Thursday, November 20, 2008

How the mighty do fall

-- by Dave

I'm sure a lot of you were wondering what happened to Ann Coulter this election season. The right has trotted her out to wage culture wars reliably ever since 1998. But she hardly was visible at all this year.

Well, if you happen to be one of those lost souls who belongs to the Conservative Book Club, then you received one of these e-mails in your Inbox this week from Coulter.


[Click here to see the full letter.]

As you can see, it's a letter that starts out by teeing off the emerging right-wing meme attempting to blame Barack Obama for the current economic meltdown, mostly by noting that Wall Street firms donated more heavily to Obama's campaign than to John McCain's:

If you've been wondering why the financial industry is in meltdown -- and taking your 401(k) or investment portfolio down with it -- now you know.

Let's face it: The former frat boys who populate Wall Street today understand economics as well as the pinko professors whose courses they snored through.

Now, it's true that Democrats were heavily preferred by Wall Street campaign donors this year, but that has far more to do with their historic preference for lining up behind the perceived likely winners of a given election season. And even a blind pig -- or a right-wing pundit -- could sense before the season even started that the Republican brand was giving off the distinct odor of fetid slop.

But if those same Wall Street pinko-educated frat boys are as ignorant of economics this year as Coulter claims, then wouldn't they have been equally so in 2000 and 2004, when they gave heavily instead to Coulter's then-preferred candidate, George W. Bush? Something doesn't exactly add up here.

That's all just throat-clearing, though, for Coulter's main pitch: She's selling you a financial newsletter written by a fellow named Mark Skousen, whose PhD in economics seems to impress Coulter mightily (if only she gave as much credence to people who actually won the Nobel Prize in economics).

Three years ago, Skousen was selling the same scam through the Heritage Foundation, promising super-hot stock tips if only you subscribed to his pricey investment newsletter. No word on how that hot tech stock actually did -- but I'd wager it performed about as well the return on assisting former Nigerian prime ministers.

Skousen, however, is not just your average "conservative economist." He actually is an adherent of the same far-right school of "libertarian" economics as Ron Paul: he advocates a return to the gold standard, the dismantling of the IRS and the Federal Reserve, and most of the other conspiratorial nonsense that accompanies these theories. Like Paul, he's a devotee of the Ludwig Van Mises Institute, which promotes much of this malarkey, and he's likewise actually a Bircherite in libertarian clothing. Indeed, Paul was one of the headliners at Skousen's "FreedomFest" earlier this year in Las Vegas.

Like most of the Bircher wing of the libertarian movement, Skousen consistently takes a far-right political position on labor issues, too. He wrote a piece denouncing "card check" union organizing just last month.

Skousen is the nephew of the late noted John Birch/Mormon figure W. Cleon Skousen; his brother, Joel Skousen, is famous for promoting Patriot-style "New World Order" conspiracy theories. All three of them promote the far-right version of "constitutionalism," which is all about the belief that secret elites manipulate the economy and the political process, wield the IRS and Federal Reserve as political weapons along with a huge federal bureaucracy, all of which violates the original unamended (or "organic") Constitution.

So this is what Ann Coulter is reduced to these days: Shilling for Patriot-style right-wing moneymaking scams.

But then, I guess it isn't surprising that Coulter is heading down this same path. During the past campaign, she actually came out in support of Ron Paul.

Well, fools and their money are soon parted. And anyone foolish enough to take their investment advice from Ann Coulter will get everything they deserve.

But I'm wondering when we'll see Coulter turn up in late-night infomercials for gold Liberty Dollars with her own image stamped on them. Because that's the road -- the one leading to ignominious obscurity and irrelevance -- she's headed down.

And I can't think of a more deserved fate.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The racist backlash to Obama's presidency

Pat Lanzo_0bf30.JPG

[From Creative Loafing.]

-- by Dave

As we predicted before the election, Barack Obama's victory has loosed a flood of hatefulness from the racist right in America. Digby yesterday had a detailed post laying out some of the cases that have erupted so far. From an AP report:

Threats against a new president historically spike right after an election, but from Maine to Idaho law enforcement officials are seeing more against Barack Obama than ever before. The Secret Service would not comment or provide the number of cases they are investigating. But since the Nov. 4 election, law enforcement officials have seen more potentially threatening writings, Internet postings and other activity directed at Obama than has been seen with any past president-elect, said officials aware of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because the issue of a president's security is so sensitive.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

In rural Georgia, a group of high-schoolers gets a visit from the Secret Service after posting "inappropriate" comments about President-elect Barack Obama on the Web. In Raleigh, N.C., four college students admit to spraying race-tinged graffiti in a pedestrian tunnel after the election. On Nov. 6, a cross burns on the lawn of a biracial couple in Apolacon Township, Pa.

The election of America's first black president has triggered more than 200 hate-related incidents, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center – a record in modern presidential elections. Moreover, the white nationalist movement, bemoaning an election that confirmed voters' comfort with a multiracial demography, expects Mr. Obama's election to be a potent recruiting tool – one that watchdog groups warn could give new impetus to a mostly defanged fringe element.

I talked to the SPLC's Mark Potok this morning, and here are his observations:

I think there's something remarkable happening out there. I think we really are beginning to see a white backlash that may grow fairly large. The situation's worrying.

Not only do we have continuing nonwhite immigration, not only is the economy in the tank and very likely to get worse, but we have a black man in the White House. That is driving a kind of rage in a certain sector of the white population that is very, very worrying to me.

We are seeing literally hundreds of incidents around the country -- from cross-burnings to death threats to effigies hanging to confrontations in schoolyards, and it's quite remarkable.

I think that there are political leaders out there who are saying incredibly irresponsible things that could have the effect of undamming a real flood of hate. That includes media figures. On immigration, they have been some of the worst.

There's a lot going on, and it's very likely to lead to scapegoating. And in the end, scapegoating leaves corpses in the street.

According to that AP piece, neo-Nazi Web entities like Stormfront have seen a serious spike in business:

One of the most popular white supremacist Web sites got more than 2,000 new members the day after the election, compared with 91 new members on Election Day, according to an AP count. The site,, was temporarily off-line Nov. 5 because of the overwhelming amount of activity it received after Election Day. On Saturday, one Stormfront poster, identified as Dalderian Germanicus, of North Las Vegas, said, "I want the SOB laid out in a box to see how 'messiahs' come to rest. God has abandoned us, this country is doomed."

That theme comes popping up a lot:

Grant Griffin, a 46-year-old Georgia native who is white, expressed similar sentiments. "I believe our nation is ruined and has been for several decades, and the election of Obama is merely the culmination of the change," Griffin said.

Last week Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass created a bit of a stir by relaying the story of a Chicago teen who decided to try an experiment in tolerance by wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "McCain Girl" to her high school, where Barack Obama was widely favored as a hometown hero. She got something of an ugly reception -- mostly she was told she was stupid, while some fellow students went so far as to tell her she should die.

While it's not terribly surprising -- passions often run high during political campaigns, and people say and do stupid things in the process, on both sides of the aisle -- it should go without saying that this kind of ugliness does not reflect well on the supposed liberals venting it. If nothing else, it makes them look decidedly illiberal in their intolerance.

However, the flip side -- the violence-laced, vile hatred emanating from Obama haters around the country -- is already dwarfing this intolerance. Yet you have to wonder if Kass and the right-wing pundits who made the teen's story a cause celebre will even bother taking a look.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars].

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The GOP is whistlin' Dixie


-- by Dave

Well, now that the Republican governors have snubbed Sarah Palin when selecting their leadership group in Miami, it's semi-official that the bloom has slightly faded from Palin's rose -- and not a moment too soon.

Which means the GOP is going to start looking a little more seriously for leadership in the coming four years to help lift it out of the miasma in which it is now deservedly enveloped.

But look at that list:

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was voted RGA chairman, taking over the top job from Texas Gov. Rick Perry who will now serve as finance chairman. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is vice-chairman, while Florida Gov. Charlie Crist will serve as chair for the annual RGA gala, and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue will head up the recruitment effort.

Well, as much as the South's political power was diminished in the last election, it's pretty plain that the GOP for the foreseeable future is the Party of the South.

Out of this group, Barbour's name is perhaps the one we've heard most frequently on the tips of right-wing talking-head tongues. But Barbour has quite the checkered history: He's notorious for ardently promoting the Confederate flag and consorting with the white-supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens -- and he does so unapologetically.

So if Barbour does emerge a serious party leader, it will mean the GOP has thoroughly embraced its Cro-Magnon, neo-Confederate wing, and the dog-whistle rabble-rousing we saw from McCain and Palin in 2008 will look positively civil in comparison.

Another name not on this list, but frequently mentioned (and yet another Southern governor) is that of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Ezra Klein has a good piece at TAP about Jindal:

Chief among the prospects is Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, a former Rhodes Scholar and health policy bureaucrat who's taking a step into health care innovation today with a major proposal to reform how Louisian's Medicaid system works.

There's one problem with all this: Jindal's actual record as governor, particularly as he's tried to enact "conservative" reforms in education, health care, and housing, has been nothing short of disastrous, a classic case of the calamitous effects of conservative governance. Isaiah Poole at FDL had the rundown earlier this year, describing how Jindal's "reforms" have done nothing but deepen the misery of Katrina-struck Louisianans, particularly those in New Orleans:

The American Prospect's Mori Dinauer uncovered this note of praise of Jindal from Rush Limbaugh: "Bobby Jindal, the new governor of Louisiana, is the next Ronald Reagan." The title fits, given Reagan's disdain for the poor and for people of color. (Though it's unlikely that Reagan ever included performing exorcisms on his resume.) Add Jindal's unconditional opposition to abortion under any circumstances (15 years old and raped? Tough.), his support for teaching the doctrine of "intelligent design" in public schools and his opposition to civil rights protections for gay and lesbian people, and you have a perfect storm of ideological disaster for the New Orleans and the state.

But, like Reagan, Jindal can be smooth, charming and even disarming. As the shock of Katrina recedes from the collective memory and as the recovery effort continues to boil in a murky stew of inertia, Jindal is well equipped to be the next great facade for conservatism — as long as no one is asking questions about what's behind the front.

Sounds like the Republicans' kind of guy.