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Fifteen maps showing where stimulus projects are. Here is the featured map of the day:
Contract, grant, and loan awards that are completed as of the last recipient reporting cycle in June 2011 are displayed on this map.
Earlier today, ThinkProgress published an exclusive report that the law firm representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a right-wing trade association representing big business, is working with set of “private security” companies and lobbying firms to undermine their political opponents, including ThinkProgress. According to e-mails obtained by ThinkProgress, the Chamber hired the lobbying firm Hunton and Williams. Attorneys for the firm solicited a set of private security firms — HBGary Federal, Palantir, and Berico Technologies (collectively called Team Themis) — to develop a sabotage campaign against progressive groups and labor unions, including ThinkProgress, the labor coalition Change to Win, SEIU, US Chamber Watch, and StopTheChamber.com.
New emails reveal that the private spy company investigated the families and children of the Chamber’s political opponents. The apparent spearhead of this project was Aaron Barr, an executive at HBGary. Barr circulated numerous emails and documents detailing information about political opponents’ children, spouses, and personal lives.
One of the targets was Mike Gehrke, a former staffer with Change to Win. Among the information circulated about Gehrke was the specific “Jewish church” he attended and a link to pictures of his wife and two children (sensitive information was redacted by ThinkProgress): […]
Another target was Brad Friedman, co-founder of The Brad Blog. Barr’s profile of Freidman included information about his life partner and his home address (sensitive information redacted by ThinkProgress): […]
This tactic of targeting opponents’ personal lives and family was not simply a random event. Rather, it was a concerted and deliberate effort to use anything possible to smear the Chamber’s political opponents. To dramatize his firm’s intimidation tactics, Barr sent an email to Hunton & Williams attorney John Woods that contained personal details about fellow Hunton attorney Richard Wyatt, who was representing the Chamber. The email was intended to show Woods and Wyatt how “vulnerable” they are:
Watching things unravel in slow motion
Moody’s Analytics this week significantly lowered its expectations for economic growth for the rest of the year, citing an “extraordinary reversal of fortune.” Whereas the company expected the economy to grow at 3.5% in the latter half of 2011, Moody’s now sees GDP growth closer to 2%.
The Philadelphia Fed index, a closely-watched metric for factory activity, was atrocious this morning; existing home sales dropped unexpectedly; and first-time unemployment claims have taken a turn for the worse.
Morgan Stanley, meanwhile, cut its global growth forecast for the next year by a full percentage point. It cited “a policy-induced slowdown,” aggravated in part by “the prospect of fiscal tightening” in the United States and Europe.
In other words: Growth is weak and policymakers are hurting rather than helping. The debt-ceiling debate hurt. The dithering response to the Eurozone’s debt crisis hurt. And the expected austerity in both the United States and Europe is going to hurt even more. JP Morgan notes that one reason they think the United States might tip back into recession is that in the first quarter of 2012, there will be “an automatic tightening fiscal policy if, as our US team currently assumes, this year’s fiscal stimulus measures will expire.”
The economy may very well be slipping back into a recession, but it’s within our power to prevent this. Too many policymakers simply don’t want to. We’re headed for a cliff, but there’s plenty of time to hit the brake and turn the wheel. Conservatives simply refuse. Their ideology demands it.
We are talking about a rare sight: a recession conservative politicians are causing through neglect, ignorance, and fealty to a misguided philosophy.
Wall Street is effectively pointing at a downturn. Republicans, who’ve been wrong about every economic challenge of the last quarter-century, are practically aiming for the disaster Wall Street is telling them to avoid.
Josh Marshall added, “It really is a downturn made in Washington. Mind-numbing to behold. But then, who hires Washington?”
Update: In case this isn’t already clear, the rules of supply and demand still exist, and the economy is lacking demand. Democrats prefer to make more public investments, which boost demand and inject capital into the economy. Republicans prefer austerity, which lowers demand and takes money out of the economy. Every time you hear some GOP politician say, “What we need right now is to cut spending,” he or she is effectively begging for an even weaker economy.
PBS NewHour, transcript:
With Americans’ borrowing back on the rise and signs that economic inequality is growing, could there be another financial crisis in the near future? Paul Solman continues his series of reports on U.S. economic inequality.
From the crash of ’08 to this spring, Americans had — uncharacteristically — been paying down their debts. But borrowing is again on the rise, according to the Federal Reserve. Historically, though, high debt relative to income is a fairly recent development for Americans, which economist Frank Levy blames on the growing pressures of economic inequality.
FRANK LEVY, Massachusetts Institute of Technology: The part that’s really changed in the last 20 years is debt, that people took out more and more debt to sustain consumption.
PAUL SOLMAN: Took our more debt because, he says, America is growing more unequal. Since the top one percent now commands more than one-third of all wealth, how’s the bottom 99 percent supposed to keep up with the Joneses, if not the Kardashians? By borrowing.
FRANK LEVY: In the 1950s and 1960s, everybody’s income was rising. Everybody had some claim on economic growth, so that people could buy a middle-class standard of living. If you go back to the ’70s into the ’80s, when things began to flatten out, people started dealing with that by putting a second earner into the labor force.
But that obviously has limits. And so, once that was pretty well exhausted, once you started getting into the ’90s, then we’re into the home equity loans and the credit card stuff and all the rest of that, trying to keep consumption growing like it had been before.
PAUL SOLMAN: We’re not talking poor people. Marisol Trotman earns her salary at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and even got a raise this year.
MARISOL TROTMAN, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: It was so minimal, it turned out to be like a $3 increase, which really didn’t make a difference.
PAUL SOLMAN: The administrative assistant regrets going $10,000 into debt, even if it was mainly for roof repairs.
MARISOL TROTMAN: You’re just digging a bigger hole. And when the income isn’t increasing and the — you know, the IOUs go up, it’s never easy.
PAUL SOLMAN: Nerline Grand-Pierre is a lab supervisor at Boston University. She had run up $29,000 in debt.
NERLINE GRAND-PIERRE, Boston University: Basically we just kept getting more and more into debt. We’re using our cards just basically to survive. So the raise that I get basically is not enough to cover my bills.
PAUL SOLMAN: Bad for Grand-Pierre and, arguably, bad for the rest of us, because however necessary the borrowing of recent years might have seemed, it was bound to end badly for just about everyone.
DAVID KOTZ, University of Massachusetts, Amherst: The huge gap between the rich and everyone else is not just a moral or ethical problem. It is a major factor explaining the severe financial and economic crisis that broke out in 2008.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:
A levee upgrade project will temporarily close a stretch of the American River Parkway Trail near the
California State University-Sacramento campus beginning Aug. 22. […]
The Corps built more than 20 miles of cutoff walls into American River levees between 2000 and 2002 under the Corps’ and Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency’s American River Common Features project. Areas where construction was complicated by utilities, bridges or power lines were set aside for later construction, leaving gaps in the walls. Cutoff walls strengthen levees and help prevent water from leaking through or under them.
“Levees are only as strong as their weakest link,” project manager John Hoge said. “That’s why closing these gaps is so important.
Combined with ongoing and completed levee projects and improvements to Folsom Dam, we are continuing to reduce flood risk for Sacramento.”
Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the $2.2 million project.
The latest numbers on poverty among U.S. children are so striking that they make you do a double take.
That’s 42 percent of the kids in the United States who are just a few of mom’s or dad’s paychecks away from economic catastrophe, says Patrick McCarthy, CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which released the statistics this week as part of its latest Kids Count study.
Nearly 8 million children in 2010 were living with at least one parent who was unemployed.
[…]And there’s plenty of other data to pore over — about disturbing trends at the national level and what’s happening in your state.
More than 2 million more children dropped below the poverty line in the last decade, bringing those levels back to what they were in the late 1990s.
“The biggest thing that caught our eye is the percentage of children living in poverty that has been increasing,” McCarthy said. “In 2009, 20 percent of children were in poverty and we suspect that in 2010 and 2011 we’ll see even greater increases. The gains that children made in the 1990s were wiped out by the recession.”
Nearly one in 10 U.S. children is being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new analysis of federal data released Thursday.
The percentage of U.S. children between ages 5 to 17 who were diagnosed with ADHD increased from about 7 percent to 9 percentbetween 1998 and 2009, according to the analysis by the National Center for Health Statistics.
As expected, the condition was more common among boys than girls, according to the analysis. The prevalence of ADHD increased from 9.9 percent to 12.3 percent among boys and from 3.6 percent to 5.5 percent among girls.
The condition, which is marked by difficulty paying attention, impulsive behavior and hyperactivity, varies by race and ethnicity, according to the report. But the gap between whites and blacks narrowed during that time period, according to the report. The prevalence of the condition increased from 8.2 percent to 10.6 percent among whites compared to an increase from 5.1 percent to 9.5 percent among blacks.
Puerto Rican children had about the same rate as blacks, while the rate among Mexican Americans remained lower, according to the analysis.
The prevalence also varied by region of the country, with the rates being higher in the South and Midwest than the Northeast and West.
The analysis did not examine the reasons for the increasing diagnoses or the variation by race and region.
Shopping for health insurance next year will be easier when hundreds of health insurers and employers use the same simple forms unveiled Wednesday by the Obama administration, consumer advocates and government officials say.
But the new materials, required by the 2010 health law, are still a work in progress. The public will have 60 days to comment on any changes that may be needed in the 132 pages of rules for the forms, federal health and labor officials said.
Officials will even consider bending the law’s March deadline for distributing the forms, which are intended to explain benefits and costs in easy-to-understand terms so that consumers can comparison shop for the best coverage. The materials include a benefits summary chart, definitions of commonly used terms, and two pages of coverage facts labels – modeled after the nutrition facts labels on prepared foods – that show how much a plan pays for the average national cost of three common medical conditions. The law prohibits “fine print,” requiring materials to be printed in at least 12-point type (larger than the type in a typical newspaper article).
“Many times people will make decisions on coverage and not understand what it means for them until they get sick or until their care is denied or until they face high out of pocket costs,” Don Berwick, administrator of the U. S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said Wednesday.
Dan Maguire, director of the Department of Labor’s Office of Health Plan Standards and Compliance Assistance, asked for comments on whether the forms should be modified for self-funded employer plans and whether use of the forms could be phased in over time.
Health and labor officials also want feedback on whether the forms should be limited to four single- or double-sided pages — a detail the law apparently omits.
The law requires that all insurers and employers offering health coverage provide the forms to more than 160 million beneficiaries and upon request to new applicants either electronically – by email or on the Internet – or on paper, by March 23, 2012. In some cases, forms for individual policies would be available only on the Internet. The forms were drafted by a group assembled by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners that included state insurance regulators, and insurance, consumer and patient advocacy representatives.
Many employers are already required to provide health plan information, said Steve Wojik, vice president for public policy for the National Business Group on Health, which represents 330 large employers, most of which have self-insured health plans. Complying with the new health law rules would mean preparing two sets of plan information for next year. Pushing back the March 2012 deadline would avoid the duplicative effort, he said.
Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group, also called for a delay because the federal agencies were four months late in issuing the rules. He said health plans need more time “to make the operational and administrative changes needed to create these new documents.”
“There is room for improvement,” said Lynn Quincy, senior policy analyst at Consumers Union, which tested some early drafts with consumers. She said the revised forms have not been consumer tested, and translations of the forms were never tested with non-English language speakers.
In one of the most brazen examples of “blaming the victim” in recent memory, a school in Springfield, Missouri, has, according to a lawsuit, not only dismissed the rape claims of a seventh grade special education student, but also forced the girl to write and hand-deliver an apology letter to her alleged attacker. The lawsuit claims that the same student later raped her again. The school and other defendants have denied all charges.
According to the lawsuit, after the second attack, a rape kit was administered and the boy pleaded guilty to unspecified charges in juvenile court. But the school still refused to take the girl seriously — and even suspended her again, this time for “Disrespectful Conduct” and “Public Display of Affection.” The seventh grader reported her rape in the spring of 2009, and even though school officials are required by law to report such incidents to the authorities, Republic Middle School failed to do so:
The lawsuit alleges that school officials told her they didn’t believe her, and after “multiple intimidating interrogations,” she recanted. The lawsuit also notes that a school psychological report said the girl “would forego her own needs and wishes to satisfy the request of others around so that she can be accepted,” meaning she might have been especially susceptible to pressure to change her story.
But the pressure allegedly didn’t end there. The girl says she was made to write an apology note to her attacker and hand-deliver it to him. She was also expelled for the remainder of the school year.
When she came back the following year, the school allegedly refused her mother’s request for extra monitoring and did not separate her from her alleged attacker. In February 2010, the lawsuit says he “was able to hunt [her] down, drag her to the back of the school library, and again forcibly rape her.”She and her mother reported this rape to the police, and a rape kit tested positive for her attacker’s semen — he plead guilty to charges in juvenile court.
The lawsuit claims that the school forced the girl to write this apology letter without seeking her mother’s permission, and then expelled her for filing a false report. When the same student began harassing and assaulting her again when she came back to school, she did not tell school officials because she was afraid they would accuse her of lying and kick her out again. The victim’s family is seeking punitive damages “to deter School Officials and others from similar conduct in the future.”
The school district has denied the girl’s allegations. Most disturbingly, its response letter claims the girl “failed and neglected to use reasonable means to protect herself.”
Fla. Supreme Court rules Gov. Scott effort to freeze new regulations is unconstitutional
Gov. Rick Scott suffered a legal setback Tuesday when the Florida Supreme Court ruled that an effort to hold up new state regulations was unconstitutional, but the practical effects of the decision are still unclear.
As part of his efforts to “hold government accountable” and crack down on “job-killing” regulations, Scott issued a temporary freeze on new regulations in one of his first formal acts as governor. Executive order 11-01 also created the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform (aka OFARR), which was charged with reviewing new and existing rules to ensure they did not exceed legislative authority or stymie job creation.
Rosalie Whiley, a blind woman seeking to reapply for food stamps, filed a petition with the court in March, arguing that the order had ensnared a measure by the Department of Children and Families to create a streamlined application for the program.
The environmental group Audubon of Florida and advocates for the elderly and the disabled joined the case, arguing that Scott had exceeded his constitutional authority and violated the separation of powers by inserting a new layer of bureaucracy into the process of rulemaking, in which the Legislature delegates the power to fine-tune its laws to executive agencies.
Scott subsequently issued a new order, which replaced the original order and contained this passage, which was cited in Tuesday’s ruling:
I hereby direct all agencies under the direction of the Governor, prior to developing new rules or amending or repealing existing rules, to submit all proposed notices, along with the complete text of any proposed rule or amendment, to OFARR. These agencies shall also submit any other documentation required by OFARR, and no such agency may submit for publication any required notice without OFARR’s approval
The Supreme Court’s majority opinion, joined by five justices, supports the petitioners’ argument that Scott did not have the power to hold up the rulemaking process by requiring new rules to be approved by the office.
In their arguments before the court, Scott’s lawyers held that he was acting under the “supreme executive power” granted to the governor by the state constitution, and argued that because the heads of executive agencies serve at the pleasure of the governor — meaning he can fire them if he disagrees with their decisions — he could assert authority over how they conduct rulemaking. Tuesday’s opinion, however, holds that “the power to remove is not analogous to the power to control.”
Scott’s advisers said Tuesday’s ruling failed to show proper deference to the executive branch, and that if there was any way the governor’s efforts could conceivably be ruled constitutional, the court should have allowed them to stand.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me,” Scott said, adding that he felt his executive order was in line with his power to supervise the heads of executive agencies.
A dissenting opinion by Justice Ricky Polston offered a similar assessment, holding that “if ‘supreme executive power’ means anything, it must mean that the Governor can supervise and control the policy-making choices — within the range of choices permitted by law — of the subordinate executive branch officers who serve at his pleasure.”
The ruling — and the petitions challenging Scott’s order — did not find fault with the process of reviewing rules or requesting information from agency heads, and focused more narrowly on the suspension of rulemaking and OFARR’s authority to hold up proposed rules before they enter the public rulemaking process.
On Tuesday, the governor’s office was still trying to figure out what the ruling’s effect will be. His advisers hinted at the possibility of a clarifying executive order, but said it was too early to tell whether one would be necessary.
“You’re already at Yosemite Sam levels,” Stewart said. “You gotta dial it back to Walker Texas Ranger or Coach Taylor territory.”
The Hollywood-based reporter for Murdoch’s now-defunct News of the World tabloid has been arrested on phone hacking charges. The charges stem from phone hacking in Britain, before the reporter, James Desborough, moved to the U.S. But the arrest raises questions about whether or not Desborough – praised for getting information “not even close family members” know – may have used the same methods here that he allegedly used there.
Britain’s Guardian reports:
At the 2009 British Press Awards ceremony, Desborough was praised by judges for his series of “uncompromising scoops which mean no celebrity with secrets can sleep easy”. He was presented with his award by Jon Snow, the respected Channel 4 journalist and anchorman.
Desborough continued to win plaudits after his move to America. Ian Halperin, a Hollywood author, described him as someone who “never gets his facts wrong. He’s a rock solid reporter.” Hollyscope, an online site, also praised Desborough for “seem[ing] to have information that not even close family members … know.”
…Desborough was writing for the News of the World up until it closed last month.
I’ve previously written that there are many reasons to suspect that News Corp. phone hacking may have occurred in the U.S. The arrest of this U.S.-based reporter is one more.
Dumbest fake outrage ever: Obama’s vacation
As you know, the usual suspects on the right are attacking Obama’s planned Martha’s Vineyard vacation. So CBS’s Mark Knoller ran the numbers and found that Obama has spent far fewer days vacationing as of this point than either George W. Bush or Saint Ronald Reagan had:
So far, President Obama has taken 61 vacation days after 31 months in office. At this point in their presidencies, George W. Bush had spent 180 days at his ranch where his staff often joined him for meetings. And Ronald Reagan had taken 112 vacation days at his ranch.
Among recent presidents, Bill Clinton took the least time off — 28 days.
You’d think that this would shut down this idiotic story for good. But it hasn’t done a thing to slow the attacks. Barely 12 hours after Knoller set the record straight, the Republican National Committee unveiled a new Web site, called ObamaGetAway.com, which lampoons the president with a series of delightful faux postcards showing Obama eating ice cream and frolicking in the surf.
It seems that even some on the left are worried that Obama’s vacation is “bad optics,” particularly given the bad economy. After all, everyone still recalls that Bill Clinton famously polled on the idea of taking a vacation at Martha’s Vineyard before opting instead for Wyoming. And some news accounts are subtly hinting that the Obama team set up his bus trip through the midwest in part to preempt any damage the vacation might cause. […]
Either way, what makes this whole meme particularly ridiculous is the basic fact about it that’s hiding right there in plain sight: Presidential vacations have nothing in common with conventional vacations. As Knoller, a veteran White House reporter, wryly puts it:
To be fair, a presidential vacation away from the White House is not the same as a vacation for the average person. The president is still in contact with his advisers and on call for any emergency.
Bad optics or no, I have a sneaking suspicion that the public fully grasps the relevant basic realities of modern travel and communications.
Earlier this year, ThinkProgress obtained 75,000 private emails from the defense contractor HBGary Federal via the hacktivist group called Anonymous. The emails led to two shocking revelations. First, that an assortment of private military firms collectively called “Team Themis” had been tapped by Bank of America to conduct a cyber war against reporters sympathetically covering the Wikileaks revelations. And second, that late in 2010, the same set of firms began work separately for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a Republican-aligned corporate lobbying group, to develop a similar campaign of sabotage against progressive organizations, including the SEIU and ThinkProgress.
In presentations obtained by ThinkProgress from the e-mail dump detailing the tactics potentially used against progressives, HBGary Federal floated the idea of using “fake insider personas”to infiltrate left-leaning groups critical of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s policies. As HBGary Federal executive Aaron Barr described in several emails, his firm could work with partner companies Palantir and Berico Technologies to manipulate fake online identities, using networks like Facebook, to gain access to private information from his targets. Other presentations are more specific and describe efforts to use social media to hack computers and find vulnerabilities among even the families of people who work at organizations critical of the Chamber.
In one email from the dump, Barr discusses a fake persona he created called “Holly Weber.” She would be born in Portland in 1984, attend Reynolds High School, and work for Lockheed Martin after a stint in the Air Force. Earlier this week, Twitter users actually identified the phony account. Before it was taken down, ThinkProgress snagged screen shots of the fakepersona’s Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. (Barr also described his strategy for pretending to be teenagers online). View a screenshot of the fake account below:
Hunton and Williams, the law firm representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, had been immersed in talks with HBGary Federal, Palantir, and Berico to deliver on a $2 million deal to move forward with the hacking plot against the Chamber’s critics. However, after Anonymous leaked HBGary’s emails and a few reporters picked up on the story, the Chamber distanced itself from the deal. The emails show that HBGary Federal had also worked to sell “persona management” solutions to the U.S. government for cyber intelligence work.
The People’s View:
I have to thank rootless for noticing and posting here about the Huffington Post article on the OFA state director of New Mexico sending out my article on the debt ceiling deal. The author of the Huffpo article, Amanda Terkel, choose a curious headline for her piece: “Obama Campaign Staffer Sends Out Email Bashing Paul Krugman And The ‘Firebagger Lefty Blogosphere’ ” – which is marginally better than its previous version, in which she accused me of calling Krugman a Firebagger. I pointed out the fact that I have never directly called Krugman a Firebagger in an email to Terkel, and she, to her credit, clarified the lede.
But I digress. Terkel’s choice of the headline is curious, and not the least because my article on the debt ceiling, titled Paul Krugman is a Political Rookie. Or How Barack Obama Left John Boehner Holding the Teabag, Again., is actually primarily about the political (and policy) merits of the debt ceiling deal.And I expect that is the reason OFA’s New Mexico state director Ray Sandoval sent it to supporters. But of course, you can always expect the Huffington Post – a corporate media outlet sold for a cool $315 million in cash and at the cost of 200 American jobs lost – to pick up on the poutrage and not concentrate on the merits. No surprises there.
Incidentally, nor is the article, contrary to Terkel’s claims, about “bashing” Paul Krugman. Here’s what I said:
Paul Krugman is a political rookie. At least he is when compared to President Obama.
That’s a fact. Paul Krugman is a political rookie, compared to President Obama. I don’t think even Paul Krugman would dispute that fact. If anyone would like to claim that Paul Krugman is better experienced and more knowledgeable about how things work in the political world than the first African American president of the United States, they are welcome to make their case, but I don’t think they’d get anywhere.
At this point, I would be remiss if I did not say a word of thanks to Ray Sandoval for picking up on the article and getting the message out – I am grateful!
But Terkel did get something right. I mean, you know, credit where credit is due. She patiently explains to her readers – who I suppose she assumes are even more political novices than Krugman – what the term firebagger could possibly mean.
Firebagger” is most likely a combined reference to the liberal blog FireDogLake, founded by Jane Hamsher, and “Tea Bagger,” a less-than-flattering term for Tea Party activists.
Almost right. So close. Except FireDogLake is not a liberal blog. It’s a Pseudo-Left-Libertarian extremist ideologue blog. But other than that, on the money. Why, yes, Sherlock, Firebagger is a term that combines FDL’s hair-on-fire ridiculousness with Teabaggers (for example, opposing things just because President Obama supports them) – whom the FDL rah-rah types act like, only from the Left. It’s a characterization that fits them perfectly – they are more interested in tearing things down than building a country up, more interested in ideological podium-pounding than pragmatic solutions. The bagger (both tea and fire) mentality is the reason our politics is in a rut. If one side was busy spreading hatred and propaganda to increase wingnut turnout, the other (firebaggers) side was busy spreading hatred and propaganda to subdue Democratic turnout. Oh, also, as John Cole points out, it’s a name the Firebaggers gave themselves.
By the way, can someone please tell me why criticism of whiners and Krugman is cause for clawing the chalkboard from Huffington Post, but the constant propagandist bashing of President Obama never gets a critical eye from the same folks?
Speaking of Firebaggers, her Majesty the Highness of FDL, Jane Hamsher, picked up on Terkel’s article and went nuts with it. You know, the usual.
By the way, Ms. Terkel, you seem very upset about the OFA state director in New Mexico sending out an email pointing out the political and policy merits of the debt ceiling deal, an article that also calls out the firebaggers, but for some reason I cannot find our outrage article about Jane Hamsher – the Firebagger in Chief – calling Obama supporters the “dumbest motherfuckers in the world.” Am I missing something or is your reporting just not objective?
Let me send a message to Huffington Post, FDL, and all the ideologue havens in the Firebagger Lefty Blogosphere (that’s right, I said it again): You have been propagating your anti-progressive, pro-dysfunction political message without accountability for too long. In President Obama’s words, Enough! Count on us in the pragmatic progressive blogosphere to stand up and fight back. You do not represent progressivism or liberalism, and we are done letting you hijack it. You wanted a fight, didn’t you? Well, you got one.
Senator Tom Coburn is getting widely pilloried this morning over areport in the Tulsa World claiming that Coburn said Obama wants to “create dependency” because it “worked so well for him” as an “African American male.” The quote seemed to be a reference to Obama’s efforts to preserve the safety net.
In one typical reaction, Salon’s Joan Walsh Tweeted: “Why is Tom Coburn going full-tilt racist against the president right at this moment?”
I asked the reporter who wrote the Tulsa World story, Randy Krehbiel, to send over a full transcript of what Coburn said, which he graciously did. Krehbiel taped the episode. Asked if he thinks Obama’s policies show he wants to destroy the country, Coburn said:
“No, I don’t… He’s a very bright man. But think about his life. And think about what he was exposed to and what he saw in America. He’s only relating what his experience in life was…
“His intent isn’t to destroy. It’s to create dependency because it worked so well for him. I don’t say that critically. Look at people for what they are. Don’t assume ulterior motives. I don’t think he doesn’t love our country. I think he does.
“As an African American male, coming through the progress of everything he experienced, he got tremendous benefit through a lot of these programs. So he believes in them. I just don’t believe they work overall and in the long run they don’t help our country. But he doesn’t know that because his life experience is something different. So it’s very important not to get mad at the man. And I understand, his philosophy — there’s nothing wrong with his philosophy other than it’s goofy and wrong [laughter] — but that doesn’t make him a bad person.”
I think what Coburn means here is that African Americans are more likely to need such programs than whites are, and by his own lights, Coburn actually thinks he’s being charitable to Obama here. He’s essentially saying that Obama’s life experience quite naturally dictated that he would view the safety net as a good thing, because it helped poor African Americans.
As Adam Serwer notes, the problem with Coburn’s remarks as they were originally reported is that he seemed to be saying that blacks get unfair advantages, thanks to the welare state — an implication that’s central to the conservative case against it.
I think the full transcript shows that this isn’t quite what Coburn was saying, but his use of the phrase “create dependence” is still highly questionable. Because as Serwer also notes, Coburn is also implicitly conceding that these programs succeed in their objective of helping people who lack the means to protect themselves.
What’s funny to me about this whole episode is that it reveals how challenging it is for the saner variety of Republicans to reason with some of their constituents about the President. Coburn is struggling to talk a constituent out of his anxiety that Obama actively wants to destroy the country. He needs to find a way of defending Obama’s motives that a constituent inclined to believe the worst about Obama might be able to listen to and even tolerate. So Coburn hit on this way of defending Obama while still keeping his argument confined within a world view that this constituent might find acceptable. It’s not easy being a Republican official these days.
The story exploding on the left right now is that the Obama campaign’s state director in New Mexico sent out an email containing a blog post mocking Paul Krugman and the “firebagger liberal blogosphere”for criticizing the debt ceiling deal negotiated by the White House. Liberal bloggers are asking whether this is the latest sign that the Obama team sees percentage in dumping on the left — or “hippie punching,” as the blogospheric parlance has it.
The Obama official, Ray Sandoval, circulated the email just after the debt ceiling deal passed Congress. Sandoval’s email included a blog post that hammered lefty critics for deriding the deal as a surrender, deriding Krugman as a “political rookie” and decrying critics for “pure, fanatic, indomitable hysteria.”
The term “firebagger” appears to be a reference to Firedoglake, whose bloggers frequently hammer the White House for giving too much ground to Republicans.
The Obama campaign is now going on the record distancing itself from the email. A campaign spokesman, Katie Hogan, emails: “The views expressed in this email do not represent the views of the campaign.”
Here’s my take on this. Some folks on the left are pointing to the campaign’s failure to adequately shoot down this story as a sign that the campaign perhaps sees political gain in riling up the left, as part of some kind of triangulation strategy to win independents. I just don’t believe this is the case. It seems far more likely that they see this kind of story as nothing but a headache, and want it to go away. My bet is they worry — rightly or wrongly — that publicly reassuring liberal critics won’t necessarily gain any good will from them, only risks giving the story more oxygen, and gets them involved in a fruitless public dispute aboutwhether they’re triangulating and “hippie punching.”
That said, this story does provide a window into what I think is a real problem — the nature of the Obama team’s frustration with liberal critics. The problem is that some on the Obama team don’t reckon with what it is lefty critics are actually saying. Obama advisers get angry when they think liberal critics are refusing to accept the limits placed on him by current political realities, and when lefties presume at the outset that Obama will inevitably sell out. That’s reflected in Sandoval’s angry email and in other periodic explosions of anger at the “professional left.”
But the lefty critique goes considerably further than this. It’s an argument with Obama’s team about tactics and strategy, about what might be attainable if he handled these negotiations differently. The case from these critics is if Obama approached negotiations with a harder line, it would be better politics because it would juice up the base and show indys he’s a fighter. They also advocate for this course because the current dynamic is hopelessly broken — and they think a more aggressive approach has at least a chance of broadening the field of what’s substantively possible. (There’s a segment on the left that also thinks Obama wants what’s in the deals he keeps securing, but the points above are broadly what many lefties agree on.)
Whether you agree with this critique or not — people make persuasive cases in both directions — Sandoval’s email shows a broader failure to reckon with what it is that has lefty critics so ticked off. That’s the real problem here — and it’s one of the key causes of the tension between the left and the White House.
UPDATE: I should add that there are plenty of signs lately that the White House is gearing up to show the kind of fight the left is hoping to see.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is looking to improve the security of the family home where she is rehabilitating from January’s shooting. The Arizona Democrat’s political organization sent a letter to the Federal Election Commission Thursday asking for the go-ahead to spend $2,200 in campaign funds to upgrade exterior lighting and locks, and install a duress alarm button in her home. […]
House Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood had recommended that security assessments be carried out at all Members’ district offices, and some lawmakers have had assessments of their homes as well.
The House Administration Committee previously approved the use of official funds to upgrade office security, while the FEC has in some instances approved the use of campaign funds to improve the security of personal homes.
McNulty said in the letter that the improvements are not intended to raise the value of the house, but rather for security purposes. He stated that he is asking for an expedited advisory opinion on the matter.
At a campaign stop at a New Hampshire restaurant today, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) refused to explain his previous claim that Social Security violates the Constitution. Rather than clarify how this firm stance can be squared with his post-presidential campaign announcement position that “Social Security’s going to be there” for the elderly, Perry stuffed some food in his mouth and then refused to answer because his mouth was full:
Inside the café, Gail Mitchell and a companion grilled him: “You said Social Security was unconstitutional.”
“Social Security’s going to be there for those folks,” Perry answered his inquisitors, making reference to the elderly.
“But you said Social Security is unconstitutional,” Mitchell repeated.
“I don’t think I — I’m sorry, you must have,” Perry said before stopping himself.
Instead of elaborating, Perry stuffed a generous piece of popover in his mouth. (Perry called them “pop ups.”)
“I’ve got a big mouthful,” Perry said and then ordering a glass of water. He later tripped over one of the women standing at his side pressing him on Social Security.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” Perry said to her.
[…] In an interview with the Daily Beast’s Andrew Romano, Perry claimed that “pensions” and “health care” are not issues the federal government can address under the Constitution, so it’s difficult to see how Perry expects Social Security (or Medicare, for that matter) to be there for seniors when he is convinced that they violate our nation’s founding document.
And if Perry ever finishes chewing his popover, he has plenty of other questions to answer about his absurd vision of the Constitution, including:
Pell Grants & Student Loans: When Perry said, “I don’t think the federal government has a role in your children’s education,” did he mean that all college students must lose their Pell Grants and federal student loans overnight, or can they finish out the current semester?
Child Labor Laws: Does Perry’s statement that “national labor laws” are unconstitutional mean that he would like to hire child workers himself, or just that coal mine and factory owners should be free to start hiring 9-year-olds if they chose to?
Ending Democracy: Perry opposes the the 17th Amendment, which empowers Americans to elect their senators. Would Perry call upon Congress to repeal this amendment on his first day in the White House, or would this be a lower priority initiative in a Perry Administration? Are there any other elected officials that Perry thinks should be appointed by political insiders instead of being selected by the democratic process?
Workplace Discrimination: Perry wrote that federal laws “protecting civil rights” are unconstitutional, but he also makes an exception for laws barring racial discrimination. Does Perry promise to only appoint justices to the Supreme Court who will allow businesses to fire all of their Catholic employees? How about their female employees?
Jefferson Davis Perry: Perry infamously claimed that “if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people,” Texas may need to secede from the union. What does Perry believe would require Texas to secede? Would Cap and Trade push him into Jefferson Davis territory? How about single payer health care?
Clearly, Rick Perry has many, many questions he needs to answer about his twisted view of the Constitution. There probably aren’t enough popovers in New Hampshire to allow him to dodge all of them.
Elizabeth Warren’s Campaign Website is Up!
Veepstakes speculation heats up
[…] Mitt Romney recently brought the vice presidential sweepstakes into hazy focus by revealing three names on his short list — Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. McDonnell has conceded he’s “very interested.” Rubio, who ranks high on every Republican’s list, is about to spark even more veepstakes talk next week when he delivers his first public speech off the Senate floor and outside his home state at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. […]
They range from the geographically and demographically ideal (Rubio, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez) to establishment and intelligentsia heartthrobs (Christie, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, South Dakota Sen. John Thune). Some are swing-state ticket-balancers while others bring different assets to the table — such as charisma, policy heft or regional appeal.
Also among the frequently mentioned: McDonnell, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
In 2006, Robert Putnam and David Campbell began a research project on political attitudes that included interviewing a nationally representative sample of 3,000 Americans. They then went back to talk to the same group of people over this summer. “As a result,” they explain, “we can look at what people told us, long before there was a Tea Party, to predict who would become a Tea Party supporter five years later.” Their findings are going to make a lot of people unhappy:
[…] So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.
More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government …
Yet it is precisely this infusion of religion into politics that most Americans increasingly oppose. While over the last five years Americans have become slightly more conservative economically, they have swung even further in opposition to mingling religion and politics. It thus makes sense that the Tea Party ranks alongside the Christian Right in unpopularity.
Perhaps there’s some reason to disbelieve their data. But if not, it has important and difficult implications for the Republican Party. It suggests that, until now, Republican elites were able to channel the Tea Party into a small-government case consistent with the beliefs of many Americans, but that ultimately, the Tea Party will wants more religious conservatism in their, well, tea.
Perhaps this wouldn’t matter if Republican elites retained control of the situation, but we’re seeing the rise of new Tea Party tribunes who will appeal more directly to their base — but do so to the dismay of the average voter. These numbers suggest the overt religiosity of Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry will give them a huge advantage in the GOP primary, but force them to say things and commit to policies that leave them at a huge disadvantage in a general election.
“Oh God” is a multi-use term, much like the word “fuck” serves multiple purposes. And although I’m an atheist, I use the “Oh God” expression fairly frequently.
“Oh God” was my reaction when I first heard this clip from Michele Bachmann explaining how God told her to marry Marcus Bachmann (even though they weren’t in love or anything), and then went to law school and for her post-doctorate in tax law (even though she hates taxes) because her husband told her to, and the Bible says women must be submissive to their men!
Of course, that’s how she really feels.
Frank Schaeffer (author of Sex, Mom & God) has a new piece up at Alternet, “Are Michele Bachmann’s Views About ‘Christian Submission’ Even More Extreme Than She’s Letting On?” that shows just how batshit crazy she is, proving that she lied during last week’s Republican presidential debate when she said that being submissive means “mutual respect.”
Schaeffer joined me on the show this morning to talk about the dangerous religious zealotry of Bachmann as well as Rick Perry, and how they’ve doubled down on the insanity of George W. Bush.
Speaking of Rick Perry, I’m not sure what type of “Christian” calls for violence directed toward anyone (in this case, specifically Ben Bernanke), that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional, or for a moratorium on all regulations (you know, those pesky rules that are in place to protect we the little people)….[…]
If Rick Perry is so gung-ho on doing away with regulations, let me suggest a vacation to check out how awesome it would be…
Photo by Annie Leibowitz
“There is, however, at least one moderate Republican present: the smooth, cosmopolitan former Utah governor, who not only is on record as a supporter of gay civil unions but also served under Barack Obama as ambassador to China until a few months ago. Surveying the motley crowd with an ironic expression, he begins, “All I can tell you is that I never thought I would be making an appearance at Mutt’s BBQ.”
“I wonder if anyone has crafted a glass bong in the shape of that top illustration yet. “
If a funding agreement isn’t reached by Sept. 16, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) faces another shutdown like the one Republicans forced in July. That shutdown cost 4,000 FAA workers and 70,000 construction workers two weeks’ pay, halted important airport safety improvements and cost taxpayers some $400 million. It ended Aug. 5 with a temporary FAA reauthorization.
But another shutdown just might happen if Republicans like Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) continue to carry Delta Air Lines’ baggage by backing a provision in the long-term House FAA funding bill—supported by Delta—to take away democratic union election rights for aviation and rail workers. Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) President Veda Shook says Mica is:
acting as Delta Air Lines’ pawn by advancing a union-busting provision and threatening another shutdown of the FAA. Mica’s contempt for workers and the 75,000 people who were out of work due to the partial shutdown of the FAA is feeding Delta’s grossly funded union-busting scheme.
AFA-CWA unions are stepping up the pressure on Mica, his Republican colleagues and Delta—and you can join in. Click here to sign a petition to Delta telling the airline it’s time cease its support for the “entirely undemocratic” union election prevision that would count workers who don’t participate in a union election as “No” votes.
AFA-CWA members are holding rallies and are picketing at airports and congressional district offices, including outside Mica’s home district office. Last week, they rallied at airports in Seattle; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Philadelphia; Charlotte; and Atlanta and plan more actions before Congress returns to work next month. […]
The Senate version of the FAA reauthorization bill protects workers’ rights. Lawmakers like Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) refused to give in to Mica’s hostage taking of the bill in July and vow to continue to support workers.
Texas Governor Rick Perry met a feisty opposition at a campaign stop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Thursday. “Stop attacking middle class families,” shouted sign-wielding protestors as the GOP presidential candidate shook hands and signed autographs. Perry tried to keep the focus on jobs and the economy, but protestors continued to hassle him as he entered a cafe to try a pastry, asking him about evolution, climate change, and renewable energy. A little boy asked the governor, “How old do you think the earth is?” and about the theory of evolution, before his mother prompted, “Ask him why he doesn’t believe in science.” Perry answered that evolution is “a theory that’s out there, and it’s got some gaps in it,” adding that creationism is also taught in Texas schools.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
Brilliant: Impressionist Jim Meskimen does Shakespeare in celebrity voices
(OK, the Morgan Freeman is not so good.)
“I love old photos. I admit being a nosey photographer. As soon as I step into someone else’s house, I start sniffing for them.
“Most of us are fascinated by their retro look but to me, it’s imagining how people would feel and look like if they were to reenact them today…
“A few months ago, I decided to actually do this. So, with my camera, I started inviting people to go back to their future.”
– Irina Werning
Women only earn an average of 78 cents for every $1 earned by men — even though they make up half of the American workforce.
This is wrong — plain and simple.
It’s time for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, key legislation that would close loopholes and level the playing field.
Take immediate action to end pay discrimination against women. Use the form on this page to stand with us to tell Congress that equal work deserves equal pay — pass the Paycheck Fairness Act now.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Fear of losing what they have leads people to question what they could have.
~~Paulo Coelho (today, on Twitter)