Posts Tagged ‘Tea Party’

pinProvided even a reasonable percentage of her supporters turn out, as opposed to spending the day in a bar drowning their sorrows at what has become of America, then Hillary Clinton has already won the Presidential election.

Barring an opinion earthquake, of course. Of which, yes, there is always a tiny possibility – especially in this most unusual year – but we surely now know everything there is to know about Mrs Clinton after her much-touted thirty years in public life. The chances of anything truly dramatic coming out now is vanishingly low, especially after the Wikileaks big expose, which kept some right-wing Americans up all night with excitement waiting for the goss, turned out to be a complete fizzer.

How can we be so sure? Simple. The size of the mountain Trump has to climb.

This is famed statistician Nate Silver’s latest forecast of the likely result.

Likely election result

This takes into account a wide range of opinion polls, some traditionally favouring one side, some the other, but only some of which factor in opinions SINCE the Trump “groping” scandal broke. The CNN poll on “who won the debate” isn’t factored in, but that strongly favoured Clinton too, even though it generally overstates Clinton support slightly, a factor that CNN acknowledge.

In other words, if Trump’s scandalous remarks are not fully factored in yet, and the debate isn’t either, then this is a dire result for Trump. His position, already looking rocky, has declined further. And still has some downside to go.

This is how Trump has been faring recently:

Clinton creeps towards 50% in the popular vote.

Clinton creeps towards 50% in the popular vote.

 

The College starts to favour Clinton markedly.

The College starts to favour Clinton markedly.

 

Chance of winning

The “chance of winning” calculation looks insurmountable for Trump.

 

The “path to a win” problem

Most pointedly, when we look at the Electoral College likely result, Trump’s path to the White House now looks impossible, because the polls are predicting critical wins for the Democrats in Florida (up by more than three points) and Pennsylvania (up by nearly seven points), in North Carolina and Virginia by comfortable margins, and, indeed, in every other battleground state except Nevada and Arizona, and in Nevada Trump’s lead is just 4%, and in Arizona it’s “even stevens”, but then again we also know that the main newspaper in that state is now campaigning for Clinton.

Trump simply doesn’t have a route to win, on these figures. As things stand, Clinton will win 310-340 electoral college votes: more than enough for a very comfortable victory. Trump may well pile up votes in very conservative locations, but that doesn’t help him, no matter how much “singing to the choir” he does.

But the real killer for Trump is that things are going to get worse from here, not better. Blind Freddie can see that there will be some fallout from the recent furore that will be reflected in polls that will get reported by about Wednesday or Thursday, American time. How big a hit Trump will take is as yet unknown, but a hit there will be.

And as Silver argues:

Trump couldn’t really afford any negative shock to his numbers, given that he entered Friday in a bad position to begin with. Let’s say that the tape only hurts him by one percentage point, for instance, bringing him to a 6-point deficit from a 5-point deficit a week ago. Even that would be a pretty big deal. Before, Trump had to make up five points in five weeks — or one point per week. Now, he has to make up six points in four weeks instead (1.5 points per week).

In other words, Trump’s mountain is growing, not getting smaller. A gain of 1.5 points a week will require a massive sea change in opinion and there is no evidence whatsoever that is happening.

In addition, we see three more anti-Trump factors that will be starting to bite against him, given that is always a delay between things coming up and them affecting the opinion polls.

Trump’s “non payment of Federal tax for 20 years”

The expose over Trump’s tax situation is, we believe, much more telling than some people have realised. It’s simply too smug for Trump to dismiss it as “smart business” to use write offs to reduce tax seemingly forever. The idea that a billionaire doesn’t need to pay ANY tax, year after year, is a lousy atmospheric for the Republicans, especially for a party often condemned as being only interested in the big end of town. Trump’s natural support base is angry. Angry in an inchoate, unspecific way.

And they all pay their taxes, on much lower incomes. Sure, a few will say “good on him”, and a few will argue “he did nothing illegal”, but that is emphatically not the point. Most will say, “Well, f***.”

Trump’s stunt on Sunday with “the Bill Clinton women”.

No one would argue that Bill Clinton is anything other than a womaniser: it’s a near-fatal character flaw when his record is judged. But there’s a reason that Republican strategists have historically NOT gone after him as a means to get at Hillary. It’s because every time it’s brought up, it produces more sympathy for Hillary than everything else, especially amongst women voters. In desperation, Trump broke that rule. It won’t help him, and could hurt him.

Also, every time Trump brings up Clinton it reminds people of his own transgressions. His first wife accused him of rape – an allegation withdrawn after a confidential settlement. A “live” rape case with a thirteen year old plaintiff is in the courts now. Trump denies both, but, you know, so did Clinton …

The Republican backlash.

Sure, the Republican Party is split right down the middle. Sure, Tea Party types will accuse all those Republicans now abandoning Trump as being the best possible reason to back him and his intra-party revolution. But not all Republican voters are Teapublicans, and they and “independent” voters leaning towards Trump will be dismayed at his own colleagues’ thumping rejection of him. Some of those voters will plump instead for the Libertarian, Johnson, some will simply stay home rather than vote for the hated Clinton. Neither of those possibilities help Trump. By contrast, the centre and left have coalesced effectively around Clinton, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein is fading.

Now opinion polls have been wrong in the past. (Most notably with “Brexit”, which we and everyone else called wrong.) But not this wrong.

Which is why we say, as we have all along, it’s all over. Somewhere, a fat lady is singing her lungs out.

Probably one that Trump insulted.

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Not his time. But just maybe, it's time for us all to be very concerned.

Not his time. But just maybe, it’s time for us all to be very concerned.

In that curious vignette that seems to happen so often when politicians lose an election or end their careers, Marco Rubio finally managed to say something really important as he suspended his presidential campaign in a heartfelt speech on Tuesday night American time, after suffering a crushing defeat to Donald Trump in Rubio’s home state of Florida.

“America is in the middle of a real political storm, a real tsunami. And we should have seen this coming,” Rubio said. “Look, people are angry and people are really frustrated.”

While not mentioning Trump’s name, Rubio attacked the Republican frontrunner and called for a more inclusive party that’s “built on principles and ideas, not on anger, not on preying on people’s frustrations.”

“Tonight, while it’s clear that while we are on the right side this year, we will not be on the winning side,” Rubio said.

Rubio, as we have been saying for some years, is absolutely right. The Republican Party has been captured by a coalition of discontents, that first reared their head way back in the early 1960s, who reject the general consensus at the core of American politics that America is essentially a well-governed, mixed economy with a balance of private and public enterprise, and an internationalist outlook, a consensus that had held in place since long before the Second World War.

These discontents span a variety of motivations and types.

The new American revolution

On the one hand, we have the extreme free marketeers – the right wing small government libertarians that have made a virtue of damning central government as inevitably incompetent, if not corrupt, and for whom a Democratic administration is automatically to be opposed at every turn (even if it creates national gridlock) because the Democratic party believes in wielding Government’s levers of power, where the libertarians believe those levers should essentially be abolished.

libertarian-howlDriven by a tiny, minority economic view and a perfectionist view of what constitutes individual freedom, which purports to be as anti-Republican as it is anti-Democrats, but which invariably feeds support to the right in reality, they want nothing more nor less than a re-writing of the social and political compact for the American Republic, and all existing power structures are fair game.

Because of their fundamental opposition to both taxation and public expenditure, they find it impossible to even acknowledge, for example, that Obama has done a credible job of slowing the growth of public debt, and has been a fiscal conservative compared to previous administrations.

Nothing Obama could have done would elicit a cheer from them to balance their continual, canting scepticism. He could have run a Federal government surplus and they would complain that was merely gathering funds for future irresponsibility.

Instead, they argue fiercely that Government itself is the problem, which is always reduced in populist terminology to”Washington”, largely ignoring the huge levels of both public debt, and expenditure, by State Governments and local Government, for example. Because no one ever bothers to check the facts – and don’t even believe them when they are presented to them – the assumption is that their criticisms are valid, and they gain traction in the wider debate sphere even though they represent a tiny fringe movement as far as economic thinking goes.

The second major grouping are the “Tea Party” rightists, who ape the libertarian’s concerns about tax and spending but without any real intellectual rigour behind their position and really have no alternative to propose to the current system beyond wanting a tax cut and savagely cutting expenditure and – with a strong streak of Protestant work ethicism – assuming that everyone in sight is not working hard enough to improve their lot.

Politics.TeaParty-600x438Whilst enjoying common cause with the libertarians they are a distinct group because they are limited in their effectiveness by their essential incoherence: they have little vision of a future besides knowing in their bones that they dislike the present.

In America, this grouping is also overtly involved in two related but non-economic issues.

They are fervently pro-guns and pro-evangelical Christianity, and their religiosity is very often focused on their opposition to legal abortion. They are the hunters and shooters and the religious right organised into a loosely co-ordinated grassroots movement that is larger than the sum of its parts in publicity terms, but less effective as a co-ordinated organisational force as different parts of its base get turned on by different things.

The movement is also extremely American exceptionalist and internationally isolationist in its outlook.

Thus, these are people who simultaneously believe that America should not be involving itself in overseas wars, but should nevertheless be “kicking the shit out of” whoever opposes American hegemony at any one time.

The incompatibility of these goals, which go back to the later 1930s in their genesis, is never tackled. The same crowd that chants “USA! USA!” when an Osama bin Laden is killed will, in the blink of an eye, be waving its fists and bitching and moaning that their taxes are so high – a vast amount of which, of course, go to maintain America’s ludicrously bloated military services, but they perceive no irony in that – and they will also complain furiously that any American defeat is the result of a Government that doesn’t know what it’s doing, instead of a perfectly natural and concomitant price to be paid for endless overseas adventurism.

In short, the Tea Party is a badly organised and illogical anti-politics populist front.

hate

The third group are what we call the “Ultra Anti Democrats”. These people are not just anti the Democratic Party, or even anti the conservative central managerial structure of the Republican Party, but they are anti the very concept of American democracy as it functions now. For them, their view of the American dream is that it has turned, emphatically, into a nightmare.

In effect, they have simply lost faith entirely in the efficacy of the system to address their woes.

And their woes are essentially (a) we have no job, (b) we can’t afford the lifestyle dream we have been sold, (c) we are disconnected and unsupported, (c) other people get all the benefits, we get none, (d) politicians are lazy, feckless, untrustworthy and corrupt, and (e) we’re “mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more”.

The worldwide appeal of populism

Importantly, in order to understand precisely what “we should have seen coming”, we need to examine these people. This latter group of voters transcend traditional party dividing lines, and they are simply not amenable to a fractured and incompetent central governmental system seeking to mollify them.

They are very largely working class, poorly (not tertiary) educated, they have rarely (if ever) travelled outside their home area, (and certainly not overseas), and they only consume media that plays to their frustrations.

And there’s one simple reason why they are not amenable to mollification.

Their complaints are very often justified.

(We will return to this point further down the article.)

The danger is, of course, that this complete disgust with the status quo makes them ripe pickings for any populist politician without a core plan to fix things for them, but with a good understanding of what ails them, and the ability to translate that into easily-consumed slogans. And indeed, if they can deliver those slogans in a strangled and muddled syntax that emphasises their outsider status, then so much the better. “Look!” says the lightning rod candidate, “I am as incoherent as you are! Vote for me!”

We can see this “anti intellectualism” and “anti politics politics” being repeated all over the world, in the popularity of parties (and most importantly, individual leaders) that seek to leverage the discontent without addressing the causes of it, and entirely careless of the long-term effect of doing so.

Piero Ignazi divided right-wing populist parties, which he called “extreme right parties”, into two categories: traditional right-wing parties that had developed out of the historical right, and post-industrial parties that had developed independently. He placed the British National Party, the National Democratic Party of Germany, the German People’s Union and the former Dutch Centre Party in the first category, whose prototype would be the disbanded Italian Social Movement; the French National Front, the German Republicans, the Dutch Centre Democrats, the former Belgian Vlaams Blok (which would include certain aspects of traditional extreme right parties), the Danish Progress Party, the Norwegian Progress Party and the Freedom Party of Austria in the second category.

Right-wing populist parties in the English-speaking world include the UK Independence Party, Australia’s One Nation – although that has now mainly been supplanted by a consolidated hard right faction in the ruling Liberal Party, just as UKIP have been outflanked by concessions made to Eurosceptics in the British Conservative Party – and New Zealand First.

And in the ultimate irony, the success of the anti-austerity Syriza party in Greece is an example of the exactly similar phenomenon on the other side of politics.

The role of immigration in this movement

Importantly, especially in the historical context, most of these parties have an overt or coded anti-immigration stance. It is the one core strand that unites and binds nearly all populist movements.

They blame someone else for the mess. And immigration (or the demonisation of a minority group) is the easiest target of all, because immigration is both the least understood economic factor in our societies and simultaneously one of the most easily noticed.

trump muslims

If there is one thing that unites the Tea Party supporters and the Ultra Anti-Democrats it is that they are furious about immigration, and anti-immigrant rhetoric excites them to fervour. “Look at these immigrants taking our jobs!” they cry, “Chewing up our welfare payments, living in our houses, not speaking our language!”, and on and on it goes.

Make those immigrants from a non white Anglo-Saxon background – call them “Muslims”, for example – and the rhetoric becomes almost unstoppably powerful.

American.Muslim.girl_.flag_.face_picThis has always been how fascism happens, from the slaughter of the Hugenots in France in 1572, through to the murderous fascist, statist regimes of Stalin, Mao and Hitler. Someone else is always the cause of the problem.

In social studies, “Othering” is the term used by some to describe a system of discrimination whereby the characteristics of a group are used to distinguish them as separate from the norm.

Othering plays a fundamental role in the history and continuation of racism. To objectify a culture as something different, exotic or underdeveloped is to generalise that it is not like ‘normal’ society.

Europe’s colonial attitude towards Africa and the Orient exemplifies this.

It was thought that the East, for example was the opposite of the West; it was feminine where the West was masculine, weak where the West was strong and traditional where the West was progressive. By making these generalizations and othering the East, Europe was simultaneously defining herself as the norm, further entrenching the gap.

Africa in its turn was violent, tribal, feckless, disorganised, and uncivil where Europe was the opposite. (Precisely what the Africans thought of the tribal nature of Europe as demonstrated in, for example, 1914-1918 was never asked, of course, but we digress.)

Much of the process of “othering” relies on imagined difference, or the expectation of difference. Spatial difference alone can be enough to conclude that “we” are “here” and the “others” are over “there”. Imagined differences serve to categorise people into groups and assign them characteristics that suit the imaginer’s expectations.

But the problem with anti-immigration rhetoric, of course, apart from its inherently nonsensical nature, is that it is based on an essentially flawed economic model.

Because as the OECD have noted:

Labour markets

 Migrants accounted for 47% of the increase in the workforce in the United States and 70% in Europe over the past ten years.

 Migrants fill important niches both in fast-growing and declining sectors of the economy.

 Like the native-born, young migrants are better educated than those nearing retirement.

 Migrants contribute significantly to labour-market flexibility, notably in Europe.

The public purse

 Migrants contribute more in taxes and social contributions than they receive in benefits.

 Labour migrants have the most positive impact on the public purse.

 Employment is the single biggest determinant of migrants’ net fiscal contribution.

Economic growth

 Migration boosts the working-age population.

 Migrants arrive with skills and contribute to human capital development of their receiving countries.

 Migrants also contribute to technological progress.

Understanding these impacts is important if our societies are to usefully debate the role of migration. Such debates, in turn, are essential to designing policies in areas like education and employment that maximise the benefits of migration, especially by improving migrants’ employment situation.

This policy mix will, of course, vary from country to country. But the fundamental question of how to maximise the benefits of migration, both for host countries and the migrants themselves, needs to be addressed by many OECD countries in coming decades, especially as rapid population ageing increases demand for migrants to make up shortfalls in the workforce.

The great failure of politics in America today (and elsewhere) is that no one has had the political will to address the legitimate complaints of the disenfranchised, but with facts, and with ideas.

For example: if one is living in a sector of the economy, or a geographic location, with mass unemployment – say 10% or greater – then one has a perfectly legitimate complaint that the “system” isn’t working. Not for them, at least.

unemployed

One of the basic roles of any governmental system must be the provision of a balanced, stable economic environment that provides enough work to satisfy the essential needs of the mass of the people. But employment is a stubborn problem to fix as it relies on expanding the economic activity of the state.

Ironically, this is one reason that fascist governments immediately embark on grandiose public works spending to create employment – it is to satisfy the hunger of their natural supporters for work and wages. Such Governments invariably rely on either conquest or domination of other societies in order to fund such largesse, or the forced exploitation of natural assets by the underclass, as nothing else fills the financial gap. Coming soon to your neighbourhood – the Trump Highway to nowhere.

Basically, such regimes either eventually invade next door, or send their population down the mines.

How much more durable, and effective, it would be to explain to the un- or under-employed that immigration actually boosts economic activity (the studies are virtually unanimous and incontrovertible) and they they, too, will benefit from this growing of the overall pie.

The problem is, those arguments are somewhat esoteric, and the mass of politicians simply do not attempt them in a media environment where a mindless soundbite and appeal to prejudice works faster and possibly better, and where those in the media demonstrate the same inability to understand the thrust of the argument as the public does.

The elite thus fails to make the case against populism, and as night follows day, populism invariably sweeps it aside.

So much for jobs and immigration. Let’s return to the Ultra Anti’s list of complaints.

(b) we can’t afford the lifestyle dream we have been sold,

(c) we are disconnected and unsupported,

(c) other people get all the benefits, we get none,

(d) politicians are lazy, feckless, untrustworthy and corrupt, and

(e) we’re “mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more”.

It’s very easy to see, again, how the elite genuinely have failed this group.

Until the 1960s, the expectation of what constituted a “happy” life – a fulfilled life, a successful life – was much more limited in its horizons than since the social revolution that swept the world in that decade. The growth of consumerism in the sixties, matched to the new ability of TV to emotionally communicate the rewards of luxury and comfort, has vastly up-rated our view of what is both valuable and normal. We should all be tertiary educated. Every family member must have an automobile. The home must be crammed with every possible labour-saving device. Holidays should be regular and fully-catered. We should all live way past our previous life expectancy with premium health care and comfortable, funded retirement. Entertainment, both in-home and out-of home should be continuous and constantly improving. And so on, and so on.

consumerismSome commentators and candidates have called this “the American dream”, or “Morning in America”, or various other platitudes. Very few – and certainly no successful ones – have had to courage to say “You know what? We f****d up. We didn’t realise that we couldn’t keep endlessly expanding the size of the economy. You need to get used to the idea that you might not be able to get everything you want handed to you on a plate. You might not be able to afford it. Times have changed.” In fact, quite the opposite. The media elite, aided and abetted by their supine acolytes in politics, constantly promote and celebrate ever more garish celebrity lifestyles, which are held up as an example of what can be achieved. When it proves entirely impossible for “ordinary people” to mimic those lifestyles, even minimally in some cases, they completely understandably become restless and disenchanted.

The elite thus fails to make the case against populism, and as night follows day, populism invariably sweeps it aside.

Disconnected and unsupported? They certainly are.

We no longer live in villages where people know our business and we know theirs, and people rally round in times of trouble or distress. Most people dont even know their neighbours’ names. And expenditure on Government’s attempts to create “community” through social services, healthcare and other levers are the very first “soft” items to be stripped from spending budgets.

detroit

We have an entire underclass now cast adrift from support that we thought – wrongly – would always characterise a “modern” society. The state was expected to step into the breach and “help”, where previously communities would have done it for themselves. It did, partially, for a while, but inefficiently, and expensively. Our staggering inability to attune Government activity (at all levels) to the legitimate aspirations of ordinary folk is a failure that all politicians, of all political skews, need to “own”. It’s not excessive for people to expect their kids to go to school in buildings that aren’t falling down, where they are protected and safe, and where they achieve a minimum level of development. It’s not unreasonable to want to live in a town with properly maintained roads and pavements, where one sees a tree from time to time, where the very fabric of society is not crumbling around us. And it is completely fair to assume that if one falls through the cracks of life – whether in terms of health, or marital discord, or violence, or financial – then SOMEONE will be there, not to offer a handout, but a hand up.

Instead, we demonise the underclass and provide it with fewer and fewer ways of fixing things up for themselves. Not only do we not offer a hand up, we surround all activity to address personal or communal disconnectedness with such a mind-numbing and stultifying collection of rules and regulations that even if people want to help themselves, they can’t. Not unsurprisingly, the people rail against such an arrangement, and those in power ignore their pleas.

populism

The elite thus fails to make the case against populism, and as night follows day, populism invariably sweeps it aside.

Someone else gets all the benefits? Well, there is benefit fraud, to be sure, and a sensationalist media does an excellent job of publicising it.

But in reality, benefits are set at a much lower level than people realise (even in the benefit-rich societies of Western Europe, and certainly in America and Australia) and benefits are generally handed out parsimoniously and sparingly. What is truly sickening is that politicians find it easier to go along with the “unmarried mother with six kids lives in a penthouse on your taxes” stories than they do to make one very simple point – without a social support structure, people cannot get back into work, cannot fix their addiction problems, cannot successfully re-enter the community having paid their debt to society in prison, cannot deal with mental illness, and a hundred other barriers to full participation, without a bit of judicious guidance and help.

The result of that guidance and help – just as the result, for example, of a healthier and better educated society – is greater productivity. Greater wealth to go round. Why does not one frame the discussion of social support in those terms? You tell us. In our view, simple cowardice is the answer.

The elite thus fails to make the case against populism, and as night follows day, populism invariably sweeps it aside.

organisedcrimePoliticians are lazy, feckless, untrustworthy and corrupt? Well, that’s half the problem, right there, isn’t it? How can anyone seriously argue that they are not, when time after time they are clearly shown to be exactly that? The complaints of the governed against the mindless yahoo-ism, corruption and rank incompetence of those we elect to rule us are bitterly and utterly justified.

The great tragedy is that many politicians are well-meaning, hard-working, and “clean”. But in continually demonising them (as we just did, right there, and be honest: your head was nodding, too) we make it impossible to see through the fog of despair that clouds our opinion of their performance and their motives.

The elite places no pressure on itself to perform more creditably. To speak more plainly, To deal more honestly. To resist baleful external influences more firmly. Just as one example, whenever campaign finance reform is seriously mooted in America it is simply howled down. Corporations are people, remember. They have rights. No responsibilities – except to their stock holders – but they have rights. Pffft.

The elite thus fails to make the case against populism, and as night follows day, populism invariably sweeps it aside.

Faced with no leadership worth the name, the people are very, very angry indeed at the turn of events. And those who would exploit that anger are in the ascendancy, flirting with an increasingly rabid populace with terrifying disregard of the consequences of unleashing their anger on the very institutions of society, and our fellow citizens. Our response should be evidence-based, principled answers to the legitimate concerns they have. Instead, we are flinging up barricades and passing out scythes and pitchforks.

Morning in America? More like a deeply darkening dusk. And those with torches to mark our way back from the brink are too cowed to light them.

Quite right, Marco Rubio. You should have seen this coming. But you – along with your cynical, power-hungry colleagues – tried to ride the wave rather than break it up. To mix our metaphors, you grabbed a tiger by the tail, and now it’s well and truly turned back to bite you.

So thanks for your words – finally – but also, frankly, shame on you.

It’s not morning in America. We just hope it’s not goodnight.

Bundy

 

It looks like the feds are going to throw the book at the Bundy bird refuge occupiers. And the book keeps getting bigger.

The group was already facing the charge of “conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from the refuge occupation”.

A number of them were also facing charges relating to the 2014 Bundy Ranch Standoff, including “conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, conspiracy to impede or injure a federal officer, weapon use and possession, assault on a federal officer, threatening a federal law enforcement officer, obstruction, extortion to interfere with commerce, and interstate travel in aid of extortion.”

Yesterday, new charges were added against several of the defendants. Penalties for conviction on the charges range from five years to life in prison.

  • Ammon Bundy: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities and use and carry of firearm in relation to a crime of violence”
  • Ryan Bundy: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities, use and carry of firearm in relation to a crime of violence and theft of government property”
  • Jon Ritzheimer: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities, use and carry of firearm in relation to a crime of violence and theft of government property”
  • Ryan Payne: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities and use and carry of firearm in relation to a crime of violence”
  • Brian Cavalier: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities and use and carry of firearm in relation to a crime of violence”
  • Shawna Cox: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities”
  • Jason Patrick: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities and use and carry of firearm in relation to a crime of violence”
  • Dylan Anderson: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities”
  • Sean Anderson: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities, use and carry of firearm in relation to a crime of violence and depredation of government property”
  • David Lee Fry: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities and use and carry of firearm in relation to a crime of violence”
  • Jeff Wayne Banta: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities”
  • Sandra Lynn Anderson: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities”
  • Kenneth Medenbach: “Theft of government property”
  • Wesley Kjar: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities”
  • Corey Lequieu: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities, use and carry of firearm in relation to a crime of violence”
  • Jason Charles Blomgren: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities”
  • Darryl William Thorn: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities”
  • Geoffrey Stanek: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities”
  • Travis Cox: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities”
  • Eric Lee Flores: “Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities”

It’s the charge of “carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence” that carries the life sentence. Ammon and Ryan Bundy, along with seven others were charged with that offense.

Kenneth Medenbach’s theft charge stems from his taking an Agency Ford pickup. Ryan Bundy and Jon Ritzheimer stole cameras valued at more than $1,000.

I suspect they’re all starting to wish they’d simply stayed home. Our opinion? If they’d done what they’d done and been Muslims or inner city African Americans they’d all be dead as doornails now, so they should count their blessings.

If convicted – and we are all for due process, and let us state categorically they are currently innocent – then one hopes the powers-that-be will throw the proverbial book hard and accurately.

141026_sabato_goldwater_gty

 

If you want to understand the Trump phenomenon, just look back 50 years.

Barry Goldwater was an American politician and businessman who was a five-term United States Senator from Arizona (1953–65, 1969–87) and the Republican Party’s surprise nominee for President of the United States in the 1964 election.

Goldwater is the politician most often credited for sparking the resurgence of the American conservative political movement in the 1960s. He also had a substantial impact on the future libertarian movement.

Goldwater badgeGoldwater was a touchstone for the wilder vestiges of the conservative tendency in the Republicans – very much the precursor of today’s Tea Party insurgency: not so much in terms of its politics, but in terms of its rejection of “the way things are done”, and annoyance at the tacit agreement in major policy planks that had hitherto existed between both major parties.

Goldwater rejected the legacy of the New Deal and fought through the conservative coalition against the New Deal coalition.

In a heavily Democratic state, Goldwater became a successful conservative Republican and a friend of Herbert Hoover. He was outspoken against New Deal liberalism, especially its close ties to unions which he considered corrupt.  Goldwater soon became most associated with union reform and anti-communism: his work on organised labour issues led to Congress passing major anti-corruption reforms in 1957, and an all-out campaign by the AFL-CIO to defeat his 1958 re-election bid.

save americaHe voted against the censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954, but in the fevered atmosphere of the times he never actually charged any individual with being a communist or Soviet agent.

Goldwater emphasised his strong opposition to the worldwide spread of communism in his 1960 book The Conscience of a Conservative.

The book became an important reference text in conservative political circles.

Goldwater shared the current Trumpian disdain for central government and immigration. (Although it should be noted that Cruz and Rubio have also moved to harden their position on immigration, it is Trump who has made it a current touchstone for the current Republican Party with his populist and incendiary language, especially in the South.) His “Save America” theme had a populist edge that we see strongly reproduced in the apocalyptic pronouncements of the current front runners.

 

quote-to-disagree-one-doesn-t-have-to-be-disagreeable-barry-goldwater-11-26-18

 

But Goldwater was no mindless demagogue. He was more circumspect. In 1964, he ran a conservative campaign that emphasised states’ rights. The campaign was a magnet for conservatives since he opposed interference by the federal government in state affairs. Although he had supported all previous federal civil rights legislation and had supported the original senate version of the bill, Goldwater made the decision to oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

His stance was based on his view that the act was an intrusion of the federal government into the affairs of states and that the Act interfered with the rights of private persons to do or not do business with whomever they chose. In the segregated city of Phoenix in the 1950s, however, he had quietly supported civil rights for blacks, but would not let his name be used publicly.

All this appealed to white Southern Democrats, and Goldwater was the first Republican to win the electoral votes of all of the Deep South states – South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana – since Reconstruction (although Dwight Eisenhower did carry Louisiana in 1956).

He successfully mobilised a large conservative constituency to win the hard-fought Republican primaries and in doing so became the first candidate of Jewish heritage to be nominated for President by a major American party.

He swept aside the Republican Party’s anointed son, wealthy philanthropist and liberal four-term Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller, in the first such example in the modern era of the Republicans failing to have “one of their own” confirmed against an insurgent, although some would argue that Ronal Reagan was a similar example.

At a discouraging point in the 1964 California primary campaign against Barry Goldwater, his top political aide Stuart Spencer called on Rockefeller to “summon that fabled nexus of money, influence, and condescension known as the Eastern Establishment. “You are looking at it, buddy,’ Rockefeller told Spencer, ‘I am all that is left.” Rockefeller exaggerated, but the irretrievable collapse of his wing of the party was underway. His despair finds its echo in the current desperation of the Republican organisation and establishment at the increasing likelihood of a Trump nomination this year.

But in what may well be a precursor to Trump’s national election performance should he secure the Republican nomination in 2016, Goldwater’s vote on the Civil Rights Act proved devastating to his campaign everywhere outside the South (besides “Dixie”, Goldwater won only in Arizona, his home state), and the Democrats won states they did not expect, like Alaska, contributing to a landslide defeat for the GOP in the general election in 1964.

Trump’s offensive remarks about Latinos may now cruel him in exactly the same way – Latino voters are now a key constituency that appear currently ironed-on supporters of the Democrats, and it’s one that that the Republicans must appeal if they are to have any chance of winning nationally. With their enthusiasm for “small business” and entrepreneurism the Latino community should be fertile territory for the Republican Party. That they are clearly not is a measure of how desperately far behind the eight ball the Republicans currently are with their populist campaign.

Goldwater’s conservative campaign platform ultimately failed to gain the support of the electorate, but he didn’t just lose the election to incumbent Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson, he lost it by one of the largest landslides in history, bringing down many other Republican candidates around the country as well.

The Johnson campaign and other critics successfully painted him as a reactionary, while supporters praised his crusades against the Soviet Union, labour unions, and the welfare state. This, however, mainly piled him up support with people who would support a Republican candidate no matter what, (an effect that has been seen in election losing performances by the Labor/Labour parties in both Australia and the United Kingdom in recent years) and may even have lost him crucial support with conservative working class voters who didn’t want their bargaining power reduced.

His defeat, however, and the Republicans swept away with him, allowed Johnson and the Democrats in Congress to pass the Great Society programs, and a large enough Clinton or Sanders win in November would similarly embolden the Democrats to continue with the cautious reform programmes instigated under Obama in health, possibly focussing on making further education more affordable than it is currently. Such an outcome would be seen by many who are alarmed by Trump’s rise as deliciously ironic.

On the other hand the defeat of so many older Republicans in 1964 also cleared the way for a younger generation of American conservatives to mobilise which contributed to a growth in the party’s influence.

goldwater reaganAlthough Goldwater was much less active as a national leader of conservatives after 1964 his supporters mostly rallied behind Ronald Reagan, who became governor of California in 1967 and the 40th President of the United States, in 1981.

Indeed, with Reagan’s accession to the Presidency, with an emphasis on low tax and low spending rhetoric (which was not followed through in office) one can argue that Reagan was Goldwater’s legacy to America.

Reagan also successfully brought the evangelical Christian movement into the mainstream Republican fold in a move which continues to resonate to this day, especially in the candidacy of Ted Cruz. However that move also offended more moderate Christians, some Roman Catholics, and secular independents.

(As an aside, Trump’s record would hardly endear him to today’s religious conservatives, except for his decisive rejection of Muslims – interestingly his thrice-married history has its echoes in the rejection of Nelson Rockefeller, who was damaged by his divorce and re-marriage – but then again, if he is the nominee where else can they go? To what degree the religious right falls in behind Trump or simply stay home out of a lack of enthusiasm could also be an important factor in the Republican’s overall result.)

Goldwater, for all that he was a precursor to the anti-establishment Trump, was a man of some gravitas. In particular, unlike Trump, who avoided being drafted in the Vietnam war and has been criticised for doing so, he had a proud and distinguished military career.

With the American entry into World War II, Goldwater received a reserve commission in the United States Army Air Forces. He became a pilot assigned to the Ferry Command, a newly formed unit that flew aircraft and supplies to war zones worldwide. He spent most of the war flying between the U.S. and India, via the Azores and North Africa or South America, Nigeria, and Central Africa. He also flew “the hump” over the Himalayas to deliver supplies to the Republic of China.

Following World War II, Goldwater was a leading proponent of creating the United States Air Force Academy, and later served on the Academy’s Board of Visitors. The visitor center at the USAF Academy is now named in his honour. As a colonel he also founded the Arizona Air National Guard, and in a move that goes to his more nuanced attitudes to race than some, he would de-segregate it two years before the rest of the US military. Goldwater was instrumental in pushing the Pentagon to support desegregation of the armed services.

Remaining in the Arizona Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve after the war, he eventually retired as a Command Pilot with the rank of major general. By that time, he had flown 165 different types of aircraft. Goldwater retired as an Air Force Reserve major general, and he continued piloting B-52 aircraft until late in his military career.

Meanwhile, with his successes on “Super Tuesday” behind us, The Trumpinator rolls on seemingly unstoppably. We are on record as saying we didn’t think he could secure the nomination, but like many others it appears we completely under-estimated the populist rejection of “Washington” that he represents on the right (echoed by the success of Sanders on the left), and we now we suspect we were wrong.

We still find it hard to believe, but the Republican Party now appears to be entirely in thrall to an anti-establishment far-right insurgency that is essentially, at its core, simply “anti” politics and not in the slightest interested in serious policy outcomes.

It is perfectly fair to say that any one of dozens of idiotic pronouncements Trump has made would see him disqualified from holding high office in any other democratic Western country in the world, but the right in America seem to have wilfully suspended disbelief in their visceral hatred of the “liberal”, centralising, “socialist”, “Statist” conspiracy that they see represented by the Democrats and alsi now by many in their own party. However at the Wellthisiswhatithink desk we do confidently believe (and fervently hope) that this most “dumbed down” of Presidential campaigns cannot ultimately prevail.

Like Goldwater, Trump and his clumsy and oft-expressed bigotry may merely usher in another crushing Democratic victory, which would, surely, be the ultimate reward the GOP receive for abandoning good governance in their obtuse Congressional obstructionism against Obama, and in fleeing the centre ground by refusing to confront the Tea Party with better and more timely arguments and greater political courage.

Of course, Trump would never agree with us. In fact, no doubt, he would flip out one his standard insults, to cheers and applause from his acolytes.

 

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If you, like us, were starting to feel left out by not having been personally insulted by this obnoxious populist just head to The Donald Trump Insult Generator.

Hours of innocent fun for all the family.

See also “Trump. The man who got memed.”

Three storms have been found simultaneously belting their way through the Pacific Ocean for the first time in measured history. And although tropical storms Kilo, Ignacio and Jimena haven’t made landfall, they’re making part of the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii resemble a scary version of a Van Gogh painting.

 

Here’s a photo showing Hurricanes Kilo, Ignacio, and Jimena from left to right. Photo: NOAA

 

This is the first time three Category Four storms have been seen in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean at one time, according to The Weather Channel. Category Four hurricanes have wind speeds anywhere from 209 to 251km per hour.

Hurricanes are categorised primarily by wind speeds: the higher the sustained wind speed, the stronger the hurricane.

A Category One hurricane has winds up to 119 to 152km per hour, and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says even those are typically expected to cause some damage to buildings as well as power outages for a few days. These aren’t Cat 1. They’re ALL Cat 4.

A Category Four hurricane is considered catastrophic, with severe damage to buildings and power outages for weeks if not months.

 

cccccyclone-3

 

Climate Change Deniers like to find any random fact they can to debunk the reality of climate change. Why is a more complex question to answer, as they and their children are threatened just like everyone else.

Recently they have taken to noting that the year 1934 was a very hot year in the United States, ranking fourth behind 2012, 2006, and 1998. Skeptics like to point to 1934 in the U.S. as proof that recent hot years are not unusual.

However, this is yet another example of “cherry-picking” a single fact that supports a claim, while ignoring the rest of the data.

Globally, the ten hottest years on record have all occurred since 1998, with 2005 and 2010 as the hottest.

Remember, global warming takes into account temperatures over the entire planet. The U.S.’s land area accounts for only 2% of the earth’s total surface area. Despite the U.S.heat in 1934, the year was not so hot over the rest of the planet, and 1934 barely holds onto a place in the hottest 50 years in the global rankings – in fact it ranks 49th.

global_warming3The fact that there were hot years in some parts of the world in the past is not an argument against climate change. There will always be regional temperature variations as well as variations from year to year. These happened in the past, and they will continue. The problem with climate change is that on average, when looking at the entire world, the long term trend shows an unmistakable increase in global surface temperatures, in a way that is likely to dramatically alter the planet.

In fact, the recent uptick in hurricane activity is consistent with recent climate-change-affected El Niño predictions. What climate change deniers (like most of the Liberal Government in Australia, and virtually everyone on the right of politics in America) fail to understand is this simple equation:

The scientific community agrees (well over 95% agreement across a variety of scientific disciplines, not just climatology but also biology, oceanography, geology and so on – way in excess of the agreement we should need to feel “certain”) that humanity’s activity in the last 250 years or so has caused the planet to get hotter.

  • Yes, the planet has warmed in the past, but never as fast, never as consistently, and never like this during the period of human civilisation.
  • Global Warming causes Climate Change.
  • Climate Change doesn’t mean everywhere will become warmer. It means some areas will be colder, some hotter, some wetter, some drier, some windier and some less windy.
  • In addition, the seas will become more acidic, reducing biodiversity in the oceans, affecting the food chain, and threatening a widespread die off of species.

This is just the latest example of “extreme weather events” becoming more common, emphasising the need for concerted international action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from “dirty power” generation, heating, vehicles, farm animals, and industry.

So what’s your latest head-in-the-sand response to these storms, Dear Climate Change Denier?

The latest utter drivel coming from the right in America is that they’re going to impeach Obama for using (well, threatening to use, anyhow, and he probably will) an Executive Order to break the (Republican organised) log-jam on Immigration.

Now, we don’t wish to comment on American immigration policy – too complicated from this distance, and we have enough problems with our own in Australia – but we sure as hell feel able to comment on the idiots who think he should be impeached.

Can you see the difference between Obama and these enthusiastic users of Executive Orders? There are two essential differences.

exec order

Yes, we think you spotted the two differences pretty quickly didn’t you?

Given the staggeringly low level of achievement of both the House of Reps and the Senate since Obama came to the Oval office, and the GOP’s deliberate and unashamed obstructionism which looks set to get even worse, we suggest that #uppittydemocratniggerwhoinsistsonfuckingdoingstuff just about explains the current impeachment push.

And just for the record, in case any of our Republican readers don’t do big three-digit figures, Obama has used Executive Orders less than any of the others except Lincoln.

Frankly, if the hard-right GOP continue to eschew any attempts to create any bipartisan agreement, then we’re hopeful that Obama just presses on and gives the Republicans the regular whacking they so richly deserve. He has been altogether far too polite and reserved with them thus far for our liking. It’s time to give these Tea-Party-led-by-the-nose numpties a lesson in Government. Which is not the same, please note, as Opposition.

In doing so, he’ll give his own party and supporters something to cheer, too. Which they need.

An exceptionally well-researched piece of work by AP and Rachel Maddow which you can read here goes even further than our irritated rant. It points our that at least three former Republican Presidents used exactly this sort of action to grant – yes, you’ve guessed it – protection to illegal immigrants living in the USA, when Congress couldn’t get it’s shit together.

Bizarre. Bring it on, we say.

The Republican Party in the USA have been at it again this week. Demonstrating they are lurching ever more profoundly into the looney tunes orbit of American politics.

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/arizona-huppenthal-stomp-out-spanish

btobtpcb2s2b4dbkfkceAs you can see in the link above, a frequent GOP blog commentator and schools superintendent in Arizona has owned up to several incendiary anonymous comments.

Among many idiotic remarks, in a late-2010 post on the conservative blog Espresso Pundit, Huppenthal, writing under the pseudonym Falcon9, said that America only has room for English.

“We all need to stomp out balkanization. No spanish radio stations, no spanish billboards, no spanish tv stations, no spanish newspapers,” he wrote roughly a month after he was elected. “This is America, speak English.”

This raises so many issues it’s hardly worth commenting, except to say to the right in America, why be frightened of the growth in Spanish in America? Being a bilingual nation will make it easier for you to trade with South America, where growth will outstrip America this century anyway.

Ann CoulterThis is just typical of the nonsense talked by the right. Ultimately, of course, it doesn’t matter, because within a few years America will be a majority Spanish speaking nation whatever they think. Languages change over time. In the UK Ancient British was replaced by Latin, then Saxon, Saxon was replaced with Norman French. Norman French was replaced with Germano-English and remnants of old British. For heaven’s sake: why can’t the GOP do something more useful than being a bunch of mindless “antis”? Build a bridge, and get over it already.

Meanwhile, achingly dumb commentator Ann Coulter has sparked attention around the world (which is, of course, all she is really interested in), by criticising football just as the USA garners the admiration of the world by getting out of the qualification round of the World Cup for the first time. No American whose Great-Grandfather was born in America could possibly be interested in this “foreign game”, opined the fast-fading right wing hack.

http://www.salon.com/2014/06/26/ann_coulter_no_american_whose_great_grandfather_was_born_here_is_watching_soccer/

Let us be clear what this is. It would be easy to dismiss both incidents as laughably ridiculous, whereas in reality this is, under the rolled eyes of “they’re at it again”, ugly “dog whistle” politics.

By targeting “differentness”, whether it be a different language or the growth of a sport in popularity, what is being done hear is to “wedge” the population. To turn people against people. To leverage the innate fears of “otherness” that fester in the collective consciousness, and to make only one way the right way, if you’ll forgive the pun. And why? To distract people from looking at and tackling real issues that matter, that’s why.

There is a vast right wing conspiracy operating in America to turn one of the legs of the civic society – the GOP – into a party of antis. Anti equality of treatment for gay, lesbian and transgendered people. Anti affirmative action to provide opportunity for women, the poor, and non-whites. Anti social security safety nets. Anti healthcare. Anti “foreign”. And above all, anti-tax, because essentially, the movement is, at its core, anti the very concept of a democratic government that can raise and spend money based on a universal franchise.

This conspiracy is not necessarily conscious – although it may be – but what is undoubtedly being attempted is to coalesce the conservative white population (much of it now working class) into a coherent coalition than can combat the very obvious fact that America is now a multicultural, multi-faith, multi-sexuality and above all urban modern society that is innately not conservative.

America today has many issues to be sure, but it still demonstrates daily that it is essentially a forward-looking nation – evolving, experimenting, changing – as it always has been. This in turn horrifies those who wish to see an endless perpetuation of the position of an idealised white middle-class, by which they really mean the power of the privileged and uber-wealthy to manipulate the political system to preserve their hold over a majority of supine fellow travellers a few steps below them on the ladder.

Ironically, what means they are doomed to fail is that the middle class in America, which has long been the acquiescent lap dog of the rich and powerful, is now in near-terminal decline, as in many places in the world.

The old days of a quarter-acre block with a neat weatherboard home lived in by a nuclear family with a couple of American made cars in the driveway who live and work in a pleasant mid-size town are now utterly behind us. Nowadays more people than ever live in conurbations, and more people than ever live alone. The nuclear family unit has undergone so much change it is now unrecognisable. In the countryside, traditional industries and agriculture have collapsed with the growth of mega-agricultural companies and the disapora of young people to the cities, with the concomitant collapse of small-town retailing. In the cities, rust-belt industries have collapsed under foreign competition, their wealthy workers which once migrated into the middle class now stuck on benefits or in part time work.

What is growing is a large and vocal disenfranchised white working class, standing shifting its feet nervously and threateningly across the street from a still-disenfranchised black working class which looks just as discomforted.

The right wing dog-whistle politics is designed to drag the white portion of that congregation into the GOP’s camp, where previously they might have been expected to steer naturally to the left. The endless anti-big-government whingeing of the Tea Party gives a modicum of intellectual veneer to the process. But in fact, what is being attempted is nothing more nor less to divide America into two nearly-at-war camps, dragging one to the field of combat with a dream of an America that no longer exists and will never exist again.

On the one side, we have the urban community, the professional whites, the urbanised working class and unemployed, the blacks, the bulk of  latinos, and what remains of the contented middle class. On the other, we have the “loser” middle class with declining income and influence, the marginalised working class and non working whites, the upwardly mobile latinos, the old whites, and the Christian extremists. The right believes it can build a coalition that can win from this grouping, all of whom are feeling very “anti” everything they can think of. So they constantly propound dog-whistle “anti” messages. But they can’t. The hard fact is, there simply isn’t enough of them to build a winning national coalition. All they will achieve in building is an angrier and angrier minority, the consequences of which are horrible to contemplate.

If we backtrack a little, the essential post WWII compact between the Democrat and Republican parties ran something like this. “There are certain inalienable rights we have to take care of. We should have as close to full employment as we can create. We love immigration, because we will always need good people. We shouldn’t have too much funny money circulating but a bit doesn’t matter too much. We should support entrepreneurism, because our society is built on it. We should sell as much as we can overseas – we are a trading nation. But while we do all this, we will always look after the poor and needy, because we never want to return to the 1930s.”

Along with this bipartisanship agreement came an essentially conservative social compact. Pride in country. Pride in steady but unspectacular social change. Pride in calm.

That all pretty much changed forever around the mid-late 1960s. American adventurism overseas alarmed and then horrified the youth of the country, (especially when they were told they had to take part), and the sexual revolution galvanised it. Rapid change in the area of civil rights was agreed on all sides, but not because of any great moral conviction. It was rushed through out of fear of a racially-based conflict: the attitudes that lurked behind the change still rankled. Corruption at the highest levels led to an innate mistrust in Government that has never been overcome. The ridiculous levels of expenditure required to fight the Cold War drained the coffers of money that should have been spent upgrading and modernising American industry.

Basically, America fell apart.

The process wasn’t a straight line, but it was inexorable, and it continues. The latest ludicrous forays into the Middle East have merely exacerbated both the discontent and cost burden to the economy.

Now, America faces decades of rediscovering and reinventing itself. Problems that were created in decades will take decades to fix. And the likelihood is that America will never again be as dominant as it was for most of the 20th century. But the eagle can, and should, soar again. America is above all an inventive nation, stable, highly educated, wealthy, and determined. But to get back to the ideal of an America with a strong place in the world will require new creative thinking, and above all it will require unity of purpose as it charts a new course.

There are some signs America has the determination to make the required changes. But what is tragically also obvious is that right now the Republican Party is failing to see the absolute requirement for it to play a full and meaningful part in the compact that will be required to achieve that.

Mesmerised by the types of idiots displayed above, and a few loudmouths in Congress, the leadership of the Republican Party appears unable or unwilling to advance a coherent set of proposals to address the very real difficulties America faces. Where is the new thinking on tax policy, just as one example? Merely “cutting taxes” is nothing more than a mantra. Any attempt to deal with the sovereign debt crisis in America will need a combination of new taxes and lowering expenditure. America needs to approach the fact that it is essentially bankrupt not with ideology but with ruthless pragmatism: the American tax and fiscal system is badly in need of thoroughgoing renewal and revision. But the GOP does nothing but parrot “lower taxes” as a solution. “Lower taxes” is not an answer, is is just an “anti” dog-whistle. And not one, incidentally, that offers any real hope of relief to those that are currently being conned into supporting the whistling. The problem is much more complex than “lower taxes”. It needs America’s brightest and best to work co-operatively to effect profound and lasting change.

As one American commentator David Hawkins noted, it is interesting that in his recent startling GOP primary victory over the expected Tea Party winner, Thad Cochran reached across the aisle to registered Democrats to back him, aware of the unusual fact that in his state voters from either party can vote in the primaries of the other, provided they have not voted in a primary previously. With this timely move, and resisting millions in spending from the far right to unseat him, instead of being tossed out on his ear as the right cheerfully prophesised, he has instead guaranteed becoming one of the most influential players in the coming Congress.

The senator who looked to become the Tea Party movement’s biggest scalp of 2014 is now in position to be the small government conservatives’ worst nightmare of 2015. Cochran’s upset runoff victory has made him a totally safe bet for a seventh term, and also increased by a small notch the prospect that he and his fellow Republicans could win control of the Senate this fall. We don’t think it will, but if that happens, Cochran has not only the seniority but also the vanquished victor’s clout necessary to claim the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee — where he would surely restore some of the spend-along-to-get-along spirit of bipartisan collegiality that drives insurgents on the right absolutely nuts.

constflagfl2Will the leadership of the GOP take note of the opportunity to resurrect the old bi-party consensus? We are at a tipping point.

If they did, we would see an end to any nonsense about impeaching Obama (who has done nothing impeachable), about any more shut downs of government expenditure, about strangling the Executive of funds, or anything like it. We would see a determination to reform Obamacare so it worked better for a greater number of people, rather than lingering talk of abolishing it. We would see a deal more hard work and effort going into jointly-supported initiatives to create real economic activity, (based on manufacturing, not on paper shuffling), we would see the resolution of currency and trade issues with the fast-growing Indian and Chinese sectors, a deeper engagement with Asia generally, action on developing climate-friendly energy production, innovation in IT and industry, and much more. And we would see a re-working of the American economic system to lift the burden of big government off the backs of those it really hurts most, the very people it is trying to help.

Yes, here will always be differences in emphasis between the Democrat and Republican tribes. But the current split is toxic, and dangerous.

Being “anti” everything is, basically, anti-American, and doomed to fail. It’s called the UNITED States of America, remember?

Someone tell them.

 

 

LonelyElephant

For some weeks now, we have been predicting that the blame for the US Government shutdown – and any future debt default – will be laid squarely at the feet of the Republicans, and it is only because they are living in their own very badly advised bubble (just as they were at the last Presidential election) that they cannot see the approaching disaster that their behaviour is creating.

This article on recent poll results makes it very clear. Undeniable.

tea party childNo one in their right mind would want to see America become, in effect, a one party state. But that’s the way they’re headed, unless someone in the Republican leaderships starts to bang a few heads together and show some foresight – starting with isolating and ignoring the Tea Party representatives in their midst.

Will the GOP listen before it’s too late? I doubt it.

By Steve Benen at the Maddow Blog
Wed Oct 9, 2013 3:14 PM EDT

Have congressional Republicans been unpopular before? Yes. Have they been this unpopular? Not in recent memory.

 

This Gallup chart shows the parties’ favourability ratings over the last 21 years, and you’ll notice that sharp drop on the right side of the image. That shows GOP support falling off a cliff.

Republicans were deeply unpopular during the impeachment crisis in late 1998, but they’re in even worse shape now. Indeed, the angle that surprised me was comparing Republican favourability now to the party’s standing the last time GOP lawmakers shut down the government — they’re faring much worse in 2013.

 

 

And this is the image showing unfavourable ratings. Note, dislike for Republicans was also very strong at the end of the Bush/Cheney era, but once again, it’s worse now.

It’s obvious from the results that Democrats aren’t winning any popularity contests, but you don’t need to be a professional pollster to see which party is in better shape.

As for whether there are any practical consequences for poll results like these, I think there are.

The 2014 midterms are still a year away, and the prevailing political winds are bound to change direction – more than once – between now and then. What’s more, many Republican districts have been shielded from a voter backlash by gerrymandering.

But when one party’s public standing reaches a generational low – as opposed to, say, a minor downturn – it’s bound to have an effect. For one thing, it matters to the parties’ recruiting efforts, and there’s already some evidence to bolster this point. For another, it affects fundraising, and we’ve seen anecdotal evidence on this front, too.

What’s more, it starts to create a ceiling of sorts. As Republican popularity reaches new depths, it becomes that much more difficult to recover. If the GOP were to somehow add another 10 points to its favorability rating, it’d still be in horrible shape — and there’s nothing to suggest a 10-point boost is on the horizon.

It’s far too early for serious speculation about the midterms, but if Republicans are trying to position themselves for major setbacks in the next cycle, they’re off to an excellent start.

I am perpetually in amazement at the comments that come out of the extreme right in America. Please note, I say the extreme right. There is still a right in America that is thoughtful, responsible, and decent. Just. I dread to think what could happen, though, were some of these utter wing-nuts to acheive real power, both in internal and external US policy.

Anyhow, before I hyper-ventilate, this article on the Rachel Maddow blog came across our desk. Un-fuc*ing-believable.

Begins:

Rp. Mike Kelly. The only problem with political jokes is that they frequently get elected.

Rp. Mike Kelly. The only problem with political jokes is that they frequently get elected.

When it comes to rhetorical excesses, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) is perhaps best known for his comments a year ago, when he said an administrative decision treating contraception access as preventive health care was comparable to 9/11 and the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Late last week, however, Kelly launched into another ugly diatribe, insisting that President Obama “divides” Americans “on race.”

The far-right congressman did not offer specific or substantive points to bolster the accusation, but added, “Listen, I’ll tell you what: It’s self-evident. I don’t know if people who aren’t reading or not watching, maybe, don’t have the same opinion, but I think it’s pretty obvious where we’re going with some of this stuff.”

I don’t know what “stuff” is disturbing Kelly, but when it comes to racial divisions, the evidence doesn’t exactly point in the president’s direction (via Perry Stein).

Hundreds of protesters wielded signs, chanted slogans and argued with each other Tuesday outside Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, while President Barack Obama spoke about housing and the economy inside. […]

Racially-charged sentiment infused the protests and split the crowd both politically and physically…. Obama foes at one point sang, “Bye Bye Black Sheep,” a derogatory reference to the president’s skin color, while protesters like Deanne Bartram raised a sign saying, “Impeach the Half-White Muslim!”

President Obama in Arizona, Tuesday

President Obama in Arizona, Tuesday

One University of Arizona student said the president:

“Needs to go back to where he came from,” adding, “I am not a racist.”

(Er … that’d be Hawaii. Ed.)

Another protestor shouted, in reference to the president:

“He’s 47 percent Negro.”

Yet another whined about Obama:

“He’s divided all the races. I hate him for that.”

Oh for heaven’s sake …

Oh dear. Further comment superfluous. Your new United Kingdom Independence Party Councillor is not entirely sure very tuna is, like, a real fish …

I think she probably nos by now.

20130508-105134.jpg

iris

I’m looking at you, Dear Reader. What do you make of this story?

So, it has recently been an interesting period, health-wise, for the Family Wellthisiswhatithink.

Fruit of One’s Loins and She Who Must Be Obeyed have been visiting a naturopath. A form of medical practitioner usually dismissed in my world as a “quack”. To say that I was skeptical would be like saying the Tea Party is mildly opposed to Obama’s economic spending. I was utterly cynical, warned them to watch for evidence of suggestions being implanted in their subconscious mind, to puncture open ended questioning and cold reading style enquiries, and above all not to deliver too much hard information in advance.

The process began with an Iridology session where the alternative health practitioner examined the eyes of the girls, and analysed them for various bodily flaws. I repeat, she was given virtually no prior medical information. Basically she takes a close up photo of the eye and looks at it.

Iridologists belive the eye reflects changes in the performance of the body over time, and that each place in the eye connotes a particular part of the body. They have a chart which lays out which bit of the eye relates to which part of the body.

Iridology chart

The Iridology chart – is it anything more than pretty colours?

Scientists, and the orthodox medical fraternity, call this nonsense. (Indeed, they claim the look of the eye is laid down at birth and never changes. In fact, that’s how eye recognition software can work.)

Anyhow, having examined their eyes she then took them through a re-setting of their chi, or electrical impulses, or whatever else one wants to call it, to address deficiencies or inflammations she had “spotted”.

This process involved holding in one hand a small impermeable glass vial with certain products inside it – grass seed, egg – and attempting to use the other arm to provide mild resistance to a pushing down motion from the practitioner. So the patient holds her arm out straight in front of them – the other one from the hand holding the vial – and tries to resist the naturopath pushing down on it.

Normally, the patient has no difficulty doing this. If the patient is sensitive to an item, for whatever reason, they find their arm weakened by the holding of the vial in the other hand, and the naturopath is able to push their arm down with little effort.

So far, so much utter nonsense, right? Well, yes. Except …

My wife is plagued by hay fever and this year is the second highest pollen count for the last 20 years. Usually she is a mess of running nose, itchy throat, weeping eyes and sneezing. Misery.

So far this year, she has had no hay fever. Not one sniffle. We await with interest the ever onward march of Spring which I have also been commenting on this week.

Not only that but also …

My daughter is anaphylactic to egg. That’s like the worst allergy you could possibly imagine. One allergist told us she was one thousand times more allergic to egg than the ordinary person.

cracked egg

Good morning. Fried, boiled, scrambled, or cooked with, I will kill you. Have a nice day.

As a result, she has carried an adrenalin-injecting pen with her since she was about 4.

Ingesting egg in any way produces a violent over-reaction from her body, including her breathing tube closing. In short, without prompt medical attention, and perhaps even then, egg is fatal for her.

Now, after a few treatments from the practitioner who we came to affectionately call “The Witch”, (which is a bit unfair, as she seems entirely sane and un-witch-like) she is virtually cured of her egg allergy. Certainly no longer in danger, it appears.

This diagnosis has been confirmed by a professional medical-doctor allergist. He simply cannot explain it, and nor can our GP.

She has been given egg under controlled conditions in hospital. Lots of it. She was fine apart from a mild remaining sensitivity to uncooked egg white.

(The naturopath believes she can fix that too.)

She has eaten, for the first time in her life, cakes, biscuits, pasta, pastries and other items all including egg or brushed with it. Her life is changed out of all recognition, and for the better.

I promised my family, if there was a good outcome, that I would investigate further. So, Dear Reader, I did.

Yesterday I went to said naturopath myself, dragging She Who Must Be Obeyed along with me for moral support. I gave her some basic medical information about me as I have one or two medical challenges currently which need fixing, and I didn’t want her operating in a vacuum. But I by no means told her my whole medical history.

She photographed my eyes.

She looked at my eyes.

And then she blew me out of the water.

“Have you ever experienced such and such?” she asked, pointing at what she called a lesion on the picture of my eye on-screen. It was her first question. Her first question.

Now without revealing the precise nature of what she spotted, let me just explain that Mr Wellthisiswhatithink endured, as a child, an extremely rare medical condition – less than 2% of children have it. And I repeat, this was the first thing she investigated. She didn’t start gently with “have you ever had bronchitis or shortness of breath?” or “do you get back pain?” (both of which, for a gentleman of some corpulent excess such as me would have been stone bonking certainties at some point).

No, she said “Have you ever experienced such and such?”

She had 98 chances to be wrong, and on top of that the question would also appear so bizarre as to create doubt and confusion in the mind of any patient. But she nailed it. And there was no way she could have known – none.

To my mind, the only possible conclusion is that there was something in my eye that indicated it to her.

Now if you go to Wikipedia or elsewhere and investigate iridology, you will find countless warnings, and many comments that no scientifically-valid trials ever prove it to be valid, and so on. I do not for one moment doubt the genuine-ness of those objections.

I do also know, however, that there is more to know about the human body that we know. And whether or not the reason that the process that this person goes works is what she thinks it is, nevertheless she is currently 3 for 3.

She then looked around my body – via the photographs of my eyes – and cheerfully reeled off a whole series of comments that made perfect sense given my recent medical history, and confidently predicted that doing this or that would help. At no stage did she argue I should reject or discontinue conventional medical treatment: in fact, very much the opposite, she offered to co-operate with my GP and insisted I carry on doing what he wants, too, although she did think that in due course some alternative therapies might make conventional ones less necessary.

So am I converted?

Well, I am certainly confounded. Astonished. Fascinated. Intrigued, and hopeful of good outcomes.

I will report back on my progress. Meanwhile, I’d love to know if you have experienced anything similar, or, indeed, the opposite.

Be assured: even as I write these words, I am shaking my head in bemusement that I would ever suggest that such “quackery” was seriously worth investigating. Perhaps some of you are too.

I can only confirm, everything you read above is true. I have no reason to exaggerate, or lie.

HORATIO
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

HAMLET
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.


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