Tag Archives: Human Events

Not Every Explosive Tape Contains Mel Gibson Melting Down

Andrew Breitbart at Big Government:

We are in possession of a video from in which Shirley Sherrod, USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development, speaks at the NAACP Freedom Fund dinner in Georgia. In her meandering speech to what appears to be an all-black audience, this federally appointed executive bureaucrat lays out in stark detail, that her federal duties are managed through the prism of race and class distinctions.

In the first video, Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer. She describes how she is torn over how much she will choose to help him. And, she admits that she doesn’t do everything she can for him, because he is white. Eventually, her basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help. But she decides that he should get help from “one of his own kind”. She refers him to a white lawyer.

Sherrod’s racist tale is received by the NAACP audience with nodding approval and murmurs of recognition and agreement. Hardly the behavior of the group now holding itself up as the supreme judge of another groups’ racial tolerance.

Ed Morrissey:

Actually, if Sherrod had a different ending for this story, it could have been a good tale of redemption. She almost grasps this by initially noting that poverty is the real issue, which should be the moral of the anecdote. Instead of having acted on this realization — and perhaps mindful of the audience — Sherrod then backtracks and says that it’s really an issue of race after all. It certainly was for Sherrod, who admits that “I didn’t give him the full force of what I could do.” Notice that the audience doesn’t exactly rise as one to scold Sherrod for her racism, but instead murmurs approvingly of using race to determine outcomes for government programs, which is of course the point that Andrew wanted to make.

Andrew has a second video, which is more relevant to the out-of-control expansion of the federal government than race. Sherrod in the same speech beseeches her audience to get work in the USDA and the federal government in general, because “when was the last time you heard about layoffs” for government workers? If Sherrod is any example, it’s been too long.

Doug Powers at Michelle Malkin’s:

We interrupt this “Tea Partiers are so incredibly racially biased” broadcast for the following update:

Days after the NAACP clashed with Tea Party members over allegations of racism, a video has surfaced showing an Agriculture Department official regaling an NAACP audience with a story about how she withheld help to a white farmer facing bankruptcy — video that now has forced the official to resign.

The video posted at BigGovernment that started it all is here if you haven’t seen/heard it yet.

Breitbart claims more video is on the way.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled “Tea Partiers are so incredibly racially biased” broadcast.

Tommy Christopher at Mediaite:

As it’s being presented, the clip is utterly indefensible, and the NAACP was quick to denounce Sherrod:

We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers.

Her actions were shameful. While she went on to explain in the story that she ultimately realized her mistake, as well as the common predicament of working people of all races, she gave no indication she had attempted to right the wrong she had done to this man.

The clip that’s being promoted is obviously cut from a larger context, and while this is often the dishonest refuge of radio shock jocks, in this case, it makes a real difference. Here’s what Sherrod told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

But Tuesday morning, Sherrod said what online viewers weren’t told in reports posted throughout the day Monday was that the tale she told at the banquet happened 24 years ago — before she got the USDA job — when she worked with the Georgia field office for the Federation of Southern Cooperative/Land Assistance Fund.

Sherrod said the short video clip excluded the breadth of the story about how she eventually worked with the man over a two-year period to help ward off foreclosure of his farm, and how she eventually became friends with him and his wife.

“And I went on to work with many more white farmers,” she said. “The story helped me realize that race is not the issue, it’s about the people who have and the people who don’t. When I speak to groups, I try to speak about getting beyond the issue of race.”

Sherrod said the farmer, Roger Spooner of Iron City, Ga., has since died.

It doesn’t seem that Ben Jealous or Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are aware that Sherrod wasn’t working at USDA when this occurred, or that she did, in fact, help the farmer in question. That changes everything about this story, including the reaction of the crowd. The entire point of the story is that her actions were indefensible.

If what Sherrod says is true, this is not a story about grudgingly admitting that even white folks need help, but rather, a powerful, redemptive cautionary tale against discrimination of any kind. Both the AJC and Mediaite are working to locate a full video or transcript of the event.

This incident is being posed as the right’s answer to the NAACP resolution against “racist elements” in the Tea Party. This story also comes at a time when the New Black Panther Party has been thrust into the spotlight by Fox News (with predictable results), and debate rages over an Arizona immigration law that many say encourages racial profiling.

This is precisely the danger of ideologically-driven “journalism.” It is one thing to have a point of view that informs your analysis of facts, but quite abother when that point of view causes you to alter them.

David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo:

The 82-year-old wife of the white Georgia farmer who was supposedly discriminated against some quarter century ago by the black USDA official forced to resign this week — if the video released by Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government and re-run by Fox is to be believed — is now confirming that in fact Shirley Sherrod saved her and her husband’s farm from bankruptcy and is a “friend for life.”

CNN also spoke with the farmer’s wife and with Sherrod. Rachel Slajda has more.

Kevin Drum:

In a second video, BigGovernment.com says “Ms. Sherrod confirms every Tea Partier’s worst nightmare.” Although this is ostensibly a reference to a joke she made about no one ever getting fired from a government job, that’s not really every tea partier’s worst nightmare, is it? On the other hand, a vindictive black government bureaucrat deciding to screw you over because you’re white? Yeah, I’d say that qualifies.

This is just appallingly ugly, and the White House’s cowardly response is pretty ugly too. This is shaping up to be a long, gruesome summer, boys and girls.

Atrios:

One of the under reported stories of the 90s was just how much Starr’s merry band of lawyers totally fucked over relatively lowly White House staffers in the Great Clinton Cock Hunt. That was largely through subpoenas and lawyer bills, but lacking subpoena power the Right has now turned to a credulous news media and the power of selectively edited video to go after random government officials.

Apparently Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart rule Tom Vilsack’s world. Heckuva job.

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs:

Andrew Breitbart: the heir to Joseph McCarthy, destroying people’s reputations and jobs based on deliberately distorted allegations, while the rest of the right wing blogs cheer. Disgusting. This is what has become of the right wing blogosphere — it’s now a debased tool that serves only to circulate partisan conspiracy theories and hit pieces.

UPDATE at 7/20/10 8:33:55 am:

Note that LGF reader “teh mantis” posted a comment last night at around 6:00 pm that made exactly these points about Breitbart’s deceptive video, in this post.

UPDATE at 7/20/10 9:00:01 am:

It’s disturbing that the USDA immediately caved in to cover their asses, and got Sherrod to resign without even hearing her side of the story; but also expected. That’s what government bureaucrats do. And they didn’t want the USDA to become the next ACORN.

But it’s even more disturbing that the NAACP also immediately caved in and denounced this woman, in a misguided attempt to be “fair.” The NAACP is supposed to defend people like this. They were played by a con man, and an innocent person paid the price.

UPDATE: Rachel Slajda at TPM

The Anchoress at First Things

Caleb Howe at Redstate

Digby

Tom Blumer at The Washington Examiner

David Frum at The Week

Erick Erickson at Redstate

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect

UPDATE #2: Dan Riehl at Human Events

Noah Millman at The American Scene

Scott Johnson at Powerline

Victorino Manus at The Weekly Standard

Andy Barr at Politico

UPDATE #3: More Johnson at Powerline

Jonathan Chait at TNR

Bill Scher and Conor Friedersdorf at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #4: Eric Alterman at The Nation

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Legal Insurrection

Ed Morrissey

UPDATE #5: Ben Dimiero and Eric Hananoki at Media Matters

UPDATE #6: Bridget Johnson at The Hill

UPDATE #7: Kate Pickert at Swampland at Time

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Filed under Political Figures, Politics, Race

We’re Steele Having Fun And He’s Steele The One

Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo:

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele may be misremembering exactly how and when the Afghanistan war began.

At a Republican Party fundraiser in Connecticut on Thursday, Steele declared that the war in Afghanistan “was a war of Obama’s choosing” that America had not “actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in,” in a response to an attendee’s question about the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal — which Steele called “very comical.”

“The McChrystal incident, to me, was very comical. And I think it’s a reflection of the frustration that a lot of our military leaders have with this Administration and their prosecution of the war in Afghanistan,” said Steele. “Keep in mind again, federal candidates, this was a war of Obama’s choosing. This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.”

“It was one of those, one of those areas of the total board of foreign policy [“in the Middle East”? — Note: The audio is not quite clear in this section.] that we would be in the background, sort of shaping the changes that were necessary in Afghanistan as opposed to directly engaging troops,” Steele continued. “But it was the president who was trying to be cute by half by flipping a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should be in Afghanistan. Well, if he’s such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? All right, because everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan.”

Bill Kristol at The Weekly Standard:

Dear Michael,

You are, I know, a patriot. So I ask you to consider, over this July 4 weekend, doing an act of service for the country you love: Resign as chairman of the Republican party.

Your tenure has of course been marked by gaffes and embarrassments, but I for one have never paid much attention to them, and have never thought they would matter much to the success of the causes and principles we share. But now you have said, about the war in Afghanistan, speaking as RNC chairman at an RNC event, “Keep in mind again, federal candidates, this was a war of Obama’s choosing. This was not something that the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.” And, “if [Obama] is such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan?”

Needless to say, the war in Afghanistan was not “a war of Obama’s choosing.” It has been prosecuted by the United States under Presidents Bush and Obama. Republicans have consistently supported the effort. Indeed, as the DNC Communications Director (of all people) has said, your statement “puts [you] at odds with about 100 percent of the Republican Party.”

And not on a trivial matter. At a time when Gen. Petraeus has just taken over command, when Republicans in Congress are pushing for a clean war funding resolution, when Republicans around the country are doing their best to rally their fellow citizens behind the mission, your comment is more than an embarrassment. It’s an affront, both to the honor of the Republican party and to the commitment of the soldiers fighting to accomplish the mission they’ve been asked to take on by our elected leaders.

There are, of course, those who think we should pull out of Afghanistan, and they’re certainly entitled to make their case. But one of them shouldn’t be the chairman of the Republican party.

Sincerely yours,

William Kristol

Think Progress:

Dear Bill,

You love, we know, war. Love it. Always trying to get America into new and bigger ones. It’s your thing. We get it.

But we think you’re being unfair towards RNC Chairman Michael Steele. Sure, he was wrong when he said that Afghanistan “was a war of Obama’s choosing” and “not something that the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.” But as you correctly note, his entire term has been marked by “gaffes and embarrassments” — such as telling African Americans they “don’t have a reason” to vote Republican, by suggesting Republicans are “drinking that Potomac River water” and “getting high,” and telling the public that it has “no reason, none, to trust” the GOP. But none of this produced from you the slightest peep of protest.

You express concern that Mr. Steele breaks from Republican orthodoxy by voicing his criticisms of the Afghanistan war. But when Mr. Steele broke from Republican principles and expressed his view that abortion should be an “individual choice,” we didn’t hear your call for his resignation. (In fact, your publication defended him.)

What really irks you is that Mr. Steele has the temerity to suggest that the continued war in Afghanistan is not a good idea — which is a debate worth having. It’s therefore no surprise that the one thing that should motivate you to call for the resignation of Mr. Steele is his suggestion that it’s a bad idea for the U.S. to continue to “engage in a land war in Afghanistan.”

For the crime of questioning an American war, you feel that Mr. Steele must pay. This shouldn’t be a political issue — members of both parties have concerns about the current course in Afghanistan, and members of both parties should be having this debate. Not just Democrats.

So Mr. Kristol, instead of calling on Mr. Steele to resign, challenge him to a debate on Afghanistan to discuss your foreign policy views. And as for Mr. Steele, we hope he stays.

Sincerely yours,

The Think Progress team

Erick Erickson at Redstate:

I have heard Michael Steele’s comments regarding Afghanistan and the President.

I have read the RNC’s statement on the matter.

The RNC statement is indecipherable in the context of what Michael Steele actually said.

The war in Afghanistan is not a war of Barack Obama’s choosing. It is a war of Al Qaeda and the Taliban’s choosing. We responded.

Michael Steele must resign. He has lost all moral authority to lead the GOP.

Greg Sargent:

The statement from DNC spox Brad Woodhouse, just out:

RNC CHAIRMAN MICHAEL STEELE BETS AGAINST OUR TROOPS, ROOTS FOR FAILURE

“Here goes Michael Steele setting policy for the GOP again. The likes of John McCain and Lindsey Graham will be interested to hear that the Republican Party position is that we should walk away from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban without finishing the job. They’d also be interested to hear that the Chairman of the Republican Party thinks we have no business in Afghanistan notwithstanding the fact that we are there because we were attacked by terrorists on 9-11.

“And, the American people will be interested to hear that the leader of the Republican Party thinks recent events related to the war are ‘comical’ and that he is betting against our troops and rooting for failure in Afghanistan. It’s simply unconscionable that Michael Steele would undermine the morale of our troops when what they need is our support and encouragement. Michael Steele would do well to remember that we are not in Afghanistan by our own choosing, that we were attacked and that his words have consequences.”

The DNC argument for using this script is that Dems rarely attack Republicans as being against the troops, while Republicans go after Dems this way on a nearly daily basis. They would insist that the strong language really is warranted. Steele said that history suggests we can’t win there — this is what the DNC describes as “betting against our troops.” And Bill Kristol agrees that this is an “affront” to them.

Are liberal Dems who have made much the same case about Afghanistan also “rooting for failure” and “betting against our troops”? The DNC would argue that this is a different situation — that Steele’s argument isn’t in good faith. It cuts against what he himself has said in the past — that we must win — and is at odds with his entire party. Also, they’d argue that coming from a party leader, his words really do have consequences for troop morale and for the war effort.

But Steele didn’t “root for failure” anywhere. And he isn’t really “betting against our troops.” He’s saying that this an inherently unwinnable situation, however brave and tough the troops are. I don’t know if that’s what he believes, but that’s what he said.

Clearly, Dems are opting for strong language to break through on a Friday before a holiday weekend in the belief that this does raise real questions about Steele’s candor. But this is Karl Rove’s playbook. I don’t care how often Republicans do it — this blog is not on board with this kind of thing from either party.

The DNC is taking a hit at Steele, but it’s not really a fair one because he isn’t alone in being a Republican who is expressing doubts about continued American involvement in Iraq. George Will said pretty much the same thing, albeit much more eloquently than Steele, back in September. And, earlier this year, The Cato Institute hosted a forum in which several conservative intellectuals and Members of Congress essentially endorsed the idea that America needed to drastically scale back it’s involvement in Afghanistan. So, to say that Steele is bucking his own party on this issue simply isn’t true.

At the same time, though, Steele’s assertion that Afghanistan is a war of “Obama’s choosing” is simply absurd. For one thing, the war itself was started, and continued, under a Republican President. Moreover, while it’s true that the President did make the idea of concentrating on Afghanistan instead of Iraq part of his campaign, he was hardly alone in arguing that we needed to continue our involvement in Afghanistan. In fact, it’s hard to say what would be different in that war if John McCain had won in 2008 instead of Barack Obama. So, calling it a war of “Obama’s choosing” is simply ridiculous.

And while it is refreshing to hear Republicans questioning the war, I have to wonder if they’d be saying the same thing if the President had an R after his name.

Actually, I don’t have to wonder.

David Frum at FrumForm:

So I feel like an idiot.

About a week ago, one of the young staffers here proposed an article: “What happens if Republicans bug out on Afghanistan?” I nixed it. “Let’s not deal with hypotheticals.” Oops.

Michael Steele’s Afghanistan-skeptical comments seem to have been unscripted, but who knows. FrumForum’s Tim Mak placed an immediate call to the RNC to ask whether the chairman had perhaps been misunderstood or had possibly misspoken. The RNC had no comment. The comment is not being walked back, not today anyway.

Some thoughts in reply:

1) The time to make the case against an enhanced commitment to Afghanistan was a year ago, before that commitment was made. Back then, however, Republicans almost unanimously supported the president’s decision. Indeed Republicans pressed the president to make the decision and upbraided him for taking too long. Karl Rove and Sarah Palin, among others, myself included, signed a letter pledging bipartisan support for an Afghan surge. Back then, as I remember it, the main Republican criticism of the president was that he should not have mentioned a deadline for the Afghan surge.

2) Maybe as time passes people change their minds. Fine. But if they do change their minds, they should acknowledge that is what they have done. They should not revise history so that a strategy that was broadly supported by all becomes “Obama’s war.”

3) Maybe the strategy is genuinely wrong. Maybe the Afghanistan commitment is not worth the costs. Maybe instituting a stable central government in Afghanistan is an over-ambitious project. Again: fine. But with the guns firing, that’s a point of view to advocate in a serious and considered way, as part of a debate over national interests, not to score political points. The debate should be aimed at finding a resolution in Afghanistan that is maximally successful for the U.S. and partners, not the way that is maximally humiliating to the president. Obama may fail in Afghanistan. But if he does, the whole country fails with him

There is a lot to catch up after the last week away, but I thought I would start by saying a few things about Michael Steele’s Afghanistan remarks. They have predictably drawn the ire of Bill Kristol, who has called for Steele’s resignation, but Steele’s continued tenure at the RNC doesn’t interest me very much. What I do find interesting is how the utterly shameless, reflexive Republican opposition to everything Obama touches has finally run into the brick wall of one issue that most Republicans and mainstream conservatives consider to be completely non-negotiable. Incorrigible misrepresentation of every other foreign policy initiative Obama undertakes is permitted, but staking out a relatively less hawkish position than the administration is simply not tolerated.

Obviously Steele’s Afghanistan comments are not derived from any serious principled objection to an American presence in Afghanistan, and they certainly don’t reflect any fundamental opposition to foreign entanglements. As far as I can tell, Steele has rarely given these questions any attention at all until now, and he was a reliable backer of the Iraq war all along just like virtually every other aspiring Republican office-seeker and elected official. Steele evidently believes that Afghanistan is now a political liability for Obama, and he wants to take advantage of this, but far from being a potential “turning point” it is just another example of how clueless and hopeless Steele is when it comes to serving in a leadership capacity for Republicans. I can hardly wait to hear how Steele’s cynical posturing is another sign of the rise of antiwar Republicanism.

However, even if Steele were sincere and principled in his objections, it would be important to explain why he is wrong. It is true that last year Obama chose to increase the number of soldiers in Afghanistan, where the war effort had been chronically under-manned and under-resourced for most of the last decade, but this has been the one war in the last fifteen years that the U.S. did not choose to enter. It probably grates on many Republicans that the one war that comes closest to anything resembling a just or necessary war in the last decade is the one that they quite deliberately starved of resources and manpower. It is also probably discomforting that they did this to pursue a war in Iraq that has consumed far more lives, both American and Iraqi, and which had not even the remotest connection to American interests. Steele says that there are “other ways to engage in Afghanistan,” which confirms that he has no desire to disengage fully from the country, but if other “antiwar” Republican arguments are anything to go by he means that we should bombard Afghanistan from afar and hope for the best. Steele doesn’t really mean what he’s saying, but even if he did we shouldn’t take it seriously.

UPDATE: Ann Coulter at Human Events

Andrew Sullivan on Coulter

Tom Maguire on Coulter and Sullivan

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Filed under Af/Pak, GWOT, Political Figures

Wonder What Henry Ford Would Say About This?

Micha J. Stone at The Examiner:

Last Friday the annual Dearborn Arab International Festival in Dearborn Michigan became the sight of a mini holy war pitting Christian against Muslim. Accusations are being made that Dearborn police have been enforcing Sharia law after the arrest of four Christian evangelists, and the confiscation of their cameras.

[…]

Thompson alludes to a video made by the group, Acts 17 Apologetics, that went viral last year after recording security at the Arab festival “ruffing up” the Christian missionaries.

Are the Dearborn Police guilty of defending Islam against the Constitution, of bringing Sharia to Michigan? Time will tell.

One thing is certain: Christians and Muslims are equally deluded, both endorse superstitious non-sense. But this is America. It is wrong for Police to confiscate cameras and interrupt our constitutionally protected right to free speech, regardless of who that speech may offend.

John Hinderaker at Powerline:

Under Sharia law, it is forbidden to proselytize to Muslims, and no Muslim can leave the faith. Dearborn, Michigan, is home to a substantial Muslim population, and there is strong evidence that local authorities now enforce sharia in preference to the Constitution of the United States. Thus this Associated Press story about the arrest of four Christian missionaries that took place on Friday:

Police in the heavily Arab Detroit suburb of Dearborn say they arrested four Christian missionaries for disorderly conduct at an Arab cultural festival.

Police Chief Ron Haddad says his department made the arrests Friday. The four are free on bond.

Here is video of the arrest. The “disorderly conduct” consisted of handing out copies of the Gospel of John outside the festival. Note the police demand that one of the group stop filming the arrest:

Pamela Geller at Human Events:

On Saturday, I got this message from David Wood of Acts 17: “Muslims threatened to kill Nabeel [Qureshi, an ex-Muslim and David’s colleague] and me if we showed up again at Arab Fest in Dearborn, so we went there yesterday. They didn’t kill us. Instead, police arrested us and we got to spend a night in jail (along with two others who were video recording us).”

Wondering if they were arrested for passing out fliers in defiance of the ban, I asked David about the ban. He answered, “Yes, we’re banned from handing out literature, but we didn’t do that. We followed the rules, and still got thrown in jail. They flat out lied about us. We can prove they lied with the video footage (just like last year), but the police took our cameras and won’t let us have the footage. There’s major oppression of anyone who criticizes Islam.”

Last year, Nabeel, David and friends went to the Arab Festival and filmed a video that went viral. It is amazing to see in that video what happened in America. It was free speech under siege.

Nabeel and David were harassed and intimidated, aided and abetted by law enforcement. Said David and Nabeel: “The conclusion of this video is a mob of festival security attacking our cameras, pushing us back, kicking our legs, and lying to the police. We ask you, is it a coincidence that the city with the highest percentage of Muslims in the United States is the city where Christianity is not allowed to be represented (let alone preached) on a public sidewalk?”

The video was shocking because it exposed the lack of freedoms for non-Muslims in America where Islam is involved. Muslims are given special rights, treated as a special class that gets special treatment.

mailloux at Redstate:

I had the great pleasure of seeing Pope John Paul II in 1993 during the World Youth Day events held in Denver, Colorado. I have fond memories of that time, for it was a very moving and influential experience.

But, it was also punctuated by debate. On many street corners anti-Catholic groups were handing out literature to the throngs of Catholic pilgrims who were making their way from event to event. The anti-Catholic groups were actively proselytizing by engaging World Youth Day participants in conversations both civil and not so civil.

No one in authority stopped the non-Catholic groups from their efforts to proselytize the Catholic pilgrims (many of which were high school and college age). And, speaking as a Catholic who was at the event, I’m glad for that. I took the literature, read it, and engaged in conversations. For goodness sake, they were handing me a pamphlet, not pointing a gun at me. They told me I was going to hell by virtue of being Catholic. I disagreed and stated my case as to why. There was freedom here. There were spirited conversations. There were challenges and questions proposed, some fair and some patently unfair. You could choose to engage in debate or you could choose not to. There was no, as far as I could tell, disorderly conduct. We, both the Catholics and the anti-Catholics, were Americans exercising our rights to free expression and freedom of religion.

Fast forward now to 2010, to Dearborn, Michigan, where an Arab Cultural Festival was recently held … a group of 3 Christians stood outside of the festival grounds and peacefully handed out the Gospel of John presented in both English and Arabic. They did not harass. They did not throw about epithets. They simply handed out a book for anyone willing to take one.

Allah Pundit:

Via Powerline, so insane is this that I’m paranoid there’s a key detail missing somewhere that might explain the whole thing. Could the Christians have been trespassing on private property, maybe? Sure doesn’t look like it, and in any case, they weren’t arrested for trespassing. They were arrested for “disorderly conduct,” which apparently now extends to the offense of offering religious literature to someone who might not want it.

If this is what it looks like, replete with cops confiscating video cameras to keep what happened off the record, it’s one of the most ridiculous First Amendment violations you’ll ever see.

[…]

Here’s the Thomas More Center’s press release, which notes that there was trouble at last year’s Dearborn Arab festival too. Evidently the cops were worried that the presence of Christian lit at a mostly Muslim event might produce some “excitement,” so they solved the problem by punishing the party that tried to peacefully exercise its rights. Note to the defendants: Don’t forget to ask for damages. A lot of damages.


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Filed under Crime, Religion

This Macaca Moment, So Different And So New

Connie Hair at Human Events:

In the ongoing Wall Street Reform Conference Committee meeting Wednesday to merge the House and Senate versions of the recently-passed finance bills, Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Penn.) bemoaned the impact of the recession on his constituents.

“We’re giving relief to people that I deal with in my office every day now unfortunately.  But because of the longevity of this recession, these are people — and they’re not minorities and they’re not defective and they’re not all the things you’d like to insinuate that these programs are about — these are average, good American people,” Kanjorski states.

Kerry Picket at The Washington Times:

Connie Hair at Human Events has posted this shocking video of Rep. Paul Kanjorski, Pennsylvania Democrat, at a Wednesday conference committee hearing to merge the House and Senate versions of the recently-passed financial regulation bills. Here he talks about the debilitating effects of the recession on his constituents. Unfortunately, Mr. Kanjorski may not have realized he offended those he was trying to impress

Stephen Spruiell at The Corner:

Wow

Stephen Gutowski:

Yea. I think its crystal clear that Kanjorski is directly saying that his definition of average, good American people does not include minorities. That is blatant racism no matter how you cut it.

I’m sure that the media will jump all over this indisputable video evidence of a rep with a D next to his name saying something racist. Just like they did when there was indisputable video evidence of a rep with a D next to his name assaulting someone on a public sidewalk. The media is always thorough and diligent when exposing corruption and disgrace within the Democratic party after all.

And I’m sure that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton will be demanding Kanjorski apologize for his racist remarks and resign. You know, like they did with Joe Biden and Harry Reid. Surely Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, being men of integrity and all, wont stand for a major political party in the United States to allow people who make dubious racial remarks stay in power.

Right?

Ed Morrissey:

This statement is a lot more concrete than George Allen’s “macaca moment,” and that got wall-to-wall coverage in the 2006 election cycle.  Kanjorski is running for re-election in his district, which makes this very similar to the “macaca” coverage.  Will the media provide the same level of exposure to a much more obvious (and deliberate) example of bigotry?

For that matter, the national media has clung to the Joe Barton apology to BP for days, even after almost every other Republican in Congress distanced themselves from it.  Doesn’t this seem a little more newsworthy?

Ed Driscoll at Pajamas Media:

If the name rings a bell, it’s because Paul Kanjorski, the leftwing Democratic Pennsylvania Congressman told his constituents in 2008 that:

“I’ll tell you my impression. We really in this last election, when I say we…the Democrats, I think pushed it as far as we can to the end of the fleet, didn’t say it, but we implied it. That if we won the Congressional elections, we could stop the war. Now anybody was a good student of Government would know that wasn’t true. But you know, the temptation to want to win back the Congress, we sort of stretched the facts…and people ate it up.”

Just ask Moveon.org.

Also that year, Kanjorski was promising to dust off 70-year old antediluvian New Deal programs in May of 2008, when unemployment stood at about 5.5 percent, (it’s currently almost double at 9.70 percent), and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was still 2000 points higher than it is today.

Then there was this Oliver Stone-esque moment.

Jim Newell at Gawker:

Some small-town Republican mayor back in Pennsylvania who’s challenging Kanjorski this fall immediately called on him to apologize. This YouTube clip itself is from House minority whip Eric Cantor’s website. And conservative websites are (pretty tongue-in-cheekly) caling him a horrible racist monster from Hell. Get it, because Democrats are always calling Republicans racist, and now this! The truth must come out.

Kanjorski won’t apologize. And he shouldn’t, duh. Ever since the financial collapse, which Kanjorski and his fellow congressmen are at least half-trying to fix here, the Official Republican Explanation for it has been that the government forced banks to give loans to black and Hispanic people who couldn’t pay them back. All Kanjorski is doing is calling out this pigeonholing demagoguery that anti-regulation folks have been using for years to prevent the regulation we so desperately need of our private financial sector.

Don’t believe us? Here’s a clear example from a September, 2008 Neil Cavuto interview on Fox News with a Democratic congressman:

CAVUTO: All right, but let me ask you — but, Congressman, when — when you and many of your colleagues were pushing for more minority lending and more expanded lending to folks who heretofore couldn’t get mortgages, when you were pushing homeownership —

[…]

CAVUTO: — did you warn or express concern about any of the things that happened? I’m not saying that one or the other is beyond blame —

BECERRA: Oh, absolutely, we did. Absolutely.

CAVUTO: — I’m just saying, I don’t remember a clarion call that said, “Fannie and Freddie are a disaster. Loaning to minorities and risky folks is a disaster.”

This argument is a shameless red herring that has not gone away, and Paul Kanjorski was telling people to stop it. (Mostly because it’s wrong.)

So Paul Kanjorski is not a racist. And perhaps some of you are thinking, “Oh well Gawker would jump all over this guy if he were a Republican,” but what can we say? Hopefully not? Because that would not be truthful? When it happens, let us know.

Moe Lane at Redstate:

I don’t see why words should be minced.  Or why Kanjorski needs to stay in the House past November; I’m fairly certain that Lou Barletta can be counted on to avoid insinuating that ‘minorities’ or ‘defectives’ don’t get to be ‘average, good American people.’

I mean, that’s just ignorant.

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Filed under Economics, Legislation Pending, Political Figures, The Crisis

Arguments Commence Over The Best Way To Remember, Over The BBQ Grill

Tim Smith at The Baltimore Sun:

The original purpose of Memorial Day can get easily lost amid all the cookouts or, in these parts, trips to the beach for the unofficial start of the summer season. The origin of the holiday can get overlooked, too, since there have been so many wars since the one that led to the practice of commemorating those who died in service to the country.

It was in 1868 that the first Decoration Day ceremonies were held, honoring the dead of the Union Army in the Civil War. Over time, of course, the observance incorporated the dead of both sides and, renamed Memorial Day, encompassed all of this country’s fallen in subsequent wars.

I was thinking today of those Civil War roots of the holiday and of a song that was popular with Northern troops: “We’re Tenting Tonight On the Old Campground.” I’m fascinated by Walter Kittridge’s words from 1864 as much as the tune. This is a remarkably powerful, personal expression of that war’s toll — any war’s toll.

It seems doubly appropriate to recall it on this Memorial Day, when there are still conflicts and casualties. I’ve posted some of the lyrics here, followed by a recording of “Tenting Tonight” that effectively communicates the song’s sadly timeless message:

We’re tenting tonight on the old campground. Give us a song to cheer our weary hearts, a song of home, and friends we love so dear. Many are the hearts that are weary tonight, wishing for the war to cease. Many are the hearts looking for the right to see the dawn of peace …”

E.J. Dionne at WaPo:

Why is it that every Memorial Day, we note that a holiday set aside for honoring our war dead has become instead an occasion for beach-going, barbecues and baseball?

The problem arises because war-fighting has become less a common endeavor than a specialty engaged in by a relatively small subset of our population. True, some people slipped out of their obligations in the past, and military service was largely, though never exclusively, the preserve of men. The steady growth of opportunities for women in the armed forces is a positive development. I say this proudly as someone whose sister is a veteran of the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, as is her husband.

Can we ever return to a time when we pay proper homage to the service of our warriors, living and dead? Closing the divide that exists between military life and the rest of our society is the first step on that path. Achieving that end is the single best reason for ending the ban on gays in the military. This is not a special-interest demand. It is a powerful way of declaring that in a democracy, service should be seen as a task open to all patriots.

Our major wars — particularly the Civil War, which gave rise to Memorial Day, and World War II — were in some sense mass democratic experiences. They touched the entire country. The same cannot be said of our more recent conflicts.

Because it has been 65 years since we’ve seen anything like a mass mobilization, regular contact with our military is largely confined to the places where our men and women in uniform live. And, according to a 2007 Defense Department report, more than half of our home-based military personnel — 54.5 percent of them — are stationed in only six states: California, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Twelve states account for three-quarters of our service members. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a terrible principle when it comes to honoring those who protect us. But is there any doubt that it applies?

Atrios:

I really hate the annual ritual of writing columns about how people don’t behave properly on Memorial Day. People don’t get many vacation days in the greatest country on Earth, and sitting around pretending to be sad or watching Spielberg war porn doesn’t really honor those who served either. Not going to read the minds of those who served, willingly and enthusiastically or otherwise, but when after I die Atrios Memorial Day is declared, feel free to grill some burgers and have a few beers in my name. I’ll be honored.

Robert H. Scales at Politics Daily:

The heavy lifting in Iraq and Afghanistan is being done by a very small and increasingly isolated minority. We find that military service is fast becoming a family business. At least 100 sons and daughters of general officers are in harm’s way as we speak. The level of relative sacrifice is far greater today than it was in my generation. It’s not unusual to find a soldier or Marine who is now in double-digit deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps we don’t sense the difference between their lives and ours, but increasingly they do. We don’t hear much from them publicly because, unlike my generation of draftees, they are professionals and tend to keep their own counsel. But resentment is there, just under the surface. Unlike my generation, soldiers are plugged into the outside world through the Internet. You can often find a young soldier in the remotest and most inhospitable place blogging and tweeting and watching his countrymen with a wry cynicism.

Soldiers often ask why the media gave them so much attention before the surge when things were going badly in Iraq and so little attention now when things are going well. They wonder how so many political and media pundits know so much about a soldier’s business, and yet lately, soldiers see so few of them near their foxholes. The Internet is a two-edged sword. In Vietnam, we only heard from home infrequently, by letter. Today a soldier is likely to go off on patrol after getting an earful about his loved one’s problems with bill collectors, teachers or, increasingly, family counselors.

Memorial Day should be about memories, to be sure. But it should also be about remembrances of those who are serving us so selflessly now. We must never allow this precious and tiny piece of Sparta to become permanently detached from America’s Babylon. Next time you’re in an airport, spend a second to shake a soldier’s hand. Commit to rekindling that sense of good will toward our men and women in uniform you felt just after 9/11. The war for us is now background noise. But believe me, war is very real and increasingly dangerous for those whom we charge to fight it.

Michelle Oddis at Human Events:

<!–

–> At a time when President Obama’s relationship with the military is already on shaky ground, his decision to take a vacation with his family in Chicago rather than pay his Memorial Day respects at Arlington National Cemetery further proves his apathy toward our armed forces, according to some veterans.

“The President seems to demonstrate almost weekly just how, at least to me, little he cares about this country and our history and our heritage,” retired Marine Lt. Col. Orson Swindle told HUMAN EVENTS.

“He seems almost to resent it, which is the most mind-boggling thing in the world, because without a country like America Barack Obama could not be President. He seems to dislike our institutions… and that’s a sad, sad thing,” said Swindle, a decorated Vietnam prisoner of war and Sen. John McCain’s cellmate in Hanoi.

David Corn at Politics Daily:

There’s a hole in the bottom of the ocean. Unemployment is still near 10 percent. There are two wars underway. And what are conservative pundits fretting about? That this year President Obama won’t be laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.

The liberal watchdog outfit, Media Matters, has been keeping track of this latest right-wing meme:

– Glenn Beck says, “Obama is skipping out on a Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington Cemetery because he’ll be in Chicago on vacation. I’m sorry, I don’t ever, ever question the president’s vacation. I didn’t under Bush, I didn’t under Clinton, I don’t under Obama. . . . I have no problem with the man taking a vacation. But I am sick and tired — sick and tired — of people believing the lie that this administration has respect for the police or has respect for the soldiers of our country. I’m tired of it.”

– Erick Erickson, a conservative blogger and CNN contributor, tweeted, “Obama skipping the Tomb of the Unknowns this weekend for Chicago is offensive. Chicago can wait. The Commander-in-Chief has a job to do.”

– Noting that Vice President Joe Biden will assume the wreath-laying duties this year, Doug Powers, a guest blogger for conservative Michelle Malkin, grouses, “President Obama went to Arlington Cemetery to lay the wreath last year, but this year Obama’s handing the wreath to [Biden] and heading off to the more welcoming political climes of Chicago. . . . Obama will however make it back to Washington in time to honor Paul McCartney next week. Boy, I’m starting to think that West Point speech [Obama gave this past weekend] wasn’t from the heart.”

You’d think these folks would have better things to gripe about. And Obama is not retreating on Memorial Day. (What president would?) Instead of visiting Arlington cemetery, Obama and the first lady will participate in a Memorial Day ceremony at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill., about 50 miles south of Chicago. Moreover, not every president has spent Memorial Day at Arlington. In 1983, President Reagan was at a summit meeting, and the deputy secretary of defense — not even the veep! — placed the wreath. Nine years later, President George H.W. Bush passed off the wreath to Vice President Dan Quayle (who had used family connections to get a slot in the National Guard during the days of the Vietnam War draft). And in 2007, Vice President Dick Cheney took on the wreath mission, while President George W. Bush was in Texas, perhaps clearing brush.

This wreath scuffle is yet another silly episode in the right’s never-ending campaign to persuade Americans that Obama doesn’t care about U.S. troops and is weak on national security. It shows how unserious these bloviators can be. Obama is in the middle of sending an additional 40,000 troops to Afghanistan and has boosted the number of drone attacks aimed at al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Still, conservative wingnuts insist on questioning his commitment to the defense of this nation. (I’m skeptical of the Afghanistan surge, but it certainly is a commitment to the war — for at least the time being.)

John J. Miller at The Corner:

Some conservatives have criticized President Obama because he won’t pay homage to America’s fallen soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery today. Instead, he will be at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Illinois. This is a silly controversy and has the potential to make the complainers look petty. Thousands of American veterans are buried at national cemeteries that aren’t as famous as the one at Arlington. These heroes are worthy of presidential visits on Memorial Day, too.

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Filed under Military Issues, Political Figures

Bailouts Now, Bailouts Never, Bailouts Later, Bailouts Forever

C.S. McCoy at Redstate:

The Dems will be able to tap into voter anger at the banks and will argue that they’re preventing the next crisis, all while framing Republicans as the bankster’s evil cronies.  Conservatives, of course, know better.  Each financial reform bill coming down the pipeline adds more layers to the existing bureaucracy.  We can expect higher bank fees, decreased and more expensive access to credit for individuals and businesses of all sizes, and of course, a future crisis brought on by an unforeseen side-effect of the proposed legislation.

Real reform involves fixing the perverse incentive structures in the current system.  The moral hazard created by various Federal Reserve initiatives, aspects of the FDIC, and whatever goodies are offered up by whatever Goldman Sachs alum-turned-bureaucrat is in a position of power at a given time each contributed to the financial crisis.  And of course, let’s not forget Freddie, Fannie, affirmative-action lending, and similar pieces of legislation that set the housing market on a one-way path to bubble city.

Unfortunately, given the political realities in DC, there may not be much that conservatives can do to transform the current bills into positive legislation.  At this point, we must focus instead on minimizing not only the economic consequences but also the political damage that we could very well incur should we appear to be on the wrong side of the fight over financial reform.  This issue could very well blunt some of our momentum going into November, and given the importance of retaking the House to prevent funding of various health care initiatives, fighting the tax increases that the Dems will offer up to conquer mounting deficits, and controlling the narrative for the 2012 election, that is simply a chance we cannot take.

This fight has been framed terribly for Republicans.  The Democratic aide in the above quote has it exactly right.  Already this battle has been described as the consumer vs Wall Street bankers, and we’re poised to appear to be fighting on the side of one of the least popular groups in America.  Fortunately, one thing more unpopular than Wall Street is bailing out Wall Street.  And fortunately (from a political standpoint), each of the proposed bills has a mechanism to entrench the Federal bailout trough.  Republicans must play up this aspect of the legislation to have any hope of turning this fight into a win.

And we need to start by referring to it simply as the “Bailout Bill.”  “Financial Reform” has a positive connotation, when none is deserved for the proposed bills.  Additionally, “Bailout Bill” does a considerably better job actually describing the legislation.  Regardless of whether or not one has been following this debate, does the term “Financial Reform” actually make it clear what the bill entails?  No, but the term “Bailout Bill” makes it quite clear.  Let’s face it, the Republican leadership in the Senate isn’t exactly the most charismatic bunch.  Do we really want to see them on TV droning on about the intricacies of what’s wrong with the “Financial Reform” legislation?  No, the typical viewer most likely neither cares nor is knowledgeable enough to accurately assess Mitch McConnell’s criticisms.  Boehner, Pence, and Ryan would do a better job, but nevertheless, the topic isn’t particularly engaging.  The term “Bailout Bill” delivers the message to the viewer in a clear and concise manner.

On top of that, it throws the Dems’ attempts to appear to be combating “special interests” right back in their faces.  Regardless of your opinion of Ron Paul, he brought up a great point this weekend when he referred to Obama as a “corporatist” (although the other part of his statement was wrong…Obama has shown both corporatist and socialist tendencies).  We need to harp on about how this “Bailout Bill” will forever put taxpayers on the hook for Wall Street’s misdeeds.  The public already knows that Democrats have been handing out goodies to special interests: auto companies, big Pharma, unions, and even the insurance companies.  Let’s hammer it home.  The Dems of course will respond that Wall Street will actually be the ones paying for the bailouts since special taxes on the banks will go into a bailout trust fund.  This may be true, but it requires that the public trust that these funds won’t get looted in the future, something with which Washington doesn’t exactly have a stellar track record (see: social security).  Additionally, as seen during the health care debate, the more that proponents of the legislation have to defend its complex and unpopular components, the more difficulty they will have selling the entire package.

Brian Beutler at TPM:

About a week or two. That’s how long Republicans have to decide how they ultimately want to play their hand on financial regulatory reform. According to numerous Democratic aides and key senators, the GOP will either have to join forces with Democrats on a bill that hews very much to the White House’s demands, or they’ll have to do their best to block a bill that enjoys wide popularity. But as much as Democrats want to change the rules that govern Wall Street quickly and smoothly, they also love the politics of moving the bill forward without GOP support and letting Republicans publicly justify their decision to protect hated financial institutions from the regulations they oppose.

“We are ready to go forward. The bill’s ready…if I have to go it alone, I’ll go it alone…. I’m ready to go to the floor tomorrow if they want.” said Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd last night, after a brief meeting with his counterpart, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL).

Aides go further, admitting that they’d relish the prospect of putting Republicans on the side of big banks in opposition to reg reform.

In stark contrast to their approach to the year-long fight over health care reform, Democrats now say broad bipartisan agreement isn’t worth it if it sucks up too much time, and needlessly weakens the bill.

“Having an agreement that at the end of the day would largely have no teeth…would be a sham,” DSCC chair Robert Menendez told reporters yesterday, off the Senate floor. “If you just want bipartisanship for a figleaf, I think that would be a huge mistake on a policy basis, and a huge political mistake as well.”

“This is not going to be a repetition of the health care [debate],” Dodd said last night. “That was one of the biggest mistakes ever made, in my view–people waiting around, praying and hoping, day to day, that someone might show up and be supportive of the view.”

Christopher Buckley at The Daily Beast:

Senator McConnell, whose facial opacity amounts to a kind of poker-face magnificence, sallied forth to the microphones outside the White House to denounce the bill as a means of perpetuating federal bailouts of too-big financial institutions. The bill’s defenders rushed to the same microphones to proclaim that in fact, it does the exact opposite. There’s rather a lot of… swing between those two positions. The two top headlines Wednesday on Realclearpolitics.com were a study in Washington yin and yang:

“Financial Reform Bill Ends Bailouts.” Sen. Dodd

“Dodd Bill Institutionalizes Wall Street Bailouts.” Sen. McConnell

Perhaps between now and the November elections, one of these interpretations will emerge as the true one. In the meantime, as Bette Davis used to say, fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy summer and fall.

Edmund L. Andrews at Wall Street Pit:

When Mitch McConnell charged that the Senate Democrats’ bill to reform financial regulation would lead to “more bailouts” for Wall Street, I could almost imagine how GOP word-smiths had racked their brains for ways to spin the effort.

Here was a bill aimed at clamping down on the rapacious mortgages and wanton risk-taking by Wall Street firms that nearly destroyed the financial system and led to huge bailouts. It would be hard to find groups that are more detested by voters — including populist Tea Partiers and End-the-Fed supporters of Ron Paul — than big banks and Wall Street.

GOP leaders know exactly why they oppose the bill: it’s a Democratic bill. Full-stop. But will that fly with ordinary voters? Do red-state conservatives hate derivatives regulation even more than they hate Wall Street greed, trillion-dollar bailouts and all the bad things that led to the epic meltdown? Doubtful.

That’s why McConnell’s attack was so clever. He appeared to be on the ramparts fighting Wall Street rather than helping Wall Street firms avoid all the things they hate: a consumer protection agency, regulated trading for credit default swaps and new levies on the banks to pay for past and future calamities.

Is McConnell right? Let’s nip this in the bud.

It is true that the Senate bill would require financial institutions to put up $50 billion to deal with possible future meltdowns. It is also true that federal regulators would have new “resolution authority” to shut down failing institutions in an orderly way.

But those are very different things from pre-authorizing future bailouts. The recent bailouts kept zombie banks and AIG alive, because both the Bush administration and the Federal Reserve correctly feared that their collapse would set of a chain-reaction of failure. The bailouts were necessary because the government didn’t have the authority to shut the companies down in a orderly way.

One big example: Fed and Treasury officials didn’t have the legal power to force creditors of AIG and others to take haircuts. They had two stark alternatives: push the companies bankruptcy, let them default on hundreds of billions worth of obligations and let the chips fall where they may; or prop them up, bail out the creditors and hope taxpayers would get their money back after the crisis.

The new resolution authority would give the government new powers to take over and shut down failing giants. That is quite different from bailing out a bank and keeping it alive.

James Gattuso at Heritage:

President Obama met today with members of Congress to jawbone them on the pending financial reform bill. A key part of his message: “we must end taxpayer bailouts.” Few statements are less controversial than that. Nobody wants to see more bailouts.

But wait a second. Doesn’t the very legislation he’s plumping for — and which will soon be voted on in the Senate — itself provides for bailouts. When asked that by a reporter just before the meeting, the President hedged, saying only “…I am absolutely confident that the bill that emerges is going to be a bill that prevents bailouts. That’s the goal.”

Well, that goal, as it turns out, only survives up to page 134 of the 1,334 page Senate bill. On that page begins a section entitled “Funding for Orderly Liquidation.” The text reads that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the designated federal receiver for failing financial firms, “may make available…funds for the orderly liquidation of [a] covered financial institution.”

Where are those funds to come from? Well, on page 272 the bill creates an “Orderly Resolution Fund” within the U.S. Treasury. The target size of this fund? Fifty billlion dollars.

That sure looks like a bailout fund. Yet, the bill’s supporters deny it. Elizabeth Warren, a leading proponent of the plan, calls the idea that it perpetuates bailouts “just nuts.”

The argument is that no funds could be provided to to compensate a firm’s shareholders. They would be forced to bear the cost of a firm’s failure, so it’s true they they aren’t being bailed out. But the failing firm’s other creditors would be eligible for a cash bailout. The situation is much like the scheme implemented for AIG in 2008, in which the largest beneficiaries weren’t stockholders, but rather other creditors, including foreign firms such as Deutsche Bank. Hardly a model to be emulated.

The second line of defense is that, bailout or not, the funds are to come from fees on big banks, not from taxes. But that’s a distinction without a difference — whether it’s called a fee or a tax, the effect is the same. And the fact that it will be paid by “big banks” is hardly cause for relief. Like other taxes, these would certainly be passed on to consumers, who would ultimately pay the tab.

Peter Wallison at American Enterprise Institute:

Does the bill, as McConnell has said, provide for permanent bailouts? Yes, again without question. The administration and the Democrats, especially Dodd, seem wounded by this suggestion. To them it seems obvious that this can’t be true. Why, they protest, the bill says that these firms have to be wound down, not bailed out. But why then is there a $50 billion fund set up to assist this wind down? In his statement yesterday on the Senate floor, in which he said the opposition had used “falsehoods” to oppose his bill, Dodd said: “And middle class families on Main Street won’t have to pay a penny: the largest Wall Street firms will have to put up money for a $50 billion fund to cover the costs of liquidating the failed financial firm.” The costs of liquidating the failed financial firm? What might those costs be?

The answer is that the $50 billion will be used to pay off the creditors, so that the market’s fear of a general collapse will be allayed. Remember, the theory under which the administration and Dodd are operating is that the failure of one of these large companies will cause a systemic breakdown or instability in the economy. The way to avoid that is to assure the market—in other words the creditors—that they will be paid. Otherwise, they will run from the failing company, and every other company similarly situated. That act—paying off the creditors when the government takes over a failing firm—is a bailout. It doesn’t matter that the management lose their jobs, or that the shareholders get nothing. When the creditors are aware that they will get a better deal with the failure of a large company than they will get with a small one that goes the ordinary route to bankruptcy, that is a bailout. And the signal it sends to the market is the most dangerous part of this bailout, because it tells the market that creditors will be taking less risk when they lend to small companies than if they lend to large ones, and this—as noted above—will simply provide the credit advantages to large companies that will not be available to small companies. Again, like too big to fail, this will distort and suppress competition in financial markets.

Michael Barone at Human Events

Ezra Klein:

In negotiations stretching from the spring of 2009 to February of 2010, Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) worked together to agree on financial-regulation bill. Their work produced the resolution authority section of Dodd’s legislation, which is to say, the section that attempts to avoid future bailouts. After that, Corker continued to work with Dodd on other elements of the bill. So after Sen. Mitch McConnell said that the legislation ensures “endless taxpayer-funded bailouts for big Wall Street banks,” I called Corker to get his perspective. What follows is a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for clarity.

Was Sen. Mitch McConnell correct? Is the Dodd bill, as currently written, a permanent bailout?

I’ve cautioned against hyperbole. But the fact is that the bill as it now is written allows numerous loopholes that allow a situation where you could have bailouts in perpetuity. It’s a fair statement. This all happened after Mark [Warner] and I finished our work but my negotiations with Dodd ceased. Treasury and FDIC became involved and there are provisions that have been added that change the effect of our work. It can be fixed pretty easily. And everyone already knows how to fix it. To be fair, every administration wants unto themselves as much flexibility and freedom as they can get. What we need to do is take some of that back.

I think it would be useful for us to get very concrete here. So what is a “bailout,” exactly?

A bailout is when the government comes to the aid of a company after the company begins to fail. The government comes in and creates mechanism for its survival.

My understanding is that the bill’s resolution authority mandates that a company gets liquidated if it has to tap into the $50 billion resolution fund. Shareholders get wiped out. Management gets wiped out. The company gets taken apart. Am I wrong in any of that?

That’s exactly right. What you’ve just said is true. But there are a ton of technical things that have to do with the FDIC’s ability to guarantee indebtedness, the ability of the Federal Reserve to do things that act like a bailout. I have a list of 14 items that we’re sharing with Treasury that we want them to look at. And by the way, I think they’re very willing to look at them.

I hope what you get out of this is that Mark and I have no issue. But there’s some bankruptcy court language that’s not in here. There are some issues regarding judicial review of the FDIC’s activities. Some of these things, if you read the language, the FDIC could have the ability to inject equity into the company. They want something called incidental powers. Unless things are clearly defined, they can cause problems. The biggest issue is narrowing what the Fed is able to do, what the FDIC is trying to give itself in order to create flexibility.

It sounds like what you’re saying is that the issue here is not a philosophical dispute between the two parties, but technical changes to make sure the language of the law accords with its intent.

That’s exactly right. Let me give you another example. The way the language is written right now, the resolution process could be used on an auto company. We want this clearly, solely to apply to financial institutions. That’s just one example of a definition type of thing that has to be dealt with. But I think the rhetoric has been overheated, and I’ve cautioned against it. Little words mean a lot here. And I think we’re better off discussing this issue on the substance. And there are other things, too. The bill does not adequately deal with one of the basic causes of this crisis, which was that underwriting was really bad. Now, we have to end any discussion of companies being too big to fail. But there are other important issues.

Matthew Yglesias:

Sheila Bair explains that the regulatory reform bill will end bailouts and that Mitch McConnell and others who say it institutionalizes them are lying:

Would this bill perpetuate bailouts?
SHEILA BAIR: The status quo is bailouts. That’s what we have now. If you don’t do anything, you are going to keep having bailouts. Bankruptcy doesn’t work — we saw that with Lehman Brothers.

But does this bill stop them from happening?
BAIR: It makes them impossible and it should. We worked really hard to squeeze bailout language out of this bill. The construct is you can’t bail out an individual institution — you just can’t do it.

In a true liquidity crisis, the FDIC and the Fed can provide systemwide support in terms of liquidity support — lending and debt guarantees — but even then, a default would trigger resolution or bankruptcy.

As I said this morning, there are some questions as to whether the process the Dodd bill sets up is genuinely 100 percent airtight. But there can be no denying that it makes bailouts less likely. Some conservatives are trying to outline alternative approaches to this goal, but what McConnell and John Boehner have on the table is a policy of make believe—don’t regulate banks, let Wall Street run wild, pretend there won’t be bailouts, then when the casino goes bust show up with a bailout.

Steve Benen:

To prevent the bill from moving forward towards a vote, all 41 Senate Republicans would have to unanimously agree to filibuster the motion to proceed. (In other words, the GOP would refuse to allow the debate to even get underway.) As of yesterday afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not yet have commitments from all 41 members of his caucus.

Today [Friday the 16th], that changed.

Every member of the Senate Republican Caucus has signed a letter, delivered to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, expressing opposition to the Democrats’ financial regulatory reform bill, which they all claim will lead to more Wall Street bailouts.

“We are united in our opposition to the partisan legislation reported by the Senate Banking Committee,” the letter reads. “As currently constructed, this bill allows for endless taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street and establishes new and unlimited regulatory powers that will stifle small businesses and community banks.”

The Republican caucus was not specific about the path ahead. Indeed, the GOP’s letter did not even specifically vow to block the motion to proceed, but rather, simply articulated the caucus’ collective “opposition.” It stands to reason, though, that the point of the letter is that Republicans are prepared to block the vote and the debate on bringing some safeguards to the industry that caused the economic disaster.

It’s worth remembering that Senate Democrats, by and large, didn’t really expect it to come to this. Given Wall Street’s scandalous recklessness, and the public’s disgust for irresponsible misconduct in the financial industry, Dems thought it would be politically suicidal for Republicans to reject reform efforts.

As of this afternoon, it appears Republicans are prepared to link arms and take their chances, fighting to protect Wall Street from accountability.

UPDATE: PolitiFact

Andrew Sullivan

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Filed under Economics, Legislation Pending, The Crisis

Lend Me Your Ears, And I’ll Sing You A Song

Andrew Taylor at Real Clear Politics:

In an election-year appeal to voters frustrated with Washington, House Republicans promised Thursday not to stuff any of this year’s spending bills with pet projects for their districts.

The promise comes a day after House Democrats banned earmarks to for-profit companies, ending a practice that in many cases created a cozy “pay-to-play” culture involving lawmakers and businesses whose Washington lobbyists often use campaign donations to help assure access.

Earmarks send taxpayer dollars to projects in lawmakers’ districts outside the competitive process required for other federal spending.

The House members’ actions follow a House Ethics Committee investigation of seven lawmakers for taking campaign donations from those who benefited from earmarks. The seven were absolved of wrongdoing, but the two parties are seeking political high ground with voters unhappy with Washington and out-of-control spending.

The effort may run into trouble in the Senate, where many lawmakers have made clear they have no interest in House Republicans’ self-imposed moratorium or House Democrats’ ban on earmarks to for-profit companies. That could set up contentious negotiations later this year, when the House and Senate must combine their versions of spending bills.

Instapundit:

Fewer earmarks are better earmarks.

Moe Lane at Redstate:

Rep. Pence calls it a ‘clean break,’ which it is: I forget who out there has noted that this has been at least partially brought about by it being an election year. Which is fine by me; fear of the consequences of ticking off the voters is a perfectly good motivational tool for keeping legislators in line, as the upcoming Congressional elections are going to demonstrate. There’s going to be a goodly number of Democratic object lessons Congressmen who are going to wish that they had trusted their instincts in that regard, in fact.

Brian Riedl at Heritage:

This is a strong positive development. Earmarks distribute government grants by politics rather than by merit. Instead of submitting a strong application to a federal agency, grant-seekers are often forced to hire lobbyists and make campaign donations. This corrupting process has resulted in multiple federal investigations, one of which concluded with a Member of Congress going to prison.

Reducing earmarks will not directly reduce the amount of money available for grantees. Instead, it will empower federal agencies to select grantees through a merit-based application process. For other programs, it means more funding will instead be distributed to state and local governments, who can better decide where to repair a road or how to revitalize a neighborhood than politicians in Washington D.C.

However, more work must be done. House Democrats still must agree on their earmark plan. Their plan should also be expanded to include non-profit organizations (who would also benefit from a system that distributes grants by merit rather than politics) as well as state and local governments (who should be able to receive their federal funds without the micromanagement of earmark instructions). The Senate should follow suit with a moratorium as well.

In addition, President Obama should sign an Executive Order banning all “phone-marks.” Phone-marking occurs when a lawmakers tries to circumvent an earmark ban by directly calling federal agencies and demanding that certain favored groups receive federal grants. Because they leave no paper trail, phone-marks are even less accountable than earmarks.

John Cole:

It makes no sense giving no-bid contracts via earmarks, so this is a welcome attempt at change, but I still find all the attention given to the relatively small amount of money spent on earmarks to be amusing. Hell, the Army spends more on diesel fuel and JP8 every year than congress spends on earmarks, and in a lot of cases, earmarks are completely legit.

Jim Antle at The American Spectator:

For a long time, I’ve viewed the campaign against earmarks as misguided. They represent about 1 percent of federal spending, making them a minuscule part of government growth. Eliminating them all wouldn’t even directly reduce any spending, it would merely affect how the spending is disbursed. It’s not clear that government spending controlled by unaccountable bureaucrats would be less wasteful. Attacking the log-rolling that is central to the legislative process seemed like barking at the moon.

A better approach to the earmarks issue, I’ve always argued, is to use them to demonstrate the absurdity of much of what government does and defeat much larger spending bills. My favorite example is the Clinton-era crime bill. Many conservatives argued against that piece of legislation, which contained billions of dollars in new social spending, on the basis of midnight basketball. Use midnight basketball to defeat the crime bill. Don’t take midnight basketball out of the bill and declare victory.

Having said all that, I think the time has come for the Republicans to adopt a moratorium on earmarks. It is simply a threshold issue for fiscal credibility. How many times have we heard that Republicans are taking a bold stand on this or that spending bill only to learn that they requested better than 40 percent of the earmarks? If Republicans have their names next to too many pork barrel projects, they will never be trusted to rein in more serious spending programs like entitlements.

Ezra Klein:

And Republicans haven’t sworn off earmarks. They’ve sworn them off for a year in which they are out of power and thus are not able to pass many of them. It’s good politics, but neither here nor there so far as the deficit is concerned.

Michelle Oddis at Human Events:

Heads turn now to the Senate where several Republicans have proposed a similar moratorium, but Sen. James Inhofe (R.-Okla.) says that he is against a ban on earmarks challenging many of his fellow conservative colleagues.

If you kill an earmark… it doesn’t save one cent, not a cent, it is merely ceded to the Executive Branch,” says Inhofe.

Inhofe then used an example from the Bush administration explaining that President Bush only passed two out of 12 appropriation bills in 2007. “All they did [with the failed bills] was take the amount of money that would have been appropriated and put it into grants, and used the present budget and, of course, unelected bureaucrats were the ones making the distributions.”

Andrew Samwick:

I am all for eliminating earmarks to for-profit companies and for extending it to non-profits as well.  All discretionary money should be awarded on an open, competitive basis, with oversight of the executive branch agencies by appropriate Congressional committees.  Earmarks have no place in federal spending, as a matter of principle.

Stan Collender:

But there are three reasons why no one should get too excited about the recent developments:

1.  As Andrew notes and I’ve remarked on previously, eliminating earmarks doesn’t actually reduce spending; all it does is change who makes the decision from Congress to an executive branch agency.  Unless the appropriation is reduced at the same time the earmark is eliminated, which no one is suggesting, the amount that will be spent will remain the same.

2.  Also as Andrew points out, even if all earmarks were eliminated and appropriations were cut by a corresponding amount, the amount that spending would be reduced would be relatively small and certainly not enough to make an appreciable difference in the deficit outlook.  It’s not that $20 billion or so isn’t a great deal of money.  It’s just that $20 billion a year less in discretionary spending is barely a rounding error compared to the magnitude of what will need to be done when deficit reduction is the correct fiscal policy.

3.  The earmark limits are only being proposed in the House.  So far there has been no corresponding effort in the Senate…and none is expected.  That almost certainly means that there will be earmarks in fiscal 2011 but they’ll emanate from the north rather than the south side of Capital Hill.

Bruce Bartlett:

It’s obviously true that earmarks are not a significant cause of rising federal spending; eliminating all of them will save at most one percent of the budget. I’ve always suspected that this is the main reason why right wingers focus on them so obsessively–it makes them look tough on spending while actually doing nothing meaningful to cut it.

That said, I think earmarks are underrated in terms of their contribution to corruption. It’s really poisonous when members of Congress can so easily direct federal spending to a favored business in order to attract campaign contributions or just the mistaken belief that they are doing something for their district by helping out a local company.

Furthermore, I think the idea that if Congress stops earmarking that they will somehow disappear is ludicrous. It will just increase congressional pressure on the administration to include favored projects in the president’s budget, which for some reason is always treated as being earmark-free.

Kevin Drum:

Everyone assumes that they raise spending, but they don’t. They just redirect it. I don’t understand why earmark opponents endlessly get away with pretending otherwise.

In fairness, if earmarks were eliminated and the related budget authority were eliminated too, it would cut spending a bit. But that’s not what anyone is proposing. Until they do, the posturing is even worse than Bruce suggests.

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