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Friday, January 28, 2011

Deadbeats Bush and Gingrich Say "States Better Off Bankrupt"

January 28, 2011 at 14:01:42

Deadbeats Bush and Gingrich Say "States Better Off Bankrupt"

By Michael Collins (about the author)


Michael Collins

Not if a state owes you money!

Jeb Bush and Newt Gingrich just published an OpEd in the Los Angeles Times arguing that states would be wise to consider filing bankruptcy to relieve their financial troubles. They cite three states, California, Illinois and New York, while failing to mention the angry elephant in the living room with similar problems, Texas.

Texas faces a $25 billion shortfall for a $95 billion two-year budget. That equals California's 18-month deficit inherited by the recently inaugurated Governor Jerry Brown.

"So why haven't we heard more about Texas, one of the most important economy's in America? Well, it's because it doesn't fit the script. It's a pro-business, lean-spending, no-union state. You can't fit it into a nice storyline, so it's ignored," said Business Insider

Texas is a major inconvenience to Bush and Gingrich. They lay the financial problems at the door of unions and state employee pensions:

"The lucrative pay and benefits packages [read pensions] that government employee unions have received from obliging politicians over the years are perhaps the most significant hurdles for many states trying to restore fiscal health." Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich, January 27

This is blatant intellectual dishonesty. By giving examples of states with strong civil servant unions, they stack the deck for their explanation of state debt. Yet the dire budget problems in Texas negate their argument entirely. That is sufficient reason to dismiss the rest of their arguments and their stated motives, as well.

The Larger Picture - Tear Down that Government at Every Level

In the past few weeks, we have seen a multilevel assault on federal, state and local governments and the programs offered, e.g., public education, roads, public safety, etc.

This year's public fretting over the federal deficit was bipartisan. Peter Peterson's budget commission produced a plan to reduce the federal deficit at the same time that President Obama's hand picked commission reported similar findings. Entitlements, Social Security in particular, require substantial cuts. They failed to note the real causes of the deficit - wars and bailouts.

Even though Social Security has a surplus, there's a repetitive mantra that You'll never get your money out of it. The budget hawks have repeated that so often, they probably believe it. And they should. They're doing everything they can to make sure that we don't see a fair return on our significant investment. The message is clear. Cut Social Security, take less than your were promised, and we'll all live happily ever after (unless you relied on the promise made by the government based on your full participation).

The second assault on government targeted local municipalities - Day of Reckoning 12/19/10. Meredith Whitney of CBS claimed her study showed that the municipal bond market was headed for collapse and chaos. Whitney failed to show her w ork and asked us to trust her. This created unrest in the bond market. Whitney clings to her evidence just the late Senator Joseph McCarthy held tight his fictitious list of 400 Communists in the Truman and Eisenhower administrations who were subverting the government.

Now, Bush and Gingrich are attacking state governments and the programs that they provide to citizens. They focus on unfunded pension liabilities that ballooned during the recession we're told is over. They fail to note the cause of those problems: the fact that pension funds relied on the Wall Street casino and fell victim to the vicissitudes of Goldman Sachs, etc., and the failure of Congress and the last two chief executives to regulate risky behavior.

The Neo Malthusian Catastrophe

Economist Thomas Malthus argued that there would be, "forced return to subsistence-level conditions once population growth had outpaced agricultural production." The new Neo Malhusians argue that we must return to inferior economic conditions, absent the right to organize and bargain for wages and without the promise of Social Security, because expenditures have outpaced the ability to produce offsetting revenue.

Bush and Gingrich fail to ask the questions of real importance. Why has the economy faltered so badly? The answers wouldn't please them or their patrons.

To begin with, there has been no regulation of risk filled financial schemes, from subprime derivatives to credit default swaps, since the big banks and Well Street were set free in the late 1990's.

We're fighting two very expensive and unnecessary wars.


Then we have the money addiction of the top 1% of the population, which took 65% of the net new income in the United States from 2002 through 2007.

What are they Afraid of?

There is an island of fiscal stability among the states, North Dakota. The traditionally conservative state also has a state bank, the Bank of North Dakota (BND). State funds go into the bank, BND creates credit, and funds are available for the public benefit. Here is the BND statement of purpose for lending.

Lending Services: On behalf of the State of North Dakota, the Bank administers several lending programs that promote agriculture, commerce and industry. Financing economic development is the thrust of Bank of North Dakota's efforts. The Bank is specifically authorized to assist numerous other financial institutions in providing financing to stimulate economic development in the state.

Ellen Brown has been advocating state banks for the past two years. She points out that, ."With over $17 billion available to deposit in its own bank, California could create $170 billion or more in credit -- enough not only to meet its budget shortfall but to fund many other much-needed projects; and rather than feeding an ungrateful Wall Street, the bank's profits would return to the state and its people." Ellen Brown, July 22, 2009

Legislation was introduced in Washington that would create a state bank of Washington. This has attracted attention since it would be only the second state bank if the legislation passes.

"Rep. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, the House bill's sponsor, said the proposal was modeled after a similar institution in North Dakota and based on the idea that the state's money should not be at the disposal of Bank of America, where Washington has its accounts.

"Why don't we create our own institution, keep that money in our state and we make money off our money that we can then reinvest back into our community?" asked Hasegawa.' The News Tribune, January 26

Aside from their general paranoia and guilt, the potential of a state bank movement may have Jeb Bush, Gingrich, and their patrons frightened out of their wits. They may be particularly fearful of the unpredictable and innovative Governor Brown who needs financial relief now and has the will and spirit to engage in a political showdown. BND is a highly credible state project. A Washington State bank would be significant due to the size of the state and the major business located there..

But a Bank of the State of California would represent a major threat to just about everyone on of the Neo Malthusians. The state was and can be once again a trend-setter. What a trend that would be.


This article may be reproduced in part or in its entirety with attribution of authorship and a link to this article.


Michael Collins is a writer in the DC area who researches and comments on the corruptions of the new millennium. His articles focus on the financial manipulations of The Money Party, the abuse of power by government, and features on elections and (more...)

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author
and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

GOP Presidential Hopefuls Are Alienating the Rest of the World by Fusing Christian Superiority with Blatant Revisionist American History



Fusing American exceptionalism with Christian superiority, Republican presidential hopefuls act to alienate our allies -- just when we need them most.

Photo Credit: Empowered From Above
Generations of American politicians have long proclaimed the United States the greatest nation in the world to win over voters. And it very often works.

Now a new breed of Republican leaders -- politicians like former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, Sen. Jim DeMint, Rep. Mike Pence and Sen. Marco Rubio -- are working overtime to reclaim the well-worn idea of "American exceptionalism" as their own.

Rather than using a traditional “we’re number one” cheer, however, these and other GOP leaders, all potential 2012 contenders, have created a new hybrid narrative, one that fuses blatantly religious ideology with fiscal conservatism. While it’s a practical tactic for securing elections here at home, this brand of American greatness puts our nation in a precarious international position.

Tea Party leaders are fusing a notion of Christian superiority with revisionist American history to create a new exceptionalist narrative. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who led the Tea Party insurgency in the midterm elections for U.S. Senate, proclaimed the Tea Party movement to be a “spiritual renewal” in an interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. And in a November 2010, speech to the Detroit Economic Club, Mike Pence of Indiana, who is said to be exploring a White House bid, made an explicit connection between American free enterprise, exceptionalism and Christianity.

"The free market is what made America’s economy the greatest in the world," Pence declared. "To renew American exceptionalism, we must recognize that our present crisis is not merely economic, but moral in nature... As we seek to build national wealth, we must renew our commitment to the institutions that nurture the character of our people -- traditional family and religion.”

DeMint, meanwhile, offered his own take on the same idea: "You cannot be a real fiscal conservative if you do not understand the value of a culture that’s based on values," DeMint said in his speech at the Values Voter Summit in September. "When you have a big government, you’re going to have a little God. You’re going to have fewer values and morals...."

And former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, also a GOP presidential hopeful, had this to say last August: "To deny American exceptionalism is in essence to deny the heart and soul of this nation.” In these politicians’ collective view, exceptionalism isn't only about our country's unique character; it's a divine calling.

Pastor Tony Campolo, the liberal evangelical preacher who served as an adviser to former President Bill Clinton, told Newsweek's Lisa Miller, "The marriage between evangelicalism and patriotic nationalism is so strong that anybody who is raising questions about loyalty to the old, laissez-faire capitalist system is ex post facto unpatriotic, un-American and by association non-Christian." Fiscal and social conservatism have become one.

Nowhere has the alignment of American exceptionalism and right-wing Christian theology been more dangerous than in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Since the free market includes the entire globe, conservatives claim, our biblically inspired, capitalism-driven democratic values must be exported, an idea that threatens our international standing.

It’s this theology that drives the international exploits of a secretive group of Capitol Hill elites -- including Jim DeMint and Mike Pence -- known alternately as the Fellowship or the Family. The Family made rare headlines last year, when it was revealed the group had supported the Ugandan lawmakers who proposed an anti-LGBT bill that would make certain practices punishable by death.

The organization also operates the C Street House in Washington, where, according to Jeff Sharlet, author of C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy, DeMint is "ideologically influential." And that ideology, as the senator told the right-wing magazine, World, in August 2009, includes the belief that "[t]he decline of America's power and prestige has been directly related to the secularization of our country."

But the Family’s influence on U.S foreign policy doesn’t begin or end in Uganda, or on the subject of LGBT rights. The group has also helped former Somali dictator Siad Barre buy arms, and facilitated U.S. support for various other despots, including Indonesia’s Haji Muhammad Suharto and Papa Doc Duvalier of Haiti. And now the Family’s congressional members are ascendant in the U.S. Capitol; most of them are allied with the Tea Party movement, and in an unprecedented position to shape our nation’s policy.

Still, the Family and its members don’t have a monopoly on American exceptionalism-spouting evangelicalism, even in Uganda.

Huckabee likewise has links to the forces behind the African nation’s “kill the gays” bill, thanks to his friendship with Rev. Lou Engle, an outspoken opponent of LGBT people who last year, at the height of the controversy, invited one of the bill’s foremost proponents, Pastor Julius Oyet, onto the stage at a revival he headlined in Uganda’s capital city, Kampala.

Meanwhile, in Florida, Tea Party insurgent Marco Rubio of Florida shaped his electoral stump speech around the idea of American exceptionalism, a theme he trumpeted again during his victory speech, insisting, “The vast majority of [Americans believe] that the United States of America is simply the single greatest nation in all of human history, a place without equal in the history of all mankind.”

And, like his party peers, Rubio’s Christian Americanism has worrisome roots: Glenn Beck's "historian" friend David Barton, leader of the conservative Christian group Wallbuilders, which frequently questions the validity of global warming and contends that church and state were never meant to be separated.

"Christianity is the religion that shaped America and made her what she is today," Barton wrote on his Web site. "In fact, historically speaking, it can be irrefutably demonstrated that Biblical Christianity in America produced many of the cherished traditions still enjoyed today."

Huckabee, too, has ties to Barton, whom he calls "maybe the greatest living historian on the spiritual nature of America's early days, and Palin draws inspiration from Barton’s revisionist history, claiming that the Founding Fathers never meant to separate church and state.

The former Alaska governor, whose ignorance of foreign policy was famously revealed during her 2008 run for the vice presidency, waded into the international arena recently by embarking on a "humanitarian mission" to earthquake-ravaged Haiti's cholera camps. Though some suggested that Palin wanted to bolster her foreign policy credentials ahead of a 2012 run, she insisted her presence was simply part of her obligation as a good American. "We are so fortunate in America,” she said, “and we are responsible for helping those less fortunate."

The trip wasn't simply about spreading love, though. It was organized by Samaritan's Purse, a Christian nonprofit headed by Rev. Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelical powerhouse Billy Graham, that come under fire for putting missionary work ahead of material assistance.

The New York Times in 2001 described Samaritan’s Purse’s religious work in the aftermath of two earthquakes in El Salvador: "An American evangelical relief group that is using private donations and United States government money to help victims of two earthquakes has blurred the line between church and state as its volunteers preach, pray and seek converts among people desperate for help," the Times reported. And leader Graham has been criticized for calling Islam a "wicked" religion.

Seen in that light, Palin's nascent foreign policy suddenly becomes less about diplomacy and more about American-made proselytizing.

The stage for the Christian-inspired notion of American exceptionalism was set, ironically enough, by a man many in the Religious Right view as a disappointment, President George W. Bush, who along with his neoconservative allies, relied on the doctrine of American exceptionalism to justify the invasion of Iraq. It’s our sacred duty to deliver democracy to the masses, the reasoning went: "The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity," Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union address.

But Bush’s crusade to spread that purportedly divine gift ended up looking a lot more like imperialism than exceptionalism, costing billions of dollars and thousands of lives, stretching our military capabilities and tarnishing our nation's name.

"The administration's belief in its own good motives explains much of its failure to anticipate the highly negative international reaction to the war," wrote Francis Fukuyama in his book, America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power and the Neoconservative Legacy. The former president’s model, emulated by today’s GOP leaders, remains flawed, putting too much faith in a presumed destiny, and not enough in pragmatic cooperation.

Perhaps more dangerous than depleted military resources are accusations that we wield our military might for religious reasons, as happened during the Bush administration, when the president’s foreign policy memos came complete with Biblical passages.

And, yes, the image of Bush as a missionary had a detrimental impact on our foreign standing: U.S. approval rating fell below 50 percent among the populations of longtime allies France, Germany and Spain, and took a particularly devastating hit in Arab nations, where our ratings plummeted to the single digits and people regularly complained of American jingoism.

Proclamations of America’s singularity began even before the nation's founding, when, in 1630, preacher John Winthrop, drawing on the New Testament Book of Matthew, told Puritans en route to colonial Massachusetts, "We shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us."

But "American exceptionalism” didn’t always convey America’s greatness. The term, attributed to French theorist Alexis de Tocqueville’s classic work Democracy in America, simply corresponded with the unique set of circumstances, like our geographical isolation and wide open spaces, that allowed our nation’s evolution. "The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional,” wrote Tocqueville, “and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one."

President Barack Obama appears to know this history of the exceptional idea, and used it to help spread his message of American humility on the international stage, a move that won applause from allies and recriminations from Tea Party Republicans. "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism," Obama told the Financial Times of London in 2009. "We have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional."

Reacting to the president, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich came out swinging. "President Obama's secular socialist philosophy is profoundly in conflict with the heart of the American system and is a repudiation of the core lessons of American history," Gingrich contended at Liberty University last October. “[American exceptionalism is] a term which relates directly to our unique assertion of an unprecedented set of rights granted by God.”

Furthermore, Gingrich likened those who don’t agree with his perspective, tacitly including President Obama, to Cold War-era Soviets, saying, “We have not had such an important national conversation about basic realities and basic truths since the late 1940s. In the period 1946-1950 [when] Americans had to come to grips with an existential threat to their very survival as a free people.”

Gingrich wasn’t the first of these men and women to draw a parallel between Democrats like Obama and socialist Soviets, of course. Jim DeMint also tried to discredit Obama on the grounds of American exceptionalim. "We now see all too clearly that the hope and change the Democrats had in mind was nothing more than a retread of the failed and discredited socialist policies that have been the enemy of freedom for centuries all over the world," DeMint told the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2010.

Conservatives’ collective misreading of Obama's exceptionalism ignores one of the commander-in-chief's key comments to the Financial Times: "I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world toward peace and prosperity and recognizing that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we can't solve these problems alone."

The president has a valid point: the days of the American empire have passed. No matter what leaders on the Right want to believe, our demands and chest-puffing no longer yield the foreign policy results to which we’ve grown accustomed. As a waning superpower, we need as many friends as possible. And the exclusionary religious and fiscal brand of American exceptionalism that DeMint, Pence, Palin and colleagues are championing may further alienate our allies -- just when we need them most.

Brooklyn-based Andrew Belonsky has written for Death and Taxes, Salon, the Huffington Post, Change.org and the Bilerico Project.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Clarence Thomas should be INDICTED -- UPDATED

January 27, 2011 at 21:35:06

Clarence Thomas should be INDICTED -- UPDATED

By Daily kos (about the author)


reprinted from Dailykos.com

Clarence Thomas, for the past 20 years has checked "None" under "Spouse's Non-Investment Income" on his financial disclosure forms. That, we now know, was untrue. The law that is the basis for the disclosure form, includes reference to possible criminal penalties under 18 U.S. Code.

Under Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001, it is a crime to:

  1. knowingly and willfully;
  1. make any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation;
  1. in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the United States.

Violations are punishable by a fine and 5 to 8 years in prison. Thomas could be charged with separate counts for each year he falsely stated that his wife had no "Non Investment Income"

The Department of Justice publishes a handbook to provide guidance to prosecutors. The handbook details the history of 18 USC 1001 and states as follows:

Amended - 1001 will thus reach those documents that have most often been the subject of congressional false statement prosecutions, such as vouchers, payroll documents, and Ethics in Government Act (EIGA) financial disclosure forms.

This particular federal crime has been used to indict a FBI agent who failed to disclose his ownership interest in a building leased by the FBI. From the Mississippi Criminal Defense Blog:

An FBI Agent in Oxford, Mississippi was indicted this week for making false official statements to a federal official, among other things. The agent was the Supervisory Agent in Charge of the FBI's Oxford Resident Agency, and the indictment charges that he failed to disclose that he had a financial interest in the Oxford FBI Building since 2004, and that he was not truthful on his Confidential Financial Disclosure Report that FBI Agents are required to fill out.

I understand that the FBI agent was found not guilty on some counts and the jury hung on the remaining count(s). He was not retried.

Nonetheless it is outrageous that Clarence Thomas can get by year after year denying that his wife was being paid over $100,000/year by the Heritage Foundation and yet an FBI agen who fails to disclose on his Financial Disclosure Report gets indicted.

While earlier posts on this topic have raised the possibility of impeachment none seem to have mentioned the fact that a judge can simply be indicted and tried. A quick search will show that a number of federal judges have been indicted, tried and convicted over the years.

Clarence Thomas' time has come. As a criminal defense attorney, I would have a hard time saying that he did not knowingly and willfully make false statements when he said his wife did not receive any "Non Investment Income" year after year when she was getting over $100K a year.

UPDATE #1 1-27

I have responded to a couple of comments, but it occurs to me that perhaps I should amend this post to address some issues common to a number of comments.

First this is not an IRS issue. It is plain and simple a false statements issue.

Second to those who argue that Justice Thomas was not required to file a financial report, the Ethics in Government Act, passed in the wake of Watergate requires a financial disclosure statement to be filed for damn near any federal employee, including Justice Thomas.

For those who argue there are no criminal penalties attached for making knowing & willful false statements on this form take a look at the language on the form itself:


While 5 USC app 104 makes this conduct a misdemeanor punishable for up to a year in prison, 18 USC 1001 is, on its face still applicable. Take a look at the indictment against Don Young's former aide, who is awaiting trial for a violation of 18 USC 1001 for failing to report his World Series Trip if you have doubts.

While there is no doubt an argument to be made that this conduct is just a misdemeanor, take a look at UNITED STATES v. WOODWARD, 469 U.S. 105 (1985) where a person checking the "no" box on a custom form was punished both for the false statement (18 USC 1001) violation and the charge of failing to report the currency itself -- all as a result of checking the "no" box.

Personally I don't like the law, and for that matter neither does Martha Stewart who was convicted for a violation of 18 USC 1001, but it is the law and if a US Supreme Court Justice can't seem to figure it out year after year, perhaps he should suffer the consequences as so many others have.

UPDATE #2 1-27

This story has been picked up by the Guardian now. ProtectOurElections.org has recently issued a press release calling for Justice Thomas to step down and is asking the Department of Justice to prosecute him. They have a short video on youtube of their press release.

Thanks to all of you who view this as an important issue, despite the fact that it has been predominantly overlooked by the mainstream media. This Justice needs to go!

articles reprinted from Dailykos.com

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author
and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Republicans’ 2010 election triumph will fuel civilization’s demise, Chomsky says

raw story

Republicans’ 2010 election triumph will fuel civilization’s demise, Chomsky says

By Nathan Diebenow
Saturday, January 22nd, 2011 -- 5:17 p


noamchomskybyebye Republicans 2010 election triumph will fuel civilizations demise, Chomsky says The Republican Party's triumph in the 2010 congressional elections, coupled with the rapid depletion of the earth's natural resources, signaled the impending collapse of human civilization, according to a world-renowned scholar known for his left-wing politics.

“You could almost interpret [the election] as a kind of a death knell for the species," Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a recent interview.

But he's not the only one worried; the US business press is, too.

Chomsky continued, "There was an article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, you know – not a radical rag exactly. They’re running through the new Republicans coming to Congress, and they’re worried about them.”

The cause for concern is that these newly-elected conservative members that now comprise the majority in Congress believe that global climate change is not the result of human industrial activities.

“One of the reasons is because they’re global warming deniers,” he told the Nation magazine. “Almost all – that means the powerful House committees, like science and technology and so on, are in hands of people who think there’s nothing to it – or at least claim that they think that, but what they actually think is another story.”

Chomsky is one of a number of professionals who have spoken about peak oil and climate change for a video series by the leftist magazine and On The Earth Productions.

Chomsky explained that the force behind the global warming deniers are the business and energy lobbies, both of whom have vested interests in selling cheap fossil fuels.

"The Chamber of Commerce, the main business lobby, the American petroleum industry and other business lobbies have publicly proclaimed in fact with enthusiasm that they are carrying out campaigns to try to convince the population that global warming is a liberal hoax," he said.

"It's succeeded unfortunately," he added, pointing to the US media's complicity.

The country that has risen to consume the most natural resources more efficiently than the other nations - the United States - is the engine of the coming collapse, Chomsky noted.

“If this was happening in some small country, in you know maybe Monaco or something, it wouldn’t matter much, but when it’s happening in the richest, most powerful country in the world – it’s a danger to the survival of the species,” he said.

Chomsky added, “Nobody else is going to do much if the United States doesn’t do a lot, not just some but take the lead. So we’re essentially saying, 'Let’s kiss each other goodbye.'”

The video series also features remarks by Bill McKibben, lead organizer of 350.org; Nicole Foss, co-editor of The Automatic Earth; Richard Heinberg, author of "The Party's Over," as well as other scientists and researchers.

This video is from the Nation magazine, broadcast Jan. 3, 2011.

The Litmus Test: How the Right Wing Destroyed the Court System

Dissident Voice: a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice

The Litmus Test: How the Right Wing Destroyed the Court System

In the past 30 years, the conservatives have transformed our court system into a tool of corporate power, and a force for repression nationwide. The process was relatively simple: demand a litmus test for the approval of all judges who are pending appointment. Refuse to allow any candidate to be approved who does not meet the entire litmus test. By manipulating a compliant media into an arm of the right’s rhetoric, conservatives have been able to block the appointment of virtually every qualified judge appointed by any entity other than the Republican Party.

Over the last three decades, Republicans have put the appointment of conservative judges at the top of their agenda, and controlling the White House 20 of the last 30 years has allowed them to carry out their plan. By the time George W. Bush left office, 60.2 percent of the federal judges, including two-thirds of the Supreme Court, had been appointed by Republican presidents. The younger Bush appointed nearly 40 percent of all federal judges.


To pass muster, the potential judges must be:

  • anti-abortion;
  • anti-gay rights;
  • pro death penalty;
  • against any conceivable regulatory control over corporations;
  • in support of every war-related corporate boondoggle envisioned by the military-industrial complex;
  • anti-welfare or social services or providing health related assistance to any American;
  • anti- affirmative action;
  • willing to imprison juveniles for the rest of their lives; and,
  • in support of all police agencies, regardless of how violent or corrupt they are, and insist upon imprisonment for decades for the broadest range of anti-social conduct imaginable.

They also must not be “judicial activists” – only Republicans are allowed to pursue their favorite right-wing causes. Transgressing any of the factors listed above is enough for Republicans to go after any judicial nominee.

This test is a difficult one to pass. Alito, Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and a handful of bigots pass that test, but not many others even come close. By focusing on a violation of any of those issues, the conservatives are able to deny appointment to anyone who falls within the mainstream of American thought.

There are diverse opinions on each and every issue raised by the litmus test; yet, hardly anyone is such a sycophant to corporate wealth, state police and military power, and the myriad of social concerns regarding sexuality, death, abortion, etc., that they fall within the minuscule number of those demanded by the Tea and Republican Parties’ mentality. It is this toxic combination of irresponsible and heartless demands that has destroyed any semblance of justice in our courts.

No Senate action has been (and nothing is on the horizon) on 19 of President Obama’s 38 pending judicial appointments, including two clearly qualified nominees from the Bay Area: Goodwin Liu, a UC Berkeley law professor tapped for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and federal magistrate Edward M. Chen to U.S. District Court. Both men were caught up in smear campaigns in which distorted portions of their records became fodder for the echo chambers of right-wing commentators.


The impact on our courts is devastating. There are only a handful of judges from past generations with the courage to rule against the police or moneyed interests throughout the country, and these will be replaced as soon as they retire or die off by the sort of conservative fools who now inhabit the benches of our judicial system.

The media loves it. Lazy reporters can call the police for the law enforcement side of every arrest, and print an article totally devoid of fact or fairness. It makes for salacious, titillating reading, and the reporter never has to leave his/her desk or worry about the implications of a totally inaccurate “investigative” report.

The public loves it, because it reinforces the false sense of security derived from locking up “dangerous criminals.” As the joke goes, “kill them all and let god sort it out.”

The police and military love it, because it assures them permanent employment and benefits, and allows them to engage in the most scurrilous actions without any serious accountability. What is astonishing is that police departments and prison guard unions are now made up of individuals who are often more humane and considerate than the judges who cower behind every accusation of excessive leniency. We have indeed come a long way….

Until the public recognizes how destructive and suicidal it is to endorse a society bent on imprisoning the largest possible number of its own citizens, and murdering the rest of humanity in needless wars of aggression internationally, we will continue the downward spiral that has characterized this country for the last 30 years.

Luke Hiken is an attorney who has engaged in the practice of criminal, immigration, and appellate law. Read other articles by Luke, or visit Luke's website.

This article was posted on Saturday, January 22nd, 2011 at 7:01am and is filed under Legal/Constitutional, Right Wing Jerks.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Priebus' Republican National Committee: A Wholly Owned Subsidiary of David Koch's Americans for Prosperity



Priebus' Republican National Committee: A Wholly Owned Subsidiary of David Koch's Americans for Prosperity?

The new RNC chair Reince Priebus, implicated in Americans for Prosperity's voter-caging scandal, carried a lot of water for the Koch-led group in Wisconsin. Now he's rewarded.

To the casual political observer, Reince Priebus, the newly elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, seemed to come out of nowhere. But to Wisconsin progressives, Priebus is known as the state Republican Party operative who allegedly tried to suppress the votes of minorities and students in both the recent midterm congressional elections and the 2008 presidential election -- in apparent coordination with David Koch's Americans For Prosperity.

Inside the world of Tea Party Inc. -- the array of well-funded, Washington-insider, Tea Party-affiliated astroturf groups such as Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks -- Priebus is known as a team player, the guy who, as chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, would help knock the scruffiest of Tea Party activists out of Republican primaries in favor of presumably more electable Tea Party-branded figures, such as Ron Johnson, the victorious U.S. Senate candidate who was endorsed by FreedomWorks in his primary.

On the eve of the election for RNC chair, Mark Block, who just stepped down from his post as state director for the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity, lauded Priebus in a Daily Caller op-ed for having supplied AFP with bus transportation and GOP staff support "for the movement of an enormous number of Tea Party activists from the outskirts of Madison to the rally site on the steps of the State Capitol, where over 8,000 people gathered" for a 2009 AFP rally. But the collegiality of the two involves logistical planning of another kind. Priebus was allegedly involved in an alleged voter suppression scheme launched by a Wisconsin Tea Party group, GrandSons of Liberty, with the assistance of Americans for Prosperity.

As reported in November by Sarah Posner for the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute (and reprinted by AlterNet), Americans for Prosperity was implicated, together with the Republican Party of Wisconsin, in a voter-caging scheme designed to challenge the votes of university students in Milwaukee, and voters in a largely African American assembly district in the city. With the election of Priebus last week to the helm of the national GOP, AlterNet decided to take a second look at the scheme, and found Priebus' own chief counsel deeply involved, providing lists to Tea Party activists of voters targeted for purging from the rolls.

Priebus and Americans for Prosperity: 'We're In'

"Voter caging" is a term used for a process designed to challenge the legitimacy of a voter's registration by sending out mail marked "do not forward" -- in this case, postcards -- to the addresses of targeted registered voters, and challenging the registrations of those at addresses from which the mail is returned as "undeliverable." The non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice describes it this way: "Voter caging…is notoriously unreliable. If it is treated as the sole basis for determining that a voter is ineligible or does not live at the address at which he or she registered, it can lead to the unwarranted purge or challenge of eligible voters."

At a June 2010 meeting of Tea Party activists eager to join in the right's unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud, Tim Dake, leader of the Wisconsin GrandSons of Liberty, outlined the Tea Party/GOP/AFP caging plan, saying, "So, what we're hoping is that the various groups in the coalition, plus Americans for Prosperity and Mark Block, who has been in on this, and the Republican Party -- and this is coming all the way from the top: Reince Priebus has said, 'We're in.'"

At the meeting, Dake notes the importance of the GOP's involvement, since it has access to the "Voter Vault" -- the database of registered voters. An audiotape of the meeting was obtained by the progressive group One Wisconsin Now.

"They can go in there and look for lapsed voters," Dake explained to the group.

In the scheme to which Priebus and Mark Block, then Americans for Prosperity's state director, were apparently parties, college students at the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee and Marquette University were the prime targets, as were residents of a Milwaukee African American neighborhood.

Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, told me last October that the plan appeared to involve sending out the caging postcards in the summertime to voters in precincts where most residences were dorms, noting that most students are on vacation in the summer. (And, of course, many return to different dorms the following term.) Presumably, any cards returned to the Tea Party group marked "undeliverable" would be used as evidence to challenge that person's vote in the November midterm elections.

Photographing Homes of Targeted Voters

In a July memo outlining the plan, Dake said that Americans for Prosperity was preparing the initial mailing of 500 postcards to voters in Wisconsin's 16th assembly district -- which has a large African American population -- and that more would be mailed as funding allowed. AFP's Mark Block initially denied having any part in the scheme, but when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel obtained a statement from Dake saying Block had been involved in more than one meeting on the plan, Block admitted that AFP had sent out the initial 500-piece mailing. However, Block said, since only 10 cards were returned as undeliverable, the plan was abandoned.

Priebus' office denied any involvement in the actual sending of letters. From the Journal Sentinel:

State Republican Party executive director Mark Jefferson said Priebus had had only general discussions with Dake about the issue of voter fraud and that the GOP had never actually went ahead with any of the plans Dake had outlined in the recording.

"We had discussions with everyone about this, but as far as sending out letters like this, I haven't had any discussions like that," Jefferson said.

However, a document uncovered this fall by One Wisconsin Now casts doubt both on that assertion and on Block's claim that the voter-caging plan was abandoned before the midterm elections. At the very least, the Republican Party of Wisconsin, under Priebus' leadership, monitored the addresses of registered voters via surveillance conducted by Tea Party activists -- who were provided with lists of "questionable addresses" by the Wisconsin GOP.

On September 16, Dake forwarded to a group of Tea Party activists an e-mail (obtained by One Wisconsin Now) from Jonathan Waclawski, then the finance director and chief counsel of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, with the subject line: COALITION NEWS: FOR LEADERSHIP: Voter Fraud Project. In the e-mail -- originally sent to Dake and Mark Musselman, also of the GrandSons of Liberty -- Waclawski explains that the party already has good "coverage" in 17 counties, but could "use help" in others, notably in Milwaukee County, which he contends "has over 16,000 questionable addresses."

In his introduction to the Republican Party e-mail, Dake verifies that Waclawski's e-mail is part of the same project discussed at the June meeting where One Wisconsin Now obtained the damning audio, writing: "Here are the forms for the voter fraud project that was debuted at the Marshfield meeting in June…The idea is to verify the suspect voter registrations per the supporting documentation."

Attached to the e-mail were four documents, including a non-disclosure agreement signed by Waclawski for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, which barred participants in the project (presumably the Tea Party activists conducting the voter "fraud" project) from disclosing that information to anyone but the Republican Party. There is also one offering instructions for a step-by-step address verification process that includes taking photos of buildings listed on the voter rolls bearing "questionable addresses" and instructions for forwarding the information to Waclawski. In a press release, One Wisconsin Now described that as an instruction to "photograph the homes of people targeted for voter suppression activities."

"One Wisconsin Now made a formal request for investigation with the U.S. Attorney's Office, as well as the Wisconsin Attorney General's Election Integrity Task Force and the Government Accountability Board," reads a statement issued by the group.

The group also cites Priebus' involvement in voter-caging schemes executed in previous elections in Milwaukee precincts. "In 2002, the state Elections Board enacted new guidelines for poll-watchers in response to a Priebus-led racially charged voter intimidation scheme in Milwaukee," Scot Ross said in a statement. "In 2008, Priebus' Republican Party of Wisconsin sent out an email recruiting volunteers for alleged 'inner city' voter intimidation in Milwaukee."

As of press time, the Republican National Committee had not returned AlterNet's call for comment. This story will be updated if we receive a response from the RNC.

Not Everyone's Cup of Tea

While Americans for Prosperity and the GrandSons of Liberty may love them some Reince Preibus, the same can't be said for some of those Wisconsin Tea Party leaders not supported by the big money of the Koch brothers. Some saw an inside game at work in Priebus' endorsements of Senate candidate Ron Johnson and gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker in their primaries, races in which they were competing against other Tea Party candidates. Politico's Kenneth P. Vogel reports that eight Wisconsin Tea Party leaders, including Ken Van Doren of the Campaign for Liberty, and Dan Horvatin of the Rock River Patriots, are miffed at what looked to them like the backroom dealings of the power class in the GOP primaries.

And Michael Steele humbly compared himself to Julius Caesar, casting Priebus, whom Steele had elevated to the RNC as general counsel, in the Brutus role for having challenged and defeated Steele in this year's race for national party chairman. "I know exactly how Caesar felt," Steele told Tim Mak of Frum Forum, claiming that Priebus had apparently been plotting his challenge to his mentor for at least six months before announcing he was getting into the race. "We put a lot of resources in Wisconsin over the last two years…." Steele told Mak. "[T]hat's what you do for [the] team."

It seems that nobody told the astroturf crew of the ground-level disgruntlement with Priebus. Russ Walker of FreedomWorks, which was founded with Koch's money, told WBUR, the Boston NPR affiliate: "In some states, you have a disconnect between the grassroots and the party. You just don't see that in places like Wisconsin. And you don't see it with a guy like Reince."

Who Owns the GOP Now? Who Owns the Tea Party?

At the swearing-in of the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives, David Koch, chairman of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, made a rare public appearance. You could hardly blame him for wanting to witness the fruits of a victory that his billions and his operatives had worked hard to obtain by any means necessary.

But there's another casualty besides the Democratic Party reflected in the ascendancy of Reince Priebus to the helm of the GOP. The true grassroots of the Tea Party movement has gotten a kick in the teeth, while Koch's astroturfing operation triumphed, subsuming the Tea Party under its own brand -- and the GOP, as well.

Talking to Politico, Jake Speed of La Crosse Liberty Coalition said, "A lot of people like to say that the Republican Party kind of co-opted the Tea Parties, but I think it was the other way around."

Well, that depends on whose Tea Parties you're talking about. If you're talking about David Koch's Tea Parties -- the groups that work with Americans for Prosperity -- then you'd be right. Game over.

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington bureau chief.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sorry Tea Partiers -- The GOP Only Cares About Their Corporate Paymasters and Wealthy Elites Like the Kochs



Sorry Tea Partiers -- The GOP Only Cares About Their Corporate Paymasters and Wealthy Elites Like the Kochs

While tea party regulars are giddy with the thought that their movement took over the U. S. House, they were actually a Trojan horse for powerful corporate interests.

Early this month, when John Boehner was sworn in as the new speaker of the House of Representatives, he tipped his hat to the teabag activists across the country who had fueled the Republican takeover of the chamber last fall. He almost choked up as he promised to "give the government back to the American people."

Boehner was not choking back tears, however, he literally was choking on the flagrant hypocrisy of his words. You see, the people he's giving the government back to are not tea partiers, but the rapacious corporate lobbyists who ran the Congress during the years when former Majority Leader Tom DeLay ran the show. Apparently, the name "Boehner" is derived from an ancient Teutonic word meaning: business as usual.

Throughout his two decades in Congress, the new speaker has been a reliable ally of corporate interests. In recent years, he has formed unusually tight legislative, political and even social ties with a group of lobbyists for such giants as Citigroup, Coors, Goldman Sachs, Google and R.J. Reynolds.

Of course, most congressional leaders work with lobbyists, so that's not odd, but to have them also be his closest friends and social chums -- well, you just want to say, "For heaven's sake, Johnnie, get a life!"

These influence peddlers are now the speaker's inner circle, guiding his legislative decisions. Even before last November's election, Boehner had a private meeting with a flock of top corporate lobbyists to help shape "a new GOP agenda." Forget the tea party. No tea party operative is a Boehner insider. It's the corporate agenda that Republican leaders will be pushing, and to make sure that it stays on track, Boehner has hired a top corporate lobbyist to be his policy director.

So, while tea party regulars are giddy with the thought that their movement took over the U. S. House, they were actually a Trojan horse. They delivered the votes to make Boehner speaker, which allowed the corporate powers to move inside, quietly take over and return Congress to business as usual.

On opening day of the 112th Congress, beaming members of the new Republican majority entered the House chamber, accompanied by their proud families. But the moment did not belong to members alone.

Also entering the Capitol for the swearing-in ceremonies was David Koch, the multibillionaire industrialist and laissez-faire extremist who bankrolled much of the tea party/GOP victory last fall. What symbolism! The members were taking office, but Koch and his corporate agenda were taking power.

Indeed, many lobbyists for Wall Street banks and big corporations have been hired as top legislative aides for Republican members. As Rep. John Campbell put it, "You want someone with experience." Yeah, experience in corporatizing our government.

In fact, some of the most powerful lawmakers in the House are simply handing their power to corporate interests. For example, Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama, the new chairman of the Wall Street oversight committee, declared that his role is to "serve the banks."

The chief comforter of corporate crybabies, however, is Rep. Darrell Issa of California, chair of the wide-ranging government reform committee. He sent letters to 150 corporate interests, asking them to tell him if Obama and his Democratic meanies have imposed any consumer, worker or environmental protections that should be undone. That's like asking a barber if you need a haircut!

The letters unleashed an outpouring of corporate whining -- big banks, for example, wailed that their ability to gouge customers with rip-off debit-card fees had been curtailed. There, there, Issa said soothingly, I'm here now. I'll make it all better for you.

Under the guise of giving government back to the people, the House majority is giving it to the corporate powers who finance their campaigns. This is not just business as usual, it's business way more than usual.

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.


Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the new book, "Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow." (Wiley, March 2008) He publishes the monthly "Hightower Lowdown," co-edited by Phillip Frazer.

The GOP's 5 Most Absurd Lies About Healthcare Reform, Debunked



The GOP's 5 Most Absurd Lies About Healthcare Reform, Debunked

Now is the time to brush up on the facts about healthcare reform so we can keep the latest crop of Republican lies from taking hold.

January 20, 2011

The newly Republican-controlled House voted 245 to 189 on Wednesday to repeal the Affordable Care Act signed into law by Obama. By now, it should be clear to all of us that the GOP's rhetoric about repealing health care is little more than political theater, because the party's repeal measure is almost certain to fail. Even if the measure made it through the Senate, which is still majority Democratic of course, President Obama would surely veto it. Without two-thirds majorities, which the GOP doesn't have, the party would not be able to override that veto. And at any rate, Republicans haven't cobbled together the replacement part of their "repeal and replace" plan, so it's clear that even the Republicans don't think an all-out repeal is possible.

But there is still a credible GOP threat to the Affordable Care Act -- the party's plan, after the initial repeal effort surely fails, to de-fund and/or dismantle the law piece by piece. De-funding key portions of the bill could strip millions of people of the healthcare access they were promised and could have a negative effect on the nation's economy.

As it stands now, most Americans either support healthcare reform or want to make it more progressive. So I have this to say to anyone on the left who may be worn out from years of combating right-wing lies about healthcare reform: now is not the time to give up! Now is the time to brush up on the facts so you can keep the latest crop of lies -- listed and debunked below -- from taking hold.

Lie #1: Healthcare reform will kill jobs. The right has really been pushing this myth hard lately. They even called their repeal measure the "Repealing the Job-Killing Health-Care Law Act," which, aside from being awkwardly-worded, is a misnomer. The "job-killing" part of the name came from the GOP's blatant misrepresentation of a Congressional Budget Office report, with Republicans claiming that healthcare reform could cost the nation 650,000 jobs. The Associated Press fact-checked that claim earlier this week and found that "the budget office, which referees the costs and consequences of legislation, never produced that number. What CBO actually said is that the impact of the health care law on supply and demand for labor would be small. Most of the lost jobs would come from people who no longer have to work, or can downshift to less demanding employment, because insurance will be available outside the job."

In other words, the relatively small number of people who are expected to vacate jobs as a direct result of healthcare reform will do so not because their jobs were "lost," but because people will no longer be beholden to any job they may have taken just so they could get employer-sponsored health insurance. Have you ever met anyone who got a part-time job at Starbucks, not because they wanted or needed the extra income, but because they couldn't afford health insurance on their own? Those are the people the CBO was talking about.

Here's Rachel Maddow with a more thorough take-down of the job-killing lie:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Lie #2: Healthcare reform will bankrupt the country. Republicans love to argue that healthcare reform is irresponsible because it will cost the nation hundreds of millions of dollars at a time of widespread economic hardship. The economy is at the forefront of many Americans' minds, and with good reason -- unemployment and poverty rates are abysmal right now. "If our constituents have to cut back, the government should have to cut back too," GOP leaders like to say. They've also released a report, to which they bestowed the incendiary title "Obama-Care: A Budget-Busting, Job-Killing Health Care Law," claiming that healthcare reform will have an overall negative financial effect on the country.

The only problem is, that claim is simply untrue. In fact, the very opposite is the case. According to the CBO, healthcare reform will cut the nation's deficit by $1.3 trillion over the next two decades, while an all-out healthcare repeal would increase the deficit by $230 million in a decade.

Lie #3: Healthcare reform will mean the introduction of "death panels." This one's an oldie that recently got another turn in the spotlight, despite being deemed 2009's "lie of the year" by PolitiFact. I can't believe we're still having to debunk this one, but we are, so let's say this all together, once and for all: There is no such thing as a death panel!

Many healthcare lies are based on some semblance of truth, albeit a truth that has been horribly twisted and misrepresented. But this lie is special in that it has almost no basis in reality. Death panels do not exist. They do not exist in American healthcare today, and they will not exist once the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented. The term was invented by Sarah Palin (or, more likely, her speech writers) to describe the end-of-life care provided to Medicare patients. The lie has scared old people into thinking President Obama is deploying an army of doctors to their homes to play Grim Reaper while forcing Democrats to drop a provision that would have provided healthcare to terminally-ill patients.

Lie #4: Healthcare reform will cut Medicare payments. This is another myth that has persisted throughout the healthcare reform debate. Medicare spending will not be "cut", per se, under the Affordable Care Act. Medicare spending will continue to increase each year -- it will just do so at a slower pace than it would have otherwise. In all, the law will decrease projected Medicare spending by $575 billion over a decade, largely by cutting fees to providers and private Medicare Advantage plans. (Sounds... fiscally responsible!) The 65+ set will not see their benefits slashed. In fact, some Medicare benefits have been added.

Lie #5: "Mandate" is a dirty word. A lot of people are still confused about what the so-called "individual mandate" included in healthcare reform is exactly, so let me clear that up first: the mandate requires all Americans to have a minimum level of health insurance coverage, either though a private insurance company, an employer-sponsored plan, Medicaid or Medicare. Republicans have singled out the mandate as healthcare reform's weakest link -- the element that, if killed, could undermine the "affordable" part of the Affordable Care Act. Progressive political strategist Robert Creamer explains in the Huffington Post:

[Former Republican Majority Leader Dick] Armey argues that if they can kill the mandate, the rest of the new law will fall of its own weight, since if there is no mandate -- but insurance companies can't discriminate based on pre-existing conditions -- then people who are not sick will wait to buy insurance until they are. And that, of course, is in fact a serious problem since it will drive up insurance premiums for everyone else.

The individual mandate is not a bad thing; it's just being presented as a bad thing for political purposes. We know this because many of the Republicans who are now most vociferously against the mandate were once in favor of it. As Talking Point Memo's Brian Beutler points out, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley is a prime example of this, having been a part of the "bipartisan consensus" for the mandate in 2009 but now calling the measure "unconstitutional." Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, a staunch Republican if there ever was one, was responsible for mandating insurance for Massachusetts residents when he was governor of the state.


So the next time you hear someone waxing poetic about how "Obamacare" is a job-killing, deficit-increasing government take-over of our healthcare system that we shouldn't have to subsidize with our taxpayer dollars, you'll know how to respond. And if all the above points fail you, just remember the number 8 -- that's the sum total of Congressional Republicans who have forgone taxpayer-subsidized healthcare themselves.

Lauren Kelley is an associate editor at AlterNet and a freelance writer and editor who has contributed to Change.org, The L Magazine and Time Out New York. She lives in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Americans Are Far Less Conservative Than the Right Wing Claims


New research suggests that only a quarter of self-identified “conservatives” may actually be true conservatives on the issues. Many aren't conservative at all.

Among the many memes floating around in the wake of the 2010 election is that America has taken a rightward turn, and conservative pundits seem re-energized in calling America a center-right nation. After all, a plurality of American voters (42 percent) now call themselves “conservative” — as compared to just 35 percent who say they are “moderate” and 20 percent who say they are “liberal.” Two years ago, moderates and conservatives both were at 37 percent.

But new research suggests that pundits ought to be cautious of overinterpreting the conservative label: It doesn’t always mean what they think it means: Only a quarter of self-identified “conservatives” may actually be true conservatives on the issues — less than the 30 percent of whom are not conservative at all, but simply like the label.

The reason why so few “conservatives” turn out to be solid right-wingers is that the word “conservative” has different meanings for different people, according to political scientists Christopher Ellis of Bucknell and James A. Stimson of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, who describe their findings in a new working paper, “Pathways to Ideology in American Politics: The Operational-Symbolic ‘Paradox’ Revisited”

According to their research, some people genuinely know what it means to be a conservative in the current political debate and indeed express matching preferences across all issues. But these “constrained conservatives” (as Ellis and Stimson call them) account for only 26 percent of all self-identified conservatives.

More common are the “moral conservatives” (34 percent), who think of themselves as conservative in terms of their own personal values, be they social or religious. And they are indeed right-leaning on social, cultural and religious issues. But they also like government spending on a variety of programs and generally approve of government interventions in the marketplace, hardly making them true conservatives.

And still others, “conflicted conservatives” (30 percent), are not conservative at all on the issues. But they like identifying themselves as conservatives. To them, it somehow sounds better. “They like the word,” explained Ellis. Or at least, they like it better then their other choices in the traditional self-identification questionnaire: moderate and liberal.

Finally, a smaller group of self-identified “conservatives” (10 percent) could be classified as libertarian — conservative on economic issues, liberal on social issues.

Self-identified liberals, on the other hand, are consistently liberal on all the issues, according to Ellis and Stimson. Two-thirds of liberals fit into the category of “constrained liberals,” who pick the label because it actually describes their worldview.

A good part of the reason why moral conservatives keep calling themselves conservative (despite dubiously conservative issue positions) is that these are voters who don’t follow politics closely enough to fully understand what it means to be a political conservative. Conflicted conservatives, meanwhile, identify as conservatives because they hear liberals defend programs and Republicans defend principles and agree with both without confronting the contradictions.

“People don’t hear conflicting arguments, but rather two sets of arguments,” explained Ellis. “Conservatives talk about a commitment to conservative values, and liberals talk about what we can do for you on education or the environment. Elite conservatives never say cut education spending, and elite liberals never say we’re proud to be liberals. The two groups of people talk past each other.”

This is a longstanding phenomenon. In another paper, Ellis and Stimson have shown going back to at least 1937 — the heart of the New Deal — that the American public, on average, has been operationally liberal and symbolically conservative. That is, that when asked about specific “liberal” government programs — be they spending on education, environmental protections, regulation of business — the majority of voters consistently say they approve.

But when asked to self-identify as liberals, moderates or conservatives, many of the same voters say they are “conservative.” The gap widened in the 1960s, when Republicans started making a concerted effort to turn “liberal” into a four-letter word. Since then, there has been an enduring 20-25 percent gap between the percentage of Americans who identify as liberals and who actually support liberal policies.

For both true liberals and true conservatives, however, the contradictions between self-identification and actual policy preferences can be maddening.

“Liberals would say, these people like all these things but call themselves conservative, so it just must be an artifact or a label,” said Ellis. “Conservatives would say these people call themselves conservative, they share our values and principles, but they don’t understand these policies are not reflective of our values.”

As for the supposed conservative shift this election, Ellis believes that voters were thinking more about symbols and values than about specifics: “The tenor of the discussion was about smaller government, lower taxes and traditional social values,” said Ellis. No wonder, then, that a few more people identified themselves as conservatives. (Other research has suggested that ideology can shift depending on the situation and that conservatism tends to rise in response to anxiety and uncertainty.)

But that doesn’t mean that the recent uptick in conservative self-identification provides a ringing endorsement of conservative policies for a simple reason: Most so-called conservatives just aren’t that conservative.

“I hope what this does is provide a grain of salt in reading public opinion,” said Ellis. “We’re more conservative now than we were two years ago, but the raw numbers are misleading. They give a picture that’s just not there when you dig deeper.”

Lee Drutman, Ph.D., is a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute and the managing editor of ProgressiveFix.org. He has worked as a staff writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Providence Journal. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, New York Newsday, Slate, Politico, and the American Prospect Online.

New Study: Tea Partiers Three Times More Likely to Say Violence Is Warranted. Exhibit A: Glenn Beck


When a survivor of the Tucson shooting told a Tea Party leader, "You're dead," he was arrested and committed. Why is Glenn Beck any different?

Illustration for this story by News Corpse

I have documented numerous examples of right-wing advocacy of violence, as have many others. But nobody crosses further over the line, or more often, than Glenn Beck. And here is the ultimate display of deliberate hostile intent. It is an overt call for violence and an instruction to viewers:

“Tea parties believe in small government. We believe in returning to the principles of our Founding Fathers. We respect them. We revere them. Shoot me in the head before I stop talking about the Founders. Shoot me in the head if you try to change our government.

I will stand against you and so will millions of others. We believe in something. You in the media and most in Washington don’t. The radicals that you and Washington have co-opted and brought in wearing sheep’s clothing — change the pose. You will get the ends.

You’ve been using them? They believe in communism. They believe and have called for a revolution. You’re going to have to shoot them in the head. But warning, they may shoot you.

They are dangerous because they believe. Karl Marx is their George Washington. You will never change their mind.” ~ Fox News, June 10, 2010

This cannot possibly be justified as acceptable political discourse. This is not merely an expression of opinion. It is not metaphorical. It is a call to arms. And Beck’s audience is listening. They have heard him say that “The country will be washed with blood.” They have heard him warn that he may have to speak in code:

“I fear that there will come a time when I cannot say things that I am currently saying. I fear that it will come to television and to radio, and I will stop saying these things. Understand me clearly. Hear me now. If I ever stop saying these things, you will know why. Because I will have made a choice that I can only say certain things, and I haven’t lost all of the rights. But know that these things are true. And if you hear me stop saying these things, it’s because I can no longer say them to you. But hear them between the sentences. Hear them, please. I will be screaming them to you.

One of those to whom Beck was screaming was Byron Williams who was apprehended following a police shootout as he was on his way to San Francisco to kill people at the ACLU and the Tides Foundation. In a prison interview he said…

“Beck is gonna deny everything about violent approach and deny everything about conspiracies, but he’ll give you every reason to believe it. He’s protecting himself, and you can’t blame him for that. So, I understand what he’s doing.”

That’s right, Byron understands what Beck is doing, and so do I. A new poll by Public Policy Polling reports that 13 percent of Tea Partiers say the that violence against the current American government is justifiable. While that may sound like a small percentage, there are two things to keep in mind: 1) It’s more than three times the percentage of non-Tea Partiers who say violence is justifiable. And 2) It only takes one lone nut to wreak havoc. One lone nut like Byron Williams or, perhaps, Jared Loughner, as we learned in Tucson a week ago.

Let me be crystal clear. I am not associating Loughner to Glenn Beck. There has been no evidence (yet) to link the two. However, there have been other lone gunmen in addition to Williams who were indisputably linked to Beck.

It is because of statements like the one above that Beck has forfeited his privilege of hosting national broadcasts. His language is brazenly irresponsible and he knows it. He cannot escape accountability for the tragic consequences it produces. And neither can Roger Ailes or Rupert Murdoch.

In addition to his hostile streak, Beck also has demonstrated a flagrant prejudice against blacks and Jews. I previously noted that a rather large proportion of Beck’s targets are black, beginning, of course, with Barack Obama. Media Matters recently made note of Beck’s program on “The Big Lie” wherein Beck cited nine individuals whom he implicated in a tyrannical plot to control the minds of Americans in order to advance a socialist agenda. Was it just a coincidence that eight of them were Jewish?

This racist, anti-Semitic, provocateur must not be be permitted to conduct his terror campaign on America’s airwaves. Now that does not mean that he should be subjected to censorship or suppression of his First Amendment rights, but the First Amendment does not guarantee everyone a television show. Radio and television networks, and the advertisers and audience that support them, must be persuaded to act responsibly. And that is our job.

You can go to Glenn Beck Unhinged and click on “Take Action” for a list of organizations that are working to hold the media accountable. Then pass the links around to spread the word.

The quote above is not an isolated incident. The results of such rhetoric are predictable. His disciples believe that he is giving them covert directions, and he encourages that belief. So we have to redouble our efforts to make people like Glenn Beck pay for the harm they do to our nation. And we have to do it before there is further violence or loss of life.

Eric Fuller, a victim of the Tucson shooting, was arrested and involuntarily committed to a mental facility for psychiatric examination. This occurred after he attended a town hall meeting and said “You’re dead,” to a Tea Party leader while snapping his picture. That’s it. Just words. He had no weapon and made no threatening gestures or movements toward anyone. If that warrants arrest and commitment then why isn’t Beck undergoing a similar examination after explicitly advising his viewers to shoot their political adversaries in the head?

Mark Howard is an artist and author and the publisher of News Corpse, the Internet's Chronicle of Media Decay. His political and socially disruptive artwork has been displayed internationally, usually without permission.