Dani Rodrik on on the large, dangerous external imbalances that underpin the fastest-growing economies' performance. - Project Syndicate
"Senator Mitch McConnell: I Knew Samson, Samson Was a Friend of Mine, and You Are No Samson!": Rule and Ruin Weblogging: The View from the Roasterie XXXIII: November 14, 2013

Tea-Party Pyramid and Other Schemes: The View from the Roasterie XXXII: November 13, 2011

What is life like in Tea-Party Land? Five takes:

David Frum (August 2012) on the cultural fear: The Fox News Wink: Is Obama "Gay"? or "Gay Gay"?:

On Fox News' "The Five," moderator Greg Gutfeld offered up this comment in a jokey yuck-yuck tone:

Obama is now out of the closet… he's officially gay for class warfare.

Speaking of opening the closet, Gutfeld's comment exposes something important that many observers miss about this campaign and the way Fox News covers it: It's very important to understand that for Fox viewers, Fox is only the most visible part of a vast alternative reality. Fox's coverage of the news cannot be properly understood in isolation, but only in conjunction with the rest of that system—and especially the chain emails that do so much to shape the worldview of Fox viewers. You cannot "get" Gutfeld's joke unless you "get" that a large part of his audience ardently believes that Obama is in fact gay, that his marriage is a sham, and that Mrs. Obama leads a life of Marie Antoinette like extravagance to compensate her for her husband's neglect while he disports himself with his personal aides.

Don't believe me? Just as an indicator, try this: Google: "obama + gay + 'reggie love'". That search pulls up more than 80,000 hits.

Here's a quote from the first:

It’s quite clear that in the years ahead Barack Obama will replace Elton John as the reigning, party queen, gay icon. After he leaves the White House and exiles himself in Hawaii come 2013, supposedly to focus on building his presidential library in Honolulu (but, I think, in no small part to scope out the hotties in their board shorts), I bet Barack Obama will nurse his wounds and discover his inner fabulous. With no political career left to worry about, he can openly be himself. Draped in colorful muumuus, with a retinue of hunky shirtless Secret Service studs around him, Barack Obama will find himself in a new kind of paradise no doubt.

Go ahead and laugh at the idea now, if you want. I remember hearing how some women scoffed at the idea that Elton John was gay back in the day too. “But he’s married!”, “He has a wife!”, “I can’t believe he’s gay!”. Well, believe it, sisters. The current President of the United States is as gay, or even more gay, as Elton John. It might take ten years or so for him to finally come out and hold court on the circuit party scene, or this might be a case like with Rock Hudson and Liberace where the truth only comes out once Barack Obama has passed on far into the future… but there’s just no reason for guys like Kal Penn and Reggie Love to play the strange roles that they have played in Barack Obama’s life unless they were his boyfriends.

But Google can only very partially retrieve information that mostly moves in other ways. You can hear the impress of this "under news" in the calls to radio talk shows and in the comment sections of right-wing blogs. Listeners and commenters often share a set of references and a perception of reality only vaguely hinted at—understood by initiates, but opaque to the rest of the world. Thus when Fox reports on (false) claims that President Obama seeks to limit military voting, they report to an audience that has for years absorbed a fictitious narrative about systematic presidential disrespect for the military. Eg, like this:

Dear _,

Today I was incensed at the conclusion of a traditional Serbian-Orthodox funeral for my beloved 85-year-old uncle, Daniel Martich, who proudly served in the US Army during the Korean conflict. During the committal service at a Pittsburgh cemetery the local military detachment performed their ritual, then folded and presented the American Flag to my aunt.

As I'm sure you have witnessed during military funerals, a soldier bends to one knee and recites a scripted message to a surviving relative that begins:

On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation, I wish to present you with this flag in appreciation for your husband's service ...

However, today the dialogue was:

On behalf of the Secretary of Defense and a grateful nation...

After the service, I approached the soldier who presented the flag to my aunt to inquire about the change in language. His response was:

The White House notified all military funeral service detachments to immediately remove 'the President' and insert 'the Secretary of Defense'. I couldn't believe what I heard! The soldier just smiled and said, "You can draw your own conclusion, Sir, but that was the order". He, too, was ashamed of what he was required to say.

Obama has taken off the gloves. My only response to this endless cesspool of anti-American rhetoric dripping from his mouth is to borrow a phrase "with one minor change" uttered by another temporary Washington resident living in government housing (his wife!): "Today for the first time in my adult life, I am ashamed of the current U.S. President!"

Etc.

You'll not hear something quite so bizarre as that on television. But Fox News is edited and reported for an audience much of which believes such stories to be true, and edited and reported by producers and on-screen talent highly attuned to those beliefs.

Rick Perlstein on the economic fear: Eye on the Pyramids (Part 4: The Incredible Bread Machine):

Indulge me... the right-wing affection for pyramid schemes is... important....

When I was in Tampa, Florida, reporting on the 2012 Republican convention for The Nation, I happened upon a nice fellow, a Mormon, named Walt. (Utah has the most network marketers per capita by far; "MLM," Utahans joke, stands for "Mormons Losing Money"; Mitt Romney is implicated in the hustle from his Mormon head to his Mormon toes.) He spoke of his affection for Romney and the Republican Party... he talked about Obama's passion for giving free money to lazy, shiftless slackers.... He told me, "Anyone who doesn't have a home-based business is ignorant." I asked him what kind of home-based business he had, which was when he revealed himself as a passionate M[ulti]L[evel]M[arketing scheme] devotee....

I don't think my friend Walt in Tampa had any illusions about recruiting me [to one of his pyramid schemes]. His passion came straight from the heart. And where did this passion come from? Walt was... a middle-manager at a... cellphone company. But... [at the] convention center, I heard nothing that might speak to cubicle-drones.... Instead I heard the same theme over and over... its entire rhetorical thrust, "If you're not among the small percentage of Americans who own a business, or don't aspire to become one, you were invisible to that convention." You had no moral claim the rest of us were bound to respect. Indeed you were hardly American at all.... By letting folks like Walt “buy” a “home-based business” off the shelf, MLMs let nine-to-fivers style themselves as members of the only caste of Americans that matter on the right--entrepreneurs.

As critic Robert Fitzpatrick, author of False Profits: Seeking Financial and Spiritual Deliverence in Multi-Level Marking and Pyramid Schemes, told me this summer:

MLM is presented as an ‘alternative’ to the conventional economy that is portrayed as entrapping, uncaring or closed off, a place for losers and wage slaves....

It is... such a nice con.... Douglas Brooks...

One of the paradoxes of MLM is that many of the victims do not complain. We speculate that among the reasons are the sense of shame, that the MLM conditions participants to believe that if they fail it will be their own fault.

Sound familiar? "Beyond sucking $10-$20 billion out of Main Street each year," says Fitzpatrick, this industry's:

main impact is intellectual and political. MLMs promote a radical individualism, hatred of government and a strange twist on economics in which preying on a neighbor is called 'marketing.'...

America is a strange place. The American right is stranger. These are the people who shut down our government and almost caused the United States treasury to default. These are Barack Obama's negotiating partners.

The social fear: Michelle Malkin: Bros and Hos: Obamacare's Bread and Circuses:

Liberal marketing gurus here in Colorado are masters of Obamacare distraction. While customers struggle to apply through the still-broken health insurance exchange and consumers grapple with cancellation notices, these hipster ad designers are partying it up. Who cares about the insurance market meltdown? They've got keg stands and one-night stands!The "Got Insurance?" campaign is the lame brainchild of two "progressive" outfits with dubious nonprofit status: ProgressNow and the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative....

But what's truly toxic is the ad campaign's cynical feint to draw attention away from Obamacare's undeniable harm to responsible young people. Brosurance and Hosurance are trifling distractions from the federal law's Nosurance consequences.... That's an apt description of the ruinous policies, clown implementation and moronic marketing of all aspects of Obamacare. Sober up, young America. The "Affordable Care Act" is the progressives' wealth redistribution party from hell--and you're paying for it!

The constitutional fear: Thomas Sowell: Tea Party at the Crossroads:

More important, the Tea Party was an insurgent movement that was not trying to impose some untried Utopia, but to restore the lost heritage of America that had been eroded, undermined or just plain sold out by professional politicians. What the Tea Party was attempting was conservative, but it was also insurgent--if not radical--in the sense of opposing the root assumptions behind the dominant political trends of our times. Since those trends have included the erosion, if not the dismantling, of the Constitutional safeguards of American freedom, what the Tea Party was attempting was long overdue.

ObamaCare epitomized those trends, since its fundamental premise was that the federal government had the right to order individual Americans to buy what the government wanted them to buy, whether they wanted to or not, based on the assumption that Washington elites know what is good for us better than we know ourselves.... There is no question that the principles of anyone who believes in the freedom of American citizens from arbitrary government dictates like ObamaCare--unauthorized by anything in the Constitution and forbidden by the 10th Amendment--must oppose this quantum leap forward in the expansion of the power of government...

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