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Friday, December 17, 2010

Ishmael Reed on the President and the "Professional Left"

The President is being hammered by Progressives for his compromise with the Republicans.  Some have even suggested that he should be challenged in a primary.  What world are these people living in?   Their naivete will guarantee Karl Rove's permanent Republican majority to become a permanent reality.  Things are bad enough as they are.  With Obama we have a chance to overturn the "Reagan Revolution" to build on the 2008 victory, as opposed to the governance of  the "Atlas Shrug" and Tea Party crowds.  The Tea Party success in the last election should have served as a "call to arms," figuratively speaking, to prepare for 2012.  Instead, the President is being vilified not just from the Tea Party but from his own base.

When in response to a question in which a reporter from the Wall Street Journal who raised the issue about his base accusing him having no spine, the President was clear that being "purist" is not amenable to governing.  As he said, holding such a position would mean "nothing would get done."  It is distasteful that the Bush tax cuts for America's richest were extended.  That was a bad decision on the President's part.   What would have been a worse decision on his part would have been to allow the Republicans in the Senate to block all legislation.  To turn an extension of unemployment benefits to the next Congress would be irresponsible.  To have allowed everyone's taxes to go up on January 1 would be calamitous.  Not only would every American be angry at the tax hike, they would blame it on the President.  He has to govern.  He is confronted by Republicans who are using every tactic in their power to defeat the President.   Moreover, a tax hike that is not agreed to, is likely to destabilize an already bad economy.  Simply for these intransigent Republicans, the worse things are the better for their politics. 

A major part of the problem is that the progressive mentality is a movement mentality -- an ideological orientation -- that is not always conducive to governing.  The President is in a different position.  He has to govern.  As the nation's leading politician, he must be a pragmatist. He is not a dictator.   Nor are Democrats committed to "a line." 

As evidenced by the health care reform debate, many Democrats are very conservative.  The Republicans on the other hand, are either ideologues or irrelevant.   Republicans who are not hardliners have been either marginalized in the Congress or defeated by Tea Party challengers.  This is the context in which the President make his judgments and run the government.

Ishmael Reed challenges the understanding of Progressives when it comes to having a Black man negotiating the political terrain.  RGN

What Progressives Don’t Understand About Obama

NOT all of my white teachers viewed me as a discipline problem. To the annoyance of my fellow students, one teacher selected me regularly to lead assembly programs. A high school teacher insisted that I learn about the theater. She was an America-firster who supplied me with right-wing pamphlets and magazines that I’d read at breakfast and she didn’t seem bothered by my returning them with some of the pages stuck together with syrup.

But most of them did see me as an annoyance, and gave me the grades to prove it.

I’ve been thinking recently of all those D’s for deportment on my report cards. I thought of them, for instance, when I read a response to an essay I had written about Mark Twain that appeared in “A New Literary History of America.” One of the country’s leading critics, who writes for a prominent progressive blog, called the essay “rowdy,” which I interpreted to mean “lack of deportment.” Perhaps this was because I cited “Huckleberry Finn” to show that some white women managed household slaves, a departure from the revisionist theory that sees Scarlett O’Hara as some kind of feminist martyr.

I thought of them when I pointed out to a leading progressive that the Tea Party included neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers — and he called me a “bully.” He believes that the Tea Party is a grass-roots uprising against Wall Street, a curious reading since the movement gained its impetus from a rant against the president delivered by a television personality on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

The full article

Monday, November 8, 2010

Controversial responses: President Obama on "60 Minutes"

Robert Newby
Responses to the President's remarks at the press conference and "60 Minutes" have created quite a stir.  Many feel he was too conciliatory when it came to the election results.  There was a feeling that he took the blame for things that were not of his making.  In fact, his achievements have been favorably compared to FDR and Lyndon Johnson.  Even so, the Tea Party movement has demonized him and his policies because he is black.  The NAACP, with its Report on Tea Party Nationalism, exposed the racism that has been central to the President's opposition.  Yet, the historic victories by Republicans and Tea Party candidates nationwide were portrayed as something the President has done wrong.   For many, there is a resentment that the President is "taking responsibility" for forces that want make him "the other" and want to "take their country back."  One can only assume is that the President is assuming that old Harry Truman saying that "the buck stops here."   By taking responsibility for election results that were based largely by a veiled white nationalism, he appears to many to caving in to the opposition.  On the other hand, we should be reminded that the President has said that he is the President of even those folks who did not vote for him.  Here is the "60 Minutes" interview: RGN

Thursday, November 4, 2010

View from Canada: Trashing the President

William Thomas
The blog has been silent since the passing of Ron Walters.  Now that the election in which the President acknowledged he was "shellacked," it is time to bring clarity to what happened.  Obviously, the right wing demonized the President and made the election as a referendum on him and his policies.  Talk about a "vast right wing conspiracy?"  Clearly the Tea Parties are a racist formation with their lies that Obama is a socialist, a Muslim, Hitler, Lenin, you name it, anything that Americans abhor.   Here is a perspective from the OCTOBER 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE.  A Canadian puts is all in perspective.  RGN

America - He's your President for Goodness Sake!

By William Thomas

Posted: Friday, October 1st, 2010

There was a time not so long ago when Americans, regardless of their political stripes, rallied round their president. Once elected, the man who won the White House was no longer viewed as a Republican or Democrat, but the President of the United States. The oath of office was taken, the wagons were circled around the country’s borders and it was America versus the rest of the world with the president of all the people at the helm.

Suddenly President Barack Obama, with the potential to become an exceptional president has become the glaring exception to that unwritten, patriotic rule.

Four days before President Obama’s inauguration, before he officially took charge of the American government, Rush Limbaugh boasted publicly that he hoped the president would fail. Of course, when the president fails the country flounders. Wishing harm upon your country in order to further your own narrow political views is selfish, sinister and a tad treasonous as well.

Subsequently, during his State of the Union address, which is pretty much a pep rally for America, an unknown congressional representative from South Carolina, later identified as Joe Wilson, stopped the show when he called the President of the United States a liar. The president showed great restraint in ignoring this unprecedented insult and carried on with his speech. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was so stunned by the slur, she forgot to jump to her feet while clapping wildly, 30 or 40 times after that.

Last spring, President Obama took his wife Michelle to see a play in New York City and republicans attacked him over the cost of security for the excursion. The president can’t take his wife out to dinner and a show without being scrutinized by the political opposition? As history has proven, a president in a theatre without adequate security is a tragically bad idea.

Remember: “Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”

At some point, the treatment of President Obama went from offensive to ugly and then to downright dangerous.

The health-care debate, which looked more like extreme fighting in a mud pit than a national dialogue, revealed a very vulgar side of America.

President Obama’s face appeared on protest signs white-faced and blood-mouthed in a satanic clown image. In other tasteless portrayals, people who disagreed with his position distorted his face to look like Hitler complete with mustache and swastika.

Odd, that burning the flag makes Americans crazy, but depicting the president as a clown and a maniacal fascist is accepted as part of the new rude America.

Maligning the image of the leader of the free world is one thing, putting the president’s life in peril is quite another. More than once, men with guns were videotaped at the health-care rallies where the president spoke. Again, history shows that letting men with guns get within range of a president has not served America well in the past.

And still the “birthers” are out there claiming Barack Obama was not born in the United States, although public documentation proves otherwise. Hawaii is definitely part of the United States, but the Panama Canal Zone where his electoral opponent Senator John McCain was born? Nobody’s sure.

Last month, a 44-year-old woman in Buffalo was quite taken by President Obama when she met him in a chicken wing restaurant called Duff’s. Did she say something about a pleasure and an honour to meet the man or utter encouraging words for the difficult job he is doing? No. Quote: “You’re a hottie with a smokin’ little body.”

Lady, that was the President of the United States you were addressing, not one of the Jonas Brothers! He’s your president for goodness sakes, not the guy driving the Zamboni at “Monster Trucks On Ice.” Maybe next it’ll be, “Take Your President To A Topless Bar Day.”

In President Barack Obama, Americans have a charismatic leader with a good and honest heart. Unlike his predecessor, he’s a very intelligent leader. And unlike that president’s predecessor, he’s a highly moral man.

In President Obama, Americans have the real deal, the whole package and a leader that citizens of almost every country around the world look to with great envy. Given the opportunity, Canadians would trade our leader, hell, most of our leaders for Obama in a heartbeat.

What America has in Obama is a head of state with vitality and insight and youth. Think about it, Barack Obama is a young Nelson Mandela. Mandela was the face of change and charity for all of Africa but he was too old to make it happen. The great things Obama might do for America and the world could go on for decades after he’s out of office.

America, you know not what you have.

The man is being challenged unfairly, characterized with vulgarity and treated with the kind of deep disrespect to which no previous president was subjected. It’s like the day after electing the first black man to be president, thereby electrifying the world with hope and joy, Americans sobered up and decided the bad old days were better.

President Obama may fail but it will not be a Richard Nixon default fraught with larceny and lies. President Obama, given a fair chance, will surely succeed but his triumph will never come with a Bill Clinton caveat – “if only he’d got control of that zipper.”

Please. Give the man a fair, fighting chance. This incivility toward the leader who won over Americans and gave hope to billions of people around the world that their lives could be enhanced by his example, just naturally has to stop.

Believe me, when Americans drive by the White House and see a sign on the lawn that reads: “No shirt. No shoes. No service,” they’ll realize this new national rudeness has gone way, way too far.



Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Our Loss of Ron Walters -- 1938-2010: A Major Contributor to the Blog No More

Wichita East Drum Section, Fall 1952

   The following are my remarks at the funeral service for Dr. Ronald W. Walters.  My perspective was that of a lifelong friend.  The memorial service at Howard University's Cramton Auditorium was a wonderful celebration of Ron's life workThe more personal side of Ron's life was the central theme of his funeral service.  Ron's overall contributions were enormous -- nationally and internationally.  Walters was rocognized to be "The Tallest Tree."   Having been appropriately recognized and honored for his professional life, my reflections were an extension of the family, more personal, specifically our friendship growing up.  My remarks were made at the funeral.  Since my time was limited to three minutes, my remarks were edited to fit the those constraints.  Here are the comments in full.  With Walters being a regular contributor to the blog, this tribute is a recognition of his insight on black politics.  RGN

Reflections on a Lifelong Friendship: Remembering Ronald W. Walters, Ph.D.
Robert G. Newby. Ph. D.

Ron Walters was my friend, my best man, my brother. We exchanged the Best Man role in each other's weddings.  Being an only child, when I say he was my brother, he was my brother. Pat asked me to make a few remarks about our growing up. My bond with Ron began at the end of my junior year at Wichita High School East in the spring of 1952. For the next year, my senior year, I was to be the head drummer in the marching band. At the behest of the band director, Kenneth Thompson, I recruited Ron to join our drum section at East as opposed to our cross-town rival, North. He chose to join me in that drum section and we have been more or less joined at the hip ever since.

Another aspect of that bonding was our respective identities were often blurred, since we were the only two blacks in this band of about 80 musicians and we both played the drums. About the second football game of the season I was injured in a freak accident and missed a game, which meant to all those white students in stands, he became “Newby.” To many of them he remained Newby for the next two years after I had graduated. I must say that our band director, who was very much ahead of his time, for not only was I the head drummer, he broke precedent to appoint me the first student, black or white, to be director of the pep band. When Ron became a senior two years later he had those same responsibilities. An interesting side point about Ron and I sharing the East High band together: When the picture of the drum section was taken -- note now I was the senior and I was the head drummer -- we were arranged for the photo shot. Of the nine members of the drum section along with our drums and symbols, there were two black faces in the photo. Ron is placed front row center. I am on the second row at the end. I assume the photographer thought Ron to be more photogenic. For those of you who have seen Ron’s captivating smile, you know the photographer was right.  As it turned out over the course of those early years, I may have run interference for Ron, but make no mistake, he was always the star.

During Ron’s hospitalization, I had the stark reminder of one of the jobs we had while in college. There was a group of about five of us African American students at Wichita State University who worked in the inhalation therapy department at Wesley hospital. Ron, Syd Dobson, and I, administered inhalation therapy treatments. Syd went on to become a technician with a heart transplant group in San Diego.

The three of us formed our social clique that had to the audacity to name ourselves “Le Clique.” To display this bond, at Syd’s urging, we often wore matching blazers with a patch with overlays of a compass, a double eighth note, and a gavel. The patch was indicative of our professional ambitions. Syd at that time envisioned himself as being an engineer, the compass represented Syd’s desire to be an engineer. Ron’s aspiration at the moment to be a lawyer was represented by the gavel. The musical notes of course represented by my interest in music.  In retrospect, the whole idea seems to be rather juvenile but it sure seemed cool at the time.  With both Ron and Syd having passed in October 2009, this is truly a sad day. This formation preceded Ron’s being the founding Polemarch of the University of Wichita, now Wichita State University, Kappa Alpha Psi chapter in 1958. Needless to say, Ron had a lifetime bond with those brothers he crossed over with: Galyn Vesey, who was Ron’s closest friend from Kindergarten on, Robert Blackwell, Lenward Holness, Howard Stewart, Charles Tisdale, Earl West, Willie Williams, and Billy Alexander.

There is one story about Ron and I that really puts our University Wichita times in perspective. In the summer of 1957, we were desperate for summer jobs. For some reason Wesley Hospital was out of the equation. We had heard that "running on the road" was a great summer job for young black male college students. We were striking out when it came to decent jobs in Wichita. Recall that we were the restricted to “Negro Jobs” at the time. The word was that out of Minneapolis between the railroads, the Great Northern, Burlington Northern, and the Northern Pacific, employed young black college males to work the Pullman and dining cars. We had been told that the railroads would start hiring on about the 18th to the 20th of June. Travelling between Minneapolis and Seattle, Portland, or San Francisco sounded like a fantastic opportunity. So, to beat the onrush of competitors, Ron and I took off for Minneapolis on the 9th or 10th of June. When we got there we were informed by railroad after railroad we were about 10 days too soon.

While in Minneapolis we discovered something we had not seen before, a black enterprise whose clientele was white. I think their name was Huggy Boys or something like that. We met their son who was a Kappa and had just finished his freshman year at Howard. We thought him kind of “out there” and representative of Frazier’s writings about the black bourgeosie of the time. Seemingly, his daily dress was suit, tie, hat and cane. Nonetheless, for the time that we were there, the family was kind to us, to the point of taking our calls from prospective employers.

After a week of being told that no hiring would begin before about the 18th of the month we came to the conclusion that even though lodging was not costing us anything, my car was our lodging, we could not last for another week. Moreover, we discovered that with its 10,000 lakes, the mosquitos in the Twin Cities in early June are fierce. On a Saturday, and no job prospects at hand, we decided that if we left Minneapolis by about noon we would get back to the Esquire Club before it closed so that we could party. We danced every kind of dance to be danced that night, fast dances, slow dances, the cha, cha, cha, you name it we danced it. Because we had to be flexible when it came to job applications, we had all of right attire, but we had slept in the car for a week. Nonetheless, we must not have “offended” anyone. Thankfully, no dances were refused.

The thing I will miss most in Ron’s absence is that he and I could always laugh at the same things. In the summer of 1963, in preparation for his marriage, Ron had found a job as a orderly at Crittenden Hospital in Detroit. I was living in Pontiac. Ron spent the summer with me. Our friends were a group of African American school teachers in the Detroit and Pontiac schools. This was still a time when teaching or social work, for all intents and purposes, were the only professions for young college grads. In this group were individuals who thought that their intellectual prowess was superior to everyone, particularly these two dudes from the flatlands of Kansas. After all, their degrees were from University of Michigan. At an afternoon backyard picnic, Ron and I paired up for a game that was popular at the time, "Password." Our experiences together allowed us to defeat all comers for hours, often with one-word clues. That afternoon was a highlight that we often reflected on and brought us much delight as a confirmation of our bond.

As many of you know, Ron was an avid fan of both tennis and football. As stated, Ron was in the marching band not on the football team. He was around the game of football. Before he was a fan of that Washington NFL football team, with its politically incorrect name, he was a fan of the East Aces and after that the Wichita Shockers and I assume Fisk’s team, as well. He liked the game. When it comes to the NFL, his team was always victorious over my team in even in the playoffs and when that team had a Hall of Famer, another native Wichitan, Barry Sanders. It is not necessary that I name the team for which I have season tickets for 34 years.

Ron’s love of tennis comes not just as an observer. Our game was at the courts of McKinley park, Wichita’s largest segregated park. That park has since been renamed McAdam’s park in the namesake of Wichita’s first black park administrator. Ron and I had a pretty good game. We both dug deep to spend $35 for the top of the line Slazenger rackets. We modeled our game after the Panchos, Segura and Gonzalez. We were not in the class of Charles McAfee, however. Charlie was the first African American to get a tennis scholarship to the University of Nebraska. Notice the scholarship was not to the University of Kansas. McAfee who was one of our role models, went on to become an award winning architect. The tennis culture at the park was socialization process of its own. Apart from McAfee, we often competed with these Korean war vets who called themselves the “Hungarian Freedom Fighters.” Hours on the courts particularly in addition to the trash talking, when no women were on the courts, the conversation was just like the barbershop when it came to race and politics.

Ron’s leaving Wichita for Fisk was clearly a case of racism having done us, the nation, a big favor. As indicated by the sit-in, Ron was ahead of his time. When it came to the social side of our relationship we were equals but when it came to politics, he was the leader. He introduced me to DuBois and E. Franklin Frazier. As a high school student, Ron participated in Boys State, an activity that no black students that I know of had participated. I don’t know if Ron was a member of the national Honor Society or not, which would have been very difficult for a black student at that time. I do know that his high school grades were exemplar. Even so, when he was a sophomore at Wichita, he received a “C” on a paper for a government class. He got the “C” with the explanation from the professor that the paper was really an “A” paper but he knew no “colored boy” could write a paper of that quality.” The very next semester with my encouragement he went to Fisk, where he thrived to become the student and scholar he became. Going to black America’s academic roots and legacy helped shape him in a way he never would have developed at Wichita State.

I have always been proud to say that I was able to be a part of his really big transition in academia. From a frustrating struggle following King's assassination, as the regional director for the Michigan Civil Rights Commission in Battle Creek, I came to DC to spend time with Ron and Pat and check out the “Poor People’s” campaign. The night I was to leave for DC, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. While on my visit, my brother in law at the time was a graduate student at Brandeis, was desperately hoping I could find Ron. The students at the university had just successfully negotiated for an African American studies program. Ron’s Ph.D. with an emphasis on Africa made him an ideal candidate to provide leadership for such a program. Ron became the pioneer. The real victory for the students is that with his commitment to academic excellence, the program at Brandeis gave shape to an academic mission not simply a center from which to wage protest.

As brilliant as Ron was, in about 1972, I discovered he had a blind spot, when it came to race. When I was in graduate school at Stanford, he came to the campus for a visit. Having grown up in a very white Kansas and attended school in a segregated Tennessee and attended graduate school at American University, the diversity of the Bay Area, with its large Asian and Latino populations presented a challenge to his paradigm. His question to me was “Who are all of these people?” In Wichita there were some Mexican Americans but their numbers were few. Even though there were some Chinese restaurants in town, we had no Chinese classmates. Surely, he was cognizant that people of color, other than blacks lived in America, but not in these numbers. He went on to provide international consultations on the role of white nationalism in Latin South America.

In preparation for that excellent story on Ron that appeared in the Washington Post on September 12th, and even though he chose not to include it in his story, Matt Scheur asked me a profound question about Ron: What shaped Ron’s ideas, particularly notions that he would defy well entrenched social norms? Ron’s family was not middle class or members of Wichita’s black elite but they were entrepreneurs. His grandfather was a plumber, I believe. His grandfather had brothers who were also in the trades as carpenters, brick masons, radio/TV repair, you name it. They were independent not relying on whites for their livelihood. His father was Gilmor Walters, known in Wichita for being a “race man.” He had been in the service and served as the Warrant Officer for the Army’s Black musicians. Gilmore’s organizational affiliation was primarily the “colored” Musician’s local. From that platform he would express his protest by writing letters to the editor. Once his son had a Ph.D. in "black liberation" he became unrelenting in his attack on the system. This was the family context of his socialization, independence, and a commitment to the black community.

It is important that we recognize that the Dockum Drug Store sit-in did not just fall from the sky. Ron’s family always supported his leadership in the community. Also, as Aldon Morris points out in his award winning book, “The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement,” in regional meetings of the NAACP, chapters in Kansas, Oklahoma, and other states in the Midwest shared ideas about how to attack segregation. In his capacity as President of Wichita’s NAACP Youth Chapter that Ron attended these meetings. Though not an NAACP meeting per se, it was such a meeting at the University of Illinois-Urbana that Ron met his companion for life, Pat. When he came back to Wichita, he proclaimed to all that he had met his love. A student at Philander-Smith, she was intellectually strong with a commitment to civil rights. In fact, as he described it, the two of them had stayed up all night talking civil rights. Our response was sure, talking civil rights?

From that night on, their life’s work was fused. As was said so many times yesterday [at the Howard memorial service], whatever Ron’s accomplishments, he did not do them alone. Pat was his constant support and critic. That night in Urbana led to a marriage just short of 50 years, and a commitment to the black community and black politics that has been unparalleled, and taken us to a different place. Ron will be missed but we can rest assured that in Pat his legacy will be preserved.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bob Herbert on "Post-Racial" Politics and Forgetting the Base

Bob Herbert
 Bob Herbert has cut to the quick when it comes to these so-called "post-racial" politics.  The notion of a "post-racial" society was a media construction anyway.   Gwen Ifil's "analysis" contributed to this fantasy.  She may have been correct in reporting the perspectives of some of this new generation of politicians.  But the naivete in the face of  America's deep-seated white nationalism could make these post-racial notions no more than fantasies. I never heard Obama make such a claim but obviously some bought the media hype to their peril.  The most recent case of this peril was Adrian Fenty, the mayor of Washington, DC.  As Herbert points out, Fenty surrounded himself with a view towards administration without a consideration for politics, particularly black politics.  An  even more arrogant case, however, was that of Arthur Davis, the Congressman from Alabama.  He ran for Governor as a "blue dog" Democrat.  We are talking Alabama here.  Davis was running against Obama's agenda to appease white voters.  Black voters were so disgusted with his  "post-racial politics," they voted for his opponent.   Problems in the black community go beyond issues of competence and rationality.  There are hostile forces out there -- white nationalist forces -- which are at the core of politics in this country.  Appeasement is not the answer.  These politics are racial to which Herbert alludes.  While blacks are positive in this age of Obama, that promise is on shaky ground when the President cannot even discuss HIS race.    RGN

September 20, 2010

Neglecting the BaseBy BOB HERBERT

Maybe it was just a coincidence, but it was striking, nevertheless.

The mayor of Washington, Adrian Fenty, one of the so-called postracial black leaders, suffered a humiliating defeat in his bid for re-election last week when African-American voters deserted him in droves. The very same week President Obama, the most prominent of the so-called postracial types, was moving aggressively to shore up his support among black voters.

Mr. Obama, who usually goes out of his way to avoid overtly racial comments and appeals, made an impassioned plea during a fiery speech Saturday night at a black-tie event sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus. “I need everybody here,” he said, “to go back to your neighborhoods, to go back your workplaces, to go to the churches and go to the barbershops and go to the beauty shops. And tell them we’ve got more work to do.”

It’s no secret that the president is in trouble politically, and that Democrats in Congress are fighting desperately to hold on to their majorities. But much less attention has been given to the level of disenchantment among black voters, who have been hammered disproportionately by the recession and largely taken for granted by the Democratic Party. That disenchantment is likely to translate into lower turnout among blacks this fall.

The idea that we had moved into some kind of postracial era was always a ridiculous notion. Attitudes have undoubtedly changed for the better over the past half-century, and young people as a whole are less hung up on race than their elders. But race is still a very big deal in the United States, which is precisely why black leaders like Mr. Fenty and Mr. Obama try so hard to behave as though they are governing in some sort of pristine civic environment in which the very idea of race has been erased.

Full article

Thursday, September 9, 2010

From the Nation to Rahm: Don't Let the Door Hit You Where the Dog Bit You!!!

Ari Berman said it all by celebrating the likelihood that Rahm Emanuel will be  leaving the White House soon.  For progressive Obama supporters, this is great news.  The demeaning labeling  of the "professional left" by Robert Gibbs was the result of a Rahm White House.  It was Rahm who first called the left a bunch of f****** retards.  It was revealed recently that he shared a similar sentiment with regard to the UAW.  To not have respect for labor, the heart and soul of the working class, is beyond shameful.  He should have been gone!

As Berman points out, while there MAY have been some plusses in have someone with Emanuel's experience in both the White House and the Congress, much of his work within the party has been to turn the party to the right.  Also, his disdain for those most wanting change and having cast their hopes with Obama makes him unfit to run this White House.  RGN

The Sooner Rahm Leaves, the Better for Obama

Ari Berman
September 8, 2010

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s announcement that he will not seek a seventh term has prompted widespread speculation that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel [1] will run as Daley’s successor. "I'd be shocked if he doesn't run [2]," a senior administration official told the Washington Post.

The sooner Rahm leaves Washington, the better for Barack Obama. His White House is desperately in need of a serious shakeup, especially with Democrats facing a tidal wave of losses in the midterms. Replacing Rahm is the best place to start.

I’ll never quite understand why a transformational candidate who ran under the banner of a new style of politics chose the ultimate old-school inside operator to control his administration. Rahm isn’t solely to blame for diluting Obama’s unique outsider brand, but he’s a major reason why. After all, in the Clinton White House and in Congress, Rahm was often at odds with the very grassroots activists who powered Obama’s presidential campaign. As head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in ‘06, he famously clashed with party chair Howard Dean and recruited conservative Blue Dog candidates at the expense of legitimate progressive challengers [3]. Rahm brought his corporate centrism to the White House, pushing for a smaller-than-needed stimulus bill, urging Obama not to pursue healthcare reform [4], watering down the bill when he did and calling progressive activists who wanted to pressure obstructionist Democrats “fucking retarded [5].” He later apologized to Sarah Palin but not to the Democratic activists he insulted.

Rahm’s alleged biggest asset—his ties to Capitol Hill and intricate knowledge of Beltway politics—paid few dividends for Obama. The president’s legislative agenda has hit a brick wall in the Senate and the dysfunction of the Democratic Congress, which Emanuel has done little to tame, helps explain why voters are set to punish the party in power this November. “If picking the leading practitioner of the dark arts of the capital was a Faustian bargain for Obama in the name of getting things done, why haven’t things got done?” asked Peter Baker of the New York Times in a profile titled “The Limits of Rahmism [6].” In other words, if you sell your soul, you better get something good for it in return. Instead, Obama is facing the prospect of a Republican Congress and an uphill re-election bid. No wonder Rahm is so eager to get out of town.

For full article: click here

Monday, September 6, 2010

Funding the “birthers” and the Tea Bag movements: Kansas’ White Christian Nationalism Contends for America Hegemony

By now most have heard rumors about the Koch Brothers being a power behind the smear campaign and degradation of the office of the presidency by the Tea Baggers. Rachel Maddow did a report on the brothers’ support of extreme right wing – white nationalist – politics. Koch Industries is based in Wichita Kansas. Having been born and raised in Kansas, I am not embarrassed about being from Kansas (home is home), but I must say I am embarrassed for Kansas. I left Kansas in 1961, thank goodness. I had my issues with its racism to the point of being a part of a sit-in at Dockums Drug Store in 1958, but Kansas was not Mississippi. More recently, however, Kansas backward political climate was revealed by the State Board of Education’s requirement that creationism be taught right beside evolution in school curriculum.

This fact alone proved Thomas Frank’s point in his award winning book, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” He concluded that the reason these working class and farm communities did not vote their economic interests was for cultural reasons. White Christian Nationalism has been at the center of the anti-abortion debate. With Bill O'Reilly and Fox News fanning the flames, Wichita was storm center for the anti-abortion movement that led to the assassination of Dr. Howard Tiller in his church.

With bizarre coincidence, one of the nation’s more infamous serial killers terrorized and killed at least 10 people, mostly women, in Wichita from the 1974 to the 1991. The BTK killer for “Blind them, Torture them and Kill them.” He committed these heinous acts as he terrorized that city of 300,000. The interesting thing about Dennis Rader, the serial killer, was linked him to this White Christian Nationalist culture as President of his fundamentalist Lutheran congregation.  He was not arrested until 2004 when his ego got in the way of his secret.  He thought someone was going to steal his story. Another personal coincidence when it comes to my Kansas connection, it was my cousin, Judge Greg Waller, who sentenced Rader to 175 years in prison.

When I attended my 55th high school reunion in October 2008, the Obama supporters were an intimidated minority. Of the over 90 alums in attendance, about 10 or 12 supported Obama. They formed their own little quiet campaign. After announcing at the dinner that I had informed the Obama campaign that the class of ’53 was behind him, I was booed. Even though a few of these Republicans did whisper to me later that they were going to vote for Obama, the husband (Class of ’51) of one of my classmates vowed that if Obama won he was leaving the country. Often I get email from distribution lists of classmates. Like Koch’s campaign, ridiculing the President is the order of the day. One thing this shows is that race trumps respect for the institution of the presidency.

Is it any wonder that major funder of the Tea Party comes right out of this milieu. The Koch brothers are putting their libertarian ideology to work to demonize the President just because he is African American. The brothers are underwriting the so-called “grassroots” Tea Party movement. While that may not be a surprise, what is more likely to be very illuminating is how connected they are to America’s elite, sharing the spotlight with Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg at the Metropolitan Opera. These connections are buying legitimacy for their criminal behavior. There is a consistency between their racist politics and their anti-government capitalist class interests. Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said:

“The Kochs are on a whole different level. There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I’ve never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times.”

Remember the Birchite billboards denouncing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as Communist? These are the same people who are pushing the white Christian Nationalist Tea Bagger, “birther,” anti-immigration, and “Ground Zero” anti-Muslim sentiment. Now they are exposed. Jane Mayer is a must read. RGN


The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama.

by Jane Mayer AUGUST 30, 2010

David H. Koch in 1996. He and his brother Charles are lifelong libertarians and have quietly given more than a hundred million dollars to right-wing causes.

On May 17th, a black-tie audience at the Metropolitan Opera House applauded as a tall, jovial-looking billionaire took the stage. It was the seventieth annual spring gala of American Ballet Theatre, and David H. Koch was being celebrated for his generosity as a member of the board of trustees; he had recently donated $2.5 million toward the company’s upcoming season, and had given many millions before that. Koch received an award while flanked by two of the gala’s co-chairs, Blaine Trump, in a peach-colored gown, and Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, in emerald green. Kennedy’s mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, had been a patron of the ballet and, coincidentally, the previous owner of a Fifth Avenue apartment that Koch had bought, in 1995, and then sold, eleven years later, for thirty-two million dollars, having found it too small.

The gala marked the social ascent of Koch, who, at the age of seventy, has become one of the city’s most prominent philanthropists. In 2008, he donated a hundred million dollars to modernize Lincoln Center’s New York State Theatre building, which now bears his name. He has given twenty million to the American Museum of Natural History, whose dinosaur wing is named for him. This spring, after noticing the decrepit state of the fountains outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Koch pledged at least ten million dollars for their renovation. He is a trustee of the museum, perhaps the most coveted social prize in the city, and serves on the board of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where, after he donated more than forty million dollars, an endowed chair and a research center were named for him.

One dignitary was conspicuously absent from the gala: the event’s third honorary co-chair, Michelle Obama. Her office said that a scheduling conflict had prevented her from attending. Yet had the First Lady shared the stage with Koch it might have created an awkward tableau. In Washington, Koch is best known as part of a family that has repeatedly funded stealth attacks on the federal government, and on the Obama Administration in particular.

With his brother Charles, who is seventy-four, David Koch owns virtually all of Koch Industries, a conglomerate, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, whose annual revenues are estimated to be a hundred billion dollars. The company has grown spectacularly since their father, Fred, died, in 1967, and the brothers took charge. The Kochs operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, and control some four thousand miles of pipeline. Koch Industries owns Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet, and Lycra, among other products. Forbes ranks it as the second-largest private company in the country, after Cargill, and its consistent profitability has made David and Charles Koch—who, years ago, bought out two other brothers—among the richest men in America. Their combined fortune of thirty-five billion dollars is exceeded only by those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.

For the full article click here

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Haley Barbour: White Nationalist Revisionism

Lies, damned lies and white nationalism.   Haley Barbour has come under heavy criticism for lying about his personal and Mississippi's racist history.   Speaking as a Republican, as opposed to those Jim Crow Southern Democrats, Barbour claims that when he attended Ole Miss race "we never thought twice about it."   He attended Ole Miss in the mid-1960s.  He left in his senior year to be a part of Richard Nixon's white nationalist Southern Strategy for his 1968 presidential campaign.  Recall that in 1964, civil rights workers were being killed in the State's "legal" and illegal acts to protect segregation.  Just prior to these deeds, in 1961, there was a riot on Ole Miss' campus in which a French journalist was killed as a part of the protest attempting to block the enrollment of James Meredith, the first African American to attend Ole Miss.  It was this hostile context in which Haley Barbour claims that the University of Mississippi was integrated and which he "never thought twice about [race]."  The facts on race in Mississippi in the mid 1960s betray Barbour's revisionist history.  Other voices about the desegregation of the Ole Miss Medical School attests to some smooth changes but lots of maintenance of segregation which Barbour says he never gave a thought about.  See also: Rachel Maddow on Haley Barbour on the lack of racism of his Mississippi generation.  RGN

BARBOUR EXPLAINS THE SOUTH WITH BASELESS, REVISIONIST HISTORY.... For much of the 20th century, America's Southeast, now the Republicans' strongest region, was closely aligned with Democratic politics. The shift began quickly after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, culminating in the Republican stronghold we see today.

As far as likely presidential candidate Haley Barbour of Mississippi, the corporate-lobbyist-turned governor, is concerned, the transition can be explained as a matter of generational change. Barbour's version of events, though, is so wildly ridiculous, it bears no resemblance to reality.

Barbour has invented his own sanitized, suburb-friendly version of history -- an account that paints the South's shift to the GOP as the product of young, racially inclusive conservatives who had reasons completely separate and apart from racial politics for abandoning their forebears' partisan allegiances. In an interview with Human Events that was posted on Wednesday, Barbour insists that "the people who led the change of parties in the South ... was my generation. My generation who went to integrated schools. I went to integrated college -- never thought twice about it." Segregationists in the South, in his telling, were "old Democrats," but "by my time, people realized that was the past, it was indefensible, it wasn't gonna be that way anymore. So the people who really changed the South from Democrat to Republican was a different generation from those who fought integration."

This is utter nonsense.

This comes up from time to time, especially when Republicans are feeling defensive about race (or when right-wing Mississippi governors prepare to run against the nation's first African-American president), so let's set the record straight.

The Democratic Party, in the first half of the 20th century, was home to competing constituencies -- southern conservative whites with abhorrent views on race, and white progressives and African Americans in the north, who sought to advance the cause of civil rights. The party struggled, ultimately siding with an inclusive, liberal agenda.

It wasn't easy. As Steve Kornacki reminds us, "When the party ratified a civil rights plank at its 1948 convention, Southern Democrats staged a walkout and lined up behind Strom Thurmond, South Carolina's governor and (like all Southern Democrats of the time) an arch-segregationist. Running under the Dixiecrat banner, Thurmond won four Deep South states that fall."

As the party shifted, the Democratic mainstream embraced its new role. Republicans, meanwhile, also changed.

In the wake of Democratic President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act, the Republican Party welcomed the white supremacists who no longer felt comfortable in the Democratic Party. Indeed, in 1964, Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater boasted of his opposition to the Civil Rights Act, and made it part of his platform. Other than his home state, Goldwater won exactly five states in that race: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. To pretend this had nothing to do with race -- we're talking about states that hadn't backed a GOP candidate since the Civil War -- is absurd.

This was, of course, right around the time when figures like Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond made the transition -- leaving the Democratic Party for the GOP.

In the ensuing years, Democrats embraced their role as the party of diversity, inclusion, and civil rights. Republicans became the party of the "Southern Strategy," opposition to affirmative action, campaigns based on race-baiting, vote-caging, discriminatory voter-ID laws, and politicians like Helms and Thurmond.

Indeed, as the chairman of the Republican National Committee recently conceded, his party deliberately used racial division for electoral gain for the last four decades.

Matt Finkelstein, who noted that Barbour's version of history "is so grossly distorted that it's tough to decide where to start," added, "Barbour says that he was raised an 'Eastland Democrat,' but fails to mention that Jim Eastland once said that 'segregation is not discrimination,' but rather 'the law of God.'"

Barbour, a man who placed a Confederate flag signed by Jefferson Davis in his office, surely knows his historical perspective is radically untrue. He's just hoping the public doesn't know better. It's ugly and cynical ... and par for the course for one of America's least honorable politicians.

—Steve Benen 10:45 AM Permalink

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

On the "Mosque" and other Matters: Eugene Robinson Exposes the Racist Lies

Eugene Robinson
The right-wing fiasco in opposition the proposed Muslim cultural center in Manhattan is simply another case of white nationalist reaction to the Obama presidency.  This whole debate about where the center should be located is irrelevant.  A Constitutional right is just that a right.   Being "sensitive" to people who would deny you the exercise of a fundamental citizenship right is not the issue.  As Eugene Robinson pointed out in an exchange,  desegregating Little Rock's Central High would not have happened had the nine African American students not exercised their rights in deference to the city's and the nation's  racist "sensitivities."

The "hysteria" as Robinson calls it, is just another case of white nationalism run amok, threatened by America's growing diversity and the fact that  the President is black.  There are several major issues that are linked in this opposition.  The opposition to the cultural center is headed up and given voice by the same people have aided and abetted the Tea Party and "birther" movements.  These are the same voices that we hear when it comes to the Arizona laws on illegal immigration and restricting multicultural education.   These are the same voices that  participated in the smearing of Shirley Sherrod.  

Supposedly, this bigotry is about the grieving 9-11 families.  It's about Pam Geller, a Holocaust denier, Nazi sympathizer and co-author of The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration's War on America (Geller's co-author is Robert Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch of the David Horowitz Freedom Center.)  It was not the 9-11 families that started this latest expression of white nationalist street campaign to oppose this center as being on hallowed ground.  This flame was lit and then fanned by Pam Geller.  This is not just about Muslims standing by their right to build the center at this location.   This is about right of Muslims to freely practice their religion not just in New York but anywhere in America.  Mosques are being opposed and desecrated all over America.  To not stand the right of this Imam to build this center on this site is to cave in to America's worst legacy -- white nationalist mob rule -- by some of its dregs. 

In some ways Howard Dean is right.  There needs to be a discussion between the 9-11 families and Imam Rauf  and his associates.  However, the discussion should not about the "appropriate location" of the center, but ways in which the center aims to address their "sensitivities" as a part of the center's peaceful outreach.  RGN

The right-wing, blinded by its own hysteria
By Eugene Robinson
Tuesday, August 24, 2010; A15

When did the loudmouths of the American right become such a bunch of fraidy-cats and professional victims? Or is it all just an act?

The hysteria over plans for an innocuous Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan -- two blocks from Ground Zero, amid an urban hodgepodge of office buildings, eateries and strip clubs -- is wildly out of proportion. It would be laughable if it didn't threaten to do great harm to the global campaign against Islamic terrorism.

It is by now firmly established that the project, dubbed Park51, is promoted by a peacenik Muslim cleric whose sermons often sound a bit like the musings of new-age guru Deepak Chopra. It is also undisputed fact that the imam in question, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is such a moderate that the U.S. government regularly sends him as an emissary to Muslim countries to preach peace, coexistence and dialogue.

Yet right-wing commentators and politicians have twisted themselves in knots to portray the Park51 project as a grievous assault -- and "the American people" as victims. Victims of what? Rauf's sinister plot to despoil the city with a fitness center, a swimming pool and -- shudder -- a space for the performing arts?

The whole "controversy" is ridiculous. Yet conservatives who should know better are doing their best to exploit widespread ignorance about Islam by transforming it into fear and anger. They imply, but don't come right out and say, that it was Islam itself that attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, rather than an extremist fringe that espouses what the vast majority of the world's Muslims consider a perversion of the faith. They paint Park51 as a "victory dance" over the hallowed ground where thousands of Americans died -- never mind that there wouldn't even be a sight line between the building and Ground Zero -- and suggest that the project, even though it would be run by an imam who's practically a flower child, could somehow serve as a recruiting center for terrorists.

Message to anyone who will listen: You're a victim. Be very afraid.

In the process, this anti-mosque pitchfork brigade is surely recruiting terrorists left and right. As Ahmad Moussalli, a professor at the American University of Beirut, told the Los Angeles Times: "Rejecting this has become like rejecting Islam itself." All the Islamophobic rhetoric tends to reinforce the jihadists' main argument, which is that the United States and the West seek to destroy the faith held dear by more than 1 billion souls.

The thing is, though, that the manufactured brouhaha over the Park51 project is part of a larger pattern in which the far right embraces victimhood and stokes fear. The faction that likes to portray itself as a bunch of John Waynes and "mama grizzlies," it turns out, spends an awful lot of time cowering in the corner and complaining about how beastly everyone else is being.

Witness the frequent eruptions over instances of reverse racism -- real or imagined. The Shirley Sherrod affair was the most recent example of how eagerly the far right wants to sell the false narrative that African Americans, once they achieve positions of authority, will use their newly acquired power to punish whites for historical discrimination. The facts of the Sherrod case, as they finally emerged, argue persuasively against this fictional tale of longed-for revenge. But it will be back.

And look at the hysteria over illegal immigration. Facts don't matter -- for example, that the flow of undocumented migrants has decreased, or that border enforcement under President Obama is much tougher than under George W. Bush, or that illegal immigrants are not responsible for any kind of crime wave. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), has gone so far as to sound the alarm about alleged "terror babies." The idea is that undocumented pregnant women would cross the border so that their children could have U.S. citizenship, then take the babies away to be raised as terrorists -- who would be able to come back in 20 years or so, with legitimate U.S. passports, and presumably wreak untold havoc. No, I did not make that up.

Is the far right really afraid of its own shadow? Do these people really have so little faith in our nation's strength, resilience and values? I hope this is all just cynical political calculation, because there are genuine threats and challenges out there. We'll be better off meeting them with a spine, not a whine.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dowd Rightly Disses Gibbs and the White House but Challanges "the Professional Left"

Maureen Dowd
Robert Gibbs was wrong in attacking "the professional left" whatever that means.  Much of that "left" was the most passionate in working for the President's election.  It is that left that most wants to see him succeed. So, for Gibbs to make his denigrating statements about the most progressive politics in the nation was impolitic to say they least.  Because of his actions, Maureen Dowd has called for Gibbs to step down.  He should.  But it should also be understood that this is not the first time.  Recall that during the health care debate, Rahm Emmanuel did some similar name-calling when it came to some of the "demands" of the left.  Unfortunately, this is the present atmosphere in the current staff.  There needs to be change in the White House staff in order to change the climate.

On the other hand, there is a contradiction within the left side of politics in America when it comes to governance.  The politics of "the professional left" has at its core movement politics. Being on the outside of what has been center-right politics, the left has always been in protest mode.  We have been great at protest. We changed America.  The success of our protests has made protest as our raison d'etre.  That said, one of Maureen Dowd's points is valid.  For many on the left, "pragmatism is moral compromise." As President, Obama's accomplishments are being discussed in favorable comparison when it comes to two of the nation's historic presidents, FDR and LBJ. -- in just one and a half years!! To its adherents, Social movement goals are not to be compromised. 

One of the first on the "professional left" to criticize the President was Bill Maher.  Maher argued early on that Obama was not kicking, like George Bush.  What is ignored is that Bush had a Congress and the white nation wedded to his ideological hegemony.  Obama is not an authoritarian, nor could he be.  As he said on election night, he is the President of all Americans, even those who did not vote for him.  To govern requires compromise.  Obama's failures as far as the left is concerned are that he has not gone far enough. While his white nationalist opposition is unmitigated in their attempts to de-legitimize his presidency, or as Media Matters frames it, Fox News and Tea Party campaigns to complete the "Willie Hortonization of the Presidency of Barack Obama." 

When it comes to universal health care, Ted Kennedy always regretted not taking an earlier compromise then refining it, much the way in which Medicare has been improved over time.  While there needs to be a left to push social policy.  That needs to come from rank and file social movement.  I am reminded of the silliness of some criticism that degrade the President because HE is not carrying out King's vision.   As Amiri Baraka argued "If we don't do nothing, he won't do nothing."  The President who campaigned as a "pragmatic progressive" is not the left's enemy. Both the White House and the left should understand that. After 30 plus years of Reaganism and white nationalist hegemony it is time consolidate the idea that "the truth" is on the left and have Americans believe it!!  RGN

No Love From the Lefties


Robert Gibbs should be yanked as White House press secretary.

Not because of his outburst against the “professional left.” He was right about that. In an interview with The Hill last week, Gibbs once more proved Michael Kinsley’s maxim that a gaffe is just truth slipping out.

He said the president’s lefty critics “ought to be drug-tested,” would only “be satisfied when we have Canadian health care and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon,” and “wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”

His colleagues tried to excuse Gibbs by saying he was suffering from a bug going around the White House. But the press secretary and the president are understandably frustrated over the asymmetry at the heart of American politics: Rand Paul and Sharron Angle aside, Republicans often find a way to exploit their extremes for political advantage, while Democratic extremes typically do damage to a Democratic president.

One of the most disgusting things about Mitch McConnell and Jon Kyl, and now the former maverick John McCain, is that they are happy to be co-opted by the radicals in their party to form one movement against President Obama.

On the Republican side, the crazies often end up helping the Republican leadership. On the Democratic side, the radicals are constantly sniping at Obama, expressing their feelings of betrayal.

Fox built up a Republican president; MSNBC is trying to make its reputation by tearing down a Democratic one.

We’ve known that the left was mad at Obama, but now we know Obama is mad at the left. Obama and Gibbs are upset that the lefties won’t recognize the necessity of compromise. The left is snapping back: What necessity? You won 365 electoral votes. You have both houses of Congress. And bipartisanship is an illusion.

Democrats are not prepared to go the whole way to appease their ideologues. The Republican leaders on the Hill, on the other hand, seem perfectly happy to go all out.

W.’s reign of error so enraged Democrats that they were bound by one desire: to get rid of him. Bush, Cheney and Rove inspired the Democrats to spawn a powerful lefty tower of babble led by Rachel Maddow, Michael Moore and the blogosphere.

After Bush, Democrats thought the way to paper over the distinction between liberals and radical lefties was to call everyone progressives. But calling yourself a progressive is just a stupid disguise where you pretend the contradiction isn’t there.

Some liberals, like the president, felt he could live without the public option, whereas lefties thought the public option was essential. Some liberals, like the president, think you can escalate our wars to end them, whereas lefties just want the wars ended.

There are deep schisms within the Democratic Party that were masked for a time, first by Bush and then by Obama’s election. Now that the Democrats have the presidency and the power and can enact legislation, it’s apparent that the word progressive is kind of meaningless.

President Obama is testing how elastic he can be, how much realism he can have before he betrays his idealism. For better and worse, he is an elitist and a situationist. But the professional left — like the professional right — often considers pragmatism a moral compromise.

The lefties came to the defense of the centrist Clinton during impeachment. Now that Obama is under attack, however, they are not coming to his defense, even though he has given more to the liberal cause than the scandal-stunted Clinton ultimately achieved.

He has shepherded the biggest expansion of social programs since the Great Society and spearheaded the biggest spending program with the stimulus. But for the left (and for some economists), it was not as big as it ought to have been.

Obama got elected because of the clarity of his campaign and his speeches. But, surprisingly, he’s in some ways an incoherent president. He’s with the banks, he’s against the banks. He’s leaving Afghanistan, he’s staying in Afghanistan. He strains at being a populist, but his head is in the clouds.

He needs to communicate more clearly. And, in that department, Gibbs isn’t helpful. He’s often unresponsive and sometimes hostile to the press. His adversarial barking has only heightened tensions with a press that was once lampooned for fawning over his boss.

Gibbs does not see his job as a bridge between the press and the presidency. He sees himself more as a moat. He has always wanted to be an inside counselor to the president. So Obama — who bonded with Gibbs during the campaign, over sports, missing their families and how irritating the blog-around-the-clock press corps is — would be wise to promote him to a counselor. Let someone who shows less disdain for the press work with the press, and be the more engaging face of the White House.

Monday, August 16, 2010

March for Jobs and Justice: Fighting back from the assaults of Glenn Beck and the NRA

As we alll know, the fascists have no shame.  Ron Walters brings attention to the travesty of Glenn Beck and the NRA cynical rally at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28th, the anniversary of the March on Washington.  As a counter to this farce, tradional Civil Rights leaders, including Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson  are calling on local communites to march for jobs and justice where ever you are.  RGN

August 28: March for Jobs and Justice Where Ever You Are

By Ron Walters

We have to thank Rev. Al Sharpton and other Civil Rights leaders for turning our attention to the atrocity planned by Glenn Beck, Conservative Fox TV talk show host, to have a rally on the Lincoln monument on the anniversary of the March on Washington. Rather than “restoring honor” as they say, this march, heavily supported by the National Rifle Association is a perversion of the progressive spirit of the original nonviolent march, which held out the hope of racial reconciliation and that America would finally cash a check of justice that would allow all of us to invest in the great project of Democracy.

Glenn Beck is a white nationalist who frequently says that progressivism is the problem with democracy, so he and his Tea Party henchmen want to return America – virtually – to honor a set of values that were around when black people were still being lynched. I agree that he must not be allowed to appropriate the day of the great March and the values that we are still attempting to protect and uphold, so I will be there in Washington.

At the same time Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. is leading a March in Detroit, Michigan on August 28 to highlight the fact that the economic Stimulus and therefore, jobs have not reached many black communities and that going forward, Detroit, a City that is 82% black and economically challenged, is a symbol that we need a new national urban policy. Rev. Jackson is right to make clear the fact that jobs is the great issue of our times and where better to make that case than in Detroit.

Also, many people from New Orleans will not come to Washington because they will be commemorating the Katrina Hurricane damage and resurrection that weekend. In that event, I am told they will include elements of the other marches. But some national news organizations are planning their own five-year look at New Orleans and there are primary elections that day in the State, so that weekend also means that other events will have to struggle for press attention.

In any case, I think that people, especially in this economically challenged environment, should march where they are. If they can come to Washington, DC, or Detroit, or go to New Orleans, fine, but there is work to be done right there at home. It strikes me that, in sympathy with the national marches, local organizations could plan jobs marches to their local workforce agencies, city halls, construction projects where there are no blacks working, and other places where the demand for jobs by local people is a logical act. Many of us have talked about “civic engagement” well here is an opportunity to do just that, when the national spotlight could connect a national march to one held by a local community.

Perhaps this is a good idea that come too late, but I am reminded that many folks could not come to Washington, DC on August 28, 1963 and so they had local events. For example, I marched on Woodward Avenue in Detroit with hundreds of thousands of people and heard a version of the “I have a dream” speech a few days before it was given in Washington, DC. The same could be said about the Million Man March: people came by the boatloads in 1995, but by the celebration of the 10 year anniversary, an effort was made to urge folks to have local marches to highlight the values of the original march in their communities.

Finally, there is another reason why blacks should try out their local mobilization legs and that is the elections that are coming down the pike this fall. I will say more about the elections later, but it strikes me that since the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation is a sponsor of the March in Washington, DC that is sign that they are making a move to get organization thinking about how they will organize to get out the vote later on. So, these marches are about jobs and justice and respecting the values of the movement for which so many people gave their lives, time and energy. But they are also “right now” oriented to the present crisis of unemployment and to prevent the conservative movement from distorting Dr. King’s dream, but also to keeping political power in the hands of those who can help us best.

Dr. Ron Walters is a Political Analyst and Professor Emeritus of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland College Park. One of his latest books is: Freedom Is Not Enough: Black Voters, Black Candidates and American Presidential Politics (Rowman and Littlefield)

Racists Called Out by Joe Conason

The depths of the racism being expressed by today's right wing is consistent with its white nationalist history but the level of white antipathy toward the President has brought racism to the fore not expreienced since the 1950s and '60s.  Joe Conason has put his finger right on it.  These people commit acts that demean the President as a black man.  These are racist acts.  During the health care legisltative process, among the Tea Partiers near the Capitol that were persons who called black members of the Congress the N-word among other things.  Congressman Cleaver was spat upon.  But these degradations have been denied and covered up by the right wing media.  We are at the stage we were in the 1950s and '60s in terms of expressed white antipathy toward the nation having a black president.  In the Reagan years a majority voted for Reagan because of his miserable record on racism.  Out of power, many of these white nationalists are desparate.  And today, they are buttressed by Fox News, talk radio and the Internet where even the most extreme white supremacists are able to organize and spread propaganda.  What is interesting that even the racists are denying their racism,  There are also some who deny the Holocaust.  RGN

The Racists Return

Posted on Aug 11, 2010

By Joe Conason

Among the most revealing aspects of life during the Obama presidency is the panoply of responses to a black family in the White House. What made so many of us proud of our country on Jan. 20, 2009, has increasingly provoked expressions of hatred from the far right. That is troubling, but not nearly as troubling as the behavior of conservatives who excuse, embolden or simply pretend to ignore the bigots surrounding them.

Last spring, after unruly tea party protesters on Capitol Hill were accused of spewing racial epithets at civil rights hero John Lewis, an African-American congressman from Georgia, conservatives rose up in furious denial. Where was the proof? How could anyone suggest that racial prejudice lurks behind the festering right-wing hatred of President Obama (and his family)? Anger over that episode still lingers in certain quarters, motivating the deceptively edited video attack on Shirley Sherrod and the NAACP by a website called Big Government, Inc.

Even if the alleged assault on Lewis and other black congressmen did occur, argued prominent commentators on the right, it somehow only proved that there is no racism in America worthy of concern. A writer for National Review (the conservative magazine that historically opposed civil rights legislation) confided that the whole subject made him yawn:

“That these things are even remotely newsworthy leads me to one conclusion: Racism in America is dead. We had slavery, then we had Jim Crow—and now we have the occasional public utterance of a bad word. Real racism has been reduced to de minimis levels, while charges of racism seem to increase.”

But this summer has seen several loud and ugly outbursts of very real racism—including threats of violence against the president of the United States—that go well beyond the utterance of any single word. As if suffering from a facial tic, leading figures on the right cannot seem to suppress their inner Klansman these days.

Is there any other way to explain Glenn Beck’s crazed rant comparing the Obama administration to an old movie about a society where apes and chimpanzees dominate humans? What did the Fox News host mean, exactly, when he shrieked: “It’s like the damned Planet of the Apes. Nothing makes sense!” Is there any other way to explain the grotesque new best-seller by radio host Laura Ingraham, “The Obama Diaries,” where, among other things, she depicts first lady Michelle Obama eating ribs at every meal? Why would she feel the need to describe the president as “uppity” by putting the word in the mouth of his mother-in-law? No wonder Stephen Colbert taunted Ms. Ingraham to her face for “hideous and hackneyed racial stereotyping.”

Of course, these are only two of the more egregious instances in recent weeks of social poisoning that dates back well over a year. Symptoms can be seen across the country now, even in amusement parks and church carnivals, where small children are exposed to this spiritual sickness.

At the Big Time fair held by Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Roseto, Pa., last week, a game called “Alien Attack” featured “an image of a suited black man holding a health care bill and wearing a belt buckle with a presidential seal,” at which players were encouraged to aim their popguns. Anybody who hit the cardboard figure in the head or the heart could win a prize. Irvin L. Good Jr., owner of Goodtime Amusements, who is responsible for this disgusting garbage, denied that the figure represents Mr. Obama. “We’re not interpreting it as Obama,” the inaptly named huckster told a local newspaper. “The name of the game is Alien Leader. If you’re offended, that’s fine, we duly note that.”

Meanwhile on the New Jersey shore, patrons of the Seaside Heights boardwalk could hurl baseballs at a black, jug-eared Obama figurine, winning a prize if they managed to smash it. As seen in a video posted on the Gawker website, this object closely resembles the grinning “lawn jockey” statuettes that used to festoon suburban lawns in a less decent era.

Most conservatives were late in taking responsibility for their movement’s immoral opposition to civil rights. It is time for them to step up and denounce the racism that is again disfiguring our country in their name.

Joe Conason writes for the New York Observer.

White Nationalism and the 14th Amendment

Harold Meyerson provides an excellent analysis of what is behind the GOP's notion to overturn the 14th Amendment.  What it boils down to is a case of trying to protect the white nation.  The election of Barack Obama to the presidency was the first time in history that someone not in and of the white nation was elected to hold the nation's highest and most prestigious position. As a consequence, his election represents a threat to continued white nationalist hegemony.  That  election was a victory over the vote of the white majority.  Obama's victory was a victory of minoriities, including a minority of whites (43%).  The nation's largest minority is Latino and it is growing.  This demographic and the reality that in a few decades white might be a demographic minority is really at the root of the GOP's desire to repeal the 14th Amendment.  Meyerson points out the irony of the 14th Amendment -- citizenship to everyone born on these shores, specifically former slaves -- being one of the GOP's greatest contributions to the nation's history.  Rather than progress on the issue of illegal immigragtion, the myth being spread about "anchor babies" is noting more than white nationaliat anti-Latino race baiting.  Given that the impetus for this is coming from the first Secessonist state, Meyerson offers a compromise.  RGN

Why the GOP really wants to alter the 14th Amendment

By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, August 11, 2010; A17

As Lindsey Graham and his fellow Republicans explain it, their sudden turn against conferring citizenship on anyone born in the United States was prompted by the mortal threat of "anchor babies" -- the children of foreigners who scurry to the States just in time to give birth to U.S. citizens.

The Republican war on the 14th Amendment's citizenship clause is indeed directed at a mortal threat -- but not to the American nation. It is the threat that Latino voting poses to the Republican Party.

By proposing to revoke the citizenship of the estimated 4 million U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants -- and, presumably, the children's children and so on down the line -- Republicans are calling for more than the creation of a permanent noncitizen caste. They are endeavoring to solve what is probably their most crippling long-term political dilemma: the racial diversification of the electorate. Not to put too fine a point on it, they are trying to preserve their political prospects as a white folks' party in an increasingly multicolored land.

Absent a constitutional change -- to a lesser degree, even with it -- those prospects look mighty bleak. The demographic base of the Republican Party, as Ruy Teixeira demonstrates in a paper released by the Center for American Progress this summer, is shrinking as a share of the nation and the electorate. As the nation grows more racially and religiously diverse, Teixeira shows, its percentage of white Christians will decline to just 35 percent of the population by 2040.

The group that's growing fastest, of course, is Latinos. "Their numbers will triple to 133 million by 2050 from 47 million today," Teixeira writes, "while the number of non-Hispanic whites will remain essentially flat." Moreover, Latinos increasingly trend Democratic -- in a Gallup poll this year, 53 percent self-identified as Democrats; just 21 percent called themselves Republican.

To be sure, the wretched state of the economy could drive some otherwise Democratic-inclined Latino voters to the GOP this November. But Republicans are doing their damnedest to keep this from happening. Their embrace of Arizona's Suspicious-Looking-Latinos law and their enthusiasm for stripping Latino children of their citizenship will only hasten Latinos' flight.

Sentient Republican strategists such as Karl Rove have long understood that unless their party could win more Latino votes, it would eventually go the way of the Whigs. That's the main reason George W. Bush tried to persuade congressional Republicans to support immigration reform. But most lawmakers, reflecting the nativism of the Republican base, would have none of it.

By pushing for repeal of the 14th Amendment's citizenship clause, the GOP appears to have concluded: If you can't win them over -- indeed, if you're doing everything in your power to make their lives miserable -- revoke their citizenship.

On this page last week, my colleague E.J. Dionne Jr. rightly noted that by attacking the amendment, Republicans seek to undo one of their party's greatest and most inclusionary achievements. Civil War- and Reconstruction-era Republicans took pains to ensure the citizenship not only of freed slaves and their children. They -- in particular, Abraham Lincoln -- also decided not to permanently keep millions of Confederate soldiers and sympathizers from regaining their citizenship.

The Confederates had renounced all allegiance to the United States. They made war on the United States -- the Constitution's definition of treason -- and, in an effort to keep 4 million Americans enslaved, killed more of our soldiers than any foreign army ever did.

Yet Lincoln was determined to make it easy for Confederates to regain their citizenship. By taking an oath to support the United States and its Constitution, Confederates were made Americans again.

Suppose, though, that Lincoln had been filled with the spirit of today's Republicans. The crimes that Republicans ascribe to today's illegal immigrants pale next to those of Confederate leaders and supporters (chiefly, treason). A Lindsey Graham-like Lincoln would never have let the Confederates regain citizenship. Moreover, he would have denied citizenship to their children and their children's children. A large share of the nation, certainly of the white South, would have drifted endlessly in a legal limbo. The current Republican Party, anchored as it is in the white South, would scarcely exist.

So, the question for Lindsey Graham is: Are you serious about revoking the citizenship of 4 million children, their children and their children's children? How about a package deal: Stripping their citizenship in return for stripping the citizenship of Confederate descendants. A sort of Missouri Compromise for our times. Bipartisanship in action.

Senator, let me know what you think.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bob Herbert on Shirley Sherrod

This piece by Bob Herbert is a bit dated but should shared and in the archive.  RGN 

Thrown to the Wolves

The Shirley Sherrod story tells us so much about ourselves, and none of it is pretty. The most obvious and shameful fact is that the Obama administration, which runs from race issues the way thoroughbreds bolt from the starting gate, did not offer this woman anything resembling fair or respectful treatment before firing and publicly humiliating her.

Moving with the swiftness of fanatics on a hanging jury, big shots in the administration and Bill O’Reilly of Fox News came to exactly the same conclusion: Shirley Sherrod had to go — immediately! No time for facts. No time for justice.

What we have here is power run amok. Ms. Sherrod was not even called into an office to be fired face to face. She got the shocking news in her car. “They called me twice,” she told The Associated Press. “The last time, they asked me to pull over to the side of the road and submit my resignation on my BlackBerry, and that’s what I did.”

This woman was thrown to the wolves without even the courtesy of a conversation. Her side of the story? The truth? The administration wasn’t interested.

And the blame for that falls squarely on the people at the very top in the White House. Why didn’t President Obama or Vice President Joe Biden or Rahm (call me Rahmbo) Emanuel, or somebody somewhere in the upper echelon say, “Hey, what the heck are you doing? You can’t fire a person without hearing her side of the story. This is not the Kremlin. Are you nuts?”

And then, of course, there’s the media, and not just the wing nuts at Fox and the crazies in the right-wing blogosphere. A large segment of the mainstream crowd stampeded to condemn this woman solely on the basis of a grainy video clip, just two-and-a-half minutes long, that was trumpeted by a source whose track record should have set alarm bells ringing in the head of any responsible journalist.

This sorry episode shows the extent to which we’ve lost sight of the most basic elements of fair play, responsible reporting and common decency in this society. And we’ve turned the race issue entirely on its head. While racial discrimination is overwhelmingly directed against black people in the U.S., much of the nation and the media are poised to go berserk over the most specious allegations of racism against whites. Even the N.A.A.C.P. rushed to condemn Ms. Sherrod, calling her actions “shameful,” without bothering to seek out the facts — which, incredibly, had unfolded at an N.A.A.C.P. event!

Later, after officials at the organization had found and released a tape of Ms. Sherrod’s entire 45-minute speech, the group’s president, Ben Jealous, apologized and said the N.A.A.C.P. had been “snookered.”
Black people are in a terrible condition right now — economically, socially, educationally and otherwise — and there is no effective champion fighting for their interests. Mr. Jealous and the new edition of the N.A.A.C.P. have shown in this episode that they are not ready for prime time, and President Obama seems reluctant to even utter the word black. Or poor, for that matter.

We hear so much about the middle class, and it’s true that the middle class has suffered in this terrible recession. There’s a middle-class task force in the White House led by the vice president. But the people suffering most in this long economic tailspin are the poor and the black, and you don’t hear much about that.
Which brings us to the most important part of the Shirley Sherrod story. The point that Ms. Sherrod was making as she talked in her speech about the white farmer who had come to her for help was that we are all being sold a tragic bill of goods by the powerful forces that insist on pitting blacks, whites and other ethnic groups against one another.

Ms. Sherrod came to the realization, as she witnessed the plight of poverty-stricken white farmers in the South more than two decades ago, that the essential issue in this country “is really about those who have versus those who don’t.”

She explained how the wealthier classes have benefited from whites and blacks constantly being at each other’s throats, and how rampant racism has insidiously kept so many struggling whites from recognizing those many things they and their families have in common with economically struggling blacks, Hispanics and so on.
“It’s sad that we don’t have a roomful of whites and blacks here tonight,” she said, “because we have to overcome the divisions that we have.”

There is no way we’ll overcome those divisions if people who should know better keep bowing before and kowtowing to the toxic agenda of those on the right whose overriding goal is to foment hostility and hate.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Racists Tea Party Movement Collapsing????

The Tea Party "Movement" emerged from the town hall meetings in the summer of 2009.  It began as a manufactured opposition using scare tactics about health care reform, which these right wingers have tabbed the as "Obamacare."  Rather than a grassroots movement as advertised, much of this effort grew out of Fox News and Dick Armey's health industry lobbying interests.  Quickly, the anti-Obama sentiment morphed into anti-government protests that often portrayed the President in racist caricatures.  This "movement" included "birthers" and urged on slogans demanding that they wanted to "take their country back."  The analysis by Media Matters has exposed this so-called movement for what it is -- a fraud that is now falling apart.  That is a good thing.  Much of the President's historic accomplishments have been overshadowed by the negative noise of the Tea Parties and their personalities, not the least of whom are Sarah Palin, Sharon Angle of Neveda, Rand Paul of Kentucky and other disasters.  Should the Tea Party collapse, it won't be a moment too soon.  RGN 

Memo to the media: The Tea Party movement has collapsed
August 05, 2010 8:15 am ET - by Eric Boehlert

Like rubberneckers on the misinformation highway, let’s slow down and gawk at the wreckage from last Saturday’s Tea Party rally in Philadelphia. Let’s look at the scattered debris and see what it says not only about the state of today’s Tea Party movement, but also what clues it provides for the political press corps in terms of how it should cover the anti-Obama rabble rousers.

The Saturday event was dubbed Uni-Tea, and was designed to feature mostly minority speakers as a way to send a message that not only isn’t the Tea Party movement racist, but that it seeks diversity amid its ranks.

Optimistic organizers, who boasted that their website had attracted 2 million hits during the run-up to the big rally, predicted a crowd of 3,000-4,000 people for the Philadelphia event. And they had every reason to be confident. After all, right-wing celebrity Andrew Breitbart, fresh off his Shirley Sherrod star turn, was scheduled to speak at the event, which was held on a gorgeous summer day in downtown Philadelphia on Independence Mall, where throngs of tourists would already be milling around. So it made sense, as Talking Points Memo reported, that organizers had 1,500 bottles of water on ice to hand out for the throngs who descended on the rally to cheer the Tea Party message.

But how many people actually showed up last Saturday for the national Tea Party rally? One local report put the number at 300. That’s right, 300, or less than one-tenth of the expected turnout. In fact, it’s possible more people showed up in Philadelphia last week to commemorate the opening of the new Apple computer store than showed up at the nationally promoted Tea Party rally featuring Andrew Breitbart.

Memo to the media: The Tea Party movement has collapsed.

And its collapse means it’s time for the press to rethink the way it covers the political equivalent of the Pet Rock, a fad that appears to be in its waning days of popularity.

I’d suggest that for more than a year the Beltway press has spent far too many man-hours obsessively chronicling the conservative Tea Partiers. Part of that overindulgence has been fueled by the bullying GOP Noise Machine, which has demanded around-the-clock Tea Party coverage as proof that journalists aren’t liberally biased. And part of it has simply been the media’s attraction to a political story that was new and rather unorthodox.

But it’s time to pull the plug, or at least it’s time for the press to tell the truth about the Tea Party’s rather sad state of affairs.

I don’t know why Tea Party events, like the one in Philadelphia, are now failures. Maybe people are turned off by the obvious and odious racial element that permeates parts of the movement. Or maybe people are disappointed at how little the Tea Party has been able to accomplish. Of course, it failed in stopping Obama's health care reform, a legislative initiative that Tea Party leaders and supporters rallied against.

The Tea Party also failed in stopping Obama's stimulus package, as well as the White House's push to bail out Detroit automakers and to reform financial institutions. So maybe that’s why people now stay home instead of creating Obama-hating posters and marching around.

But the truth is for the Tea Party movement, rallies matters and have been important to the media story, because the Tea Party has so few other traditional measuring sticks that journalists use. For instance, there is national party per se, no universal platform, not official agenda or elected officials or easily traceable fundraising arm. So the press has often judged the movement’s vitality based on the Tea Party rallies and what kind of turnout fervent anti-Obama followers could generate.

The oversized significance of the rallies may be one reason why conservative commentators have routinely lied about attendance and simply manufactured crowd counts that had no relation to the truth. (They’ve also lied about “millions of Americans” having taken to the streets as part of the Tea Party phenomenon.) And yes, last weekend Philadelphia was no exception, with one Tea Party blogger declaring she was “amazed” by the big turnout and dubbed the Breitbart event a “resounding success.”

But I’m sorry, do these photos suggest a four-figure crush of humanity was on hand in the City of Brotherly Love?

Talk about plenty of room down front! This looks like a crummy showing for a middle school fundraiser, let a lone a national event for the Tea Party. And by the way, the diversity angle was a total bust amid the predictably white Tea Party crowd. (You mean inviting Breitbart to speak at an event meant to attract black activists might have been a bad idea?)

The truth is media red flags should have gone up in late March when Tea Party heroine Sarah Palin headlined what sponsors modestly referred to as the “conservative Woodstock,” an all-day outdoor rally in Searchlight, Nevada, the home of Sen. Harry Reid. You’ll recall that at the actual Woodstock, approximately 500,000 attended the cultural (and political) milestone. But for the Searchlight “Woodstock,” just 8,000 people showed up. (Naturally, that didn’t stop Tea Party backers from concocting a far more pleasing tally for the event --20,000!)

Can you imagine if, during the height of the anti-war movement in the winter of 2003, Al Gore announced he was going to appear at the "Liberal Woodstock," and then just 8,000 people showed up? How do you think the Beltway chattering class would have portrayed that event, as well as the movement Gore was trying to lead? For Palin though, very few reporters or pundits focused on the weak Nevada turnout.

The next month on Tax Day, April 15, movement superstar Palin headlined a widely hyped, outdoor Tea Party event on the Boston Common. And again the turnout was very soft for what’s supposed to be a grassroots phenomenon sweeping the country -- just 5,000 people showed up to hear Palin and her Tea Party message in Boston. But once again, that didn’t stop supporters from fabricating a bigger and better crowd estimate -- 16,000!

Whether journalists paid any attention to the phony crowd estimate that Tea Party backers pushed, I don’t know. But the small crowds last spring should have given reporters pause about assigning too much significance to the ad-hoc group of activists.

It’s true that high-profile GOP primary wins by candidates such as Sharron Angle in Nevada, Rand Paul in Kentucky, and Marco Rubio in Florida filled the Tea Party’s sails, at least in the eyes of the press. But look again. According to local polling results, Angle, Paul, and Rubio have taken what should be easy wins for the GOP and turned them into toss-ups. Indeed, Democrats might hold onto control of the U.S. Senate only because of the Tea Party and its weak, inexperienced candidates.

Question for the press: If Angle, Paul and Rubio all find ways to lose in November (will Rubio even get 30 percent of the Florida vote?), can we officially -- and finally -- stop overindulging the Tea Party?

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