Concessions to Reality

The GOP’s increasing preference for callow, reckless candidates represents a culmination of the anti-government, anti-politics, anti-intellectual direction of the conservative movement. Although it overlaps with the GOP’s rightward shift, it presents a unique threat to American democracy because it espouses not mere preference for smaller government, but a visceral hatred of functioning government and the practice of politics. This mindset abhors concessions to objective reality, expertise, or political adversaries domestic and foreign.

Ben Adler

Half the republicans in congress want to continue using their position to benefit the wealthy, while the other half of the republicans in congress just want to burn the country down out of spite. Together they have a majority in the House, so they get to pick the Speaker.

Bill Palmer

This week’s featured post is “What the Speakership Battle is About“.

This week everybody was talking about the chaos in the House Republican caucus

Most of what I think is covered in “What the Speakership Battle is About“. But there is one more angle to consider: Who does this help in the Republican presidential race?

I think there’s a clear answer: Ted Cruz. Ultimately what’s going to come out of this is a Speaker who is still committed to keeping the government open and not breaching the debt ceiling. This result will aggravate the Republican base’s sense of persecution and alienation from the party establishment, which is Ted Cruz’ issue.

In general, I agree with Steve Benen at Maddowblog: Cruz is right where he wants to be.

and the Trans-Pacific Partnership

I’ve been avoiding making much comment on the TPP, because I’m neither for or against trade deals on principle. Some deals might be good, some might be bad. We need to see the details.

So far, we can’t. For a long time the agreement hadn’t been finalized and the text wasn’t available, so everybody was just speculating based on leaks. Well, the agreement is set now, but it will still be 30 days or so before the text is public. So rather than give a definitive up-or-down opinion on it, I’ll outline the different points of view from which the agreement should be judged.

The foreign-policy perspective. This comes through if you read Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices, which covers her Secretary of State years, when the TPP negotiations got going. From this perspective, the point is to keep China from controlling Pacific trade.

Other than the United States and maybe Japan, none of the other countries in the TPP is big enough to negotiate evenly with China. So China was trying to put in place one-on-one agreements with each country that more or less let it define the terms of trade. By pulling many Pacific countries (other than China) into a trade union with the U.S. and Japan, we create international standards — for intellectual property, the rule of law, environmental and labor protection, as well as market openness — that we can then ask China to live up to if it wants to join.

The labor perspective. Relaxing trade barriers has two contradictory effects: It opens our economy to more imports, which could cost jobs. But it also opens up markets for our exports, which could create jobs. In general, I believe past deals have worked against the American worker, but you have to wonder whether all the exportable jobs are gone already.

Another issue is labor standards. If the other countries in the TPP have to treat their workers better, that’s both good in itself and removes an unfair advantage foreign manufacturers have over American manufacturers.

The environmental perspective. Again, it’s potentially two-sided. The treaty will presumably include some environmental standards that, again, should be both good in themselves and will remove a source of unfair competition. But a country’s environmental standards can also portrayed as unfairly favoring local industries over foreign ones, and the treaty will give foreign corporations standing to challenge them in court. I suspect the balance will turn out to be negative, but, again, we need to see details.

and still talking about guns

I’m coming to think that the value of continuing to talk about gun control is that it draws gun-rights cockroaches into the light, where the sheer ugliness of their worldview can repel the general public. Like Erick Erickson: denouncing “beta male gun control policies”:

Instead of mimicking Australia and Great Britain with their gun confiscation programs, our leaders should think differently. The best gun control in this country is an armed, honest citizenry who can shoot straight. Instead of gun free zones, we should allow law abiding, concealed carry permit holders to go where they wish with their guns.

Like, say, the law-abiding permit-holding woman who started shooting in a Home Depot parking lot Tuesday because a shoplifter was getting away. I feel safer already, just knowing that people like her are out there defending law and order. But I think I won’t dawdle in Home Depot parking lots.

Here’s what Ted Nugent says to the “losers” who “get cut down by murderous maniacs like blind sheep to slaughter”:

Here’s the answer. Quit acting like helpless sheep afraid of a simple tool. Get a damn handgun. Practice with it. Train with it. Learn to carry it hidden and discreetly. And when attacked by a bear or cougar, don’t “try to look big” – just shoot the damn thing.

If someone is approaching you with the intent to do grave bodily harm, and you will know it when it happens, try to escape to the best of your ability, but if there is no escape, pull out your weapon and aim for center mass and start shooting. Keep on shooting until you believe the threat to be over.

That “you will know it” idea is central to a lot of right-wing fantasies — like Ben Carson’s rush-the-shooter fantasy — where the complexity of real life vanishes. In fact, shooting situations are chaotic, and if you find yourself in one, you’ll probably have no idea what’s going to happen next. In this respect, it’s similar to the ticking-bomb torture fantasy, where you know there’s a bomb, you know this guy knows where it is, and you know he’ll tell you if you torture him. In real life, you never have that kind of certainty.

And if Carson hadn’t made the common NRA talking point (about disarming the public being the first step towards Nazi tyranny), we wouldn’t have the opportunity to point out that it’s completely false. Hitler actually relaxed Germany’s gun laws.

And while Carson was only implying that Germany’s Jews were responsible for their own deaths, Fox News’ Keith Ablow went all the way there:

If Jews in Germany had more actively resisted the Nazi party or the Nazi regime and had diagnosed it as a malignant and deadly cancer from the start, there would, indeed, have been a chance for the people of that country and the world to be moved to action by their bold refusal to be enslaved.

In other words: We didn’t fail Europe’s Jews in the Holocaust, the Jews failed us. Good to know.

So keep talking, gun defenders. You’re impressing the public, but probably not in the way you think.

and you also might be interested in …

Televangelist Jim Bakker — who has managed to stay out of jail these last 20 years — still has a TV show. On this episode, he promoted the idea that Satanic baby-sacrifice rituals are taking place in Planned Parenthood clinics.

Trevor Noah fantasized about pro-life politicians bringing the same level of passion to preventing deaths by gun violence, and then made this amazing comparison: Pro-lifers are “like comic book collectors. Human life only matters until you take it out of the package.”

Kevin McCarthy’s Benghazi gaffe has given Hillary Clinton an opportunity to mount a counter-attack against the efforts to tar her with scandal. You know the jig is up when even Bill O’Reilly won’t play any more. Appearing on Fox News’ afternoon show The Five, O’Reilly laughed at the Benghazi Committee’s claims to be non-partisan:

If you think those guys, those Republicans on that panel, don’t want to bring down Hillary Clinton, you’re six years old. Of course, they do.

Some of the best defenses of Clinton are written by Peter Daou and Tom Watson on the blog Hillary Men. They completely demolished that headline from August claiming that the word voters most often associate with Hillary is liar.

According to Quinnipiac, 178 respondents answered “liar” in a poll that – wait for it – had 666 registered Republicans taking part. Other popular negative answers included “bitch,” “Benghazi,” and “criminal.”

So what the poll showed is not that “voters” think Clinton is a liar, but that Republicans reliably repeat widely distributed Republican talking points.

In case you’ve lost track of what we know and don’t know about Benghazi, Vox has it covered.

but I want to highlight a blast from the past

The Weekly Sift‘s readership has nearly quadrupled in the last two years, so I’m realizing that most of my readers have never seen some of the better posts from years past. If you want to understand how liberal reporters end up producing conservatively slanted coverage, take a look at 2011’s “Liberal Media, Conservative Manipulation“.

and then close with something hilarious

The Danish travel firm Spies Rejser has a solution for Denmark’s low birth rate, targeted at the Danish mothers who are waiting impatiently to be grandmothers: Send your son or daughter on a sunny, active vacation where they’ll be likely to get it on. “Do it for Mom. Do it for Denmark.”

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  • Andy Hall  On October 12, 2015 at 1:00 pm


    it presents a unique threat to American democracy because it espouses not mere preference for smaller government, but a visceral hatred of functioning government and the practice of politics. This mindset abhors concessions to objective reality, expertise, or political adversaries domestic and foreign.

    You can connect the dots straight back to Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address, when he famously said that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Thirty-five years on, this is what Reagan has created — a party that is not just committed to reforming government, but to wrecking it in any effective form.

  • Alan  On October 12, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Those beta male countries with their lower murder rates and lack of mass killings! What suckers!

    I liked this overview of the TPP:

    There is a lot of worrying stuff in the leaked drafts of the TPP. My particular concern is over the copyright sections. It sounds like they removed the more horrific parts (mandatory cutting of internet access for someone simply _accused_ of infringement), probably in part because of the uproar. However, I suspect it will still be crappy. It’s almost certainly going to mandate a life+70 years copyright term. It was a stupid, harmful idea when the US passed it, and it feels wrong to inflict out stupid harmful idea on other countries.

  • Lee Thomson  On October 13, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    I read this piece about the unexpected appeal of Bernie Sanders at Salon and wondered if resonated with your close listenings to the speeches he has been making:

    • weeklysift  On October 15, 2015 at 7:08 am

      I think Perlstein is representing the content of Bernie’s speeches accurately, and the fact that he is going to red states and drawing crowds. I’m still skeptical about the claim in the headline, that he can win in red states.

      Something we all need to factor into our projections is that, until recently, Fox News has been rooting for Sanders as a way to weaken Hillary. So while they don’t agree with his policy proposals, they’ve been giving him credit for being authentic and honest, and they haven’t been trying to invent bogus scandals about him, as they did with Obama and have been doing with Hillary. That would change if he became the frontrunner or the nominee.

      That might already be changing. Last night I saw Bill O’Reilly talking to Bernie Goldberg, and the theme of the conversation was that if Sanders likes socialism, he should go to Venezuela. (They can’t seem to tell the difference between Denmark and Venezuela.) I’ll be interested to see how the Fox-watching public feels about Sanders if Fox makes a project out of digging up (or inventing) dirt on him. Just because Sanders doesn’t have a Benghazi now, that doesn’t mean they can’t manufacture one.

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