By Robert Parry: The decisive defeat of Mitt Romney in the presidential race and the forced resignation of ex-Gen. David Petraeus as CIA director have marginalized America’s neoconservatives more than at any time in the past several decades, confining them mostly to Washington think tanks and media opinion circles.
The neocons bet heavily on a Romney victory as they envisioned a return to power, like what they enjoyed under President George W. Bush when they paved the way for the U.S. invasion of Iraq and dreamed of forcing “regime change” in Iran and Syria. During the campaign, Romney largely delegated his foreign policy to a cast of neocon retreads from the Bush era.
Yet, amid the wreckage of the past week – with Romney blamed for a disastrous campaign and Petraeus embarrassed by a tawdry extramarital affair – the neocons now find themselves without a strong ally anywhere inside the Executive Branch. And with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who sometimes sided with them, expected to leave shortly, the neocons could be even more isolated in the weeks ahead.
This reversal of fortune has led some key neocons to send out what amount to peace feelers to the Obama administration. The Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and Washington Post columnist (and Brookings Institution senior fellow) Robert Kagan have joined in urging Republicans to show more flexibility regarding their opposition to tax hikes on the wealthy.
Kristol made his views known on weekend talk shows, declaring on Fox News: “It won’t kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires.” Kagan penned an op-ed column for the Washington Post that stated: “It seems pretty obvious that a compromise will require both tax reform, including if necessary some tax increases, and entitlement reform, since those programs are the biggest driver of the fiscal crisis.”
Some on the Left have cited the tax flexibility of Kristol, in particular, as an indication of Republican willingness to compromise seriously with President Obama in a second term. However, the truth is that neocons have never been economic conservatives. Instead, they have favored lavishing money on military programs and financing warfare to implement their imperial strategy of imposing political change by force. The budget has never been a high priority.
A Split on the Right
Over the past three-plus decades, the neocons have joined with cultural and economic conservatives more as a marriage of convenience than as a sign of true affection and shared values. Now, as the Religious Right and the Ayn Rand ideologues face harder times politically, the neocons are pondering a trial separation, if not an outright divorce.
The signs of a split among conservatives may be welcome news for President Obama who has been contemplating a number of controversial foreign policy moves in the post-election environment, including reaching an accommodation with Iran over its nuclear program. Harsh economic sanctions on Iran appear to have made Iranian leaders more serious about striking a deal and Obama is expected to seek a resolution in the weeks ahead.
However, the neocons have remained hostile to any concessions toward Iran. If Mitt Romney had won the presidency, the neocons likely would have hijacked the sanctions from their stated goal of achieving Iranian concessions on nuclear issues and transformed them into an economic club to bludgeon “regime change.” That could have set the stage for another Middle East war.
The significance of Petraeus’s resignation as CIA director is that the ex-four-star general was one of the neocons’ last insiders who could be counted on to frustrate Obama’s negotiations with Iran. Last year, Petraeus complicated U.S.-Iranian ties by pushing a dubious story about Iran planning a terrorist attack in Washington.
The White House and the Justice Department doubted that Iranian leaders were implicated in the harebrained scheme to assassinate the Saudi ambassador by blowing up a Washington restaurant. But Petraeus’s CIA embraced the suspicions and won over the Washington press corps, which largely swallowed the story whole.
It has since turned out that the central figure in the plot, an Iranian-American car dealer Mansour Arbabsiar, was diagnosed by doctors from his own defense team as suffering a bipolar disorder. In other words, his lawyers say he has a severe psychiatric ailment that affected his grasp of reality.
Nevertheless, the blaring news of the terror plot – echoing across U.S. front pages and American TV screens – strained the delicate negotiations between the Obama administration and the Iranian leadership. So, Obama’s inner circle saw a silver lining in Petraeus’s sudden departure: this neocon ally will not be around to sabotage talks again.
The Accommodating Obama
After winning the presidency in 2008, Obama extended an olive branch to the Republicans, the neocons and much of the Washington Establishment by retaining President George W. Bush’s last Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Bush’s military high command, including Petraeus who was then head of Central Command and thus overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Amid media applause for this “team of rivals,” Obama also picked Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State. As a New York senator, Clinton had developed close ties to the neocons and generally supported their hawkish positions on Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama’s generosity, which included a decision not to seek any accountability for war crimes committed by the Bush administration, won him little reciprocity, however. Secretary Gates and Gen. Petraeus, with the tacit support of Secretary Clinton, blocked Obama’s interest in hearing less aggressive options on Afghanistan. They essentially steered him into support of a major troop “surge.”
Behind the young President’s back, Gen. Petraeus even mounted a P.R. campaign in support of a larger and longer Afghan War. In 2009, when Obama was weighing what to do about Afghanistan, Petraeus personally arranged extraordinary access to U.S. field commanders for two of his influential neocon friends, Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations and Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute.
“Fears of impending disaster are hard to sustain … if you actually spend some time in Afghanistan, as we did recently at the invitation of General David Petraeus, chief of U.S. Central Command,” they wrote upon their return when they penned a glowing report in about the prospects for success in Afghanistan – if only President Obama sent more troops and committed the United States to stay in the war for the long haul.
In mid-2011, Gates finally left the Pentagon, with Obama replacing him with CIA Director Leon Panetta, who had emerged as a trusted Obama adviser. To fill the CIA job, Obama named Petraeus partly to prevent the ambitious general from launching a political career as a Republican, including possibly becoming the GOP’s presidential standard-bearer in 2012.
Obama’s move was risky, in that Petraeus could use his position at the CIA to leak out information to his neocon allies that could undercut Obama’s foreign policies, a possibility that appears to have come to pass in the alleged Iranian assassination plot.
So, when the White House learned that Petraeus had entangled himself in a sex scandal, there was no rush to help the CIA chief extricate himself. Rather than sweeping the scandal under the rug and letting Petraeus stay on – as he apparently expected – or concocting a cover story for a graceful exit, the Obama administration let the story play out in all its messy details.
Between the outcome of the election and the departure of Petraeus, President Obama now has the chance to take full control of his foreign policy. The neocons also find themselves sitting on the outside looking in more so than at any time since the 1970s when they emerged as a group of hawkish ex-Democrats and embittered ex-Leftists who defected to Ronald Reagan.
Many neocons worked on Reagan’s presidential campaign in 1980 and were rewarded with prominent jobs on President Reagan’s foreign policy team, the likes of Elliott Abrams, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Frank Gaffney. Though their influence ebbed and flowed over the 12 years of Republican rule, the neocons established themselves as a potent force in Washington policymaking.
Even after President Bill Clinton took office, the neocons retained some measure of influence in his administration and became favorites on newspaper op-ed pages and at powerful think tanks, including some that were regarded as center and center-left, such as the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution.
The neocons reached the apex of their power under President George W. Bush when they persuaded the inexperienced Bush to respond to the 9/11 attacks by invading and occupying Iraq, which had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or 9/11.
Iraq had long been on the neocon target list as a threat to Israel. The neocons also envisioned using occupied Iraq as a base for forcing “regime change” in Iran and Syria, with the ultimate goal of allowing Israel to dictate peace terms to its near-in enemies, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestine’s Hamas.
The neocon hubris in Iraq contributed to the geopolitical disaster there as nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers died and hundreds of billions of dollars were wasted. Finally, neocon power began to recede. By the end of his administration, Bush was resisting pressure from Vice President Dick Cheney and the neocons around him to bomb Iran.
Still, when Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, the neocon influence remained strong enough in Official Washington that the new President left in place a number of key neocon allies, especially Gates and Petraeus, and named Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.
Though Obama upset the neocons by completing the military withdrawal from Iraq, he accepted their plan for an expanded war in Afghanistan, and he continued much of Bush’s “war on terror,” albeit without the name.
Turning on Obama
Obama’s concessions garnered some favorable neocon commentaries in important news outlets, such as The Washington Post, but the neocons still rallied behind Mitt Romney’s campaign to oust Obama in 2012. Romney assembled a team of Bush retreads to write his foreign policy white paper, “An American Century.”
The title was an obvious homage to the neocon Project for the New American Century, which in the 1990s built the ideological framework for the disastrous Iraq War and other “regime change” strategies. Romney recruited Eliot Cohen, a founding member of the Project for the New American Century and a protégé of prominent neocons Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, to write the foreword.
Romney’s white paper chastised Obama for pulling out the 30,000 “surge troops” from Afghanistan by mid-2012 and conducting a gradual withdrawal of the remaining 70,000 by the end of 2014. Instead, Romney’s white paper argued that Obama should have followed the advice of field commanders like then-Gen. David Petraeus and made withdrawals either more slowly or contingent on U.S. military success.
However, like Napoleon seeking to regain his former glory through an audacious challenge to his entrenched adversaries, the neocons encountered a Waterloo instead. Their strategic defeat began with Romney’s loss to Obama on Nov. 6 but it then grew worse with the humiliating resignation of Petraeus from the CIA. Now, the neocons are left with no major foothold within the Executive Branch.
But no need for tears. The neocons still retain their lucrative niches at prominent think tanks, as talking heads on TV and on influential op-ed pages.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
(Originally posted at Consortium News)
By Chez Pazienza: One of the realities of modern politics that I’ve never been able to get my head fully around is the desperate desire of the right to revel in the suffering of its political adversaries. I get that I shouldn’t be surprised by it, since it’s the traditional behavioral pattern of most schoolyard bullies, but it’s still always seemed staggeringly unproductive — not to mention dangerous for the country — to rally around a cause or candidate solely because doing so “pisses off liberals.” Things like hypocrisy, the naked contradiction of previously embraced views and the potential detriment to self-interest don’t even enter the conservative thought process these days so long as something provides an opportunity to point and laugh. I think this goes to the argument that modern conservatives seem to be interested only in power for power’s sake, while just about everyone else across the political spectrum is interested in actually governing; it doesn’t matter if they act like children because they’re not really in it to make a difference anyway. Mitt Romney is, in many ways, the living embodiment of this cynical political ethos — or at the very least the current world champion of exploiting it.
I can now fully admit to my own naievete in thinking that after the election of Barack Obama in 2008, the right would go away and lick its wounds for a while before coming back sheepishly as a somewhat chastened and neutered political movement. On the contrary, it took all of a day-and-a-half of petulant sulking for conservatives to roar loudly and push full-speed-ahead with delegitimizing the new president and insisting that the reason for a Republican loss was simply that their candidate, John McCain, wasn’t extremist enough to give the American people what they obviously really wanted. The eventual result is what we’ve been forced to suffer through as a nation for the past four years: utter, incomprehensible insanity; unofficial demonization and an official policy of obstruction the likes of which this country has never seen, all in the service of ensuring that Barack Obama is a one-term president. The establishment Republicans have stated in almost no uncertain terms that they will sabotage any progress and burn the country to the ground if it means they can hang it around the neck of Obama and retake the White House in 2012. The Tea Party insurgents, meanwhile, can’t even be bothered to camouflage their personal disgust for Obama, whom they regard as nothing short of a pretender to the throne. The enabling, exploitation and elevation of any and every lunatic conspiracy theory casting the president as a phantom menace bent on destroying America makes their position crystal clear.
For some time now, on the Bob & Chez Show podcast that I do with Bob Cesca, I’ve regularly brought up this little phenomenon, what appears to be the GOP’s willful sowing of craziness and discord — its taking hostage of the entire country — in an effort to make Americans so exhausted that they’ll just give up and return a Republican white guy to power. The message seems to be a combination “good cop-bad cop” routine, with the right saying in one breath, “See? See how insane Barack Obama has made things? Don’t you wish everything would just go back to normal? All you have to do to make it happen is give us what we want. Here — here’s a crayon and a legal pad. Just write the name ‘Mitt Romney’ down on it and that awful music that blares every 20 seconds will stop.” If you need proof that this is the case, just listen to assholes like John Sununu, who publicly and with the kind of straight face only a sociopath can muster, called Barack Obama the most racially divisive president in American history. Because it’s Obama’s fault that a good portion of the right has lost its mind over a black president; if he’d just been whiter, none of this would have happened. It’s shooting a guy in your living room then castigating him for getting blood on your rug. It’s blaming the victim (which, judging by the outrage some conservative lawmakers have drawn with respect to their views on rape, shouldn’t really surprise anyone).
And that’s what brings me back to my original point.
Last week, Bill Maher did a really great “New Rules” segment on his HBO show where he made the case that by supporting Mitt Romney for president, you’re unwittingly bestowing credibility on every fringe element that has rallied around him and to which he’s pandered: the birthers, the racists, the anti-intellectuals, the climate change-deniers, the creationists, the end-timers, the gay rights opponents, the rape-equivocators, basically every nut-job that currently plants him or herself firmly under the modern Republican tent. Maher’s view, and I agree, is that these people don’t deserve to have their outlandish beliefs and conspiracy theories lent credence by the American public. But there’s more to it than that. The other thing that inadvertently comes with a vote for Romney is a reward — a reward for all the chaos and obstruction and governmental hostage-taking the GOP and its conservative acolytes have engaged in and propagated over the past four years. If you vote for Romney, you’re essentially telling the right that its insidious brand of politics works, and the potential political repercussions of that validation could be far-reaching and can’t really be overstated. You’re giving the bully exactly what he wants and so you can be damn sure he’ll beat you up again, over and over.
I have no desire to point and laugh at Republicans and the right in general come November 7th. I don’t want to see them lose because I’m a child who thinks this is all a big, funny game and who wants to rejoice in seeing my enemies in tears. I think that the current incarnation of the Republican party is bad for the country not strictly because of its views but because of its scorched-earth politics and the fact that it’s recklessly aligned itself with the most deranged, uncompromising elements at the far end of the political spectrum.
What we’ve seen from the right over the past four years shouldn’t be rewarded under any circumstances.
By Bob Cesca: Last week, when the conservative British commentator Stuart Varney said on Fox News Channel that every poll, including the Fox News poll presumably, doesn’t “feel right” and dismissed the “mathematical gobbledegook” used to ascertain the respective results, it all made sense to me.
Conservatives are liars. To themselves more than anyone else.
The conservative self-deception has fooled many of them into believing the president is less popular than he is, that Mitt Romney is more electable than he is, and that the economy is worse than it really is. Rewind through the last four years and recall the syllabus of non-reality-based attacks on the president. He’ll destroy the nation. He’s a secret Muslim. He’s lazy and shiftless. He’s a socialist. He’s a Nazi. He’s somehow a Nazi-communist-socialist. He’s the only politician who uses Teleprompters. He’s solely responsible for the national debt, which somehow didn’t exist prior to January 20, 2009. He’s pushed “failed economic policies” “down the throats” of the American people. He’s responsible for the biggest tax increase in the universe. He gutted welfare reform. He stole from Medicare. He’s an unpopular, idiot “man-child” lightweight failure who’s apologizing for America and bribing poor black people with free Obama Phones.
None of that is true, except to conservatives who, above race and every other nearsighted justification for their anti-Obama apoplexy, are simply terrified that center-left policies might actually work.
Consequently, when they see contrary poll numbers showing that voters aren’t in lockstep with their epistemic bubble — their breathless, outraged fantasies about the president and the economy — the polls have to be skewed, otherwise everyone would agree with their hilariously fictitious boardwalk caricatures of the president and the national situation. The polls, all except Rasmussen, have blasted a gaping hole in the conservative anti-Obama bubble and it’s utterly confusing and frightening them. The bubble is rapidly decompressing and so they’re frantically plugging the breach with Unskewed Polls, a website founded by a Virginia Republican who clearly doesn’t understand a damn thing about polling.
Unskewed founder Dean Chambers is the Bizarro Nate Silver. Whereas Silver is a mathematical and statistical savant who’s a half man, half slide-rule chimera — a skinny New Yorker who’s devised astonishingly accurate forecasting models for both sports and politics, and who exhaustively explains his work on a daily basis aboard his FiveThirtyEight blog for the New York Times. And then there’s Chambers, a portly Southern amateur who thinks he’s uncovered a widespread polling scam when, in fact, he’s merely stripped out any and all accuracy or calculated methodology and just, you know, made stuff up to confirm his political bias, boost his internet traffic and win the adulation of terrified, flailing conservatives scrambling for electoral life preservers as the Romney-Ryan campaign ship rapidly takes on water.
Unskewed Polls appears to display the results of the major pollsters, but Chambers has recalculated the numbers based on his ridiculously defective home-brewed Republican/Democratic split. Naturally, the split is heavily favorable to the Republicans, so the results are vastly different with Romney leading handily in every poll. Put another way, imagine being diagnosed with a deadly illness and, instead of listening to the diagnosis, just grabbing the doctor’s chart out of his or her hands and randomly scribbling your own diagnosis, “Not sick! Blah-blah-blah! Cured! Weeeee!” That’s what Unskewed Polls is doing.
But since when did intra-conservative debunking or “mathematical gobbledegook” stop the Republican base from totally flying off the rails with an insane conspiracy theory to justify its wildly skewed view of the rest of the known universe?
I can only imagine what’s next in the post-truth discourse.
It occurred to me that perhaps conservatives will embrace Unskewed Election Results. If the president wins this thing, the Republicans will absolutely lose their collective shpadoinkle — more so than ever before. How could this have happened?! He’s the most unpopular president ever?! The economy!! Teleprompters!!!
So Dean Chambers will create a website, or a vertical on his existing site, that will “unskew” the election results to show Mitt Romney winning the election.
Perhaps he’ll use exit polling data to ascertain how many Republicans or Independents voted for Obama and give those votes to Romney. After all, how could Republicans possibly vote for President Obama? He could also come up with some sort of equation that will show the percentage of voters who were either illegal immigrants, college students, Black Panthers or “Obama Phone” recipients and strike those votes from the total. Or, most likely, he’ll simply take his Unskewed Poll margins and apply them to the election results. Whatever results he comes up with, it’ll surely be the nonsensical, ludicrous work of a polling dilettante. However, his conclusions will help to fabricate an alternate reality election in which Mitt Romney won.
They say insane people don’t realize they’re insane. They believe they’re perfectly normal and everyone else is insane. The ultimate irony is that no one is more politically skewed right now than the Republican base and yet they’re attempting to unskew everyone and everything else.
By Stephen Engelberg and Kim Barker: The emergence of nonprofits as the leading conduit for anonymous spending in this year’s presidential campaign is often attributed to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, which opened the money spigot, allowing corporations and unions to buy ads urging people to vote for or against specific candidates.
But a closer look shows that there are several reasons that tens of millions of dollars of secret money are flooding this year’s campaign. Actions — and inaction — by both the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenue Service have contributed just as much to the flood of tens of millions of dollars of secret money into the 2012 campaign. Congress did not act on a bill that would have required disclosure after Citizens United and other court rulings opened the door to secret political spending.
To understand how all this happened, it’s worth returning to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in Citizens United, and the political system the court envisioned. In the decision’s key finding, Kennedy and four other justices said the First Amendment entitled corporations and unions to the same unlimited rights of political speech and spending as any citizen.
But in a less-noticed portion of the ruling, Kennedy and seven of his colleagues upheld disclosure rules and emphasized the role of transparency. Undue corporate or union influence on elections, he wrote, could be addressed by informed voters and shareholders who would instantly access campaign finance facts from their laptops or smart phones.
“With the advent of the Internet,” Kennedy wrote, “prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters.”
If a company wasted money on politics, the justices agreed, its shareholders could use the publicly available information to “determine whether their corporation’s political speech advances the corporation’s interest in making profits.” Separately, the sunshine of public disclosure will let “citizens see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests.”
“The First Amendment protects political speech; and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way,” Kennedy concluded. “This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”
A very different system has taken shape. As our reporting this week showed, money for political ads is pouring into non-profits ostensibly dedicated to promoting social welfare. These groups are paying for many of the negative ads clogging the airwaves, but are not disclosing their donors.
As a result, it’s entirely unclear whether these ads are being paid for by unions and corporations empowered by Citizens United or by wealthy individuals.
Separately, corporations have resisted calls to list their donations to political social welfare nonprofits or other political spending. So far, the Securities and Exchange Commission has not responded to a rulemaking petition asking for it to develop rules to require public companies to disclose that spending.
The Supreme Court’s opening of the door to hefty flows of secret money began years before Citizens United. In a 2007 case (PDF) involving a nonprofit called Wisconsin Right to Life, the justices ruled that unions and corporations could buy ads that mentioned a candidate in the weeks before an election as long as the commercials stopped short of directly advocating the candidate’s election or defeat. Even if these ads, known as “electioneering communications,” clearly attacked the positions of one candidate, they were permissible unless they were “susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate.”
The flood began and the identities of hardly any of the donors were disclosed. The reason? A decision by the FEC, the oversight panel with three Republicans and three Democrats who frequently deadlock.
After Wisconsin Right to Life, the FEC told social welfare nonprofits that they had to disclose only if the donors specifically earmarked the money for political ads. “It proved to be the exception that swallowed the rule,” said Paul S. Ryan, general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit, non-partisan group that tracks campaign finance. The day the FEC adopted this rule, Ryan wrote on his blog that it would allow massive amounts of secret money into politics. He proved correct.
In 2006, ads bought by groups that didn’t disclose their donors amounted to less than 2 percent of outside spending, excluding party committees, research by the Center for Responsive Politics shows. By 2008, that number hit 25 percent; by 2010, more than 40 percent.
All of this raises an intriguing question: Was Kennedy aware when he drafted the January 2010 Citizens United opinion that nonprofits were being widely used to avoid public disclosure of political spending?
At the least, critics say, Kennedy was poorly informed.
“Justice Kennedy was living in a fantasy land,” said Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a professor at Stetson University College of Law who tracks campaign finance issues. “I wish the world he envisaged exists. It doesn’t.”
Instead, this is the disclosure world that exists: Someone who gives up to $2,500 to the campaign of President Barack Obama or challenger Mitt Romney will have his or her name, address and profession listed on the FEC website for all to see. But that same person can give $1 million or more to a social welfare group that buys ads supporting or attacking those same candidates and stay anonymous.
This year, a federal judge struck down the FEC rule stemming from Wisconsin Right to Life. The FEC announced in July that major donors to electioneering communications — ads that focus on issues without directly advocating for candidates — would have to be named.
Already, groups are looking for work-arounds. They’re running different kinds of ads. Some will name other social welfare nonprofits as their donors.
The loose oversight by the FEC helped bring so much anonymous money into campaign finance. But no one expects the commission to take a more assertive role anytime soon. Dan Backer, a lawyer who represents several conservative nonprofits, likened the deadlocked agency to a “cute bunny” while referring to the IRS as a “500-pound gorilla.”
The IRS or Congress are more plausible avenues for change, experts say. Ryan said he was hopeful that Congress and the IRS might some day limit ads from groups that don’t disclose their donors. The 2012 campaign, though, appears to be a lost cause. “I think this election will be mired and perhaps overwhelmed by secret money,” Ryan said.
The Daily Banter Headline Grab (via ThinkProgress):
NO ABORTION IN CASES OF RAPE OR INCEST. The proposal for a “human life amendment” passed without a hitch — and without any exceptions for rape or incest. The committee didn’t stop there; they also adopted language that would ban drugs that end pregnancy after conception, which could potentially include Plan B, the “morning after pill.”
SALUTE TO MANDATORY ULTRASOUNDS. The GOP officially praises states’ “informed consent” laws that force women to undergo unnecessary procedures, require waiting periods and endure other measures meant to discourage them from getting an abortion. One such law receiving a “salute” was crafted by committee head McDonnell, who passed a notorious mandatory ultrasound requirement after he signed an unsuccessful bill to require an even more invasive transvaginal probe ultrasound during an abortion consultation.
NO LEGAL RECOGNITION OF SAME-SEX COUPLES. The committee embraced extreme anti-gay language, even rejecting a proposal to endorse civil unions for gay couples after vehement objections from Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Romney adviser Jim Bopp, who called it a “counterfeit marriage.” The rejection of civil unions, along with the refusal to include a line affirming the legal equality of same-sex couples prompted the organization GOProud to declare, “Those who have engaged in this public platform fight have provided distraction from important issues and damaged Mitt Romney’s campaign.”
REPLICATE ARIZONA-STYLE IMMIGRATION LAWS. Kris Kobach, who wrote the now mostly invalidated immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama, pushed for language calling for a border fence, a national E-Verify system to make it harder for undocumented workers to find employment, the end of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants and an end to sanctuary cities. The committee overwhelmingly approved the proposals, as well as a line chastising the Department of Justice to halt the lawsuits against draconian immigration laws in Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina and Utah: “State efforts to reduce illegal immigration must be encouraged, not attacked.”
AUDIT THE FED. The pet project of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) to audit the Federal Reserve has now been embraced as an official Republican goal. For the first time, the platform calls for an annual audit of the Federal Reserve.
NO WOMEN IN COMBAT. The platform condemns “social experimentation” in the military, which covers everything from the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to allowing officers to wear their uniforms in gay pride events to letting women serve on the front lines.
NO STATEHOOD, MORE GUNS FOR WASHINGTON DC. FRC’s Perkins, who recently blamed President Obama and the Southern Poverty Law Center for the shooting at FRC’s Washington headquarters, requested and received a section specifically urging the DC Council to expand gun rights. The same section also opposes DC statehood, which would allow the District to govern itself and put an end to Congressional attempts to impose abortion bans on DC.
NO NEW TAXES, EXCEPT FOR WAR. The platform calls for a Constitutional amendment requiring a super-majority to approve any tax increase, “with exceptions for only war and national emergencies.” It would also deliberately hobble future Congresses through a cap limiting all government spending to historical average percentage of GDP — “so that future Congresses cannot balance the budget by raising taxes.”
The Tory Party continues its war against the working poor. From the NewStatesman:
While the eyes of the world were on Greece, the Conservatives quietly launched a new assault on workers’ rights. Iain Duncan Smith announced that low-paid workers will lose their benefits if they go on the strike. Under the current system, workers on wages of £13,000 or less can claim tax credits. But under IDS’s proposals, there will be no increase in benefits if a worker’s income drops due to strike action. He said: “It is totally wrong that the current benefit system compensates workers and tops up their income when they go on strike. This is unfair to taxpayers and creates perverse incentives. Striking is a choice, and in future benefit claimants will have to pay the price for that choice, as under universal credit, we no longer will.”
Has it ever occurred to Ian Duncan Smith that low paid workers don’t strike for the fun of it – that they are protesting the pitiful wages and awful working conditions they are subjected to for a reason? Living on £13,000 in the UK is virtually impossible, so striking is one of the only ways people can negotiate for more. Take those rights away, and you solidify the existence of a permanent underclass and make it impossible to have any type of social mobility.
I guess that’s the point.
The line in question comes toward the end of Armageddon, when Bruce Willis’s character and his crew of roughnecks have successfully drilled through to the core of the killer asteroid and are preparing to drop a nuclear bomb into the hole that will blow the whole thing to hell. Suddenly, the environment on the asteroid becomes even more volatile — explosive gas vents going off all over the place and violent quakes that throw the astronauts this way and that way — causing Willis to say something about how it’s obvious the rock they’re hurtling toward Earth on doesn’t like them being there. That’s when Will Patton’s character responds determinedly, “That’s because it knows we’re here to kill it.”
Why has this silly scene been on my mind so much lately? Well, think of the giant killer asteroid as the current incarnation of the Republican party, a wave of immigrant and non-white births as the roughnecks, and the seismic political shift they’re bringing to bear on this country as the nuclear warhead. The changing face of America has come to kill the GOP as it’s existed for the past several decades — and the party is not happy about it. Don’t let all the usual macho bluster and tough talk fool you; Republicans are scared right now. Terrified. As in chilled right down to their precious souls — the ones hand-spun by Almighty God just seconds after their dads ejaculated inside their moms. They know their days are numbered.
Census data show that last year, for the first time, non-white births made up over 50% of all births in the U.S. What this proves is what the Republican party already knows very well: the traditionally conservative electorate, essentially their entire way of thinking and the political clout it’s held, is in danger of being demographically pushed out of existence. In case you happen to actually be a Republican and therefore don’t believe in things like facts and numbers, let’s let David Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies spell it out for you:
“The Republicans’ problem is their voters are white, aging and dying off. There will come a time when they suffer catastrophic losses with the realization of the population changes.”
The math simply doesn’t lie, and it’s presented Republicans with a stark and unavoidable choice — literally, evolve or die. And we all know how they tend to feel about evolution. One look at the way they reacted to the election of Barack Obama, a flesh-and-blood symbol of the loss of political privilege they’ve enjoyed throughout history, should give you some idea of how the GOP chose to confront its new reality. Resentful conservatives didn’t just stick their fingers in their ears and shout, “La la la la! Not listening!” — they staged a full-on insurgency in the form of the Tea Party, one which dragged the relatively sane and reasonable Republican establishment kicking and screaming to the outer fringes of the far right and has kept it there.
With that in mind it should come as no surprise that the dwindling demographic that currently makes up the GOP base is thoroughly losing its mind over these latest census figures. The Eagle Forum, a group founded by prudish spinster cliché and right-wing crusader O.G. Phyllis Schlafly, responded to the report by not only doubling-down on but going all-fucking-in with the xenophobic rhetoric:
“It is not a good thing. The immigrants do not share American values, so it is a good bet that they will not be voting Republican when they start voting in large numbers.”
It’s not often that a statement is so wildly off-base and yet so inarguably right at the same time. No, immigrants aren’t the shiftless parasites that Tea Party conservatives paint them all to be with the same shit-brown brush. Yeah, they won’t be voting Republican anytime soon — mostly because conservatives continue to call them a bunch of shiftless parasites who aren’t real Americans. The thing is, of course, that they are real Americans — they’re the new face of America. The old one is dying off and its mindset will soon be extinct — the only question is whether the Republican party can adapt and save itself at least in name if not strident ideology. Grabbing on tightly with both hands and trying with all their might to hold onto the privilege and political power they’ve had for generations, trying to slam the door and clamp down on the rising authority of America’s modern immigrant population, won’t work. It’s not the 1950s anymore. They’re simply outnumbered — and they know it. Glenn Beck was wrong. They are the ones surrounded.
And no matter how much of a tantrum they throw, that nuclear bomb is about to be shoved right up their ass.
By Ben Cohen: After enacting extreme austerity measure in the UK with the promise that cutting spending would solve the economic crisis, the Conservative government has a lot of explaining to do after it was announced last week that Britain was falling back into recession again.
David Cameron has desperately tried to argue that his problems were inherited, that the debt crisis was so bad that it has made a speedy recovery impossible, but the historical record shows otherwise. The recession and economic recovery has been one of the slowest in history – a testament to the failure of the austerity measures passed by the coalition government.
The ONS said output of the production industries decreased by 0.4%, construction decreased by 3%. Output of the services sector, which includes retail, increased by 0.1%, after falling a month earlier.
It added that a fall in government spending had contributed to the particularly large fall in the construction sector.
“The huge cuts to public spending – 25% in public sector housing and 24% in public non-housing and with a further 10% cuts to both anticipated for 2013 – have left a hole too big for other sectors to fill,” said Judy Lowe, deputy chairman of industry body CITB-ConstructionSkills, said.
Cameron has stated that he will continue on the path towards debt reduction and austerity, claiming the country’s ability to borrow should take precedence over everything else. Cameron argues that spending in the private sector is key to growth, and government must make it easier for the wealthy to unlock their capital. This theory is not only deeply flawed, but provably false. How do we know this? Because it isn’t working in Britain, or anywhere else for that matter.
Labour leader Ed Miliband has been raking Cameron over the coals, hammering home the point that it is too late for the Prime Minister to blame anyone else. In a heated debate in Parliament, Miliband also pointed to Cameron’s privileged social background as a key reason behind his lack of understanding:
This is a recession made by him and the chancellor in Downing Street. It is his catastrophic economic policy that has landed us back in recession….Arrogant, posh boys just don’t get it.
I think that Miliband has a point here – Cameron and virtually everyone he is surrounded by come from enormously privileged background. Haven risen through the exclusive British private schooling system, then onto Oxford, Cameron has been bred to believe that the wealthy know what is best for the country. The notion that the rich should not determine economic policy is completely alien to him, and his government reflects the values of his social class – and those values place self interest above all else.
Cutting social spending and giving tax breaks to big business does two things: Firstly, it stops the poor and middle classes from buying anything, and secondly, rather than encouraging business to re-invest in the economy, it encourages them to hold onto their wealth. As Richard Darlington in the New Statesman writes:
Businesses in Britain and around the world are sitting on record piles of cash: $2 trillion globally. But they won’t invest that cash and create jobs until they see the demand for their products and services rising. And squeezed consumers won’t create that demand until they have confidence they can spend a bit more and manage their debts.
It is then up to the government to increase confidence in the economy through investment – something now so blatantly self evident that is is remarkable the Conservatives won’t entertain it. Given they will have to call an election within the next two and a half years, they might have to if they want a chance of staying in power. Otherwise, the Tories will be about as successful as their economic policies - and so far, they are proving to be an utter failure.
The British Conservative government has long argued that deregulation and austerity measures are key to Britain's economic health. According to supply siders David Cameron and his chancellor George Osborne, everyone must go through pain in order to rebalance the economy, including the very wealthy. This is in stark contrast to the Keynesian approach that prescribes a huge jolt of government spending in order to stimulate the economy and replace private sector spending in the short term. Britain is in the middle of an economic experiment where the government has implemented one method over the other, and unfortunately we are seeing the direct proof that the supply side theory doesn't work.
According to a new study from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the austerity measures will not only continue to depress the economy, but hit the poorest the hardest making inequality even more extreme than before. From the Guardian:
George Osborne's austerity programme will cut the living standards of Britain's families by more than 10% over the next three years as those on the lowest incomes suffer most from the tax increases and spending cuts designed to reduce the budget deficit.
A study from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the UK's leading experts on the public finances, concludes that the chancellor's strategy will result in greater inequality and rising child poverty, throwing into reverse progress made in the final years of the last Labour government.
This study goes to the root of the deception behind conservative economic policy, uncovering the dirty secret that the Tories have never, and will never be concerned about wealth disparity or structural poverty. Their policies are designed to ensure corporate profits continue to rise regardless (and even at the expense) of the majority of the population. The rhetoric used to soothe the public is as empty as the threats against the banks – token gestures with little intent.
So now maybe it is time to acknowledge the reality and move on from this grossly unfair economic doctrine that continues to harm millions of people around the world.
How much more proof do we need that helping the rich doesn't help the poor, that cutting government services and jobs doesn't boost the economy, and allowing people to spiral in to poverty is not the best way of promoting economic equality?