“Clarence Thomas’ ‘Sadness’ On Race”: How Things Have Changed, The Views Of “My Grandfather’s Other Son”
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas gave a speech in South Florida yesterday, where the jurist, one of only two African Americans to ever serve on the high court, reflected on racial issues.
“My sadness is that we are probably today more race and difference-conscious than I was in the 1960s when I went to school. To my knowledge, I was the first black kid in Savannah, Georgia, to go to a white school. Rarely did the issue of race come up,” Thomas said during a chapel service hosted by the nondenominational Christian university [Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach].
“Now, name a day it doesn’t come up. Differences in race, differences in sex, somebody doesn’t look at you right, somebody says something. Everybody is sensitive. If I had been as sensitive as that in the 1960s, I’d still be in Savannah. Every person in this room has endured a slight. Every person. Somebody has said something that has hurt their feelings or did something to them – left them out.
“That’s a part of the deal,” he added.
At a minimum, the Justice’s comments appear to be at odds with his 2007 autobiography, which paint a different picture of Thomas’ youth. Yesterday, Thomas said race was “rarely” an issue growing up in Savannah,” but as Adam Serwer noted, Thomas wrote several years ago that as a kid in Savannah, “No matter how curious you might be about the way white people lived, you didn’t go where you didn’t belong. That was a recipe for jail, or worse.”
Thomas even said he left his seminary in 1968 after feeling “a constant state of controlled anxiety” over being a racial minority.
That said, Thomas’ broader point about Americans being more conscious of racial issues may be true, though it’s not entirely clear why he, or anyone else, would consider this a discouraging development.
Jamelle Bouie’s take rings true.
Let’s say that Americans are more sensitive about race (and gender, and sexuality) than they were in the 1960s. This is a good thing. If blacks in Jim Crow Georgia were willing to answer to “boy” and shrug at “ni**er,” it’s because they risked danger with any other reaction.
But that’s changed. We’ve made progress. And now blacks, as well as other minorities and women, feel entitled to public respect in a way that wasn’t true in the 1960s. In turn, there’s a public recognition that we should be sensitive to the concerns of these groups. This isn’t a setback – it’s progress.
Jon Chait added:
Maybe the reason race came up rarely is that the racial situation in 1960s Georgia was extremely terrible.
For instance, for the first 14 years of Thomas’s life, Georgia had zero African-Americans in its state legislature. Majority-black Terrell had a total of five registered black voters – possibly because African-Americans were so satisfied with their treatment that they didn’t see any reason to vote, or possibly because civil-rights activists in Georgia tended to get assassinated.
So maybe “reluctance to bring up racial issues” is not, in fact, the best measure of a society’s racial health.
By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, February 12, 2014
What is the greatest fear of conservatives when they warn against the dangers of big government? It is that a leader or the coterie around him will abuse the authority of the state arbitrarily to gather yet more power, punish opponents and, in the process, harm rank-and-file citizens whose well-being matters not a whit to those who are trying to enhance their control.
This, of course, is a quite precise description of what happened when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s aides ordered the closure of some access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in September. Their motivation was political payback. The result: thousands of commuters along with emergency vehicles, school buses and pretty much the entire town of Fort Lee, N.J., were thrown into gridlock.
Using public facilities for selfish ends is the very definition of corruption, which is why this scandal bothers people far outside the conservative orbit. It took months for the episode to hit the big time because so many (the governor claims he’s one of them) had difficulty believing that government officials would act as recklessly as Christie’s gang did — and with such indifference to how their actions would affect the lives of people in northern New Jersey who were bystanders to an insider game.
Christie was finally moved to condemn the indefensible only after the smoking gun emerged in the form of e-mails from his staff and his appointees. Their contents reflected a vindictive urge to squelch all resistance to the governor’s political interests.
And this is the problem Christie hasn’t solved yet. At his epic news conference Thursday, he focused again and again on how loyal staff members had “lied” to him and how he felt personally victimized. What he never explained was why he did not press his staff earlier for paper trails so he could know for certain that all his vociferous denials were true. He didn’t deal with this flagrant foul until he had no choice. Saying he had faith in his folks is not enough. Christie still has to tell us why he did not treat the possibility of such a misuse of power with any urgency.
Even assuming that Christie’s disavowal of complicity holds up, he faces a long-term challenge in laying this story to rest. History suggests that beating back a scandal requires one or more of these assets: (1) a strong partisan or ideological base; (2) overreach by your adversaries; or (3) a charge that doesn’t fit people’s perceptions of you. Christie has trouble on all three fronts.
If Christie has a base, it consists of Wall Street donors, a media fascinated by his persona and relative moderation, and some but by no means all members of the non-tea-party-wing of the Republican Party.
He does not have the committed ideological core that Ronald Reagan could rely on to overcome Iran-Contra. He does not have the Democratic base that stuck with Bill Clinton during his sex scandal because the excesses of a special prosecutor and then of a Republican House that impeached him came to enrage Democrats even more than Clinton’s misbehavior.
What of Christie’s base? Wall Street is fickle and pragmatic. The media can turn on a dime. And the Republican establishment, such as it is, has alternatives. Oh, yes, Christie also has support from some machine Democrats in New Jersey who have made deals with him. But they will be even more pragmatic than Wall Street.
Overreach by one’s enemies is always a possibility, but there are no signs of this yet. Christie’s detractors have every reason to take things slowly and methodically. They will enjoy dragging this out.
And as has already been widely noted, the Christie operation’s penchant for settling scores is legendary. This charge fits the existing narrative about the guy so well that Christie had to say the words, “I am not a bully.” Denials of this sort usually have the opposite of their intended effect.
Christie has one other obstacle, and this may be the most important. A great many conservatives never trusted him, and a tale that plays so perfectly into their critique of government could make things worse. Erick Erickson, the right-wing writer, captured this rather colorfully. People sometimes want a politician to be “a jerk,” Erickson wrote on Fox News’ Web site, but “they want the person to be their jerk,” not a jerk “who tries to make everyone else his whipping boy.”
To win Christie some sympathy on the right, defenders such as former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour quickly deployed the GOP’s first-responder technique of attacking “the liberal media.” But liberals are the least of Christie’s problems.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 12, 2014
“Beyond Polarization To Warfare”: It’s The Broader Acceptance Of Political Warfare In The Conservative Movement That’s Most Alarming
At WaPo’s Monkey Cage subsite today, there’s an important piece by University of Texas political scientist Sean Theriault that gets to a distinction in political attitudes that some of us have been trying to articulate ever since the radicalization of one of our two major parties occurred:
I have been studying party polarization in Congress for more than a decade. The more I study it, the more I question that it is the root cause of what it is that Americans hate about Congress. Pundits and political scientists alike point to party polarization as the culprit for all sorts of congressional ills. I, too, have contributed to this chorus bemoaning party polarization. But increasingly, I’ve come to think that our problem today isn’t just polarization in Congress; it’s the related but more serious problem of political warfare….
Perhaps my home state of Texas unnecessarily reinforces the distinction I want to make between these two dimensions. Little separates my two senators’ voting records – of the 279 votes that senators took in 2013, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn disagreed less than 9 percent of the time (the largest category of their disagreement, incidentally, was on confirmation votes). In terms of ideology, they are both very conservative. Cruz, to no one’s surprise, is the most conservative. Cornyn is the 13th most conservative, which is actually further down the list than he was in 2012, when he ranked second. Cornyn’s voting record is more conservative than conservative stalwarts Tom Coburn and Richard Shelby. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz disagreed on twice as many votes as John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.
The difference between my senators is that when John Cornyn shows up for a meeting with fellow senators, he brings a pad of paper and pencil and tries to figure out how to solve problems. Ted Cruz, on the other hand, brings a battle plan.
That’s probably why Cornyn has attracted a right-wing primary challenge from Rep. Steve Stockman.
The rise of “politics as warfare” on the Right, accompanied with militarist rhetoric, is one that my Democratic Strategist colleagues James Vega and J.P. Green and I discussed in a Strategy Memo last year. We discerned this tendency in the willingness of conservatives to paralyze government instead of redirecting its policies, and in the recent efforts to strike at democracy itself via large-scale voter disenfranchisement initiatives. And while we noted the genesis of extremist politics in radical ideology, we also warned that “Establishment” Republicans aiming at electoral victories at all costs were funding and leading the scorched-earth permanent campaign.
All I’d add at this point is that it’s not terribly surprising that people who think of much of the policy legacy of the twentieth century as a betrayal of the very purpose of America–and even as defiance of the Divine Will–would view liberals in the dehumanizing way that participants in an actual shooting war so often exhibit. But it’s the broader acceptance of political warfare in the conservative movement and the GOP–typified by the perpetual rage against the Obama administration–that’s most alarming.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 10, 2014
“Limbaugh Solves Weather Mystery”: Polar Vortex Is A Liberal, Mainstream Media Hoax Designed To Sell Global Climate Change
Who knew that Rush Limbaugh—in addition to his many “talents”—possesses a deep knowledge and understanding of climatology and meteorology?
While Limbaugh’s biography reveals no apparent training in such matters, that small detail did not prevent Rush from declaring the severe cold snap—produced by the distortion of the polar vortex and currently affecting much of the United States—to be nothing more than a hoax, proclaiming —
“We are having a record-breaking cold snap in many parts of the country. And right on schedule the media have to come up with a way to make it sound like it’s completely unprecedented. Because they’ve got to find a way to attach this to the global warming agenda, and they have. It’s called the ‘polar vortex.’ The dreaded polar vortex.”
Limbaugh continued his rant by noting that liberals are “in the middle of a hoax, they’re perpetrating a hoax, but they’re relying on their total dominance of the media to lie to you each and every day about climate change and global warming. So they created the polar vortex, and the polar vortex, something’s happened, and that cold air which normally stays is in the North Pole, something’s happening, something deeply mysterious and perhaps tragic is happening.”
Apparently, Rush has been so busy studying his weather charts that he failed to notice that Fox News, Newsmax and other conservative media outlets have decided to join the liberal media hoax by discussing the polar vortex as part of their own weather reports—and yes, they are using that precise phrase—over the past few days.
And with good reason.
You see, there is nothing deeply mysterious nor tragic involved with the existence of a polar vortex (except for the few human tragedies that always seem to accompany severe weather situations) and what happens when the weather pattern becomes distorted. What’s more, I have yet to hear any suggestion from liberals, conservatives—or any branch of the media—indicating that there is some mystery or tragedy at work.
I’ve only heard Rush Limbaugh suggest that others are suggesting the same.
Still, Limbaugh insists that the whole affair has been “created” by the liberals and the mainstream media to feather the arguments in support of global warming and climate change.
A polar vortex is a circulation of strong winds that surround the northern pole (although there is also a polar vortex surrounding the southern pole) that swirl in a counterclockwise direction, creating a low pressure weather pattern. The strong winds typically keep the seriously cold air “locked into” the Arctic region. But, on occasion, the vortex (winds) become distorted as a result of the strength of the winds lessening, causing the vortex to ‘dip’ down to the south, allowing the frigid, arctic air to escape and spill down to the south where they bring very cold temperatures to the Northern Hemisphere—including those we are currently experiencing throughout much of the United States.
Thus, it is not the polar vortex that the liberals and media allegedly “created” that is causing our really cold weather-it is the distortion of the polar vortex that bears the blame. And while Santa Claus may not truly live at the North Pole (I hope I haven’t ruined the Santa Claus thing for Limbaugh), the polar vortex is real and very much does.
The entire process is nothing new.
Cold periods frequently result from distortions of the polar vortex, but as they occur at different times, in different parts of the world and with different levels of severity, we here in the United States tend not to focus on them unless the frigid air comes our way. Indeed, just last year, many parts of Europe experienced frigid air during the Easter season as a result of a distorted polar vortex which sent the arctic air in their direction instead of our own and produced an Easter far colder than what they were experiencing during the Christmas season.
So, Rush…I’m afraid the vast liberal conspiracy did not “create” the evil sounding bit of science-fiction entitled the polar vortex as a means of selling global climate change. You’re going to have to give credit for the existence of a polar vortex to a much higher authority.
Of course, without any desire on Rush’s part to actually explore this weather phenomenon on a scientific level—a complete misuse of Limbaugh’s time as, God forbid, his audience might learn something of scientific value—and whether or not the distortion of a polar vortex might actually be the result of climate change, Limbaugh’s latest bit of buffoonery does raise for us the question of whether or not climate change does bear some blame for extreme changes in weather patterns.
The answer is that your guess is as good as mine.
In fact, your guess is as good as the climate scientists who, for many years now, have been attempting to discover whether there is a connection between the distortion of the polar vortex and any man-made climate change. As this research has been going on for quite some time, it would appear that Rush Limbaugh was a more than a little late to pick up on this bit of conspiracy as I don’t recall him discussing this back in 2001 when the first studies on the subject began to emerge.
“Studies published since 2001 suggest a link between extreme weather and the polar vortex, in recent years more research identified interactions with Arctic sea ice decline, reduced snow cover, evapotranspiration patterns, NAO anomalies or weather anomalies which are linked to the polar vortex and jet stream configuration. However, because these are considered short-term observations (since ~13 years) there is considerable uncertainty in the conclusions. Climatology observations require several decades to distinguish natural variability from climate trends (emphasis added.)
Apparently, an effort on the part of meteorologists and television weather reporters—including those over at Fox—to teach us a little something about what is causing an unusual and difficult weather pattern can only equate to conspiracy in the mind of Rush Limbaugh who has single-handedly managed to create a conspiracy where none could possibly have previously existed.
I guess that is ‘business as usual’ for Rush when forced to get the anger flowing on a slow, “first day back to work” for the new year.
By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, January 7, 2014