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Showing posts from May, 2011

Obama gives the young brothers a tip

Here's how acityonthemove, who posted the video, describes it: You sorta knew that Barack Obama had a level of confidence that was special. As US Senator, at a democratic rally in East Orange, NJ. He recognized Dionne Warwick and sang one of her songs. She was delighted as well as those in attendance. Senator Obama also gave a tip to the young men.

What's my culture?

Back in 1992 I attended a 3-day training on "Undoing Racism" by The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond. I credit those 3 days with starting a journey in my life to understand racism. It laid a powerful foundation for an ongoing process of learning that has now lasted for almost 20 years. As an aside, not too long ago I learned that the same training launched Tim Wise's career in this work. While on a break during that training, I posed a situation I had just experienced to one of the leaders and asked for his advice. His answer has been something I've pondered ever since. First, let me tell you about the situation, then I'll let you know about his wise advice. I had been asked to sit on a committee to give our city's mayor some feedback about what to look for in a new police chief. One day while the committee was meeting one of the older African American men was pontificating (sermonizing if you will) about the very real needs in his community

Salon notes DOJ's focus on investigating police brutality

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about DOJ's Civil Rights Division and their focus on investigating police brutality. Because this hasn't gotten much media attention, I was glad to see that Justin Elliot has written about it at Salon . In a marked shift from the Bush administration, President Obama's Justice Department is aggressively investigating several big urban police departments for systematic civil rights abuses such as harassment of racial minorities, false arrests, and excessive use of force. In interviews, activists and attorneys on the ground in several cities where the DOJ has dispatched civil rights investigators welcomed the shift. To progressives disappointed by Eric Holder's Justice Department on key issues like the failure to investigate Bush-era torture and the prosecution of whistle-blowers, recent actions by the DOJ's Civil Rights Division are a bright spot. In just the past few months, the Civil Rights Division has announced "pattern

What it's like to know your core

I remember back when then-Senator Hillary Clinton voted to support the Iraq War. We all knew she'd be running for President and the polls showed that voters supported Bush overwhelmingly in his plans to invade Iraq. Hillary went along. But when it came time for the 2008 primaries, things had changed. Democrats (and some Republicans) who may have gone along with the emotionality of the moment had seen the debacle of that war unfold. And Clinton's support for it became a liability. You can't help but wonder what might have happened to her presidential hopes if she'd opposed it. We'll never know. I thought of that when I read this about Senator Bill Nelson of Florida. Six months ago, in the wake of the wipe-out midterm elections, moderate Florida Sen. Bill Nelson privately vented that President Barack Obama, weighed down by his health reform effort and muddled messaging, was “toxic” for Democrats back home. Yet Obama’s approval rating has surged from 42 perce

"There are heroes all around us, all of the time" (updated)

It was Dean Wells, a husband and father who loved to sing and whistle in his church choir. Dean was working a shift at the Home Depot, managing the electrical department, when the siren rang out. He sprang into action, moving people to safety. Over and over again, he went back for others, until a wall came down on top of him. In the end, most of the building was destroyed, but not where Dean had directed his coworkers and his customers. There was a young man named Christopher Lucas who was 26 years old. Father of two daughters; third daughter on the way. Just like any other night, Christopher was doing his job as manager on duty at Pizza Hut. And then he heard the storm coming. It was then when this former sailor quickly ushered everybody into the walk-in freezer. The only problem was, the freezer door wouldn’t stay closed from the inside. So as the tornado bore down on this small storefront on Range Line Road, Christopher left the freezer to find a rope or a cord or a

How to avoid an argument about ideas - attack motives

A few weeks ago I posted Jay Smooth's video about how to tell people they sound racist. The heart of what he says is that its important to confront people with what they "did or said" and not about "who they are." With some slight modifications, I think that point applies to other areas as well. For example, I get really tired of the professional lefties who, in a discussion they pretend is about policies, jump immediately to suggesting that anyone who doesn't agree with them is sold out to corporatists. This is perfectly illustrated in a column this week by Chris Hedges in which he defends Cornel West. The title sets the stage: Why Liberal Sellouts Attack Prophets Like Cornel West. But he does it over and over in the article. The liberal class, which attempted last week to discredit the words my friend Cornel West spoke about Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, prefers comfort and privilege to justice, truth and confrontation. Its guiding ideolog

What to expect as the 2012 race heats up

Jack White over at The Root , talks about something I have been saying for awhile now...he is predicting that the 2012 Presidential race will be "the nastiest, most racially charged presidential campaign in decades, perhaps even since the Civil War." But rather than that being about the specific Republicans who are going to run, its about "the underlying social context in which the race will unfold." White lists three reasons for this prediction: White people are really angry. According to a hugely publicized study by Tufts University researchers, a growing number of whites believe that race relations are a zero-sum game in which every inch of black progress is offset by an increase in discrimination against whites...The most obvious symbol of black progress -- and of their own setbacks -- is none other than the man who will be at the top of the Democratic ticket next year: the first African-American president. This first reason is all about the man Barack Oba

What's a Momma Grizzly to do?

Excuse me if I get a bit unserious right now. But WTH, its Saturday morning on a holiday weekend. The truth is, I haven't been paying much attention to Sarah lately...who has? So I'm a little late to the party on this story. Mounting evidence that Sarah Palin may have bought a $1.7 million home in Arizona has sparked speculation she will run for president next year. But it seems the real reason for the move could be more personal - to keep tabs on her daughter, Bristol. The Tea Party politician is reportedly furious at the 20-year-old's new relationship with Disney's Kyle Massey, who she met on Dancing with the Stars last year. For those of us who are out-of-touch with the "culture scene" and don't know who Kyle Massey is, it still doesn't seem like that much of a story...until you see a picture of the young man in question. I'll let Jesus General take it from there. At first, I couldn't figure out why Sister Sarah is so angry a


When art communicates what words sometimes can't.

A sane response to Cornel West

I really appreciate what Fredric Mitchell wrote in support of Cornel West over at Jack and Jill Politics . The only way we'll reach any sanity in these kinds of discussions is if we take it out of the personal and begin to look at the policies. In doing that, Mitchell asks himself 5 questions that emerge from what West had to say. I'd like to take a shot at responding to each of them. 1. Has the President championed ideas and programs that specifically target poor and working people? I think he has. The first thing out of the box for this administration was the Recovery Act. It focused on creating/maintaining jobs for working people. The auto bailouts were clearly aimed at doing the same thing. The expansion of Medicaid and subsidies to purchase insurance that were contained in ACA are certainly focused there as well. His definitive stand in protection of Medicare and Medicaid should be mentioned here as well - especially the later. I could go on. But suffice it to say t

The Obama Method Applied to I/P?

I have written several times about the Obama method of conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy. Today there is a diary on Daily Kos by The Troubadour which indicates that perhaps President Obama is having some influence on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to give it a try. Today, we learn that Abbas is now pushing hard to form a unity government of technocrats that will explicitly adhere the the Quartet demands , one of which being the explicit recognition of Israel. Not impressed? Let me explain why you should be. Sources for Haaretz in Israel are indicating that Abbas plans to form a government, with Hamas representatives, that will accept American demands. And sources also indicate that Hamas, despite its virulent views (such as calling for the destruction of the Jewish state) is going to, for the first time, have representatives that go along with acceding to American demands. Namely: recognition of Israel's right to exist. The profundity of this, if it indeed

It's the jobs, stupid

The Republicans have managed to capture the media narrative that says our biggest problem is the budget deficit (you know, the one they created ). But reporter Jim Tankersley, reminds us that the real story is about people like Jason Muhlhauser. Nearly 6 million people—43 percent of those who are unemployed—have been searching for more than 27 weeks. That number includes Muhlhauser, a 37-year-old single father... This week, Muhlhauser shared his job-search story with a reporter. Here it is, as told to NJ: In high school, I was told to go do something you like to do, and I really liked cars. After high school, I went to Ivy Tech [Community College] and got an associate’s degree in automotive. I was a mechanic at a few dealerships on the southeast side of Indy. My dad worked on the engine side of the Navistar plant. They had lottery drawings for family members. I won the drawing. I started there in September 1997. It was a union job. I made $21 an hour. I had plenty to provi

Deja Vu all over again

Perhaps you've heard that yesterday the Republicans put out a "jobs plan." But not to worry, you don't need to spend a lot of your precious time getting information about what it is they want to do. Its the same-old same-old ideas they put out no matter what the problem... massive tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation, more coastal oil drilling, and huge cuts to public investment. Sound familiar? Here's the perfect summary from Steve Benen: Indeed, the most glaring problem with the GOP jobs agenda is that it won’t work, but nearly as painful is the realization that it’s already been tried, over and over again, to no avail. They either haven’t heard the famous axiom about trying failure repeatedly and expecting a different result, or they don’t care. The agenda is the agenda...Good times and bad, deficit or surplus, war or peace, it just doesn’t matter. It’s as if someone bought an iPod, uploaded one song, and hit “shuffle.”

It's about a loss of white privilege

You may had heard the news this week about a study by researchers at Tufts University's School of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Business School. The authors of "Whites See Racism as a Zero-Sum Game That They Are Now Losing" found that both whites and blacks agree that anti-black racism has decreased over the last 60 years. That sounds pretty reasonable. But the kicker is that whites surveyed believe that anti-white racism has increased and is now a bigger problem than anti-black racism. I guess that to some people this is news. But to those who have been listening to the conversation over the last couple of years whenever racism comes up, its no surprise. And this is not the first time research has shown this phenomena. We're going to have to grapple with this - as distasteful as it may be. And to do so, we have to understand what's happening. It certainly isn't about racism. Its about white people beginning to feel their loss of white privilege. Leona

Michelle Obama's second visit with students from Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School

Back in 2009, Michelle Obama visited Elizabeth Garrett Anderson secondary school. It was an emotional moment that created a lasting bond. Apparently Michelle has kept in touch with the school and arranged a very special meeting today with some of the students at Oxford University. Addressing the youngsters she said: "How are you doing? It's good to see you again." The 37 girls were picked for today's event because they were interested in science but not reaching their full potential. Their meeting with the US president's wife came after a day of activities for the pupils, including campus tours, career discussions and mentoring sessions. The trip - arranged at Mrs Obama's suggestion - was designed to encourage the girls to think about studying for a degree. Since visiting EGA in 2009, Mrs Obama has kept in touch with the school, writing letters and encouraging the girls in their studies. To be honest, when I got to the part of that article w

Too Big to Fail

If you are an HBO subscriber, I highly recommend watching the movie they just released this week titled "Too Big to Fail." Check the schedule for when it will air or watch it at your leisure on HBOGO (which is what I did last night). The movie portrays the events leading up to the economic crash, focusing mainly on what the Treasury Department did while it was all happening. I feel pretty educated after watching it because it didn't seem like they were trying to demonize anyone except the bankers who deserved it...although McCain's stunt about halting his presidential campaign to go back to DC to disrupt the negotiations that were well underway to pass TARP was pretty telling. Having all lived that moment in history - its pretty gripping drama as well.

Obama unplugged

The downside of the 2010 elections is that not much is going to happen legislatively with split government. But perhaps there's an upside as well. I've talked before about how the Republican strategy is better at campaigning than governing. We've seen that at work lately with the Ryan budget plan. And now we've seen that inability to govern begin to affect elections with the victory yesterday of Democrat Kathy Hochul in a very red district in NY. But is anyone else noticing a bit of change in President Obama's strategy? It came first with his unqualified rejection on the Ryan plan. Then yesterday, he threatened to veto the Defense Appropriations bill currently being discussed in the House. The White House is threatening to veto the annual must-pass House Defense Authorization bill over language limiting his ability to transfer detainees overseas or try them in civilian court, among other issues. In addition, the White House is taking strong exception to


President and Michelle Obama both looking GORGEOUS at a State Dinner in London hosted by the Queen.

The Obama administration fights back on behalf of women

From the New York Times. The Obama administration is raising serious objections to a new Indiana law that cuts off state and federal money for Planned Parenthood clinics providing health care to low-income women on Medicaid... The changes in Indiana are subject to federal review and approval, and administration officials have made it clear they will not approve the changes in the form adopted by the state... If a state Medicaid program is not in compliance with federal law and regulations, federal officials can take corrective action, including “the total or partial withholding” of federal Medicaid money... Administration officials said the Indiana law imposed impermissible restrictions on the freedom of Medicaid recipients to choose health care providers.

The impact of "three strikes"

The passage of the three strikes law in California in 1994 was major news. If you haven't seen the folly of it, check out this video. Families to Amend California's Three Strikes Law have produced a list of facts about the law. A couple that stand out to me: 23,511 to 173,000 The change in California's prison population from 1980 to 2006 (almost a seven-fold increase). 21 and 1 The number of prisons and colleges/universities built in California since 1984. The result of this and other "get tough" laws in California is that the prison system in that state is unsustainably overcrowded. Yesterday, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that orders the state to remedy the situation. Conditions in California’s overcrowded prisons are so bad that they violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday, ordering the state to reduce its prison population by more than 30,000 inmates. Justice Anthony M. Kenned


Hello, Ireland! My name is Barack Obama -- of the Moneygall Obamas. And I've come home to find the apostrophe that we lost somewhere along the way. - Barack Obama, Dublin Ireland, May 23, 2001 When I wasn't working today, I've been trying to stay up on all the news about the Obama's visit in Ireland. The joy was palpable. And couldn't we all use a bit more of that in our lives? Anyway, I haven't had time to write much. But here are a few of my favorite photos from the day.

Today's the BIG Day!

Into the fire

Just days after his speech on the Middle East followed by the chilly reception with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Obama gave a speech at AIPAC today. We've seen him do this before. He gave a speech about abortion at Notre Dame and one about corporate responsibility at the Chamber of Commerce. Its called stepping into the fire. And every time he's stated his positions fearlessly without demonizing his opponents. Today was no exception. I didn't expect anything good to come out of President Barack Obama's AIPAC speech today. I was wrong. The President strongly endorsed "two states for two peoples" and explained to a skeptical crowd that the status quo is Israel's worst enemy. Politely and nicely, he stuck it to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu by explaining that Bibi's faux-outrage over the '67 lines is utterly bogus... And AIPAC applauded. Strongly. The President did a masterful job. The neocons are outraged. And I expect th

Some of my favorite pictures this week

President Obama, ipad, and blackberry President and Michelle Obama attend a meeting at Malia's school the morning before he hosts Netanyahu at the White House...priorities. Michelle Obama shows up to help paint a mural at a youth center. LOVE the sneakers! The team.

How do you run against a pragmatist?

This is the question facing GOP presidential aspirants (and perhaps why so many of them are bowing out). First of all, lets define "pragmatist." Pragmatist: a person who takes a practical approach to problems and is concerned primarily with the success or failure of her actions. A pragmatist isn't so concerned about fighting an ideological battle, but in finding solutions that work. Its clear that President Obama doesn't disagree with GOP policies as a matter of ideology. After all, an individual mandate as part of health care reform was originally a Republican idea. Obama rejected it during the campaign. But when he got to the specifics of crafting health care reform that would work, he realized the error of his ways and changed his mind. That's what a pragmatist does. Its interesting to watch Republicans try to figure out a tactic to run against someone like that. On the issue of health care reform, it looks as if any Republican who has actually tried to be

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

If you've never heard Eva sing this classic, take a listen. And be blessed.

Rapture Ready

It comes as no surprise that Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station is the one who could bring this recovering fundamentalist to tears of laughter with his take on 10 reasons why Doomsday will be awesome. 1) Hell Finally Freezes Over: I.e. if the world ends now, the Cleveland Indians go out on a winning streak! 2) Free Shit: I call dibs on Kirk Cameron’s house, let’s go see if he left behind any cool Growing Pains memorabilia. Also, you find a car with a Jesus Fish on it, it’s yours – of course you’ll have to peel off the Bush/Cheney stickers, but what the heck, right? 3) Rapture Balloons: Get yourself some stout string. Cut it into six-foot lengths. Make a slip knot on one end. As soon as you see somebody starting to lift off, slip the loop around their ankle and hook the other end to something heavy. Rapture balloon. Collect the whole set. 4) Free Space Program: Lash a bunch of Rapture Balloons together like a raft. Add cargo. What? They’re going right past the Interna


As I was reflecting a bit on my last post about Obama's long game, I had some additional thoughts about the danger of backlash when change is too quickly forced. On a very personal level, I thought about a couple of young women I worked with in my career as a youth worker and therapist. First is a 14 year old who was very angry. She had good reason to feel that way and her lashing out at me and her mother was an attempt to protect herself from further harm. As is often the case, her anger was the outward manifestation of some very deep pain. One day in a therapy session with she and her mother I found the buttons to push back on the anger towards the pain. In retrospect, I now know that I pushed too hard. She broke down and wept uncontrollably. In most cases, that is viewed as a success in therapy. But it was not in this situation. It was too much too quick. She still needed that defense of anger and I had taken it from her. The backlash was that she never came to see me agai

Michelle Obama talks about "the long game"

If there's been a theme to my blogging about President Obama, its that he embraces the the long game guided by a North Star. My favorite allegory for this administration is the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. And now First Lady Michelle Obama reinforces that. Here's the thing about my husband: even in the toughest moments, when it seems like all is lost, Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal. He never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise, even if it comes from some of his best supporters. He just keeps moving forward. And in those moments when we're all sweating it, when we're worried that the bill won't pass or the negotiation will fall through, Barack always reminds me that we're playing a long game here. He reminds me that change is slow — it doesn't happen overnight. If we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight and doing what we know is right, then eventually we will get there. We always have.

First Grandma

Marian Robinson certainly doesn't seek the limelight. But its clear that she plays a powerful role in making the Obama Presidency possible. Here's what Michelle had to say about Marian as a mother. My mom is an incredibly intelligent and insightful person about life in general. From the time we could talk, she talked to us endlessly about any and everything with a level of openness and fearlessness that made us believe that we were bright enough to engage with an adult, that we were worthy enough to ask questions and to get really serious answers—and she did it with a level of humor. There were many times when we were in the midst of getting spanked or disciplined and she would start cracking up. She taught my brother and me not to take things so seriously; to work hard, but to learn to laugh at situations and laugh at yourself and then to move through it. And here's what Marian had to say when she was asked whether or not she's enjoying her life in the White H

The arc of history bending

From Gallup.

The Field Negro weighs in on Cornel West

From The Field. This is a good discussion to have on Malcolm's birthday; is O in the house? Personally, I don't think so. I think he visits it quite often and is comfortable when he is in there, but that is not where his heart is. I think his heart is outside in the fields. ( I think) I love The Field's bluntness. This really is the question West raised, isn't it? Is Obama of "the field or the house?" At the end, he goes deep. I am not sure what you Negroes who were waiting on the Magic Negro expected. O can't work miracles and make your lives better. I hate to sound like a conservative, but government can only do so much. If you thought O was going to get into office and your lives were going to change overnight, you have another thing coming. Urban terrorist are still going to rob and steal, greedy polititicksters on the local and national level are still going to line their pockets, first. And the corporate machine of greed that drives A-merry

The Fuss Box

Years ago I taught a parenting class based on the work of Jean Illsley Clarke. In addition to her overall content, she provided many simple tools for parents. Today I've been thinking about one of those that she called the "fuss box." The idea is that you put a lidless box somewhere in your house. When someone is angry, they can go stand in the box and have total freedom to say anything they want. No one is allowed to interrupt, attempt to sensor, or take anything you say personally. The only rule is that once you're done "fussing," you step out of the box and have to say at least one thing you are going to do about the situation. It can't be what someone else needs to do - that just feeds the feeling of victimization - it has to be something YOU can do. There are many things about this idea that I just love. And it came up for me today because we spend so much of our political conversations being angry at some one/thing. The truth is, when it comes

GOP Madness

Its time for the office pools. My only question is whether or not someone from the "crazies" bracket can emerge to take on the "RINO" winner. Since I'm beginning to question whether or not Palin will get in the game - I guess its up to Bachmann. And so the Republicans are left with hoping that Mitch Daniels can provide them with an adrenaline boost.

For Republicans, its about politics not governing

As I read the news this morning, the big story seems to be the total collapse of The Newt. Much of the coverage - especially from the right - is about blaming Gingrich the bomb-thrower. There's a lot of truth in that. But I think it also goes a bit deeper. The biggest flap was over his condemnation of Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to end Medicare as we know it - followed quickly by his apology and embrace of the same. Long before Newt's particular brand of flip-flop though, the entire GOP was back-tracking, equivocating, and supporting it - depending on the day in question and the audience. You would assume that much of this waffling is a result of being able to read the polls about Ryan's plan (Americans hate it!) and the shellacking they got when they rolled it out at town hall meetings recently. But what's a Republican to do? David Roberts names their strategy "post-truth politics." For decades Republicans have single-mindedly pursued a few core goals: