Sunday, July 31, 2011

Daily Kos peddles Boehner's Lies

Seriously, this is getting to be like shooting fish in a barrel. Sometimes I wonder how a blog like Daily Kos can make itself any MORE irrelevant.

But they've gone and done it again. This time its about a post on the front page that purports to explain the deal just brokered on the debt ceiling. And where does the author get his material? From Speaker John Boehner's power point. Trouble is...Boehner lies.

Here's a couple of points highlighted in the diary:

"no tax hikes"

"Requires baseline to be current law, effectively making it impossible for Joint Committee to increase taxes."

Of course, massive hair-on-fire ensues because the Democrats caved on increased revenue as part of the package. Oh-No's!!!!!!

But then, here's Steve Benen on that:

To clarify something important, Boehner’s presentation gives the impression that new revenue is impossible under the bipartisan congressional commission. That’s false; new revenue is possible and will be a key goal of Democratic members. Whether the revenue is likely or not is a separate question, but for those who saw that and were concerned, Boehner’s claim is just factually wrong.

The amusing thing is...these poutragers are generally the same ones who tell us that President Obama should NEVER negotiate with Republicans because you can't trust them. And yet here we have one of them relying on Boehner's talking points to explain the deal. Who woulda thunk there'd be a problem with that?

By the way, if you'd like some actual facts about the deal that was reached, the White House put out helpful summary.

Looking for the "long game" (updated x 2)

I think its a good time to remind ourselves what Michelle Obama said about her husband and our President.

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.
(emphasis mine)

As we hear rumors about what might be in the debt ceiling bill, I begin to wonder about that long game.

I've had one guess in the back of my mind for a couple of days. Its not like I have the greatest track record in these predictions. But its still interesting to throw this kind of thing out there. And then this morning I saw something that made it seem even more likely.

What I saw was an short note in Politico titled WH fine with no new revenue until 2013. It refers to something Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council, said.

A bleary-eyed Sperling, who has been at the center of talks between the White House and congressional Republicans, said that Obama wouldn't seek new revenues over the next 18 months anyway and will still push for a payroll tax cut.

You have to ask the question about why President Obama would take new revenues off the table as part of this deal when that has been the bottom line of his whole appeal about a "balanced approach."

The key to answering that question is the timing referred to in both the Politico headline (2013) and Sperling's reference to 18 months. That's when the Bush tax cuts expire. And if the President is willing to let them ALL expire, the Republicans won't have any hostages to take to prevent that because all that needs to happen is for Congress to do nothing to extend them. And whala...we get our balanced approach that deals with the biggest contributor to our current deficit.

I might very well be wrong about this one. But I suspect its what's going on - or something like that. Who are you going to believe on this one? The poutragers who are convinced the President is caving? Or Michelle and what we've seen happen over and over again?

UPDATE: Ezra Klein sees the same possibility.

It’s difficult to see how it could have ended otherwise. Virtually no Democrats are willing to go past Aug. 2 without raising the debt ceiling. Plenty of Republicans are prepared to blow through the deadline. That’s not a dynamic that lends itself to a deal. That’s a dynamic that lends itself to a ransom.

But Democrats will have their turn. On Dec. 31, 2012, three weeks before the end of President Barack Obama’s current term in office, the Bush tax cuts expire. Income tax rates will return to their Clinton-era levels. That amounts to a $3.6 trillion tax increase over 10 years, three or four times the $800 billion to $1.2 trillion in revenue increases that Obama and Speaker John Boehner were kicking around. And all Democrats need to do to secure that deal is...nothing.

UPDATE 2: Joy Reid twitters:

Harry Reid doesn't have to negotiate with Mitch McConnell to get revenues. He doesn't have to worry about Boehner's impotence in the House.

Harry Reid can simple refuse to bring the tax cuts up for a vote before they expire next December 31st, and POTUS can threaten to veto them.

Even if Dems were to be wiped out next Nov, or Obama lost, the lame duck Congress would be in place til January 2013.

And I have good sourcing that Obama and Reid will hold the line, win or lose. So don't sweat this bill. Its long term "cuts", short term win

All that's missing is the black face

OK, I'm 100% disgusted. This morning, we find this cartoon featured on the front page of Daily Kos. No, I'll not copy it here because its racist trash. And the link goes to my photobucket page where I've copied the cartoon rather than to Daily Kos so you don't have to give racist trash a click.

Do we have to explain to progressives these days WHY something like that is racist trash? It truly boggles the mind. But I guess so.

I don't simply hold the cartoonist responsible though. This is the natural result of months and years of belittling and disrespecting the first African American in the White House. And no, that's not the same thing as critiquing his policies. That would be politics. This is racism.

Nuff said.

Fear and ignorance are the enemies

Paddy over and The Political Carnival posted this cartoon today.



It struck me as a pretty accurate description of our current political climate. The thing is - as the cartoon illustrates it - fear and ignorance are external when in reality we know that they come from within. The good news is that means they're under our control.

But the cartoon also reminded me of the Dementors in the Harry Potter series.

Photobucket

In case some of you aren't the Harry Potter fanatic that I am, this is truly one of the most ingenious inventions of JK Rowling. The Dementors prey especially on people with trauma (perhaps this explains some of the poutragers?) in their past. When they attack someone, they do so by bringing to memory all of the fear and sadness associated with those experiences. And finally, a Dementor's kiss sucks out your soul.

In one of the earliest encounters Harry and Ron have with a Dementor, they are taken to the infirmary at Hogwarts and given the antidote - chocolate. Its at that point that Rowling is letting us in on the symbolism in a wonderfully humorous way...the Dementors represent depression. Once again, the enemy is within.

But as Harry and the others get more sophisticated, they learn the "expecto patronum" spell which repels the Dementors.



Of course, in order to use the spell effectively, it requires one to go inside themselves and come up with the happiest memory they can summon.

Or, as FDR said so succinctly..."We have nothing to fear but fear itself."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Just eat it!!!!!!

Is impeachment on the table?

Andrew Sullivan joins p m carpenter in questioning whether or not the Republican end-game is setting President Obama up for impeachment.

They did the last Democratic president; and they feel even more strongly that this one is illegitimate, despite his thumping majority in the last election. Here's the scenario. The House GOP pushes for completely unserious Boehner plan (including a balanced budget amendment) that they know will be vetoed; they then filibuster the Reid plan in the Senate, forcing Obama to invoke a 14th Amendment executive prerogative, which they will then turn around and impeach him for.

Far-fetched? I hope so. But every time you think you have reached the end of Republican extremism, they manage to move further out of the solar system.

After watching today's events, I'm starting to have the same thoughts.

When the netroots "hearts" Limbaugh

Take a look at Media Matter's compilation of Limbaugh's thoughts on raising the debt ceiling. Here's their summary:

Rush Limbaugh has falsely suggested that there would be no adverse consequences for failing to raise the federal government's debt ceiling, claiming that because the government takes in enough revenue to pay interest on the debt, there is no danger of default.

Basically what he's saying is that default only applies if the United States doesn't/can't service our debt. Here's Limbaugh's words:

Truth is, we would only default if we don't service our debt. The cost of servicing the debt is 6 percent of the budget, and we have revenue coming in to do that. We do not need to raise the debt ceiling. There is no crisis. There is no Armageddon.

No, the Armageddon happens after we've serviced our debts and don't have the revenue to take care of all the other obligations the federal government has incurred...like Social Security, Medicare, military salaries, Veterans, federal contracts, etc.

Limbaugh would be tickled pink if we can't pay for those things because he thinks that's just the showdown we need to gut federal government spending.

Well, except for the ultimate outcome, we see that a Daily Kos front-pager is saying exactly the same thing.

First he quotes Jack Balkin saying that President Obama will use existing revenue to pay bondholders and from there we'll have a partial government shutdown on everything else. Then he says this:

Which would prevent a default, and which also would put additional pressure on Congress to raise the debt ceiling as the government goes into a widening shutdown. No Medicare payments. No help for military veterans. With Congress fully responsible until it does what it always had done until now...

In other words, there are options other than trillions in budget cuts during a deep recession, cutting Social Security, Medicare and/or Medicaid and/or other accessions to Republican demands. Keep that in mind, as this concocted "crisis" resolves itself, one way or another. The bottom line, according to Balkin, being that there will be no default. Because the president has no choice but to prevent one.
(emphasis mine)

See...no problem here folks. We'll just shut the entire federal government down and THAT will certainly force those nasty Republicans to do what we want them to do. Damn the hostages. We've got principles to fight over!

Funny thing is...that's just what the Republicans are hoping for. So the netroots once again finds itself aligned with the lunatics.

I suspect that what we're seeing is the fulfillment of that dream for both groups as the Republicans continue to stall and evade their responsibilities today. And through it all, I know that President Obama will continue to take these motherf*ckers on as the only adult in the room.

"To the cornfield with John Boehner!"

Jon Bershad has one of the best analogies for the relationship between the Republican Party and the Tea Baggers that I've seen.

The Tea Party has become to Conservatives like the character Anthony in the “It’s a Good Life” episode of The Twilight Zone.

If you don’t recall, the episode, based on a short story by Jerome Bixby, tells of little Anthony Fremont, a six-year-old boy who has the ability to do terrible things with his mind. He can create amazing things but he can also kill at will, forcing the adults around him to constantly think and say nice things about him because, at any moment, he can destroy them, sending them off “to the cornfield.” It’s not that he’s evil per se. He just has this incredible power and doesn’t really know the implications of what he’s doing...

Conservatives know how powerful the Tea Party is and they seem terrified to say anything the slightest bit bad about them. They’re treating the party just like an infinitely powerful child, walking on eggshells at all times... The thinking seems to be that any critique, no matter how benign, could send the Tea Party into a rage, quickly leading to death. The 2012 presidential election version of death that is.

And can they be blamed? Just look at how many news stories there are about some Tea Party leader announcing plans to vote a Republican out of office for daring to compromise in any way. To the cornfield with John Boehner! Who cares that he’s supposed to be our Speaker of the House!

And so the debt debate rages on, thanks in part to the Tea Party (Heh, no, just kidding! It’s all Obama’s fault! He’s a bad man! You did a good thing! A very good thing!).

How a truly feminist movement could lead the way

I have to say that in the last few years I've grown a bit disheartened with the feminist movement in this country. Its not that my beliefs about the need to challenge patriarchy have diminished. Its that I think the cause of feminism has been relegated to issues that, while important, don't speak to the depths of my concerns. In other words, we're spending all of our energies fighting for reproductive and economic equality and forgetting all the ways that our entire ethos and culture are based on patriarchy. Years ago a blogger named keres put it this way:

And I would argue that to dismantle partriarchy you would need to dismantle society in it's totality, and start over. It's no good just letting women in as "pseudo men" to societal structures so long formed by and to men's wants and desires.

Our societies are not "OK", except for the sexism, racism, heterosexism, ablism, etc. Our societies are intrinsically those things - they cannot be removed without a complete revisioning of the social compact. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, in an apartriachal society would look, sound, or feel even remotely the same as to what we have now.

In dismantling patriarchy, we have to see a deeper essence of how it affects us and what an embrace - rather than a rejection - of the feminine would mean. To illustrate a bit of that, here's Alice Walker talking about the Swa people of the Amazon in her book We Are The Ones We've Been Waiting For.

They tell us that in their society men and women are considered equal but very different. Man, they say, has a destructive nature: it is his job therefore to cut down trees when firewood or canoes are needed. His job also to hunt down and kill animals when there is need for more protein. His job to make war, when that becomes a necessity. The woman's nature is thought to be nurturing and conserving. Therefore, her role is to care for the home and garden, the domesticated animals and the children. She inspires the men. But perhaps her most important duty is to tell the men when to stop.

It is the woman who says: Stop. We have enough firewood and canoes, don't cut down any more trees. Stop. We have enough meat; don't kill any more animals. Stop. This war is stupid and using up too many of our resources. Stop. Perkins says that when the Swa are brought to this culture they observe that it is almost completely masculine. That the men have cut down so many trees and built so many excessively tall buildings that the forest itself is dying; they have built roads without end and killed animals without number. When, ask the Swa, are the women going to say Stop?

Indeed. When are the women, and the Feminine within women and men, going to say Stop?

I don't use this to idealize the Swa culture. I'm happy that in ours, gender roles have become a bit more fluid. But I agree with the Swa when they say our culture, at it's roots, is almost completely masculine.

The passage from Walker's book reminded me of the work of Riane Eisler, who is best known for her book The Chalice and the Blade. In it, she posits that we are living in a "dominator" (blade) society since the end of the Neolithic agrarian age and that prior to that time, archeology shows a more "partnership" (chalice) model for most cultures. She says:

The underlying problem is not men as a sex. The root of the problem lies in a social system in which the power of the blade is idealized - in which both men and women are taught to equate true masculinity with violence and dominance and to see men who do not conform to this ideal as too soft or effeminate.

The ethos of our patriarchy then is this idea of dominance as the way to power. We're seeing this run amok these days in how our current political situation is described. The whole idea of compromise is the essence of partnership and is inconceivable to someone dedicated to dominance...the blade is idealized.

In order for dominance to be effective, it must be rooted in fear and insecurity. People are seen as opponents (or worse yet - enemies) to be defeated and subjugated. The blade is the weapon of choice.

And so the flames of fear and insecurity are fanned while threats/hostages are made/taken in an attempt to subjugate the opposition. Any reaction other than to fight back on those terms is viewed as capitulation and derided as "weak," "pussy," and not "manly enough."

Those are the terms on which so much of our political situation are labeled and understood. All of this rests on the idea of a hierarchy of power with those at the top calling the shots and anyone who wants to take them on having to remove them in an endless game of "king of the hill."

But as I've talked about before, dominance is only one kind of power. There is also the power of partnership. It rests on the principle of "power with" instead of "power over." The feminine in all of us (both men and women) knows of this power, it just needs to be remembered and reawakened. Its the kind of power Marge Piercy talks about in her poem For Strong Women.

A strong woman is a woman who craves love
like oxygen or she turns blue choking.
A strong woman is a woman who loves
strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly
terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong
in words, in action, in connection, in feeling;
she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf
suckling her young. Strength is not in her, but she
enacts it as the wind fills a sail.
What comforts her is others loving
her equally for the strength and for the weakness
from which it issues, lightning from a cloud.
Lightning stuns. In rain, the clouds disperse.
Only water of connection remains,
flowing through us. Strong is what we make
each other. Until we are all strong together,
a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.
(emphasis mine)

Friday, July 29, 2011

How netroots narratives hurt Democrats

OK, so we're down to the wire on this debt ceiling issue. We have 3 days to get something done or see the world economy go into chaos.

Boehner's plan passed the House today on a straight Republican Party line vote - not one Democrat voted for it. And it was quickly rejected by the Senate.

So now its up to Reid and McConnell to see if they can get something done in the Senate. Only McConnell has promised that Republicans will filibuster Reid's bill. So Reid is trying to negotiate with Republicans to get something that can pass...in a hurry.

The big news out of all of that is that McConnell is saying that Republicans will filibuster at this point - which will likely not allow time for a bill to pass by Tuesday. He's also into some kind of hissy fit about not negotiating with Reid - saying he'll only work with the President. WTF???? It's beginning to look like Republicans are aiming for a default...in other words, that's their plan.

And THAT'S the message that we should all be trying to get out there. We should now switch from calling/emailing/tweeting members of the House to calling on McConnell to work with Reid and our Senators to get the damned thing done!!!

At least you'd think that should be our message. But what do we see on the front page of one of the biggest progressive blogs on the internet? This title:

DEBT CEILING FOLLIES: REID PLAN BEING AMENDED, AGAIN


With this picture:

Photobucket


Yeah, that's helpful...not!!!!!!!!!!

Calculated evil or stark raving madness?

When dealing with the Republicans (particularly of the tea bagger variety), one is often faced with the question of whether or not we're looking at calculated evil or stark raving madness.

If its the former, p m carpenter has a point.

This thought does occur.

It may be that congressional Republicans privately have removed brinkmanship from the table; that their revised plan is to ensure that no default-avoiding bill, under any circumstances -- not even their own -- shall emerge from Congress; and that a guaranteed default will thereby force President Obama to reluctantly exercise the Constitutional option next week, thus creating the grounds for another year-long distraction: impeachment.

Ha-ha Noonan...grow up!

Peggy Noonan today.

I want to talk about something that started to become apparent to me during the debt negotiations. It's something I've never seen in national politics...

It is that nobody loves Obama. This is amazing because every president has people who love him, who feel deep personal affection or connection, who have a stubborn, even beautiful refusal to let what they know are just criticisms affect their feelings of regard. At the height of Bill Clinton's troubles there were always people who'd say, "Look, I love the guy." They'd often be smiling—a wry smile, a shrugging smile. Nobody smiles when they talk about Mr. Obama. There were people who loved George W. Bush when he was at his most unpopular, and they meant it and would say it. But people aren't that way about Mr. Obama. He has supporters and bundlers and contributors, he has voters, he may win. But his support is grim support. And surely this has implications.

That immediately took me back to 1968. I was 14 years old (so yes, you can now figure out how old I am - LOL) and living in a VERY conservative small-town Bible Belt community in East Texas. Hubert Humphrey was a United States Senator running for President. And in my naive bubble world, all I could think of was "Who votes for this guy? No one likes him." As a matter of fact, whenever I heard people talk about him - it was perfectly clear that they hated him. It was a conundrum for me.

Ten years later I'd relocated to Minnesota - of all places - and when Humphrey died I was up close and personal to the outpouring of love that came from the entire country about him. But even more so from his home state. Boy, did I get a case of whiplash on my own childish ignorance about the man!!!!! It was - if nothing else - a lesson in what happens when you make grand assumptions based on your own small world.

Its clear that's what Noonan has done. I can assure her, there are people all over this country who ADORE the man. But one has to wonder why a woman of her age and experience is still living in a bubble. I can forgive myself for doing so at 14. What's her excuse?

Would/should the Democrats ever play the hostage game?

Yesterday Steve Benen wrote an interesting column that got me thinking. Its titled Would Democrats ever pull the same stunt? His question refers to whether or not the Democrats would ever take the global economy hostage for their own political/policy ends.

This is not a meaningless question. Recently I pointed out that Joan Walsh suggested just that. And we regularly hear it espoused by the hair-on-fire poutragers as the only appropriate response.

Benen's thoughts on that question focus mostly on the fact that Democrats wouldn't have a lot of credibility when it comes to the "stark raving mad" quality it takes to pull something like this off.

As hostage strategies go, the current crop of congressional Republicans are pulling an unprecedented stunt, which only works because most sincerely believe they really are dangerously crazy. It’s critical to making the strategy work — those holding the hostage have to convince everyone that they’re ready to follow through on their threat...

But what would happen if/when a Democratic Congress started making comparable threats to a Republican president? Probably nothing. It’s a question of credibility — GOP leaders and everyone else knows that Democrats aren’t crazy; they’re not irresponsible; and they’re not indifferent to the nation’s needs and future.

They wouldn’t, in other words, be perceived as folks who would shoot the hostage. Republicans play this game far more effectively because they satisfied the political world’s skepticism — few question the notion that they’re stark raving mad.

I'd suggest that should be points in favor of the Democrats...folks wouldn't buy that they're insane enough to mean it.

But it goes beyond an issue of credibility. Democrats really aren't "crazy; they’re not irresponsible; and they’re not indifferent to the nation’s needs and future"...at least the majority of them in public office right now aren't. Surely I have my differences with a lot of them, but the truth is that they're more focused on governing than crazed power stunts.

But lets take just a minute and imagine what would happen if Democrats took the advice of Walsh and the poutragers. What would it look like if they were willing to not only take hostages, but were willing to pull the trigger? What if we had not one, but two parties who played this way? What if there was no adult in the room?

I'd suggest that we'd have a lot of dead hostages and not much governing. Think gang warfare for a minute. One gang shoots and the other retaliates and then the previous one retaliates for the retaliation...on and on. That's what happens when you play that game. Because the fact of the matter is - neither side shuts down. They just up the ante and get more deadly. Certainly there might be a retreat here or there. But that would only be for strategic purposes to figure out how to take the battle to another front. Isn't this, for example, the very problem with intransigent situations like the one in the Middle East between the Israelis and the Palestinians? With the incessant "you did it first" attempt at a rationale?

And how would the American voter respond to such a spectacle? Would they, as some of the poutragers suggest, rally behind a Democratic Party that appeared "tough" and was willing to fight dirty? Or would they see the battle for what it is - a silly dick-swinging power play between two parties that are bent on mutually assured destruction? That's a gamble. I'd put money on the idea that it would turn people off to politics even more than they already are. And that doesn't even count the dead bodies laying around due to the shooting of hostages (you have to follow through every now and then to at least prove your point).

On this one, I'm in full agreement with what Barack Obama said about it six years ago.

The bottom line is that our job is harder than the conservatives' job...A polarized electorate that is turned off of politics, and easily dismisses both parties because of the nasty, dishonest tone of the debate, works perfectly well for those who seek to chip away at the very idea of government because, in the end, a cynical electorate is a selfish electorate.

The very essence of maturity is to not get into playing these kinds of destructive, childish - and yes, selfish - games. That's one of the reasons I'm a Democrat.

Where things stand...

What can you say about the fiasco that is the Republican Party today? Speaker Boehner didn't have the votes for a bill that has NO chance of passing the Senate and one that leads him to brag to his caucus that "Barack Obama hates it, Harry Reid hates it, Nancy Pelosi hates it.” Trouble is...too many of the looney's in the House hate it too.

So what is Boehner's response? Does he scrap it and try to get a deal done with 4 days to go before default? Of course not! They're going to try to figure out a way to make the bill even more noxious to anyone but the lunatics.

Let's name this one folks. What we're witnessing is a "Save the Speaker's Job" strategy for Mr. Boehner and to hell with the global economy.

I really hope that American voters are watching. This is what happens when you give these motherf*ckers the keys to the car.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

This one goes out to Speaker Boehner

Following up on what I wrote this morning, this is dedicated to the orangeman.

Housekeeping

While we're waiting to see if the world economy is going to go into crisis, I thought I'd mention something some of you might have already noticed...I did some re-arranging on this blog last night.

One of my main reasons for doing that is that I wanted to highlight the growing power of pragmatic progressive blogs. Over on the left, you will now see the list I've developed so far (and I'm sure will be adding to) with updates as new articles are posted. Already today I'm loving this because it gives me up-to-the-minute information on what's new from these wonderful intelligent writers. I hope you'll take advantage of it as well.

On a specific note, if you scroll down to the very bottom of the list right now, you'll see a url for SistahSpeak by Robinswing. Some of you may know of Robinswing from her writing at Daily Kos. This week she announced that she'll no longer be writing there and is starting her own place. Its obviously still under construction, but as soon as it goes "live," you'll be able to see that here (if all works as it should). I can't wait to welcome Robinswing to this wonderful group of blogs!!!

Limbaugh vs Boehner (updated)

The stage is set. Later this afternoon, the House will take a vote on Speaker Boehner's debt limit bill.

Yesterday I suggested that, rather than pay attention to the whip counts (which are too close to call right now), you should listen to what Rush has to say about it.

Well, now we know.

If the Democrats get their way, the Republicans will pass the Boehner bill. It will go to the Senate, where it will immediately be announced dead on arrival. And then, dingy Harry will announce, "But, there's enough here. We can work with this. We didn't really realize all that was in this. There's stuff in here -- yeah, yeah. ... Maybe I can get some Democratic votes on it after all."

And then miraculously -- miraculously -- the prince of compromise, Harry Reid, steals the day, by compromising with just an outrageous dead on arrival bill. He gets all kinds of credit for hard work, rolling up sleeves and that magic compromise, and sends that back to the house. Okay Republicans, ball's back in your court. Here's your bill with a few modifications.
(emphasis mine)

That seems to be the line these tea party leaders are embracing..."its a trap, I tell ya...a trap!" Erik Erickson at Red State is on message too.

Here, though, is why it is important to kill John Boehner’s plan this very morning before today’s vote.

John Boehner’s plan will get to the Senate. Harry Reid’s plan isn’t even in final form and has not even started making its way through the Senate’s arcane processes. It is a trap.

Harry Reid will amend John Boehner’s plan and include parts of Reid’s own plan that make tax increases even more likely than Boehner’s already does...

Then the Senate Democrats will send John Boehner back his own plan and dare John Boehner to kill his very own proposal. Should he try, the GOP will look as hardline and unwilling to compromise as John Boehner’s acolytes have been accusing conservatives of being this week.

The only thing we can do is call our congressmen and prevent them from voting for this suicide pact.

I kid you not!!! These are direct quotes, I promise!

I don't expect anyone to wrangle through this to find anything that resembles thought or reason. That would be a fools errand and its pretty clear from a cursory glance at this stuff who the fools are.

But I'd recommend that you grab your popcorn and watch this one. The showdown at the ok corral is about to commence between Rush and John tonight.

Anyone want to place a bet?

UPDATE: Vote postponed indefinitely. Read: Boehner doesn't have the votes.

Score:

Limbaugh - 1
Boehner - 0

To be continued...

It's too late for that

Today I'm reminded of something I saw in the 2008 Republican Presidential Primary. My analysis has always been that GOP primary voters split between Romney and Huckabee - thus allowing McCain to come up through the middle. As one who's family is firmly entrenched in tea partyism, I can tell you that NONE of them had much fondness for McCain (especially after his duel in 2000 with their darling George W.) So McCain had a problem with his "base." Most primaries are the time when candidates pander to their base and then move towards the center in the general election. But McCain didn't have the right wing covered so he went "all in" with them by picking Sarah Palin as his running mate...thus destroying any hopes he had of appealing to independents. In other words, his move to solidify his base was too late.

We're seeing the same thing with Boehner today. He's not trusted by the tea party wing in the House. So here we are 5 days before the default deadline, and he's busy trying to shore up his credentials with them. Why else would he be holding a vote on a bill that has no chance of passing the Senate and one that the President has promised to veto? Because, as Boehner says:

“Barack Obama hates it, Harry Reid hates it, Nancy Pelosi hates it,” he said, naming off the Democratic leadership.

That's the kind of rhetoric he needs to get his rogue base on board. And its a clear sign of desperation.

Speaker Boehner, its WAY too late for that. As Steve Benen says:

The United States is in the midst of a crisis of Republicans’ making, and a potentially catastrophic deadline is just days away. We have a Republican-led House, a Democratic-led Senate, and a Democratic White House, so the nation will need a solution that can generate approval from all three institutions.

And as BooMan points out, Its About Our Country, Not John Boehner.

DOJ going after "reverse redlining"

According to the Huffington Post:

The Department of Justice is preparing a lawsuit against Wells Fargo, the nation's largest home mortgage lender, for allegedly preying upon African American borrowers during the housing bubble and steering them into high-cost subprime loans, according to three people with direct knowledge of the probe...

Last week, the Fed said that perhaps more than 10,000 borrowers were inappropriately steered into subprime mortgage loans or had their loan documents falsified by bank personnel. Wells Fargo agreed to pay $85 million to settle the civil charges. It did not admit wrongdoing.

In its ongoing case against Baltimore, Wells Fargo stands accused of using those same practices, but deploying them against black borrowers in majority-black neighborhoods, an act commonly known as "reverse redlining." The city alleges that the bank targeted black borrowers, knowing they'd ultimately default on their loans, but did not fear shouldering the cost because Wells sold those loans to investors.

What's even more interesting is that its NOT the Justice Department division investigating financial crimes that is taking this action - its the Civil Rights Division. As Adam Serwer reminds us, this is the company where internal memos referred to blacks as "mud people."

What many of the poutragers forget when they wail about DOJ not prosecuting what the banks did that led to our economic collapse is that most of the worst offenses were actually not illegal...regulations were nonexistent or had been discarded, which was the real crime.

What we see here, however, is a whole different matter in that the loans might not have technically been illegal. But the attempt to target them to African Americans was. Hence DOJ and the Civil Rights Division are on the case - once again doing the work of good government.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

US Departments of Justice and Education target the "School to Prison Pipeline"

Anyone who has been reading this blog for very long knows that I've been doing my best to track the exemplary work of US Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice - especially those things that don't make it into the headlines. This week there was more good news that affects something near and dear to my heart - the "school to prison pipeline."

If you're not familiar with this issue, there is much to read about it on the internet. I wrote about it here a little over a year ago.

According to Education Week, here's what was announced this week:

A new undertaking from the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education targets school discipline policies that end up pushing children into the juvenile-justice system for crimes and rule-breaking on campus—and keeping them from pursuing their education.

Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan unveiled the Supportive School Discipline Initiative at a meeting of a Justice Department committee meeting Thursday afternoon.

"When our young people start getting locked up early... they start to move out of schools, out of the pipeline to success," Mr. Duncan said. He recalled how when he led Chicago public schools, he found that 7 percent of schools were responsible for more than half of the arrests of young people in the city. A small group of principals were calling the police too often to deal with minor disciplinary issues, he said, while schools with similar demographics handled the same behavior problems in other ways.

"People wanted to do the right thing. They just didn't know better," he said. "So many of these children need assistance. What they don't need is to be pushed out the door."

The initiative announced Thursday has four parts:
• building consensus for action among federal, state and local education and justice stakeholders;
• collaborating on research and data collection needed to shape policy, such as evaluations of alternative disciplinary policies and interventions;
• developing guidance to ensure school discipline policies and practices are in line with the federal civil rights laws;
• and promoting awareness and knowledge about evidence-based and promising policies and practices.

Holder and Duncan referenced a report by the Council of State Governments Justice Center from earlier this week that found that more than half of all Texas middle and high school students were suspended or expelled at least once between 7th and 12th grades.

"I think these numbers are kind of a wake-up call," Mr. Holder said. "It's obvious we can do better."

Many (mostly white) pundits/commentators have tried to make a case that this administration has been insufficiently attentive to the issues that African Americans face in this country. I can tell you that NOTHING is of more concern to African Americans in my community (especially parents) than this one. That's because more than half of African American boys in this country do not graduate from high school on time and one in three African American boys will spend time in prison.

Solving these issues is a long-term process and will take the involvement of everyone in the communities affected. I'm grateful to see AG Holder and Secretary Duncan weighing in to do their part.

The GOP's real leadership

In trying to drum up support for Boehner's debt ceiling bill stall, this is what amounts to the GOP PR campaign.

The Republican leadership has privately reached out to conservative TV personalities like Sean Hannity and Brit Hume, and Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot, National Review’s Kate O’Beirne, Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard, David Brooks of The New York Times, George Will, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, and groups such as The Heritage Foundation, among others, have all heard from Republican leadership, including Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam of Illinois. And even former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), the chairman of FreedomWorks and a tea party favorite, got a call from GOP leaders.

I can't help but think of the fact that a couple of years ago David Frum identified who is really running the show for the Republicans.

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 radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.

Forget the whip counts you'll be hearing about today. If you really want to know whether or not Boehner's plan has a chance of passing the House, listen to Rush Limbaugh.

Call it what it is!

Yesterday, I tried to make the case that no matter what President Obama had done in these negotiations about the debt ceiling, we would have ended up at the same place we are today. My other point was that therefore, the White House strategy has been to ensure that the President is able to demonstrate to the American people that he is willing to compromise and govern while the Republicans are not.

This morning I see that both Ezra Klein and p m carpenter are saying pretty much the same thing.

Here's Klein:

Whenever I try to run out the logic of Obama simply refusing to allow Republicans to take the debt ceiling hostage, I end up with us approximately where we are now, but Obama’s numbers are lower, the GOP’s numbers are higher, a number of congressional Democrats have broken ranks, and Washington elites are firmly arrayed against the White House. It’s not a line of reasoning that leads to a better outcome for Democrats.

This issue is playing out essentially as you would expect given the basic power imbalance at its heart: Many elected members of the GOP really are willing to let Treasury exhaust its borrowing authority. Very few elected Democrats can say the same. For that reason, Republicans always had the leverage on this issue, and in that world, Democrats could never have credibly refused to deal. You can ask whether Obama should have offered as much as he has, but I think that’s a more marginal question given that the GOP has rejected everything he’s proposed.

And here's carpenter:

Not since Abe Lincoln took office has a president's political opposition been so ruthlessly determined to oppose -- even to the point of national disloyalty, which is precisely what the GOP's treacherous machinations over the debt limit represent. It is futile to look back on Obama's first two years and speculate that he should have done this, or that he should have done that, and then this or that might have proceeded better; it is futile because whatever path Obama might have chosen, his opposition was acrobatically hellbent on obstructing it.

If Obama is to be properly faulted, then his fault lies in the rather incongruent criticism of excessive rationality. No one, least of all a chief executive of profound intellect and with a corresponding belief in the great and unifying power of Reason, could have predicted in January 2009 that the spiritually broken Grand Old Party would redouble its preceding madness, and then double that, and double even that again. No one could have predicted the right's absolutely surreal hypocrisy on debt and spending, its Obama-as-Hitler posters, its "death panel" frenzies and its birther lunacy and its Socialist Dictator! dementias. Neither could anyone have predicted the activist left's infantile behavior and ceaseless crankiness.

No one could have, and no one did.

Yet now we encounter the magnificent bounty of hindsight. And it's pointless. Because the right was always determined to sabotage Obama's presidency -- if "unusually extreme and intransigent" methods... proved insufficient, then what the hell; economic treason might do the trick -- and with each passing day, it doubles down on its determination.

Again ... not since Lincoln.

This is the big picture take on what is going on. And its imperative that all Americans - regardless of party affiliation - recognize it. That's because we are ultimately the only ones who can stop it. This is, after all, still a democracy. And when the people give power to the traitors, this is the result. Its time we sent these f*ckers home and elected some actual representatives to the House of Representatives.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Why are you unhappy?

Why are you unhappy?
Because 99.9 per cent
Of everything you think,
And of everything you do,
Is for yourself —
And there isn't one.

- Wei Wu Wei

I've been thinking about this one for years but I'm still not sure what it means.

I first heard it in a talk given by poet David Whyte. He follows up recitation of the poem by saying that there is no self in isolation - similar to the question: "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"

"The opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself"

We all know that the narrative gripping the poutragers is that President Obama is a bad negotiator. They think he constantly "gives away the store" and therefore assume that the Republicans take advantage of that. As a matter of fact, some prominent bloggers (warning: poutrage link) have gone so far as to postulate that this is why the Republicans can't say "yes" to anything.

If there's one thing Republicans have learned the last several years it's that Democrats don't know how to negotiate, so why bother compromising?

The problem with this analysis is that its based solely on a progressive viewpoint. In other words, its analyzing the Republican's actions from the perspective of liberals. That very seldom works.

If, instead, you look at things from the Republican's perspective, you see exactly the opposite in terms of their motivation.

To do that, go back just a few months to the negotiations over the 2011 budget. Remember that the poutragers were convinced that President Obama gave away the store. And then, when the details emerged...not so much. As a matter of fact, Republicans were pissed and the bill wound up needing heavy Democratic support to pass because the tea partiers bailed. Here's the conclusion reached by Erik Erickson (founder of Red State and conservative CNN commentator) from all of that:

Frankly, at this point, any House Republican who votes for the compromise should be flogged by the tea party movement — metaphorically speaking of course.

And we might really need to reconsider whether or not our existing leadership has the moral authority to continue leading....

This is embarrassing...

The one silver lining in all of this is that the House GOP Freshmen should now be radicalized against any deal cut by the House leadership.

The reality for Republicans is that President Obama and the Democratic leadership basically took Boehner to the cleaners during the last hostage crisis and they're going to do anything they can to avoid that outcome again. That's what is getting in their way of saying "yes" to anything.

This is a perfect example to me of how important it is to cultivate the skill of empathy. It does not require that you agree with your opponent. But without it, you will consistently misinterpret and misunderstand. That inevitably leads to strategies that are destined to fail.

The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.

- Sun Tzu

Poutrage contradictions

As I listen to the poutragers wail about President Obama's "only adult in the room" approach, I can't help but see a contradiction.

First of all, they claim that he's "negotiating with terrorists," which you are never supposed to do (we'll put aside the argument about how, in divided government, he's supposed to avoid that constitutionally). Their point, which I'd have to agree with, is that the Republicans don't want to negotiate or compromise. But their conclusion is that it is therefore pointless to try.

So then, you have to ask what the alternative is. Here's Michael Tomasky explaining it as well as anybody has.

Here, for example, is something that actual adults in the room do. They say at the outset: This is not a negotiation; this is a hostage situation. The House and Senate have voted 11 times since 1997 to raise the limit. Every time, they’ve groused, especially members from the party out of power; some people vote against it, as Obama himself mistakenly did once, but even then, the vote has been symbolic, with the winking understanding that it will pass; and onerous conditions like these are never attached to such votes. So this is unprecedented and illegitimate. If Obama’s as good at swaying public opinion as the conjurers say he is, he would have swayed it on the debt ceiling back in May.

What this misses is the first point...Republicans were never going to negotiate or compromise. We've seen that neither the voters, nor the President, nor other Democrats, nor sane Republicans, nor their Wall Street donors have been able to convince them to move one inch. So you'll have to explain to me why this approach would have led to any different outcome than we're facing right now.

The only difference we would have seen if the President had followed the advice of the poutragers is that he would have had no case to make to the American public that he was any different in how he approached this than the Republicans. Certainly the public is very attracted to the idea of "a pox on both your houses" in these kinds of situations. But President Obama has not only bent over backwards in trying to avoid this, he's given over half a dozen press conferences in the last couple of weeks to attempt to sway the media narrative and he went on TV last night to take that message directly to the American people (bully pulpit anyone?). In a game where the Republicans seem content to shoot the hostage, I can't think of another strategy I would prescribe. He's played the card he has - even calling for the public to let Congress know, thus apparently shutting down phone systems and servers last night - and is now banking on US being adults as well. We'll soon see if the American public is up to the challenge.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Speaker Boehner Lies (updated)

From Speaker Boehner's remarks:

President Obama came to Congress in January and requested business as usual -- yet another routine increase in the national debt limit -- we in the House said 'not so fast.' Here was the president, asking for the largest debt increase in American history, on the heels of the largest spending binge in American history.
(emphasis mine)

The truth in graph form from the New York Times:



UPDATE: For those of you who might need the ammunition, Steve Benen covers the lies in Boehner's truth allergy.

A rainbow celebration in NY

America, this is what gay and lesbian people look like - YOU!

















President Obama to address the nation tonight (updated)

Tweet from Jay Carney:

POTUS to address nation, 9 pm tonight, re stalemate over avoiding default and the best approach to cutting deficits. Watch @ wh.gov/live.

UPDATE: Once again, BooMan nails it.

I'd like every liberal who has carped about the president's approach to the debt ceiling negotiations to pause now and consider the fact that the Republicans have now revealed their bottom line. They made an offer. Their offer is nothing. We get nothing. Not one thing that we want. Nada. And that has always been their position...

Now, this thing is still not over, and the president is going to speak to the nation at 9pm tonight. I expect he will be extremely pissed off. I also expect the Republicans not to give a shit...But my point for the purposes of this thread is the following. Since there was never any way to win any concessions, wasn't the game here to make sure people see you as having been reasonable? And the other side as the economic terrorists that they are?...

It seems to me that this wasn't a game about outcomes. The outcome was pretty well known in advance: the Republicans would refuse to raise the debt ceiling if it meant making a single concession on anything. Given that, the whole exercise was about political perceptions.

I don't understand why this isn't better understood.

I personally don't think you have to assume that President Obama put anything on the table he couldn't live with. But as BooMan said...that's not the point. The point was to be reasonable and expose the economic terrorists. Anyone who can't see that now is simply blinded by their ideology.

Can the GOP say "yes" to anything? I guess not.

This morning Ezra Klein has a good chronology of the debt ceiling negotiations.

Originally, the Democratic position was that we should simply raise the debt ceiling. Republicans said "no." There would have to be a deal that reduced the deficit by at least $2.4 trillion -- which is the size of the debt ceiling increase needed to get us into 2013.

Then the Democratic position was that we should raise the debt ceiling through a deal that reduced the deficit by about $2.4 trillion, with $2 trillion of that coming from spending cuts and $400 billion coming from taxes. Republicans said "no." There would have to be a deal that disavowed taxes.

Then the Democratic position was that we should raise the debt ceiling through a deal brokered by Barack Obama that reduced the deficit by $4 trillion, with about $3 trillion of that coming from spending cuts and about $1 trillion coming from tax increases. Republicans said "no." There would have to be a deal that disavowed taxes, and it would have to be cut between the congressional leadership of the two parties. Obama couldn't have this as a win.

Of course, he left out President Obama's final offer to cut $3 trillion in spending and address tax reform afterwards. President Obama wanted a trigger if the later wasn't done that included an expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and Boehner wanted the trigger to be a repeal of the health care mandate. As Eclectablog pointed out, that's when any doubts about the Republican's interest in negotiating a deal should have been finally put to rest. And its precisely when President Obama gave them a good smackdown for it.

A few weeks ago I postulated that President Obama had the upper hand because ultimately, the Republicans would have to agree to a deal that raised the debt ceiling. I'm afraid I might have been terribly wrong in my assumptions about the Republicans. It seems to me that Boehner was engaging in a bit of projection when he accused President Obama of moving the goalposts. Its hard to see, in hindsight, how they were ever negotiating in good faith. At best, their strategy has been to bring us to this moment of the brink, when markets would begin reacting to the failure to reach a deal. At worst, they're willing to let us go off the cliff.

Who knows what comes next? But if the voters don't ultimately hold Republicans accountable for this - in a big way - I fear for our future. President Obama has done all he can to avert this crisis - sometimes at great cost. He's done his best to play the card the voters gave him in 2010. And anyone who doesn't see that is simply blind or completely ignorant about the realities of divided government. Now its time for us to have our say!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What does the GOP fear more - Obama or taxes?

Steve Benen has an interesting post this morning wherein he quotes George Will saying something we've heard regularly from Senator McConnell.

The Tea Party can succeed in 16 months by helping elect a president who will not veto necessary reforms. To achieve that, however, Tea Partyers must not help the incumbent achieve his objectives in the debt-ceiling dispute.

One of those is to strike a splashy bargain involving big — but hypothetical and nonbinding — numbers. This would enable President Obama to run away from his record and run as a debt-reducing centrist.

Benen summarizes:

Got that? The important thing isn’t to strike a compromise and prevent a disaster; the important thing is prevent Obama from claiming a political victory.

This is important to remember when we get all caught up in Republican intransigence over including tax cuts in the debt ceiling bill. Is Grover Norquist's pledge partly just an excuse to deny President Obama a victory? Its why he asked on Friday whether Republicans can say yes to anything.

Notice also that George Will pretty much endorsed the idea that if President Obama is able to run as a "debt-reducing centrist," that will deny the Tea Partiers a victory in 2012. In other words, it means Obama wins. This not only would be interesting news to the poutragers who think a grand bargain is the biggest threat to his re-election, it's also confirmation of what Nicholas Kristof wrote today about Republicans being a threat to our security. Duh!

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The Democratic Party and White Voters

Pew Research published an article this week that is getting a fair amount of attention in political circles. Its titled GOP Makes Big Gains Among White Voters.

As the country enters into the 2012 presidential election cycle, the electorate’s partisan affiliations have shifted significantly since Barack Obama won office nearly three years ago. In particular, the Democrats hold a much narrower edge than they did in 2008, particularly when the partisan leanings of independents are taken into account.

Notably, the GOP gains have occurred only among white voters; a 2-point Republican edge among whites in 2008 (46% to 44%) has widened to a 13-point lead today (52% to 39%). In sharp contrast, the partisan attachments of black and Hispanic voters have remained consistently Democratic.

While Republican gains in leaned party identification span nearly all subgroups of whites, they are particularly pronounced among the young and poor. A seven-point Democratic advantage among whites under age 30 three years ago has turned into an 11-point GOP advantage today. And a 15-point Democratic advantage among whites earning less than $30,000 annually has swung to a slim four-point Republican edge today.

Here's a summary of their data:

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This should come as no surprise. I've written before about the census data Ron Brownstein gathered recently demonstrating that in the 2012 election, Republicans would need to hold Obama below 40% support among white people in order to have any chance of winning the White House.

What's the best way to do that? Exploit racial fears. Its the same old southern strategy ramped up for the 21st century. Over the last few years we've seen an ongoing stream of pseudo scandals ramped up by the right wing media about Van Jones, New Black Panthers, ACORN, Shirley Sherrod, birth certificates, Common, etc. And then there's the feeding of fear about Muslims and immigrants. These are all designed to scare the bejeebus out of white people to get them to believe that those "brown folks" are somehow threatening. With a certain segment of white people, its no surprise that this is working. It fits into an age old narrative that's been bred into our bones. You don't have to be a card-carrying member of a white supremacist organization to have all of this instill just enough anxiety to scare you away from voting for "that one."

So what should President Obama and the Democrats do about this obvious strategy? Some leftists have concluded that being the adult in the room doesn't work. Reading that article, I must admit that I'm not left with much understanding of what the writer thinks DOES work - other than something he refers to as "answers" rather than "compromise."

Counting on voters to pick the moderate, even-tempered candidates and go for the "reasonable" choice in 2012 is a fool's errand. With no significant change in the economic climate since the Crash and even before, a wise prognosticator would count on the voters to make the unreasonable choice in 2012 just to make something happen to change the status quo. As much as every poll shows that voters want compromise, what they really want is answers.

Given the fact that these same terrified (mostly white) voters gave the President a rather lunatic House to have to work with, our constitution dictates that he compromise with them in order to get answers. Attempting to demonstrate that to mostly uninformed voters and a media that seems addicted to false equivalence is probably why President Obama has held over a half dozen press conferences in the last month on this debt ceiling issue.

Adam Sewer describes this issue and - at the end - acknowledges the limitations President Obama faces in dealing with it.

The Republican Party had a choice after 2008. They could continue to rely on a dwindling but still decisive share of the white vote to prevail, or they could try to bring more minorities into the party. While I'm not entirely sure how much of the decision was made by party leaders and how much is merely the unprecedented influence of Fox News, but whether it's pseudo scandals of the past two years, from birtherism to the NBPP case, the GOP's nationwide rush to ban sharia and institute draconian immigration laws, or characterizing nearly every administration policy as reparations, the conservative fixations of Obama's first term indicate that the GOP will end up relying at least in part on inflaming white racial resentment to close the gap. If Obama can't mobilize as many minority voters as last time, he'll have to make up the difference by picking up more white votes in those Rust-Belt swing states — giving the GOP even more reason to make Obama unpalatable to them. What that means though, is that Obama can hardly afford to adopt the kind of hardball identity politics available to his opponents.

In the end, the real antidote to fear-based politics is to deal with the anxiety that fuels the fear. The tightrope that Obama has to walk right now is to find a way to deal with these lunatics in the House in such a way that he can address the economic anxieties that fuel the fear while not feeding into the "angry black man" stereotype that would certainly be used by the opposition to scare white folks. I'd say that his press conference on Friday was a masterful stroke of doing just that.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Science, Art, and Food

I have always loved photography. There is something about catching what's real in a moment of time that tells us something.

I have also always loved art that brings together different disciplines. That's what Caren Alpert does with her photography. And that tells us something too.

What’s in our food?

What’s the difference between a bird’s-eye view of a remote vegetable crop and a microscopic swath from a pineapple leaf? How distinct is a pile of table salt from miles and miles of icebergs?

As a food lover and a photographer I answer these questions visually. Using scientific laboratory photo equipment, I journey over the surfaces of both organic and processed foods: my own favorites and America’s over-indulgences. The closer the lens got, the more I saw food and consumers of food (all of us!) as part of a larger eco-system than mere sustenance.


Pineapple Leaf


Table Salt


Brussel Sprout


Sun Dried Tomato


Shrimp Tail


Cake Sprinkles

If you'd like to see more, go to Caren's website that I linked to up above.

Race, Privilege and President Obama

I'm going to do something I never thought I would do...ask you to go read a diary at Daily Kos. And if you still have an account there, recommend it. The diary was written by dmitcha and is titled Rise of a New Confederacy: Race Privilege and President Obama.

As just a taste of what this writer is doing, s/he lists President Obama's resume and then says this:

So many say or think that people of color support President Obama simply because he is Black. You misunderstand our history. (How is that possible, to still not know what we have lived through, seen, been held accountable for, been held back by, been informed by, pushed victoriously forward through? Sincerely, how is it possible to be so ignorant yet consider oneself so much more enlightened?) Please extend your sentence from this day forward: Consider that many of us, of all races, respect him because he is Black and has done all of these things.

We know how hard it is to convince your teacher you actually wrote your "excellent" essay. How hard it is to get a resume with a "funny sounding name" on it past a local business owner. We went to college, and we remember the "Pimps and Hos" parties our "liberal" dormmates threw, happily parading their costumes before us for approval, since surely we would know? We work in corporate America, in medicine or in the law...it doesn't matter really. We know the shock when clients see us, the polite request from receptionists that we wait to tidy until everyone leaves, despite being dressed in business clothing. We have been handed keys to fetch cars outside of every gala we've attended, despite wearing tuxedos with shimmery gold cuff links and having wives in organza and linen on our arms. We have been asked more than once by our White boyfriends' neighbors and mothers if we are the maid, and what day we might be free to take on a new apartment. We have been asked to leave hotel bars while waiting for clients because we must be call girls or we would not be dressed in such expensive clothing on their premises, room key be damned. We have been strip-searched at the airport for having too many stamps in our passport, despite the international contracts in our case. We know the work, the strength of character, the moral fortitude, the forgiveness, the brilliance, the relentlessness... WE KNOW WHAT IT TOOK TO DO EVERYTHING ON THAT LIST.

That list, that resume, is nearly statistically impossible for a rich, straight, Christian White man in our country to achieve, where all systems say "Go!" Now re-read those childhood circumstances in the first paragraph, and understand that Barack Hussein Obama achieved it.

And so, please ask yourself this one last question. Take this one last, small sip:

Despite having achieved exactly none of the things President Obama has achieved on that list (statement of probability based on statistics)...do you believe that HE is the one who is falsely being admired and lifted up? Is it, in fact, HE who has not really done anything to merit the respect and admiration he enjoys? Whereas you...YOU are absolutely worthy of the importance and stature and credibility you have claimed for yourself, yes?

People who support the demonstrated, quantifiable, statistically impossible excellence, achievement and nature of this American hero, you call "Obamabots," don't you? You chuckle at them and sincerely consider them delusional or deluded! (That "hero" term is filling your head with noise again, isn't it? Please read on.) Whereas the people who rec and tip YOU, they clearly are among the prescient, right? They have a REAL understanding of who knows best! They are following the more obvious and enlightened and WORTHY leader, correct?

This is one of the most powerful descriptions of white privilege I have ever read. And its all done by holding up a mirror to how folks react to President Obama. Please go check out the whole thing - and give the author some love!

Snippets from the smackdown...and a few reactions (updated)

Here are a few quotes from President Obama's press conference yesterday..

It is hard to understand why Speaker Boehner would walk away from this kind of deal. And, frankly, if you look at commentary out there, there are a lot of Republicans that are puzzled as to why it couldn’t get done. In fact, there are a lot of Republican voters out there who are puzzled as to why it couldn’t get done. Because the fact of the matter is the vast majority of the American people believe we should have a balanced approach...

The American people expect action. I continue to believe that a package that is balanced and actually has serious debt and deficit reduction is the right way to go. And the American people I think are fed up with political posturing and an inability for politicians to take responsible action as opposed to dodge their responsibilities...

Up until sometime early today when I couldn’t get a phone call returned, my expectation was that Speaker Boehner was going to be willing to go to his caucus and ask them to do the tough thing but the right thing. I think it has proven difficult for Speaker Boehner to do that. I’ve been left at the altar now a couple of times.

And I think that one of the questions that the Republican Party is going to have to ask itself is can they say yes to anything? Can they say yes to anything? I mean, keep in mind it’s the Republican Party that has said that the single most important thing facing our country is deficits and debts. We’ve now put forward a package that would significantly cut deficits and debt. It would be the biggest debt reduction package that we’ve seen in a very long time...

And so then the question becomes, where’s the leadership? Or, alternatively, how serious are you actually about debt and deficit reduction? Or do you simply want it as a campaign ploy going into the next election?...

But ultimately, that’s what we should expect from our leaders. If this was easy it would have already been done. And I think what a lot of the American people are so disappointed by is this sense that all the talk about responsibility, all the talk about the next generation, all the talk about making sacrifices, that when it comes to actually doing something difficult folks walk away.

Last point I’ll make here. I mean, I’ve gone out of my way to say that both parties have to make compromises. I think this whole episode has indicated the degree to which at least a Democratic President has been willing to make some tough compromises. So when you guys go out there and write your stories, this is not a situation where somehow this was the usual food fight between Democrats and Republicans. A lot of Democrats stepped up in ways that were not advantageous politically. So we’ve shown ourselves willing to do the tough stuff on an issue that Republicans ran on....

Now, what you’re going to hear, I suspect, is, well, if you -- if the Senate is prepared to pass the cap, cut and balance bill, the Republican plan, then somehow we can solve this problem -- that’s serious debt reduction. It turns out, actually, that the plan that Speaker Boehner and I were talking about was comparable in terms of deficit reduction. The difference was that we didn’t put all the burden on the people who are least able to protect themselves, who don’t have lobbyists in this town, who don’t have lawyers working on the tax code for them -- working stiffs out there, ordinary folks who are struggling every day. And they know they’re getting a raw deal, and they’re mad at everybody about it. They’re mad at Democrats and they’re mad at Republicans, because they know somehow, no matter how hard they work, they don’t seem to be able to keep up. And what they’re looking for is somebody who’s willing to look out for them. That’s all they’re looking for.

And for us not to be keeping those folks in mind every single day when we’re up here, for us to be more worried about what some funder says, or some talk radio show host says, or what some columnist says, or what pledge we signed back when we were trying to run, or worrying about having a primary fight -- for us to be thinking in those terms instead of thinking about those folks is inexcusable.

I mean, the American people are just desperate for folks who are willing to put aside politics just for a minute and try to get some stuff done.

So when Norah asked or somebody else asked why was I willing to go along with a deal that wasn’t optimal from my perspective, it was because even if I didn’t think the deal was perfect, at least it would show that this place is serious, that we’re willing to take on our responsibilities even when it’s tough, that we’re willing to step up even when the folks who helped get us elected may disagree.

And at some point, I think if you want to be a leader, then you got to lead.

And here are a couple of reactions from some wise ones in the pragmatic progressive blogosphere.

First of all, p m carpenter with Obama Strikes With Unprecedented Ferocity.

Not even when Bill Clinton was getting his guiltless butt impeached by predatory partisan enemies has a U.S. president so utterly mutilated his political opposition -- so righteously denounced the "inexcusable." Barack Obama's just-delivered evening announcement was brutal, beautiful, unfaltering, fiercely determined and bloodily retaliatory.

He ... has ... had ... enough.

BooMan with Boehner Walks Out, Again.

In any case, this is the end-game I've been predicting for quite some time. The president knew that Boehner couldn't deliver the votes for any plan with tax increases and so he insisted on tax increases until the very end. He's still insisting on them. At this point, some polls show as many as 80% of the people agreeing with the president's approach. The establishment media is firmly on the president's side. Pretty much any semi-casual observer is on the president's side. Politically, he has crushed the Republicans.

And Joseph Markowitz at Hope and Change has some interesting thoughts about the role of the poutragers in The Usefulness of Anger.

Now it has become clear that these screamers from the left were just playing the role that the president expected and needed them to play. The more these people helped prove that President Obama was facing tremendous heat from his base from being willing to make cuts to favored Democratic programs, the more his hand was strengthened. That is because he showed the American people that he was willing to go the extra mile, but that the Republicans were not willing to raise one penny of revenue to help reduce the deficit. They would rather protect tax breaks for corporate jets than do anything to help ordinary people. The president has fully exposed the Republicans in Congress as caring more about the interests of the most privileged among us, than about any of the issues they claim to care about.

So thank you, all you crazy outraged progressives. You made the president look great tonight.

UPDATE: Thanks to Linda H at what IS working for making this short clip from the press conference yesterday. Every American should take a moment to hear what their President said.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round

Old spirituals like this have helped African Americans stay in the struggle for centuries. I share it tonight with those who - like me - might feel a bit battle weary from the events of the recent days.

But more importantly, its my ode to President Obama tonight. Ain't gonna let nobody turn me 'round from continuing to see how hard you fight every day, not for your own glory, but for the people who are least able to protect themselves, who don’t have lobbyists in this town, who don’t have lawyers working on the tax code for them -- working stiffs out there, ordinary folks who are struggling every day.

Rest well tonight President Obama. You done good today. We have your back and aren't going anywhere!

"It is not the critic who counts"

Wow! I was out for a couple of hours and missed President Obama's press conference. I'm just getting caught up and my head is reeling. But after watching the video, there were two things that came to mind.

First of all, this wonderful quote from Teddy Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

And then, I've always loved this video of Obama talking way back when during the primaries. Its never been more fitting as a description of how he operates than it is today.



I give people the benefit of the doubt. I try to understand their point of view. If I perceive that they try to take advantage of that, then I will...crush them.

Just in case anyone's forgotten...

Steve Benen makes a great point.

Someone asked me the other day when President Obama doesn’t just ask for a clean debt-ceiling bill, instead of engaging in these mind-numbing negotiations. The truth is, he has asked for a clean bill, repeatedly. It didn’t get much attention at the time — the White House pushed for this in March and April — but the request was certainly made.

The problem is, it fell flat very quickly.

And then he goes on to point out something else many seem to have forgotten. On May 31st, the House of Representatives voted on a "clean debt increase bill." It failed. That was the whole point of Boehner bringing it up - to take it off the table as an option.

Just saying...

Anatomy of a poutrage

This would be funny if it weren't so sad.

But here's the story that I just watched unfold:

Obama has been in meetings with Boehner and Cantor to see if there is any possibility left for a "grand bargain" as part of the debt ceiling increase. News spread that the deal would include spending cuts and a commitment to tax reform. As I predicted, that caused a hair-on-fire poutrage storm (warning: left wingnut link).

But that's not even the end of it.

As part of the negotiation on future tax reform, Boehner and Obama discussed triggers that would kick in if tax reform was not productive. Here's how the NYT described them.

The White House wants a trigger that would raise taxes on the wealthy; Mr. Boehner wants the potential penalty for inaction to include repeal of the Obama health care law’s mandate that all individuals purchase health insurance after 2014.

Here's how that was written about at TPM.

Multiple reports surfaced late Thursday that a trade-off might be in the works: Republicans would agree to the tax trigger if Obama and Dems would agree to nix the health care law's individual mandate -- an unpopular, but crucial component of the reforms Obama signed last year. This is precisely the sort of swap House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has argued for recently.

And here's how it sounded by the time it got to the Daily Kos front page.

Although nobody from the White House nor House leadership will confirm any of the details of the Obama-Boehner deal, apparently one of the ideas is to link tax reform with the individual mandate: if tax reform isn't implemented, the individual mandate would be repealed.

Let the fireworks begin!!!

The poutragers bought it hook, line and sinker that Obama had agreed to Eric Cantor's trigger that if tax reform wasn't successful, the mandate would be repealed (thus effectively killing all of health care reform).

I have to admit that it was kind of humorous watching some of the really hard liners confused about whether to bash Obama for such stupid negotiation tactics or be happy that health care reform would be dead.

But its all based on rumor and lies. Obama has not agreed to let the mandate be repealed if tax reform isn't successful - that's what Boehner put on the table. His position, as reported in the NYT, is that if tax reform isn't successful, Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire. Perhaps that's why WH Communications Director Pfeiffer and Speaker Boehner wanted to be so clear yesterday that NO DEAL HAD BEEN REACHED.

But this is how it goes for the poutragers. If you ever wanted a clear-cut example of why/how they make themselves totally irrelevant to the political process...there it is in a nutshell.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

President Obama's Op-Ed in USA Today

Tomorrow's print edition of USA Today will contain this op-ed from President Obama: Go big on debt deal.

For years now, America has been spending more money than we take in. The result is that we have too much debt on our nation's credit card — debt that will ultimately weaken our economy, lead to higher interest rates for all Americans, and leave us unable to invest in things like education, or protect vital programs like Medicare.

Neither party is blameless for the decisions that led to this debt, but both parties have a responsibility to come together and solve the problem. That's what the American people expect of us. Every day, families are figuring out how to stretch their paychecks a little further, sacrifice what they can't afford, and budget only for what's truly important. It's time for Washington to do the same.

Why cuts are necessary

In the short term, my No. 1 focus is getting our economy back to a place where businesses can grow and hire. That's why I want to take a number of steps right away, like extending tax relief for middle-class families and putting construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads and highways.

But over the last few months, I've also said that I'm willing to cut historic amounts of spending in order to reduce our long-term deficits. I'm willing to cut spending on domestic programs to the lowest level in half a century. I'm willing to cut defense spending by hundreds of billions of dollars. I'm willing to take on the rising costs of health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid, so we can meet our obligations to an aging population.

Some of these cuts would eliminate wasteful spending, weapons we don't need, or fraud and abuse in our health care system. Still, some of the cuts would target worthwhile programs that do a lot of good for our country. They're cuts that some people in my own party aren't too happy about, and frankly, I wouldn't make them if we didn't have so much debt.

But the American people deserve the truth from their leaders. And the truth is, you can't get rid of the deficit by simply eliminating waste and fraud, or getting rid of pet projects and foreign aid, like some have suggested. Those things represent only a tiny fraction of what we spend our money on.

At the same time, it's also true that if we tackle our deficit with spending cuts alone, it will likely end up costing seniors and middle-class families a great deal. Retired Americans will have to pay a lot more for their health care. Students will have to pay a lot more for college. A worker who gets laid off might not have any temporary help or job training to fall back on. At a time of high gas prices, we'll have to stop much of the clean energy research that will help free us from our dependence on oil.

That's why people in both parties have suggested that the best way to take on our deficit is with a more balanced approach. Yes, we should make serious spending cuts. But we should also ask the wealthiest individuals and biggest corporations to pay their fair share through fundamental tax reform. Before we stop funding clean energy research, we should ask oil companies and corporate jet owners to give up the tax breaks that other companies don't get. Before we ask college students to pay more, we should ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries. Before we ask seniors to pay more for Medicare, we should ask people like me to give up tax breaks they don't need and never asked for.

The middle class hasn't just borne the brunt of this recession; they've been dealing with higher costs and stagnant wages for more than a decade now. It's just not right to ask them to pay the whole tab — especially when they're not the ones who caused this mess in the first place.

Raising revenues: a bipartisan position

A balanced deficit deal that includes some new revenues isn't just a Democratic position. It's a position that has been taken by everyone from Warren Buffett to Bill O'Reilly. It's a position that was taken this week by Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, who worked together on a promising plan of their own. And it's been the position of every Democratic and Republican leader who has worked to reduce the deficit in their time, from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton.

There will be plenty of haggling over the details of all these plans in the days ahead. But right now, we have the opportunity to do something big and meaningful. This debate shouldn't just be about avoiding the catastrophe of not paying our bills and defaulting on our debt. That's the least we should do. This debate offers the chance to put our economy on stronger footing, restore a sense of fairness in our country, and secure a better future for our children. I want to seize that opportunity, and ask Americans of both parties and no party to join me in that effort.