George Will and the “Logic” That Put the GOP in A Fix

“Fix” in this case means a broken state, one that begs to be fixed.

On FOX’s Sunday chat-show hosted by Chris Wallace, George Will opined that “fear” and “incredulity” prevented the GOP higher-ups from confronting and trying to stop Donald Trump’s climb to the nomination.  Whatever!

Will then climbed aboard the old Reaganesque hobby-nag, asserting that citizens who voted for Democratic candidates consisted chiefly of people who worked for “the government,” AFSCME union-members (federal, state, county, and municipal workers), teachers, and others who belonged to “a dependent class.”  Message: “gubment” (Reagan’s folksy pronunciation) is bad, the people who work in one of its capacities are lesser than those who don’t, one should recoil from them and gubment, and people who vote GOP are, one infers, “independent.”  Second message: But enough about the sociopath Trump: what about those bad citizens who don’t prefer him?

And now Will and other GOP geezers fear or deny the rise of a fatuous, hateful lard-ass who has been catapulted over the political wall, like the cow in Mony Python and the Holy Grail, by hateful, blind “anti-government” enthusiasm. Here is your Reaganism.  Here is your Reaganism on the Trump-drug.

Note that in the world of this logic, teachers, fire-fighters, food-inspectors, soldiers, spies, garbage-workers, the police, and so on are to be sniffed at imperiously as horseman Will passes by, insensible to the city-worker who will sweep up the horse-shit.  Whereas someone who works for the defense industry or FOX News is just flat-out better.  How? Well, they just are.

In Will’s dream-sequence, most of the better people are White, of course–hence his career-long dismissal of Blacks’ problems in the U.S. as their fault and hence Trump’s nihilistic comfort with KKK sentiments.

Shall we point out the obvious? The Constitution, created by all those sagacious  White founders, many of whom went on to join the dependent class, established a (wait for it) government. —So that by the time Reagan’s con to continue to seduce White folks, especially in the Dixiecrat South, mutates into Trumpery, it is, like a terrible virus, a form of reckless, accidental anarchy, anarchy not springing from some considered ideology or wise distrust of authority, but anarchy infatuated with authoritarianism. So that mere McConnell is loosed upon the Senate, refusing to allow the hateful government (of which he is a part, oops) to do, at least, what the Constitution says: review a SCOTUS nomination.

In his pretentious prose and pose, for the better part of four decades, George Will helped to create Donald Trump’s rise, even though the Rovian Tea Party is the more recent puff of meth that riled and roiled the racist, anti-knowledge mob.  Thank you, George. Thanks so much. I do fear the consequences of a  Trump presidency, as I appear to be somewhat sentient this morning.  I do not find Trump’s rise incredible (in the old sense of the word), however.  It looks more like inevitable.

 

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Rhetoric Takes Another Beating in the Gun-Control Debate

The murders in Newtown, CT, seem to have correlated to a shift in attitudes toward attempts to “control” guns. They also seem to have hardened views to the extent reasoning has taken a beating.

By “controlling” guns, we can limit gun-violence; that is the implicit logic of those wanting new laws and wanting old laws enforced. It’s hard to imagine enough evidence to support this implicit logic, but at the same time, most of the gun-control advocates admit that they are trying to do “something” in the wake of the murders. Try a lot of things and see what, if anything, works: that position seems reasonable, even if people don’t agree with it.

The gun-control purists seem to make the following mistakes in reasoning:

1. Any limitations on how guns are purchased, which guns are purchased, and how ammunition is purchased translates into a confiscation of all guns. Gun control = gun-ban. In reality, all the measures proposed don’t threaten the possession of hand-guns or shot-guns for self-defense or the possession of rifles and shot-guns for hunting.

2. Any support for any new laws is un-Constitutional. Even Ed Meese jumped into this mess by saying “it” (any executive order related to guns) would be un-Constitutional. He’s a fortune-teller!

3. The Constitution guarantees the right to own fire-arms. This view ignores the phrase “a well-regulated militia. It also ignores all the advances in technology regarding “arms.” Let’s start here: should adults have the right to own hand-held rocket-launchers? How about we say, “No”? Okay, then from that point, let’s walk back toward hand-guns and shotguns. Bazooka? No. Soon, of course, we’ll walk back to assault-rifles. Should we have the right to possess them? I think it’s a reasonable question to ask. Purists think it translates into banning guns altogether.

4. A proliferation of guns and of people (in public places) with guns will cut down on violence. For example, teachers should pack heat in the classroom. Regarding the specific example, I’m thinking “No” because I think of all that could go wrong. Regarding the larger remedy: It seems every bit as shaky, if not more so, than the assumption that new gun-laws will reduce gun-violence.

The only thing I know for sure about the current debate is that it won’t be a debate, per se. It will be a campaign of slogans and fallacies, rather like every other important national “debate” we now have. One effect of global warming seems to be the flooding of middle-ground.

David Brooks’ Faulty Reasoning About Why the GOP Lost

I give David Brooks credit. In looking for reasons why the GOP had a bad night, he’s not being as shameless as Karl Rove. I know that’s faint praise. The long-con-artist Rove is blaming a storm for his failure to deliver what billionaires paid him for. Here is Brooks’ take:

Growing beyond proper limits, government saps initiative, sucks resources, breeds a sense of entitlement and imposes a stifling uniformity on the diverse webs of local activity.

During the 2012 campaign, Republicans kept circling back to the spot where government expansion threatens personal initiative: you didn’t build that; makers versus takers; the supposed dependency of the 47 percent. Again and again, Republicans argued that the vital essence of the country is threatened by overweening government.

These economic values played well in places with a lot of Protestant dissenters and their cultural heirs. They struck chords with people whose imaginations are inspired by the frontier experience.

But, each year, there are more Americans whose cultural roots lie elsewhere. Each year, there are more people from different cultures, with different attitudes toward authority, different attitudes about individualism, different ideas about what makes people enterprising.

More important, people in these groups are facing problems not captured by the fundamental Republican equation: more government = less vitality.

The Pew Research Center does excellent research on Asian-American and Hispanic values. Two findings jump out. First, people in these groups have an awesome commitment to work. By most measures, members of these groups value industriousness more than whites.

Second, they are also tremendously appreciative of government. In survey after survey, they embrace the idea that some government programs can incite hard work, not undermine it; enhance opportunity, not crush it.

Moreover, when they look at the things that undermine the work ethic and threaten their chances to succeed, it’s often not government. It’s a modern economy in which you can work more productively, but your wages still don’t rise. It’s a bloated financial sector that just sent the world into turmoil. It’s a university system that is indispensable but unaffordable. It’s chaotic neighborhoods that can’t be cured by withdrawing government programs.

* * *

As it happens, I’m an expert on part of what he says. I grew up “on the frontier”–in a High Sierra town of 200, once a Gold Rush town. And, culturally, part of me came from Sweden but that part was atheist, not Protestant. Also, I saw what the GI bill did for one of my uncles, who flew mission in a Flying Fortress. It allowed him to go to a state college and get a teaching degree. He taught and coached for the next 30+ years but never gave up on the “frontier” stuff like hunting, fishing, building your own cabin, and panning for gold.

My uncle’s values were not, in fact, different from those described in the Pew poll concerning these alleged “people from elsewhere.”

Everybody in the U.S. is from elsewhere, and why begin history with Protestant colonialists? Why not start it with the slaves who were brought here in 1619? Or the Spaniards out on that frontier? Or the French in the bayous? And so on? And why not mention that many of the early members of the federal and state governments owned slaved? That’s the ultimate “government intrusion” and extreme “attitude toward authority.”

So I assert that Brooks’ argument is based on a false, White-centered, nostalgic view of history. I also assert that the GOP had a bad night (but only narrowly, let us remember) because it has been begging for one. Look who speaks for them mostly loudly, hear how much hate is in the speech, and see how weird the stances are: abortion banned even in cases of rape; denying global warming; claiming “trickle down” economics is anything more than a long-con (70%+ of economic growth is driven by consumer–middle class spending, not by how much dough rich people get to keep); wanting government to intrude on two adults’ decision to spend their lives together (what’s more “American” than that?); and treating the first Black president like a you-know-what.

I also assert Brooks’ argument hinges on a false dichotomy: either government helps the economy or private enterprise does. They both do, and they both must. If these “new people from elsewhere” don’t work with the same fallacy as Brooks does, it may simply mean they are reasonable. Government can raise the taxes or sell the bonds necessary to build schools, bridges, sea-wall, an electric grid, and so on. Who does the work? Private contractors. So enough of that dodge, please.

If government has grown beyond proper limits, then why not question the proper limits of the defense budget, which is the most out of whack part of our budget when compared to all other countries?

Is a national health insurance program–operated by private insurance companies–and improper intrusion of government, or just something my practical uncle would see as necessary?

Barack Obama as Big Government Lefty is one of the larger straw men the GOP has built. On what issues is President Obama to the Left of Eisenhower or Truman?

I think the GOP decided to see how far right it could go on a range of issues, and so it went too far. I think it decided long ago to be a White party. Lindsay Graham has admitted as much, and we all know about the Southern Strategy, which is race-based. That’s the short version. There’s more to it than that, but it isn’t the more that Brooks cites.

What’s To Be Done About the GOP?

It’s a chicken-and-egg paradigm: do politics drive rhetoric, or does rhetoric drive politics? Well, you guessed it: probably, it’s not a chicken-and-egg paradigm. It’s a both/and paradigm.

Nonetheless, if the GOP has been weakened lately, it’s arguably because of rhetoric. The bully Rush Limbaugh finally got punched in the nose by the only ones who could: advertisers. In attempting to “sound conservative,” Romney comes off as insincere–at best. In attempting to sound more conservative than Romney, Santorum comes off as 300 years behind the times and selectively pious, at best. What of the poor, Rick? What of the death penalty, Rick? What of judge not, lest ye be judged? In attempting to sound like his old self, Gingrich sounds like his old self: simply mean, transparently deceptive, racist, and bloated. In attempting to sound like anything, Sarah Palin cuts glass with her voice and credulity with every sentence. In attempting to sound libertarian, Ron Paul sounds like an old State Rights guy, a Dixiecrat in drag, a crank with a high-pitched voice talking about the gold standard: we can get that in any tavern in America, for heaven’s sake.

Of course, the predictions of the GOP’s demise, I predict, are premature. Romney could easily beat Obama. And even if Obama wins, what will the Congress look like?

Still, the GOP seems to define itself so narrowly now that one finds it easier to say what the Party is against than for. Against government programs except the military. Against regulation (except of women’s bodies). Against science. Against evolution. Against tax increases for the very wealthy that would not have even raised Eisenhower’s eyebrows. Against disaster-relieve (no, seriously). Against being educated. Against public education. Against anyone not White. Against, for lack of a better term, cultural currency; would you like to talk to any of the four remaining candidates about contemporary music, art, literature, dance, or cinema? The horror. Against the sanity of a comprehensive health-insurance plan. Against sensible cuts to the military budget. Against compromise. Against diplomacy.

In sum, the GOP might as well be a senile old White man yelling at his neighbors. The Democrats are no bargain, I realize, but by contrast, they seem within the realm of that which is reasonable. They’ve been dragged to the right something fierce; the current center is the old right.

In any event, what should be done about a Party that aspires only to be a monkey-wrench in any kind of policy-machinery, that is essentially against a federal government except for its military parts, its intelligence services, its prostitutional service to large corporations, and its determination to control women and assert (a narrow version of) Christianity?

Put it this way: What happened to Eisenhower’s Party? Or this way: Does “Conservatism” mean anything besides “No,” “White,” and “Fatuous”?

On just about every issue, Obama is more conservative than the GOP. “His” health-plan, cobbled together as it is, is pragmatic, it will get people who didn’t have health-care insurance health-care insurance (not a radical idea), and it will probably cut costs in the long run. He hasn’t even feigned interest in doing anything that might make Second Amendments folks sneeze. He’s as boringly family-oriented as Ward Cleaver. He wants to raise taxes on the very wealthy to increase the revenue-stream (not a radical idea). And so on. To make him appear to be “radical,” the GOP can’t afford to be subtle. They have to lie outright. He’s radical because he once spoke in favor of Derrick Bell. Really? That’s all they have?

The only suggestion I have is fantastical: The GOP should dismantle itself. It had a hell of a run, so to speak. The Dems should become the GOP, Eisenhower’s version, albeit with more women and persons of color. (Please remember that it was Ike who warned us against the excesses of the current military-industrial complex.) Then the Demo-Party should re-invent itself and become . . . wait for it . . . liberal again, whatever that means.

Otherwise we’re stuck with a one-Party system and a lot of screwballs at the edges. That’s no good. I want to go back to a time when politicians were merely corrupt, when they made deals, when they got shit done–you know, like filling pot-holes. Is that too much to ask?

Yes.

What Does “The Privitazation of Faith” Mean (Santorum)?

A recent article in the Huffington Post discussed Rick Santorum’s desire to “have back” [not have said] that John Kennedy’s speech on religion (1960) made him want “to throw up.” One important part of that speech was Kennedy’s professed desire to keep the U.S. as a nation in which all people are free to exercise their religion/faith–including no faith; that is, he at least alluded to atheism.

Now please consider these quotations (in the Huff post) from Santorum:

“And if you read President Kennedy’s text, while there were certainly some very important things and good things he said in that, there were some things that triggered in my opinion the privatization of faith and I think that’s a bad thing.” He continued, “I think we need to have a free exercise of religion in this country and it’s important for those First Amendment freedoms to be alive and well in America and I think they are threatened here in America as we’ve seen by President Obama, not by Rick Santorum.”

I can’t fathom what he means by “privatization of faith.” If he means that faith is a matter for the society at large and not something government should dictate, then how could such “privatization” be a bad thing, even from his point of view? That is, when something is “privatized” vis a vis government, it is taken out of the hands of government. I assume he agrees that faith should remain out of the hands of government. If he means that faith should be a private matter–no one’s business but your own, unless you choose to make it someone else’s business–then, again, how could that be a bad thing, even from Santorum’s vantage point?

The only correlative to Santorum’s religious crusade against President Obama seems to be that the health-reform plan, after a recent adjustment, allows for operations run by a church (like a Catholic hospital) to contract with an insurance-company, which will then pay for contraceptives sought by an employee of such an operation.

It seems to me that this arrangement lets the decision about contraception (to the extent it is a religious one) be a matter between a Catholic (for example) and his or her Church. Church-doctrine says one thing, and Church-member may adhere to the doctrine or not. If Church-member decides to get contraceptives, then a private insurance company pays for it–not the Church.

The Church is thereby as free as it always was to promulgate its doctrine, and the Church member is free from governmental intrusion with regard to making a decision about contraception.

Such arguments as Santorum’s matter, and candidates such as Santorum need to be pressed on them. He needs to explain clearly what he means by “privatization of faith.” He needs to explain how the health-reform plan impinges on anyone’s faith. And we should recall that Catholic hospitals receive federal funding (their choice) and employ persons who aren’t Catholic (their choice).

Santorum Tries To Make Everything Religion (;or, “Heidi, Save Us!”)

A recent post reflected on politicians’ propensity to turn every disagreement into a war; the Republicans, especially, seem fond of this tactic, but it is not theirs exclusively.

Now Rick Santorum seems to be reviving and polishing the tactic of turning disagreements (even phantom ones) into religious conflict, theological war. Thus . . .

from Talking Points Memo:

*The comments [about Obama’s “theology”]came at an event in Columbus shortly after the former senator from Pennsylvania said *efficacy and safety improvements in oil drilling technology are considered by the president to be “a dangerous technology.”

*”It doesn’t fit his pattern of trying to drive down consumption, trying to drive up your cost of transportation to accomplish *his political science goal of reducing carbon dioxide,” he said.

*Obama, he continued, is not motivated by “your quality of life.”

*“It’s not about your job. It’s about some phony ideal, some phony theology,” Santorum said. “Oh, not a theology based on the *Bible, a different theology. But no less a theology.”

Santorum’s riff here is so free of facts as to seem like froth, so free of logic as to seem like hallucination. If one chooses to connect the multi-color dots, then (by inference) the Bible urges us to drive up consumption. –Except that Jesus once advised his followers to get rid of everything, and he advised Satan that man (humanity) cannot live by bread alone.

One might think, also, that the Bible has much to say about oil-drilling technology.

If by “drive up your cost of transportation,” Santorum means that Obama opposed the Keystone Pipeline, then we have more nonsense. The worldwide cost of oil is determined largely in the Middle East. Moreover, if Santorum were interested in driving down the cost of gasoline, he might insist upon new cars’ having more efficient motors, or he might insist that all oil produced in the U.S. stay in the U.S. When he opines that reducing carbon emissions is “a political science goal,” he has drifted into the land people enter when they have been drinking umbrella-drinks for a week–without sleep.

Of course, looming over all this wretched rhetoric is the idea that religion ought to drive policy–all policy. Therefore, Santorum has much in common with some Muslim political leaders. I wish journalists would pursue this parallel by questioning the self-appointed Bishop Santorum.

Hallucinogenic free-association in political rhetoric seems so pervasive now that one yearns for someone to flip the switch, as the lad did during the soon-to-be-named “Heidi Game” between the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets. When the hallucinometer hits a certain zone, our screens should be shifted to–well, how about a replay of the Heidi Game?

Another Bad Analogy: Social Security = Ponzi Scheme

Wild Bill has this to say (to write, actually):

I had assumed that, when Ann Coulter(geist) asserted that “Social Security is a governmental Ponzi scheme,” that such an assertion would resound only among the unschooled and the feverish. Now that Gov. Perry has taken to repeating the claim, I guess I should direct you where to read up on it “economically.”

Please read the contributions at

to see how deficient Coultergeist’s proposition was.

However, take cautions.

First, Coulter and Perry have repeated a talking point. Talking points resemble Pavlovian cues more than civic propositions. They are not true. They are not false. They neither enlighten nor clarify. They are shibboleths — expressions that mobilize “us” and demonize “them.” It follows that to engage the talking point is to succumb to misdirection and to mistake eristic disputation for rational discourse. [I am of course sorry to inform you that Ann Coulter is neither engaged nor interested in rational discourse.]

Second, Coulter and Perry have spoken/written in metaphoric language. They thus may retreat into similes or similar defenses. “Social Security much resembles a scam” or “There are many elements of Social Security that are common in or to Ponzi schemes” are merely two of the retreats available to them.

Third, please do not imagine that, if Social Security were a Ponzi scheme or nearly a Ponzi scheme, Coulter’s or Perry’s contention would necessarily have relevance or consequences. If retirees were long ago taken in by a Ponzi scheme, they would have been victims of con men in high places. The misplaced reliance of our elderly on schemers would NOT justify cutting or eliminating Social Security benefits.

An appropriate reply to “Social Security is a Ponzi scheme” would be “You may want to study up on Ponzi schemes so that you can learn why Social Security is different from Ponzi schemes and why likeness to Ponzi schemes has few or no implications for policy.”

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