Why the Religious Right’s Love for the Donald Makes Total Sense

The religious right was formed to protect segregation, so it’s no surprise they’re drawn to Donald Trump.

Source:AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte/Salon

Emphasis Mine

Donald Trump’s triumphant performance in the Nevada caucus, “a testament to his broad appeal among Republican primary voters” as Salon’s Sean Illing writes,  is causing another round of media handwringing about how the giant orange circus clown can possibly be doing so well. Of special interest is why Trump, who has been married three times and likes to brag about how many sex partners he’s had, is doing so well with evangelical voters, who vote for him at about the same rate as other Republicans.

One theory is that they are generically “angry,”  like all other Republicans, and that makes them willing to overlook his many flaws.

Or perhaps it’s because they are forgiving, as Ralph Reed told Lauren Fox of Talking Points Memo. “Evangelicals have a long history of accepting converts to the pro-life and pro family cause at their word,” Reed argued.

But really, this evangelical fervor for Trump isn’t all that surprising when you consider the history of the religious right in this country, a history which suggests these voters are less motivated by faith than they are motivated by conservative ideology. “Jesus” is just the word they apply to their beliefs to make otherwise repulsive reactionary politics seem moral and righteous. Evangelical voting behavior makes way more sense if you assume the politic views come first and the Bible is just the rationalization for them.

Trump’s campaign motto is “Make America Great Again!”, which ties into his campaign theme of a country that’s lost its way and needs to be returned to some halcyon days of yore. What that means is pleasantly vague enough for pundits to project all sorts of narratives onto it, but I would venture that the simplest interpretation is probably the one resonating with the voters: This used to be the sort of country that would never elect a black man (or a woman) to the White House, and Trump is going to get us back to those days again.

His pitch is convincing because he’s successfully painted the rest of the GOP as people are too cowed by the forces of “political correctness” to say what really needs to be said, which is evident to voters in the other candidates’ relative unwillingness (with an eye towards the general election) to race-bait as blatantly as Trump does.

That this racially provocative narrative appeals to evangelicals shouldn’t be surprising, because this particular narrative has always been the motivating, indeed formative narrative of the religious right. It’s forgotten all too often, but the religious right as we know it formed in the South as a direct reaction to the civil rights movement, and its purpose was to use “Jesus” as a cover story to resist desegregation. In 2014, historian Randall Balmer published a Politico article on this quickly fading but critically important history, where he laid out how much of the infrastructure of the religious right was established by racists who were trying to preserve segregation.

As Balmer explains, after Brown v Board of Education, huge swaths of the South reinstated segregation by creating an elaborate private school system, which were deemed “segregation academies.” Jerry Falwell got his start as a religious right leader founding and defending such schools.

But in 1971, the federal government ruled that private non-profit schools could not maintain a tax-exempt status if they banned black students, and the organized efforts to resist this, by using religion as a justification to resist race-mixing, turned into what we now understand as the modern religious right.

To be clear, the religious right was swift in turning away from overt racism to overt sexism as its defining feature, first by fighting the Equal Rights Amendment that would ban sex discrimination and then waging the war on legal abortion, sex ed, and contraception access. But the disappearance of overt claims that Jesus disapproves of race-mixing shouldn’t be mistaken for a total abandonment of white resentment as an organizing force for the Christian right.

Ronald Reagan gets a lot of credit, for understandable reasons, for helping shape the religious right into a definable and powerful Republican voting bloc. He did this in part by feeding them the anti-feminist rhetoric they wanted to hear, but he also did it by pumping out an endless stream of race-baiting that fed directly into the political style of the religious right, which leans heavily on urban legends and rejects empirical evidence.

Reagan loved to thrill his racist audiences by telling tales of a “welfare queen” who bought a Cadillac off welfare or the “strapping young buck” buying T-bones with food stamps. He argued that the Voting Rights Act was “humiliating to the South” and opposed the Civil Rights Act. He kicked off his 1980 campaign in a town where civil rights workers had famously been murdered, and his speech focused on his support for those resisting desegregation. And he won the religious right’s vote, despite being a former movie star and the first (and so far only) divorced President.

Sounds an awful lot like the current front-runner of the Republican race, a man who enjoys tickling his audience with racially loaded urban legends and bigoted insinuations, and whose past as a decadent tabloid fixture and TV star doesn’t seem to ruffle religious right feathers, so long as he keeps the bigoted rhetoric coming.

And yes, while Trump’s history on reproductive rights suggests he’s not as opposed to them as the other candidates, it’s also true that his misogyny is unquestionable. The sad fact of the matter is that he doesn’t have to be against reproductive rights to prove his disdain for female independence, because contempt for women drips off him.

There’s been a lot of attention paid to the fact that Trump won the Latino vote at the Nevada caucus, but don’t believe the hype. Only 8% of the voters who turned out to the Republican caucus were Hispanic, compared to 19% in the Democratic caucus. Eighty-five percent of Republican voters in Nevada were white, compared to 59% of Democratic voters. If you want to understand Republican voters and why they thrill at Trump’s wink-and-nod race-baiting over the stylings of men named Marco Rubio and Rafael “Ted” Cruz, that might be the simplest answer. Yes, even for the ones who like to talk about how much they love Jesus, who they, after all, invariably portray as a white man.

Amanda Marcotte is a politics writer for Salon. She’s on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte. 

 

See:http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/why-religious-rights-love-donald-makes-total-sense?utm_source=Amanda+Marcotte%27s+Subscribers&utm_campaign=395339125c-RSS_AUTHOR_EMAIL&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f2b9a8ae81-395339125c-79824733

 

 

The Eight Worst Conservative Responses To Nelson Mandela’s Death

Source: Ourfuture.org

Author: Terrance Heath

” 1. “Don’t mourn for Mandela.”

In his December 6 column, WorldNetDaily editor-in-chief Joseph Farah told his readers, “Don’t mourn for Mandela.” After acknowledging that apartheid was “inarguably an evil and unjustifiable system,” Farah went on to claim that Mandela brought about a system “in which anti-white racism is so strong today that a prominent genocide watchdog group has labeled the current situation a “precursor” to the deliberate, systematic elimination of the race.”

In just a few sentences, Farah managed to make Mandela’s death all about white people. It’s impressive, in a kind of stomach-turning way.

2. “He was a great man, but he was a communist.”

Bill O’Reilly and Rick Santorum called Mandela a “great man,” but also a “communist.

Pajama’s Media got in on the fun with a headline that also called Mandela a “communist.”

It’s reminiscent of the old segregationist billboard labeling Martin Luther King Jr. a “communist.”

3. “Obamacare is like apartheid.”

Rich Santorum Insulted the memory of countless black South Africans who perished under apartheid, when he compared the Affordable Care Act to apartheid, and said Mandela would have opposed Obamacare.

Spoken like someone who has no idea what life under apartheid was like. Because a  system that demeaned, dehumanized, and degraded generations of black South Africans is exactly like a system that brings health care coverage to millions who were uninsured, because they were too poor to afford private health insurance, but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.

Wrong again.  South Africa has a socialized health care system.

4. Ted Cruz Slammed by Conservative Base For Honoring Mandela

It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for Sen. Ted Cruz (R, TX). The man who held a 21-hour filibuster-about-nothing and got away with it, really stepped it when he eulogized Mandela on his Facebook page, saying that Mandela was “an inspiration for defenders of liberty around the globe… Because of his epic fight against injustice, an entire nation is now free.”

Sen. Cruz’s Facebook Fans were not amused.

To his credit, Sen. Cruz’s office defended, which currently has over 500,000 likes.

5. Gingrich Gets Slammed on Facebook

Sen. Cruz is not alone. Former House Speaker and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was slammed by Facebook commenters when he praised Mandela on his Facebook page. Gingrich later claimed to be “surprised” by the vehement reactions.

This from a guy who played the race card every chance he got during his presidential run.

Gingrich later accused the “left” of turning Mandela’s death into an opportunity to “smear” Reagan.

(N.B.: Reagan opposed sanctions against South Africa, and vetoed the law (which veto was over ridden).

6. Dick Cheney Would Still Vote To Keep Mandela In Prison

In 1986, then Rep. Dick Cheney voted against a resolution calling for the release of Nelson Mandela and the recognition of the African National Congress. In 2013, after Mandela’s death,former Vice President Dick Cheney defended his vote.

Cheney not only voted against the resolution, but voted to uphold Ronald Reagan’s veto.

7. Rush Limbaugh Used Mandela’s Death to Trash The Civil Rights Movement

It should come as no surprise that Rush Limbaugh used Mandela’s death to spew his usual brand of. On Friday, Limbaugh praised Mandela’s forgiveness, only to turn and denounce the American Civil Rights Movement.

Of course, Mandela realized that both truth and reconciliation were necessary if South Africa was to move on. Thus, after apartheid South Africa set up a restorative justice body called theTruth and Reconciliation Commission. The commission held public hearings which were a crucial part of its transition to from minority rule to a flu(sic) and equal democracy. Victims of gross human rights violations under apartheid were invited to give statements, about their experiences. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony, and request amnesty from civil and criminal prosecution.

Maybe the U.S. needs its own Truth and Reconciliation Commission. What are the chances Limbaugh would embrace that?

8. Westboro Baptist Church Heads to South Africa

Well, we’ve reached the bottom of the barrel, where we find Westboro Baptist Church trying to book flights to Johannesburg, to protest Mandela’s funeral.

Famous for picketing the funeral of dead soldiers, the church says it’s targeting Mandela’s divorce and remarriage as evidence of his “damnation.” Wait until someone tells them that Mandela was also a strong supporter of gay rights.

It’s ironic that some of the worst reactions on the right come the conservative base, in response the attempts of Republicans official to hop on the Mandela bandwagon. Republicans probably hoped that enough time had passed for most Americans to forget that conservatives stood on the wrong side of history when it mattered, on apartheid. But even the GOP base has not forgotten that conservatives called Mandela a terrorist long before they called him a hero.

In 1986, moderate Republicans were thoroughly denounced by conservatives for bucking President Reagan and supporting the Anti-Apartheid Act. Back then, conservatives like Sen. Mitch McConnell (R, KY) preached delay in overturning apartheid. But at least there were someRepublicans who understood the immorality of asking people to continue to endure injustice. Those moderates have largely disappeared from the GOP today.

That’s part of the problem conservatives have with Nelson Mandela. Opposing apartheid was just as much the right thing to do then as it is now, when it’s far easier and safer to denounced a system that was largely defeated without their help.

The other part of the problem is that things Mandela always stood for are decidedly progressive.

And that’s just to name a few.

No wonder the right doesn’t know how to deal with Nelson Mandela. In life, and in death, his legacy exposes that the American right has always stood on the wrong side of history; both American and world history.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://ourfuture.org/20131209/the-eight-worst-conservative-responses-to-nelson-mandelas-death

The Abject Failure of Reaganomics

Source: Consortium News, via RSN

Author: Robert Parr

“Even as the Republican Right licks its wounds after taking a public-opinion beating over its government shutdown and threatened credit default, the Tea Partiers keep promoting a false narrative on why the U.S. debt has ballooned and why the economy struggles, a storyline that will surely influence the next phase of this American political crisis.

If a large segment of the American public continues to buy into the Tea Party’s fake reality, then it is likely that both the political damage and the economic decline will continue apace, with fewer good-paying jobs, a shrinking middle class and more of the bitter alienation that has fed the Tea Party’s growth in the first place. In other words, the United States will remain in a vicious circle that is also a downward spiral.

The pattern can only be reversed if American voters come to understand how and why their economic well-being is getting flushed down the drain.

The first point to understand is that the current $16.7 trillion federal debt is about $11 trillion more than it was when George W. Bush took office. Not only did Bush’s tax-cut-and-war-spending policies send the debt soaring over the next dozen years but it was those policies that eliminated the federal surpluses of Bill Clinton’s final years and reversed a downward trend in the debt that had “threatened” to eliminate the debt entirely over the ensuing decade.

Amazingly, President Clinton left office in January 2001 with the federal budget in the black by $236 billion and with a projected 10-year budget surplus of $5.6 trillion. The budgetary trend lines were such that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan began to fret about the challenges the Fed might face in influencing interest rates if the entire U.S. government debt were paid off, thus leaving no debt obligations to sell.

Thus, Greenspan, an Ayn Rand acolyte who was first appointed by Ronald Reagan, threw his considerable prestige behind George W. Bush’s plan for massive tax cuts that would primarily benefit the wealthy. In that way, Bush and the Republicans “solved” the “problem” of completely paying off the federal debt.

When Bush left office in January 2009 – amid a meltdown of an under-regulated Wall Street – there was no more talk about a debt-free government. Indeed, the debt had soared to $10.6 trillion and was trending rapidly higher as the government scrambled to avert a financial catastrophe that could have brought on another Great Depression.

Reaganomics’ Failure

But this debt crisis did not originate with George W. Bush. It can be traced back primarily to President Reagan, who arrived in the White House in 1981 with fanciful notions about restoring America’s economic vitality through massive tax cuts for the wealthy, a strategy called “supply-side” by its admirers and “trickle-down” by its critics.

Reagan’s tax cuts brought a rapid ballooning of the federal debt, which was $934 billion in January 1981 when Reagan took office. When he departed in January 1989, the debt had jumped to$2.7 trillion, a three-fold increase. And the consequences of Reagan’s reckless tax-cutting continued to build under his successor, George H.W. Bush, who left office in January 1993 with a national debt of$4.2 trillion, more than a four-fold increase since the arrival of Republican-dominated governance in 1981.

During 1993, Clinton’s first year in office, the new Democratic administration pushed through tax increases, partially reversing the massive tax cuts implemented under Reagan. Finally, the debt problem began to stabilize, with the total debt at $5.7 trillion and heading downward, when Clinton left office in January 2001.

Indeed, at the time of Clinton’s departure, the projected ten-year surplus of $5.6 trillion meant that virtually the entire federal debt would be retired. That was what Fed Chairman Greenspan found worrisome enough to support George W. Bush’s new round of tax cuts aimed primarily at the wealthy, another dose of Reagan’s “supply-side.”

The consequences – especially when combined with Bush’s decision to rush into two major wars without paying for them – proved disastrous. The federal debt resumed its upward climb. By August 2008, just before the Wall Street crash, the debt was over $9.6 trillion, nearly a $4 trillion jump since Bush took office.

And, after the Wall Street collapse in September 2008, the federal government had little choice but to increase its borrowing even more to avert a global economic catastrophe potentially worse than the Great Depression. By January 2009, just five months later, the debt was $10.6 trillion, a $1 trillion increase and counting.

Many of the Republican leaders who stomped their feet during the recent budget showdown, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, were among those who favored the Bush tax cuts, the costly invasion of Iraq and bank deregulation. In other words, they were denouncing President Obama for a debt crisis that they helped create.

But the record of reckless Republican budget policies from Reagan through Bush-43 was not only destructive to the fiscal health of the government. The “supply-side,” “free-trade” and deregulatory strategies – including some facilitated by the Clinton administration – proved devastating to the nation’s ability to create good-paying jobs and to sustain the Great American Middle Class.

Zero Job Growth

During the decade of George W. Bush’s presidency, the United States experienced zero job growth. And zero is actually worse than it sounds since none of the preceding six decades registered job growth of less than 20 percent.

By comparison, the 1970s, which are often bemoaned as a time of economic stagflation and political malaise, registered a 27 percent increase in jobs. Yet, in part because of that relatively slow rise in jobs – down from 31 percent in the 1960s – American voters turned to Ronald Reagan and his radical economic theories of tax cuts, global “free markets” and deregulation.

Reagan sold Americans on his core vision: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Through his personal magnetism, Reagan then turned taxes into a third rail of American politics. He convinced many voters that the government’s only important roles were funding the military and cutting taxes.

Yet, instead of guiding the country into a bright new day of economic vitality, Reagan’s approach accelerated a de-industrialization of the United States and a slump in the growth of American jobs, down to 20 percent during the 1980s. The percentage job increase for the 1990s stayed at 20 percent, although job growth did pick up later in the decade under President Clinton, who raised taxes and moderated some of Reagan’s approaches while still pushing “free trade” agreements and deregulation.

Yet, hard-line Reaganomics returned with a vengeance under George W. Bush – more tax cuts, more faith in “free trade,” more deregulation – and the Great American Job Engine finally started grinding to a halt. Zero percent increase. The Great American Middle Class was on life-support.

Ignoring Reality

Despite these painful statistics of the past three decades, Reaganomics has remained a powerful force in American political life. Anyone tuning in CNBC or picking up the Wall Street Journal would think that these economic policies had enjoyed unqualified success for everyone, rather than being a dismal failure for all but the richest Americans. The facts were especially stark for the 2000s, the so-called “Aughts” or perhaps more accurately the “Naughts.”

For most of the past 70 years, the U.S. economy has grown at a steady clip, generating perpetually higher incomes and wealth for American households,” wrote the Washington Post’s Neil Irwin in a Jan. 2, 2010, review of comparative economic data. “But since 2000, the story is starkly different.”

As the Post article and its accompanying graphs showed, the last decade’s sad story wasn’t just limited to the abysmal job numbers. U.S. economic output slowed to its worst pace since the 1930s, rising only 17.8 percent in the 2000s, less than half the 38.1 percent increase in the despised 1970s. Household net worth declined 4 percent in the last decade, compared to a 28 percent rise in the 1970s. (All figures were adjusted for inflation.)

Despite this record of economic failure from Bush’s reprise of Reaganomics – trillions more in government debt but no net increase in jobs or household wealth in the last decade – many Americans appear to have learned no lessons from either the Bush-43 presidency or Reagan’s destructive legacy. Any thought of raising taxes or investing in a stronger domestic infrastructure remains anathema to significant segments of the population still enthralled by the Tea Party.

Indeed, across the mainstream U.S. news media, it is hard to find any serious – or sustained – criticism of the Reagan/Bush economic theories. More generally, there is headshaking about the size of the debt and talk about the need to slash “entitlement” programs like Social Security and Medicare. Instead of paying heed to the real lessons of the past three decades, many Americans are trapped in the Reagan/Tea Party narrative and thus repeating the same mistakes.

‘Voodoo Economics’

The U.S. political/media process seems resistant to the one of most obvious lessons of the past three decades: Simply put, Reaganomics didn’t work. As George H.W. Bush once commented – when he was running against Reagan in the 1980 primaries – it is “voodoo economics.”

Yet, the fact that the United States has embraced “voodoo economics” for much of the past three-plus decades and refuses to recognize the statistical evidence of Reaganomics’ abject failure suggests that the larger lesson of this era is that the U.S. political process is dysfunctional, a point driven home by the recent Tea Party-led government shutdown and threatened debt default.

In the decades that followed Reagan’s 1980 election, the Right has invested ever more heavily in media outlets, think tanks and attack groups that, collectively, changed the American political landscape. Because of Reagan’s sweeping tax cuts favoring the rich, right-wing billionaires, like the Koch Brothers and Richard Mellon Scaife, also had much more money to reinvest in the political/media process, including funding the faux-populist Tea Party.

That advantage was further exaggerated by the Left’s parallel failure to invest in its own media at anything close to the Right’s tens of billions of dollars. Thus, the Right’s outreach to average Americans has won over millions of middle-class voters to the Republican banner, even as the GOP enacted policies that devastated the middle class and concentrated the nation’s wealth at the top.

So, even as American workers struggled in the face of globalization and suffered under GOP hostility toward unions, the Right convinced many middle-class whites, in particular, that their real enemy was “big guv-mint.”

Though Obama won the presidency in 2008, the Republicans didn’t change their long-running strategy of using their media assets to portray the Democrats as un-American. The Right waged a relentless assault on Obama’s legitimacy (spreading rumors that he was born in Kenya, he was a secret socialist, he was a Muslim, etc.) while a solid wall of Republican opposition greeted his plans for addressing the national economic crisis that he inherited.

The Rise of the Tea Party

Like previous Democrats, Obama initially responded by offering olive branches across the aisle, but again and again, they were slapped down. In mid-2009, Obama wasted valuable time trying to woo supposed Republican “moderates” like Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine to support health-care reform. Meanwhile, Republicans filibustered endlessly in the Senate and whipped their right-wing “base” into angrier and angrier mobs.

Initially, the GOP strategy proved successful, as Republicans pummeled Democrats for increasing the debt with a $787 billion stimulus package to stanch the economic bleeding. The continued loss of jobs enabled the Republicans to paint the stimulus as a “failure.” There was also Obama’s confusing health-care law that pleased neither the Right nor the Left.

The foul mood of the nation translated into an angry Tea Party movement and Republican victories in the House and in many statehouses around the country. Gradually, however, a stabilized financial structure and a slow-healing economy began to generate jobs, albeit often with lower pay.

Obama could boast about sufficient progress to justify his reelection in 2012, with most voters also favoring Democrats for the Senate and the House. However, aggressive Republican gerrymandering of congressional districts helped the GOP retain a slim majority in the House despite losing the popular vote by around 1½ million ballots.

But the just-finished budget/debt showdown has shown that the Tea Party’s fight over America’s political/economic future is far from over. Through its ideological media and think tanks, the Right continues to hammer home the Reagan-esque theory that “government is the problem.”

Meanwhile, the Left still lacks comparable media resources to remind U.S. voters that it was the federal government that essentially created the Great American Middle Class – from the New Deal policies of the 1930s through other reforms of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, from Social Security to Wall Street regulation to labor rights to the GI Bill to the Interstate Highway System to the space program’s technological advances to Medicare and Medicaid to the minimum wage to civil rights.

Many Americans don’t like to admit it – they prefer to think of their families as reaching the middle class without government help – but the reality is that the Great American Middle Class was a phenomenon made possible by the intervention of the federal government beginning with Franklin Roosevelt and continuing into the 1970s. [For one telling example of this reality — the Cheney family, which was lifted out of poverty by FDR’s policies — see Consortiumnews.com’s “Dick Cheney: Son of the New Deal.“]

Further, in the face of corporate globalization and business technology, two other forces making the middle-class work force increasingly obsolete, the only hope for a revival of the Great American Middle Class is for the government to increase taxes on the rich, the ones who have gained the most from cheap foreign labor and advances in computer technology, in order to fund projects to build and strengthen the nation, from infrastructure to education to research and development to care for the sick and elderly to environmental protections.

In other words, the only strategy that makes sense for the average American is to reject the theories of Ronald Reagan and the Right. Rather than seeing the government as “the problem” and higher taxes on the rich as “bad,” the American people must come to understand that, to a great extent, government has to be a big part of the solution.”


Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, “Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush,” was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, “Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq” and “Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth'” are also available there.

Emphasis Mine

See: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/19956-focus-the-abject-failure-of-reaganomics

 

Reagan’s Chickens Home to Roost?

Source: RSN

Author: William Boardman

The guilty get some breathing room, but not safety yet

Former members of the Reagan administration are breathing easier, now that they are somewhat less likely to face criminal charges for their part in the Guatemalan genocide of 1982-1983, supported by Reagan policies.

The threat that former officials might be held accountable for genocidal policies of the Reagan administration increased on May 10, when a Guatemalan lower court convicted the country’s former president, General Efrain Rios Montt, 86, of genocide and crimes against humanity for his part in the killing of thousands of Guatemalan civilians.

Rios Montt’s conviction and sentence included an order by Judge Iris Yassmin Barrios to Attorney General Paz Y Paz to further investigate everyone else involved in Rios Montt’s crimes, an investigation that would include many Guatemalans including the country’s current president, as well as U.S. military advisors, the CIA and other American agents, and Washington officials like Elliott Abrams and others directly involved in supporting the Guatemalan governmental genocide.

But this threat of prosecution for accessories and accomplices to genocide didn’t last long, as Guatemala’s highest court, the Constitutional Court of Guatemala, ruled by a vote of 3-2 on May 20 that the lower court’s proceedings going back to April 19 were dismissed, thus annulling the verdict.

The Genocidal General’s Trial May Yet Begin Again

But the Constitutional Court ruling also allows the trial to resume at some undetermined time in the future. The dismissal sets the trial back to April 19, when a judge who had heard earlier but separate proceedings relating to Rios Montt asserted jurisdiction over the continuing trial that had started a month earlier. Judge Barrios overruled the prior judge supported by Attorney General Paz Y Pay, who said his claim was unlawful.

The jurisdictional dispute proceeded to the Constitutional Court while Rios Montt’s trial continued to its unsurprising conviction, given the weight of the evidence against him and his administration.

Rios Montt came to power in 1982 through a military coup, after he had lost a democratic election for the second time, claiming massive fraud both in 1974 and 1982. Between elections, in 1978, Rios Montt had left the Catholic Church and become a minister in the evangelical/Pentecostal Church of the Word, based in California. His friends and supporters included Rev. Jerry Falwell, Rev. Pat Robertson, and others connected with the evangelical movement that helped elect Ronald Reagan president in 1980.

Rios Montt would be the American-supported dictator of Guatemala for only 17 months, before he fell to another military coup. But in that time he was responsible for government forces that killed more than 1,700 people, mostly indigenous Mayans, and also tortured, raped, kidnapped, and brutalized thousands more – for which he was found guilty on May 10.

Ronald Reagan and His Administration Supported Gen. Rios Montt

President Reagan praised Rios Montt for his anticommunism and claimed that human rights were improving under his rule, while human rights organizations condemned the general and the army. Amnesty International estimated that Rios Montt’s forced killed more than 10,000 rural Guatemalans from March to August 1982, and drove more than 100,000 from their homes.

Reagan evaded Congressional oversight in order to provide Rios Montt with millions of dollars of military aid. When Reagan and the general met in Honduras in December 1982, Reagan spoke warmly of him: “I know that President Rios Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment. I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice. My administration will do all it can to support his progressive efforts.”

“The next day,” the London Review of Books reported in 2004, “one of Guatemala’s elite platoons entered a jungle village called Las Dos Erres and killed 162 of its inhabitants, 67 of them children.” The report continued:

Soldiers grabbed babies and toddlers by their legs, swung them in the air, and smashed their heads against a wall. Older children and adults were forced to kneel at the edge of a well, where a single blow from a sledgehammer sent them plummeting below. The platoon then raped a selection of women and girls it had saved for last, pummelling their stomachs in order to force the pregnant among them to miscarry.

They tossed the women into the well and filled it with dirt, burying an unlucky few alive. The only traces of the bodies later visitors would find were blood on the walls and placentas and umbilical cords on the ground.

On another occasion, Reagan claimed that the dictator was getting a “bum rap.”

In 1983, then assistant secretary of state Elliott Abrams told PBS, “the amount of killing of innocent civilians is being reduced step by step…. We think that kind of progress needs to be rewarded and encouraged.”

Guatemalans Have Struggled for Decades to Get Justice

The currently interrupted trial is part of a judicial process that began in 2001, with a ruling by the Constitutional Court on March 21, exposing Rios Montt and others of the ruling party to prosecution for corruption. The next day, two grenades were thrown in the yard of Judge Iris Yassmin Barrios. Three days later, the head of the Constitutional Court, Judge Conchita Mazariegos, had shots fired at her house.

The criminal role of the United States in Guatemala has continued at least since 1954, when the Eisenhower administration engineered a CIA-backed coup d’etat against the country’s elected president.

American reporting on the Rios Montt trial and America’s role in genocide in Central America goes largely unreported in the United States. According to FAIR, none of the three major TV networks have mentioned the trial since it began. Perhaps the most detailed coverage has come from DemocracyNOW, which summed up the present situation this way:

In the run-up to its latest decision to overturn, the court had come under heavy lobbying from Rios Montt supporters, including Guatemala’s powerful business association, CACIF. Rios Montt remains in a military hospital where he was admitted last week. His legal status is now up in the air. He will likely be released into house arrest, and it is unclear when or if he will return to court.

For the moment, that leaves surviving Reagan administration officials beyond the reach of Guatemalan law and international law.

In 1998, Bishop Juan Gerardi, head of the human rights commission uncovering the truth of the disappearances associated with the military, including Rios Montt, was assassinated. His successor is Catholic bishop Mario Enrique Rios Montt, the convicted general’s brother. The trial and conviction of Bishop Gerardi’s killers in 2001 was the first time members of the military were tried in a civilian court.

Emphasis Mine

See: :http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/17558-reagans-chickens-home-to-roost

 

Five Reasons Ayn Rand Would Have Despised Paul Ryan

From: The National Memo

By: Jason Sattler

Paul Ryan may be backing away from his devotion to Ayn Rand, the woman who inspired him to enter politics. But there are some things that the 20th century’s most prominent prophet of selfishness would have probably appreciated about the Republican’s soon-to-be nominee for vice president. (N.B.: not written yesterday).

In fourteen years in Washington D.C., Ryan only passed two bills—one naming a U.S. post office in his hometown, the other giving arrow makers a tax break. This abject uselessness on behalf of the American people is about as close as an elected official can get to “going Galt.” Being a star member of the most unproductive Congress in 65 years might also have impressed the author who saw the only purpose of government as protecting citizens from physical violence.

Rand might also admire Ryan’s desire to eventually zero out nearly every program that helps the poor and his desire to help rich people become richer with massive tax breaks. But there’s much about the Congressman from Wisconsin that she certainly would consider abhorrent. As Rand scholar Jennifer Burns said, “If Mr. Ryan becomes the next vice president, it wouldn’t be her dream come true, but her nightmare.”

Here are five reasons why Ayn Rand would have quickly shrugged off Paul Ryan.

Jack Kemp was a favorite of Ronald Reagan. The ex-football star, Congressman, and 1996 running mate of Bob Dole, Kemp gave Paul Ryan his first job in politics as a speechwriter. A prime requirement of such a job would be the ability to praise the Gipper slavishly and constantly, something Ryan has been doing ever since. Ryan says that Republicans need to offer the kind of “boldness and clarity that Reagan offered in the 1980s.” Rand would disagree. She hated Reagan with a boldness and clarity that few liberals can match. In 1976 she wrote, “I urge you, as emphatically as I can, not to support the candidacy of Ronald Reagan. I urge you not to work for or advocate his nomination, and not to vote for him. My reasons are as follows: Mr. Reagan is not a champion of capitalism, but a conservative in the worst sense of that word—i.e., an advocate of a mixed economy with government controls slanted in favor of business rather than labor.”

A “conservative in the worst sense of that word” may be the single finest phrase she ever wrote.

Paul Ryan is as anti-abortion rights as any modern politician can be. He authored the Protect Life Act, which would deny an abortion even to save the mother’s own life. Rand’s stand on abortion rights was equally firm in the opposite direction. In her book Of Living Death, Rand wrote, “Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered.” The idea that a woman possesses ownership of her own body even after one of her eggs has been fertilized is certainly one concept of freedom that has not been transmitted to those on the right like Ryan, who publicize her philosophy.n his first speech as Mitt Romney’s running mate,

Paul Ryan, a practicing Catholic, said “Our rights come from nature and God, not from government.” He clearly hoped to soothe any doubters on the religious right who might worry that he is too influenced by Rand’s writings. A militant atheist, Rand believed the source of all rights came from simply existing. “The source of man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A—and Man is Man,” she wrote. About faith, a fundamental aspect of Catholicism, Rand wrote: “Faith is the worst curse of mankind, as the exact antithesis and enemy of thought.” It isn’t hard to believe that Rand would consider Ryan to be a walking manifestation of that enemy.

Paul Ryan’s great grandfather started a company called Ryan Incorporated Central that has been contracting with the government for over a century. Ryan himself famously used his Social Security survivor’s benefits to pay for his college, which was easy to do considering that his father also left him a substantial share of his estate. And you’re well aware that since he began serving in Congress back in 1999, Paul Ryan has been enjoying government health care. Ayn Rand preached self-reliance and her heroes were always self-made—unlike Ryan and Romney, both of whom enjoyed extraordinary financial stability and connections coming out of college. These luxuries made Ryan insensitive to the troubles faced by typical Americans and the need for a safety net, which Ryan likes to call a “safety hammock.”

Some people are born on third base and think they hit a triple. Ryan is standing on third base wondering why the batboy is being so lazy. Not exactly a heroic stand.

For all her ranting about the limits of government and the need to be independent, Ayn Rand benefited from Medicare. After decades of smoking, she needed surgery for lung cancer. And where did she turn? The evil of collectivism. Her supporters argue that “she paid into [the Medicare system] her entire life. Why shouldn’t she accept the benefits?” I agree. But all the people under 55 who would get a vastly different version of Medicare under Ryan’s plan have paid their dues, too. Lao Tzu said, “Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” Whatever Ayn Rand’s beliefs or intentions, her character provided a real testament to the virtues of  government that promotes its citizens’ general welfare.

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Emphasis Mine & my comments

see: http://www.nationalmemo.com/five-reasons-ayn-rand-would-have-despised-paul-ryan/

 

Everything You Need To Know About Obama’s Gun Violence Prevention Proposals

From: Think Progress

By: Annie-Rose Strasser

“In a press conference on Wednesday, President Obama outlined a sweeping effort to prevent gun violence in the United States. Surrounded by children who had written him letters voicing their desire to see gun laws passed, Obama announced that he will sign 23 executive orders and bring a set of proposals to Congress.

The President referenced one child’s letter that read, “I know that laws have to be passed by Congress, but I beg you to try very hard.”

“I promise that I will try very hard,” he said.

Obama also condemned lawmakers who vocally resist any new gun measures, pointing out that the gun policies of Ronald Reagan were more reasonable.

The initiatives cover everything from mental heath, to gun safety, to blocking the most deadly firearms from making it to market. Here are some of the most important efforts the President introduced today:

1. Making background checks universal. Obama wants every single gun owner to go through a proper background check, so it can be determined whether they have a criminal history or diagnosed mental illness. He wants Congress to close the gun show loophole that allows people at gun shows, and private buyers of used weapons, to avoid getting checked. He will also, through executive action, urge private sellers to conduct background checks, even if they aren’t mandatory.

2. Improving state reporting of criminals and the mentally ill. While all states are required to report to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) people who should not have access to guns, some states are sluggish about putting the data into the system. Obama will put more money into the hands of the states so that they can improve their reporting systems, and issue stronger guidelines to let states know when they should report people. Obama will also, through Presidential Memorandum, work to make sure agencies are regularly entering data into NICS.

3. Banning assault weapons. This is likely the most difficult battle Obama will undertake. He wants to reinstate the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, which outlaws military-grade weapons, like the AR-15 used by Newtown gunman Adam Lanza and by Aurora Theater gunman James Holmes. Obama wants Congress to pass the ban, and close some of the loopholes identified in its 1994 iteration.

4. Capping magazine clip capacity at 10 bullets. A military-grade weapon is dangerous, but so are its accessories: Obama proposes banning all extended magazine clips that hold over 10 bullets. Huge magazine clips allow a gunman to fire off hundreds of rounds without having to stop, even once, to reload. The high-capacity magazine ban was also part of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban.

5. Purging armor-piercing bullets. The sale of armor piercing ammunition has been banned for quite some time, but is still legal to posess such bullets. Obama is calling on Congress to outlaw ownership and transfer of these bullets, instead of just the sale. Those who oppose any gun laws try to spin a ban on armor piercing bullets as a ban on deer hunting ammunition, but such ammo has the ability to penetrate bullet-proof vests, and is more colloquially known as “cop killer bullets.”

6. Funding police officers. Obama wants Congress to reverse its course of austerity for public employees by approving $4 billion to fund police enforcement around the country.

7. Strengthening gun tracking. In order to track weapons that are used for crimes, Obama will issue a memorandum mandating that all agencies trace back firearms. This means that any agency in the country must trace guns used in crimes back to their original owners, as a way to help collect data on where criminal weapons are coming from. Obama will also ask Congress to allow law enforcement to do background checks on guns seized during investigations.

8. Supporting research on gun violence. Obama hopes to be able to gather more information on gun violence and misuse of firearms, and use that data to inform the work of law enforcement. He also wants to restart research, which has been long blocked by the National Rifle Association, on how video games, the media, and violence affect violent gun crimes. The Centers for Disease Control will immediately begin these efforts, but Obama also is calling on Congress to add $10 million to the pot of funding for such research.

9. Encouraging mental health providers to get involved. In order to make sure that those with homicidal thoughts are unable to access the weapons with which to kill, Obama seeks to encourage mental health professionals to alert authorities to such people. He will clarify that doing so is not in violation of patient privacy laws. He also wants to dispel the idea that Obamacare prevents doctors from talking to patients about guns.

10. Promoting safe gun ownership. The administration will start a “responsible gun ownership” campaign to encourage gun owners to lock up their firearms. He will also work with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to make sure safes and gun locks on the market are effective. He’s also calling on the justice department to help him come up with new gun safety technology.

11. Funding school counseling. Obama is calling on Congress to fund the positions of 1,000 news school counselors. The funding will come both through the already-existent COPS Hiring Grant, and through a new Comprehensive School Safety program that Congress will need to sign off on. The latter would put #150 million into funding for new counselors and social workers in schools.

12. Encouraging safe, anti-bullying school environments. Over 8,000 schools could receive new funding — $50 million — under Obama’s plan to encourage safer school environments. Obama wants to help at-risk students by creating a “school climate survey” that will collect data on what services students need, and to remedy any problems by putting professionals into schools. The administration will also issue guidelines on school discipline policies.

13. Recognizing the mental health needs of low-income Americans.Medicaid recipients already qualify for some mental health services, but Obama would like to expand that service so that low-income Americans have the same access to professional help as those who have money to pay for it on their own. Obama will issue a directive to heads of state health programs, enforcing “mental health parity” — the idea that mental health should be treated as a priority as important as physical health.”

Emphasis Mine

see: http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2013/01/16/1456381/obama-gun-proposals/

 

I Was a Teen Conservative: How I Learned That Life Is Too Complex for Right-Wing Ideology

Speaking for the Arizona delegation at the Democratic Convention this past summer, Goldwater’s granddaughter cast her state’s votes for Barack Obama

From: The American Prospect, via AlterNet

By:Steve Erickson

Barry Goldwater was my first political hero. The most antiauthoritarian figure in mainstream American politics, who said what he thought without giving a damn, he looked and sounded as Western as Arizona, the state he represented in the Senate. Goldwater and John Kennedy hatched plans in the White House—for what they assumed would be their upcoming presidential campaign against each other in 1964—to travel the country in the Arizonan’s small plane that he flew himself, stopping off at airports in the middle of nowhere to debate one issue or another before taking off again. This two-fisted, free-flying persona made Goldwater the kind of politician that film director Howard Hawks might have come up with; by comparison, government couldn’t help appearing soullessly oppressive. Great Society liberalism had become the norm by the mid-1960s, and this reinforced Goldwater’s iconoclasm, striking a politically attuned, insistently nonconformist teenager as utopian, in the same way that Kennedy embodied idealism for so many others of my generation.

Utopia was in the air where I grew up, though I wouldn’t have identified it as that any more than I could have told you who Howard Hawks was. L.A.’s San Fernando Valley was the no man’s land between rural and suburban, between Wild West and space-age futurism. Ranches sprawled on the other side of the biggest road that ran near my house; three miles away, in the same part of the Valley that would become the porn capital of the world a couple of decades later, were makeshift frontier towns built for Westerns by the Hollywood studios. Overhead, the purple vapor trails of rocket tests streaked the skies. Kennedy’s race to the moon built the modern Valley; every father of every kid I knew worked, as did my own dad, for the bursting aerospace industry—-Lockheed, Hughes, North American, Rockwell. The progress that cut swaths through the Valley brought a disruption matched only by earthquakes. A new freeway (which eventually would be named after President Ronald Reagan) took our house, leaving just the swimming pool that was proof of my parents’ upward mobility; the pool was given to the next-door neighbor whose house fell outside the freeway’s path. This sort of upheaval was too common to be traumatizing.

My mother loved Goldwater, too. She took me to a Goldwater rally at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and on the morning of the ’64 election, I recall her peering through my bedroom door, gently trying to prepare her sensitive teenage son for the likelihood that our man Barry probably wasn’t going to make it that day. An outspoken liberal in her youth, she was the more ideological of my parents, both of whom grew up Franklin Roosevelt Democrats. In the election of 1948, she missed being old enough to vote by 11 days; my father voted for Harry Truman. Though he remained a Democrat in name, he never voted Democratic again. In the next election, both my parents cast their ballots for the Republican nominee, Dwight Eisenhower, after which began the rightward political trajectory of so many New Deal children, which would accelerate in response to the tumult of the ’60s. In my father’s case, this evolution accompanied the economic ascension that went with swimming pools built and forsaken, while my mother shared with many Americans an alarm that Soviet communism was winning the Cold War, sabotaging democracy and free enterprise. My fascination with politics derived from an interest in the drama of American history; by the time I was 12, I was writing stories about Abraham Lincoln and Nathan Hale (an enthusiasm for patriots making the ultimate sacrifice may be discerned here). I could recite the Gettysburg Address and name all the presidents of the United States in order and the opponents they defeated. Enthralled by Thomas Jefferson’s maxim that “government is best which governs least” (lately there’s some question whether he said this), I believed that the Bill of Rights is the greatest political document ever written, and I still believe it today, even as I take greater note over the years that it was written less as an addendum to the Constitution than as a rebuttal, by the Constitution’s greatest skeptic, its so-called father, James Madison.

Since the liberalism of the time was as smug as the conservatism of the future would be sanctimonious, I was secretly pleased when a history teacher in high school called my opinions “dangerous.” What teenager doesn’t want to be dangerous, especially when he’s so undangerous in so many other ways? The conservatism I embraced was a whole greater than the sum of the parts, the emphasis on individual freedom trumping stuff that I considered to be fine print. While I never liked the sound of a welfare state, I was enough of a softy to have balked at denying help to people who needed it; to the extent that I understood it, the idea that arose from the Great Crash of 1929—that there should be a division between commercial banks and investment banks, without which the great crash of 2008 later became possible—sounded perfectly sensible and, if anything, like a conservative idea. I didn’t really know what the Tennessee Valley Authority was or what it meant that Goldwater mused openly about selling it off. Goldwater mused openly about a lot of things that I took with a nuclear silo worth of salt. When he made jokes about lobbing missiles into the men’s room in the Kremlin, I thought it was funny, something that now mortifies me; I was too immature to understand that a presidential campaign might be better off with a little less humor out of Dr. Strangelove, that election year’s most talked-about film. I never believed that Goldwater was going to start a war, as suggested by an infamous Democratic television ad of a small girl plucking a daisy while counting down to Armageddon, because I didn’t think he was crazy. I had more faith in his prudence than he gave anyone reason to have.

While my hero worship remained unabated, I was troubled that summer of ’64. Liberals recoiled when Goldwater declared at the Republican Convention in San Francisco that “extremism in the pursuit of liberty is no vice,” but I understood the statement on its face; Tom Paine and Patrick Henry, not to mention Jefferson, said the same thing, more or less. If I was barely savvy enough, however, to comprehend Goldwater’s provocation, the mob fury that gripped the convention was harder to ignore. Rendered in images all the more unseemly by the crude black and white of television, the delegates cascaded verbal abuse at Goldwater’s defeated rival for the nomination, New York’s moderate governor, Nelson Rockefeller. More instinctually than I could articulate, I had the feeling maybe these were people I wouldn’t want to be in the same room with. No ideology holds the patent on rage, and in the years to come, scenes as ugly were played out by the political left. But though I was still too young to fathom what was meant by the better angels of our nature, I did experience my first sense of political alienation, and it was from those who I thought were on my side.

Meanwhile, a month before the convention, on the momentum of Kennedy’s martyrdom, the Senate passed the Civil Rights Act. This was the single most momentous piece of legislation since the same institution approved the 13th Amendment ending slavery a century before. Twenty-nine senators voted against the law; Goldwater was one of them. Following World War II, Goldwater had desegregated the Arizona National Guard that he founded and was a forceful proponent for integrating the nation’s military forces as well. In the Senate he had supported every previous civil-rights bill, including the ’64 bill in an earlier, less expansive form. I understood the constitutional rationale behind Goldwater’s vote, which was that the government shouldn’t have the power to dictate the conduct of a private business. Even at the age of 14, however, I had the unambiguous impression of some bigger picture being missed. While I didn’t question Goldwater’s motives, the motives on the convention floor that summer were transparent: There was little doubt that much of Goldwater’s support was racist and that much of what was being expressed on the floor was white wrath. I’m keenly cognizant of how self-serving it is to overstate this now. I was a naïve white kid with half a century between then and this article to cover my tracks. So let’s say that the rightness of the cause of racial justice was too manifest, too bright a line for one not to finally choose a side. In contrast with black people being hosed down on TV and beset by vicious dogs and vicious sticks swung by vicious cops, rhetoric about states’ rights sounded hollow.

Politics is always personal. It would be disingenuous to suggest that the changes I was going through, especially at the ages of 18 and 19, were entirely philosophical. Suffice it to say that when I glanced back over my shoulder at my first 17 years, I didn’t much like what I saw—someone rigid and judgmental, with politics to match. None of this examination took place inside the hermetic seal of my own thinking and feeling; a cultural explosion rocked the decade around me. The facts of the civil-rights movement became as inexorable to me as worries about democracy and totalitarianism. The national dilemma of race, and that dilemma’s resolution, became crucial to my evolving patriotism; not having had a single acquaintance before college who was African American, now I was living with African Americans in the college dormitory. Jeffersonian individualism remained my ideal, but there were more and more examples of how sometimes only the dreaded federal government had the power to protect the freedom of the individual from states and localities. Over and over, the notion that government necessarily becomes more responsive and better suited to protecting liberty the farther down the line from federalism it gets was proved irrefutably false.

By the end of the ’60s, it was clear that the conservatism I so ardently adopted was wrong about the two great issues of the day, civil rights being the first. The other was a war in Southeast Asia that no military or political figure was capable of explaining, a war for which every guy I knew was fodder. One night in 1969, three weeks before Christmas, a great raffle was held in Washington, D.C., in which my fate was drawn from a glass jar. All men of draft age received a number that would determine how soon, if ever, they would be called up for service and combat. Mine was 345, a very good number as numbers went in a situation that nonetheless underscored the absurdity of the lottery and the war itself. The proposition of bolstering an inept and crooked Indochinese country for the sake of American national security was one that few in the country accepted any longer, and when four students were murdered by the National Guard on a campus in Ohio the following spring during a demonstration against the war, what died as well was the last semblance of support for the war and an ideology that justified it. To a Jeffersonian, the brandishing of state power in order to conscript people to fight in a faithless conflagration and then to oppress the right of assembly stipulated by the First Amendment was repellent.

The 1960s were a Rorschach decade. No interpretation of the era’s inkblot is altogether wrong. Conservatism and liberalism were realigned in the process, creeds reassessed; liberal Democrats first escalated the Vietnam War, while some conservatives suggested that if this was an endeavor we couldn’t win, we should withdraw. But while the likes of Goldwater raised ever more blunt questions about the war and the draft, the vast majority of self-identified conservatives supported the state. Up to a point, this was an understandable response to what many ordinary Americans perceived as growing turmoil; faced with chaos, people like my parents had different ideas than I of what was to be conserved. None of this, however, changed the fact that in its deceit about the war’s unfolding and what was and wasn’t at stake, the state itself bore accountability for much of this chaos, and in the conflict between freedom and order, while the Jeffersonian conservatism that I signed up for gave the benefit of the doubt to freedom, a new conservatism now chose order. This state-imposed order was manifested by duplicity in the form of government misinformation and intimidation and surveillance, as well as by an implicit lack of faith in America itself—in an American’s right to know, in the American fabric’s ability to weather such fraying of and even rips in the national life. “If it takes a bloodbath,” Reagan said upon quelling a demonstration at the University of California, Berkeley, during his first term as California’s governor, “let’s get it over with,” a battle cry that not long before would have confirmed everything about the state that conservatives feared.

Ronald Reagan was the conservative Jesus for whom Goldwater proved to be only John the Baptist. Reagan came to the attention of conservatives when he made a speech for Goldwater a week before the ’64 election, advancing the case for Goldwater’s candidacy more powerfully than Goldwater had. Over the next 16 years, Reagan became the personification of a hybrid conservatism forged by times that tested everything. This fusion crossed an eloquence on behalf of liberty with a new trust in the power of the state; deserting the ideal of individual freedom, now conservatives automatically registered protest against the war and on behalf of civil rights as leftist insurrection. While Reagan’s election as president in 1980 appeared to be the apotheosis of what Goldwater started, in fact conservatism and the new president each were remaking themselves in the image of the other. Under Reagan the national debt and size of the federal government exploded; the Justice Department paid a purposely ominous attention to what adults read and watched; the war on drugs grew more ruthless; cynicism about science, particularly as it had to do with the environment, grew more pronounced; antagonism to the freedom of women to make choices about their bodies grew more vehement.

Most striking, three impulses distinguished the new right. The first was how the right’s enmity toward centralized state power was matched by an adoration of centralized corporate power. This constituted an abandonment of the principle of a truly free marketplace—with entrepreneurship and the flourishing of small business becoming more constrained and difficult—- and the overarching principle of decentralization. The second impulse was the displacement of liberty as conservatism’s core priority by a new priority, “values,” by which the right invariably meant sexual behavior, predominantly the sexual behavior of women and homosexuals. The third new impulse was most profound. This was a reconceptualization of the republic as one in which citizens are bound not by a Constitution in which God isn’t once mentioned, euphemized, or alluded to but by an unwritten Christian covenant that implicitly subjects free will to an organizing ethos that’s unmistakably theocratic. What was a freedom movement became an authority/wealth/religious movement. The new conservatism now spoke of the Bill of Rights with thinly veiled contempt. Conservatism continued to pay lip service to freedom in the abstract even as the only freedoms in the specific that it defended with urgency were the right to make a profit and to own a gun. If the language of conservatism, as given voice by President Reagan, hadn’t changed, its very essence had transformed, within two decades of Goldwater’s defeated run for the presidency.

In college I had doubts about everything, and then doubts about the doubts. I didn’t become a leftist: I wouldn’t have contemplated for two seconds putting a poster of Mao on my wall any more than I would have put up one of Hitler, and I found a lot of the revolutionary sentiments in pop music that I otherwise loved simplistic or silly. Calling the United States “fascist” was outrageous and reckless, a neutering of the word’s power by its careless use. I believed the testimony of history was that a managed capitalism made more people free and happy than did communism.

Some of the left-wing ideologues I knew reminded me of the right-wing ideologues I knew, including the one I had known best: me. The extent to which ideology hijacks independent thought, refracting an issue through the lens of an already-settled bias, was all the more disturbing for how long it took me to see it. Ideology is pathological: It provides a psychological structure posing as a theoretical one. This is why fervent communist intellectuals of the 1930s could become fervent anti-communist intellectuals of the 1950s—they didn’t change at all. They became anti-communist communists. In our own day, Keith Olbermann is a left-wing version of Glenn Beck and vice versa; you can switch their soundtracks and notice no difference in body nuance or facial expression or voice inflection, because the inner emotional wiring is the same. The harder a line that ideology hews, the more that right and left have in common, sharing a penchant for rewriting the past to vindicate whatever version of the present each prefers to trust. Stalinists flatly deny that the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939 ever happened, in the same way that leaders of the contemporary right recast American history in terms of a mind-set that regards information as an elite conspiracy, science as a plot against God, and the earth as a subversive entity.

Where this story leaves me at the end isn’t really important, but since it began as my story, I should finish it. I’m keenly aware that my present identity as a political nomad may be no less about my ego than knee-jerk obstinacy was in my adolescence, that perhaps I repeat the pattern of my youth in reflexively staking out the vantage point of a contrarian. My politics were right when the country was left, and then moved left as the country moved right. The most flattering conclusion is that my previous life as a teenage right-winger inoculates me to ideology altogether. Consistency isn’t always the hobgoblin of a small mind: Every amendment in the Bill of Rights can’t be interpreted so broadly as to extrapolate from the fourth not simply a right to privacy but to an abortion, while at the same time the Second Amendment is strictly construed as being about a militia rather than the larger freedom of the citizenry not to be disarmed by the state. In turn, the Second Amendment can’t be interpreted broadly, ignoring the actual language, while the other nine are interpreted narrowly. At a social gathering following 9/11, I was dismayed that friends to the left of me condemned what I considered George W. Bush’s legitimate military action in Afghanistan, given the complicity of the Taliban in its alliance with al-Qaeda; the war against Iraq, on the other hand (having nothing to do with al-Qaeda or 9/11 or phantom weapons), made me angrier than anything that any American government has done.

I have my own kids now. Despite gratifying evidence that my 15-year-old son knows who the Koch brothers are, the allure of memorizing all the presidents in order escapes him. My seven-year-old, on the other hand, was reported by neighbors to be heard railing at her playmates, “And don’t even get me started on Paul Ryan!” I honestly believe my children are best served by a free politics that needs two wings to stay airborne and a push-me/pull-you tension between what is a right and what is a privilege, what is entitled and what is not, what reasonably progresses and what responsibly conserves. As recently as five years ago, I voted for a Republican for statewide office, and 12 years ago in the California primary, I voted for a Republican for president. I’m sorry to say that I don’t foresee doing it again. While the man in the middle clings to the vanity of fair-mindedness, contending that both sides are equally right and wrong, perfectly balanced by perspectives that are equally valid and flawed, conservatism has too irrevocably exhausted not just its philosophical credibility but any moral mandate. Run amok, the authoritarian, corporate, and theocratic impulses that were troubling a quarter-century ago have become appalling and indisputable.

Caught between know-nothingism and a faux populism that disguises a predisposition to favor the financially powerful against the disenfranchised, the new right is born of that awful howl that rose from the convention floor in San Francisco and so startled me. This is the ferocity that animates the right’s most prominent spokesmen in politics and electronic discourse. Some will argue it’s gratuitous to characterize a movement in terms of its gratuitousness—debate audiences cheering executions and booing gay soldiers in Iraq. I don’t think so anymore. At its most unforgiving, the incontrovertible id of today’s conservatism insists that an American president is not really an American and not really the president and tries to reject not solely his ideas but also the very fact of him. Over the past four years, the right, exuding bad faith at best and collective psychosis at worst, has intended not merely to end a presidency but to discredit its existence. Even before conservatism betrayed itself so conspicuously I’m not sure my right-wing teenage self thought conservatism was about shipping 12 million Latinos out of the country or supposing that people stupid enough to get sick when they can’t afford it should die. Pressed on the point, I should like to think that I would have allowed that being a country involves the sustenance of a social contract and the recognition that we’re more than 300 million free agents who happen to be roaming the same piece of real estate.

As for Barry Goldwater, before his death he became an exile from the movement that once was his. Following his presidential run, he continued to strike positions in accordance with a Jeffersonian big-individual/-small-government code. He called for an end to the draft. He became an ardent environmentalist. He supported the Voting Rights Act. He promoted legalization of marijuana. He championed gay rights. He espoused abortion rights. He engineered President Richard Nixon’s resignation for having used the levers of power to harass innocent Americans. He advocated (well, mused openly about, as was his wont) the nomination of black Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Jordan for vice president in 1976. He lobbied for the Supreme Court’s first female justice. He blasted Reagan for the 1987 Iran-Contra scandal (“the goddamned stupidest foreign-policy blunder this country’s ever made”). He admonished George H.W. Bush for running a shallow campaign against Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis in 1988. He endorsed Democratic congressional candidates in the early ’90s. He defended President Bill Clinton from trumped-up Republican charges of corruption. His denunciations of the religious right grew more bitter (“Do not associate my name with anything you do—you’re extremists, and you’ve hurt the Republican Party much more than the Democrats have”), and his consternation grew at how the rest of the party became caught in the undertow: “A lot of so-called conservatives today don’t know what the word means,” he told the Chicago Tribune in 1994. When Republican nominee Robert Dole went to get Goldwater’s benediction during the 1996 campaign, hoping to shore up his conservative credentials while the news cameras rolled, Goldwater could be seen and heard by millions telling Dole, somewhat wryly, “We’re the new liberals of the party. Can you imagine that?”—not what Dole had in mind. By the time he died in 1998, Republicans had begun a whispering campaign that Goldwater suffered from dementia. Speaking for the Arizona delegation at the Democratic Convention this past summer, Goldwater’s granddaughter cast her state’s votes for Barack Obama.”

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/i-was-teen-conservative-how-i-learned-life-too-complex-right-wing-ideology?akid=9800.123424.1vpgxH&rd=1&src=newsletter760676&t=11