Saturday, August 31, 2013

"Geniuses perceive the world in a different way, and as a result have trouble interacting with other people" (Ian Welsh)


"Perhaps the storyteller," suggests The New Yorker's James Woods, "is especially ill suited for happy family life." Foremost among his subjects is Saul Bellow (above).

"True genius, and I've known a few, is alienating. Geniuses perceive the world in a different way than other people do, and as a result they have trouble interacting with other people. . . . In the old days, geniuses were tolerated, even coddled. . . . Geniuses were surrounded with other geniuses, their eccentricities tolerated, and allowed to run. Today it's 'if you don't play well with others, even if you can do things they can't, you're out.' . . . This is the symptom of a society that doesn't really care about progress."
-- Ian Welsh, in a new post, "The intolerance of genius"

by Ken

Ian Welsh has written an important new post on his blog,, focusing on the singular quality of "actual genius" and its frequent incompatibility with social graces ("Geniuses perceive the world in a different way than other people do, and as a result they have trouble interacting with other people") and the price we pay for the sharp decline in society's willingness to tolerate genius and even, indeed, to cultivate it.
The intolerance of genius

by Ian Welsh

One of the reasons, today, that we have such mediocre progress on important issues, is the unwillingness to put up with geniuses who don't have "soft skills", aka. who don't play well with others. (Obligatory note, this isn't a post about me.) There is this odd belief that 10 very smart people can do what one genius can. They can't. There are thresholds of ability (not intelligence, ability) and if you're below them, you just can't do the things that people at that level can do. Period.

Related, but not the same: in terms of intelligence, there are levels at which you can learn everything, but not anything (ie. you can't be a real polymath) and without that knowledge, in one person, not spread out through a team, many connections cannot be made and when they can, the process is vastly slower. (Aka. no, you can't look it up.)

True genius, and I've known a few, is alienating. Geniuses perceive the world in a different way than other people do, and as a result they have trouble interacting with other people. One acquaintance told me that it takes him six months to tool down from high level work to the point where he can talk to bright normals and have them understand him. Genius is also about obsession, about living with a subject till you breath it, till it's obvious to you. Even on a pure IQ level (and again, genius is not always about IQ) once you move more than 2 standard deviations in either direction, communication becomes very hard.

In the old days, geniuses were tolerated, even coddled. If it was necessary for GE to hire a secretary to act as interface between a genius and the rest of the world, that was done. Geniuses were surrounded with other geniuses, their eccentricities tolerated, and allowed to run. Today it's "if you don't play well with others, even if you can do things they can't, you're out."

This is the symptom of a society that doesn't really care about progress. We live in a courtier's society, where ability is secondary to social skills, where who you know and who you blow (as the cynical saying at one of my ex-employers ran) is far more important than how good a job you do, because your job isn't to actually solve problems or get things done, it's to manage your superiors and get along with your peers.

One might say "it has ever been thus", but this is only partially true. The brilliant mavericks were far more tolerated in the war era and cold war period, because they were needed. The possibility of losing a war, or of there even being a war which was an actual risk to the western powers, kept us honest.

Now those people are sidelined. Socially skilled mediocrities fail to the top, our society shudders from crisis to crisis, out actual scientific and technological process has slowed to a crawl, and deployment of what technological progress we do have is slow and uneven and often happens faster in other nations.

Genius, actual genius, is uncomfortable. They do things for reasons they often can't explain to people who aren't geniuses. They're obsessive, and they're often alienated from other people who simply can't or won't understand what they're doing and why. If you want to benefit from society's geniuses, you have to tolerate much of this.

I will add that not only do we not tolerate geniuses any more, we largely don't even cultivate genius. The people who go to the "best" colleges in the US these days are not geniuses, not in any creative sense. They are exactly chosen to be conformists who have done exactly what they were supposed to do for their entire lives. They are courtiers in training, the senior servants to the oligarchy. Again, in the old days (we're talking all of 25 years ago), while those people made up most of the Ivy League, broad exceptions were carved out for the truly brilliant, whether intellectually, artistically, or otherwise. Some of those exceptions still exist, or slip through, but they are the exception now.

And this, this is another reason why the future does not happen, and when it does happen, it mostly does not happen in the US any more.


In the July 22 New Yorker, critic James Woods offered an intriguing consideration, "Sins of the Father" (only an abstract available free online), of the difficulty, even improbability, of great fiction writers having either the inclination or the capacity for involved parenting. Woods is jumping off from memoirs by Susan Cheever (Home Before Dark, 1984), Janna Malamud Smith (My Father Is a Book, 2006), and Alexandra Styron (Reading My Father, 2011), daughters of John Cheever, Bernard Malamud, and William Styron, and contrasting them with Greg Bellow's Saul Bellow's Heart: A Son's Memoir, which Woods describes as "less a memoir than a speaking wound."

The three daughters, Woods writes,
write movingly about the holy centrality of writing in their fathers' lives. Styron is devastatingly honest about it: "But if each creation is, in effect, an artist's offspring, I think Daddy put his nonfiction in the category with his four living, breathing children. There was affection for what he'd made and, frequently, pride. But the Novel owned his heart."

The great scandal, you could say, is not that these men were writers first and husbands and fathers second but that they arranged their lives in such conventional ways that they kept on choosing, and ceaselessly inflicted that choosing on their familial audiences. How, really, could the drama of paternity have competed with the drama of creativity? For a man, creating a child -- though certainly not raising one -- is almost accidental, whereas writing a book takes years of though and effort.
One obvious biographical difference, Woods suggests, separates the experience of Alexndra Styron, Susan Cheever, and Janna Malamud Smith from that of Greg Bellow. The ladies "wrote books about complicated, sometimes monstrously selfish fathers who stuck around." As Cheever puts it, her parents "stayed married for more than forty years - a constancy that seemed alternately noble and ludicrous." Bellow, by contrast, "has written a book about a complicated father who left, and the difference is indeed wounding."
The children whose fathers remained married to their mothers have learned, paradoxically, how to let go of their dead fathers; they understand that their fathers had literary existences that were religiously absorbing, selfishly independent. To bestow on one's parents their independence is also to announce one's own independence from them. . . .
By contrast, Greg Bellow, a psychotherapist,
is still clutching his father, and clutching for his father. He seems to struggle with resentment at the very idea of Saul Bellow's having an independent literary existence; which is to say that he finds it hard to credit that his father was a writer at all. Terribly, he appears not to know this about himself.
"Perhaps," Woods has suggested, "the storyteller is especially ill suited for happy family life. For even as the fiction writer tells humane stories about behavior and motive and family relations -- what one might think of as a sympathetic skill -- so he or she is also a little like the proverbial choirboy at the funeral: coldly observing, carefully pillaging, rearranging, impersonating, and re-voicing the very material that constitutes "family."

Woods doesn't make a point of what I think we all know: that while all four of the fathers in question were talented, accomplished, and genuinely and lastingly important writers, Saul Bellow looms above them. What Woods does make clear is Bellow's awareness of the primacy of the novelist's relationship with the reader, quoting "these beautiful words" written in 1990:
When you open a novel -- and I mean of course the real thing -- you enter into a state of intimacy with its writer. You hear a voice or, more significantly, an individual tone under the words. This tone you, the reader, will identify not so much by a name, the name of the author, as by a distinct and unique human quality. It seems to issue from the bosom, from a place beneath the breast bone. It is more musical than verbal, and it is the characteristic signature of a person, of a soul.
Bellow, Woods stresses, also had a strong feeling for the difficulty, bordering on impossibility, of someone destined for this kind of creative production doing so in modern capitalist America. The keenness of this awareness, Woods suggests, may be connected to the "lifelong battle" between Bellow and his father, "who appears to have held his son's vocation in contempt."

Woods writes so feelingly about the struggle required to establish and nurture a genuine independent creative voice that I, perhaps perversely, found myself thinking about the zillions of Bellow wannabes who have fought lifelong fights, perhaps just as fiercely, without succeeding -- or, more to the point, having any real hope of succeeding, because there's no test to tell either them or us who has the makings of such an artist. To stick to the immediate subject of the piece, family relations, how many spouses and offspring are doomed to suffer the same emotional absence at the hands of parents who aren't John Cheever, or Bernard Malamud, or William Styron, or Saul Bellow?

And sure enough, I found myself thinking about the same sort of thing in reading Ian Welsh's post. It takes a leap of faith to identify those geniuses worth "coddling." We do in fact anoint a whole bunch of self-styled geniuses who don't correspond well to what Ian is describing. I don't have an answer for this; I'm just saying.

How Do They See An Attack On Syria In Arizona?


The NY Times Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, admits she detects-- or at least readers bitching at her detect-- a bias in her paper's coverage, a bias that presents the administration's propaganda as conventional wisdom. Let's go clear across the country, to sweltering Arizona, to get two perspectives that vary significantly from what Obama is trying to sell. Dependable warmonger John McCain, with his reliable sidekick Lindsey, fear that Obama won't spill nearly enough blood for their taste.
"The purpose of military action in Syria should not be to help the President save face. It should not be merely cosmetic. Instead, the goal of military action should be to shift the balance of power on the battlefield against Assad and his forces. The United States, together with our friends and allies, should take out Assad’s air power, ballistic missiles, command and control, and other significant military targets, and we should dramatically increase our efforts to train and arm moderate Syrian opposition forces. This can be done in a limited way, without boots on the ground, and at minimal risk to our men and women in uniform.

"We urge President Obama to delay no further in taking military action in Syria that could finally change the momentum of this awful and destructive conflict."
There's a far more sensible voice coming out of Arizona than McCain's shrill cries for death and destruction. Raul Grijalva makes a persuasive case against attacking Syria. McCain won't pay it any heed. But Obama would be smart to pay close attention.
The Americans don’t want it. The Germans don’t want it. And the Brits don’t want it. The overwhelming consensus of public opinion in the Western world is that a war with Syria would be a bad idea. This now gives President Barack Obama some flexibility to back away from his red line, save political face, and do what’s necessary to prevent further violence in Syria.

But before spelling out ways we can help bring peace to Syria, it’s worth first identifying some problematic trends in America’s tack towards war. This is not unique to President Obama and was visible in past presidents’ penchant for war. There is a precedent here.

First, the idea that America can be “precise” and “limited” and “strategic” while attacking another country is completely misplaced. It inevitably leads to further or escalated violence. It always has. We wanted to be brief, precise and strategic in Iraq by bombing Baghdad, thinking “shock and awe” would intimidate the country and its recalcitrant leader into submission. This is not dissimilar to how we are now thinking that a “punitive” strike on Syria would send a stern message that President Bashar al-Assad, one to which he would be responsive.

Never mind the fact that al-Assad has made it clear that he’s not operating from a rational place, and would never respond rationally to punitive measures-- there is no way that a strike on Damascus would last only three days, as the Pentagon has predicted. The responsibility for the ensuing chaos-- from scores of civilians dead to increased likelihood of chemical weapons use-- would fall on the United States. We would be embroiled in an unraveling that would beckon more missiles, more troops, and more air and sea support. Observe every major U.S. intervention over the last 15 years. This is exactly what happened, despite the rhetoric of precise, limited, strategic and brief action.

Second, the idea in Washington that an attack, strike, or punitive action, is not an “invasion”, is an absolute fallacy. This is a relatively new definition promulgated by Washington’s defense community, and the think tanks that support it. It’s a convenient semantic reframing so that America is not perceived as the “evil Western invader”-- or part of some, to quote President Bush, "crusade"-- but rather seen as a short-lived intervener, a savior who will exercise discretion while quickly getting in and getting out.

The problem with this attempt at a reframe is that the rest of the world-- especially those being bombed by America-- doesn’t consider it anything less than an invasion, whether by air, sea or land. Boots on the ground is not the only kind of invasion. There are air invasions, with air raids (see Iraq) or drone strikes (see Yemen or Pakistan or Somalia). There are sea invasions, with Tomahawk missiles launched from ship (see Libya and the same plan for Syria). And there are ground invasions, with massive troops on the ground (see Afghanistan).

Third, the idea that we must act in haste, and bomb quickly without Congressional approval or authorization, is a dangerous undermining of the checks and balances instituted by our founding fathers. Most presidents, when planning for war, impress upon the American people the urgency of now, of invading immediately, because we don’t have time for Congressional oversight. Syria is an excellent example of this. With some 100,000 dead over nearly a two year time span we’ve had plenty of time for talk between the executive and legislative branches. The estimated 355 dead from the alleged chemical weapons attack, while absolutely deplorable, shouldn’t have created a new urgency that wasn’t already there. We should have been talking about preventing mass atrocities years ago, not after the house of Syria was nearly burnt down.

So what to do now? Invasion is the wrong course because it merely inflames the violence further, both within Syria and without. We must exhaust the following paths first before seeking a military course of action. Convene all the stakeholders who have a say with Syria’s al-Assad and who can put pressure on the president. That means more than just Russia, our go-to on the Geneva II peace talks. That means everyone from Iran, Lebanon, and Hezbollah, to the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. These are the entities that have entry into the Syrian president’s inner circle. If we truly want al-Assad to act differently, we have to talk to those who have sway.

Then, if the diplomatic track fails to work, and after it has solidly been exhausted, we must engage the U.N. Security Council in a conversation about the International Criminal Court and an indictment of Assad for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. This path is consistent with America’s support of international law and the ethical frameworks undergirding the Geneva Conventions.

Throughout this process, we must continue work with the United Nations to not only ensure weapons inspections are executed properly over the coming weeks, and weapons flows and arms trafficking are stopped or slowed, but that we ramp up humanitarian aid for the millions of refugees inside Syria and in neighboring countries. This is essential if we care about saving Syrians.

This is the path we must pursue and the only way forward. It is time for something preventive before we press play on the punitive.

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To Russia With Rainbows


The 2014 Olympic games are set to be held in Sochi, Russia-- notable for their snow capped mountains, love of winter sports, and rabidly homophobic laws about "gay propaganda" (whatever that means).

While these games have all of the trappings of Berlin 1936, the one organization we'd expect to have a clear head about these bigoted laws is the International Olympic Commission (IOC). The IOC chose Sochi before Russia passed their anti-gay laws, so the least you would expect them to do is allow Olympic athletes who are repulsed by Russia's institutionalized homophobia wear rainbow flags or other forms of pride and protest.

Well, if you thought the IOC would be rational about this, you'd be wrong.

In fact, the IOC is choosing to enact a little known rule that will ban athletes from making "political" statements-- including statements about Russia's homophobic laws.

But we don't have to accept this. Daylin Leach, a Blue America-endorsed candidate for Congress in PA-13 (and gay rights advocate in the Pennsylvania Senate where he serves) is running a petition campaign to demand that the IOC to suspend their rules to allow for support for gay athletes and gay Russians. But he needs your help.

  Here's what you can do:

First, click this link to sign the petition.

Second, share the link or the meme below on your Twitter and Facebook pages.

  Together we can have a real impact on the IOC, and when we watch the opening ceremonies, know that the rainbow flag pins are because of Daylin's campaign and everyone who supports it.

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Has The State Of North Carolina Given Up On The Concept Of Democracy? Ask Art Pope, Who Owns The State's Political Establishment


For decades you could ask any progressive who the most evil and dangerous man in North Carolina was and the overwhelming response would have been "Jesse Helms" or, just plain "Jesse," a former ConservaDem-- very much like today's ConservaDems-- who finally switched to the Republican Party, just like Strom Thurmond and most of the racist trash from the garbage heap of the pre-Voting Rights Act southern Democratic parties. Today, however, not everyone knows who North Carolina's most evil and dangerous man is. Some might say it's the state's bungling and floundering governor, Pat McCrory. Others might vote for Republican legislative leaders like House Speaker Thom Tillis or Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. All three of these men are among the worst politicians anywhere in America, for sure, but all three report to a higher-- and more evil-- force: Art Pope. We've met him before... many times.

The Institute for Southern Studies released a report this week about how Art Pope used his fortune to buy the state's Republican Party and then leverage that into an anti-democracy neo-fascist jihad. Their investigation found that Pope played several critical but largely behind-the-scenes roles in advancing the state's new voting restrictions.
1. Pope's ideological network ginned up fear of voter fraud.

Voters cast 3.79 million ballots in North Carolina's 2010 election cycle, and only 28 cases of voter fraud were referred to district attorneys. In 2012, North Carolina voters cast nearly 7 million ballots, and only 121 alleged cases of voter fraud were found. Going back to 2007, the N.C. State Board of Elections has reported a grand total of 80 cases of double voting, three cases involving voter residency issues, and two cases of voter impersonation, which is what the state's new photo ID law aims to prevent.

There simply is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in North Carolina-- a point made by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican who served under President George W. Bush, when he recently visited the state and slammed its new voting law.

"You can say what you like, but there is no voter fraud," Powell told an executive forum in Raleigh. "How can it be widespread and undetected?"

But you get a very different impression about voter fraud reading the publications produced by conservative think tanks founded and largely funded by Pope.

Civitas, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that bills itself as "North Carolina's Conservative Voice," gets over 99 percent of its funding from Pope-- so much that the IRS classifies it as a private foundation. Pope also founded the John Locke Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that promotes limited government, and he provides around 80 percent of its operating budget. Pope sat on the two groups' boards of directors until becoming the state budget director earlier this year, giving him a considerable level of both financial and organizational control.

Over the past five years, with Pope and his money at the helm, Civitas and the John Locke Foundation published more than 50 articles, op-eds and blog posts warning of voter fraud and using the alleged threat to call for a strict photo ID law, an end to same-day registration, and a shorter early voting period.

Some stories in Pope-connected publications took a more measured approach to promoting fear of fraud. "Realistically, voter ID requirements are an insurance policy against the possibility that an extremely close election might be stolen by voter fraud," John Locke Foundation President John Hood wrote in a December 2012 article in Carolina Journal, the organization's flagship publication.

Others suggested that voter fraud is a tool commonly used on the political left. "We know that the SEIU, Democratic Party, lefties of all stripes, and every identity group out there understands that a voter ID law would make it difficult to commit vote fraud," Jon Ham wrote for the John Locke Foundation's Right Angles blog in 2011. "THAT's why many of them oppose it."

Meanwhile, Civitas relentlessly criticized an earlier version of voter ID legislation, saying it allowed too many ID options, including utility bills and bank statements. The bill also allowed voters without ID to simply show their signature matched the one on their voter registration-- an approach Civitas rejected in its effort to get the kind of bill that ultimately passed.

"It is safe to say that anyone who votes for a voter ID bill that includes any of these elements is not a supporter of true voter photo ID," [Pope employee Susan] Myrick wrote at the time.

2. Pope's ideological network gave a platform to voting restriction extremism.

Both the John Locke Foundation and Civitas Institute have prominently featured the work of Jay DeLancy and his group the Voter Integrity Project of NC (VIP-NC), which has been involved in controversial efforts to kick people off the voting rolls.

A retired Air Force officer, DeLancy attended a 2011 summit held in Houston by True the Vote, a group with close ties to the Tea Party movement that promotes poll watching efforts to root out what it alleges is widespread fraud. True the Vote has been criticized by voting rights advocates for intimidating voters. It has also come under criticism for describing itself as nonpartisan while making in-kind contributions to Republicans and contributing thousands of dollars to the Republican State Leadership Committee, which works to get party members elected to state office. (Pope's business also funds the RSLC.)

DeLancy launched a North Carolina chapter of True the Vote, but he broke from the national group after it raised concerns about his anti-immigrant leanings. He then founded VIP-NC, which DeLancy says "springs from [his] outrage at the news of how election after election is stolen in some amazingly brazen way."

Last year, DeLancy challenged the registrations of more than 500 voters in Wake County, N.C.-- mostly people of color-- who he said were not U.S. citizens. One voter was found to have improperly registered and was stricken from the rolls, while several others requested their own removal. Of the 18 challenges that the local election board found required further investigation, all were dismissed after hundreds of hours of work by the board. A furious DeLancy stormed out of the hearing, kicking open the building's glass doors and denouncing the board as looking "stupid."

Also during last year's busy election season, DeLancy's group submitted nearly 30,000 names of registered voters it claimed were dead to the state elections board. But after a lengthy investigation, the board found that many of the people on DeLancy's outdated list had already been removed from the rolls-- and others were still alive. No evidence emerged of any kind of fraudulent scheme to steal an election.

DeLancy's less-than-careful work and nativist leanings did not deter Pope's ideological network from giving him a platform, however. In the past year, they have cited him and VIP-NC at least 10 times. In one blog post, the John Locke Foundation published DeLancy's claim that VIVA was too permissive. In another, Civitas applauded VIP-NC's work.

"VIP is doing their best to identify names that should not be on the rolls, both dead and non-citizens," Myrick wrote. "You see, they must do this work, because the State Board of Elections will not..."

3. Pope supported key GOP lawmakers involved in advancing voting restrictions.

House Bill 589, the elections bill that the North Carolina legislature passed this year, was originally introduced in April by four primary sponsors, all Republicans. Two of them-- Reps. Harry Warren of Rowan County and Tom Murry of Wake County-- got generous support in launching their political careers from Pope, his family, and his network of political spending groups.

Running for the legislature for the first time in 2010, Warren narrowly defeated his Democratic opponent, a five-term incumbent, by fewer than 200 votes. Warren's campaign benefited from over $109,000 in spending from Real Jobs NC, a 527 political group co-founded by Pope and whose major funders include Variety Wholesalers. Also in 2010, Murry's campaign to unseat a Democratic incumbent benefited from $12,000 in campaign contributions from Pope and his family, and over $92,000 in independent spending from outside groups affiliated with Pope. That total included more than $45,000 from Real Jobs NC; $25,000 from Civitas Action, the Pope-founded 501(c)(4) sister group of the Civitas Institute; and $21,000 from Americans for Prosperity, on whose national board Pope sat until becoming state budget director.

The revised version of the House elections bill that was unveiled in the state Senate and passed in the closing days of this year's session was even harsher than the original House proposal. Pope's network also supported the lawmakers behind voting restrictions that were added to the final version of the bill.

State Sen. E.S. "Buck" Newton III is a Wilson County Republican who formerly served as an aide to deceased U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, an outspoken foe of the Voting Rights Act whose 1990 campaign against Harvey Gantt, the African-American former mayor of Charlotte, got in trouble for illegally trying to suppress the black vote. Newton was the primary sponsor of an omnibus elections bill introduced in April that had a strict voter ID provision and disallowed the use of student IDs for voting. It also dramatically shortened early voting and eliminated same-day registration-- all provisions that were added to the House bill and became law. Newton was first elected to the state Senate in 2010, defeating the Democratic incumbent with the help of $4,000 in contributions from Pope and his family and more than $17,000 in independent expenditures from Americans for Prosperity.

Pope and his network also generously supported the 2010 election to the state House of Bill Cook, a Republican who is now a state senator representing the northeastern North Carolina coastal district that's home to Elizabeth City State University. In the 2010 cycle, Cook benefited from over $79,000 in outside support from Pope-backed groups, as well as $16,000 in direct campaign contributions from Pope and his family. Running for state Senate two years later, Cook was helped by over $9,700 in expenditures by Americans for Prosperity, winning by just 21 votes.

Cook went on to become one of the primary sponsors of Senate Bill 666-- dubbed the "Bill of the Beast" by voting rights advocates -- that cut early voting, eliminated same-day registration, and expanded the rights of party-appointed poll observers. All of those provisions made it into the law signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, whose 2012 campaign received $20,000 in contributions from Pope and his family, and benefited from independent expenditures of $380,000 by Real Jobs NC and $130,000 from Americans for Prosperity.

This year Cook was also a primary sponsor of another bill that would have imposed a tax penalty on the parents of students who register to vote at school. That proposal was tabled after public outcry.

4. Pope helped Republicans win control of state government.

As Facing South has documented, Pope, his family, his company, and the network of outside political groups he's affiliated with-- Americans for Prosperity, Civitas Action, and Real Jobs NC-- spent a total of over $2.2 million in the 2010 election cycle to elect Republican state lawmakers, helping give the party control of both the state House and Senate for the first time since Reconstruction. Those wins also put Republicans in control of drawing new political lines, with Pope serving as an adviser to the redistricting process and further consolidating GOP control of state government.

Pope was an important force again in the 2012 election cycle, as he, his family, and his affiliated groups spent over $2 million on state-level races, helping Republicans win supermajorities in both chambers and putting a Republican in the executive mansion. Without the GOP in power in Raleigh, legislative proposals to limit access to the ballot box-- which disproportionately affect minorities, young people, and other Democratic-leaning constituencies-- would have gone nowhere.

That those proposals are now the law in North Carolina is due in no small part to the efforts of Pope.
In 2012 alone, the neo-fascist front group, Americans for Prosperity, spent $33,542,051 on broadcast ads smearing Democrats. Pope was one of the biggest single donors to the shadowy group that doesn't reveal contributors. Sometimes donations leak out, like one from Pope on November 21, 2011 for $500,000 an d another for $500,000 on the same day!. And another one for a mere $100,000 on that November day as well. In fact on November 21, 2011, Pope gave $1,350,000 to Americans for Prosperity. The two biggest targets of their smears were Barack Obama and Tammy Baldwin-- around $36,000,000 combined-- and both won comfortable victories. The state of North Carolina, it turns out, was far easier to pick off.

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The Barbara Lee Letter Asking Obama To Stick To The Constitution-- Who Signed It? And Who Refused?


Barbara Lee and 53 other Democrats sent a letter to President Obama Thursday in the hopes of slowing down the rush to war in Syria. It was similar to the message the British Parliament delivered to David Cameron Thursday: "don't be so trigger-happy and let's at least wait and see what the UN inspectors have to say about who used the chemical weapons.

And these are the Members of Congress who signed it. If your congressmember's name isn't on the list... he or she did not sign the letter. You might want to ask him or her why.

Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Lois Capps (D-CA)
Mike Honda (D-CA)
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Jackie Speier (D-CA)
Beto O'Rourke (D-TX)
John Lewis (D-GA)
Pete DeFazio (D-OR)
Robin Kelly (D-IL)
Mark Pocan (D-WI)
Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
Mike Michaud (D-ME)
Peter Welch (D-VT)
Chellie Pingree (D-ME)
Stephen Lynch (D-MA)
Nydia Velazquez (D-NY)
Llod Doggett (D-TX)
Jared Huffman (D-CA)
Janice Hahn (D-CA)
Sam Farr (D-CA)
Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)
Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO)
Rush Holt (D-NJ)
Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX)
Jim McDermott (D-WA)
Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR)
Eddie Bernie Johnson (D-TX)
Jose Serrano (D-NY)
George Miller (D-CA)
Donna Edwards (D-MD)
Bobby Scott (D-IL)
Steve Cohen (D-TN)
Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)
Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
Jim McGovern (D-MA)
Danny Davis (D-IL)
Marcia Fudge (D-OH)
Charlie Rangel (D-NY)
Judy Chu (D-CA)
Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)
Bobby Rush (D-IL)
Dave Loebsack (D-IA)
Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Henry Waxman (D-CA)
Yvetter Clarke (D-NY)
Diana DeGette (D-CO)
Rick Nolan (D-MN)
Keith Ellison (D-MN)
Niki Tsongas (D-MA)
John Yarmuth (D-KY)
Julia Brownley (D-CA

Mike Michaud was the only Blue Dog to sign-- and he's running for governor of Maine. For the most part the New Dems stayed away as well, even Colleen Hanabusa, who's running in a tough primary against Hawaii's senior Senator Brian Schatz. Another New Dem, Gary Peters, currently running for the open Michigan Senate seat, didn't sign either. Other noteworthy names who didn't sign on: Steve Israel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Steny Hoyer, Chris Van Hollen, Joe Crowley and, less noteworthy-- my warmongery congressman-- Adam Schiff, who was also on the Iraq war cheering squad. And then there's the AIPAC whore who's also the Ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, Eliot Engel, who is one of the worst of the bloodthirsty war advocates in Washington. And, of the 10 Democrats who send out the most e-mails begging the grassroots for money... not one of them signed the letter:
Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL)
Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY)
Raul Ruiz (D-CA)
Cheri Bustos (D-IL)
Joe Garcia (New Dem-FL)
Scott Peters (New Dem-CA)
Dan Maffei (New Dem-NY)
Ami Bera (D-CA)
Ann Kuster (D-NH)
Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)
Keep that in mind next time one of their e-mails ends up in your box. The quarter is about to end and you can expect to be deluged with desperate e-mails from conservative, pro-war Democrats like Patrick Murphy, Cheri Bustos and Sean Maloney trying to mislead you into thinking they're somehow "progressive."

Here's part of Alan Grayson's interview with Ari Rabin-Havt from Thursday morning:
Ari: Do you feel like the President needs to come to Congress? What do you feel like the conversation needs to be? Does the President need to-- well, he doesn't need to-- but should he go to Congress for permission, basically?

Alan: I don't think that's the more important question. I think the more important question is whether this is the right decision on the merits, and it's not.

Ari: Why not?

Alan: Because there is no vital national security interest of the United States involved, even if the Syrian government is proved to have deliberately used chemical weapons. Which is, at this point, a big "if."

Ari: What do you think this rush, and the media's kind of push to war, is all about?

Alan: Well, I think the President inadvertently boxed himself in by using a very vague phrase, in saying that the Syrian Government would be "crossing a red line" if it used chemical weapons. I don't know what that means. You know, in the world I live in, you can say, "If you do X, I'll do Y," but "crossing a red line" is a very vague remark. And now the President apparently feels that based on the evidence he's heard, which I still maintain is ambiguous, he needs to do something. And that's one of the failings of modern diplomacy. The world would be a much better place if people were clear about their intentions, rather than saying something like "crossing a red line."

Ari: Now it seems odd that we turn our national security focus to Syria, and recognizing chemical weapons is a unique [threat], when there are so many hotspots around the world. What is it about chemical weapons that get this conversation going, when millions of people around the world are dying of various causes?

Alan: Well, I don't know. To me, a corpse is a corpse. I don't want to sound flip, but when you're dead, you're dead. In this case, the 200 or so people who [are] alleged to have been killed by chemical weapons, on very ambiguous information, those 200 people join the 40,000 who died in the Syrian Civil War last year, the roughly 25,000 who died this year, and the ones who died the year before. That's a lot of corpses. I don't really understand exactly why people regard it as being different if you blow up someone with a bomb, versus killing them with gas. Historically, the reason why countries banded together to prevent the use of gas attacks is because, among other things, it ended up being used inadvertently against your own troops. The first widespread use of chemical warfare, in fact the only really widespread use of chemical warfare, was during World War I, almost 100 years ago. And what happened during World War I is, first of all, many of the gas attacks that were used ended up blinding or killing the troops that they were meant to protect, because the wind changed. And secondly, there was a very high level of injury without mortality, which left a lot of soldiers and civilians blind or otherwise permanently impaired. This, at the time, was in some respects worse than being dead. So, historically, that's why countries banded together [against poison gas]. At this point, the evidence seems to be that there are only four countries in the world that have chemical weapons, and we happen to be one of them. In fact, arguably, the United States has the largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the world. So on the basis of that, I'm not sure we're in the best moral position to be indicating to others what to do about chemical weapons.

...Ari: Well, it seems like we can't wind down anything without starting a new one up.

Alan: Right, and you know that there could be consequences, or as they like to use the term in the military industrial complex, "blowback." Let's suppose that the President goes ahead and uses military forces in Syria. Then let's suppose that Syria stages some attack against, oh, I don't know, U.S. tourists, journalists; I don't know what exactly the best possibilities from their perspective might be. How are we then going to condemn them for that?

Ari: Well what is strange to me is the people who seem that think that this decision is easy, "Oh, we'll just lob some cruise missiles and be done with it." When in fact the author of that strategy was interviewed by today and said that's not a good strategy for dealing with this-- the very author of the strategy.

Alan: Well, right. Some people scratch their heads and wonder why we have to shut down a dozen different embassies through the Middle East, without ever questioning whether there might be some link between that and over a hundred drone attacks in Yemen alone.

Ari: And then you get people like John McCain who are out there saying, "Well, whatever the President does, it's not enough, we have to do more." Why can't we stop-- after the debacle that was Iraq? And, look, you have personal experience in that debacle; you prosecuted some of the war profiteers in court. Why do we still listen to these people?

Alan: I don't know. Again, one could make arguments in favor of and against whether the United States should somehow be involved in the Syrian Civil War. I can see that, and I can understand why McCain feels the way he does. He thinks that the [rebels are] freedom fighters [against] a brutal dictatorship. I understand that. But what's actually happened is, first, an enormous amount of muddy thinking about what U.S. interests are involved here or not involved here. And that's been framed by the President making a very vague statement about red lines being crossed, which really doesn't help anybody decide what to do about the situation. And secondly, when you actually delve into the evidence, the evidence is genuinely ambiguous. I'll just give you an example. One example of this is that if, hypothetically, the Syrian government wanted to terrorize its own population into submission, it would say that it was using gas. In fact, the Syrian government has adamantly denied that it's using gas. There's no particular benefit to the Syrian government in killing these specific 200 victims. In fact, the victims, to some degree, look like they're literally innocent bystanders. The reason why people think that gas might have been used is because there's no indication of any exterior wounds, so it looks like they suffocated. But that doesn't necessarily mean that they were the victims of a gas attack. There are, in fact, other possibilities. Another possibility is that the [Syrian Army] simply made a mistake. They loaded the wrong canister into the wrong cannon, and that happens. If they wanted to use poison gas, they'd be using it every day, they'd be using it every hour, and they wouldn't be hiding it. And instead what you have, at this point, [is an] isolated situation which has all sorts of other potential explanations. It doesn't seem to serve any strategic purpose on their part to do one attack against these 200 people and then say they didn't do it, that it was something else, and then not doing anything else. That's a very strange pattern of conduct, even for the Syrian government. Second, as I indicated, there are other explanations that actually fit the evidence as well, or better. When you use chemical warfare agents, the victims themselves are dangerous to the people around them, because of the residue of the chemical agents, for quite some time to come. There have been, at this point, numerous contacts between the victims and people who came to rescue them. I'm not aware of reports at this time that there were a substantial number of the rescuers who themselves were hurt by the agents. That implies that it wasn't actually chemical agents that were used. By the way, I haven't heard any of these reports from the Administration, and that itself causes me some concern. It seems the Administration is only putting out information that would lead one to believe that the Syrian government deliberately used chemical weapons, rather than what seems to be the intrinsic ambiguity of the situation. I think that's puzzling and, to me, disturbing... Nobody wants this, except the military-industrial complex. I think that, if the President is being used by others for their own personal interests, he should recognize that, and rise above it.

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Sunday Classics' Great Moments in Music History: Arnold Schoenberg, the movie mogul, and the mogul's "boys"


Schoenberg, seen in a 1910 self-portrait
(Yes, he was also a painter)

by Ken

Or we could call this installment of Great Moments in Music History: "The Day Arnold Schoenberg's career as a Hollywood film composer began and ended."

As I mentioned last week, I've been reading the second part of Arthur Rubinstein's autobiography, My Many Years. And as I also mentioned, Rubinstein seems to have known just about everybody in the world of the arts (not just music) through most of his career.

In October 1939, with Poland already fallen to the German Blitzkrieg that set off World War II, placing Rubinstein, his wife Nela and their children (just two at the time) in a dangerous status as Polish nationals, and with France already taking on an alarmingly anti-Semitic tone, the family advanced by several weeks their planned departure from their home in Paris for a U.S. tour. At Nela's urging, Arthur pulled strings to secure very limited space aboard a U.S. ship sent as "a rescue boat for their citizens in France."

In the course of their New World stay, which came to include a South American tour and then one in Mexico, the Rubinsteins watched with mounting horror as events in Europe unfolded and they knew that returning home would be impossible for at least the duration of the war. The family wound up settling in Los Angeles, where of course large numbers of European émigrés had found their way, many of whom were already acquaintances if not friends of the pianist.

Rubinstein takes note of the plight of the composer Arnold Schoenberg, who had been living in L.A. since 1934, for both political and health reasons. Schoenberg, Rubinstein notes, "gave us musicians quite a lot of trouble."
He was left without money after his dismissal from the University of California, simply because of his age. I joined a group of musicians who decided to help him. The best way was to obtain a commission for him to compose music for films. We were lucky to persuade one of the moguls of the cinema to receive the great composer and offer him a contract. Schönberg was not only willing to do it but became interested in the project. It became common knowledge how the interview ran:

The mogul says: "Professor, I have a film right up your alley. You will write the best music of your life for it."

Schoenberg says quietly: "I would like to settle the financial question first. I need fifty thousand dollars for my music."

The mogul raises both hands in the air. "But, Professor, we've never paid more than ten thousand to our composers.,"

Schoenberg protests: "It takes me a year to composer my music and this is the least I can ask for it."

"But, Professor," laughs the mogul, "why a year? You can write a few tunes and my boys will arrange it for the orchestras and they will do whatever you want."

"Your sons?" asks Schönberg.

"No. We have, at the studio, fellows who finish up the music overnight, arrange it for orchestra or other things. They know what they're doing."

The two men separated without understanding each other. His worried friends were of the opinion that he should have accepted the ten thousand, but the master made this sublime reply: "I cannot commit suicide by making a living on ten thousand dollars."
The moment I dearly wish there'd been cameras there to record is the one when, at least in Schoenberg's mind, the mogul's sons enter the discussion. I'm having more fun than I can tell imagining the "professor" asking, "Your sons?"


The first of the Two Piano Pieces, Op. 33 (1938-41)


Uh, dunno, not sure. Most of the ideas percolating would require quantities of either work or thinking (or, heaven help me, both), commodities that have been in short supply for me for, oh, I dunno, the last couple of decades?

But I'm thinking maybe we could ease into a closer look at the poor comédienne Nedda in Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci (which we've looked at parts of pretty closely, notably the baritone's remarkable Prologue, in the February 2010 post "The Prolgoue to Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci entreats, 'Consider our souls' "), the victim half of one of the theatrical literature's more explosive relationships. It's her successive scenes with the opera's two baritone characters which I want to get to, and that's one of those deals that's going to require abundant work and thought. Still, we might be able to ease into it, maybe by setting up the relationship with her theater-troupe director husband, Canio.

Or . . . my friend Conrad L. Osborne has latterly published a piece in Opera News about Enrico Caruso, unlike anything you've read about Caruso, even if you've read everything there is, or was, to read about Caruso. I had this idea that we could poach some of that and interlace it with the actual recordings he cites as a sort of value-added enrichment. This takes care of a lot of the "thinking" problem, since C.L.O. has done most of that (all I'd have to figure out is how to poach it), but doing the audio clips and assembling texts and whatnot . . . I get tired just thinking about it. Meanwhile, as of now you can still read the piece -- which combines meaningful description of how that amazing voice worked and how its workings varied over time with a powerfully personal appreciation of the artistry that technique was put at the service of -- for free on the magazine's website.

UPDATE: It's Pagliacci!


For a "Sunday Classics" fix anytime, visit the stand-alone "Sunday Classics with Ken."

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From our You Can't Make This Stuff Up Dept.: Oops! Arkansas advocate for arming teachers accidentally shot one


Somebody thought it would be a good idea to put a firearm in the hands of this guy?

by Ken

When NRA psychopath Wayne LaPierre and his gun-totin' fellow loonies floated the idea of arming teachers in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, I don't think I was alone in thinking it was urgent that these people were far too removed from reality to be allowed any voice in any discussion of school safety. Anyone who doesn't grasp the insanity of dumping guns into schools is truly a danger to humanity, in particular to the teachers and children destined to be victims of those guns.

So it's not all that shocking to learn that the gun crazies have been trying to kind of sit on the information that one of their blunder-brained blowhards, in the course of what I guess he thought was field research, actually shot a schoolteacher. Jeez Louise, you can't make this stuff up.

Here's Neetzan Zimmerman's Gawker account ("Lawmaker Leading Call for Arming Teachers Accidentally Shot a Teacher"; more links onsite):
State Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson put forward a proposal in the wake of last December's mass shooting event at Sandy Hook Elementary School that would allow law enforcement officials to deputize teachers and other staff members, effectively putting them in charge of school safety.

But an embarrassing item in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette might make other local politicians wary of placing the gun debate in Hutchinson's hands:
After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Hutchinson became interested in arming school personnel, he said. He was invited to attend an ''active shooter' training and -- using a rubber bullet-loaded pistol -- he mistakenly shot a teacher who was confronting a 'bad guy.'

The experience gave Hutchinson some pause, but he still supports giving schools the authority to decide how best to secure their campuses.
Interestingly, an item on the training exercise published by the office of Rep. Kim Hammer, who was also in attendance, omitted the part about Hutchinson shooting someone, but did include this priceless quote:
"It was intense, enlightening and when we weren't being shot, it was fun," said Sen. Hutchinson. "I learned how little I knew about school safety."
Um no, Senator Jeremy. You may have gotten a glimmering that you knew very little about school safety, but it seems pretty clear that you were a long, long way from grasping just how little.


For a "Sunday Classics" fix anytime, visit the stand-alone "Sunday Classics with Ken."


Will The Attack On Syria Destroy Pelosi's Legacy, The Same Way The Attack On Iraq Destroyed Gephardt's?


When I lived in San Francisco, Nancy Pelosi was my congressmember. A case could be made that she was Congress' best member. I was proud to have voted for her. That was a long, long time ago and Pelosi needs to retire before she further ruins her incredible legacy. Pelosi blasted onto the national stage in a big way in October, 2002, when she led the Democratic revolt against House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and his connivance with Bush and the congressional Republicans to rush the U.S. into an unwarranted attack on Iraq. The Democrats split. 126 Democrats (plus Independent Bernie Sanders and 6 lone Republicans led by Ron Paul) sided with Pelosi. 81 Democrats sided with Bush and Gephardt. That pretty much killed Gephardt's dream of ever being Speaker (or president) and pretty much ended his career. Almost all the Blue Dogs and other Democratic conservative whores who sides with him that day went down to eventual defeat-- but not all. Congress is rid of worthless scum like Rod Blagojevich, Al Wynn, Harold Ford, Shelley Berkley, Jane Harman, Gene Taylor, Tim Holden and Anthony Weiner, who all backed Bush's war effort, but till lurking in the corridors of power and exercizing influence on behalf of the weapons manufacturers and Israel's Likud Party are warmongers Steny Hoyer, Steve Israel, Joe Crowley, Eliot Engel, Adam Schiff, Ron Kind, and Adam Smith. That was how Pelosi wound up as Minority Leader and then the first woman Speaker of the House. Thursday, Pelosi desgraced herself and her legacy by coming down on the side of illegitimate and pointless war.
Pelosi released a statement after a 90-minute conference call with top administration officials.

“It is clear that the American people are weary of war,” Pelosi said. “However, [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] gassing his own people is an issue of our national security, regional stability and global security. We must be clear that the United States rejects the use of chemical weapons by Assad or any other regime.”

Pelosi added: “What Assad has done is outside the realm of basic human rights. On this evening’s call, I expressed my appreciation for the measured, targeted and limited approach the President may be considering.”
In November, 2011, Pelosi's daughter Alexandra, let it slip that her mom was pretty much burned out on piltics and wanted to retire. "She would retire right now, if the donors she has didn't want her to stay so badly. They know she wants to leave, though. They think she's destined for [greatness]," said Alexandra. "She has very few days left. She's 71, she wants to have a life, she's done. It's obligation, that's all I'm saying." General freakout ensued and Pelosi's office claimed it wasn't true, even though everyone knew it was. Since then some of the most craven and rotten elements in the Democratic Party-- particularly Steny Hoyer and Debbie Wasserman Schultz-- have been lining up votes to replace Pelosi as top dog when the inevitable happens. Is there a difference between Hoyer and Wasserman Schultz? Who do you root for, the shark or the crocodile?

On Thursday Pelosi finally admitted she's not interested in being Speaker again. Anyone paying attention could have surmised that when she appointed and then, despite a record of sordid, willful incompetence and failure, she reappointed Steve Israel to head the DCCC. There is no way-- mathametically speaking-- that the Democrats will ever take back the House with Steve Israel as DCCC chair. He isn't interested in winning, only in restocking the House Democratic caucus with reactionary corporate whores like himself-- Blue Dogs and New Dems who only care about bribes and leave the policy for the Establishment to set. Israel guarantees so many free reelection passes to vulnerable Republican cronies from his Center Aisle Caucus days-- that it is literally impossible for the Democrats to take back the House. So Pelosi doesn't have to worry about being Speaker again.
NJ: For a journalist covering Congress, it's starting to feel pretty repetitive. Does it feel that way on your end?

PELOSI: Oh, it's Groundhog Day Central. There's no question about that. It's not productive. It's a waste of the taxpayers' dollar. It's a waste of our time. And it's time that's not working [for] the American people. [The Republicans'] agenda is nothing, and their timetable is never. But having said that, hopefully there are some among them that realize we have a responsibility to govern.

NJ: Do you think it's a case of 20 or so Republicans dominating the conversation from the right?

PELOSI: I think it's more than 20. Here's what I have to say to my Republican friends out there: Take back your party. This isn't the Grand Old Party that used to have such great leadership. The name "Republican" in some ways has been hijacked by obstructionists. They are nowhere on the spectrum of trying to get the job done, and they claim the name without bringing to it the greatness, the leadership of the past.

NJ: Do you feel that a disjointed Republican Party gives you some leverage when it comes to their needing votes?

PELOSI: I only have leverage if the other side is willing to govern. If they are willing to govern, we can find compromise. Not if they are just going to hold their ideological position and say, "We can be irresponsible because the Democrats are going to be responsible."

NJ: It's become something of a pastime in D.C. for people to feel bad for Speaker John Boehner for having an unwieldy caucus. Do you feel for him?

PELOSI: I don't comment on their caucus, their leadership, or the rest of it. He's the speaker of the House. I respect the job. The position that he holds is a very exalted one. I wish his members would respect his position as much as I do. But if the purpose of your call is for me to get in sniping at the Republicans on how they do their business, I will talk about how it affects the American people.

NJ: Do you want to be speaker again?

PELOSI: No, that's not my thing. I did that.
Her office later demanded a correction but National Journal has her clearly on tape saying those exact, unambiguous and deliberate words.

Don't start celebrating Nancy's retirement yet

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Can Domestic Spying And The Big Brother Question Topple Oklahoma Republican James Lankford?


Tuesday, Blue America endorsed Tom Guild, the very grassroots progressive Democrat in Oklahoma City running an uphill battle against radical right extremist James Lankford. We decided to get involved with this race primarily because of Tom's strong pro-family positions on a broad array of economic justice issues and because of his courageousness in facing down the anti-democracy/anti-equality forces in his state. But there's another issue brewing in OK-05 as well, and it revolves around Lankford's vote in favor of the NSA and domestic spying.

Oklahoma voters have been trained to support Republican positions on the economic and fiscal issues, on race, on Choice, on the LGBT community, on the role of government. But when it comes to Big Brother... Oklahoma Republicans are split. To too many of them domestic spying just does not seem constitutional or American. And they've been giving Lankford a hard time for his votes in that arena. Now he's squirming and trying to change his position. But he can't change the vote he took a month ago on the Amash-Conyers Amendment. 94 Republicans-- including Oklahoma Republicans Markwayne Mullin and Jim Bridenstine-- had the courage to stand up against Boehner, Obama and the whole Establishment to vote yes. But not Lankford. We asked Tom Guild to tell us how he saw this controversy impacting his race. Tom:
Following a fierce debate on the limits of domestic spying, the U.S. House voted (217-205 July 24, 2013) to protect the national government’s collection of phone records and other data of U.S. citizens who are not suspected of terrorism or any crime. My opponent, Rep. James Lankford (R-OK), voted to defeat a proposal to restrict the government’s virtually unrestrained ongoing data collection.

Mr. Lankford and I disagree on this issue. He apparently is unconcerned about the National Security Agency violating the constitution prohibition against illegal searches and seizures. The proposal he voted against would have restricted data collection to cases where a suspected terrorist, not all Americans, is targeted. The NSA has gone well beyond the limits set by the Patriot Act, by pulling records that aren’t relevant to an investigation. This includes compiling phone records of every American, without even reasonable suspicion as a purported justification.

The proposal to rein in the NSA was an amendment to a $600 billion military spending bill. For someone who “hates” the federal government and allegedly “opposes” Big Brother government intrusions in Americans’ lives, Mr. Lankford is a fish out of water. We all want to keep our nation safe from terrorism and all threats. However, the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the fundamental right to privacy afforded to all Americans, should not be shredded in the process. In this instance, as in many other, the ends do not justify the means.
If you'd like to help replace James Lankford, a sieve for Boehner and Cantor and the corrupt DC Establishment with an independent minded Tom Guild, you can do that right here.

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Establishment, Careerist Republicans Strike Back Against The Right WIng "Fringe"


You probably heard about how poor old doddering McConnell stumbled right into a right wing trap, tarring all the Kentucky teabaggers as "fringe," which, of course they are. But Republicans aren't supposed to talk that way about what's now their party's base. Local Tea Party leaders immediately blasted McConnell in a very public and very damaging way:
August 29, 2013

Dear Senator McConnell,

We were extremely disturbed by a recent comment by your campaign spokeswoman on Monday dismissing conservative and Tea party Activists who support or are considering supporting Matt Bevin as “a small cadre of fringe friends.”

In the wake of much backlash in Kentucky, your campaign manager attempted to explain the comment, saying, “In a statement yesterday, our spokeswoman called a Washington, D.C. based group that makes a living attacking conservatives fringe. That statement was confined to that group only and does not extend any further.”

We are writing to you today because we would like to hear from you-- and not a spokesperson-- about what exactly constitutes fringe.

The Tea Party was born in 2009 out of frustration with the size of government, the explosion in federal spending and the evisceration of our constitutional rights. In response, Tea Party activists called for cutting government spending, reforming our tax code, opposing bailouts, and implementing free-market policies instead of creating even more top-down government bureaucracies.

National groups like the Madison Project and the Senate Conservative Fund espouse these same beliefs and have helped local Tea Party activists like ourselves elect such conservative stalwarts as Sens. Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz and Rep. Thomas Massie.

These are not fringe views. These are the fundamental views embraced by our Founding Fathers and the core principles of the conservative movement. 
Do you espouse these fundamental conservative views or do you consider them “fringe?” Is it “fringe” to support defunding Obamacare? Is it “fringe” to fight for cutting government spending instead of supporting one debt limit increase after another? Is it “fringe” to oppose the bailouts of massive corporations at taxpayers’ expense? Is it “fringe” to oppose amnesty?

We would appreciate a clarification from you on where you stand on these issues and whether you consider these values “fringe?”

If you indeed believe that limited government and individual liberty are “fringe” values, then we are proud to belong to the fringe group that your campaign has so cavalierly dismissed.


Scott Hofstra,
spokesperson, United Kentucky Tea Party

Bobby Alexander
President, Central Kentucky Tea Party Patriots

Larry Robinson,
President, Northern Kentucky Tea Party

Wendy Caswell
President, Louisville Tea Party

Jenean Hampton,
President, Bowling Green Southern Kentucky Tea Party

David Dickerson
Head of Barren County Patriots

Garth Kunhein
Kenton County Tea Party

Terry Donoghue
Northern KY Tea Party

Teresa Buky
Head of Bullitt County “Voices of Independence” Tea Party

And of course, it isn't just McConnell. The entire Republican Beltway Establishment-- and their allies in the states and, more important, on Wall Street and the Military Industrial Complex-- are starting to take action against the "fringe" elements that are threatening the status quo. This goes back to the argument about what is conservative and what is truly reactionary. Representatives of the status quo-- conservatives like McConnell-- fear revolutionary, or counter-revolutionary, activists and right-wing populists even more than the fear Democrats. McConnell would probably rather see Grimes win than Bevin. And back in DC, House Republicans are also taking action to protect themselves (and their comfy careers) from the fringe, in this case, South Carolina sociopath Jim DeMint and his crazed Heritage Foundation. Heritage employees are now barred from House Republican planning sessions. The Establishment Republicans are sick of being pushed further right than they think their constituents-- and their donors-- feel comfortable with. Even the furthest right GOP House caucus, the Republican Study Group (the real extremists inside the party), has told Heritage they're no longer welcome and their imput should be channeled through staff like any other special interest pressure group. And Heritage got the humiliating message direct from Louisiana wingnut Steve Scalise, The RSC chairman, personally.
[T]he move to effectively kick Heritage out of the weekly RSC meeting represents "a seismic shift" in the relationship between the two institutions, according to one high-ranking Capitol Hill aide.

The acrimony can be traced to a pair of summer showdowns over agriculture policy.

In June, as the House prepared to vote on an extension of the farm bill-- an enormous legislative package that governs everything from crop subsidies to food-stamp policy-- conservative lawmakers and outside groups rallied in opposition. Heritage Action, the lobbying arm of the right-wing think tank, called for the bill to be split into two pieces-- one dealing specifically with agriculture policy (called a "farm-only bill") and another legislating the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the food-stamp program known as SNAP.

Members of the RSC agreed. In fact, Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana sponsored an amendment that would accomplish exactly what Heritage Action and other outside groups were advocating: splitting the farm bill. Stutzman's amendment failed, however, and Heritage Action issued a key vote alert warning lawmakers to vote "no" on the farm bill. (If they voted "yes," members faced consequences, anything from a demerit on their Heritage Action "scorecard" to a 30-second radio ad launched back in their districts.)

The vast majority of GOP lawmakers, including many conservatives from rural districts, ignored the outcry from the right and voted for the bill. But in the end, 62 House Republicans sided with Heritage Action, enough to help Democrats defeat a bill that they denounced for its steep cuts to safety-net programs.

For Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who had publicly endorsed the farm bill, the defeat was a black eye. Within hours, members of his leadership team were conferring with leading RSC members who had opposed the legislation, and soliciting suggestions on how to pass a revised farm bill. Their response: Split the agriculture policy into a separate bill-- just as the outside groups have been advocating-- and we'll vote yes.

Boehner and his team eventually agreed, and three weeks later a farm-only bill came to the House floor. Of the 62 Republicans who voted against the first farm bill, 48 supported this second iteration, which passed by a narrow margin. Leadership had its farm bill victory, and RSC members congratulated each other on achieving an ideological goal that had been discussed for decades: separating agriculture policy from food stamps.
But not all conservatives were celebrating. The new farm bill had passed over the objections of Heritage Action, which, to the astonishment of some RSC members, had issued another alert, telling conservatives to vote against the split bill—despite having spent years agitating for exactly that. In its warning, Heritage Action said the revised legislation "would make permanent farm policies-- like the sugar program-- that harm consumers and taxpayers alike."

To some conservative members, this was Heritage Action moving the goalposts, plain and simple. And they were furious about it. Members mumbled to each other about how it had become impossible to please these powerful outside groups, which are known to raise more money off Democratic victories than Republican ones. There was, as one Hill aide put it, "enormous discontent" among conservative members who were tired of feeling threatened by an outside group that existed as a parasite living off the Republican members of Congress.
This kind of tension and disarray has real consequences for ordinary people. The Republicans, after all, control the House and have managed to obstruct activities in the Senate. Yesterday, the NY Times editorial board issued a scathing blast aimed right at Speaker Boehner, a scathing blast that was right on point. They accuse him of "reckless abdication" of his most basic responsibilities to the American people. (Boehner, who was at a fundraiser in Jackson Hole, Wyoming this week, must thank his lucky stars every day that Pelosi appointed Steve Israel, who has issued him a free reelection pass again, chairman of the DCCC.)
Just when Speaker John Boehner should be warning his members not to use the debt ceiling as a threat, he is doing exactly the opposite. Instead of reminding lawmakers that they are obligated to pay for the debts they voted to incur, he is once again waving the dull saber of default.

At a fund-raiser in Idaho on Monday, Mr. Boehner repeated his old vow not to raise the debt ceiling this fall unless Republicans get an equal amount in cuts and reforms-- on top of the nearly $2 trillion in cuts over a decade that they won using the same extortion tactic in 2011.

“It may be unfair, but what I’m trying to do here is to leverage the political process to produce more change than what it would produce if left to its own devices,” he said. “We’re going to have a whale of a fight.”

It’s more than “unfair” to wage this fight again; it’s a reckless abdication of Mr. Boehner’s responsibility to guide House Republicans away from the brink. Too many Tea Party members of the House have spread the dangerous falsehood that a default would be of little consequence, that it would merely shake up Washington a bit and cut the deficit, which is already declining. One of them, Ted Yoho of Florida, recently said that a default would actually raise the government’s credit rating.

No responsible economist or business leader agrees with that. In 2011, the credit rating of the United States declined when Republicans merely threatened not to raise the limit. If they actually refused to raise the debt ceiling, the markets would crash, interest rates would skyrocket, benefit checks and military spending would be at risk, and the fragile economic recovery would probably grind to a halt.

Mr. Boehner, who has previously said he would not allow a default to take place, should be reminding House members of the potential catastrophe instead of encouraging their worst impulses and raising their hopes that this “whale of a fight” could win them new victories.
The Republicans have encouraged a fringe element to box it in and make sound government impossible and dysfunctional. Grover Norquist much be softly whistling "Dixie" somewhere.

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