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“Understanding Eric Holder’s Tearful Resignation”: “Humbled By His Role In This Nation’s History

President Obama’s announcement of the resignation of Eric H. Holder Jr. as U.S. attorney general was a deeply personal event. The nation’s first African American president was bidding adieu to the man he elevated as the nation’s first black chief law enforcement officer. And if you didn’t know it before yesterday, you certainly know now that the men and their families are close friends. You not only saw the bittersweet emotions of both the president and his attorney general, but you also felt them.

The extraordinary moment at the White House yesterday took me back to a moment I experienced with Holder last year. The image of this attorney general is one of forceful and unwavering resolve in the face of persistent and withering Republican criticism and even an unprecedented congressional vote of contempt against him in 2012. But on this particular day in his office, I observed that the emotions the nation saw yesterday lingered just below the surface. Within an hour of our meeting, I raced to a nearby restaurant to write down what happened. The moment was too powerful to me to entrust to memory.

Holder gave me a tour of his very lived-in office. Memorabilia everywhere. Lots of pictures. One of him at Normandy taken by his former communications director, Tracy Schmaler, he said, was his favorite. There is also a picture of himself with his favorite basketball player Kareem Abdul Jabbar. And there’s a photo of his three favorite boxers, Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis and the other escapes me at the moment.

But there was a series of four photos that caught my attention at his door. It was Holder interacting with a little boy. In one photo, Holder is seen kissing the crying boy on the head. It was from a Drug Enforcement [Administration] memorial event in May 2009, he told me.

As Holder talked about what was happening in the photos, his voice cracked. The family [two boys and their mom] was having a hard time with the loss of their father and her husband. The young son was too young to comprehend what was going on. But, Holder said, the other one was a little bit older and understood the gravity of losing his father.

Holder paused several times recounting that story. Tears were visible in his eyes as we stood side by side. He was able to regain his composure. But when his press secretary Adora Jenkins asked him what he told the little boy, the halting voice and tears reappeared. He said he told the little boy that his father was a hero and that everything would eventually be okay.

After all that Holder has been through, that he is so easily moved by something that happened [then-]three years earlier was telling. As with many things in his office, those photos are a reminder of why he’s in the job he’s in.

Holder loves his job. He takes his duties and responsibilities seriously. He revels in as much as he is humbled by his role in this nation’s history and efforts to have our nation be true to its ideals. And we saw it all in high relief at the White House yesterday.

 

By: Jonathan Capehart, PostPartisan Blog, The Washington Post, September 26, 2014

September 27, 2014 Posted by | DOJ, Eric Holder | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Willfully Ignoring Everything Romney Has Said”: Log Cabin Republicans Kidding Themselves About A Romney Supreme Court

I’m not surprised that the Log Cabin Republicans have gone against the best interests of LGBT Americans in endorsing Mitt Romney. Responding to their rationalization would normally not be worth the time, but one of their attempts at self-justification deserves a response. They claim, “Those who point fearfully to potential vacancies on the United States Supreme Court, we offer a reminder: five of the eight federal court rulings against DOMA were written by Republican-appointed judges. Mitt Romney is not Rick Santorum, and Paul Ryan is not Michele Bachmann.”

The Log Cabin Republicans have willfully ignored everything Mitt Romney has said about the Supreme Court.

Romney has said that he will appoint Supreme Court justices and lower court judges in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who are both adamantly opposed to protecting the rights of gay people under the Constitution. Both dissented in Lawrence v. Texas, the ruling that ended criminal sodomy laws. In his dissent, Scalia accused the Court’s majority of signing on to the “homosexual agenda.” These are the kind of justices that Mitt Romney has promised to nominate to the Supreme Court.

We can also look to Romney’s choice of Robert Bork to lead his judicial advisory committee, a clear signal that he’s ready to cede judicial nominations to the religious right. Bork has vehemently disagreed with every pro-gay-rights decision the Supreme Court has ever made, and he even claims that marriage equality will lead to “man-boy associations” and “polygamy.” This is who Romney has picked to advise him on judicial nominations.

Romney doesn’t just support amending the Constitution to prohibit marriage equality, an amendment that every justice would be obliged to enforce. Everything Romney has said about judicial nominations indicates that he will appoint Supreme Court justices and lower court judges who will do lasting damage to the rights of all Americans — including LGBT people. No LGBT American or anyone who believes in equality should be fooled into thinking otherwise.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, The Huffington Post Blog, October 23, 2012

 

October 25, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Meaningless Assurances”: Mitt Romney’s Short-Lived Immigration “Dream”

Mitt Romney raised eyebrows this week with an apparent Etch A Sketch on immigration policy: after months of silence on President Obama implementing many of the goals of the DREAM Act through deferred action, the Republican said he wouldn’t deport immigrant youths who are currently taking advantage of the administration’s policy.

That sounded like a step in a more progressive direction, but it left unanswered questions, most notably whether a Romney-Ryan administration would leave the existing policy in place.
Dreamers” being helped by Obama now would be temporarily secure, but what about in the near future?

Today, we got an answer.

Mitt Romney would not revoke temporary deportation exemptions granted to young illegal immigrants under an executive action by President Obama, but he also would not issue new protective documents if elected. […]

Responding to a Globe request to clarify Romney’s statement to the Denver Post, Romney’s campaign said he would honor deportation exemptions issued by the Obama administration before his inauguration but would not grant new ones after taking office.

That means the number of people who would benefit from Romney’s non-reversal could be minute.

Suddenly, Romney’s move towards a moderate posture looks a whole lot less impressive.

In practical terms, what the Republican is saying here is that those who’ve already received a temporary exemption from deportation can stay until that reprieve expires after two years. But that’s literally it — no other exemptions will be issued, no other immigrants will be protected, no future extensions will be made.

To hear Romney tell it, everything will work out fine — he’ll get elected, convince Congress to pass a “full immigration reform plan,” sign it, and everyone’s needs will be met.

But since he still refuses to tell anyone what’s in his “full immigration reform plan,” the assurances are meaningless.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 3, 2012

October 4, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Immigration | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Social Inequality: The Paradox Of The New Elite

It’s a puzzle: one dispossessed group after another — blacks, women, Hispanics and gays — has been gradually accepted in the United States, granted equal rights and brought into the mainstream.

At the same time, in economic terms, the United States has gone from being a comparatively egalitarian society to one of the most unequal democracies in the world.

The two shifts are each huge and hugely important: one shows a steady march toward democratic inclusion, the other toward a tolerance of economic stratification that would have been unthinkable a generation ago.

The United States prides itself on the belief that “anyone can be president,” and what better example than Barack Obama, son of a black Kenyan immigrant and a white American mother — neither of them rich.

And yet more than half the presidents over the past 110 years attended Harvard, Yale or Princeton and graduates of Harvard and Yale have had a lock on the White House for the last 23 years, across four presidencies. Thus we have become both more inclusive and more elitist.

It’s a surprising contradiction. Is the confluence of these two movements a mere historical accident? Or are the two trends related?

Other nations seem to face the same challenge: either inclusive, or economically just. Europe has maintained much more economic equality but is struggling greatly with inclusiveness and discrimination, and is far less open to minorities than is the United States.

European countries have done a better job of protecting workers’ salaries and rights but have been reluctant to extend the benefits of their generous welfare state to new immigrants who look and act differently from them. Could America’s lost enthusiasm for income redistribution and progressive taxation be in part a reaction to sharing resources with traditionally excluded groups?

“I do think there is a trade-off between inclusion and equality,” said Gary Becker, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and a Nobel laureate. “I think if you are a German worker you are better off than your American equivalent, but if you are an immigrant, you are better off in the U.S.”

Professor Becker, a celebrated free-market conservative, wrote his Ph.D. dissertation (and first book, “The Economics of Discrimination”) to demonstrate that racial discrimination was economically inefficient. American business leaders seem to have learned that there is no money to be made in exclusion: bringing in each new group has simply created new consumers to court. If you can capture nearly three-quarters of the economy’s growth — as the top 1 percent did between 2002 and 2006 — it may not be worth worrying about gay marriage or skin color.

“I think we have become more meritocratic — educational attainment has become increasingly predictive of economic success,” Professor Becker said. But with educational attainment going increasingly to the children of the affluent and educated, we appear to be developing a self-perpetuating elite that reaps a greater and greater share of financial rewards. It is a hard-working elite, and more diverse than the old white male Anglo-Saxon establishment — but nonetheless claims a larger share of the national income than was the case 50 years ago, when blacks, Jews and women were largely shut out of powerful institutions.

Inequality and inclusion are both as American as apple pie, says Jerome Karabel, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of “The Chosen,” about the history of admission to Harvard, Yale and Princeton. “I don’t think any advanced democracy is as obsessed with equality of opportunity or as relatively unconcerned with equality of condition,” he says. “As long as everyone has a chance to compete, we shouldn’t worry about equality. Equality of condition is seen as undesirable, even un-American.”

The long history of racial discrimination represented an embarrassing contradiction — and a serious threat — to our national story of equal opportunity. With Jim Crow laws firmly in place it was hard to seriously argue that everyone had an equal chance. Civil rights leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were able to use this tradition to draw support to their causes. “Given our culture of equality of opportunity, these kinds of rights-based arguments are almost impossible to refute,” Professor Karabel said. “Even in today’s conservative political climate, opponents of gay rights are losing ground.”

The removal of traditional barriers opened up the American system. In 1951 blacks made up less than 1 percent of the students at America’s Ivy League colleges. Today they make up about 8 percent. At the same time, America’s elite universities are increasingly the provinces of the well-to-do. “Looking at the data, you see that the freshman class of our top colleges are more and more made up of the children of upper- and upper-middle-class families,” said Thomas J. Espenshade of Princeton, a sociologist.

Even the minority students are more affluent, he noted; many of them are of mixed race, or the children of immigrants or those who benefited from affirmative action.

Shamus Khan, a sociologist at Columbia and the author of “Privilege,” a book about St. Paul’s, the prep school, agreed that there had been a change in the composition of the elite. “Who is at elite schools seems to have shifted,” he said. “But the elite seem to have a firmer and firmer hold on our nation’s wealth and power.”

Still the relatively painless movement toward greater diversity should not be dismissed as mere window dressing.

“After the immigration reform of 1965, this country went from being the United States of Europe to being the United States of the World. All with virtually no violence and comparatively little trauma,” Professor Karabel said. This is no small thing, particularly when you compare it to the trauma experienced by many European societies in absorbing much lower percentages of foreign-born citizens, few of whom have penetrated their countries’ elites.

Moreover, inequality has grown partly for reasons that have little or nothing to do with inclusion. Almost all advanced industrial societies — even Sweden — have become more unequal. But the United States has become considerably more unequal. In Europe, the rights of labor have remained more central, while the United States has seen the rise of identity politics.

“There is much less class-based organization in the U.S,” said Professor Karabel. “Race, gender and sexual orientation became the salient cleavages of American political life. And if you look at it — blacks, Hispanics and women have gained somewhat relative to the population as a whole, but labor as a category has lost ground. The groups that mobilized — blacks, Hispanics, women — made gains. But white male workers, who demobilized politically, lost ground.”

One of the groups to become mobilized in response to the protest movements of the 1960s and early 1970s was the rich. Think tanks dedicated to defending the free-enterprise system — such as the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation — were born in this period. And it is not an accident that the right-wing advocate Glenn Beck held a national rally on the anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Republicans now defend tax cuts for the richest 2 percent using arguments and language from the civil rights movements: insisting that excluding the richest earners is unfair.

Removing the most blatant forms of discrimination, ironically, made it easier to justify keeping whatever rewards you could obtain through the new, supposedly more meritocratic system. “Greater inclusiveness was a precondition for greater economic stratification,” said Professor Karabel. “It strengthened the system, reinvigorated its ideology — it is much easier to defend gains that appear to be earned through merit. In a meritocracy, inequality becomes much more acceptable.”

The term “meritocracy” — now almost universally used as a term of praise — was actually coined as a pejorative term, appearing for the first time in 1958, in the title of a satirical dystopian novel, “The Rise of the Meritocracy,” by the British Labour Party leader Michael Young. He warned against the creation of a new technocratic elite in which the selection of the few would lead to the abandonment of the many, a new elite whose privileges were even more crushing and fiercely defended because they appeared to be entirely merited.

Of the European countries, Britain’s politics of inequality and inclusion most resemble those of the United States. Even as inequality has grown considerably, the British sense of economic class has diminished. As recently as 1988, some 67 percent of British citizens proudly identified themselves as working class. Now only 24 percent do. Almost everybody below the Queen and above the poverty line considers himself or herself “middle class.”

Germany still has robust protections for its workers and one of the healthiest economies in Europe. Children at age 10 are placed on different tracks, some leading to university and others to vocational school — a closing off of opportunity that Americans would find intolerable. But it is uncontroversial because those attending vocational school often earn as much as those who attend university.

In France, it is illegal for the government to collect information on people on the basis of race. And yet millions of immigrants — and the children and grandchildren of immigrants — fester in slums.

In the United States, the stratification of wealth followed several decades where economic equality was strong. The stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed underscored the excesses of the roaring ’20s and ushered in an era in which the political climate favored labor unions, progressive taxation and social programs aimed at reducing poverty.

From the 1930s to the 1960s, the income of the less affluent Americans grew more quickly than that of their wealthier neighbors, and the richest 1 percent saw its share of the national income shrink to 8.9 percent in the mid-1970s, from 23.9 percent in 1928. That share is now back up to more than 20 percent, its level before the Depression.

Inequality has traditionally been acceptable to Americans if accompanied by mobility. But most recent studies of economic mobility indicate that it is getting even harder for people to jump from one economic class to another in the United States, harder to join the elite. While Americans are used to considering equal opportunity and equality of condition as separate issues, they may need to reconsider. In an era in which money translates into political power, there is a growing feeling, on both left and right, that special interests have their way in Washington. There is growing anger, from the Tea Party to Occupy Wall Street, that the current system is stacked against ordinary citizens. Suddenly, as in the 1930s, the issue of economic equality is back in play.

 

By:  Alexander Stille, The New York Times Sunday Review, October 22, 2011

October 23, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Economy, Education, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Middle Class, Republicans, Right Wing, Taxes, Teaparty, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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