October 16, 2011 § 2 Comments
Just that. Here he is just before the arrest.
Go, Bo Diddley.
I’m seeing the resemblance. Anyway, things go on; things look back; things grow and recede.
Am I back? I don’t know. You decide.
June 15, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Newt just doesn’t get the message. He’s been hated on profusely by the GOP for dragging his baggy baggage into their presidential nomination scrum, and then his election campaign staff resigned en masse complaining that Gingrich is a grifter not a legitimate candidate. It makes you wonder who they thought they were going to work for. It’s not as if the name is unfamiliar.
But he keeps on keeping on. So when the GOP unloaded its clown car of candidates for its first real – first really real – debate, Newt was there. But first, what are we to make of this debate, these candidates? Gingrich isn’t the only pathetic joke to show up – we’ve got Bachmann, Santorum, Cain, Paul! Paul seems like a sweet old man who hasn’t been outside his apartment or turned on a TV set in twenty years, but at least he seems somewhat sincere in his beliefs. The others? My god. It’s hard to know whether ignorance or crazy gets the upper hand there.
And then you get the real candidates, Pawlenty and Romney. The take-away from the debate is that Pawlenty’s showing was so weak and unmemorable that it pretty much cinched that as the already growing sense of his public persona. Romney of course emerges as the frontrunner – by elimination if nothing else – but the word already is that he’s not going to be able to get the nomination not only because of Romneycare but now because he’s broken away from the GOP’s lockstep orthodoxy on global warming.
So anyway, one of the big questions was how much Islamophobic bigotry are the candidates going to throw out in the debate to rile up the rubes? The answer – not terribly much. But it did make an appearance, mainly pizza salesman Herman Cain trying to both back-peddle on some of his previous crazy ignorance. Ignorant crazy? Can someone make that into one word for me? Anyway, along with stumbling over some stale urban legends about sharia law, Cain offers to make a distinction between peaceful Muslims and militant Muslims and says that maybe he would after all, despite earlier comments, allow Muslims to work for his administration, but only after they answered “certain questions.” What questions? Probably not like ones asked Cain at the debate, like whether he prefers deep dish or thin crust pizza. (Dude answered “deep dish.” He doesn’t know jack about pizza either.)
Anyway. You can’t single out a religion for loyalty oaths, you know. Pesky Constitution. Which reminds me – I’m going to start mentally substituting “authoritarian” for every time a conservative says “constitutional” – like “constitutional conservative” – and see if that makes more sense.
So Romney has another one of his “I’m the sensible one” moments and points out that all this sharia fear-mongering is pointless nonsense, and more: “Our nation was founded on a principle of religious tolerance. That’s in fact why some of the earliest patriots came to this country and why we treat people with respect, regardless of their religious persuasion.” Whoa. That’s actual history.
But I’m getting sidetracked. So then the history professor, that’s Newt Gingrich, remember. That was his improbable dayjob. So then the history professor has this to say:
“Now, I just want to go out on a limb here. I’m in favor of saying to people, ‘If you’re not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration, period.’
“We did this in dealing with the Nazis and we did this in dealing with the communists,” Gingrich continues. “And it was controversial both times, and both times we discovered after a while, there are some genuinely bad people who would like to infiltrate our country. And we have got to have the guts to stand up and say no.”
The first comment is just dumb. Of course loyalty to the U.S. is a prerequisite for serving in the administration. But that’s not what folks were talking about. They were talking about loyalty tests for certain religions. But the rest is batshit crazy. We did this in dealing with the Nazis?! Muslims are like communists?!?
No, Newt. We did not do this with the Nazis. In World War II, the group we singled out for potentially conflicted loyalty were the Japanese-Americans who we placed in internment camps, an action that did not make us any safer and soiled and damaged our nation’s claim to respect rights and human dignity. That was an embarrassment we’re still suffering from. Nazi sympathizers did exist, but they weren’t so much infiltrators and saboteurs as they were prominent businessmen, industrialists, and clergy.
No, Newt. We did not do this with the communists. Although there were unquestionably Soviet spies in the U.S. after World War II, the anti-communist hysteria was not about them so much as producing a climate of fear to promote the agendas and careers of demagogues like Senator Joe McCarthy, and accomplished nothing other than the intimidation of legitimate dissent and ruined the lives of many people simply on the suspicion that they might hold unpopular political beliefs. It also is credited with hampering the actual investigation into foreign espionage on American soil. Once again, there is a reason McCarthyism is a swear, not a success.
You would think Newt doesn’t know anything about history. And I suppose I’ll continue to feel compelled to show that he doesn’t until he finally just goes away for good.
June 1, 2011 § Leave a Comment
It’s a question that keeps coming up. The latest is Rand Paul’s recent gaffes supporting detention of people for listening to speeches: “If someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after — they should be deported or put in prison,” he says. And for perpetual FBI investigations of Middle Eastern exchange students. In truth, Paul the son has put a few degrees of separation between himself and the political movement that sustains Paul the father’s presidential ambitions, but the base of his political support is largely the same, and his defining political stance has been a “libertarian” objection to the Patriot Act.
And I applaud him on that, but that’s about where the libertarian angle seems to end, though if you listen to him and his supporters they’ll tell you that it’s also behind their insistence that government is a hindrance to the free exercise of the cultural and economic prerogatives of an ostensible conservative ruling class. Sorry, dudes. Liberty is not a zero-sum game, and the more people are enfranchised, and the more deeply they are enfranchised, the freer we’ll all be. But this is not the prevailing attitude driving contemporary identification with “libertarian” political movements. A recent study from Havard Business School confirms what we already know: while both blacks and whites see freedoms for blacks increasing, only blacks see this as a net gain. Whites view black gains as meaning a loss of white freedom, to the extent that whites now increasingly view anti-white discrimination and false accusations of racism as a greater societal problem than discrimination against blacks. That this perception in no way reflects the world we live in is obvious to thinking people, but perhaps that’s part of the problem.
But people still mistake Paul and the “libertarian” side of the Tea Party for those somehow interesting in actually protecting or even expanding upon our existing liberties. Hapless clowns even now continue to promote the Tea Party because the Tea Party parrots some old-time libertarian talking points and drops the right names from lists compiled by true believers and sworn to be pure and free from the taint of real world considerations and compromise. Matt Welch tells you to listen to Rand Paul’s YouTube speech on the Patriot Act and then “after you’ve watched it, forward it to any friends you might have who suspect that Tea Partiers in general and Rand Paul in particular are reactionary Dick Cheney fans.” If Matt were paying more attention to actual Tea Partiers and less to his fantasies of relevance, he’d know that the Tea Party in general are reactionary Dick Cheney fans.
I admit that you’re likely to find a slight degree more antipathy to the Patriot Act in the Tea Party than in mainstream Republicans, to the degree that any difference can still be distinguished. But by and large the Tea Partiers support the Patriot Act, if no small part because the Tea Party is also the party of rabid, small-minded bigotry and they’re willing to give up any civil liberty not so much for their own security as they would just to be able to stick it to a few dozen Muslims.
Here, take this small test. Do you think that people receiving welfare should be drug tested? Hey, it’s an honest question, and there’s no shame in answering it either way. But if you said yes, then you’re not a libertarian. You may not be an authoritarian Tea Partying type, but whatever you are, you just flunked a basic dividing line between supporting individual liberty and supporting the state’s control over individual actions. (O.K., I lied. There is a little bit of shame in answering yes: you’re penalizing the poor for being poor – liberty doesn’t mean you can interpret a person’s economic standing in moral terms.)
Here’s a bigger test, and one that does carry some ethical baggage. Consider the policy decisions your politics tend to support. Do they promote a more diverse, pluralistic public that finds fewer restrictions upon any number of possible whims and desires no matter whether you yourself would want to pursue those whims and desires? Then you tend toward a libertarian political type. Or do they promote a more conformist and homogenous society of reduced choices based on tradition, faith, history, law and order, “natural” or cultural norms, etc. in which fewer alternatives to majoritarian lifeways are allowable? Then you tend toward the authoritarian political type.
You want a final test. Here, look at this picture.
If this makes your heart flutter, then you’re not a libertarian. Period.
May 27, 2011 § Leave a Comment
So NY-26 went for the Democratic candidate, Kathy Hochul. One of the reddest NY districts, it’s being described as a bellwether of anti-Republican sentiment, particularly in the context of recent GOP positioning to end Medicare. Once again, a special election in NY state had a split conservative ticket, with a mainstream GOP contender, Jane Corwin, and a spoiler Tea Party candidate, Jack Davis. Except Davis was a vanity candidate that didn’t get much support from either the Tea Party or GOP voters in general, and the end didn’t draw that much from Corwin. From a 73% safe Republican seat to a solid Democratic win (47% to 43% according to early results announced by the NYT) the story is less about GOP division in the ranks than outright incompetence on messaging.
Anyway, our favorite candidate, the Green Party representative, Buffalo Beast editor, and prankster supreme Ian Murphy made just 1% of the vote. I suppose I knew a surprise upset really wasn’t in the cards, but I wanted to believe. Wiegel found him basically not campaigning for the vote at all: after all, the Green Party only has about 800 supporters in that district.
So Murphy engaged in some awesome dada anti-campaigning with some truly hilarious results. But the best one of all is this, a mock Corwin site that just nails it, and not just the vacuous political movement Corwin is a stand-in for, but the utter lack of integrity that is the contemporary political process.
May 24, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I love Easy Rider. It’s easily in my top five favorite films, and for no small part that it exudes the kind of anarchic openness to experience and dismissal of traditions, institutions, and oppressive materiality that is the best takeaway from the 60s. And Peter Fonda has always represented that ethic to me. Neither he nor Dennis Hopper produced a significant body of film work, despite Easy Rider’s enormous influence on a couple decades of American film-making, but they were icons, idols, and near holy.
So what the fuck is Fonda going on about at Cannes? First he calls Obama a traitor for Obama’s handling of the Gulf spill, claiming that Obama was forcing our coast guard to defer to a foreign power, the British Petroleum company. Harsh over-the-top rhetoric certainly, and a loose grip on the facts, but given Fonda’s record as an environmentalist, understandable if not entirely forgivable. Many people were upset that Obama didn’t take a stronger role in the disaster and that more wasn’t done to hold BP accountable.
Then a few days later he’s telling people he’s training his grandkids to shoot long rifles to fight in the coming war against the “haves” by the Obama-led “have nots”. Now that doesn’t make any sense, and given the context of Fonda’s previous statement, produces total cognitive dissonance. Clearly he doesn’t like the guy, but is there anywhere else but in Fonda’s cooked melon have the extremist right and the extremist left come together in their shared opposition of Obama? Fuck no!
In a way this hurts worse than finding out that Moe Tucker from the Velvet Underground had joined the ranks of the clueless old people in stretch pants on mobility scooters in the Tea Party. That was just a 60s icon gone old in the tooth and somewhat soft in the noggin. But Fonda’s betrayal of what he represents is just mystifying and weird.
May 18, 2011 § 1 Comment
Outside the Farm Aid concert series what fans know about Willie Nelson’s politics pretty much is that fans have drafted him for mock Willie-for-President runs he’s been subtly encouraging from the sidelines. His official store sells Willie For President t-shirts emblazoned with a pot leaf, for instance. For the upcoming presidential election, he’s now endorsed impossible long-shot but serious (as opposed to Willie) GOP candidate Gary Johnson, the libertarian candidate in the running (to be distinguished from the faux-libertarian paleo-conservative Ron Paul).
In the past couple cycles, he’s endorsed Dennis Kucinich, presumably for Kucinich’s emphasis on peace, environment, and gay rights – all Willie-friendly issues. But it looks like Willie’s becoming even more of a one-issue guy. It’s his pro-legalization group, the Teapot Party, that’s making the official endorsement of Johnson. Johnson’s support for marijuana legalization distinguishes him the most from the GOP crowd, and like Paul he’s opposed to America’s current and potential future military adventures. But it’s the pot that seems to have singled him out.
Focusing your politics into a single issue generally isn’t that great for the health of politics and policy, but I’ll take a single-minded focus on marijuana legalization over attacks on abortion any day.
UPDATE: And then Willie changes his mind. Fine – support for drug legalization shouldn’t lead one to support a contemporary libertarian candidate: the one thing libertarians universally lack is common sense, and that is a desirable quality in an presidential candidate. But if I were Willie, I wouldn’t be waiting for Dennis to throw his hat back in.
May 16, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Newt Gingrich apparently was excited to announce his candidacy via Twitter and Facebook – apparently attempting to appear embracing 21st century social media. The funny thing here is that he is mounting his presidential campaign in seeming ignorance of how ridiculous and impossible it is given the existence of the Internet. No longer do people have to go combing through newspaper clipping files to find every dumb or vile thing he has said or done: it’s all out there, easily compiled, widely disseminated, and rapidly traded and reposted.
Given that we can now see the entire Gingrich, the gestalt of the man’s career until now, I think that Josh Marshall’s take is probably the wisest. Gingrich is not a politician so much, and certainly not an intellectual, but more like a right-wing performance artist, constantly trying to push against the boundaries of acceptable discourse not to enlighten or to inform, but to excite attention and gauge people’s reaction.
In any case, here’s a quick assembly of Gingrich-ania resurrected or newly posted in the wake of his announcement. The original Mother Jones take-down from 1984, and the article in which we first learned of the sociopathic dimension of his womanizing, further expanded in Gail Sheehy’s extensive psychological profile for Vanity Fair in 1995.
Here David Corn and Jonathan Alter show up on Hardball to present the audiovisual gallery of Newt making dumb, outrageous statements over the years (summary? he likes to race-bait or call people Nazis). Here’s the text version compiled by Mother Jones. And here’s the Washington Post fact-checking the lies in his announcement!
You know you’ve got trouble if you’re a conservative politician when right out the gate the mother-effin’ Washington Post is calling you a bald-faced liar.