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Ron Paul And The Civil Rights Act Of 1964

Last May, then-candidate Rand Paul’s (R) Senate campaign in Kentucky ran into a little trouble. The self-accredited ophthalmologist explained in newspaper, radio, and television interviews that he disapproved of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, because the private sector should be allowed to do as it pleases. “[T]his,” Paul said at the time, “is the hard part about believing in freedom.”

Asked specifically by Rachel Maddow, “Do you think that a private business has the right to say, ‘We don’t serve black people’?” Paul replied, “Yes.” Seven months later, he won easily.

Almost exactly a year later, Paul’s father, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, explained his nearly identical beliefs about the milestone civil rights legislation.

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews asked the Texas congressman, “The ‘64 civil rights bill, do you think an employer, a guy who runs his shop down in Texas or anywhere has a right to say, ‘If you’re black, you don’t come in my store’?” And with that, Paul explained he would have opposed the Civil Rights Act, adding, “I wouldn’t vote against getting rid of the Jim Crow laws.”

Matthews noted, “I once knew a laundromat when I was in the Peace Corps training in Louisiana, in Baker, Louisiana. A laundromat had this sign on it in glaze, ‘whites only on the laundromat, just to use the laundromat machines. This was a local shop saying ‘no blacks allowed.’ You say that should be legal.”

Paul didn’t deny the premise, but instead said, “That’s ancient history. That’s over and done with.”

I’d note in response that this isn’t “ancient” history — millions of Americans are old enough to remember segregation, and millions more are still feeling the effects. For that matter, that era is “over and done with” precisely because of laws like the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The country didn’t just progress by accident; it took brave men and women willing to bend the arc of history.

Let’s also not lose sight of the larger context. In 2011, the United States has a member of Congress and a Republican presidential candidate who publicly expresses his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And because we’ve grown inured to GOP extremism, this somehow seems routine.

Indeed, it’s unlikely Paul’s rivals for the Republican presidential nomination will feel the need to condemn his remarks, and probably won’t even be asked about them.

By: Steve Benen, Political Animal, Washington Monthly, May 14, 2011

May 14, 2011 Posted by | Businesses, Constitution, Democracy, Equal Rights, Freedom, GOP, Government, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Liberatarians, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Christian Economics” Meets The Anti-Union Movement

Gary North was nearly impossible to track down. He did not return multiple e-mails, and when finally reached by phone, he refused to talk and hung up.

But if you know where to look, he is everywhere.

Mr. North, a onetime aide to Representative Ron Paul of Texas, a possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate, is the leading proponent of “Christian economics,” which applies biblical principles to economic issues and the free market.

Largely unknown to the broader public, Mr. North is an influential figure on the American far right. He has written dozens of books, blogs prolifically and is on the curriculum of Christian home-schoolers across America.

He may even have turned up among the antiunion protesters in Madison, Wis., this year.

Not literally, of course (and who would have recognized him if he had been there?). But Christian conservatism and free-market conservatism meet in Mr. North’s writings. A small but vigorous part of the conservative movement has absorbed his view that the Bible is opposed to organized labor, and especially to organized public employees.

“Not only do Reconstructionists believe that public employees should not have the right to organize, they believe that almost all of them should not be public employees,” writes Julie Ingersoll, of the University of North Florida, in the Web magazine Religion Dispatches. “Most of the tasks performed by those protesting the Wisconsin state budget would, in the biblical economics of North,” be privatized.

These “Reconstructionists” are believers in Christian Reconstructionism, the philosophy of R. J. Rushdoony, who died in 2001. According to Reconstructionism, a Christian theocracy under Old Testament law is the best form of government, and a radically libertarian one. Biblical law, they believe, presupposes total government decentralization, with the family and church providing order. Until that day comes, Reconstructionists believe the rights to home-school and to worship freely at least provide the barest conditions of liberty.

Mr. North, who is Mr. Rushdoony’s son-in-law but was not on speaking terms with him from 1981 until Mr. Rushdoony’s death, focuses on how that biblical libertarianism applies to economics. He concluded that the Bible forbids any welfare programs, is opposed to all inflation, and requires a gold-coin standard for money.

“God has cursed the earth,” Mr. North writes, alluding to the Book of Genesis in his 1973 book “Introduction to Christian Economics. “This is the starting point for all economic analysis. The earth no longer gives up her fruits automatically. Man must sweat to eat.” Mr. North writes that no form of government assistance “will escape the ethical limits” of the Apostle Paul’s dictum, in II Thessalonians, that “if any would not work, neither should he eat.”

And evidence that God would prefer gold money to paper can be found throughout the Old Testament, according to Mr. North. There are more than 350 references to gold in Strong’s famous Bible concordance, he writes. Gold is used in worship, godly wisdom is compared to gold and the Hebrew prophets used the debasement of metals as a metaphor for immorality.

Home-schoolers can download Mr. North’s economics textbook free from his Web site. And his thinking may have influenced Representative Paul, who briefly employed Mr. North as a speechwriter, working on monetary policy, in 1976.

Michael J. McVicar, who teaches at Ohio State and wrote a doctoral dissertation on Mr. Rushdoony, said Mr. North discovered Mr. Rushdoony’s writing as a young man in Southern California, shortly after he became, along with his parents, an evangelical Christian.

“He corresponded with Rushdoony and made this his livelihood: to generate some synthesis between biblical law and libertarian economics,” Mr. McVicar said. “Eventually Rushdoony took him under his wing and became a sort of surrogate father for North, who married one of Rushdoony’s daughters.”

The two men’s “spectacular break,” as Mr. McVicar calls it, split Reconstructionism into two camps. The break was partly over the kind of theological minutiae that would impress even a rabbinical scholar. In fact, one issue might pique the interest of real rabbinical scholars.

“It was about North’s interpretation of, of all things, Passover and the Israelites’ marking the doorposts with the blood of the lamb,” Mr. McVicar said. “North made this argument, that because of the doorpost’s structure, that this was an indication of hymenal blood from the marriage bed, and tied it into what Rushdoony called this ‘fertility cult’ mentality. And Rushdoony took a much more common-sense approach to the blood.

“The subtext is, it’s a father-son spat,” Mr. McVicar concluded.

The deeper one looks into the obsessions of Mr. North — who was born in 1942 and who as of 2007 lived in Horn Lake, Miss. — the harder it is to spot his influence in Wisconsin. The main themes of the Wisconsin budget battles were union influence, the distribution of wealth and the public fisc; Mr. North, by contrast, is associated with his own brand of far-right Presbyterianism, gun-owners’ rights, home-schooling and the gold standard for money.

Mr. McVicar believes that Professor Ingersoll’s attempted connection between Christian economics and the rallies in Madison is a bit tenuous. “Her insight has to be in my mind so heavily qualified as to make it almost nothing,” he said. But he concedes that it “has the most basic essence of truth,” given how widely Mr. North’s teachings have been disseminated on the Christian right.

Professor Ingersoll concedes it is difficult to prove direct connections between Mr. North’s writings and Wisconsin antiunion conservatism. On the other hand, Mr. North might like to think he has influenced the Wisconsin debate, and he has written in vociferous support of Gov. Scott Walker.

And, as Professor Ingersoll cautions, influence does not always announce itself:

“I like to say, ‘How many Christians know who is Augustine is, and how he influenced them?’ ”

By: Mark Oppenheimer, The New York Times, April 29, 2011

May 1, 2011 Posted by | Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Liberatarians, Politics, Religion, Right Wing, Union Busting, Unions, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Make-Believe Billionaire Candidate Donald Trump Is A Birther Now

Donald Trump, a reality show host and savage parody of post-industrial Great Stagnation-era capitalism, is pretending to run for president, as a sort of performance art piece mocking the contemporary fad among elites of celebrating plutocrat billionaires as our wise superiors and pretending their vanity campaigns for elected office are some sort of charitable selfless “public service.”

And he’s really going all-out. What began as a sort of through-a-glass-darkly reimagining of the Bloomberg-for-president chatter added a dose of Gingrichian “false run to promote unrelated money-making endeavors” as he ramped up his “campaign” at precisely the moment the new season of his television show premiered.

Today Trump even became a pseudo-birther, in an interview with ABC News, which was for some reason taking part in an extensive marketing campaign for a television show that airs on a rival network:

“Everybody that even gives a hint of being a birther … even a little bit of a hint, like, gee, you know, maybe, just maybe this much of a chance, they label them as an idiot. Let me tell you, I’m a really smart guy,” he said.
[…]
He explained the source of his doubt: “He grew up and nobody knew him. You know? When you interview people, if ever I got the nomination, if I ever decide to run, you may go back and interview people from my kindergarten. They’ll remember me. Nobody ever comes forward. Nobody knows who he his until later in his life. It’s very strange. The whole thing is very strange,” he added.

Yes, very strange, very strange.

Funny story! In 1990, Spy Magazine actually took a trip to Trump’s boyhood home in Queens. And while Trump wrote of being “something of a leader” in his old neighborhood, the owner of the local candy store said: “I’ve been running this store for 28 years, and I don’t remember him.” Strange, very strange.

Trump went on to say that you should take him seriously as a candidate because he’s very rich and would be able to give himself $600 million if for some reason his fake campaign needed $600 million.

That actually gets at the heart of why Trump would never run for anything: He’s spent his entire career in the public eye scrupulously hiding how much money he actually has, in real life. He’s sued people for saying his net worth is less than he says it is. But lots of people have their doubts about whether or not he’d actually be able to give himself $600 million at the drop of a hat. And if he ran for real, as Ben Smith and Maggie Haberman say, “at some point he’d actually be required to disclose his assets.”

Which is obviously not going to happen, because it would ruin the whole joke.

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, March 17, 2011

March 19, 2011 Posted by | Birthers, Elections, Ideologues, Liberatarians, Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Kochs And Libertarian Hypersensitivity

I find the extreme sensitivity displayed by libertarians toward criticism of the Koch brothers is really strange. Here’s a typical example, from David Bernstein:

The ongoing twenty minutes of hate against the billionaire libertarian Koch brothers for being, well, billionaire libertarians is yet another nail in the already well-sealed coffin of “liberaltarianism”–the attempt of some libertarians to ally with the progressive left.

The underlying premise of liberaltarianism was that libertarians could emphasize their policy positions that appeal to liberals but not conservatives–drug legalization, hostility to war and military spending, support for civil liberties and for gay marriage–while liberals, chastened by the Bush years, would tone down their support for big government in other areas.

The Kochs would appear to be the perfect liberaltarians–they support gay marriage, drug legalization, opposed the Iraq War, want to substantially cut military spending, and gave $20 million to the ACLU to oppose the Patriot Act (compared to a relatively piddling $43,000 to Scott Walker’s election campaign).

The comparison to 1984 lends this complaint an especially melodramatic touch — the point of the two-minute hate was that it targeted powerless or fictitious villains. I’m pretty sure that Emmanuel Goldstein was not supposed to have been actually exerting enormous influence over the political system in Oceania.

And the notion that the Kochs are “perfect liberaltarians,” of course, completely misses the point of liberaltarianism, which was to emphasize social issues and foreign policy over economics, and to define economics as evidence based and less hostile to redistribution and the possibility of market failure. Koch-brand libertarianism is obviously the precise opposite of each of those characteristics.

And while I certainly can’t speak for the liberaltarians, I suspect liberal criticism of the Kochs is unlikely to send them back to Koch-funded right-aligned libertarian organizations, given that those organizations very recently purged the liberaltarians.

But leave all that aside. Why do libertarians find it so offensive that people would criticize the Kochs? They exert a great deal of influence over the political system. Nobody is challenging their right to do so, but the fact of their involvement makes them natural subjects for criticism. Conservatives (and libertarians) enjoy criticizing and ridiculing figures such as Al Gore, Dan Rather and Paul Krugman, who influence public opinion as well, and whose pecuniary interest in doing so is, at best, much less obvious than the Kochs’.

The hypersensitivity about this honestly baffles me. Some of it has to do with the discomfort libertarians, who enjoy their self-image as scrappy outsiders, feel an association with powerful moguls. Some of it may result from the fact that it’s unusual for a libertarian to assume such a high-profile role in American politics, and so libertarians may not blink at criticism of a George Soros or an Adolph Coors but suddenly find their hearts bleeding at the sight of libertarian moguls facing actual public scrutiny. In any case, the sheer self-pity on behalf of these extremely wealthy, powerful individuals is quite a spectacle.

By: Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, March 16, 2011

March 17, 2011 Posted by | Koch Brothers, Liberatarians, Politics, Public Opinion | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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