Archive for September, 2010

Who makes better soldiers: ‘overweight, under-educated felons’ or openly gay troops?

UPDATE: My colleague Jay Bookman writes:

Senate Republicans have blocked consideration of the defense authorization bill containing a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The vote to end the filibuster was 56 in favor and 43 against.
Which means the side with 56 votes loses.

While some conservatives have argued that a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” should not be attached to a defense spending bill, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) just pointed out on the floor of the Senate that DADT became law when it was attached to a defense spending bill in the 1990s. Now, it ought to be repealed.
A column in today’s Wall Street Journal points out why. Bret Stephens writes:

Since DADT came into force in 1993, some 14,000 service members have been discharged under the policy—the equivalent of an entire division of warfighters. Investigating and processing each case has its costs; so does recruiting and training each replacement. How much? A 2006 commission organized by UCLA’s Palm Center and …

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Obama’s math is correct: Taxes on the rich should be raised

Do voters really care about the federal budget deficit? With tea partiers projecting visceral anger about the deficit, the Republican Party has made it a core issue in the mid-terms. You’d think, then, that the GOP and its constituents would support a tax hike on the wealthiest two percent of Americans, which would start to trim the deficit. Here’s what President Obama said yesterday about that basic arithmetic:

But the GOP has persuaded its constituents that if the federal government would just stop spending money on programs they don’t like — foreign aid, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, the Department of Education — the deficit would be balanced. That’s simply not so.
The programs that take up most federal dollars are as follows: the Pentagon, Medicare and Social Security. Without massive cuts to those (and everything else), tax hikes are needed. (Take a look at the chart below.)

350px-U.S._Federal_Spending_-_FY_2007

But military spending is popular, as are the big entitlement programs – Medicare and …

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Israel’s gay soldiers don’t just ‘participate in parades’

There are no logical reasons to continue the hypocritical and dishonorable policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and a Senate vote on ending the policy is scheduled for tomorrow. Lacking rational reasons to oppose having gays and lesbians serve openly, gay-bashers, like right-winger Tony Perkins, have resorted to lies and distortions (h/t rightwingwatch), claiming that the most powerful militaries don’t allow it. At last week’s Values Voters Summit, he and Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis denigrated some of our most loyal allies, including the British:

Maginnis: That’s why countries like the ten largest militaries in the world, that have the ten largest militaries in the world say ‘no, this isn’t the thing to do.’ They spin this as if Great Britain and we ought to copy them and the Dutch. Well the fact is that 80 percent of the militaries in the world don’t embrace this particular view.

Perkins: Well, those that do, they’re the ones that participate in parades, they don’t fight …

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Is Barack Obama a small business owner?

American small businesses have been very good at producing self-serving myths. As a result, they enjoy the reputation for being the hard-working, job-creating backbone of the U.S. economy.
That’s why Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans have thrust small businesses to the forefront of the debate over allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. He claims that letting the tax cuts lapse would be a jobs-killer because it would raise taxes on half of small businesses.
But tax experts say McConnell is exaggerating, by a lot. From Bloomberg:

McConnell’s numbers only add up if you consider people like billionaire investor George Soros, most movie stars and Obama himself small-business owners, tax experts say.

That’s because the lawmaker is basing his figure on a broad definition of the term that experts say includes authors, actors and athletes who employ few if any workers. It also encompasses businesses that many people wouldn’t consider small, such as Soros’s …

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A new task for civil rights activists: Educate black boys

WASHINGTON — The cover photo for a new report on black boys’ educational attainment is sunny and optimistic, showing a boy of about 11, dressed in shirt and tie, beaming as he meets the president of the United States, Barack Obama. But the news that follows the photo is, in the words of a leading educator, “nightmarish,” with few rays of sunshine.

The research from the Massachusetts-based Schott Foundation on Public Education shows that more than half — 53 percent — of black male students drop out of high school without a diploma, compared to 22 percent of white males. It’s a stunning statistic that foretells a permanent underclass, forever stuck outside the American mainstream. If I ran the NAACP, the National Urban League or the troubled Southern Christian Leadership Conference, I’d make my single priority hammering away at that awful statistic and working to change the fate of those young black men.

Nothing is more important to the future of black America than reclaiming 53 …

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Big Business worries about tea party candidates

Suddenly, business executives — like their allies in the Republican Party — are getting a little nervous about candidates favored by the tea party. With a couple of exceptions, the GOP has generally welcomed the enthusiasm generated by the tea party, even if several tea party-backed candidates endorse positions that are not in keeping with Republican orthodoxy.

But now, business interests are taking another look, hoping several of the tea party-backed candidates don’t actually mean what they say. The GOP still favors them over Democrats, of course, since they back lower taxes and less government regulation. Still, according to The Wall Street Journal:

“Most of K Street thinks it’s tall corn and lollipops with all these new Republicans coming to town, but lobbyists should realize there could be a rub between client priorities and the governing plans of tea-party members,” said Eric Ueland, a lobbyist who represents companies including Pepsi Co., Time Warner Inc. and General …

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The DREAM Act for Jessica Colotl

I’m a big fan of the DREAM Act, which would allow promising illegal immigrants to get college degrees and then get on the path to citizenship. This country desperately needs more college graduates, and there is little argument that undocumented college graduates would burden our financial resources. Because it is narrowly tailored, it wouldn’t prompt a stampede across our borders, as detractors claim.
And The DREAM Act would free promising students like Jessica Colotl to focus on their studies:

Jessica Colotl, 21, is a senior at Kennesaw State University, a political science major and a member of Lambda Theta Alpha, a college sorority. She wants to attend law school.

However, she came to this country illegally, with her parents, when she was a child. And her detractors don’t care what she’s accomplished since then. They want to send her back to Mexico, a country she barely knows.

But for years, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has been reluctant to endorse the DREAM Act as a …

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The GOP is now a party of know-nothing flat-earthers

One of the greatest crises of our time is climate change, which threatens to create food shortages (as the Russians learned this summer), change geography, eradicate entire eco-systems and even wipe out cities and towns in coastal areas. (NOTE: If you are an anti-science know-nothing, don’t bother to comment. The clear scientific consensus indicates a warming climate caused by human activity.)
But we’ve reached the odd and depressing point in American politics where not a single Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate supports aggressive action to mitigate climate change. The last science literate, Delaware Congressman Mike Castle, was defeated by tea party favorite Christine O’Donnell.
The blog Think Progress did a survey of GOP Senate candidates, and it found that even those who had previously supported policies that would curb carbon emissions have backed away, fearing a backlash from their know-nothing constituents.
Many others have simply chosen to be ignorant …

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Sanford Bishop’s scholarships are not the real scandal

WASHINGTON — As Congressional scandals go, the controversy over scholarships handed out by U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) won’t merit even a footnote in the history books. The nepotism involved has been a hot topic for Bishop’s challenger, Republican Mike Keown, but it’s hardly destined to become legend. There will be no “scholarship-gate.”

Bishop has acknowledged his error — “It was clearly a mistake,” he told me Monday — in giving privately-funded scholarships to his stepdaughter and his wife’s niece. He said he has repaid $6,350 to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which funnels about $10,000 annually to each CBC member, allowing them to dole out the awards.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.), chairman of the foundation, promised Politico — which first reported Bishop’s largess to family members — an “extensive audit” of the scholarship program by the end of the year. That’s appropriate, too — as far as it goes.

Unfortunately, neither Bishop’s apology nor …

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Tea party helps Democrats, again — this time in Delaware

UPDATE: Karl Rove tells Sean Hannity that O’Donnell is nuts (h/t TPM). Watch the video:

Unbelievable. The tea party has once again come to the rescue of the Democratic Party, this time in Delaware.
After ugly intra-party warfare, an improbable, come-from-behind candidate, Christine O’Donnell, defeated veteran Congressman Mike Castle to win the GOP nomination for Delaware Senator. The problem for Republicans is that O’Donnell is a kook who is unlikely to win the general election in November.
The GOP had regarded the Delaware Senate seat once held by Vice-President Joe Biden all but won by the Republican Party. Polls have consistently shown Castle safely ahead of Democrat Chris Coons. But in the final weeks, O’Donnell won the endorsement of Sarah Palin and financial backing from tea partiers outside the state.
The establishment GOP responded by attacking O’Donnell, doing everything they could to keep her from winning. They pointed out that she has lied about her academic …

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