Tag Archives: sarah palin

Friday, Friday, Gotta Get Down on Friday

10 Jun

Three things for a throwaway post for a Friday morning.

1. A clip from a Family Guy episode from this past season that cracks me up at the end:

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2. Here’s a history of Sarah Palin’s “gotcha” questions. The “gotcha” question that led to her incredible mangling of Paul Revere’s ride was:

“What have you seen so far today, and what are you going to take away from your visit?”

To sum up, she said she had walked the Freedom Trail and seen Paul Revere’s house:

he who warned the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms, uh, by ringin’ those bells and, um, makin’ sure as he’s ridin’ his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we’re gonna be secure and we were gonna be free. And we we’re gonna be armed.

Revere’s ride’s purpose was to warn the British that they wouldn’t take away our guns. The real purpose was to warn colonial leadership in Lexington and Concord that the British regulars had set out from Boston for Cambridge, where the road to Lexington and Concord began. Palin’s “warn the British” excuse was partly true, because Revere was captured and questioned by the British – but that was an unintended consequence. His ride depended on secrecy because of the widespread British patrols. The purpose of his ride was to surreptitiously warn Colonials – not the British.

Sarah Palin should use her proud ignorance to advocate for better education for all Americans. Instead, she’ll double down on the ignorance and insist she was right.

Two phrases she is apparently congenitally unable to say are, “I’m
Sorry” and “I got that wrong”.

3. Enjoy:

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Governor Material

13 Mar

The Buffalo News found several people to go on the record and accuse Carl Paladino of being a deadbeat.

(What is it about megalomaniacal western New Yorkers with Napoleon complexes packing heat?)

The Buffalo News today reports that recent gubernatorial loser and wealthy local malcontent Carl Paladino allegedly owes thousands of dollars to myriad campaign staffers and vendors. The man who pledged to spend $10 million apparently borrowed $3 million from “unnamed sources”, owes thousands to average people trying to make a living, and has apparently reacted to them in malicious and unfair ways. At least a few promise to sue, and one threatens to dime him out to the state bar grievance committee.  He allegedly owes $8,000 to Michael Johns, who worked Tea Party outreach, he reportedly owes William Rey about $5,000 for video production. He allegedly owes Tim Suereth $6,300 for expense reimbursement.

Others due money in amounts ranging from $1,200 to about $35,000, include an attorney, a researcher, and a half-dozen campaign staffers and media producers, according to the former campaign aides, consultants and vendors.

Several of those owed money described a frequent pattern of behavior by Paladino when he was approached for payment.

Paladino at first failed to respond, and then offered a disputed history of the terms originally agreed upon. Paladino sometimes contended that, regardless of terms, he paid people what he felt they were worth, the former aides and consultants said. And, they added, Paladino often became insulting and confrontational.

“He seems to be picking fights with people he owes money to and not paying,” Suereth said. “He’s looking for every reason to not pay people he owed money to at the end of the campaign.”

Perhaps the lede was buried, because Paladino‘s own former campaign manager, Michael Caputo, claims that he’s owed $38,000, but more importantly:

Caputo has said in the past that most of the fees he received were subsequently spent on legal, research and media services related to the campaign.

I’m no expert on New York State’s campaign finance laws, but that doesn’t seem completely Kosher. Disclosure rules exist to promote disclosure.

Paladino, who has become a bizarre and paranoid local cross between Sarah Palin and Charlie Sheen, took to Facebook to excrete the following:

You received a message on your blog from an unidentified, disaffected campaign malcontent who has no regard for truth or facts and you think you have a scoop.  You don’t.  There are people who didn’t get paid for good reason.  Everyone who deserved to be paid was paid.  They can go to court if they have a complaint.  What business is it of yours?  It’s a civil matter.

Well, what “business it is” is that these people went to the News to voice their complaints, and they were particularly brave in that they used their own names and accused Paladino of very specific charges. Paladino ran for governor, and the conduct of his campaign is newsworthy because of the public nature of campaign finance laws and disclosure, but it details his demeanor.  You can tell a lot about a person about how he conducts his business, and how he treats those who work for him. Paladino treats his vendors and campaign employees like disposable pieces of garbage whom he can cheat, and force them to sue him to be made whole.

Remember if you write something and have actual knowledge that what you write is not true, it obviates the need to prove malice even for a public person.  In any event I believe we can prove malice.  I caution you to be careful.  Don’t for a minute think that I won’t haul you into court and subpoena every e-mail and document you, spineless and Evans ever wrote about me.  I can’t wait to depose the three of you.  You better not destroy the records.  Judges don’t like people who do that.

Naturally. The bully with a law firm threatens to sue. The problem here for Paladino is that “malice” in defamation jurisprudence isn’t defined as “being mean” or “hating Carl”.  He’d have to prove to a jury that the Buffalo News published false facts in an article without regard to their truth or falsity.  The article itself reveals that this charge must fail, as the writer spoke with people who got stiffed and proved it, and did so on the record.

Furthermore, discovery runs both ways for Mr. Paladino, and at the heart of any defamation litigation is the supposition that the plaintiff’s reputation has been harmed or assailed.  Therefore, Mr. Paladino puts his reputation at issue in the case, and it is itself subject to discovery.  I’m sure the News’ lawyers would likewise relish the opportunity to depose Mr. Paladino, and he had also better not engage in any spoliation of evidence; not because “judges don’t like people who do that”, but because it’s improper and illegal.

You sit in a big room with many people who don’t respect or like you or your fearless editor and publisher and they watch what you do.  They are good people with integrity and honor and they want the best for their community.  They don’t like elitism nor do they like editorializing on the front page.  Truth is truth.  Give it up Jim.  You are a messed up dude.

Well, no. Jim Heaney isn’t a “messed up dude”.  He’s a local reporter who got a juicy tip, followed up on it, verified the facts, and printed them. Just because Mr. Paladino doesn’t like the content of those articles doesn’t make them editorials. Also contained in Paladino‘s clumsy threat-letter is dicta explaining that the author appreciates the coverage he gets from Business First and Buffalo Rising. Yet it’s becoming clearer by the day that Paladino “leads” by threatening people. He surrounds himself by sycophants, and bullies everybody else.

Until now, western New Yorkers were happy to say Carl was like their crazy uncle. As the facts come out, it would appear that his personality is more sinister than that. Refusing to pay vendors, unilaterally abrogating agreements, forcing people to sue him to be made whole, then making threats against those who complain, aren’t the ways in which legitimate businessmen behave. It’s not how your crazy uncle behaves. It’s more sinister than that. Frankly, if Paladino is on speaking terms with Buffalo Rising and Business First, then those two outlets aren’t doing their jobs.  On principle, I don’t knowingly or intentionally do business with this person.  The rest of western New York, now knowing how he operates and how he treats his underlings and vendors, should do the same.  The same goes for anyone seeking or receiving political support or funding from him. Choices matter.

Deep Thoughts

4 Mar

I think that Mike Huckabee’s childhood experiences adversely affect his worldview.

(Seriously, it’s lightly coded hate speech like Huckabee’s that leads to horrific displays of ignorance like this. America is broken, in large part, because political “leaders” and ratings whores are quite content to gain political advantage by exploiting deep ignorance, fear, and hatred. That in itself should disqualify someone from not only public office, but any involvement in the civic discourse. I’m looking at you Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, the Mulleted Queef on WBEN, and Fox News).

Let’s Talk About Guns

13 Jan

I’m guessing most of you don’t own a gun. The national rate is only 31%.  New York is half that. Many of our most vocal readers are liberals and Democrats, and while I have no data to back my assertion, I still feel relatively confident that the lefty New Yorker gun ownership rate is lower still.

You almost certainly don’t own a real gun. A rusting shotgun from your grandfather, half forgotten and stuffed in a corner in the basement, doesn’t count. A real gun is one cleaned, prepared, ready, with ammunition nearby, ready to kill people. Just in case.

If this sounds scary, offensive, paranoid, dangerous, or irresponsible, this article is for you. This is not an article about the tragedy in Tucson. It is also not an apologetic for any particular past rhetoric or ads from politicians, depicting guns and appealing to the people that treasure them. It is certainly not about Sarah Palin, constant victim and vocabulary enthusiast. This is an article about a cultural clash, a varied view of America and its history and potential future, brought to the surface by the heated political debate following the shooting of Rep Giffords. Consider me your safe bridge – let me translate and explain.

Within minutes of the shooting in Tucson, the right was asked to defend or atone for a political vocabulary that includes references to firearms and cross-hairs, explain carrying guns at political rallies, and renounce the need to ever resort to “Second Amendment remedies.” That last one particularly stung. To a certain segment of the population, that consider themselves not conspiracy theorists but historians, the voiced recognition that Second Amendment remedies exist resonated like a clear bell. The right dug in its heels. This violence was a horrific event, but not a reason to give up a fundamental right. In deed, THE fundamental right. Inadvertently, a sub-culture is now being exposed, and the basest motivations for prizing gun ownership above all else are coming to light.

Do not confuse this sub-culture with the Tea Party. They are not synonymous, though certainly the Second Amendment crowd leans right and sympathizes on some issues and there is overlap. But health care is a sideshow to their main event now requiring defense. They also do not align well with political parties – I would guess more un-affiliated members than Republicans, though few Democrats. Most of all they are not new – a wide-eyed suburban kid from Buffalo, I first encountered such folk in rural Wisconsin and South Dakota 15 years ago, where they made up a majority of my local acquaintances (“Have you bought yourself a good rifle yet, Brian?”). They were hardly new then – modern gun control started after Prohibition. Get out of New York, even rural New York, and spend a little time in Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Utah or Florida. You’ll meet plenty of decent individuals, unaffiliated with movement or party, who “cling to their guns,” in the condescending unknowing parlance of President Obama.

But why? Let me start by dispelling two myths. The gun control debate, for those who hold that issue to be their prime, is not about hunting. Hunting is a superficial nod by politicians seeking votes (see: Kerry, John). Killing ducks and geese hardly requires Bill of Rights treatment. This is also not about crime, or preventing crime by having more armed citizens. Though much public conversation about guns centers on crime (or even confusingly equates the two issues), such debates are defense actions by Second Amendment types against Liberal gun-controllers.  

No, this is about one issue, not oft stated: that it is the fundamental right (indeed, the most fundamental of rights) of all free persons to violently overthrow their government if required. Guns are the only way to ensure that right. Therefore, the gun is both the symbol and key requirement of lasting and true freedom.

Though rarely spoken, this is not a fringe idea in theory, and an undercurrent of much of American history and culture. It is an inconvenient truth for American peace lovers that our country’s birth and baptism by war left a mark, not just culturally, but in the Constitution. For supporters of the “right to revolution,” it is notable that the right to bear arms is Number Two in the Bill of Rights, after only speech, and before many other fundamentals, like search and seizure. The gun is as basic as Mom and baseball and apple pie, and present throughout American mythology: the cowboy, the settler, Davy Crockett and the Founding Fathers.

The gun symbolizes freedom, and ensures it literally, but it communicates other American shibboleths as well. It denotes independence and personal responsibility. More than that, the willingness to shoulder the most basic of personal responsibilities: keeping one and one’s family safe and secure, no matter the hazy umbrella of security government may provide. The courts are a delayed redress of grievances, and police cannot stop every crime. The gun provides me the power to defend my family and overthrow my government, should either eventuality comes to pass. Any freedom where I am beholden to the government for defense and safety is no true freedom, as I am dependent on others.   

Such ideas are harmless until violently acted upon, individually or as a group. The DHS warning of a rise in militia activity has parallels to the 1990’s incidents at Ruby Ridge and Waco, Texas. The potential increase in such activity (and to re-emphasize, there is no evidence of Loughner’s link to this philosophy) have left the Second Amendment true believers in a quandary. The idea that the People should be able to rise up in revolution is more attractive in theory than reality. Who decides when government has grown oppressive enough to warrant an overthrow? America will not overnight be transformed into the world of “V for Vendetta,” requiring obvious uprising. Signs are regularly sought – a health care mandate here, Nanny State regulations there. I don’t think long TSA lines and warrantless wiretaps are enough to justify revolution. Others disagree. The independent gun-clingers wait and watch, consciously considering as potentially possible what most Americans dismiss as ancient history. “If something happens to this country,” they say, “what are all these people going to do?”

Jacob Weisberg, in Slate, accurately sums up the current situation, where vote seeking politicians have adopted the idealistic Second Amendment true believer message to attract votes:

It was in criticizing writers on his own side for their naivete about communism that George Orwell wrote, “So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot.” Today it is the right that amuses itself with violent chat and proclaims an injured innocence when its flammable words blow up.

Politicians of a previous generation more quietly indicated they were of like mind with Second Amendment supporters, without the cross-hair graphics and open displays of weaponry. That we might return there.

Blame and Motivation

11 Jan

Why did Jared Lee Loughner shoot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head, and then move on to 19 other victims, six of whom died? I don’t know. And neither do you, or anyone else. He knows alone, and perhaps some confidant yet to come forward.

This has not stopped those of good and ill will from speculating, or calling for changes in gun laws, or denouncing various groups with which they were already in opposition. The main focus, nationally, of such speculation surrounds Sarah Palin, her campaign rhetoric and graphics of crosshairs over candidates (including Giffords) and the general Tea Party love affair with not just praising the Second Amendment, but inserting guns into politics, sometimes literally.  

Sarah Palin is a shallow charlatan, an embarrassment to the Republican party, and the sooner she is disgraced and out of the national spotlight, the better. Her rhetoric is inflammatory, unhelpful to solving national problems, and divisive. Due to the history of political violence in our country, using gun crosshairs to denote targets, even opponents in legitimate political races, is in bad taste at least, if not irresponsible and dangerous. I wonder now if she planned a similar graphic for President Obama for the 2012 Presidential Election? Somehow I think decency, common sense, or fear of reprisal from the Secret Service and the general public would have prevailed. Unfortunate that it did not before, as the threat of political violence is real.

But all of this doesn’t mean Palin’s rhetoric or influence caused Loughner to go on his shooting spree. There are plenty who blame Sarah Palin. This says more about the blamers than Palin, or certainly the mind of Loughner. The key piece of evidence linking Palin to the crime is the graphic. But we have no reason to believe Loughner ever saw it, or was even a Palin or Tea Party supporter. He is a registered Independent, not a Republican. And anyway, there is evidence Loughner started stalking (or at least grew upset with) Giffords in 2007, long before any graphic was produced.

With no direct evidence, those opportunists with a pre-existing agenda cite a more amorphous responsibility, a general feeling and tension created by the Tea Party movement, that is violent and revolutionary. The FBI and DHS have warned of the rise in right wing violence – surely because Giffords was a Democrat (though a more conservative one), the attacker must have a right wing vendetta, fueled by Tea Party rhetoric.

But evidence is lacking here as well, and with no clear link, the argument is analogous to those that decry violent video games, rap music, and gratuitous action movies. They raise the overall acceptability of violence in our society. They glamorize it at least, and encourage it at worst. At the moment we have as much evidence that Lougher was influenced by Call of Duty: Black Ops as Sarah Palin. Does this shooting have more in common with political revolution or Columbine?

What little we know of his mind is confused and contradictory. His rants against the legitimacy of the US government point one direction, his choice of reading material (Communist Manifesto) and statements from associates point another. The majority of his YouTube videos discuss the currency of ideas, being awake and asleep, grammar, and the meaning of being a Terrorist. I find no commonality, and yet I hesitate to call him crazy. That is a label Americans throw around to describe violence they don’t understand, not a diagnosis. Plenty of horrible acts are committed by perfectly sane individuals – their motivations are simply different than ours, and capacity for violence is greater.

What voices was Loughner listening to in his head? A left wing blogger on the DailyKos (since removed a la Palin‘s dimwitted defense and dropping of her own graphic) said Giffords was “dead” to them because she didn’t vote for Nancy Pelosi. Did this mildly tasteless throw away line push Loughner over the edge? I doubt it. Sarah Palin has far more influence than the Daily Kos, but the voices Loughner listened to need not be the loudest nationally. Slate and Fox (among others) are reporting that the DHS has linked Loughner to an anti-semitic, anti-immigrant group, American Renaissance. I hadn’t ever heard of them, but that doesn’t mean Loughner hadn’t. This would mean Giffords’s sin was that she was Jewish, not that she was a Democrat. Of course, then again, that might be wrong too.

In the end, there is no need to speculate on why Loughner did it – he is alive. Someone will ask him at trial why he did it, and based on his previous MySpace and YouTube gabbiness, he will tell us. We can guess beforehand to score points and grind axes. Me, I’m going to wait for the facts.

Palinism – Folksy Fascism for the 21st Century

9 Jan
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The face of 21st Century American Fascism

Chris does a wonderful job outlining the violent rhetoric that’s emanated from the angry right over the past couple of years, featuring such stars as Sharron Angle, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and other bright lights among the tea party vanguard.

He titles his post “Inciting a Revolution”.  I disagree with the “Revolution” part, mostly because there’s no coherent or cohesive vision of a new America that these people represent.  They don’t seek a revolution that would somehow change the fundamentals of American representative democracy.  To the contrary, they claim to be the proudest and strongest adherents to its constitutional constructs.  Right down to the reading.

What they’re doing with their nihilist, eliminationist, violent rhetoric is inciting a riot, nothing more.  When Sarah Palin posts Gabrielle Giffords’ name with a gunsight over a map of her congressional district, that’s the same as yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater.  When Palin urges her minions to not “retreat” but “reload”, she’s deliberately and knowingly inciting violence.  Not just any violence – but the kind that murders people.  When you take all of the rhetoric together, from all relevant sources, it’s become evident that the American right wing has become infested with the same dirty bloodlust that led a Niagara County militia follower to blow up the Murrah Federal Building, and the men, women, and children within.

Yesterday, not only did the shooter injure a Congresswoman, but he murdered six people, among them a federal Judge and a nine year-old little girl.  Maybe the 2nd Amendment ought not apply to idiot paranoid schizophrenics.

I watched the alleged shooter’s YouTube videos and he’s not much different from any other semi-literate, uninformed, dumb, mentally ill mass murderers you’d come across in any given day.  We knew anyone who would commit mass murder would be a psychotic.

But that’s the point.  The greater issue is how a certain brand of domestic fascism has made it socially acceptable within that circle to joke about or incite violence against political opponents, and how that might play in an unhinged mind.

Palinism, which is what I’ve come to call the Tea Party movement, is food for the weak-minded.  Her brand of facile exclusionary bully politics, mixed in with clumsy jingoism, virulent hatred, calls to arms, and  deliberate ignorance is little more than a 21st century fascism.  After all, fascism is a hypernationalistic, ignorant, violent, eliminationist, political philosophy that relies on hatred.

When congresspeople can’t hold supermarket meet ‘n greets with constituents without tight security, the very foundation of our representative democracy has been rocked.  That this threat is a domestic one makes it all the more curious.

After all, the Palinists would have you believe that endless war is so totally necessary to protect our motherland fatherland homeland.  Yet the biggest risk the homeland faces is from the Palinist fascists themselves.

For fascism to grow, it needs a mortal enemy.  In Italy, it was the foreigners, democrats, and socialists who helped bring about perceived post-WWI slights preventing it from becoming a great power.  In Germany, it was the Versailles “Diktat”, which the Nazis blamed on foreign democracies and “international Jewry”.  For the Palinist fascists, it’s Obama and American Democrats for plunging America into Soviet-style communism by passing health care reform and suggesting cap & trade.

Here, the spark that lit the fire of Palinist fascism was the election of Barack Obama.  Although he’s as corporate-friendly a centrist Democrat as you’re likely ever to find, because of his name, his family history, his past employment, and his race, the Palinists have beat a drum for quite literally two + years that Obama is some sort of Muslim, foreign, Kenyan, unAmerican, Marxist, Communist usurper.  Although he legitimately won a fair and free election in 2008, they seek to delegitimize him through lies that play to people’s fears and rank prejudices.

You know, when liberals complained about George W. Bush’s legitimacy, people forget that there was a Supreme Court case fought over that very issue.  The claim, as they say, was colorable.  Here, no such factual basis exists.

Even though a solid majority of Americans voted for Barack Obama and, in turn, the policies he proposed, the Palinists claimed – shouted – that his perfectly reasonable policy proposals were tantamount to an abolition of the American experiment altogether.  We’d be subsumed by the United Nations or  the New World Order or whatever the bogeyman-du-jour might be, and America would become some sort of big, huge Cuba.

The rhetoric turned especially ugly when the Democrats passed a health care reform program that gave consumers more rights and failed to fundamentally change the status quo.  Note the date of the Palin tweet above.  Then note the date of this story.  Those Palinist fascist calls for a blood orgy were made the day after the heath care reform bill was passed.

When fascists complain falsely, but loudly enough about the legitimacy, policies, and danger to the republic the President and his party represent – bad things are bound to happen.

And then, when those bad things happen, they whine and cry about how both sides need to tamp down the rhetoric.

Well, no

Both sides don’t need to tamp down the rhetoric.  One side is guilty of maintaining or giving express or implied support and approval of eliminationist, hateful, violent, dehumanization of its opponents. The American right wing has become radicalized beyond recognition – its rhetoric and lies, and its calls to violence go far beyond what is acceptable in a western pluralist democratic republic.  Its behavior is ignorant fascism, and it’s time we called it that.  It’s also time that the opponents of that Palinist virus become more effective at rhetorically politically defeating it.

Luckily, America is better than Palinist fascism – a militant, violent, uninformed, ignorant, hateful and un-Democratic bucket of incitement.

Inciting A Revolution

9 Jan

You might remember a 2009 Department of Homeland Security report (which was slammed by right wing pundits), titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” and warned of a rise in violence spurred by the economic downturn and the election of the nation’s first African-American president.

In the report, which can be found here, the DHS defined “rightwing” in part as groups and individuals “that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely.”

On Saturday, January 8th, 2011, America received a wakeup call from the extreme fringe with the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D, AZ-8). The shooter also wounded seventeen people and murdered six others, including a federal judge and a 9 year old girl during his shooting spree.

Giffords warned of this kind of behavior after her office was vandalized during the healthcare debate of 2009/2010.

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They really need to realize that the rhetoric and firing people up, and, you know, even things for example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gunsight over our district. When people do that, you gotta realize there’s consequences to that action. – Rep. Giffords

The angry rhetoric from the right wing continued during the 2010 campaign season when her opponent, a Tea Party candidate and war veteran, Jesse Kelly hosted a “Get on Target for Victory in November” event at which supporters were offered the opportunity to shoot a fully automatic M-16 and celebrate removing Giffords from office.

In other parts of the country, similar stories surfaced.  Nevada Senate candidate and Tea Party fringe member, Sharron Angle reminded voters that there were “second amendment remedies” if Congress continued on its current path and that Senator Harry Reid needed to be “taken out”.

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Of course, Sarah Palin surfaced again with a plea to “commonsense conservatives” to “reload” rather than retreat.

Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R, MN) advised her constituents to be armed and dangerous while reminding them that “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with blood of patriots and tyrants” due to the imagined threat of healthcare death panels and political re-education camps.

Bachmann also claimed that the President is anti-American and members of Congress are also un-American.

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There are literally hundreds of other examples of violent rhetoric from right wing politicians and pundits that have turned the national political discourse into a daily war filled with violent language and imagery.  In a country where a nationally syndicated radio host compares President Obama to Pol Pot and the most watched cable news channel in the country routinely compares the President to Marx, Hitler and Stalin…what hope do we have of reasonable discourse?

It is in this environment that confused, lost or mentally ill people find validation of their fringe beliefs and thoughts. One of those people is the alleged shooter of Rep. Giffords, Jared Lee Loughner.

Loughner does not fit the profile of a standard Tea Party patriot, but he certainly seems influenced by the movement.  He appears to be someone with an assortment of various political influences and is evidently a believer in shards of multiple fringe conspiracy theories. Loughner is an ideological mix of libertarian anti-federal reserve sentiment, right wing anti-immigrant vitriol, David Wynn Miller ideologies, and various other Alex Jones-like conspiracy theories.

His YouTube channel is a jumbled mess of barely sane rants and paints the picture of someone who is both mentally ill and politically angry:

“The majority of the citizens of the United States of America have never read the United States of America’s Constitution. You don’t have to accept the federalist laws. Nonetheless, read the United States of America’s Constitution to apprehend all of the current treasonous laws….In conclusion, reading the second United States Constitution, I can’t trust the current goverment because of the ratifications: The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar.

No! I won’t play debt with a currency that’s not backed by gold and silver! No! I won’t trust in God”

The point of laying all of this information out is not to draw a straight line from the rants of Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle or Michelle Bachmann and assign blame for the actions of this man. It is to point out that the political environment these people have helped create gives oxygen to the ideas of lunatics and paranoids.

In April of last year, President Clinton remarked that the current political climate reminded him of 1995 when the militia movement was gaining a foothold across the country and radical right wing ideologues were given the spotlight on the national stage after the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.  Clinton, who was in his first term at the time of the bombing, warned that attempts to incite opposition by demonizing the government can provoke responses beyond what political figures intend.

There can be real consequences when what you say animates people who do things you would never do,” Mr. Clinton said in an interview, saying that Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing, and those who assisted him, “were profoundly alienated, disconnected people who bought into this militant antigovernment line.”

The former president said the potential for stirring a violent response might be even greater now with the reach of the Internet and other common ways of communication that did not exist on April 19, 1995, when the building was struck.

“Because of the Internet, there is this vast echo chamber and our advocacy reaches into corners that never would have been possible before,” said Mr. Clinton, who said political messages are now able to reach those who are both “serious and seriously disturbed.”

At various periods in its history, this country has sat upon a teetering plank of existence. When the forces of the fringe begin to crack the fulcrum of freedom, it’s imperative that we remedy the situation before the whole thing collapses under the weight of our prejudices.

We find ourselves in just such a period now.

America is mired in a deep recession and embroiled in a seemingly endless multi-front war against an enemy which knows no boundaries. The “war” on illegal immigration, the rise of nationalism, deep cultural divides, unprecedented disparity in wealth distribution, corporate personhood, global macroeconomic shifts and dozens of other crises have sewn a sense of uncertainty and fear. In a time like this, we should take stock of our words and actions and wonder if the example we set is informing insanity and inciting revolution from the fringe.

I’ll return to President Clinton for inspiration on how we should go about effecting change.  In a seminal speech at Michigan State University Clinton said,

But there is no right to resort to violence when you don’t get your way. There is no right to kill people. There is no right to kill people who are doing their duty or minding their own business or children who are innocent in every way. Those are the people who perished in Oklahoma City. And those who claim such rights are wrong and un-American.

Whenever in our history people have believed that violence is a legitimate extension of politics, they have been wrong.

Freedom of political speech will never justify violence—never. Our Founding Fathers created a system of laws in which reason could prevail over fear. Without respect for this law, there is no freedom.

So I say this to the militias and all others who believe that the greatest threat to freedom comes from the Government instead of from those who would take away our freedom: If you say violence is an acceptable way to make change, you are wrong. If you say that Government is in a conspiracy to take your freedom away, you are just plain wrong. If you treat law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line for your safety every day like some kind of enemy army to be suspected, derided, and if they should enforce the law against you, to be shot, you are wrong. If you appropriate our sacred symbols for paranoid purposes and compare yourselves to colonial militias who fought for the democracy you now rail against, you are wrong. How dare you suggest that we in the freest nation on Earth live in tyranny! How dare you call yourselves patriots and heroes!

If you want to preserve your own freedom, you must stand up for the freedom of others with whom you disagree. But you also must stand up for the rule of law. You cannot have one without the other.

The American equation needs to be reset and this tragedy in Tucson offers us the opportunity to conduct some national soul searching.

You might not like Keith Olbermann, but his Special Comment about the Giffords shooting was a first step in the right direction.

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Let’s hope that President Obama can answer the bell in a national time of need and point a new way forward.  Because it’s time to incite a revolution of normalcy.

Carl Palindino

4 Jan

I think it’s interesting that Carl Paladino has singled out Elizabeth Benjamin to hector with his semi-literate Facebook rants.  They amount to little more than a madman’s shouting, replete with unsubstantiated, borderline libelous accusations, and a laundry list of slights, real and perceived.  Apparently reveling in his notoriety as a nasty, offensive crank, Paladino has become western New York’s Sarah Palin – his political relevance is thin, maintained only by Facebook status updates.

Despite the fact that Benjamin is but one of many reporters covering the Albany beat, he’s singled out the prominent young female for his screeds.  Not only does he know they’ll get maximum attention, but I think it reveals a latent misogyny.  It also reveals the fact that he blames his loss on the press, and it is now his sworn, mortal enemy.  Right down to the billboard on the side of an empty rusting hulk of a Paladino-owned building – an example and metaphor if ever there was one.

If he doesn’t like the way she conducts her YNN show, then he should get his own. He can call it “Mad as Hell with Carl & Friends”.

(HT Marquil at EmpireWire for the cartoon)

Liberal Heroes

14 Dec

I find particular delight in noting that Liberals who pride themselves on their free thought, smarts and cynicism can find themselves hood-winked like any other yokel. Let’s examine two such Liberal heroes, one who’s duping is over (for now), and the other who’s duping continues.

No politician in the last generation has been more things to more people than Barack Obama. His platform and campaign were a mirror to the country: pacifists saw a war-ender, progressives saw a single health payer, liberals saw a tax raiser, corporate interests saw a moderate, and moderates saw safety and reasonableness. Perhaps only the corporate interests are happy now.

President Obama started with a mandate and momentum, and used it almost immediately to get the Stimulus Plan he wanted (now too small for most Liberals and Progressives). Soon after, he took several trips abroad, apologizing for American hegemonistic policy promoting American interests. He bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia and the Emperor of Japan. He endured a tongue lashing from minor Chinese functionaries at a climate change summit. Republicans howled in public, but cheered in private. They had just learned an important lesson: President Obama is a push over. He really is all bark and no bite, all rhetoric and no governance, all talk and no brass pants. He goes down easy like Sunday morning.

Negotiations with the White House were never the same. In fact, they haven’t been negotiations for a while. Republicans demand and the White House acquiesces. Obama’s emperor clothes were finally fully revealed to his base in the latest tax cut plan. Liberals and progressives, suspicious after a moderate healthcare reform, are in full revolt over the Bush Tax Cut extensions. Suddenly, they sound like Republicans of a year ago, lamenting Obama’s testicular ineptitude, and noticing the subtle visuals, like trotting out former President Clinton to sell your tax plan . . . at the podium with the Presidential Seal. The schadenfruede is delicious.

"Can I be in charge for a while?"

The pragmatist in me notes that the heavy Office of the President moderates all men. The cynic in me notes that any President will be more beholden to the corporate interests that funded his campaign than any room full of plucky $100 donors. Obama begins campaigning for re-election January 1st. Expect a lot of rhetoric about “Finishing the Change We Started.” What substance is there? Will the ruse resume?

More alike than you think.

Our second duper is the Sarah Palin of the Left, Julian Assange. The parallels are striking, as the two orbit each other like comic book caricature yins and yangs. History couldn’t provide two better stereotypical symbols. Each represents a true believer cause for their constituency: evangelical tax cuts and transparency of American misdeeds. Each promises the same dream: a forging (or return) of America to some purer state. Each is a folk hero speaking truth to power that the other side “doesn’t want to hear.” Each superficially personifies and embodies the cause célèbre in a way appealing to their base: Palin is a Hockey Mom with one son in the Army and another with Downs that she chose to keep, Assange is vaguely European, in a haughty, intellectually superior sort of way. Each’s strength (Palin’s okey-dokey Every-Womanness and Assange’s smarts) embodies their side’s culture and are priority attributes for their followers, while turning off the opposition. Similarly, each’s personal shortcomings (Palin’s intellect and Assange’s sexual mores) are acceptable or forgivable because they are serving a higher purpose, while anathema to their critics. Each is fundamentally hypocritical (Palin’s teenage mom daughter and Beverly Hillbilly approach to fortune, Assange’s secrecy in the name of transparency and playing self-promoting editor while preaching freedom of information), but their followers don’t seem to care. Each whips up a frenzied furor envied by more staid and less successful politicians.

Oh, and each is full of shit. 

Assange’s fall from grace is a matter of when, not if. The only question is whether he similarly disappoints on his way down, or remains duping his adherents until the end.

Manning Up to Palin

2 Dec

Well, it’s about time.

Your humble writer has been waiting for a reputable national voice to harmonize with on the subject of Sarah Palin since her fortunate VP election loss. I had begun to fear that no such voice was coming. At least, before it was too late. Two years ago I declared Sarah Palin not the future. Since then it has been more a hope than a substantial prediction. Now, finally, blemishes in the immutable Republican Wall are appearing, and it seems our private political wilderness soul searching may finally turn public.

Image courtesy iMaksim.com

Conservatives have long taken unity as a point of pride. But equally cherished is Seriousness, of which Palin does not have a single bit in her entire body. Outsiders to the Republican movement can be forgiven for seeing a single monolith and criticizing it as such. But the fault lines are now publicly being displayed, and how the fractured Republican base reacts in the next year in the run-up to the next primary will be interesting to watch. Some camps to watch for and take note of:

It was The Bow Tie Crowd that drew me to Conservatism in the first place. These intellects, now mostly deceased, looked at the world with pragmatism as their ideology, and what worked became policy. William Buckley, Irving Kristol, William Safire were the greats – their (at times) adequate successors of George Will, David Brooks, and Charles Krauthammer (those who harrumphed at Krauthammer should read his very well reasoned and prescient recommendation to restructure the tax code around a gas tax – in effect, the Liberal dream consumption tax) will influence what is left of the reasoned, thinking wing of the party. Joe Scarborough’s defense of the “blue bloods” was really a defense of a more reasonable age where principles were held in a loser grip, and compromise was less of a four letter word. David Frum’s firing from the Bow Tie stronghold of the American Enterprise Institute did not bode well for the long term success of thinking conservatives. Perhaps we can reverse this trend. 

In the George W. Bush era, too many bow tie wearers branched off into Neo-conservatism. Irving’s progeny took up residency here some time ago, and Krauthammer dips his wheelchair spoke in regularly. Nostalgia for the Cold War and a “Yes We Can” attitude has been broken, humbled in wars in Central Asia that most Republicans are now questioning. Many outside of Republican circles may not realize that the neo-con movement involved large chunks of voters, not just a circle of Presidential advisors. Huge percentages of the electorate in 2002 and 2004 listed national security as their #1 issue. By 2006, that vote waned, and the movement lost steam, the Iraq Surge as the last full-throated gasp. The only national security issue I see in 2012 is how soon we are leaving Afghanistan, and at what cost. If Korea goes hot, however, please disregard everything I write in this column.

The previous boogeyman of the Left, the godful Evangelical Right, has been quietly disillusioned for some time. Note that Mike Huckabee is not a serious player, and Mitt Romney is a legit candidate. Sarah Palin spends more time burnishing her tax cutting rhetoric than publicly discussing her faith and explaining how she speaks in tongues. It will be better for the country as a whole if what is Caesar’s is left to Caesar, and the evangelicals concentrate on their faith and good works outside of the explicitly political arena.  

Which leaves us with the unhereto unmentioned Tea Party, the comic book-like hero antithesis of the Bow Tie villain. Uninformed, angry, unreasoned, and potent. Now that the grassroots enthusiasm won a (in the grand scheme of things, unimportant) midterm, the party is starting to question the rationality of letting such a force dictate the play for the upcoming grand prize in 2012. And for good reason. The Tea Party, like all emotional and ideologically driven movements, would rather take defeat over an impure victory. It is the great strength of America’s two party system that the establishment party battleships do not feel this way.

Many astute readers at this point are wondering where the vast majority of prominent Republican politicians fit in. Why, no where, of course. Mitch McConnell, John McCain, John Boehner, et al ceased having a camp a long time ago, and are now Corporate Politicians, more similar to their colleagues across the aisle than the constituency movements that organize to elect them. Those few politicians that are still part of a movement (Rand Paul) never rise to sufficient prominence to lead the party generally, though they can influence policy choices. And previous corporate politicians reduce their national chances by veering too far – intellectual heavyweight Newt Gingrich, for example, proponent of healthcare reform, has descended into Tea Party madness.

An intriguing difference between Republicans and Democrats is the opposing models their cultures use to head their movements. Democrats seek an Intellectual. Republicans look for a Leader and Manager. Conservative policy wonks would rather be on a staff or in a think tank than run for office. Democrats want their wonks (Clinton, Obama) on the top of the ticket. When elected, this means Republican Presidents have a deep bench of advisors, department heads, and policy analysts at their disposal. Democrats, not so much. At first blush, in 2000, George Bush was the perfect candidate – an empty vessel who would hire the right people and whose gut was in the right place. His appointees had more clout, credentials, and staying power than his successor, who chose poorly initially, and is seeing an exodus early. The model that has served Republicans well – pick a leader who leans on the intellectuals – is in peril. 

So where does this leave us for 2012? Is the party current capable of choosing Reagan, Bush or Bush again? Republicans are not comfortable with public disagreements and battles. We prefer to find a consensus candidate that balances competing forces – Bow Ties, Neo-cons, Evangelicals and Tea Partiers – behind the scenes. Joe Scarborough has rightly recognized that the danger in 2012 is that Sarah Palin, a vacuous movement true believer, has a shot at blowing that well crafted system out of the water. Will the rational party rally to save itself? We can hope.