Wednesday, April 30, 2014

No Pay? No Problem.

Democrats in the U.S. Senate Wednesday failed to overcome a GOP filibuster of a bill which would have gradually raised the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10  The final vote was 54 to 42, with Tennessee's Bob Corker the only Republican to vote to cut off debate.

The New York Times reported

Republicans accused Democrats of staging a show vote they knew would never pass.“So let’s talk about the 800-pound gorilla here in the Senate chamber,” Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the Republican whip, said Wednesday morning. “This is all about politics. This is all about trying to make this side of the aisle look bad and hardhearted.”

Charles Pierce explains that Cornyn is a "jackass" because

First, this is the same John Cornyn who once got up in the Senate and opined that judges who made decisions with which he disagreed might be subject to physical violence? I think you lose your right to accuse anyone else of grandstanding after that one.

Second, the argument that Democrats were forcing Republicans to take tough show votes that make them look bad is an interesting one. Perhaps we should explore it in open debate on the Senate floor. Whoops, sorry, John Cornyn and the rest of his party made that impossible.

Third, Cornyn's statement can be reasonably be translated as, "Don't pass anything that to which the monkeyhouse on the other side of the Capitol might object." This is, of course, pretty much everything except the elevation of Jesus to the Supreme Court.

This might seem a little harsh. But it's not. Cornyn stated also “It would be great if we lived in a world where Washington dictates what wages can be, and peace, love and happiness will break out because Washington has somehow distributed free money.”

That's right- paying someone 8, 9, 10 dollars an hour for working is "free money" to the Texas senator.  But charts below from the Economic Policy Institute (via Policy Mic) indicate a)from 1948  to 2012, productivity grew 240.9% while real hourly compensation rose only 107.8%(and almost not at all since 1972) and b) if the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity from 1968, the minimum wage would have been $18.30 last year.

Of course, this is no problem for most Republicans.  Wages faltering, workers falling behind? That's a benefit, not a bug.

Share |

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Race Confusion

Texas Repub Senator Ted Cruz was crowing. "I was convinced," he bragged, "that as Secretary of State John Kerry would place what he considered to be the wishes of the international community above the national security interests of the United States. I fear with these most-recent ill-chosen remarks, Secretary Kerry has proven those concerns well founded."

Unsurprisingly, AIPAC also pounced, maintaining "any suggestion that Israel is, or is at risk of becoming, an apartheid state is offensive and inappropriate" (comma after "is" and "becoming"- someone knows his/her English grammar!).  David Harris of the more mainstream American Jewish Committee added "In trying to make his point, Kerry reaches into diplomatic vocabulary to raise the stakes, but in doing so he invokes notions that have no place in the discussion.”

Two prominent Jewish Democrats also were repulsed.  Nita Lowey of New York, the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, took to Twitter to comment  “Inflammatory rhetoric comparing Israel’s democracy to repugnant apartheid policy is irresponsible, inaccurate & counterproductive.”   Senator Barbara Boxer of California less explicitly remarked that comparing the Jewish state to apartheid "is nonsensical and ridiculous."  A statement from Democratic Senator Mark Begich of Alaska argued “Secretary Kerry knows as well as anyone that negotiating lasting peace in this region of the world is difficult but it’s not productive to express his frustration in this way,”

The outrage was sparked by a piece in The Daily Beast (from which the photo below is taken) in which Josh Rogin  reported Senator John Kerry had told "a room of influential world leaders in a closed-door meeting" on April 18

A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens—or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.   Once you put that frame in your mind, that reality, which is the bottom line, you understand how imperative it is to get to the two-state solution, which both leaders, even yesterday, said they remain deeply committed to.

Kerry's critics are right, but not for the reason they imply.  Continuation of the present trend (and no one has suggested how that trend can be interdicted) would lead to a majority Palestinian state in what otherwise is rightfully a Jewish state.  :Ultimately, Kerry was not labeling Israel an apartheid state, suggesting instead that continuation would be either a non-Jewish state or one characterized by apartheid. A similar point was made by former Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Secretary Ehud Barak, who explained in 2010 "as long as in this territory west of the Jordan River there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic.  If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."

However, although Kerry's critics have assiduously avoided citing an inaccuracy in his "offensive, irresponsible, ill-chosen, counter-productive" remarks, Barak and the US Secretary of State are wrong for one, fundamental reason.  Rogin notes

According to the 1998 Rome Statute, the “crime of apartheid” is defined as “inhumane acts… committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” The term is most often used in reference to the system of racial segregation and oppression that governed South Africa from 1948 until 1994.

By one racial group over any other racial group.

Race can be an elusive subject.  However, Merriam-Webster defines "semite" as"a member of a group of people originally of southwestern Asia that includes Jews and Arabs." By that definition, control of Palestinian Arabs by Palestinian Jews (otherwise known as "Israelis") hardly would be apartheid. Further, modern Jews may be descended from Europe or from the Middle East. Still no apartheid.

But the Secretary of State is not alone in failing to recognize the trickiness inherent in defining ethnicity. Then-Senator Joseph Lieberman, himself a Jew, was one of the first Americans in the modern era to refer to "Jewish-Americans." Judaism, he implied, is not a religion but rather an ethnicity akin to Polish-American, Italian-American, or African-American (a reference to Americans of African ancestry).   He not only passed over the varied national background of Jews, but failed to recognize Judaism as a religion.  It's that Old Testament thing, which an orthodox Jew such as Lieberman might have been expected to notice. Nevertheless, he avoided proper condemnation for practicing atrocious anthropology without a license. And very bad anthropology at that, practiced with the self-righteousness Lieberman sometimes appeared to have invented.

It is, no doubt, a wistful thought that the policies of the Secretary of State should come under greater criticism- or praise- than his careless use of the word "apartheid."  But like a certain National Basketball owner with loose lips, John Kerry is of the modern era, another public figure evaluated for his words while his actions go relatively unexamined.

Share |

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Do What You Wish. Be Careful What You Say In Private.

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They'd probably put my head in a guillotine.

-Bob Dylan, "It's Alright, Ma," 1964

The National Basketball Association, following a rapid inquiry, will do as it must, hopefully consistent with its rules and regulations pertaining to owners of its franchises.

At a press conference Sunday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, President Obama contended

The owner is reported to have said some incredibly offensive racist statements that were published.  I don't think I have to interpret those statements for you; they kind of speak for themselves. When people — when ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk. And that’s what happened here.
Wrong, Mr. President. The statements (TMZ  audio, below; extended tape from Deadspin here) were not incredibly offensive.  Bigoted and hateful- but not incredible, or unbelievable, uttered as they were by Donald Sterling, never mistaken for a choir boy.

Wrong, also, Mr. President, that Sterling is one of those "ignorant folks (who) want to advertise their ignorance." Politico reported

TMZ first posted an audio recording Friday of a conversation reportedly between Sterling and his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, where the owner told her not to bring black players to team games or post pictures with African Americans on Instagram. “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” the voice in the recording says.

That highlights Sterling's most noxious comment: "It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people." Otherwise, Sterling seems to be arguing that he has no prejudice against minorities, and at even one point tells his girlfriend he has no objection if she "sleeps" with a black man. (Isn't the point not to sleep?) Heard in context, his remarks are particularly baffling and bizarre.

But more importantly, this clearly is not an example of comments by people who "want to advertise their ignorance," which the President surely understood.  Sterling clearly neither wanted, nor expected, his remarks- or thought dreams- to go public.   Yet, the remarks are treated by none other than the President of the United States as intended for all the world to hear, a public expression of the man's beliefs and behavior.

The statement was not public. And it was a statement, not action- which long ago might have been treated as of greater importance than words.  It was only a statement, not unlike "if you like your health plan you can keep it."

Share |

Saturday, April 26, 2014

That'll Teach Them. Next Time They Try To Get Women And Children Shot, They Won't Demean Blacks.

On Wednesday, welfare queen rancher Cliven Bundy stated "They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail because they never learned how to pick cotton. And, I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy."

That doesn't do much for one's image as he camps out on federal land refusing to pay the $1million in grazing fees he has racked up over the past couple of decades. Even GOP TV's Sean Hannity, Bundy's most ardent supporter in the media, deserted him, stating

His comments are beyond repugnant to me, they are beyond despicable to me, they are beyond ignorant to me. [P]eople for the right reasons who saw this case as government overreach, now are branded because of the ignorant, racist, repugnant, despicable comments of Cliven Bundy...

I don't even want to hear it anymore. It's obnoxious, ignorant. It reminds me of Todd Akin.

That's a start. But it's only a start. And more will not be coming. Hullabaloo's David Atkins recognizes "the arguments being used by Bundy and friends were authentic in polite society."  He adds

Ryan's and Bundy's syllogism goes something like this:

1. Poor people are poor because they're lazy.

2. Minorities tend to be poor, therefore they must be lazy.

3. Government assistance stops people from working harder and encourages laziness.

4. Minorities stay poor because of government assistance, but vote for more government.

The first four elements of that syllogism are standard Republican rhetoric. Bundy's only sin was adding point #5, that therefore minorities are slaves of government, and might be better off as harder-working slaves.

All of this is disgusting rhetoric, of course. But it's only disgusting in part because of the racial element. Adding point #2 of the syllogism simply bakes in another layer of prejudice to the cake.

The fact is that people are not poor because they're lazy. Most people living paycheck to paycheck work full-time in one or more jobs. A great many others are underemployed. And we know that productivity has been skyrocketing even as wages stagnate. This is not a country that rewards hard work:

We also know that government assistance does not in fact encourage laziness to a significant degree. Moreover, if there were any truth to the argument at all, the data suggests that government assistance leads to greater laziness among whites than among blacks.

But we don't need racial context for that conversation. It's almost as offensive to say that poor people of any color are made lazy by government assistance as to say that individuals of a specific skin color are. After all, the former statement expresses an equally awful and policy-distorting prejudice that affects an even larger number of people.

Every statement in the Bundy/Ryan syllogism is vile and deserves public repudiation. It's about time Democratic politicians stood up in outrage over Republican objectivism as much as they do over Republican racism.

If the conservative argument is noxious with or without overt racial bigotry- and it is- the position of Bundy and his supporters with or without his recent statement is noxious.  ""We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front.," former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack boasted.  "If they are going to start shooting, it's going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers." Understandably intimidated by the collection of AR 15 and AR 17 rifles pointed their way, federal law enforcement officers backed off (photo below from Las Vegas Review-Journal/Ap via Newsweek). The Black Panthers would have been proud, although they didn't hide behind women and children.

It was only the blatantly prejudicial crack by Bundy which dampened enthusiasm for the conservative hero. As Hannity apparently understands, it threatens to derail GOP dreams of the Senate majority the Party expected before Todd Akin opened his big mouth in 2012. So in a paraphrase of one of Bill Maher's stand-up lines from Friday night's "Real Time"::  Cliven Bundy no longer is a hero to many Republicans. Now he's the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination.

Share |

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Let's Just Keep It To Ourselves

Salon's Katie McDonough is very unhappy.  Brown University student Lena Sclove, the victim of sexual violence by a man she reportedly had considered a friend, states that she expects either to transfer from the University or take two years off until her assailant graduates.McDonough says Sclove

like so many other survivors of sexual violence, knew her assailant. After she reported the assault, the university conducted a board hearing and found him responsible for sexual assault and the use of physical force. The board recommended a two-year suspension, but Brown’s senior associate dean of student life  J. Allen Ward reduced the sentence to a single year. Sclove appealed the decision, which allowed her assailant to remain on campus pending the final decision. As Kingkade notes, Sclove’s assailant didn’t officially leave the school until Thanksgiving. The only full semester he was suspended and off campus was Spring 2014. He will be free to reenroll in the fall. This was his punishment for raping and choking a fellow student.

It is difficult to believe a student could have committed these offenses if his only punishment was to be suspended, and stay away from the school, for a period of effectively less than one year.  In the Huffington Post piece to which McDonough linked, Tyler Kingkade writes that Sclove "reported the assault" within two weeks and on October 11 the fellow was "found responsible" for four offenses.  Brown found him responsible for, as the college termed it, actions that result in or can be reasonably expected to result in physical force and injury; sexual misconduct that involves non-consensual physical contact of a sexual nature; sexual misconduct that includes one or more of the following: penetration, violent physical force, or injury; illegal possession or use of drugs and/or alcohol and/or drug paraphernalia.

Kingkade leaves out a lot of facts- which perhaps are being kept confidential, though he doesn't tell us. With much left unstated, the fourth offense may have been of either an aggravating or mitigating nature, unknowable because we don't know what transpired nor even what drugs (alcohol being a drug) were involved.

The second offense, involving "non-consensual physical contact of a sexual nature," may have been as minor as contact with certain parts of a woman's body.  The first offense, in which the young man engaged in behavior which he would expect to result in physical harm, probably was significant, though it's rather cryptic and thus uncertain.. But...  "sexual misconduct that includes one or more of the following: penetration, violent physical force, or injury?"

Pardon the speculation, but that sounds an awful lot like what we used to call-  in the days before we adopted exquisitely sensitive language- "rape."  And if it rape, what is this "reported the assault" about? Reference to "assault" is appropriate, given that it is a fine generic term summarizing what we know the individual committed.  But... "reported?"

To whom or what did Ms. Sclove report this violent, alleged (as it was at that time) attack? Kingkade addresses the lax policies of several Ivy League schools in dealing with sexual violence, specifying Yale, Harvard, and Dartmouth- and Columbia University, which won't even release statistics pertaining to what, in the rest of society, is called a "crime."

In what appears to be a problem going far beyond The Huffington Post or Slate, few if any seem to be asking: why not the police?  We already knew about the Roman Catholic Church and Penn State University, two institutions which largely turned a blind eye toward sexual predator(s) in their midst. The Roman Catholic Church may have believed it was beyond the law, representing a religion, adherents believe, has been ordained by God as "the one true church" (and whose leader is a head of state). With Penn State- well, you know- football.  It is disturbing that universities, without motive to protect a sports program (which justifies everything) treats violent crime in an apparently cavalier(not Virginia Cavaliers) fashion.

Share |

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

And Then There Is The Issue Of Undocumented Drugs

Have you heard the one about the documented immigrants? (Table below from Pew Hispanic Center and, unfortunately, 2009.)

Of course you haven't, because those individuals are not called "documented immigrants" but rather "legal immigrants."  Nevertheless, their counterparts who have decided not to play by the rules are not "illegal immigrants" but idealized as "undocumented workers."

Many Democrats, at least in New Jersey, have learned well from Frank Luntz on this one issue, illegal- er, uh, undocumented- immigration.  Yesterday, 200+ advocates of a bill proposed by Democrats in the New Jersey legislature to provide an undocumented/illegal immigrant a "driving privilege card" met at St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral for a rally organized by Camden Churches Organized for People (well, some people, anyway).

The driving privilege card, unavailable to legal residents of New Jersey, is not a freebie.According to this report in March, "To qualify for the card, which would be valid for four years, potential drivers would have to prove both identity and residency, pass a written driver's test similar to the exam required for other New Jersey drivers, and then pass a road test."

After which, legitimacy of their undocumented/illegal status will have been conferred upon them by government.  This is not the federal government, which still maintains an effort to return to the country of origin individuals who have undocumentedly entered this country.Nonetheless, forgive immigrants (illegal or otherwise) their confusion in being granted an extraordinary privilege by government while government lurks in the background to expel them from the country.  The distinction between the state and the federal governments is one often missed even by people born, raised, and living in the USA.

When the legislation was introduced in March, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano summed up the public rationale for the move in stating “We have to look at it realistically. We have a lot of undocumented immigrants driving today and it has become a safety issue. The more individuals on road who know how to drive, who have taken a driver’s license test and a road test, the better it is for all of us.”

Perhaps a little honesty, too, would be in order.  It's really quite simple, hyperbole aside: individuals who have come here  here legally are legal immigrants; individuals who have come here illegally are illegal immigrants.  Not undocumented, not alien, but illegal.

Perhaps times have changed, and proposals such as in NJ may be an indication of how far we've come (or retreated) on this matter.  Or it may be that once such an issue gains the attention of the public, measures which would encourage illegal entry into the nation lose popularity. But flashback to October 29, 2007. Hillary Clinton was an unstoppable juggernaut on her way to the Democratic nomination for President.  The following evening, Mrs. Clinton would appear in a televised debate from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pa. which included the following exchange:

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer has proposed giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. You told the Nashua, N.H., editorial board it makes a lot of sense. Why does it make a lot of sense to give an illegal immigrant a driver’s license?
MRS. CLINTON: Well, what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is fill the vacuum left by the failure of this administration to bring about comprehensive immigration reform.
We know in New York we have several million at any one time who are in New York illegally. They are undocumented workers. They are driving on our roads. The possibility of them having an accident that harms themselves or others is just a matter of the odds. It’s probability. So what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is to fill the vacuum.
I believe we need to get back to comprehensive immigration reform because no state, no matter how well intentioned, can fill this gap. There needs to be federal action on immigration reform. ...
After an exchange between Mr. Russert and Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, Mrs. Clinton jumped in:
MRS. CLINTON: I just want to add, I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do it. And we have failed——
MR. DODD: Wait a minute. No, no, no. You said, yes, you thought it made sense to do it.
MRS. CLINTON: No, I didn’t, Chris. But the point is, what are we going to do with all these illegal immigrants who are driving?
MR. DODD: Well, that’s a legitimate issue. But driver’s license goes too far, in my view.
MRS. CLINTON: Well, you may say that, but what is the identification if somebody runs into you today who is an undocumented worker——
MR. DODD: There’s ways of dealing with that.
MRS. CLINTON: Well, but——
MR. DODD: This is a privilege, not a right.
MRS. CLINTON: Well, what Governor Spitzer has agreed to do is to have three different licenses — one that provides identification for actually going onto airplanes and other kinds of security issues, another which is an ordinary driver’s license and then a special card that identifies the people who would be on the road.
MR. DODD: That’s a bureaucratic nightmare.
MRS. CLINTON: So it’s not the full privilege.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I just want to make sure what I heard. Do you, the New York Senator Hillary Clinton, support the New York governor’s plan to give illegal immigrants a driver’s license? You told the Nashua, N.H., paper it made a lot of sense.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you support his plan?
MRS. CLINTON: You know, Tim, this is where everybody plays gotcha. It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do? He is dealing with a serious problem. We have failed, and George Bush has failed.
Do I think this is the best thing for any governor to do? No. But do I understand the sense of real desperation, trying to get a handle on this? Remember, in New York we want to know who’s in New York. We want people to come out of the shadows. He’s making an honest effort to do it. We should have passed immigration reform.

There were other factors which culminated in nomination for Senator Obama, but Christopher Dodd had found the chink in Hillary Clinton's armor. Whether because she was seen as supporting something seemingly outrageous or simply because she was unprepared to answer a question about an issue in her home state, Mrs. Clinton's smooth glide to the nomination was over.

Yet now, nary a Democrat is able or willing to question a similar initiative in New Jersey and Republicans, realizing that there are issues far more critical to their donor class and which threaten the control and command of the political system by the 1%, generally have not found their voice.  Throughout the country- but especially in New Jersey, where Christopher J. Christie remains supreme with power envied by Vladimir Putin- social services are endless cut partly because of a (short-sighted) effort to hold the line on taxes. Yet, Democrats in several states are determined, as Chris Dodd understood 6-7 years ago, to create "a bureaucratic nightmare."

Little if anything has been accomplished nationally on illegal immigration, and perhaps making incremental changes state-by-state will wear down GOP opposition to granting citizenship to undocumented/illegal immigrants.  But until then, most reforms, incremental and spasmodic, will continue to make the situation worse for Americans, of whatever national background.

Share |

But On A Positive Note, Sally Quinn Feels Warm All Over

God may exist. And he may have a Son, pre-existent, sinless, at one with humanity because of his mortality and also able to save sinners (constituting everyone) by his grace.

Or not. No one who is alive is able to say with certainty whether the gospel message is accurate, though contrasting views are inevitable and legitimate (though not all can be valid).

But one thing is certain.  The following view, expressed by Washington Post lifer Sally Quinn, is inaccurate, illegitimate, and worse.  In her column "On Faith," she says

Do the participants at the Seder really believe that the Jews were enslaved in Egypt, were passed over by God, and escaped to their own land? A lot of them don’t.

Do I believe in God? I’m not sure what I believe would mean the same to others. Do I believe Jesus was the Son of God? Who am I to say? Do I believe Jesus was resurrected from the dead? I don’t know.

It really doesn’t matter whether the Jews at the Seder believe. Nor does it matter that the Christians at Easter believe. What matters is the overwhelming sense of community that all of these rituals inspire.

Uh, yes it does. It does "matter" what Christians, Jews, and for that matter Muslims, believe.What does not matter as much is the "sense of community," which anyone may or may not have, which can come in various iterations, and which is ill-defined and even abstract.  Your first clue: it's a "sense" of community.

In a variation of "out of the mouth of babes," Digby, most assuredly not a Bible-believing Christian, brilliantly remarked of the above-noted quote

That's nice. I like togetherness and a sense of community too. But I just have a sneaking suspicion that an awful lot of the people who are celebrating Passover and Easter actually do believe in their religion and it does matter to them. In fact, a bunch of them might just find it a teensy bit presumptuous of Sally Quinn to dismiss their beliefs on one of the most important religious days of the year in favor of some bourgeois Sunday brunch celebration where everybody feels good about themselves.

But hey, who am I to venture an opinion? I'm not religious. But then apparently neither is Sally Quinn who writes a column in a newspaper called "On Faith." 

Why does Sally Quinn write a column in the newspaper called "On Faith" anyway?

Why, indeed.  The English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible has it (1Corinthians 15:14-18) as

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

Whether Jesus Christ was just some guy 2,000 years ago or something other than a crackpot can be debated. But if he was not as Christians believe, then surely Paul was right: if He was not raised, their faith is futile and this "sense of community" is false. If instead he was as Christians are called upon to believe, then Easter is far more than the quaint little holiday with charming Easter eggs and the bountiful ham Quinn perceives.

Quinn is an equal opportunity patronizer, writing also "I have been struggling to reconcile the pull I have between my attraction to Judaism and my sense of belonging in my church. Belief has nothing to do with it."

Yes, it does, or should.  In The Last Testament, A Memoir From God, God explains

Yea, I love it when the less observant among you claim to be "cultural Jews."

Canst thou imagine being introduced to a "cultural Christian" or a "cultural Muslim"?

Breaking news from Mt. Sinai: Judaism is a religion.

The millions of allusions to me in every single text and commentary and ritual of the past 3,000 years probably should have been a giveaway.

And from a site called "Revealing God's Treasure" comes a map of an event which doesn't matter one way or another to Sally Quinn:

Share |

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Federal Law For Thee, Not For Me

Evidently, Harry Reid is not a supporter of Cliven Bundy. At an event Thursday, the Senate Majority Leader remarked that Bundy "says that the united States is a foreign government. He doesn't pay his taxes. He doesn't pay his fees, unlike the rest of Nevada ranchers. And he doesn't follow the law. He continues to thumb his nose at authority."

Reid stated Bundy's supporters "hold themselves out to be patriots (but) are not. They're nothing more than domestic terrorists."  Though many are armed with rifles or shotguns, the self-styled anarchists are not terrorists, but have been initially successful, with the Bureau of Land Management having returned nearly all the roughly 400 cattle seized from Bundy because he owes over $1 million in grazing fees.  While Bundy claims "what they (federal courts) have done is seized Nevada statehood, Nevada law, Clark County public land, access to the land," the Nevada constitution does not agree:

All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for the protection, security and benefit of the people; and they have the right to alter or reform the same whenever the public good may require it. But the Paramount Allegiance of every citizen is due to the Federal Government in the exercise of all its Constitutional powers as the same have been or may be defined by the Supreme Court of the United States; and no power exists in the people of this or any other State of the Federal Union to dissolve their connection therewith or perform any act tending to impair, subvert, or resist the Supreme Authority of the government of the United States. The Constitution of the United States confers full power on the Federal Government to maintain and Perpetuate its existence, and whensoever any portion of the States, or people thereof attempt to secede from the Federal Union, or forcibly resist the Execution of its laws, the Federal Government may, by warrant of the Constitution, employ armed force in compelling obedience to its Authority.

Publicly at least, the resisters thumb their nose at the federal government, a classically politically correct tactic, and one that, ironically, immigration rights activists also have chosen. Think Progress' Aviva Shen (photo below of Baltimore's Inner Harbor from TP) joyfully reports

The Baltimore City Detention Center will start scrutinizing federal orders to hold immigrants for deportation instead of automatically granting these requests, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) announced Friday. The policy change adds Baltimore to the growing number of cities in the U.S. resisting federal immigration policy.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents often ask local jails to hold immigrants for deportation. Baltimore will now only grant these requests if the immigrant has been charged with or convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor. “We will focus our efforts on complying with ICE detainers when there is an actual threat to the public’s safety,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley’s move comes on the heels of a Baltimore Sun investigation that found more than 40 percent of Maryland’s deportees had no criminal record at all, one of the highest percentages of any state in the nation.

The federal program Secure Communities was intended to catch and deport dangerous criminals by coordinating with local jails. In reality, the vast majority of “convicted criminals” deported through Secure Communities were guilty only of traffic violations or civil immigration offenses, such as crossing the border illegally or overstaying a visa. Just 12 percent of deportees in 2013 were convicted of serious crimes like murder, sexual assault, or drug trafficking.

While deporting mainly harmless immigrants, Secure Communities has also seriously damaged immigrant neighborhoods’ relationships with law enforcement. Immigrants are afraid to report crimes or come forward as witnesses for fear of being deported or getting a family member deported.

Because of this, California and Connecticut have passed laws to prohibit police officers from honoring ICE hold requests except in cases of serious crimes. Several cities, including Chicago, Santa Clara, and New York City, have adopted policies to defy ICE. Most recently, Philadelphia’s mayor signed an executive order to forbid police cooperation with ICE unless the federal government gets a warrant, making it one of the most progressive cities for immigrants.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a law enforcement agency.   Inconveniently, Section 2 of Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution reads

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

This is generally interpreted as

The Supremacy Clause establishes federal law as the highest form of law in the United States legal system.  It requires the state judges to defer to federal law even if state laws or constitutions conflict.  The Constitution mandates that “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

When Congress passes a law within its constitutional authority, the state law must defer.  State constitutions are subordinate to federal statutes and treaties.  This constitutional requirement is called  preemption.

California and Connecticut have defied a federal agency by refusing to honor detainers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement while other cities are defying ICE in their own manner. This bears a similarity to nullification, a practice popular when- wait, let this minister tell us 

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

Laws ought to be obeyed, whether by wealthy southwestern ranchers with an extreme sense of entitlement, city or state officials dismissive of federal efforts to maintain some control over the border, or companies defying laws affording protection to pregnant women.

HAPPY PASSOVER                                                                       HAPPY EASTER

Share |

We May Not Pay You Or Respect You. But We'll Give You A Plaque With A Pithy Saying.

As Mary Elizabeth Williams pointed out earlier this week in Salon, people periodically refer, patronizingly, to motherhood as "the world's toughest job."  It is work, notwithstanding the tiresome and misleading query of a mother "do you work?" But it is not a job, the world's toughest or otherwise, as Williams explains:

Let me break it to you gently, everybody. I don’t have the “World’s Toughest Job.” Aside from the fact that I harbor no illusions that what I do in raising my children is more difficult than, say, defusing IEDs or putting out oil fires or finding cures for cancer or being a sweatshop factory worker, I also don’t consider motherhood my job. I have a career, one that’s satisfying and challenging and for which I get paid. But being a mother isn’t a job any more than being a spouse or a daughter or a friend or, let’s not fail to mention here, a father is. Oh, it’s work, make no mistake, physically and emotionally demanding work. Work that many of us chose and love. But it isn’t a job and it sure as hell isn’t on a higher moral plane than many other forms of work.

Yet the “world’s greatest/hardest” routine is a common heart-tugging trope. During the 2012 Olympics, P&G ran a similarly themed campaign, though at least it tried the somewhat more upbeat message that “The hardest job in the world is the best job in the world.” But wrapped up in this seemingly tear-jerking message of appreciation are a lot of thoroughly messed-up ideas. Saying that motherhood is the “world’s toughest job” asserts that what mothers do is basically thankless and that they “kinda give life up” to do it. But wait! It’s also the most important and wonderful thing a woman can do. It’s terrible! It’s “inhumane”! But also noble!

The fact that I have had and am raising children is not a résumé item. It’s not something I “gave up” my life for. It’s sure as hell not a competitive act, one in which I somehow get to beat out every person who isn’t female or doesn’t have kids for best and most. And I don’t appreciate messages that seem to build women up while essentially telling them that nothing they can achieve in life matters more than having babies. You want to thank women, want to show women they have value? Close the wage gap. Challenge the insidious rape culture that exists in the military and in our colleges. Join the fight for our reproductive rights, so we can decide when and if we choose motherhood, safely. Don’t pat us on the head and minimize our contributions outside of the domestic sphere. You think motherhood is thankless, hard work? So is feminism. How about you celebrate that?

Were motherhood a job it would, as Williams notes, more often appear as a resume item.  It would be something always freely chosen and never forced upon a woman, such as by an unplanned pregnancy. Instead, women are considered invaluable- but only if they have children, at which point they are placed on a higher moral plane than other workers (celebrated many years ago by Tom Paxton, below).

While the work of motherhood is misunderstood as a job, millions of people hold employment devalued with stagnant wages, benefit reductions, and expectations of working off the clock or foregoing vacations. Addressing those issues is the best way to honor women, whether they've chosen to be mothers or not.

Share |

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Condoleezza Rice Is A 23-Year-Old White Male

Writing in Politico magazine (which I praised, apparently prematurely, yesterday), the National Review's Rich Lowry, perhaps still seeing starbursts, is exorcised because Condoleezza "Rice’s speaking gigs on college campuses and her ascension to the board of the Internet company Dropbox have sparked protests calling for her to be disinvited, cashiered and generally isolated and shamed."  Lowry argues that some students and faculty at the University of Minnesota, where she was invited to give a lecture, and at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where she has been invited to give the commencement speech, have been mean to her.

You will remember "Condi," as the mainstream media has affectionately called her for years, as a supporter of the (nationally and internationally) illegal torture regimen carried out by the federal government during the GW Bush administration.   She also was a co-conspirator in ginning up support for the Iraq war, one of convenience conducted, as Rachel Maddow explained in March (partial video of program below), to provide access to Iraqi oil fields to national oil companies.

Thanks to author Ron Suskind, we know that at the first national security meeting held by Bush 43, Secretary of Treasury (not former NY Yankee outfielder) Paul O'Neill and Secretary of State Colin Powell were startled when the President asked Ms. Rice "Well, what do you think the big issue in the region is, Condi?", to which she responded "I think Iraq is the big issue, the destabilizing force and that's going to be our focus."

Soon thereafter, President Bush assigned Vice President Cheney to lead a secret task force, which met privately with energy industry lobbyists and executives of oil companies.   He ordered the National Security Council- headed by "Condi"- to coordinate national security and energy policy with Cheney's task group. Eventually, the task force began to divvy up oil fields among, as Suskind put it, "foreign suitors along with American suitors meaning major oil firms and oil contractors like Halliburton."  As Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan(6) once said, "mistakes were made."  But Rice was not blissfully unaware.

Though her agency was intimately involved with establishment of the economic rationale for going to war against a sovereign nation, National Security Adviser Rice that summer would warn "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."   Four years later, Rice still was making things up, then claiming "There were ties going on between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime," though she later denied ever saying it.

The same foreign policy genius who now criticizes President Obama over Putin policy would at one time summarize her post-Iraq invasion advice as "Punish France, ignore Germany, forgive Russia.”  A good way to energize NATO.

Lowry complains because "The Minnesota professors say that it is 'in the spirit of free expression' that they ask for the reversal of Rice’s invitation. Because nothing says free expression like shutting down someone’s lecture."  To his enduring credit, Lowry has invented a constitutional guarantee: the right to give a speech at a public university.  Perhaps next spring, you too can invoke that right by demanding that your state's public university allow you to speak, for a fee.

Nearing the conclusion of his piece, Lowry contends

If the typical rules applied, the fierce opposition to Rice would be attributed to racism, sexism and any other handy -ism. The stunt by the University of Minnesota Students for a Democratic Society of referring her to the campus police as “dangerous” and including a physical description of her as a “59-year-old African American woman” would prompt a rant by Touré on MSNBC about the dehumanization of a woman of color and a high-flying essay by Jamelle Bouie on The Daily Beast about the hidden racist tropes embedded in japery at the expense of former secretaries of state.

Oh, yes, because the physical description of an individual must exclude age, race, and gender. Perhaps Condi could have been described as a 23-year-old white male, notwithstanding reaction by conservatives who would ridicule liberals as loathe to admit the object of their criticism is young, female, or black. Some conservatives, who accuse liberals of throwing around the charge of "racism," are themselves fond of the tactic.  In the case of Rich Lowry, he has to find something.

Share |

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Too Few Dare Call It Terrorism

It's a good point Max Abrahms makes in Politico magazine (which has proven to be far superior to Politico itself)- not great, but good.  Three indiviudals were murdered Sunday in two incidents in Kansas, at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park and the other at the Village Shalom Retirement Community in Leawood. Abrahms notes

From the earliest reports, the killings bore all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack.

There is still no consensus over the definition, but terrorism usually denotes a nonstate actor attacking civilian targets to spread fear for some putative political goal. And here we had a 73-year-old lone wolf opening fire on a Jewish community center and retirement home on Passover eve yelling “Heil Hitler.”

With time, it’s become even clearer that the alleged perpetrator is a terrorist.

He asks- and not rhetorically- the most fundamental question about the event: "yet, the word terrorism wasn’t mentioned “in a single bit of news coverage,” as one observer noted. Why?"

He continues

But what does it take for a hateful act to become a full-fledged terrorist attack? You might think the distinction hinges on lethality. A year ago this week, though, the Boston Marathon bombings killed the same number of bystanders, and Americans had little trouble fingering the incident as terrorism.

Lethality, like size, matters, but as Abrahms maintains, it's not only lethality.  It's also how something is characterized. Words and phrases can obfuscate, confuse, and even propagandize, such as referring to Social Security as "entitlements" (understood by Americans as the other guy wanting something for nothing) rather than earned benefits (or simply "Social Security.") And people labeling them "entitlements" will claim to want to "preserve and protect" benefits rather than, as they're proposing, cutting them.

But words can also clarify and explain.  And here Abrahms is swinging and fouling the ball off while much of the left is swinging and whiffing. He notes.

As founder of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party, Frazier Glenn Miller has a long history of militant anti-Semitism. The Southern Poverty Law Center described him as a “raging anti-Semite” known for posting online rants, like “No Jews, Just Right.” The Institute for Research & Educationon Human Rights has also noted, “His worship for Hitler and Hitlerism is real.” According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, Miller is “one of the pioneers in the modern hate world, he’s been entrenched in the hate movement his entire adult life.”

That at least is technically accurate. The Anti-Defamation  League released a statement similarly contending

While it is too early to label these shootings as a hate crime, the fact that two Jewish institutions were targeted by the same individual just prior to the start of the Passover holiday is deeply troubling and certainly gives us pause.   We have reached out to local, state and federal law enforcement and stand willing and able to offer guidance and assistance to the community if this incident turns out to have been motivated by anti-Semitism.

So what was the first hint this was a hate crime? A hearty "Heil Hitler" is always a good clue. But it was something much more than a hate crime which, truth be told, goes on in the streets of America daily. It was terrorism: t-e-r-r-o-r-i-s-m.

Terrorism does not go on every day. Ask any American when the last act of terrorism was in the nation, and he or she might cite the Boston Marathon incident. And if needed to be reminded of the crime there, the individual surely would describe it as terrorism.

And that is why we read on (from which the photo below is taken)::

One year after the deadly bombings took place at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the people of Boston appeared stronger than ever. The well-known saying 'Boston Strong' could be seen everywhere, from banners and signs to t-shirts and storefronts. The anniversary drew a stream of onlookers, from tourists who wanted to lend their support, to last year’s runners who had returned to remember, some wearing the bright blue and yellow marathon jackets that became a symbol of solidarity.

Walking down Boylston Street, crowds of hundreds of people huddled together under umbrellas while the rain poured down. At 2:49 p.m. ET, the time the first bomb exploded, there was a moment of silence. Nothing could be heard except the gentle sound of rain falling on umbrellas and, soon after, the strong and supportive sound of bappipes. The mood was somber, yet uplifting, while the victims of the bombings were remembered, as well as the courage and compassion of those who ran toward danger to help, rather than away.

Will the events of April 13, 2014 be remembered in the same way one year from today? Not likely, considering the shootings have been nearly- if not completely- expunged from the news already, other than presumably in Missouri and Kansas.

They are not being ignored because the target was the Jewish community (and the victims one Roman Catholic and two Methodists). But labeling them "hate crimes" has made it more likely they would be.  Message to the Southern Poverty Law Center and others: to many Americans, hearing of "hate crimes" precedes a "ho, hu." They've heard it all before and it sounds ideologically motivated, unlike the class of offenses known as "love crimes."

The attacks in eastern Kansas on Sunday will be known as hate crimes or as terrorism. If concerned organizations start labeling them accurately- as terrorism- the response from the American people and their government will be far more vigorous. As an added benefit, we might stop thinking of terrorism as the exclusive province of Muslims.  And that would be an important start in chipping away at hate.

Share |

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bill Clinton Was Raised In Hope. So Were Others.

It has been four days, and Mike Huckabee is not surprised. A little disappointed, probably, but not surprised. Igor Volsky reported

Mike Huckabee questioned President Obama’s support for marriage equality during an appearance on Fox News on Friday, suggesting that Obama was not genuine in his belief that gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry.

Describing his own opposition to equal marriage rights, Huckabee explained, “The position that I hold is the position that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden held in 2008. Barack Obama held it until 2012.” “And my question that I would love to pose to the president is this: Mr. President, please explain that when you said in 2008 at the Saddleback Church forum that you stood for traditional marriage and you did so because you were a Christian and because it’s what the Bible taught, please answer: Were you lying then, are you lying now, or did the Bible get rewritten?”

Volsky had begun by assuming "Mike Huckabee questioned President Obama's support for marriage equality during an appearance on Fox News on Friday, suggesting that Obama was not genuine in his belief that gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry."

You might think: one must be right and the other wrong. But, no, both are wrong. Surely, the former Arkansas governor realizes- as did most of America, even at that time- that Barack Obama supported gay marriage. Rather, Huckabee is asking- rhetorically, but still hoping for a response: "Did the Bible get rewritten?"  He posed a question he knew Barack Obama could not respond to because "no, the Bible did not get rewritten" would sound almost as silly as "yes, the Bible did get rewritten."  Additionally, it is not wise to get into a debate about Scripture with an ordained Protestant (in this case, Southern Baptist Convention) minister. Politically, especially, the odds are not good playing on someone else's turf.

But don't blame Obama (though I generally like to). Huckabee's (false) challenge is based on a faulty premise.  Immediately below, the transcript of the relevant portion of the interview of Senator Obama by Reverend Rick Warren during campaign 2008:

WARREN: There's a lot more I'd like to ask on that. We have 15 other questions here. Define marriage. 

OBAMA: I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian -- for me -- for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God's in the mix. But -- 

WARREN: Would you support a Constitutional Amendment with that definition? 

OBAMA: No, I would not. 

WARREN: Why not? 

OBAMA: Because historically -- because historically, we have not defined marriage in our constitution. It's been a matter of state law. That has been our tradition. I mean, let's break it down. The reason that people think there needs to be a constitutional amendment, some people believe, is because of the concern that -- about same-sex marriage. I am not somebody who promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions. I do believe that we should not -- that for gay partners to want to visit each other in the hospital for the state to say, you know what, that's all right, I don't think in any way inhibits my core beliefs about what marriage are. I think my faith is strong enough and my marriage is strong enough that I can afford those civil rights to others, even if I have a different perspective or different view. 

Admittedly, Obama did say "I think my faith is strong enough and my marriage is strong enough that I can afford those civil rights to others, even if I have a different perspective or different view," which has the advantage of being incomprehensible.  If his "faith is strong enough" to believe "civil rights" should be extended to others, does that mean that that he believes those rights are contrary to his faith?   And in contrast to what does he "have a different perspective or different view?"  If anyone but a politician said something so obviously ambiguous, you would say "Huh?"

Huckabee was, though, probably referring to the statement in which Obama confirms he believes "marriage is the union between a man and a woman."   But the candidate immediately followed that with "Now, for me as a Christian- for me- for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union."     As Huckabee pretends not to notice, Obama here is saying merely that marriage is "a sacred union," in recognition that no one in American politics ever lost a vote by proclaiming marriage as a "sacred union," even among those who are on their third or fourth. (It additionally allowed him to "evolve" into supporting same-sex marriage, which now becomes among the sacred unions.)  And give him extra points for mentioning God, always helpful with the electorate, even if he added "is in the mix" in a somewhat patronizing reference which evidently went over the heads of the right.

But Mike Huckabee knew that Barack Obama could not safely answer his rhetorical question, which was akin to throwing a Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half. It wasn't likely to succeed, but could not backfire, and meanwhile he continues to ingratiate himself with the Obama-hating wing of the Repub Party.... which is almost everyone.

"Mama didn't raise no fools," the old saw goes. In the case of Mae Huckabee, who raised Mike in Hope, Arkansas, the saying applies.  Her son (photo from says he won't decide until after the midterms whether he'll make another bid for the GOP presidential nomination.  Notwithstanding conventional wisdom, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton would do much better to hope she's facing Jeb Bush than Mike Huckabee down the road.

Share |

Sunday, April 13, 2014

History In The Making, They Called It Then. But Don't Remind Us.

Joan Walsh doesn't need my praise, which she often has gotten, nor my criticism, of which she would be aware only in the unlikely event she were to read these. But the other day she was wrong, nearly as much as another accomplished blogger, Jamelle Bouie.

Oh, sure, Walsh is right at times in her criticism- nay, condemnation- of Jonathan Chait's piece, "The Color of His Presidency," in New York magazine examining race relations in the age of Obama.  Chait had written

Bill O’Reilly’s aggressive (and aggressively dumb) Super Bowl interview with the president included the question “Why do you feel it’s necessary to fundamentally transform the nation that has afforded you so much opportunity?” Salon’s Joan Walsh asserted, “O’Reilly and Ailes and their viewers see this president as unqualified and ungrateful, an affirmative-action baby who won’t thank us for all we’ve done for him and his cohort. The question was, of course, deeply condescending and borderline racist.” Yes, it’s possible that O’Reilly implied that the United States afforded Obama special opportunity owing to the color of his skin. But it’s at least as possible, and consistent with O’Reilly’s beliefs, that he merely believes the United States offers everybody opportunity.

Walsh counters

I’m sure there are instances Chait can find where MSNBC hosts and guests (including me) went too far with racial rhetoric. But he certainly didn’t catch me doing so in his piece: He chastens me for suggesting that when Bill O’Reilly asked Obama “Why do you feel it’s necessary to fundamentally transform the nation that has afforded you so much opportunity?” the question was “deeply condescending and borderline racist.” Chait acknowledges my interpretation is “possible,” but insists “it’s at least as possible, and consistent with O’Reilly’s beliefs, that he merely believes the United States offers everybody opportunity.”

If Chait can imagine white political figures like Chuck Schumer or Sherrod Brown being asked why they want to change American policies when they’ve been afforded “so much opportunity”... 

Credit Walsh with acknowledging there are MSNBC hosts who have gone too far with racial rhetoric, and also for noting that other men wouldn't be subjected to the same implication.  Imagine, further, a host demeaning the accomplishments of another individual who has risen through the ranks to the Presidency of the United States- leader of the Free World- with a reference to being "afforded so much opportunity."  It is nearly unimaginable.

But then Walsh adds Chait

does make the fine point – I’ve made it myself – that President Clinton also faced intractable and ugly political opposition from the right. But he misses the fact that animosity toward Clinton originated with his segregationist enemies in Arkansas. Race has been behind GOP opposition to white politicians, not just black ones, who favor civil rights. Clinton is an example that actually weakens Chait’s case.

Ironically, Walsh- who otherwise (as MSNBC contributors appear sworn to do) is enormously supportive of Mr. Obama- misses an opportunity to defend this President against racially-tinged criticism. President Clinton may have been impeached in part because he was The First Black President, but he also was involved in sexual misconduct, which helpfully stirred up the base.  And he did lie before a grand jury, though it probably did not rise to the level of perjury, hence a "high crime."  Calls for impeachment of President Obama, by contrast, come not with a legitimate accusation of a crime or misdemeanor, nor even a whiff of personal scandal, sexual or otherwise.

Walsh concedes

This is the same Jonathan Chait, by the way, who argued in 2012 that the GOP was staring down “demographic extinction” because of its over-reliance on white voters, and who also insisted that “the entire key to the rise of the Republican Party from the mid-sixties through the nineties was that white Americans came to see the Democrats as taking money from the hard-working white middle class and giving it to a lazy black underclass.” It’s OK when Chait says that, but when it comes from MSNBC, it’s like McCarthyism?

Chait was right in 2012, but he’s wrong now.

No, and no. Contrary to wishful thinking on the part of many Democrats, demography is not necessarily destiny. Though immigration is not a controlling issue for most conservatives and moderates now, it will be if there is an influx of immigrants or legalization of resident immigrants. (Otherwise, Republicans would be guilty of gross political malpractice.)

"The racial debate of the Obama years," Chait argues, " emits some of the poisonous waft of the debates over communism during the ­McCarthy years. It defies rational resolution in part because it is about secret motives and concealed evil." He recognizes "Few liberals acknowledge that the ability to label a person racist represents, in 21st-century America, real and frequently terrifying power. Conservatives feel that dread viscerally."   In response, Walsh maintains "He singles out MSNBC for special scorn (full disclosure: I’m a contributor there), while never once mentioning Fox by name."

It is sad to see Walsh adopting the false equivalence between MSNBC and Fox News the mainstream media propagates.  For all of Fox News' faults- triumphalist, scornful of facts, suspicious of science, at times hateful- its agenda is not primarily racial, but rather conservative and Republican. MSNBC's agenda, by contrast (and with apologies to Chris Hayes and a few others) is not liberal (or Democratic) but Obama.

By contrast, Chait observes

When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell chided Obama for playing too much golf, Lawrence O’Donnell accused him of “trying to align … the lifestyle of Tiger Woods with Barack Obama.” (McConnell had not mentioned Tiger Woods; it was O’Donnell who made the leap.) After Arizona governor Jan Brewer confronted Obama at an airport tarmac, Jonathan Capehart concluded, “A lot of people saw it as her wagging her finger at this president who’s also black, who should not be there.” Martin Bashir hung a monologue around his contention that Republicans were using the initialism IRS as a code that meant “nigger.” Chris Matthews calls Republicans racist so often it is hard to even keep track.

Jamelle Bouie is further divorced from reality. Artfully dodging the usual (and justifiable) contention of the left that we (by which is meant white people) too infrequently discuss race, he argues

“If you … set out to write a social history of the Obama years, one that captured the day-to-day experience of political life,” Chait writes, “you would find that race has saturated everything as perhaps never before. Hardly a day goes by without a volley and counter-volley of accusations of racial insensitivity and racial hypersensitivity.”

That might fit the experiences of a mostly white pundit class, but it has nothing to do with race as experienced in the “day-to-day” lives of ordinary people. When a twentysomething black New Yorker talks about race, she isn’t as concerned with the rhetoric of Republicans as she is with the patrol car that trails her teenage brother when he rides his bike to the corner store. 

But as Chait's argument demonstrates, dialogue about race means more than wringing one's hands about the intolerable situation of black youth, but also exploring the beliefs, values, and political response of the white community, in whose hands most power in the nation still resides. Bouie perceives "a story of mutual grievance between Americans on the left and right, with little interest in the lived experiences of racism from black Americans and other people of color."

Blame Chait for that, and also for little interest in the Indianapolis Pacers' late season slump or for that matter, disproportionate crime rates and arrest rates among blacks.  The story Bouie wants told has been told before and will be again, by individuals he doubtless would find better situated to do so than Jonathan Chait.

Instead, Chait is telling a different story, one the left, right, and center conveniently ignore. He recognizes

Hardly a day goes by without a volley and counter-volley of accusations of racial insensitivity and racial hypersensitivity. And even when the red and blue tribes are not waging their endless war of mutual victimization, the subject of race courses through everything else: debt, health care, unemployment. Whereas the great themes of the Bush years revolved around foreign policy and a cultural divide over what or who constituted “real” America, the Obama years have been defined by a bitter disagreement over the size of government, which quickly reduces to an argument over whether the recipients of big-government largesse deserve it. There is no separating this discussion from one’s sympathies or prejudices toward, and identification with, black America.

Not surprisingly, race

always the deepest and most volatile fault line in American history, has now become the primal grievance in our politics, the source of a narrative of persecution each side uses to make sense of the world. Liberals dwell in a world of paranoia of a white racism that has seeped out of American history in the Obama years and lurks everywhere, mostly undetectable. Conservatives dwell in a paranoia of their own, in which racism is used as a cudgel to delegitimize their core beliefs. And the horrible thing is that both of these forms of paranoia are right.

This discussion has real-life implications.  Chait finds

Once you start looking for racial subtexts embedded within the Republican agenda, they turn up everywhere. And not always as subtexts. In response to their defeats in 2008 and 2012, Republican governors and state legislators in a host of swing states have enacted laws, ostensibly designed to prevent voter fraud, whose actual impact will be to reduce the proportion of votes cast by minorities. A paper found that states were far more likely to enact restrictive voting laws if minority turnout in their state had recently increased.

It is likewise hard to imagine the mostly southern states that have refused free federal money to cover the uninsured in their states doing so outside of the racial context—nearly all-white Republican governments are willing and even eager to deny medical care to disproportionately black constituents. The most famous ad for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign depicted an elderly white man, with a narrator warning bluntly about Medicare cuts: “Now the money you paid for your guaranteed health care is going to a massive new government program that’s not for you.” 

Bouie notes Chait "finishes his piece with a note (a hope?) that this dynamic of grievance will become irrelevant with time," aided by generational changes. He snarks

Yes, the Return of the White President will cause this tension to recede, as arguments over racial innocence—“You’re racist!” “You’re a race baiter!”—fade like the elves of Middle-Earth. But that’s only the end of the story if you’re most concerned with partisan fights.

Oh, but it will; recede, not end. The nomination and election of Barack Obama was never divorced from race, which cut both for and against the candidate. Obama's presidency, Chait realizes, has demonstrated that

One of the central conceits of modern conservatism is a claim to have achieved an almost Zenlike state of color-blindness. (Stephen Colbert’s parodic conservative talking head boasts he cannot see race at all.) The truth is that conservatives are fixated on race, in a mystified, aggrieved, angry way that lends their claims of race neutrality a comic whiff of let-me-tell-you-again-how-I’m-over-my-ex. But while a certain portion of the party may indeed be forwarding and sending emails of racist jokes of the sort that got a federal judge in trouble, a much larger portion is consumed not with traditional racial victimization—the blacks are coming to get us—but a kind of ideological victimization. Conservatives are fervent believers in their own racial innocence.

It's only fair and accurate (not "fair and balanced"), however, to point out

It was immediately clear, from his triumphal introduction at the 2004 Democratic National Convention through the giddy early days of his audacious campaign, that Obama had reordered the political landscape. And though it is hard to remember now, his supporters initially saw this transformation as one that promised a “post-racial” politics. He attracted staggering crowds, boasted of his ability to win over Republicans, and made good on this boast by attracting independent voters in Iowa and other famously white locales.

Of course, this was always a fantasy....

The Obama campaign gave its supporters the thrill of historic accomplishment, the sense that they were undertaking something more grand than a campaign, something that would reverberate forever. But in Obama they had not just the material for future Americana stock footage but a live partisan figure. How did they think his presidency would work out?

To Senator Obama's supporters, victory was history in the making (photos below from The Huffington Post- for slide show, go to link); to his detractors,it was the opposite side of the same coin:  proof of the arrival of a post-racial society, that racism was dead.  In retrospect, conflict of the sort we've seen was almost inevitable. Yet, Walsh, Bouie, and others are loath to acknowledge that the source of the dysfunction and acrimony lies in the election of Barack Obama.  His presidency has prompted irrational fear and loathing, for which the President is not responsible, and has endlessly worked to discourage.  As Chait maintains

In fact, many conservatives believe he accuses them of racism all the time, even when he is doing the opposite. When asked recently if racism explained his sagging approval ratings, Obama replied, “There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black president. Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black president.” Conservatives exploded in indignation, quoting the first sentence without mentioning the second. Here was yet another case of Obama playing the race card, his most cruel and most unanswerable weapon.

Obama's allies, as Chait will not ignore, are "less reticent" in implying conservatives are racially motivated. Progressives refuse to recognize the frequency with which they attack conservatives as "racist" and its impact upon furthering the sense of ideological victimization perceived by the right. But Chait does not, and he has produced an impressive piece of work analyzing why the racial harmony envisioned by many people upon the election of Barack Obama has deteriorated into something far different and far uglier.

Share |

Racehorse Genes

Credit the discovery to Michael D'Antonio.  He conducted a series of interviews with Donald J. Trump in 2014, of whom Donald Trump Jr....