Recently in politicians Category

Digby comments on the GOP's voter-suppression effort, calling it "shocking in its brazenness:"

I have long wondered why the Democrats haven't seemed to take this seriously. It's been happening in slow motion, but it's been happening in plain sight. [...]

It's not that I care so much that the Democrats win. But I really care that Americans are allowed to vote and have their votes counted and I expect that most people care about that too. In this regard there is a big difference between the two parties: the Republicans have organized around suppressing the vote while the Democrats have organized around expanding it. The problem, as usual, is that the Democrats haven't been nearly as good at it. [...]

One would have thought the 2000 election would have been enough to energize them to protect the franchise, but it clearly wasn't. Let's hope it doesn't take another stolen election to convince them.

Addicting Info informs us that Republicans in Luzerne County PA have elected white supremacist neo-Nazi Steve Smith as committeeperson:

You can photo-shop a Hitler mustache on Obama, and pretend that you're fighting totalitarianism, if you want. But here's what a real live Nazi looks like; and he's an elected Republican official:

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You know, we've had to listen to a lot of nonsense about President Obama and Dems being Nazis, for quite a while now. Granted, many of Obama's critics call him a Muslim, Socialist and Communist, all seemingly without the vaguest notion of what those terms mean. But I've often thought there was something extra buried in the Nazi accusation; and it's called 'projection.'

Projection is the act of attributing feelings or beliefs you possess, but cannot admit to, onto others. It's usually known as an unconscious action, but if engaged purposely in a political climate, it can be a very effective tool.

Steve Smith: Republican Tool.

Politicus USA comments on the latest fact-free factoid floating around the conservative media cesspool, that Obama's consumer protection adviser Elizabeth Warren "is basically a Communist [because] she's a supporter of everything conservatives hate." Of course, as Politicus points out, "most of us know that communist (like Nazi and socialist) is a term conservatives like to throw around without really comprehending what it means:"

And not just the average ignorant Tea Partier but congressmen like Allen West, who is convinced that there are between 78 and 81 Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party.

On the surface, it would seem both West and Carmenker are on agreement: a communist is one who is diametrically opposed to conservative ideology. This is all very Cold War and McCarthyesque and it's no wonder it's an attractive thesis to conservatives. It's a simple appeal - emotional and "patriotic" and it requires little thought - everyone knows that those commies were the enemies of American democracy and since conservatives are "real Americans" communism must be its opposite, right? (remember too that witch-hunts have historically been conservatism's response to people getting uppity and thinking for themselves).

Politicus comments on the factoid's source:

They claim that "For a refreshing and informative change in where you get your news, log on to OneNewsNow.com." If by informative they mean dishonest and misleading, they are apparently spot on and certainly in good company... [...]

Apparently, conservative viewers and readers want to be liberated from the world of facts and from the millstone that is a fact-based universe where fantasy is not allowed to have its way with reality. If one hate-filled group says something the hate-filled news service has to report it and certainly won't violate the precepts of the agreed upon fantasy universe to question it. Why introduce facts when the fantasy is so congenial?

AlterNet's Don Hazen talks to Charles Ferguson about Ferguson's new book Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America:

He is appalled that despite ample evidence of disastrous decisions and large-scale lawbreaking, much of it outlined in his film and his book, not a single person has gone to jail for a fiasco that has wiped out a good deal of the hard-working American middle-class' resources.

And he holds Barack Obama responsible, considering him a huge disappointment in his first term.

Funded by the GOP's 'geezer empire' of billionaires, the far right is using the lackluster economic recovery to justify a great leap backward:

Beyond the usual GOP jeremiads--cutting taxes and government spending, shredding safety nets, eviscerating federal regulation and privatizing whatever remains--many of the GOP's biggest moneymen have specific issues and goals, often business-related, and would expect a Romney presidency to advance those agendas.

Among the goals of "this posse of unbelievably wealthy white men who have written million-dollar checks to GOP super PACs and non-profits in 2012" are pushing fracking, promoting unconstrained financial speculation, repealing Dodd-Frank, weakening Sarbanes-Oxley, eviscerating consumer protections, and supporting Israeli extremists:

The GOP's billionaire donors--all white, wealthy men and patriarchs heading their own empires--have a lot in common. They know no rules other than doing whatever it takes to win. They don't take no for an answer. They keep at it until they get what they want. And they see Mitt Romney as a kindred spirit who shares their values and will get the federal government to step in, or step aside, to help them secure their next fortune.

Democrats shouldn't continue compromising with them.

TNR's Timothy Noah has compiled a list of conservative clichés; here are my favorites:

Central planning. Any decision-making process by the federal government that conservatives dislike. The Pentagon never engages in central planning.

Job creator. A rich person. The idea is that one mustn't tax the rich, because it's rich people who, through investment, create jobs. This used to be called "trickle-down economics," and 31 years ago, when Ronald Reagan's budget chief got caught admitting to The Atlantic that the Reagan administration practiced it, he suffered public humiliation. Today, trickle-down economics is preached without shame.

Mainstream media (popular variation: lamestream media). The non-conservative news media, including every TV news organization except Fox and every nationally distributed newspaper except the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal. The term's usage in recent years reflects the right's growing comfort with its position on the fringe. Where once conservatives claimed to inhabit the mainstream (as reflected in phrases like "silent majority" and "Moral Majority"), today the right sees the mainstream as so thoroughly compromised (and ruthlessly dominant) that it prefers to define itself as an unfairly besieged minority.

Starve the beast. A Republican strategy to cut government spending by cutting taxes. The theory is that lower tax revenue will force budget cuts down the road. But this doctrine contradicts conservatives' false-but-cherished belief that tax cuts so incentivize economic activity that revenue will rise rather than fall. Also, in practice, starving the beast hasn't lowered spending at all; it has merely increased the deficit.

I hadn't noticed that contradiction before.

One cliché that has far more than outlived its usefulness is the socialism-would-be-disastrous slur. The Independent's Owen Jones points out that, contrary to conservative myth, working people would benefit if socialists really did run the show. "'socialist' is regarded as the ultimate insult by much of our wealthy elite, who have been in a virtually uninterrupted triumphalist mood since Margaret Thatcher defeated their political opponents in the 1980s:"

If socialists really were running the show in Britain, they would be building a society run by, and in the interests of, working people [but] Instead, we have a government ... ruthlessly forcing working people to pay the immense cost of getting capitalism out of its mess.

In contrast to today, when having them meet us halfway to reality would be progress, EJ Dionne notes that conservatives used to care about community and compromise. "For most of the 20th century," he writes, "conservatives and progressives alternated in power...and this equilibrium allowed both sides to compromise and move forward" and asks, "So why has this consensus unraveled?" Obama has "pitched communal themes from the moment he took office [but] the more he emphasized a better balance between the individual and the community, the less interested conservatives became in anything that smacked of such equilibrium:"

That's why today's conservatives can't do business with liberals or even moderates who are still working within the American tradition defined by balance. It's why they can't agree even to budget deals that tilt heavily, but not entirely, toward spending cuts; only sharp reductions in taxes and government will do. It's why they cannot accept (as Romney and the Heritage Foundation once did) energetic efforts by the government to expand access to health insurance. It's why, even after a catastrophic financial crisis, they continue to resist new rules aimed not at overturning capitalism but at making it more stable.

AlterNet's piece on the failure of capitalism makes the ubiquitously banal observation that "[t]he old economic model has utterly failed us:"

It has destroyed our communities, our democracy, our economic security, and the planet we live on. The old industrial-age systems -- state communism, fascism, free-market capitalism -- have all let us down hard, and growing numbers of us understand that going back there isn't an option.

But we also know that transitioning to some kind of a new economy -- and, probably, a new governing model to match -- will be a civilization-wrenching process. We're having to reverse deep and ancient assumptions about how we allocate goods, labor, money, and power on a rapidly shrinking, endangered, complex, and ever more populated planet.

New governance and economics will, of course, be unobtainable as long as we're mired in the clichés of yesteryear.

Chris Mooney follows up his PolitiFact analysis by observing the fact that conservatives are more wrong, more often:

The fact-checkers do try very, very hard to temper their competence, and to be fair, they don't have much choice. As a non-partisan outfit, PolitiFact probably feels compelled to blow a few things the left says out of proportion or they wouldn't look that much different than Media Matters. [...]

Yet for all their even-handedness and efforts to be fair, conservatives still fare worse. PolitiFact has pulled the yoke about as far as it can go without breaking, and have lost nearly all credibility on the left as a result, and they're still not within 20 yards from the 50 yard line.

He recommends that PolitiFact should "decide this is the last epicycle they're going to tack onto their centrist model of the solar system, and finally come to accept the political equivalent of Kepler's ellipse: asymmetry:"

As the data show - despite PolitiFact's best tampering - one side just has a much tougher time with the facts. PolitiFact can either deal with it, or double-down on denial.

While we're on the subject of conservative denialism--see my 2004 and 2009 pieces on marriage equality in Massachusetts--Slate wonders does gay marriage destroy marriage? "[B]y tracking what happened to marriage and divorce rates in the subsequent years" [after same-sex marriage] we can tell whether right-wing fears are valid:

Start with Massachusetts, which endorsed gay marriage in May 2004. That year, the state saw a 16 percent increase in marriage. The reason is, obviously, that gay couples who had been waiting for years to get married were finally able to tie the knot. In the years that followed, the marriage rate normalized but remained higher than it was in the years preceding the legalization. So all in all, there's no reason to worry that gay marriage is destroying marriage in Massachusetts.

The other four states that have legalized gay marriage--New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire--have done it more recently, somewhere between 2008 and 2011. But from the little data we have, it looks as if the pattern will be more or less the same--a temporary jump in marriage followed by a return to virtually the same marriage rates as before gay marriage became legal. Washington, D.C., which started accepting same-sex marriages in March 2010, saw a huge 61.7 percent increase in marriage that year, though it's too soon to see where it will settle. Again, no signs of the coming apocalypse.

The states' divorce rates haven't worsened, either:

In each of the five states, divorce rates following legalization have been lower on average than the years preceding it, even as the national divorce rate grew. In 2010, four of the five states had a divorce rate that was lower than both the national divorce rate and the divorce rate of the average state.

I'm sure that conservatives will eventually try to spin this into a we-were-right-all-along scenario--as they tried to do with civil rights--but I just don't see how they could do so.

Jon Chait takes issue with conservatives' fantasy history of civil rights, wherein they cast themselves as heroes of the struggle:

The civil rights movement, once a controversial left-wing fringe, has grown deeply embedded into the fabric of our national story. This is a salutary development, but a problematic one for conservatives, who are the direct political descendants of (and, in the case of some of the older members of the movement, the exact same people as) the strident opponents of the civil rights movement.

Thus, "conservatism's revisionist dogma" becomes necessary to create the illusion:

... a tale in which the Republican Party is and always has been the greatest friend the civil rights cause ever had. The Republican takeover of the white South had absolutely nothing to do with civil rights, the revisionist case proclaims, except insofar as white Southerners supported Republicans because they were more pro-civil rights.

Sometimes, mockery is the optimal response--and Chait snarks at the end of his piece that "The pseudo-historical attempt to attach conservatism to the civil rights movement is just silly:"

Here's another idea: Why not get behind the next civil rights idea (gay marriage) now? It would save future generations of conservative apparatchiks from writing tendentious essays insisting the Republican Party was always for it.

Along similar lines, Martin Longman claims that today's GOP is the worst political party since the Civil War:

I think it's fair to say that the GOP that exists today, as expressed by both its behavior in Congress and its recent display in the presidential primaries, is worse than it has ever been. [...] We have not seen a party this dangerous in any of our lifetimes. Not in this country, anyway. The last time things got this bad was about 150 years ago. The last time things got this bad, we needed a Civil War to resolve it.

According to Michael Lind, technological progress killed social conservatism as "social traditionalists who claimed to be a 'moral majority' in the United States in the 1980s are acting like an embattled, declining minority in the second decade of the 21st century:"

Many paranoid social conservatives blame the triumph of moral liberalism on a conspiracy of sinister secular humanists, using the media and the public schools to indoctrinate their children and grandchildren in a godless morality. But the truth is that social conservatism has been undermined by technological progress, which has increased the opportunities for freedom in matters of sex and censorship while raising the costs of enforcing traditional norms.

Noting that "The pill did more to undermine traditional sexual morality than an imaginary secular humanist conspiracy could have done," Lind notes the effects of other freedom-increasing technologies:

Once most Americans stopped listening to priests, preachers and rabbis who seek to prescribe what married couples do in bed, it was only a matter of time before they stopped paying attention to clerical rules about what anyone does in bed.

He concludes that:

The cultural revolution of recent decades does not mean Americans are less moral than they were in the ages of speak-easies and corner bordellos and vaudeville strip shows. They are just less hypocritical.

and suggests that conservatives stop trying to force the rest of us into their peculiar closets. "Short of reversing the industrial revolution, emptying the cities and restoring agrarian society," he writes, "the best hope for social conservatives is to retreat to minority enclaves like those of the Amish:"

On self-created reservations they can raise their children as they see fit, segregated from mainstream culture and visited, perhaps, by morally liberal tourists nostalgic for an older, simpler way of life.

Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short? No thanks.

Among other looming ecological issues, WaPo wonders if the end of fish is imminent, writing that "there's some evidence that we've already hit 'peak fish':"

World fish production seems to have reached its zenith back in the 1980s, when the global catch was higher than it is today. And, according to one recent study in the journal Science, commercial fish stocks are on pace for total "collapse" by 2048 -- meaning that they'll produce less than 10 percent of their peak catch.

David Atkins calls this example an existential threat to conservatism, and "a reminder of the grand ideological precipice on which conservatism itself rests:"

Economic conservatism rests on the principle that government intervention is largely unnecessary because markets in their grand wisdom correct themselves over time without the need for interference. Economic conservatism is also predicated on the notion that the best way to improve human happiness is to ensure unending economic growth as measured by Gross Domestic Product, regardless of what industries are growing, or whether that growth is sustainable.

Ecological crises like climate change, peak oil and fish depletion present an existential threat to economic conservatism. Self-correcting markets are ill-equipped to handle problems that creep up invisibly but are already too late to solve by the time market consumers truly start to take notice. Once fish or oil become so rare that their prices cause consumers to seek alternatives, the economic and ecological damage will already have been done. The problem will be beyond the point of repair.

"In short," he concludes, "there is no free market solution to these problems:"

Which means that conservatives ultimately must insist that there is no problem in order for their ideology to maintain credibility.

They enable the ultra-rich to continue betraying America by benefitting greatly from US infrastructure but want to avoid, as much as possible, making a contribution. For one example, "almost 1,800 Americans gave up their citizenship to avoid taxes:"

The wealthy benefit disproportionately from property and inheritance laws, contracts, stock exchanges, favorable SEC regulations, the Small Business Administration, patent and copyright and intellectual property laws, estate planning, trust funds, Internet marketing, communications infrastructure, highway maintenance, air traffic control, local and national security, and 60 years of research in technology and other industries.

A major cause of this imbalance is that speculative financial transactions are untaxed:

While average Americans pay a 10% sales tax on necessities, millionaire investors pay just a .00002% SEC fee (2 cents for every thousand dollars) for a financial instrument.

Implementing such a tax (like the proposed Tobin Tax on currency conversion) would help, as would the other main suggestion--to "Eliminate the tax break on unearned income (capital gains)."

Romney's Ampad-destroying deal at Bain Capital is an all-too-typical example of rapacious conservatism, and I'm glad to see that the Obama campaign is hitting this issue hard. They're pointing out that "Romney and his partners were able to squeeze out more than $100 million" from Ampad while laying off workers and saddling the firm with debt that led to bankruptcy:

The GOP's furious denials are full of revisionist bullshit; former Bain managing director Marc Wolpow spilled the beans in a 2002 interview that Romney bears the blame for Ampad:

Romney was responsible for the business plan carried out by Bain in Indiana."Mitt's employees executed that transaction," [Wolpow] said. "We carried out the business plan. He was CEO of the firm."

Romney's statement dodged his culpability:

President Obama confirmed today that he will continue his attacks on the free enterprise system...President Obama refuses to accept moral responsibility for his failed policies.

Oh, and it's so surprising that Teabagger Congresscritters have been bought off by the banks that they once derided. The fifteen GOP freshmen in the House "received significant PAC contributions from the banking industry -- and have become a reliable vote and mouthpiece for the financial industry," most notoriously Rep Joe Walsh (R-IL), who once berated a constituent with this rant:

"Don't blame banks, and don't blame the marketplace for the mess we're in right now! I am tired of hearing that crap!"

Why put the blame where it belongs when they can keep lying about birth certificates, czars, socialism, death panels, and Kenyan anti-colonialists?

Chris Mooney writes that "we live at a time when Republican 'Big Lies'...are everywhere," looking at PolitiFact's analyses:

Republicans were overwhelmingly more likely to draw a "false" or even "pants on fire" rating (the worst of all). Out of the ninety-eight politicians' statements that received these dismal ratings, seventy-four were made by Republicans--or 76 percent.

Mooney weighs the suggestion that "PolitiFact is biased against the right" against "another possibility: the left just might be right more often (or the right, wrong more often)." Also interesting is the Washington Post "Fact-Checker" column, where Republicans got nearly three times as many "four Pinocchio" ratings as Democrats. Rather than "liberal bias" among fact-checking organization, Mooney suggests "A potentially simpler explanation for these results:"

...that the fact-checkers are simply doing their job--and Republicans today just happen to be more egregiously wrong. Democrats, meanwhile, are certainly not innocent when it comes to making misleading statements, but their pants are not on fire.

Mooney continues by observing that "psychology... suggests that one's politics are driven partly by one's personality, and Democrats and liberals are simply more open to new information and experiences as well as more tolerant of ambiguity and uncertainty:"

Moreover, this difference has been exacerbated by a well-documented turn toward psychological authoritarianism in the Republican Party over the past four decades. Increasingly, the GOP has become the party of those who are more rigid, less given to compromise, and more inclined to see the world in black and white.

When talking about political polarization, don't just blame Republicans. TNR's William Galston spreads around the blame for the "complex story" of political polarization. He makes two key observations--that the electorate has polarized while the parties have become ideologically homogeneous, and also notes that "conservatives and liberals have come to understand the practice of politics differently:"

Unlike most other Americans, conservatives seem to believe that compromise represents defeat [and] intransigence represents their only hope; never mind the risks.

Big lies - compromise = disaster

American Conservative refers to neocon progenitor Leo Strauss as the Right's false prophet because:

the practical influence of Strauss, its manifestation as Straussianism, and Straussianism's connection with neoconservatism still present themselves as intriguing problems in contemporary American intellectual history.

Strauss' focus on "the esoteric meaning of such texts...yields an interpretative strategy both naïve and paranoid:"

Strauss's argument about esotericism is both historically and philosophically incoherent and useless in any methodological sense.

His seminal influence on the neocon movement was, perhaps, inevitable:

Finally, regarding the phenomenon of Straussianism, the cult took hold here for the same reasons that cults generally succeed in the U.S.: ignorance, inexperience, and a desire to have a simple answer to complex problems.

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Andrew Sullivan's NewsBeast cover story calls Obama the first gay president and talks about attending a Spring 2007 "private fundraiser in a tony apartment in Georgetown" where Obama equivocated on marriage equality with "I think civil unions are the way to go. As long as they are equal." Sullivan was disappointed with this "excruciating nonposition:"

I didn't believe it. I thought he was struggling between political calculation and his core belief in civil rights. And it was then that I realized he was both: a cold, steely, ruthless, calculating politician who nonetheless wanted to do the right thing in the end.

In the runup to last week's announcement, Sullivan writes that "I braced myself for disappointment. And yet when I watched the interview, the tears came flooding down:"

I was utterly unprepared for how psychologically transformative the moment would be. To have the president of the United States affirm my humanity--and the humanity of all gay Americans--was, unexpectedly, a watershed. He shifted the mainstream in one interview. And last week, a range of Democratic leaders--from Harry Reid to Steny Hoyer--backed the president, who moved an entire party behind a position that only a few years ago was regarded as simply preposterous. And in response, Mitt Romney could only stutter.

He disagrees with the cynics who call Obama's statement of principle "pure and late opportunism:"

...when you step back a little and assess the record of Obama on gay rights, you see, in fact, that this was not an aberration. It was an inevitable culmination of three years of work. He did this the way he always does: leading from behind and playing the long game. [...] This, by any measure, is an astonishing pace of change in one presidential term. In four years Obama went from being JFK on civil rights to being LBJ: from giving uplifting speeches to acting in ways to make the inspiring words a reality.


update (5/15):
History News Network (h/t: Will Bunch) assails the magazine for "cheap sensationalism," noting that "Newsweek is desperate for sales:"

The caption is a superficial way to characterize an important development of thought that the president -- along with the country -- has been making over recent years. It is also entirely wrong. [...] There can be no doubt that James Buchanan was gay, before, during, and after his four years in the White House. Moreover, the nation knew it, too -- he was not far into the closet.


update (5/17):
Michelangelo Signorile notes that "For almost four years the president, for political reasons, didn't say he was for marriage equality:"

Then, after being pressured by gays, and after many in his own administration couldn't hold back their own support for marriage equality, the president announced his support in the midst of an election campaign.

The president still qualifies his support, arguing that marriage is a state issue rather than a federal right...the president still hasn't signed the executive order that would give LGBT people who work for federal contractors protections from employment discrimination.

"Let's give the president immense credit for coming out for marriage equality," writes Signorile, but "let's leave the 'gay president' label to those of the past who actually may be shown to have been homosexual...like James Buchanan and--in a fact especially horrifying to Republicans--Abraham Lincoln.

Scott Neuman asks at NPR, how independent are independents?

There's a lot of talk this election cycle about how important independents will be in deciding the November presidential election and which candidate will win their votes. But exactly how independent are the self-styled independents?

"Truly independent voters do exist," he writes, "but they account for just 10 percent to 15 percent of the electorate." Center for Politics concurs:

Research has demonstrated that, when pressed, independent voters often reveal significant partisan preferences: They lean Democratic or lean Republican. When leaners are reclassified and grouped among their partisan peers the share of pure independents in the electorate falls -- by some accounts -- to less than 10% of the electorate.

A later piece also observes that "most independent leaners are closet partisans rather than true independents:"

Americans who identify themselves as independents but who indicate that they lean toward one of the two major parties generally think and behave more like partisans than like true independents.

In three myths about independents, John Sides notes the increase in the number of voters who claim to be independent, but his analysis also shows that "most independents are closet partisans" with an even smaller percentage of true independents:

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Again, there is really no difference between partisans of either stripe and independent leaners. As far as their views of Obama are concerned, it doesn't really matter whether you say you're a Democrat or an independent who leans Democrats, and the same is true on the other side of the aisle. Only "pure" independent appear to have evenly divided attitudes as of November, but, as above, these people are only a very small part of the sample--7% overall. [...] 90% of the public is partisan and about 80-90% of those voters vote for their party's candidate.

My favorite question for Republicans-in-Independent-clothing is: When was the last time you voted for a Democrat? Sometimes, an evasion is more illuminating than an answer.

WaPo reports on some "troubling incidents" in Romney's past, particularly a 1965 attack on a fellow student during Romney's senior year of high school at Cranbrook:

John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn't having it.

"He can't look like that. That's wrong. Just look at him!" an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann's recollection. Mitt, the teenage son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber's look, Friedemann recalled.

A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school's collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber's hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.

The incident was recalled similarly by five students, who gave their accounts independently of one another.

One participant, who later apologized to the victim, called the incident "vicious...a senseless, stupid, idiotic thing to do" to Lauber, who was "terrified." Three decades later, Lauber responded to another classmate's apology for participating in the attack: "It was horrible. It's something I have thought about a lot since then."

Romney's campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul claims that Romney "has no memory of participating in these incidents," which--like many of his claims--strains credibility.


update (4:06pm):
ABC News has more details on the vicious--although brief--assault that Romney is shrugging off as one of a series of unremarkable "pranks" and "dumb things:"

One former classmate and old friend of Romney's - who refused to be identified by name - said there are "a lot of guys" who went to Cranbrook who have "really negative memories" of Romney's behavior in the dorms, behavior this classmate describes as "evil" and "like Lord of the Flies."

The classmate believes Romney is lying when he claims to not remember it.

"It makes these fellows [who have owned up to it] very remorseful. For [Romney] not to remember it? It doesn't ring true. How could the fellow with the scissors forget it?"

AlterNet suggests that conservative religion makes the Right stronger because "conservative religious paradigms...play an essential role in giving conservatives a unique kind of emotional and social durability:"

Conservatives know, beyond the shadow of doubt, that they are on the side of the angels, and this profound sense of spiritual assurance reduces hesitation, spurs action, and increases their willingness to take big risks for the sake of the ultimate victory they know in their bones is coming. They shake off defeat more easily, too, because they know it's only a temporary setback on their way to that promised victory.

Progressives, in contrast, are "suspicious of that kind of deep spiritual certainty, because we know how often it's led people and nations into moral catastrophe."

Religion is a potent social technology -- and its greatest strength is not about theology, but rather in its ability to knit people together in tight, close communities of trust, commitment, care and meaning.

Conservatives may think and believe differently than we do. But their sheer political durability is due to some specific strengths in their communities and characters -- strengths that aren't out of reach for us, even if we arrive at them by different routes.

TruthOut writes about the rising phoenix of common-good conservatism, claiming that "American conservatism has degenerated into an intellectually and morally bankrupt ideology:"

It offers nothing more than bumper-sticker slogans that pander to the prejudices and ignorance of the lowest common denominator in order to enrich and empower an oligarchic elite. Angry, cruel and sneering, it is exemplified by the carnival barkers on talk radio and Fox News. High in volume, but devoid of substance, it has no long-term future because it lacks credible solutions to the range of very real problems American society is facing.

Worse, conservatism "has become infected with a virulent strain of extreme libertarianism heavily influenced by the thinking of Ayn Rand:"

Rand's disciples claim to champion liberty and freedom, but really care only about license - the notion that actions have no consequences and individuals have no broader responsibilities to anything or anyone but themselves.

"America needs a conservatism that can deal with reality," a strain that is lacking in today's political environment. The piece's main prescription is for a "common-good conservatism," which is defined like this:

It is a political philosophy rooted in the stewardship ethic of traditional conservatism. It begins with three simple premises: that recognition of the shared dignity of all human beings is the essential predicate of a just society, that rights always correspond to duties and that we bear a collective responsibility toward one another.

Can such common sense unify both the religious fundamentalists who hold up one of the GOP's tent poles, and the market fundamentalists who wield the other?

A year ago, Obama claimed that "attitudes evolve, including mine" on the issue of same-sex marriage, but it's been an open secret for over three years that he supported marriage equality before reaching the national stage. David Corn called Obama's support for marriage equality "one of the worst kept secrets in Washington," calling it "a looming dilemma for the president:"

Biden's unplanned comments placed this challenge on the center stage, and the president and his aides decided now was the time to confront it, realizing the political consequences could be mixed.

In his landmark speech today endorsing same-sex marriage, Obama grounded this evolution in the faith he shares with the First Lady:

"we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it's also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that's what we try to impart to our kids and that's what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I'll be as a as a dad and a husband and hopefully the better I'll be as president."

Religion Dispatches points out this "at odds" situation with right-wing religious rhetoric:

Obama didn't just endorse same-sex marriage today. He abandoned conservative religious rhetoric about it and signaled that religious conservatives, even his close religious advisors, don't own the conversation on what Christianity has to say about marriage.

Predictably, Fox freaked out over the statement and claimed that Obama "declared war on marriage," to which Jason Easley of Politicus USA responded:

They think that it is still 2004 and same sex marriage is a potent culture war issue that will carry them to victory. Same sex marriage is a wedge issue, but not in the way the right thinks it is. [...] ...when Fox News and the right try to revive the culture war and use gay marriage as political wedge, they are only hurting themselves and their party.

Andrew Sullivan cautions that "The interview changes no laws; it has no tangible effect. But it reaffirms for me the integrity of this man we are immensely lucky to have in the White House" while observing that "Today Obama did more than make a logical step. He let go of fear:"

He is clearly prepared to let the political chips fall as they may. That's why we elected him. That's the change we believed in. The contrast with a candidate who wants to abolish all rights for gay couples by amending the federal constitution, and who has donated to organizations that seek to "cure" gays, who bowed to pressure from bigots who demanded the head of a spokesman on foreign policy solely because he was gay: how much starker can it get?

My view politically is that this will help Obama. He will be looking to the future generations as his opponent panders to the past. The clearer the choice this year the likelier his victory.

Obama should be confident that he's on the winning side of this issue, as--for the second consecutive year--a majority of Americans support marriage equality.

20120509-marriage.gif

update (9:23pm):
After being questioned about same-sex marriage, Romney complained to a reporter, "aren't there issues of significance that you'd like to talk about?" In contrast to this insulting dismissal, Obama sent this pro-marriage email to his supporters:

Today, I was asked a direct question and gave a direct answer: I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. [...]

I've always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally. I was reluctant to use the term marriage because of the very powerful traditions it evokes. And I thought civil union laws that conferred legal rights upon gay and lesbian couples were a solution.

But over the course of several years I've talked to friends and family about this. I've thought about members of my staff in long-term, committed, same-sex relationships who are raising kids together. Through our efforts to end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, I've gotten to know some of the gay and lesbian troops who are serving our country with honor and distinction.

What I've come to realize is that for loving, same-sex couples, the denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens.

Even at my own dinner table, when I look at Sasha and Malia, who have friends whose parents are same-sex couples, I know it wouldn't dawn on them that their friends' parents should be treated differently.

So I decided it was time to affirm my personal belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

I respect the beliefs of others, and the right of religious institutions to act in accordance with their own doctrines. But I believe that in the eyes of the law, all Americans should be treated equally. And where states enact same-sex marriage, no federal act should invalidate them.

Kevin Drum analyzes a standard memo from the administration about being informed of "additional risks" in the bin Laden raid, which is being spun by the Right into the creation of hypothetical "wiggle room...in case the mission went bad." Drum remarks, "I continue to be amazed at the creativity of the arguments conservatives come up with:"

...the idea of Obama getting credit for killing bin Laden just drives conservatives up a tree. At this point, many of them are, apparently, literally willing to believe anything that suggests otherwise.

Just as in previous presidential election years, the Republicans try anything antics will be all but unavoidable; visit MyRightWingDad for the lowlights.

Chris Mooney makes the case against knee-jerk centrism, particularly the false equivalence of the "centrist 'pox on both your houses' approach:"

Just because the left is not always 100 percent factually correct, it does not follow that the left and right are equally wrong, or that the left and right handle or process information in the same way, or that they're equally biased, just in opposite directions. [...] If knee-jerk centrists really want to make a serious argument, then they should start by showing one or more of the following:

1. The dramatic extent of left anti-science, and how it equals or surpasses right anti-science.

2. The regular mainstreaming of left anti-science in the Democratic Party.

3. Left wing distrust of science that is equal to or greater than right wing distrust, as shown in national polling data.

4. Psychological evidence that the left and scientific community aren't actually aligned, or that the right and the scientific community are just as well aligned as the left and the scientific community.

It should be apparent that no such serious argument will be forthcoming--because none exists.

Roosevelt Institute fellow David Woolner explains http://www.nextnewdeal.net/fdrs-new-deal-shattered-austerity-myth how the New Deal shattered the austerity myth and contrasts our current "fragile yet steady recovery" to the double-dip recession in Europe:

We are told again and again [by the GOP] that the way to create jobs is to reduce spending and cut the size of government. Never mind that these policies have failed in Europe over the past two years, while President Obama's rejection of austerity has resulted in sustained economic growth over exactly the same period.

Writing that socialism isn't the answer, Robert Reich wants to reform capitalism--but not, of course, in the up-is-down manner of Republican "reform." Their demands for more top-heavy tax cuts are "perverse" because "Corporations and the rich don't need more tax cuts; they're swimming in money as it is:"

The reason they don't invest in additional productive capacity and hire more people is they don't see a sufficient market for the added goods and services, which means an inadequate return on such investment.

A New-Deal style share-the-profits recovery is thus excluded from consideration:

A resurgent right insists on even more tax breaks for corporations and the rich, massive cuts in public spending that will destroy what's left of our safety nets, including Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, fewer rights for organized labor, more deregulation of labor markets, and a lower (or no) minimum wage.

This is, quite simply, nuts.

Nuts or not, they have plenty of (Astroturf) support.

Ron Chusid notes differences between Left and Right in associations with violent fringe, pointing out that "a key difference between the left and right [is that] The right is dominated far more by their more radical elements as compared to the left, with many on the right willing to ignore the problem of right wing violence:"

Occupy Wall Street is to the left of the Democratic Party and many liberal groups but has not shown the degree of extremism seen on the right. As noted above, the local Occupy group immediately repudiated the use of violence and did not try to defend those who promoted violence.

"In contrast," he notes, "it has been common for many in the conservative movement to show reluctance to dissociate themselves from those who promote violence:"

We saw this in the reaction of conservative bloggers to a report from the Department of Homeland Security on far right extremists. We were reminded of the frequent use of violent rhetoric by the conservative movement following the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords. Ron Paul has pandered to neo-Nazis and white supremacists to raise money, bringing in elements to the conservative movement which would have been ostracized in past years before the move by the conservative movement to the extreme right.

Their attempts at political philosophy are just as unflattering. A Chronicle piece on right-wing political philosophy looks at Mark Levin's best seller, Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America and asks, "What gives? How can so bad a book, on so serious a topic, sell so well?" After rebutting the claim of mainstream-media blacklisting, the author snarks that "Ameritopia is really Ameritastrophe. It's disastrously bad from beginning to end:"

Levin's tone throughout is alarmist--undoubtedly the chief lure of such books to angry readers bent on demonizing their political opponents. And he is nothing if not a name-caller. Ameritopia, like many polemical bad books in political philosophy, teems with misused abstractions and contains few empirical examples. [...]

When Fox Business News anchor Neil Cavuto asked him if Obama was a socialist, Levin replied that the president is "a Marxist." Only a benighted, philosophically illiterate ideologue could hang the sign of "utopian" on Obama, whose pragmatist bent, exhibited in endless compromise and readjustment of hoped-for goals, makes the judgment ludicrous.

Speaking of alarmist utopian ideologues, in Ayn Rand or Jesus, Mike Lux examines Paul Ryan's sudden disavowal of his former devotion to Rand:

This is the ultimate irony in American political life right now, the conservatives who swear on a stack of Bibles that they worship Jesus Christ when they really bow down to the philosophy of Ayn Rand and the golden idol of the free market to be placed at the center of all other things. They preach of an American exceptionalism blessed by a Christian God, and call for America to be a shining city on a hill which can be an example to the entire world.

Their vision of exceptionalism is a nightmare of Social Darwinism, with Supply-Side Jesus the object of official veneration--and they want to paint liberals as radicals preaching a discredited ideology with violent consequences.

Talk about projection.

Lee Harris attacked Chris Mooney's Republican Brain, taking issue with conservatives being labeled anti-science. He strives mightily to portray conservatives as the real scientific heroes of his tale, using the paradigmatic example of Johannes Kepler:

If anti-science means challenging the scientific consensus of one's own epoch, then all the great scientists of the past have been anti-science. As the historian and philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn has demonstrated, every scientific revolution begins by overturning the dominant scientific paradigm of its time.

Of course, simply challenging the dominant scientific paradigm of the day does not necessarily make you a great scientist. It may simply make you a crackpot.

Is it just coincidental that conservatives' favorite crackpots merely reinforce their pre-existing beliefs? How convenient. The scientific beliefs supported by liberals, by contrast, have better explanatory and predictive value and comport more closely with the best available evidence instead of following the line of industry-funded propaganda. As a rebuttal to Harris, Chris Mooney published this guest post by Dylan Otto Krider:

The problem with [Harris'] argument is that if you take the greatest scientific revolutionaries of the past couple hundred years - Darwin and Einstein - far from being persecuted, they were hailed by the scientific communities in their lifetimes.

He demolishes the key defense by asking "why is Kepler revered?"

Because despite his most deeply held convictions, and despite the years of denial, in the end Kepler did the difficult thing, the courageous thing, really: based on the evidence, he abandoned his religious conviction. [...]

Kepler is not revered for his Republican brain because of its "deep resistance to yielding before mere scientific evidence." He is revered because when confronted with contrary evidence, his Republican brain did a very un-Republican thing: it changed.

Bruce Lindner lists several unreasonable reasons for voting Republican, of which this is my favorite:

O -- Gas prices:
(1) High gas prices are due to President Obama's poor energy policies, and since they're high on his watch, it's up to him to resolve it.
(2) They're only dropping now, because of the Republicans in Congress, and Obama doesn't deserve any credit for that.
(3) Oh, and when gas prices were at an all-time high in July 2008 under George W. Bush, that wasn't his fault, it was the fault of the Democrats in Congress. See how this works?

Responding to this Daily Caller piece, Chris Mooney points out that ignoring contrary evidence is typical of right-wing rants. In addition to reality inversion and their penchant for political misinformation, he points out this "deep irony:"

If conservatives are so open-minded, then where is the Daily Caller's discussion of all the relevant counter-evidence?

For example, DC's analysis of political knowledge surveys is flawed:

The widest partisan gap in the survey came in at 30 points when only 46 percent of Democrats -- but 76 percent of Republicans --- correctly described the GOP as "the party generally more supportive of reducing the size of federal government."

Conservatives posture against financial profligacy, but their governance is radically different. Witness their support for deficit spending when it's driven by top-heavy tax cuts, pharma-friendly Medicare benefits, a bloated military budget, unfunded wars overseas, and a drug war at home. I could easily see how Democrats surveyed would be thinking to themselves, "Sure, they talk about reducing the federal government--but they don't do it!"

I would hardly say that "liberals don't understand how conservatives think because they don't recognize conservatives' additional intuitions about loyalty, authority and sanctity." As far their beliefs are concerned, out perceived lack of understanding may well be due to their inability to provide factual support for them.

Today is the National Day of Reason, and the NDOR website promotes it as a reasonable alternative to prayer:

With faith-based initiatives giving preferential treatment to religious organizations, and strengthened attempts to introduce creationism in public school science classrooms, there has never been a better time in which humanists, atheists and freethinkers should affirm our commitment to the Constitutional separation of religion and government, and to celebrate reason as the guiding principle of our secular democracy.

Rep Pete Stark's proclamation got political:

Our nation faces many problems--bringing our troops home from Afghanistan, creating jobs, educating our children, and protecting our safety net from irresponsible cuts. We will solve these issues through the application of reason. We must also protect women's reproductive choices, the integrity of scientific research, and our public education system from those who would hide behind religious dogma to undermine them.

David Niose refers to NDOP as "the annual fiasco wherein conservative Christians utilize the apparatus of government to publicly exalt their theological beliefs, to ensure that their vociferous anti-secular views are promoted as official state doctrine." Herb Silverman summarizes:

I strongly support the National Day of Reason, although I wish it weren't needed. There would be no National Day of Reason if there were not a government-endorsed National Day of Prayer.

Jonah Goldberg [of Liberal Fascism infamy] writes that Chris Mooney's Republican Brain "purports to show that conservatives are, literally by nature, more closed-minded and resistant to change and facts:"

His evidence includes the fact that conservatives are less likely to buy into global warming, allegedly proving they are not only "anti-science" but innately anti-fact, as well. "Politicized wrongness today," he writes "is clustered among Republicans, conservatives and especially Tea Partiers."

"The data might be correct," Goldberg avers, but "the conclusions are beyond absurd."

Oblivious to the anti-factualness of his criticism, Goldberg blunders onward. He parodies scientific analysis as an "algorithmic whirligig" and calls Mooney's research "inherently undemocratic and ... self-serving bigotry that allows liberals to justify their own closed-mindedness on the grounds that Republicans aren't even worth listening to."

Mooney's response points out that Goldberg "extensively misrepresented The Republican Brain:"

He talks about Republicans having "bad brains," as if this is something that I allege. This is both inflammatory and false. I say no such thing.

...it is hard to miss the irony here. Conservatives are reacting defensively to a book about how they react defensively...just as the book predicted they would.

As for Goldberg's latest screed, The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas, Mother Jones points out the following:

Jonah Goldberg argues that liberals craftily use innocuous-sounding yet hackneyed phrases such as "social justice" and "diversity" to obscure their nefarious intentions. Never mind that issue-framing is nothing new in American politics and that conservatives are pretty darn good at it. And never mind that Goldberg's last book, Liberal Fascism, indulged in the very argument-by-sloganeering that he now decries.

AlterNet's Joshua Holland wonders why the conservative brain is more fearful, and wants us to "Consider for a moment just how terrifying it must be to live life as a true believer on the right:"

Reality is scary enough, but the alternative reality inhabited by people who watch Glenn Beck, listen to Rush Limbaugh, or think Michele Bachmann isn't a joke must be nothing less than horrifying. Research suggests that conservatives are, on average, more susceptible to fear than those who identify themselves as liberals [which] has implications for our political world.

The "nightmarish landscape[of] the world around them" is indeed frightening:

The White House has been usurped by a Kenyan socialist named Barry Soetero, who hatched an elaborate plot to pass himself off as a citizen of the United States - a plot the media refuse to even investigate. This president doesn't just claim the right to assassinate suspected terrorists who are beyond the reach of law enforcement - he may be planning on rounding up his ideological opponents and putting them into concentration camps if he is reelected. He may have murdered a blogger who was critical of his administration, but authorities refuse to investigate. At the very least, he is plotting on disarming the American public after the election, in accordance with a secret deal cut with the UN and possibly with the assistance of foreign troops.

On issues as diverse as immigration, terrorism, violent crime, "sharia law," "death panels," global warming "hoaxes," gay "indoctrination" in sex-ed classes, rampant voter fraud, and the ever-popular "War on Christmas," Holland implores us not to "look at these specters haunting the right with exasperation or amusement, but just consider for a moment how bleak the world looks to those who buy into these ideas." It's hard to be empathetic toward their self-inflicted fantasies when they're burying us under a blizzard of bullshit, but we must try.

In his piece on anti-gay pseudoscience, Mooney examines "the underlying psychology behind how conservatives, especially religious ones, can believe such falsehoods" about same-sex marriage (such as Amendment 1 in North Carolina) and asks "Don't Christian conservatives want to be factually right, and to believe what's true about the world?:"

And shouldn't a proper reading of this research actually come as a relief to them, and help to assuage their concerns about dangerous social consequences of same-sex marriage or civil unions? If only it were that simple. We all want to be right, and to believe that our views are based on the best available information. But in this case, Christian conservatives utterly fail to get past their emotions, which powerfully bias their reasoning.

"Christian conservatives," he observes, "rely on their gut emotions to come up with wrong beliefs:"

Their deep emotional convictions guide the retrieval of self-supporting information that they then use to argue with, to prop themselves up. It isn't about truth, it's about feeling that you're right -- righteous, even.

"In the end," he concludes, "facts are facts -- and emotions and gut instincts are an utterly unreliable way of identifying them:"

We can try to be understanding of people different from us -- even when they're manifestly failing at the same task. But the latest research makes it more untenable than ever to base public policy on gut-driven misinformation.


update (5/3):
Amanda Marcotte contemplates the psychology involved, and asks, "Do they really believe this shit?"

I'm not so sure. I've said it before, but I think it's worth repeating: I think they only "believe" it. Which is to say, there are two kinds of ways people believe something. They have things they believe because they're factually accurate: That it's raining outside, that items dropped will fall, that Barack Obama is President. Then there's stuff that isn't real that people believe: that there's a God in heaven and an afterlife, that miracles happen, ghosts exist. These are things you don't really believe in the same way you believe in truths. It's more that these beliefs are convenient to apply a belief-like approach to, because the stories make you feel good or, more commonly, because joining in the belief connects you to your community.

In the end, she writes, "I don't think they believe-believe this stuff:"

I think they're just confused about the difference between fake belief and real belief, though I think they're highly motivated to be confused about it. After all, that confusion helps generate right wing identity. They may even mistakenly believe it's politically beneficial, though the available evidence shows that it instead causes everyone else to think they're nut jobs.

Amanda Marcotte asks "why are conservatives petrified by sexual freedom?" and reaches some unflattering conclusions. "Pure B.S. is the lingua franca of the anti-choice movement," she writes, which "reveals the utter terror and hatred of feminism, particularly of feminist demands for women's sexual liberation, that is at the heart of the anti-choice movement." In contrast, "most progressives want to make sure that every woman can have sex on their own terms without apology:"

That shouldn't seem so terrifying to conservatives, but it clearly is. It has been terrifying to conservative forces throughout history and across cultures, so there's no real reason to be surprised or skeptical that we have that problem in the United States. By ensuring access to safe, legal abortion, the government ensures women have a right to sex without facing unwanted consequences. That kind of validation of women's right to be free, independent human beings is and always has been what this war is over, which is why anti-choicers have to create this elaborate code language to talk about their views.

She goes on to observe that women "are making exactly the gains feminists of the second wave hoped they would:"

Rape and domestic violence rates are down, contraceptive use is up, women are delaying marriage and childbirth, more women are going to college than ever in history, women are popping up in leadership roles in government and media, and heterosexuality is becoming less compulsive. Any fool can see that most of this wasn't possible without women gaining control over their reproductive systems. Realizing they're losing, conservatives are making a big last stand to turn back the clock by taking this critical control away. The fear of female sexuality feels hysterical, primal even, but if you're dedicated to patriarchy, it actually makes perfect sense to fear letting women control their own sex and reproductive lives.

Stephen King writes tax me, for f@%&'s sake and points out that even the charitable donations of the 1% can't "assume...America's national responsibilities:"

the care of its sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts. Charity from the rich can't fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny. That kind of salvation does not come from Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Ballmer saying, "OK, I'll write a $2 million bonus check to the IRS." That annoying responsibility stuff comes from three words that are anathema to the Tea Partiers: United American citizenry.

Americans tend to worship the wealthy, obviating the need for them to "acknowledge that you couldn't have made it in America without America:"

...those who have received much must be obligated to pay--not to give, not to "cut a check and shut up," in Governor Christie's words, but to pay--in the same proportion. That's called stepping up and not whining about it. That's called patriotism, a word the Tea Partiers love to throw around as long as it doesn't cost their beloved rich folks any money.

sloganeering

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Republicans--by way of Faux News and the Moonie Times--are claiming that Obama's just-unveiled slogan "FORWARD" is actually a word that has "a long and rich association with European Marxism:"
20120501-obama.jpg

David Badash ridicules their silly sliming:

Forward is a leadership position in football, basketball, and rugby. The Forward is also a Jewish-American newspaper. Forward is also the name of several towns in Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Forward is also the name of a truck sold in the U.S. by Isuzu. And Forward is the name of an album recorded by American Idol semi-finalist Ayla Brown.

Interesting that Fox News and the Washington Times didn't bother to make those sports, journalism, geographic, automotive, or musical references.

Conservatives' antipathy to the concept of forward progress is instructive, and points toward a new slogan for their standard-bearer-of-the-moment Mitt Romney:
20120501-romney.jpg

update (1:34pm):
Ron Chusid mocks the manner in which conservatives tremble in fear of moving forward:

To the frightened reactionaries of the right, the priority is avoiding Marxism, despite the fact that (except in their imaginations) there aren't enough supporters of Marxism left to present any threat. To the right wing, liberal ideas such as individual liberty and a market economy which everyone has the opportunity to benefit from, as opposed to oligarchy and plutocracy, are terrifying ideas.


update 2 (5/4):
After further reflection, I have two better solutions:
20120504-romney.jpg
This one preserves the original "R" as well as reversing the period's position to the wrong end of the word. Also, it makes me chuckle.

So does this one:
20120504-romney2.jpg

stop CISPA

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In stop CISPA in 5 minutes, Business Insider writes that "if we want to keep the Internet free of over-governance and widespread state surveillance without warrant, opposing CISPA is crucial:"

It has already passed the House and now heads to a Senate vote. Here's a quick action kit you can use to make your voice heard -- in as little as 5 minutes, you can do almost everything you can "reasonably" do to help prevent CISPA from becoming the law of the land.

Educate yourself, sign a petition, call your Senators, and follow the situation online...that's pretty much it.

Can we warn millions of Americans in time? Can we all present massive opposition to CISPA as it is currently worded? Absolutely.

Slate notes that CISPA will flood the US government with more data that it can handle. Leaving aside the "centralized, paternalistic, 'trust us with your personal data' approach," the author notes that CISPA "makes little technological sense given the complexity and growth trends of today's digital networks, systems, and services:"

Over the last decade or so, thoroughly analyzing the world's data to identify potential cyberthreats has gone from difficult to impossible. The volume of digital information has become far too large.

Last year's online data creation and replication amounted to approximately 1.8 trillion gigabytes, and the article notes that "thoroughly analyzing all of that traffic...is simply not possible."

It's also not appropriate in an ostensibly free nation.

20120501-iwouldprefernotto.jpg

Even more obvious since the May Day protests, OWS owes a debt to Herman Melville--particularly relevant is the observation that "Bartleby was the first laid-off worker to occupy Wall Street:"

And the way that Melville represents Bartleby's occupation can help us understand the power of the endlessly intriguing movement that is promising to return with renewed fervor this spring. What's more, this staple of the English Literature curriculum can speak to the ways that Wall Street itself is coming to occupy the classroom itself.

If you haven't read the novella already, I recommend this edition. Melville House Press offers an intriguing illuminated edition, and comments here that, passive protestations aside, "Bartleby is not idle:"

Instead he is invoking what Melville believed to be the most powerful of stances: dissent. Bartleby is peacefully defying those that believe their will is stronger than his. [...] Bartleby thus becomes the ideal and most realistic patron-saint of a movement like Occupy, which strives above all things to say "no" to the assumed course of action.

Here is another excerpt from Chris Mooney's Republican Brain, this one looking at the science of partisanship and how motivated reasoning ("thought and argument that seems rational and dispassionate, but really isn't anything of the sort") is built into the human brain. Mooney writes that we are "driven to interpret information in a biased way, so as to protect and defend our preexisting convictions:"

...motivated reasoning might perhaps best be thought of as a defensive mechanism that is triggered by a direct attack upon a belief system, physically embodied in a brain...the individual -- or the individual in a self-affirming group that does not provide adequate challenges -- is capable of going very wrong, because of motivated reasoning and confirmation bias.

Along those lines, this image struck me as mordantly amusing (h/t: Weekly Sift):

20120501-excuses.jpg

I would cut a slice from "liberal media bias" to add their "let's agree to disagree" dodge, but otherwise it's fairly comprehensive.

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