Jan 31 2009

Hurt Feelings…

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

Yesterday, in my long day of travel from the left coast back to Memphis, I was watching, with some interest the events unfolding with the RNC Chairman’s race. Most intriguing to me was the fact that Katon Dawson, who until recently was a member of a Whites Only Country Club stayed in the balloting and eventually came in second. If you’re interested in how the balloting played out, you can read some “after the fact” play by play here.

Once Michael Steele, the former Lt. Gov. of Maryland, and the RNC’s first African-American chairman, was selected, I wrote a tweet that may have been offensive to some of my “twitterpeeps”.

I guess Republicans are finally abandoning all that old school racism that helped make them so successful over the past 28 years.

followed by

It will be harder for the GOP PR people to produce coded dog whistle messages for the class war that will most certainly ensue.

These two tweets, but probably the first one most, set some people off, and caused them to challenge my assertion. Unfortunately, since I was following along on my phone, where copy/paste isn’t really possible, and, I was sitting on the tarmac at Houston International Airport, waiting to take off, defending my assertions wasn’t an option at that point. Now it is.

Case in point 1, The Southern Strategy: Here’s a darling little quote from the man who popularized this tactic Kevin Phillips of Connecticut:

From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that… but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.

Harnesing ill-will held by segregationist Democrats from the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the Republicans flipped the script on the previously dominant party of the south, the Democratic Party. This alone does not make a political party “racist”…I guess…but it sure makes them look like they are.

As former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman noted in speeches during his term “Republican candidates often have prospered by ignoring black voters and even by exploiting racial tensions” and “[B]y the ’70s and into the ’80s and ’90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African-American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out. Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong.” (bold emphasis mine (Source))

In apologizing for the use of racism in politics, the former RNC chair affirms that it was indeed part of the strategy.

Certainly, during the 20th century, there have been Democratic officials who have used racism as a tool to elevate themselves to office. No one denies that. However, the modern Democratic Party has never used such a tactic in a national campaign.

Case 2, Adopting the Language of Segregation: States’ Rights has been called a “code word” for the segregationist positions of Dixiecrats like Strom Thurmond and George Wallace. From Wikipedia:

The term “states’ rights,” some have argued,[who?] was used as a code word by defenders of segregation, and was the official name of the “Dixiecrat” party led by segregationist presidential candidate Strom Thurmond. George Wallace, the Alabama governor—who famously declared in his inaugural address, “Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!”—later remarked that he should have said, “States’ rights now! States’ rights tomorrow! States’ rights forever!” Wallace, however, claimed that segregation was but one issue symbolic of a larger struggle for states’ rights; in that view, which some historians dispute, his replacement of segregation with states’ rights would be more of a clarification than a euphemism.[7]

Clarification or euphemism, when coupled with the “Southern Strategy” euphemism seems the far more appropriate conclusion.

This was further affirmed by the comments of former Senator Trent Lott during the 100th birthday celebration of Strom Thurmond where he declared, “When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years, either.” Coupling this sentiment with the voting records of southern Republicans since the advent of the CRA of ’64 and the VRA of ’65, one could conclude that, even if the Republican Party at large was not seeking to affirm racists or racially insensitive goals, that many of their party members were throughout the latter part of the 20th century.

Case 3 Policies that Affirm Exclusionary Goals: There are several instances of Republican Party policies that affirm exclusionary goals. The effect of these goals is the disenfranchisement, or disempowerment of a populace still struggling for equal opportunity. More often than not, throughout the recent history of the US, this has disproportionately affected African-Americans. Here are just a few of them:

The Myth of the Cadillac Driving Welfare Queen: One of the oft repeated myths of the Reagan era, the former President asserted that Welfare fraud was so pervasive that the entire program should be scrapped, leaving millions of poor Americans, with no safety net. The media was never able to uncover this “Welfare Cheat” and eventually discovered that she didn’t exist, however, the folklore of this person lived on and became a part of the prevailing “Conventional Wisdom” as originally defined by the economist John Kenneth Galbraith.

This myth became so pervasive that it eventually led to former President Clinton, using studies promoted by Conservatives, to agree to cut welfare benefits, despite several scholarly studies to the contrary.

Affirmative Action: Affirmative Action was originally implemented by Executive Order 10925 during the Kennedy Administration for Federal Employees. President Lyndon Johnson took up the cause after Kennedy’s death. In explaining his support for the policy Johnson noted:

…You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please. You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair…This is the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity. We seek not just legal equity but human ability, not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result. (Source)

Affirmative Action sought to level the playing field, giving those who had suffered at the hands of racial, religious, gender and class discrimination.

Since the release of the Philadelphia Plan under Richard Nixon in 1969, Affirmative Action opponents have asserted that the policy discriminates against more qualified Caucasian candidates for jobs and University admissions. Once again, this is an example of the conventional wisdom overtaking fact.

Affirmative Action is, and always has been a guideline for hiring. Nowhere in Affirmative Action law or policy does it state that quotas are to be maintained throughout the entire system. Organizations under review are given a benchmark to achieve based on a series of local data that includes racial breakdown and estimations of qualified candidates. As an example, if a city has a racial breakdown of 15/85, but only 5% of the total the benchmark is set at 5%. Assuming the company makes a good faith effort to reach the stated goal, no penalty is assessed. Only after multiple years of repeated failure stemming from blatant discrimination are quotas applied by the courts.

Unfortunately, the Conventional Wisdom often spouted by Conservative opponents of Affirmative Action, denies this fact, and has used this conventional wisdom over the years to smear and distort Affirmative Action.

More recent arguments against Affirmative Action state that it benefits middle and upper class minorities at the expense of lower-class Caucasians, or that the policy serves as a detriment to reconciliation, replacing old wrongs with new wrongs. To once again quote President Johnson:

Men and women of all races are born with the same range of abilities. But ability is not just the product of birth. Ability is stretched or stunted by the family that you live with, and the neighborhood you live in–by the school you go to and the poverty or the richness of your surroundings. It is the product of a hundred unseen forces playing upon the little infant, the child, and finally the man.

In this statement, President Johnson affirms the imperfection of Affirmative Action as a vehicle for universal social justice. Race, gender, creed, and other social divisions are imperfect benchmarks for attaining equality in a diverse society. That said, making the perfect the enemy of the good, to paraphrase Voltaire, is not really a solution, but compounding of the problem. In order for the inequity of class to be adequately addressed, other more readily recognizable benchmarks may need to be attained.

Conservatives actually weaken the plight of Americans, regardless of the social divisions outlined in the policy of Affirmative Action, to rise above the conditions of poverty; be they financial, educational, or any other measure. The goal of Affirmative Action is to create an “equality of possibility” for all who suffer external challenges to their ultimate success. That benchmarks or attributes are currently focused on more recognizable attributes, such as race or gender, speaks more to a condition of American society that has not evolved to recognize such issues rather than any failing of a policy whose ultimate goal is to erase inequity. Further to that point, by pushing to remove protections based on these attributes, Conservatives ultimately do a disservice to the very people they claim to fighting for, as well as all those included in Affirmative Action protections.

Vote Suppression: From photo-ID laws and random purges, to the less blatant, but just as effective tactic of sending less or less reliable equipment to areas with large minority representation, voter suppression has long been a tactic of the Republican Party.

Back in the 80’s the RNC signed a consent decree in response to a lawsuit that alleged the party violated the Voting Rights Act by using tens of thousands of returned mail pieces, mostly targeting minority or Democratic areas, and using those as a justification to challenge, or remove voters from the rolls. Despite the prohibition by the RNC to engage in this tactic, other Republican organizations and candidates continue to use the practice.

In 2004, a document generated at the RNC surfaced detailing their caging plans

At whatever point registration in the state closes, a first class mailing should be sent to all new registrants as well as purged/inactive voters. This mailing should welcome the recipient to the voter rolls. It is important that a return address is clearly identifiable. Any mail returned as undeliverable for any reason, should be used to generate a list of problematic registrations. Poll watchers should have this list and be prepared to challenge anyone from this list attempting to vote.

If you would like a list of all the most recent work of the Republican Party to disenfranchise voters by “caging”, take a look at this page which details their “Greatest Hits” more than the whole catalog.

A simple search of “Voter Suppression” nets hundreds of instances of Republican efforts to disenfranchise voters nationwide. A simple look at the Voter Suppression Wiki page, gives us only one instance of Democratic efforts at said tactic

in 2004, 4 Kerry staffers, slashed the tires of 25 vans used to transport vote monitors and voters to the polls.

As this was not a widespread problem in 2004 one could conclude that this was the act of individuals who should have known better, more than something ginned up by the campaign or any Democratic Party institution.

I think I’ve made my point.

In closing I want to make a couple points about my original statement, which I will now repeat:

I guess Republicans are finally abandoning all that old school racism that helped make them so successful over the past 28 years.

First, I think for a party that has engaged in so much divisiveness and racially motivated tactics, to elect a man whose ethnicity is that of their targets in the past, is either one of the most positive things in American politics in some time, or one of the most mindlessly manipulative things. I’m hoping for the positive, because even though I disagree with Republicans on just about every issue of substance the faces America, I still believe that we are stronger with a diversity of opinion.

Secondly, I didn’t call Republicans racists. I called the actions of the party, racist. Calling 30 odd percent of America, including some people I consider friends and colleagues racists is just plain stupid. However, the racially motivated actions of certain Republican candidates and party organs must not be ignored. Certainly, there have been, and probably are Democrats who have engaged in similar tactics, particularly during segregationist times. Because I limited my claim to 28 years (though in truth it should have been 40) I acknowledge that I was able to avoid some of the ugliness that took place in my party…and eventually moved to yours. Doctor, heal thy self.

Finally, if my arguments aren’t compelling, or you just want to get yourself up in a lather about my initial statement or no matter what I say you don’t care because your feelings are hurt and I’m an asshole, please fill out the following form.

Thanks, and have a nice weekend.

Jan 30 2009

Bonus – From the Latin, to Bone…Us

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

So, by now you’ve probably heard about the shameful bonus situation on Wall Street. The TARP bailout, which may or may not have been necessary, or effective, or even what it was originally sold as, looks to regular folks, like corporate patronage at it’s worst.

The long hard truth of the matter is that you can look at a long list of corporations who have been hit hard this year, and see a whole lot of executive bonuses in the face of layoffs and regular folk pain. So why is it that these guys, who are either running their companies into the ground, or victims of their cohorts actions in other companies, getting bonuses when everyone else is getting the shaft?

They think they deserve it. Performance only matters when it’s a good performance. When it’s bad, well, “we need more because without it we can’t meet expectations”. Of course, “expectations” doesn’t have anything to do with shareholder expetations…no that’s code for executive expectations. They don’t believe in suffering or accountability. It’s a sad state of affairs.

I know I’m generalizing. There are a lot of great executives out there who are really interested in the success of the company, and their employees, but it seems like there are fewer and fewer examples of such people.

I’m tired of hearing about this. I look around me and see neighbors and friends and acquaintances either getting laid off, or losing shifts, which means losing money. These are blue collar and white collar people, all working hard to stay afloat. Then, there are these folks running our financial system into the ground, begging for money, acting like they’ve done nothing wrong, and then, the gall of it all, giving themselves BONUSES! Are you kidding me? The lack of accountability, or even a sense of responsibility is sociopathic.

It’s time to clean up corporate America. It’s time for shareholders to rise up and demand accountability. That’s right, I’m advocating a grassroots shareholder revolt. When corporate America says “Let them eat cake”, it may be time for corporate America to get their heads handed to them.

Jan 29 2009

Fiscally Conservative when it’s Convenient

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

Bonddad has a fun post at the Orange Devil about the Republican Party’s dedication to “fiscal dicipline”.

The long and the short of it is that since 2000 the national debt has increased by over $4.4t. While the Republicans had control of the White House and the Congress, not to mention the budgeting process, the national debt increased some $3.2t. The final $1.2t came largely in the last year or so of an administration that was hell bent on destroying any stability in the US economy over its 8 years in office.

The truth of the matter is that fiscal conservatives, this includes ALL Republicans, and many of the Blue Dog/New Democrat folks, are only interested in being fiscally conservative when it suits them. If they like spending on the Military, then all that PAYGO nonsense is out the window until someone asks for healthcare for children, then it’s back to PAYGO.

We need to start calling things what they are. Either you are unconditionally a fiscal conservative, or you have some other motive that moves you to play a fiscal conservative when it suits you politically or socially, or whatever. That conservativeness may be rooted in assisting corporate interests, maintaining class structures, or in a level of true fiscal discipline that we haven’t seen since the Clinton years, and didn’t see before the Clinton years in any Republican administration from their hey day (back to the 1981 Reagan years). But you either are or you’re something else. That something else may make you feel uncomfortable when you get called it. Just saying.

Jan 29 2009

“Post-Partisanship” or “Can’t Buy Me Love”?

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

Partisan:a strong supporter of a party, cause, or person.

So what is “Post-Partisanship”? Is it a coming together? Is it an attempt to blur the traditional lines or roles of our current two-party system?

What is the effect of pursuing “Post-Partisanship”? Is it compromise? Is it holding the hand of the opposition party to appear less partisan?

Apparently, it’s all of those things.

I don’t want to jump out of the gate too soon and call President Obama’s attempt to heal some of the divisions in our country a failure, but certainly he must realize that for this “Post-Partisanship” to work, both sides must be willing to give something, and right now it appears that the only side giving anything is the President.

This puts the President in a position far weaker than the one his landslide victory should afford him. Take a look at this video from The Rachel Maddow Show

For all the Republican attacks on infrastructure spending, in order for our nation to compete globally and protect its citizen’s vital interests, our infrastructure, much of it built in the 60’s and 70’s, must be updated to meet the needs of the 21st century. Further, this infrastructure spending creates jobs, that puts that money right back into the hands of the people who most desperately need it, the American worker.

As Maddow rightly points out, the President gave Republicans just about everything they wanted in an effort to win some votes from their side. This did not happen. In fact, the President couldn’t even keep some of his own party members (12, including Jim Cooper (TN-05)) from voting against the bill.

So what has President Obama gained from this exercise? Nothing, in fact he may have lost quite a bit.

By spending the majority of his time courting Republicans, he has ignored his own party, much to their chagrin, and gained nothing.

The question has to be asked; does courting an unwilling partner really gain you anything? I’m all for dialogue, but not at the expense of party unity.

President Obama is starting down the path of some bizarre, upended Can’t Buy Me Love scenario. It is a fine and noble cause to try and bring as many people as possible into the solution, but there has to be some willingness on their part to be a part of the solution. If you’re just bribing them, they’re not your friends they’re using you. And if you’re forgetting about your REAL FRIENDS in the process, you may find that you have fewer REAL FRIENDS in the long run.

Post-Partisanship is fine, collaboration is fine, but not at the expense of the ideas and values that we elected you to represent. President Obama, don’t give away the farm so soon. You have a lot of political capitol at your disposal, but perhaps, not quite as much as you think you do.

Update:TPM has the Republican definition of Bi-Partisanship

Jan 29 2009

The Audacity of Rush

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

So Rush has this Op-Ed in the WSJ detailing HIS plan for a bailout.

The long and the short of it is that Rush wants to split the money up along the lines of the Presidential election results…54-46. That works out to $486b for infrastructure, and $414b for tax cuts (Rush, as usual, uses a fake number, $900b for his breakdown instead of the actual $819b in the House bill).

What’s interesting is that Mr. Limbaugh’s plan is not that different from the ACTUAL plan.

According to USAToday, the money breakdown gives $544b to spending and $275b to tax cuts. This works out to a 66% for spending and 34% for tax cuts.

The difference, Mr. Limbaugh, between your plan and the actual plan is the difference between victory and defeat. You guys lost. You barely supported your own candidate. You have no one to blame but yourself for the position you’re in, but your feeble attempt to grasp any little bit of attention is almost as entertaining as watching Humpty Dumpty hold on by his fingertips just before the big fall.

When it comes right down to it, Limbaugh really wants his Republicans in Congress to be in control of who gets the tax cuts. See, if regular people get a tax cut, that would shift the proportional burden to the upper class. Further, they are also about to see their Bush tax cut expire in 2010 further shifting the burden up.

When it comes right down to it, just like it always does, Rush is advocating for class warfare: the rich against the poor, the privileged against the regular folk…all while playing that regular folk line, at the expense of regular folk. It’s worked over and over again since 1980, and I’m sure he thinks it’ll work again.

What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. Yeah, I suggest Rush stick to the kind of stimulus that he actually knows something about…importing illegal viagra and pain pills.