Monday, October 31, 2011

All of the sudden Limbaugh isn't so colorblind

Back in October 2009, Rush Limbaugh went on and on about being colorblind to defend himself against charges of racism...you know, as a result of doing things like singing about Barack the Magic Negro.

But now that its his guy under fire for sexual harassment, what do you know, all of the sudden he can "see" color again.

You know, I guess I shouldn't be surprised, folks. After all of these years, none of us should be surprised, but I still am. Look at how quickly what is known as the mainstream media goes for the ugliest racial stereotypes they can to attack a black conservative...

What's next, folks? A cartoon on MSNBC showing Herman Cain with huge lips eating a watermelon? What are they gonna do next? No, Snerdley, I'm not kidding. The racial stereotypes that these people are using to go after Herman Cain, what is the one thing that it tells us? It tells us who the real racists are, yeah, but it tells us that Herman Cain is somebody.

I'll tell you what Rush, we don't know who leaked these stories about Cain to Politico. But it wouldn't surprise me at all to hear that it was those white good-ol-boys in the Republican establishment who don't take too well to a black man who doesn't kiss their posteriors. So even though I think Mr. Cain is a joke as a candidate for the presidency, I don't have to stretch much to see a bit of racism there.

I'll not hold my breath waiting for you to return the favor.

Republicans gearing up to fight FOR government spending

Regular readers will know that I've been talking for awhile about how the debt ceiling deal will be changing the conversation in Washington. It hasn't hit crescendo yet, but things are definitely shifting.

While President Obama is out talking about the American Jobs Act and issuing daily executive orders on his "We can't wait" campaign, Republicans are starting to talk about the importance of government spending...on the military.

While they've spent the last couple of years focusing on austerity and decrying the dangers of our looming deficit, the triggered $600 billion in cuts to defense spending that will kick in when/if the Super Committee doesn't reach a deal are starting to cause them to change their tune and panic.

Conservative Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson picked up the mantle yesterday with an article titled The dangerous debate over cutting military spending. He shifts from a total 100% focus on austerity to framing the debate as essentially one of "guns vs butter."

We shouldn’t gut defense. A central question of our budget debates is how much we allow growing spending on social programs to crowd out the military and, in effect, force the United States into a dangerous, slow-motion disarmament.

It will be interesting to see if folks like Mr. Samuelson can scare the American people into supporting the "guns" side of that argument - given the dire straights of our economy and the successes President Obama has had in neutralizing threats like Al Qaeda. I'd suggest that at least we're moving the debate into more productive territory.

Of course, we can always provide folks like him with information like this chart developed by TPM about where the growth in spending has actually happened.

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Republicans diss Hispanics...again

Now that Perry has pulled a "Romney" and flip-flopped on participating in GOP presidential debates, it looks like we're in for more of the clown show.

But Republican candidates are united in one thing...they won't participate in a debate on Univision.

There are almost 12 million potential Hispanic voters in the United States. And both parties say they are eager to court their votes. So one has to wonder why the Republican presidential contenders would miss the chance to debate before the largest possible audience of Spanish-language television viewers.

This month, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman Jr., Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich said they would not participate in a debate on Univision tentatively scheduled for Jan. 29, before Florida’s Republican primary. Instead, they are expected to debate in December on NBC’s Telemundo, which has less than a third of Univision’s typical evening audience.

You might wonder why these GOP candidates would want to miss out on the opportunity to reach out to so many Hispanic voters.

The candidates will be asked about immigration whatever Spanish-language network they are on. But on Univision they were to be questioned by Jorge Ramos, a Mexican-American anchor who has been harshly critical of policies to crack down on undocumented immigrants and openly supports a path to legalization. On Telemundo, they will face its less hard-charging host, Jose Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American who is the brother of two powerful Florida Republicans, Representative Mario Diaz-Balart and former Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

Jorge Ramos has certainly never given President Obama a pass when it comes to asking hard questions, but the two of them have conversed several times both before and after the 2008 election. You might remember that the President did a town hall forum on education at Univision that was also hosted by Ramos.

Republicans, on the other hand, seem to only want rabid right-wing audiences that cheer things like electric fences on the Mexican border. I doubt that kind of talk would go over very well with Ramos or the Univision audience.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Remembering the everyday renegades on Dia De Los Muertos

A few years ago I started what might be called a blogging ritual by annually re-posting something Madman in the Marketplace wrote back in 2006 celebrating Dia de los Muertos.

Its especially fitting to do that today (even though the holiday is actually celebrated on Nov. 1st and 2nd) on the heels of my most recent post about the dangers of people like Greenwald forgetting to pay homage to our forefathers/mothers. Madman demonstrated so beautifully why its important to remember and celebrate them.

Today, in the spirit of Dia De Los Muertos, lets celebrate instead those who've fought dark times before, survived dark times before, PREVAILED in times that were much like what we face now.

I don't mean just the leaders, not just Elizabeth Cady Stanton, more than Joe Hill, not just Chief Joseph, not merely Martin Luther King Jr. or William Lloyd Garrison or Cesar Chavez. The authoritarians are the ones who have no choice but to elevate "great men" for them to FOLLOW...Our luminaries are only representatives of vast numbers of people most of us might never know by name, unless they were the grandfather who told you stories of old strikes, of meals of crusty toast with chipped beef gravy on top while sitting at his knee. Perhaps another who sat at an old formica kitchen table with tales of the struggle against the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the mission schools, or stories related at family get-togethers of sitting at the back of the bus, grandmothers who remembered having no opportunity to pursue their own dreams because of their gender. Maybe your forebearers told stories of shame and having to hide who they loved, or the pressure to hide the fruits of having loved, of being spirited away to give birth in shame.

THIS Dia De Los Muertos, remember their struggles, but remember their COMMUNITY. Remember that unlike the right, unlike the worshippers of division and death, we can look back with joy and fondness at people who sang and danced and loved and communed DESPITE their struggles, despite the exploitation, the hatred, the discrimination and fear. They formed communities, they formed unions, they formed sewing circles and barn raisings and volunteer organizations. They rallied with their neighbors, mended fences, found common ground with NEW neighbors different from themselves. It's easy to remember the nativists, the klansmen, the misogynists and gay bashers and jingoists and bundists ... but also remember that there were ALWAYS good people opposing them, forging bonds, talking and working together to build a brighter, broader, more inclusive future. While there were slavers, there were abolitionists. When other men jeered and sniped, remember there were women who reminded others that a woman was every bit the equal of a man and should have a voice, and there were sons who listened to them.

Celebrate the artists, the writers, the musicians and performers who forged bonds between different groups of people, who showed us all that it's okay to be different, that different can be wonderful and exciting. Remember that every time that culture tried to expand our ties, broaden our conversations, help us see the world anew, the authoritarian minded tried to silence them, ban them, attack them, but over time the artists prevailed. From the churches and the juke joints, the beer halls and the smokey bars, from the salons to the corner table at the Algonquin, from coffee houses to underground clubs ... we can remember fondly those who found beauty and strength in the everyday and in the sublime and IN EACH OTHER. THIS Dia De Los Muertos, read their words, sing their songs, dance to their tunes, enjoy their paintings and sculptures and their videos. Remember that no matter how loudly, how violently, how insistently those afraid of openness and sharing and difference and change tried to stop it, the songs got sung, the rugs got cut, the words got read...

We can and will prevail, we will find a way to become a font for peace again. It doesn't matter how you add to the struggle, it not necessary for all of us to become politicians or full-time activists. You can help those who do that vital work by volunteering for them, or donating to them, or by merely talking to your neighbors, chatting with the frightened and cowed who you encounter in your daily life. Smile and quietly talk back to those who spread hate and fear. We are where we are because those with no faith in humanity TALKED TO EACH OTHER, and refused to compromise. We can do the same, because we believe in community, not division, and in community there comes strength. The fight, the struggle, the great human show continues, and throughout history given time and perserverance it has been the cultivators, not the extractors, who have brought beauty, peace and prosperity to the world. Over the next couple of days, remember them fondly, and let those memories inform your choices as we face the struggles ahead.

You don't have to be an old foggie to remember and learn from the past. These guys called them "renegades."



Now renegades are the people with their own philosophies
They change the course of history
Everyday people like you and me

Greenwald gets it half right

As you might know, Glenn Greenwald has published a new book titled "With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful." You might have seen him on TV shows like Rachel Maddow's promoting it. He's also written articles like this that basically summarize the content. In that article, he's trying to answer the question "why OWS now?" He establishes that income inequality has been with us in this country for a long time and suggests that the difference now is that inequality is stemming from the unfairness of our justice system.

Here's the half of the equation that Greenwald gets right.

In lieu of the rule of law - the equal application of rules to everyone - what we have now is a two-tiered justice system in which the powerful are immunised, while the powerless are punished with increasing mercilessness.

The reality of a two-tiered justice system in this country is a fact - and one where the consequences these days are increasingly felt by people of color (African Americans in our prison system and Latinos in detention facilities).

But here's where Greenwald gets it wrong.

Many Americans who once accepted or even cheered such inequality now see the gains of the richest as ill-gotten, as undeserved, as cheating. Most of all, the legal system that once served as the legitimising anchor for outcome inequality, the rule of law - that most basic of American ideals, that a common set of rules are equally applied to all - has now become irrevocably corrupted and is seen as such.

Greenwald is delusional if he thinks that there was ever a time in this country's history when the "rule of law" applied equally to everyone...where the ruling class was punished for its crimes. In the interview with Maddow, he actually tries to date the movement away from the rule of law to Ford's pardon of Nixon.

Listening to and reading Greenwald took me back immediately to a book written by Derrick Jensen titled "The Culture of Make Believe." Its a powerful work that examines the history of hate and violence in this country - and our ongoing attempts to stay blind to that reality.

Jensen documents the founding of this country in slavery and genocide...crimes that were never punished in any kind of meaningful way and still haunt us in our culture today. But he also tells the story of companies like Dow Chemical/Union Carbide and families like the Morgans (as in J.P. Morgan) who have been fearlessly committing crimes with impunity against people in both this country and abroad - all while enjoying government bailouts along the way. In other words, what's happening today has been going on for a VERY long time. Its our ignorance about history that makes us think its something new.

What's dangerous about this lack of awareness about our history is that it also blinds us to movements that have been the flip side of this reality. Those crimes and inequalities led to things like the labor and civil rights movements - where the struggle continues today. Pretending like there was some haloed past that is now in jeopardy means that we loose the wisdom of our forefathers/mothers and any sense of continuity with their victories and failures. It also leaves those who have been fighting the battle ever since feeling marginalized rather than empowered.

One thing that Greenwald and OWS might learn from those movements of the past is that they spent their time trying to raise up the oppressed rather than focusing all their efforts on bringing down the powerful. But perhaps that's a story for another day. For now, lets just try to remember our history correctly.

We're STILL the ones we've been waiting for

Caroline Clarke at Black Essence reminds us:

President Obama was elected by an enthusiastic, optimistic, relieved majority. Like my emailing friend Ann, in Oregon, most of us cried tears of joy when the last vote was counted; some of us still choke up every time he appears. But most of us also receded back into our lives after the election, dabbing our eyes as we waited for him to work miracles. And we knew it would take miracles—not only because there was a mighty contingent appalled that a Black man was president—but because the deck he was handed was stacked high against him, and against us all.

When he proved to be a mere mortal... we went mute and let the liars, the haters, the extremists and opportunists take over. Do we blame him for that or do we blame ourselves?

President Obama is constantly criticized for the changes he promised that we don’t yet see. But his campaign for change clearly required that we all change; it required that we sacrifice and continue to stand with him once he was off the campaign trail and actually working to enact a new approach that he (and we) knew would be an uphill battle.

His change demanded that Americans maintain the optimism, interest, and level of engagement that led us to change ourselves enough to vote a Black man into the White House in the first place. But no sooner was he there than we changed back, tweeting our gripes, Facebooking our frustrations, bitching and moaning and doing almost nothing to help him move us forward.

As African Americans, once again, we have a vital role to play at a critical moment in history—and there’s not a moment to spare. In a twist on the president’s own line, this is not rocket science; it’s right. When it comes to opening the door to real change, he can turn the lock, but we hold the key.

I know many who read here are the very ones who have been doing all we can to "maintain the optimism, interest, and level of engagement" far beyond President Obama's election. But too often we've been doing that against a chorus of the "bitching and moaning" coming from the left as well as the right.

It was never "Yes He Can" now was it?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A simple wish

George Will vs Pat Robertson

Yesterday I wrote about the great divide in Republican ranks over the presidential nomination. If I had asked you a few months ago to bet on where George Will and Pat Robertson would stand on that divide, I expect you would have lost some money.

As you know, earlier this week Pat Robertson accused the GOP base of being too extreme and made a plea for them to focus on electability. That's as close to an endorsement of Romney as you're likely to hear from him at this point.

You might have already seen that today George Will eviscerated Romney in his column and made a case in support of the base's extremism.

Romney, supposedly the Republican most electable next November, is a recidivist reviser of his principles who is not only becoming less electable; he might damage GOP chances of capturing the Senate. Republican successes down the ticket will depend on the energies of the Tea Party and other conservatives, who will be deflated by a nominee whose blurry profile in caution communicates only calculated trimming.

Eegads, my head is spinning with trying to figure out who are the "sane" folks in that party. Just to show you what I mean, here is another clip of Pat Robertson this week (h/t Infidel753) decrying the dangers of matriarchy.



So he wants to warn us about the scary women about to take over the country all while talking about the base being too extreme...really?

And then here's a shocker from George Will on the presidential election just 7 months ago.

Let us not mince words. There are at most five plausible Republican presidents on the horizon - Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Utah governor and departing ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, former Massachusetts governor Romney and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.

So the Republican winnowing process is far advanced. But the nominee may emerge much diminished by involvement in a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.

I guess that today Will is prepared to entrust nuclear weapons to those "careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates."

Can someone please point me to the "sane" folks here?

The left's doom-and-gloomers

I've been writing about how the debt ceiling deal will become a prominent part of the discussion in the coming months leading up to the 2012 election. With the leak this week of both the Democratic and Republican plans put forward by members of the Super Committee, the whole issue is getting some attention on the blogs and in the MSM.

Today Michael Tomsasky weighs in with what I consider to be typical leftist doom-and-gloom. He affirms what most people think - the Super Committee will fail to come to an agreement by their deadline on Thanksgiving. And then he focuses on the triggers - cuts to both discretionary spending and defense that will kick in January 1, 2013 if a deal is not reached.

The Republicans will, as John McCain and others have suggested, turn up the heat on the question of defense cuts. They will introduce legislation to exempt the Pentagon from cuts...

So they’ll advance a bill saying: cuts to domestic social programs, sure; cuts to Pentagon, nyet. It will pass the House. It will go to the Senate, and all the Republicans will be for it, and they’ll need 13 Democrats. So then the questions will be: will the Democrats be willing to hold the line and risk the silly accusation of being “soft on defense”? And will the White House also hold the line—bucking, of course, its own defense secretary, who agrees with the Republican position? I think we know the answer.

So the Republicans will have killed another deal with their indefensible and immoral position on taxes, and then, having stuffed that carcass in the trunk, they will retroactively work to kill the deal they agreed to last summer, and spend December demagoguing about how Democrats are going to leave America defenseless and throw hundreds of thousands of poor aeronautical engineers into the streets.

Hmmm...I think Mr. Tomasky is forgetting a few important details.

First, this will all be happening right in the middle of a presidential election when everyone will be paying attention to politics in a way that usually is not the case. There's been enough polling lately on these issues to demonstrate where the American public stands on these issues.

We all know that legislative bodies never act until the last minute - and in this case, the last minute is not until January 1st. Whether or not the Republicans will want to vote on this kind of thing prior to the lame duck Congress or afterwards will be an interesting thing to watch. If they wait until afterwards, they'll either be dealing with a lame duck President (I don't want to go there!) with nothing to lose or one who has recently been re-elected to his second and final term. I'm not sure they'd be happy with the outcome of either scenario.

Secondly, taking this discussion up prior to the election will step ALL OVER their message about the importance of austerity. With their insistence on no taxes added to promoting defense spending, they'll have trouble making the case that the country is going to slide into oblivion if we don't tackle the deficit. Yesterday I talked about how its also likely to require them to make the case that government spending cuts (on defense) DO hurt the economy.

But the final issue Tomasky forgot is the game-changer that negates his argument. That's the one about another issue the Republicans will need to address by January 1, 2013...the Bush tax cuts. Remember that when they were extended, it was only for 2 years and they're set to expire the same day the triggers go into effect. So not only will the Republicans have to get bills through Congress in 2012 to get rid of the defense cuts, they'll also need legislation to extend the tax cuts. President Obama made it clear in the debt ceiling deal that if a balanced approach was not reached, he would veto them.

This will raise an entirely different scenario than the one's we've watched play out so far with the "party of no" Republicans. This time it will be them who will need to proactively pass legislation rather than sit back and obstruct. They'll be pushing restoration of funds for defense and tax cuts for the wealthy. And all that will be happening right around the 2012 election.

One other possible scenario is that the Republicans could bank on winning the Presidency and gaining control of Congress in the election - then simply wait until 2013 to pass this kind of legislation retroactively. But I doubt they'll be willing to take that risk.

Wake up doom-and-gloomers...this one is going to be fun to watch!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Who will have Attorney General Holder's back?

When the Republicans took over the House in 2010, here's the warning shot sounded by the New York Times.

When the Obama administration wakes up next month to a divided capital, no cabinet member will be facing a more miserable prospect of oversight hearings and subpoenas than Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

Mr. Holder is a particularly juicy target because he presides over issues that have served as recurrent fodder for political controversy — including using the criminal justice system for terrorism cases, and federal enforcement of civil rights and immigration laws.

While stirred up controversies like the one about the New Black Panther Party didn't pan out for them, Republicans have nevertheless been on the hunt for something that would take down AG Holder. At this point, they think they've found that something in a controversy that the MSM and progressive blogs are pretty completely ignoring...the Arizona ATF's Fast and Furious operation. As the Daily Caller notes today, eight Republican House members have now called for Holder's resignation.

While they've not yet grown this thing into a full-fledged scandal, I have every confidence that they'll keep trying. As the article from the NYT says, these folks see AG Holder as a threat to some things that are very important issues to them - terrorism cases, federal enforcement of civil rights, and immigration laws.

In the tab up at the top of this blog titled "DOJ Watch," I've been documenting some of the things Holder and the DOJ have been doing with regards to these issues. The list is long, including tackling police brutality, prosecuting the police murders on the Danzinger Bridge following Katrina, negotiating a settlement between the Dept. of Agriculture and African American farmers, fighting for the Fair Sentencing Act (and its application retroactively), prosecuting banks for reverse redlining, investigating racial profiling, protecting women's access to health care clinics, prosecuting draconian immigration laws, and challenging the Texas anti-Hispanic redistricting plan.

Of course AG Holder has also been in the forefront of taking on Congress over their legislation to block of the administration from shutting down Guantanamo and dealing with the public outcry over his proposal to try detainees in civilian courts.

These are all issues that should lead progressives to stand firmly behind him as these attacks mount. But there is virtual silence on the left, and worse, the potential for the poutragers to join with the right in calling for his resignation. That is fueled by the left's anger at Holder for 3 things:

1. He didn't prosecute Bush/Cheney for torture,
2. They think he hasn't done enough to prosecute people responsible for the financial collapse, and
3. The DOJ's mixed messages on going after businesses that sell medical marijuana in states where that is legal.

While I agree with the third criticism, what fuels the first two is an ignorance about the possibilities. For example, in 2009 Congress passed the Military Commissions Act which pretty much eviscerated the possibility of prosecutions for U.S. torture. And the sad reality is that much of what Wall Street did to create the 2008 economic crash was legal.

So while much of the left is focused on being angry with our Attorney General for things he could never accomplish, they have completely ignored the important work he is doing that has led the right to go after him with a vengeance.

As things heat up for AG Holder with accusations from the right, I hope the Obama administration will stand behind him 100%. I know that I will.

The Republican Divide

Ron Brownstein has an interesting analysis of the Republican presidential field in his article titled The Two Republican Races.

He takes CNN/ORC polling data on the race since last January and tracks support for 4 of the candidates based on whether or not the responders identify with the Tea Party. Here's a graph of the results.



Browstein's point is that while the non-tea partiers have coalesced around Romney, the tea party crowd is still vacillating in their flavor-of-the-month search for purity. Romney is still standing after Pawlenty dropped out, Huntsman tanked, and the rest of the possible contenders knew better than to stick their toe in these insane waters. But the Tea Party vote is either divided or in chaos - depending on who is up at the moment.

This is causing folks like Adam Brandon, spokesman for Freedom Works, to loose sleep.

Brandon says what keeps the group "up at night" is the fear that tea party voters will never solidify behind a single candidate and allow Romney to win the nomination even if most hard-core conservatives still oppose him.

That's the scenario most "serious" analysts are betting on. But Brandon might not be ready to throw in the towel quite yet.

Which is why he says FreedomWorks, which has never endorsed in a presidential primary, may feel compelled to do so this year. "If there's the establishment Romney vote on one side, and there are two of these two party candidates battling it out, which might mean he would slip in, we might have to endorse," he says.

I suspect the first step in that process is what happened yesterday when another Tea Party group, American Majority, told Michele Bachmann that she should get out of the race.

So Tea Party, who's it going to be? Cain, Perry...or Gingrich?

Debt ceiling deal is starting to change the conversation

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how the debt ceiling deal would soon start to prompt interesting questions that are likely to affect the 2012 election campaigns. This week, we've seen some of that start to happen.

With the deadline for the Super Committee to vote on a deficit reduction plan looming in less than a month, both parties have submitted plans that pretty much mirror the stalemate that led to the creation of the committee in the first place. In other words, Democrats proposed a balanced approach of spending cuts and tax increases while the Republicans will have none of the later. So the situation is as deadlocked as it was in the past.

Some chatter about what happens if the committee fails and the triggers kick in is starting to happen...especially the part where defense spending would get cut by about $600 billion. And the Republican response is fascinating, - but predictable. All of the sudden, they're singing a totally different tune about the dangers of government spending cuts on our economy.

“What’s more, cutting our military—either by eliminating programs or laying off soldiers—brings grave economic costs,” wrote Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week. “[I]f the super committee fails to reach an agreement, its automatic cuts would kill upwards of 800,000 active-duty, civilian and industrial American jobs. This would inflate our unemployment rate by a full percentage point, close shipyards and assembly lines, and damage the industrial base that our warfighters need to stay fully supplied and equipped.”

Wasn't it just recently that when Speaker Boehner was asked about spending cuts leading to government job losses his response was "So be it?"

Now all of the sudden Republicans are embracing the very arguments that they've spent the last year and a half denying. Do you suppose the conversation about the economy and public sector jobs is likely to get very interesting in the next few months? And do you suspect that perhaps that's exactly what Obama and the Democrats had in mind when they agreed to this deal? Of course.

Finally, do you think that perhaps the poutragers who so quickly bought into Speaker Boehner's lies about "getting 98% of what he wanted" will re-think their analysis? Nah, me neither.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cantor in total denial

With Congressional approval numbers in single digits, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor decided to brag about their performance this year.

In a 1-page “Dear Colleague” letter, Cantor pointed to several numbers that he said indicated a more deliberative and productive House due to the new schedule. For example, through Oct. 14 of this year, the House has taken 800 roll call votes so far, compared to 565 votes by the same time in 2010.

Here's a handy summary of what Republicans have been up to this year:

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Hint to Eric...I'm not so sure this is something I'd be bragging about. Even grading on the curve wouldn't get you a pass on this one.

The wisdom of a child

Greg Sargent's 10 year old son's cartoon.

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Does anyone need a reminder that Republicans don't know what they're talking about?

Yesterday Steve Benen caught something interesting about Gov. Perry's first big campaign ad buy in Iowa:

...Perry tells viewers, “As president I’ll create at least 2-and-a-half million new jobs..."

Sounds good, doesn't it? But Benen explains:

Let’s consider the jobs data. Over the last year and a half, as the economic recovery has slowly progressed, the economy has added 2.56 million private-sector jobs...

Rick Perry believes he’ll able to create the same number of jobs in four years that Barack Obama has created in a year and a half.

On the other end of the spectrum, I'm reminded of an article Benen wrote a couple of weeks ago on what Sen. McCain said at the launch of his so-called "jobs plan." Here's McCain:

We’d love to see, for example, a vote in the United States Senate on a moratorium on Federal regulations, which are coming out by the thousands, costing businesses billions and billions of jobs. We’d love to see a vote on that.

Benen's response:

Hmm. The population of the United States is 312 million people, including children and seniors who aren’t in the workforce. Regulations are responsible for crushing “billions and billions” of jobs? Somehow, I doubt that.

And then yesterday, we learn that the Obama administration actually wrote fewer regulations than Bush.

Seriously...these Republicans think they can say anything and the American people will swallow it whole. For too many in this country - I suspect that's not a bad bet to make. But if the media isn't going to take these guys on, its our job to get the message out there that they are either liars or fools...take your pick.

From message to movement

Apparently Andrew Sabl spent some time with OWS and came away with some interesting insights.

First of all, he points out that the message of OWS is popular.

According to a Time poll, of those who claim familiarity with the protests (three-quarters of the sample), 86 percent agree that “Wall Street and its lobbyists have too much influence in Washington”; 79 percent agree that “the gap between rich and poor in the United States has grown too large”; “71 percent agree that “executives of financial institutions responsible for the financial meltdown in 2008 should be prosecuted”; 68 percent agree that “the rich should pay more taxes.”

He puts his second point rather bluntly: "The people running Occupy Wall Street are flakes." Here's a bit about how he explains it.

They have come to see the protests as ends in themselves. Their official blog disavows the right of any working group to produce demands. On the contrary, saith the blogger, ”[w]e are our demands. This #ows movement is about empowering communities to form their own general assemblies, to fight back against the tyranny of the 1%. Our collective struggles cannot be co-opted.”

It looks to me like that last sentence is the crux of the matter: "Our collective struggles cannot be co-opted." They are so distrustful of anyone or any system that they are stymied from any kind of real action.

This gets to the heart of something I realized years ago when I felt the gulf between myself and young people today... we grew up in different eras and learned different lessons. For me, the resounding themes of my childhood were words like "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." Or "I have a dream..."

The air was different as young people today grew up. Pretty much every system in our political and social world was discredited. To me it started with the Vietnam War through Watergate. But even churches (Catholic sex scandals and TV preachers) and large non-profits (ie, scandals in United Way and Red Cross) showed themselves to be corrupt. These kids were raised on the mother's milk of an almost automatic distrust of larger-than-life individuals and big institutions. The only trust they are willing to extend is to themselves and those they know up close and personal.

In a way, that's a good thing. Real and lasting change does have to come from the bottom up. But on the other hand, that kind of bottom up change is never going to tackle "Wall Street." That's too big of a target and so they are likely to eventually peter out or be defeated.

It reminds me of something Pete Seeger said about the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement in this clip.



Speaking of Rev. Martin Luther King, Seeger says:

Why did he start with a bus boycott? Why didn't he start with something important like schools or jobs or voting? I mean, 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 off to the side...but you win it. And having won that bus boycott - 13 months it took him to do it - then he moved on to other things.

To take this OWS phenomenon from a message to a movement, I'd suggest that those "empowered communities" they're talking about will need to:

1. Choose a small battle they can win.
2. Find the leverage to take on the battle (any movement needs to organize power to take on the power of the status quo).
3. Rally supporters to take up that power.
4. Be prepared to stick with it - especially when the backlash of the status quo creates hardships for supporters.

Right now the battles OWS seems to be waging are against municipalities and police to occupy public spaces. I don't think that's a message most Americans are going to resonate with. The battle needs to be over the power wielded by the 1%.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Autumn Leaves

I live in a part of the country where its impossible to ignore the changing seasons. That isn't true everywhere. I remember constantly having to think twice about that when I lived in Southern California.

There is a kind of beautiful melancholy that comes will fall. Here's an example of that beauty in my very own back yard today.



But the days are shorter as the darkness begins to take over the light of long summer days. And at least up here in the tundra, we know that the harshness of winter is on its way.

Melancholy isn't all bad. A change of pace is nice and taking a few moments to reflect is usually good for the soul.

If you ever had any doubts that melancholy could be beautiful, let me suggest that you let Eva disabuse you of that.

Young Americans Can't Wait

As part of his We Can't Wait campaign, today President Obama will announce new rules on student loans.

President Obama on Wednesday will announce a plan to allow college graduates to cap federal student loan repayments at 10 percent of discretionary income starting in January, two years before the cap was due to take effect under federal law.

The accelerated “pay as you earn” program, which Obama will authorize through executive order, could benefit up to 1.6 million borrowers and reduce their payments by as much as a couple hundred dollars a month, administration officials said. All remaining debt on the federal loans would be forgiven after 20 years — five years earlier than under current law.

In addition, some borrowers who have more than one federal student loan will be allowed to consolidate their debt, in some cases reducing their interest rates by up to half a percentage point, officials said. Obama will formally announce the program at the University of Colorado’s downtown Denver campus...

This coincides with the launch this week of a new web site for the Obama campaign: Greater Together, which was announced by this video from the President.

Another bad day for Republicans

The Republican candidates for the presidency just can't seem to stop stepping all over themselves during this pre-primary season. Yesterday was another bad day for the top contenders.

First of all, we had Cain's bizarre ad that had everyone scratching their heads and wondering whether this guy is really serious.



Then there was Perry stepping all over the launch of his so-called "tax plan" with his own version of birtherism.



This stunt was reviled by almost every Republican leader out there and led conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin to call him "unfit and unserious."

Perry is playing the role of a Texas A&M frat boy, not a contender for leader of the free world and commander in chief. Can such a person be taken seriously?

This is not a problem, by the way, that his staff can fix. This goes to the candidate’s character and judgment. If such a person would stoop to birtherism and secession, and let anti-religious bigotry go without condemnation, where does it stop?

Finally, Romney goes to Ohio to congratulate Republicans who are working to maintain legislation that denies workers their collective bargaining rights. But he won't endorse their work.



That led to this statement from the Club for Growth, pretty much summarizing what we all know about Romney.

The big problem many conservatives have with Mitt Romney is that he’s taken both sides of nearly every issue important to us. He’s against a flat tax, now he’s for it. He says he’s against ObamaCare, but was for the individual mandate and susbidies that are central to ObamaCare. He thinks that collective bargaining issues should be left for states to decide if he’s Ohio, but he took the opposite position when he was in New Hampshire. This is just another statement in a long line of statements that will raise more doubts about what kind of President Mitt Romney would be in the minds of many Republican primary voters.

Overall, the situation is so bad that Bill Kristol is still searching for that "savior" candidate.

The race seems to be more open and fluid than conventional wisdom has it. In particular, it strikes me that as everyone focuses (understandably) on Romney, Cain, and Perry, Gingrich is increasingly well positioned for a serious challenge. And mightn't at least one of Mitch Daniels, Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, or Jeb Bush be rethinking his decision not to run?

(On a side note, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the idea that Kristol agrees with me. But I do think we should keep an eye on Gingrich.)

And finally, you KNOW Republicans are in trouble when Pat Robertson is warning that they've gotten too extreme!



I seriously don't know how this gets better for Republicans. Perhaps they can find some way to dig themselves out of this hole they seem so intent on climbing in to. But while it would probably be good for our country to actually have two sane competing parties, I have to admit that this spectacle is kinda fun to watch.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Is anybody noticing who's coming in 3rd in GOP presidential polls?

Almost every recent poll I've seen on the GOP presidential field has come in the same as the one released today by CBS and the New York Times.

Cain: 25
Romney: 21
Gingrich: 10
Paul: 8
Perry: 6
Bachmann: less than 2
Huntsman: less than 2
Santorum: less than 2

While we're all busy talking about Romney, Cain and Perry, Newt Gingrich has climbed into 3rd place. To most folks, that doesn't mean much because at 10% he's still not really in contention.

But there's something that's been gnawing at the back of my brain for a while now and I'm just going to put it out there. I could be terribly wrong and anyone who reads this can later come back and say "I told you so." But "nothing ventured, nothing gained," so here goes.

I wonder if anyone else has been noticing how cozy Cain and Gingrich have been during the debates. Didn't Cain pick Gingrich when asked who on the stage would make a good VP? At the last one in Vegas, while all of the other candidates were trashing 999, Gingrich gave some gentle criticism surrounded with lots of support for the general idea. Gingrich has also been throwing some love Cain's way by saying things like he has a good chance to be the nominee. Finally, the two of them have accepted an offer from the Texas tea party to participate in a Lincoln/Douglas style debate with each other.

If you take all of that and combine it with the prediction some folks are making that we are very likely to see a brokered Republican convention this time, could it be that Cain and Gingrich already have an agreement of some kind to work together? As many others have said, I'm not entirely convinced that Cain really wants the job and is more interested in book sales combined with a lucrative TV gig. It could be that's all Gingrich wants as well. But I'm going to keep my eye on these two. As crazy as all these candidates have proven themselves to be - what really scares me the most is the possibility of another sociopath in the White House. I had seriously hoped that we were done with that when Dick Cheney finally retired.

Beware of Gallup spin

I'm one that believes there can be some validity to polling at certain times and on specific issues. But it pays to keep a vigilant eye on things rather than just swallow all polling numbers whole.

As an example, I was a bit surprised to see this title to a new Gallup poll: Gov't Regulations Top Small Business Owners Problem List.

We all know that the Republican's answer to unemployment is to basically get rid of all government regulations. But we also know from sources as diverse as the Economic Policy Institute and the National Federation of Independent Businesses that government regulations are not the problem - its all about lack of demand.

So how does Gallup come up with that kind of result from small businesses? I took a look at the data. First of all the headline highlighted an open-ended question "What do you think is the most important problem facing small business owners like you today?" How they grouped the answers was interesting. "Complying with government regulations" got a whopping 22%. But right behind it were "Consumer confidence" at 15% and "Lack of consumer demand" at 12%. Down the list a ways was "Lack of jobs" (which leads to lack of demand) at 4%. If they'd combined all of those it would come in at 31% outpacing regulations.

But it gets even more interesting. Buried in the article is a much more direct question about the contributors to unemployment: "Thinking ahead to 2012, what would be a primary motivation or reason for hiring any new employees?" The number one answer weighing in at 27% is "When revenues or sales have increased."

Its interesting to note that question didn't lead to a headline for Gallup. Could it be that the poll itself was looking for the headline they found? And could that be related to the fact that the poll is listed as coming from the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index? Perhaps a too big to fail small business (cough-cough) like Wells Fargo has an agenda here.

The hidden victims of austerity

Benjamin Dueholm writes about his family's experience as foster parents in an article titled Taxing the Kindness of Strangers. He speaks mostly about their experience with their first child, Sophia (not her real name), who came to them malnourished with a broken leg when she was less than a year old.

Dueholm tells the personal side of the story (like driving Sophia around most of the night to get her to sleep and spending days working on qualifying for WIC). But he also draws some political conclusions.

It’s a major bureaucratic process to remove a child from her home and family. The state insures the child, pays for daycare, investigates the claims of abuse, and retains legal custody, but it cannot actually put a baby to bed at night. And so, on the other side of this most intimate public-private partnership are usually people like us, left alone with a stranger’s child and a garbage bag full of clothes and wondering what’s going to happen next. And what happens next depends, to a stomach-churning degree, on the state’s willingness and ability to keep up its half of the bargain.

So it was with an unusual sense of urgency and dread that our family watched the 2010 Republican wave and the austerity budgeting that has followed in ceaseless progression. When Paul Ryan’s budget, approved by 235 Republicans in the House, proposed dramatic cuts to federal Medicaid spending, it was as if they were trying to make it even more hopeless for us to find a doctor to treat Sophia’s health problems. When Scott Walker in Wisconsin sought to cut the workforce that administers foster care in his state, we went up to Madison to join the protests in solidarity, because we knew how helpless we would be if there were no caseworker on the other end of the phone to answer our own urgent pleas for help and guidance. And the threats have continued, as House Republicans repeatedly propose cutting trillions of dollars in domestic spending to reduce the debt while making room for sustained upper-income cuts. The way this hits home for us is simple. A foster parent joins hands with the state in order to take care of a dispossessed child. For the last year, the state has been trying to slip free of our grasp.

And he ends with this:

These days, when our kids instinctively comfort each other after a tumble at the town swimming pool, it’s easy enough to forget that our family is accidental and probably temporary. Parental affection can stretch itself farther than I could have imagined in those early days of round-the-clock shrieking. But we can never go long without realizing that Sophia’s difficult tendencies do not come from us, that she is likely to leave us someday, and that we are operating at the limits of our emotional, economic, and social capacity. Without a commitment by the state to cover the basic costs of her care, we would, like every other foster family, be asking ourselves daily whether we could keep doing it.

As social programs are unwound, foster parents watch our families being unwound with them. For most of us, our “altruistic motivations” always threaten to outstrip our resources. Foster parenting teaches us how to live as so many low-income families already live—check to check, coupon to coupon, appointment to appointment. The difference is that most foster parents hold middle-class passports, and they can cut short their sojourn among WIC recipients and Medicaid administrators at any time. No one knows what exactly will happen to Sophia and the nearly half-million kids in her situation if they exercise that privilege. If Republican lawmakers have their way, we may well find out.

First of all, let me say to Mr. and Ms. Dueholm - you are my heroes. I cannot think of another human activity that would require more courage and compassion.

While I can sympathize with the millions of people who are struggling financially these days, nothing speaks louder to me about the evils of austerity than does a story like this. The Sophia's of the world have done nothing and bear absolutely zero personal responsibility for their fate so early in life. To think that we would even countenance re-victimizing them by placing the burden on their small backs for the financial greed of the 1% is beyond my imagination. And yet, that's where our current day Republicans would take us.

It's for the Sohpia's of the world that I'll take on the fight...to the end!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Not disappointed by President Obama

Jake Lamar speaks for me! Listen and share.



h/t to Extreme Liberal

Scandal-free Obama administration

Jonathan Alter has written a fairly long but very interesting article titled Scandal in the age of Obama.

Barack Obama was not in office for more than a couple of minutes, it seemed, before conservatives began trying to cover him in muck. Yet for almost three years, the administration has been scandal-less, not scandalous. In a capital culture that over generations has become practiced at the art of flinging mud pies, Republicans and a few reporters have been tossing charges against a Teflon wall...

The question is, have Obama and his administration objectively engaged in less scandalous behavior, or has some combination of external forces kept scandals from spreading through the public consciousness? And if Obama has managed to build a scandal-proof administration, is that purely a good thing, or has it come at a cost?

Here I humbly offer some theories about how the Washington scandal machine works, and why there has been such a dearth of scandals in the age of Obama.

Alter goes on to list six theories that might have a part to play in explaining the lack of scandals. Some are more complicated than others. But here's the one that takes the least explanation. Alter has a little fun with "The Family Man Theory."

Of course the most entertaining and explosive scandals involve sex, which reporters and pundits will ride all day and night. But you’ve got to give them something to work with. As far as we know, the president, the vice president, the top White House staff, and the Cabinet members are either committed family men and women or single. Nowadays you need flagrant adultery— or Anthony Weiner-style weirdness—to get some traction with sex. Barack Obama and an intern? Highly unlikely. The first lady would kill him, cover it up, look fabulous at the state funeral—and no one would be any the wiser.

When it comes to other ways that President Obama has impacted the lack of scandal (versus outside events), he talks about the ethical tone the President has set in his administration, the over-the-top oversight of things like the Recovery Act, and ends with "the Obama paradox."

An even bigger paradox involves Obama and the power of the presidency. The essence of power is getting people to do what they don’t want to do with carrots and sticks. The carrots can morph into bribery and the sticks into blackmail and extortion, as earmarks and campaign contributions become catnip for corruption.

But some of these techniques are the flip side of political success. Feldstein notes that neither FDR nor LBJ were lawyers. They were interested in results, not strict adherence to the law. “You don’t get the sense that Obama relishes exercising power,” says Feldstein. “He’s both cleaner and less effective than some of his predecessors.”

I’d amend that argument on the effectiveness front; the president has won more than he’s lost over the last couple of years. But whatever his successes and failures in office, he is, as Joe Biden got in trouble for saying in 2007, “articulate and bright and clean.” Polls consistently show that the public agrees. Integrity is a nice calling card in a bruising election. If he manages to get reelected amid sky-high unemployment, this will be a big reason why.

Hmmm, perhaps that's because President Obama believes in the the power of partnership instead of dominance.

"We Can't Wait"



A few weeks ago President Obama met with his cabinet. He asked them all to come prepared to talk about what their various departments could do to create jobs and ease the burden on American families that wouldn't rely on Congressional action.

President Obama today met with his Cabinet to talk about the most pressing issue facing the country right now: Putting America back to work. The President is waiting for Congress to take action on the American Jobs Act, which he introduced at a Joint Session in early September. But in the meantime, the President is committed to having the entire administration and all agencies to do everything possible that does not require Congress’s help...

I suspect it was some of those ideas that the President will begin announcing this week.

With his jobs plan stymied in Congress by Republican opposition, President Obama on Monday will begin a series of executive-branch actions to confront housing, education and other economic problems over the coming months, heralded by a new mantra: “We can’t wait” for lawmakers to act.

According to an administration official, Mr. Obama will kick off his new offensive in Las Vegas, ground zero of the housing bust, by promoting new rules for federally guaranteed mortgages so that more homeowners, those with little or no equity in their homes, can refinance and avert foreclosure.

And Wednesday in Denver, the official said, Mr. Obama will announce policy changes to ease college graduates’ repayment of federal loans, seeking to alleviate the financial concerns of students considering college at a time when states are raising tuition...

“The only way we can truly attack our economic challenges is with bold, bipartisan action in Congress,” said Dan Pfeiffer, Mr. Obama’s communications director. “The president will continue to pressure Congressional Republicans to put country before party and pass the American Jobs Act, but he believes we cannot wait, so he will act where they won’t.”...

Aides said Mr. Obama would announce at least one initiative each week through the rest of the year, including steps to help returning veterans and small businesses.

The President is focused like a laser beam on the number one problem facing Americans. I expect he'll keep this up until either Congress does something to address the problem, or we replace them with some people who will.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Woman Up!

"Why do people say "grow some balls"? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.”
― Betty White

;-)

Ode to the 99%

I'm not typically a big fan of country music. But today Matt Osborne posted this song with some wonderful commentary (go read it!)

Alan Jackson has a powerful message for those of us who tend to see the plight of the 99%ers through the lens of liberal urban America.

Beyond tokenism

Back in the early 90's I was hired to run a non-profit organization who's mission is to prevent youth involvement in the juvenile justice system. One of my priorities was to diversify an almost all white staff so that we could better serve youth of color (primarily African Americans) who are disproportionately impacted by that system.

What ensued initially was a period at the agency that can best be described by the word "tokenism." With one black person in a program, they became the voice for all African Americans to the rest of the staff. I remember one young woman explaining to me what it was like in her exit interview. She said she was going to scream the next time a white person expected her to be the one to explain African American's response to the O.J. Simpson verdict.

Then I remember a moment when we crossed that threshold beyond tokenism to real diversity. A conflict arose between two of our African American staff that required some mediation by management. I told them that while it was important for us to handle this conflict well, we should also celebrate the fact that we had reached the point where we had enough diversity that conflicts between African Americans had surfaced - much like they were always popping up between white staff.

That's at least part of the lens through which I view political conflict between African Americans these days. And its also why I totally disagree with what African American columnist Bill Maxwell wrote today.

Lets deconstruct what he says. Here is his opening paragraph.

When Barack Obama was elected president, millions of Americans believed that the United States finally was entering a postracial period when race no longer mattered in any serious way. But the Obama presidency has, ironically, heightened racial tensions, and we are seeing old divisions return.

I know that some people talked about a "postracial" period. But that's definitely not what I heard from most African Americans. Quite the contrary. What I heard most immediately after Obama's election was the very real fear that he would be assassinated. That demonstrates how "postracial" they were feeling.

Then comes this old canard.

Life has not improved for blacks under Obama. The unemployment rate among blacks is 16.7 percent, nearly double the national average. Forty percent of black children are living in poverty, and the housing crisis has hit blacks harder than other groups.

Of course he fails to point out that African American unemployment HAS ALWAYS been double the national average...and that the reason the housing crisis hit blacks harder than other groups is that banks like Wells Fargo were targeting the people one of their employees referred to as "mud people" for high-cost subprime loans. These things didn't start with President Obama - they've been going on for decades.

But then Mr. Maxwell makes the case he's been building up to...the one about the infighting going on in the African American community. He goes through the typical players - Tavis Smiley, Cornell West, Maxine Waters, and Herman Cain. Now there's an interesting cast of characters, huh? But it just shows that President Obama is getting it from both the left and right in the African American community. I fail to see how disagreement in the African American community is supposed to demonstrate that electing Obama heightened racial tensions? The only time it does that is when white people prey on the differences for their own purposes or when one side calls the other "inauthentic."

When it comes to these disagreements, I know where I stand and it certainly isn't a position that equally credits all sides. But if, as I said in my last post, those disagreements could be aired the way they are in the white community - void of characterizations about authenticity - we could all celebrate the fact that African Americans have reached a level of participation in the leadership of this country where disagreements can emerge. If we can let that happen, we might be about to move from tokenism to real diversity.

Herman Cain's attachment to the "plantation" analogy

Did you think that Herman Cain's recent reference to a "plantation mentality" was a new thing for him? Then think again.

Apparently this is one of his favorite analogies and he's used it to talk about both the federal income tax and social security. Think Progress found these gems in Mr. Cain's writing for "The New Voice" from 2005-2010.

It took our nation nearly 250 years to end slavery and live up to the self-evident truth that all men are created equal. It should not take us another 250 years to cease the involuntary negative return most working people receive from Social Security, or the involuntary servitude imposed by the oppressive income tax code.

And...

It is now evident that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not apply to the Social Security system. Due to the rising retirement age, differences in life expectancy between Blacks and Whites, and mandatory payroll tax deductions, the system by its very nature discriminates against black men and women...

Instead, black Democratic leaders are willing to see the next generation of Blacks remain in economic slavery on the Democratic plantation, so long as they can deny any Republican a perceived political victory.

The article goes on to say that his claims about Social Security are "wildly inaccurate."

Indeed, the nearly 5 million African Americans who receive Social Security benefit more from this essential program than the average white American. Studies show that they “receive modestly more in Social Security benefits for each dollar they pay in payroll taxes than whites do” because of the progressive benefit structure and that they benefit more from SSDI because they are unfortunately more likely “to become disabled or die before retiring.”

But I'm even more curious why Cain would choose the analogy of slavery for these political debates. I suppose you could say that Cain was trying to speak to African Americans and chose an analogy he thought they could relate to. But it cheapens the reality of slavery when you compare it to everything you oppose politically. It would be similar to thinking you need to bring up the holocaust every time you wanted to convince Jews to agree with you politically or colonialist genocide when talking to Native Americans. These issues deserve the reverence of respect for the horror they perpetuated for generations and should not be used casually to score cheap political points. If Mr. Cain thinks this kind of thing endears African Americans to his point of view, I suspect it fails miserably.

The recovering therapist in me is tempted to analyze why Mr. Cain would continue to go back to this kind of analogy. But I'm going to resist that temptation because I don't happen to like it when he says things like President Obama "has never been part of the black experience in America." I look forward to the day when African Americans can simply agree or disagree politically without having to rely on racially-charged historical scare tactics or question each other's authenticity.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Obama Campaign Donor Map

Recently, the Obama campaign reached the milestone of having one million donors. To celebrate, they put together a web page full of all kinds of data on those one million people - including the number of donors per state.

New York Magazine took that information and made a "money map" (which really should be called a "donor map"), listing the number of donors per capita in each state.



The map includes 5 shades of blue - which sometimes makes it difficult to decipher. But overall, it matches a lot of assumptions about what the 2012 election will look like. The two lightest shades of blue are mostly states where President Obama will be least competitive. The two darkest are states he'll likely win. And the middle shade generally includes the battlegrounds.

If so, there's some good news and bad news. First of all though, we need to acknowledge that the small populations of Montana and Alaska likely skewed their results.

In terms of bad news - its all about Ohio. It falls in with states like South Carolina and Texas in the second lightest shade. Also joining Ohio is Indiana - a state Obama won in 2008 but not many expect him to take again.

By way of good news - Colorado stands out big time in its dark blueness.

But there's also some good news in the swing states. Mostly they're the typical bunch - including states like Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan. But check out Arizona and Georgia! Obama lost both of them in 2008 (he won all of the other middle blue shaded states). If they're really up for grabs, things could get very interesting.

For comparison purposes, here's the 2008 electoral map.

President Obama: Keeping his promises to the world

Less than six months into his Presidency, Barack Obama gave an important speech in Cairo outlining his vision of A New Beginning between the United States and the Muslim world.

On the day after the President announced that U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of this year, it is interesting to review what he said about Iraq in that speech.

Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: "I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be."

Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future -- and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. And I have made it clear to the Iraqi people -- I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq's sovereignty is its own. And that's why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq's democratically elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all of our troops from Iraq by 2012. We will help Iraq train its security forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

After demonstrating the truth of Jefferson's words with his actions in places like Libya, President Obama's announcement yesterday assures the Muslim world that he is a man of his word.

President Obama also made some promises in his inauguration speech.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken -- you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you...

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

Leaders like bin Laden, Mubarak and Gadhafi learned the hard way that President Obama meant what he said. But so have the people of the Muslim world.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Knock, Knock

Earlier today I wrote about Republicans blocking Senator Webb's bill that would have created a commission to make recommendations on prison reform. I mentioned Senator Hutchinson's indifference to the plight of those affected by the injustices in our current system. To her they are "not a priority."

It reminded me of this performance by Daniel Beaty that I heard years ago, but still brings on the tears. He recounts his own experience of loosing his father to that system as a little boy. How dare we not notice all the little boys (and girls) like Daniel!

Home for the holidays!



I can report that as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.

Over the next two months our troops in Iraq, tens of thousands of them, will pack up their gear, and board convoys for the journey home. The last American soldier will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops. That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end… Today I can say that troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays.

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Walking the talk - our President is the real deal!

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Eli Saslow has written a book titled "Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President." This week, the Washington Post printed an excerpt.

A few times during his presidency, Obama admitted, he had written a personal check or made a phone call on the writer’s behalf, believing that it was his only way to ensure a fast result. “It’s not something I should advertise, but it has happened,” he told me. Many other times, he had forwarded letters to government agencies or Cabinet secretaries after attaching a standard, handwritten note that read: “Can you please take care of this?”

“Some of these letters you read and you say, ‘Gosh, I really want to help this person, and I may not have the tools to help them right now,’ ” the president said. “And then you start thinking about the fact that for every one person that wrote describing their story, there might be another hundred thousand going through the same thing. So there are times when I’m reading the letters and I feel pained that I can’t do more, faster, to make a difference in their lives.”

Referring to his days as a community organizer by comparison:

“The people were right there in front of me, and I could say, ‘Let’s go to the alderman’s office,’ or, ‘Let me be an advocate in some fashion,’ ” he told me. “And here, just because of the nature of the office and the scope of the issues, you are removed in ways that are frustrating.

“Sometimes, what you want to do is just pick up the phone and say, ‘Tell me more about what’s going on, and let me see if I can be your social worker, be your advocate, be your mortgage adviser, be your employment counselor.’ So what I have to constantly reconcile in my mind is that I have a very specific role to play in this office, and I’ve got to make a bunch of big decisions that you hope in the aggregate will end up having a positive effect over this many lives. But you can’t always be certain.”...

Later that night, he would sit down on his couch, open the folder and find missives from rural Arkansas and downtown Detroit, notes of inspiration and devastation. He would read all 10 letters and reply to one or two. Sending a response still allowed him to provide one thing immediate and concrete.

“It lets them know I am listening,” he said.

And sometimes listening was all he could do.

Go read the whole thing. I am just at a loss for words in how to express my support and gratitude to this man who occupies our White House. Yes, he's the real deal!

Republican Senators: No to prison reform

I know that yesterday Republican Senators blocked a vote on the section of the American Jobs Act that would have created/protected 400,000 jobs for teachers, fire-fighters and police officers and was paid for by adding a 0.5% surtax on millionaires. I'm just as angry about that as anyone else.

But on Wednesday, Republican Senators also blocked Sen. Jim Webb's bill that would have created a bi-partisan commission to make recommendations on criminal justice reform. I have not always been a big fan of Senator Webb. But on this issue he has shown courage and persistence in taking on something that no one else wants to touch, but clearly needs to be addressed. From his web site:

Why We Urgently Need this Legislation:

* With 5% of the world's population, our country now houses 25% of the world's reported prisoners.
* The number of incarcerated drug offenders has soared 1200% since 1980.
* Four times as many mentally ill people are in prisons than in mental health hospitals.
* Approximately 1 million gang members reside in the U.S., many of them foreign-based, and Mexican cartels operate in 230+ communities across the country.
* Post-incarceration re-entry programs are haphazard and often nonexistent, undermining public safety and making it extremely difficult for ex-offenders to become full, contributing members of society.

Irregularities and inequities in America’s criminal justice system challenge our notions of fundamental fairness. Even with historically large numbers of people in prisons and jails, the percentage of Americans who believe crime is worse than the previous year has steadily increased over the last decade, rising to 74 percent last year. Americans depend on the criminal justice system to maintain our safety and security. Our nation’s citizens expect it to be reliable and fair, in addition to being effective at deterring crime and punishing offenders. Enacting the National Criminal Justice Commission Act will take the long-overdue step of undertaking a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system, producing recommendations for changes in oversight, policies, practices, and laws designed to prevent, deter, and reduce crime and violence, improve cost-effectiveness, and ensure the interests of justice at every step of the criminal justice system.

While I think that the 4th bullet point above is a bit of a nod to ugly nativist sentiments, the rest of that list is true and quite compelling.

Of course one of the reasons it takes courage to tackle an issue like this is that the brunt of the inequities Webb talks about are felt by people of color - mostly African Americans. Senator Webb summarizes it this way on one of his fact sheets supporting the legislation.

African Americans =

* 12% of the U.S. population
* 14% of monthly drug users
* 37% of those arrested on drug charges
* 59% of those convicted on drug charges
* 74% of drug offenders sentenced to prison

Please notice that Webb's bill would not make any direct changes. It simply establishes a commission to make recommendations for reform. But Senate Republicans stretched themselves and found a reason to object to the bill by suggesting it infringes on state's rights.

Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson led the Republican opposition to the bill and made the most telling statement of all when she said that it was "not a priority in these tight budget times.” In just those few words she managed to capture a tidal wave of both ignorance and indifference. Not only are millions of individuals and families suffering because of the injustices meted out by our current system, but reforming it would actually save cash-strapped local and state governments millions of dollars.

There are two things that are standing in the way of "perfecting our union" when it comes to prison reform: racism and Republican obstructionism. We only have to notice how often those two go hand in hand these days.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It was not a good day to be a Republican

I imagine this isn't the first and won't be the last time this happens. But today was truly not a good day to be a Republican.

First of all, there's the ongoing Romney/Perry Fight Club coming out of the last debate. Apparently Romney's story is that he's a victim of Perry's road rage. But then, there was that Romney ad basically calling Perry a doofus that all of the sudden disappeared. What's up with that Mr. Romney the victim?

Not to be left out of this faux pas circus, Cain says he's pro-choice...no, wait...he's 100% pro-life. I guess that's kinda like being willing to negotiate with terrorists...but not being willing to negotiate with terrorists. OMG, my head is spinning!

But I give the award for the day to Herman Cain for telling us that he's got a secret plan to protect poor people from 999. Really...you gotta hear this one.

The other thing that they try to say – “well it’s going to be regressive on the poor.” No it’s not. We anticipated that attack, but I didn’t tell them how I was going to fix it yet. I wanted to wait until I get attacked on that for a while. We already have a plan for that. But I wanted to see if they would come at that. They thought it was going to be dead in the water. We are a compassionate nation. We do want to help those that are doing all they can to help themselves, but they might need a little bit of help. So we’re not going to throw the people at the poverty level under the bus. No, we’re not going to do that. But we’ve already made provisions for that, but I just haven’t told the public and my opponents about it yet.

Be honest - doesn't that knock batshit crazy out of the park?

Just so Congressional Republicans don't feel left out of all of this fun, today the Washington Post fact checker called their jobs bill "ludicrous."

But then finally, along comes the death of Gadhafi - showing that Obama chose the right course on Libya. Now, what's a self-respecting obstructionist to do? Does Romney flip-flop one more time? Do you announce what wonderful news this is without recognizing that the U.S. played a role? Do you thank all the troops involved except the American ones? All of that takes a bite out of the U.S. exceptionalist meme, doesn't it? But to acknowledge victory would be to give President Obama some credit for knowing what he's doing.

As I said, it was definitely NOT a good day to be a Republican.

:-)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The truth about Obama and Wall Street contributions (updated)

A few days ago the NYT printed an article titled Romney Beating Obama in a Fight for Wall Street Cash. Then today, the Washington Post printed a story with this title: Obama has more cash from financial sector than GOP hopefuls combined, data show.

Confused? They can't both be true, can they? If not, which one is accurate?

In order to answer those questions, you need to know a few things about campaign finance.

1. Individuals are limited to contributing $2,500 to a candidate in the primary and another $2,500 in the general campaign.

2. Individuals can give up to $30,800 to a party per calendar year (Jan-Dec). President Obama is doing joint fundraising for his campaign and for the Democratic Party. Until the Republicans have an endorsed candidate, they will be doing their fundraising separately.

The Washington Post article compares the total President Obama has raised for both his own campaign and the Democratic Party to what the Republican candidates have raised only for their own campaign...the proverbial apples and oranges comparison. The title of their piece is therefore misleading at best and manufactured spin at worst. The NYT wins the prize for accuracy on this one.

If we want to compare apples to apples, there are a couple of other things to note about campaign finance:

3. Whenever an individual contributes to a campaign, they have to list their employer. This is the information that is used to summarize contributions from various companies and sectors. So if a bank teller contributes $50.00 to a campaign, its listed as part of the total for her bank as well as the financial sector as a whole.

4. Some individuals ask their friends/co-workers to make a contribution and "bundle" all of those checks together. Obama is the only candidate who reports the names of bundlers, where they work, and the total amount of their contribution.

Open Secrets tells us what company's employees are the top donors to each campaign. So you can compare President Obama's top ten to Romney's this year as an example.

Obama
Microsoft Corp $170,323
Comcast Corp $116,155
Harvard University $94,225
Google Inc $90,166
University of California $83,679
DLA Piper $79,375
Chopper Trading $64,815
Skadden, Arps et al $64,162
Stanford University $62,928
Ballard, Spahr et al $61,300

Romney
Goldman Sachs $354,700
Credit Suisse Group $195,250
Morgan Stanley $185,800
HIG Capital $176,500
Barclays $155,250
Kirkland & Ellis $129,100
Bank of America $121,500
PricewaterhouseCoopers $118,250
EMC Corp $117,300
JPMorgan Chase & Co $109,750

One reason Obama's totals per company are much smaller than Romney's is that 46% of his contributions from these employees have been from what are considered "small donors,' (less than $200) whereas only 10% of Romney's fall in that category.

So the next time a poutrager tells you President Obama is beholden to Wall Street because they're funding his campaign - let them know that is complete bs.

UPDATE: I see that the Washington Post changed the title to the article cited above sometime since last night. It went from "Obama has more cash from financial sector than GOP hopefuls combined, data show" to "Obama still flush with cash from financial sector despite frosty relations." I guess that's an improvement.

Their graphic, however, is interesting.

Photobucket

Once again, they're comparing $ raised from the financial sector only by the Republican candidates themselves to that raised by President Obama for himself AND the DNC. If you look closely, you see that an apples to apples comparison shows that Romney raised $7.5 million from Wall Street employees and Obama $3.9 million. That last figure can look like a lot - until you think about the fact that President Obama has raised $90 million total so far. Wall Street employees represents 4% of his campaign contributions (whereas Romney's $7.5 million is 23% of his total $32 million raised).

If you'd like to compare contributions to parties, Open Secrets has that information as well. The Democratic Party has raised roughly $197 million and the Republican Party $170 million. Here are the top 10 contributors, but click through and you can learn more.

Democratic Party
Hoyer for Congress $309,500
Comcast Corp $304,150
Allyson Schwartz for Congress $300,000
Nancy Pelosi for Congress $291,500
Williams Kherkher $259,000
Weitz & Luxenberg $251,800
Dutch Ruppersberger for Congress $250,000
Durbin for Congress Cmte $235,000
Akin, Gump et al $199,819
Bain Capital $192,400

Republican Party
Friends of John Boehner $1,017,000
Goldman Sachs $447,150
Paulson & Co $426,000
Rooney Holdings $223,507
Federated Investors Inc $213,250
Centra Inc $185,000
Altria Group $177,000
American Financial Group $172,700
KKR & Co $166,600
Ameriqual Group $157,362