Austria, Slipping Down the Slippery Rightward Slope

NY Times starts this way:

VIENNA — As befits the city of Sigmund Freud, Vienna has two faces — one sweet, one sinister.

Behind the schnitzel and strudel, Mozart and the opera, lurks the legacy of the Nazis who forced Jews to clean sidewalks with toothbrushes. In 1988, to much controversy, Vienna placed Alfred Hrdlicka’s “Memorial Against War and Fascism,” featuring a sculpture of a Jewish mancleaning the street, right behind the State Opera, lest Austria again forget.

Now, to the astonishment of many and the alarm of some, the burning question in Vienna’s elegant cafes is, Which face will prevail in the city’s bellwether elections on Oct. 11?

Roughly one in four of Austria’s 8.7 million residents lives in Vienna. For almost the last century — aside from the Nazi years, 1938-45 — the left has ruled “Red Vienna,” long prized for its pioneering public housing and welfare, and its cultural ferment.

But against the backdrop of Europe’s refugee drama, the far-right Freedom Party is threatening the Social Democrats’ hold in what may portend a more general rise in populist, anti-immigrant sentiment across the Continent.

The Telegraph from the UK shouts louder

Austria’s Right-wing populist party makes huge gains fuelled by migrant crisis fears

Austrian Freedom Party doubles its share of the vote in state of Upper Austria as Vienna expects nearly three times the number of asylum applications received last year

A Right-wing populist party in Austria has made huge gains in regional elections over growing concerns about Europe’s migrant crisis.

The Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) won 30.4 per cent of the vote in the state of Upper Austria, the country’s industrial heartland, a striking improvement on its performance in the state’s last election in 2009 when it took half as many votes with 15.3 per cent.

This isn’t to say all Austrians are implicated in this surge of anti-immigrant feeling.  Many, many greeted refugees at train stations and in the streets.  It does mean, as in the United States, that divisions are no longer ignored; fear is rising.  And if that’s the tide that will lift all boats, we’d better be thinking about better drainage and stronger barriers.

Who/Where are the Race Haters?

Interesting data pulled from hate sites on the web

The percentage of Stormfront’s target audience that joins is actually higher in areas with more minorities [than in those, such as Idaho, where there are few]. This is particularly true when you look at Stormfront’s members who are 18 and younger and therefore do not themselves choose where they live.

Among this age group, California, a state with one of the largest minority populations, has a membership rate 25 percent higher than the national average.

And Jews, but a few percentage points, are more hated than Blacks.  See graphic

Individual Rights — to Steal from Others

Krugman, among many, is shaking his head in disbelief over the welfare  cattleman stand-off.  What ever happened to thinking things through — either by the speechifier or those who celebrated him?

He calls Cliven Bundy a “welfare queen of the purple sage,” which is unfair to queens, of course.  If someone actually on welfare refused to do the work required to receive the subsidy, said person would be cut-off.  Bundy says, hell no!  The people’s land is his to graze on as he pleases! By what right or reason does he say? Reason of ancestry?  My goodness, other ancestors have some claim on the same land if he wants to go down that road.

…treating Mr. Bundy as some kind of libertarian hero is, not to put too fine a point on it, crazy. Suppose he had been grazing his cattle on land belonging to one of his neighbors, and had refused to pay for the privilege. That would clearly have been theft — and brandishing guns when someone tried to stop the theft would have turned it into armed robbery. The fact that in this case the public owns the land shouldn’t make any difference.


The Sovereign Citizen Circus Explodes in the FOX Den

Welfare thief, cattleman Cliven Bundy of Nevada, has thrilled the circus masters at FOX news and elsewhere for the past weeks.  It all blew up last Saturday when his “I don’t recognize the government of the United States” self dragged out its ugly twin of racial animus. “I’ve often wondered are they were better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?”

The right-wing suits who had brought him into their studios and onto talk radio and into the news pages, skedaddled as fast as their mouths could move.  Of course, those close to home?

…militiamen who showed up with weapons at Bundy’s ranch in Nevada say they continue to support him; indeed, they see the news stories as just another conspiracy. “It’s part of misinformation to maintain the divide,” one militiaman told the Las Vegas Sun []

Adam Nagourney originally  broke the story

Gail Collins gives a good, quick, amusing summary:

So, what have we learned from the Crazy Rancher Guy saga?

You have undoubtedly heard about Cliven Bundy of Nevada, who refuses to pay federal grazing fees for, um, grazing his cattle on federal land. When government agents, acting on a court order, tried to remove Bundy’s cows, they were met by armed resisters. The agents wisely withdrew rather than risk bloodshed, and the resisters declared victory.

This was Bundy’s happy time. He was a star on Fox News, where his new friend Sean Hannity asked him probing questions like:

“How far are you willing to go?”

“How far are you willing to take this?”

Charles Blow howls his outrage:

How could slaves have been “happier,” when more than 12 million were put in shackles, loaded like logs into the bowels of ships and sailed toward shores unknown, away from their world and into their hell?

How could they have been “happier” to be greased up and sold off, mother from child, with no one registering their anguish?

And, for those who think Mr Bundy is being taken out of context, that his views on race are being misrepresented or are something apart from his anti-government animus, Dana Milbank gives the short version of why we should not be surprised.

The anti-government strain of thought that Bundy advanced has been intertwined with racist and anti-Semitic views over several decades. Not all people who resist the authority of the federal government are motivated by race, of course, and not all racists are anti-government. But there is a long symbiosis between the two.

Among those who rallied to Bundy’s defense in Bunkerville, Nev. — the supporters Heller labeled patriots — was Wiley Drake, an Internet preacher affiliated with the “Oath Keepers” movement. According to reports from the scene, Drake told a crowd of Bundy supporters that they shouldn’t bow to the “half-breed” President Obama.

In general terms, Bundy’s notion of state supremacy — “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing” — is a variant of states’-rights claims that go back to the Civil War and were revived in the segregationists’ opposition to civil rights laws. Because the federal government has been the protector of minority rights, states’ rights have long been used to justify discrimination.

Specifically, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks anti-government and hate groups, says that Bundy’s sentiments align closely with those of the “Posse Comitatus” movement, founded by William Potter Gale in the 1970s.

For a mini-seminar in what this is give a listen to this Rachel Maddow piece about the Posse Comitatus and Sovereign Citizen movements.  As the folks over at the Daily Banter say,

What she does here is extraordinary, and that’s precisely what’s so infuriating because she shouldn’t have been the only one digging beneath the surface of Cliven Bundy’s anti-government rhetoric to uncover the darkness at the center of his ideology.

The New Know Nothings

From Rolling Stone: 50 Dumbest things Right-Wingers Said in 2013

1) “Yeah, I would.” – Nevada assemblyman Jim Wheeler, when asked if he would vote to reinstate slavery if his constituents wanted it

Will Ted Cruz Re-Evaluate his Supporters after This?

Ted Cruz posts Mandela tribute on Facebook. His fans go crazy.

You gotta read what some of them said…

American “Squeeze the Workers” Spreads to Europe

This cannot be good news, at any level…

In 2008, 1.9 million Portuguese workers in the private sector were covered by collective bargaining agreements. Last year, the number was down to 300,000.

Spain has eased restrictions on collective layoffs and unfair dismissal, and softened limits on extending temporary work, allowing workers to be kept on fixed-term contracts for up to four years. Ireland and Portugal have frozen the minimum wage, while Greece has cut it by nearly a fourth. This is what is known in Europe as “internal devaluation.”

Spain Unemployment

While most of the debate over Europe’s response to the financial crisis has focused on the budget austerity enveloping the Continent, the comparatively unheralded erosion of worker protection is likely to have at least as big and lasting an impact on Europe’s social contract.

“It has a disastrous effect on social cohesion and a tremendous effect on inequality,” argued Jean-Paul Fitoussi, an economics professor at the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris. “Well-being has fallen all across Europe. One symptom is the rise of extremist political parties.”


On Monday, Ikea started taking applications for 400 jobs at the new megastore  near Valencia store, due to open next summer.

The company wasn’t prepared for what came next.

Within 48 hours, more than 20,000 people had applied online for those 400 jobs. The volume crashed Ikea’s computer servers in Spain.

“We had an avalanche of applicants!” Ikea spokesman Rodrigo Sanchez told NPR in a phone interview. “With that quantity, our servers just didn’t have the capacity. They collapsed. After 48 hours, we had to temporarily close the job application process. We’re working on a solution, to reopen the as soon as possible.”

That initial volume alone gives applicants a 1-in-50 chance of landing the job — three times more difficult than getting into Harvard last year.

And to complement  Porter’s reporting, Jared Bernstein helps out on the minimum wage policy debate.

I can’t open the paper these days without stumbling onto something about the minimum wage, which I take to be a good thing as it’s a simple, popular way to help address the problem of very low-wage work in America.  It’s not a complete solution; it’s not the only solution — it is, in fact, a relatively small-bore policy that sets an important labor standard: the government will compensate for the severe lack of bargaining clout among our lowest-wage workers by setting a floor below which we won’t allow their wages to fall.

Secession by Another Means


At least, let’s name this for what it is: sabotage of the democratic process. Secession by another means.

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…