Lessons for Losers

There was an NBA playoff game on the television in the other room. The Boston Celtics were playing the Cleveland Cavaliers, and that’s always disconcerting for a former English teacher. Those guys from Boston didn’t look Irish, and none of them would be quoting Yeats in the post-game interviews. They weren’t Celtic, and it seems odd that those guys from Cleveland call themselves the Cavaliers. As everyone knows – well, not everyone – the Cavaliers were those overdressed pompous English fellows who were appalled when Charles I was beheaded in 1649, who then undermined Oliver Cromwell in not very nice ways when Cromwell ran England as a sort of parliamentary democracy for a decade, without any king at all, and then cheered when, after Cromwell died in 1658, Parliament invited the former king’s son to come back from France and become Charles II of England – which he became, two years later. The Cavaliers could have been humble lost-cause royalist heroes fighting mob rule – some do see them that way – many a sports team in the South here call themselves the Cavaliers – but the original Cavaliers sneered and made trouble and were generally considered assholes. And the big white plume each wore on his hat was really irritating. That was the original in-your-face I’m-better-than you fashion statement, and quite foppish too, and now, when we say someone has a “cavalier attitude” we’re insulting them. We’re saying that they’re snidely dismissing what’s actually important, that they just don’t get it. (The South did not win the Civil War.) And they probably dress funny too. Why name a Cleveland basketball team after those guys?

Who knows? As for the basketball game, that wasn’t much. Boston was outclassed, so they were doing what they could to keep in the big game that they had pretty much already lost. They made trouble – hard fouls, a lot of mouthing off, picking fights – hoping to unsettle the guys from Cleveland, on the off chance the guys from Cleveland would get upset and make a series of stupid mistakes. When you’ve already lost, that’s the best gambit. Make trouble. Be outrageous. Maybe the other guys will get flustered and you’ll have a slim chance of winning, and a slim chance of winning is still a chance. Be an asshole. That might work.

That didn’t work for the Celtics. They still lost, but that doesn’t invalidate the strategy. When you’ve pretty much lost, make as much trouble as possible. Anything could happen, and that may be a political strategy too, for Republicans, because on one issue they’ve already lost. Everyone knows that. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that six in ten Americans support same-sex marriage and support the idea that “individual states should not be allowed to define marriage as only between a man and a woman” no matter who says what about states’ rights:

The Post-ABC poll finds 61 percent of Americans support allowing gays to marry and 35 percent are opposed. Support is up only slightly from last year but is a reversal from public sentiment a decade ago, when opponents outnumbered supporters 58 percent to 39 percent.

In the short and long run, support for same-sex marriage has grown significantly across demographic and political groups.

Among those under age 30, support has grown since 2005 from 57 percent to 78 percent. Among those 65 and over, it has increased from 18 percent to 46 percent.

This battle is over, although six in ten Republicans still oppose allowing gay couples to marry, and seventy-one percent of “conservative” Republicans most certainly do. These folks have detached themselves from the rest us, and now all that’s left for them is making as much trouble as possible and hoping for the best, although that might not fly in the general election, as Ted Cruz knows:

At an event in Manhattan Wednesday night hosted by a pair of high-profile gay hoteliers, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said that he would have no problem if one of his daughters said she was gay. The comment, by Cruz and reported by The New York Times on Thursday, is something of a shift for the staunchly-conservative Republican presidential candidate who has said he considers marriage as between a man and a woman and “ordained by god.”

Cruz made the comment at the Central Park South penthouse of Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass, business partners who had once been a couple. “Ted Cruz said ‘If one of my daughters was gay, I would love them just as much,'” Reisner said of Cruz’s comments in front of the group of about a dozen. According to Reisner, Cruz also said that he thought gay marriage should be a decision made at the state level.

Cruz’s gay-friendly remarks were a change in tone from his recent criticisms of those who opposed a recent anti-gay bill in Indiana. That bill would have allowed businesses to refuse service to same-sex individuals based on the owners’ religious preferences. Cruz said a “jihad” had been waged in Indiana and in Arkansas, over a similar bill, against “people of faith who respect that the biblical-teaching is the union of one man and one woman.”

Something is up, and Digby (Heather Parton) thinks it’s this:

I get why some rich gay people would be Republicans. They are clearly rich first and gay second. But why any of them would support a nutcase like Ted Cruz is beyond me.

Cruz, of course, is just saying whatever he needs to say in the moment in hopes of landing a billionaire or two. Every candidate in this post-Citizens-United world will need at least one in his pocket. (That’s what we call “the donor primary”.) It’s not a problem for someone like Ted Cruz to do this, however, because his voters all know that he really truly hates gay people and they are happy for him to take their money to use against them. Now if he starts talking in public about gay rights, they’ll have something to say about it. For now though I’d suspect they figure he’s being pretty savvy.

This has to do with money. Cruz is being careful.

Cruz doesn’t want to make trouble, but Bobby Jindal does. Jindal seems to want to be the Christian Right candidate for president in 2016, so he’ll pick a fight to see if he can fluster anyone. That’s what he just did in a New York Times op-ed that hits hard at corporate opposition to “religious liberty” legislation like the bill he’s pushing for his state:

Our country was founded on the principle of religious liberty, enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Why shouldn’t an individual or business have the right to cite, in a court proceeding, religious liberty as a reason for not participating in a same-sex marriage ceremony that violates a sincerely held religious belief?

That is what Indiana and Arkansas sought to do. That political leaders in both states quickly cowered amid the shrieks of big business and the radical left should alarm us all.

As the fight for religious liberty moves to Louisiana, I have a clear message for any corporation that contemplates bullying our state: Save your breath.

He’s putting corporate America on notice:

Some corporations have already contacted me and asked me to oppose this law. I am certain that other companies, under pressure from radical liberals, will do the same. They are free to voice their opinions, but they will not deter me.

Ed Kilgore thinks he’s nuts:

So Jindal’s willing to sacrifice some convention business – kinda important to New Orleans, a gay-friendly, tourism-dependent city Bobby’s willing to completely betray – and maybe the kind of corporate “investment” decisions Republican governors normally think of as the sum total of “economic development” on the altar of his commitment to those who would carve out a separate little paradise for themselves where laws contradicting “biblical principles” as understood by cultural conservatives need not be acknowledged. But he’s implicitly going beyond that selfish cost-benefit calculation and threatening job-creators that they’re going to lose the support of The Faithful for their own interests if they consort with secular-socialists on the Christian Right’s agenda.

That may be what Jindal actually said:

If we, as conservatives, are to succeed in advancing the cause of freedom and free enterprise, the business community must stand shoulder to shoulder with those fighting for religious liberty. The left-wing ideologues who oppose religious freedom are the same ones who seek to tax and regulate businesses out of existence. The same people who think that profit making is vulgar believe that religiosity is folly. The fight against this misguided, government-dictating ideology is one fight, not two. Conservative leaders cannot sit idly by and allow large corporations to rip our coalition in half…

Those who believe in freedom must stick together: If it’s not freedom for all, it’s not freedom at all. This strategy requires populist social conservatives to ally with the business community on economic matters and corporate titans to side with social conservatives on cultural matters. This is the grand bargain that makes freedom’s defense possible.

Kilgore:

And if “corporate titans” don’t respect the “grand bargain,” then Bobby will see you in Hell, money-changers!

Katie McDonough at Salon is more specific:

The company Jindal is referring to here is IBM, which wrote to his administration earlier this month objecting to the Marriage and Conscience Act. According to the statement from senior state executive James M. Driesse, “IBM has made significant investments in Louisiana including most recently a technology services delivery center in Baton Rouge, creating new jobs for Louisiana workers. We located the center in Baton Rouge because we believe Louisiana has great talent and would continue to be a rich source of such talent.”

That sounds plenty altruistic, but it’s not the full story. The reality is that Louisiana has actually made significant investments in IBM, as has Baton Rouge. The complex where IBM set up shop was funded with $30.5 million from the state and local government, according to a report from the Advocate. The public also subsidized its hiring, recruitment and relocation costs to the tune of $1.5 million.

A state audit released in 2014 found that Louisiana “gave away” 55 percent of its corporate tax revenues, while higher education, retirement and essential services ran on fumes. The state gave up about $3 billion in taxes to attract companies to Louisiana, according to a report from Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera.

“I’m not the policy guy, but you need to understand the full impact of what we are doing,” he told the Advocate.

McDonough sees IBM being as nasty as Jindal here:

IBM can talk a good game about its corporate values, but the same lawmakers who support policies that subsidize corporations at the expense of education, healthcare and infrastructure also back the kind of blatant anti-LGBTQ discrimination that can make those same corporations a little nervous from a brand standpoint. (It might make us feel good – and even apply useful political pressure – when companies take a stand against explicit bigotry, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves about corporations as a force for justice.)

Jindal, it seems, wants these corporations to acknowledge the relationship between bigotry and unfettered capitalism…

This is not the grand bargain that makes freedom’s defense possible, this is the grand bargain that makes corporations very wealthy and marginalizes the rights of LGBTQ citizens. Jindal is pulling a bizarre political stunt to remind voters of his anti-LGBTQ bona fides, but his editorial is also a necessary reminder of how corporations taking selective public positions against LGBTQ discrimination aren’t really fighting for justice. They are fighting for their bottom line – though that may occasionally look a little something like progress.

It is progress, or isn’t, but John Cole points out something else:

Louisiana, after Jindal made the largest tax cuts in history, kinda had no plan for revenue streams to keep the government funded. As such, the state is in a fiscal crisis.

That seems to explain this:

LSU and many other public colleges in Louisiana might be forced to file for financial exigency, essentially academic bankruptcy, if state higher education funding doesn’t soon take a turn for the better.

Louisiana’s flagship university began putting together the paperwork for declaring financial exigency this week when the Legislature appeared to make little progress on finding a state budget solution, according to F. King Alexander, president and chancellor of LSU.

“We don’t say that to scare people,” he said. “Basically, it is how we are going to survive.”

Moody’s Investors Service also announced this month that it was lowering LSU’s credit outlook from positive to stable based on concerns about the university’s overall financial support. The lowering of LSU’s credit rating makes it more likely the university will have to pay more for its building projects in the future.

Being in a state of financial exigency means a university’s funding situation is so difficult that the viability of the entire institution is threatened. The status makes it easier for public colleges to shut down programs and lay off tenured faculty, but it also tarnishes the school’s reputation, making it harder to recruit faculty and students.

Cole:

That would basically be the death of public universities in Louisiana, because no one in their right mind would apply to go and fewer would apply to work there. So in the long run, it may not be just the fact that Louisiana is a haven for bigots driving business out of the state, but the fact that there are no research institutions working in union with business, but also because there will be no educated workers in the state to handle the jobs businesses will have. And qualified personnel aren’t going to relocate to some remote bigoted outpost.

So yeah, Jindal, have at it. Enjoy the complimentary education you’re about to get from the free market, you backwoods hick.

Yeah, this doesn’t seem like a winning strategy, but when you’ve already pretty much lost the game, pick a fight. Who knows what will happen? But don’t expect much.

The other alternative is to change the rules. That’s why Steve King, the clever congressman from Iowa, just issued a press release announcing a new proposal regarding marriage equality:

Congressman Steve King released the following statement after introducing his bill “Restrain the Judges on Marriage Act of 2015.” This bill strips federal courts of jurisdiction to hear cases related to marriage. The effect of the bill would prevent federal courts from hearing marriage cases, leaving the issue to the States where it properly belongs. …

“My bill strips Article III courts of jurisdiction and the Supreme Court of appellate jurisdiction ‘to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, any type of marriage.'”

Steve Benen notes the issues with that:

The “Restrain the Judges on Marriage Act” has already picked up seven House co-sponsors – all of them Republican – including some familiar names like Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), and Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.). And that’s a shame because, even by 2015 standards, this idea is just bonkers.

This came up a couple of weeks ago when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), soon after launching his presidential campaign, told an Iowa audience “he would prod Congress to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over the [marriage] issue, a rarely invoked legislative tool.”

It’s “rarely invoked” because the approach – known as “court-stripping” or “jurisdiction-stripping” – is so radical, it’s just too bizarre for most policymakers to even consider.

It comes down to this:

The idea isn’t complicated: under this scheme, Congress would pass a federal law effectively telling the courts, “We’ve identified a part of the law that judges are no longer allowed to consider.”

Let’s say you live in a state with a law that discriminates against same-sex couples. You decide to challenge the constitutionality of the law, get an attorney, and go to court. Under Steve King’s bill, the judge would have no choice but to ignore the case – the courts would have no legal authority to even review lawsuits related to marriage equality because congressional Republicans say so.

That makes no sense:

Whatever one thinks of marriage equality, court-stripping is itself ridiculous. The constitutional principles of “separation of powers” hasn’t disappeared just yet, so the idea that the legislative branch will dictate to the courts what kind of cases judges are allowed to hear is more than a little crazy – it undermines the very idea of an independent judiciary. And it sure as heck isn’t “constitutional conservatism.” Indeed, it’s effectively the congressional version of “legislating from the bench” – King and his cohorts want to adjudicate from the legislature.

This, however, is just making trouble when you’ve already lost:

Back in the 1980s, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) repeatedly tried to prevent federal courts from hearing cases related to school prayer. About a decade ago, Sam Brownback and Todd Akin (remember him?) worked on similar measures related to the Pledge of Allegiance. Now, a handful of House Republicans are dipping their feet in the same radical waters.

As a matter of history, Congress has never actually passed a court-stripping scheme – we can only speculate about the constitutional crisis it would invite – and even if the GOP-led House tried to pursue this idea in 2015, there’s simply no way it’d overcome a Democratic filibuster in the Senate or get President Obama’s signature.

But the fact that several members of Congress are pushing such a proposal – all while Ted Cruz expresses interest in the same idea – speaks to an ugly strain of radicalism among Republican lawmakers.

It also speaks to desperation. They’ve already lost on this issue, and a lively voice on the right, Scott Lively, argues that the only way to stop the legalization of gay marriage is to form an “angry mob” that will take to “the streets, pitchforks and torches held aloft, ready to tear down Frankenstein’s castle with their bare hands if need be.”

“The only way to deter the elites is with the threat of the mob” – that’s what Lively writes in a piece posted on BarbWire and WorldNetDaily – “They need to see the pitchforks and torches to know they’ve gone too far and need to back down. That’s where we are today in America. The elites want to eliminate the natural family to create a better class of serfs: state-bred children for the factories and the battlefield – easier to control, dulled by drugs and sexual promiscuity … and bread and circuses.”

It is a bit unclear where Scott Lively will find this mob, but when you’re losing, you get creative, and disruptive. Be an asshole. That might work.

It might not. Actually that never works. There’s no good advice for losers, other than to move on.

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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 Lessons for Losers

  1. Doubting Thomas says:

    Poor Bobby Jindal. If he wasn’t so pathetic, he’d be funny in his naked ambition and add to the gaiety of the nation (pun intended).

  2. Rick says:

    What this country really needs right now is for Bobby Jindal and Sam Brownbeck and Scott Walker to all go down in a spectacular ball of flames that can be seen from space, but it needs to happen in such a way that it is obvious and undeniable to all of humanity that it was all because of their self-destructive third-world economic policies. The idea that people still take their voodoo seriously in the 21st century is so bizarre, it’s anachronistic.

    And speaking of politicians and bullshit:

    Cruz said a “jihad” had been waged in Indiana and in Arkansas, over a similar bill, against “people of faith who respect that the biblical-teaching is the union of one man and one woman.”

    I still don’t understand where in the Bible it is allegedly taught that marriage is “the union of one man and one woman”? Okay, yes, these people sometimes quote things like this, from Genesis 2:22-24 (New International Version):

    Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

    The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

    But it’s a bit of a stretch from there to marriage being “the union of one man and one woman”. You want to see where in the Bible this subject is actually referenced? Look up King David, who had eight wives!

    But you think eight wives is too many? Hey, David was a piker, at least compared to his son, King Solomon, who, according to 1 Kings 11:3, had about 700 wives! And that doesn’t include his concubines, which numbered about 300!

    Sure enough, more people should pay attention to and respect what the Bible teaches us about marriage.

    Rick

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