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“You Don’t Know Jack”: When It Came To Climate Change, Kemp Was As Extreme As The Rest–And A Model Of GOP Irrationality

CNN commentator Michael Smerconish–a former right-wing pundit who was effectively chased out of the conservative movement after he endorsed Barack Obama in 2008–has attempted to hold up the late Rep. Jack Kemp (R-NY) as a model of the broad-minded bipartisanship today’s Republicans should emulate. However, his analysis doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Smerconish suggests that Kemp rejected right-wing orthodoxy throughout his political career, citing the following views:

Possessing the forethought to have opposed the Iraq invasion.

Willing to oppose an effort to deny public services to illegal immigrants, including education to children.

Equally reverential of Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Eager to seek votes in all neighborhoods and say things like: “We may not get every vote, but we’re going to make it unambiguously clear . . . that we want to represent the whole American family, that no one will be left behind, that no one will be turned away.”

Utterly incapable of launching a personal attack…Kemp was a big-tent Republican, the original compassionate conservative.

Apparently, Kemp’s compassion didn’t extend to those victimized by human-caused climate change. Nineteen years ago, Kemp–then-GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole’s running mate–launched an acid-tongued attack on then-Vice President Al Gore during their sole debate, accusing Gore of promoting “fear of the climate” and embracing an “anti-capitalistic mentality” because Gore dared to call for strong action to combat carbon pollution. (This was, of course, two years after Kemp appeared at a mid-February CPAC conference and moronically joked, “So much for Al Gore’s theory of global warming!”)

In 1999, Kemp aligned himself with the powerful climate-denialist “think tank” known as the Competitive Enterprise Institute; in this capacity, he viciously attacked climate science and took credit for President George W. Bush’s decision not to regulate carbon pollution from power plants. Some centrist.

Yes, Kemp criticized the racists who blamed the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act for the 2008 financial crisis. Yes, he said some nice things about Obama’s historic 2008 victory. However, when it came to climate change, Kemp was as extreme as the rest–and as a model of GOP rationality, he was far from the best.

UPDATE: From 1997 and 2002, more on Kemp’s vicious attacks on climate science.


By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 17, 2015

October 20, 2015 Posted by | Bipartisanship, Climate Change, Jack Kemp | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Why Freddie Gray Never Had A Chance”: Lead Poisoning Is Killing Inner-City Baltimore

Whenever something like the death of Freddie Gray happens, we usually get around, by the third or fourth day, to the broader poverty discussion. This debate usually boils down to the Great Society programs. Liberals say they worked, and what we need are more of them. Conservatives say they failed and the real answer is found in a sterner moral code.

Between the two, I unsurprisingly endorse the liberal view above (although I don’t think the conservatives have been 100 percent wrong, more on which later). But there’s a more constructive way to talk about poverty than to fight over 50-year-old programs; it’s to use a tragedy like this not just to defend old policies but to promote new ways of understanding poverty and the anti-social behavior that helps keep so many people trapped in it. And Gray’s sad case is a prime example.

Freddie Gray grew up with lead poisoning. A great piece in The Washington Post last week laid out the whole history, Gray’s personally and that of West Baltimore generally. Gray lived in a home where lead paint peeled off the walls.

Now certainly he had other problems—he was born prematurely to a mother who may have been using heroin while pregnant, and he spent the first few months of his life in a hospital. But even at that young age, he was tested for lead, and the tests found unusually high levels in his blood. At one point his family sued a landlord and won an undisclosed settlement. And all over West Baltimore, there were thousands of kids like him, breathing lead paint fumes, swallowing the little chips that got stuck under their fingernails, and so on.

And what did this do to him? Obviously we don’t exactly know in his case. But we’ve known for a long time that lead makes children sick and impairs mental functions. An expert is quoted in that Post piece makes this rather eye-popping assertion—no doubt exaggerating somewhat, but driving home the basic point: “All these kids that grew up in those houses, they all have ADHD.” Also, read this 2013 New York Review of Books piece by Helen Epstein, uncannily prescient today, with its emphasis on Baltimore.

But it’s not just about learning disorders. More recently, research has gone beyond that realm and has been starting to make more direct links between childhood lead poisoning and social dysfunction of the sort Gray exhibited, and even a tendency toward violence and crime.

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones has done a lot of interesting writing on this link in recent years. Research results even have people wondering, as this BBC article notes, whether removing the lead from “petrol” (car gasoline) has been the main reason crime has gone down in the last two decades. The BBC report notes that crime rose and rose across many advanced nations throughout the 20th century, until:

Then, about 20 years ago, the trend reversed—and all the broad measures of key crimes have been falling ever since.

Offending has fallen in nations whose governments have implemented completely different policies to their neighbors.

If your nation locks up more criminals than the average, crime has fallen. If it locks up fewer… crime has fallen. Nobody seems to know for sure why.

But there are some people that believe the removal of lead from petrol was a key factor.

Laugh if you want. The kinds of people who like to laugh at such things once laughed at studies warning about DDT, tobacco, refined sugar, and a hundred other malefactions.

Now let’s bring our Congress into focus. Since the passage of a big lead-reduction law in 1992, Congress has appropriated moneys to the goal of abating lead paint in buildings across the country. Predictably enough, we’ve been pretty successful in neighborhoods that are middle class and up, but not so successful in poor neighborhoods.

Congress has typically funded the lead-abatement program, run by the Centers for Disease Control, inadequately. But in 2011-2012, Congress quadrupled down on inadequate: It cut the funding for the program from $29 million to $2 million. That’s not a typo. This was a result of the sequestration targets imposed on the federal budget, largely forced on us by the Tea Partiers. By last year, cooler heads prevailed and the program got back up to $15 million. But that’s still half what it was when it was merely inadequate. As a result, cities all over the country have had to cut back. Chicago, which got $1.2 million from the feds in 2010, received $347,000 last year.

The one thing I’ll say for conservatism with respect to the poverty debate, and the crime debate, is to remind us that on some level, individuals are responsible for their own actions. If we don’t accept and impose this standard, we have moral chaos. (Of course, we ought to be imposing it on bankers, too.) Social pathologies can explain anti-social behavior but can’t excuse it. We can agree to that, although we can however do without the obnoxious right-wing preaching at poor people that cascades out of certain word processors at times like these.

But no poor person, whether his character is closer to that of Mohandas Gandhi or Charles Manson, can control how much lead is in the paint of the walls of the crappy apartment that he can afford and where he’s trying to raise his little children. Conservatives like to tell us poor people need to make better choices, but how much lead his children breathe in or swallow has nothing to do with any choices he made. It has to do with choices made by others, from his landlord on up to appropriators in Congress.

And what if, 15 or 20 years from now, the science is crystal clear on the connection between lead exposure and the kinds of problems Freddie Gray had? I’ll tell you exactly what. Liberals will say: The scientific verdict is in. Let’s do what we have to do here once and for all.

But conservatives will stand athwart history yelling stop as they always do—the moral scolds will blame single parents, and the ones who just don’t want their tax money spent on the moocher class will whistle up outfits like the Competitive Enterprise Institute to produce alternative “studies” questioning what actual science knows to be obvious, and we will be stalemated. And that will be another “choice” that people poor didn’t make that will help consign their children to society’s margins.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, May 5, 2015

May 6, 2015 Posted by | Freddie Gray, Lead Poisoining, Poverty | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP Gang Of Supremes Go After Obamacare”: This Lawsuit Was A Fraud From The Get-Go

Look out — the Supreme Court’s black-robed gang of far-right ideologues is rampaging again! The five-man clan is firing potshots at Obamacare — and their political recklessness endangers justice, the Court’s own integrity, and the health of millions of innocent bystanders.

In an attempt to override the law, these so-called “justices” have jumped on a wagonload of legalistic BS named King v. Burwell. But that case is a very rickety legal vehicle. It sprang from a frivolous lawsuit concocted in 2010 by a right-wing front group funded by such self-serving oligarchs as the Koch brothers, Big Oil, Big Tobacco and Big Pharma. The chairman of the front group was neither delicate nor discreet in describing the purpose of the lawsuit as a raw political assault on Obamacare: “This bastard has to be killed as a matter of political hygiene,” he howled at the time. “I do not care how this is done, whether it’s dismembered, whether we drive a stake through its heart … I don’t care who does it, whether it’s some court someplace or the United States Congress.”

So much for the intellectual depth of the King case, which was fabricated on a twisted interpretation of only four words in the 906-page health care law. The plaintiffs claim that the law prohibits insurance subsidies to the millions of low- and middle-income Americans living in the 36 states that did not set up a state exchange — thus making health care unaffordable to millions of hard-working Americans and small businesses who are purchasing insurance on the federal exchange—essentially nullifying the heart of Obamacare.

Both the district and appeals courts rejected that perverse ideological tommyrot, and even the nation’s largest health care provider called the claim “absurd.” Nonetheless, the gang of Supremes grabbed the case as a chance to wreak their own brand of ideological havoc on a law they personally dislike.

By taking over this case, these Republican judges have openly become partisans, thrusting the Supreme Court itself into the forefront of the GOP’s war against Obamacare — and against Obama himself.

While we know that an anti-government group funded by plutocratic corporate powers is behind the lawsuit intended to terminate Obamacare — who are the four people who are out front as the actual plaintiffs in the case?

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is the corporate front, but it had no standing to sue, so it had to find some actual people who would claim they’ve been harmed by the health care law. Thus, David King, a 64-year-old Vietnam vet, was recruited to be the lead plaintiff in King v. Burwell, which is now in the Supreme Court’s hands. He and three co-plaintiffs were chosen to put sympathetic human faces on what essentially is a right-wing political ploy.

But who are they? An investigative article in Mother Jones magazine by Stephanie Mencimer reveals that King’s modest income as a self-employed limo driver exempts him from Obamacare’s insurance mandate — so he’s been done no harm by the law and, therefore, has no standing to sue. Moreover, as a veteran, he’s entitled to VA care and, in a few months, to Medicare, making him double-covered by public health programs. Mr. King’s main reason for being on CEI’s lawsuit appears to be that he loathes Obama, referring to him as “a joke” and “the idiot in the White House.”

None of the three other recruits seem to have been harmed by Obamacare, either. “I don’t know how I got on this case,” says Brenda Levy, adding that, “I don’t like the idea of throwing people off their health insurance.” Then there’s Rose Luck, whose low income also exempts her from the law’s mandates. But she, too, fiercely loathes Obama. She posted on her Facebook page that she “wouldn’t admit he was our president,” calling him “The anti-Christ” who only won the Oval Office because “he got his Muslim people to vote for him.”

This lawsuit was a fraud from the get-go — and if five Supremes use it to take away the health coverage of some 10 million Americans, they’ll also be exposed as rank political hatchetmen masquerading as “justices.”


By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, March 4, 2015

March 6, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, King v Burwell, SCOTUS | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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