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

“The Poor Door”: A Symbol Of A Truth We All Know

A few words about the “poor door.”

Maybe you already know about this. Maybe you read on Slate, saw on Colbert or heard on NPR how a developer qualified for tax benefits under New York City’s Inclusionary Housing Program by agreeing to add to its new luxury building on the Upper West Side a set number of “affordable” apartments. How the company won permission to build that building with two entrances, one in front for the exclusive use of upper-income residents, another, reportedly in the alley, for residents of more modest means.

Hence, the “poor door,” though the term is something of a misnomer. While the premium units with the Hudson River views would probably strain the average budget at a reported sale price of $2,000 a square foot, the 55 “affordable” apartments overlooking the street are not exactly priced for the family from Good Times. We are told they are expected to draw small families earning up to $51,000 a year — not enough to contemplate putting in a bid for the Knicks, but more than enough to ensure you don’t have to squeegee windshields for pocket change.

Anyway, Extell Development apparently thinks it too much to ask the well-heeled to use the same door as such relative paupers. Observers have responded with outrage. A New York Times pundit called it “odious.” CNN called it “income segregation.” The Christian Science Monitor called it “Dickensian.”

The door is all those things, yes, but it is also the pointed symbol of a truth we all know but pretend not to, so as to preserve the fiction of an egalitarian society. Namely, that rich and poor already have different doors. The rich enter the halls of justice, finance, education, health and politics through portals of advantage from which the rest of us are barred.

Politicians who send you form letters line up to kiss Sheldon Adelson’s pinky finger because he has access to that door. O.J. Simpson got away with murder because he had access to that door.

Over the years, I’ve met a number of wealthy people. I have envied exactly one: Tom Cousins, the Atlanta developer who founded the East Lake Foundation, a combination social experiment and real estate development that transfigured a blighted and impoverished community, raising test scores, banishing crime, lifting incomes, changing lives.

I envied him not his money, but the privilege he has had of using that money in the service of other people. What joy and satisfaction it must give to know your wealth has made a difference in the world.

The “poor door” reflects a different ideal. Unfortunately, this is the same ideal one too frequently sees reflected in the nation at large. In our elevation of the do-nothing-of-value, contribute-nothing-of-value, say-nothing-of-value likes of Paris Hilton and Donald Trump to the highest station our culture offers — celebrity — we betray not simply a worship of wealth for its own sake, but an implicit belief that net worth equals human worth. And it does not.

It’s only money. Money is neutral. It’s what one does with money that defines character.

I begrudge no one whatever luxuries fortune makes possible. Enjoy the French chalet if it makes you feel good and the wallet allows. But the poor door seems to me a bridge too far. Were I as rich as Bill Gates plus the Koch brothers multiplied by Oprah Winfrey, I don’t think I’d want to live in a building of separate but unequal access, a building built on the tacit assumption that I would be — or should be — mortally affronted at sharing a lobby with someone just because he had fewer material trinkets than I.

The very idea offends our common and interconnected humanity. In the final analysis, we all entered this life through the same door. And we’ll leave it that way, too.


By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, August 4, 2014


August 5, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Poor and Low Income, Wealthy | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Choose Your Grifter”: There Are Distinctions Between The Swindlers In The Republican Party

Steve LaTourette used to be a congressman from Ohio who was closely aligned with Speaker John Boehner. Now he runs a Super PAC called “Defending Main Street” that tries to serve the Chamber of Commerce’s interests against the nihilists in the Tea Party who don’t even want to maintain our roads and bridges. As part of that gig, he writes articles (see, e.g., Politico). Despite taking money from people to do something that he can’t actually do (beat back the nut-jobs) he has decided to divide the GOP into two factions, one of which he disapprovingly labels “the grifters.”

Historically, grifters have taken many shapes. They were the snake-oil salesmen who rolled into town promising a magical, cure-all elixir at a price. The grifter was long gone by the time people discovered the magical elixir was no more magical than water. They were the sideshow con men offering fantastic prizes in games that were rigged so that no one could actually win them. They were the Ponzi scheme operators who got rich promising fantastically high investment returns but returning nothing for those sorry investors at the bottom of the pyramid.

Over the last few years we have seen the rise of a new grifter—the political grifter. And the most important battle being waged today isn’t the one about which party controls the House or the Senate, it’s about who controls the Republican Party: the grifting wing or the governing wing.

Today’s political grifters are a lot like the grifters of old—lining their pockets with the hard-earned money of working men and women be promising things in return that they know they can’t deliver.

There are distinctions between the swindlers in the Republican Party, that is true. There’s a difference between the paranoid ramblings of Michele Bachmann, Steve King, and Louie Gohmert and the fundamentalist stylings of real thieves like K Street Project organizer Rick Santorum and U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce Freedom Support Award winner Sam Brownback. The first group acts crazy and gets a bunch of small donations. The latter group acts like pious little brats while they’re lining their pockets with massive corporate donations, if not outright bribes. But, it’s okay, because they’re more religious than you are.

They’re all grifters.

Government spending is where they seem to differ, with the first group looking to cash in by not spending federal cash and the latter group looking to direct that cash into private sector entities that reward them with big donations and lucrative second careers. But the record shows, both under Reagan and under the latter Bush, that the GOP deficit spends like mad when they have the power to control where that spending goes. Will the next time be any different?

Not if Steve LaTourette and his benefactors have anything to say about it.

And, yet, the traditional Republican type of grift, where you decry federal spending until the moment you actually control it, is vastly preferable to the new kind of grift which is based on paranoia and a more virulent kind of racism.

I’d tell you to pick your poison, but you don’t get to decide.


By: Martin Longman, Ten Miles Square, Washington Monthly, August 4, 2014

August 5, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Self-Accredited Ophthalmologist”: The Most Credible Candidate For President … Since Henry Clay

Kentucky’s annual Fancy Farm picnic is one of the state’s biggest political events, and this weekend was no exception. Rachel Kleinman had a helpful report on some of what transpired at the gathering.

But there was one quote from the weekend’s festivities from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that stood out for me. The Republican leader, who’s in a very tough re-election fight this year, reportedly had this to say about his fellow Kentuckian, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

“I can say this without fear of contradiction: He is the most credible candidate for president of the United States since Henry Clay,” the minority leader reportedly told a county GOP breakfast earlier Saturday, a reference to the Kentucky senator who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1824, 1832 and 1844.

Sam Youngman, a political reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader, also heard McConnell make the comment, though Youngman believes the senator probably meant the most credible presidential candidate out of Kentucky since Clay.

To be sure, Henry Clay was an accomplished public servant and an exceedingly credible presidential candidate – at different points in his career, Clay was a state legislator, a U.S. House member, a Speaker of the U.S. House, a U.S. senator, and the U.S. Secretary of State. Not too shabby.

Rand Paul was a self-accredited ophthalmologist up until four years ago, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate. To date, he has no major legislative accomplishments to speak of and he’s held no other public office.

I can appreciate McConnell wanting to say nice things about his in-state partner, but referencing Paul and Clay in the same sentence seems like a bit of a stretch.

Of courses, the fact that McConnell would even draw such a comparison in the first place speaks to a larger truth.

It’s easy to forget, but in 2010, McConnell desperately hoped Rand Paul would lose. The party establishment, including the Senate Minority Leader, enthusiastically backed Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson in the GOP primary and assumed he’d win with relative ease.

That, obviously, didn’t happen, and the McConnell-Paul relationship has always been strained.

But when it comes to campaign politics, McConnell is no fool – he and his team can read a poll as easily as anyone else, and they realize that statewide, Rand Paul is far more popular than McConnell. As such, we see the Minority Leader running around making claims he almost certainly doesn’t believe, including the odd notion that Paul “is the most credible candidate for president of the United States since Henry Clay.”

As for the junior senator from the Bluegrass State, Paul apparently sees the partnership as a marriage of convenience. Earlier this year, during an appearance on Glenn Beck’s program, the host asked the senator about his McConnell endorsement. “Uhh, because he asked me,” Paul said. “He asked me when there was nobody else in the race. And I said yes.”


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 4, 2014

August 5, 2014 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Mitch Mc Connell, Rand Paul | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dumb And Dumber”: House Republicans Vote To Deport As Many Kids As Possible

Dumb and dumber. That’s the best way to describe two bills passed by House Republicans on Friday night. They passed a supplemental funding bill allocating about $700 million for the crisis on the border. It includes changes to current law that will make it easier to send child migrants back to Central America. They also voted to wind down the Obama administration’s Deferred Action program for young immigrants. So forget about comprehensive reform: House Republicans have settled on the “Let’s deport as many kids as possible” approach.

These two bills do not represent a coherent response to our border crisis. They reflect House Speaker John Boehner’s failed leadership as well as the triumph of immigration extremists. While these bills will have zero policy impact, the GOP will likely feel their political impact for years to come — and not in a good way.

To understand why these bills passed, let’s back up for a moment. Recall that Speaker Boehner originally wanted to vote on a border crisis bill on Thursday. But he couldn’t round up enough votes, and the bill was pulled. This was a major embarrassment for the Speaker. Amazingly, Boehner then suggested that President Obama should take executive action on immigration. “There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action,” he said in a statement, “to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries.”

Huh? Right now the House is suing the president for taking executive action. For the Speaker to suggest that President Obama act on his own on immigration is inconsistent and hypocritical (Does that mean he will support the president’s expected executive action on immigration?).

As it turned out, in order to get the votes for a border bill Boehner allowed a vote on a bill that would end the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program. Introduced by the Obama administration in 2012, DACA grants relief from deportation to undocumented immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children. About half a million of these young people, also known as Dreamers, have so far qualified for its protection.

In case you’re wondering, DACA has nothing to do with the crisis on the border. Although some Republicans have surmised that it caused the ongoing influx of child migrants, there is no evidence to support this claim.

Now Boehner can say that House Republicans did something on immigration before they left for the August recess. Yet this is a hollow victory, because these bills are going nowhere. The Senate would never approve them and even if they did, the president has pledged to veto them.

The anti-DACA vote, however, will have real consequences for the Republican Party. Consider that recent polling from Latino Decisions showed that 75 percent of Latino voters said that any move to dismantle DACA would make them less favorably inclined towards the GOP. Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist, tweeted that the anti-DACA vote “antagonizes Latinos, energizes Democratic base, and emboldens the GOP ‘No’ caucus.” She is right — and the GOP will be paying the price for years to come. Two hundred sixteen House members, many of whom harbor national ambitions, are now on record as opposing a policy supported by overwhelming majorities of Latino voters.

Obviously, a majority of House Republicans supported these measures — or they wouldn’t have passed. “The changes brought into this (the border bills) are ones I’ve developed and advocated for over the past two years. It’s like I ordered it off the menu,” Rep. Steve King (R- Iowa) told CQ Roll Call. The fact that the GOP position on immigration is now in sync with King, a man who once compared Dreamers to drug mules, should be alarming to Republicans concerned about their long-term viability as a national party. As disappointing as President Obama has been on immigration, these mean-spirited votes make it clearer than ever which party values Hispanic voters.

Friday’s House votes were a sad spectacle. On immigration, the GOP has taken another hard lurch to the right, and Latino voters will not soon forget it.


By: Raul A. Reyes, The Huffington Post Blog, August 4, 2014

August 5, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, House Republicans, Immigration | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Your Choice Mr. Speaker”: House Intel Committee Finds No Benghazi Scandal; Will Boehner Ignore Its Findings?

According to Representative Mike Thompson, Democrat of California, a report from the Republican led House Intelligence Committee on the September 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, “confirms that no one was deliberately misled, no military assets were withheld and no stand-down order (to U.S. forces) was given.”

Late last week, before Congress headed out of Washington for August recess, the body voted to declassify the document.

After nearly two years of investigations, millions of dollars spent, tens of thousands of pages of documents handed over by the administration, a Republican-led committee is about to release a report stating that there is no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the Obama White House. In fact, nearly all of the accusations levied against the White House over the past year by conservatives in Congress, and amplified by the media, have now been determined to be false—by a Republican jury.

House Speaker John Boehner is now left with a choice. Will he allow Rep. Trey Gowdy’s kangaroo court, formulated in the guise of a select committee, proceed with its Benghazi investigation, covering ground already delved into not only by the House Intelligence Committee, but by the House Armed Services Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Accountability Review Board and numerous other investigatory panels?

Doing so would now be nothing short of an explicit vote of no confidence in House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican. What will Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, discover that two years of investigations by his GOP colleagues could not? If the House leadership views the Intelligence Committee as that incompetent, shouldn’t its chairman be replaced?

As The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake reported in May,

“There is deep unease within the Republican leadership that the select committee, which has yet to announce a schedule of hearings, could backfire, and badly. Investigate and find nothing new, and the committee looks like a bunch of tin-hatted obsessives. Investigate and uncover previously-hidden secrets, and it makes all of the other Republican led panels that dug into Benghazi seem like Keystone Kops.”

But what is even more clear now than it was a few weeks ago is that, for Boehner, the appointment of the Benghazi Select Committee has nothing to do with finding the truth about the attack that took the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens, along with those of Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone Woods. It was theater—and bad theater at that.

Attempting to placate the ideological fringes of the Republican conference by using a taxpayer-funded investigation is at best the most cynical form of politics. To continue the charade after a Republican chairman releases findings that undermine the very core of your investigation is outright fraud.

But the Benghazi Select Committee will keep on moving forward. And it will not end after the 2014 elections. If Hillary Clinton chooses to run, the committee will become a principal tool in the conservative movement’s campaign apparatus against her, holding hearings designed to obscure the truth and smear Clinton during the least opportune moments of the electoral cycle.

And if Clinton is elected in 2016, there is little doubt the work of the committee will continue as long as Republicans continue to control the House of Representatives. Why surrender a taxpayer-funded campaign attack dog, especially one endowed by Congress with subpoena power?


By: Ari Rabin-Hayt, The American Prospect, August 4, 2014


August 5, 2014 Posted by | Benghazi, GOP, John Boehner | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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