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2012

Glenn Beck started as a no-account shock jock and is now a no-account Internet show host. Breitbart at least went from Drudge lackey to successful right-wing media mogul. Carlson, though, began his career in the most respectable fashion possible and has spent the ensuing decades gradually lowering himself into the gutter. His story illustrates why we can’t have a responsible or at least slightly less hysterical conservative media.

Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party. The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

When lieutenant governor Kerry Healey, a fellow Republican, called for suspending the state’s 23.5 cent gas tax during a price spike in May 2006, Romney rejected the idea, saying it would only further drive up gasoline consumption. “I don’t think that now is the time, and I’m not sure there will be the right time, for us to encourage the use of more gasoline,” Romney said, according to the Quincy Patriot Ledger’s report at the time. “I’m very much in favor of people recognizing that these high gasoline prices are probably here to stay.

You are a white man aged 30 without a college degree. Your grandfather returned from World War II, got a cheap mortgage courtesy of the GI bill, married his sweetheart and went to work in a factory job that paid him something like $50,000 in today’s money plus health benefits and pension. Your father started at that same factory in 1972. He was laid off in 1981, and has never had anything like as good a job ever since. He’s working now at a big-box store, making $40,000 a year, and waiting for his Medicare to kick in. Now look at you. Yes, unemployment is high right now. But if you keep pounding the pavements, you’ll eventually find a job that pays $28,000 a year. That’s not poverty! Yet you seem to waste a lot of time playing video games, watching porn, and sleeping in. You aren’t married, and you don’t go to church. I blame Frances Fox Piven. How you can tell a story about the moral decay of the working class with the “work” part left out is hard to fathom.

maybe Gingrich deserves some credit for his persistence. He pressed ahead last summer when the entire political world was writing him off and ridiculing him - and by December, he was leading by double-digits in national polls. Then, party elites panicked and cut him down to size and Gingrich was again written off - only to return from the dead and win the South Carolina primary by 13 points. However this campaign ends, Gingrich will have enjoyed far more success than he ever would have if he’d folded his tent when everyone was telling him he was going nowhere.

is there anything at all in Romney’s stump speech that’s true? It’s all based on attacking Obama for apologizing for America, which he didn’t, on making deep cuts in defense, which he also didn’t, and on being a radical redistributionist who wants equality of outcomes, which he isn’t. When the issue turns to jobs, Romney makes false assertions both about Obama’s record and about his own. I can’t find a single true assertion anywhere.

though Rasmussen did find that 57 percent of likely voters agreed with the gold standard after they were asked this follow-up question: “Many say that adopting the gold standard would dramatically reduce the power of central bankers and political leaders to steer the economy. If you knew that returning to the gold standard really would reduce the power of central bankers and political leaders to steer the economy, would you favor or oppose returning to the gold standard?” However, framing the question like that is hardly a neutral wording of the question.

During Farrakhan’s heights in the 80’s and 90’s, national commenters generally looked on in horror. They simply could not understand how an obvious bigot could capture the imagination of so many people. Surely there were “good” Civil Rights leaders out there, waging the good fight against discrimination. But what the pundits never got was that Farrakhan promised something more-improvement, minus the need to beg from white people.

Ron Paul’s supporters ask that their candidate not be judged by his associates. Or by the people he chose to employ. Or by the newsletters he published. Or by the book he wrote. Or by the way he earned the largest part of his living when out of office in the 1990s. Or by his purchase of the mailing list of the Holocaust-denying Liberty Lobby. Or by the radio shows he chooses to appear on. Or by his strategic decision to reach out to racist voters. Or by the conspiracy theories to which he lends credence, from government creation of AIDS to Israeli culpability for the 1993 bombing to a putative 9/11 “coverup.” And here I thought that libertarianism was a doctrine of personal responsibility?

2011

The bill does not require military custody for American citizens suspected of membership with Al Qaeda or an allied group, as it more or less does for foreigners. (Note, by the way, that this is all about suspicion, not proof.) But neither does it prohibit military trial or detention of American citizens. It’s stunning that the president is willing to sign a bill that might effectively turn the right of habeas corpus into a mere privilege-even for citizens.

Companies can now extract oil and natural gas from the high Arctic, shale, oil sands and deepwater wells. These fossil fuels are still finite and dwindling, but tapping the new sources pushes back the date of “peak oil.” Does that give the United States necessary time to develop sustainable energy sources, or will it keep Americans needlessly addicted to dirty fuels by keeping them cheap - and eroding the “energy security” argument?

If I say that Paul Ryan’s mother was a hamster and his father smelt of elderberries, that’s ad hominem. If I say that his plan would hurt millions of people and that he’s not being honest about the numbers, that’s harsh, but not ad hominem. And you really have to be somewhat awed when people who routinely accuse Obama of being a socialist get all weepy over him saying that eliminating protections against pollution would lead to more pollution.

The irony is that the same elected Democrats singing the praises of Occupy Wall Street are themselves major recipients of money from … Wall Street! Does this mean that the Democratic embrace should be rejected? Not necessarily. Occupy Wall Street could, of course, open up political space for Democrats to address unemployment, income inequality, criminality by banks, the overwhelming influence of corporate money in politics and so on. But it’s worth keeping in mind that most if not all of these politicians have been cozy with Wall Street for years; so there are grounds for suspicion.

the Bush administration took a very ideological view of “the war on terror.” They viewed the United States as broadly in conflict with a vast-yet-hazily-defined array of Muslim Bad Guys such that Saddam Hussein and the government of Iran were somehow part of the same problem as Osama bin Laden. The conceptual alternative to this that Obama offered … was to think of al-Qaeda as a specific, narrow thing that ought to be obsessively targeted and destroyed. … You see in the rising body count that this all wasn’t just talk. There’s been some kind of meaningful reallocation of national resources away from Bush’s geopolitical vision in favor of a much more literal global effort to identify, locate, and kill members of al-Qaeda.

What Tom describes as the centrist position both parties know they should adopt, but refuse to do because of partisanship on both sides, is in fact the actually existing position of the Democratic party - a position that Republicans denounce as “socialist.” I know that admitting that Barack Obama is already the candidate of centrists’ dreams would be awkward, would make it hard to adopt the stance that both sides are equally at fault. But that is the truth.

The Postal Service is in trouble because of a Bush-era law that requires the Postal Service to massively pre-fund the cost of retiree health benefits over the next 75 years in just 10 years’ time. This cost covers not only current employees, but employees who have yet to be hired - and is on top of the cost for health benefits for current retirees. No other company or agency in America is required to pre-fund future retiree health benefits. The Postal Service Retiree Health Benefit Fund already has more than $42 billion in it - more than enough to cover retiree health premiums for the next 20 years.

Sarah Reidy, the national director of scheduling for Jon Huntsman’s presidential campaign, had some stern words for her own party after the audience at a debate in California applauded the number of executions during Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s tenure, and then some in the crowd at a debate in Florida cheered when the moderator asked if a sick person without insurance should be left to die. In a post on her Facebook page, Reidy, who joined Huntsman’s campaign in August but was not speaking on its behalf in this instance, said the behavior made her “sick and sad” for the Republican party.

The National Flood Insurance Program Reextension Act of 2010 was sponsored by a bipartisan group, it passed the filibuster-ridden Senate by unanimous consent on September 21, it passed the House of Representatives on a voice vote on September 23, and was signed into law by President Obama a week later. The lead sponsor of the current Flood Insurance Reauthorization is Senator Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi. Amidst fierce ideological debate about the size and scope of the federal government, in other words, there’s no serious budget-cutting move to stop subsidizing people from living in dangerous flood zones.

Wilkerson also calls for George W. Bush and Cheney to be held accountable for their crimes in office. “I’d be willing to testify, and I’d be willing to take any punishment I’m due,” Wilkerson said. We also speak to Salon.com political and legal blogger Glenn Greenwald about his recent article on Cheney, “The Fruits of Elite Immunity.” “Dick Cheney goes around the country profiting off of this sleazy, sensationalistic, self-serving book, basically profiting from his crimes, and at the same time normalizing the idea that these kind of policies…are perfectly legitimate choices to make. And I think that’s the really damaging legacy from all of this,” says Greenwald.

The basic notion seems to be that if you see “the government” doing “something” and the outcome is perverse, that proves that when “the government” does “things” it gets bad results so the government shouldn’t do anything. But pay attention to the story! This looks to me essentially like a story of the slightly perverse consequences of what amounts to privatization of infrastructure provision. The New York State Thruway Authority dealt with the Hudson River bridge issue in a manner designed to maximize profits rather than a benevolent social planner putting the bridge in the socially optimal more southerly location.

Probably the single most false claim in Rick Perry’s book is his view of the end of the Great Depression, namely that “recovery did not come until World War II, when FDR was finally persuaded to unleash private enterprise.” World War II is, of course, an example of the reverse. With the nation engaged in a total war against Germany and Japan, the federal government introduced massive distortions into the marketplace in order to maximize production of things that were useful for winning the war. That meant, among other things, massive rationing and price controls

there’s also no modern precedent for the out-of-power party being as widely loathed on Election Day as the GOP now is. And there will be many more opportunities in the next 15 months for congressional Republicans to inflict even more damage on the GOP brand. It’s enough to raise the possibility that the very forces that set out to destroy Barack Obama’s presidency from the moment it started could end up being the reason he gets a second term.

The GOP is now even less popular than during the impeachment of Bill Clinton. A party that focuses relentlessly on maintaining tax breaks for millionaires, refusing to compromise on anything, all the while acting to paralyze the government in hopes that dysfunction will redound to its benefit is very difficult to deal with. But normally parties don’t act this way because normally party members are more responsive to public opinion. (via The Republican Party Is Very Unpopular | ThinkProgress)

I remember well the contention that there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between George W Bush and Al Gore. And, indeed, there wasn’t. Both wholeheartedly embraced American military hegemony as a foreign policy and the neoliberal “Washington Consensus” approach to international economic policy. Both emphasized improved education as the key to long-term prosperity, both valorized capitalism as an engine of growth, and neither in any meaningful way challenged the various prevailing economic and social dogmas of the era. And yet looking back in concrete terms, it seems to me that the 2000 election turns out to have been one of the most consequential in American history. That’s because while both Bush and Bill Clinton pursued policies from within the paradigm of the elite American ideological consensus of the post-Cold War era they actually pursued very different policies.

Even with several decades of median wage stagnation, the fact of the matter is that the median American household has quite a lot of money compared to the median household of almost every other country. And yet, I think there are a lot of other respects in which quality of life in the United States falls short. We spend a lot of time in traffic jams. We have both a frighteningly high murder rate and a frighteningly high level of incarceration. Our health care system is very inefficient. Americans work very long hours and have unusually little vacation time. It’s not clear to me that any of these issues can be usefully tackled primarily by focusing on higher taxation of the very wealthy.

I don’t believe the nomination of Palin is where our system became decadent, nor the Clinton sex scandal. VPs are often chosen for less than scrupulous reason and Clinton just got caught on what something that has and is currently always going on with politicians. I believe that our political system hit its lowest point of decadence during the “Swift Boating” of John Kerry by the Bush campaign. War heroism is something that all sane and rational people honor and respect. Rove’s calculated strategy to attack Kerry’s strength and besmirch his heroic acts in Vietnam crossed a line that should never be crossed, especially by an administration that started two wars and used them and the military as an advantage in every possible way. At that point, I remember thinking to myself that the floodgates have been opened to a new, bottom-feeder level.

Obviously the federal government has the authority to specify for what purposes federal grant money can be used. Obviously. How else could it work? The other is the tendency to regard any existing profit stream as a form of property. Banks are entitled to their federal subsidies to offer student loans. For-profit colleges are entitled to their own student loan subsidy stream. Health care providers are entitled to unlimited wasteful spending at federal expense. Potato growers are entitled to their school lunch money. Great take down of Tea Party constitutional interpretation.

One thing they understand very well at Fox, and in the conservative movement more generally, is the political value of shamelessness. As long as you say what you’re saying with conviction, it doesn’t matter how absurd or hypocritical it is. You may not get the majority of the public to agree with you, but you can get a good number. … As a result, conservatives may not win every argument, but they almost never get routed completely.

Not long ago Kristol said Beck was hysterical and marginalizing himself and Beck said Kristol stands for nothing besides power and while they were both basically right about the other, the fact is that both of them engage in incredibly irresponsible rhetoric about “Islamists” and their supposed American liberal collaborators, but Kristol does it with a suit and tie and fancy job title at a Serious Magazine, instead of shouting tearful nonsense on the radio or to a television camera.

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