When is a Nazi Not a Nazi?

When is a Nazi not a Nazi? Apparently after you parse your words closely enough to find a lame loophole to avoid what you said. Like Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Stupidville), for example.

It’s distressingly easy to find Democrats calling Republicans Nazis and Republicans calling Democrats both Nazis and socialists (Damn, I wish they’d get that straight). As expected, the recent calls for civility in the national discourse lasted about as long as it takes to call someone a Nazi or socialist.

Well, DUH.

I’m a believer in the George Carlin School of linguistics – they’re only words. If you’re a politician and you can’t overcome your rage at being called a name – which in this case are perfectly acceptable definitions of political ideology – then you shouldn’t be in politics.

How did these particular, common words end up being so offensive?

Because people use them with meaning that aren’t there. Obama is not a socialist. In fact, for a lot of people he isn’t even liberal. The Boehner Boys aren’t Nazis either (for one thing Nazis were efficient and took pride in being called Nazis). BTW, there are other code words  twisted into new meanings. “Liberal” is one of the worst epithets in the conservative insult arsenal. Dems prefer “tea baggers” with almost equal vigor.

It’s a basic tenet of communications theory that if you say something long enough, it becomes “true”. And boy, howdy these get tossed around like candy at a pedophile parade.

They’re almost always created as lies, or at least gross exaggerations of the truth. The problem is that people soak them up and begin to give the words their own off-topic narratives to “prove” their label fits. It’s a good political ploy – distract the great unwashed with some kernels of improperly named ideas and then step back and watch things roll. It’s one hell of a lot easier than actually offering alternatives or explaining your position when in fact, there isn’t one…you (insert epithet here).

It’d be useful if politicians didn’t do that and really great if the plebes called them out on it. But, I reckon that’s about as likely as the recent goofy “solutions” for preventing lunatics from shooting at people actually working.

America’s problem isn’t civility – it’s a willful refusal to own what you say.

First everyone buy a dictionary. It’s an invaluable tool here – that is if you can read.

Second, own what you say. If you proclaim someone a socialist, make sure Karl Marks would’ve used the word in the same way. And all you faux Nazi accusers, tell me Hitler wouldn’t have cheered on the continuance of his 1000-year Reich as the best thing since sliced brot.

But above all, stop parsing words to prove you didn’t say what you so obviously did. It’s unbecoming, divisive, and stupid.

Mr. Carlin, sorry we didn’t get your punchline. We’re a slow-learning bunch.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Small Government: When 307,999,999 People Can’t Agree

A funny thing is happening on the way to the ballot box. Voters of all stripes decry the excesses of big government. The reflexive complaint from both ends of the political spectrum, although voiced most loudly by conservatives and tea drinkers, is that big government is inherently bad, a foregone conclusion needing no evidence for proof. It’s a lot like religion that way. “I believe in God, so therefore there must be a God.” “I believe big government is evil, so therefore it must be true.”

It’s curious that the louder the screams about government size, the fewer practical suggestions the screamers give regarding how to make it smaller. There’s the all or nothing crowd – the government shouldn’t do anything but maintain an army. Or, the “limited” governmental types who want to lop off entire government departments, like the Department of Education, Federal Reserve, or Department of Homeland (In)Security. But, there’s precious little in the way of a platform to explain how we’ll reach this government nirvana.

Saying No is Fun
You might expect voters wouldn’t clamor for details. After all, it’s great fun to go watch Glenn Beck scream political science screeds or wave protest signs or accuse people of being anti-Christ socialists. It’s also great to campaign and hear the yelps of Grizzly Mommas in full-throated rapture about how wonderful you are. But the day in and day out grind of actually governing or even setting goals … not so much. In other words, the universal Republican “plan” for everything – “NO” – gives voters, candidates, and sitting politicians the chance to be righteous without the responsibilities of righteousness.

Come to think of it, that’s a little like some religious folks too.

There are roughly 308 million citizens in the US. That means there are at least 308 million opinions on how to reduce the government. Farmers kind of like crop subsidies, especially if their name is Farmer ConAgra. Some people are really behind “drill baby, drill”, without the inconvenient fact that without government regulation, a well might one day pop up in their backyard.

“Take that you NIMBY bastards!”

The “local levelites” don’t want an Islamic center in Manhattan, but are unwilling to accept the decisions of the local planning commission. And Reaganites complain, for example that transportation decisions be made on a state-by-state basis. However, they don’t seem to realize that building a road is building a road whether Uncle Sam funds it or your state increases taxes to offset the downsizing of Federal tax dollars. And, the private enterprisers would be the loudest to complain if RoadCo ran the highways and every country lane and freeway in their state started charging tolls.

Immutable Laws of Government
Americans need to understand a few immutable laws of government and human nature. First, nobody wants a bigger government. Second, everybody wants a smaller government so long as it gets smaller at someone else’s expense. Third, everyone wants the government to work. And fourth, those elected will become “inside” professional politicians as soon as they take their hand off the swearing-in Bible. They will be in your business for good and ill from then on as a result. This is especially true if you want the government to decide who gets married, who serves in the armed forces, who gets government assistance, and dozens of other meat and potatoes governmental decisions that must be made to support your idea of how smaller government should stay out of your life.

American individualism is a great strength. It’s the engine that drove the idea of American exceptionalism in the last century. But, when individualists forget there’s such a thing as shared goals and common needs that strength becomes a drag on the country.

Especially when you and the other 307,999,999 of us can’t agree on just what small government means.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

If At First You Don't Succeed...Tea Party Tries Again For Nat'l Convention

Remember that scene from Poltergeist II, when little Carol Ann says of the spirits terrorizing her family, "They'rrrrrre baaaaaack."

Well, ladies and gentlemen, the tea baggers are back again trying for another national convention.  But this time, the Tea Party National Convention is going to Vegas where they'll have trainings on the art of raising $50,000 in 90 days and combating allegations of racism.

Billed as a "unity" convention, Tea Party Nation is organizing this latest tea party gathering.  You'll remember that Tea Party Nation put on the first tea party convention, held in Nashville earlier this year, and faced criticisms for charging a $549 registration fee as well as paying former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin $100,000 to keynote the event. 

In case you're wondering, the Vegas tea party convention scheduled for July carries a $399 registration fee.  Put into real world figures, $399 pays my cell phone bill for eight months.

Somewhere Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D - Nevada) is salivating at having the tea baggers come to his home state promoting such extreme candidates as Kentucky GOP U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul.  Reid, facing a tough re-election battle this fall, should find it easy to say, "Vote for me.  I'm not as crazy as those guys."

 

Weekly Pulse: Pelosi Makes Her Move; Republican Rep. Calls for Coup

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has laid out a strategy to pass health care reform in the next couple of days by allowing the House to vote on the details of the reconciliation package instead of the Senate bill itself. As usual, progressives are fretting that winning will make them look bad. On the other hand, conservatives are baying for blood and calling for revolution.

‘Deem and pass’

Nick Baumann of Mother Jones discusses the parliamentary tactic known as “deem and pass” (D&P), which House Democrats plan to use to avoid voting for the Senate bill before the Senate fixes the bill through reconciliation. The House doesn’t want to sign a blank check. If the health care bill passes the House first, there’s no guarantee that the Senate will make the fixes as promised.

Originally, the hope was that the Senate could do reconciliation first. The problem is that you can’t pass a bill to amend a bill that isn’t law yet. That would be like putting the cart before the horse. To clear that hurdle, the House will invoke a rule that deems that Senate bill to have passed if and when the House passes the reconciliation package.  It’s sort of like backdating a check. Ryan Grim explains the process in more detail on Democracy Now!

D&P does not equal treason

Progressives like Kevin Drum worry that D&P will make the Democrats look bad. Meanwhile, the Tea Party crowd is calling for Nancy Pelosi to be tried for treason, as TPM reports. The bottom line is that D&P is no big deal. Republicans used the process 36 times in 2005 and 2006; Democrats used it 49 times in 2007 and 2008. D&P is constitutional. We know because it has already been upheld by the Supreme Court. Kevin Drum writes, “If you have a life, you don’t care about the subject of this post and have never heard of it.”

Teabag revolution

There is no joy in Tea Party Land, as Dave Weigel reports in the Washington Independent. The tea baggers are frantically lobbying to stop the bill, but the reality is starting to sink in. Their leaders are shifting from trying to kill the bill to planning the tantrum they’re going to throw when it passes:

While many held out hope that plans to pass the Senate’s version of reform in the House would stall out, others pondered their next steps. Some, like Rep. Steve King (R-IA), took a dark view of what might come.

“Right now, they’re civil, because they think they have a chance of stopping this bill,” said King to reporters, waving his arm at a pack of “People’s Surge” activists forming a line to enter the Cannon House Office Building. “The reason we don’t have violence in this country like they do in dictatorships is because we have votes, and our leaders listen to their constituents. Now we’re in a situation where the leaders are defying the people!” Later, King would expand on those remarks and speculate on a possible anti-Washington revolt in which Tea Parties would “fill the streets” of the capital.

Sounds like King is calling for a revolution, doesn’t it? As it turns out, that’s exactly what he says he wants if health care reform passes. Eric Kleefeld of TPMDC reports that King is hoping for something akin to the uprising that overthrew the Communists in Prague in 1989. “Fill this city up, fill this city, jam this place full so that they can’t get in, they can’t get out and they will have to capitulate to the will of the American people,” King said in an interview with the Huffington Post.

Women and health care reform

Health care reform seems poised to pass. Amid the heady excitement, there’s a sense of gloom in the reproductive rights community. Bart Stupak was defeated, but health care reform will probably end private insurance coverage for abortion.

In The American Prospect, Michelle Goldberg urges feminists to support reform anyway. She argues that the women suffer disproportionately under the status quo. If reform passes, it will insure 17 million previously uninsured women. Expanding health care coverage might help reverse rising maternal mortality rates in the United States.

A recent report by Amnesty International found that at least two women die in childbirth every day in the U.S., a much higher rate than most developed countries. The anti-choicers had the advantage because they were willing to kill health reform over abortion. The pro-choice faction did not allow itself the luxury of nihilism.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Caving on the 9/11 Trial Would Send All the Wrong Messages

The Washington Post reports today that President Obama's advisors are planning to recommend that the administration reverse its decision to try the September 11 suspects in federal court and instead opt for military commissions. That's more than just disappointing, given the overwhelming consensus of military and legal experts that civilian courts are more effective for prosecuting terrorists. If the president were to heed that advice, it would also be astonishingly bad politics.

The Post story doesn't say what President Obama has decided to do, or whether Attorney General Eric Holder, who announced the decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his alleged co-conspirators in federal court to much fanfare in November, will go along with those recommendations. But for the administration to reverse itself now on a key legal and strategic decision that critics have made a political hot potato would signal to Obama's opponents that if they just heat up the rhetoric and prey on people's fears enough, the administration will cave. And that would be a sorry signal of how this administration plans to determine critical matters of national security.

Recent reports have suggested that Senator Lindsey Graham has been cutting deals with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, not only on the 9/11 trials but on passing legislation to secure the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects in exchange for supporting the administration's efforts to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. To drum up support for his ideas, Graham has been going around denouncing the idea that the United States would "give the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks the same constitutional rights as an American citizen," and insisting that military commissions are the "proper venue" for such trials. Graham neglects to mention in such statements that all criminals in the United States have always had constitutional rights in U.S. courts -- these rights are, after all, enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

And to call military commissions the "proper venue" is to suggest that they have a strong record for convicting terrorists -- which, in fact, they do not. Military commissions have convicted precisely three terrorists so far, two of whom have already been released from prison. By contrast, U.S. federal courts have convicted almost 200 self-described Islamic jihadist terrorists since the terrorist attacks of September 11.

None of that matters, however, when it comes to the politics of fear. Since Attorney General Eric Holder announced the decision to try the 9/11 suspects in federal court, his opponents have turned it into the linchpin of their opposition to the administration. At a demonstration in front of the federal courthouse in New York in December, protesters called Obama and Holder "the real terrorists" and demanded their impeachment.

As I stood in the cold rain watching them, I had to wonder, since when did so many ordinary Americans (admittedly many with tea bags hanging from their star-spangled hats) come to care so much about the procedural complexities of the federal judicial system? Why in the past, when the Bush administration prosecuted hundreds of terrorists in this same Manhattan courthouse, had they never claimed that our judicial system was a "moral disgrace" that would allow terrorists to "spew their hate across America"?

Of course, most of those protesters know very little about the U.S. court system and how much more effective it's been at convicting terrorists and locking them away for life than any military commission has. But some disgruntled Americans, understandably angry and insecure in tough economic times, have been whipped into a frenzy by Obama's most adamant opponents, who've channeled their fears into angry protests about terrorism rather than addressing their real and legitimate concerns.

Perhaps that's to be expected. But for the Obama administration to cave to that hysteria would send all the wrong messages. It would signal a victory for the politics of fear over the longstanding American tradition of respect for the rule of law. It would showcase a triumph of crass political deal-making over rational, fact-based decisionmaking. For President Obama, it would suggest a profound weakness on his part -- a message to his adversaries that if they just make enough of a stink about the decisions they don't like, then they can change them. And most importantly, it would mean that the administration is willing to sacrifice lasting national security to momentary political expedience. And that would be the saddest statement of all.


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