I’m enjoying some nice fresh air this morning after thunderstorms during the night. It looks as if the mini-heat wave we’ve been having here in the Boston area isn’t going to be as quite bad as originally predicted. It it supposed to be several degrees cooler than expected today and tomorrow and then we’re back to high 70′s temps. I hope that turns out to be right.
Unfortunately, because of this refreshing change in the air here, I slept longer than I should have and this post will go up a little bit late.
If there were a competition for “most classless supreme court justice,” there would be some serious competition among Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito; but I think in the end the first prize would have to go to Samuel Alito. Clarence Thomas at least has the grace to remain silent and Scalia supposedly can be funny at times. But Alito is just an immature, obnoxious disgrace, as he demonstrated at the State of the Union Address in 2010 when President Obama denounced the Citizens United decision.
Yesterday Alito used childish, offensive body language to publicly mock his senior colleague Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she read a dissenting opinion to a SCOTUS decision that will make it more difficult for employees to sue for sexual or racial discrimination. From Dana Millbank at The Washington Post:
The most remarkable thing about the Supreme Court’s opinions announced Monday was not what the justices wrote or said. It was what Samuel Alito did.
The associate justice, a George W. Bush appointee, read two opinions, both 5-4 decisions that split the court along its usual right-left divide. But Alito didn’t stop there. When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read her dissent from the bench, Alito visibly mocked his colleague.
Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the high court, was making her argument about how the majority opinion made it easier for sexual harassment to occur in the workplace when Alito, seated immediately to Ginsburg’s left, shook his head from side to side in disagreement, rolled his eyes and looked at the ceiling.
His treatment of the 80-year-old Ginsburg, 17 years his elder and with 13 years more seniority, was a curious display of judicial temperament or, more accurately, judicial intemperance. Typically, justices state their differences in words — and Alito, as it happens, had just spoken several hundred of his own from the bench. But he frequently supplements words with middle-school gestures.
Millbank goes on the describe Alito’s similar treatment of female Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor a few days earlier. Read about it at the link.
Garrett Epps provides more detail at The Atlantic: Justice Alito’s Inexcusable Rudeness.
I am glad the nation did not see first-hand Justice Samuel Alito’s display of rudeness to his senior colleague, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Because Alito’s mini-tantrum was silent, it will not be recorded in transcript or audio; but it was clear to all with eyes, and brought gasps from more than one person in the audience.
The episode occurred when Ginsburg read from the bench her dissent in two employment discrimination cases decided Monday, Vance v. Ball State University and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar. In both cases, the Court majority made it harder for plaintiffs to prevail on claims of racial and sexual discrimination. The Nassar opinion raises the level of proof required to establish that employers have “retaliated” against employees by firing or demoting them after they complain about discrimination; Vance limits the definition of “supervisor” on the job, making it harder for employees harassed by those with limited but real authority over them to sue the employers.
The Vance opinion is by Alito, and as he summarized the opinion from the bench he seemed to be at great pains to show that the dissent (which of course no one in the courtroom had yet seen) was wrong in its critique. That’s not unusual in a written opinion; more commonly, however, bench summaries simply lay out the majority’s rationale and mention only that there was a dissent. (Kennedy’s Nassar summary followed the latter model.)
After both opinions had been read, Ginsburg read aloud a summary of her joint dissent in the two cases. She critiqued the Vance opinion by laying out a “hypothetical” (clearly drawn from a real case) in which a female worker on a road crew is subjected to humiliations by the “lead worker,” who directs the crew’s daily operation but cannot fire or demote those working with him. TheVance opinion, she suggested, would leave the female worker without a remedy.
At this point, Alito pursed his lips, rolled his eyes to the ceiling, and shook his head “no.” He looked for all the world like Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, signaling to the homies his contempt for Ray Walston as the bothersome history teacher, Mr. Hand.
I guess I should be grateful that I’m old enough to recall the Warren Court. We won’t see a SCOTUS like that again in my lifetime, I’m afraid.
Of course the news is still being dominated by Edward Snowden, who once claimed he didn’t want the story of his leaks of classified information from NSA to be about him. “Really?” writes Dan Murphy of The Christian Science Monitor. “But if that were true, we probably wouldn’t even know his name.”
Two weeks ago, Edward Snowden gave The Guardian permission to disclose that he was the leaker of documents from the US National Security Agency.
“I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me,” the former NSA contractor said then. “I want it to be about what the US government is doing.”
If that was really his desire, he’s certainly gone about it in a funny way. From that day, every step he’s taken couldn’t have been better calculated to draw attention to himself. Over the weekend he even turned the media dial up when he fled from Hong Kong to the loving bosom of Mother Russia.
Mr. Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, has staked out a consistently anti-American and techno-libertarian position in the past few years. The US government is motivated by malice and power lust in his worldview, its rivals like Russia (where state-owned broadcaster RT ran a show of Assange’s) get a free pass, and secrecyis an evil in and of itself. Though he presents himself as a champion of free-speech, Assange has sought refuge in the Embassy of Ecuador in London, never mind that the country has a poor and deteriorating record on freedom of speech. The Committee to Protect Journalists listed Ecuador and Russia as two of the 10 worst places to be a journalist in the world past year.
Read the rest at CSM.
Meanwhile, Russia and China are pushing back against U.S. criticism of their refusal to help the U.S. extradite Snowden. From The Washington Post:
MOSCOW— Russia and China on Tuesday rejected U.S. criticism of their roles in the legal drama surrounding Edward Snowden, saying their governments complied with the law and did not illegally assist the former government contractor charged with revealing classified information about secret U.S. surveillance programs.
Snowden, 30, has not been seen in public since he reportedly arrived in Moscow on Sunday, after slipping out of Hong Kong. Secretary of State John F. Kerry on Monday strongly urged Russian officials to transfer Snowden to U.S. custody. “We think it’s very important in terms of our relationship,” Kerry said. “We think it’s very important in terms of rule of law.”
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Snowden had not actually crossed into Russian territory, apparently remaining in a secure transit zone inside the airport or in an area controlled by foreign diplomats. Moscow therefore has had no jurisdiction over his movements, Lavrov said, and has no legal right to turn him over to U.S. authorities.
It sounds like Snowden could still be in some VIP lounge at the Moscow Airport, but no one knows for sure. One witness told Reuters that Snowden did in fact arrive there yesterday. If he is in the airport, Russia can claim that Snowden technically never stepped on Russian soil.
Mr. Zuma said that he and Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president of the governing African National Congress, visited Mr. Mandela late Sunday.
“Given the hour, he was already asleep. We were there, looked at him, saw him and then we had a bit of a discussion with the doctors and his wife,” Mr. Zuma said. “I don’t think I’m in a position to give further details. I’m not a doctor.”
Doctors told Mr. Zuma on Sunday evening that Mr. Mandela’s health “had become critical over the past 24 hours,” according to an earlier statement from the presidency.
In the statement on Sunday, Mr. Zuma said that doctors were doing “everything possible to get his condition to improve and are ensuring that Madiba is well looked after and is comfortable.” Madiba is Mr. Mandela’s clan name.
The Telegraph reports that Mandela’s close relatives “have gathered at his rural homestead to discuss the failing health of the South African anti-apartheid icon who was fighting for his life in hospital.”
From NPR, President Obama today plans To Lay Out Broad Plan To Address Climate Change.
President Obama is expected to announce a sweeping plan to address climate change this afternoon.
The president has framed this issue as a moral responsibility, to leave the Earth in good shape for generations to come. But the nitty-gritty of any serious plan to address this problem is also a challenge, because it means gradually moving away from fossil fuels to renewable energy supplies — and that means there will be economic winners and losers.
Winners include companies that produce clean energy — wind, solar and geothermal energy. That energy will be more in demand, and the administration intends to expand access to public lands, where companies can build windmills and solar facilities.
Public health is also a winner, because the plan would pressure coal-fired power plants to reduce their emissions. Those plants not only produce carbon dioxide, but they are major sources of mercury, radioactive particles and chemicals that contribute to asthma.
The losers will be coal companies and the miners they employ as well as millions of Americans who can’t afford to pay higher electric bills. You can read the entire plan at the NPR link. More detail in this story at CNN. And at Business Insider, Josh Barro lists 3 Reasons Obama’s Carbon Plan Is The Best Solution Right Now
Today should be another busy news day with the ongoing Snowden saga, the President’s climate initiatives, the continuing Whitey Bulger and George Zimmerman trials, and more important SCOTUS decisions. If it gets hot here again this afternoon, I’ll have something to distract me at least. I’ll try to post an afternoon update.
Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focusing on today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday!!
White men just wanna have fun!!! We saw a the lot of it yesterday! I’m not even sure where to start on the list but the punch line to all of this is that women and black people just don’t seem to have a sense of humor. Otherwise, we’d find all of these jokes supremely kewl.
So, the first example was the outrageously offensive The Onion Tweet last night that rocked the Twitter World. For those of you that lack the satire gene, some one in the staff felt it satirical to call a 9 year old black girl–Quvenzhané Wallis–the “c” word. I don’t know about you, but as a woman, the “c” word is on the level with the “n” word to me. They took the tweet down with in the hour and they’ve finally apologized on their Facebook page. I guess it took them about 8 hours to figure out how to say they were very very very very wrong. Yes, I’m posting the offending Tweet because they took it down and it needs to be seen because THEY OWN IT. I’m offended by the word as any one, but really, it needs to be documented.
On behalf of The Onion, I offer my personal apology to Quvenzhané Wallis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the tweet that was circulated last night during the Oscars. It was crude and offensive—not to mention inconsistent with The Onion’s commitment to parody and satire, however biting.
No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire.
The tweet was taken down within an hour of publication. We have instituted new and tighter Twitter procedures to ensure that this kind of mistake does not occur again.
Miss Wallis, you are young and talented and deserve better. All of us at The Onion are deeply sorry.
But, really, that was just in keeping of the good ol’ boy spirit of the Oscars set by Seth McFarland. I am not an aficionado of any of his work even though I am a big fan of the cartoon genre. It’s because I don’t like being the butt of nearly every friggin’ joke that isn’t making black people the butt of the joke. If I were a black lesbian I could be offended perpetually by him.
At this point there’s no question that Seth MacFarlane was a terrible Oscar host. Not only were his jokes unfunny, tired, self-centered and boring, but also incredibly sexist, homophobic and racist. Boob jokes. Diet jokes. “No homo” jokes. Rape jokes. Abuse jokes. Slave jokes. Jew jokes. And to add to the atrocity, the whole act was punctuated by MacFarlane’s absurd preoccupation with whether or not he was a good host, which—as mentioned—he clearly was not. So perhaps he was right in asking “what did you expect?”
I’m not putting the video up, you can go watch ‘em all. There are so many things wrong with getting the Gay Men’s Chorus to sing a song about “I saw your boobs” and then insisting you’re not a member of the chorus at the end that I don’t know where to start with that either. MacFarlane did not miss the opportunity to mess with Ms. Wallis either. Then, there’s an AP reporter who couldn’t take the time to learn the young girl’s name. Here’s some great analysis from Racialiscious.
First, there was an Associated Press — Associated Press! — reporter on the red carpet before the show allegedly telling Wallis, “I’m gonna call you Annie,” instead of by her given name, for which the reporter was quickly and rightfully corrected. In another bizarre outburst, model Chrissy Teigen saw fit to call her “a brat.”
Then Oscars host Seth McFarlane chose to involve her in a joke about George Clooney’s supposed preference for younger women, saying, “To give you an idea of how young she is, it’ll be about 16 years before she’s too old for Clooney.” Of course, there were more “jokes” where that came from throughout the evening.
And then came The Onion to steal the spotlight from him. Again: This is a nine-year-old girl. And these people think they have license to be “edgy” with her. Forget that it was an awards show.
It’s encouraging to note that not only were progressives and media critics up in arms over The Onion’s colossal misfire, but actors like Wendell Pierce, LeVar Burton and Marlee Matlin also publicly called the site out over it.
This morning we find that New York State Assemblyman Dov Kind celebrated Purim in blackface and found it great fun. I can’t even believe what he would say if some black man had worn the stereotypical Jewish man costume for any celebration, so what’s the deal here? He certainly had issues with Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ” so why play stupid with the incredibly demeaning role that whites using “blackface” has played in the culture of our country?
Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind hosted a massive Purim party at his home yesterday that featured over fourteen hours of food and drink and, as is customary on the Jewish holiday, elaborate costumes. Mr. Hikind said a professional makeup artist came to his home to transform him into a “basketball player” with a costume that consisted of an afro wig, sunglasses, an orange jersey and brown face paint.
“I was just, I think, I was trying to emulate, you know, maybe some of these basketball players. Someone gave me a uniform, someone gave me the hair of the actual, you know, sort of a black basketball player,” Mr. Hikind explained. “It was just a lot of fun. Everybody just had a very, very good time and every year I do something else. … The fun for me is when people come in and don’t recognize me.”
Hikind is a right wing Democrat and has taken some awful positions including outspoken support of racial profiling by the NYPD. This is what makes the choice of costume even more questionable.
The last few years have been an eye-opening experience for me. Last year, we spent a good deal of time listening to the mansplain about rape and incest in the political realm. Now, we get to see that good ol’ clean humor and fun is all about making women, GLBT, and minorities the butts of jokes. But, let me just ask, how big of an insensitive asshole do you have to be not to realize that a 9 year old girl should be off limits completely? I guess some guys just are not going to get out of the deep end even when they’re drowning.
Alrighty then … I always know that televised football games never have the most enlightened ads if there is such a thing. I don’t think I ever got enough expletives in my dictionary to deal with the Swedish Bikini Team. Then, there’s every Go Daddy ad ever made. I remember when my parents took me to see “In The Heat of the Night” in a theatre in Estes Park Colorado when I was a tender young thing. Mom usually would find a way to get every one to a movie she wanted to see since the cabin was sans TV and none of my cousins were around to babysit so we got drug to some pretty intense movies. The opening scene was a bare-breasted woman and my mother tried to strategically give me popcorn by placing the box in front of my face. That’s always what I think about doing to any girls in the room during ads on sporting events if I happen to wrangled into being there.
In this ad, a high school kid is going to the prom by himself. Bummer, bro. But his dad gives him the keys to his Audi. Hell yeah, bro. He cruises to the school and parks in the principal’s spot. Hell yeah, bro. He walks straight up to the prom queen and ambushes her with a kiss.
Hell yeah, bro. What you feel like doing at that particular moment is more important than whether or not she wants to be kissed. Hell yeah, bro. She appears to be in a relationship with someone else, and there is no implication offered in this commercial that this is something she would want. Hell yeah, bro. It turns out that she happened to be OK with it, thereby justifying everything. Hell yeah, bro. The commercial closes with, “Bravery. It’s what defines us.” Hell yeah, bro. The word for just walking up to a woman and kissing her without her consent is apparently, “bravery.” Hell yeah, bro.
Bravery? Is that what they would call that?
Young and old dudes: Kissing women without their consent is not brave. It is sexual assault. That is all.
Go Daddy: I really hope Anonymous take down all your servers permanently.
Plenty of Reagan Republicans have criticized the current Republican Party and their embrace of policies and stances more suitable to the John Birch Society, the KKK and the Taliban than the party’s past lives or the US Constitution. Bruce Bartlett and David Stockman have both come out with books that mince no words about the embrace of crazy economic policies that don’t resemble anything of Reagan’s views or modern economic theory. So, why is it they’re suddenly jumping on Peggy Noonan? I guess the boyz don’t like one of their women stepping out of line more than it bothers them that many of their stallions have already bolted from the stable. Sexism anyone?? First there’s Chris Wallace who is one of the clearest voices of John Birch propaganda and spurious economics to be found on the Fox Propaganda Network.
In her column today, Noonan doubled-down on criticisms she made earlier in the week: “This week I called [the Romney campaign] incompetent, but only because I was being polite,” she wrote. “I really meant “rolling calamity.”
During today’s interview, part of POLITICO’s “Turn The Table” series, Gavin asked Wallace whether conservative opinion makers who have criticized Romney — such as Noonan, David Brooks of The New York Times, and the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol – had influence on conservatives around the country or were simply participating in an “inside-the-Beltway parlor game.”
“I think it’s more of ‘Inside-the-Beltway,” Wallace said. “Some of the people you’ve mentioned, like Peggy Noonan, sometimes they’re New York City’s idea of conservatives. Kristol is a different deal. Kristol is a serious, movement conservative, and he never wanted Mitt Romney. He always wanted people of the next generation like Ryan, Rubio — so I think he feels disappointed.”
Wallace then mentioned David Frum, the conservative columnist who now writes for the Daily Beast, though whether he was referring to David Frum or David Brooks was unclear.
“David Frum is the guy who turned on George W. Bush. Peggy Noonan has bashed George W. Bush, bashed Mitt Romney, wasn’t crazy about McCain. So, their conservative bona fides I’m not sure I take too seriously,” he said.
One of the creepiest goons in the enforcement racket is John Sununu. Evidently, he doesn’t mind going after Peggy either. Remember, we’ve had a series of wingers criticize Romney recently. Why single out Noonan?
In today’s edition of the Sununu Series, Mitt Romney’s attack dog pushes back against Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan for her ongoing criticism of Romney’s campaign. “I wouldn’t hire Peggy Noonan to run a campaign,” Sununu says.
What set them off? Noonan’s blunt assessment of Romney ‘s inefficient management style was published in this WSJ op ed: Noonan: Romney Needs a New CEO. Here’s three of her points that really hit home.
5. “The president had a strong convention and Romney a weak one.” The RNC failed “to relaunch a rebranded Romney and create momentum.”
6. Team Romney has been “reactive,” partly because of the need for damage control, but it also failed to force the Obama campaign to react to its proposals and initiatives.
7. The “47%” comment didn’t help, but Mr. Romney’s Libya statement was a critical moment. Team Romney did not know “the most basic political tenet of a foreign crisis: when there is an international incident in which America is attacked, voters in this country will (at least in the short term) rally around the flag and the President. Always. It is stunning that Team Romney failed to recognize this.”
Still, the Romney team is attacking Noonan while letting other republican pundits off the hook. After Scott Brown’s smirking performance last night, I’m beginning to see how much the boys really like to beat up on those uppity girls who dare to question their born-with-a-dick abilities. Call a Whambulence boyz. The girls obviously hit you where it hurts.
I lived in the Quarter for five years. I now live about 1 mile from it. I gigged there even after I moved so I know a lot of the clubs, a lot of the people, and a lot of the characters. I could tell you about the Chicken Man, Ruthie the Duck Girl, and a number of French Quarter eccentrics. I’ve lent a lot of gowns and girlie stuff to guys in my day. I love the Quarter. However, whenever we do a celebration there’s always a presence of religious folks dragging crosses, shouting hateful things through megaphones, and carrying really nasty placards. You get to know them too even though you’re glad when they go home and crawl under their rocks. I used to live in a back house but many of my friends had big ol’ wrought iron-laced balconies. My friend Georgia and I used to like to water her plants on the days they drug their ugly in front of our homes on Royal. So, I just loved reading this. Here’s one of them–Rev. Grant Storms– who has been a big damper our big celebration of the Gay community of the South; Southern Decadence. Try to just let the irony and the hypocrisy flow all over you.
The Rev. Grant Storms, the former “Christian patriot” pastor whose marches against homosexuality at New Orleans’ Southern Decadence festival briefly put him in the national spotlight, was convicted of obscenity Wednesday, for exposing himself while masturbating at Lafreniere Park last year. In his confession, he described public masturbation as “a thrill,” but authorities debunked suspicions that he was a pedophile.
Storms, 55, who lives in Metairie, declined to comment after the conviction. Judge Ross LaDart of the 24th Judicial District Court, who presided over the daylong trial because Storms waived a jury, did not even break to deliberate. He promptly found Storms guilty of the single count of obscenity. He sentenced Storms to three years of probation, citing no evidence of a criminal history.
LaDart also ordered Storms to be evaluated, apparently psychologically. The judge noted that in Storms’ confession, he admitted that Feb. 25, 2011, the day he was arrested, was the third time that week that he masturbated in Lafreniere Park.
“Lafreniere Park is a public place,” LaDart said in announcing the verdict. “Lafreniere Park is a place that was chosen by this defendant to engage in a history of masturbation.”
Storms declined to testify. His attorneys, Brett Emmanuel and Donald Cashio, did not overtly deny their client masturbated in the park but argued he never exposed his penis. The exposure was a necessary element of the obscenity charge.
In his confession, Storms told Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Kevin Balser he had taken a break from his grass cutting business to sip a beer in the park, where he said he became “horny.” He said he put his hands into his underwear, but he never exposed himself.
So, one of the big questions that came out of watching the republican primary debate was how can people be so cruel? Why would they clap at the thought of some one dying or boo a gay soldier. Here’s an explanation from Josh Holland at Alternet. He explains the conservative psyche and how ordinary people can embrace Paul Ryan.
Earlier this year, Democratic operatives looking for the best way to define Mitt Romney discovered something interesting about Paul Ryan’s budget. The New York Times reported that when the details of his proposals were run past focus groups, they found that the plan is so cruel that voters “ simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.”
In addition to phasing out the Earned Income Tax Credit that keeps millions of American families above the poverty line and cutting funding for children’s healthcare in half, Jonathan Cohn described the “America that Paul Ryan envisions” like this:
Many millions of working-age Americans would lose health insurance. Senior citizens would anguish over whether to pay their rent or their medical bills, in a way they haven’t since the 1960s. Government would be so starved of resources that, by 2050, it wouldn’t have enough money for core functions like food inspections and highway maintenance.
Ryan’s “roadmap” may be the least serious budget plan ever to emerge in Washington, but it is reflective of how far to the right the GOP has moved in recent years. According to a recent study of public attitudes conducted by the Pew Research Center, in 1987, 62 percent of Republicans said “the government should take care of people who cannot take care of themselves,” but that number has now dropped to just 40 percent ( PDF). That attitude was on display during a GOP primary debate last fall when moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul what fate should befall a healthy person without health insurance who finds himself suddenly facing a catastrophic illness. “Congressman,” Blitzer pressed after Paul sidestepped the question, “are you saying that society should just let him die?” Before Paul had a chance to respond, the audience erupted in cheers , with some shouting, “yeah!”
Well, stimulus has worn off and the Republican war on jobs and the economy–to blame on Obama–is showing as jobs and consumer confidence start heading down.
Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits climbed last week to a one-month high, showing scant progress in the labor market that’s left Americans more pessimistic about the economy.
Jobless claims rose by 4,000 for a second week to reach 372,000 in the period ended Aug. 18, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. Consumer confidence dropped last week to the lowest level since January, according to the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index.
Companies are keeping payrolls lean as a weaker global economy and lack of clarity on U.S. tax policy next year cloud the demand outlook, one reason the Federal Reserve may be closer to further monetary stimulus. Residential real estate is a source of strength for the expansion, according to a report that showed new-home sales matched a two-year high in July.
“The economy is growing, but it’s still moderate growth, and the labor market is still weak,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West in San Francisco. “We’re also getting better numbers in terms of building activity. That’s certainly adding to growth and offsetting some of the weakness we’re seeing from the consumer.”
The Party of No and Stupidity is basically playing political games with American lives and with the American economy. There’s a huge story about it at Time Magazine this week based on the Michael Grunwald book.
TIME just published “The Party of No,” an article adapted from my new book, The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era. It reveals some of my reporting on the Republican plot to obstruct President Obama before he even took office, including secret meetings led by House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (in December 2008) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (in early January 2009) where they laid out their daring (though cynical and political) no-honeymoon strategy of all-out resistance to a popular president-elect during an economic emergency. “If he was for it,” former Ohio senator George Voinovich explained, “we had to be against it.” The excerpt includes a special bonus nugget of Mitt Romney dissing the Tea Party.
But as we say in the sales world: There’s more! I’m going to be blogging some of the news and larger themes from the book here at time.com, and I’ll kick it off with more scenes from the early days of the Republican Strategy of No. Read on to hear what Joe Biden’s sources in the Senate GOP were telling him, some candid pillow talk between a Republican staffer and an Obama aide, and a top Republican admitting his party didn’t want to “play.” I’ll start with a scene I consider a turning point in the Obama era, when the new president came to the Hill to extend his hand and the GOP spurned it.
Every one here should know that I was an avid Hillary supporter once I decided she was far superior to any one running for president in 2008. I was pretty flabbergasted when a lot of people suggested that racism played a role in the primary process. The Republican Party has been race-baiting since Richard Nixon adopted “the Southern Strategy”. From the Bush Willy Horton ads, to the Reagan myth ofwelfare queens driving cadillacs, to the latest Romney strategy of suggesting Obama will gut the welfare program of work incentives, the Republicans have been courting the racist southern vote. I’ve since decided that race was a bigger factor than my “give’em them benefit of the doubt” philosophy embraced. I think we have to frame this election in terms of race because of the obvious framing of the President as “not American”, “foreign”, “dog-eating”, Muslim, Kenyan, etc. I can’t even believe how I see white men complaining about how racist every one is treating them. The deal is that you cannot complain about being down and out when you’re the group in power of all the major institutions in the country. Please read this article ‘The Fear of a Black President”by Ta-Nehisi Coates. We’ve been talking a lot about how Republicans could care less about the plight of women. They could care even less about the plight of racial minorities in this country. Coates juxtaposes Obama against the Trayvon Martin killing and all the other thing that remind us that we still have a long way to go with the vision that all of us are created equal.
By virtue of his background—the son of a black man and a white woman, someone who grew up in multiethnic communities around the world—Obama has enjoyed a distinctive vantage point on race relations in America. Beyond that, he has displayed enviable dexterity at navigating between black and white America, and at finding a language that speaks to a critical mass in both communities. He emerged into national view at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, with a speech heralding a nation uncolored by old prejudices and shameful history. There was no talk of the effects of racism. Instead Obama stressed the power of parenting, and condemned those who would say that a black child carrying a book was “acting white.” He cast himself as the child of a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas and asserted, “In no other country on Earth is my story even possible.” When, as a senator, he was asked if the response to Hurricane Katrina evidenced racism, Obama responded by calling the “ineptitude” of the response “color-blind.”
Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others. Black America ever lives under that skeptical eye. Hence the old admonishments to be “twice as good.” Hence the need for a special “talk” administered to black boys about how to be extra careful when relating to the police. And hence Barack Obama’s insisting that there was no racial component to Katrina’s effects; that name-calling among children somehow has the same import as one of the oldest guiding principles of American policy—white supremacy. The election of an African American to our highest political office was alleged to demonstrate a triumph of integration. But when President Obama addressed the tragedy of Trayvon Martin, he demonstrated integration’s great limitation—that acceptance depends not just on being twice as good but on being half as black. And even then, full acceptance is still withheld. The larger effects of this withholding constrict Obama’s presidential potential in areas affected tangentially—or seemingly not at all—by race. Meanwhile, across the country, the community in which Obama is rooted sees this fraudulent equality, and quietly seethes.
Obama’s first term has coincided with a strategy of massive resistance on the part of his Republican opposition in the House, and a record number of filibuster threats in the Senate. It would be nice if this were merely a reaction to Obama’s politics or his policies—if this resistance truly were, as it is generally described, merely one more sign of our growing “polarization” as a nation. But the greatest abiding challenge to Obama’s national political standing has always rested on the existential fact that if he had a son, he’d look like Trayvon Martin. As a candidate, Barack Obama understood this.
“The thing is, a black man can’t be president in America, given the racial aversion and history that’s still out there,” Cornell Belcher, a pollster for Obama, told the journalist Gwen Ifill after the 2008 election. “However, an extraordinary, gifted, and talented young man who happens to be black can be president.”
Another outstanding essay in The Nation was written by Melissa Harris-Perry who still can’t believe that Romney chose Ryan. She can’t believe what this says about Romney’s complete embrace of the right wing and its view and treatment of women.
Nowhere is this more apparent, or more important, than in Ryan’s record on reproductive rights. Romney may have flippantly suggested that he would eliminate Planned Parenthood, but Ryan has worked consistently to restrict women’s access to healthcare. It’s not just his fifty-nine votes to block or limit reproductive rights that are of concern; it’s the absolutist nature of his positions. He rejects rape and incest as mitigating circumstances for abortion. He won’t even consider the possibility that women’s moral autonomy or constitutional rights are sufficient reasons for access.
Ryan is one of sixty-four Congressional co-sponsors of HR 212, a “personhood” bill that gives legal rights to fertilized eggs. Last November a similar measure was soundly defeated by 57 percent of voters in that liberal bastion, Mississippi. (Mississippi!) Ryan co-sponsored a bill too extreme for a state that has only one abortion clinic, a state whose policies have effectively made it impossible for most doctors to perform—or for most women to access—an abortion. It may be time to update the title of Nina Simone’s iconic song from “Mississippi Goddam” to “Paul Ryan Goddam.” Ryan’s role in HR 212 isn’t just the symbolic co-sponsorship of a bill with little likelihood of passage. He explicitly articulated his case for personhood in a 2010 Heritage Foundation article, in which he parrots the familiar conservative case that America’s failure to recognize fetuses as persons is the same as our nation’s historical failure to recognize the humanity of enslaved black people. Therefore, Roe v. Wade is the twentieth-century equivalent of the 1857 Dred Scott decision.
With Ryan and women’s health, there is no middle ground; there is only his moral judgment. And despite his avowed libertarianism on economic issues, on women’s health and rights Ryan is willing to use the full force of government to limit the freedom of dissenting citizens to exercise their opposing judgments.
The Republican Party’s vision of the future is to move the country back to where we would practically have to fight the civil war all over again. We also would have to fight for rights for women and recognition of the humanity of the GLBT community. Oh, wait, since the Tea Party took over Congress, we’re having to do that every day.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?