Donnie Swaggart Is Being Oppressed!

Donnie SwaggartI find it constantly fascinating to watch Christians in this 80% Christian country whine about how attacked they are. I know, I know: I talk about this a lot. But it truly is astounding. In the past, Christians were sent to the lions. Now, it turns out that they were not sent to the lions because they were Christians, but it is hard to find a Christian who will admit it. The fact remains, however, that they were Christians, they broke the law and got killed — like many other minority groups. And modern day Christians think that they went to their deaths because the Romans just hated Christians. What’s more, modern Christians think what these early Christians did was noble.

Given that they think this, it is hilarious that they simultaneously think that they are being oppressed when a clerk at Target wishes them “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” And today, we have another example. It comes to us via Jimmy Swaggart’s son Donnie. According to Right Wing Watch, “Donnie Swaggart… hosted a panel discussion… dedicated to discussing the controversy that had erupted in Houston, Texas, after the mayor’s office subpoenaed sermons and other materials from a handful of pastors as part of a lawsuit anti-gay activists had filed in an effort to overturn a local antidiscrimination ordinance.” During the segment, Swaggart claimed that “They want the Bible gone” — referring to the minority that aren’t Christian and support non-discrimination. And he followed that up by noting that the only difference between ISIS and these people is that “those here cannot chop our heads off.”

This is brilliant. It is true that we have a Christian-centered culture where whining about being told “Happy Holidays” does not get you laughed out of polite society. And it is true that there are no people that I know of running around specifically trying to murder Christians in this country. And it is true that Christians in the United States are in no way oppressed. But Donnie Swaggart knows that Christians are oppressed because the only thing that is keeping me from chopping off the heads of Christians is that I know I can’t get away with it. Or I don’t have a big sword or otherwise am not able to do it.

It doesn’t get any better than this. Christians are being oppressed because unnamed people are only stopped from chopping their heads off by the law. I might note that in Salem, the “witches” were hanged and not burned at the stake. And the reason they weren’t burned at the stake was that England had made it illegal because the Christians were really getting out of hand in that regard. If we should be worried about anyone sinning in their hearts — constrained only by law — it should be Christians.

But the story gets better. Right Wing Watch posted less than one and a half minutes of video from the show on their YouTube channel. Within just a few hours, “Swaggart’s SonlifeTV has filed a copyright complaint.” And, of course, YouTube took it down because YouTube is evil that way. That should give you some idea of just how serious Swaggart and his kin are about the open flow of information. According to him, we non-Christians want the Bible gone. But he doesn’t want to allow his own words to get outside his own cult where everyone agrees.

But we’re like ISIS.

H/T: Ed Kilgore

Satire Is Dead: Tea Party Edition

Kim Stafford: Satire is deadI feel sorry for Kim Stafford. For one thing, she has the exact same name as the Portland poet, who doesn’t even have the good taste to be female. But more than that, in 2012, a photo of her went viral — the photo there on the left. Ben Collins explains it all in an Esquire article, Remember Kim Stafford? …Of Course You Don’t. She was going to a college party and at the last minute she found out it was “Boston Tea Party themed.” Without easy access to a tricorn, she made the mistake of being creative.

She decided to go to the party as “one of those Tea Baggers.” So she went online and searched for some illiterate Tea Party signs. She settled upon, “A Village Somewhere in Kenia Is Missing There Idiot.” I have to admit, I have not been able to find such a sign. But there are plenty of similar ones like, “Get A Brain Morans!” (So true: Dylan Moran is just an idiot!) Anyway, Stafford scrawled the phrase on an empty pizza box and went to her party where all went well. That’s one of the things about actual physical contact: misunderstandings tend to get resolved quickly. Not so much here on the internet.

I don’t think I need to tell you what happened next. People are awful. And it is all the worse because they are at least nominally liberal. Now, I understand getting things wrong. It has happened to me. And even when I’ve not gotten things right, I’ve acted in ways that are not in keeping with my elevated potential. So I can’t be too harsh on people who said she was, for example, an idiot. But as with everything that ever involves a woman, it became sexualized. She was called a “whore” and compared to a horse. Oh well. As Stafford herself said after the whole thing, “[P]eople are evil.”

Racist Obama ImageThe problem is not satire itself. The problem is reality. The truth is that Stafford’s sign isn’t that extreme. The idea of it is nothing that we didn’t see (with far more cause) applied to Bush the Younger. The grammar errors are fairly minor — especially on the internet where editors are not allowed and writers (very much including me) post things as fast as possible with the most cursory of checks. And remember, we’ve seen Obama as a witch doctor or any of the collection of racist images at All Things Democratic including “Lawdy, I sho’ loves campainnin!”

The question is how can one in any individual instance be outrageous enough to come off as satirical rather than just another offensive and ignorant conservative? I’m serious about the question, because I like satire. I wish there were an answer. But the truth is that any Colbert Report segment in isolation would be hard to judge. And as I discussed in Conservatives Think Colbert Is a Double Agent, many people think he’s secretly serious anyway.

This is one way that the internet really makes our lives less free. But it is part of a larger social trend away from having a small number of substantial relationships and toward having a very large number of superficial ones. My close friends don’t often misunderstand my intent. But the problem does go beyond that. We all seem to be forever on the edge of offense. I think there are a lot of reasons for that, but mostly it is that the modern world provides very few opportunities for us to find meaning in our lives. And having a thousand friends is like having none. No wonder we lash out instead of chuckling, “Get it? She misspelled Kenya!”

Until further notice: satire is dead.

Obamacare Is Not the Heritage Plan

Scott LemieuxThe presence of a mandate is where the similarities between the ACA and the Heritage Plan end, and the massive remaining differences reveal the disagreement between Democrats and Republicans about the importance of access to healthcare for the nonaffluent. The ACA substantially tightens regulations on the healthcare industry and requires that plans provide medical service while limiting out-of-pocket expenses. The Heritage Plan mandated only catastrophic plans that wouldn’t cover basic medical treatment and would still entail huge expenditures for people afflicted by a medical emergency. The Affordable Care Act contained a historic expansion of Medicaid that will extend medical coverage to millions (and would have covered much more were it not for the Supreme Court), while the Heritage Plan would have diminished the federal role in Medicaid. The ACA preserves Medicare; the Heritage Plan, like the Paul Ryan plan favored by House Republicans, would have destroyed Medicare by replacing it with a voucher system…

[T]he argument that the ACA is the “Heritage Plan” is not only wrong but deeply pernicious. It understates the extent to which the ACA extends access to medical care, including through single-payer insurance where it’s politically viable. And it gives Republicans far, far too much credit. The Republican offer to the uninsured isn’t anything like the ACA. It’s “nothing.” And the Republican offer to Medicare and Medicaid recipients is to deny many of them access to healthcare that they now receive. Progressive frustration with the ACA is understandable, but let’s not pretend that anything about the law reflects the priorities of actually existing American conservatives.

—Scott Lemieux
No, Obamacare Wasn’t a “Republican” Proposal

Centrist Solutions Lead to Right Wing Extremism

Ron FournierI have long thought that Watergate backfired on liberals. Pretty much any Republican malfeasance harms liberalism because it harms the idea that government can be a force for good. I’ve become really frustrated with what I see as casual cynicism: the idea that everyone is out for their own gain and no one is any damned good. This is implicit in the “both side do it” argumentation so loved by the mainstream media.

Yesterday, Matt Yglesias pointed out an excellent example from Ron Fournier where he complained that Obamacare was “a one-sided law.” So if Republicans explicitly boycott a law because it will provide political benefit to the president, both sides are equally at fault. Similarly, Dean Baker pointed out, “Robert Samuelson does the old ‘pox on both your houses’ routine, complaining about Republicans who want tax cuts for rich people and Democrats who defend Social Security and Medicare.” Robert SamuelsonAll of this pushes the idea that government is corrupt and there are no good politicians. And what that means is that the Republicans win, because that is the idea that they are pushing.

There is no doubt that this has been a major issue since Nixon. But there is another issue that was brought up in a Thomas Frank interview with Rick Perlstein, How ’70s and ’80s Cynicism Poisoned Democrats and America. In it, Perlstein brought up a major change in the kind of Democrats who got elected in 1974. It was kind of the start of the New Democrats. I’ve discussed this in the past to the extent that I refer to Jimmy Carter as the proto-New Democrat. He was, after all, the guy that really started the deregulation frenzy, rolled back Nixon’s policy of detente with the Soviet Union, and pushed forward debt fixation. But I always thought that he was something of a singularity. Not so:

It gave a certain generation of Democrats an argument to take on the Republicans at the exact same moment that a new political generation was coming up that had indifference, at best, and contempt, at worst, for the New Deal tradition. So you get this class of Congresspeople who hadn’t really run for any office at all. Very young. Swept into office in 1974, very much arguing on issues of corruption, to be sure, but also lifestyle issues. Often they were representing new suburban constituencies that had traditionally elected Republicans and their spokesman was, in fact, this guy Gary Hart…

And that means that liberal — Populist! — economic policy was largely dropped. Hart and company didn’t argue against the conservative economic policies of the Republicans. In fact, they largely agreed with them. Later in the interview, Perlstein noted, “And a lot of these post-New Deal Democrats, by the way, come out of the New Left and the New Left had this very problematic relationship with the labor movement, who were seen as sort of the Cold War consensus.” This has long been a problem with our new upper and upper middle class political establishment. They have no real experience with the working class. And this is why Republicans — even while being horrible for workers on a practical level — have managed to paint Democrats as a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show.

The big problem with this is not just that Democrats elect nothing but conservative presidents like Carter, Clinton, and Obama. The problem is apparent in the fact that the Republicans claim these conservatives are leftist extremists. And that allows people like Ron Fournier and Robert Samuelson to define a new liberalism that is far to the right of Nixon. By abandoning liberal economic policy, the Democrats have not only directly harmed the American middle class, they have also made any real discussion of change impossible. Now even the most traditional of economic policies are met with cries of, “Socialism!”

This is why I see the primary problem in American politics as being centered around the Democratic Party. If we want a more reasonable conservative movement and Republican Party, the solution is for the Democratic Party to move to the left on economic policy. But the sort of people in the media who are always looking for compromise and occasionally fretting about the extremism of the Republican Party always call for exactly what caused our current problems. Fournier thinks that there is some magic trick whereby if Democrats just move the right amount to the right in the right way, the Republicans will move the left and we will all sing “Kumbaya”! But just the opposite has happened and will continue to happen. When the Democrats move one step toward the Republicans, the Republicans move two steps away. And it is only studied ignorance that allows pundits to not see this.

The Painting of Wyndham Lewis

Wyndham LewisOn this day in 1882, the great painter Wyndham Lewis was born. He was also a writer of some repute — probably more famous for that during his lifetime. He wrote about a dozen novels and countless essays, short stories, plays, and even poetry. I’ve never read any of his work, but I probably will now. I am going to focus on his painting here.

He was probably the greatest artist in the Vorticist movement. But he is so much more than that. Partly, this is because the movement didn’t much last. Apparently, everyone was so depressed by World War I that they all slunk off in their own personal ways. As a result, his work is quite eclectic. Actually, I’m not that fond of his — or anyone else’s — Vorticist work.

In the Tate’s discussion of Lewis, it mentions that he “produced a bewildering quantity and range of work.” It is very true. It is hard to get a handle on exactly what he was doing. He was one of those crazy talented people who grab different influences the way we lesser mortals breath air. For example, in his battlefield painting A Battery Shelled, I certainly see Vorticism, but there is much more:

A Battery Shelled - Wyndham Lewis

But later, he was doing Tyros as seen above in his self-portrait. And later still, he often did more realism as in the following painting of his wife “Froanna” (Gladys Anne Hoskins):

Froanna - Wyndham Lewis

Most of his work is quite splendid, and I’ll admit that the work I don’t like is probably more a failing of mine than his. It is well worth checking out.

Happy birthday Wyndham Lewis!