Down the Rabbit Hole

April can’t end soon enough for the Republicans this year, and there are still a few days left to go – not that things didn’t go their way toward the end of the month. A bitterly divided Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s ban on Affirmative Action, even if on rather narrow grounds. The majority opinions all said this wasn’t about Affirmative Action, per se. This was merely a ruling on who gets to decide about it, at which level, and requiring Affirmative Action at state schools, and in state employment practices, was a states’ matter, not a constitution issue at the federal level. Cool – it was a quibble, but the court walking away from the matter was oddly liberating. There could now be no questioning, on basic constitutional grounds, the standard line on the right, that history or no history, those black folks should get no special consideration any longer, if they even should have gotten special consideration in the first place. All that race stuff was over long ago. Everyone is equal now, and it follows that it’s about time that all these inadequate people in America stop picking on white folks. The despised and oppressed whites would be able to fight back now. The Supreme Court didn’t mean to unleash all that of course, or so they said, but Fox News had long ago normalized views that have been considered unacceptable to express or at least express out loud, so now it will be a few weeks of HOORAY FOR WHITE FOLKS over there.

That will make some uncomfortable, but then they’re not the ones who watch Fox News – and anyway, secondary consequences don’t seem to matter to this court. Gutting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 last year was like that – massive-voter suppression laws were immediately passed in all the states controlled by Republicans, to make it damned hard for the poor and minorities, particularly those pesky black people, to vote all. That was unfortunate, but the Supreme Court had ruled that specific mechanisms in the original law were outdated, and the court was sure that Congress, full of men (and women) of good will who championed fairness, would come up with new mechanisms, so no one was disenfranchised. Have they seen Congress lately? But it was the same with the Citizens United ruling and this year’s ruling lifting all caps on aggregated campaign contributions to multiple candidates – there’s no reason to believe that flooding the election process with massive amounts of money from the seventeen richest billionaires in America would lead to corruption. All that spending from those guys was just a form of free speech, which should never be restricted, unless someone yells “fire” in crowed theater just for the fun of it, and no one was doing that. Have they met Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers?

Oh well – the damage was done – and it was a good week for angry old white men in a panic about no longer being in the majority, the Fox News demographic. Then it all fell apart. Smart conservatives know you don’t take Reagan’s mantra, about how big government is always the problem, to its logical conclusion, deciding that any government will end up being too big. Cliven Bundy is only moderately comfortable with his state’s government – Nevada is okay – but really, the only authority he recognizes is his local county sheriff, who’s a personal friend. That Fox News, and particularly Sean Hannity, had made him a hero, as did all those Republican politicians, was a mistake smart conservatives should never make. The man did say “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing.” Do you really want to go there? That led to this man talking about the pleasant past, where happy darkies picked cotton and sang about those Camptown Races and so on. Yes, more than a few folks quipped that the guy must be an extra from Mel Brook’s Blazing Saddles who missed the bus back to Hollywood when they wrapped the location shoots, but Bundy was only saying slavery might have been better for those folks than Big Government. The one thing leads to the other, and the Republican embrace of this guy, as a sort of folk hero who hated Big Government, became awkward. They suddenly ran away from him, because was calling him a racist, which misses the point. They should have run away from him because he took Reagan seriously, and they didn’t.

This was trouble. Sean Spicer, the head of communications for the Republican National Committee, was outraged that the Republican Party was being tied to this guy – he’s a racist and they’re not. He’s really tired of that sort of sloppy thinking, and wonders why that keeps happening, so Josh Marshall decided to explain that to him:

It’s sort of like a really bad run of luck in which people spring up who espouse a lot of Republican positions, quickly get endorsed and trumpeted by a lot of Republican politicians and then suddenly turn out to be, well, really racist. …

Now, let me be clear: this isn’t the GOP isn’t racist but … hell, wink, wink, yeah it’s pretty racist. It’s not. But a substantial number of its core supporters have views that are most generously described as retrograde on racial matters and simply not remotely suitable for public airing. And like any political party that seriously constrains its freedom of action on a whole variety of issues which touch on race – which is to say, about half of everything.

Now there’s another thread to this… you don’t need to have any animus or prejudice against non-whites to exploit racial divisions and fears or passively benefit from them. Indeed, not only is it possible, I would say it approaches the norm.

In any case, when the bed is delivered and the sheets put on and the comforter and the special chocolate on the pillow set just right, it’s hard not to sleep on it.

The endlessly snarky Maureen Dowd put it this way:

When a cranky anarchist in a cowboy hat starts a sentence saying “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” you can be dang sure it’s going downhill from there.

The unsettling thing about Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s ugly rant on the Virgin River on Saturday, The New York Times’ Adam Nagourney told me, was that there was no negative reaction from the semicircle of gun-toting and conspiracy-minded supporters who had gathered round to hear it. The oblivious 67-year-old Bundy, who has refused for 20 years to pay for his cattle to graze on our land, offered a nostalgic ode to slavery.

The Washington Post’s Kathleen Parker piled on:

One day, Bundy was the new face for conservative opposition to federal expansionism, 2014’s Joe the Plumber, a human metaphor for the last man armed and standing for freedom against the superior forces of federal agents.

Then, cue funeral dirge, Bundy wandered off-script and spoke his fevered mind. The tall, Stetson-topped Bundy wondered whether African Americans weren’t better off as slaves picking cotton than living on the plantation of government subsidy. The hook, the hook! Where’s that dadgum hook?! …

Unfortunately for Bundy’s defenders, Bundy wasn’t Ben Cartwright and his boys defending the Ponderosa. He was the nameless half-wit who staggers out of the saloon, shooting up stars to stop the railroaders long after the train has left the station.

That’s a sad image, but it hadn’t been a good week. Republicans had won another big one from the Supreme Court, on Affirmative Action, a ruling which on strict constitutional grounds wasn’t unreasonable at all, which was liberating, but liberated a monster they couldn’t control. After Mitt Romney went down in flames in 2012, losing the women’s vote badly, and losing almost all minority votes, and the votes of those fools who value compassion and tolerance and reason, and science, the party did their “autopsy” and came up with all sorts of outreach programs, none of which really got off the ground. How could they? The monster was loose once again. Republicans are who they are, and people know who they are, because they let people know who they are, repeatedly. They can’t seem to help themselves.

There are ways out. As discussed previously – probably in far too much detail – Jeb Bush is thinking of running for president, and Jeb Bush is  big on Common Core – the proposed national core curriculum for public schools – which the base hates of course. Basic standards for what kids should know sounds a lot like the government saying God doesn’t matter, and such things should be determined at the local level. If folks want to spend their tax money teaching kids in their school district that Jesus rode a dinosaur and all of science comes from the pit of hell, that’s their business, not Washington’s. Jeb Bush has also been saying absurdly nice things about immigrants too – just like John McCain once did, until McCain realized the base hated him. Of course the American Enterprise Institute and the National Chamber of Commerce folks are with him on that, happy with an initiative that addresses the problem of developing an educated workforce who knows, generally, how things work in the real world. A workforce that belligerently believes in magic, and no more than magic, is kind of useless. How can you make money if those are the only people you find out there to hire? There are other issues too, and there are two Republican parties here. It’s time to decide who’s in change.

That led to this:

Mitt Romney has said time and time again that he has no interest in running for president a third time. But, on Sunday morning, CBS’ Bob Schieffer said not to write off the idea of a 2016 campaign by Romney so quickly.

“I have a source that told me that if Jeb Bush decides not to run, that Mitt Romney may actually try it again,” Schieffer said.

During a political panel discussion, the “Face the Nation” host said that he has been told that Romney will consider seeking the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2016 if former Florida governor Jeb Bush chooses to sit the race out.

Well, Chris Christie could be in jail by then, and the party establishment liked Mitt last time and loves Jeb this time, but the party’s base hates them both, as they have their own heroes:

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) defended the controversial enhanced interrogation technique of waterboarding this weekend, and implied that the practice would still be commonplace “if I were in charge.”

“They obviously have information on plots to carry out Jihad,” she said at the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual meeting on Saturday evening, referring to prisoners. “Oh, but you can’t offend them, can’t make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen. Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.”

Repeated waterboarding would bring them to Jesus, or something, but this was a power play:

The remark stands in stark contrast to the opinion of her former running mate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). The former Republican presidential nominee, who spent more than five years in a prison camp during the Vietnam War, has repeatedly denounced the practice, which he says is torture.

In her speech, Palin praised the NRA, a group whose members “are needed now more than ever, because every day we are seeing more and more efforts to strip away our Second Amendment rights,” she said.

“See, our patience is running thin. It’s being teased and tempted by some intellectual elite in some far distant capital wanting us to abandon even the ideas of the American Revolution” she added.

She identifies the enemy:

“Do you know why those clownish little Kumbaya-humming fairytale-inhaling liberals want to be tough all of a sudden and control your guns?” she said. “It’s ‘cuz guys like [Sen.] Al Franken [D-Minn.] and [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [D-Nev.], they are not satisfied with just taking your money and your job, your truck and your property and your rights, your healthcare – they didn’t want to just stop at that.”

She sounds a lot like Cliven Bundy, minus any overt reference to slavery probably being better than food stamps and unemployment insurance, and Martin Longman at the Washington Monthly sees what she’s up to:

I have a theory that Sarah Palin has the intent to humiliate John McCain as often as possible. Maybe it’s because McCain wouldn’t let her give her own concession speech. Maybe it’s some of the things McCain’s advisers have said about her. Or, maybe, it’s just a joke the gods are playing on McCain for being so stupid in his choice of running mate…

The best part is that McCain won’t allow himself to react to this because he can’t admit the magnitude of his mistake.

This is kind of comic, in a perverse way, but there won’t be a Sarah Palin and Ted Nugent ticket in 2016 – unless the Tea Party crowd bolts and becomes an actual third party. Nugent did, however, call Obama a “subhuman mongrel” – which was oddly amusing and fits the pattern:

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling is no aberration. On an audio recording that allegedly captures Sterling telling a girlfriend that he doesn’t want African-Americans at “my games” and it ignited a furor. But it’s part and parcel of an increasingly rotten and ugly saga that has become all too familiar in recent days.

In quick succession, GOP rocker and pitchman Ted Nugent maligned President Obama as a “subhuman mongrel,” GOP House representative Paul Ryan, chair of the House Budget Committee, virtually called blacks and Hispanics lazy and the cause of their chronic high joblessness, and South Dakota GOP state representative Phil Jensen publicly said it was OK for businesses to exclude blacks from service.

The list could go on and on. Cliven Bundy is a minor item, and Republicans denounced him so maybe he doesn’t count now, but they’re still gleeful at the prospect of all states, not just Michigan, getting rid of Affirmative Action and finally putting those uppity somethings in their place, as they won’t use “that word” because they’re not racists.

It’s hard to know what to make of all this. Like Alice, we’ve gone down that rabbit hole, but there’s no Wonderland. There are only things like this:

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has signed a new law into effect – nicknamed the “guns everywhere bill” – that allows individuals to carry weapons into bars, schools, and even some churches and government buildings.

Officially titled the “Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014,” the bill easily sailed through the state legislature and was signed by Deal on Wednesday. The bill doesn’t officially go into effect until July 1, but it will permit those with gun licenses to carry weapons into numerous public spaces, even parts of the airport – which, in Atlanta, is the busiest in the US.

If a bar owner does not want to allow guns into their establishment, they will have the ability to “opt out” – a change from previous law which stated bars had to “opt in” to permit firearms. Meanwhile, church leaders who don’t mind having visitors enter with weapons will be able to opt in as well.

Like the evisceration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the new ruling on Affirmative Action, this is a victory against Big Government for these folks. The bill will mean that people can carry firearms into government buildings that don’t have security measures like metal detectors, and public libraries, city halls, recreational centers, and fire stations. Guns will still not be allowed at the state Capitol, but everyone in bars will be carrying. It’s sweet freedom. What could go wrong?

We’re beginning to see what could go wrong:

A Georgia man panicked parents and children at a local park and baseball field by randomly walking around and displaying his gun to anyone he encountered in the parking lot.

According to witnesses who spoke with WSB-TV, the man wandered around the Forsythe County Park last Tuesday night showing his gun to strangers, telling them “there’s nothing you can do about it.”

“Anyone who was just walking by – you had parents and children coming in for the game – and he’s just standing here, walking around [saying] ‘You want to see my gun? Look, I got a gun and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ He knew he was frightening people. He knew exactly what he was doing,” said parent Karen Rabb.

Rabb said that the man’s intimidating behavior panicked parents causing them to hustle children who were there to play baseball to safety after the man refused to leave.

“It got to the point where we took the kids and brought them into the dugout and the parents lined up in front of the dugout,” Rabb said.

Yeah, well, maybe the parents should have had their own guns, and have armed their kids, heavily, because there’s not much anyone can do about this now:

After deputies arrived, they questioned the man who produced a permit for the handgun. According to authorities, since the man made no verbal threats or gestures, they couldn’t arrest him or ask him to leave.

There you have it, and Heather Parton adds this:

The police did say they thought his behavior was “inappropriate”, so there’s that.

The upshot is that if parents want to protect their kids from some asshole who is waving a gun around, they can’t use the park when he’s there. He has the gun. He doesn’t need to make threats. Nobody sane with kids would confront him back, armed or not. Therefore, he owns the park.

And Cliven Bundy – because nearly every white supremacist militia group in America sent large groups of heavily armed members in body armor to point their assault rifles at the guys from the Bureau of Land Management – owns that federal land where his cattle graze, by default. The federal government backed down. They didn’t want a shoot-out, as in the Georgia day in the park, where those parents took their kids and moved them into the dugout and lined up in front, so if someone was going to get shot it wouldn’t be their kids. It’s called freedom. Ask Sarah Palin. Someone is coming for your pick-up truck too.

You remember Alice in that Wonderland story – she’s feeling bored while sitting on the riverbank, when she notices a talking, fully-clothed white rabbit, with a pocket watch, running by. He’s late, for a very important date, and puzzled, she follows that rabbit down that rabbit-hole, into a world where everything logical isn’t logical any longer. There’s a Mad Hatter too, and that not-too-bright Queen of Hearts who keeps shouting “Off with their Heads!” That tale’s Queen of Hearts, however, is not a Hockey Mom from Wasilla – but close enough. Maybe Mitt Romney is the Cheshire Cat. In the end, only the smile remains. That’s American politics now. Some metaphors work better than others, but this one will do.

So, who votes for these people? Go ask Alice.


About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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2 Responses to Down the Rabbit Hole

  1. SalvaVenia says:

    The best demcocracy money can buy …

  2. Rick says:

    I somehow find it a comfort to realize that, if those jihadists themselves were “in charge”, as Sarah Palin herself puts it, they would likely waterboard Sarah Palin. Maybe we should arrange for all these tough guys who believe in torture to get together somewhere and do it to each other.

    Yeah, I almost used that wonderful Georgia park gun story in one of my comments the other day, but decided against it. What can the rest of us do, just move out of the state? I’m pretty sure that’s precisely what the gun people want us to do. And after there’s nothing but gunmen left here, they can vote to secede, and then what should we do?

    Maybe we should just let ’em.


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