It is quite difficult to acquire a Southern accent growing up in the area surrounding Cleveland, Ohio, where I grew up. Yet it seems that Republican Josh Mandel, who is challenging Sherrod Brown in a U.S. Senate race, would have you believe he acquired one in the nearby suburb of Beachwood. In Mandel’s appearance with presidential candidate Mitt Romney in southern Ohio’s coal country this past Tuesday, he applied what sounded to many like a Southern twang to his speech.
I don’t fault Mandel for trying, and failing, at code-switching. It’s a skill that entails changing one’s pattern of speech or behavior to acclimate to a particular environment or audience, something many of us know all too well. Vice President Joe Biden also gave code-switching a go this week at a speech in Virginia when he told a campaign-event crowd in Danville, Virginia that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his new running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, are going to “unchain Wall Street” and “going to put y’all back in chains.”
Biden is usually so good at code-switching that hardly anyone thinks twice when he slips into it in front of a largely Black audience. We already know President Obama is a master at code-switching, a necessary trait for any First Black American President Ever. And as Mother Jones’ Adam Serwer noted in his recent Bloggingheads episode, Republicans have their own brand of code-switching: the “aw, shucks” politician, none of whom are running for President at the moment.
Some say Biden’s remark is part of his unpredictability, but I disagree. It’s all code-switching, which sometimes can be taken too far. That’s why I was and remain disappointed with the Vice President’s “chains” remark, when it seems that he got a little extra comfortable.
To be fair, it isn’t as if Biden just burped out that remark, completely out of context. He claimed, in his clarification the following day, that he meant to say “unshackle,” a rhetorical flourish he’s used previously to describe “unshackling” the middle class, and a play on a previous usage by Romney’s new running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. I get where the vice president was going. But the Republican fake-outrage train had long since left the station. During a tough introductory week for Ryan, Romney did his best to switch the focus to Biden, citing the remark as a seed of “division, attack, and hatred.”
So, Biden defenders, it is less about whether or not he “meant it” than whether the remark was necessary at all. The remark gives us a chance to re-examine how politicians employ racial coding as a carrot to particular segments of voters, and to what degree we accept it – particularly coming from a Democrat.
That is ironic, given that we hear racialized politics from the Right so loudly these days that we should stop doing them the favor of calling them “dog-whistles.” But to whatever degree Republicans use race as a political tool, this is about whether we hold Democrats to the same standard.
Biden, consciously or not, used racial dog-whistle politics. Hinting at such a painful historical moment for African Americans in a political speech is suspect at the outset, but using it to evoke the eventual reality that a President Romney would create is simply wrong, strictly on a moral level.
All that said, I get why he did it. It’s easy to code-switch, but it’s tough to describe in a political speech the prospect of a Romney administration by running off a series of stats about how (for instance) food stamps, access to Medicare, reproductive services, Head Start, and Pell grants would be cut, and over two million African Americans would get a tax hike. It doesn’t play as well in a political speech. If the Obama campaign believes that life will be stark for African Americans under Romney, they should be able to describe it, minus the slavery metaphors.
This column appeared originally in EBONY on Friday.
(Ed. note: These are the remarks that I read from the pulpit at the funeral for my grandmother, Odessa Howard, on Saturday, June 9. I share them with the hope that they provide a cursory introduction to one of the most important people in my life, the lady you see above in a 1993 photo. For a longer introduction, I’d have to write a book. Perhaps several.)
I was convinced, as a child, that my grandmother knew half of the entire population of Pittsburgh. I’m not talking about the North Side – the entire city. And “half” was a conservative estimate. Now, I’ll admit that at that young age, the way that any of us see the world is already pretty limited. Things tend to look grander than they may seem, concepts beyond our grasp.
But I grew more and more convinced every time I’d be out with her, when I’d inevitably hear someone holler her name. Perhaps they’d seen her in Saks Fifth Avenue at the mall, run into her in the elevator at work, or approached her as we sat in a restaurant. And I wasn’t as wowed by her popularity as I was by her demeanor, by her friendliness. I’d call her ease with it almost political.. if I hadn’t already known, at that young age, that she didn’t have one phony bone in her body.
To her credit, she was just as straightforward as she was loving, including with us, her grandchildren. She expected more from all of us, which is unsurprising given that I’ve never seen anyone love as strongly as she did – not just with her words, but most importantly with her actions. Everyone in this sanctuary would do well to meet her standard.
I’ll close by saying that of the many, many things I do miss and will miss about my grandmother is her voice. We in this family are a vocal people – it is our nature and our way, and in no one was that embodied more so than in my grandmother, whose lengthy phone calls and enriching conversations were more important to me than I perhaps realized at the time.
Her voice encouraged me to develop my own, and I ask one simple request of all of you here today: be likewise encouraged. Take your voice out into the world and let people know where they stand, that you demand more from them, that you love them. Then like she did, use your actions to back it up.
There are some things that are indeed grander than they may seem, concepts beyond our grasp, - as children, even as adults. But as I grew, my grandmother never grew smaller in my eyes; she maintained the same all-encompassing presence in my life. If we all do what we need to do and follow her example, her influence will only continue to grow.
(Wrote this three years ago today. I stand by my argument. And as stated previously, the man in the photo is not my father. But he might as well be.)
I recall her class, and the conversation, but not her name. Whatever my seventh-grade English teacher’s name was, she taught me one hell of a lesson.
Shortly after class, she and I were talking. Thinking back, I’m surprised that I had time to chat. I remember that the walls were blue, and that I was holding my copy of Cry, the Beloved Country - but the particulars of how we got on the topic of our fathers and war remains fuzzy, as this occurred over twenty years ago. How the chat ended stands out like it happened yesterday.
When I remarked that my Dad and I could talk about anything, she sounded a note of caution. “Don’t ask him too much about war”, she said. Why not, I asked. I then wondered aloud if my father had killed anyone in ‘Nam. “I asked my father that question,” she said. She told me that she’d done so when she was a pre-teen, like me, wide-eyed and curious. Her father sighed, and replied solemnly,
"And then he said not another word", she recalled. Neither did I, for that matter.
Largely because of that conversation, my father and I haven’t talked much about his “time in the service”, as he termed it. He was an Air Force radar operator in Vietnam, but I never found out really what that meant. He would talk about his time stationed in places ranging from New Orleans to Laos, but I never asked for dates or details. He’d let me walk around the house in his old fatigues, but never talk about the sweat he surely put into them. He’d show me the faded burn scars on his right forearm, caused by fresh M-16 shells - but I never dared asked him the when and where.
In fact, the only detail I ever really learned was that his rank and classification (which I’ve since forgotten), when I applied for a Child of a Vietnam Veteran scholarship to a summer college program at Oxford University. I would go to Oxford at 16, while around my age, my dad would be preparing himself for war.
My father graduated from high school in 1964, so he knew damn well what was awaiting him if he enlisted. His older brother joined him, and eventually became a paratrooper. I knew them as completely different people, and still am left longing to know the men they were. But even if I only know what my father did in an abstract sense, I know that his service opened the door to his becoming the great, imperfect man he is today. I really wouldn’t have it any other way, and I guess that today, that is what I’m most thankful for.
The man pictured above is not my father, but it might as well have been. He has the same clean-shaven face filled with possibility, a face that I’d never seen before. (My father has had virtually the same beard all my life.) That’s a young man I’d like to know. But I’m thrilled to know the old man I know today.
Yes, part of me would like to ask my father about his service, get to know the details. But I’d much rather talk to him about the election, the latest action movie or how badly the Browns are doing. Surely, you’d be correct to assume that I’ve made assumptions about what my father had to do, and what now has to live with. However, if I can spare my father the pain of remembrance, I have done him a service.
There’s no need to ask our veterans about every detail. If you’re in doubt, and as conflicted as I was twenty years ago…just do as I did today, in a phone call to my father.
Just say thanks, and leave the rest alone.
We hear all the time about elections having consequences. We saw a lot of that last night, and it is a fairly simple principle. In fact, it’s one which Republicans understood a little too well after last year’s midterms, resulting in what we now know as the Great Republican Overreach of 2011™. It’s worth revisiting in the context of one school board election result from last night.
Backed by Tea Party financier Art Pope, the Republican school board chairman in Wake County, North Carolina, has been pushing a nouveau-segregationist “neighborhood schools” plan. Last night, with incumbent Kevin Hill’s victory over his LMAO-at-the-skunk-who’s-Obama Republican challenger, Democrats now (and for the next four years) hold the majority on the board. On its face, this would seem to spell the end for the idea of resegregating the county’s schools.
The runoff election between Mr. Hill and his challenger last night was supposed to be the tipping point, the last chance for voters to stop the “neighborhood schools” plan before it became reality in the 2012-13 school year. The local NAACP exulted in the four Democratic school board wins in October, and they were likewise happy with last night’s results.
Except, here’s the thing: Mr. Hill (and his fellow Democrats) aren’t saying that they’ll reverse what the Republicans did:
Hill said Tuesday night that although he voted against the assignment plan, he has no intention of returning to the district’s old way of assigning students.
He said he likes the new plan and thinks it can work with some tweaks. He wants to ensure classroom seats in high-performing schools are reserved for low-performing students.
Now, keep in mind: the Wake County school system has been a national model for school integration. The district is not particularly diverse along racial lines, but its schools have reflected socio-economic diversity for a long time now. The Republican “neighborhood schools” plan aimed to completely undo that progress, concentrating poorer students in inevitably poorer schools. And Mr. Hill thinks that plan needs only a few tweaks? Indeed. From WRAL:
Hill reiterated his desire to revise the plan to make sure enough seats are set aside in high-performing schools for students from low-performing areas.
How taking the extreme Separate but Unequal, 2.0 and “tweaking” it into a slightly more palatable 3.0 serves the interests of voters in Wake County, only those voters can answer. Yes, Democrats stood up to 2.0, but they were hemming and hawing on replacing it before they won the majority. That may have helped them get elected.
But the consequences of their election appear to be scrapping what was working, and then diluting the Republican plan replacing it. How much, then, does last night’s victory really matter?
Rachel tweeted a video last night that I’d emailed earlier to our staff. It was Cleveland comic Mike Polk, Jr.'s angry and hilarious YouTubed reaction to the latest Browns loss, in which he yells at an empty Cleveland stadium, “You are a factory of sadness!” (I caution you about one expletive he utters — which, given the Browns’ play of late, is understandable.)
I’d shared a laugh about it before the show with my fellow Clevelander (and our guest last night), Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Connie Schultz. In our conversation, she related two aspects of it to the ongoing struggle over union rights back home: first, only we can talk that way about our own. Criticism like Mike Polk’s wouldn’t be welcome from an outsider. Secondly, we Ohioans (Clevelanders, especially) are bred to hold grudges. That’s just sports, you may say. But Ohioans have plenty of political frustration with its Steelers-fan-in-chief, Ohio governor John Kasich, and that could be also bad news for national Republicans.
Issue 2, the referendum on Governor Kasich’s union-stripping Senate Bill 5, is being voted on today. A “yes" vote means you want his bill to become law; "no" means just the opposite. Last night, Ms. Schultz illustrated how impassioned Ohioans have become to stop Senate Bill 5, and why this battle may create a grudge that voters not only take to the polls today, but a year from now:
John Kasich has been the best community organizer in the state for Democrats, but it`s not just Democrats who have decided they’re voting no. I mean, we’ve seen so many Republicans come out against this. We’re seeing a lot of independent voters. In my own neighborhood, yards that have McCain signs in 2008 have vote no on Issue 2 signs.
The sister of an Ohio nurse and an Ohio schoolteacher, she elaborated on why this has hit so close to home for so many in the Buckeye State:
Everybody knows a schoolteacher or a police officer or a firefighter or a nurse…This is what Kasich and the Republicans did not anticipate is when you go after public workers, you`re going after family members of tens of thousands of Ohioans…And when you go after the rights of workers to collectively bargain for wages, benefits and job conditions, you are suddenly not just going after unions. You’re going after the promise of America. And it was so interesting to watch people who thought they didn`t care at all about unions suddenly realize they care very deeply about the rights that unions brought to workers in this country. This has been an incredible groundswell movement of support for unions and what unions stand for.
Mike Polk said in his now-viral video, “I know there are more important things than football, but you are supposed to be our pleasant distraction from those things. All we do is pay you money to put us in a bad mood every week.” And that’s just football! What happens when those “important things” are threatened, and Ohioans in a really bad mood about that, and have recourse to do something about it? We’ll find out today.
"Gerrymander" is hardly the King’s English. It is a word born of politics, drawing its roots from a Federalist newspaper editor who complained about Jeffersonian Republicans forcing a re-districting bill through the Massachusetts legislature in 1812 that was said to give those Republicans a political advantage. Governor Elbridge Gerry was in office at the time, and the paper’s editor, seeing how the new voting district resembled a salamander, simply combined the names so as to blame the governor.
"Salamander! Call it a Gerrymander," yelled the editor, whose Boston paper published this image.
Rachel described last night how this kind of thing, nearly 200 years later, remains a common practice by American political parties in this country — and why it is an especially big deal again now. In Arizona, Governor (and author) Jan Brewer’s interference with an independent commission and removal of its chairwoman was deemed a "Scott Walker-style power-grab from hell" by the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent.
If all parties had voted to oust the chairwoman, that’d be what’s called a "sweetheart gerrymander," in which both parties collude to preserve their own power. But with a 21-9 advantage in the State Senate, more than the two-thirds advantage needed by Governor Brewer needed to oust the independent commission’s chairwoman, who needs getting along to go along? What Arizona Republicans, the governor included, are aiming for is a “partisan gerrymander,” in which the party in power angles to keep that power by simply re-jiggering the districts.
A similar battle is waging in my native Ohio this week:
Statehouse Republicans and black Democrats were at an impasse Tuesday after the black lawmakers rejected an alternative congressional map redrawing districts for Ohio’s major urban cities.
Rep. Sandra Williams, a black Cleveland Democrat who heads the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, said a GOP offer to draw black voters together into districts unifying cities wasn’t enough for her caucus, primarily because it didn’t alter the map’s 12-to-4 ratio of Republican-to-Democratic districts.
"Accepting a 12-to-4 map is not something we are going to do," she said. "That is unacceptable to me and other members of the black caucus."
Despite not having a deal on the new map, Republicans plan to forge ahead with a vote on the version rejected by their Black Caucus. With a nearly 60-40 majority in the state house, they can pass it. The important detail is that they’re aiming to do something similar to what Governor Brewer did in Arizona: use a two-thirds vote in the House to pass it as an emergency measure. Why does that matter so much?
Ohio Republicans are seeking to avoid a sequel to their current battle over Senate Bill 5. If the new map gets passed as an emergency measure — which requires a two-thirds vote (including seven votes from Democratics) — there could be no ballot referendum like Tuesday’s Issue 2, which will decide the fate of Governor John Kasich’s union-stripping bill.
And here’s the kicker: any such referendum would immediately suspend the new map, much as Senate Bill 5 has been kept from going into effect, pending Tuesday’s vote. And given especially how effective Ohio Democrats have proven themselves to be in collecting signatures (and the lead in the polls for the repeal side), Republicans seeking to gerrymander Ohio would apparently prefer to wiggle out of a similar fight.
More: Citizens United is spending big for your vote to keep SB5, Ohio.
UPDATE: The Ohio House Speaker released a new map today, seeking to attract more Democrats. A vote is set for this afternoon, according to the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.
The House was busy making 250% sure that “In God We Trust” is still the national motto when President Obama yesterday dedicated Fort Monroe as his first national monument under the Antiquities Act powers.
"This is one of the most important and powerful historic places in America, the spot where slavery began and also, two and a half centuries later, received its deathblow," said Adam Goodheart, author of "1861: The Civil War Awakening." "It is the Plymouth Rock of African-American culture. I am thrilled it will be preserved and honored."
Slaves were able to find safe haven at what was then called Fortress Monroe 150 years ago, during the Civil War, when it was controlled by Union forces. Historian Blair L.M. Kelley remarked upon it in theGrio:
"I’d say it’s crucial to the process of remembering American history from the whole cloth…It’s a site that allows Americans to recall both the terrible shift toward slavery, and then African American resistance at one site. This enriches our memory of who we are as a nation, both how far we have come and that we can never forget."
Sounds like a worthy candidate for the nation’s newest monument. So what about this, exactly, could House Speaker John Boehner’s office find so funny? The notion that jobs could be created from designating a former Army fort as a national monument. Speaker Boehner’s office laughed about the notion that it’d create even one job:
“The practical effect is to tell Americans they’ve fully exhausted ways for the president to act without engaging Congress,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said. “It tanks on the straight face test to suggest this action is going to put Americans back to work.”
Jon Huntsman has had a rough go of it so far. He’s shamelessly pandered to the extreme right while simultaneously trying to be the Adult in the Room™, and this hasn’t been the best strategy for a Republican primary in 2011. He’s had months of awful polling that barely qualifies him for the debates. Despite a stated plan to focus everything on New Hampshire, his campaign reported raising a whopping $1000 from two donors there in the last quarter (and the former Utah governor was geeked about that). His dad commented that Jon, Jr. would totally be winning the presidency in China (where he may not even be fluent in the language).
Oh, and a goat bit him last Sunday. It’s not going well.
Despite his flagging chances and debt-ridden campaign, Jon Huntsman remains relevant. In a primary election season during which Republicans are searching for a non-Romney, my fellow Penn Quaker has proven quite adept at attacking the presumptive Republican frontrunner with very effective messaging, something about him that actually does appeal to the far right.
He also got some dap from Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen:
Romney, it would seem, has two main flaws as a candidate. He’s a cowardly and uncontrollable flip-flopper with no core convictions, and he has an atrocious record on job creation. And on both fronts, I’d argue that Huntsman is hitting Romney on both counts more effectively than anyone in either party.
Now, pivoting off his recent "perfectly lubricated weather vane" comment, the Huntsman campaign has released a sequel to their split-screened, flipping-monkey video "Backflip" entitled "Weather Vane." As Rachel noted, “every other candidate can just pop themselves in” once the cellar-dwelling Huntsman, presumably, leaves the race at some point.
Occupy Wall Street, of course, is an outdoor movement, and it has withstood its share of inclement weather to this point. When I visited two weeks ago to report on the protest, the hundreds of protesters assembled were all drenched in a cold rain. Some of those out there were people with major health concerns, including one 9/11 first responder with whom I spoke. Being in the rain was a health hazard for a guy suffering from sarcoidosis; what would he and other protesters in New York and other cold-weather cities do when the weather worsened? We’re about to get an answer.
New York City, along with a lot of the Eastern seaboard, is predicted (even by the Occupiers’ own meteorologist) to be hit with several inches of snow tomorrow. It’s already quite chilly out, and preparations are underway. There will be no electric heaters, it seems: the NYPD and FDNY swooped in today to confiscate generators and gas canisters. So if they’re going to tough it out, they’ll be relying on donated blankets, coats and other clothing (and whatever clothes are on their backs). Occupiers in Lower Manhattan are getting tips from the homeless on staying warm:
"I actually originated using newspaper — newspaper and cellophane. You put the cellophane on first, and then you put the newspaper, and that keeps you warm," said Jeremy, a dreadlocked 25-year-old who has been homeless for three years. "And there’s meditations that you can do to heat yourself up. Hot thoughts. Like summer, or fire, anything that’s hot, you know what I’m saying? And it works."
One adamant OWS organizer was quoted by New York magazine saying, “The real revolutionaries will stay in minus-50 degrees.” That absolutism alarmed a friend of mine, GOOD associate editor Nona Willis Aronowitz. Inviting in the issues of privilege, media visibility and “martyr politics,” Nona writes that the revolution should not be winterized:
The idea that comfort and excess equals greed and corruption is embedded in the message of Occupy Wall Street, but images of shivering martyrs are counter to the underlying meaning behind economic justice, which is that every person has a right to live a fulfilling and pleasurable life. It’s always a shame when people are so intent on fighting against something that they forget to exemplify what they’re for…
Yes, sleeping indoors every night reduces Occupy Wall Street’s visibility and waters down their stay-put rhetoric, but one-upping the “fair-weather activists” with hypothermia is exactly the kind of irksome privilege that threatens the movement’s authenticity and mass appeal…
Anarchist feminist Emma Goldman famously said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” It’s hard to dance with frostbitten feet.
There’s no doubt that the Occupy protests have blown up, putting a lot of neglected issues back on the forefront — but in so many ways, it’s become about the parks they’ve taken over. The police violence carried out against protesters in Oakland this week came after they tried to reclaim the park they’d been occupying.
The issue of physical space is so important to the genesis of this movement, and perhaps still to its survival. So how much would that suffer if Occupiers moved their protest indoors?
What Jessica said.
Aware this has been reblogged all over the place, but no way was I not going to highlight this awesome campaign…
Students Teaching About Racism in Society is a Student Org at Ohio University. I’m the President, any questions… MESSAGE ME! :)
Nine days after Scott Walker’s term as Wisconsin governor began, Mahlon Mitchell became the youngest-ever and the first African-American head of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin. The union president lives and works in Madison, heart of the protests that erupted over Governor Walker’s union-stripping bill shortly after both men took office.
Watching that speech (and several other public appearances), it may not be all that surprising to learn that Lieutenant Mitchell is thinking about a new career. In a new interview with Andy Kroll of Mother Jones, he says that he’s "seriously considering a run" for Governor Walker’s job if he ends up facing a recall election:
He said he believes Wisconsinites are sick of professional politicians not following through on campaign promises, and that a populist candidate running against Walker stands a better chance of unseating the governor. The ideal candidate would be “able to talk with common people about common issues,” Mitchell said. “Tell ‘em what you can do and what you can’t do.”
As Rachel noted last night, the Wisconsin press is already floating many names as potential opponents for Governor Walker. As for Lieutenant Mitchell, Graeme Zielinski, the spokesman for the state’s Democratic Party, praised him in the Mother Jones article for being “on the front lines in the fight against Walker… there from the get-go, standing with the people” — but wouldn’t offer thoughts on him as a candidate. An informal exploratory committee has been formed, but Lt. Mitchell made it clear that his mind isn’t made up:
"It’s a decision I’ll make very soon," he said.
I remember seeing it employed on the playground when I was very young, and later on, in intramural sports. I recall using it once in the eighth grade, when I lost my cool after losing a wrestling match, flung my headgear against the wall and planned to stomp off the mat. (My mother foiled that, right quick.)
What I’m talking about is the “I can’t do it, so it’s stupid” defense. The point isn’t simply that one fails at an activity; that happens to all of us. What compounds the failure is an urge to delegitimize the activity itself.
On Tuesday, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry offered his “I can’t do it, so it’s stupid” assessment of political debates to Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. Governor Perry deemed debates as being set up to do “nothing more than to tear down the candidates.” (Clip’s above.)
The Texas governor’s apprehension is understandable, given reviews of his debate performances and the forthcoming schedule of, yes, many more Republican debates. His spokesman told CNN last night that Governor Perry will likely not show up for some future debates, opting instead to spend time with voters.
Texas Monthly senior executive editor Paul Burka, who has long covered Governor Perry, thinks that it’s a smart move, kitchen-sink strategy or not. Today he writes that if it proves to be a winning strategy, skipping debates may have broader consequences:
Perry has a point–so much so that it could change how candidates view future debates, not just this year but in years to come. If Perry skips most of the rest of the debates, spends his time campaigning instead, and goes on to win the Republican nomination, he could set a precedent that the networks would hate, but it might change the future of American politics.
For what’s it worth, there’s a general election right after the nomination. It’s rumored there will be debates during that, too.
The eviction that Occupy Wall Street protesters feared nearly two weeks ago never took place, but many of their fellow Occupiers in other cities haven’t been so fortunate. Occupy Oakland began a protest yesterday afternoon to retake the public area (which some have unofficially renamed Oscar Grant Plaza) from which police had removed them from in the predawn hours.
The police reaction was such that they were not successful. Tear gas had a lot to do with it:
Police gave repeated warnings to protesters to disperse from the entrance to Frank Ogawa Plaza at 14th Street and Broadway before firing several tear gas canisters into the crowd at about 7:45 p.m. Police had announced over a loudspeaker that those who refused to leave could be targeted by “chemical agents.”
Protesters scattered in both directions on Broadway as the tear gas canisters and several flash-bang grenades went off. Regrouping, protesters tried to help one another and offered each other eye drops.
One wounded woman, who others said had been hit by one of the canisters, was carried away by two protesters.
One protester, 35-year-old Jerry Smith, said a tear gas canister had rolled to his feet and sprayed him in the face.
"I got the feeling they meant business, but people were not going to be intimidated," Smith said. "We can do this peacefully, but still not back down."
Oakland’s embattled mayor, Jean Quan, reportedly rushed back from Washington, D.C. once word of the events broke. Her official statement commended Oakland’s interim chief of police for the way the police handled themselves, and the chief himself offered justification for their behavior — the police were being hit with objects thrown by protesters:
"We were in a position where we had to deploy gas in order to stop the crowd and people from pelting us with bottles and rocks," the chief said. Protesters had also thrown paint "and other agents" at officers, he added.
Rick Perry’s birther dog-whistle in Parade magazine was no accident, it seems. Rachel debunked herself last night on the notion that overt birtherism would remain a viable political tactic. Then this morning, the New York Times released an interview with Perry conducted by John Harwood (of CNBC and the New York Times) in which the Texas governor makes plain that he thinks this is a big joke:
RICK PERRY: I— it’s a good issue to keep alive. Just— you know, Donald’s got to have some fun. So— and the issue is this.
JOHN HARWOOD: But it sounds like you really do have some doubt about it.
RICK PERRY: Well, look, I haven’t— I haven’t seen his— I haven’t seen his grades. My grades ended up on the front page of the newspaper. So, let’s— you know, if we’re going to show stuff, let’s show stuff. So. But, look, that’s all a distraction. I mean, I get it. I’m— I’m really not worried about the President’s birth certificate. It’s fun to— to poke and add him a little bit and say hey, how about— let’s see your grades and your birth certificate.
JOHN HARWOOD: Well so—
RICK PERRY: But here’s what’s really serious. Is we got people sitting around watching this interview while the president has killed 2 and a half million jobs. That’s serious. And that’s what we got to better get right.
JOHN HARWOOD: But are you saying that your comments about that are kind of a joke? Or do you seriously have unresolved questions like Donald Trump has about them?
RICK PERRY: I don’t have a clue about where the President— and what this— birth certificate says. But it’s also a great distraction. I’m not distracted by it. If those of you in the media want to talk about it that’s fine, but I hope what you’ll really get focused on is how are we going to get this country back on track.
As Rachel noted last night, no serious questions remain about the president’s place of birth, and Governor Perry is showing that he doesn’t take this all that seriously himself. That’s fine; it’s a free country, as they say — he’s free to have “fun” poking the president by entertaining long-debunked racist conspiracy theories. But to say that “it’s a good issue to keep alive” doesn’t appear to be true even for his own political aspirations.
ONE MORE THING.
Those of you who have watched the interview will note that it begins with a question concerning the worsening problem of income inequality. Perry’s response was jaw-dropping, and it’s after the jump. Emphasis is mine.
JOHN HARWOOD: Your plan— by cutting the top rate to 20 percent, eliminating dividends, capital gains, interest income taxes would provide a huge tax cut wealthy people in this country. Given what’s happened with income inequality, why is that a good idea?
RICK PERRY: We’re trying to get this country working again. And that’s what I focus on. And as a matter of fact as we looked and we talked, and as we went through what are the ways to really give incentives to those that are going to risk their capital to create the jobs. I mean, this country’s got 14 plus million out of work. And— I want to get that money back out into the economy— where people have confidence that they can have a return on their investment, and they’ll hire— individuals.
And that’s what this is really all about. Those that want to get into the class warfare and talk about, oh my goodness, there are going to be some folks here who— make more money out of this, or have access to more money, I’ll let them do that. I’m worried about that man or woman sitting around— the coffee table tonight or in their kitchen talking about how are we going to get to work. How are we going to have the dignity to take care of our family. This plan does that. And it also is a tax cut across the board. It doesn’t make any difference what— strata you’re in. It gives a tax cut across the board.
JOHN HARWOOD: But for those at the top, it is hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of dollars for them.
RICK PERRY: But I don’t care about that. What I care about is them having the dollars to— invest in their companies. To go out and maybe start a business because they got the confidence again ‘cause they actually get to keep more of what they work for. This idea that we’ve got to have a tax system in this— country where you take more away from— those that have the ability to create jobs. I’m all about job creation. That’s what I’ve done for ten years as the governor of Texas, and that’s what I’m focused on.
Things didn’t turn out so well for Steve Forbes, the last Republican running for president on a flat-tax platform. Economists have panned Herman Cain’s version to the point of its becoming a national laughingstock. That hasn’t stopped Mr. Forbes’ choice for president, Texas Governor Rick Perry, from announcing that he’ll announce his very own flat-tax plan today in South Carolina:
On Tuesday I will announce my “Cut, Balance and Grow” plan to scrap the current tax code, lower and simplify tax rates, cut spending and balance the federal budget, reform entitlements, and grow jobs and economic opportunity.
The plan starts with giving Americans a choice between a new, flat tax rate of 20% or their current income tax rate.
So when it comes Rick Perry’s regressive flat tax, America would get to pick. Still, the Texas governor would have us know that America needs to
scrape scrap the current, very-very-very wordy tax code in favor of something simple, like his plan. And what could be simpler than filing your taxes on a postcard?
This simple 20% flat tax will allow Americans to file their taxes on a postcard, saving up to $483 billion in compliance costs…
For all the money he plans to save with that 20 percent flat tax — take that, 9-9-9! — it’s apparent that the “Cut, Balance and Grow” elements of his plan are listed in order of priority. Stripping regulations and cutting taxes (including corporations and capital gains) by the bushel, Governor Perry sticks to the talking point about a debt that will be as large as the American economy. That outcome is especially likely if you keep revenues down and don’t grow the economy. (Give him some credit: at least he resisted likening us to Greece.)
The flat-tax idea is not a practical one, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman argued on last Thursday’s TRMS. Neither, as Mr. Forbes proved in 1996, has it been a winner at the ballot box. Yet Governor Perry is releasing this economic proposal at a time when his campaign desperately needs a boost. And it’s catching. Mitt Romney, who once dissed the Forbes plan as “a tax cut for fat cats,” is now making noises about a flat-tax plan of his own.