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Showing posts from June, 2011

More good news - Fair Sentencing Act applied retroactively

Not long ago, I wrote about the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 that reduced the disparity in sentencing for those convicted of crack vs powder cocaine. At the time, the U.S. Sentencing Commission was considering whether to apply the law retroactively to people currently in jail based on the old laws. Today they reached a decision.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted today to apply retroactively sentencing reform for crack cocaine convictions that Congress passed last year. This will give more than 12,000 inmates—85 percent of whom are black—the opportunity to go before a judge and seek a reduction in their sentences. The Commission estimates that the decision will reduce sentences by an average of more than three years, and could save the government $200 million in the next five years.
In addition to celebrating this success, its interesting to note what Jesselyn McCurdy, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union said about the role of Attorney General Eric Holder.

McCurdy says At…

Boehner on the ropes

This is why BooMan is one of the sharpest political writers on the blogs.

On this whole debt limit deal, the White House seems to be supremely confident that they'll get something done and that it will be the Republicans who will blink. That's not to say that there won't be some ugly concessions made, but when it comes to facing their respective bases of political support, it's the Congressional Republican leadership who will be getting the worst beating.

The reasons are fairly simple. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are not teabaggers, and the people they answer to want no part of a default, or even the threat of a default. Moreover, the White House feels that they've framed this extremely well and the Republicans have screwed themselves by pushing the Ryan plan, and by walking away from table in support of tax loopholes for multimillionaires' yachts and private airplanes. In short, the White House thinks the Republicans have an awful political argument and th…

What is "the change we can believe in?"

Yesterday Ezra Klein wrote a fascinating post on a strategy dilemma for President Obama. His focus was tax policy, but it could apply to almost any issue.

Let’s agree that what matters isn’t how many jobs you “get caught trying” to create, but how many jobs you actually create. There’s virtually no evidence that if Obama makes more speeches on jobs, his poll numbers will go up or the labor market will improve. There’s lots of evidence that if he passes policies that create more jobs, his poll numbers will go up and the labor market will improve. The question, then, isn’t how Obama can get “caught trying.” It’s how — or whether — he can succeed...

A lot of observers wondered why the Obama administration didn’t push a payroll-tax cut in the 2010 elections. The reason, insiders said, was simple, if frustrating: If they did that, the Republican Party would publicly oppose it and they wouldn’t be able to pass it after the election. By staying quiet on the payroll-tax cut, they made it possi…

Woot!!!!!! Good News

There's been a lot of good news today. Like the fact that President Obama kicked some Republcian a** at his press conference today.

And, you know, Malia and Sasha generally finish their homework a day ahead of time. Malia is 13, Sasha is 10...

They don’t wait until the night before. They’re not pulling all-nighters. They’re 13 and 10. Congress can do the same thing. If you know you’ve got to do something, just do it...

Now is the time to go ahead and make the tough choices. That’s why they’re called leaders. And I’ve already shown that I’m willing to make some decisions that are very tough and will give my base of voters further reason to give me a hard time. But it’s got to be done.
And the 6th Circuit found the Affordable Care Act to be constitutional.

It’s worth appreciating the fact that the outcome today was by no means assured. The 6th Circuit is considered one of the nation’s more conservative appellate benches, and one of the judges who upheld the constitutionality o…

Who is (and isn't) providing leadership?

Here's a great blog entry by p m carpenter.

This year, or next year at the latest, the GOP must decide whether its reason for being is to help govern the country or to avoid being primaried by the Tea Party. It cannot do both.

The problem is simple; it's the solution that assuredly boggles the minds of those GOP pols who know what they're now doing is borderline treasonous. No, I don't know how the solution can -- or if it even will -- play out; that is, I'm no influential GOP insider, so I can't possibly know how much pressure the GOP's residual structural integrity can bear -- how the party can wring itself and the nation out of the contemptible fix into which it has contorted matters.

What I do know, without any doubt, is that for all the GOP talk about President Obama being the one who needs to lead, it is precisely the opposite case, here, that is far more critical. Which is to say, GOP leaders must choose between their country and radical, tea party po…

Creating the space

Other than Van Jones' speech, one thing I heard at Netroots Nation has stuck with me.

It was during the African American Caucus. One participant talked about how he thought President Obama should talk more about race and racism. The response from another participant is what stands out to me. He said "We need to create the space for him to talk about it."

First of all, I think President Obama pretty much covered his thoughts about race in his speech in Philadelphia. He is President of ALL the United States. Perhaps you can make a case that he should talk more about the issues that affect people of color, but to focus on race would provide a distraction and fuel for his critics.

But if we ignore the particular issue being addressed, I keep thinking about the idea of creating the space for the President and Congressional Democrats to get the job done. What does that mean?

I'm not sure I have the complete answer to that question. But I do think that we can learn some t…

The Pace of Change: Learning from History

A few years ago, The Nation and Brave New Foundation teamed up to create a video series This Brave Nation. It featured duos of activists talking about their lives, their work, and their hopes for the future. It included conversations between:

Pete Seeger and Majora Carter
Carl Pope and Van Jones
Bonnie Raitt and Dolores Huerta
Anthony Romero and Ava Lowrey
Tom Hayden and Naomi Klein

I recommend them all to you for a shot of both history and inspiration. But I was particularly struck by a couple of things Seeger said that are captured in this short clip.



First of all, he said this about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Why did he start with a bus boycott? Why didn't he start with something like schools, or jobs, or voting? Couldn't a bus boycott come later?

When you face an opponent over a broad front, you don't aim at the opponent's strong points. You aim for something a little off to the side. But you win it. And having won that bus boycott...1…

An Honest Republican

Once again, David Frum shows us what an honest Republican might look like with his article titled I was wrong about same-sex marriage.

I was a strong opponent of same-sex marriage. Fourteen years ago, Andrew Sullivan and I forcefully debated the issue at length online (at a time when online debate was a brand new thing).

Yet I find myself strangely untroubled by New York state's vote to authorize same-sex marriage -- a vote that probably signals that most of "blue" states will follow within the next 10 years.

I don't think I'm alone in my reaction either. Most conservatives have reacted with calm -- if not outright approval -- to New York's dramatic decision.

Why?

The short answer is that the case against same-sex marriage has been tested against reality. The case has not passed its test.

Since 1997, same-sex marriage has evolved from talk to fact.

If people like me had been right, we should have seen the American family become radically more unstable over the…

Good Government

Sometimes when we list President Obama's accomplishments, we forget to include the strides this administration has made in improving the basic functions of good government. And we also forget that the previous administration left a HUGE mess to clean up. A simple reminder of "Good job, Scotty" is perhaps all we need to recall how bad things had gotten.

Although often removed from the public eye, perhaps nowhere was that more serious than in the Department of Justice where politicization had certainly crossed ethical boundaries and bordered on criminal. That's why the work of Attorney General Eric Holder is so important, particularly in the Civil Rights Division.

To add to what I've already written about in that area, yesterday we learned that DOJ's Civil Rights Division is suing the city of New Berlin, Wisconsin.

A Wisconsin city in the most segregated region in the nation buckled to racist pressure and shut down an affordable housing project, federal prosecu…

Local Activism

I thought I'd do something different today and write about some things I'm involved with in real life. These are the kinds of "boots on the ground" experience I've had that also inform how I view national politics.

As I've mentioned before, I am the director of a small non-profit organization focused on working with youth who are starting to get in trouble. That means we provide counseling, mentoring, guidance and support to youth who have been arrested for the first time (with a special long-term focus on youth who have developed delinquency histories before the age of 10), are chronically suspended from school and/or are in the midst of a family crisis.

A few years ago we began to recognize that is wasn't enough to ask these youth (and their families) to change. We also needed to work with community members to make some changes in how they support these young people.

So we did things like host a forum with the local Children's Defense Fund on the…

Is Hamsher the left's Limbaugh?

Some of you may remember David Frum's Waterloo article that got him fired from the American Enterprise Institute. Most of us thought it was an accurate critique about how the Limbaughs of the right had captured the Republican Party.

Lately I can't help but think about how one paragraph of that article fits so perfectly with what I see people like Jane Hamsher doing on the left. I'll quote it with the italicized words altered to make the point.

I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and the blogs, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Blogs thrive on confrontation and recrimination. When Jane Hamsher supports efforts to primary the President, she was intelligent…

I'm so tired of the "bully pulpit" argument

Have you ever tried to talk to one of these poutragers about actual Obama accomplishments? Part of that usually involves discussing one of the foundations of US democracy - the separation of powers and the need to compromise to get anything done in Congress. Ultimately, what you'll hear is that Obama hasn't used the bully pulpit enough. The idea is that if President Obama would just orate more on a particular topic, recalcitrant Republicans (whose ONLY goal is to deny Obama ANY successes) would come around and see the error of their ways. That is such ignorant analysis on soooo many levels - one of which is the irony Vyan highlighted in a great diary.

Uh, yeah...ok. Now I see. Liberals should be furious with Obama because he's been too busy Doing Great Stuff to constantly talk about it all the time. Wow, isn't that exactly the Opposite of everyone predicted that a Presidency by an "inexperienced leader who just makes great speeches" would be like?
Oh yes, t…

Poutragers: Karl Rove is counting on you

This week Karl Rove wrote an article titled Why Obama is Likely to Lose in 2012 (yeah right, in your dreams Karl!). He listed 3 reasons for this prediction. Other than the economy and the fact that President Obama hasn't signed on to Republican policies, he says this:

Mr. Obama also has problems with his base. For example, Jewish voters are upset with his policy toward Israel, and left-wing bloggers at last week's NetRoots conference were angry over Mr. Obama's failure to deliver a leftist utopia.
Given some of what we see just on the surface, do we really think that Karl is not at least fanning the flames - if not subsidizing this kind of thing financially? If your answer is "no," then you haven't paid enough attention to Rove's career.

I'm tempted to chalk this up to another one of those examples of Common Goals...where the poutragers team up with Karl Rove.

And of course, villagers like Dana Milbank are weighing in as well.

Democrats are less angry …

Buyer's Remorse

"What if one more person thinks about immigration reform that wouldn't normally"

A mother's plea.

Karoli...you go girl!!!!!!

I Obot?

It’s time to address this once and for all. Here are a couple of things about me that you can count on. First, when I criticize the President, I endeavor to do so in a constructive way. Second, I will give this administration the benefit of the doubt. Third, there is never going to be a time where I will grunt and say that Obama is just like Bush. This is because that would be a lie of the highest magnitude.

I understand that it’s all the rage these days to take anger at Republican obstruction and project it onto the President. I also understand that it’s all the rage, and I do mean rage, to take disappointment that he hasn’t moved whatever heaven and earth he should have moved for your personal pet issues quickly enough...

Like it or not, this guy in the White House right now is the best hope you’ve got. You can batter him or you can back him. I choose the latter. That isn’t OBotic. It’s simply reality.

I’m done apologizing for my support for this President, who has worked har…

What's behind "Obama derangement syndrome?"

I suspect that most of us have always assumed that "Obama derangement syndrome" is rooted in progressive idealists who are impatient with the pace of change. I'm sure that's true for many who are showing those symptoms.

But, as I begin to look a little deeper, I'm starting to suspect that there's more to it than that.

For example, take a look at this article by Sebastian Jones. He points out that The Huffington Post recently ran an article by Dick Gebhardt criticizing the Independent Payment Advisory Board that is part of health care reform. Here's what Ezra Klein says about the IPAB:

The board will propose packages of reforms that bring Medicare in line with certain spending targets. Those reforms won't increase cost sharing or taxes and they won't change eligibility or benefits. Instead, they're reforms of what Medicare pays for and how it pays for it...this is the most powerful cost-cutting agency we've seen.
So why would Gebhardt be …

Empire Goes Rainbow!!!!!

Rais Bhuiyan: An act of kindness towards hate

From ColorLines.

Ten years ago, Rais Bhuiyan was living his dream. Having recently emigrated from Bangladesh, Bhuiyan was enrolled in classes and became a partner at a new gas station in Dallas, Texas. But two weeks after September 11, 2001, a man walked into the mini-mart where Bhuiyan was working and asked him where he was from. The man then shot Bhuiyan in the face.

Bhuiyan was the only surviving victim of Mark Stroman’s hate driven shooting spree, which took the lives of Vasudev Patel, originally from India, and Waqar Hasan, a native of Pakistan. Stroman was sentenced to death for the murders.

Meanwhile, Bhuiyan endured years of painful surgeries. He lost the vision in his right eye and still has more than 35 pellets in his face. But despite the trauma to him and his family, Bhuiyan is now fighting to save Stroman’s life.

“Yes, Mark Stroman did a horrible thing, and he brought a lot of pain and disaster, sufferings in my life. But in return I never hated him,” Bhuiyan told Laura S…

Charlayne Hunter-Gault on Michelle Obama's Trip to Africa

I highly recommend that you visit The Root and read Charlayne Hunter-Gault's article about why Michelle Obama's trip to Africa matters.

Here's a brief quote. But I hope it encourages you to go read the whole thing.

But standing in Regina Mundi, the church that was respite for the young people who lit the fuse that ignited the most critical phase of the anti-apartheid struggle in 1976, Michelle Obama reminded them of lessons they should never forget: "The story of young people 20 years ago, 50 years ago, who marched until their feet were raw," she said, "who endured beatings and bullets and decades behind bars, who risked and sacrificed everything they had for the freedom they deserved. And it is because of them we are able to gather here today. It is because of them that so many of these young women leaders can now pursue their dreams."

And the clear payoff of looking back came as Michelle Obama said, "It is because of them that I stand before you …

"Protest signs are important - they can't stop a bullet"

Last night I watched the live feed of the Rebuild the Dream movement launch featuring Van Jones and The Roots. If you missed it, here's the video.



Yeah, I know its over an hour and its hard to give up that kind of time. But believe me - its worth every minute.

In case you just can't watch the whole thing, at least take 6 or 7 minutes to watch the beginning where Van Jones tells his own life story. He talks about what his father (who was in the military) taught him - and how he rebelled against that when he went off to Yale. After graduation, he found himself in some of the toughest neighborhoods in the Bay Area. And this is what he learned:

I wound up going to many many more funerals than I went to graduations for those young people I was working with. And as the years went on, I learned that angry rhetoric might feel good to people like me, but it didn't make a difference in the neighborhoods I was trying to move forward. I learned that education and real opportunity is w…

Common Goals?

Newt Gingrich:

Gingrich stopped off at an airport Marriott near Baltimore Thursday to keynote the Maryland GOP's annual Red, White & Blue banquet. Before the speech, he assured reporters that his campaign was still going strong. When he took the podium, he offered Republican donors a long, dense speech full of red meat and warnings about the state of the world around us.

He also said it was time for Republicans to tell African Americans how terrible Obama has been for them...

"No administration in modern times has failed younger blacks more than the Obama administration," Gingrich said.
Metamars at Firedoglake:

Specifically, [Cornell] West, with the NPA’s [New Progressive Alliance] backing, could undertake an education program, with the initial target the US black community, of teaching them about, say, Obama’s Top 10 betrayals, and Obama’s Top 5 betrayals of Afro-Americans.
It seems that there are white people all over the political spectrum that assume African America…

The Next Movement

Just a reminder that tonight The Roots will join Van Jones to launch the "Rebuild the Dream" movement. You can livestream it here at 8:15 pm EDT.

It all depends on your perspective

This is the chart I was seeing all over the progressive blogosphere last night after President Obama's speech on Afghanistan.



And then today, this one comes to us from The White House Blog via Blackwaterdog.



People can use whichever one backs up the story they're trying to tell.

Did Obama implement the Dream Act via executive order?

The wingnuts think so.

On Friday, the Obama administration issued a memo announcing that federal immigration officials do not have to deport illegal aliens if they are enrolled in any type of education program, if their family members have volunteered for U.S. military service, or even if they are pregnant or nursing.

This new policy of “prosecutorial discretion” was quietly announced on Friday afternoon, and completely ignored by the mainstream press.
What happened is that last Friday ICE Director John Morton issued a memo (pdf) directing his staff to use "prosecutorial discretion" in the "apprehension, detention and removal" of undocumented people based on several criteria.

The following positive factors should prompt particular care and consideration:

veterans and members of the U.S. armed forces;
long-time lawful permanent residents;
minors and elderly individuals;
individuals present in the United States since childhood;
pregnant or nursing women;
victims o…

"It's not about us now - its about them"

From left to right: Leslie Robinson, Malia Obama, Archbishop Tutu, Michelle Obama, Sasha Obama, and Avery Robinson

My title is a quote from Michelle Obama today when she met with Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Cape Town South Africa. He asked her, "What do you feel? How are you feeling being here?" Her response was that its all about them - gesturing to her two daughters, niece and nephew.

The First Lady had teamed up with Archbishop Tutu for a youth outreach event at the World Cup soccer stadium to spread the word about HIV/AIDS and to encourage young people's participation in sports to stay healthy.

There were some wonderful fun moments captured on film.


WOW - if he can do it - certainly this old lady (moi) can.


Fist bumps all around.


And of course - hugs!

Jane Hamsher is pulling the netroot's chain

Sure, sites like Huffington Post and Daily Kos get more hits than her little corner of the world at Firedog Lake. But I've decided that the woman behind the scenes pulling the poutrager's chains is Hamsher. Whether others are willingly cooperating with her schemes is perhaps another story that will eventually be told. Right now, I don't know. But folks need to wake up and smell the coffee about how they're getting set up by Hamsher.

The other day I wrote about the message at Netroots Nation that should have been highlighted. Its the one that came from Van Jones. But as we all know by now, the "President is just not that into you" panel featuring Dan Choi berating a local activist took center stage. Not far behind was the insulting hit job on White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer.

Perhaps because I was at the conference, I feel like I've got some "skin in the game" and so I'm following some of the stories in the back alleys that ha…

What does it mean to be an American?

I've asked this question on a couple of occasions here - once about Olympic Gold Medalist Henry Cejudo and again after listening to the benediction at the Tucson Memorial delivered by Carlos Gonzales.

Now, the question is being asked very powerfully by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas. Please take a few minutes to watch this.



Vargas has also written an article titled My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant for the New York Times Magazine.

Over the past 14 years, I’ve graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I’ve created a good life. I’ve lived the American dream.

But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displayin…

Michelle Obama speaks at the Young African Women Leaders Forum

Today Michelle Obama delivered the keynote address to the Young African Women Leaders Forum at the historic Regina Mundi Church in Soweto, South Africa.









Here are some excerpts from her speech:

And you all know the story –- how 35 years ago this month, a group of students planned a peaceful protest to express their outrage over a new law requiring them to take courses in Afrikaans. Thousands of them took to the streets, intending to march to Orlando Stadium.

But when security forces opened fire, some fled here to this church. The police followed, first with tear gas, and then with bullets.

And while no one was killed within this sanctuary, hundreds lost their lives that day, including a boy named Hector Pieterson, who was just 12 years old, and Hastings Ndlovu, who was just 15...

So the question today is, what will you make of that inheritance? What legacy will you leave for your children and your grandchildren? What generation will you be?...

So over the next 20 years, the next 5…

The MSM and Netroots Miss the Story

A few weeks ago I was thrilled to see that Salon highlighted the story about the DOJ's Civil Rights Division focus on police brutality. But it didn't surprise me that almost no other media (traditional or alternative) picked up on the story.

The same thing happened last week when Time broke this story.

It has been nearly a decade since Manadel al-Jamadi, an Iraqi prisoner known as "the Iceman" — for the bungled attempt to cool his body and make him look less dead — perished in CIA custody at Abu Ghraib. But now there are rumbles in Washington that the notorious case, as well as other alleged CIA abuses, could be returning to haunt the agency. TIME has learned that a prosecutor tasked with probing the CIA — John Durham, a respected, Republican-appointed U.S. Attorney from Connecticut — has begun calling witnesses before a secret federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., looking into, among other things, the lurid Nov. 4, 2003, homicide, which was documented by TIME in 200…

The Message Netroots Nation Could Have Promoted

I finally found a decent video of the whole speech Van Jones gave at Netroots Nation.



This was an important message...especially for this crowd. He started off by talking about the fact that he can guarantee that - after traveling the country - people are ready to fight back. The thing he can't guarantee is whether we will fight together or fight alone.

In order to demonstrate the issue, he had some slides that showed us all in silos centered around our various concerns...labor, racial justice, enviros, women's rights, LGBT rights, immigration rights. And then he talked about how we all came together during the election under the "Obama brand." He pointed out how "our guy got a promotion" and now we're back to where we started - the splintered silos.

In contrast, he talked about the Tea Party being organized around principles rather than a person. That kind of movement is more enduring.

Here's something close to a quote:

They talk about rugged indi…

Daily Kos Front-Pager Needs a Civics Lesson

One of the things I looked forward to at Netroots Nation was the opportunity to attend the plenary session with Dan Pfeiffer (White House Communications Director) and the breakout with Jeremy Bird (Obama's National Field Director). I might have more to say about the later at some other time, but I actually had to walk out of the session with Pfeiffer just a few minutes before it was over because I was so frustrated I could feel my blood pressure rising.

Interviewing Pfeiffer was DK front-pager Kalli Joy Gray (Angry Mouse). The first thing that got under my skin were her unprofessional, dismissive, irony-loaded "tut-tuts" at the end of almost every answer he gave. And then came her line about how "tired" we all are of hearing about the Lilly Ledbetter Act - which was rather ironic in itself coming from someone who is supposedly focused on the current "war on women." I'd guess she's also done with hearing about Roe vs Wade. It's just been …