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“Ignorance Never Takes A Break”: Conservatives Launch Pre-Emptive Attacks On Sec. Julian Castro

One year ago, Julian Castro (former Mayor of San Antonio, TX) was sworn in as the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Many people (including this writer) assume that he is the most likely prospect to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016. Apparently a lot of conservatives share that assumption because lately they have launched some interesting attacks on Castro.

First of all, there was Samuel Rosado writing in the National Review that Julian Castro was never a “real” mayor.

Julian Castro is often introduced as the former mayor of San Antonio, Texas. Presumably, journalists and the general public think of this as a major accomplishment and a useful dose of executive experience — it is, after all, a city of 1.4 million people. But San Antonio doesn’t work like most high-profile American cities, such as New York and Chicago, which are largely run by their mayors. It runs under the council-manager form of government, meaning the city council appoints a city manager who actually handles the day-to-day operations of government.

It is true that cities around the country vary in terms of the organizational structure of their government. But working with a city manager (who usually handles administrative tasks) in no way strips a mayor of his/her title – much less most of the associated responsibilities.

I would also point out that Sec. Castro served on the San Antonio City Council for four years and is rightly credited with some significant accomplishments as Mayor.

In 2010 Castro created SA2020, a community-wide visioning effort. It generated a list of goals created by the people of San Antonio based on their collective vision for San Antonio in the year 2020. SA2020 then became a nonprofit organization tasked with turning that vision into a reality.

In 2010 he established Cafe College, which offers college guidance to San Antonio area students. In 2012 he led a voter referendum to expand pre-kindergarten education.

But when it comes to ridiculous critiques, it will likely come as no surprise to anyone that Rep. Steve King tops the charts.

As I have often said, there are times when the only appropriate response to nonsense like that is to point and laugh. Apparently someone at Wikipedia had the same reaction. Mediaite caught the screen grab with King’s name changed to Esteban Arnaldo “Steba” Rey.

So far the criticism of Castro has been pretty laughable. If he gets the nod as the VP nominee, I’m sure it will only escalate.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 19, 2015

August 2, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Julian Castro, Steve King | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Great Humbug Of Donald Trump”: Instead Of Substance, We Will Get More Circus Coverage Leading The News

Thanks to the world-class narcissist now driving the Republican clown car, it ought to be clear to Americans just how badly the donor class has lost control of the presidential primaries, which they once had rigged to dictate who we could vote for.

Millions of Americans seem not to grasp that Donald Trump’s campaign is a mirage, an inchoate blending of the political/showbiz film satires Wag the Dog and Simone, thrown together with all the integrity of P.T. Barnum’s notorious FeeJee Mermaid.

On Wednesday, one of the dimmer figures in the presidential race threw a spotlight on what we should all be seeing clearly: Trump threatens the continued existence of the Republican Party.

That’s because Donald Trump’s campaign is built on hate mongering and discord, while a growing body of surveys, polls, focus groups, and an analysis of demographic trends shows that Americans are embracing the progressive ideals in our Constitution. Whether it’s marriage equality or a path to citizenship for those who entered the country illegally, the tide of history is against not only Trump, but the 15 other Republican candidates who all broadly side with him — just in more subtle language.

And I’m not the one saying that the Republican Party may soon go the way of the Whigs (last seen in 1854).

No, that insight comes from former Texas governor Rick Perry, who’s currently taking a back seat in the clown car.

Fortunately for the donor class, most political reporters only heard Perry say “Trumpism” is a “cancer on conservatism.”

That line alone just doesn’t capture his overall point. Neither did most of the coverage of the rigorously written, nuanced speech that Perry read.

Trump, Perry said, is selling “a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness, and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition” unless Trumpism is “clearly diagnosed, excised, and discarded.”

Perry also made note of Trump’s rare appearances in church, an apparent effort to undercut conservative Christian support. After all, when it comes to religion, The Donald is a devotee of Mammon, but he’s angling for support from primary voters who think GOP stands for God’s Own Party.

The new reality that political reporters obscured is this:

We once had a primary system that required candidates to genuflect before the oligarchs. But now one low-level oligarch is thumbing his nose at the rest of them — and under this new system, the much richer oligarchs, from Sheldon Adelson to the Koch brothers, are as helpless to shape the direction of events as — well, as the mass of voters who don’t have billions to donate.

The Republican nightmare is that Trump doesn’t need donors to stay in the race. The power of all that Koch and Adelson money is discounted, the way Trump sometimes pays creditors just pennies on the dollar.

And so while candidates who never had a chance anyway – Carson, Huckabee, Jindal, Pataki, and Perry among them – will be forced to withdraw for lack of donations, Trump can party on. And Trump told “Morning Joe” Scarborough Friday that if he is denied the nomination, he might run as an independent — unless the Republican establishment starts treating him respectfully.

Political reporters are missing the big story because they get rewarded for covering the horse race, not the issues; for going with the herd, not standing apart. Step apart from the herd and you’ll get picked off, perhaps by an editor or anchor taking a shot at you from the home office, perhaps by the hyenas on the campaign staff.

Telling the news the candidate’s handlers want told, regurgitating manufactured controversies, and highlighting gaffes – those are the stories that make the careers of campaign reporters.

And, besides, it’s easier to focus on who is ahead in the polls than it is to actually learn important policy matters — such as how raising the minimum wage affects job creation, how tax cuts affect various income classes, or the significance of the words “corruption of blood” in the Constitution.

Instead of substance, we will get more circus coverage leading the news. Bowing to that reality, here are two things we know for sure about Trump’s fortune. And it should get some media attention because Trump wants us to judge him by the contents of his wallet, so:

  • Trump is worth at least $1 billion, but no verifiable evidence exists to support his exclamations that his net worth is more than $10 billion.
  • Trump reported that his production company took in just $4 million over the last 18 months for Apprentice and other Trump television properties, far below the $65 million annual fee he put out in 2011, a number so absurdly unrealistic that his broadcaster, NBC, derided it as “grossly inaccurate.”

Other news we still have yet to see make the major news reports: Donald’s long, unsavory connections to businesses run by organized crime and the lawsuits by minority workers at multiple Trump companies complaining about harassment.

But the lack of that coverage is no more surprising than Barnum’s avoiding hard questions about his fake mermaid.

 

By: David Cay Johnston, The National Memo, July 24, 2015

August 2, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Media | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Saving That ‘Worthless’ Medicaid”: The Idea Of ‘Worthless’ Is Correlated To The Idea Of The Life Of Poor Folks Being ‘Worthless’

As noted earlier today, it’s the 50th anniversary of the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid.

I strongly suspect the former will get more attention, because it’s a non-means tested program with an extremely powerful bipartisan constituency (despite constant GOP efforts to screw over future beneficiaries via a phased-in voucherization or some other way to shift costs to old folks). Everybody’s either on it or going to go on it if they live long enough.

Medicaid’s another matter, of course. It’s means-tested with the states having significant control over eligibility and benefits, which means it involves different sets of people (particularly now that half the states have accepted the ACA’s Medicaid expansion while half haven’t) and significantly different benefits and service delivery models in different states. With the exception of a little-understood long-term care component that pays for nursing home care for people who have disposed of most of their assets, Medicaid is a poor folks program–you know, for those people–which because it is state (and to some extent locally) operated means these poor folks are not necessarily dealing with the friendliest policy-makers, administrators or providers, particularly given Medicaid’s relatively low reimbursement rates.

But to the Republicans who have all pretty much agreed upon a policy of “block-granting” Medicaid, which means dumping the Medicaid population on the states with a fixed (and ultimately declining) sum of money and letting them do whatever they want to do with them, the question about Medicaid isn’t whether its structure and financing are giving the poor the kind of health care the rest of us would want, but instead whether it’s worth anything at all. That’s largely the function of prejudice plus a 2013 study in Oregon of people receiving and not receiving Medicaid benefits which provided some startling-sounding data on how little real benefit Medicaid created. It’s hard to read any conservative discussion of Medicaid and not hear the Oregon study “proved” Medicaid’s worthless.

So that’s why with Medicaid’s fate perhaps hanging in the balance after the upcoming election, three excellent policy writers, Harold Pollack, Bill Gardner and Timothy Just, have written an explanation of the Oregon study that rebuts its invidious use.

[P]erhaps the most important limitation of the study stems from an assumption that many readers would be unlikely to notice. [The Oregon researchers] placed a very low value—$25,000—on a year of additional life for Medicaid beneficiaries. The typical threshold used in health services research is much larger, in recent studies far above $100,000 per additional year of (healthy) life. Yet because the median income of the Oregon study participants was about one-fourth of the median income in the United States, the researchers chose to value an additional life-year at about one-fourth of the usual threshold. This assumption powerfully frames everything that follows in this analysis. After all, if you start out by assuming that Medicaid beneficiaries’ lives are worth very little, you will find that it is not worth spending much money to prolong them.

So the idea of Medicaid being “worthless” is closely correlated with the idea of the life of poor folks being relatively “worthless” (there are defensible reasons for this valuation in the study itself, but not for the way it’s being used by anti-Medicaid ax-grinders) as well. If you don’t share that premise, you shouldn’t share the related conclusion, either.

In any event, progressives should gird up their loins for a fight to save Medicaid in the near future. I’ve thought of myself as a warrior for the continuation of Medicaid ever since I was drawn into the 1981 Reagan Budget fight, wherein the administration suffered a rare defeat in its efforts to “cap” federal Medicaid spending, thus gradually making it a state-financed program. The fight just ahead could be even tougher.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 30, 2015

August 2, 2015 Posted by | Medicaid, Medicaid Expansion, Medicare | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Community Organizing Virtuoso”: President Obama Is Well-Versed In The “Dance” Between Activists And Politicians

Years ago I was a program manager at a nonprofit organization and decided to apply to be the executive director of the same agency. The board of directors asked staff to review resumes and interview finalists for the job (including me).

The staff I supervised at the time objected to the fact that I included on my resume the accomplishments of the program I managed. Their response was that they had been the ones that did the work and I was taking credit for their efforts.

In a way, they had a point. But they also didn’t understand leadership. As coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi never scored a touchdown and never kicked a field goal. And yet he is credited with the success of that football team throughout most of the 1960’s.

In the end, I decided to take the staff objections as a compliment. That’s because I value the kind of leadership that facilitates the feeling of ownership by employees for their accomplishments. It’s the kind that Marshall Ganz described this way:

Another important distinction is that between leadership and domination. Effective leaders facilitate the interdependence or collaboration that can create more “power to” — based on the interests of all parties. Domination is the exercise of “power over” –a relationship that meets interests of the “power wielder” at the expense of everyone else.

Over the course of Obama’s presidency, we’ve often heard that he doesn’t do enough to tout his own record and when someone else does, activists jump in and take credit for pushing him to do something. Most recently that happened with his executive orders on immigration. Activists who had interrupted his speeches and called him the “Deporter-in-Cheif” took credit. The same thing happened when DADT was finally overturned a few years ago.

While Obama’s supporters often complain about that, I’m not sure the President would mind. As a former community organizer, he is well-versed in the “dance” between activists and politicians. And I believe that his goal as President has always been to lead in the same way he did back in those early days in Chicago. Here’s how James Kloppenberg described him in Reading Obama.

How did Obama, lacking any experience as an organizer, learn the ropes so fast? In Galuzzo’s words, “nobody teaches a jazz musician jazz. This man is gifted.”

Kruglik explains Obama’s genius by describing two approaches community organizers often use. Trying to mobilize a group of fifty people, a novice will elicit responses from a handful, then immediately transform their stray comments into his or her own statement of priorities and strategies. The group responds, not surprisingly, by rejecting the organizer’s recommendations. By contrast, a master takes the time to listen to many comments, rephrases questions, and waits until the individuals in the group begin to see for themselves what they have in common. A skilled organizer then patiently allows the animating principles and the plan of action to emerge from the group itself. That strategy obviously takes more time. It also takes more intelligence, both analytical and emotional. Groups can tell when they are being manipulated, and they know when they are being heard. According to Kruglik, Obama showed an exceptional willingness to listen to what people were saying. He did not rush from their concerns to his. He did not shift the focus from one issue to another until they were ready. He did not close off discussions about strategy, which were left open for reconsideration pending results. Obama managed to coax from groups a sense of what they shared, an awareness that proved sturdy because it was their doing, not his. From those shared concerns he was able to inspire a commitment to action. In the time it takes most trainees to learn the basics, Obama showed a virtuosos’s ability to improvise. As Galuzzo put it, he was gifted.

And here is how Barack Obama described it himself back in 1988.

In return, organizing teaches as nothing else does the beauty and strength of everyday people. Through the songs of the church and the talk on the stoops, through the hundreds of individual stories of coming up from the South and finding any job that would pay, of raising families on threadbare budgets, of losing some children to drugs and watching others earn degrees and land jobs their parents could never aspire to — it is through these stories and songs of dashed hopes and powers of endurance, of ugliness and strife, subtlety and laughter, that organizers can shape a sense of community not only for others, but for themselves.

(If you’ve ever wondered whether Obama had/has potential as a gifted writer…there’s your answer!)

There is both a quantitative and qualitative difference between organizing fifty people on the South Side of Chicago and leading the entire country. That is why Michelle Obama described her husband’s foray into politics like this:

Barack is not a politician first and foremost. He’s a community activist exploring the viability of politics to make change.

And so I suspect that when citizens take credit for the changes they’ve worked to make happen, the community activist in him counts that as a success. Pundits who are attuned to the polarization in our politics have a point about whether or not that is a reasonable approach to take these days. But when our founders talked about “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” it’s exactly what they had in mind.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 1, 2015

August 2, 2015 Posted by | Community Organizers, Politicians, President Obama | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Unbearable Nuttiness Of Mike Huckabee”: A Hard-Shell Baptist Ordained Minister Dog-In-The-Manger-At-Bethlehem Christian

“Playing the Hitler card” is an infallible sign that a politician has run out of intelligent, substantive and plausible ways to criticize an opponent. This would be amusing (Mel Brooks made Hitler amusing), except “playing the Hitler card” is also an infallible sign that a politician has run out of amusing ways to criticize an opponent.

So goodbye to you, Mike Huckabee.

Claiming that the President of the United States “will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven” is not a cogent critique of the Iran nuclear deal, however bad the deal is. Nor is it an insightful thing to say about the administration that made the bad deal.

And, Mike, it is not a Christian thing to say about Barack Obama.

I’m a Christian too. Maybe I’m not a hard-shell Baptist ordained minister dog-in-the-manger-at-Bethlehem Christian like you are. But I think you could use a refresher course in Christianity.

“Whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council,” said our Lord. “Raca” and “council” are Aramaic for “playing the Hitler card” and “New Hampshire primary.”

And it’s not just your “march them to the oven” comment that makes me think you need a come-to-Jesus moment.

I believe the Bible is the word of God. And you believe in creationism. “God created man in his own image,” says Genesis.

Mike, look in the mirror. This is obviously God’s way of telling you to lay off the biblical literalism.

You’re a smart man. You graduated magna cum laude from Ouachia Baptist University. which has a “Department of Worship Arts.” So, Mike, you know about God. Do you think God is smarter than we are?

I’m a god to my dog. When I say to my dog, “It shall be an abomination unto you to run into the street chasing a squirrel,” what does my dog hear? “Squirrel!

Maybe you should consult I Samuel, verses 1 through 4. “…the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David… Then Jonathan and David made a covenant… And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him…” And here you are trying to get in between them.

Mike, you’re against gay marriage and gay adoption. Once people get married and have kids they don’t have the energy for any kind of sex. And then, pollsters tell us, they become Republicans.

Having you trying to convince people to vote for the GOP is like having Mahatma Gandhi on U. S. Marine Corps recruiting posters.

You call for “civil disobedience” to halt gay marriage. And you compare this to the actions of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Mahatma and MLK would walk down the street in assless chaps at the Gay Pride parade before they’d join you in a sit-in.

And you don’t like immigrants coming to America and making money. When people come to America and make money, what do they become? Again, Republicans.

You want 10 million illegal immigrants to return to their countries of origin within 120 days. Otherwise they’ll be banned from coming to America, where they already are.

Lights on in your head, Mike.

You say displaying the Confederate battle flag is “not an issue” for a presidential candidate. Not an issue, if you don’t want any black person to ever vote Republican in this dimension of the universe. You’ll have Clarence Thomas putting up Bernie Sanders yard signs if you don’t stop talking smack.

Mike, my Republican friends would rather hoist the Jolly Roger than fly the rebel flag like a bunch of cement-head biker trash with Nazi face tattoos.

To what political party do you think Abraham Lincoln belonged? We won the Civil War.

And my Republican friends aren’t worried about LGBT rights or undocumented aliens. Who do you think decorates Republicans’ houses? The guys from the Moose Lodge? And who mows Republicans’ lawns? Lincoln Chafee?

You’re nuts, Mike. You were on John McCain’s short list for running mates and he picked Sarah Palin for her comparative sanity.

Furthermore, Mike, as a hard-shell Baptist, you are accused of tea-totaling until proven innocent. I don’t want any damn sweet tea in my stemware when you invite me to a State Dinner at the White House. And you may have to. I’m the only inside-the-beltway type who’d come.

Because you wrote a book called, God, Guns, Grits and Gravy. It’s a great title and—between saying Grace, the Glock I’m cleaning, and the bacon, sausage and scrapple—that’s pretty much what was on my breakfast table this morning.

“Marriage as an institution is not so much threatened by same-sex couples as it is by heterosexuals’ increasing indifference to it.” That’s you in your book. Maybe you should re-read GGG&G as well as the Bible.

Mike, you think God is involved in politics. Observe politics in America. Observe politics around the world. Observe politics down through history. Does it look like God is involved? No. That would be the “Other Fellow” who’s the political activist.

I suppose your candidacy won’t disappear immediately—not until the Holy Rolly Pollys, amen snorters, snake handlers and flat-earthers have met at their Iowa caucus tent revivals and born witness to your divinely inspired campaign.

Then, however, as is foretold in Revelation, you will look around at the field of other candidates and realize that “without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters” and go back to Fox News and AM talk radio.

But even there you aren’t the “In-the-beginning-there-was-the-Word” that you once were. Mike, national opinion is flowing so fast against your brand of conservatism that you look—even to God-fearing Republicans—like a man trying to row up Class 5 rapids on a standing paddleboard.

Yes, you have your base. There are the no-account redneck gospel-grinding, pulpit-hugging evangel-hicks who think that the answer to every question including “What to wear to the prom?” is found in Leviticus, Chapters 17 to 26, in English like God spoke to Moses.

But, as I said, it’s the “Other Fellow” who’s involved in politics. And he’s helping you reap what you’ve sown, which is, in the case of your ridiculing Obama, a bunch of dried up old “corn” stalks.

For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven: and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble.

— Malachi 4:1

 

By: P. J. O’Rourke, The Daily Beast, August 1, 2015

August 2, 2015 Posted by | Christianity, Christians, Mike Huckabee | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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