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“You Can See Russia From 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue”: My Disorienting Day With Sarah Palin

Had John McCain been elected president in 2008, Sarah Palin still may not have ever set foot in the White House…because she wouldn’t have been able to find it.

On Friday afternoon, the failed reality-television star and one-time VP nominee materialized in Washington, clad in a leather blazer, to deliver a speech to the crowd at the Values Voter Summit—an annual social-conservative confab held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, a sprawling, gilded maze of a place that is rumored to be haunted by a dead maid.

Maybe she was the one screwing with Palin’s notes, because about halfway through her remarks, Palin said this: “Don’t retreat: You reload with truth, which I know is an endangered species at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue. Anyway, truth.”

1400 Pennsylvania Avenue.

One assumes Palin was attempting to say truth is an endangered species at the White House, which is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue is roughly a plaza in front of the Willard Hotel.

Palin is not the first politician to make this mistake. On Aug. 1, 2008, Rep. K. Michael Conaway, Republican from Texas, wrote a letter to then-President George W. Bush, which he addressed to:

“The President
The White House
1400 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500”

I would like to imagine Conaway has spent the last six years wondering why he never received a response.

Out in the hallway of the Omni Shoreham, I talked to conservative women who felt that Palin’s mistake was not a big deal: “She speaks from the heart,” Marlea Knighton of Arizona, said. “The news never misprints?” Linda, an older lady from Virginia, said that anyone criticizing Palin for not knowing where the White House is located is just doing it “because they’re scared of what she says,” because women “who love the Lord” are intimidating to non-believers, like those populating the mainstream media.

Mark Roeske, who operates campaign buses, offered a different take: Conservative women like Palin intimidate feminist women because “they’re women who are not just a vagina,” and so they feel compelled to attack her whenever possible and make her seem stupid.

Gaffe aside, the rest of Palin’s speech was an unremarkable, nonsensical collection of Palinisms haphazardly strung together and delivered in her signature bright-yet-bitter-sounding sing-song style—like a homicidal kindergarten teacher.

“You’re the Americans that the media loves to hate,” she crooned, menacingly. And then, “All you mama grizzlies out there, rear up and charge against the lawless, imperial president and his failed liberal agenda and the lapdogs in the media.” And then, “So, I’m out in the shop with Todd, and he’s winterizing his snow plane.”

Let’s hope Todd has a better sense of direction.

 

By: Olivia Nuzzi, The Daily Beast, September 26, 2014

 

 

 

September 30, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Sarah Palin | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Religious Right’s Slow-Motion Suicide”: Contributing To Their Own Well Deserved Demise

I’m not sure what’s come over me and I suppose it’ll pass, but at just this moment I’m feeling a little bit sorry for evangelical conservatives. They were apparently pretty droopy, these proceedings over the weekend at the Values Voter Summit, as my colleague Ben Jacobs described things. Oh, yes, Ted Cruz fired them up, and some of the old stalwarts put in respectable appearances, but they have to know deep down that they’re like the horse-and-buggy lobby after Henry Ford has hit town. It’s only a matter of time.

I refer here chiefly to same-sex marriage, the big issue on which the cultural right now represents a quickly shrinking minority. You know the storm clouds are gathering when even Michele Bachmann is throwing in the towel—she declared same-sex marriage “not an issue” and even “boring” at the meeting.

But it’s not just same-sex marriage. The country has liberalized culturally in a range of ways in the past six or eight years, and it’s not only not going back, it’s charging relentlessly forward. The religious right also has no leaders anymore of the remotest interest. Back in the ’80s, Jerry Falwell was a figure to contend with; to loathe, certainly, but also to fear. Today? Pat Robertson has lost his marbles, seemingly, and after him, who? Tony Perkins? No one even knows his name, or if they do, they inevitably think of the guy who played filmdom’s most famous matricidal cross-dresser and aren’t entirely sure that this Tony Perkins might not be that Tony Perkins, which is not quite the type of association they’re looking for.

It’s a group that is losing power, and I think the leaders and even the rank-and-filers know it. Their vehicle, the Republican Party, is going libertarian on them. Rand Paul, whether he wins the 2016 nomination or not, is clearly enough of a force within the party that he is pushing it away from the culture wars. He is joined in this pursuit by the conservative intellectual class, which knows the culture wars are a dead-bang loser for the GOP and which finds the culture warriors more than a little embarrassing, and by the establishment figures, the Karl Rove types, who stroked them back in 2004 but who now see them as a liability, at least at the presidential level. There are still, of course, many states where these voters come in quite handy in that they elect many Republican representatives and senators.

If you think of the famous three legs of the Republican stool (the money conservatives, the foreign-policy conservatives, and the cultural conservatives) and think about which of those legs have had the biggest policy impact during periods of Republican governance in recent history, you have to conclude that the money and foreign-policy conservatives have made out like bandits (in some cases all too literally). The money crowd got all the deregulation it could realistically hope for. The neocons got two wars. The social conservatives haven’t done nearly as well. They’ve gotten some judicial appointments, but Roe v. Wade is still law, and that turncoat Kennedy is probably going to let the gays marry.

Now we’re getting to why on one level I feel a pang of sympathy for them. The disasters the Republican Party has brought us in the last decade—the economic meltdown and the wars—were the fault of the other two legs of the stool. Yet we know that these two groups are going to have permanent power in GOP. The money people own the party, and the neocons still dominate in Washington and—Rand Paul notwithstanding—will always have a considerable degree of influence in the party. The social conservatives are the only faction within the triad that hasn’t heaped wreckage upon the nation (not for lack of trying), and yet they have far less power in the upper echelons of the party than the other two groups. And when they complain, as they occasionally do, that they’ve largely been paid back for all their work in the vineyards with lip service and symbolic little executive order-type things, they have a point. It’s a little like labor in the Democratic Party.

And now, 2016 is going to be a pivotal election for them. Many of them want Ted Cruz, who won the Values Voter straw poll. But of course this is ridiculous. Cruz isn’t going to be the nominee. In fact Cruz’s win, and the fact that Jeb Bush and Chris Christie weren’t even invited to the meeting, is a sign of their retreat from serious politics toward something entirely gestural. Bush, from these people’s perspective, is too squishy on immigration, and Christie last October decided to stop fighting the tide of history on same-sex marriage when a decision by the state’s Supreme Court led Christie to withdraw an appeal his administration had lodged against a pro-same-sex marriage lawsuit.

That’s a childish way to do politics. If somehow they were to get their way with Cruz, then Hillary Clinton will easily be elected president, and she’ll almost certainly have the time and opportunity to flip the Supreme Court back to a liberal majority, and they’ll be finished for the good, the cultural right, and they will have contributed mightily to their own well-deserved demise.

OK. Whew. I’m over it.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 29, 2014

September 30, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Evangelicals, Religious Right | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why Bigotry Persists”: The Neanderthals Among Us Are Getting Better At Camouflaging Their Prejudices

Soon after Barack Obama’s electoral victory in 2008, conservatives began depicting the event as a triumph of cosmopolitan and secular intellectuals, people of color, liberal pieties, and “socialist” hopes. Grassroots organizing accompanied an agenda of legislative sabotage led by the Republican congressional hierarchy. Media demagogues stoked the flames of resentment. President Obama was mockingly called “The One” and excoriated as an Arab, an imam, even the Antichrist. Posters identified him with Hitler, placed his head on the body of a chimpanzee, implied that he was a crack addict, portrayed him with a bone through his nose, and showed the White House lawn lined with rows of watermelons. Six years later, the fury has hardly subsided: Thousands of young people check on racist websites like Stormfront every month, anti-Semitism is again becoming fashionable, Islamophobia is rampant, and conservative politicians are suing President Obama in the courts for his supposed abuse of power while their more radical supporters are labeling him a traitor.

Most of these people don’t see themselves as bigots. They long to reinstate the “real” America perhaps best depicted in old television shows like Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver. This completely imaginary America was orderly and prosperous. Women were happily in the kitchen; gays were in the closet; and blacks knew their place. But this world (inexplicably!) came under attack from just these (ungrateful!) groups thereby creating resentment especially among white males on the political right. They feel persecuted and wish to roll back time. Their counterattack is based on advocating policies that would hinder same-sex marriage, champion the insertion of “Christian” values into public life, deny funds for women’s health and abortion clinics, cut government policies targeting the inner cities, protect a new prison network inhabited largely by people of color, eliminate limits on campaign spending, and increase voting restrictions that would effectively disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged citizens.

Neanderthals still exist along with blatant examples of old-style prejudice and hatred. But the bigot is adapting to a new world. The bigot now employs camouflage in translating his prejudices into reality. To forestall criticism, he now makes use of supposedly “color-blind” economic and anti-crime policies, liberal notions of tolerance, individualism, the entrepreneurial spirit, local government, historical traditions, patriotism, and fears of nonexistent voter fraud to maintain the integrity of the electoral process. The bigot today is often unaware either that he has prejudices or that he is indulging them.

Unfortunately, popular understandings of the bigot remain anchored in an earlier time. His critics tend to highlight the personal rather than the political, crude language and sensational acts rather than mundane legislation and complicated policy decisions. Many are unwilling to admit that bigotry has entered the mainstream. It is more comforting to associate bigotry with certain attitudes supposedly on the fringes of public life. Words wound but policies wound even more. Everyday citizens grow incensed when some commentator lets slip a racist or politically incorrect phrase. But they are far more tolerant when faced with policies that blatantly disadvantage or attack the bigot’s traditional targets whose inferiority is still identified with fixed and immutable traits: gays, immigrants, people of color, and women.

Reactionary movements and conservative parties have provided a congenial home for true believers, provincial chauvinists, and elitists of an aristocratic or populist bent. Not exclusively: Liberals and socialists—though usually with a guilty conscience—have also occasionally endorsed imperialism, nationalism, racism, and the politics of bigotry. But while the connection between right-wing politics and bigotry does not hold true in every instance, it is true most of the time. It is certainly true today. Ideologues of the Tea Party provide legitimacy and refuge for advocates of intolerance while the GOP provides legitimacy and refuge for the Tea Party.

Not every bigot is a conservative and not every conservative is a bigot. Yet they converge in supporting an agenda that aims to constrict intellectual debate, social pluralism, economic equality, and democratic participation. Either the bigot or the conservative can insist that his efforts to shrink the welfare state are motivated solely by a concern with maximizing individual responsibility; either can claim that his opposition to gay rights is simply a defense of traditional values; and either can argue that increasing the barriers to voting is required to guarantee fair elections. Whatever they subjectively believe, however, their agenda objectively disadvantages gays, immigrants, women, and people of color.

Reasonable people can disagree about this or that policy as it applies to any of these groups. Any policy, progressive or not, can be criticized in good faith. But ethical suspicions arise when an entire agenda is directed against the ensemble of what President Reagan derisively termed “special interests.” No conservative political organization today has majority support from women, the gay community, or people of color. There must be a reason. It cannot simply be that the conservative “message” has not been heard; that members of these groups are overwhelmingly parasitical and awaiting their overly generous government “handouts;” or that so-called special interests are incapable of appreciating what is in their interest. A more plausible explanation, I think, is that those who are still targets of prejudice and discrimination have little reason to trust conservatism’s political advocates.

Is the conservative a bigot? It depends. Is the particular conservative intent upon defending traditions simply because they exist, supporting community values even if they are discriminatory; and treating political participation as a privilege rather than a right? Critics of the bigot should begin placing a bit less emphasis on what he says or feels than what he actually does. That conservative can always rationalize his actions—platitudes come cheap. But then perhaps, one day, he will find himself looking in the mirror and (who knows?) the bigot might just be staring back.

 

By: Stephen Eric Bronner, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University; The Daily Beast, September 28, 2014

September 29, 2014 Posted by | Bigotry, Conservatives, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Go Out In A Blaze Of Glory”: GOP Rep Urges US Generals ‘Behind The Scenes’ To Resign

Congressional Republican condemnations of President Obama’s foreign policy are as common as the sunrise. Congressional Republicans urging active-duty U.S. generals to resign, during a war, to protest President Obama’s foreign policy is something else entirely.

As U.S.-led airstrikes continue Friday near the Syrian border with Iraq, it’s hard to imagine what would make the situation worse than the military suddenly losing all its generals.

But that is exactly what Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) told a group of voters he wants to see happen, the Colorado Independent reported.

“A lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, ‘Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let’s have a resignation,’” Lamborn said Tuesday, adding that if generals resigned en masse in protest of President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy, they would “go out in a blaze of glory.”

Look, I don’t expect much from Lamborn, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. After eight years in Congress, arguably his most notable legislative accomplishment is championing a House-approved measure to cut off funding for NPR.

For that matter, maybe the far-right Coloradan was just flapping his gums a bit, telling tall tales in the hopes of making himself look like a big shot in front of a group of local voters, but never actually doing what he claims to have done.

But if Lamborn was serious, and a member of the House Armed Services Committee actually met “behind the scenes” with U.S. military generals, suggesting they should resign in order to undermine U.S. foreign policy during a war, that’s … a little crazy.

It’s not exactly clear from local reports what it is about Obama’s foreign policy that Lamborn doesn’t like, but under the circumstances, it doesn’t much matter. If a member of Congress has concerns about a president’s approach to international affairs, he or she has a variety of options, including introducing legislation limiting the scope of the administration’s policy.

The options do not include – or more to the point, the options aren’t supposed to include – meeting privately with generals, during a war, to urge them to “go out in a blaze of glory.”

As it turns out, Lamborn is running for re-election against retired Air Force Gen. Irv Halter (D), who told the Colorado Independent, “Our elected officials should not be encouraging our military leaders to resign when they have a disagreement over policy. Congressman Lamborn’s statement shows his immaturity and lack of understanding of the American armed forces. Someone who serves on the House Armed Services Committee should know better.”

That’s putting it mildly.

This is one of those rare instances in which it would be good news if a congressman was lying while boasting to voters.

Update: My colleague Kate Osborn talked to Corey Hutchins, Rocky Mountain correspondent for CJR’s United States Project, who originally recorded Lamborn’s remarks. Here’s the transcript of the exchange:

VOTER: Please work with your other congressmen on both sides of the aisles and support the generals and the troops in this country despite the fact that there is no leadership from the Muslim Brotherhood in the White House. [applause] It was not necessarily a question but [unintelligible].

LAMBORN: You know what, I can’t really add anything to that, but do let me reassure you on this. A lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, ‘Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let’s have a resignation. You know, let’s have a public resignation, and state your protest, and go out in a blaze of glory.” And I haven’t seen that very much, in fact I haven’t seen that at all in years.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 26, 2014

September 29, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Pentagon, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Show-Off Society”: In A Highly Unequal Society, The Wealthy Feel Obliged To Engage In ‘Conspicuous Consumption’

Liberals talk about circumstances; conservatives talk about character.

This intellectual divide is most obvious when the subject is the persistence of poverty in a wealthy nation. Liberals focus on the stagnation of real wages and the disappearance of jobs offering middle-class incomes, as well as the constant insecurity that comes with not having reliable jobs or assets. For conservatives, however, it’s all about not trying hard enough. The House speaker, John Boehner, says that people have gotten the idea that they “really don’t have to work.” Mitt Romney chides lower-income Americans as being unwilling to “take personal responsibility.” Even as he declares that he really does care about the poor, Representative Paul Ryan attributes persistent poverty to lack of “productive habits.”

Let us, however, be fair: some conservatives are willing to censure the rich, too. Running through much recent conservative writing is the theme that America’s elite has also fallen down on the job, that it has lost the seriousness and restraint of an earlier era. Peggy Noonan writes about our “decadent elites,” who make jokes about how they are profiting at the expense of the little people. Charles Murray, whose book “Coming Apart” is mainly about the alleged decay of values among the white working class, also denounces the “unseemliness” of the very rich, with their lavish lifestyles and gigantic houses.

But has there really been an explosion of elite ostentation? And, if there has, does it reflect moral decline, or a change in circumstances?

I’ve just reread a remarkable article titled “How top executives live,” originally published in Fortune in 1955 and reprinted a couple of years ago. It’s a portrait of America’s business elite two generations ago, and it turns out that the lives of an earlier generation’s elite were, indeed, far more restrained, more seemly if you like, than those of today’s Masters of the Universe.

“The executive’s home today,” the article tells us, “is likely to be unpretentious and relatively small — perhaps seven rooms and two and a half baths.” The top executive owns two cars and “gets along with one or two servants.” Life is restrained in other ways, too: “Extramarital relations in the top American business world are not important enough to discuss.” Actually, I’m sure there was plenty of hanky-panky, but people didn’t flaunt it. The elite of 1955 at least pretended to set a good example of responsible behavior.

But before you lament the decline in standards, there’s something you should know: In celebrating America’s sober, modest business elite, Fortune described this sobriety and modesty as something new. It contrasted the modest houses and motorboats of 1955 with the mansions and yachts of an earlier generation. And why had the elite moved away from the ostentation of the past? Because it could no longer afford to live that way. The large yacht, Fortune tells us, “has foundered in the sea of progressive taxation.”

But that sea has since receded. Giant yachts and enormous houses have made a comeback. In fact, in places like Greenwich, Conn., some of the “outsize mansions” Fortune described as relics of the past have been replaced with even bigger mansions.

And there’s no mystery about what happened to the good-old days of elite restraint. Just follow the money. Extreme income inequality and low taxes at the top are back. For example, in 1955 the 400 highest-earning Americans paid more than half their incomes in federal taxes, but these days that figure is less than a fifth. And the return of lightly taxed great wealth has, inevitably, brought a return to Gilded Age ostentation.

Is there any chance that moral exhortations, appeals to set a better example, might induce the wealthy to stop showing off so much? No.

It’s not just that people who can afford to live large tend to do just that. As Thorstein Veblen told us long ago, in a highly unequal society the wealthy feel obliged to engage in “conspicuous consumption,” spending in highly visible ways to demonstrate their wealth. And modern social science confirms his insight. For example, researchers at the Federal Reserve have shown that people living in highly unequal neighborhoods are more likely to buy luxury cars than those living in more homogeneous settings. Pretty clearly, high inequality brings a perceived need to spend money in ways that signal status.

The point is that while chiding the rich for their vulgarity may not be as offensive as lecturing the poor on their moral failings, it’s just as futile. Human nature being what it is, it’s silly to expect humility from a highly privileged elite. So if you think our society needs more humility, you should support policies that would reduce the elite’s privileges.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, September 25, 2014

September 29, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Poverty, Wealthy | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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