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“Color-Blind Or Blinded By Race?”: Steve King Speaks Volumes About Conservative Claims Of Being “Color-Blind”

As events continue to unfold in Ferguson, some very telling reactions are emerging. One of particular importance (via Kyle Mantyla of Right Wing Watch) is from the uninhibited Rep. Steve King of Iowa, which speaks volumes about conservative claims of being “color-blind:”

Rep. Steve King appeared on Newsmax TV yesterday, where host J.D. Hayworth asked him about the rising tensions in Ferguson, Missouri and the call by members of the Congressional Black Caucus for the Department of Justice to conduct an independent investigation because of concerns about a history of racial profiling by the local police department.

King, of course, saw no need for such an investigation, claiming that these members of the CBC are basically “saying don’t enforce the law,” linking the issue to the sporadic looting and vandalism that has taken place by asserting that there is no need to racially profile those responsible for those actions because they are all black.

“This idea of no racial profiling,” King said, “I’ve seen the video. It looks to me like you don’t need to bother with that particular factor because they all appear to be of a single origin, I should say, a continental origin might be the way to phrase that.”

And here’s the inevitable kicker:

“I just reject race-based politics, identity politics” King concluded. “I think we’re all God’s children. We all should be held to the same standards and the same level of behavior.”

So if certain of “God’s children” happen to be prone to behaviors that annoy people like King, then they’re getting what’s coming to them, right? Race has nothing to do with it.

Before anyone objects to me singling out Steve King as an isolated crank, let’s remember this man is vastly influential in the U.S. House of Representatives and the nationally powerful Iowa Republican Party. Would-be presidents regularly and eagerly seek him out and figuratively kiss his ring. I’d love to hear Rand Paul–you know, the Republican leader engaged in all that wonderful African-American “outreach”–asked about King’s comments on Ferguson.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 14, 2014

August 16, 2014 Posted by | Ferguson Missouri, Race and Ethnicity, Steve King | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Is Corruption A Constitutional Right?”: Public Pension Contracts Would Be For Sale To The Highest Bidder

Wall Street is one of the biggest sources of funding for presidential campaigns, and many of the Republican Party’s potential 2016 contenders are governors, from Chris Christie of New Jersey and Rick Perry of Texas to Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin. And so, last week, the GOP filed a federal lawsuit aimed at overturning the pay-to-play law that bars those governors from raising campaign money from Wall Street executives who manage their states’ pension funds.

In the case, New York and Tennessee’s Republican parties are represented by two former Bush administration officials, one of whose firms just won the Supreme Court case invalidating campaign contribution limits on large donors. In their complaint, the parties argue that people managing state pension money have a First Amendment right to make large donations to state officials who award those lucrative money management contracts.

With the $3 trillion public pension system controlled by elected officials now generating billions of dollars worth of annual management fees for Wall Street, Securities and Exchange Commission regulators originally passed the rule to make sure retirees’ money wasn’t being handed out based on politicians’ desire to pay back their campaign donors.

“Elected officials who allow political contributions to play a role in the management of these assets and who use these assets to reward contributors violate the public trust,” says the preamble of the rule, which restricts not only campaign donations directly to state officials, but also contributions to political parties.

In the complaint aiming to overturn that rule, the GOP plaintiffs argue that the SEC does not have the campaign finance expertise to properly enforce the rule. The complaint further argues that the rule itself creates an “impermissible choice” between “exercising a First Amendment right and retaining the ability to engage in professional activities.” The existing rule could limit governors’ ability to raise money from Wall Street in any presidential race.

In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, a spokesman for one of the Republican plaintiffs suggested that in order to compete for campaign resources, his party’s elected officials need to be able to raise money from the Wall Street managers who receive contracts from those officials.

“We see [the current SEC rule] as something that has been a great detriment to our ability to help out candidates,” said Jason Weingarten of the Republican Party of New York — the state whose pay-to-play pension scandal in 2010 originally prompted the SEC rule.

The suit comes only a few weeks after the SEC issued its first fines under the rule — against a firm whose executives made campaign donations to Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, and Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter, a Democrat. The company in question was managing Pennsylvania and Philadelphia pension money. In a statement on that case, the SEC promised more enforcement of the pay-to-play rule in the future.

“We will use all available enforcement tools to ensure that public pension funds are protected from any potential corrupting influences,” said Andrew Ceresney, director of the SEC Enforcement Division. “As we have done with broker-dealers, we will hold investment advisers strictly liable for pay-to-play violations.”

The GOP lawsuit aims to stop that promise from becoming a reality. In predicating that suit on a First Amendment argument, those Republicans are forwarding a disturbing legal theory: Essentially, they are arguing that Wall Street has a constitutional right to influence politicians and the investment decisions those politicians make on behalf of pensioners.

If that theory is upheld by the courts, it will no doubt help Republican presidential candidates raise lots of financial-industry cash — but it could also mean that public pension contracts will now be for sale to the highest bidder.

 

By: David Sirota, Staff Writer at PandoDaily; The National Memo, August 15, 2014

 

August 16, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Politics, Wall Street | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Habitual Cruelty To Others”: Ranting On Robin Williams, Limbaugh Exposed A Hole In His Own Soul

Having infuriated millions of Robin Williams fans with insensitive remarks on the late actor’s suicide, Rush Limbaugh now blames the “liberal media” and “despicable leftists” for distorting his innocent message.

This is an old dodge for Limbaugh. Yet however he parses his language, there can be no doubt that he sought to exploit a tragic event for what he likes to call “political education.”  His attempt to brand Williams’ suicide with “the leftist worldview” was perfectly plain. And as usual, his alibi is plainly false.

In his original commentary on Williams, Limbaugh quoted Fox News – hardly a “liberal media” source even by his elastic definition – about the great comic’s possible motivations for taking his own life:

I mean, right here there’s a story on the Fox News website.  Do you know, it says right here, that the real reasons that Robin Williams killed himself are he was embarrassed at having to take television roles after a sterling movie career….He’d had some divorces that ripped up his net worth, and he had a big ranch in Napa that he couldn’t afford any longer and had to put up for sale, and a house in Tiburon that he couldn’t afford anymore.  This is all what’s in the Fox News story.

He had it all, but he had nothing.  He made everybody else laugh but was miserable inside.  I mean, it fits a certain picture, or a certain image that the left has.

Pursuing this tendentious theme, Limbaugh went on to mention the “survivor’s guilt” that Williams reportedly suffered over the early deaths of three close show-business friends, Christopher Reeve, John Belushi, and Andy Kaufman. “He could never get over the guilt that they died and he didn’t. Well, that is a constant measurement that is made by political leftists in judging the country,” he harrumphed, concluding with a few incomprehensible sentences about “outcome-based education.” (Even more oddly, Limbaugh promoted a wonderful appreciation of Williams in the Guardian by Russell Brand — an actor with very strong left-wing opinions.)

Still, his point was unmistakable: If you’re concerned about life’s unfairness – as Robin Williams, a dedicated lifelong liberal, certainly was – then you probably suffer from a dark and pessimistic worldview that may very well lead you to kill yourself.

Insofar as Limbaugh pretends to be educating the public, let’s school him by turning around his exploitative blather and putting him in the place of his rhetorical victim. A decade ago, when the radio talker’s addictive dependency on prescription painkillers was first exposed, it would have been easy enough to lampoon his behavior as an expression of his right-wing worldview.

Popping mouthfuls of oxycontin? He thought he could get away with it because of his wealth and status, like so many other millionaire crooks. Violating the narcotics code? He hates government and thinks he can ignore laws that inconvenience him, just like the Bundy Ranch gang. Publicly urging criminal prosecution of drug addicts while indulging the same weakness? He is just another moral hypocrite, like so many of his cronies on the right, from William Bennett to Newt Gingrich to… Rush Limbaugh.

As America watched Limbaugh struggle with his own personal issues, nobody tried to claim that he became a junkie because of his political attitudes. Indeed, most liberal commentators wished him a full recovery, even while noting his frequent failures of empathy. A few even suggested that he seize the opportunity to contemplate his habitual cruelty to others — and try to change.

Sadly, that never happened. If it had, then Limbaugh might have come to understand depression and substance abuse, which evidently killed Robin Williams, as illnesses rather than political or moral failing – exactly like the addiction that harmed Rush’s hearing and could have claimed his life. He might even have experienced an emotion so often mocked as “liberal” and too often absent from conservative moralizing:

Compassion.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, The National Memo, August 15, 2014

August 16, 2014 Posted by | Mental Health, Rush Limbaugh | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Opportunity For Change”: Could The Ferguson Conflict Produce Actual Reform On The Limits Of Policing?

Every once in a while, a dramatic news story can actually produce real reform. More often the momentum peters out once the story disappears from the news (remember how Sandy Hook meant we were going to get real gun control?), but it can happen. And now, after the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missiouri, turned to a chaotic nightmare of police oppression, we may have an opportunity to examine, and hopefully reverse, a troubling policy trend of recent years.

The focus has now largely turned from an old familiar story (cops kill unarmed black kid) to a relatively unfamiliar one, about the militarization of the police. The images of officers dressed up like RoboCop, driving around in armored assault vehicles, positioning snipers to aim rifles at protesters, and firing tear gas and rubber bullets at Americans standing with their hands up saying “Don’t shoot!” has lots of Americans asking how things got this way. This issue offers the rarest of all things, an opportunity for bipartisan cooperation.

One member of Congress, Rep. Hank Johnson, has already said he’ll be introducing a bill to cut back on the 1033 program, under which the Department of Defense unloads surplus (and often brand-new) military equipment to local police departments at little or no cost. So for instance, a town might be able to acquire a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle (MRAP), designed to protect soldiers against roadside bombs and worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, for two or three grand. Radley Balko found towns with as few as 3,900 residents that had acquired an MRAP.

In the past, all that firepower has usually been directed at individuals—the person suspected of selling drugs who’s sitting at his kitchen table when a SWAT team made up of local cops, fancying itself Seal Team Six taking down Osama bin Laden, comes barrelling through the wall. But in Ferguson, a militarized police force was unleashed on an entire community.

On Thursday, Rand Paul wrote an excellent op-ed in Time magazine on both the militarization of law enforcement and the unequal treatment of black Americans by the police. As I’ve suggested elsewhere, this would be a great opportunity for a liberal who, like Paul, has something of a national constituency—let’s say Elizabeth Warren—to join with him and push for a bill, whether it’s the Senate version of what Hank Johnson is proposing or a different way to accomplish a similar set of goals.

So could they actually come together? This is unlike Sandy Hook for one big reason: in that case, there were powerful interests standing in the way of change. It wasn’t just the power of the NRA that stopped any gun reform from happening, it was the fact that almost no elected official in the Republican party wanted it either. That’s not the case here—as much as cops might like these shiny toys that make them feel like warriors, there isn’t a core interest of the GOP at work.

On the other hand, there are limits to what the federal government can do. The militarization of the country’s police forces is something that has been growing for a couple of decades, fueled first by the War on Drugs and then by the insane idea that the police in every hamlet in every corner of the country needed to be able to wage battles against Al Qaeda strike teams. Congress could turn off the spigot that pours this equipment into these communities, but unless the federal government starts repossessing the equipment it already distributed (highly unlikely, to say the least), police departments all over the country will still be awash in military gear.

And that’s the biggest challenge: the problems the Ferguson case highlights are widely distributed, through thousands of police departments and millions of interaction between cops and citizens. The federal government can respond in a limited way to what we’ve all seen, but its actions will go only so far.

But I can’t imagine there’s a police chief anywhere in America who hasn’t looked at this situation and concluded that the Ferguson police completely bollixed it up. They also can’t help but notice what happened when the Ferguson police were told to stand down in favor of the Missouri state troopers, who didn’t bother with the riot gear or armored personnel carriers, but just went out and listened to people, and the result was so different. So maybe some of those police chiefs will examine their own policies, when it comes to both using that equipment and dealing with crowds of protesters. Ferguson surely won’t change everything. But it might be a start.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, August 15, 2014

August 16, 2014 Posted by | Ferguson Missouri, Law Enforcement, Michael Brown | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Good Deal For Him”: Rick Perry Is Basically Charging Texas Taxpayers $4 Million A Week For His Presidential Ambitions

On Thursday, the first Texas National Guard troops arrived at the U.S. border as part of Operation Strong Safety, Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) unilateral border-security mission. And before rallying the border-bound troops at Camp Swift outside Austin on Wednesday, Perry had spent part of the week in Iowa, making not-so-subtle intimations that he will be coming back a lot before the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses in 2016.

It’s hard not to see those events as intimately connected. And sure, sending the National Guard to the border will probably get Perry some extra votes in the Iowa caucuses. But Iowa won’t be footing the bill.

Perry says that he had to send 1,000 National Guard troops to the Rio Grande Valley because the federal government isn’t doing enough to keep out “narco-terrorists” and illegal immigrants. The influx of 63,000 unaccompanied children since October, which has slowed significantly in the past few months, is a “side issue,” Perry said on Wednesday. “You now are the tip of the spear protecting Americans from these cartels” and “their tentacles of crime, of fear,” he told about 90 National Guard members, specifically mentioning the danger drug traffickers posed to Iowa, South Carolina, and a state that doesn’t have an early presidential caucus or primary, North Carolina.

Democrats are openly and directly accusing Perry of sending down the National Guard for no other reason than his presidential ambitions. Perry took umbrage at that suggestion: “The idea that what we’re doing is politics versus protecting the people of Texas, the people of this country is just false on its face.”

But what other explanation is there, really? The border crisis that has grabbed everyone’s attention is a “side issue” that Perry insists he isn’t sending the troops to address. And the 63,000 young, mostly Central American migrants really are a problem for Texas — but a humanitarian problem, not a military one. The U.S. Border Patrol is struggling to house and care for these children, and some number of them will surely end up in Texas schools and social services programs.

The $17 million to $18 million a month that Perry is spending to fund his open-ended border operation looks shakier when you consider what the National Guard will be doing: Watching. The troops will have the authority to detain, but not arrest, immigrants. But mostly they are going to be manning watchtowers and truck-mounted surveillance equipment.

The Associated Press spoke with Rodolfo Espinoza, the police chief of Hidalgo, a Texas town a mile from the border where the first wave of National Guard troops landed. The two police towers that the troops took up watch in Thursday “have cameras that can pan the area and record activity,” the AP‘s Christopher Sherman noted, though Espinoza said it’s more useful to have people in the towers. “It is good to have them,” Espinoza said, adding, “I think the only way you could secure the river is if every 10 yards you had someone standing there. It’s impossible.”

So who was crying for military reinforcements? The border-county sheriffs wanted more money, not National Guard troops. And at a July 29 hearing on the cost of Perry’s operation, the heads of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Texas National Guard — Steve McCraw and Maj. Gen. John Nichols, respectively — said they had not recommended that the governor deploy the National Guard, though, as the Houston Chronicle puts it, they were “appreciative of his idea.”

Now, that’s not to say nobody wants the National Guard at the border. The idea is very popular among Republicans nationwide, especially conservative and Tea Party–aligned Republicans who vote in primary elections. In a mid-July CNN/ORC poll, for example, 76 percent of Republicans said the main focus of U.S. immigration policy should be “stopping the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. and for deporting those already here,” versus 49 percent of independents and 35 percent of Democrats.

In fact, a few days before Perry announced his National Guard deployment, a group of conservative and Tea Party activists met in Austin and publicly criticized him for his inaction, specifically urging the governor to send troops to the border. It’s easy to see how a politician with his eye on 2016 might leap at the opportunity to please this group, even if his “solution” actually does nothing to truly address America’s immigration problem. It’s the optics that matter.

But back home, Texas Republicans are concerned about how Perry is paying for this. The governor redirected $38 million from a DPS allocation for radio equipment to finance the operation; $7 million of that is to pay for the beefed-up DPS presence in the valley and $31 million is for the National Guard deployment.

That money is expected to run out sometime in October, and Perry’s plan to get the federal government to pay for his operation seems a little quixotic, given that Congress is doing almost nothing these days, and will probably do even less in the run-up to the crucial midterm elections in November. That means Texas taxpayers are on the hook.

“The border has got to be secured — we’ve got to stop this,” said state Sen. Jane Nelson (R), the chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee, who doesn’t oppose the deployment. But “month by month, we’re draining state resources that should go to education, should go to highways, should go to water, and we can’t do it forever.”

It should be noted that Texas taxpayers also pay for Perry’s trips to Iowa (and Israel, and the Bahamas), but even at the height of his last run for president, in 2011 and early 2012, the bill for his security detail was only $400,000 a month. (A ruling this week by state Attorney General Greg Abbott — the GOP nominee to replace Perry as governor — means Texans will no longer get a detailed accounting of Perry’s security expenses, despite a 2011 state law mandating their release.)

Look, $18 million a month — or $216 million a year, if extended — is a small slice of the state’s $100 billion annual budget. But if Rick Perry’s low-tax, low-service Texas is so frugal that it can’t find enough money for things like transportation infrastructure and education — things that are important to the state’s continuing economic growth — it’s hard to argue that Operation Strong Safety is much of a good deal for anybody but Rick Perry.

 

By: Peter Weber, Senior Editor, The Week, August 15, 2014

August 16, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, Humanitarian Crisis, Rick Perry | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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