Tag Archives: Republicans

Facebook, the NFL and the GOP: #WTF

What a fucking day.

Item: Congress has tentatively agreed on a bill that will keep the government from shutting down. Now, there’s a lot wrong with it, starting with the fact that the Republicans are insisting on a huge payoff to Wall Street, basically holding the best interests of the people hostage to the best interests of the insanely rich. The smart money says the Democrats will:

a) raise holy hell, then
b) fold like the Vichy little bitches they are.

In other news, the sun is expected to rise in the east tomorrow.

None of this is the fun part, though. First, the GOP plan would … well, just read it. Continue reading Facebook, the NFL and the GOP: #WTF

Barack Obama: talk loudly and carry a little stick (or, Mr. Obama sells a horse)

obama-circumstancesI’ve been thinking on Obama’s recent outbreak of backbone. Standing up to his FCC appointee on Net Neutrality was a fun start, and a lot of folks are welcoming the fact that finally, after six long years, he’s beginning to act with a little courage.

Maybe. Maybe he realizes that he has two years left and no more elections to deal with, and this is his chance to go out swinging.

Or maybe not. How many times since 2008 – go ahead and count them up, I’ll wait – have you heard somebody say that X was the best he could have hoped for with all that GOP opposition? If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this with respect to health care alone I could buy us all a nice steak dinner somewhere.

There are times when that has almost felt like his brand: Obama – the best that could have been done under the circumstances. See if we can get that on a bumper sticker. Continue reading Barack Obama: talk loudly and carry a little stick (or, Mr. Obama sells a horse)

Howard Baker dead: a former Republican remembers the last GOP statesman

Baker was the man who set me on the path to progressivism.

Former Tennessee Senator and Reagan White House Chief of Staff is dead at 88. Baker was, in many ways, one of the last of his kind: to wit, a coherent Republican. I have noted before that in my youth I was a conservative – by the standards of that era, anyway. I voted for Reagan twice – I’m not proud of it, but I won’t hide from the facts – even though I can’t say I was ever a true blue Reaganite. No, my ideals ran more toward the old school conservatism of men like Baker. Smart, reasonable, diplomatic. He was, I have argued, the last Republican statesman. Continue reading Howard Baker dead: a former Republican remembers the last GOP statesman

Allen West defends Donald Sterling; sadly, he doesn’t even understand his own conservative ideology

FOX News contributor and former GOP Congressman rides to racist Clipper’s owner’s defense, ignorance in hand.

If you’ve been paying attention for the past few years, the idea that Allen West is wrong about something is hardly news. His latest public opinion, though, is more than a little baffling because in this case he seems not to understand how conservativism works.

Here’s his take on the whole Donald Sterling trainwreck. Now, I’m not going to argue the idea that we ought to have some privacy, and while you’d never hear the kind of corrosive bile coming out of my mouth that you heard from Sterling if you taped my every word for a million years, it’s certainly true that I’d be annoyed if someone secretly recorded a private conversation and then released it into the wild. Continue reading Allen West defends Donald Sterling; sadly, he doesn’t even understand his own conservative ideology

Beltway Zen: has the Washington Post ever met a liar it won’t publish?

At WashPo, the narrative is more important than the facts…

Earlier today a friend forwarded me, via e-mail, the text of an opinion piece that was ostensibly about the “new reality” on the right. It began well enough.

Following the recent tea party Tet Offensive — tactically disastrous but symbolically important — the Republican establishment has commenced counterinsurgency operations. Sens. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee — both facing primary challenges from the right — are responding more forcefully to their populist opponents. Continue reading Beltway Zen: has the Washington Post ever met a liar it won’t publish?

The GOP’s highly entertaining civil war

Embarrassing defeat in government shutdown and debt ceiling face-off reveals cracks in GOP coalition.

While I have retired from political blogging, there is some value in pausing, from time to time, to remind our readers about past discussions of particular relevance to the events of the moment. One such opportunity presented itself this morning, as John “The Straight Talkin’ Mavericky Maverick” McCain and Mitch “The Voice of Reason” McConnell bubbled up on the old white guy/talking head circuit. Continue reading The GOP’s highly entertaining civil war

Our psychopath Congress

Government shutdown, debt crisis reveal how much GOP has in common with other sociopaths…

Is this to be an empathy test? Capillary dilation of the so-called blush response? Fluctuation of the pupil. Involuntary dilation of the iris?

I believe Philip K. Dick had it right in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Technology had, in that not-so-distant future, created androids that were nearly indistinguishable from humans. The one thing people had that the Nexus 6s didn’t, the quality that made them essentially human, was empathy. Continue reading Our psychopath Congress

Predicting North Carolina’s future: if GOP wins again in 2014, expect a severe case of brain drain

North-CarolinaVia our boy Dr. Jim Booth: BuzzFeed last week presented “11 Things The North Carolina Legislature Gave Us This Session.” The list isn’t pretty. It includes:

  • Moral Mondays
  • Harsh abortion restrictions hidden in a motorcycle bill
  • The most restrictive Voter ID laws in the country
  • The decimation of public education as North Carolinians know it
  •  The assumption that all those on government assistance are drug addicts
  • The expansion of where you can carry your concealed weapon
  • The repeal of the Racial Justice Act
  • The end of federal unemployment benefits
  • A ban on Sharia Law (because if there’s anything that plagues The Old North State these days, it’s Sharia Law running amok)

And of course,

  • Turning the state into a national laughingstock

I don’t know how exactly to describe my feelings about what’s happened to my native state. Heartbreak at the neo-feudal paradise a once-vibrant place is becoming. Terror at what this means for my family and friends who are still there. Transcendent white-hot rage at the corrupt oligarchs who financed the coup. All that and then some.

A few days ago I posed a question via Facebook to my friends back in NC asking, essentially, how they viewed it all. Were any of them contemplating leaving? The results were about what I expected, I guess. A couple are pretty much stranded by commitments (family, etc.) that they can’t escape. A couple believe things will turn around. At least one is already planning on leaving and is researching options in another part of the country.

The ones who are staying are the sorts who are willing to fight for justice, and there are enough good people in the Tarheel State for me to know that the Art Popes and Pat McCrorys have a fight on their hands.

Next year’s mid-term elections are going to be a massive moment in the state’s history – perhaps the biggest watershed in my lifetime. It’s my suspicion that the conservative tide swept into office in large part because the “moderate” independent center of the electorate didn’t fully understand what the GOP represented. They thought they were voting for “fiscal restraint” and budget “responsibility” and “getting their house in order.” What they were actually doing was summoning demons, and I find myself at this point wondering how many folks voted Republican and now regret it.

We’ll find out next November, as Mephistopheles Art Pope puts his wallet behind a critical effort to consolidate the gains from the last election. He’ll be opposed by an aggressive alliance of progressives and moderates that won’t have the cash he does, but they’ll be battling tooth-and-nail, as only people fighting for their lives can do.

If the GOP is evicted, the new legislature will have its hands full repairing the damage. But with luck, the 2013 experience will have taught North Carolinians a valuable, if painful lesson and they will be inoculated against further nonsense from the far right.

If, on the other hand, the Republicans maintain control and continue their reign of terror, expect the brain drain to begin in earnest. The I-85 corridor – Charlotte, the Triad and the Research Triangle – votes dead-blue. These areas are also the state’s economic center. Business leaders won’t be bothered by a garden variety conservative climate, but the new order in the state capital will generate social and economic stresses that intelligent CEOs and shareholders are smart enough to grasp.

Companies trying to decide where to open new operations are going to steer clear of a state in rapid decline, and I’d begin watching the Triangle closely for companies packing up and moving out. A lot of the state’s brightest and best are not natives and they have no deep ties to the region that would keep them there. They’re imports from around the country (and abroad) and they’re going to have no interest in living in a hybrid antebellum South/feudal Europe.

That’s my prediction. We’ll find out if I’m right over the next couple of years.

 

Responding to a small businessman who says he did it without any government help AT ALL

A few days ago I offered up Art Pope and Pat McCrory leading North Carolina into the 19th century, a collection of thoughts on the state I was born and raised in. The comment thread wandered a bit, as they tend to do when you say things other people don’t want to hear, and eventually one commenter – a Stan Lee Harrison – weighed in with this:

I run a small business [without any assistance from the state or Federal governments] and interact with customers every day.

Wow, you’re probably thinking. A truly self-made man, eschewing handouts and welfare state charity and Obama-style Socialism and everything else that the authentic Randite is vehemently opposed to. Up until they aren’t, anyway.

I got to thinking about Mr. Harrison’s remarkable claim and decided that it deserved a serious response. In some cases I’m skeptical – can’t help it, I’m afflicted with an inherently critical mind and have never been able to do much about it – and in others I have honest questions. If he can do it, maybe I can, too. When it comes to my perennially underwhelming pursuit of financial solvency, I’m always willing to learn.

What follows is a slightly revised version of my answer, which has so far received no response.

—–

Dear Mr. Harrison:

Since you “run a small business [without any assistance from the state or Federal governments] and interact with customers every day,” I have to admit that I’m having a hard time trying to guess what kind of company this is. I mean, it obviously has to be home-based, because you don’t use any state or federally constructed or maintained transportation infrastructure. This means you don’t make a product that has to be moved via roads and highways, or rail, or air. It can’t make use of the maritime system, which relies on government ports and management. You have to be working from home because you can’t be driving around on the roads that the rest of us use. You certainly don’t fly to visit clients in other cities because without the government airplanes would be crashing in midair every day. Amtrak is obviously out.

Not sure how you’re interacting with customers, either. Pretty much every corner of our communication system requires government regulation of some sort because if it didn’t you’ve have such a morass of unstandardized channels that nobody could talk to each other. And wait a damned minute. You’re using the Internet right now. Do you you turn it off as soon as you start work? If not, I’m going to need you to explain how the Internet was erected by private entrepreneurs with no government help at all. If you aren’t e-mailing your customers and you don’t have a Web site or a social media presence, I really don’t envy your marketing director.

I also assume that your home office is pretty spartan. Getting no help from the government and all, there’s no electricity or running water. Your cave must be in a gated community because you receive no protection whatsoever from law enforcement and if it weren’t for the high fence and the concertina wire and the private security force your home office would have been looted by now. Not sure what you’re going to do if you’re ever ripped off, though, because your only recourse (short of going vigilante) is the government court system.

I’m guessing that you don’t have any employees, because in your corner of the world you’d almost certainly have to hire people who at some point attended public schools. And forget college. Given the cost of higher ed these days they’d probably have had no choice but to rely on federal grants or scholarships and/or federal student loans. Or maybe you just hire uneducated people. Of course, that kind of mitigates against success, doesn’t it?

(Wait – you didn’t go to a public school, did you?)

Let’s see. You had to have been born rich. Taking a bank loan means federal and/or state influence on the system to assure that you weren’t scalped. And I’m especially wondering about how your company is incorporated. Every business of any magnitude makes use of a limited liability structure. If it weren’t for that, you’d be bankrupt and homeless the first time you screwed something up. And let’s be honest, we all make mistakes. In this same vein, if you have customers, that probably means you have contracts of some sort. How do you enforce them?

Also – do you keep your money in a bank or under your mattress? If in a bank, are your funds insured by the FDIC?

Since you aren’t in jail (you aren’t writing from jail, are you?) I’m guessing that you pay taxes (or at the least you have an accountant who helps you avoid paying them). From your tone, I’m guessing you’re the sort of person who takes advantage of every single deduction legally available to you. That’s a government thing – you could get a new car “for business use” and write it off, whereas I can’t unless I’m also pimping that government system.

What else, what else? Oh, right. Duh. How do your customers pay you and how do you pay your bills? Since you eschew any sort of federal support, that means you aren’t using the dollar. Do you accept payment in chickens?

As a side note, you never died as a result of rubella, smallpox, measles, or any of the other diseases that government immunization programs have mostly eradicated. (I’m assuming you aren’t a zombie here, although I admit, it would be pretty damned cool if you were.) You probably didn’t have polio, either, right? What other life-threatening medical conditions did you never contract and die from as a result of federally driven research into prevention and treatment? Because when it comes to running a successful business, such as yours, there’s really no substitute for being, you know, alive.

Also, does your business market a product or service that emerged in some way from federally funded research? There’s a lot of things that we sell that we wouldn’t have without those programs. I’m including in this research conducted at private universities which received substantial government support, like my alma mater, Wake Forest, which as I’m sure you know is one of the nation’s premier private institutions (Go Deacs!).

In conclusion, I cannot imagine what sort of business you run. I can’t think of single company that doesn’t get “any assistance from the state or Federal governments.” Not. One. I can’t even imagine how such a thing is possible.

So I hope you’ll fill me in. This seems like a great opportunity to learn something valuable that I might be able to use in my own career. Like every smart business guy, I’m always looking for an edge.

Thanks for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Sam Smith

Ten years ago this week the Dixie Chicks controversy erupted: I’m still not ready to back down

CATEGORY: FreeSpeech

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. ― Theodore Roosevelt

On March 10, 2003, at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire theatre in London, Natalie Maines stepped to the microphone and said this:

Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.

As our old friend Greg Mitchell notes, “It was a little more than a week before their fellow Texan launched a war based on lies.”

When word of Maines’s comment made it back to the US, what ensued was…well, what ensued was an infuriating look at the festering soul of Bush-era America and an illustration of the good, bad and ugly of how free speech works. Predictably, the hillbilly right closed ranks around the president and his WMDs-are-real cronies. Country & Western stations purged their playlists of Dixie Chicks music, records were burned, fatwas were issued, and the Chicks’ career Mark 1 was effectively destroyed. The message – for the Dixie Chicks and anybody else out there with a brain and a conscience – was more than clear: if you value your career, shut up and sing.

In some respects, the controversy was really useful. For instance, the president responded by saying:

The Dixie Chicks are free to speak their mind. They can say what they want to say.… they shouldn’t have their feelings hurt just because some people don’t want to buy their records when they speak out.… Freedom is a two-way street ….

The remarkable thing about this is that Bush, a man renowned for being wrong on just about everything, was actually right for once. Free speech does not imply a freedom from backlash, and if you’re an entertainer people who disagree with you are perfectly within their rights to boycott. What’s good for Hank Williams, Jr. and Mel Gibson is good for The Dixie Chicks.

Granted, you also have the right to be hateful and ignorant, and it’s certainly true that the Dixie Chicks backlash had more to do with the gleeful exercise of these rights than it did any informed understanding of how free speech was intended to work by the Framers. But that’s another argument for another day.

Now, how you feel about President Obama?

In April, 2009, S&R honored The Dixie Chicks as the 25th addition to our masthead hall of fame. I wrote, at the time (and while I was extremely angry):

History will validate, with a minimum of controversy, the sentiments Natalie Maines expressed at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire theatre on March 10, 2003. Hopefully the record will point to our present moment and note that already the momentum had shifted and that within a generation people would have an impossible time imagining how such an affront to freedom was ever possible. Hopefully.

For the time being, “mad as hell” doesn’t begin to describe the indignation that those of us working to move this culture forward by promoting genuinely intelligent and pro-human values ought to feel, even now. I won’t tell you how to think and act, of course – you have a conscience and a brain, and you can be trusted to take in the information and perspectives around you and form an opinion that you can live by.

But for my part, I have a message for the “shut up and sing” crowd: I’m not ready to back down and I never will be. Your values are at odds with the principles upon which this nation was founded and true liberty cannot survive if your brand of flag-waving ignorance is allowed to thrive. You will not be allowed to use the freedoms that our founders fought for as weapons to stifle freedom for others.

You have declared a culture war, so here’s where the lines are drawn: I’m on the side of enlightenment, free and informed expression and the power of pro-humanist pursuits to produce a better society where we all enjoy the fruits of our shared accomplishments.

What side are you on?

Natalie and her bandmates lost tons of money over the past decade, but they’ll get by. In the end, it seems like they got a pretty good deal. In exchange for all those millions, they earned the right to a special place in the American soul. Justice matters. Facts matter. Humanity and compassion and freedom matter. Integrity matters more than money.

Looking back, I think the lesson to take away is a simple one. Our freedoms are important, but they’re empty and sterile and prone to corruption in the absence of an enlightened, intelligent embrace of the responsibilities that come with living in a democracy.

In the words of another of our musical heroes, George Clinton, “Think. It ain’t illegal yet.”