Day: July 21, 2010

Emergency jobless benefits approved in crucial Senate vote

Well its about time.  Finally, our out of work citizens can get the relief they paid for.  These are not “welfare” leeches.  The GOP should be ashamed of themselves for labeling them as such.

Washington Post

The Senate voted 59 to 39 Wednesday to restore emergency jobless benefits to millions of people who have been out of work for more than six months.

House leaders said they will ratify the measure Thursday and send it on to the White House, where President Obama plans to immediately sign it.

The bill would authorize states to provide retroactive support to an estimated 2.5 million people whose unemployment checks have been cut off since federal benefits expired June 2. It would also make available up to 99 weeks of income support through the end of November to millions more who have exhausted state benefits, which typically last for 26 weeks. Advocates for the unemployed say it could be several weeks in some states before the checks are in the mail.

The vote comes after a months-long battle over whether to pay for the $34 billion measure or add that sum to the nation’s mounting national debt. Both parties have agreed in the past not to pay for emergency jobless benefits during periods of high unemployment, in part because cutting spending or raising taxes to cover the cost could depress economic activity.

In the end, two Republicans — Sens. Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine — voted with a virtually united Democratic caucus to extend jobless benefits without paying for them. One Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voted no.

The measure now goes to the House, which has already approved an extension of jobless benefits but must vote again for procedural reasons.

But the recent recession, coupled with public spending to revive the economy, has pushed government debt loads here and abroad into dangerous territory, sparking a crisis in Europe and heightening public anxiety in the United States.

Republicans have been playing to those fears in hopes of regaining control of Congress in this fall’s midterm elections. With unemployment at 9.5 percent, they agreed that jobless benefits should be extended but said the cost should be covered with unexpended funds from last year’s economic stimulus package.

Democrats have accused the GOP of playing politics with the lives of millions of unemployed workers, noting that Republicans want to extend tax cuts for high-earners that would add nearly 20 times as much to the nation’s debt over the next decade.

Attacking Muslims Is In Vogue Again Among Conservatives

 

Muslim Day, posted with vodpod

 

Is there something in the air?  What the hell is going on in our country?  I truly feel like we are regressing back to the fifties… 

Huffington Post – Jason Linkins 

Recently in the land of the demented, it’s become ultra-voguish to hate Americans who are practitioners of Islam. Loud, angry, scare-bears have made their position very clear. Muslims aren’t allowed to have mosques in lower Manhattan or Staten Island or Tennessee or Southern California. In Jacksonville, Florida, anti-Muslim extremists can mount acts of terrorism without being concerned that the national media will get too heavily involved in covering the story. And among Alaskan celebrities of certain renown, the hatred of Muslims is threatening to rip the very fabric of the English language

And now, Glenn Beck has decided that he cannot tolerate the thought of American Muslims riding around on rollercoasters for fun! This is what Beck bleated out to the world, via email: 

At the very minimum this is one of the worst PR moves of all time. A Six Flags amusement park is having a ‘Muslim Family Day’ which if that’s what they want to do, great! BUT they’ve decided to have the festivities on September 12th – of ALL days, THIS is the one they pick? What in the world were they thinking?

Hint: They were probably thinking that a Sunday in September might be a nice time for Muslim families to enjoy themselves at an amusement park? 

UPDATE: Actually, it’s perfectly logical. A reader emailed me with a reminder that September 12 coincides with the final day of Eid ul-Fitr, a holiday that “marks the end of Ramadan.” Eid begins in North America on September 10 this year. 

Beck would later take to his radio show to “elaborate” on this daft position, saying, “I can’t imagine that in 1948, they would have had ‘Japanese Day’ at the water park on December 8th.” 

Well, I can’t imagine anyone having a “day” of any kind at a water park in December, can you? But I digress. Yes, Japan attacked the United States in 1941 and for a period of time, we kinda sorta lost our minds a little bit with regard to the Japanese-Americans who were attacked that day by another country. But by 1948, the internment camps had been closed for three years and the war had been won. 

 Additionally, what Beck really fails to grasp is that “Muslim families” did not attack the United States. The U.S. was attacked by a dangerous cult of psychopathic terrorists known as al Qaeda. So, “Muslim families” in America are allowed to enjoy themselves by eating funnel cake and riding log flumes. I’m pretty sure I’d strenuously object to Six Flags holding a special “Al Qaeda Cult Day” on any day of the year. But then again, the most recent al Qaeda cultists in the news have been so bereft of intelligence that I have to imagine that an “Al Qaeda Cult Day” at Six Flags might provide law enforcement with the opportunity to stage a highly successful sting operation. 

Of course, this is all beside the point. Beck is perfectly willing to allow Six Flags to have a “Muslim family” day. His objection is to the September 12th date, because he has tried to claim that day for his own personal Party In The USA. What’s baffling about this is that he can’t possibly want those Muslim families to attend his day of personal ego masturbation — after all, he compares them to the people who attacked Pearl Harbor! You’d think that keeping Muslim families occupied at amusement parks would be convenient for everyone involved. But really, Beck just can’t stand the thought of people he doesn’t like enjoying themselves on the day he picked for his own personal enjoyment. The whole world is supposed to just simply stop, on his behalf, because he is a megalomaniac. 

UPDATE: Here’s a key piece of background on Six Flags Muslim Family Day, sent in by a reader, via email. 

History of the Event:This event was first held at Six Flags Great Adventure, NJ, in September 2000. The event was immediately a huge success. The tragic events of 9/11 that resulted in the loss of thousands of innocent lives, also affected this event directly. The chief organizer, Tariq Amanullah, who worked on the 96th floor of WTC, Tower 2, passed away. The team was unable to come together again till year 2004, when the event came back bigger than ever before. 

 So, to reiterate: Six Flags Muslim Family Day began in the year 2000, and its chief organizer DIED IN THE SEPTEMBER 11th ATTACKS. 

RELATED:
Anti-mosque protests on the rise, say Muslim advocates [The Upshot]

Unemployment Extension: Republicans Delay Final Vote

So, these are the politicians who will regain the majority in the house this November?  I have to wonder what kind of world we live in that will accept these clowns as the arbiters of fairness and compassion?

Huffington Post

Senate Republicans are holding up final passage of a bill to reauthorize extended unemployment benefits after Democrats broke the GOP filibuster on Tuesday.

Republicans have decided they’d like to gobble up the 30 hours of debate allowed after a cloture motion won supermajority support, and have introduced a series of motions, including one to repeal the estate tax and others to offset the cost of the unemployment benefits. A Democratic aide told HuffPost the motions would not delay the final vote, which is expected at 9 p.m. on Wednesday evening.

Extended jobless aid for people out of work for longer than six months lapsed at the end of May as Republicans and conservative Democrats in the Senate, especially Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), blocked the bill over its $33 billion deficit impact. Since the extended benefits lapsed, Labor Department data show that 2.5 million have prematurely stopped receiving checks.

“Republican obstruction has already cost 2.5 million Americans essential aid they need to pay their rent, put food on the table, and take care of their kids,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs in a statement. “By the end of this week, roughly 350,000 more Americans could be added to that number. The livelihoods of nearly 3 million Americans shouldn’t hinge on partisan game playing in Washington. This latest move gives the partisan minority thirty more hours to stall in the Senate, but that means thirty more hours of suffering for these hardworking families trying to get by.”   Continue reading…

Tea Party Caucus Holds First Meeting, Explains Its Agenda, Blasts Obama

Huffington Post

A group of conservative House Republicans led by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) today hailed the formation of the congressional Tea Party Caucus, claiming that it will serve as a platform for dialogue between Congress and the grassroots movement that has shaken up American politics over the last year.

Speaking at a press conference following the group’s first meeting, Bachmann told reporters that the caucus will try to advance the principles of the Tea Party’s members, who she said believe “that we are taxed enough already, that the federal government should not spend more money than it takes in and that Congress should act within the constitutional limitations that are given to us by the Founding Fathers.”

The Minnesota congresswoman emphasized that the caucus would not be setting the Tea Party’s agenda or directing its operations. “We are not the mouthpiece of the Tea Party, we are not taking the Tea Party and controlling it from Washington,” she said. “I am not the head of the Tea Party nor or any of these members of Congress the head of the Tea Party movement. The people are the head of the Tea Party movement,” Bachmann said.

While Bachmann’s remarks contained little of the damning rhetoric that has become commonplace among Tea Party supporters both in Congress and elsewhere, the lawmakers who followed her were quick to hurl a variety of accusations at President Obama and congressional Democrats.

Paul Broun (R-Ga.) accused Democrats in Congress and President Obama of engaging in “fiscal irresponsibility” and implied that the current government has ignored the Constitution and is denying Americans their freedom.

John Culberson (R-Texas) dialed up the rhetoric, declaring that the Tea Party would “sweep out these extremists that are governing the Congress in November.”

Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) went so far as to accuse liberals of infiltrating protests against the sweeping health care bill passed earlier this year. “There were plants all the way through crowd,” he said of one demonstration. “In fact, I got cussed by one when I got to the end of the street. I didn’t come running to the media, whining and crying.”    Continue reading…

Breitbart’s New Conspiracy Theory: The ‘Purported’ Farmer’s Wife Is A Hoax

This man is despicable!

Think Progress

Two white farmers who were supposedly discriminated against by former USDA official Shirley Sherrod spoke out on her behalf yesterday, saying “no way in the world” is she racist.

But last night, the right-wing blogger who instigated this faux controversy questioned the white farmers’ honesty and repeated his false racist charges. In interviews with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and CNN, the Iron City, GA couple Roger and Eloise Spooner described Sherrod as a “friend for life” and a “good person” who helped save their farm. Speaking with CNN’s John King, right-wing provocateur Andrew Breitbart challenged Eloise Spooner’s “purported” story, accusing King of trusting Sherrod “that the ‘farmer’s wife’ is the farmer’s wife”:

You tell me as a reporter how CNN put on a person today who purported to be the farmer’s wife? What did you do to find out whether or not that was the actual farmer’s wife? I mean, if you’re going to accuse me of a falsehood, tell me where you’ve confirmed that had this incident happened 24 years ago. […]

You’re going off of her word that the farmer’s wife is the farmer’s wife?

Watch it (full interview, part one and part two):

Of course, CNN wasn’t just going off Shirley Sherrod’s word, but also the word of Eloise and Roger Spooner themselves. Just for the record, if the “purported” Spooners are a hoax, they’re a quite involved one:

– Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Marcus Garner confirmed to ThinkProgress that the paper independently found Eloise Spooner for her interview.

– Eloise and Roger H. Spooner are listed in the Iron City, GA phone book.

– The Spooners’ 62nd wedding anniversary, according to a blog post of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, was celebrated at the 2009 Tennessee Truck Show.

– Roger Spooner has been cited in “mainstream” news reports, including a 2002 Associated Press story in the Lexis-Nexis database, claiming to be a “survivor” of the USS Yorktown at anniversaries of the Battle of Midway, which purportedly happened in 1942.

– In a 2009 article, USS Yorktown survivor Roger Spooner claimed to have “discharge papers” from the Navy in his “wallet.”

In his desperation to defend his ugly tactics, Breitbart is resorting to dragging an innocent family’s name through the mud.

Rachel Maddow’s Brilliant Report on Sherrod Smear Job: ‘Who’s Next?’

Rachel is the only commentator on cable or network news who takes the time to explain a particular newsworthy story that might appear complicated on its surface.  Last night was an example of Rachel Maddow’s brilliant presentation and analysis of a news story:

Democratic Underground

MSNBC The Rachel Maddow Show – 20 July 2010: Brilliant coverage and analysis of the Shirley Sherrod ‘smear job’ by Breitbart and Fox News Channel. “This is what Fox does… Fox News knows it has a role in this dance.”

“If you keep falling for this sort of stunt, you are encouraging them.”

After starting the show with video of Rachel predicting rhetorically in a report a while back on the ACORN smear scam that someone would be next, she fills in the events of the last two days…

MADDOW: “Within hours of that clip being posted online and billed as evidence of a racist within the Obama administation, Fox News, understanding their role in this delicate, well-practiced dance, jumped all over it…”

FOX NEWS’ DANA PERINO (VIDEO): “Breaking news tonight, about an Agriculture Department official caught on tape making racially charged comments to an NAACP audience…”

BILL O’REILLY (VIDEO): “Well, that is simply unacceptable, and Ms. Sherrod should resign immediately. The federal government cannot have skin color deciding any assistance.”

SEAN HANNITY (VIDEO): “And this is a Fox News Alert! An Obama administration official resigned just a short time ago after she was caught on tape appearing to tell an audience that she had used her position to racially discriminate against white farmers.”

MADDOW: “How’s that for efficient? How’s that for action?! Fox News and a conservative website uncover what they say is an admitted racist in the Obama administration and she is forced to resign immediately.

The problem? There are a few ginormous asterisks that were left out of the initial breathless Fox News coverage. The conservative website that posted the video, presented it as if it were a real-time admission of racism, an admission of racism happening now, actively, within the U.S. Agriculture Department. And that’s how it was covered, initially, by Fox News. Here’s how the video was set up. See this quote?: ‘Ms. Sherrod admits that in her federally appointed position, overseeing a billion dollars, she discriminates against people due to their race.”

Damning, if that were actually true. Shirley Sherrod joined the USDA in 2009. Now, it is clear even from these edited tapes was that what she was talking about here was a situation that took place a long time before that.

- snip -

… more than 20 years before she took this job with the federal government. That reality, that never made it into screaming Fox News headlines, though, like: ‘Video Shows USDA Official Saying She Didn’t Give “Full Force” Of Help To White Farmer’ and ‘Government Discrimination Caught On Tape,’ that’s not actually at all what the tapes reveal…

So that’s the first thing…

But even more importantly, and you would never know this if you got all your information from Fox News, Shirley Sherrod never actually followed through on this idea of withholding help to the white farmer. The whole point of her telling the story was that, in the end, she decided that her initial reaction was wrong. Having never been confronted with the opportunity or the possibility of helping a white farmer before, having always worked with black farmers, her initial reaction to the first opportunity to help a white farmer was wrong. This is the point of the story. The point of the story was that she should actually help the white farmers, and that’s exactly what she did, as the couple in question explained on CNN earlier today…”

- snip -

RICK SANCHEZ (VIDEO): “In all your time knowing Shirley Sherrod, has there ever been anything about her, either through her attitude, her word, her opinions, or her behaviors, that would leave you to believe that she is, in any way, a racist?”

COUPLE (VIDEO): “No way in the world. No way. I don’t even want to talk about it. It don’t make sense.”

- snip -

MADDOW: “…she did the right thing. She helped those farmers. That’s what happened. Unless, of course, you watch Fox News.”

FOX & FRIENDS (VIDEO): “Because a farmer was white, she doesn’t extend the full helping hand to him. And she’s touting this in this anecdote, as though this is somehow a feather in her cap…”

- snip -

MADDOW: “What is not really that interesting about this whole situation is the fact that Fox News is doing this. This is what Fox News does. This is how they are different from other news organizations. This is why the White House argued months ago that Fox should be treated as a media organization, but not as a normal news organization, because they don’t treat news the way a normal news organization treats news. Just like the fake ACORN controversy, Fox News knows that it has a role in this dance. That’s not new. That’s not actually even interesting about this scandal. Fox does what Fox does. That is ‘Dog Bites Man.’ That is not interesting.

What is interesting about this story is that the Obama administration inexplicably keeps falling for it. Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack acknowledged that he asked for and accepted Shirley Sherrod’s resignation after this supposed controversy came to light on Fox News, but apparently before anyone BUT Fox News and a conservative website got their say about what actually happened here.

Dear White House, Dear Administration: Believing conservative spin about what is so wrong with you, and then giving in to that spin, is not an effective defense against that spin. Just buying and apologizing for it and doing whatever they want you to do, doesn’t make the problem of them lying about you go away. In fact, it makes it worse.

After Fox News set its sights on Obama administration official Van Jones, Van Jones was very quickly booted out of his job. After Fox News went on this fake crusade against ACORN, the Obama administration CUT ALL TIES with the group, didn’t even bother to mount a defense, or wait until they had been investigated properly, just let Fox News do it – they pushed an effort to defund ACORN.

And now, after Fox News totally misrepresented USDA employee Shirley Sherrod, she’s cut loose, as well, before the story can even make it into the mainstream media. If you keep falling for this sort of stunt, you are encouraging them. You are feeding a dog from the table, and thereby encouraging that dog to beg at the table.

After all the damage was already done today, after Fox News managed to force out Shirley Sherrod with a totally out-of-context smear job that made white people feel agrieved about racism in a way that helps Fox News’ politics, here’s how Fox News decided to cover the end of this story:”

FOX NEWS READER (VIDEO): “Did the White House essentially railroad an innocent woman in this because they are on edge about the Van Jones controversy, the Black Panthers Party case, and other controversies…”

MADDOW: “She was railroaded!

Given how the Obama administration has reacted to previous cooked-up campaigns by Fox News and conservative activists, it was not impossible to see this coming. So I say again tonight, as I said back in April, the huge tide of negative publicity that followed these videotapes and the coverage they got on Fox wall-to-wall was a dishonest political stunt that bears no resemblance to journalism and no resemblance to the actual facts of what happened. But it worked. Means be damned, in the end, it worked.

I asked it months ago, and I’m asking it again now. Who’s next?”

White farmers at the center of Shirley Sherrod controversy: ‘No way in the world’ she is a racist.

Think Progress

As it becomes increasingly clear that the video that brought down former USDA official Shirley Sherrod’s career was deceptively edited to make her appear racist, the two white farmers she allegedly discriminated against vigorously defended her. The video shows how Sherrod “racially discriminates against a white farmer,” BigGovernment.com owner Andrew Breitbart claimed. But that farmer, Roger Spooner, and his wife Eloise, flatly denied that this afternoon on CNN, telling host Rick Sanchez, there is “[n]o way in the world” Sherrod is a racist:

SANCHEZ: In all your time knowing Shirley Sherrod, has there ever been anything about her, either through her attitude, her words, her opinions or behaviors that would lead you to believe that she is in any way a racist?

ROGER SPOONER: No way in the world. No way. No way. I don’t even want to talk about it. It don’t make sense. She was just so nice to us as — she didn’t — there wasn’t no — there wasn’t no racism attitude at all in it. Heck no.They don’t know what they’re talking about. Let me say. They don’t know what they’re talking about, if you want to know my opinion.

ELOISE SPOONER: She always treated us really good. She was nice mannered, thoughtful, friendly. Good person.

CNN also reported that Sherrod’s father had been murdered by a white farmer in an apparently racially-motivated crime, which a grand jury refused to pursue. Asked how she dealt with that, Sherrod said, “what I had to do was turn that into a positive. And I did it by devoting my life to working for change.” “I made a commitment the night my father died that I would not leave the South and that I would stay here and work to make a difference,” she added. Watch a compilation: