Friday, August 27, 2010

There's opinion, and there's opinion

A new CBS poll finds that a majority of Americans, of all self-described and institutionally categorized mainstream political identities, want higher taxes on the wealthy.  It is now incumbent upon the mainstream media to teach us why this poll means nothing.  The general principle to remember: Polls with progressive conclusions don't matter; polls showing increasing preference towards Republicans (who two years ago were consigned to the dustbin of history, and who really are on that trajectory*, despite their recent ill-gotten gains) do matter, because the media has to teach us a few lessons between now and the November bloodbath.

Remember, though, the CBS poll on taxes means nothing.  It means nothing precisely because, not in spite of, its indication of public support for more egalitarian tax and fiscal policy (as Daily Kos reminded readers when discussing tax cuts, remember the 60-70% of the public, including a majority of Republicans, who wanted a public health care plan). It cannot be allowed to mean anything because the public doesn't get to really discuss economic issues.  There is very little left left in the mainstream media, but a whole lot of left left in the streets, in community activist networks, and in the alternative media.  The mainstream media uses its own agenda-setting as evidence of the nonpopulation of egalitarian activism in legitimate politics.  This allows Barack Obama a free pass to do things like derisively kick Single Payer off the table, so that the "pragmatists" in the center-right Democratic party and their media defenders can rise to his defense when the GOP calls him a commie anyway. (Most polls that bothered to ask the question prior to Obamacare, by the way, showed majority support for Single Payer Health Care.)

A majority support cap and trade. A majority support tough financial reforms, regardless of talk about how such regulations kill the free market (they're anemic compared to the damage unregulated markets can do, and they DON'T kill "free markets" whatever those are).  The entire process of health care reform legislation consistently traveled against the public tide--but not the direction the mainstream media created, practically out of whole cloth.    

Instead, it's the ideological minority that matters to the mainstream media, evidenced by their over-coverage, and uncritical narrative-spinning, concerning the corporate-created Tea Partiers.*  The result of this filtering and appealing to the lowest common denominator as a matter of both form and content is an electorate that hates the Democrats and favors the policies normally associated with them.

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*On the Tea Parties: Even Chris Matthews is entitled to be right about something once or twice a year:
They want to tear the country apart if it will relieve them of the duty of living in modern America, which I truly believe, despite all their anger, continues its march towards making this a more progressive land. That's something they just can't stand.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Believers and Terrorists

Executed right-wing terrorist Tim McVey is often brought up as a counterpoint to the 9/11 hijackers, particularly in response to irrational conflation of those hijackers with "all of Islam."  While the comparison is imperfect, the right has frequently responded with posts claiming McVeigh was an atheist.  But the real argument should not be that McVeigh was a "Christian."  That term is too subjective to provide clarity.  What is objective truth is McVeigh's affiliation with the Christian Identity movement.  Like most terrorists, McVeigh played religion rather than practicing it.  Neither he nor the 9/11 hijackers likely possessed the intelligence to think through that distinction, but religious terrorists are classified as such because they deploy religion, not because they practice it. 

One needn't be a "Christian" to be a "Christian Terrorist." The majority of American Muslims did not and do not see the 9/11 hijackers as legitimate Muslims. It's certainly not clear he was an atheist. When interviewed by Time, McVeigh claimed that although he had "lost touch" with Catholicism, he still "maintain(ed)" its "core beliefs." He told Time " I do believe in a God..." and declined further religious discussion. He wrote a letter to the Guardian claiming to be an agnostic, but accepted Last Rites before his execution. More important is what influenced McVeigh: The Christian Identity movement and its eschatological catechism, The Turner Diaries.

McVeigh self-identified with Christian extremism. Whether one is a full-on professed member of a religion is not as important as whether they are willing to (a) model their behavior along the ideological lines of that religion and (b) exploit others' religious beliefs to their own ends. McVeigh made several calls to the Elohim City enclave in the weeks prior to bombing the Murrah Building. McVeigh had also signed up for membership in the Ku Klux Klan, an organization that specifically requires that its members "conduct themselves with Christian character."

All of which is simply to say: McVeigh was to Christianity as the 9/11 hijackers were to Islam.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Angle tries to sound educamacated and fails

Assuming Sharron Angle could even find Chile on a map, she got her history and contemporary policy analysis wrong on the question of social security privatization there (to say nothing of her lauding the policy of a mass murderer, but who's counting anymore?).

The Associated Press: Angle on private Social Security: Chile's done it:
Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Sharron Angle says the nation's Social Security system needs to be privatized, and she says it was done before in Chile. Angle referred to the South American country on Thursday in North Las Vegas while explaining previous statements that the United States should phase out its current system. However, the pension system established in 1981 by right-wing Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet is no longer a fully private system. Chile's system was revamped in 2008 to expand public pensions for groups left out of its system, including low-income seniors.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

drivel covered with whipped cream

Reading Ross Douthat's passive-aggressive lamentation on the Proposition 8 decision, I find no reason to modify my longstanding opinion of Douthat's skills as a columnist, his intellectual capacity, or the pedagogical value of reading his work.  He's a shallow, pretentious, intellectually inferior culture-warrior who somehow bamboozled his way into having a regular column in the New York Times.  If I were personally against same-sex marriage, I'd beg him to switch sides on the issue.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Because they have to...

Those opposed to repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell are lying and fudging data in order to make it appear that 70 + percent of the public doesn't favor repeal. 

Thanks to my friend Alex for bringing this to my attention.

Monday, August 02, 2010 (GOP regains generic congressional edge)

After a short-lived lead change, the GOP has regained the generic congressional poll lead they've had for several weeks. Charlie Cook got caught with his pants down on this, and he's probably not the only columnist who didn't catch the quick change.

Obama's approval rating is 45%--Clinton's was 46% on the eve of the disasterous 1994 midterms. Historically, according to this WSJ blog I just read (how's that for a citation), generic congressional poll differences have done a good job pr...edicting midterms, the more difference nationally, the more seats won/lost. Worse for the Democrats, as the election draws nearer, Gallup will switch from polling registered voters to likely voters, which is expected to bump GOP numbers up even higher. Finally, just for gee-whiz sake, the reason all this is true is that older white voters make up a higher percentage of midterm voters than their percentage in general elections. That may comfort Democrats considerably in 20 years but makes things pretty dismal now.  And in 20 years, there will be a genuine major party to the left of the Democrats anyway. 

On the other hand, if the GOP does win control of both houses in November, I wouldn't be surprised if Obama's approval ratings shot up through the roof by March or April.