The New Black

These days the House Republicans actually give John Boehner a harder time than they give me. Which means orange really is the new black.

— President Barack Obama
Saturday night at the White House Correspondents Dinner

This week’s featured posts are “Restoring the Constitution is Now a Liberal Issue” and “No, Donald Sterling Isn’t the Victim“.

This week everybody was talking about Donald Sterling

The media has already over-covered this — Wikipedia’s just-the-facts summary is here — but one aspect of the story caught my eye: The impulse of conservatives to jump to paint Sterling as the victim, which I argued against in “No, Donald Sterling Isn’t the Victim“.

A commentary on this phenomenon that I like even better than my own is by Tod Kelly at the Ordinary Times group blog (a blog more people should read regularly). He points out that the Sterling incident is working out exactly the way conservatives always say racism should be fought: Government is taking a back seat to market pressures on the NBA owners. And yet — and this is his key point — conservative opinion leaders are unable to crow about this because their instincts pull them towards defending the racist billionaire. In a nutshell, this is why Republicans have so much trouble attracting minorities.

This, then, is the backdrop conservative pundits had to work with, less than a week after the anti-government rancher they had championed revealed himself to be (oops!) pro-slavery: A perfect, slow underhand lob of a pitch, right across the plate, begging to be knocked out of the park with declarations of how the Free Market won and defeated racism more completely than the government ever could — just like the GOP always promised it would. Frank Lutz couldn’t have come up with a better opportunity to reach out to minorities if he’d scripted the entire universe itself.

So, what did they do?

After a brief stint at condemning him when they mistakenly thought he was a registered Democrat, one of two things: They defended Donald Sterling, or they sat silent as their colleague defended him.

That is why conservatives are always so successfully painted as bigots by their opponents. That is why the stink of Cliven Bundys sticks to them even when they try hard to separate themselves. That is why they can’t win a state or national election that requires a majority of non-white votes. That is why, when conservatives actually do throw “Minority Outreach Parties,” nobody shows up.

and (God help us) Benghazi

Even some Republicans are getting tired of the endless obsession with any trivia that can be twisted to stimulate the Republican base or make either President Obama or Hillary Clinton look bad. The head of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), issued a statement criticizing the testimony of this week’s star witness, Brigadier General Robert Lovell.

The Armed Services Committee has interviewed more than a dozen witnesses in the operational chain of command that night, yielding thousands of pages of transcripts, e-mails, and other documents.  We have no evidence that Department of State officials delayed the decision to deploy what few resources DoD had available to respond.

In the end, while BG Lovell did not further the investigation or reveal anything new, he was another painful reminder of the agony our military felt that night; wanting to respond but unable to do so.

The developments that provide an excuse for a new round of Benghazi stories are summarized by ThinkProgress in an article called “Please Don’t Read This Benghazi Article“.

Sean Hannity is asking his panels whether or not Benghazi is “worse than Watergate” because four Americans died at Benghazi as opposed to none at the Watergate. A more apt comparison might be the Lebanon bombing during the Reagan administration. 241 American servicemen died there, but I don’t recall any comparisons to Watergate.

and John Kerry’s apartheid comment

Secretary of State Kerry got into hot water this week when his comments in a closed-door meeting leaked. Kerry warned that if the two-state model for peace is abandoned, Israel risks becoming “an apartheid state“.

Objections seem to center on the word apartheid, which comes from the old white-dominated South African government and suggests the South African solution of a boycott. But the gist of Kerry’s point is hard to argue with: If the region currently governed by Israel remains under its control, and if current demographic trends continue, Jews will eventually become a minority in a Jewish-dominated state, while Palestinians in the occupied territories will continue to have limited rights defined by an Israeli government they can’t vote on. You may or may not choose to call that apartheid, but it is what it is.

and the death penalty

Oklahoma botched an execution. The condemned man died, but it’s not supposed to be like this.

Thoughtful people used this occasion to ask: Why exactly do we have the death penalty? According to the Supreme Court, if the purpose were to make the victim suffer, that would be cruel and unusual punishment. (Which is not a problem for some people.) In retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens’ new book (which I review here) he raises the question: If it’s not about retribution, what purpose does it serve? It’s hard to believe murderers calculate the difference between the death penalty and life imprisonment without parole. Nobody escapes from our supermax prisons. The appeals process is so expensive and time-consuming that execution doesn’t save money. There’s a racial disparity in how we apply it, and we appear to execute the wrong person surprisingly often.

So why do we keep doing this?

and you also might be interested in …

Excellent article at Demos “Stacked Deck: how the dominance of politics by the affluent and business undermines economic mobility in America“. It quantifies a number of the ways in which the political priorities of the rich are different from those of the rest of America.

For example, only 40 percent of the wealthy think the minimum wage should be high enough to prevent full-time workers from being in poverty while 78 percent of the general public holds this view.

That’s why it’s a problem that Congress responds primarily to the rich: They don’t represent the rest of us.

Several disturbing reports from the militia at the Bundy Ranch. Nevada Congressman Steven Horsford says his constituents have complained to him about “checkpoints where residents are required to prove they live in the area before being allowed to pass”. But I’m withholding judgment until I see a video of one. If the checkpoints are there, video shouldn’t be hard to get.

Then there’s the general problem of getting too many armed crazies in one location. The Oath Keepers contingent of the Bundy militia withdrew after believing a rumor that Attorney General Holder had authorized a drone strike against them. (They’re now blaming government “psy-ops” and “disinformation”, rather than their own paranoid gullibility.) Other contingents don’t want to let them come back, talking about what happens to “deserters on the battlefield”.

To quote General Petraeus: Tell me how this ends.

Reihan Salam describes “How the [Tea Party] movement can save itself and become a powerful force for good.” Short version: It can act nothing at all like the Tea Party.

If the Tea Party were to fight crony capitalism as hard as it fights wasteful spending, and if its members were to train their anger on the Wall Street-Washington axis that deserves so much of the blame for our stagnant economy, it would be the most constructive and powerful political force of our time.

There’s a kind of racism more insidious and harder to root out than the open Donald-Sterling-style stuff. Reviewers rated a legal brief lower and found more mistakes when they were told that the author was black.

When the author is supposed to be white, reviewers excused errors as out of haste or inexperience. They commented that the author “has potential” and was “generally a good writer but needs to work on” some skills. When the author is supposed to be black, those same errors became evidence of incompetence. A reviewer said he “can’t believe he [the author] went to NYU,” and others said he “needs lots of work” and was “average at best.”

and let’s end with the comedy stylings of Obama and Biden

The Prez was at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Louis CK has nothing to worry about, but he’s not too bad.

Meanwhile, V. P. Biden couldn’t attend. He had better things to do.

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  • Gina  On May 5, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    To answer your question about the death penalty, I believe it is to relieve conservatives’ abhorrence to anyone they feel superior to “getting away with something.” Like poor people getting away with eating lobster and having a manicure when they should be eating Ramen noodles and biting their nails with worry about how poor they are, criminals (especially ethnic criminals) should not be allowed to stay alive or to enjoy the luxurious accommodations of prison after committing their crimes. I actually heard one woman recently complain about allowing them to have cable TV in prison. Why should they get a nice life and an easy ride in jail, she asked. I pointed out that being in prison isn’t a nice life or an easy ride, with or without cable TV, but the point is, she’s bothered because having cable TV to watch means criminals are “getting away with something.” Why doesn’t it bother them all the shameful things the wealthy get away with in this country, if “getting away with something” bothers them so much?

    Or, I suppose I could ask it the other way. Why am I so bothered by what the Koch brothers get away with, and Walmart, etc. but not bothered much if poor people get away with having a bit of free money they didn’t earn and squandering it on luxury items instead of being frugal?

  • weeklysift  On May 7, 2014 at 7:44 am

    Expanding on this: If living a “good” life — moral, decent, in line with society’s demands — is a sacrifice that you make in order to get rewards, then you might well resent any rewards that go to people you see as not making that sacrifice.

    If, on the other hand, your vision of the good life is intrinsically satisfying, you wouldn’t have that resentment.

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