Saturday, October 30, 2010

Article Of The Week

Steve Kornacki's essay, "How We Know Clarence Thomas Did It," in Salon details the incontrovertible evidence that Judge Clarence Thomas, appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee considering his nomination to the United States Supreme Court in 1991, perjured himself. And perjured himself. Then perjured himself some more.

It's a point worth making for one particular reason. It's not that Rush Limbaugh on Friday, employing the race card as he's almost congenitally prone to do, remarked "Here's the party that claims to be the party of minorities, to stand up for you. Look what this party does to black politicians: It gets rid of them! In this case it knifes them in the back, and the list is long." It matters little that Kendrick Meek, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate from Florida, has no chance of winning and can only assure a loss for Charlie Crist, who if victorious would caucus with the Democratic Party. Or that nevertheless, Bill Clinton will be campaigning with Meek on Sunday. Or that, yet again, Rush Limbaugh sees race where no one else does.

It's not even that Clarence Thomas sits on the United States Supreme Court courtesy of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, then chaired by Delaware Democrat Joseph Biden. The committee could have called to testify at least three employees of the EEOC, headed by Thomas, and gotten at the truth. Angela Wright would have spoken under oath of the sexual harrasment directed at her by her boss Clarence Thomas. Rose Jourdain would have testified that co-worker Wright complained to her at the time about Thomas' antics. Sukari Hardnett, then an aide to Thomas, wrote the committee that black women believed they were "an object of special interest" to the boss and "If you were young, black, female and reasonably attractive, you knew full well you were being inspected and auditioned as a female."

Public testimony- and the hearings were televised- by any of the three would have turned public opinion against the nomination and Thomas would not have been approved. Instead, Thomas was approved with 52 votes including those of eleven members of the same Democrat Party which, according to Limbaugh, "simply could not abide that the most powerful black man in America, an associate justice of the US Supreme Court, would be conservative and black." A few years earlier, the nomination of the very conservative but better qualified Robert Bork was defeated when he mustered support from only two Democrats. Rush probably noticed that Bork is not black but, fostering racial discord at every opportunity, he is little concerned with details.

It's even of little significance that Lillian McEwen, who had dated Thomas a few years before the nomination, now says he was "obsessed with porn" and "would talk about what he had seen in magazines and films, if there was something worth noting" and "was always actively watching the women he worked with to see if they could be potential partners. It was a hobby of his." The evidence already was overwhelming that Thomas, who presented himself (video below) to the committee as being completely blameless and victim of "a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks," had perjured himself in front of a thoroughly intimidated committee.

Nor is it critical that the Associate Justice's wife, Ginny Thomas, recently left the cryptic message

Good morning Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas. I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought. And certainly pray about this and hope that one day you will help us understand why you did what you did. O.K., have a good day.

Note that Mrs. Thomas a)left a private message, apparently requesting a private, not public, apology; and b) referred to "what you did with my husband" rather than "what you did to my husband."

But Mrs. Thomas' suspicions about her husband (which appear, at close reading, to be the catalyst for her plea) are less important than what Mrs. Thomas does. It seems that Ginny Thomas, a featured speaker at tea party rallies opposing "Obamacare" and at conservative conferences, is founder of the right-wing Liberty Central, which endorses "constitutionalist" candidates and itself argues (though its website is recently sanitized) that health care reform is unconstitutional.

So Ginny Thomas, an ultra-conservative activist and opponent of health reform legislation, is the wife of an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, the very court which is widely believed likely to decide upon the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This Associate Justice compared interrogation by a congressional committee to a "lynching" because, apparently, there is a constitutional right to become a member of the United States Supreme Court without question. The odds of Clarence Thomas recusing himself from that case parallel the odds that he was truthful when he self-righteously denied everything 19 years ago: close to zero.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Way It's Done, In Arizona And Elsewhere

Most Tea Party supporters are not racists, do not believe in stomping on the head of a woman, and actually love their country, albeit in a rather strange manner. But before this destructive movement guided by corporate lobbyists began, author Thomas Frank described the phenomenon often and accurately. And on Hardball Thursday evening, Ron Reagan nailed it:

MATTHEWS: This is great conundrum, Ron, and here‘s the conundrum of all times. The business community hates his guts. The Republican Party calls him a socialist, even if they—sometimes, they call him, American, but usually, a socialist American at least, at least the moderate ones. They think he‘s been absolutely socialist, absolutely left wing. And yet, the left, the progressive people out there say he‘s been timid.

What he done wrong when he has both sides—

REAGAN: The Republicans don‘t think—really think he‘s been a socialist. Not the people who are, you know, in office and know better. That‘s just rhetoric to get the crowd geeked up so they‘ll start stomping on people‘s heads, you know? They don‘t really believe that.

There is no better example than SB 1070, the law which practically all of the country misunderstood- still misunderstands- as an immigrant-control measure. To the right, most of the center, and virtually all of the mainstream media, SB 1070 is an anti-illegal immigration measure. Most of the left also misunderstands it, believing it to be an anti-immigrant act and possibly racist, though liberals were not responsible for this law, so they almost deserve a pass.

Writing on on October 28 about an ostensibly anti-immigration act crafted by State Swenator Russell Pearce, Laura Sullivan explained

The law is being challenged in the courts. But if it's upheld, it requires police to lock up anyone they stop who cannot show proof they entered the country legally.

When it was passed in April, it ignited a fire storm. Protesters chanted about racial profiling. Businesses threatened to boycott the state.

Supporters were equally passionate, calling it a bold positive step to curb illegal immigration.

But while the debate raged, few people were aware of how the law came about.

NPR spent the past several months analyzing hundreds of pages of campaign finance reports, lobbying documents and corporate records. What they show is a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070 by an industry that stands to benefit from it: the private prison industry.

The law could send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to prison in a way never done before. And it could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to private prison companies responsible for housing them....

It was last December at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C. Inside, there was a meeting of a secretive group called the American Legislative Exchange Council. Insiders call it ALEC.

It's a membership organization of state legislators and powerful corporations and associations, such as the tobacco company Reynolds American Inc., ExxonMobil and the National Rifle Association. Another member is the billion-dollar Corrections Corporation of America — the largest private prison company in the country.

It was there that Pearce's idea took shape.

"I did a presentation," Pearce said. "I went through the facts. I went through the impacts and they said, 'Yeah.'"

The 50 or so people in the room included officials of the Corrections Corporation of America, according to two sources who were there.

Pearce and the Corrections Corporation of America have been coming to these meetings for years. Both have seats on one of several of ALEC's boards.

And this bill was an important one for the company. According to Corrections Corporation of America reports reviewed by NPR, executives believe immigrant detention is their next big market. Last year, they wrote that they expect to bring in "a significant portion of our revenues" from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that detains illegal immigrants.

In the conference room, the group decided they would turn the immigration idea into a model bill. They discussed and debated language. Then, they voted on it.

In September, Think Progress pulled together the evidence that SB 1070 would be better described as the "Private Prison Welfare Act" and noted

In April of this year, Pearce then introduced ALEC’s template as the infamous SB1070 law. Notably, the ALEC task force which helped Pearce devise his racial profiling law included Laurie Shanblum, a lobbyist from the mega-private prison corporation Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) which previously played a role in privatizing many of Texas’ prisons. An investigation from Arizona’s KPHO-TV found more ties between SB1070 and the private prison industry: Paul Senseman, Gov. Janet Brewer’s (R-AZ) deputy chief of staff was a former lobbyist for CCA (his wife is still a lobbyist for CCA) and Chuck Coughlin, Brewer’s campaign chairman, runs the lobbying firm in Arizona that represents CCA. In These Times reporter Beau Hodai, who also reported much of SB1070′s connections to the private prison industry, has a chart to explain the relationship.

(For more on development of the legislation, see "Corporate Con Game" in In These Times, June 21, 2010.)

On the same day as the NPR report, Keith Olbermann summarized (video below) the story behind SB 1070 and interviewed a fervent opponent, Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ). The understated Grijalva is seen remarking "This is not just about immigration policy; this is not just about border security." Congressman, leave out the "just;" it is simply not about immigration or border security. It is about accumulating profits for the private prison industry. If, in the process, innocent people are incarcerated because the beds need to be filled for the funds to roll in, that can be passed off as collateral damage.

There are two scandals, or should-be scandals here. One involves the private prison industry, popping up throughout the country, and the other politically expedient misdirection. In Arizona, it's selling the base and the media anti-immigrant animus as an integral part of the GOP shell game but, as Digby describes, the strategy is widely applicable (emphasis mine):

I really want another villager to lecture me about how this avalanche of secret money pouring into elections doesn't really mean anything:

In the bitter U.S. Senate race in Kentucky, a local millionaire has helped launch a barrage of ads attacking the Democratic candidate a candidate who, as the state's attorney general, is prosecuting the businessman's nursing home for allegedly covering up sexual abuse, records show.

The businessman's name is Terry Forcht. And like many super-wealthy conservative donors who are quietly stoking the GOP's mid-term election surge around the nation, the extent of his investment in the 2010 campaign is both vast and, for now at least, largely unknown.

In addition to donating personally to Republican Rand Paul's upstart campaign, Forcht is the banker handling funds for American Crossroads. The conservative group was founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove and has, through its non-profit arm, American Crossroads GPS, channeled millions into this year's campaigns without identifying its donors.

American Crossroads GPS and other outside groups that shield the identity of their donors have emerged as a fixture of the 2010 campaign season, thanks to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that loosened restrictions on political giving. The case of Forcht's opaque role in the Kentucky contest offers a glimpse at why some election reform groups believe anonymous donations are so problematic.

This is just a crude example of what's going on, of course. Every last one of these wealthy donors are basically buying themselves a get out of jail free card from all politicians of either party. They are outright buying the Republicans (who are selling themselves like street corner hookers)and threatening the Dems with more where this came from if they fail to cooperate. Sure, there are some down and dirty sleazebags like this guy who's punishing the Attorney General, but all of them --- every last one of them --- are doing this to ensure that their interests, whether legal or economic, are taken care of above all else. If there's time and energy left over they will let the rubes play with women's uteruses and punish some immigrants and minorities. But job one is making damned sure that nobody touches their ill gotten gains and nobody even thinks of holding them responsible for their crimes.

Hitting One's Head Against A Brick Wall

Well, that kind of settles it.

It's one thing for the loyal opposition to vote unanimously, or nearly so, against health care reform, financial reform, loans for small businesses, and bringing jobs from abroad to the United States. It's another thing entirely for these guys to tell the President they're not cooperating.

First, Mitch McConnell tells the National Journal "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Then, Mike Pence, chairman of the House Republican Conference, told Hugh Hewitt "Look, there will be no compromise on stopping runaway spending, deficits and debt. There will be no compromise on repealing Obamacare. There will be no compromise on stopping Democrats from growing government and raising taxes. And if I haven’t been clear enough yet, let me say again: No compromise." Finally, Minority Leader John Boehner told Sean Hannity "This is not a time for compromise, and I can tell you that we will not compromise on our principles."

As for President Obama's resolve? Describing the President's interview on Wednesday with radio talk show host Michael Smerconish, the Associated Press' Darlene Superville wrote

"It's very hard to figure out from the Republicans what exactly that agenda would be," the president said in the telephone interview with Smerconish, who also writes an op-ed column for The Inquirer.

Asked how he would govern for the next two years should control of the House shift, Obama said he expected that Republicans, should they "be in a position to hopefully take more responsibility working with us, are going to say to themselves that it's important for us to show some accomplishments over the next couple of years."

He cited infrastructure improvement and potential reduction of the national debt and federal deficit as the kinds of subjects on which "I think we could get bipartisan support."

The President promoted his theme of bipartisanship a second time yesterday, telling a group of liberal bloggers

But I don’t go into the next two years assuming that there’s just going to be gridlock. We’re going to keep on working to make sure that we can get as much done as possible because folks are hurting out there. What they’re looking for is help on jobs, help on keeping their homes, help on sending their kids to college. And if I can find ways for us to work with Republicans to advance those issues, then that’s going to be my priority.

He even seized the opportunity to find bipartisanship in the incident in Kentucky(video below) in which activist was stomped upon by a Rand Paul supporter. The President did his "both sides are to blame" gig, remarking

Well, look, I think that one of the things that I’ve always tried to promote is civility in politics. I think we can disagree vigorously without being disagreeable. And what we saw on the video was an example of people’s passions just getting out of hand in ways that are disturbing.

In fairness, I don’t expect every candidate to be responsible for every single supporter’s actions, but I do think that all of us have an obligation to set a tone where we say the other side is -- may be wrong but it’s not evil, because when you start going down that path of demonizing folks, then these kinds of incidents are more likely to occur. And my expectation in the remainder of this campaign is that all candidates out there are a little more careful about making sure that they’re framing the debate around issues and sending a clear message to their supporters that our democracy works when we disagree, we debate, we argue, it gets contentious, but that there are certain lines we don’t cross.

Perhaps the President expects to go before the electorate in 2012 and say "look, I tried; they didnt'." But over the course of the past two years, it has been obvious to anyone looking that one side is willing to compromise while the other is determined to oppose anything proposed by that side. And the fellows who have chosen obstructionism over compromise are winning. If Barack Obama wants merely to embolden the opposition, he's going about it the right way. But if he seeks to be viewed as a man of principle and strength, he needs to change his tone and his course and become a Democrat.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Voter Fraud? Not Quite

Today, Rush Limbaugh alternated between trying to suppress the Democratic vote and accusing the Party of voter fraud. In the latter tale, Limbaugh, commenting about the office of state secretary of state, claimed

They have no clue. So, you know, people running for that office don't draw very much attention, not very many donations. Consequently, even a modest injection of cash into those raises can elect and be the determining factor in who wins. And so this idea was to get as many Democrats in that position. Regardless who the governor was, regardless the state legislature, get a Democrat holding office as the secretary of state, and then charge vote fraud, do all kinds of things, and have that person be the one who determines the outcome. Now, this is a party. This indicates, illustrates how essential vote fraud is to the Democrat Party, and it's exactly how we ended up with Al Franken.

You might think that someone alleging "vote fraud" in a specific election might actually give a little evidence of it, even distorting or manipulating fact to make his point. Alas, Rush has none on Franken, choosing instead to lie and move on.

But the larger point of Democratic voter fraud is worth considering, given that the purpose of perpetrating this urban myth (pun intended) is prospectively to cast as illegitimate the election of a Democrat. In April of 2007 The New York Times reported

Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews.

Although Republican activists have repeatedly said fraud is so widespread that it has corrupted the political process and, possibly, cost the party election victories, about 120 people have been charged and 86 convicted as of last year.

Most of those charged have been Democrats, voting records show. Many of those charged by the Justice Department appear to have mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules, a review of court records and interviews with prosecutors and defense lawyers show.

In Miami, an assistant United States attorney said many cases there involved what were apparently mistakes by immigrants, not fraud.....

Mistakes and lapses in enforcing voting and registration rules routinely occur in elections, allowing thousands of ineligible voters to go to the polls. But the federal cases provide little evidence of widespread, organized fraud, prosecutors and election law experts said.

As the table below shows, there were a mere 70 convictions for election-related crimes occurring from October 2002 through September 2005, despite Attorney General John Ashcroft arguably placing no higher priority than ferreting out anything which might give Democrats an electoral advantage.

Limbaugh, of course, got in a swipe at one of his favorite targets, without which a right-wing fantasy about voter fraud is complete. "ACORN," he maintained, "is a criminal enterprise funded with taxpayer money."

Meat Loaf sang "two out of three ain't bad;" but, one out of three? ACORN did receive taxpayer money but, inasmuch as it no longer exists and all investigations found it was no "criminal enterprise," Rush's claim ranks as one of his two-fers: two lies in one sentence. Before ACORN was de-funded and disbanded, Brave New Films produced this video (way below), illustrating the effort to destroy ACORN and suppress the black vote.

But as we have seen repeatedly, the facts really are irrelevant. Limbaugh knows. The GOP's senatorial candidate in Illinois, Mark Kirk, knows. Former RNC official Robert de Posada in Nevada knows. The white vote in most states is in decline as a percentage of the total vote. The GOP can adjust in one of two ways: fashion policies to appeal to blacks, Hispanics, and Asians- or suppress their vote. We know what they have chosen.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Recognizing Cooperation As A One-Way Street

They call it conventional wisdom because it's conventional and nearly obligatory; wise, it's not.

Mark Halperin is vying with David Broder as the Dean of Conventional Wisdom inside the beltway. In a post published 8/23 on, Halperin had written

Amid a flurry of Democratic Party news releases and press conferences warning voters that Republicans are targeting Social Security for destruction, the President devoted his radio and Internet address last week to commemorating the 75th anniversary of the signing of the law that created the program. He cautioned that "some Republican leaders in Congress don't seem to have learned any lessons" from the past and are "pushing to make privatizing Social Security a key part of their legislative agenda if they win a majority in Congress." This familiar refrain might indeed help the Democrats limit their midterm losses, but Obama's involvement shows that on this issue he is putting party before bipartisanship and that he sometimes can be tone-deaf to the human element required to change Washington's acid culture.

It is clear why Democrats are raising the specter of Republican efforts to alter Social Security. This tactic has worked in the past, as older voters — who typically turn out at the polls in higher percentages, especially in midterm years — tend to trust Democrats more than Republicans to protect the cherished retirement program. And given the weak economy, Obama's mushy poll numbers and the lack of traction on the White House's legislative achievements, it is no surprise that Democratic leaders would turn to the tried-and-true tactic. Also, with some prominent Republicans still calling for a fundamental change to the system by adding private accounts, the GOP has opened itself up to political attack.

But Obama is living in a parallel Vulcan universe if he thinks he and his strategists can spend the next two months using campaign appearances, advertising, robocalls and other voter communication to demonize Republicans on Social Security, and then turn around in January and try to make a deal on that same issue.

A bipartisan partnership on Social Security — as on every other tough issue, including Afghanistan, immigration, energy, education, deficit reduction and jobs — is going to require trust: trust between the President and Republican leaders to stand up jointly to the extreme forces in Congress and at the grass roots in both their parties, meet in the center, take some political risks and find creative compromises to get things done. On Social Security, that means Obama will have to support raising the retirement age and cutting some benefits, while Republicans will have to back some increased taxation. And they will have to work together and present a united front.

It is hard to imagine that Obama can be the leader of such a process in 2011 if he takes the current, sky-high level of personal and political mistrust and elevates it further by using Social Security as a weapon of distortion in September and October. And yet it appears that the White House believes there is no contradiction or connection between those two sequential presidential goals. Obama may be a hyper-rational guy, but his current rhetoric on Social Security defies logic if he wants to have a productive 2011.

The "cherished retirement program" to which Halperin refers is probably the most popular governmental program in American history, one which soon after enactment lifted much of a generation out of poverty and which, along with that other dreaded "entitlement," Medicare, continues to keep our nation's elderly out of poverty. As something our sainted free market system is increasingly unable to do for the non-elderly, the task is clear: Social Security's success must be stopped and woe to the politician insufficiently bipartisan to join the effort.

Raising the retirement age or cutting benefits to "save Social Security" is unnecessary and dangerous. The life expectancy of Americans is greater than in the past primarily because fewer individuals die in in youth, as infants or otherwise. And Republicans never, never are going to support raising any taxes to save a social insurance program many in their party were opposed to in the beginning and now are lining up behind Rep. Paul Ryan to privatize out of existence. At the supposed "deficit reduction commission," focus has been placed on Social Security, which by law pays its own way and adds nothing to the deficit. Its Repub members have risen as one to demand: no tax increase, only benefit reductions- and by the way, we want corporate and capital gains taxes cut. Let no means to slice and dice the middle class get neglected.

As with the GOP's effort to undermine a popular government program, so it goes with everything- everything else in Washington. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has spilled the beans in an exchange with the National Journal's Major Garrett (as noted by

MCCONNELL: We need to be honest with the public. This election is about them, not us. And we need to treat this election as the first step in retaking the government. We need to say to everyone on Election Day, “Those of you who helped make this a good day, you need to go out and help us finish the job.”

NATIONAL JOURNAL: What’s the job?

MCCONNELL: The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

(Until recently, Garrett was at Fox News. Maybe McConnell was lured into complacency- or honesty.)

Later, McConnell would recognize his gaffe and claim elimination of the Obama presidency is merely the party's most important political job. Too late, though: in the National Journal interview, McConnell already had admitted "our single biggest political goal is to give our nominee for president the maximum opportunity to be successful."

The most important thing the GOP wants to achieve: defeat of President Obama. Its single biggest political goal: to get its nomineee elected. Pretty clear, there.

It is so clear that even former U.S. Representative Joe Scarborough (R-Fl) was aghast, referring, evidently, to McConnell's admission as "embarrassing" and goal as "pathetic" (video below from MSNBC via Crooks and Liars).

Mark Halperin, amazingly, is oblivious to the obvious, perhaps living in his own "parallel Vulcan universe." President Obama, as an experienced community organizer, is there to negotiate and compromise, eager to get a half, even a third, of a loaf and declare victory. That's his route "to have a productive 2011." The guys on the other side are there to make sure he's not around more than another two years- nothing more. And they just told you so.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rejection Rejected

On Monday, Rush Limbaugh repeated the myth that the American people are just aching for less health care, claiming

That's why you are part of the over 60% of the American people who did not want this health care bill passed and signed into law. That's why you and I are part of the over 60% of the people who want it repealed.

Fortunately, that 60% is, if we may be so generous, inflated. A poll conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications asked (p. 49) (results following options):

What would you prefer Congress do with the new health care law:

- Leave it as is: 18%

- Change it so that it does MORE to change the health care system: 39%

- Change it so that it does LESS to change the health care system: 9%

- Repeal it completely: 32%

- Don't know: 4%

- Refused: *

"More than 60%," apparently, is Limbaughese for 32%. And an overwhelming minority of 41% of respondents believe that "Obamacare" goes too far while 57% believe it does not. Still, it's easy to rail against the "government health care" that doesn't exist and wasn't legislated; it's much more difficult for conservatives to get specific and say what they specifically don't like about reform. Apparently, though, Rick Waugh, running in Virginia against House Republican Whip Eric Cantor, does understand:

Of course, Rush doesn't want health care reform repealed because he (pretends to) believes that most people want it rescinded. He couldn't be clearer:

So when I say, "The express purpose of Obama's health care reform bill is not to fix insurance but to break it," people say, "Come on, Rush. (laughing) He'd be the first person in the history of the country to try to break an American industry! I mean he's not going to try to do that," and then months later, "You know what, Rush? You were right."

It's all about protecting the private health insurance industry, which doesn't appear to need Limbaugh's help. As Health Care for America Now noted in February

The five largest U.S. health insurance companies sailed through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression to set new industry profit records in 2009, a feat accomplished by leaving behind 2.7 million Americans who had been in private health plans. For customers who kept their benefits, the insurers raised rates and cost-sharing, and cut the share of premiums spent on medical care. Executives and shareholders of the five biggest for-profit health insurers, UnitedHealthGroup Inc., WellPoint Inc., Aetna Inc., Humana Inc., and Cigna Corp., enjoyed combined profit of $12.2 billion in 2009, up 56 percent from the previous year. It was the best year ever for Big Insurance.

Barack Obama has a long ways to go if he is to destroy the private health insurance industry, as Limbaugh contends is the President's goal. Record-breaking profits one year, then a health care bill which grants the industry 30+ million more clients without competition: President Obama better start moving!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Juan Williams Fired- Your Free Market At Work

Alex Pareene in Salon wrote in August

This is my favorite kind of Corner post. The ones that incoherently blame some private company or industry's (exaggerated or even imagined) idiocies on, somehow, liberals, political correctness, the gub'mint, etc.

He links to a post on National Review Online in which John Hood panned KFC for pushing grilled chicken and sandwiches based on, in the company's words, "extensive consumer research." "In both the public and private sectors," Hood argues, "far too many decisions are made on the basis of silly fads, partial glimpses of nebulous trends, a temptation to placate powerful interest groups, or a pathetic desire to be seen as enlightened." Unsurprisingly, he slams government and excuses the private sector in which, "subjected to the rigors of competition, these firms tend to pay the price over time and adjust their behavior accordingly. In the public sector, however, politicians don’t have to worry as much about losing ground to competitors. Their absurdities persist. Their pretensions multiply."

Ah, the rationalization of the right. Last year, multi-millionaire National Football League owners persuaded their parent company, the NFL, to reject Rush Limbaugh's bid to become part-owner of one of their divisions, the St. Louis Rams. Having previously made a racially polarizing statement, Limbaugh's involvement would, they believed, itself become divisive and eventually hurt their bottom line. True to form, Rush blamed rejection on the corporatist conservatives' favorite boogeymen: unions, black activists, the mainstream media, and Barack Obama. Surely, the private sector could not have done this to him (or to anyone of merit).

One year after Limbaugh is rejected by the multi-billion dollar National Football League and two months after National Review simultaneously condemns sensitivity and excuses it because it isn't government, Juan Williams is sacked by NPR. Mike Huckabee comments

While I have often enjoyed appearing on NPR programs and have been treated fairly and objectively, I will no longer accept interview requests from NPR as long as they are going to practice a form of censorship, and since NPR is funded with public funds, it IS a form of censorship. It is time for the taxpayers to start making cuts to federal spending, and I encourage the new Congress to start with NPR.

Obviously, Mike Huckabee wouldn't recognize censorship (prior restraint) if it smacked him in the face. But you would almost think that NPR (which changed its name from National Public Radio for a reason) is a government agency. Its funding, however, suggests otherwise, as the pie chart (from NPR) below indicates.

Good luck understanding this illustration. Tracing the source of NPR funding is fairly complicated. Although it receives no direct funding from the federal government, NPR's local stations, as blogger Andrew Phelps of Boston public radio explains

receive some funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a taxpayer-funded, nonprofit, private corporation, created by Congress in 1967. (Think of it like the Red Cross.)

NPR does receive grants from CPB for special projects, but that funding is not included as part of the network’s operations budget.

According to The New York Times

Taxpayer money goes to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which apportions money for local radio and television stations across the country.

NPR gets no direct money from the federal government for its $161.8 million annual budget. It does receive some dedicated grants from Corporation for Public Broadcasting for projects like covering the country’s economic crisis; in fiscal years 2009 and 2010 combined, those grants totaled just over $5.2 million. NPR also gets occasional grants from from sources financed by the federal government. In all, NPR said those grants accounted for 1 to 2 percent of its income on average.

The biggest portion — about 41 percent in recent years — of NPR’s revenue comes from member station programming fees and dues. Those stations themselves receive $90 million in federal funds each year. On average, that accounts for about 10 percent of the stations’ income, according to NPR.

The remainder of NPR’s revenue comes from sponsors and, to a lesser extent, foundations, non-federal grants and investments.

But arguing that NPR's reliance on the federal government is understated, the conservative blog NewsBusters argues that the federal government finances 6-8% of the NPR budget. Thus, in defending elimation of federal funding, a right-wing site estimates that Washington's contribution may be as high as.... 8%!

Presumably, then, NPR relies on the federal government for something between 2% and 8% (inclusive) of its funding. The response of Mike Huckabee, as well as Jim DeMint and some other congressional Republicans, is to eliminate this huge source of income which, their supporters are to believe, will cut government broadcasting (which it is not) off at its knees (which it won't). The con is on.

But the more significant myth is the one highlighted by the KFC and the Limbaugh affairs. An angle that has received far less attention than it merits was discussed by Chris Matthews and Eugene Robinson on Friday's Hardball:

MATTHEWS: Is it because there are people call in who are liberals, liberal constituents of NPR, who complain, How dare you have your guy playing ball with those people?

ROBINSON: It could be that. They say that he`s supposed to be a political analyst, that he does, you know, commentary and goes off the reservation when he`s on Fox. They`re uncomfortable with that. You know, who knows?

Consider, then, the possiblity that listeners of NPR, who also provide much of the station's funding and generally are left-of-center, have been increasingly displeased about Juan Williams. As the station became increasingly dissatisfied with Williams' dual role, so did many of their these listener/contributors, who let NPR know of their displeasure. NPR, in this scenario, acted on behalf of their customers as corporations are expected to, moving to "adjust their behavior accordingly," as, presumably, John Hood would put it. It's the free market at work, in the manner in which we have been lectured by conservatives such as Huckabee, DeMint, and Sarah Palin.

NPR did not move against Juan Williams because of their (minimal, indirect) public funding. Nor did it act out of some governmental impulse toward political correctness, Michelle Malkin's characteristic confusion notwithstanding. It looked at its customer base and decided: this guy, appearing regularly on the nation's premier conservative media outlet, has been expressing himself too freely. Move along- nothing to see here, only the operation of a non-governmental entity operating rationally in a competitive media market. The free enterprise system at work.

They're a little late to the game, the Republican right. Protesting the dismissal of an employee because the employer wants to rid itself of him isn't a habit of theirs. And neither will it become a habit- their outrage here is convenient and largely unprincipled. It is situational, not unlike Justice Scalia writing in Bush v. Gore: only in this case, no precedent being established, obey our decision and then forget about it.

Mike Huckabee Now Right, Somewhat

In June, former Arkansas governor and current GOP TV host Mike Huckabee, aghhast at the anti-Zionist remark of Helen Thomas (video below), remarked "Helen, I’ve got a suggestion: maybe it’s time for you to go home."

Huckabee could have limited his retort to the accurate "Helen, they are home. Read Genesis 15, Exodus 23, Numbers 34." But he didn't, perhaps because ignorance of geography and history is not a firing offense, and chose instead to issued a thinly-veiled (is there such a thing as "thickly-veiled"?) crack at Thomas's age- i.e., "time for you to go home."

Five months later, and Emma Mustich in Salon argues

Huckabee's rhetoric about free speech rings hypocritical in light of his reaction to White House reporter Helen Thomas' comments about Jews and Israel in June. After those comments, in which she said Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine," a huge media outcry -- with Huckabee one of the loudest voices -- prompted Thomas to resign.

Huckabee's current rhetoric does "ring hypocritical" because, well, it is hypocritical. Both Helen Thomas and Juan Williams made unjustified statements. one evincing little historical knowledge of the Middle East and the other of the likelihood that a terrorist would announce his/her presence by wearing traditional Muslim garb. But, arguably, neither remark was illegitimate (lacking in reasonableness) and Williams' fear is one probably held by a majority of Americans.

Nor was either remark unprovoked- Thomas was asked "any comments about Israel?"- and Williams offered his thoughts in the context of expressing a view about Muslims that, no doubt, was one more tolerant than Fox News viewers usually hear. They were both within their rights- legal, moral, professional, and in all ways- to make a statement. Alas, ignorance is not- or rather should not be- a firing offense.

So knock Huckabee for hypocrisy because he is deserving and because he's Mike Huckabee and deserves to be criticized most of the time. But he is right that Juan Williams should not have been fired- though wrong about the lesson to be derived from it, as will be explored in the next post.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wrong, And At The Wrong Time

Yesterday and today, the ever-thorough Glenn Greenwald posted on Salon pieces defending the termination by NPR of Juan Williams. Greenwald includes the obligatory (for him) remarks excoriating the United States for its foreign policy and Israel for its..... well, for being Israel. (Can there be a more brutal and oppressive force in the world than the Israeli government? Other than the nations inactively trying to terminate the country and its people and the terrorist groups they aid, actively attempting the same? Oh, never mind.)

But the thrust of Greenwald's argument is that the discharge of Juan Williams for expressing anti-Muslim sentiment helpfully runs counter to the "viewpoint-based firings" of Eason Jordan, Peter Arnett, Phil Donahue, Ashleigh Banfield, Bill Maher, Ward Churchill, Chas Freeman, Van Jones, "and so many others.". These actions "demonstrate how unequal and imbalanced our standards have become in determining which group-based comments are acceptable and which ones are not."

Van Jones was discharged partly because of statement(s) and partly because of behavior, Phil Donahue because of age. (Not officially, of course, but a report presented to MSNBC labeled him "a tired, left-wing liberal out of touch with the current marketplace." As against liberals like Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, and others, who at least are not old and daily run 20 laps around 30 Rock to prove they are not tired.) But the others seem to have been fired, as apparently was Williams, for what they said.

In its statement (emphasis mine) announcing its move, NPR explained

Tonight we gave Juan Williams notice that we are terminating his contract as a Senior News Analyst for NPR News.

Juan has been a valuable contributor to NPR and public radio for many years and we did not make this decision lightly or without regret. However, his remarks on The O’Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a News Analyst with NPR.

We regret these circumstances and thank Juan Williams for his many years of service to NPR and public radio.

I don't know what NPR's "editorial standards and practices" are; but in eschewing specificity, the organization appears to prefer that we understand Williams "undermined his credibility as a News Analyst with NPR."

Apparently, this occurred upon Williams remarking

I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

In an e-mail later sent to NPR stations, CEO Vivian Schiller maintained "In appearing on TV or other media.... NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist. They should not appear in shows.... that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis."

Schiller wrote "this isn't the first time we've had serious concerns about some of Juan's public comments" (despite)" many conversations and warnings over the years."

But NPR chose this occasion to fire Williams, and apparently not merely for having made one comment too many. Before recognizing her public relations blunder and apologizing, Schiller let the cat out of the bag, contending that Williams should have voiced his opinions only "to his psychiatrist or his publicist."

In his own statement, Williams couldn't help pursuing the race and gender angle, claiming "This is an outrageous violation of journalistic standards and ethics by management that has no use for a diversity of opinion, ideas, or a diversity of staff. (I was the only black male on the air.)" He cited his "honest statement" as "the basis for a charge of bigotry."

Williams' statement on The O'Reilly Factor about Muslims and their garb was honest; regrettably, the charge that NPR "has no use" for a diversity of staff" not nearly so. Nonetheless, the conclusion is nearly inescapable that Williams, who tried to disabuse O'Reilly and his listeners from the idea that ours is a war against undifferentiated Muslims, was fired for his opinion that Muslims boarding a passenger airline can be scary.

In that regard, Williams joins most of the others named by Greenwald as fired for expressing an unpopular view. Additionally, besides NPR hiding behind the curtain of "journalistic standards," it refuses even to criticize what the analyst said. Rather than accusing him of bigotry- a specific, debatable charge- the network contended that he "undermined his credibility as a News Analyst with NPR." Literally, then, Williams' offense was not uttering an inaccurate, or even prejudicial, statement, but one which had an unsettling effect on his audience.

Undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR. At issue was not action, but words; and not the content of those words but their impact upon others, upon which there is an increasing emphasis. If it chose to separate itself from Williams because it had warned him repeatedly about continuing his role on another network, NPR chose the wrong, and unjustified, time to do so.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Juan Williams And The Right

Sometimes a bad situation brings out the worst in almost everyone.

And so it was with Fox News enployee Juan Williams, newly fired from NPR. We'll begin with the entire transcrip (relevant exchange emboldened)- according to Think Progress- then move down the food chain.


O’REILLY: Hi. I’m Bill O’Reilly. Thanks for watching us tonight.

The Muslim dilemma — that is the subject of this evening’s talking points memo. So, in case you just got back from Easter Island, I, your humble correspondent, am causing trouble once again.

Today on “The View,” the ladies addressed the shootout I had with them last Thursday when I said that building a mosque near Ground Zero is inappropriate because Muslims killed us there. That caused Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar to walk off the set.

Of course, what I said is absolutely true, but is insensitive to some. In a perfect world, you always say Muslim terrorists killed us, but at this point, I thought that was common knowledge. I guess I was wrong.

Anyway, the heated controversy continues and goes far beyond me and “The View” ladies. It has entered the fabric of America.

Barbara Walters said something interesting today. She said that the nation is very angry. Therefore, commentators must watch the rhetoric. OK.

But my question to Ms. Walters is this: Why is America so angry?

There are a number of answers to that question. One of them is that folks are fed up with politically correct nonsense. There is no question there is a Muslim problem in the world and if “The View” ladies will not acknowledge that, that’s their problem, because most Americans well understand the danger coming out of the Muslim world.

Ms. Walters went on to say that my statement about the Japanese attacking the USA in World War II is not a valid comparison.


WALTERS: I think that what Bill O’Reilly said was totally wrong. I also feel that on his program when he compared it to Germany and Japan, which he did, and said, well, you wouldn’t have been built monuments — countries, they were not religion.


O’REILLY: With all due respect to Barbara Walters, who has handled herself with dignity in this controversy, she is misguided.

American forces had to remove the Taliban government in Afghanistan because it supported the al Qaeda killers. The U.S. and many other countries are now desperately trying to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb because most everyone understands some crazy jihadists may use that bomb to ignite a holocaust. Right now the countries of Russia, China, the Philippines, many nations in Africa and Thailand are all fighting Muslim insurrections.

The Muslim threat to the world is not isolated. It’s huge! It involves nations and millions of people.

Yet, the left in America will not face that fact.

“Talking Points” has given President Obama has given a pass on his soft rhetoric towards the Muslim world, because he needs to get nations like Pakistan to cooperate with us. The president can’t afford tough rhetoric like the kind I’m giving you tonight. That is perfectly understandable.

In Germany, however, Chancellor Angela Merkel is getting tough. She told the world that attempts to build multi-cultural society in her country have, quote, “utterly failed.” Ms. Merkel has enormous problem with 5 million Muslims who are not assimilating into German society.

In France, the parliament there has outlawed burqas after that country endured rioting in Muslim areas that the police could not control.

Here in the USA, we are lucky. The vast majority of American Muslims are good citizens and deplore the extreme actions in the Muslim world. But they know there is a clash of civilizations in play.

Despite all that, Ms. Goldberg was deeply offended by my statement about 9/11. Here’s what she said this morning.


GOLDBERG: When you say Muslims are responsible for 9/11, does that mean Muhammad Ali? Because Muhammad Ali is a Muslim. Does that mean Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

To me, you need to be distinct when you say things like this because this is a volatile time. You cannot just throw stuff around like that in my opinion.


O’REILLY: Now, that statement is worth addressing. No sane individual thinks Muhammad Ali or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is responsible for 9/11.

But the reality is that most Americans are uneasy with the Muslim world in general because moderate Muslims have not stepped up in a visible way to help combat the jihadists. Look at all the problems we’re having with Pakistan. We’ve sent that country billions of dollars hoping to motivate them to fight the Taliban and al Qaeda.

If Whoopi Goldberg doesn’t think there’s a Muslim problem, she ought to ask President Obama about it.

The cold truth is that in the world today, jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet. If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, Israel and other countries are in grave danger.

So, I have had enough of the political correct nonsense and I condemn the far-left fanatics who label people with whom they disagree “bigots.” That’s what Joy Behar did again today, which is simply stunning because as Laura Ingraham pointed out last Friday, Ms. Behar’s anti- Christian analysis has been off the charts.

And then there is Rosie O’Donnell who used to host “The View.” Here’s what she said.


ROSIE O’DONNELL, ACTRESS: Bill O’Reilly, you know, what does he do besides incite kind of hatred? What does he do besides that?

JANETTE BARBER, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: To stand there and say Muslims killed us, I hope you didn’t take that wrong. I didn’t mean anything bad about them. It’s like I hate it when they lie within the same sentence, at least take a break before you lie.

O’DONNELL: But it’s like that’s what Bill O’Reilly does. Why would you book him?


O’REILLY: Now, Ms. O’Donnell’s analysis reminded me of this –


O’DONNELL: Radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America where we have a separation of church and state. We’re a democracy.


O’REILLY: Interesting. Nobody walked off the set of “The View” when Rosie O’Donnell said that. Did they?

As “Talking Points” stated on Friday, there is a reason behind the madness. Many in the Muslim world despise the United States because we are Israel’s biggest supporter. Any of the liberal precincts believe our support for Israel is wrong and that we have ignited Muslim anger. It is our fault that some Muslims hate us.

I don’t think the ladies on “The View” see it that way. But certainly, the far-left has held that opinion for quite some time.

Finally, wherever I went this weekend, people were high-fiving me. It was amazing. People yelling out windows, “O’Reilly, keep going,” that kind of stuff.

Are all these people bigots? Do they all hate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

That’s just nuts. This has nothing to do with theology and everything to do with politics. Americans are simply fed up with politicians and media people denying the obvious. There is a dangerous problem in the Muslim world and once again, I call for all peace-loving Muslims to join the United States and other conscientious nations to fight the jihadists to defeat radical Islam. And that’s the memo.

In a moment, Juan and Mary Katharine will tell me where I’m going wrong on all of this.

And later, how is the O’Reilly view Muslim controversy playing on talk radio? Right back with those reports.

O’REILLY: Continuing now with our lead story, danger from the Muslim world.

Joining us from Washington FOX analysts Mary Katharine Ham and Juan Williams.

So, Juan, I got to tell everybody, own up to this, that talking points memo was really written by Alan Colmes.

So, where am I going wrong there, Juan.

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, actually, I hate to say this to you because I don’t want to get your ego going. But I think you’re right. I think, look, political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality.

I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

Now, I remember also that when the Times Square bomber was at court, I think this was just last week. He said the war with Muslims, America’s war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts.

But I think there are people who want to somehow remind us all as President Bush did after 9/11, it’s not a war against Islam. President Bush went to a mosque –

O’REILLY: Well, there isn’t any theology involved in this at all from my perspective, Juan. But you live in the liberal precincts. You actually work for NPR, OK?


O’REILLY: And it’s not about — it’s about politics as I said. But — my analysis is that this Israel thing and that liberals feel that United states is somehow guilty in the world, of exploitation and backing the wrong side, and it makes it easier for them to come up with this kind of crazy stuff that, well, you can’t really say the Muslims attacked us on 9/11.

WILLIAMS: No, but what Barbara Walters said to you –

O’REILLY: Were they Norwegians? I mean, come on.

WILLIAMS: Wait a second though, wait, hold on, because if you said Timothy McVeigh, the Atlanta bomber, these people who are protesting against homosexuality at military funerals, very obnoxious, you don’t say first and foremost, we got a problem with Christians. That’s crazy.

O’REILLY: But it’s not at that level. It doesn’t rise near to that level.

WILLIAMS: Correct. That’s — and when you said in the talking points memo a moment ago that there are good Muslims, I think that’s a point, you know?

O’REILLY: But everybody knows that, Juan. I mean, what are, in 3rd grade here or what?

WILLIAMS: No, you don’t — but you got to be — this is what Barbara Walters was saying –

O’REILLY: I got to be careful, you just said it. I got to be careful. I have got to qualify everything 50 times. You know what, Juan? I’m not doing it anymore. I’m not doing that anymore.

WILLIAMS: OK. So, be yourself. Take responsibility.

O’REILLY: But I’m not going to say, oh, it’s only a few. It’s only a tiny bit. It’s not, Juan. It’s whole nations, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, whole nations.

Go ahead, Mary Katharine. You want to get in here. Go.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all — first of all, the left only thinks that you should be careful with rhetoric in dangerous times when it’s a right winger using the rhetoric. When they’re doing it themselves, when it deals with other issues, they don’t care. So there’s a double standard there.

Second of all, there’s a distinction worth making between moderate and extremism Islam as you have made that point in the talking points, because frankly, as a conservative, if anybody who believes in the mission in Iraq where you are building up a society of moderate Muslims to push back on extremists, you have to believe in that distinction. So, I think that’s important to make.

But, this whole getting up and running off set because you don’t use the distinction in every single sentence you say, I think, was ridiculous and immature and they stopped the conversation, not you. It was them freaking out about a conservative position and leaving the stage to stop the conversation.

O’REILLY: All right. But, look, here’s the deal. Angela Merkel, all right, in the politically correct nation of Germany — Germany has gone from being a militaristic society to a politically correct society in a generation. OK?

Angela Merkel comes out today and says, “You know what? This is out of control in our country. We can’t control it anymore.”

So, if it’s only a few, and a couple and just in the mountains of Pakistan, that’s all, why is Angela Merkel having such a hard time? Why are the French banning burqas? You know why –


O’REILLY: Come on.

WILLIAMS: Because — they have a problem because people have stopped emphasizing and she went on to say, this integration assimilation.

O’REILLY: Why, Juan? Why?

WILLIAMS: — to live side by side. That was wrong-headed and because she sees it as a threat. I think that she pointed out that two of every three or so children under the age of 5 in Germany is Muslim.

O’REILLY: Juan, who is posing a problem in Germany? Is it the Muslims who have come there or the Germans?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely.

O’REILLY: Who’s causing the problem?

WILLIAMS: I think — I think — no, no, wait. See, you did it again. It’s extremists. It’s people who refuse to –

O’REILLY: It’s not extremists.

WILLIAMS: It’s a German society. They are the ones causing that problem.


O’REILLY: But, Juan, Merkel — according to Merkel, it’s not extremists. It’s most of the 5 million Muslims who have come there aren’t assimilating. That’s the problem.

HAM: And also what happens, Bill — Bill, also what happens is that when moderate Muslims want to assimilate or want to stand up, they run the risk of being blown up by their co-religionist who are extreme. So, that is — that’s a threat that moderate Christians and Jews don’t think.

O’REILLY: But that doesn’t happen in America where most Muslim- Americans have assimilated.

HAM: Because our society demands that people assimilate. That’s what we demand and that’s why it works here.

WILLIAMS: But, Bill, here’s a caution point. The other day in New York, some guy cuts a Muslim cabby’s neck and says he’s attacking him or you think about the protest at the mosque near Ground Zero –

HAM: That guy works at a liberal –

O’REILLY: Yes, he was a crackpot.


O’REILLY: Look, Americans are smart enough to know, Juan.

HAM: But I don’t think — the point is the rhetoric was not pushing him to do that.

WILLIAMS: I don’t know what is in that guy’s head. But I’m saying, we don’t want in America, people to have their rights violated to be attacked on the street because they heard a rhetoric from Bill O’Reilly and they act crazy. We’ve got to say to people as Bill was saying tonight, that guy is a nut.

O’REILLY: He is a nut. And I said that about the guy in Florida — who wanted to burn the Koran. I came town on him like crazy.

WILLIAMS: Correct. There you go.

O’REILLY: But I’ll tell you what — if there was going to be a backlash against Muslims, it would happened after 9/11. It didn’t happen in this country.

WILLIAMS: It didn’t happen in this country.

O’REILLY: It did not happen here. So, we are smart enough to understand who the good Muslims are and who the bad Muslims are. But to diminish the whole thing as the left wants to do, very dangerous. I have got to go, guys, as always.

WILLIAMS: That would be hypocrisy.

O’REILLY: All right. Thank you very much.


-Juan Williams:

The comment which got Williams fired apparently was "But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous." Multiple choice: that is a) bigoted; b) insensitive; c) realistic; or d), stupid.

It is not bigoted or insensitive to indicate that oneself is nervous when boarding a plane with people "identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims." It is also not realistic- terrorists are not in the habit of announcing "hey, guys, detain and strip search me- I'm a Muslim!" Wearing "Muslim garb" would bring undesired attention to someone about to commit a terrorist attack. The correct answer is (d) stupid.

But Williams commented also "it's not a war against Islam," a point clearly lost on many conservatives. And he explained "Wait a second though, wait, hold on, because if you said Timothy McVeigh, the Atlanta bomber, these people who are protesting against homosexuality at military funerals, very obnoxious, you don’t say first and foremost, we got a problem with Christians. That’s crazy." Also not a point conservatives want to hear.

-Bill O'Reilly:

When Williams notes "there are good Muslims," O'Reilly responds "everybody knows that, Juan. I mean, what are, in 3rd grade here or what?"

Conservative Republicans may, down deep, believe there are "good Muslims." They just don't seem to.

Now for the extremists:

-Mike Huckabee:

Huckabee issued a statement in which he maintained "While I have often enjoyed appearing on NPR programs and have been treated fairly and objectively, I will no longer accept interview requests from NPR as long as they are going to practice a form of censorship, and since NPR is funded with public funds, it IS a form of censorship.”

Greta Van Susteren:

GOP TV's Van Susteren blogged: "Does a media outlet - protected by the First Amendment / Freedom of the Press and Speech - want to get in the censoring business? Let me remind everyone: the First Amendment is not there to protect agreement or to be part of a popularity contest. It was included in the Constitution for the opposite reason: to protect the UNPOPULAR opinion from the tyranny of the majority."

Why is it necessary, whenever a conservative is fairly or unfairly criticized, to remind conservatives that penalizing someone for something he or she said is not censorship? Censorship refers to prior restraint; allowing someone his say and then abruptly penalizing, punishing, or terminating that individual for what he said is not censorship, however noxious the remark might have been.

Sarah Palin:

There is little that occurs in society, except the domination of elections by wealthy and powerful interests, outsourcing or offshoring American jobs by corporations, environmental degradation by the oil industry, defrauding the homeowner by increasingly huge banks, or the continued decline of the American middle class, that is able to escape comment by the woman who couldn't handle the job of governor. Not surprisingly, then, she tweeted

NPR defends 1st Amendment Right, but will fire u if u exercise it. Juan Williams: u got taste of Left’s hypocrisy, they screwed up firing you.

As with censorship, much of the right, which constantly claims fealty to the United States Constitution, does not understand the First Amendment. The guarantee of freedom of speech protects the actor from government action, not private action. There is no First Amendment right to anger or offend an employer, and there is no First Amendment right involved with Juan Williams. Or do good conservatives like Palin prefer that any private or other non-governmental entity permit its employees to say whatever they want, whenever they want, about the employer?

And now for the best, Glenn Beck:

Characteristically, Beck ruminated

I just this is why I say know what you believe in because you are going to have to make decisions. Do you lose your job? Do you lose everything? Why do you think I've been begging you, please, 40 day and 40 night challenge, with firm reliance, not faith, with firm reliance on the protection of divine providence. What does that mean? It's beyond faith firm reliance. You know it to the core of your being, that you will get protection through divine providence.

Honest- this came close to the end of a segment about Juan Williams. But if he needs to channel Noah to satisfy his delusions of grandeur, Beck never promised his followers that "I was going to be rational. Not once. Not to you. Not to him."

Ever the rodeo clown.

Next Up: Was NPR reasonable (if it hasn't already rehired Williams)?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Amongst The Fields And Forests, The Real America

It all makes sense now.

Two years ago this month, Sarah Palin said at a North Carolina fundraiser:

We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington, D.C. We believe" -- here the audience interrupted Palin with applause and cheers -- "We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation. This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans. Those who are running our factories and teaching our kids and growing our food and are fighting our wars for us. Those who are protecting us in uniform. Those who are protecting the virtues of freedom.

At the time, most of us who are not Real Americans thought this was awfully bad. And, looking back at it, it's still pretty sleazy.

At least, though, Palin seems to like some Americans, if only those whom she imagines have the values she does.

Interviewed in May 2008 by Glenn Beck, actor William Shatner attributed environmental degradation to "overpopulation. Not the main. The cause of the world's destruction is there are too many people." To which Glenn Beck, ever the "populist" and the people's choice, responded

No, I think there are too many stupid people.

Shatner tried to talk him down, clarifying "there are too many stupid and intelligent people. They're so close together you can't tell them apart." A moment later, Shatner would state "Everybody defecates into the ocean. You defecate here, it goes into the ocean," to which Beck would remark

Oh, well, that's New York.

But it's not only Beck, who has particular disdain for fire victims. Last Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh commented

Michael Shear, New York Times, writes: "The president’s comments are reported in an in-depth assessment of Mr. Obama’s first two years in office that appears in the Times Magazine this Sunday. In the article, which is based on interviews with nearly two dozen of the president’s advisers in addition to the president himself, Mr. Baker offers a series of inside details about Mr. Obama’s time in the White House, including: According to his wife, Michelle Obama, Mr. Obama is not particularly fond of the presidential retreat at Camp David. Mrs. Obama reports that her husband, a longtime resident of Chicago, is more at ease in an urban setting." Let's see. Let's start tallying this up. The president doesn't like the Chamber of Commerce; he doesn't like Mother Nature 'cause that's where Camp David is; he doesn't like balanced budgets; he doesn't like low taxes; he doesn't like the American private sector; he doesn't like the oil industry; he doesn't like the drug industry; he doesn't like Big Tobacco; he doesn't like Big Auto; he doesn't like much that is considered traditionally American. He says he's the green president and yet he can't stand to be out there among natural beauty at Camp David. He's the green president, but don't get him anywhere near the actual chlorophyll, don't get him near the leaves.

How does a man grow up in Hawaii and prefer an urban setting?

True to his M.O., Rush ended the segment by lying: "All I know is he doesn't like much of what's American, that's admitted to in the Times magazine article." (This would be more scandalous than Watergate: President Barack Obama says "I don't like much of what's American!") And we already knew that Rush Limbaugh believes the oil industry, the drug industry, the tobacco industry, and America's foremost advocate of jobs for Indians, Chinese, and Bahrains, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, truly represent what's best about the nation, most of whose people Limbaugh has no use for.

But the thrust of these extraordinarily (though, for any objective observer of the Rush record, unsurprising) remarks is this: Barack Obama prefers the City of Chicago to the far more rural enclave of Camp David and therefore "doesn't like much of what is American."

Palin finds "kindness," "goodness," and "courage" only in small towns. Beck wants us to know that New Yorkers defecate into the ocean. And Limbaugh believes that no real American possibly could "be more at ease in an urban setting," in the phraseology of The Times' reporter.

The easy (and accurate) conclusion is that these titans of the Republican right dislike Americans who live in cities. (When Beck claims he distrusts Republicans as much as he does Democrats, he is as sincere as the legendary Nigerian on the Internet who will make you rich if you'll just make a little deposit into a certain bank account.)

But it goes beyond that. Barack Obama, as Limbaugh bemoans, prefers "an urban setting" to the "natural beauty at Camp David." And so he does- choosing to spend his down time not in the wooded and pristine setting of rural/suburban Maryland but in Chicago. Amongst people, poor and rich and those in between- among Americans. Perhaps that, more than anything else, is a thorn in the side, a burr under the saddle, of some of today's conservative Republicans.

Article Of The Week

The point of William Saletan's article in Slate is not the title, "Church and Stupid," which is borderline misleading. The argument, proven beyond a reasonable doubt, is in the subtitle "Christine O'Donnell's cocky ignorance of the First Amendment."

It's not that a disingenousRamesh Ponnuru of National Review claims, "What she denies is that the First Amendment requires “the separation of church and state," that a cynical Michelle Malkin contends "all you’ll hear from the MSM today is that Christine O’Donnell — correctly — questioned Coons’ claim that the phrase “the separation of church and state” appears in the First Amendment," or that a defiant Rush Limbaugh exclaims "It's not! Christine O'Donnell was absolutely correct. The First Amendment says nothing about 'the separation of church and state.'"

In Tuesday's Delaware senatorial debate (extended video of segment below), GOP nominee Christine O'Donnell did not note merely that the phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear in the first amendment of the United States Constitution. Coons never said that this phrase appears in the Constituion; he did, however, argue "the federal government shall not establish any religion." As Saletan explains, Coons was referring to the line "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...." and "has the gist right." (Ironically, the exact wording- "respecting an establishment of religion"- makes Coons' argument even stronger.)

Referring to the privacy concept embedded in the Supreme Court's Griswold and Roe v. Wade decisions, Coons explains

The zone of privacy is something that the Supreme Court interpreted the Bill of Rights and several of those amendments to create. It is important for us in modern times to apply the Constitution, in my view, as it exists today and as it has been interpreted by our judges and if there are settled pieces of constitutional law, like the separation of church and state, like individual rights, like the individual right to reproductive freedom that Roe v. Wade represents, that we live with and have lived under for decades, it is important to know that you have, on my side a candidate who believes and supports those things and on the other side...."

Here, O'Donnelll interrupts Coons (who continues speaking, but whose words are hard to discern) to state "let me just clarify- you're telling me, that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment."

Coons responds "the government shall make no establishment of religion." O'Donnell is convinced that she has caught Coons in a major gaffe, believing that she is the cat that has caught the canary (old metaphor). Turning toward the audience and smiling broadly, even smugly, she disbelievingly replies "that's in the First Amendment," certain she has clinched the argument, if not the entire debate.

Ignorance of the First Amendment, Saletan observes, is not what is "disturbing" because, he believes, her "ignorance has now been repaired" with "her damage-control interview." Rather,

What's disturbing is the bemused confidence with which she mocked the truth. It's the same confidence with which she dismisses evolution, claims that America has gone socialist, and asserts that "American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains."

This is how it typically is in modern conservatism, extreme edition, which is to say, modern conservatism, as demonstrated by Ponnuru, Malkin, and Limbaugh. Sloppily and/or dishonestly, they eagerly quote only a portion of the relevant exchange and allow for no possiblility of a different interpretation- or even that they may not have the described the full dialogue. Sometimes right, sometimes wrong, but always certain. The late Dr. Carlton Fredericks would condemn "opinionated ignorance." William Saletan says the same thing, only a little differently: "Ignorance is temporary,but imperviousness is forever."

The Natural Rights of Christian Nationalism

He's right, you know. Despite Wheerler's unearned arrogance, @HeidiReports is absolutely correct. Rights given by a god can be tak...