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“Folksy Panderin’ In Bubba-Ville”: Huckabee 2016; Bend Over And Take It Like A Prisoner!

Great American leaders have long contributed profound thoughts of tremendous consequence to the public discourse.

Roosevelt: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Kennedy: “Mankind must put an end to war — or war will put an end to mankind.”

Reagan: “Trust, but verify.”

And now, similarly, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee: “Bend over and take it like a prisoner!”

Earlier this week, Huckabee ended his Fox News talk show so he could spend time mulling another bid for the Republican nomination. If the contents of Huckabee’s latest book – due out January 20th – are any indication, the overarching message of that campaign will be that the government is, um, having its way with the American public in a method that Huckabee, a Christian conservative, finds rather repulsive.

“Bend Over and Take it Like a Prisoner!” is the title of the 10th chapter of Huckabee’s 12th book, God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy – which, as a whole, is an achievement in the genre of poorly written pandering.

The chapter, ostensibly about the TSA and IRS, is a soaring crescendo of latent homosexuality homoeroticism cloaked in almost libertarian – but not libertine! – conservatism.

It opens with Huckabee’s dramatic recollection of going through security at the airport. “Where else would I be ordered to stand still, put up my hands, and have my personal belongings taken and searched without a warrant or probable cause?” He asks. “After years of this indignity, much of the flying public thinks little of it, and they usually don’t complain. They just dutifully stand there, bend over, and take it like a prisoner.”

Clickbait title notwithstanding, Bend Over and Take It Like a Prisoner! is not devoid of substance. Although Huckabee’s condescending tone – like that of an elementary school history teacher – makes it difficult to take seriously.

He takes aim at the Department of Homeland Security and the USA Patriot Act: “…did anyone anticipate that not many terrorists would really get punished as a result of this act, but that American citizens would?”

He then quotes Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

“What would Ben say today?” Huckabee wonders. “Would he cheerfully go through a full-body scanner that electronically strip-searched him and then allow a federal agent to put his blue-gloved hands inside his pants and over his thighs, crotch, and upper body for the sake of domestic travel on a privately owned commercial carrier? I’ll bet you a Benjamin that he most certainly would not. (Come to think of it, though, kite flying Ben would definitely be in awe of this and every other use of…electricity! Also airplane flight, but I digress.)”

Huckabee then basically reprints – in full –  a few Politico Magazine articles by former TSA agent Jason Edward Harrington, because he has space to fill (later in the book, he writes out the lyrics to Simple Life by Lynyrd Skynyrd,).

He then provides some insight into his psyche – complete with Animal House reference.

While excoriating the IRS, Huckabee brings his readers along on a flashback to his youth.

“They remind me of a sadistic coach at my high school who used to enjoy ‘giving licks’ to teen boys for any infraction of his rules. Just so you know, ‘giving licks’ was the term used to describe the coach hitting the butt of a student with a short-handled boat paddle, riddled with holes to minimize wind resistance and enhance striking power…The coach had a rule that if you got a ‘lick’ you were required to say, ‘Thanks, coach, may I have another one?’ And most often he would say, ‘Sure,’ and pop you again. One might get three or four before the coach finally said, ‘No, I think you’ve had enough,’ and stop his twisted abuse of a helpless adolescent. Whenever I think of the IRS, I see that coach standing with his paddle, expecting em to say, ‘Thanks, IRS, may I have another one?’”

In closing, Huckabee condemns the current US government for being a “ham-fisted, hypercontrolling ‘Sugar Daddy,’ ” that has conditioned Americans “to just bend over and take it like a prisoner.” But, Huckabee writes, “In Bubba-ville, the days of bending are just about over. People are ready to start standing up for freedom and refusing to take it anymore.”

Now, the book does include a disclaimer on the back cover.

It is “not a recipe book for Southern cuisine, nor a collection of religious devotionals, nor a manual on how to properly load a semiautomatic shotgun.” Instead, “It’s a book about what’s commonly referred to as ‘flyover country.”

Clad in a blue, striped button-down, a silver watch adorning his left wrist, Huckabee beams on the cover. He stands, one assumes on a porch, which overlooks a prairie. “After you finish the book,” he writes, “you might just say, ‘Dang, those good ol’ boys ain’t so dumb after all.

 

By: Olivia Nuzzi, The Daily Beast, January 8, 2015

January 10, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Homophobia, Mike Huckabee | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Enough”: The NYPD’s Dangerous, Disgraceful Game

Over two weeks of foot-stomping is enough, don’t you think?

On second thought, maybe that was already far too much.

Of course, I’m talking about the overwrought indignation roiling the New York Police Department since the horrific murder of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu by a deranged psychopath on Dec. 20.

But first, a concession.

It’s been a tough several months for the police. Their work is often dangerous — sometimes intensely so, requiring heroic acts of valor that go far beyond what the rest of us will ever be called to do in our jobs. They deserve our respect and gratitude for risking their lives and well-being to ensure public safety. Police officers usually receive a decent wage and pension, but they aren’t rich. A significant part of their compensation comes from the honor, deference, and respect they are shown by elected officials and the public at large. It feels good to wear a uniform and carry a weapon, especially when unarmed civilians respond with admiration to both.

That’s the main reason why things have been so tense in the months since the unarmed Michael Brown was gunned down by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. For the first time in decades, the police have come in for widespread, sometimes harsh public criticism. That criticism got harsher after the non-indictment of Wilson — and it got exponentially worse after a grand jury in Staten Island failed to indict the cop who strangled the unarmed Eric Garner to death in a separate incident.

After weeks of loud and angry protests, with large numbers of law-abiding citizens (including some politicians, and myself) raising tough questions about whether cops are shown too much deference in our culture and legal system, tension were running high. Which is why the cold-blooded murder of officers Ramos and Liu was especially shocking. When news of the shooting first broke, it was perfectly understandable for cops to wonder in their grief and fear if it had now become open season on the police.

What is not understandable — or justifiable — is for officers days later to show outright and repeated disrespect to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio by turning their backs on him at public events. Or for them to engage in a dramatic two-weeks-and-running work slowdown that has led to a 50 percent drop in arrests, and a 90 percent decline in parking and traffic tickets, from the same period a year ago.

Such actions are unjustifiable for several reasons.

First, because Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who gunned down Ramos and Liu after shooting his girlfriend and before killing himself, was a lunatic. His crime was not an act of politics; it was an act of madness, however he may have rationalized it to himself in the midst of his homicidal-suicidal rage. In case there is any doubt of this, we have the additional fact that no one in the protest movement views Brinsley as a hero advancing its aims. Far from it. The expressions of anguish, outrage, and disgust at the shooting have been nearly universal and entirely sincere.

That much is obvious to anyone who’s paying attention.

Which means that the cops who are acting out in counter-protest are either behaving like children throwing an irrational temper tantrum or cynically using a tragedy to forestall public criticism and browbeat protesters into silence.

Either way, their actions are disgraceful.

They’re also dangerous.

Liberal democratic government depends on several norms and institutions, including rights to free speech, worship, and assembly, free and fair elections, private property rights, an independent judiciary — and civilian control of the military. Make no mistake about it: the NYPD — with roughly 35,000 uniformed officers, as well as a well-funded and well-armed counterterrorism bureau — is a modestly sized military force deployed on the streets of the city.

It is absolutely essential, in New York City but also in communities around the country, that citizens and public officials make it at all times unambiguously clear that the police work for us. In repeatedly turning their backs on the man elected mayor by the citizens of New York, in refusing to abide by the police commissioner’s requests to cease their protests, in engaging in a work slowdown that could lead to a breakdown in the public order they are sworn to uphold — with all of these acts, the NYPD has demonstrated that it does not understand that the residents of New York City, and not the members of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association or its demagogic leader Patrick Lynch, are the ones in charge.

When police officers engage in acts of insubordination against civilian leadership, they should expect to be punished. Just like insubordinate soldiers.

The principle of civilian control of the military and police depends on it.

It also depends on cops who kill unarmed citizens being tried in a court of law. And on cops respecting the right of citizens to protest anything they wish, including the failure of the judicial system to hold police officers accountable for their use of deadly force in ambiguous situations.

All of this should be a no-brainer. That it apparently isn’t for many police officers and their apologists in the media is a troubling sign of decay in our civic institutions.

The mourning is over. Respect has been paid to the victims of a senseless act of violence. Now it’s time for the NYPD to go back to acting responsibly — and for the rest of us to continue expressing our justified outrage at the recklessness of bad cops and the prosecutors and jurors who enable them.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, January 7, 2015

January 10, 2015 Posted by | Bill de Blasio, NYPD, Public Safety | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“A Collective Media Shrug”: Just Because No One Died in the NAACP Bombing Doesn’t Mean The Media Should Ignore It

The NAACP chapter in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is located on South El Paso Street in a one-story building with faded redwood siding, where it shares space with Mr. G’s Hair Design Studio. The surrounding streets are lined with modest, largely single-story homes. The men and women who work herenot just in the NAACP building, but also in the neighborhoodhave been very busy lately, organizing local vigils and sending out e-mail blasts in response to the events in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York.

Late Tuesday morning, an improvised bomb exploded outside the building. No one was hurt or injured, though three people were working inside in Mr. G’s salon and two staffers were in the NAACP office. The explosion scarred the outside of the building, and knocked a few things off some shelves inside. The FBI has indicated that the bombing could well be motivated by hate, but that other motives are possible, too. Amy Saunders, a spokesperson for the Denver office of the FBI, told The Los Angeles Times that it wasn’t yet clear “if the motive was a hate crime, domestic terrorism, a personal act of violence against a specific individual,” or something else entirely.

The FBI is looking for a balding white man in his 40s who may be driving an old, dirty pickup truck. News organizations initially refused to identify the man’s race as “white,” though, despite having that fact in handa refusal that extends one of the principle benefits of white privilege to someone suspected of domestic terrorism.  The New York Times, cribbing an Associated Press story but eliding the question of race, indicated that authorities were searching for “a man.” At least they covered the story, though. Many news outlets simply ignored it all together. And then, in what has become a ritual, outlets were called out on Twitter and Facebook for ignoring the bombing. “PLEASE,” actress Rashida Jones tweeted, “everybody, mainly national news outlets, CARE MORE ABOUT THIS.” If not for this grassroots #NAACPBombing campaign, we might not even be talking about this today.

It is too easy to explain the national media’s silence. The collective shrug in the first 24 hours after the event was, perhaps, evidence of a sort of racial fatigue, a consequence of the country’s collective desensitization to anti-black violence, to the drumbeat of stories about men and women and children who’ve been shot or tasered or thrown in jail. But it was also a reflection of the scarcity of details, and concern about covering a fast-moving story from a distance. The news moves so quickly, and a failed bombingfailed, that is, because no life was taken, no property destroyedmay have seemed hardly worth reporting. And then, even as the events in Colorado Springs slowly caught the attention of some, word came of the massacre at Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

The eclipse of the story only added to the frustration. On Twitter and in Colorado Springs, what began as a heartfelt plea for media attention quickly became a complaint about the algebra of media coverage, which makes room for only one big developing news story. This bitterness is understandable. It is a terrible thing to be caught up in a traumatic event of local significancescrambling to learn more, earnestly believing that your story is a part of a long national nightmare linked not just to Ferguson but to violence against of NAACP offices a century agoonly to have an even more traumatic event, one that’s part of another nation’s growing nightmare, draw all the news attention. You might, in this set of circumstances, begin to suspect that your trauma will never even be seen, that it doesn’t even deserve to be forgotten. “Dear so-called journalists,” another tweet reads, “even if you don’t cover #NAACPBombing, it still happened.”

#NAACPBombing skeptics have wondered why so many have jumped to conclude, without supportive facts on the ground, that race was a factor in the bombing, asking instead whether there might not be a more pedestrian explanation. Indeed, it is unclear right now whether this bombing was an act of domestic terror or even a hate crime, but the assumption of domestic terrorism is a reminder that instead of becoming a post-racial nation with President Obama’s election in 2008, as many hastily proclaimed, organized white supremacist and anti-government groups are been on the rise (as are gun sales).

The enumeration of hate groups is perhaps less significant, though, than the depth of individual feeling, the darker passions that enable one to sit in a garage or a basement, stuffing a small pipe with loose metal fragments and gunpowder. Crafting a homemade IED and detonating it outside an NAACP office isn’t an act of whimsy. It emerges from the worst fever swamps of racism. Those can’t be so easily measured, because they are usually kept secret or private. It’s one thing to launch a white supremacist website, sell David Duke t-shirts, distribute leaflets, spray-paint swastikas, and build a firing range. These acts don’t tell you whether someone is willing to try to kill. The true temperature of hate is best measured through an accounting of things like bombs.

 

By: Matthew Pratt Guterl, The New Republic, January 9, 2015

January 10, 2015 Posted by | Hate Crimes, NAACP Bombing, Racism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“This Is Progress?”: The Unbearable Whiteness Of Congress

Cue the confetti: The new Congress sworn in on Tuesday is the most diverse in our nation’s history!

That would truly be a milestone to celebrate—until you see what that record “diversity” actually means. Ready? The breakdown of the 114th Congress is 80 percent white, 80 percent male, and 92 percent Christian.

That’s really diverse if, say, you are comparing our new Congress to the white supremacist group House Majority Whip Steve Scalise once addressed. It’s like Congress is stuck in a time warp: While our calendars read 2015, theirs reads more like 1955.

Look, I don’t care if you are a liberal or a conservative. It’s impossible to make the claim that our Congress accurately reflects the demographics of our nation. And it’s not missing by a little but a lot. If Congress accurately reflected our nation on the basis of race, about 63 percent would be white, not 80 percent. Blacks would hold about 13 percent of the seats and Latinos 17 percent.

But what do we really see? The new Senate has only two black senators. That statistic is even more striking given that earlier this week the first black person ever elected to the Senate, Edward Brooke, was laid to rest. Brooke won his seat in 1966 and served two terms. How far has Congress really evolved on race when in 50 years it has gone from one black senator to two? (Even the arguably more democratic House is only at 10 percent black members.)

Latinos, the fastest growing minority group in America, are even more underrepresented in Congress. They hold 3 percent of the Senate and a little over 7 percent of the House.

And let’s look at religion. Congress is now 92 percent Christian, resembling more to a papal enclave than our religiously diverse nation. The latest Pew Poll found that nearly 20 percent of Americans identify as atheist, agnostic, or not being affiliated with any religion. Yet there’s only one member of Congress, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who openly acknowledges she’s not a member of any religious group.

OK, let’s put race, ethnicity, and religion aside and address the most glaring underrepresentation in Congress of any group: women. This Congress will welcome more women than ever before at 19 percent of the House and 20 percent of the Senate. So what percentage of America is female? It’s 51 percent.

Even internally in the House, women are not getting their fair shake. While 19 percent of the House is female, just one woman will get to chair one of its 20 committees.

There are various reasons—some rather complex, some rather base—why our Congress doesn’t come close to reflecting the demographics of our nation. One that affects all the groups is that Congress moves slowly, and I don’t mean just on passing legislation. Historically the reelection rate for members of Congress is in the area of 95 percent. The benefits of incumbency are quite potent, especially in the all-important area of raising campaign funds. This is likely the single biggest reason why you don’t see Congress evolve demographically more quickly. (Term limits could be a prescription to speed change along.)

Minority communities also have had to deal with the issue of “racial gerrymandering,” where congressional districts are designed either to dilute the strength of a minority community, known as “cracking,” or over-concentrate them, known as “packing.” While “packing” will lead to the guarantee of a few seats in Congress, it also can reduce the opportunities for minority candidates, says Arturo Vargas, executive director of the Latino group NALEO. Finding the “sweet spot” between packing and cracking, he says, is central to creating more districts that provide minorities the opportunity to be elected to Congress.

And then comes the issue of women in Congress. The United States now ranks 98th in the world for the percentage of women serving in its national legislature, behind Indonesia and Kenya.

Why are so few women serving in our Congress? Studies have offered us a few reasons, some contradictory. One found that women have less interest in seeking elected office, with 48 percent of the men surveyed having considered a career in politics but only 35 percent of women. Partly this was due to women receiving less encouragement to go into politics and having lower self-confidence about running for Congress.

But in the case of black women, another study found no lack of interest. Rather, black women are not recruited to run because party bigwigs view them as being less electable and less likely to raise the campaign dollars needed to mount an effective campaign than white women or men.

With all that said, representation of each of these respective communities has increased in the new Congress. But as Vargas noted, “Progress never comes fast enough.”

So what would happen if our Congress accurately, or at least more closely, reflected our nation’s demographics? Would our Congress be less dysfunctional? That feels like the old Catskills joke that ends with the punch line “It can’t get any worse!”

But people in the underrepresented groups might see Congress as truly being representative of who they are and their views, as opposed to seeing it as an institution still dominated by the old guard. That could (possibly) lead to a Congress that’s more responsive. And that’s good for all of us, regardless of our race, religion, ethnicity, or gender.

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, January 9, 2015

January 10, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Diversity, Women in Congress | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Punishment Fit For A Politician”: The Requests For Mercy Seemed To Presume He’d Get Special Treatment Because Of Who He Is

The most touching moment of bipartisanship on the opening day of Congress came not on Capitol Hill, but 100 miles away in Richmond, Virginia, at former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s sentencing hearing on his multiple-count public corruption conviction.

“He’s been punished, been punished indelibly,” former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder told the judge. McDonnell was on track to be a top-tier Republican presidential contender, he went on, and now the dream is gone. Wilder, 83, would know that sting better than most, since he himself ran a very short campaign for the Democratic nomination in 1991.

An appeal centering on McDonnell’s dashed White House hopes was audacious but hardly the only plea for mercy that smacked of entitlement. There was a McDonnell daughter who said her dad should avoid prison because she was about to have his first grandchild. His sister, who said his children (who are adults) need him because he is the “go-to parent” in the (two-parent) family. His political associates, who said he’s a really great person who restored felons’ voting rights and helped foster children.

And then there was this one: If McDonnell went to jail, “it would be like burying something of enormous value.” That came from William Horan, executive director of Operation Blessing International, urging a community service sentence that McDonnell could fulfill by working for his organization.

Forgive me for rolling my eyes. The United States is “the world’s largest jailer,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union, with diverse sources pegging the U.S. prison population at more than 2.2 million. We can safely assume that tens of thousands of people of “enormous value” are “buried” behind bars. Maybe hundreds of thousands. Heck, maybe everyone, depending on how you define “enormous value.” Lots of them are no doubt nice, much needed by their families and will never run for president. And yet, there they are, in jail.

It’s not that I’m inured to the human tragedy here. This was a terrible fall. While our views are very different, I respected McDonnell’s political skills, recognized his potential and admired the pragmatism he showed in signing a badly needed law to rejuvenate the transportation system in his state. Still, the requests for mercy on his behalf seemed to presume he’d get special treatment because of who he is.

Especially amid a difficult national conversation over race, policing, crime and sentencing, this does not sit well. What’s more, in a way McDonnell did receive special treatment. The two-year term he faces was far less than the 10 years prosecutors had sought based on sentencing guidelines, and it came after U.S. District Judge James Spencer said it broke his heart to send McDonnell to jail but “I have a duty I can’t avoid.” McDonnell himself said he was humiliated and humbled, but he also insisted: “I have never, ever betrayed my sacred oath of office in any way.”

McDonnell has come off as just that oblivious throughout this debacle, in which he and his wife Maureen were convicted of taking more than $177,000 in gifts and loans from businessman Jonnie Williams, as they helped Williams promote an unproven dietary supplement called Anatabloc. The roster included vacations, clothing, jewelry, golf outings, $15,000 to cater a daughter’s wedding, a $50,000 loan to Maureen, and a $70,000 loan to McDonnell and his sister. All this from a man who wanted something from them. But the governor apparently didn’t see anything wrong with that.

With his polished manner and swing-state credentials, McDonnell was a much mentioned vice-presidential prospect in 2012 until his name suddenly vanished from the conversation. How much do you want to bet that happened the moment Maureen urged Ann Romney to try Anatabloc for her multiple sclerosis? I’d put money on it. It was nevertheless disconcerting — or “dangerously delusional,” in Spencer’s words — that McDonnell’s legal strategy was to blame everything on his wife. Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak summarized it thusly: “So, Maureen McDonnell wrestled the Rolex on him? Muscled him into Willams’s private jet? Held him at wife-point until he drove the Ferrari and smiled for the camera?”

It goes without saying that life is unfair. The current Virginia governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, will never need a Jonnie Williams because his own business ventures made him a wealthy man. Yet McDonnell had options he did not exercise. If he was so interested in money, he could have made a mint in private legal practice at any time. Instead he chose to be a JAG officer, a state legislator, attorney general and then governor — jobs he knew would not make him rich. He also had the choice of not associating with Williams and taking his largesse.

Like most of the 2.2-plus million serving time, McDonnell made some wrong choices. Cynics about our justice system can take some comfort from the fact that his punishment is not limited to the death of his higher ambitions.

 

By: Jill Lawrence, The National Memo, January 9, 2015

January 10, 2015 Posted by | Bob McDonnell, Politicians, Public Corruption | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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