Working for the People

Average people in America think government doesn’t work. Think again.
Government actually does work. It works for the people who pay it to work for them.

— Hedrick Smith, NH Rebellion rally
Nashua, NH, 1-24-2014

This week’s featured posts: “The Fall of Governor Ultrasound” and “One Week’s Worth of Crazy

This week Republicans started talking about another debt ceiling crisis

Because the last one worked out so well, I guess. But you can tell this is an organized effort because they’re using the same words. Both Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz called a clean debt-ceiling increase “irresponsible”. John Boehner is also hinting at attaching ransom demands.

It’s important to keep in mind exactly what this all means: Congress just passed a two-year budget deal last month. That deal included a budget deficit that will push the national debt over the current debt ceiling. Now Republicans want to take a position against the debt that they just approved. You see, they’re for keeping taxes lower than spending; they’re just against borrowing the difference. Get it?

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew estimates the disaster deadline is the end of February.

and the Bob McDonnell indictment

which I cover in “The Fall of Governor Ultrasound“. One of the issues that gets raised by this case is “the fine line between what is illegal versus what is unseemly”. Ditto for the latest out of Florida, where Governor Scott’s chief fund-raiser (who has donated over $1 million himself) got billions in Medicaid-management contracts for his companies. Illegal, or just unseemly?

And Bridgegate just keeps percolating along. Subpoenas are out, testimony is being taken. I’m sure the U.S. attorney will let us know when he has something.

and the Republican winter meetings

(Mike Huckabee’s winter-meetings speech is one of many incidents covered in “One Week’s Worth of Crazy“.)

The main news to come out the meetings was that Republicans are shortening their nomination process for 2016: Primaries will start later and end sooner. They want to hold the early primaries in February — in 2012 the Iowa caucuses were January 3, almost a week before the last bowl game — and  to have the convention in late June or early July, rather than late August.

It’s fascinating to compare the Democrats’ nomination process in 2008 to the Republicans’ in 2012. Both were national road shows that seemed to go on forever. But the eternal Obama/Clinton struggle worked in the Democrats’ favor: Each new primary state became the focus of a voter registration drive that helped Obama in the fall. When Republicans tried to raise the Jeremiah Wright/Bill Ayers issues, they seemed like old news because Obama had faced them already in the primaries. In general, Obama gained stature each time he debated the more famous Clinton head-to-head.

By contrast, Republicans came out of 2012 with a never-again attitude. Romney had to fend off a series of flawed boom-candidate-of-the-week challengers: Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and finally Rick Santorum. Each seemed like a joke to the non-Republican electorate, and the fact that each was succeeded by the next just emphasized how little the Republican base wanted to nominate Romney.

The 2004 Democratic nomination process demonstrated that the phrase “too far left” actually meant something: Dennis Kucinich was too far left, and the main debate in the early primaries was whether Howard Dean was too. But in 2012, “too far right” was meaningless to Republicans. In the debates, the candidates competed to be the most conservative, and the audiences seemed even more extreme: They booed a gay soldier in Iraq, cheered letting the uninsured die, cheered waterboarding, and applauded the fact that Rick Perry had executed 234 prisoners.

To be blunt, the Republican base is a freak show, and the longer they are on camera the worse it is for the eventual nominee. The RNC recognized that this week, and acted accordingly. As 2016 gets closer, expect them also to limit the number of debates and put them off as long as possible. If they could hold the primary campaign inside a bell jar, they would.

and you also might be interested in …

Doris Haddock, a.k.a. Granny D

Lawrence Lessig’s frigid 185-mile walk across New Hampshire concluded Friday at an NH Rebellion rally in Nashua, a few blocks from where I live. The rally doubled as a 114th birthday party for the late Granny D, whose 3200-mile walk across America deserves some amount of credit for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform of 2002.

At the rally, Lessig said:

Before we started this walk, we did a poll that found that 96% of Americans believe the influence of money in politics must be reduced. … But the reason why the pundits and the politicians don’t talk about it is that 91% of us believe it’s not going to happen. It can’t be done. We want it, but we won’t get it. Now I told those statistics to John Sarbanes, one of the congresspeople who has been most important in pushing the reform. And he said to me, “That’s wonderful. That means we’re the 5%.”

Lessig thinks the movement to reduce the corruption of our democratic system is in at least as good a position as the Civil Rights movement was when Rosa Parks sat down on the bus. He does a very good job of creating a sense of history, and raising the possibility that fighting for a worthy cause at a time when so few people believe it can succeed might be something you’ll tell your grandchildren about.

[BTW: I don’t have a link for either this quote or the one at the top of this post. But I heard it live and I have an audio recording.]

New Hampshire will try again to pass Medicaid expansion. Even the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire supports it, but we haven’t been able to get it through our Republican-controlled Senate.

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act is coming up for a vote in the House. An earlier version was passed by the House in 2011, but failed in the Senate. At that time, Mother Jones reported that it could have some nasty results:

In testimony to a House taxation subcommittee on Wednesday, Thomas Barthold, the chief of staff of the nonpartisan Joint Tax Committee, confirmed that one consequence of the Republicans’ “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” would be to turn IRS agents into abortion cops—that is, during an audit, they’d have to determine, from evidence provided by the taxpayer, whether any tax benefit had been inappropriately used to pay for an abortion. … If an American who used such a benefit were to be audited, Barthold said, the burden of proof would lie with the taxpayer to provide documentation, for example, that her abortion fell under the rape/incest/life-of-the-mother exception, or that the health insurance she had purchased did not cover abortions.

… Under standard audit procedure, a woman would have to provide evidence to corroborate facts about abortions, rapes, and cases of incest, says Marcus Owens, an accountant and former longtime IRS official. If a taxpayer received a deduction or tax credit for abortion costs related to a case of rape or incest, or because her life was endangered, then “on audit [she] would have to demonstrate or prove, ideally by contemporaneous written documentation, that it was incest, or rape, or [her] life was in danger,” Owens says.

So if you get raped, save your receipts.

You really have to wonder what conservatives would come up with if they did want big government to intrude in people’s lives.

Eventually, I’m planning to do a full review of Ian Haney-Lopez’ new book Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class. But for now, Salon has made an article out of the chapter on colorblindness.

Dog whistling cannot be resisted by refusing to talk about race, for this only leaves constant racial insinuations unchallenged, operating in the background to panic many whites. Indeed, dog whistle racism is not only protected by colorblindness, it rests fundamentally on colorblind myth-making.

Slate’s Zack Kopplin explains how Texas’ charter schools are a big loophole through which tax dollars are flowing to teach the most unscientific varieties of Creationism, as well as right-wing Christian views of history and society.

Another mall shooting. Is there a tipping point anywhere?

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  • David Lance  On January 28, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Fascism: 1. A word to inject into a conversation only if you darn well mean it. 2. The act of attacking liberal democracy, killing socialism, and concentrating power in the hands of the war machine, factory owning, corporate welfare drawing, union stomping S.K.W’s** of the world.

    The USA needs to get clear on the concepts of fascism and socialism. They are opposites, and both are germain to our current condition. To discuss fascism you must use words that mean what they mean.

    Historical context: Fascism is a political aberration that has happened twice. First in Italy under Mussolini. And then in hitler’s Germany. The super smart, superiorly white, inflation-beaten, reparations-paying German capitalists had their backs to the wall. The socialists were going to win. It was like April in Concord in 1775*. When will the other shoe drop? So the German capitalists looked around, saw what was happening in Italy, and said, “Let’s do that!”

    I don’t wish to get hung up on the horrendous stuff they did, or who that crop of racist white men killed. There have been far too many groups of racist white men who have killed too many people to count.

    The socialists, in the form of China are growing dominant. The American capitalists have only begun to respond. And their response has been ugly. Their backs are being pushed to the wall. It is time to start paying attention.

    *Since the regulars had come out and seized weapons and gun powder in Salem the previous autumn, pretty much everyone was waiting for the regulars to send out an expedition to seize them in Concord. With the snow amelt, it had become a very tense matter of any moment now…


  • weeklysift  On January 29, 2014 at 8:15 am

    David, I’m not sure why exactly we’re talking about fascism here, but since you brought it up, I use the word a little more loosely (closer to Britt’s 14 characteristics, but not exactly that either.)

    To me, the key factors are authoritarianism, militarism, lack of respect for individual rights, scapegoating, and glorifying the aspects of identity traditionally associated with power (which might express itself as nationalism, racism, sexism, religious dominance, etc.). Emotionally, fascism evokes pride, fear, and anger, while rejecting compassion as weak.

    Rather than inviting the people to participate in government through elections, political organizing, or the exercise of individual rights, fascists invite the majority to participate through mythic identification with the ruler or the ruling class and by rejection of the scapegoat class (i.e., Jews, homosexuals, foreigners, etc.).

    So I don’t see fascism as a yes-or-no thing. Extreme fascism (i.e. Hitler) may be rare, but lots of political movements have fascistic tendencies.

  • Dave Lance  On January 29, 2014 at 11:58 am

    I was thinking about it because some tea party noob periodically holds up a poster of Obama with a Hitler mustache in front of my local Dunkin Donuts. And because other tea party noobs on national television broadcasts vocally curse Obama for being a “Nazi socialist,” which makes about as much sense as hating him for being a flaming icicle. But mostly, I bring it up because I am uncomfortably beginning to see fascism, the emergence of real fascism, as an underlying cause to the effects of much that you write about here on a weekly basis. I don’t see fascism strictly in the terms Dr. Britt lays out. I think many of those defining characteristics were particular to the culture of mid-20th century Germany. I see fascism as a phenomenon that basically pits corporate power against Democracy. It was, and is a defense against socialism. (Particularly so in Germany with the tide of Soviet Russia rising against it.) It is aggressive and brazenly goes on the offensive against Democratic freedoms. It hates liberals. It bans labor strikes. It obliterates unions. It channels funding to military expansion. It showers money on armaments industries. It seems to be the Tony Soprano guy that capitalism calls when capitalism is in trouble. I am beginning to suspect it explains a great deal more of what you observe here than either of us had suspected. I fear it goes unnoticed because the more extreme aspects have not been introduced. Believing that since there are apparently no death camps, there is no fascism, is a fallacy. I am looking to “The Anatomy of Fascism,” by Robert O. Paxton to give me just the right small amount of knowledge to make me largely dangerous.

    • weeklysift  On February 1, 2014 at 8:04 am

      Well that’s something I didn’t know. I figured the Obama-is-Hitler people would show up here in New Hampshire before they got to Massachusetts.


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