This is the best definition of liberalism I've ever read. More than that, it provides the perfect standard for measuring any policy, proposal or action as genuinely liberal.
Liberalism is and has always been about intervention. It is the opposite of libertarianism, and always has been. Liberals understand that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Left to their own devices, people with weapons and money will always try to exploit and dominate people without weapons and money unless they are stopped from doing so. It is not because we are taught to do so. It's just innate human nature. If this were not the case, libertarianism would work as an ideology. It does not, and never has at any point in history.
When the government steps in to stop a corporation from dumping noxious chemicals into a stream, that is intervention at the point of a gun, by a superior force against a lesser force attempting to exploit the weak and powerless. When the government steps in to enforce desegretation in schools, that is intervention at the point of a gun, by a superior force against a lesser force attempting to exploit the weak and powerless.
When Abraham Lincoln and the North decided not to allow the nation of the Confederacy--and make no mistake, it was a separate nation with separate laws and an entirely separate culture--to secede from the Union, in large part because the North had an interest in ending slavery in the South and in striking down a competing agrarian economic system, that too was intervention by a superior force against a lesser force attempting to exploit the weak and powerless. To this day, many Southerners feel that their land is being occupied by an illegitimate and invading power, and theirs a Lost Cause that will rise again.
This is what liberalism is. It is unavoidably, inescapably paternalistic in nature. It is so because it understands the inevitable tendency of human beings to be truly awful to one another unless social and legal rules are put in place--yes, by force--to prevent them from doing otherwise.
Conservatives use force of government as well, of course, but not in defense of the weak and oppressed, but rather to maintain the power of money, of patriarchy and of the established social pecking order. Where the oppressive hand of government helps them achieve that, they utilize it. Where libertarian ideology helps them keep power in the hands of the local good old boys, they use that instead.
But a liberal--a progressive, if you will--is always an interventionist, because a liberal understands that society is constantly on a path of self-perfection, in an effort to use reason and good moral judgment to prevent insofar as possible the exploitation of one person by another.
The division between liberals lies in how far to intervene, especially in foreign wars. Almost all would agree that intervention in World War II against the Nazis and Imperial Japanese was the right thing to do. Most would agree that intervention in Kosovo was the right thing to do to stop the ongoing genocide there. Certainly, conservatives at the time opposed involvement in either conflict. Some liberals believe that America should use its power of intervention to help the oppressed around the world by use of force if necessary. Most others understand that such moves, even if well-intentioned, cause more problems and harm than they solve. But there will always be disagreements between liberals about whether, how much and where to intervene in the world in order to stop bad people from doing bad things that either threaten America, or simply threaten to oppress the poor and the weak. Not, of course, that America's war machine is always or even usually used with such good intentions; quite the contrary. It is usually used for the conservative purpose of exploiting and destroying people and resources for the benefit of the wealthy. But here we speak only of liberal ideology and its relationship to the use of military force.
Similarly, liberals have a conflict when it comes to economic intervention. A few on the left choose to pursue a very hard line of intervention toward economic egalitarianism, leading to a vision in line with Communism. More of us tend to see the need for substantial economic intervention on a capitalist substrate, and lean more toward Democratic Socialism. Others see the need for some intervention, but are wary to stepping too far into the middle of the "free market," which makes them more Neoliberal. But in all these cases, the question is only a matter of degree.
It is no accident that the most fervent economic interventionists on the left have also turned out to be the most imperial and bellicose (e.g., the Soviets and the Chinese.) They believe most in the necessity of force to prevent exploitation by the holders of capital, and see no reason why that necessity should stop at their own borders.
Contra Stoller, there is indeed a conflict within liberalism, but it is precisely this: a matter of how much intervention is necessary. It is not a fundamental conflict of ideals.
Handicapping the outcome of the caucus in Nevada.
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Hours after a horrific massacre in Homs, China and Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria, one which was already watered down in an attempt to get the support of the Russians.[...]
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Still waiting for Scalia to drag me in.Over the last year, we've had lots of fun at anti-semite George Rockwell's expense (see here for an example, where he claims Justice Scalia will bring me to trial at the Supreme Court). That seemingly came to an end in early December, when he announced:
friends don't coordinate jew attacks against friends. and the irony is that your only chance of freeing yourself from jew servitude was to listen to me. now you have lost both your chance at freedom and a friend. good bye, markos.
I wasn't exactly torn up, but he had been a great source of hate mail material! Well, he couldn't stay away. The latest on that soap opera (and updates on the Supreme Court bench trial against me) below the fold.
With John Waltz challenging Fred Upton, Lance Enderle taking on Mike Rogers, Syed Taj challenging Thaddeus McCotter and Henry Yanez opposing Candice Miller, Michigan is looking at a plethora of opportunities for progressive, grassroots candidates this year. And now there's talk of another race by a grassroots activist taking on Justin Amash in the Grand Rapids/Battle Creek area (MI-3). Amash is a far-right Tea Party freshman who is furiously striving to be the next Rep. Ron Paul-- and in the worst sense of the Paulist legacy. Interesting strategy at a time when Michigan voters have had it with the teabaggers and surveys show steadily declining support for their ideas and tactics.
Meanwhile, Republicans in the Lansing apparently don?t care much for Amash; GOP redistricters weren't kind to him and MI-3 is more Democratic than it was when he was elected in 2010. There are rumors that this was "encouraged" by Boehner and Cantor who are angry that Amash strayed from Republican orthodoxy too frequently. He even managed to piss off the National Rifle Association so much that they ended up pulling their money and calling Amash a ?liar.? And, for an incumbent, Amash is having trouble finding contributors to back him. His latest fiance report shows him with just $136,000 in cash on hand. Another congressional millionaire, he's looking at the prospect of self-funding. His family cashed in by importing goods from foreign countries like China only to slap on a company logo that says: "Michigan Industrial Tools." This was an ad from 2010 with ideas likely to resonate more forcefully this year:
video details and more
Yesterday we looked at how the DCCC and Inside-the-Beltway Democrats are encouraging a conservative corporate shill in Florida, Patrick Murphy (a rich "ex"-Republican) to run against progressive activist Dave Lutrin. With despised Blue Dog Heath Shuler (NC) retiring from Congress in the face of a strong challenge from progressive Cecil Bothwell, the DCCC rushed to recruit a bunch of conservatives to challenge Bothwell, like Shuler's chief of staff Hayden Rogers. So how are the DCCC and the Michigan Democratic Establishment taking advantage of Amash's vulnerabilities? My sources tell me they?re looking for a ?safe? candidate-- not the guy who might actually be electable and have the authenticity to pull some anti-Amash folks and maybe even turn some heads among a largely automotive, working-class populous.
We were enthused a month or so ago to hear rumors that a fighting progressive, Trevor Thomas, was looking at a run. Trevor grew up in the district; his parents worked 30 years each on factory lines, including General Motors and Delphi plants. A source close to his team reports that he picked up legendary consultant Mark Mellman who is already in the field with a poll measuring his chances.
Trevor, who spent five years as a producer and reporter at WOOD-TV and WGVU-TV in Grand Rapids, went on to work for Governor Jennifer Granholm and later helped lead the national effort to repeal "Don?t Ask, Don?t Tell." And he?s done his legwork, meeting with local electeds in the district since November and charting a well-thought out, early grassroots plan to win.
But Democrats are hung up on his pro-Choice position (many of the Democratic electeds in west Michigan are as anti-Choice as Republicans) and they're afraid to find out how his being openly gay will play out. They must have missed The Advocate story calling Grand Rapids one of the gayest cities in America.
Here's where we call bullshit. Our sources tell us that local Democrats, no doubt backed by the DCCC, are looking at a pro-life, multi-millionaire conservative who will run on the Democratic ticket. They think he?s a safe alternative, but most folks admit they don?t believe he has the fire to mount a decent campaign. This election is going to be about fighting for the middle class. And, we need candidates who are from the middle class to make the case to voters. That's Trevor Thomas.
There is even talk that Republicans are directly involved in helping to set the Democratic ticket. They don't like Amash, but won't set up a primary challenge. And, there's a history of Republicans dividing and helping pick the Democratic candidate. When then-Congressman Gerry Ford was named Vice President and a special election was held, some GOP-ers backed a conservative democrat running on an anti-Nixon message. That Democrat won, only to lose two years later when the GOP put up a Republican with broader support.
Through a friend, I?m told Trevor will spend this weekend thinking about it after looking at some of the data collected and meeting with his team. But he may very well be squeezed out by local folks opting to go with someone who won?t take the tough votes progressives need in Congress. That?s wrong and we need to spread the word-- now.
We need to show Trevor we have his back. DWT is pushing him to run; he spoke at this past Netroot?s Nation with AmericaBlog?s Joe Sudbay on the DREAM Act and Don?t Ask repeal. He doesn?t come from wealth and he damn well will represent what progressives believe. And he?ll fight like hell all the way to the end. The Democratic congressional caucus is old-- really old-- much older than the Republican congressional caucus. The need for fresh, inspired younger Members is glaring... screaming. Trevor Thomas is part of what the future of the Democratic Party looks like and what the United States of America looks like. He'll make western Michigan proud and he should run for this seat.
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Occupy Nashville is an amazing group, Occupy is an amazing movement. ON's future, like so many other Occupations, is in doubt as the TN Legislature is ratcheting up the pressure."Our presence is our protest." All we have is all we are.[...]
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An ugly uproar can turn positive if you go back far enough to remember when things were worse, much worse.
For a women?s magazine editor of that time, the Planned Parenthood-Komen Foundation furor recalls half a century from introduction of the Pill when women, no matter what their circumstances, were without safe, reliable birth control and, before Roe v. Wade, had the choice of bearing unwanted children or being butchered by back-alley abortions.
From the start, those new alternatives, sanctioned by both science and government, were fiercely opposed by those of strong religious beliefs, who were not above using scare tactics to discourage their use. Ever since, women?s bodies have been a political battleground
By 1965, with five million women on the Pill after five years on the market, there was no reliable research about side effects and possible long-term dangers. As editor of McCalls, I put up $15,000 to find out what members of the American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists were seeing in their practices. They distributed a detailed questionnaire and analyzed the results.
Almost 7,000 gynecologists answered, and the overwhelming majority found oral contraceptives safe and effective. There were a few doubts that would become subjects of later study, but the clear result was to allay women?s fears about the Pill that were being spread by whispers.
In the early 1970s, Betty Ford was in the White House. Undergoing a mastectomy for breast cancer, she spoke about it in public and wrote an article for me to encourage women to go for early screening.
Back then, a generalized fear of the unknown bound both surgeons and patients into accepting radical breast removal as the only acceptable choice. But Dr. William Nolen, a surgeon who wrote a monthly column for the magazine, reported on the effectiveness of less drastic lumpectomies, combined with radiation and chemotherapy.
This was followed by the account of a writer who tracked down the surgeon pioneering the treatment: ?I said 'No' to a group of doctors who told me, 'You must sign this paper, you don't have to know what it's all about'" Her article brought an overwhelming response, although it took decades to turn around the medical profession to where it is now, saving untold numbers of women from automatic loss of parts of their bodies.
This week?s flurry of outrage, which has resulted in a rapid reversal, will leave behind not only bruised feelings but a spike in awareness of the need for cancer screening, contributions to both organizations involved and a heightened sensitivity about keeping zealots out of potential life-and-death decisions.
For someone who has seen it all, that?s some progress, although it does not answer the underlying question of how people who claim to be pro-life can be so fierce in protecting fetuses, while giving their support to politicians who ?don?t care about the poor? and rail against a ?a food-stamp president? in stigmatizing the needs of those children after they are born.
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Over the last several years, we’ve seen football teams get “hot” at the end of[...]
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Fox News and business network pundits loudly proclaim the wealthy pay all the taxes and poor people are grubbing off of them. What they're talking about are federal taxes, so that they can create their own fraudulent narrative about the federal deficit and spending. However, the working class is bludgeoned by state and local taxes, which drains them of all the resources they have to be the type of consumers this country needs in order to thrive.
Still and all, it's true that the federal income tax is indeed progressive. Conservatives are right about that?though it's not as progressive as it used to be, back before top marginal rates were lowered and capital gains taxes were slashed in half. But conservatives are a little less excited to talk about other kinds of taxes. Payroll taxes aren't progressive, for example. In fact, they're actively regressive, with the poor and middle classes paying higher rates than the rich.
And then there are state taxes. Those include state income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and fees of various kinds. How progressive are state taxes?
Answer: They aren't. The Corporation for Enterprise Development recently released a scorecard for all 50 states, and it has boatloads of useful information. That includes overall tax rates, where data from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy shows that in the median state (Mississippi, as it turns out) the poorest 20 percent pay twice the tax rate of the top 1 percent. In the worst states, the poorest 20 percent pay five to six times the rate of the richest 1 percent. Lucky duckies indeed. There's not one single state with a tax system that's progressive. Check the table below to see how your state scores.
When you speak to average Americans they have no idea what real tax policy is because it's so complex, and easily repackaged into right wing talking points. I remember during the first tea party protest in Santa Monica there was a small business owner who was joining in because California raised fees on her business, so she was upset. I explained to her that THIS protest was about the federal government. She had no idea what I was talking about. She assumed Glenn Beck was right and Obama was taxing her into submission when in fact it was Arnold. The middle class is more concerned with their payroll tax?because that's what they survive on?than with the overall federal tax rates that affect the wealthy. To them, it's all the same. Many governors have been guilty of pillaging their treasuries to create tax breaks for businesses which then creates a major deficit. And guess who gets screwed? The little guy and union workers.
Republicans never intended to honor their debt deal.
According to TPM, Senate Democrats think they have the upper hand over Republicans when it comes to the $600 billion of defense cuts Republicans agreed to in the debt deal, only to (very, very predictably) vow to renege on that same deal now:
Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has not only vowed to hold the line on the cuts, but he recently suggested Dems could use it to force the Republicans? collective hand.
?The purpose of the sequester is to force us to act to avoid the sequester,? he said. ?That sword of Damocles can not be splintered,? he continued, ?if it?s going to have its effect.? The effect he said he meant was to ?move the rigid ideologues to deal finally with revenue.?
Hmm. Color me skeptical, though we'd all love to see it. From the outset I thought the debt deal was absolutely terrible, because of course Republicans would turn around and nullify the supposed defense cuts long before they ever took effect. That was so obvious a move that the Democratic resistance to acknowledging it was outright insulting. And the leverage Republicans would have in such a fight is the same leverage they always have: calling Democrats "weak on defense," or saying it will "impact military readiness," or suggesting that Democrats want the terrorists to win. Then the Democrats predictably start sweating, and then they predictably fold, and the Pentagon gets another few so-expensive-they-should-be-carved-from-platinum jet fighters as trophies of the short-lived fight.
What Sen. Levin is suggesting here is perfectly reasonable, and is in fact the obvious strategy: Use these cuts to force Republican ideologues to choose between their desired defense budget and their entrenched opposition to raising any tax, under any circumstance, since it is obvious to any rational observer that the two goals cannot possibly be reconciled. But it presumes Democrats will honestly be willing to make that fight, and to block attempts to remove the defense budget from the budget agreement even as Republicans warn that the entire future of the free world depends on giving the Pentagon more and more and more money, and that you're a dirty communist and/or hippie and/or traitor if you think otherwise. What history exists here that would suggest Democrats would not cave in? Democrats have established a history of caving in nicely, which is exactly why the demands of the Republican leadership have gotten more and more extreme during each hostage-taking session.
Republicans willingly signed on to the defense cuts only a few short months ago. Now they're seen as apocalyptic, and impossible, and so dangerous that only a fool would do it. They knew, even back then, that they weren't going to honor the deal. And now, just as with every other goddamn negotiation of the past three years, we're reliant on an aimless Democratic caucus to negotiate for whatever hostage Republicans take this time around.
I will be very happy if Levin is right, and there is stomach this time around (perhaps thanks to Republican self-immolation on the payroll tax cuts) to hold firm on this issue and finally force Republicans to recognize that "tax cuts for rich people" is not the be-all, end-all of all national policy. The only evidence of it, however, would be that clearly non-conservatives cannot continue to acquiesce to these hostage-takings indefinitely?they are causing too much damage, economically, for the country to blithely accept?and so statistically there should be some point at which more moderate voices have gotten fed up enough to say "no more."