Saturday, November 04, 2006

Over the Line

Sara Robinson

A story run last April by

MINNEAPOLIS - A Minnesota reservist who spent the past eight months in Iraq was told he couldn't board a plane to Minneapolis because his name appeared on a "no-fly" list as a possible terrorist.

Marine Staff Sgt. Daniel Brown, who was in uniform and returning from the war with 26 other Marine military police reservists, was delayed briefly in Los Angeles until the issue was cleared up.

The other reservists arrived at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as scheduled, but instead of immediately meeting their families, they waited on a bus for Brown.

"We don't leave anybody behind," said Marine 1st Sgt. Drew Benson. "We start together, and we finish together."

Brown arrived more than an hour later.

"A guy goes over and serves his country fighting for eight or nine months, and then we come home and put up with this crap?" Brown told the St. Paul Pioneer Press upon arrival.

Problems at LA airport?
Brown, 32, of Coon Rapids, was returning from service in the Al-Anbar province of Iraq, known as the dangerous Sunni Triangle. He ran into problems at the Los Angeles airport on Tuesday morning.

"I was told it was going to take some time because they informed me I was on a government watch list," Brown said. "People at the Northwest counter said they had to call somebody to get me cleared."

The presence of Brown's name on the watch list apparently resulted from an airport incident when he was on his way to Iraq. He was trying to board a plane last June for training in California before heading to Iraq in September. But Transportation Security Administration screeners found gunpowder residue on his boots — likely left over from a previous two-month tour in Iraq.

"I tried to explain what was going on, that I'd just got home and was going back again," Brown said. "They made a big stink about it, and I ended up missing my flight to California."

A spokeswoman with the TSA told the Pioneer Press on Tuesday she was unfamiliar with Brown's case and not comment on it. A TSA spokeswoman did not immediately return a message from the Associated Press on Wednesday.

Just another horrifying day in George Bush's America. Put that story alongside this one that ran over at Slashdot this morning:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has proposed a system which will in essence make it mandatory for you to have permission before leaving or entering the country, effectively putting everyone on a no-fly list unless the government says otherwise. Interestingly, the proposal does not seem to cover personal travel, only that on some sort of carrier like an airline or cruise vessel. While this certainly is concerning, it isn't exactly new, as a passport is already required for circumstances covered under the proposal.

The Identity Project, which was the original source for the Slashdot item, is considerably less sanguine about the new Homeland Security regulations, which are scheduled to go into effect on January 15. In fact, in a public comment they've filed with DHS, they warn that what we're seeing here is yet another group of Constitutional rights crumbling in the grip of yet another DHS power grab:

In the guise of an NPRM [Notice of Proposed Rule-Making] alleged to propose a change only in the required timing of transmission of information already required to be provided to the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the CBP has actually proposed a fundamental regulatory change with far-reaching (literally and figuratively) legal, policy, and logistical implications: The NPRM would replace a requirement for ex post facto notice to the CBP of information about who is on each vessel (ship or plane) with an unconstitutional system of prior restraint of international travel, entirely unauthorized by statute and inconsistent with the U.S. obligations embodied in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Under the proposed rules, orders by the CBP to common carriers not to transport specific persons would not be based on restraining orders (injunctions) issued by competent judicial authorities. Instead, they would be based on an undefined, secret, administrative permission-to-travel (“clearance”) procedure subject to none of the procedural or substantive due process required for orders prohibiting or restricting the exercise of protected First Amendment rights. From the authority of law enforcement officers and agencies to enforce certain types of orders, once lawfully issued by competent judicial authorities, the NPRM would usurp for the CBP the authority to issue those orders on its own. It’s as though the FBI were to construe its authority to maintain in the NCIC a list of persons for whose arrest warrants have been issued by competent judicial authorities, and execute those warrants, as authority for the FBI to issue and execute its own warrantless administrative arrest orders.

The NPRM would create a clearly invalid administrative presumption, reversing the presumptions of innocence and of entitlement to the exercise of First Amendment rights, that all those persons not affirmatively “cleared” in advance by the CBP – according to decision-making procedures and criteria specified nowhere in the NPRM – are barred from travel.
(emphasis mine)

The proposed rules would burden equally, and infringe the rights to varying degrees of, U.S. citizens, resident aliens, immigrants, nonimmigrant visitors, and even those with no intention to enter the U.S. who merely wish to travel on flights that will, or might, transit through U.S. airspace. Reciprocal adoption of similar rules by other countries would further burden travel worldwide by U.S. citizens and residents, including their international travel and their travel within the USA. Since both the current rules and the proposed rules are incompatible with current European Union privacy and data protection laws, their retention or adoption would make it impossible for airlines to operate direct flights between the USA and the E.U. without violating the laws of one or both jurisdictions, and would thus require an enormously disruptive and costly cessation of such flights.

In short: Starting on January 15, you can't get on a plane or a cruise ship that might touch US airspace or waters without specific prior approval from DHS. And if they get away with this one, it will open the door for requiring everyone (including yours truly on her weekly mail runs) to get DHS' official blessing before they try to cross the border into or out of the U.S. The decisions, as always, will be made by anonymous bureaucrats who account to no one. There will, as always, be no avenue of appeal.

You don't have to be Sgt. Brown to understand what’s at stake here. Milton Mayer, author of They Thought They Were Free, describes a process that's starting to look all too familiar:

"What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it."

Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, "regretted," that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these "little measures" that no "patriotic German" could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.

"How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men? Frankly, I do not know. I do not see, even now. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims, Principiis obsta and Finem respice - "Resist the beginnings" and "consider the end." But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings."

Friday, November 03, 2006

Coulter's vote

A couple of weeks ago, Ann Coulter told Fox News the following:
"Way too many people vote. We should have fewer people voting. There ought to be a poll tax to take the literacy test before voting."

Of course, this is noteworthy coming from a self-described "constitutional scholar", since, as Media Matters notes:
The 24th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1964, states that "[t]he right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax."

But it seems that Coulter may be getting her wish. In Florida, at least, it seems likely that at least one less person will be voting: Ann Coulter.

Coulter is in serious legal trouble for apparently registering to vote in a district other than the one where she lives. In Florida, that's a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Not only that, as the most recent news account makes clear, she's also at risk of having her voter registration revoked, since she's refusing to cooperate with the investigation:
Anderson, a Democrat, said a letter was sent to Coulter on March 27 requesting that she clarify her address for the voting records "or face the possibility of her voter registration being rescinded." Three more letters were sent to Coulter and her attorney, but she has yet to respond with the information requested, Anderson said.

Given her refusal to cooperate, what seems likely, as Mark Gisleson observes, is that Coulter will simply not vote in this election at all in order to avoid the legal ramifications of doing so.

The next time she's on TV after this election, someone should ask her if she voted. And if so, where?

That is, if she allows anyone on the air with her who might ask her that. Someone, that is, other than Mickey Kaus.

The moral of this fable: Projection is a karmic bitch.

Here in Washington state, in the wake of the Republican effort to force in a Republican governor in a close election, we've had to subsequently deal with GOP attempts to disenfranchise voters by accusng them of having voted fraudulently. This was all in the vein of multiple attempts by the GOP to disqualify voters in the 2004 election.

Why do Republicans hate democracy? Why do they hate America?

Dealing with muggers

[Editor's note: What follows is a piece I wrote for Adbusters this spring as a follow-up to my earlier piece on fascism for them. However, the editors who requested it shuffled on to other enterprises and this piece was lost in the shuffle, so it never appeared there. I decided to publish it here while it still had a modicum of currency. I submitted it back on May 8, and as you can see, it's still relatively relevant.]

One of the important ways that people become victims of violent crime is that they often set themselves up. They make themselves vulnerable because they are not prepared to deal with people who have pathological personalities -- those who are sociopaths, exhibiting antisocial or narcissistic personality disorders, or in some cases outright psychoses. They project their own normalcy onto these other people, and really cannot believe that someone else would act in a way substantially different from their own decent, sane base of operations.

Something similar is at work in the American body politic: The executive branch under President Bush is rapidly metastasizing into an all-devouring power that threatens to make Nixon's "imperial presidency" look like a hippie commune. Yet it seems that no one -- not the Beltway pundit class, nor traditional mainstream conservatives, nor even mainstream liberals -- is able to figure out that there is something seriously wrong afoot, for one main reason: They are projecting their own normalcy onto them. Even with the evidence staring them in the face, they refuse to perceive that these people are not operating within a framework guided by the boundaries of basic decency, the rules of fair play that constrain the rest of us.

Look at what has been revealed about the Bush regime in the past year alone: That it is conducting warrantless surveillance of American citizens under the aegeis of the National Security Administration. That the president and vice president both approved selective leaks to the media that resulted in the revelation of the identity of an undercover CIA operative working on weapons of mass destruction in Iran. That it chose to place itself outside the purview of 750 laws passed by Congress, while claiming extraordinary new powers for secrecy.

All these occurred as part of the most audacious claim, perhaps, in presidential history: That Bush, by virtue of the extraordinary powers of the executive branch, is empowered to ignore those laws that he chooses.

Being above the rule of law is the territory of dictators -- and though Bush has only begun claiming these powers in small, evidently innocuous ways, the very claiming of them is the act of a dictator. If these claims go uncontested, the precedent could prove to be profoundly dangerous for American democracy.

This is especially so in the context of the social milieu being created by conservatives -- one of increasing intolerance and open bigotry, as well as an embrace of vigilantism, as seen in the current immigration debate and the rise of the Minutemen. There has also been increase in eliminationist rhetoric aimed at liberals and administration critics, including journalists who uncover government misdeeds.

At the same time that Bush is acting more like a dictator, the American right is acting more and more thuggish, and may become more so at the prospect of losing power, amid Bush's and the GOP Congress' declining poll numbers. These are signs of a growing pathology, and it has a name: fascism.

Given the growing currency of past fascist themes -- the superiority of "instinctive" over intellectual leadership, the primacy of the national group, the belief in victimhood, the dread of decline and need for integration -- the rise of yet two more traits raises the real specter of a resurgence of fascism in America, well beyond its initial flowering in the 1920s under the guise of the Ku Klux Klan.

Whether fully fascist or not, movement conservatives are now political muggers out of control -- and as their rhetoric encourages both the figurative and physical elimination of liberals, they become ever more likely to actually tread into regions of real violence.

Yet, from the subdued reaction on the mainstream left and center, you'd never guess that any of this was happening: Sen. Russ Feingold's proposal for censure has gone unheeded, plans to filibuster Bush's appointment of anti-abortion radical Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court disintegrated, and no one can find the courage to muster an investigation of Bush's flouting of federal laws. Democrats remain in disarray, partly because so many of them refuse to admit what's occurring before their eyes.

There is still a chance for them to seize Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008. But in the end, their success probably will depend on obtaining a clear and frank view of the pathological nature of their opposition. Without it, they'll likely winding up sitting on a sidewalk with lumps on their head, freshly bereft of their wallet. And they'll wonder why.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Fools for propaganda

It's kind of funny to look back now and realize that for awhile, right-wing nutcases like Michelle Malkin were actually bitching that the mainstream media was failing to pick up on John Kerry's supposed derogation of the troops in Iraq.

Now, the lingering question is: Why exactly was everyone so worked up about it? Why, exactly, were we just now subjected to a 48-hour mass-media feeding frenzy?

Really, it's clear now that the dust has settled a bit that the whole foofara was a manufactured propaganda event. OK, so Kerry blew a punchline for a joke that was not very good to begin with. He's not on a ballot anywhere. He has no official leaadership capacity. What exactly is the point of the outrage?

More to the point, these kinds of verbal gaffes have become, after nearly six years of a Bush administration that produced them on a daily basis, the essence of the non-story. The Daily Show had the best take on this:
"Only a troop hater would make a bad joke about a serious issue like Iraq."

[Bush: "Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere. Nope, no weapons over there! Maybe under here!"]

And as usual, they nailed the reason for this manufactured controversy:
"Yes but, in order to maintain Congress, Republicans must exhume the bloated political corpse of John Kerry and reanimate it ... so that they can kill him again."

So why exactly did the press get all worked up over this one? It couldn't have been because the Malkins and Hugh Hewitts of the world were all stamping their feet and screaming "liberal media bias," could it?

But then, that's how the "liberal media" meme is supposed to work: Merely accusing them of bad faith ensures they'll do your bidding. Just ask Mark Halperin.

What's especially remarkable here is that by buying into the notion that Kerry's gaffe was something heinous, the credulous press is buying into the underlying storyline: that Democrats hate the military. Just in case there was any doubt, Malkin spells it out for them. It has become the overarching talking point from right-wingers in the media, and it's largely going unchallenged.

Of course, it's always helpful when it comes to this charge to do a little reality check:
-- The senator at the center of these charges is a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War.

-- His Democratic colleagues who have similarly been accused of wanting to "cut and run" in Iraq include other decorated veterans.

-- The Kerry-backing bloggers at whom Malkin and others are sneering -- particularly Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos -- are also veterans.

-- In stark contrast, neither Malkin, her husband, nor any of her accusatory colleagues (such as Hewitt and the execrable Ace of Spades) has been anywhere near military service in their entire lives. This, in spite of the fact that many of them are still of age for volunteering for National Guard duty.

-- In similarly stark contrast, the Republican and movement-conservative figureheads also hurling charges and apology demands at Kerry include:

A president who failed to live up to his military commitments during wartime in Vietnam.

A vice president who "had other priorities" when it came time to serve.

A talk-show host who sat out the Vietnam War with a cyst on his ass.

A host of 101st Fighting Keyboarders who are ever eager to send our soldiers into harm's way.

Despite their own failures to step up and serve when called upon -- in stark contrast to the people they accuse of being unpatriotic -- these people claim a great love and respect for the military. It's rather the same way they "love and respect" the Consitution, which is to say, as a useful prop with which they wipe their asses when they're done.

People who have served, or those whose family members have, know that respecting our men and women in uniform means doing one's damnedest to keep them out of harm's way, and keeping the use of force as a last resort -- and, once having committed them to such action, doing one's damnedest to plan an exit strategy and get them out as soon as practically possible.

It doesn't mean projecting all of our armchair fantasies about American superiority onto the backs of the flesh-and-blood people who serve. It doesn't mean creating extended conflict scenarios with no end in sight for them. It doesn't mean assuming that their lives are expendable for an indefinite period, and that their sacrifice is something we can take for granted.

The supposed military aficionadoes of the right are all like this: Their love of the military is all about using them as cannon fodder for their political agenda; once that's achieved, they can go rot. And of course, in order to divert attention from this reality, they make a great show of accusing their political opponents of hating the military.

It's a ruse, and a fairly transparent one at that. By now, you would think the media would have wised up to how it's being played like a fiddle by these characters. And some have: my own paper, the Seattle P-I, refused to get sucked into the fake Kerry controversy. Its initial reportage on the matter was Joel Connelly's interview with Kerry in which he responded sharply: "They need to apologize to the country for a failing strategy (in Iraq)," he said. "They should apologize for putting our troops in harm's way under fraudulent circumstances."

Today's story on Republican attempts to make local candidates repudiate Kerry explained it this way:
Mike McGavick and other Republican candidates around the country tried to manufacture a countersurge over Sen. John Kerry's recent comments about soldiers in Iraq.

Note how, in this story, Sen. Maria Cantwell refuses to join the bash-Kerry brigade and instead keeps the focus on where real harm is being done: in Iraq.

And if the press, like everyone else, is genuinely concerned about the well-being of our men and women in uniform, that's where they should be keeping their focus as well.

Instead of suckering for fake controversies cooked up by hypocritical phonies.

Smarter Than Your Average Redneck

Sara Robinson

Dave said a few things in the post below that have started me thinking. If it's OK with y'all, I'm going to do it out loud.

What got me going was his observation that many of the men drawn to white supremacists groups have a higher-than-usual intelligence. He's right, of course. In remembering the Guys Back Home, it's very true that the most committed white supremacists can in no way be dismissed as dumb rubes -- in fact, they're often among the best and brightest guys these small towns turn out. They read a lot (though narrowly); some are veterans; many run successful small businesses and are considered deep thinkers by their friends and neighbors.

So now, I'm turning that information over in my mind, in the hope that a more detailed examination of their worldview and motivations might point to a few new cracks in their walls as well. A few first hits, questions, and musings....

First: In my experience (which is admittedly more limited than Dave's, but the contacts are still reasonably frequent), this sensitive intelligence is mingled in with a toxic dose of hurt and frustration. It seems too easy to say that, in better times, they might have had better prospects, scholarships, more education, a way out. But it is true that there once was a time when small-town kids with brains didn't get stuck in place and fester, a time when American industry considered their talents too valuable to brush aside, a time when their small businesses didn't face such barriers to greater growth. So I wonder -- how much of their rage at the system is tied to this sense of lost opportunity?

Second: Dave notices that a lot of these guys have remarkable engineering and math skills. That's not insignificant. For the past 60 years, industrial psychologists have been studying the emotional and cognitive differences between the people drawn to the scientific and technical fields ("sci-techs"), and the other 85% or so of the world. This will hardly be breaking news to anyone who works or lives with engineers -- but it turns out that geeks really are wired a little differently.

Among other things, they have a stronger ability to suspend their emotions and consider a problem dispassionately. It's not that they don't have those feelings; it's just that, starting in early childhood, they're simply better at displacing them, shunting them off somewhere where they won't get caught in the intellectual works. While this is part of their genius as problem-solvers (and, in some cases, the result of Asperger's Syndrome, which is far more common in sci-techs), a few of them get so good at this displacement that they'll inadvertently override the human decency gear Dave describes as well. Morality just gets in the way of Doing What Must Be Done.

And, of course, those unprocessed emotions don't just stay locked up forever. They find other ways of coming out. Some marry wives who are extremely emotionally expressive, and then provoke them into throwing the tantrums they'd like to throw themselves. Some channel it into extreme hobbies. Some...well, maybe some direct their displaced rage on other targets. I'm looking at all of this, and wondering if Dave's onto a correlation that means something.

Third: Most modern Westerners have been taught to take a rather mechanistic view of the world. It's a pile of parts. If the thing's not working right, you find the broken part, and replace it. But people with a sci-tech worldview can sometimes break away from this, and take a more holisitic systems approach to problems. The world is a collection of parts working in relationship to each other; and if you want to really fix the problem, you have to change the system in a way that re-shapes the relationships between the parts so they don't keep breaking.

Generally, good systems thinking makes people far more insightful and adaptable. But in these guys, this gear, too, seems to get stuck in place. They put a lot of energy into studying extremist descriptions of "the system" (and talk a lot about it, too). They realize -- not wrongly -- that merely replacing the parts (that is, elections) doesn't change much. So they go to the other extreme, and insist that the whole system must be destroyed and rebuilt -- preferably deleting all the most "problematic" parts -- if real change is to occur.

The problem is: their map of the system is incomplete, and faulty. White supremacist leaders paint a very distorted picture of the way power flows in the world -- the kind of distortions that can only be made by people who've never seen the realities of money or politics or power up close and personally. This results in holes in the model big enough to drive the Wehrmacht through...and a whole lot of magical thinking to grease the gaps. (Who besides these guys really thinks African-Americans have near-total political power in America?) Most especially, they fall into the common fallacy of attributing to malice what can far more easily be ascribed to stupidity.

Fourth, in my experience (and Alice Miller's) these guys were nursing some deep personal hurts -- harsh family lives as children, disappointing divorces as adults, something that broke their compassion and jammed the "human decency gear" into immobility. There's an idealistic, almost totemic belief that finding one pure thing -- a woman, a family, a race -- will heal what wounds them. Of course, as Dr. Ahktar pointed out, there's nothing in the world that remains that pure for long, so this, too, becomes a source of repeating disappointment and rage.

First guesses only here -- a set of questions aimed at Dave and others, in the hope of refining my picture of the motivations at work here. As always, I'd like to proceed in the hope that maybe if we understand what broke, and why, and how, we'll do better at fixing it (or preventing it) in the future.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Aryan Nations head South

[John Suggs photo]

Probably the main reason I write about fascism and its immanations in the United States is because I've seen genuine fascism up close and personal -- particularly the Aryan Nations in northern Idaho and the universe of right-wing extremists it attracted, all settling into the dark backwoods and making themselves at home there.

When you get to know fascists up close, you realize that the stereotypes of them -- either they are poor, uneducated backwoods hick, or vile, monstrous skinheads in black leather -- don't fit very well. For the most part, in fact, they are ordinary-seeming people who live in ordinary homes and go to regular day jobs.

James Aho's landmark study of far-right "Christian Patriots", The Politics of Righteousness, found that in fact, the average Aryan Nations attendee was better educated than the average American. Many of them, in reality, are very intelligent people indeed. Some are marvelously skilled engineers. Others are math whizzes.

In my experience, I found that the notion that these people were simply ignorant didn't jibe with reality. Any number of them, actually, have very detailed and thoroughly thought-out universes that provide them with rationales for their beliefs. What was lacking was a basic Human Decency gear that they seem not have been born with.

But having gotten to know them, I also realized how close they were in reality to the rest of us -- and particularly to ordinary conservatives.

This was in the 1980s and 1990s. And what has been astonishing and disturbing has been watching the differences between those ordinary conservatives and those ordinary fascists gradually shrinking. And shrinking. Until they have nearly vanished.

This is the real problem with pseudo-fascism: It creates an environment conducive to the real growth of genuine fascism. The theocratic rantings of the Reconstruction crowd -- about whom Tristero has been recently writing -- in particular are rife with the themes and "mobilizing passions" that have been the essence of fascist movements throughout history. The danger lies in how these ostensible "conservatives" give public blessing to attitudes that very much lay the groundwork for fascists.

Awhile back, I reported on an outfit called Christian Exodus who announced that they intended to create an all "Christian" homeland in South Carolina.

Now it seems that the Aryan Nations, having been dislodged from their Northwest compound at Hayden Lake, are picking up on the concept themselves.

They held their most recent Congress in Laurens, South Carolina. The gathering, as you might expect, turned into a big ole Klan-meets-neo-Nazis hatefest. The liveliest speaker was a young fellow with tatooed biceps named Ryan, who was so brave he refused to give his last name. Still, he put on a good show:
"You better hope I don't come in your bedroom window," Ryan said to FBI informants he suspected were in the audience. "Warriors kill and break things. We're warriors in waiting."

Ryan, whose biceps were adorned with 8-inch Nazi "SS" tattoos, capped his speech with a dance across the stage, a la Mick Jagger, and a bellowed challenge: "You want to see blood in the streets? I do!"

According to everyone in attendance, the consensus seems to be leaning toward giving up on the five-state Northwest homeland project favored by white-supremacist leaders and shifting everything to the South:
For years, Aryan Nations aspired to have an uprising in the Northwest, and turn five states into, literally, The Aryan Nation. With the group staggering from the double whammy of litigation and factionalism, the new goal is more modest: South Carolina.

Aryan Nations' Washington leader, who gave only his first name, Paul, is 60-ish and has a British accent from 25 years in England. Paul outlined possible strategies for the group: establishing a state in Alaska ("few minorities," he said), or a wholesale "South will rise again." Both of those he discounted as impractical, although certainly worthy.

In the end, Paul observed, the best option is to "look at the secession of South Carolina. Start with this state."

Mind you, the Northwest homeland concept is far from dead. At least one online racist based in Olympia is churning out founding documents [warning: hate site] for a would-be "Northwest American Republic." But the movement seems to be scaling back its ambitions for now, and taking aim at a place where they believe the public will be more receptive.

But I was especially struck by the sidebar to this article in which the author, John Suggs, contemplated the meaning of the AN gathering, and the odds of success for the South Carolina plan:
Then, while Williams cheerfully explained that blacks, Asians and Hispanics were subhuman, and that a race war was his most cherished goal, one of my voices piped up again.

"Yo, John," the voice intoned, "you realize these guys aren't too far outside the mainstream. After all, fringe extremists, our own versions of Iranian Maximum Loon Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have seized the control levers of this country."

I always listen to my voices since, like George Bush, I'm sure it's the Lord speaking directly to me. And that last epiphany made sense.

Racism doesn't exist in a vacuum, whether ranted Hitleresque from a podium or conveyed with a Dick Cheney wink. We hate others of our species because we're in competition with them for land or oil; or we need a scapegoat to blame for our own miserable existence. Often we claim the Celestial Mystery Being has commanded us to commit atrocities in his name.

We come up with fantasies of superiority, myths about the nobility of my ancestors and the degeneracy of yours. In order for me to smite you, I must believe with God-almighty fervor that you're inferior. You're a raghead, a slant, a kike, a nigger, a spic, a white devil, a fag or a bitch -- and if I torture and slaughter you, it ain't really murder. No, sir.

If a whole segment of society agrees with those racial assessments, they become part of the cultural conversation. That's why U.S. Sen. George Allen (R-Uptown Klan) is a veteran at employing the "n" word, although still rather a novice at denigrating folks of South Asian ancestry.

Those sentiments ooze like fetid sewage into what should be the crystal-clean water of public policy. In America, we lived through generations of statutory enforcement of the belief that one race has the right to dominate the other. And, if you conclude such thinking is "history," you're a fool.

It's not just that a few ignorant rednecks believe, in their illiterate confusion, that they're somehow "superior." Rather, it's that we still make laws based on such assumptions. The Republican Party since 1964 has consciously made a "racism is OK" pitch to unreconstructed Southerners.

Even scarier, millions of Americans go to churches where racism is part of the catechism, whether blatantly stated or masked by theological mumbo-jumbo.

And, as he observes at the end, this hate is being fomented at the elite media level by so-called "conservatives":
The New York Times commented last month on similar national voter ID legislation: "The actual reason for this bill is the political calculus that certain kinds of people -- the poor, minorities, disabled people and the elderly -- are less likely to have valid ID."

Bushite bomb-thrower Ann Coulter arrogantly conceded the point, writing this month: "Way too many people vote. We should have fewer people voting. There ought to be a poll tax to take the literacy test before voting."

Coulter is saying ballots should be reserved for right-wing white folks. And that's almost exactly what Pastor Williams believes.

The chief means for the spread of this kind of hatred has been a national media that gives people like Coulter and her junior partner, Michelle Malkin, far more than their 15 seconds of fame. More importantly, the press allows hatemongers in the ranks of movement conservatives to peddle race-baiting and bigotry with references that only the most obtuse can miss -- as with the ugly race-baiting recently thrown Harold Ford's way.

The only way to combat it, in the end, is not to allow race-baiting and sly racial inferences, so common among right-wing pundits and politicians, to go unremarked. It's in not allowing hatemongers like the Minutemen and the assorted anti-immigrant xenophobes -- see particularly Pat Buchanan -- now driving our immigration debate to proceed apace, applauded by Lou Dobbs and Ed Schultz alike.

Unfortunately, we're doing a lousy job of that these days.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Thugs in suits

[Republicans deal with protesters at a 2004 Bush rally in Colmar, Pa.]

Pay attention, kids: The problem with eliminationist rhetoric isn't just the viciousness of the people speaking it. The real problem is the people listening.

It starts out as just talk -- demonization and dehumanization, which leads to disposability, and finally a wish to eliminate, including a predisposition to violence at every step. Pretty soon it's a widespread attitude. And then, eventually, people start acting on those attitudes.

Mike Stark's assault by George Allen staffers is another indicator of the progression along this track being taken by conservatives as they see their power base threatened. More details here.

It's noteworthy this happened amid a campaign run by a sitting U.S. senator who told campaign audiences that "We are going to kick the liberals' soft teeth down their throats".

Of course, we've known for some time that Republicans increasingly see campaign events by their candidates as closed events for True Believers Only, and Others (aka The Enemy) may be ejected by any means necessary. Certainly that was the case at Bush events in 2004, and this approach to campaigning has clearly broadened and deepened in 2006.

But it isn't just campaign events anymore. What seems to upset right-wing officeholders the most is when anyone attempts to hold them accountable.

That's why Marilyn Musgrave tried to have Michael Schiavo arrested merely for showing up at a public debate.

It's why Melissa Hart ordered the arrests of a group of elderly protesters who came to her office.

Howie Klein wonders what's up with this. It's more of the same, really, but with greater intensity. Now we have the added element of supporters believing they can now take these matters into their hands, violently.

You can see how it plays out in the video of Musgrave critics trying to get Musgrave to answer their questions. Not only does Musgrave ignore them as her entourage shoves the questioners out of the way; but at the end, some of her supporters confront the questioners and physically intimidate them by shoving them and grabbing their mike.

What's fueling all this is the unrelenting talk on the right blaming liberals for the growing public awareness of their own governmental malfeasance -- and countering with nothing less than unadulterated hatred.

This is how eliminationism has always worked in this country: First we talk about taking out "the enemy". Then we begin doing it.

More on all that soon.

Goofball hate

Sean Hannity's old pal Hal Turner has been gradually sinking so deep into the far-right swamp that he's practically vanished. No one takes him seriously, and no one really pays him any attention. His following could meet in a men's bathroom stall. Indeed, they may already.

So in order to keep drawing attention to himself -- which has become pretty much his sole reason for being -- he has to keep pushing the envelope, saying more and more extreme things in the hopes that people will pay attention.

Well, he's finally hit the jackpot with his latest call for assassination [warning: links to hate site] of the "problems" in Congress and on the Supreme Court:
First, let me say that I do not envision a Second American Revolution as being some gallant fight, with tens of thousands of armed citizens facing tens of thousands of US troops on some battlefield. No. Far from it.

In watching the military campaigns of the past 25 years, I have come to admire "surgical strikes." When force is applied in a specific, limited way, the results can be magnificent. Such is my HYPOTHETICAL thinking for our present circumstance.

Suppose, HYPOTHETICALLY just for the sake of argument, that not all of the Congress and Supreme Court need to be removed. The House of Representatives consists of 435 members. The Senate consists of 100 members. But not all of them are "problems."

For the purpose of this HYPOTHETICAL discussion, let's say that only half of the US House and half of the US Senate are "problems" That's a total of 267 "problems" in Congress. Obviously, there are at least three "problems" on the Supreme Court. 267 + 3 = 270 total "problems."

Imagine if you will, teams of 5 committed citizens each, who were fed up with these "problems."

270 x 5 = 1,350 committed citizens needed to resolve these "problems."

Do you think that in America, a nation of 300,000,000 people, there are 1,350 committed citizens willing to put it all on the line to "correct" these "problems" and thus save the nation? I do.

It could be called "patriotic assassination."

It seems to me that a HYPOTHETICAL operation using teams of five men assigned to each "problem," could gather information on the assigned persons. It is easy to find out things like daily schedules, public appearances, travel routes to and from work, etc.. Once the data was collected and analyzed a time and date could be set for "solving" these "problems."

Who are these "problems"? Hard to say, exactly; in some cases they're clearly liberals (especially the three "problems" on the Supreme Court) but in others they are Republicans who've failed to fall far enough to the right. If you read the input from his commenters, most of them clearly favor assassinating Democrats before Republicans, though the latter are hardly exempt. Reading Turner's own diatribes, I'd wager that any Jew or black in Congress would be on the list as well.

So far he's been getting all the attention he could ask for: Drudge has given him a link. WorldNetDaily has written him up. And according to his Web site, a major radio talk show is going to feature him today to talk about his plan.

Turner has become so extreme that even other extremists like to point to him as proof of their own relative moderation -- which is how WND and Drudge have handled him.

The reality is that Turner's influence is so tiny, and the likelihood of any of his followers actually carrying out his plan so remote, that in an ideal world we'd just be able to scoff this off as the pathetic warblings of an increasingly desperate attention-monger.

After all, he tried doing more or less the same thing last year when he began targeting judges with whom he disagreed, using the murders of Judge Lefkow's family in Chicago as a springboard. But there were no further murders, no further threats. Turner's influence was nonexistent.

He's continued making threats along these lines, posting home-address and personal-finance information for one of his sharpest critics [warning: hate-site links] as well as for an offending commenter from Alaska. Meanwhile, of course, he's been dispensing anonymously authored advice for "Lone Wolves".

It is this latter phenomenon, really, that is the source of any immediate concern about Turner's threat. The kind of people who would join Turner's organization or comment on his Web site are mostly loudmouthed lardasses incapable of any such action. But inevitably, hanging on the fringes of these kinds of figures, there are followers -- mentally unstable, more often than not -- who may just decide to act out this kind of hatred.

Certainly, we saw this in action a few months ago in Seattle when an anti-Semitic hater shot up the Jewish Federation building downtown. Indeed, there's a whole gallery's worth of these kinds of figures coming out of the right.

The chief concern with threatening rhetoric like Turner's is that he's going to convince some mentally unstable listener out there to go off his meds and start taking out Supreme Court justices.

And the larger concern, really, is how talk like this simply adds to the hate quotient floating about in our public discourse -- of which there is already plenty. All of those right-wing outlets eager to decry Turner's hatemongering ought to take a look in their own rhetorical back yards as well.

Meanwhile, where's Michelle "Unhinged" Malkin when you need her? Oh, nevermind; she's too busy getting all worked up about John Kerry.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Feel the love, redux

Right on cue, the right wing's eliminationfest ratchets along, this time with a decrepit old hater from Ohio named "Sock" Sokolowski, who wrote the following letter to radio talk-show host Stephanie Miller (unredacted version at BradBlog):
As with Cindy Sheehan the best thing that could happen to you would be seeing some WONDERFUL activist sticking an AK-47 up your Glory Holes and sending you into eternity. But this is not a threat as I am a paci-fist preferring to confront dumb fucks like you two with words rather than violence. But I would gather my 1st amendment rights permit me to HOPE (!) and PRAY (!) that someone decides you're better off as statistics. Honestly, should I hear of either you leaving this earth prematurely I would initiate a personal celebration that would make Animal House appear to be just another quiet Sunday in church.

... Therefore, I trust the both of you mother fuckers will continue to show yourselves on TV shows, exposure to more and more people, as GUARANTEED your words will someday possibly accelerate your demise again not on my hand but by someone who believes in such finalizing action. ... Would love to celebrate and would for days one end as I always would and will when still another America HATER meets his/her maker.

Larry Johnson has some thoughts. And while the evidence piles up, I'll just try not to sound like a broken record.

Be sure to catch Miller's dialogue with Sokolowski when she calls him up at home. You've got to love his denials that the letter constitutes a threat; it's probably true in the actionable sense, but certainly not in any ethical or moral sense on this planet. Perhaps on Bizarro World.

[Hat tip to Sharoney in comments.]

-- Dave

Science and Republicans

The New York Times' Jodi Kantor has a profile of Bellevue voters and the race between Darcy Burner and Dave Reichert today that is remarkably tuned in:
"I am a Republican and have traditionally voted that way," Tony Schuler, an operations services manager at Microsoft with a Harvard M.B.A., said as he sat with his wife, Deanna, in their home above Lake Sammamish. But Mr. Schuler abhors what he sees as a new Republican habit of meddling in private affairs.

"The Schiavo case. Tapping people without a warrant. Whether or not people are gay," he said. "Let people be free! It's not government's job to interfere with those things."

In Bellevue, the professional is political. Rather than religion or culture, what unites the diverse population -- a quarter of residents are foreign born -- are the values of their workplaces: technological innovation, accuracy, efficiency.

And this year, one issue incenses them above all others: restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.

It is a matter of concern across the country, even across parties. But for many engineers and their ilk, restriction of stem cell research is what gay marriage is to conservative Christians, a phenomenon so counter to their basic values that they cannot vote for any candidate who supports it. After all, for Bellevue's professionals, science is not only a means of creating wealth but also an idealistic pursuit, the most promising way they know of improving the human condition.

"For hundreds of years, science has had its own jurisprudence over the truth. It's called peer review, and it works pretty well," said Mr. Mattison, whose father had Alzheimer's and his uncle Parkinson's disease. "I'm outraged that a mere politician would interpret science for me."

As Digby says:
The Republicans and the Christian Right are leading America on a backward march into the Dark Ages --- and that is stepping on our dreams. As a culture, we have always been idealistic about progress and inspired by new discoveries to improve the lot of the human race. We're about invention and reinvention. It's one of our best qualities.

These people are telling us that those days are over. We have to depend upon brute force, superstition and ancient revelation. Science is dangerous. Art is frightening. Education must be strictly circumscribed so that children aren't exposed to ideas that might lead them astray.

It isn't just suburbanites who recognize what's happening to the Republican Party -- it's true of farmers and small businessmen in rural areas as well. And the abuse of science by religious fanatics throughout the "conservative movement", and most of all within the ranks of the Bush administration, is the kind of thing that will shake them out.

Still, in a place like Bellevue -- full of engineers and technology folks -- Reichert's recent stumbles on global warming (he says he's not so sure that it's being caused by human activity) only make him seem a captive of the fundamentalists.

And then there's been his waffling and posturing on stem-cell research, despite his claims to "maverickdom" on the issue. Goldy, as always, has the scoop.

My first few years in the Seattle area I spent as news editor of the old Bellevue Journal American (the paper didn't pay enough for me to afford to live there) and my most recent book, Strawberry Days,, is about the early history of Bellevue and the roots of its suburban transformation. I continued to work on the Eastside up through 2000, and my wife worked there until this month. Many of my friends live there, and a chunk of my social network is based on the Eastside.

Much of Bellevue's modern reimagining, as I detailed in my book, was based on a whites-only vision of suburban life, so in between its incorporation in 1952 and the mid-1980s, it tended to be a white-flight kind of community with well-funded schools, neatly tended cul-de-sacs, and a real racial homogeneity. But the emergence of the technology industry on the Eastside made it no longer the place people commuted from, but rather one that people commuted to. And the resulting orientation of the area's growth has meant that many, many more minorities (particularly Asian and South Asian) now call it home. More importantly, many of them are well-educated and have a view of science that reflects it.

One of the things a strong Democratic showing in the coming elections could bring about is a panicked response by the "conservative movement," which I think will drive them further to the right in search of their base; further into the arms of the religious right and their self-imposed faith-based ignorance. In which case Digby's right: this could effect the long-term identification of the common-sense segment of the voting population with Democrats.

-- Dave

Those Republican values

Awhile back, the Poor Man [link now working] established one of the operative physical laws of the right-wing Bizarro Universe, to wit:
"[E]ven the tiniest example of wingnuttery is a near-perfect replica of the whole edifice, substantively consonant in every particular but scale."

We've been seeing an example of this playing out in Oregon, where Loaded Orygun reports that the state's Republican House Speaker Karen Minnis and her husband, John, may have covered up the investigation into a case of child sex abuse by John Minnis' brother.

Shades of the Mark Foley scandal:
According to information uncovered in an investigation by FuturePAC, John and Karen Minnis paid off a 17 year old girl who worked in their Hillsboro restaurant after John's brother Tuck consistently sexually harassed and abused her in the workplace. Worse, this payoff to settle her civil claim stemmed from an incident in Tuck's apartment where he engaged in unwanted touching of her in a sexual away.

According to a legal analysis of the case facts by attorney Marc Blackman, the Minnis[es] were legally obligated to report Tuck's behavior, and failed to do so:

As to the criminal law issues presented by the materials I reviewed, my conclusions are:

1. The facts recited in the complaint in Vega set forth allegations of child sexual abuse.

2. The principals of Little John's Pizza Co., LLC recognized that the complaint in
Vega provided reasonable cause to believe that Tuck had committed sexual offenses against Andrea.

3. As a public official, John Minnis had a duty under ORS 419B.010 immediately to report them to the Department of Human Services or a law enforcement agency in Washington County, Oregon.

4. John Minnis and Little John's Pizza Co., LLC's payment of $20,000 to Andrea combined with the failure to make the report required by ORS 419B.010 in and of themselves appear to be insufficient to establish the offenses of bribing a witness or tampering with a witness.

John Minnis was a POLICE OFFICER and a public official. I don't rightly know how he could possibly say he didn't know he was obligated to report this to the cops.

To put a fine caveat here, there is no way to obtain information directly showing whether or not John or Karen Minnis reported Tuck to the police. Anything like that would be sealed. However, there is no criminal investigation or criminal court documents against Tuck on this matter, so its more than reasonable to believe that neither of them reported it.

Even more damning were Blackman's conclusions:
The information in the files in the Vega and Minnis cases reflects legitimate allegations of child sexual abuse by Tuck Minnis. It does not appear that these allegations were reported to appropriate law enforcement officials as required by Oregon's Child Abuse Reporting Law and hence were never properly investigated. Conversely, it appears that Little John's Pizza Co., LLC and John Minnis paid money to secure the dismissal of a civil case that the Washington County Circuit Court and the Oregon Supreme Court found to involve only Tuck Minnis' private sexual mistreatment of Andrea. These circumstances raise questions about the purpose of that payment, especially in combination with the violation of the mandatory reporting law. Whether they amounted to the more serious offenses of bribing or tampering with a witness, however, cannot be determined from the available information.

It's worth noting that, according to an Oregonian account of the ads resulting from this disclosure, John Minnis is claiming that he "verbally" reported the incident to fellow officers. Whether this can either be substantiated or if it even meets the reporting requirements under the law is an open question.

Moreover, there's a certain sweet justice to all this, as Steve Duin of the Oregonian observes. After all, Minnis throughout the campaign has been taking the low road:
That Minnis is running neck and neck with Democrat Brading in the 2006 race is evident from the attempt to smear Brading in a campaign flier featuring a photograph of her Brading under the headline, "This man is responsible for children viewing Internet porn in our county library." The flyer asserts that Brading has a "history of supporting pornography." Brading served on the 15-member Multnomah County Library Advisory Board and supported the board's opposition to filters that blocked access to sex-related Web sites on library computers, including those routinely available to children. Source: n.a. "An Expensive race, and a Cheap Shot A Flier Saying Rob Brading Has a "History" of Pornography is Ugly, and Karen Minnis Should Tell her Allies to Halt It." The Oregonian. August 31, 2006.

Minnis' hypocrisy is something special, too. Back in 2005, she was the lead sponsor on yet another get-tough-on-molesters bill that sailed through the Legislature:
House Speaker Karen Minnis, a Republican from Wood Village, is the sponsor of the bill.

She says she decided to push the bill after hearing stories about child molesters who never faced prosecution.

Republican values in action. As I said: It's rather like the fellow who announces his patriotic and moral virtue by wrapping himself in an American flag -- and then uses it to flash the kids at the local schoolyard. ("Hey boys, want to see my torture policy?")

If you feel like it, help out Minnis' opponent, Rob Brading. This is one of those rare cases where a local legislative race can have a broad statewide impact.

-- Dave

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Feel the love

Funny that Wolf Blitzer should be "surprised" by Lynne Cheney "sniping" at people's patriotism. Hell, that's what Republicans do as a matter of course.

Not only that, they can't seem to get enough of telling us how much they hate us. And it's not just Michael Savage and Ann Coulter. Take, for instance, this recent offering, headlined:
Friends, neighbors, and countrymen of the Left: I hate your lying guts

It's authored by a fellow named Paul Burgess, who's identified at the end of the piece as "director of foreign-policy speechwriting at the White House from October 2003 to July 2005." A quick Google search also shows that, at a recent PEN salon, he was identified as currently working for Northrop Grumman, a major defense contractor.

What's remarkable about the piece is the mindset it reveals among the White House's defenders, particularly regarding its critics. In the Republican worldview, these people aren't just on the wrong side of policy -- they're actively part of the enemy camp. And it isn't merely a rhetorical expression:
I have also grown to hate certain people of genuine accomplishment like Ted Turner, who, by his own contention, cannot make up his mind which side of the terror war he is on; I hate the executives at CNN, Turner's intellectual progeny, who recently carried water for our enemies by broadcasting their propaganda film portraying their attempts to kill American soldiers in Iraq.

I now hate Howard Dean, the elected leader of the Democrats, who, by repeatedly stating his conviction that we won't win in Iraq, bets his party's future on our nation's defeat.

I hate the Democrats who, in support of this strategy, spout lie after lie: that the president knew in advance there were no WMD in Iraq; that he lied to Congress to gain its support for military action; that he pushed for the democratization of Iraq only after the failure to find WMD; that he was a unilateralist and that the coalition was a fraud; that he shunned diplomacy in favor of war.

These lies, contradicted by reports, commissions, speeches, and public records, are too preposterous to mock, but too pervasive to rebut, especially when ignored by abetting media.

Most detestable are the lies these rogues craft to turn grief into votes by convincing the families of our war dead that their loved ones died in vain. First, knowing what every intelligence agency was sure it knew by early 2003, it would have been criminal negligence had the president not enforced the U.N.'s resolutions and led the coalition into Iraq. Firemen sometimes die in burning buildings looking for victims who are not there. Their deaths are not in vain, either.

Notice the endless straw-man arguments. Who among the mainstream Democrats he detests, for instance, has suggested that those soldiers' deaths were in vain? George W. Bush may have wasted thousands of lives in a misbegotten quagmire of a war undertaken under false pretenses -- all of which now seems largely incontestable -- but that does not mean those deaths were meaningless. If nothing else, they now stand as real-life testimony to the consequences of permitting conservatives anywhere near the reins of power.

Which is what's on the minds of people like Burgess, and his fellow conservatives. The midterm elections are looming and it's looking grim. They're seeing their vaunted ability to "create their own reality" -- the rosy, blinkered reality like he tries to recreate here -- crumbling before their eyes. And their first, and last, resort is hate. Pure and unadulterated, and decidedly eliminationist.

Expect to hear a lot more of this if Democrats win. But we should probably expect to hear more of it if Republicans win, too. After all, this kind of venomous self-righteousness doesn't dissipate easily. If anything, this mindset, gorged on power, seems inclined to follow up on its rhetoric.

Authoritarians with a mandate are truly dangerous. Especially when they've been gorging themselves on hatred for their fellow Americans.

Digby has more. [Hat tip to NickM too.]

Sara's Sunday Rant: Adult Supervision

Sara Robinson

OK, so it appears that we are all pretty much over George Lakoff and his parenting frames. Given the number of peevish comments I got here and elsewhere for simply responding to a commenter who asked a question involving these ideas, there are apparently a lot of people on the progressive side who are beyond ready to move on.

With that in mind, there's another potentially useful frame emerging that may have more resonance at this particular political moment (and has the added benefit of dropping the gender baggage inherent in Lakoff's frame). It seems to me that the discussion we need to be having is not about Mom versus Dad anymore. In 2007, the real frame that best describes our political alternatives may be Grown-Ups versus Children.

This is, very admittedly, a political retread from the 70s, when it was one of the sturdiest wheels under the GOP's ride to power. They offered themselves up as the Adult Supervision, clear-eyed and responsible, the only ones who could be trusted with authority. This frame drew a strong contrast between these stalwart conservatives and the liberals of the time, who were (unfortunately, all too easily) portrayed as childish, impractical, given to magical thinking, irresponsible with money, too caught up in instant self-gratification to plan for the future, and generally untrustworthy. The GOP, under the avuncular guidance of people like Ronald Reagan (who'd demonstrated as governor of California that he knew how to give those UC brats the spanking they deserved), would restore the proper order in the national family, and put the grown-ups firmly back in charge.

That worked out very, very well for them. So well, in fact, that they've been riding that image as The Adult Supervision for three long decades, mostly without having it questioned anywhere, by anyone.

But maybe it's time we started asking those questions. I mean, just take a look at what's going on out on the playground these days. We've got:

-- People in the White House who spend their days waiting for Big Daddy In The Sky to get home. (He's promised to come back any minute now. Really.)

-- People who think their Big Daddy is bigger and smarter than the Muslims' Big Daddy, and can beat him up.

-- A White House with a First Lady -- and several Office Mommies whose job is apparently keeping Junior in milk and cookies.

-- Public policy on reproductive health that basically amounts to telling kids, "Just don't touch anything down there. Not yours. Not anybody else's. If a grownup touches you, shut up about it. That's all you need to know. No, we will not answer any more questions -- what kind of evil child are you, anyway?" (Evidently, nobody in America is grown-up enough to be given adult-level information about sex.)

-- A president who plays dress-up -- baseball hero, cowboy, jet fighter pilot, army man, massage therapist, Decider -- every chance he gets. (The vice president's favorite fantasy character is evidently Elmer Fudd.)

-- The same "It's OK -- if I wreck it, Dad'll just buy me a new one" attitude toward the environment that's so infuriating in spoiled sixteen-year-olds.

-- The same befuddled theology that drives us to put 12-year-olds in confirmation class, in the hopes of instilling the beginnings of moral maturity.

-- A war-financing plan that's apparently based on the same budgeting strategies used by 10-year-olds with unlimited supplies of Monopoly money.

-- A political spoils system based on the same "you're his friend, so you can't be my friend" in-group rules that govern access to your eight-year-old's treehouse.

-- The same "Nuh-huh. Not me. I didn't do it. Nobody saw me, you can't prove it, it was broke when I got here -- and anyway, Billy did it" approach to responsibility characteristic of six-year-olds.

-- The same "If I close my eyes and cross my fingers and wish really, really hard, the hurricane will turn the other way" faith-based emergency planning style of four-year-olds.

-- The same kind of public (and private) tantrums -- sometimes including words that would make Grandma blush -- that get well-parented two-year-olds sent directly to their rooms for a proper rest.

In a post last week, I quoted Indian psychiatrist Salman Aktar who pointed out the infantilizing effects of authoritarian religion. He said:

Fundamentalism [seeks] to offer a world of simplicity, lack of personal responsibility, immortality, purity and simplicity. These are notions of children. This is how two-year-old and three-year-old children think. This is not how a grown-up, adult person thinks. Fundamentalism turns us from adults into children, turns us from individual units of flesh, psyche and spirit, thinking, pulsating, changing, constantly struggling with choices, decisions, tragedies, losses, mishaps, triumphs and victories….Fundamentalism removes us from such war, from such complexity, from personal responsibility, from impurity, from handling looking death right up front in the eyes and then adopting to live in a more responsible manner.

Fundamentalism lulls us into a sleep of childhood, a sleep of simplicity but it is worse than childhood because a child is always questioning and attempting to come out of its innocence bit by bit. Fundamentalism is worse than childhood because it takes us backward, not forward. And with fundamentalism comes its twin sister, prejudice, and its evil brother called violence.

Robert Altmeyer's work, as presented by John Dean in Conservatives Without Conscience, suggests that this childlike -- or childish -- view of the world is as characteristic of political authoritarians as it is of religious ones. As a result, we have become a nation led by moral children ("whiny-assed titty-babies" or WATBs in the emergent phrase of the left blogosphere) -- people whose total refusal to accept responsibility and inability to empathize with anyone's interests but their own would have rendered them unfit for any kind of paying work (let alone leadership positions) if more sensible heads were in charge. Accountability makes them whine. Consequences make them cry. They are not above holding their collective breath until they turn blue. And it's all your fault for being so mean!

It's almost impossible to imagine how these people could have ever been taken seriously, how they could have gotten away with presenting themselves as people of unshakeable principle. We were promised the kind of ethical stalwarts who could be trusted to do the right thing, regardless of the difficulty or the sacrifice required of them. They'd pay the bills, plan for the future, keep the roof over our heads, get up every day and do what had to be done on behalf of the family. Because that's what grownups do.

But we now see them for what they are: impulsive, selfish, often aggressive emotional children whose actions come roaring straight out of an untamed id. They are not governing this country so much as using (and abusing) it as their own private tree fort and clubhouse -- one that we are paying to prop up, every day, in treasure and lives, while they pull up the rope behind them and pass around the kewl torture pictures, order in pizza delivery from Haliburton on our credit card, and talk about how stupid those moralizing grownups are and how sucky it is to have to live by their idiotic made-up rules.

It's gone on long enough, this Kindergarten Regime. In fact it's deja vu all over again, as the GOP has become everything it once accused the Democrats of being: childish, impractical, given to magical thinking, irresponsible with money, too caught up in instant self-gratification to plan for the future, and generally untrustworthy. Which means it's not about Mom versus Dad any more. It's about the grownups, all together, prying little Georgie's fingers off the levers of power, and showing him that yes, we do mean what we say. And it's about discipline, self-control, and putting the lines of family authority back in their proper order.

The language that proceeds from this frame will come naturally -- nay, almost automatically -- to anyone who's ever been a parent:

"Don't hit. Use your words."

"If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. And if wishes were buses, 3,000 people in New Orleans would still be alive."

"I don't care if Saddam's mom lets him do it. In this house, we don't torture people."

"Someday you're going to be invited to eat dinner with the Prime Minister -- and you're going to thank me for teaching you some table manners."

"Stop blaming Billy for everything. He hasn't been around here in months."

"That's all the money I'm giving you this week. Don't come back around next Saturday telling me you need more."

"Put that thing away. You'll shoot your eye out."

"I don't care how big you are. You can't go around taking stuff that doesn't belong to you. You give that country back to the Iraqis. And I mean NOW."

The government of the world's leading nation is not a treehouse. It's not a birthday party. It's not a game of army men in the woods after school. It's serious business, best left to grownups. And the Republican Party doesn't appear to have a single grownup left.

Cultural conservatives like to sing the praises of Tough Love. It'll be interesting to see if that enthusiasm for it holds when they're the ones being told to that their behavior is unacceptable, that every moment they stand before us is an "accountability moment," and that their actions have brought about consequences that have ruined the prospects for the entire family.

Update: Barbara at Mahablog has a more serious take on this same idea.