Thursday ReadsPosted: December 9, 2010
If you’ve read some of my threads for some time, you know that I am fascinated by the right wing meme that Obama is some kind of Marxist or Socialist or secret Muslim when it is pretty clear that he is aligned with major corporations promoting monopoly. It is very much in the interests of corporations promoting monopoly to convince people that their enemies are immigrant workers, Raj in Bangalore, or the poor minority family down the street that needs assistance. It takes every one’s minds off the real issues and the true targets.
Even under Free Trade agreements, the government doesn’t have to provide tax incentives and deductions to corporations that make vertical production moves to poor countries feasible and profitable. Even with assistance to the poor and elderly, that doesn’t mean that the government can’t provide good roads, translucence and oversight to the operations of markets, and ensure job conditions where every one is safe and can earn a working wage. Large corporations and power interests thrive on selling the idea of a zero sum game or a pie that is only so big. The U.S. pie is pretty big right now, although finite at any point in time. It grows with technology and better use of resources. The biggest pieces of the pie–our national income–are not going to Raj in Bangalore, the family needing assistance down the street, the elderly couple surviving on social security, or the immigrants who come to the United States looking for jobs in the worst of situations. We are all in the same wobbly, leaky boat. We exist in a boat with those who are trying to survive on wages that never keep up with costs and with continual fear of job loss and illness that will cost everything. The rich don’t really have that fear. The anxiety of having to live with a car that’s more than a few years old or a less exotic vacation is not a real fear. It’s neuroses. Those folks don’t want us in their boats. They want us all crammed into the wobbly, leaking boat feeling so insecure that we consider tossing our neighbor overboard to the sharks.
Okay, so it’s a reads link, and where am I going with this at a time when you’re still probably drinking your first cup of coffee? My new issue of Vanity Fair came last night. I got to thinking more and more about those people that want to egg us into tossing our neighbors to the sharks.
Now, I know all the issues people can have with Christopher Hitchens but despite these, his latest in VF is a must read. Unfortunately, it’s not out there on line so you may have to find the print edition. His latest diatribe is on the Tea Party and Glenn Beck raises the specter of an organization that has always represented some of the worst of the American conservative movement; The John Birch Society. The JBS is so despicable that William F. Buckley Jr. spent a large amount of time trying to get them out of the Republican Party back in the day. There is really very little left of the ‘intellectual’–if you can call it that–side of that conservative movement ushered in by Buckley and the JBS has moved back in to fill the void. They do so in their worst form. This is typed in from my print edition of VF.
“So, Beck’s “9/12 Project” is canalizing old racist and clerical toxic-waste material that a healthy society had mostly flushed out of its system more than a generation ago, and injecting in right back in again. Things that had hidden under stones are being dug up and re-released. And why? So as to teach us a new about the dangers of “spending and deficits”? It’s enough to make a cat laugh. No, a whole new audience has been created, including many impressionable young people, for ideas that are viciously anti-democratic and a historical. The full effect of this will be felt farther down the road, where we will need it even less.
Hitchens spends quite some time going over some of the things that point to a resurgence of the JBS including the absolutely lunatic notion that Bill and Hillary Clinton had anything to do with Vince Foster’s death. You may recall that Hitchens is no fan of the Clintons.
Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and the Tea Party are the ideological descendants of Robert Welch who denounced President Eisenhower as a “dedicated, conscious agent” of Communism. Now, we’re getting the same filth but it’s about President Obama. They did try it with President Clinton but it didn’t settle in then. For some reason, it’s taking with President Obama. There are racial dynamics at play here, there are the dynamics of his absentee sperm donor, and there are dynamics that make demagoguery more possible because of the bad economy. My fear is that these people–as well as the nutjobs in ‘The Family’–would love to see things worsen because it would justify more and more of their fascist ways as well as hand them more profits. That we have a President that seems to play into their hands–while at the same time is used as a symbol of everything they feel is wrong with American–is just a cruel irony. These conversations and labels would go away if Obama would change parties.
So, the worst read to suggest today is one that Glenn Beck suggests and has made the top item at Amazon. You probably don’t need to read the book. But google some of the excerpts available in studies and on the web. Hitchens calls this book a “demented screed”. This is exactly why we must be aware of it and what it suggests. The book is by W. Cleon Skousen and it is called The Five Thousand Year Leap. Skousen’s other book is called Naked Communism. His views were so radical and so out there, that the JBS and many others kept him at a safe distance. However, his theoretical based world view attracted Tim LaHaye in the 1980s. He planted enough seeds that they’ve taken root and grown. Skousen wrote things that were beyond inflammatory. He too thought Eisenhower was a communist agent.
“In The Naked Communist, a lengthy primer published in 1958, Skousen enlivened a survey of the worldwide leftist threat with outlandish claims, writing that F.D.R.’s adviser Harry Hopkins had treasonously delivered to the Soviets a large supply of uranium, and that the Russians built the first Sputnik with plans stolen from the United States. A year before Richard Condon’s novel The Manchurian Candidate appeared, Skousen announced that the Communists were creating ‘a regimented breed of Pavlovian men whose minds could be triggered into immediate action by signals from their masters’ … A later book, The Naked Capitalist, decried the Ivy League Establishment, who, through the Federal Reserve, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Rockefeller Foundation, formed ‘the world’s secret power structure.’ The conspiracy had begun, Skousen wrote, when reformers like the wealthy banker Edward M. House, a close adviser to President Woodrow Wilson, helped put into place the Federal Reserve and the graduated income tax … In 1981, he produced The 5,000 Year Leap, a treatise that assembles selective quotations and groundless assertions to claim that the U.S. Constitution is rooted not in the Enlightenment but in the Bible, and that the framers believed in minimal central government.”
Notice that a progressive income tax and the Federal Reserve are at the heart of his radical attacks. It is not the least coincidental that Beck recommends this book and the Tea Party voices these opinions.
[MABlue update: Hitchen’s article has now been uploaded. You can read it here.]
On a side note, that Princeton historian Sean Wilentz wrote an article calling George W. Bush the “The Worst President in History’ for the Rolling Stone and was an outspoken Hillary supporter in 2008. You can read the Rolling Stone article at Truth Out. But to our main point, Dr. Wilentz was featured in an npr story in October talking about the parallels between the extremism in the 1950s and Beck’s 9/12 movement. He sees the JBS as an active component.
Wilentz, who teaches at Princeton University, argues that the rhetoric expressed by both conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck and the Tea Party is nothing new — and is rooted in an extremist ideology that has been around since the Cold War, a view that the Republican Party is now embracing.
“I think what’s happening is the Republican Party is willing to chase after whatever it can to get the party back — to get power back,” he tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “This is what’s happening in the Republican Party, so instead of drawing lines, they’re jumping over fences to look like they’re in the good graces of these Tea Party types.”
Wilentz says Beck, who has emerged as a unifying figure and intellectual guide for the Tea Party movement, finds fodder for his Fox News Channel and syndicated radio shows in the ideas espoused by the John Birch Society, an ultraconservative political group founded in 1958 that, Wilentz writes, “became synonymous with right-wing extremism.
“It’s a version of history that demonizes the progressive era, particularly Woodrow Wilson,” Wilentz says. “It sees it as the beginning of America’s going down the road to totalitarianism, which ends in Beck’s version with Barack Obama.”
Particularly troublesome, Wilentz says, are the gross historical inaccuracies Beck makes on his Fox show, which now reaches more than 2 million people each day.
This interview also highlights some of the historical inaccuracies made by Beck on his show. Much of what the movement does is rewrite history and Beck is a master of making it up as he goes along. Most revisions are very frightening and many people actually believe them. I’m going to reference the JBS example. BTW, the John Birch Society is very much functional and has a presence on the web. you can find them here.
On the John Birch Society
“The John Birch Society was founded in 1958 at a meeting in Indianapolis in which Robert Welch presided for a couple of days and read his manifesto of what’s going wrong [in America]. … The idea was the John Birch Society was going to influence local politics. They saw the country as having been taken over by the totalitarianists — by the communists. So they were going to try and undo that. And Welch says in the Blue Book, ‘You know, it hasn’t come to a military conflict quite yet. We don’t have to overthrow these guys with a violent revolution.’ So there’s still a possibility for political action. And that’s what the John Birch Society was devoted to: education and political action so that their people would get involved in local politics so the right people and the correct people would get elected to the school board, which was very important in deciding what kinds of books students would be reading in public schools. They wanted to make sure that the right kinds of people were running and getting elected. … Somewhere by the early ’60s, it was estimated that they had as many as 100,000 members around the country but many, many more sympathizers.”
On the John Birch Society and racism
“The John Birch Society wanted to have nothing to do with segregation, wanted nothing to do with any of that as an expression of white supremacy. However, they did oppose all of the civil rights laws because they saw it as an overleaning federal government taking control of people’s lives, of overstepping its boundaries. So they opposed all of that.”
Beck is the public voice and face of a movement to make the JBS and its horrible views palatable and there is no Bill Buckley to fight them in the Republican Party. Many of the Republican Party are welcoming these folks which should give us all pause. ABC’s The Note had an article on the participation by the JBS in 2010 as a co-sponsor of CPAC. This is from February 19, 2010.
According to Ian Walters, a spokesman for CPAC, it’s the first time the John Birch Society has sponsored the conference. That’s not surprising, considering that the Birch Society has long been considered wacky and extreme by conservative leaders.
William F. Buckley famously denounced the John Birch Society and its founder Robert Welch in the early 1960s as “idiotic” and “paranoid. ” Buckley’s condemnation effectively banishing the group from the mainstream conservative movement. Welch had called President Dwight D. Eisenhower a “conscious, dedicated agent of the communist conspiracy” and that the U.S. government was “under operational control of the Communist party.” Buckley argued that such paranoid rantings had no place in the conservative movement or the Republican party.
However, Beck and others have brought them back like some kind of 1950s movie zombies. Remember this group feels that civil right legislation is inspired by communism. One of their first publications was a call to get the US out of the UN. They also wants to abolish the income tax and the Federal Reserve. Are any of these calls sounding remotely familiar to you? Here’s more information from Source Watch. PublicEye.org also has some of the more outrageously antisemitic and racist views held by members of JBS. When these things come to light, JBS purges their public faces, but the antisemitism and the racism remain.
These people are undoubtedly back in the Republican party and have sympathizers in the ranks of elected officials like Jon Kyl and Rand Paul. Many of the things you read in the JBS list of goals are the things you hear from the lips of Tea Party and Beck aficionados. The roots of those nutty conversations about taking up arms and revolution are easy to find in the writings of Welsh and Skousen. They are also heard daily on the Beck show and they are spouted at rallies by populist right wing icons like Huckabee and Palin. We should not be condemned to repeat this part of our past, please. You can only imagine how evil they are if Bill Buckley felt they were worth purging.
In more current news, if you’ve been watching MSNBC at all, you know that both Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann have taken on the Obama Tax compromise. Have all the MSNBC anchors lost that loving feeling?
Michael Bloomberg announced that he had no interest in running for President in 2012. He did urge policy makers to take more centrist approaches.
This week we will undoubtedly have live links up following the votes on the Tax cuts/Unemployment extension, DADT, and the Dream Act. The President is begging liberal democrats to ‘not topple the economy’ by rejecting his deal with McConnell. That alone should be an interesting kabuki today.
Democrats promised to alter the “Deal” before agreeing to it. I don’t know if they have done so, but I just saw this:
Democrats in Senate warming to tax deal
Senate leaders are planning to begin debate on a far-reaching tax package as soon as Thursday as rank-and-file Democrats warm to an agreement between the White House and Republicans to extend a host of expiring tax cuts and pump fresh cash into the economy.
Democrats were still angry Wednesday about what they viewed as President Obama’s capitulation to GOP demands to preserve tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, particularly a deal to exempt estates worth as much as $10 million from a revived inheritance tax. But lawmakers said the magnitude of the concessions Obama won came into sharper focus Wednesday as the White House highlighted independent forecasts predicting that the package could create as many as 2.2 million jobs next year.
What does that mean? They didn’t understand “The Deal” the first time around?
Are we about to execute an innocent man (again)? These type of stories are the main reason I’m (speaking for me only) against the death penalty.
Framed for Murder?
“California may be about to execute an innocent man.”
That’s the view of five federal judges in a case involving Kevin Cooper, a black man in California who faces lethal injection next year for supposedly murdering a white family. The judges argue compellingly that he was framed by police.
Mr. Cooper’s impending execution is so outrageous that it has produced a mutiny among these federal circuit court judges, distinguished jurists just one notch below the United States Supreme Court. But the judicial process has run out for Mr. Cooper. Now it’s up to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to decide whether to commute Mr. Cooper’s sentence before leaving office.
Is corruption more preponderant in Louisiana? Kat, what’s up with that?
Senate, for Just the 8th Time, Votes to Oust a Federal Judge
The Senate on Wednesday found Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. of Federal District Court in Louisiana guilty on four articles of impeachment and removed him from the bench, the first time the Senate has ousted a federal judge in more than two decades.
Judge Porteous, the eighth federal judge to be removed from office in this manner, was impeached by the House in March on four articles stemming from charges that he received cash and favors from lawyers who had dealings in his court, used a false name to elude creditors and intentionally misled the Senate during his confirmation proceedings.