Sailing Away to Irrelevance, Epilogue: In Which the GOP is Finally and Inevitably Made Irrelevant

Two weeks ago, while almost no one was watching, Rick Santorum and the conservative media pulled off an historic, astounding and quite literal coup.  They did this with the tiniest of acts: organizing to kill US participation in a small and innocuous United Nations treaty.  The treaty itself was not historic; indeed, it was mind-numbingly mundane.  Vanquishing the treaty took no innovative political strategy; no seldom-used, arcane Senate Rule of Order was employed.  There existed no metaphorical Goliath that required their acting the part of a modern-day David. No, what made the victory so jaw-droppingly incredible was this:

By killing the UN treaty, both the conservative media and Rick Santorum’s lobbying group FreedomWorks officially made the Republican Party irrelevant.

Like many such U.N. actions, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is entirely symbolic. Its sole function is to recommend that Third World countries live up to the standards the industrialized world has set in regards to the treatment of people with disabilities.  In the United States we tend to think of disabled people as potentially vibrant and productive members of society.  In many Third World countries, however, prejudice, superstition and governments that prey on both ensure that the disabled have little access to any economic class save the most impoverished.  In many of these countries, the only care for the disabled comes from charity groups based in the United States and Europe.

The UN treaty does nothing but make a list of recommendations; it does not include any kind of enforcement mechanism.  (Also, the recommendations themselves are fairly tepid – the US has been doing each for decades.)  Several months ago, it was assumed by most that the bill to approve the treaty would pass unanimously. After all, there’s no real downside to the bill, it had no conceivable opponents, and it provided Washington pols with a fairly cheap, quick and effortless way to garner an “I Care!” photo-op.  When the final vote was tallied, however, Santorum’s lobbying firm and conservative pundits had succeeded in torpedoing any chance of the U.S. adding its voice to the recommendations.

There was some peripheral reporting in the mainstream media on the matter.  Some journalists focused on the politicians that walked back on promises they made to Bob Dole, the disabled vet and retired Republican Senator who championed the treaty.  Others tried to tie the treaty to Santorum’s own daughter, who is herself developmentally disabled and presumably would have liked the kind of opportunities she has in the US had she been born in, say, Somalia.  Most everyone who reported on the story, however, noted that everything Santorum and the conservative media outlets said about the treaty – everything – was a complete fiction.  (The story spun by Santorum and the conservative media borrowed heavily from a ratings-boosting lie from this past summer: the canard that President Obama and the U.N. were conspiring to take guns away from American citizens.  In this newer incarnation, signing the disability treaty would allow United Nations to come into the homes of Americans and force them to raise their children in certain unspecified but nefarious ways.) But as best I can tell, no one reported on the larger and far more important story, which is this:

There actually were two parties – and only two parties – that stood to gain from FreedomWork’s and the conservative media’s nixing of the treaty.  Those parties were FreedomWorks and the conservative media.

That makes this effort both incredibly unique and astoundingly troubling.

Our country’s history is full of potentially benign legislation being scuttled at the last minute by interested outsiders.  Prior to this, however, there has always been an active agenda behind the outside interference.  For example, a trade group that did not want its members to shoulder the expense of factory retrofits might lobby against and kill a “clean air” bill.  A Senator up for reelection might not want to be on record having voted for a tax increase, and might therefore vote to increase the deficit.  Threats from angry, traditionalist voters might force a Congressman to vote against a Congressional Declaration singing the praises of a deceased feminist leader.  Pick any effort by lobbying groups and media outlets to block a bill and you will find an active and invested agent behind them, cutting the checks and ringing the bells.

But the case of the UN disability treaty is an entirely different animal.  It has no discernible economic impact, good or bad, for any US corporation.  It does not fly in the face of any political philosophy – or at least any that resides here in the United States.  The message the treaty sends to the world – that other countries should aspire to be more like America – is a political winner, as is the ability for politicians to declare themselves champions of the disabled.  Had this bill passed, no one – no one – would have been a loser.  For Santorum and the conservative media, however, the question was not who would win or lose, but rather, how might they generate the most revenue?

Santorum used the lie of the UN coming to raise your child as a way to garner donations, and the media used the fake story as a way to boost ratings.  (And in the case of Glenn Beck, to hawk a newly released, ghostwritten thriller about the UN taking over the United States.) In the weeks leading up to the vote on the treaty, both FreedomWorks and the conservative media hit the airwaves and the blogosphere with a self-serving, full court press:  The conservative media machine referenced Santorum, urging its audience to donate to his lobbying firm; Santorum referenced the conservative media machine, asking his own followers to tune into their shows and buy their books. Neither was asked by anyone to provide evidence to back their wild, tall tales.  In the end, the GOP did what well-trained dogs do everywhere: it rolled over and it voted against the treaty.

The entire opposition to the UN treaty existed for no other reason than to create a cottage industry of opposing the UN treaty.  And given their increasing dependence on the media machine, the GOP had no choice but to acquiesce and put the profitability of that machine above its own political and policy interests.

Think about that for a moment.

What we witnessed this month with the UN Treaty isn’t a one-off outlier, it’s the natural and inevitable outcome of coupling the political success of a major US political party with the financial success of a shock-radio format media enterprise. And this development should be a huge concern for Republicans.  After all, the needs and desires of the media machine do not necessarily overlap with conservative ideals.  The debt-ceiling crisis from last summer resulted in a downgrading of this country’s credit rating, which is hardly a victory of conservative ideals.  However, it did feed the media machine with ratings and page view spikes.  Similarly, the preposterous story that the President was a Kenyan sleeper agent was not only inanely radical, it badly damaged the GOP brand at the exact place the GOP brand needs to be vibrant: the ballot box.  But party members were forced to either jump aboard the Crazy Train or at least limit themselves to coy winks toward the silliness, because birtherism was ratings gold for the conservative media.

Simply put, the GOP has put itself in a precarious position with its propaganda machine that the Democrats have thus far avoided.  The longer Republicans refuse to untangle themselves from conservative media, the more ineffective their party will become at the ballot box, as conservative ideals, attitudes and policies are shed for radical, populist rating-boosters.

This will not be an easy or painless endeavor.  Even though they’re just noticing the deep hole they’re in, they’ve actually been steadily digging this grave for the past two decades.

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In 1994, the Rev. Jerry Falwell was a man with both a deep-seated hatred for the President of the United States and $200,000 burning a hole in his pocket.  The new populist strain of social conservatism that he had helped develop in the Reagan years was still trying to break out of its role as the redheaded stepchild of the GOP, but it was growing rapidly and beginning to flex its burgeoning muscles.

Two years earlier, frustrated Reaganites sought a balm to soothe the sting of the upstart draft dodger who had won the White House, and the memory of the tax raising, Washington-elite, Republican Judas he vanquished.  The rapidly ascending world of conservative talk radio provided that relief, and more: in exchange for ratings it provided social conservatives with a populist grassroots machine that was beginning to claim victories in Washington. Carefully steering their angry audience, this new conservative media had been successful leveraging voters’ distrust of government into a scuttling of the President’s and First Lady’s attempt to enact universal healthcare.

What’s more, conservative shock jocks were able to take scandals that had long been considered “local interest” by the media and turn them into the Big National Story of the Month on their own shows. Better still, they were able to pick and choose which scandals to highlight.  For example, in the two years leading up to ’94 there were three major stings that took down crooked US Congressmen.  Two of those, Albert Bustamante and Lawrence Smith, were Democrats; as such national and regional talk radio programs covered their downfalls extensively.  The third, David Durenberger, escaped the national spotlight even as he pled guilty to “misuse” of public funds.  He was a Republican, and consequently talk radio pretended that he didn’t exist.

But perhaps the new media’s biggest coup was its capitalizing on the House banking scandal.

As national scandals go, the largely symbolic House banking scandal was small potatoes.  In September of 1991 Roll Call reported on the U.S. General Accounting Office 1989-90 audit.  This report showed that many elected Representatives frequently wrote checks from their House Bank accounts that were greater in value than what they had in their allotment accounts.  The moneys were always repaid, but Congress Critters’ use of government funds to provide interest-free loans on expenditures fit too precisely with the public’s view of Congress being an irresponsible spending machine.  In truth, the practice went back to at least 1984, was not limited to Democrats, and extended well beyond the House. (One of the worst regular offenders was then-Sec. of Defense Dick Cheney.) However, the vast majority of the House members identified in the Roll Call’s report were indeed Democrats.  Talk radio hosts seized on the scandal as an opportunity to create an increased level of dissatisfaction with voters.  As a result, large numbers of traditionally safe incumbents were thrown from office in the ’94 elections, including many that had not been involved in the scandal.  When the smoke cleared the GOP had its first House majority in four decades, and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that its burgeoning media machine had enabled their victory.

Despite all of the successes the new conservatives and their media earned, however, they were entirely unable to gain any traction in taking down the man and woman they hated most: William Jefferson Clinton and his wife Hillary.  It vexed them; they continued to win ground battle after ground battle, only to see this pot-smoking, Pinko-loving turncoat remain popular by co-opting their most well received policy ideas.  Every talk radio show in America had their sights drawn squarely on Clinton, only to see him outplay them time and time again.  It didn’t seem fair (and it truly wasn’t), but it was becoming more and more obvious that the battleground of Washington politics was Clinton’s home turf.  Try as you might, you just couldn’t beat Slick Willy at his own game.

So, after two years of watching conservatives banging their head against a wall, Jerry Falwell decided to play a different game altogether.  And in 1994, he used $200,000 of his own money to fund a small-budget film that accused the President and the First Lady of murdering Vince Foster.

Foster was a White House staffer who suffered from clinical depression.  After being painted unfavorably by the media in the Travelgate scandal, Foster committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in a parked car.  There was no evidence that any crime had been committed, let alone that the Clintons had perpetrated one.  Still, Falwell’s The Clinton Chronicles claimed otherwise.  Today, most of those whose testimony takes place in the film admit that the “evidence” provided was made up, such as an erroneous claim that Foster’s head had no exit wound.  Director Patrick Matrisciana, who had previously directed small religious self-help videos such as Is There Life After Marriage, noted later that Falwell orchestrated a phony interview where Matrisciana was instructed to lie about having reason to fear for his life from the Clintons.

The Clinton Chronicles was not entirely unusual for its time.  Many conspiracy theorists in the 60s, 70s and 80s turned to cheap (and badly made) filmmaking to pitch their cases.  Lyndon LaRousche, perennial third-party presidential candidate, felon, and all around crackpot made such films frequently.  These films went largely unnoticed, though, and existed primarily as vanity projects.  Falwell and Matrisciana, however, had the luck of God’s timing on their side.  The burgeoning conservative media took to the Vince Foster story like a moth to a flame, and by doing so they were rewarded: talking about Foster and The Clinton Chronicles was pure gold.  Ratings and newsletter subscription rates soared.  Because the new media was based on a shock-radio format model, the accuracy of the story was immaterial.  Slowly but surely, the Vince Foster murder became the conservative story of early 1994.  By August, Kenneth Starr would be selected as Independent Council to investigate the matter as part of his Whitewater probe; that investigation would take several Rube-Goldberg-like twists before it actually lead to Clinton’s impeachment.

If there was a lesson in all of this for the new conservative media, it was this: being dishonest could actually lead to higher ratings, provided that the story was sensational and primed correctly.  If the dishonest claims made the other team look bad, then that was even better.  Seeing the financial success that “stories” like the Foster murder begat, Roger Ailes correctly deduced that the same formula that worked so well on talk radio could be harnessed for a television news network.  After taking the helm at Fox news in 1996 he replaced the network’s primetime traditional news show, The Schneider Report, with muckrakers Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity.

Is it really that big of a leap to imagine that from such a beginning, we would come to a place where news networks regularly made up fictitious stories in an attempt to sway elections?

Mind you, it wasn’t just the conservatives that learned this cynical lesson.  There is, of course, plenty of terrible, partisan pseudo-journalism on both sides of the aisle.  As I noted last June, I’ve actually witnessed Ed Shultz “report” (without evidence) that Mitt Romney was working with sinister forces to purposefully eliminate the middle class.  The one time I watched liberal anchor Lawrence O’Donnell, it was hard to believe he wasn’t a paid Obama staffer.  As I say, there really is plenty of legitimate finger pointing to go around.  The difference between conservative pseudo-journalism and liberal pseudo-journalism – and the reason the GOP is threatened in a way the DNC is not – is that only one side’s propaganda arm has power over the party for which it was created.  This has nothing to do with the relative moral superiority of either side; it has everything to do with the size of audience each draws.

Whatever the reasons for the disparity, there is little doubt that today’s right wing simply consumes its bulls**t in greater doses than does the left wing.  MSNBC, the famed left-wing propaganda vehicle posing as a news network, made horse-race ratings news of its own last month.  “Anti-FOX Gains Ground,” shouted an optimistic Huffington Post headline, as it reported that MSNBC’s growing viewership was so off the hook that for a couple of weeks they were only losing to FOX by a factor of two.

There is also the case of Air America, the much ballyhooed liberal “answer” to conservative talk radio.  To be certain, its format was every bit as shock-driven and conspiracy-laden as its right wing competitors’. Mark Malloy, Air America’s evening host, often referred to the then-president’s family as the “Bush crime family” and “rat bastards;” wild tales of our country being taken over by Halliburton execs were often breathlessly reported.  But for whatever reason, Air America never connected with its target audience the way right wing talk radio had.  The network went bankrupt in 2010 after years of anemic ratings and negative net revenue. Its highest rated show ever drew approximately 1.5 million listeners a week. As a comparison point, conservative media staple Rush Limbaugh alone regularly draws almost 15 million.  In fact, Limbaugh, Hannity, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Neal Boortz, Laura Ingram, and Art Bell’s Coast to Coast each draw more weekly listeners than all the shows on Air America combined drew at the network’s peak.  Liberal propagandists would, I’m sure, love to have the power over the Democrats that conservative propagandists have over the GOP.  But they can’t; they just don’t have the juice.

(Tellingly, the only non-mainstream media news shows that have broken through to hold steady audiences of mainstream liberals are satires of cable news.  Even then, however, tu quoque comparisons to conservative media lack punch: both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are happy to target liberal politicians as well as conservative, and they actually spend most of their time targeting the political media.)

The mainstream media itself has not been unaffected by ill-gotten ratings gains, of course.  In 2004, Dan Rather erroneously reported that George W. Bush had shirked his duties in the National Guard.  More recently, NBC was caught editing a 911 call in an attempt to make the Trayvon Martin shooting seem even more sensational.  Even so, the comparisons of these true outrages to Fox’s shenanigans are not entirely apples-to-apples.  When the mainstream media is caught with its pants down, it is forced to make a correction and people get fired.  What’s more, other mainstream news desks report on their brethren’s transgressions.  On the other hand, when Fox is caught fibbing, other parts of the conservative media machine hold their tongue.  If Fox has ever corrected, apologized or fired producers when they’ve been caught making fiction, I have yet to see so.

But for Republicans, the troubling difference isn’t simply in the way their media behaves; it’s the way the two party react to their respective media.  When MSNBC, liberal talk radio, or even NBC puts their foot in it, Democratic politicians and policy makers are not beholden to sacrifice their own credibility by picking up and running with the polished turd they’ve been handed.  MSNBC’s Ed Shultz may be every bit the ass that Sean Hannity is, but liberals have no problem publicly sending him to the woodshed if he steps over the line.  If a high-ranking member of the DNC is caught disagreeing with something Garrison Keillor says, he isn’t forced to travel to Lake Woebegone and grovel for forgiveness.

At this moment, we are speeding toward a Fiscal Cliff that should have been put to bed weeks ago.  The Republicans just lost an election, are tanking in the polls, and do not have the elected body count to give a “my way or the highway” ultimatum to Democrats.  And yet this is exactly what the media machine is pushing them to do.  Doing so will be politically disastrous for the GOP, and might actually negatively impact their chances as far away as 2014.  Media pundits, on the other hand, know that such a crisis would be a boon during the traditional slow-news days that post-election time brings.  (And let’s be honest – going over the fiscal cliff would make it easy to continue to sell advertisements for products that cater to the end-of-civilization set.)

When the League conservatives did their fantastic post-election podcast, most of them discounted the negative impact that the conservative media machine has on the Republican Party.  The most common reason given was they didn’t really pay attention to what that media machine did.  This is not such an uncommon response; most levelheaded Republicans I know say the exact same thing. As much as I respect all of the contributors and guests that recorded the podcast, I have to say that in light of what is happening to the GOP I find this attitude terribly irresponsible.  For right or wrong, the conservative media now defines both the GOP and its agenda.  Like it or not, John Boehner is not the public face that independents see; nor is Eric Cantor, or even Mitt Romney.  No, the face of today’s Republican Party for most of America is Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, and the veritable cavalcade of circus performers that dominate the Fox News airwaves.  And here’s the thing: outside of their relatively small audience, no one likes them very much.

America needs a conservative party.  Not simply a party that throws the word “conservatism” around as if it were a religious mantra, but an actual party of grown-ups dedicated to keeping the inevitable tide of progressivism from turning into dangerous radicalism.  We don’t have that today.  There are no Ronald Reagans waiting in the wings of the Republican Party right now; there are only media hucksters willing to sell us his likeness on cheap, made-in-China collector plates.

Republicans need to start becoming a political party again, rather than simply a marketing arm for a multi-media conglomerate.  If they don’t they can kiss power goodbye for a long time.  And in the unlikely possibility that they do somehow win the White House in 2016, it won’t be an Edmund Burke White House.  It will be a Roger Ailes White House.

And a Roger Ailes White House will be many, many things.  But “conservative” ain’t one of them.

 

 

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Note: This is the fifth in a series of posts about the right wing media machine, and how it has gone from being an asset to a liability for both the GOP and the advancement of conservatism in America.  

The initial post, which was written back during the Sandra Fluke affair, can be found here.  The second installment, where I began to ague that the tipping point I worried about last spring had finally arrived this past election is here.  A look at this summer’s right wing media meme that Obama was working with the United Nations to eliminate the second amendment and take your guns is here.  A look at how creating a fictional scandal around Benghazi ultimately made any actual scandals politically irrelevant is here

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183 thoughts on “Sailing Away to Irrelevance, Epilogue: In Which the GOP is Finally and Inevitably Made Irrelevant

  1. So, long story short, had we signed the treaty every disabled person in the third world would’ve gotten millions of dollars in free medical care and societal changes like wheelchair accessible hunting trails through the jungle, but they somehow concluded that it wouldn’t actually work out, so nobody will ever vote for them again.

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    • Maybe instead of trying to distill the long story into some contemptuous, sneering crap that you think is side-splittingly hilarious, you should make an effort to respect the amount of work and thought that went into the long story and let it remain the long story.

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    • George, some of us believe that it is important to assert the rights of inclusion for the disabled in every community, yes. Without snickering at the idea of how that might manifest in different communities because of how fishing RIDICULOUS the very thought is of asserting a right to community inclusion in varying communities. Interestingly, well over 100 other countries signed on, however hilarious the idea of wheelchairs in Africa is to you. We didn’t, which sends a message worldwide. A symbolic one, but important one.

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      • While I agree with the concept of inclusion broadly, there are a number of instances where the enactment of measures leaves much to be desired.
        The one that really sticks out in my mind is a local ordinance in Cape Canaveral.
        All thermostats in Cape Canaveral have to be set at 36″ off the floor, so that it will be right at eye level for a person in a wheelchair.
        Of course, this means that every adult that isn’t in a wheelchair has to stoop to read the thermostat.
        With Cape Canaveral being the retirement community that it is, I have to wonder what this does for other residents with back problems.

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    • societal changes like wheelchair accessible hunting trails through the jungle

      Haha, isn’t that funny. Except, of course, that there are people attempting to create wheelchairs that can be constructed and used in the conditions that exist in the developing world. See, for example, Whirlwind Wheelchair International. Changes come in many forms, and they arrive by many means. An unenforceable treaty can’t do it by itself, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to establish a baseline of what a society should provide to its most vulnerable.

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  2. There are too many structural impediments to the GOP becoming truly nationally irrelevant. Between the Senate’s bias towards rural states and the strong bias towards two parties with first-past-the-post elections, the Republicans will continue to pick up plenty of seats indefinitely.

    That’s one problem with two-party systems. In a more parliamentary system, the GOP could follow its primary electorate into right wing populist oblivion and some other conservative party would pick up the slack, but now we have a party that’s somewhere near half responsible for governing the country in perpetuity no matter how far its primary electorate pulls it into gonzo conspiracy theory land. So our country is half governed by people obsessed with (or at least pretending to be obsessed with) FEMA helicopters and the Amero.

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    • In addition, the huge number of veto points in our system ensures that both parties will have some level of input into governing. Even if the Democrats win solid victories, they still face a 60-vote Senate.

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    • I get this point (which is being made several places in the threads already, and will no doubt be continued throughout the day), but I’m not sure I agree.

      I believe you can have actions that have real world consequences without being relevant. The . Reform Party certainly had very, very real consequences; they were probably responsible for Clinton winning the White House. The got tons of media coverage, and their leader was treated as a folk hero. Despite all of this, I think it would be a stretch to say that they were a relevant political player.

      I think in order to be a *relevant* political party on a national scale, you have to first and foremost be in control of your own agenda; you also need to not be continually shrinking. Will the GOP be that kind of party again? Most certainly. But as I have been arguing for the past several months, they need to be in a position where they tell their press office who’s in charge; not the other way around. At the moment, I see that *conservative media* as the relevant player, and the party as simply along for the ride on the tiger’s back.

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      • There’s a good paragraph up there, I’m gonna treat each sentence separately.

        I think in order to be a *relevant* political party on a national scale, you have to first and foremost be in control of your own agenda; you also need to not be continually shrinking.

        Sure, you can’t compete over the long term if your vote-totals keep diminishing over time. But the GOP has shown amazing creativity in cultivating a base and reaching the middle folks by presenting a very negative view of the alternatives. Personally, I think that’s a resource that will yield lots of votes in the future – as long as creative people like Karl Rove and Roger Aisles and Rush keep hammering on those themes.

        As far as controlling their own agenda – ?? – !! – that’s the entire problem with the GOP right now. They have agenda!. Just a bunch of cohorts with such isolated and limited agendas that they don’t obviously (until recently) conflict with each other. The GOP has most certainly lost their way, it seems to me. And I agree with lots of what you say about their eventual irrelevance. I’m just not as optimistic (heh) that they won’t turn even further to the dark side of politicking, nor that they won’t achieve unexpected results from engaging in that dark turn.

        Will the GOP be that kind of party again? Most certainly. But as I have been arguing for the past several months, they need to be in a position where they tell their press office who’s in charge; not the other way around.

        I have less faith in this happening than you do, I think. The GOP is a party that has functionally surrendered control of policy decisions and direction to the media, so the GOP – as it’s currently constructed – can’t recover from that. The GOP really needs to remake themselves, and that means changing who the GOP in fact is – what they advocate, who comprises the power structure, what their approach to politics is, etc. But the empirical evidence is on their side on this, it seems to me: the American electorate can be and continues to be swayed by irrational fears/worries/hatreds/resentments/victimization. I’m less than sure the GOP will engage in positive outreach rather than negative outreach.

        At the moment, I see that *conservative media* as the relevant player, and the party as simply along for the ride on the tiger’s back.

        We probably agree that there was a time when the GOP benefited greatly from empowering media who were sympathetic to GOP goals without having to compromise those goals. We probably agree as well that right now the media – that amorphous blob of populist (and angry populist at that) sentiments – is driving the bus. Personally, I don’t think the GOP can extricate themselves from this without either a) fundamentally shifting their priorities, or b) digging deeper into the morass till they find gold.

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    • I agree. In a multi-party system (say four parties or so), there would be a far-right populist party that constantly gathered 15-20 percent of the vote but this would not result in many elected seats. The power would be largely split between a true center-right part and a true center-left party.

      This seems to be what happens in Europe most of the time and it nullifies the crazy vote.

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  3. I saw this from the inside, so to speak. They managed this well. They got parents of disabled children who are not their normal political allies to believe they would no longer be able to homeschool their kids (among disabled kids, this is not an option reserved solely for a Glenn Beck audience). Parent support groups were urging members to contact members of Congress to support disability rights and vote against the treaty. It was Orwellian.

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      • Frankly, if you look past the idyllic to the boots on the ground, there’s enough guardianship abuse going on that we have plenty of issues to deal with as is.
        I’m not sure how the proposed resolution would help that, if at all.

        But I don’t see how opposition to a non-binding document could be properly considered “evil.”
        I believe the basis for opposition if likely misguided; but being erroneous in good faith does not equate to sinister motive.

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        • Cynically preying on the insecurities of vulnerable populations to pass a political agenda that does nothing but further your own media exposure and buttress your relevance? I highly doubt Santorum and co. are being erroneous in good faith.

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  4. I’ve been meaning to ask for a while but it’s never been on topic.

    Why *do* we need an international disability treaty? It has nothing to do with regulating trade, regulating the global commons, regulating the rules of arm conflict or any other conduct between nations. The citizens and residents of the United States are covered under the ADA (touted by treaty supporters as among the most forward thinking legislation in the world) and other statutory and case law.

    Why do we in the US need to care about – or dictate – how other countries handle this issue? Are we going to send flying killer robots against establishments without handicapped restroom stalls?

    This is why we have a protracted war in Afghanistan, a questionable war in Iraq, an illegal war in Libya, and drone wars everywhere. Because we’re always giving a [fish] when it’s not our turn to give a [fish].

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    • On the politics of it, if the treaty *isn’t* all that substantive, and thus failure to ratify doesn’t have very much of a *policy* downside – i.e. no voter is going to see the effects of this failure – then giving your army a morale boost with a small win after a somewhat decisive loss may actually improve the chances of keeping all the machinery churning and staying electorally relevant.

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      • It’s more of a way of saying that this is a human rights issue. It had stuff in it about human rights that was less paternalistic than previous disability rights claims. Not just we will protect you, but that the disabled have a right to inclusion in the community.

        I think these sorts of statements are symbolic, yes, but an important first step.

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          • The UN has very little effective power. It was designed that way. Whatever power it does have is easily blocked by any member of the Security Council.

            Flatly, it’s not going to be able to tell countries what to do internally, except insofar as it makes the Big 5 decide to start dropping bombs.

            Short of outright war — which really means the Big 5 deciding to go to war — all the UN can do is try to get nations to agree to things. Things like what sort of rights should be universal, even if a lot of countries cheerfully ignore them. Some treaties on shared resources.

            The UN is pretty helpless to change countries by design, not through some failure of will or application.

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    • At the most rudimentary level, the US cares because US citizens study, live, work, and travel abroad. Improving the consideration given to those with disabilities worldwide contributes to the welfare of those Americans beyond US borders who may be harmed by low standards.

      On the more abstract level, the international human rights regime stems from the post-WWII sense that intra-state conduct has consequences for international peace and security; the regime is a fleshing out of the UN Charter’s aims/purposes/references to human rights. “To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” an important UN aim is followed by these:

      – to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
      – to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
      – to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

      Obviously, there’s a great deal of space between ratifying international human rights treaties and using drones to fire hellfire missiles.

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      • Rich white countries telling poor brown and black countries is still imperialism no mater how you slice it.

        Rights are only secured by governments – securing rights is the very purpose of government.

        And governments only secure them from the barrel of guns.

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        • Don’t look at it from the perspective of “rights”, look at it from the perspective of “hobbling competitors”.

          If we can start making the countries that corporations have started outsourcing to install handrails in the bathroom stalls on the 3rd floor, maybe we can make them start providing health care insurance, day care, and cafeterias… and then, the next time Corporation says “we’re considering outsourcing to some obscure country”, we can get all “MAKE SURE YOU HAVE TEXTURED CONCRETE WHENEVER THERE IS A CROSSWALK!” and thus keep those people over there living in much more authentic squallor.

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          • Hell yeah…passing a treaty to suggest people treat the handicapped well is imperialism and lead the entire world onto the slippery slope to hell, liberalism, socialism and totalitarianism.

            oy

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            • I think what Jaybird is “arguing” is that this will keep corporations from going to places where the standard of living is low, and since corporations raise the standard of living by going places and creating jobs, them not going there will keep people in abject poverty. We can put aside whether sweatshop jobs raise people out of abject poverty in any meaningful sense, and simply ask whether a.) this will keep corporations from going to, say, rural India or Brazil or Indonesia, and b.) if there aren’t better ways, that maybe respect human dignity and avoid exploitation and wage slavery, to get the people of those countries out of abject poverty.

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                • The thing is, I don’t think this resolution was for the people living in squalor. I think it was for the people who work for the corporations who would go to these countries to supervise the people living in squalor (or, since those people are icky and we don’t want to get too close to them, or really even know that they exist, supervise the people who supervise the supervisors of the people who live in squalor).

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                  • Dude, and I *SUPPORT* this resolution. I don’t think that people in India should have to work *AND* worry about health insurance, day care, handrails, or 15 minute breaks.

                    We should do everything we can to make sure that they have the same protections that we have here in the US.

                    And if they refuse, we should start sanctioning the ever-living hell out of them.

                    I don’t see a downside, for me. (Hell, I can even get points for how much I “care”.)

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                    • I wonder, were countries that couldn’t afford to do this being threatened with sanctions? Or is this just your way of making it seem absurd by tacking absurdities onto it and acting as though they were already there?

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                    • Oh, so we’re just saying something like “I believe that people should be treated with dignity no matter whether they be normally, or differently, abled” and not putting any pressure behind it?

                      *AND* we get to consider this a brave moral stance to take?

                      Sign me up! Please pat me on the back here, here, here, and here.

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                    • Jay, I can’t reach that far.

                      I will say this, though: imagine that there’s an essentially non-binding resolution that essentially just affirms, or in our case reaffirms, a respect for the dignity of disabled people, and a commitment to improving accessibility in both the public and private spheres. What would make a group mobilize to oppose such a resolution? I mean, we can stipulate that being a proponent of the resolution is really just… what was the word used here once? oh yeah, preening, but what does opposing it amount to?

                      Also, maybe you should talk to Rose about the benefits of this resolution, as it appears that she’s the one here who has sufficient knowledge of it to give you answers.

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                  • My attitude towards the UN is similar to Sam’s attitude toward the Catholic Church. I find myself consistently amazed that this obviously evil institution is given even a tenth of the moral authority it’s been given and the fact that we treat it as if it’s important, at all, absolutely flabbergasts me.

                    As for the treaty itself, it’s somehow a magical treaty that both does enough that Santorum was evil for opposing it and little enough that it won’t result in economic behavior changing on the part of anybody involved with it that, in actuality, would seem to do nothing at all except allow people who support it to feel good about having done so.

                    One hopes that explains it.

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                    • and little enough that it won’t result in economic behavior changing on the part of anybody involved with it that, in actuality, would seem to do nothing at all except allow people who support it to feel good about having done so.

                      You’ve made this inference, apparently, from my saying that they wouldn’t punish countries that couldn’t afford to make the required changes. That’s one hell of an inference to make from my saying that.

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                    • If you would like me to restate my contempt for Santorum, allow me to do so:

                      We’d be a better country had Pennsylvania tarred and feathered him and chased him into Ohio and told him that, if they saw him again, he’d be shot on sight… to be followed by footage of this event being played pretty much non-stop on the news channels for a couple of days followed by Santorum’s disappearance from public service.

                      Fox News and the Conservative Media machine is a deplorable institution that deserves to be discredited but my thoughts on that are tempered by the knowledge of the, ahem, “non-partisan” media machine that existed prior to Fox’s ascendancy.

                      As for the GOP’s irrelevancy, I’ve heard stories of permanent majorities before and I have no doubt that the pendulum will swing to as it swung fro and I imagine that, before I’m 50, I’ll enjoy stories about how the democrats must rebuild themselves if they are ever to overcome the new normal.

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                    • Which part is the absurd hyperbole?

                      That I see the UN the way Sam sees the Catholic Church?
                      That the treaty that was shot down wouldn’t have resulted in that much of anything changing?
                      That we’d be better off if Santorum was run out of town on a rail?
                      Surely it’s not related to Fox News being deplorable or that the Republicans will win majoritarian elections again at some point in the future…

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                    • Dude, it’s not my intention to mock anybody. I do think that there are unintended consequences for any given law passed and that if this international treaty would have any teeth, it’d end up benefitting first world people like me a lot more than it’d end up benefitting third world people with disabilities but that’s something where reasonable people can disagree. The problem is that I see the moral stances made on a topic where reasonable people can disagree as being kinda absurd given, again, that I see this treaty, if it has any teeth at all, as being something that will benefit me more than it’ll benefit the disabled.

                      That and the whole “seriously? We’re treating the UN as if it has any authority at all?” thing but I can’t do moral outrage well, given that I understand that there are a lot of good people out there who feel about the UN the way that many Catholics (also good people) feel about the Catholic Church and their willingness to put emphasis on *THIS* rather than on *THAT* doesn’t indicate a moral failing on their part. (Necessarily, anyway.)

                      It’s the absurdity that I’m mocking, if I’m mocking anything at all.

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                    • So, now that this thread is a million miles away from why I have a problem with what Santorum did…

                      A serious question for you and everyone (Nob, maybe?) since foreign policy is so out of my bailiwick:

                      I get that there are a million things you can point to about the UN that make you want to shower. And I don’t know how you COULD have such an organization and have it be free of corruption. And even when it’s doing things that I might want it to do, it doesn’t seem to do them very well at all.

                      That being said…

                      Isn’t there something to be said for the effect of *having* such an organization?

                      Up until the 1940s, it seems like all of the most developed nations were constantly at war with one another. LIke, people in the richest nations went to war over ANYTHING. That doesn’t happen any more. Sure, little poor countries still get the snot beaten out of them, just like in the old days, but I’ll be damned if I can remember the last time England went to war with Spain or France.

                      Doesn’t the mindset that the UN creates get any credit for that? Or is the UN a justifiably “get all the blame but none of the kudos” kind of thing?

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                    • Tod, and what’s more, if there weren’t the UN, wouldn’t there be some other international body that would ultimately become as bloated and easily mocked as the UN? In a world where the entire world is within a few hours reach for anyone, anywhere, provided sufficient funds, and in which as a result the economy and political sphere are themselves global, the UN or something like it seems inevitable.

                      Jay, pointing out unintended consequences, or the fact that it might hurt some people, is good. I’d prefer you provide some sort of evidence of this, with reference to the actual treaty, of course. “The UN is evil” is more of a sneeze than an argument.

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                    • I’ll throw this in the mix:

                      I think that the relative paucity of combat among first world nations since the inception of the UN has a lot more to do with the global economy and the presence of nuclear weapons than it has anything to do with the UN.

                      I think the UN could actually be a serviceable body for international dispute resolution, but in order for that to be the case, you’d have to completely re-engineer the security council such that it wasn’t, “Hey, we’re the guys who ‘won’ the last World War, and we have the Big Nukes”, and you’d have to create some sort of standing “citizen of the world” status, and I don’t see either of those things happening. The only reason the UN has lasted longer than the League of Nations is because of who is on the Security Council.

                      You know, The Nuke People.

                      Now, I *do* think the UN has done us, specifically, some good… largely because we ignore it when it doesn’t suit our purposes and leverage it when it does, and sometimes that second bit works out (if nobody on the Security Council objects to what we were going to do… but let’s be honest, if nobody on the Security Council objects to what we were going to do, we already have all the leverage we need to do what we want to do). I don’t think, “It occasionally works out to our benefit and never to our detriment” as an awesome method of rating an international body’s usefulness, tho.

                      I also think the UN has done more than a little good in the way of facilitating things for some NGOs that work across borders. But you can probably accomplish that a lot more efficiently without the side effect of giving a stage for Ahmadinejad to make a crazy-ass speech.

                      Now (and Nob might chip in here), there’s possibly something to be said about using the UN has a vehicle for helping to resolve disputes between two non-security council members squabbling over something that no security council member nations really care about, because it gives them a platform to be heard by those security council member nations, who might pay attention, especially if they can get some PR out of it. But I’ll be honest, I don’t know of any time that this has worked out for anyone’s balanced benefit.

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                    • Up until the 1940s, it seems like all of the most developed nations were constantly at war with one another. LIke, people in the richest nations went to war over ANYTHING.

                      Those most developed nations were pretty much Europe. The EU may have more to do with their relative peacefulness these days than the UN. Or it could just be general war weariness.

                      I really don’t think the UN could do squat to stop a direct conflict between major powers. And it sure hasn’t done squat to stop the U.S. from having direct conflicts with powerless states. But I do think it sometimes provides a mediator to prevent wars between smaller states that could, if left unchecked, possibly drag in larger states.

                      But some of its other activities are at least potentially useful, such as UNICEF and UNESCO.

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              • Out of curiosity, are there comparisons that can be made between countries that had comparible low standards of living and one, but not the other, had corporations show up and start offering “sweatshop” work?

                Could we do a comparison between the two countries today and compare stuff like quality of life and that sort of thing?

                If that sort of thing is, in fact, possible, wouldn’t those numbers demonstrate pretty conclusively either that “Jaybird is wrong, wrong, wrong” or “this is really quite complicated and it’s not like there weren’t a lot of other things going on and we can’t reach a definitive conclusion”?

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                • I dunno, are there such studies?

                  And I believe my point was “this is really quite complicated and it’s not like there weren’t a lot of other things going on and we can’t reach a definitive conclusion.”

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              • I cannot see any way this resolution would keep a company from going anywhere. The keenest attack on this resolution is that it is a meaningless display of nice thoughts. I’d buy that, but than you can’t also argue that a vague expression of nice things will cause all sorts of concrete events. You can pick one.

                Even if this resolution was going to have some effects then it could be useful in focusing a tiny bit of attention on including the handicapped and trying to make reasonable accommodations for them. Good things don’t fall from the sky from storks. Sometimes people need to push for them.

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          • Lets just put it this way.

            At the end of the day, this made no difference to policies one way or another. But once again, America has become the laughing stock of the world. International delegates want to have nothing to do with the US, because they believe (accurately, IMO) that the country is being run by a bunch of crazy people.

            India, for example, is far more likely to deal with Russia and Iran because at least they know that congressional craziness won’t stall any promises and agreements.

            Step back and think about that for a moment. Countries now find the Iranian leadership less crazy than the American leadership

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  5. I was wholly unaware of the disability rights treaty before I read this post. Like Nob, I thought I had already run out of scalding vitriol to pour on Rick Santorum. But the fact that he wraps his shocking cynicism in a gauzy layer of sententious moralizing makes it somehow possible for me to loathe him even more.

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  6. Tolkien once said “Never laugh at live dragons.” The GOP has not been rendered irrelevant. Since the era of Jesse Helms, the conservatives have been correctly pointing out the UN’s many discourtesies and their blatant rejection of any fiscal oversight. If FreedomWorks now incoherently rages at a well-meant convention on the rights of disabled persons, we might consider why this is so and how things got to this sorry pass.

    Though I wish it were otherwise, I have my own reservations about the United Nations, very serious reservations: they are the single most wasteful and fraud-encumbered collection of charities in the world today. The UN has been plastering band-aids onto tumours for years now. It has served as a forum for hectoring despots and an incubator for major-league grifters, largely at American expense. For all the money we’ve squandered on it, the UN has not proven capable of solving the problems of resettling refugees and has never proven capable of arbitrating solutions to international disputes. Its hypocritical diplomats loudly condemn America, all the while demanding ever more money. The United Nations has been irrelevant for many decades: worse, it has been an active impediment to the advance of human rights and democracy.

    Do I sound like Jesse Helms and Rick Santorum? I am a Liberal. My condemnation arises from the facts: Kofi Annan administered the Iraqi Oil for Food Program, grotesquely enriching himself and his family in the process. As recently as April of this year, the UN shot down a plan to shine some light on UN waste and fraud. The Obama administration has been advocating reform, only to see the UN obfuscate and lie. Little wonder, then, that Fox News would correctly point out the obvious: how money does seem to stick to some people!

    The United Nations is a contradiction in terms. I’ve said that before: nations are sovereign entities and cannot be united without ceding some of that sovereignty to the instrument of union. But without some fiscal oversight, rooting out fraud, applying efficiencies to the process, starting with competent administration of refugee camps, the UN has demonstrated, again and again, why it cannot be trusted with mandate.

    In this post, not one word was said about any of these issues. Yes, the Conservatives have gone bonkers. Yes, Rick Santorum is a mean-spirited jackass. But to now say the Conservatives have lost relevance on the issue of UN malfeasance is to play fast and loose with the facts — to the point of living in a dreamworld. The Obama administration has tried to impose some reasonable management accounting on the UN, only to be shot down, again and again. The Conservatives have not lost relevance: they only gain traction as Liberals attempt to avoid the underlying problems at the UN. It’s high time Liberals faced facts. If the UN is to be a force for good in the world, it must be reformed ere we give it any more credence.

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    • Blaise, that may or may not be right (this is not my area of expertise). But to what better use could the power (or lack thereof) of the UN be put than to make statements of global expectations of what constitutes rights?

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      • Platitudes annoy me, especially when they’re uttered by the representatives of governments who do not even observe the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

        Platitudes and conventions never resettled a refugee or stopped a war or fed a child or any other good thing, especially when the signatories are never obliged to abide by them. Really, it’s better if such platitudes and conventions were never written at all: they only serve as fig leaves to hide the disgusting realities on the ground.

        There is no excuse for how bad the UN’s gotten over time. None at all. You ask what better use the power of the UN might be put? I strongly recommend those dignitaries flex their muscles, pack their boxes and return to their homelands, the better to empower their own governments to abide by these worthless conventions and declarations. Talk is cheap, we’re told. Well, in the case of the UN, talk is expensive.

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        • Really, it’s better if such platitudes and conventions were never written at all: they only serve as fig leaves to hide the disgusting realities on the ground.

          First off, how would we know what the human rights standards are unless they’re written down, and crucially, agreed to by the states around the negotiating table. A grueling process of figuring out what the UN Charter’s references to human rights mean.

          Also, the conventions serve to highlight the gap between words and deeds. Activists gain purchase by saying that state agreed to conduct itself one way and is actually conducting itself another way. Take for instance the Helsinki Accords and the resulting arguments made in the USSR and Eastern Europe. In very many instances around the world it takes more than shame to change state behavior, but shaming states is a political tool. Everyone, including dictators, wants to say they are acting legitimately, to say they have right on their side. Far from being a fig leaf, the conventions throw abuses into stark relief.

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    • I hesitate responding to this, since even when I tell you I agree with your or like what you wrote you go primal on me, but…

      You are correct that I did not use this post to take up a banner on whether or not the UN is an organization worth continuing; this is because this question (while certainly an important one) is not germane to the topic I discussed.

      Had FreedomWorks (and the con-media) pushed for the treaty to be scuttled on a larger, more philosophical basis, it *would* be relevant… but then, I wouldn’t have written this post.

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      • Your point was this: by shooting down this seemingly innocuous convention, the GOP has rendered itself irrelevant. I have made the case for the exact opposite and explained my reasoning. FreedomWorks and the entire Conservative ethos has demanded accountability from the UN since Jesse Helms was on their case lo these many years ago. They have remained true to this position ever since. Their opposition has not been philosophical so much as practical: the UN cannot or will not regulate itself.

        The GOP is not irrelevant. Their opposition to the UN’s irresponsible grifting is based on solid, incontrovertible facts and has added nothing but torque to their arguments. The Obama administration has been unable to make the UN any more accountable. UN grifting is a bipartisan argument.

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        • No, not quite.

          My point was this: That the GOP let it’s actions be dictated *not* by what was in the party’s best political interests, but what was more profitable for the conservative media. For me, this seems enormously important regardless of the merits of the UN.

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          • The GOP has made its voice heard on this matter. It is not they who are irrelevant but the UN itself. You freely acknowledge there are no enforcement provisions, going so far as to use adjectives such as “tepid”.

            It is tepid. It’s fatuous nonsense, to think that the UN would put North Korea in charge of the UN Conference on Disarmament, then turn around to earnestly implore the world to respect the rights of the disabled. You may dismiss the Conservative Media an it please thee, in this case they’ve found a meaty bone and are chewing on it with gusto.

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            • Blaise, we get that you think the UN should be massively reformed or ended.

              But given that that won’t happen, do you think the US should’ve supported -it was recommended by Dole and pretty much everyone who know anything about disabled rights or foreign policy- the treaty in question or not? If not, why not?

              Moreover, even if you don’t support the treaty (which is a nothing, really) do you agree wih the reasons cited by the GOP, which were manufactured out. of whole cloth bu the conservomedia and tea party groups to incite their outrage, entertain them and get donations?

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              • Given that it won’t happen, my opinion is irrelevant. All this pathetic quibbling and Laputan hypotheticals — if a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his ass on landing.

                In answer to your questions: I’ve already established my opinion is irrelevant. Pretty much everyone else who seems to know anything about disabled rights and foreign policy I’m not. I’m the guy writing foreign policy stuff around here. So let’s not drag in the Ghostly Multitudes to corroborate the validity of a meaningless gesture. When I want to drag the GOP down the road and through the briers, I’ve got the rope and the four wheeler to do it. Effete whining about the Conservomedia only amuses them — and me.

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            • The enforcement provisions parallel those of the other human rights treaties, a treaty-monitoring body of experts to receive, review, and comment on states’ reports. Experts also make general recommendations. There’s agenda-setting power and lending of legitimacy. (And, according to the constructivist account of international politics, remaking of identities by participating in the process.)

              The outputs have weight in their ties to the legitimacy of a process everyone agreed to and standards everyone agreed to uphold; also the committee is the explicitly created of reservoir of expertise on the issue. The treaty-monitoring committees can also raise issues. One that comes to mind is CEDAW on violence against women, that fact of CEDAW raising the issue puts it on the radar screen where some may have been prone to ignore it altogether.

              Another example, also from CEDAW, is treatment of sex trafficking victims in developed countries. Some countries treat the trafficked as violators of migration law as opposed to getting the victims the treatment/resources they need.

              Sometimes these are kind of technical issues, maybe difficult to get public campaigns on, sometimes very deep into the weeds issues, but a committee of experts posing questions and describing best practices in other countries can help states improve their behavior. Another one, CEDAW advising nations on gender disaggregated statistics – not a sexy human rights issue, but really important for activists.

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            • On North Korea chairing the UN Conference on Disarmament, obviously, it is perverse for a proliferator to be given such a responsibility, but it is also necessary to outline the why: the chair rotates monthly (Reuters). I haven’t studied the conference’s procedures closely, but I’d bet a lot of power doesn’t inhere in the chair. Lastly, there’s a “you make peace with your enemies not your friends” point, it is important that North Korea is a participant in the conference precisely because of their conduct. All of which is not to justify North Korea assuming the position, but context (and poorly negotiated rules of procedure) matters.

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              • The biggest complaint people make about the UN boils down to those rotating memberships. Look! Libya’s on the Human Rights Council! HYSTERIA AND HYPOCRISY!

                If the Human Rights Council had any authority on it’s own, that might be worth something. Since it’s a rotating board whose real power is vested in the permanent security council members — like everything else — it’s basically just a chance to let other countries highlight their pet issus on human rights or whatever board they’re currently sitting on.

                Since the nutcases who got the random draw can’t actually do anything without the real powers signing off, there’s no downside other than optics. And since everyone who has even a minor clue understands how the UN works, that’s not even a problem.

                Frankly, the people screaming about Libya on the HRC or NK on the non-proliferation council are generally people who’d scream about the UN anyways.

                The practical people just snort at the ironies of life, since they know how the place actually runs.

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                • The biggest complaint is their lack of fiscal accountability. Always was. All the other complaints are minor annoyances. I did work in two UN refugee camps. I’ve watched them ever since. They could do good work, solve the problems the UN was established to address — deal with international conflicts and the like. They aren’t.

                  If the practical people just snort at the ironies of life, since they know how the UN actually runs, the biggest irony is the gap between the wonderful things the UN says and the pathetic things they do.

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          • Aren’t you assuming that feeding anti-UN sentiment or paranoia is not, in fact, in the party’s best interest? Even if all parties agree that they were making shit up and that there is no basis to oppose the UN here, there are still maybe electoral gains. Maybe more than can be had by cosigning a toothless treaty?

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    • I think the post can fairly set aside some of the issues you raise as not entirely applicable to the disabilities treaty. The treaty-monitoring bodies aren’t the locus of the pathologies you lay out, refugee camp abuses and incompetences, corruption, etc. The treaty-monitoring bodies are supported by the Secretariat, but not in ways that intersect with the institutional problems you outline. And you make some fair criticisms, but as Dag Hammarskjöld remarked, “The United Nations was not created to bring us to heaven, but in order to save us from hell”.

      On the whole, the UN has helped to manage (great power) conflict, and serve as a venue for working through the most difficult problems in international politics: failed states, development, disease, human rights. I think the Secretary-General has the most difficult job in international politics, lots of the blame when things go wrong, little of the power to marshal resources, almost no power without the assent of the membership.

      And whatever the UN’s pathologies, that doesn’t justify making stuff up out of whole cloth as disability treaty opponents did. Looking at the reservations, understandings, and declarations that’d be attached to US ratification, conservative criticisms about infringing US sovereignty and potential unintended consequences were just outright lies. The RUDs outline: not self-executing, a federalism recognition, and if the first two were unclear, a declaration that current US law meets treaty requirements.

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      • Your argument might be considerably stronger if there were any facts to back up your assertions about how the UN has managed Great Power conflict beyond giving each Great Power a veto. Development: nil: case in point the Palestinians: Arafat simply stole the money. Failed states? The UN Blue Helmets allowed the Serb military to massacre 8000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica. The UN outposts in Lebanon serve as convenient shields for Hizb’allah mortar and rocket crews. Disease: UN refugee camps are deplorably run, mostly controlled by gangs and militias because there’s no security. I know UN refugee camps in Ein el Hilweh and Jalozai in Pakistan, I tell you the plain truth. The Secretary General just wasted 315 million USD on a failed computer software scheme.

        These people cannot organise themselves nor hold themselves accountable. How much less can they hold others accountable? This is not an issue of sovereignty, it’s a matter of accountability.

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        • Great power conflict. Well, take this for instance, The Cuban Missile Crisis and its underappreciated hero, “Mediation by UN Secretary-General U Thant played a key role, enabling Khrushchev to back down without losing face, and Kennedy to both advance and receive proposals.”

          Regarding failed states, here’s RAND’s “The UN’s Role in Nation-Building from the Congo to Iraq” (Click Here For HTML Goodies
          pdf), examining cases from 1945 to 2005. As you point out, there are spectacular failures, but there are also successes.

          Development, the UN(DP)’s role in facilitating the Green Revolution. Disease, the work of UNAIDS. Human rights, the putting of the individual human being on the agenda of international politics, how states treaty their own citizens as a subject of international concern owes a huge amount to the UN.

          I think the challenges the UN faces are just that difficult. Diplomacy is freaking hard, and oftentimes slow. Not only does one have to seek solutions, but face-saving solutions. Again, the problems you point out are real. For instance, who holds the Security Council accountable? An institution commanding its own pace of reform is just as difficult for the UN as it is for the US Senate. And as the RAND study notes, demand for the UN’s services far outstrips supply. The various UN members, including the US, do not match the means to the ends they request of the UN. And the late Senator No himself deserves some of the discredit.

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  7. I am not one to usually agree with Blaise, but he is spot on here. Also, the party that holds 30 governorships is far, far from irrelevant. No matter how much you hate them.

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      • You’re a registered Republican, but IIRC you registered to change the party rather than out of any real belonging or agreement with it. I’m not sure if that counts as a defense for the sake of this discussion. Isn’t Walter Russell Mead still a Democrat?

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        • Why does Tod’s desire to see the GOP become different than it is presently, and even his efforts to realize that goal, make him less of a Republican than anyone else is? How does that desire make him “hate” Republicans?

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          • If I were to join NOW with the intent purpose of trying to get it to oppose legal abortion, would my membership in NOW constitute a defense against misogyny? Or, if I spent a lot of time talking about how wrong contemporary feminism is, could I point to my membership in NOW as a defense that I am actually a feminist?

            I don’t mean to besmirch Tod here, who is an honest operator. His antagonism towards the Republican Party as it exists is quite clear, and his assertion of irrelevance is questionable in this case.

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          • I don’t think he hates Republicans but it is not usually the reason people join political parties. As I said above, Tod’s goals are nobles but probably Sissyphean and I really wonder “why bother?”

            I have no knowledge of Tod’s family background in politics. Perhaps he comes from a long line of moderate Republicans and is truly upset by the crazyification of the GOP.

            There is the part of me that wants a viable opposition for reasons you wrote about several months ago. One-party systems tend towards corruption and complacency. I do not want the Democratic Party to become corrupt or complacent. However, I am not going to join the GOP to try and reform them from within. I don’t want to be associated with that crowd.

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          • I can’t remember what Tod said about why he joined and he’d be best to answer this, but what I could see someone doing is not particularly liking either party but having a hypothetical “conservative” party in their mind that they could belong to and trying to push the Republican Party in that direction. I’ve actually known a few people who did basically that.

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            • FTR, I neither love nor hate the Republican Party; I also neither love nor hate the Democratic Party. Given the choice between voting for my current Democrat Governor or Tim Kowal for any government position, I’d donate money and volunteer to be on Tim’s staff.

              As is probably readily apparent, I’m not much of a “party person.” I think both parties in the US are deeply corrupt; not because either particular political position engenders corruption, but because you can’t concentrate that much money and power without attracting the wolves to your door. But I believe that the combination of just enough “People Believing Their Philosophy Is Right” with “Each Party Acting In Their Own Self-Interest” allows for everything to *work.* I don’t know why it does, it just does. But that isn’t what I see happening anymore.

              If I harp on the GOP (and God knows I do) it’s because I believe on the national level they care more about ratings and the financial success of their multi-media empire than they do governing the country, or even running their own party. I think this is inherently dangerous. Political parties are most successful when things run smoothly and problems are attending to in an efficient manner. Cable news and talk radio, however, are most successful when those things don’t happen. As I said in this post, the needs and desires of cable news and talk shows often run counter to the needs and desires of politics and conservative ideals.

              So no, I don’t hate Republicans. On the other hand, I have a very deep seated hatred for Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Ed Shultz, Randi Rhodes, Sean Hannity, etc. Like I’ve been saying over this entire series, if Shultz and Rhodes take over the DNC I will be front and center, flinging tomatoes and crying havoc. But at the moment, only one party is badly broken.

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      • Sorry to take so long to reply, work and Xmas, etc.

        That said, from your posts over the last few months I came to the conclusion that you hated the party as it currently stands. As you have stated, not so. Mea culpa.

        In my opinion, a party that is winning a majority of governorships, and is able to pass laws such as right to work in Michigan of all places, is not irrelevant. As others have stated, at the state level they have to govern, which means provide value to their constituents, and at that level they seem to be doing fine.

        One other thing I will say is that the right needs to branch out in its media consumption. I would love to see some of the teetering newspapers bought by conservatives, much like the Wall Street Journal was, if only to broaden the field. Hopefully, competition would kill some of what you, correctly in my view, feel is hurting the GOP.

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        • “One other thing I will say is that the right needs to branch out in its media consumption. I would love to see some of the teetering newspapers bought by conservatives, much like the Wall Street Journal was, if only to broaden the field. Hopefully, competition would kill some of what you, correctly in my view, feel is hurting the GOP.”

          Yeah, I think this would be awesome. I remember a few years back that this was what Tucker Carlson originally had in mind when he created The Daily Caller (and you can guess how I feel about TDC). I would be a happy champion for this happening.

          The point about state level pols, and their necessity to govern, is a damn good one.

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          • Except I recall there being quite a bit of hand-wringing about the fact that a certain republican governor had the temerity to act all adult and join forces with a democratic president in the face of a major natural disaster and how this republican had chosen civil cooperation and governance over the interests of his party and their presidential candidate and how this was about the worst possible thing a person could do and he would be relegated to the nethers for this betrayal. Is TVD not a fairly representative voice of conservatives? Or GOP’ers? Or do the only people who care about the fact that Christie acted like an adult New Jersey residents?

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        • What makes you think these new papers, run by conservatives, won’t just become part of the echo chamber?

          It’s not “branching out” in media consumption if you’re sticking with conservative paper. It’s just making the echo chamber larger and louder. To branch out you’ve got to, you know, branch out.

          I’ve got some Fox-news only watching relatives, and they don’t WANT a different viewpoint. If someone bought up the NYT and wanted to run it as a “conservative” newspaper, they’d only read it as long as it agreed with Fox news.

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    • Governorships is not national stage politics.

      I think the important bit to remember here is this.

      The GOP has been completely ignoring this widely held reasonable default stance since… about 1994. You can only ignore the laws of physics while you’re falling, eventually you’re going to hit the ground. Now the laws of physics are much more stringent than the theorems of economics, but every person I know who isn’t an ironclad party partisan – that’s about a third of them – is sick to death of the GOP’s general and increasing dickishness in the last 10 years.

      You can only engage in so many conversations with people you disagree with before you get sick and tired of the platitudes and the holier than thou attitudes that they shove in your face, constantly. And 15 years of watching Glenn Beck and listening to Rush Limbaugh have trained a good number of those party partisans on the right how not to convince anybody on the fence of anything.

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    • …the party that holds 30 governorships is far, far from irrelevant.

      I maintain that there is a growing gap between the national- and state-level Republicans. At the state level, they have to govern. In particular, tax cuts (or failure to increase taxes in some cases) translate into real program cuts. Hard decisions have to be made. Do we let the roads fall apart, or do we drop support for higher ed, or do we cut K-12 budgets? How early do we let inmates out of the overcrowded prisons because we decided five years ago that we preferred more road maintenance to two new prisons? Given the (large but often hard to see directly) urban-to-rural funding transfers that occur in so many states, a Republican governor can’t afford to offend the urban parts of his or her state to the same degree that Republicans can at the national level.

      As an example, I think we’re seeing a knee-jerk reaction from Republican governors about not expanding their Medicaid programs. And that that position is likely to change when the large private hospital groups indicate that they may not be willing to support a governor (or party) who makes a decision that the hospitals must continue to provide billions in charity care in those states to people for whom Medicaid reimbursement could be available. There are rumors (which may or may not be true) that the big private hospital chains have already told Gov. Perry of Texas that they may have to reconsider whether they want to do business in a state that puts them in that situation. It’s easy to oppose Medicaid expansion — right up to the point where one of the big chains shuts down a dozen hospitals in your state.

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      • I maintain that there is a growing gap between the national- and state-level Republicans. At the state level, they have to govern.
        This. +1. I concur. Howver you want to phrase it.

        Rick Perry gets to take heat from Republicans for being ‘soft’ on immigration. Well, he actually has a state to run and that forces him to confront the reality of immigration and its impacts on a wide variety of policies under his purview. Those for whom “politics” means “ideological purity” condemn Perry for being “soft on immigration.” Those for whom “politics” means “government” realize that hunting immigrants for sport is not a particularly good policy and the Governor of a large border state has both political and practical needs to peacefully and productively incorporate new arrivals to America into the workforce as best he can.

        Chris Christie gets to head up disaster relief after a quasi-hurricane makes landfall in his state and destroys the Jersey Shore. He stops having time to go on the trail of a Presidential campaign that everyone who wasn’t blinded by Dick Morris’ volcano of bullspit knew or should have known was headed to a decisive defeat, and instead finds that his job involves getting as much help from Federal disaster relief authorities as possible. Those for whom “politics” equals “obstruction” castigate him for hugging Obama after Christie and Obama have productive meetings that brings badly-needed relief to cold, wet New Jersians. Those for whom “politics” means “government” thing Christie did exactly the right thing.

        And neither Perry nor Christie have to stop being Republicans or re-mold their own politics to become “Lite Democrats” in order to govern. Those are the most prominent examples I can think of off the top of my head. But I’m sure there are plenty more.

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        • the Governor of a large border state has both political and practical needs to peacefully and productively incorporate new arrivals to America into the workforce as best he can.

          I believe, even more so, he has a responsibility to ensure the personal safety of all persons, regardless of the current status of their official documents. Anything that gets in the way of this– whatever it is– has to be re-examined very, very critically.

          My Congressman is an R that held two offices for a union (food workers, I believe).
          Generally well-liked. Lost to a D that was well-connected in a more populated area.
          But the anti-union rhetoric doesn’t always play well right off the bat.

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        • To be catty about it, Perry has a budget to balance all right. Perry can act like an R gov he can get stimulus money from the Feds that closes his budget gap and he can rail against the Feds as evil, blah blah blah. He can ignore how the Feds have helped and take all the credit for himself.

          meow

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          • I’m not a big fan of Rick Perry, but Texas received less stimulus money than all but a couple other states. The fact that it was so instrumental in closing the budget gap was that the budget gap was less than in other states at the time so they could cover it mostly with federal funds without having to dip too far into the rainy day fund.

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              • I opposed and still oppose the construction of the local community rec center. But, since it’s been built, I still use it. I don’t see how that’s disingenuous or how that’s different from what Rick Perry did.

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                • Out of curiosity, why did you oppose a rec center that you ended up using? Doesn’t the very fact that you use it mean that it has proven to be a useful addition to the community?

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                  • Aaron, it’s not that I didn’t think it would have any use. I just didn’t think it’s usefulness would be worth the bond issue to construct it. I still don’t, but I’m not going to boycott it since my tax dollars are paying for it anyway.

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                    • This does not seem at all inconsistent to me. I behave the same way. I do not think that the government subsidizing airline routes is a good idea. But I certainly don’t insist on paying full fare to fly when a subsidy makes the flight cheaper for me. I do not think that sugar subsidies are helpful on a policy level. But when I buy sugar, I don’t insist on paying the unadjusted price. I think California is lighting its money on fire building high speed rail in the way that it is doing it. I think it’s ridiculous that the rail will stop in my city, which is far too small a community (and not really affluent enough) to economically support such a stop. But when it’s built, you can believe I’ll be using it and enjoying the fact that it stops right here in my own town.

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                    • No, it doesn’t affect your point, I’m just being pedantic. In a sense, domestic sugar is subsidized….by the tariffs on imported sugar, without which domestic sugar (at least cane sugar) wouldn’t be price-competitive. /extended pedantry.

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                • Its disingenuous because he took money to solve a problem then bashes the people and idea of giving people like him money to solve problems. He also takes credit for balancing his budget and criticizes the Feds for not doing such a bang up job as him. But he either couldn’t have solved his problem or would have had to make harder choice, and taken the hit to his popularity, without the help of the people who specifically gave him help to solve his problems.

                  If he thinks Fed spending is bad, then don’t take it. If you balance your budget using fed money then at least be honest how you balanced it.

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                  • He also takes credit for balancing his budget and criticizes the Feds for not doing such a bang up job as him

                    You might have a point there, I guess, though my reasoning is different. The situation for governors is different than for president. States don’t print their own money or form their own monetary policies. So that’s apples and oranges.

                    I still reject the whole “Because you were against this government spending, you have an obligation not to reap any benefits from it lest you be disingenuous” thinking. If I were a congressman, I might not support the existence of earmarks. But if they exist, I am going to see that my district gets something close to its share. You play by even the rules you don’t think should be there.

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                    • I agree on the apples v oranges comparison. That does make a lot of what various governors say about their wondrous budget balancing skills less pertinent.

                      I don’t have a problem with people using programs that they don’t think are great ideas. If earmarks exist and you don’t like them but still go for them i don’t have a problem with that. I agree with playing by the rules even if you don’t like them. What i find dishonest and disingenuous is the railing against the rules as destroying the country and not admitting that the things you got didn’t help. So if you think earmarks bad i might agree, but if you say earmarks are actively destroying the country, then i don’t think you have an argument for taking them. If your rhetoric is that program X is actively harming people then by taking it you are harming people. If you think program X is not a good idea but not hell on earth, then i don’t think there is an issue. But then if you take money for program X and proudly tout how much it helps your people out then either your overheated rhetoric about X being terrible was BS or maybe its actually a good idea.

                      I don’t think you can say X is not a good idea, is destroying people, worked real well for us and give me the money. You can pick a couple of those statements but not all of them. The Perry’s of the world want to loudly proclaim all four.

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                    • I still can’t quite get there. It comes across to me like Republicans who talk about the fact that Warren Buffett could pay more in Taxes if he really thought that inequality and taxation unfairness was an issue. Of course, Buffett could. But it is not incumbent on him to bite that bullet no matter how big of an issue he believes inequality and unfair taxation to be.

                      Of course, Perry never said “Look, we took the federal money that shouldn’t have been available to us in the first place” the same way Buffett admits he pays less in taxes than people who make less than him. If that’s mainly the scope of your complaint, I can’t disagree too much (political realism makes such an admission counterproductive, but that’s about all I’ve got).

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                    • Buffet’s not saying that the benefits he gets are Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil and will cause the End of the World as we now it, just that they are unfair. So there’s an oder of magnatude at least between him and Perry.

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                    • ” If I were a congressman, I might not support the existence of earmarks. But if they exist, I am going to see that my district gets something close to its share.”

                      “I’m shocked, shocked, to find earmarks going on in here!”

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                    • just that they are unfair.

                      Was that all he said? I though I remember him saying that it was not just unfair, but bad for the country as a whole. Either way, though, I don’t think it’s incumbent upon him to pay the tax rate he thinks he should have rather than the tax rate that he has.

                      Or that someone who thinks guns should be banned should disarm because he lives in a country where guns aren’t banned.

                      Pick your own example.

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            • He didn’t dip into the rainy day fund. It’s still there. Instead they slashed education, deeply. Because better to slash public education then dip into the fund for, you know, rainy days. Like deep recessions.

              Texas doesn’t exactly top the spending lists on education. (IIRC, it’s at the bottom. WELL at the bottom).

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                • I can assure you, that if you have the urge to praise the Texas budget or budget making process in any way, you have gotten confused.

                  Perry didn’t make any fans with that budget, either. (It’s actually a testament to his political skill that he’s still in office. Nobody seems to actually like him, least of all his own party, and his office is by far the weakest governer’s office in the US. But through patronage and god knows what else, everyone owes him and he’s managed to make things work his way through sheer political skill. I have to admit, it’s impressive the way the man can twist arms despite lacking any sort of power other than the GOP’s internal apparatus).

                  For a state with the lowest per-capita spending in the US (we’re like 60% of the next lowest), with a crappy education system that’s been in and out of judicial control for decades because the Leg can’t figure out how to fund it in a vaguely equitable manner, Texans are surprisingly proud of the fact that they’ve always found the money for education. (A lot less than any other state, but whatever. Pride is what it is). Heck, the lottery only passed here because the proceeds were earmarked ‘for the schools’.

                  Slashing the education budget by 5 billion was bad enough — doubly so that enrollment increases meant it needed 5 billion MORE just to keep spending level (so really,an effective cut of 10 billion) — it angered a lot of people, and the schools are really feeling it.

                  I’ve seen the local cutbacks — when school districts have raised class sizes by a third, cut staff to the bone, and started talking about making core curriculm cuts — literally down to the bare minimums required for graduation, getting rid of advanced classes, cutting down to offering just one foreign language instead of three or four, ripping out regional and state competitions because there’s not only no budget for transporting students, there’s no budget to insure them or pay for teachers even if the kids raise it…

                  I know the local teachers here haven’t seen a raise in 4 years. Which has really eaten into their already pretty crappy salaries because health costs, food costs, energy costs and even plain old inflation have been eating away at things.

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  8. The GOP is a bit too gerrymandered to be sailing away to irrelevance.

    There are probably dozens of heavily gerrymandered Congressional seats in the GOP’s favor. These are districts where Congresscritters can only be defeated by a challenge from the right, not the left. Hence, the election of ultra-right congresscritters who say absurd things on TV. These things are not absurd in their very-safe districts.

    Plus they do control more governorships than the Democratic Party as Aaron David pointed out.

    There could be a chance that they are becoming irrelevant for people our age and younger (anyone born after 1975 or so) but I think there are plenty of late-Gen Xers and Millenialls who are Republican and just as conservative in the Fox News kind of way. Only time will tell.

    The saddest part of this treaty debacle is that the UN was basically approving of US law. The treaty is a copy of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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    • Incredibly, in post-electiion polling, white men and women from 18 – 25 favored Mitt Romney by 7 points. So the Republican constituency is not exclusively cranky old white men: there’s evidently some cranky young white men (and women) as well.

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      • Right. I am not surprised.

        I grew up in bluest of the blue New York. My hometown congressional district is part suburban Long Island (but generally Jewish and Asian) and part-Queens. Republicans were in the minority. I come from a long-line of Democratic voters, no one in my family has been Republican ever.

        However, if you are young and grew up in a heavily Republican area and in a heavily Republican family, you are probably going to come out as a Republican.

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      • Not many, and while I haven’t seen the breakdowns I suspect that’s entirely from running up the scoreboard on whites in the South.

        Insofar as Mitt Romney “won whites” he did so by massively winning Southern whites, losing Northeastern whites, and breaking sorta even everywhere else.

        The young vote went 60%+ in favor of Obama, and turnout was quite high. Not a lot of joy for the GOP, demographically, anywhere.

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  9. Here’s what Michael Steele said about Limbaugh that he had to apologize for:

    “Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh — his whole thing is entertainment. He has this incendiary — yes, it’s ugly.

    Which is fascinating, because we were told over and over during the Sandra Fluke incident “So he said something ugly and incendiary? Big deal. That’s what he does. He’s just an entertainer.”

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      • I don’t think the point of Tod’s series of posts here is that the GOP is going to cease existing or cease having actual power. Indeed, part of why what he’s discussing is important is precisely because the GOP still does exercise considerable power. By all rights, right now at this very instant, House Republicans should be bargaining in good faith and bowing to a substantial rebuke from the electorate handed to them in November, instead of engaging in yet another round of mindless brinksmanship sending the Federal budget into automatic sequestration (aka the “fiscal cliff”).

        And the President ought to be using that substantial political victory to leverage a solution similar to his own vision rather than letting a pre-programmed tail wag the dog of the House Republican leadership.

        Indeed, there are plenty of hints out there that the leaders of the House Republicans, including Speaker Boehner, are grown up enough to do exactly this and have a fundamental wish to do exactly this. But they fear that doing so will engender rebellion from their own ranks, motivated by rebellion from a media-incited segment of the base vote, impelled to do what it does by way of what appears to be autopilot programming.

        The fact that this vocal, influential, and yet potent segment of the electorate seems to respond to every policy issue with this autopilot is both frustrating and disturbing. To the extent that the GOP leadership allows this autopilot to govern their own actions, they are not leaders at all but fullowers.

        Tod’s series of posts says to me, “Let’s take a look at how the autopilot is programmed. If you leave this on long enough, eventually you’re going to encounter a serious problem the autopilot can’t solve. You’re going to have to turn it off and take the stick yourself to correct course, or the plane could very well drop out of the sky.”

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          • Anything that could be done to diminish the influence of talk radio/Fox on the GOP is well worth considering.
            It’s sad what they’ve done to the noble ideals of conservatism.

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        • Okay, that makes sense. This is all pretty interesting from up here. I think it’d be pretty easy to argue the Liberals up here are in the same sort of spot, even without something like talk radio to goad them on. Maybe parties that are in power for long enough run out of new ideas or much ability to come up with them?

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            • The Liberal Party should by all rights be doing a lot better against Harper and the Conservatives than they have been for a while now. One theory as to why they haven’t been doing better is that they were in power for so long they basically ran out of new ideas or the ability to sell them. What I’d suggest is the Republicans are in a bind because they keep hammering the same ideas that they have been for some time with diminishing results.

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                • Oh, yeah. I know nothing of Canada. :)

                  I was just curious about the possible existance of a liberal echo chamber or something, given that Democrats not only cheerfully ignore their base whenever possible (witness Obama’s offering of chained CPI, to the howls of his own base and also anyone who has ever haggled over a car), but the old saw about “I don’t belong to an organized political party, I’m a Democrat” remain ever so true.

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                  • Oh, of course, yeah- the liberals up here are not quite the same beast. It’s interesting because on the chat shows here they will ask what has gone wrong for the Liberal Party and why they’ve seemed so rudderless for a spell, in spite of Harper being a lump. When I heard that theory- that political parties can be successful long enough that they calcify in “winning” positions that no longer win and can’t get out of them- some bells went off about things in the states.

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                    • That all seems quite true. I think there was an expectation that they’d just keep winning… that it was almost owed to them (“The Natural Governing Party” as they call themselves). Similarly, it seems to me that they became very focused on winning rather than presenting a vision. So, when they had some weak leadership (Paul Martin, Stephane Dion, Michael Ignatieff – and by weak leaders I mean in the political/rallying the troops sort of way, not that they’d be bad PMs necessarily) they didn’t have much substance to back it all up.

                      Also, in the ’90s, they co-opted a lot of small-c conservative policies (slashing budgets, limiting benefits, etc.) that really helped them to be such a successful and dominant force under Chretien (very much a strong leader). But, perhaps, this left them bereft of a soul. The NDP took up the left wing cause and the Liberals were the wishy-washy centre. It’s hard to defend both flanks.

                      As all this has gone down, you have really seen the difference between Liberal supporters who were there because they were liberals (most of them jumped ship) and those who are just died-in-the-wool partisans (though even some of them left).

                      It is absolutely, 100% true that Harper deserved to lose the last election, but no other party was a serious contender. The Tories got their majority by default.

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        • The Republicans are irrelevant today and have zero effect on policy at the national level. What the progressive partisans keep confusing is the Republicans versus the Democratic Party’s refusal to accept responsibility for their own decisions.

          The budget fight is not really between the Republicans and the Democrats. It is between what the Democrats really want versus what they are willing to take responsibility for. Immigration, education, crime, and environmental policy are just discussion inside the Democratic Party over what they can go without being blamed for the downside.

          MSNBC functions as an arm of the Democratic Party to blame Republicans for the impacts of policies that the Democrats push. Just look at any progressive website and count how many times the irrelevant Republicans are mentioned versus how many times President Obama is mentioned.

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          • I’m a bit confused.

            How did they get Boehner to go along with it? I mean he prances around, claiming he’s the House majority leader. Obviously he can’t be.

            I mean, if it’s all the Democrats fault and they’re just neogitating with themselves then obviously they must control both chambers, right?

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        • I suppose Reynolds’s “ELIMINATIONIST RHETORIC” tag could be sarcasm. Though he shows astonishingly little insight by criticizing the syllogism:

          (1) Something bad happened; (2) I hate you; so (3) It’s your fault.

          That’s a precis of the typical Instapundit item.

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          • I’m not going to defend GHR’s level of insightfulness, but “eliminationist rhetoric” was a reference to the charge against Sarah Palin. Which Loomis took part in, though it might have been a more broad “the same side that complained about crossfires is talking about pitting heads on pikes.”

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              • Someone at Instapundit had used similar rhetoric, something like “I want to see heads roll,” in reference to the Benghazi affair, so the charges of hypocrisy have generally been related to that (not sure that’s what Mike was getting at).

                Having watched the Loomis thing, and have been genuinely amazed by it. First, I’m not a Loomis fan; I think he’s a bit of a blowhard, and tends to be pretentious for pretentiousness’ sake, but at least someone is blogging about labor issues on a mainstream (read: non-academic, non-leftist) liberal blog. But man, I’ve never seen people react to an obvious metaphor, a common metaphor, the way some people have to that one tweet. I know he retweeted some stuff by Rude Pundit that was, well, Rude Pundity, and he also labeled the NRA a terrorist organization (OK, maybe I do like Loomis), but the way they went after him, and the way they genuinely seemed to believe that he was a homicidal maniac (and really a maniac: they kept calling him clinically insane) was fascinating. I can’t tell if they were all just playing the game, or if the groupthink was overwhelming and they couldn’t help it, or if these are just really not very bright people, but whatever it was, it was awe-inspringly over the top.

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                • What I’m getting at is that

                  (1) Something bad happened; (2) I hate you; so (3) It’s your fault.

                  is a perfect description of the right-wing obsession with Benghazi (and with Obama in general), so it’s amusing to see Reynolds accuse someone else of it.

                  I think Chris gets Loomis exactly right, by the way.

                  It’s an old right-wing trope that liberals are s intolerant as to be homicidal. Here’s a Jeff Jacoby column in which he claims that Nina Totentberg’s comment about General Boykin (“I hope he’s not long for this world.” ) is actually a wish for his death. It’s an expression meaning “He’s going to get a large and well-deserved comeuppance.” In other words, when he said that Totenberg “backtracked” by saying she was hoping only for his firing, he meant “she explained”. I don’t know if it’s an East Coast thing or a Jewish thing, but my Dad used to use it too, say when a shortstop made his third error of the inning. (The syntax is odd enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a translation of a Yiddish expression. )

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                  • I’m relating it to Tod’s OP on how right wing smear campaigns work. Reynolds posts a link, and everyone picks it up to attack Loomis in the echo chamber. The liberal is accused of being an intolerant homicidal maniac for making a common metaphor that the same people accusing him of do all the time. Yet the right side of the blogosphere will circle the wagons around their own for making indefensible statements or look for any reason or excuse, or just outright ignore that it happened.
                    And guess what? They called for Loomis to be fired, called the FBI that Loomis had made a threat on LaPierre’s life and all you guys can seem to focus on is GHR from that post.

                    Recall the relative right wing blogosphere silence on the shootings from the same sources that are attacking Loomis. They’ll blow up a metaphor to cover their asses, but early silence on a major shooting?

                    http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/12/the-horror-in-newtown-reader-reax.html
                    “Only Drudge headlines the atrocity in Newton. There is a Fox news clip buried deep on the National Review’s front page. Nothing on The Corner. Nothing on Michelle Malkin. Nothing on Red State (I don’t think, best as I could tell from the front of the paywall).

                    Did I cherry pick the right wing sites? Yes. Did I want some response, even if it would opine something (again) about the danger of jumping to conclusions, about people killing people, about guns as necessary machines of defense? Yes. Why? TWENTY CHILDREN ARE MURDERED IN A KINDERGARTEN CLASSROOM and half of the bloggers on our political spectrum are not reporting it! I can picture these people, definitely horrified by the killings, but also slapping their heads thinking “Aw jeez, not again, these crazies are really giving us a bad name,” all the while constructing some appropriately sympathetic-but-not-damaging-to-their-benefactors column. It’s good to think before you type. But sometimes, it’s good to just think – and I really hope that that is what these defenders of guns-for-all are doing.”

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  10. Can’t even get their own caucus to agree on a plan…

    “House Speaker John Boehner says his fiscal cliff plan won’t come to a vote because “it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass. Now it is up to the president to work with Sen. (Harry) Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff.”

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      • Seriously. How often do you have the (redacted) Speaker of the (redacted) House saying, “Oh, I got nothing. Here, you talk to my people, they won’t listen to me.”

        $1 says when nothing happens as of the 1st, John’s first in line to blame the Administration.

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      • It’s no filibustering your own bill, but it’s still a sizeable own-goal.

        What’s better is they DID pass the changes to the sequester. They removed all the defense cuts and doubled up by slashing food stamps, meals on wheels, cuts to the ACA (that included some Medicare funds!), and repealing Dodd-Frank even though that’s not technically a budget item and didn’t save any money.

        So, to wit — the GOP managed to make a huge fuss and slash spending for the poor to keep the Pentagon working with it’s usual pittance of “more than the rest of the world combined”, and then went on to basically say “We’d prefer to raise taxes on EVERYONE than to raises taxes on millionaires even a little!”

        I can’t imagine how those guys lost the White House.

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    • Yup.

      I really don’t get why they didn’t vote for that bill. It was an obvious stunt with no chance of passing the Senate. It might have helped their barganing position or some ads in 2014. Why not vote for it?

      Somebody is out for Boehner’s orange blood, because he looks really ridiculously weak now (more than before), while the R’s look organized and defiant (to the point of being self-destructive, of course) even without his leadership.

      Weird.

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        • The marginal seats that the Republicans held in the recent election with a mild Obama wave trying to knock them off (a wave that was successful with the marginal Senate seats) will be even safer without Obama on the ticket. The House isn’t going to change hands until 2016 at the earliest, and even then will require a Presidential candidate mismatch greater than the one just past.

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          • I know that’s the theory.

            I don’t buy it. I don’t expect a wave of dem wins. But I won’t be at all surprised to see a wave of former-Republicans win as independents. There’s a growing horde of them out there.

            And I do hope they step to the plate.

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        • Boehner’s going to go down in history as a particularly weak Speaker of the House. But let’s be fair and recognize a few mitigating factors.

          1. The Speakership is not designed to be a powerful position, and few Speakers ever have been very powerful. As long as candidates for the House are self-selected, instead of party-selected, and are accountable to their constituents rather than to party leadership, Speakers will be limited in power. They can deprive troublesome members of plum committee assignments, but that strategy only works well when there’s few enough troublemakers.

          2. Most Speakers haven’t had to deal with such a group of ideologues, folks who have a deep moral objection to the old saw that politics is the art of compromise. Boehner, for all his bluster, can do the math and see that compromise is necessary to get something done here. These ideologues don’t get it. They believe in absolute Truth, and they’d rather burn the house down than compromise. You can’t lead people like that (as Gingrich discovered), not without exceptional skill. Boehner’s skills may not be as poor as they appear, they’re just not exceptional.

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        • True, but the parties are more institutionally embedded in the system now than they were back then. Of course this is a case of it-can’t-happen-until-wow!-one-day-it-happens, but I’d bet on a meteor striking the earth before I’d bet on either party withering away.

          Maybe if some alternative third party starts winning local/state elections, then I’ll start thinking it’s at least a remote possibility.

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          • I think this is exactly right.

            In the past, a party would wither away and be replaced by another party. I think that going forward, the perpetually losing party will simply reinvent itself. Parties exist to win elections and no party is going to tolerate losing forever. The difference between now and then being that now they can spend longer in the wilderness rehabilitating themselves without some other party coming in and taking their members and their place.

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            • I think the difference is that in the past parties were fairly rigid groups, ideologically speaking.

              Today politics is big business, and the ideology any party claims to believe in is largely driven by market forces. In modern politics, if a block of voters seems like it will add more votes or money, either party other will abandon (or at least ignore) blocks already within their ranks. The opposing party will usually then shift their messaging in hopes of picking up those discarded blocks. In other words, Dixiecrats and populists didn’t change to become Republicans; Republicans changed to get their votes.

              Being a pragmatist, I actually like that this happens.

              Neither party will die in my lifetime, I think, because each will continue to reinvent itself to make sure it is always bringing in money and votes.

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      • If the Republicans in Congress vote as a monolithic, divorced-from-reality bloc, then they’re going to both exert more power and earn more blame than if they were susceptible to reason.

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