Arizona Offers the Very Latest in Stupid Gun Laws

Gun show
It’s one of those things that make very little sense at first glance. In the state where former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords suffered a catastrophic gunshot wound and several others were killed at the hand of an over-armed gunman, an effort to destroy unwanted guns and keep them off the streets is torpedoed by a soft-on-crime governor and legislature.

Associated Press: Arizona cities and counties that hold community gun buyback events will have to sell the surrendered weapons instead of destroying them under a bill Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law Monday.

The bill was championed by Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature who argued that municipalities were skirting a 2010 law that was tightened last year and requires police to sell seized weapons to federally licensed dealers. They argued that destroying property turned over to the government is a waste of taxpayer resources.

Democrats who argued against the bill said it usurps local control and goes against the wishes of people who turn over their unwanted weapons to keep them out of the hands of children or thieves.

Buybacks are popular among some police and elected officials who either pay cash or hand out gift cards in exchange for weapons. Tucson and other Arizona communities destroyed weapons from the events, arguing that because the guns were voluntarily surrendered, the laws concerning weapons seized by authorities didn’t apply.

Apparently, some people had trouble understanding the word "seized." Oddly enough (this being Arizona, after all), a lot of the legislators probably support "English-only" legislation. It’d be easier to take them seriously if they actually understood the language themselves.

Of course, they do understand the language -- or at least, most do -- and the misunderstanding of the legal definition of "seizure" is deliberate. They’re arguing that a word means something other than what any legal dictionary will tell you it means as a pretext to undermine gun buybacks. But why on Earth would anyone oppose destroying guns that no one wanted in the first place?

There are a few reasons I can think of. None of them are good; at least one is simply childish and the rest are plain corrupt.

We’ll start with the childish. You may have noticed a certain contrarian streak in conservative thought. It’s the idea that if liberals are for it, it must be bad. It’s the jerking knee. There are people out there who deliberately waste money burning more fossil fuels than they need to on Earth Day, just because they think it makes liberals mad. Dickish, yes. But "dickish" and "conservative" are practically synonyms these days.

But that only explains why legislators in Arizona think passing this brainless law is fun. People don’t pass practical jokes as laws. What’s really behind this is what’s always behind conservative lawmaking -- money. Specifically, putting profit before every consideration in the world; before public health and safety, before the advice of law enforcement, before common sense. They do these things because someone will make a buck and -- just like loosening environmental or safety regulation at the bidding of big business -- they don't give a damn who gets hurt.

The first beneficiaries would be the arms dealers. Gun buyback programs generally bring in a lot of firearms and it’s likely those resellers would get a deal on them, just to get them out of the police impound. The profit potential could, in many cases, be tremendous.

The second beneficiaries would be arms manufacturers. Used guns do not use used bullets. Some handgun that’s been laying in a drawer since Uncle Ralph died is never going to be reloaded, unless it’s stolen. While gun buybacks are meant to reduce the number of stolen firearms on the street, most neglected guns aren’t stolen. And that means that every gun out there that some Aunt Sally just wants to be rid off represents a lifetime of lost sales. And if she gets rid of it at a gun buyback, that gun is destroyed and any chance of related sales are destroyed with it.

But someone who buys a used gun? Yeah, they’re planning on using it -- and that means they’re planning on loading it. Which means a couple of boxes of ammo to go with their newly purchased firearm -- and a couple more when those run out. Ka-ching! Those sales are lost no more.

Of course, it’s inevitable that some of these firearms that would otherwise be destroyed will be used in the commission of crimes. But you can’t make an omelet without shooting a few eggs in the face, right? Which is more important, the fate of some random, faceless prole or the profits of arms manufacturers? I mean really, what are you, a communist? When it comes to a choice between reducing crime and increasing profits, the gun lobby’s puppets will cast the soft on crime vote every time.

I’d hope that actually making it illegal to get guns off the street would be about the worst, most shameless law the pro-blood money could come up with. But I’m sure they’ll come up with something even more ridiculously evil down the road -- selling pistols out of vending machines in high schools, maybe. For now, it is the worst, the most corrupt, the cruelest gun law in the country.


[photo by M Glasgow]


Romney Done In by Misplaced GOP Focus on Voter Suppression

Romney meets voters at campaign stop
There’s an Associated Press story out there today that may reinvigorate the Generals in the Republican War on Voting. It seems that a certain demographic got a little too excited about the 2012 election and, for all intents and purposes, choose the winner in the presidential race.

Associated Press: America’s blacks voted at a higher rate than other minority groups in 2012 and by most measures surpassed the white turnout for the first time, reflecting a deeply polarized presidential election in which blacks strongly supported Barack Obama while many whites stayed home.

Had people voted last November at the same rates they did in 2004, when black turnout was below its current historic levels, Republican Mitt Romney would have won narrowly, according to an analysis conducted for The Associated Press.

Census data and exit polling show that whites and blacks will remain the two largest racial groups of eligible voters for the next decade. Last year’s heavy black turnout came despite concerns about the effect of new voter-identification laws on minority voting, outweighed by the desire to re-elect the first black president.

We see these numbers despite the fact that the Brennan Center For Justice estimated that Republican voter suppression efforts would disenfranchise as many as five million voters in 2012. Unfortunately for the Grand Old Party, a few of their anti-democratic efforts to keep minority voters from the polls didn’t go as well as they’d hoped. In the swing state of Wisconsin, for example, a voter ID law was struck down as unconstitutional. In a damning ruling, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess wrote that the law was clearly about disenfranchising voters and that this was contemptible. "Voter fraud is no more poisonous to our democracy than voter suppression," he said.

Of course, there’s the low white turnout to be contended with. The story makes it clear that if Republicans had put their effort into turning out white voters, rather than suppressing the black vote, November might have turned out differently. The story goes on to say it wouldn’t have taken much to change the outcome. "Romney would have erased Obama’s nearly 5 million-vote victory margin and narrowly won the popular vote if voters had turned out as they did in 2004... Then, white turnout was slightly higher and black voting lower," we’re told.

It says a lot about the party that they were more interested in "poisoning our democracy" with laws designed to chase minority voters from the polls, than they were with working within the system as it exists and turning out voters for their side. It’s almost stereotypically villainous of them to prefer shooing people away from the polls, instead of urging them to vote. It’s like they preferred an assault on democracy to good old-fashioned grassroots democratic efforts.

And this preference for dirty tricks over above board campaigning may very well have cost Mitt Romney the election -- so file this one in the "Serves them right" folder.

But of course, we already know that the base is driving the bus and the "Republican leadership" is a sham. And it’s not too difficult to predict how the right will take this story. Remember, if there’s one thing the wingnut base does not do, it’s realize they were wrong -- at least, not if they can avoid it. I can see this story accomplishing two things in rightwing media: actually reinforce the "black people stole the election" fantasy -- probably involving a zombie version of ACORN and/or the New Black Panther Party -- and the poll truther idea that polling was skewed in Obama’s favor prior to the election as part of a conspiracy to drive down Republican voter enthusiasm.

Neither take would be particularly sane. But this is the party where majorities believe Pres. Obama isn’t a citizen, that nearly every climate scientist on Earth is involved in a massive conspiracy to promote the "hoax" of global warming, and that the American public is going to start freaking out over Benghazi any second now. "Sane" isn’t on the GOP menu.

And of course, the whole thing leads to the one rock-solid Republican principle -- if what you’re doing isn’t working, you need to do more of it. If you squint and cock your head just right, it almost looks like voter suppression nearly worked. Just a tad fewer African-American voters and it all would’ve turned out differently (never mind all the missing white voters).

As always, Republicans will take what should be a pretty clear lesson, turn it on its head, and take what they want to learn away from it. For them, the lesson won’t be to worry less about who’s voting and more about who’s not. The lesson will be "this proves we’re heading in the right direction."

The story that should be the voter suppression movement’s epitaph will instead be the banner the suppressors march forward under. The big takeaway won’t be that being underhanded doesn’t work, it’s that they weren’t being underhanded enough.


[photo by Gage Skidmore]


Soft-on-Crime Anti-Background Check Vote Does Damage

Pile of hundreds of guns
With the retirement of Sen. Joe Lieberman, it looked like the era of Three Amigos might be over. By joining up with John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Lieberman joined a team of three Senators who were the source of some very bad ideas -- most of them involving throwing fistfuls or money at the Pentagon and Israel, backing military action as the only solution to pretty much every foreign policy problem, and attacking anyone unwilling to throw money and start shooting as muddleheaded, weak-in-the-face-of-terrorism wusses. It looked the Three Amigos had become two and America was in severe danger of benefiting from the loss. But along came young New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte and the Two Amigos were Three again. Brainless militarism once again had three guaranteed advocates.

But the new lineup may not be long-lasting -- at least, not if the newest compaƱera keeps ignoring the will of her constituents.

Huffington Post: A new poll has New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) down a total of 15 points from her previous approval rating in a survey that followed her vote against requiring background checks for firearms purchases.

Ayotte's plunge underscores the changing politics around gun control and gun safety. In years past, lawmakers worried that a vote for gun control would bring the anger of the National Rifle Association. In the new reality, votes against gun control also carry a political risk, as the Ayotte poll indicates.

A full three-quarters of New Hampshire voters support such background checks, along with 56 percent of Republicans, according to Public Policy Polling. A WMUR Granite State Poll taken in January and February found that more than 9 in 10 state residents supported implementing background checks at gun shows.

"In October, the last time that PPP surveyed voters about Ayotte, she had a 48-35 approval rating," Huffington Post reports. "She has now tumbled underwater, with 46 percent disapproving and 44 percent approving. The 11-point surge in disapproval threatens Ayotte's 2016 reelection, when she could face popular Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. Ayotte won her 2010 race by 23 points, but in a hypothetical matchup against Hassan trails 46-44."

This isn't to say that every soft-on-crime vote will come with a cost for the Senator casting it. In fact, Nate Silver took a look at the question and found that it probably won't in a broad sense. Yes, people supported expanded background checks in overwhelming numbers, but supporting something and voting because of it are two different things. In a lot of races, voters may be disappointed in their Senators' votes on the background check bill, but that vote may be a lower priority than other issues. And Silver was looking at a more immediate impact in 2014, not the lasting impact of a protracted campaign by gun safety advocates through 2014, heading into the presidential campaign of 2016, and -- if necessary -- beyond.

The real stunner in the poll is in the almost overnight tumbling of the NRA from a seat of unquestionable power. Conventional wisdom of just a few months ago would've had Ayotte gaining votes and popularity, as the NRA paid her off rewarded her for helping leave the gunshow loophole wide open and allowing unlicensed gun dealers to continue to do business with criminals. But that pay off may not be enough to overcome the anger of New Hampshire voters -- and in any case, the pro-gun safety message clearly won the day there, even if Ayotte didn't realize it. The NRA's influence with New Hampshire voters seems to be pretty nonexistent.

Silver's piece looks at the background check vote as a 2014 hammer -- a bludgeon used against the party as a whole as an overriding strategy. But it may be that voting against curbing gun violence is a 2014, 2016, etc. scalpel; an ongoing, surgical effort to separate soft-on-crime senators and representatives from less gun-happy voting populations. After all, if the vote isn't hurting them nationwide, it's definitely hurting in New Hampshire. And if it's hurting in New Hampshire, it's got to be hurting elsewhere.

Gun-happy politicians and lobbyists are finding comfort in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. That poll found that, post-background check filibuster, voters favor stricter gun control by only 49%-45%. But that poll asks only about generic "gun control" and not specific legislation or policies. The history of polling on the issue is the same as it is on many issues: if you poll on the buzzphrases, the results are very different from polling on specifics. The NRA and Republicans have been approaching the issue with a simpleminded, fortune cookie approach -- "gun control" is bad. They've avoided specifics because, when you get into real proposals, policies, and solutions, they all turn out to be common sense and reasonable. So the right does what the right always does -- target jerking knees, rather than engaged minds. And polling shows that isn't getting them majorities -- their numbers are still underwater.

The big takeaway from the NBC/WSJ poll is that gun safety advocates should continue to talk about specifics and the takeaway from the Granite State Poll is that we should be selective in targeting politicians, peeling off the vulnerable and leaving others worried about their left flanks on the issue. I keep saying that this is a long fight, but a necessary one. If the Ayotte numbers show us anything, it's that the NRA is already losing the long game.


[photo by roberthuffstutter]


Graham and McCain Exploit Boston Tragedy

Sens. McCain and Graham
After the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in connection with the Boston bomb attacks, the nation's top unrepentant neocons --  John McCain and Lindsey Graham -- are currently engaged in a high-profile demonstration of grandstanding. The purpose of this posturing seems to be to showcase how Very Important and Serious they are, why you should have them on Meet the Press, and why you should vote for Graham instead of whatever random Tea Party nutjob the far right base will try to primary him with.

Graham and McCain would very much like Tsarnaev to be charged as an enemy combatant. Slate's Emily Bazelon spells out exactly why this is all pretense -- Graham knows this can't happen because "he helped write the 2009 law [pdf] that says Tsarnaev may not be tried as an enemy combatant and thus points away from holding him as one. But that’s not stopping Graham and the others from trying to score terror points—and, of course, trying to make the president appear weak. This isn’t about actually fighting terrorists. It’s about running for election."

So far, the rightwing blogosphere is following along like a brainless puppy. Mostly because they too are more interested in embarrassing Obama than rights or justice. After all, it was just weeks ago that half of them where defending the right of suspects like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to due process in the case of drone attacks on American citizens. But that was because the Obama administration held the opposite view, not because they gave a damn. Now that an American citizen is not in the sights of a drone hitman, they're all wondering why anyone would be at all concerned about due process for terrorists. As always, consistency is not their strong point.

But really, what would be the point of charging Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant anyway? Declaring him an enemy combatant would put him in the military tribunal system, rather than the criminal justice system. While military tribunals can be kangaroo courts (and that's the propaganda value for the Dimmer Twins -- to supposedly guarantee a conviction with sham justice), that's not the purpose of tribunals. Their purpose is the try actual international terrorists without compromising their value as intelligence assets. That's why certain rights recognized by criminal courts are ignored by tribunals. You don't get to see all the evidence against you, for example, because much of that evidence may still be classified and you can't possibly clear everyone involved in the case -- especially the defendant's lawyers. "Military tribunal" isn't shorthand for "super extra-mean court for people who don't deserve rights," as McCain and Graham apparently want you to see it. It's a very specific process for trying suspects while protecting the need to keep secrets. So the enemy combatant question isn't whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is an extra-bad guy, but whether he has any secrets the prosecution couldn't allow to be brought out in court.

And the answer to that is -- very , very clearly -- no. Despite a BS Daily Mirror story the rightwing blogosphere fell for, there's absolutely no reason to believe that the Tsarnaev's were working with any international terrorist organization or that Dzhokhar has any intelligence value at all. If you doubt that, check out Tim Murphy's listicle, "The 11 Most Mystifying Things the Tsarnaev Brothers Did," over at Mother Jones. It's enlightening.

According to the Mirror, the Tsarnaevs were so well-trained that they couldn't possibly have carried the bombings out on their own. Yet Murphy spells out some astonishingly brainless missteps that point not only to a lack of training, by a complete lack of any advance planning. Dzhokar made no effort at all to keep his face covered during the Marathon -- even going so far as to turn his hat backwards to expose his face -- despite being surrounded by hundreds of cameras. They ran out of money and used a hostage's card to rob an ATM. When they didn't get enough out of that machine, they tried another -- apparently unaware that ATMs are networked and giving prosecutors one more photo as evidence. That hostage escaped when the brothers stopped at a gas station to get snacks. They kept the hostage's cell, allowing police to track them using the phone's GPS. Among the weaponry they brought with them was a BB gun. A crack squad of highly trained international terrorists they were not.

And if they weren't working alone, how did they run out of money, anyway? Did Al Qaeda go broke at exactly the wrong time? For that matter, why did they have to resort to carjacking? People in terrorist sleeper cells would tend to have cars, I'd imagine. Someone could supply them with another. They were obviously alone, without support. The enemy combatant classification would make no sense.

The call to have Tsarnaev tried as an enemy combatant is shameless, grandstanding opportunism and nothing more. It's a PR move meant to make the president look weak, while making neocon tools like Graham and McCain look like they're super-serious about terrorism -- but a brief examination of the facts proves that they're not.

Like the anti-immigrant zealot Charles Grassley, these two are pimping tragedy to advance a political agenda. I'd say they should be ashamed, but the first qualification of a Republican candidate for anything seems to be shamelessness. So that's a dead end right there.

But that shouldn't stop you from being disgusted by them. They've taken a national tragedy and run with it, just as they did with 9/11. It's just as contemptible now as it was then.


[photo by isafmedia]


Overlooked Earth Day

Solar panels
Given the awful week we just went through, it might be easy to overlook Earth Day. After all, terrorist bombings and exploding fertilizer plants and a congress more interested in saving gun manufacturers' profits than in saving American lives aren't problems to be solved by reducing carbon emissions. But the truth is that we need to remember Earth Day now more than ever. If we don't have a survivable environment, none of these other problems will matter. Earth Day comes at a perfect time -- just when we start to lose sight of the importance of the environment, we're reminded that all other problems are of secondary importance.

Fortunately, we're able to walk and chew gum at the same time -- i.e., we don't have to solve problems one at a time, in order of importance. We can deal with terrorism and corporate anarchy and gun fetishism and the environment at once. It's really not that hard. Or, at least, it shouldn't be. But our media makes it more difficult. It's not that the media can't walk and chew gum at the same time -- newspapers prove the opposite. We don't get a big log of paper devoted to one, single subject  on our doorsteps every day. But the electronic media; now there's an example of a one-track mind. The explosion in West, Texas proves that. In any normal circumstance, it would be the story of the year -- but it was unfortunately overshadowed by another tragedy.

Now, I want you to consider how TV coverage of the Boston bomb attacks went. Think back. When you tuned into your favorite cable news network, you spent one helluva lot of time watching talking heads say nothing. They'd learn something new, take the few minutes it took to report that, then yack and yack and yack about nothing. In fact, if you remember correctly, you'll remember that TV media mostly talked about their own coverage; "We're hearing a lot of conflicting reports, so we'll keep you up-to-date when things get clearer." It's an oddity that cable news won't cut away from a story -- even when they have nothing to say -- but the purpose of that is to keep eyes on screens. If you turn on CNN to get news about The Big Story and they're talking about something else, you're switching over to MSNBC. Ratings bias kicks in and we all wind up watching big piles of nothing.

If the media can't take a moment to celebrate Earth Day, if other news stories are "too big" to even spare a moment of air-time, we can do it here. Meet the "carbon bubble":

International Herald Tribune: On Monday many people are celebrating Earth Day by admiring the beauty of our planet and by calling attention to the environmental dangers it faces.

While the focus is on the planet, economists are warning that carbon emissions could cause grave damage to something else green and dear.

The value of carbon-based investments — many traded publicly — could implode once governments start seriously curbing emissions, bursting what some have dubbed “the carbon bubble.”

The carbon bubble is a pretty simple concept; as it becomes clearer that excess carbon is a problem that must be solved, fossil fuels that release carbon become less attractive and, therefore, have less value. Oil, gas, and coal reserves are increasingly being seen as "unburnable," which reduces demand and reduces price. The result is a bubble; a situation where investors see more value in something than reality does. When reality catches up to the investors, the market forces the price to crash as it falls down to real world levels.

But a carbon bubble is not unavoidable. Unwise commodities traders might take a bath, but investors wouldn't have to -- and probably won't. Energy companies are diversifying their energy production, increasing investment in green energy. According to the US Energy Information Association, renewables are the fastest growing chunk of US energy consumption. Energy companies that ignore this trend would be asking for trouble. Part of the reason for this rise is simple; superior marketing. The green energy movement sells renewables for energy companies -- at no cost. And they've been tremendously successful. People will go out of their way to buy a portion of their electricity from green production -- i.e., people will specifically look for ways to buy green energy, but no one goes out of their way to make sure their electricity was generated with coal. Since only so much generating capacity is needed and people are demanding more and more renewable production, dirtier methods are increasingly being pushed out of the market.

Fossil fuel producers may squawk about this, but it's just capitalism. Technologies get dumped in favor of better tech all the time -- it's called progress. Just as cars put the buggy whip industry out of business, so renewables will eventually bury fossil fuels. And we don't notice market crashes and collapsing bubbles when this process of replacement happens over and over and over, because the jobs and market share of the new technology replaces those of the old. Will coal miners and natural gas drillers find themselves out of jobs? Eventually, sure. But new markets and new jobs will be opening up in the renewables sector to replace them. When people say that dealing with climate change will be bad for the economy, what they really mean is that it will be bad for them -- the economy and labor will actually be fine. And it will only be bad for energy companies who refuse to diversify. In other words, it won't be green energy that harms these companies, it'll be bad business management.

It may seem like progress stops occasionally, as these big news stories suck up all the oxygen. But the fact is that the world chugs along whether or not anyone's watching and the rest of the news unfolds just like always. "The world holds its breath" is a metaphor only. Other news develops whether it's covered or not. And long-term stories like climate and the environment get pushed to the farthest back burner, where they simmer nonetheless. This Earth Day may not get much coverage, because of boredom and shinier baubles, but this Earth Day is happening all the same.

And progress is being made every day, whether the cameras are there or not.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]


The Gun Show Loophole Remains -- And You Should be Angry About That

Gun show
Reading through the reactions to yesterday's successful obstruction of an expanded background checks bill, there's one thing you notice right away. Normally, stories like this are peppered with words like "saddened," disappointed," or "discouraged." That's not the case today. Today, people are opening their papers or visiting their favorite online news source and reading words like "angry," "disgusted," and "furious."

The pro-crime lobby may think they've beaten us, but all they really managed to do is make us mad.

For her part, Gabrielle Giffords has spent her time cultivating the image of a happy warrior, a friendly hero overcoming tremendous adversity and senseless tragedy. While the hero part of that persona remains, "happy" doesn't describe her op-ed on the issue in the New York Times:

Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I’m furious. I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep your children safe. We cannot allow the status quo — desperately protected by the gun lobby so that they can make more money by spreading fear and misinformation — to go on.

I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth about the cowardice these senators demonstrated. I am asking for mothers to stop these lawmakers at the grocery store and tell them: You’ve lost my vote. I am asking activists to unsubscribe from these senators’ e-mail lists and to stop giving them money. I’m asking citizens to go to their offices and say: You’ve disappointed me, and there will be consequences.

Giffords writes that "if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities’ interests ahead of the gun lobby’s." The issue of partisanship does not come up. Democrat, Republican, or Independent, if you sided with the pro-criminal gun lobby, we want your head.

"This defeat is only the latest chapter of what I’ve always known would be a long, hard haul," she says. "Our democracy’s history is littered with names we neither remember nor celebrate — people who stood in the way of progress while protecting the powerful. On Wednesday, a number of senators voted to join that list."

President Obama's reaction was just as angry and just as nonpartisan. He said that the gun lobby had "willfully lied" about background checks,that too many senators "failed," and that members of both parties caved to NRA pressure, making the wrong choice. Salon's Alex Seitz-Wald notes that the President deliberately chose to use provocative language: "Even though politicians lie all the time, the word 'lie' is almost never uttered in public discourse in Washington, let alone by the president, underscoring his unusual anger." Personally, I think it's both shameful and a mistake not to call out lies as lies -- it makes it so much easier for liars to get away with it -- so the rejection of softer language strikes me as a breath of fresh air. And, of course, the unaccustomed bluntness is designed to put the charge in headlines.

This tone of righteous anger and accusations of lying really is that deliberate, I think. The soft-on-crimers are now in a position where they have to defend their vote if they want to talk about it. And of course, it invites factcheckers to examine the claims. But there's a tendency in the face of anger to react with anger, to meet passion with passion -- and the person who strikes back in anger lashes out thoughtlessly and clumsily, ensuring that PR mistakes will be made. Heartless comments will be spoken, the families of the massacred will be insulted. You think "legitimate rape" was a misstep? Wait until some gun lobby puppet tells a tearful Sandy Hook parent to stop complaining or accuses a survivor of the Aurora massacre of being a closet communist. Some on the right already felt safe attacking Newtown families; start whacking them in the nose over and over and they'll really start to get stupid.

And seriously, better than 90% of Americans backed the background check bill. That's as close to unanimous as you're ever likely to see. Republicans may be quietly celebrating their win in a cocktail party with NRA lobbyists somewhere, but they'd be wise to ask themselves how many of these sorts of "victories" their party can actually survive. From women's health to immigration to marriage equality, they really need to consider the fact that they can't take the minority position on every issue and become a majority party again. If gun safety advocates don't let the issue go, it highlights how they've once again taken the side opposite the voters.

But the most powerful tool in the toolbox is that righteous anger. Senators who voted to sustain the filibuster shouldn't be asked to explain themselves, they should be made to defend themselves -- and not as legislators, but as human beings. They should be asked, "What the hell is wrong with you?" Patricia Maisch, a hero of the Tuscon shooting rampage that so critically injured Gabrielle Giffords got it right. As soon as it was clear the filibuster had held, she stood up in the Senate gallery and shouted, "Shame on you! Shame on you!" This woman grabbed a magazine away from Jared Loughner in Tuscon in 2011, preventing him from reloading and undoubtedly saving many lives. She showed the same courage yesterday, raining condemnation down on spineless or soulless Senators who put gun sales and profits above protecting American lives. Make no mistake, protecting the giant loopholes in current background check law is about being able to sell guns and ammo to criminals. President Obama is right: anyone who says differently is a liar.

And they should be called liars. To their face.


[photo by M Glasgow]


The Pointlessness of Spinning an Event Like the Boston Bombings

Police investigate bombing scene
I saw the article yesterday, but I kind of set it aside. In it, the Boston Globe reported that the Boston Marathon bombing has all the earmarks of a domestic terror attack.  I bookmarked it and tagged it for later, thinking that maybe it would be better reference from a historical standpoint than from a predictive one. After all, rightwing bloggers have been using baseless speculation to cover themselves in clown paint and I wasn't eager to emulate their failures. I thought the article would better serve as a "clues were there" reference (or "clues were misleading," as the case might be). The article describes the bombs as "crudely made" and suggest that the death toll indicates they weren't as effective as the bomber would've hoped, "making it unlikely that they were the work of a foreign government or global terrorist group, such as Al ­Qaeda." Besides, Islamic terrorist organizations always claim credit for bombings -- that is, after all, the point: to spread terror -- and we're now approaching the end of the 72 hour window in which those claims usually are issued. In incidents of attacks by lone domestic terrorists, it's generally the case that no one takes credit, because the perpetrator doesn't want to risk providing more evidence. In these cases, the purpose of the attack isn't to spread terror, but to "strike a blow" against a perceived enemy from the perspective of their own lives (i.e., the DC Sniper, the Olympic Park bombing, or Oklahoma City). Sophisticated terrorists try to perceive their attacks from the eyes of the media and the populace. From the Globe article:

Juliette N. Kayyem, a Globe columnist and lecturer at ­Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government who has spent years working on counter­terrorism and homeland security, said she thought the bombing was probably the work of a terrorist in the ­Boston area who would appreciate the race’s importance to the local culture.

“It is probably home-grown, someone with a political cause from the right or the left,” said Kayyem, “someone who knows how appealing the Boston ­Marathon is to citizens here.”

“Even though it’s an international event, it is still a local event,” she said.

Of course, none of this is to say it isn't an Islamic terror attack -- which was why I approached the piece with a healthy amount of caution and a grain of salt. What people surmise and what people know are two entirely different things.

But a piece by David Sirota caught my attention. In it, he argues that it would be better for the nation if the bomber were some sort of white extremist, rather than a foreign national. Because white privilege would kick in and guarantee we don't overreact as we did after 9/11; with war and the PATRIOT Act and government torture chambers.

As we now move into the official Political Aftermath period of the Boston bombing — the period that will determine the long-term legislative fallout of the atrocity — the dynamics of privilege will undoubtedly influence the nation’s collective reaction to the attacks. That’s because privilege tends to determine: 1) which groups are — and are not — collectively denigrated or targeted for the unlawful actions of individuals; and 2) how big and politically game-changing the overall reaction ends up being.

This has been most obvious in the context of recent mass shootings. In those awful episodes, a religious or ethnic minority group lacking such privilege would likely be collectively slandered and/or targeted with surveillance or profiling (or worse) if some of its individuals comprised most of the mass shooters. However, white male privilege means white men are not collectively denigrated/targeted for those shootings — even though most come at the hands of white dudes.

Likewise, in the context of terrorist attacks, such privilege means white non-Islamic terrorists are typically portrayed not as representative of whole groups or ideologies, but as “lone wolf” threats to be dealt with as isolated law enforcement matters. Meanwhile, non-white or developing-world terrorism suspects are often reflexively portrayed as representative of larger conspiracies, ideologies and religions that must be dealt with as systemic threats — the kind potentially requiring everything from law enforcement action to military operations to civil liberties legislation to foreign policy shifts.

He goes on to cite anti-racist author Tim Wise, who spelled out the argument explicitly: "White privilege is knowing that even if the bomber turns out to be white, no one will call for your group to be profiled as terrorists as a result, subjected to special screening or threatened with deportation. White privilege is knowing that if this bomber turns out to be white, the United States government will not bomb whatever corn field or mountain town or stale suburb from which said bomber came, just to ensure that others like him or her don’t get any ideas. And if he turns out to be a member of the Irish Republican Army we won’t bomb Dublin. And if he’s an Italian-American Catholic we won’t bomb the Vatican."

In other words, if it turns out to be another Timothy McVeigh, the people from his hometown won't wonder when the drone strikes will be coming and we won't be experiencing a rise in hate crimes against young white males. Institutional racism is amplified in these situations and we tend to throw caution to the wind.

As a result, it might be tempting to believe that this was a white political extremist of one of the many flavors of extremism out there. But you can't make it be. That's where the rightwing bloggers get it so completely wrong. They're so used to spinning stories to try to make people perceive news a certain way, that they're busy trying to spin this into something it may later be proven not to be. If they manage to make us certain that we're looking at some foreign terrorist attack and that gets proven untrue, not many are going to continue to believe it was a foreign terrorist attack. You can't make the event conform to what you hope it is or isn't. In these case, spin is pointless and only serves to make you look like a shameless opportunist and a fool -- which is exactly what you would be.

Right now, the truest thing in the world is to say we don't know. Looking ahead to possible consequences is probably wise -- it's better to be prepared. But predicting consequences and identifying culprits is, at this point, inviting failure. We'll know who do it and why soon enough. Until then, let the perpetually fearful and wrong wingnut bloggers cover themselves in clown paint. Leave your own face alone.


[photo by hahatango]


Tea Party Bloggers, the Boston Bombing, and the Cult of Perpetual Victimhood

Crying child
It's a shocking and terrible crime. A blast that was almost certainly terrorism (run of the mill mass murder can't be ruled out yet) rocked the finish line at the Boston Marathon, followed quickly by another. The brutal carnage has resulted in the death of three, with the real possibility of that number rising still -- many of the injuries were horrific.

The smoke had barely cleared before the speculation began -- and with it, the idiocy. Reports were confused, unclear, sometimes contradictory. But one group of Americans felt they had a firm grasp one the true story in Boston. And that story was that they -- the rightwing, Tea Party, wingnut bloggers -- were the real victims in the day's tragedy.

Leading the charge was the blog "Fire Andrea Mitchell," claiming that CNN's Wolf Blitzer had blamed the Tea Party for the bombing. The right went insane on Twitter, which is where the right goes to go insane these days, and the story spread like widlfire. "CNN's Wolf Blitzer just speculated if anti-tax groups were behind the bombing WITH ZERO EVIDENCE," one tweeted -- which turned out to be a massively hypocritical statement.

Blitzer's supposed "blaming" of the Tea Party right consisted of one sentence, "It is a state holiday in Massachusetts today called Patriots' Day and, uh, who knows if that had anything at all to do with these explosions." The only way you to take that as an attack on the right is if you wanted so badly to wear the mantle of victimhood that you'd twist anything anyone said in order to take offense. If you were so self-absorbed as to be able to do that, then the victims weren't those people bleeding on the streets of Boston, the real victims were the wingnut bloggers and their audience.

Meanwhile, gun nut and professional conspiracy theorist Alex Jones decided the story "stinks to high heaven" and he thought it was a "false flag." Later on his radio show, he claimed that this was all connected somehow to the massive drop in gold prices the same day. Of course, none of that makes any sense at all, but that's never stopped Jones before. The one consistent, underlying theory rattling around in Jones' head was familiar, though: the "false flag operation" was carried out by the government to create an excuse to crack down on the Tea Party.

This particular brand of idiocy found it's way into a press conference held by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, where a "reporter" for Jones' Infowars website asked the governor about a "false flag staged attack." Patrick gave him all the attention he deserved, immediately blowing him off.

When the bombs went off in Boston, the right immediately politicized the event and made themselves the real victims in this tragedy. But that's what they always do. If you've ever had the misfortune to visit Michelle Malkin's site, the lasting impression you take away is one of unending whininess. The right is in perpetual search of some reason to play the victim. When they find it, they go all echo chamber, announcing their victimhood to the world in the most strident tones possible.

And the strangest part about it is that nobody cares. Their little daily freakouts accomplish nothing, they change the political landscape in no way. There's a desperate pointlessness to it all, reinforced by the fact that on your average day, no one else is paying any attention to it. They're locked in perpetual outrage -- mostly over things they've taken completely out of context and proportion. That is, when the source of the outrage isn't just some BS of their own invention.

Yesterday was really no different from any other daily in Wingnutistan. Every day is Victim Day and everything -- every goddam thing that happens to anyone, anywhere -- is all about them. Because they're the most important people in the entire world.

And if you don't recognize that, they'll whine endlessly until you do.


[photo by jaredeberhardt]


War on Women May Be More Wide-Ranging Than the GOP Realizes

Ballons reading, 'Votes for Women'
I'm not a big fan of the headline Mother Jones chose for Kate Sheppard's piece on the GOP's ongoing attacks on reproductive freedom. "Progressives Advise GOP: Back Off On the War on Women" has the distinct flavor of concern trolling. But it turns out to be accurate; two progressive groups have advised the Republican Party to knock off the War on Women, because it's losing them elections.

It was clear in both the lead up to and the aftermath of the November 2012 election that Republican candidates are not faring well among women voters. From Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin to Mitt Romney's 11-point loss among women voters, it became painfully clear that the GOP has a lady problem. A new memo from a pair of liberal groups that pulls together some of the polling figures makes a strong case for paying more attention to this divide.

The memo, from Stephanie Schriock of EMILY’s List and Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, notes that even the Republican National Committee's own post-election report found that, "[Women] represent more than half the voting population in the country, and our inability to win their votes is losing us elections." But while Republicans have made some effort to soften the party's positioning on issues like immigration and LGBT rights, the party has not moderated its stance on reproductive rights or other issues of interest to many women voters.

The memo points to the unprecedented attack on access to abortion underway in states like North Dakota and Arkansas, the 160 Republicans that voted against the Violence Against Women Act at the federal level, and the ongoing fights over both contraception coverage and cuts to the federal family planning budget.

"If the GOP wants to move forward, help its image and win elections, it should halt its embrace of extreme and out-of-touch policies that attack women and their families," the memo states [pdf]. "Ending attacks on abortion rights in the states would be a start."

But the fact is that these attacks on reproductive freedom hurt more than just the shortsighted party launching them. They hurt the women in those states. Even in the best-case scenario, 2014 isn't going to be a Democratic march to victory in all 50 state legislatures and governorships, getting them to realize their folly is at least worth a shot. If we can get the GOP to stop attacking women's health, there would be a lot less misery in this country.

And the issue is killing them.

"NARAL Pro-Choice America's polling right after the election found that Romney's view on abortion was the top reason for voting against him that swing-voting women cited in their survey," Sheppard reports. "Planned Parenthood also used this issue to attack anti-choice politicians. Another post-election poll from Democracy Corps found that 33 percent of unmarried women listed the attacks on Planned Parenthood and women's preventative health services as a top reason for voting against Romney."

But it's not just reproductive rights, it's pretty much the GOP ideology in general that's hurting them with woman voters.

First Read, NBC News: Women are a key driver of support for legislation overhauling the nation's gun and immigration laws, according to new data in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, just as Congress prepares to take up major legislation on both of those issues.

Women outpace men in their support for stricter gun laws and immigration reform that provides undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, data which becomes more salient in light of the Republican Party’s effort to regain its footing with women voters after last fall’s elections.

The gender gap is most pronounced when it comes to the issue of stricter gun controls, legislation on which the Senate voted to begin consideration this Thursday.

65% of women (including 70% of self-identified mothers) want stricter laws on gun sales, compared with 44% of men. The War on Women is spreading to gun laws; not because Republicans are choosing to attack women over the issue, but because women are the ones showing up to fight.

And still doesn't end there. Women are also more likely to be environmentalists and are more likely to support the idea of an "activist government" -- i.e., to "say that government should do more for the poor, children and the elderly."

If the GOP wants to win over more woman voters, they'll need to realize that their problems with women are a lot deeper than just traditional "women's issues" like reproductive health and freedom, equality, and education. To listen solely on choice issues and to ignore everything else would be to make the same mistake the party's currently making with Latinos -- that is, assuming that they're single issue voters and that immigration is all they care about. Each demographic has a wide range of concerns and focusing solely one is to focus all your energy on merely making a dent. It's a simpleminded 2D approach to intelligent people living in a complex 3D world.

Of course, it's always possible that the GOP has just given up on women for precisely these reasons. That they've seen the same numbers and have decided they'd have to give up too much. Or that they think listening to what women have to say is just "pandering." But this would be foolish. The Republican base is rapidly shrinking and the focus has to be on expanding that base. They're going to have to give up some of their most cherished wedge issues.

If not, then they resign themselves to becoming a party of crackpots, cranks, and anachronisms. So far, that seems to be their preferred route.


[photo by League of Women Voters of California]


Obama's Chained CPI Offer is Genuine

'Save Social Security' protest sign
It's a rare thing these days when right and left agree in Washington, so take a moment to appreciate the bigfoot sighting. Although they both have arrived at this point of agreement for wildly different reasons, the fact remains that they are there, sharing the same space, breathing the same air. This isn't exactly a moment of blissful brother- and sisterhood, but they are joined together in common purpose -- kill the President's proposed budget.

The right doesn't like it simply because it's from Obama. They'd reject renaming Washington "The Ronald Reagan Memorial Gun Refuge" if Obama proposed it. Their opposition is a given. These are not serious or honest people, they're spoiled children holding their breath until they get exactly what they want. And what they want is a nuclear strike on our recovering economy; no new revenues, only deep, deep cuts to spending -- which means hacking off demand at the knees. They'd practically guarantee a second recession. Luckily for us, if they can't do this then they don't want to do anything -- including pass the president's budget.

Which is where right meets left. The President's chained CPI proposal is a smoke-and-mirrors cut to Social Security benefits. And Obama proposes cuts to other entitlements as well. Lefty dems say there are quite enough gaps in the social safety net already, thank you very much. We don't need to take a scissors to it and start cutting more. Centrist and moderate Democrats, seeing that right and left hate Obama's budget, are keeping their opinions to themselves -- probably wisely.

The question is why would Barack Obama, a Democratic president, attack Social Security -- one of his party's greatest and most lasting achievements -- in a budget proposal. What gives?

Some of what I'm seeing is an argument that Obama's playing poker. He offers what should be a compromise they can live with to the Republicans, only to have them slap his hand away and reject the offer. This, the theory goes, proves that Republicans aren't serious and will simply oppose anything Obama proposes for the simple fact that Obama proposed it. It's supposed to be the final act in an episode of Scooby Doo, where Pres. Barack Fred tears the mask off the Phantom Prospector and shows it was just old man Boehner all along. With Republicans revealed as obstructionists, President Obama can turn to the American people and say, "Give me someone else to work with here."

The problem with this theory is that it relies on an overly complicated plan and some inside baseball. This is the sort of explanation a beltway insider would come up with, because they don't seem to realize that the average person doesn't pay much attention to Washington at all. They're not going to follow this whole roundabout good faith/bad faith stuff, they've got better things to do with their lives than stay glued to CNN to watch this whole drama unfold.

No, if you wanted to demonstrate GOP obstructionism, you'd do some polling, find the very most popular things in America, bundle them all up into a "free ice cream" budget, and let Republicans oppose that. Nobody knows what the hell chained CPI is, but they know what increased funding for schools, police, and firefighters is. They're familiar with a raise in the minimum wage. They'd understand job creation programs. If you wanted to get Republicans on record as opposing something, you'd get them on the record as opposing things like these -- not some arcane bit of bookkeeping mumbo-jumbo designed to hide cuts to entitlement benefits.

Barack Obama chose to make chained CPI the opening bid in budget negotiations because he's cool with it, not because he wants to embarrass Republicans with it. Obama's budget is exactly what it seems to be: a betrayal of the core Democratic principles of protecting the most vulnerable in America and providing at least some modest guarantee that seniors won't go hungry when they can no longer work.

When the President formally unveiled his budget proposal, he told reporters, "There's not a lot of smoke and mirrors in here." That's BS. Chained CPI is the very definition of smoke and mirrors. You don't try to hide a cut when the plan is to bring it out in the open to show up Republicans as obstructionist. This is the President once again beginning negotiations by undercutting his own position -- i.e., negotiating with himself and negotiating away protecting entitlements. He's ready to do this, for real.

Thank goodness this budget is pretty much DOA. It hasn't exposed Republicans as unserious, but it has exposed Barack Obama as untrustworthy. I'm afraid any other take is wishful thinking. That's a shame, but that's a reality. It's up to congressional Democrats to protect Social Security, because the White House has completely dropped the ball.


[photo by faul]


It's All Just a Game: How the Political Media Make Heroes Out of Jerks

Chess pieces
Hey, want to see some journalistic malpractice? Then head over to Buzzfeed and take a look at Evan McMorris-Santoro's latest steaming pile of fly food.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell put on a clinic in crisis communications Tuesday, turning a potentially explosive secret recording of his campaign's strategy session into a political bludgeon to beat  Democrats — and the campaign cash bushes.

"Last week they were  attacking my wife's ethnicity and apparently also bugging my  headquarters, much like Nixon and Watergate," McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill. "That's what the political left does these days."

If the press conference were an episode of the camp-era "Batman" that's where the "biff!" titlecard would show up. McConnell had gone from a man on his heels after a recording of an oppo research session on Ashley Judd was published by Mother Jones to the master politician driving the story to his own benefit.

It doesn't get any better. But you don't have to trust me on that, Buzzfeed left it right out there in the open, like they're not ashamed of it at all. Mitch McConnell was planning on attacking a woman for speaking openly about depression, thoughts of suicide, and her religious beliefs. But instead of manning up and taking responsibility for his actions when they were made public, McConnell released a blizzard of whining over likely-imaginary wiretaps. Suddenly, the villain is the victim and McMorris-Santoro responds with wild applause. "Masterful politics! Brilliant dishonesty! Behold the amazing shamelessness!"

Pieces like this are a big reason why our political discourse is broken in America. It's a symptom of what journalism critic Jay Rosen calls "the cult of savviness." Political journalism in America isn't about good policy or solid numbers or proven facts. It's not about right or wrong, ethical or unethical. American journalism sees politics not as democracy's method for serving the nation, but as a season of Game of Thrones. Who comes out on top is more important than the pile of bodies it took to come out on top -- or the policy the the person who "won the day" was advancing in the first place.

In American journalism, politics isn't about the nation or you, it's some arcane sport journalists pride themselves on being able to understand and explain.

"In politics, our journalists believe, it is better to be savvy than it is to be honest or correct on the facts. It’s better to be savvy than it is to be just, good, fair, decent, strictly lawful, civilized, sincere, thoughtful or humane.  Savviness is what journalists admire in others. Savvy is what they themselves dearly wish to be. (And to be unsavvy is far worse than being wrong.)," Rosen said in 2011. "Savviness is that quality of being shrewd, practical, hyper-informed, perceptive, ironic, 'with it,' and unsentimental in all things political. And what is the truest mark of savviness? Winning, of course! Or knowing who the winners are."

In other words, savviness is an appreciation and understanding of hopelessly cynical gamesmanship. And, by that measure, Mitch McConnell -- in managing to weasel out of a damning exposure as a real prize prick -- is a hero. Because politics is an amoral enterprise and winning is all that matters. Who they crushed, why they crushed them, what lies they told, what the facts actually are, etc., are all unimportant trivia, because the whole thing is just a game and if it winds up ruining lives... Well, that's just the way things are. If you want another example of this, think back to how Paul Ryan was hailed as "courageous" by the political media for having the guts to attack entitlements -- despite the fact that almost everyone who looked at his budget plans concluded they were muddled nonsense. Ryan was openly plotting to screw millions of Americans for no good reason and the press put him on a pedestal.

And so our political discourse gets coarsened daily, because people like Evan McMorris-Santoro gives that coarseness a standing ovation. It's a good thing these people don't work the crime beat or they'd be making heroes of the criminals who evade capture.


[photo by sourabhmassey]


GOP Loser-Heroes and the Conservative Cult of Victimhood

Sarah Palin at CPAC
One of the more overlooked hurdles to the big Republican Party rebranding project is the fact that the base loves victims. Sarah Palin perfected cashing in on this tendency, making a career out of being a victim of the "lamestream media." And their love of victims necessarily makes them lovers of losers. Anyone who can play the victim card while saying, "I just might've won if it wasn't for..." is a hero. As is the case with Mike Huckabee, you can even get a show on Fox News. This isn't universally true, of course -- neither John McCain nor Mitt Romney are too beloved by the base these days -- but that's more a case of taking their losses with a measure of dignity and grace than anything. To be a rightwing loser-hero, you have to complain and gripe and whine and basically throw a child's "It's not fair!" sort of tantrum. For whatever reason, poor losers are winners in wingnuts' eyes. Graceful losers are RINOs.

But how constructive is it to continually refight the last battle? No matter how much she complains and whines, the 2008 election isn't going to be overturned somehow and Sarah Palin made vice president. Nursing grievances serves no useful purpose -- especially when you seem completely unwilling to learn a damned thing from your loss. At heart, the rightwing loser-hero represents as big a hindrance to the GOP as their runaway racism, sexism, homophobia, and Christian supremacism. When you're trying to win elections, it probably is a good idea to listen to losers -- provided the purpose is to learn from mistakes. But it's a bad idea to listen to losers who blame everyone in the world but themselves. The belief that your campaign was perfect and the media, voters, and opposition was flawed is no way to get ahead in politics. Which means this tendency among Republican voters to idolize losers is a tendency Democrats should applaud.

Behold the stupid:


Since Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus introduced the “Growth and Opportunity Project” in mid-March, the party has proven over and over and over again that it just isn’t ready to change.

The latest example of the GOP being intellectually and politically stuck in the 2012 presidential primaries comes courtesy of one of the stars of those disastrous contests: former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum. According to Santorum, the Republican Party’s path to revitalization is not a new round of engagement with women, young voters, and other groups that delivered an electoral landslide to President Barack Obama in November. No, Santorum has a different plan for saving the GOP: defunding Planned Parenthood.

The Raw Story reports that Santorum presented his three-point plan to save the party in a fundraising email over the weekend: mobilizing “pro-family conservatives,” “refuting the lies and half-truths that our detractors in the GOP are spreading about us,” and attacking the women’s’ health care provider.

Yes, let's go with Rick Santorum's ideas, seeing as how they worked so well the last time. He's got the plan to win over those lady voters.

Also joining in on the fun is former GOP Rep. Jeff Landry of Louisiana, who announced with much fanfare that he was starting a SuperPAC called Restore Our Republic. ROR will, according to Politico, "give conservatives aligned with the GOP’s activist base the same outside support that establishment-side Republicans get from independent expenditure groups." Without saying so explicitly, Landry makes it clear that his group is basically a RINO hunting safari, with establishment incumbents as the prey.

"Incumbents who are out there who are conservatives will never have to worry about us," Landry said. "And if you’re a Republican, you’re supposed to be conservative." Landry's effort will be co-helmed by Republican strategist Nachama Soloveichik, a former spokesperson for the Club For Growth, another RINO hunting camp. The end effect of all of this is that ROR would promote the sort of candidates that makes rebranding impossible.

Did I mention that Landry lost reelection n 2012? Yeah, the guy who just lost an election has the magic formula for winning elections. And people take these guys seriously.

Maybe the conservative movement shouldn't have been so accepting of the "help" offered by self-serving grifters like Sarah Palin. Because somewhere along the line, they've taught their base to believe that it's the losers who hold the keys to winning elections. This reasoning has it that -- for example -- immigrant bashing isn't the problem, the problem is that they aren't bashing immigrants enough. And it's the same on down the line: the War on Women, scapegoating minorities, the homophobia, the Islamophobia, etc. The problem isn't that there's too much of this in the GOP -- the problem is that there isn't enough. Turn on talk radio or Fox News and you'll hear it over and over and over -- people didn't vote Republican because they didn't see "true" conservatism. The old Republican rule comes back: if what you're doing isn't working, you just need to do more of it. You need to hate more and smear more and scapegoat more, because that's what voters really like.

If the GOP rebranding effort is going to work, they're going to need to take these regressive loser-heroes head on. They need to realize that, by pushing incredibly unpopular stances in the name of "true conservatism," these victimhood-mongers are actively working against the party. Because these people practice the politics of exclusion -- and they've excluded so many voters that they can't possibly win national office. Exclusion and alienation are, after all, practically the same thing.

Their big advice for winning more election is basically to actively drive more voters away. If they had any brains at all, Republican leadership would treat these fools like political lepers. Instead, they put them in their Hall of Heroes.


[photo by Gage Skidmore]