Posts Tagged ‘Charles Krauthammer’

Lessons for Today From Anne Braden

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

By Michael Kaufman

When we think of prisons the images that usually come to mind are of barred cells, armed guards, and barbed wire. But Anne Braden, who devoted her life to the causes of civil rights and social justice, offered another perspective. Braden, who died in 2006 at age 82, observed that society builds prisons around people. She said she was born privileged in a class society and white in a racist society. And it was hard to break out of those prisons.

“The hardest thing was class,” she said. “I don’t know that I ever could have broken out of what I call the race prison if I hadn’t dealt with class.” The comment appeared in an article I read recently but it was the sentence that followed that really hit home as a reflection of life in the United States today. “It’s that assumption that is so embedded in you that you don’t realize it’s there—that your crowd is supposed to be running things.”

That was surely Mitt Romney’s assumption and that of those who paid $50,000 for dinner to hear his infamous “47 percent” speech deriding government “entitlements.” What other explanation can there be for the vehement opposition of millionaires to a modest increase in the minimum wage? It explains how people like Charles Krauthammer and Fox News (sic) commentators can ask what all the fuss was about when speaking of the sequester. They simply don’t know anyone affected by it.

And now that the Voting Rights Act has been gutted by the Supreme Court of the United States, it is how they can proclaim that racism is a thing of the past. We have a Black president don’t we? In reality the provisions of the Voting Rights Act should have been extended to include states it had not covered before (i.e., all states in which voter suppression plans were authorized by state and local legislatures). Again, words spoken by Anne Braden in 1980 ring true: “The real danger comes from people in high places, from the halls of Congress to the boardrooms of our big corporations, who tell white people that if their paychecks are eaten up by taxes it’s not because of our bloated military budget but because of government programs that benefit black people. If young whites are unemployed, it’s because blacks are getting all the jobs. Our problem is the people in power who are creating a scapegoat mentality. That is what is creating the danger of a fascist movement in America.” Today the scapegoat mentality has expanded to fuel right-wing extremist organizations and armed militias targeting undocumented immigrants.

Last year the Southern Poverty Law Center tracked 1,360 right-wing militias and anti-government groups, an eight-fold increase over 2008, when it recorded 149 such groups. The explosive growth that began in 2008 was sparked by the election of President Obama and anger about the poor economy, according to a report issued earlier this year by the center. And that growth is likely to continue as the groups recruit more members with a pro-gun message, the center’s senior fellow Mark Potok told USA Today.

“This country was built on white supremacy,” Anne Braden said in 2004, explaining that she prefers using the term “white supremacy” to “racism” because “it’s more what we really mean—you don’t have to get into endless arguments about whether Blacks can be racist.” And if you understand that the original wealth of this country came from slavery and the slave trade itself was based on the assumption of white supremacy, you can see how white supremacy was “built into the institutions, including the courts, from the beginning.”

“Anne pointed out that as long as race could be used to get a majority of white Americans to oppose efforts for a more just society, there will be no hope of ending poverty, homelessness, environmental destruction, inequality, or of making the kind of transformative change imperative if democracy is to be real in our nation,” wrote Janet Tucker in a review of Anne Braden: Southern Patriot, a documentary film about Braden’s life. Southern Patriot was the name of the newspaper Anne edited during the many years she and her husband Carl worked for the Southern Conference Educational Fund.

The Bradens are probably best known for a 1954 incident in which they purchased a house in an all-white neighborhood of Louisville and, in a pre-arranged transaction resold it to a black family. A cross was burned on the lawn, the house was bombed, and the buyer, Andrew Wade, decided to move his young family out of the house because of fear for their safety. Instead of going after the whites who planted the bomb, the Bradens were tried—and Carl jailed—on charges of sedition, attempting to overthrow the government of Kentucky. The conviction was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Anne encouraged white Americans to become active in the civil rights movement but not simply as “something we’re called on to help people of color with. We need to become involved with it as if our lives depended on it because, in truth, they do.” Many, however, still need to break out of their prisons.

Michael can be reached at

The Right’s ‘Nobama’ Melodrama

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

In the continuum between “fiscal cliff” brinksmanship and “right-to-work” trickery, I can’t decide whether to laugh, throw rocks, or avert my gaze in disgust from the spectacle of angry old white men, locked in a grudge match with President Obama and behaving churlishly.

The past week has been a mash-up of bad actors and worse theatrics. Which should we ring down the curtain on first?


The Speaker of the House resorts to high-risk stagecraft

John Boehner isn’t entirely sure who he’s representing in the fiscal cliff fiasco, but he’s certainly had to tiptoe through the muck left over after the Republican campaign splattered like an overripe tomato against the brick wall of the electorate. Republicans have no idea what they’re mutating into – since, at this early stage, it’s still bubbling up from the primordial ooze of spent teabags, long-form personhood certificates, forcible rape-rap, and amnesty antics into its own form of lame-duck lunacy.

Among Boehner’s recent one-liners:

  • (Re: his fiscal cliff avoidance plan, which proposes cutting $600 billion in “entitlement” spending, partly by raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67, but doesn’t raise the marginal tax rate on rich people; collecting $200 billion in revenues by closing unspecified income tax deductions and loopholes; then trimming billions more by slashing agency budgets, eliminating other mandatory programs, and reducing beneficiaries’ cost-of-living increases – all without offering specifics or even mentioning the payroll tax, unemployment, or the coming debt-ceiling debacle): “A credible plan that deserves serious consideration by the White House.”
  • (Re: President Obama’s standing offer of generating $1.4 trillion in revenues (revised downward from an initial figure of $1.6 trillion in an attempt to appease Tea Party holdouts) by reinstating Clinton-era tax rates for the extremely wealthy; cutting entitlement spending by $400 billion; adding another $50 billion in stimulus spending; and requiring that Congress cede power over raising the debt limit to the executive branch): Obama’s “la-la land offer.”

Why is Speaker Boehner slow-walking an eventual deal with Democrats? The National Review’s Robert Costa said the House Weeper may be facing a leadership challenge from no-nonsense conservative Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, if Boehner colludes with moderates to achieve the dreaded “compromise.” Moreover, the GOP’s festering Tea Party flank isn’t in any hurry to cave in to raising their single-minded constituents’ taxes. Creative gerrymandering by Republican-controlled state legislatures may have put the kibosh on reaching common ground.

Worrying the bejesus out of small business owners (who fear losing customers to Medicare cuts) and the general public is the looming prospect of  economic collapse. The Congressional Budget Office warned in August that the fiscal cliff impasse, if not resolved by January (when the Bush tax cuts expire and the extreme “sequestration” budget cuts kick in), would hurtle the U.S. economy into another recession. As International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde cautioned Sunday, failure to reach “a comprehensive deal” before January will crash the fragile recovery, reverse recent gains in employment, and reduce growth to “zero.”

The House Speaker (who holds more power at this moment than anyone with his self-serving mindset, indecisive temperament, and appalling incompetence ever merited) dithers while America burns. Republican intransigence continues to edge us closer every day to plunging headlong into catastrophe. We can’t afford to play these dangerous games with the future of the U.S. economy so that Boehner and the House’s far-right cohort can “save face.”

John Boehner needs to stop worrying about saving his own job and focus on saving his country instead. He might go down in flames among the rabble-rousers in his own caucus, but he’ll also improve his chances of going down in history as a principled patriot rather than the worst Speaker the U.S. House of Representatives has ever had.


Krauthammer’s cruel logic: Right-to-work equals lower wages

Yesterday, Michigan’s lame-duck state legislature passed the Orwellian-sounding “right-to-work” law, which labeled union-busting “freedom of choice” while its proponents proclaimed it “pro-worker” and “pro-choice.” With a stroke of his pen, Governor Rick Snyder vanquished organized labor in the birthplace of the United Auto Workers union.

Right-to-work laws, as Ezra Klein explained in The Washington Post, don’t give you the right to work. “They give you the right to refuse to pay union dues when you work for a union shop, even though you get the wages the union bargained for, and the benefits the union bargained for, and the grievance process the union bargained for.”

If you live in Michigan and watch your salary and benefits steadily decline over the next several years, don’t ask Charles Krauthammer to cry for you.

During a Fox News “Special Report,” the insufferable Dr. K averred that successful American auto unions like the UAW resulted from a postwar “anomaly” that no longer exists in a globally competitive world.

“I sympathize with the unions, but the fact is that in a global economy, where you have to compete on wages and other elements of production, you can either have high wages with low employment, or you can, as Obama would say, ‘spread around the wealth’,” Krauthammer (who worked for years as a shrink!) said with sublime sensitivity, unable to resist a rapier-like pun. “In the right-to-work states, unemployment is 6.9 percent, and in the non-right-to-work states, it’s 8.7. So you can choose to have fewer workers who enjoy higher, inflated, unnatural wages, uncompetitive wages, or you can have competitive wages and more people employed, more people with the dignity of a job, and less unemployment and more taxation and more activity. I think it’s the right choice, but I understand how it’s a wrenching choice.”

Sorry, Charlie, but, as the wingnuts like to say, “That dog don’t hunt.” If CEOs and other company managers weren’t awarded salaries totally out of proportion to those earned by their employees, gazillion-dollar annual bonuses regardless of performance, corporate welfare, tax credits for outsourcing jobs, “golden parachutes,” and other incentives to gamble away corporate profits instead of reinvesting a portion of them in living wages, well-deserved benefits, and decent pension programs for their most valuable assets – the human kind – the economy wouldn’t be in this godawful mess.

If you have no heart, at least have the sense to keep your deficiencies to yourself!


Scalia compares ‘homosexual sodomy’ with murder

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has once again stepped in a steaming heap of controversy over a topic under consideration by the Court. During a nationwide book tour, Scalia brought up “having moral feelings against homosexuality,” only two days after the Court agreed to hear two cases challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act’s definition of marriage as “between a man and a woman.”

During a speech at Princeton University promoting his new book, Reading Law, Scalia responded to a question from a gay student about why his writings compare “laws banning sodomy with those barring bestiality and murder,” the Associated Press reported Monday. The justice opined that legislative bodies can prohibit acts they believe to be “immoral.”

If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have (them) against murder? Can we have (them) against other things?” Scalia wondered aloud. What, this caused me to marvel, should this man’s personal musings about morality have to do with interpreting the law?

The questioner, freshman Duncan Hosie of San Francisco, remained unconvinced by this outrageous line of chatter, even though the justice insisted “he (was) not equating sodomy with murder but drawing a parallel between the bans on both.” Hosie told the AP reporter that he believes Scalia’s writings tend to “dehumanize” gays.

Scalia should immediately recuse himself from deliberating on any case about which he has already publicly revealed his prejudices – something he apparently has no intention of doing, since blurting out two months ago at a similar event, held at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, “Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state.” As far as Scalia, who calls himself a “textualist,” is concerned, if the Constitution didn’t ban the death penalty or preclude restrictions on abortion and sodomy, then neither should he.

As Michael Tomasky concluded in Time, “What blithering nonsense! … And Scalia is a bigot.”