The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

…Congress is more polarized than ever before. A National Journal study shows that, for the first time since the publication began tracking the divide 30 years ago, the most left-wing Republican is more conservative than the most right-wing Democrat. There is no overlapping set of moderates, who used to engineer congressional compromises. This polarization has resulted in paralysis. More than two years into the Obama Administration, hundreds of key positions in government remain vacant for lack of Senate confirmation. The Treasury Department had to handle the global financial crisis, recession, bank stress tests and automaker bailouts, as well as its usual duties, with about a dozen of its senior positions—almost its entire top management—vacant. Senate rules have been used, abused and twisted to allow constant delay and blockage. The filibuster, historically employed about once a decade, is now a routine procedure that allows the minority to thwart the will of the majority. In 2009, Senate Republicans filibustered a stunning 80% of major legislation. Given how the chamber is composed—two Senators per state, no matter how thinly populated—people representing just 10% of the country can block all legislation. Is that how a democracy should function? Fareed Zakaria (via azspot)

(via azspot)

Why Democrats Lose: The Super Committee Appointees

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell says that the super committee will “certainly deal with major entitlement reforms,” even as he reassured conservatives that they should not worry about tax hikes, telling a Fox News reporter that the likelihood of tax hikes coming out of the committee is “pretty low.”

“What I can pretty certainly say to the American people, the chances of any kind of tax increase passing with this, with the appointees of John Boehner and I, are going to put in there are pretty low,” said McConnell. He added: “I’m comfortable we aren’t going to raise taxes coming out of this joint committee.”He contrasts wth negotiating with the president, because the president insisted that entitlement reform be accompanied by “big taxes. That was a price we were not willing to pay.”

Meanwhile the Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid wants representatives who are open to all ideas. Reid told reporters Monday that he would select people who are willing to make hard choices but aren’t locked in.  “One of my friends asked me, he said, Harry, I’d like to be on that committee,” Reid said. ”But I think it doesn’t bode well for me to choose someone who the world knows how they feel about it before they go in there. I think we better look at other avenues.”

Boehner and McConnell are telling conservatives that they needn’t worry. Their appointees will be rock-solid conservatives, inalterably opposed to any new taxes. Reid is telling reporters that he wants appointees who “aren’t locked in.” A perfect recipe for another debacle.

Democratic politics in a nutshell | Glenn Greenwald

[A] slew of millionaire politicians who spent the last decade exploding the national debt with Endless War, a sprawling Surveillance State, and tax cuts for the rich are now imposing extreme suffering on the already-suffering ordinary citizenry, all at the direction of their plutocratic overlords, who are prospering more than ever and will sacrifice virtually nothing under this deal (despite their responsibility for the 2008 financial collapse that continues to spawn economic misery).  And all of this will be justified by these politicians and their millionaire media mouthpieces with the obscenely deceitful slogans of “shared sacrifice” and ”balanced debt reduction” — two of the most odiously Orwellian phrases since ”Look Forward, not Backward” and ”2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate”

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How can the leader of the Democratic Party wage an all-out war on the ostensible core beliefs of the Party’s voters in this manner and expect not just to survive, but thrive politically?  Democratic Party functionaries are not shy about saying exactly what they’re thinking in this regard:

Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster, said polling data showed that at this point in his term, Mr. Obama, compared with past Democratic presidents, was doing as well or better with Democratic voters. “Whatever qualms or questions they may have about this policy or that policy, at the end of the day the one thing they’re absolutely certain of — they’re going to hate these Republican candidates,” Mr. Mellman said. “So I’m not honestly all that worried about a solid or enthusiastic base.”

In other words: it makes no difference to us how much we stomp on liberals’ beliefs or how much they squawk, because we’ll just wave around enough pictures of Michele Bachmann and scare them into unconditional submission.

Not Your Everday Cult | John Cole

Kthug is shrill:

Watching our system deal with the debt ceiling crisis — a wholly self-inflicted crisis, which may nonetheless have disastrous consequences — it’s increasingly obvious that what we’re looking at is the destructive influence of a cult that has really poisoned our political system.

And no, I don’t mean the fanaticism of the right. Well, OK, that too. But my feeling about those people is that they are what they are; you might as well denounce wolves for being carnivores. Crazy is what they do and what they are.

No, the cult that I see as reflecting a true moral failure is the cult of balance, of centrism.

Think about what’s happening right now. We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.

So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship.

The reality, of course, is that we already have a centrist president — actually a moderate conservative president. Once again, health reform — his only major change to government — was modeled on Republican plans, indeed plans coming from the Heritage Foundation. And everything else — including the wrongheaded emphasis on austerity in the face of high unemployment — is according to the conservative playbook.

What all this means is that there is no penalty for extremism; no way for most voters, who get their information on the fly rather than doing careful study of the issues, to understand what’s really going on.

I’d agree with much of this, but I think it lets the other cult, the Tea Party wing of the GOP, off the hook. And make no bones about it, they are a cargo cult. Their entire belief structure seems designed to reject and deny empiricism and reality. Think about it:

  • Cutting taxes always increases revenue.
  • Government should stay out of medicare.
  • The heat index is a government scam.
  • The earth is 6000 years old.
  • ACORN and the New Black Panther Party are the biggest threat to America.
  • The Democrats are always wrong.
  • There is no recession.
  • There need be no regulations
  • Business is always right.

And on and on and on. Look at the conditions present in cults:

Studies performed by those who believe that some religious groups do practice mind control have identified a number of key steps in coercive persuasion:

People are put in physical or emotionally distressing situations; Their problems are reduced to one simple explanation, which is repeatedly emphasized; They receive unconditional love, acceptance, and attention from a charismatic leader or group;
They get a new identity based on the group;
They are subject to entrapment (isolation from friends, relatives and the mainstream culture) and their access to information is severely controlled.

Tell me that does not describe your average wingnut. Democrats and Obama are to blame for everything, unfettered fluffing from Rush Limbaugh and Palin, sole identity as a tea partier/conservative, all news from wingnut sources (the various right-wing media, Fox, etc.). It’s right there in front of you. Make the connection. Any deviation from the cult’s beliefs leads to extreme pressure from the other members, or being thrown out of the group.

Kabuki Square Dance | Hullabaloo

Who knows what the final deal will be? But keep in mind that whatever it is, it’s a deal that both sides wanted. After all, there’s nothing on the books or in the constitution that says there needs to be a deal at all. All they ever had to do is vote to raise the debt ceiling. And the leadership on both sides has said repeatedly that that will be done.

I feel the same way. This is a sham.

The Rise of the Second-String Psychopaths | Common Dreams

A must read piece from psychotherapist David Schwartz:

In a country in which much of human culture has been rendered into machines for the manufacture of money, psychopaths are the ideal leaders. They are very focused. They are outcome oriented. They are frequently charming, and usually very bright and able. They can lay off thousands of people, or deny people health care, or have them waterboarded, and it does not disturb their sleep. They can be impressively confident. Psychopaths can be dynamic leaders of enterprises, but are handicapped by their lack of feelings for relationships. They may be accomplished captains of industry, or senators, or surgeons, but their families are frequently abused and miserable. Most psychotherapists have seen the wives or husband or children of such accomplished people.

Since psychopaths are usually very smart, they can be quite competent at impersonating regular human beings in positions of power. Since they don’t care how their actions affect people, they can rise to great height in enterprises dealing with power and money. They can manufacture bombs or run hospitals. Whatever the undertaking, it is all the same to them. It’s just business.

Weiner vs. Bayh: Which One's A Bigger Scandal? | OurFuture.org

I know which one I’d pick, but apparently it doesn’t make for good copy.

The Bayh story won’t get the kind of headlines that Weiner’s did. It won’t get the kind of headlines that Bayh’s retirement did, either - headlines like “Bayh Falls Out of ‘Love’ With Congress, Will Not Seek Re-Election.” When Bayh announced his retirement at the last minute - timing that seemed designed to ensure Democrats would lose his seat - only a few partisan cranks considered the possibility that Bayh was leaving to sell himself to the highest bidder. In reporting on Bayh’s latest move, Jason Linkins gave us a useful roundup of the damage he did before leaving the Senate. Now we know that there’s more wreckage to come.

When he retired Bayh said, “I simply believe I can best contribute to society in another way: creating jobs by helping grow a business, helping guide an institution of higher learning, or helping run a worthy charitable endeavor.”

He was lying. We know that because he refused to rule out a lobbying job even as he pontificated about education, charity, or private enterprise. Now the nation knows that his “other way” involved being paid a huge salary to undermine and destroy the agencies targeted in a Chamber of Commerce memo: “the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.”

nickturse:

House Democrats unite on Afghanistan exit 
David Rogers at POLITICO writes:
“It’s more angst than outright anger, but House Democrats are showing real unity for the first time in pressuring President  Barack Obama on Afghanistan — with influential moderates now expressing  their impatience alongside the anti-war left that drove the early Iraq  war debate.”
Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0511/55903.html#ixzz1NvqpO9Uy

nickturse:

House Democrats unite on Afghanistan exit

David Rogers at POLITICO writes:

“It’s more angst than outright anger, but House Democrats are showing real unity for the first time in pressuring President Barack Obama on Afghanistan — with influential moderates now expressing their impatience alongside the anti-war left that drove the early Iraq war debate.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0511/55903.html#ixzz1NvqpO9Uy

Protection Racket by digby | Hullabaloo

[Here] in America the entire conversation among all elites in the media and government is leading people to believe that the cause of the current economic malaise and income inequality is government spending and high taxes for the wealthy and corporations. It will take years to unravel that belief at this point and until it is, there will probably be round after round of cuts to “fix” the ailing economy as average people incrementally lose their dreams and their futures. At some point, they’ll catch on. But it may be too late.

While the Democratic Party very well “win” from time to time and the party will play its role in the kabuki dance — that of “protector” of an ever dwindling handful of ever smaller signature programs to keep the desperate progressive faction on board —- liberalism itself has suffered a terrible and perhaps mortal blow. To have a Democratic president of the United States adopt the necessary austerity and extol it as an historic victory the midst of ongoing high unemployment and a moribund economy means that the argument is basically over. This is not Franklin Roosevelt’s puny GOP opposition and the Democratic Party does not have the middle class loyalty it had in 1937 to withstand making this kind of monumental error. Neither are we likely to be rescued by a war machine —- it’s already cranked. No, the Democratic Party is formally relinquishing its historic claim to represent the economic interests of working families. The best we can hope for is that they “protect” us from a full blown Theocracy or a return to Jim Crow.