Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama's Nobel makes wingnut heads explode. So why do right-wingers hate America?

-- by Dave

You all remember how the wingnuts exploded in joy at the news that Chicago had been denied its bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Rather typically, our RedState pal Erick Erickson crowed:

So much for improving America’s standing in the world, Barry O. Maybe now perhaps we can hope he will mature a bit on the issues of foreign affairs. But I doubt it.

Well, now their heads are exploding at the news that President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Here's what Erickson tweeted in response:


(Via ThinkProgress.)

Then there was Fox News. As you can see from the video above, it was like Scanners on steroids on Fox & Friends this morning, with Brian Kilmeade noting that this was the third honoree whose name was not George W. Bush. (Maybe those Swedes' "pure genes" got the better of them, eh?)

Even Michael Steele and the Republican National Committee got into the act:

“The real question Americans are asking is, ‘What has President Obama actually accomplished?’ It is unfortunate that the president’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights. One thing is certain – President Obama won’t be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action.”

Congratulations? Perish the thought!

Blue Texan at Firedoglake has a nice roundup from around the wingnutosphere.

Meanwhile, Media Matters has compiled a handy video of the early reaction:

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Gun show dealers caught on video selling to people who tell them they'd fail a background check

-- by Dave

Right-wingers have been having fun in recent weeks with the ACORN "gotcha" videos supposedly showing community organizers indulging in illicit behavior. But they're about to discover that the undercover video can be a two-edged sword.

Over the past year, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been sending out private investigators to gun shows around the country, focusing on locales where NYPD and other local law enforcement are seeing guns arriving from. And what they showed was incredibly revealing.

It shows the dirty little secret that everyone who attends gun shows with any kind of discerning eye can tell you: There are a lot of illegitimate transactions taking place at them -- and particularly a lot of sales of guns to people who could never pass a background check.

The videos are now available for public viewing. We've provided a couple of them here, but go see the full set of them -- along with the accompanying report -- visit the website Gun Show Undercover.

There seems to be some confusion whether they're watching something illegal. They are. As the mayor's office explained in its press release:

Even though private unlicensed sellers are not required to run background checks using the FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check system, it is a federal felony for them to sell guns to people they have reason to believe are prohibited purchasers (such as felons or the mentally ill). In purchases attempted on 30 private sellers, the undercover investigator showed interest in buying a gun by asking about stopping power or by dry-firing the weapon. After agreeing on a price, the undercover would indicate that he probably couldn’t pass a background check. At that point, the seller is required by law to refuse the sale – but only 11 out of 30 sellers did so. Investigators found private dealers who failed these integrity tests at every show, including two sellers who failed at multiple shows. In total, 19 of the 30 private sellers approached failed the integrity test.

The 11 sellers who terminated the sale confirmed that private sellers know the law. As one seller in Columbus, Ohio, explained “I mean even as a private citizen, I’m kind of allowed a certain latitude, but once you say that [you can’t pass the background check], I’m kind of obligated not to….I think that’s what the rules are.”

The investigation also revealed that some private sellers are in fact apparently “engaged in the business” of selling firearms without a federal license, in violation of the law. For example, one seller sold to investigators at three different gun shows and acknowledged selling 348 assault rifles in less than one year.

So when you see characters like this, you're seeing the kind of people who willingly, knowingly, and intentionally flout the law because there's no way -- outside of investigations like this -- they'll ever get caught:

"I don't need your address."

"No background check?"

"Nothing. Just show me that you're from Ohio."

"That's good about the background check because I probably couldn’t pass one."

"I don't care. All's I got to do is demand you show me your license."

"You don’t care about the background check, right?"

"Nope. Nope. I wouldn't pass either, bud." [grin]

The NRA likes to claim that "the gun show loophole is a myth." These videos -- and the broader results of the investigation -- pretty definitively demonstrate that it does indeed exist.

Americans For Gun Safety has a complete rundown on the gun-show loophole and why it needs to be closed.

The NRA and its enablers will claim this is a radical-left agenda item. But the legislation to close this loophole is sponsored by those radical leftists John McCain and Joe Lieberman. The office conducting this investigation is the Republican New York Mayor's. That's some radical left agenda indeed.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Jonah Goldberg is a very sad case who thinks that ignoring an argument makes you smarter


That heavyweight intellectual, Jonah Goldberg, loves to tell his audiences that no one on the left took his masterpiece, Liberal Fascism, seriously -- they just made fun of it!

So this is how Goldberg responds to an actually serious critique.

Evidently, Goldberg thinks that ignoring a sound argument lets you declare victory over it.

Now, just to be clear: Goldberg has never responded to the core of my critique. He's tossed off side issues, but what I have said about Liberal Fascism from the get-go is that its central thesis -- that "properly understood, fascism is not a phenomenon of the right at all. Instead, it is, and always has been, a phenomenon of the left" -- simply does not have any grounding in, and is indeed refuted by, the actual historical facts about the "political space" which fascism historically occupied.

I laid it all out again not too long ago:

This is, in fact, the argument that Goldberg attempts to make in his book as well: That the fascists occupied the "political space" on the Left, and thus were simply out to compete against their fellow leftists. But this is where Goldberg most deeply portrays a lack of respect for the historical material available to him, because any careful study of the actual details of how the fascists came to power in both Italy and Germany makes abundantly clear that they were occupying the available political space on the right -- and had charged hard in that direction from early on in their drive to power.

I discussed this in some detail, citing particularly Robert O. Paxton's work in The Anatomy of Fascism. Paxton, for instance, debunks the fascists' ostensible "anticapitalism":

It turned out in practice that fascists' anticapitalism was highly selective. Even at their most radical, the socialism that the fascists wanted was a "national socialism": one that denied only foreign or enemy property rights (including that of internal enemies). They cherished national producers. Above all, it was by offering an effective remedy against socialist revolution that fascism turned out in practice to find a space. If Mussolini retained some lingering hopes in 1919 of founding an alternative socialism rather than an antisocialism, he was soon disabused of those notions by observing what worked and what didn't work in Italian politics. His dismal electoral results with a Left-nationalist program in Milan in November 1919 surely hammered that lesson home.

The pragmatic choices of Mussolini and Hitler were driven by their urge for success and power. Not all fascist leaders had such ambitions. Some of them preferred to keep their movements "pure," even at the cost of remaining marginal.

Paxton makes abundantly clear that the political space the fascists, in obtaining power, chose to occupy was clearly on the right. Goldberg, in contrast, insists that "fascism, properly understood, is not a phenomenon of the right at all" because, he explains, fascism and communism "are closely related, historical competitors for the same constituents, seeking to dominate and control the same social space." He claims throughout the book and elsewhere that fascists didn't seek out their political space on the right -- rather, they were doing so on the left.

He actually addresses Paxton's characterization with what can most kindly be characterized as a lame rebuttal (p. 47):

In November the newly named explicitly left-wing Fascists ran a slate of candidates in the national elections. They got trounced at the hands of the Socialists. Most historians claim this is what taught Mussolini to move to the "right." Robert O. Paxton writes that Mussolini realized "there was no space in Italian politics for a party that was both nationalist and Left."

This, I think, distorts the picture. Mussolini did not move fascism from left to right; he moved it from socialist to populist.

Yet if Goldberg had actually bothered to read Paxton's account of how the move occurred -- or for that matter, any other historical account of these events -- he would know that the ideological shift by Mussolini had not even the remotest thing to do with populism. Rather, it all occurred in the defense of wealthy landowners and the established economic and cultural powers, and it entailed a wave of murderous violence against socialists, leftists, and any form of progressive.

From Paxton, pp. 60-64:

Above all Mussolini bested D'Annunzio by serving economic and social interests as well as nationalist sentiment. He made his Blackshirts available for action against socialists as well as against the South Slavs of Fiume and Trieste. War veterans had hated the socialists since 1915 for their "antinational" stance during the war. Big planters in the Po Valley, Tuscany, Apulia, and other regions of large estates hated and feared the socialists for their success at the end of the war in organizing the bracianti, or landless laborers, to press for higher wages and better working conditions. Squadrismo was the conjunction of these two hatreds.

Following their victory in the first postwar election (November 1919) the Italian socialists had used their new power in local government to establish de facto control over the agricultural wage-labor market. In the Po Valley in 1920, every farmer who needed workmen for planting or harvesting had to visit the socialist Labor Exchange. The Labor Exchanges made the most of their new leverage. They forced the farmers to hire workers year-round rather than only seasonally, and with better wages and working conditions. The farmers were financially squeezed. They had invested considerable sums in transforming Po Valley marshlands in cultivable farms; their cash crops earned little money in the difficult conditions of the Italian postwar economy. The socialist unions also undermined the farmers' personal status as masters of their domains.

Frightened and humiliated, the Po Valley landowners looked frantically for help. They did not find it in the Italian state. Local officials were either socialists themselves, or little inclined to do battle with them. Prime Minister Giolitti, a true practitioner of laissez-faire liberalism, declined to use national forces to break strikes. The big farmers felt abandoned by the Italian liberal state.

In the absence of help from the public authorities, the large landowners of the Po Valley turned to the Blackshirts for protection. Glad for an excuse to attack their old pacifist enemies, fascist squadristi invaded the city hall in Bologna, where socialist officials had hung up a red banner, on November 21, 1920. Six were killed. From there, the movement quickly spread through the rich agricultural country in the lower Po River delta. Black-shirted squadristi mounted nightly expeditions to sack and burn Labor Exchanges and local socialist offices, and beat and intimidate socialist organizers. Their favorite forms of humiliation were administering uncontainable doses of castor oil and shaving off half of a proud Latin moustache. In the first six months of 1921, the squads destroyed 17 newspapers and printing works, 59 Peoples' Houses (socialist headquarters), 119 Chambers of Labor (socialist employment offices), 107 cooperatives, 83 Peasants' Leagues, 151 socialist clubs, and 151 cultural organizations. Between January 1 and April 7, 1921, 102 people were killed: 25 fascists, 41 socialists, 20 police, and 16 others.

... Long after his regime had settled into routine, Mussolini still liked to refer to the "Fascist revolution." But he meant a revolution against socialism and flabby liberalism, a new way of uniting and motivating Italians, and a new kind of governmental authority capable of subordinating private liberties to the needs of the national community and of organizing mass assent while leaving property intact. The major point is that the Fascist movement was reshaped in the process of growing into the available space. The antisocialism already present in the initial movement became central, and many antibourgeois idealists left or were pushed out. The radical anticapitalist idealism of early Fascism was watered down, and we must not let its conspicuous presence in early texts confuse us about what Fascism later became in action.

Paxton, p. 83:

The Italian Fascist Party, having discovered that in its first identity as a Left-nationalist movement the space it coveted was already occupied by the Left, underwent the necessary transformations to become a local power in the Po Valley. The Nazi Party broadened its appeal after 1928 to court farmers desperate over going broke and losing their farms. Both Mussolini and Hitler could perceive the space available, and were willing to trim their movements to fit.

The space was partly symbolic. The Nazi Party early shaped its identity by staking a claim to the street and fought with communist gangs for control of working-class neighborhoods of Berlin. At issue was not merely a few meters of urban "turf." The Nazis sought to portray themselves as the most vigorous and effective force against the communists -- and, at the same time, to portray the liberal state as incapable of preserving public security. The communists, at the same time, were showing that the Social Democrats were unequipped to deal with an incipient revolutionary situation that needed a fighting vanguard. Polarization was in the interest of both.

Fascist violence was neither random nor indiscriminate. It carried a well-calculated set of coded messages: that communist violence was rising, that the democratic state was responding to it ineptly, and that only the fascists were tough enough to save the nation from antinational terrorists. An essential step in the fascist march to acceptance and power was to persuade law-and-order conservatives and members of the middle class to tolerate fascist violence as a harsh necessity in the face of Left provocation. It helped, of course, that many ordinary citizens never feared fascist violence against themselves, because they were reassured that it was reserved for national enemies and "terrorists" who deserved it.

The path to power for both Italian Fascists and German Nazis was essentially the same: They presented themselves as "revolutionary socialists" in their initial appeals but, finding the political space for such a movement already well occupied on the left by socialists and communists, shifted their appeals and their alliances to the right and center, particularly with business capitalists who financed them, sponsored their activities, and essentially contracted with them to engage in systematic violence against the Left. For the Nazis, Fritz Thyssen, head of the nation's largest steel producer, was only the most prominent example of business capitalists who funneled money to the Nazis both as they rose to power and once they gained it.

Now, going simply from Goldberg's own inadequate definition above -- which stipulates that the Right is "respectful of religion and tradition" (in fact, a more accurate definition would stipulate that the Right "ardently defends traditional values, mores, and institutions") -- the fascists in their rise to power clearly fit the definition of being "a phenomenon of the Right" -- and not the Left.

Of course, we can also rest assured that Goldberg will never even noddingly acknowledge that the chief leg of his argument has in fact been thoroughly knocked down. Because who knows how that might affect book sales.

Now, if you look at Goldberg's actual responses to my critiques -- you can see them here, here, here and here -- you will find that he has not even attempted to address these issues. Instead, he's chosen to indulge side issues (was the Klan proto-fascist? Actually, it was.), including a feeble attack on my own work on fascism that did not address a single point that I had raised in my critique. My final smackdown of this nonsense can be read here. Jonah has never responded to it nor acknowledged it.

So Goldberg thinks he can sneer his way around historical fact with clever putdowns. Well, we'll see about that. There's more coming down the pike from serious historians who are finally ready to take seriously the toxic effects of Goldberg's fraud. We'll have more info on that soon, I hope.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Sean Hannity's scalp-hunting desperation descends into fabricating NAMBLA connections to Jennings

-- by Dave

Sean Hannity still wants Kevin Jennings' scalp so he can keep up with Glenn Beck.

But since his smear has been debunked about as thoroughly as a right-wing smear job ever can be, he's getting a bit, ah, desperate.

Last night he not only was still clinging desperately to the false notion that Jennings should have reported a teenager's sexual affair to authorities, but he came up with a new line of attack -- borrowed directly from the fine fools at Powerline -- claiming that Jennings, in "a 1977 speech," had praised "one of the founders of NAMBLA," a gay-rights pioneer named Harry Hay. Hannity calls him a "big supporter of NAMBLA."

As usual, the fine researchers at Media Matters have the whole story:

Power Line's Hinderaker cited Jennings' speech, NAMBLA. In an October 1 post, Power Line's John Hinderaker noted Jennings' 1997 speech and wrote: "Obama nominee Kevin Jennings actually said that the founder of NAMBLA -- the North American Man-Boy Love Association -- Harry Hay, is '[o]ne of the people that's always inspired me,' " ... Hinderaker's claim that Hay founded NAMBLA is false. As the Associated Press noted in 2002, Hay "in 1950 founded the secret network of support groups for gays known as the Mattachine Society." Hay wrote in the Gay Community News (retrieved from Nexis) in 1994, "I am not a member of NAMBLA, nor would it ever have been my inclination to be one."

Moreover, as the piece explains, Jennings' speech was part of a eulogy to Hay upon the occasion of his death, and specifically praised him for his work in the 1950s in organizing gay activists -- not for any of his later views.

Hannity must really be looking over his shoulder these days to be getting this desperate. Hey Sean, how are those ratings looking these days?

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Gee, we wonder why Glenn Beck is so touchy about examinations of his past

-- by Dave

Glenn Beck seems to be irked at the people digging into his past. But then, that's because his past is truly a disgusting thing to behold. I wouldn't want people looking at it either, if mine were anything remotely like Beck's.

He ranted about it last night on his Fox News show. He thinks we should be paying more attention to his phony "scandals" than to just what kind of character we're watching implore us to seek greater moral goods (as he sees them) every night.

He's no doubt thinking of Alexander Zaitchik's impressive three part series in Salon, the first of which does indeed point out that his mother's death remains a mystery -- and that Beck's own later assertion that it was a suicide was a peculiar event.

It was an incredibly revealing series -- particularly this nugget from the second part, describing Beck's antics when he had a falling out with a former radio-show partner named Bruce Kelly, who became a competitor in the Phoenix market. Beck was known as "the king of dirty tricks," including an invasion of Kelly's wedding.

The animosity between Beck and Kelly continued to deepen. When Beck and Hattrick produced a local version of Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" for Halloween -- a recurring motif in Beck's life and career -- Kelly told a local reporter that the bit was a stupid rip-off of a syndicated gag. The slight outraged Beck, who got his revenge with what may rank as one of the cruelest bits in the history of morning radio. "A couple days after Kelly's wife, Terry, had a miscarriage, Beck called her live on the air and says, 'We hear you had a miscarriage,' " remembers Brad Miller, a former Y95 DJ and Clear Channel programmer. "When Terry said, 'Yes,' Beck proceeded to joke about how Bruce [Kelly] apparently can't do anything right -- about he can't even have a baby."

You have to wonder if Kelly contemplated returning the favor when Beck's second daughter was born with cerebral palsy.

But then, he'd have been forced to sink to the level of Glenn Beck to have done something like that.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

'Is Conservatism Brain Dead?' If Jonah and Glenn are the best they've got, the answer is yes

-- by Dave

Steven Hayward asked a key question this weekend: "Is Conservatism Brain Dead?" The key paragraph was this:

About the only recent successful title that harkens back to the older intellectual style is Jonah Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism," which argues that modern liberalism has much more in common with European fascism than conservatism has ever had. But because it deployed the incendiary f-word, the book was perceived as a mood-of-the-moment populist work, even though I predict that it will have a long shelf life as a serious work. Had Goldberg called the book "Aspects of Illiberal Policymaking: 1914 to the Present," it might have been received differently by its critics. And sold about 200 copies.

There's one little problem with this: The entire thesis of Goldberg's book is a fraud. Goldberg not only deployed the F-word, he built the entire book on a false, historically untenable, claim: that "fascism, properly understood," is not a right-wing phenomenon but a left-wing one.

Indeed, the spread of Goldberg's thesis into conventional wisdom on the right is one of the main drivers in the transformation of conservatism into a pack of mouth-foaming pseudo-populists:

One of the most persistent components of this is the right's ardent embrace of the fraudulent thesis of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism -- to wit, that "properly understood, fascism is not a phenomenon of the right at all. Instead, it is, and always has been, a phenomenon of the left." The embrace of this fraud as somehow truthful has produced those teabaggers' signs bearing swastikas (suggesting that health-care reform is fascist) and signs showing Barack Obama as Hitler and, moreover, the claims that Obama is marching the nation down the road to fascism.

It's been particularly embraced by movement conservatives in their efforts to whitewash from public view the existence of right-wing extremists among their ranks.

The impact of this embrace on our national discourse has been deeper than probably anyone suspected when the book was first published last year. Not only is Goldberg's thesis now taken as an article of faith by such right-wing talkers as Rush Limbaugh (who probably helped inspire Goldberg's thesis in any event), Glenn Beck, Michael Savage,, but also among the teabagging protesters whose ranks are increasingly filled by real right-wing extremists.

What's most noteworthy, perhaps, is that Goldberg's thesis is being used to attack anyone who points out the frequently violent and intimidating behavior of these extremists. It's not the right-wing protesters carrying open weapons, Obama=Hitler signs, and openly disrupting the discussion of health-care reform at town-hall sessions who are behaving like Brownshirts, they insist -- it's the liberals who show enough nerve to stand up to them!

You can trace a lot of the popularization of Goldberg's thesis to Beck's open promotion of it, as in the video above from earlier this year. And when you're talking about brain-dead conservatives, Beck is safely Subject No. 1.

Oddly enough, though, Hayward then goes on to suggest that perhaps Beck himself is the chief hope for ending conservatism's intellectual drought. Oy.

If Jonah Goldberg and Glenn Beck are the leading intellectual lights of this generation of conservatives, there can be no other answer to Hayward's question than an affirmative one.

[H/t to Mitch.]

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Glenn Beck's sobbing secrets revealed: A little Vicks Vaporub gets the tears flowing

-- by Dave

[media=10144 embeddl]

[YouTube here, via MisterMovies.]

This was too funny to pass up. We've known all along that Glenn Beck is a two-bit phony. Now we see how Glenn Beck gets himself properly weepy for the cameras: A little Vicks Vaporub.

One might dismiss this as merely a one-off for this shoot. But you can hear Beck himself say:

Beck: I think it's getting used to it -- my eyes are getting used to it.

From regular and continuous use, mayhaps?

The whole scene reminds us that Beck practices his schtick over and over before he performs. Which means he's gotten real good at working up those tears and choking up to say, "I love my country -- but I fear for it!"

This may be what Sen. Lindsey Graham had in mind the other day:

Via Sam Stein:

"Only in America can you make that much money crying," Graham said of Beck. "Glenn Beck is not aligned with any party. He is aligned with cynicism and there has always been a market for cynics. But we became a great nation not because we are a nation of cynics. We became a great nation because we are a nation of believers."

In other Beck news:

-- Media Matters has an excellent followup to the Salon piece about Beck's disciplehood at the feet of W. Cleon Skousen -- which in turn illustrated Beck's long history of promoting extremist beliefs -- pointing out that Skousen was not exactly what you would call ... enlightened on matters of race:

Fox News' Glenn Beck has heavily promoted the writings of far-right activist W. Cleon Skousen, even making Skousen's book, The 5000 Year Leap, a central part of his 9-12 Project. Skousen is the author of several controversial works, including The Making of America: The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, which presented as "the story of slavery in America" a passage from a book that attacked abolitionists for delaying emancipation; cast slave owners as "the worst victims of the system"; claimed white schoolchildren "were likely to envy the freedom of their colored playmates"; and claimed that "[s]lavery did not make white labor unrespectable, but merely inefficient," because "the slave had a deliberateness of motion which no amount of supervision could quicken."

This continues to remind me of last week's interview with Katie Couric, when he refused to explain what he meant by white culture.

[Via ThinkProgress.]

-- Beck is having a little difficulty dealing with Internet memes. Especially when dealing with charges that, by golly, we haven't been able to disprove yet!

-- Finally, has anyone else noticed that, on the cover of his new book, Beck looks exactly like the illegitimate love child of Colonel Klink and Sergeant Schultz? Just wondering.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.