How about you go and harass the Republicans about this? They don't seem to have gotten your message.

Progressives don't need you lecturing them about how they don't love capitalism enough.

As for opposing racism, in particular, aren't you the same person who claimed that America's prisons are full of black people because African-Americans are so criminally inclined that prison populations simply reflect their propensity to break the law more than white people?*

[*Despite the fact that data shows that African-Americans are actually less likely to use drugs, etc.]

What's with the race obsession?

I do harass Republicans about it. All the time. And I'll stop lecturing progressives about capitalism the day they stop trying to use the government to force their world view on me and actually take a moment to try and understand freedom.

And I've never posted anything about prisons being filled with black people. That part of your post just confuses me. Why do you keep bringing up racial issues when it has nothing to do with whats being discussed? I judge people on the content of their character, not the color of their skin.  

Tea & Crackers: Corps+Republican Insiders = Tea Party Monsters

by Matt Taibbi

It's taken three trips to Kentucky, but I'm finally getting my Tea Party epiphany exactly where you'd expect: at a Sarah Palin rally. The red-hot mama of American exceptionalism has flown in to speak at something called the National Quartet Convention in Louisville, a gospel-music hoedown in a giant convention center filled with thousands of elderly white Southerners. Palin — who earlier this morning held a closed-door fundraiser for Rand Paul, the Tea Party champion running for the U.S. Senate — is railing against a GOP establishment that has just seen Tea Partiers oust entrenched Republican hacks in Delaware and New York. The dingbat revolution, it seems, is nigh.

"We're shaking up the good ol' boys," Palin chortles, to the best applause her aging crowd can muster. She then issues an oft-repeated warning (her speeches are usually a tired succession of half-coherent one-liners dumped on ravenous audiences like chum to sharks) to Republican insiders who underestimated the power of the Tea Party Death Star. "Buck up," she says, "or stay in the truck."

Stay in what truck? I wonder. What the hell does that even mean?

Scanning the thousands of hopped-up faces in the crowd, I am immediately struck by two things. One is that there isn't a single black person here. The other is the truly awesome quantity of medical hardware: Seemingly every third person in the place is sucking oxygen from a tank or propping their giant atrophied glutes on motorized wheelchair-scooters. As Palin launches into her Ronald Reagan impression — "Government's not the solution! Government's the problem!" — the person sitting next to me leans over and explains.

"The scooters are because of Medicare," he whispers helpfully. "They have these commercials down here: 'You won't even have to pay for your scooter! Medicare will pay!' Practically everyone in Kentucky has one."

A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can't imagine it.

After Palin wraps up, I race to the parking lot in search of departing Medicare-motor-scooter conservatives. I come upon an elderly couple, Janice and David Wheelock, who are fairly itching to share their views.

"I'm anti-spending and anti-government," crows David, as scooter-bound Janice looks on. "The welfare state is out of control."

"OK," I say. "And what do you do for a living?"

"Me?" he says proudly. "Oh, I'm a property appraiser. Have been my whole life."

I frown. "Are either of you on Medicare?"

Silence: Then Janice, a nice enough woman, it seems, slowly raises her hand, offering a faint smile, as if to say, You got me!

"Let me get this straight," I say to David. "You've been picking up a check from the government for decades, as a tax assessor, and your wife is on Medicare. How can you complain about the welfare state?"

"Well," he says, "there's a lot of people on welfare who don't deserve it. Too many people are living off the government."

"But," I protest, "you live off the government. And have been your whole life!"

"Yeah," he says, "but I don't make very much." Vast forests have already been sacrificed to the public debate about the Tea Party: what it is, what it means, where it's going. But after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I've concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They're full of shit. All of them. At the voter level, the Tea Party is a movement that purports to be furious about government spending — only the reality is that the vast majority of its members are former Bush supporters who yawned through two terms of record deficits and spent the past two electoral cycles frothing not about spending but about John Kerry's medals and Barack Obama's Sixties associations. The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them. In fact, their lack of embarrassment when it comes to collecting government largesse is key to understanding what this movement is all about — and nowhere do we see that dynamic as clearly as here in Kentucky, where Rand Paul is barreling toward the Senate with the aid of conservative icons like Palin.

Early in his campaign, Dr. Paul, the son of the uncompromising libertarian hero Ron Paul, denounced Medicare as "socialized medicine." But this spring, when confronted with the idea of reducing Medicare payments to doctors like himself — half of his patients are on Medicare — he balked. This candidate, a man ostensibly so against government power in all its forms that he wants to gut the Americans With Disabilities Act and abolish the departments of Education and Energy, was unwilling to reduce his own government compensation, for a very logical reason. "Physicians," he said, "should be allowed to make a comfortable living."

Those of us who might have expected Paul's purist followers to abandon him in droves have been disappointed; Paul is now the clear favorite to win in November. Ha, ha, you thought we actually gave a shit about spending, joke's on you. That's because the Tea Party doesn't really care about issues — it's about something deep down and psychological, something that can't be answered by political compromise or fundamental changes in policy. At root, the Tea Party is nothing more than a them-versus-us thing. They know who they are, and they know who we are ("radical leftists" is the term they prefer), and they're coming for us on Election Day, no matter what we do — and, it would seem, no matter what their own leaders like Rand Paul do.

In the Tea Party narrative, victory at the polls means a new American revolution, one that will "take our country back" from everyone they disapprove of. But what they don't realize is, there's a catch: This is America, and we have an entrenched oligarchical system in place that insulates us all from any meaningful political change. The Tea Party today is being pitched in the media as this great threat to the GOP; in reality, the Tea Party is the GOP. What few elements of the movement aren't yet under the control of the Republican Party soon will be, and even if a few genuine Tea Party candidates sneak through, it's only a matter of time before the uprising as a whole gets castrated, just like every grass-roots movement does in this country. Its leaders will be bought off and sucked into the two-party bureaucracy, where its platform will be whittled down until the only things left are those that the GOP's campaign contributors want anyway: top-bracket tax breaks, free trade and financial deregulation.

The rest of it — the sweeping cuts to federal spending, the clampdown on bailouts, the rollback of Roe v. Wade — will die on the vine as one Tea Party leader after another gets seduced by the Republican Party and retrained for the revolutionary cause of voting down taxes for Goldman Sachs executives. It's all on display here in Kentucky, the unofficial capital of the Tea Party movement, where, ha, ha, the joke turns out to be on them: Rand Paul, their hero, is a fake.

The original Tea Party was launched by a real opponent of the political establishment — Rand Paul's father, Ron, whose grass-roots rallies for his 2008 presidential run were called by that name. The elder Paul will object to this characterization, but what he represents is something of a sacred role in American culture: the principled crackpot. He's a libertarian, but he means it. Sure, he takes typical, if exaggerated, Republican stances against taxes and regulation, but he also opposes federal drug laws ("The War on Drugs is totally out of control" and "All drugs should be decriminalized"), Bush's interventionist wars in the Middle East ("We cannot spread our greatness and our goodness through the barrel of a gun") and the Patriot Act; he even called for legalized prostitution and online gambling.

Paul had a surprisingly good showing as a fringe candidate in 2008, and he may run again, but he'll never get any further than the million primary votes he got last time for one simple reason, which happens to be the same reason many campaign-trail reporters like me liked him: He's honest. An anti- war, pro-legalization Republican won't ever play in Peoria, which is why in 2008 Paul's supporters were literally outside the tent at most GOP events, their candidate pissed on by a party hierarchy that preferred Wall Street-friendly phonies like Mitt Romney and John McCain. Paul returned the favor, blasting both parties as indistinguishable "Republicrats" in his presciently titled book, The Revolution. The pre-Obama "Tea Parties" were therefore peopled by young anti-war types and libertarian intellectuals who were as turned off by George W. Bush and Karl Rove as they were by liberals and Democrats.

The failure of the Republican Party to invite the elder Paul into the tent of power did not mean, however, that it didn't see the utility of borrowing his insurgent rhetoric and parts of his platform for Tea Party 2.0. This second-generation Tea Party came into being a month after Barack Obama moved into the Oval Office, when CNBC windbag Rick Santelli went on the air to denounce one of Obama's bailout programs and called for "tea parties" to protest. The impetus for Santelli's rant wasn't the billions in taxpayer money being spent to prop up the bad mortgage debts and unsecured derivatives losses of irresponsible investors like Goldman Sachs and AIG — massive government bailouts supported, incidentally, by Sarah Palin and many other prominent Republicans. No, what had Santelli all worked up was Obama's "Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan," a $75 billion program less than a hundredth the size of all the bank bailouts. This was one of the few bailout programs designed to directly benefit individual victims of the financial crisis; the money went to homeowners, many of whom were minorities, who were close to foreclosure. While the big bank bailouts may have been incomprehensible to ordinary voters, here was something that Middle America had no problem grasping: The financial crisis was caused by those lazy minorities next door who bought houses they couldn't afford — and now the government was going to bail them out.

"How many of you people want to pay your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills? Raise your hand!" Santelli roared in a broadcast from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. Why, he later asked, doesn't America reward people who "carry the water instead of drink the water?"

Suddenly, tens of thousands of Republicans who had been conspicuously silent during George Bush's gargantuan spending on behalf of defense contractors and hedge-fund gazillionaires showed up at Tea Party rallies across the nation, declaring themselves fed up with wasteful government spending. From the outset, the events were organized and financed by the conservative wing of the Republican Party, which was quietly working to co-opt the new movement and deploy it to the GOP's advantage. Taking the lead was former House majority leader Dick Armey, who as chair of a group called FreedomWorks helped coordinate Tea Party rallies across the country. A succession of Republican Party insiders and money guys make up the guts of FreedomWorks: Its key members include billionaire turd Steve Forbes and former Republican National Committee senior economist Matt Kibbe.

Prior to the Tea Party phenomenon, FreedomWorks was basically just an AstroTurfing-lobbying outfit whose earlier work included taking money from Verizon to oppose telecommunications regulation. Now the organization's sights were set much higher: In the wake of a monstrous economic crash caused by grotesque abuses in unregulated areas of the financial-services industry, FreedomWorks — which took money from companies like mortgage lender MetLife — had the opportunity to persuade millions of ordinary Americans to take up arms against, among other things, Wall Street reform.

Joining them in the fight was another group, Americans for Prosperity, which was funded in part by the billionaire David Koch, whose Koch Industries is the second-largest privately held company in America. In addition to dealing in plastics, chemicals and petroleum, Koch has direct interests in commodities trading and financial services. He also has a major stake in pushing for deregulation, as his companies have been fined multiple times by the government, including a 1999 case in which Koch Industries was held to have stolen oil from federal lands, lying about oil purchases some 24,000 times.

So how does a group of billionaire businessmen and corporations get a bunch of broke Middle American white people to lobby for lower taxes for the rich and deregulation of Wall Street? That turns out to be easy. Beneath the surface, the Tea Party is little more than a weird and disorderly mob, a federation of distinct and often competing strains of conservatism that have been unable to coalesce around a leader of their own choosing. Its rallies include not only hardcore libertarians left over from the original Ron Paul "Tea Parties," but gun-rights advocates, fundamentalist Christians, pseudomilitia types like the Oath Keepers (a group of law- enforcement and military professionals who have vowed to disobey "unconstitutional" orders) and mainstream Republicans who have simply lost faith in their party. It's a mistake to cast the Tea Party as anything like a unified, cohesive movement — which makes them easy prey for the very people they should be aiming their pitchforks at. A loose definition of the Tea Party might be millions of pissed-off white people sent chasing after Mexicans on Medicaid by the handful of banks and investment firms who advertise on Fox and CNBC.

The individuals in the Tea Party may come from very different walks of life, but most of them have a few things in common. After nearly a year of talking with Tea Party members from Nevada to New Jersey, I can count on one hand the key elements I expect to hear in nearly every interview. One: Every single one of them was that exceptional Republican who did protest the spending in the Bush years, and not one of them is the hypocrite who only took to the streets when a black Democratic president launched an emergency stimulus program. ("Not me — I was protesting!" is a common exclamation.) Two: Each and every one of them is the only person in America who has ever read the Constitution or watched Schoolhouse Rock. (Here they have guidance from Armey, who explains that the problem with "people who do not cherish America the way we do" is that "they did not read the Federalist Papers.") Three: They are all furious at the implication that race is a factor in their political views — despite the fact that they blame the financial crisis on poor black homeowners, spend months on end engrossed by reports about how the New Black Panthers want to kill "cracker babies," support politicians who think the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an overreach of government power, tried to enact South African-style immigration laws in Arizona and obsess over Charlie Rangel, ACORN and Barack Obama's birth certificate. Four: In fact, some of their best friends are black! (Reporters in Kentucky invented a game called "White Male Liberty Patriot Bingo," checking off a box every time a Tea Partier mentions a black friend.) And five: Everyone who disagrees with them is a radical leftist who hates America.

It would be inaccurate to say the Tea Partiers are racists. What they are, in truth, are narcissists. They're completely blind to how offensive the very nature of their rhetoric is to the rest of the country. I'm an ordinary middle-aged guy who pays taxes and lives in the suburbs with his wife and dog — and I'm a radical communist? I don't love my country? I'm a redcoat? Fuck you! These are the kinds of thoughts that go through your head as you listen to Tea Partiers expound at awesome length upon their cultural victimhood, surrounded as they are by America-haters like you and me or, in the case of foreign-born president Barack Obama, people who are literally not Americans in the way they are.

It's not like the Tea Partiers hate black people. It's just that they're shockingly willing to believe the appalling horseshit fantasy about how white people in the age of Obama are some kind of oppressed minority. That may not be racism, but it is incredibly, earth-shatteringly stupid. I hear this theme over and over — as I do on a recent trip to northern Kentucky, where I decide to stick on a Rand Paul button and sit in on a Tea Party event at a local amusement park. Before long, a group of about a half-dozen Tea Partiers begin speculating about how Obamacare will force emergency-room doctors to consult "death panels" that will evaluate your worth as a human being before deciding to treat you.

"They're going to look at your age, your vocation in life, your health, your income. . . ." says a guy active in the Northern Kentucky Tea Party.

"Your race?" I ask.

"Probably," he says.

"White males need not apply," says another Tea Partier.

"Like everything else, the best thing you can do is be an illegal alien," says a third. "Then they won't ask you any questions."

An amazing number of Tea Partiers actually believe this stuff, and in the past year or so a host of little-known politicians have scored electoral upsets riding this kind of yahoo paranoia. Some are career Republican politicians like Sharron Angle, the former Nevada assemblywoman who seized on the Tea Party to win the GOP nomination to challenge Harry Reid this fall. Others are opportunistic incumbents like Jan Brewer, the Arizona governor who reversed a dip in the polls by greenlighting laws to allow police to stop anyone in a Cypress Hill T-shirt. And a few are newcomers like Joe Miller, the Alaska lawyer and Sarah Palin favorite who whipped Republican lifer Lisa Murkowski in the state's Senate primary. But the champion of champions has always been Rand Paul, who as the son of the movement's would-be ideological founder was poised to become the George W. Bush figure in the Tea Party narrative, the inheritor of the divine calling.

Since Paul won the GOP Primary in Kentucky, the Tea Party has entered a whole new phase of self-deception. Now that a few of these so-called "outsider" politicians have ridden voter anger to victories over entrenched incumbents, they are being courted and turned by the very party insiders they once campaigned against. It hasn't happened everywhere yet, and in some states it may not happen at all; a few rogue politicians, like Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, might still squeak into office over the protests of the Republican establishment. But in Kentucky, home of the Chosen One, the sellout came fast and hard.

Paul was transformed from insurgent outsider to establishment stooge in the space of almost exactly one year, making a journey that with eerie cinematic precision began and ended in the same place: The Rachel Maddow Show. When he first appeared on the air with the MSNBC leading lady and noted Bible Belt Antichrist to announce his Senate candidacy in May 2009, Paul came out blazing with an inclusive narrative that seemingly offered a realistic alternative for political malcontents on both sides of the aisle. He talked with pride about how his father's anti-war stance attracted young voters (mentioning one Paul supporter in New Hampshire who had "long hair and a lip ring"). Even the choice of Maddow as a forum was clearly intended to signal that his campaign was an anti-establishment, crossover effort. "Bringing our message to those who do not yet align themselves as Republicans is precisely how we grow as a party," Paul said, explaining the choice.

In the early days of his campaign, by virtually all accounts, Paul was the real thing — expansive, willing to talk openly to anyone and everyone, and totally unapologetic about his political views, which ranged from bold and nuanced to flat-out batshit crazy. But he wasn't going to change for anyone: For young Dr. Paul, as for his father, this was more about message than victory; actually winning wasn't even on his radar. "He used to talk about how he'd be lucky if he got 10 percent," recalls Josh Koch, a former campaign volunteer for Paul who has broken with the candidate.

Before he entered the campaign, Paul had an extensive record of loony comments, often made at his father's rallies, which, to put it generously, were a haven for people gifted at the art of mining the Internet for alternate theories of reality. In a faint echo of the racially charged anti-immigrant paranoia that has become a trademark of the Tea Party, both Paul and his father preached about the apocalyptic arrival of a "10-lane colossus" NAFTA superhighway between the U.S. and Mexico, which the elder Paul said would be the width of several football fields and come complete with fiber-optic cable, railroads, and oil and gas pipelines, all with the goal of forging a single American-Mexican state. Young Paul stood with Dad on that one — after all, he had seen Mexico's former president on YouTube talking about the Amero, a proposed North American currency. "I guarantee you," he warned, "it's one of their long-term goals to have one sort of borderless, mass continent." And Paul's anti-interventionist, anti-war stance was so far out, it made MoveOn look like a detachment of the Third Marines. "Our national security," he declared in 2007, "is not threatened by Iran having one nuclear weapon."

With views like these, Paul spent the early days of his campaign looking for publicity anywhere he could get it. One of his early appearances was on the online talk show of noted 9/11 Truth buffoon and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. The two men spent the broadcast exchanging lunatic fantasies about shadowy government forces, with Paul at one point insisting that should Obama's climate bill pass, "we will have an army of armed EPA agents — thousands of them" who would raid private homes to enforce energy-efficiency standards. Paul presented himself as an ally to Jones in the fringe crusade against establishment forces at the top of society, saying the leaders of the two parties "don't believe in anything" and "get pushed around by the New World Order types."

Unsurprisingly, the GOP froze Paul out, attempting to exclude him from key party gatherings in Kentucky like the Fayette County Republican Party Picnic and the Boone County Republican Party Christmas Gala. "We had the entire Republican establishment of the state and the nation against us," says David Adams, who mobilized the first Tea Party meetings in Kentucky before serving as Paul's campaign manager during the primaries.

The state's Republican establishment, it must be said, is among the most odious in the nation. Its two senators — party kingmaker and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and mentally disappearing ex-jock Jim Bunning — collectively represent everything that most sane people despise about the modern GOP. McConnell is the ultimate D.C. insider, the kind of Republican even Republicans should wonder about, a man who ranks among the top 10 senators when it comes to loading up on pork spending. With his needle nose, pursed lips and prim reading glasses, he's a proud wearer of the "I'm an intellectual, but I'm also a narrow-minded prick" look made famous by George Will; politically his great passion is whoring for Wall Street, his most recent triumph coming when he convinced Republican voters that a proposed $50 billion fund to be collected from big banks was actually a bailout of those same banks. Bunning, meanwhile, goes with the "dumb and unashamed" style; in more than a decade of service, his sole newsworthy accomplishment came when he said his Italian-American opponent looked like one of Saddam's sons.

Paul's animus toward the state's Republican overlords never seemed greater than in August 2009, when McConnell decided to throw a fancy fundraiser in Washington for the national GOP's preferred candidate, Trey Grayson. Attended by 17 Republican senators who voted for the TARP bailout, the event was dubbed the "Bailout Ball" by Paul's people. Paul went a step further, pledging not to accept contributions from any senator who voted to hand taxpayer money over to Wall Street. "A primary focus of my campaign is that we need Republicans in office who will have the courage to say no to federal bailouts of big business," he declared.

The anti-establishment rhetoric was a big hit. Excluded from local campaign events by the GOP, Paul took his act to the airwaves, doing national TV appearances that sent his campaign soaring with Tea Party voters. "We were being shut out of a lot of opportunities in the state, so you go with what is available to you," says Adams. "And what was available was television."

In the primary almost a year later, Paul stomped Grayson, sending shock waves through the national party. The Republican candidate backed by the party's Senate minority leader had just received an ass-whipping by a Tea Party kook, a man who tried to excuse BP's greed-crazed fuck-up in the Gulf on the grounds that "sometimes accidents happen." Paul celebrated his big win by going back to where he'd begun his campaign, The Rachel Maddow Show, where he made a big show of joyously tearing off his pseudolibertarian underpants for the whole world to see — and that's where everything changed for him.

In their first interview, Maddow had softballed Paul and played nice, treating him like what he was at the time — an interesting fringe candidate with the potential to put a burr in Mitch McConnell's ass. But now, Paul was a real threat to seize a seat in the U.S. Senate, so Maddow took the gloves off and forced him to explain some of his nuttier positions. Most memorably, she hounded him about his belief that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an overreach of government power. The money exchange:

Maddow: Do you think that a private business has the right to say we don't serve black people?

Paul: Yeah. I'm not in favor of any discrimination of any form. But what about freedom of speech? Should we limit speech from people we find abhorrent? Should we limit racists from speaking?

Paul was pilloried as a racist in the national press. Within a day he was completely reversing himself, telling CNN, "I think that there was an overriding problem in the South so big that it did require federal intervention in the Sixties." Meanwhile, he was sticking his foot in his mouth on other issues, blasting the Americans With Disabilities Act and denouncing Barack Obama's criticism of British disaster merchant BP as "un-American."

Paul's libertarian coming-out party was such a catastrophe — the three gaffes came within days of each other — that he immediately jumped into the protective arms of Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party. "I think he's said quite enough for the time being in terms of national press coverage," McConnell said, explaining why Paul had been prevailed upon by the party to cancel an appearance on Meet the Press. Some news outlets reported that Paul canceled the appearance after a call from Karl Rove to Adams, who concedes that he did speak with Rove around that time.

Soon after, McConnell threw yet another "Bailout Ball" fundraiser in Washington — only this time it was for Rand Paul. The candidate who just a year before had pledged not to accept money from TARP supporters was now romping in bed with those same politicians. When pressed for an explanation of Paul's about-face on the bailouts, Adams offers an incredibly frank admission. "When he said he would not take money from people who voted for the bank bailout, he also said, in the same breath, that our first phone call after the primary would be to Senator Mitch McConnell," says Adams. "Making fun of the Bailout Ball was just for the primary."

With all the "just for the primary" stuff out of the way, Paul's platform began to rapidly "evolve." Previously opposed to erecting a fence on the Mexican border, Paul suddenly came out in favor of one. He had been flatly opposed to all farm subsidies; faced with having to win a general election in a state that receives more than $265 million a year in subsidies, Paul reversed himself and explained that he was only against subsidies to "dead farmers" and those earning more than $2 million. Paul also went on the air with Fox News reptile Sean Hannity and insisted that he differed significantly from the Libertarian Party, now speaking more favorably about, among other things, judicious troop deployments overseas.

Beyond that, Paul just flat-out stopped talking about his views — particularly the ones that don't jibe with right-wing and Christian crowds, like curtailing the federal prohibition on drugs. Who knows if that had anything to do with hawkish Christian icon Sarah Palin agreeing to headline fundraisers for Paul, but a huge chunk of the candidate's libertarian ideals have taken a long vacation.

"When he was pulling no punches, when he was reciting his best stuff, I felt like I knew him," says Koch, the former campaign volunteer who now works with the Libertarian Party in Kentucky. "But now, with Mitch McConnell and Karl Rove calling the shots, I feel like I don't know him anymore."

Hardcore young libertarians like Koch — the kind of people who were outside the tent during the elder Paul's presidential run in 2008 — cared enough about the issues to jump off the younger Paul's bandwagon when he cozied up to the Republican Party establishment. But it isn't young intellectuals like Koch who will usher Paul into the U.S. Senate in the general election; it's those huge crowds of pissed-off old people who dig Sarah Palin and Fox News and call themselves Tea Partiers. And those people really don't pay attention to specifics too much. Like dogs, they listen to tone of voice and emotional attitude.

Outside the Palin rally in September, I ask an elderly Rand supporter named Blanche Phelps if she's concerned that her candidate is now sucking up to the same Republican Party hacks he once campaigned against. Is she bothered that he has changed his mind on bailouts and abortion and American interventionism and a host of other issues?

Blanche shrugs. "Maybe," she suggests helpfully, "he got saved."

Buried deep in the anus of the Bible Belt, in a little place called Petersburg, Kentucky, is one of the world's most extraordinary tourist attractions: the Creation Museum, a kind of natural-history museum for people who believe the Earth is 6,000 years old. When you visit this impressively massive monument to fundamentalist Christian thought, you get a mind-blowing glimpse into the modern conservative worldview. One exhibit depicts a half-naked Adam and Eve sitting in the bush, cheerfully keeping house next to dinosaurs — which, according to creationist myth, not only lived alongside humans but were peaceful vegetarians until Adam partook of the forbidden fruit. It's hard to imagine a more telling demonstration of this particular demographic's unmatched ability to believe just about anything.

Even more disturbing is an exhibit designed to show how the world has changed since the Scopes trial eradicated religion from popular culture. Visitors to the museum enter a darkened urban scene full of graffiti and garbage, and through a series of windows view video scenes of families in a state of collapse. A teenager, rolling a giant doobie as his God-fearing little brother looks on in horror, surfs porn on the Web instead of reading the Bible. ("A Wide World of Women!" the older brother chuckles.) A girl stares at her home pregnancy test and says into the telephone, "My parents are not going to know!" As you go farther into the exhibit, you find a wooden door, into which an eerie inscription has been carved: "The World's Not Safe Anymore."

Staff members tell me Rand Paul recently visited the museum after-hours. This means nothing in itself, of course, but it serves as an interesting metaphor to explain Paul's success in Kentucky. The Tea Party is many things at once, but one way or another, it almost always comes back to a campaign against that unsafe urban hellscape of godless liberalism we call our modern world. Paul's platform is ultimately about turning back the clock, returning America to the moment of her constitutional creation, when the federal bureaucracy was nonexistent and men were free to roam the Midwestern plains strip-mining coal and erecting office buildings without wheelchair access. Some people pick on Paul for his humorously extreme back-to-Hobbesian-nature platform (a Louisville teachers' union worker named Bill Allison follows Paul around in a "NeanderPaul" cave-man costume shouting things like "Abolish all laws!" and "BP just made mistakes!"), but it's clear when you talk to Paul supporters that what they dig most is his implicit promise to turn back time, an idea that in Kentucky has some fairly obvious implications.

At a Paul fundraiser in northern Kentucky, I strike up a conversation with one Lloyd Rogers, a retired judge in his 70s who is introducing the candidate at the event. The old man is dressed in a baseball cap and shirtsleeves. Personalitywise, he's what you might call a pistol; one of the first things he says to me is that people are always telling him to keep his mouth shut, but he just can't. I ask him what he thinks about Paul's position on the Civil Rights Act.

"Well, hell, if it's your restaurant, you're putting up the money, you should be able to do what you want," says Rogers. "I tell you, every time he says something like that, in Kentucky he goes up 20 points in the polls. With Kentucky voters, it's not a problem."

In Lexington, I pose the same question to Mica Sims, a local Tea Party organizer. "You as a private-property owner have the right to refuse service for whatever reason you feel will better your business," she says, comparing the Civil Rights Act to onerous anti-smoking laws. "If you're for small government, you're for small government."

You look into the eyes of these people when you talk to them and they genuinely don't see what the problem is. It's no use explaining that while nobody likes the idea of having to get the government to tell restaurant owners how to act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the tool Americans were forced to use to end a monstrous system of apartheid that for 100 years was the shame of the entire Western world. But all that history is not real to Tea Partiers; what's real to them is the implication in your question that they're racists, and to them that is the outrage, and it's an outrage that binds them together. They want desperately to believe in the one-size-fits-all, no-government theology of Rand Paul because it's so easy to understand. At times, their desire to withdraw from the brutally complex global economic system that is an irrevocable fact of our modern life and get back to a simpler world that no longer exists is so intense, it breaks your heart.

At a restaurant in Lexington, I sit down with a Tea Party activist named Frank Harris, with the aim of asking him what he thinks of Wall Street reform. Harris is a bit of an unusual Tea Partier; he's a pro-hemp, anti-war activist who supported Dennis Kucinich. Though he admits he doesn't know very much about the causes of the crash, he insists that financial reform isn't necessary because people like him can always choose not to use banks, take out mortgages, have pensions or even consume everyday products like gas and oil, whose prices are set by the market.

"Really?" I ask. "You can choose not to use gas and oil?" My awesomely fattening cheese-and-turkey dish called a "Hot Brown" is beginning to congeal.

"You can if you want to," Harris says. "And you don't have to take out loans. You can save money and pay for things in cash."

"So instead of regulating banks," I ask, "your solution is saving money in cash?"

He shrugs. "I'm trying to avoid banks at every turn."

My head is starting to hurt. Arguments with Tea Partiers always end up like football games in the year 1900 — everything on the ground, one yard at a time.

My problem, Frank explains, is that I think I can prevent crime by making things illegal. "You want a policeman standing over here so someone doesn't come in here and mug you?" he says. "Because you're going to have to pay for that policeman!"

"But," I say, confused, "we do pay for police."

"You're trying to make every situation 100 percent safe!" he shouts.

This, then, is the future of the Republican Party: Angry white voters hovering over their cash-stuffed mattresses with their kerosene lanterns, peering through the blinds at the oncoming hordes of suburban soccer moms they've mistaken for death-panel bureaucrats bent on exterminating anyone who isn't an illegal alien or a Kenyan anti-colonialist.

The world is changing all around the Tea Party. The country is becoming more black and more Hispanic by the day. The economy is becoming more and more complex, access to capital for ordinary individuals more and more remote, the ability to live simply and own a business without worrying about Chinese labor or the depreciating dollar vanished more or less for good. They want to pick up their ball and go home, but they can't; thus, the difficulties and the rancor with those of us who are resigned to life on this planet.

Of course, the fact that we're even sitting here two years after Bush talking about a GOP comeback is a profound testament to two things: One, the American voter's unmatched ability to forget what happened to him 10 seconds ago, and two, the Republican Party's incredible recuperative skill and bureaucratic ingenuity. This is a party that in 2008 was not just beaten but obliterated, with nearly every one of its recognizable leaders reduced to historical-footnote status and pinned with blame for some ghastly political catastrophe. There were literally no healthy bodies left on the bench, but the Republicans managed to get back in the game anyway by plucking an assortment of nativist freaks, village idiots and Internet Hitlers out of thin air and training them into a giant ball of incoherent resentment just in time for the 2010 midterms. They returned to prominence by outdoing Barack Obama at his own game: turning out masses of energized and disciplined supporters on the streets and overwhelming the ballot box with sheer enthusiasm.

The bad news is that the Tea Party's political outrage is being appropriated, with thanks, by the Goldmans and the BPs of the world. The good news, if you want to look at it that way, is that those interests mostly have us by the balls anyway, no matter who wins on Election Day. That's the reality; the rest of this is just noise. It's just that it's a lot of noise, and there's no telling when it's ever going to end.

As Rolling Stone’s chief political reporter, Matt Taibbi's predecessors include the likes of journalistic giants Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke. Taibbi's 2004 campaign journal Spanking the Donkey cemented his status as an incisive, irreverent, zero-bullshit reporter. His latest collection is Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire

How effective

An article full of racist, ageist comments that does nothing but insult anyone who dares to have an opinion that differs from the author. Yeah that will sway people to your cause.

Glenn Beck claims slavery was not really bad until govt involved

Glenn Beck continues to give his loyal listeners American history lessons, and the education they receive from "Beck University" grows more extreme each day.  On Friday Beck went on a long rant "explaining" how health care reform is supposedly enslaving the American public.  Then, in an attempt to explain the concept, Beck compares health care reform to the American system of slavery.  According to Beck, slavery was not really evil and bad until the government stepped in to regulate it.  It was at that point that owning people as property and all the other injustices of slavery became something to abhor.

In the audio clip (available by clicking here), Beck says that slavery "started with seemingly innocent ideas."  Beck goes as far as to say that the evil of slavery did not start with the Atlantic slave trade, but instead it "started in a court room, and then it went to the legislatures."  Beck then warns his audience that health care reform might be "creating slaves" just like slaves were supposedly created in the past.

The problem with Beck's explanation is that the Atlantic slave trade took place from the 17th to 19th century America.  Many of the slaves from Africa were imported in colonial times, the same time "golden" time period that Beck believes America should be "restored" to once again.  Contrary to Beck assertion, federal law was relatively weak during this time, especially over matters of commerce.  Each state was essentially allowed to legalize or outlaw slavery as they wished.  Federal law upheld the rights of the states and individual property rights (even the right to own another person).  As evidence, George Washington (arguably Beck's favorite founding father) signed the Fugitive Slave Act while he was president.  That law helped slave owners capture slaves that attempted to escape to the North, and made it a crime for any individual to aid a slave in escaping.

Perhaps the most erroneous assertion of Beck is this idea that the Atlantic slave trade was not really evil.  Millions of Africans were either tricked or kidnapped to get them on the ships to take them to the Americas.  There they were cramped in close quarters and chained to the boat and each other.  Some slaves died from disease as human waste gathered in the bowels of the ship.  Occassionally troublesome slaves were shot or thrown overboard as a lesson to the others.  Rapes and torture were commonplace as slave traders lost all sense of humanity.  The only thing keeping most slaves alive was the traders' desire to make a profit off of their "cargo."  A dead slave was worth nothing.  Once unloaded the "cargo" was stripped down and displayed in front of customers for an auction.  At this time mothers and fathers were routinely separated from each other and their children, never to see them again.  Given these facts, it is hard to say that the "evil" of slavery did not begin until the government got involved.


The Bigot-Whisperers of the Right

by Phil Rockstroh

I was born, at slightly past the midpoint of the Twentieth Century, in the Deep South city of Birmingham, Alabama -- “The Heart of Dixie.” My earliest memories are of a time of societal upheaval and cultural trauma. At the time, as the world witnessed and history chronicles, Birmingham could be an ugly, mean place.

My father, employed at the time as a freelance photojournalist, would arrive home from work, his clothes redolent of tear gas, his adrenal system locked in overdrive, his mind reeling, trying to make sense of the brutality he witnessed, perpetrated by both city officials and ordinary citizens, transpiring on the streets of the city.

The print and media images transmitted from Birmingham shocked and baffled the nation as well. But there was a hidden calculus underpinning the architecture of institutionalized hatred of the Jim Crow South. The viciousness of Birmingham’s white underclass served the purpose of the ruling order. The city was controlled, in de facto colonial manner, by coal and steel barons whose seat of power was located up the Appalachian mountain chain in Pittsburgh, PA. The locals dubbed them the Big Mules. They resided in the lofty air up on Red Mountain; most everyone else dwelled down in the industrial smog.

These social and economic inequities, perpetuated by exploitive labor practices, roiled Birmingham’s white men with resentment. If they asked for higher wages, they were told: “I can hire any n*gg*r off the street for half of what I pay you.” In the colonial model, all the big dollars flowed back to Pennsylvania, and economic rivalry and state-codified delusions of racial entitlement, vis-à-vis Jim Crow Laws, was used to insure the working class white majority rage at the ruling elite remained displaced -- their animus fixed on those with even less power and economic security than themselves. This was the poisoned cultural milieu, wherein George Wallace’s “segregation today . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever” demagogic dirt kicking caused the embedded rage of the white working class to pour forth like fire ants from a trampled bed.

In a similar manner, manufactured controversies such as the gay marriage and gays in the military dust-ups of the present time have little to do with gays or marriage or the military. These issues are served as red meat to arouse the passions -- and loosen the purse strings -- of the fear-driven, status quo-enabling, confused souls residing at the center of the black spleen of the Republican ideological base.

Although, as a rule, the right’s lies and displacements are most effective when liberals offer working people only bromides, platitudes, and lectures on propriety and good taste. Obama and the Democrats, time and time again, present demagogues with an opening the size of the cracks in Glen Beck’s gray matter. Hence, the bigot-whisperers of the right are provided with a void that they can seed with false narratives; wherein, they are given free reign to cloud the air and clog the airwaves with palaver about fifth columnist threats from terrorist-toady mosque builders and gays in uniform undermining moral in the ranks by belting out show tunes in foxholes and impromptu shower stall instruction on the art of hand to hand sodomy.

Cultures are organic in nature. Combine the elements of the scorched earth policies of neoliberal capitalism, its austerity cuts and downsizing, plus the hybrid seeds of the consumer age -- and what alien foliage will rise from the degraded soil -- fields of right-wing AstroTurf. Add: industrial strength fertilizer. And see how our garden grows, with: Glen Beck and Sarah Palin -- the mutant seed sprouted Chia Pets of corporate oligarchy.

Yet the idea of Beck and Palin leading a populist, pitchforks and torches style uprising in the US is sheer fantasy. Most Americans wouldn’t rally en mass unless they could bring their couches with them. It would look like The Prague Spring but held in a Rooms to Go showroom.

The recent demonstrations, in Washington, DC, attended by the ranks of the chronically discontent right, are about as populist as a vintage Soviet-era May Day parade was a celebration of the proletarian masses.

By the informal design of our present oligarchs and the self-referential nature of the corporate owned media, US citizens have the right to say almost anything that is on their minds, as long as it has little to no effect on the status quo. If there was ever a mass movement that effectively challenged the nation’s massive class inequity and threatened to reign in the excesses of the National Security State, it would be shut down faster than an open air, live sex show in the middle of Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

Moreover, the mid-life snit-fest engendered by the fading political power of the country’s white, middle class majority, as was the case with the racial resentment of the white underclass of my native Birmingham, serves the agenda of the moneyed elite. And its goals (which its rank and file seem ill-equipped to define, i.e., vague resentments and inarticulate rage, hardly constitutes an agenda for societal transformation and governmental reform) are equally as self-defeating in their ramifications for debt-beleaguered, economic security-bereft working people as were the racist displacement of rage embraced and perpetuated by the exploited, working class, white majority of the Jim Crow south. Working and middle class Republicans agitating for lower taxes for the wealthy is as silly as gaunt peasants, clutching torches and welding pitchforks, besieging Louis XVI’s palace at Versailles, demanding their bread rations be cut so that the royal court could enjoy larger and more lavish feasts.

Part of the irrational fear arising from economically forsaken members of the white laboring class toward President Obama is informed by race. Another aspect of it is more inchoate, as evanescent as the nature of the man himself.

Obama seems no more real, nor connected with the concerns of their lives than any other ghost in the media hologram. But Glen Beck’s flutterhead histrionics reflect their desperation. This is the seduction of any garden-variety demagogue: Although their narrative is fictive, even malevolent in its deception, the emotional tone resonates with the deep-seated, helpless rage and nebulous night terrors of their audience. Beck’s community theatre actor’s ability to cry on cue and work himself into a lather of outrage and anguish reflects the inner desperation of his audience’s experiences regarding their powerlessness before the crushing, impersonal complexity of events.

My childhood, in Birmingham, bestowed the knowledge: do not underestimate the danger of ignorant, angry people in large groups.

The feelings of drift of contemporary life in the US: its media empires -- with content as weightless in meaning and resonance as the electrons that transport the images, and the Internet’s pixel fiefdoms, in combination with the ad hoc, fast-buck-driven architecture of suburban nothingvilles gives present day life in the US a flimsy, provisional quality.

President Obama’s aura of weightlessness, his quality of emotional remoteness, only exacerbates the nebulous sense of unease on the irrational right who think with their guts not their minds. Conversely, guns feel real to these adrift denizens of the nation’s spleenland. The weapon’s weight in their hands wards off their unfocused sense of dread; its heft, momentarily, mitigates the unease inherent in feelings of being helplessly unmoored . . . Looking down the precise beauty of its barrel distills hazy hatreds into identifiable targets. Momentarily, the ground feels solid beneath their feet. Hence, guns must be stockpiled; massive amounts of ammunition stored for ballast. The mystifying events of the era . . . so muffled by the white noise of uncertainty, must yield to something as clear and decisive as the crack of a rifle shot.

Human beings will never transcend being capable of dwelling in madness on a collective level. David Hare quotes Rebecca West, in the introduction to his play, The Secret Rapture: “Only half of us is sane: only part of us loves . . . [desires] happiness, wants to die in peace . . . in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable . . . and wants to die in a catastrophe . . . and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations.”

Because we, on a personal level, in most cases, chose the primary option, our hidden, shadow half can live out the latter on a collective basis. Empires gather their élan vital from such bacchanals of blood. Individually, the atomized populace of empire attempts to mitigate alienation by a vicarious revelry in violence; collectively, in the manner of any mob, from the road rage and carnage enacted on soul-devoid US interstate to the phosphorous-poisoned flesh of the people of Fallujah, the mob finds its collective comfort zone in catastrophe. Beck, Palin, and their followers are the empire’s human delivery system of The Second Law of Thermodynamics. Used as tools, by corporatists, to preserve the status quo, their hidden half might well serve as its wrecking crew.

The paranoid, domestic douchescape works in the service of the US created deathscapes overseas and vice versa in a self-resonating feedback loop. Therefore, whenever the neoliberal economic policies of corporate oligarchy and the empire’s ever expanding military industrial/national security/surveillance/prison complex are questioned, many conservatives personalize the critique. In their gut, they feel as if their identity is under attack. Consequently, the limbic system ascends to the throne of consciousness, as palace guards of casuistry defend the status quo. This could be termed Authoritarian Simpatico Syndrome (ASS) -- a pathology manifested in personalities who have been traumatized by authority, but who seek to assuage the hurt and humiliation by identification with their victimizer.

This phenomenon is what is at the root of the rage rising from the faux populist right: the ground level realities of life in the corporate state are vastly incommensurate with the capitalist hagiography they hold in their heads. Moreover, when one’s mental imprinting and social conditioning is challenged, one can find oneself in a bewildering place. Though the state is emotional in nature, it feels akin to being physically lost . . . same disorientation, same sense of panic. Many people were never given and/or didn’t develop a compass of logic by which to navigate the novel landscape that one is cast into when one’s sacred beliefs are challenged. This is why change is a long time coming, and when it arrives it will not be greeted fondly.

Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: phil@philrockstroh.com. Visit Phil's website http://philrockstroh.com/ And at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000711907499

Health Ins, Banking, Oil Industries Met With Koch, CoC, Big Oil

by Lee Fang

In 2006, Koch Industries owner Charles Koch revealed to the Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore that he coordinates the funding of the conservative infrastructure of front groups, political campaigns, think tanks, media outlets and other anti-government efforts through a twice annual meeting of wealthy right-wing donors. He also confided to Moore, who is funded through several of Koch’s ventures, that his true goal is to strengthen the “culture of prosperity” by eliminating “90%” of all laws and government regulations. Although it is difficult to quantify the exact amount Koch alone has funneled to right-wing fronts, some studies have pointed toward $50 million he has given alone to anti-environmental groups. Recently, fronts funded by Charles and his brother David have received scrutiny because they have played a pivotal role in the organizing of the anti-Obama Tea Parties and the promotion of virulent far right lawmakers like Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). (David Koch praised DeMint and gave him a “Washington Award” shortly after the senator promised to “break” Obama by making health reform his “Waterloo.”)

While the Koch brothers — each worth over $21.5 billion — have certainly underwritten much of the right, their hidden coordination with other big business money has gone largely unnoticed. ThinkProgress has obtained a memo outlining the details of the last Koch gathering held in June of this year. The memo, along with an attendee list of about 210 people, shows the titans of industry — from health insurance companies, oil executives, Wall Street investors, and real estate tycoons — working together with conservative journalists and Republican operatives to plan the 2010 election, as well as ongoing conservative efforts through 2012. According to the memo, David Chavern, the number two at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Fox News hate-talker Glenn Beck also met with these representatives of the corporate elite. In an election season with the most undisclosed secret corporate giving since the Watergate-era, the memo sheds light on the symbiotic relationship between extremely profitable, multi-billion dollar corporations and much of the conservative infrastructure. The memo describes the prospective corporate donors as “investors,” and it makes clear that many of the Republican operatives managing shadowy, undisclosed fronts running attack ads against Democrats were involved in the Koch’s election-planning event:

Corporate “investors” at the Koch meeting included businesses with a strong profit motive in rolling back President Obama’s enacted reforms. Several companies impacted by health reform, including Allan Hubbard of A & E Industries, a manufacturer of medical devices and Judson Green, a board member of health insurance conglomerate Aon, were present at the meeting. Other businessmen at the meeting, like Omaha Burger King franchiser Mike Simmonds, are owners of fast food stores which have fought efforts to provide health insurance to their employees. Many corporate attendees of the meeting represent the financial industry impacted by Wall Street reform. For instance, attendee Bill Cooper is the CEO of TCF Financial, a corporation involved in the mortgage banking industry. Cooper recently filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Wall Street reform. Other financial industry players in the meeting hail from firms ranging from Bank of America, JLM Investment, Allied Capital Corp, AMG National Trust, the Blackstone Group and Citadel Investment. Annie Dickerson, a representative of Paul Singer, a powerful hedge fund manager who also gives tens of millions to Republican causes, was present. In addition, Koch Industries itself has a hedge fund and other financial derivative products in its portfolio of interests, which include oil pipelines, coal shipping, asphalt, refineries, consumer goods, timber, ranching, and chemicals.

Corporate “investors” at the Koch meeting included businesses with a strong profit motive in preventing progressive reforms promised by President Obama. Several executives at the meeting have an incentive to stop Democrats and President Obama from addressing climate change and enacting clean energy reform. The meeting included oil executives from Aspect Energy, Murfin Drilling, Anschutz Company, GeoPark Holdings, Smoky Oil, and several members of Koch’s various subsidiaries. The meeting documents explicitly state that funding efforts to curb “climate change alarmism” were discussed.

Fred Malek, Karl Rove’s top fundraiser for his $56 million attack ad campaign against Democrats, attended the meeting, along with leaders of other secret attack groups. Heather Higgins, who leads the Independent Women’s Forum, a shadowy group that has spent millions of dollars in attack ads on health reform, attended the meeting. So did Gretchen Hamel, a former Bush flak who now runs an attack ad group called “Public Notice” that runs ad which denounce spending programs.

Participants collaborated with infamous consultants who specialize in generating fake grassroots movements, as well as experts on how corporations should take advantage of Citizens United. One session, about how to “mobilize citizens for November,” involved a discussion with Republican strategists Tim Phillips and Sean Noble, anti-union leader Mark Mix, and longtime Koch operative Karl Crow. Phillips — a veteran astroturf lobbyist who previously managed a deceptive grassroots lobbying campaign to help the Hong Kong-based Tan family maintain their forced abortion sweatshops in the Mariana Islands — now leads the day-to-day operations of Americans for Prosperity, the group ThinkProgress first reported to have helped organize many of the initial Tea Party rallies against Obama. Americans for Prosperity, founded and financed by David Koch, has a field team of over 80 campaign staffers spread out around the country, and additionally plans to spend $45 million dollars worth of attack ads against Democrats. Shortly before the planning meeting, Crow authored a campaign finance memo explaining that because of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, he advised specifically that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 501(c)(6) and Americans for Prosperity’s 501(c)(4) can “now use general treasury funds to produce communications materials opposing or supporting specific candidates” and corporations can aggressively pressure their employees to vote a certain way.

The memo notes that participants in the 2010 election planning meeting “committed to an unprecedented level of support.”

Interestingly, the Koch meetings are managed by Kevin Gentry, an executive who doubles as a staffer in the Koch Industries lobbying office in Washington and as the key point person who helps deliver Koch charitable foundation grants. As ThinkProgress has documented, Koch Industries has dramatically boosted its own profits by using conservative front groups to manipulate public policy. The fusion between the “intellectual” conservative movement and big businesses opposed to regulations and accountability has a history in America dating back to the New Deal. During the thirties, the Du Pont family and other wealthy interests organized an assortment of “Liberty League” front groups to try to defeat New Deal agenda items and repeal President Roosevelt’s Social Security program. Now, corporations fund groups like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute — both had representatives at the Koch meeting — to further their lobbying agenda. The American Enterprise Institute even changed its name from the New Deal-era American Enterprise Association to try to dispel the notion that they were nothing more than a glorified business trade association.

As the memo states, Beck has addressed this regular gathering of conservative corporate executives in previous years. Past Koch meetings have included various Republican lawmakers, including DeMint, and Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia as speakers.

After ThinkProgess published its exclusive investigation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce revealing that the Chamber has been actively fundraising from foreign corporations for its 501(c)(6) account used to run a $75 million attack ad campaign, Chamber lobbyists found common cause with Beck and many of the conservative talking heads. Shortly after our investigation, Beck hosted an on-air fundraiser, asking his audience to give to the Chamber. Casual observers might have been surprised by the Chamber’s swift alliance with Beck (Chamber executives appeared on the Beck radio program and sung Beck’s praises on the Chamber blog), who has compared Obama to Adolf Hitler and called the President a “racist” who has a “deep-seated hatred for white people.” By telling his listeners to give money to the Chamber, Beck, who owns a media company worth more than $32 million dollars and an experimental Mercedes Benz, essentially told his working class viewers to give their wages back to their employers. However, Beck never disclosed his long working history of discussing political strategy with America’s largest corporations. The Koch memo clearly shows that Beck has been collaborating with the Chamber, as well as other titans of industry, for years. In his latest appeal for support to the Chamber’s foreign-funded trade association, which already counts JP Morgan and ExxonMobil as dues-paying members, Beck yesterday told his audience that the Chamber simply “defends the little guy.”

Click below to view a letter inviting corporate executives to attend the next Koch meeting in January, along with a list of the sessions held by Koch for the last meeting in June of 2010.

The Pulpit of Bullies

by Michael Winship

One of the most memorable moments in television coverage of American politics came during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968. Out on the streets, anti-Vietnam war demonstrations were attacked viciously by law enforcement officials in what later was described in an official report as “a police riot.”

Inside the convention hall, tightly controlled by the political machine of the city’s notorious Mayor Richard J. Daley, CBS correspondent Dan Rather was attempting to interview a delegate from Georgia who was being removed from the floor by men in suits without ID badges. One of them slugged Rather in the stomach, knocking him to the ground. As the reporter struggled to get his breath back, from the anchor booth, Walter Cronkite exclaimed, “I think we’ve got a bunch of thugs here, Dan!”

It was an uncharacteristic outburst from America’s Most Respected Newsman, indicative of just how terrible the violence was both inside and out and how shocking it was for a journalist to be so blatantly attacked while on the air by operatives acting on behalf of politicians.

As appalling as that 1968 assault was, thuggery is nothing new in politics; it transcends time, ideology and party. But what’s even more disturbing in 2010 is how much of the public, especially many of those who count themselves among the conservative adherents of the Tea Party, is willing to ignore bullying behavior – and even applaud it – as long as the candidate in question hews to their point of view.

Here in New York State, of course, we have Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, who combines the boyish charm of J. Edgar Hoover with the sunny quirkiness of Pol Pot. So extreme are Paladino’s views, so volatile his temper, that even Rupert Murdoch’s right wing New York Post has endorsed Democrat Andrew Cuomo, which is a bit like the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano dissing the Pope and singing the praises of Lutherans.

Doubtless this is in part because Crazy Carl, as he is affectionately known to many, almost came to blows with the Post’s state political editor, the redoubtable Fred Dicker, shouting “I’ll take you out, buddy!” at Dicker after the journalist asked Paladino for evidence to back up allegations the candidate was making against Cuomo and Paladino claimed the paper was harassing his out-of-wedlock daughter.

The Post had to admit that Paladino is “long on anger and short on answers... undisciplined, unfocused and untrustworthy -- that is, fundamentally unqualified for the office he seeks.”

Okay, Paladino will lose, but in other parts of the country, Tea Party-supported candidates with a similar bullying, threatening attitude, or who seem to surround themselves with such people, are more likely to win. Republican Allen West, endorsed by Sarah Palin and John Boehner, is leading in his race against incumbent Democratic Representative Ron Klein in South Florida’s 22nd Congressional District.

A retired Army lieutenant colonel, West resigned from the military, according to the progressive website ThinkProgress.org, “while facing a court martial over the brutal interrogation of an Iraqi man: according to his own testimony during a military hearing, West watched four of his men beat the suspect, and West said he personally threatened to kill the man. According to military prosecutors, West followed up on his threat by taking the man outside and firing a 9mm pistol near his head, in order to make the man believe he would be shot.”

You can’t make this stuff up: Last week, NBC News reported that West has been communing with a notorious Florida motorcycle gang, the Outlaws, which the Justice Department alleges has criminal ties to arson, prostitution, drug running, murder and robbery. And on Monday, West could be heard at a rally urging  some bikers – also with Outlaw connections -- to “escort” out a Klein staffer who was video recording the event. “Threats can be heard on the videotape,” said a reporter from NBC’s Miami affiliate. “West supporters forced him to get back into his car.”

The West campaign responded that “the latest attacks aimed at associating... Allen West with a criminal and racist gang are completely baseless and nothing short of a hatchet job.” So what’s with the photograph of him glad-handing bikers who according to NBC brag about their association with the Outlaws? And why did West tell a supporter to back off when concern was expressed about “criminal organization members in leather” appearing at West’s campaign rallies?

Which brings us to Joe Miller, the Republican and Tea Party candidate for the United States Senate from Alaska. On Sunday, at a Miller town hall, private security guards hired by the campaign – two of whom were moonlighting, active duty military – took it upon themselves to detain a reporter pursuing Miller with questions, placed him under citizen’s arrest and handcuffed him – then threatened to detain two other reporters who were taking pictures and asking what was going on.

The plainclothes rent-a-cops, complete with Secret Service-type earpieces and Men in Black-style neckties and business suits, come from an Anchorage-based outfit called DropZone Security, which also runs a bail bond service and an Army-Navy surplus store – with one of those anti-Obama “Joker” posters pasted to its window. One-stop shopping for the vigilante militiaman in your life – kind of like that joke about the combination veterinarian-taxidermist: either way you get your dog back.

All of this would be funnier if not for the fact that this kind of hooliganism and casual trampling of First Amendment rights from people who claim to embrace the Constitution as holy writ is symptomatic of a deeper problem.

The anger of the electorate is understandable: politicians and politics as usual have given voters much about which to be mad; furious, in fact. But bullying is different. It comes from insecurity and fear, and lashes out with tactics of intimidation. To dismiss it as merely a secondary concern and say “I’ll take my chances” as long as the candidates in question agree with you is dangerous. Scuffling with the press and others may seem minor, but it’s just the beginning. In states where there is early balloting, already there are allegations of voter harassment, primarily in minority neighborhoods.

The only way to fight back against bullies and thugs is to stand up and tell them to go to hell. To do otherwise is to give an inch and prepare to be taken for the proverbial mile. That way lies madness. And worse.

Michael Winship is senior writer at Public Affairs Television in New York City.

Where Do Anti-Government Ideas Come From?

by Joe Brewer

An article came out this week in the New York Times about a strategy meeting hosted by the Koch brothers, two billionaires who have funded a staunchly anti-government agenda for years.  This event highlights a deeper current of money that has been invested in an anti-government policy agenda that goes back decades.

In the midst of this election season, candidates across the country are engaging in an ideological battle with one side claiming that government is the problem and the other side claiming that we cannot solve our problems without effective government.  This battle is taking place on a dramatically uneven playing field.  It has been stacked against the public good for decades by deep pockets of corporate wealth.

Policy Agendas More Important Than Election Cycles

David Calahan, a researcher who studies the ideological basis of philanthropy, published a major report in 1999 titled “$1 Billion for Ideas: Conservative Think Tanks in the 1990′s” that describes the web of money that flowed through the top 20 Conservative think tanks in the United States.  He identified the strategies that allow a well funded minority to dominate public discourse and set the agenda for the country.  One of his major assertions was this:

“In fact, the more fundamental changes in American politics may not be in election results, but rather in the rise and fall of different ideas and their attendant policy agendas.”

Consider the impacts of the Tea Party Movement that arose after President Obama took office.  A non-election agenda was initiated to frame the debate around anti-government sentiments.  It’s veneer of grassroots populism conceals a vast network of media outlets, high-profile spokespeople, training centers, and deep pocketed funders who made the Tea Party possible.  And yes, the Koch brothers are major donors of the effort.

How were they able to get Tea Party candidates on so many ballots?  Why do even the incumbent Republicans feel that they must conform to the extreme views of people like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh?  The answer is that a massive communications infrastructure has been built to reward those who conform (and punish all the rest).

Investing in the long haul pays off.

After building a vast infrastructure it was pretty straightforward to rile millions of people up, especially since these very people experience the blunt of economic collapse.  The ironies run deep in that those who have been hurt the most by deregulation and privatization are the foot soldiers rallied to the call of freedom by this effective system for mass manipulation of public opinion.

How Far Back Does This Go?

The first major effort to build an anti-government communications system can be traced back to 1971 and the Powell Memo, written by Lewis F. Powell.  It laid out the ideas that influenced wealthy conservative businessmen to build a web of think tanks, media outlets, and recruitment centers that would go on the offensive and destroy public good will toward government.  For nearly 40 years now, this system has been growing in size and sophistication.  And it is surgical in its precision and effectiveness.

The impacts on the US economy and political system have been devastating.  These graphs tell the story well… rising international debt, increasing concentrations of wealth, lost savings of working people, explosive individual debt.  The list goes on and on.  All corresponding with the advance of an anti-government agenda throughout the 80′s, 90′s, and 2000′s.

A toxic attitude was spread like a virus and the harmful policies followed.  We are now living in a country where the top 10% control nearly all of the wealth alongside a working poor living in third world conditions.  The uneven playing field has given obvious advantage to those who had the wealth to begin with.

Where Is The Progressive Response?

All hope is not lost.  A number of progressive donors finally got the wake-up call in 2005 and created the Democracy Alliance.  They began pooling their money to invest in think tanks and media outlets of their own.  Organizations like Campaign for America’s Future, Commonweal Institute, and Center for American Progress have come into being and are attempting to catch up.  But the opposition has a 35 year advantage.

Unfortunately, the progressive movement suffered a major casualty in April of 2008.  The Rockridge Institute closed its doors due to inadequate funding support from donors.  Rockridge was a unique think tank founded by George Lakoff to analyze political frames in public discourse in order to help progressives navigate the toxic culture wars of American politics.  One of the major causes for this loss was the massive flux of money into the 2008 election cycle.  Short-term gains were given myopic focus and the long-term was sacrificed.

I worked at the Rockridge Institute during this period.  On the last day of the institute, Evan Frisch and I made a plea to the progressive community that we must invest in cognitive infrastructure.  Here’s a snippet of what we said:

Create a new progressive infrastructure that embodies our ideals and values. This includes a cognitive infrastructure – the ideas, values and modes of thought that express the progressive vision. Simply churning out more policy proposals and statistical analyses without taking into account what people understand the situation to be will leave the populace bored, confused, and distant from the political process.”

This plea is more timely than ever today.  The progressive response remains inadequate because we don’t share a common vision, nor do we invest in the long-haul.  So we see an election in our midst where Democrats are blamed for the harms caused by anti-government Republicans (and a spattering of Conservative Democrats who have infiltrated the other party).  The instigators of harm are smearing the real heroes.  And it’s working!

If we are to turn the tide on this culture war and reclaim the Spirit of America, we’re going to need to arm ourselves with knowledge about the origins of anti-government sentiments.  And we’re going to need to invest in pro-government, pro-community ideas of our own.

Joe Brewer is Founder and Director of Cognitive Policy Works, a consulting firm that specializes in providing organizations and individuals with frame analysis, policy briefs, strategic advising, and training.

The Bush Lie

by David Michael Green

First the Big Reagan Lie, now the Even Bigger Bush Lie.

It was only a matter of time, of course, before conservatives would come out of hiding.

Pummeled over the years for their association with the catastrophe known as the Bush administration, singing its praises had become too great a lie even for those whose every political utterance is an exercise in deceit and hypocrisy.

But I knew they wouldn't wait long before trying to canonize their main man, just as they've already done over the years by building a one-man Mt. Rushmore In The Sky for their patron, Saint Ronald of Hollywood-cum-Washington (and what, really, was the difference between the two in his case, anyhow?).

And now, of course, they are starting to do it for the Caligula Kid as well. Billboards are popping up on the landscape with a picture of the prior president, asking, "Miss me yet?" Regressive commentators on television are beginning to dare mentioning the Bush years again. Recent poll data shows that Bush and Obama are rated as near equals in the public's assessment of the two presidencies. Now the Boy King's memoir is soon to be released, and we can certainly expect a lot more of these attempts at reviving the stinking corpse of his wrecking ball presidency.

But the project of turning Bush into a great president comes with a few, um, issues associated with it, however. Heck, even just rescuing him from the cesspool of the club of failed presidents requires no small miracle.

Most of the presidents amongst these bottom-dwellers are guilty of some singular bungling of large proportion, such as failing to prevent the Civil War, blowing Reconstruction, or doing too little in response to the Great Depression. Those are serious indictments. But what if you were guilty of the equivalent of all of those crimes, plus ten more? All in one presidency?

Meet George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States.

Trying to mythologize the Bush presidency is not going to be easy.

If you manage to turn a record high surplus into a record high deficit, and to double the national debt in the process, history will not hold you in high regard for doing so, just as it indicts Ronald Reagan for tripling the debt on his watch.

If your policies serve the interests of an economic oligarchy rather than the people, history will not approve of that, just as it does not admire Republican presidents from Grant to Hoover for doing the same.

If you populate your administration with corrupt political cronies rather than experts and experienced administrators, history will treat you poorly for it, just as it does Ulysses Grant.

If you completely fail to respond to a catastrophic hurricane that drowns a major city, history will adore you about as much as it does Nero, who fiddled while Rome burned.

If you manage to sell your country a war on the basis of lies, history will not regard you well, as it has not Lyndon Johnson for precisely that reason.

If you succeed in mismanaging a war into protracted failure, history will not be kind to you for that, just as it isn't kind to Harry Truman for the stalemate of Korea.

But if you manage to do that for seven years, rather than three, history will be even less kind to you.

And if you manage to that for not one but two wars, over seven years time, history will be very angry indeed.

If you make your country hated in the world, history will not respect you, just as it admires John Kennedy for doing the opposite.

If you shred the US Constitution in order to facilitate a police state with unlimited government powers, history will cast its aspersions upon you, just as it does on Joe McCarthy.

If you ignore a looming catastrophe like global warming - and indeed if you exacerbate that catastrophe - history will regard you very poorly, just as historians generally agree that James Buchanan is America's worst president for failing to respond to its unfolding Civil War crisis.

If you are warned of a cataclysmic terrorist attack by your staff and do not respond, instead spending the month before on vacation, history will devastate you for this alone, just as one of Stalin's great crimes (among many) was to fantasize that Nazi Germany would not attack the Soviet Union, ultimately at a cost of tens of millions of his people.

Indeed, if you spend more time during your presidency on vacation than any other president ever, history will not admire you, just as it does not admire Warren Harding.

If you run for president as one kind of politician but then completely abandon those politics for something different (and supremely ugly), history will not look kindly upon you, just as it does not upon John Tyler.

If you employ disgusting prejudices to win elections, history will consider you cheap garbage for doing so, just as it does George H. W. Bush.

And if you manage to deeply polarize your country, especially in a time of national crisis, history will admire you about as much as it does Richard Nixon for doing the same thing.

If you did any one of these things, you'd find yourself down at the bottom of the list in the historical ranking of American presidents.

But if you've managed to do every one of these things over the course of a single presidency, you'd not only occupy the very bottom slot on the list, you'd be in a category all your own.

It really is astonishing, isn't it, to think about how thoroughly this perfect storm of a president could wreak havoc on a developed (or is it?) democracy (or is it?) in the 21st century.

But what is even more astonishing is that his mythologized revival is already showing signs of working.

Even today, less than two years out of that nightmare.

Even today, with both of Bush's two wars still endlessly droning on, still dragging down the country as they chew up American, Iraqi and Afghani lives like some sort of industrial-scale human sacrifice machine.

Even today, as Bush's economic depression spreads misery across the land.

It's astonishing that the guy is taken even remotely seriously, let alone that he has not been thrown in jail or met the same fate that the Tsar or Il Duce did.

It's astonishing that he would dare to publish a book less than two years after having wrecked a world so thoroughly.

In just what sort of country can something so shameful happen?

Yep, trying to mythologize the Bush presidency is not going to be easy.

If this were Sweden or Canada, that is.

But this is America.

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (mailto:dmg@regressiveantidote.net), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, www.regressiveantidote.net.

How Republicans Became America’s Arabs

by Pierre Tristam

A few weeks after Israel crushed Egypt, Syria and Jordan in the 1967 Arab Israeli war, tripled its size and expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, Arab nations gathered for a summit in the Sudan and issued a petulant declaration: No recognition of Israel, no conciliation with Israel, and no negotiations. Rarely had Arabs displayed more concise and concerted stupidity. With Jordan’s and Egypt’s nominal exceptions, Arabs have pretty much stuck to the scenario, ensuring 43 years of paralysis. Palestinians’ fate is no more advanced today than it was in 1967. With Israel’s generous help, it’s worse.

Arab scorn for Palestinians, Israel’s imposition of a regime worse than apartheid on Palestinians under occupation (wanton and disproportionate massacres, of civilians especially, being an Israeli specialty more lethal than all suicide bombings combined), and Palestinians’ knack for making the wrong choice every time a compromise appears, have turned the Palestinian-Israeli conflict into a mutually-reinforcing obscenity. Israelis and Palestinians compete to look like the victim, the aggrieved, the just. The ploy worked for a decade and a half following the 1967 war (Israel was the winner in the United States, Palestinians elsewhere).

It’s not working any more. Neither side can claim the moral high ground, though Israel’s immoralities always manage the deeper dig. And Arabs, the world’s most cowardly spectators, carry on with their No’s in the air, refreshing the Sudan Declaration every once in a while for aging amnesiacs. Why should they change? The same repressive Arab regimes in place in 1967 are in place today, most of them with the help of billions in American taxpayers’ aid. Lebanon and Iraq’s parodies of democracy aside, there isn’t a single Arab democratic regime in existence. Some of them—Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria—are more brutal police states than China, where enterprise is at least rewarded. They all thank god for North Korea’s existence so they don’t come out looking like the world’s worst.

And for America’s existence: every one of those regimes is an American client state. It pays to say No. It’s not about improving lives or finding a home for Palestinians. It’s about power and pretending in simple declarations that it’s all for god, country and the greater good. It works. The masses may be angry. But their anger is channeled—at America, ironically, at Israel, at decadence, at Disney for all they care. Anger, too, works. If there’s an inspiration behind the Republican Party’s strategy of the last two years, it’s those Arabs.

The GOP’s recent “Pledge” to America is, beyond its plagiarism of a nobler Declaration, another Sudan Declaration. It’s a cacophony of No’s summing up the blare of the last two years’ tea parties, of Joe-the-Plumber sound-bytes, Sarah Palin pandering (to U.S. troops especially, a supreme hypocrisy), Glenn Beck tear-jerking. The running theme, the only theme, is No. No to taxes, No to health care reform, No to financial regulation, No to a less aggressive military, No to ending useless wars, No to equality in marriage, No to church-state separations, and of course the mother of all no’s, No to that Negro Muslim Socialist defiling not only the white in White House, but the red and the blue all around it too: “regarding the policies of the current government,” the pledge states, “the governed do not consent,” adding, for emphasis, its definition of Obamism in black and white: “An arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites.” It appears that the 63 million Americans who voted for the guy in 2008 don’t count.

That’s just the point. In a black and white society, there are those who count and those who don’t. It’s what the tea parties are about. It’s what reactionary Republican ideology is about. It’s what Palin says at every stop: “Take back America” is slogan, cleaver and visa to the Right.

The language of fundamentalism doesn’t have to be explained. Its point is to make explanation superfluous and the rational suspect. That’s the strength behind the Republican No, as it is behind the Arab No, the Islamist No in particular: it appeals to some mythical, mass-marketable golden age. No proof necessary. Just pretty stories gilded in quotes from the founding fathers and images of Mt. Rushmore.  Not only can present reality not compete. It makes coming up with an actual, alternate reality unnecessary. That was Ronald Reagan’s secret: morning-again-in-America mythology even he believed in, as did a landslide of people in that perfectly Orwellian year of his reelection, 1984.

So there’s no need for details, no need for a business plan. Putting substance behind the rebellion would unravel the impossible math. You don’t want to have to explain how your anger at trillion-dollar deficits can be fixed with extending trillion-dollar tax cuts. Saying No to it all is simpler, and easier to understand for that provincial midriff of America where multi-syllable explanations are suspect and complexity (like pluralism) is for “elites.”

When I speak of Arabs I’m not referring to the rank and file, to the people at large, being an occasional Arab myself, but to the turbaned and titled, to that rung of party leadership and pashas indistinguishable from GOP leaders’ contempt for accountability and infatuation with false populism, with making appeals to ordinary men and women with whom they wouldn’t share a sidewalk. There’s a lot in common between the Saudi prince slobbing about in oil money and the Republican shill crying class warfare when the Obama administration tries to raise taxes on the richest 2 percent.

Republicans and their tea party uprisings should be as easy to dismiss as Coolidge and Hoover fan clubs in the 1930s, easier still to expose for the self-centered greedy mobs of gray they are.  But like Palestinians, Democrats are brilliant at making the wrong choices and blowing themselves up. They may have had the moral high ground at one point. They certainly did in 2008, when the country was in ruins. Instead of rebuilding it, they kept the old contractors. They tinkered with policies of the Bush administration but kept the essentials in place, from Wall Street to Guantanamo to Afghanistan. Then they feigned indignation at losing face.

That’s what you get when you refuse to hold the predators of the last decade accountable for the pillaging, when you refuse to hold truth commissions to bring the debauchery to light and maybe avoid repeating it all over again. In the name of conciliation, Obama embraced whitewashing, leaving it to Wikileaks occasionally to expose the farce.

He deserves the consequences, just as the country will deserve the coming paralysis: unlike Arabs, we get to vote for ours. Misinformation is no excuse when it’s easy enough to see through the con of the word “No.” This invitation to our beheading is our own.

Pierre Tristam is the editor of FlaglerLive.com, a non-profit news service in Florida.

Terre Haute's James Bopp: The Man Behind Our Secret Elections

October 25, 2010
1:29 PM

CONTACT: Common Cause
Mary Boyle, Common Cause, (202) 736-5770

James Bopp: The Man Behind Our Secret Elections

New Report Examines Radical Activist and His Drive to Dismantle Election Laws

WASHINGTON - October 25 - A little-known Indiana lawyer with a fiercely partisan agenda and a long record of radical conservative activism has engineered the flow of tens of millions of dollars in corporate and trade association money – most of it from secret donors -- into this year’s mid-term elections, drowning out the voices of ordinary Americans.  

The courtroom victories of James Bopp Jr., of Terre Haute, Indiana, have enabled his clients to invest millions in bought speech -- a flood of political commercials that promote GOP candidates and drown out the voices of their opponents and ordinary Americans. Among other lawsuits, Bopp originally launched the case Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission that resulted in the US Supreme Court earlier this year lifting the longtime ban on corporate and union spending on elections and flooding the mid-term elections with secret money.

“James Bopp is the point man for conservative wealthy interests whose goal is to dismantle the laws and regulations we have in place to stop the buying of Congress and other elected officials,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “America has Bopp and company to thank for the flood of secret corporate dollars flowing into the mid-term elections drowning out the voices of ordinary voters. Wall Street, Big Oil and the insurance industry will all seek a return on their investments as soon as the campaigns are over, and the public will pay the price.”

Bopp’s clear objective is to help elect extremist Republicans by tearing down the nation’s campaign finance laws and opening the door to unlimited, anonymous corporate fundraising, the report says.

Commissioned by public interest groups Common Cause and Public Campaign and conducted by Klein Research Services, the report details Bopp’s long involvement in conservative politics and anti-abortion rights organizations. He is aligned with some of the GOP’s most radical elements; in 2008, he authored a resolution that accused then-President George W. Bush and Republican congressional leaders of embracing “socialism.” Bopp also has suggested that Republicans refer to Democrats as the “Democratic Socialist Party.”

His activism and legal work on behalf of GOP sponsors has helped make Bopp wealthy. Since 2003, Bopp has collected nearly $1.5 million in legal fees from the Republican National Committee, it says; his firm has been paid an additional $1 million by a foundation Bopp helped create and has described as backed by anonymous “major donors” from the “conservative community.”

Click here to view the report. 

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest.

The Tea Party Constitution Versus the Tho Jefferson Constitution

by John Nichols

The default position for Tea Party candidates such as Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, Joe Miller in Alaska, Sharon Angle in Nevada, Ken Buck in Colorado and Ron Johnson in Wisconsin is to declare that—if elected—they will follow the dictates of the Constitution.

But that is a campaign slogan, not a serious commitment.

If O'Donnell, Johnson and their Tea'd-Off compatriots were even minimally serious about adhering to the founding document, they would all be thoughtful critics of the undeclared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ardent foes of the Patriot Act and steady opponents of free trade deals that remove the authority of Congress to represent and serve the interests of American workers, farmers and communities. But then they would be Russ Feingold, and it goes against the Tea Party narrative—at least as it has been framed by the movement's corporate paymasters and messaging consultants—to regard a progressive Democrat as the most ardent defender of the American experiment.

So it should be understood that O'Donnell, Miller, Angle, Buck, Johnson and the rest of the Tea Partisans who might be senators are not talking about the Constitution as it was written or as the founders intended it. Rather, they are talking about the Constitution as they would like to see it rewritten and reinterpreted—with the help of the most activist Supreme Court in American history. While their intents are radical, their prospects must be seen in light of the fact that Chief Justice John Roberts and his conservative majority have already reinterpreted the First Amendment's free speech protection in a manner that extends the natural rights that the founders reserved for human beings to multinational corporations.

How big a leap would it be to rewrite the amendment's referencing of religion as an invitation to promote an establishment of religion?

That depends on whether you are reading Christine O'Donnell's Constitution or Thomas Jefferson's Constitution.

O'Donnell, the Tea Party favorite who is carrying the Republican banner in this fall's Delaware US Senate contest, found herself debating the First Amendment earlier this month at the Widener University Law School—where the man whose seat she hopes to occupy, Vice President Joe Biden, once taught constitutional law.

Her Democratic opponent, Chris Coons, explained that, while parochial schools can teach creationism, the Constitution makes it clear that "religious doctrine doesn't belong in our public schools."

O'Donnell shot back: "Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?"

Coons explained that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion.

To which O'Donnell responded: "You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?"

"You actually audibly heard the crowd gasp," Widener University political scientist Wesley Leckrone told the Associated Press.

No surprise there. The law professors and law students in the room recognized that Coons had been referencing the specific language of the First Amendment, which reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Law professors may expect candidates for the US Senate—where Supreme Court nominations are approved or rejected—to have at least a passing familiarity with the Constitution's most famous section,

But expectations with regard to the Constitution go out the window when O'Donnell and her Tea Party cronies comment of the document.

That's because they presume the Constitution outlines an agenda reflective of their own passions—in keeping with the satirical headline in The Onion: "Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines Constitution To Be"—rather than a set of enlightenment ideals that rejected the divine right of kings, priestly titles and official state religions.

What distinguished the American Constitution and the founding moment was this recognition that individual liberty and the democratic experiment upon which the United States was embarking required freedom of thought and action with regard to religion—a freedom that was preserved and protected by leaders who recognized that they ruled by the will of the people rather than by "divine right."

Today's Tea Party candidates are hardly the only partisans who have hailed the Constitution without actually bothering to consult it—let alone consider expressions from the founders regarding its intents and purposes. But as the O'Donnell incident illustrates, their confusion with regard to the founding document might best be described as unsettling. Wisconsin Senate candidate Johnson, for instance, has fretted during the current campaign about how the Constitution "is not an easy document to read" and complained that he was finding it "hard to study." While Johnson said he thought he was clear on the free speech and right to bear arms parts, he griped that: "There are also things that aren't quite so easy."

But one part is actually very easy, as we have not merely the wording on paper but the clearly expressed original intentions of the founders.

That's the part about keeping government out of the business of establishing or encouraging particular religious ideas or practices.

The United States was not founded as a country that "tolerated" religious diversity. It was founded as a country that embraced that diversity as one of its greatest strengths, welcoming Christians, Jews and Muslims, believers, nonbelievers and skeptics into a polity where, as George Washington explained, "The government… gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance."

The US Senate made the founding position explicit and official a decade after the drafting of the Constitution, when the chamber ratified the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary, with its declaration that: "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

Again and again, the principle was explicitly affirmed. The most famous of these affirmations came in 1802, when Thomas Jefferson explained in his letter to the Danbury Baptists that: "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and state."

While the founders survived, there was no mystery about their "original intent" with regard to that wall of separation between church and state. Indeed, when the greatest of our public services, the post office, was developed, it was determined without serious debate that mail would be delivered seven days a week.

Only in the late 1820s did some Christian groups object. And their complaints were quickly rejected by Congress, which adopted the position—stated by Kentucky Sen. Richard M. Johnson—that: "our government is a civil and not a religious institution."

Many adherents of the Tea Party movement fear that the United States is adrift, floating further and further from the moorings put in place at the republic's founding.

In this, they are probably correct.

America, founded by sons and daughters of the enlightenment, who rejected the notion that there was anything "divine" about the crimes and corruptions done in the name of European monarchs and false piety, has drifted.

Candidates for the highest offices are unfamiliar with or hostile to the basic premises of the republic. And their wrongheaded positions are, increasingly, sustained by justices of a Supreme Court that has tipped the scales of justice against the Constitution itself.

It is true that our founding values are neglected and affronted in these times. But the assault is not coming from members of the House and Senate who vote for unemployment benefits are want to maintain Social Security,

It is coming from politicians like Christine O'Donnell and Ron Johnson, who never took the Constitution seriously—and still don't.

John Nichols is Washington correspondent for The Nation and associate editor of The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin. A co-founder of the media reform organization Free Press, Nichols is is co-author with Robert W. McChesney of The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again and Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy. Nichols is also author of Dick: The Man Who is President and The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism.

Ballot Box Blues

The Most Dispiriting Election of a Lifetime (Mine)

by Tom Engelhardt

By the time you read this, I'll already have voted -- the single most reflexive political act of my life -- in the single most dispiriting election I can remember.  As I haven't missed a midterm or presidential election since my first vote in 1968, that says something.  Or maybe by the time you've gotten to this, the results of the 2010 midterm elections will be in.  In either case, I'll try to explain just why you don't really need those results to know which way the wind is gusting.

First, though, a little electoral history of me.  Certainly, my version of election politics started long before I could vote.  I remember collecting campaign buttons in the 1950s and also -- for the 1956 presidential campaign in which Dwight Eisenhower (and his vice president, Richard Nixon) faced off against Democratic Party candidate Adlai Stevenson - singing this ditty:

Whistle while you work, 
Nixon is a jerk,
Eisenhower has no power, 
Stevenson will work!

Even in the world of kids, even then, politics could be gloves-off stuff.  Little good my singing did, though: Stevenson was trounced, thus beginning my political education.  My father and mother were dyed-in-the-wool Depression Democrats, and my mother was a political caricaturist for the then-liberal (now Murdoch-owned) tabloid, the New York Post.  I still remember the fierce drawings she penned for that paper's front page of red-baiting Senator Joe McCarthy.  She also came away from those years filled with political fears, reflected in her admonition to me throughout the 1960s: "It's the whale that spouts that gets caught."

Still, I was sold on the American system.  It was a sign of the times that I simply couldn't wait to vote.  The first election rally I ever attended, in 1962, was for John F. Kennedy, already president.  I remember his face, a postage-stamp-sized blur of pink, glimpsed through a sea of heads and shoulders.  Even today, I can feel a remnant of the excitement and hope of that moment.  In those years before our government had become "the bureaucracy" in young minds, I was imbued with a powerful sense of civic duty that, I suspect, was commonplace.  I daydreamed relentlessly about becoming an American diplomat and so representing my country to the world.

The first presidential campaign I followed with a passion, though, was in 1964, after Kennedy's assassination.  In memory, I feel as if I voted in it, though I couldn't have since the voting age was then 21, and I was only 20.  Nonetheless, I all but put my X beside the "peace candidate" of that moment, Lyndon B. Johnson, who had, in such an untimely manner, inherited the Oval Office and a war in Vietnam.  What other vote was there, since he was running against a Republican extremist and warmonger, an Arizona senator named Barry Goldwater?

Not long after his inauguration, however, Johnson launched Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing of North Vietnam.  It had been planned before the election, but was kept suitably under wraps while Goldwater was being portrayed as a man intent on getting American boys killed in Asia and maybe nuking the planet as well.

Four years later, with half a million U.S. troops in South Vietnam and the war reaching conflagration status, I was "mad as hell and not going to take this any more" -- and that was years before Paddy Chayefsky penned those words for the film Network.  I was at least as mad as any present-day Tea Partier and one heck of a lot younger.

By 1968, I had been betrayed by my not-quite-vote for Johnson and learned my lesson -- they were all warmongers -- and so, deeply involved in antiwar activities, I rejected both Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who had barely peeped about the war, and his opponent Richard Nixon (that "jerk" of my 1956 ditty) who was promising "peace with honor," but as I understood quite well, preparing to blast any Vietnamese, Cambodian, or Laotian within reach.  I voted instead, with some pride, for Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver.

(Okay, I didn't say this was going to be pretty, did I?)

Nor was it exactly thrilling in 1972 when "tricky Dick," running for reelection, swamped Senator George McGovern, who actually wanted to bring American troops home and end the war, just before the Watergate scandal fully broke.  And don't forget the 1980 election in which Jimmy Carter was hung out to dry by the Iran hostage crisis.  As I remember it, I voted late and Democratic that Tuesday in November, came home, made a bowl of popcorn, and sat down in front of the TV just in time to watch Carter concede to Ronald Reagan.  Don't think I didn't find that dispiriting.

And none of this could, of course, compare to campaign 2000 with its "elected by the Supreme Court" tag or election night 2004, when early exit polls seemed to indicate that Senator John Kerry, himself an admittedly dispiriting figure, might be headed for the White House.  My wife and I threw a party that night which started in the highest of spirits, only to end, after a long, dismal night, in the reelection of George W. Bush.  On the morning of November 3rd, I swore I had "the election hangover of a lifetime," as I contemplated the way American voters had re-upped for "the rashest presidency in our history (short perhaps of that of Jefferson Davis)."

"They have," I added, "signed on to a disastrous crime of a war in Iraq, and a losing war at that which will only get worse; they have signed on to whatever dangerous schemes these schemers can come up with. They have signed on to their own impoverishment. This is the political version of the volunteer Army. Now, they have to live with it. Unfortunately, so do we."

Hermetic Systems and Mad Elephants 

Six years later, we are indeed poorer in all the obvious ways, and some not so obvious ones as well.  How, then, could the 2010 midterms be the most dispiriting elections of my life, especially when Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News assured us, in the days leading up to the event, that it would have "the power to reshape our nation's politics."  Okay, you and I know that's BS, part of the endless, breathless handicapping of the midterms that went on non-stop for weeks on the TV news?

Still, the most dispiriting?  After all, I'm the guy who penned a piece eight days after the 2008 election entitled "Don't Let Barack Obama Break Your Heart."  In what was, for most people I knew, a decidedly upbeat moment, I then wrote, for instance: "So, after January 20th, expect Obama to take possession of George Bush's disastrous Afghan War; and unless he is far more skilled than Alexander the Great, British Empire builders, and the Russians, his war, too, will continue to rage without ever becoming a raging success."

And take my word for it, when I say dispiriting I'm not even referring to just how dismal my actual voting experience was today in New York City.  I mean, two senators and a governor I don't give a whit about and not a breath of fresh air anywhere -- not unless you count our Republican gubernatorial and "Tea Party" candidate, a beyond-mad-as-hell businessman, who made a fortune partially thanks to state government favors and breaks of every sort and then couldn't wait to take out that government.  (And when Carl Paladino talks about taking something out, you instinctively know that he's not a man of metaphor.)  Okay, that is dispiriting, just not in a lifetime award kind of way.

No, it's the whole airless shebang we call an election that's gotten to me, the bizarrely hermetic, self-financing, self-praising, self-promoting system we still manage to think of as "democratic." That includes the media echo chamber that's been ginning up this nationally nondescript season as an epochal life-changer via a powerfully mad -- as in mad elephant - populace ready to run amok.

What Goes Up...

I'm no expert on elections, but sometimes all you need is a little common sense.  So let's start with a simple principle: what goes up must come down.

For at least 30 years now, what's gone up is income disparity in this country.  Paul Krugman called this period "the Great Divergence."  After all, between 1980 and 2005, "more than 80% of total increase in Americans' income went to the top 1%" of Americans in terms of wealth, and today that 1% controls 24% of the nation's income.  Or put another way, after three decades of "trickle-down" economics, what's gone up are the bank accounts of the rich.

In 2009, for instance, as Americans generally scrambled and suffered, lost jobs, watched pensions, IRAs, or savings shrink and houses go into foreclosure, millionaires actually increased.  According to the latest figures, the combined wealth of the 400 richest Americans (all billionaires) has risen by 8% this year, even as, in the second quarter of 2010, the net worth of American households plunged 2.8%.

And in this election year, dispiritingly enough, it's clear what went up is indeed coming down.  It's been true for years in our electoral campaigns, of course, but this year we're talking genuine financial downpour.  Up at the top, individually and corporately, ever more money is on hand to "invest" in protecting what one already possesses or might still acquire.  Hence, this election has a price tag that "obliterates" all previous midterm records.  It's estimated at $4 billion to $4.2 billion, mostly from what is politely called "fundraising" or from "outside interest groups" -- in other words, from that 1% and some of the wealthiest corporations, mainly for ad and influence campaigns.  In other words, the already superrich and the giant corporations that sucked up so much dough over the last 30 years now have tons of it to "invest" in our system in order to reap yet more favors -- to invest, that is, in Sharron Angle and Harry Reid.  If that isn't dispiriting, what is?

The right-wing version of this story is that a thunderstorm of money is being invested in a newly aroused, mad-as-hell crew of Americans ready to storm to power in the name of small government, radically reduced federal deficits, and of course lower taxes.  This is a fantasy concoction, though, even if you hear it on the news 24/7.  First of all, those right-wing billionaire and corporate types are not for small government.  They regularly and happily back, and sometimes profit from, the ever-increasing power of the (national security) state to pry, peep, suppress, and oppress, abridge liberties and make war (endlessly) abroad.  They are Pentagon lovers.  They adore the locked-down "homeland."

In addition, they are for the government giving them every sort of break, any sort of hand -- just not for that government laying its hands on them.  They are, in this sense, America's real welfare queens.  They want a powerful, protective state, but one that benefits them, not us.  All of those dollars that scaled the heights in these last decades are now helping to fund their program.  For what they need, they only have to throw repeated monkey wrenches into the works and the Tea Party, which really isn't a party at all, is just the latest of those wrenches.

...Must Come Down...

Faced with all our national woes, are we really a mad-as-hell nation?  On that, the jury is out, despite the fact that you've heard how "angry" we are a trillion times in the "news."  Maybe we're a depressed-as-hell nation.  There's no way to tell, even though the anger story glued eyeballs this election season.  What we do know, however, is that the rich-as-hell crew are making good use of the mad-as-hell ones.

Amy Gardner of the Washington Post recently offered us a revealing report on the Tea Party landscape.  Of the 1,400 Tea Party groups nationwide that the Post tried to contact, it reached 647.  Many of the rest may have ceased to exist or may never have existed at all. ("The findings suggest that the breadth of the tea party may be inflated.")  What the Post researchers found bore little relationship to the angry, Obama-as-Hitler-sign-carrying older crew supposedly ready to storm the gates of power.  They discovered instead a generally quiescent movement in which "70% of the grass-roots groups said they have not participated in any political campaigning this year."  Most of them were small, not directly involved in the midterm scramble or even electoral politics, and meant to offer places to talk and exchange ideas.  Not exactly the stuff of rebellion in the streets.

On the other hand, the funding machines like Tea Party Express (run by Sal Russo, longtime Republican operative, aide to Ronald Reagan, and fundraiser/media strategist for former New York governor George Pataki), FreedomWorks (run by Dick Armey, former Republican House majority leader), and Americans for Prosperity (started by oil billionaire David Koch) have appropriated the Tea Party name nationally and were pouring money into "Tea Party candidates." And don't forget the Tea-Partyish funding groups set up by Karl Rove, George W. Bush's bosom buddy and close advisor.

That these influential "tea partiers" turn out to be familiar right-wing insiders -- "longtime political players," as the Post put it, who since the 1980s "have used their resources and know-how to help elect a number of candidates" -- shouldn't be much of a shock.  Nor can it be so surprising that familiar right-wing political operatives are intent on creating a kind of political mayhem under the Tea Party label.  Still, if that's not dispiriting, what is?

...And Where It Landed

As for the TV set that's been filling your living room with the sound and fury of an epochal election that may, in itself, signify relatively little, take a moment to consider the context for all the noise.  We know how the money went up and we've all been watching it coming down.  Isn't it curious, though, how little attention all the commentators, pundits, and talking heads on that screen pay to where so much of that money is actually landing?  I mean, of course, in the hands of their bosses.  Vast amounts of it have come down on the media itself, particularly television.  I'm talking about all those screaming "attack ads," including the ones sponsored by those unnamed outside interest groups, that are probably driving you completely nuts by now, and that the talking heads just love to analyze, show bits of, and discuss endlessly?

Those are the very ads enriching the media outfits that employ them in a moment when the news world is in financial turmoil.  It is estimated that, for election 2010, the TV ad bill may total $3 billion (up from $2.7 billion in the 2008 presidential campaign year, and $2.4 billion in the 2006 midterms that brought the Democrats back to power in Congress).

For the companies behind the screen, in other words, those ads are manna from heaven.  If, in another context, someone was selling you on the importance of a phenomenon and was at the same time directly benefiting from that phenomenon, it would be considered a self-evident conflict of interest.  In this particular case, all those ad dollars are visibly to the benefit of the very media promoting the world-shaking importance of this election season.  But remind me, when was the last time you saw anyone on television, or really just about anywhere, even suggest that this might represent a conflict of interest?

The media aren't just reporting on the next election season, they're also filling the space between your ears, and every other space they can imagine with boosterism for just the kinds of elections we now experience.  They are, in a sense, modern-day carnies, offering endless election spiels to usher you inside the tent.  However they themselves may individually think about it, they are working to boost the profitability of their companies just as surely as any of those right-wing funders are boosting their corporate (or personal) profits.  They are, that is, not outsiders looking in, but a basic part of the hermetic, noisy, profitable system we think of as an election campaign.

Oh, and as for the election itself, none of us really had to wait for the results of midterm 2010, the Anger Extravaganza, to know that it won't be transformative, not even if the Republicans take both houses of Congress.  This isn't rocket science.  You already know what the Democrats were capable of (or, more exactly, not capable of) with 60 theoretical votes in the Senate and a humongous advantage in the House of Representatives.  So you should have a perfectly realistic assessment of how much less of "the people's business" is likely to be done in a more closely divided Congress, or even in one in which the Republicans hold a seat or two advantage in the Senate -- and with Democrat Barack Obama as president.

After the election, whatever the results, you already know that Obama will move more toward "the center," even if for decades it has been drifting ever rightward without ever settling on a home; that he will try to "work with" the Republicans; that this will prove the usual joke, and that the election, however breathlessly reported as a Republican triumph or Democratic save or Tea Party miracle (or anything else), will essentially be a gum-it-up-more event.

Though none of the voluble prognosticators and interpreters you'll listen to or read are likely to say so, those right-wing fundraisers and outside interest groups pouring money into Tea Party candidates, angry maniacs, dopes, and whoever else is on the landscape undoubtedly could care less.  Yes, a Congress that gave them everything they wanted on a proverbial silver platter would be a wonder, but gum-it-up works pretty darn well, too.  For most Americans, a Washington in congressional gridlock in a moment of roiling national crisis may be nothing to write home about, but for those fundraisers and outside interest groups, it only guarantees more manna from heaven.

And the good news, as far as they are concerned, is that the state that matters, the national security, war-making one, hardly needs Congress at all, or rather knows that no Congress will ever vote "no" to moneys for such matters.  Meanwhile, the media will begin cranking up for the even more expensive Election 2012.  Long before this election season came to a close, my hometown paper was already sporting its first pieces with headlines like "Looking Ahead to the 2012 Race" and beginning to handicap the presidential run to come. ("Although [President Obama] will not say so, there is at least a plausible argument that he might be better off if [the Democrats] lose... [I]f Republicans capture Congress, Mr. Obama will finally have a foil heading toward his own re-election battle in 2012.")  And don't think for a second that the New York Times wasn't in good company.  On the weekend before November 2nd, the first Associated Press-Knowledge Network poll was already out asking Democrats if they wanted Obama challenged in the 2012 primaries.

Whether the country I once wanted to represent was ever there in the form I imagined is a question I'll leave to the historians.  What I can say is that it's sure not there now.  What remains, angry or depressed, has made for a toxic brew as well as the most dispiriting election of my life.  For what it's worth, consider that my ballot box blues on this dreary Tuesday in November 2010.


Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. His most recent book is The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's (Haymarket Books).

Dear Tea Party: You Will Now Get Yours

by Mark Morford

And now, hot on the heels of our recent letter to whiny young Democrats, a loving shout-out to all those moderates and independents, confused conservatives and hard-line Repubs who went just a little more than slightly insane this past election.

To all of you who either flip-flopped your wishy-washy ideals and switched your vote from bluish to reddish this past election because Obama and the lukewarm Dems failed to solve all world problems in 700 days, or because you got yourself so emotionally riled up/mentally watered down by the sexy caveman grunts of the Tea Party that you actually bought the BS line about being "mad as hell" about nothing even remotely coherent.

Here is your grand message: You are hereby wonderfully, thoroughly screwed.

Oh darling, it's so very true. The fun-filled news is, despite all the bluster and rhetoric, thinly veiled racism and rampant Islamophobia on display, the new army of jittery, anti-everything GOP bobbleheads that you just voted into office doesn't care a single iota about you, or your haphazard values, or what you sometimes occasionally stand for. And what's more, deep down, you secretly know it.

Are you slightly offended? Are you scowling and mistrustful of the notion? I'm delighted to hear it. Also: It doesn't really matter.

You don't have to believe me. Just wait until nothing at all is done to service the Tea Party non-agenda, because it's ridiculous and impossible to service. Just wait until you note how there is no actual shrinking of government, no restoring some bogus sepia-toned idealism that never existed, no saving of your job. There is, of course, but one GOP agenda: furthering their personal stranglehold on all things powermad and avaricious.

That's not to say they won't try to tackle some issues. Boehner & Co care very much about nailing down enormous tax cuts for wealthy people, preventing education reform, gridlocking Congress at every turn, denying the fact that seven billion rapacious humans have an effect on climate change, and blocking as much newly available health care for 30 million Americans as possible. And so on.

But truly, the issues themselves don't matter. For what Boehner & Co value most is not so much making any sort of significant change in American culture, but rather, in keeping the anger, the dread, the paranoia alive.

In other words, they care most about keeping you in the lower, plebian castes all riled and blind as long as possible. This way, power lies. This way we find war and military expenditure and all manner of misprision, torture, environmental rape, WMD and homophobia, you name it. Just ask Karl Rove. Hey, it's a platform. It worked for Dubya. Well, sort of.

Perhaps you secretly agree with this assessment, understanding that the Repubs are indeed mostly shmucks, but at least they're shmucks fighting in your corner. Maybe you think the Dems are no better, and it's all a matter of lesser-of-two-evils, a needful balancing of power, that the nation's new rightward tilt serves Obama right for -- what was it again? "Overreaching"? For daring to accomplish in two short years more than any president in six decades? Right.

One thing's certain: the populace remains angry and scared about, well, what we've always been angry and scared about: jobs, a massive deficit, war and terrorism, taxes and drugs, gangs and goons, evil bumps in the night.

But these days, one source of anger trumps all others. We are perhaps most furious about our dysfunctional political system, one that cherishes acrimony over cohesion, backstabbing over unity, bickering over a calm and respectful, unified vision. (Which is a little strange, considering how much Pelosi and the Dems accomplished in two years. It might have been acerbic, but the output was actually sort of stunning. But never mind that now).

Are both parties to blame for this hateful, acerbic tone? Are they equally responsible for the ongoing divisiveness? Sure. To some degree. Then again, no. Not really. Not by a long shot.

Let's be perfectly clear: The modern Republican party has one masterful, godlike skill unmatched by any other org in this century: Its leaders are geniuses at deceit, at leading throngs of blind believers into rabbit holes of war and fear and factual inaccuracy, often using an aggressively dumbed-down form of Christianity as a trump card. Sexual dread, mistrust of youth, of women, of gays, foreigners, of the ever-changing cultural landscape? It's in the DNA. And the Tea Party chugged it like Coors-flavored heroin.

And the Dems? The Dems wish they could be that masterful. Progressives are just terribly weak in fearmongering. There is something about the liberal spirit that values independent thought and self-determination, that defies screaming eye-glazed megachurch groupthink dread. This makes it tough to hold power for very long. It's so much easier to rally around sameness, conformity, institution, fear of the Other. Right, Karl?

Proof? Look no further than the GOP's leaders and mouthpieces: Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, O'Reilly and Fox News and even newly minted Senate demigod Mitch McConnell, et al. There are almost no liberal equivalents to these professional liars, warmongers, kingmakers and overlords. In the category of media and message manipulation, the libs have proven disastrous.

I take it back. Not all red-leaning voters this election are hereby screwed. If you're tremendously wealthy and/or run a very large corporation, you're feeling damn good right about now. Wall Street is giddy like Charlie Sheen in a Bangkok brothel, eager for more deregulation, bigger bonuses, less oversight. The CEOs of every oil company in the world are positively orgasmic knowing that their GOP breathren will now asphyxiate all attempts at new environmental legislation and regulation. And so on.

But if you are a lower to middle-class Republican, Tea Partier or flip-flopping indie voter, you are now in the most delightfully ironic position of all -- you think you just voted yourself more voice, when in fact you voted for far less. You think yourself a lion; you're actually the meat. You actually just voted yourself an even lower position on the food chain. Congratulations.

But don't worry. There is a bright spot ahead. 2012 is nigh, and a dramatic new vote simmers and looms, as it always does. Soon enough, it will shift and mutate all over again, and we can kickstart the eternal debate once more. Something to look forward to, no?

Mark Morford's new book, 'The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism,' is now available at daringspectacle.com, Amazon, BN.com, and beyond. Join Mark on Facebook and Twitter, or email him. His website is markmorford.com. Mark's column appears every Wednesday on SFGate.

Founders Did Not Support an Individual Healthcare Mandate...

The Founding Fathers Did Not Support an Individual
Healthcare Mandate...

by Mike the Mad Biologist


....they supported socialized medicine. Last week, Forbes
writer Rick Ungar made the following historical

In July of 1798, Congress passed - and President
John Adams signed - "An Act for the Relief of Sick
and Disabled Seamen." The law authorized the
creation of a government operated marine hospital
service and mandated that privately employed sailors
be required to purchase health care insurance.

Keep in mind that the 5th Congress did not really
need to struggle over the intentions of the drafters
of the Constitutions in creating this Act as many of
its members were the drafters of the Constitution.

And when the Bill came to the desk of President John
Adams for signature, I think it's safe to assume
that the man in that chair had a pretty good grasp
on what the framers had in mind....

First, it created the Marine Hospital Service, a
series of hospitals built and operated by the
federal government to treat injured and ailing
privately employed sailors. This government provided
healthcare service was to be paid for by a mandatory
tax on the maritime sailors (a little more than 1%
of a sailor's wages), the same to be withheld from a
sailor's pay and turned over to the government by
the ship's owner. The payment of this tax for health
care was not optional. If a sailor wanted to work,
he had to pay up.

This is pretty much how it works today in the
European nations that conduct socialized medical
programs for its citizens - although 1% of wages
doesn't quite cut it any longer.

The law was not only the first time the United
States created a socialized medical program (The
Marine Hospital Service) but was also the first to
mandate that privately employed citizens be legally
required to make payments to pay for health care
services. Upon passage of the law, ships were no
longer permitted to sail in and out of our ports if
the health care tax had not been collected by the
ship owners and paid over to the government - thus
the creation of the first payroll tax in our
nation's history.

When a sick or injured sailor needed medical
assistance, the government would confirm that his
payments had been collected and turned over by his
employer and would then give the sailor a voucher
entitling him to admission to the hospital where he
would be treated for whatever ailed him.

While a few of the healthcare facilities accepting
the government voucher were privately operated, the
majority of the treatment was given out at the
federal maritime hospitals that were built and
operated by the government in the nation's largest

This isn't support of an individual mandate, it's
socialist--in the true sense of the word. You were
forced to pay taxes in order to gain access to a
government run hospital.

The political doctrine of socialism hadn't even been
invented yet. This does demonstrate that teabuggerers
are ignorant dolts--which most of us already knew. But
the key point for me is that when we get rid of
ideological name calling (TEH SOCIALISMZ!! AAAIIEEE!!)
and ridiculous boundary conditions such as insurance
companies should not go out of business, it's pretty
remarkable where people wind up in terms of policy.

Texas immigration bill has big exception

by Mariano Castillo


Texas lawmakers are facing increased pressure from constituents to take action on immigration.
  • The bill would deal strong punishments to those who hire unauthorized immigrants
  • But household workers would be an exception
  • Constituents have been pressing for immigration bills, lawmakers say

(CNN) -- Amid a number of bills filed in Texas that address the issue of illegal immigration, one, proposed by Republican state Rep. Debbie Riddle, stands out.

As proposed, House Bill 1202 would create tough state punishments for those who "intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly" hire an unauthorized immigrant. Violators could face up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

But it is an exception included in the bill that is drawing attention. Those who hire unauthorized immigrants would be in violation of the law -- unless they are hiring a maid, a lawn caretaker or another houseworker.

It is a tough immigration bill with a soft side that protects those who hire unauthorized immigrants "for the purpose of obtaining labor or other work to be performed exclusively or primarily at a single-family residence."

Texas state Rep. Aaron Pena, a Republican, said the exception is a wise one.

"With things as they are today, her bill will see a large segment of the Texas population in prison" if it passes without the exception, he said.

"When it comes to household employees or yard workers it is extremely common for Texans to hire people who are likely undocumented workers," Pena said. "It is so common it is overlooked."

The bills and other illegal immigration-related bills filed by Riddle and others reflect an increased pressure from constituents for action on the issue, Pena said. Because the federal government isn't doing its job, residents press state officials to act, he said.

Leo Berman, a Republican state representative, agreed that there was a stronger voice from Texas voters on the issue. "Absolutely," he said.

The Texas legislature convenes only once every two years, so Texas has not passed tough anti-illegal immigration laws like some other states. The result has been that unauthorized immigrants in those states are relocating to Texas, Berman said.

Berman himself has filed a number of immigrant-related bills this legislative session. One would make English the official language of Texas, a move that would save millions in printing costs, he said. The law wouldn't affect schools or ballots, he added.

Another bill would place an 8% surcharge on all money wired from Texas to Latin America. About $480 million could be collected from money sent to Mexico alone, the representative said. The proceeds would be earmarked for state hospitals.

A third bill would require police officers to ask every person they stop what their citizenship status is.

Amid all of these tough proposals, why the large exception to Riddle's bill on hiring unauthorized workers?

Riddle did not return repeated calls for comment. Her office said she would not comment on the bill because it could still be modified.

In a interview with the Texas Tribune, Riddle's chief of staff, Jon English, explained that the exception was to avoid "stifling the economic engine" in Texas.

"It is an admittedly clumsy first attempt to say, 'We are really focusing on the big businesses,'" English said. Texans shouldn't be punished for hiring lawn care companies who hire unauthorized immigrants, he said, according to the Texas Tribune's website.

© 2011 Cable News Network.

Isn't That Special?

"Illegal" immigrants are elements of a crime, unless they're only workers available to be oppressed?

It doesn't take much imagination to see how well this meshes so neatly with Republican efforts at breaking the unions of American workers.

From Buccaneers to Profiteers: On the Origin of Corporations

By David Korten

Like many Americans, I grew up believing that conservative values were about local control and personal responsibility for family, community, and nature. It seemed curious to me that the political alliance that drove a rollback of the Roosevelt-era policies that created the American middle class called itself conservative and dismissed its liberal opponents as un-American.

Eventually, however, I discovered that the term conservative harkens back to a day when conservatives were monarchists who considered democracy a threat to social order and the seas were ruled by buccaneers and privateers. That was a clarifying moment.

Buccaneer is a colorful name for the pirates of old who pursued personal fortune with rules of their own making. They were, in their time, an iconic expression of “free market” capitalism.

Privateers were buccaneers to whom a king granted legal immunity and safe harbor in return for a share of the booty. Their charge was to extract physical wealth from foreign lands and peoples by whatever means—including the execution of rulers and the slaughter and enslavement of native inhabitants.

Hernán Cortés claimed the Mexican empire of Montezuma for Spain. Hernando de Soto made his initial mark trading slaves in Central America and later allied with Francisco Pizarro to take control of the Inca empire based in Peru. 

Some privateers operated powerful naval forces. In 1671, Sir Henry Morgan (yes, appreciative British kings granted favored privateers with titles of nobility in recognition of their service) launched an assault on Panama City with thirty-six ships and nearly two thousand brigands, defeating a large Spanish force and looting the city as it burned to the ground.

Eventually, the ruling monarchs turned from swashbuckling adventurers and chartered pirates to chartered corporations as their favored instruments of colonial expansion, administration, and pillage. The sale of public shares enabled a single firm to amass virtually unlimited financial capital and assured the continuity of the enterprise beyond the death of its founders. Limited liability absolved the owners of personal liability for the firm’s losses or misdeeds.

Corporations chartered by the British Crown established several of the earliest colonial settlements in what later became the United States and populated them with bonded laborers—many involuntarily transported from England—to work their properties. The importation of slaves from Africa followed.

The East India Company (chartered in 1600) was the primary instrument of Britain’s colonization of India, a country the company ruled until 1784 much as if it were a private estate. In the early 1800s, the East India Company established a thriving business exporting tea from China, paying for its purchases with illegal opium.

The Dutch East India Company (chartered in 1602) established its sovereignty over what is now Indonesia and reduced the local people to poverty by displacing them from their lands to grow spices for sale in Europe.

It is no exaggeration to characterize these forerunners of contemporary publicly traded limited liability corporations as, in effect, legally sanctioned and protected crime syndicates with private armies and navies backed by a mandate from their home governments to extort tribute, expropriate land and other wealth, monopolize markets, trade slaves, deal drugs, and profit from financial scams.

Wall Street hedge fund managers, day traders, currency traders, and other unlicensed phantom-wealth speculators are the independent, unlicensed buccaneers of our day. Wall Street banks are modern day commissioned privateers who ply a similar trade with state backing and safe harbor. The economy is their ocean. Publicly traded corporations serve as their favored vessels of plunder, financial leverage is their favored weapon, and the state is their servant-guardian.

As with the buccaneers and privateers of days past, Wall Street’s major players find it more profitable to expropriate the wealth of others than to find honest jobs producing goods and services beneficial to their communities. They walk away with their fees, commissions, and bonus packages and leave it to others to pick up the costs of federal bailouts, gyrating economic cycles, collapsing environmental systems, broken families, shattered communities, and the export of jobs along with the manufacturing, technology, and research capacities that go with them.

They seek self-enrichment by plundering wealth they had no part in creating, enjoy substantial legal immunity, and acknowledge no duty or accountability other than to themselves. Legal or not, taking the property of another through deception, fraud, and expropriation is theft. Only tyrannies guarantee the liberty of the few to plunder the wealth of the many.

David Korten

David Korten is co-founder and board chair of  YES! Magazine, co-chair of the New Economy Working Group, president of the People-Centered Development Forum, and a founding board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). His books include Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, and the international best seller When Corporations Rule the World.

The Real GOP Platform

Policies proposed by members of the most radical major party in American history

 People & things the Republicans don't like based on actions and statements

  • Americorp
  • EPA
  • Gays
  • Ill people who need medical marijuana
  • Immigrants and their children
  • Journalists
  • Latinos
  • Scientists
  • Methodists
  • Social Security recipients
  • Residents of DC-Guam-Puerto Rico-Virgin Islands,
  • The jobless
  • Employed women
  • College students
  • NPR
  • State workers
  • Those on minimum wage
  • Public school students
  • Children with pre-existing health conditions
  • Those receiving mail from the Postal Service,
  • Black men
  • Public workers
  • Ethnically mixed couples
  • The disabled.
  • National Science Foundation
  • National Institutes of Health
  • Cops
  • 9/11 responders
  • People on Medicaid
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • PBS
  • Women
  • Americorps

 Recent ideas

Kansas State Rep. Virgil Peck (R) suggested that the best way to deal with the illegal immigration problem may be the same way the state might deal with the problem of "feral hogs" -- by shooting them from a helicopter. - TPM

New Hampshire state Rep. Martin Harty (R) told a constituent, "The world population has gotten too big and the world is being inherited by too many defective people. . .I mean all the defective people, the drug addicts, mentally ill, the retarded -- all of them."

Senate leader declares Wisconsin a fascist state

Under Maine Gov. Paul LePage's proposed budget, teachers and other state employees will be required to increase their contributions to the pension system, from 7.65 percent of their salary to 9.65 percent. One public employee currently paying 7.65 percent, however, won't see an increase. The governor has exempted himself.

A GOP New Hampshire legislator told a constituent “the world is too populated” and that there are too many “defective people.” When asked what should be done with these “defective people” that are mentally ill, Martin Harty suggested sending them to Siberia, something that he said Hitler was “right” to do

Michigan Republicans establish financial martial law

House Republicans passed a budget that would have slashed funding for a sunami warning center that helped to warn people after the Japanese quake

Civil liberties. . ..

GOP congressmember sought to censor press with Espionage Act

Ann Coulter: "I think there should be more jailed journalists". . .And CPAC cheered her.


The Republican mayor of Enfield, Connecticut has forced that town's public library to cancel a showing of the Michael Moore film, Sicko, a 2007 documentary on healthcare reform. Bowing to pressure from the Town Council and a mayoral threat to cut off funding for the library if the film were screened, the library reluctantly cancelled the program

A House panel chaired by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin plans a hearing to discuss forcing Internet providers, and perhaps Web companies as well, to store records of their users' activities for later review by police.

Haley Barbour says he won't critize the proposal for a Mississippi licence plate honoring Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, an early leader of the KKK.

The GOP chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security wants to "strangle the viability" of WikiLeaks by placing the publisher and its editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, on a US "enemies list" normally reserved for terrorists and dictators. Placement on the US "Specially Designated National and Blocked Persons List" would criminalize US companies who deal with WikiLeaks or its editor.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the new chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said that American Muslims aren't "American" when it comes to war. "When a war begins," King said, every ethnic and religious group unites as "Americans." "But in this case, this is not the situation. . . Whether it's cultural tradition, whatever, the fact is the Muslim community does not cooperate anywhere near to the extent that it should":

Missouri House Speaker Steve Tilley wants to end multilingual DMV tests, and state Rep. John Cauthorn agrees: "The average guy on the street hates Spanish, and it is everywhere." - TPM

Senate Republicans block bill designed to reduce differences between the wages of women and men

The Republicans initially wanted to read the original Constitution at the opening session but someone pointed out the part in which slaves counted for only 3/5 of a person for apportionment, so they switched to the amended version.

Republicans further disenfranchise residents of District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa by taking away their limited House voting rights


Republicans in Arizona have gotten a bill passed that bans the teaching of ethnic studies in the state

Governor Haley Barbour defends the White Citizen Councils on the grounds that they weren't as bad as the KKK

GOP senator John McCain voted against repeal of DADT because it would be a potentially deadly distracton for Marines "and I don't want to permit that opportunity to happen."

Only three GOP senators voted for the Dream Act, a first step in improving immigation policy.

GOP congressman wants US citizens to be held without trial if deemed terrorists

Rep. Steve King R-IA wants to do away with birthright citizenship for children of immigrants

Jon Runyan, a former pro football player and now the Republican nominee against freshman Rep. John Adler (D-NJ), listed the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sanford Supreme Court decision as a recent case that he disagreed with.

Maine GOP candidate for governor Paul LePage: "I just don't understand how people, at least sane people, would want to allow transgender in our primary schools and our high schools."

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) believes that if someone is openly homosexual, they shouldn't be teaching in the classroom and he holds the same position on an unmarried woman who's sleeping with her boyfriend-she shouldn't be in the classroom."

Al Reynolds, the Republican running for Congress in Illinois' 52nd District, says that African American men prefer dealing drugs to going to college, because it is "easier."

GOP House candidate attacks ethnic intermarriage

Sharron Angle thinks that there is a "militant terrorist situation" that has allowed Islamic religious law to take hold in some American cities,

Senator Jim DeMint, according to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal "said if someone is openly homosexual, they shouldn't be teaching in the classroom and he holds the same position on an unmarried woman who's sleeping with her boyfriend -- she shouldn't be in the classroom."

A whole series of Republican candidates for House, Senate, and Governor's mansions in 2010, reports Mike Lux, have been promoting ideas that were conservative many decades ago, including some even back in the 1800s, including:

  • Repealing the 1964 Civil Rights Act
  • Repealing the 1965 Voting Rights Act
  • Repealing the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Repealing or amending the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which was the basis for Brown v. Board of Education





Judson Phillips, president of prominent Tea Party group Tea Party Nation: “The Founding Fathers… put certain restrictions on… the right to vote… you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense.”  

Family values

The Folkbum blog reported that when protesters appeared at the home of Wisconsin GOP state senator Randy Hopper, his wife told them that he no longer lives there but with his 25 year old mistress in Madison.

Newt Gingrich told Christian Broadcast Network's David Brody that "there's no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate."

 Republicans try to kill funding for Planned Parenthood.

A Republican state legislator in Georgia doesn't like the term rape "victim." In fact, he has introduced a bill mandating that state criminal codes refer to these people as, simply, "accusers" -- until there's a conviction in the matter.. . .173 GOP congress members want to weaken definition of rape

Family values as practiced by John Boehner


[New Florida Governor Rick] Scott is a millionaire and the former CEO of the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain, Columbia/HCA. Shortly after he stepped down, the company paid the largest fine for Medicare fraud ever assessed. He won the governor's race by running as an outsider — spending some $70 million of his own money.

An Ohio Democrat, Steve Driehaus, clashed repeatedly with Boehner before losing his seat in the midterm elections. After Boehner suggested that by voting for Obamacare, Driehaus "may be a dead man" and "can't go home to the west side of Cincinnati" because "the Catholics will run him out of town," Driehaus began receiving death threats, and a right-wing website published directions to his house.


Bill fines employment of illegal immigrants . . . except maids and lawn workers

The GOP lifestyle. . .

"I wouldn't change the decision even if I could do it right now. I had a great five days with my children. I promised that." -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), telling the Newark Star Ledger that his wife warned him to not "even think about" canceling their Florida vacation when a major blizzard hit.

The Arkansas Times reports Mike Huckabee and his wife are building a $3 million home in Florida and that they're taking on a $2.8 million mortgage.

GOP hypocrite of the day: cost cutting NJ governor spent $475 for hotel room

As we were saying. . .

Texas Gov. Rick Perry likes to tell Washington to stop meddling in state affairs. He vocally opposed the Obama administration's 2009 stimulus program to spur the economy and assist cash-strapped states. Perry also likes to trumpet that his state balanced its budget in 2009, while keeping billions in its rainy day fund.. . .Turns out Texas was the state that depended the most on those very stimulus funds to plug nearly 97% of its shortfall for fiscal 2010, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.- CNN

According to a Hotline review of records compiled by Citizens Against Government Waste, the 52 members of the Tea Party caucus, which pledges to cut spending and reduce the size of government, requested a total of 764 earmarks valued at $1,049,783,150 during Fiscal Year 2010, the last year for which records are available

After Francisco "Quico" Canseco beat Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Tex.) as part of the Republican wave on Nov. 2, the tea party favorite declared: "It's going to be a new day in Washington." Two weeks later, Canseco was in the heart of Washington for a $1,000-a-head fundraiser at the Capitol Hill Club. The event--hosted by Reps. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) and Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.)--was aimed at paying off more than $1.1 million in campaign debts racked up by Canseco, much of it from his own pocket. - Washington Post

Last days of empire

GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says he wants American officials to consider establishing permanent military bases in Afghanistan.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was just elected the new head of the Republican Governor's Association, said this week that President Obama should consider sending the military into Mexico to help fight the drug war

Ecology & science

Gingrich says he would eliminate EPA

A 53%-majority of Republicans say there is no solid evidence the earth is warming. Among Tea Party Republicans, fully 70% say there is no evidence. Disbelief in global warming in the GOP is a recent occurrence. In 2007, a 62%-majority of Republicans said there is solid evidence of global warming, while less than a third (31%) said there is no solid evidence. Few Republicans see global warming as a very serious problem (14%) or in need of immediate government action (24%). . . On the other hand, 97 out of 100 scientists that believe in man-made climate change

GOP Representative Bill Flores: "Republicans in the House as a whole want to get rid of the EPA."

John Boehner has announced the end of the House subcommittee on climate change. It's all up to God now.

Over half of Republicans don't believe in climate warming

Sarah Palin thinks global warming is a hoax.

During a town hall meeting at Toms River, New Jersey Governor Chris reportedly said that he was skeptical that humans were causing the earth to warm. Christie says "more science" is needed to convince him.

86% are opposed to any climate change legislation that increases government revenue


Fiscal responsibility

Tea Party politics brought down Nassau County

The brains behind it all . . .

The scary man the Republicans have chosen to run its congressional investigations

Federal report on handling of oil spill - “Coast Guard responders watched Governor Jindal — and the TV cameras following him — return to what appeared to be the same spot of oiled marsh day after day to complain about the inadequacy of the federal response, even though only a small amount of marsh was then oiled,” the report stated, citing an interview with a Coast Guard official. “When the Coast Guard sought to clean up that piece of affected marsh, Governor Jindal refused to confirm its location.”

Senator Mike Lee of Utah thinks child labor laws are unconstitutional Also federal minimum wage laws, civil rights laws or to provide Medicare and Social Security.

I’m absolutely delighted that The New York Times would attack me ... I have nothing but contempt for them. They should be indicted under the Espionage Act. - Rep. Pete King, chair of the Homeland Security Commission

Maryland physician Andy Harris (R) soundly defeated Frank Kratovil, one of the most endangered Democrats on Capitol Hill going into the November election. And he did it in large part by railing against 'Obamacare' and pledging to repeal Health Care Reform. But when he showed on Capitol Hill tfor an orientation for incoming members of Congress and their staffs, . . hecreated a stir by demanding to know why he had to wait a month after he was sworn in in January for his government-subsidized health care to kick in. After responding in a huff, he even asked if there was some way he could buy into the government care in advance, TPM

New Arkansas Republican state representative Loy Mauch, says the Confederate flag is a "a symbol of Jesus Christ,"

Texas Republican congressional candidate Stephen Broden says he would not rule out violent overthrow of the government if elections did not produce a change in leadership. In a rambling exchange during a TV interview, Broden, a South Dallas pastor, said a violent uprising "is not the first option," but it is "on the table."

Alaskan GOP senatorial candidate Joe Miller thinks we could do a better job of securing the Mexican border. "If East Germany could, we could," he said.

Republicans are only major party in world's democracies to dispute climate change

GOP House candidate likes to reenact the Nazi years



Sharron Angle thinks autism is a fake problem designed to give people more medical benefits

Sharron Angle thinks that there is a "militant terrorist situation" that has allowed Islamic religious law to take hold in some American cities,



PolitiFact, a Pulitzer Prize-winning feature of the St. Petersburg Times that checks whether statements made by politicians are true, has repeatedly determined that Bachmann's claims don't ring true. "We have checked her 13 times, and seven of her claims to be false and six have been found to be ridiculously false," PolitiFact editor Bill Adair said. Adair said no politician has been checked as often as Bachmann without saying at least something that's true. "I don't know anyone else that we have checked, more than a couple times, that has never earned anything above a false," he said. "She is unusual in that regard that she has never gotten a rating higher than false."


An Ohio Democrat, Steve Driehaus, clashed repeatedly with Boehner before losing his seat in the midterm elections. After Boehner suggested that by voting for Obamacare, Driehaus "may be a dead man" and "can't go home to the west side of Cincinnati" because "the Catholics will run him out of town," Driehaus began receiving death threats, and a right-wing website published directions to his house.

John Boehner named Michelle Bachmann to the House Intelligence Committee



GOP Kentucky senatorial candidate Ron Paul would like to replace the national income tax with a sales tax. To accomplish this would take about a 23% sales tax. That would be on top of state sales tax and would be a massive giveaway to the rich. For example, in California, Meg Whitman would gain hundreds of thousands of dollars while those in the bottom 20% would have to pay several thousand dollars more a year


Sarah Palin thinks Sputnik brought the Russian economy down. In an interview she said, ""Yeah, they won but they also incurred so much debt at the time that it resulted in the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union," As Talking Points Memo notes, "While the Soviet Union did eventually collapse, that wasn't until 1991 -- a full 22 years after the U.S. put a man on the moon, and the collapse came amid stagnant economic growth after years of unsustainable Soviet defense spending of which its space program was a relatively small part."

Sarah Palin: "We need to cut these things that aren't constitutionally mandated, that are kind of on the periphery, the fluffery, like NPR and National Endowment for the Arts."



Friend of the workers

 GOP governor threatens to call out National Guard on state workers if they protest cuts in their rights. . . 12,000 protesters to oppose governor's war on unions. . . Green Bay Packers join in battle

GOP Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker achieved ending state employee collective bargaining rights as a budget cutting move

Study: GOP spending plan would cost 700,000 jobs

Asked about the tens of thousands of workers who would be unemployed if the GOP budget plan goes through, John Boehner said, "If some of those jobs are lost, so be it."

Republicans fail in effort to abolish National Labor Relations Board

Congressional Republicans managed to block a Democratic plan to give $250 to Social Security recipients in lieu of a cost of living increase. Apparently the GOP preferred the money be used to keep the taxes of millionaires low.

87% of House Republicans voted against assistance to jobless

Republicans launch war on unions

NJ GOP governor launches fullscale attack on public worker

Law and order

A Georgia GOP state legislator has proposed abolishing drivers' licences

Social Security

Texas Gov. Rick Perry advocates letting states opt-out of Social Security and numerous Texas lawmakers are consideirng pulling the state out of the Medicaid program.

Former Senator Alan Simpson calls America's seniors the "greediest generation."

Health care. . .

Rep Ron Paul: "No one has a right to anyone's wealth, I don't have a right to come to you and say my poor kid needs 500 dollars for an education. An education is not a right, medical care is not a right."

Arizona seeks to drop 280,000 from state Medicaid rolls


The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated overturning the reform signed by Obama last year would add about $230 billion to the deficit by 2021 and result in 32 million fewer people having health insurance.That was a blow to Republican campaign promises to slash the federal budget deficit.

Governor Christie undermining NJ medical marijuana law

Texas state representative Leo Berman wants to charge any person who tries to implement the 2010 health care reform law in his state with a felony and put them behind bars.

Senate Republicans voted against health care benefits and compensation to sick first responders of the 9/11 attack

Arizona state senator Russell Pearce (R), who has been elected the president of the state senate, has launched a push to reject federal funding for the state's Medicaid program. Pearce told a reporter that "church, community, families got to provide."

Arizona Republicans institute death panel policy

Culture is what we say it is

House GOP censoring art

House speaker designate John Boehner of Ohio and incoming House majority leader Eric Cantor of Virginia have called for the dismantling of a Smithsonian exhibit focused on same-sex attraction. The museum has already removed one piece

What are those sandals that he wore the other day?” Donald Trump demands disbelievingly, reacting to the image of the vacationing president in a Hawaiian ice cream parlor, sporting swimming trunks and flip-flops. “I wouldn’t be wearing flip-flops,” Trump says of Obama. “I don’t like it. I don’t think that is what the president is supposed to be representing. You will not see me wearing flip-flops.

God's a Republican

How the GOP thinks like the Muslim Brotherhood

Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips says that the Metrhodist Church is "the first Church of Karl Marx," and "little more than the "religious" arm of socialism. . . If you hate America, you have a great future in the Methodist church."

52% of Republicans think God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago

New Arkansas Republican state representative Loy Mauch, says the Confederate flag is a "a symbol of Jesus Christ,"

John Shimkus, R-IL.is running for chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. A year and half ago he quoted God telling Noah, "As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will never cease" himkus elaborated: "I believe that is the infallible word of god, and that's the way it is going to be for his creation.. . .The earth will end only when God declares its time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood." Update: Fortunately, Barton didn't get the job.

Rep. Joe Barton who is running for chair of the House Energy & Commerce committee: "Speaker Boehner is our Dwight Eisenhower in the battle against the Obama Administration. Majority Leader Cantor is our Omar Bradley. I want to be George Patton - put anything in my scope and I will shoot it." Update: Fortunately, Barton didn't get the job.

57% OF Republicans think Obama is a Muslim

Welfare for the wealthy

Michigan GOP governor wants to slash business taxes by $2 billion while cutting working class services

Bills filed by two GOP Florida legislators would require the state Division of Recreation and Parks to hire Nicklaus Design to build courses in state parks in every region of the state, creating a Jack Nicklaus Golf Trail around Florida.

Florida Governor Rick Scott wants to balance the budget by slashing at least $2 billion from education, and has proposed $1.7 billion in tax cuts for property owners and corporation. . . .

House Republican wants to abolish the tax code

Kentucky Rep. Hal Rogers, the “Prince of Pork,” will head of the Appropriations committee. Over the past two years, Rogers has requested $175,613,300 in earmarks, including funding for a cheetah protection nonprofit that his daughter works for.

"In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks," -Spencer Bachus (R), incoming Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee

Senate Republicans unanimously opposed ending tax cuts for those earning over $1 million annually.

It's been kept secret until now but at a private campaign fundraiser, Sharon Angle said of Augusto Pinochet's privatizing of Social Security: "Sometimes dictators have good ideas."

GOP only group that wants to keep feeding the welfare fathers

54% of Republicans want to repeal all of Obamacare despite lack of health insurance causing some 45,000 deaths a year

Bloomberg - A 21 percent cut across the board would take about $15 billion from education. A 21 percent cut in Pell Grants would take almost $5 billion from student tuition.

A 21 percent cut at the National Institutes of Health would take about $6 billion from health research.

A 21 percent cut would take $400 million from police.

Center for Budget Policy & Priorities - A 21 percent cut in K-12 education funding would take more than $8 billion out of this area in fiscal year 2011, on top of the deep education cuts that many state and local governments across the country are being forced to make.

Meg Whitman's plan to eliminate the capital gains tax would widen the state's budget deficit by about $5 billion, and for what? One winner would be Whitman, who would save $8-41 million during a four year term as governor.

GOP Kentucky senatorial candidate Ron Paul would like to replace the national income tax with a sales tax. To accomplish this would take about a 23% sales tax. That would be on top of state sales tax and would be a massive giveaway to the rich. For example, in California, Meg Whitman would gain hundreds of thousands of dollars while those in the bottom 20% would have to pay several thousand dollars more a year.

GOP congressional candidate David Harmer wants to abolish public schools

WV GOP senatorial candidate John Raese has come out strongly against the minimum wage.

Joe Mller would end the minimum wage and reduced funding of the EPA

Joe Miller thinks Social Security is unconstitutional because it's not in the Constitution

The GOP supports children being rejected for health coverage due to pre-existing conditions, the ability of insurance companies to limit lifetime coverage, and the ability of insurance companies to take away insurance from children who are sick. These are all prevented by the healthcare bill the GOP wishes to repeal.

GOP House members threaten to shut down government to repeal healthcare






Furthermore. . .

The GOP wants to end all government funding for NPR and PBS

House Republicans want to do away with Americorps

Texas governor Perry has called for lawmakers to suspend "non-critical" entities like the State Historical Commission or the Commission on the Arts until the economy improves

61% of Republicans polled said they hoped that Obama fails.

Open Congress - In late June of 1995 then-GOP Conference Chairman John Boehner handed out "about a half-dozen" checks from the political action committee of tobacco company Brown & Williamson Corp. to fellow Republicans on the floor of the House. Boehner's chief of staff Barry Jackson stated, "We were trying to help guys who needed to get their June 30th numbers up, their cash-on-hand numbers up. All leadership does this. We have to raise money for people and help them raise money." Boehner was forced to stop handed out the checks when two freshmen Republicans, "appalled by it," confronted him and voiced their displeasure. Boehner's reaction was one of tempered apology, "I thought, 'Yeah, I can imagine why somebody would be upset. It sure doesn't look good.'"

Rand Paul thinks Obama was too mean to BP

Mitch McConnell played both sides of Iraq war

Conservatives in Arizona vehemently opposed a town's decision to have a trash truck and curbside recycling program. Some called it "Obamacare for garbage" or "trashcare."

Think Progress - 100 freshmen Republicans will take their seats in the 112th Congress.Here is a snapshot of the GOP Class of 2010:


- 39% have already declared their intention to end the 14th Amendment's guarantee of birthright citizenship

- 32% want to reduce legal immigration


- 91% have sworn to never allow an income tax increase on any individual or business - regardless of deficits or war

- 79% have pledged to permanently repeal the estate tax

- 48% are pushing for a balanced budget amendment


Mike Huckabee wants to end public funding of NPR

Alaska GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller faced with unpleasant revelations about his life and past: "We’ve drawn a line in the sand. You can ask me about background, you can ask about personal issues — I’m not going to answer."

Politfacts finds Michelle Bachman tells more lies than just about any politician it covers









What's New with Me

by Sam Smith

One of the ways that bad policies, ideas, and values spread is because the system, especially the media, portrays them as normal. One of the ways one knows this to be untrue is to be old enough to remember when life was different.

I've been jotting down things of a political, social and economic nature that have been happening lately for the first time or in record quantity since I covered my first Washington story 54 years ago. Here are a few of the things that are new with me:

- The most radical and irrational Republican Party. To be sure, there had been Joe McCarthy but among those who eventually put him down were normal conservatives who found him embarrassing. Those people don't seem to exist any more in the GOP.

- The most conservative Democratic president. In an earlier time, there would have been a name for Obama: Republican.

- People who would have formerly been considered political jokes are now talking about running for president, such as Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin, and Donald Trump. To be sure there was a Pogo for President movement and comedian Pat Paulsen's campaign, but neither had a PAC.

- An unprecedented level of political nastiness. I can't, for example, remember a segregationist politician calling for blacks to be shot and killed by helicopter like "feral hogs" as recently proposed for immigrants by a Kansas legislator.

- A record bipartisan contempt for civil liberties. Never has a Democratic president or a Republican Party been so eclectically contemptuous of constitutional rights. As William Shirer, author of a great book Nazism, pointed out, "You don't need a totalitarian dictatorship like Hitler's to get by with murder . . . You can do it in a democracy as long as the Congress and the people Congress is supposed to represent don't give a damn."

- A decline in the respect for facts. In America's political debate, facts are now treated like just another ad hominem argument to be dismissed with colorful rhetoric. And numbers are considered simply another form of adjective.

- A Democratic administration without a single cabinet member one can truly admire.

- A Democratic Congress with only a tiny handful of party members who might have supported either the New Deal or the Great Society. But you can't save the republic just relying on Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich and Anthony Weiner.

- A stunningly vacuous cultural leadership and a weird willingness to let Jon Stewart take care of all it for us.

- Massive passivity by, rather than reaction from, the nation's young.

- The extraordinary level of bipartisan contempt (depending on who is in which office) for the constitutional powers of the Congress and states.

- The sense one has of Obama seeing himself as a CEO rather than a political leader of multi-faceted democratic institutions. And our treatment as either consumers or employees.

- The level of mind-blowing bureaucratic complexity of new policies such as the healthcare legislation, which no one has truly figured out.

- The willingness to replace legal argument with euphemisms to accomplish violations of the Constitution and international law.

- The bipartisan indifference and ineffectiveness regarding the ecological crises around us, all the more striking because the evidence of ecological danger is now far stronger than when the modern environmental movement started four decades ago.

- The unprecedented willingness by Democrats - from Obama on down - to dismantle great programs of the New Deal and the Great Society.

- A loss of privacy unlike any time I have experienced.

- A record number of people on food stamps.

- A record collapse in housing prices.

- The first decline in family net worth since the 1950s

- Record high average temperatures.

That's just for starters.

Here, for comparison is how was when I was just a starter, as described by Jermie D. Cullip describes it:

"From 1950 to 1959, the total number of females employed increased by 18%. The standard of living during the fifties also steadily rose. Most people expected to own a car and a house, and believed that life for their children would be even better. . . The number of college students doubled. Getting a college education was no longer for the rich or elite.

"Over the decade the housing supply increased 27 percent . . . By mid-1955, the country had pulled out of the previous year's recession and gross national product was growing at a rate of 7.6 percent. . . .Over the decade, GNP per capita almost doubled and the public welfare reacted accordingly as the cost of living index rose by just 1 percent and unemployment dropped to 4.1 percent'"

The amazing thing by today's standards is that all this was accomplished by a system producing less than 5,000 MBAs a year as opposed to the 142,000 that would be turned out annually by 2005. And nobody talked about branding, mission statements or strategic visions.

There was, of course, plenty wrong and the next couple of decades made big positive changes in the lives of those who had been left behind, including the poor, women, blacks and gays.
Then came the Reagan years and the corporatization of America that would follow. America seemed to stop wanting to be America anymore. Being just another phony brand was good enough. American began its thirty year decline. And to this day, there are few who will tell you.

Further, it all can happen faster than we think. Nine years ago, for example, I gave a talk at a punk rock concert in which I listed nearly 30 ways in which American freedoms had diminished during the lifetimes of the 20-something present.

Above I've noted just a few of things that have changed since then. If you haven't thought about them, don't blame yourself. The media and our leaders have given us cultural Altzheimer's and they're not about to change their ways. As Don DeLillo put it, "History is the sum total of the things they're not telling us."

So that's what's new with me. And, I'm afraid, with you as well.


The New Newt

by Christopher Brauchli

Earl of Sandwich: “‘ ’Pon my honor, Wilkes, I don’t know whether you’ll die on the gallows or of the pox.”

Wilkes: “That must depend, my Lord, upon whether I first embrace your Lordship’s principles, or your Lordship’s mistresses.”
—John Wilkes, Sir Charles Petrie, The Four Georges

Newt Gingrich is like a computer-there’s always a newer version. In the case of computers, others create it for them. Newt does it for himself. His proposed visit with John Hagee who is about to become Newt’s new best friend will surely involve a disavowal at some future time.

For many years Newt has been criticized by those who remember that to arrive at his present state of marital bliss to Catholic chorister, Callista Bistek, he had to jump over two other wives. Jackie Battley, his first, was his high school math teacher to whom he confided his plans for a divorce so he could marry Marianne (with whom he was sleeping), as Jackie lay in hospital recovering from cancer surgery. Some years later he came home to Marianne, after he had given a speech on family values in Erie Pennsylvania. Marianne, knowing of an affair he was then having with soon to be wife number three, Callista, asked him: “How do you give that speech and do what you’re doing?” “It doesn’t matter what I do,” he replied, “people need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.” They were divorced and he married Callista. Now we are informed that his failed marriages were not due to design flaws in Newt but to an excessive love of country.

In an interview with The Christian Broadcasting Network, he said: “There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.” That takes care of infidelity. And if it weren’t enough, he also converted to Catholicism in 2009, which is a bit like putting icing on the cake. In an interview with Dan Gilgoff in God and Country, Newt described a number of things that precipitated his conversion such as seeing how happy Pope Benedict looked when he visited the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, describing him as “a very loving, engaged, happy person.” Concluding his interview he said in further explanation for his conversion: “And part of me is inherently medieval. I resonate to Gothic churches and the sense of the cross in a way that is really pre-modern.” If it’s pre-modern he wants, he’s found it in John Hagee, (a preacher who has ideas that pass most understanding) with whom Newt plans to meet in order to burnish his credentials among religious conservatives.

The Catholic Church has historically been one of John Hagee’s targets. In his book, Jerusalem Countdown he says that “[M]ost readers will be shocked by the clear record of history linking Adolf Hitler and the Roman Catholic Church in a conspiracy to exterminate the Jews.” (According to one report he has since apologized for that passage.) In 2008, when John McCain briefly courted Mr. Hagee, Catholic League President, Bill Donohue described Hagee as an “inveterate bigot” for calling the Catholic Church “the Great Whore, an apostate church” among other things. Mr. Donohue and Mr.Hagee have now made peace. Mr. Donohue said that “As far as I’m concerned, Hagee and I are on friendly terms today. . . . I’m convinced that he turned the corner.” Knowing that Mr. Donohue thinks Mr. Hagee has gone around the corner should give Newt comfort since as a newcomer to the church it would be unseemly for him to so quickly embrace someone who has consistently vilified it. The Church has not been Mr. Hagee’s only target.

After Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Hagee was interviewed by Terry Gross on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air. In that interview he observed that Hurricane Katrina arrived on the very day that a group of homosexuals had planned to have a parade in New Orleans. He told Terry that: “I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they are-were-recipients of the judgment of God for that. . . . And I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.”

Of course, Mr. Hagee is not without a whimsical side. In a fundraiser that his church conducted in 2006 to sponsor a trip for students, the fundraiser was announced as a “slave sale. The students were to auction off their services to parishioners. The announcement said: “Slavery in America is returning to Cornerstone (Hagee’s church)” and concluded with a teaser saying: “Make plans to come and go home with a slave.” In an interview he apologized but attributed the commotion to pressure to be “politically correct.”

I’m sure Newt has an explanation for why he’d seek the blessing of someone who attacks his new spiritual home and otherwise seems to be devoid of common sense. It probably has to do with how “passionately he feels about this country” and how badly he wants to be its president. As with the rest of his life, principle won’t stand in his way.

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli is a columnist and lawyer known nationally for his work. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Colorado School of Law where he served on the Board of Editors of the Rocky Mountain Law Review. He can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com

Sham ‘Historian’ Hits the Big Time in Tea Party America

April 19, 2011
10:12 AM

CONTACT: People For the American Way (PFAW)

Miranda Blue or Justin Greenberg
at 202-467-4999 / media@pfaw.org

David Barton’s Christian Nation: Sham ‘Historian’ Hits the Big Time in Tea Party America

WASHINGTON - April 19 - Mike Huckabee calls David Barton the "single best historian in America today" and says that Americans should be “forced at gunpoint” to listen to his history lessons.  Michele Bachmann, who calls Barton “a treasure for our nation,” invited him to teach a class on the Constitution to members of Congress. Newt Gingrich promises to seek his advice and counsel for the 2012 presidential campaign.  State legislators from around the country invite him to share his “wisdom” with them. Glenn Beck calls him “the most important man in America.”  

Who is David Barton?

A new report from People For the American Way explores the growing influence of the fast-talking, self-promoting, self-taught , self-proclaimed “historian” who is systematically misinforming millions of Americans about U.S. history and the Constitution – and increasingly influencing prominent Republican decision-makers.

“David Barton’s brand of ill-informed good-vs.-evil politics, buttressed by an increasing volume of discredited ‘research,’ has taken a dangerous hold on right-wing political discourse,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way.  “Barton uses sham historical and biblical scholarship to assert that his political opponents aren’t just people with different views, but that they are anti-American, opponents of religious liberty, and enemies of God himself. This kind of pinched and distorted view of history, religion, and what it means to be American makes respectful discourse impossible, and ultimately harms our democracy.”

Barton uses his stature as a self-proclaimed historian and academic to provide Biblical and historical justification for right-wing policy initiatives, including:

  • The Myth of the Christian Nation: Barton cherry-picks historical documents in an attempt to prove that the Founding Fathers intended the United States to be a Christian nation where all laws conform to biblical teachings. He has also joined the “Seven Mountains” dominionist movement, which seeks to have Christians take control of all parts of government, business and society.
  • Opposition to Unions, Workers’ Rights, and Progressive Taxation: Barton’s “biblical capitalism” has helped form the basis for the Religious Right’s embrace of pro-corporate fiscal policy and opposition to workers’ rights. He makes sweeping claims about the Bible’s teachings on American tax code issues, citing barely related Bible passages to allege Jesus’ opposition to minimum wage laws, progressive income tax, the estate tax, and the capital gains tax.
  • Anti-Environmentalism: Barton has been active in the Religious Right’s campaign against environmentalism. He is actively involved in the “Resisting the Green Dragon” project, which attacks efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, and which portrays environmentalism as “deadly to human prosperity, deadly to human life, deadly to human freedom, and deadly to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
  • Opposition to Immigration Reform: Barton asserts, “National boundaries are set by God…God’s the one who drew up the lines for the nations, so to say open borders is to say ‘God, you goofed it all up and when you had borders, you shouldn’t have done it.’”
  • Opposition to Gay Rights: Barton has suggested that the government should regulate gay sex, and has maintained that countries which “rejected sexual regulation” inevitably collapse. He has worked to oppose marriage equality on the federal level and in the states.
  • Revising Racial History: Barton picks and chooses from American history to attempt to portray white Republicans as the real heroes of the anti-slavery and civil rights movements. He has argued that the Founding Fathers were in fact anti-slavery and downplayed the role of African American leaders in the civil rights struggle, saying, “Only majorities can expand political rights in America’s constitutional society.” In 2006, he traveled the country peddling a one-sided “documentary” he made blaming the Democratic Party for slavery, lynching, and Jim Crow…and ignoring more recent history.

The full Right Wing Watch: In Focus report, Barton’s Bunk: Religious Right ‘Historian’ Hits the Big Time in Tea Party America, can be found online at http://www.pfaw.org/rww-in-focus/barton-s-bunk-religious-right-historian-hits-the-big-time-tea-party-america


People For the American Way is dedicated to making the promise of America real for every American: Equality. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. The right to seek justice in a court of law. The right to cast a vote that counts. The American Way. Our vision is a vibrantly diverse democratic society in which everyone is treated equally under the law, given the freedom and opportunity to pursue their dreams, and encouraged to participate in our nation’s civic and political life. Our America respects diversity, nurtures creativity and combats hatred and bigotry.

Tea Partiers Run to Big-Money Trough

by Michael Winship

Editor’s Note: The big question about the Tea Party was whether it was really something new or just the clever rebranding of the old Republican Right, known for its intense loyalty to big-money interests.

The early results are in and it appears that many middle-class Americans were snookered again, as Michael Winship explains in this guest essay:

Remember that scene in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" when Jimmy Stewart arrives in the capital for the first time?

The freshman senator shakes off his handlers in Union Station and jumps onto a sightseeing bus, eager to see all the statues and monuments honoring the greats of American history.

"I don't think I've ever been so thrilled in my life," he says afterwards.

"And that Lincoln Memorial -- gee whiz! Mr. Lincoln, there he is. Just looking straight at you as you come up those steps. Just sitting there like he was waiting for somebody to come along."

You’d have thought that the current freshman class of Congress -- the sprouted seed of Tea Partiers and the 2010 midterms -- would have made a similar tour their first priority on arrival, for all their talk of the Founding Fathers, the Constitution and core principles. And for all I know, many of them did just that.

But for some, the siren song of cash and influence has proven stronger, already luring them onto the rocks of privilege and corruption that lurk just inside the Beltway.

They’ve made a beeline not for the hallowed shrines of patriots’ pride but the elegant suites of K Street lobbyists, where the closest its residents have been to Lincoln is the bearded face peering from the five-dollar bill -- chump change.

So much for fiercely resisting the wicked, wicked ways of Washington. These new members were seduced faster than Dustin Hoffman in "The Graduate."

In an April 2 editorial, The New York Times reported, "Since last year’s Republican victories, nearly 100 lawmakers have hired former lobbyists as their chiefs of staff or legislative directors, according to data compiled by two watchdog groups, the Center for Responsive Politics and Remapping Debate.

“That is more than twice as many as in the previous two years.

"In that same period, 40 lobbyists have been hired as staff members of Congressional committees and subcommittees, the boiler rooms where legislation is drafted. That again dwarfs the number from the previous two years.

“While some of those lobbyist-staffers were hired by Democrats, the vast majority are working for Republicans. ... In many cases, those hiring lobbyists were Tea Party candidates who vowed to end business as usual in Washington."

The revolving door between government and lobbyists has never spun faster.

Then there’s this, from Wednesday’s Washington Post: "Many of the Republican freshmen in the House won election vowing to shake up Washington, so it’s a little surprising that many of them seem to be playing an old Washington game: raising much of their campaign money from corporate political action committees.

"More than 50 members of the class of 87 GOP freshmen took in more than $50,000 from PACs during the first quarter of 2011, according to new campaign disclosure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Eighteen of the lawmakers took in more than $100,000."

For example, freshman star Kristi Noem of South Dakota – one of the two newbies anointed as liaison to the Republican House leadership – raised $169,000 in PAC money, including cash from General Electric, Boeing, Raytheon, Wells Fargo, Fedex, AFLAC, Altria (the parent company of Philip Morris and Kraft Foods) and pharmaceutical giants Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline.

According to the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, Rep. Noem, who pledged to voters not to make Washington her home, held at least 10 fundraisers in DC during that first quarter, her first months as a member of Congress.

They included two dinners at the Capital Grille, at which attendees donated between $1,500 and $2,000 apiece, and lunch at We, the Pizza on Pennsylvania Avenue.

A CQ MoneyLine study reports that during the first three months of the year the 87 Republican freshmen pulled in a total of $14.7 million from individuals as well as PACs.

Leading the crowd was Diane Black of Tennessee with $926,000, but more than two-thirds of it was her own money. In second place was West Virginia’s David B. McKinley, with $540,000.

Rep. McKinley was one of nine new GOP members spotlighted this week by the website Politico as members who have done things "the Washington way, using a legislative process they once railed against to try to assist donors, protect favored industries or settle scores with their political enemies."

Three weeks after his swearing in, McKinley introduced a bill to overturn an Environmental Protection Agency ruling that vetoed an Army Corps of Engineers water permit for mountaintop mining, the practice that blasts the tops off mountains and sends debris raining down on communities, streams and rivers.

The bill has ramifications for the entire mining industry, but the specific mine in question is owned by Arch Coal. Its PAC contributed $2,500 to McKinley’s 2010 election campaign and another thousand so far this year.

The mining industry was McKinley’s largest corporate campaign contributor -- $51,751.

And a month after he took office, Politico reported, he introduced another bill "that would block a proposed EPA regulation against coal-ash bricks and drywall, materials architectural and engineering firms -- such as one founded by McKinley -- routinely recommend in construction project bids."

Others cited by the Politico investigation include freshmen Bill Johnson of Ohio and Morgan Griffith of Virginia. They, too, have been going to bat for mine executives.

The mining sector was Johnson’s biggest corporate donor at $25,146; same with Griffith, who received $40,450.

Texas freshman Bill Flores has been going after the Interior Department’s procedures for offshore oil drilling permits, trying get the department to impose tighter deadlines and pay back billions in leasing rights to oil companies whose permits are denied.

He’s the former president and CEO of an exploratory oil firm. Its employees were his second largest campaign contributor and the oil and gas industry threw in more than $200,000.

In rebuttal, the office of each congressman has generated the appropriate, high-minded spin.

"West Virginia is coal, and coal is West Virginia," said McKinley’s spokeswoman. "He’s doing what he said he would -- fighting tooth and nail to stop the EPA’s war on coal..."

Rep. Flores told Politico, "This is an issue that is very important to me as I have been involved in finding solutions to America’s long-term energy independence for the last thirty years."

And so it goes. At this rate, if the Abraham Lincoln so venerated by the idealistic Mr. Smith is still at his memorial hoping for someone to come along, someone with integrity and dedication to the people and not the almighty dollar, he’s going to have a long wait.

The new dogs have learned the old tricks of Capitol Hill with remarkable speed, and their big business masters, armed with their Supreme Court-sanctioned ability to throw bottomless bags of money around, have more control of the leash than ever.

Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos, former senior writer at Bill Moyers Journal on PBS and current president of the Writers Guild of America, East.

Consortiumnews.com is a product of The Consortium for Independent Journalism, Inc., a non-profit organization that relies on donations from its readers to produce these stories and keep alive this Web publication.

Economic Conflicts of the Founding Era Dispel Tea Party Myths...

William Hogeland: Economic Conflicts of the Founding Era Dispel Tea Party Myths…and Liberal Ones, Too

By William Hogeland, the author of the narrative histories Declaration and The Whiskey Rebellion and a collection of essays, Inventing American History who blogs at http://www.williamhogeland.com. Cross posted from New Deal 2.0

Looking closely at founding-era struggles over finance challenges Tea Party history — and some liberal preconceptions too.

Anything but a lost, halcyon epoch of unity and consensus, our founding era saw deep, harsh oppositions among Americans over what kind of society our independence from England was meant to bring about. Like today, the direst political oppositions devolved on the economy, and on proper uses of public and private finance. From the North Carolina Regulation of the 1760s to the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s, Americans struggled mightily with other Americans over economic issues.

Though little-known, those struggles had decisive impacts on all of the famous moments in founding history. The Continental Congress’s adopting the Declaration of Independence occurred in the summer of 1776 only because those among the financial and political elites who wanted American liberty made secret, common cause with radical populists who wanted American equality. The Constitutional Convention’s proposing a national government in 1787 came in direct opposition to progress made by the radical democrats who promoted ordinary, working Americans over the high-finance investing class.

So it’s hardly surprising that those same struggles have critically important echoes and resonances — if sometimes painfully dissonant ones — for our bitterly divided politics and disastrous financial crises today.

Yet despite constant appeals to founding values by politicians and pundits across the political spectrum, a perennial American eagerness to avoid framing our founding period in economic terms can make it strangely difficult to keep those all-important 18th-century finance issues in historical focus. The Tea Party movement, for example, has laid its claim on the founding period, and to a great extent that claim is indeed an economic and financial one. Casting the modern welfare state as a form of tyranny, in large part because of what they see as its excessive taxation, Tea Partiers invoke the famous American resistance to Parliament’s efforts to raise a revenue in the colonies without the consent traditionally given by representation. Seeing founding-generation American patriots as unified against British taxation (and frequently misrepresenting the politics even of the elites they invoke), the Tea Party defines its own anti-government, anti-tax values as essential to American identity.

The Tea Party thus edits out an alternative view of government that prevailed among the ordinary 18th-century Americans who were all-important to achieving independence. Those Americans opposed elites epitomized by the Boston merchant class, which the Tea Party, perhaps appropriately enough, so strongly identifies with. The internal struggle for American equality was as important to the founding as the high-Whig resistance to England, but the Tea Party can’t deal with the populist leaders and militia rank-and-file who wrote the socially radical 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution, or the Shaysites of Massachusetts who marched on the state armory, or the so-called whiskey rebels who inspired federal occupation of western Pennsylvania. American Revolutionary patriots all, those democratic-finance leaders had ideas about government’s role in ensuring economic equality that prefigured programs of the 19th-century Populists and the 20th-century New Dealers, the very programs the Tea Party wants to dismantle. Tea Party history therefore has to expunge the welfare state’s roots in America’s founding.

Liberals, too, can have a problem with the economic conflicts of the founding period. Alexander Hamilton’s national finance program, which Madison and Jefferson opposed with such intensity, was economically regressive. Under the influence of the founding financier Robert Morris, Hamilton made a stunningly successful effort to yoke American wealth to great national projects by beating down the popular-finance movement and promoting the interest (in both senses!) of the high-finance elites. Yet when some of today’s liberals look to Madison for support in critiquing Hamiltonian finance, they come up empty. Madison’s attacks on central banking represented anything but an argument for democracy and economic equality.

In fact, the activist governing philosophy of national power that Hamilton espoused and Madison opposed gave precedent to modern liberal ideas about an energetic federal role in achieving social ends. Hamilton, not Madison, was in that sense the modern liberal, and the Hamiltonian influence on today’s liberal establishment can be seen in the Brookings Institution’s “Hamilton Project” and Peter Orszag’s hanging of a National Gallery portrait of Hamilton in his office. That kind of liberalism makes Hamilton the author of using fervent support for Wall Street in hopes of benefiting Main Street.

There’s another kind of liberal history, leaning economically left, that prefers to trace a pretty straight line from Thomas Paine to Thomas Jefferson to Andrew Jackson to FDR, incorporating the labor movement along the way. It thus sees democratic, labor-oriented populism as essential to American founding values and coming to fruition throughout American history. In this view, the Declaration’s “all men are created equal” prophesied social progressivism (even if that’s not what the signers meant by it) and the Constitution’s “we the people” prophesied democracy (even if the document was specifically intended to prevent democracy). The Revolution is defined not by the split between, say, Hamilton and Madison but by the emergence of Jeffersonian and then, even more fully, Jacksonian democracy. The American people become in essence social radicals, and the development of social democracy, while embattled, becomes a natural project of America.

One problem with that view lies in its reliance on Jefferson and Jackson as socially progressive. The New Dealers did an amazing job of reinventing Jefferson as one of their own — they built him a monument and carved his face on the nickel and on a mountain; they put a statue of his Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin at the front door of the Treasury (Hamilton, the department’s inventor, stands around out back). But it’s pretty funny to think of Jefferson as a patron saint of federal-government, welfare-state activism, and Jefferson’s attitudes about democracy are notoriously slippery and problematic. The sage of Monticello could wax romantic about small farmers, and he could get excited about radical uprisings (in Paris), but he wasn’t about to invite small farmers up his hill, and giving the proletariat of the American cities access to political power — what Paine actually helped bring about in 1776 — filled him with disgust and horror.

The Jackson era, too, by no means represented a triumph of the kind of economic equality espoused by Paine, Herman Husband, Thomas Young, James Cannon, and the democratic-finance populists of 1760’s and 1770’s. Modern forms of “consensus” history see Madison and Hamilton alike as being superseded by Jackson, who ushered in a rowdy, undeferential, dirty-boots, small-business capitalism, contrasted with the gentility shared by all of the famous founders, no matter their differences. That kind of capitalism was hardly what founding-era democratic-finance activists had in mind. The Jackson administration’s assaults on central banking may be read by social-democracy historians as a dismantling, at last, of the regressiveness of Hamiltonian finance — but what began flourishing in the Jackson era can just as easily be read as fulfilling the diverging fears of those bitter enemies Paine and John Adams. Paine, desiring to re-order the world around a economic equality ensured by strong national government, would have been terribly disappointed by the cutthroat society emerging in Jackson’s America. And Adams’s warnings that democracy could only lead to machines, demagoguery, and party wars over political fiefdoms might as well have been describing the American politics that began with 19th-century democracy.

Just as in Tea Party history, which sees the American people as essentially anti-government, an act of faith is required to see the American people as essentially socially progressive (or essentially anything). Both liberals and conservatives remain riveted — hypnotized! — by the big-name founders, from Madison to Hamilton to Adams to Jefferson to Washington to Franklin (with Paine sometimes thrown in because of “Common Sense,”); they therefore remain locked in a fight over what those founders would or would not have supported today. Widening the lens to include the more ordinary likes of Cannon, Young, Husband, Christopher Marshall, Timothy Matlack, Robert Whitehill, and William Findley, among others who opposed American financial elitism in the Revolutionary era, challenges all sides of today’s political debate. Bearing down on the painful fact that a struggle over money, not ideas, marked every significant moment during the American founding can help enable new thinking about our struggles today.

The founding leaves us with questions about, not answers to, the kind of American economy we want now. In this series I’ve tried to raise some of those questions. This post is my last in the series. Writing it, and reading commentary on it here and around the blogs, has been a great pleasure. Thanks to Lynn Parramore (and to Bryce Covert, New Deal 2.0, and the Roosevelt Institute)! I hope these posts help frame an ongoing conversation about the strangely little-known, yet perennially resonant drama of American founding finance.



Mitch Daniels, Architect of US Debt Crisis

by Robert Parry

To hear Official Washington tell it, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is the new “serious” Republican presidential contender. He’s praised as a “fiscal conservative” who isn’t obsessed with the Right’s divisive social agenda nor marred by the crazy “birther” conspiracy theories.

Mentioned only in passing is a key fact that – in a saner world – would disqualify him from holding any government office: Mitch Daniels was President George W. Bush’s original budget director in 2001.

In other words, the “fiscal conservative” Daniels oversaw the federal budget as it was making its precipitous dive from a $236 billion surplus – then on a trajectory to eliminate the entire federal debt in a decade – to a $400 billion deficit by the time he left in June 2003.

Plus, because of proposals developed on Daniels’s watch – such as tax cuts favoring the rich and unpaid-for projects, including the invasion of Iraq and a new prescription drug plan – the fiscal situation of the federal government continued to sink over the ensuing years, plunging to a trillion-dollar-plus annual deficit by the time Bush left office in 2009.

Though Daniels was surely not at fault for all the elements in this budgetary catastrophe, he was a central player in the early stages of the process. A former political operative for Ronald Reagan and an Eli Lilly pharmaceutical executive, Daniels was the salesman who pitched and defended Bush’s plans.

Certainly, Mitch Daniels was no David Stockman, President Reagan’s first budget director who sounded the alarm two decades earlier when he saw an ocean of red ink looming in the nation’s future.

And it wasn’t as if Daniels and other figures in the Bush administration weren’t warned about the need for continued fiscal discipline.

President Bill Clinton, in his farewell address to the nation on Jan. 18, 2001, noted how his administration had managed to turn what were then record deficits – left over by Republicans Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush – into record surpluses.

“We’ve been able to pay down $600 billion of our national debt – on track to be debt-free by the end of the decade for the first time since 1835,” Clinton said, adding that a debt-free America would enjoy many economic benefits including lower interest rates and the capacity to address “big challenges,” such as the retirement costs from the “baby-boomers.”

However, with Daniels at the budget helm, the Bush administration quickly veered off-course and onto the rocks of a worsening debt crisis. Much of the expected surplus was squandered with huge tax cuts, leaving the nation vulnerable to unexpected economic and policy shocks like those that followed the 9/11 attacks.

In the 10 years since Clinton left office, the projected $2 trillion surplus by 2011 gave way to today’s $10 trillion debt, what the Washington Post recently called “a $12 trillion detour.”

The Post’s May 1 story by Lori Montgomery began, “The nation’s unnerving descent into debt began a decade ago with a choice, not a crisis. … Voices of caution were swept aside in the rush to take advantage of the apparent bounty. Political leaders chose to cut taxes, jack up spending and, for the first time in U.S. history, wage two wars solely with borrowed funds.”

Iraq Miscalculation

Daniels, who had very little experience in budgeting and was most adept at policy promotion, directly contributed to one of those budget blunders, the gross underestimation of the cost of the Iraq War.

In 2002, Daniels famously low-balled the war’s cost at $50 billion to $60 billion and joined in the repudiation of Bush’s economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey, who had ventured an estimate as high as $200 billion. Daniels called Lindsey’s price tag “very, very high.”

But it turned out that even Lindsey’s estimate, which led to his firing later that year, was very, very low. As of fiscal 2011, the Congressional Research Service reported that the Iraq War had cost $806 billion, with estimates putting the eventual total cost of the conflict at over $1 trillion.

Though Daniels’s defenders say it is unfair to blame him for all of Bush’s policy decisions, Daniels was “a key figure in the administration, helping design policies and pressing publicly for their enactment,” Salon.com’s Brendan Nyhan reported in a Feb. 12, 2002, article.

Besides citing Daniels’s political role in pushing through Bush’s deficit-oriented policies, Nyhan noted that Daniels’s appointment to run the Office of Management and Budget marked an important evolution in the role of budget director from accounting wonk to political marketer.

“It is another sign of the importance P.R. tactics play in American politics,” Nyhan wrote. “The OMB director — once a budget expert — is now an operative chosen for his political skills, particularly his ability to sell the administration’s economic proposals in the media.

“In August [2001], Daniels admitted as much, telling the Wall Street Journal that ‘[t]o the extent I bring anything … to this job, maybe it’s an ability to think about how a product, whether it’s Prozac or a president’s proposal, is marketed.’ Predictably, he has displayed a disturbing tendency to make dishonest claims for political advantage on federal budget issues.”

For instance, Nyhan noted that Daniels first promoted the Bush tax cuts as a way to “share some of this large overcharge [the surplus] with the American people,” but later he repackaged it as an economic stimulus. He also blamed the sudden $1.345 trillion drop in the projected surplus on various economic and technical factors, but the Congressional Budget Office cited the tax cut’s $1.7 trillion price tag.

In his hard sell for Bush’s policies, Daniels also was not above hitting his opponents below the political belt. In December 2001, he denounced Democratic “tax and spend extremists” as “people for whom taxes can’t be high enough and we can never spend too much government money.”

Cooking the Books

Daniels also was ready to stoop to accounting trickery to make Bush’s budgets seem less irresponsible.

“In the federal budget process, [Daniels’s] OMB has employed a number of accounting devices and misleading assumptions to conceal the true costs of tax cuts, restore budgets to balance artificially and otherwise tried to achieve political ends by tricky budgetary means,” Nyhan wrote.

“In the Bush budget plan, for example, the administration projects a return to surpluses in 2004 or 2005, but this ignores the cost of extending a provision protecting millions of middle income taxpayers from a tax increase under the individual alternative minimum tax. …

“It is a matter of serious public concern that the federal budget director has become just another spinner dragging down public debate. Though he is a political appointee heading an executive agency, Daniels is also a public official with a larger responsibility to promote honesty in federal budget debates.

“But after more than a year at his position, he still frequently makes deceptive claims often without challenge. Daniels may not recognize the difference from his previous job [as a pharmaceutical executive], but we must. It is unacceptable to market our nation’s economic policies like Prozac. “

Yet, Daniels continues to lead a charmed life as far as Official Washington is concerned. From Fox News to MSNBC, he is praised as a “fiscal conservative” who would uplift the debate over the nation’s debt crisis. He is widely praised for his work as Indiana’s governor and – although his title as Bush’s budget director is mentioned in passing – his work on some of the most reckless budgets in U.S. history escapes scrutiny.

Much more attention has been spent on his supposedly uncharacteristic deviation as Indiana’s governor into enacting some of the nation’s harshest anti-abortion rules and other right-wing social legislation. There’s also been some coverage of his off-again-on-again marriage and whether his wife wants him to seek the White House.

But Daniels stands today as the latest Republican hailed for his wisdom and courage regarding budget issues.

He follows Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairmen whose inside-the-beltway reputation as a “serious” thinker only collapsed when the voters got a look at his plan for “saving” Medicare – by killing the current government-run system and replacing it with a private-sector voucher approach – while demanding still more tax cuts for the rich.

The fact that the Republicans, including Daniels and Ryan, were major supporting players in George W. Bush’s diversion of the United States from its course a decade ago toward a debt-free government – indeed one with a sizeable surplus — to one burdened with the largest debt in the history of the world is never mentioned.

Like Ryan, Daniels remains “a fiscal conservative,” at least in the boilerplate judgment of Washington’s conventional wisdom.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat. His two previous books are Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth'.

teahadist Won't Give Up Gov't Health Care 'Because It's Free'

by Ryan Grim

WASHINGTON -- Moments after preaching extreme self-reliance to one of his constituents, a Georgia Republican told a gathering in his district that he will continue to rely on government-subsidized health care "because it's free."

Freshman Congressman Rob Woodall (R-GA): “I love the tea party” Freshman Rep. Rob Woodall, who served as chief of staff to his predecessor, made national news earlier this week for comments he made, captured on video by Patch.com, to a retired constituent who told him her company does not provide retiree benefits.

"Hear yourself, ma'am. Hear yourself," Woodall told the woman. "You want the government to take care of you, because your employer decided not to take care of you. My question is, 'When do I decide I'm going to take care of me?'"

The exchange continued. In video provided to HuffPost by another constituent, Woodall was asked why -- if he believes in such self reliance -- he doesn't forgo his government health care plan.

"I have a question about taking care of you. You have government subsidized health care, but you are not obligated to take that if you don't want to. Why aren't you going out on the free market in the state where you're a resident and buy your own health care? Be an example," said a constituent in the new video.

"Your question is," Woodall responded, "my government's willing to give me lots and lots of stuff for free and why don't I take it?"

The woman followed up. "Why aren't you leading by example, and go and get it in a single-subscriber plan, like you want everybody else to have, because you want to end employer-sponsored health plans and government-sponsored health plans. You said so in a letter to me, that your goal is to get rid of the employer-sponsored health care [system]. So why aren't you leading by example and go out yourself, decline the government health plan and go to Blue Cross/Blue Shield or whoever, and get one for yourself and see how tough it is," she said. "You don't have any pre-existing conditions, I guess, you haven't had any life-threatening illnesses like I had last year."

Woodall responded that "this is why it's good to have these conversations, because there's some bad information out there."

But his constituent presses him further. "Answer the question: Why haven't you gone out and got it?"

"Oh, I'm sorry. I thought I did. It's because it's free. It's because it's free," he said. "The same reason I went out to Walgreen's and bought ActivOn and I don't have any arthritis pain: Because it's free. Folks, if you give people things for free, don't blame them for taking them."

On Tuesday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) responded to the initial Woodall video by telling the Washington Post that the congressman "lays bare" the GOP approach to health care. "No matter how hard you've worked your whole life, no matter how severe your medical hardship, the Republican motto is clear: You're on your own. This lays bare the ideology behind their goal of ending of Medicare as we know it," he said.

Democrats are seizing on Woodall's comments. The Democratic National Committee made sure that national reporters were aware of his remarks on Tuesday.


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Copyright 2011 The Huffington Post

Taking the Side of the Billionaires

Exclusive: America’s Right pitches itself as populist, taking the side of the common man against “big guv-mint” and “lib-rhul elites,” but its actual policies – from the NFL lockout to Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget – side with the billionaires in what amounts to an escalating class war against the middle class and the poor, Robert Parry reports.

By Robert Parry

May 26, 2011

If American football fans end up facing a fall without NFL games, they probably won’t blame George W. Bush and other Republican presidents for packing the federal courts with right-wing judges, but it was two Bush appointees who reversed a District Court ruling that would have ended the lockout of players.

The Appeals Court judgment encouraged the NFL’s hardline billionaire owners to resist making the kinds of compromises that a few less intransigent owners recognize could easily resolve the impasse.

Now, the hardliners simply assume that Republican judges will keep siding with the NFL owners and thus enable them to beat down the players, eventually assuring the billionaire owners a bigger piece of the revenue pie – even if that means losing some or all of the 2011 season.

What many average Americans, especially white guys, don’t seem to understand is that whatever the populist-styled rhetoric of Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, the Right’s default position is to side with the billionaires – and to show little or no regard for the fate of anyone else, whether NFL players or sick senior citizens.

Still, one must give the Right credit for having worked hard refining how to phrase its arguments. Right-wingers even have turned the term “class warfare” against the Left by shouting the phrase in a mocking fashion whenever anyone tries to blunt the “class warfare” that the billionaires have been waging against the middle class and the poor for decades.

On right-wing TV and talk radio across the country, there are tag teams of macho men pretending that ”class warfare” exists only in the fevered imagination of the Left. But billionaire investor Warren Buffett has acknowledged the truth: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

The right-wing propagandists further earn their keep by disparaging science as “elitist.” So, even as the dire predictions from climate-change experts that global warming will generate more extreme weather seem to be coming true, many Americans who have listened to the “climate-change-deniers” for years still reject the scientific warnings.

While no single weather event can be connected to the broader trend of climate change, the warnings about what might happen when the earth’s atmosphere heats up and absorbs more moisture seem to be applicable to the historic flooding in some parts of the world, droughts in others, and the outbreak of particularly violent storms.

Heat and moisture are especially dangerous ingredients for hurricanes and tornados.

Ironically, the parts of the United States hardest hit by this severe weather are those represented predominately by Republicans who have been at the forefront of obstructing government efforts to address the global-warming crisis.

Flooding, hurricanes and tornados have inflicted horrendous damage on Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, Missouri and Oklahoma – all part of the Republican base.

God’s Punishment?

If televangelist Pat Robertson were a left-winger instead of a right-winger, he might be saying that God is punishing these “red states” for doubting the science of global warming.

However, even as the U.S. news obsesses over the violent weather, mainstream media stars have steered clear of whether global warming might be a factor. It’s as if they know that they’d only be inviting career-damaging attacks from the Right if they did anything to connect the dots.

The Right also is not eager to explain how these catastrophes will require emergency funding and rebuilding assistance from the federal government. After all, you don’t want Republican voters to understand that sometimes “self-reliance” alone doesn’t cut it; sometimes, we all need help and the government must be part of that assistance.

In the case of the killer tornado that devastated Joplin, Missouri, House Republicans, without a hint of irony, are extracting the funds for disaster relief from green energy programs, which remain a favorite GOP target since many Republicans still insist there is no such thing as global warming.

At both state and national levels, Republican leaders have lined up behind climate-change deniers, with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty just the latest GOP presidential hopeful to apologize for his past support of a cap-and-trade system aimed at reducing global-warming gases.

Any serious move toward alternative energies would, of course, be costly to the giant oil companies and their billionaire owners, like David Koch of Koch Industries who has spent millions of dollars funding right-wing organizations, such as the Tea Party. The Right’s media/political operatives know better than to bite the hand that feeds them.

GOP orthodoxy also disdains tax increases on the rich or even elimination of tax breaks for the oil industry. The Republican insistence on low tax rates for the wealthy, in turn, has forced consideration of other policy proposals to achieve savings from services for average Americans.

That is why congressional Republicans have targeted Medicare with a plan that would end the current health program for the elderly and replace it with a scheme that would give subsidies to senior citizens who would then have to sign up for health insurance from private industry, which has proven itself far less efficient in providing health care than the government.

The GOP budget, drafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, would impose the Medicare changes on seniors beginning in 10 years.

Most attention on the Ryan plan has focused on estimates that it would cost the average senior citizen more than $6,000 extra per year, but the proposal also has the effect of privatizing Medicare, meaning that the government would make direct “premium support” payments to profit-making insurance companies whose interest is in maximizing profits, not providing the best possible care for old people.

While the Ryan plan would achieve budget “savings” by shifting the burden of health-care costs onto the elderly, Ryan’s budget also would lower tax rates for the wealthiest Americans even more, from 35 percent to 25 percent. Partly because of that tax cut, Ryan’s budget would still not be balanced for almost three decades.

Class Warfare

Thus, the battle lines of America’s “class warfare” are getting more sharply drawn. The conflict is now over the Right’s determination to concentrate even more money and power in the hands of the rich by hobbling any government capability to protect the people’s general welfare.

If the Right wins, individual Americans will be left essentially defenseless in the face of unbridled corporate power.

Ryan’s Medicare plan may be just the most striking example because it envisions sick old people trying to pick their way through a thicket of private insurance plans with all their confusing language designed to create excuses for denying coverage. It is not an exaggeration to say that Ryan’s tight-fisted Medicare plan could consign millions of Americans to a premature death.

The Right’s priorities hit home at a town hall meeting held by Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Georgia, when he chastised one of his constituents who worried that Ryan’s plan would leave Americans like her, whose employer doesn’t extend health benefits to retirees, out of luck.

“Hear yourself, ma’am. Hear yourself,” Woodall lectured the woman. “You want the government to take care of you, because your employer decided not to take care of you. My question is, ‘When do I decide I’m going to take care of me?’”

However, another constituent noted that Woodall accepted government-paid-for health insurance for himself.

“You are not obligated to take that if you don’t want to,” the woman said. “Why aren’t you going out on the free market in the state where you’re a resident and buy your own health care? Be an example. …

“Go and get it in a single-subscriber plan, like you want everybody else to have, because you want to end employer-sponsored health plans and government-sponsored health plans. … Decline the government health plan and go to Blue Cross/Blue Shield or whoever, and get one for yourself and see how tough it is.”

Woodall answered that he was taking his government health insurance “because it’s free. It’s because it’s free.”

Self-reliance, it seems, is easier to preach to others than to practice yourself.

Woodall’s explanation recalled the hypocrisy of free-market heroine Ayn Rand, whom Rep. Ryan has cited as his political inspiration. In her influential writings, Rand ranted against social programs that enabled the “parasites” among the middle-class and the poor to sap the strength from the admirable rich, but she secretly accepted the benefits of Medicare after she was diagnosed with lung cancer.

A two-pack-a-day smoker, Rand had denied the medical science about the dangers of cigarettes, much as her acolytes today reject the science of global warming. However, when she developed lung cancer, she connived to have Evva Pryor, an employee of Rand’s law firm, arrange Social Security and Medicare benefits for Ann O’Connor, Ayn Rand using her husband’s last name.

In 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand, Scott McConnell, founder of the Ayn Rand Institute’s media department, quoted Pryor as saying: “Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out.”

So, when push came to shove, even Ayn Rand wasn’t above getting help from the “despised government.” However, her followers, including Rep. Ryan, now want to strip those guaranteed benefits from other Americans of more modest means than Ayn Rand.

It seems it’s okay for average Americans to be wiped out.

Hypocrisy, Hypocrisy

While the Right’s penchant for hypocrisy is well-known (note how many Republicans involved in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton had their own extra-marital affairs), the bigger mystery is why so many average-guy Americans volunteer to fight for the rich in the trenches of the Right’s class warfare.

Clearly, the Right’s propaganda with its endless repetition is very effective, especially given the failure of the American Left to invest significantly in a competing message machine. The Right also has adopted the tone of populism, albeit in support of a well-to-do economic elite.

Yet, perhaps most importantly, the Right has stuck with its battle plan for rallying a significant percentage of middle-class Americans against their own interests.

Four decades ago, President Richard Nixon and his subordinates won elections by demonizing “hippies,” “welfare queens” and the “liberal media.”

Then, in the late 1970s, a tripartite coalition took shape consisting of the Republican Establishment, neoconservatives and the leaders of the Christian Right. Each group had its priorities.

The rich Republicans wanted deep tax cuts and less business regulation; the neocons wanted big increases in military spending and a freer hand to wage wars; and the Christian Right agreed to supply political foot soldiers in exchange for concessions on social issues, such as abortion and gay rights. Ultimately, each part of the coalition got a chunk of what it wanted.

From Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush, the rich got their taxes slashed, saw regulations rolled back and gained a larger share of the nation’s wealth and political power. The neocons got massive military spending and the chance to dispatch U.S. soldiers to kill Israel’s Muslim enemies. The Christian Right got help in restricting abortions and punishing gays.

But what did the American middle-class get?

Over those three decades, the middle-class has stagnated or slipped backward. Labor unions were busted; jobs were shipped overseas; personal debt soared; education grew more expensive, along with medical care. People were working harder and longer – for less. Or they couldn’t find jobs at all.

With today’s Tea Party and the Ryan budget, the Right’s coalition is staying on the offensive. If the House budget were passed in total, tax rates for the rich would be reduced another 10 percentage points; military spending would remain high to please the neocons (who foresee a possible war with Iran); and Planned Parenthood and other pet targets of the Christian Right would be zeroed out.

Yet, with the proposed elimination of traditional Medicare, the Ryan budget has lifted the curtain on what the Right’s “free market” has in mind for most average Americans, who could expect to find their lives not only more brutish but shorter.

The real-life-and-death consequences of the Right’s tax cuts, military spending and culture wars are finally coming into focus. If you’re not rich – and can’t afford to pick up the higher tab on health care – you’re likely to die younger. Or your kids might have to dig into their pockets to help you out.

Less extreme but still troubling, another consequence of the Right’s remarkable success over the past three decades might become apparent on your TV screens this fall.

Thanks to all those right-wing judges packed onto federal appeals courts by Reagan and the two Bushes, American football fans might not have the NFL to watch.

The NFL’s lockout of its players seemed to be ending several weeks ago when a lower-court judge ruled against the billionaire owners, but the NFL’s lawyers confidently filed an appeal to a three-judge panel on the Eighth Circuit, knowing that they would surely get one dominated by Republican judges.

They did. Steven Colloton and Duane Benton, two Republicans appointed by George W. Bush, constituted the majority on the panel and reflexively sided with the NFL’s owners.

The ruling should have surprised no one. After all, the Right’s default position is almost always to side with the billionaires.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s War On Craft Beer

by Alan Seitz-Wald

Tucked into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) much-discussed budget was a little-noticed provision to overhaul the state’s regulation of the beer industry. In a state long associated with beer, the provision will make it much more difficult for the Wisconsin’s burgeoning craft breweries to operate and expand their business by barring them from selling directly to restaurants and liquor stores, and preventing them from selling their own product onsite.

The new provision treats craft brewers — the 60 of whom make up just 5 percent of the beer market in Wisconsin — like corporate mega-brewers, forcing them to use a wholesale distributor to market their product. Under the provision, it would be illegal, for instance, for a small brewer located near a restaurant to walk next door to deliver a case of beer. They’ll have to hire a middle man to do it instead.

But more noteworthy than the provision itself is how it was enacted. The provision was quietly slipped in the massive budget legislation without any consultation from independent craft brewers, who are justifiably outraged by it. One group that clearly did have input, however, is one of the world’s largest beer makers — MillerCoors:

Chicago-based MillerCoors, which operates a brewery and eastern division headquarters in Milwaukee, supports the proposal because it shares concerns with wholesale distributors about the possibility of Anheuser-Busch buying wholesalers throughout the country, said company spokesman James Wright.

Joining MillerCoors in support of the provision are industry associations that have an interest in preserving the current business of beer distributors, including the industry’s lobby, the Wisconsin Beer Distribution Association. But craft brewers see the provision as “a power grab” by MillerCoors that is targeted at them. OpenMarket.org reports:

Craft brewers say that MillerCoors is pulling a fast-one on the states legislature by selling this as a bill that would protect small beer from the brewing behemoth [Anheuser-Busch] InBev’s plan to monopolize the Wisconsin wholesale market. Craft brewers say that this is clearly not InBev’s intent, as they have passed up opportunities to purchase wholesalers in the state no less than 16 times since 2008. They say the real competition that MillerCoors is trying to protect itself against is the growing craft beer market. The restrictions the measure places on any wholesaler wishing to start-up in Wisconsin seem to support the craft brewers’ claims.

The provision is a classic bit of rent-seeking from MillerCoors, who appear to be seeking to preserve their current market share with the power of the state government.

But why would Walker — who calls small businesses the “backbone of our economy” and has postured himself as their champion — side with a foreign-owned mega-corporation over locally owned small brewers? It may have to do with the fact that MillerCoors, which is joint venture with foreign-owned SABMiller, donated $22,675 to his campaign.

– With research assistance from ThinkProgress intern Jen Kalaidis.


The Tea Party and Goldman Sachs: A Love Story

by Robert Scheer

Face it. We live in two nations, sharply divided by an enormous economic chasm between the super-rich and everyone else. This should be an obvious fact of life for most Americans. Just read the story in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal headlined “Profits Thrive in Weak Recovery.” Or the recent New York Times story pointing out “that the median pay for top executives at 200 big companies last year was $10.8 million,” a 23 percent gain over the year before.

In the midst of a jobless recovery, those same corporations are sitting on more than $2 trillion in reserves, refusing to invest in this country, as increasing percentages of their profits are garnered in tax-sheltered operations abroad. And the bankers who caused the economic meltdown have turned against President Barack Obama, who saved them; instead they favor a tea-party-dominated Republican Party that seeks to limit any restraint on corporate greed while destroying the ability of state and federal governments to bring some measure of relief to ordinary folk.

The whole point of the tea party is to focus concern over our stagnant economy on something called “big government” while ignoring the big corporations that have bought the government as an accessory to their marketing strategies. Big government is big precisely because it now exists primarily to make the world safe for multinational capitalism, whether through a bloated defense budget, trade pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement, or monetary policies that serve the interests of the largest companies. 

It was their lobbyists who got Congress to end sensible regulations of financial shenanigans, and now, with the new tea party members of Congress as their most stalwart allies, they are yanking the teeth from the very mild regulations that Obama got through the last Congress. As The Associated Press reported: “Congressional Republicans are greeting the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama’s financial overhaul law by trying to weaken it, nibble by nibble.”

It is nothing short of demagogic for the Republicans to be complaining about the debt when it was the radical deregulatory policies that they pursued which caused all that governmental red ink in the first place. What a hoax to pretend that teachers’ pensions or environmental protections are responsible for a debt that increased by 50 percent as a direct consequence of the banking collapse. Yet they want to gut even the tepid regulations that became law under the Obama administration, foaming at the mouth about sensible regulation as job killing when it is the uncontrolled greed of Wall Street that is at the root of our high unemployment.

Congressional Republicans are cutting funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission as if those already underfunded agencies are centers of anti-business radicalism. The CFTC is run by former Goldman Sachs partner Gary Gensler, who, back when he was in the Clinton Treasury Department serving under another onetime Goldman leader, Robert Rubin, teamed up with Republicans in Congress to gut financial regulation. He is one of the Obama regulators who has managed to delay even the minor controls that the Dodd-Frank law requires for the still wildly out-of-control $600 trillion derivatives market.

What a joke that the tea party assertion that radicals have taken over the Obama government is embraced even by lobbyists for Goldman Sachs, whose former executives have populated the Obama administration as widely as they did the two previous administrations. All they are missing this time around is that they didn’t get to have one of their own named as treasury secretary, as was the case in both the Clinton and Bush cabinets.

This week, the Los Angeles Times reported on Goldman’s renewed lobbying efforts in Washington aimed at watering down what remains of the promise of Dodd-Frank. True to Washington tradition, Goldman has hired Michael Paese, a former top staffer for the “liberal” Rep. Barney Frank to head its Washington operation, which last year spent $4.6 million lobbying Congress to soften the bill, a task now made far easier with Goldman’s tea party allies in the new Republican-dominated House. As the Times noted, “Goldman has spent much of its money on hired guns from major Washington lobbying firms, including former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and former House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.).”

Between the faux populism of the tea party and the army of sellout ex-congressional staffers and politicians from both parties, the Washington fix is in. Short of hitting it big on a lottery ticket, the vast majority of Americans are sentenced to a future of lowered expectations, insurmountable personal debt and dismal job prospects. 

They may not know it, however, thanks to the constant propaganda from a corporate culture dominated by images of a classless nation in which all consume the delights of the American dream, from the perfect smartphone to the perfect pill for bladder control, while merrily hacking away on the perfectly manicured golf course of one’s fantasies.

Robert Scheer

Robert Scheer is editor of Truthdig.com and a regular columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.


With Bachmann’s ‘Slavery’ Vow, More Tea-Party Seepage

With Bachmann’s ‘Slavery’ Vow, More Tea-Party Seepage into Mainstream

by Channing Kennedy

Presidential hopeful and longtime Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann is today saying that she didn’t notice a key part of a pledge she endorsed last week, which claims that black families were better off during slavery. It’s a move that’s increasingly typical of the Tea Party, a group that can neither own nor abandon its race politics, even as Bachmann and others become legitimized mainstream political figures.

The morality-cum-policy statement in question is the ‘Marriage Pledge,’ put forward by the improbably capitalized anti-gay group The FAMiLY LEADER. While it’s got a lot of gross stuff in it [PDF link] bemoaning the sad state of modern families — most of which is gay panic — there’s one clause in particular that’s been turning heads:

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.

Odd that the FAMiLY LEADER should use slavery as an example of the strengthening effects of marriage on a family — not just because of the obvious, that black families were split up by rape, murder, and public auctions, but also because marriage between slaves was illegal. Over at Forbes, Osha Gray Davidson tracks down Dr. Lorraine Blackman, an author of the study cited by this paragraph; she describes the pledge’s interpretation as “just wrong,” and points to the explosion of black nuclear families following 1861.

The group has removed the offending passage (and is sorry that you’re so sensitive), and Bachmann has renounced it as well, saying she simply didn’t see that part… except, yo, it’s the first bullet point. Oh yes, and while apologizing, her spokesperson managed to bring up that “slavery was horrible and economic slavery is also horrible.” I’m not totally fluent in conspiracy, but I believe the phrase ‘economic slavery’ is a bit of Beckian dogwhistling, which coopts one of history’s greatest injustices in order to complain about undeserving people getting our tax dollars.

This is far from the first race-talk misstep by a legitimized Tea Party figure. In addition to Bachmann, the FAMiLY LEADER managed to get a pledge endorsement from gay-fearing googlebomb victim and Tea Party wannabe Rick Santorum. (That’s the same Santorum who said that Obama’s stance on abortion was ‘remarkable for a black man.’) The group’s founder, Bob Vander Plaats, was onstage when Tea Party candidate Herman Cain claimed that he’d welcome gays into his cabinet, since they wouldn’t attempt to declare sharia law. (And this is the same Cain who’s said he’s proof that the Tea Party isn’t racist.)

Last year, nearly every one of these candidates was a punchline; as 2012 approaches, each of them, especially Bachmann, is getting inducted by an uncritical media into legitimacy and thought leadership.

The Tea Party is far from an organized movement, with well-funded factions across the country arguing over which status quo they want to fight for. The uniting quality, perhaps, is that they all want to prove how not-racist they are in the face of damning evidence that they’ve got some nasty race problems — not just in their leaders and founders, but in their own unexamined bias against the “lazy poor.”

Tea Party supporters don’t want to be racist, but they have the same one-dimensional mainstream-media education on race (i.e., racists = bad, no further questions) as most older white people; it must be genuinely frustrating to find out that our racist history wasn’t absolved with Obama. Some members, like the Tea Party t-shirt vendor who’s been selling “Yup, I’m a Racist!” shirts, are pushing back on what they see as an injustice. Some members watch a news channel that tells them who the real racists are. And some candidates, like Michele Bachmann, find that they can mention Muslims any time they need a fresh headline with no accountability. Imagine the equal-time news stories we’ll be treated to when some Tea Party-stained Republican wins the primary.



The Willful Ignorance That Has Dragged the US to the Brink

The Tea Party version of the American Revolution is not just fundamentalist. It is also Disneyfied, sentimentalized, and whitewashed

by Sarah Churchwell

Here's a monumental historical irony: a moment in the origins of the United States that every American schoolchild learns to view with pride, the Boston Tea Party, has now become a symbol of our (inter)national shame. In one sense, it is difficult to know what to say in response to the utter irrationality of the Tea Party's self-destructive decision to sabotage the American political process – and thus its own country's economy, and the global economy.

Last week, while the US government was locked in stalemate and risked defaulting on its national debt for the first time in its history (and thus also defying the Constitution that Tea Partiers supposedly hold sacred, which declares in the 14th Amendment that it is illegal for Congress to default), Michele Bachmann instructed her followers not to listen to those who attempted to "scare" them with untruths that the US would default if it didn't raise the debt ceiling. When, of course, that is precisely what it would have done. But the Tea Party has never let facts get in the way of its belief system, and now that belief system is genuinely threatening the well-being of the nation they claim to love.

Mottos are supposed to express a philosophy: in so far as the Tea Party can be said to have anything so exalted as a philosophy, their motto is quite telling. They are one of the most inaccurately named movements in American political history, but that inaccuracy is itself emblematic of the party's adamantine ignorance. Any American schoolchild can tell you the motto of the historical Boston Tea Party from which they take their name and – they mistakenly believe – their inspiration: "No taxation without representation."

Impatient with those extra two words, evidently, the Tea Party has truncated this proposition to something simpler: "No taxation." Never mind that the US has among the lowest levels of taxation in the developed world, matched only by Mexico and Chile (are these the nations the Tea Party would like to emulate?). Never mind that the nation's actual Founding Fathers were perfectly prepared to pay taxes – they just thought those taxes should purchase them a democratic voice in their own government.

The motto that came out of the Constitutional Convention was not "In God We Trust": it was "E Pluribus Unum," out of many, one. The phrase "In God We Trust" emerged from the American Civil War, but it wasn't put on US currency until the Cold War, in 1955. The following year, the same year he signed the Civil Rights bill into law, Eisenhower made it the nation's motto.

In other words, In God We Trust is an act of revisionist history and retrospective religiosity, reinserting religion into our national history. But the attempt to create one from many has led to Civil War more than once (the American Revolution was a civil war), and parts of the South regularly seceding (the South and other states threatened to walk out of the Constitutional Congress, did secede in the 1860s, and revolted again in 1944, with the so-called 'Dixiecrats.')

Texas was forever threatening to secede. The Tea Party could secede with my blessing: E Pluribus Unum is clearly not a motto that they are prepared to embrace – despite their supposed reverence for the Founding Fathers and the American Constitution.

Anyone who followed last year's midterms and knew anything about American history already realized this. Tea Party candidates kept invoking semi-mythical figures such as Paul Revere, who was not a Founding Father at all: in fact, most of Revere's supposed story was a legend written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1860 to rouse popular sentiment on behalf of the Union cause in the Civil War – in other words, to maintain the spirit of E Pluribus Unum and fight against divisive polarisation.

Tea Partiers love mentioning Thomas Paine because they think they share his "Common Sense" (otherwise known as a sense held in common) but they haven't bothered to read it, and are clearly unfamiliar with essays such as "Public Good", in which Paine wrote that, especially while at war (as America currently is, of course): "To have a clear idea of taxation is necessary to every country, and the more funds we can discover and organise, the less will be the hope of the enemy."

As Harvard historian Jill Lepore argued last year in her brilliant The Whites of their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle over American History, none of the people voting for the Tea Party candidates knows any of this because they haven't studied American history since grade school, when all American schoolchildren learn a simplified, cartoon version of the American Revolution (which we would never call the "War of Independence").

It is a Sesame Street version of the American constitution and politics, a myth that is being treated as the alpha and omega of our political and legal reality. This is one reason why it has a quasi-religious aspect: it's a myth of genesis, it's a creation myth about America that is just as simple as the idea that God created man and woman: the Founding Fathers created America.

The Tea Party version of the American Revolution is not just fundamentalist: it is also Disneyfied, sentimentalized, and whitewashed. It rests on a naïve, solipsistic and exceptionalist faith that for America it will all work out in the end, because America is "the greatest nation in the world". They take solace in tautology: America is great – this they know – because Fox News tells them so.

Their goal, as others have said, is to roll back the clock a century and more. In 1892, when the robber baron and corrupt financier Jay Gould died, Mark Twain wrote a scathing epitaph: Gould, he said, "reversed the commercial morals of the United States. He had put a blight upon them from which they have never recovered, and from which they will not recover for as much as a century to come. Jay Gould was the mightiest disaster which has ever befallen this country."

It has been a century and we have surely not recovered: but we have managed to create an even mightier disaster. It remains to be seen whether we will recover, but it is long past time to stop making declarations of independence. We need to get back to work forming a more perfect union – or any union at all.

Sarah Churchwell

Sarah Churchwell is Professor of American Studies at the University of East Anglia


democrats arnt who you think they are

excuse me. but did you know that democrats burned black dolls to oppose Lincoln's election? because guess what. he was republican. so you can kiss all your logic and history B.S goodbye. truth is democrats were the racist ones then. and now, they tax the shit out of the american people to pay for public aid. such as welfare and hide behind helping "minorities". truth is democrats are the most money hungry party there is. they lie straight to an entire nation just so they get a couple dollars more. one of the first comments on this page was exactly right. our founding fathers gave us what we needed to pursue happiness. not go to a local office and apply for it. that goes for all colors. AND DONT GET ME STARTED ON LEGALIZING POT. that will never ever happen. so all you stupid hippies need to grow the "F" up and get a real life. they smoked it back then because they weren't morons like you to ruin the fun for everyone else.

Arizona Debate: Conservative Chickens Come Home to Roost

by Matt Taibbi

How about that race for the Republican nomination? Was last night's debate crazy, or what?

Throughout this entire process, the spectacle of these clowns thrashing each other and continually seizing and then fumbling frontrunner status has left me with an oddly reassuring feeling, one that I haven't quite been able to put my finger on. In my younger days I would have just assumed it was regular old Schadenfreude at the sight of people like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich suffering, but this isn’t like that – it's something different than the pleasure of watching A-Rod strike out in the playoffs.

No, it was while watching the debates last night that it finally hit me: This is justice. What we have here are chickens coming home to roost. It's as if all of the American public's bad habits and perverse obsessions are all coming back to haunt Republican voters in this race: The lack of attention span, the constant demand for instant gratification, the abject hunger for negativity, the utter lack of backbone or constancy (we change our loyalties at the drop of a hat, all it takes is a clever TV ad): these things are all major factors in the spiraling Republican disaster.

Most importantly, though, the conservative passion for divisive, partisan, bomb-tossing politics is threatening to permanently cripple the Republican party. They long ago became more about pointing fingers than about ideology, and it's finally ruining them.

Oh, sure, your average conservative will insist his belief system is based upon a passion for the free market and limited government, but that's mostly a cover story. Instead, the vast team-building exercise that has driven the broadcasts of people like Rush and Hannity and the talking heads on Fox for decades now has really been a kind of ongoing Quest for Orthodoxy, in which the team members congregate in front of the TV and the radio and share in the warm feeling of pointing the finger at people who aren't as American as they are, who lack their family values, who don’t share their All-American work ethic.

The finger-pointing game is a fun one to play, but it’s a little like drugs – you have to keep taking bigger and bigger doses in order to get the same high.

So it starts with a bunch of these people huddling together and saying to themselves, "We’re the real good Americans; our problems are caused by all those other people out there who don’t share our values." At that stage the real turn-on for the followers is the recognition that there are other like-minded people out there, and they don’t need blood orgies and war cries to keep the faith strong – bake sales and church retreats will do.

So they form their local Moral Majority outfits, and they put Ronald Reagan in office, and they sit and wait for the world to revert back to how they remember things used to be, a world where there was one breadwinner in the family, and no teen pregnancy or crime or poor people, and immigrants worked hard and didn't ask for welfare and had the decency to speak English – a world that never existed in reality, of course, but they're waiting for a return to it nonetheless.

Think Ron Paul in the South Carolina debate, when he said that in the '60s, "there was nobody out in the street suffering with no medical care." Paul also recalled that after World War II, 10 million soldiers came home and prospered without any kind of government aid at all – all they needed was a massive cut to the federal budget, and those soldiers just surfed on the resultant wave of economic progress.

"You know what the government did? They cut the budget by 60 percent," he said. "And everybody went back to work again, you didn't need any special programs."

Right – it wasn’t like they needed a G.I. Bill or anything. After all, people were different back then: They didn’t want or need welfare, or a health care program, or any of those things. At least, that’s not the way Paul remembered it.

That's all the early conservative movement was. It was just a heartfelt request that we go back to the good old days of America as these people remembered or imagined it. Of course, the problem was, we couldn't go back, not just because more than half the population (particularly the nonwhite, non-straight, non-male segment of the population) desperately didn't want to go back, but also because that America never existed and was therefore impossible to recreate.

And when we didn’t go back to the good old days, this crowd got frustrated, and suddenly the message stopped being heartfelt and it got an edge to it.

The message went from, "We’re the real Americans; the others are the problem," to, "We’re the last line of defense; we hate those other people and they’re our enemies." Now it wasn’t just that the rest of us weren't getting with the program: Now we were also saboteurs, secretly or perhaps even openly conspiring with America’s enemies to prevent her return to the long-desired Days of Glory.

Now, why would us saboteurs do that? Out of jealousy (we resented their faith and their family closeness), out of spite, and because we have gonads instead of morals. In the Clinton years and the early Bush years we started to hear a lot of this stuff, that the people conservatives described as "liberals" were not, as we are in fact, normal people who believe in marriage and family and love their children just as much as conservatives do, but perverts who subscribe to a sort of religion of hedonism.

"Liberals' only remaining big issue is abortion because of their beloved sexual revolution," was the way Ann Coulter put it. "That's their cause – spreading anarchy and polymorphous perversity. Abortion permits that."

So they fought back, and a whole generation of more strident conservative politicians rose to fight the enemy at home, who conveniently during the '90s lived in the White House and occasionally practiced polymorphous perversity there.

Then conservatives managed to elect to the White House a man who was not only a fundamentalist Christian, but a confirmed anti-intellectual who never even thought about visiting Europe until, as president, he was forced to – the perfect champion of all Real Americans!

Surely, things would change now. But they didn’t. Life continued to move drearily into a new and scary future, Spanish-speaking people continued to roll over the border in droves, queers paraded around in public and even demanded the right to be married, and America not only didn't go back to the good old days of the single-breadwinner family, but jobs in general dried up and you were lucky if Mom and Dad weren’t both working two jobs.

During this time we went to war against the Islamic terrorists responsible for 9/11 by invading an unrelated secular Middle Eastern dictatorship. When people on the other side protested, the rhetoric became even more hysterical. Now those of us outside the circle of Real Americans were not just enemies, but in league with mass-murdering terrorists. In fact, that slowly became the definition of a "liberal" on a lot of these programs – a terrorist.

Sean Hannity’s bestseller during this time, for Christ’s sake, was subtitled, Defeating terrorism, despotism, and liberalism. "He is doing the work of what all people who want big government always do, and that is commit terrorist acts," said Glenn Beck years ago, comparing liberals to Norweigan mass murderer Anders Breivik.

And when the unthinkable happened, and a black American with a Muslim-sounding name assumed the throne in the White House, now, suddenly, we started to hear that liberals were not only in league with terrorists, but somehow worse than terrorists.

"Terrorism? Yes. That’s not the big battle," said Minnesota Republican congressional candidate Allan Quist a few years ago. "The big battle is in D.C. with the radicals. They aren’t liberals. They are radicals. Obama, Pelosi, Walz: They’re not liberals, they’re radicals. They are destroying our country."

In Spinal Tap terms, the rhetoric by the time Obama got elected already had gone well past eleven. It was at thirteen, fifteen, twenty …. Our tight little core of Real Americans by then had, over a series of decades, decided pretty much the entire rest of the world was shit. Europe we know about. The Middle East? Let’s "carpet bomb it until they can’t build a transitor radio," as Ann Coulter put it. Africa was full of black terrorists with AIDS, and Asia, too, was a good place to point a finger or two ("I want to go to war with China," is how Rick Santorum put it).

Here at home, all liberals, gays, Hispanic immigrants, atheists, Hollywood actors and/or musicians with political opinions, members of the media, members of congress, TSA officials, animal-lovers, union workers, state employees with pensions, Occupiers and other assorted unorthodox types had already long ago been rolled into the enemies list.

Given the continued troubles and the continued failure to return to good old American values, who else could possibly be to blame? Where else could they possibly point the finger?

There was only one possible answer, and we're seeing it playing out in this race: At themselves! And I don’t mean they pointed the finger "at themselves" in the psychologically healthy, self-examining, self-doubting sort of way. Instead, I mean they pointed "at themselves" in the sense of, "There are traitors in our ranks. They must be ferreted out and destroyed!"

This is the last stage in any paranoid illness. You start by suspecting that somebody out there is out to get you; in the end, you’re sure that even the people who love you the most under your own roof, your own doctors, your parents, your wife and your children, they’re in on the plot. To quote Matt Damon in the almost-underrated spy film The Good Shepherd, they became convinced that there’s "a stranger in the house."

This is where the Republican Party is now. They’ve run out of foreign enemies to point fingers at. They’ve already maxed out the rhetoric against us orgiastic, anarchy-loving pansexual liberal terrorists. The only possible remaining explanation for their troubles is that their own leaders have failed them. There is a stranger in the house!

This current race for the presidential nomination has therefore devolved into a kind of Freudian Agatha Christie story, in which the disturbed and highly paranoid voter base by turns tests the orthodoxy of each candidate, trying to figure out which one is the spy, which one is really Barack Obama bin Laden-Marx under the candidate mask!

We expected this when Mitt Romney, a man who foolishly once created a functioning health care program in Massachusetts, was the front-runner. We knew he was going to have to defend his bona fides against the priesthood ("I’m not convinced," sneered the sideline-sitting conservative Mme. Defarge, Sarah Palin), that he would have a rough go of it at the CPAC conference, and so on.

But it’s gotten so ridiculous that even Santorum, as paranoid and hysterical a finger-pointing politician as this country has ever seen, a man who once insisted with a straight face that there is no such thing as a liberal Christian – he’s now being put through the Electric Conservative Paranoia Acid Test, and failing!


"He is a fake," Ron Paul said at the Michigan debate last night, to assorted hoots and cheers. And Santorum, instead of turning around and laying into Paul, immediately panicked and rubbed his arm as if to say, "See? I’m made of the right stuff," and said, "I’m real, Ron, I’m real." These candidates are behaving like Stalinist officials in the late thirties, each one afraid to be the first to stop applauding.

These people have run out of others to blame, run out of bystanders to suspect, run out of decent family people to dismiss as Godless, sex-crazed perverts. They’re turning the gun on themselves now. It might be justice, or it might just be sad. Whatever it is, it’s remarkable to watch.

© 2012 The Rolling Stone

As Rolling Stone’s chief political reporter, Matt Taibbi's predecessors include the likes of journalistic giants Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke. Taibbi's 2004 campaign journal Spanking the Donkey cemented his status as an incisive, irreverent, zero-bullshit reporter. His books include Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion, Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire.

Ghastly Outdated Party

by Maureen Dowd

IT’S finally sinking in.

Republicans are getting queasy at the gruesome sight of their party eating itself alive, savaging the brand in ways that will long resonate.

“Republicans being against sex is not good,” the G.O.P. strategist Alex Castellanos told me mournfully. “Sex is popular.”

He said his party is “coming to grips with a weaker field than we’d all want” and going through the five stages of grief. “We’re at No. 4,” he said. (Depression.) “We’ve still got one to go.” (Acceptance.)

The contenders in the Hester Prynne primaries are tripping over one another trying to be the most radical, unreasonable and insane candidate they can be. They pounce on any traces of sanity in the other candidates — be it humanity toward women, compassion toward immigrants or the willingness to make the rich pay a nickel more in taxes — and try to destroy them with it.

President Obama has deranged conservatives just as W. deranged liberals. The right’s image of Obama, though, is more a figment of its imagination than the left’s image of W. was.

Newt Gingrich, a war wimp in Vietnam who supported W.’s trumped-up invasion of Iraq, had the gall to tell a crowd at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., that defeating Obama — “the most dangerous president in modern American history” — was “a duty of national security” because “he is incapable of defending the United States” and because he “wants to unilaterally weaken the United States.” Who killed Osama again?

How can the warm, nurturing Catholic Church of my youth now be represented in the public arena by uncharitable nasties like Gingrich and Rick Santorum?

“It makes the party look like it isn’t a modern party,” Rudy Giuliani told CNN’s Erin Burnett, fretting about the candidates’ Cotton Mather attitude about women and gays. “It doesn’t understand the modern world that we live in.”

After a speech in Dallas on Thursday, Jeb Bush also recoiled: “I used to be a conservative, and I watch these debates and I’m wondering, I don’t think I’ve changed, but it’s a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective.”

Alan Simpson, the former Republican senator from Wyoming, recently called Santorum “rigid and homophobic.” Arlen Specter, who quit the Republicans to become a Democrat three years ago before Pennsylvania voters sent him home from the Senate, told MSNBC: “Where you have Senator Santorum’s views, so far to the right, with his attitude on women in the workplace and gays and the bestiality comments and birth control, I do not think it is realistic for Rick Santorum to represent America.” That from the man who accused Anita Hill of perjury.

Republicans have a growing panic at the thought of going down the drain with a loser, missing their chance at capturing the Senate and giving back all those House seats won in 2010. More and more, they openly yearn for a fresh candidate, including Jeb Bush, who does, after all, have experience at shoplifting presidential victories at the last minute.

Their jitters increased exponentially as they watched Mitt belly-flop in his hometown on Friday, giving a dreadful rehash of his economic ideas in a virtually empty Ford Field in Detroit, babbling again about the “right height” of Michigan trees and blurting out that Ann “drives a couple of Cadillacs.”

Romney’s Richie Rich slips underscore what Ed Rollins, a Republican strategist, told the Ripon Forum: “If we are only the party of Wall Street and country clubbers, we will quickly become irrelevant.”

Santorum, whose name aptly comes from the same Latin root as sanctimonious, went on Glenn Beck’s Web-based show with his family and offered this lunacy: “I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college,” because colleges are “indoctrination mills” that “harm” the country. He evidently wants home university schooling, which will cut down on keggers.

His wife, Karen, suggested that her husband’s success is “God’s will” and that he wants “to make the culture a better culture, more pleasing to God.”

The barking-mad Republicans of Virginia are helping to make the party look foolish and creepy. A video went viral on Friday in which Delegate Dave Albo comically regaled his fellow lawmakers on the floor of the Statehouse with his own Old Dominion version of “Lysistrata”: he suggested that he was denied sex with his wife because of a Republican-sponsored bill that would have made ultrasounds, often with a vaginal probe, mandatory for women seeking abortions.

With music, red wine and a big-screen TV, he made a move on his wife, Rita, while she was watching a news report about the bill. “And she looks at me and goes, ‘I’ve got to go to bed,’ ” Albo said as his colleagues guffawed.

The Republicans, with their crazed Reagan fixation, are a last-gasp party, living posthumously, fighting battles on sex, race, immigration and public education long ago won by the other side.

They’re trying to roll back the clock, but time is passing them by.

Copyright 2012 The New York Times

Did the Founders Hate Government?

Did the Founders Hate Government?
March 22, 2012

Exclusive: Orwell’s insight – that who controls the present controls the past, and who controls the past controls the future – could apply to the American political debate in which the Right has built a false narrative that enlists the Framers of the Constitution as enemies of a strong central government, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

In the coming months – with a new fight over the federal budget, the Supreme Court’s review of health-care reform and the November elections – the battle in the United States will pit not just political parties and economic ideologies against one another – but competing national narratives of how and why the United States was founded.

Indeed, it is that conflict over the American narrative that may well determine the outcome of the presidential election and the future direction of the United States. Yet, this dispute over the Founders’ vision is rarely debated in the mainstream news media.

The argument does, however, inspire right-wing groups which obsess over “strict construction” of the Constitution and the “originalist” intent of the Founders. Such references also have become standard fare on the Republican campaign trail with the four remaining major candidates claiming to be in this fight to defend American “liberty.”

On Saturday, for instance, ex-Sen. Rick Santorum declared that President Barack Obama’s health-care reform is “a threat to the very essence of who America is.” As the New York Times noted, “numbers like 1776 and 1860 increasingly pepper his speeches as he stresses the historical urgency of his candidacy.”

The Right’s historical narrative holds that the Founders designed the United States to have a weak central government barred from confronting most domestic problems (though with broad powers for defense). Under this “free-market” system, wealthy business interests had the “liberty” to set their own rules and the average citizen had the “freedom” to make his way the best he could.

There is, of course, a counter-narrative, but Democrats and progressives rarely make it, preferring to cede the history to the Right and to argue that the Founders couldn’t possibly have anticipated the complex problems of the modern age.

Still, the counter-narrative to the GOP mythology is grounded in solid history. Indeed, the evidence is that most constitutional framers were pragmatic men interested in building a strong nation. They also were fed up with the weak central government under the Articles of Confederation. They surely weren’t anti-government ideologues.

In the Constitution, they created a robust central authority, stating in the preamble the explicit responsibility of the government “to promote the general Welfare.” The document also granted the federal government broad domestic powers, including authority to regulate interstate commerce, the so-called Commerce Clause.

Framing the Commerce Clause

Plus, the Commerce Clause was not some afterthought at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. It was presented as one of the new federal powers in James Madison’s Virginia plan on the first day of substantive debate. It also was considered one of the least controversial features of the new governing framework.

Indeed, constitutional architect Madison had been maneuvering to give this power to the federal government for years, seeking such a change in the Articles of Confederation, which governed the United States from 1777 to 1787.

Madison “sponsored a resolution instructing Virginia congressmen to vote to give the federal government the authority to regulate commerce for twenty-five years,” noted Chris DeRose in Founding Rivals, a resolution that won the support of Gen. George Washington, one of the fiercest critics of the weak central government in the Articles of Confederation.

Because the Articles’ structure of 13 “independent” and “sovereign” states had left Washington’s soldiers starving and desperate – when the states reneged on promised funding – Washington advocated a much stronger central government.

Regarding Madison’s commerce idea, Washington wrote that “the proposition in my opinion is so self evident that I confess I am at a loss to discover wherein lies the weight of the objection to the measure. We are either a united people, or we are not. If the former, let us, in all matters of a general concern act as a nation, which have national objects to promote, and a national character to support. If we are not, let us no longer act a farce by pretending it to be.”

When the Virginia legislature slashed Madison’s proposal for federal control of commerce from 25 years to 13 years, he voted against it as insufficient. His thoughts then turned to a more drastic scheme for consolidating power in the hands of the federal government, a constitutional convention, albeit under the guise of simply proposing some changes to the Articles.

A Dramatic Change

In spring 1787 – with a convention called in Philadelphia to amend the Articles of Confederation – Madison unveiled his radical alternative, not simply some modifications to the Articles but an entirely new system that wiped away the Articles’ language about the “independence” and “sovereignty” of the states.

On May 29, 1787, the first day of substantive debate at the Constitutional Convention, a fellow Virginian, Edmund Randolph, presented Madison’s framework. Madison’s Commerce Clause was there from the start, except that instead of a 25-year grant of federal authority, the central government’s control of interstate commerce would be made permanent.

Madison’s convention notes on Randolph’s presentation recount him saying that “there were many advantages, which the U. S. might acquire, which were not attainable under the confederation – such as a productive impost [or tax] – counteraction of the commercial regulations of other nations – pushing of commerce ad libitum – &c &c.”

In other words, the Founders – at their most “originalist” moment – understood the value of the federal government taking action to negate the commercial advantages of other countries and to take steps for “pushing of [American] commerce.” The “ad libitum – &c &c” notation suggests that Randolph provided other examples off the top of his head.

Historian Bill Chapman has summarized Randolph’s point as saying “we needed a government that could co-ordinate commerce in order to compete effectively with other nations.”

So, from the very start of the debate on a new Constitution, Madison and other key framers recognized that a legitimate role of the U.S. Congress was to ensure that the nation could match up against other countries economically and could address problems impeding the nation’s economic success and the public welfare.

The constitutional framers understood what they were doing. As historian Richard Labunski wrote in James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights, “no one knew better than the delegates that the proposed Constitution would drastically alter the structure of government. Much of the power of the states would be taken from them.”

The point also was not missed by the advocates of states’ rights. After the Constitutional Convention, these Anti-Federalists, led by Madison’s chief rival Patrick Henry, mounted a fierce campaign to defeat Madison’s scheme because they recognized that it concentrated power in the central government.

For instance, dissidents from Pennsylvania’s convention delegation wrote: “We dissent … because the powers vested in Congress by this constitution, must necessarily annihilate and absorb the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of the several states, and produce from their ruins one consolidated government.” [See David Wootton, The Essential Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers.]

As resistance to Madison’s plan spread – and as states elected delegates to ratifying conventions – Madison feared that his constitutional masterwork would go down to defeat or be subjected to a second convention that might remove important federal powers like the Commerce Clause.

Finessing the Opposition

So, Madison – along with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay – began a series of essays, called the Federalist Papers, designed to counter the fierce (though generally accurate) attacks by the Anti-Federalists against the broad assertion of federal power in the Constitution.

Madison’s strategy was essentially to insist that the drastic changes contained in the Constitution were not all that drastic, an approach he took both as a delegate to the Virginia ratifying convention and in the Federalist Papers.

Today’s Right has sought to transform Madison from his role as the chief advocate for a strong central government into the opposite – a modern-day Tea Partier before his time – by citing Federalist Paper No. 45, entitled “The Alleged Danger From the Powers of the Union to the State Governments Considered,” in which Madison used the pseudonym Publius.

Trying to finesse the opposition to his plan for enhanced federal powers, Madison wrote: “If the new Constitution be examined with accuracy, it will be found that the change which it proposes consists much less in the addition of NEW POWERS to the Union, than in the invigoration of its ORIGINAL POWERS.”

But even that was an admission from Madison that the Constitution added teeth to what had been toothless authorities theoretically granted to the central government under the Articles. Making powers meaningful, rather than ineffectual, is not an insignificant change.

Madison also noted: “The regulation of commerce, it is true, is a new power; but that seems to be an addition which few oppose, and from which no apprehensions are entertained.”

Yet, to claim Madison as an opponent of an activist federal government, the Right must ignore both his advocacy for beefing up what had been weak authorities and adding the crucial new one over commerce. The Right also must ignore Federalist Paper No. 14 in which Madison envisioned major construction projects under the powers granted by the Commerce Clause.

“[T]he union will be daily facilitated by new improvements,” Madison wrote. “Roads will everywhere be shortened, and kept in better order; accommodations for travelers will be multiplied and meliorated; an interior navigation on our eastern side will be opened throughout, or nearly throughout the whole extent of the Thirteen States.

“The communication between the western and Atlantic districts, and between different parts of each, will be rendered more and more easy by those numerous canals with which the beneficence of nature has intersected our country, and which art finds it so little difficult to connect and complete.”

The building of canals, as an argument in support of the Commerce Clause and the Constitution, further reflects the pragmatic – and commercial – attitudes of key founders. In 1785, two years before the Constitutional Convention, George Washington founded the Potowmack Company, which began the work of digging canals to extend navigable waterways westward where he and other Founders had invested in Ohio and other undeveloped lands.

Thus, the idea of involving the central government in major economic projects – a government-business partnership to create jobs and profits – was there from the beginning. Madison, Washington and other early American leaders saw the Constitution as creating a dynamic system so the young country could grow and overcome the daunting challenges of its vast territory.

The Founders did debate the proper limits of federal and state powers, but again Madison and Washington came down on the side of making federal statutes and treaties the supreme law of the land. (Madison had even favored giving Congress veto power over each state law, but settled for granting the federal courts the authority to overturn state laws that violated federal statutes.)

After Ratification

The narrow ratification of the Constitution in 1788 did not end the confrontations over states’ rights, especially when the South began to fear that its agriculture-based economy and its lucrative industry of slavery might be threatened as the industrialized North expanded and the anti-slavery movement grew.

In the early 1830s, President Andrew Jackson faced down South Carolina over its claimed right to “nullify” federal law. And three decades later, President Abraham Lincoln fought the Civil War to settle the issue of states having the right to secede from the Union.

Still, as late as the 1950s and 1960s, Southern white supremacists were still citing the principle of states’ right in defending segregation. Though the segregationists lost those fights in federal courts and in the battle for public opinion, they never surrendered. They simply regrouped.

In the mid-1970s, as the Vietnam War ended, the American Left began shutting down or selling off much its media, which had proved effective in reaching out to the public to build opposition to the war. At the same time, the Right began investing heavily in its own media infrastructure.

Wealthy right-wing foundations and industrialists, like the Koch Brothers, also poured money into think tanks, which hired clever individuals who began reframing the national narrative. Part of that effort was to support “scholarship” that transformed Madison and other key framers from advocates of a strong central government into proponents for states’ rights.

A few of Madison’s quotes – from 1788 as he tried to downplay how radical his new constitutional system actually was – were plucked out of context, while other parts of his biography as an advocate for a strong central government were simply erased.

By Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1981, Americans were being told that “government is the problem” and that the nation had deviated from the Founders’ original vision of an Ayn Rand-style “free-market” society in which everyone was on their own and the government only worried about fighting wars.

Increasingly, the Right pitched itself as the defender of the nation’s founding ideals. Any time the central government sought to address vexing national problems – from the need to regulate Wall Street to extending health coverage to the tens of millions of uninsured Americans – these proposals were labeled “unconstitutional.”

Some right-wing jurists, most notably Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, advocated “originalism,” insisting that constitutional powers should apply only to what the Founders had in mind at the time. The Right ignored the clear record that the Founders intended their governing structure to meet both their immediate needs and the distant interests of their “posterity.”

Indeed, if there was any true “originalism,” it was that the Constitution should be sufficiently dynamic to cope with any number of anticipated and unanticipated challenges that might confront the nation. As the discussion about canal building shows, Madison, Washington and other key framers were pragmatists.

One-Sided Debate

Yet, while the Right was bending the founding narrative to its purposes, the Left largely dismissed the importance of this debate, perhaps in part because the Left tends to disdain many Founders as slave-owning aristocrats who hypocritically denied their precious “unalienable rights” to women, blacks, Indians, the poor and many others.

While that surely was true, the nation’s founding narrative retains a strong mythic appeal to many Americans – and the Right’s twisting of the history has proved a powerful tactic to rally many middle- and working-class Americans, particularly white men, to the Tea Party cause and to the Republican Party.

Believing they’re channeling the true spirit of the Founders, many of these average Americans end up siding with ultra-rich plutocrats who see an effective and democratized federal government as the last obstacle to their total domination of the United States.

Thus, the Tea Partiers and their allies fight: to let Wall Street banks operate as recklessly as they wish; to let health insurance companies deny coverage to sick people; to let rich investors pay lower tax rates than their secretaries; to let billionaires buy up the political process through Super-PACs; to let companies outsource jobs; to let industry despoil the environment; and to slash life-saving federal programs like Medicare, food stamps and Social Security.

The “logic” behind this “populist” support for the interests of the rich is that many average folk think they are engaged in a principled stand for “liberty” – with the federal government their oppressor, standing in for the British Crown in 1776. That’s why the Tea Partiers wave “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and dress up in Revolutionary War costumes.

Simply put, these Tea Partiers have been fooled by a well-funded propaganda campaign tricking them by substituting a false narrative about the nation’s founding and thus enlisting their help in dismantling the Great American Middle Class.

Building the Middle Class

Many of these Americans have forgotten a basic truth: that the Great American Middle Class was largely a creation of the federal government and its policies dating back to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. For many Tea Partiers, it is more satisfying to think that they or their parents climbed the social ladder on their own, that they “didn’t need no guv-mint help.”

But the truth is that it was government policies arising out of the Great Depression and carried forward through the post-World War II years by both Republican and Democratic presidents that created the opportunities for tens of millions of Americans to achieve relative comfort and economic security.

Those policies ranged from Social Security and labor rights in the 1930s to the GI Bill after World War II to Medicare in the 1960s and to government investments in infrastructure and technological research over many decades. Even in recent years, despite right-wing efforts to choke off money to government research, federal programs – such as the Internet – have brought greater efficiency to markets, as well as wealth to many entrepreneurs.

So, the Right’s success in dismantling the New Deal, piece by piece, and shoving more and more Americans down the social ladder has hinged on the demonization of “guv-mint.” This message – often wrapped in patriotic hoopla and coded appeals to bigotry – were delivered most effectively by the personable Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

Yet, while rallying many working-class “Reagan Democrats” to his banner, Reagan’s most important policy was slashing taxes on the rich. Under Reagan’s “supply-side economics,” the top marginal tax rate – what the richest Americans pay on their highest tranche of income – was more than halved, from 70 percent to 28 percent.

Still, the promised surge in “supply-side” growth never really materialized and a key result was the dramatic rise in the national debt. Another less obvious change was the incentivizing of greed, which had been discouraged by the much higher marginal tax rates of the post-World War II years, from Dwight Eisenhower (when the top marginal tax rate was 90 percent) through Jimmy Carter (with a 70 percent top rate).

After all, if 70 to 90 percent of your highest tranche of income went to the government to help pay for building the nation, you had little personal incentive to press for that extra $1 million or $2 million in compensation.

So corporate CEOs – while well-paid – were happy earning about 25 times as much as their average worker in the 1960s. A few decades later, that ratio on CEO pay was about 200 times what the average worker was making.

The consequences of several decades of Reaganism and its related ideas (such as the “free-market” shipping of many middle-class jobs overseas where workers are paid much less) are now apparent. Wealth has been concentrated at the top with billionaires living extravagant lives while the middle class struggles. One everyman after another gets shoved down the ladder.

The data is now clear that the last three decades have witnessed a divergence between the haves and the have-nots unprecedented in the United States, at least since the lead-up to the Great Depression when a similar era of income inequality set the stage for financial disaster.

For instance, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office – in an analysis of data from 1979 to 2005 – found that the inflation-adjusted income of middle-class Americans rose about 21 percent (only about one-fifth the increase enjoyed by the middle class during the post-World War II era).

Meanwhile, the income for the ultra-rich (the top 100th of one percent) jumped 480 percent from 1979 to 2005, rising from an average of $4.2 million to $24.3 million. And CBO’s analysis ends in 2005, thus missing the decimation of the middle class from the Wall Street bust of 2008.

Struggling Americans

Behind the numbers, the real-life consequences are painful. Millions of Americans forego needed medical care because they can’t afford health insurance; young people, burdened by college loans, crowd back in with their parents; trained workers settle for low-paying jobs or are unemployed; families skip vacations and other simple pleasures of life.

Beyond the unfairness, there is the macro-economic problem which comes from massive income disparity. A strong economy is one in which the vast majority people can buy products, which can then be manufactured more cheaply, creating a positive cycle of profits and prosperity.

Plus, the problems facing the nation grow even more severe with looming shortages of vital resources and the impending catastrophe of global warming. Only an energetic federal government can focus the national will to tackle these challenges.

The pragmatic Founders would understand this need for unified action. Yet, Republicans running for President and GOP members of Congress continue to call for further cuts in taxes for the rich and more cuts in government spending, rending the social safety net and slashing investments in infrastructure, education, research and the environment.

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan unveiled a plan Tuesday to reduce the highest marginal tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent – even lower than it was under Reagan – while domestic spending would be slashed and Medicare would be turned into a voucher system with the elderly paying a much higher share of their health costs.

As in the past, this approach is accompanied by assurances of faster economic growth, but the record for those promises should now be clear. The GOP plans are also wrapped in rhetoric about “liberty” and the “spirit of the Founders” – though in truth that spirit was infused with a pragmatic notion of the country pulling together to meet its challenges

So, what’s at stake in 2012 is not just who wins and how that will affect the immediate welfare of the American people – but whether a false narrative about America’s past will lead it into a darkening future.


Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

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