The American Bear


Breaking ranks: The sidelining of two establishment giants | Paul Rosenberg

On April 27, two pillars of the American political establishment - Thomas E Mann and Norman J Ornstein, two of the most-quoted men in America - dared to break ranks with [beltway] dogma in a Washington Post op-ed, based on a book they’ve just published, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism. Although the online response was unprecedented, generating more interest than for any other book they have written, the two have been entirely shut out of the Sunday talk show circuit and almost completely shut out of the top five national print outlets as well. The establishment they have been keystone members of, for going on four decades, has suddenly forgotten that they ever even existed.

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The poster child for the cult of centrism is New York Times’ columnist Thomas Friedman and his notorious pining for a third party that happens to have a platform nearly identical to Obama’s. In this way, Freidman can support Obama’s policies from the middle ground. The inability to admit Obama’s centrism, or recognize the great lengths Obama went through to reach a compromise during the brinksmanship over the debt ceiling exemplifies a denial of reality to rival any creation scientist or global warming denier. Dylan Otto Krider

No one in the Republican field can protect Wall Street from the “pitchforks” as Obama can. Mitt Romney looks and talks like a banker. Newt Gingrich is the personification of Wall Street’s inner misanthrope, racist and crook, who should be hidden from public view at all costs. A GOP gaggle that savages itself for the privilege of singing the praises of the rich can only bring down the wrath of the people on the bankers’ heads. They need The Great Deflector, Obama, to step to the precise center of the circus tent, looking Lincolnesque, or Rooseveltian (Teddy), or even Reaganish, while the GOP clowns soak up the public’s anger at the “1%’s” multitudinous sins.
The bankers will stick with Obama, and outfit him in a billion-dollar suit, the price tag and label detached. The unions and the Black Misleadership Class will sit in the cheap seats, hurling scorn at the evil GOP clowns, made up like Chucky. How many of the “99%” will actually come to the show, or find they have better things to do than be spectators at the Plutocrats & Oligarchs Two Ring Presidential Circus? We shall see. Three months ago, there was no Occupy Wall Street movement, putting out bounties on bankers.
Black Agenda Report (via azspot)

(via azspot)

Obama seems obsessed with wanting to lead the country in what he sees as a post-partisan era while his opponents are so partisan they have only one goal in mind—to destroy him even if they have to burn down the house to do it. Well, you may want with all your heart to save your marriage but if your philandering, uncaring, unredeemable, and narcissistic partner is determined at all costs to break up the marriage, the sooner you decide not to play the fool, the better. But there’s something else at work here. Obama’s base keeps criticizing him because he’s not liberal or progressive enough. But back in 2008 I told the young African Americans on my staff that he was going to break their hearts. They didn’t believe me and wanted to know why. Because he wants the conservatives to like him too much, I said, and I gave them some articles about how Obama, when he was editor of The Harvard Law Review, was more intent on appealing to his conservative counterparts than on making his own arguments. Do you know that several of those young people have come back to me in the last year to say I was right—he has broken their hearts. Remember, after the election in 2008, when Obama went to Washington before the inauguration, at his own initiative he went to dinner with a collection of conservative pundits. Not one of them supports him today, but he seems still to want to “save the marriage.” Bill Moyers (via azspot)

(via azspot)

Why the Press Loves Jon Huntsman but Ignores Ron Paul | Conor Friedersdorf

I have no plans to vote for any of these folks, but the points made in this article are important. One of the things I find endlessly frustrating about the protracted presidential campaign season is the increasingly narrow range of acceptable policy positions that candidates and the media are “allowed” to discuss. Anyone outside this narrow band of acceptable positions (Kucinich, Paul, Johnson, Mike Gravel, etc.) is marginalized and placed in the loony fringe, mocked as unserious and entertaining ideas that are not grounded in reality. Better to make fun of them than listen to what they are saying.

Neither [Jon] Huntsman nor [Gary] Johnson nor [Ron] Paul is likely to win [the Republican nomination]. All three are challenging orthodoxies of thought in their party. In doing so, all have an opportunity “to affect the political conversation for the better” and to “shine light on the evasions of his rivals, even if it fails to change the outcome of the race.”

Here is the difference.

Huntsman is challenging orthodoxies of thought that afflict the GOP alone, and taking positions that reflect the conventional wisdom in the media: evolution is a fact, so is climate change, and the debt ceiling had to be raised. In contrast, Johnson and Paul are challenging orthodoxies of thought that are bi-partisan in nature and implicate much of the political and media establishment.

There is a strong case to be made that their libertarian voices are more vital. The debt ceiling was already raised. Embracing evolution has some political costs in a GOP primary, but matters very little when it comes to the vital policy questions that the next president is going to face. Huntsman nonetheless wins praise for those stances. For questioning America’s aggressive, interventionist foreign policy and its failed War on Drugs, policies that are tremendously costly, consequential, and executed in ways that are immoral and demonstrably damaging to our civil liberties, Paul and Johnson aren’t given points for speaking uncomfortable truths, shining light on evasions, or affecting the political conversation for the better.

They’re ignored, and the excuse given is that they can’t win.

In fact, lots of candidates who can’t win have garnered more coverage — Donald Trump, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich, for starters. But the Huntsman example shows most clearly how the political press unconsciously reinforces the establishment’s orthodoxies of thought. Some “protest candidates” are lauded as truth-tellers virtuously speaking against their political interests, so long as they’re critiques reinforce rather than undermine centrist-consensus positions.

Rightly so, in the case of Huntsman.

But a protest candidate that challenges the bipartisan consensus on foreign policy, the war on drugs, or civil liberties is ignored, no matter the substantive quality of their arguments on those issues. And if their fans complain, it is pointed out that they don’t have a chance of winning. The salutary effect that protest candidates can have on political discourse even if they don’t win is completely forgotten. (Occasionally, another dodge is used: that Ron Paul, for example, disqualifies himself from serious coverage due to fringe positions he takes on the Federal Reserve or the gold standard. Suffice it to say that all sorts of candidates are covered as serious contenders despite holding positions more lunatic, as Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Herman Cain attest. Paul’s foreign policy critique is serious, coherent and mostly unanswered.)

That Huntsman is now considered a centrist, moderate Republican is a clear indication of how far to the right this country has shifted - he represents the Reagan and Bush-the-First type of Republican - when I was younger, these were not considered “center” politicians. The “center”, apparently, is now somewhere between Reagan and Mussolini.

Obama v. Bush on power over Congress | Glenn Greenwald

[…] Obama wasn’t helplessly forced into an austerity mindset by an intransigent Congress but actually believes in it, that he wants severe cuts.  Identically, the evidence is now overwhelming that the public option was excluded from the health care bill because Obama wanted that outcome and thus secretly negotiated it away with the insurance industry, not because Congress or the 60-vote requirement prevented it.  Similarly, while Congress did enact legislation preventing the closing of Guantanamo, Obama never wanted to shut it down in any meaningful way, but simply move it (and its defining abuse: indefinite detention) a few thousand miles North to Illinois

The criticism isn’t that Obama tried but failed to stave off austerity policies, a public-option-free entrenchment of the private health insurance industry, the preservation of indefinite detention or similar “centrist”/right/corporatist policies; it’s that his lack of fight against them (or his affirmative fight for them) shows he craves those outcomes (just as nobody forced him to continue the vast bulk of the Bush/Cheney Terrorism approach he (and most Democrats) once so vehemently denounced).  And whatever else is true, claiming that George Bush was similarly “weak” in the face of Congress is revisionist in the extreme.

Boycotting OFA | David Atkins

I apologize for the substantial cut and paste, but I thought this should be read. I’m as opposed to the 2012 wing nut jamboree as one can be, but this OFA lackey crossed a line. 28% is not an insignificant number and one that should not be dismissed so casually spitefully.

If ever there was a time to get loud, this would be it.

The Obama Administration’s cold war on the progressive base is getting hot. Here’s what [Obama For America] New Mexico Director sent to their email list:

Paul Krugman is a political rookie. At least he is when compared to President Obama. That’s why he unleashed a screed as soon as word came about the debt ceiling compromise between President Obama and Congressional leaders – to, you know, avert an economic 9/11. Joining the ideologue spheres’ pure, fanatic, indomitable hysteria, Krugman declares the deal a disaster – both political and economic – of course providing no evidence for the latter, which I find curious for this Nobel winning economist. He rides the coattails of the simplistic argument that spending cuts – any spending cuts – are bad for a fragile economy, ignoring wholeheartedly his own revious cheerleading for cutting, say, defense spending. But that was back in the day – all the way back in April of this year. […]

No, the loudest screeching noise you hear coming from Krugman and the ideologue Left is, of course, Medicare. Oh, no, the President is agreeing to a Medicare trigger!!! Oh noes!!! Everybody freak out right now! But let’s look at the deal again, shall we? […]

Now let’s get to the fun part: the triggers. The more than half-a-trillion in defense and security spending cut “trigger” for the Republicans will hardly earn a mention on the Firebagger Lefty blogosphere. Hell, it’s a trigger supposedly for the Republicans, and of course, there’s always It’sNotEnough-ism to cover it.

Given that Obama’s approval rating among self-described liberals is an anemic 72%, I don’t really see how this helps at all.

Paul Krugman is one of the most respected and intelligent figures on the Left. He had Obama pegged far earlier than most others did, as essentially no different in his neoliberal ideology from Bill and Hillary Clinton. Many of us wanted to believe he would be different from Clinton, but Krugman saw it early. He is also an extremely intelligent economic Nobel Laureate with double the intelligence and economic knowledge of a Tim Geithner or Larry Summers (actually, make that probably triple the intelligence in Summers’ case.)

The 28% of liberals who are annoyed with Obama aren’t just any 28%, either. They’re folks like me: people who are most passionate about politics and liberal causes. The sorts of people who make up the core of the volunteer base. The sorts of people who are dedicated enough to force GOP politicians into major gaffes.

OFA called me for fundraising yesterday. I respectfully declined, as I’m focused on progressive Democratic candidates who I know will stand up for my values. But yesterday I was open to giving to OFA, as I donate monthly to my state and local Democratic Party.

Today? I am encouraging all my friends to boycott OFA until this person is fired, and a public apology is made to Paul Krugman. Dismissing the most active 28% of the progressive base as well as our best and most influential pundit so blithely deserves the strongest possible rebuke.

I and others like me can focus our time and attention on state and local politics. If this is the official view of the Obama campaign, then they can count me out.

Hangover | digby

I have read quite a few emails, tweets and comments this morning explaining that this is really the fault of the left and the progressive movement for failing to rally the people. (Evidently, we devote ourselves to masturbatory blogging instead of organizing the masses, so we have no one to blame but ourselves.) Had “the movement” spent the last two years doing …something … then Obama would have had the backing he needed to get a better deal, but because we are so ineffectual and counterproductive, he simply had no choice but to do what he did. Evidently, the presidency is a powerless office but bloggers can change the world.

There is some merit to the idea that the progressive movement derailed itself for a time in the winter of 2007/2008, but this latest swipe leaves me wondering just how much the Democratic party establishment would like to have a Tea Party of their very own?

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.