Sunday, October 13. 2013
Some scattered links this week, but first this from Richard
Crowson in the Wichita Eagle today:
Legend: "Mikey": Mike Pompeo (US Rep.); "Timmy": Tim Huelskamp (US Rep.);
"Ray": Ray Merrick (KS House Speaker); "Suzie": Susan Wagle (KS Senate
President); all Republicans.
Janet Allon: You Think You Knew Crazy? This week's "10 shockers from
the increasingly hinged right wing":
- Michele Bachmann: 'Obama is part of Al Qaeda and end times are near.'
- Some of Antonin Scalia's best friends are gay -- and yeah, the devil exists.
- Arizona lawmaker: 'Obama is like Hitler.'
- Ted Cruz lollapalooza.
- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK): 'Defaulting on the debt doesn't mean debt default.'
- Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling: 'We don't have to fund laws we didn't pass.'
- Bryan Fischer: 'Good on Vladimir Putin for those anti-homosexual laws.'
- Elisabeth Hasselbeck and John Stossel agree: welfare queens should not have air conditioning
- Glenn Beck on parenting: 'Push your children into walls.'
- Fox's Ben Carson: 'Women need to be re-educated so they don't get all riled up about abortion.'
Third week in a row I've cited Allon, but I'm starting to think
this is a bit lazy: not only picking the low-hanging fruit but only
the stuff within easy reach. For instance, in the Wichita Eagle today
there's an article on Gov. Sam Brownback where he's explaining that
he anticipated the government shutdown and has been working hard to
mitigate its effects on Kansans. I can't tell you how or why because
none of that made any sense, but the notion that a guy who can't even
see that cutting income taxes on the rich will lead to a shortfall in
revenues (about 20% so far this year) understands the intricacies of
the federal government well enough to sort all of that out is, well,
a bit far-fetched.
Or there's this little item from TPM:
Termination hearing for derp-spewing, militia-building, anti-"Libtard"
police chief in Gliberton, PA cut short when apparent supporter
accidentally drops his semi-automatic pistol on the hearing roomfloor.
Mike Konczal: The 'non-essential' parts of government that shut down are
actually quite essential. For example, economic statistics:
These functions are not happening. To give an example, the government
acts as a broker and verifier of income for mortgages. This coordination
of information is not functioning, and an ongoing shutdown will delay
new home mortgages in a very fragile market.
The government also provides public price data on a wide variety of
commodities, facilitating trade across many people. As the Financial
Times reported, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture down information
on pig prices has disappeared, throwing the market into chaos.
As they note, "[t]he situation underscores the commodity trade's
reliance on the U.S. government for supply, demand and other fundamental
data." It also has implications for fairness, as the shutdown's price
opacity "may also empower meatpackers as they deal with farmers." (Or
in other words, the shutdown means you are getting ripped off on your
Other examples include welfare and social service programs, public
health ("the CDC is having trouble tracking food-borne illnesses
under furloughs, it is no longer monitoring the spread of influenza
and other infectious diseases"), various kinds of investments ("an
extended shutdown would affect the reliability of the nation's
electric grid"). One thing I've reported earlier is that for now
it's essentially impossible to sell aircraft, either to the private
sector or to the DoD. Today's Wichita Eagle highlighted another
example: nuclear power plant safety regulators are furloughed. Of
course, that only becomes a problem when one of the most dangerous
things in the world blows up and/or melts down. A lot of things the
shutdown affects don't show up immediately, which helps those
responsible ignore the consequences of their actions.
Salmonella and Hepatitis Outbreaks Start Up as Government Shuts Down.
Also see Konczal's
The Tea Party thinks it hates Wall Street. It doesn't.
Paul Krugman: Business and the GOP: There's some evidence that most
business leaders (mostly Republicans) are none to happy with their home
team's tactics in forcing a government shutdown and probable debt default,
but they also seem to be having little effect on the people responsible
for those debacles (Republicans in the House). For instance, Koch Industries'
lobbyists have lately been trying to distance the company from the two
Koch brothers who literally own the company, and who have personally spent
millions of dollars getting those responsible elected.
Now, it's true that Republicans are bad for business -- and they didn't
start being bad for business when the latest hostage crisis erupted.
Ever since Republicans retook the House, federal spending adjusted for
inflation and population has been dropping fast:
This is exactly the wrong thing to be doing in a still-depressed
economy with interest rates at zero; my back of the envelope says that
GDP would be at least 2 percent higher, and corporate profits at least
6 percent higher, if this wrong-headed austerity weren't taking place.
So even before the current crisis Republican obstructionism was costing
corporate America a lot of money.
But here's the thing: while the modern GOP is bad for business, it's
arguably good for wealthy business leaders. After all, it keeps their
taxes low, so that their take-home pay is probably higher than it would
be under better economic management.
Also, when you make as much money as the 0.1 percent does, it's no
longer about what you can buy -- it's about prestige, about receiving
deference, about what Tom Wolfe (in an essay I haven't been able to
find) called "seeing 'em jump." And there's clearly more of that kind
of satisfaction under Republicans; under Democrats, as Aimai at
No More Mister Nice Blog points out, tycoons suffer the agony of
having to deal with people they can't fire.
In a way, this is an inversion of the usual argument made by defenders
of inequality. They're always saying that workers should be happy to
accept a declining share of national income, because the incentives
associated with inequality make the economic pie bigger, and they end
up better off in the end. What's really going on with plutocrats right
now, however, is that they're basically willing to accept lousy economic
policies from right-wing politicians as long as they get a bigger share
of the shrinking pie.
This may sound very cynical -- but then, if you aren't cynical at
this point, you aren't paying attention. And I suspect that the GOP
would have to get a lot crazier before big business bails.
The Aimai article linked to above is titled "The Punishers Want to
Run the Country or We Are All Tipped Waitstaff Now." Aimai talks about
evidence which shows that at least some restaurant customers feel it
is their responsibility to punish waitstaff that fail to satisfy
We've seen a lot of weird reactions on the right wing to the Government
Shut down. These range from "it doesn't matter" to "it's terrible" but
one thing that really strikes me is the rage and antipathy that has been
displayed towards Federal Workers themselves. It doesn't strike me as
unusual, but it does strike me as significant. Yesterday's on air rant
by Stuart Varney makes it pretty explicit: Federal Workers and, indeed,
the entire Government are failing Stuart Varney. They cost too much and
they do too little. In fact: they are so awful they don't even deserve
to be paid for the work they have already done. Contracts, agreements,
and labor be damned. If Stuart Varney isn't happy then they deserve to
be fired. [ . . . ]
What does this have to do with the Republican Party? The Republican
Party at this point in time is entirely made up of Punishers who think
they are entitled to treat the government -- and especially the government
of Barack Obama -- as waiters who need to be shown their place. This
should surprise no one. At heart the entire Republican Party is made up
of winners and losers and they are united in just one thing: they think
that money is the only way to tell who is who. If you have money, you
use that to distinguish yourself from the losers and to demonstrate your
superiority by punishing them further. If you are a loser -- a worker,
for example, or have no health insurance (say) your job as a Republican
is to take your status as a given, accept it, and turn around and get
your jollies kicking someone else farther down the line.
[ . . . ]
Why are Federal Workers a special case and a problem for Republicans?
In the case of Federal Workers I'd argue that its not merely that they
are workers (who are always despised) it's because they are workers who
for the most part don't conform to Republican ideas of the right boundaries
for workers. The right boundaries for workers are that they know their
place, that they can be fired capriciously, and that they exist
primarily to make the employer feel good about himself and, further,
that like waiters in a restaurant and prostitutes with their johns their
job is also to make the employer believe that he is receiving an extra
good form of treatment not accorded to others diners or johns.
The overarching goal of the right-wing is to get us to accept the
current economic hierarchy as natural or God-given, inviolable, and
ultimately just. Sometimes they try to argue that the hierarchy is
best for everyone, but that's a tough sell and not just for the folks
stuck at the bottom. So another approach is to get the at least some
of the in-betweens to identify with the higher-ups by looking down
on whoever they can: be a winner by hating the losers.
Nick Turse: For America, Life Was Cheap in Vietnam:
Yet America's defeat was probably ordained, just as much, by the Vietnamese
casualties we caused, not just in military cross-fire, but as a direct
result of our policy and tactics. While nearly 60,000 American troops
died, some two million Vietnamese civilians were killed, and millions
more were wounded and displaced, during America's involvement in Vietnam,
researchers and government sources have estimated.
Enraged, disgusted and alienated by the abuse they suffered from troops
who claimed to be their allies, even civilians who had no inclination to
back our opponents did so.
Now, four decades later, in distant lands like Pakistan and Afghanistan,
civilians are again treating the United States as an enemy, because they
have become the collateral damage of our "war on terror," largely
unrecognized by the American public. [ . . . ]
Soldiers and officers explained how rules of engagement permitted
civilians to be shot for running away, which could be considered suspicious
behavior, or for standing still when challenged, which could also be
considered suspicious. Veterans I've interviewed, and soldiers who spoke
to investigators, said they had received orders from commanders to "kill
anything that moves."
"The Oriental doesn't put the same high price on life as does the
Westerner," Westmoreland famously said. "Life is plentiful, life is
cheap in the Orient."
That quote was blatantly racist, but it was also peculiarly true.
The US was meticulous in its accounting of American deaths, going to
great lengths to account for every scrap of dead GI -- when the war
was over, they had no "unknown soldier" to honor, and they obsessed
about MIA for decades, even today. Such concerns were a luxury that
I don't think any previous US war had afforded, but they were also
a political necessity, as the great threat to the US war effort was
the reluctance of the American people to pay the cost, an assessment
in which dead American soldiers loomed large. It was the first war
in US history where it became clear that the American people, even
many American soldiers, couldn't see stakes worth fighting for, and
the military clique went mad trying first to avoid then to evade
responsibility for failure. Turse's new book (Kill Anything That
Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam) is especially welcome
because it helps counter the con job that allowed the US military
to continue without accounting for its failures in Vietnam -- Andrew
Bacevich has written about this (cf. The New American Militarism:
How Americans Are Seduced by War), with Lewis Sorley's A Better
War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years
in Vietnam the most egregious example. Much as gone wrong in America
since Vietnam, and much of that is due to our failure to recognize how
profoundly wrong we were.
Despite revelations about the massacre at My Lai, the United States
government was able to suppress the true scale of noncombatant
casualties and to imply that those deaths that did occur were
inadvertent and unavoidable. This left the American public with a
counterfeit history of the conflict.
Without a true account of our past military misdeeds, Americans
have been unprepared to fully understand what has happened in
Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, where attacks on
suspected terrorists have killed unknown numbers of innocent
people. As in Vietnam, officials have effectively prevented the
public from assessing this civilian toll.
We need to abandon our double standards when it comes to human
life. It is worth noting the atrocious toll born of an enemy general's
decisions [Vo Nguyen Giap, who died last week at 102]. But, at the
very least, equal time ought to be given to the tremendous toll borne
by civilians as a result of America's wars, past and present.
Also, a few links for further study:
Max Blumenthal: Expulsion and Revolusion in Israel: Most likely
an excerpt from Blumenthal's new book: Goliath: Life and Loathing
in Greater Israel. This particular piece describes the "Prawer
Plan" to round up 40,000 indigenous Bedouins from the Negev Desert
in southern Israel -- nominally Israeli citizens, living well within
the Green Line -- and relocate them to "American-Indian-style towns
constructed by the Israeli government": a definition just a "security
fence" short of being a concentration camp. Nor is what's happening
today something unforseen in the past:
In Ben Gurion's memoirs, he fantasized about evacuating Tel Aviv and
settling five million Jews in small outposts across the Negev, where
they would be weaned off the rootless cosmopolitanism they inherited
from diaspora life. Just as he resented the worldly attitude of Jews
from Tel Aviv and New York City, Ben Gurion was repelled by the sight
of the open desert, describing it as a "criminal waste" and "occupied
territory." Indeed, from his standpoint, the Arabs were the occupiers.
As early as 1937, he had plans for their removal, writing in a letter
to his son Amos, "We must expel Arabs and take their places."
Corey Robin: David Grossman v. Max Blumenthal for another slice of
Sam Wang: What the Gerrymander giveth with one hand: House control in
2014 now a toss-up: With most voters inclined to blame the Republicans
for the shutdown and credit risk debacles, some polls indicate Democrats
may be able to overcome the gerrymander which gave the Republicans control
of the House despite receiving 1.2% fewer votes in 2012. Makes sense to
me, but Democrats have to get a "ground game" more like 2008 and 2012
than the massive slump of 2010, and wage a broad campaign like Howard
Dean's "50-state campaign" -- something way beyond Obama's narrow focus
on 270 electoral votes. Right now the stakes are relatively clear, but
if Obama caves in on something major, turnout could suffer badly.