Archive for May 2013

May 2, 2013

Outsourced entirely to Charles P. Pierce:

If your “way of life” involves handing deadly weapons to five-year olds, your way of life is completely screwed up and you should change it immediately because it is stupid and wrong. (And, again, also, too: goddammit, “learning to use and respect a gun” means at least knowing that the fking thing is loaded when it’s sitting in the corner of the parlor like it’s a damn umbrella stand or something, and we should talk about that part, too.) It is not in any way “normal” to hand a kindergartner a firearm. If a mother from the inner-city of, say, Philadelphia did that, and the kid subsequently shot his sister to death, Fox News never would stop yelling about the crisis in African American communities and the Culture Of Death, and rap music, too. If your culture is telling you that children who have only recently emerged from toddlerhood should have their own guns, then your culture is deadly and dangerous and that should concern you, too. If your culture demands that, in the face of a general national outrage over the killing of other children, your politics work to loosen the gun laws you have, as they apparently did in Kentucky, then your culture is making your politics stupid and wrong and you should change them, too. I do not have to understand these people any more, and it is way too early in the day to be drinking this much.

Portrait_of_a_girl_with_gun_and_hound copy

Image:  Portrait of a girl with gun and hound, after the style of Joshua Reynolds, 18th or 19th century

Blind Pigs, Acorns

May 2, 2013

I suppose it’s not really a surprise that someone who sprays as much verbiage as Mr. Newt Gingrich must on occasion come up with something which which I can agree:

It would be a major mistake to put American troops in Syria.

No one in the region wants us invading yet another country.

None of our allies want our strength diverted from Iran.

There is no practical mission American forces could accomplish without a very large commitment.

Yup, that’s about right.

But still, I’m not going to give Gingrich any props for this one moment of clarity.  The problem with Newt is not that he is incapable of clear thought at times, but that he chooses to relinquish that capacity when it’s convenient.

Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_-_Le_Clown_(Claude_Renoir)

Which is to say that I’m with Tom Kludt, the author of the bit at TPM from which the quotes above are taken,  when he suggests that the odds of Gingrich saying something more or less sane sensitively depend on whether or not he’s running for something at the time:

At a Republican presidential debate last year in Arizona, the former House speaker mocked President Barack Obama for not doing more in Syria.

“This is an administration which, as long as you’re America’s enemy, you’re safe,” Gingrich said. “You know, the only people you’ve got to worry about is if you’re an American ally.”

And thus the real problem.  It doesn’t actually matter much what Gingrich says when no one (outside of the credulous Village) is listening.  We have a deep problem in our politics that derives directly from the fact that the leaders of that feral beast the Republican party has become give tacit and sometimes overt permission to the crazies that form the hardest core of their supporters. Ted Cruz and the Pauls, Bachmann, Gohmert, and all the rest talk apocalypse.  The allegedly “responsible” leadership — Gingrich himself in this case, domesticates the truly wild-eyed, the folks who accuse Obama of high crimes and misdemeanorsor.  Or recall Romney, dog whistling during the campaign last year:

“Sometimes I think we have a president who doesn’t understand America.” This line was straight out of the “Alien in the White House” playbook, a riff that reinforced the worst impulses of some in the audience, as one woman at a Romney rally named Katheryn Sarka eagerly reaffirmed when I asked her what she thought of the line: “Obama doesn’t understand America. He follows George Soros. Obama is against our Constitution and our democracy.”

After his big Nevada win, this line of Mitt’s scripted victory speech stood out: “President Obama demonizes and denigrates almost every sector of our economy.”

As discussed yesterday, we live in a country where 3 out of ten Americans, and 44% of the GOP expect armed rebellion in the next few years.  This is not a view compatible with democratic process.  The destruction of the American polity is not a both-sides-do-it phenomenon.  It is a hail mary act of intimidation, and perhaps outright violence to come, by a failed political party, one whose hopes of gaining legitimate power shrink with every passing year of demographic change.

Hmmm.  A reckless, failing political movement threatening violence unless its minority hold on power persists.  When before now have we seen that in American history?

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Clown — Claude Renoir, 1909

In BoBo’s World, Pointing Out How Much The GOP Hates Data Is Bad Manners

May 1, 2013

I don’t even know how to begin with this.

Republican members of the House of Representatives have decided that knowledge of what actually is happening in US society and its economy is just too….

I don’t know what…

Inconvenient?…Unfortunate?…Too…useful?…Too important to the actual act of governing?

That last is the one, I think.  Representative Jeff Duncan, out to make sure that his great state of South Carolina doesn’t lose the lunacy title to its sibling to the north, has introduced a bill that would bar the US Census [PDF] from conducting any surveys or censuses except for the constitutionally-mandated decennial one.

Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Census_at_Bethlehem_-_WGA03379

What would that mean?  Over to this report from the Huffington Post:

Such a step that would end the government’s ability to provide reliable estimates of the employment rate. Indeed, the government would not be able to produce any of the major economic indices that move markets every month, said multiple statistics experts, who were aghast at the proposal….

“It’s hard to take this seriously because they’re really saying also they don’t want GDP. They want no facts about what’s going on in the U.S. economy,” said [Maurine] Haver, [founder of business research firm Haver Analytics and a past president of the National Association for Business Economics]. “It’s so fundamental to a free society that we have this kind of information, I can’t fathom where they’re coming from. I really can’t.”

“It’s so unimaginable. It would be like saying we don’t need policemen anymore, we don’t need firemen anymore,” said [Ken] Prewitt, [the former director of the U.S. Census who is now a professor of public affairs at Columbia University]. “To say suddenly we don’t need statistical information about the American economy, or American society, or American demography, or American trade, or whatever — it’s an Alice in Wonderland moment.”

I get Duncan’s reasoning, by the way.  It’s a simple syllogism.  If the data show that tax cuts, or austerity, or universal gun ownership don’t actually solve all economic and social ills, then, who needs data?

Ladies and gentlemen, your modern Republican party.

Oh, and with a nod to Mr. David Brooks and his paean to disinterested opining:  this is engaged writing.  I got a horse in the race.  I think the Republican party in its present form constitutes a clear and present danger to the Republic.  I believe it needs to go the way of the Whigs, so that we can go about the business of constructing an actual second party to engage the necessary debate our politics requires.

It is in the context of that belief that I certainly pay attention to stories like this one.  This is the anecdata that, as it accumulates, tells you the problem is real; the Republican party is increasingly simply a freak show, divorced from any conception of governance.  But it ain’t my fault — and it is no indictment against this or any other comment like ti that the Republican party continues to advance my argument.

Another thing:  I’d vastly prefer it didn’t.  But the problem isn’t that I don’t — because I can’t — say that the Democrats are just as bad on, say, anti-empiricism, for example, or that the issue of paying attention to what happens in the world is kind of important in modern political and social life.  Rather, it is that in this reality there are consequences when a failed party retains its access to power — and hell, may very well expand its reach.

IOW, pace BoBo, I believe it is my patriotic duty to point in horror at the crater that is all that remains of the Party of Lincoln.

Image: Pieter Breughel the Elder, The Census at Bethlehem, 1566.