You can now access all editions of The Daily Planet on the green Category bar on the top of each page under the heading PlanetPOV.
Join us in solidarity with working people in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and dozens of other states where well-funded, right-wing corporate politicians are trying to take away the rights Dr. King gave his life for: the freedom to bargain, to vote, to afford a college education and justice for all workers, immigrant and native-born. It’s a day to show movement. Teach-ins. Vigils. Faith events. A day to be creative, but clear: We are one.
The group’s ascension is certainly remarkable. Every time I revisit US Uncut’s website, there are more franchise marks on the homepage’s map, and my inbox is filled with testimonies and video footage of various US Uncut excursions.
Ask your representative to co-sponsor the Supreme Court Transparency and Disclosure Act
It’s time to hold Supreme Court justices accountable to the same ethics and disclosure rules as every other federal judge. The highest Court should not be held to the lowest standards.
Please join us in supporting Rep. Chris Murphy’s bill (HR 862) that would:
* Apply the Judicial Conference’s Code of Conduct, which applies to all other federal judges, to Supreme Court justices. This would allow the public to access more timely and detailed information when an outside group wants to have a justice participate in a conference, such as the funders of the conference.
* Require Supreme Court justices to publicly disclose their reasoning behind a recusal when they withdraw from a case and when they refuse to recuse themselves after a motion is made for them to do so; and
* Require the Judicial Conference to develop a process to review decisions by justices who have refused to step aside from a case.
Conservatives claim that defunding NPR would save taxpayers a great deal of money; former NPR employee Juan Williams even argued that NPR funding was taking away from “school breakfast programs [and] college scholarships.” Yet NPR receives only around 2 percent of its annual $161 million budget from federal grants, totaling approximately $3.2 million. Meanwhile, the FY2011 cost of the Afghan war has hit $113 billion.
Assuming that the costs of both the NPR funding and Afghan war would be the same for next year, that means that ending the Afghan war would save approximately 40,000 times more taxpayer dollars than defunding NPR’s grants from agencies such as the National Endowment for the Arts and Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Additionally, as the National Priorities Project shows, ending the war could help free up money for countless domestic priorities, like hiring millions of teachers or funding health care for tens of millions of poor children. Here are just some of the alternatives that could be funded for the cost of one year of the Afghan war:
– Health Care For 55 Million Low Income Children
– 1.6 million Elementary School Teachers for One Year
– 1.9 million Firefighters for One Year
– 14.1 million Head Start Slots for Children for One Year
– 13.8 million Military Veterans Receiving VA Medical Care for One Year
– 1.6 million Police or Sheriff’s Patrol Officers for One Year
– 19.3 million Students receiving Pell Grants of $5550
– 13.6 million Scholarships for University Students for One Year
A three-week stop-gap spending bill cleared Congress Thursday, setting up what’s expected to be the decisive showdown next month between President Barack Obama and House Republicans over budget cuts for the second half of this fiscal year.
Final approval came on a 87-13 Senate roll call vote. The action averts any immediate threat of a Friday shutdown, while promising another $6 billion in savings as a down payment toward the final bargain both sides insist they are seeking.
Thursday’s stopgap bill, which runs to April 8, is the sixth such continuing resolution or CR for the 2011 fiscal year which began last Oct. 1. And to an unprecedented degree, the entire government, including war funding, remains without permanent appropriations halfway through the year.
Overall, 81 percent of those polled see Social Security as veering severely off-course, up 10 percentage points from 2005, when former president George W. Bush led a push to privatize the government-run program. And since that time, public support for specific changes has risen, but remains tepid.
The new poll comes as another survey shows Americans’ slumping confidence in their ability to achieve a comfortable retirement. In the poll by the Employee Benefit Research Insitute, a record high 27 percent of workers said they’re “not at all confident” they’ll have enough money when they retire. Most still expect Social Security to be a source of income in their retirement.
But similar to a poll six years ago, in the new Post-ABC survey, only one of six possible ways to avoid a potential shortfall in Social Security – removing the cap on income subject to its dedicated tax – tops the 50-percent-mark, and barely so.
According to the survey, more than 80 percent of Americans believe the system is in crisis. And, in a reversal of recent results on this issue, Republicans are more trusted to handle it than Democrats: 44 percent of respondents favored the GOP, while only 42 percent favored President Obama (this is primarily due to Democrats trusting Obama at a low rate on this issue). But when it came to solutions, most cuts were opposed by a majority of Americans. Almost 60 percent were against raising the retirement age and almost 70 percent were against cutting scheduled benefits. The only fix that garnered majority support was lifting the payroll-tax cap so that all income, rather than just the first $107,000, got taxed. That’s a reform, I’m confident to say, that the Senate’s liberals would have less trouble swallowing, and according to the Congressional Budget Office, it would wipe out virtually all of Social Security’s shortfall.
So if this is just about balancing Social Security’s books, it shouldn’t be too difficult. We can pass the reform and raise the debt ceiling with no problem. Huzzah! On the other hand, if we’re in one of those conversations where we’re pretending to talk about balancing the country’s books but we’re actually only talking about “cutting spending” and revenues are off the table, well, that’ll be harder.
Since 1980, income inequality has fractured the nation. Click each icon to see each of the dozen states, which counties belong to them and how median income has changed over the last 30 years.
Profit margins are expected to climb nearly 9% this year among companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, marking an 18-year high.
The third consecutive year of the bull market will see profits increase 8.9% in 2011, which would be the highest level since 1993. That’s good news for investors, who could see higher dividends. Bloomberg reports that of 380 companies in the S&P that pay dividends, 378 are projected to maintain or increase them.
The situation is less encouraging for non-investors. Back in that banner year of 1993, the unemployment rate fell from 7.3% to 6.5%. According to the most recent figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is 8.9%.
Even as ordinary investors look forward to the prospect of larger dividend payouts by the big banks, another group is poised for a rich payday: bank chief executives. In the next few days, the Federal Reserve is expected to give a handful of institutions, including JPMorgan Chase and Capital One, permission to pay higher dividends, another sign of the remarkable comeback of banks since the depths of the financial crisis.
Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, stands to eventually reap nearly $6 million a year in dividend payments from the stock he owns, an amount that equals almost a third of his total pay in 2010. Capital One’s chief executive, Richard D. Fairbank, could earn nearly $3 million a year as the credit card giant weighs a similar move.
These figures are based on the number of shares the executives own and estimates from the banks about the percentage of earnings they plan to earmark for dividend payments.
This one is going to get quite interesting. After all, you’d think this issue — unlike, say, the battle over health care repeal — would be a slam dunk for Dems. Obama and Dems passed Wall Street reform after we pulled back from the brink of economic catastrophe. Public hostility towards Wall Street continues to run high. Unlike in the case of health care reform, polls showed unequivocal public support for financial reform. All this may explain why Republicans are proceeding far more cautiously and in a much more low profile way on this front than on health care.
But the politics could get murky. While you’d normally think the continued economic doldrums would serve as a reminder of Wall Street excess, and make it tougher for Republicans to pursue deregulation, they will no doubt argue that the sputtering recovery is precisely why regulations need to be rolled back — in order to free up the economy from “job killing” regulation.
That’s why Dems are already moving to cast the GOP zeal for deregulation as purely ideological. As Barney Frank put it: “It’s an ideological thing — they don’t believe in regulation.”
This one could provide another chance to draw a very clear contrast between the parties — on turf that may be a bit more favorable to Dems than health care repeal or spending. Though Dems have thus far failed to unify on spending, and don’t really have the upper hand in the health repeal fight, the early signs are that on this issue, at least, Dems may try to seize the opportunity afforded them.
Solar companies are warning that if Congress kills two major Department of Energy funding programs this spring, the country would squander the opportunity to exploit recent breakthroughs in solar energy development. …
Under 2009’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Obama administration created the temporary Section 1705 program to provide loan guarantees to projects for renewable energy, advanced biofuels or upgrades to the national transmission system.
The program initially appropriated $6 billion for credit subsidy fees, which is the amount the government estimates it would have to pay out. The subsidy account was later reduced to $2.5 billion.
“For every dollar appropriated, the loans are driving thirteen dollars of private sector investment,” she said via e-mail. “The DOE has thus far pledged to finance eight renewable energy generation projects with a combined capacity of more than 4,000 megawatts — enough to power more than one million homes.” …
The Environmental Protection Agency released a plan Wednesday that would reduce emissions of mercury and other toxins from coal-burning power plants, drawing praise from health officials and condemnation from some industry representatives and lawmakers.
EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said the “first ever” national standard for harmful power plant emissions “was 20 years in the making” and was required by the 1990 Clean Air Act. The plan would force plants to purchase scrubbers and other equipment to prevent 91 percent of mercury from coal from being released into the air.
According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, coal-fired power plants are among the nation’s greatest sources of stationary pollution. In 2005, they accounted for 70 percent of emissions of sulfur dioxide, nearly half of the mercury and 20 percent of the nitrogen oxide.
Jackson estimated that the regulation would cost industry $10 billion by 2015, but said the health and environmental improvements would be worth more than $100 billion a year. She said electric bills would increase by $3 to $4 a month once the rule was fully implemented.
Reflecting the anticipated congressional battle, Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), a frequent critic of the EPA, responded by introducing legislation that calls for a formal review of the agency’s regulations.
“EPA’s proposed utility [rule] today could, by itself, shut down up to 20 percent of America’s coal-fired power capacity,” he said. “When you add in all of the rules and regulations from EPA’s cap-and-trade agenda, the outlook for jobs and economic growth looks dire.”
Organizations that represent power plants seized on the projected cost of the cleaning equipment, which some say would exceed $10 billion, to denounce the standards. Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, called the proposal “one of the most expensive rules in the history of the agency.”
Barbara Boxer, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Tom Carper, also a Democrat, asked for the review in a letter to the chairman of the NRC, Gregory Jaczko.
“These domestic nuclear reactors must be fully evaluated to ensure that they are as safe and resilient as possible … and that personnel training and equipment for emergency responses are in place and up-to-date,” the senators wrote in the letter.
They asked the NRC, an independent agency that regulates commercial nuclear power plants, to assess whether the plants could withstand both natural and man-made disasters.
A report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists on Thursday said spotty inspections of the nuclear power industry allowed plants to operate even when there were known problems in their safety systems.
Jaczko told reporters at the White House that nuclear reactors, including those in tremor-prone California, were designed to withstand major earthquakes and tsunamis, and said that the NRC monitored them closely.
Brown, Joined by Sen. Klobuchar, Urges the Federal Trade Commission to Examine Drastic Prenatal Drug Cost Increase
Excellent Jon Dwyer article on the health care cost nobody wants to talk about, enormous pay packages at hospitals largely dependent on public money:
At Bronx-Lebanon, a hospital that exists only by the grace and taxed fortunes of the people of New York State, the chief executive was paid $4.8 million in 2007 and $3.6 million in 2008, records show. At NewYork-Presbyterian, a hospital system that receives nearly half a billion dollars annually in public money, the chief executive was paid $9.8 million in 2007 and $2.8 million in 2008.
And on and on and on.
Rep. Jim McGovern in the Rules Committee today introduced an amendment to the NPR defunding to prohibit federal money from being used to advertise on Fox News.
Rep. McGovern’s testimony (which changed a little from the time this was sent to when he actually spoke):
Mr. Chairman, this bill is a bad idea.
“We all know what’s going on here. The reason this bill is before us is that a discredited, right-wing activist recently made a selectively-edited, 11 minute video of a two-hour conversation. The target of his little sting was a fundraising executive at NPR who no longer works there.”
“That executive made what appeared to be disparaging remarks about the Republican Party. Now, if you look at what he actually said, in full context, it’s clear that he was paraphrasing what other Republicans had said about the direction of the party.”
In any case, there is absolutely no reason to cut off funds for NPR because of this issue. There is no reason to jeopardize the news and entertainment that millions and millions of Americans rely on and enjoy.
“But if you insist on going down this road, Mr. Chairman, then we should be “fair and balanced” in the way we do it.”
Anthony Weiner Sarcastically Mocks GOP NPR Defunding Bill (VIDEO)
The key paragraph in the new paywall announcement:
“Readers who come to Times articles through links from search, blogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter will be able to read those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit. For some search engines, users will have a daily limit of free links to Times articles.”
That’s a relief – and smart. By keeping the content accessible to the online world, even making blogs and social media linkage an exception to the paywall, the Times hopes to retain traffic while also making more money. Obviously, the Dish has a vested interest here.
We remain parasitic on the NYT and other news sites; and I should add I regard the NYT website as the best news site in the world; without it, we would be lost. But like most parasites, we also perform a service for our hosts. We direct readers to content we think matters. So we add to the NYT’s traffic and readership.
But what makes this exception even more interesting is that, if I read it correctly, it almost privileges links from blogs and social media against more direct access. Which makes it a gift to the blogosphere.
Social media is poised to become a central player in the 2012 presidential election. How much of one? A study by the Pew Research Center found that 20 percent of adults who surf the Internet used social networks to share information about the 2010 midterm elections. Head over to the Media Decoder blog, where my colleague Jennifer Preston has all the details.
Midterm elections tilt older and whiter than presidential elections — which is to say, they tilt toward Republican constituencies. So Democrats will start off on a more level playing field. Moreover, choice elections tend to be better for incumbents than referendums. Obama’s name on the ballot — not to mention the presence of a single Republican opposing him — will make it much easier to fire Democrats up. Given those two factors, it’s easy enough to imagine the circumstances in which the House goes Democratic. It might not be likely, but it’s not unimaginable. All House Democrats need to do, after all, is win 51 percent of their races.
The Senate is going to be a more uphill battle. Democrats can’t win back any of the seats they lost in 2010 — those seats won’t be up until 2016. And because the seats up in 2012 were won in the Democratic wave of 2006, Democrats will be defending 23 seats to the Republican’s 10. That means for Democrats to hold the Senate, they’ll need to win almost 60 percent of those races — which is obviously a tougher charge.
All of which is to say, if Democrats have a good year in 2012, it’s likelier that 2013 sees President Obama working with Speaker Nancy Pelosi than President Obama linking arms with Majority Leader Harry Reid. It helps explain, I think, why Pelosi was so intent on remaining leader of the House Democrats after last year’s rout, and also why Reid was so unwilling to make any significant changes to the Senate’s rules.
The U.N. Security Council voted on Thursday to authorize a no-fly zone over Libya and “all necessary measures” — code for military action — to protect civilians from Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.
Diplomatic sources in France, which favors more aggressive action against Gaddafi, say military action could come as soon as Friday and could include France, Britain, possibly the United States and one or more Arab states.
But a U.S. military official said no immediate U.S. action was expected following the vote.
It is unclear exactly how long it would take to arrange the military operations needed to enforce the no-fly zone.
Last week, the head of U.S. Joint Forces Command said the Pentagon could implement a no-fly zone ‘within a couple of days.’ But on Thursday, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz said it would take “upwards of a week.”
If the United States chose not to get involved, Britain and France probably have the military capabilities to mount a limited no-fly zone or maritime exclusion zone…
But U.S. officials believe the Pentagon, with its extensive air and sea assets, would do the heavy lifting.
The United States, if it decides to enforce a no-fly zone, would likely be required to pull air assets from Europe and the United States, officials say, and possibly even from Iraq and Afghanistan. Some commanders fear that could tax a military already stretched by two wars and, now, aid efforts in Japan. “There are limited intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets,” Schwartz said. The United States would likely use bombers and fighter planes, possibly including F-16s, F-15s and F-22s, to strike ground targets, Schwartz said. It would also deploy surveillance planes, aerial refueling planes, satellite communication equipment and aircraft capable of jamming Libyan communications.
WOULD IT BE EFFECTIVE IN STOPPING GADDAFI?
As time passes, fewer people believe a no-fly zone would be decisive on the ground. Government forces have relied mainly on artillery barrages followed by advances by tanks and other ground forces to drive back rebels, and NATO warplanes flying over Libya might be unable to protect civilians on the ground. In a sign of reservations within the U.S. military, Schwartz said a no-fly zone alone would not be sufficient to reverse the momentum of Gaddafi’s troops. It would be a major challenge to enforce a no-fly zone over all of Libya, with a land area some 35 times that of Bosnia, where NATO implemented a no-fly zone in the early 1990s. Officials might choose to set up a more limited area around the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi, using a smaller number of combat and support aircraft.
According to the Union Leader, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty has confirmed that he will participate in a large Tea Party rally on April 15 hosted by Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the front group founded and funded by petrochemical billionaire David Koch. Pawlenty has also indicated that he will speak at the AFP New Hampshire chapter dinner hosted two weeks later, along with other GOP presidential contenders like former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and pizza mogul Herman Cain.
Pawlenty’s participation in the event is further evidence that Koch-controlled front groups are heavily influencing the GOP presidential primaries. In 2008, Pawlenty, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, and all of the other GOP candidates attended Koch conferences, hoping to shore up Koch support for the GOP nomination.
We’ve found a lot of brutal poll numbers for Sarah Palin so far in 2011: down in South Dakota, down in South Carolina, down in Arizona, only up by 1 point in Texas, only up by 1 point in Nebraska to name a few. But this has to be the worst- independent voters say they would support Charlie Sheen over Palin for President by a 41/36 margin. Seriously.
The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling between March 10th and March 13th.
Yesterday, thousands of Main Street Movement protesters marched on the Michigan Capitol to protest Gov. Rick Snyder’s (R) constitutionally flawed assault on Michigan workers. Michigan’s voters, however, can do far more than simply make their displeasure known to Snyder and his allies in the state legislature. Michigan’s constitution is unusually easy to amend, and Snyder and his allies become eligible for a recall in just over three months.
The state House and Senate Minority Leaders have already called for a state constitutional amendment protecting collective bargaining rights, but Michigan voters can bypass the legislature altogether and call for a constitutional amendment by petition and referendum.
I appreciate this frustration, but it seems misplaced. The issue isn’t that Obama is failing to use his bully pulpit adequately to drive the Dem message. Rather, the problem is that there is no Dem message.
Democrats have failed to unite behind a coherent critique of the GOP’s fiscal policies, and have failed to articulate a clear alternative. When Senator Jeff Merkley recently offered a consistent and cogent critique of the GOP’s approach, he sounded like a rather lonely fellow. By acquiescing in advance to deep but temporary GOP cuts, and by lending rhetorical support to the notion that “government must tighten its belt” immediately, Dems only made it harder on themselves. They are now in the awkward position of arguing that the GOP’s proposal of $61 billion in budget cuts will cost 700,000 jobs, while simultaneously arguing that cutting somewhat less is good policy.
Dems seem to be signaling that they might be able to accept a deal on a package of $30 billion to $40 billion in cuts. But by the lights of the Dems’ own critique of the GOP’s proposals, wouldn’t these cuts also cost too many jobs? The point is not that Dems shouldn’t criticize the GOP’s cuts or that they wouldn’t cost jobs, but rather that their overall arguments are muddled and self-contradictory. No wonder the new Pew poll shows a sharp rise in the number of Americans who see little difference between the parties on fiscal issues.
Maybe it’s fair to blame Obama’s lack of leadership for the Dems’ failure to articulate a coherent alternative vision to the GOP’s austerity/cut-cut-cut frame. But at what point do Congressional Dems take some responsibility for their own internal bickering and their own perpetual willingness to lend rhetorical support to the GOP’s fiscal worldview?
House Republicans sure find the strangest things to spend time on.
The House Judiciary Committee will consider a resolution Thursday to reaffirm “In God We Trust” as the national motto.
Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) sponsored the resolution, which also encourages displaying the phrase in public buildings, schools, and other government institutions. […]
Forbes sponsored the same resolution last Congress, but it never made it out of the Judiciary Committee.
Yes, but it’s a whole new Congress now, isn’t it?
Keep in mind, the GOP-led House Judiciary Committee will be spending time on this today, but there’s no real point to any of this. “In God We Trust” is already the motto. In effect, the resolution is largely intended to say, “Just in case anyone forgot, the national motto is still the national motto.”
They’ve invested considerable time and energy on defending the Defense of Marriage Act, recklessly accusing Muslim Americans of disloyalty, going after NPR, and pushing culture-war bills related to vouchers, English as the “official” language, and now “In God We Trust.”
In the meantime, we’re still waiting for that elusive Republican jobs plan to come out of hiding. They’ve been at this now for 10 weeks; they’re bound to take unemployment seriously one of these days, right?
As they prepare to wage political war against President Obama, the potential 2012 Republican candidates are doing everything they can to draw sharp distinctions with him.
But Mr. Obama isn’t cooperating.
Rather than emphasize his differences with potential Oval Office rivals or Republican adversaries on Capitol Hill, the president is taking every opportunity he can to embrace members of the other party as co-conspirators in his efforts to confront the country’s challenges.
According to Mr. Obama, the two parties have cooperated — or are showing signs of being willing to work together — on education reform, tax cuts, energy security, economic growth and potential changes to an entitlement system that has become a drain on the nation’s budget.
The logic behind Mr. Obama’s approach appears to be rooted in the belief that voters — and especially independents — are looking for evidence that politicians in Washington are working together on problems rather than content to live with an unending stalemate.
In a cabinet meeting the day after the midterm elections in November, Mr. Obama said that that was the message he had received from the drubbing his party took. Voters, he said, are “concerned about making sure that taxpayer money is not wasted, and they want to change the tone here in Washington, where the two parties are coming together and focusing on the people’s business as opposed to scoring political points.”
The change in the president’s rhetoric since then has been striking.
In the weeks before the election, Mr. Obama hardly missed an opportunity to suggest that it was Republicans who had driven the American economy into a ditch. “Have you noticed when you want to go forward, what do you do with your car?” he would repeatedly ask. “You put it in D. When you want to go backwards, what do you do? You put it in R. That’s not a coincidence.”
In addition to appealing to some voters, the bipartisan rhetoric from Mr. Obama may be an attempt to disarm his potential 2012 rivals and Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Not everything is sweetness and light, of course. Mr. Obama and the Capitol Hill Republicans remain at loggerheads over the current year’s budget. And there’s no clear indication of how the two sides are going to reach agreement on raising the nation’s debt ceiling later this year.
The president will also need to shift into a more adversarial mode as the election grows closer. Even as his campaign preached hope and optimism in 2008, Mr. Obama’s victory against Senator John McCain of Arizona was built on drawing a clear contrast between the two men.
It may be that Mr. Obama can put off that kind of sharp-edged campaign rhetoric for several months. It seems unlikely he will have a serious primary challenger, and that will allow him to appear somewhat above the fray while the Republicans battle among themselves.
But already, his campaign operatives are beginning to travel the country, hat-in-hand, looking for donations from wealthy supporters. And his finance operation will soon be asking for donations from the millions of less-wealthy supporters who contributed a few dollars in 2008.
Both groups will be looking for contrasts, not just mushy expressions of cooperation.
March 16, 2011: A group of a couple hundred union workers, labor activists and progressives turned the lobby of a DC office building into a mini-Wisconsin State Capitol Wednesday afternoon. Protesters stormed the building of lobbying powerhouse BGR in downtown DC that was hosting a fundraiser for Wisconsin state Republicans.
60 second spot that liberal groups are running against top recall targets in Wisconsin:
Thousands of union members and other protesters crowded the Michigan Statehouse Wednesday for a demonstration against Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed budget.
The rally was noisy, but mostly peaceful, The Detroit News reported. Crowds chanted “It’s not right,” referring to Snyder’s plan to cut benefits and reduce collective bargaining rights for state employees.
“It’s the Republican reverse Robin Hood — steal from the poor and the working class and give it to the rich and wealthy,” United Auto Workers President Bob King yelled in a speech on the Statehouse steps.
The rally was the biggest in the Michigan capitol so far this budget season, drawing 3,000 to 4,000 people, the newspaper said.
I think liberals too often call for “top-down” leadership when what’s really required is an effort to create the political conditions where such leadership can be effective. As Brendan Nyhan notes, the legend of Ronald Reagan has given a number of people — including the president — the mistaken impression that the “bully pulpit” is often an effective tool for moving public opinion. Nyhan notes that Reagan’s pollster actually told him that his high-profile speeches were “likely to lower his approval and generate more public and congressional opposition than support.” In other words, “muscular White House leadership,” in the sense of using the bully pulpit to rail against gun violence, is likely to be more counterproductive than helpful, even in service to the very timid reforms Obama was suggesting.
Obama’s decision to invite the NRA for talks was exactly the right one. Extending an invitation to the NRA sends the message to gun owners that their carefully-stoked panic about Obama “taking your guns” is unwarranted.
Escalation from the White House would only play into the NRA’s hands — the organization would seize on Obama’s aggressiveness to feed the false impression that he’s some sort of gun control hardliner. What really needs to happen is that groups advocating for gun control need to step up their game and create political conditions that will make it politically harder for the NRA to snub Obama the next time he extends a hand of compromise.
Hate groups are on the rise in America. This is a national problem, and we all should be concerned about it.
The number of such groups has exceeded 1,000 for the first time since the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization based in Montgomery, Ala., started compiling this information in the 1980s.
Hatemongers “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics,” the center says.
The organization also tracked two other related groups, made up of self-proclaimed nativists and patriots.
There is some overlap here. One common sentiment is extreme hostility toward President Obama. He is a “lightning rod for many on the political right, a man who represents both the federal government and the fact that the racial makeup of the United States is changing, something that upsets a significant number of white Americans,” the center’s report says.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
By NATALIE ANGIER
Our love for animals can be traced to our capacity to infer the mental states of others, which archaeological evidence suggests emerged more than 50,000 ago.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.