Farewell. The Flying Pig Has Left The Building.

Steve Hynd, August 16, 2012

After four years on the Typepad site, eight years total blogging, Newshoggers is closing it's doors today. We've been coasting the last year or so, with many of us moving on to bigger projects (Hey, Eric!) or simply running out of blogging enthusiasm, and it's time to give the old flying pig a rest.

We've done okay over those eight years, although never being quite PC enough to gain wider acceptance from the partisan "party right or wrong" crowds. We like to think we moved political conversations a little, on the ever-present wish to rush to war with Iran, on the need for a real Left that isn't licking corporatist Dem boots every cycle, on America's foreign misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. We like to think we made a small difference while writing under that flying pig banner. We did pretty good for a bunch with no ties to big-party apparatuses or think tanks.

Those eight years of blogging will still exist. Because we're ending this typepad account, we've been archiving the typepad blog here. And the original blogger archive is still here. There will still be new content from the old 'hoggers crew too. Ron writes for The Moderate Voice, I post at The Agonist and Eric Martin's lucid foreign policy thoughts can be read at Democracy Arsenal.

I'd like to thank all our regular commenters, readers and the other bloggers who regularly linked to our posts over the years to agree or disagree. You all made writing for 'hoggers an amazingly fun and stimulating experience.

Thank you very much.

Note: This is an archive copy of Newshoggers. Most of the pictures are gone but the words are all here. There may be some occasional new content, John may do some posts and Ron will cross post some of his contributions to The Moderate Voice so check back.


Showing posts with label Religious Right. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Religious Right. Show all posts

Thursday, February 2, 2012

No more pinkwashing

By BJ Bjornson

The fun never stops with this one. Yesterday, the internet erupted over the news that the Susan G Komen for the Cure foundation was cutting funding to Planned Parenthood in a blatant cave-in to right-wing ideologues. Today brings news that the new rules Komen brought in to cut off the Planned Parenthood funding were done specifically to give them an excuse to cut that funding.

Komen, the marketing juggernaut that brought the world the ubiquitous pink ribbon campaign, says it cut-off Planned Parenthood because of a newly adopted foundation rule prohibiting it from funding any group that is under formal investigation by a government body. (Planned Parenthood is being investigated by Rep. Cliff Stearns, an anti-abortion Florida Republican, who says he is trying to learn if the group spent public money to provide abortions.)

But three sources with direct knowledge of the Komen decision-making process told me that the rule was adopted in order to create an excuse to cut-off Planned Parenthood. (Komen gives out grants to roughly 2,000 organizations, and the new "no-investigations" rule applies to only one so far.) The decision to create a rule that would cut funding to Planned Parenthood, according to these sources, was driven by the organization's new senior vice-president for public policy, Karen Handel, a former gubernatorial candidate from Georgia who is staunchly anti-abortion and who has said that since she is "pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood." (The Komen grants to Planned Parenthood did not pay for abortion or contraception services, only cancer detection, according to all parties involved.)

The answer to this is much the same as it was yesterday, move your cancer donations elsewhere and, per PZ Myers, let Komen suck up the cash of Puritans to where it can at least still be put to some good use.

So don�t give to them anymore. Redirect your charitable giving to organizations that don�t have a Puritanical streak, and are a bit less Republican in outlook. There is no shortage; I recommend the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Breast Cancer Charities of America, CancerCare, and the Cancer Research Institute. So far, they all seem to be dedicated to fighting cancer and helping people, and a lot less concerned about policing people�s morality to conform to that of the Religious Right.

But I don�t want Susan G. Komen to go away. I think it is an excellent charity for right-wingers and Christian fundamentalists to donate to � their money will go to a cause we can all support, and it�s better than filling the coffers of the Mormon or Catholic churches.

And yes, I�m leaving in the links to the other charities as a lazy way to point you all to where you can divert your charitable giving, if you don�t want to just send it directly to Planned Parenthood itself.

And if you need further incentive to cut off the pink ribbon folks, it may delight you to know that the people who helped push Komen away from saving poor women�s lives with breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood clinics are now pushing them to stop supporting stem cell research. Though I�m not sure if this is a matter of giving into bullies who then just ask for more, since by all accounts, it was more a matter of electing the bullies to run the organization.

This little documentary probably won�t help matters for Komen much either.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Argument of the fundamentalist

By BJ Bjornson

Probably a little late as his always slim chance for the Republican nomination slips ever further away, but this clip of Gingrich rather perfectly sums up what the religious right means when they talk about �religious freedom�. It isn�t actually freedom of (and from) all religions, its a free pass for their religion and their religion alone. No one else need apply.

And just what is �our religion� do you think? As the Founding Fathers were aware, if the government can make Christianity the state religion, it can just as easily make one specific sect of Christianity the state religion, and there is more than a little disagreement on a lot of the particulars between Christian sects, which is why they thought it best to keep religion and government separate.

Of course, so long as the rubes can be convinced that it will be their specific beliefs that will rule, they�ll keep lapping this stuff up. They should be happy if they never find out how wrong they probably are.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A very special up yours

By BJ Bjornson

I have to say I find this every sort of amusing, and am somewhat disappointed that it failed.

To protest a bill that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion, Virginia State Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) on Monday attached an amendment that would require men to have a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before obtaining a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication.

"We need some gender equity here," she told HuffPost. "The Virginia senate is about to pass a bill that will require a woman to have totally unnecessary medical procedure at their cost and inconvenience. If we're going to do that to women, why not do that to men?"

The Republican-controlled senate narrowly rejected the amendment Monday by a vote of 21 to 19, but passed the mandatory ultrasound bill in a voice vote. A similar bill in Texas, which physicians say has caused a "bureaucratic nightmare," is currently being challenged in court.

Of course, as PZ notes, even this isn�t exactly fair:

What? No lecture about their manly responsibilities, no waiting period, no efforts to redirect these men looking for Viagra towards ineffective treatments? This is hardly fair. But it is a good first step.

And how about spousal or parental consent? Limited access? Religious exemptions for those who don't want to give out the prescriptions? After all, we don�t want to appear biased here, do we?

In any case, it is always nice when someone can think of a fun way to point out bias and hypocrisy, and this is a good example of that.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Iowa Caucuses

By BJ Bjornson

If the early primaries are mostly about expectations, Mitt Romney has to be feeling pretty good this morning. Sure, his first-place finish is so close as to remain almost provisional, but the real danger going into the caucuses was that his support was soft enough that he�d wind up placing third behind Paul and Santorum, and possibly even worse had Gingrich�s support not already plummeted. (And make no mistake that many of us watching were hoping for such a result, as it would speak to a longer and messier GOP primary.)

Looking forward, Romney is polling well enough that he should have a lock on New Hampshire, which means the next major stumbling block for Romney will come on the 21st in South Carolina. I haven�t paid any real attention to polling in S.C. outside of noting that the last I checked, Gingrich was well ahead. Of the two candidates who also did well in Iowa, Paul is a lunatic who will fade quickly, and Santorum is a lunatic who should play well with the social conservative lunatics that have taken over the Republican party, but lacks funding and nationwide infrastructure to run a real race against Romney. Still, if memory serves, South Carolina was one of those states in 2008 where another candidate with limited funding and infrastructure, Huckabee, still parlayed his evangelical roots to a number of victories in the Bible Belt.

With Rick Perry now pretty much out of the race, there isn�t anyone left who can really run a 50-state campaign against Romney, which, despite however many stumbles his immediate future holds, bodes well for Romney being the eventual nominee. Nate Silver does a good job of summing things up:

However, even if Mr. Santorum catches fire, or even if Jon M. Huntsman Jr. surges in the polls, or even if (perhaps less plausibly) Newt Gingrich somehow resurrects himself yet again, Mr. Romney will have a lot of second and third chances. Mr. Romney could lose South Carolina but win Florida. He could lose South Carolina and Florida but rebound in the caucus states of February, or on Super Tuesday. He could be engaged in a more-or-less even delegate battle with someone like Mr. Santorum for a long while � but emerge with the most delegates at the end.

Some of these scenarios are not great for Mr. Romney. There is certainly the chance that he wins the nomination without really capturing Republican voters� hearts and minds, and that might Republican impact turnout at the margin in November.

. . .

The bottom line is that Mr. Romney�s chances of becoming president are a little higher than they were 24 hours ago, quite a bit higher than they were 24 days ago, and much higher than they were 24 months ago, when he was one of among dozens of potential aspirants to the nomination. If Mr. Romney achieves his goal, he will have some more aesthetically-pleasing victories along the way.

I suspect short of some very unlikely scenarios, the establishment and media (but I repeat myself) will crown Romney the nominee as soon as they plausibly can so they can move onto the real battle between him and Obama.

Oh well, sometimes when you root for injuries, you just have to resign yourself to the fact there just won�t be that many.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tim Minchin song cut from Christmas special

By BJ Bjornson

Possibly due to concern over possible negative coverage, unlike the negative coverage that cutting it will cause. In any case it sucks given the song is an absolute hoot. Oh well, at least we can all still enjoy it on YouTube.

This guy really needs to do a Christmas album.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A terrorist by any other name

By BJ Bjornson

It has to suck when your definitions for a term, and your treatment of those you apply it to, begins looking way to much about being about the actor and not the act, and particularly whether or not the actor shares your faith or not.

A young man calling himself Yehudi Tzadik � "righteous Jew" � picked up a rock and rolled it around in his hand, as if considering pitching it at a police car parked nearby.

Within sight was a mosque in Jerusalem that was torched and defamed Wednesday with graffiti that included, "Death to Arabs." Tzadik claimed he knew some of the group that was responsible for the attack, though he added that he wasn't there when it happened.

"The state of Israel has lost its moral code. It has forgotten what is at the heart of the Jewish nation. ... We are reminding them," said Tzadik, who gave his real name only as David.

A spate of attacks this week by Jewish right-wing extremists has called into question Israel's definition of the word "terrorist," and has prompted security officials to acknowledge the separate rules of engagement they've created for Jews and Palestinians.

Those rules were highlighted when a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, Brigadier Yoav Mordechai, was asked whether a soldier should open fire on a Jewish person who was throwing rocks, as soldiers routinely do with rock-throwing Palestinians. Mordechai answered, "I assume ... you wouldn't expect the brigade commander to open fire at a Jew standing in front of him. I am certain you didn't mean that."

No, you would never mean that you should treat Jewish rock-throwers in the same manner you treat Palestinian ones. Equal treatment? That would be crazy! It might also bring up some uncomfortable questions about the appropriate level of retaliation one should expect from security forces

Granted, that�s far from the only place in the article where a sense of irony is lacking.

On Thursday morning, Israeli soldiers destroyed several structures in a small outpost adjacent to Yitzhar. Israeli officials had ordered the buildings demolished because they'd been built on private Palestinian land, but their demolition had been delayed repeatedly.

Jeremy, a resident of Yitzhar who wouldn't give his surname, said he viewed the demolition order as a declaration of war by the Jewish state.

"What is it if not war? It's a declaration of war against the settlements and what we stand for," he said. "How would you feel if they came and kicked you out of your home in the middle of the night? Would you not want to defend your home?"

Yeah! How would you feel if somebody came and kicked you out of your home, took over your land, built their own settlements on top of them? Oh ... right ... never mind.

Then again, this is just the latest in the line of fundamentalist Jewish groups working to turn Israel into the kind of theocracy the other Abrahamic religion of the region is more known for, like attacking Christmas carolers and burning mosques, not to mention a rampage on an army base, an act that would have provoked far more than just a condemnation had the rampagers been non-Jews, I�m sure.

And when it comes to battling other Israelis, this story about the harassment of a dance studio in Jerusalem and segregating buses and businesses for men and women comes to mind.

The campaign by Haredi Jews against the dance company is not an isolated one. Over the past few years, Haredim have also persuaded companies to remove images of women from advertising billboards in Jerusalem and from the sides of buses, and have defaced or ripped down many of those that remain.

They have pressed for segregated sections on public transport and separate entrances for men and women at post offices, pharmacies, health centres and supermarkets. Last month they tried to impose a barrier on a street in Jerusalem to force men and women to walk apart during the Jewish festival of Sukkot.

Their rabbis are campaigning against female soldiers taking part in army singing ceremonies, with one urging male soldiers to walk out of such events "even if there's a firing squad waiting outside to kill you". They have also demanded that women be forbidden from taking up combat positions.

I don�t know enough about internal Israeli politics to know just how much of a threat these fundamentalists actually are, outside of the fact that they usually wind up with a disproportionate share of political power due to the make-up of the Knesset. What I do know is that these kinds of stories seem to be coming out with greater frequency, enough that even U.S. Secretary of State Clinton mentioned the matter recently.

There is also one other point from the dance studio story that concerns me:

Tension between the Haredim and other Jews is mounting across Israel. But it is acute in Jerusalem, where the proportion of Haredim is more than 20% and rising fast because of their high birth rate and the flight of many secular Jews from the city.

That last is part of a pattern seen in other areas where religious fundamentalists gain power and influence. Those with the means to do so, usually wealthier and better-educated, leave the area, which reduces the resistance to the fundamentalists� rule and therefore increases their power and ability to influence policy and education, while also leaving the remainder with less wealth, less education, and a more limited ability to improve either, which pushes out more of the secular and moderate voices in a nasty self-reinforcing cycle. It happened in Iraq after the U.S. invasion. It is also behind much of the extremism in the Palestinian territories, particularly the West Bank, which used to have a large (40%) minority of Christians and was quite secular when first conquered in �67. Bad enough that a similar movement is happening in Jerusalem now, and much worse should it start happening to Israel as a whole.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The reason for the season

By BJ Bjornson

Yeah, it�s getting close to mid-December, so the War on Christmas is now in full swing, with the first major victory for the godless coming from sunny California.

Seems that Santa Monica had a lottery to distribute a bunch of display areas in a city park, normally used for a whole bunch of nativity scenes, and thanks to either a quirk in the drawing or just some rather enthusiastic participants flooding the results, atheists would up winning the majority of the available spaces. The Christian response to this fair and unbiased selection method? It�s an assault on their freedom of speech!

"By trying to push the Nativity scene out of the park and silence us, these people are infringing on our freedom and 1st Amendment rights," said Hunter Jameson, a Nativity organizer, said in a statement.

They haven�t actually been pushed out, of course, just had their number of slots limited, and as PZ says, that will likely get reversed in the future by their organizing a swamping of the lottery with their own applications. In the meantime, they will certainly use this as an example of how persecuted their poor overwhelming majority is in the nation, without the least hint of irony.

But while PZ looks at this as an opportunity for the Christians to get used to a minority position that he hopes will come down the pipe one day in the not-too-distant future, I�d like to ask the atheists in Santa Monica to take advantage of this opportunity to do some much-needed PR work for atheism.

The article doesn�t say much about the previous year�s atheist display except for its inclusion of a Jefferson quote about religions all being founded on fables and mythologies, which is fine so far as it goes, but with the added space available, something more positive from the atheist community would seem an excellent idea.

After all, most atheists and agnostics love celebrating the Christmas season, not as a religious ritual, but as a chance to get together with family and friends, and then eat, drink and be merry. I�m betting that�s the same kind of thing most Christians actually like about the season as well, so why not put up a few displays that show what the true enjoyment of the season is all about?

And on that note, enjoy my new favourite Christmas carol from Tim Minchin.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Anyone but Mitt

By BJ Bjornson

Via Balloon Juice, this story from CNN comes as no surprise.

Representatives for leading social conservative groups in Iowa held a secret meeting Monday as part of an effort with one main goal: find and support a Republican presidential candidate who can stop Mitt Romney in Iowa.

The idea: avoid splintering the conservative vote in the state by rallying around one GOP rival who could win Iowa's Jan. 3 caucus and then challenge Romney in New Hampshire and the other early voting states.

Many social conservatives and other religious leaders in the state have openly labeled the former Massachusetts governor as a "flip-flopper," a criticism the campaign frequently beats back, while others have seen Romney's Mormon faith as an issue. And many of them have openly hoped for someone to emerge as a viable alternative to the former Massachusetts governor.

John Cole is right, this sort of thing isn�t just happening in Iowa, even if the incentive to get some real organization around the �anyone but� campaign is new. The National Post has an excellent graphic that makes the point quite clear.

You almost feel sorry for these nuts. They keep trying to rally around some "anyone but" saviour, only to find that individual become more painfully inadequate the more they get to see of them. It has to hurt to have your dreams dashed repeatedly like that.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mac and Cheese

Commentary By Ron Beasley

The religious right was not always about abortion and gays.  It was originally all about desegregation, that's what Falwell and Robertson were preaching against.  Opposition to desegregation was becoming increasingly politically incorrect.  This was when Francis Schaeffer made his appearance and convinced the religious right they should concentrate on the issue of abortion.  But the old prejudices die hard and we have this from Pat Robertson:

�What is this �mac and cheese�? Is that a black thing?�

Now I'm as Arian  Ayran as you can get - blond hair, blue eyes - an English father and a Swedish mother.  But I love mac and cheese.  Not that disgusting stuff from Kraft - I make it from scratch with extra sharp cheddar. No Pat, it's not a black thing - its a great meal for those of us who have not made millions pushing hate in the name of God.  There are times I wished I believed in hell so there would be some appropriate place for you Pat to go.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Creating their own reality

By BJ Bjornson

A nice article from McClatchy on the various ways that the right is working to rewrite American history to suit their particular ideology.

The right is rewriting history.

The most ballyhooed effort is under way in Texas, where conservatives have pushed the state school board to rewrite guidelines, downplaying Thomas Jefferson in one high school course, playing up such conservatives as Phyllis Schlafly and the Heritage Foundation and challenging the idea that the Founding Fathers wanted to separate church and state.

The effort reaches far beyond one state, however.

In articles and speeches, on radio and TV, conservatives are working to redefine major turning points and influential figures in American history, often to slam liberals, promote Republicans and reinforce their positions in today's politics.

The Jamestown settlers? Socialists. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton? Ill-informed professors made up all that bunk about him advocating a strong central government.

Theodore Roosevelt? Another socialist. Franklin D. Roosevelt? Not only did he not end the Great Depression, he also created it.

Joe McCarthy? Liberals lied about him. He was a hero.

Nothing necessarily new about all that of course, and I�d argue that the effort goes far beyond just history. The right has fully embraced the worldview contained in the now-infamous quote from 2004:

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality�judiciously, as you will�we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors�and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Tax cuts increase revenue. �Intelligent Design� (a.k.a. creationism) is a valid scientific theory that should be studied alongside evolution in science class. Climate Change is just a theory that needn�t be taken seriously.

Creating their own reality is now pretty much all the right does anymore. And as with all such made-up realms, consistency isn�t exactly a strong point, such as the Republican policy position of, �We�re against whatever the Democrats are for, updated daily�.

And it�s never about standing up to authority, as the right�s authoritarian tendencies are always out in full display whenever they feel they need to defend police beating, pepper-spraying, or otherwise interfering with the protests of �liberal� protesters. Instead, it�s about debasing the authority of any figures or areas in which reality doesn�t treat their ideology too well.

At one point in time, you could assure yourself that those who led the right were smart enough to recognize the delusions they were feeding to the masses were just that. Unfortunately, the rubes realized they were being taken and have begun demanding true fealty rather then just lip service from their elected officials.

Indoctrinating children to be part of the faithful is just another step in ensuring the Church of the Right remains strong.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pandering To The American Taliban

Commentary By Ron Beasley

As bad as the police brutality against the OWS demonstrators was it was not the scariest thing that happened last week.  The most disturbing thing has to be six of the would be Republican candidates for president pandering to the greatest threat to this nation - the Evangelical Christians or the American Taliban.  It happened at the Thanksgiving Family Forum.

At a forum on moral values, which was held at First Federated, an evangelical church in Des Moines, the six candidates in attendance largely stuck to Republican orthodoxy and avoided criticizing one another. Instead, they called for dramatic changes in current law to achieve conservative aims.

To limit abortion, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, one of the leading candidates in polls here, proposed a federal law defining �personhood� as starting at conception, similar to a provision backed by abortion opponents that was rejected earlier this month by voters in Mississippi. Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he supported provisions that would limit the ability of gay couples to adopt children, while businessman Herman Cain called for changing provisions in the tax code that restrict churches� involvement in politics if they want to keep their tax-exempt status.

Several committed to supporting state same-sex marriage bans and eventually a constitutional amendment to prohibit it, although libertarian candidate Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) said the issue should be dealt with by churches and families instead of the government.

�As long as abortion is legal in this country .?.?. we will never have rest because that law does not comport with God�s law,� said former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.

Steve Benen:

So, what did we learn from the event? That for all the focus on economic and fiscal issues at the national level, much of the Republican base is still preoccupied with a culture war � and most of the Republican presidential candidates are only too pleased to tell these voters what they want to hear.

This is a problem for the Republicans and one they created when they came to depend on a base of ignorant bible thumping neanderthals.  Mitt Romney chose not to attend which is why he is the only Republican who could possibly win the general election.  Of course the panderer in chief, Newt Gingrich may snatch the nomination from him. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Separation is a good thing

By BJ Bjornson

A nice little article from McClatchy on the importance of Church/State separation. Unfortunately quite likely to be ignored by its main targets, as in the GOP field, but nice to see as part of the conversation in any case.

The separation of church and state in American public life is essential to ensure that U.S. citizens retain their civil liberties and that the nation retains its exceptionalism in the world, a group of experts told a forum Tuesday at the National Press Club.

As the 2012 election season heats up, the experts voiced concern over the view held by some that the First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion, allows religion to be mixed with governance, which they said is incorrect. They said that American exceptionalism stems in no small part from religious liberty.

I admit that I�m not entirely certain just how American exceptionalism relates to religious liberty, as I�ve normally found its expression to be a healthy dose of the unhealthy kind of �we can do no wrong because we�re so great� thinking that also infects the worst of religion, but I would say that much of America�s greatness comes from its ability to ignore the worst tendencies of religion and govern based on empirical principles. Part of the reason the Republicans� insistence of turning everything, including things like Climate Change and opposition to renewable energy, into matters of faith is such a scary phenomenon.

I did quite like this paragraph though.

"When we are dragging religion into politics, then we are not searching for truth, but we do it to support our agenda in order to preserve our position, so the necessity for separation of church and state is essential" he said.

Which I think pretty much sums up every position ever taken by the religious right, and a good reminder why the criticism of religion is also a necessity for a decent society.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Because Bullies are God's Friends

By BJ Bjornson

I�m a little late getting around to this one, but the story still manages to raise my ire, and Sunday seemed like a good day to write about it.

Concerned about school bullying, and motivated by the suicide of a student, Matt Epling, who was driven to the act by prolonged bullying, the Michigan legislature tried to put together �Matt�s Safe School Law�. It has passed, but there�s nothing to be cheerful about. The Republicans and Christians turned it into a bullying protection act. First, the Republicans gutted it.

This year, Republicans only agreed to consider an anti-bullying measure that did not require school districts to report bullying incidents, did not include any provisions for enforcement or teacher training, and did not hold administrators accountable if they fail to act.

So the bill does nothing. It�s the Republican equivalent of saying, �tut, tut.�

Then the Christian element got to work and added a critical clause.

On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled state senate passed an anti-bullying bill that manages to protect school bullies instead of those they victimize. It accomplishes this impressive feat by allowing students, teachers, and other school employees to claim that �a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction� justifies their harassment.

We all know what that�s about. It�s all about giving the church kids permission to torment the gay kids. That clause is nothing but bigotry in disguise.

I was going to add a rant of my own, but Charles P. Pierce says it all far better.

In a very real way, this one passage in one piece of really bad legislation is the entire raison d'etre of American "conservatism," and of the political party that it has turned into its mindless vehicle over the past four decades. Every element of the "movement" is in there. There's religious paranoia and cultural sociopathy combining to produce a completely irrational sense of victimhood. There's the carefully chosen choice of targets, and the subsequent inflation of that target into the "real" threat from the "real" oppressors. And then, finally, there's the framing of legislation to say one thing, but mean another, while maintaining your inherent right as one of society's overdogs to do pretty much anything you want. You play the victim to reinforce your own long-established privilege.

As with everything else in what has become the conservative movements� twisted mind, the only real threat out there is those nasty liberals trying to take away their God-given right to be bigots

If I wasn�t already quite certain that he didn�t exist, that alone would be sufficient to convince me their god is one I wouldn�t want to follow.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Closed Circle

By BJ Bjornson

The following video has been doing the rounds today, and I do think it says something when even Pat Robertson realizes the GOP is going too far.:

As TPM puts it:

When Pat Robertson � yes, Pat Robertson � thinks the GOP base is too extreme, it might be time for some party soul searching.

Of course, soul searching isn�t too big on the right these days, and Paul Krugman helpfully explains why.

The key to understanding this, I�d suggest, is that movement conservatism has become a closed, inward-looking universe in which you get points not by sounding reasonable to uncommitted outsiders � although there are a few designated pundits who play that role professionally � but by outdoing your fellow movement members in zeal.

It�s sort of reminiscent of Stalinists going after Trotskyites in the old days: the Trotskyites were left deviationists, and also saboteurs working for the Nazis. Didn�t propagandists feel silly saying all that? Not at all: in their universe, extremism in defense of the larger truth was no vice, and you literally couldn�t go too far.

Many members of the commentariat don�t want to face up to the fact that this is what American politics has become; they cling to the notion that there are gentlemanly elder statesmen on the right who would come to the fore if only Obama said the right words. But the fact is that nobody on that side of the political spectrum wants to or can make deals with the Islamic atheist anti-military warmonger in the White House.

The really fun part is that we�ve easily got months of this to watch before the dust has settled enough for a clear winner to emerge from whoever manages to pose the biggest challenge to Multiple Choice Mitt (currently Cain, but Perry has deep enough pockets he may yet recover from his earlier stumbles).

Sure it�s crazy, but it does make for one hell of a spectator sport, so long as you don't think too much about the fact that there remains a very real chance one of these guys can win.

Friday, August 19, 2011

It's A Feature Not A Bug

Commentary By Ron Beasley

Bruce Bartlett:

"Rick Perry's an idiot, and I don't think anyone would disagree with that," Bartlett said Friday on CNN's "American Morning."

And he just keeps proving it over and over again:

Sorry Bruce, but in your former Party being an idiot is a feature not a bug.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Religious Right On Steroids

Commentary By Ron Beasley

The Evangelical Christians are a large group but there is fringe group of that movement that is small but well represented in the Republican primary contest - Dominionism.

With Tim Pawlenty out of the presidential race, it is now fairly clear that the GOP candidate will either be Mitt Romney or someone who makes George W. Bush look like Tom Paine. Of the three most plausible candidates for the Republican nomination, two are deeply associated with a theocratic strain of Christian fundamentalism known as Dominionism. If you want to understand Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, understanding Dominionism isn�t optional.

Put simply, Dominionism means that Christians have a God-given right to rule all earthly institutions. Originating among some of America�s most radical theocrats, it�s long had an influence on religious-right education and political organizing. But because it seems so outr�getting ordinary people to take it seriously can be difficult. Most writers, myself included, who explore it have been called paranoid. In a contemptuous 2006 First Things review of several books, including Kevin Phillips� American Theocracy, and my own Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, conservative columnist Ross Douthat wrote, �the fear of theocracy has become a defining panic of the Bush era.�

This has come up recently when The Washington Examiner�s Byron York asked Michele Bachmann a question about her relationship with her husband - specifically would she submit to her husband's wishes as president.  One of the tenants of Domionism is that wives must submit to the wishes of their husbands.

But it's not just Bachmann:

But it�s only recently that one group of Pentecostals, the New Apostolic Reformation, has created its own distinct Dominionist movement. And members see Perry as their ticket to power.

�The New Apostles talk about taking dominion over American society in pastoral terms,� wrote Wilder in the Texas Observer. �They refer to the �Seven Mountains� of society: family, religion, arts and entertainment, media, government, education, and business. These are the nerve centers of society that God (or his people) must control.� He quotes a sermon from Tom Schlueter, New Apostolic pastor close to Perry. �We�re going to infiltrate [the government], not run from it. I know why God�s doing what he�s doing ... He�s just simply saying, �Tom I�ve given you authority in a governmental authority, and I need you to infiltrate the governmental mountain.�

According to Wilder, members of the New Apostolic Reformation see Perry as their vehicle to claim the �mountain� of government. Some have told Perry that Texas is a �prophet state,� destined, with his leadership, to bring America back to God. The movement was deeply involved in The Response, the massive prayer rally that Perry hosted in Houston earlier this month. �Eight members of The Response �leadership team� are affiliated with the New Apostolic Reformation movement,� wrote Wilder. �The long list of The Response�s official endorses�posted on the event�s website�reads like a Who�s Who of the apostolic-prophetic crowd, including movement founder C. Peter Wagner.�

So why is this important?

For believers in Dominionism, rule by non-Christians is a sort of sacrilege�which explains, in part, the theological fury that has accompanied the election of our last two Democratic presidents. �Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ�to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness,� wrote George Grant, the former executive director of Coral Ridge Ministries, which has since changed its name to Truth in Action Ministries. �But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice ... It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time ... World conquest.�

If this doesn't sound familiar it should.  It sounds a lot like the Islamic fundamentalism that spawned al Queda.  Religious extremism is crazy and dangerous regardless of the species.  Both Perry and Bachmann are part of this movement.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

That Didn't Take Long

Commentary By Ron Beasley

Perry for president?

Doug Mataconis on Saturday:

There will be much more to say about Perry in the weeks and months to come, I�m sure, and I know I�ll find something about him I don�t like (I already have, actually). However, listening to his speech this afternoon I was struck with the notion that the message he was delivering was exactly the kind of thing you want to hear from a candidate if you�re a supporter. There was criticism of the incumbent, for sure, but the one thing I heard from Perry that I haven�t heard from many Republican candidates lately is the kind of optimism that Ronald Reagan projected in the depths of 1979 and 1980.

Doug Mataconis on Sunday:

To be sure, there is much about Perry and his record that is likely to impress prospective Republican voters during the primaries and, depending on the economic conditions at the time, independent voters during a General Election against President Obama. The Texas economy has benefited from relative prosperity over the past several compared to the rest of the nation. The state�s unemployment rate is lower than the nation as a whole and the state has led the nation in job growth for the past couple years. And, Perry has managed to do all this and maintain a balanced budget without a state income tax. Judged from afar, it looks pretty darn good, and Perry will no doubt make what some call the �Perry Miracle� a central part of his campaign.

It�s all all sunshine and roses, though, and behind the curtain there are several stubborn facts that may cause problems for Perry in the primaries or, if he is the nominee, in a General Election race against President Obama.

For one thing, the Texas economic miracle may be much less than meets the eye:

Doug quotes Republican political consultant Mike Murphy.

Anyone who watched Rick Perry destroy Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Texas gubernatorial primary last year should have no illusions; he knows how to win a GOP primary. Whether Perry can win a general election or not is another matter. Most senior GOP strategists have major concerns about running a twangy Christian conservative Texan as the party�s nominee against even a weakened Barack Obama. Count me among them.

And there was what could only be considered a hit piece in the WSJ.

Gov. Rick Perry's presidential pitch goes something like this: During one of the worst recessions in American history, he's kept his state "open for business." In the last two years, Texas created over a quarter of a million jobs, meaning that the state's 8% unemployment rate is substantially lower than the rest of the nation's. The governor credits this exceptional growth to things like low taxes and tort reform.

It's a strong message. But one of the governor's signature economic development initiatives�the Texas Emerging Technology Fund�has lately raised serious questions among some conservatives.


Among the companies that the Emerging Technology Fund has invested in is Convergen LifeSciences, Inc. It received a $4.5 million grant last year�the second largest grant in the history of the fund. The founder and executive chairman of Convergen is David G. Nance.


In 2009, when Mr. Nance submitted his application for a $4.5 million Emerging Technology Fund grant for Convergen, he and his partners had invested only $1,000 of their own money into their new company, according to documentation prepared by the governor's office in February 2010. But over the years, Mr. Nance managed to invest a lot more than $1,000 in Mr. Perry. Texas Ethics Commission records show that Mr. Nance donated $75,000 to Mr. Perry's campaigns between 2001 and 2006.


The regional panel that reviewed Convergen's application turned down the company's $4.5 million request when it presented its proposal on Oct. 7, 2009. But Mr. Nance appealed that decision directly to a statewide advisory committee (of which Mr. Nance was once a member) appointed by Mr. Perry. Just eight days later, on Oct. 15, a subcommittee unanimously recommended approval by the full statewide committee. On Oct. 29, the full advisory committee unanimously recommended the approval of Convergen's application. When asked why the advisory committee felt comfortable recommending Convergen's grant, Lucy Nashed, a spokesperson for Mr. Perry, said that the committee "thoroughly vetted the company."

Make no mistake this is a battle between the corporate Republicans and the lunatic fringe known as the Tea Party.  The former will do anything they can to knock out Perry and Bachmann and will be aided by the corporate press but the latter are the ones who show up to vote in the primaries.  It's significant that the first anti Perry piece was in Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal.  It will be curious to see how the creator of the Tea Party, Murdoch's FOX News, handles this.  They created a monster that may yet devour them.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Perry In, Becomes Instant Frontrunner

By Steve Hynd

Rick Perry, after running his presidential campaign for a few months now without announcing - including a massive rally to gain the support of the theocratic right - has finally made his bid official. He is an "instant" frontrunner.

�He becomes immediately one of the top three candidates, and he fills a vacuum � of someone who is a conservative, who has credibility and can speak to the fiscal conservative, anti-big-government and anti-Washington crowd, but he�s also a social conservative,� said Matthew Dowd, a former strategist for President George W. Bush. �At least in the short term, he is a major disruption in the race.�

...�He either gets in and gets through the gantlet of the first month or so and consistently moves forward and wins the nomination, or he�s got this terrific flameout,� Mr. Dowd said. �There�s no middle ground.�

I don't think there will be a flameout. Do not misunderestimate this man: he is no Dubya II, not just "Bush on steroids". This man is a career political fighter. He beat Kay Bailley Hutchison in a knife-fight for the gubernatorial nomination last time out, has never lost an election since entering public service as a state legislator from West Texas in 1985, and will position himself as someone who can unite the various factions of the GOP behind one man.

"There's a lot of expectation about Perry," said Scott Huffmon, a pollster and political scientist at South Carolina's Winthrop University. "There's a belief that if there's a candidate who can appeal to everyone in the modern conservative movement, it's thought to be Rick Perry."

He probably can: the religious right has already piled on board and so have the neoconservatives. And he has plenty of big-money backers on tap.

His messaging will be that he would make the federal government "as inconsequential in your lives as I can" by reducing taxes and easing regulations. Yet for someone who wants to drown big government in a bathtub, he's done very well for himself out of that big government.

In fact, for a politician with such an anti-government lean, Perry has spent nearly his whole career as a government official. He has worked in government for more than 27 consecutive years since being elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1984. If Perry is elected president, he will have served 28 consecutive years doing government work, longer than any candidate ever elected to the White House.

He's also going to run "on his record" of being more fiscally responsible and creating more jobs than Obama. On examination, that record is problemmatic to say the least.

While it's true that Texas has, indeed, created new jobs, it�s equally true that they�re relatively low-wage and that the state�s recent unemployment rates are also higher than they�ve been since the early 1990s.

The problem for Perry, in the blinding light of the national stage, is that he may ultimately be seen as the swaggering rooster who believes the sun came up because of all that crowing. Texas was a conservative, small government, pro-business state long before he was in charge, and Texas will remain so long after he's gone. Americans may conclude that Texas jobs would have materialized whether Perry was governor or not, and it might just be to Texas business� credit, not Perry�s, that they did.

While Perry�s supporters will explain what he�s done for Texans, detractors will cite what Perry hasn�t done. Those celebrating him as the architect of our low-tax state would be forced to acknowledge that this is nothing new, and that Texas is also an extreme low-services state, with serious consequences for Texas families.

Education? We�re 50th in the nation in kids with a high school diploma by age 25, and 43rd in high school graduation rates. We�re 42nd in the nation in high school graduates going to college, and of those, only half earn a degree within six years.

Health care? We�re first in the nation in folks without health insurance and 49th in our low-income population covered by Medicaid.

Relative wealth? We�re fourth in the nation on the percentage of our residents living below the poverty line.

The environment? We�re first in the nation in cancer-causing carcinogens released into the air, first on toxic chemicals released into the water and first in the amount of hazardous waste generated.

Perry has concealed an $11 billion shortfall in the State's finances - with the bill coming due at just about the time he plans to step up to the White House. In his last term as Governor, every Texan except the wealthiest 20% will have seen their state tax bill rise. His own select commission on education says that 'Texas is not globally competitive" and faces a "downward spiral in both quality fo life and economic competitiveness" because Perry's educational and fiscal policies have made the State's schools too poor to educate the State's citizens above dullard level. Mostly his story fo Texan economic strength is a myth based on fortuitous circumstances that can't be replicated on a national level.

There's more, far, more, including insider dealing and unprecedented interference by Texas "big government" in citizen's private lives.

It remains to be seen if all of this will prove sufficient for the Obama campaign to overturn it's own massive negatives, particularly with its base. But what I'm sure of is that none of the other GOP hopefuls is in Perry's weight class when it comes to political in-fighting and that none of them will want to look too closely at the fiscal and wingnut skeletons in Perry's closet in case their own get the same level of scrutiny. I predict he'll be the GOP nominee.

Update: Erica Grieder, southwest correspondent for the Economist, explains why she says " I would suggest that we all keep in mind that Perry is not an idiot and not an ideologue. Democrats, you misunderestimate this one at your peril."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Rhetorical Infrastructure of Violent Hate

By Steve Hynd

The Norwegian rightwing terrorist Anders Breivik is insane, according to his lawyer. This should hardly need saying. Walking calmly among teenagers shooting them by the score is not the action of a sane person. That's something that has been stressed again and again by "counterjihad" and rightwing authors over the last few days as they run to distance themselves from Breivik's fandom for their writings, revealed in his 1,500 page manifesto.

They do have a bit of a point, for once. As Slate's William Saletan puts it:

The vindictive part of me wants to blame [Pamela] Geller and her ilk for what happened in Oslo. But then I remember something Abdul Rauf said: "The Quran explicitly states that no soul shall be responsible for the sins of another. Terrorism, which targets innocents who had no part in a crime, fundamentally violates this Quranic commandment." That principle---that no one should be held responsible for another person's sins---is the moral core of the struggle against terrorism. It's the reason I can't pin the slaughter in Norway on bloggers who never advocated sectarian violence. I just wish those bloggers, and the politicians who echo them, would show Muslims the same courtesy.

And James Joyner, in a fine round-up of various op-eds on this subject, writes:

As Foust notes, the Internet is full of bad ideas, including a great deal of hate speech. Decent people should condemn it. And to the extent intelligent people with large followings are spreading the false message that the world's 1.5 billion Muslims are somehow responsible for the crimes of a handful of their brethren, other intelligent people with large followings should speak up against that notion.

There's a fine line, though, between arguing against bad ideas and calling for civility in our discourse and chilling honest and vigorous debate. There is legitimate reason to talk about things like immigration policy, militant Islam, and national cultural identity. To shut down that discourse because the likes of Anders Behring Breivik might commit outrageous acts of violence would not be "cost-free," either.

But, and here's the rub, writers like Geller, Robert Spencer and the rest don't not advocate sectarian violence either. There's no hint of Ghandi or King style non-violent protest in their writings. Instead their rhetoric, as Marc Sageman says, is the rhetoric of violence.

Marc Sageman, a former C.I.A. officer and a consultant on terrorism, said it would be unfair to attribute Mr. Breivik�s violence to the writers who helped shape his world view. But at the same time, he said the counterjihad writers do argue that the fundamentalist Salafi branch of Islam �is the infrastructure from which Al Qaeda emerged. Well, they and their writings are the infrastructure from which Breivik emerged.�

�This rhetoric,� he added, �is not cost-free.�

If you call your "counterjihadist" blog Gates of Vienna- so named because "At the siege of Vienna in 1683 Islam seemed poised to overrun Christian Europe. We are in a new phase of a very old war"; if you write about Muslim immigration in terms of it being a deliberate "invasion" of Europe by Islam; if the very basis of your argument is couched in terms of a "clash" of civilizations - then you're simply not being an advocate of nonviolence. Only one of the counterjihadist bloggers has the guts to say "It is clear that Anders Behring Breivik is one of us."

His opinions are virtually identical to my own and those of most people in the Counterjihad movement. He accesses the same websites and information sources that most of us do, and he has exactly the same concerns about the Islamification of Europe.

Of course, that same blogger then goes on to put the real blame on the political left:

It is the left-wing that is responsible for this outrage, not the right-wing. This act of violence is the consequence of a deranged political elite attempting to demographic re-engineer an entire continent against the wishes of its people; exploiting imperfections in the democratic system so that the people are never allowed a real choice; passing laws to criminalise free speech so that honest discussion is scarcely possible any more; and a media conspiracy (embodied in laws or informal agreements like the NUJ Guidelines on Race Reporting) to systematically suppress information about the negative consequences mass third-world immigration, and particularly the Muslim component of it, is having on Europe.

And, of course, if you describe "a postnational, postpatriotic European Union governed by a benevolent ruling elite" as if democracy just didn't enter into it; if you describe Norwegian teens as like the "Hitler Youth"; or if you write, baldly, that "Breivik may be right" then you're playing into that conspiracy mindset and your rhetoric will provide the infrastructure for violence when there's no call to eschew violence in sight.

Alex Pareene at Salon:

Opposition to Islam was the killer's stated motivation. He targeted other white Scandinavians because he considered them race traitors. He wrote all of this down, too, so we don't even have to make guesses about it! He blamed liberals for enabling jihad by supporting "multiculturalism." (Funnily enough, that is also exactly what Mark Steyn thinks.)

Breivik's own lawyer confirmed that today.

�He believes that he is in a war and in a war you can do things like that,� Mr. Lippestad said. ...Asked if the rampage was aimed at the Labor Party, or at Muslim immigrants, Mr. Lippestad said, �This was an attack on the Labor Party.�

Contrary to Frontpage Magazine's apologia today, folk like Roberts Spencer don't have to make explicit "calls for anyone to commit acts of terrorism", they just have to refrain from calling on their readers not to commit those violent acts.  Their rhetorical framework uses the language of violence and hate, they should not pretend they are surprised when violence is the result.

My colleague B.J. put it well in a comment yesterday.

Blaming all Muslims for the actions of a few is wrong, but there are those in the Muslim community whose rhetoric and actions place them in a far more blame-worthy position for the violence.

By the same token, I wouldn�t blame all Christians for the actions of the terrorist few like Breivik, but there are those whose rhetoric and actions inspire and inform such actions, and while they may not be directly responsible, neither are they totally blameless.

There is a chain of causality here that cannot be parsed away or sidestepped. It's something everyone involved in the debate - especially conservatives - is just going to have to deal with.