This morning on Weekend Edition we learned that the most oppressed people in the universe are totally those billionaires who selflessly give to political candidates dark-money slush funds and must endure – steel yourselves, people, this isn’t pretty – criticism for doing so.

And, in what I’m sure they feel is an unironic action, they are citing a 1950’s case protecting NAACP members’ identities as relevant.

Yes, Karl Rove fears that our maligned billionaire class will be intimidated and will no longer fund his biannual grifting operation donate to civic-minded groups like, say, Rove’s own Crossroads GPS.

What’s worse, some people mock these benighted mega-rich, suggesting that disclosure hasn’t done anything to actually threaten their well being, if, by well-being, you mean “things other than a potential drop in reportable revenues.”

It’s that sissy liberal media who think people like Malala Yousafzai are courageous, because of the whole getting shot standing up for women’s education, or Victoria Soto, who only put herself between an assault rifle and a classroom full of 6 and 7-year olds. They simply don’t appreciate the fear that one lives with, day after day, when you have to worry about whether people who make far less money than you do have the temerity to criticize you, and if your security staff might qualify for benefits.

It would be unseemly of me to wish on these brave heroes of the moneyed class the kind of real fear that was behind the Supreme Court decision they seek to abuse – the thought that someone might fire a shotgun into your house, and that the someone who did it was the same person taking your statement when you reported this to the local sheriff.  Or that people who killed your neighbor for registering you to vote are getting away with it because the “justice” system in your town is part of the group that ordered the hit.

Unseemly, perhaps, but I can’t guarantee that the thought doesn’t find fleeting life in my mind when I let down my guard.

Posted by: mutantpoodle | December 30, 2012

It’s about Duty…

Earlier this fall, on a long drive home, I caught an episode of On Being, and a discussion between David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch. Blankenhorn is founder and president of the Institute for American Values, and Rauch is the author of Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America.

So their initial interactions involved a lot of disagreeing.

Their conversation was fascinating, because it was clear that they had, over the years, actually listened to each other, and Blankenhorn, this past summer, reversed his opposition to gay marriage.

There was one section that stuck out for me, later on on the discussion:

Mr. Blankenhorn: You know, we called what we did achieving disagreement.

Ms.Tippett: Yeah, I like that.

Mr. Blankenhorn: See, because it’s easy to have a false disagreement. I can just say, oh, you’re a bad person and you’re stupid. You’re some kind of religious zealot or something. I can just have a belief. But to actually know where we disagree requires effort from you and from me. We have to have a relationship to do that. And part of achieving disagreement means identifying areas of common ground. It means finding out where we agree.

Otherwise, how do you know where you disagree if you don’t also know where you agree? And that, I’ll tell you, in today’s world of hyperpolarization and the sheer idiocy that is our public debate on most days, 98 percent of the time, you know, the heart just cries out for this kind of, you know, serious effort to achieve disagreement.

Mr. Rauch: Could I just say there’s another element of this which was important to me and I think is for me what started pushing me in your direction is when I believe there’s an element of patriotism about this. I believe that there are higher values ultimately than what each of us wants as individuals.

I discovered in you I thought someone who understood that you’re a multivalue person and that as strongly as you felt about marriage, that you felt even more strongly that we have to share the country. And it is our duty as citizens to find ways to live together, and that that’s a higher value still. I equate that with a form of patriotism. When I see someone who won’t compromise, I see someone betraying the core purposes of our Constitution, which is to force compromise. That’s what James Madison was doing.

Mr. Blankenhorn: Right. Exactly.

Mr. Rauch: And I saw in you someone who is willing to say, you know, being right about marriage is not as important to me as making a pact with my fellow Americans on the other side so that we can share this country.

Mr. Blankenhorn: We can live together, yeah.

Mr. Rauch: There’s nothing soft and squishy about that.

Ms.Tippett: Right.

Mr. Blankenhorn: It comes across that way sometimes, but I do think I agree I think it’s a kind of patriotism. And you write — you know, Jon has written for gay audiences, you know, and said things like he said, like it’s time to like give these religious people a bit of a break and not press our advantage. It’s time — I’m not trying to put words in his mouth, but he says this. He says, you know, sometimes a sweeping court decision to impose gay marriage may be not the best way to achieve the goal. I can only imagine the criticism that comes your way, you know, from your own community about that, but I think on our best days we both sometimes try for that a little bit. [Emphasis mine]

The host, Krista Tippet, then mentioned a separate discussion between Alice Rivlin, founding Director of the CBO and Clinton administration official, and former Republican Senator Pete Domenici. Here’s a small piece:

Ms. Tippett: I mean, did you have a kind of working relationship and political relationship that this seemed like an obvious thing for you to start working together on the debt reduction taskforce? Or how did that happen?

Ms. Rivlin: Yes. And you have to remember that when Pete and I first met, I was the director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. He was a freshman senator on the budget committee and I appeared frequently, testifying before the budget committee. And I quickly figured out, this man’s really smart and he really cares about doing it right. So we had a mutual respect that goes back a long way.

Now, we always knew that he was a Republican, I was a Democrat. And later, much later, actually, when I became the budget director in the first Clinton administration and Pete was the chairman of the budget committee in the Republican-dominated Senate, we were on opposite sides. Clearly. And we disagreed on substantive matters, but we never lost our respect for each other. And I think that’s the key to this.

People can disagree on all sorts of things, but if they listen to each other and have respect for each other, they can work things out. And we’ve kind of lost that idea that you have to work things out and compromise and come to a conclusion. Because gridlock, which we have now in the budget, is the worst possible thing, especially with respect to a problem like the budget deficit, which gets worse if you do nothing. Gridlock is fatal for this problem.

Now, I may have issues with Ms. Rivlin (and Paul Krugman would heartily disagree about the danger of our current deficits and debt), but I think she is right that mutual respect is the foundation of successful political compromise, and that compromise is how this country lurches forward.

And therein lies the problem.

I have been thinking, post-election, about the obligations of elected officials. Nationally, at least, they swear an oath to the constitution, so they are not bound by that oath to particular viewpoints; they are not bound to keep us at peace or to keep the hungry fed, or maintain our infrastructure, or make opportunities equally available to all citizens, no matter how much I think they should. And, to be fair, you might get some disagreement on how to achieve those goals from people of good will and different perspectives.

But listening to the over-hyped Fiscal CliffTM coverage made me think back to an actual near-catastrophe: the 2011 debt-ceiling fiasco. This was a time when one could argue that congresscritters unwilling to allow a debt ceiling increase to pass were violating their oaths, if one chooses to read the 14th amendment that way.

Steve Kornacki has a piece in Salon which reframes the Tea Party from a movement to a mindset:

As I wrote back in ’10, the Tea Party essentially gave a name to a phenomenon we’ve seen before in American politics – fierce, over-the-top resentment of and resistance to Democratic presidents by the right. It happened when Bill Clinton was president, it happened when Lyndon Johnson was president, it happened when John F. Kennedy was president. When a Democrat claims the White House, conservatives invariably convince themselves that he is a dangerous radical intent on destroying the country they know and love and mobilize to thwart him.

The twist in the Obama-era is that some of the conservative backlash has been directed inward. This is because the right needed a way to explain how a far-left anti-American ideologue like Obama could have won 53 percent of the popular vote and 365 electoral votes in 2008….

Thus did the Tea Party movement represent a two-front war – one a conventional one against the Democratic president, and the other a new one against any “impure” Republicans. Besides a far-right ideology, the trait shared by most of the Tea Party candidates who have won high-profile primaries these past few years has been distance from what is perceived as the GOP establishment. Whether they identify with the Tea Party or not, conservative leaders, activists and voters have placed a real premium on ideological rigidity and outsider status; there’s no bigger sin than going to Washington and giving ground, even just an inch, to the Democrats.

It’s hard to look around right now and not conclude that the Republican Party is still largely in the grip of this mindset.

I’d argue that the Tea Party has its explanation for Obama’s election and re-election. It’s the gifts he gives to the “takers”. It’s the less-American so-called “citizens” voting for the un-American President (if he really, legally, IS President).

It is, in short, that Obama’s elections are illegitimate.

That’s less important, I think, than how that translates into action.

Back to the Fiscal CliffTM. If a politician believes that it is terrible to raise taxes – ever – that’s certainly his or her right. If they believe that the national debt is a ticking time bomb, and that deficits are unjustifiable, that’s OK, too. (However, it would help if you hadn’t frittered away your credibility on the subject by exploding both the annual deficit and the national debt when you had power.)

But now it is time for governing, and each side has to make a choice between the policy that will happen (Fiscal CliffTM) if nothing is done and some alternative that might come up to mitigate it.

I, for example, might prefer the cliff to a deal that touches social security, although unemployment extension and other stimulus is likely worth some pain I might not otherwise like.

Republicans, on the other hand, might like the non-defense spending cuts element of the cliff but very little else.

And nobody, apparently, wants taxes to go up on people making under $250,000 a year.

I won’t be heartbroken if no deal is made. (That said, I’ll be surprised if one doesn’t come about by mid-January.) And it’s not any representative’s duty to agree to something they don’t like.

It would be nice if they understood that inaction is a choice, and it would be good if people were held accountable for it.  Their choice, after all,  is between the best paths available, not between what they want and what is offered.

Sadly, in the world we live in, where people worry about the President being mean to the same Republicans who question his heritage and patriotism while they put the country’s credit at risk, any sort of accountability is for another lifetime.

Or, as Maha put it:

They’ve somehow simultaneously staked claims on both “love it or leave it” super-nationalism and “hate the Gubmint” anarchism. If you don’t want to either destroy the government or secede, you can’t be a true patriot.

The Tea Party is powerless to stop the United States from transforming itself into the fully diverse, minority-majority nation we are destined to become. Rather than adapt to changing times, they prefer to take their ball and go home. I imagine they would consider Mr. Rauch’s riff on higher values (secular ones, to be sure!) as dangerous collectivism, as opposed to what it really reflects: a desire to maintain a community.

They are, in short, unwilling to share our country: a country, I might add, that they don’t own in the first place. And I think that is why I find the Tea Party – at least as they exist in the governing sphere – so offensive.

Posted by: mutantpoodle | December 28, 2012

Bonus Friday Tunes

Plus a remembrance.

Fontella Bass, who sung Rescue Me, died Wednesday at 72. More here, including the gem that the song’s signature humming came about because she lost her lyric sheet.

Posted by: mutantpoodle | December 28, 2012

Friday Night Tunes

Since the family watched Meet Me in St. Louis last night…

Posted by: mutantpoodle | December 28, 2012

Another friendly gesture from our alleged “ally”

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Romney speaks to Republican Jewish Coalition of Florida in Boca RatonBenjamin Netanyahu is about to appoint Ron Dermer, his connection to the Romney campaign, as Israel’s ambassador to the United States. A bit on Dermer from Haaretz:

1. Dermer, who immigrated from the U.S. in 1997, is clearly identified by the Obama administration as a supporter of the Republican party. His family in Miami Beach have close ties with the Bush family, particularly with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who’s name has been mentioned as one of a number of possible contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. 2. Aside from identifying him as a Republican supporter, many Democrats see Dermer as the brains behind Netanyahu’s support for Mitt Romney. An article published in Tablet Magazine a few months before the elections revealed that Dermer was the one who conceived and planned Romney’s visit to Israel in July this year, along with Dan Senor, an advisor to Romney:

“Romney’s visit is the brainchild of two other men: Ron Dermer, the American-born political operative who is Netanyahu’s chief strategist and speechwriter and, more importantly, Dan Senor, a Republican politico-turned-investor who is a close adviser to the Romney campaign. But the current trip, coming so late in the campaign season, was planned quietly, for fear of provoking a possible last-minute visit by President Obama. Late last month, while Senor was in Jerusalem for his niece’s bat mitzvah, he met Dermer for breakfast at the King David Hotel; a few days later, with the Romney campaign’s blessing, Dermer gave the scoop to the New York Times.”

3. Dermer is also the person who tried to convince Netanyahu by any means possible that Romney was set to win the elections. We saw what happened in the end. With the Obama starting his second term in the White House, it will be hard for Dermer to develop a network of trusted and intimate contacts among the president’s most senior advisors.

This will go well.

[Via TPM]

Posted by: mutantpoodle | December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Tunes

I may have posted this before, but I am unrepentant.  In the midst of the short-lived Studio 60, Aaron Sorkin gave us this musical tribute to New Orleans more than a year after Katrina, and showed how battered that city still was.

It would be nice to have a holiday that doesn’t come in the wake of tragedies, whether natural or man-made. Until then, Merry Christmas, and peace.

Posted by: mutantpoodle | December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

From earlier this month, a little impromptu pre-show jam with Mariah Carey and the house band playing instruments you’d find in a school classroom.

Enjoy the holiday.

Posted by: mutantpoodle | December 23, 2012

Least Surprising Headline Ever


No one could have predicted…

The other winning line from “Fountains of Wayne” LaPierre:

If it’s crazy to call for putting police in and securing our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy.

Oh, Wayne. That train left the station long ago. As Charlie Pierce said of Friday’s performance, you had “bats flying out of both ears.”

Also NBC? It’s only an exclusive if he won’t say it to anyone else.

Posted by: mutantpoodle | December 21, 2012

Friday Night Tunes

Flash mob Hallelujah Chorus in a food court.

My only beef is that, occurring on November 10, it symbolizes the worst of holiday creep.

Merry Christmas.

Posted by: mutantpoodle | December 21, 2012

I’ll take unhinged lunatics for $1000, Alex…

I was stuck in traffic this morning, so rather than running around UCLA listening to the music of my iPhone’s choosing, I listened to the first 20 minutes of NRA Executive VP Wayne LaPierre’s screed against the media, because the biggest victim of last week’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was, of course, the NRA.

I can’t imagine anything more tone deaf and insensitive than LaPierre’s speech. I won’t call his event a press conference, since he could have simply mailed his hateful statement to the media on Monday and embargoed it until today. He didn’t take any questions, the NRA didn’t back off one iota from it’s “don’t talk about guns” mantra, and, given instances where LaPierre repeated himself,* clearly no one spent any time editing his bile.

And I’d think his statement was horrible even if all it consisted of was his lunatic plan to throw a soft-bellied retired cop in front of every school in the country. There’s actually some evidence on this front: it wouldn’t work, except to make clear who a shooter’s first target should be:

In fact, there was an armed sheriff’s deputy at Columbine High School the day of the shooting. There was an armed citizen in the Clackamas Mall in Oregon during a shooting earlier this month. There was an armed citizen at the Gabby Giffords shooting – and he almost shot the unarmed hero who tackled shooter Jared Loughner. Virtually every university in the county already has its own police force. Virginia Tech had its own SWAT-like team. As James Brady, Ronald Reagan’s former press secretary cum gun control advocate, often notes, he was shot along with the president, despite the fact that they were surrounded by dozens of heavily armed and well-trained Secret Service agents and police.

But that assumes that the NRA is serious, as opposed to hoping against hope that people will stop focusing in guns. So we get this:

Out of respect for the families and until the facts are known, the NRA has refrained from comment.

Which didn’t stop LaPierre from suggesting that movies that Adam Lanza may or may not have seen and video games that Lanza may or may not have played is the root cause of gun violence.

In fact, the only time LaPierre mentioned guns or bullets in the context of the Sandy Hook shootings was to complain about how the gun and the bullets were being inaccurately described:

The media calls semi-automatic fire arms, machine guns. They claim these civilian semi-automatic fire arms are used by the military. They tell us that the .223 is one of the most powerful rifle calibers, when all of these claims are factually untrue, they don’t know what they’re talking about.

I’m sure that the friends and families of Noah Pozner, Avielle Richman, Benjamin Wheeler, Caroline Previdi, Olivia Engel, Madeleine F. Hsu, Allison N. Wyatt, Jesse Lewis, Catherine V. Hubbard, Emilie Parker, Jessica Rekos, Jack Pinto, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, James Mattioli , Dylan Hockley, Charlotte Bacon, Josephine Gay, Grace McDonnell, Chase Kowalski, Daniel Barden,Victoria Soto, Rachel Davino, Lauren Rousseau, Dawn Hochsprung, Anne Marie Murphy, and Mary Sherlach are comforted in the knowledge that the Bushmaster AR-15 is not a military weapon, and that the .223 caliber bullets that shredded the flesh of their loved ones aren’t, in fact, the most powerful rifle caliber.

Yeah, Wayne – fuck you.

I had a fleeting thought, as LaPierre was interrupted multiple times by protesters: had I shown up at the LaPierre statement with an AR-15, would I have been allowed inside? Something tells me that the NRA’s embrace of guns, guns everywhere has its limits.

In a just world, the NRA would be considered a fringe organization. People wouldn’t listen to them, much less broadcast a spittle-infested statement by a spokesman who’d better hope that the United States doesn’t develop the “active national database of the mentally ill” whose absence he descried, because I can only assume that the name of Wayne LaPierre would be at the top of that list.

George H.W. Bush famously quit the NRA after one of their officials referred to ATF agents as jackbooted thugs “wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms.” Want to guess who that was? Yeah, our very own Wayne LaPierre.

From now on, membership in the NRA should be as toxic as being a birther, which is to say that lots of Republicans will stay on, but NRA Democrats – get out now, stop listening to crazy people, and do something about guns.


*For example: “…the National Rifle Association knows there are millions of qualified and active retired police, active, Reserve, and retired military, security professionals, certified firefighters, security professionals, rescue personnel, an extraordinary corps of patriotic, trained, qualified citizens to join with local school officials and police in devising a protection plan for every single school.”

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