Wednesday, April 16, 2014

HOW THAT TRYING-TO-BE-NICE-TO-CONSERVATIVES THING WORKED OUT FOR SALLY KOHN IN REAL LIFE

Sally Kohn, a progressive commentator who used to work for Fox before a recent move to CNN, has a post up at Yahoo News titled "What I Learned as a Liberal Talking Head on Fox News." What she learned, she says, is that the people at Fox aren't ogres ("My time at Fox News was marked by meeting and working with some of the kindest, smartest, and most talented people I've had the pleasure of meeting in life"). From this, she says, has come a profound lesson:
Once I had that experience with some of the most visible voices on "the other side" -- in my case, the right -- it was an easy leap to find connection and compassion with everyday conservative audiences. These aren't evil people, either, or stupid, or any of the other things that some liberals, in their lowest moments, have suggested.

... if I want [my] viewpoint -- and those who share it -- to get more powerful, so that we can fix these systemic problems once and for all, then demonizing people who disagree with me won't help. In fact, I need to persuade them. And no one will even listen to your argument, let alone agree with you, if they think you don't like them....

The bottom line: We respond more positively to and are persuaded by people who treat us pleasantly....

Kindness, respect, finding the basic goodness and human dignity in everyone ... that is how we begin the conversations that lead to change.
So ... how did that work out for Kohn during her Fox years? Well, I see that she wrote a column during the 2012 campaign titled "I Like Michelle Malkin." In it, she said some very nice things about Malkin, and also called for a general improvement in our political discourse:
But the larger point is that, with a very few Hitler-esque exceptions, I don’t believe and I hope that no one in politics or public life believes that those who disagree with us are fundamentally evil. I believe Michelle Malkin is a smart person, a loving mother and a patriot who wants the best for her country.
But she also accused Malkin of engaging in "hysterical hyperbole" (quite accurately, I'd say):
In a recent column, Michelle Malkin argued that Mitt Romney is being naively civil in calling President Obama a "nice guy". Malkin decried "disastrous, bend-over bipartisanship" and wrote, "it's not nice to delude the American electorate in the name of comity, politesse, and simpering civility."

What I find endlessly impressive about Michelle Malkin is her ability to condemn supposed incivility on the part of the left while championing incivility on the part of the right. Accusing the left of sexist attacks against the Right while demeaning progressive women as "femme-a-gogues". Bemoaning racist smears against her own Filipino heritage while labeling Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren "Fauxchahontas". Labeling Barack Obama a bully while mobilizing her own website of aggressive Internet trolls who nastily attack anyone who disagrees with her. You've got to respect a woman who can so blatantly misrepresent the actions and intentions of her opponents in an attempt to disguise from her own bad behavior.
She then went on the radio show of Sean Hannity -- whom she describes in today's column as "a good friend and mentor" -- and debated Malkin on the air. It was not a civil debate:
"I think we can disagree without being disagreeable," said Kohn. No sooner did she make this assertion than the conversation descended into a name calling and screaming between the two pundits.

"I think that Sally has made quite a nice name and career for herself casting herself as the voice of reasonableness and mistaking her own smugness as civility," responded Malkin. "I really don't need lectures from her or anybody else about having to get along with liberals and progressives." ...

"What she wants to do is cast me as a hypocrite for calling out liberals for their rape jokes, death threats, serial misogyny against conservative women," said Malkin. She defended her comments about liberals that some find offensive as being "funny."

"look, you want to call it moral equivalence and dismiss it that way, that's fine," said Kohn. "I'm not going to have the fight with you. I'm just not."

"You're the one that accused me of hysterical hyperbole," Malkin said to Kohn....

"You're a coward," Malkin said.

"I'm not entirely sure I know how to respond," Kohn replied. She apologized to Malkin but her apology was rejected. "I'm a naive idealist who believes in America that we can uphold the tradition of our founders that we can disagree with each other,: said Kohn.

Hannity did say that Malkin should accept Kohn's apology, but she refused. "This is all kabuki theater," said Malkin. "She's not going to be happy until we are all completely politically and ideologically lobotomized and only speak in dulcet tones the way that NPR hosts do."
The rest of the right-o-sphere responded about as positively as Malkin. The Right Scoop posted audio of the debate under the headline "Red Meat: Michelle Malkin Torches Sally Kohn for Her Phony Civility." Mofo Politics used the headline "Michelle Malkin Yells at Psychotic Liberal Sally Kohn," and added:
FYI: Sally Kohn is really ugly...
If Kohn has ever actually won over a conservative on any issue whatsoever, I'm not aware of it. No right-winger is ever going to agree with her that Michelle Malkin engages in hypocrisy, and Kohn's assertion that she means this with all due respect because she's sure that Malkin is personally a fine human being surely doesn't help get her point across to the right.

Just own your outrage, Sally. Or walk away from partisan warfare altogether. Don't try to have it both ways.
HOW THE DHS REPORT ON RIGHT-WING VIOLENCE DOVETAILED WITH THE NATIONAL ROLLOUT OF THE TEA PARTY

As Rachel Maddow, Charlie Pierce, and others have noted, the federal government lessened its scrutiny of extreme racist and anti-Semitic groups after a Department of Homeland Security report on such groups was leaked in 2009, the consequence of which was widespread outrage on the right. I just want to remind you of the timing of that: the report went out to law enforcement officials on April 7, 2009, and -- as Daryl Johnson, the report's author, noted in a Salon article published in 2012 -- it was leaked to the public a few days later:
The DHS report, released on April 7, 2009, served as a warning to law enforcement concerning the resurgence of right-wing extremism in the U.S. The report was immediately leaked by an unknown individual who obviously took offense with its findings.

Roger Hedgecock, an ultra-conservative "shock jock" based in Southern California, admitted to receiving the official intelligence report from an anonymous individual. By April 12, 2009, Hedgecock had pushed the report into the public domain using his radio program as well as an article he published in World Net Daily.... Hedgecock wrongfully claimed the DHS report demonized veterans and classified all conservatives as potential terrorists....

Hedgecock's story was soon aired by Fox News and touted by prominent conservative media figures like Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin....
Remember what else was about to occur at that time? The first nationally hyped series of tea party demonstrations -- the Fox-branded "Tax Day Tea Parties," on April 15, 2009.




Now, as people like David Niewert repeatedly pointed out, the DHS report wasn't about the teabaggers.
It carefully delineates that the subject of its report is "rightwing extremists," "domestic rightwing terrorist and extremist groups," "terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks," "white supremacists," and similar very real threats described in similar language.

Nothing about conservatives. The word never appears in the report.
Tea party types painted Hitler mustaches on pictures of President Obama. They didn't mean this as a compliment. The DHS report was about people who admired Hitler. Big difference.

But this didn't stop mainstream rage junkies such as Michelle Malkin from insisting that the report was all about their crowd -- in particular, the tea party movement that was about to have its big coming-out party on national television:
... the piece of crap report issued on April 7 is a sweeping indictment of conservatives. And the intent is clear. As the two spokespeople I talked with on the phone today made clear: They both pinpointed the recent "economic downturn" and the "general state of the economy" for stoking "rightwing extremism." ...

In Obama land, there are no coincidences. It is no coincidence that this report echoes Tea Party-bashing left-wing blogs ... and demonizes the very Americans who will be protesting in the thousands on Wednesday for the nationwide Tax Day Tea Party.
That meme spread like wildfire -- and so here was Dave Weigel on April 15, 2009, reporting on that day's D.C. tea party rally:
Yesterday's news that the Department of Homeland Security had warned local police departments about a rise in far-right extremism spread like chain mail among everyone involved with the Tea Parties. It was the reason many people cited for keeping their names out of reporters' notebooks. It also manifested in the jokes of multiple speakers, who mocked the idea that this event was a meet-up of "right-wing extremists," and in signs that read "Napolitano: Obama's Gestapo Queen" and "Fight Federal Fascism" and "Kulacs tomorrow? Then what? Gulags. History repeats."

"Now anybody who doesn't believe in Obama's policies is a terrorist," said Bob Hughes, who said the DHS report was his motivation for coming to the protest. "This is just like what the Nazis did. Stormtroopers. Secret police. It's been done before and it looks like we’re going in that direction again."
Weigel led his report with this photo:





Now, it should be noted that the Obama administration was already backing away from the report even before all those April 15 rallies:
The White House has distanced itself from the analysis. When asked for comment on its contents, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said, “The President is focused not on politics but rather taking the steps necessary to protect all Americans from the threat of violence and terrorism regardless of its origins...."
But the tea party movement was already on the nation's radar, thanks to lavish funding and the right's noise machine, led by Fox. So the timing can't have helped.

In his 2012 Salon article, Daryl Johnson explained what happened next:
In the face of enormous media and congressional criticism, DHS made the decision to cancel all of its domestic terrorism-related reporting and training for law enforcement. It also instituted a new grueling vetting process, which essentially stopped all work at DHS on this now "politically charged" topic. Within three months after the leak, DHS officials deliberately eviscerated the team of analysts responsible for monitoring domestic terrorist threats and assigned them to different office responsibilities. Subject matter experts left the agency as a result -- leaving a single analyst to perform the massive amount of work needed during a period of heightened domestic terrorist activity throughout the country.
Johnson added:
The Tea Party should know that DHS had never targeted its membership or its activities. In fact, I first learned of the Tea Party during the ensuing media backlash against the DHS right-wing extremism report.
But nursing a grievance in public was excellent publicity for the tea party, as its funders and publicists knew. So that was that.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

WHY DOES THE RIGHT REGARD BITTERNESS AS ADMIRABLE?

Perhaps you saw this on Twitter this afternoon:
Josh Romney on Tuesday tweeted a photo of his father, Mitt Romney, paying his taxes, alluding to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) charge during the 2012 election that Mitt Romney did not pay his taxes for ten years.....
Here's the tweet:

You know what? Reid's attack was pretty nasty -- but politics ain't beanbag, and if Romney had released a few more years of returns (Mitt's father, of course, released twelve years' worth when he ran for president), that attack could have been neutralized. And, well, it's not as if Romney is the only presidential candidate ever to take a tough hit.

I can think of a few other people who got pummeled in presidential campaigns, some of them a hell of a lot worse than Mitt Romney. John Kerry. Al Gore. Mike Dukakis. And yet I didn't see any of them lashing out at their electoral antagonists a year and a half after losing a presidential election.

But on the right, it's common to lash out when you've been bested. On the right, it's admired.

I'm struck by the fact that Romney could have mailed his return or e-filed it, but chose to make a big public show of lining up at a post office, presumably so his son could do this -- but I'm also struck by the first tweet posted in response to this one:

Love that man! Yup, love him for spending the time since his defeat expressing bitterness abut his loss and repeatedly trolling the man who beat him, and, now, trolling one of his surrogates.

But the average right-winger has no problem with this, or with, say, Sarah Palin's perpetual nursing of grievances, or Dick Cheney's relentless attacks on the White House after Cheney's own administration left office in utter disgrace. Hell, let's go back to Richard Nixon, who mastered the art of bitterness, even while he was on top -- he was bitter in victory.

Right-wingers love feeling aggrieved -- and I guess they love pols who act out that feeling for them.
YOU DON'T FEAR A MOB WHEN IT'S YOUR MOB

An awful lot of right-wingers have rallied to the defense of insurrectionist-wannabe Cliven Bundy, who makes violent threats in support of his demand to continue grazing his cattle on federal land in perpetuity for free, in defiance of the law and of more than one federal court ruling; the latest supposedly respectable defender of Bundy is John Hinderaker, the Power Line blogger who's also a lawyer with deep professional ties to the Koch brothers.

(Has the right-wing noise machine made Bundy a cause celebre as part of a Koch attack on Harry Reid, the man Hinderaker and others have suggested is the sinister mastermind behind the attempt to require Bundy to enforce the law, because, allegedly, his own interests are on the line? It would be irresponsible not to speculate.)

Whatever the reason for the right's embrace of Bundy, I think Kevin Drum is a bit off base when he sees this as an example of "the cravenness of the modern right":
The fact that so many on the right are valorizing Bundy -- or, at minimum, tiptoeing around his obvious nutbaggery -- is a testament to the enduring power of Waco and Ruby Ridge among conservatives. The rest of us may barely remember them, but they're totemic events on the right, fueling Glenn-Beckian fantasies of black helicopters and jackbooted federal thugs for more than two decades now. Mainstream conservatives have pandered to this stuff for years because it was convenient, and that's brought them to where they are today: too scared to stand up to the vigilantes they created and speak the simple truth. They complain endlessly about President Obama's "lawlessness," but this is lawlessness. It's appalling that so many of them aren't merely afraid to plainly say so, but actively seem to be egging it on.
But Bundy's prominent supporters -- at Fox News, in the rest of the right-wing punditocracy, and in all likelihood within the donor community -- aren't "afraid" to speak up. They just don't see anything worrisome about this. They're supremely confident that the members of the GOP base who are aroused by this appeal to lawlessness will never turn on the interests they care about.

The right has been astonishingly successful at inspiring rank-and-file conservatives to flirt with anarchism while shielding corporate interests from any and all risk. The right may want to shut down the government, openly defy gun laws, delegitimize the president and his administration, and, in this case, violently prevent the Bureau of Land Management from enforcing the law, but we've seen ever since, oh, January 20, 2009, that none of this anarchic anger will ever be turned on Wall Street or the rest of the business community. The mob isn't going to leave Nevada and head for Lower Manhattan with weapons locked and loaded. Corporate suites elsewhere are perfectly safe, as are corporate tax breaks and other perks. These enraged right-wingers are so effectively brainwashed that they're never, ever going to question the Fox/Koch taxonomy of heroes and villains.

So it's not out of fear that prominent conservatives urge this on -- it's out of a sense that it's a team-building exercise: today, anarchy, tomorrow, a vote for the straight GOP ticket.
GOP'S "FEMINIST" TAKE ON PAY EQUITY FOR WOMEN: CAPITALISM ROCKS!

How much contempt do Republicans have for ordinary workers? Well, Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee was on Face the Nation on Sunday, trying to put a "feminist" face on the GOP's refusal to back legislation intended to reduce the pay gap between male and female workers -- and it's not just that Blackburn made a ridiculous argument based on a strain of Republican thinking that ended long ago:
"It is Republicans that have led the fight for women's equality. Go back through history, and look at who was the first woman to ever vote, elected to office, go to Congress, four out of five governors."
(As Ed Kilgore notes, the platform of the Republican Party backed the Equal Rights Amendment for years -- until 1980, when the convention that nominated Ronald Reagan ended the party's support forever.)

It's also that when Blackburn was asked about equal pay for women, she not only shrugged off the possibility a legislative remedy, she segued into Randian riffs about entrepreneurialism and the glory of being part of the 1%. Remember when Eric Cantor commemorated Labor Day by praising small business owners? Remember when Michelle Malkin expressed her support for Mitt Romney by asserting with a sneer that "Romney types ... are the ones who sign the front of the paycheck, and the Obama types are the one who have spent their entire lives signing the back of them"? Blackburn's response on pay equity for female workers contained some of the same contempt for ordinary workers, because, to Republicans, the only real American is a capitalist.

Here's a partial transcript, with emphasis added:
SCHIEFFER: But why did the Senate Republicans, then, block this?

BLACKBURN: Well, because the legislation was something that was going to be helpful for trial lawyers, and what we would like to see happen is equal opportunity and clearing up some of the problems that exist that are not fair to women. We are all for equal pay. I would love for women to be focused on maximum wage, and I have fought to be recognized with equality for a long time. A lot of us get tired of guys being condescending to us. But, you know, I got to tell you, one of the things that we need to do is look at access to capital. Small business owners that are female, that is their number one problem, is access to capital. We need to also look at regulations, how that is affecting them.


It was recently reported that Blackburn might run for president in 2016. I don't know if that's true or if it was just a phony story floated to raise the profile of a female Republican during a period when the GOP is getting a lot of criticism on pay equity and other women's issues. Whatever the case, I wonder how pro-female she would appear as a candidate when she can't even bring herself to call herself a woman on her congressional website. Yup, according to her own site, she's a "congressman."


Strange.

Monday, April 14, 2014

WE'RE CRIMINALIZING MENTAL ILLNESS AGAIN

I suppose I should be having a hearty chuckle over the "shoe truthers" -- Rush Limbaugh and others -- who believe the shoe-throwing incident at a Hillary Clinton speech last week was staged, but I'm just saddened by the whole incident. I missed the New York Daily News story about the alleged shoe-thrower when it first appeared, but it's clear from that story that the woman is not sane:
Before a wig-wearing nutjob threw a shoe at Hillary Clinton, the footwear flinger gave her heart to accused Colorado mass killer James Holmes.

Alison Ernst, 36, of Phoenix, was identified Friday as the sneaker-tossing kook who targeted the former First Lady one day earlier during a speech at a Las Vegas casino.

And Colorado officials confirmed she was the loopy lady escorted from the courtroom after a bizarre -- and bald-headed -- outburst during an August 2012 court hearing for Holmes....

In a bizarre lawsuit, Ernst said Holmes 'enters my head like Dennis Quaid in 'Innerspace' and he zooms to my heart and plays with it and forces me to care for him.' She said she wanted a restraining order to keep Holmes from invading her head.

Twenty months earlier, she arrived in a Colorado courtroom with her head shaved while wearing a red dress before declaring she held evidence "vital to the defense of James Holmes." Two deputies quickly escorted her outside....
Did she get help? Apparently not. Is she being treated now as someone who needs help? It sure doesn't seem that way:
Federal authorities have lodged two criminal charges against a Phoenix woman accused of throwing a shoe at Hillary Rodham Clinton while she gave a convention speech at a Las Vegas Strip resort....

She could face up to a year in federal prison on each charge if she's convicted....

Las Vegas police booked Ernst last week on a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge and freed her with a June 24 court date. Charges haven't been filed in that case.

A disorderly conduct conviction could get Ernst up to six months in county jail....
Well, prisons basically are America's mental-health system, aren't they? Certainly that's true for those with violent tendencies. If you're mentally disturbed, you can gain admission by hurting someone, or trying to. That's how James Holmes got into the system. At least nobody had to die before the system discovered Alison Ernst. She won't get help, but at least somebody noticed her. That's ... something, isn't it?
OF DRAGNETS, AND THE LACK THEREOF

The U.S. government tells us that it has to keep careful tabs on the electronic communications of ... well, everyone, because otherwise it might miss a message that passes between a murderous terrorist and an as-yet-unidentified co-conspirator one or more "hops" away. I keep thinking about that as I read about Frazier Glenn Miller, the suspect in three anti-Semitic Kansas killings, because this was a guy whose association with the scum of the earth was -- openly -- as little as one "hop" away, a fact that we've known for more than thirty years.

There's this:
The suspect, Frazier Glenn Miller, was a prolific poster under the screen name "Rounder" on a website called the Vanguard News Network, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The center, which tracks hate groups, flagged a thread Miller posted Saturday that described a phone conversation with Craig Cobb, a fugitive from Canada who tried to mold a tiny North Dakota town into an all-white enclave until he wound up in jail on charges of terrorizing residents.

Miller wrote in the post, titled "Craig Cobb phoned today," that Cobb "sounded confident and healthy." He noted that a pre-sentencing investigation had been completed ahead of Cobb's next hearing and added that he made Cobb "promise to visit me IF and WHEN he can."
And there's this:
Frazier Glenn Miller ... was close associates with Kevin William Harpham, the man arrested for the attempted bombing of a Martin Luther King Jr. unity march in Washington in 2011.
The site where Harpham shared his ideas with racist comrades, the Vanguard News Network (VNN), was created in 2000 by Alex Linder, a former National Alliance member. The VNN site motto is “No Jews, Just Right.” In addition to featuring racist and anti-Semitic blog articles, the site has become a virtual meeting place for nearly three thousand white nationalists. Linder runs the site from his Kirksville, Missouri home. He also publishes the crude racist tabloid, The Aryan Alternative, with fellow Missouri white nationalist Frazier Glenn Miller.

[...]

Miller thanked Harpham for a “gigantically large” donation of $500, according to a post on VNN in December 2006. The posting also noted that the contribution paid for nearly 7,000 copies of the tabloid and that Harpham was one of the top 5 or 6 donors from the site. Harpham also donated cash to Miller's 2006 and 2010 congressional campaigns.
Why, it almost seems as if there's never been a white supremacist Miller didn't associate with:
[In the 1980s,] Miller had ties to The Order, a white nationalist terrorist organization whose members assassinated Denver talk show host Alan Berg.... The leader of the group, Robert Mathews, had given Miller $200,000 in cash that was part of the $3.8 million stolen during an armored car robbery.
How does the All-Seeing Eye of the government not keep careful watch on this guy? How does it manage to miss the fact that he's about to grab a gun and kill some people? Why the hell do we live in a panopticon if the seers don't even see something like that coming?

I'm also reminded of a somewhat more low-tech dragnet we've been asked to accept in recent years. This is from Timothy Noah's review of the new Matt Taibbi book, The Divide, in The New York Times yesterday:
Taibbi is ... skillful at explaining how bureaucratic imperatives in the criminal justice system can spin scarily out of control. In New York City, you start with a "broken windows" theory that says cracking down on petty crime can prevent little criminals from becoming big criminals. Possibly because that's right, violent crime goes down. But paradoxically, that makes a cop's life more difficult rather than less, because criminals are getting harder to find even as new computer systems are enabling the police commissioner to keep track of which precincts are making the most arrests. The solution turns out to be aggressive use of a stop-and-frisk policy that gives cops a blank check to "search virtually anyone at any time." The police start behaving "like commercial fishermen, throwing nets over whole city blocks." Some of the fish get prosecuted or ticketed for ever-pettier offenses; 20,000 summonses, for instance, are handed out annually for riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. But most fish aren't guilty of anything and must grow accustomed to being routinely cuffed and ridden around in a police van before they are tossed back into the water. These fish are, of course, typically black and poor. Anecdotal evidence suggests that throwing a similar fishnet over entire Wall Street firms would produce a criminal yield at least as high as any random ghetto block. But innocent Wall Street fish would have a much bigger megaphone with which to proclaim their constitutional rights, and guilty Wall Street fish would have much better lawyers.
I'm not arguing in favor of the principle that it's OK to stop and frisk people based on a generalized suspicion about their kind, but if you accept that principle, isn't Frazier Glenn Miller the kind of guy who ought to have to demonstrate to the cops every few weeks or so that he's not packing? He's a convicted felon -- does he have the right to own firearms at all? If you have no problem with the way Mike Bloomberg's cops treated teenage boys in Harlem, why shouldn't Miller have been treated the same way?
WELL, AT LEAST FRAZIER GLENN MILLER WASN'T A REAL TERRORIST ... Y'KNOW, A MUSLIM

First of all, thank you, Yastreblyansky, Aimai, Tom, and Crank -- you did some amazing work while I was gone.

And now I see we've had a series of shootings at Jewish centers in the Kansas City area, with a white supremacist in custody. The Kansas City Star describes the suspect, Frazier Glenn Miller Jr., aka Frazier Glenn Cross, as "A 73-year-old southwest Missouri man with a long history of anti-Semitism" -- as if, until now, he's just been a crank with unpleasant opinions, rather than, among other things, the founder of the White Patriot Party, an offshoot of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The New York Times tells us more:
The Southern Poverty Law Center said it sued Mr. Miller in the 1980s for intimidating African-Americans, and he has had several run-ins with the law since then. He served six months in prison after he was held in criminal contempt for violating the terms of the court order that settled that lawsuit. He also served three years in federal prison for weapons charges and for plotting robberies and the assassination of the center's founder, Morris Dees. As part of his plea bargain, he testified against other Klan leaders in a 1988 trial.
I don't know about you, but I'm really struck by that. Miller has served less than four years in prison for all that? Imagine an Islamist right now getting away with a few years in the pen and a period as a federally protected witness with a rap sheet like that.

And the Times summary is rather bare-bones. Here's more, from Brent L. Smith's book Terrorism in America. As you're reading this, mentally replace the names with Middle Eastern names, and try to imagine what the reaction would be to these activities:
... Miller and a small cadre of Klansmen began stockpiling weapons in the summer of 1984. Stephen Miller (no relation to Glenn Miller) ... and three other White Patriot Party members met with Robert Norman Jones to arrange for the theft of U.S. military weapons and equipment....

Miller used the services of military personnel sympathetic to WPP's cause to assist with pramilitary training. It was, perhaps, Miller's greatest mistake. Morris Dees, the outspoken critic of the extreme Right and the director of The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, filed a lawsuit demanding a Defense Department investigation of the U.S. military's links with WPP paramilitary operations. Alarmed by this use of active duty military personnel, a federal court judge in North Carolina issued a court order prohibiting Miller from conducting any paramilitary training.
Miller's WPP continued to receive stolen military equipment from a man named Robert Norman Jones. He was arrested for trying to buy C-4 explosive from an undercover police officer. But meanwhile, Frazier Glenn Miller and plas continued their paramilitary training. They were charged in 1986 with violating the court order prohibiting this.
When his trial began, Glenn Miller decided Morris Dees had to be killed. WPP member Simeon Davis was told that Dees "a 'thorn' in the side of the White Patriot Party and needed to be 'plucked out.'" Although no immediate attempt was made to kill Dees, WPP members did conduct surveillance on his residence, his vehicle, and the home of the attorney with whom he was staying during the trial. Glenn Miller and Stephen Miller were convicted that summer but remained free pending a series of appeals.
Frazier Glenn Miller -- appealing a conviction and now facing a federal indictment -- went underground with two members of the WPP.
... the three men wrote their own "Declaration of War." ... Miller's document included an assassination point system for the killing of Jews, blacks, and federal judges. Morris Dees' name topped the list. Armed with fully automatic weapons and homemade fragmentation grenades, the band travelled from Louisiana to Ozark, Missouri....
They rented a mobile home and plotted revolution. They mailed their Declaration of War to a local newspaper, which enabled them to be located and arrested.

And after that, Frazier Glenn Miller was able to turn state's evidence and do just three years in the pen. And here he is now, a free man who apparently had no difficulty obtaining a weapon so he could shoot some people at Jewish centers just before Passover. Good thing for him his name wasn't Ahmed.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Soon they'll be demanding reparations

So true. Everywhere they go, conservatives face heartrending discrimination simply because of who they are.

Herded into segregated schools.
"Conservatives only" drinking fountains.
Wasn't Rosa Parks ordered to the back of the taxi?
[Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names]

Friday, April 11, 2014

Why Brandon Eich Matters

Just an addendum to the last post: it's important to understand the real context for all of this, which is the Roberts court's evisceration of campaign finance regulation. When there are no rules, the only possible accountability is public pressure. NOM understood that, and that's why they tried to keep their donor list secret in the Maine campaign.

And this is why the wingnuts have gone to Defcon Eleventy on this: de-legitimizing (liberal) public pressure is necessary to complete the work already done by the five partisan Republican justices. Their freakout about Eich is of a piece with their hissy fit over Reid calling out the Koch brothers.

And this is why it's important to us. No, Eich isn't a Koch--he didn't donate all that much money. But he is--was--a CEO. And despite all the concern-trolling from Sullivan and little Conor, the fact that a CEO was held accountable for his contributions makes this a crucial victory.

Things That Are Different Are Not the Same, Part CLXXVI

I like Ed Kilgore, and I think he's worth reading even when I disagree with him. But this line, from a post about the Eich/Mozilla/Prop 8 controversy, made me groan:
Beyond that, I think it a mite unfair that Eich lost his job for holding the same position on marriage equality in 2008 that Barack Obama then held...
Um...no.

Opposing Prop 8 is not the same as contributing to Prop 8. Passive non-support for establishing full equality is not the same as actively campaigning to rescind full equality.

What makes this more than just a minor irritant--a Someone Is Wrong on the Internet type deal--is that it's exactly the same formulation used by folks like zombie Breitbart:
MOZILLA CEO DESTROYED FOR SAME GAY MARRIAGE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY OBAMA, CLINTONS
And the National Review:
In 2008, Barack Obama and Brendan Eich both were against gay marriage. Senator Obama averred his support for the one-man/one-woman view of marriage, while Mr. Eich, a cofounder of the Mozilla web-browser company, donated $1,000 to support Proposition 8 — a California ballot initiative that had the effect of making Senator Obama’s avowed marriage policy the law in California, at least until a federal court overturned it on the theory that California’s constitution is unconstitutional. Barack Obama inexplicably remains, as of this writing, president of the United States of America, but Mr. Eich has just been forced out as CEO of Mozilla because of his political views.
And the Weekly Standard's John McCormack: And Rush Limbaugh:
Leftist Fascists Force Out Mozilla CEO for Holding Same Opinion Obama Held in 2008
And the Heritage Foundation:
The outrageous treatment of Eich is the result of one private, personal campaign contribution to support marriage as a male-female union, a view affirmed at the time by President Barack Obama, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, and countless other prominent officials. After all, Prop 8 passed with the support of 7 million California voters.
And the reliably dimwitted Debra Saunders:
By toppling Mozilla's CEO, activists sent the message that having opposed same-sex marriage -- a mainstream position also held by Barack Obama just six years ago -- can be a career killer.
And what right-wing talking point is complete without an endorsement from Donald Trump?
Donald Trump on Monday....said by that logic, there are plenty of other individuals who might need to resign, including President Barack Obama. “Around 2008, you had the president of the United States supporting traditional marriage, if you go back and look. And you know, I mean, maybe he should step down because of the fact,” Trump said on “Fox and Friends” Monday morning.
And so on. I'm not going to go through every single name on the Wingnut Talking Points Mailing List, but I think you get the idea. Conflating the President's (former) position with that of Eich is essential to the wingnuts' narrative of victimization. We really don't need to do their work for them.

The $250 hamburger: yet another demonstration of why we need an excess wealth tax for the greedy one percent


While homeless folks sleep on the streets only a few blocks away, the One Percent, who will bribe a Congressman with "campaign contributions" to stop a nickel's worth of extra taxes on their own fortunes but love to see Congress tax the poor and cut food stamps, can indulge in a $250 "B&B Indulgence" hamburger at the Court Hotel in New York City.
Squint at the picture if you must but note, you're reading it right. At the Court Hotel on Lexington Avenue and 39th Street in Manhattan, you now can blow $250 on a hamburger, if you have that kind of money to blow on a hamburger.

Sure, I have no doubt it's better than a fast food joint burger. It's made with kobe beef, not gray slime. Plus it's made with the liver of a force-fed goose sautéed in Sauternes, plus fresh truffles and Beluga caviar. And it's served on a "homemade" "artisinal" bun. Natch. For $250 you get all the gastronomic buzzwords they can stuff into your mouth.

Is it worth it? Probably, in terms of the cost of its ingredients. But remember, only a few blocks up Lexington Avenue, at the side of Grand Central Station, homeless people with home made signs and worn paper coffee cups beg for quarters to they can get a few scraps to eat.

Meanwhile, Congressman Paul Ryan, the Republican lackey of the One Percent, resists raising taxes as much as a nickel on the rich, while proposing a budget that would cut food stamps for the poor.

What's that you say? The one percent are job creators so they're entitled to eat obscenely expensive trifles while others starve? Yeah, maybe they've created a job for one minimum wage worker from Ecuador to pat the Kobe beef into $250 patties and slice the truffles. But that isn't going to change our economy one iota.

However, I cannot resist pointing out that even on her last day on earth, Queen Marie Antoinette (of "let them eat cake" fame) was a job creator, too.

The job she created for one of her subjects, however unintentionally, was Guillotine Operator.

Cross-posted at The New York Crank

The image of mastery and omniscience

David Brooks writes:
Most of us have been seized at one time or another by what I call the explanatory drive, by which I mean a biological urge to explain things at some length, if not to others then at least to oneself; when you are confronted by a puzzle, riddle, or enigma and cannot rest through your long, haunted nights until you have wrestled that sucker to the ground, figured it out, and shouted, "Eureka!" or words to that effect.
We're all familiar with the explanatory drive, but I never realized I could incorporate it into my narrative of how traditional Tory morality makes the world go round until recently, when I was reading Michael Lewis's new book Flash Boys, or at any rate reading the excerpt they ran in the Times Magazine, or at any rate watching one of the book-tour television interviews. As I struggled to understand what a "high-frequency trader" does—is it like nobody knows what you're up to because only dogs can hear it?—I had one of those sudden flashes of insight, understanding that it doesn't really matter, because this story is not about all that technological stuff but rather about good and evil. So I could skip the complicated parts.
Boiled down to its essence, the story Lewis tells is one of how a small number of people came to realize that the stock market was being rigged by traders using these complex computer techniques to get a leg up on everybody else. The question is, why did the heroes act when most traders did nothing? And the answer is, surprisingly enough, they were kind of like me, insatiably curious puzzle solvers.
Because, really, there are two kinds of people (I know I've said that before, but trust me): those who are motivated primarily by a desire to make money, and those with an intense desire to figure things out.
If you are primarily motivated to make money, you just need to get as much information as you need to do your job. You don’t have time for deep dives into abstract matters. You certainly don’t want to let people know how confused you are by something, or how shallow your knowledge is in certain areas. You want to project an image of mastery and omniscience. Are you following me there?
So you end up with a culture of knowingness, of people simply bluffing their way through without truly knowing what they're talking about. And not merely on Wall Street, but throughout society; even at highly respected newspapers and on network television! Whereas Lewis's heroes, driven by intellectual curiosity, dived ever deeper in their quest for pure, unprofitable knowledge. And they ended up not only understanding in detail what was wrong but working out a way to build a market that couldn't be rigged in this way. They were good, curious persons rather than shallow bluffers.*
Some might argue from this fascinating story that markets need to be watched by people not animated by the profit motive—by government regulators, in fact. But that's totally wrong. If the rigging of the markets is to be defeated it will have to be by traders working in private firms who aren't animated by the profit motive but for some reason don't get fired. I don't have time to explain why right now, but you know my reputation for mastery and omniscience.
*I don't like to interfere with the rhapsody when Brooks allows himself to be channeled, but somebody needs to note that the guys who rigged the system probably had some intellectual curiosity too. The bolded passage is a direct quotation; I couldn't find a way of parodying it that would not make it less funny than it already was. Incidentally, see the indispensable Driftglass for an interpretation of today's column as a communication from an increasingly dissociated robot adrift in interplanetary space.

[Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names]

Two Peoples Divided By A Common Language

JMM has a little note up about Michelle Obama's continuing efforts to make life a little easier and less horrific for military families.  Its no big deal--First Ladies have always taken up a popular cause, worked hard on it, and done something for the selected group as well as for their husband's public standing and the office of First Lady's public standing.  But I have been in arguments with true believers on the Right who insist that the President and Mrs. Obama are personally rude to the military they encounter while flying around the world, or walking into events.  Despite the many pictures of the President and First Lady comfortably interacting with the military, donating services and time to military families, bringing military family members to the Conventions and Speeches, etc..etc...etc... these people are convinced that in private the President and First Lady literally walk by the outstretched hands of the military, snubbing them when they are not in public. "They don't even say Thank You for your Service!"

This is all part of the general right wing assertion that the President is both a Machiavellian strong man and also an ineffectual boob and wimp.  It also goes well with the argument that Michelle is a trashy, lazy, fat, Marie Antoinette, completely out of touch with the real duties of a real First Lady and only in it for the glamor and snacks.  Of course if they are evil through and through everything they do that is apparently good must be either truly evil or at least understood as fake and for show.  So every public good deed, in the right wing imaginary, must be balanced by an identical reversal of itself in private.

For these people, as I believe Ezra Klein just noted in the Vox piece I'm not bothering to read, the evidence of their eyes reinforces the beliefs they already hold and what they see can never contradict what they know.  In fact: the more pictures they see of Michelle and Jill Biden doing things for the Military the more convinced they will be that its all a lie. They can't even grant Michelle enough machiavellian evil nature to assume she can carry on the fraud in private.

I've got no clever cure for this. Its just an observation.  To the extent that we share any values with the right wing at this point--even love for fluffy kittens, or cute babies, or veterans--we still can't share any real work with them administratively or on policy. Because their goals and their sense of our motives and intentions are so askew.
 Cross Posted at I Spy With My Little Eye

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Shorter Ruth Marcus

"Here’s a radical notion: It is simultaneously possible to believe that black people are entitled to equal rights and to not support the Civil Rights Act."

Confirmation bias has a conservative bias

Yuval Levin on the hot topic of confirmation bias at the National Review:
Without (it seems) a hint of irony, Paul Krugman argued on Monday that everyone is subject to confirmation bias except for people who agree with him. He was responding to this essay Ezra Klein wrote for his newly launched site, Vox.com, which took up the question of confirmation bias and the challenges it poses to democratic politics. Krugman acknowledged the research that Klein cites but then insisted that his own experience suggests it is actually mostly people he disagrees with who tend to ignore evidence and research that contradicts what they want to believe, while people who share his own views are more open-minded, skeptical, and evidence driven. I don’t know when I’ve seen a neater real-world example of an argument that disproves itself.
With the implication that I'm rubber, you're glue, and neener neener neener. Or as Jennifer Rubin calls it,
Personally I've always thought Yuval Levin's brilliance is a confirmation-bias case: everybody knows he's brilliant for some reason lost to history, and therefore you know everything he says is brilliant without needing to take a look at it. I couldn't speak to his generosity, but I'm glad I don't depend on it for dinner.

But anyway I was wondering whether there could be some kind of empirical test where you could find out whether, in fact, one opinionationist is more likely to submit to data that challenges her or his views than another, and came up with the following: you could Google "X changed his mind", inserting the pandit's name, and see what proportion of the hits included instances in which X in fact changed his mind.

So here are some preliminary results of this study:

"Paul Krugman changed his mind"

Of the first 10 results, 5 (or 50%) do indeed feature cases in which Krugman revised his views on the basis wholly or partially of evidence suggesting that his initial opinion was wrong:
  • Back in 2003, Krugman believed to some extent that huge government deficits will cause interest rates to soar, and now he doesn't, and Greg Mankiw called him out for this inconsistency; "My thinking has evolved," said Dr. Krgthulu in response to Mankiw's criticism—"If you haven't updated your views in the face of new experiences, you're not doing your job." (Business Insider)
  • In early December 2013, Krugman published a Times column expressing surprise that so many people oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which he thought was not a really big deal; in February, taking into account the treaty's pro–Behemoth provisions on intellectual property, he revised that, opining that TPP is not horrible, but on balance not very good. (TechDirt)
  • Twenty years ago, Krugman wasn't worried about robots, or "capital-biased technological change" and its tendency to increase inequality between workers and capitalists; now he thinks it's a very serious issue, and explains why he didn't see the point sooner in interesting fashion: "It has echoes of old-fashioned Marxism—which shouldn’t be a reason to ignore facts, but too often is." (AngryBear)
  • Commenter csning at the great blog Noahpinion compared Krugman to the UK magazine The Economist: "The economist is arguably more stridently idealogical than Krugman. Krugman has changed his mind when shown to be wrong. The economist, on the other hand, frequently endorses presidential candidates based on how often they obey right wing economic shibboleths rather than properly examine the substance of their proposals. See their endorsement of Bush junior, for example, or of UK's austerity program vs France (following the austerity program, uk was doing worse)." This writer doesn't cite any direct instances (as well as failing on the criteria of capitalization and spelling "ideological" right) but we can see from our other evidence that he's right. (Noahpinion)
  • The economics journalist Paul Solman, discussing the Mankiw-Krugman spat referenced above at the end of 2012, adds "What I like about this story is that even Paul Krugman, known for his tenacity or, detractors would say, blind stubbornness, is sometimes wrong, knows it, and is willing to acknowledge it," contributes a list of his own confessed errors of the past year, and notes: "I emailed Mankiw to ask if he had ever corrected his wrong-way call or, if not, if he wished to now. He wrote back that he and co-author David Weil 'have not revisited that paper.'" (PBS)
"Yuval Levin changed his mind"

Not a single instance, or zero percent, in the first ten hits. Amazing, huh?

[Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names]

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Technology had come to collect its pound of flesh. Start coughing up the cash, sucker.

I am now the not-particularly-proud owner of four Mac computers. Please note that I am a guy who lives alone in a small apartment and works mostly alone in a small office. All I need is two computers. I could get away with only one, if I had to. All I’d need to do is slip a laptop into my briefcase at the end of the day, and slip it back in at the start of the next.

So why four computers, especially when there’s nothing physically wrong with any of them? As best I can tell, they all still work up to the manufacturers original specifications. The problem is, manufacturers specs are moving goal posts these days, and you have to move with ‘em or die. Maybe even literally die.

My old Mac “clamshell” laptop still writes and reads the Microsoft Office and Quark Express programs I installed on them the first day I owned them. But both Mac and Microsoft– and for that matter Quark Express – have had digital behavior changes since I bought those two oldies.

In the case of the Year 2000 Mac clamshell, document written in the latest Microsoft Word, the one that labels all its documents “.docx” instead of “.doc”, will not open with the current operating system. Nor can you buy an electronic update that will let you convert incoming .docs to .docx. Nor can it deal with the oodles of changes to the way the Internet works. Nor will it work with the latest versions of Quark.

So my old nearly $2,000 clamshell is now essentially an expensive old typewriter.

My 2004 machine is not much better. The old Microsoft and new Microsoft office programs still work on it, as does my 2004 version of Quark Express. But Apple has decided it will no longer support the operating system with security upgrades and other fixes, not even if you or I will pay for them. 

Which means that, if I turn it on, pirates somewhere out there on the Internet can jump into my wi-fi, board the computer, steal my address book and passwords, and stuff their pockets with my bank and brokerage accounts. For a geezer whose earning capacity and savings capacity is now limited, that’s not even a near-death experience. That is death, unless I can figure out how to live on Social Security.

Mind you, most of the changes don’t make the computer do anything I need it to do., or anything most of us need it to do. Nor is this like the “planned obsolescence” that scandalized the public in the 1950s. That kind of obsolescence was merely psychological. If you wanted to drive an old car, you could still get by with your old Studebaker.

The changes in computer technology today exist, I suspect, almost entirely to make sure that people have to go out and buy the new stuff, or else. And the “upgrades” affect Windows users as well as Mac users.

Apple is now sending out warnings that I need to upgrade my third computer, which used to be my office computer until my old home computer became too dangerous to my financial security to plug in. Meanwhile, to avoid lugging a computer to and from the office each day, I’ve gone out and bought the fourth Mac.

Each time this happens, I pay Apple and Microsoft a combined Right-To-Live-In-The-Modern-World Tax of between $2,300 and $3,000. 

If a street thug walked up to you, pointed a gun at your head, and demanded $3,000 to let you live, he’d be guilty of armed robbery. But although corporations are now legally people when it comes to funding multi-million dollar campaigns to support their pet lapdog politicians, they’re not people when it comes to highway robbery.

You see, when Apple and Microsoft demand your money or else – well hey, that’s the way it is sucker. Stand and deliver. Pay up or die.