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“Sometimes, It’s Not Entirely About Us”: A Note On Criticism Of Obama For Not Attending Paris March

The march in Paris yesterday expressing solidarity in the wake of the terrorist attack on the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was an inspiring sight, with somewhere between one and two million people, joined by world leaders, proclaiming their defiance of terrorism and their support for freedom of expression. But don’t think for a second that politics was absent, there or here at home. For instance, there was apparently a great deal of behind-the-scenes wrangling between the French, Israeli and Palestinian governments over whether Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas would attend. Back here in the United States, the Obama administration has been roundly condemned for not sending sufficiently high-ranking officials to participate in the march.

Many argued that President Obama should have attended, since other heads of state like Angela Merkel and David Cameron were there. “Our president should have been there,” wrote Sen. Ted Cruz. Others said that if not the President, then at least the Vice President or Secretary of State should have gone (the U.S. was represented at the march by the American ambassador to France). The criticisms have been somewhere between vehement and vicious, and not just from conservatives, but from mainstream reporters and news organizations. CNN ran a headline reading, “Where was Obama?” The New York Daily News cover read: “You let the world down.” Jake Tapper, writing about the absence of American officials, opined: “I say this as an American — not as a journalist, not as a representative of CNN — but as an American: I was ashamed.”

Let’s dispense with this specific question with no more than the attention it deserves: It would have been all but insane for President Obama to participate in a march, in public, in a foreign country, with a couple million people around him. The security requirements necessary to protect him make it impossible. The Secret Service has to do an extraordinary amount of work and planning for him to drop by Ben’s Chili Bowl a mile from the White House; the idea that with a couple of days notice he could walk through the streets of Paris in an enormous throng of people is absurd.

But let’s be honest: practical considerations aside, the world wasn’t waiting to see whether Barack Obama would participate in this particular march. As shocking as this idea may seem from our perspective, sometimes it’s not entirely about us.

And it isn’t as though the whole American political leadership, from the President on down, haven’t spoken out on this subject. Should the administration have sent Vice President Biden to the march? Yes, they should have. That would have been a fine gesture (and I’m guessing he could have fit it into his schedule). But what’s interesting to me is the way that people and organizations that hesitate to express personal opinions on other topics feel free to issue thunderous condemnations of the White House for its less than active participation in what is, after all, a symbolic act.

Maybe my memory’s faulty, but I don’t recall any other journalist committed to the ideal of “objectivity” saying he was “ashamed” about the fact that millions of Americans have no health coverage, or about the 30,000 Americans killed by guns every year, or about our ample contributions to global warming. It’s precisely because those things are about real people’s lives that it would be considered deeply inappropriate for a mainstream journalist to express such an opinion. But you can say you’re ashamed about something entirely symbolic — and in the long run essentially meaningless — like the fact that the American ambassador attended a march when it would have a bigger deal had the Secretary of State or the Vice President been there.

That isn’t to say that symbolism is unimportant. Much of politics is about the creation and dissemination of symbols. But what exactly is the damage that has been done by the fact that a (supposedly) insufficiently high-ranking American official represented our government at this event? Will the peoples of the world no longer believe that America is an advocate for freedom of speech, or that Americans abhor terrorism? I doubt it.

And before anyone gets too self-congratulatory about his or her own courage and ideals in expressing solidarity with those murdered in France, consider another event that occurred last week, when Boko Haram killed as many as 2,000 men, women, and children in the city of Baga, Nigeria. There are mundane reasons why that news got so much less attention than the events in France — perhaps most important, those killings occurred in an isolated place, while Paris was already full of reporters, and more could get there quickly and easily to report on the story. But it’s undeniable that a terrorist attack in Europe — and one targeting journalists — is going to be of infinitely more concern to the media in Europe and America than an attack in Africa.

When someone in France or Germany or the United States says “Je suis Charlie,” in many ways they’re right. The victims of the Paris attacks were people like them, which makes the horror of their murders feel more real and immediate. And of course, there’s a critical democratic value at issue, that of free expression, which allows us to expend plenty of words considering what these events “mean.” Boko Haram’s victims, on the other hand, weren’t advocates for a cause, and their deaths weren’t imbued with symbolism. They were just human beings.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, January 12, 2015

January 13, 2015 Posted by | Charlie Hebdo, Paris Shootings, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mitt ’16 Gets Real, Praise The Lord”: Romney Tosses A Hand Grenade Into Jeb’s Tent

Just as it appeared the political news day was winding down, along came this bombshell from WaPo’s crack political reporters Costa, Rucker and Tumulty:

Mitt Romney is moving quickly to reassemble his national political network, spending the weekend and Monday calling former aides, donors and other supporters — as well as onetime foes such as Newt Gingrich.

Romney’s message was that he is serious about making a 2016 presidential bid. He told one senior Republican he “almost certainly will” run in what would be his third campaign for the White House, this person said.

His aggressive outreach over the past three days indicates that Romney’s declaration of interest to a group of donors in New York Friday was more than the release of a trial balloon but rather was the start of a concerted push by the 2012 nominee to be an active participant in the 2016 campaign.

Over the past few days, Romney has been in touch with an array of key allies to discuss his potential 2016 campaign, according to people with knowledge of the calls. They include Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), his former vice presidential running mate; former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty (R); Hewlett-Packard chief executive Meg Whitman; former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown; former Missouri senator Jim Talent; and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

I suppose you could call this a shot across Jeb Bush’s bow, though it seems a bit more like a hand grenade tossed into his tent. Check this part out:

In the conversations, Romney has said he is intent on running to the right of Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who also is working aggressively to court donors and other party establishment figures for a 2016 bid. Romney has signaled to conservatives that, should he enter the race, he shares their views on immigration and on taxes — and that he will not run from party orthodoxy.

Well, lest we forget, Mitt ran as the Movement Conservative Candidate in 2008, and was Mr. Self-Deportation and Cut-Cap-Balance n 2012. Both those campaigns were a bit more recent than Jeb’s last, in 2002. But here’s a particularly strong signal:

On New Year’s Eve, Romney welcomed Laura Ingraham, the firebrand conservative and nationally syndicated talk-radio host, to his ski home in Deer Valley, Utah. The setting was informal and came about because Ingraham was vacationing in the area. Romney prepared a light lunch for Ingraham and her family as they spent more than one hour discussing politics and policy, according to sources familiar with the meeting.

A strong signal, and a strong stomach.

Well, it will be interesting to see how Mitt handles the alleged appetite of Republicans for “populism” going into 2016; of all his personas, I don’t think he’s ever worn that one. But his candidacy, unless this is a massive head-fake, sure will complicate the already insanely crowded 2016 field. Conservatives may cheer because Mitt ’16 will make the “Establishment” lane as crowded as their own. But as he’s shown before, he’s really good at projecting himself to primary voters as the electable and well-financed version of whatever it is they want.

As a progressive political writer, all I can do is to thank a beneficent God.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 12, 2014

January 13, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Washington, Carver, And… Zimmerman”: We Can’t Let Our Heroes Be Vilified By The Mainstream Liberal Media

As George Zimmerman finds himself in the news again for yet another charge of domestic violence, I am reminded of the thing that baffled me most in this bizarre series of events. It wasn’t just that Zimmerman was acquitted; it was his elevation to hero status amongst many of the citizens of this country. And he didn’t even have to cross the Delaware River to surprise the Hessian forces at Trenton, or even discover 300 uses for peanuts. To become a hero, all Zimmerman had to do was shoot an unarmed black teenager.

That’s all it took for one group of people in this country to back him, the diehard supporters of the Second Amendment. You know; the group that ignores the first line of the Second Amendment and thinks our forefathers were specifically referring to their personal right to own assault rifles. The group that was angry at 20 six-year-old kids for having the nerve to get killed, which might affect the number of rounds their magazines can carry.

After all, the Second Amendment says nothing of being responsible, so apparently you can’t support the amendment without supporting every bizarre case of someone using a firearm to kill someone else, especially if it’s an unarmed black teen, because we all know that person will eventually become an unarmed black man.

Zimmerman has been given the royal treatment ever since, beginning with the police not pressing charges or even opting to do an investigation. It was this no-harm-no-foul attitude that prompted national outrage. Hence a theatrical trial was put on to appease the masses.

Immediately people in this country began sending money to their hero, somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000. After all, we can’t let our heroes be vilified by the mainstream liberal media.

And everyone in this country is entitled to representation, usually in the form of a court-appointed attorney. But not for Zimmerman. He received representation from a million-dollar lawyer, Mark O’Mara, who has stated that he still hasn’t received one penny for his services. But that doesn’t matter; he’s representing a hero who shot an unarmed black teen. Heck, why is that even against the law?

On to the theater as the trial commenced. I wondered how the prosecutors could win this case without it making them look incompetent or of showing favoritism for not pressing charges to begin with. Maybe that explains their effort, or lack thereof, during the play… uh, I mean trial.

For example, Zimmerman’s wife did not even testify to the fact that she had left George the day before and he was very upset about that. But really, what does a person’s state-of-mind have to do with their actions? Heck, he was even referred to as a Neighborhood Watch captain by everyone, including the media, even though he was not actually part of any chapter, and Neighborhood Watch volunteers are not allowed to carry weapons. Hence the word “watch.”

And when the defense presented an “expert” witness to testify that a 29-year-old, five-feet-nine, 220 pound man toting a loaded Kel Tec 9 millimeter pistol was no physical match for a 17-year-old, six-feet-one, 140 pound boy carrying a pack of Skittles, his testimony was not even questioned. And we all know of disclosure, so the prosecution had to know what this person would testify to.

I can find no studies that show that a four-inch height difference gives a person any advantage at all in a physical confrontation. In professional boxing, four inches means nothing. It is strictly the weight that matches opponents. So why was this “expert” testimony not questioned?

After the trial, Zimmerman’s status as a hero continued with his tour of the facility that manufactured the gun that he used. What a proud moment that must have been for the company to not only have someone purchase their product, but use it to kill an unarmed black teen.

Then, in perhaps the most bizarre of all events associated with this craziness, Zimmerman listed a painting on eBay, a painting that looked like a PhotoShop rendering of a clipart image with patriotic words added, and it sold for over $100.000. That means someone out there dished out that kind of dough just to own something from their hero, because the actual value of the painting from an artistic perspective would probably be under a buck.

I guess I’m from the proverbial old school. I remember when heroes were scrutinized just a little more. I remember when that term was reserved for people who did extraordinary things like firemen who rush into burning buildings to save lives, or soldiers who give their all to save a fallen friend or to protect our country, or any number of events where ordinary people put their own safety at risk to help others

But here we have George Zimmerman, and when all the dust is settled, we have a man who has done nothing out of the ordinary other than face several charges of violence and walked away as if made of Teflon. The only other thing George Zimmerman ever did in his life that was of note that makes him different than almost every other citizen of this country, was to shoot an unarmed black teenager.

And that, to millions, makes him a hero.


By: Neal Wooten, The Blog, The Huffington Post, January 13, 2014

January 13, 2015 Posted by | Criminal Justice System, Domestic Violence, George Zimmerman | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Exceptions”: How To Be A Walking ‘Confirmation Bias’ (Role Model: Mia Love)

Representative Mia Love, Republican of Utah, appeared on the January 4 edition of the ABC News program This Week With George Stephanpoulos to defend House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana in the wake of revelations that he once addressed a white supremacist group.

Have you ever been in a debate with your right-wing uncle and when you ask him for proof of his wild claims, he pulls up a Fox News article? Instinctively, you roll your eyes. Of course he sought out Fox News as a source—it’s a haven for people like him. Everything he already thinks about minorities, LGBTQ people, Muslims and single moms is there. Automatically turning to Fox News to search for information that he knows will affirm what he already believes is called a confirmation bias.

On December 29, news broke that Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the new House majority whip, had addressed a white supremacist group in 2002. Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke founded the European-Unity and American Rights Organization, or EURO, in 2000, and Scalise, then a member of the state legislature, rallied the support of EURO members to oppose a proposed new tax. Amid critics’ demands that Scalise be pushed from his leadership role in the House, his fellow Republicans half-heartedly expressed support for him, calling his appearance before the group a “mistake,” while Democrats offered a mixed response. The most vocal support from inside Congress, however, came from Mia Love, who represents a district in Utah.

Love recently made history by being the first black woman elected to Congress as a Republican. Despite her personal history as a child of Haitian immigrants, she holds extremely right-wing views on immigration and now, apparently, white supremacy. Congresswoman Love essentially gave Scalise a pass, saying that he should stay in his new leadership position. “He has been absolutely wonderful to work with. He’s been very helpful for me and he has had the support of his colleagues,” Love said on the January 4 edition of ABC’s This Week.

What Love and other black conservatives like Ben Carson and Allen West may not realize is that their very presence serves as every racist’s confirmation bias. When blacks and other people of sound mind decry Scalise over associating with a racial hate group, right-wingers can point to Love and say, “See? Good black people are totally cool with a top elected official palling around with white supremacists!”

Members of minority groups who seem to be blind to racism—or purposefully ignore it—are either looking for political gain or have internalized society’s bigotry. It is likely that Love and others like her desire the approval of their white peers and have bought into the idea that they’re “not like the others” of their own racial or ethnic group. They’ve bought into the dominant culture’s bias against their own people, and deemed themselves to be righteous exceptions to the trumped-up rule.

Writing off Mia Love and Allen West as out-of-touch right-wingers is easy, but the truth is that these very visible blacks hurt the cause—the ongoing quest for equality. As long as they continue to disregard racism, and side with those who would pander to white supremacists, racists with an agenda will always have a valuable token to confirm their biases.


By: Nathalie Baptiste, The American Prospect, January 7, 2015

January 13, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Racism, Steve Scalise | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s The Facts Stupid”: The GOP Should Stop Lying About Obama’s Economy

Friday’s boffo jobs report—the 58th straight month of jobs growth in an expansion that has now entered its 67th month—was only the latest in a long string of positive economic data.

This recovery, which started in July 2009, has been the most politicized, partisan expansion I can recall. Indeed, for the last six years, monthly data like the employment report –as well as new initiatives and proposals to get the economy rolling—have been greeted by critics with apocalyptic declarations. For the last six years, we’ve seen a continuing response from Republicans: Under the set of policies pursued by President Obama (some of them continuations of policies enacted by President Bush) and of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke (a Bush appointee) and Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen, the U.S. economic ship is like the Titanic—rudderless in dangerous seas, bound for doom, about to sink.

Let’s review some of the greatest hits. In March 2009, at the depths of the recession, when the stimulus bill passed Michael Boskin, economic adviser to the first President Bush, took to the Wall Street Journal editorial page on March 6, 2009, to proclaim ”Obama’s Radicalism is Killing the Dow.” Were his budget and stimulus plans to be adopted, the U.S. would risk becoming a “European-style social welfare state with its concomitant long-run economic stagnation.” That day, the Dow touched, 6,600. Almost immediately, the markets commenced a raging, historical bull run. The Dow closed Friday at 17,737, an increase of 168 percent from March 2009.

In February, 2011, Rep. Paul Ryan, the former vice presidential candidate, took out after Bernanke, arguing that the Fed’s efforts to support an economy still laboring under the fallout of a financial crisis and a deep recession were poison. Specifically, Ryan assured the public that the Fed’s bond-buying  efforts would ignite runaway inflation and tank the dollar. “There is nothing more insidious that a country can do to its citizens than debase its currency.” Whoops. Since then, inflation has been remarkably tame. The consumer price index, the official measure of inflation, actually fell .3 percent in November, and is up a mere 1.3 percent in the previous 12 months—far below the historical norm.  And the dollar? Far from depreciating, it has been going gangbusters. The trade-weighted dollar index, which measures the strength of our currency against those of our major economic partners and competitors, has soared 15 percent since early 2011 and now stands at a nine-year high.

As the Bureau of Labor Statistics started pumping out reports that showed the economy adding jobs starting in early 2010, the response was generally to ignore them, or worse.  In October, 2012, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch famously tweeted, “Unbelievable jobs numbers…these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers.” In fact, we now know that the September 2012 jobs report  was one of a continuing series—59 straight months and counting—in which the economy has added jobs. More than 10 million in all, more than recouping all the positions lost in the deep recession.

In 2011, candidate Mitt Romney claimed that, were he to be elected, the unemployment rate would fall below 6 percent by the end of his first term in 2016. Last month, under Obama, the rate fell to 5.6 percent, the lowest level since June 2008.

Next we were assured, the botched rollout of Obamacare was certain to manage the twin tasks of tanking the economy as a whole and resulting in a massive loss of insurance. In March 2014, House Speaker John Boehner noted “there are less people today with health insurance than there were before this law went into effect.” In fact, as countless studies and the continuing series of Gallup polls have shown, the percentage of people without health insurance has declined dramatically—from 18 percent in the third quarter of 2013, to 12.9 percent in the final quarter of 2014, a decline of nearly 30 percent. Oh, and in the year since Obamacare formally launched, the U.S. economy has posted solid growth while adding 2.95 million jobs—the best such performance since 1999.

Look. The recovery is nowhere near complete—there are still too many people who want and need jobs but can’t find them. And wages remain stagnant. But the larger narrative that has played out in front of our eyes has defied the one predicted by Republican establishment economists and economic thinkers, and vindicated those who argued America was coming back (like me). The stock market is booming, not tanking; interest rates are muted, not out of control; the deficit is shrinking, not expanding; the economy is adding lots of jobs, not shedding them; the dollar is robust, not weak; inflation is nonexistent, not out of control; energy prices have plummeted, not soared; millions of people have gained health insurance, not lost it.

Virtually everything GOP critics have told us would follow from the policies put in place has not come to pass. You would think that this would occasion a few mea culpas, some rethinking, an admission of poor prognostication. But, alas, it continues. Rep. Paul Ryan is now warning in a column that Obamacare “is weighing down our economy and discouraging hiring” and will ultimately “collapse under its own weight.”

I shouldn’t say nothing has changed. Efforts to deny economic gains have been increasingly difficult to carry off the longer the expansion continues. And so we’re now seeing a slight shift in narrative. Rather than argue that the economy and everything associated with it is in the crapper, Republicans are conceding that things might be looking up. But it’s only because the GOP won control of the House and Senate in November. “After so many years of sluggish growth, we’re finally starting to see some economic data that can provide a glimmer of hope,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said last week. “the uptick appears to coincide with the biggest political change of the Obama Administration’s long tenure in Washington: the expectation of a new Republican Congress.”


By: Daniel Gross, The Daily Beast, January 12, 2014


January 13, 2015 Posted by | Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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