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“What Ben Carson Doesn’t Get”: If Obama Wasn’t ‘Black’ Before, He Certainly Is Now

Today’s column is for the benefit of one Dr. Benjamin Solomon Carson.

He shouldn’t need what follows, but obviously does. No other conclusion is possible after his interview with Politico a few days ago.

The subject was Barack Obama and what the Republican presidential contender sees as the inferior quality of the president’s blackness. “He’s an ‘African’ American,” said Carson. “He was, you know, raised white. I mean, like most Americans, I was proud that we broke the color barrier when he was elected, but … he didn’t grow up like I grew up…”

Carson, the son of a struggling single mother who raised him in Detroit, and sometimes relied on food stamps to do so, noted that Obama, by contrast, spent part of his childhood in Indonesia. “So, for him to claim that he identifies with the experience of black Americans, I think, is a bit of a stretch.”

Lord, have mercy.

Let’s not even get into the fact that the man questioning Obama’s racial bona fides once stood before an audience of white conservatives and proclaimed the Affordable Care Act “the worst thing that has happened in this country since slavery.” Let’s deal instead with Carson’s implicit assertion that to be authentically black requires being fatherless and broke, scrabbling for subsistence in the ‘hood.

If a white man said that, we’d call it racist. And guess what? It’s also racist when a black man says it. Not to mention, self-hating and self-limiting. Carson denies the very depth and breadth of African-American life.

By his “logic,” Kobe Bryant, who grew up in Italy, is not black, Shaquille O’Neal, who spent part of his childhood in Germany, is not black, Miles Davis and Natalie Cole, who grew up in affluent households, were not black and Martin Luther King Jr., child of middle-class comfort and an intact family, was not black. According to him, they were all “raised white.”

Here’s what Carson doesn’t get: What we call “race” is not about neighborhood, class or family status. Though the African hostages upon whose backs this country was built shared certain common approaches to music, faith and art, race ultimately isn’t even about culture. Martin Luther King, for instance, was an opera buff; it’s hard to get further from “black” culture than “Lucia di Lammermoor.”

No, race is something Europeans invented as a tool of subjugation. The people who came here from England, France and Spain did not initially see themselves as “white,” after all. They declared themselves white — that is, a superior species of humanity — to justify in their own consciences the evil things they did to the people they took from Africa. Similarly, those Africans knew nothing about “black.” They saw themselves as Fulani, Mende, Mandinkan or Songhay. “Black” was an identity forced upon them with every bite of the lash and rattle of the chains.

In other words, to be black is not to share a common geography, class or family status, but rather, the common experience of being insulted, bullied and oppressed by people who think they are white. Want to know if you’re black? Try to rent a house in Miami. Try to hail a cab in Times Square. Try to win an Oscar in Hollywood. You’ll find out real quick.

And there is something spectacularly absurd in the fact of Barack Obama being criticized as “not black” by a Republican. Think about it: In the unlikely event he somehow managed to live the 47 years before his presidency without being insulted, bullied and oppressed by people who think they are white, Obama has sure made up for it since. Members of Carson’s party have called him “boy,” “uppity” and “ape” and have gone to extraordinary and unprecedented lengths to block him from doing … anything.

So the good doctor can relax. If Obama wasn’t “black” before, he certainly is now.


By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald: The National Memo, February 29, 2016

February 29, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Ben Carson, White Conservatives | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Choosing A Better Path”: Iran’s Moderate Reformists Performing Well in Elections, Validating Success Of Iran Deal

Good news out of Iran today: moderate reformists are performing well in early election results:

Early election results in Iran show reformists who favor expanding democratic freedoms and improving relations with the West are expanding their presence in parliament and a clerical body responsible for selecting the country’s next supreme leader.

Reports in the semi-official Fars and Mehr news agencies showed hard-liners losing ground in the 290-seat legislature. None of Iran’s three main political camps — reformist, conservative and hard-line — was expected to capture a majority, but the reformist camp is on track for its best showing in more than a decade.

It’s not just a victory for reform. It’s also a functional and political victory for the Iran deal. Contrary to the hyperventilating of the Republican message machine, it was not hardliners in Iran who pushed for the deal but rather moderates. Removing sanctions not only brings Iran closer to the West in exchange for nuclear concessions which is a great idea on its own merits, but the success of the deal itself politically empowers moderates over the strict Islamists:

A victory for reformists would be a boost for moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who championed the newly implemented Iranian nuclear deal with world powers in the face of hard-line opposition.

This is also, of course, a victory for the Obama Administration and for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who helped lay the groundwork for the eventual deal. In the fury of the presidential primaries it’s easy to overlook, but Democrats can and should hold the entire Republican Party accountable for its wrongheaded and frankly dangerous statements about the Iran deal. Everyone who supported the deal (and Clinton in particular) should do a victory lap and use the success of the deal as a political cudgel against every Republican candidate. It’s just another example of how liberal foreign policy creates better outcomes that improve the well-being of the world and make America safer as a result.

If anyone cares to make the case, it’s also another example in which American christian conservatives and Middle Eastern Islamist conservatives–despite claiming to be fierce enemies–yet again found themselves on the same side. They’re already quiet allies on issues like guns, gay rights, women’s sexual freedom, “political correctness,” religion in schools and the intervention of federal government in the affairs of local good old boys. In this case, neither side wanted a political rapprochement with the other: both American and Iranian conservatives benefit politically from treating their respective people not as fellow human beings but as agents of Satan, increasing the likelihood of a bloody war that would help strengthen radical conservative power in both countries.

Thankfully, both America and Iran chose a better path, and the success of more liberal forces in both nations is paying dividends.


By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 27, 2016

February 29, 2016 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton, Iran, Iran Nuclear Agreement | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Magic Of The Granite State Has Worn Off”: Clinton Hit All Her Marks In South Carolina; Sanders Hit Almost None Of His

If the ability to break through among minority voters is the key to Bernie Sanders’s winning the Democratic nomination, there was no good news for him from South Carolina tonight. According to exit polls, African-Americans constituted a record 61 percent of voters, and Hillary Clinton won an astonishing 84 percent of them. That’s six points better than Barack Obama did there in 2008. In some demographics, Clinton’s vote was virtually unanimous: She reportedly won African-Americans over 65 by a 96-to-3 margin. Her overall 73.5 percent comfortably exceeds Bernie Sanders’s much-ballyhooed 60 percent in New Hampshire earlier this month. The states rolling up on the calendar, especially on March 1, mostly look more like South Carolina than they do New Hampshire.

Sanders did continue to win white voters (58 to 42) and under-30 voters (63-37), though the latter margin is his lowest yet among the young. He and HRC were even among white women, and Sanders did not seem to have any special appeal to non-college-educated white voters (he won white college graduates by a slightly higher percentage). Clinton handily won every ideological category, including self-described “very liberal” voters, and beat Sanders among “moderates” nearly three to one.

Although this was an open primary (actually, South Carolina has no party registration), only 18 percent of voters were self-identified independents (Sanders won 62 percent of them), and only 15 percent were first-time Democratic primary voters (Sanders won 70 percent of them). In general, Clinton hit all her marks and Sanders hit few of his own. The polls showing a late trend towards Clinton if anything underestimated its speed.

The results leave little hope for Sanders other than slow delegate accumulation in such Super Tuesday states as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. He’ll obviously win Vermont; he has a good chance in Massachusetts, might do well in Colorado and Minnesota, and might exceed expectations in Oklahoma. But the magic from the Granite State has worn off, and with it the idea that, as minority voters became more familiar with Bernie, they’ll trend his way, too. As Nate Cohn of the New York Times pointed out on Twitter, Sanders would need to win Latinos by the same 2-1 margin Clinton enjoyed in 2008 to make up for the margins she’s achieving among black voters. That seems improbable, to put it mildly, and I strongly suspect we’ll find out in Texas next Tuesday that he’s not going to carry the Latino vote at all.

The Bern may return in full force in some heavily white caucuses on March 5 (Kansas and Nebraska), March 6 (Maine), and March 26 (Alaska and Washington), but by then we may all be talking about when, rather than whether, Hillary Clinton wins the nomination.


By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 27, 2016

February 29, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Much Smarter Politician”: Donald Trump Has Already Won The GOP Nomination. Now He’s Pivoting To Center

The entire establishment Right and much of the press are singularly obsessed with one question: how do we stop Donald Trump? The GOP is engaged in a “desperate mission” to stop him; Nate Cohn of the New York Times is speculating on how Rubio might be able to win the nomination without winning any Super Tuesday states; GOP strategist Stuart Stevens is offering messaging advice on how Republican candidates can still beat Trump; conservative media figures from RedState to National Review are still frantically trying to advance Marco Rubio’s cause.

But the reality is that barring some unforeseen collapse, Donald Trump has already locked up the GOP nomination. He is a national frontrunner who has come off three consecutive victories. There is no state polled outside of Texas in which Trump does not currently lead–and there he trails local favorite Ted Cruz, who is otherwise flagging behind Marco Rubio, the establishment lane candidate who trails Trump even in his own home state of Florida. The longer the primary season wears on, the more voters’ minds become made up and the loyalty to their preferred candidates hardens.

Some Republicans are hoping that as the field winnows to one or two candidates, Trump’s ceiling will be overcome by the number of Republicans voting against him. But there is no reason to believe that a two-person race will save the GOP from Trump. The evidence suggests that Trump, Carson and Cruz are trading essentially the same pool of voters–the so-called anti-establishment lane. Kasich and Rubio are vying for the same pool of establishment voters. But the key is that in most states, the anti-establishment lane is winning 55-60% of the vote. The only plausible pathway to an establishment victory would involve Kasich dropping out and ceding the field to Rubio even as Carson and Cruz stay in and chip away at Trump’s anti-establishment vote, allowing Rubio to slip in by the back door in a brokered convention. That scenario seems like a distant long shot, especially as an increasing number of politicians like Chris Christie see the handwriting on the wall and begin endorsing Trump.

Some Republican donors have seen the truth of the situation and are already looking into the possibility of an independent run for President–though no credible conservative candidate is yet forthcoming. Some are resigned. Some are in denial. But Trump has almost certainly already locked up the nomination.

That in turn explains some of Trump’s supposedly confusing and heretical behavior for a Republican candidate in recent speeches and debates. Trump has attacked George Bush over 9/11 and Iraq. He has attacked corporate cronyism and medical insurance companies. He has derided the inability of the government to negotiate on Medicare prices. He has spoken kind words about Bernie Sanders and his populist appeal. He has defended Planned Parenthood and his support for universal healthcare.

That’s because Donald Trump is a much smarter politician than almost anyone gives him credit for. Aware that he mostly has the Republican primary sewn up regardless of what he says or does, Trump is already pivoting to center. He is establishing his dual-purpose populist bona fides for the general election as a Jacksonian Democrat–fiercely racist and anti-immigrant, brash and outspoken, autocratic and authoritarian, anti-interventionist, anti-establishment and anti-corruption.

Trump’s pitch is simple: “I can’t be bought, and I’ll put real Americans first.” That includes xenophobic opposition to immigrants and various “others” in society that tickles the fancy of conservative voters, but it also includes anti-offshoring, anti-outsourcing and anti-corporate collusion platforms that will appeal broadly to many Democrats and independents as well.

Democrats, for their part, seem likely to nominate in the general election a candidate who is a quintessential neoliberal establishment figure and long-time supporter of free trade and high finance, and who will make a perfect foil and punching bag for Trump’s populist arguments. Rather than counter and anticipate Trump’s unique appeal, Democrats seem likely instead to believe that exposing Trump’s sleazy past will be enough to turn serious-minded independent voters away from him, and that Trump’s xenophobia will be enough to generate record turnout among the growing number of Hispanic and other minority voters.

Perhaps that’s a good bet. But everyone who has wagered against Trump has had egg on their face so far, even as Bernie Sanders’ parallel populist appeal has also dramatically outperformed expectations (though it will likely fall short.)

Trump may not win the general election. But he will be the Republican nominee, and he’ll be a much tougher general election candidate than most are currently acknowledging.


By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 27, 2016

February 29, 2016 Posted by | Conservative Media, Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Unfit For GM Engines, OK For Children”: Rick Snyder’s Top Aides Knew Flint’s Water Was Unsafe More Than a Year Ago

In October 2014, General Motors informed the Michigan governor’s office that the Flint River’s heavily chlorinated water was rusting its car parts. The governor’s environmental-policy adviser, Valerie Brader, decided that water unfit for washing engines probably shouldn’t be ingested by children. More specifically: If the chlorine in the water could corrode car parts, it was probably also corroding Flint’s lead pipes. Governor Rick Snyder’s chief legal counsel, Mike Gadola, agreed, according to emails obtained by the Detroit News.

“To anyone who grew up in Flint as I did, the notion that I would be getting my drinking water from the Flint River is downright scary,” Gadola wrote in an email to the governor’s chief of staff and other top aides. “Too bad the (emergency manager) didn’t ask me what I thought, though I’m sure he heard it from plenty of others.”

Gadola went on to note that his mother still lived in Flint. “Nice to know she’s drinking water with elevated chlorine levels and fecal coliform,” he said. “I agree with Valerie (Brader). They should try to get back on the Detroit system as a stopgap ASAP before this thing gets too far out of control.”

It would be nearly a year before the city followed Brader’s advice.

Snyder himself was not copied on the email, and Brader told the News that she never shared her concerns with the executive personally. “I certainly was never in a meeting with him (Snyder), nor did I raise what I wrote in that email,” Brader said. “And to my knowledge, neither did Mike Gadola.”

The governor’s chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore, told the paper that his office agreed with Brader’s assessment but was prevented from acting because of resistance from the Treasury Department and the legislature.

“Since we’re in charge, we can hardly ignore the people of Flint,” Muchmore wrote in an email to communications officials in the governor’s office and Treasury Department. “After all, if GM refuses to use the water in their plant and our own agencies are warning people not to drink it … we look pretty stupid hiding behind some financial statement.”

But Muchmore never asked the legislature for a supplemental spending bill to reconnect Flint to Detroit’s water system, concluding that such a proposal would be “dead on arrival.”

Public-health officials believe that as many as 8,000 children in Flint ingested water with dangerously high levels of lead.

The emails are the latest in an ongoing series of publicly released messages from the governor’s office concerning the state’s handling of the water crisis in Flint. Prior emails showed that government workers in Flint were provided bottled water more than a year before it was given to regular citizens.


By: Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 26, 2016

February 29, 2016 Posted by | Flint Water Crisis, Lead Poisoining, Rick Snyder | , , , , , | 2 Comments

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