Archive for July, 2010

Sen. Webb says ‘white privilege’ is a myth

It’s pretty difficult to have a rational discussion about race, for the reasons my colleague Jay Bookman has outlined today. Quite frankly, his list of reasons is incomplete: Today’s political and civic climate includes a host of loud mouths who are not interested in a rational conversation about race. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart come to mind.
Nevertheless, I sally forth in the hope that a few reasonable people might come across new information that gives them pause, makes them think, changes their minds. Today, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) has a fascinating column in the Wall Street Journal that ought to provide fodder for reasonable conversation. UPDATE: A reader pointed to a link to the column, so here it is. )
The column, which has a rather provocative title, “Diversity and The Myth of White Privilege,” argues for the end of government-sanctioned affirmative action programs. But it’s not a simple-minded argument which pretends that discrimination, especially …

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It’s time for Charlie Rangel to retire

Charlie Rangel is a popular member of Congress, liked not just by Democrats but also by many of his Republican colleagues. Back home in New York, he’s considered political royalty.
Nevertheless, it’s time for Rangel, 80, to retire. The ethical baggage he is carrying is so heavy that his continued service in Congress does more harm than good to both his constituents and his party.

From the NYT:

A House investigative panel has found “substantial reason to believe” that Representative Charles B. Rangel violated a range of ethics rules, dealing a serious blow to Mr. Rangel, a Harlem Democrat, in the twilight of his political career.
The finding means that he must face a public trial before the House ethics committee, the first member of Congress to be forced to do so since 2002, when Representative James A. Traficant Jr. was expelled from Congress after a corruption conviction.

The investigative panel did not disclose any details about the nature of the violations.

But two …

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The earth warms up, but Congress won’t act on climate change

How hot does it have to get for the climate change deniers to admit global warming is caused by human activity?

From David Leonhardt’s excellent column in the New York Times on Tuesday:

All the while, the risks and costs of climate change grow. Sea levels are rising faster than scientists predicted just a few years ago. Himalayan glaciers are melting. In the American West, pine beetles (which struggle to survive the cold) are multiplying and killing trees.

According to NASA, 2010 is on course to be the planet’s hottest year since records started in 1880. The current top 10, in descending order, are: 2005, 2007, 2009, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2004, 2001 and 2008.

Hot is the new normal.

Still, John Kerry is throwing in the towel on his comprehensive climate change/energy bill, which is no great surprise. Despite the horrendous oil spill in the Gulf, despite signs of a warming planet all around, the GOP is full of climate change deniers and the Democratic Party is full of …

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Obama White House caves in to rightwing bullies

There is a playground rule that even little girls learn: never give in to bullies. If you do, you’re done. Bullies are never satisfied until they’ve completely dominated you, humiliating you on a daily basis.
By firing Shirley Sherrod out of fear of right-wing bullies, the Obama administration ran afoul of that basic playground rule. The bullies are celebrating. And they’ll be back.
Andrew Brietbart is one of those bullies. He’s a rightwing activist who has already ruined ACORN with selectively edited videos. He has called well-respected black members of Congress “liars” because they reported the racial jeers and slurs they got from some tea party protestors on the day of the health care vote.
Rush Limbaugh is one of those bullies. On Tuesday, by the time many legitimate news outlets had backtracked and pointed out that Sherrod’s story was one of reconciliation, Limbaugh was still calling her a racist.
Glenn Beck is one of those bullies. Nearly every day, he finds a way to …

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Another wealthy person insults the unemployed

The insults to the unemployed continue to roll in. I’m just slack-jawed with amazement at the number of people — people with jobs (of course) or people wealthy enough that they don’t need jobs — who blame the jobless for the fact that they can’t find work. Never mind that we’re faced with the worst slump in decades, when the ratio of jobless workers to jobs is about five-to-one.

There have been any number of politicians or aspiring politicians who’ve lit in on those lazy slobs who refuse to work, including Rand Paul, Sharron Angle and Orrin Hatch.

The latest to join the parade of insults is economist and TV celebrity Ben Stein, who blogged on American Spectator:

2. The people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities. I say “generally” because there are exceptions. But in general, as I survey the ranks of those who are unemployed, I see people who have overbearing and unpleasant personalities and/or …

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Barnes panders on Arizona immigration law

WASHINGTON — Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, Roy Barnes was the recipient of a Profile in Courage award, given to public servants who eschew the easy path to popularity and, instead, choose to walk the rocky but righteous road on a contentious issue. Barnes won in 2003 because, during his single term as Georgia’s governor, he had finally wrested the St. Andrew’s Cross and Stars — a symbol of Southern rebellion — from its place of prominence on the state flag.

But political courage has a cost, and Barnes paid in inglorious defeat when he ran for a second term. The flag and “forgit hell”-ers — stirred up by his opponent, Sonny Perdue — were but part of his problem. Barnes’ larger problem lay in his antagonism of school teachers, who dumped him over his demands for classroom accountability and merit pay.

Barnes learned his lesson.  The Courage award and the accolades it brought are a nice line on his resume, a little something to tell the …

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Did Andrew Breitbart’s NAACP video distort the facts?

If you’re keeping up with the latest “gotcha” game among ultra-conservatives trying to find cases of racism against whites, you know that a black USDA official in Georgia, Shirley Sherrod, was forced out of her job a few days ago after snippets of video appeared on the Web which purported to show that she had discriminated against a white farmer.

But there is new information that calls into question that interpretation of events: the white farmer’s wife, Eloise Spooner, is defending Sherrod, saying Sherrod helped them save their farm.

But Spooner, who considers Sherrod a “friend for life,” said the federal official worked tirelessly to help the Iron City couple hold onto their land as they faced bankruptcy back in 1986.

“Her husband told her, ‘You’re spending more time with the Spooners than you are with me,’ ” Spooner told the AJC. “She took probably two or three trips with us to Albany just to help us out.”, the Web site of rightwing activist Andrew …

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Black California activists divided over legal marijuana

Because non-violent drug arrests affect black men and women disproportionately, I find myself agreeing with the sentiments of California NAACP head Alice Huffman, who supports an upcoming ballot measure to legalize marijuana in the state. Countless studies have shown that black Americans’ drug use is in line with our share of the U.S. population (about 12-13 percent of black Americans use illegal drugs), but our drug arrests far outpace that. Non-violent drug crimes help explain the soaring rate of black incarceration in the 1980s and through the 1990s.

From the NYTimes:

“I’m not encouraging anyone to recreationally use marijuana,” said Ms. Huffman. “I am simply focused on the injustice and the disparities in the criminal justice system.”

Her view is supported by Dr. Jocelyn Elders, former U.S. Surgeon General:

Last week, proponents secured what they view as a major endorsement, that of Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the former United States surgeon general and the first black …

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The secret — very secret — Republican plan to cut the deficit

Yesterday, on “Meet the Press”, the two Democrats and the two Republicans charged with winning elections in November were interviewed together. Host David Gregory did a good job of pressing the Republicans on what the GOP agenda would be if Republicans take back Congress.
But Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas.) and U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) didn’t do such a good job of laying out that agenda. They insisted that they would balance the budget, but they couldn’t or wouldn’t name a single program they would cut in order to do so. (Video below)

GREGORY: I think what a lot of people want to know is, if Republicans do get back in power, what are they going to do?

SESSIONS: It’s quite simple that Americans do know the agenda that is before us. They understand what the President and the speaker stand for, and they understand what Republicans stand for. Republicans…very strong, standing with the American people back home. [...]

GREGORY: Congressman, congressman, that’s a pretty …

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Well-known conservative dismisses faux outrage over New Black Panthers

Because so many conservative commentators specialize in trying to make white citizens feel threatened by a black president, the agitation over alleged voter intimidation by the New Black Panthers isn’t going away any time soon. Fox News, with a ratings hit, is having way too much fun with it.
But any conservatives who actually think for themselves ought to take a look at a piece conservative scholar Abigail Thernstrom wrote for the National Review’s Web site, in which she dismissed the case as “small potatoes.”

Thernstrom, appointed by George W. Bush as vice-chairman of the Civil Rights Commission, is a highly-respected conservative scholar with a long record of criticizing affirmation action and other policies on race that she dismisses as “politically correct.” But she refuses to go along with the trumped-up outrage over the New Black Panthers.
She wrote:

The two Panthers have been described as “armed” — which suggests guns. One of them was carrying a billy club, and …

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