Archive for April, 2011

In defense of Haley Barbour’s unbelievably bad memory

WASHINGTON — Last week, Haley Barbour, the affable   governor of Mississippi, became the first to drop out of the preliminary race for the Republican nomination for the presidency.  He said he didn’t have the “fire in the belly” necessary to withstand the punishing rituals of the campaign trail, but political observers added other reasons, including his family’s resistance to having their lives upended.

There was also this: Barbour would have been hounded by questions about his awkward answers and inaccurate recollections on the subject of race and the civil rights movement. As a fellow Southerner, I was astonished that Barbour would be so clumsy — and clearly wrongheaded — on a subject that consumed the South for much of his life.

In a December interview with The Weekly Standard, for example, he defended the White Citizens’ Councils — an uptown version of the Ku Klux Klan — and downplayed the turmoil of the civil rights era. “I don’t remember it being that bad,” he said.

In …

Continue reading In defense of Haley Barbour’s unbelievably bad memory »

A season of devastation, a sense of community

UPDATE: Here is video of the horrifying twister that struck Tuscaloosa. (You can hear the videographer breathing heavily, panicked no doubt, throughout the footage.)

4-27-11 Tornado Tuscaloosa, Al from Crimson Tide Productions on Vimeo.

Parts of my home state of Alabama have been devastated — simply devastated — by a volley of violent tornadoes that swept across the northern areas of the state, killing more than a hundred people. Violent tornadoes also ripped across other parts of the Deep South. From the NYT:

ATLANTA — The death toll in five Southern states rose sharply Thursday morning to 173 after devastating storms ripped through the region, spawning a deadly tornado in downtown Tuscaloosa, Ala., and leaving a trail of flattened homes and buildings in an area already battered by storms.

Across Alabama, at least 128 people were killed by storms on Wednesday alone, according to news reports. The Associated Press reported an additional 32 deaths in Mississippi, 11 in …

Continue reading A season of devastation, a sense of community »

Eddie Long: homophobe, narcissist, con artist

WASHINGTON — There has never been much to admire about the ministry of Eddie Long, who presides over the much-hyped New Birth Missionary Baptist mega-church in Lithonia, Ga. He is a homophobe, a narcissist and a con artist — a man much more devoted to his own wellbeing than that of his congregants or his larger community. He has misused his pulpit in ways large and small, including a self-aggrandizing abuse of the title “bishop,” a rank that doesn’t officially exist among Baptists.

Given Long’s extremely flexible ethics over the years, it’s no surprise that he chose to engage in hush-hush negotiations aimed at settling the sexual misconduct allegations brought against him by four young men. If the civil cases are settled — a settlement is reportedly close — they will likely require non-disclosure agreements by all parties.  Long would then continue to insist that he did nothing wrong.

But he has already lost his halo — his fancy-suited, private-jet-flying, bling-wearing …

Continue reading Eddie Long: homophobe, narcissist, con artist »

Birtherism stalks GOP, scaring the establishment

Perhaps Reince Priebus, the new head of the Republican National Committee, has no choice but to pretend he’s not worried about birther nonsense, which is proliferating like alien pods and threatening to take over the entire Republican Party. “I don’t think that it’s an issue that moves voters,” he told a journalists’ roundtable this morning. He wishes that were true.

Last week, a New York Times poll showed that 45 percent of Republican voters — that’s nearly half, folks — claim not to believe that Obama was born in the United States. And it doesn’t stop there. As I wrote then, a Public Policy Poll shows that

Only 38% of Republican primary voters say they’re willing to support a candidate for President next year who firmly rejects the birther theory and those folks want Mitt Romney to be their nominee for President next year. With the other 62% of Republicans- 23% of whom say they are only willing to vote for a birther and 39% of whom are not sure- Donald Trump is cleaning …

Continue reading Birtherism stalks GOP, scaring the establishment »

King & Spalding was right to drop homophobic DOMA

Headquartered in Atlanta, King & Spalding is an old-fashioned, white-shoe, silk-stocking (and all those other adjectives that suggest “exclusive”) law firm. Its politics tend toward the moderately conservative, as is probably true of most white-shoe law firms. It has been home to the late Griffin Bell, who served as Attorney General in the administration of Jimmy Carter, and Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, who served in the administration of George W. Bush.
So it is big news, indeed, that King & Spalding has decided to back out of representing Congressional Republicans who wish to go to bat for the indefensible “Defense of Marriage Act” — a piece of flat-out bigoted nonsense now repudiated by one of its primary sponsors, former Republican Congressman Bob Barr. (Correction: Faced with lawsuits against it, the Obama administration has decided not to defend some parts of DOMA in court, believing a crucial section to be unconstitutional.) The act tries, basically, to …

Continue reading King & Spalding was right to drop homophobic DOMA »

Furious over gas prices? Look in the mirror

WASHINGTON — As gas prices soar, Republicans and oil company executives have revived a rallying cry that echoed around the country the last time gas prices spiked: “Drill, baby, drill!” Republicans in Congress, especially, have berated President Barack Obama for his policies, which limit drilling in environmentally-sensitive areas and attempt to reduce our reliance on climate-changing fossil fuels.

The president’s opponents posit a seductive and simple idea: The U.S. has untapped resources that ought to be put to good use. If federal policy allowed more drilling, gas prices would drop — following standard rules of supply and demand.

But like so many simple ideas, this one is wrongheaded and shortsighted. The U.S. cannot drill its way into free-flowing, low-cost gasoline. The supply of U.S. oil isn’t big enough to make a dent: we have about two percent of the world’s known reserves.

The larger problem is one of worldwide demand (though speculators and Middle East turmoil are …

Continue reading Furious over gas prices? Look in the mirror »

Yes, we need “death panels”

This morning, my colleague Jay Bookman had a very thoughtful post on why rationing health care — “death panels,” if you will — is quite necessary. I wrote on a similar subject in my Sunday column.

If we keeping spending our health care dollars disproportionately on the elderly, we will have little left to spend on children. That makes for an upside-down society that cannot thrive for long.

I happen to think the entire column is worth reading, but if your time (and patience) are short, focus on the grafs in which my brother, a Boston kidney doc, talks about dialysis for the elderly who are already dying:

If resources are limited (and they are), the nation needs to make choices – some more painful than others. My brother, Kevin, a Boston physician who treats kidney disease, talks about the Medicare program that pays for dialysis for anyone with failing kidneys — including the terminally ill. Started in the 1970s to help adults still in the workforce, its fastest-growing …

Continue reading Yes, we need “death panels” »

Georgia shoots itself in the onion fields

WASHINGTON — There are undoubtedly lots of voters who believe the most scurrilous charges against illegal workers — they’ve brought a crime wave to the country; they’re eroding American values; they’re lazy grifters who come here to exploit the social safety net. There may even be a few politicians who believe those things.

But most elected officials know better. They know that most immigrants — including those who crossed the border illegally — shore up the economy, pay taxes and adopt American values. They know that Mexicans and Guatemalans and Bolivians take low-wage jobs in restaurants and poultry plants and onion fields that most native-born Americans won’t do.

Still, those politicians often lack the courage to tell voters those truths. Instead, they pose and pander, engaging in a dangerous nativist rhetoric that thrills the crowds and fills the campaign coffers. And brings in votes.

Such was the case with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who ran a hard-right campaign in a …

Continue reading Georgia shoots itself in the onion fields »

Arizona birther bill: Too dumb even for Brewer

Having been comfortably elected after shamelessly blaming illegal immigrants for everything from higher crime rates to headless bodies (neither was true), Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has grown tired of the foolishness propounded by rightwingers in her state.
She’s tired of having Arizona made a laughingstock and the subject of tourism boycotts, as it has been for having passed a harsh anti-immigrant bill that smacks of apartheid. (Having been elevated to the post after Janet Napolitano resigned to become HHS secretary, Brewer was then running for her first full term and supported the bill.)
So Brewer vetoed a so-called birther bill that would have required any candidate for president to present a set of documents proving he was born in the U.S. From the Arizona Republic:

Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday shot down an effort by the Arizona Legislature to require presidential candidates to provide proof of citizenship in order to get on the state’s ballot.

In her veto letter, Brewer …

Continue reading Arizona birther bill: Too dumb even for Brewer »

Taxes are low. So where are the jobs?

Here are some facts that many Americans simply don’t want to hear and quite a few refuse to believe (via the Orange County Register):

While Republican lawmakers appear unified against tax increases and many Tea Party activists want existing rates rolled back, statistics consistently show that federal taxes are at a historic low.

For the past two years, a family of four earning the median income has paid less in federal income taxes than at any time since at least 1955, according to the Tax Policy Center. All federal, state and local taxes combined are a lower percentage of per-capita income than at any time since the 1960s, according to the Tax Foundation. The highest income-tax bracket is its lowest since 1992. At 35 percent, it’s well below the 50 percent mark of much of the 1980s and the 70 percent bracket of the 1970s. . .

The recession contributes to lower taxes because many incomes have stagnated or fallen, and fewer retail sales mean less sales tax. But low tax brackets …

Continue reading Taxes are low. So where are the jobs? »