Category Archives: Democrats

Rand Paul: Genius. Nitwit. Post-racial Statesman

The number of actual Libertarians in Congress is the same as the number of actual Arcturans in Congress, as far as we know; if there are any of either, they’re not open about it. Most congressional Libertarians espouse a philosophy of government under which everyone — corporations, powerful reactionary white guys, women, liberals, people of color, whoever — will be free to do whatever the corporations and powerful reactionary white guys want.

Rand Paul, a sometime Libertarian who is so blindingly white that he splits into a rainbow when you hold a prism up to him, decided to take the new Republican outreach plan seriously and hied himself off to Howard University to reach out to some tinted folk and suggest reasons why they might want to vote Republican in the future. Predictably, he pancaked the landing. Giving full rein to his inner nitwit, he wondered if his audience knew that Republicans were among the founders of the NAACP; or, to put it another way, he wondered aloud if the students populating an elite academic institution steeped in African-American history might not be some ignorants. (Probably through an oversight, he didn’t remark that W.E.B. DuBois, among the most prominent founders of the NAACP, was a Socialist, or suggest that this might be a reason for Howard students to consider voting Socialist in the future.) He couldn’t remember the name of the first popularly elected African-American senator. And he couldn’t remember that he opposed a seminal feature of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It’s safe to say that nobody who wasn’t already a Republican — a number probably including only Paul and his entourage — left the hall inclined to give the GOP a shot.

Also predictable, and representative of Rand Paul’s genius, was the enormous amount of publicity the speech garnered in the incestuous circles of the Washington press and the liberal press, which, no, are not the same although they attend many of the same parties. Some people, Paul among them, lauded the Senator for having the courage to go all the way to Washington, D.C. and expose himself as a white man to a large gathering of people of color. (Bill Clinton will be taking the same risk next month when he delivers a commencement speech there but so far he’s not getting the same credit for his courage.) Other people condemned the people who lauded Paul’s courage because the only reason Republicans talking to persons not of a blinding whiteness might require courage is that the Republican carry-on bag has 50 years of calculatedly malign attitudes toward people of color in it, which is a fair point.

(Andrew Sullivan is among the people crediting Paul and bemoaning the gracelessness of Paul’s liberal critics. I mention this only because if Justice were an actual thing, Andrew Sullivan would be condemned for his sins to life driving Tom Friedman around and around the world in a gypsy cab, forever receiving anecdotal advice in lieu of the tip, forbidden from picking up any passengers other than David Brooks and Joe Klein, who would themselves be forbidden from catching any other cab. This is not happening; ergo, Justice is not an actual thing.)

I should note that even though praising Rand Paul is kapu for liberals, whether for this escapade or the Brennan filibuster or any other — because unlike any Democrats he holds many reprehensible positions — he’s following the playbook of conservative apostate Bruce Bartlett, who does get love from liberals and has written a book detailing how Republicans can recapture the Negro vote by, among other things, explaining how once Republicans were the party of tolerance and Democrats were racists. I thought this was a joke when somebody mentioned it in passing, but it isn’t and Bartlett is proud of his work. (I once asked the usually communicative Bartlett if he had happened to run his thesis past any black folk when he was writing the book but he never answered me.)

Which is to say that when he went to Howard, Rand Paul was going by the book. Here’s my question, though: how many Democrats, when faced with the what-have-you-done-for-us-lately question that tripped up Rand Paul along with his assumption that black students at a historically black university would be ignorant of black history, would fare a lot better? What, for instance, would Steny Hoyer, the one-time Democratic majority leader in the House and a reliable corporate toady, say to lure black voters to the Democratic party if they had anywhere else to go?

Who’s afraid of Rand Paul?

Ralph Emerson said that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. He meant that it’s silly to stick to one’s guns in the face of overwhelming evidence that the guns are wrongly aimed. He said it over drinks in a tavern at a table full of the finest minds of his generation. The first question from among his companions was “Are you talking to me?” The second was, more or less, “Who says who’s a fool?” It was the beginning of deconstruction as a critical discipline.

rand paul mitch mcconnellRand Paul is the junior senator from Kentucky, the one of the two who doesn’t look like a turtle. He is the son of Ron Paul, retired Republican Representative from Texas and permanent candidate for president of the US. He is named after a South African gold coin*; when he was born, his father bit him and declared him genuine; he bears the scar proudly. Like his father, he sometimes flies the Libertarian flag. Like his father, it is a flag of convenience. Like his father, he will never be president of the US. He will one day become the senior Senatuh from Kentuckeh, wearing white suits and declaiming from a veranduh for fun when the Senate is out of session. When imagining him as a Marx brother, it is best to think of Harpo**.

Rand Paul and Harpo MarxAlso like his father, Rand Paul collects adherents from across the linear political spectrum. He won election by running to the right of his conventionally far-right Republican primary opponent, but his grammar school libertarian stances on some issues also attract people who think of themselves as liberals or leftists, or left-ish anyway.

This drives more traditional liberals crazy. We saw this recently when he filibustered Obama’s nominee for CIA director, John Brennan. If you wanted to invent a symbol for torture and kidnapping and drones and stuff, you could do worse than a photo of John Brennan, at least if anybody knew who he was. He is not a civil libertarian’s dream. Neither is Rand Paul, but he decided to filibuster Brennan because something about drones. Nobody else in the Senate has said or done anything splashy about drones, so people who are concerned about them — and let’s be clear, drones are really shorthand for the sense that the Obama administration have evidently decided they can kill anybody, anywhere, because whatever, whether or not drones are the instrument — got really excited and said kind things about Rand Paul, like “Hurray! Rand Paul is filibustering drones!”

Had any Democrat done something similar, and earlier, the liberals worried about drones would have reacted just the same or possibly with even more enthusiasm. But Democrats didn’t do anything. An appropriate response from liberals who don’t like Rand Paul and don’t like the administration’s killing practices, of which Brennan seems to have been an architect, would have been to say “Why do we have to wait for fucking Rand Paul to bring this up in the Senate?” And then maybe berate some Democratic Senators and urge them to filibuster Brennan as well, or at least vote against him.

Instead, they went berserk about people supporting Rand Paul who had no business supporting Rand Paul because he’s something of a nitwit and something of a reactionary. “Rand Paul is a reactionary,” they said. “He is a nitwit. He is inconsistent. Only imbeciles would support him.” And the supporters, many of whom probably didn’t know that Rand Paul is a nitwit or a reactionary, said “Well maybe, but drones, and John Brennan, and civil liberties!” And then Democrats voted en masse to confirm Brennan and the excitement over drones faded but for whatever reason, the excitement over Rand Paul has endured.

But why? As has been scientifically proved above, Rand Paul will never be president. So why must liberals who support him be excoriated and condescended to by people who routinely support Obama, he of John Brennan (using Brennan as a symbol there, see how that works?) and Social Security cuts and backdoor tax increases on the working poor? Obviously they — the excoriaters and condescenders — see Rand Paul, in the flesh or as a type, as a threat, but to what?

mccarthy cruzNo, really. I don’t know why Rand Paul threatens institutional liberals. Ted Cruz, that I could understand; Ted Cruz is a scary son of a mother. While liberals who support Obama are yelling at liberals who support Rand Paul, Ted Cruz (shown at left in his previous and current incarnations) will sneak up behind them all and slit their throats and collect their Social Security checks and cash them to fund his presidential campaigns. But Rand Paul? I don’t get it.

*Some people say he is named after an adulterous, pro-abortion atheist who wrote turgid political novels and loathed Ronald Reagan, but that’s an obvious attempt to smear either Ayn Rand or Rand Paul.

**All respect to Harpo, man, sorry I had to drag you into this.

The Obama justice department: never met a bigfoot badman they couldn’t work with

The surprise in the Obama administration’s deal with London-based HSBC, the money-laundering enterprise moonlighting as the world’s third-largest bank, is that it came in the guise of a criminal prosecution. The bank has pleaded guilty to breaking some laws. Nobody who works or worked at the bank is guilty, though; just the corporate person, who will pay what amounts to a confiscatory tax on its (his? her?) illegal profits. Shareholders are if not happy then at least stoic; the stock today is off its high for the year by less than a point. The bank will continue to operate in the US under enhanced supervision — no, no waterboarding; different sort of “enhanced” — after agreeing not to launder billions of dollars for business enterprises with body counts approaching those of civilized governments.

The face of the Obama justice department on this prosecution is Assistant AG Lanny Breuer, who says “[i]t’s a fiction to suggest that this isn’t a very robust result.” Breuer is also the face of the justice department on all the prosecutions that have sent so many criminal bankers to the Big House in connection with stealing the US economy. It’s probably also a fiction to suggest that the lack of those isn’t a very robust result.

Breuer is a former white-collar criminal defense attorney. He stood up for Moody’s, one of the investment rating services that assured us everything was A-OK with all those rotten financial investments that brought the coliseum down in 2008, when the company was in trouble regarding the blind eye they turned toward Enron’s shenanigans until a few days before the firm imploded. He is an alumnus of Covington & Burling, the law firm at which Attorney General Eric Holder worked defending financial criminals before he went to work shielding them from prosecution as the people’s attorney.

Covington & Burling didn’t represent any torturers, or at least not in connection with torturing people, but Holder and Breuer decided not to prosecute any of them, either, when they arrived at the justice department. Their boss, President Obama, set the tone for their tenure when he preemptively invoked the Nuremberg defense on behalf of the torturers, saying he wanted to “assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution.” Their duties! Germans who went to court after World War II with the defense that their bosses said what they were doing, their duty, was fine got hanged, some of them, and at least jailed. Same with the bosses, and the lawyers who did the leg work too.

But in the US in the 21st century, the perpetrators never even went to trial. The lesson going forward (Forward!) is that in this country you can probably get away with anything, no matter how transparently evil it is, if you can get a government lawyer sufficiently twisted to say it’s legal. The Obama administration have been doing just that with respect to at least their automated death from above policies and who knows what else. Hilariously, they were inspired to start codifying the rules about who can and can’t be killed at the President’s whim by the thought of conveying that authority unabridged to Mitt Romney; the idea being that there are some people you just can’t trust with unconditional power. Other people. Those People.

Dear Eric: the bearer of this letter is a liar, a cheat, a thief and a plunderer.
Please extend him all courtesy

HSBC isn’t the only company held to criminal account by the Obama administration. The justice department recently leveled historic financial penalties against BP in connection with that company’s ruinous behavior in the Gulf of Mexico. The penalties were so severe, amounting to nearly six week’s worth of profits to be paid out across five years, that BP shareholders panicked and sent the stock tumbling to about a half-point higher after the penalties were announced. That’s about where the price still sits, even after the EPA cited “lack of business integrity” in barring the company from new US government contracts and from competing for drilling rights on US government land. They’re not worried, and they shouldn’t be: “lack of business integrity” is practically a letter of credit in Washington, and they can expect the bans to be lifted in due course.

War criminals go free; corporate felons destroy the economy and walk away a little lighter in the (shareholder’s) wallet, if at all — and most of them are now making fortunes on risky investments using money borrowed for almost nothing from the government; a company despoils the environment, poisons people and ruins livelihoods for decades forward and goes on about its business. If they’re big enough and bad enough, this administration will give them a pass.

Democrats would be disgusted and depressed, beset with hopelessness, if these things were happening during a Republican administration — war criminals at large! pirates and looters unpunished! — so we’re fortunate that a Democrat is in charge. The national mood is the better for it, since Republicans aren’t inclined to mope about the crimes of capital and Democrats can’t really afford to dwell on them too deeply for now.

This is true as well of the Democratic push to curtail social insurance programs. Democrats would be horrified to have an increase in the Medicare eligibility age, and an annually compounding decrease in Social Security benefits, imposed upon them by Republicans. The lash would burn, it would be insufferable. So we’re fortunate to have Democrats leading the way on this*, although the national mood hasn’t really benefited in the same way as with the wholesale excuse of criminal behavior because Republicans get as enraged when they win as when they lose, when they even recognize that they’ve won.

When Lanny Breuer and Eric Holder look at the people who run large corporations, they don’t see “them;” they see “us.” They see the people they’ve spent years and made fortunes defending; the people they dine with and holiday with; the people who wrote their pay checks before they went into government and who will write them again when they leave. If Lanny Breuer had been heading HSBC’s defense team, the settlement they got is one he would have wanted. Same with all the fines and promises to be good that he has extracted from the banks that brought us down.

There are not two opposing sides here: there is one side trying to determine how to handle some misbehavior in the ranks without putting any of their livelihoods at risk.

*Indirect word from the White House is that raising the Medicare eligibility age is “off the table.” I will believe that if it hasn’t happened in four years.

Free trade, terracotta candidates and cardboard bicycles

The giant sucking sound Ross Perot wants you to hear these days is him endorsing Mitt Romney on the basis of Romney’s presumed fiscally responsible policies. Perot, who wasn’t born yesterday, posits that history began in 2009 and says experts support Romney’s contention that the mome raths outgrabe.

Democrats, meanwhile, are shocked, shocked! that the company Romney once owned and still profits from is outsourcing jobs to China in a particularly callous fashion — requiring American workers at Sensata, an auto parts maker, to conclude their own employment by training their Chinese replacements. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (who recently declined to sign a letter pledging to block Social Security cuts) is joining Sensata workers today in a show of solidarity.
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Bowles-Simpson or Simpson-Bowles? The choice is yours …

I didn’t watch the debate — allergies. I did read the transcript, God help me. This is how I know that former US Senator Alan Simpson was in the audience. Apparently he’s a member of the debate commission. That figures; he wants to do for the marketplace of political ideas what he wants to do for Social Security. He must have been extraordinarily gratified when the candidates and the moderator, Bert the Turtle of Duck and Cover fame, all endorsed the diseased plan produced by him and Erskine Bowles, his co-chair on the failed deficit-reduction commission created by the President because.

(Bowles, the one-time Jimmy Carter chief of staff who made his fortune with JP Morgan, and current White House chief of staff Jack Lew, who made his fortune with Citibank, are thought to be the leading candidates to replace Timothy Geithner, Wall Street’s current federal government branch manager, in a second Obama administration.)

If you’ve missed it, all but a few of the Important Serious People have endorsed Bowles-Simpson. Those Few who haven’t, have embraced Simpson-Bowles. Bowles-Simpson and Simpson-Bowles are schemes in which anyone who isn’t untouchably rich is made to suffer by giving up important bits of their retirements previously secured by social insurance programs, while the country at large is starved of the resources necessary to dig our way out of what is inescapably a largely unnecessary decline, while the resources are instead diverted into the pockets of the people who precipitated the decline, who may possibly have to return a few pennies in restored taxes or recovered loopholes but not if they can help it, which odds are they can.

This is called “shared sacrifice;” the election will determine whether the sacrifice will be extracted by the party of the center-right or by the party of the far right, and possibly also how strenuously, if at all, depredations beyond those currently agreed to by all parties will be resisted.

The plan concocted by Simpson and Bowles is austerity by another name. Romney brought up Spain in the context of situations into which we don’t want to get, but if there’s a way to get into that kind of trouble then Alan Fucking Simpson is a great place to start.

There are a host of other horseshit and worse issues and policies already decided upon or already in place that weren’t addressed because both parties, both candidates and Bert the Moderator are all fine with them. You won’t be voting to determine whether or not the US remains the world’s most enthusiastic jailer; whether or not the growth of the national security state accelerates; whether or not we continue to blow up increasing numbers of people and things in an ever expanding war zone; whether or not the pirate sector of our economy continues to operate with letters of marque; whether or not dispensaries catering to cancer-ridden pot smokers are a greater threat to the public order than, say, publicly confessed war criminals. Those trains have left the station and you’re voting on the conductor.

On paper, the debate doesn’t seem as unbalanced as apparently it did in real time. Romney went with the spread, in which the challenger throws out as much shit on as many points in as little time as possible, and Obama countered about as much of it as anyone could have, albeit in spectacularly lackluster prose. As for Bert, well, the first thing they teach you about high stakes debating is that you go to war with the moderator you have, not the one you want. It is unseemly for the Obama camp to complain about Bert — and wholly unrealistic to expect that he would be any better than the president at calling bullshit on Romney; the guy is a professional waffler, fer chrissake, a dispenser of conventionally judicious this’s and that’s, not a maverick educator with a baseball bat — and anyway he seems not to have done anything more offensive than to get run over and compulsively sputter “Simpson-Bowles.”

More reasonable is the campaign’s complaint that Romney won by lying about everything, but this is a guy whose campaign manager compared him to an Etch-A-Sketch. How could you fail to predict and prepare for a debate-related reset?

I don’t know how these moments played out on the teevee screens, but Romney’s use of “trickle-down” as a pejorative description of Obama’s conception of government, and his appropriation of Joe Biden’s characterization of the middle class as having been buried during the past four years, were comedy gold in print.

I’m not among those who have thought the election was already decided so I don’t think Romney’s win, if that’s what it was, changed much. The Republican vote-suppression effort still has legs, electronic voting is still spectacularly insecure, quite a few voters still don’t know who they’ll vote for and there’s a world of inimical shit stirring out there beyond our borders.

But of course we’re more concerned with the world of inimical shit right here at home. Take it away, Bert …

Embargoed until release: President Obama’s Labor Day address

Disclaimer: this is not actually Barack Obama speaking at the site of the Loray Mill in Gastonia, North Carolina on Labor Day in 2012.

Thank you all for coming to Gastonia today.

When I delivered my Nobel Lecture in acceptance of the Nobel Committee’s prize for peace on December 10 of 2009, I did so in the knowledge that I had not earned it and did not deserve it. I told the assemblage that among those more deserving, “there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women – some known, some obscure to all but those they help – to be far more deserving of this honor than I.”

In retrospect, I should have ended my speech there and left the stage. Because just as I did not deserve that prize, those people, “jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice,” did not deserve to be subordinated to my cause that night, which was not justice but justification of state violence applied to an inexcusably wide range of situations. And I stand before you today to make some small amends, to celebrate and justify our own who across the years have been and still are jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice, and I ask you all, and all other Americans, to celebrate and justify them with me.
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If Mitt Romney beats Jill Stein, the blame will lie squarely with Obama supporters

Yes, folks, it’s “Lesser of Two Evils” season once again. I’ll keep this short, everybody can ignore it and we’ll return to the theme in August of 2016 when once again, the Democratic candidate will most likely be less horrible than the Republican one.

Barack Obama is a bad president. Liberals are stupid to support him.

His signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act, was written by a former health insurance company executive following a conservative blueprint devised to forestall government-funded universal health care such as the residents of every other developed nation, and most developing nations as well, enjoy. It massively subsidizes for-profit insurers and enshrines them as the government-sanctioned health care gatekeepers for most Americans. It kicks the prospects for genuinely universal care at least a decade down the road beyond where they already were. People will continue to expire in large numbers for lack of affordable care.

That’s the good news. That’s the upside.
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Democrats agree to push for single-payer health care system if mandate falls

BTC News has learned that senior Congressional Democrats are quietly directing staff members to organize an effort to pass Medicare-for-all legislation in the event the Supreme Courts strikes down the individual mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act, also know as Obamacare.

The staff members are reaching out to leaders of key advocacy groups for support of the effort. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee official told BTC News that the fight for universal health care in America will play a critical role in the reelection campaign of President Obama, and in the efforts of Democrats to regain control of the House and solidify control of the Senate.

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An epitaph for Obama: “I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson.”

Not long after the big Republican win in the 2010 elections, the Obama administration’s best and brightest gave up on explaining that putting people to work is really good for both the economy and for people who need work. The concept was too complicated for voters, they thought, so instead the president went off to negotiate with a crew of irresolute drunks and psychotic killer termites over how best to tighten the belt of government around the necks of the poor, the sick, the old and the unemployed.

This is according to David Corn’s new book, Showdown, which is apparently meant as a generous portrait of the administration.

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“Take up the white man’s burden …” Plus, your world record moment of Zen

Writing at the widely-read liberal blog Hullabaloo, David Atkins says the most recent US atrocity in Afghanistan means it’s time to pull the plug on what should, and in his estimation could, have been The Good War. He weeps for the Buddhas of Bamiyam (destroyed by order of Taliban leaders in 2001); he accuses his fellow liberals of parochialism and closing their eyes to the plight of Afghan women; he quotes both the penultimate stanza of Rudyard Kipling’s iconic poem, The White Man’s Burden, and the exhortation scribbled on the final page of Kurz’s monograph in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Possibly I made that last bit up. But “Ye dare not stoop to less” and “Exterminate all the brutes!” are clearly visible just beneath the surface. He doesn’t despair that we invaded and occupied Afghanistan; he despairs that we didn’t do it better.

Oh, he cites the “enormous peril of foreign intervention in largely intractable situations,” and he says that “prolonged occupations anywhere are a terrible idea” because “[t]hese sorts of incidents are almost inevitable.” He says that “continuing this awful, endless occupation replete with civilian massacre after civilian massacre is no answer at all. It’s long past time to go.” But then he closes with this:

Still, weep for the people we will be leaving behind. Weep for the Shi’ite ethnic hazara who will likely be doomed upon our departure … And mourn the fate of a people who once had hope for a better future, and now have none because America ended up doing more harm than good when all was said and done. It didn’t have to be thus [emphasis mine].

Well, David: it did have to be thus. Because thus is what wars and invasions and occupations are.

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