Posts Tagged ‘Tea Party’

Must-Reads of the Week: SWAT, Google’s News Plans, MTA Motto, Peanuts, Tea Party Feminism, Republican Pravda, Fiscal Hangover, New York’s Tyranny, Brooks on the Military, and Facebook Backlash

Friday, May 14th, 2010

1. SWAT antics. Radley Balko does some follow-up reporting on the now infamous video of the SWAT team raid in Missouri in which 2 dogs were shot:

[D]espite all the anger the raid has inspired, the only thing unusual thing here is that the raid was captured on video, and that the video was subsequently released to the press. Everything else was routine… Raids just like the one captured in the video happen 100-150 times every day in America.

2. Google’s News Plans. James Fallows discusses how Google is trying to save the news industry.

3. If you see something… Manny Fernandez in the New York Times discusses the impact and coinage of the ubiquitous phrase, “If you see something, say something.”

It has since become a global phenomenon — the homeland security equivalent of the “Just Do It” Nike advertisement — and has appeared in public transportation systems in Oregon, Texas, Florida, Australia and Canada, among others. Locally, the phrase captured, with six simple words and one comma, the security consciousness and dread of the times, the “I ♥ NY” of post-9/11 New York City. [my emphasis]

4. Artful Grief. Bill Waterson — creator of Calvin & Hobbes — reviewed a biography of Charles Schultz for the Wall Street Journal a few years ago — writing on the ‘Grief’ that Made Peanuts Good. It’s several years old but well worth reading.

5. Tea Party Feminism. Hanna Rosin of Slate evaluates the Tea Party as a feminist movement. And her reporting surprised me at least.

6. Republican Pravda. Jonathan Chait collects a few Weekly Standard covers to illustrate the changing right-wing portrayal of Obama over the past year. He identifies the passage of the health care bill as a turning point:

Now that Obama has won his biggest legislative priority and is closing in on at least one other important win, the tone is change. The hapless patsy has become the snarling bully. The lack of Republican support for Obama’s agenda, once a credit to Republican tough-mindedness, is now blamed upon Obama’s stubbornness. Here is a recent cover of Obama–the nefarious, but powerful, overseer…

7. Fiscal Hangover. Gillian Tett of the Financial Times explains the successful approach the Irish are taking to their fiscal crisis: treat it like a hangover.

8. The Tyranny of New York. Conor Friedersdof complains about the tyranny of New York — but I will excerpt his praise:

Even if New York is a peerless American city, an urban triumph that dwarfs every other in scale, density, and possibility; even if our idea of it is the romantic notion that Joan Didion described, “the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself;” even if you’ve reveled in the fact of the city, strutting down Fifth Avenue in a sharp suit or kissing a date with the skyline as backdrop while the yellow cab waits; even if you’ve drunk from the well of its creative springs, gazing at the Flatiron Building, or paging through the New York Review of Books on a Sunday morning, or living vicariously through Joseph Mitchel or E.B. White or Tom Wolfe or any of its countless chroniclers; even if you love New York as much as I do, revering it as the highest physical achievement of Western Civilization, surely you can admit that its singularly prominent role on the national scene is a tremendously unhealthy pathology.

Despite the rent, the cold, the competition, the bedbugs, the absurd requirements for securing even a closet-sized pre-war apartment on an inconvenient street; the distance from friends and family, the starkness of the sexual marketplace, the oppressive stench of sticky subway platforms in the dog days of August; despite the hour long commutes on the Monday morning F Train, when it isn’t quite 8 am, the week hardly underway, and already you feel as though, for the relief of sitting down, you’d just as soon give up, go back to Akron or Allentown or Columbus or Marin County or Long Beach — despite these things, and so many more, lawyers and novelists and artists and fashion designers and playwrights and journalists and bankers and aspiring publishers and models flock to New York City.

I don’t quite get Friedersdof’s complaint to be honest. What would be improved if there were more sitcoms taking place in Houston?

9. Military Flow Chart. David Brooks analyzes the military’s adaptation of counterinsurgency as a case study in the flow of ideas in entrenched organizations.

10. Facebook Backlash. Ryan Singel of Wired has one of many pieces in the past week fomenting the growing Facebook backlash:

Facebook has gone rogue, drunk on founder Mark Zuckerberg’s dreams of world domination. It’s time the rest of the web ecosystem recognizes this and works to replace it with something open and distributed.

[Image by me.]

Must-Reads of the Week: American Power, Inequality, 1 Billion Heartbeats, Hacking Life, Anthora Cups, Structural Deficit, Financial Doomsedays and Crises, China, the Tea Party’s Views on Immigration, and Lady Gaga

Friday, April 30th, 2010

There were a lot of good articles and posts I came across this week — so brace yourself…

1. The American Power Act. David Brooks makes the case for progressive reform — specifically the American Power Act regarding climate change:

When you read that history, you’re reminded that large efforts are generally plagued by stupidity, error and corruption. But by the sheer act of stumbling forward, it’s possible, sometimes, to achieve important things…The energy revolution is a material project that arouses moral fervor — exactly the sort of enterprise at which Americans excel.

Matt Yglesias had earlier this week critiqued Brooks (among others) for taking the exact opposite stance of the one he was adopting here:

Oftentimes in the Obama Era the difference between “reasonable” conservatives (David Brooks and Greg Mankiw often leading the charge) and reasonable liberals has been that reasonable liberals look at flawed legislation that would improve on the status quo and support it while “reasonable” conservatives look at flawed legislation that would improve on the status quo and oppose it, while claiming to support alternative flawed proposals that they don’t actually lift a finger to organize support for within their own ideological faction.

2. Inequality, social mobility, and the American Dream. The Economist had a good piece that can serve as a starting point for a post I’ll be writing soon on inequality, social mobility, and the American dream:

The evidence is that America does offer opportunity; but not nearly as much as its citizens believe.

Parental income is a better predictor of a child’s future in America than in much of Europe, implying that social mobility is less powerful.

3. The Science of Life. Jonah Lehrer for Seed magazine has a brilliant piece on how cities are like living organisms. As a side matter, he notes this beautifully poignant data point:

[A]n animal’s lifespan can be roughly calculated by raising its mass to the 1/4 power. Heartbeats scale in the opposite direction, so that bigger animals have a slower pulse. The end result is that every living creature gets about a billion heartbeats worth of life. Small animals just consume their lives faster.

4. Fine-tuning life. Gary Wolf for the New York Times Magazine explains how the accessibility of computers is creating data about every aspect of our lives — and of the efforts of some people to begin to catalog and find insights in their own data. Surprisingly, Lifehacker was never mentioned.

5. The Anthora Cup. Margalit Fox of the New York Times writes the obituary for Leslie Buck, the designer of the Anthora cup:

It was for decades the most enduring piece of ephemera in New York City and is still among the most recognizable. Trim, blue and white, it fits neatly in the hand, sized so its contents can be downed in a New York minute. It is as vivid an emblem of the city as the Statue of Liberty, beloved of property masters who need to evoke Gotham at a glance in films and on television.

6. Unified Theory of the Financial Crisis. Ezra Klein synthesizes various narratives into a unified theory of the financial crisis.

7. The Structural Deficit. Donald B. Marron provides a coherent and reality-based conservative look at America’s structural deficit. Absolutely a Must-Read.

8. The Financial Doomsday Machine. Martin Wolf dedicated his column in the Financial Times last week to describe the “financial doomsday machine“:

[T]he financial sector has become bigger and riskier. The UK case is dramatic, with banking assets jumping from 50 per cent of GDP to more than 550 per cent over the past four decades…The combination of state insurance (which protects creditors) with limited liability (which protects shareholders) creates a financial doomsday machine. What happens is best thought of as “rational carelessness”. Its most dangerous effect comes via the extremes of the credit cycle.

9. Realism on China. Stephen Walt explains his take on China’s strategic ambitions — and its inevitable rivalry with the United States and other regional powers.

10. The Tea Party & Immigration. Radley Balko explains his take on the widespread support among the Tea Party for the massive government power grab that is Arizona’s new immigration law:

It also makes a mockery of the media narrative that these are gathering of anti-government extremists. Seems like in may parts of the country they’re as pro-government as the current administration, just pro-their kind of government.

Coincidentally, I made that exact point about the Tea Party back in September 2009 entitled: These Protests Aren’t Against Big Government, But About Liberals Running the Government.

Andrew Sullivan piles on:

Worse, on the fiscal front, they’re total frauds. They have yet to propose any serious cuts in entitlements and want far more money poured into the military-imperial complex. In rallies, the largely white members in their fifties and older seem determined to get every penny of social security and Medicare. They are a kind of boomer revolt – but on the other side of that civil conflict, and no longer a silent majority. In fact, they’re now the minority that won’t shut up.

More and more, this feels to me like an essentially cultural revolt against what America is becoming: a multi-racial, multi-faith, gay-inclusive, women-friendly, majority-minority country.

11. Sovereign Debt Crisis. Felix Salmon and Paul Krugman are both very pessimistic about how Greece will get out of this crisis — and what it means for the global economy.

12. Lady Gaga’s Ambition. Brendan Sullivan for Esquire chronicles the life and ambitions of Lady Gaga:

“There is a musical government, who decides what we all get to hear and listen to. And I want to be one of those people.” The girl who said that didn’t yet have the number-one hits (although she had already written most of them).

She was not yet the creative director of the Haus of Gaga, which is what she calls the machine of more than a hundred creative people who work for her. She didn’t make that statement in an interview or from the stage. She made it in 2007, when she was a go-go dancer sewing her own outfits and I was her DJ. She wrote it in one of my notebooks…

Lady Gaga is a student of fame, and the fame she studies most is her own — being famous seems to both amuse and fascinate her.

[1st image by me; 2nd image by LarindaME licensed under Creative Commons.]

The Populist Right Isn’t a Political Movement.

Monday, April 12th, 2010

[digg-reddit-me]Last week, I wrote my response to the Tea Party: Government is Good! It’s one of those pieces that I wrote 10 separate drafts of, and if I had included them all, would have written some 10 pages on the subject.

So, I’ll be following up with some further thoughts on the subject periodically.

My first follow-up, the first point that made it into previous drafts, but was excised from the final one is the glaring discrepancy between:

  • the populist right’s rhetorical opposition to all domestic government action on the grounds that it is incompetent, ineffective, and a threat to liberty; and
  • the populist right’s support for apparently unlimited government power on national security and law enforcement matters on the grounds that it is highly competent, effective, and the defender of liberty.

What you get are many arguments asserting that the state is competent and effective enough to deprive some people of liberty without any check on its power, to trample on their every right and to strip away their sanity through torture, and to kill them — all in the name of protecting liberty; but — at the same time — government is so toxic to liberty, so ineffective, and markets are so fragile, that if taxes go up 1% for those making over $250,000, if corporations can’t give money directly to candidates, if Wall Street is forced to suffer more regulations, or if people are required to purchase health insurance to provide for medical care or suffer a small penalty – that if these things happen, we have descended into abject Socialism.

The common cop-out I’ve heard to explain this is that the government’s proper role is to provide for the common defense. But it is the government’s proper role to assess income taxes and to regulate interstate commerce as well.

The populist right simply isn’t ideologically coherent. Ron Paul may be, to his great credit — but it is precisely his coherence that makes him unpalatable to the rest of the populist right, the bulk of the Tea Party, and the Republican Party. The bulk of the populist right is in favor of the government’s curtailing of the civil liberties of resented minorities in the name of a War Against Terrorism. It favors wars abroad — or at least, doesn’t favor “retreat” or anything that doesn’t look tough enough. It is enamored of the war atmosphere, of the narrative of good versus evil, that permeated Fox News’s coverage of the Bush administration. It is enamored of the revolutionary atmosphere, of a nation under assault by a Hitler-wannabe, of another narrative of good versus evil, that permeates Fox News’s coverage of the Obama administration.

From a political perspective, it makes no sense to call the government too incompetent to provide postal service and yet still consider it competent enough to detain, torture and kill anyone it deems a terrorist.

The populist right, then, cannot be properly understood as a political movement. It is a cultural movement and a media phenomenon with political overtones.

[Image not subject to copyright.]

Which Party Is More Wingnutty?

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Michelle Cottle in The New Republic:

As the economy recovers, the level of public anger and panic will fall. That’s just the way things work. But even in fat economic times, there remain plenty of angry, scared, even paranoid people around, and these people need a place to come together and be heard. For a while now, the Republican Party has tended to be that place. [my emphasis]

Cottle makes the argument that Sarah Palin should become the leader of the Tea Party – and she makes more of it than I would guess could be made.

But the above point both struck me as true – and as something controversial that I couldn’t back up by citing to any sources or surveys.

Judging the truth or falsity of this statement would in the end have to come down to the precise meaning of “For a while now…” Certainly since Obama has become president this would be true – as it is always true that people who are “angry, scared, even paranoid” tend to gravitate towards the opponents of those in power. But my impression is that the “angry, scared, even paranoid” tended to be on the right even during the Bush years – though their leftist equivalents increased in number during that time.

I would guess that many of those to my right would see the opposite however. I think the argument can be made convincingly that the wingnuts of the right are wackier and more numerous than the wingnuts of the left. I don’t remember anywhere near the levels of support for such extreme statements as these about President Bush for example. But how can one measure which party attracts more wingnuts overall?

Any suggestions or comments would be appreciated.

Why Scott Brown’s Election is Good for the Nation and the Democratic Party

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

[digg-reddit-me]I would have written this post on Tuesday night (before seeing what had become the inevitable results) – but I was busy. And I would have written this post on Wednesday, except my blog had some issues once again, and I was left blog-less.

Now, having the advantage of reading the many responses to Scott Brown’s upset victory from around the opinionshere, let me venture mine:

Brown’s election is a good thing for the Democrats politically. (On a policy level, it makes it less likely a health care bill will pass at all, certainly undermines the chances of a better health care bill, and makes every other policy goal harder to achieve in the short term.) But politically, it works for the Democrats on almost every level.

  • Scott Brown will be faced with choice to either split from the Republican Party on significant issues creating discord within the party or losing the seat in 2012.  If Brown moderates his views so, it’s hard to see him maintaining his credibility with the Tea Party right – but it he does, he will represent a person with credibility on the right compromising with Obama rather than the unified front today. After all, this is a guy who supports the idea behind Obama’s health care plan – and voted for the Massachusetts plan which is similar. His grounds for opposing national health care is that Massachusetts residents would be penalized because they already have near universal coverage which he supports.
  • Though the Democrats had a filibuster-proof Senate caucusing with them, there were a handful of members who consistently were willing to hold the Democratic agenda hostage, and the Democrats were only able to muster this filibuster-proof majority on one significant occasion: to pass the health reform bill. Taking this 60th vote away removes the illusion that the Democrats can get what they want done. The Democrats were never organized enough to pull that off. (They only merely have the largest majority in thirty years.)
  • It forces Republicans to take some responsibility as the minority party. The Democrats will still set the agenda – but Republicans and progressives can no longer complain that Democrats just need to get their act together to pass something. If the Republicans continue to vote as a solid bloc against any Democratic proposal in a cynical attempt to win back power through obstructionism, they can block almost everything. But then the focus won’t be on the preening Democrats competing to leverage their individual power to get what they want – but on the Republicans for blocking the passage of legislation and confirmation of nominees.
  • The inchoate anger at the status quo didn’t stop with the election of Barack Obama. Instead, his election radicalized the right wing – those who felt they were “losing their country.” Brown’s election – and the growing anger at the Democrats – doesn’t suggest the country is moving right. Rather, it is a symptom of an anti-incumbent bias. By running as the man who will stop health care reform – and being embraced by the Tea Party crowd – Brown is placing himself, the Republican Party, and the Tea Partiers as defenders of the status quo.
  • Carl Hulse in the New York Times offers an additional reason: “Even Republicans privately acknowledged that the redrawn Congressional landscape could hold benefits for the most vulnerable Democrats in November by easing pressure on them to vote as part of a united 60-member Democratic bloc and sparing them from providing decisive votes on contentious issues.”

Scott Brown and the Republicans will face a choice in the coming months before the midterms: They can either offer to work with the Democrats to actually govern or they can obstruct everything in order to make the Democrats look ineffective and weak. Either way, the 2010 midterms will be a referendum not only on Obama’s agenda but on how the Republicans have handled themselves.

[Image by Rob Weir licensed under Creative Commons.]

The Future of the Tea Party (cont.)

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Markos Moulitsas sees echoes of the rise of the progressive netroots in the Tea Party’s money bomb for Scott Brown (H/t Sullivan) – though he also sees its demand for ideological purity as different from the approach taken by Daily Kos and much of the rest of the progressive netroots. He seems to share with David Brooks the sense that the Tea Party Movement is here to stay.

I’m still not certain. This group seems so similar to the flare-up of similar sentiments from 1992 to 1994 – which was quashed finally by Bill Clinton’s fiscally responsible governance. The Obama administration – if the economy doesn’t enter into a double-dip recession – will try to steer a similar path.

My bet is that the Tea Party will only gain momentum – and have any relevance beyond 2010 if the economy doesn’t rebound.

The Future of the Tea Party

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

As soon as I write about all the great columns David Brooks has been producing recently, he goes ahead and writes this one.

Now, it isn’t bad – and it is certainly interesting. But in predicting the rise of the tea party conservative movement, Brooks is extrapolating too much from a short term trend. Brooks himself should be able to see this, as he writes:

A year ago, the Obama supporters were the passionate ones. Now the tea party brigades have all the intensity.

Which is why I would be wary of extrapolating some broad tea party movement sweeping through Congress a year hence – and even more of listing the tea party movement in the litany of defining influential groups of the decade beginning with the hippies defining the 60s, the feminists the 70s, and the Christian conservatives the 80s. (Especially given how similar the Contract with America/Ross Perot crowd was to the tea party – and how that simply fizzled in the 90s.) The tea party crowd may define the coming era – but I would be extremely wary about prognosticating that given our rapidly shifting political environment. I would even be wary of presuming they will help the Republicans win many seats back in the 2010 midterms.

But this observation does strike me as potentially prescient – and I’d like to see Brooks explore the idea more fully:

The Obama administration is premised on the conviction that pragmatic federal leaders with professional expertise should have the power to implement programs to solve the country’s problems. Many Americans do not have faith in that sort of centralized expertise or in the political class generally.

I’ve argued in the past – rather vaguely and putting the matter in starker terms – that this is a potential problem. But to the extent the approach favored by the Obama administration is “tinkering,” as I believe the current evidence seems to show, I think they avoid the worst of this policy trap. The tinkering approach manages to both be technocratic and epistemologically modest – at its best capturing the best aspects of a conservative reticence and a liberal desire to innovate. What it isn’t is especially democratic – which I still believe is problematic.

The tinkering approach also creates a political problem as it does not yet have a compelling story associated with it – as FDR’s New Deal did, as JFK’s New Frontier did, as LBJ’s Great Society, as Reagan’s focus on cutting back government to release individual initiative – to renew Morning in America did, as Clinton’s triangulation did, as the Contract With America did, as Bush’s War on Terror and Ownership Society and Compassionate Conservatism all did, as Obama’s campaign for Change We Can Believe In did, as the tea party’s hyperbolic screams of protest against Nazi-Communist policies has already, as the left’s chants of “Sellout!” have already. Without this compelling story, this mythic goal, the tinkering approach has been portrayed as centralizing, big government, 1980s-style liberalism – or the embrace of Bush-era policies and the selling of Washington to special interests. The tea party has been able to get traction largely because the Obama administration hasn’t found a compelling story to explain its tinkering approach. If the administration is able to find this story, anchoring it in some series of news events, it could entirely shift the momentum and defang the tea party just as Clinton was able to do with his triangulation in the 90s.

Side note: Brooks is able to describe the tea party’s position in a far more compelling way than I have heard any supporter of the movement (of which Brooks is not.) But I think he gives the movement too much credit:

The tea party movement is a large, fractious confederation of Americans who are defined by what they are against. They are against the concentrated power of the educated class. They believe big government, big business, big media and the affluent professionals are merging to form self-serving oligarchy — with bloated government, unsustainable deficits, high taxes and intrusive regulation.

If the movement evolves in this direction, it would be able to gain more traction – but at the moment all I see are howls of rage.

[Image by Rberteig licensed under Creative Commons.]

Protests Against Liberals Running the Gov’t (cont.)

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

[digg-reddit-me]I should have made a bit more clear in my post yesterday that Andrew Sullivan was well aware of the contradictions within the right wing response to Obama – and had articulated a coherent response to them from his conservative, Oakshottian perspective earlier yesterday in a post I had printed out to read. He did reach a bit too far in seeing that particular silver lining to this movement though.

The main problem is that this right wing movement is still somewhat amorphous. Lydia DePillis of The New Republic had this dispatch from the D.C. protest this past weekend explaining the core complaint of the movement:

Their complaint? Hard to say, really. Some, like the contingent of coal miners in hard hats with anti-cap-and-trade signs, had a concrete beef with the administration. But for most, there was both an incredible specificity to their protestations–all those czars, and ACORN, and Obama’s missing birth certificate–and a fuzzy vagueness.

“We’re losing America,” said Kris, from Maryland. “Government is trying to take over everything.”

It’s one thing I have noticed as well – both the specificity of what they are outraged over and the sense that the tawdry specifics don’t explain the rising crescendo of outrage.

Matt Welch – editor in chief of Reason magazine – tried to defend the protestors against liberals attempts to write them off – and to defend them against charges of racism. He does so by misrepresenting two liberal responses to the protests and then knocking down the strawmen he creates – which is about par for the course in terms of New York Post op-eds, but I expect more of Welch whose work I often enjoy. Welch would have done better to explain what he found most of the protestors stood for, but I suspect he would have had the same difficulty DePillis did.

So, instead, he writes that “popular left blogger Josh Marshall reported from his armchair” that this was a “Small protest.” Welch declines to link to Marshall’s post saying such – probably because if he had, readers might have found that this was one in a series of posts by Marshall and others at the TalkingPointsMemo covering the size of the crowd, and that Marshall had concluded his post with the D.C. Fire Department’s estimate of 60,000 to 70,000 saying the protest was “smallish by big DC protest/event standards but definitely respectable.”

Welch then goes on to say that the Center for American Progress claimed that the protest was marred by “racist, radical portrayals of Obama.” Welch has this to say about the evidence presented by Think Progress:

Among the dozen or so pieces of evidence? A placard claiming, “Ayn Rand is right,” and one of President Obama with the caption, “When his lips move . . . he’s lying.”

Once again – an extremely misleading selection by Welch given the main signs focused on by the piece, including this one:

Welch could have made the argument that focusing on these people was misrepresenting the crowd – but instead he choose to made a much less defensible point.

Nothing Welch says challenges the point I made yesterday – that right wingers are fans of big government run by christianist right wingers, but wary of any type of government run by liberals, such that even pragmatic, incremental, modest Obamaism is seem as a radical assault on their children:

The protests aren’t about the size of government or its role; they are a viceral response to the fact that a liberal now runs the government. That frustration is rooted in cultural and social issues, rather than economic ones.

There are libertarians who legitimately object to big governmen (Ron Paul and Matt Welch himself come to mind), and I can respect their views even if I disagree – but they don’t seem to be well-represented in the Tea Party movement, in the Republican Party, in the bulk of the emotional resistance to Obama.

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