Month: November 2011

Politics makes us stupid

I’m a die-hard fan of Gene Lyons and here’s why:

Arkansas Times

Like sex, politics makes almost everybody stupid. With a presidential election in the offing, Americans are increasingly inclined to divide into rival tribes contemptuous of the “other.” It often seems that the higher the stakes, the more foolish the national dialogue.

Sometimes it feels as if we’re living in Swift’s Lilliput, with Big-Endians perennially at war with Little-Endians over the proper way to open a soft-boiled egg. Of course, Jonathan Swift himself engaged in furious political and religious controversy all his life. He could also laugh at himself.

But hold that thought.

Recently I wrote a column in praise of rusticity and the values of my rural Arkansas neighbors. A surprising number of readers saw it as what one called “reverse elitism” — an attack on Yankees and city people generally, although no comparison was stated or intended. Yes, white country folks mostly lean Republican, although readers couldn’t have known my neighbor’s race, and I have no idea how he votes. Therefore, to a tribalized sensibility, he must be a bad person, and I an apostate.

Lighten up, y’all: If I praise my wife, it’s not an attack on gay marriage.

Soon afterward, I received a communication from a friend in the city. He linked to a news item about scientists at HRL Laboratories in Malibu discovering a new super-light material.

“In search of profits,” he wrote, ‘Big Business’ routinely does that which our bloated federal government could never conceive of doing — inventing. This single accomplishment has more potential for improving lives and the economy than any Super Committee. Our response? ‘OCCUPY THE RICH — down with the 1%!!'”

Clearly, my friend styles himself a conservative. I responded that I was pretty sure that the Pentagon invented pepper spray, along with the Internet over which our brilliant repartee was being transmitted. As he’s a physician, I also mentioned the NIH, which conducts or funds most basic medical research in the United States.

As for HRL Laboratories, it’s a subsidiary of General Motors and Boeing, neither corporation innocent of government largesse.

No big government, no big science.

A born straight-shooter, my friend admitted using hyperbole and joked that “right-leaners” like him normally “exclude the military from the Federal government. Also NASA.”

He’d been blowing off steam. No harm, no foul.

Hippies, after all, can be very annoying. My friend felt besieged by sentimental leftists in college. He once dubbed me an honorary conservative because during a campus crusade against “lookism,” I remarked upon the irony of exclaiming over a beautiful poem or a magnificent sunset, but being expected to pretend that I didn’t notice a beautiful woman.

It’s of such moments that friendships are made.

Continue reading here…

Movers And Sheriff’s Deputies Refuse Bank’s Order To Evict 103-Year-Old Atlanta Woman

Think Progress

I’d say that the authorities in my town are “not bad at all…”

Yesterday, a Deutsche Bank branch in Atlanta had requested the eviction of Vita Lee, a 103-year-old Atlanta woman, and her 83-year-old daughter. Both were terrified of being removed from their home of 53 years and had no idea where they’d go next.

But when the movers hired by the bank and police were dispatched to evict the two women, they had a change of heart. In a huge victory for the 99 Percent, the movers “took one look at” Lee and decided not to go through with it.

Watch WSB TV’s Channel 2′s video report about the incident.

The stress of the possible eviction made Lee’s daughter ill; she was rushed to the hospital the same day. Lee had one message for Deutsche Bank: “Please don’t come in and disturb me no more. When I’m gone you all can come back and do whatever they want to.”

 

Condoleezza Rice Says America Will Never Be Race Blind

The premise is no surprise, but the statement coming from Republican, Condoleezza Rice is…

The Root

Citing a black president, two black secretaries of state and progress for African Americans beyond what her grandparents ever thought would be possible, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on a Thanksgiving edition of Face the Nation that America may have come a long way in confronting racial inequality, but it will never be “race blind,” and that race and poverty in America are “still a terrible witch’s brew.” That’s not exactly breaking news, but are you surprised to hear the hard truth from her?

From CBS News:

Still, she argued that even though America has “gotten to a place [where] race is not the limiting factor that it once was,” she said that “we’re never going to erase race as a factor in American life.”

“It is a birth defect with which this country was born out of slavery; we’re never really going to be race blind,” she said.

She pointed to the confluence of race and poverty as a particularly troubling constraint for overcoming inequality, and wondered if that problem isn’t becoming even more exacerbated in recent years.

See video here…

Related articles

Did We Just Get A Preview Of The General Election?

TPM2012

When you piece it all together, Monday may have provided a potential preview of the general election, with Democratic officials and Mitt Romney engaged in an all-day food fight over the Republican frontrunner’s history of shifting positions.

The DNC started things off with a limited 30-second ad buy in swing states on “Mitt vs. Mitt,” focusing specifically on his shifts on abortion and health care. They also launched a website, MittvMitt.com, a longer web video that included more of his greatest hits as well as footage of late night hosts mocking Romney’s consistency, and held conference calls to bash Romney on the issue further.

“The Republicans’ favorite straw man is to talk about uncertainty,” DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse told reporters. “If people are scared of uncertainty they should be terrified of Mitt Romney.”

The move came as news broke that Romney’s position on whether to offer a path to citizenship or permanent residency for illegal immigrants, a policy he now derides as “amnesty” and a “magnet,” has shifted as well.

It’s hardly the newest line of attack against Romney, but Democrats are working overtime to revive the “flip flop” line against Romney in the hopes of either softening him up for President Obama or — their ultimate dream — paving the way for one of his less electable rivals to win the nomination.

The Romney campaign played up this general election angle in their response, which included a full day of press calls hosted by supporters in states — notably, general election swing states — around the country, including New Hampshire, Virginia, Iowa, North Carolina, and Florida.

“This Administration does not want to campaign against Mitt Romney and be forced to defend three years of failure,” national campaign co-chair Tim Pawlenty said. “Instead of focusing on the middle class and job creation, President Obama and Democrats are focused on campaigning and trying to tear down Mitt Romney.”

Continue reading here…

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Cain’s Camp: ‘We Want A Virgin To Do A Hooker’s Job’

Huh?

The Huffington Post

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain’s Arizona state chairman defended him against allegations that he had a 13-year affair with Atlanta businesswoman Ginger White.

Lori Klein, an Arizona state Senator, told CBS News that she has known him for 12 years and he’s “never been anything but a gentleman — and I am not an unattractive woman.”  She added that in politics, “we want a virgin to do a hooker’s job.” She also said that if Cain is innocent, he should sue White for libel.

White claimed a thirteen-year affair with Cain in a report released by Fox 5 Atlanta on Monday. She said she knew that he was married and described the relationship as “fun” and “exciting” but was aware that she was involved in a”very inappropriate situation.” Cain denied the relationship, saying that White “is an acquaintance that I thought was a friend.” Cain has also denied multiple allegations of sexual harassment in the past month.

Cain told his staff on Tuesday that he is reassessing his candidacy in the wake of the allegations and will make a decision on whether to remain in the race in the next several days.

Last July, Klein took a pink handgun out of her purse and pointed it at the chest of Arizona Republicreporter Richard Ruelas. “Oh, it’s so cute,” she said before aiming it at him to show off the red beam of the laser sight. The gun has no safety, but Klein said that she didn’t have her hand on the trigger.

HUFFINGTON POST CLARIFICATION: This article has clarified the language regarding Lori Klein’s defense of Herman Cain and allegations that he conducted an affair with Ginger White.

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Republicans Should ‘Shut Up’ On Immigration If They Want To Win Latino Voters, Pollster Says

So, let me get this straight…pollsters are saying that if Republicans don’t mention their collective stance on the immigration issue, Latinos will vote for them.  Are pollsters that dumb to think that Latinos don’t know the general GOP stance on the immigration issue?

The Huffington Post

Republicans could be hurting their general election chances by calling for mass deportations of undocumented immigrants and vowing not to reform the system until the border is secured, a pollster and a Republican strategist said on Tuesday.

“Your grandmother once told you that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” Gary Segura, a Stanford University professor and the head of the polling firm Latino Decisions, said on a conference call Tuesday. “The truth is that…if Republicans would just shut up, they would do better among Latino voters. I think the drumbeat of negativity really hurts their brand.”

All seven major Republican candidates have called for stronger border enforcement, insisting the southwestern border should be closed off — either with a fence or with more boots on the ground — before any type of legalization can take place. Beyond that, few have offered plans for dealing with the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, other than to say many of them should be deported.

Republican strategist Hector Barajas warned that may be a mistake, especially among Latino voters who generally support some immigration reform.

A majority of Latino voters believe that candidates who call for border security, a vague term that gives little insight into what full “security” would mean, are attempting to delay immigration enforcement, according to a poll released earlier this month by Univision and Latino Decisions.

“Latinos would be fine if you mention ‘let’s secure the border,’ but at the same time they’re wanting to hear the rest of your plan,” Barajas told HuffPost. “This idea that you can just secure the border and we’ll do the rest later is something that has been told year after year, election cycle after election cycle. They want to hear what happens after that.”

At the same time, Segura and Barajas said that Republicans could be seizing an opportunity to gain votes in the Latino community.

Continue reading here…

Stewart: Is Fox News ‘turning into The 700 Club?’

No, in my opinion Fox News is more on the opposite end of that spectrum…

The Raw Story

Annoyed over Fox News attacking President Barack Obama for not saying “God” in his Thanksgiving Address, Jon Stewart asked Monday evening if the network was “turning into The 700 Club?”

The Daily Show host took the network to task once again for their latest, peculiar over-reaction in a segment titled “Much Ado About Stuffing.”

“Seriously, failing to mention God in you Thanksgiving address, not a huge Thanksgiving faux pas,” Stewart said. “I could understand if instead of pardoning two male turkeys, he had married them. Then I could understand Fox getting bent out of shape.”

Stewart wasn’t even accepting Fox’s attempt to “be fair” to Obama, as the network mentioned that he wasn’t the first president to leave out God in his Thanksgiving address.

“Who did you make look up that shit on a holiday weekend?” he asked. “Who did you do that too?”

Fox News later told its viewers that Obama did indeed mention God in his written Thanksgiving address instead of the Youtube broadcasted message. By that time in the segment, Stewart was ready to move on.

“This is about turning Thanksgiving into yet another one of those Christian persecution culture war type things,” he said. “Don’t you do it! Don’t you do it to Thanksgiving! I’ll give you the war on Christmas, we are trying to fuck that up. This is all reformed Jews have left.”

WATCH: Video from Comedy Central, which was broadcast on November 28, 2011.

Banks May Have Illegally Foreclosed On 5,000 Members Of The Military

Think Progress

For months, major banks have been dealing with the fallout of the “robo-signing” scandal, following reports that the banks were improperly foreclosing on homeowners and, in many instances, falsifying paperwork that they were submitting to courts. Banks have been forced to go back and re-examine foreclosures to ensure that homeowners did not lose their homes unlawfully.

In the latest episode of this mess, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has found that banks — including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup — may have improperly foreclosed on up to 5,000 active members of the military:

Ten leading US lenders may have unlawfully foreclosed on the mortgages of nearly 5,000 active-duty members of the US military in recent years, according to data released by a federal regulator. […]

The data released by the OCC are based on estimates prepared by lenders and their consultants. BofA said it is reviewing 2,400 foreclosures involving active-duty military families to see if they were conducted properly. Wells Fargo is reviewing 870 foreclosures and Citigroup is looking at 700 cases.

Also under review are 575 foreclosures at OneWest, formerly known as IndyMac; 87 at HSBC; 80 at US Bancorp; 56 at Aurora, formerly known as Lehman Brothers Bank; 25 at MetLife; six at Sovereign; and three at EverBank.

Back in April, JPMorgan Chase, which was not one of the 10 banks that the OCC examined, agreed to a $56 million settlement over allegations that it had overcharged members of the military on their mortgages. Chase Bank has even auctioned off the home of a military member the very day that he returned from Iraq. Two other mortgage servicers agreed in May to settle charges of improperly foreclosing on servicemembers.

Even without the banks illegally foreclosing, military members have been hard hit by the foreclosure crisis. Last year alone, 20,000 members of the military faced foreclosure, a 32 percent increase over 2008. The newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is tasked with ensuring that military members are treated fairly by financial services companies — a job that is obviously necessary — but Republicans in Congress have, so far, refused to confirm a director for the agency, leaving it unable to fulfill all of its responsibilities.

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Some of Barney Frank’s Best Lines (and Worst Moments)

Barney Frank In Younger Days

When I heard Rep. Barney Frank was not going to run for re-election in 2012, I was sorely disappointed.  Frank was one of our smartest and wittiest Congressmen.

Mother Jones has compiled some clips from Representative Barney Franks best and worst lines while in Congress…

Mother Jones

On Monday, Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass.) made the surprise announcement that he will not seek reelection in 2012. A liberal stalwart who was first elected to Congress at the dawn of the Reagan era, Frank rose to become the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee from 2007-11 and was a key author of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the regulatory overhaul signed into law in July 2010.

Admired for his barbed wit and pugilistic approach to politics, Frank was attacked by conservatives for his pre-housing crisisrelationship with Fannie and Freddie and his views on taxation and Wall Street regulation. (Frank’s departure, however, will not leave the right without a regulatory bogeyman—once he retires, California congresswoman Maxine Waters will be the most-senior Democrat on the Financial Services Committee.)

Here’s a collection of both Frank’s greatest hits and some of his most cringe-worthy fumbles.

SOME HIGHS

1) Barney hates Newt (mid-’90s edition)

There are plenty of politicians who have heated ideological disagreements but can still smile and play golf together. Newt Gingrich and Barney Frank don’t have that luxury. Long before the 2012 Republican presidential contender said it was a good idea to throw Frank in jail for “put[ting] this country in trouble,” the two were already busy hating on everything the other stood for. Along with making it abundantly clear that he “despise[s] Gingrich because of the negative effect he has had on American politics,” Frank had the following to say about the then-House Speaker during a 1995 interview with Mother Jones:

That’s why [Gingrich] says so many wrong things: He doesn’t know a lot about substance. He half-reads some future-oriented books and out of that comes a gabble that’s not terribly coherent…[H]e’s a mechanic of power.

More than 16 years later, the mutual animosity show little sign of cooling off—Frank even made sure to work a couple Gingrich-related zingers into the Monday afternoon press conference announcing his retirement.

2) Frank’s “Make Room for the Serious Criminals” legislation

Frank occasionally found common ground with politicians like Ron Paul on some pet causes. Here’s one of them:

3) Frank does not like being called a Nazi

Here’s an instant classic from Summer 2009 in which Frank confronts a heckler:

It is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated.

Boom.

4) Moderate GOPers aren’t spared, either

Two weeks after the 2004 presidential election, Rep. Frank had this to say about the role of “moderate Republicans” in the House:

Republicans will be with us as long as their votes are irrelevant to the outcome…Moderate Republicans are reverse Houdinis. They tie themselves up in knots and then tell you they can’t do anything because they’re tied up in knots.

5) Yes, Barney Frank is liberal, Jewish, and gay

More from 1995:

I rule out that it was an innocent mispronunciation. I turned to my own expert, my mother, who reports that in 59 years of marriage, no one ever introduced her as Elsie Fag.

This was in response to then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey’s claim that referring to Frank as “Barney Fag” during a press event was nothing more than “trouble with alliteration.” Frank was the first openly gay member of Congress.

…AND SOME LOWS

1) Barney Frank’s “housing bubble crystal ball” was foggy

Okay, he really could’ve called this one better:

2) The congressman and the Ivy League young conservative

A predictable by-product of Frank’s blunt humor and professional brusqueness was his routine rudeness to journalists, colleagues, constituents, and people who calmly asked him questions.

3) Sticking it to the 1 percent before it was cool

The underlying message is all well and good, but there was probably a more nimble way of phrasing this—something that wouldn’t have made it so easy for conservatives to holler “radical socialist agenda domination ahead!”: