Principles Be Damned! We Want to Break Things!

Joe Conason

By Washington standards, the current government shutdown is an everyday disaster — of a kind we are gradually learning to expect whenever the Republican Party controls Congress. The impending breach of the nation’s credit, however, when those same Republicans refuse to raise the debt limit to cover the funds they have spent, threatens a singular catastrophe: unpredictable, global, yet entirely avoidable.

The blame for this disgrace seems to be apportioned properly by most Americans, according to the latest polling data. But the future of the country and the world may well rest on whether voters understand the roots of this crisis — in a party controlled by an extremist faction that is violating every public value that party has supposedly espoused for 30 years and more.

Republicans used to tell us, often with a self-righteous air, that they were the true upholders of constitutional order, the rule of law, fiscal probity, personal responsibility, majority rights and market principles. In their unquenchable zeal to oppose President Obama and all his works, they have discarded every one of those ideals.

For example, “The National Park Service put out a press release Tuesday noting that the government shutdown of national parks alone will result in total economic losses of $76 million per day to local communities.

 

 

When Moderates Run for Cover

It is too seldom noted when and by whom the run to incivility was begun.  Geoffrey Kabaservice does us all a favor.

It was Mr. Gingrich who pioneered the political dysfunction we still live with. His inflammatory rhetoric provided a model for the grandstanding guerrilla warfare of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. And his actions — particularly his move to shut down the government in 1995 and 1996 — undermined popular trust and ushered in the present political era of confrontation and obstruction.

But here’s the catch: Mr. Gingrich, of Georgia, rose to party leadership because he was the preferred candidate of the moderates themselves.

And for a commentator really swinging for the fence-poles you can’t top Charles Pierce, now writing at Esquire.

In the year of our Lord 2010, the voters of the United States elected the worst Congress in the history of the Republic. There have been Congresses more dilatory. There have been Congresses more irresponsible, though not many of them. There have been lazier Congresses, more vicious Congresses, and Congresses less capable of seeing forests for trees. But there has never been in a single Congress — or, more precisely, in a single House of the Congress — a more lethal combination of political ambition, political stupidity, and political vainglory than exists in this one, which has arranged to shut down the federal government because it disapproves of a law passed by a previous Congress, signed by the president, and upheld by the Supreme Court, a law that does nothing more than extend the possibility of health insurance to the millions of Americans who do not presently have it, a law based on a proposal from a conservative think-tank and taken out on the test track in Massachusetts by a Republican governor who also happens to have been the party’s 2012 nominee for president of the United States. That is why the government of the United States is, in large measure, closed this morning. …

…The government of the United States, in the first three words of its founding charter, belongs to all of us, and these people have broken it deliberately. The true hell of it, though, is that you could see this coming down through the years, all the way from Ronald Reagan’s First Inaugural Address in which government “was” the problem, through Bill Clinton’s ameliorative nonsense about the era of big government being “over,” through the attempts to make a charlatan like Newt Gingrich into a scholar and an ambitious hack like Paul Ryan into a budget genius…

Greece: Confronting the Far Right

“On Tuesday, officers raided three police stations on the outskirts of Athens. The sweep came a day after the government replaced seven senior police officials — including the chiefs of special forces, internal security, organized crime and the explosives unit — to ensure the investigation [into Golden Dawn and the murder of Pavlos Fyssas,]  would take place with “absolute objectivity.” In addition, two top members of the Greek police force resigned abruptly Monday, citing “personal reasons.”

“Such steps have the potential for volatile repercussions in a country where the security forces have had links to far-right organizations at various points since the end of World War II. They are likely to test the determination of the government and the public to turn back the influence of Golden Dawn, which has climbed steadily in opinion polls in the past year and has 18 of its members in Parliament.

NY Times

 

Rand Paul: Denying While Playing the Racial Supremacy Game

Updates below:

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Rand Paul, standard bearer for a particular brand of American Libertarianism, either knew about his new media director’s past as the masked Southern Avenger for 13 years and decided it didn’t matter, or he didn’t know and hired a key aide without doing even a pro-forma background check.  I have to think the former since even a bonafide libertarian would care if say, a pedophile, joined his staff, and would therefore, have some sort of background check set up.

Southern Avenger

Perhaps Paul himself doesn’t think having Jack Hunter, a man who celebrates the birthday of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth,  on his staff is a problem — for himself.  Perhaps he sees it as the epitome of libertarian tolerance. But Rand Paul is a p-o-l-i-t-i-c-i-a-n.  His success in his chosen field depends not on his personal feelings alone, but on  thousands of voters.  Did it not occur to him that someone who ‘compared Lincoln to Saddam Hussein and suggested that the 16th president would have had a romantic relationship with Adolf Hitler if the two met,’ would be a force-field pushing not a few voting hands to another lever?

From 1999 to 2012, Hunter was a South Carolina radio shock jock known as the “Southern Avenger.” He has weighed in on issues such as racial pride and Hispanic immigration, and stated his support for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

During public appearances, Hunter often wore a mask on which was printed a Confederate flag.

Prior to his radio career, while in his 20s, Hunter was a chairman in the League of the South, which “advocates the secession and subsequent independence of the Southern States from this forced union and the formation of a Southern republic.”

Rand Paul’s statements against American warmongering are to be applauded, but as in certain Japanese universities we should all rumble the floor with the foot beats of disapproval when he hires a man who has led the way in mainstreaming ugly strains of the country’s racist past.

[And yes, people do change, as Hunter has claimed he has. If so how about some public self analysis?  How about a real look at what he did as the Southern Avenger and some conversation about what led him to change from those ideas?  How about letting himself be grilled, as other public penitents have done?  How many hours did he hold forth on the idea that ‘A non-white majority America would simply cease to be America for reasons that are as numerous as they are obvious – whether we are supposed to mention them or not.”?  Can we have one-tenth of the time to decide if he has really changed?  ]

The Free Beacon, a conservative on-line source, broke the story about Hunter.   The Daily Caller, for which Hunter has written recently, with a muted pen, headlines that his old ideas are no longer with him.  Chris Hayes, of MSNBC, who featured the Paul-Hunter relationship on Tuesday‘s show, said that Paul himself, had three racist strikes against him and should be known as holding such views.

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Updates:

Keeping It Real on ‘neo-Confederate Libertarians’

…the neo-Confederates, the Lew Rockwells and that whole crew are fundamentally about white supremacy and nativism. And the Paul clan has been thick as thieves with those folks forever.

Who knows what’s in their hearts and frankly who cares? But none of this latest stuff should surprise us. And I don’t know why real libertarians waste any time making any sort of common cause with these folks.

The Libertarian War over the Civil War

[The Libertarian magazine] Reason is firmly in the anti-neo-Confederate camp. In 2008 they reported on the racist newsletters put out under Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s name and criticized the presidential candidate for allying himself with that strain in libertarianism. In response, they received scores of angry letters accusing them of selling out the movement. The neo-Confederates are largely centered around libertarian author Lew Rockwell (who worked with Paul and is widely suspected to have written the offensive newsletters), his website LewRockwell.com and his think-tank the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Immigrant Hatred: Greece

Immigrant hating is often the first card played when the right-wing comes to sit at the table, so Greece isn’t particularly different from other countries around the globe.  What is amazing is that Greeks have been the immigrants par-excellence, all over the Mediterranean and Asia-Minor for centuries; tens of centuries.  Greek colonies around the Black Sea, Greeks along the Turquoise Coast in (now) Turkey; Greeks in Antioch the fabulous Egyptian city.  I’m sure there were incidents when locals didn’t welcome them, beat them or burned their shops, but thrive they did, grew and prospered, raised their children who spoke the local languages and yet remained Greeks.  How nice it would be were History a better teacher.

ATHENS — A week after an extremist right-wing party gained an electoral foothold in Greece’s Parliament earlier this summer, 50 of its members riding motorbikes and armed with heavy wooden poles roared through Nikaia, a gritty suburb west of here, to telegraph their new power.

As townspeople watched, several of them said in interviews, the men careened around the main square, some brandishing shields emblazoned with swastikalike symbols, and delivered an ultimatum to immigrants whose businesses have catered to Nikaia’s Greeks for nearly a decade.

“They said: ‘You’re the cause of Greece’s problems. You have seven days to close or we’ll burn your shop — and we’ll burn you,’ ” said Mohammed Irfan, a legal Pakistani immigrant who owns a hair salon and two other stores.

NY Times

and for more on the appearance of Greek Fascists, see Spyros Marchetos in the Guardian

Fascists did not suddenly multiply in Greece. Rather, extreme right ideas and values gradually permeated public consciousness, and became mainstream in the last 20 years. Then the troika (of the European commission, European Central Bank and the IMF) imposed measures of violent pauperisation, and even created widespread perceptions of decay and victimisation, and feelings of national persecution and humiliation. All these, as the US historian Robert Paxton argues in his magisterial Anatomy of Fascism, help fascism rise. Finally, when the crisis stole the clientelist appeal of the ruling parties, many of their voters turned towards those who professed openly what traditional politicians only implied

Al Jazzera has an extensive collection of pieces Greece and the New Dawn fascism

Wild Conspiracy Theories in the GOP

From Think Progress:

“Here is theory that some Congressional Republicans believe: The Obama Administration intentionally handed over automatic weapons to Mexican drug cartels, who they knew would commit violent acts, because they wanted to scare Americans into supporting stricter gun laws.

“That supposed series of events has now led Congress to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt.

The man who started the conspiracy theory also rallied people to break congressional windows. Mike Vanderboegh, a man who once called for militias to break the windows of members of Congress because of the passage of the Affordable Care Act, started this conspiracy theory. Rachel Maddow uncovered that Vanderboegh has been encouraging members of Congress to embrace the theory.

Major Republicans, including Darrell Issa, endorse this conspiracy theory. Among those are Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who is Chair of the House Oversight Committee and is heading up the investigation of Eric Holder. In an interview on FOX, Issa said, “very clearly, they made a crisis, and they’re using this crisis to somehow take away or limit people’s Second Amendment rights.” He alsopushed the theory at an NRA convention. But Issa isn’t the only one who is buying in: former Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich just two days agoagreed with the theory. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), and many other Republicans have voiced support for this theory too.

Read the whole stupefying thing…

Is Mitt Romney a Unicorn? Let’s See His Long From Birth Certificate

LeftAction has a nice little push back to Arizona’s Secretary of State, Ken Bennet, who threatened to keep Obama off the Arizona ballot because he might have been born in Africa (since retracted, and apologized with the standard ‘if I’ve offended anyone’ line.

There are a lot of nutty birthers still pushing their idiocy, including Donald Trump who is now supporting Romney with money and face — and Mr. Mitt won’t repudiate the Donald’s poisonous nonsense.

Romney is scheduled to hold a fundraiser Tuesday night in Las Vegas with Donald Trump, the nation’s most prominent “birther.” The real-estate tycoon, in interviews last week with the Daily Beast and Tuesday with the Las Vegas Review Journal, revived his charge that Obama was born in Kenya.

Romney on Monday declined to repudiate Trump, telling reporters aboard his plane: “I don’t agree with all the people who support me. . . . But I need to get 50.1 percent or more. And I’m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.”

It’s not the first time Romney, who once distanced himself from the birthers, has failed to stand up to sinister elements on the right. But this is a particularly unsavory crowd.

 

Dana Milbank

So get on board and sign up at LeftAction, demanding to see the Mitt man’s birth certificate…

 

 

 

“Patriot” Movement Explodes

The Southern Poverty Law Center is reporting explosive growth in the self designated Patriot Movement

 

The radical right grew explosively in 2011, the third such dramatic expansion in as many years. The growth was fueled by superheated fears generated by economic dislocation, a proliferation of demonizing conspiracy theories, the changing racial makeup of America, and the prospect of four more years under a black president who many on the far right view as an enemy to their country.

The number of hate groups counted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) last year reached a total of 1,018, up slightly from the year before but continuing a trend of significant growth that is now more than a decade old. The truly stunning growth came in the antigovernment “Patriot” movement — conspiracy-minded groups that see the federal government as their primary enemy.