Saturday, January 31, 2009

Glenn Beck wants to kick California out of the Union

-- by Dave

Ah, feel the eliminationism:

Glenn Beck told his Fox News audience today that he wants to remove California as one of the 50 American states.

Beck: OK, there's something driving me to the edge of insanity, makes blood shoot right out my eyes, and that is California.

California today, they voted against offshore drilling. Not on their land, or their shore, no. They also voted last week to raise emissions standards because it's too smoggy there and they care about the trees. Also, uh, in the stimulus, we found out today, it appears as though Hollywood can get a, um, bailout, from you and me, because nobody's going to see their movies. Hmmph! You'd think maybe they should just make better movies, and then we'd all go. But no no, let's bail them all out.

The Civil War taught us that, apparently, U.S. states can't secede from the Union. I'd like to test that one again maybe sometime. But what I'd like to know is if the Union has the right to kick out states. Because if so, I'd like to take a star right out of our flag, and California is it.

From eco-warriors running the state and ruining it to Hollywood projecting their family values and politics on the U.S., and illegal immigration driving them into bankruptcy, the Golden State drives me out of my mind, and I don't think I'm alone.

I'm sure his defenders will say he was just using hyperbole and it was all a joke. That's what all good eliminationists say.

That book of mine (due out in May) is looking more timely all the time.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Friday, January 30, 2009

Malkin-Beck freakout: Imminent Mexico collapse could doom America!

-- by Dave

Michelle Malkin was back on Glenn Beck's Fox show last night helping him paint a bleak apocalyptic portrait of America's future because they both believe Mexico is about to completely collapse economically and bring complete anarchistic chaos -- brown anarchistic chaos -- streaming over the border. And as usual, they presented falsehoods as facts to make their claims:

Beck: We are talking now about the possible collapse -- and it is something real, this isn't crazy talk -- that Mexico, because of the economy -- remittances are down, people aren't working here, illegal immigrants are going back home -- the Number Two engine of the Mexican economy is remittances! People here sending their money back to Mexico. That's dried up, tourism has dried up. And we're looking at the possible collapse of Mexico.

Now if I wargame this, Michelle, I think -- OK, that opens up Venezuela, that opens up Russia to go ahead and put -- fund people who are not friendly to the United States -- Communists, really bad revolutionaries down there. Plus you have the drug lords which we just armed and trained! Can you explain that?

Malkin: Sure, the Zetas in the 1990s were a paramilitary force that we helped train, and now of course it's coming to bite back Mexico in the backside because these are the very people who are threatening peaceful citizens and wreaking havoc and terrorism across the border and across the country there. It's really a toxic stew.

I think what you're getting at, Glenn, is exactly right, that you've got despair, discontent. And then on top of that, of course, the national security threat. At the end of last year, the Department of Homeland Security and our intelligence officers under the Bush administration warned that Mexico poses a huge national security threat to us, because of course these cartels will deal with anybody, and our intelligence officers have been saying since the Sept. 11 attacks that many of these gangs could be collaborating with groups like Al Qaeda and other jihadists to bring other dangerous people across the border to do God knows what!

First, a little factual common sense, please: remittances from Mexican citizens working in the United States account only for 2% of Mexico's economy. They are indeed in decline, and as the the Christian Science Monitor recently reported, it is having an impact in rural areas, mostly for a narrow economic bandwidth. Otherwise, the notion that Mexico is on the verge of complete economic collapse is sheer hysteria:

Mexico's economy is in much better shape than in previous global economic downturns. While GDP is expected to remain stagnant or shrink here this year, in the past, when the US was in a recession, the economy south of the border quickly followed.

Even though Mexico sends up to 80 percent of its exports to the US and Canada, it has been cushioned somewhat by having corrected macroeconomic imbalances, such a fiscal deficit, external deficit, and high inflation, says Alfredo Coutino, a senior economist for Latin America at Moody's

Meanwhile, if terrorists really want to sneak into the country, they'll likely do it the way they do traditionally: forge papers and come in through the front gate with visas. That's how the 9/11 terrorists came in, and it's fairly simple and easy for them -- unlike, say, paying large sums to drug lords to sneak you over in a highly dangerous illegal crossing in the remote backcountry, which is how nativists like Malkin seem to imagine the terrorists are sneaking in.

Moreover, if Malkin wants to worry about terrorists sneaking over our borders, she'd be better off keeping an eye on the Canadian border. After all, the only known case of a terrorist caught bringing materiel over the border -- the 1999 Ahmed Ressam incident -- happened in Washington state, on the ferryboat from Canada. A quantitative analysis of terrorist threats to the U.S. found that there was "no terrorist presence in Mexico and no terrorists who entered the U.S. from Mexico"; but there was in fact "a sizeable terrorist presence in Canada and a number of Canadian-based terrorists who have entered the U.S."

But hey, we understand. The facts (or the lack thereof) have never stopped Malkin from a round of shrieking and fearmongering and distorting in the past -- why would she start letting them now?

And Glenn Beck -- well, he just keeps looking around for reasons to fear one kind of looming apocalypse or another. He should just get himself a sandwich board and leave the rest of us in peace.
[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars].

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rush Rules! GOP Congressmen Grovel Before the Mighty Limbaugh

-- by Dave

MSNBC's David Shuster had a segment yesterday morning examining whether or Rush Limbaugh has become the de facto leader of the Republican Party. He and commentator Lawrence O'Donnell largely came to the conclusion that he had, despite the protests from such congressional Republicans as Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga.

Of course, Limbaugh has been the acknowledged leader of the Conservative movement for quite some time. And ever since Reagan, the GOP has been a wholly owned subsidiary of the same movement. So it seems like kind of a silly question, like asking whether Steve Jobs is the de facto leader of Apple.

Still, as O'Donnell adroitly observes, this is a huge gift for Democrats. Go, Rush, go!

If there were any lingering questions about this, only a little while later, Andrea Mitchell brought us the news that Gingrey had caved and even called up Limbaugh's show to abjectly apologize.

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) apologized Wednesday to “my fellow conservatives” for comments critical of talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh – saying he sees “eye-to-eye” with Limbaugh and that his remarks defending House Republican leadership came across more harshly than intended.

He also took issue with a headline on a Politico story about his comments, saying he never told Limbaugh to “back off,” as the headline read.

“I regret and apologize for the fact that my comments have offended and upset my fellow conservatives—that was not my intent,” Gingrey said in a statement. “I am also sorry to see that my comments in defense of our Republican Leadership read much harsher than they actually were intended, but I recognize it is my responsibility to clarify my own comments.”

Gingrey said he issued the statement because of a high volume of calls and correspondence to his office after the Politico article and wanted to speak directly to “grassroots conservatives. Let me assure you, I am one of you. I believe I was sent to Washington to fight for and defend our traditional values of smaller government, lower taxes, a strong national defense, and the lives of the unborn.”

And if you want further evidence (as if it's needed) of how abjectly Republicans bow and scrape at Limbaugh's feet, watch Rep. Eric Cantor squirm and evade and refuse to answer Mitchell's questions about what he thinks of Limbaugh's remarks.

Wipe that toe jam off your lips, Congressman. You're already setting a fine example for the GOP troops as they march off into irrelevancy with Rush Limbaugh.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Why are Republicans obstructing the nomination of Hilda Solis?

-- by Dave

I remember when Alberto Gonzales' confirmation hearings were underway, conservatives like Rush Limbaugh took to the airwaves to decry the racism of those liberals who dared oppose him.

Now the shoe's on the other foot. Even though most of Barack Obama's nominations have sailed through confirmation hearings and votes with alacrity, there's one notable exception -- Hilda Solis, Obama's pick as Labor Secretary:

The confirmation of Rep. Hilda Solis, D-El Monte, as President Barack Obama's Labor secretary has been delayed because of Republican objections.

Democrats have announced that a Republican senator is using a parliamentary procedure to delay Solis' confirmation, the Washington paper Congress Daily reported Friday.

But while it does seem peculiar that conservatives would block the nomination of one of Obama's few Latino candidates, no one is suggesting that racism is the motive here.

Actually, there's a very simple answer to the above question: The Employee Free Choice Act.

As the Star-News report notes:

The anonymous hold - as the tactic is known - was placed because of Solis' support for "card check" legislation aimed at facilitating union organization and another bill regarding pay-discrimination, and for non-responsive answers during her confirmation hearing, according to GOP aides, the paper reported.

During her nomination hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Solis deferred questions on the controversial card check bill to Obama, to the frustration of GOP committee members, who strongly oppose the legislation.

Mario Solis-Marich at Nuestra Voice observes:

The Department of Labor has long been a strange relic to economic conservatives. Where DC visitors to the DOL see an office building the GOP sees a wicked temple inhabited by evil wizards that actually count the unemployed and study statistics that often contradict core conservative economic superstitions. The questions to Solis were reminiscent of a witch dunking where there are no right answers. If Solis had drowned she would have been human and acceptable but her survival, due to her accurate and honest answers, indicated her pre-supposed guilt.

I reviewed the Solis hearing that seems to have befuddle the GOP inquisitors and found the Secretary Designate to be very even handed. Solis admitted that she sponsored the Employee Free Choice Act (apparently a type of anti-GOP spell) and that President Obama has endorsed it. However Solis also repeatedly indicated that she was not clear what her role would be in the coming debate surrounding the Act due to her potential new position and her inability to yet speak for the Administration. Solis gave the same nuanced answers to Senate Democrats that wanted assurances about a host of progressive labor agenda items that she gave to the GOP. The Secretary Designate was trying to express and open mindedness to a middle ground while respectfully deferring to the new President (who by the way was still President elect at the time of the hearing).

Republicans are sending a clear signal with this delay that they intend to fight the Free Choice Act with every fiber of their beings. Democrats has better be ready. Fortunately, Hilda Solis already will be.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Glenn Beck blames bad economy on existence of central banking system

-- by Dave

It's no wonder that Fox's newest conserva-star addition to its Angry White Men lineup, Glenn Beck, has such an emotional affinity for Sarah Palin. Because like Palin, Beck is not just a conservative; he's actually a good old-fashioned right-wing populist.

For those who follow such phenomena, Beck made it explicit Thursday on his Fox News show when he launched into a segment seemingly devoted to the thesis that the whole problem with the economy lies not with capitalism, but boils down to the fact that we rely on a central banking system:

Beck: I don't believe we're the infection here. Look around the world. I got together with the Heritage Foundation and looked at all of the -- where is this crisis hitting? It's hitting capitalist, socialist, communist, totalitarian governments, all of them, and everything in between.

At some point -- if you're the doctor again in the emergency room -- and you really want to get all these people healthy, you gotta rule out -- OK, well, it's not capitalism. OK, what is it? You need to stop to ask the question that a doctor would ask in that situation: 'OK, everybody, where did you eat? What have you had to eat?' All of these countries all have that in common. They've all eaten at the same restaurant -- the restaurant of Central Banking.

It is a system that no one is accountable to. No one. The brilliant geniuses that are supposed to be protecting us -- that's why central banks are around -- 'We'll stop it, we'll make sure there's no recession, there's no depression, we'll just keep these bubbles from happening.' They never at one point -- if we were Patient Zero -- at one point in no country did they say -- 'Hey, what -- what -- don't follow the United States. Don't do that.' Never? They've had their hands in all of the food and that's what's making us sick. Will anyone look at the Central Banking system?

Hmmm. It's kind of hard to decipher Beck's inchoate jumble, but we'll try. He seems to think people are blaming capitalism itself -- but what I think has taken far more of the blame has been laissez-faire capitalism, especially as practiced by movement conservatives, who never saw a deregulation scheme they didn't love. Rather than cope with the mountain of evidence supporting this reality, right-wingers like Beck flee to the comfort of reliable old conspiracist anomie.

For some reason, the fact that the global expansion of capitalism (not to mention the rise of the mass consumer class) was in fact enabled by the Central Banking system -- particularly its ability to create massive consumer credit and to regulate monetary supply -- seems not to have crossed Beck's radar. Yes, there are serious problems with the system, especially when it's being operated by Ayn Randian ideologues.

But Beck is like the conservatives who want to blame bad government on government itself -- and so their style of governance becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of catastrophically bad government. And all along, anyone with simple common sense can see that the problem isn't government but a lack of good government. Likewise with the economy: the problem isn't with centralized banking itself, but with the central-bank system's failure to function well -- namely, by providing proper oversight and sufficient checks and balances. The reason it failed to do so was not the system itself, but the failure of the system to be operated properly by conservatives who insisted that the more laissez-faire the better.

We have a pretty good idea where Beck is getting this: Rep. Ron Paul, who was on Beck's show just a few days before spouting his right-wing monetary theories which are largely predicated on well-worn right-wing populist tropes.

Beck only dips his toe in these waters here, but it should be understood that theories blaming the Federal Reserve system for all of mankind's ills have a long, hoary history on the American far right, most of them conspiratorial in nature and often deeply anti-Semitic.

Edward Flaherty put together a thorough exploration of some of the myths around the Federal Reserve system, including a discussion of some of Becks apparent misconceptions about its role in creating economic policy and how it came to be.

Most of all, the view of the mere existence Central Bank as the root of all economic evil has a long history of conspiracist support, even in the face of the cold economic reality that the existence of elites does not mean a conspiracy is afoot:

No single power bloc, company, family, or individual in a complex modern society wields absolute control, even though there are always systems of control. Wall Street stock brokers are not outsiders deforming an otherwise happy system. As Holly Sklar argues, "the government is manipulated by various elites, often behind the scenes, but these elites are not a tiny secret cabal with omniscience and omnipotence." There is no secret team...the elites that exist are anything but secret. The government and the economy are not alien forces superimposed over an otherwise equitable and freedom loving society.

As Matthew N. Lyons points out, "Scapegoating is not only about who is targeted, but also about who is not targeted, and what systems and structures are not being challenged by focusing on the scapegoat." For example, the Federal Reserve is a powerful institution that has made many decisions that primarily benefit the wealthy and corporate interests. William Greider's book Secrets of the Temple describes the Federal Reserve as a significant institution of modern corporate capitalism with bipartisan support. He shows how the legislation traces back to demands by populists to smooth out boom and bust cycles and rapidly fluctuating credit rates that especially victimized farmers. Grieder also discusses the long history of the debate over the wisdom of a central banking system, and how the legislation creating the Federal Reserve was passed in 1913 after a lengthy public debate. There is no antisemitism or conspiracist scapegoating in the text of the Greider book.

Compare this sober analysis to the works of G. Edward Griffin, Martin Larson, Antony C. Sutton, or Eustace Mullins. They portray the Federal Reserve as the mechanism by which a tiny evil elite covertly manipulate the economy. They trace its creation to a cabal who met secretly on Georgia's Jekyll Island and then somehow snuck the legislation through Congress overnight. Anyone with a library card can disprove this malarkey simply by reading microfilmed newspaper accounts of the contentious public debate over the legislation.

Sutton and Larson overemphasize the role of bankers who are Jewish, revealing mild antisemitic stereotyping. Mullins is a strident bigot who actually has two bodies of work. In one set of texts Mullins avoids overt antisemitic language while discussing his conspiracist theory of the Federal Reserve and the alleged role of forces tied to the Rothschild banking family. These texts involve implicit antisemitic stereotyping that is easily missed (sadly) by an average reader unaware of the history of conspiracist antisemitism and its use of coded language and references. In another set of texts Mullins displays grotesque antisemitism. Mullins uses his critique of the Federal Reserve to lure people toward his other works where his economic analysis is revealed to be based on naked hatred of Jews.

All the authors in this conspiracist genre suggest alien forces use the Federal Reserve to impose their secret agenda on an unwitting population, an analysis that ignores systemic and institutional factors and personalizes the issue in the classic conspiracist paradigm.

Glenn Beck wants everyone to think he's just an independent thinker -- that's his schtick, after all -- but, like Sarah Palin, he's tra-la-la-ing down the yellow brick populist road that has been traveled so many times by so many others on the right in the past. And it always leads not to an Emerald City but the witch's fortress, where flying monkeys await.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pope Benedict reaches out to anti-Semitic Catholics, but liberals still talk to the hand

-- by Dave

A lot of people were concerned when an arch-conservative like Cardinal Ratzinger was named the pope, but I don't think any of us imagined that he would be soon playing footsie with some of Catholicism's most prominent anti-Semites -- namely, the Society of St. Pius X.

From the Catholic Reporter:
Papal reconciliation move will stir controversy

In a gesture billed as an “act of peace,” but one destined both to fire intra-Catholic debate about the meaning of the Second Vatican Council and to open a new front in Jewish/Catholic tensions, the Vatican today formally lifted a twenty-year-old excommunication imposed on four bishops who broke with Rome in protest over the liberalizing reforms of Vatican II (1962-65).

Ironically, news of the move came just one day before the 50th anniversary of the announcement by Pope John XXIII of his intention to call Vatican II.

The four bishops had been ordained in defiance of the late Pope John Paul II in 1988 by Swiss Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, whose Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X clung to the old Latin Mass after Vatican II and also expressed deep reservations about both ecumenism and religious freedom. Lefebvre died in 1991.

The four prelates involved are Bernard Fellay, superior of the Fraternity of St. Pius X; Alfonso de Gallareta; Tissier de Mallerais; and Richard Williamson. Their legitimacy as bishops has never been in question, since under Catholic law, Lefebvre was a legitimately ordained bishop and hence any ordination he performed is considered “valid” but “illicit.”

Unsurprisingly, the move to bring the Society back into the Catholic fold this weekend came just as the Society's members were revealing their true selves:

While Catholics will likely see the decree as a victory for a conservative reading of Vatican II, it has also sparked protest in Jewish quarters for a different reason: One of the four Lefebvrite prelates, Richard Williamson of Great Britain, recently made comments that appeared to cast doubt on the historical truth of the Holocaust.

In an interview with Swedish television recorded in November but aired in January, Williamson said that he did not believe the Nazis had used gas chambers. Fellay: Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the Society of St. Pius X, is pictured in a 2004 file photo. He was among the four men ordained bishops in 1988 by the society's founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. (CNS photo)Fellay: Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the Society of St. Pius X, is pictured in a 2004 file photo. He was among the four men ordained bishops in 1988 by the society's founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. (CNS photo)

“Between 200,000 and 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but not one of them by gassing in a gas chamber,” Williamson said, according to a transcript of the program.

And of course, Jewish leaders are concerned:

British Jewish groups condemned the decision and said they feared it could damage social cohesion. "The Council of Christians and Jews have said that in recent years there has been a considerable increase in antisemitism from some of the eastern European churches," said Mark Gardner, spokesman for the Community Security Trust which monitors attacks on Jewish people in the UK. Gardner said he hoped the Vatican would make it clear it abhors Williamson's comments about the gas chambers.

"Jews will be extremely alarmed by the lifting of this excommunication on somebody who holds such extreme anti-Jewish views," Gardner said. "I hope the Vatican will speak out on this particular aspect of Williamson's ideology."

Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, warned last week the Vatican's actions would play into the hands of those seeking to stir up trouble. "For the Jewish people ... this development ... encourages hate-mongers everywhere," Steinberg said. Rome's chief rabbi Riccardo Di Segni said that revoking Williamson's excommunication would open "a deep wound".

What none of these news accounts observe is that the problem with St. Pius X isn't just that it has some kooky leaders, but that their rejection of Vatican II prominently includes their rejection of one of its most important reforms -- namely, the longtime Catholic belief in the "blood libel" that Jews were guilty of deicide for having ostensibly killed Jesus. In fact, these Catholics openly trumpet their belief that the Jews are responsible for Christ's crucifixion.

This is why the Society of St. Pius X may ring a bell for some of you -- Mel Gibson's involvement in the "traditional Catholic" movement brought the Society into the news, especially when he released his medievally ultraviolent version of The Passion of the Christ. It came to people's notice then that not only was Gibson (whose own anti-Semitism later was publicly exposed once and for all) involved in this radical Catholicism, but so was his father -- you know, the fellow who made speaking appearances at Holocaust-denial conferences.

As the SPLC reported:

It is in The Angelus, published monthly by the SSPX press, and on SSPX's website, that the radical anti-Semitism of the order is most evident today. One example now on the website is a 1997 Angelus article by SSPX priests Michael Crowdy and Kenneth Novak that calls for locking Jews into ghettos because "Jews are known to kill Christians." It also blames Jews for the French Revolution, communism and capitalism; suggests a Judeo-Masonic conspiracy has destroyed the Catholic Church; and describes Judaism as "inimical to all nations."

Another document reproduced on the SSPX's current website is a 1959 letter from Lefebvre's close friend, Bishop Gerald Sigaud, who also rejected the Vatican II reforms. "Money, the media, and international politics are for a large part in the hands of Jews," Bishop Sigaud wrote. "Those who have revealed the atomic secrets of the USA were … all Jews. The founders of communism were Jews."

The Angelus Press sells anti-Semitic tomes like Hilaire Beloc's The Jews, which blames Jews for Bolshevism and corrupt financial practices, and Monsignor George Dillon's Freemasonry Unmasked, which purports to explain a centuries-old Judeo-Masonic plot to destroy the Catholic Church. More recent SSPX publications include the 2005 pamphlet Time Bombs of the Second Vatican Council, by Franz Schmidberger, the former superior general of the SSPX. Schmidberger denounces Third World immigration into Western countries as "destroying our national identity and, furthermore, the whole of Christianity," and accuses the Jews of deicide.

Of course, it's one thing if Pope Benedict is simply seeking to heal old rifts within the church and bring its diverse elements closer together. But no such outreach to liberals within the church -- particularly the American liberals who have questioned the church's positions on birth control and gay rights -- has been forthcoming. As the Catholic Reporter piece observes:

Vatican solicitude for the Lefebvrites has long been a source of frustration for some on the Catholic left, who complain that there’s no similar concern to heal alienation among liberals. Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese, for example, charged in a 1997 lecture: “As long as dissenters stay in the church they are treated like pariahs, but schismatics such as Lefebvre are wooed at the highest level. After you have been in schism long enough, you are honored and loved as separated brothers and sisters, even if you hold more extreme views than those of Catholic dissenters.”

I think most people understood that Pope Benedict had in mind rolling back liberal reforms of the past generation or so when he ascended to his seat. But I don't think anyone thought the rollback included the Vatican II reforms that brought the Church into the modern age. Now, it's starting to look like they are -- and that's just the beginning of it. Indeed, the Church under Benedict is looking positively medieval again.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]