Video of the day

Man wrestles shark:

The Southernization of the Republican Party

Two really good posts lately on the increasing (crazy) conservatism of the Republican Party.  They both start out broad, but to a signficant degree end up in the same place.  First, Norm Ornstein has a nice take in the Atlantic on the “5 Republican Parties”:

Across the nation, not just in Washington, there are ever more signs of a Republican Party veering to the right edge of the right wing of the political spectrum. With prospects for a comprehensive immigration bill fading, what will it take to bring the GOP back at least to the right edge of the center of the spectrum, to compete to win national elections on its own merits and not just when the Democrats fail or the economy falters? …

I see at least five Republican parties out there, with a lot of overlap, but with enough distinct differences that the task is harder than usual. There is a House party, a Senate party, and a presidential party, of course. But there is also a Southern party and a non-Southern one. The two driving forces dominating today’s GOP are the House party and the Southern one — and they will not be moved or shaped by another presidential loss. If anything, they might double down on their worldviews and strategies.

Now come the other two parties. The House votes on the fiscal cliff, aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy, and the Violence Against Women Act showed a fascinating regional pattern. Of the 151 GOP nay votes on the fiscal cliff, 82 came from Deep South Republicans — 87 percent of all the Southerners, compared with 47 percent of the non-Southerners. (Border South Republicans are a lot like the deep Southerners.) Of the 67 nay votes on Sandy, 31 came from Southerners. And of the 138 Republican nay votes on VAWA, 79 came from Southerners. Southern Republicans as a whole, not just those in the House, reflect a distinctly different political framework, culture, and attitude than others. If one looks at the loony statements made by political figures over the past couple of years, some may come from the likes of Michele Bachmann and Steve King, but more come from Southern GOPers like Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and assorted state legislators and party chairs.

And his depressing conclusion:

So here’s the Republican dilemma: The House and Southern Republican parties are more concerned with ideological purity and tribal politics than they are with building a durable, competitive national party base to win presidential and Senate majorities. In most cases, they are in no danger of losing their House seats or their hegemony in their states. They will be resistant to changes in social policy that reflect broad national opinion; resistant to any policies or rhetoric, including but not limited to immigration, that would appeal to Hispanics, African-Americans, or Asian-Americans; and resistant to policies like Medicaid expansion or Head Start that would ameliorate the plight of the poor. They also will be more inclined to use voter-suppression methods to reduce the share of votes cast by those population groups than to find ways to appeal to them. I see little or nothing, including a potential loss in 2016, that will change this set of dynamics anytime soon.

Somewhat similarly, Tom Edsall asks “has the Republican Party gone off the deep end?”

Doherty, no liberal, is representative of the growing strength on the right of the view that the Republican Party has gone off the deep end.

“Their rigidity is killing them. It’s either holy purity, or you are anathema,” Tom Korologos, a premier Republican lobbyist and the ambassador to Belgium under George W. Bush, said in a phone interview. “Too many ideologues have come in. You don’t win by what they are doing.”

A number of prominent figures in the Republican Party share this harsh view. Jeb Bush warned last year that both Ronald Reagan and his own father would have a “hard time” fitting into the contemporary Republican Party, which he described as dominated by “an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement.” …

A part of the Republican problem lies in the party’s disproportionate dependence on white Southern voters. These voters are well to the right of the rest of the nation, and they elect the dominant block of hard-right conservatives in the House. Of the 234 Republican members of the House, 97 — two-fifths — come from the 11 Confederate states, and these 97 are almost uniformly opposed to negotiation of any kind with Democrats.

It is the Southern conservatives who, along with their Northern Tea Party colleagues, seek to kill immigration reform and who insisted on removingthe food stamp program from the recently passed Farm Bill.

These members of the House are what Feehery describes as “nostalgia” Republicans who define conservatism as “the ability to fight progress.” They produce a flood of statements and declarations that Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, calls “offensive and bizarre” and that he claims are turning his party into “the stupid party.”

The South– ruining American politics since 1860.  As both authors highlight, a huge part of the problem is the take-no-prisoners/compromise is always bad ideology that has consumed the Republican (largely Southern) hard right.  Compromise is not always fun or easy to swallow, but it is an essential virtue in pluralistic democracy.  Unfortunately, far too many Republicans seem to have lost sight of this essential truth.  Democrats are not “the enemy,” but rather people Republicans disagree with about the course of American policy.  And with whom they need to work and compromise if we are ever going to have any policy that meets this country’s needs.  Alas, trying telling that to the Southern House Republicans.

Mega Quick hits

1) Loved this Atlantic Q&A titled “why don’t we just kill all the mosquitoes.”  Alas mosquitoes are just crazy thick on Willoughby Lane.  Meanwhile, I also came across this NYT piece about how a simple fan is a terrific low-tech mosquito repellent.  I’m seriously going to set up two fans out on my deck– should hopefully make it more usable in the summer.

2) Apparently with incredibly easy to shoot video, people have been predicting the death of photography.  I tried to get into video for a while– and still make an occasional one– but I love how a great photo can just capture a moment.  And I can see a whole series of great moments from someone’s trip through Europe, etc., in the time it takes me to watch one video.   Anyway, this NYT piece talks about the neuroscience of why photos are great:

But the real reason photos aren’t going to be eclipsed by video is because of the way the human mind works.

“One of the things we love about the still image is the way in which it can stimulate the imagination to create a fiction around an image,” said Robin Kelsey, a professor of photography at Harvard. “The fact that we can commit a single image to memory in a way that we cannot with video is a big reason photography is still used so much today.”

Video is difficult to commit to memory. We tend to remember snapshots of a moving sequence of images, rather than the entire sequence.

Karim Nader, a neuroscientist at McGill University in Montreal, describes the way people remember things as “flashbulb memories.” He argues that “the brain’s memory system works something like a pen and notebook.”

Think about a profound moment in history: Sept. 11, 2001. The Hindenburg disaster. Barack Obama becoming the first African-American president of the United States. If you remember these events, there is a likely chance that you will recall a photo of the point, not the moving image, or video, of the moment.


3) Thought-provoking piece on the nature of home run records.  Even as baseball has done a lot to eliminate the rash of steroids and such, home runs have stayed much higher than they did prior to the steroid era.

4) Really enjoyed this EJ Dionne column from a while back on how Edmund Burke has a lot to teach today’s conservatives:

Burke’s conservatism was based on a proper understanding of that word. He believed in preserving the social order and respecting old habits. He persistently warned against the destructive character of radical change. He was wary of ideology and grand ideas, rejecting, as Norman puts it, “universal claims divorced from an actual social context.” Burke saw the well-ordered society as a “partnership of the dead, the living and the yet to be born,” a nice formula for a forward-looking traditionalism — and not a bad slogan for environmentalists…

Ah, yes, money. Conservative reformers should contemplate Burke to remind themselves that their intellectual heritage is about so much more than cuts in taxes and a special concern for “job creators” with large amounts of capital. Burke expressed an affection for the “little platoon” in society. Conservatism will flounder unless it remembers the imperative of addressing the interests of the many, not the few.

5a) Nice article in Slate about how the nature of the burden of proof made it so difficult to get a verdict against Zimmerman.

In Florida, as in most states—even the ones that don’t have Stand Your Ground—the prosecution in a criminal case has the burden to disprove self-defense, beyond a reasonable doubt, once the defendant produces some evidence of self-defense. If the other person is dead, and there are no witnesses, as long as you tell the police, “He started it and I thought he was reaching for a gun” you have created some evidence that you acted in self-defense. And at that point, prosecutors have the burden of proof to show otherwise. Zimmerman was acquitted because the state couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman started the fight…

All of this shows why the burden of proof for self-defense should shift. If you are the first person to draw a gun in a fight in a public place, you should at least have to prove that you did not start the fight, and perhaps you should also have to prove that your fear of deadly force was reasonable. Would the verdict have been different if Zimmerman had this burden? Maybe not. But it would have meant that Zimmerman would have had to tell his story before the jury. Shoot first, and you should have to answer questions later.  [emphasis mine]

5b) And a piece in HuffPo about how the nature of the jury instructions may have inevitably led to an acquittal.

6) Really, really enjoyed this piece on the nature of siblings and how they shape our personalities.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately as my kids– especially David and Evan– seem to be fighting all the time.  I know I’ve mentioned the book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids which makes great arguments as to why it is in your own self interest to have more children, but I also think, equally important, it is really beneficial to have siblings– even if they drive you crazy (and it seems like for most of us, they do).

7) Molly Ball on why it is not sexist to describe women candidates’ clothing.  She includes a nice summary of the work of political scientists Chris Hayes and Jennifer Lawless on the issue:

This is all anecdotal, but Hayes and Lawless have also sought to examine this question more systematically. In 2010, they examined more than 4,000 articles about congressional races in 350 districts; just 4 percent of the stories, they found, mentioned a candidate’s appearance, and women were just as likely as men to be described in such terms…

Hayes and Lawless’s work joins a growing body of political-science research that finds that being female isn’t a disadvantage in politics. Voters’ opinions of candidates seem to hinge on ideology and party affiliation, not gender, the research has found. In fact, many political consultants these days consider a woman candidate a plus, and Dartmouth researcher Deborah Jordan Brooks has found some evidence that’s the case, as I wrote in the May issue of The Atlantic. Brooks, who wants to see more female representation in politics, fears that an emphasis on the obstacles women face when they seek office, in addition to being poorly founded, ends up discouraging them from running.

8) Great NYT article from a couple weeks ago (that hopefully you caught, it was much discussed) about how America is basically the most expensive country in the world to have a baby and how this is related to all the underlying problems with health care in America.  Here’s the key chart:

9) Wonkette goes off on NC Republicans.  Political snark at its finest.  Title of the post, “North Carolina Pretty Much Just Selling Poor People For Dog Food Now”

Dear Wonketeers, this is what political-types call the “starve the beast” philosophy to governing. You create a massive debt through tax cuts (and possibly multiple foreign wars if you are the federal government), then look around and scream your head off about said massive debt and demand that the government spend less on things that you never liked in the first place (poor people), because you blew the government wad on things that you do like (rich people and war). So the rich get richer, and wars get FUCKIN’ GNARLY HOORAH.

10) Really nice look at the role of sports programming and cable bundling and how we all pay a “tax” for stations we don’t watch by Derek Thompson:

The cable bundle is perhaps the closest thing to a non-mandatory flat tax in America. The idea is that if 100+ million households all pay $70ish a month for television, the breadth of the customer base will support a diverse and thriving entertainment business without asking any group to pay too much for what they want. Readers — and, more certainly, network executives — might bristle at the idea of TV being compared to taxes. But what is the government if not the biggest of bundles? Every year, 150+ million tax-paying families across the country pay into a common system with each household consuming varying amounts of different goods and services (interstates around D.C., defense spending in San Antonio, NIH in Bethesda). The point isn’t that everybody in America consumes every good and service provided by the federal government. The point is that public financing makes a diverse and quality array of goods and services possible for those who want and need them.

11) Yes, the seven men of the Iowa Supreme Court did unanimously decide you can fire a female employee because you find her too attractive.  Seriously.

Okay, that’s a lot.  All of those were too good to die, though, and I probably would have never got around to most without the omnibus.

Photo of the day

Don’t know how I didn’t know about this, but yesterday a friend sent me a link to an awesome National Geographic Tumblr that features cool photos from their archive.  Expect more of these:

Porters transport a car on long poles across a stream in Nepal, January 1950.Photograph by Volkmar K. Wenztel, National Geographic

Porters transport a car on long poles across a stream in Nepal, January 1950.


This N&O Op-Ed is from last week, but it’s too good for me to let it disappear without comment.  Anyway, it’s from a conservative Republican, who like most conservative Republicans, thought all the unemployed were a bunch of lazy freeloaders until… you guessed it, he’s become chronically unemployed:

There was a time when I would have groaned with disgust at the coverage of the tumultuous Moral Monday protests. As a conservative activist and blogger (and registered Republican), my feet remain firmly planted on the right, but I have become surprisingly sympathetic to the passionate protesters who gather every week in Raleigh.

What changed? Last October I lost my job of 19 years and officially became a deadbeat. Now, Gov. Pat McCrory has never used that word officially to my knowledge, but he did remark, while campaigning in 2012, that filing for unemployment is “too easy.”

Rep. Julia Howard (R-Davie County) said in late June, referring to the end of the federal extension of unemployment benefits, that the cuts would push people to find work faster. “It may not be the job that you want or your career for the rest of your life. But to take a job, get back into the job market.”

At this point, the job I want is any job I can get. I can’t speak for all the unemployed, but the ones I know are struggling just to hold on to what they have, in my case a tiny house and a 2001 Saturn with two windows that won’t roll down. The job I want? Puh-leez. I gave up on that years ago before I became old, jaded and obsolete…

But I must remind state Republicans that the challenge of life is not just survival, it is dealing with medical emergencies after your insurance has run out. It is praying for a miracle to avoid raiding your retirement account. If state Republicans don’t think they can or should cover those burdens, then maybe their best and brightest minds should tell the poor and unemployed how to cope and where to turn.

And a little compassion wouldn’t hurt. After all, it’s not what you say that matters; it’s what I hear. And I hear “Deadbeat.”

Compassion?  Yeah, that’s a good one.  There’s plenty of compassion for rich guys.  Those who are struggling?  Not so much.  The very same day there was a letter to the editor indicative of the typical Republican attitude:

Regarding recent letters to the editor: I have been reading a lot about old, traditional white men and how they are taking the state backward. I voted for them, and I am one. That means I believe in capitalism, traditional marriage, working hard, obeying the law, personal responsibility, helping people who need assistance though no fault of their own and supporting my family myself.

It also means I don’t believe in socialism, same-sex marriage, lazy people, illegal immigration or a nanny state full of government dependents who have caused their own problems.

Pretty clear what this letter writer thinks of the columnist.  Clearly a lazy deadbeat.  Then again, I’m suspecting that the Op-Ed writer might have written a similar letter a couple of years ago.

%d bloggers like this: