Saturday, March 23, 2013

News Nuggets 1207

DAYLEE PICTURE: A Muntjac fawn at an animal rehabilitation center in Colchester in Essex, the UK.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

Unfit for Work: The Startling Rise of Disability in America (Chana Joffe-Walt) from NPR's This American Life
"...people on disability don't show up in any of the places we usually look to see how the economy is doing. But the story of these programs -- who goes on them, and why, and what happens after that -- is, to a large extent, the story of the U.S. economy. It's the story not only of an aging workforce, but also of a hidden, increasingly expensive safety net."
Here's the This American Life program.  Here's a separate segment from All Things Considered.

Now, those who follow this blog regularly know that, on the one hand, I am a long-time Democrat and passionate supporter of President Obama, and, on the other hand, I have become (increasingly) a tough critic of Bill Clinton and his tenure in office, a rare bird in today's progressive activist community who seem to get dewey eyed every time he opens his mouth.  Stated simply: for the life of me I don't understand why progressives swoon over Bill Clinton or, in any way, look back on his presidency as anything but a train wreck for progressive politics and a progressive vision for America.  What did he actually accomplish as president?!  Let's look at four of the "high-ticket" items that routinely top his list of accomplishments:  (1) welfare reform.  If any was needed, this NPR investigation puts pay to this storyline.  Like so many of Clinton's "achievements," this one looked good for about two minutes (ok, maybe one or two years).  Looking back now, it looks like one huge deficit-shifting program from the states to the fed, one that leaves its beneficiaries rather than trapped in so-called "welfare dependency" are now trapped in SSI-Disability dependency -- with no avenue off the program and law firms from across the country milking the system for all its worth.  Let's continue: (2) Clinton's Banking de-regulation "reform" legislation of 1999 which cut the guts out of the 1930s Glass-Steagal Act which originally separated consumer savings and loan from the investment/brokerage side of most large banks.  More than any other piece of legislation, this one became the seedbed for the Great Recession we are still living through.  Granted, this was largely a GOP initiative -- but Clinton signed it and (for a time) bragged about what a model of bi-partisan governance it was.  What next? (3) the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and relatedly the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy for the military.  Clinton's treatment of the gay community (and his endorsement of these programs specifically) exemplified the kind of triangulating political cowardice that (it is increasingly becoming my view) were hallmarks of Clinton's tenure in office.  How convenient that Hillary now says she endorses legalization of gay marriage!  What surer sign do you need that she'll be running in 2016.  Now for item (4): in my view the most substantive thing Clinton did in office (at least on the domestic policy side) was to serve as a wall against Newt Gingrich and GOP extremists.  But even here, even as Clinton was blocking many of the worst Republican ideas, he and his team spent SO MUCH time of his eight years in office shoveling fodder (most of it of his own making) to the right-wing attack machine against which he then had to waste political capital defending himself and Hillary.  The list is almost endless: the 8-10 different hydra heads of the Whitewater scandal; travelgate; Vince Foster; the Rose law firm; missing and then reappearing boxes of documents; Paula Jones; Jennifer Flowers; troopergate; Hillary's cattle futures and stock options; and then, of course, Monica Lewinski.  There went another year and half with months of revelations, the blue dress, the meaning of the word "is," Kenneth Starr, the House managers, and on and on -- all the way to his final months in office with renting out Lincoln's bedroom to fundraisers and presidential pardons to the spouses and friends of mega-donors. People forget that one of the reasons Al Gore lost in 2000 was because so many progressives either stayed home due to Clinton fatigue or simply figured that there was no difference between Clinton and Bush and threw away their vote on Nader.  In my view, Al Gore would have been the real deal.  Barack Obama (in the face of even more pushback from the GOP than Clinton got) IS the real deal so far as it is possible given the political landscape. Looking ahead, if Hillary runs in 2016 I think she will get the nomination and win the general election.  And, make no mistake, I will campaign for her and vote for her.  But this litany of 1990s political missteps should serve as a cautionary note to all those progressives out there who somehow think the Clintons carried their banner.

GOP Civil War Reminiscent of Our Own, Except for the 'Winning Later' Part (Markos Moulitsas) from Daily Kos
"Ten years ago, when the Netroots was just a wee baby, establishment Democrats convinced themselves that survival depended on holding the line against gay rights (Howard Dean was unelectable because of civil unions!), against gun control and against anything smacking of a tax increase. An entire cottage industry arose around trying to get Democrats to better appeal to religious voters. And it didn't matter how unnecessary a war was, it was verboten to oppose one."

Related analysis:
Republicans Today can Learn Lessons from the Democrats’ Past. But Will They? (Dan Balz) from the Washington Post
"The report by the RNC’s Growth and Opportunity Project lays bare the depth of the problems of a party that has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections and that is on the wrong side of the demographic forces that are changing the country."

Dominican Official Links Daily Caller to Alleged Lies about Menendez from the Washington Post
"A top Dominican law enforcement official said Friday that a local lawyer has reported being paid by someone claiming to work for the conservative Web site the Daily Caller to find prostitutes who would lie and say they had sex for money with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)."
WHO CALLED IT?!  Now, you might be tempted to think that the right-wing media machine will learn from this episode that making stuff up is a bad idea.  Oh contrare!  I view the antics of Tucker Carlson and the Daily Caller here as a harbinger of more things to come.  To really get this, you have to ask yourself: why would these folks so transparently manufacture this story about a sitting Senator (something that is a crime)?  People do this when they think their party (re: the GOP) and what they know their country to be (Eisenhower's America) are experiencing an existential crisis.  In plainer English: the country they love is collapsing around them and the main culprits (Satan, the Democrats and other commies) are winning everywhere.  If one truly believes this, you not only will say defamatory things, you will organize plots, fabricate stories, and, yes, commit crimes to stop them.  If our roles were reversed and I thought the GOP and conservatives represented such a threat to America, I might be tempted to do the same thing -- or at least I could understand it.  I think it is readily apparent that the GOP is poised to spend some time in the wilderness -- and the more that becomes clear the more people on the right will embrace this hyper-crisis mindset.

Obama to Israelis: ‘The World Can Change’ (Peter Beinart) from the Daily Beast
"Above all, it was a great speech because Obama challenged the core narrative of Netanyahu and his American supporters: that Jews are the world’s permanent victims, licensed by their fears to worry only about themselves."

Reviewing This Week's Mea Culpas on Iraq: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Greg Mitchell) from the Nation
"By 2004 it was clear that Saddam’s WMD would never be found, but with another election season at hand, sorry was still the hardest word. But a few very limited glimmers of accountability began to appear. So let’s begin our catalog of the art of mea culpa and Iraq here. Much more in my new ebook, So Wrong for So Long."
My question: what about those folks who got it RIGHT in 2002 and 2003 ... and then saw their careers in the media go into the dumper as a result?  When was the last time you saw Phil Donahue on TV?!  We need to know who they are ... if for no other reason then to debunk the "everyone-thought-there-were-WMDs" meme.

The Numbers Prove It: The GOP is Estranged from America (Andrew Kohut) from the Washington Post
"In my decades of polling, I recall only one moment when a party had been driven as far from the center as the Republican Party has been today. The outsize influence of hard-line elements in the party base is doing to the GOP what supporters of Gene McCarthy and George McGovern did to the Democratic Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s — radicalizing its image and standing in the way of its revitalization."

Why Tea Partiers Are Boycotting Fox News (David Freedlander) from the Daily Beast
"Is Fox News going soft? That is what a number of Tea Party activists are saying and they are organizing a boycott to protest the conservative station’s coverage, especially what they view as the network’s relative silence in investigating the attacks on a diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.’"
Oh dear!  I guess they missed the memo. There was this election in November ... and it's over.  The Benghazi "scandal" no longer serves its political purpose -- along with "Fast and Furious," "Obama-is-a-Muslim," and birtherism and on and on.  At some point, it will dawn on these folks how badly they have been led down some thorn-lined primrose path.

RNC 'Autopsy' Is Latest Stop On The GOP's Cycle Of Grieving (Linkins and Wing) from the Huffington Post
"...let's return to those heady post-election days, push through to CPAC and the RNC "autopsy" report, and document the whole effort to "rebrand" and renew the Grand Old Party, in its entirety. After all, it’s a process."

PRES-2016: Gov. Christie Says He Does Not Believe in Gay Conversion Therapy from the New Jersey Star-Ledger
"Under pressure from Democrats, Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday said he opposes the controversial use of "gay conversion therapy," but he did not stake a position on a bill that would ban the practice."
WHO thinks this man has any chance of getting the GOP nomination in 2016?!  Not happening.

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