Archive for April, 2010

11 April 2010

Remember when Sarah Palin popped off with this famous quip from the September 2008 Republican National Convention?

I guess a small town mayor is sort of like a “community organizer,” except that you have actual responsibilities.

If I had hackles to raise, it woulda raised ‘em.  I was offended by her statement, demeaning and dismissive as it was, and not backed up by any real meat on her side of the argument either.  From what I hear, some mayors (and half-term governors) don’t take care of their actual responsibilities.  Of course, none of that Palin-intrigue had come out yet, at the rather dour Republican convention. Not long after the convention, I found this wonderful motivational creation:



Some blithering-idiot talking points never die.  Today I read over at that Sen. David Vitter, speaking at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference this weekend, was spouting this same crap.

… Vitter strolled out to introduce former Sen. Rick Santorum — and to push back a bit against President Obama. "If that’s the choice in 2012, I’ll take a TV personality over a community organizer any day," he said.

TV personality? Whoever could he mean?

Presumably Sarah Palin, according to the punditry.  I have to admit, my mind went to Glenn Beck, but whatevah, and of course, The Media Creation Which Is Palin is the correct answer.

Steven Benen responded with a sentiment I can relate to.

… the snide, condescending denigration of community organizers among right-wing leaders got tiresome quite a while ago. Working with communities in a bottom-up model may seem worthless to the modern Republican Party, but community organizers deserve respect. ….

…. Community organizers tend to be all the more necessary when American families are crushed by the bankrupt governing philosophy of clowns like David Vitter.

If Republicans want to ignore this often-thankless work, fine. But let’s not pretend that community organizers deserve this kind of right-wing derision.

Benen also points out that the Community Organizer label the right sometimes sticks on Obama is not only not a negative, but it’s not the full picture either:

Obama worked for three years a community organizer — working with churches to create opportunities in economically depressed areas — more than two decades ago. He went on to become a lawyer, a professor, a state senator, and a U.S. senator, before seeking the presidency. A few too many on the right make it sound as if Obama went from being a community organizer to a national campaign. This overlooks nearly all of the man’s adult life

And I am struck by a weird pairing:  the Tea Partiers, Patriots and all such groups are supposedly built of those salt of earth, honest to God, down home real Americans.  Sounds grass roots to me, even if some of the push has come from major organizers like Dick Armey et al.  And isn’t community organizing, ya know, kind of a grass roots thing?  Aren’t these folks on the right wing, the tea partiers, making efforts to build a groundswell in local government and state government through taking over precinct groups, and electing adherents to that line of thinking to office?

What the hell do they think community organizing is?


I enjoyed this:

Frank Rich – 10 April 2010
No One is to Blame for Anything

We live in a culture where accountability and responsibility are forgotten values. When “mistakes are made” they are always made by someone else.

That’s Rich, posting about Alan Greenspan’s odd 70/30 split on how accurate he was in his job.  Rich looks at Greenspan’s refusal to take the blame, and ties it to the current tendency to shift responsibility in more than a few areas of government and business.  He also points to a few hopefuls, where someone actually steps up to the plate and shoulders the blame.

This syndrome is hardly limited to the financial sector. The Vatican hierarchy and its American apologists blame the press, anti-Catholic bigots and “petty gossip” for a decades-long failure to police the church’s widespread criminal culture of child molestation. Michael Steele, the G.O.P. chairman, has tried to duck criticism for his blunders by talking about his “slimmer margin” of error as a black man. New York’s dynamic Democratic duo of political scandal, David Paterson and Charles Rangel, have both attributed their woes to newspapers like The Times, not their own misbehavior.

Such is our current state of national fecklessness that the gold medal for prompt contrition by anyone on the public stage belongs, by default, to David Letterman. He wasted little time in telling a national audience point blank that he had done “something stupid,” hurt those he loved and had a “responsibility” to “try to fix it.” In the land of Rod Blagojevich and Tiger Woods, the candid late-night talk show star is king.


Next? Unbelievable! I was alarmed by this week’s story about an employer who joyfully fired an Obama-voter because … well, because he could, apparently.

Steve Benen – 9 April 2010
The Right’s New Approach to Employment Discrimination

Apparently, someone posted on a Texas A&M message board,

Laid off my first Obama voting employee today. Our reimbursement rates are spiraling downward, taxes are projected to go up with Obamacare, so I did it.

Ummmm, this makes sense… how?  Benen’s take on the situation, as usual, frames it against the big picture:

there’s also the larger context to consider — in 2010, we’re reaching a point in which a right-wing doctor doesn’t want to treat Democratic patients, and right-wing employer doesn’t want to keep Democratic workers on the payroll.

The Republican culture is taking on a vaguely repressive, totalitarian worldview.

Yes indeedy, it does seem to be true.



On a completely different note,

Bob Cesca – 7 April 2010
Exposing Glenn Beck as a Dangerous Fraud

A close look at Glenn Beck reveals more shifting of responsibility.  I can hardly stomach the guy (I did try to watch a few times when I still had the complete cable channel array) but I admit, when something he’s said or done draws media attention, I try to seek out a full clip, not a chopped one.  He continues to live up to my horrific expectations.  Sometimes I think he’s sort of a Stephen Colbert style spoof, and he does describe himself as a performer.  But he’s certainly willing to make a living off a fair number of people who don’t view him as a spoof whatsoever.

Still, I don’t understand the appeal.  The blackboard antics alone…  Sheesh…

Some souls are braver than I:

So here goes. Beginning with this post, I intend to expose Glenn Beck as a fraud. A dangerous faker who deliberately manipulates his audience by appealing to their basest instincts. As a man who only embraces conservatism and the tea party movement as a means to furthering his significant personal wealth and career as a successful TV goon.

My theory is as follows. Glenn Beck is engaged in a carefully orchestrated performance that, if taken to its logical end, can only end up in tragedy — a tragedy, not in the name of some great political or social or religious cause, as too many of his viewers might believe, but rather in the name of pure careerism and greed. A tragedy in the name of Glenn Beck’s personal drive for fame and fortune, not to mention the similar motivations of Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch.

Turning still a different direction,

Harry Moroz – 7 April 2010
Renters Be Damned!

It’s been a bad couple of years for homeowners. Home prices are way down, one in four mortgages is underwater, and foreclosures continue apace. But homeowners should take solace: at least their difficulties have caught Congress’s wandering eye.


Meanwhile, renters have been forgotten. Federal rental assistance programs, have reached a breaking point, as insufficient federal support, increased demand, and lower incomes have meant fewer available vouchers and lower levels of assistance. In perhaps the worst example, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the nation’s largest housing authority that administers both public housing and housing voucher programs, has announced that underfunding by the federal government might force it to cut 10,000 low-income tenants from its Section 8 rental assistance programs.

I suppose us renters have been forgotten in the financial crisis in a number of ways.  Hadn’t really given it a ton of thought over the last few months, but now that I think about it…  Now, my own rent is stable, reasonable, and flexible if I need it – the joy of renting from friends.  But while I’m not unique, my experience is certainly not the common one.  For those who have no one to fall back on, no one to understand when things are tight, housing assistance is crucial.

Episode 2:  31 March 2010

This post starts my new experiment in recording the more interesting of the web perusing I do nearly everyday, typically in the morning with coffee, a cat in lap (or if they can get away with it, on the keyboard), and NPR’s Morning Edition playing from their website.  I revisit the web at night after work, sometimes finding new things, sometimes chasing down posts and websites and articles I didn’t have time for earlier in the day.

First up, found via Steve Benen’s “Political Animal” blog at the Washington Monthly site:

Eugene Robinson – 30 March 2010:
The Hutaree militia and the rising risk of far-right violence

There was a time when the far left was a spawning ground for political violence. The first big story I covered was the San Francisco trial of heiress Patricia Hearst, who had been kidnapped and eventually co-opted by the Symbionese Liberation Army — a far-left group whose philosophy was as apocalyptic and incoherent as that of the Hutaree. There are aging radicals in Cuba today who got to Havana by hijacking airplanes in the 1970s. Left-wing radicals caused mayhem and took innocent lives.

But for the most part, far-left violence in this country has gone the way of the leisure suit and the AMC Gremlin. An anti-globalization movement, including a few window-smashing anarchists, was gaining traction at one point, but it quickly diminished after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. An environmental group and an animal-rights group have been linked with incidents of arson. Beyond those particulars, it is hard to identify any kind of leftist threat.

By contrast, there has been explosive growth among far-right, militia-type groups that identify themselves as white supremacists, “constitutionalists,” tax protesters and religious soldiers determined to kill people to uphold “Christian” values. Most of the groups that posed a real danger, as the Hutaree allegedly did, have been infiltrated and dismantled by authorities before they could do any damage. But we should never forget that the worst act of domestic terrorism ever committed in this country was authored by a member of the government-hating right wing: Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.

Via Huffington Post, I found this analysis of the tactics of the right when it comes to “life” issues.

Bill Berkowitz – 31 March 2010
“No Lie Is Too Low For Them”: What the Terri Schiavo Affair Can Teach Us About Today’s Right-Wing Zealots

The Terri Schiavo case was a prime example of how the Republican Party — aided and abetted by the Religious Right and a formidable array of right-wing foundations, think tanks, public relations firms and conservative legal entities — used a deeply personal issue, and turned it into an attack on fundamental rights, and, failing that, an attack on the failure of government officials, aka “judicial activists,” to stand up for life.
The GOP pulled out all the stops and created a public spectacle. Although the effort ultimately failed, and the Religious Right’s reputation was at least temporarily sullied, earlier this year GOP leaders, (substitute Boehner for DeLay and McConnell for Frist), and its surrogates, this time in the form of Tea Partiers, resuscitated some of the same tactics, fear laced with maximum anger, in an attempt to kill health care reform.

Also, a good interview on NPR’s Tell Me More, concerning the rise of the militia movement, the extreme right, and the recent arrests of the Hutaree members in Michigan (the link below takes you to both transcript and an audio link):

Tell Me More – 30 March 2010
New Details Emerge As FBI Probes Christian Militias In Mich.

Nine people, including a married couple and their two sons, were charged Monday with conspiring to “oppose by force the authority of the U.S. Government.” The accused are members of the Hutaree Militia, and are said to have been plotting to kill Michigan police officers. Host Michel Martin talks with Detroit Free Press Reporter Niraj Warikoo and Heidi Beirich, the research director of the Southern Poverty Law Center about this case and whether or not this is part of a larger trend.

You can also listen to one of my fave radio broadcasts, Talk of the Nation’s weekly visit with “Political Junkie” Ken Rudin and others.  It’s always the first segment on the Wednesday show.

NPR Talk of the Nation: Political Junkie
31 March 2010
Putting Congressional Civility In Perspective

In Congress, discourse deteriorated during the health care debate. Notably, Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) yelled out “baby killer” on the House floor.

But it’s not a new phenomenon, nor is it the province of a single political party.


Ken Rudin, political editor and Political Junkie for NPR

Lou Frey, former Republican Congressman and editor of Political Rules of the Road

Scott Horsley, White House correspondent, NPR

And last, from last August but new to me in the last day or two, an interesting take on the rise of fascist tendencies in the U.S. (not sure how I found this one…)

Sara Robinson – 6 August 2009
Fascist America: Are We There Yet?

All through the dark years of the Bush Administration, progressives watched in horror as Constitutional protections vanished, nativist rhetoric ratcheted up, hate speech turned into intimidation and violence, and the president of the United States seized for himself powers only demanded by history’s worst dictators. With each new outrage, the small handful of us who’d made ourselves experts on right-wing culture and politics would hear once again from worried readers: Is this it? Have we finally become a fascist state? Are we there yet?

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