The intrepid New York Times watchdogs over at The NYTPicker today highlight a unique moment in the history of anonymous sourcery. It seems that Times Executive Editor Bill Keller sent around a "Talk To The Newsroom" email to staff "announcing the appointment of Hugo Lindgren as the new editor of the NYT Magazine." Strangely, it included this:
"[Lindgren]'s very smart, wildly creative and charismatic," says one editor who has worked closely with him. "People like him and want to do their best work for him. He just has a great magazine head."
I'm not sure what to make of this! Was the anonymously quoted editor so skittish about paying Lindgren a compliment that he/she insisted on doing so on background? Or is Keller just trying to imply that he has access to knowledgeable sources at his own newspaper?
Huh? Executive Editor Bill Keller Quotes Anonymous Source In Announcing New NYT Magazine Editor. [The NYTPicker]
So, who is Alex Sink? Well, she is the Chief Financial Officer of the State of Florida and she's running as a Democrat to be the next governor of Florida. Oh, that's right, the Florida gubernatorial election! If you've heard any news about this race at all, it's probably been confined to the messy, hostile race between the two candidates vying for the GOP nomination: Florida Attorney General and anti-gay crusader Bill McCollum and Medicare fraud-king Rick Scott.
At some point, Sink is going to have to aggressively promote herself, but for the time being, her campaign is content to leverage the McCollum-Scott mudslinging as a way of setting herself apart. So, she's got an ad out this week, that takes the fray on the GOP side and creates a montage of toxic infighting. You'll note that while the ad paints both of her would-be opponents in a bad light, it notes that Scott is the de facto favorite in the race, so McCollum's specific criticism of Scott's fraudster past has found its way into the clip.
So, today, the internet is all abuzz over comments made by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, dutifully recorded for posterity by The Hill's Sam Youngman, in which Gibbs "unloads" with "anger" over the complaints of the "professional left."
Who is the "professional left," exactly? It's hard to say, really! I gather, however, that Gibbs is referring to a few liberal columnists, some influential bloggers, and a slew of political advocacy organizations.
And why is Gibbs angry with them? Well, for a host of reasons. Some members of the professional left are disappointed that after agreeing to not make a big stink about health care reform in the form of a single payer system, the White House failed to hold the line on the public option. Others are upset that the White House didn't fight harder for a financial reform package that was less deferent to the desires of big Wall Street firms that created the economic crisis. Some dislike the way the Obama administration has maintained or expanded upon many of the unitary executive powers claimed by the Bush administration, which Obama decried on the campaign trail. And there's a litany of other complaints -- for instance, when the LGBT community -- a traditional Democratic voting bloc -- won a landmark victory in the fight for same-sex marriage, the celebration was greeted by the White House with a reminder that they oppose same-sex marriage.
In these cases, the "professional left" has committed no crime other than having a factual basis for their complaint and the willingness to point this out in public. Now, there have been times when the "professional left" has lost sight over the fact that President Obama does not have magical powers that allow him to supercede Congress, the filibuster, and the idiotic political maneuvers of Senator Ben Nelson. Nevertheless, there are other members of the "professional left" -- like Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein -- who are willing to point this out, again and again. That is largely a debate the "professional left" is having with itself, continuing to this day in the remarks of Adam Green, of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee:
When Republicans opposed the stimulus and when Joe Lieberman opposed the overwhelmingly popular public option, the president could have barnstormed across their states and demanded they support policies that their constituents wanted -- but instead he caved without a fight.
Now, why is it that the "professional left" can't just let certain things go, and be happy that they are represented in the White House by a Democrat? Well, I'd wager that the word "professional" is the key term, here. Here's just one example: During the Bush administration, Salon's Glenn Greenwald wrote constantly about the abuses of executive power that led to surveillance of U.S. citizens, the denial of habeas corpus rights, state secrets, and indefinite detentions-without-trials. If, after Obama was elected, Greenwald was to suddenly shift and say that all of that stuff is now perfectly okay because the guy doing all the power-grabbing was a "good guy" with a "white hat" and lovely Democrat blood running through his veins, people would size up Greenwald as a pathetic sell-out, and no one would ever take his arguments seriously ever again.
And lo, it comes to pass that people who have expressed opinions about their beliefs and ideals continue to hold those beliefs and ideals in high esteem. And this is, in many ways, a good thing: people who would urge accountability on their political opponents should continue to hold their nominal political allies accountable as well as a matter of consistency. Believe it or not, there was a time when the Obama administration embraced this:
In that spirit, let me end by saying I don't pretend to have all the answers to the challenges we face, and I look forward to periodic conversations with all of you in the months and years to come. I trust that you will continue to let me and other Democrats know when you believe we are screwing up. And I, in turn, will always try and show you the respect and candor one owes his friends and allies.
Now why does the White House even care about the agitations of the "professional left?" It seems weird, when you consider the fact that liberal voters -- the "amateur left," I guess -- remain pretty steadfast in their support.
But if I had to guess, I'd say that the War in Afghanistan is hard and it makes the White House feel bad. Solving the unemployment crisis is hard and it makes the White House feel bad. Fighting the intransigent Senate on a daily basis is hard and it makes the White House feel bad. And defending large Congressional majorities against the historical forces that act against them in off-year elections is hard and it makes the White House feel bad. But the one thing that's easy and consistently makes the White House feel good is to yell at liberal bloggers and columnists, so they do that, whenever they feel their swagger is in short supply.
I guess the good news is that everyone can rest easy knowing that JournoList members weren't quite the loyal, conspiratorial allies of the Obama administration that they were made out to be!
Yesterday, New York Governor David Paterson injected himself into the strange debate over the Cordoba House community center (a.k.a. the "Ground Zero mosque") with a novel proposal. If the people behind the community center agree to move their facility somewhere else in New York City, the state would be happy to pay for it. My first reaction to this plan -- besides how deeply cowardly it is -- was basically: "Wow! That sure sounds like it would be crazy unconstitutional!"
So let's hear what the experts have to say about it. Via Justin Elliott, at War Room, here's Boston University law professor Jay Wexler:
"They're really giving government aid to religion -- the aid is the break betwen fair market value and whatever they're selling it for. That's almost like they're giving a bunch of money to mosque," said Wexler, author of a book on church-state legal battles.
Per Elliott, Paterson's office is "looking into" the whole Constitutionality of the plan. They might just want to reflect on the very terrible precedent this plan would establish, ably articulated by The Plum Line's Greg Sargent:
Other religious groups in New York will be asking why they aren't being given state land to build their own cultural centers. Will the state cheerfully throw free land at the next group whose plans spark controversy?
I'm pretty sure that it wouldn't even require "plans" that "spark controversy." If I were the head of a religious community in New York, I'd simply turn to the governor and say, "Now, give me my money for the cultural center I want to build, please?" The "controversy" would arise quite naturally, from the very first press release complaining of "state-sponsored mosques."
It's pretty clear that what Paterson is doing here is an attempt at balancing the interests between a religious community which has the right to practice religion and a vocal chorus of frantic, phobia-ridden citizens who have decided to conflate a major world religion with a homicidal death cult known as al Qaeda. The unrelentingly stupid part of this is that there is already a "Ground Zero mosque" in existence, so these are interests that clearly do not need to be balanced anew.
In the Louisiana Senate race, Democrats have largely focused their attention on incumbent Senator David Vitter's (R-Louis.) checkered past. The Louisiana Democrats reminded everyone of that time Vitter was revealed to be an enthusiastic client of whores with an ad that leaned heavily on a teasing crotch shot.
Later, the campaign of Democratic contender Charlie Melancon stepped in to deliver two rather dark and serious ads playing up the fact that Vitter allowed an aide named Brent Furer to remain on his staff long after he became aware that Furer assaulted a girlfriend with a knife. Furer, for reasons that boggle the mind, was on Vitter's staff as a legislative assistant dealing with "women's issues." Vitter subsequently lied about that, and the Melancon campaign hit him again.
Vitter's sundry scandals make him an ever-ripe target for attacks. But what's been missing from the mix are any sort of positive ads attesting to Melancon's virtues. But a new ad seems to signal a shift. Featuring Melancon himself, it continues to harp on Vitter's failings, but it more formally focuses on Melancon's appeal as a conservative Democrat.
"I'm a pro-life, pro-gun Louisiana Democrat," he says, adding, "When it comes to fixing this economy and protecting your family, I'll work with anyone." Except for Brent Furer, I hope!
With U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's decision to overturn California's ban on same-sex marriages, we now have two landmark marriage equality cases wending their way forward through the legal process, with the Supreme Court looming as their potential final destination.
The first is the aforementioned Prop 8 decision. The second is last month's ruling by U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro, who ruled that the federal ban on same-sex marriage, more commonly known as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), was unconstitutional. Taken at first blush, this combination of midsummer rulings seem to represent a wave of support for same-sex marriage. But on closer inspection, it would seem that not all marriage equality cases are created equal.
In deciding Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Judge Walker seemed to anticipate that his decision had a date with the Supreme Court, and so he went out of his way to set the stage for the occasion. Over at Slate, Dahlia Lithwick contends that Walker more or less hardwired his ruling directly to the legal amygdala of the very Supreme Court Justice who would represent the swing vote in the case:
Judge Vaughn R. Walker is not Anthony Kennedy. But when the chips are down, he certainly knows how to write like him. I count--in his opinion today--seven citations to Justice Kennedy's 1996 opinion in Romer v. Evans (striking down an anti-gay Colorado ballot initiative) and eight citations to his 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas (striking down Texas' gay-sodomy law). In a stunning decision this afternoon, finding California's Proposition 8 ballot initiative banning gay marriage unconstitutional, Walker trod heavily on the path Kennedy has blazed on gay rights: "[I]t would demean a married couple were it to be said marriage is simply about the right to have sexual intercourse," quotes Walker. "'[M]oral disapproval, without any other asserted state interest,' has never been a rational basis for legislation," cites Walker. "Animus towards gays and lesbians or simply a belief that a relationship between a man and a woman is inherently better than a relationship between two men or two women, this belief is not a proper basis on which to legislate," Walker notes, with a jerk of the thumb at Kennedy.
Lithwick's not alone in her view that this case has been nicely set up for Kennedy to hit home. Writing on these pages, UCLA law professor Adam Winkler notes that the "two major decisions" pertaining to gay rights handed down by the Supreme Court in the past 15 years both "came out strongly in favor of gay rights -- and both were written by Justice Kennedy."
In one of those decisions, Lawrence v. Texas, which held that bans on consensual sexual activity among same-sex partners were unconstitutional, Kennedy wrote that "our laws and tradition afford constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage" and other "family relationships." "These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by" the Constitution. "Persons in a homosexual relationship may seek autonomy for these purposes," Kennedy wrote, "just as heterosexual persons do."
These words suggest Justice Kennedy believes that gays and lesbians should have the same rights and privileges as heterosexuals. Of course, no right that heterosexuals enjoy is denied more often to gays and lesbians than marriage.
Justice Kennedy is also known to be the Supreme Court Justice most likely to vote in favor of expansive interpretations of individual rights. He's a libertarian, which means he almost always sides with the individual against the government.
Beyond the legal, Nate Silver notes that like just about anyone who has spent a long period of time plying his trade in the upper echelons of government, Justice Kennedy is probably ridiculously obsessed with his legacy:
Although I'm not qualified to analyze the merits of Perry v. Schwarzenneger from a legal positivist point of view, I will deign to take a crack at it from a legal realist frame. It seems to me that most of the "intangibles" bear upon Justice Kennedy in ways that favor his finding Constitutional protection for same-sex marriage. For one thing, he'll be 75 or 76 by the time the SCOTUS hears this case, and will probably be thinking about his legacy. Given that, in 50 years' time, American society will almost certainly regard the plaintiff's position (the Constitution does not permit discrimination in marriage on the basis of sexual orientation) as the right one, that legacy would be better served by casting the decisive vote in favor of the plaintiffs.
So, the typical human tendency to pursue vanity in immortality is something same-sex marriage proponents could end up successfully exploiting.
On the other hand, we have Judge Tauro's DOMA decision heading in the same direction. If Judge Walker's ruling anticipated a future showdown, Tauro's decision borrowed heavily from the zeitgeist. As Andrew Koppelman points out over at the Los Angeles Times, Tauro's "ruling relied on two arguments." One was that DOMA violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. But the other argument was that the "the law interfered with the rights of states guaranteed in the 10th Amendment." The latter stance is the more problematic.
As anyone who's been following the political undercurrent knows, the past two years have witnessed the rise of a phenomennon known as Tentherism. Commonly enunciated by the denizens of the Tea Party movement, Tenthers hold to an extreme interpretation of the Tenth Amendment in the belief that the Federal government have such a limited authority to rule over the states "that virtually everything the federal government does is unconstitutional." Like, say, the Federal highway system.
Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin sees, in Tauro's decision, a winking commentary on this movement:
To be sure, there is something delightfully playful and perverse about the two opinions when you read them. Judge Tauro uses the Tenth Amendment-- much beloved by conservatives-- to strike down another law much beloved by conservatives--DOMA. There is a kind of clever, "gotcha" element to this logic. It is as if he's saying: "You want the Tenth Amendment? I'll give you the Tenth Amendment!" But in the long run, this sort of argument, clever as it is, is not going to work. Much as I applaud the cleverness-- which is certain to twist both liberal and conservative commentators in knots-- I do not support the logic.
Basically, the idea here is that this DOMA decision is a poke in the eye of Tenthers, who would likely be none too pleased that their pet cause has paved the way for same-sex marriage. If we were making a movie, this would be a fiendish twist. But in the real world, who knows? The Tenthers may accept a ruling that enables same-sex marriage as a loss-leader to their larger agenda, which is to undo Obama administration achievements, like health care reform. And that's why Balkin's larger point here is for marriage equality proponents to "be careful what you wish for."
Perhaps more importantly, [Tauro's] Tenth Amendment arguments prove entirely too much. As much as liberals might applaud the result, they should be aware that the logic of his arguments, taken seriously, would undermine the constitutionality of wide swaths of federal regulatory programs and seriously constrict federal regulatory power.
And that would have some seriously far-reaching ripples:
The arguments of Judge Tauro's two opinions are at war with each other. He wants to say that marriage is a distinctly state law function with which the federal government may not interfere. But the federal government has been involved in the regulation of family life and family formation since at least Reconstruction, and especially so since the New Deal. Much of the modern welfare state and tax code defines families, regulates family formation and gives incentives (some good and some bad) with respect to marriages and families. Indeed, social conservatives have often argued for using the federal government's taxing and spending powers to create certain types of incentives for family formation and to benefit certain types of family structures; so too have liberals.
In both opinions, Judge Tauro takes us through a list of federal programs for which same sex couples are denied benefits. But he does not see that even as he does so, he is also reciting the history of federal involvement in family formation and family structure. His Tenth Amendment argument therefore collapses of its own weight. If the federal government cannot interfere with state prerogatives in these areas, why was it able to pass all of these statutes, which clearly affect how state family law operates in practice and clearly give incentives that could further, undermine, or even in some cases preempt state policies?
As nifty as it might be to watch the Tenthers hoisted with their own petard, Balkin lays out the many reasons that the Obama administration would be obligated to defend the DOMA in this case. Not that they'll look forward to doing so: when it comes to bad political "optics" nothing is going to give progressives -- at least the ones lacking the keen sense necessary to divine the larger threat to a progressive federal agenda -- greater fits than watching the Obama administration go to the wall in the defense of the Defense Of Marriage Act.
Anyone who really wants to get into the business of predicting how the Supreme Court will rule on any given case may as well take up the study of divination. Still, it seems to me that if you're a fan of marriage equality, you'd best pin your hopes to Judge Walker's Prop 8 ruling.
As you may have observed, the Obama administration -- like all administrations -- is pretty disdainful of polling. Speaking at a White House press briefing this week, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs chided CBS's Chip Reid for even bothering to bring up discouraging poll numbers, responding "We're way too busy to sit around looking at polls."
But, as Sam Stein and Julian Hattem report, while the White House leaves the work up to the DNC, they are nevertheless way into polling. Way, way into polling:
Through June 9, 2010, the administration, via the Democratic National Committee, has spent at least $4.45 million on the services of seven different pollsters, according to records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. (The Huffington Post looked into only those expenditures that totaled more than $5,000.)
That total represents only 18 months into the administration. During the first 24 months of the Bush administration, the Republican National Committee spent $3.1 million on polling according to a 2003 study done by Brookings. During the 2005-2006 years of the Bush administration, the RNC spent just north of $1.23 million on "surveys," "focus groups," and "polling," according to an analysis of Center for Responsive Politics data (they spent millions, instead, on telemarketing services). So far this cycle, the RNC has spent slightly more than $1 million on those same activities.
I know, I know, you have to do everything you can to keep all sectors of the economy stimulated. Still, we can't help but reflect on all those times that the administration insisted that they just weren't interested in following the advice of polls. So, Ben Craw created a highlight reel, of President Barack Obama and Robert Gibbs issuing various soundbites about polls. Is it just me, or do some of the disparaging things they have to say about polls sound as if they were pretty ruthlessly poll-tested?
Video produced by Ben Craw
During this time of widespread financial misery, one would hope that the election season would yield a crop of politicians capable of relating to the struggles of ordinary people.
Unfortunately, this year we've seen instead the rise of the yacht-owning buffoon candidates, so America is probably doomed.
The big yacht-politics story of the week comes from Florida, where Jeff Greene -- the titanically wealthy housing-market shorting tycoon running for the Democratic nomination for Senate -- has come under fire for rolling down to Cuba in his 145-foot yacht, Summerwind, on a jaunt that left the decks of said vessel "caked" in "vomit." Greene has changed his story about that trip several times:
So, first Greene wasn't on the yacht when it went to Cuba. Then he was on the yacht, but it was part of a Jewish mission to visit synagogues. Then it was the yacht docking in Cuba because of an emergency related to hydraulics, during which time he took advantage of the aforementioned Jewish mission. And finally, a deckhand on the vessel, Billy Blackwell, says the trip was a party jaunt to Cuba, during which Greene and his squeeze went shopping in Cuba.
The Greene campaign denies all of that, of course. But this flap has tied them up in knots. To wit:
Greene spokesman Luis Vizcaino said Tuesday that the real estate mogul's 145-foot yacht Summerwind docked for two days in Havana's Hemingway Marina in 2007 while awaiting repairs. In Sunday's debate against Democratic rival Kendrick Meek, Greene said he went to Cuba on a Jewish mission.
"During the debate Jeff misspoke," Vizcaino said after receiving media inquiries about the trip. "What he meant to say was that in 2007, he went on the boat from Honduras to the Bahamas, and en route the boat had a hydraulic problem...The captain said we could wait for the part at Hemingway Marina."
Yes: Greene "misspoke," in that an entirely different sentence, containing entirely different facts, related to an entirely different account, failed to emerge from Greene's mouth at the moment that air vibrated his vocal chords and his lips, teeth, tongue, and palate formed words.
As noted in the above clip, WPLG News found a reluctant-to-speak Blackwell. The St. Petersburg Times, however, had better luck:
Adam Lambert worked as captain of Greene's 145-foot yacht, Summerwind, earlier this year.
"He has total disregard for anybody else,'' chuckled Lambert, who said he was Greene's 20th and 22nd Summerwind captain (No. 21 quit after a few hours with Greene).
"I don't think I ever once had an actual conversation with him. It was always, 'I should just get rid of you, what f------ good are you? You're just a f------ boat driver. You're the third-highest paid employee in my corporation and I should just get rid of you,' '' Lambert, 43, recalled by phone from a yacht in Croatia. "It didn't bother me. I just felt sorry for the man. He doesn't seem very happy."
Harlan Hoffman, 37, was in a Fort Lauderdale yachting apparel store in 2007 when he saw a help wanted ad for Summerwind.
"There were two people from Australia there who said, 'Oh, good luck with that one. . . . We're still waiting to get paid by Summerwind.' I should have listened," Hoffman said.
The deckhand was shocked while buffing Greene's yacht and wound up hospitalized.
A boat's owner is supposed to take care of on-the-job medical costs, but Hoffman said Greene -- whom he never met -- told the insurance company he had never heard of Hoffman and that he didn't work on Summerwind. It took eight months and legal action that included affidavits from other crew members vouching for Hoffman and trashing Greene to get his bills paid.
"This guy Jeff Greene threw tons of money into new diving gear, but the crew's basic equipment -- food and supplies -- he didn't want to spend any money on. Summerwind has a terrible reputation,'' Hoffman said. "Mr. Greene's yacht is known to be a party yacht. When it went to Cuba, everybody talked about the vomit caked all over the sides from all the partying going on."
This isn't the first time the Summerwind has made the news. Back in July, it came to light that the Summerwind had "severely tore up a coral reef system off the coast of Belize during an ocean voyage five years ago". Greene apparently faces fines totaling $1.87 million if he ever returns to Belize.
Greene has emerged as the international waters all-star in the 2010 campaign season, but he's hardly alone in the field of ostentatious yacht owners. Back in March, the Stamford Advocate, in sizing up the way Connecticut's political future seemed to be in the hands of the super-rich, said that in order to "appreciate the influx of wealth in the top political races in Connecticut, you have to go nautical".
At first, you might be impressed with Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Dannel Malloy's 28-foot powerboat or with Republican Senate candidate Rob Simmons's J-22 sailboat.
But they're humble dinghies next to the 47-foot "Sexy Bitch," the sports yacht that Republican Linda McMahon's husband docks in Boca Raton, Fla. They'd be swamped in the wake from "Odalisque," Republican Tom Foley's 100-foot ship flagged under the Republic of Marshall Islands and hailing from the port of Bikini. (Odalisque, if you must know, comes from the Turkish for a slave in a harem.)
Apparently, in Connecticut, the wealthier you get, the more demeaning to women your boats become!
The topic of yachts also briefly flared up in the California Senate race:
Sen. Barbara Boxer has fired a shot across the bow of Carly Fiorina - in the hopes that her Republican rival's ownership of a pair of yachts might sink her with voters.
Boxer has taken to comparing her years of "public service" to Fiorina's choice "to become a CEO, lay off 30,000 workers, ship jobs overseas (and) have two yachts."
Fiorina's 70-foot Alchemy V, a 2001 Dyna Craft valued for tax purposes at just over $1 million, is moored in Sausalito.
Her 56-foot Sea Ray yacht, the 3-year-old Alchemy VI, is docked on the Potomac in Washington, D.C. - not far from the Georgetown condo that Fiorina and her husband own.
I don't know about you but if I'd known years ago that damaging Hewlett-Packard's brand was that lucrative, I would have made a whole different series of life choices.
But 2010's season of yacht-see hasn't just stung candidates for office. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry came under fire after it was revealed that by berthing his family's $7 million yacht in Rhode Island, instead of his home state of Massachusetts, he was sparing himself the indignity of having to pay $500,000 in taxes. The report managed to cast Kerry in a bad light, and likely had the unintended consequence of alerting hundreds of yacht owners to the fact that Rhode Island known as "a nautical tax haven."
Anyway, these are among the people whom America is counting on to solve the unemployment crisis and mitigate widespread structural income inequities, so good luck with that.
This week, former Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) "made good on his threat" to jump into the race for the Colorado statehouse after a prolonged temper tantrum about how unsatisfied he is with the GOP's two candidates for the nomination, Scott McInnis and Dan Maes. Tancredo -- who will run under the auspices of the American Constitution Party -- immediately threw the GOP's designs on the governor's race into stunning disarray: polls indicate that Tancredo would divide the state's conservatives nearly in half, paving the way for a John Hickenlooper victory.
Dan Maes, however, isn't going down without a fight, and has apparently decided to go all out in competition for Tancredo's natural constituency -- ridiculous xenophobes. So, what crazy paranoia over the creeping menace of foreigners is Maes fearmongering about? Let's ask the Denver Post:
Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes is warning voters that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper's policies, particularly his efforts to boost bike riding, are "converting Denver into a United Nations community."
I'm sorry, what?
"This is all very well-disguised, but it will be exposed," Maes told about 50 supporters who showed up at a campaign rally last week in Centennial.
Okay, here's the mystery that Maes alone has penetrated. Denver is a member in something called the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. They've been a member since 1992. It is an "international association that promotes sustainable development." One of the things that contributes to sustainability and an overall pleasant quality of life is a bike-sharing program called "B-Cycle" which has taken donations and grant monies to make 400 bicycles available for the residents of Denver to tool around on when the spirit moves them. Hickenlooper has praised the program so Maes is trying to make the case that it's a UN plot to deprive people of "freedom."
Also, as Charlie Eisenhood points out over at ThinkProgress, maybe this is the Obamacare of bicycles, or something?
Just last week, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood -- a former Republican member of Congress -- visited Denver, strapped on a helmet to take a bike ride through town, and called the bicycle-sharing program "a model for America."
So, in other words, Dan Maes is deeply, unquenchably crazy. But will he be able to out cray-cray Tancredo? Westword's Michael Roberts offers Maes some suggestions on where to go from here, including doing something about Denver-area "Best Buy outlets still selling TV remotes with SAP buttons, nefariously promoting languages other than 'Merican."
Yesterday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker handed down a long-awaited ruling in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case, overturning California's "Prop 8" ban on gay marriage. It was a landmark victory for America's LGBT community, which is largely a traditional constituency of the Democratic party.
So, how did President Barack Obama, the de facto leader of the Democrats, choose to commemorate this victory? Let's go to the statement furnished by the White House to Kerry Eleveld of the Advocate:
"The President has spoken out in opposition to Proposition 8 because it is divisive and discriminatory. He will continue to promote equality for LGBT Americans."
Well, that's just sort of OK, as statements go. But as long as no anonymous sources at the White House gives, say, Politico some other comment that completely undermines this lukewarm support --
Nevertheless, Obama has also publicly opposed same-sex marriage, and a White House aide said the president's position has not changed.
"He supports civil unions, doesn't personally support gay marriage though he supports repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, and has opposed divisive and discriminatory initiatives like Prop. 8 in other states," said the official, who asked not to be named.
Well, that's just splendid. A key voting bloc for Democrats celebrates an important civil rights victory, and the White House heralds the occasion by coupling its enthusiasm for the victory with a reminder that it opposes the actual civil right that's at stake.
"SHORTER" BARACK OBAMA: "Hey, LGBT Community! I'm happy for you, and I'mma let you finish, but marriage between a man and woman is the greatest matrimony of all time!"
Still, it's probably unfair of me to single out the White House and the president for this shameful display of muddle-mouthed lip service. After all, they're just behaving like typical Democrats. Sure, there are individual exceptions, but as a general rule, Democrats treat the LGBT community as a captive constituency. They may not be able or willing to come out in favor of gay marriage, but at least they aren't Republicans, right? Democratic party leaders may oppose gay marriage -- or at least demonstrate a studied unwillingness to take a stand on the issue. But at least they aren't Tom Emmer -- openly hostile to equal rights of any kind and friendly with groups who take a Uganda-esque view of homosexuality -- right? That counts for something, doesn't it?
Well, it does, but not much. Right now, LGBT citizens are trapped in a choice between a party that opposes their very existence and a party that, you know, kind of wishes them well. And so the typical policy among Democrats is to do as little as possible for as long as they can, figuring that if the Republican party never changes its position, they can string along the LGBT community for a long while before they have to lay their marker down and risk the vote of any single voter who opposes gay rights.
Here's the problem with that. Opponents of gay marriage face one insurmountable obstacle: at some point, they are going to die:
There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to... well, maybe not "glory" -- but it certainly leads to a moment where your own grandchildren aren't looking at you with shame and dismay as they wonder why you lacked the courage to do the right thing when you had the chance. But there's no evidence that the Democrats want to catch this tide at the flood. What Democrats want to do is wait until it is absolutely, positively, politically safe for them to support gay marriage.
Brave stuff! Of course, it'll do the trick as long as the GOP is locked in a dance of dependence with a "base" that naturally opposes gay marriage. And as long as there isn't a Republican strategist smart enough to look at the graph above and note the obvious way the trend is running, maybe that strategy will pay off!
Steve Schmidt, who was the senior strategist to Senator John McCain of Arizona during his presidential campaign, said in a speech and an interview that Republicans were in danger of losing these younger voters unless the party comes to appreciate how issues like gay marriage resonate, or do not resonate, with them.
"Republicans should re-examine the extent to which we are being defined by positions on issues that I don't believe are among our core values, and that put us at odds with what I expect will become, over time, if not a consensus view, then the view of a substantial majority of voters," he said in a speech.
Oh, that's right! Steve Schmidt, one of the top campaign guys in the game, supports gay marriage. And there's distant signs of thaw between the GOP and the gay community everywhere. There's Laura Bush's open support. There's Megan McCain's tireless advocacy. There's Grover Norquist, a conservative movement big-timer, joining up with GOProud -- the "national organization of gay conservatives" that served as a CPAC sponsor. You might recall, also, that when a conservative activist took to the CPAC stage to decry the alliance between CPAC and GOProud, he was booed off the stage by attendees.
It still seems unlikely that marriage equality will become the law of the land through the advocacy and support of the Republican party. But it's getting less and less implausible. And still the Democrats wait and wait and wait and wait, angling to be the champion of LGBT rights at the last possible second.
But it's possible to wait too long. To speak in glib generalities, the Democratic party is generically seen as the party of civil rights. It's not a mantle it goes out and earns on a daily basis, but nevertheless, groups with authentic civil rights concerns -- African-Americans, Hispanics, women, etc. -- turn out in blocs to vote for Democratic politicians and the occasional bones they toss their way. What happens if tomorrow, the GOP shifts to become unambiguous supporters of gay marriage? Well, let's not kid ourselves -- they lose a lot of votes from their base in the short term. Over the long term, however, it could get interesting if members of those traditional Democratic voting blocs start to see the GOP in a new light.
And if that day comes, believe me, there are going to be plenty of people who are invested enough in the Democratic party to come forward and spin its toxic inaction in the best possible light.
By contrast, I support gay marriage. So don't expect me to be merciful.
If you happen to have any interest at all in the extraordinarily strange, yet oddly compelling candidacy of Basil Marceaux -- long-shot hopeful for the Tennessee Gubernatorial race -- let me recommend you click over to Nashville Scene's "Pith In The Wind" blog. There, Jack Silverman runs down the goings-on at a debate, staged by the Marceaux campaign, featuring a pair of additional fringe candidates: "creepy, racist and terrifyingly xenophobic" independent candidate June Griffin, and "well-meaning leftie of the longhaired variety" Howard Switzer, repping the Green Party.
Silverman stacks his article with all sorts of video highlights, leading off with this instant classic, where Marceaux refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance to a flag festooned with gold fringe. Marceaux has exacting standards for flags, and he will not compromise. (It's a pity, though, because "local wrestler Josephus the Shelby Street Brawler" does a fine job reciting the pledge.)
Silverman says that Marceaux is "surprisingly likable in person." By contrast, Griffin is a despicable lunatic who believes in ornate conspiracy theories and a boundless hatred for Native Americans. (Switzer, according to Silverman, is a reliable "straight man" to the antics of the other two.)
Behind the scenes, however, Silverman sees the work of pranksters:
It's hard to tell if Marceaux campaign coordinator, James Crenshaw, and the two or three other Marceaux people present have any real political sympathy with Marceaux, or if they are pranksters who spotted an opportunity to make a documentary on Tennessee's gubernatorial Internet meme. None of them seem to have been with Marceaux for long (one guy for a couple of weeks, one for a month or so), they set up this debate, and they had three video cameras running the whole time.
It wouldn't surprise me in the least if Silverman's right about this. In fact, it seems to me that in this day and age, this sort of "exploitation comedy" candidacy is inevitable.
Gubernatorial Debate Special! Basil Marceaux Isn't the Nuttiest Candidate -- June Griffin Takes the Honor [Pith In The Wind]
As you may have heard, mega-retailer Target has come under fire recently for contributing to a political action committee called MN Forward, which supports the gubernatorial ambitions of Tom Emmer, a candidate whose hostility toward the LGBT community begins with opposition to same-sex marriage and runs through to wholesale denial of equal rights and alliances with organizations whose takes on the gay community neatly align with those Ugandan madmen.
It took a long while for the Human Rights Campaign -- which had previously bequeathed to Target a pristine 100-percent rating on its Corporate Equality Index -- to get off the mat and take up this matter with the retailer. They've since applied pressure to both Target and Best Buy. For their trouble, they've earned an apology from Target CEO Greg Steinhafel, along with a nebulous promise that Target will institute a "review process for future political donations."
Abe Sauer, who has put a bullseye of his own on this story, returns to The Awl today with as rich an exploration of both new and old angles to this story as you're likely to find anywhere. From Sauer's report, it seems like any "review process" Target institutes for the benefit of maintaining a good relationship with the LGBT community has got a long period of reflecting on past actions to look forward to:
The truth is not that Target and its leadership have suddenly turned on their commitment to gay rights. It's more that it never really existed to begin with. Further research shows that Target has funneled significant funding to the most socially conservative of Republicans and that it boasts a frightening culture of anti-gay candidate support from Target's own stable of top executives.
We have already noted that CEO Gregg Steinhafel and his wife both maxed out their personal contributions this year to Michele Bachmann and Tom Emmer. But Steinhafel is just the captain of the crew.
Target's current group of top corporate officers have supported a murderers row of anti-gay politicians. Even more confusing, some of those anti-gay candidates supported by Target's PAC and its executives don't even represent Minnesota.
That's just a taste, please make with the click to get the full story. Here's an addition worth noting, however:
Al Franken, who is a very staunch supporter of complete gay equality, received zero dollars from Target executives or the Target PAC. Coleman, meanwhile, supported a constitutional amendment against gay equality.
How on earth did they maintain a perfect rating from the HRC?
UPDATE: While Target is reviewing their process for political donations, maybe they'd like to explain this?
From Open Secrets:
Looks like Target was playing both sides of the fence in California's Proposition 8 battle, except they favored the anti-marriage equality side by a wide margin.
And to dovetail back to the HRC Corporate Equality Index, here's what HRC spokesman Michael Cole told Abe Sauer on July 29:
Cole told us, "It's important to understand that the CEI is a measure of the workplace practices of a company toward its own LGBT employees. We don't believe that rating companies based upon their political contributions is an accurate reflection of their commitment to LGBT equality in the workplace." Further, Cole says, "Unless the contribution is to a ballot initiative that is anti-LGBT (such as California's Prop. 8 in 2008), political contributions are not factored into a company's score...."
So it looks like the HRC needs to embark on an internal review of their own, as well.
UPDATE: As has been pointed out to me, yes, the Open Secrets figures here do not necessarily mean anything other than deep-pocketed individual employees of Target are making personal contributions to these ballot initiatives.
So, to be clear, Target employees were playing both sides of the Prop 8 fence. My primary concern in this instance, is with the HRC's Corporate Equality Index, which measures "workplace practices" but eschews any rating based on political contributions save those made "to a ballot initiative that is anti-LGBT (such as California's Prop. 8 in 2008)." In this instance, it's just one more red flag that the HRC should have noted before awarding Target a perfect 100% rating.
Real America: Target Doesn't Support Gay Equality Because It Never Did [The Awl]
One of the best ways of demonstrating that the frantic slavering over "Ground Zero mosques" is nothing but a ridiculous display of pearl-clutchery is to point out that the proposed Cordoba House would actually be the second mosque in the vicinity of "Ground Zero." But over at Salon, Justin Elliott does me one better by unearthing this 2007 Washington Times article:
Navy imam Chaplain Abuhena M. Saifulislam lifted his voice to God as he called to prayer more than 100 Department of Defense employees Monday at a celebration of Ramadan at the Pentagon.
God is most great, sang the lieutenant commander and Islamic leader, in Arabic, as iftar -- the end of the daily fast began.
Uniformed military personnel, civilians and family members faced Mecca and knelt on adorned prayer rugs chanting their prayers in quiet invocation to Allah.
When it comes to Muslims praying at Ground Zero, it doesn't get much Ground Zeroier than that! As Elliott observes:
Yes, Muslims have infiltrated the Pentagon for their nefarious, prayerful purposes -- daring to practice their religion inside the building where 184 people died on Sept. 11, 2001. They haven't even had the sensitivity to move two blocks, let alone a mile, away from that sacred site.
Oh, my stars and garters! These Muslims at the Pentagon probably even have security clearances! (Because they are Department of Defense employees who protect America from al Qaeda death cultists, I'm guessing.)
Why did no one object to the "Pentagon mosque"? [Salon]
Sometime around the spring of 2011, lawmakers will begin to ramp up a debate on whether or not the United States should begin withdrawing forces from Afghanistan according to the "conditions-based" timetable established by the announced July 2011 "deadline" -- a term I am using with as much flexibility as I can muster. But over in Afghanistan, the debate may be largely settled.
Danger Room's Spencer Ackerman is at Bagram Air Force Base today for the first time since 2008, and he sees the base expanding and hardening into something very permanent. The base is packed with planes of all stripes and the base's main road has become a "two-lane parking lot of Humvees, flamboyant cargo big-rigs from Pakistan known as jingle trucks, yellow DHL shipping vans, contractor vehicles and mud-caked flatbeds." There are hangars going up, cranes everywhere, and cement is "being manufactured right inside Bagram's walls" by a Turkish contractor. Ackerman captures the change thusly:
I haven't been able to learn yet how much it all cost, but Bagram is starting to feel like a dynamic exurb before the housing bubble burst. There was actually a traffic jam this afternoon on the southern side of the base, owing to construction-imposed bottlenecks, something I didn't think possible in late summer 2008.
And here's your population-centered counterinsurgency update:
Troops here told me of shepherd boys scowling their way around Bagram's outskirts, slingshotting off the occasional rock in hopes of braining an American. Again, something else I wouldn't have believed two years ago.
Ackerman's bottom line: "Anyone who thinks the United States is really going to withdraw from Afghanistan in July 2011 needs to come to this giant air base an hour away from Kabul."
U.S. Supersizes Afghan Mega-Base as Withdrawal Date Looms [Danger Room]
There are times during the new Adam McKay/Will Ferrell movie, "The Other Guys," in which the movie subtly acknowledges that it is something of a post-crash comedy. There's some pointed bagging on the incompetence of the Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, as well as some cute meta-media commentary in which a New York Observer reporter sullenly adds, "...online" to his introduction while another vapid journotart talks about representing "TMZ's Print Edition."
But the movie takes it to another level during the end credits, which is an amusing animated sequence explaining Ponzi schemes, TARP, and the inbalance of CEO pay.
The credit sequence is the work of Picture Mill. I found the animated sequence to be a pretty hilarious addition to the movie, but take that with a grain of salt: I'm just the sort of person to bring "Diary of a Very Bad Year: Confessions of an Anonymous Hedge Fund Manager" on vacation to read, for "fun."
Anyone who's spent any time reading the work of David "Dean of the White House Press Corps" Broder knows that he places a higher priority on the ability of legislators to achieve bipartisan comity than he does on the ability of legislators to actually craft good legislation. His big problem with the health care reform bill was that it failed to avoid the budget reconciliation process and was thus not covered in enough bipartisanship sauce to avoid the "inevitable vagaries" of the "shakedown period," whatever that is.
And when legislators fail to get along, he tends to blame both sides, no matter where the balance of breakdown rationally lies. Lets recall that when the Senate failed to create its own deficit reduction commission, Broder inexplicably called out Democratic "committee chairmen" as a responsible party, despite the fact that ten of the sixteen Democratic committee chairmen in the Senate voted for the commission.
Well, via Greg Sargent, it seems that Broder might be waking up to the fact that the breakdown in legislative discourse might be more one-sided than he previously believed. He clearly doesn't want to believe it, but at the end of a long lamentation on his typical themes (an "admirably candid" Mitch McConnell says the Senate is functioning just fine, thank you very much!), he finally gets around to this:
McConnell said he could foresee alliances with Obama on trade issues, on development of nuclear power and electric vehicles, and, most important, on disciplining the federal budget.
But then he threw a curve by endorsing the idea that the 14th Amendment guarantee of U.S. citizenship to every child born in this country, whatever the child's parentage, should be examined in congressional hearings. That is a radical change, freighted with emotional baggage, and if this is an example of what it would mean to have more Republicans on Capitol Hill, watch out.
It took the weird debate over tweaking the Fourteenth Amendment to awake Broder to the "radical changes" bubbling up on the right, that are "freighted with emotional baggage?" Welcome to August of last year, Mr. Broder!
By contrast, let's check in with Representative Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), recently ousted from his seat in Congress for the crime of not being radical-and-freighted-with-emotional-baggage enough:
Inglis, a conservative Republican from a state so red you worry it might set itself on fire, used to go after Bill Clinton with everything he had. But these days he comes up an even better American than a Republican, speaking his own mind, refusing to join a chorus of idiots and call Obama his enemy, or an enemy of the state. Inglis' state or anybody else's.
"I figured out early in the race I was taking a risk by being unwilling to call the President a socialist," Inglis says. "I'd get asked a question and they'd all wait to see if I'd use the word - socialist - they were throwing around. I wouldn't. Because I don't think that's what he is.
"To call him a socialist is to demean the office and stir up a passion that we need to be calming, rather than constantly stirring up."
Listen to the guy. He doesn't sound like some sore loser. Instead, Bob Inglis sounds like the ignored conscience of an increasingly crackpot party.
If you read Broder, you'd think these weird passions were emerging. But they are clearly culminating, and having a distorting effect across the political landscape. (See also Senator Bob Bennett, ousted for being reasonable.)
Mitch McConnell comes to the Senate's defense [Washington Post]
Republican Party starts to kill its own: S.C. Rep. Bob Inglis ousted for not hating Obama enough [New York Daily News]
Here's a bizarre exchange between CNBC's Erin Burnett and Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass.) that occurred on the teevee today. It began with this set-up from Burnett:
BURNETT: Mid-terms obviously play a role in all of this. I want to get to the heart of what everyone's talking about.
What is "everyone" talking about? Taxes, apparently! Specifically, a plan to let the Bush tax cuts expire on the top income earners.
BURNETT: A lot of people think that one thing that will help the economy going in consumer spending is not raising taxes. And some Democrats, you know, in your party have come out and said they support extending the Bush tax cuts not just for people who earn under $250,000, but for everybody.
Burnett is sure quick to toss around terms like "everyone" and "everybody!" Let's be clear: the "everyone" that Burnett refers to as doing a lot of "talking" are Republicans in Congress and a few skittish Conservadems who probably pose as deficit peacocks in their spare time. The "everybody" she refers to in the sentence "not just for people who earn under $250,000, but for everybody" refer to "2 percent of households," roughly.
Now, what happens to the deficit picture if the Bush tax cuts are not allowed to expire or are not paid for?
See, there's also an "everybody" out there that constantly insists that we must drop everything we are doing to battle the deficit, so maybe all these "everybodies" should get together for an hour and get their stories straight.
But the plan was never to have the tax cuts expire. Instead, the idea was that people would get used to the new tax rates, and no future Congress would want to allow a big tax increase, so when the time came, either Republicans in office would extend the cuts or Republicans in the minority would hammer Democrats until they extended them. And that's where we are now: Democrats control the government, so Republicans are screaming about tax increases as a way to get Democrats to extend tax cuts.
It's really hard to know where to start with this one. It's not a tax increase passed into law by Democrats. It's a reversion to old tax rates passed into law by Republicans. It's not how law is supposed to work. It's the result of twisting a budget process meant to reduce the deficit so you could use it to massively increase the deficit. And as for the policy itself, it's a fiscal nightmare: No one who professes concern for short-term deficits can argue for the extension of these deficit-financed tax cuts and retain credibility on debt issues. This is a litmus test. It's not Democrats who are trying to pass the largest tax hike of all time, but Republicans who are calling for the largest increase in the deficit in memory.
So, basically, Burnett is hearing a lot of loud, nonsensical "screaming" and confusing it for "everybody."
Now, I don't claim to have a psychic insight into what "everybody" is thinking. But I do know that back in June, an organization called "America Speaks" -- "funded by Wall Street mogul Peter G. Peterson and two other foundations" -- put together "town meetings" in 18 states involving thousands of people, and even after a furtive attempt was made to inculcate them into the Wall Street point of view on economic policy, the assembled participants took to their voting machines and overwhelmingly came out in support of the following policies:
--Raise tax rates on corporate income and those earning more than $1 million.
--Reduce military spending by 10 to 15 percent,
--Create a carbon tax and a securities-transaction tax.
So, here's an "everybody" that will tell you: "Yes, let's raise taxes on some people."
For his part, Frank pointed out, "I feel I'm being somewhat conservative here, because that noted radical Alan Greenspan is for letting all the tax cuts expire."
As we've already seen in Maine, some strange ideas are being folded into the emerging revisions of various state GOP platforms. But something truly bizarre is happening in Iowa.
Newsweek's Jerry Adler has paged through some "387 enumerated planks" of the Republican Party of Iowa's platform and, among the instances of "North American Union" paranoia and the upholding of manure as the only agricultural poop
inveighed imbued by its creator with American exceptionalism, is a bizarre plan to strip President Barack Obama of his citizenship for accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. What the what?
As Adler explains, the Iowa GOP is calling for the "reintroduction and ratification of the original 13th amendment" of the Constitution. The first wrinkle here is that the current 13th Amendment is a rather important one: it bans slavery. But that's the "bad optics" side of "Thirteentherism." Here's the side that is, as they say, "cray-cray" -- this is, in part, what the original 13th amendment said:
"If any citizen of the United States shall accept, claim, receive or retain any title of nobility or honour, or shall, without the consent of Congress accept and retain any present, pension, office or emolument of any kind whatever, from any emperor, king, prince or foreign power, such person shall cease to be a citizen of the United States and shall be incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under them, or either of them."
That language was originally considered by the states in 1810 but, as Jason Hancock at the Iowa Independent points out, "The amendment was ratified by 12 states but never got the 13th state that it needed, and thus, never became law."
This is the part where Obama, having accepted a Nobel Prize from the Nobel Committee -- five people appointed by the Norwegian Parliament -- gets stripped of his citizenship. Presumably, this takes care of all sorts of other Nobel laureates, like former President Jimmy Carter, author Toni Morrison, Energy secretary Steven Chu, and economists Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz. Have fun in your new home in Oslo, everyone!
Oh, and also, say goodbye to every lawyer in America!
In the world of the Thirteenthers, though, it's all a conspiracy, and the leading suspects are those shady characters who put "esquire" after their names. To quote the Web site Constitutional Concepts, "This Amendment was for the specific purpose of banning participation in government operations by attorneys and bankers who claimed the Title of Nobility of 'Esquire.' These people had joined the International Bar Association or the International Bankers Association and owed their allegiance to the King of England." In other words--well, we're not sure how to explain it any better, but Constitutional Concepts CEO Jim Barrus says in an e-mail that enforcement of the 13th Amendment would strike a blow against "the elected politicians who have grand plans of ruling every facet of America," and would essentially delegitimize virtually every act of the federal government since 1819. Who wouldn't want that?
Naturally, most lawyers see it differently. "The esquire thing is ridiculous," says R. B. Bernstein, a professor at New York Law School and author of Amending America. "'Esquire' is not a title of nobility. Back then, they were worried about people accepting literal titles of aristocracy that convey land or privileges, things you can leave to your kids." Lawyers obviously command certain privileges, but they are not inherited.
Adler confirms that Iowa GOP spokesperson Danielle Plogmann intends this platform plank as "a statement about the delegates' opinion about Mr. Obama receiving the prize." But the paranoiac Thirteenther take this unserious matter very seriously.
Some, however, argue that it was ratified and have a plethora of conspiracy theories to back up their assertion. These folks, known as "Thirteenthers," believe that since the amendment would have banned lawyers and bankers from serving in government (since they joined the International Bar Association or the International Bankers Association, respectively), every act of the federal government since 1819 would be delegitimized.
Wow. Just... wow.
UPDATE: A reader points out that among the acts of the Federal government that would be delegitimized by a restoration/ratification of the unratified original 13th Amendment would be the act that gave statehood to Iowa, which happened in 1846.
Why Some Republicans Want to 'Restore' the 13th Amendment [Newsweek]
Iowa GOP jumps on the 'Thirteenther' bandwagon [Iowa Independent]
Iowa GOP Supports Amendment To Strip Obama's Citizenship Because He Won The Nobel Peace Prize [ThinkProgress]
[UPDATED, please see below.]
Over at The Awl, Abe Sauer has been documenting the rise to prominence of Tom Emmer, a Republican member of Minnesota's State House of Representatives who is running to replace Tim Pawlenty as Minnesota's governor. Most of you non-Minnesotans probably know Emmer as the guy who wanted to cut the minimum wage for service-sector workers who earn income based on tips. Another thing you might want to know is that he's hostile to the rights of the LGBT community.
Emmer says marriage "is the union between one man and one woman" and he supports the constitutional marriage amendment defining marriage as such. As a point of his "values" position, Emmer has been married to just one (presumably biological) woman since 1985. Meanwhile, claiming that it infringes on individual rights, he opposed the state's indoor smoking ban. Displaying a complete lack of self-awareness, Emmer called one of these two issues "social engineering." Can you guess which one?
Enter national mega-retailer Target, whose corporate headquarters is in Minneapolis. As Sauer reported last week, Target donated "$100,000 cash and another $50,000 of in-kind goods and services" to a political action committee named MN Forward. In turn, MN Forward has used those donations to run ads in favor of Emmer's candidacy. Sauer called Target's donations "surprising," and it's not hard to see why:
Progressive compared to its peers, Target extends domestic-partner benefits to gay and lesbian employees. It has also openly sponsored Twin Cities Pride and other gay and lesbian events in the state. Target puts its name on Minnesota AIDS Walk, a move that many corporations, worried about religious consumer terrorism, are far too cowardly to even consider.
Target's been deservedly rewarded, receiving a top rating of 100 percent on the 2009 and 2010 Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index and Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality, the 2009 Rainbow Families Award and the 2009 Lavender Pride Award--and a reputation amongst the LGBT community as a "good" big box retailer.
In subsequent follow-ups, Sauer has documented that Target's response to inquiries on this matter is based on two points. First: that its donations are based "strictly on issues that affect our retail and business interests." Second: It continually insists that its "rating of 100% on the 2009 and 2010 Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index further demonstrates the reputation our company has earned."
The Huffington Post reached out to the Human Rights Campaign today, to inquire about whether Target's political donations in this instance would affect that pristine 100 percent rating on its Corporate Equality Index. The short answer: No, because political donations aren't part of that index's calculations.
From HRC spokesman Michael Cole:
Since news of Target's contribution to MN Forward, an independent expenditure committee, became public last week, people have asked HRC if political contributions by companies are factored into a company's score on the Corporate Equality Index (CEI). Unless the contribution is to a ballot initiative that is anti-LGBT (such as California's Prop. 8 in 2008), political contributions are not factored into a company's score for a number of good reasons.
It's important to understand that the CEI is a measure of the workplace practices of a company toward its own LGBT employees. We don't believe that rating companies based upon their political contributions is an accurate reflection of their commitment to LGBT equality in the workplace. In fact, corporate America is leading the way on issues of equality: over 85% of Fortune 500 companies prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and 40% include gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies; and 57% provide domestic partnership health insurance benefits. Companies most often contribute for reasons associated with their particular business.
With respect to the CEI and political contributions, it would be difficult to develop criteria by which to judge companies. Virtually every company in the Fortune 1000 today has contributed to candidates (of both political parties) that have voted against issues important to the LGBT community. There are Democrats and Republicans alike, for instance, that voted against the repeal of DADT in the U.S. House of Representatives. Should a company that contributed to these incumbents get points deducted from their CEI score? As a rule, we don't believe that political contributions to candidates make companies any less committed to a diverse and inclusive workforce.
HRC does pledge to keep an eye on this issue, however:
The advent of unlimited corporate political contributions as a result of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling is a subject of great concern to all progressive movements, ours included. We will continue to monitor its impact on issues of equality and will revisit the issue of whether and how to factor in the political contributions made by corporate America as new information becomes known to us.
Over at the Village Voice, Jen Doll speaks to Target spokesperson Jessica Carlson, and gets a little bit further with Target's side of this debate:
So, why donate to someone who's anti gay marriage if you call yourself a supporter of the gay comunity?
Carlson: At this point what we're sharing is what was in Gregg's email. To be clear, we donated to a political action committee, the MN Forward, which is a bi-partisan group, and not directly to Emmer's campaign.
Carlson goes on to say that she "can't speculate on the nature of where our donations will go" in the wake of this story.
UPDATE, July 29: After being told by the Human Rights Campaign's Michael that HRC's CEI index, which measured the corporate "commitment to LGBT equality in the workplace," was decoupled from the issue of political contributions, and that it would "be difficult to develop criteria by which to judge companies" in terms of their political activity, it turns out that it's not that difficult at all to establish such criteria. In fact, it looks like sufficient criteria has already been established. Per Abe Sauer, at The Awl:
In the HRC's CEI tally, a range of policies and practices can win a corporation points. For example, Target gets "+5" for making sexual orientation training required for all managers and supervisors. (A score of 100, which is what Target and Best Buy boast, is the highest possible.)
Yet, the last category taken into account on each company's index is "Responsible Citizenship" where corporations can lose overall points for failing to be a "good corporate citizen." HRC defines this category as "Employer exhibits responsible behavior toward the LGBT community; does not engage in action that would undermine LGBT equality. Employers found engaging in activities that would undermine LGBT equality will have 15 points removed from their scores."
It seems to me that HRC can start docking points from Target this very minute. Instead, as Sauer notes, HRC has opted to "[mire] itself in PR relationship quicksand that threatens the good work it actually does."
Real America: Why Target Supports Tom Emmer [The Awl]
Real America: Target CEO Chooses "Business" over Gay Rights [The Awl]
Target Says "We Do Not Have a Political Agenda" [Runnin' Scared @ The Village Voice]
As already pointed out, the big reveal from WikiLeaks this week was that it got the entire American press to admit that the war in Afghanistan is not going well, and that this is representative of the "conventional wisdom." And yet despite this, it's still not pessimistic enough to prevent lawmakers from throwing another $37 billion taxpayer dollars into the sinkhole. From the New York Times:
The House of Representatives agreed on Tuesday to provide $37 billion to continue financing America's two wars, but the vote showed deepening divisions and anxiety among Democrats over the course of the nearly nine-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.
The 308-to-114 vote, with strong Republican support, came after the leak of an archive of classified battlefield reports from Afghanistan that fueled new debate over the course of the war and whether President Obama's counterinsurgency strategy could work.
I don't understand! Do these lawmakers not have teevees? Because all week long, the people on the teevees were telling us that the war isn't going well.
Let's also recall that this week we learned that the last time we tossed billions of dollars at a war, we lost track of 95% of it. And, unless I've missed something, Congress has lately struggled to extend unemployment benefits to millions of Americans because everyone is terrified of adding to the deficit.
Nevertheless, mere days after the WikiLeaks disclosure forced the media to reveal that the pessimistic take on Afghanistan was the "conventional wisdom," that "conventional wisdom" is having a hard time breaking the surface of news coverage. Let's take the New York Times piece on the war funding bill, cited above:
--In the third paragraph, you read that President Obama "and top military officials said Tuesday that the disclosure of the documents should not force a rethinking of America's commitment to the war."
--In the fifth paragraph, anonymous administration officials suggest that the "passage of the spending bill... showed that [WikiLeaks] had not jeopardized Congressional support for the war."
--In the sixth paragraph, Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) shows up, saying "The president is taking a wise and balanced approach in Afghanistan, and it deserves our support."
--It's not until paragraph eight that we get this:
But some of those voting against it said they were influenced by the leaked documents, which highlight the American military's struggles in Afghanistan and support claims that elements of Pakistan's intelligence service were helping the Taliban.
"All of the puzzle has been put together and it is not a pretty picture," said Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts. "Things are really ugly over there. I think the White House continues to underestimate the depth of antiwar sentiment here."
--Those sentiments surface, but are followed by several paragraphs of denunciations of WikiLeaks, from Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, CENTCOM command nominee General James Mattis, and President Barack Obama. They all basically cop the same pose: nothing new to see here! Only Admiral Mike Mullen attempts to mount the argument that "much had changed" -- presumably for the better -- since the period of time covered by the WikiLeaks document dump.
So there you have it. It took only a few days for the media to go from telling us that the pessimistic take on Afghanistan was the obvious, boring ho-hum "conventional wisdom" to restoring that point of view to the fringes, sandwiched between optimistic takes and war-cheerleading.
Which just goes to show that when the media wants to defend their own terrible coverage of the war, they'll tell us that we should have known all along that they have been bearish on Afghanistan. But when it comes to defending taxpayers from another $37 billion being shipped away in the service of a cause they believe to be lost, the media -- well, to be honest, the media doesn't give a damn about mounting that kind of defense!