The conservative crackup: How the Republican Party lost its mind

Source: Salon.com

Author: Kim Messick

“In a recent article, I argued that the Republican Party has been captured by a faction whose political psychology makes it highly intransigent and uninterested in compromise. That article focused on the roots of this psychology and how it shapes the Tea Party’s view of its place in American politics. It did not pursue the question of exactly how this capture took place — of how a major political party, once a broad coalition of diverse elements, came to be so dependent on a narrow range of strident voices. This is the question I propose to explore below.

In doing so, we should keep in mind three terms from political science (and much political journalism) — “realignment,” “polarization” and “gridlock.” These concepts are often bandied about as if their connections are obvious, even intuitive. Sometimes, indeed, a writer leaves the impression that they are virtually synonymous. I think this is mistaken, and that it keeps us from appreciating just how strange our present political moment really is.

“Realignment,” for instance, refers to a systematic shift in the patterns of electoral support for a political party. The most spectacular recent example of this is the movement of white Southerners from the Democratic to the Republican Party after the passage of major civil rights laws in the mid-1960s. Not coincidentally, this event was critically important for the evolution of today’s Republican Party.

After the Civil War and the collapse of Reconstruction in the 1870s, the identification of white Southerners as Democrats was so stubborn and pervasive as to make the region into the “solid South” – solidly Democratic, that is. Despite this well-known fact, there is reason to suspect that the South’s Democratic alliance was always a bit uneasy. As the Gilded Age gave way to the first decades of the 20th century, the electoral identities of the two major parties began to firm up. Outside the South, the Democrats were the party of the cities, with their polyglot populations and unionized workforces. The Republicans drew most of their support from the rural Midwest and the small towns of the North. The Democrats’ appeal was populist, while Republicans extolled the virtues of an ascendant business class: self-sufficiency, propriety, personal responsibility.

It will be immediately evident that the Republican Party was in many ways a more natural fit for the South, which at the time was largely rural and whose white citizens were overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon Protestants. The South’s class structure, less fluid than that of the industrial and urban North, would have chimed with the more hierarchical strains of Republican politics, and Southern elites had ample reason to prefer the “small government” preached by Republican doctrine. But the legacy of Lincoln’s Republicanism was hard to overcome, and the first serious stirrings of disillusion with the Democratic Party had to wait until 1948. That year, South Carolina Gov. Strom Thurmond, enraged by President Truman’s support for some early civil rights measures, led a walkout of 35 Southern delegates from the Democratic Convention. Thurmond went on to become the presidential nominee of a Southern splinter group, the States’ Rights Democratic Party (better known as “Dixiecrats”), and won four states in the deep South.

The first Republican successes in the South came in the elections of 1952 and 1956, when Dwight Eisenhower won five and eight states, respectively*. These victories, however, were only marginally related to racial politics; Eisenhower’s stature as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in World War II had a much larger role, as did his party’s virulent anti-communism. Nixon held only five of these states in 1960.

The real turning point came in 1964. After passage of the Civil Rights Act, Barry Goldwater’s conservative campaign, with its emphasis on limited government and states’ rights, carried five Southern states, four of which had not been won by a Republican in the 20th century. No Democratic presidential candidate has won a majority of Southern states since, with the single exception of former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter’s 1976 campaign. The South is now the most reliably Republican region of the country, and supplies the party with most of its Electoral College support.

The South’s realignment explains a lot about our politics. But it doesn’t, in itself, explain one very important fact: why the post-civil rights Republican Party went on to become the monolithically conservative party we have today. We can put this point as a question: Why didn’t the Republican Party end up looking more like the pre-realignment Democrats, with a coalition of Northern moderates and liberals yoked to conservative Southerners? (And the Midwest along for the ride.) In effect, we’re asking how realignment is related to “polarization” — the ideological sorting out that has led to our present party system, in which nearly all moderates and liberals identify as Democrats and nearly all conservatives as Republicans.

It’s important to ask this question for at least two reasons. First, because it highlights the fact that realignment and polarization are analytically distinct concepts — a point often passed over in discussions of this subject. The sudden migration of Southern whites into Republican ranks is obviously connected with polarization; what we need to know is exactly how and why. Which brings us to the second reason. Because the answer we’re led to is so refreshingly old-fashioned and therefore, in today’s intellectual culture, completely counterintuitive: They are connected through the agency of political actors.

Kim Messick lives and writes in North Carolina. He’s working on a novel.

 

The Tea Party, The IRS ‘Scandal’ — And The Actual Facts Of The Case

Rather than the so-called IRS scandal cooked up by Tea Party groups and their partisan supporters, the real criticism of the IRS may be that it has permitted so many of these groups to obtain tax-exempt status despite apparently egregious violations.

Source: National Memo

Author: Devin Burghart

While it is well known that the so-called IRS scandal has been used by Tea Partiers to bash the IRS, less well known are the actual facts of the case.

Specifically, while the IRS delayed confirming the tax-exempt status of some groups, and some also faced additional scrutinynot a single Tea Party organization was denied tax-exempt status.

A May 14 draft report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that none of the 296 questionable applicants had been denied: “For the 296 potential political cases we reviewed, as of December 17, 2012, 108 applications had been approved, 28 were withdrawn by the applicant, none had been denied, and 160 cases were open from 206 to 1,138 calendar days (some crossing two election cycles).”

In fact, the only known 501(c)(4) applicant whose request for tax-exempt status was recently denied happens to be a progressive group: the Maine chapter of Emerge America, which trains Democratic women to run for office. Although the group did no electoral work, and didn’t participate in independent expenditure campaign activity either, its partisan nature disqualified it from being categorized as working for the “common good.”

The Inspector General’s report found that in the “majority of cases, we agreed that the applications submitted included indications of significant political campaign intervention.” In fact, only 91 of the 296, or roughly 31 percent of the applications reviewed for the report, did not have “indications of significant political campaign intervention.” In other words, more than two-thirds of groups flagged for processing by a team of specialists had those indications.

That sort of political campaign intervention would normally disqualify a group from 501(c)(4) status, but the deluge of Tea Party applications combined with the politicization of the process has allowed them to slip through. A closer look at the activities of some of the Tea Party groups that are currently under review or have received non-profit status from the IRS reveals a difficult and potentially dangerous situation.

The First Coast Tea Party Inc. of Jacksonville, Florida, for example, which applied for 501(c)(4) status in 2009 — and received it in 2011. Commenting about the recent IRS controversy on Facebook, the group declared “We file a tax return, account for every penny. We do not endorse candidates, that is a no no.” Yet the First Coast group has boasted about directly helping Republican campaigns. In an August 30, 2012 Facebook post, for instance, the group advertised a Jacksonville rally for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, adding, “bring your chairs and your signs, make sure they know that the First Coast Tea Party is and has been helping their campaign.”

Three weeks later, the same group declared a “state of emergency” on Facebook, pleading with supporters to campaign for Romney: “FLORIDA FRIENDS, IF YOU LIVE IN ANY OF THESE 3 COUNTIES GET OFF THE COUCH NOW, GET YOUR FRIENDS OFF THE COUCH. GET TO THE REPUBLICAN HEADQUARTERS AND OFFER AND THEN DO SOME WORK. PHONES, (YOU CAN EVEN DO THESE CALLS FROM HOME) AND WALK AND KNOCK. NOW. WE CANNOT LOSE FLORIDA TO OBAMA.. NOW. THIS IS MOST CRITICAL [emphasis in original].” These weren’t posts from some random supporter on the group’s Facebook page; they were posts from the official account of the organization.

Similarly, the IRS granted 501 (c)(4) tax-exempt status to the Louisville Tea Party in 2009.  The same group published a list of “officially tea party endorsed candidates for the 2011 Kentucky primary.” They also published an article headined “The Rationale for Romney-Ryan,” arguing that Tea Partiers should vote for the Republican candidate.

Then there is the Katy Tea Party Patriots, which filed for 501(c)(4) status in 2009. This group actually ran an “Oust Obama 2012” campaign, organizing block-watching with the Fort Bend GOP and phone-banking against Obama at GOP headquarters in Sugarland and Houston, Texas. Still featured on the front page of the group’s website is an October 4, 2012 article titled “Our Country’s Future,” by Katy Tea Party Patriots president Darcy Kahrhoff, who urged members to vote for Romney. “Please take time to talk with friends and family you may have living out of state, and try to convince them to vote for Governor Romney, especially if you have friends and family in Florida, Colorado, or Ohio. Also, find a Senatorial candidate to support in these states, and go to FreedomWorks to phone bank for these patriots.  Everything you can do to help will matter.  We can, and we must, win this!

Not to be outdone was the Central Valley Tea Party Inc., a regional California Tea Party group that won the much more politically restrictive IRS 501(c)(3) tax status in 2009.  It should be noted that 501 (c)(3) status explicitly prohibits any partisan political activity.  “Under the Internal Revenue Code,” as the IRS explains, ”all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. The prohibition applies to all campaigns including campaigns at the federal, state and local level. Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.”

Despite its 501 (c)(3) designation, the Central Valley Tea Party group appears to have been involved in partisan political activity. Currently, the front page of the group’s website features “upcoming events” instructing members to “Volunteer for Measure G,” and “Volunteer for Vidak for Senate.” In the latter case, the website simply instructs members: “Please volunteer to do phone banking or precinct walking to help win the election.”

Further stretching IRS regulations, the same group’s newsletter endorsed and advertised conservative candidates. In an article in the October, 2012 issue of the Central Valley Tea Party Times – headlined ”Why You Should Be Excited to Vote for Mitt Romney” — Paul Szopa told fellow Tea Partiers to get out and campaign for the Republican presidential candidate. “So it’s time to get excited to vote for the better candidate. It’s time to talk him up to friends and family. It’s time to join with groups like Operation Swing State (www.operationswingstate.org) and make calls in support of his candidacy.” Published on the front page of the newsletter was a “Voter Guide” that seemed even less ambiguous, listing all the candidates that the group recommended as well as their positions on all of the ballot measures.

The newsletter also featured advertisements for conservative candidates. The April-June, 2012 edition of the Central Valley Tea Party Times carried an ad for Whelan for Congress on page 27, another for Frank Bigelow for the 5th District California Assembly seat on page 38, and an ad “Elect Richard J. (Rick) Farinelli, Madera County Supervisor District III” on page 39.  The newsletter’s August-September, 2010 edition featured an ad for Diane Lenning, a write-in candidate for California Superintendent of Public Instruction; so did the October-November, 2010 edition.

Another Tea Party group granted the 501(c)(3) non-profit status by the IRS, is the Tifton, Georgia-based Tiftarea Tea Party Patriots, Inc., which received the designation in 2010. This group too appears to have engaged in openly political activity, including publicly endorsing candidates. On October 9, 2012, in a post on its website — “Are you ready to vote?” — the Tiftarea group strongly endorsed Romney: “The choice is simple. Obama has stated, He will transform America and acted to do such. Everything this Administration stands for, is Government and control of every aspect of life.  This is the pipe dream of a Socialist’s mentality, for in their eyes, you the individual, do not know and cannot do, what is right, so someone else has to make decisions for you, to ensure, you do not make the wrong choices or actions. Or you chose Romney, who does not want to transform America, the greatest nation in history of human kind.  He wants to allow, the individual, to have the right, to succeed and fail on his own regard, while ensuring those freedoms, given by our Creator and to assure those inalienable rights, written about in the Declaration of Independence are retained by their proper owners, ‘We the People.’”

These are but a few of the many examples of political intervention by Tea Party non-profits catalogued by IREHR. There are many, many more and they’re not difficult to find. Rather than the so-called IRS scandal cooked up by Tea Party groups and their partisan supporters, the real criticism of the IRS may be that it has permitted so many of these groups to obtain tax-exempt status despite apparently egregious violations.

After the firing of several high-level IRS employees over this incident, how likely is it that Tea Party groups will be sanctioned for these kinds of violations in the future?

This is adapted from a special report of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. To request a printed version of the report, complete with exhibits, please email the Institute at info@irehr.org.

 

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.nationalmemo.com/the-tea-party-the-irs-scandal-and-the-actual-facts-of-the-case/

The Tea Party History of the United States.

Until one understands what is wrong with the above, they have no hope of understanding the USA of today.

Things were almost perfect during the seventh and eighth years of the Presidency of GW Bush: The Axes of Evil had been subdued (Really?); income tax rates for the highest earners were at a historic low(TRUE); the terrorists had been vanquished(FALSE); income tax rates for the highest earners were at a historic low; the estate (death) tax – (inheriting an estate enables hard working Americans to be successful because of their birth situation) was on life support (TRUE);income tax rates for the highest earners were at a historic low; there was almost no deficit adding to the minuscule national debt (FALSE); income tax rates for the highest earners were at a historic low; access to contraception and abortion for people without means was low (TRUE); and fewer Americans than ever understood Natural Selection in specific or science in general (TRUE). The only dark cloud on the horizon (besides the fact that Social Security was on sound footing) was in housing: some very wealthy people – of the class know as job creators – had been growing our economy by speculating on increasing housing values, which had created a bubble getting ready to burst; and many home mortgages – of a type labeled  subprime – had been written because the government forced financial institutions to make loans to people who had no chance of ever paying them back(FALSE). (The job creators dealt with the latter issue by hiding these bad loans in a package of securities, which they – using the best of free market principles – sold to unsuspecting clients) (ALL TRUE).  When the housing bubble burst, the shady, worthless securities were exposed, markets collapsed, millions of job were lost (TRUE),  many homes became worth less than what was owed on them (TRUE), and then, even worse, a Democrat – and  a Black person – was elected President.

The President and his Democratic Party friends came into office and instantly the national debt and the deficit became huge (FALSE),unemployment reached levels almost as high as during the Reagan Administration(TRUE), gas prices skyrocketed, our national defense was compromised, and – horror of horrors – legislation to help people gain access to affordable health care was signed into law (TRUE).  Even worse, the policy – begun in the previous presidency – of helping the financial and auto industries by providing low interest loans was continued(TRUE). What could have been worse? Higher taxes? Food stamps and unemployment insurance for those who were living the American Dream until their jobs were destroyed? Higher taxes? Spending tax money on successful military missions?  Higher taxes?  Strengthening public schools in poor neighborhoods so that some could gain the skills to survive, and even prosper? Higher taxes?  Improved access to contraception and woman’s health needs?  Marriage equality?

N.B.: taxes on moderate incomes are lower than they were on Jan 19, 2012; the marginal (highest) are unchanged.

Until one understands what is wrong with this tea party perception of history, they have no hope of understanding the USA of today.

The Spectre of 1932: Will Fascism Rise Again in 2012?

The lesson of history is that tough times often reward the desperate and dangerous, from angry demagogues to anarchists and nationalists, from seething mobs to expansionist empires.

From:Daily Mail UK

By:Dominic Sandbrook

N.B.: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  (George Santayana)

“The dawn of a new year is usually a time of hope and ambition,of dreams for the future and thoughts of a better life. But it is a long time since many of us looked forward to the new year with such anxiety, even dread.

Here in Britain, many economists believe that by the end of 2012 we could well have slipped into a second devastating recession. The Coalition remains delicately poised; it would take only one or two resignations to provoke a wider schism and a general election.

But the real dangers lie overseas. In the Middle East, the excitement of the Arab Spring has long since curdled into sectarian tension and fears of Islamic fundamentalism. And with so many of the world’s oil supplies concentrated in the Persian Gulf, British families will be keeping an anxious eye on events in the Arab world.

Meanwhile, as the eurozone slides towards disaster, the prospects for Europe have rarely been bleaker. Already the European elite have installed compliant technocratic governments in Greece and Italy, and with the markets now putting pressure on France, few observers can be optimistic that the Continent can avoid a total meltdown.

As commentators often remark, the world picture has not been grimmer since the dark days of the mid-Seventies, when the OPEC oil shock, the rise of stagflation and the surge of nationalist terrorism cast a heavy shadow over the Western world.

For the most chilling parallel, though, we should look back exactly 80 years, to the cold wintry days when 1931 gave way to 1932.

Then as now, few people saw much to mourn in the passing of the old year. It was in 1931 that the Great Depression really took hold in Europe, bringing governments to their knees and plunging tens of millions of people out of work.

Then as now, the crisis had taken years to gather momentum. After the Wall Street Crash in 1929 – just as after the banking crisis of 2008 – some observers even thought that the worst was over.

But in the summer of 1931, a wave of banking panics swept across central Europe. As the German and Austrian financial houses tottered, Britain’s Labour government came under fierce market pressure to slash spending and cut benefits.

Bitterly divided, the Labour leader Ramsay MacDonald decided to resign from office – only to return immediately as the leader of an all-party Coalition known as the National Government, dominated by Stanley Baldwin’s Conservatives.

Like today’s Coalition, the National Government was an uneasy marriage. Sunk in self-pity and spending much of his time flirting with aristocratic hostesses, MacDonald cut a miserable and semi-detached figure. By comparison, even Nick Clegg looks a model of strong, decisive leadership.

As for the Tory leader Stanley Baldwin, he had more in common with David Cameron than we might think. A laid-back Old Harrovian, tolerant, liberal-minded and ostentatiously relaxed, Baldwin spent as much time as possible on holiday in the South of France, preferring to enjoy the Mediterranean sunshine rather than get his hands dirty with the nuts and bolts of policy.

Meanwhile, far from offering a strong and coherent Opposition, the rump Labour Party seemed doomed to irrelevance. At least its leader, the pacifist Arthur Henderson, could claim to be a man of the people, having hauled himself up by his bootstraps from his early days as a Newcastle metal worker.

Not even his greatest admirers could possibly say the same of today’s adenoidal, stammering Opposition leader, the toothless Ed Miliband.

With the politicians apparently impotent in the face of the economic blizzard, many people were losing faith in parliamentary democracy. Their despair was hardly surprising: in some industrial towns of the North, Wales and Scotland, unemployment in 1932 reached a staggering 70 per cent.

With thousands more being plunged out of work every week, even the National Government estimated that one in four people were making do on a mere subsistence diet. Scurvy, rickets and tuberculosis were rife; in the slag heaps of Wigan, George Orwell saw ‘several hundred women’ scrabbling ‘in the mud for hours’, searching for tiny chips of coal so they could heat their homes.

Feeling betrayed by mainstream politicians, many sought more extreme alternatives. Then as now, Britain was rocked by marches and demonstrations. In October 1932, a National Hunger March in Hyde Park saw bloody clashes between protesters and mounted policemen, with 75 people being badly injured.

And while Left-wing intellectuals were drawn to the supposedly utopian promise of the Soviet leader Josef Stalin – who turned out to be a brutal tyrant – thousands of ordinary people flocked to the banners of the British Union of Fascists, founded in the autumn of 1932 by the former Labour maverick Sir Oswald Mosley.

Never before or since has the far Right commanded greater British support – a worrying reminder of the potential for economic frustration to turn into demagogic resentment.

But the most compelling parallels between 1932 and 2012 lie overseas, where the economic and political situation was, if anything, even darker.

Eighty years ago, the world was struggling to come to terms with an entirely new financial landscape. In August 1931, the system by which currencies were pegged to the value of gold had fallen apart, with market pressure forcing Britain to pull the pound off the gold standard.

Almost overnight, the system that was supposed to ensure global economic stability was gone. And as international efforts to coordinate a response collapsed, so nations across the world fell back on self-interested economic protectionism.

In August 1932, the British colonies and dominions met in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, and agreed a policy of Imperial Preference, putting high tariffs on goods from outside the Empire. International free trade was now a thing of the past; in this frightening new world, it was every man for himself.

Today’s situation, of course, is even more frightening. Our equivalent of the gold standard – the misguided folly of the euro – is poised on the brink of disaster, yet the European elite refuse to let poorer Mediterranean nations like Greece and Portugal leave the eurozone, devalue their new currencies and start again.

Should the eurozone collapse, as seems perfectly likely given Greece’s soaring debts, Spain’s record unemployment, Italy’s non-existent growth and the growing market pressure on France’s ailing economy, then the consequences would be much worse than when Britain left the gold standard.

The shockwaves across Europe – which could come as early as next spring – would see banks tottering, businesses crashing and millions thrown out of work. For British firms that trade with Europe, as well as holiday companies, airports, travel firms and the City of London itself, the meltdown of the eurozone would be a catastrophe.

And as the experience of 80 years ago suggests, the political and social ramifications would be too terrible to contemplate. For in many ways, the 12 months between the end of 1931 and the beginning of 1933 were the tipping point between democracy and tyranny, the moment when the world plunged from an uneasy peace towards hatred and bloodshed.

In the East, new powers were already on the rise. At the end of 1931, Imperial Japan had already launched a staggeringly brutal invasion of China, the Japanese armies pouring into the disputed province of Manchuria in search of raw materials.

Today the boot is on the other foot, with China ploughing billions into its defence programme and establishing de facto economic colonies across Africa, bringing copper, cobalt and zinc back to the mother country.

Indeed, future historians may well look back and see the first years of the 2010s as the moment when the Chinese Empire began to strengthen its global grip.

In the Soviet Union in 1932, meanwhile, Stalin’s reign of terror was intensifying. With dissent crushed by the all-powerful Communist Party, his state-sponsored collectivisation of the Ukrainian farms saw a staggering 6million die in one of the worst famines in history.

By these standards, the autocratic Vladimir Putin looks almost cuddly.

And yet we should not forget that Putin himself described the fall of the Soviet empire as one of the greatest catastrophes of the century – and that half of all Russian teenagers recently told a survey that Stalin was a wise and strong leader.

By comparison, Europe’s democratic leaders look woolly and vacillating, just as they did back in 1932. Indeed, for the democratic West, this was a truly terrible year.

Democracy itself seemed to be under siege. In France, President Paul Doumer was murdered by an assassin. In Portugal, the authoritarian, ultra-Catholic dictator Antonio Salazar launched a reign of terror that would last into the Seventies. And in Italy, the Fascist leader Benito Mussolini strengthened his grip, consolidating Italian power in the looted colonies of Albania and Libya.

Eighty years on, we have no room for complacency. Although the far Right remains no more than a thuggish and eccentric minority, the elected prime ministers of Greece and Italy have already been booted out to make way for EU-approved technocrats for whom nobody has ever voted.

In the new Europe, the will of the people seems to play second fiddle to the demands of Paris and Berlin. And if the eurozone crisis intensifies, then it is no idle fantasy to imagine that Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and their Brussels allies will demand an even greater centralisation of powers, provoking nationalist outrage on the streets of Europe’s capitals.

Sadly, there seems little point in looking across the Atlantic for inspiration. In 1932, President Herbert Hoover, beleaguered by rising unemployment and tumbling ratings, flailed and floundered towards election defeat.

Today, Barack Obama cuts a similarly impotent, indecisive and isolationist figure. The difference is that in 1932, one of the greatest statesmen of the century, the Democratic politician Franklin D. Roosevelt, was waiting in the wings.

Today, American voters looking for alternatives are confronted only with a bizarre gaggle of has-beens, inadequates and weirdos, otherwise known as the Republican presidential field. And to anybody who cares about the future of the Western world, the prospect of President Ron Paul or President Newt Gingrich is frankly spine-chilling.

Above all, though, the eyes of the world back in 1932 were fixed on Germany. As the Weimar Republic staggered towards oblivion, an obscure Austrian painter was setting his sights on supreme power.

With rising unemployment eating away at the bonds of democratic civility, the National Socialist Party was within touching distance of government.

And in the last days of 1932, after the technocrats and generals had failed to restore order, President Paul von Hindenburg began to contemplate the unthinkable – the prospect of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany.

We all know what happened next. Indeed, by the end of 1932 the world was about to slide towards a new dark age, an age of barbarism and bloodshed on a scale that history had never known.

Eighty years on, it would be easy to sit back and reassure ourselves that the worst could never happen again. But that, of course, was what people told each other in 1932, too.

The lesson of history is that tough times often reward the desperate and dangerous, from angry demagogues to anarchists and nationalists, from seething mobs to expansionist empires.

Our world is poised on the edge of perhaps the most important 12 months for more than half a century. If our leaders provide the right leadership, then we may, perhaps, muddle through towards slow growth and gradual recovery.

But if the European elite continue to inflict needless hardship on their people; if the markets continue to erode faith in the euro; and if Western politicians waste their time in petty bickering, then we could easily slip further towards discontent and disaster.

The experience of 1932 provides a desperately valuable lesson. As a result of the decisions taken in those 12 short months, millions of people later lost their lives.

Today, on the brink of a new year that could well prove the most frightening in living memory, we can only pray that our history takes a very different path.”

N.B.: Action, not prayer, please…

Emphasis Mine

see:http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/9204-the-spectre-of-1932-will-fascism-rise-again-in-2012

How Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories May Pose a Genuine Threat to Humanity

Tea Partiers, freaking out about “Agenda 21” and convinced global warming isn’t real, are gumming up the works for those trying to save the planet.

From: AlterNet

N.B.: Perhaps what we need at the polls is not voter id but a basic science literacy test.

By: Joshua Holland

“The paranoia infecting a broad swath of the American right-wing can be comical at times — think about Orly Taitz and her fellow Birthers. But we laugh at our own peril, because what Richard Hofstadter famously characterized as “the paranoid style in American politics” poses a serious threat to our future: the right’s snowballing conspiracy theories could ultimately lead to disaster.

Consider what’s happening in Virginia‘s Middle Peninsula on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, among the areas in the U.S. most vulnerable to climate change. Earlier this month, Darryl Fears, reporting for the Washington Postoffered a glimpse into the madness that city planners have faced in recent months as a local Tea Party group, convinced that a nefarious plot by scientists and city officials is afoot, have disrupted their work trying to mitigate the potential impacts of rising sea levels.

“The uprising,” wrote Fears, “began at a February meeting about starting a business park for farming oysters in Mathews County.” He continued:

The program to help restore the Chesapeake Bay oyster population was slated for land owned by the county, but it was shouted down as a useless federal program that would expand the national debt. The proposal was tabled.

As the opposition grew over the summer, confrontations became so heated that some planners posted uniformed police officers at meetings and others hired consultants to help calm audiences and manage the indoor environment, several planners said.

In James City County, speakers were shouted away from a podium. In Page County, angry farmers forced commissioners to stop a meeting. In Gloucester County, planners sat stone-faced as activists took turns reading portions of the 500-page Agenda 21 text, delaying a meeting for more than an hour.

“Agenda 21” is one of a number of silly but dangerous conspiracy theories sweeping through the fever swamps of the right. Although admittedly sinister-sounding, Agenda 21 is just a blueprint for sustainable development, especially in emerging economies. It outlines how wealthier countries can contribute to smarter growth through technology transfers and public education. It stresses the importance of fighting deforestation and conserving bio-diversity — all things that normal people would consider wise.

The important thing to understand about Agenda 21 is that there is absolutely nothing binding or compelling member countries to implement any part of it. It’s not a treaty — it is entirely voluntary and certainly doesn’t have any connection to local governments. Yet for the right, with its long John Birch Society undercurrent of paranoia about international institutions, Agenda 21 represents some kind of dark UN conspiracy to impose socialism on the “free world.”

That craziness lies at the heart of Michele Bachmann’s quixotic war on energy-efficient lightbulbs. Tim Murphy reported, “The Minnesota congresswoman is part of a movement that considers ‘sustainability’ an existential threat to the United States, one with far-reaching consequences for education, transportation, and family values.”

Last year, during the Denver mayoral race, Tea Party candidate Dan Maes argued that a local bike-sharing program, a popular initiative among city residents, was a “very well-disguised” part of a plan by then-Denver mayor (and now Colorado governor) John Hickenlooper for “converting Denver into a United Nations community.” Alex Jones constantly hawks the conspiracy. Glenn Beck warned it would lead to “centralized control over all of human life on planet Earth.” And in September, Newt Gingrich, hoping to burnish his wingnutty creds, told a group of Orlando Tea Partiers that, if elected, his first order of business would be “to cease all federal funding of any kind of activity that relates to United Nations Agenda 21.” (Currently, no federal funding of any kind is used for implementing Agenda 21.)

It’s causing uprisings like that seen in Virginia at ordinarily dull city planning board meetings across the country. As Stephanie Mencimer reported for Mother Jones, “Agenda 21 paranoia has swept the Tea Party scene, driving activists around the country to delve into the minutiae of local governance… they’re descending on planning meetings and transit debates, wielding PowerPoints about Agenda 21, and generally freaking out low-level bureaucrats with accusations about their roles in a supposed international conspiracy.”

Agenda 21 is inextricably linked to the most dangerous conspiracy theory going: that 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists are lying when they say human activities are contributing to global climate change. This, too, is supposedly in service of the goal of destroying capitalism, which means one has to believe that climatologists around the world are not only all very political — enough to conspire to deceive the entire world — but they also all share the same largely discredited ideology.

Back in Virginia, the Coastal Zone Management program is struggling to “help prepare for the predicted effects of climate change, especially sea-level rise on Virginia’s coastal resources.” The area is uniquely imperiled; in June, Darryl Fears, a science correspondent, reported that Hampton Roads is especially vulnerable because several rivers run through it on their way to the Chesapeake Bay. He continued:

Unfortunately, this crowded, low-lying area also has long-term geological issues to deal with. Thirty-five million years ago, a meteor landed relatively close by and created the Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater. Hampton Roads is also home to a downward-pressing glacial formation created during the Ice Age. Scientists theorize that these ancient occurrences are causing the land to sink — and together account for about one-third of the sea-level change.

Fears notes that “the water has risen so much that Naval Station Norfolk is replacing 14 piers at $60 million each to keep ship-repair facilities high and dry,” but “this geology is lost in local meetings, where distrust of the local and federal governments is at center stage.”

And their harassment is having the desired effect of “freaking out low-level bureaucrats” trying to prepare the area for the changes to come, preparations that have absolutely nothing to do with the United Nations, Agenda 21 or “socialism.” According to Fears, Shereen Hughes, a former planning commissioner, is “worried that some officials are giving ground to fearmongers. The uprising against smart growth ‘is ridiculous’ and ‘a conspiracy theory,’ she said. But it’s effective.”

Planners aren’t saying this is wrong, Hughes said, because “most are afraid they won’t have a job if they’re too vocal about this issue.” Tea Party members have political allies who “might stand up” against planners who complain, Hughes said.

In his excellent book, Collapse, scientist Jared Diamond looked at a number of societies that had seen their physical climates change. He tried to determine what made some cultures die out while others persevered. According to Diamond, it wasn’t the severity of the change, or its speed that was the determining factor. One important variable was the foresight of those societies’ leaders — their ability to properly diagnose the problem and adapt, to come up with proactive solutions to the problems they faced.

Diamond, in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, said, “one always has to ask about people’s cultural response. Why is it that people failed to perceive the problems developing around them, or if they perceived them, why did they fail to solve the problems that would eventually do them in? Why did some peoples perceive and recognize their problems and others not?” Diamond explained:

A theme that emerges…is insulation of the decision-making elite from the consequences of their actions. That is to say, in societies where the elites do not suffer from the consequences of their decisions, but can insulate themselves, the elite are more likely to pursue their short-term interests, even though that may be bad for the long-term interests of the society, including the children of the elite themselves.

Today, oil and gas corporations are still funding a bunch of crank climate change deniers in order to avoid regulations that might slow their “short-term interests” in extracting as much wealth as they can from traditional hydrocarbons. And here we have Tea Partiers — a “movement” nurtured by business-friendly Republican operatives and backed by the Koch brothers’ dirty energy money — being whipped into a frenzy by the likes of Glenn Beck and shouting down local planners trying to do something about rising water levels. They’re freaking out about energy-efficient lightbulbs and bike-sharing programs, the very sorts of things we need in order to stave off disaster.

So the next time you hear a wingnut spewing feverish nonsense about “climategate” or the “globalist agenda,” remember that this is not just fodder for late-night TV monologues, but the kind of stuff that has in the past brought societies faced with changing environments to their ultimate end.”

N.B.: Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He is the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy: And Everything else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America. Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/153554/how_right-wing_conspiracy_theories_may_pose_a_genuine_threat_to_humanity?page=entire

A Blueprint for Our Time, Our Cause, Our Victory

The Civil Rights Movement’s success was based on a
coordinated three-prong strategy of civil
disobedience, grass-roots organizing and mass
boycotts. To achieve similar victories, a national
“We are the 99%” movement must adopt and apply that
same approach.

Civil Rights Strategy and the ‘99%’ Movement

I’m Charles Pervo, and I approve of this message.

from Portside,

Applying the Successful Strategy of the Civil Rights
Movement to a National “We are the 99%” Movement

The Civil Rights Movement’s success was based on a
coordinated three-prong strategy of civil
disobedience, grass-roots organising and mass
boycotts. To achieve similar victories, a national
“We are the 99%” movement must adopt and apply that
same approach.

by Andrew Levison
The Democratic Strategist
November 17, 2011

“In the coming days the Occupy Wall Street movement faces
an extremely complex and difficult series of decisions
about its strategy and tactics. It cannot simply repeat
the initial tactic of occupying public spaces that it
has employed up to now but it has not yet developed any
clear alternative strategy for the future.

In debating their next steps the protesters – and the
massive numbers of Americans who support them – will
turn again and again to the history and example of the
civil rights movement for guidance. Martin Luther King’s
closest advisors including Jessie Jackson and Andrew
Young have noted the clear historical parallels that
exist between the two protest movements and both
activists and observers will urgently seek to find
lessons in the struggles of the past.

The discussion, however, will be hindered by the
profoundly oversimplified vision that many people today
have of how the victories of the civil rights movement
were actually achieved. Most Americans have little more
than a series of impressionistic images of the civil
rights movement – police dogs and fire hoses unleashed
against the demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama in
1963, dramatic marches attacked by police in Selma,
Alabama in 1965 and, across the south, sit- ins and
freedom rides that rocked the region in the early years
of the decade. In this vision, dramatic confrontations
with the authorities appear to have been, in effect, the
movement’s entire “strategy.”

But, in fact, behind every major campaign of the civil
rights movement there was actually a very organised and
coherent three-pronged strategy. To seriously seek
guidance for the present in the struggles of the past,
it is absolutely indispensable to understand the basic
socio- political strategy that the movement employed.

The civil rights movement’s three-pronged strategy
combined: 1. Civil disobedience 2. Grass-roots
organising and voter registration 3. Boycotts and
economic withdrawal

In every single major campaign of the civil rights
movement – Montgomery, Birmingham, Selma – these three
elements of the overall strategy were employed in a
coherent, mutually supporting and reinforcing way. In
contrast, no part of this coordinated approach was ever
successful in isolation.

Seen in this light, there are indeed reasonable
comparisons between the civil rights movement and the
initial phase of Occupy Wall Street. OWS represents a
modern application of civil disobedience, the first
component of the civil rights movement’s three-pronged
strategy. The essence of civil disobedience (also called
nonviolent direct action“) is the use of dramatic
protests that disrupt normal activities and usually
violate the law. They are designed to call attention to
the existence of injustice and win public sympathy
through the demonstrators willingness to risk danger and
injury and to go to jail for their cause.

In the early phase of the civil rights movement the most
extensive applications of civil disobedience were the
freedom rides and the sit-in’s, actions that directly
violated the morally unjust laws enforcing segregation.
As the movement’s objectives turned to social and
economic issues in the latter part of the 60’s, the
targets of civil disobedience became more abstract and
symbolic, culminating in the establishment of a tent
city on the national mall during the Poor People’s
Campaign.

But civil disobedience was only tip of the iceberg of
the civil rights movements‘ struggle against
segregation. Behind the dramatic actions that captured
the headlines was a massive grass-roots organizing
effort across the South that involved thousands of
passionate young organisers. For every one sit-in
demonstrator there were a hundred grass-roots civil
rights activists who spent months and years traveling
around the South to conduct “freedom schools” in church
basements, restaurants, barber shops and meeting halls,
gatherings that were held in even the smallest towns and
rural areas. These freedom schools patiently built
support for voter registration efforts and laid the
foundations for later political campaigns by African-
American candidates. King and his lieutenants were
always absolutely clear in saying that the only long-
range solution to segregation lay in Black Americans
winning effective political representation.

Today it is the “We Are Ohio” movement and the Wisconsin
recall campaigns, rather than Occupy Wall Street, that
represent the modern equivalents of the civil rights
movement’s grass-roots organising campaigns. During
these recent campaigns against laws designed to
eliminate the right to union representation hundreds of
thousands of petitions were signed and thousands of
volunteers engaged in door to door canvassing,
literature distribution, the manning of tables in
shopping centers and the operation of phone banks – the
hard, grueling, unsung work that is indispensable for
successful grass-roots campaigns. The one- on-one, face-
to-face organising techniques of the Ohio and Wisconsin
movements actually displayed substantial similarities
with the techniques of traditional trade union
organizing as well as with the civil rights movement.

In short, comparisons between the movements of today and
the civil rights movement cannot be limited to Occupy
Wall Street. The “We Are Ohio” and Wisconsin recall
campaigns have an equally valid claim to kinship with
the earlier struggles of the civil rights era.

The third prong of the civil rights movement’s strategy
was boycott and economic withdrawal. In the Montgomery
campaign the bus system was boycotted, in Birmingham, it
was all downtown merchants. In view of King and his
associates it was economic withdrawal that was actually
the most powerful single weapon in the nonviolent
arsenal. It was the bus boycott that won King’s first
victory in Montgomery and the boycott of downtown stores
that ultimately forced the business and political
establishment of Birmingham to negotiate.

King himself referred to boycotts as “campaigns of
economic withdrawal” and described them as “nonviolence
at peak of its power”. Here is how he expressed it in
1967:[1]

In the past six months simply by refusing to purchase
products from companies which do not hire Negroes in
meaningful numbers and in all job categories, the
Ministers of Chicago under SCLC’s Operation
Breadbasket have increased the income of the Negro
community by more than two million dollars annually.
In Atlanta the Negroes’ earning power has been
increased by more than twenty million dollars
annually over the past three years…This is
nonviolence at its peak of power.

The modern application of this strategy can now be seen
in the “Move Your Money” and related campaigns that call
on people to withdraw funds from the major banks and
reinvest them in credit unions and other more socially
conscious institutions. There are a variety of
estimates[2] from credit unions and independent sources
that suggest the campaign has already had a significant
and measurable effect, but it is also clear that this is
still the very earliest trial run for future economic
withdrawal campaigns with potentially powerful
consequences.

Beyond the current campaign aimed at the largest banks,
the tactic of economic withdrawal can be applied to a
wide variety of firms and issues. Such campaigns will
all be united by a simple underlying concept: working
people should not spend or invest their money with firms
and institutions that use those same funds to bankroll
conservative candidates, laws and policies that
undermine those same workers’ economic security,
standard of living and hopes for the future.

Consumer product companies are particularly vulnerable
to campaigns of economic withdrawal because the damage
to their reputation and image can in many cases be more
devastating than the direct economic damage itself. The
quite effective campaign by People of Color to pressure
the advertisers of Glen Beck’s TV show in 2009
demonstrated the significant leverage consumer boycott
campaigns can bring to bear in the internet age.

There are already a variety of informal linkages
developing between the three social movements above —
the “Occupy Wall Street”, “We are Ohio/Wisconsin recall”
and “Move Your Money” campaigns. Organizations including
MoveOn.org, Van Jones’ American Dream Movement and the
AFL-CIO/Working America federations have played a
significant “behind the scenes” role in supporting the
OWS, “We are Ohio” and Move Your Money” actions and also
in popularizing and promoting the broader “We are the
99%” political movement and perspective around the
country.

But the critical historical lesson that can be drawn
from the civil rights movement is the vital need for the
three prongs of the movements’ strategy – civil
disobedience, grass- roots organizing/political
mobilization and boycott/economic withdrawal – to be
employed in a coordinated way as part of a single
integrated approach. The movement’s key victories in
Montgomery, Birmingham and Selma all depended on this
coordination.

There is currently no single leader with the immense
stature of a Martin Luther King or grass-roots
organizations like SCLC and SNCC to provide such
coordination for a national “We Are the 99%” social
movement. In the modern internet-connected world,
however, more diversified and decentralized forms of
organisationare more likely to develop and are more
likely to be effective as well.

But for a “We Are the 99%” movement to achieve
substantial victories, coordination must be achieved.
Neither Occupy Wall Street nor the Ohio and Wisconsin
campaigns nor campaigns of economic withdrawal like
“Move Your Money” can, in isolation, produce
transformational victories of the scope and significance
of the victories of the civil rights movement.

In coordination, on the other hand, these three tactics
are immensely powerful. It was the combination of these
three approaches, employed in a coherent overall
strategy, that broke the back of the system of Southern
segregation within a single decade and that same three-
pronged strategy can profoundly transform America once
again today.”

1. http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=1426

2. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/11/11/1035479/-Ten-stories-of-people-moving-their-money,-despite-bankefforts-to-stopthem?detail=hide

[Andrew Levison was for many years a research assistant
to Mrs. Coretta Scott King, Andrew Young and other
participants in the civil rights movement. The analysis
presented here was first formulated at a 1971 conference
of The Institute for Nonviolent Social Change that
included many of the leaders of the major campaigns of
the civil rights movement.]

Emphasis Mine.

see: http://www.thedemocraticstrategist.org/

Noah Chomsky on why the right hates social security.

It’s a very successful program. A large number people rely on it. It doesn’t pay munificently, but it at least keeps people alive, not just retired people, people with disabilities and others. Very low administrative costs, extremely efficient, and no burden on the deficit, doesn’t add to the deficit. The effort to try to present the Social Security program as if it’s a major problem, that’s just a hidden way of trying to undermine and destroy it.

From an interview on Democracy Now, see link below.

(N.B.:  While little is new,  it is presented very well.)

AARON MATÉ: Noam, you mentioned entitlements, and obviously this is an issue that’s come up a lot in the deficit debate. Governor Rick Perry, the Republican presidential hopeful, has called it a Ponzi scheme. But even Democrats seem to buy into this narrative that it’s in crisis. Can you address that?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Social Security is not in any crisis. I mean, the trust fund alone will fully pay benefits for, I think, another 30 years or so. And after that, taxes will give almost the same benefits. To worry about a possible problem 30 years from now, which can incidentally be fixed with little—a little bit of tampering here and there, as was done in 1983—to worry about that just makes absolutely no sense, unless you’re trying to destroy the program. It’s a very successful program. A large number people rely on it. It doesn’t pay munificently, but it at least keeps people alive, not just retired people, people with disabilities and others. Very low administrative costs, extremely efficient, and no burden on the deficit, doesn’t add to the deficit. The effort to try to present the Social Security program as if it’s a major problem, that’s just a hidden way of trying to undermine and destroy it.

Now, there has been a lot of opposition to it since—you know, since the 1930s, on the part of sectors of extreme wealth and privilege, especially financial capital. They don’t like it, for several reasons. One is the rich don’t barely—for them, it’s meaningless. Anyone with—you know, who’s had a fairly decent income, it’s a tiny addition to your retirement but doesn’t mean much. Another is, if the financial institutions and the insurance companies can get their hands on this huge financial resource—for example, if it’s privatized in some way or vouchers—I mean, that’s a huge bonanza. They’ll have trillions of dollars to play with, the banks, the investment firms and so on.

But I think, myself, that there’s a more subtle reason why they’re opposed to it, and I think it’s rather similar to the reason for the effort to pretty much dismantle the public education system. Social Security is based on a principle. It’s based on the principle that you care about other people. You care whether the widow across town, a disabled widow, is going to be able to have food to eat. And that’s a notion you have to drive out of people’s heads. The idea of solidarity, sympathy, mutual support, that’s doctrinally dangerous. The preferred doctrines are just care about yourself, don’t care about anyone else. That’s a very good way to trap and control people. And the very idea that we’re in it together, that we care about each other, that we have responsibility for one another, that’s sort of frightening to those who want a society which is dominated by power, authority, wealth, in which people are passive and obedient. And I suspect—I don’t know how to measure it exactly, but I think that that’s a considerable part of the drive on the part of small, privileged sectors to undermine a very efficient, very effective system on which a large part of the population relies, actually relies more than ever, because wealth, personal wealth, was very much tied up in the housing market. That was people’s personal wealth. Well, OK, that, quite predictably, totally collapsed. People aren’t destitute by the standards of, say, slums in India or southern Africa, but very—suffering severely. And they have nothing else to rely on, but what they—the, really, pittance that they’re getting from Social Security. To take that away would be just disastrous.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Noam Chomsky. He has a new book out, 10 years after his book 9-11. This is called 9-11: Was There an Alternative? We’ll come back to this conversation in a minute. And if you’d like to get a copy of the full show, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. Stay with us.”

Emphasis Mine.

see:http://www.readersupportednews.org/off-site-opinion-section/72-72/7440-noam-chomsky-on-why-the-right-hates-social-security