Sunspots and Republicans

Suddenly the right has gone truly crazy. It must be sunspots. We’re three years into sunspot cycle number 24 and it crests in activity with 59 sunspots in early 2013, the weakest sunspot cycle in a hundred years, therefore not much help in the earth’s current cooling phase, during which – contrary to warmist doctrine – CO2 levels have been rising. Overall there has been a fairly steady warming trend of 0.5°C per century since 1680, which is when that notorious playboy Charles II of England began racing his Ferrari at Silverstone.

If you’re into sunspot theory, increased negative ionization during sunspot maximum periods increases human excitability.

The sunspot-sodden American right –in this instance the male right — is  imploding under the sheer pressure of its repressions, always nearer the surface than in the more decorous psychic plumbing of the liberal legions. It feels like we’re back in 1960 when the pill first came on line and predictions of moral collapse were selling by the gross at every convenience store.

First the Savonarola of Pennsylvania , Rick Santorum, says we’re in Satan’s toils and will remain so until liberated by the sharp lances of theocracy. Then comes further Republican insanity with the all-male Congressional panel pondering the issue of contraception and now Rush Limbaugh, whose tastes run to cherubim-daubed ceilings and rococo furniture, cuts loose with hysterical denunciations of Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute” after she testified about contraception before a Pelosi-led informal hearing.

Then Andrew Breitbart blows up on a midnight walk through boring Brentwood at the age of 43. One of Breitbart’s colleagues, Michael Walsh, furnished an obituary to the National Review online, extolling  Breitbart thus:

“In the war against the institutional Left, Andrew Breitbart was the Right’s Achilles; the bravest of all the warriors, now fallen on the plain…. It was not in his DNA ever to leave the field. [Not like Achilles, who sat out a fair slice of the Trojan War.] He was the kind of leader the Right needs more of–not a go-along, get-along time-serving functionary but a tactical commander on the battlefield, ever ready to take the bridge, fire the village, and move on to the next objective.”

“Fire the village”… how about that for a manly phrase. One of the mightiest of the  Homeric exploits of Breitbart, who described  himself as Matt Drudge’s “bitch,” was to concoct an edited video of USDA official Shirley Sherrod, designed to misrepresent her as a racist. He jimmied the notorious ACORN videos too. A nasty bit of work. He was no doubt peering into his i-Phone when the Reaper struck.

Death March to November

A week ago Santorum looked as though he might give Romney a thrashing in Michigan, which would have unleashed a wave of grim assessments of the Mormon’s prospects, his failure to lock up the race for the nomination, his inability to connect with the common man or woman, the looming possibility of a brokered convention.

Romney’s put such a fate behind him, at least till the next time he falters, perhaps in caucuses in Washington state  in the Pacific northwest this coming weekend or in any of the ten states  having primaries or caucuses next Tuesday.

So Romney’s a survivor. He recovered from a defeat at the hands of  Newt Gingrich in South Carolina in time to win Florida; he prevailed over Santorum last week. But each comeback has come with a huge price tag. Not just the millions Romney had to pour into negative ads against Santorum in Michigan,  but in the whole character of his battle with the former senator.

What nearly sank Romney in Michigan was his refusal to concede that he was totally wrong four years ago in opposing bailouts – initiated by Bush and carried through by Obama —  for General Motors and Chrysler. Both companies were thrown life belts of government loans, are now doing well and giving jobs to thousands of auto workers and suppliers in Michigan and Ohio.  At the convention of the United Auto Workers last week Obama had rare sport with Romney on this issue, eliciting howls of merriment and derision for Romney  from his blue collar audience. They could easily pull both Michigan and Ohio into the Democratic column next November. No Republican has ever won the  White House without winning in Ohio.

If Romney is to have a decent chance of defeating Barack Obama in the fall he has to make a strong showing among Hispanics, and women and middle of the roaders generally. The growing Hispanic vote in states like California and Texas is one of the core truths of politics in the coming era. In the early 1990s Gov. Pete Wilson destroyed the Republican Party in California – the party of Nixon and Reagan —  by backing legislation targeting illegal Hispanic immigrants. Hispanics are naturally conservative. They oppose abortion. But they don’t forget politicians who race-bait and try to deny immigrants and their children  access to  schools and social services.

Yet in the last debate in Arizona, yet another state with a hefty Hispanic population, Romney applauded as “a model”  the state’s repellent crackdown on illegal immigrants, repudiated by the Obama administration as unconstitutional. For good measure Romney launched an attack on Sonia Sotomayor, the first Puerto Rican member of the US Supreme Court.  In terms of political strategy it’s like watching a man put a rope around his neck and kick away the chair.

Republicans win by stressing their superior ability in standing tall, defending the United States against its enemies, steering the ship of state in the right direction. They don’t win campaigns on social issues, like contraception or abortion. They don’t win by persuading women they’re completely crazy and are set to ban all forms of birth control beyond the rhythm method.

For a couple of weeks Americans have been listening with incredulity to Santorum denouncing the separation of church and state, and saying he “threw up” when he read a speech by President John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic , endorsing just such a separation in his campaign in 1960. Santorum’s America will have no bedroom free from its intrusions. Santorum seems quite blithe at the prospect. And over in the other corner is a Mormon, active in his faith and secret rites. Is this a recipe for victory in modern America?

What we could be witnessing is the death of the Republican Party as one capable of winning a national election, since its active base are right-wing nuts of the sort Romney has been groveling to across the past months.  Because seats for  the US congress are now all gerrymandered and very rarely change hands Republicans  can still command majorities in the House of Representatives, but their hopes of capturing the US Senate are now receding. Romney is a clumsy candidate. He’s stuck his foot in his mouth so many times he has to have a professional extractor at his elbow at all times. His economic recipe is to add to the unemployment rolls by having the old folk work an extra couple of years. On his present course, assuming he survives the contests of the next week, he faces doom in the fall.  Small wonder Obama looked and sounded pretty chipper in Detroit when he addressed the auto workers.

Even smaller wonder that Obama took the trouble to make a well publicized phone call on Friday to  Ms Fluke: “He encouraged me and supported me and thanked me for speaking out about the concerns of American women,” Fluke told Andrea Mitchell. “And what was really personal for me was that he said to tell my parents that they should be proud. And that meant a lot because Rush Limbaugh questioned whether or not my family would be proud of me. So, I just appreciated that very much.”

Tumbril Time!

A  tumbril (n.)   a dung cart used for carrying manure, now associated with the transport of prisoners to the guillotine during the French Revolution.

Unctuous. It’s standard in pretentious food reviews, as in “unctuous sauce,” though not “unctuous head waiter” where the usage would be permissible once or twice a year. Into the cart with it, shoulder to shoulder with “vibrant,” denounced to Prosecutor Fouquier-Tinville by Citoyen actif Rick Claymore, who writes, I’ve been over this one for decades, but, living in the Bay Area, where every event or place is “vibrant,” I cannot escape.”

Rick also wants to consign “old school” to the tumbrils. “I’m sick to death of hearing anything older than 1980 being referred to as, ‘old school.’ I was recently informed that my crocheted bicycle gloves are, ‘old school.’  I’m not so sure about this. “Old-school” is usually linked with “courtesy” or some kindred trait of times long gone. But I tremble for its future once Prosecutor Fouquier-Tinville catches sight of the word.

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“When Barack Obama began his run for the presidency, the liberal military interventionists gathered around him. Rice and Samantha Power were his foreign policy advisors. They came into his administration – Rice as ambassador to the U.N. and Power as Obama’s special assistant. They were the ones who pushed hardest for intervention in Libya, and they succeeded. Syria is simply the next station on their crusade…” Thus Vijay Prashad in his detailed  profile of the queen of the interventionist hawks  and  the selective conscience of Susan Rice, US ambassador to the UN.

The New York Times and the fraud of “neutrality”: Lizzie Phelan lays it all out for you:

Robert Mackey (NYT): Since you have appeared on Press TV and Russia Today, as well as Syria state television, do you have any concern that you might seem to be endorsing the governments that finance those channels, or do you see your role more as that of an activist opposing the policies of the U.S. and U.K. than as a neutral reporter?

Lizzie Phelan: This question in itself is a very deceitful and loaded question, and it is taken out of context. It implies that BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, etc., and the journalists who work for those organizations are independent from their financiers. If I worked for BBC, does that mean that I am endorsing the British government which funds it and that government’s centuries long and present abuses across the world?

Why is the NYT concerned about my work for Russia Today and Press TV? I challenge you to find me specific examples of journalists who work for these organizations who have engaged in bad journalistic practices. Why are you not concerned about journalists who work for Al Jazeera that is funded by and reflects the foreign policy of the Qatari emir and royal family? Al Jazeera has been proven many times over in the past few months to have published false reports about events in the region, not least Libya. How can their journalists be neutral when their employer hosts the largest U.S. military base in the region, and has been responsible for sending thousands of fighters, weapons, and a lot of money to kill and destroy in Libya and is now doing the same in Syria in addition to having called for Arab troops to invade the country.

Likewise, I have yet to hear the NYT question the “neutrality” of journalists who work with the British state-funded BBC, or journalists who work for the Murdoch press, which is well documented to have strong connections with all the major Western powers which are responsible for the greatest violations of international law. So, the question should start from the premise that no news organizations are neutral, and each represents a certain ideology. So, if you ask me if I feel more at peace working for news channels which reflect the ideology of states that are defending themselves from constant attack by the West – that is an ideology that opposes foreign interference in their affairs and promotes their own independence – or would I feel more comfortable working for media organizations that reflect the arrogant ideology that Western civilization is superior and should be imposed across the world by any means necessary, then I think any person with the slightest understanding of global politics and at least recent history would say the former.

The poor? Don’t you see, it’s their fault.  Carl Ginsburg on how Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute sings for his supper.


Alexander Cockburn can be reached at

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined!, A Colossal Wreck and An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents are available from CounterPunch.