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“Decoding Ben Carson”: A ‘Wingnut With A Calm Bedside Manner’

Now that Ben Carson is all the rage in the GOP presidential nominating contest, sharing the spotlight with Donald Trump without a trace of the negative vibes The Donald brings to the table, I figure my little hobby of trying to understand what the man means with his incessant references to “political correctness” is becoming a public utility. So I wrote it all up a bit more comprehensively in a column for TPMCafe.

One of my exhibits for describing Carson as a “wingnut with a calm bedside manner” was his reference in the Fox News GOP presidential debate to Hillary Clinton as a denizen of the “progressive movement” who was following “the Alinsky Model” for destroying the country. Even as they declared him the winner or one of the winners of the debate, MSM observers slid right over the ravings about Alinsky as though they couldn’t hear The Crazy or, more likely, didn’t understand what he was talking about. That sure as hell was not the case with right-wing media, who heard the dog-whistle loud and clear. Indeed, at National Review, John Fund even called it that:

The award so far in this Republican debate for dog-whistle rhetoric goes to Ben Carson. He answered a a question about Hillary Clinton by referring to her belief in “the Alinsky model,” a topic of great interest in the conservative blogosphere.

Named after Saul Alinksy, the late community organizer who inspired both Hillary and Barack Obama, the model calls for destabilizing the existing system from the inside and paving the way for radical social change.

Despite his mild manner and soft voice, it may be that Ben Carson is the candidate on tonight’s stage who is privately the most deeply ideological.

According to people like Carson, a big part of the Alinsky Model is “political correctness:” disarming opponents by deriding their utterances as small-minded and offensive. I didn’t see this until after I had sent in the TPMCafe column, but here’s a fine description of the core idea in a Tea Party take on Carson’s well-received 2014 CPAC speech:

Dr. Carson says that the good news is that the majority of people in this country have common sense, but the problem is that they’ve been “beaten into submission by the PC (political-correctness) policemen,” which has kept people from speaking up about what they believe.

To thunderous applause, Dr. Carson revealed one of Saul Alinsky’s (author of leftist bible, Rules for Radicals) more deceptive tactics that he taught to his progressive, Marxist followers:

“One of the principles of Saul Alinsky, he said you make the majority believe that what they think is outdated and nobody thinks that way, and that the way they think is the only way intelligent people think. And if you can co-opt the media in the process, you’re far ahead of the game. That’s exactly what’s happened, and it’s time for people to stand up and proclaim what they believe and stop being bullied!

So every time Carson denounces “political correctness,” which he does in just about every other sentence, that’s what he’s talking about: a conspiracy by “progressives” to suppress common-sense (i.e., hard-core conservative) “solutions” by pitting people against each other through talk about race, gender, income inequality, etc. etc. In Carson’s heavily Glenn-Beckish worldview, all his talk about “unity” and “civility” means the kind of country we can have once the snakes (i.e., you and me and HRC) have been thrown out of Eden.

It’s going to be interesting to me to see how much longer MSM types can continue to write about Carson as this nice unifying figure without hearing what the man is saying.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Post, September 2, 2015

September 2, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, GOP Presidential Candidates, Political Correctness | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Issues Be Damned”: The Hillary-Carly ‘Cat Fight’ That Men, The Media, And Fiorina Want

If Carly Fiorina gains any traction from her barbed attacks on Hillary Clinton, the rightwing cartoons will practically draw themselves: Carly and Hillary in a teeth-baring cat fight, Carly’s claws like a tiger’s, HRC’s eyes as red as a Demon Sheep’s, their hair seriously mussed, and Benghazi burning in the background.

As one man tweeted, “Let the Cat Fight begin!! Fiorina will tear Hillary to shreds.”

“Fiorina vs Hillary in 2016,” someone else raved. Why? “Because men love a cat fight.”

It is indeed a male dream, especially males who are Republican presidential candidates (and who isn’t?). If Carly handles the edgy, personal attacks on Hillary, they figure, we won’t get Rick Lazio-ed off the stage.

But at the press conference-ambush that Fiorina held outside a South Carolina hotel where Clinton was speaking, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO bristled at suggestions that she was doing the male Republicans’ dirty work. Fiorina, Maggie Haberman wrote,

quickly grew discomfited when the questions seemed to treat her more as a heckler pulling a stunt than as a formidable candidate making an otherwise significant campaign stop.

One reporter asked if Ms. Fiorina was being used by the men in the Republican field to harass Mrs. Clinton.

Ms. Fiorina insisted she had planned her trip here “many, many weeks ago, so perhaps she’s following me.”

The first female CEO of a Fortune 20 company has had to deny that she’s a tool of the GOP boys—the poisoned-tip of their spear—for a while now. “The party is not leaning on me to do anything, and I didn’t ask the party’s permission,” she said in March.

She’s her own woman, independent, thinks for herself. But in her self-appointed role as Hillary’s foil, there’s a fascinating tension between the politics of cat-fighting and her feminist-tinged complaints about just those sort of stereotypes. “I think the media hold women to different standards,” she said at the same press conference. “[The press] scrutinizes women differently, criticizes women different, caricatures women differently.”

But even as Fiorina wants everyone to know that’s she’s more than Hillary’s would-be bête noir (“the vast majority of my speeches in front of anyone are about a host of issues,” she told reporters), in many ways she is also Hillary’s doppelganger. They have much in common:

1) Most obviously, both are women vying for power in a man’s world. They are considered “demographically symbolic” (as the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre sneered about Obama’s entire presidency), and they each have a deck of “gender cards” to draw from. It’s perfectly legit, since women have been largely banned from the card games. But while Hillary is playing pinochle, Fiorina is playing something closer to three-card monte. As Amanda Marcotte writes:

In recent months, Fiorina has shown that the only thing she loves more than deriding those who play the “gender card” is playing the gender card….

“If Hillary Clinton were to face a female nominee, there are a whole set of things that she won’t be able to talk about,” Fiorina told reporters in April. “She won’t be able to talk about being the first woman president. She won’t be able to talk about a war on women without being challenged. She won’t be able to play the gender card.” No she won’t, because I, Carly Fiorina, will play it for her!

2) They are so much alike that Fiorina claims Hillary stole the title of her recent memoir, “Hard Choices,” from Fiorina’s account of her widely criticized tenure at HP, “Tough Choices,” which was published in 2006.

“And last month,” Amy Chozick writes, “after Mrs. Clinton urged 5,000 female tech professionals in Silicon Valley to ‘unlock our full potential,’ Ms. Fiorina again accused Mrs. Clinton of stealing: Her leadership political action committee, an aide to Ms. Fiorina noted, is called the Unlocking Potential Project.”

3) That could be a case of bad-faith borrowing, or it could all be a coincidence. As Jason Linkins points out, “’unlock your potential’ may actually be the most banal phrase these Thought Leader types employ.” Fiorina seems to think she owns this sort of MEGO boilerplate because she comes from big biz, but the truth is that both women are corporatist, business-friendly politicians, supported by industry and Wall Street.

4) Both women have worked very hard to please powerful peers who are almost without exception white males—at HP, Fiorina laid off more than 30,000 people (see; and Hillary voted for the Iraq War as she was preparing to run in 2008.

Fiorina has to be aggressive, of course, because she’s the newbie—never won an election, while Clinton was a two-term senator from New York, not to mention Secretary of State. But one interesting difference between the two is that Hillary has refrained from attacking other women politicians—even, in 2008, Sarah Palin. “You know, I don’t want to be the chick police,” says Nicole Wallace, who famously quit the Palin campaign, but Fiorina’s focus on Hillary, she says, “runs the risk of having it look personal.”

It wouldn’t be Fiorina’s first foray into the too-personal: when she thought she was off mic during her 2010 race against California senator Barbara Boxer, Fiorina said she had seen her opponent on TV and wondered, “God, what is that hair? So yesterday.”

Naturally, the Democratic Clinton and the Republican Fiorina differ on issue after issue—immigration reform, abortion, equal pay, foreign policy. But let me acknowledge that in writing about these two women, I have, like so much of the media, completely stayed away from any mention of any issue.

Because… CAT FIGHT!


By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, May 29, 2015

May 30, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Hillary Clinton, Media | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Happy Labor Day, Mom”: A Harsh Labor Market Where Women Were Regularly Punished For Not Being Men

I know this sounds absurd—it is absurd—but for some odd reason Labor Day reminds me of my mother. She was a school teacher, and I think she would have a good laugh to learn that so-called “education reformers” are accusing school teachers of being too powerful and protected. My father, who was himself a long-time member of our local school board, would probably snort at the ignorance of highly educated experts.

Together, they could set the record straight on education from the facts of their own lives. They fell in love when they were young and optimistic and talented. This was the 1920s when women had just won the right to vote, and both were newly graduated from four-year colleges—the very first in my mother’s family. My father completed graduate work in chemistry and was hired as a researcher by a Philadelphia manufacturer where he later invented useful products.

They faced one obstacle in their promising lives. My mother had to sign a teaching contract with a local school district in western Pennsylvania that would prohibit her from getting married. This crude violation of a young woman’s civil rights was commonly enforced around the country. Years later, I learned that my wife’s mother had to do the same thing to get a teaching job in Iowa. Recently, I reread the steamy love letters my parents wrote to one another during that school year of frustrated desire. I blushed for them.

At the Thanksgiving break, they abandoned abstinence and broke the school contract. But secretly. On the long holiday, they eloped to West Virginia and got married there. They told no one. My parents, I should add, were no-nonsense conservative Republicans, not given to reckless adventure or inflammatory political statements. I did think of my mother as an assertive proto-feminist. In retirement, both became Democrats because they thought Goldwater was a dangerous crackpot. In 1972, my dad declared early for George McGovern, while Mom held out for Shirley Chisholm.

Keeping the secret of their marriage may have been done to protect her eligibility for many more years as a teacher. It worked. Toward the end of her long life (she died three days short of 100) my mother got a letter each year from Ohio governors, congratulating her on being the oldest living recipient in Ohio’s teacher retirement system.

I tell this intimate story to make a point that the latter-day reformers do not seem to grasp. They have left out the human dimensions of a harsh labor market where women were regularly punished for not being men. School teachers from the beginnings of America’s public schools have been vulnerable to blatant exploitation—lower wages and harsher terms—and they have been exploited. The jobs could be filled by an abundance of educated single young women in need of incomes. Married women might have babies in the middle of the school year—an inconvenience to school administrators—so married women were banned. Similar gender biases affected nursing and other caring occupations, and to some degree still do.

The fundamental power shift for school teachers did not occur until the 1960s, when frustrated teachers rebelled against traditional school systems run top-down by superintendents and principals. As a young reporter in Louisville, Kentucky, I witnessed one of the early skirmishes in 1962.

One day I got a phone call from an organizer for the American Federation of Teachers who blithely announced that AFT intended to shut down the Louisville schools the following week with a citywide strike. I thought he was joking. AFT was based in East Coast big cities and had no more than fifty members among Louisville’s 2,000 teachers. The National Education Association (NEA) dominated most states those days, and it was run by and for the administrators, not rank-and-file teachers.

The AFT’s strike in Louisville was like a thunderclap—teachers did walk off and virtually shut down the system. Teachers were fed up. They were demanding a stronger voice and power in school affairs and school politics. In rural states like Kentucky, the poorest counties were frequently dominated by matriarchal political machines—women superintendents who controlled more jobs in their county than the men in county offices. The NEA got the message and swiftly adjusted. It became a full-fledged labor union like AFT. Instead of fronting for old-style political bosses, both organizations now try to speak for the interests of teachers and to defend them against political intrusions and other abuses.

These are the relevant facts that self-appointed billionaire reformers skip past. By demonizing the teachers unions and denouncing the tenure laws that protect teachers from arbitrary political reprisals, the do-good foundations have unwittingly cast themselves as a malevolent Daddy Warbucks ready to bury their opposition with tons of money.The Gates Foundation and some others do seem to be belatedly backing away from obvious mistakes, but the reform engine still threatens to undermine the common public school in favor of a deeply fractured system of sectarian and secular private sponsors claiming public money.

Impatient hedge-fund billionaires do not attempt to conceal their contempt for the rest of us. They are used to making money—fast—with no excuses for dawdlers. Witness what they have done to large segments of the overall economy. Education does not thrive in those conditions, because there is no standard of perfection in any schoolhouse that can survive brutal suppression of uniformity imposed by clumsy testing. A successful school not only makes room for dissent. It constantly nourishes it.

Of course, I am biased. But I think that was my mother’s teaching style. She taught first grade in an “inner city” neighborhood of Cincinnati where the students were not poor black kids but white kids from the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. They shared many of the same handicaps. Mom developed her own theories on how to teach reading to such children. It involved hand-eye coordination and other elements I could not follow. I have no proof that she succeeded, but I have a hunch she drove the principal nuts.


By: Wiliam Greider, The Nation, August 30, 2014

September 1, 2014 Posted by | Labor Day, Teachers, Women | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Blocked By The GOP”: One Way To Help Close The Gender Wage Gap Is To Raise The Minimum Wage

This week, ThinkProgress’s excellent Bryce Covert wrote about a new report by the National Women’s Law Project about the relationship between the minimum wage and the gender pay gap. As the NWLP demonstrates, raising the minimum wage would help close the gender pay gap, because women are disproportionately concentrated in low-wage sectors such as food service, retail, housekeeping, and home health aides,

Raising the minimum wage is an important step in bringing economic justice to women workers. Consider the following:

— Contrary to what you might assume based on the recent mass freak-out by male Fox News anchors, we ladies are hardly the dominant sex in the workplace. In fact, we’re losing ground economically, and the gender wage gap is getting worse rather than better. Increasing the minimum wage would significantly remedy the situation.

— The NWLP points out that women of color, who suffer from racial discrimination as well as gender discrimination, make up a disproportionate number of minimum wage workers. So they, too, stand to strongly benefit from a minimum wage increase, in ways that would partially offset the effects of discrimination.

— Earlier research has shown that the declining real value of the minimum wage has substantially accelerated the trend in growing wage inequality in the U.S. generally, particularly among women. Increasing the minimum wage would help slow this trend.

— Finally, one of the chief benefits of the the minimum wage is as economic stimulus. In fact, it was originally instituted during the Great Depression not so much as a worker protection policy but as macroeconomic policy, to encourage economic growth. Low-wage workers tend to spend close to every penny they make, rather than save. The money they inject back into the economy then has a multiplier effect which revives the economy as a whole — meaning that the minimum wage benefits not just minimum wage workers, but everyone else.

So far, President Obama’s proposal to raise the minimum wage, which he made in the State of the Union address earlier this year, doesn’t seem to have gotten out of committee. It’s one of the endless list of things in this country that is excellent policy and excellent politics, but is being blocked by the G.O.P. Lather, rinse, repeat. Will this story ever end?


By: Kathleen Geier, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 8, 2013

June 9, 2013 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Economy | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Skewed Equilibrium”: Mitt Romney Is Wrong About The Wage Gap

Asked about the gender wage gap last night, Mitt Romney changed the subject. “What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers are looking to find good employees and bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a — a flexible work schedule that gives women the opportunities that — that they would otherwise not be able to — to afford,” he said. Sensing that he was going to be forced to actually answer the question, Romney added, “I’m going to help women in America get — get good work by getting a stronger economy and by supporting women in the workforce.”

There are so many half-formed assumptions and pseudo-promises here that it’s hard to know where to start, but let’s go to the basic premise: That the wage gap narrows when the economy is strong. That premise, so far as we can see from the data, is wrong.

“In good economic times, bonus payments, overtime hours and merit pay increase,” says Ariane Hegewisch, a study director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “Women are under-represented in the top echelons,” where compensation has soared in good times. “Women are less likely to work overtime,” she adds, and “research suggests that merit and performance-related pay still is a key area for gender discrimination.” There’s also research suggesting that “salary increases related to promotions might differ by gender.”

In fact, the recent economic woes actually narrowed the wage gap, because while both men and women suffered, men lost more ground, according to a 2011 IWPR analysis: “Real earnings for both men and women have fallen since 2010, by 0.9 percent for women and 2.1 percent for men.” That’s likely because male-dominated sectors like construction were hard hit in the recession. Since then, the majority of job gains in the recovery have gone to men, suggesting that (skewed) equilibrium will likely be restored.


By: Irin Carmon, Salon, October 17, 2012

October 19, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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