Saturday, September 26, 2009


What is another week in Obamaland without new accusations against the President? A few that I like concern his plot to close all the farms in California so he can control our food supply like Zimbabwe's Bob Mugabe. Another is that he is responsible for the drought in the Southwest--it has been going on for three years--because his administration wants to protect the minnow. The esteemed member of the evangelical group,The Family, Senator Ensign of Nevada says that if you don't buy health insurance under Obamacare you will be jailed. AEI's Michael Ledeen claims that Obama actually likes dictators and tyrants and Fox News made a fuss that the President would be sitting near Muammar Qaddafhi at the United Nations. Better yet Senator DeMint, famous for his Waterloo quote, says that Obama spending all this time on healthcare threatens the safety of our troops in Afghanistan. Eric Cantor over at the House says that the people are concerned about jobs and Afghanistan and not healthcare reform.

It has been a strange week listening to the healthcare debate. For the first time in my life, I heard elected representatives from both parties actually say that "we must preserve the profits of the health insurance industry." Senator Roberts(R-Ks) stunned me when he asked for a 72 hour delay in the health care debate so that "health-providers" ( code word--insurance lobbyists) could read the bill and submit their suggestions. Senator Jim Bunning(R-Ky) didn't surprise me when he fell asleep for the Finance Committee debate. For the most part, the efforts to stall by the Republicans is not working and polling suggests that they might pay a price if they actually stop a bill.

It's been a wild week for the birthers, who are now fighting among themselves. Orly Taitz responded to Judge Land's dismissal of her case and his rebuke of her conduct by asking him for reconsideration and in her petition launched into an ad hominem attack on the judge appointed by George W. Her clent either fired her or didn't depending on whether you think her petition for a forgery. Other birthers have weighed in, slamming Orly Taitz' professionalism. Even the guy who forged the Kenyan birth certificate has bowed out because he claimed she wanted him to commit perjury, an MO she tried to use with the guy who claims to have had gay sex with the President. She wanted him to testify that President Obama actually killed people. The old Bill Clinton trail of bodies motif. But never fear--the birthers claim that the Democratic Party only certified Obama's qualifications in some, not all of the states for the 2008 election.

At least lifelong Yankee fan Judge Sotomayor got a chance to throw out the first pitch at the Yankee-Bosox game. Judge Sotomayor has distinguished herself already by raising questions about whether the Court didn't make an error when it afforded corporations rights like individuals. I remember William Douglas in his later radical years complaining about this doctrine and wondering whether we couldn't sue to give trees rights.

Depending on your point of view, President Obama was either masterful in handling the news of the Iranian's construction of a new underground nuclear testing site or a naive man caught off-guard after he gave away the store like the Stars Wars plan for Poland and Czechoslovakia. I tend toward being masterful in creating the framework for a full court diplomatic press against Iran with the support of Russia and China, two countries who have been cold to any sanctions against the regime. It was clear that Iran was caught flat-footed by President Obama's announcement about the facility. Even the French who like doing business with Iran have given Tehran until December to respond. Now the U.S. is pushing for the Europeans and the Americans to be able to inspect the nuclear facilities.

President Obama won a unanimous vote at the UN Security Council on a resolution toward a nuclear arms free world. This measure also racheted up another pressure point on Iran, as well as North Korea. It should be remembered that the last nuclear-free idealist was Ronald Reagan, who sparked a revolt among conservatives when he voiced these suggestions.

However, the meeting with the Israelis and Palestinians was a bit of a dud. The Israelis are in the mood to test Obama, especially on the issue of the settlements and Iran, and Abbas can only come to the table with half a loaf since Hamas controls Gaza.

Conservatives have been a bit rough on Glenn Beck, self-described "rodeo clown", recovering alcoholic and drug addict. Within this squabble the most fun has been the debate between David Horowitz and David Frum over whether Beck is good for the conservative movement. Horowitz, still sporting his instincts from his radical Left days, thinks Beck has the feistiness needed to combat the swarms of leftists taking over our nation. Frum thinks Beck marginalizes conservatives and republicans and cuts off all policy debate. A number of paleo-conservatives raise the question about what does Glenn Beck actually believe. They cite his crazy quilt history of moving from one political hero to another. They were particularly miffed by his comments to Katie Couric that either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama would be better for the country than John McCain. Despite the Right's disdain for McCain, to say this about Barack Obama was heresy. Salon did an excellent series of articles on Glenn Beck's history with his days of excess and his conversion to Mormonism and his professional trajectory. The Left like Glenn Greenwald sees Beck as a type of populist, favoring none of the parties and basically voicing the age-old complaint against government in general. Others charge that Beck is really picking up on the heels of George Wallace fanning racial animosity and pseudo-populism despite his new, immense wealth. Take your pick.

Glenn Beck infuriates me in his willful embrace of ignorance. If his idiocy about the art in Rockefeller Center wasn't enough--it gave Keith Olbermann a couple of good shows--, his new book actually claims people like Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt were worse than Pol Pot. For all its warts, American history has not produced its Pol Pots, Adolf Hitlers or even Mussolinis. I understand why Glenn Beck might want to liken Keith Olbermann to Adolf Hitler for personal reasons but--really?! Olbermann actually shot Beck right between the eyes with his exposure that the section of the Constitution which Beck suggested governed some type of tax on immigrants was nothing more than the regulation of slavery.

This is the type of ignorance that is very dangerous coming from someone who has an audience of about 3 million people. In the last several months, we have had a frontal rhetorical assault on the Constitution from the Right and the religious Right. The Tenth movement is one of my favorites with the threats by states to secede from the union or the assertions that states can turn down any national healthcare reform or even stimulus monies. No less a constitutional scholar than Michelle Bachman from Minnesota claims that healthcare reform is unconstitutional. So why should we bother? Or course, some paleoconservatives argue that the income tax, social security, medicare and government regulation of business is unconstitutional. At the Values Voter Summit, panelists argued that the most important words in the First Amendment were that Congress could make no law,etc. but that any other level of government could. But, unfortunately,we have a history of court decisions on all these things and they don't give much hope for these people. But we will be hearing more about the Constitution for the next 3 and half years and none of the discussion will be informed.

I received my fund-raising letter from Joe Wilson for Virginia Republicans. First, Joe the Plumber, who recently got in a fist-fight with someone at a tea party; now Joe Wilson, a member of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, his South Carolina branch having been taken over by racists a while back. Now, this is supposedly the ticket to ride. The anger and rage of the grassroots will bring the Republicans back to power--at least in the House--so they can impeach the Great Pretender, Barack Obama--this is really the dream. And it looks like it will remain a dream. The Washington Post reports Democratic fund-raising is lagging, but a comparison of all the party committees, the RNC and the DNC show both parties are pretty even in cash on hand. For Republicans to start roaring back, they need a fund-raising edge of 2-1. I still say the 2010 election will be a normal by-election, despite the noise. The President's Party will lose 15-20 seats in the House, generally should lose in the Senate but here I see Democrats gaining. So far the rumbles from the jungles do not indicate Newt's wetdream of a replay of 1994.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Waiting for the Rapture or Avoiding Work

Today's when the Rapture happens and then it will be seven years of woe so we've been told by those who study such things. I find it strangely coincidental that this all is timed with a two-term Obama presidency.

Fox News surprised even me with the assertions that President Obama stepped in the New York governor's race because he fears Rudy Guliani in 2012. I thought it was Jon Huntsman and that's why he sent him to China.

"Tan Man" Boehner says that Obama's heathcare plan is dead. Other conservatives say there is a 75% chance it will pass but this will mean a 66% chance the Republicans will take back the House in 2010. Pick your poison.

Eric Cantor says that if the elections were held today the Republicans would win back the House. This may well be true but while there has been shifting polls for the Democrats, there are no indications and in fact quite the contrary that Republicans have gained any traction among the population. House Republican Leaders' polling is an abysmal 13% and 18% on a great day. It's hard to take Cantor's remarks seriously. Charlie Cook is beating the drums that Democrats will lose about 25 seats next year. AP is also beating the drums that 35 seats will change parties. It's a great profession if you can get work--anyone can play.

I think Mitt Romney seriously hurt his chances with his showing at the Values Summit. Ted Kennedy wrote in True Compass about his race against Mitt that he had a "tin-ear". I think that's about right. First, his allusion that Obama is somehow like Jimmy Carter doesn't make it. The only other person talking this way is Dick Morris, who has lost his mind. I also think there is nothing Mitt can say or do that will win him acceptance from the Religious Right. He should stop trying. Now he's against the bank bailouts when he was for them. Trying to pander doesn't really work here--they never liked you anyway.

Olympia Snowe, Republican from Maine (which may be a new party), let the cat out of the bag in an interview with the New York Times. She agrees with me that President Obama is a moderate and cites all her conversations with him. Of course, she will have to be excommunicated by Michael Steele.

Although we have to admit that Tan Man slipped and became a RINO, when he acknowledged that President Obama was not a socialist and he won't call him one.

The Values Summit conducted another one of its polls about the burning issues of the day. Number 1 is abortion; Number 2 is protecting freedom of religion. Gay marriage didn't rev people's jets this year as it did in 2007. Maybe there is progress.

My take on President Obama's media marathon--he did it because he could. You know deep down he always wanted to hit all networks during one day. It's the politician's dream and a worthy Guinness Book record. And he scored across the board. Does it mean anything--probably not. I also suspect he wanted to set the table before he spends his entire week on foreign policy with the G-8 summit, the United Nations General Assembly and his meeting with the Israelis and Palestinians. Everytime he is somehow engaged in foreign policy all hell breaks out at home--even during the campaign. He must sense the pattern now.

The best news of the Fall--James Ellroy new novel is en route, the first of a new American trilogy. His obsession with writing about his mother's murder and the hiatus he took probably did him some good but I found it frustrating as a loyal reader. I even have his first editions when they were released first as paperbacks before they became hardcovers. How about that.

For those of us who are fans of the late, always great J.G. Ballard, his collected stories are now out in hardcover with an intro by Martin Amis. A British edition came out a couple of years ago. I haven't compared to see the difference. But his greatest writing is there.

The New York Times Magazine did a wonderful piece on the discovery, contents and the publishing process of psychotherapy's Holy Grail--C.G. Jung's Red Book, the diaries of his self-induced hallucinations complete with pictures.

Bertrand M. Patenaude's book Trotsky: Downfall of a Revolutionary documents the final days of the revolutionary. With the death of Irving Kristol, the godfather of the neoconservative movement, it is so strange to read in the Trotsky book so many of the names associated in the public's mind with the anti-communist activities during the Cold War. Kristol was a Trotskyite before a liberal and before a conservative. James Burnham, co-founder with Bill Buckley of the National Review; Max Shachtman, mentor of Al Shanker of the American Federation of Teachers and Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy; Albert Glotzer, old SDer and secretary to Trotsky for a brief period; Sidney Hook , not a Trotskyist; and John Dewey, who brought his prestige to an international inquiry into the Stalin show trials. One is reminded that the successful intellectual warfare against Communist came from the Democratic Left and former Trotskyists. It's useful to remember that conservatives and the religious right thought we already had lost the Cold War because our society was --already--so decadent and debauched. Sounds sort of familiar.

The book is better than just a trigger on my memories of past people. It is a wonderful story of Trotsky's exile to Mexico and his immersion into the scene with Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera. A part of the story that has been untold is the fate of Trotsky's family who were left behind in the Soviet Union and their re-emergence in the post-Communist Russia.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Nextright--Good ideas

Whoever is behind the website deserves congratulations. With the right dissolving into paramilitary groups, teabaggers, libertarians and radical right Christianists, someone should be formulating a way that conservatism could regain acceptance and credibility by the mainstream. In a blog submitted by mark_j here are some of the ideas being submitted:
1. Conservatives have to discredit those individuals who are not being helpful to the cause. Here he cites Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee because they are too tied to Christianity. He thinks Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others should be discredited for esposing hate and anger. Conservative talk radio ,he says, should be more constructive and hopeful and cater to the best, not the worse, in us.

2. Stop catering to the Christian Right. He says that Christianity has nothing to do with conservative ideas and theories on money, foreign policy,etc. He warns that our country was formed partially on freedom of religion and that if our government were run by someone who wants to impose their religion through laws and perspective, we would lose all that. And besides, 20% of the country is not Christian. Amen to that.

3. Stop simply opposing every idea President Obama has and propose alternative solutions. He says the way to gain some credibility is to work honestly with the left to create good policy and to proactively propose laws to solve some of our problems before the left takes up a problem.

4.Stop supporting causes that have nothing to do with Conservative ideology. He says the right should disassociate itself from issues such as abortion and marriage equality for gays;the arguments against which must be made on religious grounds. He thinks this will keep some moderates and probably will upset the Christian right, who could form a third party tightly tied to Christianity.

5.Stop being inconsistent. He blasts those who oppose healthcare that might save lives with taxpayer funds, while the same people support the Iraq War to give people in another country freedom and save lives. Why, he asks, should we spend taxpayer dollars to police the world yet not spend taxpayer dollars to save those within our borders? Either we shouldn't spend money to help others or we should and if we should it should be spent on those within our borders.

6.Stop being hawks. The right has become hawks, which is contrary to conservative ideas on foreign policy. He cites the Cato institute's foreign policy vision. "Cato's foreign policy is guided by the ideas of our national defense and security strategy being appropriate for a constitutional repuplic, not an empire....The use of U.S. military force should be limited to those occasions when the territorial integrity, national sovereignty, or liberty of the United States is at risk." He thinks these are the ideas that are most ethical and that would allow some of the left to consider the rest of conservative ideas.

7. Have a well thought out income tax policy. He thinks the government has taken on too much responsibility, spends too much and grown the debt so it's time to cut spending but increase revenue through a progressive income tax because those in the middle and lower class cannot support any higher tax burden.

8.Start supporting alternative energy and embrace that global warming is real and might be caused by us. He asks whether we can gamble that global warming is not caused by us. He notes that most of the oil is found in countries that don't like us so it is long past time to start looking at energy sources that don't emit CO2.

9. Stop catering to Israel. He believes we have given too much money and support to Israel at the expense of our national interest. He proposes we treat Israel as any other country that is a friend and ally of ours. He believes we should use our financial support of Israel to enhance peace and not use it to support them all the times but be critical.

10. Start rethinking drug policy. The war on drugs does not work and can not work as long as it is punitive rather than based on medicine. He believes it makes organized crime stronger, was originally based on racism and now is based on morality derived from religion. He thinks it's time for the government to take a non-punitive role in drug policy and make drug use safer and less damaging to society, and help those who are ready to reform their lives though the cessation of drug use.

I gather from the writing that the author is younger. The younger generation could care less about gay marriage, drug policy and the prohibition of abortion and does care about global warming and a sound foreign policy, where we are not going off to war at the drop of a hat.

I also detect that the embrace of Israel that characterizes the older generation and my own has not trickled down. For the first time since the founding of the state of Israel, support among the American public has dipped below 50% and I believe will dip further because of our own demographics and also the full court embrace by the Christian Right. Usually in my generation, the issue of Israel is really ground in who one supports there to best preserve the country's integrity and to bring peace to its borders. Only a miniscule number would flatout reject aid to Israel. Even conditioning aid is out of bounds in our present politics.

Mark_j took a good first cut at ideas about restoring conservatism's valid position in our political debate. I shudder to think about the response. We used to encourage people like this but I fear the Republican mindset has embraced a fossilized authoritarianism and that it will be difficult to dislodge. In a time of great uncertainty, they seem to banking on people longing for authoritarianism although their ideas have run out.

I hope we hear more from him. Personally, I'm saddened to see another young person turned off on religion because of our rambunctious culture warriors. I think this is the lasting damage done by Focus on the Family and other religious right-wing groups. It's hard to take religion seriously if all the true believers like Senator Ensign, Vitter and Gov Sanford run on family values but are swamped by their own sexual misconduct. It's hard to see the ethics in all that.

Jesusland End-Timers Gated Communities--For Sale Now

The Value-voters summit is in town. Over 2,000 participants from the Christian Right are listening to possible Republican presidential candidates and panelists on a wide variety of subjects that all are aimed at the Christian right. One particularly troubling presentation was a radical re-interpretation of the First Amendment, which asserted that while Congress is prohibited from passing any law on establishing religion; every other branch of government, including Governors can do so. This is the fundamentalist view of interpreting any texts, including the Bible, a strange hermaneutic that defies tradition or background to the text itself. Usually, I get outraged at this. But now I think it could be a good commercial venture.

For those Americans, who wanted to live according to biblical laws (another school of the Christian nationalist movement) and who fear that Obama is going to take away the 200 million registered guns and that gold is the only hedge on global economic collapse, I propose the creation of Jesusland End-Timers Gated Communities. White Americans, who believe we are in the end time and that Obama is the Anti-Christ, can find security and comfort (please, we need comfort) in these gated communities. Each family can purchase an attractive home with a built-in gun safe and a vault for gold bullion. The center of the community will be the Church--not the nice white New England style architecture--but a church cum shopping mall. Any schoolchildren can be home-schooled or attend the Church school and be awarded for their academic excellence with trips to a Creation Museum, where they will learn how children used to play with dinosaurs. Each home will have cable access to Pat Robertson's television network and Fox News. The facility will have closed circuit surveillance cameras and be guarded by veterans of Blackwater. Military veterans will be allowed and indeed encouraged to form militias to patrol the perimeter of the compound. To maintain the racial tension that encouraged so many residents to move into these communities, we will have the grounds kept by illegal Mexican immigrants. This would serve as group bonding and an occasion to remember the original reason for moving there.

The gated community will only encourage "real Americans" to apply. Government services will be strictly volunteer-based--fire department, police, and water supply, which will not be fluoridated, and sewer and garbage disposal. Inhabitants would have to forgo any pensions--military or government--they are entitled to, Medicare or Americare benefits so as to escape the taint of socialism. Leading corporations will be encouraged to open stores in the mall and indeed it will be required to shop at the company store for provisions. In the case of the Rapture, local atheists will be recruited to take care of all pets to provide residents with the comfort knowing their cats and pooches are being taken care of, even though they have been left behind. At this time, Blackwater guards will take the gold away in armored trucks because residents won't need it anymore.

The possible locations for these Jesusland End-Timer Gated Communities will be many. For the militia types, there will be a compound in Idaho and another along the Mexican border. For the neo-confederates, what better places than the scenic areas along in Gulf Coast in Alabama and Missippi? For the tenth amendment crowd, there will be a grand community erected near the Alamo. And for Mormons, there will be a community in Missouri, the location where Jesus ,according to the book of Moroni, will return.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Conspiracy's End

I love conspiracy theories. They are a form of gnostic knowledge about our political universe. Conspiracy theories are not disturbing; they are re-assuring, making sense of what doesn't. You can almost say that conspiracy theories are symptoms of our thirst for meaning. The reason our political hopes and dreams are thwarted is because there are larger forces and entities controlled by sinister personalities who really control the world and manipulate reality to their wants. You could even develop computer programs to generate conspiracies. I confess I subscribe to conspiracy theories, I like them. But this week has been a deflating one for all of us.

The assassinations of President Kennedy, his brother Robert and Dr. Martin Luther King,Jr. shaped my generation and ushered in an age of upheaval in our politics. Shortly after the assasination of her husband, Mrs Jackie Kennedy opined," How awful is it that Jack was killed by some little Communist shit?" And we have all dutifully fell in line trying to make it that he wasn't. The killing of the President has produced whole libraries of alternative theories, films and pieces of good to great literature. We have Oliver Stone's JFK, which posits the assassination was an inside job by the shadowy world of the spooks and military because President Kennedy wanted to end the Vietnam War, which we now know he did. Charles McCarry wrote a wonderful spy novel Tears of Autumn, which posits the Kennedy assassination was the product of Indochinese heroin dealers linked to the Diem family, who hired a French assassin. James Ellroy in Ten Thousand Cold Men writes with his full amp style of a complex plot involving Howard Hughes, CIA personnel and the mafia. Non-fiction books link the Gambino family, Jimmy Hoffa and the New Orleans mob into a fantastic, yet plausible plot of revenge for a series of perceived slights and wrongs. Conservatives speculate about the role of Fidel Castro and cite LBJ's dark interview near the end of his life, saying "We were running Murder,Inc. down there (in Cuba), anything could have happened". Much to my dismay, Norman Mailer, whom we could trust in these dark matters, wrote Oswald near the end of his life, basically confirming Jackie's original statement. But I thought Mailer had sold out to the spooks so he could finish the next volume of Harlot's Ghost, his epic novel about the CIA.

I think we now have an answer. Ted Kennedy's memoir True Compass has finally been published. If you grew up by the ocean, the passages that are most poignant concern his love of sailing on the sea, his memories of fleeing land after Bobby was killed and sailing from the Cape to Maine to be together with the sea and sky, as well as some of his last journeys out in his sailboat. In Washington, we have always heard that Ted knew about Jack's assassination and that before he died the truth would come out. I take it his account in the memoir was his truth. Chosen by the Kennedy family to meet with Earl Warren, since Bobby was engulfed with grief, he met with Chief Justice Warren. The debriefing took over five hours and Earl Warren filled Ted on all the details of the Commission's work including a critique of its shortcoming. In the end,writes Ted Kennedy the Commissions got it right. Later LBJ collared him and said it was the FBI's fault. They have interviewed Oswald and had him under surveillance but they failed to prevent the assassination. Unfortunately, the words as he wrote them ring true as the deaths of his brothers haunt the first half of the book and I think, knowing of his own impending death, he would have left another "truth" if he knew it.

The other event of my generation was Watergate, an episode in our history,along with the "secret invasion" of Cambodia, which broke the faith of a generation in the institutions of government. Another library has grown up around this third-rate burglary. Richard Nixon feared that DNC chairman Larry O'Brien, a lobbyist for Howard Hughes, knew about Hughes' on-going financial support of the President and would spill the beans and Nixon had to find out what O'Brien knew. The CIA and the military knew that Nixon wanted to re-organize the entire executive branch (see Dick Cheney) and they feared what he was up to with all the back channel negotiations going on with Moscow, the Vietnam Peace Talks and China so they got a bunch of former CIA hands to botch the operation to frame Nixon. Ted Kennedy himself plotted the overthrow of Nixon by planting Archibald Cox at the Justice Department so as to provoke the firings of the Special Prosecutor and set up a firestorm that would lead to Nixon's impeachment. Gordan Liddy speculated that Nixon had nothing to do with any of this. It was all John Dean's fault. Dean was dating Maureen, his soon-to-be wife, who Liddy speculates was working for an escot service. Dean knowing that Spencer Oliver, whose office was actually bugged, procured women for visiting Democratic officials to Washington, would have records about these transactions. So Dean ordered the break-in to destroy records that would be damaging to his wife's reputation and then snicked on President Nixon. After a ten-year lawsuit, this line of the Watergate story proved false and Liddy lost in court to Dean. So we are left the questions: Did Nixon order the break-in?--he said for years he didn't; what were they trying to find?; and what's on the 18 and half minute erasure of the tape?

And now we know and it's a bummer. John Dean in revising his old book Blind Ambition uncovered what people were looking for. Richard Nixon had just returned from China, which he considered his greatest triumph, only to be confronted with allegations by Democrats that the anti-trust suit against ITT had been dismissed because of bribery. Nixon furious that his greatest moment had been upstaged heard that there were allegations about kickbacks involved in the Democratic convention scheduled to take place in Miami. He loudly complained he wanted this information so the White House could use it against the Democrats. Hence the political arm of the White House went to work and bugged the wrong guy's office. They were supposed to bug Larry O'Brien's office and get papers documenting the kickback scheme. But then they were blown and Watergate for all its metaphorical power over all these years really was a third-rate burglary and Richard Nixon really didn't order the break-in. And the whole iss of bribes over ITT is false, also. And there were no kickbacks involved in the Democratic Convention either. And George McGovern did not receive campaign funds from Fidel Castro as one of the Watergate burglars claimed.

In the next two years with the advance of technology, acoustic scientists believe we will be able to reconstruct the erased 18 and a half minutes. I'm sure they will be disappointing.

Now the conspracies lack the panache of those in the past. We are left now with Orly Taitz and her band of wingnuts and 9/11 truthers arguing that our President was born in Mombassa, Kenya (the city was then in Zanzibar) despite his mother never having been in that country. The court rejected her latest lawsuit and threatens to fine her $10,000 and a lawyer in Ohio is suing to have her disbarred. Conspiracies are not what they were.

Conspiracies do exist, of course. But the most dreadful thing is that inexplicable and horror events happen, which are deprived of any serious meaning because of the basic ineptitude of human beings. We are much more the objects of chance, whimsy and fate than we want to believe.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Indonesian Muslim Turned Welfare Thug

This entry bids farewell to our teabagging friends, who seem to be confused about the purpose and size of their own rally in Washington. Mark Williams, organizer for the Teabag Express, said those things about President Obama on CNN with David Gergen and James Carville standing right by. He claimed that the 9-12 rally was not about healthreform but against all sorts of government programs embarked upon by the Obama Administration. He even threw in the tea party rage at President Bush's TARP program. He said that working men and women were angry that the executives and CEOs were profiting from government give-aways, while the poor working stiff was getting the shaft. There is alot of truth to this.

His language reminded me alot of the time my wife and I decided to attend a George Wallace for President rally in Durham, North Carolina in the 1970s. The "pointy headed limosine liberals" were ruining the country. The difference between the Wallace crowd and the Tea-baggers was the Wallace supporters were incredibly polite. We said, "They only put their sheets on after dark." The vitriol of the teabaggers against President Obama made the Left's rhetoric against George W. Bush seem tame.

Meanwhile Freedomworks, the lobby shop, on their website made repeated claims about the rally being against the health reform bill. They kept pointing to the size of the crowd compared to President Obama's townhall meeting in Minneapolis, which filled a stadium on six hours notice. Freedomworkers was trying to spin these two events as similar and vastly inflating their figures and downplaying the President's rally. Well which is it--a general protest against the American government and its elected President or an anti-healthcare rally?

The teabaggers have a serious credibility problems with numbers. All day long today I kept receiving e-mails about 1.5 million people attending. A quick check of the metro/bus records for passengers would only yield about 67,000 more riders(based on roundtrip) than the previous Saturday. Not all of these could be attributed to teabaggers. The Black Family Reunion first organized by civil rights great Dorothy Heights usually draws 500,000 to the mall during its events this weekend. More troubling was the American Thinker's piece by Thomas Lifson, which quoted a park commissioner that the event was one of the largest in the capital's history. The problem here was that the quote was taken from a Washington Post piece about Obama's inaugural. The added metro/ bus riders for two days prior to the event was 800,000. The total event draw over 2 million--with the crowd packed together from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. The teabaggers sadly didn't come close. Another sad thing was their printing a photo of the Promise Keepers demonstration from the 1990s, which someone caught because the Museum of The American Indian was absent from the mall--it hadn't been built yet.

FiveThirtyEight published a interesting piece by Tom Schaller "Ron Paul Rallies.V.2009" which he analyzes the rhetoric of the teabaggers as the logical extension of the Ron Paul revolution--the entire anti-government focus and the amazing absence of anything related to foreign policy. He felt the abusive language was similar to the e-mails he received from Paulistas when he wrote about them for the Baltimore Sun. Others have noted the heavy presence of the Ayn Rand Institute, which would be in synch with a libertarian bent. "Going Gault" was a big favorite among the teabaggers.

Tom Edsell, writing in the Huffington Post, suggested that the Republicans could ride this populist tide back into power by focusing on the various bailout and the benefits received by the wealthy. This could well be true except for a few problems. The Republicans have come up with nothing remotely populist on the Hill. They could back the anti-usury bill limiting credit card rates to 15%; they could be aggressive in supporting mortgage reform and assistance to homeowners; they could break with tradition and foster confiscatory taxes against CEO pay and bonuses given out by financial institutions. They would have to forgo the immense of amount of funds from the healthcare industry. They can sound populist but Democrats would have to call them out on this.

One example of this attempt was their claim to want to protect senior citizens against Barack Obama. This was effective in stirring up rage at townhall meetings but then it became apparent that all those Republican leaders who pushed this line were on record for abolishing Medicare for a private voucher program.

Former President Jimmy Carter in an interview with Brian Williams came right out and said the animosity toward Barack Obama was racism and he said that it had bubbled up since the election.

Meanwhile up in Pittsburgh, the working men and women of the AFL-CIO hosted President Obama who again gave a rousing speech and pushed for healthcare reform. While President Obama pushed the public option, the AFL-CIO endorsed a single-payer program, which isn't even on the table. But it was welcomed shot across the bow.

As for teabaggers and the fringe, I'll only blog about the darker side of the extreme right as it continues to surface. The Republican Party so far is irrelevant as to any serious policy discussions. If I see anything, I bring them forth but I don't expect it. I suspect more race-baiting until the 2010 election. This is all what these activities are aimed for and nothing else.

There is nothing constructive for the public good coming out of any of this nonsense. Given all the studies and reports about the spiralling costs for healthcare in the coming years, would good other than for narrow partisan concerns would a defeat of health care reform for the country. If healthcare is not adopted this year, it will not see the light of day until we reach the point where healthcare will have to be rationed even more than it already is.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

9-12 D.C. Gathering

With estimates of 1 million teabaggers, it turns out that the DC Fire Department thought from 25,000-50,000 showed up. From the visuals of the mall, I might even grant them about 75,000. A picture of Washington Crossing the Delaware--not the Larry Rivers version-said,"They didn't die for healthcare or government control. They died for freedom." A professionally printed sign held by a small child urged "Bury Obamacare with Kennedy". Probably printed by Freedomworks--stay classy Dick Armey.

A Freeper tweeted comments about how Democrats are better packagers of these things and the speakers were pretty lame. He also felt that the organizers should not have announced over 1 million because it was obviously not true. Others thought there were more people than at Obama's Inauguration--2 million there. Having lived through that scene, this would be virtually impossible--you could literally feel the people coming to town then. The Obama crowd was wall to wall people down the entire mall. This just didn't make it. I'm afraid to tell them. Another freeper was annoyed at Glenn Beck for his egotism--"This isn't about you, Glenn". Well, for him, it is.

Todd Browning would have been the perfect film director for this event. The still photographer would be Diane Arbus. The physiognomy of the attendees was amazing, particularly with the Americana plummage. Alot of the male figures, particularly, look like all the people you see coming out of big SUVs at the rest stops along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. It was clearly a thrill for them--so many expressed gratitude they could make it. There was a basic American decency hidden beneath the hate signs and the rhetoric, which exhibits a cognitive dissonance. Hating the government but delighted to be in the American capital. As much getting a kick out of meeting up with old friends as bellowing against socialism and Obama. Most were delighted they were asked by the various organizers to attend. Even our old friends the Ohio Militia showed up with a few members--they had previously called on the whole militia movement to march on D.C.--fully armed. It was like an adult version of Halloween with a colonial theme. I think people just like to get into costumes.

Then the signs had the usually vile slogans linking Obama to both Hitler and Stalin, Obama as the Joker portraits, and the usual misspelled signs. I still don't understand the misspellings--is this a sign of grassrootsness, a sign of authenticity--since many were handdrawn in the offices of the organizers? Is it a parody of the people themselves--deliberately done by Fox to portray all America like a version of the Gong Show? Is it a counter to left-wing demonstrations where people spell correctly--and therefore is a taunt at the "liberal elites? I simply don't get it. This may be a derivative of the Animal House tactics of the Republican Party--mispronounce names, call the Democratic Party, the "Democrat Party", demean one's opponents with adolescent slogans, deliberately confuse fascism, communism and socialism because all three words test negatively, and emphasize taxes and government as two words. This all escapes me. We saw this in the Bush-Kerry, and then McCain-Palin campaigns--the persistant desire to belittle one's opponent. In the case of Obama, they only looked childish, stupid and more importantly ineffective as he trumped them at every term.

The people did not look prosperous but more like lower middle-class Americans looking for a cheap weekend vacation. They are probably the people that would benefit the most from both the Obama tax cuts and the healthcare reform. And given the exorbitant amount of money charged sponsors by Freedomworks and others, you have to wonder whether this was not another cynical rightwing way for beltway bandits to make money--a subject I am increasing annoyed by. Conservative groups have been exploiting seniors, ex-military and others to donate money when the cause is already moot--gun rights, for example; or ridiculous like the birthers cause. In the middle of this are the anti-Healthcare lobbyists, who have flooded this town and our airwaves with ads.

The CNN coverage of these protests interviewed two of the organizers who have travelled the country with this motley crew and who articulated the goals as: defeat healthcare; take back Congress and the Senate in 2010; and the presidency in 2012. One organizer hoped a leader would emerge for this movement in 2010. They all like Sarah Palin--a few freepers remarked how effective she had been with her twittering. I have a surprise for these people--they will be sent to the Mojave Desert or to the North Pole, if and when a political force decides to coopt them. Even though megabucks circulated between the organizers and sponsors,these people paid their own ways as the postings of the bus schedules indicated.

For the attendees, they probably were star-struck by Glenn Beck, and other lesser lights. This is the crowd that goes to Frankie Valli concerts or theater in the round with George Hamilton. The segment of our people who love the third-rate and who are grateful for seeing a big-shot politician like Mike Pence or Joe Miller, who speaks like they do when they've had a few shots too many. They're the people who liked and agreed with Archie Bunker. In the past, they would have been a part--but not all of Richard Nixon's silent majority. I'm surprised we haven't heard more language like "Welfare Queens Driving Cadillacs."

The major complaint about the demonstration was the lack of porta-potties. This is a lesson for all demonstration organizers straight from the wisdom of my mentor Bayard Rustin, who organized Dr. King's March on Washington. "My biggest fear that day was the lack of toilets", he told me. "If you have a bunch of blacks descend on Washington and they leave a mess, our cause would have been set back several years. You can imagine the image that would sent." Attendees to this year's event were senior citizens, who have more cause to go and frequently. They blamed the city workers because "they are unionized." I blame the sponsors who wanted to increase their profit margin. Always make sure there are enough facilities as my grandmother used to say.

The astroturf aspect of this has several unsavory dimensions. The first is that it is exploitative. The attendees are scheduled to bus back to their states this night. The corporate sponsors couldn't even front them a hotel room as a benefit. They paid their own way and probably will have to chip in to tip the bus driver. And all their slogans and themes were written here in Washington and then passed down. The hate rhetoric in my view is the creation of alot of DC lobby shops and conservative groups and is not from the grassroots. I think the slogans have been tested for responses and I think this is a totally cynical exercise by the organizers. In other words, these people are the rubes to be taken to the cleaners by the grifters in the capital of grifters. The hate language has given these people license to act out in ways they would not dream of. As many remarked, they are glad that so many talk shows have hosts that speak the truth.

One needs to contrast this with Barack Obama's speech in Minneapolis this afternoon to a filled stadium. The few dozen hecklers screamed at attendees they were all socialists--that's a lot of socialists in one place. The slogans that have appeared throughout the August townhalls appeared but were politely ignored. People of all political persuasions could attend to see the President. It was first come, first serve. And the people were genuinely happy and not grumpy as many in D.C. seemed when they talked about politics. The President did what he does best which is give a barnburner of a speech re-telling one more time the story behind "Are you fired up! Ready to go!" from his primary campaign. Although much of what he said, one has heard, you never tire of a great performer giving his all.

One is left wondering who the D.C teabaggers believe President Obama really is? Why after all this time is it so hard to get a sense of his character? The people in Minneapolis were joyous at seeing their President. It reminds me of a scene from the president campaign after Obama finished a speech in downtown Philadelphia in the black neighborhood. Everyone had left but an old woman just sat in her lawn chair in the street. A reporter asked her what she was doing and she answered," Wasn't that grand? I'm just sitting here and still taking it in."

Saturday Coffee--Not Tea--Thoughts on the Week

Neal Gabler in "The Extreme Republican Party" posted on the Boston Globe's blog writes that we have now gone past the time when we can pretend to have two serious political parties in this country--one right of center and one left of center. Both political parties are compromised and corrupted by their ties to Big Money, as witnessed to the nearly $1 billion being poured into the health reform debate; but one political party has gone nuts. In a recent Pew poll, only 23 percent of Americans identify themselves as Republicans. When I ran the International Republican Institute, Republicans for the first time in my lifetime had achieved a slight plurality over the Democrats with some 45% identification. From a practical political point of view, the current number means you must secure another 28% of the electorate to win--in other words the votes you must ween away from independents and Democrats is more than your entire base. We're almost at the point where Republicans might consider dumping its base to have viability in the future.

The current Republican base is so out of touch with average Americans--the charge they levelled for years at Democrats--that a majority of its members either believe or aren't sure President Obama was born in kenya, believe the House health care bill calls for death panels to euthanize senior citizens, and believe that Obama is responsible for our economic woes (61%!)
How wacked out are the current Republicans? 71% of all Americans believe that global warming is a result of human activity, only 27% of Republicans; while Rasmussen says 55% of all Americans oppose health care reform ( recent polls counter this), 87% of Republicans oppose it and 74% very strongly. Depending on the poll, President Obama's favorability rating is between 50 to 58% but fewer than 10% of Republicans approve.

But this situation gets worse. Only 41 percent of conservatives now identify themselves as Republicans--that's how extreme the Party has become. The recent embrace of birthers, deathers, tenthers, vaxers and liars not only damages the Republicans future chances but seriously blocks the ability of there to be a real political debate in this country. Among the remaining Republicans I know,this paranoid politics also becomes a groupthink. Those not subscribing to the latest lunacy are considered Republicans in Name Only (RINOs) and are not to be trusted. The Republican embrace of the Tea Party nonsense and the Glenn Beck 9-12 project now plunge them into the treacherous waters of insurrectionists, secessionists, white supremacists and theocrats. This is not only dangerous to the country, President Obama personally but also to the Republicans themselves.

The effects of this have been dramatic. Governor Pawlenty, for instance, has announced the desire to embrace the lunacy of Gov. Perry of Texas in saying that the invocation of the tenth amendment might be a way for states to stop health care reform. This is a man who honestly has aspirations for the Presidency. And he would be representing the Party of Abraham Lincoln! The tenth amendment movement is of interest to constitutional scholars only because the doctrine of nullification, which existed prior to the Civil War, has been seriously rebuffed through countless Supreme Court rulings, including one as recently as 2005 and to see people raise this is a red flag to profound historical ignorance. For their part, neo-conservatives, who once pretended to have intellectual interests, have solicited the support of former half-term Governor Sarah Palin to press their support for President Obama's Afghanistan build-up. This is a person married--at least for now--to a former secessionist and who actively accused the President of paling around with terrorists. And somehow she's supposed to have any credibility and importance?

As I wrote in my thoughts on Republican Gomorrah, the control of the Republican Party by the religious right is pernicious enough. Now Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council believe they have a second-wind in organizing the religious opposition to health care reform. Not only are Republicans lying about the facts of bills but the religious community is bearing false witness against the bill as funding abortions, providing illegal immigrants health care, and creating death panels to euthanize senior citizens. The phenomenon of self-proclaimed Christians opposing in the name of religion, not politics, health care reform is mind-boogling. As I have written elsewhere, this is a wicked brew.

The first casualty in war is truth. But for our political system it is vital that we have reality-based debates. We should have learned through a series of policy blunders on both sides that the cold shower of fact-based analysis can lead to a more sober and worthwhile policy debate. The problem of a major political party embracing paranoid politics is that you can have no real compromise if one side lives in a a parallel universe.

Today's Teabag Express demonstrations in Washington raise serious challenges to the legitimacy of the Republican Party, not President Obama. What is it that these people are really advocating? It appears to be a grab-bag of nutty things from tax hikes (even though everyone I know got a tax cut), deficits (ignoring the Republican history of this issue), gun rights (so far Eric Holder has made not a single move in this direction),national service day on 9-11, health care reform, states rights, anti-immigration, upholding the constitution ( why not protest against Dick Cheney?), against cap-and-trade legislation, against the stimulus package, against the bailout of the banks, against support for the auto industry, against ACORN, and against abortion, the grandmother of the cultural wars. This bears alot of similarity to past nativist movements in our history that ranged from the Know-Nothings to the KKK. And, I might add it is profoundly anti-American in ways that the democratic Left never was. To actively target a sitting President only eight months into his term with the purpose of crippling his administration is the height of anti-patriotism.

Astonishingly, the vast majority of the teabaggers appear to be senior citizens--who are on social security, medicare and military pensions--and yet they advocate smaller government and the cut of government programs to help others than themselves. This is a classic generational war by seniors on the rest of society. I'm not sure they are self-conscious about this. Their mantra--"Taking Our America Back"--should disturb people who want to move forward. The last time America seemed normal to these people, and we lived in a segregated world where Ossie and Harriet were parents was under Dwight David Eisenhower, a man the ancestors of the teabaggers hated as a closet Democrat, crypto-Communist and a liberal.

The one aspect that fascinates me about this is the deliberate adoption of what they perceive as the tactics of the Left. Overtly, they are fascinated by Saul Alinsky, Bill Ayres and the Weatherman Underground. We all know they were miserable failures and that no one was persuaded by domestic terrorism--as we also found out with Timothy McVeigh--or even, alas, massive demonstrations. The anti-Iraq war demonstrations often exceeded one million people and their effectiveness was negligible. What the democratic Left discovered was that they had to organize and deal with the real problems of average citizens to have any credibility and legitimacy. The jury is still out on astro-turf protesting, turning out citizens on the corporate dime. It may well be--and I believe this--fantastic for corporate interests but of marginal use for generating real, civil debate.

Alot of commentators of the Left raise the whole issue of race. With the face of the Republican party being almost exclusively white men from the South, who personally have long ties to racist groups, this is entirely legitimate. The Republican Party, starting with Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy with rhetoric provided by then speechwriter Pat Buchanan, has exploited racial animosity when it suits it. However, whole sectors of the party were both liberal and progressive on civil rights legislation but they have been wiped out with the demise of the party of the Northeast and Midwest. As I've also written, today's Republicans are banking on short-term gains in 2010 by mobilizing the white anti-Obama vote by playing the race card. How this can benefit the party in the long-run is anyone's guess.

There are no national Republican leaders with the stature or clout to distance the party from the lunatic core, which seems to be their base. I would suggest that the Teabaggers and the Glenn Beck followers are heavily dominated by small splinter parties such as Alan Keyes American Independence Party (old George Wallace's party),the Libertarians, now the LaRoucheites (who are nominally Democrats), White supremacists and neo-fascist groups. It could be one of the most embarrassing baits-and-switches in American political history. This hodgepodge of parties and grouplets has learned more mainstream language and become what Republicans believe are the real base of the party. There was some of this before but the moment when this became a reality was the nomination of Sarah Palin as the vice-presidential candidate. A choice to appease the religious right, she brought with it libertarian, secessionist, and pro-militia followers.

The e-mails I receive invoke the American Revolution, an event my ancestors proudly participated in. And we should all remember it's first casualty was an African-American named Crispus Attucks. The extreme gun rights crowd, which is linked to the militias and paramilitary groups, invokes the Second Amendment as the paramount result of the revolution. Allegedly they argue our founding fathers believed a well-armed populace would be check on oppressive government. Well, not so fast. The post-revolutionary America faced a challenge from the Shays Rebellion in Western Massachusetts and when the constitution was ratified our revolutionary founders discovered that a government needed a well-organized militia--in order to suppress insurrections. The Second Amendment cuts both ways but customary beliefs have the left gun rights people the dominent interpretation.

So what colonial master am I supposed to rebel against?--foreign-owned banks and corporations looks like a good start, But that's not what my colleagues have in mind. They stated that our political rights and civil liberties are today threatened more than at any time since the American Revolution. Oh, Really? More than the Civil War? More than the Palmer Era? More than WWII? More than during the Cold War? More than under the Bush-Cheney Administration?

No, our freedoms are threatened by the new Emperor Jones in the White House and his coterie of socialists like--I guess--Ben Bernacke, Rahm Emmanuel,Bob Gates, Kathleen Sebelius, Larry Summers and David Geitner. Here, my friends lose me completely. My problems with the Obama Administration have to do with the maintenance of some of the Bush era restrictions on civil liberties, not any new abuses of constitutional power. And, there is an awesome and deliberate ignorance of these Teabaggers that doesn't realize the U.S. Government represents 30% of our national economy and President Obama has not done all this by himself in eight months.

Can you imagine any of these people who aligned themselves with the Tea Baggers being able to manage the complexities of the world's largest economy and the largest component in that economy? That's the stakes in getting two political parties back to a place where policies can be rationally debated.

I'm usually snarky in my replies. If Obama has achieved all this in eight months, created a socialist America and torn up the Constitution, then we were left with a pretty weak nation when he took over and there's nothing that can be done to reverse it.

One hoped that after President Obama's health care speech and his paramount reasonableness we would have heard some responsible Republican commentary. Instead, the almost universal response was to double-down on the deliberate lying about the president's proposals. This has provoked condemnation of Obama from the Left for maintaining the fiction that any bipartisanship is possible.

At least in the House, they are absolutely right. The President's plan will receive no Republican votes in the House because the leadership is listening to Newt Gingrich's advice that 1994 will repeat itself. In the Senate, Voinovich, Snowe and Collins are the only likely candidates for support for Health Care Reform. Voinovich because he's retiring. The Maine Senators because Collins won in 2008 and Olympia Snowe doesn't face re-election until 2012. And also they represent the last of the Northeast Republicans, who take commonsense positions.

How vile has this become? Former First Lady Laura Bush, a librarian by trade and someone who like her mother-in-law is devoted to reading, supported President Obama's school speech and condemned the partisan attacks on it. For this mild call to civility, conservative blogs attacked her, recalling her past history as a non-active Democrat before she met George W. and went on to attack the most conservative President in my lifetime as a RINO. In the crowd of teabaggers who arrived in Washington for today's festivities, many condemned George W. Bush's domestic policies and his deficit-spending. They called for a true conservative to be President.

But their means appear to be at odds with their goals. It's not the American revolution that is there real model it's the French Revolution. The Republican Base has become the latest version of the Jacobins and we know where that went. The present situation is very dangerous. Leftwing writer Naomi Wolf in The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot wrote movingly of how important it was to keep the Idea of America alive for us and the rest of the world. Whatever imperfections exist in our struggle toward a more perfect union, the idea of America has and continues to inspire the rest of the world. Today, the very idea is being threatened by the parnoid politics that have taken over the Republican Party.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Morning After--Still Great

I wish I had the temperment to analyze the full speech as a piece of rhetoric. Rachel Maddow got it right when she said that the final moments when President Obama was paying tribute to Ted Kennedy was an eloquent summary of the liberal perspective. President Obama had to skip across the private, the public and the inter-connections of both to make the point of why health care reform is a moral issue. And he did it powerfully and effectively. I thought the speech was about five minutes too long but he had to cover all the mischaracterizations in the debate and he was forced to carve out a whole section to assure seniors. I always like how Obama builds a speech--the hesitant or modest start and the hortatory repetitions and the blockbuster peroration. He delivered the speech with strength and great passion, which turns it from simply a text of policy points on healthcare to a media event and, more importantly, a demonstration of Presidential leadership.

The problem if you are a critic in the event, is you shouldn't look like those having a picnic during the battle of Bull Run. I almost thought the Republicans should have fans to keep the vapors off, while the black man spoke. The Washington Post in the late night edition had a portrait of the Republicans in the audience and their reactions--the mutterings and waving what,it turns out, is the so-called Republican health care plan, which has been curiously lacking for the last eight months and previous eight years. The eruption of Joe Wilson calling the President of the United States a liar was a breech of Congressional protocol as well as against his code of conduct for a military reservist. The Republicans were clearly sand-bagged by a President who successfully carved out the vital center.

The Republican response was delivered again by someone from Louisiana, who is notable because I forgot his name already. It's easy to make fun of him because he is a birther, been sued three times for malpractice in his medical practice and bought a British title for $18,500 but he made large concessions in the healthcare debate that have been missing from the Republican side since the beginning. He was for affordable medical insurance for all; he was for Americans going cross-state lines for insurance; and he was for the end of insurance companies turning people down on pre-existing conditions and support for preventive medicine. Of course, he might have restrained himself from criticising his own patients. And he threw in the old conservative saw about tort reform--which Obama mentioned in his speech. That was about as sane as the Republicans can get right now.

Ms. Lindsey Graham said Joe Wilson was rude but went on to say the President demeaned the office of the President by his attacks on his critics. He just didn't know his place. Sarah Palin tweeted from an undisclosed location that the President insulted everyone--I forgo the comment. And John McCain thought the President wasn't bipartisan enough--but John hasn't looked behind his back to get aglance of his party in awhile. John "The Tan Man" Bohner and Mitch McConnell looked liked they swallowed frogs, especially when the President called out the Republicans on their deficit-busting ways with the Iraq War and the tax cuts for the rich.

The only sensible damage control man was the head of the South Carolina Tourist Board, who obviously was up all night, because by early Eastern Standard Time, he had already issued a statement that Americans should ignore Joe Wilson and Gov. Sanford and remember South Carolina has great golf courses and beautiful beaches and the people are welcoming, despite its recent reputation of deranged politicians. Perhaps, he caught wind of the movement afoot on the internet to boycott Hilton Head, which is in Wilson's congressional district.

Glenn Beck put out word to his fans not to listen to the President's address because it was irrelevant--especially if you were filthy rich. Mike Gerson wrote in the Washington Post health crisis, what health crisis. Bill Kristol lamented the fact that the President used a Joint Session of Congress to address such a mundane issue as health care reform and not something truly important like war and peace or the anniversary of 9-11.

While polling immediately after the speech is deceptive because, in this case, your dominant audience will be Democrats and independents, the initial results show a big bounce in support of the President's plan. Democracy Corps, Greenberg and Carville's outfit, focused on independents, which by the end of the speech showed over 62% support for the President's ideas. In the CNN poll, even Republicans registered slightly over 50% support of the speech and they particularly liked his vow not to sign a bill that increases the deficit. In all the polls, the speech received overwhelming support from Democrats. In my view, this is not so much because of the details in the plan, which many Democrats would prefer alternatives, but because President Obama so clearly articulated his governing ideology and that of the Democratic Party.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Bravura Performance--Obama's Health Care Speech

President Obama did what he had to do in the speech before the Joint Session of Congress. For slightly over an hour, he walked through the details of the health care plan and reminded the audience that the effort at health care reform began with Theodore Roosevelt and has continued to this day without success. He boldly said he would the last President to deal with this issue. "We came here to make the Future."

President Obama adroitly painted the leftist position as the single-payer option and knocked it down to move on to attack the Republican positions. He noted the acrimony this debate has generated and played the adult calling on civility, despite a tough debate. He rightfully blasted the various lies being told about the death panels, socialized medicine, restricting the care for the elderly and all the rubbish that has emerged from the Republicans and their fellowers in the tea parties. He came right out and called them "lies" and promised to call out anyone who misrepresents his program. He was called a "liar" by a Republican from South Carolina for saying the health reform did not pay for illegal immigrants as the Right has argued. And he said from the podium this just wasn't true.

He covered at great length the details of the reform package and promised he would not sign a bill that added a penny to the deficit--too bad in my opinion. But he scored plenty of points calling out the unfunded programs of the Republicans such as the Iraq War, Medicare B and the tax cuts for the wealthy--these got the biggest applause lines. For the Republicans now bemoaning deficits for the first time in over a generation, Obama scored heavily on this point and his sparring with them on the whole issue of what government can and cannot do.

He had moments of great eloquence yet grounded his speech in all the particulars various groups wanted to hear about. The pieces which would hold the insurance companies accountable were welcome news to my ears and I was delighted he brought up the monpolistic practices of health insurance companies in various states with my particular favorite Alabama where Blue-Cross Blue Shield is virtually the only player. Finally, he made the explicit connection between the health insurance exchange proposition and the federal employees' program, which enlarges the risk pool and drives insurance rates down. For instance, if my wife and I bought our current program through the federal employees program it would cost for exactly the same plan one-half the cost. He reiterated the ban against prior conditions and a cap on benefits in both a year and over a lifetime. And he had to speak directly to the seniors because the Republicans have generated support in blocking health care reform by causing concerns among the seniors. He went on to point out that those very people pretending to protect seniors proposed under the Bush Administration to make Medicare a private voucher system. And of course, he emphasized that he would defend Medicare.

The most interesting parts of the speech in my mind was his defense of government and the need for government policy to create security for people who work hard over a lifetime. He cited the creation of Social Security and Medicare--two programs that lacked republican support--as great contributions to America. He painted them as bipartisan achievements even though he knows better. He went on to cite Senator Kennedy's letter released after his death saying that this year would be the year for health care reform. And he movingly defended Kennedy from accusations over liberalism saying the cause of health care reform was a moral one. Much to their obvious displeasure President Obama tied Charles Grasley, Orrin Hatch and John McCain to Senator Kennedy and linked them to several programs which might be considered liberal. His speech clearly put the monkey on the Republicans back.

He made the case that the status quo wouldn't work and is no longer working. He portrayed those resisting reform as fiscally irresponsible--I thought that was a shrewd political move. While leftwing bloggers are expressing their concern about President Obama's bipartisan overtures, I think it creates enormous pressure on them and raises greater political consequences if they don't respond positively. He was just painting them into a corner from which they can't escape.

I share the qualms the left has about his discussion of the public option. But I wonder if he did not rhetorically seem to downplay it to make it less of a red flag. He nonchalantly threw out that only 5% of Americans would choose the public option--that is a helluva lot of people. I thought he was strong in defending the public option but I think he wanted to portray it to the larger audience as something that any insurance company should be able to cope with. Remember Senator Grassley said that health insurance companies would disappear if a public option were adopted. What Obama was doing was deflating the extravagant claims being made about the public option as a rival to the status quo.

In the end, President Obama made the case not only for the urgency of health care reform but also for all the reforms he is proposing. As always, he comes off as the reasonable one. And one wonders also if the pre-emptive hysteria of conservatives and Republicans over his education speech doesn't help him out on this one. Even conservatives are admitting they jumped the gun in criticising a very sensible and inspiring speech for young people. So on such a big issue as health care reform--now that one heard the August hysteria at the townhall parties and today heard what the President believes about the subject--who are you going to believe? It must soon become apparent that the Republican and the Right have serious credibility problems.

That's my take before I heard any commentators. I do recommend as I did during the whole campaign to watch these speeches on C-Span where you are spared the nonsense of the punditocracy. It allows you to hear the speech and make up your own mind unfiltered through the rantings of the talking heads. Again a very strong performance by the President with just enough of the old spirit that got him the office.

9-9-09--Morning Coffee

How many more do-or-die speeches will Barack Obama have to make in his presidency? There is some hidden assumptions here when this is raised every time he speaks. Why is it that people actually think any of these speeches are do-or-die?

This has been going on since he declared for the Presidency. We had the great Race Speech in Philadelphia, which we were told would either make or break his candidacy. Somehow he did fine. Then we had the big speech at the Democratic Convention, which was ridiculed before delivery by Republicans who thought the set was too grandiose. Democrats claimed he would have to tread a fine line in the speech so as not to offend Hillary.

Or remember the first trip overseas where McCain offered to be his guide to Iraq? Daily we were treated to news coverage anticipating a blunder. Would our troops greet him as they did George W? Of course,they were thrilled. In addition, critics said his proposal for withdrawal was unrealistic only to find the Iraqi government agreed. Then we had his trip to Israel, a time-bomb waiting to happen. No problem.

Then we had the Berlin speech, which would be compared to JFK and Reagan and he would have to fail. Of course, over 200,000 came out and it was superb. But then we had the flap over the military hospital, where one of his military aides was ruled a campaign officials and so a trip had to be cancelled. And it doesn't end.

The speech the night he won--would it be uniting enough. The inaugural speech with 2 million people in town--would it be bold enough? Or how about his first G-8 conference, could he command the respect of our NATO allies and the Chinese? he actually personally brokered an agreement between France and China. Or he didn't show the proper respect to Queen Elizabeth and -horrors--Michelle put her arm around the Queen. The Palace had to issue a statement saying the Queen thought this was just ducky and she loved the first lady. Off to Europe and the meeting with the Pope, whose statement of support for President Obama's social policy, was quietly ignored by American Catholics.

And off we go to everything from the Stimulus package to Health Care. Perhaps the best vantage point to get a clearer view of this phony high-wire analysis or the do-or-die analysis is the simple speech yesterday by President Obama to the schoolchildren of America and the run-up to this relatively innocuous event. We were treated to the hysteria of the right-wing alkshows denouncing his indoctrinating America's youth into socialism,soliciting their support for the Cash-for-Clunkers program and the takeover of the banks. School districts threatened by teabaggers cancelled plans for showing the speech. Here in Virginia, Herndon and Loudon county schools made no plans even though the speech was at neighboring Wakefield High School a few miles down the road.

Of course--anyone who has listened to Barack Obama on education--would find no surprises. It was a speech aimed at students but not condescending to them, urging the youth to take academic achievement seriously and as a way for the success, instead of rappers and sports idols. Nice and ,of course, naive when the country only produces wealth through the doings of morons like we're some American idol society--which we are.

The Republican and conservative response was typical--their protests forced Obama to change his speech--absolutely not true-- and that his speech was basically conservative. Libertarian Neil Boortz in a moment of clarity made it clear that Republicans and conservatives were sucked into a trap of their making and any strategist worth his salt would have known that an education speech by this President, of all people, would sound the themes that he did and would have prepared the troops for just that. Oh, no! I'm waiting for the pushback that must come when people have some collective awakening that Obama is nothing like his critics say and that every criticism so far has been nothing but blatant lies.

There is a very dirty secret here. No Republican or conservative I know ever listens to President Obama and has never heard a thing he has said about anything. I have had e-mails from people purporting to "know" about the President's townhall meetings. Having been to two in the last year, I have some idea about how to gauge the truthfulness of their accounts. Union goons and Acorn people being "bussed" in, while "real Americans" are locked out. One account had lobsters being flown in for a meal in rural Montana. Barack Obama as Emperor Jones, a grandiose blackman acting as some African despot. There are people who honestly believe it and go viral with all this nonsense. As one would expect, the Townhalls are a pretty convivial affair, made inconvenient by all the wait and security checks, but with a full cross-section of the local community there. At the two I attended, there were no Acorn people but they were probably in disguise.

So now, we are at another make or break point--in all of 8 months of a Presidency--the health care speech. If he advocates a public option, the entire health insurance industry will disappear over night. Health care will be delivered like the post office--an improvement over its current state. Death panels and Death books will be the manner of today. It will be socialized medicine. There is no real medical care crisis says Michael Gerson in todays Washington Post. There is no urgency. The President is making up a crisis--just quote Rahm Emmanuel.

Of course, all the talking heads, lobbyists, congresscritters are actually rich people and for them there really is no health crisis. Just as one conservative complained that the President's speech on education was being shown at a church, when "everyone knows students could have access to the speech on internet." My tame response was that all students do not have access to the internet--like it or not.

I'll probably listen to the speech because I've listened to all of his just so I know what lies will be said. After a while, I'd like to take a pass but I receive streams of e-mails everyday, claiming Obama's new socialist idea or other. One of those told me yesterday that our freedoms are being threatened as now time before--except the American revolution. The Civil War? World War II? Richard Nixon? Sorry. As for President Obama, he'll do just fine.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I'm Fired Up--Ready To Go

In a terrible time in a terrible year, it took the old Barack Obama to get the juices flowing. Speaking before the AFL-CIO Labor Day picnic, Obama finally came back on fire,giving the type of speech that inspired all those who voted for him. Alot of it he has said before and over the last few months--the need to place the economy on a new foundation, one based on work, not wealth, the need to reform a badly damaged health care system that will not leave everyone one illness from bankruptcy. He hit all his points today but with a fervor that has been lacking in his normal speeches as President. O' and yes, he did endorse the public option to keep health insurance companies honest. He pointedly talked about all the lies being said about the health reform plan and asked his critics,"What's your plan?" He quickly answered his own question,"None". He should have kept going and said that his critics think the status quo is OK. If whole segments are going to hate the man without a harsh word from him, I would prefer he keep the fire in the belly and speak with the passion he's known for. Like many people, I think he's been too nice and hasn't slapped his opposition around enough. I could use with a whole lot of those Whoop-d-doo speeches Hillary Clinton always complained about. That do inspire and that's a good part of leadership.

See you at the White House rally tomorrow.

Labor Day Thoughts

Would anyone have objected if Bill Cosby were to speak to the American schoolchildren? Responding to the kerfuffle about President Obama's speech, Education Secretary Arne Duncan pointed to the amazing 30% dropout rates of America's high school students as maybe one of the reasons the President wants to deliver the speech. Combined with the growing number of college dropouts, this is a dangerous sign of a country who has to compete globally.

The great Nate Silver over at commented on the growing Republican demographic of angry seniors. While a long term detriment to the GOP's chances on a national level, it is a benefit for the 2010, since seniors tend to vote in higher percentages than other groups. Will this see a Republican wave as Washington pundits predict, over at the Dailykos, there was a look at all the by-elections to date and Republican have not fared well, even when they tried to nationaliz the election by tying the Democrat to Obama's health care plan or to gay marriage. That's why I think the governors' elections in New Jersey and Virginia will constitute a false dawn for Republicans. At this writing both Republicans are leading in the polls but are now drawing flak for past deeds and actions. Even if victorious, it's going to be hard to justify any national trend.

I happen to subcribe to the Bill Clinton theory that if health reform is passed, President Obama's approval ratings will climb and the Democrats might dodge a bullet in 2010 elections. It's hard to see what a Republican vote would accomplish except to re-enforce the party's message of "No". If the elections go as the past, the President's party should lose between 15-20 seats in the House. That still will not be enough to fulfill Newt Gingrich's Dream Number 2 of replaying 1994.

Look to see Harold Koh as the leading contender for the next slot on the Supreme Court when Stevens retires. The former Dean of Yale Law School and a defender of human rights globally, he will draw the fire of the right as he has recently. Koh is a very decent and very likeable man and accomplished man but that won't stop anyone.

Glenn Beck tasting blood over the resignation of Van Jones wants to go after Cass Sunstein, the former law professor from the University of Chicago and friend of Barack Obama. Dr. Sunstein is a very peculiar target for Beck. During the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama disappointed his supporters for his support of the FISA bill. Sunstein gave out interviews on why Obama did this. In the interview, he recalled that during all the Bush maneuverings on civil liberties Obama consulted him and asked him to lay out the soundest legal arguments one could make in defense of the Bush actions so he understood them. It seems to me that someone who could actually make these arguments--even if he didn't support them--is hardly material for attack. In particular, Beck wants to expose Sunstein's writings that concern the possibility of using organs from the deceased without a family's consent. A theoretical article about a theoretical situation--something professors are apt to do. But it would fit into the death panel-death book-euthanasia themes that are so popular among the Beck audience. I can see him now--Obama-Sunstein-Chicago-Ezekial Emmanuel--Socialism.

Keith Olbermann seems to have sensed that Glenn Beck is no longer the joke he enjoyed while explaining the symbolism of Rockefeller Center. He has put out a request on his Daily Kos blog for all leads, tips, informants on Mr. Beck's past and present. I hope he comes up with some good stuff.

Van Jones wounded himself with signing the 9/11 petition. However, I found his tape about Columbine truthful and interesting. He said that only white boys shoot up schools, while black boys don't. Since I can't find anything that disputes this, it actually is a subject worthy of analysis. Naturally, this tape was to show how racist he was but I found it disturbingly accurate.

The NAACP criticized President Obama for letting Van Jones go because of criticism from the right. The Washington Post, the company newspaper, said that this showed the problem of vetting in the Administration. Unfortunately, it reminds me of the loss when Tom Daschle could not make it as Health Secretary, a blow to the health care plan. Van Jones had a compelling personal history that led him naturally to the place of being a Czar for Green Jobs.

Old Governor Sunbeam--California's Attorney-General Jerry Brown--has opened up an investigation into the abuse of health insurance companies who demand employees attend townhall meetings to voice talking points against reform. Brown said that, while this practice may be legal in other states, it is not in the state of California and represents a specific abuse of workers' rights, according to the statutes. Well done. The insurance industry has ordered employees out in every state, armed with talking points created by their lobbyists. Some news reports put this figure at 47,000 people placed in these various townhall meetings.

The oil companies thought this astro-turfing ideas is so great that they are now mobilizing protests against the Cap-and-Trade bill before Congress. This is a fantastic moment in our democracy--American corporations are organizing street protests--what a concept?! Billionaires for Weathfare--one of more favorite protest groups--should appear at these protests with a new chant,"We all want to shop at the Company Store!"

My friends in the Natural Gas industry constantly complain about President Obama, mostly I think because they are all from Texas. But underneath the radar, it has been the Coal Industry lobby on the Hill blocking the expansion of natural gas, which is cheap, plentiful and clean.

On the book front, I received notice from Amazon that Bill Burroughs' Evil River will not be published this September. Now the due date is September 2010. That means four years since I first ordered it. Now, Burroughs has been dead for years, the manuscript has been in the hands of the publisher for at least five years. Certainly, there is an editor around by now.

The one book I look forward to is Ralph Ellison's Three Days Before the Shooting about the assassination of a biracial Southern politician who passed as white but was raised by a black family. But with the current climate of hate rhetoric against President Obama,I'm not so sure I'll be as receptive to it as I might be.

The stupid award goes to Hank Williams, the descendent of the great Hank Williams, who proclaimed that "We all know that President Obama is only President because of the electoral college. The electoral college is the problem." Maybe, he's President for receiving the largest amount of popular votes in American history. Or, maybe not.

While Washington braces for Glenn Beck's 9/12 project, some of us are anticipating the 9/9/09 project--the release of all the remastered Beatles albums. I'm usually skeptical about these re-issues of the classics as some new money making proposition. But, the exercise looks like it might actually contribute something to finally obtaining the "real sound" of the Beatles. I'll report in due time.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Republican Gomorrah

Max Blumenthal's expose of how much the fundamentalists control today's Republican Party is one of the best reads on domestic politics in a long time. There are so many great moments. One summarizes ,in my opinion, why educated professionals are fleeing the Republican Party in droves. Sarah Palin is a member of a Third Wave Pentecoastal Church, which preaches that Satan had sex with Eve and gave birth to Cain--the so-called "Serpent's Seed". And through Cain, in the words of the Church's founder, came "all the smart, educated people to the antediluvian flood--the intellectuals. They know all the creeds but they do not know God." So, it doesn't matter to Palin's supporters she is clueless in terms of policy, she has right religion.

Blumenthal also does an excellent job of explaining the on-going appeal of George W. Bush to the religious right. Despite all the failings, he is seen as carrying out the personal commands of God, as he emphasized many times in conversations with foreign leaders. Horribly,if these people control the party, then it can not get beyond George W. and reinvent itself. Logically, it must plunge deeper into the religious right.

After finishing the book, it's apparent that there are only two possible nominees for 2012--Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee. Blumenthal does a splendid job of laying out Huckabee's long-time relationship with people like Dr. Dobson of Focus on the Family and by inference it's clear that Huckabee can talk the talk in a way that I think will be more compelling than Palin. One priceless scene is how Palin calls Dobson and tries to persuade him McCain is on board against Stem-Cell Research (he wasn't) and how he was firmly for banning gay marriages (he wasn't.) Since Dobson muscled McCain to choose Palin, it didn't really matter he had his girl.

Blumenthal does a real service by exploring the hinky side of the Christian Right's heroes. We discover that Diaper Dave Vitters, not only visited the D.C. Madam but also regularly engaged in S&M with a prostitute in New Orleans. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council came to Vitters defense because funds for the faith-based initiatives were coming to the Lousiana based branch of his outfit courtesy of Vitters. In addition, Vitters might be replaced by a Democrat. But in the case of Idaho's Larry Craig, who could only be replaced by a Republican, he could be thrown under the bus to assert the righteous indignation over gay sex.

Some of the best writing is on the Republican gay underground and how it sees itself as "Jews in Hitler's Army" by backing the extreme right's social agenda. Blumenthal reminds us of the long-history of gay-baiting by the right started under Joe McCarthy and enabled by Roy Cohn, who died of AIDS but never admitted he was gay. In the 1980s, when I first came to Washington during the Reagan years, it was startling to see how many gays were Republican activists, while the Democrats were basically homophobes then.

One interesting portrait is that of Howard Ahmanson, Jr, a terribly shy man who suffers from Tourette's Syndrome and who was once hosptalized for mental illness, who put his fortune at work funding anti-gay, anti-abortion, pro-big business candidates for the California Assembly and by 1994 secured a Republican takeover of that body. He provided a good bulk of the funding behind the anti-gay Propositions in the State. He invested early on in the career of Marvin Olasky, who was a member of the Communist Party in the early 1970s when that group barely existed and who later converted from Judaism to an ultraconservative version of the Presbyterian Church. Olasky later became the godfather of compassionate conservatism, arguing that the church had been the traditional and most effective approach to philanthropy before the New Deal. During the bruising primaries between George W. Bush and John McCain, Olasky accused McCain's Jewish neoconservative supporters as worshipping the "religion of Zeus". His brainchild was Bush's creation of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in 2001.

Ahmanson's other success was the creation of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which touts the intelligent design movement and seeks to debunk evolution. Americans United for Separation of Church and State calls Discovery "the most effective and politically savvy group pushing a religious agenda in America's public school science classes." The institute was founded by former Reagan official Bruce Chapman, a conservative Catholic. He has recruited dozens of research fellows, directors and advisors who all boast advance degrees from respectable universities.

There are some surprises in the book. One is the war the religious right waged against Newt Gingrich, culminating in a power play by Tom DeLay to force Gingrich to resign both as speaker of the House and finally his seat in Congress. While I knew Newt's womanizing galled some Republicans, I never realized it was the religious right who actually waged the campaign against him.

Another fun section of the book concerns Ralph Reed and Jack Abramoff, who hustled the religious right into blocking attempts to loosen restrictions on gambling if these state efforts conflicted with their Indian clients ,who ran casinos and gambling operations on their own territory. This sparked a brawl between them and Haley Barbour, who represented the Jena Choctaws, who were about to be granted a gambling license, and were rivals of Reed and Abramoff's clients. Reed managed to persuade Focus on the Family and Dr. Dobson to flood the White House and the Department of Interior with protests. In the end, Haley triumphed but not before the evangelicals unleashed a torrent of warning about the sins created and fostered by gambling.

The book is extremely troubling for its insights into how far the Republican Party has gone down the path of religious extremism. Much of the fiery rhetoric we hear today against Obama is present through much of the religious right's war against.. fill in the blank. And what is especially disturbing is the evangelicals stated position that it is alright to lie in order to advance their agenda. This is the doctrine of Islamists, who believe it is righteous to lie and deceive the infidels.

Throughout much of the book, there is a stream of thought that America must adopt biblical laws and that somehow America has become degenerate and corrupt. It depends on the age when they discuss this--first it's during the civil rights period, then it's against the Age of Aquarius and the new religions, now it's against gays and anti-abortion. From the early 1980s, there is also a doctrine that legitimizes armed struggle, particularly the violence against any place or person perceived as performing abortions. This language was the creation of Francis Schaeffer, whose son within the last year has denounced the very religious right he helped create.

Imagine for a minute any of these people charged with running the largest economy in the world, a government which controls 30% of that economy, and the largest military on earth. That is a truly frightening prospect. But then again, we did--the Bush Administration was not only the most conservative in terms of policies in the modern age but the one most dominated by the religious right. And where did it get us--a Global Depression, two wars, a suspension of our constitutional rights and the legal rationalization of torture.

There is one thing in this book, an incidental detail but significant for understanding today's political rhetoric. Republicans actually polled on language suggesting fear and death and found that these ideas brought forth the most coherence among their followers. Death Panels, Death Book,and Obama letting terrorists free on the streets,another terrorist attack. Among Republican voters this is red meat. Personally, I doubt whether this resonates anymore in the public at large.

The Torture Memos:Rationalizing The Unthinkable

The New Press has just published six of the memos by the Bush Department of Justice released from 2002 to 2005 to legally justify the practice of torture on detainees during the "war on terror". Phillipe Sands, author of Torture Team, the first book I remember about the memos,writes the introduction where he outlines the international developments that triggered the release of the memos. His own book was a sensitive and objective view of America caught unawares by the attacks on 9/11 and probed the views of those principals involved in these dreadful deliberations. The lower level officials he found to be honest and fairly open about the problems with their own actions; while the higher ups remained fairly reticient to even acknowledge the horrible truth.

The book--291pages--was edited by David Cole, a professor of law at Georgetown and the legal affairs correspondent for The Nation, Cole's 40-page introduction puts these memos in their context both within the policy deliberations of the Bush Administration and within the requirements of law, particularly international obligations of the United States. The memos themselves are horrifying in their dryness and matter-of-factness. Naturally, the lawyers enlarged any ambiguities to justify the worst abuses under this policy. To read these legal justifications produced by men educated at some of America's leading law schools is absolutely horrifying.

Whither the Conservative Movement?

When a Republican House leader says the GOP should model itself after the Taliban, when conservative activists are holding organizational seminars to teach Saul Alinsky's and Eurocommunist Antonio Gramsci's theories, something is dangerously amiss. The secret Christian fundamentalists group The Family eulogizes Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot and talk show hosts liken Fascism with Communism and claim Barack Obama is like Hitler. Somehow I am missing the democracy and the conservatism in all this.

To help understand what's going on, conservative Sam Tenenhaus, the biographer of Whittacker Chambers, has just published a book-long essay "The Death of Conservatism"(Random House, $17.00) where he claims the conservative movement has been hijacked by "revanchists"who distrust government and society and find themselves at war with America itself. These people, he claims, are "profoundly and defiantly unconservative" in their arguments and ideas, iin their tactics and strategies and above all in their vision. He calls how modern conservatism grew out of intellectuals such as James Burnham, Wittacker Chambers and Bill Buckley, Jr. and how at a critical juncture they had to set the boundaries where the extremists had to be neutralized.

Sam Tenenhaus recalls the days when Bill Buckley,Jr. published an entire issue of the National Review reading the John Birch Society out of the conservative movement. At that moment, the Republican Party was at its historic low-point of 25%--which is about where it is now. As I've written before, the John Birch Society called Ike a Communist sympathizer and ran campaigns against his cabinet. Some of us remember their view that fluoride treatment of water was a Communist plot. Buckley saw that their paranoid politics was destructive and would hinder any growth of a serious conservative movement. He solicited and received the support of Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and John Tower from Texas. Tower read Buckley's writings about the Society into the Congressional Record as a clear signal to Republicans to step away from the Society. Some of us recall the photo of Sarah Palin reading the John Birch magazine during the campaign.

The problem is there are no adults today in the conservative movement, who will denounce the proliferation of the paranoid fringe of birthers,deathers, tenthers and vaxers (those opposing the swine flue vaccination). And there is even a more profound problem--the total absence of any belief in the common welfare or the public good. Old-fashioned conservatives debated liberals about the "politics of stability" and did not dream of destablizing the American government.

How did it get to this point? Tanenhaus takes a stab at it by locating the beginnings of the end when conservatives started attacking Ronald Reagan at the end of his second term. This was then followed by their defection from George Bush because of his raising taxes. Then Tenenhaus sees the radicalization of the conservative movement with the emergence of Newt Gingrich and his bid to take over the House. By then, conservatives simply abandoned any belief in the virtue of government and its power to adjust to changing conditions.

But conservatives may have let the situation get far beyond them. Max Blumenthal in Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party (Nation Books, $25.00) tells the sorry and seedy tale of how the evangelical movement took over the Republican Party. If anything the tales of Governor Sanford and Senator Ensign are rather mild compared to the depravity of the theocrats trying to run the party. Blumenthal outlines how Sarah Palin was the absolutely natural and logical choice for John McCain to pick since he had to appease this dominating element of the party. He warns that Palin's backers will be the major elements trying to undermine President Obama. His investigative reporting has some delicious bits on how Palin started running for President in 2012 at John McCain's expense and extensive material on the evangelicals difficult problems with their own gays and those in the general society. So if you hear people refer to "Real Americans"--run for cover. It's the guys in Blumenthal's reporting.