The War Between the (Mental) States

opperguncontrolFrederick Burr Opper’s “A Dangerous American Institution-
The Free and Untrammeled Revolver,” from December 14th, 1881.
click pic for original (public domain)

You’ve no doubt heard the news:

Militia takes over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters
Les Zaitz / Oregonian (Portland)

 Update at 9:15 p.m.: Statement from Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward: “After the peaceful rally was completed today, a group of outside militants drove to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, where they seized and occupied the refuge headquarters….
I’ve talked about this before. And before and before. Most recently in this piece about the all-important political substrate that is undergirding our eventual vi0lence (and remember, if you get enough angry nuts with guns, eventually shooting IS going to happen; and don’t lost any sleep over the fact that now 45 states have “open carry” laws, a situation UNHEARD of just a few years ago — TELL me that a nation now armed to the teeth and openly displaying guns isn’t on the verge of civil insurrection) :

The New Civil War is already underway …


It didn’t work with guns, last time. This time, obstruction and sabotage seem the preferred tactic.

Beyond Polarization to Warfare
Ed Kilgore / Washington Monthly

At WaPo’s Monkey Cage subsite today, there’s an important piece by University of Texas political scientist Sean Theriault that gets to a distinction in political attitudes that some of us have been trying to articulate ever since the radicalization of one of our two major parties occurred:

I have been studying party polarization in Congress for more than a decade. The more I study it, the more I question that it is the root cause of what it is that Americans hate about Congress. Pundits and political scientists alike point to party polarization as the culprit for all sorts of congressional ills. I, too, have contributed to this chorus bemoaning party polarization. But increasingly, I’ve come to think that our problem today isn’t just polarization in Congress; it’s the related but more serious problem of political warfare….

Yes, political warfare, which, in this case, is actual warfare minus the visible corpses. (Visible? Yes: those denied food, medicine, etc. die out of sight and beyond statistician. But they die nonetheless.)


The Perfesser isolates the classical ‘dumb streamlining’ that American rhetoric uses to turn all intelligent discourse or thought into doggie poop:

This warfare certainly has party polarization at its roots. Polarization may be necessary for warfare, but it is not a sufficient cause of it. Parties that are divided over policy can have a serious and honest debate, which can even become heated. In the first half of the famous idiom, the opposing sides can “agree to disagree.” Quite apart from the serious policy disagreement, though, the debate between the opposing sides can degenerate into a shouting match in which the policy prescriptions are lost in a fight over legislative games–and in which the combatants question the motives, integrity, and patriotism of their opponents. Under such a situation, the second half of the idiom–“without being disagreeable”–is never realized.

This partisan warfare dimension is harder to quantify, though it most certainly exists. What I call “warfare” is what Frances Lee characterized as “beyond ideology” in her book of the same name. Lee argues that only so much of the divide between the parties can be understood as a difference in ideology. The rest of the divide–by some accounts, the lion’s share of the divide–is motivated by some other goal. I argue that it is this portion of the divide beyond ideology is what causes the angst of those participants and observers of today’s Senate.

The problem is, we have refused to accept this “silent secession” for the clear and present danger that it is.

By the time the shooting starts, in other words, it may well be too late.


The trick for me, and all those interested in party polarization, is coming up with systematic, repeated behaviors that differentiate ideological legislators from political warriors. The former make legitimate contributions to political discourse in the Congress; the latter don’t, and need to be called out for the havoc they wreak on our political system.

Havoc is a mild term for it. Our disagreements are based on selfish, poisonous idiocy.

Mostly on the Red side. Sorry.


Moron Theology 101

(Spare me your false equivalencies.)


I stopped blogging regularly, remember, because there seemed no more point in trying to move the river: this polarization has been snowballing ever since Ronnie Ray Gun killed the Fairness Doctrine. It is now toxic and very soon will become actively lethal.

It was goosed exponentially by the “monopoly” provision of the 1996 Telecommunications Act (the one that Newt and Co. gave NO time for anyone to read in final form before  voting on — and now we know why) and now militias believe they can challenge the Federal government with their pea shooters because The Obama Administration wisely doesn’t want any martyrs adding fuel to the Bonfire of the Hannitys.


Meantime, the absurdist “libertarian” notion that idiots with guns are answerable to no one, and if there ain’t nobody in sight, you can do whatever you want reigns supreme.

The “reason” for the treason is this: two ranchers were convicted of arson on federal lands. They maintained that it was a controlled burn that got out of control. The prosecution maintained that it was set to cover up evidence of poaching. A jury of their peers found, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the latter was the case

The Bundy Ranch has been a center of organization on this:

Bundy Ranch 1

from their Facebook page

And the Bundy Bunch has been ON this for a long time now:

Bundy Ranch 2


And so on and so forth.

This attempt at armed insurrection is the result of the planning and coordination of those who would overthrow the government by violent means, which is the textbook definition of “treason.” But somehow  this is just another little “incident” in a country that averages over one mass shooting a week. Anyone remember Umpqua Community College in Oregon just a month or so ago?

Thought not.

We have been like the famous frog in the pot being slowly cooked as the temperature rises.


Bon Apétit!


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