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Jeremiah Goulka: Republicans and the Redskins

7:44 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Redskins helmet lays on the grass

Why do the Republicans protect a racist sports franchise?

Allow me to introduce you to Dan Snyder. He owns the Washington Redskins football team. Before Snyder bought the team in 1999, the Redskins were one of the most hallowed franchises in the National Football League, with a history as rich as any. Coach Joe Gibbs stalking the sidelines, quarterback Joe Theismann under center, wide receivers Art Monk, Gary Clark, and Ricky Sanders — nicknamed “the Posse” — lined up on the flanks. Super Bowl wins in ’83, ’88, and ’92. Under Dan Snyder, however, the Redskins have burned through seven head coaches in 14 years and made zero Super Bowl appearances. Snyder moved the team from Washington, D.C., to a corporate-sponsored stadium in suburban Maryland. He’s charged fans to watch team practices, raised ticket prices, and sued the local alternative weekly newspaper when it wrote an unflattering story about him. The best part? He never even read the offending article.

Dan Snyder may be the most hated man in Washington, D.C.

His latest misdeed to garner attention took place not on the gridiron but on the manicured grounds of his riverfront mansion in swanky Potomac, Maryland. In the latest issue of the Washington Monthly magazine, Tim Murphy tells the story of a “secret sweetheart deal” Snyder finagled with the help of a George W. Bush appointee to cut down some trees on nearby federal parkland so that he would have an unobstructed view of the Potomac River. “What’s clear is this,” Murphy writes, “by April of 2004, with his new home nearing completion and still no progress on the trees, Snyder was growing frustrated and [former NRA lobbyist turned National Park Service aide P. Daniel] Smith was determined to settle the matter.

“That spring, according to the inspector general’s report, Smith met with Snyder’s attorney for a business lunch at the Potomac estate, where Snyder had just completed an expansion to build a massive new ballroom, and followed it up with a phone call to the park official who dealt with land acquisitions. Over the phone, the official told the investigators, Smith seemed agitated that nothing had been done yet, and suggested an exit strategy, which he later alleged had come from the Redskins’ attorney: most of the trees in question were nonnative; why not clear-cut them and call it an exotic-plant extermination program?”

Snyder got the trees removed. When, as Murphy notes, a park ranger and devoted civil servant named Robert Danno blew the whistle on his bogus “exotic-plant extermination program,” Danno was promptly intimidated, demoted, and almost thrown in jail. In the end, a National Park Service inspector general’s report vindicated Danno — but by then, of course, it was too late to save those trees and Snyder had his view.

So it goes in Dan Snyder’s Washington. Yet there may be no bigger headache for the team owner than the matter of his franchise’s name: the Redskins. It’s offensive, and a growing number of activists and commentators want it changed. But as TomDispatch contributor Jeremiah Goulka writes, there is at least one bloc of public figures that fully supports the name — and that is the Republican Party. Allow Goulka, a TomDispatch regular and former Republican himself, to explain why. Andy Kroll

Win Today, Lose Tomorrow
Why Republicans Protect the “Honor” of Offensive Team Names
By Jeremiah Goulka

Every once in a while a small controversy comes along that helps explain a big problem.  This National Football League season has provided such a controversy.  The name of Washington D.C.’s football team, the Redskins, is under fire.  “Redskins” is an offensive term and therefore inappropriate for the team representing our nation’s capital.  That’s kind of obvious, right?

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Tomgram: Kramer and Comerford, Shutting Down Americans

7:17 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Untitled

Shutdown Button

While this country’s creditor nations twitched, the global bankers were worried, too, and in campaign mode. In Washington for the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund, a number of them were predicting that a congressional unwillingness to raise the debt ceiling could take down what global “recovery” there had been since the Great Recession. In the meantime, here we were, yet again teetering at the edge of “the cliff.” And what a strange spectacle these last weeks have been! Yes, we all know that there are deep-seated problems in this country, that infrastructure is crumbling, school systems starved for resources, the gap between rich and poor growing, poverty on the rise, and manufacturing jobs still leaving town. Nonetheless, there is no evidence that, absent the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, we would have been at the edge of any cliff at all.

The spectacle of these last weeks has been thoroughly ginned up, as fictional as the plot of any Hollywood disaster film. But here’s the thing: when, a few months from now, the debt-ceiling and government shutdown issues return like the walking dead and threaten once again to step off that cliff, what could follow would not be fiction and it would be unpredictable. Real life, unlike Hollywood, is that way. For all any of us know, it could take the global financial system down with it and someday historians would wonder just how such a catastrophe could have been created out of thin air.

But we’re not historians of the future, are we? Nor have we simply been spectators at a congressional disaster flick, even if, as TomDispatch regulars Mattea Kramer and Jo Comerford of the invaluable National Priorities Project point out today, we’ve been acting that way.  Already, as the government “shutdown” unfolded, a startling number of perfectly real Americans found their lives swept up in the House’s fiction, while the economy, too, took a hit. Let’s hope that, before it’s over in 2014 or beyond, we won’t all discover that, willy-nilly, we’ve been swept into that same film as extras in the crowd scenes, and that, peering into the fog on the horizon of our future, we won’t suddenly see the first shadowy, lurching figures staggering toward us. Tom

What Was “Essential” and What Wasn’t
The Government Shutdown in Perspective Read the rest of this entry →

Jeremiah Goulka: Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Republican Titanic

7:51 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

The Republican Party Needs to Change, But Won't

It’s barely a month since Election 2012 put Barack Obama back in the White House and Mitt Romney in the Republican doghouse (or even perhaps on the roof of the GOP’s family car).  Still, TomDispatch is already behind the eight ball in its election coverage.  After all, we’re still thinking about the past election while the rest of the media didn’t take a breath before launching campaign 2016.  And here’s the real question that, it turns out, should rivet us all: Will Hillary run?  Reporters and pundits were already asking even before Election Day.  Immediately after the votes were counted, the first Iowa poll came in.  (She was way ahead of Vice President Biden and New York Governor Cuomo.) Now you can hardly avoid the subject of how invincible she would be — unless you care to jump off that “fiscal cliff.”

Last week, “will she or won’t she?” hit the front page of the New York Times in a piece that highlighted all the truly crucial and confounding political conundrums of our moment.  Can Hillary, for instance, make piles of money working for law firms handling clients from the wrong — i.e., rich — side of the tracks or can she forge a new monumentally moneymaking life “advising foreign countries on geopolitical risk, or at an investment bank or a private equity firm”?  Yes, without a doubt is the answer in all cases, but not, it seems, if she wants to run for president.  The poor woman might have to rely on peddling (for multi-millions) a tell-nothing tome on her years traveling the world as secretary of state doing… well, whatever.  (Again, if she wants to run for president, it’s common wisdom in Washington and in the media that you can’t write a book with genuine content — it might be used against you!)

Yes, folks, get ready for 2016 early and often.  In the supersized, never-ending American election season it’s going to be a meaty four years of media speculation.

At the moment, it seems that the only question outrunning Hillary & Co. is: Can we avoid that dreaded fiscal cliff (and all the mixed metaphors that go with it)?  You hear it intoned relentlessly on the nightly news, with accompanying countdowns (“only 20 days to…”) and everything but Jaws-style ominous music.  Of course, the tectonic political plates that raised that cliff we may “go over” and the river of money that gouged out the abyss into which we may “fall” were Washington-made and the cliff itself, like any fabulous stage set, is potentially moveable.  Still, let’s keep our eye on the ball.  And while we’re revving up for the ultimate Washington clash about cliffing it — to jump, or not to jump: that is the question — and preparing for the Democratic presidential race to 2016, let’s not forget those Republican’ts.  What’s the story there?

We considered conducting a TomDispatch séance to get in touch with them, since these days they reportedly live in another world that may be located somewhere in the vicinity of planet Earth.  Instead, we decided to turn to Jeremiah Goulka, our resident “former Republican,” to fill us in on just what to make of the cliff — fiscal, physical, or demographic — that the Republican’ts are threatening to throw themselves off in the wake of Mitt Romney’s defeat. Tom

The Botox Solution
Why the Formerly Grand Old Party Needs to Change and Won’t
By Jeremiah Goulka

Mitt Romney had hardly conceded before Republicans started fighting over where to head next.  Some Republicans — and many Democrats — now claim that the writing is on the wall: demography is destiny, which means the GOP is going the way of the Whigs and the Dodo.  Across the country, they see an aging white majority shrinking as the U.S. heads for the future as a majority-minority country and the Grand Old Party becomes the Gray Old Party.  Others say: not so fast.

In the month since 51% of the electorate chose to keep Barack Obama in the White House, I’ve spent my time listening to GOP pundits, operators, and voters.  While the Party busily analyzes the results, its leaders and factions are already out front, pushing their own long-held opinions and calling for calm in the face of onrushing problems.

Do any of their proposals exhibit a willingness to make the kind of changes the GOP will need to attract members of the growing groups that the GOP has spent years antagonizing like Hispanics, Asian Americans, unmarried women, secular whites, and others?  In a word: no.

Instead, from my informal survey, it looks to this observer (and former Republican) as if the party is betting all its money on cosmetic change.  Think of it as the Botox Solution.  It wants to tweak its talking points slightly and put more minority and female Republicans on stage as spokespeople.  Many in the GOP seem to believe that this will do the trick in 2014 and beyond. Are they deluded?

You’ve heard the expression “putting lipstick on a pig,” haven’t you?

The Blame Game and the Short-Term Outlook

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Kramer and Hellman: It’s the Politics, Stupid

8:51 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

After the first $6 billion election, $3 billion in (mostly attack) ads, billions paid out to political consultants, presidential campaigns that raised more than $1 billion each, piles of “dark money,” and a year of debates, punditry, robocalls, ground games, polls by the trillions, and just about anything else you might want to name, Election 2012 is officially over — and strangely, it’s left the country with the same president, and essentially the same party breakdown in the Senate and the House of Representatives.  In other words, the most expensive, most gargantuan election of our lifetimes has brought us an almost exact replica of the week before yesterday.  The (same) president is already talking about the (same) bipartisanship to the same House of Representatives whose leader has just, post-election, reclaimed the (same) mandate as theirs.  We’ve lived this story.  Don’t we kinda know how it ends?

Livening up the period between the old Congress and the old president and the “new” Congress and the “new” president is a brewing Washington “crisis” we’ve been hearing about for months on end and that’s already back in the headlines.  It’s the “fiscal cliff” and the only question, it seems, is who or what exactly is going to run off its edge, Wile E. Coyote-style.  Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, for example, has for a year been assuring Americans that, should Congressionally mandated automatic defense cuts go through as 2013 begins under what’s called “sequestration,” the biggest military on the planet, engorged with staggering sums of money these last years, will face nothing short of a “devastating” situation.  No kidding, actual doom.

Congress is similarly launching fearsome warnings about its own decision to institute such cuts.  Imagine, in fact, a wrestler who has put himself in a fearsome hammerlock and is now railing against his fate and his own arms, pleading for outside help or mercy.  This largely fake crisis whipped up into a froth of warnings out of far deeper problems is going to keep the pundits and headliners busy indeed for the next two months.  So expect the news, punditry, and governmental equivalents of screams of pain, gnashing of teeth, and rending of garments.  As it happens, TomDispatch has two preternaturally sane and reasonable analysts, Mattea Kramer and Chris Hellman of the superb National Priorities Project, who suggest that a little old-fashioned rolling of eyes is in order. Tom

Washington’s Cliff Notes 
How to Get Yourself to the Edge of the Fiscal Abyss and Not Jump 
By Mattea Kramer and Chris Hellman

They don’t call it the “cliff” for nothing.  It’s the fiscal spot where a nation’s representatives can gather and cry doom.  It’s the place — if Washington is to be believed — where, with a single leap into the Abyss of Sequestration, those representatives can end it all for the rest of us.

An Americorps worker fights a forest fire. Americorps could face austerity cuts.

In the wake of President Obama’s electoral victory, that cliff (if you’ll excuse a mixed metaphor or two) is about to step front and center. The only problem: the odds are no one will leap, and remarkably little of note will actually happen.  But since the headlines are about to scream “crisis,” what you need to understand American politics in the coming weeks of the lame-duck Congress is a little guide to reality, some Cliff Notes for Washington.

As a start, relax.  Don’t let the headlines get to you.  There’s little reason for anyone to lose sleep over the much-hyped fiscal cliff.  In fact, if you were choosing an image based on the coming fiscal dust-up, it probably wouldn’t be a cliff but an obstacle course — a series of federal spending cuts and tax increases all scheduled to take effect as 2013 begins. And it’s true that, if all those budget cuts and tax increases were to go into effect at the same time, an already weak recovery would probably sink into a double-dip recession.

But ignore the sound and fury.  While prophecy is usually a perilous occupation, in this case it’s pretty easy to predict how lawmakers will deal with nearly every challenge on the president’s and Congress’s end-of-year obstacle course. The upshot? The U.S. economy isn’t headed over a cliff any time soon.

Sequestering Congress

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Jeremiah Goulka: Playing the ID Card

6:42 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

A drawing of the Republican elephant

Image: Donkey Hotey / Flickr


It’s an election year for the record books — or maybe Ripley’s Believe It or Not.  The Obama campaign has now raised close to $1 billion; “dark money” is pouring into the Republican camp and onto the airwaves; and it’s clear that earlier predictions of the first $2 billion presidential campaign are likely to fall short of the real figure.  Or if you want to be staggered, consider how much the full election season, not just the presidential part of it, is now predicted to deliver in “political advertising in all media”: $5 billion. That means attack ads coming out everyone’s ears in anything close to a swing state or a contested race anywhere, including, for instance, the 19,000 political ads (mostly by “outside groups”) aired in the state of Montana (Montana!) in a recent three-week period for the tight Senate campaign there.  By the way, at a national level, this sort of thing represents one of the great conflict-of-interest stories of our era that no one thinks to report (for obvious reasons): those responsible for pumping up the so-called horse race of campaign 2012 as the most important event on Earth, the greatest show since Cleopatra barged down the Nile and sank, are the very media whose owners will make more money off it if it is.

Honestly, all of this adds up to such a bizarre, nightmarish parody of “democracy” that, if you want to ward off depression, you better try to enjoy the ludicrous spectacle of it all.  Take, for instance, the voter ID laws meant to disenfranchise minority voters that Republican politicians and operatives have been pushing like mad this season (with pushback from the court system) as an obvious way to offset their party’s increasing demographic disadvantage.  They are all based on claims of in-person fraud that make no sense.

But in one of this election season’s great stand-up comedy routines, it turns out that those Republicans weren’t completely wrong.  Yep, you guessed it: the fraud scandal of the year recently marched down Main Street tossing a baton.  It turned out to be the work of a Republican operative hired by both the Florida party and the national one to “register” voters.  (His companies’ methods have raised questions and been dogged by fraud accusations in the past.)  Possible outright fraud, including the registering of dead people, has been reported in ten counties in Florida and a number of swing states.

It’s enough to make you laugh till you cry.  In the meantime, let Jeremiah Goulka, whose “Confessions of a Former Republican” was a big hit at TomDispatch back in September, fill you in on just why Republican voters hang in there on the voter fraud issue.  It’s a fascinating tale. Tom

Of Republicans and Race Cards
Why I Used to Believe That Voter ID Laws Really Were Just Common Sense
By Jeremiah Goulka
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Tom Engelhardt: The 1% Election

7:28 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

One Percent
One Percent Seal of Approval

This story originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Sometimes words outlive their usefulness.  Sometimes the gap between changing reality and the names we’ve given it grows so wide that they empty of all meaning or retain older meanings that only confuse us.  “Election,” “presidential election campaign,” and “democracy” all seem like obvious candidates for name-change.

I thought about this recently as President Obama hustled around my hometown, snarling New York traffic in the name of Campaign 2012.  He was, it turned out, “hosting” three back-to-back fundraising events: one at the tony Gotham Bar and Grill for 45 supporters at $35,800 a head (the menu: roasted beet salad, steak and onion rings, with apple strudel, chocolate pecan pie, and cinnamon ice cream — a meal meant to “shine a little light” on American farms); one for 30 Jewish supporters at the home of Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress, for at least $10,000 a pop; and one at the Sheraton Hotel, evidently for the plebes of the contribution world, that cost a mere $1,000 a head. (Maybe the menu there was rubber chicken.)

In the course of his several meals, the president pledged his support for Israel (in the face of Republican charges that he is eternally soft on the subject), talked about “taxes and the economy” to his undoubtedly under-taxed listeners, and made this stirringly meaningless but rousing comment: “No matter who we are, no matter where we come from, we’re one nation.  We’re one people. And that’s what’s at stake in this election.”

Outside his final event, Occupy Wall Street protesters saw something else at stake, dubbing him the “1% president.”  The end result from a night’s heavy lifting: $2.4 million for his election campaign and the Democratic National Committee, nowhere close to 1% of what they will need for the next year.

These were the 67th, 68th, and 69th fundraisers attended by Obama so far in 2011, or the 71st, 72nd, and 73rd.  (It depended on who was counting.) In either case, we’re talking about approximately one fundraiser every five days, a total of 6% of the events in which Obama took part in this non-election year.

Think about that.  You vote for the president to spend some part of 20% of his days raising money for his own future from the incredibly wealthy.  Or put another way, the Washington Post now estimates that if you add in the non-fundraising, election-oriented events that involve him — 63 so far in 2011 — perhaps 12% of his time is taken up with campaign efforts of one sort or another; and this is what he’s been doing 12 to 24 months before the election is scheduled to happen. Read the rest of this entry →

The War Against the Poor, by Frances Fox Piven

7:56 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

Stop The War On The Poor (Photo: eoringel, flickr)

Stop The War On The Poor (Photo: eoringel, flickr)

This story originally appeared at TomDispatch.com.

To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

It was a beautiful, sunlit fall morning when the patrol, many in camouflage jackets, no more than 40 of them in all, headed directly into enemy territory.  Their ranks included one sailor in uniform, three women, and a small child named Viva in a stroller.  Except for Viva, all of them were vets, a few from the Vietnam era but most from our more recent wars.

As they headed for Wall Street, several carried signs that said, “I am still serving my country,” and one read, “How is the war economy working for you?”  Many wore Iraq Veterans Against the War t-shirts under their camo jackets, and there was one other thing that made this demonstration unlike any seen in these last Occupy Wall Street weeks: there wasn’t a police officer, police car, or barricade in sight.  As they headed out across a well-trafficked street, not a cop was there to yell at them to get back on the curb.

In the wake of the wounding of Scott Olsen in the police assault on Occupy Oakland last week, that’s what it means to be a veteran marching on Zuccotti Park.  Scott Kimbell (Iraq, 2005-2006), who led the patrol, later told me: “Cops are in a difficult position with vets.  Some of them were in the military and are sympathetic and they know that the community will not support what happened to Scott Olsen.”  Just before Broad Street, a line of waiting police on scooters picked up the marchers, for once feeling more like an escort than a gang of armed avengers, while media types and photographers swarmed in the street without police reprimand. Read the rest of this entry →