Monday, May 17, 2010


digby: "Shoot To Kill"
Here is perhaps the most bizarre commencement speech in history, courtesy C&L (click the link for the full write up)

Have you ever listened to those Jim Jones sermons down in Guyana just before he told them to drink the kool-aid? Just saying.

digby: Making The Argument
Rick Perlstein alerted me to this fine post by Dante Atkins in which he gives a spirited and moving argument for liberal values. It's particularly gratifying since he made the argument around the issue from which so many Democrats are running as fast as they can: abortion rights.

He is engaging in a sort of dialog with a retrograde, throwback outfit called "The Ruth Institute" which is apparently some sort of white supremacy group concerned that the birthrate of the right sort of people is going down because selfish and slutty white women are refusing to properly submit themselves to men and breed early and often.

It's a fascinating back and forth, but as Perlstein noted what's especially notable is the way Atkins makes the argument. Here's an example:
See, in Dr. Morse's opinion, it's not sexist of her to advocate that women's economic and social advances be rolled back. Why? Because many women actively want take on what one could call a traditional domestic role. That is definitely true: many women do actively seek that role, just as there are many men who actively desire the corresponding role of economic provider. What Dr. Morse seems to want, by contrast, is to force all women to reject the technological, medical and social advances that guaranteed their freedom to choose something else. And why? Because her main concern is, of course, birthing children ahead of the replacement rate of 2.1 per woman, and active Western wombs are apparently the only method for the purpose. After all, Dr. Morse doesn't even consider immigration as a potential solution for the aging population and social services issues that she seems so concerned about.


The Ruth Institute wants to ban no-fault divorce. They want to ban same-sex marriage. They apparently want to ban the Pill. They want the government, in fact, to do all sorts of social engineering to make sure that women revert to being baby factories to generate Western babies at a replacement rate. And we fevered "leftists," by contrast? All we want is to make sure that each individual has the freedom to choose his or her own destiny.

In Dr. Morse's mind, that type of freedom is far too much for her fellow women to handle. But as a progressive man who loves strong, smart and capable women, I respectfully beg to differ.
He sets forth the fundamental liberal value --- the freedom to choose your own destiny, a value which almost never seems to make it into the discussion of abortion anymore, as if bearing children, whether one then raises them or not, is a trifling matter that only the most depraved or selfish person would refuse to do. Parenthood is at once nothing and everything.

For an insight into how the allegedly anti-statist Ron and Rand Paul libertarian right are able to justify their intellectually incoherent anti-choice views, here's a pretty good example of the argument. They're all about individual freedom --- for blastocysts. Women, on the other hand, are begging for "special rights" when they resist the idea of forced childbirth. No matter which way the right comes at the argument, the autonomy of the woman never rises to the surface of concern. She is a vessel of God or a vessel of nature, but never a human being with full dominion over her body or her future.
Krugman: Going to Extreme

Utah Republicans have denied Robert Bennett, a very conservative three-term senator, a place on the ballot, because he’s not conservative enough. In Maine, party activists have pushed through a platform calling for, among other things, abolishing both the Federal Reserve and the Department of Education. And it’s becoming ever more apparent that real power within the G.O.P. rests with the ranting talk-show hosts.

News organizations have taken notice: suddenly, the takeover of the Republican Party by right-wing extremists has become a story (although many reporters seem determined to pretend that something equivalent is happening to the Democrats. It isn’t.) But why is this happening? And in particular, why is it happening now?

The right’s answer, of course, is that it’s about outrage over President Obama’s “socialist” policies — like his health care plan, which is, um, more or less identical to the plan Mitt Romney enacted in Massachusetts. Many on the left argue, instead, that it’s about race, the shock of having a black man in the White House — and there’s surely something to that.

But I’d like to offer two alternative hypotheses: First, Republican extremism was there all along — what’s changed is the willingness of the news media to acknowledge it. Second, to the extent that the power of the party’s extremists really is on the rise, it’s the economy, stupid.

On the first point: when I read reports by journalists who are shocked, shocked at the craziness of Maine’s Republicans, I wonder where they’ve been these past eight or so electoral cycles. For the truth is that the hard right has dominated the G.O.P. for many years. Indeed, the new Maine platform is if anything a bit milder than the Texas Republican platform of 2000, which called not just for eliminating the Federal Reserve but also for returning to the gold standard, for killing not just the Department of Education but also the Environmental Protection Agency, and more.

Somehow, though, the radicalism of Texas Republicans wasn’t a story in 2000, an election year in which George W. Bush of Texas, soon to become president, was widely portrayed as a moderate.

Or consider those talk-show hosts. Rush Limbaugh hasn’t changed: his recent suggestion that environmentalist terrorists might have caused the ecological disaster in the gulf is no worse than his repeated insinuations that Hillary Clinton might have been a party to murder. What’s changed is his respectability: news organizations are no longer as eager to downplay Mr. Limbaugh’s extremism as they were in 2002, when The Washington Post’s media critic insisted that the radio host’s critics were the ones who had “lost a couple of screws,” that he was a sensible “mainstream conservative” who talks “mainly about policy.”

So why has the reporting shifted? Maybe it was just deference to power: as long as America was widely perceived as being on the way to a permanent Republican majority, few were willing to call right-wing extremism by its proper name. Maybe it took a Democrat in the White House to give some observers the courage to say the obvious.

To be fair, however, it’s not all a matter of perception. Right-wing extremism may be the same as it ever was, but it clearly has more adherents now than it did a couple of years ago. Why? It may have a lot to do with a troubled economy.

True, that’s not how it was supposed to work. When the economy plunged into crisis, many observers — myself included — expected a political shift to the left. After all, the crisis made nonsense of the right’s markets-know-best, regulation-is-always-bad dogma. In retrospect, however, this was naïve: voters tend to react with their guts, not in response to analytical arguments — and in bad times, the gut reaction of many voters is to move right.

That’s the message of a recent paper by the economists Markus Brückner and Hans Peter Grüner, who find a striking correlation between economic performance and political extremism in advanced nations: in both America and Europe, periods of low economic growth tend to be associated with a rising vote for right-wing and nationalist political parties. The rise of the Tea Party, in other words, was exactly what we should have expected in the wake of the economic crisis.

So where does our political system go from here? Over the near term, a lot will depend on economic recovery. If the economy continues to add jobs, we can expect some of the air to go out of the Tea Party movement.

But don’t expect extremists to lose their grip on the G.O.P. anytime soon. What we’re seeing in places like Utah and Maine isn’t really a change in the party’s character: it has been dominated by extremists for a long time. The only thing that’s different now is that the rest of the country has finally noticed.

It was the latest in a series of reminders that this is nothing -- literally, nothing -- that a far-right media personality can say to be driven from polite American society.

Disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), inexplicably one of the nation's most ubiquitous Sunday-show guests, sat down with Chris Wallace yesterday on "Fox News Sunday." The host confronted Gingrich with one of his recent quotes: "The secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did."

Wallace said, "Mr. Speaker, respectfully, isn't that wildly over the top?" "No," Gingrich replied, insisting that he believes President Obama intends to "decide who earns how much."

The host pushed back, but Gingrich was entirely serious. As the former Speaker sees it, President Obama believes there's such a thing as excessive wealth, which means the president intends to be "the arbiter of your dreams," which means the president will try to "decide who earns how much," which means the president is some kind of communist. Or something.

Gingrich added that the Obama administration therefore poses a threat comparable to the Nazis and Soviets, not on a "moral" plane, but as "a very serious threat to our way of life."

Now, I think it's fair to say most reasonable people would charitably describe this as idiocy. Comparing America's leadership to Nazis and Soviets is as offensive as it is ridiculous. This isn't exactly a new observations, but Newt Gingrich, the disgraced pseudo-intellectual, is quite obviously stark raving mad.

But here's the kicker: it won't make a bit of difference. Given the way the political establishment is "wired" for Republicans, there simply aren't any consequences for this kind of abject stupidity.

Gingrich was driven from office by members of his own party more than a decade ago, under a cloud of ethical lapses, policy failures, and personal scandal. He hasn't held office since, but the media can't stop turning to him -- he was the single most frequent guest on "Meet the Press" in 2009 -- giving him a national platform to spew nonsense, including yesterday's remarks comparing Americans to Nazis.

The media-driven discourse of 21st-century America often leaves much to be desired.

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