Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Can the London Riots Happen Here?

This paragraph and quotation from this Andrew Sullivan post interests and disconcerts me.
And the use of social media and nifty little bikes reveals the criminal opportunism here. But even Mary Riddell in the Telegraph sees the background of austerity, accelerating social inequality and the bleakness of the economic future as part of the context:
It is no coincidence that the worst violence London has seen in many decades takes place against the backdrop of a global economy poised for freefall. The causes of recession set out by J K Galbraith in his book, The Great Crash 1929, were as follows: bad income distribution, a business sector engaged in “corporate larceny”, a weak banking structure and an import/export imbalance. [emphasis mine]
The bolded phrasing perfectly describes the United States's economic situation over the past decade.  Further, we are living in era that seems to prize and reward belligerence over competence.  This Frum Forum post compares Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie to make the point.
While talk radio is urging Chris Christie to enter the race, it is demanding that Mitch Daniels exit. The Indiana governor drew accolades from many for his CPAC performance — but Rush Limbaugh and other talkers have blasted him for his talk of a truce on social issues and his decision not to insert a brand-new right-to-work initiative at the top of his agenda.
Why is Chris Christie the heartthrob of the radio right, while Daniels is suddenly an intolerable RINO? Christie is not more conservative than Daniels, and arguably even less so. Christie told the Newark Star-Ledger that while personally pro-life, he won’t use his office to “shove that down people’s throats.” He supports New Jersey’s restrictive gun laws.  And like Daniels, he has decided it’s tough enough to face his public-sector unions that he does not need to start an unrelated fight over right-to-work with private-sector unions. Yet the most acid-tongued of all right-wing commentators, Ann Coulter, has championed a Christie candidacy, asserting that if he declines to run, “Romney will be our nominee and we’ll lose.”
The difference is this: talk radio is not much interested in the substance of a politician’s views or the reasons for decisions. Talk radio wants a confrontational style, and unlike the soft-spoken Daniels, the fierce Christie meets the test. The rule seems to be: it’s OK to be a Republican moderate – provided you are belligerent enough about it. [emphasis mine]
Apparently, belligerence is not enough.  This Eli Lehrer Frum Forum post illustrates that Eric Cantor gets rewarded for being a jerk.
I’m not the first to make this comment, but the current debt limit debate shows what the Tea Party movement (which I once basically supported) really values: being a jerk. Speaker Boehner has a close-to-perfect voting record on conservative issues, is not terribly warm in person (heck, Newt comes across better) and has proposed a good, tough spending cut plan. But he has also demonstrated a modicum of willingness to work with the president and appears to want to bring the debt ceiling crisis to a close.
Eric Cantor—who may well become speaker before the end of the year—does not disagree with Boehner on any major issue including the debt plan but, unlike Boehner, Cantor is basically a jerk who is willing to work against his own Speaker, the President, the financial interests that have traditionally supported his party and, indeed, just about everyone else so long as it keeps him in the media. I’m disgusted.
Cantor apparently is proud of jerk bona fides or stubborn.  From this Talking Points Memo post,
Will S&P's controversial decision to downgrade the country's bond rating -- and its explicit citation of GOP intransigence on tax revenue -- be enough to break the Republicans' broad opposition to tax increases in future deficit reduction legislation?
Not if House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) can help it.

In a Monday memo to the House GOP caucus, he candidly acknowledged that S&P faulted the party's unyielding stance on tax revenues for the downgrade. But he encourages members not to erase this bright line.
"Over the next several months, there will be tremendous pressure on Congress to prove that S&P's analysis of the inability of the political parties to bridge our differences is wrong," Cantor wrote. " In short, there will be pressure to compromise on tax increases. We will be told that there is no other way forward. I respectfully disagree.... I firmly believe we can find bipartisan agreement on savings from mandatory programs that can be agreed to without tax increases. I believe this is what we must demand from the Joint Committee as it begins its work."
In other words, House Republicans should unite against a plan that isn't dominated by Medicare cuts and contains no tax increases. There are 240 House Republicans, and during the debt limit fight, they followed Cantor's lead on this score.
Finally, there's this remarkable big lie that otherizes an entire political movement from Tea Party Nation CEO Judson Phillips.
"I will tell you ladies and gentlemen, I detest and despise everything the left stands for. How anybody can endorse and embrace an ideology that has killed a billion people in the last century is beyond me," (HT Andrew Sullivan)
Combine income disparity, belligerence, hubristic intransigence, and dangerous hyperbole, and one has a recipe for disaster.  I'm not predicting riots, but it seems as if the seeds of violent social unrest are being sown.

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