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Showing posts from April, 2011

And humor helps too

If you find that amusing, head on over the Stonekettle Station for Smile, You're On Occam's Razor.

If you don't come back having experienced multiple belly laughs leading to tears in your eyes, I'll give you a full refund...promise!

(h/t to The Obama Diary)

Refreshment for the soul

Last night President Obama gave the commencement address to graduates of Miami Dade College in Miami, Florida. To understand the context, its important to note that the 170,000 students at Miami Dade's 8 campuses come from 181 different countries and 90% are students of color.

With that in mind, here's a part of Obama's speech:

We have carried this dream forward through times when our politics seemed broken. This is not the first time where it looked like politicians were going crazy. In heated debates over our founding, some warned independence would doom America to “a scene of bloody discord and desolation for ages.” That was the warning about independence. One of our greatest Presidents, Thomas Jefferson, was labeled an “infidel” and a “howling atheist” with “fangs.” Think about that. Even I haven’t gotten that one yet. Lincoln -- Lincoln, FDR, they were both vilified in their own times as tyrants, power hungry, bent on destroying democracy. And of course, this…

When truth is futile

Often when I find myself reeling about political/social events, especially those related to racism, I take some time to read writers of color that I admire in order to get some perspective. One of those is usually Leonard Pitts. Since we seemed to have reached carnival barking peak this week, I decided to take a look at what he has had to say, and I wasn't disappointed.

Pitts isn't writing about the current birther mania, but he might as well be. He starts off with this quote from George Orwell.

Then the lie passed into history and became truth.
His example is the lie we've all been trained to believe about the propensity of African Americans to be criminals. And he uses examples of people being provided with facts, only to dismiss them out of hand in favor of their assumptions.

But then, that’s the state of critical thinking these days: Ignore any inconvenient truth, any unsettling information that might force you to think or even look with new eyes upon, say, the edifice …

Hannity...another racist carnival barker (updated)

Just a week ago, you'll remember that the Obama family celebrated Easter by attending services at Shiloh Baptist Church in DC.



Shiloah Baptist was founded in the 1860's by former slaves and many recent Presidents have worshipped there, including Reagan, Bush I and Clinton.

But because President Obama visited there, apparently Sean Hannity felt the need to do some opposition research on the pastor, Rev. Wallace Charles Smith. He found a video of him making a speech on racism in January 2010 at Eastern University in Saint Davids, Pa. Here's what Smith said:

“It may not be Jim Crow anymore,” Smith says in the videotape. “Now, Jim Crow wears blue pinstripes, goes to law school and carries fancy briefs in cases. And now, Jim Crow has become James Crow, esquire. And he doesn’t have to wear white robes anymore because now he can wear the protective cover of talk radio or can get a regular news program on Fox.”
Let me just emphasize, this is not what Rev. Smith said on Easter when …

Atwater's "Southern Strategy" Reversed?

[I want to apologize ahead of time if the use of a word in this post offends anyone. Please know that it wasn't my use of the word. But to make the point, I need to be truthful about the original content...thanks for your understanding.]

Back in 2005, Lee Atwater did us the favor of articulating the evolution of the "Southern Strategy.

You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other…

I hear you Baratunde!

Its going to take a while for me to absorb what happened today and move from feelings to thoughts. I suppose that's why I appreciate what Baratunde Thurston had to say today...it clearly came from his heart.



The only other thing I can say is that, once again, one of the best commentaries comes from the Republican David Frum.

Even for the small band that sustained the phony controversy until now, the birth certificate so-called issue ends today...

I know there will be Republican writers and conservative publicists who will now deny that birtherism ever did get a grip. Sorry, that’s just wrong. Not only did Trump surge ahead in Republican polls by flaming racial fires – not only did conservative media outlets from Fox to Drudge to the Breitbart sites indulge the birthers – but so also did every Republican candidate who said, “I take the president at his word.” Birthers did not doubt the president’s “word.” They were doubting the official records of the state of Hawaii. It’s like answ…

Rest in Peace Phoebe

I just learned that Phoebe Snow died today. She's always been one of my favorites. Here's a bit about her life.

Known as a folk guitarist who made forays into jazz and blues, Snow put her stamp on soul classics such as Shakey Ground, Love Makes a Woman and Mercy, Mercy Mercy on over a half dozen albums.

Not long after Snow's Poetry Man reached the top five on the pop singles chart in 1975, her daughter, Valerie Rose, was born with severe brain damage, and Snow decided to look after her at home rather than place her in care.

"She was the only thing that was holding me together," she told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2008. "My life was her, completely about her, from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed at night."

Valerie, who had been born with hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the brain cavity that inhibits brain development, was not expected to live more than a few years. She died in 2007,aged 31.
Years ago I went to see Phoebe in conc…

"A simple desire to do what's best for one's country should preclude such madness."

Here is Speaker Boehner three months ago.

[A debt-ceiling default] would be a financial disaster, not only for us, but for the worldwide economy. I don't think it's a question that's even on the table.
And here he is yesterday.

If the president doesn't get serious about the need to address our fiscal nightmare, yeah, there's a chance it [the debt limit vote] could not happen.
My title is a quote from Steve Benen about this.

He knows what the right course of action is. He practically vowed to be responsible. He assured the nation that Republicans would take our collective obligations seriously. The Speaker's own rhetoric made it clear he wasn't going to risk a catastrophe as some kind of partisan game.

And yet, he we are, and Boehner is now prepared to do exactly that.

I have to hope that Boehner's hostage strategy continues to be a radical stunt, and that he doesn't actually intend to hurt all of us on purpose. He has the proverbial gun to the hostage&#…

Indefinite Detention

Many of us have made the case over the last few years that the United States has been involved with torture since long before Bush's war on terror. Some have also been pointing out that Bradley Manning is hardly the first US prisoner to experience solitary confinement.

We’re glad Bradley Manning’s treatment is getting some attention, but what about the tens of thousands of others who are languishing in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails? According to available data, there are some 25,000 inmates in long-term isolation in the nation’s supermax prisons, and as many as 80,000 more in solitary in other facilities. Where is the outrage–even among progressives–for these forgotten souls? Where, for that matter, is some acknowledgment of their existence?
In that spirit, I'd like to also raise the question of whether or not prisoners at Guantanamo are the only ones in the US to experience indefinite detention. Unfortunately, the answer to that question is clearly no.

McLeod C…

Guantanamo and Wikileaks

We're likely to be hearing a lot over the next few days about the supposedly new information on Guantanamo prisoners that has been leaked to news sources - presumably from Wikileaks.

But I'd like to remind everyone that most of this information was available last May when Obama's Guantanamo Review Task Force released its report. I recall that almost no one (including the shouters on the left) paid much attention to the report. But I guess the subterfuge of a leaked report somehow makes all of this a big story today.

And Happy Keester Too!!!!!

Happy Easter!

The Obamas celebrate Easter at Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, DC.



I wonder if you can see what caught my eye in this picture.

Republicans impose "financial martial law"

Over the last couple of years, I've been paying attention to how often our political discourse is mired in what Sigmund Freud called projection.

...a psychological defense mechanism where a person unconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, such as to other people. Thus, projection involves imagining or projecting the belief that others have those feelings.
In the last couple of weeks, we've seen a classic example of it from the Republicans that is so blatant, it literally screams out for recognition.

By now we've all heard both Tea Party members and elected Republicans go on and on about how President Obama and the Democrats threaten our freedoms with their "big government" schemes. This is usually accompanied by references to our founding, the Constitution, and lots of flag-waving (including the ever-present "Don't Tread On Me").

What's fascinating is that, once Republic…

Time After Time

Glenn Greenwald on civil liberties

One can hardly see Glenn Greenwald's name these days when its not followed by something along the lines of "pre-eminent progressive spokesperson on civil liberties." We all know that he's a constitutional and civil rights lawyer turned journalist and that he has focused most of his writing on the issues of executive privilege and torture.

But I find it hard to square the idea of a progressive spokesperson on civil liberties with this blog post he wrote about illegal immigration back in 2005.

And yet few problems are more pressing. Over the past several years, illegal immigrants have poured into the United States by the millions. The wave of illegals entering the country is steadily increasing. The people living in the border states of California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico know this flow has to be drastically slowed and then halted. The situation is so dire in that region that the Democratic Governors of Arizona and New Mexico were forced to declare States of Emerg…

What is the future for Republicans like Susan Collins and David Frum?

This week Susan Collins was the first Republican Senator to come out publicly against Paul Ryan's budget plan. Meanwhile, David Frum, former speechwriter for George W. Bush, wrote a powerful defense of the welfare state.

Let's take a closer look at some of the things Frum said. First of all, he accurately states the cause of the recent economic collapse.

America and the world were hit in 2008 by the sharpest and widest financial crisis since the 1930s. Conservatives do not like to hear it, but the crisis originated in the malfunctioning of an under-regulated financial sector, not in government overspending or government over-generosity to less affluent homebuyers. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were bad actors, yes, but they could not have capsized the world economy by themselves. It took Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, AIG, and — maybe above all — Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s to do that.
There is something a bit jarring about hearing a Republican say that so clearly. It makes m…

The culture of truthiness

By now we're all aware of the way that our "court jesters" like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert can often play the role of prophet as well. Nowhere was this more evident than back in 2005 (was it really that long ago?) when Colbert coined the term "truthiness."


Let me say that there is a sense in which I've struggled with this concept. Part of my healing as a human being from the dysfunction of dogmatism was a recognition of the wisdom found in our instincts. I've lived the reality that rational thought based on faulty premises can lead to devastating consequences. It was my own sense of emotional dis-ease with those conclusions that led me to begin to ask questions. I finally decided that neither thought nor emotion alone can lead us to the truth of our lives...its a melding of the two.

With that said, I believe that Colbert spoke powerfully to our current situation when he defined the term "truthiness." Nowhere is that more evident than in …

Beautiful Mess

"Out of many, one" (updated)

I tend to be a "big picture" person. Part of that is because I know that it is our fundamental beliefs that guide us when it comes to making decisions about the particulars. It's what President Obama calls his North Star.

Yesterday at his town hall in Reno, the President ended his remarks with this:


This isn’t a matter of charity; it’s a matter of what we think it is to live in a good society. And I think it is good for me, it is good for my life if when I’m driving around, I’m saying to myself, you know what, that school is producing all kinds of kids who are smart and are going to help build America’s future.

And I drive around and I see some seniors, and they’re out for a walk. And I know, you know what, I’m glad that I live in a country where in their retirement years, they’re going to be secure. That makes me feel good. That’s the kind of country I want to live in. That’s the kind of country you want to live in. And we’ve got to make sure we’re willing to fight …

Your Song

"The time has come to set aside childish things"

David Kennedy provides an almost poetic description of Obama's long game:

"We remain a young nation," Barack Obama said in 2009, but he added an unsettling admonition that "in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things." No passage in his Inaugural Address more vividly reflected the President's vision of his country and his times or more accurately foreshadowed the vexations that were to beset his leadership.

Like FDR before him, Obama, 49, has looked beyond the near horizon. He has paid the political price of setting far-visioned initiatives on health care and financial reform ahead of short-term relief. And he has tried to persuade his countrymen to shed some of their youthful illusions: to forsake the frontiersman's faith in unbridled individualism for a recognition of the complex interdependencies of modern life, to replace the rebel's fear of government with the citizen's trust that government of the people and by…

Perspective

Many times a look back at history can provide perspective that helps us better understand today. Booman provides some of that perspective in an article he titles How They Got So Vicious.

I still think one of the most important factors in why the Republican Party is the way it is today is because they spent so much time during the 20th-Century in the minority. From 1931 to 1995, the Republicans had control of the House of Representatives only twice, and both times they had it for only a single two-year cycle...

The history of the Senate is much the same. The Democrats took over the Senate in 1932 and held it with the same two brief interruptions (1946-47 and 1953-54) until the Reagan Revolution swept them into power in 1981. They lost their majority after the 1986 midterms and gained it back in 1994.

When you think of all the changes the country went through between 1954 and 1994, and you realize that the Republican Party didn't have much control over the federal government in Congr…

Stanley Ann Dunham

I always appreciate reading information about President Obama's history and family...it provides a depth of understanding for the man we see today. In that context, so much of the narrative in Dreams from My Father was devoted to the search for the absent parent. It seems that we've known much less about Ann Dunham and how the woman she was influenced her son.

In today's New York Time Magazine, Janny Scott fills in some of that missing information with an article titled Obama's Young Mother Abroad.

To describe Dunham as a white woman from Kansas turns out to be about as illuminating as describing her son as a politician who likes golf. Intentionally or not, the label obscures an extraordinary story — of a girl with a boy’s name who grew up in the years before the women’s movement, the pill and the antiwar movement; who married an African at a time when nearly two dozen states still had laws against interracial marriage; who, at 24, moved to Jakarta with her son in the …

The Long and Winding Road

"Its like a fourth-inning analysis of a nine-inning game"

That's a quote from WH Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer in an article by Andrew Romano titled From Wimp to Winner.

How to explain the gap between what lefties feared Obama's speech would be and what it actually was? One interpretation is that after a long, lily-livered lull, the president finally decided to man up. But the truth is more complex. Whatever your opinion of Obama, "weakness" is not a particularly illuminating description of his leadership style. It makes more sense to see him as a hard-nosed pragmatist determined to maximize results. When liberals whine, says White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, it's like "a fourth-inning analysis of a nine-inning game."
It sounds a lot like what many of us have been saying about Obama and his long game for some time now.

The whole article by Romano is worth a read. Thanks to The Obama Diary for the tip.

How being President is different from being a CEO

I've talked before about the difference in leadership styles between President Obama and some of our new Republican governors. Many of the later (ie, Governor Rick Scott of Florida) want to tout their CEO experience as somehow qualifying them for political leadership. And of course, now we have Donald Trump suggesting the same thing (when he isn't too busy touting conspiracy theories). We'll leave aside the business failures of these men (Trump with his multitude of bankruptcies and Scott running a company that was convicted of the largest Medicare fraud in the country's history) and simply focus on the proposition of whether or not experience as a CEO is anything like being President or Governor. PespsiCO Chairman & CEO Indra Nooyi destroys the premise.

Obama on Unity

Unity is the great need of the hour - the great need of this hour. Not because it sounds pleasant or because it makes us feel good, but because it’s the only way we can overcome the essential deficit that exists in this country.

I’m not talking about a budget deficit. I’m not talking about a trade deficit. I’m not talking about a deficit of good ideas or new plans.

I’m talking about a moral deficit. I’m talking about an empathy deficit. I’m taking about an inability to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we are our brother’s keeper; we are our sister’s keeper; that, in the words of Dr. King, we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny...

Unfortunately, all too often when we talk about unity in this country, we’ve come to believe that it can be purchased on the cheap. We’ve come to believe that racial reconciliation can come easily - that it’s just a matter of a few ignorant people trapped in the prejudices of the past, and that if the demagogues and thos…

This Week and the Obama Method

WOW - what a week!!!! I haven't had much time the last few days to write about events as they happened. But perhaps that's a good thing because sometimes it helps to stand back and summarize the overall direction rather than get too mired in the particulars.

Speaking of the later, I must say that I had some fun last weekend watching frustrati heads explode about the budget deal BEFORE the details were known and then listening to them be just SURE Obama was going to go after not only Medicare and Medicaid in his speech on Wednesday, but they also just KNEW he was going to gut Social Security!

Meanwhile, those of us who have watched Obama closely held our cool and said...lets wait and get the facts. Boy, it feels good to be right!

But rather than say, "I told you so," perhaps it would help to examine why we see things so differently. People who paid attention to what Obama actually said during the campaign and watch his process closely now tend to have some idea about…

Rep. Crowley is...speechless

Did you ever have to make up your mind?

I am not posting this video because of any political implications. I was just recently reminded of how much I've always loved the Lovin' Spoonful.



More:

Summer in the City
You Didn't Have to Be So Nice
Younger Girl
Daydream

Some facts might help

Yesterday there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth amongst the frustrati about how President Obama and the Democrats caved in negotiating a deal on the 2011 budget to avoid a government shut-down. I'll not provide a link, but the recommended list at Daily Kos was yet another testament to the proposition of preemptive ranting before the details are known.

Then last night WH Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer provided some specifics. Here's a summary:

Crop Insurance Good Performance Rebate - $35 billion
A job training program that was narrowly targeted at certain student loan processors - $30 billion
Defense Department - $18 billion
Labor, Education, HHS - $13 billion
State and Foreign Operations - $8 billion
Transportation earmarks - $3 billion

I'd like to see more specifics about the cuts to Labor, Education & HHS. But overall, this doesn't look too bad. The biggest looser is farm subsidies.

I wonder if there will be a diary on the recommended list today at …

When they're willing to kill the hostage

From Matt Yglesias:

Details on the appropriations deal are still hard to come by, but you don’t need the details to know that substantial short-term cuts in domestic discretionary spending will hurt the poor while harming macroeconomic performance. The problem with not agreeing to the deal, of course, is that a government shutdown would also hurt the poor while harming macroeconomic performance. If you genuinely don’t care about the interests of poor people and stand to benefit electorally from weak economic growth, this gives you a very strong hand to play as a hostage taker. And John Boehner is willing to play that hand.
What Yglesias is hinting at here, but doesn't come out and say, is that a hostage-taking strategy works very well if you're willing to kill the hostage but the other side isn't willing to let that happen. In that scenario, the deck is stacked.

People who are screaming about Obama and the Democrats needing to be willing to "draw a line in the sand&qu…

What is at stake

We all know by now that a government shutdown was avoided late last night. And we know that the Republicans were not successful in eliminating funding for women's reproductive health care.

But before that deal was reached, Lawrence O'Donnell made a powerful argument about why these issues matter. He talked about truth, responsibility, and accountability. He also told one woman's story. She was at risk of being on the receiving end of the consequences of the lies and distortions we are exposed to every day.

This isn't just about Planned Parenthood. Its about the truth of people's lives. Please take a moment and listen.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Who are your people?

When I watch progressives today, I tend to think we've lost our way. A historical look at progressive movements in the past - as well as some of the successful ones lately in the Middle East - have much to teach us all.

As much as I love blogging, I have to wonder if this medium isn't partly responsible. When it came on the scene, it seemed like it provided us all with a huge megaphone that would allow us to get our voices heard. And for many progressives, that turned into a mantra of "yell louder." I see two problems with that strategy:

1. As hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of us yelled louder - who was listening? The battle ground became who could yell the loudest over all the others yelling loudly.

2. Way too much energy has been spent on yelling at politicians. I'm immediately reminded of the line "when the people lead, the leaders will follow."



I've talked before about the power of partnership as the kind of leadership that fueled s…

"Count your presidential blessings, libs"

Mark Morford has some words for the "professional left" in his column titled The Great Barack Obama Conundrum. You'll need to plant your tongue firmly in your cheek as you read this one.

To the sneering disappointment of the puritanical left, Obama has turned out to be pretty much exactly what he said he'd be during his '08 campaign: flawed, exceedingly moderate, a resolute compromiser, overly pragmatic when he should've been a badass, temperate when he should've been white hot and furious, offering concessions when he should be bringing the hammer down.

In short, Obama has failed. He has not at all been the delicious chocolatey superjesus of radical sociopolitical transformation most on the hard left hoped, prayed and sacrificed precious Prius bumper ad space [thought] he would be.

Hence, the conundrum. Given all this mealy disappointment, how now to best rally the troops and get out the vote in 2012 with anything resembling the passion and fervor of 2008…

Take it to the limit

The truth about Medicaid

Sometimes I think the Republicans want to throw so much crap out there that we don't have time to respond to it all. Today, Rep. Paul Ryan announced his budget plan. We know that it does everything from dismantling Medicare to raising taxes on middle class Americans and giving yet more tax breaks to the wealthy. There's a lot to tackle there.

But he also wants to block grant payment to states for Medicaid - which means that once the funds are used up, either the states pick up the tab or those who require assistance are SOL. Ryan describes this as welfare reform.

Matt Yglesias straightens him out.

In other words, people are supposed to think Medicaid is that “bad” kind of government spending, the one that goes to shiftless black folks not hard-working Americans like you and me and Paul Ryan. But look at the actual distribution of Medicaid dollars:



This is mostly a program for the elderly and the disabled. It’s the main way we finance long-term care in this country. If you don’t…

Who's rooting for a government shutdown?

By the end of today, we are likely to have some idea about whether or not the government will shutdown next week. So lets all just remember who is rooting for that to happen.

House Republicans huddled late Monday and, according to a GOP aide, gave the speaker an ovation when he informed them that he was advising the House Administration Committee to begin preparing for a possible shutdown.

"Obama now has Republicans cornered in budget negotiations"

Over the last few weeks we've been hearing complaints from both the left and the right about the fact that Obama isn't engaged in the current Congressional battle to pass a budget for the remainder of this year. Of course no one seems to be mentioning what a good job Sen. Schumer is doing on this (here's his latest) or that VP Biden has been in the thick of things since the get-go. The hue and cry has all been "Where is Obama?" From the left, this has especially been a critique of why he's not utilizing the "bully pulpit" to condemn the worst elements of the Republican's proposals.

This has presented one of those moments for me when I don't understand what Obama is doing, but after watching him for over 3 years, I figure eventually we'd see the strategy.

Lately Steve Benen has been postulating that if Obama gets into the battle, it simply intensifies Republican intransigence and gives them a target. That makes some sense.

But this morni…