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Monday, June 27, 2016

The conservative containment strategy isn't working

by digby

This piece by Brian Beutler on how some conservatives who oppose Trump have shown that they still haven't learned the lesson by their Brexit reaction is very insightful:
Most conservative and liberal American elites here are alarmed by both the success of the Leave campaign and by Trump’s victory in the Republican presidential primary. American nativists, along with a subset of leftist radicals, support the Brexit along with domestic political threats to the established order.

The outliers are conservative elites who profess to oppose Trump’s candidacy, but who nevertheless celebrate or romanticize triumphant Trumpian forces in the United Kingdom.

It’s obviously not racist, per se, to support the notion of Britain exiting the E.U. But the elite right’s winking alliance with the bigoted faction of British voters that pushed Leave past 50 percent represents a swift return to form for elite American conservatives.
To the extent that these conservatives acknowledge the racial aspect of right-wing populism at all, it’s to intimate that progressives ought to dial back their cosmopolitanism–their hospitality to refugees, their more general openness to immigration–as ransom to bigots.

For Brexit foes preoccupied with the fact that forces of reaction and xenophobia carried the day in the U.K., New York Times columnist Ross Douthat suggested their own unwillingness to accommodate the reactionaries and xenophobes may explain their defeat...
When data show that support among Britons for Brexiting isn’t correlated with material losses associated with immigration—and where anti-immigrant sentiments long predate the migration explosion associated with EU liberalization—this counsel of prudence reads more like extortion. It amounts to setting forth conservative policy as the only way to keep truly dark forces at bay. Or, perhaps less generously, giving quarter to indefensible prejudices out of political expedience. Nice pluralistic society you’ve built there—hate to see anything happen to it.

And frankly, on some level, I have to assume that these people aren't quite as taken with pluralism themselves as they are currently pretending. You have to wonder is Trump weren't such a clownish figure, so obviously in over his head if a lot of them wouldn't have jumped eagerly on his bandwagon.

I've always felt that the chest beating over Trump's horrifying extremism seemed a bit weird coming from the kind of people who would call a Supreme Court justice a "goat fucking child molester." But even if one assumes Trump truly appalls them with his calls for a wall and deportations and banning of immigrants on the basis of religion, Beutler is right that catering to extremists hasn't really worked out very well to keep their destructive impulses in check has it? Maybe it's time to consider an alternative strategy.

From the party that brought you "you lie!"

by digby

... during the State of the Union, comes Representative Pete Sessions calling for the smelling salts over the House sit-in. He believes the Democrats who sat in should be investigated for breaking the rules.
When the House went into recess Wednesday night and live camera feeds were cut, Democratic House members used Periscope and Facebook Live to continue giving the public look at their spontaneous protest.

"They should not have used that nor would we allow a bunch of people at a court room to take advantage of a courtroom,” Sessions said. “There are places that business is done where decorum is utilized and where we respect each other.”
Yes there are such places. But the House hasn't been one of them since they decided to obsess over fellatio and semen stains for months on end nearly 20 years ago, turning the words "house decorum" into an oxymoron.

But hey, go for it. It's always fun to see swashbuckling, gun slinging, anti-PC dudes clutching their pearls over decorum.

Just don't call it tyranny

by digby

Don't look now but Trump is all for executive orders:
Trump has already promised to be as aggressive as Obama on executive orders on a wide range of issues. Early in his campaign, for instance, he vowed to use the power of the pen to give all cop killers the death penalty. More recently, in his response to the shooting death of 49 people inside an Orlando gay club this month, he pledged to use executive power to implement one of his signature proposals: A temporary ban on Muslim immigration (even though the shooter was born in New York).

“The immigration laws of the United States give the president powers to suspend entry into the country of any class of persons,” Trump said June 16, two days after the shooting. “I will use this power to protect the American people.”

Check out a few of his other proposals:

• Tighten regulations on money-transfer companies: The cornerstone of Trump's candidacy has been a promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. While Congress approves spending for construction projects, Trump says he can force Mexico to pay for it by taking control of an estimated $26 billion that is wired to Mexico from the U.S. every year.

Trump has said he would halt these remittances “on day one” by rewriting banking rules to expand the federal regulations on companies like Western Union and PayPal. He'd then add a new rule to block undocumented immigrants from wiring money outside the borders.

• Cancel visas and increasing visa fees: Trump says he could increase his leverage on Mexico's leaders by making it harder for their people to live and work in the U.S. The country accounted for about 14 percent of the 10.9 million visas issues by the U.S. in 2015, according to State Department data. Only Chinese visitors, who received one of every four U.S. visas last year, took more. Trump’s administration would have broad discretion in choosing who to give visas, and how much to charge, said John Sandweg, a former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and general counsel of the Department of Homeland Security.

• Increase wages for certain foreign workers, and require companies to hire Americans first: Foreign workers hired for high-skilled jobs, like software engineering and research, must be paid a prevailing industry wage, as determined by a Labor Department database. Trump says requiring higher wages for those who receive H1-B visas will deter companies from hiring foreign workers. U.S. companies want more of these visas, not fewer, but it’s something President Trump could do with the rule-making process, Sandweg said. Similarly, Trump could change rules to try to force companies to search for new hires first from the country's pool of unemployed workers before turning to overseas labor.

• Mandatory deportation for all undocumented immigrants with criminal records, and detentions for those caught at the border: Like Obama and Bush before him, the Trump administration would set parameters on how to focus the deportation budget. Obama has focused resources on violent criminals, but Trump could undo that to go after those with traffic offenses.

• Stop defending NATO allies: Trump used his foreign policy address on April 27 to echo concerns shared by many U.S. officials that most of the 28 nations in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization don’t spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense, as required by the agreement. “The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense—and, if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves,” Trump said. As commander-in-chief, Trump could take that unprecedented step, foreign policy experts said.
“He would risk blowing up the entire alliance over what could be an exchange rate or accounting issue,” said Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution.

• Cancel the Paris climate accord and stop paying U.S. tax dollars into UN global warming programs: During a May 26 speech in North Dakota, Trump said he would yank U.S. support from the Paris agreement to slash carbon dioxide emissions that 195 nations endorsed last December. There isn't much Trump could do to kill the accord itself. The deal isn't a treaty, and it doesn't require Senate ratification. Instead, it goes into force automatically when at least 55 parties, accounting for 55 percent of global emissions, have ratified the pact. Still, under Trump, the U.S. could sit out future United Nations negotiations designed to deepen carbon cuts over time. And because individual country commitments are voluntary, Trump could easily walk away from the U.S. pledges at the cost of alienating other world leaders.

• Scrap “job-destroying” energy regulations: Trump singled out Obama's new limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants -- and the “waters of the U.S.” rule that defines what waterways are under the government's jurisdiction. He would also rescind “any regulation that is outdated, unnecessary, bad for workers or contrary to the national interest.”

• Approve the Keystone XL pipeline
• Reverse moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands
• Declare China a currency manipulator
• Bolster the U.S. military presence in the East and South China Seas: Increasing troop levels here will help strengthen America’s ability to negotiate with the Chinese, Trump says. Obama’s administration sent about 300 additional troops with combat aircraft and helicopters into the area earlier this year in response to a border dispute between China and the Philippines. Trump has not said how many more troops he’d like in the region.

That's not a comprehenisve list. But I especially like the last one. For those who actually believe that Trump's nationalism is confined to trade, they should probably think again. Many a trade war has erupted into a shooting war --- and Trump talks just as much about being "respected" as he does about commerce. He's itching for a war, don't think he isn't. And his preference would be a big one. Because he has very big hands.


Big day for the Supremes

by digby

A couple of important cases came down, the most far-reaching being the Whole Women's Health vs Hellerstedt decision which held that the state of Texas did indeed place an undue burden on women by making doctors and clinics go through  inane hoops transparently designed to make it impossible for them to offer abortion services to their patients. It will be a slow walk back in many states that have passed these ridiculous laws but it's a start. The ruling puts teeth into the concept of "undue burden" for the first time in a quarter century. Ian Millhiser at Think Progress wrote:
Whole Woman’s Health leaves the right to an abortion on much stronger footing than it stood on before this decision was handed down. It’s difficult to exaggerate just how awesomely anti-abortion advocates erred in urging Texas to pass HB 2 in the first place. This law was supposed to provide those advocates with a vehicle to drain what life remains in Roe v. Wade. Instead, reproductive freedom is stronger today than it has been at any point in nearly a decade.
Say hallalujah! 
“SCOTUS’s decision is a victory for women in Texas and across America. Safe abortion should be a right—not just on paper, but in reality,” Clinton wrote. “This fight isn’t over: The next president has to protect women’s health. Women won’t be ‘punished’ for exercising their basic rights.” 
President Obama released a statement saying he was pleased with the court’s decision and that his administration remains committed to protecting women’s health. 
“As the brief filed by the Solicitor General makes clear and as the Court affirmed today, these restrictions harm women’s health and place an unconstitutional obstacle in the path of a woman’s reproductive freedom,” Obama said.
If we can keep the Republicans out of the White House long enough to ensure that there's a liberal majority on the court going forward, we might see some progress.

And there was another case decided today that seems pretty important considering current political trends:
At-issue in Voisine v. United States is a technical question of whether two men with convictions for “reckless” domestic assault fall under a federal law prohibiting people convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” from possessing a firearm. The law prohibiting domestic abusers from possessing firearms wasn’t the question under discussion — instead, the question was how far that law reached over certain states’ differing domestic assault laws.

Justice Thomas, however, was very concerned in arguments about the broader law that domestic abusers at large can’t have guns — breaking 10 years of silence on the Court to complain at arguments in February.

“Give me another area where a misdemeanor violation suspends a constitutional right,” he asked, later suggesting that the particular domestic abusers in this case shouldn’t lose their ability to carry guns because they’ve never actually “use[d] a weapon against a family member.”
His dissent in the case upholding the law is a real doozy. It seems he really can't stand the idea of domestic abusers losing their "right" to have deadly weapons. Even in the face of this:
Most mass shootings (defined as a shooting with four or more casualties), however, take place outside the headlines. They're private disputes, between family members and partners, often with a clear track record of violence and assault escalating to a deadly incident.

More than half of mass shootings involve a family member or intimate partner, according five years of data compiled by The Huffington Post. Of those, 81 percent of the victims are women and children. Victims of domestic violence are 12 times more likely to be murdered when a gun is involved. According to the government attorney on Voisine vs. United States, “individuals who have previously…­­ battered their spouses, pose up to a six­fold greater risk of killing, by a gun, their family member.”

The common thread linking many of America's deadliest crimes is domestic violence, hence the federal law. Yet even when abusers are convicted of misdemeanor crimes for domestic violence -- which don't cover non-married partners who don't live together or extended family members -- and then fall under the Federal statue, implementation is difficult: If an abuser already has a gun, police have to know it -- which is made difficult by the fact that not every state has a gun registry or gun sale database. And, without universal background checks, it's very possible for those with domestic violence restraining orders to get guns even when legally prohibited.

America has a lot of problems with guns. Lack of access for domestic abusers is not one of them.
The Supreme Court took a common sense approach to guns today. It's a very rare person who "needs" a gun. Maybe if you're out in the Alaskan wilds and you need to protect yourself from bears, you do, but other than that, you can do without quite easily. So, if you are convicted of a misdemeanor for threatening or inflicting violence on a family member you don't get to have a gun to shoot them with the next time things get out of hand. That seems like common sense to me.

Maybe some day we can come at it from the other angle and make it impossible for anyone to use semi-automatic weapons and really cut down on the mass shooting fatalities. But for now, this is a step in the right direction.

By the way, many people opposed to this are all for taking away a convicted felon's right to vote, no problem, even though one person's vote never killed anyone. Priorities ...

Not Guh Happen

by digby

Many Republicans have buyers remorse on Trump but it doesn't look as if enough of them are going to the convention to stage a coup and install someone else:

Republicans looking to dump Donald Trump at next month’s convention have passion, energy and a fierce sense that their party will suffer unless Trump is unseated. What they appear to lack, however, are the votes to make it happen.

POLITICO reached out to all 112 members of the committee that will write the rules of the national GOP convention. This is the panel that anti-Trump activists hope to jam a proposal through to free convention delegates to spurn Trump and select another candidate instead.

What emerged from the survey, though, is a portrait of a committee with little interest in the dump Trump crowd. In fact, most members may be eager to stop them.

“I support DJT 100%,” said Alabama rules committee member Laura Payne in an email. “I ran to support … Trump & to represent the voters of Alabama. It may or may not be an attempt, but the voters will prevail.”

"Trying to change the rules in mid-game because you don't like the outcome is tantamount to saying you are going to take your ball and go home because you are losing," said Christine Serrano-Glassner, a Rules Committee delegate from New Jersey. "I will be supporting our Nominee, Donald J. Trump."

It was a common sentiment. Among the 32 committee members who responded, 25 said they would fight efforts to stop Trump’s nomination. . Another 33 members of the panel have been previously on record as endorsing Trump or rejecting efforts to rip the nomination away from him at the convention.

I doubt that doing this would go over very well among voters. They have this little thing about wanting to be the ones to choose their own nominee for president. And in any case, who would be the "consensus" choice to replace him? I don't think there is anyone. (If people think Paul Ryan is popular among the base they're not paying attention.)

But you certainly can't blame some people for trying. Look at what they've got.

Trump's God laundering opportunists

by digby

Did you know that Trump has been born again? I wrote about it for Salon this morning:

I’ve written quite a bit about Donald Trump’s unexpectedly successful wooing of the religious right in this presidential campaign. After all, we’ve been told for more than three decades now that conservative Christians require that America’s political leaders have the highest personal moral standards and adhere to a strict commitment to traditional values so he wasn’t expected to do well with them. Recall the stirring words of Focus on the Family’s James Dobson back in 1998 during the impeachment scandal:
As it turns out, character DOES matter. You can’t run a family, let alone a country, without it. How foolish to believe that a person who lacks honesty and moral integrity is qualified to lead a nation and the world! Nevertheless, our people continue to say that the President is doing a good job even if they don’t respect him personally. Those two positions are fundamentally incompatible. In the Book of James the question is posed, “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring” (James 3:11 NIV). The answer is no…

We are facing a profound moral crisis — not only because one man has disgraced us — but because our people no longer recognize the nature of evil. And when a nation reaches that state of depravity — judgment is a certainty.

There was Ralph Reed, formerly of the Christian Coalition and current leader of the Faith and Family:

''Character matters, and the American people are hungry for that message. We care about the conduct of our leaders, and we will not rest until we have leaders of good moral character.”

It’s fair to say that Donald Trump misses the mark on these requirements by a thousand miles. With his three marriages, his history of public bragging about his sexual exploits and the size of his penis in the national media, and his obvious lack of even rudimentary knowledge of the Bible or any religious teachings, Christian or otherwise, he would seem to be the last person that people of strong faith would find acceptable.

But in the primaries, it became clear that he was drawing many of the voters Ted Cruz had counted on being in his corner. It’s not that Cruz didn’t get evangelical voters, it’s that he was only getting the ones who actually attended church. As it turns out this allegedly vast faction of hardcore conservative Christian true believers wasn’t nearly as big as everyone had been led to believe. Indeed, it turns out that for a lot of people “evangelical” is itself just another cultural signifier like those boots and those pork rinds, a tribal designation rather than a serious adherence to Christian teachings.

That’s not to say that this particular group of self-identified evangelicals don’t believe in anything. They undoubtedly go to church from time to time and think of themselves as Christians. It’s just that they don’t actually live their lives in accordance to the Bible as Christian Right leaders have spent years indoctrinating the public to believe. They’re conservatives the way Donald Trump is conservative --- authoritarian, intolerant and often cruel.They identify with The Donald because of his willingness to “tell it like it is” as they see it and personal morality is irrelevant.

This opinion piece in the New York Times by J.D. Vance explores just how unfortunate that decoupling with the actual church and its teachings has been for many members of the white working class who are so enamored of Trump and his “anti-PC” campaign. He discusses various studies that show kids who attend church regularly “perform better in school, divorce less as adults and commit fewer crimes.” And they are, on the whole, less prejudiced, exposed as they often are to people of other races and shown empathy and generosity by church leaders’ willingness to help people in need. Evangelicals who don’t actually go to church have lost an important stabilizing, social influence.

And he may have hit upon an important reason why this has happened --- “the deinstitutionalization of the faith has occurred alongside its politicization.” He says this is one reason why some of these people may be relating to Trump despite the fact that they have very little in common:

While it’s hard to fault people for voting their conscience, this fusion of religion and politics necessarily forces people to look externally. The sometimes tough love of the Christian faith of my childhood demanded a certain amount of self-reflection and, occasionally, self-criticism. While faith need not be monolithic — it can motivate both voting behavior and character development — focus matters. A Christianity constantly looking for political answers to moral and spiritual problems gives believers an excuse to blame other people when they should be looking in the mirror.

But then the Christian Right has long been a political operation rather than a religious movement, hasn’t it?

This brings us to Trump’s most recent “outreach” to the religious right which took place last week in New York when Trump met with a large group of Christian leaders to set their minds at ease about his candidacy. The big news that came out of that was that Trump bizarrely stated that nobody knows if Hillary Clinton has any religious beliefs at all. (They do, of course. She’s a devout Methodist.) But he also sold himself as someone who would protect “religious liberty”--- the latest social conservative buzzword --- with his Supreme Court picks which seemed to thrill the assembled church leaders. Some were so excited by this they lost their bearings a little bit. Cortney O’Brien of Townhall interviewed one of the participants:

Pastor Michael Anthony, who is president of the company Godfactor and founder of the National Week of Repentance, says he witnessed a much different Donald Trump at Tuesday’s evangelical meeting in Times Square...“His posture said it all,” Anthony explained. “He sat the whole time and had his hands to his side for the majority of time. I saw a gentler demeanor here...There was a palpable humility in the room that gets me kind of emotional to talk about it. It was really unique.”

It ended, he said, with the entire room on their knees praying for revival for the country.

“In a very calm, quiet way, with his arms folded, he said, ‘you religious leaders,’ he called us, ‘have every right to speak up and express yourselves, and you don’t. The First Amendment protects that right and yet you don’t.’” Anthony said the room knew he was spot-on. “I think God was speaking through him at that moment, to the church, to tell us why are you being silent about the most important thing about your lives?”

Yes, he actually said that God was speaking through Donald Trump.

At the end of the meeting, Trump released a long list of religious right leaders as his “Evangelical advisory committee” including Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, a man who has been scathing in his criticism of Trump. (He torturously explained that he would agree to serve Hillary Clinton too because that’s what Jesus would do.)

Ralph Reed has been a political operative since the 80s when he and anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist and convicted K-Street felon Jack Abramoff were junior Reagan revolutionaries together so he knows the game. And this was the best he could come up with:

Number one, I know his children. And you don't raise children who are this phenomenal if you're a person of bad moral character. Secondly, you don't accomplish what he has accomplished in New York City and around the world by not judging people on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.

But he’s all in with Trump. And James Dobson, who wrote that righteous screed about people no longer recognizing the face of evil back in 1998, spoke with the aforementioned Michael Anthony on the radio and casually asserted that Trump has recently been born again:

Dobson: There are a lot of people ministering to him (Trump) personally…He did accept a relationship with Christ. I know the person who led him to Christ. And that’s fairly recent. I don’t know when it was, but it has not been long. I believe he really made a commitment, but he’s a baby Christian.”
That’s very convenient since it means Trump gets a do-over on all that awful behavior of his.

Not everyone is buying it. This evangelical scholar suggests that the real believing evangelicals are being played:

What happened on Tuesday in New York was the theo-political equivalent of money laundering. Dobson and his gang are making Trump clean so that he is worthy of evangelical votes.
So, all those white working class types who identify as evangelical but don’t go to church are being seduced by Trump’s crude nationalism and nativism, largely as result of religious leaders politicizing religion and turning it into a vehicle for their own secular power. Now, after years of lectures about morality and personal rectitude in public life, they’ve sunk so low that they’re actually trying to convince the truly devout weekly church goers that this depraved demagogue is someone they should support.

These people are making the spineless establishment Republicans look like saints by comparison.


Brexit: Do-Over!!!

by Tom Sullivan

On Friday, global markets had their biggest daily loss ever. Larger than the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and the Black Monday Crash of 1987. There have since been lots of stories of regret among Brexit 'Leave' voters, many of whom seem not to have understood what they were voting for.

Having seen what has happened to the Pound and to the value of pensions, they're calling for a do-over:

LONDON — An online petition calling for a second referendum on Britain's exit from the European Union surpassed 3 million signatures Sunday, highlighting the tumult sweeping the country in the wake of the shock decision.

The petition calls on the government to implement a rule stating that if the "Remain" or "Leave" camps won less than 60 percent of the vote with less than a 75 percent turnout, "there should be another referendum."

The referendum has been deeply divisive for the United Kingdom. The "Leave" campaign had racked up 17.4 million votes — compared to 16.1 million backing the status quo — giving "Leave" 51.9 percent of the ballot.
Ironically, the pro-Leave maker of the petition created it weeks ago for another purpose entirely and wants to distance himself from it now that it has been "hijacked by the remain campaign":

In addition, the petition may have been manipulated from outside the country. During auditing, 77,000 signatures have been removed:

The request for another referendum on the parliament’s official petitions website should have been signed only by British citizens and UK residents.

However, the petition’s data showed signatories from countries around the world, including Iceland, the Cayman Islands and Tunisia, and in some cases there are more signatures than total population.

Despite Vatican City, a tiny city state, having a total population of just 800, over 39,000 residents of Vatican City appeared to have signed the petition.

Helen Jones, the chair of the petitions committee, said that those signatures discovered to be fake would be “removed” and said such fraud “undermines the process of parliamentary democracy”.
Even so, while the EU is saying hurry up and go already, many among the original "Leave" voters have reconsidered. What a mess:
"The will of the British people is an instruction that must be delivered," a choking Cameron said in his resignation speech, which marked the most tumultuous end to a British premiership since Anthony Eden resigned in 1957 after the Suez crisis.

Still, the upswell of chatter - #regrexit is trending big on twitter - over whether Britain might be able to reconsider speaks to the disbelief gripping this continent in the wake of a vote that has unleashed financial and political mayhem.

Sterling has plunged, and Britain's political parties are both crippled. Cameron is a lameduck leader, and the main opposition Labour party on Sunday attempted a coup against its leader, with nine top officials resigning.
The UK has "silly walked" itself off a cliff, according to the next New Yorker cover:

If only Donald Trump had been there to show them how to do it right.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Forward, into the past: A timely reissue of Peter Watkins’ Culloden ****

By Dennis Hartley

“For some time, [United Kingdom] constitutional nerds such as myself used to float this kind of nightmare scenario, in which one or more parts of the U.K such as Northern Ireland or Scotland [votes to stay in the E.U.], while England, being the largest group [votes to leave the E.U.]...basically those other parts of the U.K. are out-voted. […] Now this has actually happened; this isn’t a nightmare scenario any longer, it’s the reality.”  - Andrew Blick, lecturer in politics and contemporary history (on CNN, June 24, 2016).

There’s been a substantial amount of speculation among the chattering class over the last 36 hours regarding a possible “contagion effect” on the nations who remain allegiant to the European Union, following the U.K.’s voter-mandated breakaway this past Thursday.

While no one with a modicum of sense and/or logic is expecting World War III to break out next week as a result of the “Brexit” referendum decision, there remain a number of compelling historical reasons why the possibility of profound political and socioeconomic instability in Europe down the road is concerning to those who keep track of such things.

For a continent that encompasses a relatively modest 3,930,000 square miles altogether (for perspective, the United States by itself is 3,806,000 square miles in size), Europe has a densely complex history of political volatility, avarice-driven disputes, willful military aggressions and generations-spanning (ruling) family squabbles that boggles the mind.

I’m not saying we haven’t gotten our own hair mussed once or twice here in the good ‘ol U.S. of A; after all, 620,000 people died in the Civil War. That said, 17 million people died in World War I, and an estimated 60 million souls slipped the surly bonds of Earth in the course of World War II. Yes, those were “world” wars, but volatility in Europe was the primary impetus. I guess what I’m saying is, the fact that we have known the existence of a unified Europe in our lifetimes is a blessing that we have taken for granted.

However, as implied by the quote at the top of the post, what makes the Brexit decision even more fascinating to me is the possibility of the U.K. itself splintering apart eventually as a result. Which in effect would be history repeating itself, particularly in the case of Scotland, which voted almost overwhelmingly in favor of remaining in the E.U. In fact, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has already announced a plan to keep Scotland in the E.U., as well as noting that drafts are in the works for legislation proposing another vote on Scottish independence from the U.K. (there was one in 2014).

To say that the history between England and Scotland is a “bloody” one would not be overstatement. Consider a particularly nasty bit of business generally referred to as the “Jacobite Uprising” or “The Forty-five Rebellion” (1745-1746). Depending on which historian you’re reading, the conflict was either a clan war betwixt Scottish lowlanders and highlanders, a religious civil war, or a Scottish war of independence against England. For the sake of expediency, I’m going to split the difference and call it “all of the above”.

The culmination of the conflict occurred on April 16, 1745 with the Battle of Culloden:

Towards one o'clock, the Jacobite artillery opened fire on government soldiers. The government responded with their own cannon, and the Battle of Culloden began. Bombarded by cannon shot and mortar bombs, the Jacobite clans held back, waiting for the order to attack. At last they moved forwards, through hail, smoke, murderous gunfire and grapeshot. Around eighty paces from their enemy they started to fire their muskets and charged. Some fought ferociously. Others never reached their goal. The government troops had finally worked out bayonet tactics to challenge the dreaded Highland charge and broadsword. The Jacobites lost momentum, wavered, then fled.  
Hardly an hour had passed between the first shots and the final flight of the Prince's army. Although a short battle by European standards, it was an exceptionally bloody one.
Culloden was not only “an exceptionally bloody” battle, but holds distinction as the last such pitched battle to be fought on British soil. Although the slaughter did not stop there:
After their victory, Cumberland ordered his men to execute all the Jacobite wounded and prisoners, an act by which he was known afterwards as "the Butcher." Certain higher-ranking prisoners did survive to be tried and executed later in Inverness. […]Immediately after the battle, Cumberland rode into Inverness, his drawn sword still covered in blood, a symbolic and menacing gesture. The following day, the slaughter continued, when patrols were sent back to the battlefield to kill any survivors; contemporary sources indicate that about 70 more Jacobites were killed as a result… 
[…] 3,470 Jacobites, supporters, and others were taken prisoner in the aftermath of Culloden, with 120 of them being executed and 88 dying in prison; 936 transported to the colonies, and 222 more "banished." While many were eventually released, the fate of nearly 700 is unknown.
The Rebellion left a profound cultural impact on Scotland as well. From the same article:
[The ’45 Rebellion] had enormous psychological impact upon the Highland Scots, and severe civil penalties thereafter (for example, it became a criminal offense to wear tartan plaid). What followed can be described as cultural vandalism, with the destruction of a way of life that many had found meaningful, giving them a sense of identity and kinship.
So how does this all tie in with the Brexit vote? In a well-written 2011 Daily Kos piece inspired by the (then) 265th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden, OP OllieGarky notes:
Cameron and Thatcher's recent ruthlessness towards Scottish public institutions is nothing new. It is a pale relic of previous attempts to rebuild Scotland into a properly British province, according to whatever fashion the current leaders took. […] 
Culloden and its aftermath is an emotional issue for the Scottish Diaspora. Depending on your definition, how you include or exclude individuals from the Diaspora, the Diaspora outnumbers the population of Scotland by no less than 12 to one. This loss of people has been disastrous for Scotland in recent years, leading to the rise of the Scottish National Party. […] 
The Scottish Nationalists are Nationalists in name only. They don't espouse any of the ethnocentric bile typical of traditional Nationalist groups like the BNP, or White Nationalists in the US. Indeed, the music of Scottish Nationalism is disgusted with the ethnocentric ideas that are themselves an integral part of the BNP's British Nationalism, or its predecessor the National Front's English Nationalism.
It’s no secret that there was an undercurrent of anti-immigrant nativism streaking through rhetoric spouted by some of the high profile spokespersons in the “leave the E.U.” camp.
Which (finally) brings us to writer-director Peter Watkins’ largely forgotten, yet somewhat groundbreaking made-for BBC-TV docudrama from 1964 entitled Culloden. The film has been newly remastered for a beautifully-transferred “two-fer” (Region “B” only) Blu-ray release from BFI that also includes Watkins’ more well-known (and controversial) 1965 BBC docudrama The War Game (****), which is an unblinking, startlingly realistic envisioning of the after-effects of a nuclear attack on the city of Kent.
Truth be told, the primary reason I ordered the set was to snag a copy of The War Game; I was previously unaware of Culloden (it never aired outside of the U.K., unlike The War Game, which gained its higher profile from international cinematic distribution in 1966, subsequently earning it an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature back in 1967).
It is by pure kismet that I just happened to view Culloden for the first time about 2 weeks ago, so it’s fresh in my mind; otherwise I likely never would have connected this relatively obscure battle that took place 270 years ago with the results of the Brexit referendum just this past Thursday. At any rate, I was happy to discover this gem, which is very much in the vein of Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory. While he shares Kubrick’s eye for detail and neorealist capture of the horror of battle, Watkins does him one better:
(From David Archibald’s essay, written for the companion booklet to the BFI Blu-ray)
“Culloden” emerged at the high point in British television. In 1956 Bertolt Brecht’s Berliner Ensemble toured Britain for the first time, and the company’s non-Aristotelian, distanciation techniques, which attempted to highlight theatre’s constructed nature and, in turn, politicize the spectator, were becoming increasingly popular among leftist theatre-makers […]  
The experimental and constructed nature of [“Culloden”] is all-too apparent: on-location shooting; fourth-wall breaking direct address to the camera; repeated, shaky camera work; tight close-ups on the protagonists’ faces and the presence of a narrator who describes events as if reporting on the daily news.
The anachronistic conceit that Watkins employs cannily presages the advent of the “mockumentary” (although you will discover nothing “funny” is going on in the course of the film’s 69 minutes). Yet there is nothing “gimmicky” about it, in fact, the overall effect is quite powerful and involving. As Archibald goes on to conclude in his essay:
Yet this is not simply an adaptation of [John Prebbles’ eponymous 1962 book] but stands in its own right as a legitimate historical representation of an important chapter in Scottish and British history. […] 
[Peter Watkins] never returned to television [following “The War Game” in 1965], but he leaves behind a brace of innovative yet accessible, provocative yet popular documentaries, which remain strikingly fresh and politically potent.
Here are 2 things I know to be true: Culloden is strikingly fresh. And history is cyclical.
(Note: BFI’s Blu-ray/DVD is Region “B”; it requires a region-free player for viewing!)

More reviews at Den of Cinema

--Dennis Hartley

Let the street-fights begin

by digby

Aaand now we have street clashes between Nazis and "anti-fascists." Awesome.

At least five people were stabbed, with some injured critically, during clashes between rallying neo-Nazis and counter-protesters at the Capitol in Sacramento on Sunday, fire officials said.

Five patients were transported to local hospitals with stab wounds, said Chris Harvey, public information officer for the Sacramento Fire Department. Several other people suffered cuts, scrapes and bruises but were not taken to the hospital, Harvey said.

"It was quite a bit of a melee," Harvey said, mentioning that several different groups had descended on the Capitol, including counter-protesters.

Harvey said he did not know which groups the stabbing victims were from.

Emergency responders got the call at roughly 11:45 am. The victims were spread out over the Capitol grounds, which covers multiple blocks in downtown Sacramento, Harvey said. As of 12:45 p.m. the crowds had been dispersed and most protesters had left the area.

The Traditionalist Worker Party, a white supremacist, anti-immigration group, was holding a march Sunday “to protest against globalization and in defense of the right to free expression,” according to the group’s website. The members appeared to be vastly outnumbered by counter-protesters, who held up signs that read “Nazi scum,” according to photos and videos posted on social media.

An organizer of the rally who wasn’t at the Capitol, said on a web live stream that one person from his group had been stabbed and was being transported to the hospital.

“They got one of us but we got six of them,” he said.

Gosh, this reminds of me something. I can't quite put my finger on it. Don't worry, it will come to me.

The good news is that nobody used a semi-automatic weapon to mow down people in the crowd. There would have been dozens dead on the ground. Small consolation, I know. But this is what passes for a silver lining these days.

Update: Here's some more info:

No arrests had been made as of Sunday afternoon, but the original, permitted neo-Nazi rally was officially cancelled, ABC10 reported. That rally was to include factions from the Traditionalist Workers Party, Golden State Skinheads, Blood & Honor, National Socialist Movement and Ku Klux Klan, CBS reported.

The neo-Nazi group had planned a demonstration for several weeks, The LA Times reported, and counter protesters were evidently well organized and prepared for the event. Many carried signs or banners with slogans such as "Many colors one working class! Smash patriarchy and racism." Several protesters had their faces covered with black cloth.

Video shot by an ABC10 reporter of several fights showed the two groups bashing each other with sticks and throwing objects in a violent, chaotic fracas. Blood stains were visible on the ground and several of those involved were bleeding following the fights, including two neo-Nazis visibly bleeding from their heads.

Police officers witnessed a Klan member stab someone with a knife, an officer told CBS. A counter protester was also found stabbed inside a vehicle, CBS reported.

California Highway Patrol officers managed to break up the fights, but some members of both groups remained in the area for a time.

The Southern Poverty Law Center described TWP as a group formed in 2015 as the political wing of the Traditionalist Youth Network, which aims to "indoctrinate high school and college students into white nationalism."

They're feeling their oats these days aren't they? I wonder why?

Another gun proliferation zealot shoots up her own family

by digby

“It would be horribly tragic if my ability to protect myself or my family were to be taken away, but that’s exactly what Democrats are determined to do by banning semi-automatic handguns.” --- Christy Sheats, Facebook, March 2016
Buzzfeed reports:
Around 5 p.m. local time, officers began receiving 911 calls about shots fired in the city of Fulshear, just to the west of Houston, the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office wrote on Facebook. 
When they arrived on scene, they found Madison Sheats, 17, and her sister, Taylor, 22, had been shot. 
One of the girls died on the street, but another was flown to a hospital in critical condition but could not be saved. 
On Saturday, the Sheriff’s office identified the girls’ mother, Christy Sheats, 42, as the shooter. 
“The armed shooter was also in the street and, after refusing to drop her weapon, was shot and killed by a Fulshear officer,” the Sheriff’s office said.
“This has been a family disturbance,” Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls told reporters, “and it appears that the mother ended up shooting her two children.” 
I have no words. But this is our sick, twisted gun culture in action. Too bad about all the carnage and the corpses but this is just the price we pay for freedom amirite?

James Madison was a helluva guy but that drafting error in the Bill of Rights was a real whopper.

Brexit talk for troubled times

by digby

English football hooligans

Brexit seems to have brought out a lot of heated commentary on both the left and the right. I made my opinion clear on this earlier and don't really want to get back into it in detail. (Apparently, being against it is just another sign of either my deep commitment to corrupt neoliberalism or my hatred for America. Or both.) We will see how this unfolds over the next couple of months. I remain gobsmacked by the number of stories of people now wishing they could take their vote back. It's just another illustration of why voting isn't therapy or an exercise in personal self-expression. It's fine to "send a message" but don't be surprised if the message isn't the one you intended to send.

Be that as it may, I did want to share a couple of really good pieces written by others on this subject. The first is by Jamelle Bouie at Slate. It's a wonderful piece and you should read it all. But this is the nub of the argument and I think it's very compelling:
The development of Western society over the past 300 years has occurred against a backdrop of racist domination, in which people of color were (and are) deliberately excluded from political and economic rights reserved for those persons deemed “white” (as distinct from European ancestry). All men might be created equal, but this normative equality didn’t extend to black or native Americans, just as it didn’t extend to those in South America, just as it didn’t extend to Africans or South Asians under colonial rule, just as it didn’t extend to Southeast Asians under the same. It’s how the same men who preached freedom could justify slavery and native extermination, how those who defended liberty could starve millions.

This racial hierarchy is still with us and still powerful, albeit attenuated in the face of broad taboos and the dismantling of official white supremacy. It continues to shape larger beliefs about citizenship and inclusion. Who really counts as an American? Who really counts as a Briton? Look no further than Trump’s attacks on Gonzalo Curiel, the American-born judge in the case against Trump University. For Trump, Curiel is a “Mexican,” and thus not American enough to be dispassionate in his judgment. Or, for an older vintage, see the brief right-wing push to end “birthright citizenship” in the United States.

In the United States, “whiteness” was the key to unlocking a broad array of social and economic benefits, provided to you as long as you could find the door (this despite the courageous work of leftists and radicals, black and white, in challenging those racial barriers). The same was true of other Western nations, where whiteness was a necessary (but not the only) factor in gaining access to new entitlements of citizenship.

It’s not hard to see how global capitalism and the elevation of financial markets have transformed the world over the past 30 years, upending our societies in ways we’re still trying to grapple with. What’s less obvious is the extent to which global capitalism has also upended racial hierarchies by degrading whatever material benefits accrue to those deemed “white.” For as much as capitalist economies entrench racial inequality, the logic of capital doesn’t especially care. It will impoverish black, white, and brown all the same.

Trump supporters are largely white Americans. Brexit backers are largely white Britons. And on both sides, they’re older, often elderly. In addition to everything else—all of the particular concerns of particular communities in the United States and the United Kingdom—we are witnessing a backlash to the weakening of a hierarchy that gave real status to people at the top, that protected them from the whims of capital or gave them prime social status as the expense of nonwhites.

I would just add that the upending of the patriarchal hierarchy is just as disquieting in societies all around the world. And it goes back even further. Economics certainly make this situation even more volatile. The fact that this is coming to a head in the wake of an epic financial crisis is no coincidence. But there are deeper forces at work here.

This piece by Joshua Holland is also very good. He takes a look at the polling in the wake of Brexit and unsurprisingly finds that the vast majority of people who voted for it share certain "attitudes" that place them in conflict with what I would have thought anyone would recognize as progressive, liberal or leftist:
I won’t pretend to be an expert on Europe’s common agricultural policy, but I can read a poll, and there was a doozy of an exit survey conducted by the oh-so-British-sounding Lord Ashcroft Polls. It found that those who think that capitalism is a “force for ill” were about evenly split, voting to leave the EU by a 51-49 margin. That narrow divide was dwarfed by what we might call the “asshole gap” – conservative assholes were overwhelmingly in favor of Brexiting the EU.

People who think multiculturalism “is a force for ill” voted to leave by an 81-19 margin.

People who think social liberalism “is a force for ill” voted to leave by an 80-20 margin.

People who think feminism “is a force for ill” voted to leave by a 74-26 margin.

People who think the green movement – environmentalism — “is a force for ill” voted to leave by a 78-22 margin. No word on climate change deniers specifically, but one can certainly speculate.

In other words, leave was given a big boost by the British equivalent of Breitbart readers.

The older you are, the more likely you were to vote leave. White voters supported Brexiting by a 53-47 margin, while two-thirds of Asians and three-quarters of blacks voted to Bremain. One would think that the latter have been subjected to the same economic forces as the former, but they don’t wax nostalgic for their dead empire or blame their troubles on those bloody wogs.

You will not get an argument from me that Cameron's despicable austerity measures were idiotic and cruel. I wrote about it constantly, for years. But kidding ourselves that instituting better redistributionist policies, soaking the rich, getting rid of monopolies, jailing bankers etc --- all of which I'm behind 100% --- is going to appease these people is failing to see the big picture.

This poster from the UKIP Leave campaign says it all:


Politics and Reality radio: Alan Grayson from the House Sit-In; Dean Baker on #Brexit; All Politics Are Identity Politics

by Joshua Holland

This week, we'll speak with economist Dean Baker about what's next for the UK, the EU and our IRAs following the UK's surprising move to exit the European Union. We're in uncharted waters, but Dean has some ideas about how all of this might play out.

Then we'll play an interview we recorded with Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) on Thursday, as he participated in the Dems' unprecedented occupation of the chamber to demand some action on gun violence. Grayson says way too much has been made of one proposal to bar people on the no-fly and selectee lists from buying guns. The Dems were also demanding expanded background checks and that the gunshow and internet loopholes be closed.

Finally, we're joined by GWU political scientist John Sides. Sides explains how people select candidates and parties, and notes that social identity always plays a major role. We only call it "identity politics" when the identity in question is being a woman or POC or religious minority.

Beastie Boys: "Shake Your Rump"
Johnny Cash: "Don't Take Your Guns to Town"
Richard Cheese: "Stairway to Heaven"
Jeff Buckley: "Hallelujah"

As always, you can also subscribe to the show on iTunes or Podbean.

The Conservative Movement's new hero

by digby

This is from Richard Viguerie's shop.  I guess the Trump clown show is catching on:

The Leftwing establishment news media has been awash in articles about “gun violence” and about the recent House Democratic Party sit-in on the House Floor to demand unconstitutional limits on the God-given right to keep and bear arms.

What you probably haven’t seen is any coverage of Representative Louie Gohmert (TX-1), the one Republican, the one brave and principled man who defied Paul Ryan and the House Republican “leadership” and who defied Louie Gohmertthe establishment media narrative on the Orlando Muslim terrorist attack to tell the truth about what got 50 innocent Americans killed at the Pulse night club – it was radical Islam, not the Second Amendment.

Rep. Gohmert’s stand for constitutional liberty was captured via cellphone video broadcast on CSPAN, but the establishment media seems to have missed what was probably one of the most dramatic moments in recent House (Boehner and Ryan) history.

The video starts with Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman standing at a microphone saying, “We should be concerned about the civil liberties aspects. There is a right to travel that the courts have found in our Constitution. There is a Second Amendment and neither of those should be taken away from an American frivolously.”

Note for Americans in flyover country; “frivolously” is the Democrats’ new substitute for “unless we coastal elite say so.”

According to a blow-by-blow posted to Hot Air by John Sexton at this point, someone could be heard starting to yell off camera and we’ll let Sexton take it from there:

Rep. Sherman continued, “I know the gentleman is afraid of what I have to say…” Then Democrats began trying to shout down the person disrupting their PR stunt, yelling slogans like “No fly, no buy.” But the disruption continued and at that point Democrats began demanding the person creating the disruption come down to the floor to “debate.”

“It appears as if the gentleman is afraid to vote and afraid to debate,” Sherman said to someone off camera. He added, “And given the weakness of his arguments and his position, his fear is well founded.” This brought a round of applause from Democrats.

Apparently that was enough for Rep. Gohmert. He approached the podium and, pointing at a poster of victims of the Orlando attack yelled, “Radical Islam killed these poor people.”

Rather than debate him as they had promised, Democrats began chanting “No fly, no buy” in an effort to shout Gohmert down. It’s impossible to hear what Gohmert says next because of the noise. Rep. Brad Sherman started to engage with Gohmert but another Democrat runs up to the microphone to stop him. Democrats didn’t want a debate.

As Democrats continued chanting, “No bill, no break” to drown Gohmert out, Rep. Scott Peters, who was holding the camera, shouted, “Why are you protecting terrorists?”

Gohmert repeated, “Radical Islam killed these people” a couple more times and then moved away from the microphone where he was surrounded by Democrats.

You can watch the entire CSPAN video through this link.

Much of what Gohmert attempted to get across wasn’t audible on the video clip due to the Democrats’ chants, but he added again and again that “radical Islam killed these people!”

The Los Angeles Times reported that Gohmert pointed at a poster held by Rep. Corrine Brown — a Democrat who represents the section of Orlando where the terror attack occurred — and that Gohmert and Brown had to be physically separated during a heated argument.

To us that isn’t entirely clear from the video, but if it is true then we say “Go Louie.”

House Republicans under Speaker John Boehner and his acolyte Paul Ryan couldn’t collectively muster enough emotional fire to light a birthday candle, let alone to cast any light on the lies Democrats use in their continual attempts to blind Americans to the threats to constitutional liberty their gun control proposals represent.

But Louie Gohmert, one man with principles – and a gut level love for his country and constitutional liberty – can do what a gallery full of House Republican mice would never dare – get mad, get emotional, get angry and confront the Democrats about what really got 50 people killed in Orlando.

And it wasn’t “gun violence” it was radical Islam.

Day in and day out, Louie Gohmert (TX-1), stands almost alone in holding the Big Government Republican establishment’s feet to the fire and demanding they adhere to conservative policy prescriptions.

Gohmert was a leading figure in the conservative rebellion that led to the resignation of the feckless John Boehner as Speaker of the House – and he was one of the few who stood for conservative principle to oppose the backroom deals that led to the election of Paul Ryan as Speaker to replace his mentor John Boehner.

Louie Gohmert’s real contribution to the future of America isn’t introducing bills; it is doing what he did on the House floor shining the light of day on Democrat hypocrisy, government abuse and establishment Republican perfidy.

There is no Republican who takes to the floor of the House more often than Rep. Gohmert to rally conservative votes or hold the GOP leaderships’ feet to the fire; from defending the Second Amendment, to defunding Planned Parenthood, to border security and sanctuary cities, more often than not the leading conservative spokesman is Texas Representative Louie Gohmert.

Republicans looking to recapture the political initiative from Obama and the Democrats need only follow the lead of Rep. Louie Gohmert and the GOP would be a slam dunk to win the White House in 2016 and build a super majority in Congress.

Rep. Gohmert’s DC office is (202) 225-3035 and the House Switchboard is 1-866-220-0044 we urge you to call Rep. Gohmert and thank him for standing for the Second Amendment and constitutional liberty – tell him he’s not alone, there are millions of Americans like us who support him.
Has anyone asked Louie if he'd be willing to serve as VP? He fits the criteria --- he knows Washington. I think he and Trump would make quite a (comedy) team ...


Tired of feeling like roadkill?

by Tom Sullivan

Roadkill Cafe in Cullen Bay, Darwin (Northern Territory) Australia
by NeilsPhotography [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Matt Taibbi last week took on the "lesser evilism" of a Democratic Party that seems to believe "all people who fall within a certain broad range of liberal-ish beliefs owe their votes and their loyalty to the Democratic Party." He sees lesser evilism (think of it as a variety of TINA - There Is No Alternative) resulting from a party structure dependent on large-money donors. Often, the banks Taibbi has dissected like a cadaver:

This is why the thinking within the Democratic Party has gotten so flabby over the years. It increasingly seems to rejoice in its voters' lack of real choices, and relies on a political formula that requires little input from anyone outside the Beltway.

It's heavily financed by corporate money, and the overwhelming majority of its voters would never cast a vote for the nut-bar God-and-guns version of Republicanism that's been their sole opposition for decades.

So the party gets most of its funding without having to beg for it door to door, and it gets many of its votes by default. Except for campaign-trail photo ops, mainstream Democrats barely need to leave Washington to stay in business.

Still, the Democratic Leadership Council wing of the Democrats have come to believe they've earned their status, by being the only plausible bulwark against the Republican menace.
The difference between the idealists (vote your conscience) and the pragmatists (lesser-evilism), Taibbi writes, comes down to money:
The former camp refuses to be funded by the Goldmans and Pfizers of the world, while the latter camp embraces those donors. That's really all this comes down to. There's nothing particularly radical about not taking money from companies you think you might need to regulate someday. And there's nothing particularly centrist or "realistic" about taking that same money.

When I think about the way the Democrats and their friends in the press keep telling me I owe them my vote, situations like the following come to mind. We're in another financial crisis. The CEOs of the ten biggest banks in America, fresh from having wrecked the economy with the latest harebrained bubble scheme, come to the Oval Office begging for a bailout.

In that moment, to whom is my future Democratic president going to listen: those bankers or me?
Good point. It is why so many voters (of whatever political stripe) feel like political roadkill these days. But the answer to that is not outrage, moralistic posturing or refusing to engage. The answer is not less engagement, but more. The banks and the Big Money Boyz have the clout they do not simply because of the money, but because they treat politics like it matters.

If voting doesn't matter, if it doesn't make a difference, why do older people vote with such regularity? Why do the Koch brothers spend so much of their dragon hoard to influence elections? Why do Republicans work so hard at keeping the "wrong kind" of people from showing up to vote?

Back when we had a Democratic congressman here, I knew the staff and would call the office to gauge the temperature on hot issues. I'd ask how the calls were running on a bill progressives wanted passed. Ten to one against. "Where are the Democrats?" they asked, exasperated. They'd voted, reset their politics to cruise control and went back to complaining.

A piece I wrote for Campaign for America's Future during the 2008 campaign is no longer online, but it talked about transitioning from being a political victim to something more powerful. (Sorry if it's a little preachy):
Don't you see how you're misreading me? I am not a victim. I used to be a victim, but now I'm not. Can't you see the difference?
Chip Elliott wrote that about carrying a handgun for self defense in “Letter from an Angry Reader,” published in Esquire magazine in September 1981. That line always stuck with me, only for a very different reason. A couple of excerpts from "Letter from an Angry Voter" written during the 2008 campaign apply to the current elections as well:
There are echoes of Chip Elliott in the wave of populist activism during the Bush years – the “uprising” David Sirota writes about. We used to be victims. We’re not anymore. A lot of people can’t see the difference. Press. Pundits. Party bosses. The Elliotts’ world had changed. They changed with it. So have we.

What hasn’t changed yet is the clubby political culture we’ve entered. Online criticism usually focuses on “the Village,” the Beltway culture of pundits, lobbyists, and political and media consultants. But from the beginning it was clear how much housecleaning there was to do, not just in Washington, but in our own cities and states – where corrupt politicians and secret deals reveal themselves in smoky conversations on dark hospitality suite balconies.

The old boy network has seen movements come and movements go. They believe that if they stonewall efforts at reform, we will go away. It has worked in the past. The war ends and the antiwar “radicals” evaporate. Frustrate the party upstarts and they will take their balls and go home. And the old boys get their club back.

One thing you can say for the old boys, they are patient and persistent. (Okay, that’s two things.) Patience and persistence are not the first qualities liberal activists look for in their change agents, and qualities that not enough activists cultivate in themselves. Whenever an Obama flings the wheel hard over (or not hard enough) and the ship of state doesn’t turn like a speedboat, impatient activists abandon their posts and jump ship. Do that, and nothing changes. And the old boys get their club back.
Since 2008, things have changed, but not enough. Our adversaries have retaken a lot of ground. Keeping people engaged is always a struggle:
Recruiting volunteers is like staging “The Little Red Hen.” All the barnyard animals want to eat the bread, but few show up to plant the wheat, harvest, grind or bake. Every cycle, single-issue activists appear at campaigns expecting to be crowned the candidate’s expert on wind power, gender issues, conspiracy theories or whatever. They vanish as soon as they find out what candidates really need from them: hard work and long hours. Drinking Liberally attracts lots of smart, informed people. They show up to drink, share news and complain, but too few work for campaigns or their local parties. Many on the Left have an independent streak. They’re not joiners. They don’t want to get their hands dirty in what, for want of them, remains a corrupt political process. Others argue impotently for that (fifth or sixth?) third party they say America needs, that they won't build.

Then again, a friend remarked at DL the other night how, since moving here, he’d gone from unknown to precinct chair in two years. All he did was keep showing up. He was treasurer for a city council race and now for Blue Century (our 527 that produces radio ads aimed at swing voters). Another newcomer started out organizing hundreds of Kerry supporters in 2004. Four years later she is the chair of a county party in a district where among the old boys “You ain’t from around here, are you?” could be a bumper sticker, and lacking testosterone is a distinct disadvantage. Her secret? She worked. She prepared. She showed up again and again, even after losing battles. While she organized voters across town, I spent months volunteering for a congressional race that we lost. (I spent the next two years telling prospective volunteers it was the most fun I’d ever had losing.) In 2006, the state coordinated campaign made me the district Get-Out-the-Vote coordinator – which often meant that volunteers arriving early for phone banking caught me emptying trash from the night before, and cleaning toilets. I told them, “I’m only in this for the glamour.”

It’s a simple formula: keep showing up like a bad penny. Do whatever needs doing. Be persistent to the point of relentless. We have to move beyond personality-based campaigns and candidates with more name recognition and fundraising potential than political courage. Besides, as Paul Curtis (Alien & Sedition) wrote, “The point of a political movement is to make the courage of politicians irrelevant.”

Thom Hartmann recently told radio listeners to take a just couple of hours per month to show up at party events where they can sit across the table from their congressmen and senators. Do that, Hartmann suggested, and you’ll be as influential as most Washington lobbyists.

In time, maybe more. We used to be victims. We’re not anymore. A lot of people – even our own people – can’t see the difference. Yet. Because this will take longer than a visit to the instant teller. Because the secret to building a movement capable of reforming and reinvigorating stolid American politics is to show up day after day and outwork our opponents.

Why is that so hard to understand?

During 2006 early voting in our largest county, I made regular literature drops at our busy table outside the board of elections. Eventually, the opposing party chair recognized me (sort of) and pointed as he kept lonely vigil in his lawn chair.

“You’re one of the worker bees, aren’t you?” he said, and I smiled.

You have no idea.
Anyway, the upside of staying in the fight is you stop feeling like roadkill. Even when you lose. But there's a cost. The proprietress of our local pub always comes over and asks quietly what is going on politically that she's missed.

Once in reply, I made the mistake of complaining that I used to have a life. She stabbed a finger in my direction and scolded.

"No! This is your life. This is what you do now."

Some people even appreciate it.

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