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National Politics

Letting Money Buy Power Corrupts Our Money System, Too

by: Andy Schmookler

Sat Nov 22, 2014 at 12:18:44 PM EST

This piece appeared recently in the Richmond Times Dispatch.

In its opinion in Citizens United, the Republican-appointed Supreme Court majority pretended it wasn't true. But every sane person knows otherwise: allowing unlimited money to flow into our election process corrupts our democracy. "One person, one vote" gets replaced by "one dollar, one vote," which means that the increasing inequalities of wealth in America subvert the democratic idea of equality of political voice among all citizens.

But less obviously, allowing money to buy political power corrupts not only the political system, but the money system as well.

I used to call out the Koch Brothers, for their campaign to misinform the public about climate change, as being not only immoral but also a kind of crazy. What kind of insanity is it, I asked, for billionaires who already have more money than they and their children and their grandchildren could spend in a lifetime, to damage the future for generations to come, and for life on earth generally, just to get still more money for themselves?

I was thinking of money as something that entitles the owner to get economic goods. And for billionaires like the Koch Brothers, the limit to the goodies they might benefit from consuming or owning has long since been passed.

But in a political system like the one being fashioned by things like the Citizens United  decision, money isn't about acquiring economic goods in the pursuit of happiness. It is about buying the government in the pursuit of power.

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BENGHAZEEEEGRUBER - Breath - EBOLAAMNESTYTYRANNY!!!!!!

by: lowkell

Fri Nov 21, 2014 at 19:52:28 PM EST

So, now that the Republican-controlled House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has TOTALLY debunked all the right wingnuts' conspiracy theories on BENGHAZEEEEEE, what do they have left? First, a few quick points from the report on Benghazi by (again) Republican-controlled House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. (attention Frank Wolf and other crazy conspiracy theorists, you might want to read this, as it is meant to be the "definitive House statement on the Intelligence Community's activities before, during and after the tragic events that caused the deaths of four brave Americans")

*"There is no evidence of an intelligence failure...CIA provided sufficient security personnel, resources, and equipment to defend against the known terrorist threat and to enable CIA operations in Benghazi...no evidence that the CIA turned down requests for additional security resources at the Annex."
*"...the Committee found no evidence that there was either a stand down order or a denial of available air support."
*"...the Committee found no evidence that any officer was intimidated, wrongly forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement or otherwise kept from speaking to Congress, or polygraphed because of their presence in Benghazi."
*"Appropriate personnel on the ground in Benghazi made the decision to send CIA officers to rescue the State Department officers at the TMF...no officer at CIA was ever told to stand down."
*"The decision to send CIA officers from Tripoli to Benghazi to rescue the Ambassador and bolster security of the U.S. personnel in Benghazi was a tactical decision appropriately made by the senior officers on the ground."
*"The CIA received all military support that was available. One CIA security officer requested a Spectre gunship that he believed was available, but his commanding officer did not relay the request because he correctly knew the the gunship was not available."
*"...intelligence assessments continue to evolve to this day, and the investigations into the motivations of the individual attackers are still ongoing."
*"For her public comments, Ambassador Rice used talking points developed at the request of HPSCI."
*The "CIA, NCTC, FBI and other Executive Branch agencies fully cooperated with the Committee's investigation."

In sum, basically none of the charges leveled in the aftermath of Benghazi by Republicans have proven to be correct. Just as most of us outside the Fox/Rush/Glenn right-wing news bubble figured all along. I just wish the Republican-controlled House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hadn't dumped this report late on a Friday before Thanksgiving, clearly hoping that it would get as little attention as possible. Of course, if the media were responsible, they would give this report as much (or more) attention as they gave to the hysterical, false accusations hurled around by the likes of Mitt Romney, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Frank Wolf, etc. in the aftermath of this tragedy. Oh, and we're also "all ears" for apologies from Romney, McCain, Graham, Wolf et al. Nope, not holding our breaths...

Anyway, now that the BENGHAZEEEEE conspiracy theories have been definitively debunked, by Republicans no less, what will the next crazy conspiracy theory by the frothing-at-the-mouth right wing be?  Well, there's always one of the people Mitt Romney went out of his way to praise for helping develop "Romneycare," Jonathan Gruber, an MIT academic who apparently thinks everyone other than himself is an idiot (but why any of us should care what he thinks is beyond me). Then there's Ebola, of course, but that's so three weeks ago!  Then there's the latest OUTRAGE -- amnesty! tyranny! can we go back to birth cerficates or "death panels?" ;) I mean, Fox, Rush, Glenn, etc, have to have SOMETHING to rant about, right?

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Video: President Obama addresses the nation on immigration (8 pm ET)

by: lowkell

Thu Nov 20, 2014 at 16:39:22 PM EST

It's utterly pathetic (and infuriating) that Republicans in the House have refused to even allow a freakin' VOTE on the bipartisan Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill. If they HAD allowed a vote, it would have passed a long time ago. But noooo. Also keep in mind that most previous presidents, including the sainted Ronald Reagan, have issued executive orders on immigration, so there's a lot of precedent for this (but you didn't hear Republicans scream about Reagan, Bush, etc.). Finally, it's long past time for somebody to address this issue, and I strongly support President Obama doing so, obviously within the bounds of his executive authority.

Discuss :: (10 Comments)

My Two Cents: Nov 4 There Were No Winners; Everyone Lost (Part I)

by: KathyinBlacksburg

Mon Nov 17, 2014 at 22:44:11 PM EST


(Note: I began this last week but have a problem with my hand that makes typing difficult and painful. Apologies for posting this late.)

Election Day is two weeks behind us, but the conversation and finger pointing will go on for quite a while, if, that is, it is still acceptable to finger point in today's absurd world (snark--you know finger pointing is still OK, but they don't know that at FAUX or in  Minneapolis).

It's safe to say that if the national Democratic leadership, by which I mean the DNC, DSCC and DCCC, along with the major campaigns, don't understand what actually happened on Nov 4th, nothing will change. And the leadership has no clue. So we will have more of the the debacles we had last week. It is clear that they don't get it. And if they persist in their cluelessness, then rank-and-file Democrats need to figure out how to function around them.

It is safe to say that Nov 4th:

1. Everyone lost. But we the citizens lost big time. The 1% has gerrymandered and vote-suppressed us in numerous ways. If only they turned their creativity into solving real problems. But this is a post-Citizens United world and the GOP and their voters are too obtuse to know they lost too. More on this in a moment.

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Democratic "Leaders" Persist in Stupid Policy AND Stupid Politics Approach

by: lowkell

Thu Nov 13, 2014 at 11:28:41 AM EST

If you needed any more evidence that Democratic "leaders" are wedded to their deadly "stupid policy AND stupid politics" combo approach, which has served them (and us) so well despite it being a complete debacle in every way, today we have yet another prime example -- the Keystone XL Canadian tar sands export pipeline.
For the first time in the six-year fight over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, both houses of Congress will hold a vote on the proposed project, giving each side in a Louisiana Senate election a chance to boost its candidate.

The two lawmakers locked in the runoff contest, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R), seized control of the congressional agenda Wednesday, extracting assurances from House and Senate leaders that votes will be held to bypass President Obama's authority and authorize construction of the pipeline.

A large showing of Democratic support for the pipeline could complicate the administration's decision-making process, given the party's dismal showing at the polls last week. Environmentalist allies of the president are solidly against the project and have been doggedly lobbying the administration against approving it.

Yes, here we have the CLASSIC example of both bad policy AND bad politics for Democrats. The bad policy part should be obvious: at a time when we need to be rapidly slashing our greenhouse gas emissions, the Keystone XL pipeline would encourage development of some of the filthiest, most destructive, and also most expensive (around $80 per barrel to product the crap) oil on earth. And, as an added "bonus," the Keystone pipeline wouldn't even directly (or indirectly, for that matter) benefit the US, as this is a project to export Canadian oil to markets in Asia (e.g., China) and elsewhere, while benefiting mostly foreign investors. Oh, even better: the pipeline project would create just "35 permanent, full-time jobs and 15 temporary contractors." That's not "35,000" or whatever, it's a grand total of 35 total jobs. Hell, why not just open a WalMart or whatever, it would probably create more jobs (albeit low-paying ones) and be a lot less environmentally damaging! (snark)

As for the politics of Keystone XL, it's not like it's going to save Mary Landrieu as a U.S. Senator. And even if it did, by some utterly bizarre miracle, it wouldn't save the Democratic U.S. Senate majority, which they've already lost. More broadly, this is NOT a winner with the Democratic base. To the contrary, as a new Pew poll finds,  just 32% of liberal Democrats support this boondoggle, with 56% against. Can you imagine Republicans bringing something to a vote where conservatives were against it by a 56%-32% margin? Uhhhh...no. As for Democrats overall, it's 43% support vs. 46% oppose. In sum, on top of being idiotic/crazy policy, Keystone XL is not a winner for Democrats politically either. There's that wondrous combo -- stupid policy AND stupid politics -- which Democratic "leaders" appear to love so much. A few more examples?

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The Democrats Should Come Out Swinging

by: Andy Schmookler

Fri Nov 07, 2014 at 17:49:31 PM EST

The Democrats lost not because they were wrong but because they were weak.

They were weak in their fighting. And they were weak in presenting the values and the kind of America they stand for.

How else but by Democratic weakness can we explain how raising the minimum wage keeps winning by large majorities with support from people who then go vote for Republicans who have fought to block such a raise?

How else can we explain that voters unhappy with the failures of Congress to take care of the people's business will vote for politicians who made it their priority to see to it that Congress could not take care of that business?

The people have bought a raft of lies, and the Democrats have been too weak to make the liars pay a political price.

Now the bullies of the right are coming forward to bully the Democrats some more. This we saw yesterday when the Republican Speaker of the House spoke contemptuously of the President of the United States in a way we Americans are not supposed to talk about a president.

Speaker Boehner warned President Obama against "poisoning the well" (by taking an executive action the Republicans don't like). No one would drink from it anyway after what the Republicans have thrown into it these past six years.

Will President Obama let himself be bullied? Will the Democrats in general respond to their rejection by the voters by acting deferential to the victors?

God, I hope not. That's the last thing we need for the Democrats to do.  

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Shame on Us! (Giving Still More Power to Such a Party)

by: Andy Schmookler

Wed Nov 05, 2014 at 10:01:39 AM EST

Shame on us, the American People.

Giving more power to a Republican Party that has has been blatantly indifferent to the good of the nation.

Never in American history has there been a party so consistently destructive in its impact on America. Indeed, it is hard to find an instance these past six years when the Republicans have even tried to be constructive, tried to address our national problems.

Never in American history has there been a party so consistently dishonest in its communications to the people.

To know of this unprecedented  betrayal of the nation, we have no need of secret tapes or conspirators coming forward to testify. It has been there undisguised, right in front of our eyes.

Yet, yesterday, tens of millions of Americans who are unhappy with "Congress" for its record-setting failure to take care of the nation's business voted for the party that deliberately worked to make Congress fail.

Shame!

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Steven Pearlstein Nails It on Democrats' "failure of brand management"

by: lowkell

Sun Nov 02, 2014 at 13:22:33 PM EST

One of the articles that most resonated with me in reading this morning's papers was Democrats only have themselves to blame for upcoming losses by Steven Pearlstein in the Washington Post. Not because I would state it so definitively by using the word "only," as I believe there are many factors at work in this mid-term election. For instance, it's just a fact that the party holding the White House in the sixth year loses 48 seats in the House and seven (7) seats in the Senate. Actually, Democrats are likely to lose just a few seats in the House, and at WORST 7 seats in the Senate, so this will actually be better than the historical norm since World War II.

With all that having been said, however, I basically think that Pearlstein nails it when he writes: "What we have here is a failure of brand management - in this case, the Democratic brand." If building a strong brand is about "telling a clear, credible and compelling story about what you've done and what you are going to do...come hell or high water, this is what we are going to be about" (that's Pearlstein quoting  David Srere, "chief strategy officer at Siegel + Gale, another leading brand consultancy"), then it's extremely hard these days to figure out what the Democratic "brand" is all about.

Is this the party that fights for the poor? working people? the middle class? the environment? civil liberties? economic fairness and social justice (to quote one of Jim Webb's favorite phrases)? universal health care? If so, you'd barely know it the past couple decades, particularly starting in 1994, when Dick Morris, the "third way," "triangulation," and "the era of big government is over" became staples of the Clinton White House following the Gingrich/"Contract with America" landslide in 1994.

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Why the Republicans Love the Abortion Issue

by: Andy Schmookler

Sun Nov 02, 2014 at 10:00:28 AM EST

This piece ran in two Virginia newspapers this past week.

How many Americans fit this profile?

1) They are inclined to view politics in moral terms, and it is important to them to be one of the good people and not one of the bad people.

2) Their understanding of the workings of the larger systems in their world - e.g. the US government, and the American and world economies - is limited.

3) Having neither the time, interest, nor background to develop a complex picture of American politics, they welcome a simple way to exercise their duties as citizens. Finding a single issue that can define their political choices serves this purpose.

Millions, I would guess.

To lock in the support of such people, the issue of abortion is perfect.

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The Right's Urge to Kick Down: Doing Unto Others as Has Been Done Unto You

by: Andy Schmookler

Thu Oct 30, 2014 at 13:11:41 PM EDT

In "More on the O'Reilly/Stewart Brouhaha: The Right-Wing Urge to Kick Down," I offered one explanation of how non-rich white people can get motivated to kick down on those below them (especially blacks, but also any of those "takers" they like to contrast with the virtuous, hard-working people they like to see themselves as being).  It is an old con job, where the dominant class sells a phony picture to induce one group of people they are exploiting to take their anger and frustration out on those below them.

Kick downward at the suppopsdly lazy, good-for-nothing poor, rather than protest upward at the source of the real injustice.

But that explanation doesn't explain the impulse to kick down shown by the likes of Bill "What White Privilege?" O'Reilly, nor by the rich men with whom Mitt Romney sought to ingratiate himself with his "47%" comment.

Surely, part of the motivation for the distortion of reality is that the warped picture provides justification for the elite's lack of compassion for those who suffer under their domination.  

But something deeper is going on.

It is not only the poor who experience being the recipient of a downward kick. That template of the downward kick is so ingrained in the culture - at multiple levels, and especially in some parts of the culture - that even many who, in socio-economic terms, are in dominant positions have had profound experiences of that kick-down pain.

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Ideas that Can Make Liberal America Stronger: Value is at the Heart of Our Humanity

by: Andy Schmookler

Wed Oct 29, 2014 at 14:24:59 PM EDT

[10th entry in the "Press the Battle" series.]

Summary: From the perspective of the evolution of life, it can be seen how value is an emergent -- but none the less real -- dimension of the reality of creatures like us humans. Evolution operates on the principle that life is better than death. Operating on that basis, evolution brings into existence creatures who experience that fulfillment is better than misery. That is the foundation of value. and it makes value fully real in every way it could be.

Previously, I asserted that:

    1) the imbalance in intensity in the political battle raging in America is largely due to the deficiency of moral and spiritual passion in Liberal America,

    2) this deficiency is the by-product of the worldview that is strong in Liberal America, according to which "value" is considered a matter of subjective opinion, and thus not really real, and there can be no such thing in the human world as "the battle between good and evil," and

    3) it is a mistake to believe that intellectually responsible thinking about the evidence of our world requires that we reach those conclusions.

In order to regain its moral and spiritual passions, Liberal America does not have to to embrace the forms traditional religion has used to represent the issues of good and evil. That reconnection can be achieved, by moving further forward along the path of rational, empirically-based scientific knowledge.

In other words, the path of evidence and reason can provide us good answers to those vital questions of value -- answers that can connect us to those deep parts of our human core from which comes the passionate intensity required for this urgent battle.

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When Bad Politics Are Supported by Good People

by: Andy Schmookler

Sat Oct 25, 2014 at 14:51:36 PM EDT

This piece has appeared this week in several of the newspapers in my conservative congressional District (VA-06).

Recently my wife and I attended a reunion of her first cousins (and their spouses). These cousins are the children of the children of a couple of Swedish immigrants who settled in Iowa to farm in the late 19th century.

What a wonderful family event! Just enough people to fill all the seats around a table not so big we couldn't all converse together. In all our time together, there wasn't a single hurtful word. Even the spouses, like me, were embraced in the family feeling, all glad to be together.

All these cousins -- except for the two children of those Iowa farmers' youngest child (which includes my wife) -- are Republicans.

We know each other's political orientations, and like a lot of other families in recent years, we know not to talk politics. (Even so, at a previous reunion two years ago, when I was running for Congress as the Democratic nominee, I was touched at how excited, even supportive, about my run they all seemed to be - family feeling seemingly trumping politics.)

But as we drove off afterwards, I thought of the troubling contrast I saw.

In the gathering of the cousins, our togetherness was imbued with a spirit of cooperation. There was a "barn-raising" spirit, as everyone just naturally pitched in together to get things done--things like feeding us all and cleaning things up.

But has there ever been a political party in America that was so little imbued with a cooperative spirit as the party they support? Never has "compromise" been treated as such a dirty word as by today's Republican Party. Never has a party been less interested in working together to do the people's business.

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More on the O'Reilly/Stewart Brouhaha: The Right-Wing Urge to Kick Down

by: Andy Schmookler

Thu Oct 23, 2014 at 12:51:00 PM EDT

In my previous piece on "The O'Reilly/Stewart Brouhaha," I said that it's unclear whether conservatives like Bill O'Reilly really want to help foster a culture of responsibility among people at the lower end of the economic spectrum -- in particular, in black culture -- or whether they just "enjoy the excuse to beat up on an oppressed people, as their kind have been doing in America for centuries."

It looks a lot like it's the latter.  We can infer this eagerness to kick down on those at the bottom from how much conservatives of this kind are willing to distort reality to justify their attitude of blame and attack.

Remember Mitt Romney's infamous "47%" comment in the 2012 presidential election? However much that comment reflected Romney's own beliefs, he surely had reason to believe that this condemnation of half the country as "takers" suited the beliefs of the Republican fat-cats to whom he was speaking.

After that 47% remark was made public, many came forward to expose how distorted was the notion that all these millions of Americans were somehow parasitic on the American bounty the fat-cats prided themselves on creating. This 47%, it was pointed out, included not only people who had retired after years of hard work, but also people supporting families, sometimes needing to work more than one job to make ends meet. Hardly parasites.

Somehow, it served a purpose for these rich Republicans to imagine that the bottom half of America were leeches on the body of the American economy.

But on the right, it's not only the rich who seem drawn to this distorted fantasy. This I know from years discussing politics with a conservative radui audience in my part of Virginia.  

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Concerned About Where Our Nation Is Heading?

by: Andy Schmookler

Wed Oct 22, 2014 at 15:35:09 PM EDT


Summary: Americans think the nation is heading in the wrong direction. My biggest worries are 1) that our democracy is increasingly being transformed by the influence of big money into a plutocracy, and 2) we are failing to act vigorously to address the pressing emergency of global climate change. On both issues, the Republicans are playing a darkly destructive role, while the Democrats are failing to press the battle with the necessary vigor. That pattern reveals the essential core of America's national crisis. (This piece ran as an op/ed in the Richmond Times Dispatch this spring.)

Are you, like me, unhappy about where you sense our nation is heading? Do you, like me, fear that the prospects for our children and grandchildren will be darker than what we have known?

For years, the polls show, a substantial majority of Americans have been unhappy about where our nation is headed. But we don't all see the same dangers or agree on what to do about them. For example, the fear of millions that Obamacare is another step toward a socialist tyranny has little to do with reality. This distraction is indeed just one more symptom of what's gone wrong.

Here are my two most important areas of concern:

** The accelerating replacement of government by and for the people by government by and for big money.

** The disruption of the earth's climate system, on which our lives depend, is gaining momentum, while our nation remains incapable of responding appropriately.

Both crises reveal a pathological political dynamic darkening the prospects for our nation and its people.

The plutocratic threat to our democracy has long been visible, but not in living memory has our descent into the rule of the money system gone so deep.

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The Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart Brouhaha: Denial is a River in the Right-Wing Mind

by: Andy Schmookler

Sun Oct 19, 2014 at 10:59:50 AM EDT

People like Bill O'Reilly call upon people to raise themselves up while helping keep a foot on their necks.

Conservatives like O'Reilly do have some kernels of truth on their side. They rightly think people should develop good character, including virtues such as discipline and responsibility for oneself. And they are rightly concerned to assure that social policies don't discourage people from developing such virtues.

But after those kernels of truth, their map of the world is dominated by a river of denial.

First, as Jon Stewart pointed out in his confrontation with O'Reilly, they deny how much their own ascent was boosted by the advantages their culture gave them. As Chris Hayes put it in his October 16 segment on the O'Reilly/Stewart confrontation, there are "two types of people--those who recognize they're standing on something built to help them, and those who believe they are natural giants."

(Hayes cited a poll conducted by researchers at Cornell University in 2008, asking people if they had ever used government social program. 57% said no, but the researchers established that 94% of those people were mistaken and had used at least one. On average, they'd benefited from four.)

In his effort to get Bill O'Reilly to acknowledge "white privilege," Jon Stewart focused on the advantages O'Reilly got from growing up in the new, post-war, middle-class community of Levittown.  It was a community that supported O'Reilly's becoming the so-called "self-made man" that he is.

Those advantages amount to "white privilege," Stewart argued, because the town was closed to black families (until a federal housing law passed in the late 1960s forced those gates open).

The right-wingers are eager to scold blacks for not developing a culture of responsibility. But if you want people to develop the virtues of discipline and responsibility, it is folly - or perhaps hypocrisy - not to be equally concerned that the society provides those people the opportunities to reap the rewards to which those virtues are supposed to lead.

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Beliefs that Make Liberal America Weak: Barriers to the Source of Moral and Spiritual Passions

by: Andy Schmookler

Thu Oct 16, 2014 at 15:38:24 PM EDT

This piece begins a discussion that is addressed especially to those who believe that there is no such thing  -- and can be no such thing -- in the world as an "evil force."

Summary: Why does that the line from Yeats apply to America in our times? "The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are filled with a passionate intensity."

One important reason is that the battle playing out in our politics is fundamentally a moral and spiritual battle, and while the right is connected to their moral and spiritual passions (even though that connection has been made on the basis of lies) Liberal America is not.

Much of that disconnection in Liberal America is due misguided beliefs, including: 1) that "value" is not really real, and 2) that there is nothing in the dynamics of the human world that warrants being called "evil," an "evil force," or "the battle between good and evil."

These beliefs, I will argue, are not only a source of weakness, but also mistaken.

The crucial battle in America today is being fought in the political arena, but the heart of it goes deeper than politics. It is at the moral and spiritual level. The issue in America today is this: will constructive or destructive, life-serving or life-degrading forces prevail in shaping this nation's future?

The battle to decide this question has not been going well. The lamentable core dynamic of this battle is all too well captured by the line from Yeats: "the best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are filled with a passionate intensity."

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Chuck Todd Exemplifies Political Press' Utter Intellectual, Moral Bankruptcy

by: lowkell

Tue Oct 14, 2014 at 16:40:00 PM EDT

So let's get this straight: if you won't reveal who you voted for in a past presidential election, then you have "disqualified" yourself with voters, according to Meet the Press host Chuck Todd (about Kentucky Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes. Now, let's list a few things you CAN say, according to the idiot inside-the-Beltway political press, and still be qualified for election.

*You can repeatedly lie, as Barbara Comstock did, about your reasons for voting for Barack Obama in the 2008 Virginia Democratic presidential primary, and still be "qualified."
*You can, as uncounted Republican candidates have done, deny climate science (or claim that you're "not a scientist" and not answer the question) and still be "qualified." Denial of climate science (or gravity, or evolution, or the fact that the earth is round, etc.) of course, should be an automatic disqualifier for ANY public office, let alone high public office.
*You can, as Paul Waldman notes in this piece, flirt with the "'Agenda 21' conspiracy theory - in which the U.S. government and the United Nations are supposedly conspiring to force rural people in Iowa and elsewhere to leave their homes and be relocated to urban centers," and still be "qualified."
*You can suggest, as Republican Tom Cotton in Arkansas has done, that "ISIS is now working with Mexican drug cartels to infiltrate America over our southern border," and still be "qualified."
*You can suggest, as Virginia Republican Ed Gillespie recently did, that  "the fact that we have a porous southern border today is not just an immigration concern, it is a...public health threat...with the growing concerns about Ebola," and still be "qualified."
*You can lie and claim the "Personhood" bill you sponsored, legislation that would ban all abortions, as well as numerous forms of contraception, embryonic stem cell research, etc., doesn't exist, yet somehow still be "qualified."
*You can constantly make offensive, extremist, bigoted, insane comments - like "perennial wingnut powerhouses...Iowa Rep. Steve King and Texas' resident wacko Rep. Louie Gohmert," yet still be "qualified."
*You can vote to shut down the U.S. government, after threatening the financial stability of the world economy over the debt ceiling, as Mitch McConnell and many other Republicans did, and still be "qualified."
*You can, as god-knows-how-many Republicans (including Barbara Comstock and Ed Gillespie) have done, take anti-government extremist Grover Norquist's crazy pledge, and still be "qualified."

We could go on all day, but you get the picture. As Paul Waldman writes:

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The Force Is Not With Us: We Identify with Our Fantasy Heroes -- Why Don't We Emulate Them?

by: Andy Schmookler

Fri Oct 10, 2014 at 11:48:01 AM EDT

Summary: We all know how to respond to evil. Again and again, our popular stories and mythology take us vicariously and gratifyingly through the process -- e.g. in films like "Avatar," "Star Wars," "Lord of the Rings," where our heroes put themselves on the line to defeat an evil force in defense of sacred values. Why is it, then, that as we face that same essential situation in America's contemporary reality, we fail to respond as our heroes do?

The the destructive force that has arisen on the right is only one side of America's present national crisis. The other side is the weakness of the response from Liberal America to this profound threat to our nation's well-being.

I've described President Obama's failure to wage the battle that must be waged. But the problem of liberal weakness - and of its blindness - is not confined to the president. These defects were evident among Democratic leaders before Mr. Obama assumed the presidency, and they are manifested, I would assert, by Liberal America taken as a whole.

It is important that we understand the sources of this weakness.

It's not that we don't know how to respond to an "evil force," for this is something our society's culture (popular and otherwise) has taught us well.

Consider how three of the most salient narratives of modern American popular culture put us through our paces-- evoking the pain and outrage of seeing injustice done and sacred things destroyed, and instilling in our hearts the will to fight the necessary battle to prevail over evil and set things right.

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Sorry Mr. Krugman: Obama Came to Office Holding a Royal Flush, Then Declared His Hand "Ace High"

by: Andy Schmookler

Thu Oct 09, 2014 at 12:46:13 PM EDT

 Paul Krugman is a hero of mine . Because of his brilliance, his integrity, his batting average at being right, and the choice piece of journalistic real estate he occupies, Krugman has my vote for MVP among all the pundits of our times.

But regarding the piece Professor Krugman just published in Rolling Stone, arguing that "Obama has emerged as "one of the most ... successful presidents in American history," I must - regretfully, but strongly--disagree.

Our differences here are matters of how we weigh different parts of the picture. Krugman goes through a list of Obama's achievements - such as health care reform, financial reform, and others - and I largely agree about those.

At the same time, Krugman acknowledges that failure of Obama's that's salient for me, when he writes: "He faced scorched-earth Republican opposition from Day One, and it took him years to start dealing with that opposition realistically."

So which should be weighed more heavily, the achievements or that failure to deal rightly with this "scorched-earth Republican opposition"?

I say it's the latter, and here's my case.

There's More... :: (26 Comments, 649 words in story)

Liberal America, You Don't See What We're Up Against, and It Matters

by: Andy Schmookler

Mon Oct 06, 2014 at 15:15:18 PM EDT

Summary: Liberal America does not perceive well the nature of the force that's taken over the right. Not perceiving what we're up against has enormous consequences, because understanding one's foe - its nature, its way of working, the disposition of its forces - has enormous implications for devising the best strategy for defeating it. Providing a good understanding of what it is we are up against is one of the central purposes of this "Press the Battle" series.

I've undertaken to present this "Press the Battle" series because, believing it might make an important contribution, I feel a moral obligation to do so. At the age of 68, and after a whole decade of fighting against this ugly force that's taken over the right, I'm certainly not doing it for fun.

Maybe now is a good time to explain why I think what I'm presenting here might just possibly help turn the tide of battle. A reader recently wrote me privately wondering when I was going to stop the preliminaries and explain what I'm proposing to do. The fellow evidently has missed the point: this -- getting the picture I'm painting in "Press the Battle" into the national conversation as far as possible -- is what I think is important to do.

How could it be important? What is it about this picture I'm painting that I think could have a meaningful impact on the battle over what kind of nation America will become?  

The answer begins with the title here: "Liberal America, You Don't See What We're Up Against, and It Matters."

In the second entry of the series, after listing various components of The Republican Party's Extraordinary Pattern of Destructiveness, I asked: "What is it that would express itself in all these ways?" I described that question as "too long unasked."  (Indeed, has it been asked anywhere?)

But that "It" is what we're up against.

There's More... :: (3 Comments, 995 words in story)
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The purpose of Blue Virginia is to cover Virginia politics from a progressive and Democratic perspective. This is a group blog and a community blog. We invite everyone to comment here, but please be aware that profanity, personal attacks, bigotry, insults, rudeness, frequent unsupported or off-point statements, "trolling" (NOTE: that includes outright lies, whether about climate science, or what other people said, or whatever), and "troll ratings abuse" (e.g., "troll" rating someone simply because you disagree with their argument) are not permitted and, if continued, will lead to banning. For more on trolling, see the Daily Kos FAQs. Also note that diaries may be deleted if they do not contain at least 2 solid paragraphs of original text; if not, please use the comments section of a relevant diary. For more on writing diaries, click here. Thanks, and enjoy!

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