"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Rush To The Defense? Not So Fast”: We Know Where Limbaugh Stands Today

Dear David from Georgia:

I want to thank you for the email you sent last week. It made me laugh out loud.

It seems you were unhappy I took a shot at Rush Limbaugh a few days back. Limbaugh had argued that John Lewis might have avoided having his skull fractured by Alabama state troopers while protesting for voting rights in Selma, AL 48 years ago, if only he’d been armed. I suggested, tongue in cheek, that Limbaugh would have given the same advice to Rosa Parks, who famously refused to surrender her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, AL, bus.

Which moved you to write: “If Rush Limbaugh were on that bus that day, like so many of us, he would have insisted that Ms. Parks REMAIN seated. … Rush doesn’t need me to defend him from your silly assumption, but I just like to bring it to your attention that just because Rush is WHITE doesn’t mean he is not a gentleman!”


David, Rush Limbaugh is the man who once said the NFL “all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips” and told a black caller to “take that bone out of your nose and call me back.” So the idea that, in Alabama, in 1955, as a black woman was committing an illegal act of civil disobedience, this particular white man would have done what 14 other white passengers did not is, well, rather fanciful.

But then, it’s seductively easy to imagine yourself or your hero on the right side of history once that history has been vindicated. So of course “Rush” would have stood up for Rosa Parks. Of course “Rush” would have defended Jews who were turned away while fleeing the Holocaust. Of course “Rush” would have supported women agitating for the right to vote. Of course he would’ve defended human rights. Wouldn’t we all?

Actually, no. Not then, and not now.

As it happens, David, your email appeared the same week as news out of Flint, MI, about Tonya Battle, an African-American nurse who is suing her employer, the Hurley Medical Center. Battle, an employee since 1988, was working in the neonatal intensive-care unit when, she says, a baby’s father approached her at the infant’s bedside, asked for her supervisor and then told said supervisor he didn’t want any black people involved in his child’s care.

So, of course, the hospital stood up for its 25-year employee, right?

No. According to her suit, a note was posted on the assignment clipboard saying, “No African-American nurse to take care of baby.” The hospital, naturally, has declined comment.

David, this is ultimately not about “Rush.” He is a rich blowhard and therefore, unexceptional. No, this is about the implicit, albeit unstated, “of course” that comes too easily to you and frankly, to many of us, when we contemplate how we would have responded to the moral crimes of the past.

There is to it an unearned smugness that insults the very real courage of those like Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzzo and James Zwerg, who did take the morally correct stand at hazard of life and limb. It is easy to “stand up” for the right thing when doing so requires only paying lip service 50 years after the fact, something at which Limbaugh and his brethren have become scarily adept.

But the need for real courage, for willingness to stand up for human dignity, did not end in 1955, something to which our gay, Muslim and immigrant friends — and Tonya Battle — would surely testify. So there is something starkly fatuous in your vision of “Rush” defending Rosa Parks. No, sir. We know where he would have stood then because we know where he stands now.

Perhaps you find comfort in your delusion. But some of us realize we live in an era where bigotry has its own talk show and cable network. Can we find comfort in delusions like yours?

Of course not.


By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., The National Memo. February 20, 2013

February 22, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights, Human Rights | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Still More BS”: The Bowles-Simpson Commission Is The Fiscal Zombie That Just Won’t Die

We all do things that we regret. President Obama must surely regret that he ever listened to the extreme deficit hawks back in early 2010, when he appointed the Bowles-Simpson Commission, the fiscal zombie that just won’t die.

The commission is long defunct. The recommendations of its majority report never became law (because that required a super-majority). But the dreams and schemes of B-S have become the gold standard of deflationists everywhere. The test of budgetary soundness is: does it meet the recommendations of Bowles and Simpson?

On Tuesday, the depressive duo were at it again, calling for additional deficit reductions of $2.4 trillion over a decade. This is almost a trillion dollars beyond what President Obama and Congress are considering.

This clarion call was issued under the aegis of the corporate group, “Fix the Debt,” a bunch of millionaires and billionaires urging regular people to tighten their belts for the greater good.

Quite apart from the impact of particular cuts (Social Security, Medicare, domestic discretionary spending), this is economic lunacy—because it sandbags an already depressed economy. The Congressional Budget Office has calculated that growth would be 3 percent this year, but will only be half that rate because of the effects of the sequester (or cuts of a similar magnitude)—and Bowles and Simpson are calling for annual cuts of twice the scale of the sequester, and over a whole decade.

President Obama has focused on heading off the sequester—$85 billion of mandatory cuts in the next ten months. But he has bought into the deeper mischief wrought by Bowles and Simpson, by embracing further cuts of $1.5 trillion over a decade.

As the latest pronouncement by the B-S boys shows, the cuts are never enough. If Obama accepts $1.5 trillion, they counter with $2.4 trillion.

They are more gentlemanly than Grover Norquist, but the ideological goal is the same—a government small enough to drown in a bathtub. Even worse, deflationary cuts slow growth, making the debt load larger in real terms, no matter how much we cut.

We’ve now had a real-time experiment, in countries as diverse as Greece, Spain, and Britain. Austerity only breeds more austerity.


By: Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect, February 21, 2013

February 22, 2013 Posted by | Economic Recovery, Sequester | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Patron Saint For Handguns?”: The Lizard Incident That Produced Wayne LaPierre And The NRA

When a new pope gets elected later this month, one of the many decisions he will face is whether to grant official recognition to anoint a Patron Saint of Handgunners.

The candidate is Saint Gabriel Possenti, a 19th century Italian monk who allegedly saved a village from bandits with a handgun before dying of tuberculosis at 23.

The St. Gabriel Possenti Society established itself over 20 years ago with the sole purpose of getting Possenti recognized as handgun enthusiasts’ official saint, agitating and campaigning on his behalf. The 501(c)3 charity group, whose seal includes a drawing of Possenti and a revolver, encourages members to lobby local clergymen, write letters to Vatican officials, and “obtain numerous Gun Saint tokens and deposit them in church collection baskets of your denomination.”

According to the group, Saint Gabriel Possenti saved the villagers of Isola del Gran Sasso from a marauding gang of 20 renegade soldiers by demonstrating his marksmanship with a revolver in 1860. When the gangsters (whom the group notes were also “would-be rapists”) descended on the town, Possenti fired at a lizard in the road and killed it with a single shot.

The bandits, terrified by his excellent shot, fled the town and the day was saved. “St. Gabriel Possenti performed this feat of courage without causing physical harm to a single human being,” they note.

The legend, however, may be little more than that, as some allege the gun incident never occurred. One website dedicated to the saint notes that the tale only appears in one of the four biographies on Possenti, and that the author of the relevant one, Rev. Godfrey Poage, acknowledged that “some of the accounts in his book were invented to ‘enliven’ the story.” Furthermore, Possenti died only two years later and thus would likely have been in late stages of tuberculosis, the critics note, and thus in no shape to fight off 20 armed gangsters.

In a statement sent today marking the upcoming feast day of the saint, Society Chairman John Snyder acknowledged the historical dispute and defended the “lizard incident.”

“The Poage account of the lizard incident remained non-controversial for over a quarter of a century. It wasn’t until I began promoting St. Gabriel Possenti as a Patron of Handgunners in the late 1980s that anti-gun bigots began a belated attempt to attack the account of the lizard incident. It seems they are more concerned with being politically correct than historically accurate,” Snyder said.

Snyder wrote a whole book about the incident, “Gun Saint,” which features an illustration of the young Saint Gabriel Possenti firing a gun as bearded gangsters flee in all directions.

The group even claims biblical passages support the use of guns for self-defense. You can read about them in a printed monograph, which the Society will send to you for a reasonable contribution of $10.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, February 21, 2013

February 22, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Game Of Chicken”: Republicans Want To Burn The Coop

Well, here we go again. Another season, another manufactured, self-inflicted, completely preventable crisis of government. This time it’s the sequester.

We may as well put these things in the Farmers’ Almanac.

Now we’re engaged in a finger-wagging blame game of who proposed it, who supported it and who is opposed to preventing it.

Let’s lay out some of the facts of this disaster.

The sequester’s origin is quite muddy.

President Obama, responding to Mitt Romney in an October presidential debate, said: “First of all, the sequester is not something that I’ve proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen.”

John Boehner, on the other hand, now says that the sequester is Obama’s baby. In a speech on the House floor this month, Boehner said:

“The president first proposed this ‘sequester’ in 2011 and insisted it be part of the debt-limit agreement.”

In an opinion piece published Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal, Boehner wrote, “Having first proposed and demanded the sequester, it would make sense that the president lead the effort to replace it.”

PolitiFact rated Obama’s claim that the sequester was proposed by Congress as “mostly false” saying:

“It was Obama’s negotiating team that came up with the idea for defense cuts in 2011, though they were intended to prod Congress to come up with a better deal for reining in the deficit, not as an effort to make those cuts reality. Meanwhile, members of both parties in Congress voted for the legislation that set up the possibility of sequestration. Obama’s position is that Congress should now act to avoid those across-the-board cuts. Obama can’t rightly say the sequester isn’t his, but he did need cooperation from Congress to get to this point.”

PolitiFact bases its assessment largely on assertions in the new book “The Price of Politics,” by the renowned Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.

The Web site does, however, point out that there are dissenting views, including that of Christopher Preble at the libertarian Cato Institute. PolitiFact quotes Preble as saying, “I do not believe it accurate to refer to the cuts that will occur in both defense and nondefense discretionary spending under sequestration as ‘Obama’s cuts.’ ”

And John Avlon, a senior columnist for The Daily Beast, wrote Wednesday that he “happened to come across an old e-mail that throws cold water on House Republicans’ attempts to call this ‘Obama’s Sequester.”

According to Avlon:

“It’s a PowerPoint presentation that Boehner’s office developed with the Republican Policy Committee and sent out to the Capitol Hill GOP on July 31, 2011. Intended to explain the outline of the proposed debt deal, the presentation is titled, ‘Two Step Approach to Hold President Obama Accountable.’ It’s essentially an internal sales document from the old dealmaker Boehner to his unruly and often unreasonable Tea Party cohort. But it’s clear as day in the presentation that ‘sequestration’ was considered a cudgel to guarantee a reduction in federal spending — the conservatives’ necessary condition for not having America default on its obligations.

The presentation lays out the deal in clear terms, describing the spending backstop as “automatic across-the-board cuts (‘sequestration’). Same mechanism used in 1997 Balanced Budget Agreement.”

So, there’s that.

But I’m not sure where all this you- are-the-father origination blame game gets us.

The bill got bipartisan support in the House and at the time Boehner bragged:

“When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the White House, I got 98 percent of what I wanted. I’m pretty happy.”

And President Obama signed it.

None of this changes the fact that the sequester is still bearing down on us, and it still holds horrible consequences that we didn’t think we’d be facing.

Now we are stuck in a vicious fight about what, if anything, can be done to prevent it and protect an economy that is just beginning to emerge from the muck.

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, “Our estimate of approximately one million lost jobs due to sequester remains our base case if a full sequester occurs as scheduled on March 1.”

So once again the American people are caught in the middle of a game of chicken between Democrats, who rightly warn that the sky could fall, and Republicans, who want to burn the coop.

Thus far, the president and the Democrats are outmaneuvering the Republicans in the messaging war, but that will be of cold comfort if the Republican hotheads prevail.

Erskine Bowles, the former White House chief of staff for Bill Clinton, and the Bowles half of the Simpson-Bowles Commission, said of impending cuts: “They are dumb and they are stupid, stupid, stupid. They are inane.”

And yet dumb, stupid and inane have become the three pillars of government now that strong-willed, dimwitted hard-liners who see compromise as a dirty word have infiltrated the halls of Congress.


By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, February 20, 2013

February 22, 2013 Posted by | Sequester | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Especially Demanding Day”: More Disingenuous GOP Obstruction

Chuck Hagel isn’t the only Obama nominee Senate Republicans are raking through the coals for dubious political reasons.The President’s pick to head the Treasury, Jack Lew, is getting his own hazing.

Although it got less publicity than Hagel’s hearing, Lew, too, faced a torrent of tough questions during his first round of confirmation hearings before the Senate Finance Committee earlier this month. Now, this week, Sen. Chuck Grassley, the number two Republican on the panel, is stepping up the pressure.

Yesterday, he asked Committee Chairman Max Baucus to postpone a vote on Lew’s confirmation until the he answers more of Grassley’s questions (a request Baucus denied).

At issue for Grassley is a series of loans provided to Lew in the early 2000s, especially one for $1.4 million in 2002 from New York University, where Lew served as executive vice president. Lew said the loan was to help pay for housing and was part of his compensation package, but couldn’t recall some of the details Grassley demanded.

The Republican says he is not pleased, suggesting in a statement that Lew has not been forthcoming in answering his questions.

But, as a Democrat close to Finance Committee points out, Grassley hasn’t exactly availed himself of every opportunity he’s been offered to question Lew.

Grassley was the only member of the Senate Finance Committee who refused to meet with Lew one-on-one ahead of the hearings, a common practice for presidential nominees. And Grassley left Lew’s hearing after the opening round of questions.

“If he had so many concerns and unanswered questions, why wouldn’t he stay and ask them?” the source, who asked to remain nameless, asked.

Lew has answered 444 questions submitted to him in writing, which is many more than any Treasury nominee in history. From Bob Rubin under Bill Clinton, to current outgoing Secretary Tim Geithner, the Senate has asked a combined total of 405 questions — fewer than Lew alone.

For his part, Grassley asked 26 questions of Lew, but just 3 of Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, and none of his Bush predecessor, John Snowe.

A spokesperson for Grassley did not immediately return a request for comment, but he has previously denied any political motivations.

UPDATE: On missing the hearing and asking 26 questions, a Grassley spokesperson explains: “Between dealing with the death of a staff member and serving as Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee’s hearing on immigration, Senator Grassley had an especially demanding day… Finance Committee members asked an average of 18.5 questions each; 26 is hardly out of line.”

The spokesperson continued: “Sen. Grassley declined to meet with Mr. Lew prior to the committee’s hearing, as he’s done with several other nominees. Nominees often can’t talk about substantive issues in such meetings because they haven’t formed views, they cite unfamiliarity with the specific issue, or they can’t discuss pending issues because of the sensitivity of their unconfirmed positions. That’s the case in many of Mr. Lew’s answers to the written questions posed by senators, and that was the case with a wide variety of his verbal answers at the nomination hearing. Even if Sen. Grassley had met with Mr. Lew and discussed Mr. Lew’s background, such as the loan from New York University and money in the Caymans, Sen. Grassley still would have wanted those questions answered in writing so there’s a permanent record for other senators and the public to view.”


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, February 21, 2013

February 22, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


%d bloggers like this: