Some thoughts on blowback
2 days ago
Senior Democrats say Reid will not have the votes to change the rule at the beginning of next year.
“It won’t happen,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who said she would “probably not” support an effort to lower the number of votes needed to cut off filibusters from 60 to 55 or lower.
Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) echoed Feinstein: “I think we should retain the same policies that we have instead of lowering it.
“I think it has been working,” he said.
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) said he recognizes his colleagues are frustrated over the failure to pass measures such as the Disclose Act, campaign legislation that fell three votes short of overcoming a Republican filibuster Tuesday.
“I think as torturous as this place can be, the cloture rule and the filibuster is important to protect the rights of the minority,” he said. “My inclination is no.”
Sen. Jon Tester, a freshman Democrat from Montana, disagrees with some of his classmates from more liberal states.
“I think the bigger problem is getting people to work together,” he said. “It’s been 60 for a long, long time. I think we need to look to ourselves more than changing the rules.”
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who is up for reelection in 2012, also said he would like the votes needed for cloture to remain the same.
“I’m not one who think it needs to be changed,” he said.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd recast doubts this afternoon about whether Elizabeth Warren could garner enough votes to head the newly created consumer financial protection bureau, one day after White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called her "very confirmable."
"I don't know, that's the question, how does he know that?" Dodd said in response to a question from TPMDC on his way in to the Democrats' weekly policy lunch.
"She's qualified, no question about that. The question is whether she's confirmable," Dodd added. "The issue is [if] you can't confirm somebody, if you go six or seven months without someone in that job, you've got a problem."
Some have argued that she be given a recess appointment if a minority of senators block her confirmation. Dodd objects to that idea.
"I think that would be a huge mistake," Dodd said, in response to a question from TPMDC. "Recess appointments. No, no, no."
"I think those are, you know, Republicans used to do it, I think that's a mistake," Dodd added. "Except in the most extreme circumstances where you need someone because of an emergency pending, but as a routine matter, I think it's a fundamental mistake."
U.S. Senator Chris Dodd
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Regarding the tax cuts, 30 percent of Americans believe all of Bush's 2001 and 2003 cuts should stay in place. That compared to 31 percent who believed that all of them should be repealed. Twenty-seven percent take the route Obama campaigned on: Tax cuts for the wealthy should be repealed, while the others should stay in place.
Sign up for E-Mail Alerts to be notified of poll updates. That sentiment was consistent across income lines. Among those making more than $75,000, 26 percent said only the tax cuts for the wealthy should be repealed. For those making $30,000 to $74,999, 31 percent concurred. And among those making less than $30,000, 28 percent said the tax cuts for the wealthy should be overturned.
Independents hewed closest to the overall sample. Twenty-seven percent said all the tax cuts should be kept in place. Thirty-two percent said they all should be repealed. Twenty-seven percent said the tax cuts for the wealthy should be repealed, but the middle class cuts should be kept in place.
(CNN) -- British Prime Minister David Cameron called Gaza a "prison camp" on Tuesday, a blunt description from a major Western leader about the besieged Palestinian territory.
Cameron made the remarks in the Turkish capital of Ankara, which he was visiting to forge a new relationship with Turkey and show his support for Turkey's membership in the European Union.
"Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change. Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp," Cameron said, according to a 10 Downing Street transcript of a speech he made on Tuesday.
Expecting an American conversation on race in this country, is like expecting financial advice from someone who prefers to not check their bank balance. It's not that the answers, themselves, are pre-ordained, its that we are more interested in questions than answers, in verdicts than evidence. Even now, there are people who insist--in spite of the actual video--that the NAACP audience is actually cheering for Sherrod to not help the white farmer.
Put bluntly, this is a country too ignorant of itself to grapple with race in any serious way. The very nomenclature--"conversation on race"--betrays the unseriousness of the thing by communicating the sense that race can be boxed from the broader American narrative, that you can somehow talk about Thomas Jefferson without Sally Hemmings; that you can discuss Andrew Jackson without discussing his betrayal of the black artillerymen who fought at the Battle of New Orleans; that you can discuss the suffrage without Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells or Frederick Douglass; that you can discuss temperance without understanding the support of the Klan; that you can discuss the path to statehood in Florida without discussing Fort Gadsen; that you can talk Texas without understanding cotton, and so on.
It's not so much that we don't know--it's that we aspire to not know. The ignorance of the African-American thread in the broader American quilt--the essential nature of that thread--is willful, and the greatest evidence that the spirit of white supremacy walks with us. There was a lot of self-congratulation around the justice done on Shirley Sherrod. It's premature. The thing will happen again. Race isn't a "distraction" from Obama's agenda--it's the compromised, unsure ground upon which this country walks everyday. It is the monster, and it will not be evaded writing Shirley Sherrod off to the machinations of the 24-hour news cycle.
Yet the Obama team was reacting to a reality: the bludgeoning of mainstream journalism into looking timorously over its right shoulder and believing that "balance" demands taking seriously whatever sludge the far right is pumping into the political waters.
This goes way back. Al Gore never actually said he "invented the Internet," but you could be forgiven for not knowing this because the mainstream media kept reporting he had.
There were no "death panels" in the Democratic health-care bills. But this false charge got so much coverage that an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll last August found that 45 percent of Americans thought the reform proposals would likely allow "the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care to the elderly." That was the summer when support for reform was dropping precipitously. A straight-out lie influenced the course of one of our most important debates.
The traditional media are so petrified of being called "liberal" that they are prepared to allow the Breitbarts of the world to become their assignment editors. Mainstream journalists regularly criticize themselves for not jumping fast enough or high enough when the Fox crowd demands coverage of one of their attack lines.
Thus did Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander ask this month why the paper had been slow to report on "the Justice Department's decision to scale down a voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party." Never mind that this is a story about a tiny group of crackpots who stopped no one from voting. It was aimed at doing what the doctored video Breitbart posted set out to do: convince Americans that the Obama administration favors blacks over whites.
And never mind that, to her great credit, Abigail Thernstrom, a conservative George W. Bush appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, dismissed the case and those pushing it. "This doesn't have to do with the Black Panthers," she told Politico's Ben Smith. "This has to do with their fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the [Obama] administration." Instead, the media are supposed to take seriously the charges of J. Christian Adams, who served in the Bush Justice Department. He's a Republican activist going back to the Bill Clinton era. His party services included time as a Bush poll watcher in Florida in 2004, when on one occasion he was involved in a controversy over whether a black couple could cast a regular ballot.
Taxes? The nonpartisan Tax Foundation in May described Americans' tax burden in 2009 as the lowest since 1959.
The 22 statistics detailed here prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the middle class is being systematically wiped out of existence in America.
The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer at a staggering rate. Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world, but now that is changing at a blinding pace.
Host Jake Tapper asked Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner if he supported Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
"She is a enormously effective advocate for reform," Geithner replied. "Probably the most effective advocate for reform for consumers for consumer protection in the country."
"She has huge credibility and she played a decisive role in helping make the public case for reform and she was early on this, way ahead of everybody else," Geithner told Tapper.
But does the Treasury Secretary have concerns about a woman who has been so sharply critical of him in her role as independent supervisor of the $700 billion bank bailout?
"I don't have concerns and I should say in that context that she has been playing a very important role in providing oversight over the programs we put in place to break the back of this financial crisis
Black farmers, due $1.2 billion for a legacy of discrimination by the Agriculture Department, suffered a new and disheartening setback this week, despite the national spotlight provided by the quickly disavowed firing of a black department worker.
The Senate refused again to pay the bill.
Opponents say it's a question of where the money would come from, and that's a a major issue with an election nearing and voters up in arms about federal spending.
Late Thursday, the Senate stripped $1.2 billion for the claims from an emergency spending bill, along with $3.4 billion in long-overdue funding for a settlement with American Indians who say they were swindled out of royalties by the federal government.
Even the attention the Shirley Sherrod case brought to the issue of discrimination at the Agriculture Department couldn't bring lawmakers together on a deal. Instead, Republicans and Democrats alike proclaimed their support for the funding — appeasing important constituencies — while blaming the other side for not getting anything done.
The result: Thousands of black farmers and Indian landowners will keep waiting for checks that most lawmakers agree should have been written years ago.
"If you say you support us, then, damn it, do it!" said John Boyd, a Virginia farmer and the lead organizer for the black farmers' lawsuits.
Sherrod's resignation under pressure from the Agriculture Department over her comments about race, and the subsequent White House apology, brought fresh attention to the black farmers' claims. In explaining why he acted so hastily in asking her to resign, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he and the department were keenly sensitive to the issue of discrimination and race given the agency's dismal track record on civil rights.
It's a record that Vilsack routinely describes as "sordid."
The money for both the black farmers and the Indian landowners was stripped from the Senate war-funding bill Thursday after the House had passed it earlier this month. Senate Republicans objected to a variety of other Democratic priorities as well, insisting they be paid for rather than adding to the federal deficit.
Democrats have offered a variety of proposals, including one package that included tax increases on oil companies and multinational companies. Republicans have objected, calling instead for spending cuts elsewhere.
"This is an interesting game we're playing around here," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Thursday when asked about the black farmers' money, arguing that Republicans are simply stalling the funding.
A spokesman for Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the money belongs in annual appropriations bills the Senate hasn't passed yet.
Lauer tells us that there's "biased media" on both sides. But while Breitbart may indeed be "biased," that fact has nothing whatsoever to do with what Breitbart did, which is actively mislead his audience. You can be biased without actively misleading.
The conventions of media neutrality apparently require us to keep saying that "both sides do it." But let's drill down on what "it" really is. If by "it" we mean making editorial decisions -- what story to cover, what quotes to seek, who to interview, etc -- that are to some degree rooted in one's political preferences and beliefs, then yes, both sides do it.
But if by "it" we mean purveying information to readers or viewers that's designed only to achieve a political objective, with no effort whatsoever to ascertain its accuracy, true significance, or context, then the answer is: No, both sides don't do it.
Do some left wing commentators say crazy things? Sure. But high-profile commentators on the left, for instance at networks like MSNBC, inarguably hold themselves to a higher factual standard than Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly. (Yes, they apologized to Sherrod. So what?)
Just as race issues have returned to the forefront of political debate, Virginia Sen. James Webb (D) on Friday reiterated his opposition to some affirmative action programs and suggested that white Americans are being "marginalized" by current government policies.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed headlined "Diversity and the Myth of White Privelege," Webb writes: "Forty years ago, as the United States experienced the civil rights movement, the supposed monolith of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant dominance served as the whipping post for almost every debate about power and status in America. After a full generation of such debate, WASP elites have fallen by the wayside and a plethora of government-enforced diversity policies have marginalized many white workers."
This is not a new topic for Webb, whose complicated views on race-based programs were an issue in his 2006 Senate campaign, when some of his fellow Democrats complained that Webb sounded like a Republican. In a 2000 book review, also published in the Wall Street Journal, Webb wrote that affirmative action "has within one generation brought about a permeating state-sponsored racism that is as odious as the Jim Crow laws it sought to countermand."
The Tides Foundation, which prosecutors in California say was among the targets of the anti-government unemployed carpenter Byron Williams before he got into a chaotic shootout with several law enforcement officers Sunday, is also a favorite topic of Fox News host Glenn Beck.
Beginning in 2009 (and as recently as last week), Beck has repeatedly included the group -- along with ACORN, the SEIU and George Soros -- in his cabal of liberals and liberal organizations that are supposedly agents of President Obama's plan to spread Marxist and socialist ideas throughout the United States.
Of course, that doesn't mean that Beck necessarily inspired or influenced Williams' alleged plan to attack the Tides Foundation. But the group has been something of a whipping boy for Beck over the last year.
Williams was charged yesterday with allegedly opening fire on police officers on Interstate 580 in Oakland, California, while on his way to "start a revolution" by attacking members of the ACLU and the Tides Foundation. Williams was reportedly upset about "the way Congress was railroading through all these left-wing agenda items," in the words of his mother. (Which, we have to admit, do sound like words Glenn Beck might say).
Shortly after the vote, the majority leader, Senator Harry Reid, turned to the small-business bill, one of the few items left on the Senate’s dwindling agenda before the August recess. Indeed, it had been on the floor intermittently over the last several weeks, only to be pulled to make way for other legislation including the extension of unemployment insurance.
But with some Democrats viewing the small-business bill as critical to their political prospects in November, Senate Republicans were not about to let it through easily, and have insisted on a chance to offer amendments.
In a bid to save the bill, Democrats released a new version of it on Wednesday night without a $30 billion lending program. But Mr. Reid immediately introduced an amendment that would restore the fund, and he continued to block any Republican amendments. Democratic aides said talks with the Republicans would continue, and they were still hopeful that some form of the measure would be approved.
President Obama called on the Senate to approve the bill in a statement in the Rose Garden on Monday. “We all have to continue our efforts to do everything in our power to spur growth and hiring,” he said. “And I hope the Senate acts this week on a package of tax cuts and expanded lending for small businesses, where most of America’s jobs are created.”
He also raised the issue in his weekly radio and Internet address on Saturday. The White House said Mr. Obama would continue pushing for the bill.
“Small businesses are the engine of private sector job creation, and the president will fight against any attempts by the partisan minority to block progress on legislation that helps our economic recovery,” a spokeswoman, Amy Brundage, said.
Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana and chairwoman of the small-business committee, who is a main author of the legislation, said the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, seemed intent on denying Mr. Obama and the Democrats a chance to pump up the economy ahead of the midterm elections.
“I think Senator McConnell knows and believes this bill could actually create millions of jobs and doesn’t want to give the president and Democrats credit for doing what we do, which is standing up for the middle class,” Ms. Landrieu said.
“If Democrats don’t stand for small business, I don’t know what we stand for,” she added. “I don’t want to go into this election standing for Wall Street and big business.”
The main point of disagreement is the centerpiece of the legislation: a proposed $30 billion lending program that would make credit available to small businesses through local banks. Some Republicans have decried the proposal as a mini “bailout” and said they would vote against it.
The most prominent potential Republican supporter of the bill, Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and the senior Republican on the small-business committee, said Wednesday that she firmly opposed the $30 billion program because it echoed the huge bailout of Wall Street, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which has become a political liability for lawmakers who supported it even though many economists say it was a success.
“It has all the quality and features of the TARP program,” Ms. Snowe said in an interview outside the Senate chamber. “I think we’ve been down that road.”
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack Wednesday accepted full responsibility for the ouster of USDA regional official Shirley Sherrod and said he offered her a more senior position in the department, which she is considering.
The White House earlier apologized to Sherrod, saying it acted before knowing all the facts. Sherrod, who is African-American, was essentially fired amid charges of racism stemming from an edited video tape released by the conservative Internet publisher Andrew Breitbart.
Vilsack's statement came as pressure mounted on officials to give Sherrod her job back. "This was my decision and I made it in haste," Vilsack said of Sherrod's ouster.
"For the last 18 months we have focused on a long history of civil rights claims against the Department of Agriculture -- tens of thousands of claims...I made it a goal that we would try to reverse that history, [and that I] would not tolerate discrimination in any way shape or form." He added, "I did not think before I acted, and for that reason this poor woman has gone through a very difficult time."
(CNN) -- Shirley Sherrod, a former USDA employee who resigned after a controversial video surfaced, told CNN Tuesday that the administration, who pressured her to step down, "wasn't interested in hearing the truth."
Sherrod said she was asked to resign because "you're going to be on Glenn Beck tonight."
An NAACP statement applauding her resignation after the release of the video clip "hurts," former USDA employee Shirley Sherrod said Tuesday.
"That hurts, because if you look at my history ... I've done more to advance the causes of civil rights in this area than some of them who are sitting in those positions now in the NAACP. They need to learn something about me. They need to know what I've contributed over the years."
The clip showed her talking about a white farmer said Tuesday her remarks were taken out of context.
Sherrod, the department's former state director of rural development for Georgia, told CNN on Tuesday the incident she discusses in the clip took place more than two decades ago, and she recounted it to an audience to make the point that people should move beyond race.
"I was speaking to that group, like I've done many groups, and I tell them about a time when I thought the issue was race and race only," Sherrod said on CNN's "American Morning" from her home in Albany, Georgia. The incident took place in 1986, while she worked for a nonprofit and before she joined the Agriculture Department, she said.
"I was telling the story of how working with him helped me to see the issue is not about race. It's about those who have versus those who do not have."
Sherrod resigned Monday after conservative media outlets aired the video, in which she says she did not give the white farmer "the full force of what I could do" to help him avoid foreclosure.
A Georgia woman who said she believes her husband is the white farmer referenced in the clip told CNN on Tuesday that Sherrod was helpful to her family and that the couple never felt she was being racist while trying to assist them in avoiding foreclosure.
"She treated us really good and got us all we could," said Eloise Spooner of Iron City, Georgia. Spooner said she remembered that Sherrod helped find an attorney to help her husband, Roger.
She said she doesn't believe Sherrod is being treated fairly.
Conservative website publisher Andrew Breitbart originally posted the video, which was quickly picked up by Fox News. The video claims Sherrod's remarks were delivered March 27 to an NAACP Freedom Fund banquet, but it is not clear that is the case, nor is it clear where the event was held or how many people were in attendance.
The poor-quality video shows Sherrod telling her audience that the farmer she was working with "took a long time ... trying to show me he was superior to me." As a result, she said, she "didn't give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough."
To prove she had done her job, she said, she took him to a white lawyer.
"I figured that if I take him to one of them, that his own kind would take care of him," she said.
Sherrod mentioned that the lawyer would help the farmer with a bankruptcy filing but did not say in the clip whether his farm was saved.
She told CNN that at the time, she was working with a nonprofit association aimed at assisting farmers in Georgia and the Southeast. In the end, she said, the lawyer did not help the farmer and she "had to frantically find a lawyer who would file a Chapter 11 to stop the foreclosure."
She said she, the farmer and his wife wound up being friends.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday he had accepted Sherrod's resignation.
"There is zero tolerance for discrimination at USDA, and I strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person," Vilsack said. "We have been working hard through the past 18 months to reverse the checkered civil rights history at the department and take the issue of fairness and equality very seriously."
Sherrod told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution there were white people, including a mayor, at the banquet where she spoke. "Why would I do something racist if they were there?"
The NAACP issued a statement late Monday backing Vilsack's decision.
"Racism is about the abuse of power. Sherrod had it in her position at USDA. According to her remarks, she mistreated a white farmer in need of assistance because of his race," said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the civil rights group. "We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers."
"Her actions were shameful," Jealous continued. "While she went on to explain in the story that she ultimately realized her mistake, as well as the common predicament of working people of all races, she gave no indication she had attempted to right the wrong she had done to this man."
Sherrod said Tuesday that it was "unfortunate that the NAACP would make a statement without even checking to see what happened. This was 24 years ago, and I'm telling a story to try to unite people."
JERUSALEM — The Israeli military said Tuesday that it had indicted “a number of” officers and soldiers for their actions during Israel’s three-week offensive in Gaza in the winter of 2008-9, including a staff sergeant accused of deliberately targeting at least one Palestinian civilian who was walking with a group of people waving a white flag.
The announcement came nearly 18 months after the end of the war, and on the day that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was scheduled to meet in Washington with President Obama in an effort to improve strained ties. A spokesman for the Israeli military denied any link between the timing of the announcement the prime minister’s trip.
According to the army statement, the chief military prosecutor has decided to take disciplinary and legal action in four separate cases, including some highlighted by human rights groups and by a scathing United Nations report on the war. The report, by a committee led by Richard Goldstone, a South African judge, was published in September 2009 and pointed to evidence of possible war crimes.
The offensive came as a response to years of rocket fire against southern Israel from Gaza, and after Hamas, the anti-Israel Islamic militant group, took full control of Gaza in mid-2007. Up to 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the war.
Israel refused to cooperate with the Goldstone mission, arguing that the mandate was biased from the outset, and it rejected the report. It also resisted calls by Israeli and international human rights organizations for an independent Israeli investigation outside the military framework.
In a third case, the chief of staff ordered disciplinary action against an officer who ordered an aerial strike on a militant involved in launching rockets. The man was standing outside the Ibrahim al-Maqadma mosque, the army said, and the shrapnel caused what it called unintentional injuries to civilians inside. The Goldstone Report said that an Israeli projectile struck near the doorway of the mosque, in northern Gaza, during evening prayers, killing at least 15 civilians who were mostly inside.
The military said that the officer had “failed to exercise appropriate judgment,” adding that he would not serve in similar positions of command in the future and that he had been rebuked.
In addition, the chief military prosecutor ordered a criminal investigation by the Military Police into an air strike on a house that held about a hundred members of the extended Samouni family in Zeitoun, a district of Gaza city.
That case stirred particular outrage around the world as Palestinian paramedics were prevented by Israeli forces from reaching the house for days after the initial strike. Red Cross officials then publicized their discovery of four emaciated Samouni children who had been trapped in the home with the corpses of their mothers. In all, up to 30 Samounis died.
The white flag episode has been widely publicized. According to Palestinian witness testimony gathered by Human Rights Watch, the Goldstone mission and others, a group of 28 Palestinian civilians from two families set out on Jan 4, 2009 in the Juhr al-Dik area, south of Gaza city, trying to evacuate the area after their homes were shelled.
According to the witnesses, the group was fired on from the direction of some Israeli tanks. They said that Majida Abu Hajjaj, in her 30s, was killed while waving a white flag. Her mother, Rayya, was also fatally shot.