Posts Tagged ‘Conservative Assault on History’

The Neverending Con

November 5, 2010

The only positive thing I can say about what happened on Tuesday is that at least Sharron Angle, John Raese, Carly Fiorina and Ken Buck all lost and the abominable Blue Dog Caucus was decimated and halved overnight.

Well, the rank and file people on the street have spoken and once again have voted in the very same culprits responsible for the tattered, devastated and defiled economic predicament our nation finds itself in.  They have yet again voted entirely and unequivocally against their own economic interests.  An example of what I mean: Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich, sterling Fixed Noise style man of the people, immediately killed a statewide passenger rail project saying, in his best John Wayne/Gordon Gekko voice, “that train is dead,” according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Besides the absurd, piss-ant bluster with which he uttered these words and everything else positive this project could bring the struggling state, it will cost Ohio an estimated 8,000 jobs.  But according to Kasich, his number one priority is “creating  jobs.”  Hmmm…saying with a straight face that you mean to earnestly create jobs while gleefully wiping out a project that the Department of Labor estimates would actually have created 8,000 jobs is blatant hypocrisy couched in Orwellian linguistic black magic so daring and bold that I almost admire it.  But this is what you voted for Mr. and Mrs. No-More Manufacturing Jobs in Your Neighborhood and One Illness Away From Bankruptcy and Foreclosure, Ohio, U.S.A.   I try to refrain from calling people ‘dumb,’ even though I have let my frustration get the best of me on this blog, because that lets you fall into the dreaded “elitist” trap but when are these people EVER going to get it.  Sometimes there seems to be no other answer.  I know the Fox/Limbaugh echo chamber misinforms millions of people all day/every day, but sooner or later you have to get wise to the con.  Kasich worked at Lehman Brothers for Chrissakes.  He even bragged about it at first.  Yet I’m sure many poor, blue-collar Ohioans voted for Kasich to teach those pesky Democrats “Never Again!” regarding those damn bailouts.  There’s nothing like showing how fed-up you are with these snooty, worthless bankers by electing one of them to the Governor’s mansion.  People like Kasich don’t even try hard to conceal what they are and what they’re about (deregulation, privatization, tax-cuts for millionaires like themselves, union-busting, outsourcing) anymore and voters still, time and again, willingly give them the power to cut their throats.

I’m reading Thomas Frank’s extraordinary What’s the Matter with Kansas and it describes this self-defeating phenomenon, which he terms the “Backlash,” in the most devastating and articulate manner I’ve yet encountered.  One of the core tenets to Frank’s argument is that by constantly stoking the various passions and fervors of the culture wars to get rank and file voters to the polls, big business conservatives are continually able to win elections and further their agenda of deregulation, consolidation etc.  Karl Rove and George W. Bush made this into an art form in 2004, fomenting outrage over gay marriage to get fundamentalists to turn out and in actuality cast a vote for social security privatization.  We see this happen again and again.  But as Frank notes, and there were similar grumblings from parts of the Christian Right near the end of Bush’s second term, the Republicans never deliver any solid, appreciable legislation or leeway on the core issues “culture warriors” care about and elect Republicans to take care of.  Yet the True Believers keep on sending them to DC every few years anyway, a textbook example of Einstein’s definition of insanity.

Thomas Frank:

“For decades Americans have experienced a populist uprising that only benefits the people it is supposed to be targeting…The angry workers, mighty in their numbers, are marching irresistibly against the arrogant.  They are shaking their fists at the sons of privilege…They are massing at the gates…hoisting the black flag, and while the millionaires tremble in their mansions, they are bellowing out their terrifying demands.  “We are here,” they scream, “to cut your taxes.”                                                                                                           p.109  What’s the Matter with Kansas

Some critics have suggested that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “the Jazz Age” into existence.  Frank wrote these words in 2004, 5 years before the onset of the Tea Party, and even though the machinations of the inverted populist backlash he so eloquently and caustically describes here had been in motion for years, it’s hard to read those words and not think of how perfectly they describe the pathetic deluded, Reverse Robin-Hoods of the Tea Party.

Will you marks ever wise-up?

Lexicon Devils

September 4, 2010

After narrowly upsetting entrenched Alaskan Republican familial scion Lisa Murkowski in a Primary on August 24th, Tea Bag Senate hopeful Joe Miller invoked Al Franken’s name to cast a scary specter over the the fact that absentee ballots were still being counted saying to Fox Business News (via Salon):

“It concerns us any time somebody lawyers up and tries to pull an Al Franken, if you will. We are very concerned that there may be some attempt here to skew the results.”

And thus Franken’s name enters the conservative, and by extension national, political lexicon as a description and/or synonym for illegitimacy, shorthand for “funny business,” an epithet that signifies electoral chicanery with manufactured votes and stolen outcomes.  It’s an illustration of two things: (1) Conservatives are definitively not at all beholden to things like facts, truth and legally sanctioned outcomes, because as Alex Pareene sadly observes in the Salon piece above “In a fact-based world, ‘pull an Al Franken’ would mean “‘win an election by receiving more votes than the other person.'” (2) Conservatives cynically, yet masterfully, understand and exploit the fact that we currently do not live in a “fact-based world” or “fact-based” mental environment, and that in this age of false, tortured media equivalence ie: “Conservatives are actively starting to question whether or not the sky is actually blue.  DO they have a point?” Conservatives can and will inject brazen falsehoods, insinuations and smears like “pulling a Franken” into the modern media linguistic environment where usage, such as Miller’s, will lead to repetition which will eventually bestow some warped sense of legitimacy and acceptance on a Demonstrably False claim like “pulling a Franken.”

Attaching doubts and the stigma of illegitimacy on Senator Franken’s victory is a Demonstrably False enterprise because the record delineating the legality of his victory is extremely lengthy, clear and accessible.  Mr. Miller, of Palin’s Alaska,  is supposed to be an attorney of some kind, so his usage of Franken’s name in this particular context is especially dishonest and disingenuous.  An example of the clarity and accessibility of the record as it pertains to the contested Franken/Coleman election can be found in the upcoming, University of Minnesota Press, book This is Not Florida, written by journalist, Jay Weiner who goes into copious, sometimes exhaustive detail, earning the Frank Premack Public Affairs Journalism Award (Minnesota’s highest journalism honor), for his reporting  on the complex legal machinations of the 2008 Franken v. Coleman recount and subsequent election trial.

Weiner objectively observed the candidates navigation through the minutia of Minnesota Election Law and his work in This is Not Florida provides a critical illustration of the skeletal infrastructure of Democracy, deftly translating arcane recount procedures, absentee ballot statutes and legal jargon into straightforward prose, so that anyone with an interest in probing the bare bones of democracy: how votes are really counted at the count, what statutes stipulate grounds for legal rejection an absentee ballot, etc. can refer to the anatomical schematics painstakingly diagrammed in these pages.  Weiner, a veteran sports journalist who worked at the Minneapolis Star Tribune for 28 years, was thrust “serendipitously” (his exact word) into covering the election immediately after returning from the Beijing Summer Olympics.   He quickly delves into the ‘nuts and bolts’ aspects of Minnesotan Electoral Law which mandates a hand recount if an election result is less than one-half of one percentage point, which it certainly was in the case of the Franken/Coleman election as the candidates were separated by a sliding scale of only a few hundred votes out of nearly 3 million cast (with that high a number of total votes an electoral margin of as many as 15,000 votes or less would have triggered a recount).  Weiner notes the composition, and political affiliations, of members of the State Supreme Court, the Canvassing boards, election court judges etc.  This old fashioned, painstakingly middle of the road reporting (laced liberally and sometimes clumsily with sports metaphors) was assembled from Weiner’s laborious coverage of the state Canvassing Board’s meetings, the election contest trial and “almost every media briefing conducted by the two campaigns, their lawyers and the secretary of state’s office during the recount and trial”   (Weiner p. xiii).

Accusations designed to cast a pall on Franken’s legitimacy were being made by Coleman’s team and Republicans almost immediately following election night, which is one reason Weiner goes into great detail keeping score of the Judges political proclivities and the politics of the officials who appointed them, for instance the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court Eric Magnuson was a law partner of Republican Governor, and stalwart conservative, Tim Pawlenty who had appointed him to the bench in June 2008, while Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is dubbed “perhaps the most liberal elected official” in Minnesota (Weiner p. 38).  It’s silly to even have to consider things like these in an advanced, civilized society that conservatives always assert is at the vanguard of human achievement and accomplishment, ie. that vaunted “American Exceptionalism, ” yet it is they who’ve poisoned the atmosphere with petty accusations and baseless insinuations of bias, incessantly projecting nefarious deeds and intentions onto Democrats when the most blatant acts of bias and rancidly selfish, short-sighted partisanship in recent memory were committed by conservatives like Katherine Harris and the plants responsible for “the Brooks Brothers riot” during the infamous Bush v. Gore recount.  These people look at our society and our politics in such a two-dimensional manner that it appears impossible to them that these public servants and officials in Minnesota aren’t as prejudiced, corrupt and compromised as they are in their thoughts and dealings and therefor incapable of making an honest decision in the best interests of the public as codified by the constitution.  It starts with things like Reagan’s gibberish “Never speak ill of your fellow Republican” platitude, which if you think about it plainly tells you that their allegiance is always to their crooked little team/party first, not country.  The miserable, mush-mouthed McCain campaign tried to turn this inside out and project it onto Obama and the Democrats with their “Country First” gambit and for once people saw through it.

Like Pareene’s lament for a “fact-based world,” it’s as if Weiner knew that no matter how much honest, non-partisan work the lawyers, judges and canvassing board officials did, any result that didn’t favor Coleman was going to be cast by conservatives as biased and illegitimate, so belaboring the point of the political affiliations of the judges who made these pivotal decisions was a sad necessity of his work.  Towards the end of the book, Weiner cites a Wall Street Journal editorial (date is not specified), that attempts to establish a foothold for the “Coleman won the election but lost the recount” meme by stating that “Mr. Franken now goes to the Senate having effectively stolen an election.”  Weiner reacts bluntly to ludicrous assertions of this nature on page 226 of This is Not Florida:

“Stolen? If so, it was theft in plain view of a dozen judges, four of whom sat on the state Canvassing Board, the three judge trial panel picked by the Supreme Court, and a five judge Minnesota Supreme Court, with three judges appointed by Republican governors.  All thieves, no doubt.”

The truth is out there; and very easy to find to Mr. Miller.

In Weiner’s detailed observation of the recount and election trial, Coleman ultimately lost in court because, besides garnering more legally cast votes, Franken’s campaign, at the behest of the DSCC, had prepared for a recount and had recount action plans in place, as well as the specific lawyers, in-mind, and at the ready, to step in execute them immediately in the event a recount was necessary.  Lawyers such as Marc Elias and Chris Sautter who specialize in electoral law and recount litigation were hastily dispatched to Minnesota on Franken’s behalf.  Sautter, in particular, was extremely experienced and well-versed in recounts co-authoring The Recount Primer, literally the proverbial book on the subject.  In response, and in a typical move indicative of the misjudgments that would mar Coleman’s recount efforts, Coleman and his people chose a successful criminal defense lawyer named Joe Friedberg to be his lead election trial attorney.  Weiner analyzes Friedberg’s appointment in the following passage:

“Friedberg’s strength was his ability to woo jurors.  There would be none in this case.  His strength was in finding holes in a prosecutor’s case; in this trial, Friedberg would have to present the case.  He was skilled in cross-examination.  This Coleman case Friedberg was about to present would rely on direct examination.”  (Weiner p. 158)

Not only were Franken’s lawyers and campaign operatives more prepared, they harvested data better, keeping precise track of every call made on every challenged absentee ballot, following Sautter’s hard-won advice to always “keep track of the call at the table” which his experience:

“taught him that what a local judge decides during the hand recount is almost always what the more centralized Canvassing Board decides once the process moves to the next level and the votes are formally and finally counted”  (Weiner p. 49)

Superior preparation and informed legal strategies like this are why Franken prevailed.  As Weiner notes, “On this meticulous exercise, the Coleman team fumbled the ball.  According to just about every Coleman staffer and legal adviser, his campaign was not diligent in tracking every day exactly how the recount went in all 106 recount sites.” (Weiner p. 49)  Also, by all accounts, Democrats in Minnesota had far superior data on who their voters where and what precincts they lived in so that they could target absentee ballots in specific counties secure in the knowledge that a higher percentage of votes would surely be theirs when the ballots were examined.

Ultimately the state Supreme Court handed down a “per curiam,” or unanimous, opinion affirming “the decision of the trial court (also unanimous) that Al Franken received the highest number of votes legally cast.”  (Weiner p.214).  In an excellent, wide-ranging analysis Ohio State Law School professor Edward Foley wrote that “this unanimous affirmance of a unanimous trial court will stand as a model for how hard-fought battles over the winner of a high stakes election should be handled” before concluding:

“The Minnesota Supreme Court’s unanimity in Coleman v. Franken will stand the test of time as a model of judicial impartiality in the resolution of an intensely combative election contest because the membership of that court is politically diverse and because its decision follows upon the unanimity of a comparably diverse three-judge trial court.

No one can reasonably accuse Minnesota’s judiciary of favoring Franken because he was a Democrat.  The ruling and the reasoning of the judiciary would have been the same if the positions of the candidates had been reversed.”

So despite mountains of evidence, testimony and unanimous legal sanction and uncommon uniformity of judicial opinion, certain dregs of the conservative movement insist on casting aspersions on this election in bold defiance of an incontrovertible truth.   It is time for these lies, to be called what they are and expelled with extreme prejudice from our system, and it’s fitting that the man’s name at the center of this latest slur wrote the blueprint on calling out “lies and the lying liars who tell them.”  I’d love to see honest journalists and pundits follow suit.

“As I recall in my history…”

May 26, 2010

Teabagger and Super-DUPER, Very. Serious. Ultimo Patriot J.D. Hayworth made a huge fool out of himself a few days ago by blustering on and on regarding the unimportance of Congress’s stipulated duty to officially declare war before the start of major military engagements. And then going absolutely out of his way to add this (via TPM):

“But I would also point out, that if we want to be sticklers, the war that Dwight Eisenhower led in Europe against the Third Reich was never declared by the United States Congress,” said Hayworth. “Recall, the Congress passed a war resolution against Japan. Germany declared war on us two days later. We never formally declared war on Hitler’s Germany, and yet we fought the war.”

Of course FDR and the United States Congress did declare war on the Third Reich.  But that didn’t stop Hayworth from digging a deeper hole by subsequently stating “but as I recall in my history, Germany declared war on the United States, not vice-versa.”  A textbook example of the conservative assault on history.  The levels of arrogance and ignorance displayed by this telling peek behind the curtain into an uber-conservative psyche is instructive, informative and terrifying. The pushback must begin.  You are not entitled to subscribe to, and perpetuate, your own version of history, Mr. Hayworth.   Real facts corroborated by real historical documents prove unequivocally that the United States did officially declare war on Germany.

Conservatives, particularly Tea Partiers like Hayward, are always the ones who cloak themselves tightest in patriotism (a narrow, warped conception of patriotism to begin with), and conversely they are always the first to question and demean the level of patriotism exhibited by others.  Yet here this man is, a former U.S. Congressman running for the Senate, failing miserably to understand basic, easily accessible facts of recent American History; a recent chapter of American History that has been celebrated, written about, taught in schools, dramatized endlessly in films etc. When confronted with his abysmal grasp of the basic history of U.S. involvement in World War II, Hayworth did us a favor by outlining the contours of the conservative assault on history.   “In his history” the U.S. never did declare war.  This is the new paradigm they are brazenly trying to construct.  History, you see, is something that they own.  Something they are exclusively entitled to shape, expound upon and omit unpleasant facts and events from at will according to their whims and needs.   History is what they say it is.  Facts be damned.  People need to understand this.

Their follow-up was even more trite and sorry (if possible).  The Hayworth campaign issued a press release that said, in part, “the real question is not who misspoke about an event nearly seventy years ago.” Notice the smug condescension and arrogant dismissal of World War II, as the Hayworth campaign seems to be implying that some vague, ill-defined “event seventy years ago” isn’t important enough to remember.  Not when there are immigrants to bash and imaginary communists in the White House.  This has to be the first time in recorded history that a conservative (not named Pat Buchanan) publicly dismissed and downplayed the importance of World War II.  Bravo.

Another more tame example of this insistence on dismissing facts and the history they supports as irrelevant, when they don’t fit your personalized version of history, comes from this hapless, Palin-endorsed empty suit running for the seat in Idaho’s 1st Congressional District.   The candidate (who shall remain nameless) referred to Puerto Rico as a “country”, when, of course, it is actually a United States territory.  Confronted by this unfortunate fact the man threw a tantrum wherein he said “I really don’t care what it is. It doesn’t matter.”  His campaign, like Hayworth’s, also miraculously managed to find a way to make things more pathetic by issuing a ‘correction’ that said “He clearly knows Puerto Rico is an American territory. He served in Guantanamo for awhile.”  Clearly.

2 Things…

April 28, 2010

I read something this morning on Huffington Post that spoke to the point I was trying make in the previous post regarding the dissolution of America’s manufacturing capabilities. The column written by Leo Hindery Jr. articulates the point in the wider context of “Always Wrong” Larry Summers and the baffling persistence demonstrated by the White House’s continuing reliance on his wisdom.   Hindery quotes a recent speech from GE boss Jeff Immelt where he says:

“the U.S. took a macroeconomic misstep when it concluded 25 or 30 years ago ‘that we could move from being a technology and manufacturing-based economy to a service-based economy with a $1 trillion annual trade deficit’ with no fundamental adverse result.”

Welcome to the US power elite!  Ironically, the only place in our society where being bone-jarringly, catastrophically unequivocally wrong at nearly every turn can actually boost/enhance your career and reputation.  People like Lawrence Summers have turned this into an artform.

Hindery diagnoses the problem inherent in the President’s economic team’s stunning, stubborn adherence to “Summers’ core belief — even though almost universally discredited — that a ‘job is a job’ and that at any point in time drop-offs in America’s manufactured goods (and, by extension, the labor force that makes them) can be made up by a favorable trade balance in such products as software, legal services, university tuition, and motion pictures.”

As we’ve seen in reality this has not been the case. It will never be the case.  It’s almost gratuitous for Mr. Hindery to mention, again, how discredited Summers’ philosophies are, but the jokes on us because he’s still near the levers of power and Obama’s people are still steadfastly committed to those discredited theories.   And unfortunately as long as that’s the case the Government will not re-emphasize the importance of manufacturing within the wider context of our faltering economic structure.

part II-

Ezra Klein has a great piece on “Retconning” which is short for “Retroactive continuity.” This narrative device is often employed by comic book writers, but Klein examines its recent usage by far less creative people to strengthen conservative “arguments.”

Klein lays out the cons use of ‘Retconning” like this:

“A politician will make a hyperbolic, absurd claim that will catch fire but prove totally false upon examination. Shame, right? Not to worry! Members of the conservative expert class will quickly construct new arguments based on different parts of the bill that have no relationship to the original argument but save the claim, or at least allow members of the right-wing media to say it’s still a live charge.”

Palin’s lying “Death Panel” rubbish is the prime example, but he looks more thoroughly at Senator Frank Luntz/Mitch McConnell’s more recent, more Orwellian invocation of “endless taxpayer bailouts” and how some AEI hack had the unenviable job of trying to attach some wobbly twice-removed shred of truthiness to it.

This is just one tactic employed in a larger, very frightening, very insidiously organized and concerted conservative assault on reality and history.

It can be seen in the Texas Textbook fiasco and “The Family’s” attempt to rebrand Jesus as a capitalist friendly badass who preached about strength and wealth.

This phenomenon is something I want to examine at length in upcoming posts. It can, perhaps, best be summed up by this terrifying quote served up to Ron Suskind by a typically arrogant, pathetic Bush lackey:

The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Seriously the most honest statement ever to emanate from their reign of error.