Well, you know, when it comes to racism and racists, I am the least racist person there is. And I think most people would me would tell you that. I am the least racist I’ve had great relationships.
In fact, Randal Pinkett won, as you know, on The Apprentice a little while ago, a couple of years ago. And Randall’s been outstanding in every way. So I am the least racist person.
- - Donald Trump, potential Presidential Candidate, May 8, 2011
One sign of the acceleration of the Republican Party to the right is their evolving public attitude toward those needing help. GOP policies have always been hostile, but the public face had, at times, trended toward a kinder, gentler, compassionate conservatism.
There have, since the beginning of conservatism, been variations of the same comfortable myths. Non-existent welfare queens collect astonishingly excessive welfare payments through brazen fraud. That such stories were untrue did not deter those who told them. Welfare Cadillac was requested when Richard Nixon hosted Johnny Cash in 1972. Cash refused.
But such attitudes represented a caricature of the conservatism of the last quarter of the 20th century. Most national politicians tried to avoid the image, insisting they actually wanted to help folks down on their luck. They just wanted to do it more thoughtfully, more responsibly.
In fact, Jack Kemp devoted himself to finding conservative solutions to poverty and unemployment. He described himself as a "bleeding-heart conservative" and his rhetoric matched the description. "To his credit," said the New York Times, "he may have brought more zeal to America's poverty problems than any national politician since Robert Kennedy. Kemp may be the only official to have won standing ovations in black ghettos by calling for a capital gains tax cut."
Kemp was never representative of conservatives in general. His political base remained small. Still, enough conservatives bought the "bleeding heart" part to make them palatable to political moderates. Robert Dole chose Kemp as his Vice Presidential candidate when he ran against President Clinton in 1996.
The rhetoric, the ideas, and the bleeding are gone today. Governor Haley Barbour (R-MS) describes Medicaid recipients with his own myths. “We have people pull up at the pharmacy window in a BMW and say they can’t afford their co-payment.” Uh huh.
Working mothers are also a target. Head Start should be eliminated because it violates Biblical principle. “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families," says Paul Smith, (R-MD). "Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” Kirby DeLauter (R-MD) agrees and adds, “education of your kids starts at home, okay? I never relied on anyone else to guarantee the education of my kids.”
Other political figures have similar thoughts about unemployed workers. "You basically keep an economy that encourages people to, rather than go out and look for work, to stay on unemployment." "In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work." "Is the government now creating hobos?" "We shouldn't turn the 'safety net' into a hammock."
This is not about policy. Conservatives have always been able to find arguments, however unlikely, to justify harsh policies without making it personal. It used to be "for your own good" or even "it hurts me but it's necessary." The new approach is hostility. Mothers who work are neglectful, those who don't are lazy. As lazy as workers who have been working for decades but now find themselves unemployed. The ill are faking it.
The philosophy itself has been around since Atlas Shrugged. Although I suspect most Republicans, even most Tea Party folks, have never heard of her, the underpinnings come from Ayn Rand. She viewed human worth itself to be measurable by economic productivity. Children, the unemployed, the ill are without worth unless they find a way to be productive.
Rand saw the contradiction between her measurement of worth and religious values taught to us as children. That is one reason she was unalterably hostile to Christianity, indeed to any religion. Her devotion to militant atheism remains an important part of the movement she began: "Objectivism."
Jesus teaches the intrinsic worth of every human being. That worth is inalienable, without addition or detraction by deeds. Or production. Republicans have not yet gotten to a rejection of Christianity specifically and all religion generally. That may come later. Right now, they are still wrestling with what is becoming a rejection of the intrinsic value of people.
It is an unfortunate aspect of human nature, I suppose, that national triumph so easily mutates into displays of bigotry.
Not all individual incidents make for a national pattern.
A mosque in East Bayside, Maine, is defaced in the dead of night. "Osama today Islam tomorow" and "go home" read the words. "Certainly this was an anomaly," says the Police Chief. Another mosque, the Islamic Center of Minnesota receives threats by email.
A teacher at Clear Brook High School in Houston, Texas, verbally assaults a Muslim girl entrusted to his care. "I bet you're grieving," he taunts her in front of a ninth grade algebra class. The mother of another student protests to school authorities, later recounting the incident to a news reporter. "The student ended up crying over what was said to her by the teacher and the teacher asked her why she was crying and another student said it was because of what you said earlier. And his response was, oh, OK, and just kind of smirked and giggled and walked away."
What is striking is that the offended parent, the mother of a student witness, tells of what happened only on condition that her name not be used. She is afraid of retaliation both against her daughter and against the Muslim student.
In Memphis, Tennessee, two American Muslims dressed in traditional garb go through security and board a plane headed to North Carolina. The plane does not move and soon they are asked to go through security again. They cooperate. They then resume their places on the plane. Then they are removed again. The pilot refuses to fly with Muslims on board for fear other passengers will be nervous.
Some side with the pilot. "If Muslims do not want to be 'discriminated' against, maybe they should help do away with terrorism," says blogger Chuck Thinks Right. He puts quotation marks around the word "discriminate." My own response yesterday is inadequate. "7 of the last 10 known al Qaeda plots against the United States were solved and therefore stopped by Muslims. Would that qualify?" The larger point should have been that collective guilt is wrong. It is immoral to blame terrorism on all who share a religious belief, just as it is wrong to blame any crime on all who share a skin color or a nationality. It is wrong to require some special effort of them for that tenuous a connection. Oh, excuse me. Can't forget the quotation marks. "Connection"
The bigotry is not generally held. The condemnation of the pilot overwhelms in volume the prejudicial defense. Attacks on mosques in the past have sometimes brought community response in the form of paint, materials, and labor from non-Muslims wanting to help. In this case a local Catholic bishop condemns the vandalism. The teacher is suspended. The girl in Memphis sends a message of gratitude for the support from classmates.
There will always be among us a few who suffer from hatreds long penned up, frustrated by the social disapproval that open expression might bring. There are those who imagine that a shared national triumph means a new social license, a sort of common permission to finally express that hatred in explosive release, a new applauding of hatred. Our faith in America is that reality will disabuse them of that notion.
What is the response to these incidents? The Muslims forced off the plane are offered a clear path for substantial legal recourse. They will not commit to it, according to their lawyer. Instead, their primary demand is additional training for the pilot. The Muslim girl in Texas texts a request about the incident: "Make it a lesson learned about how the world is going through stuff and he needs to watch what he says and so do others because Osama does not represent the whole Muslim faith."
As in other incidents, Muslims under attack in America often express their own faith by promoting spiritual values. Those values should shame their attackers and instruct the rest of us.
Chuck Thinks Right joins the bigotry bandwagon. If Muslims don't want to be discriminated against they should help do away with terrorism. Actually, law enforcement testimony reminds us that 7 of the last 10 known al Qaeda plots against the United States were solved and therefore stopped by Muslims. Would that qualify?
Slant Right's John Houk huffs and mostly puffs about how President Obama bungled a photo op by allowing the transmission to the situation room of the hunt for bin Laden to be interrupted for 42 minutes. That makes it all a fake. Like the moon landings.
Jack Jodell, at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST, suggests that the killing proves something aside from the fate of terrorists.
Gwendolyn Barry with New Global Myth doesn't like one aspect of the mission to kill bin Laden. She mostly doesn't like the redefinition of rape just passed by the GOP House. I agree with her on the redefinition.
Our favorite John Myste at Mysterious Things makes the contemporary conservative case against President Obama. I hate to go beyond argument, challenging motives, but something about his tone makes me doubt his sincerity.
Ned Williams at Wisdom Is Vindicated believes that those in Wisconsin demanding a recount are sore losers. This new standard will lead him to denounce any conservative who demands a recount. Right? Right?
- James Wigderson, in a spontaneous show of trans-ideological unity, makes common cause with a flaming leftist pinko liberal hippie who turns out to be: uh oh.
The eternal disagreement over abortion is a rare case in which my friend JMyste is right about political arguments being faith based. There is no possible factual resolution. The argument is essentially theological. If you believe that life begins at conception, the actions taken by the House of Representatives this week will strike you as reasonable.
A couple of months ago, the GOP majority in the House endorsed a measure that would redefine rape. Sexual relationships with children would no longer count. Date drugging would not be considered. Only cases of force would be considered rape. The idea was to restrict government funding for abortions to "forcible rape." Child molestation, drugs, and other sexual crimes could not count unless physical force was used by the rapist. The idea of little kids being forced to give birth after a rape was horrifying enough to generate some public pressure, and Republicans dropped the idea.
For a while.
It's back again. This time the "forcible" rape standard is not only applied to publicly funded abortions, it is applied to private insurance. Women who receive any health benefits through the government will not be allowed to look for separate insurance coverage on their own if that coverage may be used to pay for abortions. And insurance companies will be barred from participation in publicly funded programs if they offer coverage for abortions.
Except for "forcible rape."
There is also an added measure. Tax deductions for medical expenses will not be allowed for abortions. Incest, child molestation, date rape involving date rape drugs, will not be included in coverage. Employers will not be allowed to accept tax credits or deductions for group coverage to employees if that coverage would cover abortions.
"Forcible rape" would be the exception.
The provisions would be enforced by the IRS.
If a child is raped, and she obtains an abortion, her parents will have to demonstrate to an agent of the Internal Revenue Service that the rape did not involve mere child molestation, that force was actually used. If the agent is not sufficiently convinced by the parents that a little girl offered resistance to the rape, tax penalties will be applied. Similarly, if a woman is raped and obtains an abortion, she will have to demonstrate during an audit that she was not simply slipped a date rape drug and then taken advantage of. She will have to demonstrate to the satisfaction of an agent of the Internal Revenue Service that she offered resistance to a forcible rape. If she fails to convince an IRS agent that she was not merely drugged, then raped, she will face legal tax consequences.
This may seem unreasonable to those of us who are skeptical about the subordination of a woman's right to her body to a level below rights assigned to a very small, newly fertilized, group of cells. But to those who believe that human life should legally begin at the moment of conception, it is quite logical.
Over the years, the definition of acceptable sex has been refined to a core principle. Sexual relationships must include informed consent. A child is not capable of that consent. Neither is an unconscious woman. That will change if the Republican bill becomes law. It passed the House of Representatives this week. 175 Democrats opposed the measure, while 16 voted for it. All Republicans who voted, every one of them, all 235, were for it.
Additional training will be needed for IRS agents. They must be shown how to successfully interrogate rape victims for suspect circumstance. Probing for the truth with little children requires special talents not covered in current tax manuals.
Presumably, training in forcing the truth from rape victims of all ages would come later.
The Republican bill would still need the votes of a majority of the Senate, then the signature of the President. That is not expected with this Senate and this President.
After the next election, or the one after that, or the next one, Republicans may have a better chance.
Two, four, six, eight, ten, come on ... put it in.
Republicans have had it in their sights for a long, long time. The frivolous lawsuit that keeps business costs high and profits low, are the target. Can anyone argue with that? Insurance companies and large corporations pay genuinely silly claims simply to avoid the larger costs of defeating them in court.
Last September, Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) lamented the sad state of affairs.
Texans and Texas employers are still hit with frivolous lawsuits that cost thousands or even millions of dollars in legal fees to defend. It is time to introduce a higher degree of balance and accountability into our legal system.
One idea that has been advanced for years looks a lot closer in Texas. With the Governor's enthusiastic backing, it would force plaintiffs who lose a case to pay for all legal costs that defendants had to undergo. The idea is that this would make those who want to make a quick buck by coercing a business, or who want to make a run at the legal system's courtroom lottery, to think twice before filing that suit.
Presto. No more suits from little old ladies who spill their coffee and then get mad that McDonalds didn't warn them the coffee was really really hot.
Now some folks do oppose the change. William Berenson is an accident lawyer who makes his living litigating just the sort of case Governor Perry is against. He points out an interesting fact. Texas law already forces plaintiffs to pay most costs if they lose. Perry's law would just make the costs a whole lot higher and would cover more cases.
Let's say a cheerleader accuses a basketball player of raping her, then is required to cheer for that football player. If she is prohibited from ever participating again for refusing, should she be able to sue?
Actually, that already has happened. After the attack, the player was allowed to plead guilty to simple assault. The girl was told by the school to keep out of the school cafeteria and to stay away from homecoming celebrations to avoid any unpleasantness in case she encountered her assailant. At a basketball game, she cheered for the team. But as that player was about to try a free throw, the cheerleader was ordered to chant the words, including the basketball player's name: "Two, four, six, eight, ten, come on ... put it in." She refused. And she was expelled from cheerleading activities thereafter.
She sued. She lost in a local court proceeding. She appealed. The judge ruled that, as a cheerleader, she had to speak for the school and not for herself. She could not choose for whom to cheer. She had an obligation to yell publicly for her attacker to "put it in." So she lost in federal appeals court.
Then the already existing Perry principle was applied. She is now ordered to pay the school's legal fees, totaling $45,000. This week, the US Supreme Court refused to hear the case, not about the original astonishingly insensitive school actions, but about the legal fees.
Sometimes even cases that lose are not frivolous. Not all worthwhile lawsuits are guaranteed victory in court. Some refinement of the legal definition of "frivolous" may be in order. Making victims pay twice for pursuing their legal rights should not be legal policy.
I bet you're grieving.
- - Teacher to a little Muslim girl, May 2, 2011
Okay, we'll look at the punchline first, then find the joke.
The Republican plan to slash the deficit doesn't slash the deficit. It doesn't come close. The mythical $1.6 TRILLION deficit reduction averages about 15 billion annually, and most of that doesn't happen for years. That's the punchline.
And here's the joke. The rest of the reduction comes from President Obama's future success in pulling troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. That's right. Almost all of what Republicans are boasting about comes from administration plans for President Obama to conclude wartime spending in those two countries.
More than 90% of the Republican deficit reduction has nothing to do with Republican deficit reduction.
The only analogy I could come up with was a speech by Democrat Mario Cuomo, then Governor of New York, in December 1994. Governor Cuomo was about to become ex-Governor Cuomo, having just been defeated for re-election by Republican George Pataki. Cuomo took it in stride. He looked over the audience. The weather was cold as winter approached, but he spoke without a coat and his speech contained no bitterness. He was making no claims, he said, but he did wish to point out that, since New Yorkers had replaced him, the days had been getting shorter.
The comparison is far from perfect. Cuomo was joking, and his humor was gentle. The Republican plan is not all that funny, their let-them-eat-babies program to abolish Medicare, slash Medicaid, and abolish head start, is hardly gentle, and they really are trying to take credit for something they have nothing to do with. So why won't someone call them on it?
Media folks are a notoriously lazy lot. It's easier to play along than to put on eye shades and do the boring work of real reporting. The Economist Magazine is published in London, but they spoke for reporters everywhere about Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) the author of GOP plan. "His 'Roadmap for America’s Future', was a serious proposal to balance the long-term budget by effective (though politically unpalatable) means, such as replacing traditional Medicare fee-for-service with vouchers."
This is not all bad. Reducing the deficit right now would pretty much destroy the economy. A few fat cats might do pretty well. The rest of us would be standing on street corners selling apples to survive. Sucking a ton of cash out of a shaky economy still in recovery is simply not a good idea. Reducing deficits generally works when inflation is raging or when economic times are bright. So the GOP plan might not destroy the economy after all.
In fact, chances are pretty good the Republican plan will only seriously hurt seniors, poor folks, and little kids. You see, while the plan does almost nothing to the deficit, it does do something substantial. The Republican plan will slash $4.5 trillion from programs that educate children, keep seniors alive, and keep people of all ages from starving on the streets. They have to do this because they won't touch really big programs like defense.
Now you hurt a lot of people when you abolish Medicare and replace it with vouchers, and increase the retirement age, and cut back Medicaid that much. But $4.5 trillion! Wow. That should reduce the deficit, right? It will show a lot less debt than doing nothing, won't it?
Well, let's not forget the tax cut. Extremely wealthy folks would be the main winners in the tax sweepstakes. That will eat up more than $4.2 trillion of the $4.5 trillion.
The Republican plan, the serious grown up plan, the plan that finally gets down to the business of doing something about the deficit, does nothing, really and truly nothing, but transfer funds from folks on the ragged edge of survival to folks enjoying life up on the mountain top. Depending on your view of society and government, this might be a defensible idea: Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness and all.
But reduce the deficit it? There ain't no there there.
Think about that the next time some conservative calls you to his lunch table and introduces you. You might take note that his imaginary friends aren't really there and the menu he was carefully reading is a coloring book.
We thank President Bush for having made the right calls to set up this victory.
- - Sarah Palin, May 2, 2011
What sort of individual would have offered thousands of innocent people the choice of burning to death in an inferno or jumping from buildings famous for their height? At first, bin Laden denied involvement in, or even prior knowledge of, the attacks of a decade ago. But videotapes of this comic book villain were soon discovered as he gloated in the aftermath, boasting that the attacks had exceeded his expectations. He only expected the topmost floors of the towers to collapse, he said on tape to a confidant. He and cronies dined and cheered as entire buildings fell, thrilled as those killed multiplied.
Just as Japanese Americans bore the brunt after Pearl Harbor, unjustly conflated with the militarists of the Empire of Japan, so Muslims became identified by many Americans as terrorists. There are differences, to be sure. The bigotry of today does not have the cover of official action. In those days, Americans of Japanese descent were rounded up wholesale and herded into concentration camps. Today, Americans who worship God at mosque have been subjected to harassment, discrimination, and occasional violence, but President Bush, followed by President Obama, maintained a distinction. We are not fighting against Islam, but rather against terrorism.
Rage is often misdirected. It is a sad and cloudy part of the human experience. A deed so monstrous deserves authorship from a larger evil than mere evidence can show. It has been that way through history. Those of us who felt the pain of assassination knew on a visceral level that some widespread conspiracy had to have been at play. How else to explain the loss of a President Kennedy, an almost President Kennedy, and a prophet of human rights in the person of Martin Luther King? The mafia, or the CIA, or the USSR, or the Klan had to have been behind it.
It has been the same in the years since 9/11. A madman in a cave on the other side of the world was too small an object for righteous rage. And so, Muslims became targets, and Arabs, and any who looked to the ignorant as if they might be in a suspect group. A patriotic gesture of defiance, the building of an Islamic center by Americans to fight the lie that terrorists presented, the lie that terrorism was a justified response to America's attacks on an entire religion, was itself attacked by American bigots as offensive. And so the terrorist lie was given the thin veneer of plausibility. Yes, said some, America is indeed on the attack against Islam.
In fact, the great majority of those killed by this man, those who died on several continents, were Muslims. The main targets of his wrath were those who followed the wrong strain of Islam. Only Sunni Muslims were fit to live, and of those, only those stern enough to join the anger.
American rage, with its lack of focus, did find its way into official circles. The madman in a cave on the other side of the world, even a wealthy madman with a gang of thugs, could not have performed such a murderous scheme with such precision. Some state backing had to have been in play. And so an evil dictator with no connection to the attacks became the prime suspect. Find the evidence, demanded some at the very top of American government. And any wisp became proof. Iraq was attacked, and bin Laden escaped in Tora Bora, as frustrated CIA personnel screamed in vain for forces.
This week, we celebrate this death, this person who is as removed from us as are the Nazis of generations ago. In our celebration, the obvious question is rhetorical, its meaning lost. What sort of individual would have committed such crimes? One answer may be any individual who becomes so devoted to an idea that mere people are unimportant in comparison. When a cause erases all compassion, when the human heart becomes cold, a religious devotee can too easily morph into a sociopath.
We celebrate the removal of this person, joining in communal chants. Politicians fight for a place at the head table, in perpetual maneuver, with endless positioning. We and those like us, they say, had some connection with this death. Congratulations on being such a good follower of our lead, Mr. President.
I am glad bin Laden is dead. I should be glad for the children who would have been murdered and now may not be. I should celebrate for justice now finally served, for evil being set back, for the demoralization of others who would murder. I should celebrate for all the right reasons. And I do.
I also do what Christian leaders tell me not to do. I gloat. I do not mourn, except in a purely theoretical sense, a lost soul, an opportunity, however faint, for repentance, for redemption. I do not feel that, I do not see it. Even through a glass darkly, I do not see it.
On a deep and personal level, I am glad at this killing.
I am not glad that I am glad.
But I am glad, nonetheless.
I think Republicans should stand up and certainly salute Barack Obama for making some, again, for making some very tough choices that his own base did not want him to make.
That takes courage, that takes leadership, and we saw the results of that courage and leadership saying no to his own base yesterday, decisions that he probably did not believe as a candidate he didn’t think he’d have to make, but he made them and that speaks volumes about the leader.
Going against his own ideological leanings to do what he believes he has to do, in the best interests of this country.
- - Joe Scarborough, May 2, 2011
The death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of American forces is a victory for the United States and a tremendous achievement for the military and intelligence professionals who carried out this important mission. Their tireless work since 9/11 has made this achievement possible, and enabled us to capture or kill thousands of al Qaeda terrorists and many of their leaders. I also want to congratulate President Obama and the members of his national security team. At this moment when bin Laden has been brought to justice, we especially remember the sacrifice of the young Americans who've paid the ultimate price in defense of the nation, as well as the nearly 3000 Americans who lost their lives on 9/11.
- - Vice President Dick Cheney, May 2, 2011
I congratulate the President, the National Security team and the members of our armed forces on bringing Osama bin Laden to justice after more than a decade of murderous al-Qaida attacks.
- - President Bill Clinton, May 1, 2011