“…the party of shriveled hearts.”

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Last nights Halloween adventure was sheer pleasure — five year old Gracie was a black kitty with painted on whiskers, and toward the end of the evening was dragging her overfilled goody bag and longing for home, while eight year old Wyatt was the Grim Reaper, complete with plastic scythe, hideous mask and determination to leave no house unraided. What a difference testosterone and three years make, eh?? It was grand! Trust you had some fun, too.

I’ve compiled a nice collection of reads on the Pubs, here — regarding their [now painfully apparent] warts and wrinkles. The big twist in all our panties is Georgie, of course … so there are a couple of bits on his latest tantrum here, including a nice video from Olbermann. Dubby’s most recent public statement, the one where he chides the Congress for “wasting time,” prompted on Alternet blogger to respond:

Hearing Bush talk is like hearing a rapist complain his victim is putting up a fight and should just ‘lay back and enjoy it’.

By GOLLY he’s a piece of work! We could have asked for no better guide through the bloody waters of political density, no better illustration of poor judgment combined with arrogance and greed. The last seven years have been one long disaster movie starring Matt Groening’s Krusty the Klown.

Dubby’s the guru … if you meet him on the road, you know what to do!

After those first bits, you’ll find Ted Rall, Paul Krugman, Juan Cole asking you to help him start a web campaign to close down Bush’s splendor palace of an embassy, and other interesting articles. At the end, Max Blumenthall gives us an article and a video on the Theocrats, what they’re up to [they're regrouping, for starters.]

But first, for your viewing pleasure, a Youtube that will slap a smile on your face.


Karen Arms — Why I am a Democrat

Olbermann on Bush’s Press Conference Hissy Fit [VIDEO]
Keith Olbermann looks once again at proof that America is being run by a petulant child prone to temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way.
Nicole Belle, Crooks and Liars via Alternet
November 1, 2007

On Tuesday’s Countdown, Keith Olbermann looks once again at proof that the world’s last remaining superpower is being run by a petulant child prone to temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way.

My buddy Bill reminded me when he sent the videos of this comment he made in the threads yesterday:

    Despite all of the constant bashing of this Congress [not just from Bush but from the left as well] this has been the hardest working Congress in US history despite the Republicans blocking 3 times more bills than ever before including the 8 times the GOP has blocked the Democrats efforts to end the war so far.

Which is all well and good, but right now, I think we have someone who needs a time out. ++

Bush Stomps His Feet
[snipped from] Dan Froomkin, WaPo
Wednesday, October 31, 2007

President Bush went before the television cameras yesterday to rail at Congressional Democrats, who he said are “going alone and going nowhere.”

“The leadership that’s on the Hill now cannot get [the] job done,” he said, adding: “They haven’t seen a bill they could not solve without shoving a tax hike into it.”

Just a lot of political posturing, right?

Well, maybe not. It’s increasingly looking like Bush’s petulance is not just for show.

Apparently, a year of dealing with a Democratic Congress — even one as supine as this one — has profoundly upset him. And he may have given up on reaching any accommodation with them at all.

Michael Abramowitz and Jonathan Weisman write in The Washington Post:

    “The White House plans to try implementing as much new policy as it can by administrative order while stepping up its confrontational rhetoric with Congress after concluding that President Bush cannot do much business with the Democratic leadership, administration officials said. . . .

    “White House aides say the only way Bush seems to be able to influence the process is by vetoing legislation or by issuing administrative orders, as he has in recent weeks on veterans’ health care, air-traffic congestion, protecting endangered fish and immigration. . . .

    “The events of recent weeks have ‘crystallized that the chances of these leaders meeting the administration halfway are becoming increasingly remote,’ said White House spokesman Tony Fratto.

    “Bush himself has been complaining more and more bitterly about congressional Democrats in recent weeks.”

Mike Soraghan, Klaus Marre and Manu Raju write in the Hill:

    “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Democrats have been making progress but have been blocked by Republican obstruction. He said Bush is complaining now only because Congress will not do his bidding as it did when Republicans were in control.

    “‘This president is defying the will of the American people, and he’s chagrined that things have changed, so he’s complaining,’ Hoyer said.

    “Bush pointed to recent legislation to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, the farm bill, the energy bill and a small-business bill as examples of Democrats’ effort to raise taxes.

    “Democrats retorted that they have found ways to pay for the programs they have proposed, rather than simply adding to the debt.”

David Espo and Charles Babington write for the Associated Press that Bush has apparently dug in even further in opposition to the SCHIP bill:

    “President Bush told Republican lawmakers on Tuesday he will not agree to legislation expanding children’s health insurance if it includes a tobacco tax increase, a decision that virtually ensures a renewed veto struggle with the Democratic-controlled Congress…

    “The White House has said previously it opposes tobacco tax increases that Democrats included in the health care legislation, but only after first detailing numerous other objections.”

And, as Espo and Babington note: “in an ominous sign for the White House, Republican leaders said during the day they might defy a White House veto.”


In his post-election press conference last November, Bush spoke passionately about working in a bipartisan fashion and challenged skeptics to watch not just his words but his deeds. “There’s areas where I believe we can get some important things done,” he said. “And to answer your question, though, how do we convince Americans that we’re able to do it? Do it. That’s how you do it. You get something done. You actually sit down, work together, and I sign legislation that we all agree on. And my pledge today is I’ll work hard to try to see if we can’t get that done.”

But in the interim, it’s become clear what Bush means by working together involves Democrats caving in and giving him whatever he asks for.

At his October 17 press conference, he pronounced, once again, that “it’s time to put politics aside and seek common ground.” But Sheryl Stolberg of the New York Times followed up: “A year ago, after Republicans lost control of Congress, you said you wanted to find common ground. This morning you gave us a pretty scathing report card on Democrats. . . . I’m wondering how have you assessed yourself in dealing with Democrats this past year? How effective have you been in dealing with them on various issues, and do you think you’ve done a good job in finding common ground?”

Bush’s reply: “We’re finding common ground on Iraq. We’re — I recognize there are people Congress that say we shouldn’t have been there in the first place. But it sounds to me as if the debate has shifted, that David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker’s testimony made a difference to a lot of members. I hope we continue to find ground by making sure our troops get funded.

“We found common ground on FISA,” he added, referring to the gutting of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that Congress temporarily approved in August but is now reconsidering.


Gerson’s Tale

Peter Baker writes in The Washington Post:

    “For Michael Gerson, the pattern became discouragingly familiar. A proposal to help the poor or sick would be presented at a White House meeting, but Vice President Cheney’s office or the budget team or some other skeptical officials would shoot it down. Too expensive. Wrong priority.

    “By the time he left the White House as President Bush’s senior adviser last year, Gerson by his own account had grown weary of the battle, becoming an irritable colleague disillusioned by the conventions of a political party and a government that seemed indifferent to the plight of the downtrodden. Now he is back with a new book and a publicity tour intended to fight for the identity of the Republican Party…

    “He recounts meetings in which Cheney’s office tried to kill proposals to increase training of death-row defense lawyers, transition assistance for prisoners and aid for Hurricane Katrina victims.

    “‘The storm had also revealed a political and moral chasm in the Republican Party,’ he writes. ‘The president and I saw Katrina as an opportunity to open a debate on race and poverty. Anti-government Republicans saw Katrina as an opportunity to cut off medicine to old people. It confirmed the worst image of Republicans as the party of shriveled hearts.’” ++

Torturers, the Next Generation: Psycho Politicians Pledge to Continue Bush’s Crimes
Ted Rall, Yahoo via Smirking Chimp
Nov 1 2007

George W. Bush has shoved American politics into the dark realm of the lunatic right, zipping past Joe McCarthy into territory previously covered by historical accounts of Germany in the 1940s. We’ve lost our right to see an attorney, to confront our accusers, even to get a fair trial. Government agents have kidnapped thousands of people, many of whom have never been heard from again. Bush even signed an edict claiming the right to assassinate anyone, including you and me, based solely on his whims. Torture, the ultimate sign that civilized society has been replaced by a police state, was repeatedly authorized by government officials who smirked the few times reporters had the temerity to ask them about it.

The 2000, 2004 and 2008 presidential elections have been and will prove to be decisive moments in American history. In each case the American people were offered a stark choice between a future of freedom and one under tyranny.

We must elect–by an overwhelming, theft-proof majority–a candidate who promises to renounce Bush and all his works. A reform-minded president’s first act should be to sign a law that reads as follows: “The federal government of the United States having been illegitimate and illegal since January 20, 2001, all laws, regulations, executive orders, and acts of commission or omission enacted between that infamous day and 12 noon Eastern Standard Time on January 20, 2009 are hereby declared invalid and without effect.” Guantánamo, secret prisons, extraordinary rendition, spying on Americans’ phone calls and emails, and “legal” torture would be erased. Our troops should immediately pull out of Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Somalia; we should apologize to our victims and offer to compensate them and their survivors. Bush should never appear on any list of American presidents. When he dies, his carcass shouldn’t receive a state funeral. It ought to be thrown in the trash.

Unfortunately, no one like that is running for president. To the contrary, most of the major presidential candidates want to accelerate America’s slide into outright moral bankruptcy.

Inspired by what good people find appalling, America’s Mayor has turned into America’s Maniac. Torture, says Rudy Giuliani, is smart. He endorses the medieval practice of waterboarding, revived in CIA torture chambers after 9/11, in which a person is strapped to a board, tipped back and forced to inhale water to induce the sensation of drowning.

“It depends on how it’s done,” Giuliani said when asked about waterboarding and whether it is torture. “It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it.” Giuliani used to be a federal prosecutor. Would he have used similar logic in the prosecution of an accused torturer?

The mayor-turned-monster even used a campaign stop in Iowa to mock the victims of sleep deprivation, long acknowledged by international law as one of the severest forms of torture. “They talk about sleep deprivation,” he said. “I mean, on that theory, I’m getting tortured running for president of the United States. That’s plain silly. That’s silly.”

Waterboarding causes pain, brain damage and broken bones (from the restraints used on struggling victims), and death. Survivors are psychologically scarred.

“Some victims were still traumatized years later,” Dr. Allen Keller, director of the Bellevue/New York University Program for Survivors of Torture, told The New Yorker. “One patient couldn’t take showers, and panicked when it rained.”

Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin described the sleep deprivation he suffered as a captive of the Soviet KGB: “In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep…Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.”

Giuliani isn’t the only wanna be Torturer-in-Chief. Congressman Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican, offered this Lincolnesque rhetorical gem at one of the debates: “What do we do in the response to a nuclear–or the fact that a nuclear device or some bombs have gone off in the United States? We know that there are–we have captured people who have information that could lead us to the next one that’s going to go off and it’s the big one…I would do–certainly, waterboard–I don’t believe that that is, quote, ‘torture.’”

In an appearance on Fox News’ “Hannity & Colmes,” Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said the U.S. does and should torture: “We have received good solid information from [torture], and have saved American lives because of it.”

Duncan Hunter made fun of the concentration camp at Guantánamo: “You got guys like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [a detainee victim of U.S. waterboarding], “who said that he planned the attack on 9/11. You got Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards. Those guys get taxpayer-paid-for prayer rugs. They have prayer five times a day. They’ve all gained weight. The last time I looked at the menu, they had honey-glazed chicken and rice pilaf on Friday. That’s how we treat the terrorists. They’ve got health care that’s better than most HMOs…They live in a place called Guantánamo, where not one person has ever been murdered.”

Three inmates have been found dead at Gitmo. (The military claimed they were suicides.) As of August 2003, at least 29 POWs had attempted suicide. Scores of hunger strikers are being force-fed.

Fred Thompson says he won’t authorize waterboarding “as a matter of course” but likes to keep his options open. Mitt Romney punts questions about waterboarding: “I don’t think as a presidential candidate it is appropriate for me to weigh in on specific forms of interrogation that our CIA would employ. In circumstances of extreme threat to the nation, where we employ what is known as enhanced interrogation techniques, we don’t describe those techniques.”

At a Democratic debate in New Hampshire, Barack Obama refused to rule out torture. “Now, I will do whatever it takes to keep America safe. And there are going to be all sorts of hypotheticals [presumably, Tancredo's hoary "ticking time bomb" fantasy] and emergency situations, and I will make that judgement at that time.”

Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden said they agree with Obama. Democrats Bill Richardson, John Edwards and Chris Dodd have offered unequivocal stances against torture. On the Republican side, only John McCain and Ron Paul have done so. Even McCain, himself a victim of torture in Vietnam, refuses to rule out voting to confirm Bush’s attorney general nominee, Michael Mukasey. “If it amounts to torture,” Mukasey said of waterboarding, “then it is not constitutional.”

“If”? ++

Time to Close the US Embassy
Juan Cole, Informed Comment
Thursday, November 01, 2007

I don’t try to start an internet campaign very often, because the blogosphere has its own priorities and logic that are democratic and should not be forced. But here is a plea for everyone in the blogging world to help force congress to save our diplomats.

Bush is trying to Shanghai several hundred foreign service officers and force them to go to Iraq. They are protesting.

Now is that time for all Americans to stand up for the diplomats who serve this country ably and courageously throughout the world, for decades on end. Foreign service officers risk disease and death, and many of them see their marriages destroyed when spouses decline to follow them to a series of remote places. They are the ones who represent America abroad, who know languages and cultures and do their best to convince the world that we’re basically a good people.

The Jesse Helms Right always hated the State Department, because it is about compromise and finding peaceful solutions, whereas the US Right is about war, violence and imposing its will on people. But is is the State Department that, despite some lapses over the decades, generally embodies the best of what America is abroad.

The guerrillas in Iraq constantly target the Green Zone and US diplomatic personnel there with mortar and rocket fire. State Department personnel sleep in trailers that are completely unprotected from such incoming fire. At several points in the past year, they have been forbidden to go outside without protective gear (as if outside were more dangerous). The Bush administration has consistently lied about the danger they are in and tried to cover up these severe security precautions.

The US embassy in Iraq should be closed. It is not safe for the personnel there. Some sort of rump mission of hardy volunteers could be maintained. But kidnapping our most capable diplomats and putting them in front of a fire squad is morally wrong and is administratively stupid, since many of these intrepid individuals will simply resign. (You cannot easily get good life insurance that covers death from war, and most State spouses cannot have careers because of the two-year rotations to various foreign capitals, and their families are in danger of being reduced to dire poverty if they are killed).

There is, in addition to the daily danger, no good escape route for civilian personnel from Baghdad. The troop escalation will be reversed by next year this time, and as the US draws down, the Green Zone is in danger of being overwhelmed by the Mahdi Army. The State Department employees sent there for two year missions are the ones who may end up in secret JAM prisons, as happened in Tehran in 1979.

Bush should not be allowed by Congress to commit this immoral act against the civilians who serve us so faithfully.

Please write your congressional representatives and senators and demand that the US embassy be closed and the forced deportation of US diplomats to Iraq be halted.

The Democrats have been facing the dilemma that they are blocked from doing much about Iraq. This is something they can do. Cut off funding for the embassy and force most of the diplomats home. This is the way to start ending the war.

Now. ++

Fearing Fear Itself
PAUL KRUGMAN, New York Times
October 29, 2007

In America’s darkest hour, Franklin Delano Roosevelt urged the nation not to succumb to “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.” But that was then.

Today, many of the men who hope to be the next president — including all of the candidates with a significant chance of receiving the Republican nomination — have made unreasoning, unjustified terror the centerpiece of their campaigns.

Consider, for a moment, the implications of the fact that Rudy Giuliani is taking foreign policy advice from Norman Podhoretz, who wants us to start bombing Iran “as soon as it is logistically possible.”

Mr. Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary and a founding neoconservative, tells us that Iran is the “main center of the Islamofascist ideology against which we have been fighting since 9/11.” The Islamofascists, he tells us, are well on their way toward creating a world “shaped by their will and tailored to their wishes.” Indeed, “Already, some observers are warning that by the end of the 21st century the whole of Europe will be transformed into a place to which they give the name Eurabia.”

Do I have to point out that none of this makes a bit of sense?

For one thing, there isn’t actually any such thing as Islamofascism — it’s not an ideology; it’s a figment of the neocon imagination. The term came into vogue only because it was a way for Iraq hawks to gloss over the awkward transition from pursuing Osama bin Laden, who attacked America, to Saddam Hussein, who didn’t. And Iran had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11 — in fact, the Iranian regime was quite helpful to the United States when it went after Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies in Afghanistan.

Beyond that, the claim that Iran is on the path to global domination is beyond ludicrous. Yes, the Iranian regime is a nasty piece of work in many ways, and it would be a bad thing if that regime acquired nuclear weapons. But let’s have some perspective, please: we’re talking about a country with roughly the G.D.P. of Connecticut, and a government whose military budget is roughly the same as Sweden’s.

Meanwhile, the idea that bombing will bring the Iranian regime to its knees — and bombing is the only option, since we’ve run out of troops — is pure wishful thinking. Last year Israel tried to cripple Hezbollah with an air campaign, and ended up strengthening it instead. There’s every reason to believe that an attack on Iran would produce the same result, with the added effects of endangering U.S. forces in Iraq and driving oil prices well into triple digits.

Mr. Podhoretz, in short, is engaging in what my relatives call crazy talk. Yet he is being treated with respect by the front-runner for the G.O.P. nomination. And Mr. Podhoretz’s rants are, if anything, saner than some of what we’ve been hearing from some of Mr. Giuliani’s rivals.

Thus, in a recent campaign ad Mitt Romney asserted that America is in a struggle with people who aim “to unite the world under a single jihadist Caliphate. To do that they must collapse freedom-loving nations. Like us.” He doesn’t say exactly who these jihadists are, but presumably he’s referring to Al Qaeda — an organization that has certainly demonstrated its willingness and ability to kill innocent people, but has no chance of collapsing the United States, let alone taking over the world.

And Mike Huckabee, whom reporters like to portray as a nice, reasonable guy, says that if Hillary Clinton is elected, “I’m not sure we’ll have the courage and the will and the resolve to fight the greatest threat this country’s ever faced in Islamofascism.” Yep, a bunch of lightly armed terrorists and a fourth-rate military power — which aren’t even allies — pose a greater danger than Hitler’s panzers or the Soviet nuclear arsenal ever did.

All of this would be funny if it weren’t so serious.

In the wake of 9/11, the Bush administration adopted fear-mongering as a political strategy. Instead of treating the attack as what it was — an atrocity committed by a fundamentally weak, though ruthless adversary — the administration portrayed America as a nation under threat from every direction.

Most Americans have now regained their balance. But the Republican base, which lapped up the administration’s rhetoric about the axis of evil and the war on terror, remains infected by the fear the Bushies stirred up — perhaps because fear of terrorists maps so easily into the base’s older fears, including fear of dark-skinned people in general.

And the base is looking for a candidate who shares this fear.

Just to be clear, Al Qaeda is a real threat, and so is the Iranian nuclear program. But neither of these threats frightens me as much as fear itself — the unreasoning fear that has taken over one of America’s two great political parties. ++

Hopefully crazy: the right’s unAmerican yearning for a John Wayne government
October 30, 2007

Yesterday was a good day for crazy.

Last week I asked if it wasn’t time for Congress to ask — and not entirely rhetorically — Is the president mad? But yesterday, the somewhat more widely read New York Times took a double-barreled survey of the psychiatrically troubled recesses of the conservative mind, and crazy, hands down, was king.

First, in asking if Mad Ludwig will “manage to leave office without starting [another] war,” the Times’ editorial board felt justifiably compelled to pepper its musings with the following, uneasy terms: “a ghoulish guessing game,” the whimsical futility of “bank[ing] on sanity,” a reference to “fantasy,” and — of keenest and simplest diagnostic value — “the crazy American government.”

Hey, Messrs. Editorialists of Record, don’t sugarcoat it. Give it to us straight.

Meanwhile, adjacent to the Times’ diagnosis of the contemporary conservative mind was columnist Paul Krugman’s, which, as well, included an examination of the “crazy talk” coming from the Republican Party’s leading presidential candidates — some only slightly “saner” than others.

But Krugman’s musings on the psychiatrically dark and abnormal were also historical in nature — using, as he did, the recent past as an explanatory platform for the dubious present.

“In the wake of 9/11,” he noted, “the Bush administration adopted fear-mongering as a political strategy.” That screwing-with-our-minds strategy was, as we know, a boffo success.

But despite the continuity of fear-mongering with which the administration labored, “most Americans,” Krugman further noted, “have now regained their balance.” And that, of course, is well and good and likely true.

On the other hand, Krugman posited that “the Republican base, which lapped up the administration’s rhetoric about the axis of evil and the war on terror, remains infected by the fear the Bushies stirred up…. And the base is looking for a candidate who shares this fear.”

Being happy to oblige, “many of the men who hope to be the next president — including all of the candidates with a significant chance of receiving the Republican nomination — have made unreasoning, unjustified terror the centerpiece of their campaigns.” Thus, concluded Krugman, an “unreasoning fear” — shorthand note: “crazy” — “has taken over one of America’s two great political parties.”

And that’s where I must part company with Paul. Not in the fundamental diagnosis of crazy, but in its underlying cause.

With absolutely no psychiatric training whatsoever — but with, at least, some considerable schooling in the authoritarian mind — I would posit that the Republican base isn’t wallowing in party-induced fear at all. They harbor no real, gripping panic over impending terrorist attacks, or dark-skinned bogeymen, or any of the other commonly spread hysterias used to degrade our governmental system of laws.

They know, instead, that it’s a hoax — a political tool — employed merely in the realization of that singular dream that lies closest to their little authoritarian hearts: the Strong Man as Leader; the suppression of constitutional impediments; the virtual obliteration of checks and balances on He Who Rightly Rules, and properly alone.

The dedicated right finds comfort in such simplicity. It’s clean, it’s linear, it contains no frustrating obstacles to decisive action; it is infinitely reassuring. The right seeks a John Wayne government, oblivious to its ultimate George Armstrong Custer realities.

It’s crazy, all right. But the condition isn’t grounded in fear. It’s grounded in hope. ++

A former right-wingers advice on how to destroy a key pillar of right-wing ideology
MN Against Bush, Democratic Underground
Sun Oct-28-07

As many of you know I am a former right-winger who converted to a leftist about seven years ago. Many people wonder how I could make a shift from a person who wanted to privatize everything, to a person who takes leftist stances on pretty everything without stopping in the middle somewhere first. The truth is though that there was never a place for me in the middle of the spectrum, my right-wing ideology was built on false premises and once I figured out the right-wing lie there was nowhere to go but to where the truth is.

Basically right-wing ideology at least from an economic sense rests on one overriding value, trust in the corporation. Right-wingers believe that corporations can run things better than the government can. That is essentially what their entire economic platform is built on. They refuse to provide universal health care because they believe that corporations will take care of them. They hate taxes because they would much rather pay corporations for services than they would the government. They believe the corporations are trust-worthy entities that only have the people’s best interests at heart, because they believe that if a corporation violates a person’s trust the market will punish them. Unfortunately however, the facts show a very different scenario in which corporations profit from screwing people over.

Once a right-winger realizes that the corporations are not working in their best interests though, well then that key pillar of right-wing ideology begins to crumble. For me when I lost trust in the corporations, I was unable to hold on to my right-wing beliefs any more because trust in corporations is really the founding principle of right-wing economic ideology. Once that foundation corrodes, there is nothing left of the ideology. Everything collapses, and there is no place to move but to the left.

This is why it is so important to go after the corporations, because corporations are not as separate from the government as some would like to believe. The Republicans like to emphasize their “pro-business” talking point but we need to start calling bullshit whenever we hear the Republicans talk about business. The truth is they are not talking about business, they are talking corporations. The word business is far too broad, it puts the Mom and Pop corner shop on the same level as Exxon or Wal-Mart. This makes it difficult for people to recognize that not all business interests are the same. Those of us on the left are not fighting business. We have nothing against the Mom and Pop corner shops, in fact we would like to see more of them. What we are fighting is big corporations who destroy those corner shops and put the country’s wealth into the hands of a small number of people.

We need to emphasize that the right-wing is not pro-business, they are pro-corporate and there is a big difference. We need to expose the abuses of corporations, because once we can expose those abuses and the people realize they are being screwed over we have basically destroyed the entire foundation of right-wing economic thought.

I converted, and there are plenty of others out there who can convert as well. But as long as there is a trust in corporations it is going to be very difficult to move people to our side. The corporation is the foundation of the Republican Party and the DLC. If I can turn from a right-winger to a progressive without stopping in the middle, I have a hard time believing there are not others out there like me. We don’t need to move to the “center” to win people over, we need to chip away at the foundations of the right-wing ideology. Once they lose trust in the corporations ability to handle health care for example, they are likely not going to be running to the DLC for the “third way”. They are likely instead to realize that universal health care has been very effective elsewhere, and move to the left.

None of us who live in the middle class or below benefit from corporate power, we may think we do but we don’t. Once people realize that the Republican Party is done for. ++

Is a new conservatism possible?
The right is in serious trouble — and not just because of Bush’s disastrous presidency. But will it be able to change its reactionary ways?
Gary Kamiya, Salon
Oct. 30, 2007

Last week, I argued that George W. Bush’s presidency represents a radical departure from the principles of American conservatism. By covertly manipulating the country into a disastrous war of choice, vastly expanding the power of the executive branch, and approving of torture and warrantless wiretapping, among other things, Bush has trashed the tradition of Jefferson and Burke.

What I was trying to do was identify certain core conservative principles — primarily a belief in personal agency, a respect for tradition, and a wish to preserve organic community — that even liberals would not find objectionable and to point out that Bush has betrayed these conservative principles to an unprecedented degree. This raises the issue of why anyone who considers him- or herself a conservative would support Bush or his party.

In response, a number of readers argued that since no conservative president has ever lived up to those conservative principles, they’re basically irrelevant. These readers maintained that in the real world, as opposed to my vaporous and too-charitable musings, conservatism is about nothing but power (or tribalism, or selfishness, or resentment, or xenophobia). The Bush presidency thus does not represent a perversion of American conservatism but its logical culmination.

I think these readers are right about American conservatism in practice. Bush is indeed the natural heir of the ideology that runs through Goldwater, Nixon and Reagan. But I think they’re wrong that the conservative movement is foreordained to remain in its current debased form.

The real question concerns the nature of the conservative principles — or, more precisely, the relationship of those principles to conservative practice.

Conservative ideals are laudable: Who is against freedom, tradition or the preservation of community? The problem is that while they’re beautiful in the abstract, it is difficult to base a coherent governmental policy on ideals alone. Once these principles enter the real world of politics, governance and society, a world that requires compromise and the curtailment of individual freedom for the common good, they are useless as guideposts. If they are taken as moral absolutes, they cancel each other out: The apotheosis of the individual leads to the destruction of community and tradition.

American conservatism is at once absolutist and utopian, and reactive and aggrieved. Which state came first is a chicken-and-egg question, but they reinforce each other. Psychologically, conservatives want contradictory things — both pure freedom and an unchanging Golden Age. Pragmatically, they want things that are mutually exclusive — no social contract and an organic, connected community, untrammeled individual rights and a rigid moral code. The inevitable disappointment results in resentment. The reason that the American right always behaves as if it is an angry outsider, even when it controls all three branches of government, is that it is at war not with “liberalism” but with social reality.

Therefore, it is not sufficient to argue, as I implicitly did in my earlier piece, that all that conservatives need to do is return to their principles. Rather, they need to acknowledge that purity is impossible. They need to come to terms with the fact that unlimited freedom results in the tragedy of the commons, in which the unchecked actions of individuals destroy the common good. Real politics consists of negotiations between two goods, the good of freedom and the good of society.

A conservatism that accepted the need for compromise would still be conservative. There will always be substantive issues on which conservatives and liberals will have good-faith differences. It would simply be a more mature conservatism.

The history of American conservatism does not inspire much confidence, however.

In spite of its moderate roots, it has succeeded mainly via absolutist, reactionary politics. This approach has enormous emotional appeal for Americans for whom the modern world is a source of confusion, anger and fear, or who simply disdain the social contract . And the Republican Party is now entirely in thrall to it. The current crop of GOP candidates hold uniformly hard-right positions, with the exception of the libertarian, no-chance Ron Paul. The leading GOP contender, Rudy Giuliani, is even more of a maniacal hawk than Bush on the Middle East and national security. These are hardly signs that the right is moving to the center.

But sooner or later, conservatives will have to change course or see their movement wither away.

The issues that have been winners for conservatives are fading. White resentment of federal civil rights laws is the ur-conservative issue, the engine that drove the right’s rise. Barry Goldwater, by reluctantly voting against the Civil Rights Act, permanently realigned the South and paved the way for Nixon’s “Southern strategy.”

More recently, right-wing strategists successfully mobilized resentment over “values” issues like the “three Gs” — gays, God and guns. These issues still mobilize some conservative voters, but they aren’t nearly as effective as they used to be. Studies show that the electorate, especially younger voters, are moving left on these issues.

Support among voters for conservatism’s powerful no-more-taxes wing is dwindling as well. As Bush found out recently, Americans will do anything to save the nation’s two largest entitlement programs, Social Security and Medicare, including paying higher taxes.

The fall of communism was another heavy blow to the conservative movement. It was fear of communism, added to white backlash, that handed conservatives control of the country in the Reagan years. Although Bush won reelection in 2004 by convincing enough frightened Americans that a nonexistent entity called “Islamofascism” was the second coming of the Evil Empire, that fear-mongering comparison will not work anymore. The Iraq debacle, and Bush’s misguided “war on terror,” have made it only too clear that moralistic militarism and disdain for diplomacy only makes the problem worse.

Bush’s disastrous presidency has revealed many other shortcomings in conservatism. The Katrina debacle reminded Americans that government’s first duty is to be competent, not ideological. The endless crony-capitalism scandals of the Bush years, from Enron to Halliburton to Blackwater, showed that Bush’s version of the “free market” is a rigged game. And his hectoring, mean-spirited presidential style has divided America and made our civic life remarkably ugly.

So if conservatism is to survive, it will have to make hard choices. To win leftward-moving centrists, it will have to jettison its extreme positions on both social issues and on economic policy. In effect, this means a return to the moderately pro-business conservatism of Eisenhower.

Of course, the Democratic Party is moving in a similar centrist direction. The old labels “liberal” and “conservative” mean less and less in the world of postindustrial capitalism. To be sure, there are legitimate issues on which conservatives and liberals differ and will continue to differ — like affirmative action, or immigration, or the degree to which government ought to try to ensure quality of outcome as well as equality of opportunity.

The arguments over such matters are necessary, and they will continue. But the most critical issues that America faces can no longer be described using the old labels. For example, what is the “conservative” or “liberal” position on globalization? Or on how to deal with international terrorism? Or whether to use American power for humanitarian ends? The old labels are meaningless here.

In the end, conservatism will have to decide if it wants to be a real party of governance, moving beyond empty labels to engage with real issues, or if it wants to remain a party of reaction, in permanent rebellion against modernity, proffering emotionally satisfying but incoherent policies. Conservatism claims to be a politics of authenticity, but it is actually a politics of impulse and instinct. It is based on unmediated emotions, erupting from the individual ego — Get big government off my back! Keep those civil rights laws out of my white backyard! Lower my taxes! This is ultimately an infantile or an adolescent politics, a failure to come to terms with a world that does not do exactly what the omnipotent self demands. Does conservatism want to grow up, or stay an angry teenager forever?

If conservatism chooses to follow its current course, it will grow ever narrower, angrier, more divisive and more partisan. But there is another possibility: It could evolve into a movement not just of reaction and self-canceling absolutism — but of hope and inclusion.

This new conservatism would try to conserve the best of traditional America, but understand that change is innate in that tradition, and that, paradoxically, tolerance and flexibility are needed to preserve it. It would try to guide its fearful constituents gently into the modern world, not pander to their fears. It would be patriotic but possess the self-confidence of mature patriotism. This would allow it to throw out the Manichaean moralizing and militarist triumphalism that has characterized conservatism from Reagan’s simplistic anti-communism through Bush’s “war on terror,” and strengthen America by rooting it more firmly in the international community, not less. It would try to create a real, engaged morality, instead of a cheap simulacrum based more on resenting differences than on trying to realize the ideals of altruism and brotherhood. It would celebrate a religious vision like that of Martin Luther King Jr., one that could be an inspiration to all Americans, whether believers, agnostics or atheists.

The new conservatism would not be liberal. It would still tilt toward small government and lower taxes, would reject policies aimed at equal outcomes, would oppose affirmative action and unrestricted immigration. That’s why it would be conservative (and, anticipating outrage from liberal Salon readers, why I wouldn’t support it). But it would abandon its facile government bashing and appeals to raw emotion. Above all, it would aim at working to build an America that, despite political differences, would pull together, would feellike a united country. It would take seriously that old saw about one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

It’s hard to imagine the party of Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh moving to the center. But if Americans turn away from the politics of resentment and fear, the GOP may be forced to follow them. ++

Theocracy Now!
Max Blumenthal, Smirking Chimp
Oct 30 2007

[open link for video]

On October 20 and 21st, I attended the Value Voters Summit, a massive gathering hosted by the Colorado-based Christian right mega-ministry, Focus on the Family, and its Washington lobbying arm, the Family Research Council. With the pro-choice Rudy Giuliani leading in the race for the Republican nomination and the threat of another Clinton presidency looming, the stakes for the Christian right were high.

At the Summit, I witnessed all of the major Republican presidential candidates compete for the affection of so-called value voters. Rudy Giuliani, the current frontrunner, sought to assuage movement leaders’ concerns about his multiple marriages, pro-choice politics, and penchant for cross-dressing. Mitt Romney pledged to fight for a Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, hoping his newfound conservatism would somehow lessen evangelical resentment of his Mormon faith.

Though no candidate emerged from the Summit as a clear Christian right favorite, the badly underfunded former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister Mike Huckabee won over the audience with his insistence that banning abortion would put an end to America’s illegal immigration problem. Huckabee’s comparison of “liberalized abortion” to the Holocaust further endeared him to the “value voters.” Later, during a press conference, I challenged Huckabee to explain the logic behind his rhetoric.

Recently, there has been a lot of mainstream media noise about a new, more socially conscious evangelical movement rising from the angry ashes of the Christian right. Pastors like Rick Warren and “evangelical feminist” Bill Hybels are supposedly bringing issues like the environment and poverty to the forefront of the movement’s social agenda, while pushing anti-abortion and anti-gay activism to the wayside. Yet no one told those evangelicals gathered at the Value Voters Summit about this friendly new initiative.

If anything, the movement seemed more extreme and paranoid than it did four years ago. Rev. Lou Sheldon, dubbed “Lucky Louie” by his former paymaster Jack Abramoff, told me that homosexuality is a “pathological disorder” and “a groove” that is difficult to escape from. He proceeded to passionately defend his friend, Senator Larry Craig, from allegations of homosexuality.

Star Parker, a former welfare cheat who had multiple abortions, claimed to me that abortion is the leading cause of death among African American women between the ages of 25 and 34. Then she described her wish for the forced quarantine of all “sodomites.” Parker was not a lone wacko milling around in the hallway; she was a speaker invited by the Family Research Council.

Neoconservative activist Frank Gaffney appeared at the Summit as well. Before a standing room audience, Gaffney exclaimed that “by not being bigoted and not being racist, [George W.] Bush has embraced Islamofascists on several occasions.” Phyllis Schlaffly echoed Gaffney’s comments, declaring that there are too many mosques in America.

These incidents and many more are captured in my latest video report, “Theocracy Now: In Search of Values at the 2007 Value Voters Summit.” See it for yourself. ++

“So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin’ ass and celebratin’ the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.”
~ Molly Ivins, 1944 – 2007

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

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One Response to “…the party of shriveled hearts.”

  1. Mary Clara says:

    My, my. How unkind are the majority of these posts. Do you hate everyone with whom you are not in complete agreement? Do you cast out everyone who does not agree with all of your views? Should Republicans act the same way?

    - a Republican (an American who thinks as often as do Democrats, who is as troubled by the enmity in the world, and who would rather be responsible for her own charitable giving than to abdicate that responsibility to a faceless government which cannot extend a smile along with the money, and which needn’t prompt a recipient to feel the loving gratitude and humility that comes from knowing that all of us, at one time or another, will be at either end of the command: Feed my sheep [all of them].)
    To be overtaxed is taxing, and to give directly and thoughtfully is renewing.
    Entitlements support dependence. Charity is two-way, and holiness in which humans can participate.

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