Total Pageviews

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ron Walters on "Blame Obama All the Time"

Ron Walters in the Black Commentator makes plain that the "blame Obama game of the right" is a bit out of place. It is as if the President should have known in advance that the oil gusher was going to happen and make it stop immediately. James "Ragin' Cajun" Carville is all over the tube castigating the President, arguing that "we are dying down here!" But the real point that he makes is that "the right" is into their game, "blame Obama all the time." RGN

Blame Obama all of the Time
Ron Walters

I couldn’t believe the headlines in a recent issue of the Los Angeles Times which asked whether President Obama had responsibility for the oil spill on the Louisiana, Mississippi coastline. Of course, as President, he has a responsibility to see that it is cleaned up, first by the resources of BP, the company that made the mess, but ultimately by the US Government. But at this stage of the crisis, the article felt decidedly like there was some culpability of Obama for not having had his Minerals Management Service regulate oil drilling more vigorously. This doesn’t wash, because it’s like blaming the Obama administration for not being able to see into the future, but it is consistent with the way in which he has been viewed increasingly.

The Obama administration has increasingly found it difficult to claim that it inherited a mammoth set of problems that they have tried to fix by applying federal resources to them. That is the issue about oil drilling. Remember the Republican mantra, “drill baby drill” and oil executives being secretly shifted into the White House to help Vice President Chaney set energy policy?

This was especially evident in the attempt to characterize the recent elections as a referendum on the Obama administration, but it was thwarted because the Republicans failed to nationalize the election sufficiently, so that it turned out to be a referendum on the Tea Party instead. Nevertheless, Obama was referred to nearly as a pariah, someone whom candidates should have been reluctant to campaign with because of the faulty view that the Health Care act was unpopular with the American people. Strikingly, in this way, they made an incorrect parallel to similar feelings many Republican candidates had toward George Bush in the last year of his administration.

But is it was not realistic for Democrats to respond to the pariah painting of Obama when he has passed historic legislation with Democratic majorities in both Houses of Congress that will benefit millions of people. What happened is that the media overplayed the Tea Party phenomenon, blowing up the anti-Obama sentiments of a relatively small segment of the electorate and proposing that Obama’s association with Democratic candidates would have a negative effect. In a May 23rd article, the dean of political journalists, David Broder of The Washington Post characterized the Obama administration this way: “…the fundamental tension in the political system is becoming clear. A liberal government is struggling to impose its agenda on an electorate increasingly responsive to an activist conservative movement operating inside the Republican party.” He should know better; maybe he does.

The problem with being President of the United States is that ultimately the big problems will land in your lap and so, whether or not Obama inherited a horrendous set of problems, they eventually will become his the longer they go unresolved. The difficulty here is trying determine whether this happens naturally or whether people are placing things in his lap in a blame circus designed to complicate his governance and eventually bring him down. The degree of the Obama blame game is indeed withering, almost everything is found to have been related to some fault of the manner in which it was handled by his administration.

One of the most amazing things is the references – by people who should know better -- to Obama as almost a singular decision maker who is inexperienced and mistake prone, ignoring the fact that he deliberately brought into his own close company in the White House and into Cabinet agencies experienced people who have a major role in running the government.

The Obama administration must now know as a result of the fight over health care is that it is not enough to do something good for the American people and have it speak for itself. Why the Republican minority has been able, time and again, to define the actions of the administration is not a puzzle, the Obama administration – and the Democratic party in general -- is horrible at message discipline. Republicans all sing from the same hymn book while Democrats are all over the map and even supporters are often left confused about what the various spokespersons are attempting to communicate and how what they say attacks their opponents successfully.
Democrats have to get better at message competition because I don’t expect the blame game to let up any time soon. Editorial Board member, Dr. Ron Walters, PhD is a Political Analyst, Author and Professor Emeritus of the University of Maryland, College Park. His latest book is: The Price of Racial Reconciliation (The Politics of Race and Ethnicity) (University of Michigan Press). Click here to contact Dr. Walters.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rachel Maddow demolishes Rand Paul

Normally, introductory comments are offered here. No need for that. The interview (Rachel and Paul) speaks for itself and says it all. RGN

The Tea Party favorite says he'd have marched with Martin Luther King Jr., but he opposes the law that forced businesses to serve him Video
By Joan Walsh

Kentucky GOP Senate nominee Rand Paul is squirming under the bright lights of national media attention since he toppled Mitch McConnell's handpicked candidate Trey Grayson Tuesday night. On Wednesday, an interview he gave to the Louisville Courier-Journal, in which he seemed to say he would have opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, hit the Internet and cable television. Wednesday night MSNBC's Rachel Maddow interviewed him and tried to get him to clarify his remarks, and Paul tried to talk his way out of siding with the terrible folks who wouldn't let black students sit at those Southern lunch counters in 1960.

But Paul basically sided with the terrible folks. The Tea Party hero said he thought the Civil Rights Act was fine when it came to desegregating public institutions, but not private businesses. He called the issue of desegregating lunch counters "obscure," and implied the First Amendment gave business owners the right to be racist.

You've got to watch the whole interview. At the end, Paul seemed to understand that he's going to be explaining his benighted civil rights views for a long, long time – but he seemed to blame Maddow. "You bring up something that is really not an issue…a red herring, it's a political ploy…and that's the way it will be used," he complained at the end of the interview. Whether the Civil Rights Act should have applied to private businesses – "not really an issue," says Tea Party hero Rand Paul.

It's going to become increasingly clear that the Tea Party movement wants to revoke the Great Society, the New Deal and the laws that were the result of the civil rights movement. Paul may be right that his views are "not really an issue" with his Tea Party supporters, although I have to think some of them won't enjoy watching him look like a slippery politician as he fails, over and over, to answer Maddow's questions directly. It's a long way to November, but I'd be pretty happy to be Kentucky Democrat Jack Conway right about now.

Here's the interview. Don't watch if you can't stand to see a politician sweat.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Next Court Nominee and African American Woman??

Sophia Nelson for "The Root" has raised the right question: When will there be a black woman on the Supreme Court? This is a great question and one I assume will be taken care of when it comes to President Obama's next Supreme Court appointment. Certainly Obama will nominate an African American woman to the Court during his tenure as President. That will be an HISTORIC appointment, big time.

Since the current African American on the Court was a cynical appointment with President George H. W. Bush playing the "race card" and satisfying the desires of the ideological white nationalist right wing. Immediately coming to mind for his next appointment, particularly with the need for a progressive balance on the Court, would be Harvard Professor Charles Ogletree, Obama's mentor. With more considerations there would be several problems with his nomination: 1) Ogletree if appointed would not be on the bench for another 30 or even 40 years, he's too old; 2) an Ogletree nomination WOULD get a filibuster from the Republicans, he's broken too many barriers and he makes a great case for reparations; and 3) in the spirit of a Court that is representative of the people, the void is the absence of an African American woman.

With the confirmation of Elena Kagan, the Court will have three women, two of whom are Jewish. Sotomayor of course is Latina and Catholic. Not counting Stevens, who is retiring and Kagan is nominated to replce, the four men remaining are all conservative Catholics, including anti-black brotherman, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. There is a serious need to counter-balance Thomas -- the justice who has never asked a question in oral argument.

With that being the case, I am reminded of a scene in which Jeffrey Toobin was being interviewed about his book, "The Nine." In that interview one thing becomes obvious, to many Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, is a joke, literally. Even though the program is more than an hour long the laughter evoked by the mention of Thomas' name occurs in the first 5 minutes. It is worth the look. That being the case it is even more urgent that the absence of an African American female. It is inconceivable that the next appointment will not be a black woman. RGN

A Supreme Snub by Obama
By: Sophia Nelson
Posted: May 12, 2010 at 10:07 AM

His nominee for the high court is qualified, but why weren't more black women considered?

President Barack Obama needed only to look across his dinner table each evening or in the bed next to him each night to see a well-educated and well-qualified black female attorney who could have made a great U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

For reasons surpassing my understanding, however, the president apparently did not include a black female jurist on his so-called "short list" of choices to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, even though no black woman has ever served on the high court.

There's no doubt that Solicitor Gen. Elena Kagan, a white woman who is a former Harvard Law School dean and Ivy League graduate, is well-qualified. Yet, of those jurists considered seriously by the president (Washington, D.C., Appeals Court Judge Merrick B. Garland, a white male; U.S. Appeals Court Judge Diane Wood of Chicago, a white female; and a spate of others leaked to the media since April) only one black judge, Leah Sears Ward, was a contender.

A few of the women who should have been in contention are Marian Wright Edelman, longtime president of the Children's Defense Fund and the first black woman admitted to practice in the state of Mississippi in the 1960s; Judge Janice Rogers Brown, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, and who Obama supported while he was a senator; Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier, who, despite the controversy when she was nominated by President Bill Clinton to be an assistant U.S. attorney general, is an excellent legal scholar; and Elaine R. Jones, formerly of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, who has three decades of experience as a litigator and civil rights activist.

The question many in the black female legal community (of which I am a part) are asking is why did the sisters get passed over once again?

As I write about extensively in my forthcoming book, Black. Female. Accomplished. Redefined., (Smiley Books, A Hay House Publishing Partner, October 2010) black women in the legal profession have had a difficult time making it to partner status in big firms, attaining high positions as general counsel of the nation's top corporations and landing jobs as deans of top law schools. These achievements can be stepping stones to becoming a high-profile jurist, which, in turn, can lead down the path to top judicial appointments. Yet, despite law firms' diversity efforts over the past two decades, they still have problems retaining and promoting black women. This is a great mystery, considering the fact that more than 50 percent of law school students are female and that white women have made great strides into the upper echelons of the profession. Not so for black women and women of color in general, which is the reason I vigorously supported Justice Sonia Sotomayor's nomination.

The reasons black women have been passed over once again for the nation's high court is simple. As the American Bar Association wrote in its 2007 report, titled "Visible Invisibility: Women of Color in Law Firms":

Women of color experience a double whammy of gender and race, unlike white women or even men of color, who share at least one of these characteristics (gender or race) with those in the upper strata of management. Women of color may face exclusion from informal networks, inadequate institutional support, and challenges to their authority and credibility. They often feel isolated and alienated, sometimes even from other women. Women of color in law firms have been consistently invisible and often ignored in spite of many of the diversity efforts under way in law firms. Our progress on diversity generally has been slow, but our progress with women of color has been even slower.

We need to do a better job of making sure that the black female talent we do have in the United States is better groomed, and that the "bench" is filled with some heavy hitters who can step up and easily fill the nation's top law firms, courtrooms and courts. It bothers me that since the first black woman, Charlotte E. Ray, was admitted to the Bar in 1872, we have not seen fit to elevate a sister to the Supreme Court.

Kagan will make a fine justice if confirmed, and she will be the fourth woman in history to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. I just can't help wondering how long black women will have to wait until we see someone who looks like us in that position. Until then, I suppose we will remain largely invisible and have to patiently wait our turn.

Sophia Nelson, Esq., is the author of the forthcoming book, Black. Female. Accomplished. Redefined., and is a regular contributor to The Root.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Right Wing Over-Reach: The Limits of Anti-Obama???

Of all ot the Washington insider pundits, Ron Brownstein seems to get it right more than most. His analysis tends to be more sober and less of the "group think" than his mainstream colleagues. All over the tube and beyond, the nation's pundits have the country quaking in its boots about what's going to happen in November with the threat of Tea Party and other right wing conservatives will be the major threat to the Democrats in Washington and Obama's abiliity to govern. Brownstein suggests an alternative narrative: the likelihood that the conservatives will contribute to their own marginalization and isolation. Essentially, Brownstein makes the case that opposition to "everything Obama" has become the litmus test in Republican circles. Not buying the conservative mantra, the populace seems to be more receptive to Obama's policies. Brownstein warns that Tea Party and Club for Growth politics might do well among Republicans, but isolate themselves when it comes to general elections. RGN


The Conservative Tide: A party too narrow for Specter, Crist, and maybe Bennett will face a tough challenge building a majority coalition.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
by Ronald Brownstein

Republicans who say that President Obama's stimulus plan hasn't created any jobs must ignore not only the Congressional Budget Office (whose latest estimate put the total as high as 2.1 million) but also the more immediate examples of Marco Rubio and Pat Toomey.

Florida's Rubio and Pennsylvania's Toomey are gainfully employed through November as Republican Senate candidates. And each has that job largely because his principal GOP rival was ostracized in the party after endorsing Obama's plan. In Pennsylvania, Sen. Arlen Specter switched to the Democratic Party last year after concluding that he couldn't beat the staunchly conservative Toomey in a primary. In Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist last week abandoned the GOP primary for an independent Senate bid after reaching the same judgment about Rubio.

The GOP's rightward march could leave it on shaky ground with voters focused more on results than ideology.

The conservative tide inside the GOP that lifted Rubio and Toomey shows no sign of cresting. On May 8, Sen. Robert Bennett faces a strong risk of being denied renomination by the Utah GOP convention. Bennett is hardly a moderate, but conservative activists have mobilized against him because of his vote for the 2008 financial bailout bill and his authorship of bipartisan health reform legislation that included an individual mandate.

Many analysts doubt that Bennett will attract enough convention support to qualify for the primary. Meanwhile, just across the border, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the GOP's 2008 presidential nominee, is struggling in his re-election bid against an energetic primary challenge from conservative former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.

In today's hyperpartisan, quasi-parliamentary politics, demands for ideological purity and party loyalty are growing on both sides: Centrist Sen. Blanche Lincoln is facing a serious threat in Arkansas's Democratic primary. But these forces are barking loudest inside the GOP -- as is evident in everything from congressional Republicans' united vote against Obama's health plan to the support that all but one Republican in the Arizona Legislature gave to their state's confrontational new immigration law. The possibility that Republicans might capture U.S. Senate seats in Illinois and Delaware this fall with moderate nominees shades, but doesn't alter, the picture of a party betting that the road to recovery begins with a hard right turn.

So far, there's little evidence that course is hurting the GOP's prospects in the 2010 election. The great political surprise of Obama's presidency is that amid these hard times, the electorate has directed its frustration less against Big Business (though it is hardly popular) than against Big Government, especially as Obama has aggressively expanded Washington's reach in response to the economic crisis.

While racial minorities largely embrace Obama's direction, polls consistently show most whites recoiling. In the latest Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor national survey, released on May 7, just 36 percent of white respondents said that Obama's economic agenda prevented an even deeper downturn. A majority, 53 percent, instead said that it bloated the federal debt without doing much good. Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie had it right, at least in terms of the white electorate, when he insisted this week that the public is "very worried that government has grown beyond its responsible limits."

The questions for the GOP, though, are how much of that reaction is a permanent ideological rejection of Obama's agenda, and how much is temporary disappointment that it has not yet produced more results. In the Heartland Monitor poll, just one-third of adults endorsed the conservative notion that government is more the problem than the solution to our economic difficulties; another third backed the liberal conviction that government must play an active role in policing the marketplace. The decisive remainder, about three in 10, said they were open to an activist government but weren't convinced that it could deliver results that improve their lives. Even among white respondents, just two-fifths picked the flatly anti-government option.

Those findings suggest that if the budding economic recovery accelerates, the GOP's rightward march could leave it on shaky ground with voters focused more on results than ideology. It's possible such a dynamic could help Democrats in November (especially in affluent districts), but it's more likely to lift Obama in 2012. The president has almost certainly overestimated the public's tolerance for government activism and will probably need to pivot toward reforming and streamlining Washington. But however well Republicans perform in 2010, a party too narrow for Specter, Crist, and maybe Bennett will face a tough challenge building a presidential majority coalition in 2012, when economic distress could be easing and the electorate swelling with more young people and minorities.

Copyright ©2010 by National Journal Group Inc. The Watergate 600 New Hampshire Ave., NW Washington, DC 20037
202-739-8400 • fax 202-833-8069 is an Atlantic Media publication.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Threat to White Nationalsim: The Obama Presidency

This post is an abridged version of a presentation made at the recent joint meetings of the North Central Sociological Association (NCSA) and Midwest Sociological Society(MSS)in Chicago. This piece was prepared for publication in the NCSA newsletter. RGN

The Presidency of Barack Obama and the New Faces of America’s White Nationalism
by Robert Newby
Central Michigan University

The presidency of African American Barack Obama after one year has been a case of celebration by his supporters, but one of resentment for many among America’s white majority. His election was epochal in that for over 200 years, all forty-three of his predecessors were white. Beginning in 1790, citizenship was restricted to whites. Until the Brown decision in 1954, the citizenship status of blacks was dubious. Now, a half century later, a person of color, a black man, its 44th President, the nation’s First Citizen.

From the moment of his election, the question became what does his election say about race in America today, a nation that has historically reserved its lowest regard for blacks? Early on the question was asked: “Is America ready for a black president?” In translation, that question meant: “Will whites vote for a black man to be president?” Barack Obama answered that question by saying to his confidants when he decided to run: “America is ready to have a black President.” The Obama campaign was historic for its overwhelming grassroots support, specifically its successful use of the Internet. Essentially his victory in 97% white Iowa paved the way for his Democratic nomination. With a coalition of minorities, 97% of the black vote, 67% of the Latino vote, 62% Asian vote and 43% of the white vote, Obama’s victory over McCain for the presidency was resounding. He was right, “America was ready for a black president.”

The election may have proved him to have been right about the American electorate, but it is now clear that he was not right when it comes to much of white America. A majority of white Americans, fifty-five per cent, voted for McCain. Ninety percent of McCain’s votes were whites. For the first the time in America’s history, the Presidency is in the hands of a man who is not white. Obama’s election represents a major threat to the white nationalist core that has been central to U.S. politics from before its inception as a nation. Until the accommodations made by the white nation as a result of World War II, the Brown decision, the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, with few exceptions, citizenship was restricted to being white.

As stated at SNCC’s (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee) 50th anniversary celebration recently, “…African Americans are not in these positions today because a sudden change of heart occurred in this nation.” He went on to say, “There was pressure” mounted against a resistant white nationalist regimes. The 1964 Civil Rights and the 1965 Voting Rights Acts, based upon the principles of Brown, altered the citizenship status of blacks during this period. These advances notwithstanding, it was Reagan who re-legitimized national the white nationalist discourse for the nation. Even so, the failures of the Bush administration and the election of Obama brought the “Reagan revolution” to its end.

It is this defeated “Reagan Revolution” that is resisting acceptance of the democratic outcome of the election that serves as the core of the Tea-Parties. It was Reagan who popularized the saying that the scariest eleven words in the English language are: “I am from the government and I am here to help.” This anti-government sentiment is exacerbated now that the head of government is an African American. A black president is not legitimate in the eyes of the white nationalists. It was this “he is not one of us” sentiment that gave rise to the demands for the President’s birth certificate, or the “birther” movement.

The Republican legislature of Arizona has passed legislation requiring the President to produce a birth certificate in order to be on the ballot in 2012. A similar bill has been introduced in the Georgia legislature. Not only is his American citizenship questioned, among the Tea-Partiers, the President is portrayed as a socialist, a communist, a fascist, a Muslim, even a witch doctor with a bone in his nose. In their eyes he is not “American.” It is this sentiment that leads to call that they “want their country back.”

Armed demonstrators at Tea-Party rallies, accompanied by an inflammatory rhetoric, symbolic of armed revolutionary struggle makes today’s context one that is unsettling. Gun sales have escalated to record levels. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the anti-government militias have grown by 250%. The developments are ominous. As reminded by President Clinton in reference to the 15th anniversary of Oklahoma City bombing, a similar anti-government sentiment was extant. The anti-government white nationalists who declare “he’s not one of us” are at war with the changing demographics of America not just an election outcome.

Threatened by this “new majority,” the Tea-Party, “birther,” and militia movements find themselves in association with some very dangerous currents in today’s racial politics that may not bode well for our society’s future. The salient question is to what extent will these forces go in their efforts to maintain white dominance in the face of a changed demography in America?

Arizona and Beyond: Frank Rich on Widespread White Nationalism

Though not by name, Frank Rich reveals the white nationalism that is at the core of the Arizona law on illegal immigrants and the Republican party, more generally. Rich shows the opposition to everything Obama is largely about the racism of these parties. Yet, in an effort to deflect from their own racism, their defense is those who make the observations are the real racists for even raising the issue of racism. See also the Obama Presidency and Its Threat to White Nationalism. RGN

May 2, 2010
If Only Arizona Were the Real Problem
Op-Ed Columnist

DON’T blame it all on Arizona. The Grand Canyon State simply happened to be in the right place at the right time to tilt over to the dark side. Its hysteria is but another symptom of a political virus that can’t be quarantined and whose cure is as yet unknown.

If many of Arizona’s defenders and critics hold one belief in common, it’s that the new “show me your papers” law is sui generis: it’s seen as one angry border state’s response to its outsized share of America’s illegal immigration crisis. But to label this development “Arizona’s folly” trivializes its import and reach. The more you examine the law’s provisions and proponents, the more you realize that it’s the latest and (so far) most vicious battle in a far broader movement that is not just about illegal immigrants — and that is steadily increasing its annexation of one of America’s two major political parties.

Arizonans, like all Americans, have every right to be furious about Washington’s protracted and bipartisan failure to address the immigration stalemate. To be angry about illegal immigration is hardly tantamount to being a bigot. But the Arizona law expressing that anger is bigoted, and in a very particular way. The law dovetails seamlessly with the national “Take Back America” crusade that has attended the rise of Barack Obama and the accelerating demographic shift our first African-American president represents.

The crowd that wants Latinos to show their papers if there’s a “reasonable suspicion” of illegality is often the same crowd still demanding that the president produce a document proving his own citizenship. Lest there be any doubt of that confluence, Rush Limbaugh hammered the point home after Obama criticized Arizona’s action. “I can understand Obama being touchy on the subject of producing your papers,” he said. “Maybe he’s afraid somebody’s going to ask him for his.” Or, as Glenn Beck chimed in about the president last week: “What has he said that sounds like American?”

To the “Take Back America” right, the illegitimate Obama is Illegal Alien No. 1. It’s no surprise that of the 35 members of the Arizona House who voted for the immigration law (the entire Republican caucus), 31 voted soon after for another new law that would require all presidential candidates to produce birth certificates to qualify for inclusion on the state’s 2012 ballot. With the whole country now watching Arizona, that “birther” bill was abruptly yanked Thursday.

The legislators who voted for both it and the immigration law were exclusively Republicans, but what happened in the Arizona G.O.P. is not staying in Arizona. Officials in at least 10 other states are now teeing up their own new immigration legislation. They are doing so even in un-Arizonan places like Ohio, Missouri, Maryland and Nebraska, none of them on the Department of Homeland Security’s 2009 list of the 10 states that contain three-quarters of America’s illegal immigrant population.

Outbreaks of nativist apoplexy are nothing new in American history. The last derailed George W. Bush’s apparently earnest effort to get a bipartisan immigration compromise through the Senate in 2007. At the time, the more egregious expressions of anti-immigrant rage — including Arizona’s self-appointed border-patrol militia, the Minutemen — were stigmatized as a fringe by the White House and much of the G.O.P. establishment. John McCain, though facing a tough fight for the Republican presidential nomination, signed on to the Bush reform effort despite being slimed by those in his party’s base who accused him of supporting “amnesty.”

What a difference the Tea Party makes. This time McCain endorsed his state’s new immigration law as “a good tool” and “a very important step forward,” and propagandized in favor of it with his widely ridiculed televised canard that illegal immigrants were “intentionally causing accidents on the freeway.” McCain, like other mainstream conservative Republicans facing primaries this year, is now fighting for his political life against a Tea Party-supported radical. His opponent, the former congressman and radio shock jock J. D. Hayworth, is an unabashed birther who frames the immigration debate as an opportunity to “stand up for our culture,” presumably against all immigrants, legal and illegal alike. In this political climate, he could well win.

McCain, like Arizona, shouldn’t be singled out for censure: He is far from alone in cowering before his party’s extremists. Neither Mitch McConnell, John Boehner nor Eric Cantor dared say a word against Arizona’s law. Mitt Romney, who was mocked during the 2008 campaign for having employed undocumented Guatemalan immigrants as landscapers on his Massachusetts estate, tried to deflect the issue by vacillating (as usual). So did Mike Huckabee, who told The Dallas Morning News last week that “it’s not my place to agree or disagree” with what happened in Arizona. If it’s not the place of a talk-show host and prospective presidential candidate to take a stand on an issue of this moment, whose place is it? There are few profiles in courage among the leaders in this G.O.P. — only a lot of guys hiding under their desks.

The one group of Republicans that has been forthright in criticizing the Arizona law is the Bush circle: Jeb Bush, the former speechwriter Michael Gerson, the Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge, the adviser Mark McKinnon and, with somewhat more equivocal language, Karl Rove. McKinnon and Rove know well that Latino-bashing will ultimately prove political suicide in a century when Hispanic Americans are well on their way to becoming the largest minority in the country and are already the swing voters in many critical states.

The Bushies, however, have no power and no juice in the new conservative order. The former president is nearly as reviled in some Tea Party circles as Obama is. Even conservatives as seemingly above reproach as Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina now invite the nastiest of blow-back if they fail Tea Party purity tests. When Graham had the gall to work with Chuck Schumer of New York on an immigration reform bill, the hard-line Americans for Legal Immigration punished him by spreading rumors about his private life as loudly as possible. Graham has been backing away from supporting the immigration bill ever since.

It’s harder and harder to cling to the conventional wisdom that the Tea Party is merely an element in the G.O.P., not the party’s controlling force — the tail that’s wagging the snarling dog. It’s also hard to maintain that the Tea Party’s nuttier elements are merely a fringe of a fringe. The first national Tea Party convention, in Nashville in February, chose as its kickoff speaker the former presidential candidate Tom Tancredo, a notorious nativist who surely was enlisted precisely because he runs around saying things like he has “no idea where Obama was born.” The Times/CBS poll of the Tea Party movement found that only 41 percent of its supporters believe that the president was born in the United States.

The angry right and its apologists also keep insisting that race has nothing to do with their political passions. Thus Sarah Palin explained that it’s Obama and the “lamestream media” that are responsible for “perpetuating this myth that racial profiling is a part” of Arizona’s law. So how does that profiling work without race or ethnicity, exactly? Brian Bilbray, a Republican Congressman from California and another supporter of the law, rode to the rescue by suggesting “they will look at the kind of dress you wear.” Wise Latinas better start shopping at Talbots!

In this Alice in Wonderland inversion of reality, it’s politically incorrect to entertain a reasonable suspicion that race may be at least a factor in what drives an action like the Arizona immigration law. Any racism in America, it turns out, is directed at whites. Beck called Obama a “racist.” Newt Gingrich called Sonia Sotomayor a “Latina woman racist.” When Obama put up a routine YouTube video calling for the Democratic base to mobilize last week — which he defined as “young people, African-Americans, Latinos and women” — the Republican National Committee attacked him for playing the race card. Presumably the best defense is a good offense when you’re a party boasting an all-white membership in both the House and the Senate and represented by governors who omit slavery from their proclamations of Confederate History Month.

In a development that can only be described as startling, the G.O.P.’s one visible black leader, the party chairman Michael Steele, went off message when appearing at DePaul University on April 20. He conceded that African-Americans “really don’t have a reason” to vote Republican, citing his party’s pursuit of a race-baiting “Southern strategy” since the Nixon-Agnew era. For this he was attacked by conservatives who denied there had ever been such a strategy. That bit of historical revisionism would require erasing, for starters, Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms, not to mention the Willie Horton campaign that helped to propel Bush 41 into the White House in 1988.

The rage of 2010 is far more incendiary than anything that went down in 1988, and it will soon leap from illegal immigration to other issues in other states. Boycott the Diamondbacks and Phoenix’s convention hotels if you want to punish Arizona, but don’t for a second believe that it will stop the fire next time.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

They Have Committed Crimes Against "the People"

The thefts on Wall Street have robbed this nation of much of its wealth. Pension funds were wiped out. Yet the thieves show no remorse. Someones should go to jail. Also, the Republicans who did away with the regulations should be exposed and held accountable. Instead, several have moved on to the private sector to deliver the goods. Major deregulator, former Congressman Dick Armey, is now heading up the Astro-Turf Freedom Works Campaign. Madoff went to jail as have a few others but bay and large, these corporate criminals walk. Likewise, the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, we are told, was the rsult of the Bush administration deregulation. It is at least rumored that the Cheney secret meeting is what produced the argeement with BP, avoiding the state of art off shore rig installation. Without accountability, criminal accountability there is no deterence for those in power to not betray the public trust. They should be made examples of. RGN

‘God, What a Piece of Crap’By Robert Scheer
Posted on Apr 28, 2010

It was the Perry Mason moment in the unraveling of what was left of Goldman Sachs’ reputation. Only in this case, it involved a grizzled former prosecutor, Sen. Carl Levin, rather than a genial defense attorney. The case was broken and the truth about the depth of Goldman’s corruption revealed in his startling cross-examination of Goldman Chief Financial Officer David Viniar.

The Michigan Democrat, citing the language of the internal e-mails of Goldman traders concerning the deceptive products they were selling, asked: “And when you heard that your own employees in these e-mails are looking at these deals said `God what a shitty deal. God, what a piece of crap,’ when you hear your own employees and read about those e-mails, do you feel anything?”

Viniar’s answer told us all we need to know about the banal but profound immorality of Goldman’s business culture: “I think that’s very unfortunate to have on e-mail.”
A flabbergasted Levin cut in with “On e-mail? How about feeling that way?” and Viniar, apparently moved by jeers of ridicule from the audience, conceded “I think it is very unfortunate for anyone to have said that in any form.” Pressed further by Levin asking, “How about to believe that and sell them?” the CFO finally conceded, “I think that’s unfortunate as well.” To which Levin responded, “That’s what you should have started with.”

But Goldman’s executives didn’t start with any such moral qualms or end with them, as was made clear in the testimony of Goldman Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein that followed. Blankfein basically pleaded ignorance about the company’s scams, making it clear that offering the details of such products was below his pay scale. That would be $68 million in 2007, the highest in Wall Street history, when Goldman’s bets against its customers paid off so handsomely. What was clear is that his job was to ensure the company’s immense year-end profitability with no questions asked about the methods used. “I did not know” he replied when asked about the details of the company’s trades, and at another point he added, “We’re not that smart.” Then there was “I don’t have any knowledge” on selling short, and finally, “We did not know what subsequently occurred in the housing market.”

What he did know is that the scoundrels in his mortgage betting rooms were, as with that high-flying London operation that got AIG so much loot before it exploded, raking in enormous profits. Such ignorance is bliss for a Goldman CEO who apparently is rewarded in inverse proportion to what he knows of the operation as long as he pays attention to the bottom line.

That was certainly the case for the man whom Blankfein succeeded the year before, Henry Paulson, when Paulson went off to serve as George W. Bush’s treasury secretary. As Paulson admits in his memoir, he was unaware that suspect mortgages were at the heart of the banking meltdown, even though he was head of Goldman when those toxic mortgage securities were developed.

And then there is that other Goldman-honcho-turned-public-servant Robert Rubin, who was a Goldman vice chairman before serving as Bill Clinton’s treasury secretary. In that Cabinet job, Rubin pushed through the Financial Services Modernization Act, which demolished the wall between investment and commercial banking. Ironically, that reversal of the New Deal regulations that had operated successfully for 60 years, the Glass-Steagall Act, was referenced by Blankfein in his Tuesday testimony explaining how Goldman and other firms spun out of control.

When asked by Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del., how Goldman had morphed from a traditional investment bank backing sound business ventures to a market gambler in fanciful products, Blankfein attributed it, somewhat forlornly, to “a change in the sociology of the business that took place over the last 15 to 20 years.” He added, “I’m not sure that it was precipitated by the fall of Glass-Steagall or it caused Glass-Steagall to fall. …”

Of course there was nothing inevitable about the fall of Glass-Steagall in 1999, since it was the result of decades of lobbying by the financial industry. That change was followed by the total deregulation of financial derivatives by the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which Rubin had pushed and which President Clinton signed into law.

Clinton recently conceded that he got bad advice from Rubin on derivatives regulation, but he still holds to the notion that the reversal of Glass-Steagall was not harmful. No one listening carefully to the day of testimony by the various Goldman executives could accept the idea that these folks can function decently without strict boundaries