Wednesday, August 31, 2011





Limbaugh Nearly Correct


Rush Limbaugh has made it quite clear he traffics in race and in privilege (not in that order). And after Colin Powell told CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday that he hadn't decided if he would vote to re-elect President Obama, on Monday Rush Limbaugh commented (video below)

With General Powell saying that he's not quite sure that he would vote for Obama, that's gotta set off some warning bells in the Democrat Party, because as I say, if the titular head of the Republican Party is starting to have doubts about your candidate, you know that you are in trouble. Snerdley, you know I'm right here. In the end, Powell will vote for Obama. There's no doubt. The titular head of the Republican Party, the ideal model Republican will vote for Obama. Melanin is thicker than water, folks. That's what will happen.

There is no defending "melanin is thicker than water, folks." Lacking the requisite decency, honesty, or integrity- at least one applies- Limbaugh referred to "melanin," an inherited and racial characteristic, rather than contending simply that Powell would support Obama because both are black, which would have been less odious and easily dismissed. Melanin? The facial complexion of Barack Obama, the product of a racially mixed union, probably is closer to that of John McCain than to that of Colin Powell, the son of Jamaican-Americans.

As Werner Wolf would havc said, let's go to the videotape- or, in this case, the spoken word. In October, 2008 Politico noted that General Powell had declared on NBC"s Meet The Press the previous day his support of the election of Senator Obama, saying he was

"troubled" by the direction of the Republican Party, and said he began to doubt McCain when he chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

"Not just small towns have values," he said, responding to one of Palin's signature lines.

"She's a very distinguished woman, and she's to be admired," he said. "But at the same, now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don't believe she's ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president. And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Sen. McCain made."

Few Americans base their vote in a presidential election on the vice-presidential selection, even if they rationalize it by maintaining that it is indicative of the candidate's judgement. With the vice-presidency largely a ceremonial post, the choice is suggestive largely of the presidential nominee's judgement as to whom would best facilitate his/her election. In retrospect, give Powell credit for identifying, by indirection, what now appears to be the best reason (along with Supreme Court appointments, also cited by Powell on NBC) to have Barack Obama rather than John McCain in the Oval Office. More comforting it is to have Joe Biden, rather than Sarah Palin, a heartbeat from the presidency.

But neither Palin nor the high court was the focus of the endorsement of Powell, who explained

I can't deny that it will be a historic event when an African-American becomes president. And should that happen, all Americans should be proud — not just African-American, but all Americans — that we have reached this point in our national history where such a thing could happen. It would also not only electrify the country, but electrify the world.

Powell continued

because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities — and you have to take that into account — as well as his substance — he has both style and substance, he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president.

The General did not detail that "substance" which the first-term Senator possessed and was lacking in the 22-year veteran of the United States Senate, Armed Services Committee member, and highly distinguished veteran of the United States Navy. Obama's ideological stance (and presidential temperament) was superior, but it's tough to believe that the four-star general, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State was more impressed by the "substance" of Barack Obama than that of John McCain.

The dominant factor was the "style" of the man who aimed to be the first black president of the country served by Powell in several positions. "Style" was the dominant factor, race a major element of that style, if not the dominant factor itself. It was the style of the man who aimed to be the first black president of the United States, though the "electrifying" nature of that election has been consummated, making re- election historically insignificant. With the "electrifying nature" of that election having been consummated, re-election is historically insignificant and Limbaugh's confidence that "melanin" will prompt Powell to endorse Obama again will be tested if the GOP nominates Mitt Romney. Previously, however, Limbaugh (rashly) declared Romney's candidacy bound to fail and culture, race, and melanin aside, if Michele Bachmann or Mitt Romney gets the party's nod, Rush's prediction will be borne out. Powell, not without fault, is at least serious and sober and not one one especially enamored of quirky personalities.

Alternatively, Colin Powell may have publicly endorsed Barack Obama for president in 2008, and may do so in 2012, because of commitment to ideological principle. However, that would presuppose that, at some point in his post-military government service, Colin Powell had exhibited dedication to some principle. Find that, and you may find also those weapons of mass destruction Secretary of State Powell vowed that Sadaam Hussein possessed.













Useless Employees, Except When They're Not



If it continues on the current track, from a flooding perspective this could be a 100-year event. People should not take this lightly.

Friday, the New Jersey governor bellowed

You know I saw some of these news feeds upstairs of people sitting on the beach on Asbury Park. Get the hell off the beach in Asbury Park and get out. You’re done. It’s 4:30, you’ve maximized your tan. Get off the beach.

It's always comforting to see a governor who summons a team of experts, gathers all facts, and then acts decisively because he "saw some of these news feeds upstairs of people sitting on the beach." "Saw some of these news feeds" as in "watched television."

But the situation was severe, with more than a half million New Jersey homes and businesses still without power as of Monday evening. As of Monday morning, numerous highways and other roadways were still closed due to damage or flooding- including a major highway in the state's capital of Trenton. Closed were the governments of the city of Trenton, the county in which the state capital is located, and the garage providing parking for the executive and legislative members of the state government. On Tuesday, the Governor wrote to President Obama, requesting federal disaster aid.

Unsurprisingly, Governor Christie's message for private-sector workers on Monday was uncomplicated: "if you can stay home, stay home." On Sunday, the Governor, ever eager to lambaste government and state employees (other than himself), had remarked "philosophically, I believe government is too big, and I've said that many times." Monday, he told private sector workers "if you can stay home, stay home."

But for public employees, whom the Governor repeatedly has implied are of little value, there was a different, sarcastic, message: "Folks sat in traffic this morning, my apologies. Toughen up and get to work."

The sky is falling, Chris Christie said Friday. And Saturday. And Sunday. And Monday. And Tuesday. Workers in the private sector, for the benefit of their safety and to facilitate response to emergencies throughout the state, ought to stay home. But for those overpaid, pampered, and generally worthless government workers, the governor roared "get to work."

We knew Chris Christie was bellicose, belligerent, and self-consumed. Add hypocritical to the list.







Monday, August 29, 2011







Not That Message, For Sure


The Center for American Progress reports that Representative Michele Bachmann has remarked

I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’ Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we’ve got to rein in the spending.

Not to worry, though, because her campaign manager now says "obviously, she was saying it in jest." Hopefully, the Bachmann camp is lying, because otherwise a member of the United States Congress believes joking publicly about God's influence on the course of human affairs is great sport.

Bachmann, though given to saying things hardly anyone even modestly informed would believe, probably was dead serious about her Irene comment, though she may have decided to make a point by exaggerating. About God.

The GOP presidential contender should have stuck with her original comment because, accidentally, she may- may- have been 50% accurate. Back in an earlier time- three days before an earthquake chose the unlikely target of the northeastern quadrant of the U.S.A. and nine days before a hurricane in the northeastern U.S.- The New York Times observed

Normally, three or four weather disasters a year in the United States will cause at least $1 billion in damages each. This year, there were nine such disasters. They included the huge snow dump in late January and early February on the Midwest and Northeast, the rash of tornadoes this spring across the Midwest and the more recent flooding of the Missouri and Souris Rivers. The disasters are responsible for at least 589 deaths, including 160 in May when tornadoes ripped through Joplin, Mo.

These nine billion-dollar disasters tie the record set in 2008, according to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The total damage done by all storms, tornadoes, flooding and heat waves so far this year adds up to about $35 billion. The National Climatic Data Center says it estimates the costs in terms of dollars and lives that would not have been incurred had the event not taken place. Insured and uninsured losses are included in damage estimates and are likely to change as assessments become more complete. With four months to go in 2011, this year’s total amount of damage is likely to rise. Forecasters are already predicting further meteorological mayhem as hurricane season intensifies.

Predictably, Times reporter Katherine Q. Seelye did not address any possible impact of climate change, lest global warming deniers raise howls of protest against the "liberal media." While Hurricane Irene was not caused by climate change, Joe Romm notes that warming makes hurricanes more destructive because sea level rise makes storm surges more destructive, the increased water vapor in the atmosphere increases rainfall and the risk of flooding, and water vapor and higher ocean temperatures help fuel a storm, making it more intense and bigger.

A day before Irene hit landfall, Michael D. Lemonick of Climate Central explained

.... sea-surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean are higher now than they used to be, thanks to global warming, and ocean heat is what gives hurricanes their power. All other things being equal, a warmer ocean means a more powerful storm. It’s hard to say that all other things are exactly equal here, but it’s certainly plausible that Irene would have been a little weaker if precisely the same storm had come through, say, 50 years ago.

What we know for sure, however is that thanks largely to climate change, sea level is about 13 inches higher in the New York area than it was a century ago. The greatest damage from hurricanes comes not from high winds and torrential rains — although those do cause a lot of damage. It’s from the storm surge, the tsunami-like wall of water a hurricane pushes ahead of it to crash onto the land. It was Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge, not the wind or rain, that destroyed New Orleans back in 2005.

And now that we have had back-to-back extreme weather events in a densely populated area of the nation, the Repub presidential contender says the Lord is trying "to get the attention of politicians" because "government is on a morbid obesity diet and we’ve got to rein in the spending.” TPM's Alex-Seitz Wald notes "It’s ironic that God would use a hurricane to send a memo about cutting government spending, considering that the damage it causes it likely going to increase government spending."

It's also highly unlikely, given the message-"I'm sending earthquakes and hurricanes because you're spending too much money- is extremely cryptic." I might as well contend that I'm posting this blog so you know to get a haircut this week. There is no connection, other than the ironic one identified by Seitz-Wald, whose message would be the opposite observed by the Minnesota psychic.

But there is at least a chance that Michele B. is partially right. Perhaps God is displeased, as well as perplexed, that a sizable number of politicians (the vast majority from the congresswoman's party) continue to deny the reality of human influence upon the climate. Preferring something more subtle than a baseball bat applied to the cranium of the corporate stooges who aren't listening, the Almighty might prefer the succession of blizzard, tornado, and flooding events this nation alone has endured of late. The alternative explanation is "the wholly human origin of all that is human," as Camus put it.

Either way, two things are clear: any message from above is not the one Michele Bachmann wishes it were; and Michele Bachmann's campaign is lying.


Sunday, August 28, 2011





Wrong Approach


Really, Chris, don't do their dirty work for them. We already have President Obama for that.

On Thursday and Friday evenings, substituting for Lawrence O'Donnell, Chris Hayes took up the idea of Florida Governor Rick Scott to test welfare recipients for illegal drugs. Concluding on Friday, Hayes cannily observed

What we`re seeing instead is that the category of welfare queen has simply expanded to now include the working poor, and those unlucky enough to lose their jobs during the Great Recession.

That observation not only is accurate but captures a fundamental shift in GOP philosophy and tactics. As it is no longer safe to go after minorities (directly), the party has subtly transitioned to casting aspersions on the great mass- the non-wealthy- of Americans. The tax system must be flattened, we are told. The rich pay too much while some of those pesky middle class folk get away with paying no income tax. Payroll, sales, property, and all manner of excise and user fees and taxes just will not do.

Despite this GOP tactic, Chris Hayes- the Chris Hayes of The Nation- on Thursday commented

But actually, there is one way I could support a plan to drug test welfare applicants. It comes from Mike Konczal, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, who writes for one of my favorite economics blogs, RortyBomb. He`s been a guest on the program. He wrote not too long ago, "I think I can support this idea, that is testing welfare applicants for drugs, if and only if it is also required that people who claim a mortgage interest tax deduction are also required to take a drug test."

I mean, after all, we don`t want to subsidize people`s drug habits. And welfare is welfare is welfare. Am I right, homeowners of America?

Though the tax deduction for mortgage interest paid is enjoyed by the wealthy, it is viewed by the public (the electorate) as one dedicated to the middle class. And in fact, no gun is pressed against the head of members of Congress preventing them from exempting interest on huge mortgages ($1,000,000, $500,000 or whatever) from its benefits.

But Hayes did not recommend restricting the mortgage interest tax deduction, preferring to take a swipe at "homeowners of America" (code for "middle class"). Instead, he lumped drug users in with the middle class, probably not a way of drawing sympathy for your ideological persuasion from the majority (electorate) of Americans who are of the middle class and the vast majority (electorate) who believe they are of the middle class. Or, for that matter, the vast majority of Americans who own a home or are working 1, 2, or even three jobs at a time in order to be able to become a full-fledged, property tax-paying homeowner like their parents are.

Not smart, Chris and not helpful to the progressive/liberal cause. And that is especially the case when we have an IRS code that taxes capital gains at a lower rate than ordinary income and contains other goodies for the well-healed. Hayes could have decried a tax system, or even a culture, which favors wealth acquired by moving money around over that earned by labor- what once was called the "sweat of one's brow," though nowadays is more likely to have been earned by exuding less perspiration.

There is no reason to adopt GOP strategy. Republicans already effectively set the middle class against the poor, just as they set whites against blacks during the last quarter of the twentieth century. It is an ongoing strategy, one damaging to the nation (which Hayes seemed to understand the following night, on Friday), and one which is better left to the right, for which it is almost raison d'etre.









Welfare Queens, Updated


Ronald Reagan was the best, in 1980 extolling the virtues of states rights just outside of Philadelphia, Mississippi, where civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney had been murdered by Ku Klux Klansmen doing the work of the Southern white aristocracy. As President, he brought to the fore the myth of the "welfare queen," a powerful symbol later debunked. And he didn't stop there.

Blatant appeals to white fears have not been so politically correct since the day after Barack Obama's election. On that occasion, Frank Rich could write "while there are still bigots in America, they are in unambiguous retreat" now that we have "another America- hardly a perfect or prejudice-free America, but a union that can change and does, aspiring to perfection even if it can never achieve it" (now 62 years old, Rich has since lost his youthful exuberance). A year before the election, Paul Krugman had observed "we have become a more diverse and less racist country over time." He believed "anti-immigrant rhetoric (could not) replace old-fashioned racial politics" because" it mobilizes the same shrinking pool of whites — and alienates the growing number of Latino voters."

We have, in fact, made progress of a sort. Now we don't have to demonize immigrants, blacks, welfare recipients, or any other class of citizens. It's now a larger, more diverse group of Americans vilified by the Republican Party.

Chris Hayes, substituting for Lawrence O'Donnell Friday evening, sets it up:

HAYES: In the Spotlight tonight, kicking the unemployed when they are down. In Ohio, a Republican state senator is introducing a bill that would require people seeking unemployment benefits and welfare to first take a drug test, and, of course, also pay for the test. Legislation is being driven by the apparently unkillable prejudice that the poor are shiftless, drug addled lay abouts, scheming to get their hands on your precious, precious, gooey tax dollars.

Here`s Ohio State Senator Tim Schaeffer (ph) explaining his thought process.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How would we as taxpayers know that this isn`t kind of the boogie man out there? It`s an idea that it`s a problem. But we don`t have any concrete data to tell us that it really is a problem. How do you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we will have data once we implement the system, and once we implement the testing. You know, if 100 percent of the people who apply for public assistance come clean, come out clean, and don`t have any drugs in the system, then fine, great. But my suspicion is we will find some.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Yeah, that`s my suspicion, too, if you -- I don`t know -- drug tested the state senators of the state of Ohio. If this sounds startlingly familiar, it should, because just last night, we looked at the case of a Florida Governor Rick Scott, who pushed through a similar policy that required drug tests for welfare applicants. And the results?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: So was the rate of Floridians applying for welfare who also tested positive drug use at the national level of 8.7 percent? No. Was it eight percent? Was it 7.5? Was it seven percent? Was it 6.5 percent or six percent or 5.5 or five percent, like you might be thinking?

Was it 4.5 percent or four percent or even 3.5 percent? Was it three percent? Wrong again.

The rate of Floridians applying for welfare who tested positive for drug use is just -- drum roll -- two percent. Two percent, a full 6.7 percent lower than the probably actually too low government figure for the national average.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: The Florida and Ohio drug testing laws come at a time when Republicans are launching a new attack on the working poor. In his presidential announcement speech, Texas Governor Rick Perry expressed outrage at 46.4 percent of households paid no federal income tax in 2011.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We`re dismayed at the injustice that nearly half of all Americans don`t even pay any income tax.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: He is not -- just in case it wasn`t clear in that clip, he`s not outraged at the injustice that nearly half of American households work, but are paid so little that their take home pay barely covers basic necessities. He is outraged because they are not paying more taxes.

Fifteen years ago this week, President Bill Clinton signed a bill ending Welfare as we know it. Democrats hope that stroke of triangulation would end the demonization of welfare queens and take the issue off the table.

No, it didn't and Hayes concludes

What we`re seeing instead is that the category of welfare queen has simply expanded to now include the working poor, and those unlucky enough to lose their jobs during the Great Recession.

Consider Orrin Hatch, who believes "the place where you've got to get revenues has to come from the middle class" and complains "Now we don’t want the really poor people who are in poverty to pay income taxes. But 51 percent of all households?" And Rick Perry, who is "dismayed at the injustice that nearly half of all Americans don't even pay any income tax." And Michele Bachmann (a former IRS attorney) pretending there is no tax but the income tax: "A system in which 47% of Americans don't pay any tax is ruinous for a democracy because there is no tie to the government beneifts that people demand. I think everyone should have to pay something."

No longer politically correct to dump on single out any one group- blacks, the poor, or illegal immigranst- it has become acceptable to discredit most Americans, including the working and middle classes. "We've come a long way," Frank Rich wrote on November 9, 2008. He was convinced Barack Obama knew "we are the ones we've been waiting for" because "millions of such Americans were here all along, waiting for a leader. This was the week that they reclaimed their country." Change We Can Believe In, indeed.





Saturday, August 27, 2011






Dick Cheney Lies About His Undisclosed Location

A little advice to Dick Cheney: if you're going to lie, make sure it's nothing that can be uncovered.

Not so in the memoirs of the former vice-president, who, the Washington Post reports

notes that he was “surprised by the intensity of the media interest” in the “undisclosed location” where he was sometimes reported to be, mentioning a “Saturday Night Live” skit that imagined him in a cave in Afghanistan.

But, he writes, the “undisclosed location” was the more mundane Vice President’s Residence, his home in Wyoming and, most often, Camp David.

But it wasn't Wyoming and it wasn't Camp David, though very close to the latter. From a July 15, 2009 post entitled "Not Quite Undisclosed" on this site:

On December 16, 2001, Dennis Roddy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote

Three hours after Osama bin Laden turned the Pentagon into a broken rectangle, five helicopters touched down a few hundred yards from Hal Neill's house at the base of Raven Rock Mountain along the Pennsylvania-Maryland border.

Within minutes, a convoy of SUVs with black-tinted windows zoomed up Harbaugh Valley Road, turned left, and deposited the weight of the free world inside Site R, the inexplicably named city-in-a-mountain from which the Pentagon has operated and, from all indications Vice President Dick Cheney has directed his office in the days since the Sept. 11 attacks.

But.if you do a google search under "undisclosed location wikepedia," you'll find, as the second entry, "Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." The wikipedia entry on Blue Ridge Summit notes that is the location of Vice President Cheney's "undisclosed location," crediting this article as appearing in the Boston Globe on July 20, 2004. More specifically, the piece was written for Knight-Ridder by Steve Goldstein and appeared in not only the Boston Globe, but also The Philadelphia Inquirer and probably elsewhere. Goldstein visited the site, dubbed "the underground Pentagon" by "government insiders," and explained

The location is a highly secure complex of buildings inside Raven Rock Mountain near Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., close to the Maryland-Pennsylvania state line and about seven miles north of Camp David.

A recent book, "A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies," by James Bamford, was credited with spilling the beans about the supposedly supersecret hideaway....

Site R -- also known as Raven Rock or the Alternate Joint Communications Center -- is a 53-year-old facility conceived at the start of the Cold War as an alternate command center in the event of nuclear war or an attack on Washington.

Sloping, round-humped Raven Rock Mountain sprouts a thicket of antennae, satellite dishes, and a microwave tower. From state Route 16, the main road that passes the mountain, two oversize metal doors in the hillside are visible through the heavy foliage giving it that Fortress of Solitude touch.

Bamford, Roddy, Goldstein, and maybe a few others performed their job and disclosed the "undisclosed location." To all others, including the Washington Post, it has been a punchline good for a snicker here and there. But the undisclosed location is in fact disclosed





Friday, August 26, 2011






Not Trying To Ridicule Obama- Just Slipped Out

Go either way- but stay firm. (I know what you're thinking.)

In December of 2010, Congress, as suggested the President, lowered the payroll tax for employees (not employers) one year from 6.2% to 4.2% as part of the agreement to extend the Bush-era tax cuts. This was done, presumably to help stimulate the economy and was especially welcome by Democrats eager to cut a regressive levy. Unfortunately, reducing the payroll tax reduces the solvency of the Social Security system, a bug for most Democrats, a benefit to most Republicans and President Obama, who continually whine about the need to "reform" a program more successful than almost anything Washington ever has done.

President Obama wants to extend the payroll tax cut; Republicans, therefore, want it to expire. But there are two suggestions better than either of these options.

Yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders proposed that the cap on the Social Security tax, now at $106,800, be adjusted so the "wealthiest Americans" pay. It should have been unnecessary to explain, but given the disinformation from conservatives and the mainstream media, Sanders' office reminded us that Social Security

has not contributed one dime to the federal deficit. It has a $2.5 trillion surplus, and it can pay out every nickel owed to every eligible American for at least the next 25 years, according to the Social Security Administration. A recent report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that Social Security is in even better financial shape and can pay all promised benefits until 2038.

The Vermont Independent was a little vague, not specifying whether all income over $106,800 would be taxed for Social Security or instead only that up to a certain figure (extremely unlikely) or only above a certain figure, $250,000, $1,000,000, or whatever.

Robert Reich, as an academic rather than politician, was more specific. A little over a week ago, outlining a series of steps to pull the nation out of its economic slump, he recommended Washington "exempt forst $20k of income from payroll taxes for two years. Make up shortfall by raising ceiling on income subject to payroll taxes." A year ago, he recommended the same, noting it "would give the economy an immediate boost by adding to the paychecks of just about every working American. 80 percent of Americans pay more in payroll taxes than they do in income taxes. And because lower-income people would get most of the benefit, it's likely to be spent." Reich seemed to be advocating that the reduction apply to employers as well as to employees.

Keep it simple by simply eliminating the cap on Social Security taxes. Or eliminate the cap for incomes above $250,000 (for all income) and exempt the first $20,000 (or $30,000, if the numbers work), thereby introducing progressivity to the tax and stimulation to the economy. Either proposal would strengthen the Social Security system- as its critics always claim is necessary- and leave unscathed the lower and the middle classes. We must save Social Security for future generations, the Republicans, President Obama and other neo-liberals say; this is their chance.

And of course, this is the reason that Republicans won't go for it, inasmuch as the destruction of one of government's social insurance systems is one of the objectives of the anti-government party (except when its governors accept stimulus funds to balance their budgets; nope, even then). President Obama would like to see this reform occur because, as one who wishes to be remembered as a transformative President, he really would like to ensure the solvency of the Social Security system for the forseeable, or unforseeable, future. Unfortunately, he believes one way to do that is by a de facto reduction of benefits, whether by raising the eligibility age or the COLA formula, perhaps with chained CPI. And it is the same President Obama of whom (allegedly) God earlier this week tweeted

There was just a 6.0 earthquake in Washington. Obama wanted it to be a 3.4, but the Republicans wanted 6.0, so he compromised.






Thursday, August 25, 2011










Blaming The Little Guy


The Daily Times of Farmington, New Mexico reported the protest that greeted Democratic Representative Ben Ray Lugjan on a tour of Goodwill Industries in Farmington. One member of the San Juan County 9/12 Project, a group aligned with the tea party movement

.... said he came for "a chance to see the elusive representative."

"He needs to get out of politics and make room for an American," Clark said.

Luján is a lifelong New Mexican. Clark later explained that he meant an "American patriot."

Pretty ugly that is, and reminiscent of Senator George Allen's infamous crack about S.R. Sidarth: "This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is. He's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere." Sidarth was born in Fairfax County, Virginia, U.S.A. A foreigner to George Allen. Lujan was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S.A. A foreigner to his critic, Darrel Clark.

Posting on the blog of the ardently pro-Obama Center for American Progress, Travis Waldron found Clark's comment "representative of the strains of racism and ethnocentrism that exist in the Tea Party movement."

However, Darrel Clark is, well, Darrel Clark, a private citizen about as famous as you, me, or your next-door neighbor. But Tom Coburn is a long-serving United States Senator, who recently responded to a negative comment from a constituent about President Obama by contending

His intent isn’t to destroy. It’s to create dependency because it worked so well for him. I don’t say that critically. Look at people for what they are. Don’t assume ulterior motives. I don’t think he doesn’t love our country. I think he does.

As an African American male, coming through the progress of everything he experienced, he got tremendous benefit through a lot of these programs. So he believes in them. I just don’t believe they work overall and in the long run they don’t help our country. But he doesn’t know that because his life experience is something different. So it’s very important not to get mad at the man.

This was, CAP's Ian Millhiser observed, an "outlandish theory."

So let's review. Darrel Clark, of whom we never had heard and never will again (unless he is roundly condemned for his ridiculous and offensive remark), is emblematic of the "strains of racism and ethnocentrism" coursing through the veins of tea party supporters. A respected United States Senator (without presenting evidence) says the first black President "is out to create dependency because it worked so well for him," apparently because "as an African American male...... he got tremendous benefit through a lot of these programs." And that president believes in "these programs" not because they work- Coburn argued they don't- but because of the "life experience of the African'American male."

But Coburn, apparently, has not succumbed to racism or ethnocentrism but- wait for it- to an "outlandish theory."

Mere slap on the wrist though that is, it is more than we've heard out of the first black President, his spokespeople or advisers. And it's more than we've heard from the otherwise ever-vigilant civil rights organizations, apparently unconcerned that an influential opinion maker and role model-a United States Senator- believes the first black president couldn't have gotten anywhere near the White House if he weren't black. And that "these programs" exist solely for the African-American male, for whom life is evidently is just swell.

Hopefully, the acceptance of Coburn's remarks is attributable only to the personal relationship between the popular Oklahoma Senator and the former Illinois Senator. Sadly, though, it may be related to privilege- the ease with which some guy in the southwestern U.S. can get slammed while a remark by a member of the world's greatest deliberative body can get affirmed by the silence of others.

Change We Can Believe In, indeed.





Tuesday, August 23, 2011



Politicizing, Indeed


Rick Perry is right, in a way.

On August 17, the Texas governor told what the National Journal termed "a business crowd" “I do believe that the issue of global warming has been politicized."

The problem, obviously, is that it has been politicized by Perry, Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Republican leader Rush Limbaugh, and other conservative luminaries.

In March, 2009 Bachmann implored the like-minded to be "armed and dangerous" to start "a revolution" on upcoming cap-and-trade legislation. She has called climate change "all voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax" and more recently, "manufactured science." Rush Limbaugh has said "the whole thing is a hoax."

But Rick Perry, as one of the two likeliest GOP presidential nominees, has come into the greatest criticism of late. While speaking to that group in New Hampshire, he said

I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. I think we’re seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change. Yes, our climates change. They’ve been changing ever since the earth was formed.

Don't bother explaining to the Governor the difference between "weather," which changes constantly, and climate, which has been changing of late to an unprecedented degree. Nor that "scientists" are "coming forward and questioning the original idea that man'made global warming is what is causing the climate to change," given that precious few of those scientists are climate scientists. But he ought to be asked about the allegation that "a substantial number of scientists" have "manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects." Fraud is a serious charge and, inconveniently, we now learn

Michael Mann, a Pennsylvania climate-change researcher caught in the flap surrounding e-mails hacked from a British university server, was cleared of wrongdoing by a U.S. agency that promotes science.

Finding no "evidence of research misconduct," the Arlington, Va.-based National Science Foundation closed its inquiry into Mann, according to an Aug. 15 report from its inspector general. In February, Pennsylvania State University, where Mann is a professor of meteorology, exonerated him of suppressing or falsifying data, deleting e-mails, and misusing privileged information.

Skeptics of climate change pointed to the stolen e-mails, which surfaced in blogs in 2009, as proof that researchers conspired to suppress studies questioning the link between warming and human activity. Last week, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, repeated the charge that scientists have "manipulated" data on climate change.

"It was a pretty definitive finding" that the charges "swirling around for over a year" were baseless, Mann said in an interview.

The report confirms findings from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's inspector general and a separate panel of seven scientists based at universities in Britain, the United States, and Switzerland.

The inquiries focused on the University of East Anglia's climate-research unit, which stored the poached e-mails on its computer server. The university's work contributed to some of the key findings of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has issued reports that blame rising temperatures on human activity.

E-mails to and from Mann were in the pilfered cache. One message discussing his work spoke of a "trick" to "hide the decline" and others suggested deleting correspondence.

Mann was lead author of the first reconstruction of North American warming going back 1,000 years, which showed recent temperatures increasing sharply. The 1998 findings have been confirmed by several studies, Mann said.

The manufactured scandal involving East Anglia University long has been a favorite topic of Limbaugh. He has referred to "this universe of lies" whose "agenda will be paramount -- and I guarantee you that as we speak, the hoaxers and everybody involved in it from Algore on up to this Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University are plotting strategy on how to keep forging forward because of two things. There is a hell of a lot of money at the end of this train and these people want to get their hands on it." Seven studies of the charges, and seven exonerating Mann, but that won't stop Rush Limbaugh.

And neither is it likely to stop Rick Perry, who is running for President. It would be surprising if the oil and gas industry were not the largest contributor to a Repub politician in Texas, as the graph (from the National Institute on Money in State Politics, via Center for American Progress) above indicates for Perry. But it would be even more surprising if the industry's largesse would not persuade a politician to deny the proven human impact upon climate change and to politicize scientific finding. Now that the Texas governor and presidential hopeful has alleged that global warming itself is a scam perpetrated by scientists- and the most controversial case has been found to be utterly without merit- he merits scrutiny from a "fair and balanced" media.




Monday, August 22, 2011




Barack Obama, Above Criticism


Randall Kennedy is, justifiably, disappointed in President Obama. In his recently published "The Persistence of the Color Line-Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency," Kennedy noted" Obama has been more conservative than regard for public opinion requires him to be" and criticizes his "excessive caution" on various issues.

But don't count Kennedy as another African-American who has figured Barack Obama out. A critic of the Tavis Smiley/Cornel West campaign to draw attention to the plight of disadvantaged Americans, Kennedy contends that Smiley has "voiced skepticism whether blacks should back Obama." (Our hero is being attacked; time to circle the wagons, guys.)

Smiley and West have embarked on a tour of 16 poor, most of them minority, communities across the nation, highlighting the failure of the federal government to address their concerns. Presumably, Rep. Maxine Waters, frustrated by the policies of President Obama, would approve. Recently addressing an audience in Detroit, the California Democrat remarked "our people are hurting. The unemployment is unconscionable. We don’t know what the strategy is. We don’t know why on this trip that he’s in the United States now, he’s not in any black community…we don’t know that.”

Smiley and West, the latter advocating "massive job creation programs and massive investment in public housing, education, transportation and health," have been widely criticized in the black community. As early as February, 2008, in a post entitled, "Who died and made Tavis king" (a headline Kennedy recently quoted), prominent Obamite Melissa Harris-Lacewell remarked "I can't figure out what motivates Tavis."

Clues to Smiley's motivation may lie in an interview West recently had with bet.com in which he explained

We’re going to an Indian reservation in Wisconsin, we’re going to hit the brown barrios, the Asian poor communities, white poor communities, the Black hoods and we’re ending in Memphis to keep alive the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.’s fundamental commitment to sanitation workers there, and of course his assassination.

While reminding the media of Dr. King's support of working people of all ethnic groups, Smiley/West is not content to go to disadvantaged black communities and are not neglecting poor Hispanic, Asian, or white communities. Economic injustice was not banished on November 2, 2008 and recognition across ethnic groups of the obstacles people of varied backgrounds face is critical to building a progressive movement.

This is acknowledged by too few of the progressive/liberal critics, but perhaps they are more exorcised by West's pointed criticism of the President, who

says he has the exact same responsibility to every member of society. I just say it's not true, he's lying. It's clear that he has more commitment to investment banks than he does to poor people. it's just clear when they got in trouble he gave them $700 billion; he subsidized them. They have not made poor people a priority. That's why we're going on the tour.

Barack Obama always will have in the black community apologists such as Steve Harvey, Tom Joyner, Al Sharpton, Michael Eric Dyson, Mellisa Harris-Lacewell-Perry, and Kennedy. Fortunately, though, we have the likes of West and Smiley around to remind us that the oceans are still rising and the planet has not yet healed.



Sunday, August 21, 2011




Leadership, Of A Sort

President Obama isn’t kidding around; he means business. Though not yet announcing details

The president is thinking about proposing tax cuts for companies that hire workers, new spending for roads and construction, and other measures that would target the long-term unemployed, according to administration officials and other people familiar with the matter. Some ideas, such as providing mortgage relief for struggling homeowners, could come through executive action.

Obama also plans to announce a major push for new deficit reduction, urging the special congressional committee formed in the debt-ceiling deal this month to identify even more savings than the $1.5 trillion it has been tasked with finding.

At a town hall meeting on Wednesday in Illinois, the President stated

When folks tell you that we’ve got a choice between jobs now or dealing with our debt crisis, they’re wrong. They’re wrong. We can’t afford to just do one or the other. We’ve got to do both. And the way to do it is to make some -- reform the tax code, close loopholes, make some modest modifications in programs like Medicare and Social Security so they’re there for the next generation, stabilize those systems. And you could actually save so much money that you could actually pay for some of the things like additional infrastructure right now.

We can close the deficit and put people to work, but what’s required is that folks work together. That’s the big challenge. That’s the big challenge. (Applause.)

After the President's brief rhetorical "pivot" to job creation, which he had termed "the most imediate concern of most Americans," Obama has returned to the deficit fairy. The GOP's favorite euphemisms- "reform" and "stabilize"- for cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid have been resurrected at the White House, with addition of "modest modifications."

As the President leads, so many Senate Democrats follow. Harry Reid's appointees to the deficit reduction commission (Patty Murray, Max Baucus, and John Kerry) then issued a statement which included

We know that our goal is to reduce spending. But we also know that America faces not just a budget deficit but also a jobs deficit. Nobody on this committee would be happy if we reduced the budget deficit but even more Americans end up losing their jobs.

So we are ready to get to work with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to report out a balanced plan, with the shared sacrifices this moment requires. One that moves past the partisan rancor, puts our nation back on strong fiscal footing, and allows us to continue shining bright in the world in this generation and for generations to come.

It would be helpful if at least the Democrats- who claim to favor a "balanced plan"- realized that the goal of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is deficit reduction, not “to reduce spending.” Not only is spending reduction not the goal, it is an odd strategy for a party aiming, at least rhetorically, to create jobs. But then this group also believes “our colleagues on both sides of the aisle” share its passion for “a balanced plan.” That “balanced plan,” to the other side of “the aisle,” means cutting the heart out of the social safety net- and maybe, in return, a revenue-neutral move to lower the corporate tax rate while reducing loopholes (which lobbyists will put back into the tax code in a few years, thank you very much). Digby speculates that Obama’s limited, GOP-friendly jobs plan will be “the liberal bait” and

I guess the "compromise" the SuperCommittee Dems will be agreeing to is to sell-off the safety net (because the pain won't hit for a while) in exchange for some mealy mouthed tax cut stimulus and maybe a little infrastructure to goose the economy. Oh, and hopefully some minor help for the long term unemployed --- until the election anyway.




Played For Fools

Early on Tuesday the Boston Globe's Annie Linskey revealed that the President's staff has become so adept at replicati...