Saturday, January 30, 2016

Backing Down

Perhaps Senator Marco Rubio believes Chris Christie is Norwegian-American.

At the Republican debate Thursday night in Des Moines, we heard the abridged version of Marco Rubio's joke: "And let me tell you what the answer better not be. It better not be Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders is a socialist. I think Bernie Sanders is good candidate for president of Sweden."   Campaigning in Iowa earlier in the week, however, the Senator had added to the end of the joke "I was saying Norway, but I got a little bit of heat from the Norwegians."

That came in response to a question about the candidate's electability. Later in the debate, though, the Floridian was asked

...  during the last debate, you said Governor Christie had changed his position and his mind on gun control, on common core, and backing President Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. He said you’re wrong on the facts and you can’t, quote, “slime your way to the White House.” I assume in the last two weeks, you’ve done some fact-checking. Do you want to take anything back?

Rubio's reply pertained to faith, Judeo-Christian values, and living "in eternity with my Creator." Unless Rubio was confusing his Creator with Sheldon Adelson (their religion being the same), he wasn't in the same zip code as Justice Sotomayor, gun control, education, or Chris Christie.

Nor does he want to be in the  same zip code, or arena, with the New Jersey governor.

The Florida senator appears to regret criticizing Christie (video below) at the previous debate, in South Carolina, for endorsing "many of the ideas that Barack Obama supports, whether  it is Common Core or gun control or the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor or the donation he made to Planned Parenthood."

Christie had come back with

I stood on the stage and watched Marco in rather indignantly, look at Governor Bush and say, someone told you that because we're running for the same office, that criticizing me will get you to that office. It appears that the same someone who has been whispering in old Marco's ear too.

Following approving laughter, Christie continued

So the indignation that you carry on, some of the stuff, you have to also own then. So let's set the facts straight. First of all, I didn't support Sonia Sotomayor. Secondly, I never wrote a check to Planned Parenthood.

Third, if you look at my record as governor of New Jersey, I have vetoed a 50-caliber rifle ban. I have vetoed a reduction this clip size. I vetoed a statewide I.D. system for gun owners and I pardoned, six out-of-state folks who came through our state and were arrested for owning a gun legally in another state so they never have to face charges.

And on Common Core, Common Core has been eliminated in New Jersey. So listen, this is the difference between being a governor and a senator. See when you're a senator, what you get to do is just talk and talk and talk. And you talk so much that nobody can ever keep up with what you're saying is accurate or not.

When you're a governor, you're held accountable for everything you do. And the people of New Jersey, I've seen it.

As a Washington Post fact checker explained in its annotated transcript of the debate, Christie has a "mixed" record on gun control and New Jersey has some of  the strongest gun safety measures in the nation.   Further, though Christie's claim about Common Core is technically accurate, he has maintained the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness  for College and Careers (PARCC) exams, described as "aligned to Common Core standards." "You keep the car. You just change the color of the paint," one New Jersey associate professor of education noted.

The term "Common Core" itself is a lightning rod for many conservatives. Therefore, eliminating the "common" while merely shifting standards has given Christie some immunity from attack. But Rubio must have known the governor has received a rating of "C" from the National Rifle Association while Rubio has in the past received an "A."  

Further, Chris Christie is on record as having remarked "President Obama has used his opportunity to fill a seat on the Supreme Court by choosing a nominee who has more than proven her capability, competence and ability." While Planned Parenthood has no record that Christie gave it a check- as a nonprofit, it doesn't disclose private donations- Christie at one time did give to Planned Parenthood, and also stated "It's no secret that I'm pro-choice."

"Your secret is safe with me," Rubio might have quipped at the earlier debate, in South Carolina, while quoting Christie from the 1994 autobiography which featured the statement (or perhaps "Chris Christie was for Planned Parenthood before he was against it"). And when asked by Chris Wallace in Iowa if he "want(s) to take anything back," he could have said "I'm true to my word. If I say something, I own up to it." He could then have drawn a contrast to Christie or, if he wanted to avoid a confrontation, immediately lapse into his discourse about the centrality of religious faith to governing.

Something, though. But he ignored the entire question because Marco Rubio is scared of Chris Christie, as have some Democratic, and many Republican, politicians in New Jersey have been so for a few years now. Yet, in a campaign in which fear of frontrunner Donald Trump has become a significant theme, no notice is taken that there is one major,viable candidate who has demonstrated that he wants to steer clear of the New Jersey governor.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

The Christian Right, By Any Other Name

Of  all the Republican presidential candidates, Ted Cruz has been most assiduously courting evangelical voters, and with considerable success.  But Senator Rubio is not willing to concede that portion of the electorate to the Texas senator, nor to anyone else. And it was less than two weeks ago that The Atlantic's outspoken and unqualifiedly atheistic Jeffrey Tayler turned his sights on Marco Rubio.

Tayler quotes, in a new campaign ad, Rubio  remarking “Our goal is eternity, the ability to live alongside our Creator and for all time, to accept the free gift of salvation offered to us by Jesus Christ.”   He responds

Our goal? Assuming Rubio is not using the “royal we” reserved for monarchs and other heads of state, he is, by speaking for the rest of us, insulting the growing atheist constituency in his electorate. We rationalists do not take lightly implicit charges of faith-derangement, which impute to our character and intellect multifarious defects (e.g., wishful thinking, a willingness to accept propositions without substantiation, the need to fear divine retribution to behave decently toward our fellows) from which we do not suffer.

Rubio maintains "Our goal is eternity, the ability to live alongside our Creator and for all time, to accept the free gift of salvation offered to us by Jesus Chris.  "The struggle,” he adds, “on a daily basis as a Christian is to remind ourselves of this.”   The ad (below) is entitled "Marco Rubio on His Christian Faith" and includes the Senator asserting "the purpose of our life is to cooperate with God’s plan” and "to those who much has been given, much is expected and we will be asked to account for that, were your treasures stored up on earth or in Heaven."

Tayler, who considers himself a  "rationalist" who does not believe "in fairy tales," concludes

You have, Senator, a constitutional right to profess belief in whatever you want. But you have no right to do so unchallenged by those tasked with ferreting out the truth and conveying it to the public. Unfortunately, though, you can broadcast such views throughout the land with little fear of being called out by journalists, who will shy away from religion as too sensitive and personal a topic.

Tayler thus far appears quite prescient, for in Thursday night's debate in Des Moines, Rubio wasn't questioned about his Christian faith, and didn't need to be.  So committed he is that when asked about Chris Christie's shift of position on gun control, Common Core, and the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, Rubio said nothing about gun control, education, the Supreme Court, or Planned Parenthood (another issue Christie has conveniently flipped on), instead replying

Yeah, I would encourage people to go on my website,, and we’ll put all the facts up there so people can see it for themselves. But you’ve just asked a very fundamental question about the role of faith in our country. And I think this is an important question. I think if you do not understand that our Judeo-Christian values are one of the reasons why America is such a special country, you don’t understand our history. You see, why are we one of the most generous people in the world — no, the most generous people in the world? Why do Americans contribute millions of dollars to charity?

It is not because of the tax writeoff. It is because in this nation, we are influenced by Judeo-Christian values that teach us to care for the less fortunate, to reach out to the needy, to love our neighbor. This is what’s made our nation so special.

And you should hope that our next president is someone that is influence by their faith. Because if your faith causes you to care for the less fortunate, it is something you want to see in your public figures. And when I’m president, I can tell you this, my faith will not just influence the way I’ll govern as president, it will influence the way I live my life. Because in the end, my goal is not simply to live on this earth for 80 years, but to live an eternity with my creator. And I will always allow my faith to influence everything I do.

There was no explanation from the Florida senator of the impact of those Judeo-Christian values upon slavery, the violent displacement of  native American tribes, or of American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II. Most of the individuals responsible for those policies also considered themselves Christian.

Asked about his electability, Rubio began his response "Well, let me be clear about one thing, there’s only one savior and it’s not me. It’s Jesus Christ who came down to earth and died for our sins." In his closing statement, Rubio was determined that potential caucus-goers recognize the appeal he was making and so stated "the bible commands us to let our light shine on the world. For over 200 years, America's light has been shining on the world and the world has never been the same again...."

Such soaring rhetoric is mostly what Rubio believes, or wants voters in Iowa to believe. But it is at least disquieting after two months ago he declared

We are clearly called, in the Bible, to adhere to our civil authorities, but that conflicts with also a requirement to adhere to God’s rules. When those two come in conflict, God’s rules always win. In essence, if we are ever ordered by a government authority to personally violate and sin, violate God’s law and sin, if we’re ordered to stop preaching the gospel, if we’re ordered to perform a same-sex marriage as someone presiding over it, we are called to ignore that. We cannot abide by that because government is compelling us to sin.

This is theocracy, defined by Merriam-Webster as "government of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as  divinely guided."  Nobody is ordering anyone to "stop preaching the gospel" or even discouraging anyone from preaching the gospel.  But when Marco Rubio decides that when civil law and what he interprets as God law conflict, "God's law" is to prevail, he is advocating a  theocracy.  And there already is too much theocracy, mostly Islamic, in the world.

John Adams argued that government should be of laws, not of men, a concept foreign to Marco Rubio, one of the media's favorite Republican "moderates."  When one claims immunity from the civil law because of alleged religious belief,  privilege has smashed a hole in the wall of separation between church and state.

Note: The initial version of this post omitted the sentence "asked about his electability...." 

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Group Of Moderates, Obama Supposes

President Obama made in his recent interview with Politico's Glenn Thrush an amazing remark which has gone largely, if not completely, unnoticed.  He stated

Well, my hope — not just for me or the Democratic Party but for the Republican Party and for America – is that this is an expression of frustration, anger that folks like Trump and, to some degree, Cruz are exploiting. It’s real within the Republican Party and the Republican base, but that after this venting, Republican voters will settle down and say, “Who do we want actually sitting behind the desk, making decisions that are critical to our future?”

Hopefully, he argues, Republican voters will settle down and say "Who do we want actually sitting behind the desk, making decisions that are critical to our future?"

The answer, for most of us Democrats- though not for President Obama- is "none of the above."

On the matters of Muslims and immigration, Donald Trump has laid down a marker, expressing views more intolerant than even his rivals hold. Of course, no GOP presidential  hopeful has advocated a path to citizenship, whether opposing or supporting legalization, the latter option useful to having Mexican immigrants work cheaply with no opportunity for public benefits or voting privileges. There is no GOP candidate who supports the Iran deal, with only John Kasich signaling he might not as President immediately terminate it.

No Republican dare say he (or she) holds anything other than an absolutist view of the Second Amendment.  Chris Christie, once the favorite "moderate" in the media and with President Obama, believes prohibiting carjackers or gangbangers from owning or purchasing a firearm is "stupid."

No GOP presidential contender prefers a more equitable tax system, one which do anything other than exacerbate income inequality. None.

Nor has anyone suggested that one of the nation's leading providers of health care services to women, Planned Parenthood, continue to receive government funding. None.  "Folks like Trump and, to some degree, Cruz," the President argues, are uniquely dangerous, a remark which probably (and justifiably) has disappointed the other leading Republican candidate, Marco Rubio.

Obviously, no one has outdone Carly Fiorina on Planned Parenthood, who insists she saw on videos, found by independent analysis to be thoroughly manipulated, what isn't there. (This at one time was called "delusional.")  Now that several state investigations have cleared the organization and a grand jury in Houston, Texas has refused to indict it

“I think it’s pretty clear that we now know what goes on in Planned Parenthood clinics,” Carly Fiorina said, reacting to the indictments on Monday. Fiorina, an outspoken promoter of deceptively edited videos by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) — whose two leaders the Houston jury incited on charges of “tampering with a governmental record” and “the purchase and sale of human organs” — has staked her campaign on the lie she told a September debate audience: The videos showed “a fully formed fetus on the table its heart beating its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”

Despite the grand jury’s two month investigation finding no evidence of such a scene, Fiorina stuck to the script. “Here’s what I know: Planned Parenthood has been trafficking in body parts. Planned Parenthood has been altering late-term abortion techniques to this specific purpose of harvesting body parts,” she told CNN

Have I mentioned how loathsome Carly Fiorina is? In all fairness, however, none of her rivals has admitted being wrong about the videos, Planned Parenthood, or contraception. She is merely the worst in a truly appalling group of individuals.  Yet, when President Obama surveys a field of candidates united in trying to instill fear among Americans, he says there is nothing to fear except a Donald Trump (or perhaps a Ted Cruz) presidency. That's Democratic President Obama, lest we forget, or pay attention to the last seven years.

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Now He Tells Us

What he says about the incumbent is true in two different ways.  President Obama recently was interviewed (photo, Glenn Baker/Redux) for podcast by Politico's Glenn Thrush and Charlie Pierce advises we "listen to the whole thing. It is going to be a very long time before we have as interesting a mind in that Oval Office as the one that's in there now."

"I think Hillary," the President stated disingenuously, "came in with the- both privilege and burden of being perceived as the frontrunner."    The advantage her campaign and her SuperPac have had, along with the oh, 70 to 1 advantage in endorsements (some actually valuable), speak to how much more of an advantage than a disadvantage frontrunner status is.

But then, Obama understandably prefers Clinton, who served him loyally as Secretary of State, and  "repeatedly praised Clinton without reservation while offering more tempered praise to the surging Sanders."

It is understandable, too, that Obama would state- without hint of irony-" you know, you're always looking at the bright, shiny object that people don't, haven't seen before. That's a disadvantage to her."  Peters realizes

You don't come from as far back as Sanders has—or, it must be said, from as far back as Senator Barack Obama did in 2008—merely as a bright, shiny object. And it's more than a little condescending to the people who are wandering through Ottumwa these days, knocking on the frigid panes of a thousand front doors, and trying to hold the line against a torrent of corporate money, a strange new line of attack that has taken on his record as a civil-rights worker back in the day with a kind of Rovian swift-boat focus, and the wrath of just about every member of the Democratic Party elite. People don't do that because they want to be in on the next new thing. They do it because they believe what the candidate is selling.

Lest we think Obama was acknowledging that he was an, oh, empty suit in 2008, the President put that wild notion to rest. Thrush asked "do you see any elements of what you were able to accomplish in what Sanders is doing" (on the campaign trail)?  After a clevely meandering response, Obama was asked "But it sounds like you're not buying the- you're not buying the sort of, the easy popular dicthotomy people are talking about,where he's an alog for you and she is herself?"  (That's a tough question, Glenn- "the easy popular dicthotomy.")

The response: "no. no" was followed by "you don't buy that, right" and "no, I don't think- I don't think that's true."

That Obama is not lying here only underscores how truly brilliant, as Peters recognizes, the President is.  "A political revolution is coming" does not even begin to compare with "change we can believe in." (And did you even know what Bernie Sanders' campaign slogan is?) People know what Bernie Sanders stands for.  What Senator Obama  stood for in 2008- given his actions as President- can only be speculated upon.

"Change we can believe in" may have included anything, and probably meant something a little different to each 2008 Obama supporter.  We know what Sanders means by a  political revolution- ending the corporate control of the political system.  This is no small matter.

Nor is it one issue, spanning a broad specturm of more specific policies. Yet, Obama argues "I don't think that Democrats are going to votefor Hillary just because she's a woman any more than they're going to vote for Bernie just because they agree wth him on one particular issue." 

Suggesting that control of the economy is "one particular issue" that Sanders is concentrating on, one no more important than than the inherited characteristic of gender, is either condescending or a disturbing case of misplaced priorities. There are still some of us who believe that presidential candidates, like people, should not be judged on the basis of race or gender. 

Peters is  right, also, that  we will not soon have "as interesting a mind in the White House." It is a mind possessed by someone sufficiently adept that, without directly endorsing a successor, he would say

I think that what Hillary presents is a recognition that translating values into governance and delivering the goods is ultimately the job of politics, making a real-life difference to people in their day-to-day lives. I don't want to exaggerate those differences, though, because Hillary is really idealistic and progressive. You'd have to be to be in, you know, the position she's in now, having fought all the battles she's fought and, you know, taken so many, you know, slings and arrows from the other side.

Barack Obama concedes "translating values into governance and delivering the goods is ultimately the job of politics," a recognition which came eight years too late.  He now criticizes the Sanders effort as "a bright, shiny object," a truly revelatory remark from someone whose own campaign eight years ago was identified by Paul Krugman as something which "seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality." 

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Establishment HRC Supporting Establishment HRC

"No more sulfurous epithet has been sounded in our current presidential campaign," writes Jack Shafer for Politico Magazine, "than the charge that a candidate, media outlet, or party represents the 'Establishment.'"

The issue recently has been especially brought into focus, Shafer explains, on both the Democratic side and the Republican side. In the latter, he notes Donald Trump wrote off the current "Against Trump' issue of the National Review as representing the establishment, after which editor Rich Lowry pointed out "The genuine Republican establishment is currently negotiating the terms of their surrender to Trump."  (Once a year or so, Lowry is right about something.)  

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders (photo below by Andrew Burton/Getty) labeled Hillary Clinton the "candidate of the Democratic establishment" and the front-runner responded by telling Wolf Blitzer her opponent has "been in Congress, he's been elected to office a lot longer than I  have."

"I'll let your viewers make their own judgement," Clinton concluded. Here is one means of determining who represents the Democratic establishment: among current Democratic governors, U.S. Representatives, and Senators, Clinton has received 202 endorsements; among the same group, Sanders has received only two, the co-chairpersons of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, one of whom was the first Muslim member of the U.S. House of Representatives.   That is in (small) part because he was until only recently not even a Democrat but an Independent, and acknowledges being a "democratic socialist," which would be a heck of a way of endearing yourself to the Establishment.

"So possessed with antiestablishmentarianist instincts is Sanders that  for a short while," Shafer recalls, " he  was even including Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign as part of an Establishment that is aligned against him." Sanders had in fact responded to endorsements of Clinton by the Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood  by charging "So, I have friends and supporters in the Human Rights Fund and Planned Parenthood. But, you know what? Hillary Clinton has been around there for a very, very long time. Some of these groups are, in fact, part of the establishment."

Let's be honest: as a politician, Senator Sanders labeled the groups as part of the establishment mostly because they had endorsed his primary rival.  Still, to be accurate: he was right about at least one of the two groups.

Shafer argues "the Establishment is not a monolith, but cleaved into at least two opposed organizations, the Democratic Establishment and the Republican Establishment." Republicans would readily charge Planned Parenthood with being part of the Democratic Establishment, a claim which would be debatable, but reasonable, unlike anything else they've said about the organization, It is, however, clearly not part of the Establishment.

Not so, however, the Human Rights Campaign, as revealed when in July, 2014 Buzzfeed reported

Some of the largest national LGBT rights groups — unified on the marriage equality fight in recent years — have begun a very public debate over a piece of another key goal: religious exemptions in employment protections.

The fight, which broke out into the open on Tuesday, is about scope of religious exemptions in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which was passed by the Senate this past fall. Notably, it comes as an executive order about employment protections is being drafted at the White House and in the wake of last week’s Supreme Court ruling in Hobby Lobby.

While the debate isn’t new, the method of raising the stakes of the debate on Tuesday was stark: Seven national organizations — including the ACLU and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force — announced in three separate statements that they were withdrawing their support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act due to its current, broad religious exemption....

In addition to the Task Force and ACLU, Lambda Legal, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Transgender Law Center, and Pride at Work all withdrew their support for ENDA on Tuesday because of that religious exemption.

Supportive lawmakers see that that ground is shifting, although they were not going so far as to oppose the legislation itself. “I am very concerned about the religious exemption in the ENDA bill that passed the Senate,” Nadler told the Blade. “I think it is overbroad and I will of course work hard with my colleagues to narrow it appropriately.” He added that his concerns were amplified by the Hobby Lobbyruling.

Merkley, in a statement to BuzzFeed, echoed Nadler’s concerns, saying, “I share concerns about the Supreme Court’s overly broad reading of religious exemptions. I will keep working with advocates and Members on both sides of the aisle to address this issue. Workplace discrimination against the LGBT community is wrong and must end.”

But there was one prominent, ostensibly pro-gay organization which did not withdraw its support, lest such civil rights stalwarts as Orrin Hatch and John McCain- who had come to favor  the legislation- be made uncomforable.  We read

Making no specific comments about the religious exemption, the Human Rights Campaign is standing by ENDA — with a spokesman telling BuzzFeed on Tuesday, “HRC supports ENDA because it will provide essential workplace protections to millions of LGBT people.”

That is one of the definitions of "Establishment."  It is an organization that is in favor of human rights but accedes to religious exemptions, a notion that discrimination is fine as long as God is for it.

There are other definitions of establishmentarian, such as, Shafer points out, a Republican serving in a Democratic Administration (Bob Gates, anyone?) Among them are supporting changes in a bill to allow some people, those claiming God is on their side, to treat some people different than others; and garnering the support of something like 97% of all prominent Americans in your run for the presidency. Bernie Sanders has a point.

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Look No Further Than Philadelphia

There are many reasons Donald Trump is leading the Republican presidential race. Among them is attitude. Trump isn't any more conservative than the other guys and gal, but he has attitude.

Conservative attiutde includes periodic reference to "political correctness."  At one debate, Trump stated "I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people and I don’t, frankly, have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time, either."

There are innumerable examples of political correctness- liberal, conservative, centrist, or non-ideological, though it's only the liberal sort which sets Republican voters on edge. That would include a recent event at one of the two Philadelphia, Pa. FM sports talk show stations. Well-known Philadelphia sports blog "Crossing Broad" described the response on the afternoon show on WIP to a news conference featuring the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles after he had fired the team's head coach:

Josh Innes, talking to Hollis Thomas, who is black, about Jason Kelce, who was in attendance at the press conference:

Innes: “Jason Kelce’s already there, huh? That’s … uh … I’ll give Jason Kelce this, he’s always in character. He never breaks character. His character is: lapdog for whoever the hell the coach is. And he is always … He’s at the press conference, huh? Good for him, bless his heart.”

Thomas: “Actually I don’t really blame him because he’s a guy who wants a job.”

Innes: “Here’s the thing though, right, it’s like this. Let me find a good comparison here. I was watching Malcolm X yesterday, I was in the airport in Memphis watching Malcolm X, and there was a scene where Denzel’s doing the whole thing about the slave and the house negro? Right? And like, the house negro is the guy who’s gonna tell you like, oh he gets to live in the big house with the boss and every time he refers to something that happens in the house it’s ‘our house’ and ‘we’ and everything like that. And then there’s the actual slave that isn’t the house negro that’s just trying to run away. Essentially what you’re getting here is Jason Kelce is the house negro is what I’m trying to convey to you.”

Thomas: *laughter*

Innes: “That’s essentially Jason Kelce’s job: ‘Yessir. Yes boss. Absolutely boss. Yes, sir boss.’ That is Jason Kelce, he is, whoever the head coach is gonna be, he’s gonna be all over that head coach. There’s no arguing, there’s no fussing, there’s no fighting, he’s in with that guy,"

Later in the show, Innes apologized, not only referring to himself as stupid, a moron, and an idiot, but also seemingly criticizing the analogy.  And then he was suspended for three days with the station contending "comments made by Josh Innes during his WIP-FM program yesterday in regards to Eagles center Jason Kelce were inappropriate and unacceptable,. We do not condone or approve of those comments.”

Crossing Broad informs us “'House Negro' (also “House N*gger”) is a pejorative term for a black person, used to compare someone to a house slave of a slave owner from the historic period of legal slavery in the United States."   It originated with the late Malcolm X, who never, as far as I can remembe,r was criticized for use of the word "n_ _ _ _ _," nor for his explanation.

Innes, as the transcript indicates, never even used the "n-word."  Nor does he suggest inferiority of African-Americans.  Nor does WIP indicate that anything Innes said was invalid, perhaps because defending then-head coach Andy Reid was one of Jason Kelce's roles.

But that's how it is with political correctness. The right, which has cornered the term, finds it advantageous to refer to only those things it dislikes as "politically correct." Consider the phrase carefully, however, and the conclusion may be reached that a defining characteristic is that accuracy or truth is irrelevant. And that, sports fans, is one of the reasons Donald Trump's candidacy has caught fire.

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Flailing Away At Trump

There is no stand-up comedy routine that can compete with the arguments of the conservatives who took part in National Review's recent "The Case Against Trump" (although a fellow named Reno makes a little sense).

Take Hoover Institution senior fellow Thomas Sowell, whom Republicans long have relished pointing out as a black conservative and intellectual. Uncertain whether Donald Trump or Barack Obama is more of a Nazi, he writes

No national leader ever aroused more fervent emotions than Adolf Hitler did in the 1930s. Watch some old newsreels of German crowds delirious with joy at the sight of him. The only things at all comparable in more recent times were the ecstatic crowds that greeted Barack Obama when he burst upon the political scene in 2008.

That's from an "intellectual," although as Gary Legum points out, conservative intellectual is on the same level as the oxymoron "jumbo shrimp;" or as Charlie Pierce writes, "yes, expanding healthcare and invading Poland, virtually the same thing."

Dana Loesch writes "Dissent used to be 'patriotic' — until the Obama administration used its alphabet agencies to persecute groups such as True the Vote and deny conservative organizations nonprofit status."  Truly frightening the number of conservative groups which lost their non-profit status, a number approaching one.

There was at least one liberal group, the Maine chapter of Emerge America, which did lose its non-profit status, while we await conservatives identifying one conservative group met the same fate. "You can see Dana being oppressed pretty regularly on CNN these days," Pierce remarks, "Give me phony tax breaks or give me death!"

Among those groups investigated, and not "persecuted," were those with "9/12" in their name, which fairly shouts Glenn Beck!, who started the "9/12" movement.  Glenn Beck's contribution to the NR issue included condemning Trump for supporting the "three policies" constituting the "endless fractures in the fa├žade of individual freedom," which he identified as "the stimulus, the auto bailouts, and the bank bailouts."  Surely, there is nothing that defines authoritarianism better than putting 1-3 million more Americans to work, and afterward saving the American automobile industry. And when Beck starts supporting Dodd-Frank (or a strengthening of the legislation) or a breakup of the big banks, we'll all lose consciousness from uncontrollable laughter.

That's no more foolish, however, than the remarks of Federalist publisher Ben Domenech who as a frequent guest on MSNBC's "All In," Chris Hayes appears to find credible. Domenech believes

President Obama’s core domestic-policy agenda was designed to pull working- and middle-class voters left. It assumed that once they received the government’s redistributive largesse, they would be invested in maintaining it — and maintaining the Left in power. Trump’s rise bespeaks the utter failure of this program for the American working class: They have seen the Left’s agenda up close and do not believe it is good enough to make a nation great.

You know about that "government largesse," in which under our socialist President, the top 1% captured over 99% of all income gains generated in the USA from 2009-2012 (graphs, top .1% wealth share in the USA. over time and comparison of wealth among the richest over time, from Saez and Zucman). And it's where the federal minimum wage, stuck at $7.25 per hour since 2009, is worth $4.82 in constant 1996 dollars.

Arguably the most common theme which emerges from the opinions published by the NR is that Trump does not represent traditonal conservative values. The libertarian vice president of the Cato Institute, David Boaz, noted Trump's authoritarian tendencies. However, in a similar vein to Sean Hannity, who once implicitly compared the 40th President to Jesus Christ in his "What Would Reagan Do" campaign, Boaz also wrote

Not since George Wallace has there been a presidential candidate who made racial and religious scapegoating so central to his campaign. Trump launched his campaign talking about Mexican rapists and has gone on to rant about mass deportation, bans on Muslim immigration, shutting down mosques, and building a wall around America. America is an exceptional nation in large part because we’ve aspired to rise above such prejudices and guarantee life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to everyone....

I think we can say that this is a Republican campaign that would have appalled Buckley, Goldwater, and Reagan.

Reagan-love strikes again.  Law professor and author Ian Haney-Lopez explains

Reagan’s race-baiting continued when he moved to national politics. After securing the Republican nomination in 1980, Reagan launched his official campaign at a county fair just outside Philadelphia, Mississippi, the town still notorious in the national imagination for the Klan lynching of civil rights volunteers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner 16 years earlier. Reagan selected the location on the advice of a local official, who had written to the Republican National Committee assuring them that the Neshoba County Fair was an ideal place for winning “George Wallace inclined voters.” Neshoba did not disappoint. The candidate arrived to a raucous crowd of perhaps 10,000 whites chanting “We want Reagan! We want Reagan!”—and he returned their fevered embrace by assuring them, “I believe in states’ rights.” In 1984, Reagan came back, this time to endorse the neo-Confederate slogan “the South shall rise again"....

Reagan also trumpeted his racial appeals in blasts against welfare cheats. On the stump, Reagan repeatedly invoked a story of a “Chicago welfare queen” with “eighty names, thirty addresses, [and] twelve Social Security cards [who] is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.” Often, Reagan placed his mythical welfare queen behind the wheel of a Cadillac, tooling around in flashy splendor. Beyond propagating the stereotypical image of a lazy, larcenous black woman ripping off society’s generosity without remorse.

Libertarians are like that. As long as the stereotypes don't include "black" or "white," no harm is intended. For that matter, most conservatives have come a long way- tactically- since the tim Lee Atwater used "Ni_ _ _ _ freely to describe GOP strategy. Even without the overt appeal to bigotry, however, the National Review symposium is, as Pierce put it, "the '27 Yankees of bad ideas."

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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Not For Votes

On Tuesday, a class action lawsuit was to be filed against Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and others, the National Guard was being brought in to Flint, and the mayor of the Michigan city was meeting with White House super-aide Valerie Jarrett.  Mayor Karen Weaver would urge declaration of an emergency in her city to obtain direct federal aid. Media Matters reported that Fox News host Heather Nauert, concerned it might be approved, responded "well, this is a way they could potentially get more black votes in the coming election" (video, below).

Not to worry, Ms. Nauert. The Republican Party will not cease its effort to prevent black people from voting.

There are several reasons drinking lead is not a good thing, one of which- its connection to crime- Bill Maher helpfully pointed out on Friday's Real Time.   Kevin Drum, relying on the research of Rick Nevin (graphs below, his) and others, has done groundbreaking report on the impact upon the youthful brain of lead and the strong evidence in the USA and abroad, of a link between lead and crime.

It so happens, additionally, that one skeptic of the theory has inadvertently contributed to substantiating it.  In April, 2014 Mark Kleiman quoted Duke University's Phil Cook writing

My skepticism about the “lead removal” explanation for the crime drop stems from the same source as my skepticism about the Donohue-Levitt explanation in terms of abortion legalization. They have an exact parallel to the previous explanations for the surge in violence of the late ‘80s by John DiIulio and others. The focus in both cases is the character of the kids – the belief that during the 80s the teens were getting “worse,” and during the 90s they were getting “better.” Even a fairly casual glance at the data demonstrates that whatever the cause of the crime surge, and then the crime drop, it was not associated with particular cohorts. It was an environmental effect – 10 cohorts were swept up in the crime surge simultaneously, and the drop has the same correlated pattern.

Except: no. Crime rates for youth and for adults increased separately and dropped separately.   Using data through 2012, Nevins noted

... the declining prison population reflects plummeting incarceration rates for young adults, offset by higher rates for older adults. These incarceration trends result from arrest rate trends by age, caused by earlier preschool lead exposure trends. From 2002 to 2012, the incarceration rate fell 51% for men ages 18-19, 30% for men ages 20-24, and 21% for men ages 25-29. ...

The aging prison population is partly due to longer sentences, but mostly reflects arrest rate trends by age. From 1992-2012, violent crime (murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) arrest rates fell 61% for ages 10-17, 51% for ages 18-19, and 42% for ages 20-29, but increased by 11% for ages 45-54.

There are a bunch of reasons for getting the lead out, and for the federal government to assist the State of Michigan and the city of Flint in switching to safe water.  If Nauer and other conservatives don't want to see this happen, they're going to have to do a lot better than complaining that Democrats are eager for votes from blacks.

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Friday, January 22, 2016

Feminists Who Want The State To Control Womens' Bodies

"Nearly half a century after Roe v. Wade," Carlos Maza of Media Matters writes (with the accompanying video), "news coverage of abortion stories continues to be plagued by negative and damaging stereotypes about the procedure. Those stereotypes are the product of 'abortion stigma,' and they pose a real threat to accurate abortion coverage."

The best way to combat abortion stigma is through personal stories of courageous women who have had abortions and are willing to talk about them. In the meantime, the neo-liberal Vox strikes a blow against womens' autonomy with articles like the one by former Roman Catholic missionary Claire Swinarski  on the occasion of the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

Swinarski contends "Family leave and child care access are areas where the feminist and pro-life agendas perfectly intersect: Better policies are good for women, and could help reduce the perceived need for abortion." No need to belabor the reality that most of the anti-choice base (arguably) opposes family leave and child care access while most anti-choice politicians (inarguably) oppose family leave and child care access.

Similarly, Swinarski recommends "society" find "ways to tackle these (social) structures at their base and try to realize why exactly so many African-American women find themselves in a situation where they don't have the resources to make it through a pregnancy and potentially adoption or parenthood."

We don't have to look too hard; we've known about them for quite some time. They include discrimination, low pay, insufficient public transportation and funding for schools in poor communities, and other policies typically favored by the vast majority of anti-choice politicians, most of whom are Republicans.

Other factors include inadequate sex education and restricted access to contraceptives. Curiously, the same Swinarski who bleeds concern for "African-American women (who) find themselves in a (difficult) situation" reveals she "joined the pro-life campus group at my liberal state school. We prayed outside of a Planned Parenthood (after hours)."  Protesting an organization dedicated to availing women of birth control, information about pregnancy, and health care is bizarre behavior for a self-proclaimed "feminist."

Citing Madeleine Albright and J.K. Rowling, Swinarski notes "Mothers — successful, thriving mothers — are everywhere." Pro-choice advocates, however, have never denied that mothers can be successful. (And unlike Swinarski, they probably know of more than two.) The issue is one of choice and of reproductive freedom.

"Humans have free will," she  argues, and "society projects a moral code on people every day."  Equality, free will, moral code: then she assures us "we have no interest in legal punishment for women who've had abortions."   Evidently, we need to condone ending what they consider a life, but without any consequences for the person responsible for the decision.  For Swinarski, there is a question of how much she truly respects women. For her fellow travelers, there is a question whether they truly believe the fetus is a life.

Swinarski is right when she maintains March for Life marchers "are not just conservative, mindless drones." But if "they support women," as Swinarski claims, and she is the feminist she claims to be, I'm a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

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Only The Beginning

On January 18, as introduction to his interview of Michigan governor Rick Snyder, the National Journal's Ron Fournier wrote

The slow and pos­sibly deadly pois­on­ing of Flint, a hard-bit­ten in­dus­tri­al town of nearly 100,000, began in April 2014, when the city switched its wa­ter source from De­troit to the Flint River to save money. Res­id­ents’ con­cerns were ig­nored for 19 months un­til in­de­pend­ent tests by Vir­gin­ia Tech and a loc­al hos­pit­al re­vealed dan­ger­ous levels of lead ex­pos­ure.

Only then did Michigan’s en­vir­on­ment­al agency ad­mit to vi­ol­at­ing fed­er­al reg­u­la­tions re­quir­ing the treat­ment of Flint’s wa­ter to avoid cor­ro­sion of the city’s an­cient wa­ter pipes, a lapse that caused the lead pois­on­ing. The fate­ful de­cision to switch Flint’s wa­ter source was made by an emer­gency city man­ager ap­poin­ted by Snyder.

In early 2015, months be­fore the lead pois­on­ing was pub­licly an­nounced, an ana­lyst at the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency dis­covered dan­ger­ous levels of lead in Flint’s wa­ter. An appointee of President Obama forbade the results from being released to the public.

Presumably, we've now determined who that appointee is, for on Thursday we learned

The Environmental Protection Agency's regional administrator for Flint, Michigan, has resigned, the agency said in a statement Thursday.

"EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman has offered her resignation effective February 1, and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has accepted given Susan's strong interest in ensuring that EPA Region 5's focus remains solely on the restoration of Flint's drinking water," the agency said.

In late June, then-Flint Mayor Dayne Walling wrote to Hedman, seeking information about the issue of lead in Flint's drinking water. She essentially shot him down in her response.

"The preliminary draft report should not have been released outside the agency. When the report has been revised and fully vetted by EPA management, the findings and recommendations will be shared with the City and MDEQ (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) -- and MDEQ will be responsible for following up with the City," Hedman wrote.

She had also fallen under fire for allegedly retaliating against EPA employees involved in investigating sexual harassment cases.

President Obama now has pledged $80 million to the state of Michigan for improving its water-related infrastructure.  That is a good start, as is the resignation of the official who apparently kept scientific findings from the public for several months, during which lead exposure to the citizens of Flint (Flint River from Bill Pugliano/Getty Images, below) continued to rise.  It is now time for the media to begin to hold accountable Governor Snyder, his appointees, and the GOP-controlled legislature for their role in destroying one of Michigan's cities.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

In The Manner Of Speaking

On Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh needed to explain away the endorsement by a woman he admires, Sarah Palin, for a candidate he continually defends but does not support for the GOP's presidential nomination. He observed

The point is that if conservatism were this widely understood, deeply held belief system that united conservatives and united people as conservatives, then outsiders like Trump wouldn't stand a prayer of getting support from people.  Yet he is.  Therefore, it's safe to conclude that there are other things at play here that make people conservative.  And look, I'm gonna go back to it. 

The thing that's in front of everybody's face and it's apparently so hard to believe, it's this united, virulent opposition to the left and the Democrat Party and Barack Obama.  And I, for the life of me, don't know what's so hard to understand about that.

For much of the Republican base, feeling has always been paramount. The candidate needs to feel the grievances he or she does, and must express it well, as do Trump and Palin. Logic and evidence are optional, and generally nowhere in sight.

Akin to that is the sense that the candidate cares about what they themselves care about or feel. The leading GOP candidate stated (segment below) at Libery University "Two Corinthians, 3:17. That's the whole ballgame. 'Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. And here is liberty." There was a bit of chuckling, and later a little ridicule, because Trump referred to "Two Corinthians" rather than "Second Corinthians."

Less discussed was Trump's remark, in reference to 2 Corinthians 3:17, "Is that the one? Is that the one you like? I think that's the one you liked, because I love it."

Here is Trump at his Trumpest- telling people he's pandering to them.  It was similar to his irreverent pronouncement while campaigning in August in Birch Run, Michigan that The Art of the Deal was only "my second favorite book of all time. Do you know what my first is? The Bible! Nothing beats the Bible."

Perhaps Trump was channeling the '80s commercials with the tagline "Nobody beats the WIZ" because no evangelical ever will compare the Bible to any book. If you believe it is divinely inspired, it is incomparable, in a category of its own, not unlike Aaron Rodgers as a quarterback. Or maybe even unlike that.

But they love the pander, as reflected in the remark of a Liberty University senior "I think the fact that he's putting forth an effort to relate to us is omething decent." Translated: He may not believe it, but at least he cares enough about us that he's saying what he knows we want to hear.

They have to like the effort, because he doesn't talk like they do.  In Michigan, it was "nothing beats the Bible." In Lynchburg, it was "Two Corinthians." Also, in Lynchburg it was "I'm a Protestant. I'm very proud of it. Presbyterian, to be exact.  But I'm very proud of it; very, very proud of it."

Few people (outside of Northern Ireland) refer to themselves these days as "Protestant." Roman Catholics may refer to themselves as "Catholic" and some Catholics (and possibly Orthodox Christians) as well as many Protestants refer to themselves as "Christian." But "Protestant?" Sad to say- as Trump would word it- very, very few.

Having declared himself "Protestant," it was a wise move to add the sect, Presbyterianism.  Still, not many Americans confess to being proud of their religious affiliation, especially if passed on to them by their parents. They may assert pride in their Christian faith or belief but rarely admit to pride in being Catholic or Protestant. If not politically incorrect, it is sociologically incorrect. But then as Trump would proudly assert, there is nothing correct or conventional about his campaign.

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Racism Only One Factor In Opportunity Gap

Critical of Bernie Sanders, the Atlantic's Ta-Neheisi Coates has made a fine argument for the nomination, and election, of the Vermont senator.

Those familiar with the writing of Coates recognize him as a fervent advocate of reparations for African-Americans.  Sanders was asked last week at a forum in Iowa whether he supports "reparations for slavery" and according to Coates responded

No, I don’t think so. First of all, its likelihood of getting through Congress is nil. Second of all, I think it would be very divisive. The real issue is when we look at the poverty rate among the African American community, when we look at the high unemployment rate within the African American community, we have a lot of work to do.

So I think what we should be talking about is making massive investments in rebuilding our cities, in creating millions of decent paying jobs, in making public colleges and universities tuition-free, basically targeting our federal resources to the areas where it is needed the most and where it is needed the most is in impoverished communities, often African American and Latino.

This reply did not satisfy Coates, not in the least. He argues

This is the “class first” approach, originating in the myth that racism and socialism are necessarily incompatible. But raising the minimum wage doesn’t really address the fact that black men without criminal records have about the same shot at low-wage work as white men with them; nor can making college free address the wage gap between black and white graduates. Housing discrimination, historical and present, may well be the fulcrum of white supremacy. Affirmative action is one of the most disputed issues of the day. Neither are addressed in the “racial justice” section of Sanders platform.

Sanders’s anti-racist moderation points to a candidate who is not merely against reparations, but one who doesn’t actually understand the argument. To briefly restate it, from 1619 until at least the late 1960s, American institutions, businesses, associations, and governments—federal, state, and local—repeatedly plundered black communities. Their methods included everything from land-theft, to red-lining, to disenfranchisement, to convict-lease labor, to lynching, to enslavement, to the vending of children. So large was this plunder that America, as we know it today, is simply unimaginable without it. Its great universities were founded on it. Its early economy was built by it. Its suburbs were financed by it.Its deadliest war was the result of it.

Coates' argument fails on several accounts (not all of which will be addressed here) and begins with his assertion that the "class first" approach originates "in the myth that racism and socialism are necessarily incompatible."

Sanders, who has not denied nor embraced the "socialist" label, has never alleged that racism and socialism are necessarily incompatible. It is not an issue, nor should it be. Instead, he realizes that as someone's economic circumstances improve, her socio-economic class- or at least the perception of her socio-economic class- is elevated.  At that point, white people (presumably, hispanics and Asians also, though they are missing from an analysis which presumes all Americans are of either European or African descent) perceive the individual differently.

That is dramatically true of the perception of black people by white people. Some of that derives, unfortunately, from surprise that a black can make it so far. However, it may emanate also from a sincere appreciation of the individual's achievements or a recognition that the latter now is on the same (usually, middle class) level as the white person.  In either case, if the material aspects of a person's situation is improved, racism directed toward her diminishes.

It shouldn't be necessary to inform the author of that; but on planet Coates, it is. It shouldn't be necessary, either, to explain to Coates that not all white communities are extremely advantaged.  In fact, there is as much- nay, more- deviation among white communities as there is on average between white and black communities. Remind Coates that whites constitute a plurality of the poor people in the USA (table from U.S. Census via Institute for Policy Studies), and his narrative suffers further.

Efforts to reduce income inequality among all Americans, however, is of little interest to Coates, who contends "raising the minimum wage doesn’t really address the fact that black men without criminal records have about the same shot at low-wage work as white men with them; nor can making college free address the wage gap between black and white graduates."

Blacks comprise a disproportionate number of people being paid the minimum wage. It may not mean much to Ta-Nehisi Coates, but raising an individual's pay from $7.25 per hour- the federal minimum wage- to $15.00 an hour (as advocated by Sanders) would mean a great deal.  It would still be "low-wage work"; but low-wage work is a little more tolerable when the wage isn't so low.

Similarly, there are many blacks, especially young blacks, for whom college would be affordable only if free, or nearly so.    Not only would their employment and income prospects benefit, but as there are more, hence more successful, black graduates the good old boy white network would be eroded.  The wage gap thus is addressed, and far more effectively than blaming white racism.

Were "racism" as much a priority for Coates as he implies, his solution would not be reparations. Not only would it obviously be divisive- as Sanders recognizes- but would do little or nothing to address racism itself. Wage inequality and discrimination, in employment, housing, and elsewhere, are more important targets.  Sanctions against disparate treatment have a way of focusing the mind.

There is also an issue, a huge issue, of process with reparations.  Determining who gets what and when is a nearly insurmountable problem. It shouldn't escape our attention either that most of the victims of racism and/or discrimination are deceased, as are most of the perpetrators.  It's unfortunate that the latter cannot be held accountable. It's also unfortunate that quarterback Peyton Manning, before the decline in his throwing arm, never enjoyed the exceptional defense the Denver Broncos now possess.  Alas, sometimes the clock cannot be turned back.

Coates deserves credit, nonetheless, for being fair-minded. A more biased individual would not have quoted Bernie Sanders in full, which may have prevented wide distribution of a quote which demonstrates the importance of electing Bernard Sanders President.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

This Goes Well Beyond Race

"Well Lester," the leading Democratic candidate said Sunday night in South Carolina in a debate strategically scheduled by Debbie Wasserman Schultz to discourage viewership,

I spent a lot of time last week being outraged by what’s happening in Flint, Michigan and I think every single American should be outraged. We’ve had a city in the United States of America where the population which is poor in many ways and majority African American has been drinking and bathing in lead contaminated water. And the governor of that state acted as though he didn’t really care.

He had request for help and he had basically stone walled. I’ll tell you what, if the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it, there would’ve been action.

That's doubtful, but moot.  Neither children in rich suburbs in Detroit, nor children in any rich community in Michigan, has to put up with this.

Writing for MSNBC in March of 2013, Ned Resnikoff explained how democratically-elected mayors and city councils are "neutered" by the State of Michigan, which since 1990 has had the authority to assign Emergency Financial Managers to downtrodden municipalities and cash-bereft school districts. In 2011 the GOP-controlled legislature passed, and Republican governor Rick Snyder signed, Public Act 4, which was later repealed in a referendum but replaced with the nearly-identical Public Act 36. Though

Ostensibly a mechanism for rescuing insolvent Michigan cities and school districts from the brink of bankruptcy, the Emergency Management system has turned into a way for unelected officials to break up public sector unions, privatize public services, and drastically shrink the size of municipal governments. Currently, five Michigan cities are being administered by emergency managers—all of whom were appointed by the state’s Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board (ELB).

When a city fails to meet certain financial benchmarks, the state can step in.

“Basically, there’s a set of conditions that trigger this law, things like missing a payroll or bound default,” Michigan State University economist Eric Scorsone told msnbc. A state review team then examines the city or school districts’ financial health for the governor, who then decides whether a financial emergency has taken place. The governor and state treasurer then determine whether “local officials have the wherewithal to enact a plan,” Scorsone said.

Several Michigan municipalities have fallen under control of an emergency manager, who has assumed greater power since the most recent law was put into effect 36 months ago. It has disproportionately encumbered black citizens more than white; however, the chance to rip up labor contracts, sell public assets, and impose new taxes has been a far greater incentive than any effort to disadvantage African-Americans.

This program of austerity has included unlimited opportunity to cut spending by an emergency manager, who may serve for up to 18 months.  In Flint, the decision to switch water supply to the Flint river was signed by emergency manager Ed Kurtz, who was replaced by Darnell Earley (on right in photo- from the Flint Journal- below, with the city Department of Public Works director). Earley was in charge in Flint, as state Democrats noted, "when the decision was made to switch the city to unsafe drinking water." He later "toasted the switch to the river with city leaders in a ceremony in April 2014," Resnikoff reported.

Contrary to the spirit of the law, Earley was replaced by a new emergency manager when he resigned after 17 months and 29 days, whereupon he was rewarded for spectacular management by being appointed emergency manager of the 36,000-student Detroit public school system.

The Flint River, reports CNN, had a "reputation for nastiness" and even after Virginia Tech researchers found the water was very corrosive the state Department of Environmental Quality didn't treat the water for corrosion.

The city in October switched back to Lake Huron for its water supply but the impact upon the brains of children from lead caused by corrosion of the pipes leading from the Flint river will grow greater in the years ahead.  Learning disabilities, mental health issues, and crime will grow exponentially. Eventually, there will be an article in The New York Times, and nowhere else, examining the issue.

In one manner or another, Governor Snyder should be removed his position, as both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders advocate.  (Republican politicians and donors, of course, have little issue with anything that has gone on.)  The problem, however, goes deeper than that, with the concept of the all-powerful manager being hatched at the Mackinaw Center, a right-wing think tank associated with the Heritage Foundation and one of whose major donors is the Charles G. Koch Foundation.
It's about austerity, union-busting, privatization, about exploiting citizens for the wealthy and the well-connected.  If most of the victims are black, so be it.  It is the conservative movement at play.

When the leading Democratic presidential contender- on the eve of Martin Luther King Day- implied that it's primarily about race, she may have been merely pandering to voters in a state in which without blacks, the Democratic Party could meet in a phone booth.  If she was really serious, however, the water ingested in Flint, Michigan is not our biggest problem.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Father, Son, And Barack Obama

Hillary Clinton hit Bernie Sanders hard on the issue of gun control in their debate (recap, below) Sunday in Charleston, South Carolina.

That was wise because, ideologically, she has nothing else. She does, obviously, have undying devotion to Barack Obama, conspicuously (and justifiably) missing some eight years ago. Now, she says of her primary rival

he’s criticized President Obama for taking donations from Wall Street, and President Obama has led our country out of the great recession. Senator Sanders called him weak, disappointing. He even, in 2011, publicly sought someone to run in a primary against President Obama. Now, I personally believe that President Obama’s work to push through the Dodd-Frank...

If you're defending President Obama's record on Wall Street reform, you've checked your progressive credentials (on that issue) at the door. Understandably, Clinton was more effusive about Obama on health care when she told Sanders

You know, I have to say I’m not sure whether we’re talking about the plan you just introduced tonight, or we’re talking about the plan you introduced nine times in the Congress. But the fact is, we have the Affordable Care Act. That is one of the greatest accomplishments of President Obama, of the Democratic Party, and of our country....

But, with all due respect, to start over again with a whole new debate is something that I think would set us back. The Republicans just voted last week to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and thank goodness, President Obama vetoed it and saved Obamacare for the American people.

The undercurrent to the Republican campaign is: Jesus saves! For the Clinton campaign, it's: Obama saves!  Thank goodness for the man with the courage to veto abolition of his own health care program and to protect the Masters of the Universe for destroying the nation's economy.

It's high praise and regard for the man whom, Bill Maher notes, "cut taxes on 98 percent of Americans. He cut the deficit by two-thirds. He reduced the size of government, which is something that Bush and Reagan never did. " And it leads to some strange remarks, such as when Mrs. Clinton attacked Senator Sanders because

He voted to let guns go onto the Amtrak, guns go into National Parks. He voted against doing research to figure out how we can save lives. Let’s not forget what this is about, 90 people a day die from gun violence in our country. That’s 33,000 people a year.

Oh, dear. Someone else was in favor of allowing guns in National Parks.  Tom Murse at US Politics wrote eleven months ago

In fact, Obama signed only two major laws that address how guns are carried in America, and both actually expand the rights of gun owners.

One of the laws allows gun owners to carry weapons in national parks; that law took effect in February 2012 and replaced President Ronald Reagan's policy of required guns be locked in glove compartments of trunks of car that enter national parks.

Another gun law signed by Obama allows Amtrak passengers to carry guns in checked baggage, a move that reversed a measure put in place after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Obama often mentions the expansion of gun rights under those two laws.

He wrote in 2011:

"In this country, we have a strong tradition of gun ownership that's handed from generation to generation. Hunting and shooting are part of our national heritage. And, in fact, my administration has not curtailed the rights of gun owners - it has expanded them, including allowing people to carry their guns in national parks and wildlife refuges."

Since then, of course, Barack Obama has gotten much better, especially in funding the FBI to hire more than 230 individuals to accelerate background checks on purchases of firearms. German Lopez at Vox explains

An equally big problem is that the system of background checks is notoriously underfunded, understaffed, and underresourced. Although there are no waiting periods under federal law, a check that turns out inconclusive can be extended for three business days. But these three days are a maximum for the government — and sometimes the three days lapse without the FBI completing its check, and a buyer can at that point purchase a gun without the completed check.

President Obama has acted far more decisively in his second term than in his first in targeting gun violence. But the idea that he has unequivocally pursued sufficiently progressive aims throughout his presidency- whether on firearm safety, health care, financial reform, privacy rights, or a host of other matters- is absurd.  Even someone who practically refers to President Obama as a deity should recognize that.

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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...