Today is another slow news day, and that could be bad news for some folks in Norfolk, Nebraska. Dakinikat alerted us to the story yesterday, and now it’s in the process of going viral. So far the headlines on the story seem highly understated. From the Lincoln Journal-Star: Obama float at Norfolk parade sparks controversy.
It was the parade float that elicited the loudest cheers Friday at Norfolk’s Fourth of July parade. The crowd lining the streets clapped and laughed as the flatbed truck went by.
But one loud voice rose above the rest: “This is not OK,” Glory Kathurima said. “That’s not OK.”
She kept repeating herself as the float passed, she says. She started to raise her phone to take a picture of the blue truck with the outhouse on its flatbed, along with a dark figurine in overalls propped up by a metal walker.
And nailed to the sides of the wooden privy, two signs in all-black capital letters: “OBAMA PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY.”
Kathurima’s daughter Malaika saw the disrespectful depiction of the President of the United States, and asked her mom, “Mommy, what does that mean? What’s so funny?”
Kathurima moved to Nebraska from Kenya when she was Malaika’s age and became a naturalized citizen a few years ago. She’s raised her daughter in Norfolk and has found ways to explain the meaning of skin color. She’s turned on the TV and pointed to President Obama, showing Malaika that there was someone that looked like her — half Kenyan, half American.
“I’m angry and I’m scared,” Kathurima said. “This float was not just political; this was absolutely a racial statement.”
If a 9-year-old can see the problem, you’d think the parade organizers in Norfolk would have at least foreseen what the reaction to the float would be from normal people across the country. But apparently they didn’t.
Parade committee member Rick Konopasek said the float wasn’t meant to be any more offensive than a political cartoon would be….
“We don’t feel its right to tell someone what they can and can’t express,” he said. “This was political satire. If we start saying no to certain floats, we might as well not have a parade at all.”
Konopasek and parade announcer Wally Sonnenschein said the outhouse float was the most popular one in the parade, and the three judges awarded it an honorable mention.
“It’s obvious the majority of the community liked it,” Konopasek said. “So should we deny the 95 percent of those that liked it their rights, just for the 5 percent of people who are upset?”
Konopasek and Sonnenschein actually claimed that the float demonstrated the freedom of speech and independence that the country celebrates on the Fourth of July, and that “the man who built the float has been a longstanding member of the community, and people shouldn’t be quick to judge him for expressing his opinions.” How odd then that the “man who built the float” didn’t put his name on his handiwork and he is still anonymous, according to Omaha.com.
A Fourth of July parade float that depicted a figure standing outside an outhouse labeled the “Obama Presidential Library” has created a stir on social media and is also receiving criticism in Norfolk, Nebraska.
The float, in Norfolk’s annual Independence Day parade, was on a flatbed trailer being pulled by a blue pickup truck. The figure was dressed in overalls and standing next to a walker outside of the outhouse. The hands and head of the figure were greenish and appeared to be zombielike; the hands were pressed against the sides of the figure’s head. Miniature American flags were atop the float and on the truck.Neither the float nor the pickup identified a sponsor; a sign in the windshield said it was entry No. 29.
Why isn’t “the man who built the float” expressing pride in his creation?
Actually the design of the float wasn’t original. I’ve seen this depiction of Obama before. From Huffington Post:
The presidential library outhouse comparison has become somewhat of a conservative meme in recent years. A similar structure was on display at Montana’s state Republican convention in 2012. And last fall, an outhouse with a “presidential library” sign drew criticism in a small New Mexico town.
It will be interesting to see how this story plays out in the next few days. Certainly if this is not racism per se (I think it is), it demonstrates a shocking lack of respect for the office of the Presidency. Will Norfolk parade officials continue to defend the float? Will “the man who built the float” come forward and defend what he did? Stay tuned.
In other news,
In his latest column, E.J. Dionne calls attention to “an article in draft” by Joseph Fishkin & William E. Forbath called “The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution” (PDF). The article addresses the issue of economic inequality, and is the basis for a planned book by Fishkin.
Dionne writes that Tea Partiers and other “conservatives” constantly talk about the Constitution to justify their extreme views on multiple issues. Dionne argues that “progressives” should “think constitutionally” too, and “challenge conservative claims about what the Constitution really demands.”
In the May issue of the Boston University Law Review, Joseph R. Fishkin and William E. Forbath of the University of Texas School of Law show that at key turning points in our history (the Jacksonian era, the Populist and Progressive moments and the New Deal), opponents of rising inequality made strong arguments “that we cannot keep our constitutional democracy — our republican form of government — without constitutional restraints against oligarchy and a political economy that maintains a broad middle class, accessible to everyone.”
Their article is called “The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution,” though Forbath told me that he and Fishkin may give the book they’re writing on the topic the more upbeat title “The Constitution of Opportunity.” Their view is that by empowering the wealthy in our political system, Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United directly contradict the Constitution’s central commitment to shared self-rule.
“Extreme concentrations of economic and political power undermine equal opportunity and equal citizenship,” they write. “In this way, oligarchy is incompatible with, and a threat to, the American constitutional scheme.” …. they make a similar critique of what they call an excessively “court-centered” approach to constitutionalism. “Constitutional politics during the 19th and early 20th centuries” was very different and the subject of democratic deliberation. In earlier eras, they say, the Constitution was seen as not simply permitting but actually requiring “affirmative legislation . . . to ensure a wide distribution of opportunity” and to address “the problem of oligarchy in a modern capitalist society.”The authors remind us of Franklin Roosevelt’s warning that “the inevitable consequence” of placing “economic and financial control in the hands of the few” would be “the destruction of the base of our form of government.” And writing during the Gilded Age, a time like ours in many ways, the journalist James F. Hudson argued that “imbedded” in the Constitution is “the principle” mandating “the widest distribution among the people, not only of political power, but of the advantages of wealth, education and social influence.”
The idea of a Constitution of Opportunity is both refreshing and relevant. For too long, progressives have allowed conservatives to monopolize claims of fealty to our unifying national document. In fact, those who would battle rising economic inequalities to create a robust middle class should insist that it’s they who are most loyal to the Constitution’s core purpose. Broadly shared well-being is essential to the framers’ promise that “We the people” will be the stewards of our government.
Fishkin’s proposed book sounds like a worthwhile companion to Thomas Picketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century.
A somewhat related article from Raw Story by Bill Moyers and Co., July 4th note to tea partiers: Your politics would baffle the Founding Fathers.
Editor’s note: These days, if you see a protester donning a tricorn hat and waving a Gadsden Flag, it’s a safe bet that he or she is a Republican activist who’s furious about “death panels” or the prospect of the government meddling in the Medicare program. But the tea party movement isn’t the first to claim itself to be the true defenders of the Constitution, or to enlist its Framers in a political cause. Throughout American history, activists across the ideological spectrum have insisted that the Framers would roll over in their graves upon encountering the perfidy of their political opponents.
The reality is that the Framers disagreed about almost everything, and produced a Constitution that was filled with expedient compromises. As Jill Lepore, a professor of American history at Harvard University, pointed out in her book, The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History, “Beginning even before it was over, the Revolution has been put to wildly varying political purposes.” Between 1761, when the first signs of discontent with England became apparent in the Colonies, and 1791, when the Bill of Rights was ratified, Lepore wrote that Americans debated an “ocean of ideas” from which “you can fish anything out.”
One of the few areas where the Framers approached a consensus was a belief that their Constitution shouldn’t be fetishized. According to Lepore, it was none other than Thomas Jefferson who wrote, “Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human.”
Read an excerpt on Constitutional originalism from Jill Lepore’s book at the Raw Story link.
From NBC News: Pope Francis Meets Abuse Victims, Begs Forgiveness for Church.
The pontiff invited six victims of abuse from Ireland, Germany and Britain to attend an early-morning private Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the residence next to St. Peter’s Basilica where he lives.Francis called the abuse a “grave sin” decrying how it was hidden for “so much time” and “camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained.”
“I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons,” the pope said in his homily. “I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse.” ….
Francis strongly praised the victims’ courage in speaking up and shedding “light on a terrible darkness,” telling the mass he is deeply aware of their deep and unrelenting pain.
“Sins of clerical sexual abuse against minors have a toxic effect on faith and hope in God,” he said, adding that the victims’ willingness to come to the Vatican “speaks of the miracle of hope, which prevails against the deepest darkness.”
I guess it’s a start, but I agree with victims advocates who say it’s too little, too late. What concrete actions is the Church going to take to identify abusers and potential abusers before they act out? Child sexual abuse is a systemic problem that has continued for centuries. It’s difficult to see how it can be overcome with apologies and meetings with a few survivors.
I’ll end with a fascinating story from New Scientist, via Raw Story: Oldest case of Down’s syndrome from medieval France.
The oldest confirmed case of Down’s syndrome has been found: the skeleton of a child who died 1500 years ago in early medieval France. According to the archaeologists, the way the child was buried hints that Down’s syndrome was not necessarily stigmatised in the Middle Ages….
The new example comes from a 5th- and 6th-century necropolis near a church in Chalon-sur-Saône in eastern France. Excavations there have uncovered the remains of 94 people, including the skeleton of a young child with a short and broad skull, a flattened skull base and thin cranial bones. These features are common in people with Down’s syndrome, says Maïté Rivollat at the University of Bordeaux in France, who has studied the skeleton with her colleagues….
Oldest case of Down’s syndrome from medieval France – life – 04 July 2014 – New Scientist#.U7qdknlOXEd <!—->
Rivollat’s team has studied the way the child with Down’s syndrome was buried, which hasn’t been possible with other ancient cases of the condition. The child was placed on its back in the tomb, in an east-west orientation with the head at the westward end – in common with all of the dead at the necropolis.
According to Rivollat, this suggests the child was treated no differently in death from other members of the community. That in turn hints that they were not stigmatised while alive.
Another researcher of Down’s Syndrome in ancient history, John Starbuck of Indiana University, says drawing cultural conclusions from the method of burial is very difficult. Read more at the link.
What stories are you following today? Please post your links in the comment thread.
Minx is stuck in the snow and holed up in a hotel so I’ve got your reads this morning!
I was one of those earth mother types to Doctor Daughter and I tried to do the same with youngest daughter although the cancer thing got in the way and the grandparents had to step in for me. I still am an earth goddess wannabe. I admit, I’m a hippie at heart. I breast fed Doctor Daughter until she took her first step on her first birthday and weaned herself on the same day. I had to wean my second one to soy formula at 5 months because of the chemotherapy. Well, that and the shock of the stage 4 diagnosis just dried me up.
I was never away from Doctor Daughter’s side for well over a year. I actually joined the La Leche League because I wanted to be around other nursing mothers and bought their cookbook. I love to cook and so we made everything from the garden when possible and always by hand. The cookbook had a kid’s snack section and we used to make everything together. Making healthy food was part of our together time.
My daughter had really healthy snacks. I decided to turn to teaching at the college level rather than return to corporate life when she turned 18 months. She went to Montessori preschool while I taught in the morning. Her dad stayed with her for my one evening class. Montessori insisted on healthy snacks. It wasn’t until we moved from our condo to a newly built, two story house in a neighborhood with lots of stay-at-home moms that I had folks calling me up about her weird predilections. Did I know my daughter had no idea that kids ate Spaghettios and that pasta could come from a can? How come she’s never seen candy before? Well, she had, it was just my Dad’s homemade fudge that didn’t come in wrappers. How come she always asked for Apple Juice when offered Koolaid or Cola? My daughter didn’t eat or drink anything she hadn’t seen before and I guess they were shocked!
I always laughed a lot at this because I worked as a full time college instructor teaching finance and economics so I juggled all kinds of roles. But both my daughters had fresh, soft clean cotton diapers and home made meals. Both were introduced to junk food by stay-at-home moms who should’ve had time to find their inner earth goddesses too. I later learned that her friends spent more time in the local spa/salon’s childcare than she spent at Montessori with her pink tower, her sandpaper letters, and her healthy snacks. Maybe that explains why I’m the only one with the doctor, but hey, I really shouldn’t be judgmental, should I?
It wasn’t me that introduced Doctor Daughter to junk food. It was the local stay-at-home suburban moms who needed me to tell my daughter that what they wanted to feed her wasn’t weird and she should stop giving it the evil eye. I mean, wouldn’t you shriek if some one tried to serve you Spaghettios?
Youngest daughter went on a jag as a toddler–like toddlers frequently do–and became a vegan for about a year. She would only eat salads, vegetables, and carbs. It totally freaked my dad out but she loved tossed salads with blue cheese dressing better than anything and I never could figure out why wieners and mac were some how more filling and hence,better. She was two years old. That’s why I have no idea why eating healthy is controversial or considered an impossible dream for kids. My kids never missed this kind of crap and were, well, really wierded out when their friends moms tried to feed them anything we hadn’t prepared ourselves. They also couldn’t understand why only their Montessori friends didn’t leave their playroom a mess, but that’s another story. Believe me, kids will eat healthy food if that’s the only thing they are offered from day one. One of the things Doctor Daughter complains about in her ob/gyn practice these days is the number of moms who are so overweight and have diabetes that many of them are classified as high risk in their prime child bearing years. Unfortunately, these are also the moms that are on medicare and are least likely to get help.
The Obama administration proposed regulations Friday that would prohibit U.S. schools from selling unhealthy snacks.
The 160-page regulation from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) would enact nutrition standards for “competitive” foods not included in the official school meal.
In practice, the proposed rules would replace traditional potato chips with baked versions and candy with granola. Regular soda is out, though high-schoolers may have access to diet versions.
“Although nutrition standards for foods sold at school alone may not be a determining factor in children’s overall diets, they are critical to providing children with healthy food options throughout the entire school day,” the proposed rule states.
“Thus, these standards will help to ensure that the school nutrition environment does all that it can to promote healthy choice, and help to prevent diet-related health problems.”
The rules are a product of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which also overhauled the nutritional make-up of regular school meals. They would apply to any school, public or private, that participates in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program.
Those rules saw a backlash from conservative lawmakers who said students were going hungry as a result of calorie limits. A GOP House member famously compared the rules to “The Hunger Games.” The USDA eventually relaxed some guidelines in response.
Believe me, kids that don’t eat junk food aren’t going hungry. They’re just not getting addicted to stuff that’s not good for them. My dad was always yelling at me to “give that kid some real food” when she was a few months old and only on breast milk. I dunno. That’s Dr. Daughter up there as a toddler with Arlo Guthrie Mousehound. Does she look like she was a neglected and starved child to you? Oh, and she got those glasses because she couldn’t read the music when I was teaching her to play piano. I caught her early on that too. I have no idea why so many adults underestimate kids but they do. I tried to get my children interested in everything when they were little. The deal was to let them find their thing and see what stuck. Both of them still play piano. Both of them still eat healthy. It wasn’t “The Hunger Games” at our house. Both my girls were off the normal growth charts so, I guess, congress thinks I’m a miserable excuse for a mother but really, I am glad they ate sushi in the high chair and never discovered the golden arches until some one turned the TV away from Sesame Street. Believe me, it wasn’t me.
I have many friends from Bangladesh including my primary professor. It’s one of the reasons that I watch its economy and my heart breaks when I read how so many young women are dying in its clothing factories. Factory fires in Bangladesh and Pakistan have killed more than 400 people. These factories
primarily make clothing for WalMart, Sears and other U.S. retailers. A lot of these deaths might be due to the governments who don’t seem to care about the safety of the factories, but don’t these companies bear some responsibility too? Economist Mark Thoma debates colleague Jagdish Bhagwati who argues that its the fault of the local governments.
I agree that the Bangladeshi government should “step up to the plate to establish proper regulations and monitoring,” but companies have a role to play too (they may, for example, have political power that can be used to block or encourage regulation and monitoring, and there is the moral obligation to protect workers as well). If we assume the companies can’t do much, and don’t hold them accountable — if we brush it off as an inevitable response to market pressures in an environment with few constraints on this type of behavior — they’ll have no incentive to change.
I continue to despair on what I consider a rise in a neoconfederacy and insurrectionist movement in the country. Why is the so? Chris Hedges writes that “as Southern whites sink into economic despair, more and more are retreating into a fictional past”. Where does this leave our country as a nation divided that cannot not stand? Why do some people glorify the likes of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest to this day?
Forrest, who is buried in Forrest Park under a statue of himself in his Confederate general’s uniform and mounted on a horse, is one of the most odious figures in American history. A moody, barely literate, violent man—he was not averse to shooting his own troops if he deemed them to be cowards—he became a millionaire before the war as a slave trader. As a Confederate general he was noted for moronic aphorisms such as “War means fighting and fighting means killing.” He was, even by the accounts of those who served under him, a butcher. He led a massacre at Fort Pillow in Henning, Tenn., of some 300 black Union troops—who had surrendered and put down their weapons—as well as women and children who had sheltered in the fort. Forrest was, after the war, the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. He used his skills as a former cavalry commander to lead armed night raids to terrorize blacks.Forrest, like many other white racists of the antebellum South, is enjoying a disquieting renaissance. The Sons of Confederate Veterans and the West Tennessee Historical Commission last summer put up a 1,000-pound granite marker at the entrance to the park that read “Forrest Park.” The city, saying the groups had not obtained a permit, removed it with a crane. A dispute over the park name, now raging in the Memphis City Council, exposes the deep divide in Memphis and throughout much of the South between those who laud the Confederacy and those who detest it, a split that runs like a wide fault down racial lines.
Another thing that worries me is the current use of drones in our nation’s “war” against terrorist. Is Obama the “Drone Ranger” as Bill Moyers and guests suggest? Will any one criticize our policy at John Brennan’s confirmation hearing as proposed CIA director?
A key player in our government’s current drone program is John Brennan, who during the Bush presidency was a senior official at the Central Intelligence Agency and head of the National Counterterrorism Center. Reportedly, Barack Obama considered offering him the top job at the CIA in 2008, but public opposition — in reaction to the charges that the Bush White House had approved torture — caused Brennan to withdraw his name from consideration. Nonetheless, Obama kept him on as an adviser, and now, despite Brennan’s past notoriety, Obama officially has chosen him to head the CIA. This time, there’s been little criticism of the decision.
We hope Brennan’s upcoming confirmation hearings on February 7 will offer Congressional critics the chance to press him on drone attacks and whether the Obama administration in its fight against terror is functioning within the rule of law — or abusing presidential power when there has been no formal declaration of war.
Alright, so what would an electric post of mine be without a reference to my graves and graveyard interests? One of these days, I will find a place where I can plant a tent and dust off the remains of people past whose lives were lived in quiet desperation too.
A 1,300-year-old unidentified cluster of 102 tombs, 40 per cent of which were made for infants, have been unearthed in China’s restive westernmost province.
The tombs, found on the Pamirs Plateau in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, contain wooden caskets with desiccated corpses, as well as stoneware, pottery and copper ware believed to have been buried as sacrificial items, said Ai Tao from the Xinjiang Archaeological Institute.
“The cluster covers an area of 1,500 square meters on a 20-meter-high cliff, an unusual location for tombs,” Ai told state-run Xinhua news agency.
He added that his team was also very surprised to find such a large number of infant corpses.
But further research is needed to determine why so many people from that tribe died young.
Archaeologists said they have also unearthed a large number of well-preserved utensils made from gourds, some of which were placed inside the caskets.
“The burial custom is the first of its kind to be found in Xinjiang,” said Ai.
It is believed that the cluster dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
At that time, economic and cultural exchanges between China and the West flourished via the ancient Silk Road.
“The shape of the felt-covered caskets show that sinic culture had a great influence on the lives of local people’s some 1,300 years ago,” said Yu Zhiyong, head of the Xinjiang Archaeological Institute.
I’m going to close with a quote from Glenn Beck that I propose is the MOST lunatic thing he’s ever said. I know, that’s a BIG statement, but judge for yourself. Brace yourself for unisex bathrooms and mothers dying in combat! Oh, wait, we already have that, yes?
“This is the dumbest idea I ever heard. Women now fight on the front lines? Democrats are hailing the move as another giant leap forward for equality. Progress, you know. Forward! And on the outside looking in it’s one of those feel good stories—oh great, women are great soldiers too, they deserve an equal chance, oh that’s great.
War is the act of killing each other. And to win, you have to kill people faster than the other team. That’s what war is all about. The enemy’s not going to cower in defeat because we have a female Eskimo Hispanic dwarf cross-dresser and some handicapable, transgendered breast cancer survivor as a soldier on the front line, ready to unleash an attack of unparalleled diversity.”
I dunno, I would find a female Eskimo Hispanic dwarf cross-dresser and some handicapable, transgendered breast cancer survivor on my team, woudn’t you?
Have a great Sunday! Oh, and I will be waving to you when those blimps cross my front porch today. All the Dakinis!!! Please save my city from these crazy celebrities and billionaires!! Here’s a primer on this gross interruption to Mardi Gras. Don’t forget to take a gander at the photo over there because my tax dollars paid for that giant multicolor egg just waiting to be fertilized by a black helicopter sperm.
Q: What is the Super Bowl?
A: It’s a football game! It’s the last one that gets played in the NFL until next season, meaning the winners get to be Best Football Guys for a year, and the losers are only Second Best Football Guys, which is way worse. It’s also a big event where famous musicians play and fireworks shoot off and so on.
Q: Fun! But what’s football?
A: Football is this game where one team tries to move a ball up a field by carrying it or throwing it and the other team tries to stop them by hitting them. Every time the guy carrying the ball falls down or the ball hits the ground play stops for a bit, then the players reorganize themselves and play starts up again. If one team doesn’t do a very good job moving the ball up the field, they give the ball to the other team. This goes on for three hours. The teams also kick the ball through a big yellow Y sometimes.
Q: That sounds terrible and boring. Why do people play this game?
A: Because they love it! Hahahahaha! No, actually many of the men playing in the Super Bowl get paid millions of dollars to do football.
Q: Whoooooaaaa! How did that happen?
A: Well, it turns out that people really, really like watching men play football on television. So many people watch football that companies pay the television folks a lot of money to show their commercials during the games, and that money trickles down to the NFL’s owners and then their players.
Yeah, and something tells me that we probably could’ve made more money off of not disturbing Mardi Gras had our Mayor not wanted to be on National TV so very much. What’s on your reading and blogging list this morning?
I thought I’d start this morning reads off with Bill Moyers who is having a good laugh at the expense of billionaires that are donating lots of money to political campaigns. It seems they really don’t like having their names bandied about and their closets opened. Pity the Poor Billionaires!!!
Last month, an Obama website cited eight mega-donors to Mitt Romney’s campaign as possessing “less-than-reputable records.” Among them was Frank VanderSloot, a Romney national finance co-chairman who has raised millions for the campaign. He’s a rancher – with 110,448 acres, on which he no doubt roams playing “This Land is Your Land” on his little Stradivarius — and CEO of the billion-dollar company Melaleuca, which Rolling Stone describes as “a ‘multilevel marketing’ firm based in Idaho that sells off-brand cleaning products and nutritional supplements.”
VanderSloot and his wealthy pals went ballistic and cried intimidation. “You go back to the Dark Ages,” VanderSloot said, “when they put these people in the stocks or whatever they did, or publicly humiliated them as a deterrent to everybody else — watch this — watch what we do to the guy who did this.”
Conservatives described the Obama ranking of Romney contributors as an “enemies list,” conjuring images of Nixonian wiretaps and punitive tax audits. But despite protestations to the contrary, these deep-pocketed plutocrats aren’t shelling out the shekels for the love of flag, Mom and apple pie (or tarte tatin, as they call it in the swanky joints).
“Most of the megadonors backing [Romney’s] candidacy are elderly billionaires,” Tim Dickinson writes in Rolling Stone. “Their median age is 66, and their median wealth is $1 billion. Each is looking for a payoff that will benefit his business interests, and they will all profit from Romney’s pledge to eliminate inheritance taxes, extend the Bush tax cuts for the superwealthy — and then slash the top tax rate by another 20 percent.” As at least one of them has said, they view these cash infusions as an “investment,” plain and simple.
Money is rolling into Wisconsin in Tuesday’s recall election. The Hill reports that it’s the most expensive race in Wisconsin history. The Koch Brothers are knee deep in money trying to keep their union bustin’ boy in office. We’ll be live blogging this tomorrow night so stay tuned!
Out-of-state sources have funded both sides heavily in the contest CPI said. Barrett has received about 26 percent of his $4 million in donations from sources outside of Wisconsin, while Walker has received two-thirds of his $30.5 million haul from out-of-state. Both campaigns have been aided by strong spending by super-PACs and other outside groups.
Labor unions have spent heavily to defeat Walker. The report says that the nation’s three largest public unions, the National Education Association (NEA), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), have directed at least $2 million to anti-Walker efforts.
Walker, for his part, has been aided by conservative businessmen including casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and billionaire David Koch. The Republican Governors Association received a $1 million contribution from Koch in February, according to CPI.
The economy is slowing down. Oil prices are dropping in response. The stock market has lost all its value. Will we see another recession shortly?
The statistics on Friday were daunting. Only 69,000 jobs were created last month, far lower than what’s needed just to keep up with population growth. The job tallies for March and April, shabby to begin with, were revised down, for an average monthly tally of 96,000 over the past three months, versus 252,000 in the prior three months.
The weakness was not only displayed in job growth. Average weekly wages declined in May, to $805, as a measly two-cents-an-hour raise was more than clawed back by a drop to 34.4 hours in the length of the typical workweek.
Similarly, the rise in the number of people looking for work is normally considered a sign of optimism, but, on closer inspection, it appears to be simply the reversal of a drop in job-seekers in April.
Granted, it is better for jobless workers to be actively looking for work than sitting on the sidelines. But without enough jobs to go around, the inevitable result is higher official unemployment. The jobless rate ticked up from 8.1 percent in April to 8.2 percent in May, or 12.7 million people. Of those, 42.8 percent, or 5.4 million people, have been out of work for more than six months, a profound measure of personal suffering and economic decline.
There’s no sign that Washington is prepared to shoulder this responsibility. President Obama’s last big push for job creation, the $450 billion package proposed last fall, would have created an estimated 1.3 million to 1.9 million jobs by providing aid to states for teachers and other vital public employees, investments in infrastructure and tax breaks for new hiring. It was filibustered by Senate Republicans and not brought up for a vote in the Republican-dominated House, with Republican lawmakers claiming that deficit reduction was more important. Since then, they have balked at even smaller administration proposals, like modest investments in clean-energy projects.
Blocking constructive action is bad enough, but it’s not the worst of it. Recently, the House speaker, John Boehner, has ratcheted up economic uncertainty by pledging to force another showdown this year over legislation to raise the debt ceiling. A debt-ceiling debacle would come on top of the expiration at the end of 2012 of the Bush-era tax cuts and the onset of some $1 trillion in automatic spending cuts. If allowed to take effect as planned, those measures would take a huge bite out of growth, further weakening the economy.
Paul Krugman slammed the “anti-bipartisanship” in the Paul Ryan budget and in Romney’s support of obstructionist policies aimed at tanking the economy yesterday on ABC. Krugman said that the budget Romney supports is a “fraud”.
This morning on “This Week,” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman called Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposed budget plan a “fraud” as Romney campaign senior advisor Eric Fehrnstrom confirmed his candidate’s support for the plan that would trim trillions in federal spending over the next decade.
“The Ryan plan — and I guess this is what counts as a personal attack — but it isn’t. It’s not an attack on the person; it’s an attack on the plan. The plan’s a fraud,” said Krugman. “And so to say that — just tell the truth that there is really no plan there, neither from Ryan, nor from Governor Romney, is just the truth. That’s not — if that’s — if that’s being harsh and partisan, gosh, then I guess the truth is anti-bipartisanship. ”
Krugman, who has been critical of the Ryan, R-Wis., plan in the past, was responding to the Fehrnstrom, who confirmed Romney’s support for the plan after ABC News’ George Will asked Fehrnstrom to clarify his candidate’s stance on the Ryan proposal.
“He’s for the Ryan plan. He believes it goes in the right direction. The governor has also put forward a plan to reduce spending by $500 billion by the year 2016,” said Fehrnstrom. “In fact, he’s put details on the table about how exactly he would achieve that. So to say he doesn’t have a plan to — a plan to restrain government spending is just untrue.”
Krugman defended the president’s budget plan when asked by Fehrnstrom if he preferred it over the Ryan plan.
“I mean, the president — at least it’s — you know, I don’t approve of everything, but there are no gigantic mystery numbers in his stuff. We do know what he’s talking about. His numbers are — you know, all economic forecasts are wrong, but his are not — are not insane. These are — these are just imaginary,” he said.
Molly Ball writes about the mediocre Mitt Romney Governorship of Massachusetts at the Atlantic. Here’s my favorite quote “He believed that a PowerPoint presentation would solve all our problems.” Here’s some other tidbits that lead up to that very funny line.
Romney campaigned on a promise to clean up Massachusetts’ notoriously cronyistic state government, painting his opponent, the sitting state treasurer, as a product of a backroom-dealing Beacon Hill culture. But his efforts once he was elected were somewhat halfhearted and largely fruitless.
One example was the state’s judiciary, a notorious hotbed of patronage. Romney’s attempts to reform it didn’t succeed, and instead, he ended up succumbing to the status quo, the Washington Post reports. His attempt to consolidate transportation agencies was shot down by the legislature, as was his push to remove from the state university system William Bulger, brother of mobster “Whitey” Bulger. (Bulger did eventually resign, in part due to Romney’s pressure.)
“A lot of governors come in offering to change the political culture,” said Cunningham. “But he wasn’t here long enough, he didn’t put enough effort into it, and he had a very formidable opponent.”
Perhaps because of his outsider mien, Romney enjoyed notably chilly relationships with legislators and local officials, who found him distant and somewhat disengaged. John Barrett, who was mayor of the city of North Adams during Romney’s governorship, described him Thursday as “a governor who just ignored us, who didn’t want our effort,” saying he never met with mayors or sought their input. “He believed that a PowerPoint presentation would solve all our problems,” Barrett said.
So, the biggest issue on my mind is the looming Debt-Ceiling fight and the horrible Agent Orange. I pretty much believe that the House Republicans will crash all the markets and then some if they think it makes Obama less likely to be elected. Here’s Garrett Epps at the American Prospect. He believes–as do I–that Obama should use the Constitutional Option and tell them all to go to hell regardless. It will be interesting to see how soon they will heat this up.
The debt limit will apparently become a crisis again sometime after the election. Boehner two weeks ago announced his plan to demand another round of cuts when the current ceiling is reached at the end of the year. (I suspect this manufactured crisis will only happen if Obama is re-elected; if Mitt Romney wins the election, Republicans will suddenly find economic recovery an important value after all.)
Obama should begin now to prepare for the predicted crisis. And if there is any way to climb down from the inane “my attorney Bernie says I can’t” comment, he should find it. I called the U.S. Department of Justice to ask whether the Office of Legal Counsel has issued, or is preparing, a formal opinion on the President’s possible power under Section Four; the DOJ’s spokesman did not return my call.
There’s an interesting analysis at TP on how the last debt ceiling debate hurt the economy. A repeat under current conditions could be disastrous.
House Republicans last year used the imminent approach of the nation’s credit limit to force Congress into enacting a series of spending cuts. The hostage scenario led to the nation’s first ever credit downgrade, with the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s repeatedly citing the GOP’s intransigence on revenue as a key justification. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) has indicated that the GOP is ready to reenact the debt ceiling debacle the next time the nation comes close to its borrowing limit. But as economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers write, the economy was significantly setback during the last showdown, which they call “an act of economic sabotage“
Follow the links to the Bloomberg analysis and you’ll see why we’re in worse position to weather that kind of anti-bipartisanship nonsense this year. So, who really killed the confidence fairy last year?
High-frequency data on consumer confidence from the research company Gallup, based on surveys of 500 Americans daily, provide a good picture of the debt-ceiling debate’s impact (see chart). Confidence began falling right around May 11, when Boehner first announced he would not support increasing the debt limit. It went into freefall as the political stalemate worsened through July. Over the entire episode, confidence declined more than it did following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in 2008. After July 31, when the deal to break the impasse was announced, consumer confidence stabilized and began a long, slow climb that brought it back to its starting point almost a year later. (Disclosure: We have a consulting relationship with Gallup.)
Businesses were also hurt by uncertainty, which rose to record levels as measured by the number of newspaper articles mentioning the subject. This proved far more damaging than the regulatory uncertainty on which Republican criticisms of Barack Obama’s administration have focused (more on that subject in a Bloomberg View editorial today). Employers held back on hiring, sapping momentum from a recovery that remains far too fragile.
It’s going to be a very long, hot summer.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
On Tuesday night I wrote a brief post about the bizarre speech Mitt Romney gave in Des Moines, Iowa earlier that day. I was struck by Romney’s childish effort to get at President Obama by talking about Bill Clinton’s economic policies and claiming that Obama must have ignored those policies because he has some kind of grudge against both Clintons. It was so strange and off key that I thought Romney sounded like a crotchety old busybody gossiping over the backyard fence.
I didn’t really even go into the many baldfaced lies Romney told in the speech–I guess I’ve become so accustomed to his total refusal to confine himself to reality as it is that I almost don’t notice it anymore. Basically, Romney attacked Obama the deficit that was primarily created by Bush, and made his usual claims that he (Romney) will be able to cut taxes by 20 percent, increase defense spending, and at the same time magically balance the budget and dramatically reduce unemployment. Only a moron would buy what he’s selling.
Yesterday, a number of bloggers commented on that speech, so I thought I’d share some of those reactions in this morning’s reads.
Steve Benen at Maddowblog: A peek into an alternate reality.
Mitt Romney delivered a curious speech in Iowa yesterday, presenting his thoughts on the budget deficit, the debt and debt reduction, which is worth reading if you missed it. We often talk about the problem of the left and right working from entirely different sets of facts, and how the discourse breaks down when there’s no shared foundation of reality, and the Republican’s remarks offered a timely peek into an alternate reality where facts have no meaning.
Even the topic itself is a strange choice for Romney. If the former governor is elected, he’ll inherit a $1 trillion deficit and a $15 [trillion] debt, which he’ll respond to by approving massive new tax cuts and increasing Pentagon spending. How will he pay for this? No one has the foggiest idea.
In other words, the guy who intends to add trillions to the debt gave a speech yesterday on the dangers of adding trillions to the debt.
Benen says he doesn’t believe Romney is “stupid,” but he must be “operating from the assumption that voters are stupid.” I’d say that’s true. I think Romney believes that he’s much smarter and more worthy than just about anyone and that poor and middle-class people are beneath contempt.
Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic: Romney’s Make-Believe Story on the Economy. Cohn writes about Romney’s claims that Obama’s failure to reduce the deficit is the cause of the “tepid recovery,” unemployment, and the struggles of seniors to get by on fixed incomes.
Note the way Romney establishes cause and effect here: Obama’s contribution to higher deficits are the reason more people can’t get work and more seniors can’t make ends meet right now. This is an audacious claim and, while I’m no economist, I’m pretty sure it places Romney on the outer edges of the debate among mainstream scholars.
I know of serious conservatives who think the Recovery Act, which has increased deficits temporarily, didn’t ultimately do much to create jobs in the near term. And I know of serious conservatives who think that creating jobs now wasn’t worth the long-term downside of adding to the federal debt, however incrementally. Both viewpoints seem to represent minority views, if a recent University of Chicago survey of leading economists is indicative. But the arguments have at least some logic to them.
But Romney’s suggestion that unemployment today is a consequence of Obama’s contribution to the deficit (real or imagined) requires further leaps of logic. You’d have to argue, for example, that extensions of unemployment benefits have reduced incentives to work (despite research to the contrary) and that such negative effects substantially outweigh the positive effects of traditional stimulus measures. It’s not impossible to make this case. I think Casey Mulligan, also of the University of Chicago, has written things along these lines for the New York Times. But, unless I’m missing something, that argument is even more marginal than suggestions the Recovery Act didn’t help at all.
I suspect that even Cohn’s effort to make sense of Romney’s fantasy economic theory will have Dr. Dakinikat pulling her hair out.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Romney’s Budget Fairy Tale.
In the real world, the following things are true: The budget deficit was projected to top $1 trillion even before President Obama took office, and that was when forecasters were still radically underestimating the depth of the 2008 crash. Obama did propose temporary deficit-increasing measures, an economic approach endorsed in its general contours, if not its particulars, by Romney’s economists. These measures contributed a relatively small proportion to the deficit, and their effect is short-lived. Obama instead focused on longer-term measures to reduce the deficit, including comprehensive health-care reform projected to reduce deficits by a trillion dollars in its second decade. Obama put forward a budget plan that would stabilize the debt as a percentage of the economy. Obama has hoped to achieve deeper long-term deficit reduction by striking bipartisan deals with Congress, and he has tried to achieve this goal by openly endorsing a bipartisan deficit plan in the Senate and privately agreeing to a more conservative plan with John Boehner, both of which were killed by Republican opposition to any higher revenue.
But Romney doesn’t seem to live in the real world, and Chait suggests that Romney either doesn’t understand how deficits work or doesn’t care if what he says makes any sense at all.
In Romney’s telling, the terms debt and spending are essentially interchangeable. When presented with Obama’s position — that the solution to the debt ought to include both higher taxes and lower spending — he rejects it out of hand. Naturally, Romney has admitted before that his budget plan “can’t be scored.” It’s an expression of conservative moral beliefs about the role of government. While loosely couched in budgetary terms, Romney is expressing an analysis that resides outside of, and completely at odds with, mainstream macroeconomic forecasting and scoring assumptions.
At the Plum Line, Greg Sargent discusses How Mitt Romney gets away with his lying.
If you scan through all the media attention Romney’s speech received, you are hard-pressed to find any news accounts that tell readers the following rather relevant points:
1) Nonpartisan experts believe Romney’s plans would increase the deficit far more than Obama’s would.
2) George W. Bush’s policies arguably are more responsible for increasing the deficit than Obama’s are.
Oh, sure, many of the news accounts contain the Obama campaign’s response to Romney’s speech; the Obama campaign put out a widely-reprinted statement arguing that Romney’s plans would increase the deficit and that he’d return to policies that created it in the first place.
But this shouldn’t be a matter of partisan opinion. On the first point, independent experts think an actual set of facts exists that can be used to determine what the impact of Romney’s policies on the deficit would be. And according to those experts, based on what we know now, Romney’s policies would explode the deficit far more than Obama’s would.
Obviously, the problem is the obsequious corporate media. But the Romney campaign makes it impossible for even the few remaining serious reporters to question his policies by keeping the candidate completely insulated from the press except for occasional appearances on Fox News and lightweight network morning shows like Good Morning America. Yesterday, Politico reprinted tweets from several reporters who were “physically” blocked from talking to Romney on a rope line.
Speaking of Republican ignorance of basic economics, House Republicans are gearing up for another pitched battle on increasing the debt ceiling. Speaker John Boehner met with President Obama at the White House today and they “clash[ed] over” increasing the debt limit, according to The Hill.
The president convened the meeting of the bipartisan congressional leadership to discuss his “to-do list” for Congress, but an aide to the Speaker said the bulk of the meeting was spent on other issues, including a pile-up of expiring tax provisions and the next increase in the federal debt limit.
Boehner asked Obama if he was proposing that Congress increase the debt limit without corresponding spending cuts, according to a readout of the meeting from the Speaker’s office. The president replied, “Yes.” At that point, Boehner told Obama, “As long as I’m around here, I’m not going to allow a debt-ceiling increase without doing something serious about the debt.”
Shortly after the meeting, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the president warned the leadership that he would not allow a repeat of last August’s debt-ceiling “debacle,” which led to a downgrade in the U.S. credit rating.
In a related story, there’s this piece at Wonkblog about the Pete Peterson summit and how Democrats talked long-windedly about cutting “entitlements,” and Republican refused to talk about tax increases. Read it and weep. I’m not even going to quote from it, because it’s too damn depressing.
So far Jamie Dimon seems to have survived the $2 billion loss recently suffered by J.P. Morgan.
The CEO of JPMorgan Chase survived a shareholder push Tuesday to strip him of the title of chairman of the board, five days after he disclosed a $2 billion trading loss by the bank.
CEO Jamie Dimon also won a shareholder endorsement of his pay package from last year, which totaled $23 million, according to an Associated Press analysis of regulatory filings.
Dimon, unusually subdued, told shareholders at the JPMorgan annual meeting that the company’s mistakes were “self-inflicted.” Speaking with reporters later, he added: “The buck always stops with me.”
Yeah, right. The buck will stop with the taxpayers if Dimon’s bank ultimately crashes and burns. Bill Moyers asked economist Simon Johnson about that.
Moyers: I was just looking at an interview I did with you in February of 2009, soon after the collapse of 2008 and you said, and I’m quoting, “The signs that I see… the body language, the words, the op-eds, the testimony, the way these bankers are treated by certain congressional committees, it makes me feel very worried. I have a feeling in my stomach that is what I had in other countries, much poorer countries, countries that were headed into really difficult economic situations. When there’s a small group of people who got you into a disaster and who are still powerful, you know you need to come in and break that power and you can’t. You’re stuck.” How do you feel about that insight now?
Johnson: I’m still nervous, and I think that the losses that JPMorgan reported — that CEO Jamie Dimon reported — and the way in which they’re presented, the fact that they’re surprised by it and the fact that they didn’t know they were taking these kinds of risks, the fact that they lost so much money in a relatively benign moment compared to what we’ve seen in the past and what we’re likely to see in the future — all of this suggests that we are absolutely on the path towards another financial crisis of the same order of magnitude as the last one.
A number of shareholders have sued Dimon over the losses, according to Bloomberg (via the SF Chroncle). And of course lots of people are gloating over Dimon’s getting temporarily knocked off his pedestal. Jena McGregor writes in the WaPo:
It’s being called Dimonfreude.
There are barely disguised smirks emanating from the canyons of Wall Street and the business press over the fact that Jamie Dimon has had to admit a mistake — and a whale of one, for that matter.
For years, the JPMorgan CEO (and America’s least-hated banker, as he was known) has worn a halo over those pinstripes. Dimon has been called President Obama’s “favorite banker”. Institutional Investor magazine has called him the country’s best CEO for two years running. And his actions during the financial crisis have been painted in patriotic terms: Press reports said he “answered the call” from then-FDIC chairman Sheila Bair to buy Washington Mutual, one of two banks he scooped up during the financial meltdown, and he has cited a patriotic duty to a country in crisis as why he took in $25 billion in government aid.
Yet now, Dimon is in the hot seat as JPMorgan confronts a $2 billion trading loss and the early stages of a criminal probe by the Justice Department.
Finally, some sad news: Estranged Wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Is Found Dead at Home in Westchester
Mary R. Kennedy, the estranged wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., was found dead on Wednesday at the family’s home in Bedford, N.Y. She was 52.
Ms. Kennedy’s death was confirmed in a statement from her family, who did not comment on the circumstances. The Bedford Police Department said only that it had investigated a “possible unattended death” in an outbuilding at the home.
Her lawyer, Kerry A. Lawrence, would not say whether foul play was suspected. Kieran O’Leary, a spokesman for Westchester County, said an autopsy was scheduled for Thursday morning.
Born Mary Richardson, Ms. Kennedy joined one of America’s foremost political families in 1994, in a marriage ceremony aboard a boat on the Hudson River, near Stony Point, N.Y. At the time, she was an architectural designer at Parish-Hadley Associates in New York.
Those are my suggested reads for today. What are you reading and blogging about?