Yesterday, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced that he backs the Obama administration’s effort to prevent a doubling of the interest rate on federal student loans that is scheduled to take place this summer. “I fully support the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans,” Romney said.
However, not all Republican candidates are quite so eager to jump on board. During an interview today with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL), who is running for the Senate, declined to say whether he’d vote to extend the current interest rate, despite being asked repeatedly:
TODD: Mitt Romney and President Obama are both endorsing essentially this plan that would not allow student loan interest rates to double by the summer. Where are you on this?
MACK: Well, look, again, I think what’s happening in the state of Florida, if you don’t mind, Chuck, I want to talk about what’s happening here in the state of Florida…
TODD: No, I understand that, but this is a vote that you’re going to have to make in Congress.
MACK: But what I’m telling you is in the state of Florida, during this Senate campaign, people are concerned about their homes and jobs. That is the issue. [...]
TODD: But you have to cast a vote about this issue of student loans. What vote are you going to cast?
MACK: When the vote comes up, we’ll cast that vote, but what I’m telling you is that people watching your program today, and if they’re in Florida, what they’re concerned about it jobs and the economy and how we’re going to balance a budget with a $16 trillion debt and a $1.4 trillion deficit. This is what, Chuck, this is what people down here are talking about.
TODD: You don’t think anybody’s concerned about their student loan interest rate?
MACK: We will absolutely be able to cast a vote, and when that happens we will be happy to do so.
Mack didn’t vote when House Republicans passed their radical fiscal 2013 budget, but Mack had derided the plan as a “joke” for not going far enough with its spending cuts. That budget would allow student loan interest rates to double in July, and House Republicans have thus far been disinclined to prevent the increase.
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions knows something about what it means to be unfit for the federal bench. In 1986, the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected Session’s nomination to a federal judgeship in Alabama after a Justice Department attorney revealed that Sessions called the NAACP and the ACLU ?un-American? and ?Communist-inspired.? Unfortunately, rather than gaining some humility from this incident, the now-Sen. Sessions seems to be finding questionably qualified nominees under every rock he can lift:
Sessions was one of [Justice Elena] Kagan?s toughest critics on the Senate Judiciary Committee when she was nominated by President Obama in 2010. Last week, he revived his complaints about her when he became one of only two committee members to vote against Maine lawyer William J. Kayatta Jr., whom Obama nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit.
Kayatta?s transgression, according to Sessions, is that he was the lead investigator for the American Bar Association panel that gave nominee Kagan its highest rating ? ?Unanimous Well-Qualified.?
Given that Kagan had never been a judge and had little experience in private practice, Sessions said, such a rating ?was not only unsupported by the record but, in my opinion, the product of political bias.?
For the record, Justice Kagan was the sitting Solicitor General, a former Dean of the Harvard Law School, a former White House attorney and senior policy staffer and a former law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall when she was nominated to the Supreme Court. The idea that she wasn’t well qualified for her current job is absurd.
At first glance, Lesley Arfin, the Vice contributor and writer on HBO’s sitcom Girls, and John Derbyshire, the former National Review columnist, have little in common. They’re a woman and a man, a naughty provocateur and a writer on, among other things, China and mathematics, whose work resonates in New York and Washington respectively. But in the last month or so, they’ve served as illustrations of the ugly fact that racism retains a certain cultural capital even among bastions of people who like to consider themselves enlightened.
Derbyshire got himself in trouble first after he wrote an astonishingly racist column for Taki Magazine (about which more in a moment) about telling his children to avoid black people as if that was some sort of sensible safety guide. He presented the piece as if he was speaking difficult truths that others dare not speak, a common framing tactic of racists who like to believe that their biases are grounded in scientific evidence and want to use that delusion to attach legitimacy and a claim of the moral high ground to their bigotry. After several days of controversy, National Review, which had previously tended to turn a blind eye to or to edit down Derbyshire’s more appalling proclivities, fired him.
Lesley Arfin seems to have been less commonly-understood to be a racist until, in response to charges that the show for which she works, Girls, is strangely white for a story set in Brooklyn, she tweeted ?What really bothered me most about Precious was that there was no representation of ME.? She subsequently added and scrubbed an apology. And evidence has quickly emerged that the tweet was hardly an isolated, insensitive mistake. Arfin is apparently the kind of person who thinks it’s clever to compare President Obama’s skin color to shit, or to say in an interview that the word “nigger” is the one that makes her feel proud to be a writer. Elspeth Reeve, in an elegant piece at The Atlantic Wire, suggested that Arfin’s comments spring from a common well, that this is “where this vein of hipster racism starts. It tests the idea that anything wrapped with enough irony can be transformed into something else. The more uncool the raw materials are?trucker hats, ugly T-shirts, mustaches, smoking crack?the better the trick.”
That’s true to a certain extent. But while there’s no inherent cultural capital in trucker hats or mustaches, there is a strong, if narrow thread of thought that is interested in making sure that racism stays nominally acceptable, and not because it demonstrates the ability of those thinkers to turn something ridiculous into a trend. Much in the same way that John Derbyshire peppered spectacularly illogical racist advice to his children with links to anecdotal stories meant to gloss his nonsense with a scientific veneer, Gavin McInnes, the co-founder of Vice (and Taki Magazine columnist, it’s worth noting), responded to the criticism of Arfin’s behavior by suggesting that the people who were uncomfortable with Girls’ whiteness were deluded race-mongers desperate to turn a buck. “You can?t continue a mythical Cold War forever and it?s likely the days of randomly tarring and feathering people for ‘racism,’ real or imagined, are coming to a close,” he wrote in a post defending Arfin. “Not because it?s morally wrong, but because people are no longer buying it. And when people aren?t buying something, you can?t make money.” These two strains of thinking are complimentary and mutually reinforcing: people who see racism are deluded and have impure motives, while people who seek to assert racial difference are acting out of a disinterested commitment to scientific truth in the face of terrible opposition.
But there’s nothing brave or bold about clinging to racist ideas, to your supposed right to wound other people by being nasty and childishness. It’s the reverse, a desperate clinging to modes of thought that protected your own privilege and save you the inconvenience of having to engage with people in a way that might require compromise and growth. The immature and fearful people who huddle around the campfire of racism aren’t keeping a flame of secret knowledge alive. They’re hiding from a world they’re unable to cope with.
LGBT equality advocates met with members of the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City, Utah yesterday to raise concerns about how its policies are “harmful to their community.” The group, Soulforce?s 2012 Equality Ride, “had four specific requests for the LDS Church: to cut all ties with and denounce Evergreen International, which continues to use ‘reparative’ therapy in its treatment of gays; to stop funding groups that are fighting civil marriage equality across the country; to encourage LDS Business College to bring its policies on homosexuality in line with current Mormon teachings; and to add sexual orientation and gender identity/expression to the faith?s policies for church employees.” Soulforce described the meeting as “overall positive” and “very gracious and hospitable,” although LDS Church leadership was not involved in the meeting.
Jesse Kelly, the Republican nominee in Arizona’s 8th congressional district best known for holding fundraisers with M16 automatic rifles, told an elderly gentleman at a campaign stop yesterday that health care is a “privilege” that people must “earn”, not a right.
Kelly, who is running to fill Gabby Gifford’s vacated seat — made the remarks while meeting with voters at the La Cholla Country Club yesterday. A senior citizen asked the candidate about his philosophical approach to health care and whether “health care is a right or a privilege?” Kelly hemmed and hawed before conceding that he believes health care “is a privilege to some extent.” He went on to say that health care is one of those “privileges you earn.”
VOTER: Do you think that health care is a right or a privilege?
KELLY: My belief system is this. The health care for anybody but especially for our nation. The highest quality and lowest cost can only be delivered without the government. What I believe is that all things we drive, we do, health care, anything, is a privilege to some extent. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, those are inalienable rights endowed by your creator. If you?re claiming a right, if you?re going to say anything?s a right, if you?re going to say you have a right to a cell phone, then who has the responsibility to pay for it? That?s what I believe.
VOTER: So you?d put health care as a privilege then?
KELLY: Absolutely, absolutely. I believe that all things we have are. But they’re privileges you earn.
Whether or not you agree with Kelly’s belief that health care is just a privilege, it is still a reality that far too many Americans die each year because they can’t afford access to the health care they need or receive uncompensated care that is financed by those who have insurance. Since everyone is bound to fall ill — and some may suffer an unexpected medical setback, as the Giffords tragedy illustrated — a system in which 50 million Americans are uninsured is an inefficient and quite expansive waste of tax payer dollars and resources.
Two leading conservative political organizations say they are stepping up coordinated efforts to repeal state-level renewable energy targets.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) ? a “stealth business lobbyist” that works with corporate interests to help them write and implement “model” legislation ? says it may soon start crafting laws designed to kill or weaken state targets for renewable electricity, heating and fuels.
ALEC has come under fire in recent weeks for its support of voter ID laws and the controversial Stand-Your-Ground law that opponents blame for the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. After progressive groups began an aggressive campaign to educate the public about ALEC, 13 companies have since pulled their membership from the organization.
Last July, Bloomberg News acquired tax documents showing that Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil and other energy companies paid membership fees to ALEC in order to help write legislation repealing carbon pollution reduction programs in states around country.
Bloomberg now reports that ALEC is looking to take aim at renewable energy programs in states:
ALEC, a group of state lawmakers and corporations recently criticized for its support of Stand-Your-Ground laws highlighted in the Florida shooting of Trayvon Martin, may write model legislation for state lawmakers to repeal or weaken the mandates later this year, said Todd Wynn, energy, environment and agriculture task force director for the group, in an interview. Stand-Your-Ground laws allows citizens to use force when threatened, even when they can retreat.
The group may also develop an ?energy freedom? index that ranks states based on regulation, market intervention and taxes.
ALEC has already attempted to write legislation preventing targets for renewable energy on the federal level. As nothing substantive has happened nationally, it seems ALEC is now preparing to take its corporate-influenced legislation to the 29 states that actually have targets in place.
Along with promoting legislation to kill climate policies and renewable energy targets, ALEC also provided the framework for legislation currently moving through the U.S. House of Representatives that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating toxic coal ash.
According to the Center for Media and Democracy, Peabody Energy ? the largest private coal company in the world ? is a major underwriter for ALEC and sits on the organization’s Private Enterprise Board.
Americans for Tax Reform, the infamous anti-tax organization run by Grover Norquist, also says it is taking a more aggressive approach to opposing renewable energy targets. According to Bloomberg News, the group is urging its members to “speak out” against renewable energy promotion policies.
The organization has falsely claimed that such targets are costly to ratepayers.
In fact, no official analysis has found that state-level renewable energy targets specifically increase energy prices. While some states have seen increases in rates over the years, a recent analysis from the Center for American Progress found that clean energy targets had no statistically significant impact on those price changes.
Despite the real-world evidence that clean energy is increasingly cost-competitive and economically beneficial to states, the sector is under attack. The industry should be prepared for a more aggressive campaign from organizations like ALEC and Americans for Tax Reform on the state level.
If the Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of Arizona's immigration enforcement law, Sen. Charles Schumer, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, says he will introduce legislation that bars all states from enforcing their own immigration laws. Republican members boycotted the subcommittee hearing where the Democratic senator from New York made the announcement Tuesday morning. Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona called it "political theater." Schumer said it's not the first time Republicans have refused to sit down to discuss the issue.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday on the Arizona law, SB 1070, which requires public officials to actively identify illegal immigrants and makes it a crime for them to look for work. The Obama administration seeks to have parts of the law set aside. Five other Republican-dominated states?Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah?have used the Arizona model in passing their own laws. A Court ruling is expected in June.
Pointing out that Congress has already made clear its opposition to state laws on immigration, Schumer said in a statement:
?It is simply too damaging to our economy and too dangerous to our democracy to have 50 different states be permitted to take their own direction when it comes to immigration policy. [...] The Supreme Court should find the Arizona law unconstitutional, but if it doesn?t, Congress will be ready. States should be barred from taking immigration enforcement matters into their own hands and imposing penalties as they see fit. This has always been a role of the federal government. It is impractical to have a patchwork of different immigration laws across the country.?
The senator's proposal would prohibit states from imposing their own civil or criminal penalties for immigration law violations and bar them "from detecting, apprehending or detaining violators of immigration law, unless they have been authorized and trained to do so as part of a federal enforcement effort." His bill would also seek to override the Supreme Court's decision in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting. The ruling allows states to establish their own immigration employment verification requirements and penalties.
"Immigration has not and never has been an area where states are able to exercise independent authority," Schumer said at the hearing. "States like Arizona and Alabama will no longer be able to get away with saying they're simply helping the federal government ... to enforce the law when they are really writing their own laws and knowingly deploying untrained officers with the mission of arresting anyone and everyone who might fit the preconceived profile of an illegal immigrant."
Only Schumer and Democrat Richard Durbin of Illinois showed up for the hearing, in which testimony included that of the author of SB 1070, former Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce.
Schumer's proposal has no chance of clearing the deadlocked Senate or the majority-Republican ruled House. But the move would reinforce the sharp difference between the immigration views of Republicans and those of most Democrats. Latinos are especially hostile to the state laws, not least because their enforcement adds another layer to racial profiling by law enforcement. And yet Republicans can't figure out why they have such a tough time attracting more Latino voters. Perhaps it would help if they would put away that sharpened stick with which they keep poking them in the eye.
Immigration from Mexico is down significantly thanks in large part to the poor economy in the United States. According to new analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center, recent net migration from Mexico is now zero. This fact should lessen the negative[...]
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As a fan of game shows and an avid trivia nerd, I was disappointed that I couldn't attend the Jeopardy tapings this past weekend when the show rolled into D.C. However after reading a Politico article describing Alec Trebek?s ideological inclinations, I?m glad I missed out on hearing him cavorting on politics:
?People [are] relying too much on the government,? the ?Jeopardy? star said over the weekend while holding forth with the press during a day of taping in Washington.
?If you want to tax high earners more, it would be nice if you told us where you are spending the money. If you are going to use our extra taxes to reduce the debt, fine. If you are going to use our extra taxes to finance new programs, whoa, let?s slow down a moment,? Trebek added, when asked by POLITICO which political issues concern him most.
?The same word that I am using with my children, a lot of people are using now: a sense of ?entitlement? in our society. I think we need to get away from that.?...
?I don?t know who I will vote for. I?m an independent, one of the vast gray mass in the middle. I want to see what?s going on, I want to see what?s happening in the country before I cast my ballot,? Trebek said.
Rather than representing the vast mass of independent voters (a myth already), Trebek?s views hit close to Republican talking points. And that rhetoric completely misses most of the actual proposals Democrats offer. Beyond a few larger initiatives such as the Affordable Care Act, most liberal goals at this moment aren?t predicated on an expansion of the welfare state. Instead they are desperately seeking to maintain the baseline already in place as it comes under assault from a far right wing that dislikes all government action, and a center left more concerned with debt stabilization than helping those in need.
Just look at the two issues the Obama campaign has focused on for the past several weeks. Earlier this month everything centered around the Buffett Rule, in effect one of the tax hikes Trebek fears. The bill would have forced instituted a minimum tax rate of 30 percent for anyone earning over $2 million per year. Republicans in the Senate filibustered the bill, arguing that it would have meant little in terms of deficit reduction.
Now Obama is campaigning this week on student loan debt, pushing Congress to extend a bill that lowers the interest rate on loans issued by the federal government. So far House Republicans have shown little interest in preventing the rate from rising once the College Cost Reduction and Access Act expires in July. A one-year extension would cost $6 billion, only a little more expensive than the amount of money the Buffett Rule would have raised annually. When Democrats have been pushing for an expansion on taxes it hasn?t been to build ?new entitlements?; they?re efforts to maintain the status quo as Republicans seek to rip apart the social safety net. Many progressives probably dream of new government programs to help the poor, but for the moment they?re too busy trying to protect what they already have to dream of anything new.
"Hey, I'm younger than McCain too.
Maybe I should have run."Uh:
?My guess is you?ll see a dramatic difference in the youth vote this time ? part of it is you have a younger, more dynamic Republican candidate,? Hank Brown, 72, a retired senator and former Colorado University president, said on a Romney campaign conference call. ?Whether it?s entitlement reform or a youthful candidate or the potential of jobs, you?re going to have many different factors at work with regard to young people.?You have to be smoking something pretty strong to believe the fact that Mitt Romney is 65 will make him more appealing to young voters than John McCain was in 2008, when he was 72. And the issue isn't his age: It's his policies.
Take, for example, health care reform. Thanks to Obamacare, under current law young adults can stay on their family's insurance plan through the age of 26. Mitt Romney would repeal that. Also thanks to Obamacare, insurance must cover birth control as a preventive medicine, which Romney declares an affront to religious liberty. Romney's embrace of conservative social positions on abortion and gay rights aren't helping him either. And while he now shares President Obama's support for lower interest rates on student loans, throughout the campaign he's bought into the conservative fantasy that education policy should treat colleges and universities like widgets you can buy at the corner store.
If Mitt Romney is going to win the youth vote, he needs to not only make young voters ignore all that, but also to convince them that doubling down on George W. Bush's trickle-down economics is the best path for America. And that's not going to happen.