Saturday, July 31, 2010

Primary Calculations

Whenever a Democratic officeholder betrays the cause, I am always the first to shout "Primary the fucker!" But Jon Walker uses a current republican primary to illuminate the multiple contradictory factors involved in primaries.

Staunch conservative Christine O’Donnell is challenging Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE at large) for the Republican nomination for the Delaware Senate seat formerly held by Joe Biden. Despite Castle being the establishment choice with a good chance of winning in a blue state, O’Donnell has lined up impressive endorsements from powerful conservative organizations, including the Susan B. Anthony List, Tea Party Express and Concerned Women for America. Seeing conservatives wrestle with which candidate is the best choice for advancing their policy goals is a great way for the progressive community to understand the policy and economics of primary challenges.


Understanding how and when primary challenges are effective for advancing the policy of a group of activists is not always easy. There are many factors at play and some are very hard to quantify. How much value different groups put on certain issues and how likely they think a challenger is to win the general election will affect support for a primary challenge.

Understanding these factors and judging them properly can be difficult when you are on the “inside” and emotionally wrapped up in the issues and elections. Progressives should take a dispassionate look at the policy economics at play in the primary challenges of conservative activists, and learn lessons to apply to their own plans.

Read the whole thing.

But keep in mind that this kind of super-practical calculation is not the only way to evaluate a primary challenge. Nor is electing a reliable party vote the only possible goal.

Primary challenges can be wake-up calls for entrenched incumbents. They can be tools for grassroots recruiting. And they can be expressions of populist democracy.

The key is to know what your real goal is, and allocate resources accordingly.

Still No Plan for Getting Past the Bullies

Not even a plea to voters to elect congress critters who will allow these plans to become reality.

President Obama still seems to be waiting for the Bipartisanship Fairy to appear and sprinkle Cooperation Dust over the repugs and Blue Dogs. Give it up, Barack; the only thing they understand is force.

I know times are tough. I know that the progress we’ve made isn’t good enough for the millions of Americans who are still out of work or struggling to pay the bills. But I also know the character of this nation. I know that in times of great challenge and difficulty, we don’t fear the future – we shape the future. We harness the skills and ingenuity of the most dynamic country on Earth to reach a better day. We do it with optimism, and we do it with confidence. That’s the spirit we need right now, and that’s the future I know we can build together.

Full transcript here.

Save the Economy: Support Right to Rent

The real crime of the repug refusal to permit any kind of financial relief for people suffering from the Drecession is that the harm is not just to those lazy, undeserving, probably dusky folks unable to land jobs that don't exist, unable to afford overpriced health insurance, unable to stop the con artists who tricked them into booby-trapped mortgages from foreclosing their homes.

The harm is far greater. When people stop buying things because they are unemployed, sick and homeless, the entire economy suffers. Which brings us to the Right to Rent.

Down with Tyranny:

The Obama Administration's somewhat tepid HAMP program isn't working and millions of families are still facing foreclosures by avaricious bankers. Rep. Grijalva's bill would let foreclosed families stay in their homes as renters at a fair market rate set by a judge. If banks don't want to become landlords, they would have incentives to renegotiate the terms of the mortgage. The foreclosure crisis needs exactly this kind of creative, common-sense solution, and the Congressman has been out in front on this issue from the beginning. Dean Baker's Center for Economic and Policy Research called the bill "one of the most efficient and simple ways to help millions of families facing foreclosure remain in their homes."

It would increase the bargaining power and security of homeowners by temporarily changing the rules on foreclosure and allowing homeowners to remain in their homes as renters for a substantial period or time. During this time, homeowners would pay the market rent for the home as determined by an independent assessment.

"Right to Rent immediately gives the homeowner security in their home. They will be allowed to stay there for a substantial period of time, allowing their children to stay in their schools and families to prepare for and plan their future moves," said Baker in his testimony on Wednesday. "Right to Rent also would make foreclosure much less attractive to investors. This gives investors more incentive to modify loans on their own, without the involvement of the government."

David Dayen explains the longer-term harm of HAMP:

Simply put, HAMP is hurting liberalism. It’s putting a face of bureaucratic incompetence on a program designed to help people. It’s making the lives of its participants worse while promising to make it better. It’s adding to their indebtedness and failing to reduce their principal.

Read the whole thing.

Then Call or email your members of Congress and tell them to support the Right to Rent.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Fight the Catfood Commission with Facts and Reality

How do you fight a conspiracy to destroy Social Security and with it the American middle class? With a coalition dedicated to calling out the motherfucking liars for lying about fucking their mothers.

From Firedoglake:

Today, a coalition of 50 organizations dedicated to ensuring no benefit cuts to Social Security launched in Washington. The coalition, including top labor unions, progressive groups like and Democracy for America, and a host of others, released seven principles that will guide their policy prescriptions:

1) Social Security did not cause the federal deficit; its benefits should not be cut to reduce the deficit.

2) Social Security should not be privatized in whole or in part.

3) Social Security should not be means-tested.

4) Congress should act in the coming few years to close Social Security’s funding gap by requiring those who are most able to afford it to pay somewhat more.

5) Social Security’s retirement age, already scheduled to increase from 65 to 67, should not be raised further.

6) Social Security’s benefits should not be reduced, including by changes to the COLA or the benefit formula.

7) Social Security’s benefits should be increased for those who are most disadvantaged.

Members of the coalition gave an aggressive presentation on their opposition to benefit cuts or raising the retirement age (which AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka called a benefit cut today) at their National Press Club launch. And to back this up, coalition member today released a debunking of five Social Security myths. (See below)


Needless to say, these are all ridiculous, but even progressives who don’t pay careful attention to the debate could end up parroting them. So the MoveOn action could be helpful in that regard.

A Gallup poll released today shows that people actually want to subject all wages to the payroll tax as a way to protect Social Security. This would completely eliminate the long-term funding imbalance and allow the program to pay out higher benefits. Just 39% supported raising the retirement age as a solution, and at her weekly press conference House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced her opposition to that idea.


A coalition member described to me a partial strategy for the coalition, mainly to increase awareness of the deficit commission’s plans, and increase the pressure on members of Congress to oppose any cuts to the program. The August recess and the town halls could play a major role in that, as well as the November elections.

From, Myths and Reality:

Myth #1: Social Security is going broke.

Reality: There is no Social Security crisis. By 2023, Social Security will have a $4.6 trillion surplus (yes, trillion with a 'T'). It can pay out all scheduled benefits for the next quarter-century with no changes whatsoever. After 2037, it'll still be able to pay out 75% of scheduled benefits—and again, that's without any changes. The program started preparing for the Baby Boomers' retirement decades ago. Anyone who insists Social Security is broke probably wants to break it themselves.

Myth #2: We have to raise the retirement age because people are living longer.

Reality: This is a red-herring to trick you into agreeing to benefit cuts. Retirees are living about the same amount of time as they were in the 1930s. The reason average life expectancy is higher is mostly because many fewer people die as children than they did 70 years ago. What's more, what gains there have been are distributed very unevenly—since 1972, life expectancy increased by 6.5 years for workers in the top half of the income brackets, but by less than 2 years for those in the bottom half. But those intent on cutting Social Security love this argument because raising the retirement age is the same as an across-the-board benefit cut.

Myth #3: Benefit cuts are the only way to fix Social Security.

Reality: Social Security doesn't need to be fixed. But if we want to strengthen it, here's a better way: Make the rich pay their fair share. If the very rich paid taxes on all of their income, Social Security would be sustainable for decades to come. Right now, high earners only pay Social Security taxes on the first $106,000 of their income. But conservatives insist benefit cuts are the only way because they want to protect the super-rich from paying their fair share.

Myth #4: The Social Security Trust Fund has been raided and is full of IOUs

Reality: Not even close to true. The Social Security Trust Fund isn't full of IOUs, it's full of U.S. Treasury Bonds. And those bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. The reason Social Security holds only treasury bonds is the same reason many Americans do: The federal government has never missed a single interest payment on its debts. President Bush wanted to put Social Security funds in the stock market—which would have been disastrous—but luckily, he failed. So the trillions of dollars in the Social Security Trust Fund, which are separate from the regular budget, are as safe as can be.

Myth #5: Social Security adds to the deficit

Reality: It's not just wrong—it's impossible! By law, Social Security's funds are separate from the budget, and it must pay its own way. That means that Social Security can't add one penny to the deficit.

Call or email your members of Congress and tell them to reject the lying, middle-class-killing plutocrats of the Catfood Commission.

Dispersed Gulf Oil Now Invisible and Far More Deadly

I met Hugh Kaufman many years ago, and talked with him for about an hour about various environmental criminals. His target at that time was W.R. Grace, whose deliberate destruction of a swath of Massachusetts remains one of the all-time worst cases of water pollution.

Yes, Hugh Kaufman is a fanatic who makes people uncomfortable. But he has endured more than 30 years of abuse and harassment at EPA in order to remain the no-compromise hardass at an agency too eager to cave to polluters. He's speaking the truth still today - on BP.

KAUFMAN: If they did not use dispersants, they would have been able to get most of that oil off of the surface and would not have endangered all of the fish and ecosystem underneath the water that now will be affected for decades on down the line.

I was listening to some of the, quote, “experts” who are being paid by BP at universities who are saying that the oil has disappeared. It hasn‘t disappeared. It‘s throughout thousands of square miles in the Gulf, mixed with dispersants, and because the temperatures down there are so cold, they‘re going to be around for decades.

Heather at Crooks and Liars has the video.

Lawrence O'Donnell talks to EPA whistleblower Hugh Kaufman about the claims that the oil is now "disappearing" from the Gulf of Mexico. There's no way in hell that much oil just goes away. Digby's got more on this here The Good News Is The Poison:

BP seems to have ably headed off the worst of the PR disaster by keeping the worst of the oil more or less off the shoreline. The actual disaster may have been made worse by the use of toxic chemicals. So it's all good.

That's what they want us to believe anyway. We need more Hugh Kaufman's out there to counter this nonsense.

See the video and read the transcript here.

Pro-American Demonstration in Louisville

If you weren't in downtown Louisville yesterday, you missed the best street theater of the summer.

From the Courier:

Dozens of protesters denounced Arizona's pending immigration law outside federal offices in Louisville Thursday, then marched to the 4th Street Live district for "street theater" in which they confronted white passers-by with demands to see their citizenship papers.

"Sorry to disturb your walk, but you look like you're running across the border," demonstrator Shelton McElroy said to one woman on a brisk exercise walk through the restaurant district. "You have glasses on — are you hiding something?" he said to another woman wearing sunglasses.

The protesters said they were trying to give white, non-Hispanic passers-by — those they said would be least likely to be affected by racial or ethnic profiling — a taste of how things might be in Arizona if its law takes effect.

Read the whole thing.

Somebody rent a bus and get these people to Fancy Farm next weekend.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rand Paul No Longer Biggest Bigot in KY Senate Race

That would be Billy Ray Wilson, whose website name is "" Because it's about damn time we had one.

Jake has the scoop:

Billy Ray Wilson, an independent of London, just filed as a write-in candidate for Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race.

He’s written a book (a couple books, actually), run for congress as a Republican and he’s got a fancy campaign website, on which he writes about being a deist and hating religion.

Read the whole thing, if you can stand one of the strangest anti-semitic rants I have ever encountered. Did you know Jesus was an Arab? Which is apparently way better than being a Jew.

Yep, Rand Paul just lost the really crazy vote.

Murdering Big Coal to Spend Millions Against Dems

Hey, Jack Conway: Here's your reward for trying to have it both ways on coal.

John Cheves at the Herald:

Several major coal companies hope to use newly loosened campaign-finance laws to pool their money and defeat Democratic congressional candidates they consider “anti-coal,” including U.S. Senate nominee Jack Conway and U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler in Kentucky.


But working together as a 527, the companies potentially could spend millions of dollars on political activity, as long as it isn’t coordinated with the Republicans’ campaigns.

“I think this is certainly troubling, and it’s going to put an entirely different face on American politics now that companies can do this,” said Tony Oppegard, a Lexington attorney and mine safety advocate. “People are going to have to expect the rhetoric to get heated.”


Several of those companies have been involved in recent mine disasters that led to congressional scrutiny of their safety problems. International Coal Group owned the Sago mine in West Virginia where 12 miners died in 2006. Massey owned the Upper Big Branch mine, also in West Virginia, where 29 miners died in April. Two miners died in April in a Western Kentucky mine owned by an Alliance Resource subsidiary.

Read the whole thing:

No, there is nothing Democratic candidates can do to avoid the tsunami of Big Coal campaign cash spent against them, because there will always be repugs willing to support mandatory addition of coal mining tailings to school lunches.

There isn't enough Democratic money in the country to outspend a Big Coal 527. There's only one way to fight it: draw massive national free media by coming out foursquare against Big Coal.

  • an immediate end to all state and federal fossil fuel subsidies, redirecting those hundreds of billions to a crash program implementing renewable energy.
  • a tripling of mine safety enforcement, including no-appeal shut-downs of unsafe mines.
  • a permanent moratorium on mountaintop removal, and $100 billion in reparations from the coal industry to restore the devastated forests, streams, homes, towns, economies and lives in Eastern Kentucky.

Wanna get Democratic voters excited about voting for you, eager to knock on doors on your behalf nonstop from now until November?

Make it clear that you will put an end to Big Coal's century-long Reign of Terror in Kentucky.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How Repug Racism Could Backfire - on Democrats

One of the many self-destructive electoral mistakes Democratic candidates make is thinking every anti-republican vote is an automatic pro-Democratic vote. I have been bitching for years about the refusal of Democratic campaigns to even acknowledge the existence - much less try to get out the vote - of Democrats not inspired enough to get off their asses to vote.

This pretense that non-voting Democrats don't exist is particularly virulent and inexcusable when it comes to minorities. I wish I had a nickel for every time I've heard some variation of "it doesn't matter if we piss off the blacks - what are they going to do, vote republican?"

They're going to stay home, you fucking moron.

Now Democratic campaigns are repeating the same mistake with the Democratic Party's Hope for the Future: Hispanics.

Talking Points Memo:

A TPM reader from out West weighs in on one particular wrinkle to the Tancredo campaign: its potential indirect effects on Latinos:

I'm glad someone is analyzing the Tancredo campaign more deeply than just the superficial thought that Tancredo's entry into the race is good for the Dems either because TT will split the Republican vote and/or his presence in the race will mobilize Hispanic voters. In a state with a Latino population of 20% or more (as you point out) the dynamics of a Tancredo bid are actually quite toxic for Latinos in particular.

When someone like Tancredo is campaigning, Colorado Democrats literally believe that they don't need to do anything to court Hispanic voters other than to point to examples of the Crazy from Tancredo and his ilk. I have received e-mails from Dems that are nothing more than a forwarded crazy e-mail from some right winger, with a comment something like "I don't normally just forward e-mails from Republicans, but this one speaks for itself." When the race-baiting right is in full throat, Democrats feel free to move to the right on race issues involving Latinos, simply because they feel comfortable that the only argument they need to make to Latino voters is that the alternative is worse.


The long-term political dynamic is that as the Democrats feel more and more free to move to the right on immigration to chase what they perceive as "centrist" voters, the growing Latino population feels more and more that neither party represents us. So, voter participation drops, and then the same lack of voter participation is cited by the Dems as a reason not to take a harder line against Latino race-baiting. Obama's 2010 campaign created a big jump in Latino voter participation in Colorado - up to 13% from what had been single digits - so far with no perceptible change in the Colorado Dem calculation that Tancredo-style craziness from the right actually gives Democrats an opportunity to tack even further right on Latino-identified issues like immigration and bilingual ed while offering nothing to Latinos other than the forwarded message that the other side are even bigger haters. So you are right to say the Tancredo campaign is unhealthy for the long-term health of political discourse in Colorado, and I thank you for it.

Read the whole thing.

Close the Deficit: Tax the Rich

We're twice shy after getting burned by promises from the White House crowd before, but for at least the moment they appear to be serious about letting the obscene Bush tax cuts expire.

Steve Benen:

While some Dems are wavering in the face of Republican demands, the Obama administration's line is the right one.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner pressed the case on Sunday for letting Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire later this year.

In appearances on two television programs, Mr. Geithner said that letting tax cuts expire for those who make $250,000 a year or more would affect 2 percent to 3 percent of all Americans. He dismissed concerns that the move could push a teetering economy back into recession and argued that it would demonstrate America's commitment to addressing its trillion-dollar budget deficit.

On "This Week" on ABC, he said, "We think that's the responsible thing to do because we need to make sure we can show the world" that America is "willing as a country now to start to make some progress bringing down our long-term deficits."

In other words, the line Obama took during the presidential campaign is the same line the administration supports now. If we want to talk about mandates, this is the tax policy the public endorsed.

It's even possible that for once Democrats will - gasp - play politics with the vote, forcing repugs into an electorally dangerous vote.

Negotiations are expected to start in the Senate, where it is hardest for Democrats to advance legislation because of Republican filibusters. But some Democrats say a fallback plan would be to have their larger majority in the House approve a continuation of the lower rates just for the middle class right before the election, almost daring Republicans to oppose them.

In that case, Democrats say, Republicans who opposed the bill would be blocking a tax cut for more than 95 percent of Americans to defend tax cuts for a relatively few wealthy households.

Via Kevin Drum, here's a chart showing how your taxes will change when the Bush cuts expire:

The Afghan Papers and Obama's Last Chance

I don't have the national security or intelligence industry chops to analyze the military implications of the leak of 92,000 supposedly secret documents about the Afghanistan clusterfuck.

But I know a little something about journalism, and sources who have ulterior motives for leaking documents, and the political uses of both.

I think the Afghan papers are the 21st-Century Pentagon Papers, but not for the reasons you've probably read.

Steve M. doubts this release will accomplish anything because today there is no strong anti-war movement to take advantage of it. But the big consequence of the Pentagon Papers release - besides strengthening the First Amendment guarantee of a free press - was the destruction of the presidency of Richard Nixon.

After the Pentagon Papers release, Nixon put his paranoid bugging schemes into full gear. The Watergate break-in, remember, was intended to bug the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. And Nixon won re-election in a landslide five months later.

I don't think the Afghan papers will bring down the Obama administration in the same way, mostly because this administration lacks both the mental illness and criminal character of Nixon's.

If - and it's a big if - Obama avoids the mistake Nixon made, which was fighting the release of the papers on national security grounds, even though the papers indicted previous Democratic administrations, the president might turn them to his advantage.

But only if he immediately repudiates unequivocally the atrocities confirmed by the Afghan Papers, especially those committed since January 20, 2009.

The surprise in the Afghan Papers is not that Pakistan, to whom we have given tens of BILLIONS of dollars since 2001 to help us in Afghanistan, has instead spent most of that money - wait for it - helping the Taliban kill American soldiers.

Ahmed Rashid has been writing about that since BEFORE 9-11, and liberal bloggers have been bitching about it ever since.

The only news here is that the U.S. has known about it all along, and continued to give billions of taxpayer dollars to Pakistan to help it kill American soldiers.

That, children, is what used to be known as treason.

As inexcusable as was the Nixon administration's prolonging of the war for political purposes, as horrific as were the many war crimes the U.S. committed in Vietnam, I am unaware of any evidence or even hint that the U.S. paid an ostensible ally which then used the money to help North Vietnam kill American soldiers.

The Afghanistan clusterfuck is, indeed, Obama's Vietnam. But he still has a chance to salvage it all - the country, the destructively over-extended U.S. Army, the real fight against real terrorists, diplomacy with both Iran and Pakistan, the honor of the United States of America and his own presidency.

But he has to embrace the release of the Afghan Papers as patriotism at its finest, and vow to stop the insanity before it destroys us.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

The Art of Making the Right Enemies

I'm glad now that I didn't attempt to eulogize the great Daniel Schorr, because I can post the one by John Nichols, who worked with Schorr at NPR and who gets to the heart of what made Schorr great:

The United States was called into being by a journalist, Tom Paine, who promptly fell out with the regal John Adams, offended George Washington and finally strained his relationship with fellow democrat Thomas Jefferson so thoroughly that the third president stopped responding to his letters. By the time the author of the pamphlets that inspired the anti-colonial armies died, in 1809, his contemporary and compatriot in the revolutionary circle has assumed to the presidency; despite their 35 years of acquaintance,however, James Madison neglected to attend nor officially note the passing.

That is as it should be.

Journalists are not supposed to be friends of presidents.

Dan Schorr understood that.

Indeed, few it any modern journalists practiced the Paineite craft of making all the right enemies so ably as did Schorr.

Schorr was not a pamphleteer. Though he was a crisp and efficient writer, Schorr inclined toward the microphone and camera as a CBS correspondent who got run out of Moscow, as the CNN correspondent who got the cable network going with a typically-pointed interview of then President Jimmy Carter and as NPR’s resident truth teller until shortly before his death Friday at age 93.

The clip that will be repeated for as long as broadcast journalism history classes are taught will be of Schorr, broadcasting live from outside the Senate Watergate hearing room with a copy of Richard Nixon’s White House “Enemies List.” The list of Americans who had gotten on the wrong side of the president had just been revealed and Schorr was reading through the first twenty “enemies.” After he finished with California Congressman Ron Dellums, he read the next name – without a dramatic pause or any show of emotion: “Daniel Schorr.. a real media enemy.”

What was important about Schorr was not that his name was on the enemies list, however. It was what he did to get it there.

Schorr’s unofficial beat was always the abuse of power. He challenged Soviet communists and American capitalists (including his bosses at CBS and CNN) with the same relentless questioning. And when he got the story, he got it out – even if his editors refused to let him go with it personally. Famously, in the mid-70s, when Schorr was leaked a copy of the secret “Pike Report” – named for the chair of an House Intelligence Committee inquiry into Central Intelligence Agency intrigues and illegality – CBS refused to go with it. Schorr promptly leaked the report to the Village Voice, a newspaper he was certain would run it.

That was too much for CBS and, despite having won Emmy Awards in three of the four preceding years, Schorr was no longer working for CBS.

At CNN, he clashed with Ted Turner over the cable executive’s determination to censor films – a serious issue with Schorr, who forged an unlikely partnership with musician Frank Zappa, another free-speech absolutist. In 1985, his CNN contract was not renewed and Schorr moved to NPR, where we got to know one another.

Schorr was supposed to be a grand old man, delivering kindly comments on Saturday morning and stepping in when some historical perspective was needed from someone born during Woodrow Wilson’s first term.

But he refused to play the grand old man role.

My favorite moment came when he was asked his opinion of the decision by a 5-4 Supreme Court majority to stop the Florida recount of 2000 and award the presidency to George W. Bush, who had lost the popular vote by more than 500,000 and who appeared to be on his way to losing Florida and, with it, the Electoral College. The issue had been settled and most journalists were parsing things in a manner that might allow them to get on the good side of the notoriously vengeful Bush-Cheney team.

But Schorr minced no words.

The court decision was, he declared, “a judicial coup” carried out by “the Gang of Five, philosophically led by archconservative Antonin Scalia.”

At the age of 84, Schorr was making himself the enemy of another administration by speaking a truth that most journalists would not.

Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and the activist justices were not pleased. But, surely, Tom Paine would have been.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Rich ARE the Enemy

In Charles Kaiser's analysis of the failure of the fourth estate exposed by the Sherrod story, I noticed the phrase "bias against white people" and that got me wondering ....

What if Breitbart's real target wasn't the NAACP or the Obama administration or even supposedly anti-white liberals at all? What if the real target was Sherrod herself? Specifically, the danger that her real message would take hold and get wide distribution?

Because Shirley Sherrod's dangerous message was NOT her personal overcoming of racism and how we can all get along. No. Shirley Sherrod's dangerous message, the one with the enormous potential to undermine republican race-baiting and even overcome racism itself, is this:

The bias in this nation is against poor people, of all races. Genuine racists of all races use racial resentment to keep poor people poor. Because if white poor people and black poor people and hispanic poor people in large numbers ever realize they've been had, that their real and mutual enemy is the plutocracy of wealth and privilege, that will be the end of the plutocrats and the republican party that enriches them.

Yes, the Democratic Party has also become a wealth-enabler over the last 20 years, but unlike republicans, Democrats can fall back on a long tradition as champions of the poor and middle class. They did it for 50 years, and they can do it again.

The alliance of poor people of all races against the money power is what terrifies the repugs and the baggers and the corporatists and the plutocrats.

Shirley Sherrod let the cat out of the bag, and for that, she had to be destroyed.

And it's a long way from over. How shamelessly disgusting is it? Now the frightwing racists are claiming that Sherrod lied about her relative being lynched. It's too stupid to even explain, but here it is: he wasn't lynched because he was beaten to death while handcuffed on the courthouse steps. Somebody tell Webster only hanging from a tree is lynching.

Meanwhile, the Impeach the Nigger in the White House campaign moves into higher gear. Steve Benen explains:

This is hopelessly insane. There's just no way around this simple fact. The NBPP "controversy" is complete and utter garbage, a detail even many conservatives are willing to concede.

Judiciary Committee Republicans, I'm willing to bet, know this. They know the Bush Justice Department dismissed the issue as pointless; they know no one was prevented from voting or felt intimidated at that Philly precinct; they know that the New Black Panther Party didn't even support Obama.

But these congressional Republicans pursue transparent garbage like this for one reason: to stoke the fires of racial resentment. That's why Fox News has been obsessed with this story; it's why Senate Republicans want hearings; and it's why House Republicans want a special prosecutor. The desire to make white voters afraid is as obvious as it is shameless as it is ugly.

Republicans have worked to undermine the country in a wide variety of ways over the last 18 months, but deliberately trying to scare whites into fearing blacks with a trumped up story is arguably the most loathsome move yet.

If you didn't see Rachel Maddow's stunning exposure of this all-too-real campaign, here it is:

Part One

Part Two

And read Shirley Sherrod's full speech here. The relevant sections:

That's when it was revealed to me that, y'all, it's about poor versus those who have ....


Well, working with him made me see that it's really about those who have versus those who don't, you know. And they could be black, and they could be white; they could be Hispanic. And it made me realize then that I needed to work to help poor people -- those who don't have access the way others have.

I want to just share something with you and...I think it helps to -- it -- you know, when I learned this, I'm like, "Oh, my goodness." You know, back in the late 17th and 18th century, black -- there were black indentured servants and white indentured servants, and they all would work for the seven years and -- and get their freedom. And they didn't see any difference in each other. Nobody worried about skin color. They married each other, you know. These were poor whites and poor blacks in the same boat, except they were slaves. But they were both slaves and both had their opportunity to work out on the slavery.

But then they started looking at the injustices that they faced and started then trying -- you know, the people with money -- you know, they started -- the...poor whites and poor blacks who were -- they -- you know, they married each other. They lived together. They were just like we would be. And they started looking at what was happening to them and decided we need to do something about it -- you know, about this. Well, the people with money, the elite, decided, "Hey, we need to do something here to divide them."

So that's when they made black people servants for life. That's when they put laws in place forbidding them to marry each other. That's when they created the racism that we know of today. They did it to keep us divided. And they -- it started working so well, they said, "Gosh, looks like we've come up on something here that can last generations." And here we are over 400 years later, and it's still working. What we have to do is get that out of our heads. There is no difference between us. The only difference is that the folks with money want to stay in power and, whether it's health care or whatever it is, they'll do what they need to do to keep that power, you know. It's always about money, y'all.

If you are not rich, and you think that's the fault of people with a different skin color, know this for a fact:

You are being played for a chump.

Stop the Oligarchy

Nicole Belle at Crooks and Liars has the video of Senator Bernie Sanders, I-National Treasure, speaking out against the abomination of our steal-from-the-middle-class-to-enrich-the-wealthy economy.

She comments:

Oligarchy is really the only way to describe this. The Republican platform benefits such a small percentage of Americans. And that's the way they prefer it. Social programs are democratizing and give voice to the unwashed masses, which only get in the way of the elite. That's why there's been a systematic dismantling of social programs since Reagan.

Meanwhile, the Republicans keep just a high enough percentage of authoritarian-minded voting against their best interests by preying on their worst instincts--fear of the Other, where the other is alternatively people of color, women seeking reproductive rights, gays, undocumented workers, or any other variation on a theme. The oligarchy points to these fellow-victimized groups as the ones to blame for the poor condition of your life, rather than admit that it is their policies: free trade, union-busting, corporations off-shoring, and the dismantling of social safety nets that hurt you.

And they just flat out lie to you. Other countries manage to offer systems that enable there to be a thriving middle class, social programs like universal healthcare, paid college educations, public transit, child care, and job training. But you'll never hear the truth about how well these programs work, because that might clue in the masses at just how much is kept from us.

Read the whole thing.

Harry Reid is a Class Act

If only he would leaven that class with a little balls-to-the-wall fight.

karoli at Crooks and Liars has the video:

The Q&A with Harry Reid provided the most touching, spontaneous and affirming moment I've seen at any political conference in a very long time. Joan McCarter was conducting the interview, and led off by handing Senator Reid Lt. Dan Choi's West Point ring, saying that he wanted Reid to have it because it didn't have the same meaning to him that it once did. She then handed him Choi's discharge paperwork.

Senator Reid's response was, in my estimation, the best one he could have given. Reid said he would keep the ring until the bill is signed repealing DADT, at which time he would give it back to Choi. Then Choi came on stage and agreed, sealed with a hug and a promise that he would hold Reid accountable.

Dan Choi is a class act, too.

Failing to Dance With The One That Brung Ya

Presidents with congressional majorities have two choices: do what you think is the right thing for the country, even if it hurts your political allies, or help your political allies even if it hurts the country.

Smirky/Darth obviously chose the latter, which worked for them in 2004 but then they took it too far and it turned around and bit them in the ass in 2006 and 2008. At least they were consistent.

The Obama Maladministration has taken political malpractice to new heights by making decision after decision that hurts the country AND hurts its political allies, thus failing both policy and politics.

Down with Tyranny cites this piece from Ian Welsh:

It seems, that in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, which allowed uncontrolled corporate money into elections, that (surprise!) Republicans have a huge warchest from outside actors like the Chamber of Commerce:


So, how did this happen?

First, Democrats didn’t make an all out effort to torpedo either Roberts, or more reasonably, Alito. With both on the Supreme Court, decisions like Citizens United were inevitable.

Second, when given a historic opportunity to break the power of the rich and corporations by not bailing them out, Democrats bailed them out. They did not make shareholders get wiped out (as they deserved, they took the profits from housing bubble fraud, after all) and they did not let the bondholders take their losses. Be very clear, this was never about saving the economy, the trillions of dollars used to bail out these corporations could have been loaned directly to consumers and businesses which needed loans. In fact, at this point, it is entirely likely that bailouts made things worse, not better.

Third, Democrats did not push hard for the Employee Free Choice Act, an act which would have made union organizing much easier. Union members vote for Democrats at much higher rates than non Union members (in particular, white male union members are pro-Democrat while as a group white males who aren’t union members vote Republican). Unions not only provide financial resources for Democrats, they put feet on the ground for Democrats. Where unions are strong, Democrats tend to win. Where unions aren’t strong, Democrats tend to lose.

Fourth, Democrats abandoned their constituencies economically in order to bail out the financial sector. They seem to have thought the financial sector would be loyal. Of course, it isn’t, it will give money to whoever it thinks can win and from whom it’ll get the best deal. Meanwhile unmarried women, Hispanics, African Americans and Youth, all core Demoratic groups, have high unemployment rates. That means they are not motivated to vote or volunteer, they cannot give as much money as they could if they were doing well. The money spent on bailing out banks and the rich, could have been used for a proper stimulus and proper loans which would have helped these groups.

Fifth, Democrats let ACORN be destroyed. ACORN was framed, but Democrats threw it under the bus. ACORN was a community organization which did huge voter drives which registered voters who were overwhelmingly likely to vote Democratic. Again, a key liberal organization was simply abandoned.

Democrats made a play for corporate money and in so doing, they sold out constituencies which were actually loyal to them, and could actually be counted on. Wall Street will never be reliably loyal to Democrats, neither will the very rich. At best they will play Democrats and Republicans off against each other, but realistically, they prefer Republicans whenever Republicans can win.

You reap what you sow. Sell out the interests of your core supporters, and they can’t help you as much as they could if you helped them. When will Democratic politicians learn this lesson?

Democrats should have much stronger allies in 2010. But they preferred to play footsie with Wall Street and abandon their own constituencies.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Government vs. Business: Yes, It DOES Have to Be Adversarial

Today Village transcriber Dana Milbank breaks training and posts a passionate screed against corporate criminals - corporate murderers - like Massey Coal's Don Blankenship. Milbank skewers the inhuman insistence of Blankenship and his protectors in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that the proper response to corporations killing their workers is to eliminate all government regulation of workplace safety. Milbank concludes:

Government should push back against a corporate culture that has lost its sense of shame.

Over at Mother Jones, anti-Villager Kevin Drum responds to Matt Yglesias' argument against any government regulation beyond workplace safety and environmental protection.

It's true that income inequality can be partly addressed by progressive taxation, though I'd much prefer to see it addressed at the source since a healthy economy is one in which everyone benefits, not one in which a small plutocracy hoards the wealth and then doles it out to the working class if and when it can be persuaded to do so. More important is the fact that we liberals shouldn't view the relationship between businesses and individuals as solely economic transactions. There are core questions here of human dignity and basic fairness that exist quite aside from money.

Here's an example. Back in 1968, Congress passed the Truth in Lending Act. Among other things, it made credit card companies liable for charges on stolen credit cards over $50. In a purely economic sense, there's really no excuse for this. Why should a card company be responsible for your carelessness? If you're dumb enough to let someone steal your card and run up thousands of dollars in charges, it ought to be your responsibility. It's ridiculous to make a bank — and by extension, its customers — subsidize the losses of individuals who can't take care of their own finances.

Today, this argument would almost certainly carry the day. Even most liberals wouldn't fight it. It's as if we've been brainwashed against arguing that we should do something purely because it represents the way we think people deserve to be treated. We need graphs and charts and dueling models of economic distribution instead.

But as recently as 40 years ago we didn't allow ourselves to be defined purely as pseudo-economic actors.


... there are rules and regulations we should put in place purely because they represent the way we think people should be treated. Potential employers shouldn't have access to my credit record because that's something I think we should treat as private. Banks shouldn't be able to retroactively raise interest rates on credit card balances because that's something I think is fundamentally unfair. Pharmaceutical companies shouldn't be allowed to sell drugs that don't work (even if they're safe) because I don't think sick people should be treated that way. Restaurants shouldn't be allowed to run filthy kitchens on the theory that an occasional outbreak of food poisoning isn't worth the cost of preventing. Farmers shouldn't be allowed to pay migrant workers two dollars an hour in scrip because I think adult human beings deserve better than that even if (or maybe especially if) they're desperate. I can't necessarily justify any of these things on economic grounds, and even if I could I'm not sure I'd want to. Because that's not truly why I believe them.

Even on the left, I feel like we've allowed ourselves to buy far too heavily into the homo economicus model of human interaction. But if I can be allowed to put on my old school lefty hat for a moment, that model just doesn't work when the power relations are too far out of whack. And to a large extent, businesses simply have the whip hand on too many things today. When you sign a form from your doctor agreeing to send all complaints to arbitration instead of to the civil court system, this isn't really an agreement between consenting adults. Once the AMA has convinced enough doctors to require this of all their patients, you no longer have a choice. You either give up your legal rights or else you go without medical services.

The alternative, of course, is political, not economic: pass a law that says access to courts is a basic right that can't be taken away even if your doctor or your credit card company or your employer forces you to sign a piece of paper to the contrary. Pass a law that prohibits employers from checking credit scores — even if that's economically efficient in some technical sense — simply because individuals ought to have a certain zone of privacy in their personal affairs. Pass a law that outlaws no-doc liar loans because they're bad for the country regardless of whether individuals can make money from them.

I'm rambling. Sorry. I wish I knew how to write this kind of thing better. But I just wanted to get it off my chest anyway. Corporations aren't people, and they can perpetuate unsound and unfair business practices for a lot longer than you'd think — leaving plenty of misery and personal havoc in their wake. We're perfectly justified in requiring them to treat people decently even if we don't have an economic justification for it. We used to understand that better than we do today.

Don't apologize, Kevin: You wrote it just fine.

Quote of the Day

From Steve Benen, excerpting a Tom Friedman column:

And hedge fund manager Jeremy Grantham wrote some wise words in a letter to investors:

"Conspiracy theorists claim to believe that global warming is a carefully constructed hoax driven by scientists desperate for ... what? Being needled by nonscientific newspaper reports, by blogs and by right-wing politicians and think tanks? I have a much simpler but plausible 'conspiracy theory': the fossil energy companies, driven by the need to protect hundreds of billions of dollars of profits, encourage obfuscation of the inconvenient scientific results. I, for one, admire them for their P.R. skills, while wondering, as always: "Have they no grandchildren?"

The Ryan RoadMap Litmus Test for Repugs

Just how determined to destroy the economy is your local GOP congressional candidate?

There's an easy way to find out: just ask them whether they support the Ryan Plan.

Steven Benen explains:

ARE REPUBLICANS ON BOARD WITH RYAN'S RADICAL ROADMAP?.... While most congressional Republicans seem to be allergic to offering an alternative agenda in advance of the midterm elections, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the ranking member on the House Budget Committee, released a blueprint he calls a "roadmap." His GOP colleagues seem to generally approve of the plan, but they're terrified to say so.

Derek Thompson reports that Ryan explained to a Brookings audience yesterday that congressional Republicans are simply too worried about how the public would respond if the party truly embraced the plan.

When asked why Republicans aren't flocking to his bold government reform, Ryan responded, without hesitation: "They're talking to their pollsters and their pollsters are saying, 'Stay away from this.'"

Ryan's plan would dramatically change the country's tax and entitlement system. It would introduce a value-added tax, eliminate the corporate income tax, phase in deep Medicare cuts, and partially privatize Social Security, among other things.

I'm inclined to give Paul Ryan, a devoted fan of Ayn Rand's novels, at least some credit for putting his beliefs on paper, and subjecting them to public scrutiny. He has a plan to radically transform governmental institutions and Americans' way of life, and he's not afraid to say so.

Indeed, many on the right are on board with the radical Ryan plan. Jonah Goldberg loves it, and when it comes to deficit reduction, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) described Ryan's proposed $1.3 trillion in potential cuts as "a pretty good list of options."

So, why are Republicans being told to "stay away from this"? Why, by Ryan's own estimation, is his party deliberately putting politics above principle? Because if the public came to think of the radical Ryan roadmap as the party's official approach to budget issues, the GOP would lose practically every federal election for at least a generation.

But in a way, the party's cowardice is a real shame. Ryan's gone to the trouble of presenting a plan, and encouraging his party to support it. The plan raises taxes on everyone except the wealthy; it privatizes Social Security; it eliminates Medicare, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and most of Medicaid; and it wouldn't actually get rid of the deficit anyway. The whole plan offers a breathtaking vision of how the government would operate in the 21st century if conservative Republicans had their way.

Ryan thinks it should be part of the debate -- and he's right! In fact, Republicans expect to make Ryan the chairman of the House Budget Committee six months from now, where he'll have a chance to do some real damage to Americans institutions.

Forget what the GOP "pollsters are saying." Are Republicans on board with Ryan's roadmap or not? Is his plan a reflection of what GOP candidates would do with their majority? Shouldn't voters have a chance to hear from Republicans about this before there's an election?

These need not be rhetorical questions. The leading GOP official on budget issues has a plan. It's not unreasonable to think every Republican candidate should say, before November, whether they think it's a plan worth pursuing.

Looking for concrete ways you can help make more liberals, prevent the "all impeachment, all the time" republican congressional takeover, and push the Obama administration away from its repug-appeasing ways?

Confront your repug congressional candidate on the Ryan Radical Roadmap. Demand he/she publicly support or deny the Ryan plan, and explain why. Video the answer if you can. Then distribute it far and wide.

Climate Bill is Dead: Good

So repugs and Blue Dogs are determined to take the nation and planet down in flames. Fine.

Because now the EPA gets to regulate carbon as it sees fit.

Yes, every time we depend on the Obama maladministration to do the right thing we end up drunk in a dive bar, crying our disappointment on a stranger's shoulder, but there is cause for hope.

ENDA never got a hearing in Congress, but President Obama extended full family benefits to federal employees who are gay. Barely registers on the scale of needed change, but it indicates that the president may understand the power of the executive order and bureaucratic regulation.

So fuck the Senate: Obama can slash carbon emissions without Congress. Christian Parenti at The Nation explains:

A redirection of government purchasing would create massive markets for clean power, electric vehicles and efficient buildings, as well as for more sustainably produced furniture, paper, cleaning supplies, uniforms, food and services. If government bought green, it would drive down marketplace prices sufficiently that the momentum toward green tech would become self-reinforcing and spread to the private sector.


Government has tremendous latitude to leverage green procurement because it requires no new taxes, programs or spending, nor is it hostage to the holy grail of sixty votes in the Senate. It is simply a matter of changing how the government buys its energy, vehicles and services. Yes, in many cases clean tech costs more up front, but in most cases savings arrive soon afterward. And government—because of its size—is a market mover that has already shown it can leverage money-saving deals.


So let's get real. The fourth path is the best: a robust program of green procurement is the most immediate and politically feasible thing government can do to boost the clean-tech sector. And the only number that approaches the scale of the energy economy is government spending on energy. We need to be talking not about millions or billions but trillions of dollars going in a new direction. If the government is serious about electric vehicles—then just buy them already!

At one level, the mad Tea Partyers are correct: government is leviathan—a monster. But it is our monster, and with proper leadership even this government in the current climate could jump-start a clean-energy revolution.

Read the whole thing.

Hal Rogers Wants to Give His Daughter 5 Million of Your Tax Dollars

The headline on John Cheves' piece is wrong: Rep. Hal Rogers, R-KY5, does NOT want taxpayer help for cheetas; he wants taxpayer help for his daughter.

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, is sponsoring a bill to give $5 million a year to conservation groups that work overseas on behalf of endangered “great cats and rare canids,” such as cheetahs, lions and Ethiopian wolves.

One group interested in applying, should Rogers’ bill become law, is the Namibia-based Cheetah Conservation Fund.

Its grants administrator, Allison Rogers, is the congressman’s daughter.

“Obviously, I’m waiting with bated breath,” said Allison Rogers, who lives in Versailles. “It would help us a lot because the Cheetah Conservation Fund does not have a very big budget.”

Read the whole thing.

Wow. How much of a commie/socialist/welfare cheat/muslin terrist/traitor do you have to be to expect your Daddy to snatch $5 million out of the pockets of unemployed people and their hungry children in order to support your personal cat hobby?

Or to say yes to that parasitical demand?

Hal Rogers has voted against every single bill to reverse this economic crisis and relieve the suffering of hundreds of thousands of unemployed and underemployed Kentuckians. Like every republican, he has claimed the deficit - the deficit created by George W. Bush and which was perfectly fine with Rogers while Bush was in the White House - is such an imminent crisis that we can't spare a single thin dime to create the jobs that would actually reduce the deficit.

But he's demanding that suffering Kentuckians strip themselves even more desperate so his little girl can have five million of our hard-earned dollars.

I am posting on Rogers' apalling hypocrisy not because it is unusual, much less unique, but because it's what every Congressional repug is doing every single day.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....

Keep Fighting

At No More Mister Nice Blog, two posts show us the height of the mountain we have to climb to save the Obama Maladministration from self-destruction, and why we should bother.

First, Aimai on the lack of a long game:

I know the Obama team has a lot on its plate. I don't fault Obama at all for what happened while he was busy actually running the country. But this was really not a surprise event. The right wing has been gunning for every prominent African American they can find from Van Jones to ACORN to Holder himself to Sherrod. They don't care how they get them. They don't care about the individual person, or what they have or have not actually done. One's as good as the other. They are place holders, almost figures in a distant landscape. The right wing is building a narrative, the kind that their followers like: vague, juicy, filled with anger, built on the notion that Obama brought the angry blacks into power and that its going to be reparations all the way down. Fighting it may be hard, but the Obama Administration has to fight it or its going to go down under it. Ressentiment, especially when aimed carefully at outsiders and other races, is a very powerful force in people's lives. It is a marvellous tool for right wing demagogues and for corporatists because it moves people to anger, despair, and lashing out but it hardly ever moves them to question authority or the monied. In otherwords, its a perfect electoral strategy for a do-nothing party focused on returning to the status quo ante. Get people riled up, beg for money, get your voters out, and then see them subside into quiesence right after the mid terms.

Right now, and no thanks to the White House's clever team, Breitbart looks like he might be flailing for a moment. But Breitbart is just a symptom of a larger problem. If Breitbart goes down does anyone seriously think the right wing doesn't have a bottomless pit of these guys waiting to take over? What were the Young Republicans for, after all? And given the propensity of the Obama people to fire staff (Van Jones) or refuse to nominate people at all for fear of what the right wing is going to throw at them this is a winning proposition. You have to expect that a certain number of attacks are going to fail. If the attack on Obama through Sherrod fails there will be another one, in a week or two. We will never get to the end of the gullibility of the mainstream media, and the viciousness of the right wing attack machine. And why should we? It works: long term it works as long as the Obama administration is discredited in some way either by the unchecked assertion that it is a blackety black black administration or that it is weak and easily pushed around.

We, and the Obama administration, have to be aware that the main target is always the President, his presidency, and the very idea of government. Ultimately this is just a variant on Reagan's old chestnut that the scariest words in the English language are "I'm from the Government and I'm here to help you." The goal is to delegitimize the government and government workers by dragging them into the right's race war. This is a war that they, and they alone, are fighting. The rest of the country is getting on with its life and getting past race as the primary lens through which political and economic issues are seen. The right has nothing left but racism, mixed cleverly with classism, as a goad. These attacks will be ceaseless, throughout the summer, culminating in Right Wing attacks on the legitimacy of the midterm elections. After all the whole point is to bring every instance of the government and the administration under suspicion in order to bring out the angry voters, and to explain away as illegitimate every Democratic victory.

We talk a lot about Obama and his long game. I'm not seeing the Administration's long game here as a very successful one. They need to be thinking a few steps down the road and they seem to be in a purely reactive mode. My advice to the White House is set up a war room that takes the racial component of these attacks as a given and is prepared and authorized to handle them, wherever they spring up, throughout the administration. Because there are going to be a lot more of these attacks.

Then, anti-Pollyanna Steve M. reviews the anti-Muslin hysteria among the wingers and concludes:

If you wonder why I refuse to give up entirely on the Democratic Party, this is why. You can say that things are no better under Obama than they were under Bush, and in some areas that's true. But they're still better than they will be in the next Republican regime. Bush, for all his warmongering, continued to offer words and gestures of respect to Islam and its peaceful practitioners. The next Republican president is highly unlikely to do the same. In the next Republican regime, we will be at war not with individual countries, not with Islamicists, but with Islam itself.

As always, there is this:

Evolution is Way Cooler Than You Thought

If you've read Richard Dawkins' Greatest Show on Earth and/or Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True, this won't come as a surprise, but it's still fascinating.

PZ Myers explains that even we reality-based science geek types oversimplify evolution.

Most of you don't understand evolution. I mean this in the most charitable way; there's a common conceptual model of how evolution occurs that I find everywhere, and that I particularly find common among bright young students who are just getting enthusiastic about biology. Let me give you the Standard Story, the one that I get all the time from supporters of biology.

Evolution proceeds by mutation and selection. A novel mutation occurs in a gene that gives the individual inheriting it an advantage, and that person passes it on to their children who also gets the advantage and do better than their peers, and leave more offspring. Given time, the advantageous mutation spreads through the population so the entire species has it.

One example is the human brain. An ape man millions of years ago acquired a mutation that made his or her brain slightly larger, and since those individuals were slightly smarter than other ape men, it spread through the population. Then later, other mutations occured and were selected for and so human brains gradually got larger and larger.

You either know what's wrong here or you're feeling a little uneasy—I gave you enough hints that you know I'm going to complain about that story, but if your knowledge is at the Evolutionary Biology 101 level, you may not be sure what it is.

Just to make you even more queasy, the misunderstanding here is one that creationists have, too. If you've ever encountered the cryptic phrase "RM+NS" ("random mutation + natural selection") used as a pejorative on a creationist site, you've found someone with this affliction. They've got it completely wrong.

Here's the problem, and also a brief introduction to Evolutionary Biology 201.

Read the whole thing.

The Waste-Bloated Elephant in the Deficit Discussion Room

Blue Girl wrote yesterday that war funding is deficit spending and if the deficit hawks weren't scum-sucking liars, they'd start their austerity crusade at the Pentagon.

Now one of our favorite members of Congress is doing just that.

John Nichols at The Nation:

Well, if Obama and (Rep. Barney) Franks' other fans really want to celebrate the congressman’s contribution to the economic discourse, perhaps they should start listening to what he is saying about how to balance the federal budget.

Frank wants to cut $1 trillion in unnecessary—let’s be blunt: wasteful—spending over the next decade.

How so? By hacking away at excessive Pentagon spending.

A crazy notion?

Republican Ron Paul doesn’t think so.

The libertarian-conservative congressman from Texas is Frank’s partner in this project.

This unlikely pairing has led the fight to get the federal deficit reduction commission to, in Frank’s words, focus on the fact that “unless there is a substantial reduction in American military expenditures over a ten-year period close to if not slightly over a trillion dollars over what’s proposed—that is at $100 billion a year—you simply cannot deal with deficit reduction in a way that is economically and socially responsible.”

Frank—working with Paul, North Carolina Republican Congressman Walter Jones and Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden—put together a remarkable left-right coalition of budget and defense-policy analysts in a “Sustainable Defense Task Force” that included everyone from the Center for American Progress’s Larry Korb, Peace Action’s Paul Martin and the Institute for Policy Studies’s Miriam Pemberton to Laura Peterson of Taxpayers for Common Sense and Christopher Preble, the director of foreign policy studies for the libertarian Cato Institute.

Based on the task force’s recommendations, Frank and Paul are making the rounds of the blogosphere, cable television and talk radio to propose Pentagon cutbacks. As such, they have become the most recognizable, and politically potent, proponents of a serious approach to deficit reduction.

Here is the argument that Frank and Paul are now making on behalf of what should be the next big fiscal project not just of the congressman from Massachusetts but of the president who heaped so much praise on him Wednesday:


Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates refers to Pentagon spending as “the gusher” and dismissed the notion that it is difficult to find waste, fraud and abuse in a budget that “adds up to about what the entire rest of the world combined spends on defense.”
"Only in the parallel universe that is Washington, DC, would that be considered 'gutting' defense," says Gates, who has done a great service by opening the space for honest debate about defense spending.

Barney Frank—with a crucial assist from Republicans such as Ron Paul—is filling that space. As Wall Street Journal columnist Gerald Seib notes, “Reps. Paul and Frank are doing more than writing a blog post.… These two odd-fellow members of Congress are harbingers of things to come. Annual defense spending has more than doubled over the last decade, largely because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But now the deficit is high, the debt is growing, and those wars are winding down, one way or another. So the parallel move to wind down Pentagon spending is coming. The only questions are how big the urge to curb will be, and what form it will take.”

If Obama was serious about his praise for Frank, the president should now embrace the congressman’s call for a realistic approach to deficit reduction that begins by making necessary cuts to a bloated-beyond-belief Pentagon budget.

Justice Kagan Will Not Be Our Friend

Elena Kagan is an establishment conservative, devoted to protecting the status quo. Appointed in the '70s, or even early '80s, she would have upheld the liberal consensus which then held sway on the Supreme Court and the nation. But the consensus today on the court and in the country, thanks to Barack Obama's constant deference to the conservatives priorities of the wealthy, is fiercely on the side of the rich, powerful, corporate and conservative.

She's going to be Johnny's, Sammy's, Nino's and Clarence's new BFF.

Paul Campos explains, in a long but well-reported piece that is well worth your time.

He concludes:

The relative ease with which Elena Kagan is being confirmed to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court illustrates the extent to which Establishment America believes that a member of the club in good standing – someone who has gone to the right schools, and gotten the right kinds of jobs, and befriended the right sorts of people – can be counted on to do the right thing, even though her own legal and political views remain largely unknown. Naturally, from the establishment’s perspective, the right thing is to do nothing that might seriously disturb any of the social arrangements that continue to serve its interests so well. And in the end, Obama’s faith in Kagan is most likely based on a well-warranted belief that, as a Supreme Court justice, she will prove to be as acceptable to that establishment as Obama himself.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

How Racism Helps the Rich Win the Class War

Trust the country's most well-known victim of high-tech racism to understand what's really going on here.

From Leslie Savan at The Nation:

We are not in a race relations crisis. We are in an economic crisis. And these manufactured racial melodramas are meant to frighten Vilsackian Democrats to never dare do anything that might ruffle Tea Party feathers, like push through a desperately needed second stimulus or nominate Elizabeth Warren as head of the consumer protection agency.

As Shirley Sherrod said in her speech, “It’s not about black and white, it’s about poor versus rich, and how the system works to keep it that way….

“[Historically, dividing the races had been] working so well, they said, Gosh, looks like we've come up on something here that can last generations—and here we are. Over 400 years later, and it's still working. What we have to do is get that out of our heads. There is no difference between us. The only difference is that the folks with money want to stay in power and whether it's health care or whatever it is, they'll do what they need to do to keep that power.”

Somehow, that part of her speech didn’t get much play on Fox.

Those Who Appease Bullies Get What They Deserve

All the tsk-tsking about unfairly blaming the Obama administration for the Shirley Sherrod debacle instead of blasting the real culprits - Andrew Breitbart and Faux News - misses the point:

By continually caving to the racists and nihilists of the frightwing, this administration is surrendering the battle before it begins.

Down with Tyranny highlights three who get it.

Right-wing bullies thrive on fear, cowardice and on political leaders like Barack Obama who don't want to make waves and would rather "split the difference." When I was just a wee lad in elementary school no one had explained the physics of muscles and fists to me properly. I was a safety crossing guard and there was this one big bully-- he towered over me-- who used to terrorize weaker, smaller students. He pushed some poor kid down at my post one morning and I walked over to him and pulled him off the guy. We got in a fist-fight... and he pulverized me. But he never bothered me again and he never made any trouble on my corner again. It's when you don't stand up to bullies, as Neville Chamberlain learned, that they feel empowered.

I hope you read Alan Grayson's post at Daily Kos yesterday. Watch the video (above) he put up in response to a right-wing asshole offering to pay someone to assault Alan. Alan's response: "I punch back." It's why the Republican's hate him and fear him more than any other Democrat. ANY. OTHER. DEMOCRAT. He should start a school for his fellow congressmen. A couple weeks ago, one called me, a decent progressive, whimpering how he's being challenged by a conservative in his primary and asking that Blue America give him some money. I suggested instead that he go sit at Alan Grayson's feet for a few weeks and learn how to be a man and a Democrat. Alan should be the head of the DCCC instead of these weak, corrupt vacillators who think winning a campaign is collecting a bunch of tainted corporate PAC contributions, hiring some Inside-the-Beltway hacks to do 30 second TV spots that no one cares about and sending setting up some pointless phone banks for incumbents who vote with the Republicans as their default positions.

One person who Grayson won't have to give lessons in self-defense to is America's new sweetheart: Shirley Sherrod. Greg Sargent hit the nail plum on the head in yesterday's Washington Post when he pointed out that her reaction is going to drive the right bananas:

Check out this nugget in an interview that Shirley Sherrod did with Joe Strupp, in which she comes right out and claims Fox News is using her as a "pawn" in a racist plot to undo the gains African Americans have made:

She said Fox showed no professionalism in continuing to bother her for an interview, but failing to correct their coverage.

"I think they should but they won't. They intended exactly what they did. "They were looking for the result they got yesterday," she said of Fox. "I am just a pawn. I was just here. They are after a bigger thing, they would love to take us back to where we were many years ago. Back to where black people were looking down, not looking white folks in the face, not being able to compete for a job out there and not be a whole person."

This is pretty incendiary stuff. Sherrod is clearly not going away, and now she appears determined to force a larger conversation about the Breitbart-Fox News axis's broader efforts to stoke white resentment towards the nation's first African American president.

Of course, if the White House's goal is to avoid racial controversies, this blast from Sherrod isn't going to make it any easier for them to take a stand and resolve this.

But let's have that conversation about what Breitbart and Fox are really up to, say I! Looking forward to Fox's coverage of this.

Obama can still have his Mr. Cool image and not get walked all over by Fox and the right wing hyenas who are never going to treat him any better than they've been treating him no matter how much he kisses their asses. They will continue to root for him to fail, continue to look to trigger his Waterloo, continue to do everything they can-- in Congress and in the media-- to undermine America for their own selfish interests. It's time to take a stand-- it's past time to take a stand.

Obama should fire Rahm Emanuel and beg Alan Grayson for advice. Or Shirley Sherrod. And he wouldn't go wrong listening to the Democratic candidate running for Congress in western Ohio's 8th district, Justin Coussoule who learned a lot about dealing with bullies as a cadet at West Point. Coussoule says the Army confirmed something he'd known his whole life. "Leaders of character choose the harder right over the easier wrong, and they do it even when no one else is watching." Coussoule's view that public service is synonymous with selfless service isn't new, but it is reassuring given the fact that so many, including Boehner, seem to have forgotten the basics.

"If Democracy is worth dying for, then it's sure as hell worth fighting for. We have to support those who take this battle seriously."

High Crimes and Misdemeanors only for Non-Republican

Yes, the repugs are serious about impeaching President Obama. I still think they're hallucinating about taking back the House, but make no mistake, if they do, impeachment will be their sole priority.

And they'll do it for the same reason they did it to President Clinton: because he's not a republican. And because to them, being not republican is a crime.

Digby explained back in April:

(Obama is) actually a polarizer, which is completely predictable and not his fault. Sure, being African American enlivens the natural tribal state of American politics, but it would have happened anyway. We are polarized because we believe different things about what America stands for. We define ourselves differently. We have different values. It's not the first time. In fact it's defines American politics.

The problem is that the other side believes that our side is illegitimate and they have no obligation to abide by the government's decisions if they are not in charge.

And I continue to be surprised that after a bogus impeachment, an election decided by a partisan Supreme Court decision and a shocking war of choice, the Democrats failed to realize that Republican party no longer believed it needed to abide by the traditions and norms that had been holding together whatever fragile truce existed. This undemocratic streak has been around among the conservatives to some degree or another forever, but it rises up now and then and it's been evident since the early 90s that we were now in one of those times.

In March, Digby wrote about the illegitimacy issue, which is about far more than birth certificates:

Amanda Marcotte makes an important observation about all this, as it relates to my earlier post about the right's seeming inability to accept the idea of democracy. This is correct:

Well, it’s simple, really. They assume, if they don’t state it outright, that large numbers of American voters shouldn’t have the right to vote. That’s the implicit argument when Sarah Palin praises white rural voters as “Real Americans”, when Birthers obsess over the idea that the first black President simply can’t be eligible for office, when tea baggers yell racist and homophobic slurs at politicians, and when they insist that you eliminate black voters from the count if you want to find out how popular a politician “really” is. When Bart Stupak laughed out loud at the very idea that nuns have opinions worth listening to---and listed a bunch of men whose opinions were the ones that counted---you had a similar sentiment being expressed. Universal suffrage seems like a fundamental part of democracy to liberals, but it appears that conservatives think it de-legitimizes the results of elections. And that if you do something without Republicans on board, you’re eliminating those who represent the only people who count.

These people believe they represent a majority and they do: of white people. Obama only has a 35% approval rating among whites, (which is down from the 42% of whites that helped elect him.) If you have white supremacist tendencies, you're going to believe that he isn't representing a majority of Real Americans.

Indeed, it explains why Democratic presidents in general can't ever be legitimate. They are, after all, always elected with the support of African Americans, Hispanics and feminist women. That wasn't what the founders intended, now was it?

Freedom's Just Another Word ....

Media Czech has been relentlessly pounding the Rand Paul "Liberty" beat for months now, holding up to well-deserved ridicule the Paulbots' empty bleating of a word that doesn't mean what they think it means.

In May, Anonymous Liberal exposed the anti-freedom truth of their philosophy:

While libertarians claims to be driven by a goal of maximizing freedom, what they mean by "freedom" is not what most people take that word to mean. To a libertarian, the only freedom that really matters is freedom from government intrusion. But often, meaningful freedom can only be created through government intervention.

Take education, for example. The existence of a public school system greatly enhances freedom by giving everyone the opportunity to get at least a basic education and opening the doors that go along with that. Similarly, without a social safety net (government programs like Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, unemployment insurance, etc.) people would literally starve or die of from lack of medical care and extreme poverty would be epidemic. This isn't conjecture. This was the reality before these programs were put in place. That's not "freedom" in any meaningful sense.

Indeed, in the health care context, I am continually perplexed by the suggestion that universal health care somehow inhibits freedom, rather than enhancing it. How liberating would it be to know that you could do whatever you choose from an employment perspective and not have to worry that you or your family will be denied access to health care? How liberating would it be to know that there's no risk that illness or injury will unexpectedly derail your dreams and bankrupt you? Even if the only freedom you care about is entrepreneurial freedom, how can it be denied that lack of universal health care discourages people from taking entrepreneurial risks, that there are people out there who would love to quit their jobs and start a business but can't because they would lose access to affordable health insurance?

Similarly, government spending on roads, transportation systems, and other infrastructure increases our physical freedom to move around and enjoy our physical environment. Government spending on law enforcement reduces crime and enhances our freedom from a physical security standpoint. Government regulation of industry keeps the air that we breath and the water we drink clean and the food and drugs we ingest safe. It gives us the freedom to enjoy our physical environment and partake of the myriad of products and services available to us without fear and without significant risk to our well-being. These are all very liberating things. I don't know about you, but my conception of freedom is not a world where I can't get a breath of fresh air, can't swim, fish or enjoy the outdoors because of pollution, and am constantly playing Russian roulette every time I go to the grocery store.

I realize there are tradeoffs with everything, that in exchange for these freedom-enhancing benefits, I have to pay a little more in taxes and deal with a little more red tape if I want to do business. But libertarians seem to deny that there is any tradeoff going on; they seem to think that freedom is only a factor on one side of the equation. The reality is that lawmaking involves balancing freedoms. Any law that enhances freedom in one way will almost always reduce freedom in another. Businesses are no longer free to discriminate, but that's okay, because everyone is now free to eat where they want, shop where they want, and seek employment without fear of being unfairly discriminated against. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, on balance, greatly enhanced personal freedom. That Rand Paul can't see this is a function of the bizarre ideological blinders he has on.

And that's not even counting the hypocrisy.

"Smart investments in America’s small businesses, America’s clean energy industry, and America’s middle-class. "

Still far too low-key and polite, but at least this week he actually utters the R word and attaches it to policies that caused economic catastrophe:

Full transcript here.

Support Your Local Teabagger

Wingnut freakazoid hysteria may rev up the boobs, but it pisses off everybody else. Kevin Drum explains:

Last night I suggested that whenever Republicans do something that excites their tea party base, it scares off independent voters and actually helps Democrats. But all I did was eyeball a couple of Gallup charts to come up with this theory. Political scientist Phil Klinkner decided to run some numbers, which he emailed to me:

I correlated partisan levels of enthusiasm with independents' support for Democrats in the generic ballot. Here are the results:

Dem Enthusiasm -0.05
Ind Enthusiasm -0.1
Rep Enthusiasm .17

So, Democratic and Independent enthusiasm has no relationship with Indendents' generic ballot preferences. On the other hand, as Republicans become more enthusiastic, Independent support for the Democrats goes up.

This may be the key to a Democratic victory. Get Republicans so ramped up that they drive Independents into the D column. A quick estimate says that if 100 percent of the GOP is very enthusiastic about voting, then Independents will favor the Democrats by 3 points, in which case the Democrats should win by about 11 points.

Phil goes on to joke that Democrats should "buy blocks of TV time and give them free of charge to Joe Wilson, Michele Bachmann, and Mark Williams." In any case, I just wanted to let everyone know that my gut feel is now Backed Up By Science™.

So the next time your local crazy teabagger candidate starts foaming at the mouth and speaking in tongues, don't shake your head and walk away; yell "Right on, brother!" and give the crowd two thumbs up.

Friday, July 23, 2010

We'll Stop Calling Obama a Cowardly Corporatist as Soon as He Stops Being a Cowardly Corporatist

It's a damn good thing I'm not in Vegas at Netroots Nation, because I'd be cooling my heels in jail right now after busting Van Jones right in the mouth.

Former White House green jobs "czar" Van Jones told progressive activists and bloggers today that, rather than bash President Obama for not changing the country as fast as they'd thought, they should maintain hope and help him with his agenda.

"I can't stand it. President Obama volunteered to be the captain of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg," Jones said at Netroots Nation while being interviewed by journalist Ari Melber of The Nation.

Jones, who resigned last year after conservatives targeted him as an extreme leftist, refrained from any Obama-slamming of his own. Speaking to a large second-day crowd, Jones reminded the group that he quit and wasn't pushed out. "I resigned. I did not want to be the banana peel that the president of the United States slipped on trying to win on health care," Jones said.

He cautioned bloggers from despairing and going after Obama. "This is harder than it looks. Having spent six months in the White House, it's a totally different experience when you're sitting there and the missiles are coming over the horizon at you," he said.

Some nasty limburger with that bitter whine, there, Van?

Let's go with that missile metaphor. We dirty fucking hippie liberal bloggers have a slightly different perspective on them. First of all, we see them arcing toward the White House long before the inhabitants do. Sometimes we even spot the launch.

But when we point out the danger, urging the president to put up a defense, even take preventive action, we are ignored and dismissed.

Because we care about this nation, and see Obama as our only hope of avoiding repug armageddon, we swallow our pride and persevere, pointing and screaming "Missiles! Incoming! Get to the shelter!"

Again our warnings are ignored, and we are mocked, insulted, even threatened.

And when the smoke clears from the smouldering ruins of this maladministration's latest attempt to appease the repugs, and we suggest going on offense to avoid the next attack of missiles, what do we get?

"Shut up and be good little obamabots."

The liberal blogosphere is the only thing standing between Barack Obama and a one-term legacy as the only American president worse than George W. Bush.

Every single one of his much-touted "accomplishments," to the extent they actually accomplished anything, is thanks to the liberal blogosphere. We nagged and bitched and criticized and demanded and screamed bloody murder to get shreds of progressive legislation past Obama's corporate shredder.

We're the ones who organized and petitioned and nailed wavering congress critters to the wall. We're the ones who challenged the teabaggers in the streets and the townhalls. We're the ones who researched and fact-checked and exposed every wingnut lie.

We took every administration betrayal in the gut, then dragged ourselves up and threw ourselves back into the battle Obama and Congressional dems kept trying to surrender.

And we'll keep doing it. We're not shutting up, we're not sitting down, we're not quitting.

We're not asking for Wall Street's seat at the table, or the hot, moist massages the Blue Dogs get. All we ask is that whiny-assed titty babies like Van Jones acknowledge one obvious truth:

The liberal blogosphere is this administration's only fucking ally.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....