The very definition of self-defeating spending cuts. By Keith Humphreys
I can kind of see why the former ombudsman for the Washington Post, Patrick Pexton, advised Jeff Bezos to fire Jennifer Rubin. Among his criticisms were these:
Rubin was the No. 1 source of complaint mail about any single Post staffer while I was ombudsman, and I’m leaving out the organized email campaigns against her by leftie groups like Media Matters. Thinking conservatives didn’t like her, thinking moderates didn’t like her, government workers who knew her arguments to be unfair didn’t like her. Dump her like a dull tome on the Amazon Bargain Books page
…She doesn’t travel within a hundred miles of Post standards. She parrots and peddles every silly right-wing theory to come down the pike in transparent attempts to get Web hits. Her analysis of the conservative movement, which is a worthwhile and important beat that the Post should treat more seriously on its national pages, is shallow and predictable. Her columns, at best, are political pornography; they get a quick but sure rise out of the right, but you feel bad afterward.
She really is terrible. Today she is actually suggesting that Hillary Clinton will be burdened by Benghazi if she wins the nomination in 2016. Why does the Post pay for that kind of Foxified epistemic closure?
Ms. Rubin goes even further, declaring that “Republicans are coming around to the idea that Clinton is the perfect opponent for them to confront in 2016.”
Literally no one who hasn’t suffered significant brain damage actually believes what Rubin is writing.
Virginia Republicans gathered this weekend at the Homestead resort in Hot Springs to discuss their recent losses in races for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. Among the things they decided is that the party will nominate their candidate to challenge Sen. Mark Warner at a convention rather than allowing the people to have a role in the decision. This is exactly how the Republicans wound up with three too-conservative losing candidates in November. The convention attracts people like Nancy Stone of Harrisonburg, who might be just a tad more conservative than your average persuadable Commonwealth voter.
She was at [E.W.] Jackson’s hospitality suite, which he catered on a tight budget by encouraging attendees to bring pies for a pie-tasting contest. Stone bagged top prize with a pecan pie she had made.
“He was the real deal,” she said. “I think we need more candidates like him.”
In case you forgot, E.W. Jackson was the Virginia GOP’s candidate for lieutenant governor, and not only is he certifiably insane and uncommonly dishonest, but he was drubbed by Ralph Northam by over 10 points.
Of course, it isn’t certain that E.W. Jackson will challenge Warner. When asked about it, he replied, I’m running for Jesus right now and that’s enough. If that ever changes, you will be the first to know.
You’d think that Jesus would be the first to know.
I feel like standards are getting lower and lower for what kind of behavior is disqualifying for a politician seeking election or reelection. Certainly, it used to be the case that getting caught as a serial plagiarist would preclude you from being a serious presidential candidate. Is that still the case? Is it even possible for Rand Paul to be taken seriously? Does he know that the jig is up? Is he just using his wife as a convenient excuse to explain why he won’t run for president in 2016?
After a speech at the Detroit Economic Club today, Paul, a Republican senator from Kentucky, was asked whether he plans to run in 2016, and he revealed his wife’s displeasure with the idea of a run for the White House.
“Where’s my cellphone? Can I call my wife?” Paul joked. “There’s two votes in my family. My wife has both of them, and both of them are ‘no’ votes right now.
“If I’m a very able politician, I’ll tell you in a year whether I’m able to persuade my wife. Right now, I don’t know yet, but I thank you for your interest,” he added.
He expanded on that today on Fox News Sunday, explaining that he worries about how his family would be treated if he ran for president. That’s all very convenient, but I think he realizes that his plagiarism has really damaged his prospects.
On the other hand, Vice-President Joe Biden was caught plagiarizing in 1988. But he had to wait 20 years before he was able to get on a national ticket. So, maybe Rand Paul should wait a while to run.
I think a 2036 candidacy sounds about right.
This kind of stuff makes me weary:
Michael Griffin taught French and Spanish at Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Bensalem, Pennsylvania for twelve years. During that entire time, he’s been in a relationship with his same-sex partner. Indeed, according to Griffin, his partner’s “been to numerous school functions with me, he’s even been to [the headmaster’s] house.” On Friday, Griffin applied for a marriage license with his partner — saying he was “excited to finally be able to marry” him after the state’s courts made marriage equality a reality in nearby New Jersey. Shortly thereafter, Griffin was called into his boss’ office.
“At a meeting in my office yesterday, teacher Michael Griffin made clear that he obtained a license to marry his same sex partner,” the school’s headmaster Fr. James McCloskey wrote in a statement. “Unfortunately, this decision contradicts the terms of his teaching contract at our school, which requires all faculty and staff to follow the teachings of the Church as a condition of their employment. In discussion with Mr. Griffin, he acknowledged that he was aware of this provision, yet he said that he intended to go ahead with the ceremony. Regretfully, we informed Mr. Griffin that we have no choice but to terminate his contract effective immediately.”
Mr. Griffin lives in New Jersey where gay marriage is legal and there are some workplace non-discrimination protections, but he works in Pennsylvania where gays do not have the same rights and protections. The real complicating factor here, however, is that Mr. Griffin worked for a religious institution.
We can argue about whether or not Jesus of Nazareth taught against gay marriage, but that is basically irrelevant because the principle involved is that a religious institution can fire someone for violating what they believe Jesus (or any other prophet) taught. If they think Jesus taught that you shouldn’t eat chocolate on Thursdays, they could fire you for eating a Peppermint Patty on Thursday.
Mr. Griffin taught foreign languages, not theology. I don’t know how to precisely balance the rights of religious institutions and the rights of Mr. Griffin, but there can be no doubt that a great wrong has been done in this case.
In the 2010 election cycle, there were some high-profile examples of the Republican Party nominating candidates who were not preferred by the party establishment who then went on to lose what had been considered very winnable Senate races. There was Sharron Angle in Nevada (who beat Sue Lowden) and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware (who beat Rep. Mike Castle). There was also Ken Buck in Colorado, who beat Jane Norton.
Ken Buck wasn’t taking on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and he never felt the need to run a commercial declaring that he is not a witch, so his contest received less attention than the others. Yet, he was a real piece of work. When serving as Weld County District Attorney, he was caught on tape essentially threatening a rape victim that if she pressed charges he’d expose her motives. This was in spite of the man admitting that she had said ‘no’ more than once and confessing that he knew he had done something wrong.
Here is how Steve Benen described Buck at the time:
In a typical year, someone like [Colorado Senate candidate Ken] Buck would be an almost cartoonish right-wing nut, and the subject of national ridicule. After all, the far-right candidate supports repealing the 17th Amendment, eliminating the Department of Education, scrapping the federal student loan program, banning certain forms of birth control and all abortion rights, even in cases of rape or incest. He’s said Americans he doesn’t like are a bigger threat than terrorists, and is on record talking about privatizing Social Security, the V.A., and the Centers for Disease Control.
And now Buck is insisting sexual orientation is a choice and gays are like alcoholics.
I mention this because Ken Buck is running for Senate again, this time against Mark Udall, and he is far ahead in the polls.
At the same time, former Rep. Tom Tancredo is running for governor of Colorado, and he is doubling up the GOP’s establishment choice, Scott Gessler. Tancredo is probably the most high-profile anti-Latino racist in the country, so it would be a public relations disaster if he were to become the Republicans’ gubernatorial candidate.
Remember when the RNC did that post mortem of the 2012 election and concluded that they needed to do better with women and minorities?
In Colorado, that ain’t happening.
Here’s what I don’t understand. Does anyone seriously think that people are saving enough for retirement? Moreover, no one makes any money off their money anymore. If you want to make interest, you have to invest, and your investment has to be at least somewhat risky. So, why would anyone talk about cutting people’s Social Security benefits when it is as clear as day that the current benefits are going to be completely inadequate for a whole lot of people?
Jim Kessler, senior vice president for policy and a co-founder of Third Way, said Friday morning that Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) backing of a plan to expand Social Security compelled him and the president of the group to hit back with a Wall Street Journal op-ed lambasting the plan and economic populism.
“The impetus was really — we saw after the most recently, this push that okay, it’s time to really move the national Democratic Party to a much more liberal agenda, in this case, Senator Warren was the standard bearer — she’s on the cover of a lot of magazines,” he said in an interview on Sirius XM with Ari Rabin-Havt. “We were a bit alarmed by that.”
He added that Warren was an excellent senator from Massachusetts but questioned whether she could be good for the party nationally.
“That Social Security plan was the final moment for us,” he said.
“That Social Security plan had been out there but really languishing — because Senator Warren has such a powerful compelling voice, she started talking about it, and it suddenly it became much more talked about and viable alternative.”
These Third Way folks have been flogging this horse for decades at this point. It is a dead horse.
If you could turn stupid into a fuel, you could use Sarah Palin to leave the Solar System. Her appearance at Liberty University set a new standard for idiocy in a public figure. Before I quote her, I want to remind you that Thomas Jefferson was so dissatisfied with the New Testament that he cut out all the references to miracles and the resurrection, creating a new book we call The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.
He explained his rationale this way:
“Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him [Jesus] by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being.”
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short, April 13, 1820
He was actually hostile to several forms of Christianity. Of Catholicism, he said, “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government,” and “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.” In a letter to John Adams, dated April 11, 1823, Jefferson wrote “I can never join [John] Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was Daemonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did.”
Finally, as a prelude to introducing you to Palin’s comments, I want to introduce you to Jefferson’s thoughts on Christmas. Christmas, after all, is a celebration of the miraculous birth of Jesus. Here is what Jefferson thought about that subject:
“And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors.”
-Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823
So we are clear here, Thomas Jefferson revered many of the sayings attributed to Jesus. But he actively hoped that people would stop believing in the story that we all celebrate on Christmas.
With all of that as precursor, I give you Palin at Liberty University:
She told the audience of students that the U.S. Constitution was written by and for moral and religious people, and that nonreligious people probably were incapable of appreciating its principles.
“If you lose that foundation, John Adams was implicitly warning us, then we will not follow our Constitution, there will be no reason to follow our Constitution because it is a moral and religious people who understand that there is something greater than self, we are to live selflessly, and we are to be held accountable by our creator, so that is what our Constitution is based on, so those revisionists, those in the lamestream media, especially, who would want to ignore what our founders actually thought, felt and wrote about in our charters of liberty - well, that’s why I call them the lamestream media,” Palin said…
“Thomas Jefferson and his thinking, I believe that much of it fundamentally came from this area, having spent his summers here, having spent influential years here, two miles away from Liberty University,” Palin said. “Man, there’s something in the water, perhaps, around here - again you are fortunate you get to taste it.”
Palin said Jefferson would likely agree that secularists had set their sights on destroying the religious themes in Christmas celebrations.
“He would recognize those who would want to try to ignore that Jesus is the reason for the season, those who would want to try to abort Christ from Christmas,” she said. “He would recognize that, for the most part, these are angry atheists armed with an attorney. They are not the majority of Americans.”
Palin said there was a double standard that protected atheists at the expense of the religious.
“Why is it they get to claim some offense taken when they see a plastic Jewish family on somebody’s lawn - a nativity scene, that’s basically what it is right?” she said. “Oh, they take such offense, though. They say that it physically even can hurt them and mentally it distresses them so they sue, right?”
“But heaven forbid we claim any type of offense when we say, ‘Wait, you’re stripping Jesus from the reason, as the reason for the season,’ but heaven forbid we claim any type of offense,” Palin said. “So that double standard, I think Thomas Jefferson would certainly recognize it and stand up and he wouldn’t let anybody tell him to sit down and shut up.”
Here are a couple of other things that Thomas Jefferson had to say about religion.
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802
“Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.”
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814
Also, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, served as a delegate at the 2nd Continental Congress, was governor of Virginia, a minister to France, our first Secretary of State, our second vice-president, and our third president. He even codified the rules of the Senate. But he didn’t write the Constitution.
When someone asks you if a victim of rape should be compelled by the state to carry a resulting pregnancy to term, it is not a gaffe if you reply that this hypothetical almost never happens because women’s bodies have a way of preventing conception when they are under stress. It’s also not a gaffe to reply that, while it is certainly unfortunate that rape babies are occasionally produced, it’s all part of God’s plan and clearly God wants that baby to come into the world. These responses are not gaffes because they are actually honest responses that reflect what Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, respectively, actually believe.
A gaffe should be understood as an event where you actually say something that you didn’t mean to say or where you are caught being misinformed about some issue. While Todd Akin was misinformed about how human reproduction actually works, it was still how he thought human reproduction works. Call that one a half-gaffe. You can teach politicians what they shouldn’t say, but that won’t change what they believe. That’s why the following will not work very well:
The National Republican Congressional Committee wants to make sure there are no Todd Akin-style gaffes next year, so it’s meeting with top aides of sitting Republicans to teach them what to say — or not to say — on the trail, especially when their boss is running against a woman.
Speaker John Boehner is serious, too. His own top aides met recently with Republican staff to discuss how lawmakers should talk to female constituents.
“Let me put it this way, some of these guys have a lot to learn,” said a Republican staffer who attended the session in Boehner’s office.
There have been “multiple sessions” with the NRCC where aides to incumbents were schooled in “messaging against women opponents,” one GOP aide said.
When Todd Akin said that women can’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape,” he was suggesting that any woman who does get pregnant must have consented to have sex in some way. That’s what he believes. When Richard Mourdock said that pregnancies that result from rape are a “gift from God” and “something that God intended to happen,” he was suggesting that women should be grateful for their very unwanted pregnancies. That is what he believes.
Perhaps both men could have been elected to the U.S. Senate if they had just been counseled to keep their mouths shut or to repeat some GOP-approved talking point instead of saying what they actually believe. Personally, I think the electorate was better able to make a choice in those elections because the candidates were honest.
Wouldn’t it be better to nominate people who don’t believe things that make women want to flee rather than “guys [that] have a lot to learn”?
The problem isn’t the messaging. The problem is “these guys.”
I don’t like any of Jonathan Bernstein’s proposals to revive the filibuster for judicial nominees. I’m sympathetic to his motivation, as lifetime appointments are a big deal, and I can see the merit in applying some kind of supermajority requirement for those posts. But I also want to discourage the Senate from acting like a parliamentary body, and I would rather loosen the ideological bonds of senators to their parties than strengthen them. I believe that Bernstein’s proposals would be detrimental to my cause.
His main proposal is to set the supermajority required to achieve cloture to the size of the majority. Right now, the Democrats have 53 members with independents Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont caucusing with them to make a majority of 55. Presumably, then, the Democrats would need 55 votes, rather than 60 or 50+1, to confirm a judge. I don’t know if Sens. King and Sanders would have to assent to this rule, or whether any future independents or third-party politicians would be able to have a say in it. The idea is that any judge who cannot at least win the support of all the members in the majority probably has something wrong with them and should not be awarded a lifetime appointment.
Bernstein throws out a couple of alternatives based on similar thinking, including one where the magic cloture target is set to the number in the minority plus two and one where the target is set to the number in the majority plus two (he erroneously calls this “minority minus two”). In our current Senate, which is divided 55-45, that would mean cloture could be achieved with either 47 or 57 votes, respectively.
Before we really even consider the merits of these proposals or the distinctions between them, we should focus on why any change in the rules is necessary at all. The answer is that the filibuster has morphed from a rarely-used tactic used by senators to protect the rights or interests of their individual states into a parliamentary procedure used by the minority party to empower themselves and obstruct the will of the majority. What united opponents of civil rights wasn’t their loyalty to the Democratic Party, but their regional desire to preserve the Jim Crow laws. Their way of life was under attack, but the Democratic Party was divided on the issue. As much as I abhor the Jim Crow laws, the filibusters associated with them seem to me, in retrospect, to be more legitimate than the modern use that sets a 60-vote requirement for anything that doesn’t have unanimous consent. For example, I would see more legitimacy in a bipartisan filibuster launched by senators from coal-producing states against some environmental legislation than I would from a strictly partisan filibuster intended to water down or kill environmental legislation. In the first instance, a common economic interest would be protected, while in the second instance, it would only be a parliamentary tactic to disempower or even neuter the majority.
Under Bernstein’s main proposal, in which a judge could only be confirmed if every member of the majority supported them, the incentive on the minority side would be to test that prospect in every instance. In our current Senate, a Republican who voted for cloture on a judicial nominee would be letting a vulnerable Democratic senator off the hook. This would increase, rather than decrease, the pressure on Republican senators to treat cloture votes as tests of party loyalty rather than a determination on the merits of the nominee.
Bernstein’s proposal to set the target at minority plus two would allow the majority to confirm their judges in almost every case. In fact, at least in this Congress, it would make it even easier to confirm them than it is under the current, revised, rules. But it would still reinforce the idea that all nominees should face cloture votes, and we know that cloture votes are tests of party loyalty. This problem would be even worse with his proposal to set the target at majority plus two, as the first two Republicans to express support for a nominee would be seen as traitors.
It should be remembered that Robert Bork, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas were not filibustered. There were no cloture votes on their nominations. When John Ashcroft was nominated for Attorney General, there was no cloture vote. The idea that the minority party should have a veto on nominations is a new development, and it is a result of party unity. Minority parties always had the theoretical power to block unpopular appointees, but only recently did they have the ideological cohesion to actually exercise that power. I don’t think we want to enshrine that kind of ideological rigidity in the Senate rules.
Personally, I do not like it when Democrats cross party lines and vote with the Republicans, but the Senate cannot function when almost every vote must overcome a lack of unanimous consent (a filibuster) and every cloture vote is seen as a test of party loyalty. To protect against bad lifetime appointments it is far better to rely on the way that Robert Bork was defeated. In that case, six Republicans voted against him and two Democrats voted to confirm him. Bork’s nomination was defeated 42-58.
Obviously, because there was a Democratic majority in the Senate at the time, it was much easier for the Democrats to block Bork than it would have been if they had been in the minority. Some of those six dissenting Republicans may have voted to confirm if their vote had been critical. But it is possible to demonstrate that a judge is unfit for a lifetime appointment and to get some members of the president’s party to agree with you.
I’d rather rely on that possibility than to legitimize the idea that all nominees need to be filibustered by making a rule specifically to deal with the resulting filibusters. If the filibuster is going to be used, it should be used by clusters of senators with common interests, not by the minority party as a matter of course.
Let’s play a game. I’ll name a year, and you name the first two ideas/concepts that come into your head. Are you ready? Here we go
2000- 1. Butterfly ballot, 2. hanging chad
2001- 1. 9/11, 2. shark attacks
2002- 1. Color-coded terror charts, duct tape
2003- 1. Invasion of Iraq, 2. Valerie Plame
2004- 1. Abu Ghraib, 2. John Kerry
2005- 1. Beginning my blog, 2. Meeting my wife.
2006- 1. The Yearly Kos conference in Las Vegas, 2. Winning the midterms
2007- 1. Barack Obama, 2. introduction of iPhone
2008- 1. Collateralized debt obligations 2. Sarah Palin
2009- 1. First black president, 2. rise of the Tea Party
2010- 1. Birth of my son 2. Affordable Care Act
2011- 1. Arab Spring 2. Death of Osama bin-Laden
2012- 1. Republican primary fiasco 2. the 47%
2013- 1. George Zimmerman acquittal, 2. government shutdown.
I’m sure your associations are different from mine.
That’s it from me, folks, as always, thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you’ll forgive a washed-up Peace Corps volunteer a bit of indulgence on a Friday. Here are some links before Martin Longman takes over for the weekend.
And a few more South Africa links.
9. And for a vision of what might have happened with a worse leader, check out Mandela’s ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. She really turned into a monster.
10. My final thoughts right before leaving South Africa. Still fair with regards to my own experience, but I don’t feel quite so bitter anymore. I hope to return someday.
Finally, here’s the Drakensburg boy’s choir singing the classic “Shosholoza:”
This will be my last post on South Africa, I promise. But one can’t assess the legacy of Mandela without looking at the struggles the nation has gone through since the end of Apartheid and the end of his presidency.
Broadly speaking, the place is a mess.
Mandela’s greatest success was the negotiation of the end of Apartheid and the peaceful transfer of power after his presidency. Though the white establishment does deserve some credit for this too (a whites-only referendum in 1992 came down overwhelmingly in favor of ending apartheid) the period between Mandela’s release and the elections in 1994 was extremely violent, characterized by bloody clashes between the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party (probably stoked by the Apartheid security services), the negotiations being crashed by crazed Afrikaner faux-Nazis, and the assassination of popular leader Chris Hani. Without such a skilled, credible and widely respected leader as Mandela, a bloody civil war is very easy to imagine.
His presidency, considered in context, was a success. He focused trying to work through the bitter legacy of Apartheid through reconciliation rather than punishment, which was probably the only possible way to do it. His peaceful handoff of power set an important precedent that has served the nation well. His greatest failure, not grappling with the HIV epidemic head-on, he tried to remedy for the rest of his life.
But the Apartheid regime handed Mandela some near-intractable problems. Income inequality is among the highest in the world, and has only grown since 1994. Unemployment has consistently been about 25% or greater since then as well. Crime is apocalyptically bad, though it has been consistently trending down.
Worse is what happened to the ANC. In the words of historian Martin Merideth, “Within a few brief years of the advent of democracy, the ANC so beloved by Mandela was shown to have become just another grubby political party on the make.” Mandela’s successor Thabo Mbeki, though he presided over decent growth, was largely awful otherwise. He flirted with AIDS denialism, and kept on an alcoholic AIDS denier as health minister, and under his rule the ANC succumbed to galloping corruption and cronyism.
The current president, Jacob Zuma, has been a marked improvement, but the structural problems continue to fester.
I believe the single greatest problem facing South Africa at this point is a lack of political competition. The ANC has won every single election since 1994 with over 60 percent of the vote. Without a serious opposition party, they have not had the discipline of potentially losing the next election to keep their hands clean, and the country has suffered for it. (The lesson of continuing Republican collapse here ought to be obvious.)
Fortunately, recent polls have suggested that the ANC may not break 60 percent, while the largest opposition could increase its vote share from 17 to 27 percent. With Mandela gone, the ANC might get one last sympathy landslide, but the new generation doesn’t even remember Apartheid. Without their beloved figurehead, the ANC would be forced to clean house, and that would be best for everyone.
There was some question about whether the aging senator was up for another term. But the Times has the goods:
While Mr. Cochran, who turns 76 on Saturday, has the support of many leading Republicans in the state, he is already facing opposition from Chris McDaniel, 41, a state senator aligned with the Tea Party who announced his candidacy in October and has won the support of some conservative groups.
Mr. Cochran, who has raised less than $1 million for his re-election, had been thought to be leaning toward retirement. But Mississippi Republicans said they believed Mr. McDaniel’s challenge and pleas from powerful figures across the state that Mr. Cochran seek another term prompted the senator to mount what will probably be his final campaign.
The clash here is between basic models of political action. Back in the old days (eg, 2009), legislative perks were an integral part of passing laws. Legislators regarded a bit of pork as legitimate grounds for compromise. “Sure, I voted for the passing the healthcare law, but I got us this sweet bridge!” But these days, pork is actively hated, and especially on the right, rigid ideological purity is the most important thing.
Thus Ben Nelson’s infamous “cornhusker kickback” was despised even in Nebraska itself. Pork is already a big issue in the Mississippi race:
Mr. McDaniel has sought to seize on the new anti-spending fervor, casting Mr. Cochran — who has delivered billions of dollars in federal spending projects to his impoverished state — as an avatar of a bygone political culture.
“The national debt is the greatest moral crisis of this generation,” Mr. McDaniel said in announcing his candidacy in October. “So, let’s go forth from this place making it perfectly clear that the era of big spending is over. The age of appropriations must end.”
On the other side, the establishment that benefits from government largesse:
Mr. Cochran is a formidable figure in a state that has long relied on federal largess and that rarely turns over its Senate seats. He will have the support of Mississippi’s political and business establishment, which are deeply worried about what losing Mr. Cochran would mean to a state that, without him, would have little seniority in its congressional delegation.
It remains to be seen whether conservative business elites have fully come to terms with the implications of a rigid anti-spending posture. But should they really mobilize against the Tea Party, it could be a serious fight. Keep your eyes peeled on this one.
Zack Beauchamp and Igor Volsky have a nice piece looking at longstanding political opposition to Mandela and the ANC on the right, from William F. Buckley (who worked as a PR flack for the Apartheid regime) to the 2003, when NRO lambasted him for opposing the Iraq War. Base right-wingers hate him to this day: just check out the comments on this Facebook post from Jeff Duncan, a congressman from South Carolina. Or the ones on a similar post by Ted Cruz.
Ta-Nehisi Coates drives the point home:
Buckley’s racket as an American paid propagandist for white supremacy would be repeated over the years in conservative circles. As Sam Kleiner demonstrates in Foreign Policy, apartheid would ultimately draw some of America’s most celebrated conservatives into its orbit. The roster includes Grover Norquist, Jack Abramoff, Jesse Helms, and Senator Jeff Flake. Jerry Falwell denounced Desmond Tutu as a “phony” and led a “reinvestment” campaign during the 1980s. At the late hour of 1993, Pat Robertson opined, “I know we don’t like apartheid, but the blacks in South Africa, in Soweto, don’t have it all that bad.”
I think it’s important to note that this goes deeper than just conservative activists, down to the core of the American state. As Peter Beinart notes, for almost its entire history the South African liberation movement was shoehorned into a Cold War framework by ignorant American elites.
And it wasn’t just talk, either. Back in 1962, the CIA ratted out Mandela to the Apartheid regime, leading to his 27-year imprisonment. Ronald Reagan labeled him and the entire ANC terrorists, a label which was only removed in 2008. Divestment legislation was passed over his veto. (War criminal Dick Cheney is still unrepentant about his vote against the override back when he was in Congress.)
Adam Serwer puts it well:
It is to remember that sometimes the radicals are correct, that in the heat of the moment, movements for justice can be easily caricatured by those with authority as threats to public safety, and those seeking basic rights and dignity as monstrous villains. And then after the radicals win, we try to make them safe and useless to future radicals by pretending our beloved secular saints were never radical at all.
Pardon me while I rustle up some grub. In the meantime, here is some assorted stuff from across the web.
2. Paul Krugman weighs in on President Obama’s big inequality speech. The verdict: pretty good!
4. Are GPS’s screwing up our mental mapping capacity? Personally, I try to use the map function on my phone more than the navigator.
5. Providing enough parking, like reducing traffic jams, is about controlling demand, not just mindlessly increasing supply. There just ain’t enough room for all those cars.
6. Kevin Drum weighs in on Bill de Blasio’s choice of Bill Bratton for NYPD head. The verdict: pretty good! (Certainly a low bar for improvement there.)
Finally, Hank Green has some good thoughts on the Hunger Games and inequality:
Back in a flash.
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