Archive for the ‘Firebaggers’ Category

The current political situation in the U.S. is perfect for playing a game I like to call “Where’s Ruprecht?” 1 TM Ruprecht is the guy with the cork on his fork and this “useful idiot” can be found all over the political map.

Let me describe the definition of “useful idiot” and put it in historical context.  Apparently, Lenin coined the term  when talking about capitalist dupes who “will sell us the rope with which to hang them”, i.e.,   dupes that, in order to make a profit, continued to deal with the Soviet Union and in the end harmed their own country and aided their enemies by supplying them with what they needed to compete with us.  Evidently the literal translation from Russian is actually “utter simpleton” but Americans got the gist of it and believed that “useful idiot” was the better translation.  How sadly correct we were and still are.

Later this term was used by conservatives to refer to liberals that would not acknowledge that the Soviet Union was a brutal, police state and continued to advocate normalizing relations with the USSR.  I’m sure there were people who genuinely believed, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that the USSR was not a threat to us.  And there were businessmen who cared little for the politics and more for the profit to be had.  Both types shot themselves in the foot and could be called “useful idiots”.  It has also been used to describe the relationship of African Americans as a voting bloc within the Democratic party by BOTH conservatives and extremists on the left.

And although it can refer to any duped group of persons that prop up another group and doing so isn’t in their on best interests, the term still seems to be mostly applied to liberals in the U.S.   It’s part and parcel of the entire image that conservatives have been hammering into the American subconscious for the last 40 years.  We see it every day being used against Pres. Obama.  He is supposedly weak on defense and a non-fighter in domestic politics.  He is supposedly elite because he is intelligent and educated.  He is supposedly naive or disingenuous….etc, etc, etc….

To see how this is being hammered into the public discourse and how these labels stick so well, do a search for +liberals and +”useful idiots” and you’ll get over 1.4 million hits, most of them conservatives sites applying the term to liberals.  Then do a search for +conservatives +”useful idiots” and you’ll get over 1.3 million hits, mostly of the same links as the previous search.  The level of vitriol in the conservative blogosphere and the media that they control and put out there out advertises, out shouts, out funds and generally out does the application of stigmatizing label attacks on the left–they are geniuses sociological manipulation and Americans are buying into it.

The GOP has perfected the name calling business to such a degree that too many liberals have been afraid to proclaim themselves as such, hence the usage of “progressive” by many liberals today.  I don’t consider many so-called progressives to be the same as those of the Teddy Roosevelt era kind, but that’s another post best left for another day.  The refusal by several generations of liberals to even use the word in advocating their positions, in declaring their political philosophy or even using it in conversation in general  added to the MSM’s aversion to the accusation of “liberal bias” is proof enough of the efficacy of labeling.

But back to these so called “progressives”….I would actually label them as Ruprechts.   Liberals not buying into their self-sabotage generally label them as “Firebaggers”2.     Who are the other Ruprechts?  The Tea Party, and, of course, the wonderfully absurd and ever entertaining Herman “I can’t get enough of the ladies” Cain.

Since I love lists, here’s one of what all Ruprechts have in common.  

1.  Denial of proven factual reality – The Tea Party denies long established scientific principles such as Evolution and even go so far as to eschew the scientific method for “belief” or “faith” based knowledge.  For example, this extreme wing of the GOP wants to put Creationism on the educational curriculum in, wait for it…… classes….  The Firebagger’s deny the very real but separate and equal branches of the federal government.  For example, when President Obama wanted to shut down Guantanomo he had to request funding for it from Congress, because that’s their job–to assign the money–and they said no.  The Firebagger’s blamed the President for the subsequent failure to close Guantanamo.  Herman Cain…..well, his attempt to get the GOP nomination in 2012 is pretty much dead, but will he admit it?  Hell no!  Conclusion:  All of these Ruprecht’s can’t even see the facts much less make logical deductions from said facts.

2.  Acting against their own long term best interests  – The Tea Party votes for tax breaks for the very wealthy, when very few of them actually are the very wealthy.  Not only that, they believe despite all evidence to the contrary that “trickle down” economics work.  And to top it off they demand the taxes continue to be cut and government shrunk but don’t you dare touch their Medicare.  Mind-boggling, I know.  Firebaggers have been making noises about putting someone up against Pres. Obama in the primaries in spite of the fact that it has proven to be an phenomenally impractical and just plain bad idea virtually ensuring disaffectation and further infighting on the left for years to come at the precise moment when they need to unite to defeat the GOP.  Furthermore if any of the clowns from the right should get elected as President (literally any one of them including Romney) much of the hard fought progress made by Pres. Obama will be obliterated and we’ll be back in the “lost Bush years”.   No one truly on the left should EVER want that!  And speaking of clowns, good ole Herman should never have thrown his hat into the ring in the first place….but his megalomania wouldn’t let him hold back.  Now the skeletons and peccadilloes discovered as a result will follow him around forever and if not affect his business career, definitely will affect his personal relationships.  Conclusion:  Ruprechts would be better off not playing the role but they just can’t help themselves–for why that is the case, next item.

3.  Aiding the enemy – Some might argue that The Tea Party has actually aided the right, and they certainly have rallied the base enfusing it with renewed fervor.  But the truth is they’ve done a great job to disaffect anyone on the left and a lot of people in the middle because of their extreme views interlaced with the ugliest and shameful parts of the American psyche3.  In the end they will help us re-elect Pres. Obama and I personally hope their extremism continues for a good long while.  The same could be said Cain…let the circus atmosphere continue…it only makes the Democrats look better and better to the Independent voter.  On the left the Firebaggers are playing directly into the hands of conservatives and in some cases have actually collaborated with members of the GOP to oppose Pres. Obama on a number of issues.  If they try to primary the President or offer up a third candidate, they would likely siphon off votes similar to what happened in 2000 with Nader, partially causing the loss of the election and President Shrub’s 8 year long debacle.  As to why they do this?  Well some of the GOP/Tea Party are cons, playing a game and others are true believers…either way the result is the same.  Cain is simply a megalomaniac and with regards to the Firebaggers I am not entirely sure.  I believe that some are true believers in their cause (such as Glen Greenwald) and others are simply trying to make a buck (such as Jane Hamsher)….their increasing appearance on MSM outlets hand-in-hand with scum like Erick Erickson, Pat Buchanan, Andrew Breitbart, etc, doesn’t lend credence to their declarations of ideological purity.  Conclusion:  Ruprehts might actually be in on the con or they may actually be idiots, either way the result is the same…they end up getting conned along with the rest of us.

Now you know how to spot a Ruprecht.  Go out there and find some more!


1.  If you don’t know who Ruprecht is you MUST watch the movie “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and if you can’t be bothered, you must at least watch this scene  Two con men take turns bilking lonely rich women out of their fortunes. The con men take turns playing the suave debonair seducer and the idiot with the cork on his fork, aka, Ruprecht.  Ruprecht is the useful idiot and in the movie the con man character played by  Steve Martin realizes that he is also a useful idiot in other ways as well because, well, that’s the nature of a con…sometimes the conner can become the duped.

2. For the uninitiated, Firebaggers tend to call themselves liberal and progressives, and represent an extreme view on the left that condemns President Obama no matter what he does and no matter how he does it. The name originated from a blog called Firedoglake by one of the chief complainers, Jane Hamsher. You might see them called Hamsherites as well.

3. I refer here to the widespread racism and religious bigotry exhibited during the 2008 Presidential election by Tea Party members, the dog whistles being used in the current GOP nomination race for 2012, age discrimination of the elderly who want their Medicare at all costs at the expense of the young and the future of the country, class warfare of the wealthiest Americans waged against the middle class, the refusal of the GOP as pushed by the Tea Party to compromise on anything with Pres. Obama even if it was an idea they formally advocated for, etc, etc…this list is endless.

Update:   I originally wrote this very long rant back when the Healthcare debate was going on in Dec 2010. Many of the themes are still relevant.  I find the reference to unicorns particularly relevant as of late, so without further ado, enjoy……

Since the election of G.W. Bush, as I like to call him Pres. Shrub1, back in 2000, I felt isolated in my opposition to the right. As time wore on and the neocons gained greater influence over foreign policy, I noticed that many more Americans were becoming disillusioned with their wild and dangerous notions of supposed “democratic” imperialism. When Pres. Shrub pushed for the war in Iraq, I was the lone voice of reason with everyone I knew (literally). At the time, I asked anyone who would listen, “What if he’s wrong and there are no WMD? What if he’s lying? What if he’s lying about WMD, about ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq? Shouldn’t we be questionning him?” No one wanted to hear it then. It was very much like being the only sane, rational person on an island filled with crazy people. But I assumed there would be a shift, as there always is and some sanity would be restored.

By the end of his second term in office, practically the entire country (except for those die hard few) turned away from Shrub’s policies (EXCEPT for our response to the economic recession). Overall we had embraced change and my hope in America was renewed. “At last, free, free at last”. I thought I had escaped the room full of mental patients and was breathing the sweet, free air again. I’m sure many other liberals and moderates breathed that same long sigh of relief.

Unfortunately before Pres. Obama had even taken the oath of office, the right-wing meme machine was in full gear and in sync, taking over the MSM through the illusion of bias. There was also an undercurrent of dissatisfaction on the left, whose seed had been planted during Hillary’s loss in the Democratic primaries. Add this political climate to our rapidly declining economic situation and the conditions could hardly have been less favorable for our first African-American President.

Over the last two years things have only gotten worse. The MSM entertains even radical and crazy ideas from the right in their desperation to counter the supposed “liberal media bias” on everything now and always fail to challenge outright lies. Facts be damned. The left has not only continued it circular firing squad tradition, it has now perfected it and taken common cause with their former opponents on the far right.

For example, just today The New York Times headline about the constitutional battle raging in the courts regarding Health Care Reform was “The Man Who Took on Obama Health Care — and Won Round One”.  Hunh, what are you doing?  How is that journalism?

I even heard NPR, long considered some kind of liberal bastion of propaganda, this morning on my drive into work saying in their lede that the ruling was a “major blow” to Health Care Reform–if one were to actually stay and listen to the story or read it online the details of the story were quite different. But the lede resonates and is often all that many people hear. Ledes matter very much in how the average American gets their news.

Nevermind a fairer, more objective lede, even from the supposedly liberal NPR. For the rest of the MSM, Facts Schmacts!10 The reality is that there have actually been three federal cases now, of which 2 of the 3 decided that it WAS constitutional. This ruling should have no significance in the larger scheme of things. Reporting this would mean reporting the honest facts and a meme is so much more fun and sensational!

The only seeming contradiction to my thesis that the MSM has gone over to the dark side are those self-avowed liberals on MSNBC, which comprises only a small spart of their overall lineup. Many on the right jump up and down and say ‘See! The media is liberally biased!’ whenever any of us “pinko commie nazi liberals” cite Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, etc. But reality, or facts as I like to call them, on that meme aren’t what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is the amount of crazy presented on MSM isn’t the same from the left and the right. No doubt that the liberal hosts ARE the opposite side of the coin, ideologically speaking, of the conservative hosts. However, the amount of time on TV and radio that the liberal hosts spend versus their conservative hosts, the size of their audience, the amount of advertising dollars spent on them, and the number of liberal memes that get repeated by other MSM outlets, does not even come close to being comparable. The conservative hosts win, hands down, every time. So, I think the facts on this thesis holds water2.

The President himself has been encouraging bipartisanship since he started campaigning and he has made good on his promise. Of course, the right hasn’t met him half way. How could they? I mean to engage in discourse with a Manchurian candidate of islamo-fascist and commie origins is out of the question!!3 The only time they really engaged in negotiations was recently over the extension of the Bush tax cuts-and sweet baby jeebus look where that has taken us. The rich will get more money than ever before and instead of investing in the country, they’ll simply sit on it–as they have been with all the extra cash they have NOW.4 This has served to please the 20% in the middle and piss off the 10% on the far left and the 10% on the far right. Which is nothing new for the far right, but it is something new for the left. What did they do in reaction?

The FDLrs have protested on the blogosphere and to the White House. They have expanded their reach beyond the blogosphere5 and have become TV pundits for MSM. To add injury to insult, they started accusing the President and his supporters of some pretty ugly things on the blogosphere like “capitulating”, “corporatists”, “Obamabots” , etc. Barbs have been traded back and forth. The far left bristled at the use of the term “professional left” and the President bristled at their most recent accusations of “failing to fight”. The President actually addressed it at a recent press conference. It was official, the President’s feefees were hurt. Not to make light of his feelings, but there is a legitimate debate to be had over just how much the far left’s criticism matters. It probably matters to the President because he considers himself a man of honor and the left has been openly questionning that view of himself. It would probably hurt my feelings too.

Unfortunately, feefees have been hurt all around. The far left’s (or “professional left”, Progressives6, Firebaggers, Hamsherites, etc) feefees have been so hurt, they’re out to defeat the President on a number of issues, welfare of the country RIGHT NOW be damned. Purity and the warm snuggly feeling of sanctimony will keep the fed and sheltered while the rest of the nation is left out in the cold. So rancorous have their feelings become that they have resorted to occasionally joining the far right in a self-destructive illusion of bipartisanship7 and have proposed primary challengers to the President in 2012. They have become louder, more influential and more virulent in their criticism over the last two years. Now their con-Obama message blends perfectly into the chorus of negativity from the right.

Those of us on the left who don’t agree with the FDL crowd are left trying to preach restraint and patience and understanding to anyone who will listen, be they conservative, tea party members or FDLrs or independents. None of that reasonable appeal mattered in the last mid-term election…..the swing voters (I suspect they consist of that group of irrational actors) bought into the MSM-meme that the President had TWO whole years and hasn’t given everyone unicorns that poop rainbows so ‘off with his head!” As a result they voted in a sea change of new candidates into Congress, of which many would be laughable (Aqua Buddha, anyone?) if they weren’t in positions of power. Again, I am left pleading with my fellow bloggers and citizens to think and be rational, to no avail.

Speaking of negativity, you’d have to be hiding under a rock not to have noticed the trends in ugliness toward the President. This all began during the 2008 elections (and best illustrated by the now infamous elderly McCain supporter declaring then Candidate Obama “an Arab” on national TV). Over time conservative pundits (e.g., Andrew Breitbart), bloggers (e.g., Erick Erickson, now a regular CNN commentator), entertainment figures (e.g., Limbaugh, Beck), and supposed newscasters (O’Reilly, Hannity, Scarborough, Blitzer, Crowley, Hume, Wallace, etc.) have been trying to outdo each other every day with either “teh crazy” or the most sensational stories with sensational ledes. In fact, having someone representing the other side, regardless of how crazy or factually inaccurate that other side might be, is expected in the MSM now.

Those relying on “teh crazy” play on the ignorance of their audience. One example, out of literally hundreds, is Glenn Beck’s misuse of Thomas Jefferson’s position on separation of church and state.8 How about the hundreds of times that the President has been directly called an enemy of the state, or anti-American, or foreign, or not a citizen…..I could go on and on with examples. And how does all this craziness and vitriol affect the country and progress in fighting to save our economy?

The Republican Party has shifted their strategies to appeal to the far-right, adopting a policy of “No” and a policy of appeasement of their wealthy corporate donors. The right won’t allow anything through Congress that might give the President and the Democratic Party any successes whatsoever until the 2012 elections. They will work instead to give massive unpaid tax cuts to the wealthy (remember they’re not investing the cash they already have). They will refuse to extend unemployment insurance to the average American who is out of work and refuse to deal with the thousands of Americans who have gone past tier 5 (aka, 99rs) and can no longer receive UI benefits without action by Congress. The  7Republicans have blantantly stated that there number one goal is to defeat the President in 2012 regardless of any other issues. Does it remind of you Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned?8 It should.

It also reminds me of Lord of the Flies. A bunch of boys gets stranded on an island without any adults. Ralph is the first one to assert control in the crisis–he has the Conch, the bully pulpit. He’s the practical, popular, charismatic boy advised by Piggy. Piggy is the unpopular, idealistic boy who gives the Conch to Ralph. Piggy thinks we should all just get along to survive. Everything goes okay until Jack decides to ignore the Conch, and it all goes to hell very quickly. Ralphie bar the door the Huns are here and Rome is burning9. Too bad the Huns or Jack are already in the house…on the island……Screw it! There’s too many metaphors now…but you know what I mean. Jack is more powerful, he’s scarier and he’s ultimately more fun. So we don’t have much of chance really, unless some grownups come along to save us. Probably, in reality, there aren’t any. Stories end happily but reality rarely does. Luckily in the story, Ralph…, I mean Pres. Obama may come out of it okay. But you know what happens to Piggy? He gets skewered no matter what.

1Thanks to late, great Molly Ivins who coined this fantastic moniker!
2I, or someone, should write a book about this….wait, they probably already have but no one has read it.
3For any fill-in-the-blank-tards out there, this IS snark
4Or burn it (a la FamilyGuy father-in-law burning $20,000 because he can), or wallpaper their house with it, or gamble on a housing bubble with it… know, all good stimulative things
5Not saying this is inherently bad, but their influence on the wider societal discourse beyond the limited reach of the Internet has expanded.
6I don’t like the use of Progressives for the far left because all Progressives do not agree with the arguments being made by Jane Hamsher on FDL, writers at DKos, Digby’s, Susie Madrak, etc.

7I guess this falls under the cliche of “Be care of what you wish for, you just might get it”.
8If you don’t know this, you’re one of those who would be confused. Jefferson clearly wrote that he meant the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to not only protect the government from religion but also religion from the government–it goes both ways. Here’s the famous James Madison quote.
9If this seems overly self-important to you, that’s fine, I understand the argument that the US is nowhere near as important to western history as the Roman Empire. Although we haven’t lasted as long nor conquered anywhere near the amount of territory, neither of these is important when you consider the reach of U.S. culture through commerce and modern technology (not to mention the standard meddling and military hegemony we’ve engaged in similar to the Romans).
$I am aware that this is not factually correct that Nero didn’t watch Rome burn while playing his fiddle, but the metaphor still works.
10After all no one is dying….except in Arizona, in Iraq, in Afghanistan….or all over the U.S. actually.