Colbert, Stewart, and Super PACS

If you haven’t seen the Colbert/Stewart Better Tomorrow Tomorrow Super PAC aka The Definitely Not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super PAC ad yet, take a look.  Here is the link on the Colbert Report website:  http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/405930/january-15-2012/colbert-super-pac-ad—attack-in-b-minor-for-strings?xrs=share_copy

Notice that it is called the Attack in B Minor for Strings and features the voice of John Lithgow.

You may recall that Stephen Colbert handed over his PAC to Jon Stewart in a live ceremony in the presence of a lawyer explaining the rules after Citizens United.  As the New York Times wrote

Mr. Colbert has used his PAC — called either “Americans for a Better Tomorrow Tomorrow” or “The Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert Super PAC” — to mock the loopholes in the nation’s campaign finance system. Last week he announced he was handing over control of the PAC to his fellow Comedy Central host Jon Stewart so he could run for “president of the United States of South Carolina” without legal complications. A super PAC is not supposed to coordinate with the campaign it is supporting.

In a statement announcing the ad’s debut on Sunday, Mr. Stewart said, “Mitt Romney claims to be pro-corporations. But would you let him date your daughter’s corporation?”

A few days ago, I wrote about Citizens United and three approaches to overturning the decision.  We can add this as a fourth.

Colbert 2008 Shirt from the last election.

 

Leslie Savin writes in The Nation about his appearance on This Week with George Stephanopolus.

You know how hard it is to give away your baby?” Colbert bemoaned  on This Weekwith George Stephanopolus on Sunday. “Now imagine if that baby had a lot of money.”

It is clear that Colbert knows how to talk like a candidate, specifically a certain front-runner. “Excuse me, George, I was talking,” he said at one point, and of the PAC ad in question, he claimed, “I have not seen this ad.” Colbert also took umbrage whenever Stephanopoulos referred to his “campaign” for president, explaining that he is not “campaigning” but forming an “exploratory committee.” “I’m a one-man Lewis and Clark.”

Explorer Stephen, of course, wholeheartedly believes that corporations are people, but when Stephanopoulos wouldn’t agree, Colbert went further than Mitt or even Newt would dare: “You won’t weigh in on whether some people are people? That’s seems kind of racist, George.”

As for the ad’s controversial contention, Colbert said, “I don’t know if Mitt Romney is a serial killer. That’s a question he’s going to have to answer.”

Do you think any of the Supremes thinks this is funny?  Will it help them think of a graceful way they can get us out of this mess they have gotten us into?  This is more than Pat Paulson running for President.  This is serious business.

Being Liberal or not being Glenn Beck

Being a bit behind in my reading (as always), I picked up The Nation from November 22 a few days ago to read Patricia Williams’ column, Veritas-iness and the American Way.  This started a train of thought about education, reading, why so many followers of popular conservatives are uneducated and how much of a threat this is to the American experiment. It also got me thinking about why being liberal became a bad thing.  Somewhere in recent history “liberals” became “progressives”.

According to my 11th Edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, the first definition of liberal is related to education, “of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts”.  The archaic meaning if “of or befitting a man of free birth”.  More current meanings include “marked by generosity” and “broad-minded esp: not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms.”  The entry goes on to explain “Liberal suggests openhandedness in the giver and largeness in the thing or amount given…”  From these meanings the political philosophy of liberalism was born.  Liberalism being defined as “a political philosophy based on a belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties.”  On the other hand, a conservative is defined as “tending to disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions.”  Conservatism is “a disposition in politics to preserve what is established.”

Conservative and liberal.  These are two tensions that should complement each other.  But liberal has become synonymous for the over education elite who want to move away from the traditions of our Founders and the True Meaning of the Constitution. (my caps)  Is this because somehow our education system has failed?

Patricia Williams points out

Sadly, American education has suffered a miserable decline since those days.[when she went to public schools] According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, we are fifteenth in reading literacy, twenty-first in science literacy and twenty-fifth in math literacy. This slide was largely accomplished by a calculated disinvestment in public education that began with the anti-tax movement of the late 1970s. California, where that movement began with a series of ballot initiatives, had one of the best school systems in the world. It now ranks almost dead last here, just above Mississippi.

There’s a curious tension in politics between the popular hunger for better schooling and widespread resentment of those who actually find it. Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin have built a movement around the felt dispossession of those who don’t read newspapers, whose spelling is nonstandard and who cite Shakespeare to “refudiate” book-learning. Beck, who sniffs that public schools should be abolished altogether, exploits this ambivalence brilliantly by establishing his online Beck University, whose basic courses are Faith 101, 102 and 103; Hope 101, 102 and 103; and Charity 101, 102 and 103. Yet Beck U. also has a coat of arms with a numbingly lofty motto: Tyrannis Seditio, Obsequium Deo.

Here is one of Beck’s diagrams copied from AlterNet.

Being one of the over-educated liberals, I find the diagram incoherent and the connections based on a lack of understanding.  Does Glenn Beck understand that George Soros who is the heart of the “obam a pocalypse” help finance movements to overthrow oppressive governments in Eastern Europe? Or that he grew up in Nazi occupied Hungary? So yes, he has a connection to Hitler, but not the kind Beck wants to imply.  And Ivan Jones? 

Williams describes the crowd at the Steward-Colbert rally this way

…While Stewart and Colbert expressly appealed to “the busy majority” of reasonable, middle-of-the-road, somewhat-stressed-but-not-given-to-hysterics people, the signs among the masses were deeply inflected by class consciousness and the national educational divide. Some were relatively subtle: Which Way to Whole Foods? and Anyone for Scrabble Later? Others more overtly referenced Beck’s Rally to Restore Honor: Every Word on This Sign Is Spelled Correctly; I &heart; Evidence-Based Policies; and my favorite: If You Don’t Believe in Government Perhaps You Shouldn’t Run for It.

This was a crowd that listens to NPR (Kiss Me, Nina Totenberg!). It was racially and ethnically diverse ( Fox Told Me I Am a Terrorist). Their humor was sophisticated ( I Clutch My Purse When I See Juan Williams Coming). It was a throng of New York Times readers who eat bagels and peruse the Book Review. They marched with Kindles in hand, and their Patagonia backpacks contained novels by Anna Quindlen and essay collections like David Rakoff’s Don’t Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil and Other First World Problems.

If this sounds like a litany of class markers, we need to remember that class and education are not necessary correlates. This was a population of very diverse Americans who equate political sanity with studiousness and curiosity. It was a gathering of people fluent in subtlety and satire, tolerance and tact; who saw similarity in differences and differences among the similar; who appreciated metaphors, analogical thinking and the discipline of data. This is the opposite of fundamentalism. And it ought to be the very essence of American identity, for we can have no broad civic culture without it. Unfortunately these critical capacities are also the hallmarks of a good liberal arts education, which is increasingly unavailable to any but the very well-off. (The State University of New York, Albany, just announced that it may eliminate its Latin, French, Italian, Russian and theater degree programs.)

Why bother with the nuances of analytical thought? Consider this—recently State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley tweeted: “Happy birthday President #Ahmadinejad. Celebrate by sending Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer home” and “Your 54th year was full of lost opportunities. Hope in your 55th year you will open #Iran to a different relationship with the world.” Sarah Palin tweeted back: “Happy B’day Ahmadinejad wish sent by US Govt. Mind boggling foreign policy: kowtow & coddle enemies; snub allies. Obama Doctrine is nonsense.” This is not merely a lack of irony; it is a form of illiteracy, the kind of flat, childish reading that grasps the basic meaning of each word but not what they mean together.

Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are frightening in their ignorance and I worry that the ignorance is spreading faster than we can stop it.  The problem in the United States today is not the divide between liberalism and conservative:  that tension has existed since the founding of the country.  The problem is the divide between those who can read and comprehend and those who can’t.  I am not talking here about the quality of the inner city elementary school, although that too is an issue, I am talking about people who are supposed to be educated and still can’t really read and when they do don’t understand what it is they read.  True conservatives should be just as worried about them as liberals like me.

Sarah’s Hand

Everyone is making fun of Sarah Palin’s crib notes written on her hand when she spoke last weekend at the Tea Party Convention.  But is this really a good idea?  Will it, as Howard Fineman has said, solidfy her support?  Or will it lower her credibility?

Sarah Palin

I guess I’m part of the “elite intellectuals” that Palin supporter love to hate, but I can’t resist repeating some of the Palin jokes.  These are from Daniel Kurtzman’s Political Humor Blog.

“Maybe Sarah Palin would be smarter if she had bigger hands.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“I started doing a little something that is mighty helpful. When I come out here to tell the jokes, I have them all written in the palm of my hand.” –David Letterman

“On Saturday, Sarah Palin looked at notes written on her hand during a speech at the Tea Party Convention in Tennessee. Isn’t that wild? Oddly enough, she was reading, ‘Hi, I’m Sarah Palin.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“I wrote a few things down… eggs, milk and bread,” Gibbs said at a press briefing. “But I crossed out bread, just so I can make pancakes for Ethan if it snows. And then I wrote down ‘hope and change,’ just in case I forgot.”  [Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary]  Gibbs on tape.

And Jon Stewart.

Jon tStewart Mocks Palin Hand Notes

Hypocracy about marriage

It is 40 years now since the Stonewall Riots first brought gay and lesbian civil rights into the public spotlight.  People who are gay or lesbian still can marry only in New England (except for Rhode Island) and Iowa.  They can’t serve in the miliary if they are openly expressing their sexuality.  The issue of ordination of homosexuals is spliting the Methodist and Episcopal churches.  And it appears that those leaders who are most vocal about the scanctity of marriage being only between a man and a woman are the most likely to divorce and the most likely to be as Jon Stewart put it “…just another politician with a conservative mind and a liberal penis.”

This is the graphic from Charles M. Blow’s op ed in the New York Times on Mark Sanford.

Blow writes

Sanford voted to impeach Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky saga. According to The Post and Courier of Charleston, Sanford called Clinton’s behavior “reprehensible” and said, “I think it would be much better for the country and for him personally” to resign. “I come from the business side. … If you had a chairman or president in the business world facing these allegations, he’d be gone.” Remember that Mr. Sanford?

And this kind of hypocrisy isn’t confined to the politicians. It permeates the electorate. While conservatives fight to “defend” marriage from gays, they can’t keep theirs together. According to the Census Bureau’s Statistical Abstract, states that went Republican in November accounted for eight of the 10 states with the highest divorce rates in 2006.

Conservatives touted abstinence-only education, which was a flop, when real sex education was needed, most desperately in red states. According to 2006 data from the Guttmacher Institute, those red states accounted for eight of the 10 states with the highest teenage birthrates.

A little bragging here:  Massachusetts was the first to legalize gay marriage and we are at the bottom of the list in divorce and teen pregancy. 

So we need less hypocacry from the conservative camp and a lot more reality.  I really don’t think anyone, except the politician’s family, cares about them having an affair as long as other laws (Spitzer and Vitter engaging prostitutes which is still illegal or Ensign and potential conflict of interest) are not also broken.  But please, practice what you preach or shut-up and don’t interfere with legal abortions or birth control or with the right of homosexuals to get married. 

As Maureen Dowd put it

Sanford can be truly humble only if he stops dictating to others, who also have desires and weaknesses, how to behave in their private lives.

The Republican Party will never revive itself until its sanctimonious pantheon — Sanford, Gingrich, Limbaugh, Palin, Ensign, Vitter and hypocrites yet to be exposed — stop being two-faced.

Following up on Tea Parties

Here are some observations on the April 15 Tea Parties.  In all the news clips, I saw not a single person of color.  I think this is because they were basically anti-Obama demonstrations with more than a tinge of racism.  These demontrations were mostly not about taxes.  They were about how President Obama is not a citizen, was not legitimately elected, and will take away your Second Amendment rights. 

Then there is the question of attendance.  Nate Silver who has been tracking this at fivethirtyeight.com reports his final total to be more than 300,000.  He writes

 promised that I wasn’t going to put much more work into estimating crowd sizes for yesterday’s tea party events, but here is one last update. The important thing is that we now have a credible estimate for Atlanta at 15,000 persons; we were previously relying on an estimate of 7,000 that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution had initially made yesterday evening but then pulled back upon.

It’s not surprising that Atlanta had the largest turnout (in fact, the largest turnout by far, according to our collection of nonpartisan estimates). Turnout was much higher in state capitals than in other cities, and seems to have been much larger in the South than in other regions of the country. Atlanta, being by far the largest Southern state capital, therefore did very well.

His list ranges from the high point in Atlanta to 12 at the Fort Point, NY tea party.  300,000 is really not a lot of people when you think about it.  Maybe the rest of us should be glad of that.  As for the larger turnouts in the South,  I believe that Southern whites just cannot believe that a black man is really President.

So what exactly do the Republicans do with this Fox New movement?

Dan Baltz wrote in today’s Washington Post

The teabag protests that marked tax day on April 15 represent an opportunity and a risk for the Republican Party. Opportunity because they offer a jolt of energy for a battered party after two dismal elections. Risk because they supply at best only a partial answer to what ails the Republicans

For now standing back and saying no to Obama may be enough. But opposition to Obama’s policies represents an incomplete message for a party seeking to regain power. Republicans still must confront larger questions of how they can appeal nationally and how they would govern were they given the opportunity again.

Will the Republican Party try to use the issues of the Tea Parties to try to revive?  I don’t think that is the road back.  I hope and believe that Americans are beginning slowly to more past issues of race and gender.  Certainly the youngsters I see on the subway in Boston are often in mixed groups and couples are often interracial.  Maybe the race issue and the anti-Obamaism is why more people turned out in the South.  Plus we have that black president with very high approval ratings.  We will probably find out how tea parties work as a strategy when we know the results of the Kay Bailey Hutchinson v. Rick Perry (king of the Texas Tea Party) race for the Republican nomination for Texas governor.

Here are two final looks are the Tea Parties.  Tom Toles from the Washington Post

The Republicans should maybe remember Jim Jones.

And last but not least a link to Jon Stewart.

Cutting the Defense Budget

How do you tell someone their favorite defense program is no longer going to be funded?  Secretary Gates did it as well as anyone could have when he made his announcement earlier this week.  I think that will turn out to have been the easy part.

So what are people saying about his proposals?

From the Boston Globe  article titled “Deep Cuts, New Chances”

For the defense sector, which in recent years has posted big profits from a rapid run-up in military spending, the new focus was a mixed message. Big programs appear to be in jeopardy, but others may be built up under Gates’ plan.

“This budget represents an opportunity, one of those rare chances to match virtue to necessity, and ruthlessly separate appetites from real requirements,” Gates said of his $534 billion spending plan for the 2010 fiscal year.

Many defense stocks jumped Monday even as the broader market fell. Shares of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. each rose nearly 9 percent. Analysts said the big gains, which occurred as Gates made his early afternoon speech, were likely because the budget cuts were not as bad as some investors had anticipated.

The New York Times said the reaction was mixed

Members of Congress and advocates for the armed services pushed back on Tuesday against Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’s plans to pare billions of dollars from a variety of Pentagon weapons systems, but others said that the cuts were prudent and that fights over them would be limited to several leading programs.

Military analysts said the biggest lobbying campaigns would be focused on Mr. Gates’s proposed cutbacks in the F-22, the advanced stealth fighter that critics call a relic of the cold war, as well as his trimming of the Army’s $160 billion modernization project, called the Future Combat Systems.

Members of Congress from Georgia and Oklahoma, where the jet and the Army project mean jobs, promised a fight. The arguments, which were frequently directed by Republicans against one of their own — Mr. Gates, one of two Republicans in President Obama’s cabinet — were cast in terms of national security and moral responsibility.

But the best commentary is from Jon Stewart in a segment titled “Full Metal Budget”

The fight between regions, technologies and the future of the military has begun.