Monday, October 31, 2011

Race Is Their Specialty

Who would ever indulge in racial stereotyping while claiming it of his political enemies? Who would give voice to his characteristic, nearly unsurpassed racial bigotry while pretending it's coming from the opposition?

Why, if it's Main Street Liberal, it must be Rush Limbaugh (but not him alone). While Herman Cain was yet again changing his story on whether he had been told how many women had accused him of sexual harassment and whether he had any clue of a settlement, Rush was busy going on the offensive. He could have waited for the facts before exonerating Cain of any wrongdoing, but then, he wouldn't be the Blowhard of Bigotry. Accordingly, he remarked

What's next, folks? A cartoon on MSNBC showing Herman Cain with huge lips eating a watermelon? What are they gonna do next? No, Snerdley, I'm not kidding. The racial stereotypes that these people are using to go after Herman Cain, what is the one thing that it tells us? It tells us who the real racists are, yeah, but it tells us that Herman Cain is somebody. Something's going on out there. Herman Cain obviously is making some people nervous for this kind of thing to happen.

But, alas, Limbaugh is not the only right-wing Republican talk show host charging racism without knowing the facts. Reporting on reactions to its story, Politico quotes Laura Ingraham, law clerk to Clarence Thomas in the 1990s, commenting on her radio gig

Doesn’t all this sound familiar? A black man who thinks for himself, who ends up surprising everyone, including the establishment, who ends up a point ahead of the guy who has raised millions and millions and millions of dollars, and has been running for president for the last five, six years. This upstart guy ends up a point ahead of Romney in Iowa…He needs to be put in his place, a lot of people think. Time to put this man in, hate to say it, the back of the bus.

The real analogy is Ingraham to Limbaugh. For Rush, it's implying the left will be putting lips on a watermelon to depict the black candidate; for Ingraham, it's inferring that someone wants to put Cain in "the back of the bus." Neither has evidence of the charges they clearly imply, but have not the courage to make directly. And both partisans were more than happy to spread racial stereotypes (or in Ingraham's case, an item apparently on her racial wish list) and project them onto others.

Politico assumes that Ingraham was attempting to draw a parallel to Thomas, though she oddly implies, however unintentionally, that Thomas once ran for President ("ends up a point ahead of the guy who has raised millions and millions and millions of dollars and has been running for president"). Even odder might be her failure to realize that overwhelming evidence now demonstrates there is little doubt that Clarence Thomas lied when he defended himself before Congress against charges that he sexually harassed Anita Hill.

But then, the only people who really know what happened at the National Restaurant Association are those who were there- the accusers, Herman Cain, Rush Limbaugh, and Laura Ingraham.

Unpredictable, Unreliable, and Unacceptable

Sometimes, when one thinks of probable GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, charismatic phenom Herman Cain, the financially well-endowed Rick Perry, and the evangelical Michele Bachmann, the ever-naive libertarian (but I repeat myself) and the narcissistic Newt Gingrich (his defining video, below), it's easy to forget Rick Santorum.

For good reason that is, because Rick Santorum, for reasons far and wide, will never become the Repub presidential or vice-presidential nominee. At a recent campaign appearance Greenville, in the critically important primary state of South Carolina, Santorum remarked

On occasion scientists working on the nuclear program in Iran turn up dead. I think that's a wonderful thing, candid.... I think we should send a very clear message that if you are a scientist from Russia, North Korea, or from Iran and you are going towork on a nuclear program to develop a bomb for Iran, you are not safe.

Crazy? Radical? Offensive to the GOP popular base?

No, not at all- probably, though, worrisome to the even more important corporate base of the Repub Party. The Koch Brothers empire, one third of the Koch/Norquist/Limbaugh triumvirate controlling the Party, was involved in Iran in violation of the spirit of the sanctions imposed upon the nation. According to one summary of an article in Bloomberg Markets Magazine

- Koch Industries used the European offices of their subsidiary Koch-Glitsch to sell millions of dollars of petrochemical equipment to Iran in an apparent violation of the US-Iran trade embargo, as recently as 2007

- Internal documents of Koch Industries prove that the company took elaborate steps to ensure that their US-employees weren't involved in the sales to Iran

- While is not 100% certain at this point that Koch Industries did in fact violate US law, according to Bloomberg Markets Magazine, internal memos show for example that the details of the sales with Iran were meticulously checked by US lawyers of Koch Industries and coordinated with the lawyers in order to fully ensure that no visible involvement of US-citizens took place

- Koch Industries paid bribes in six countries from 2002 to 2008 to win business in Africa, India and the Middle East, comparable to similar behaviour of German technology giant Siemens (Siemens subsequently had to pay a $ 1.6 billion fine!)

- Koch Industries sacked a compliance officer in France in June 2009 who discovered the illegal bribes at Koch Industries subsidiary Koch-Glitsch

- These revelations were made possible through newly discovered documents from two labour court cases in France

- Bloomberg Markets reveals that former employees of Koch Industries harshly criticize the company for their internal practises and ethics

- The story also covers in great detail over several pages earlier violations of Koch Industries: The company in the past "rigged prices with competitors, lied to regulators and repeatedly run afoul of environmental regulations, resulting in five criminal convictions since 1999 in the U.S. and Canada"

The problem goes beyond Iran. Admittedly, a contender for the GOP nomination must declare himself/herself "pro-life," appalled by Roe vs. Wade, or at least committed to the idea that "life" begins at conception. The candidate must be opposed to same-sex marriage, with extra points for a rousing defense of traditional marriage. It's helpful to pretend that the Founding Fathers were card-carrying (possibly), Christ-centered (hardly) men of "faith." But that, and more, can be accomplished without seeming to be moralistic. For the corporatist kings of the party, cultural conservatism is swell- as long as they are confident the candidate is not committed to it..

Santorum believes it. He seems to live by it, talks about, and seems to be motivated by, it, and is now identified in the national media as a "social conservative." There always will be a niche for that in the GOP presidential field but in the end, the party's moneybags just won't allow an individual who might permit his values to dominate his allegiance to the right-wing agenda.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Shut Him Up!

Color of Change wants you to petition MSNBC "to demand that you fire Pat Buchanan immediately." It argues "Pat Buchanan has the right to express his views, but he's not entitled to a platform that lets him broadcast bigotry and hate to millions."

Neither Pat Buchanan or anyone else has a First Amendment right to a platform on MSNBC, though the concession that someone we disagree with may express his views, but not in a public forum, is no prescription for a vigorous political debate or dynamic democracy.

Linking to the plea of Color of Change (and that in turn to its petition) for immediate dismissal of Buchanan, Nicole Belle argues that MSNBC has ended its relationship with Markos Moulitsas, Keith Olbermann, and David Shuster while continuing to offer Buchanan's punditry "despite a rather bewildering portfolio of racist, sexist and just plain hateful statements."

Buchanan long has held an unfortunate preference for white, Christian (preferably Roman Catholic) males, though neither Belle nor Color of Change, tellingly, wastes much time identifying their target's bias against women and finds it unnecessary to charge him with anti-Semitism. Color of Change does, however, accuse Buchanan of believing "people of color" (presumably, blacks, though the vagueness may be strategic) are genetically inferior to Caucasians. One wonders: are hIspanics and Asians "people of color?" And would they answer to the label?

It shouldn't be necessary to point out that constructive debate in a democratic republic presupposes that individuals with noxious views not be fired or intimidated, but confronted by arguments demolishing their own. Ironically, Belle, besides citing Moulitsas, Olbermann, and Shuster, knocks MSNBC also for terminating Cenk Uygur "for being too tough on Republicans."

Well, yes, Uygur- graduate of Columbia Law, Wharton, and the finest high school in the U.S.A.- was very tough on Republicans. Uygur, who holds a law degree and had some journalistic experience before being hired by MSNBC, was not reluctant to call the President out when facts warranted. By contrast, Sharpton's professional qualifications were meager and, an informal adviser to the President, Sharpton has become Obama's toady.

Further, Sharpton has been prone to anti-white, anti-Korean (people of color?), and anti-Semitic behavior- not in the recent past but, unlike in the case of Buchanan, behavior and not mere analysis or advocacy. More recently, during the previous presidential election cycle, Reverend Sharpton exhibited regrettable anti-Mormon prejudice, though apparently he does not regret it.

Thankfully, and properly, the right has not called for Al Sharpton's dismissal from MSNBC. The left, for its part, should resist the temptation to meet intolerance with intolerance.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Canning Bill Daley

Joan Walsh, Catholic, Irish-American, and the accomplished journalist and fortunate San Franciscan (pardon the redundancy), is annoyed at the interview Obama chief-of-staff Bill Daley gave to Roger Simon of Politico. You gotta love this:

The Politico veteran relates that Daley used to keep an old “Help Wanted: No Irish Need Apply” sign in his Chicago law office, as a typical Daley reminder, in Simon’s words, “of where they came from and how far they have gotten.” Oh please. Sure, generations back Daley is said to be descended from famine Irish, but where Bill Daley came from is a place of privilege: He is the son of perhaps the most powerful mayor in America.

Daley is a Democratic version of George H.W. Bush as described by the late Ann Richards: someone born on third base who thinks he hit a triple. He used his family background and political connections to take part in today’s quintessential Democratic get-rich-quick scheme, corporate law and investment banking. It’s always shocked me how a certain type of affluent Irish Catholic can excuse his work on behalf of the wealthy as long as he has a “No Irish Need Apply” sign in his office, which puts him on the side of the underdogs. Daley is an overdog who represents the interests of overdogs.

Walsh cites, disapprovingly, the exchange between interviewer and interviewee:

And you can keep policy and politics separate? I ask.

“They can be separate, yeah,” Daley says. “You can say, ‘Look, this may be good policy, but the politics of it may be sh—.’”

And which will the president go for?

“He’ll try to find that middle ground,” Daley says in a bemused tone. “‘How close can we get to it being really sh—— policy or really sh—— politics but getting something accomplished?’”

It's one thing to be forthright and another thing to make the boss look bad. Recommending that Obama should "send him packing" (in the case of Daley, never a bad idea), the Salon editor argued that the chief of staff had "undermined Obama’s new populist, partisan message in his self-promoting interview."

He is (programmatically) populist and partisan intermittently, but if Obama was trying to channel Franklin Delano Roosevelt (video, or at least audio, below), he failed miserably when he told the Tonight's show Jay Leno

The American people feel like nobody’s looking out for them right now. Traditionally, what held this country together was this notion that if you work hard, if you’re playing by the rules, if you’re responsible, if you’re looking out for your family, you’re showing up for work everyday and doing a good job, you’ve got a chance to get ahead and succeed. Right now, it feels to people like the deck’s stacked against them, and the folks in power don’t seem to be paying attention to that.

If everybody’s tuned into that message — and we are working every single day to figure out how do we give people a fair shake, and everybody’s doing their fair share — then people won’t be occupying the streets, because they’ll have a job and they’ll feel like they’re able to get ahead. But right now they’re frustrated. Part of my job over the next year is to make sure, if they’re not seeing it out of Congress, at minimum they’re going to see in their president someone who’s fighting for them.

Republicans are justly unpopular, banks are justly unpopular, but as the President understands better than almost anyone, Congress is despised. And so Obama is hammering not congressional Republicans, but Congress in general; and not hammering, because with Barack Obama, there is no fire and brimstone. People "feel.... like the deck's stacked against them" because they believe they're not getting "a fair shake"- not because the federal government has been bought and paid for by the wealthy and privileged.

Never unreasonable, and provocative only to the easily offended, the President always is searching for that sweet spot in which he appears discontented like the electorate but inoffensive to Wall Street contributors. That, unfortunately, is someone who is quite comfortable with employees like Bill Dailey.

Haven't We Heard This Before?

Newly released is a 7-point agenda, though #5 certainly appears as though it should go with #3 or #7, though it seems the candidate believes it applies to #4. (It's kind of hanging out there.) Consider:

1. Stop overspending immediately. We are now overspending by 4 billion dollars a day.

2. Balance the budget.

If this is not done, then we will experience a total collapse of our economy and way of life.

3. Reduce military spending.

All military on foreign soil should be brought back immediately and all future involvement of military on foreign soil should not be engaged until our country has become economically strong again. The security of our nation must be reexamined and our military spending must be cut by several billion dollars.

4. Deport all illegals. We must immediately begin the deportation of the 20 million illegal aliens living in our country. This would be an operation similar to what Eisenhower did to provide jobs for the soldiers who were coming home after the war.

5. Also saving us 400 billion dollars per year.

6. Reduce corporate taxes. Our corporate taxes are the highest in the world. Corporate taxes must be reduced immediately in order to encourage people to start new business and existing corporations to expand, thus producing the jobs that are needed.

7. Reduce bureaucracy. We must reexamine the bureaucracy of our government and businessses. We are dying and drowning in bureaucracy, rules and regulations. Companies must be held accountable for the consumer's protection, but the over-control and overkill that we have is destroying our companies.

That is the agenda of Dr. Terry Jones, the virulently anti-gay pastor of the Christian (sort of), independent, Westboro Baptist Church, who has announced he is running for President of the U.S., though of Hades he might have been ideal.

Meanwhile, there has been no word whether the campaign of the libertarian conservative, Dr. Ron Paul, intends to sue Jones for plagiarism. Paul never would publicly burn a Koran and probably has nothing but contempt for individuals who would picket a funeral service for a gay member of the Armed Forces. And guilt by association is regrettable. Still, it is reassuring that this face of evil has not released a program of liberal principles, except arguably #3, which is more isolationist and libertarian than liberal.

Reduction of military spending is, obviously, not part of the Repub agenda. But the other five provisions (cutting government spending, balancing the budget, a hard-line on illegal immigration, reducing corporate taxes, slashing government regulation and public employees) all are part of the modern GOP playbook. That means nothing, of course; but if the demon from Florida had released proposals in most ways not mimicking Repub talking points, Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, Ingraham, and so many others would be having a field day.

Friday, October 28, 2011

It's All Obama's Fault

News on Thursday of an agreement in which banks voluntarily agreed to write down their loans to Athens by 50% buoyed the spirits of investors here and abroad and appear to give Greece an opportunity to begin climbing out of a deep financial hole. Rush Limbaugh explained today that

The stock market is already reacting to the very real possibility Obama will not win a second term. That's why the market is up, and we will be back.

The New York Times has another explanation, reporting

In Europe, stock markets soared, by more than 5 percent in Germany, and by more than 6 percent in France. The stocks of European banks, which the crisis had threatened to overwhelm, bounced back by as much as 25 percent.

In the United States, where the stock market had already rebounded by 14 percent since Oct. 3 on expectations of a European deal and slightly better economic conditions in America and China, the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index rose 4 percent, moving back into positive territory for 2011. Financial stocks were up more than 6 percent. If stocks do not lose any ground again this month, the S.& P. 500 is on track for the biggest monthly rally since 1974.

Stocks were plummeting a few weeks back on the fear of a double-dip recession here and a default or two in EuropeBut since then, stocks have risen as economic data suggested that the United States had fended off the immediate threat of a recession and that China appeared to be preparing for a soft economic landing as its economy slowed. Stocks have also been helped by stronger-than-expected corporate earnings in the current reporting season.

So, o.k. then. The markets skyrocketed because of the European debt deal- or because investors woke up one morning, looked at a bunch of polls, and realized there is in twelve months an election Barack Obama may not win.

Pretty clever, though. Limbaugh says the stock market is up because Obama is down. No doubt when the Dow Jones goes back down, it will be because of Obama. And if Limbaugh's prediction "we will be back" comes about and the economy improves, it will be because those vaunted job creators believe Obama will lose re-election. If the economy doesn't bounce back, that, too, will be because of President Obama and Rush will congratulate himself for being right, as always. And while corporate profits continue to soar to unprecedented levels, Limbaugh can again assure his audience

He is at war with the private sector and he's winning, folks. The president of the United States is winning his war against the private sector. He is destroying it. That is his mission.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Don't Bother Them With Facts

You didn't know, did you, that the Occupy Wall Street protesters are all spoiled brats.

Herman Cain knows. Asked by David Gregory about the "Wall Street protesters," Cain replied "What is their message? That's what's unclear. If that message is, "Let's punish the rich," I don't empathize with that message. They should be protesting the White House." Chatting with Piers Morgan, it was "Some of the population has been spoiled. I happen to think that those demonstrated on Wall Street are spoiled. They have been -- they are spoiled and manipulated because I happen to believe that there was a coordinated effort to create all of this chaos and all of this distraction to cover for the failed policies of the Obama administration."

Rush Limbaugh knows:

So Occupy Wall Street Now? Good. More of it! More chaos, more upheaval, more anger, more frustration. Because what's the Occupy Wall Street crowd doing? They're asking for more government, aren't they? They're not asking for more money returned to the private sector. They're not asking for more prosperity. They're asking for more government as the answer to their wants and needs. They're not looking to themselves. They're not looking at the country as people did in the past: A golden land of opportunity. Just the opposite.

As usual, Rush was 180 degrees from the truth- in fact, the protesters are angry precisely because they believe in America as the land of opportunity, one whose promises have not been kept, in part because of the powerful 1%. If power follows money, the power of that group is demonstrated by the findings (full report, here) of the Congressional Budget Office (two of their charts, via The Politics Blog), as it summarizes:

CBO finds that, between 1979 and 2007, income grew by:

  • 275 percent for the top 1 percent of households,
  • 65 percent for the next 19 percent,
  • Just under 40 percent for the next 60 percent, and
  • 18 percent for the bottom 20 percent.

The share of income going to higher-income households rose, while the share going to lower-income households fell.

  • The top fifth of the population saw a 10-percentage-point increase in their share of after-tax income.
  • Most of that growth went to the top 1 percent of the population.
  • All other groups saw their shares decline by 2 to 3 percentage points.

Still, the OWS thousands are, according to the guy who calls the President of the United States "this little boy, this little man-child president" who has been encouraged to "go gansta," are "all a bunch of spoiled, snot-nosed, leftist rich kids." Finally- a group of people Rush Limbaugh calls "rich" and does not idolize, probably because they had the nerve not to gamble away the world's economy.

Complacency Unwarranted

You can't get much more articulate and perceptive (evidence, here) than David Atkins, regular contributor to Digby's Hullabaloo. But he is wrong about the likelihood of an enthusiastic GOP base in the 2012 presidential election.

Atkins links to a New York Times article in which Alison Kopinski writes (types)

With the nation’s first nominating contests just two months away, a large majority of Republican primary voters have yet to make up their minds about the candidate they would like to see as their party’s nominee for president in 2012.

About eight in 10 Republican primary voters say it is still too early to tell whom they will support, and just four in 10 say they have been paying a lot of attention to the 2012 presidential campaign, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Herman Cain, the former restaurant executive, is riding a wave of support among Republican primary voters that has placed him in a statistical dead heat with rival Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, in a race that has been characterized by momentum swings among the candidates.

The poll found Mr. Cain with the highest level of support, with 25 percent of Republican primary voters, and Mr. Romney with 21 percent. This difference is within the poll’s margin of sampling error.

Adding to the fluidity of the contest, about one in 10 Republican primary voters say they would like to see someone else nominated.

Atkins thus observes

What most Democrats are looking for is basic competence and an eye for the common good. We are willing to mostly overlook race, gender, personal foibles and even difficult votes made in the past, because we understand that people are people, both life and governance are hard, and no one is perfect. We have an easier time of this.

So far, so good. But then he goes off track, concluding

The GOP purity train is such that they're not going to be happy with anybody they pick. And that, at least, is a silver lining to their increasingly radical cloud.

Significantly, when Herman Cain, whom polls now indicate is the favorite of the greatest number of registered voters of the pro-life party, appeared on Piers Morgan Tonight, he repeated faithfully the primary pro-choice talking point:

Not me as president, not some politician, not a bureaucrat. It gets down to that family. And whatever they decide, they decide. I shouldn't have to tell them what decision to make for such a sensitive issue.

And for those who believe Cain was talking only about abortion in the case of rape or incest, a moment later, asked by Morgan about "these things"(i.e., abortion generally) the candidate maintained

The government shouldn't be trying to tell people everything to do, especially when it comes to social decisions that they need to make.

All across the country GOP legislators and chief executives move aggressively to curtail abortion rights or the opportunity of a woman to choose abortion and GOP politicians proudly claim to belong to the "pro-life party." Herman Cain goes on national television and gives the pro-choice argument. And those Republican politicians, the GOP popular base, and the pro-life interest groups which have strengthened the party for decades rise as one to say: nothing.

Maybe they, especially the rank-and-file voter, weren't aware of Cain's remarks. Or perhaps a substantial portion of Republicans favor abortion rights or are relatively indifferent to the issue, characteristic of the corporate base of the party.

Or maybe it's something else. Perhaps his demeanor- direct and dominating, nothing vague- or his statements. On Meet The Press, Cain had stated "The objective of the liberals is to destroy this country."

Nothing as a prelude, no explanation necessary: "the objective of the liberals is to destroy this country." When Morgan sought elaboration, Cain asserted he meant "economically" and, a moment later, contended "It is their mission. Because they do not believe in a stronger America, in my opinion. Yes." A straight-talker. Uninformed and prone to contradict himself, but conservative and unrepentant, a man who has accused President Obama of being a liar with an economic approach that is "bulls_ _ _."

Most Repub voters, apparently, like and even respect that sort of thing. And it's not an electorate that's "not going to be happy with anyone they pick." Once the candidate, even if the relatively reasonable Romney is selected (as is likely), GOP voters will be happy, even enthusiastic. They really, really dislike Barack Obama- the policies and the man. Revving up the base will not be a problem, with or without a rebel yell.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Abandonment Of Country

Salon's Joan Walsh offers a critique of "Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?” by Pat Buchanan, with whom she periodically clashes on MSNBC. Buchanan, as one would expect, attributes an increase in blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and Jews and a declining birth rate among whites to what he believes is a precipitous decline of the United States of America.

Buchanan's preference for Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants of the Caucasian variety, coupled with discomfiture at a multi-ethnic society, is of long-standing. Nor is it especially significant- though rather ironic- that an American conservative who loathes "political correctness" and embraces the nation's European origins would be so pessimistic about the survival of Europe, which he slams for its influx of Muslims, decline of Catholicism (which he conflates with Christianity), and acceptance of abortion. (This is Pat Buchanan, remember.)

Significantly, though, Walsh notes "It’s Buchanan and his Tea Party friends who’ve given up on the idea of America." She explains

I can’t imagine giving up on my country, my party and even my religion, just because the people who had come to share it didn’t quite look like me. I take this book seriously because I owe a certain debt to Pat Buchanan. Doing television with this infamous Irish Catholic conservative, I began to reflect seriously for the first time on the vision of America I grew up with. It was handed to me by my parents, working-class Irish Catholics who believed in e pluribus unum – that those words made their inclusion possible, and they would stretch forward to make sure the civil rights movement accomplished its goals, too.

They took seriously the promise of America – that a nation composed of the world’s cultures and religions could be stronger than the sum of its parts, indivisible – and so do I. Pat Buchanan doesn’t.

Buchanan, writing unashamedly of "the back of the bus" and high abortion rates among Jewish women (this is Pat Buchanan, remember), is merely more forthright than most on the right. But the strong inference that America has been taken over by other sorts of people (to Pat Buchanan, racial or ethnic upstarts; to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, middle- and lower- income people) is endemic to modern-day conservatism.

The tea party brought this sense of paranoia to the fore. However, it is one seemingly embraced by other Republicans, favorites of the tea party or not. There is a parallel to Herman Cain's new ad (video, below) now famous for its depiction of chief of staff Mark Bloch taking a puff on a cigarette, followed by a glowing smile from the candidate. (That is another issue for another time; or maybe not.) At the close of the ad, Bloch states "Together, we can do this. We can take America back."

Take America back. From whom? Where did it go? And when did it go there?

Presumably, the message is: those mean old liberals hijacked our country. Now we're going to yank it away and exile them to purgatory, or worse.

But who decreed that conservatives were no longer a part of the nation now that they're out of power- or, rather, no longer run the whole show? Certainly not liberals or Democrats, who do not suggest that the U.S.A. belongs only to one group. But conservatives demand total control- they are the rightful heirs of the land handed down to them by the Founding Fathers.... with no death tax, of course. And if they can't control it, they'll pronounce it alien until they can "take America back."

Contrast this with the message of Occupy Wall Street: we are the 99%. We're in this together- even the remaining 1%, as long as they play by the rules which the rest of us do. It is a message, as Walsh puts it, of e pluribus unum- out of many, one. And it is an inclusive message intrinsic to this nation's character, even if abhorrent to today's right wing.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Not A Sure Bet

On Monday, President Obama visited Las Vegas to tout his jobs program and to reinforce his image in a state he narrowly won in 2008. However, Repub officials, Democratic mayor Oscar Goodman, and business leaders were quick to criticize the President because he has not been a booster of the tourism industry of the city. According to The Associated Press

The feud began in 2009, when Obama admonished corporations using federal bailout money: “You can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer’s dime.” A year later, Obama warned families against gambling away college tuition: “You don’t blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you’re trying to save for college.”

The call for financial responsibility didn’t sit well with some Las Vegans, and Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Nevada all lashed back at the time. Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Obama’s most prominent ally in Congress and Nevada’s senior senator, told Obama to “lay off Las Vegas.”

With Obama campaigning for a second term, the president’s critics are eager to call the outcry to mind.

“Perception is reality,” said Republican Rep. Joe Heck, who represents southern Nevada. “After those statements were made, we had conventions call and pull out, so it did in fact cost Las Vegas business.”

The feud began in 2009, when Obama admonished corporations using federal bailout money: “You can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer’s dime.” A year later, Obama warned families against gambling away college tuition: “You don’t blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you’re trying to save for college.”

It's not surprising that city fathers (and mothers) would be sensitive to a president choosing not to be a cheerleader for the industry that has earned "Vegas" the moniker "Sin City." Although Senator Obama received tons of cash from the gambling industry and himself plays poker and blackjack, State Senator Obama was concerned about the impact of legalized gambling upon the citizens of his district. During the presidential campaign, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported

As a matter of principle, he repeatedly opposed expanding gambling in Illinois, saying it was bad for communities and not a good way to fund government.

As recently as 2003, Obama, then an Illinois state senator, said he believed the "moral and social cost of gambling" was potentially "devastating" and that using gaming as a source of revenue or for economic development was "irresponsible."

He didn't think Illinois legislators should accept political contributions from the gaming industry, and in 2004 and 2006 refused federal contributions from gaming companies.

Obviously, Barack Obama has not been immune from the lure of campaign cash, who even now is raising huge sums from Wall Street.even though Wall Street has not been quite as generous to him as it was during the 2008 campaign. With Nevada a swing state in presidential elections, it's questionable whether the President will be able to stick to his principles.

But he should. The Executive Editor of Florida Baptist Witness cited the work of Baylor University economics professor Earl Grinois, author of Gambling in America: Costs and Benefits, who in turn

cited a Canadian study that found that nearly half of revenue generated at casinos is from problem and pathological gamblers. And, contrary to claims of advocates, a significant percentage of gamblers—as high as 70 percent—are “convenience” gamblers residing within 35 miles of the facility, rather than tourist or destination gamblers.

“So you’re getting the money from locals and you’re getting it from the wrong locals and that’s just an inescapable fact at casino-level gambling,” he said.

Grinols presented a long list of crimes, pathologies and social problems in which Nevada is first or among the leaders in the nation, including first in suicide (double the national average), divorce, gambling addictions, child abuse deaths and per capita bankruptcy, to cite a few. He said crime associated with gambling is not explained merely by the fact that it draws large numbers of people.

His research compared crime at Las Vegas to that at high tourist destinations not associated with gambling—Orlando; Branson, Missouri; and the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota—to Las Vegas, a gambling tourist destination. Las Vegas’ crime rate is 1,040 percent higher than Branson and 15.7 times higher than Bloomington, Grinols reported, although both destinations draw far more visitors per resident than does Las Vegas. A similar pattern is found when comparing crime rates at large tourist destinations in the National Park System to Las Vegas.

It's not often that a politician will risk alienating the power brokers of a crucial state and Obama may bid a retreat, hasty or otherwise. But for now, for this issue, President Obama is practically a profile in courage.

Monday, October 24, 2011

No More Cops, Limbaugh Pleads

Laying off municipal employees invariably reduces services and quality of life. But no group of workers is as visible as uniformed police officers, so when commenting on reduction of municipal payrolls, conservatives usually pretend that cops simply don't exist. Still, Rush Limbaugh, never at a loss for something for which to ridicule or condemn the Administration, goes where few sensible conservatives will go. On Friday, he remarked

as you know, Vice President "Bite Me" has been ratcheting this up. He's running from Flint, Michigan, to any number of places trying to convince the American people to support the passage of the president's jobs bill, $35 billion jobs bill so he can hire more cops and more firefighters and more teachers, 'cause if we don't do that there are gonna be more rapes in Flint, Michigan. There are gonna be more rapes everywhere, and of course this is patently outrageous and ridiculous....

How many policemen would it take for there never to be any rapes? How many cops would it take for there never to be any robberies? Ain't gonna happen, which is why yesterday I wanted to try to go at this from the back end, so to speak, and talk to the actual criminals and ask them if they were watching all this and if the jobs bill passed, if rapists would commit fewer rapes.

Only Rush Limbaugh would claim that the presence of a police officer does not deter violent crime. He hasn't been in New Jersey, apparently. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Matt Katz, generally a cheerleader for New Jersey's governor, reports Chris

Christie's most public approach to crime in Camden was unsuccessfully shaming police unions into making concessions to avoid layoffs.

Instead, more than 160 police officers were laid off. Many were called back, but there are still about 100 fewer police officers than when Christie was campaigning in the city. The homicide rate is up about 30 percent, to 36 so far this year, and shootings, burglaries, and aggravated assaults are all up by double-digit percentages.

Other cities, such as Newark and Trenton, also reported increases in crime after laying off police.

And the situation is dire:

Saginaw, for the first time since 2002, has been nudged from the top spot as the most violent city per capita in the U.S. with greater than 50,000 residents, based on Federal Bureau of Investigation crime statistics for 2010.

Camden, N.J., a city with 79,081 residents and 1,841 violent crimes — defined by the FBI as Murder, non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault — has claimed the undesirable distinction.

More police officers, less crime? How about fewer police officers, more crime? Ridiculous, to Rush Limbaugh.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

This Post Is Brilliant. Period.

Herman Cain: " I am pro-life. Period."

That was the content of Herman Cain's tweet on Thursday, necessitated by a critical departure the previous night with Republican orthodoxy when the candidate engaged in this exchange (interview transcript here) with Larry King's replacement, Piers Morgan:

MORGAN: Abortion. What's your view of abortion?

CAIN: I believe that life begins at conception. And abortion under no circumstances. And here's why --

MORGAN: No circumstances?

CAIN: No circumstances.

MORGAN: Because many of your fellow candidates -- some of them qualify that.

CAIN: They qualify but --

MORGAN: Rape and incest.

CAIN: Rape and incest.

MORGAN: Are you honestly saying -- again, it's a tricky question, I know.

CAIN: Ask the tricky question.

MORGAN: But you've had children, grandchildren. If one of your female children, grand children was raped, you would honestly want her to bring up that baby as her own?

CAIN: You're mixing two things here, Piers?


CAIN: You're mixing --

MORGAN: That's what it comes down to.

CAIN: No, it comes down to it's not the government's role or anybody else's role to make that decision. Secondly, if you look at the statistical incidents, you're not talking about that big a number. So what I'm saying is it ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make.

Not me as president, not some politician, not a bureaucrat. It gets down to that family. And whatever they decide, they decide. I shouldn't have to tell them what decision to make for such a sensitive issue.

MORGAN: By expressing the view that you expressed, you are effectively -- you might be president. You can't hide behind now the mask, if you don't mind me saying, of being the pizza guy. You might be the president of United States of America. So your views on these things become exponentially massively more important. They become a directive to the nation.

CAIN: No they don't. I can have an opinion on an issue without it being a directive on the nation. The government shouldn't be trying to tell people everything to do, especially when it comes to social decisions that they need to make.

MORGAN: That's a very interesting departure --

CAIN: Yes.

MORGAN: -- from the normal politics.

CAIN: Exactly.

Allowing an exception for rape or incest is no radical departure from being largely "pro-life." And Salon's Steve Kornacki maintains" I’m guessing that Cain was talking only about the specific type of situation Morgan brought up — abortion in the case of rape or incest — and that he thought this was clear. But it’s not."

Ah, well, it's not clear, nor is it likely. Just guessing- but if I were a Republican and supported the right to an abortion only in the case of rape or incest, I not only would make it clear, but would tie it in with the woman being the victim of a vicious, unspeakable crime (not actually unspeakable, but you get the point). And then I would not utter the following pro-choice boilerplate:

it comes down to it's not the government's role or anybody else's role to make that decision. Secondly, if you look at the statistical incidents, you're not talking about that big a number. So what I'm saying is it ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make.

Not me as president, not some politician, not a bureaucrat. It gets down to that family. And whatever they decide, they decide. I shouldn't have to tell them what decision to make for such a sensitive issue.

Give Citizen Cain credit, however. One of the two leading candidates for the GOP nomination for president says the decision whether to terminate a pregnancy should be made by the woman rather a priest, minister, or politician and there is virtual silence in the mainstream media. He decrees "end of story" and the story (virtually) ends. Apparently, if one makes a gaffe and wants to end all conversation, he or she merely needs to make a short, simple, and definitive statement contradicting the previous comment. Period.

Imagine the possibilities:

Charlie Manuel: The Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees are in the World Series. Period.

Rush Limbaugh: Greenhouse gases have nothing to do with global warming. Global warming is a hoax. Period.

Sarah Palin: I did not quit being governor to make millions of dollars.

Make up your own. The possibilities are endless.

One of Our Own, Or So He Says

So do your thing ,Charles! Stephen A. Smith on Fox News on Wednesday night commented I got to tell you something. As much as people may ha...