DCCC Sends Out Some Serious Bullshit

I’ve always been a liberal/progressive. That means I’ve given money to the DCCC over the years, when I’ve been able to, and when I thought it was important. So I’ve been on “the list” (hell, many such lists) for quite some time. I also understand how political fundraising works (because I’ve done plenty in my day): most people – the vast majority – simply will not seek you out to send you money, so you have to ask. Often. Repeatedly. You have to be persistent.

Even by those standards, though, the sheer volume of email I receive from Democratic-affiliated groups (which are all in one way or another coordinated by either the DSCC, the DCCC or the DNC) is just excessive. I’ve seriously considered setting up some kind of meta-filter that sends fundraising appeals directly to their own mailbox, just to help retain my sanity and make me not hate the very organizations I’m supposed to be supporting.

Even chalking all that up to persistence, however, one thing you never do when asking someone for money is insult or offend the people you’re asking for money. I suppose it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a fundraising expert to realize this, but apparently they’ve yet to embrace this concept over at the DCCC. I say this because today, I received an email that really took the cake (from the DCCC, of course – click to embiggen if it’s hard to read):

screen-capture of DCCC fundraising email

Pay Up, See? Or Your “Membership” Gets It.

Seriously, DCCC? SERIOUSLY? This is just outright sleazy. Your best attempt to get me to voluntarily chip in to the cause…is to mimic a collection agency? Because that’s exactly what this is. From the FINAL NOTICE in all caps in the subject line to the same words capitalized, bolded and highlighted in the first sentence, to the danger-Will-Robinson red text of my name and the red box (“you owe this amount”), this thing reads like what the power company sends someone just before they turn off the electricity, or the way the collection agency the department store sold your debt to after you forgot to pay the bill addresses you.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, given that the DCCC is currently still being run by the loathsome and counterproductive corporate/conservadem hack Steve Israel (D-NY), who’s giving Democrats throughout the country the likes of Republican-lite candidates like this to vote for…but I still was. So, congratulations, Congressman Israel – I did not think you could do any worse with the fundraising emails than you already were…but you managed to surprise (and repel) even someone as accustomed to and cynical about such things as me.  Also, as someone on Twitter remarked: “what are they going to do, dis-enroll you?”  Aside from being offensive, it’s just a stupid tactic. Congratulations all around.

Democrats ought to be in really great shape, going into the midterms where they’re on the defensive in both the House and Senate with genius like this at the helm.

How To Deal With Guns In Public

Lemme try to put this in language the gun-totin’ all-American tea-party patriots will understand:

Handguns are made for killin’
They ain’t no good for nothin’ else
And if you like to drink your whiskey
You might even shoot yourself

~ Lynyrd Skynyrd, Saturday Night Special

I’ve always been politically-minded, for as long as I can remember. That means I’ve thought and/or written about most political issues repeatedly over the years, including the second amendment debate1. Without opening the whole “well-regulated militia” can of worms, I believe people have the right to own guns. Guns can be legitimately used for hunting, and although the evidence isn’t kind to the notion, if one wants to keep a gun in the house for defense, one has that right, too. According to the Supreme Court and many state legislatures, one also has the right to walk around openly carrying firearms, as well as concealed ones (if one has a permit, in states that require one).

It’s this latter right – the right to walk around armed to the teeth – that is increasingly problematic, by which I mean: dangerous. To prevent a howl of misplaced outrage from the second amendment extremists, I will stipulate that many people who carry weapons in public are perfectly law-abiding citizens who (as one was eager to point out to me recently) have never used their gun in anger or to commit crime or even, in many cases, at all except for target practice. But for years now, as the gun debate has ramped up and become increasingly vitriolic, it’s become harder and harder to tell the “good guys with guns” (to borrow Wayne LaPierre’s phrasing once again) from the “bad guys with guns.” Having argued with many gun partisans on Twitter, my sense of them is that many are deeply paranoid right wing cranks with severe anger issues, much like Jerad and Amanda Miller (the Las Vegas shooters) Richard Poplawski (the Pennsylvania cop-killer) and Byron Williams (the Glenn Beck-inspired would-be destroyer of the Tides Foundation).

Or, if those examples are too old for you, here’s another one from just this week:

On Monday, a 17-year-old neighbor asked Pickering to stop riding his lawn mower through her yard. The girl later told police that in recent weeks Pickering had repeatedly trespassed while riding his lawn mower and carrying a holstered pistol across her property, authorities said.

Later, at about 10 p.m., the teen stepped outside to check on her dog and saw a shadowy figure crouched down by a nearby pine tree. Before she could react, she was shot in her chest, right thigh and left ankle, according to the police report.

[...]

Pickering, according to the criminal complaint, told police he was angry that the teen, whom police say he referred to as a “bitch,” confronted him about riding his lawn mower. He said he went over to her house, hid in her yard and waited for her to emerge.

“I waited, and I waited, and I waited,” Pickering told police, according to the criminal complaint.

In other words, this guy was upset at a minor girl (17), so he simply attempted to execute her for having the temerity to tell him to keep his lawnmower off her lawn. He intentionally lay in wait for her, then (when she finally let her dog outside) he shot her from across the yard, not once, but three times – two after she fell. There’s no question whatsoever Pickering intended to murder this girl (since she’s a minor, the name of the victim is not being released, so for all we know, this could actually be her parents’ house/lawn – she’s potentially still in high school!).

photo of Chad Pickering with a gun

Just Another Good Guy With A Gun?

So what, right? Just a random nut, the exact kind of person that the “good guy with a gun” is there to prevent. No. Pickering’s Facebook page was taken down almost immediately, perhaps because whoever took it down didn’t want any of Pickering’s friends or relatives harassed. Or perhaps it was taken down to prevent journalists and the public from noticing images like the one at left, or pro-gun screeds like this one that Pickering approvingly retweeted, which were both caught just before his Facebook profile was removed.

After George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin, I can remember thinking (and saying on Twitter) that although I doubted I’d ever have to make the choice, I would never, ever allow my young children anywhere near Zimmerman. This earned the predictable push-back from gun-rights supporters: Zimmerman was found not guilty, he’s the guy trying to keep people like you safe, etc. But the reality, as displayed by Zimmerman’s subsequent brushes with the law, is that George Zimmerman is a none-too-stable individual with a vigilante complex and a weapon. It’s this latter point – the gun – that made Zimmerman so dangerous to Trayvon Martin and continues to make him dangerous. There are plenty of dissatisfied, angry people out there with chips on their shoulders about everything from taxes to ex-wives to employers to fractional reserve banking. They may be dangerous or they may not, and it’s certainly true that any person who’s bent on harming another person can always find any number of implements available in the surrounding environment with which to inflict harm. But the simple reality of the power of guns is: put a gun in an angry person’s hands, and he becomes orders of magnitude more dangerous. Guns are simply far more dangerous and lethal than virtually anything else one sees in normal daily life. Toddlers finding daddy’s guns can kill one another with ease by mistake, and frequently do. Frail, 80-year old people can slaughter grizzly bears with the right gun. Guns are meant to kill, as simply and efficiently as possible, period – and they’re very good at that one job.

That’s why seeing someone walking around visibly carrying a gun doesn’t fill me with a sense of safety. It fills me with uncertainty and trepdation: how am I to know whether the person who just walked into the restaurant where my children and I are eating lunch is just going about his lawful business while choosing to carry a firearm for protection, or a dangerous right-wing crank, hopped up on specious fantasies of Obama coming to take his guns away and about to start a massacre? Or merely a garden-variety criminal, no longer bothering to conceal the weapon he’s planning to use in the commission of a felony, because the laws now say open carry is just fine, and he knows that until he begins committing his crime, he looks just like any other “good guy with a gun?” Or perhaps this open-carrier has been a “good guy with a gun” for years…but on this particular night, he’s been drinking, or just had a bad breakup, or any number of other issues that simply push him over the edge?

This week, Wonkette flagged a fascinating piece from a philosophy professor from the University of North Dakota named Jack Russell Weinstein. Weinstein’s piece concerns how to deal with guns in public, and is right up the same alley as my own thinking. It also comes at the perfect time to address these open carry extremists:

It is rational to be afraid of someone with a weapon, especially if you know nothing about them…There really is no legitimate way of determining intent. So, what should we do?

My proposal is as follows: we should all leave. Immediately. Leave the food on the table in the restaurant. Leave the groceries in the cart, in the aisle. Stop talking or engaging in the exchange. Just leave, unceremoniously, and fast.

But here is the key part: don’t pay. Stopping to pay in the presence of a person with a gun means risking your and your loved ones’ lives; money shouldn’t trump this. It doesn’t matter if you ate the meal. It doesn’t matter if you’ve just received food from the deli counter that can’t be resold. It doesn’t matter if you just got a haircut. Leave. If the business loses money, so be it. They can make the activists pay.

As Weinstein notes,

Following this procedure has several advantages. First, it protects people. Second, it forces the businesses to really choose where their loyalties are. If the second amendment is as important as people claim, then people should be willing to pay for it.

Indeed.

Of course, Weinstein’s post went viral almost immediately – or at least, as soon as second amendment extremists got wind of it – and Weinstein was deluged in the comments section of his previously-sleepy little philosophy blog with predictable rage from those very same second-amendment extremists. Which only served to reinforce his point: there is absolutely no reliable way to determine the intent of a person who’d walk into a public place – store, park, restaurant – with a loaded gun. At least, there’s no way to determine their intent until it’s much too late, if they turn out to be violent. A gun rights activist would argue that’s all the more reason for me - and everyone else – to carry a weapon at all times…but that only presents more problems in determining who’s the good guy. Me? I agree with Professor Weinstein: guns are dangerous inherently (casual misuse results in plenty of injuries and even deaths), and guns in the hands of persons of unknown mental stability in public places equals me not wanting to be in – or patronize – those places.


Footnotes:

Show 1 footnote

  1. STANDARD DISCLAIMER, TO PRE-EMPT TYPICAL, TEDIOUS GUN RIGHTS’ PARTISANS’ ARGUMENTS:

    Yes, I have handled guns. I remember going shooting and hunting with my father as a boy. I’ve used a .22 rifle, .38 and .357 pistols, 20 and 12GA shotguns and a bolt-action .30-06, so I’m not at all unfamiliar with guns personally. This often seems to matter a great deal to second amendment extremists, but in my opinion it hardly matters at all. One of the weakest arguments from the gun-rights crowd I hear on Twitter and elsewhere is the “you’ve-never-shot-a-gun-so-your-opinion-is-invalid” line of reasoning. This is just as insane as saying that you can’t oppose starvation unless you’ve personally experienced it: in other words, it is simple nonsense.

    While there are many types of guns with different calibers, “stopping power,” etc, they’re all essentially the same thing: a means of projecting a small chunk or chunks of metal by explosive force through a metal tube rapidly enough to kill humans and most animals from a considerable distance. That’s what guns ARE, and it doesn’t take a PhD or a lifetime of handling them to understand this fact, or to have valid opinions about guns. Attempting to declare someone’s opinion about these simple machines invalid because they don’t know the difference between automatic and semi-automatic or can’t define “carbine” is just inane…not to mention D-grade logic. But yes, gunloons, to preempt one of your silliest objections, I know my way around a gun.

When Does Life Begin?

I ran across something on Twitter I’d never even heard of before, let alone seen in the wild. Maybe that means I need to get out more. On the other hand, if this is representative of what I’ll find, I’m not sure I want to (click to see on Twitter):

GORE-1.png

As you can see, this is someone I follow on Twitter. Someone I usually find myself in agreement with. It was a compelling enough tweet to follow the linked article. The headline read: “14-Year-Old Girl Arrested For Secretly Giving Birth In Bathroom, Killing Son And Throwing Him Away,” and, with a headline like that, the details of the story are every bit as ugly as you expect (from a news report at the time):

The girl, who is a ninth- grader at Kathleen High School, told detectives she went into the bathroom, placed a towel in her mouth and turned on the water to hide any noise she might make during delivery.

At one point, labor pains were so intense she took a pair of scissors to “pry the baby out,” she told detectives. She eventually delivered a 9.5-pound, 20.4-inch baby boy alive.

Goodson told detectives she could feel the baby’s pulse. She then put her hands around the infant’s neck and squeezed for about a minute until he wasn’t moving or breathing, Judd said.

Is this a horrible tragedy for everyone involved (girl, baby, girl’s parent’s and siblings, community)? Unquestionably. Do I feel sympathy for this girl? Heck, yes. Goodson clearly deserves mental help. Does she deserve a medal for being brave enough to bring this baby all the way to term (hiding it from everyone in the process) and then strangling it with her bare hands, but *NOT* bring brave enough to tell her mother or a teacher or counselor or clergy person or other trusted adult months earlier that she was pregnant?

Um, no. Just NOTelling someone she was pregnant: that would have been the truly brave – and difficult – thing to do.

I am staunchly pro choice chiefly because I believe bodily autonomy is paramount: women have (or should have) the right not to be forced to incubate and bear children. No person, fetus, child or adult, has the right to use another’s body in any way without the other person’s consent. It’s why courts don’t compel organ donations even if it would save a life, if the donor doesn’t want to donate. And yes,  the same reasoning forms one of the foundational arguments of the right of women to abortion. Had Goodson told someone or called Planned Parenthood months earlier after she knew she was pregnant but when there was still time to have a safe and legal abortion, she would not now be facing jail time.

But seeing the above type of sentiment makes me want to sincerely ask the people who display such sympathy for the young pregnant girl that they call for awarding her a medal for her actions, while simultaneously not mentioning anything at all (sympathy or otherwise) about the living, breathing life snuffed out intentionally the following question: at what age (of the child) should a woman’s right to choose to end its life without judicial consequence stop? Does one have to still have the child’s umbilical cord attached to one’s own body (as Goodson apparently did) in order to kill a child without facing a manslaughter charge? Or can a woman kill her infant if (s)he is a day old? How about a week old? A month? How about Casey Anthony’s kid’s age?

I am not attempting to get intentionally hyperbolic about this with that last statement, and of course I think everyone agrees Casey Anthony’s two year-old was clearly murder…but I include it because calling for a bravery medal for a child who strangled her own baby to death is so far beyond what I thought were the boundaries of the abortion question that I honestly can’t venture a guess how someone who’d suggest such a thing would answer the question: “when does life begin?” Every country on earth has laws against taking life. The circumstances and punishments vary dramatically, but if the answer to when life begins” isn’t “birth”…then I cannot imagine what other answer someone might give to that question. Unfortunately, I needn’t have waited:

photo of tweet from GeohareeNewborns. That’s not a scientific definition that I’m aware of, so it may be subject to interpretation and therefore misunderstanding or disagreement, but many manufacturers of baby clothes have sizes that go: newborn, 3-6 months, 6-12 months, etc. That yardstick would add on the first three months of a baby’s life to a woman’s right to (I guess retroactive) abortion outlined in the tweet above. If you go by weight, “newborn” is often classified as 5-9lbs by the onesie manufacturers. Heck, by that scale, Goodson’s baby, at 9.5 lbs at birth, already wouldn’t have qualified.

Abortion should be legal, unstigmatized and included as part of basic health plan coverage, including government-provided health care, just as the above tweet says. No woman who wants or needs an abortion should be forced to go without. But calling newborns “not human” until such time as that comes to pass is simply not acceptable. It calls to mind some of the worst of human behavior – which, strangely enough, almost always seems to be in service of a cause, not merely about passion or greed.

Our culture allows a fair degree of flexibility in dealing with even such a serious crime as murder if the perpetrator is demonstrably mentally disturbed (“not guilty by reason of insanity”). Or at least, we used to – and I think we still should. But sentencing someone to a facility instead of hard time is something that happens after the killer has undergone a trial at which their mental issues have been fully determined. No consequence whatsoever – not even a trial – for ending another’s life just isn’t an option. And cheering the intentional killing of someone as an event worthy of a medal of bravery is simply flat-out abhorrent. There’s just no other way to say it.

Judgment Day Coming To Kansas?

photo of roosting chickens

Cluck You, Governor Brownback

Are the chickens going to be coming home to roost in Kansas this fall? A new SurveyUSA poll suggests it’s a strong possibility:

Brownback is fighting for his life. Democratic challengers Paul Davis and Jill Docking today lead the former U.S. Senator and current Governor, 47% to 41%. 1 in 4 registered Republicans today defects and votes for the Davis/Docking Democratic ticket. By contrast, Davis/Docking holds 89% of the Democratic base. Independents break Democratic by 19 points. Brownback’s weakness among men, where he leads Davis by a nominal 1 point, cannot overcome the Democratic ticket’s strength among women, where Davis/Docking leads by 14 points.

Some back-story (and why I think it’s important) after the jump.

Continue reading →

Fire Boehner?

This is the hashtag which has caught suspiciously quick and omnipresent fire on Twitter this evening: #FireBoehner. Fire Boehner? Fine by me…if it can actually be accomplished. Only, it can’t. And it’s the (likely, though unprovable) source of this hashtag that is making me stabby this evening.

Let’s remember: the teabaggers have attempted to “fire Boehner” repeatedly. In fact, it’s a recurring theme. They wanted to in 2011, in 2012, and in 2013. There isn’t much reason to think the tinfoil underpants wing of what remains nominally the GOP has changed in that respect. But it’s not them who’s calling for Boehner’s ouster this evening. No, all the tweets hashtagged with #FireBoehner come from the left side of my Twitter feed. That is, likely the Democrats, or some lame-ass social media group associated with liberals or Democrats, most likely UniteBlue. I’m too lazy to search back to the beginning of the tag to find out which. But clearly The Message Has Been Sent Out, and, by the droves, The Faithful are responding:

FireBoehner, Pat Fuller

 

Eric Wolfson

J Rowe 2014-06-29 at 8.47.08 PM

J Rowe 2014-06-29 at 8.47.08 PM Tinabobeena 2014-06-29 at 8.49.17 PM

ElectHillary 2014-06-29 at 8.50.58 PM

Staaaaahhhhp.

Seriously, stop. You look like leftmmings. All of these tweets are time-stamped within fifteen minutes — and those are just the first few I came across. There’s likely plenty more, all from nominally “lefty” sources. But here’s the thing: John Boehner won’t be “fired” unless the teabagger faction joins with enough Democrats to overrule the establishment Republicans, and even if they do that – which they won’t – the very next question is who becomes Speaker. Do ANY of you Demmings really think enough teabaggers are going to be disgruntled enough with Boehner to re-install Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of a House that is still substantially GOP-controlled? Either you haven’t considered that question, or you’re actually so leadheaded you consider it a possibility. It isn’t. Not even a smidgen. Sure, John Boenher ought to be (as Berke Breathed said of his fictional “Senator Bedfellow” long ago) “dipped in Gravy Train and fed to a pack of crazed poodles”…but he. won’t. be. Not by a GOP-controlled house, no matter how tea-stained it is. So quit acting like idiots. No, not like idiots, like fucking automatons, wound up with the damn thumbscrew in your back and sent into motion by…whomever.

War and the Imperial Presidency

On Tuesday, Rachel Maddow led off her show with a brilliant, 22-minute rant against the return of all the failed Iraq war architects and cheerleaders to the nation’s airwaves, now that Iraq is once again descending into visible chaos (apologies for the ad; I can’t edit the MSNBC footage out):

The entire thing is worth a watch if you were awake during the 2002-2005 era, since it truly is maddening to see people like Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith and the Cheneys (Dick and Liz), etc, who by rights ought to be manning a postal station in Nome, Alaska as their only involvement with government today, being once more invited onto the Sunday political shows and seemingly every other news show and treated as if their opinion on the current crisis in Iraq was worth listening to instead of being laughed bitterly off the stage. Watch the whole thing, if you have the time. Maddow broadens her indictment to include the equally horrible media coverage of the faux-scandal over the Benghazi affair the GOP and tea party have been pushing for the past couple of years, as well.

The last few minutes of Maddow’s rant, however, were where the rubber really met the road for me. Beginning at about 18:35, Maddow turns from excoriating the media for sloppy thinking and poor public service on Iraq and Benghazi, and onto what could actually be done about it. Yay! Solutions! It’s part of what we love about Rachel Maddow – she doesn’t just complain, she often tries to suggest ways in which things could be changed for the better.

In this case, Maddow’s solution was to resort to laws already on the books, specifically Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution (“The Congress shall have Power…to declare war”) and the War Powers Act. Maddow pointed out, quite rightly, that it is historically Congress’ – and not the President’s – role to engage the nation in military conflict. That distinction has been muddied since the end of World War II by increasing arrogation to itself of the executive branch (and acquiescence of the legislative) of this power. The first and most famous instance was in Vietnam, but then in a series of smaller and shorter conflicts up until the insanely twisted rationalizations and assertions of executive power by the Cheney-Addington axis of power within the White House during the Bush administration during Afghanistan and Iraq.

Maddow pointed out that President Obama is – as he is in seemingly everything he does – being second-guessed and opposed by Congressional Republicans, and her solution is an elegant one: have them take an Article 1, Section 8 vote on committing to war in Iraq, for a THIRD time. Her guess – one I share – is that doing so would shut up the Congressional critics very, very quickly, just as it did in Syria. Congressional Republicans have proven they always want to be able to bash and second-guess the President, preferably in a consequence-free environment. What they don’t want is to be forced to put their money where their mouths are on controversial issues that might cost them politically. Having to take a roll call vote on something as serious as war, for which they would forever be accountable, is something they won’t do unless they feel certain.

When it comes to Iraq, anyone who tells you they feel certain, they know exactly what to do, is not only lying to you, they’re doing so because they believe there is no downside for so doing. Maddow’s point was: call their bluff. Make Congress vote on whether to send yet more American blood and treasure into the Iraqi sands for a third time. Follow the existing laws and procedures for such a weighty undertaking, and bellicose Congressional Republicans will suddenly find something else to do, like write more angry letters to the IRS about the Lois Lerner emails.

The White House seemed to understand this as well. When the usual suspects in Congress (and elsewhere) were beating the drums of war to invade (or at least bomb) Syria, President Obama called a Rose Garden press conference to say he would defer to Congress’ judgment about whether to declare war there…and they backed down. We did not send troops – or even bombers – to Syria, and likely avoided yet another intractable and costly mess in the middle east.

One thing the Obama White House has been steadfast and resolute on – indeed, a large part of what they have built the Obama brand on – is that the era of long wars is winding down. We are bringing to a sensible and responsible close the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they’ve said time and again. George Bush signed the Status of Forces Agreement before leaving office saying all US troops would be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, and President Obama has kept that agreement, while seeming to relish also being able to live up to the spirit of his steadfast opposition to the Iraq War and to “dumb wars” in general. The conflict in Afghanistan is drawing to a close, and the conflict in Iraq – at least the US involvement in it – was flatly declared over by none other than the President himself, at his 2012 Democratic Convention Speech with the entire country watching.

Or not.

Yesterday, the White House met with Congressional leaders, not to tell them to put their money where their mouths are as Maddow suggested, and as they’d done in Syria, but instead to inform Congress that the President feels he does not need additional Congressional permission to pursue ANY military objectives in Iraq.

What the actual FUCK?? Under what authority does the Obama administration believe the President does not need Congressional buy-in for military operations? And the answer was: the same 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that Congress passed to authorize George W. Bush to go to war in Iraq in the first place.

What’s scariest about this assertion that a war the President himself flatly declared over can now be resurrected from the ash-heap of history is that in one way, it doesn’t even matter at this point if the President ends up using this power he has now revealed he believes he possesses. In terms of the administration’s view on executive power and separation of powers, the eventual decision on whether to send troops as combat soldiers, or as “advisers,” or to send only air support or do nothing at all is largely irrelevant at this point; the administration’s position has – sadly – been made very clear. In Syria, it was clear the administration did not consider it a good idea to engage militarily, and – just as Maddow suggested they do in the current conflict – they called Congressional Republicans’ bluff by asking them to take the lead on deciding matters of war. Most of us on the left who had spent the Bush years tearing out our hair at the overreach and danger of the imperial nature of the George W. Bush Presidency rejoiced at hearing that the new President – OUR President – clearly understood that, and clearly respected the separation of powers. “See,” we thought? “He asked Congress to lead on Syria!” Unfortunately, the administration’s deference to precedent appears to have been far less a matter of principle than it was simply a canny strategy for shutting up his Congressional GOP critics who were trying to force the President to take action he didn’t want to take. Returning to a 2001 statute giving a previous President vague and over-broad power to wage war as his justification for bypassing Congress proves two things:

  1. That President Obama never really believed materially differently from Dick Cheney and David Addington about who REALLY gets to call the shots with regard to making war. When the chips are down, the Imperial Presidency rules.  And
  2. That declaring the Iraq war over was merely a numbers-boosting, base-pacifying publicity stunt. After all, if you’re using the authorization that permitted the initial invasion as your justification for returning, then the war was never truly over, now was it?

Sorry, Barack: if you believe you can order any and all military options while merely informing (but not deferring to) Congress, by invoking a resolution giving a previous President authorization to use force in a conflict you’ve publicly declared over and done, then you are as much a practitioner of the Imperial Presidency as was your predecessor. All you lack is an Addington.

I can’t decide if it’s the cynical embrace of the mantle of support for separation of powers when it suited (Syria) that’s more galling, or the notion that it was all bullshit in the end, anyway.

The Left’s Relationship to the Democratic Party Proper

Over at Digby’s place, David O. Atkins has one of the exceedingly rare pieces of seriously confused thinking that can be found in the archives there. In a think piece on what we here on the left can – or should – take away from Eric Cantor’s stunning upset, Atkins conflates two very different problems within the Democratic party proper:

  1. Democrats reliably vote in presidential elections, but tend to skip voting in midterms and are practically electoral truants in mid-cycle primaries.”
  2. Left-leaning voters disaffected with the Democratic Party tend to eschew the organization altogether. The more activist among them usually join issue advocacy organizations that are often directly and intentionally in conflict with the party and competing for the same resources.

Both these statements are true enough, but as I’ll show in a minute, Atkins twists them together in what appears to be an attempt to blame progressives for…I’m not sure, exactly. Not doing the things Atkins would like to see done? Or blame-shifting Democratic setbacks onto the actions of insufficiently party-oriented progressives? It’s a bit hard to tell. Atkins’ goal – or his prescription for victory – appears to be that “the way to win is to mobilize and organize not only outside of the Democratic Party, but within it as well.” I don’t even disagree with that sentiment, that more – and more focused – activism would be salutary to progressive goals. In fact, as exhortations go, “we need to organize more on all levels” is sufficiently anodyne to be one of the few “plans” that would offend almost nobody (and, sadly, will likely inspire an equivalent number).

Here’s where I disagree with Atkins, though: after (again, correctly) noting that many frustrated progressives who voted for Nader in 2000 believed that “if the Democratic Party wanted their vote…the party should have taken more progressive stances,” Atkins follows up with this: “The thinking here goes that if voters on the left abandon the party by not voting or by voting for third parties, then the Democratic Party will have to chase them left.”

No. Those are two different issues. Some progressives have – and continue to – vote for “fringe” or third-party candidates out of frustration with the choices given them by the DCCC or other party machinery. And Democrats do have a problem with turnout in non-Presidential election years. But that doesn’t mean the people who aren’t voting are disgruntled progressives sitting out elections on purpose to punish Democrats.

I can’t be sure what David Atkins’ exact purpose was in this column, because it reads very logically conflicted internally. But it appears as if Atkins’ suggestion that it is progressive activists who stay home in large numbers on primary election days as some sort of protest is an attempt to solve a paradox Atkins seems to realize on some level is present in his argument. For example, Atkins observes that, to the extent Nader voting progressives are trying to force the Democratic party leftward, the strategy hasn’t worked. The Democratic party is noticeably more conservative than it was at the beginning of the Reagan years in most key ways that aren’t simply due to cultural awakening (like increasing acceptance of marriage equality), and Democratic electoral losses only seem to engender further rightward shifts.

Unfortunately for Atkins’ argument, if the only thing progressive activists are doing in response to this inexorable rightward drift is sometimes voting for fringe or third party candidates, this poses a dilemma. Namely, how unlikely it would be for activists’ protest votes for third parties or fringe candidates to be so weak that they don’t even compel the Democrats to move leftward in response, but so strong they cause the kind of staggering losses to the GOP in the general election that we saw in 2010. Atkins seems (to me, anyway) to sense the contradiction there: either the progressive activists’ protest votes are a powerful force in electoral terms, or they’re not. If it’s the former, the Democratic party looks stupid indeed for ignoring the values and wishes of their base and suffering severe setbacks as a result . But if it’s the latter, if progressive activists’ protest votes are irrelevant, then surely those few inconsequential protest votes for third parties don’t account for the losses of 2010, either. That’s why I think Atkins suggests that progressive activists not only cast protest votes for fringe or third party candidates, but also intentionally sit out non-Presidential elections in huge numbers as a protest.

First, let’s restate some facts here. Are, as Atkins suggests, progressive activists unwilling to work within the party structure? Are they given only to either sitting on their hands or protest votes as vehicles for their activism? The single largest donation machine on the progressive end of the political spectrum (outside of unions) is currently Howie Klein’s Act Blue - and it has been for years. Act Blue’s entire MISSION is to raise small-dollar funds to elect BETTER (not just MORE) Democrats. That, along with Act Blue’s demonstrated track record of success at collecting those small-dollar donations should serve to demonstrate that, if given a choice in primaries between true progressives and corporatist conserva-dems, liberals will not only vote for but will work for the candidate that genuinely exhibits progressive values.

The Democratic party does indeed face the problem of voters drifting away and not voting in non-Presidential years (and even more so in primaries). But not in significant numbers among its progressive activists – disgruntled or otherwise. In fact, perhaps the ONLY trait that unites activists on the left side of the political spectrum – heck, might even unite all activists – is that they are highly engaged politically. They read. They vote. They organize. Some small percentage of activist progressives might believe (rightly or wrongly) that if they deny those they see as “establishment” candidates their votes, the party will eventually have to follow them left. They may even get weary enough with the thirty-year continued rightward drift of the Democratic party (which Atkins mentions) that they vote for third parties in the general election as a means of trying to bring that about…but as this DailyKos forensic on the 2010 results shows quite clearly, very, very few “switched on” progressive activists consciously adopted a strategy of LESS (or non-) participation (including voting) as a means of bringing about their political goals. In overwhelming numbers, liberals voted (moreover, most of them did wind up voting for the Democrat on the ballot after all!).

Instead, the drop-off in voting in non-Presidential years (and in primaries), as this old Ezra Klein column (also from 2010) showed at the time, occurred among young people: people new to voting, with varied and often quite busy schedules. People who may get discouraged more easily. People who may not yet have absorbed the importance of turning up every single time to vote. Even – perhaps especially – in primaries…like activists and older voters have learned:

2010votinggraph

I usually find myself nodding in agreement when reading David Atkins’ posts, both at Hullabaloo and at Daily Kos, but this one struck me as both some of his worst writing, and also his most-confused thinking.

What America Is Facing In The Tea Party

photo of hand holding rock

That’s not what they meant by “Rock The Vote,” asshole.

Every now and again, in the increasingly firehose-like flow of data that is our modern 24/7 internet information-delivery system, I still run across a story that simply demands to be read a second or third time, and remarked upon. This is one of those stories, because it very clearly gives a peek behind the curtain of what America is facing in the tea party:

Given how savagely anti-gay the mainstream Oklahoma Republican party is, it’s no surprise that the state’s Tea Partiers are so rabidly hateful that they come across more as dark satire than as serious bigots. To wit: This week, an Oklahoma magazine discovered that last summer, Tea Party state House candidate Scott Esk endorsed stoning gay people to death: “I think we would be totally in the right to do it,” he said in a Facebook post.

That’s right: stoning of gays, just like they call for in the Bible. In 2014 America. And yes, never mind the obvious retorts and debunkings of this man’s selective adherence to the Old Testament to justify his own bigotry – he assuredly wears “mixed threads” (wool and linen or cotton together, etc.), eats shellfish, etc. Those have become comically easy to do…and they have had no effect upon either the people they’re directed towards, nor the larger public consciousness. Such skewering may have served to lower tea party favorability ratings or make the average “non-political” person view the tea party skeptically, but it has done nothing to move the dial on how badly we need to reject this entire culture, politically.

A vote for the tea party is NOT a vote for “constitutional conservatism,” it is a vote for every dark, bigoted, medieval, previously-thought-extinct impulse in the American psyche. This kind of frank admission by a man who could very well be holding public office soon is rare enough that it deserves to be highlighted. Here is your tea party, folks. This is what the GOP made a Faustian bargain with to allow them to cobble together a coalition that could still be relevant in today’s world. This is the hateful lunatic fringe that has always existed but which, now that it has tasted what it feels like to sit at the table, clamors to dominate that table — or take all of the rest of us down with them – a la Jerad and Amanda Miller.

This is what we’re up against. And, like the line the Reese character delivers to a stunned Sarah Connor in the very first Terminator movie by way of trying to explain what she’s up against: “It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever…” – this is what we now confront. People like Mr. Esk feel their holy text tells them they are RIGHT to think and behave thusly, and in that, they are no different from the Taliban. Not one iota. There is no compromise with such ideology: it simply must be defeated. Period.

A Tale of Two Shootings, or, Bad Week for NRA Propaganda

photo of rifle with drum magazine

You REALLY need this for deer season, Cletus?

While everyone was still reeling from the Santa Barbara shooting spree of Elliot Rodger, and before we could even process that tragedy fully, two new shootings took place in America. They seem to be coming at the rate of about one a week now – sometimes even faster (and still, we do nothing significant to address it).

These two shootings are instructive because they juxtapose two very different outcomes, especially when viewed through the paranoid, gun-mad lens of the NRA. The first was the Seattle shooting, in which a young man with a history of mental problems (sounding not all that different from Elliot Rodger in Santa Barbara) took to the campus of a small local college with the intent to kill as many people as possible. The second shooting was less than a calendar week later in Las Vegas, when a husband-wife team of militia/tea-party types (the man had given interviews from Bundy Ranch during that recent standoff) went to a local shopping area, first to a CiCi’s pizza where they shot two police officers, and then on to a local Wal-Mart where they shot one more civilian before taking their own lives.

What links these two shootings, other than their senselessness and needlessness? NRA propaganda. Or, more precisely, its complete bankruptcy.

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