Chris discusses this with his guests Heather McGhee (Demos.org) and Ta-Nehisi Coates (TheAtlantic.com) in the first ten minutes of the first segment of his Satarday show.
This is the second hour of the same discussion.
The most dangerous group of political extremists today is not the grass roots supporters of the Tea Party. It is the major sector of the Republican financial and ideological elite who have embraced the philosophy of “politics as warfare.”There is more in this very clear analysis of the collapse of American democratic politics.
Extremist political parties share a large number of common characteristics, one critical trait being a radically different conception of the role and purpose of the political party itself in a democratic society.
In the politics as warfare perspective a political party’s objective is defined as the conquest and seizure of power and not sincere collaboration in democratic governance. The party is viewed as a combat organization whose goal is to defeat an enemy, not a governing organization whose job is to faithfully represent the people who voted for it. Political debate and legislative maneuvering are seen not as the means to achieve ultimate compromise, but as forms of combat whose objective is total victory.
This basic conception of the role of political parties leads to the justification and use of two profoundly anti-democratic strategies.
First, in the politics as warfare perspective it is a legitimate strategy for a political party to paralyze the workings of government in order to prevent a democratically elected government of an opposing party from implementing the platform on which it was elected. In the politics as warfare perspective the extremist political party accepts no responsibility for stability—engineering the failure of the existing government is absolutely paramount and any negative consequences that may occur in the process represent a kind of “collateral damage” that must be accepted as inevitable in warfare.
Historically, the Republican Party never embraced this strategy at any time during the Democratic administrations of Truman, Kennedy or Carter. The strategy first made its appearance when Newt Gingrich engineered the shutdown of the government in 1994. After Obama’s election in 2008 the use of this “paralyze the government” tactic accelerated dramatically with the conversion of the filibuster into a minority veto of virtually all majoritysponsored legislation and a Republican bar to the huge numbers of judicial and administrative appointments. Previous generations of Republicans would have been scandalized by the notion of crippling the administration of justice by leaving courts grotesquely understaffed in order to prevent the appointment of individuals who did not strictly adhere to conservative orthodoxy.
The most dramatic escalation of this approach, however, occurred after the elections of 2010 and was reflected in the rejection of the very substantial reduction in federal spending that Obama offered the Republican house majority. Observers concurred that the deal was far more favorable to conservatives in terms of policy than the deal Ronald Reagan accepted in 1986 on tax reform or that Newt Gingrich accepted on welfare reform in 1995. But public statements by Republican leaders indicated that the deal was rejected in substantial part on the explicitly political grounds that any legislative agreement that produced a “victory” for Obama was unacceptable. In effect, the political objective of weakening the president had actually become a higher priority than the achievement of the most fundamental long-sought conservative policy goals.
It is almost impossible for anyone who does not remember previous eras of American politics to realize how extraordinary this transformation actually is. It would have been literally inconceivable to the Republican senators and congressmen of the 1950s and 1960s.
The second, even more directly and profoundly anti-democratic strategy that directly flows from the politics as warfare philosophy is the calculated attempt to disenfranchise likely pro-Democratic voters.
There were no systematic Republican initiatives to disenfranchise voters during the Nixon, Reagan or Gingrich eras. But after the 2008 elections Fox News began promulgating the notion that massive voter fraud had occurred. Fox News featured a video of two members of the New Black Panthers at a single polling site more than 100 times on its national programs, asserting that they had intimidated voters in order to insure Obama’s election.
Even after it was conclusively demonstrated2 that sworn eyewitness testimony had been intentionally falsified in order to fabricate this charge, Fox continued to air the accusations and to assert that they were the tip of the iceberg of similar incidents. In parallel, accusations were also made that massive numbers of fraudulent votes had been cast in the election. The result of these charges was a widespread grass-roots effort by local tea party groups to police polling places and record incidents of intimidation and fraudulent voting during the 2010 elections—an effort that produced not a single documented case anywhere in the country. Nonetheless, there is now a major, nationally coordinated and massively funded effort to prevent pro-Democratic constituencies from casting their ballots. TDS managing editor Ed Kilgore accurately summarized the situation as follows: Central Eyewitness Testimony.
In the wake of the 2010 elections, Republican governors and legislatures are engaging in a wave of restrictive voting legislation unlike anything this country has seen since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which signaled the defeat of the South’s long effort to prevent universal suffrage. This wave of activism is too universal to be a coincidence, and too broad to reflect anything other than a general determination to restrict the franchise. Millions of voters are affected….
As Ari Berman explained in an excellent recent summary of these developments for Rolling Stone, restrictive legislation, which has been introduced in 38 states and enacted (so far) in at least 12, can be divided into four main categories: restrictions on voter registration drives by nonpartisan, nonprofit civic and advocacy groups; cutbacks in early voting opportunities; new, burdensome identification requirements for voting; and reinstitution of bans on voting by ex-felons.
While new voter ID laws have clearly been coordinated by the powerful conservative state legislative lobbying network ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), other initiatives have spread almost virally. Virtually all of these restrictions demonstrably target segments of the electorate—the very poor, African-Americans and Hispanics, college students, and organizations trying to register all of the above—that tend to vote for Democrats.
In previous decades large sectors of the Republican elite would have been extremely uncomfortable with such measures and a significant group would have been vocally critical. Today, however, there is literally not a single significant figure in the Republican universe who is publicly objecting. The overwhelming influence of Fox News and talk radio have converted the notions that Obama represents a threat as massive as the rise of Hitler did in Germany, and that massive voter fraud is occurring all across the country, into passionately held urban legends that Republican elites no longer dare—or indeed
even wish—to challenge.
There are two profoundly disturbing conclusions that must be faced: First, the paralysis of government and the disenfranchisement of citizens are not “business as usual” for American conservatism. They are not attempts to prevent or reverse the enactment of particular policies and bills to which conservatives object but are rather strategies that strike at the most basic institutions and operations of representative democracy itself. To put it bluntly, they are not the policies of conservatives—they are strategies of political extremism.
Second, these strategies are not the products of a disreputable fringe of grass roots conservative activists, but have been designed, executed, endorsed and financed by a major sector of the Republican and conservative financial and ideological elite. The extraordinary fact that there is no major group or individual within the Republican coalition vocally objecting to these measures, as would have occurred in the past, offers the most profoundly disturbing evidence imaginable of the widespread tacit approval by the Republican elite.
Progressives are atheistic socialists who want to impose Sharia law. Class warfare is evil; also, John Kerry is too rich. And so on.I think - perhaps just hope - that the Occupy Wall Street movement is the first real indication that the mass American population has begun to awaken to the threat that the American conservative movement as it is now structured poses to American democracy and to American values.
The key to understanding this, I’d suggest, is that movement conservatism has become a closed, inward-looking universe in which you get points not by sounding reasonable to uncommitted outsiders — although there are a few designated pundits who play that role professionally — but by outdoing your fellow movement members in zeal.
It’s sort of reminiscent of Stalinists going after Trotskyites in the old days: the Trotskyites were left deviationists, and also saboteurs working for the Nazis. Didn’t propagandists feel silly saying all that? Not at all: in their universe, extremism in defense of the larger truth was no vice, and you literally couldn’t go too far.
Many members of the commentariat don’t want to face up to the fact that this is what American politics has become; they cling to the notion that there are gentlemanly elder statesmen on the right who would come to the fore if only Obama said the right words. But the fact is that nobody on that side of the political spectrum wants to or can make deals with the Islamic atheist anti-military warmonger in the White House.
Strap yourself in; this is not going to be fun.
(Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and top U.S. military and intelligence leaders delivered a tough warning to Pakistan on Thursday to cut suspected ties with militant groups which have upset relations between the uneasy allies.It's clear that Pakistan's cooperation is going to be necessary to resolve the US combat situation in Afghanistan, and the leaders of the ISI are aware of that. They are depending on that fact to keep the US from punishing Pakistan as a nation for the bad behavior of the ISI. The message from Secretary Clinton is clearly part of the process of ramping up the pressure on Pakistan.
Clinton led a heavyweight U.S. team at talks in Islamabad to
press Pakistani counterparts on U.S. accusations that Pakistan assists militants who launch attacks on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border and increasingly threaten U.S. interests.
"The meeting lasted for four hours. It was extremely frank, the discussion was very detailed," a senior U.S. official said after the meeting, adding that more discussions were planned for Friday.
The visit by Clinton, CIA director David Petraeus and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, was a sign that Washington is determined to get its message across amid rising tensions among three key players in the Afghanistan war.
The meeting included Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, the powerful army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, and Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who heads the Inter-services Intelligence (ISI) agency which U.S. officials have singled out for its alleged support of militant groups.
Earlier on Thursday during a visit to Kabul, Clinton said it was time to send a "clear, unequivocal message" to Pakistan that it must step up efforts to broker an end to the decade-long war in Afghanistan and crack down on safe havens used by militants.
"They must be part of the solution and that means ridding their own country of terrorists who kill their own people and cross the border to kill in Afghanistan," Clinton said.
Washington (CNN) -- The Southern Plains of the United States are likely to see a continuation of a severe drought this winter, while the Pacific Northwest will be colder and wetter than average, according to data released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.It looks like I need to replace my st. Augustine grass lawn with cactus or something similar. Oh, and reduce my steak-based meals since the price of beef will continue to climb.
La Nina is expected to influence weather patterns across the country for the second year in a row. Weather officials say with La Nina in place, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and other surrounding states are unlikely to get enough rain to alleviate the ongoing drought.
"Ninety-one percent of Texas, 87 percent of Oklahoma and 63 percent of New Mexico are experiencing extreme or exceptional drought," said David Brown, director of the Southern Region Climate Services based in Fort Worth, Texas.
Parts of Texas and Oklahoma are more than 30 inches below average in rainfall this year, with little in the forecast to predict the trend is going to change as the winter months approach.
Progressives must come to terms with the fact that the 35% or so of Americans who make up the conservative base have been radicalized far beyond the point of no return. They are activist class warriors on behalf of the top 1% of "producers." They are activist culture warriors against minority communities who will happily advance minority figureheads as exceptional standardbearers in order to prove their point.This is the "Two Tribes" Digby has been writing about for the last decade. I am going to write more about these two tribes in the near future but until I do, I strongly recommend Francis Fukuyama's new book The Origins of Political Order.
We are now a nation hopelessly divided. On one side is a large faction of people who understand that the financial classes and the super-wealthy are mostly a parasitic class; that the middle class has much more in common with the poor than it does with the wealthy; that workers produce wealth, and that demand produces prosperity; that poor communities are disadvantaged not by the inherent failings of their people but by the oppressive nature of their circumstances; and that we humans and creatures of this earth are all in the same boat together.
On the other side is a large group of people who believe that over half of Americans are parasitic dead weight who should not be allowed to vote; that the interests of the middle class are aligned with the interests of hedge fund managers; that only a select few very wealthy people produce society's goods; that poor communities are poor through their own moral failings; and that the society's "producers" should behave however they please to people and creatures unfortunate enough to find themselves at their mercy.
And in the middle are about 20% of Americans paying too little attention to have much of an opinion either way.
I suppose it was inevitable that the burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movement would be compared with the Tea Party, but the level of misunderstanding and myth surrounding the latter's "populist" bona fides is surprising to even the most cynical observer.Click Here to read the rest.
There may be surface similarities between the two uprisings, but they actually represent two opposing populist worldviews, whose only philosophical resemblance to one another is their belief that they speak for "the people" against the elites. While both movements are mainly concerned with economic issues, their beliefs about the causes and solutions they propose couldn't be more different.
One of the central myths about the Tea Party is that it came about as a reaction against the Wall Street bailouts. It's true that there were some scattered "Tea Parties" around the Ron Paul campaign in 2008, but virtually everyone agrees that the movement was really galvanised by a famous rant from CNBC anchor Rick Santelli from the trading floor of the Chicago commodities exchange.
Only one month into the Obama administration, Santelli called for a "new Tea Party" to be held on tax day, April 15, and it became an instant YouTube sensation and rallying cry for the right wing.
He was mad about bailouts alright, but not the Wall Street bailouts. What sparked his fury was the proposed plan to help average homeowners in trouble with their mortgages. Santelli raved: "Do we really want to subsidise the losers' mortgages? This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbour's mortgage? President Obama, are you listening? How about we all stop paying our mortgages! It's a moral hazard."
"Do we really want to subsidise the losers?"
- Rick Santelli, CNBC anchor
Here's how his colleague Lawrence Kudlow characterised the outburst: "Santelli called for a new Tea Party in support of capitalism. He's right."
Support for capitalism - and antipathy toward government interference in it - is the very essence of Tea Party populism. There wasn't much talk about the moral hazard of a "too big to fail" banking system but there was plenty of fulminating about government interference in "the market" and righteous anger about the stimulus plan and what they characterised as the "government takeover" of the healthcare system.
It was never about corporate greed, but was about the usual right wing resentment at the government spending their tax money on people they don't think have earned it. These are not billionaire bankers - they are the people on the lower rungs of the ladder. Unsurprisingly, this attitude turned out to be useful to corporate interests looking to allay any real populist impulses among the citizenry, and they soon moved in through various means to help the "movement" organise itself.
Contrary to various accounts surfacing lately ostensibly to warn the Occupy Wall Street supporters of the dangers of being similarly "co-opted" it was a very happy love match, not a marriage of convenience.
Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, while being endlessly harrangued by wags and pundits about its alleged lack of goals and lists of grievances, is actually focused pretty clearly on the same thing as the populists of the Gilded Age - those whom Teddy Roosevelt called the "malefactors of great wealth".
Their rallying cry is "we are the 99 per cent" which represents the huge number of those of us who have been treading water or losing ground over the past 30 years, while and the upper one per cent of the population swallows up more and more of the nation's wealth. This shocking income inequality is finally reaching a critical mass that is animating the OWS movement.
Indifference of the rich
This movement wasn't catalysed by a wealthy commentator issuing a cri de guerre on a stock market show on TV. There has been a growing anti-corporate populist critique on the left for nearly 20 years, first in the form of the anti-globalisation movement and more recently in the more mainstream response to a series of assaults on workers' rights, notably in Wisconsin and Ohio.
The arrogant indifference of the very rich to the carnage they left behind in the wake of their spectacular meltdown in 2008, and the apparent impotence of democratic institutions to hold them to account, has finally mobilised the masses.
the study was not designed to answer what it is about more affluent neighborhoods that would cause someone to be healthier. But the authors listed four theories:The results are not based on personal decisions. They are based on environment. That does not mean that personal decisions are not a factor in obesity and diabetes, just that environment is also an important factor.
_ The availability of healthier food is worse in lower-income neighborhoods.
_ Opportunities for physical exercise are scarcer, and fear of crime can make people afraid to jog or play in parks.
_ There may be fewer doctors' offices and other medical services.
_ The long-term stress of living in such an environment may alter the hormones that control weight.
The Tea Party, for all its apparent populism, revolves around a vision of power and how to attain it. Tea Partiers tend to be white, male, Republican, graying, married and comfortable; the political system once worked for them, and they think it can be made to do so again. They revile government, but they adore hierarchy and order.The OWS individuals in contrast show:
Deep anger at grotesque inequities extends far beyond this one encampment; after all, a few handfuls of young activists do not have a monopoly on the fight against plutocracy. Revulsion in the face of a perverse economy is felt by many respectable people: unemployed, not yet unemployed, shakily employed and plain disgusted. A month from now, this movement, still busy being born, could look quite different.I like Gitlin's distinctions between the OWS demonstrators and the tea partiers. Both are angry at the disaster the elites have heaped on America and on most Americans. One major difference between the two groups, as Todd Gitlin points out, is that the OWS are anarchists and the tea partiers deeply love hierarchy and order (even to the point of approaching fascism though they will never admit that.)
And yet it remains true that the core of the movement, the (mostly young and white, skilled but jobless) people who started the “occupation” three weeks ago, consists of what right-wing critics call anarchists.
IN this recent incarnation, anarchism, for the most part, is not so much a theory of the absence of government, but a theory of self-organization, or direct democracy, as government. The idea is that you do not need institutions because the people, properly assembled, properly deliberating, even in one square block of Lower Manhattan, can regulate themselves.
This new protest style is more Rousseau than Marx. ... It likes government more than corporations, but its own style is hardly governmental. It tends to care about process more than results.
And oh, how it loves to talk. It is no surprise that it makes fervent use of the technologies of horizontal communication, of Facebook and Twitter, though the instinct predated — perhaps prefigured — those tools. Not coincidentally, this was also the spirit of the more or less leaderless, partyless revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt that are claimed as inspiration in Lower Manhattan. An “American Autumn” is their shot at an echo of the “Arab Spring.”
OCCUPY Wall Street, then, emanates from a culture — strictly speaking, a counterculture — that is diametrically opposed to Tea Party discipline. ... Such movements hope to remain forever under construction, fluid, unfixed. They slip laughingly through the nets of journalism, which prefers hard-and-fast answers to the question “What do you people want?”
[Can] ... the inchoate quality of the Occupy Wall Street movement ... continue[?] Probably not, since an evolving alliance demands concrete goals, strategies and compromises. But perhaps something of the initial free spirit can flourish. There is plenty of public sentiment to nourish it. It doesn’t take public opinion polls to detect American anger at the plutocracy and the impunity with which it lords it over the country.
The culture of anarchy is right about this: The corporate rich — those ostensible “job creators” who somehow haven’t gotten around to creating jobs — rule the Republican Party and much of the Democratic Party as well, having artfully arranged a mutual back-scratching society to enrich themselves. A refusal to compromise with this system, defined by its hierarchies of power and money, would be the current moment of anarchy’s great, lasting contribution.
Until now, fury at the plutocracy and the political class had found no channel to run in but the antigovernment fantasies of the Tea Party. Now it has dug a new channel. Anger does not move countries, but it moves movements — and movements, in turn, can move countries. To do that, movements need leverage. Even Archimedes needed a lever and a place to stand to move the world. When Zuccotti Park meets an aroused liberalism, the odd couple may not live happily ever after. But they can make a serious run at American dreams of “liberty and justice for all.”
What can we say about the protests? First things first: The protesters’ indictment of Wall Street as a destructive force, economically and politically, is completely right.[I have reformatted what Krugman wrote into bullet points but this remains an exact verbatim quote.]
A weary cynicism, a belief that justice will never get served, has taken over much of our political debate — and, yes, I myself have sometimes succumbed. In the process, it has been easy to forget just how outrageous the story of our economic woes really is. So, in case you’ve forgotten, it was a play in three acts.
There are a lot of people who are really angry/upset over the Wall Street Crisis of 2008 and its aftermath and who don't think anyone has done anything about it. That's the source of the nationwide anger at Wall Street and at the wealthy slackers who are refusing to do anything except exploit the less wealthy. The Occupy Wall Street demonstration is their expression, and it's beginning to have an effect.
Given this history, how can you not applaud the protesters for finally taking a stand?
- In the first act, bankers took advantage of deregulation to run wild (and pay themselves princely sums), inflating huge bubbles through reckless lending.
- In the second act, the bubbles burst — but bankers were bailed out by taxpayers, with remarkably few strings attached, even as ordinary workers continued to suffer the consequences of the bankers’ sins.
- And, in the third act, bankers showed their gratitude by turning on the people who had saved them, throwing their support — and the wealth they still possessed thanks to the bailouts — behind politicians who promised to keep their taxes low and dismantle the mild regulations erected in the aftermath of the crisis.
I, at least, am a lot more offended by the sight of exquisitely tailored plutocrats, who owe their continued wealth to government guarantees, whining that President Obama has said mean things about them than I am by the sight of ragtag young people denouncing consumerism.
Bear in mind, too, that experience has made it painfully clear that men in suits not only don’t have any monopoly on wisdom, they have very little wisdom to offer.
It would probably be helpful if protesters could agree on at least a few main policy changes they would like to see enacted. But we shouldn’t make too much of the lack of specifics. It’s clear what kinds of things the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators want, and it’s really the job of policy intellectuals and politicians to fill in the details.
Rich Yeselson, a veteran organizer and historian of social movements, has suggested that debt relief for working Americans become a central plank of the protests. I’ll second that, because such relief, in addition to serving economic justice, could do a lot to help the economy recover. I’d suggest that protesters also demand infrastructure investment — not more tax cuts — to help create jobs. Neither proposal is going to become law in the current political climate, but the whole point of the protests is to change that political climate.
And there are real political opportunities here. Not, of course, for today’s Republicans, who instinctively side with those Theodore Roosevelt-dubbed “malefactors of great wealth.” Mitt Romney, for example — who, by the way, probably pays less of his income in taxes than many middle-class Americans — was quick to condemn the protests as “class warfare.”
But Democrats are being given what amounts to a second chance. The Obama administration squandered a lot of potential good will early on by adopting banker-friendly policies that failed to deliver economic recovery even as bankers repaid the favor by turning on the president. Now, however, Mr. Obama’s party has a chance for a do-over. All it has to do is take these protests as seriously as they deserve to be taken.
Recent scandals involving Wall Street banks and financial institutions, headed by some of the world's most well-paid managers, executives and analysts, have many Americans asking themselves whether this game is rigged. It is this sense of injustice, coupled with economic insecurity, that animates changes in Americans' attitudes toward Wall Street. It's not just a small number of Americans, those who are actually "occupying" Wall Street, who feel such injustice. That's just the tip of the iceberg.It was perfectly obvious by 2009 to the public that the financial collapse that occurred in the fall of 2008 was the direct result of extreme and reckless risk-taking by Wall Street bankers. It soon became equally clear that those banks considered themselves too big to fail, so they had been free to take insane risks with other people's money. They would get the winnings and the American taxpayers would take the losses.
Americans have never exactly loved Wall Street stockbrokers or bankers—but we certainly didn't always hate them. Why this increasing hostility? The answer is a "perfect storm" of financial turmoil and a series of major scandals on Wall Street.
According to ... Harris Interactive, the percent of Americans with a great deal of confidence in the people running Wall Street had already reached an all-time low of just 4 percent by February of 2009. These figures are not just a reflection of Americans' dissatisfaction with the size of their bank accounts — they also reflect the increasing belief that Wall Street is playing a game that only the bankers can win.
Economic hard times, such as global recessions, do tend to bring about small, but noticeable drops in the public's confidence in Wall Street, just as we might expect falling confidence in a military that is losing a war.
But when economic downturns coincide with major scandals, as in the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s and our current dilemma, the biggest changes in public confidence result — changes that may have contributed to the protests we are seeing on Wall Street today. In other words, Americans really begin to get angry when there is evidence of systematic foul play.
To be sure, material hardships such as unemployment rates in the 9 percent range and the continuing high levels of foreclosures and bankruptcies undoubtedly set the stage for a public outcry. But this outcry has a distinctly moral tenor. The sentiments of the Occupy protestors holding signs reading "Blame Wall Street Greed," "People not Profits" and "Wall Street was the Real Weapons of Mass Destruction" certainly echo the wider American public's sense of moral indignation.
Just 26 percent of Americans in an April 2011 Harris poll thought the people working on Wall Street were "as honest and moral as other people" (for a point of comparison, the percentage was 51 in 1997). In that same poll, 67 percent of Americans agreed that "most people on Wall Street would be willing to break the law if they believed they could make a lot of money and get away with it."