Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I don't think that word means ....

mistermix: Just Can’t Shut Up

Jeffrey Lord, who thinks that Shirley Sherrod’s relative—who was beaten to death in 1945 by 3 men while handcuffed—wasn’t lynched because there was no hanging, three isn’t a mob and the Supreme Court said the men were “acting under color of law,” tops all that in this interview:

Lord says he doesn’t want Sherrod to lose her job, and urges his fellow conservatives to work toward winning over black voters. “Get out there and engage on race,” Lord said. “There’s no reason in the world that we can’t be getting the black vote. But it’s our job to separate black from left and talk about left and right.”

I hope all conservatives will heed his call to engage on race, using his subtle yet effective tactics.

A mistaken impression quickly took hold recently during the debate over extended unemployment benefits, and much of the media bought it. The assumption became that everyone on both sides supported the extension, it was simply a debate over how. Dems saw the aid as an emergency, while Republicans didn't want the costs added to the deficit.

In effect, the GOP argued, "We're not callous; we love the unemployed. We're anxious to extend benefits. We just want the kind of fiscally responsible approach we cared nothing about when we were in the majority."

They're still pushing this line, probably aware of voters' support for the benefits.

In a blog post yesterday, Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) argued that the "Unemployment Extension Should Have Been Paid For." Sen. Johanns works hard to defend the GOP, but in order to believe his excuses you'd have to ignore the past six months of Republican talking points, filibusters and anonymous holds.

"I don't know a single Senator in Washington who didn't want to see these benefits extended," Johanns claims.

This is pretty silly. As Alan Pyke noted, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) dismissed jobless aid as money that offers "a disincentive" to getting a job, a sentiment endorsed by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Sen. Richard Burr (R) . For that matter, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) suggested that if you don't have a job, you might very well be a drug addict.

Johanns specifically referenced sitting senators, but if we expand the view a bit, we see even more Republican hostility towards the unemployed. One GOP congressman recently compared the jobless to "hobos." Nevada's Sharron Angle blasted the unemployed as "spoiled"; Wisconsin's Ron Johnson said those without jobs won't look until their benefits run out; Pennsylvania's Tom Corbett said the unemployed choose not to work because of the benefits; and Kentucky's Rand Paul thinks the jobless should just quit their bellyaching and "get back to work."

Johanns would have us believe that both parties were looking out for the unemployed, just in different ways. That's nonsense.

Neiwert: Right-wing 'true patriot' bank robber got away with $86,000 he gave to 'the cause'

When I first heard this story about a farmer from Port Townsend -- on the other side of Puget Sound from Seattle, the area where The Egg and I was set -- who had embarked on a bank-robbing spree, I was moderately intrigued. After all, rural hardship is often closely involved in these cases.

Fenter_df51f.JPG But it turns out that wasn't the case at all: Michael Fenter wasn't hard up for money to keep his farm afloat. Indeed, he didn't keep or spend any of the $86,000 he got away with: he gave it away, apparently to a right-wing Patriot organization or something very much like it.

This information was buried, actually, in the Seattle Times story by Maureen O'Hagan:

Calling it "one of the most perplexing cases" he's ever considered, U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle sentenced Fenter on Monday to 10 years in prison, and ordered him to make restitution to the banks. He walked away with $86,000 from the first three robberies, and that money has never been accounted for.


During the robberies, Fenter told bank employees that he was angry about the government bailout of banks. He said he was taking the money to give to people who needed it, according to court documents — though when asked about it by authorities he declined to provide details.

Upon his arrest, he said his name was "Patrick Henry," a Revolutionary War-era governor famous for his "Give me liberty or give me death!" speech.

One Bank of America employee said at Friday's sentencing hearing in Tacoma that she thinks about the robbery everyday and her heart races.

"He's a terrorist," she said.


As for the question why? Fenter said robbing banks wasn't to get money for himself or his family. Instead, he did it because he was a "true patriot." The money, he said, went to fund that cause.

"What I am for is real justice, real truth, and real accountability within our system of government," he said. "The money was used and is probably currently being used to get to the truth."

He did not make clear who was using the money — though he emphasized it was being used in a "peaceful" way. Nor did he say what, exactly, he hoped to learn.

I think it's funny that Fox News spends so much time whipping up hysteria over scary black people.

Because there sure as hell are some scary white people out there, ya know?

Greg Sargent:

"The Republican Tea Party Contract on America." That's what the DNC is rolling out today, in what it bills as a major new effort to get the public to focus on the consequences of a GOP takeover of Congress.

At a presser this morning, DNC chair Tim Kaine will argue that "the Tea Party is now the most potent force in Republican politics," a DNC official says. He will present a "ten point blue print for how the Republican-Tea Party would govern, based on actual positions."

It's a "pre-emptive strike against the GOP's August rebranding effort," the official says. Polls have shown that the public has mixed feelings about the Tea Party, but this initiative isn't really about the Tea Party per se: It's about getting the public to focus on this election as a choice between two governing philosophies.

* Majority rule? Who needs it? The Hill talks to Democratic Senators about whether they back filibuster reform. Turns out -- shocker! -- that a fair number of them don't support it, including Ben Nelson and Dianne Feinstein.

* And: Amazingly, Senator Daniel Akaka tells The Hill that the current filibuster system is "working."

Really? For who? All is right with the world, as long as Senators get to keep riding in the Senators-only elevator?

* Matt Yglesias makes an important point about filibuster reform: The 60-vote threshold transfers vast power to the judiciary and dilutes the ability of the other branches of government to act as a check on it. Case in point: The DISCLOSE act.

* Things we wish we'd witnessed: An angry Nancy Pelosi privately reamed out Senator Harry Reid for the Senate's failure to tackle cap and trade after House Dems bit the bullet and took a tough vote for it.

Said Pelosi: "The Senate is moving at a glacial pace, slower than the glaciers are actually melting."

* Keep an eye on this: The House passed funding for the Afghan war last night, but over 100 Dems voted against it, signaling that war opposition on the left could soon become a major headache for the White House.

* The Gulf oil slick is vanishing far more quickly than expected, and while many questions remain, the spill doesn't appear to have destroyed Obama's presidency.

* Enviros lose another one as renewal energy standard is dropped from the energy bill because Dem leaders think it can't get 60 votes.

* Ruth Marcus calls for the Bush tax cuts to expire, and says what few other columnists are willing to voice out loud: The GOP position on tax cuts and deficits is "Intransigently divorced from reality."

* And: Mark Murray skewers the GOP position on tax cuts and the stimulus.

Sully: Democrats For Palin

Some Obama supporters are hoping for a Palin nomination because her high negatives will give Obama a better shot at reelection. Nick Resnikoff lists other consequences:

Palin has already demonstrated a disturbing willingness to frame even minor political squabbles in terms of "tyranny" versus "liberty," and to make her a major party’s presidential candidate would only do more to throw the spotlight on that sort of incitement. Perhaps, as Kevin Drum prays, the GOP would then, "go down to such an epic defeat that they finally get some sense knocked into them." But in the meantime, we would be facing a long, protracted campaign in which both a major political party and the mainstream press would treat violently anti-democratic positions as existing within the confines of reasonable political discourse. We’ve already had quite a bit of that over the past few years; accommodating and encouraging it could potentially make things much, much worse.

Truly: she's far too dangerous to be considered opportunistically.

GOP up the anti Republicans voted against even debating the DISCLOSE Act Tuesday, blocking the attempt to blunt the impact of the unpopular court ruling that allows corporations spend limitless dollars on U.S. elections.

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Chait: Mavericky: GOP Thwarts Disclosure Bill

A modest but worthwhile effort to curb the power of money in politics died on Tuesday afternoon when Senate Republicans refused to let debate on the measure go forward.

The DISCLOSE Act would require corporations and interest groups to identify themselves when they sponsor political ads and, in the case of smaller organizations, to reveal their donors.

President Obama and Democratic leaders hoped the bill would, among other things, help undo the damage of the recent Citizens United ruling, in which the Supreme Court threw out limits on corporate political spending. And since the bill merely called to publicize who was putting money into politics, rather than limit that money, Obama and the Democrats hoped they could peel off enough Republican votes to break a filibuster. They were wrong. Not one Republican voted to proceed with debate--not even after the Democrats modified the bill, in order to address GOP arguments that it would treat unions differently from other groups.

This would be a fine moment to ponder, once again, the way the filibuster thwarts democracy. Fifty-seven of the Senate’s one hundred members think the bill should pass, but they can’t act because a minority of senators has the power to thwart action.

But the real story today is the hypocrisy of what used to be the Republican Party’s moderate, sensible wing.

Scott Brown campaigned for office on a platform of more transparency in government. In 2001, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe voted for the McCain-Feingold bill, which was far more restrictive. None of them voted to let the debate go forward.

And then there is John McCain himself. A decade ago, McCain did more than put his name on a major piece of campaign finance legislation. He made the fight against money in politics a personal crusade, energizing supporters with statements like this one he made during a Virginia speech:

I have called for the reform of campaign finance practices that have sacrificed our principles to the demands of big money special interests. I have spoken against ... [APPLAUSE] ... I have spoken against forces that have turned politics into a battle of bucks instead of a battle of ideas, and for that, my friends, and for that, my friends, I have been accused of disloyalty to my party.

Nobody is accusing McCain of that anymore.

Update: More dormant than dead? My old colleague Jesse Zwick reports in the Washington Independent that the bill's advocates hope to make another run at passing the measure in September.

I suppose what rankles most about Senate Republicans killing the DISCLOSE Act yesterday is just how modest the legislation really was.

For about a century, the country has prohibited corporations from sponsoring campaign ads. The Supreme Court concluded that such restrictions infringe on the First Amendment, so a majority of Congress decided, in lieu of a ban, to pursue disclosure. Corporations, labor unions, and non-profit organizations would have to tell voters that they're sponsoring their ads, and in some cases, divulge their donors. It's hardly unreasonable -- corporations can run their ads, but for the sake of the democratic process, everything should be out in the open for the public.

Every single Republican in the Senate disagreed, largely without explanation. Indeed, yesterday's GOP filibuster wasn't of the bill, it was on the motion to proceed -- every Senate Republican not only took a bold stand against basic campaign disclosure, they blocked the Senate from even having a debate. They're against disclosure and against talking about disclosure.

With that in mind, a quote collection was making the rounds on the Hill yesterday. The highlights included:

* Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) "believes that it is important that any future campaign finance laws include strong transparency provisions so the American public knows who is contributing to a candidate's campaign, as well as who is funding communications in support of or in opposition to a political candidate or issue."

* Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas): "I think the system needs more transparency, so people can more easily reach their own conclusions."

* Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.): "I don't like it when a large source of money is out there funding ads and is unaccountable... To the extent we can, I tend to favor disclosure."

All of them filibustered a measure to start a debate over a modest disclosure bill.

Jamelle Bouie added:

Between Citizen's United and the DISCLOSE Act, we've witnessed something genuinely incredible: in the interest of furthering the interests of powerful corporations, a narrow majority of Supreme Court conservative justices overturned decades of campaign finance precedent, and a small minority of conservative senators blocked congressional efforts at reform. At the risk of sounding really exasperated, this is absolutely insane.

If there's evidence to the contrary, I'd like to see it.

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Sargent: No, both sides don't do what Breitbart does: Part II

Now that today's New York Times has weighed in on this topic, I'm going to hit this one more time, because I'm telling ya, it's important.

As I've been noting here, the real takeaway from the Shirley Sherrod mess is this: Not all partisan media are created equal. Right wing media are willing to engage in tactics that simply have no equivalent on the left -- even if mainstream news orgs and commentators keep taking refuge behind the notion that "both sides do it."

Now The Times's Brian Stelter has weighed in with a stand-alone piece that raises questions about what the Sherrod tale has done to the credibility of Breitbart and others on the right.

Some will think that Stelter's story doesn't go far enough. It asserts, for instance, that it is an "open question" whether conservative media have suffered a hit to their credibility. But I'll take it. It's a stand-alone story in the Paper of Record that's focused squarely on what this tale tells us about right wing media, with no nonsense about how "both sides" do it.

What's notable about this story is how few other outlets have done the same. And as a result, one of the most important aspects of the Sherrod mess is going almost entirely ignored: The vast difference it highlighted between media on both sides.

To make this point one more time, it's true that "both sides," to one degree or another, let their ideological and political preferences dictate some editorial decisions, such as what stories to pursue, how to approach them, who to interview, etc. But what's underappreciated is the degree to which the Breitbart-Fox axis goes far beyond this, openly employing techniques of political opposition researchers and operatives to drive the media narrative.

This simply has no equivalent on the left. The leading lefty media organizations have teams of reporters who -- even if they are to some degree ideologically motivated -- work to determine whether their material is accurate, fair, and generally based in reality before sharing it with readers and viewers. They just don't push info -- with no regard to whether it's true or not -- for the sole purpose of having maximum political impact. Period.

This is an important difference that's critical to understanding the rapidly shifting landscape in the new-media age. If I ran the universe more media figures would come right out and say what the Times hinted at today: No, both sides don't do it.
Marshall: Biko!

This just gets better and better.

Joel Pollak, who's running against Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) is now comparing himself to anti-Apartheid martyr Stephen Biko (h/t), after Schakowsky criticized him for writing for Andrew Breitbart's site biggovernment. com. Maybe Peter Gabriel can write an anthem about Joel Pollack too?

It does get a little hard with these folks to pick apart the willful provocation from the simply pathological.

Booman: And I Reiterate...
Matt Yglesias was at Netroots Nation, and I wasn't this year, so I'll have to take his word for it that the conventioneers were depressed. It certainly wouldn't surprise me. I've been immersed in progressive politics for seven years and I've never seen such bitching and moaning and infighting as I see around me today. Some of that depression is warranted. Look at the state of the economy. Look at the quagmire in Afghanistan. Look at the state of political discourse in this country. But a lot of progressive opinion leaders have developed a relentlessly negative narrative that is being sopped up by loyal readers.

I basically agree with Yglesias's essay, which mirrors much of what I've been saying for months. I am one step above labeling people a bunch of ungrateful wretches, but there is blame to go around. The administration deserves plenty, and I think Matt is on to something here:

On the other side of the ledger, the Obama administration points to an impressive array of accomplishment. Their health-care bill is the most significant progressive achievement in more than 40 years. Financial regulation, the new START treaty, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, etc. are nothing to sneer at. But something the administration barely seems to recognize is that political activists do not live on policy accomplishments alone. Small donations, volunteer time, and even voting itself are undertaken primarily in exchange for psychological benefits. People engaged in the process want—need—to feel good about themselves for doing it.

This is something candidate Obama understood very well. People felt happy about the idea of being part of the election. But since taking office, the White House has largely avoided offering this kind of succor to the progressive base. The president likes to present himself as a “pragmatist” uninterested in questions of ideology, and his political strategy is largely organized around a posture of unctuous reasonableness in which he never loses patience with the opposition or affiliates himself emotionally with the passions that drive activists. This pose has bothered many for a long time, but with the progressive tide receding it’s becoming a real problem.

Again, this is mainly a problem not of style but of an infantile need to be hugged and patted on the head on the part of a bunch of cry babies. But the cry babies are also an important constituency who have the best track record of being right of any political group in the country. In the vast majority of cases, policy would be better if their advice was followed (or if it were possible to follow their advice). Progressives haven't gotten what they wanted, at least not in untarnished form. They need a jolt. They need something that tells them that the president shares their objectives. And nominating Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Agency would be just what the doctor ordered.

I hesitate to even say that because the Joe Liebermans of the world seem to make it their mission to find out what would make progressives happy and then make sure that it doesn't happen (remember Medicare expansion?). Sometimes I think progressives could get more by asking for the opposite of what they really want. Sometimes I think they'd find a way to complain even if they one day got what they really want. 'If the president wants Warren then Rahm wants Warren then there must be something wrong with her.' I can see it now.

The one thing I don't agree with Yglesias about is the inevitability of big Republican gains this fall (especially in the Senate). We should not succumb to that stinking thinking. Because, aside from the defeatism, doesn't this sound like something I just wrote earlier today?

Nobody knows exactly what the midterm elections will hold, but it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know it’ll involve Republicans gaining seats. That means that the comprehensive climate bill that died this week won’t be coming back. It means that the outlook for immigration reform will only get bleaker. The outlook for bills on gay rights will only get bleaker. The outlook for labor-law reform will only get bleaker. In the course of things, this results in a considerable degree of ill will toward Barack Obama and his administration.

It doesn't have to be. But if you don't get over your depression and inspire others to get to work, that's going to be the self-fulfilling reality.

If there's one thing that should be overwhelmingly obvious after the last four years, it's that the Senate process is broken. Obstructionist tactics that were once rare have been scandalously routine -- for the first time in American history, a Senate supermajority is necessary for literally every bill of consequence. The result is a legislative paralysis that undermines America's ability to thrive in the 21st century.

Except, it's apparently not obvious to all.

Senate Democrats do not have the votes to lower the 60-vote threshold to cut off filibusters.

The lack of support among a handful of Senate Democratic incumbents is a major blow to the effort to change the upper chamber's rules. [...]

Five Senate Democrats have said they will not support a lowering of the 60-vote bar necessary to pass legislation. Another four lawmakers say they are wary about such a change and would be hesitant to support it.

A 10th Democrat, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), said he would support changing the rule on filibusters of motions to begin debate on legislation, but not necessarily the 60-vote threshold needed to bring up a final vote on bills.

Most of the support in the Senate for reforming the broken status quo comes from newer members of the chamber, but it's the Dems who've been around for a while -- those who remember being in the minority -- who are most inclined to keep things as they are, regardless of the consequences to the institution or the country.

It's a reminder that no one wants to give up a weapon they might want to use themselves someday. Republicans are abusing procedural rules now to undermine a progressive agenda, and some Dems are no doubt thinking they'll be able to abuse those same rules down the road.

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) told The Hill, "I think we should retain the same policies that we have instead of lowering it.... I think it has been working."

I don't know what Senate Akaka has been watching, but it doesn't sound like this one.

With the Senate Democratic majority due to shrink, and Republicans becoming more hysterically conservative, these anti-reform Dems are inviting a disaster -- a government incapable of passing legislation.

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