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Showing posts from 2011

In my life, I love you more

I know that the traditional New Year's song is Auld Lang Syne. But like most people, I have no idea what it means. So I want to nominate a new one for this occasion. And who better than the Divine Ms. M to sing it for us. Happy New Year my life, I love you more!

Get your heads out of the sand about NDAA!

Breaking news today is that President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). He also released a signing statement about the bill. When it comes to indefinite detention, here's what the President said: Section 1021 affirms the executive branch’s authority to detain persons covered by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) (Public Law 107-40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note). This section breaks no new ground and is unnecessary. The authority it describes was included in the 2001 AUMF, as recognized by the Supreme Court and confirmed through lower court decisions since then. Two critical limitations in section 1021 confirm that it solely codifies established authorities. First, under section 1021(d), the bill does not “limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.” Second, under section 1021(e), the bill may not be construed to affect any “existing law or authorities relating to the detentio

Reflecting on the old...anticipating the new (updated)

That's what we do at this time of year, isn't it? Reflect on the old and anticipate the new. As many have already noted, when I reflect on 2011 I think the thing that will stand out the most is that it was a very bad year for dictators and terrorists. No one can doubt that the Sunday night when President Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden will go down in the history books as a signature moment. Beyond that, it was a turning point politically for the President. He will forever have the upper hand when Republicans try to bring up the old canard about weak Democrats on foreign policy. It seems to me that the other story of the year is the progress made in the arena of equal rights for gays/lesbians. The big changes there were the certification of the end of DADT and the affirmation of gay marriage in New York. But lets not forget that 2011 was also the year when gay marriage was finally supported by the majority of Americans. Finally, the big story in terms

The Southern Strategy

As soon as folks are done celebrating the New Year, it will be time for the Iowa caucuses. Pundits are tripping over themselves trying to predict what will happen there. But I'm not going to jump into that pool. I'll simply say that, when it comes to the Republican nomination, the only role Iowa (or NH for that matter) will play in the primary season is the extent to which they might affect how things go in the Southern states. We all know that's where the action is for Republicans. As a reminder, just look at the 2008 electoral map. There's not much controversy about where the Republican base lies. My thought is that the real predictor of what this primary is going to look like will come - not next Tuesday - but on January 21st when South Carolina weighs in. The extent to which the Iowa caucuses and NH primary influence that race will be their only significance. So that's the one I'll be keeping my eye on. In the meantime, there are a few stories about

Phone home Reggie!

The other day the New York Times ran yet another article about how President Obama doesn't schmooze enough with the D.C. establishment (get a clue folks...that's one of the reasons we LIKE him!) But the article started out with a great story: Air Force One had just landed in Manchester, N.H., on a brisk Tuesday morning last month when President Obama made an admission to Valerie B. Jarrett, his close friend and senior adviser. “I just called Reggie,” Mr. Obama said. It was his first domestic trip without Reggie Love, the former Duke University basketball player who had been his constant companion and presidential “body man” until he left in November to study for his M.B.A. full time. “I miss him,” the president confessed. The President misses his buddy. So do we!

Where left and right ideologues meet

I've always been convinced that not much reality in this world fits into the linear thinking we so often assume. The universe tells us - from the smallest particle to the larger universe - that things tend to take a more circular or spiral shape. And yet, in things like politics, we insist on linear assumptions where the left is on one side of a line and the right on the other...suggesting that the farther you go on one end, the more distance you create with the other. We're getting a pretty good dose though, of just how flawed that thinking is. Back in December 2009, leftist ideologue Jane Hamsher showed us how, in circularity, the two ends of the extreme meet. Her issue at the time was the health care bill. At no time do the synapses firing in their brains make the connection that both the "lazy progressive bloggers" and the tea party activists are saying almost the exact same thing about the Senate bill... There is an enormous, rising tide of populism th

Just how out of touch are Greenwald and Uygur?

In an attempt to demonstrate their Obama Derangement Syndrome (ODS), both Glenn Greenwald and Cenk Uygur (don't click those links if you have a tendency to high blood pressure) have penned columns this week which have basically equated President Obama with George W. Bush's administration. One could take their arguments point by point to challenge them (and many posts I've written here have done so). But the most glaring way in which they fail is the extent to which they are totally and completely out of touch with American voters. That was made obvious yesterday in a poll released by Gallup. You can only assume that the 15% who think President Obama is conservative is made up of Greenwald/Uygur followers. As far as the rest of the country is concerned, 80% see the President as either moderate or liberal. Why does that matter, you may ask. Perhaps the ODS crowd has some higher plane of knowledge than most voters. Maybe they're right and the rest of us are wrong


From Courtland Milloy: Obama’s ability to enchant and calm infants has earned him a reputation as “baby whisperer in chief.” This is no small skill. Convey an uncomfortable vibe while holding a baby, and the baby could put on a face that makes a politician look like a fool. When President George W. Bush picked up an infant during a trip to Germany in 2006, the baby screamed bloody murder. Bush was photographed looking like Popeye at wits’ end over a bawling Swee’Pea. Cartoonists had a field day, putting word bubbles over the infant’s screaming head that said things like “Please, Mr. Bush, don’t send me to Iraq.”... But therein lies the real brilliance of Obama’s whispering skill: The kind of quiet he produces amplifies the incessant carping and backbiting of his opponents... “I know Obama is politically savvy, but what I’m seeing goes beyond all of that,” Blau said. “He is showing a capacity for deep caring, listening and respect, and the response from the babies shows that it

Is this the long game on health insurance reform?

A few weeks ago Rick Unger caused quite a stir when he published an article titled The Bomb Buried in Obamacare Explodes Today - Hallelujah! The bomb he was talking about is the medical loss ratio (MLR) that requires insurance companies to spend 85% (large group insurers) or 80% (individual and small-group insurers) of their premium dollars on patient care. His point is that for-profit insurance companies will leave the market over this requirement...thus leading eventually to single payer health insurance. So, can private health insurance companies manage to make a profit when they actually have to spend premium receipts taking care of their customers’ health needs as promised? Not a chance-and they know it. Indeed, we are already seeing the parent companies who own these insurance operations fleeing into other types of investments. They know what we should all know – we are now on an inescapable path to a single-payer system for most Americans and thank goodness for it... If y

Why you can't go home again

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered ~ Nelson Mandela

Caucus shenanigans, firebagging fireworks and flip-flops

Public Policy Polling released their latest look at the Iowa caucuses last night. True to what others have been seeing lately, it might come down to a contest between Paul and Romney. But here's what caught my eye: Romney leads 22-20 with those who are actually Republicans, while Paul has a 39-12 advantage with the 24% who are either independents or Democrats. I'm sure it will come as no surprise to anyone that, especially with no contest on the Democratic side, Ron Paul's leftist and libertarian supporters are likely to flock - where possible - to the Republican caucuses/primaries to support him. I haven't seen much by way of commentary or analysis of whether or not this is likely to have an affect in other states. But I certainly think its something to keep an eye on. Want to give a New Year's gift to the emoprog in your life? Why not consider sending them this article as a sure way to drum up some fireworks. Progressives have a spring in their step this

Wherein Mr. Greenwald begins to understand conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy...he-he

Glenn Greenwald has just published an article at The Guardian. When I saw the title - "Vote Obama - if you want a centrist Republican for US President" - I prepared to get my blood boiling and give him a piece of my mind. I suspected he would be enumerating all the reasons why he thinks we should not be voting for President Obama. In some ways, that's what he's saying in the article. But after covering how crazed the current crop of Republican candidates are, he says this: In fairness to the much-maligned GOP field, they face a formidable hurdle: how to credibly attack Obama when he has adopted so many of their party's defining beliefs. Depicting the other party's president as a radical menace is one of the chief requirements for a candidate seeking to convince his party to crown him as the chosen challenger. Because Obama has governed as a centrist Republican, these GOP candidates are able to attack him as a leftist radical only by moving so far to the rig

More on NDAA and indefinite detention

While I'm not a legal scholar by any means, I've read a lot of the reaction to the clauses in NDAA (the Defense Department's appropriation bill) that deal with the military and indefinite detention. Overall I'd say that one of the best summaries I've read so far comes today from Winning Progressive. The article does a good job of detailing where the very real problems arise as well as the over-reaction of some. It ends with a warning - not about how this will be implemented in an Obama administration - but asks us to think about how comfortable we would be with these provisions under a Republican administration. I think that's a fair question. But what the author misses about this bill is a phrase that goes mostly unnoticed by too many critics..."until the end of the hostilities authorized by the” AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force passed by Congress after 9/11). In an attempt to understand these provisions - I would suggest that they are no

Why the Republican establishment is terrified

If you don't think the Republican establishment is terrified of what might happen in this primary process, then I'd suggest you read what Bill Kristol wrote today. He wants the people of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida to know the gravity of the choice in front of them. In his call for study and rationality, he seems to be practically begging them not to vote for "teh crazy" who feed them a diet of red meat. And he ends the article by turning away from voters but continues to beg for some other leader to step into the race and save them from the current fiasco of choices. Those who have stood aside—and who now may have concluded, as they may not have when they announced their original decision, that the current field is lacking—will surely hear the words of Thomas Paine echoing down the centuries: “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the lo

Morality Check

As the year 2011 winds down, one of the things I enjoy is looking at various year in review photos. Both the New York Times and Talking Points Memo have put together great spreads. And the BBC has published a fascinating one with views from space. But the juxtaposition of two photos from this year represents - to me - a morality check: Which one of these two iconic 2011 images causes you the most discomfort? Fire Controlman 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta, left, assigned to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) kisses her fiancée, Fire Controlman 3rd Class Citlalic Snell. Some of the most arresting images of the year came out of Somalia, where nearly 250,000 people are facing starvation. The United Nations in December said it will need $1.5 billion in the next year to combat it. For Republicans who want to roll back the repeal of DADT and otherwise deny the rights of gays/lesbians at the same time that they want to get rid of foreign aid, I think we know the answer.

The dangers of ideological purity

When parties lose power, pundits generally expect them to move to the center. But they don’t, at least not at first. Instead, recent history suggests that defeated parties become more extreme... The process works something like this. When parties lose power, activists ascribe the loss to the ideological impurity of their incumbent president. In so doing, they vent the frustrations they kept bottled up while their side was in power. Since defeat frees them from the messy business of governing, ideological purity suddenly becomes easier. And since defeat usually hits party moderates disproportionately hard, the opponents of purity usually hold less sway. That is from an article written over a year ago by Peter Beinart in which he compared what is currently going on in the Republican Party to what happened to the Democrats between 1968 and 1972. Leading up to the 1968 election were the Kennedy/Johnson years of great victories by the Democratic Party combined with the turmoil of Viet

The itch that needs scratching

Most of us who have been raised with Christmas traditions can remember going to bed on Christmas Eve with all of the excitement about what was going to happen the next morning. The coming of Santa Claus with gifts was what we dreamed about that night - expecting that all of our dreams would come true. I wonder if any of you had the same experience I did the next day when it was all over. As much as I loved the gifts, when all was said and done, there was a disappointment that lingered...and the words "is that all?" seemed somehow selfish in my childhood brain. So I kept it to myself. As an adult, when I reflect on that, I suspect that it was the first musings I had about the lack of satisfaction that comes with getting the things you think you want. There was an itch that needed scratching and the gifts never seemed to do it for me. Later on, when we were mostly grown, my mother started a tradition all on her own that resulted in each of us finding a gift under the tre

The Christmas message that resonates with me

Growing up I was steeped in christian fundamentalism. One of the things I notice when I reflect on that is that most of the focus was on the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. Fundamentalists tend to not pay that much attention to the life he lived. It is for that reason that one of my favorite Christmas messages was written years ago by Kid Oakland. Let me tell you something about the Jesus that I know. He was a real man. Born in a poor region to working poor parents. He loved learning, he loved his mother and his father. But he left them and spent his life with the poor, the outcast, the rejected, the defiled, the sick, the sinners, the bedraggled, the bereft, the self-hating, the lonely, the banished, the foul, the miserable, the desperate and finally, those sick with their own power. He did this, not because of his ideology or his creed. He did this not because of his doctrine. He did this, quite simply, because he loved them. He preferred them. Their company,

Voter ID laws: Why South Carolina is different from Wisconsin

Yesterday the DOJ rejected South Carolina's law requiring people to show ID in order to vote. This came as no surprise to those who had heard Attorney General Eric Holder's speech a couple of weeks ago where he stood firm in his commitment to protect the franchise. In 1965, when President Johnson signed the landmark Voting Rights Act into law, he proclaimed that, “the right to vote is the basic right, without which all others are meaningless.” Today, as Attorney General, I have the privilege – and the solemn duty – of enforcing this law, and the other civil rights reforms that President Johnson championed. This work is among the Justice Department’s most important priorities. And our efforts honor the generations of Americans who have taken extraordinary risks, and willingly confronted hatred, bias, and ignorance – as well as billy clubs and fire hoses, bullets and bombs – to ensure that their children, and all American citizens, would have the chance to participate i

Who caved? Boehner or McConnell?

The narrative that has developed about the Republican's fiasco on the payroll tax cut extension is that House Speaker Boehner is a weak leader and that he caved. While I'm not interested in challenging that, I can't help but wonder who caved first...Boehner or McConnell. I think that answering that question right is extremely important in ways I'll explain in a minute. But first of all, we need to remind ourselves that the Republican strategy since President Obama was elected has been one of total obstruction. During the first two years that was mainly accomplished through the use of the filibuster rules in the Senate. After the 2010 midterms, with Republicans in control of the House, that's where most of the action centered. Nevertheless, the strategy was the same...obstruct anything the President proposed. On the payroll tax cut extension, of course the House passed their ridiculous version first - which everyone simply went on to ignore. And then something di

In which I give Nate Silver some advice on election forecasting

We all know that Nate Silver has developed into the gold standard of election forecasting (he even uses the words "political calculus" in his tag line - that's enough to scare off any novice who wants to challenge him). The tools Nate uses are things like polls and complicated mathematical formulas. That seems to work for him, but I think he's missing some important data that could up his game. So I thought I'd lend a hand in helping him predict what's going to happen in the 2012 presidential election. Data Point 1 According to research, only 10% of the population is left-handed. And yet five of our last 7 presidents have been left-handed. What are the odds of that happening? I think I'll let Nate figure that one out. So its stands to reason that a contender that is left-handed has a MUCH higher chance of winning again this time. Lets look at the candidates: Mitt Romney - no Newt Gingrich - no Ron Paul - no Rick Perry - no President O

Mele Kalikimaka Mr. President

Dear Mr. President, We all thank you for hanging in there to do whatever needs to be done - even when it means playing the stupid games those House Republicans have been up to lately. You've fought the good fight all year, earning our gratitude and respect - as well as our support in the battles ahead. But now its time to get on that plane and go join your lovely family for the holidays. Mele Kalikimaka Mr. President!


Yesterday the Department of Justice filed the largest residential fair lending settlement ($335 million) in history against Countrywide Financial Corporation (now a part of Bank of America). The settlement, which is subject to court approval, was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in conjunction with the department’s complaint which alleges that Countrywide discriminated by charging more than 200,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers higher fees and interest rates than non-Hispanic white borrowers in both its retail and wholesale lending. The complaint alleges that these borrowers were charged higher fees and interest rates because of their race or national origin, and not because of the borrowers’ creditworthiness or other objective criteria related to borrower risk. The United States also alleges that Countrywide discriminated by steering thousands of African-American and Hispanic borrowers into subprime mortgages when non-Hisp

"The Dying Swan" performed by Yo-Yo Ma and Lil' Buck

From ColorLines: Ma, a Presidential Media of Freedom Award Recipient, is already world renowned. But LA-based Charles Riley, known by his stage name Lil’ Buck, is just starting to make a name on the national scene. The twenty-two-year old is the 2011 Vail International Dance Festival’s Artist-in-Residence and does a style of dance known as “jookin’”, which originated in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee... “All the things that they talk about these days, with where our country is going — we need an innovative and knowledge work force,” Ma told Southern California Public Radio. “The best way to build innovation and creative imagination - and the most efficient way to do it - is actually by movement, visualizing, sound.”

A Fractured Party: It's not just the presidential candidates

As we've watched the divide in the Republican Party develop over their presidential candidates, some folks want to blame it on the individuals who are running and suggest that if the right person just got into the race, Republicans would unite behind him/her and all would be well. That's a fantasy. To understand why, all we have to do is look at what's happening in Congress where the same divide is spitting the Party and sending them down in flames. On the extension of the payroll tax cuts, Republican Majority Leader McConnell crafted a deal with the Democrats that overwhelmingly passed the Senate (89-10) and Speaker Boehner signed on. Then when he took it to the House, their Tea Party faction said "Oh no you don't" and Boehner was forced to cave. The whole fiasco basically reflects the same divide we've seen in the presidential nomination. As I've said many times before, after the total failure of the Bush/Cheney years, the Republican Party h

Damn Your Eyes

I've been thinking a lot about Etta James over the last few days after I read that she is terminally ill. I know that Etta will always be most remembered for her rendition of the song At Last. I understand why and absolutely love it. But when I think of Etta, this is the song that will always come to mind. Back in the 80's a group of friends introduced me to Etta. When we'd get together we'd crank this one up on the stereo and wail out hearts out right along with her. It speaks to the universal broken heart. It gives all of us the chance to reach down into that place inside and find the cathartic release of saying..."Damn your eyes!" (Sorry for the poor quality video but its worth it to hear Etta do this one live.)

A call for some rationality in November 2012

Just about this time last year, Republicans demonstrated that they were prepared to block extension of the tax cuts for the middle class unless the tax cuts for the wealthy were also included. Going back a little down memory lane, we'd note that those tax cuts had been passed under the Bush presidency prior to the economic meltdown we all experienced in 2008/09. So in other words, they did nothing to prevent that from happening. AND, there was never any attempt to pay for them. Fast forward to today, and we find the Republicans - just 12 months later - blocking an attempt to extend the payroll tax cuts, which would disproportionately aid the middle class. I've tried my best to understand what their objections are...seriously. But the truth is, all I can see is that it comes down to this: "The rank-and-file members are extremely opposed to it," said the GOP source, adding that most members were concerned with the uncertainty caused by just a two-month extension, as

In the category of "you just can't make this sh*t up!"

Some days all you can do is sit back and laugh. This is one of those days. Apparently Michele Bachmann thinks the Kinsey Report is a myth. Yeah, that explains a lot. Guess who won an on-line auction for a dinner with Bill Ayers? Founder and editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller, Tucker Carlson. So who's "palling around with terrorists now?" All the same...what I'd pay to be a fly on the wall for that one! Keep your fingers crossed. Sarah Palin said its not too late to get into the GOP race. I guess since the Teapublicans didn't get their Waterloo moment on health care reform, they're ready to put it all on the line that raising taxes on poor and middle class Americans during an election year will be their Braveheart moment. But I saved the very bestest for last. Apparently a pro-adultery web site has endorsed Newt Gingrich. I kid you not! They even have a billboard. Seriously, I'd suggest that in these tough times, people like Colbert and S

Jeb Bush weighs in...coincidence? (updated)

Perhaps I'm over-reacting, but I find two things that happened today to be very interesting. First of all, Republican heavy-weight Bill Kristol ponders the possibility of a brokered Republican convention (he prefers the word "deliberative"). Thus, once every three-quarters of a century or so, the delegates to an American political convention deliberate, and their deliberations produce a notable and impressive outcome. It could happen again in 2012. It could fall to the Republican delegates convening in Tampa, after they have cast their committed first ballot vote and failed to produce a majority for any candidate, to act as a real deliberative convention. It could fall to them to use their judgment to select the best possible nominee for their party and the best possible president for their country. It would be exciting. It would be nerve-wracking. It would be unpredictable. It hasn’t happened in quite a while. But it could happen. And it could be a good thing for th

War is Over

One to go. Happy Christmas/Holidays and Welcome Home!

Projection in Politics

Perhaps the most profound awareness I've had as a political junkie over the last couple of years is the prevalence of projection. ...a psychological defense mechanism where a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people. A few examples: Mitt Romney calling Gingrich extraordinarily unreliable Glenn Greenwald calling anyone who disagrees with him a cultist Newt Gingrich calling President Obama a radical Mitt Romney accusing President Obama of deliberately harming the country for political reasons Notice how its always used to attack an opponent. The truth is that most often rather than weakening an opponent, it shows your own vulnerability. Not only that, it demonstrates the weakness of your ideas in having to resort to this kind of attack. Many of these might really be Freudian in a psychological sense. In other words, they might truly be unconscious. And then ther

NYT Editorial: Police Harassment Through the Eyes of a Young Black Man (updated)

In their Sunday edition today, the New York Times published an op-ed written by 23 year-old Nicholas K. Peart who is a student at Borough of Manhattan Community College. When I was 14, my mother told me not to panic if a police officer stopped me. And she cautioned me to carry ID and never run away from the police or I could be shot. In the nine years since my mother gave me this advice, I have had numerous occasions to consider her wisdom. Peart goes on to describe 4 different incidents when he's been harassed by law enforcement for no reason. It takes a toll. These experiences changed the way I felt about the police. After the third incident I worried when police cars drove by; I was afraid I would be stopped and searched or that something worse would happen. I dress better if I go downtown. I don’t hang out with friends outside my neighborhood in Harlem as much as I used to. Essentially, I incorporated into my daily life the sense that I might find myself up against a wa

Sedentary agitation

Last week I wrote about a speech Newark Mayor Cory Booker gave in NH for the Obama campaign. In it he talked about too many Americans getting caught up in a state of "sedentary agitation" when it comes to our politics and democracy. Boy...did that ever resonate with me! Put a little more bluntly, he's saying that all we want to do is sit on our asses and bitch about what other people are/are not doing. How true that is. Democracy in this country has become a spectator sport with everyone assuming the position of pundit. Writing a blog post/comment has become the definition of activism...except when we get really bold and call/tweet/email a member of Congress/the White House and tell them what we really think. I say this even on the heels of the so-called OWS "movement." Certainly the people who have participated in "occupying" have done more than sit on their ass at home. But essentially all they've done is move their bitching to public spaces

More Obama derangement syndrome about "indefinite detention"

As you may know, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which funds the military and most liberals/Democrats are not happy about some provisions in the bill that the Republicans insisted on including. Of course as happens so often, some liberals/Democrats express their concerns rationally and others have a habit of using things like this to fuel their "Obama derangement syndrome" (ODS). A good example would be the contrast between how someone like Adam Serwer (who has been a pretty harsh critic of President Obama on civil liberties) handles it with how the king of ODS Glenn Greenwald deals with it. If you want to do the hard work of being an informed citizen, I'd encourage you to take a look at those two articles and make up your own mind about what's going on here. I have another purpose in mind for what I want to talk about. What has bothered me most about the ODS crowd on these issues is how they are so insistent on ignoring history

President Obama as inspiration

I have a story to go along with these. Where I work we have 4 staff who work in middle schools with students who tend to be chronically suspended from school. Due to some of the factors that contribute to the cradle to prison pipeline those students are disproportionately African American boys. After Barack Obama's election, one of our staff told us that when talking to these boys about their behavior, he would often ask them "What do you think Obama would do?" He found that when he did that, the boys would engage in the conversation and think about how it applied to their situation. If, in handling himself with such intelligence and dignity at all times accomplishes nothing more than to inspire these young men to have the courage to make better choices in their lives, Obama will have been a transformational president.