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June 28, 2015, 7:23 pmIgnorance is Bliss
June 28, 2015, 1:17 amThis is the flag I fought for
Last Edited: June 28, 2015, 1:22 am
June 23, 2015, 2:10 pmIn all your getting, get an understanding
Yes, You're a Racist -- And a Traitor
While I was out jogging this morning, I passed a neighbor's house that I have passed every day for almost three years. Usually I stroll right on by without giving it a second thought. Today, though... today was different. I stopped in my tracks and blankly stared until a car honked at me to move out of the way.
This house flies a Confederate flag.
I don't live in South Carolina or even Maryland. I live in a small town in Central Pennsylvania, 50 miles north of Gettysburg -- the site of the most famous victory of the Civil War. Yet even here, a few hundred feet from my front door flies the unambiguous symbol of hatred, racism and treason.
Normally, this would elicit some fleeting contempt and I would go about my day. But with the slayings in Charleston very much on my mind, I found myself getting angry... very angry.
Angry at this person, this "neighbor" of mine. Angry at the culture that permits such blatant hatred. Angry at the media who provide cover for the ignorant. Angry at the teachers who perpetuate historical falsehoods. Angry at myself for not being angry before.
You see, I study traditional culture. More specifically, I study the ways in which today's culture manufactures and reinforces traditions through mass media. Folklorists have a unique disciplinary perspective for this sort of analysis because there was this period of time when the field was mired in "romantic nationalism." The "true character" of a people was said to be rooted in the culture of the volk and was glorified and incorporated into more modern political movements. Like Nazism. So folklorists have a keen interest in serving as the sort-of keepers of cultural authenticity, if you will. If anyone should be highlighting the ways in which "traditions" are being manufactured, distorted and consumed, it is us... me.
In America today, the most prominent, prevalent and pernicious of these revisionist movements is the Lost Cause narrative: the idea that the Civil War was a romantic struggle for freedom against an oppressive government trying to enforce cultural change. There are scores of books on this topic, and you should check those out at your local library. But probably the most famous popular culture Lost Cause text is Gone With The Wind (both book and movie).
I hate Gone With the Wind. I hate everything about it. I hate its portrayal of the Civil War. I hate its portrayal of Southern aristocrats. I hate its popularity. I hate that it's become an iconic movie. I hate that it was ever made in the first place.
Gone With the Wind is Birth of a Nation with less horses. The movie, and its position among the American cinematic pantheon, has done more to further the ahistoric Lost Cause bull than any other single production. Because that's the fundamental problem with the Lost Cause narrative: it's not true.
Let's go one-by-one through some typical Lost Cause-tinged revisionist talking points:
The Civil War was about economics, not slavery!
- Yes, the Civil War was about the economics of slavery.
The Civil War was about states' rights, not slavery!
- Yes, the Civil War was about the states' right to maintain slavery.
That's not the Confederate flag!
- True, it's the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, which actually makes your usage even worse. It's the banner under which men fought and died to enact secession.
Heritage not hate!
- Funny story: The heritage is hate. This is my favorite talking point because it sets up a false dichotomy and then tries to pretend "heritage" is a signifier for some romantic, noble culture just waiting to be recaptured. When Lindsay Graham says things like, "The flag represents to some people a civil war, and that was the symbol of one side. To others it's a racist symbol, and it's been used by people, it's been used in a racist way," he makes a mockery of the history. Yes, Senator, it does represent one side of the Civil War: the side that advocated slavery and secession. It's the flag of treason.
The savagery of slavery is offensive enough to justify any level of outrage. The disgusting post-war history of the Ku Klux Klan is offensive enough to justify any level of outrage. But what might be the most absurd part of this neo-Confederate "heritage" romanticism is that its advocates are simply glorifying treason.
Remember that time South Carolina attacked Fort Sumter? That's the literal definition of treason. And I quote Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort." Not exactly abstract legalese that requires a ton of parsing.
The states that seceded to become the Confederacy were actively engaged in open war against the United States government. A war they started because of the election of a man they deemed "hostile to slavery." A war they fought to maintain the "heaven ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race." A war they lost.
But it was a war based on a fundamental social conflict that is still not resolved and simmers under the zeitgeist, rearing its ugly head every so often to remind us it hasn't gone anywhere. It was not resolved in 1865, not in 1965, and sadly, not in 2015.
The "heritage" of the Confederacy, the enduring belief in Lost Cause romanticism, the invention and adoption of revisionist "traditions" and culture, has become society's Old Faithful: a cultural geyser that periodically lets off steam; a spectacle at which we ogle and wax poetic about the fragility of our condition. But one day it'll explode and it'll be a catastrophe from which we might not recover.
The tragedy of America is that this is all self-inflicted. This trajectory to self-destruction doesn't have to be the outcome. As Jon Stewart so eloquently pointed out, "Al Qaeda... ISIS... they're not on the damage we can apparently do to ourselves on a regular basis."
The troglodyte that killed those people in South Carolina wanted to fire the opening shots in a new race war. He is a Confederate in every sense of the word. He is a white supremacist. He is a terrorist. He is a traitor.
The worst part is that he is not some aberration. Oh, we want to comfort and assure ourselves that he is, that he has some mental issue, or that he's evil, or some other easy excuse that absolves us all of responsibility.
His actions were heinous, but he is the product of a media environment and culture that protects the ignorant and glorifies division. This is the "heritage" celebrated by those who fly the Confederate flag. By those like my neighbor.
And what about my neighbor? In a perfect world, I would ring his doorbell and have a reasonable discussion with him about how what he's doing is offensive and ahistoric and I'd love to correct his understanding of the entire mess. But the sad fact is, he's not alone, either.
In my time here I've seen scores of Confederate bumper stickers, license plates, and even other flags. Neo-Confederate revisionism is everywhere. It's not confined to "dumb rednecks" or red-state voters or Nascar fans or any other easy stereotype we use to deceive ourselves and dismiss painful realities. It's not even confined to older generations. The killer in South Carolina is 21. He's a Millennial. He's one of us.
And every day that we don't react to that information, every day we don't internalize this conflict, every day we tell ourselves nothing is wrong, every day we claim we can't be racist because we have black friends, every day we share some viral cat video instead of watch the news, every day we don't knock on our neighbor's door... is another day nothing will change.
Last Edited: June 23, 2015, 2:26 pm
June 20, 2015, 2:09 amTwo points of view
Last Edited: June 20, 2015, 2:15 am
June 17, 2015, 7:32 pmLose the hair Donald, then people might take you serious
June 15, 2015, 6:41 pmJeb, shhh, Bush is running for POTUS
Steve Peoples and Brendan Farrington, Associated Press June 15, 2015
Jeb Bush has optimistic message, faces challenges in ‘16 bid
MIAMI (AP) — Jeb Bush launched a Republican presidential bid months in the making Monday with a vow to get Washington “out of the business of causing problems” and to stay true to his beliefs — easier said than done in a bristling primary contest where his conservative credentials will be sharply challenged. “I will campaign as I would serve, going everywhere, speaking to everyone, keeping my word, facing the issues without flinching,” Bush said, opening his campaign at a rally near his south Florida home at Miami Dade College, where the institution’s large and diverse student body symbolizes the nation he seeks to lead.
The former Florida governor, whose wife is Mexican-born, addressed the packed college arena in English and Spanish, an unusual twist for a political speech aimed at a national audience.
“In any language,” Bush said, “my message will be an optimistic one because I am certain that we can make the decades just ahead in America the greatest time ever to be alive in this world.”
Bush enters a 2016 Republican contest that will test both his vision of conservatism and his ability to distance himself from family.
Neither his father, former President George H.W. Bush, nor his brother, former President George W. Bush, attended Monday’s announcement. The family was represented instead by Jeb Bush’s mother and former first lady, Barbara Bush, who once said that the country didn’t need yet another Bush as president, and by his son George P. Bush, recently elected Texas land commissioner.
Before the event, the Bush campaign came out with a new logo — Jeb! — that conspicuously leaves out the Bush surname.
And in his speech, he took on critics in both parties, particularly Hillary Rodham Clinton, the overwhelming favorite in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“The party now in the White House is planning a no-suspense primary, for a no-change election,” Bush said. “The presidency should not be passed on from one liberal to the next.”
He later called out Clinton by name, and indirectly jabbed fellow Republicans, including his political protege Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who welcomed Bush into the 2016 contest earlier in the day. “We are not going to clean up the mess in Washington by electing the people who either helped create it or have proven incapable of fixing it,” Bush said.
Bush joins the race in progress in some ways in a commanding position, in part because of his family connections.
He has probably raised a record amount of money to support his candidacy and conceived of a new approach on how to structure his campaign, both aimed at allowing him to make a deep run into the GOP primaries. But on other measures, early public opinion polls among them, he has yet to break out.
While unquestionably one of the top-tier candidates in the GOP race, he is also only one of several in a large and capable Republican field that does not have a true front-runner.
In the past six months, Bush has made clear he will remain committed to his core beliefs in the campaign to come — even if his positions on immigration and education standards are deeply unpopular among the conservative base of the party that plays an outsized role in the GOP primaries.
Tea party leader Mark Meckler on Monday said Bush’s positions on education and immigration are “a nonstarter with many conservatives.”
“There are two political dynasties eyeing 2016,” said Meckler, a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, one of the movement’s largest organizations, and now leader of Citizens for Self-Governance. “And before conservatives try to beat Hillary, they first need to beat Bush.”
Yet a defiant Bush has showed little willingness to placate his party’s right wing.
Instead, he aimed his message on Monday at the broader swath of the electorate that will ultimately decide the November 2016 general election. Minority voters, in particular, have fueled Democratic victories in the last two presidential elections.
Of the five people on the speaking program before Bush, just one was a white male.
Bush is one of 11 major Republicans in the hunt for the nomination. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are among those still deciding whether to join a field that could end up just shy of 20.
Bush’s critics in both parties have criticized him as aggressively as they would if he were the clear Republican favorite.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said Monday there’s “Bush-Clinton fatigue” in America. “I think some people have had enough Bushes and enough Clintons,” Paul said in an interview with The Associated Press.
After touring four early-voting states, Bush quickly launches a private fundraising tour with stops in at least 11 cities before the end of the month. Two events alone — a reception at Union Station in Washington on Friday and a breakfast the following week on Seventh Avenue in New York — will account for almost $2 million in new campaign cash, according to invitations that list more than 75 already committed donors.
June 13, 2015, 10:29 pmWall Street is tired of wasting money on candidates they only half want
Wall Street is getting tired of funding socially conservative Republicans running for president
Reuters/Brian Snyder) Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz. His wife may have worked at Goldman, but this is not Wall Street's guy.
For years, when it came to presidential candidates, Wall Street made huge compromises in order to support the Republican Party.
The money men in New York City set aside their socially liberal views in order to support fiscally conservative candidates because that was the only way to get on the same page as the GOP base.
The result has been a series of candidates Wall Street's big donors didn't really want.
It seems those donors are getting tired of that outcome.
Hedge fund billionaire Leon Cooperman recently vented his frustration with this arrangement on an episode of Wall Street Week.
"I tend to be more Republican in my views, but socially very liberal. I'm going to have trouble with any Republican that does not disavow a fixation with social issues," he said.
"Republicans have to understand that because young people in our country are not grabbed by those issues."
(Reuters/ Jeff Zelevansky ) Leon Cooperman.
Republican candidates are not getting the message.
In fact, some social conservatives are actually hardening their stances before a new wave of younger voters has the mass to make a difference at the polls.
A recent Pew Research poll found that Republican Conservatives are the only group in America who have become less accepting of homosexuality over the last two years.
This is not what Wall Street wants to see.
Wall Street's ideal candidate is Michael Bloomberg — a billionaire businessman who's into environmental sustainability, urban development, infrastructure investment, and gay rights.
These are all socially conservative no-nos.
During the last presidential election, it looked like Wall Street might finally get the kind of Republican they were looking for — Mitt Romney.
For most of his career, Romney was known as a moderate technocrat.
But when he ran for president, Romney was forced to turn to entice the party base. He played up his conservative family values instead.
Many on Wall Street loved his private-equity/business background to be sure. They liked his ideas on foreign policy, even, but they weren't crazy about his sudden lurch to the right on issues like abortion.
From the way Cooperman talks about it, some on Wall Street are tired of compromise.
It would be one thing if the compromise was leading to wins.
But it's not.
And in losing elections, Wall Street is also losing an investment. Each cycle, bundlers collect millions of dollars from Wall Street in increments of $2,700, of $5,000, and $34,800. They give to super PACs and party coffers; they give because they like a candidate or (more likely) because their boss or colleague loves a candidate.
This isn't a lot of money to Wall Street, but it is money wasted on candidates they sometimes only half want.
Instead they're forced to wait for a candidate they'll never get.
Last Edited: June 13, 2015, 10:31 pm
June 13, 2015, 2:09 amIt's just that simple.
Last Edited: June 13, 2015, 2:10 am
June 7, 2015, 11:56 pmThe talk: it's not about the birds and the bees
June 4, 2015, 12:02 amCruz Missile, a class act
May 29, 2015, 1:13 amAn accurate repub poll
Last Edited: May 29, 2015, 1:15 am
May 24, 2015, 11:02 amRepubs obtuse about the Iraq question
Veterans frustrated by presidential debate on Iraq war
Veterans of the Iraq War have been watching in frustration as Republican presidential contenders distance themselves from the decision their party enthusiastically supported to invade that country.
Some veterans say they long ago concluded their sacrifice was in vain, and are annoyed that a party that lobbied so hard for the war is now running from it. Others say they still believe their mission was vital, regardless of what the politicians say. And some find the gotcha question being posed to the politicians — Knowing what we know now, would you have invaded? — an insult in itself.
"Do-overs don't happen in real life," said Gregory Diacogiannis, 30, who served as an army sniper in Baghdad trying to spot militants laying roadside bombs and chased high-value targets in the city of Baqouba. "I have trouble with the question itself just because it lends itself to disregarding the sacrifices that have been made."
Diacogiannis left the army in 2008, but says even now he feels such a strong attachment to Iraq that he's thought about going back to fight as the country has plunged into chaos since U.S. troops left.
The war became a campaign issue when likely presidential contender Jeb Bush was asked about the invasion ordered by his brother, former President George W. Bush. After days of questioning, Jeb Bush said that in light of what's now known — that Saddam Hussein did not have WMD stockpiles — he would not have invaded.
Other possible Republican hopefuls including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich all later gave similar responses.
He's glad Republicans are being held accountable for the invasion, but says that answer's been known for a long time.
"It's a legitimate question to ask and a legitimate answer should be an unequivocal no," he said.
Marla Keown, who drove trucks in Iraq for a year during her time in the Army Reserve, said it's taken too long for politicians to admit the mistake of a war that killed 4,491 U.S. troops and left countless Iraqis dead.
"It's hard to see the good in war in general - let alone a war that everyone just now is realizing we shouldn't have done," said Keown, 34, who now works as a photographer in Denver.
He said he's proud of what he and his unit did in Iraq to make their area safer. He speaks fondly of Iraqi children he encountered and said he'd do it again in a "heartbeat." So many questions, he said, like whether to invade Iraq or not, are easier to answer in hindsight.
"I think it's naive to just assume that we can just wave this magic wand and know what we would do in that situation," Kriesel said.
The discussion comes at a particularly fraught time for veterans, who have watched Iraq steadily descend into chaos. In recent days, Islamic State militants routed Iraqi government troops to take control of the city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, despite American airstrikes designed to help the Iraqi forces.
Kevin McCulley, a former army medic, said Iraqis told him about their struggles under Saddam and he feels there were good reasons to get rid of the longtime dictator. He feels the emphasis really shouldn't be on the decision to invade but on whether the U.S. should have stayed past its 2011 departure date to secure the gains made. Many vets blame President Obama — not Bush — for the current state of affairs, saying he was in too much of a hurry to withdraw.
On Friday, Democratic presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton said despite the militants' gains, U.S. ground forces should not be sent back to Iraq.
Clinton has previously called her support for the invasion a mistake.
"A mistake doesn't sum up the gravity of that decision," said Matt Howard, a Marine twice deployed to Iraq who now works with the group Iraq Veterans Against the War. He said many vets have been frustrated by the "flip-flopping," not just of the Republican candidates, but of Clinton as well.
Mike Barbero, a retired general who served three tours in Iraq, said he isn't sure the value of the hypothetical questions being asked of the candidates and would rather they be pressed on their criteria for sending troops into a potential future battle.
Last Edited: May 24, 2015, 8:37 pm
May 21, 2015, 1:38 amKoch Brothers, the puppet maasters
May 20, 2015, 2:45 amKoch Brothers new cash cow
May 18, 2015, 11:48 pmIf he walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then he is a LIAR
The Problem With Asking Republicans, 'Would You Have Invaded Iraq?'
The “would you have invaded Iraq” saga continues. Sunday on Fox News, Chris Wallace tried again and again to get Marco Rubio to say whether, in hindsight, the Bush administration was right to invade a WMD-less Iraq. And again and again, Rubio answered a different, and politically safer, question: Was George W. Bush right given the information he had at the time? Rubio’s answer to that question was a resounding yes. Invading Iraq, he argued, was “not a mistake because the president was presented with intelligence that said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.”
Rubio’s answer shows how pathological the Republican foreign-policy debate has become. The Iraq War, which I wrongly supported, has cost the United States over $2 trillion. It has contributed to the deaths of an estimated half-million Iraqis and almost 4,500 Americans, one-third more than died on 9/11. Iraq has become a failed state, large parts of which are controlled by an organization whose savagery embarrasses al-Qaeda. (Yes, part of the blame for ISIS’s rise rests with President Obama’s policies in Iraq and Syria, but it was President Bush who bulldozed the Iraqi state.) And Saddam Hussein’s overthrow has allowed Iran—a regime Republicans depict as the world’s most dangerous—to extend its power in the region.
This is what the Iraq War has wrought. Yet for most Republican presidential candidates—starting with Jeb Bush, whose maladroit Iraq answers launched the current media saga—the hard question is whether George W. Bush should have invaded Iraq given what we know now: that Saddam had no chemical or biological weapons and no nuclear program. The easy question is whether Bush should have invaded given what he thought he knew then: that Iraq did have WMD. It’s easy because, with the exception of Rand Paul, virtually all the major Republican candidates claim Bush was right.
To understand how ludicrous that position is, it’s worth remembering a few things. First, the evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was extremely weak. Yes, the U.S. government in October 2002 produced a National Intelligence Estimate that appeared to suggest Iraq had chemical and biological weapons and a nuclear-weapons program. But a 2004 Senate review concluded that “most of the major key judgments in the Intelligence Community’s October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) … either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting.” The NIE, which was produced under intense pressure from White House and Pentagon officials seeking a justification for war, painted a far more menacing picture of Iraq’s WMD programs than had previous U.S. assessments. As the head of British intelligence famously remarked, “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” The unclassified summary of the NIE was also far more categorical than the full, classified version, which, according to Florida Senator Bob Graham, was “pocked with dissent, conditions, [and] minority opinions on a variety of critical issues.” After reading the full NIE, Graham voted against authorizing war. Unfortunately, by one estimate, only a half-dozen other senators bothered to do so.
The point is that Rubio’s depiction of Bush as a guy forced to invade because he “was presented with intelligence that said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction” is absurd. “Since the beginning of the administration, indeed well before,” wrote Bush counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz—with the encouragement of Dick Cheney and Bush himself—“had been pressing for a war with Iraq.” The day after the 9/11 attacks, according to Clarke, Bush instructed him to “See if Saddam did this. See if he’s linked in any way.” When Clarke protested that “al-Qaeda did this,” Bush replied, “I know, I know, but … see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred.”
George W. Bush was not forced to invade Iraq because of the weight of objective evidence about WMD. He and his top advisors shamelessly hyped that evidence to justify a war they were seeking an excuse to launch. And in the hysterical aftermath of September 11, Congress was too cowed to effectively challenge them.
But even this, in some ways, misses the point. Because even if the intelligence on Iraqi WMD had been stronger, the Iraq War would still have been a colossal mistake. Let’s imagine that Bush had possessed irrefutable proof that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons. Those weapons would still have presented no grave threat to the United States. As Gregg Easterbrook has pointed out, chemical and biological weapons aren’t really weapons of mass destruction. “In actual use, chemical arms have proven less deadly than regular bombs, bullets, and artillery shells” while “biological weapons … have rarely done great harm.” Yes, Saddam had used chemical weapons against the defenseless Kurds and, with American assistance, to counter Tehran’s manpower advantage during the Iran-Iraq War. He had also used them to put down a Shiite rebellion in the aftermath of the Gulf War. But he had never used them against the United States, even during the Gulf War—probably because America’s response would have been ferocious. And the 9/11 Commission repudiated Bush administration claims that Saddam might have given unconventional weapons to al-Qaeda, an organization he feared and disdained.
The evidence of Saddam’s nuclear program was weakest of all. But even if that evidence had been stronger, there were still far less costly ways than invasion of responding to a country whose economic and military power had been ravaged by more than a decade of sanctions.Rubio and his fellow GOP candidates are enshrining the idea that the correct response to potential nuclear proliferation is preventive war.
By implying that the only problem with the Iraq War was faulty intelligence, Marco Rubio implies that when the United States has compelling evidence that a hostile dictator is building “weapons of mass destruction,” the correct response is war. This represents a dramatic departure from historical American practice. In the 1940s, Harry Truman—a president Rubio admires—watched Joseph Stalin, one of the greatest mass murderers in modern history, build not just chemical and biological weapons, but a nuclear bomb. And yet Truman did not attack the U.S.S.R. In the early 1960s, John F. Kennedy, another Rubio favorite, watched Mao Zedong build a nuclear weapon, and made the same decision.
Truman and Kennedy judged that, while nuclear proliferation was bad, attacking countries that posed no immediate threat to the United States was worse. They made that judgment, in part, because earlier generations of Americans, remembering Pearl Harbor, considered preventive war—an unprovoked attack against an adversary simply because it could become a threat one day—to be immoral and un-American. And they made it because they feared that the consequences of such wars would be devastating.
In the run-up to the Iraq War, experts in and outside the Bush administration expressed the same fears. A November 2002 National Defense University report argued that occupying Iraq “will be the most daunting and complex task the U.S. and the international community will have undertaken since the end of World War II.” A collection of experts at the Army War College warned that the “possibility of the United States winning the war and losing the peace is real and serious.” White House economic advisor Lawrence Lindsey publicly mused that rebuilding postwar Iraq might cost $200 billion. He was reprimanded, then fired. And yet the White House plunged ahead.
By claiming that the United States was right to invade Iraq given what its leaders thought they knew at the time, Rubio and his fellow GOP candidates are making George W. Bush’s radical departure from past American practice the new normal. They are enshrining the idea that the correct response to potential nuclear (and perhaps even chemical and biological) proliferation is preventive war. And, not coincidentally, they are doing so while trying to scuttle President Obama’s efforts to strike a diplomatic agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.
The chances of another Bush winning the presidency may be going down. But in foreign-policy terms, it hardly matters. The toxic spirit of the last Bush presidency still thoroughly infects today’s GOP.