Archive for July, 2010

Tumbling down into the rabbit hole of modern American politics

Income growth by income group, 1979-2007. Source: Consider the evidence )

Income growth by income group, 1979-2007. Source: Consider the evidence (

Let me see if I’ve got this straight:

Here we are in the smoldering ruins of an economy recently wrecked by Wall Street greed, in a country where for 30 years almost all income growth has been concentrated among the richest 1 percent of Americans (See graph to right). Rising populist anger, massive long-term unemployment and record home foreclosures serve as counterpoints to soaring corporate profits, while the Supreme Court rules that corporations are people and can spend limitless amounts of money trying to elect candidates willing to serve their interests.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party defends massive tax breaks for the wealthy while blocking aid to the unemployed, fights bitterly against regulations designed to prevent a repeat of the Wall Street meltdown, blocks legislation that would at least require corporate and special interests to identify themselves when they …

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GOP nominates Obama as Roy Barnes’ running mate

When President Obama comes to Atlanta on Monday, Roy Barnes will not be at his side. The Democratic nominee for governor is scheduled to be campaigning that day among the good people of South Georgia, which puts as much distance as possible between himself and the president.

However, once Georgia Republicans settle on a candidate of their own in the Aug. 10 runoff, Barnes is likely to find it a little more difficult to maintain that separation. Judging from rhetoric in the GOP primary and races elsewhere around the country, Republicans plan to make the 2010 elections a referendum on Washington in general and Obama in particular, even in races such as governor that have little or nothing to do with the federal government.

Here in Georgia, that means the GOP will be trying to link Obama to Barnes as if they were Siamese twins.

Results of a recent poll conducted by the Georgia Newspaper Partnership explain the virtues of that strategy. Among other things, the poll found that 56 …

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Afghan document dump paints a discouraging picture

I’m on column duty for tomorrow’s newspaper, so I don’t have time to do the topic full justice. It’s already pretty clear, however, the release of more than 90,000 previously secret internal military documents about the war in Afghanistan is likely to echo through the national discussion for weeks if not months.

Based on what I’ve seen so far, the material documents in ground-level detail just how difficult it has been to make lasting progress in just about any endeavor in Afghanistan. Whatever small gain we make today is washed away tomorrow, with little sense that larger goals are within reach.

The Obama administration is understandably downplaying the relevance of the documents, as the Washington Post reports:

White House officials and their allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan sought Monday to play down the political and military impact of the unauthorized release of thousands of classified Afghan war documents, saying they portray a reality on the ground that is already …

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When secession talk is in the air, the nation has lost its bearings

Zach Wamp, an eight-term Republican congressman from Chattanooga, is leaving the federal government behind to run for governor of Tennessee.

Last week, Wamp suggested that he might not be alone, that the entire state of Tennessee might leave the federal government.

From Hotline On Call:

Rep. Zach Wamp (R-03) suggested TN and other states may have to consider seceding from the union if the federal government does not change its ways regarding mandates.

“I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government,” said Wamp during an interview with Hotline OnCall.

He lauded Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), who first floated the idea of secession in April ‘09, for leading the push-back against health care reform, adding that he hopes the American people “will send people to Washington that will, in 2010 and 2012, strictly adhere” to the Constitution’s defined role for the federal …

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‘A corporate culture that has lost its sense of shame’

So says Dana Milbank at The Washington Post:

If Don Blankenship had any sense of shame, he’d crawl into a mine and hide.

As CEO of Massey Energy, he has presided over a coal company that had thousands of violations in recent years, leading up to the April explosion that killed 29 of his miners. The company now faces a federal criminal investigation into what the government has called negligent and reckless practices.

But Blankenship must have no sense of shame, because he visited the National Press Club last week to complain about “knee-jerk political reactions” to mine deaths and to demand that the Obama administration lighten regulations on his dirty and dangerous company. “We need to let businesses function as businesses,” an indignant Blankenship proclaimed. “Corporate business is what built America, in my opinion, and we need to let it thrive by, in a sense, leaving it alone.”

The CEO was asked what he could have done to prevent the deadly explosion. “I probably should’ve …

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Travelin’ Music from out on Texas Highway 61

When I was out west earlier this month, an old running buddy — let’s call him Marv — and I grabbed daughter Elly and revisited one of our early haunts, a little blues joint outside Vancouver, WA known as the Cascade Tavern. That night, we were treated to the musical stylings of Bug Henderson, who had been booked into the Portland Blues Festival that weekend until the promoter pulled the gig on him at the last minute.

Bugs was not a happy man about that cancellation — in fact, he put an awful lot of feeling that night into a song about how hard it is to make a living with his “starvation box” of a guitar. But since he was in town anyway, he ended up at the Cascade. His loss was our gain, because he’s quite a picker.

Here he is playing Dylan’s “Highway 61,” Texas blues style. Enjoy your evening folks.

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Georgia Right to Life leaders step beyond bounds of decent debate

Nathan Deal, one of the two remaining candidates for the GOP’s gubernatorial nomination, believes that abortion ought to be banned even in cases involving rape or incest, and would permit the procedure only when the mother’s life is in danger.

Karen Handel, his opponent, describes herself as pro-life but would allow exceptions in cases of rape or incest, a position that makes her the flaming liberal in the race.

Because of that difference, Georgia Right to Life has thrown its weight behind Deal and opposes Handel with a bitterness that is a bit surprising. Apparently its leadership fears that if Handel is allowed to win a high-profile statewide GOP primary, some of her fellow Republicans might begin to believe that they too can ignore GRTL’s orders without consequence

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s Sarah Palin. Her endorsement of Handel has further embarrassed GRTL among the GOP conservatives that represent its source of political power. And as GRTL Executive …

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What we don’t talk about when we don’t talk about race


Shirley Sherrod

Even in intimate discussions among friends, it can be hard to talk honestly and in depth about race and racism.

It’s easy to see why. Irrational sentiments that burble up out of the most primitive recesses of our souls — emotions that are then refracted through personal and collective experience — just don’t translate easily into rational thought.

And once such a thought is formed and expressed, it must then be heard and processed by other minds that are grappling with those same challenges, but from a very different perspective.

A lot can go wrong in that translation from one mind to another. And when you scale that conversation up and try to involve millions in the discussion, the number of ways that things can go wildly wrong increase geometrically, particularly when some in the conversation are trying to manipulate it for economic gain or political ambition.

Those dangers have led many to conclude that in public, it is better to avoid the topic of …

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Should soldiers’ attitudes drive Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell decision? Based on Harry Truman’s example, the answer’s no

The Pentagon has commissioned a survey of more than 400,000 service members, available here, to test morale and other issues,including their reaction to a potential abolition of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy toward gay service members.

“If the law changes and we are told to implement it — and we will, if the law changes — then how do we do this in a way that makes sense?” Gates told soldiers in Korea this week. “How do we identify beforehand the problems, the issues and the challenges that we’re going to face? The kind of training requirements we’re going to need, the kinds of changes in regulations, the impact on benefits — all of these things need to be addressed in advance.”

The proposed policy change has been compared by gay-rights advocates to the historic decision by President Harry Truman in 1948 to desegregate the military. However, defenders of DADT reject that comparison and argue that Congress and the president should be guided on such matters by the sentiments …

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Obama administration commits to letting taxes on wealthy increase

From the Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON—Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the Obama administration will allow tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire on schedule despite calls from a small but increasingly vocal group of Democrats to delay any tax increases.

Mr. Geithner said the White House will allow taxes on top earners to increase on Jan. 1, 2011, as part of an effort to help bring down the mounting budget deficit. He said the White House still plans to extend tax cuts for middle- and lower-income Americans and expects to undertake a broader tax overhaul next year.

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