Truly awful people. Really all that needs to be said.
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Truly awful people. Really all that needs to be said.
Have you noticed how many right-wingers are decrying the "tyranny" of the Obama administration these days?Ben Shapiro whining thus in the video above.) So you'll often find crap like this floating about on their Facebook pages.
But it's becoming common among mainstream right-wingers, particularly after the president dismissed these characterizations during a speech at Ohio State. Sure enough, everyone from Jonah Goldberg to Michelle Malkin piled on with the "yeah, whatever you say, dude" retorts.
But I was reminded the other day, rereading Stephen Budiansky's marvelous book about Reconstruction, The Bloody Shirt: Terror After the Civil War, just where the right-wing fetish about "tyranny" comes from. It's a highly selective fetish, after all; none of these "libertarians" seemed even remotely concerned when George W. Bush launched the whole "enemy combatants" enterprise back in 2001.
According to Budiansky, it -- like the phrase "waving the bloody shirt," as well as the whole conservative adoption of that rhetorical ruse as an aggressive form of defense -- has its origins in the years during and immediately following the Civil War, when it was common for Southerners to sneer at Abraham Lincoln (alive or dead) as a "tyrant":
A bald fact: Generations would hear how the South suffered “tyranny” under Reconstruction. Conveniently forgotten was the way that word was universally defined by white Southerners at the time: as a synonym for letting black men vote at all. A “remonstrance” issued by South Carolina’s Democratic Central Committee in 1868, personally signed by the leading native white political figures of the state, declared that there was no greater outrage, no greater despotism, than the provision for universal male suffrage just enacted in the state’s new constitution. There was but one possible consequence: “A superior race is put under the rule of an inferior race.” They offered a stark warning: “We do not mean to threaten resistance by arms. But the white people of our State will never quietly submit to negro rule. This is a duty we owe to the proud Caucasian race, whose sovereignty on earth God has ordained.”
“No free people, ever,” declared a speaker at a convention of the state’s white establishment a few years later, had been subjected to the “domination of their own slaves,” and the applause was thunderous. “This is a white man’s government,” was the phrase echoed over and over in the prints of the Democratic press and the orations of politicians denouncing the “tyranny” to which the “oppressed” South was being subjected.
A bald fact: more than three thousand freedmen and their white Republican allies were murdered in the campaign of terrorist violence that overthrew the only representatively elected governments the Southern states would know for a hundred years to come. Among the dead were more than sixty state senators, judges, legislators, sheriffs, constables, mayors, county commissioners, and other officeholders whose only crime was to have been elected. They were lynched by bands of disguised men who dragged them from cabins by night, or fired on from ambushes on lonely roadsides, or lured into a barroom by a false friend and on a prearranged signal shot so many times that the corpse was nothing but shreds, or pulled off a train in broad daylight by a body of heavily-armed men resembling nothing so much as a Confederate cavalry company and forced to kneel in the stubble of an October field and shot in the head over and over again, at point blank.
So saturated is our collective memory with Gone With the Wind stock characters of thieving carpetbaggers, ignorant Negroes, and low scalawags, that it comes as a shock not so much to discover that there were men and women of courage, idealism, rectitude, and vision who risked everything to try to build a new society of equality and justice on the ruins of the Civil War, who fought to give lasting meaning to the sacrifices of that terrible struggle, who gave their fortunes, careers, happiness, and lives to make real the simple and long-delayed American promise that all men were created equal—it comes as a shock not so much to be confronted by their idealism and courage and uprightness as by the realization that they were convinced, up to the very last, that they would succeed. Confident in the rightness of their cause, backed by the military might of the United States government, secure in the ringing declarations, now the supreme law of the land embodied in the
thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments of the Constitution, that slavery was not only dead but that equality and the right to vote were the patrimony now of all Americans, they could not imagine that their nation could win such a terrible war and lose the ensuing peace.
Indeed, it's common to hear neo-Confederate agitators -- those folks who are still pushing for modern secession by the South -- describe Lincoln to this day as a "tyrant."
The idea of being governed by a black president? To many of these people even today, that is itself the essence of tyranny.
[Cross-posted at Orcinus.]
In a recent speech, the influential economist Jeffrey Sachs made the following statement, one that was both remarkable and yet predictable about the culture of Wall Street:
"I'm going to put if very bluntly. I regard the moral environment as pathological...these people are out to make billions of dollars and nothing should stop them from that. They have no responsibility to pay taxes. They have no responsibility to their clients...to counter-parties in transactions.
They are tough greedy aggressive and feel absolutely out of control...and they have gamed the system to a remarkable extent. And they have a docile President, a docile White House, and a docile regulatory system that can't find its voice. Its terrified of these banks. If you look at the campaign contributions the financial markets are the #1 campaign contributors in the US now.
We have a corrupt politics to the core...and both parties are up to their necks in this. The corruption is as far as I can see everywhere. But what it's led to is this sense of impunity that is really stunning...and it very unhealthy. I have waited four, five years now to see one figure on Wall St. speak in a moral language and I've not seen it once.
After cowardly Senators caved to the NRA and voted to defeat the Manchin-Toomey amendment to the gun safety bill allowing for near-universal background checks, a visibly angry President Obama took to his bully pulpit and spoke plainly about his disappointment and anger at the Senate.
But instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill. They claimed that it would create some sort of “big brother” gun registry, even though the bill did the opposite. This legislation, in fact, outlawed any registry. Plain and simple, right there in the text. But that didn’t matter.
But the fact is most of these senators could not offer any good reason why we wouldn’t want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun. There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn’t do this. It came down to politics -- the worry that that vocal minority of gun owners would come after them in future elections. They worried that the gun lobby would spend a lot of money and paint them as anti-Second Amendment.
And obviously, a lot of Republicans had that fear, but Democrats had that fear, too. And so they caved to the pressure, and they started looking for an excuse -- any excuse -- to vote “no.”
One common argument I heard was that this legislation wouldn’t prevent all future massacres. And that’s true. As I said from the start, no single piece of legislation can stop every act of violence and evil. We learned that tragically just two days ago. But if action by Congress could have saved one person, one child, a few hundred, a few thousand -- if it could have prevented those people from losing their lives to gun violence in the future while preserving our Second Amendment rights, we had an obligation to try.
And this legislation met that test. And too many senators failed theirs.
I've heard some say that blocking this step would be a victory. And my question is, a victory for who? A victory for what? All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check. That didn’t make our kids safer. Victory for not doing something that 90 percent of Americans, 80 percent of Republicans, the vast majority of your constituents wanted to get done? It begs the question, who are we here to represent?
Then he laid down the gauntlet:
So to change Washington, you, the American people, are going to have to sustain some passion about this. And when necessary, you’ve got to send the right people to Washington. And that requires strength, and it requires persistence.
It just grinds me that the wingnuts in the NRA have enough power to cow Senators into voting against what the majority of people in this country want.
Here are the names of the Democrats voting no, excluding Harry Reid, who voted no to keep the bill alive: Pryor, Begich, Baucus, and Heitkamp. Republicans who voted yes: McCain, Toomey, Collins, and Kirk. Shame on the NRA-owned Democrats and props to the Republicans who stepped up.
That was just the background check piece. Here's what happened on the assault weapons ban:
An amendment, put forth by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), to re-establish a federal ban on certain assault weapons was defeated by a vote of 40-60. A near-united Republican conference voted against the measure, with just one GOP senator, Mark Kirk (Ill.), voting in its favor.
As the President said, this is just Round One.
**The subject of this video is the kind of thing DC bipartisanship gets you
There is no word in the English language that allows the sun to poke through the clouds, inspires cherubic song and makes lobbyists high five while lording over a beer-joint urinal on in official Washington than "bipartisan". Bipartisan is just so darn cool. It's hip! It's now! It's Rand Paul's talking filibuster and Charlie Krauthammer's sardonic wit and Justice John Robert's dreamy blue eyes all rolled up into one big pig in a blanket!
Or, and I'm just thinking aloud here, perhaps when that word is uttered in Washington there is only once choice to be made: Run.
Because you see, there is actually bipartisanship that makes sense. It is all over the US. It will tell you that over 90 percent of the American public thinks there should be a 3-minute background checks before you purchase a combat weapon that can dismember kindergarten-aged kids, that the minimum wage should surpass that of Heilongjiang Province and that marriage equality is a concept long overdue.
But that is not the bipartisanship that exists in Washington. This brand of bipartisanship is based on Beltway "wisdom" and the status of who happens to be presenting the case. It's the variety that just gave us the 10-year anniversary of the tragedy in Iraq and rewarded Condoleezza Rice of the "smoking gun", "mushroom cloud" and "what does 'Bin Laden determined to attack in US' mean" with a new role as a political analyst on CBS - as if she can figure out day in and day out how to tie her shoes.
That's bipartisanship DC style. It ignored Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Trayvon Martin and finally got around to thinking we have a gun problem after grotesque inaction reached its logical conclusion, with 20 six and seven year olds mowed down like cattle in their classroom. Even so, while there is much support for gun safety measures, there is still some "bipartisan" opposition.
This kind of Washington bipartisanship looks at this war-of-choice that's now estimated to have cost in the trillions (yes, that's with a T), out-of-control health care costs via a crony-capitalism protection racket and a Pentagon so bloated with fat it's a surprise Rush Limbaugh doesn't eat it with a side of his happy pills for dinner, and concludes (behind the leadership of our very own ostensibly Democratic President) "let's rob the old moochers of their earned benefits!"
In a speech today about proposed gun safety laws, the president went off script long enough to answer Wayne LaPierre's cynical speculation that given some time, Americans would forget about Newtown and settle back in to a comfortable level of apathy about guns and gun control.
From the transcript:
I read an article in the news just the other day wondering is Washington -- has Washington missed its opportunity, because as time goes on after Newtown, somehow people start moving on and forgetting. Let me tell you, the people here, they don't forget. Grace's dad is not forgetting. Hadiya's mom hasn't forgotten. The notion that two months or three months after something as horrific as what happened in Newtown happens and we've moved on to other things, that's not who we are. That's not who we are.
And I want to make sure every American is listening today. Less than 100 days ago that happened, and the entire country was shocked. And the entire country pledged we would do something about it and that this time would be different. Shame on us if we've forgotten. I haven't forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we've forgotten.
If there's one thing I’ve said consistently since I first ran for this office: Nothing is more powerful than millions of voices calling for change. And that’s why it’s so important that all these moms and dads are here today. But that's also why it’s important that we've got grassroots groups out there that got started and are out there mobilizing and organizing and keeping up the fight. That's what it’s going to take to make this country safer. It’s going to take moms and dads, and hunters and sportsmen, and clergy and local officials like the mayors who are here today standing up and saying, this time really is different -- that we’re not just going to sit back and wait until the next Newtown or the next Blacksburg or the next innocent, beautiful child who is gunned down in a playground in Chicago or Philadelphia or Los Angeles before we summon the will to act.
Right now, members of Congress are back home in their districts, and many of them are holding events where they can hear from their constituents. So I want everybody who is listening to make yourself heard right now.
President Obama went on to call for everyone to reach out to their Representatives and Senators with a passion reminiscent of his campaign for re-election. If this is the bully pulpit people were hoping for, he is using it, as is Vice President Biden.
So do it. Call your representatives and your Senators, tell them that the NRA does not own them, that the NRA has no power over them, but we, the people will judge them on whether they stand up and do what's right or cower before the likes of a wingnut like Wayne LaPierre. As the president said in his remarks today, "We need everybody to remember how we felt 100 days ago and make sure that what we said at that time wasn't just a bunch of platitudes -- that we meant it. "
I'm glad he's not letting this die. It's been frustrating to watch the NRA pretend they have the upper hand on this. It's time for all of us to shove them back under the rock where they belong.
I am thankful each and every day that Barack Obama won the 2012 election, and that he is our president instead of Mitt Romney. The current version of the Republican Party is the most extreme, cynical, and utterly heartless group of people I have ever witnessed in American politics- and I have witnessed a lot in my 30-plus years in politics. I am proud of the president for the good things he has done on many different issues, and for many of the fights he has chosen to take on.
But on economic policy, and especially on fighting for the middle class, this President has two blind spots the size of a Mack truck.
The first is Wall Street. Obama’s first term Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner believed that the most important thing in making the economy work better was to help the biggest banks on Wall Street, and Obama’s current Attorney General openly admits in official testimony to Congress that he is hesitant to prosecute criminals who are executives at big banks because it might hurt those companies, and therefore, apparently, the broader economy. These policies are bad economics, bad morality, and bad politics. This allegiance to Wall Street’s interests has drained vast amounts of money out of productive investments in the real economy, put millions of homeowners underwater on their mortgages or into foreclosure, made big bank execs feel free to commit financial fraud, and allowed continued dangerous speculation in our financial markets that could lead to another financial panic in the not too distant future. These pro-Wall Street policies have slowed the economy down dramatically. Favoring the biggest banks over the rest of the economy is terrible policy if you want to help the middle class.
The other huge blind spot is on Obama’s great desire to strike this “grand bargain”, including cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits. He seems obsessed with the idea, offering it up to the Republicans over and over and over again, no matter how many times they say no. He is dead wrong on this issue, and Democrats in Congress should fight him on it tooth and nail.
On Medicare, there are plenty of ways to save serious money without hurting seniors. Negotiate drug prices, for example. Bring younger, healthier people into the Medicare pool. Ask hospitals, who cut a sweet deal in the health reform negotiating process, to find more cost savings. Squeeze the medical equipment industry more. Re-orient health care toward paying for good outcomes rather than fee for service. There’s a ton of savings to be had if we would take on the big health industry special interests, but Republicans have no interest in doing that. They want to squeeze those old people Paul Ryan describes as the “takers” in society. And because Obama wants to have a grand bargain with the Republicans, he has at various points offered up raising the retirement age (although he seems to have backed away from that offer, which is good given that the blue collar folks helped by Medicare and Social Security don’t enjoy the benefits of longer life expectancy nearly as much as high income people) and means testing Medicare. Do these proposals make good sense? Do they help the middle class? Who cares, we have to be bipartisan!
On Social Security, the president keeps suggesting a benefit cut called Chained CPI. The theory is that when inflation goes up, people can always substitute lower cost items- you know, if the cost of Ferraris heads north you can always switch to buying a Cadillac. The problem is that most seniors these days are retiring without pensions, their houses are worth less than used to be, and they don’t have the kind of savings that earlier generations of seniors did. They aren’t choosing between Ferraris and Cadillacs, they are choosing between cottage cheese and Velveeta at the grocery store. The product substitution thing on inflation that economists theorize about just doesn’t work with people on low fixed incomes.
Right wing forces in this country are obsessed with the size of government, but the fundamental debate we should be having is not about size but what the goal of government should be. What is government’s central mission?
There are four major views on this question in modern American politics, two in each political party.
The first Republican view is boiled down to the central organizing principle that government should be as small as possible. That’s it.
Size (the small variety) not only matters, but is the only thing that matters. Any mission or goal that government has is overridden and overwhelmed by the urgent desire to make it smaller. Whether cuts in the size of government are rationally planned doesn’t matter, as their rhetoric on the sequester makes clear. Whether cuts in the size of government hurt people or hurt the economy as a whole doesn’t matter either. I've heard heart-breaking stories, for example, of parents with disabled kids lobbying against the cuts that will devastate the programs that help their children, with Republican congressmen telling them it doesn’t matter, we just have to cut the size of government. Grover Norquist famously said that he wants to make government so small that he can drown it in a bathtub, and his Tea Party comrades are clearly trying to do exactly that at the cost of everything else.
While all Republicans talk about wanting to make government smaller, the other Republican view on what the mission of government should be is less focused on size, and more focused on this central thing: serving the needs of big business. This idea was most famously (or infamously) articulated by the former Republican chair of the House Committee on Financial Services in 2011 when he said “In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.”
Today is the day the package of budget cuts they call the "Sequester" takes effect. There will be endless postmortems and realtime analyses. But as its draconian effects, there's one thing to remember above all: Congress did this.
We've criticized both the president's handling of this situation and the media's reporting of it. But, in the end, this is an act of Congress. Congress passed the bill that put these cuts into effect, and it can repeal that bill -- today, if it so chooses. (Rep. John Conyers has introduced a bill to do exactly that. It's called, reasonably enough, the "Cancel the Sequester Act.")
The "Sequester" follows the long-standing "trigger" strategy we first wrote about in 2011. The idea, which was probably dreamed up by some high-priced consultant, seems to be this: Pass a bill that creates some "trigger" effect at some point in the future. If nothing else is done the "trigger" goes off, and highly unpopular and destructive spending cuts will go into effect as if untouched by human hand.
By using the "trigger" strategy, politicians believed (and apparently still believe) that they can escape the political and moral consequences of their own actions. It wasn't me that did these things, they can argue, it was the "trigger."
The forces of austerity have cooked up a number of triggers during their multi-year battle against government, which escalated right after Wall Street decimated the economy. They've had different names: Debt ceiling. "SaveGo." Fiscal cliff. And now, Sequester.
For the three decades plus that I have been in politics, I have been a passionate advocate of the clean money agenda, especially public financing of campaigns and the overturning of one of the worst decisions in Supreme Court history, Citizens United. Multiple times over the years, I have been a consultant on money in politics campaigns, and have always considered it a very high priority. As someone who has done high level fundraising for many different Presidential, Senate, and House campaigns, and has been involved in a great many policy battles where I was fighting the power of big money special interests, I know well the large and pernicious power of big money in politics. No cause should do more to unite the progressive movement than doing something serious about it. But there’s a new money in politics issue that is splitting progressives right down the middle.
The new organization that people close to President Obama set up (OFA, Organizing for Action) is causing some consternation among some people in the movement to reform money in politics. Bob Edgar, my old friend and comrade in arms on this issue, and the president of Common Cause, said, “If President Obama is serious about his often-expressed desire to rein in big money in politics, he should shut down Organizing for Action and disavow any plan to schedule regular meetings with its major donors. With its reported promise of quarterly presidential meetings for donors and ‘bundlers’ who raise $500,000, Organizing For Action apparently intends to extend and deepen the pay-to-play Washington culture that Barack Obama came to prominence pledging to end.”
As much as I agree with Bob on his ideals and long-term goals, I think he is profoundly wrong this time around.