Saturday, July 31, 2010

Quote Of The Week

"The way to deal with bullies is to confront them, not run away."

-Washington Post syndicated columnist and Obama supporter Eugene Robinson, on 7/22/10, regarding the President's tepid response to "the right-wing campaign to use racial fear to destroy Obama's presidency"




Cool To His Supporters

Paul Rosenberg of Open Left points the way to an article in Colorado's Cherry Creek News explaining how United States Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) accumulated his wealth:

A young Bud Fox leaves Washington for Colorado, lands a job with Gordon Gekko, tycoon and corporate raider. Only in this case, young Bud is future United States Senator Michael Bennet, and Gekko, billionaire Phil Anschutz.

The job leaves Bennet wealthy, and allows him to take a giant pay cut and work for Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, then the Denver Public Schools. It gives him financial experience, which in turn leads to a complicated interest rate swap that may leave Denver taxpayers in a billion dollar hole, as the fund for Denver teachers’ retirement looks in need of an AIG-style bailout.

Ironically, the details of the source of Bennet’s wealth are revealed largely in a lawsuit by Louisiana teachers, whose investment in theater chain Regal Cinemas went south after Bennet and Anshutz gained control of the company through the purchase of debt, forced other debtors and shareholder into taking losses, then sped off with $1.4 billion in cash, while jobs were lost.


A few years later, Senator Ken Salazar is appointed Interior Secretary (hell of a job, Brownie Kenny) and Governor Bill Ritter appoints Mr. Bennet to the U.S. Senate. He proceeds to vote against mortgage cramdown, a 15% cap on credit card interest rates, and "too big to fail" legislation. But he does become an activist- for natural gas, coal, and Wall Street.

Enter progressive/liberal Andrew Romanoff, a Democratic activist who eventually becomes a member, then Speaker, of the Colorado House of Representatives. He works for public education, higher education, and renewable energy. Running in the Democratic primary (currently ongoing by mail vote) against Michael Bennet, Romanoff eschews special interest money because he agreed with a young U.S. Senator from Illinois, who once declared that changing the culture of Washington includes

“recognizing that special interests – the insurance companies, the banks, the drug companies, the HMOs – have come to dictate” our agenda. And “the only way you break out of that,” this senator said, is to stop taking money from those groups “so that ordinary people’s voices are heard.”

That was Senator Obama, though you're excused from not recognizing the words of an individual who has become quite a different character now that he has reached the Oval Office. President Barack Obama has endorsed Bennet for the nomination, despite (or perhaps because) the latter has stood steadfastly against a couple of the President's signature achievements. (Bill Clinton has endorsed Romanoff, whom he met at the Kennnedy School of Government in 1992 and who supported the former President's wife for the Democratic presidential nomination.)

But that is how President Obama rolls. He worked for the re-nomination to the U.S. Senate of Blanche Lincoln, a moderate/conservative less enthusiastic about the President's agenda than was her opponent. (Lincoln won the primary despite evidence that she would be the weaker general election opponent amidst an anti-incumbent mood.) It's the same president who forced Van Jones out, left Dawn Johnsen (who would have become head of the Office of Legal Counsel) out to dry, and (at least) acquiesced in forcing the resignation of Shirley Sherrod, now offered a new job at the Department of Agriculture by a Secretary gracious enough to accept responsibility for the Administration. And a President, who faced with a scurrilous attack by Andrew Breitbart upon a government official, blames media culture rather than Breitbart or the GOP's media arm, Fox News.

It is, to be generous, a very pragmatic (but Lincoln?) President- and one apparently intimidated by the right. And that's without considering his continuation of Bush 43 civil liberties policies, attack on public education, or dalliance with BP.





Mere Coincidence, No Doubt

The Independent of the United Kingdom notes

Scientists have discovered that the phytoplankton of the oceans has declined by about 40 per cent over the past century, with much of the loss occurring since the 1950s. They believe the change is linked with rising sea temperatures and global warming.

Phytoplankton is affected by the amount of nutrients that well up from the bottom of the oceans. In the North Atlantic phytoplankton "blooms" naturally in spring and autumn when ocean storms bring nutrients to the surface.

One effect of rising sea temperatures has been to make the water column of some regions nearer the equator more stratified, with warmer water sitting on colder layers of water, making it more difficult for nutrients to reach the phytoplankton at the sea surface.

Warmer seas in tropical regions are also known to have a direct effect on limiting the growth of phytoplankton, which Dr. Daniel Boyce, the lead researcher of the study conducted at Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University, terms “the basis of life in the oceans.” He adds, ominously, “phyoplankton is the fuel on which marine ecosystems run. A decline of phytoplankton affects everything up the food chain, including humans.”


Financial Times has reported the US National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration, using new data, unavailable to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change when it issued its report in 2007. This

study drew on up to 11 different indicators of climate, and found that each one pointed to a world that was warming owing to the influence of greenhouse gases, said Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring at the UK's Met Office, one of the agencies participating.

Seven indicators were rising, he said. These were: air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, marine air temperature, sea level, ocean heat, humidity, and tropospheric temperature in the "active-weather" layer of the atmosphere closest to the earth's surface. Four indicators were declining: Arctic sea ice, glaciers, spring snow cover in the northern hemisphere, and stratospheric temperatures.

Mr Stott said: "The whole of the climate system is acting in a way consistent with the effects of greenhouse gases." "The fingerprints are clear," he said. "The glaringly obvious explanation for this is warming from greenhouse gases."


The NOAA found that the January-June 2010 period was the warmest on record for combined land and water temperature. It has observed that June was the 304th consecutive month in which the average worldwide temperature was higher than the 20th century average, a streak which began in March of 1985.

Warmer seas in tropical areas depress the growth of phyoplankton, which has declined by 40% over the last hundred years. All eleven relevant indices of climate are associated with increasing temperature caused by greenhouse gases. And the World Meterological Organization has concluded each of the last three decades was warmer than the one before, with the last decade the warmest since at least the 1880s.


Hey, we get it. Concede the human origin of warming, change must be made by corporations, cutting into the enormous profits of the behemoths which are the raison d'etre of the Repub Party. But conservatives, who value nothing more than simplicity, ought to understand: when it is winter in the northern hemisphere, it is summer in the southern hemisphere; the earth is round; and the earth is getting warmer, largely from human activity.




Friday, July 30, 2010

Terrorism Politics, GOP-Style

Talking Points Memo has a rundown on GOP opposition to Cordoba House, a mosque and community center which would be housed in an existing 13-story building two blocks from Ground Zero (and out of its sight) in New York City, NY.

* Newt Gingrich, from his website: "There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.... The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over."

* Sarah Palin, from one of her tweets on the subject: "Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing."

* Peter King, representing neighboring Queens and Long Island and the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee: "It's a house of worship, but we are at war with al-Qaeda," King said. "I think the 9/11 families have a right to know where the funding comes from; I think there are significant questions."

* Carl Paladino, Republican primary candidate for governor of New York: "....the Islamic fundamentalists are Fascists - women have limited rights, there is no free speech or freedom of expression, and citizens are subject to the often barbaric Sharia Law. I oppose a mosque near the site of Ground Zero, not because of race, but because of the ideology of the Islamic fundamentalists."

* Rick Lazio, Republican primary candidate for governor of New York, challenging presumptive Democratic nominee Cuomo to a debate on the sole topic of the center: "You have called those of us who oppose building this mosque racists and bigots. You should be ashamed of yourself. To get real answers I suggest that we debate this issue in an open forum to be covered by the news media. Your position on this issue is so wrong and I recognize you may not want to defend it but all the same I am asking you to do just that."

* Rudy Giuliani, former New York mayor: "....it not only is exactly the wrong place, at Ground Zero, but it is a mosque supported by an imam who has a record of support for causes that were sympathetic with terrorism."

* Bernie Kerik, former New York City police commissioner, Giuliani friend, and current prison inmate, by tweet: "If we let them defile ground zero with a beachhead for sharia we will validate their sense of victory on 9/11 and encourage future attacks on America. No mosque at Ground Zero."

It's tempting to agree with these guys, or at least take them seriously. They are guided, no doubt, by the special connection Americans have ("NYPD" hats and shirts, "first responders," etc.) with the site of the worst terrorist attack in American history.

Or are they? TPM reports that an Islamic community center planned for Murfreesboro, Tennessee has been criticized by Tennessee's Republican Lieutenant Governor, who states "now, you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, cult whatever you want to call it;" and by the campaign manager of a GOP congressional primary candidate, who contends "Here's what we're seeing. We're seeing it as -- this isn't a mosque. They're building an Islamic center to teach Sharia law." (Murfreesboro is 754 miles from Manhattan, NY.)

On Fox News yesterday, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), engaging in a shouting match (video below) with Peter King, called the GOP out for its politics of convenience. It seems twelve- 12- Republican member (including King) of the United States House of Representatives saw fit to vote for HR 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. This, DailyKos explains, "would have provided up to $7.4 billion in aid to the survivors of 9/11, including all the first responders who breathed in all manner of toxins in the aftermath of the attacks." Twelve Republicans. In the Fox News interview that gave rise to the video, Rep. King is seen as criticizing the process used to bring the measure to a vote and claiming that Democrats should have been able to pass a bill because they constitute the majority in the House. But allow Rep. Michael E. McMahon (D-NY) to explain why a bill which gained support of 94% of Democrats and 7% of Republicans did not pass (215-158):

It is customary practice in the US House of Representatives to bring non-controversial votes on the suspension calendar, as opposed to be regular order. On a suspension vote, 2/3 of those present are needed for a vote to pass; on regular order, a simple majority is needed.

However, with HR 847, the path to passage was far less certain. Under regular order, House Republicans planned to bring a Motion to Recommit that would serve to kill the bill. Because Republicans refused to agree that they would not bring such a Motion that would be a “poison pill” for the effort, House leadership decided to move the bill on the suspension calendar as a first step to pass this critical legislation.


Of course, Republicans wanted to kill a bill for health benefits for survivors of the 9/11/01 attacks. If "9/11" can be used as a mere prop by Rudy Giuliani (video way below), there is little reason Republicans would care about aiding families of those who gave their lives in the disaster the GOP continues to use for political gain.








Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mission Accomplished

Whatever else may be said about U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton, she certainly is intellectually consistent. In its decision handed down yesterday

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has concluded that allowing a state to enforce a state law in violation of the Supremacy Clause is neither equitable nor in the public interest.... If Arizona were to enforce the portions of S.B. 1070 for which the Court has found a likelihood of preemption, such enforcement would likely burden legal resident aliens and interfere with federal policy. A preliminary injunction would allow the federal government to continue to pursue federal priorities, which is inherently in the public interest, until a final judgment is reached in this case.

The Court by no means disregards Arizona’s interests in controlling illegal immigration and addressing the concurrent problems with crime including the trafficking of humans, drugs, guns, and money. Even though Arizona’s interests may be consistent with those of the federal government, it is not in the public interest for Arizona to enforce preempted laws.... The Court therefore finds that preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely preempted by federal law to be enforced.


Bolton ruled that federal immigration policy is to be made solely by the federal government because of the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution. (Tea Party members, who talk incessantly about the U.S. Constitution, will no doubt applaud the decision. Or maybe not.) According to The Arizona Republic, the Court enjoined implementation of the portions of the law which

- requires an officer make a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of a person stopped, detained or arrested if there's reasonable suspicion they're in the country illegally;

- creates a crime of failure to apply for or carry "alien-registration papers;"

- allows for a warrantless arrest of a person where there is probable cause to believe they have committed a public offense that makes them removable from the United States;

- makes it a crime for illegal immigrants to solicit, apply for or perform work. There are three parts to that part of the law. Two of them will go into effect, one of them will not.

There are, however, a few provisions of SB 1070 which the Court chose not to enjoin, and hence will go into effect today. Included among these is the statute's requirement that local authorities cooperate with federal authorities in the latter's effort to enforce immigration law. Municipalities such as Phoenix which have established themselves as sanctuary cities will have that status revoked, a triumph for consistency. Judge Bolton ruled that states cannot preempt federal law in this field- and neither should cities, boroughs, or townships have that discretion. The legislation's primary sponsor, State Senator Russell Pearce, argues "Judge Bolton has made it clear. These policies are illegal, and cities in violation will face significant fines immediately." And he claims "striking down these sanctuary city policies has always been the number one priority of SB 1070."

That aside, SB 1070 may already have suceeded. Following the ruling, Warren Richey of the Christian Science Monitor wrote

The Arizona law was deliberately written with tough and aggressive measures designed to encourage the estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants in Arizona to go home.

Don't blame Richey. He probably has listened to people throughout the country who believe Mexicans leaving Arizona will go back to Mexico. As this photograph from an LA Times blog illustrates, the idea is half right.














Most of the shopping center on the corner of 43rd Avenue and Thomas Road in Phoenix is vacant. Merchants blame a law intended to drive illegal immigrants out of Arizona. (Nicholas Riccardi / Los Angeles Times)

Put people, residing legally or otherwise, in fear of arrest, they will Get Out of Dodge, as they did in Riverside, NJ in response to an anti-illegal immigrant ordinance which the borough eventually rescinded under legal pressure.


But where have they gone? Mexico is an option, especially for those who were reluctant to come to the U.S.A. initially and (sarcasm alert) believe Mexico is really a top-notch place compared to North America. But for the others,(from classbrain.com):

















California to the west, Nevada the northwest, Utah the north, Colorado the northeast, and New Mexico to the east. Immigrants have five options (and to a lesser extent, 44 other states and D.C.) other than Mexico, perhaps rendering the law "a big sideshow." For the residents of the states bordering Arizona, passage of this law may have been a cruel joke. But for the politicians in Arizona pushing it, the mission has probably already been accomplished.




Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Question For An Alaskan

Republicans, we know, have very little respect for unemployed persons. Besides blocking an extension of unemployment benefits before they could block it no more, a few of the prominent among them had some choice things to say about their fellow Americans.

Arizona Senator Jon Kyl cricized an extension "because people are being paid even though they're not working . . . if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work." Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire believes with unemployment checks people are "encouraged not to go look for work" and "don't want to go look for work."

Sharron Angle, facing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this November, contended "they keep extending these unemployment benefits to the point where people are afraid to go out and get a job because the job doesn’t pay as much as the unemployment benefit does. … What has happened is the system of entitlement has caused us to have a spoilage with our ability to go out and get a job." And Arthur Laffer, whose wacky economic theories helped give us the gigantic budget deficits of the Reagan and GWB eras, argued "against extending or raising unemployment benefits is that it will make being unemployed either more attractive or less unattractive, and thereby lead to higher unemployment."

This contempt for a segment of the American people is echoed by conservative intellectual Thomas Sowell, who recently wrote

When Adolf Hitler was building up the Nazi movement in the 1920s, leading up to his taking power in the 1930s, he deliberately sought to activate people who did not normally pay much attention to politics.

Such people were a valuable addition to his political base, since they were particularly susceptible to Hitler's rhetoric and had far less basis for questioning his assumptions or his conclusions.

"Useful idiots" was the term supposedly coined by V.I. Lenin to describe similarly unthinking supporters of his dictatorship in the Soviet Union.

Put differently, a democracy needs informed citizens if it is to thrive, or ultimately even survive.

In our times, American democracy is being dismantled, piece by piece, before our very eyes by the current administration in Washington, and few people seem to be concerned about it.


Americans, other than the "few people" as insightful as Mr. Sowell, are "useful idiots" unable to recognize that this nation's institutions are so fragile as to withstand an administration Sowell doesn't like (an administration so dismantling democracy that it has insisted on a 60-vote majority for several of its major initiatives). If we're not vigilant and see things as Sowell sees them, we're likely to turn into Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia.

Now, that's a fellow with little faith in the American system or its citizens. And Sarah Palin apparently is a woman with a lot of faith in Thomas Sowell, given her tweet on July 24, a few days after publication of the article quoted. Mrs. Palin exclaimed "…This is about the rule of law vs. an unconstitutional power grab. Read Thomas Sowell's article: http://u.nu/6e4ec."

Someone, anyone, in the mainstream media, cowed by the former governor's label of it as the "lamestream media," ought to ask the likely candidate for the GOP presidential nomination to explain her support for Sowell's far-right ideas.

Palin could be asked whether she agrees that "Just where in the Constitution of the United States does it say that a president has the authority to extract vast sums of money from a private enterprise and distribute it as he sees fit to whomever he deems worthy of compensation? Nowhere." If so, she might explain her support for "securing the border," a priority constantly cited by the
GOP, inasmuch as the U.S. Constitution does not explicitly grant the federal government that power.

Most of all, however, the question that needs to be posed is: Do you, Governor, have as little regard for the American people and American democracy as does the individual whose op-ed piece you have endorsed?




Down With Government, He Says

The New York Times early this month reported on a federal lawsuit against Wells Fargo. Former loan officer Beth Jacobson said in an interview that the firm

.... saw the black community as fertile ground for subprime mortgages, as working-class blacks were hungry to be a part of the nation’s home-owning mania. Loan officers, she said, pushed customers who could have qualified for prime loans into subprime mortgages. Another loan officer stated in an affidavit filed last week that employees had referred to blacks as “mud people” and to subprime lending as “ghetto loans....”

We just went right after them,” said Ms. Jacobson, who is white and said she was once the bank’s top-producing subprime loan officer nationally.


Another (black) former loan officer for the company

offers a sort of primer on Wells Fargo’s subprime marketing strategy by race.

In 2001, he states in his affidavit, Wells Fargo created a unit in the mid-Atlantic region to push expensive refinancing loans on black customers, particularly those living in Baltimore, southeast Washington and Prince George’s County, Md.

“They referred to subprime loans made in minority communities as ghetto loans and minority customers as ‘those people have bad credit’, ‘those people don’t pay their bills’ and ‘mud people,’ ” Mr. Paschal said in his affidavit.

He said a bank office in Silver Spring, Md., had an “affinity group marketing” section, which hired blacks to call on African-American churches.

“The company put ‘bounties’ on minority borrowers,” Mr. Paschal said. “By this I mean that loan officers received cash incentives to aggressively market subprime loans in minority communities.”


Confronted with this allegation of widespread racial discrimination, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage spokesman Kevin Waetke contended

We have worked extremely hard to make homeownership possible for more African-American borrowers. We absolutely do not tolerate team members treating our customers or others disrespectfully or unfairly, or who violate our ethics and lending practices.

Give this guy Waetke credit. At least he does not blame others for what the Court might conclude was systematic racism in pushing upon black customers subprime loans it Waetke's massive firm knew they could not afford. He did not claim "the devil made me do it," unlike the nation's most popular talk show host and GOP shill:

It is the subprime mortgage business, which was a creation of Democrats and leftists. It was based entirely on leftist ideology, and that is that life is unfair. "If somebody can afford a house, everybody should be able to be in a house. It's not fair that some can't own a home. Not in an America that's just and moral...." So we had to come up with a way because market economics doesn't work that way, because not everybody is equal. No two people can ever be equal if there is indeed genuine free will and freedom. It's not possible. But that doesn't stop the left. So it was created with, whatever, the Investment Redevelopment Act or whatever the name of the laws were. The banks were forced to make loans to people who could never pay 'em back.

Note what Waetke did not say: the government made me do it; Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac put a gun to our head; we did it because that's what all us liberals do.

It's almost a Pavlovian response- whenever anyone says "housing crisis," a conservative will say "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac"! Ever manipulative (and lying- all these worthless mortgages?), Rush did not disappoint:

So they came up with "Mortgage-Backed Securities," and they came up with "Collateralized Debt Obligations," and who the hell knows what else, and they started selling them to each other as insurance policies. Then Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac come along and buy up all these worthless mortgages and thus guarantee them, all because a bunch of liberal Democrats were buying votes and making sure that people who had no business owning a home owned them.

Perhaps the right has seized on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as scapegoats because, as Paul Krugman here notes, they are "private companies with stockholders and profits(but also) 'government-sponsored enterprises' established by federal law." Or, given that conservatives don't do nuance, ambiguity, or detail, maybe the two entities simply sound like 'government' to them. Either way, Krugman explains

Fannie and Freddie had nothing to do with the explosion of high-risk lending a few years ago, an explosion that dwarfed the S.& L. fiasco. In fact, Fannie and Freddie, after growing rapidly in the 1990s, largely faded from the scene during the height of the housing bubble.

Partly that’s because regulators, responding to accounting scandals at the companies, placed temporary restraints on both Fannie and Freddie that curtailed their lending just as housing prices were really taking off. Also, they didn’t do any subprime lending, because they can’t: the definition of a subprime loan is precisely a loan that doesn’t meet the requirement, imposed by law, that Fannie and Freddie buy only mortgages issued to borrowers who made substantial down payments and carefully documented their income.

So whatever bad incentives the implicit federal guarantee creates have been offset by the fact that Fannie and Freddie were and are tightly regulated with regard to the risks they can take. You could say that the Fannie-Freddie experience shows that regulation works.


It's foolish to expect Limbaugh to explain to his audience of "dittoheads" the role- accurate or otherwise- of Fannie and Freddie, conservative talk radio being a fact-free zone. Nor would Rush have mentioned that increasing home ownership was a goal of politicians across the political spectrum, no more so than President George W. Bush, who on June 15, 2002 declared

Owning a home lies at the heart of the American dream. A home is a foundation for families and a source of stability for communities. It serves as the foundation of many Americans' financial security. Yet today, while nearly three-quarters of all white Americans own their homes, less than half of all African Americans and Hispanic Americans are homeowners. We must begin to close this homeownership gap by dismantling the barriers that prevent minorities from owning a piece of the American dream.

All of this is part of the history which has been little told and even more poorly understood. Into the vacuum charges the leader of the Repub Party who, facts be damned, shouts "Liberalism! Socialism, Marxism, whatever you want to call it, that's what led to the economic crisis that we're in, not capitalism." It's a simple, even mindless, cry but if no one challenges Limbaugh's gross distortion of events, much of the electorate will believe that a financial crisis enabled by a government dominated by the corporate sector was created by a powerful, leftist state.



Sunday, July 25, 2010

Article Of The Week

"Blue Texan" appears to be as worthy an oxymoron as jumbo shrimp, silent alarm, non-alcoholic wine, non-dairy creamer, non-fat cream, and working vacation. It also is the moniker of one of Firedoglake's regular bloggers, who in a recent post agreed with Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO), who in a recent Washington Times op-ed recommended "bringing impeachment charges against Mr. Obama."

Of course, there is much more to it than that. Suppose:

* A Republican U.S. Representative from Georgia on November 10, 2008 told the Associated Press "It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he's the one who proposed this national security force. I'm just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may — may not, I hope not — but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism."

* On July 8, 2009 a U.S. Senator from Georgia, referring during a National Press Club talk about his book, commented "Part of what we’re trying to do in “Saving Freedom” is just show that where we are, we’re about where Germany was before World War II where they became a social democracy.... People become more dependent on the government so that they’re easy to manipulate. And they keep voting for more government because that’s where their security is."

* A former House Majority Leader who is threatening to run for President and who contends that the Obama Administration poses a serious threat is asked by Fox News' Chris Wallace in May 2008 "so but you compare that the Nazis and the Communists?" and replies "I compare that as a threat."

* A current U.S. Representative from Texas (and member of the new Congressional Tea Party Caucus) declares on the House floor on June 23, 2010 "There’s a brilliant man named Thomas Sowell. And, um, I didn’t vote for Barack Obama in 2008, but I sure would have voted for Thomas Sowell. This man, well, his article says quite a lot. His editorial, um, says here — and it’s just been posted this week — but it says, “When Adolph Hitler was building up the Nazi movement in the 1920’s” ....

Citing these examples, BT points out

....if these Republicans are telling the truth, and Obama is truly Hitler-like, he should absolutely be impeached, should he not?

My challenge to the media: the next time some Republican makes one of these offensive Obama/Hitler/Stalin/Mao/Lenin/Satan comparisons, ask him or her whether Obama should be impeached. Make them answer the question “yes” or “no."


The media certainly needs to ask the next Republican who makes one of thee absurd and incendiary analogies whether Obama should be impeached. Similarly, the former half-term governor of Alaska must be asked why she, too, endorses this comparison. BT notes that Sarah Palin endorsed Sowell's article, tweeting (twitting? twittering?) "This is about the rule of law vs. an unconstitutional power grab. Read Thomas Sowell's article: http://u.nu/6e4ec." Sowell, celebrated in conservative circles as a black intellectual (really, that's what he's considered by them), had written

When Adolf Hitler was building up the Nazi movement in the 1920s, leading up to his taking power in the 1930s, he deliberately sought to activate people who did not normally pay much attention to politics.

Such people were a valuable addition to his political base, since they were particularly susceptible to Hitler's rhetoric and had far less basis for questioning his assumptions or his conclusions.

"Useful idiots" was the term supposedly coined by V.I. Lenin to describe similarly unthinking supporters of his dictatorship in the Soviet Union.

Put differently, a democracy needs informed citizens if it is to thrive, or ultimately even survive.

In our times, American democracy is being dismantled, piece by piece, before our very eyes by the current administration in Washington, and few people seem to be concerned about it.

Tom Tancredo, short and out-of-office, is an easy target. Not such an easy target is the attractive former governor, who could be president in four years. And Palin, like any Republican who charges President Obama with an abuse of his constitutional authority, needs to be asked whether she believes impeachment proceedings should ensue if the GOP wins control of the House. As Blue Texan notes with other Republicans, Sarah Palin "can't have it both ways." Or she can, if the "lamestream media" she is trying to intimidate lets her.




Saturday, July 24, 2010

More On The Race Dialogue

The New Republic's Jonathan Chait has a really intriguing- and counter-intuitive- theory about Barack Obama and race (no more hypens, please!).

First, though, Ben Smith in Politico posts

He’s not the race man in chief in the way that he was before – and that’s understandable in many ways -- but these issues keep coming up,” said Farai Chideya, the former host of NPR’s “News and Notes,” which covered African-American issues. Chideya said she thought Obama’s 2008 speech on race, and on black and white grievances, had focused America’s conversation, but that it had since become incoherent.

This is the conventional view, but whether Barack Obama ever had intended to spur a national discussion of race is now dispted. Smith notes "Obama has declined the pulpit Bill Clinton sought when he announced in 1996 that he would lead the country in a 'national conversation' on race" and Chait contends

.... the Obama administration is, and always has been, terrified of engaging on race.

Obama's call for a "national conversation on race" in 2008 was interpreted by many people as a desire to use his campaign to alter racial perceptions. I think it was a bluff -- an attempt to remove race from the campaign, by talking about it at a high intellectual level one time, and thus to shame anybody from using race in grubbier ways afterward. It succeeded.


According to Chait, candidate Obama all along was trying not merely to neutralize the race issue as many of us had assumed, but "to shame anybody from using race in grubbier ways afterward." If so, Barack Obama, everywhere facing land mines as the first black presidential nominee of a major party, was an incomparably brilliant political strategist.


A Senator Opens The Discussion

Bloggers Melissa McEwan, John Cole, and Barbara O'Brien have responded swiftly to the op-ed, "Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege," written by Senator James Webb (D-Va) and appearing in the Wall Street Journal on Friday.

Former Senator Bill Bradley, Eric Holder, Barack Obama, and numerous figures in the mainstream media have told us for over a decade now that "a national conversation on race" needs to begin in the U.S. Webb, at least, is trying.

One caveat needs to be established: one of the Virginia Senator's remarks is puzzling. He contends

Those who came to this country in recent decades from Asia, Latin America and Africa did not suffer discrimination from our government, and in fact have frequently been the beneficiaries of special government programs.

To Webb's credit, he obviously is not trying to pit one minority group- blacks- against other minority groups, those whose individuals hail from Asia and Latin America. But as one apparent Asian-American commenting on Cole's piece noted

It’s not a bad piece insofar as his points about blacks vs. poor whites go; it’s, er, odd where Asians are concerned because, AFAIK, we haven’t ever been beneficiaries of affirmative action policy. I have never been considered a “minority” for purposes of university or graduate or professional school admissions or any activity related thereto, and in fact there’s plenty of evidence (cf. California university system) to the effect that Asians are disadvantaged by such policies.

But Webb's central point is "policy makers ignored such disparities within America's white clultrues when, in advancing minority diversity programs, they treated whites as a fungible monolith." Webb, who himself is a (non-denominational) Protestant of Scotch-Irish background, explained that as of 1938

Of the South's 1.8 million sharecroppers, 1.2 million were white (a mirror of the population, which was 71% white). The illiteracy rate was five times that of the North-Central states and more than twice that of New England and the Middle Atlantic (despite the waves of European immigrants then flowing to those regions). The total endowments of all the colleges and universities in the South were less than the endowments of Harvard and Yale alone. The average schoolchild in the South had $25 a year spent on his or her education, compared to $141 for children in New York.

Generations of such deficiencies do not disappear overnight, and they affect the momentum of a culture. In 1974, a National Opinion Research Center (NORC) study of white ethnic groups showed that white Baptists nationwide averaged only 10.7 years of education, a level almost identical to blacks' average of 10.6 years, and well below that of most other white groups. A recent NORC Social Survey of white adults born after World War II showed that in the years 1980-2000, only 18.4% of white Baptists and 21.8% of Irish Protestants—the principal ethnic group that settled the South—had obtained college degrees, compared to a national average of 30.1%, a Jewish average of 73.3%, and an average among those of Chinese and Indian descent of 61.9%.


While acknowledging "the need for inclusiveness in our society is undeniable and irreversible," Webb argues "our government should be in the business of enabling opportunity for all.... by ensuring that artificial distinctions such as race do not determine outcomes."

This was too much for McEwan, who claims Webb's "race-baiting argument that white people are being treated unfairly" "isn't about white people; it's about privileged white men."

Well, no. It isn't about privileged white men, and, arguably, not even about men. It is about people who are not privileged because, shockingly, not all Caucasians (or even white men) are wealthy.... or even middle-class. Though Cole declines "to defend the entire thing" (i.e., Webb's argument), he notes

Webb comes from a portion of Appalachia where poverty is so deep, so ingrained, that the idea in those regions that there is some sort of “white privilege” is in fact laughable. To them, the privilege of chronic unemployment, life in a tarpaper shack with no medical care, food stamps but no grocery store, and not much of a future doesn’t look like that great of a deal. And you need to understand, there are a LOT of people in this situation. I regret the way the piece read, and I hate the title, but Webb is talking about addressing the deep-rooted poverty he’s seen his entire life in the back hills of VA, WVA, Kentucky, and elsewhere.

O'Brien responds to McEwan by agreeing with Cole. While critical of Webb because impoverished white areas "were dirt poor before there was such a thing as affirmative action programs," she reminds us "let’s not forget that people can be left behind for reasons other than race."

Webb over-emphasizes affirmative action as a hindrance to achievement by poor and working class whites, his reference to Asians is misguided, and he does not directly address programs intended to assist handicapped individuals. But he understands what McEwan makes clear she does not- that individuals can in fact be disadvantaged by factors other than race, even if they're not female, gay, or trans-gender. (And referring to an affirmative-action critic as an "unabashed misogyist" pushing a "race-baiting argument" may not be conducive to starting that national conversation on race.) As Cole observes, Webb's primary message is not "much different from the lesson Shirley Sherrod was trying to pass on regarding class v. race. In many regards, I bet Sherrod and Webb would agree."




GOP Tax Myths, As Usual

It's a litmus test for Republicans: Thou must support lower tax rates for the rich. Republicans may disagree on abortion, gay rights, foreign policy, or even Social Security- but they must support tax cuts across the board, which produce greater gains for the wealthy than for the middle class.

So it was no surprise that on Friday Rush Limbaugh would claim

But we all know this. You go to the Reagan years. Reagan reduced tax rates from 70% to 28%, and the revenue to the Treasury doubled from about 500 billion to almost a trillion dollars over eight years. The capital gains reduction to 15% caused more revenue to roll into the Treasury during Bush.

Let's go to a May, 2008 report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities:

The claim that tax cuts pay for themselves also is contradicted by the historical record. In 1981, Congress substantially lowered marginal income-tax rates on the well off, while in 1990 and 1993, Congress raised marginal rates on the well off. The economy grew at virtually the same rate in the 1990s as in the 1980s (adjusted for inflation and population growth), but revenues grew about twice as fast in the 1990s, when tax rates were increased, as in the 1980s, when tax rates were cut. Similarly, since the 2001 tax cuts, the economy has grown at about the same pace as during the equivalent period of the 1990s business cycle, but revenues have grown far more slowly. (http://www.cbpp.org/3-8-06tax.htm)

Some argue that, even if most tax cuts do not pay for themselves, capital gains tax cuts do. But, in reality, capital gains tax cuts cost money as well. After reviewing numerous studies of how investors respond to capital gains tax cuts, the Congressional Budget Office concluded that “the best estimates of taxpayers’ response to changes in the capital gains rate do not suggest a large revenue increase from additional realizations of capital gains — and certainly not an increase large enough to offset the losses from a lower rate.” That’s why CBO, the Joint Committee on Taxation, and the White House Office of Management and Budget all project that making the 2003 capital gains tax cut permanent would cost about $100 billion over the next ten years. (http://www.cbpp.org/policy-points4-18-08.htm)


Revenue, then, increased during the Reagan presidency- but at a slower rate than during the Clinton presidency, when taxes were raised. And lowering the capital gains tax rate reduces overall revenue. In fact, the average annual growth in the gross domestic product was higher in the Clinton years than during the Reagan years, when it was the same as during the Carter presidency. Further, it was lower during the presidency of George W. Bush than during any of those administrations. The role of the Reagan and Bush 43 tax cuts in exploding the deficit is simply inarguable and would concern conservative Republicans if their outrage over the national debt were not feigned.

Limbaugh said also:

Now, remember we've been told for the last year and a half (well, actually 2-1/2 years when you count the 2008 campaign) that the reason we are in the dire economic straits that we're in is because of the Bush tax cuts, and Obama and Biden say, "We can't go back! These are the guys, we gave 'em the keys to the car, they drove it in the ditch. We're not going back. Those Bush tax cuts created all these problems."

Democrats do point out that the Bushies "drove the car into the ditch." But of course they do not claim "those Bush tax cuts created all these problems." Democrats recognize the destructive role of deregulation and its primary role in creating the economic catastrophe we're beginning to climb out of. Rush actually was telling the truth until he slipped in a lie at the end.

Rush Limbaugh may (did) hire a prominent gay entertainer for his fourth wedding, but he still wallows in economic fantasy.



Friday, July 23, 2010

Wouldn't Want To Question Obama

There really is a good reason cable news programs frequently feature someone from the left and someone from the right or a Democrat and a Republican. When an unsubstantiated and counter-intuitive (much more polite than saying "idiotic") statement is made, it usually is rebutted.

Otherwise, Chuck Todd can play the role of a bobble head doll and nod as he did Thursday evenig on Hardball with journalist E. Steven Collins and former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown discussing the Breitbart/Sherrod affair (while Andrew Breitbart's role is completely ignored). One portion of the exchange (transcript here, video below, from Firedoglake)):

BROWN: She sued them. And, believe me, I think it`s worth at least President Barack Obama checking his Agriculture Department to see whether or not they are frankly responding to getting rid of her as requested by the bureaucrats and as advocated by the bureaucrats because she`s such an effective person on behalf of the downtrodden and the have-nots.

I think that`s the real story.

COLLINS: Mayor Brown is right, I mean, if you consider, Chuck, the fact that her father was killed by a Caucasian and was never prosecuted --

TODD: Right.


Willie Brown makes a charge against federal employees- pardon me, "bureaucrats"- fails to provide any evidence, and Collins agrees with him while Todd fails to follow up. (Presumably, Todd's "right" comment referred to Mr. Sherrod's murder by a white man which resulted in no prosecution.)

Collins and Sherrod couldn't praise Sherrod enough, but

the former Georgia director of Rural Development said she received a phone call from the USDA's deputy undersecretary Cheryl Cook on Monday while she was in a car. Cook told her that the White House wanted her to call it quits.

"They called me twice," Sherrod told the Associated Press. "The last time they asked me to pull over the side of the road and submit my resignation on my Blackberry, and that's what I did."


This hardly sounds like the Agriculture Department "responding to getting rid of her as requested by the bureaucrats and as advocated by the bureaucrats because she`s such an effective person on behalf of the downtrodden and the have-nots." It sounds a lot more like a political appointee acting in the manner her boss expected, and thereby asking for a bureaucrat's resignation. And it seems like a department undersecretary and a department secretary understanding if not the will, at least the sensibilities, of the department secretary's boss. That would be the President of the United States.

And that is the same President about whom Obamaphile Eugene Robinson yesterday wrote

The Sherrod case has fully exposed the right-wing campaign to use racial fear to destroy Obama's presidency, and I hope the effect is to finally stiffen some spines in the administration. The way to deal with bullies is to confront them, not run away. Yet Sherrod was fired before even being allowed to tell her side of the story. She said the official who carried out the execution explained that she had to resign immediately because the story was going to be on Glenn Beck's show that evening. Ironically, Beck was the only Fox host who, upon hearing the rest of Sherrod's speech, promptly called for her to be reinstated. On Wednesday, Vilsack offered to rehire her.

Shirley Sherrod stuck to her principles and stood her ground. I hope the White House learns a lesson.


Then, perhaps, Collins, Brown, and others can stop making excuses for this president's acquiescence to his enemies on the right.







Thursday, July 22, 2010

Walsh 1, Heilemann 0

In a spectacular review back in January of the chatty, enticing, and inane book "Game Change" by John Hielemann and Mark Halperin, Alan Wolfe observes

To talk about real historical significance would mean addressing matters of substance, and that would violate the chatty inside-dope approach that characterizes Village journalism.

This John Heileman, whose book "inadvertently confirms just how many of our top political journalists really are Villagers," was clearly on display on Wednesday's Hardball (transcript here; segment near the end; video on this site). Speaking about Michelle Bachmann's new Congressional Tea Party Caucus and the impact of the Tea Party on the GOP, Heilemann commented

Look, I—Chris, I can see that, too, and you‘re right. I mean, history—the history of the way political parties evolve, they tend to swing to an extreme. There are people on the conservative side who would say the Democrats swung to an extreme in the mid-1980s when they put Walter Mondale on the ticket, that the party was way too liberal.

But the parties tend to swing to an extreme. They suffered a huge devastating electoral loss and then they come back to their senses and start to move back towards the middle. You can see this happening. Like I say, if the Republicans win the House and if they win also with the Senate especially, you can imagine heading into this 2012 election someone like Sarah Palin or someone who‘s be able to appeal to Sarah Palin‘s voters, and it‘s noticeable.

You know, one of the things that happened today was that someone you might never have expected to align with this caucus, Mike Pence, someone who wants to run for president.


What planet is this guy on? The GOP in 2006 and 2008 "suffered a huge devastating electoral loss" and they are.... "coming back to their senses" and moving "back towards the middle?" This is a party whose congressional members have almost unanimously opposed an extension of unemployment benefits, financial service reform so modest as not to endanger "too big to fail," and health care built on the framework of reform originally proposed by the conservative Heritage Foundation. This is a party whose current superstars are Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, who make appear moderate Minority Leader John Boehner- who wants to end all government regulation (the likes of Goldman Sachs, Massey Energy, and BP notwithstanding). And it's a party whose frontmen include Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

The parties tend to swing to an extreme? The leader of the Democratic Party is a centrist pragmatist whom Heilmann adores as a centrist pragmatist. But this is how Village journalism rolls, assiduously avoiding pointing the finger at one party when it can be "balanced" by including both parties. As is often the case, "balanced" is not accurate, but wildly inaccurate.

As is the case of Heilemann's characterization of a former Democratic presidential nominee as "extreme." Fortunately, shortly after Heilemann's ludicrous remark, Joan Walsh shot him down:

Chris, I just have to say one thing.... Walter Mondale is not an extremist. So, if we‘re putting Walter Mondale out as a radical, come on, let‘s be right about history.



Duo Of Destruction

Fresh off creating the Congressional Tea Party Caucus, and contemplating a Repb takeover of the House, Representative Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota on July 22 told a gathering of the GOP Youth Convention in Washington, D.C.

Oh, I think that’s all we should do. I think that all we should do is issue subpoenas and have one hearing after another. And expose all the nonsense that is going on. And it’s very important when we come back that we have constitutional conservative leadership because the American people’s patience is about this big.

This is no idle wish from the hard-right Republican. Representative Darrel Issa of California is now ranking Republican on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and probably would become chairman if his party wins a majority of seats in the House in November. Politico reports he

has told Republican leadership that if he becomes chairman, he wants to roughly double his staff from 40 to between 70 and 80. And he is not subtle about what that means for President Barack Obama.

At a recent speech to Pennsylvania Republicans here, he boasted about what would happen if the GOP wins 39 seats, and he gets the power to subpoena.

“That will make all the difference in the world,” he told 400 applauding party members during a dinner at the chocolate-themed Hershey Lodge. “I will use it to get the very information that today the White House is either shredding or not producing.”


While Issa is more likely than Bachmann to wield the gavel (and subpoena power) that would threaten to paralyze the Obama administration in the second half of its term, it appears their motives are similar. The Californian assured his audience "I won't use it to have corporate america live in fear that we're going to subpoena everything." Bachmann is no less subtle, telling the conventioneers

So we have to make sure that we do what the people want us to do because one thing that you should is that the most dramatic story that’s happened in the last 18 months is that the federal government – before 18 months ago, the private economy was 100 percent held in private hands,” she said. “But today 65 percent of the economy is now held in government’s hands – either in direct ownership or in control we’re talking about. So we got to unravel that and we got to get the private sector back to being private and the government back to being government.”

The near-destruction of the American economy by Wall Street wasn't quite enough for these Republicans, for whom the corporate domination of the nation is still insufficient. It's anyone's guess as to where she gets her figure of 65 percent of the economy now being in "government's hands." Perhaps she and Issa are unaware that

In 1995, the assets of the six largest banks were equivalent to 17 percent of G.D.P.; now they amount to 63 percent of G.D.P. Meanwhile, the share of all banking industry assets held by the top 10 banks rose to 58 percent last year, from 44 percent in 2000 and 24 percent in 1990.

But then, they probably do know of this growing concentration of power in the hands of a relatively few, unelected, individuals. And their verdict is: not enough.



Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Like Walsh Said


Posting at 9:01 p.m. eastern time last night about the disreputable Andrew Breitbart and Tucker Carlson, Salon's Joan Walsh summed up:

Shirley Sherrod is right: A lot of people are spending a lot of energy to get folks like the Spooners and Sherrod to think they should be enemies, when the real issue is class. The left should remember that lesson, because the right is invested in making sure no one learns it.

Despite offering Sherrod her job- or a job, probably a promotion- back, it's unclear whether the Obama Administration has learned the lesson. It may have taken a fan to remind Rush Limbaugh, but today he confirmed Walsh's observation that the right is working hard to get blacks and middle class blacks "to think they should be enemies." One of Rush's callers said Sherrod "realized that her real discrimination was for those who "have" versus those who "have not." Doesn't that mean she's the perfect employee for this administration --" A moment later, Limbaugh commented

Well, they are talking about it in a way because "the haves versus the have-nots" is a great moral crusade for the left. The haves versus have-nots, class warfare, is a great moral crusade. So she's now a moral crusader.

Conservatives want us to avert our eyes and ignore what is happening to the middle class (of whatever race). It's a simple matter of numbers: more whites than blacks, so focus the attention of the American people on the differences between the races. That "great moral crusade" the left largely avoids (while the right fights on behalf of the rich and powerful) is highlighted by data (graphs, below)from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, whose report noted

Between 1979 and 2007, average after-tax incomes for the top 1 percent rose by 281 percent after adjusting for inflation -- an increase in income of $973,100 per household -- compared to increases of 25 percent ($11,200 per household) for the middle fifth of households and 16 percent ($2,400 per household) for the bottom fifth.

As of 2007 (the gap having been exacerbated since then)

the share of after-tax income going to the top 1 percent hit its highest level (17.1 percent) since 1979, while the share going to the middle one-fifth of Americans shrank to its lowest level during this period (14.1 percent).

Nothing to see here, folks. Move right along.









Not Only Race

Digby describes the Administration's characteristic "cowardice" reflected yesterday in the dismissal of Shirley Sherrod from the USDA:

They are telling wingnuts everywhere that all they have to do is gin up a phony controversy (especially about a black person, apparently) and the administration will fire them so as not to shake confidence that they are "fair service providers."

The President is encouraging "wingnuts" (not my term; they are not "nuts" but cold, calculating, and malicious); it is a phony controversy; and "the administration will fire them" so that it can avoid controversy.

But I don't think it must be a black person. In this instance, of course, being black was almost a prerequisite- it's tougher to accuse a Caucasian of being "racist," or discriminating, against whites. And, admittedly, Van Jones was (still is) black; but it doesn't have to be a black.

When Glenn Beck addressed the issue on GOP TV Tuesday evening, he declared (after having viewed only an edited, abridged video) "Those are obviously racist comments that deserved to be condemned;" equated the incident to the Henry Louis Gates/Cambridge Police confrontation; and referred to the Reverend Jeremiah
Wright scandal. Admittedly, Beck is confident his audience is filled with racial animosity and never misses an opportunity to exacerbate racial tension.

But there may be a greater factor at play. But as Beck himself hinted, Sherrod did not emphasize the factor of race in her work. In her speech to the local NAACP group, she explained

When I made that commitment (at age 17 years old to remain in Georgia and help people), I was making that commitment to black people, and to black people only. But you know, God will ... put things in your path so that you realize that the struggle was really about poor people.

She added

It’s not just about black people, it’s about poor people. We have to get to the point where race exists but it doesn’t matter.

Beck and the rest of the Fox News gang probably would be distraught that an employee of an administration they loathe would long for a "point where race exists but it doesn't matter"- but that was in the longer and unedited version, which they had not viewed. But Beck did play the video clip of Sherrod recognizing "that's when it was revealed to me that it's about the poor versus those who have not..." and commented

So, it's about rich vs. poor. Based on that belief, Shirley shouldn't be fired, she should be promoted in this administration. Make her green jobs "czar." Make her the regulatory "czar" or manufacturing "czar" or the energy "czar" or director of Medicare/Medicaid. She fits right in with nearly all of Obama's appointments. Why didn't the USDA and Barack Obama wait until they knew all of the facts?

While taking a cheap shot at the "czars" in the Obama administration (ignoring the greater number in the Bush 43 administration), Beck knocks the idea that "it's about rich vs. poor." I would not suggest that Beck doesn't have a grudge against black people; he has made that prejudice all too obvious. But what really bugs him (and to at least as great an extent, Rush Limbaugh, who will weigh in on this on Wednesday) more is the idea that one of those dreaded "progressives" recognizes that the real struggle is one of class. Beck is, after all, tied to the hip of Dick Armey's corporate lobbying group, FreedomWorks. Take race out of the equation, and Glenn Beck is left with a lot of white listeners who cannot be manipulated by race-baiting, and will start to re-evaluate their allegiances.

Unfortunately, trying to sell the Administration, with Vilsack at Agriculture, Emanuel as Chief of Staff, and Barack Obama as President, on the need to look out for the needy apart from race is a very tough task. Good luck to her on that; and to the President, who must make the right, and courageous, move by rehiring Sherrod for the Department of Agriculture.



Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Question For Barack Obama

Really, this is getting kind of old.

Last year, it was Van Jones, the Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. He was so radical that he was determined to coordinate efforts to train and employ low-income people in green, private sector jobs. After Glenn Beck's crusade on Fox News, Jones was fired by the White House.

Then it was ACORN. After Andrew Breitbart released a video purporting to show a young man dressed as a pimp and a young woman as a prostitute convincing ACORN workers to help smuggle illegal immigrants into the country, Fox News led Beck and most of the American right on a crusade agains ACORN. All government funding was stopped and ACORN eventually disbanded. Investigations since then determined the video was doctored, the man (James O'Keefe) and the woman (Hannah Giles) were dressed normally and were rebuffed by the community organization. It was a scam, cooked up by Breitbart and promulgated by Fox News. Too late, though: Glenn Beck already had his scalp.

And now, Shirley Sherrod, a state director of rural development for the United States Department of Agriculture. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has accepted the resignation he demanded of Ms. Sherrod, a black woman, following release of a video produced anonymously but first appearng on BigGovernment.com, a website run by Andrew Breitbart- that Andrew Breitbart. In the short video (in some context, below)- released without context- Sherrod admits, to an NAACP audience, not giving a white farmer (and his wife) "the full force of what I could do" because "I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farmland, and here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land." As if according to script, Fox News prime-time conservative hosts Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity enthusiastically attacked Sherrod Monday.

It may seem simple but it isn't:

1) The video released was only a snippet. The full video (way below, the relevant part beginning approximately 16:40) was obtained by the NAACP and became available only tonight, on YouTube. (The NAACP's national director, Ben Jealous, initially had vociferously condemned Sherrod's remarks but retracted the statement and personally apologized to Sherrod.)

2) Notwithstanding the clear implication of the video when it was released and of the right-wing attacks on Sherrod, the incident which Sherrod described did not occur since she was appointed to the USDA in January, 2009. Instead, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which interviewed her today, reported

Sherrod noted that few news reports have mentioned that the story she told happened 24 years ago -- before she got the USDA job -- when she worked with the Georgia field office for the Federation of Southern Cooperative/Land Assistance Fund.

"And I went on to work with many more white farmers," she said. "The story helped me realize that race is not the issue, it's about the people who have and the people who don't. When I speak to groups, I try to speak about getting beyond the issue of race."


3) While the right seems to believe that Sherrod is a racist, the white couple at issue, Roger and Eloise Spooner, need some convincing according to The Washington Post:

"I don't know what brought up the racist mess," Roger Spooner told CNN's "Rick's List." "They just want to stir up some trouble, it sounds to me in my opinion."

Spooner says Sherrod accompanied him and his wife to a lawyer in Americus, Georgia, who was able to help them file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which ultimately saved their farm.

"If it hadn't been for her, we would've never known who to see or what to do," he said. "She led us right to our success."

Spooner's wife, Eloise, remembered Sherrod as "nice-mannered, thoughtful, friendly; a good person."

She said that when she saw the story of the tape and Sherrod's resignation on television, "I said, 'That ain't right. They have not treated her right.' "


But this was not another dismissed government employee or unemployment statistic. Mother Jones notes

Sherrod told CNN on Tuesday that she was told repeatedly to resign Monday afternoon after the clip surfaced. "They harassed me," she said. "I got three calls from the White House. At one point they asked me to pull over to the side of the road and do it because you are going to be on Glenn Beck tonight."

Sherrod said the calls came from Cheryl Cook, USDA deputy undersecretary for rural development. "The administration was not interested in hearing the truth. They didn't want to hear the truth," she said.


In his statement Monday accepting his employee's resignation over an incident occurring 24 years earlier working for a non-profit organization, Vilsack self-righteously proclaimed "I strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person." On Tuesday, Vilsack cryptically told CNN that he "didn't speak to anyone at the White House. ... I made this decision, it's my decision. Nobody from the White House contacted me about this at all."

So the President of the United States, who does not officially relieve of duty any one below cabinet level, did not fire Shirley Sherrod. Vilsack says he wasn't contacted "about this," leaving open the possibility he was contacted about firing Sherrod. (She actually resigned, though not voluntarily.) And perhaps he "didn't speak to anyone at the White House"- Rahm or another official may not have been at the White House at the time.

Whether or not someone representing the White House encouraged Vilasck to sack Sherrod, President Obama, supporting the Agriculture Secretary's decision, must be held accountable. The President yet again demonstrates cowardice. Panic is not an effective strategy against a media bully like GOP TV, which smells ever more blood with each instance of capitulation. Economic stimulus, health care "reform," financial "reform"; Van Jones, ACORN, Shirley Sherrod: when, Mr. President, are you going to stand up to the right and show some backbone?










Monday, July 19, 2010

A Question For Scott Brown


Whine, whine, whine:

Why is it that I’m always the one that has to vote with the Democrats? Bipartisanship is a two-way street, you know? Why can’t they also work together to pay for these things within the budget, within the monies that we already have? Why is it that we always have to add to the deficit?

A Daily Kos blogger today argues that the Republican Senator from Massachusetts should be able to vote his conservative principles and is able to do so. Procedural rules this Senate "controlled" by Democrats have adopted, without a Constitutional basis, require a supermajority, 60 votes, for passage of major legislation.

It is not a nod, but an embrace, to the bipartisanship this President worships and the Democratic Party believes the nation demands. With eeven one GOP vote (a major slog, these days), it still requires unanimity in the Democratic caucus (which includes conservatives Nelson of Nebraska, Landrieu of Louisiana, Begich of Alaska, and Pryor and Lincoln of Arkansas). It is a major gift to Senate Republicans, who value cohesion more than anything else, which enables a mere 41 Senators to block measures essential to the nation's recovery and economic justice.

No one at Daily Kos, or anywhere else, should have to explain that to Scott Brown. Nor should anyone have to explain to him why it cannot be done "within the monies that we already have," that we "always have to add to the deficit."

Of course, we don't "always" have to add to the deficit. There was plenty of money during most of the 1980s but President Bush enthusiastically cut the income taxes of the wealthy, increased spending, and borrowed prolifically. That was just fine with virtually every member of the Republican caucus of which Brown now is an unapologetic member.

So, no doubt, he is questioning why at this time the deficit must be increased. Aside from the reluctance of Congress or the White House to question the defense budget, there is a simple explanation, one which a young Scott Brown probably was taught in college, if not in high school:

The basic economic problem is not very complicated: If no one spends, no one works. Since the financial market crash in late 2008, consumers, businesses, and state and local government have cut back on their spending. In order to keep people working, as the Great Depression taught us, the federal government must therefore compensate by increasing its own fiscal deficit. As jobs return, consumers resume buying, businesses respond by investing, and state and local government revenues grow. When we're back to full employment, the federal budget should return to balance.

(For a complicated explanation of the ameliorating impact of a budget deficit during recession, here is Krugman.)

At Daily Kos, the answer to Brown's complaint, reported by the Boston Globe, that he must be "always the one that has to vote with the Democrats" is the inability of the Senate, and hence the federal government, to accomplish anything without at least a modicum of GOP support. Though true, it begs a more basic, political question. Why does Scott Brown have to be the one? Who is telling him that?

Is it the Democratic leadership (and why would he be listening to them)? Is it Bown's constituency in Massachusetts, a state in which Barack Obama and liberal/progressive policies are still fairly popular? Is it the Republican leadership, which feared defeat of a bill clamping down (gently) on unpopular Wall Street due to uniform opposition of the GOP? Passage of the bill with little Republican support may be the best of both worlds for the national GOP. Tout to its conservative supporters opposition of the party to a bill which may be insufficient to provide major reform- while still depriving the DNC the opportunity to attack the GOP for scuttling popular legislation.

Or there could be an alternative explanation. Apparently, Matt Viser of the Boston Globe didn't think to ask the Massachusetts Senator who is twisting his arm. Somebody, though, ought to. It may answer a few questions- or at least raise a few worthy ones.











Problem Of A Different Sort

Two days after the mid-terms, the Daily Beast reported “I think he’s a fantastic politician in the best sense of the word,” (Bern...