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Archive for March 8th, 2021

The John Birch Society Never Left

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Why it’s foolish to think the modern GOP will ever break with its lunatic fringe

Rick Pearlstein and Edward Miller write in the New Republic:

The Republican Party is facing what many observers are describing as a William F. Buckley moment—a make-or-break opportunity to purge the racists and conspiracy theorists who are rapidly gaining control of the GOP.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, the congresswoman who has questioned whether a plane hit the Pentagon on 9/11 and suggested that Democratic political leaders could be executed for “treason,” is more popular among Republicans than Liz Cheney. A full 75 percent of Republican don’t believe that Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election, laying the groundwork for Donald Trump to incite an insurrection to steal it for real. The QAnon conspiracy theory—which holds that Democrats in the Deep State undermined Trump’s presidency in order to cover up their child-sex racket, and claims Greene among its more prominent adherents—is favorably viewed by nearly one-third of Republicans, while polling shows that violent anti-democratic sentiment is rampant in the conservative movement.

And when Republican lawmakers had a chance to draw a bright line between their party and the conspiracy theorists and the insurrectionists during Trump’s impeachment trial, the vast majority voted to acquit.

Journalistic commentators have settled into a narrative about what it all means: The American right is reverting to what it looked like before the mid-1960s, when William F. Buckley single-handedly purged the conservative movement of the outright racists and conspiracy theorists, like Robert Welch and his John Birch Society, who threatened to condemn American conservatism to permanent exile on the political fringes. What’s necessary now is for the GOP to show some of Buckley’s backbone, they say. “In the past,” wrote Ronald Brownstein in The Atlantic, “the GOP had a stronger core of resistance to extremism than it’s had in the era of Donald Trump, QAnon, the Proud Boys, and Marjorie Taylor Greene.”

“William F. Buckley got it right the first time,” Jonathan Zimmerman wrote in USA Today, adding, “The only question is whether Republican leaders will have the courage to stand up and say so.”

Such confident appeals to past GOP precedent could not be more misleading. They fly directly in the face of the facts—discovered by a new generation of historians who have dismantled the claim that the GOP and the conservative movement ever split with their addled, racist fringe.


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Start with Buckley. The man who founded National Review in 1955 at the tender age of 29 was nothing else if not a politician. The political project that defined him was moving America’s ideological center of gravity to the right. His strategy for doing so was Janus-faced. On the one side, he charmed mainstream cultural gatekeepers, skiing with John Kenneth Galbraith in Gstaad and hobnobbing with Hubert Humphrey at the New York Catholic Archdiocese’s annual Al Smith Dinner. On the other, he plied the far-right side of the fence.

Consider, for example, the direct influence on Buckley’s first book, God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of “Academic Freedom” (1951), of the ideas of American fascist sympathizer Merwin K. Hart. Buckley later cited Hart as the sort of figure whose tone his new magazine would specifically avoid so as to evade the “fascist” label—even as Hart’s key argument that democracy itself was a foreign, anti-American imposition would continue to exert an obvious influence on many of National Review’s most important writers, like Willmoore Kendall, as the historian Joseph M. Fronczak has demonstrated.

Consider also the work of historian Jesse Curtis, who has showed that the magazine described the decolonization of Africa in terms not very different from that of the magazine of the white supremacist Citizens’ Councils movement. No surprise: Buckley’s own statements on the subject—that Africans were “semi-savages” who would be ready for self-government “when they stopped eating each other”—were far more vicious than anything that Robert Welch ever said.

Although it wouldn’t be fair to beat up only on Buckley. It was Ronald Reagan, after all, remembered today as the avatar of the Republicans’ lost respectability, who in 1971 described African United Nations delegates to a chortling Richard Nixon as “monkeys … uncomfortable wearing shoes.” He espoused conspiracy theories like the claim that Gerald Ford staged assassination attempts against himself to win sympathy votes in the 1976 presidential primaries, and that the Soviet Union had removed 20 million young people to the countryside to practice for reconstructing their society after launching an offensive nuclear war. The newsletter of Reagan’s political action committee advocated the quack cancer cure (and pet Bircher cause) laetrile, which “[m]ay be efficacious against cancer but which government in its wisdom wants to keep people from using.” (The reason was that it didn’t work, and frequently killed people.)

Then Reagan became president—and the only thing that changed was the people around him worked harder to keep his wackiness from the public.

They were frequently frustrated—for instance when Reagan claimed the nuclear freeze movement that drew a million protesters to Central Park in 1982 had been engineered in the Kremlin, or the time he told reporters that apartheid South Africa had “eliminated the segregation that we once had in our own country.” There was also the moment when he quoted to a group of college students visiting the White House Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s “eloquent statement” of his plan to conquer America: that he would first take Eastern Europe, then “organize the hordes of Asia,” then “move into Latin America”; then “we will not have to take the last bastion of capitalism, the United States. It will fall into our outstretched hand like overripe fruit.”

Except that Lenin never said it. But Robert Welch claimed he did, in The Blue Book of the John Birch Society, the ur-text of his movement.

Such evidence of Welch’s influence on Reagan tells a truer story of how the modern right evolved. Its founding act wasn’t purging the extremist conspiracists like Welch. Instead, the far right better represented the “mainstream” right’s vanguard, according to the organizing metaphor of a forthcoming book from John S. Huntington. Or it was, to borrow the title of a groundbreaking Princeton dissertation by David Austin Walsh, but one component of the “Right-Wing Popular Front.”


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To take one crucial example, it is generally agreed that  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2021 at 6:21 pm

Posted in GOP, Memes, Politics

Whatever Happened to the War Against Terrorism?

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Kevin Drum has a good post:

In a post that happens to include a bit of mulling over the fate of Western civilization, Jay Nordlinger adds this aside:

(Want to know some good news? The threat of radical political Islam receded faster than many of us expected. It still lurks, of course — what doesn’t? But I well remember the concerns of the first decade of this century. Many of us were settling in for a long twilight struggle. In any event . . .)

This reminds me of something to brag about. Several years ago I predicted that the region from north Africa to the Mideast to central Asia would soon see a substantial decline as a source of terrorism. The reason was simple: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2021 at 2:29 pm

Covid infections still are around the number at the second peak

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And note that these are confirmed cases, a subset of total cases since many are not tested. You can clearly see the lack of reporting at Thanksgiving and Christmas (and the Labor Day holiday).

Now that Texas and Mississippi and some other states have flung caution to the winds, it will be interesting to see how that affects case rates — and, following a week or two later, death rates.

Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2021 at 11:22 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical

The empire strikes back: Republicans regroup and demand more from their donors

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Judd Legum writes at Popular Information:

Following the riot at the Capitol on January 6, dozens of major companies — including Amazon, AT&T,  Disney, Microsoft, and Walmart — announced they were suspending PAC contributions to the 147 Republican members of Congress who voted to overturn the results of the presidential election. Could this usher in a new era of responsibility in corporate political giving? Not if the United States Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber) has its way.

The Chamber is ostensibly a non-partisan organization that represents most large corporations in the United States. But, in practice, the Chamber almost exclusively supports Republican politicians and policies. In the 2020 election cycle, the Chamber endorsed 24 Republican candidates for the Senate and no Democrats. In House races, the Chamber endorsed 232 Republicans and 32 Democrats.

The decision by many of the Chamber’s most prominent members companies to cut off funding to 147 Republican members of Congress poses a fundamental threat to the Chamber’s activities. That group includes two-thirds of the Republicans in the House, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and the leader of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the committee responsible for electing Senate Republicans, Senator Rick Scott (R-FL).

The Chamber supported “all eight of the senators who voted against certifying President Biden’s Electoral College win — including Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas — through either endorsements or contributions from its political action committee.”

On Friday evening, the Chamber quietly sent a memo to its members saying that the Chamber does “not believe it is appropriate” to stop funding these Republicans just because they attempted to throw out millions of votes and install Trump for a second term.

Going forward, the Chamber will evaluate our support for candidates – Republicans and Democrats – based on their position on issues important to the Chamber, as well as their demonstrated commitment to governing and rebuilding our democratic institutions.

We do not believe it is appropriate to judge members of Congress solely based on their votes on the electoral certification. There is a meaningful difference between a member of Congress who voted no on the question of certifying the votes of certain states and those who engaged and continue to engage in repeated actions that undermine the legitimacy of our elections and institutions. For example, casting a vote is different than organizing the rally of January 6th or continuing to push debunked conspiracy theories. We will take into consideration actions such as these and future conduct that erodes our democratic institutions.

The memo attempts to recast votes to validate Trump’s lies about voter fraud as reasonable and respectable. It describes an effort to throw out millions of votes in Pennsylvania and Arizona as voting “no on the question of certifying the votes of certain states.” These votes, somehow, are qualitatively different than “repeated actions that undermine the legitimacy of our elections and institutions.” The memo does not explain why it is inappropriate to hold members accountable for their votes. It simply asserts it as fact. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2021 at 11:08 am

Americans Aren’t Having Kids Because People Can’t Afford Them

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Umir Haque has an interesting article on Medium:

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2021 at 10:57 am

Grooming Dept pre-shave with a Milksteak soap and the iKon 102 followed by a traditional aftershave splash

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My Rooney Style 2 Finest is my most expensive shaving brush. I bought it in 2008 for a price that in today’s dollars is north of $300. I will say that it is a wonderful brush, but not 30 times better than some of the $10 synthetics I own. I have a Sharpologist article coming out this week on why people buy expensive brushes, though I did not include “writing a book on shaving and thus trying as broad a range of techniques and products as possible.”

I do love the brush, and this morning it made a totally wonderful lather from Declaration Grooming’s Cuir et Épices shaving soap. I had to add a fair amount of water during loading — several trips back to the tap before the brush filled with soap. I didn’t think Milksteak included clay in the formula, so I was surprised — but I was also wrong:

Stearic Acid, Water, Castor Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Vegetable Glycerin, Bison Tallow, Mango Butter, Avocado Oil, Shea Butter, Sodium Hydroxide, Lanolin, Bentonite Clay, Yogurt, Buttermilk, Egg Whites, Coconut Milk, Goat’s Milk, Tocopheryl Acetate, Maltodextrin, Milk Protein, Salix Alba L. (White Willow) Bark Extract,  Arctium lappa (Burdock) Root Extract, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Fruit Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Silk Amino Acids

I had carefully prepped with Grooming Dept pre-shave before applying lather, and the shave was superb. Of course, I’m shaving a two-day stubble using an ultra-premium soap and a razor that is exceptionally comfortable and efficient, so perhaps the pre-shave is gilding the lily, but I have to say it was a perfect shave: nice glide, good protection, super-smooth result.

And with Booster Oriental Spice aftershave, a more traditional aftershave without exotic ingredients, the post-shave feel of my skin is excellent.

Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2021 at 10:14 am

Posted in Shaving

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