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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?

Copyright © 2009 Media Matters for America. All rights reserved

Monday, August 2, 2010

Blacks Split With Obama Over Education Reform

Blacks Split With Obama Over Education Reform

By Ron Walters

At the recent National Urban League convention, President Obama’s speech took aim at criticisms that had been launched by the Black Civil Rights community over the educational reforms proposed by his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. The seventeen page document, “Framework for Providing All Students an Opportunity to Learn through Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,’ was put together by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, the NAACP, the National Urban League, Rainbow Push Coalition, National Council for Educating Black Children and the Schott Foundation for Public Education. My understanding is that the National Action Network was part of the group but ultimately not a signatory to the document. These organizations discovered last year that Duncan was putting together a draft proposal known as “Race To The Top” with little input from the African American community and this document stands as an important critique of that proposal from our point of view.

I knew that something was terribly wrong about the Duncan proposals when Diane Ravitch, an architect of “No Child Left Behind” in the Bush administration wrote a piece in The Nation explaining why she no longer supports NCLB. In that piece, she says, “I expected that Obama would throw out NCLB and start over. But, on the contrary, his administration has embraced some of the worst features of the George W. Bush era.” Specifically, she was talking about how her view of both “choice” and “accountability” had changed and her conclusion that neither would improve American education. A radical point of view!

So, President Obama at the NUL pointed to the unprecedented amount of funds for education in the Recovery Act that saved the jobs of many teachers and the recent roll-out of the grant program that provided funds for “Race To The Top” to the first 18 states. He defended the criticism that it was not supportive of minority students by saying that the state proposals had to have a robust minority program. But he spent a great deal of time suggesting that while he supported teachers, that they were, in effect, the lynchpin of accountability for his new reforms. Again, this view, very little different from the Bush administration, also goes after teachers unions as a barrier to the concept of accountability.

Moreover, since the Duncan plan has been criticized by the civil rights groups as too Charter School top heavy, the President defended it by saying that the bad ones would be closed down. But this didn’t challenge the concept, since a recent authoritative study by Margaret Raymond at Stanford University, for the pro-Charter Walton Family Foundation, found that only 17% of charters out-performed matched public schools, the other 83% were either no better or no worse. These findings are similar to Washington, DC which has the largest number of Charters in the country.

The support for Charters and public funding of private schools is the modern version of the segregated academies of the period before Brown v. Board of Education. Today, whites flee public schools demanding “Choice” as they become significantly populated by black and Hispanic students and so the neoliberal paradigm that devalues public education – where most black children are – has become official. Many Black parents support Choice because it has been sold to them as providing the best education.

The Obama administration has put the largest amount of money on the table for education in the history of the country. But he needs to change the paradigm of accountability as punishment if a school doesn’t turn around, to emphasize what Barbara Arnwine, President of the Lawyers Committee, says should be providing the necessary resources to enrich the academic culture to enable these schools to succeed. In this scheme of things, accountability should be changed to supplement the deficiencies in the resources foundation of a school, not to assume that all the needed resources are there and the teachers are the main culprit in lack of student achievement.

Teachers are but one factor. In a 21st century model of excellent education, the mountain of research that links poverty to education suggests that a more rigorous social unit should be developed for schools. Otherwise, the NCLB model of blaming teachers is what has led the Washington, DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee to fire 241 teachers, with 700 more on the list because they didn’t evaluate well on a questionable measurement standard.

The President suggests that while Duncan is “trying to shake things up” those who oppose him either resist change or are “comfortable with the status quo.” Does he really believe that these civil rights organizations don’t want the best for Black children?

Dr. Ron Walters is a Political Analysts and Professor Emeritus of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland College Park. His latest book, with Toni-Michelle Travis is: Democratic Destiny and the District of Columbia (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2010)

Sherrod Attorney: Breitbart Suit Seeks To Be Deterrent

Breitbart to get what he deserves, bankruptcy -- at least we hope.  Shirley Sherrod has made it clear she will sue Andrew Breirbart for smearing her name -- a name that carries with it such a dedication for improving the lives of  so many -- need we say -- black, white, Native American and women farmers.  She and her family have suffered dearl at the hands of the Klan.  She clearly understands what will hurt and we can only hope that she hurts him BAAAADDD!!  Someone with no scrupples -- a racist retrograde --  deserves no less.  RGN

Sherrod Attorney: Breitbart Suit Seeks To Be Deterrent

July 30, 2010 1:11 pm ET by Joe Strupp
Media Matters

Shirley Sherrod's longtime attorney said her pending lawsuit against Andrew Breitbart will seek to be a deterrent for future defamation actions, adding that it is not about money.

But Rose Sanders, who has known Sherrod for decades, stressed that it will seek monetary damages because "that is all right-wing capitalists understand."

"It will be a legal deterrent," Sanders, who is based in Selma, Ala., told me Friday. "That when you destroy a person's reputation, you will pay the consequences."

Sanders' comments follow Sherrod's announcement Thursday that she plans to sue Breitbart, who posted an excerpt on July 19 of a speech that Sherrod gave in front of a NAACP group. He claimed that the clip showed her engaging in racism.

The tape resulted in Sherrod being fired July 19, but she was later offered a new USDA job after it became clear that Breitbart's video had taken her statements out of context.

Several defamation lawyers have told Media Matters that Sherrod could have a good case against Breitbart.

Sanders said Friday: "It is clearly a case of defamation of character. He took an edited, out-of-context clip and posted it and caused her to lose her job. When you create a situation that caused victimization, you are the primary person responsible."

Sherrod could not be reached for comment Friday. Sanders said Sherrod is in the process of putting together a legal team to advise her on the case, with Sanders likely "adding support" to the team.

"There is a collection of people advising her," Sanders said, declining to name them. "She is putting together a legal team and the purpose is to show that people cannot perpetuate lies and destroy people's reputations without legal consequences."

Sanders said she did not know when or where the lawsuit would be filed or how much would be sought in damages: "She has to make sure it will be filed in a place where people are just."

Sanders also criticized Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Department secretary, whose department forced Sherrod to resign July 19, then offered her a new job: "Vilsack has not been disciplined and he should ask the president to discipline him. In his own way, he discriminated against Ms. Sherrod."