Hump Day Craziness

I read this yesterday and it lead me to some interesting questions.  Well, they were interesting to me anyway.  I’ve been fascinated with the different factions of the Republican Party and the increased number of Libertarians who primarily seem to vote Republican when there is no Libertarian around to vote for.  This piece mentions the possible break between Evangelical Christian Republicans and conservative Catholics over the new Pope’s recent comments regarding gays and poverty.  It appears to me that Libertarians have also broken with the Christian wing of the Republican Party over many social issues.   I’ve learned from our discussions here that Libertarians seem to be for both open borders and abortion, in some cases “on demand”, even I don’t believe in either of those suggestions, so is that to the left of me?

I guess I’m wondering where all this will eventually lead.  How hard will it be for Libertarians to vote for a Republican of the evangelical sort?  Is it just a case of voting for the lesser of two evils in a Presidential election, or even a local election?  When do your votes and principles collide?  I swallowed my objections and voted for Obama because of health care, and a couple of other accomplishments I supported,  rather than third party, which is what I normally do.  A big fat wasted vote either way really.

My thoughts rambled from the original piece but I wanted you guys to see how it got me thinking.  I’m finding it somewhat interesting that I tend to vote social issues and for the preservation of things such as Social Security, Medicare and other safety net protections.  There doesn’t seem to be that much difference to me in the reality of economic policy between the parties or for that matter even foreign policy now that many conservatives seem to be more isolationist than they were in the past, but I’m guessing the Libertarians/Conservatives here don’t agree and vote their pocket book, or is it all big vs small government and the demolition of the safety net that motivates y’all.  I’m curious.  It seems to me that the differences between us are more along the lines of priorities.  I think we all value similar things but just place more weight on some than others.  Or maybe I’m delusional.

I think it is a safe bet that if Pope Francis I lives more than a few years that Catholics will soon be kicked out of the Republican Party and resume their previous status as the semi-black race. The reason is simple. Pope Francis I is on the opposite side of the political divide from Pope John Paul II. The Polish pope was a Cold Warrior who basically took the Reagan-Thatcher line on left-leaning political movements in the Third World, including in Latin America. The Argentinian Jesuit pope isn’t a communist, but he advocates for the poor without any apology.

For now, conservative American Catholics are trying to parse the distinction, but it isn’t going to work. They are not going to be able to embrace The Slum Pope who wants to “make a mess” of the established order within the Church by encouraging young people to shake up the dioceses and force them to embrace the convicts, drug addicts, and the truly impoverished.

Our country is uniquely unable to appreciate this change specifically because our right wing succeeded in categorizing the left in the Third World (and, to an extent, even in Europe) as communist in sympathy. The right assumes that the Vatican is an ally in all things, but that is no longer even close to being the case. On so-called family values, the papacy is still reliably conservative, even if it can’t be counted on anymore to demonize homosexuality. But on economic issues, the papacy is now a dedicated enemy of the Republican Party.

Before long, the right will have no choice but to break from the pope, and then their opposition will grow to a point that the alliance between Catholics and evangelicals will not hold.

There sure has been a lot of talk lately about women.  I’ve been troubled by some of it as it seems we’re going backwards in some respects.  There are too many stories to link but between all the states enacting TRAP laws, all the strange definitions of rape, the mayor of San Diego’s bizarre harassment and who has and has not shielded him from investigation, the treatment of rape victims in the military,  USC redefining rape as not rape if there is no ejaculation (my personal favorite), who is and isn’t hot enough to either run for office or other more nefarious activities, etc. etc. that I’ve been trying to figure out what’s going on.  Maybe nothing ever really changed.  I’m concerned that so much of it has become political football.  I thought this piece on the subtleties of how a woman can succeed in the financial industry was pretty troubling.

Our youngest is working in another male dominated industry and is constantly trying to determine how to proceed on her merits while most of the men are attracted to her looks.  She has a few male mentors who seem to take her seriously so she’s focusing on that and trying to stay away from the guys who want to date her and stay focused on her work.  She’s discovering it’s an interesting dynamic that has many challenges.  She faced numerous challenges as a grad student but that was nothing compared to what she’s dealing with now.

It doesn’t help when other women give this kind of advice.

New details have emerged from a bias lawsuit filed by three former employees of Merrill Lynch against the company, which alleges that during training they were instructed to read a book called “Seducing the Boys Club: Uncensored Tactics From a Woman at the Top” and emulate its advice.

The tips in the book, published by New York Magazine’s The Cut, are truly shocking. “I play on [men’s] masculine pride and natural instincts to protect the weaker sex,” says a section of the book advising women on how to get men to do their work. “Unless he is morbidly obese, there is no man on earth who won’t puff up at this sentence: Wow, you look great. Been working out?” suggests a portion on diffusing tense situations.

On a lighter note the Anthony Weiner story is in another realm altogether in my opinion.  I guess I’d like to know why his wife is standing by him but it’s none of my business really.  Otherwise it seems to be a case of “consenting adults” which doesn’t bode well for his marriage or his candidacy but otherwise is just more creepily entertaining than anything else.

I wish I could share all the “Carlos Danger” jokes my husband has come up with, they’re hysterical, and just pop out of his mouth at the most inconvenient times.  He’s a true comic and I’ve thanked my lucky stars more than once that he makes me laugh.  Anyway we’ve had a lot of fun at Anthony Weiner’s expense around here.  I saw this and couldn’t resist.

Anthony Weiner Forever

Weiner forever

Let’s do something strange and use science!

It is an article of faith among those on the political left and in the media (but I repeat myself) that the Republican party has moved significantly to the right in recent years. Depending on who you are talking to and what purpose they have at the moment, the alleged radicalism of the right either began with GWB (Bush shunned the UN on Iraq!) or has actually occurred in reaction to Obama’s rise to power (those insane Tea Partiers, don’t you know). As I have mentioned, I think this alleged movement is largely a myth, and that by any objective measure both the Republican party and the politics of the nation have actually been trending to the left for pretty much nearly a century.

But that discussion got me to thinking just what kind of objective measure might there be for such a thing, and how can we go about measuring it? It is actually quite a difficult question, kind of like objectively defining pornography. What is right and left can mean all kinds of different things, and is ultimately determined relative to the point of view of the determiner himself. To someone like Noam Chomsky, Bill Clinton was probably a rightwing fascist, while to Jonah Goldberg actual fascists were in fact members of the left. So you can see how this might be a problem.

But after thinking about it, the first measure that I came up with was government spending. We can easily see what kind of things the federal government has spent money on throughout history, and so if we can allocate various federal programs as favorites of the political left or right, and see how spending priorities have changed over time, that might give us some clue as to the direction in which the government itself, if not the political parties individually, have been trending.

This site is somewhat useful for this purpose. We can look at government spending broken down into various categories like defense, education, welfare, pensions, and interest, for various years going back all the way to 1792. Further breakdowns are possible as well.

Defense spending has, of course, long been a sacred cow for Republicans. This is not to say that D’s have no interest in defense, but trying to get R’s to agree to defense cuts has been virtually an impossible task. So it seems reasonable to me to categorize defense spending as a right wing priority. How has defense spending fared since, say, 1950 to pick a year somewhat randomly? Well, in 1950 defense spending comprised 54% of the federal budget. By 1970 that had dropped slightly to 48%. By 1990 it had dropped to only half of what it was in 1950, to 27% of the total federal budget. And by 2010 it had dropped further, albeit slightly, to 25%.

Welfare spending, on the other hand, has long been a priority of Democrats. Again, this is not to say that R’s have no interest in supporting welfare spending, but I think it is fair to say that it is a higher priority for the left than the right. So how has spending on welfare programs changed over the last 60 years? In 1950 spending on welfare programs made up 3.6% of all federal spending. By 1970 it had risen to 5.2%. By 1990, it had risen to 8%, and by 2010, it had nearly doubled again to 15%. (Go here for a more detailed view of what constitutes “welfare” on this site.)

So we see that since the middle of the last century, spending on a right-wing sacred cow, defense, has steadily decreased by roughly 50%, while spending on a left-wing sacred cow, welfare, has increased by more than 400%. So is this indicative of a national politics that has moved to the left, or the right? To me the data speaks for itself.

Of course defense and welfare spending are not the only possible spending measures, and spending itself is just one possible measure of political trends. Which gets me to the real point of this post. If we were to attempt to devise a scientific (who doesn’t like science?) and objective analysis of political trends, left or right, in the nation over the last 50 to 100 years, what type of measure would you all suggest?

Being a Muslim in America

I thought that this piece by Rany Jazayerli was amazing. I usually balk at web pieces that make me click through five pages to read it (just put it all on one page, dammit, or do what Salon does and give me the option of seeing it on multiple pages or scrolling down one), but his writing is excellent and I think his point resonates.

It was with some reservation that I voted for Obama last Tuesday. I have found his presidency to be a disappointment in many ways. He wasn’t nearly aggressive enough about addressing the financial crisis he inherited, nor did he press for a public airing of what caused the crisis in the first place. His sustained use of drones to fight the war on terror has been both utterly immoral – an inordinate number of innocent victims, including children, have been killed – and completely counterproductive, because the obvious immorality of these attacks has ignited more terrorists than it has killed. Obama’s weak and unfocused response to the horrors being committed every day by the Syrian government is appalling.

But — third parties aside — the alternative was Mitt Romney, and I could not vote for Romney. There was simply no way that I could justify voting for a party that denies the very legitimacy of my identity as an American. And there was no way that I could justify voting for any member of that party that does not, in the strongest possible terms, denounce that view. Nor could most other members of the American Muslim community, who just happen to be clustered in swing states like Ohio, Virginia and Florida.

As it turned out, with the Muslim community voting overwhelmingly against him, Romney lost Ohio, Virginia and Florida by narrow margins, and lost the election. Joe Walsh lost his bid for reelection in Illinois’ 8th district, which frees up his schedule to start looking for the terrorists in Elk Grove and Addison. Also losing his bid for reelection was Florida congressman Allen West, who claims that “Islam is a totalitarian theocratic political ideology, it is not a religion.” Well, that’s one way to get around that pesky 1st amendment.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The Muslim community still shares many core values with Republicans, the same core issues that attracted most Muslims to the Republican Party in the first place. Muslims haven’t changed their views on limited government, or the superiority of the traditional nuclear family, or the importance of encouraging entrepreneurship. A Republican Party that focused on its core principles rather than on demonizing a minority as a way to score cheap political points would find support among the American Muslim community again.

Look, I don’t want to be a party-line voter. It does Muslims no good to be identified with a single political party – we run the risk of being taken advantage of by the Democratic Party, while having our needs completely ignored by the Republicans. And I look forward to the day, hopefully in the near future, when I once again vote for a Republican candidate. If Chris Christie — who unlike Romney has forcefully denounced “the crazies” (his term, not mine) — runs for president, I’ll give him full consideration.

But first, the Republicans have to stop insinuating that I’m alien to this nation. They have to stop implying that I support terrorists. They have to stop accusing me of being anti-American. And they need to denounce anyone in their ranks who does those things. That, I’m afraid, is not negotiable.

Bits & Pieces (Thursday Night Open Mic)

It’s a new video. This time, it’s Rick Santorum!

 

A new study links low I.Q. to prejudice, racism, and conservatism. To paraphrase my intellectual better, Forrest Gump: “I may not be a smart man, but I know what bullshit smells like.” A liberal quasi-dissents, but sort of agrees. The conflation of conservatism and racism is everywhere. Can you tell it’s an election year?

NASA films the dark side of the moon. No evidence of giant Transformers or secret moon bases.

What happened before The Big Bang? Johnny Galecki was unemployed! Bad-dum-dum! I’ll be here all week, folks.

Finally, they’re planning a broadway musical based on Back to the Future. About damn time.

You know what’s unbelievably cool? $1 billion dollars in profits. Emphasis on the unbelievable.

— KW


by Ashot
Somehow I feel like this video is perfect for the ATiM crowd.

And I thought this was funny, too.

Sense and Nonsense, and David Frum

I’m going to post this with the same kind of pre-excuse that I don’t allow associates to use on the job:  typed up quickly to throw it on the table. I find Frum’s ongoing project to redefine conservatism and marginalize Republicans confused and flawed (and, frankly, annoying) in so many ways that it is hard to capture them. But it is an important topic, and I’m in a busy time at work, so this is the best I’ve got right now.


David Frum continues to make noise about the supposed Republican lurch into radicalism, speaking as what he claims is the lone (or nearly lone) voice of authentic conservatism, much to the delight of liberals, Democrats, and other sworn enemies of conservatism. His latest apologia, fittingly dispensed in the pages of the New York Times, claims that the Republican Party lost touch with reality and abandoned conservative positions across the board.

Poppycock. Frum, whatever he once was or believed, is speaking the gospel of Big Government, Progressive Republicanism, the sort that was justly described back in the days of authentic conservatism for which he longs as an acquiescence in the role of “tax collector for the welfare” state, and defeatist “go-along-get-along” politics. This is conservatism as Liberalism Lite. In Frum’s world, conservatives do not stand for a worthwhile, positive vision but serve only to throw themselves on the gears of the modern state in hopes of slowing its advance down the road to serfdom–just a little. They should not be combative or even assertive but should know their place as the perennial losers fighting an eternal rear-guard action. We should accept defeat nobly and with dignity. Surrender, in other words.

How do we know that it is Frum who either abandoned conservatism or never believed it in? It is as simple as reading his own words and what he identifies as badges of “conservative” governance. He complains that “It was not so long ago that Texas governor Bush denounced attempts to cut the earned-income tax credit as balancing the budget on the backs of the poor,” while today GOP thought leaders criticize a system under which nearly half of earners pay no income taxes. But George Bush was never a conservative. He never claimed to be. And an income tax system that excuses nearly half of income earners from taxes never was a conservative policy. It is more nearly the opposite of a conservative tax policy, particularly in the era of the modern welfare state.

Frum also inveighs: “In 2000, candidate Bush routinely invoked churches, synagogues, and mosques. By 2010, prominent Republicans were denouncing the construction of a mosque in lower Manhattan as an outrageous insult.” A few did. But does Frum really expect us to pretend that 911 did not happen, and that it was not the dominant event of the past decade?

“In 2003, President Bush and a Republican majority in Congress enacted a new prescription-drug program in Medicare. By 2011, all but four Republicans in the House and five in the Senate were voting to withdraw the Medicare guarantee from everybody under age 55.” Does Frum really expect anyone to believe that this massive new entitlement was a “conservative” innovation? Real conservatives opposed it at the time, as they always would have. Why and how did Frum come to define conservatism as the policy agenda of George Bush, rather than recognizing his old boss for what he was and is, a nonconservative? Was Medicare Part D part of the Contract with America? Or the Reagan platform? Or was George Bush a deviation from Republican governance since Reagan? And is this condemnation of Republican efforts to rein in Medicare costs really contained in the very same column in which he condemns them for profligate spending? Really, David? This is your best?

“Today, the Fed’s pushing down interest rates in hopes of igniting economic growth is close to treason, according to Governor Rick Perry, coyly seconded by TheWall Street Journal. In 2000, the same policy qualified Alan Greenspan as the greatest central banker in the history of the world, according to Perry’s mentor, Senator Phil Gramm.”

Let’s just overlook whether Phil Gramm spoke for all conservatives in 2000 or whether Rick Perry does today. Is Frum again unaware of any difference in economic conditions in 2000, before the tech bubble burst, let alone before 911, and the current economic situation?

“Today, stimulative fiscal policy that includes tax cuts for almost every American is socialism. In 2001, stimulative fiscal policy that included tax cuts for rather fewer Americans was an economic-recovery program.” We should be allowed to expect more integrity in argument than this from Frum. He’s factually wrong, to begin with; the Bush tax cuts cut taxes for virtually everyone who pays taxes, and took many completely off the rolls. But, that aside, which Republicans have said that tax cuts included in Obama’s stimulus package were socialism? We’ll go ahead and mark you down as a doctrinaire Keynesian who treats lower taxes purely as “stimulative” demand manipulation, David. But please don’t try to tell us that your position is the conservative one.

Frum massages history in strange ways. He says that Republicans are respsonsible for all our current problems because “Republicans held more power for longer than at any time since the twenties,” while completely excusing Democrats for any responsibility even for their current failures. Let’s see now, George Bush, a moderate liberal domestic President, had slight majorities in Congress for part of his eight year term. In the Senate, he scarcely ever had a majority, and Democrats decisively took over both houses in 2006. By contrast, Democrats had decisive control in 2009-10. Just as Bill Clinton did until he overreached. Just like Jimmie Carter had. And Johnson. But while Democrats have enjoyed much greater–indeed incomparable–control, they have no responsibility in Frum’s world. Only Republicans do.

And at the same time that he condemns Republicans for the results of their statecraft under George Bush, he holds up that period as the reflection of true conservatism that he claims to represent. Did I miss something here, David?

I’m not even sure what to make of statements like this one:

“The Bush years cannot be repudiated, but the memory of them can be discarded to make way for a new and more radical ideology, assembled from bits of the old GOP platform that were once sublimated by the party elites but now roam the land freely: ultralibertarianism, crank monetary theories, populist fury, and paranoid visions of a Democratic Party controlled by ACORN and the New Black Panthers.” [I don’t know how to block quote.]

Notice the ease with which he adopts the scornful rhetorical style of a partisan liberal, and equally how dismisses doubts about the Democratic Party of Obama. (Conservatives are crackpots for having raised alarms over Obama’s radical past? Does Frum understand that that past is real?)

The reality is that conservatives repudiated much of the “Bush years” while they were happening. That is true of real conservatives, at least, as opposed to people who were helping write speeches about “compassionate conservatism” and promote a huge new Medicare program. The government, the debt, the budget– all of it is much bigger now than at the beginning of the “conservative” Bush years. So you are darned right that conservatives have decided that we have reached a point where going along and getting along are no longer viable. Serious people like Paul Ryan have tried to start providing the conservative leadership we need to right our course and get through this time when our very survival sometimes seems at stake. But it is precisely this sober leadership that Frum seems to despise is radical kookery.

There is much else in Frum’s column with which to take issue. When he is at odds with 99% of conservatives, perhaps, just perhaps, it is he who is not what he claims to be. I’m happy for Frum that he has his blog with a little crowd of liberal “Republicans” to tell him how smart and honest he is. But he is not relevant to conservative Republicans except to continue to remind us of what has been most wrong with the party for many years:  lack of principle, self-doubt and even self-hatred, liberal elitism, resignment to surrender as the noble course.

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