Saturday, December 31, 2011

In my life, I love you more

I know that the traditional New Year's song is Auld Lang Syne. But like most people, I have no idea what it means.

So I want to nominate a new one for this occasion. And who better than the Divine Ms. M to sing it for us.



Happy New Year everyone...in my life, I love you more!

Get your heads out of the sand about NDAA!

Breaking news today is that President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). He also released a signing statement about the bill.

When it comes to indefinite detention, here's what the President said:

Section 1021 affirms the executive branch’s authority to detain persons covered by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) (Public Law 107-40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note). This section breaks no new ground and is unnecessary. The authority it describes was included in the 2001 AUMF, as recognized by the Supreme Court and confirmed through lower court decisions since then. Two critical limitations in section 1021 confirm that it solely codifies established authorities. First, under section 1021(d), the bill does not “limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.” Second, under section 1021(e), the bill may not be construed to affect any “existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.” My Administration strongly supported the inclusion of these limitations in order to make clear beyond doubt that the legislation does nothing more than confirm authorities that the Federal courts have recognized as lawful under the 2001 AUMF. Moreover, I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.
(Emphasis mine)

But the problem here is that most folks arguing over this one are missing where the REAL battle is...with Congress. The bill once again denies the President the ability to transfer Guantanamo detainees to the US for trial in our federal courts. The same poutragers who are always yelling at the President for not closing Guantanamo seem fine with letting all of that pass. If they really wanted that done, they'd be joining with him in objecting to these limitations.

But perhaps just as important is another section the President addressed in his signing statement.

Section 1028 modifies but fundamentally maintains unwarranted restrictions on the executive branch’s authority to transfer detainees to a foreign country. This hinders the executive’s ability to carry out its military, national security, and foreign relations activities and like section 1027, would, under certain circumstances, violate constitutional separation of powers principles. The executive branch must have the flexibility to act swiftly in conducting negotiations with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee transfers.

Not many people have noticed that the Obama administration is engaged in some critical negotiations with the Taliban in an effort to end our involvement in Afghanistan. The success of those talks are very likely to hinge on transferring some members of the Taliban from Guantanamo to Afghanistan. Of course the Republicans are livid at the prospect and these portions of NDAA were designed to tie the President's hands.

You want to make some grand stand about the need for the US to get out of Afghanistan or close Guantanamo? I'd suggest that if that was the motivation driving the critics, they'd be pointing their arrows at the Republicans in Congress for these efforts to undermine our ability to do so. But these provisions in NDAA are all pretty much going unnoticed as too many give way to their Obama Derangement Syndrome (ODS).

Reflecting on the old...anticipating the new (updated)



That's what we do at this time of year, isn't it? Reflect on the old and anticipate the new.

As many have already noted, when I reflect on 2011 I think the thing that will stand out the most is that it was a very bad year for dictators and terrorists. No one can doubt that the Sunday night when President Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden will go down in the history books as a signature moment.

Beyond that, it was a turning point politically for the President. He will forever have the upper hand when Republicans try to bring up the old canard about weak Democrats on foreign policy.



It seems to me that the other story of the year is the progress made in the arena of equal rights for gays/lesbians. The big changes there were the certification of the end of DADT and the affirmation of gay marriage in New York. But lets not forget that 2011 was also the year when gay marriage was finally supported by the majority of Americans.

Finally, the big story in terms of politics was the extent to which Republicans were willing to hold the country hostage to their extremist demands. While a media narrative developed that the Democrats caved in those situations, I don't buy it. Without letting the Republicans hurt/kill the hostage (usually the economy), I'd suggest that instead, the Democrats outsmarted the Republicans over and over again. And by the end of the year, it was the later who caved.

In anticipation of 2012, there are a few things I'll be keeping my eye on.

Of course the Republican primary and eventual election in November will be the obvious big stories next year. My distrust of conventional wisdom has me a bit doubtful that the end result will be all about the economy. I'm sure it will play a big role. But I also suspect that unanticipated events will happen in the next 11 months (which is an eternity for our instant gratification culture) that are likely to have an impact. For example, who would have predicted things like OWS and the death of bin Laden 12 months ago? So hang on to your hats and work your tails off on this one!

As I've suggested before, I suspect that a big story in 2012 will be how the Republicans are going to deal with the looming cuts to the defense budget as a result of the debt ceiling deal and what will happen to the expiration of the Bush tax cuts - both are set to kick in on Jan. 1, 2013. It will be interesting to watch if they revert to their hostage-taking strategy of 2011 to get these done after it failed so completely on the payroll tax extension. While everyone else is speculating about a weakened Speaker Boehner, I'll be keeping my eye on Minority Leader McConnell. He's the strategist who's likely to set the stage in the upcoming Congressional battles.

The Supreme Court ruling on health care reform is likely to be one of the biggest stories of 2012. Its hard to know how to predict which way that one will go. While some conservative judges in the lower courts have surprised us this year with their affirmation, our current SCOTUS is terribly politicized and tends to lean rightward. Just keep in mind that if they rule against the individual mandate - the whole thing collapses. I don't see a median ruling as possible. So its all in or over. Either one will create tremendous backlash. If it goes down, all those who have benefited will loose and if its upheld, the right will scream bloody murder about activist courts.

Finally, whether its mentioned in the news media or not, we will continue our long struggle with racism in this country. I don't expect much news to happen next year when it comes to common sense immigration reform. That will likely have to wait for President Obama's re-election combined with more Democrats in Congress. But the Latino vote in 2012 will be heard and the battle between the nativists and rationalists within the Republican Party over this one will continue. I suspect it will look and sound very different once it comes time to pivot from the primaries to the general election. I don't, however, expect Latinos to be fooled.

Knowing that the only hope for Republicans in the 2012 election will mean limiting President Obama to less than 40% of the White vote, I do expect that all of our ears will be ringing from the dog whistles going off. You can be sure I'll be watching for and documenting all of that in the year ahead.

OK, that's enough of the serious stuff. Now its on to partee like its 199...(oops) 2012!

UPDATE: One other prediction for 2012: I suspect that we'll all need to get our groove on (so shoot me, I'm old) practicing that dance craze Obama started in 2008...brush your shoulders off.

The Southern Strategy

As soon as folks are done celebrating the New Year, it will be time for the Iowa caucuses. Pundits are tripping over themselves trying to predict what will happen there. But I'm not going to jump into that pool. I'll simply say that, when it comes to the Republican nomination, the only role Iowa (or NH for that matter) will play in the primary season is the extent to which they might affect how things go in the Southern states. We all know that's where the action is for Republicans. As a reminder, just look at the 2008 electoral map.



There's not much controversy about where the Republican base lies.

My thought is that the real predictor of what this primary is going to look like will come - not next Tuesday - but on January 21st when South Carolina weighs in. The extent to which the Iowa caucuses and NH primary influence that race will be their only significance. So that's the one I'll be keeping my eye on.

In the meantime, there are a few stories about the race that I found interesting today.

First of all Josh Marshall, who's been talking about the "Murdoch Primary," finally called it as he sees it yesterday. And the winner is...Mitt Romney. I'm not sure how he came to that conclusion since he doesn't really say. But Media Matters has been running the numbers on the Fox Primary. Their last entry was for the week of Dec. 12-18.



Secondly, I've talked before about how the lack of money for ads won't necessarily be a deal-breaker for Gingrich. That was born out by the fact that Newsmax will be running a 30 minute piece on Gingrich 200 times in all the major Iowa media markets over the weekend. In addition, both Liberty University (the school founded by Jerry Falwell) and Citizens United are running ads about Gingrich there.

Finally, the LA Times ran a story about something I've suggested will likely happen in the Iowa caucuses.

Adding an unpredictable element to the presidential contest in Iowa, some disaffected Democratic voters are planning to switch sides and cast Republican ballots in Tuesday's caucuses.

Caucus rules limit participation to registered party members. But anyone who shows up at a Republican caucus — including Democrats, independents and libertarians — can join the GOP or switch their party affiliation on the spot.

Rep. Ron Paul, in a tight race for first place in Iowa with Mitt Romney, is perhaps the most likely to benefit from Democratic crossovers. His campaign is distributing information sheets advising Iowans that they can register Republican "for a day" on caucus night, then switch their registration back afterward if they want.

So grab the popcorn. Following right on the heels of your New Year's celebration...the show is about to begin!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Phone home Reggie!

The other day the New York Times ran yet another article about how President Obama doesn't schmooze enough with the D.C. establishment (get a clue folks...that's one of the reasons we LIKE him!)

But the article started out with a great story:

Air Force One had just landed in Manchester, N.H., on a brisk Tuesday morning last month when President Obama made an admission to Valerie B. Jarrett, his close friend and senior adviser.

“I just called Reggie,” Mr. Obama said. It was his first domestic trip without Reggie Love, the former Duke University basketball player who had been his constant companion and presidential “body man” until he left in November to study for his M.B.A. full time. “I miss him,” the president confessed.

The President misses his buddy.

So do we!

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Where left and right ideologues meet

I've always been convinced that not much reality in this world fits into the linear thinking we so often assume. The universe tells us - from the smallest particle to the larger universe - that things tend to take a more circular or spiral shape.

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And yet, in things like politics, we insist on linear assumptions where the left is on one side of a line and the right on the other...suggesting that the farther you go on one end, the more distance you create with the other.

We're getting a pretty good dose though, of just how flawed that thinking is. Back in December 2009, leftist ideologue Jane Hamsher showed us how, in circularity, the two ends of the extreme meet. Her issue at the time was the health care bill.

At no time do the synapses firing in their brains make the connection that both the "lazy progressive bloggers" and the tea party activists are saying almost the exact same thing about the Senate bill...

There is an enormous, rising tide of populism that crosses party lines in objection to the Senate bill...In fact, we've worked together with them to oppose these things.

So now it should come as no surprise to us that the left and right ideologues are coming together in support of extremist Ron Paul's presidential campaign. As liberals, most of us would denounce to our last breath any association with David Duke.

Mr. Duke, who was something of a mentor to Mr. Black [founder of Stormfront] during their days in the Klan, called in to discuss Mr. Paul. Though he said he wasn’t ready to make an official endorsement, Mr. Duke explained why he’ll be voting for Mr. Paul.

“Again, I go back to that, you know, traditional topic that I always talk about, you know, the powers of international Zionism–a power in banking, a power in media, a power in government influence, in campaign finance–a power that’s, you know, hurting the values of this country on behalf of Israel,” Mr. Duke said. “So, I would vote for Ron Paul at this moment because he’s one of the few candidates who have policies in this regard and this realm that I wholeheartedly support, and that’s why I’d vote for him.”

And yet we have Glenn Greenwald who, in suggesting a vote for President Obama is the same as voting for a Republican, had this to say about Paul:

Indeed, when it comes to the foreign policy and civil liberties values Democrats spent the Bush years claiming to defend, the only candidate in either party now touting them is the libertarian Ron Paul...

So we have David Duke and Glenn Greenwald coming together in support of Ron Paul. That should prove to everyone that when you go out far enough on a limb, you find yourself circling back to sleep with the enemy.

Just how out of touch are Greenwald and Uygur?

In an attempt to demonstrate their Obama Derangement Syndrome (ODS), both Glenn Greenwald and Cenk Uygur (don't click those links if you have a tendency to high blood pressure) have penned columns this week which have basically equated President Obama with George W. Bush's administration.

One could take their arguments point by point to challenge them (and many posts I've written here have done so). But the most glaring way in which they fail is the extent to which they are totally and completely out of touch with American voters. That was made obvious yesterday in a poll released by Gallup.

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You can only assume that the 15% who think President Obama is conservative is made up of Greenwald/Uygur followers. As far as the rest of the country is concerned, 80% see the President as either moderate or liberal.

Why does that matter, you may ask. Perhaps the ODS crowd has some higher plane of knowledge than most voters. Maybe they're right and the rest of us are wrong.

Well, if that's the case, then why bother yelling at President Obama all the time? They're simply preaching to the wrong choir. If they really wanted to change things, they'd be out trying to convince voters they're right - or doing the grunt work of finding an alternative candidate and convincing voters to support them. Instead, Uygur adopts the role of powerless victim and suggests "the establishment" wouldn't let him.

I would have loved a progressive alternative, but apparently we are not going to get one... Primaries are the perfect place to send a message without taking away votes in the general election. But it didn't happen because the Democratic establishment says we must fall in line because we wouldn't want to hurt the agenda of the president.

We can speculate about the lack of money and prestige that might keep them from actually doing something that would make a difference. After all, they've simply learned the lessons that Faux News personalities have taught us all about how poutrage gins up the viewers/readers. So why bother with the nitty-gritty of real organizing when playing the victim and yelling at Obama is so ego-gratifying and profitable? These guys are the very definition of sedentary agitation.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Whisperer-In-Chief

From Courtland Milloy:

Obama’s ability to enchant and calm infants has earned him a reputation as “baby whisperer in chief.” This is no small skill. Convey an uncomfortable vibe while holding a baby, and the baby could put on a face that makes a politician look like a fool.

When President George W. Bush picked up an infant during a trip to Germany in 2006, the baby screamed bloody murder. Bush was photographed looking like Popeye at wits’ end over a bawling Swee’Pea. Cartoonists had a field day, putting word bubbles over the infant’s screaming head that said things like “Please, Mr. Bush, don’t send me to Iraq.”...

But therein lies the real brilliance of Obama’s whispering skill: The kind of quiet he produces amplifies the incessant carping and backbiting of his opponents...

“I know Obama is politically savvy, but what I’m seeing goes beyond all of that,” Blau said. “He is showing a capacity for deep caring, listening and respect, and the response from the babies shows that it is genuine and not fake, more than a photo op.”

Ohhh yeah, baby!

Is this the long game on health insurance reform?

A few weeks ago Rick Unger caused quite a stir when he published an article titled The Bomb Buried in Obamacare Explodes Today - Hallelujah! The bomb he was talking about is the medical loss ratio (MLR) that requires insurance companies to spend 85% (large group insurers) or 80% (individual and small-group insurers) of their premium dollars on patient care. His point is that for-profit insurance companies will leave the market over this requirement...thus leading eventually to single payer health insurance.

So, can private health insurance companies manage to make a profit when they actually have to spend premium receipts taking care of their customers’ health needs as promised?

Not a chance-and they know it. Indeed, we are already seeing the parent companies who own these insurance operations fleeing into other types of investments. They know what we should all know – we are now on an inescapable path to a single-payer system for most Americans and thank goodness for it...

If you thought that the Obama Administration chickened out on pushing the nation in the direction of universal health care for everyone, today is the day you begin to understand that the reality is quite the contrary.

Yesterday Unger followed up with an article titled More Proof that the American For-Profit Health Insurance Model is Doomed. In it he cites a recent study by the conservative Galen Institute which found that his prediction about for-profit insurers leaving the market is beginning to happen.

Among the many companies that are dropping out of the business —rather than comply with the MLR requirements that would force them to actually spend an appropriate share of the premium monies received from customers on real health care— are some of the nation’s largest carriers.

Principal Financial Group had already announced late last year that they were leaving the health insurance business, impacting on some 840,000 insured.

Another key player in the business, Cigna, has decided to quit the small business market in states like California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

In Colorado and Michigan, insurance giant Aetna is bailing on both the small business and individual markets.

But perhaps even more interesting is his acknowledgment that as this happens, we're going to hear wailings from the right about ACA destroying health care in this country. And we better be prepared to deal with those arguments. Here's what Unger says:

If an insurance company cannot make money while holding onto 15 to 20 percent of every dollar they take in, why should they continue as a business? Wouldn’t the free marketers argue that if a business model cannot profit on so wide a margin and still offer an acceptable product, the business does not deserve to survive?

The simple reality is that the health insurers can only function at a profit —and a small one at that—by denying needed care to their customers so that they can cover their own administrative costs. This is the model that Obamacare opponents, such as the Galen institute, seek to perpetuate— despite the fact that it clearly no longer works to the benefit of customers or society as a whole...

It’s easy to support the for-profit health insurer model when you have not yet found yourself in the position of needing to call upon the insurers at a time of crisis...For most people—those who have yet to have to test the system—it’s simply a matter of paying your premium, complaining about the high cost, and then sleeping soundly at night in the belief that, should someone in the family get sick, it’s all going to be okay because you have health insurance.

But it’s not okay. As many find out when the moment comes that they must call upon their insurer in a time of expensive illness, it is often anything but okay. Why? Because the insurers are struggling to provide the services for which they have contracted and manage to make a profit at the same time. And as this pressure builds, the insurers will simply leave the business—taking their billions into businesses where profits are far easier to come by.

I'd say that's a pretty compelling argument. And after having watched President Obama these last few years, it seems perfectly consistent with his style that he'd say to for-profit insurers..."Ok, give it a go folks. If you can do this business in a way that's responsible, we'll give you a chance. But if not, be prepared to step aside and we'll move on to other options." In other words, put out or get out of the way.

Yeah, that's how you play the long game of actually getting progressive policies implemented in ways that are both pragmatic and protected from eventual backlash. For those of you who say that's far-fetched (or perhaps too much 11th dimensional chess), I have two words for you - DADT repeal. Remember how most progressives said it would NEVER pass Congress? What President Obama did was take the time to get the military on board with it, making it inevitable. Same play here with getting for-profit insurers out of the way. This one will take a bit longer I suspect. But we all know that this President is very prepared to play the long game for the eventual BIG win.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Why you can't go home again


There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered ~ Nelson Mandela

Caucus shenanigans, firebagging fireworks and flip-flops

Public Policy Polling released their latest look at the Iowa caucuses last night. True to what others have been seeing lately, it might come down to a contest between Paul and Romney. But here's what caught my eye:

Romney leads 22-20 with those who are actually Republicans, while Paul has a 39-12 advantage with the 24% who are either independents or Democrats.

I'm sure it will come as no surprise to anyone that, especially with no contest on the Democratic side, Ron Paul's leftist and libertarian supporters are likely to flock - where possible - to the Republican caucuses/primaries to support him. I haven't seen much by way of commentary or analysis of whether or not this is likely to have an affect in other states. But I certainly think its something to keep an eye on.

Want to give a New Year's gift to the emoprog in your life? Why not consider sending them this article as a sure way to drum up some fireworks.

Progressives have a spring in their step this holiday season after the debacle suffered by House Republicans in the debate over the payroll tax.

Many liberals will be surprised to learn that a good deal of the credit belongs to one of their least-favorite members of the president’s economic team: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, whose economic and strategic counsel set the trap that the House hardliners fell into.

Tim Geithner for the progressive win? Wow, that should be enough to make a few heads explode amongst the firebagging crew. The article provides you with the story about how it happened. There's nothing I love more than watching people try to cope with cognitive dissonance...so pass it on!

Finally, I see that our President is once again engaging in his holiday practice of flip-flopping. Looks like fun, huh?

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wherein Mr. Greenwald begins to understand conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy...he-he

Glenn Greenwald has just published an article at The Guardian. When I saw the title - "Vote Obama - if you want a centrist Republican for US President" - I prepared to get my blood boiling and give him a piece of my mind. I suspected he would be enumerating all the reasons why he thinks we should not be voting for President Obama. In some ways, that's what he's saying in the article. But after covering how crazed the current crop of Republican candidates are, he says this:

In fairness to the much-maligned GOP field, they face a formidable hurdle: how to credibly attack Obama when he has adopted so many of their party's defining beliefs. Depicting the other party's president as a radical menace is one of the chief requirements for a candidate seeking to convince his party to crown him as the chosen challenger. Because Obama has governed as a centrist Republican, these GOP candidates are able to attack him as a leftist radical only by moving so far to the right in their rhetoric and policy prescriptions that they fall over the cliff of mainstream acceptability, or even basic sanity...

The core problem for GOP challengers is that they cannot be respectable Republicans because, as Krugman pointed out, Obama has that position occupied. They are forced to move so far to the right that they render themselves inherently absurd.

Now mind you, what most of America would call "reasonable," Greenwald calls "Republican." But with that caveat, do you see how he's within inches of getting it? As I've been saying for a very long time now, President Obama has been willing to be reasonable in finding pragmatic solutions to the problems we face. And rather than join him in that effort, Republicans have chosen obstruction - only to find themselves marginalized to ideological extremes and sure defeat.

Its rather amusing watching Greenwald actually get this and STILL not be able to see the whole picture of what's going on right in front of him. Its obvious that ODS (Obama Derangement Sydnrome) affects your vision.

More on NDAA and indefinite detention

While I'm not a legal scholar by any means, I've read a lot of the reaction to the clauses in NDAA (the Defense Department's appropriation bill) that deal with the military and indefinite detention. Overall I'd say that one of the best summaries I've read so far comes today from Winning Progressive. The article does a good job of detailing where the very real problems arise as well as the over-reaction of some. It ends with a warning - not about how this will be implemented in an Obama administration - but asks us to think about how comfortable we would be with these provisions under a Republican administration. I think that's a fair question.

But what the author misses about this bill is a phrase that goes mostly unnoticed by too many critics..."until the end of the hostilities authorized by the” AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force passed by Congress after 9/11).

In an attempt to understand these provisions - I would suggest that they are not violations of civil liberties during a time of war. Soldiers captured on any battlefield would be detained indefinitely until the war has ended. As I've said before - the real problem came when the country as a whole accepted the idea of an ongoing "Global War on Terror" as the basic understanding of the AUMF.

And so I would remind everyone what Obama did almost immediately when he became President.

President Barack Obama is replacing the "global war on terror" with a new strategy more narrowly focused on Al-Qaeda and relying more on a broader effort to engage the Muslim world, a top aide said Thursday.

Perhaps you'll remember how the rightwing reacted to this change in rhetoric from the administration - it wasn't pretty. But anyone who has listened to President Obama over the years will recognize that his focus has been on defeating Al Qaeda - not some amorphous war on terror.

Knowing this, I can't help but speculate that when the U.S. finally leaves Afghanistan - President Obama might try to find a way to put an official end to the AUMF provisions (and the resulting NDAA items) once and for all. Our country will need to do that at some point - even though it will be difficult for any politician to pull it off. I also suspect that the current negotiations between the US, Afghanistan and the Taliban are part of working towards that goal.

If progressives truly wanted to be pragmatic in understanding what's going on here and the extremely difficult politics involved, what we would be fighting for is an end to not just the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but to this silly notion of an endless war on terror. Doing so is going to require some heavy political lifting and we'll need to show the President and other Democrats that we're up to the task and have their backs when the time comes to officially do so.

Why the Republican establishment is terrified

If you don't think the Republican establishment is terrified of what might happen in this primary process, then I'd suggest you read what Bill Kristol wrote today. He wants the people of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida to know the gravity of the choice in front of them. In his call for study and rationality, he seems to be practically begging them not to vote for "teh crazy" who feed them a diet of red meat. And he ends the article by turning away from voters but continues to beg for some other leader to step into the race and save them from the current fiasco of choices.

Those who have stood aside—and who now may have concluded, as they may not have when they announced their original decision, that the current field is lacking—will surely hear the words of Thomas Paine echoing down the centuries: “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” Now is not a time for leaders to engage in clever calculations of the odds of success, or to succumb to concerns about how they will look if they enter the fray and fall short. Now is a time to come to the aid of our country.

A mere week away from the Iowa caucuses, this is embarrassing...for Republicans, for the current candidates and especially for Mitt Romney.

But what Kristol won't tell you is why - in addition to being worried about "teh crazy" candidates - the Republican establishment is even worried about a Romney nomination. They'll leave that task to someone like John Hawkins who lays out "7 Reasons Why Mitt Romney's Electability is a Myth." In summary:

1. People just don't like Mitt Romney
2. He's a proven political loser
3. He'll run weak in the Southern states
4. All of Mitt's primary advantages disappear in a general election
5. Bain Capital
6. The Mormon Factor
7. He's a flip-flopper

For a conservative commenting on their "electable" candidate, the list and his rationale for all but #4 are compelling.

So no matter whether they're willing to say it outright as Hawkins has done or via calls for alternatives as Kristol did today, I can assure you...the Republican establishment is terrified about how this election is unfolding at this point.

The good news for us is that - as I said yesterday - they continue to misdiagnose the problem as being all about the wrong leader. The truth is that they set the stage for all of this 3 years ago when they adopted the short-term strategy of catering to the ideological extremists in their Party. That gave them a victory in the 2010 midterms but is turning out to be a near-fatal decision in the long term.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Morality Check

As the year 2011 winds down, one of the things I enjoy is looking at various year in review photos. Both the New York Times and Talking Points Memo have put together great spreads. And the BBC has published a fascinating one with views from space.

But the juxtaposition of two photos from this year represents - to me - a morality check: Which one of these two iconic 2011 images causes you the most discomfort?

Fire Controlman 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta, left, assigned to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) kisses her fiancée, Fire Controlman 3rd Class Citlalic Snell.

Some of the most arresting images of the year came out of Somalia, where nearly 250,000 people are facing starvation. The United Nations in December said it will need $1.5 billion in the next year to combat it.

For Republicans who want to roll back the repeal of DADT and otherwise deny the rights of gays/lesbians at the same time that they want to get rid of foreign aid, I think we know the answer.

Could there be a more obvious morality check on the choices we have to make in 2012?

The dangers of ideological purity

When parties lose power, pundits generally expect them to move to the center. But they don’t, at least not at first. Instead, recent history suggests that defeated parties become more extreme...

The process works something like this. When parties lose power, activists ascribe the loss to the ideological impurity of their incumbent president. In so doing, they vent the frustrations they kept bottled up while their side was in power. Since defeat frees them from the messy business of governing, ideological purity suddenly becomes easier. And since defeat usually hits party moderates disproportionately hard, the opponents of purity usually hold less sway.

That is from an article written over a year ago by Peter Beinart in which he compared what is currently going on in the Republican Party to what happened to the Democrats between 1968 and 1972.

Leading up to the 1968 election were the Kennedy/Johnson years of great victories by the Democratic Party combined with the turmoil of Vietnam. Following Humphrey's loss to Nixon that year, the more "ideologically pure" elements in the Party gained power and nominated McGovern - who lost sweepingly to Nixon in 1972.

And now, after 8 years of Bush/Cheney, the more moderate(?) McCain lost to President Obama and we see the same kind of attempt to control Republicans by the ideological purists. Much more than his Mormonism, it is this battle that plagues the candidacy of Mitt Romney - who is the symbol to these folks of accommodation.

So as the party elites continue to wail about not having their A Team on the field, I would suggest they have misdiagnosed their problem. Far be it from me to help them see the error of their ways (I'd love to see an electoral map of blue to the extreme that Nixon saw red in 1972!), but as David Frum suggests, they have a "followership problem" more than a leadership deficit these days. He demonstrates that by positing (gawd help us) a Romney presidency.

Here’s a question to worry about in 2012: Does the inability of Speaker Boehner to lead his House caucus foreshadow the inability of a President Romney to lead a dual-chambered Republican Congress?...

Boehner’s weakness has repeatedly empowered House conservatives to drive the party and the country to the edge of disaster. Would a President Romney wield a stronger hand?

I'd suggest "yes" and "no" to Frum's questions.

But then, I'm not convinced yet that the ideological purists in the Republican Party will give Romney that chance. And that, my friends, is history repeating itself on the dangers of a Party catering to the wishes of their purists.

P.S. In case you've missed it, Al Giordano is back at it in writing about US politics (yeah!!) And in his inaugural post on the 2012 race, he's seeing what I'm seeing...its too early to count Gingrich out.

Gingrich, however, is handling his late dip in the polls like the political “ninja” that Huckabee drooled over. Newt has done two smart things:

The first Newtonian chess move can be read in this CNN headline: “Gingrich lowers expectations, shoots for top three or four in Iowa.” He followed it with: "I probably will be in the top two in New Hampshire, and then to win South Carolina and Florida."

And that’s Gingrich’s ace up his sleeve: He’s got a firewall around the South’s winner-take-all primaries that General Sherman couldn’t march through, much less Mitt Romney. All Newt has to do is survive Iowa and New Hampshire, and then comes the Georgian’s moment in the sun with a string of victories below the Mason-Dixon line.

The other thing Newt did as his numbers started to slip was, from a tactical standpoint, very Reaganesque: He gave GOP faithful more red meat than the other candidates have been able to feed them to date. Now he’s threatening to invade the judicial branch of government from the executive, saying he’ll force the removal of court judges that issue rulings he and the conservative base do not like...

...even if Romney or Paul win in Iowa, I am ready to project that, win or lose the first caucuses, Gingrich is not going away, he is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the primaries down the stretch, especially in the South, and I still think, as I wrote here in April 2010, that the media – perhaps partly out of the intense personal dislike he provokes – has always underestimated him. I dislike him, too. But that doesn’t color the cold and rational projections that y’all rely on me to make. This should have been evident to all the “professionals” of the pundit class 20 months ago! Of all the GOP hopefuls, he’s the only man with a plan. That makes him armed and dangerous and nothing that has happened so far, not even his sudden dip in Iowa polls, causes me to reconsider my general sense that in the sum of all the primaries and caucuses of the coming months, Newt Gingrich is likely to carve his initials with a switchblade through Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, or anyone else he perceives as standing between him and the Republican nomination.

And if that works for Gingrich in the primaries, he’ll then bring that knife to the gunfight of the general election. And that will likely have a less stellar outcome for him. So, put the popcorn on the fire and let’s sit back and watch the Republicans, for a change, kick the crap out of each other in a contest that is practically designed for the meanest man to win.

I'm not as confident in my own powers of prediction as I am those of Giordano. But he's paying attention to the "followership" in the Republican Party and their desire for the red meat of purity in a way that other pundits are missing. In that department...Gingrich is the man.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The itch that needs scratching

Most of us who have been raised with Christmas traditions can remember going to bed on Christmas Eve with all of the excitement about what was going to happen the next morning. The coming of Santa Claus with gifts was what we dreamed about that night - expecting that all of our dreams would come true.

I wonder if any of you had the same experience I did the next day when it was all over. As much as I loved the gifts, when all was said and done, there was a disappointment that lingered...and the words "is that all?" seemed somehow selfish in my childhood brain. So I kept it to myself.

As an adult, when I reflect on that, I suspect that it was the first musings I had about the lack of satisfaction that comes with getting the things you think you want. There was an itch that needed scratching and the gifts never seemed to do it for me.

Later on, when we were mostly grown, my mother started a tradition all on her own that resulted in each of us finding a gift under the tree from Santa. We would all open this gift with a lot of anticipation. Mom was a catalogue shopper throughout the year. By Christmas she had found each of us a gift that reflected something funny and/or special about us. For example, there was the year my cousin Mike (who lived with us off and on those years) got a soap-on-a-rope in the form of a microphone to aid in his shower-singing. My mother has always felt some un-ease with my feminism. But one year she got me a t-shirt that said "Women fly when men aren't around" or there was the holiday sweat-shirt that said "Three wise men?...Get serious!" As a family, there was nothing we enjoyed more than those gifts from Santa.

Of all the gifts I've given, the one that seems to have meant the most to the receivers were the ones I gave the year I celebrated Christmas at my house with my brother and his family. They all had big challenges on the horizon in the coming year and so instead of filling stockings I gave each of them a little bag with Guatemalan worry dolls, a stone with one word that I thought would sustain them in the coming year and a short sentence about why I picked that word.

I think about all of that on this Christmas Day as a way of trying to unpack the itch that needed scratching that I felt as a child. Its about something WAY more important than the things we give to each other on a day like today.

My hope for everyone (including myself) is that we all recognize what it is we're really longing for and find at least a touch of that this Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Christmas message that resonates with me

Growing up I was steeped in christian fundamentalism. One of the things I notice when I reflect on that is that most of the focus was on the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. Fundamentalists tend to not pay that much attention to the life he lived.

It is for that reason that one of my favorite Christmas messages was written years ago by Kid Oakland.

Let me tell you something about the Jesus that I know.

He was a real man. Born in a poor region to working poor parents. He loved learning, he loved his mother and his father.

But he left them and spent his life with the poor, the outcast, the rejected, the defiled, the sick, the sinners, the bedraggled, the bereft, the self-hating, the lonely, the banished, the foul, the miserable, the desperate and finally, those sick with their own power.

He did this, not because of his ideology or his creed. He did this not because of his doctrine. He did this, quite simply, because he loved them. He preferred them.

Their company, their stories, their lives, their environs, their plight and their faith.

And they loved him. Because he touched them. He looked them in the eye and believed in them. Because, at the end of the day, when they looked to him they saw that his commitment to them was a commitment unsullied by qualifier or clause. It was a commitment to love them, even upon pain of death. And they saw in him, a love that promised to love them as they were, who they were...fully, without judgement or flinching glance, or hypocritical accomodation.

This man, Jesus, was surrounded by friends and disciples whom he mentored....not by carping or enforcing rules...but by example and teaching. By the force of his actions. By his resolute commitment to the least, the smallest, the most in need.

Voter ID laws: Why South Carolina is different from Wisconsin

Yesterday the DOJ rejected South Carolina's law requiring people to show ID in order to vote. This came as no surprise to those who had heard Attorney General Eric Holder's speech a couple of weeks ago where he stood firm in his commitment to protect the franchise.

In 1965, when President Johnson signed the landmark Voting Rights Act into law, he proclaimed that, “the right to vote is the basic right, without which all others are meaningless.”

Today, as Attorney General, I have the privilege – and the solemn duty – of enforcing this law, and the other civil rights reforms that President Johnson championed. This work is among the Justice Department’s most important priorities. And our efforts honor the generations of Americans who have taken extraordinary risks, and willingly confronted hatred, bias, and ignorance – as well as billy clubs and fire hoses, bullets and bombs – to ensure that their children, and all American citizens, would have the chance to participate in the work of their government. The right to vote is not only the cornerstone of our system of government – it is the lifeblood of our democracy. And no force has proved more powerful – or more integral to the success of the great American experiment – than efforts to expand the franchise...

As concerns about the protection of this right and the integrity of our election systems become an increasingly prominent part of our national dialogue – we must consider some important questions. It is time to ask: what kind of nation – and what kind of people – do we want to be? Are we willing to allow this era – our era – to be remembered as the age when our nation’s proud tradition of expanding the franchise ended? Are we willing to allow this time – our time – to be recorded in history as the age when the long-held belief that, in this country, every citizen has the chance – and the right – to help shape their government, became a relic of our past, instead of a guidepost for our future?

For me – and for our nation’s Department of Justice – the answers are clear. We need election systems that are free from fraud, discrimination, and partisan influence – and that are more, not less, accessible to the citizens of this country.

In that speech, AG Holder referred frequently to and defended the ongoing need for the provisions in the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The focus of that legislation was to outlaw voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans in the U.S. In doing so, it gave the federal government special jurisdiction in certain areas where those practices had been employed.

The Act established extensive federal oversight of elections administration, providing that states with a history of discriminatory voting practices (so-called "covered jurisdictions") could not implement any change affecting voting without first obtaining the approval of the Department of Justice, a process known as preclearance.

The covered jurisdictions that required pre-clearance of any changes to voting laws included certain states, counties and municipalities that were outlined in the law. Here is a map of where those laws apply (red for states, blue for counties and pink for municipalities).



There are currently 8 states that have passed voter ID laws. Four of them (South Carolina, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama) require pre-clearance from DOJ and four do not (Wisconsin, Kansas, Rhode Island and Tennessee). We can expect a different reaction from DOJ to the laws passed in the later due to all of this. Some have speculated that for states where pre-clearance is not required, DOJ will be limited to waiting until after an election to demonstrate discrimination.

Its important to keep these laws in mind when we watch DOJ and the Civil Rights Division at work in protecting our right to vote.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Who caved? Boehner or McConnell?

The narrative that has developed about the Republican's fiasco on the payroll tax cut extension is that House Speaker Boehner is a weak leader and that he caved. While I'm not interested in challenging that, I can't help but wonder who caved first...Boehner or McConnell. I think that answering that question right is extremely important in ways I'll explain in a minute.

But first of all, we need to remind ourselves that the Republican strategy since President Obama was elected has been one of total obstruction. During the first two years that was mainly accomplished through the use of the filibuster rules in the Senate. After the 2010 midterms, with Republicans in control of the House, that's where most of the action centered. Nevertheless, the strategy was the same...obstruct anything the President proposed.

On the payroll tax cut extension, of course the House passed their ridiculous version first - which everyone simply went on to ignore. And then something different happened in the Senate. Instead of obstructing, McConnell negotiated. There are probably lots of reasons why he changed course. The issue at hand - tax cuts - was likely a big part of that. There's also the fact that we're heading into an election and more people are paying attention to the "sausage-making." Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Congress' approval numbers are the lowest in history as a result of their obstruction strategy. Whatever the cause, McConnell blinked.

When it came time to take that compromise back to the House and the people who were elected in 2010 to do anything and everything they could to take down President Obama - we saw a teapublican revolt. And the chasm we've been watching develop in the GOP nomination process all of the sudden exploded in Congress too. In the end, the "adults" in this instance told the children to sit down and shut up.

So when it comes to the Republican strategy of obstruction we've been seeing since 2009 - it was actually McConnell who caved first - creating the divide.

The reason this is important is that its critical to accurately diagnose the cause of victory if you're going to repeat it. President Obama knows this and that's why, when he challenged the House yesterday to pass this bill he pointed out the unusual alliance that had developed against them.

So it's time for the House to listen to the voices who are up here, the voices all across the country, and reconsider...

This is not just my view. Just a few hours ago, this is exactly what the Republican Leader of the Senate said we should do. Democrats agree with the Republican Leader of the Senate. We should go ahead and get this done. This should not be hard. We all agree it should happen.

As I've said before, that's the "ruthless" part of conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy. The conciliatory wing is what eventually causes the divide. And then you move in for the defeat.

Well played sir...well played.

In which I give Nate Silver some advice on election forecasting

We all know that Nate Silver has developed into the gold standard of election forecasting (he even uses the words "political calculus" in his tag line - that's enough to scare off any novice who wants to challenge him). The tools Nate uses are things like polls and complicated mathematical formulas. That seems to work for him, but I think he's missing some important data that could up his game. So I thought I'd lend a hand in helping him predict what's going to happen in the 2012 presidential election.

Data Point 1

According to research, only 10% of the population is left-handed. And yet five of our last 7 presidents have been left-handed. What are the odds of that happening? I think I'll let Nate figure that one out.

So its stands to reason that a contender that is left-handed has a MUCH higher chance of winning again this time. Lets look at the candidates:

Mitt Romney - no


Newt Gingrich - no


Ron Paul - no


Rick Perry - no


President Obama - bing-bing-bing...we have a winner!


Data Point 2

While its true that half of the world's population is female, a MUCH smaller number of people have daughters. An even smaller number currently have teenage daughters. And yet five of our last 7 presidents have had teenage daughters while in the White House. What are the odds of that happening Nate?

So once again, lets check in with the candidates:

Mitt Romney - WAY too much testosterone here - so a really big NO


Newt Gingrich - This one gets a little complicated. So lets just say no and leave it at that.


Ron Paul - We know he has one son that runs amok in Congress. But overall, I'd say we can just call him "Grandpa" and say no.


Rick Perry - Interesting that there aren't more family photos from him. Kinda makes you wonder why. But this one is from back in 2000. So its a no.


President Obama - bing, bing, bing...we have a winner!


So...based on my thorough analysis, I'd say that Barack Obama has a 99.9% chance of winning re-election in 2012 (check my numbers Nate).

;-)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mele Kalikimaka Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

We all thank you for hanging in there to do whatever needs to be done - even when it means playing the stupid games those House Republicans have been up to lately. You've fought the good fight all year, earning our gratitude and respect - as well as our support in the battles ahead.

But now its time to get on that plane and go join your lovely family for the holidays.

Mele Kalikimaka Mr. President!

J-U-S-T-I-C-E

Yesterday the Department of Justice filed the largest residential fair lending settlement ($335 million) in history against Countrywide Financial Corporation (now a part of Bank of America).

The settlement, which is subject to court approval, was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in conjunction with the department’s complaint which alleges that Countrywide discriminated by charging more than 200,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers higher fees and interest rates than non-Hispanic white borrowers in both its retail and wholesale lending. The complaint alleges that these borrowers were charged higher fees and interest rates because of their race or national origin, and not because of the borrowers’ creditworthiness or other objective criteria related to borrower risk.

The United States also alleges that Countrywide discriminated by steering thousands of African-American and Hispanic borrowers into subprime mortgages when non-Hispanic white borrowers with similar credit profiles received prime loans...

“Countrywide’s actions contributed to the housing crisis, hurt entire communities, and denied families access to the American dream,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We are using every tool in our law enforcement arsenal, including some that were dormant for years, to go after institutions of all sizes that discriminated against families solely because of their race or national origin.”...

The proposed settlement provides for an independent administrator to contact and distribute payments of compensation at no cost to borrowers whom the Justice Department identifies as victims of Countrywide’s discrimination.

There are those who are once again complaining about this...assuming that criminal charges and prison time are the only ways to hold people accountable. I suspect those folks have either forgotten or never learned their civil rights history, which demonstrates that criminal charges are a state matter and the federal government's role is in protecting people's civil rights.

But equally compelling would be a survey of the victims of these crimes. I wonder what they would say if they were asked whether or not they'd prefer that the people responsible go to jail or pay them back for the fraud. Actually, I'm not sure there's much doubt about what their answer might be. That, my friends, is a pretty good calibration of what justice means in a case like this.

Adding this one to the list of accomplishments over the last 3 years, I'd suggest that if we wanted to go in search of the civil rights heros of today, these two should be at the top of the list of candidates.

Eric Holder and Thomas Perez

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"The Dying Swan" performed by Yo-Yo Ma and Lil' Buck



From ColorLines:

Ma, a Presidential Media of Freedom Award Recipient, is already world renowned. But LA-based Charles Riley, known by his stage name Lil’ Buck, is just starting to make a name on the national scene. The twenty-two-year old is the 2011 Vail International Dance Festival’s Artist-in-Residence and does a style of dance known as “jookin’”, which originated in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee...

“All the things that they talk about these days, with where our country is going — we need an innovative and knowledge work force,” Ma told Southern California Public Radio. “The best way to build innovation and creative imagination - and the most efficient way to do it - is actually by movement, visualizing, sound.”

A Fractured Party: It's not just the presidential candidates

As we've watched the divide in the Republican Party develop over their presidential candidates, some folks want to blame it on the individuals who are running and suggest that if the right person just got into the race, Republicans would unite behind him/her and all would be well.

That's a fantasy.

To understand why, all we have to do is look at what's happening in Congress where the same divide is spitting the Party and sending them down in flames.

On the extension of the payroll tax cuts, Republican Majority Leader McConnell crafted a deal with the Democrats that overwhelmingly passed the Senate (89-10) and Speaker Boehner signed on. Then when he took it to the House, their Tea Party faction said "Oh no you don't" and Boehner was forced to cave. The whole fiasco basically reflects the same divide we've seen in the presidential nomination.

As I've said many times before, after the total failure of the Bush/Cheney years, the Republican Party had a choice to make. They could re-think their policies and attempt to come up with some pragmatic solutions (as folks like David Frum have been practically begging them to do) or they could double down on what didn't work. They chose the later. And to make it work, they had to gin up the crazy in their base. It required them to lie, spread fear, and ramp up the racism in order to keep that frenzy going.

But now the chickens are coming home to roost. Nowhere is that more evident than when the Wall Street Journal editorial writers express displeasure with Republicans. And look at their conclusions about it all today.

After a year of the tea party House, Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats have had to make no major policy concessions beyond extending the Bush tax rates for two years. Mr. Obama is in a stronger re-election position today than he was a year ago, and the chances of Mr. McConnell becoming Majority Leader in 2013 are declining.

Many on the left credit President Obama's rise in the latest polls to the idea that he's adopted a "more populist" message lately. But those of us who have watched him closely these past few years know two things: First of all, we paid attention to the populism in his message all along. And secondly, we also recognized the long game he was playing of continuing to be "the only adult in the room" focused on real solutions. As I've said before, with Republicans adopting a policy of total obstruction, that forced them into an ever smaller corner of extremism, which is causing the divide today.

That, my friends, is the definition of conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy. And as far as I can see...its working.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Damn Your Eyes

I've been thinking a lot about Etta James over the last few days after I read that she is terminally ill. I know that Etta will always be most remembered for her rendition of the song At Last. I understand why and absolutely love it. But when I think of Etta, this is the song that will always come to mind.

Back in the 80's a group of friends introduced me to Etta. When we'd get together we'd crank this one up on the stereo and wail out hearts out right along with her. It speaks to the universal broken heart. It gives all of us the chance to reach down into that place inside and find the cathartic release of saying..."Damn your eyes!"

(Sorry for the poor quality video but its worth it to hear Etta do this one live.)

A call for some rationality in November 2012

Just about this time last year, Republicans demonstrated that they were prepared to block extension of the tax cuts for the middle class unless the tax cuts for the wealthy were also included. Going back a little down memory lane, we'd note that those tax cuts had been passed under the Bush presidency prior to the economic meltdown we all experienced in 2008/09. So in other words, they did nothing to prevent that from happening. AND, there was never any attempt to pay for them.

Fast forward to today, and we find the Republicans - just 12 months later - blocking an attempt to extend the payroll tax cuts, which would disproportionately aid the middle class. I've tried my best to understand what their objections are...seriously. But the truth is, all I can see is that it comes down to this:

"The rank-and-file members are extremely opposed to it," said the GOP source, adding that most members were concerned with the uncertainty caused by just a two-month extension, as well as the political benefit the White House could gain in the national dialogue over taxes.
(Emphasis mine)

Now grant you, they're saying they don't like the "uncertainty" of a 2 month extension instead of a full year. But it was the Republicans who insisted on shortening the time line in the first place. Its a classic example of damned if you do, damned if you don't - which only reinforces that its all about denying the WH a "win."

I say all of this because as Americans we are going to have some choices to make next November. When it comes to voting for a President and members of Congress, those choices are likely to come down to folks with either a (D) or an (R) after their names. While we may not be in love with the person who has a (D) after their name, these are the kinds of things we should think about: Do we personally want to contribute to the Republican efforts to kill the economy in order to protect the 1% and score political points against an opponent? Or do we want to support the folks who are attempting to move the ball down the line for all of us an inch at a time?

That's what it comes down to folks. If you want better than that, I'd suggest you take off your slippers and put on your marching shoes...get into the game and either run yourself or work in your community to come up with better alternatives. That one will take some time. Meanwhile, lets at least be rational about our options.

Monday, December 19, 2011

In the category of "you just can't make this sh*t up!"

Some days all you can do is sit back and laugh. This is one of those days.

Apparently Michele Bachmann thinks the Kinsey Report is a myth. Yeah, that explains a lot.

Guess who won an on-line auction for a dinner with Bill Ayers? Founder and editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller, Tucker Carlson. So who's "palling around with terrorists now?" All the same...what I'd pay to be a fly on the wall for that one!

Keep your fingers crossed. Sarah Palin said its not too late to get into the GOP race.

I guess since the Teapublicans didn't get their Waterloo moment on health care reform, they're ready to put it all on the line that raising taxes on poor and middle class Americans during an election year will be their Braveheart moment.

But I saved the very bestest for last. Apparently a pro-adultery web site has endorsed Newt Gingrich. I kid you not! They even have a billboard.

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Seriously, I'd suggest that in these tough times, people like Colbert and Stewart should be able to save a few bucks by firing their entire staff...this stuff just writes itself.

Jeb Bush weighs in...coincidence? (updated)

Perhaps I'm over-reacting, but I find two things that happened today to be very interesting. First of all, Republican heavy-weight Bill Kristol ponders the possibility of a brokered Republican convention (he prefers the word "deliberative").

Thus, once every three-quarters of a century or so, the delegates to an American political convention deliberate, and their deliberations produce a notable and impressive outcome. It could happen again in 2012. It could fall to the Republican delegates convening in Tampa, after they have cast their committed first ballot vote and failed to produce a majority for any candidate, to act as a real deliberative convention. It could fall to them to use their judgment to select the best possible nominee for their party and the best possible president for their country.

It would be exciting. It would be nerve-wracking. It would be unpredictable. It hasn’t happened in quite a while. But it could happen. And it could be a good thing for the Republican party.

He's not talking about delegates deliberating about choosing one of the current candidates.

And a deadlocked convention, which then became a deliberative convention, could be a good thing, because most sentient Republicans, and most conscientious conservatives, suspect we can do better than the current field.

Almost simultaneously, the long silent Jeb Bush published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. With flowery language, Mr. Bush is basically making a case for the Republican agenda...lower taxes and less government regulation. He casts it all in language about "economic freedom," which he calls "the right to rise." But mostly hidden between the lines is the suggestion that we need to let people fail and experience the consequences of their "bad decisions." In other words, he's merely parroting the exact same policies of his brother George that got us into this mess in the first place.

So...is this all just a coincidence? Or is the Republican establishment preparing to offer us a Bush redux? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Update: The WSJ's Stephen Moore discussed JB on Fox News this morning.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

War is Over



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One down...one to go.

Happy Christmas/Holidays and Welcome Home!

Projection in Politics

Perhaps the most profound awareness I've had as a political junkie over the last couple of years is the prevalence of projection.

...a psychological defense mechanism where a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people.

A few examples:

Mitt Romney calling Gingrich extraordinarily unreliable

Glenn Greenwald calling anyone who disagrees with him a cultist

Newt Gingrich calling President Obama a radical

Mitt Romney accusing President Obama of deliberately harming the country for political reasons

Notice how its always used to attack an opponent. The truth is that most often rather than weakening an opponent, it shows your own vulnerability. Not only that, it demonstrates the weakness of your ideas in having to resort to this kind of attack.

Many of these might really be Freudian in a psychological sense. In other words, they might truly be unconscious. And then there's Karl Rove...who has taken projection to a whole new level. A while ago Steve Benen provided a good summary.

Rove has spent his professional life engaged in political sleaze, so he's accused Obama of adding "arsenic to the nation's political well." Rove ran a White House that embraced a "permanent campaign," so he's accused the Obama team of embracing a "permanent campaign." Rove embraced the politics of fear, so he's accused Obama of embracing the politics of fear. Rove relied on "pre-packaged, organized, controlled, scripted " political events, so he's accused Obama of relying on "pre-packaged, organized, controlled, scripted" political events. Rove looked at every policy issue "from a political perspective," so he's accused Obama of looking at every policy issue "from a political perspective." Rove snubbed news outlets that he considered partisan, so he's accused Obama of snubbing snubbed news outlets that he considered partisan. Rove had a habit of burying bad news by releasing it late on Friday afternoons, so he's accused Obama of burying bad news by releasing it late on Friday afternoons. Rove questioned the motives of those with whom he disagreed, so he's accused Obama of questioning the motives of those with whom he disagrees.

Click through to Benen's article and you'll find links for his back-up on all this.

What feels different about Rove is that I think this is a deliberate strategy on his part. In throwing out these attacks, he's making it difficult to accuse his side of the same thing because it winds up sounding defensive. So its an inoculation move that he thinks will allow him to get away with the very things he's accusing others of doing.

I'll hand it to him...its a shrewd strategy. But its also souless and only works if we stay ignorant about what he's up to.

NYT Editorial: Police Harassment Through the Eyes of a Young Black Man (updated)

In their Sunday edition today, the New York Times published an op-ed written by 23 year-old Nicholas K. Peart who is a student at Borough of Manhattan Community College.



When I was 14, my mother told me not to panic if a police officer stopped me. And she cautioned me to carry ID and never run away from the police or I could be shot. In the nine years since my mother gave me this advice, I have had numerous occasions to consider her wisdom.

Peart goes on to describe 4 different incidents when he's been harassed by law enforcement for no reason. It takes a toll.

These experiences changed the way I felt about the police. After the third incident I worried when police cars drove by; I was afraid I would be stopped and searched or that something worse would happen. I dress better if I go downtown. I don’t hang out with friends outside my neighborhood in Harlem as much as I used to. Essentially, I incorporated into my daily life the sense that I might find myself up against a wall or on the ground with an officer’s gun at my head. For a black man in his 20s like me, it’s just a fact of life in New York...

We need change. When I was young I thought cops were cool. They had a respectable and honorable job to keep people safe and fight crime. Now, I think their tactics are unfair and they abuse their authority. The police should consider the consequences of a generation of young people who want nothing to do with them — distrust, alienation and more crime...

For young people in my neighborhood, getting stopped and frisked is a rite of passage. We expect the police to jump us at any moment. We know the rules: don’t run and don’t try to explain, because speaking up for yourself might get you arrested or worse. And we all feel the same way — degraded, harassed, violated and criminalized because we’re black or Latino. Have I been stopped more than the average young black person? I don’t know, but I look like a zillion other people on the street. And we’re all just trying to live our lives.

As a middle-aged white woman I can say that this is something I've never experienced. So my choice is to either ignore what Peart is saying, assume he's exaggerating, or take a minute to think about what its like to grow up like that. How might my world view be different if I had shared this experience (hint: attempting to do that is what we call empathy). Until folks like me take just a minute to try and walk in those shoes, we'll never understand the meaning of racism in our culture today. As far as I can see, its this kind of thing - and the results - that are the crux of the problem.

Based on my experience of talking to young black men, Peart's experience is not unique to him or to NYC. I suspect that most African American readers will see this article and say "So yeah, what's new?" How I see it, this editorial wasn't written for them. It was written (and published) for folks like me. We need to know that this is a fact of life in this country for young black men like Peart. So thanks to him for writing it and to the NYT for giving the words of a 23 year-old student such prominence on your pages. Perhaps a few more people like me will start to understand.

UPDATE: Young men like Peart and Dahlak are trying to tell us something...perhaps its time we listened.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sedentary agitation

Last week I wrote about a speech Newark Mayor Cory Booker gave in NH for the Obama campaign. In it he talked about too many Americans getting caught up in a state of "sedentary agitation" when it comes to our politics and democracy. Boy...did that ever resonate with me! Put a little more bluntly, he's saying that all we want to do is sit on our asses and bitch about what other people are/are not doing. How true that is.

Democracy in this country has become a spectator sport with everyone assuming the position of pundit. Writing a blog post/comment has become the definition of activism...except when we get really bold and call/tweet/email a member of Congress/the White House and tell them what we really think.

I say this even on the heels of the so-called OWS "movement." Certainly the people who have participated in "occupying" have done more than sit on their ass at home. But essentially all they've done is move their bitching to public spaces. If their goal had been to protest the lack of access to public spaces, they would have succeeded in taking appropriate action. But to sit in a park and yell at Wall Street until the cops kick you out is hardly an effective tool against the opponent they chose. Its the very definition of "sedentary agitation."

These day Teddy Roosevelt seems to be someone who spoke often about things we need to hear. Because when I think about all this, I can't help but be reminded of his words.

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 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 and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for 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 he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

In other words, you can't score points until you get in the game. All the yelling from the sidelines won't cut it. But when you get in the game, not every play is going to work and sometimes the most important contributions go unnoticed. So we have to be prepared to do the grunt work and risk failure. That's why this poem by Marge Piercy will always be one of my favorites.

To Be of Use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

There is a collaborative rhythm, a grittiness and an invisibility that goes with work that is real...be it in politics or any other endeavor. Those who are willing to risk that are the real movers and shakers of the world as far as I'm concerned.

More Obama derangement syndrome about "indefinite detention"

As you may know, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which funds the military and most liberals/Democrats are not happy about some provisions in the bill that the Republicans insisted on including.

Of course as happens so often, some liberals/Democrats express their concerns rationally and others have a habit of using things like this to fuel their "Obama derangement syndrome" (ODS). A good example would be the contrast between how someone like Adam Serwer (who has been a pretty harsh critic of President Obama on civil liberties) handles it with how the king of ODS Glenn Greenwald deals with it.

If you want to do the hard work of being an informed citizen, I'd encourage you to take a look at those two articles and make up your own mind about what's going on here. I have another purpose in mind for what I want to talk about.

What has bothered me most about the ODS crowd on these issues is how they are so insistent on ignoring history and/or current practices that don't feed their need to blame President Obama for everything. To listen to them, you'd think that the U.S. had never tortured anyone before Bush/Cheney came along and that, until Bradley Manning, no prisoner in this country had ever been subjected to solitary confinement. As I wrote about before, in his new book Glenn Greenwald seems to think there was some utopian time in our country's past where the "rule of law" reigned supreme. It all reeks of incredible ignorance.

And Greenwald is up to it again in his poutrage about NDAA. His big beef on this one is all about the issue of "indefinite detention." Unlike others who have critiqued his take on all of this, I was struck by one short sentence in his article about it that I linked above.

But this is the first time this power of indefinite detention is being expressly codified by statute.

That is simply not true. First of all, you have to acknowledge that the real crime in the first place was in declaring a "War on Terrorism." Because once we are legally "at war," the law allows for holding prisoners indefinitely until the hostilities have ended. Like most countries, this has been common practice for the U.S. The problem is with declaring war on a tactic instead of a country (or alliance of countries). Its the indefiniteness of the war that is the issue here.

And secondly, as I've written about before, Greenwald also completely ignores that there is one arena in our prison industrial complex where indefinite detention has been practiced for decades. I don't know the particulars in other states, but here in Minnesota, we have as many as 600 people who have been indefinitely detained because of sex crimes.

Among their ranks are more than 40 elderly offenders, some in wheelchairs; low-functioning adults considered to be little risk of re-offending; and young men without felony records who were hastily committed to the sex-offender program after completing juvenile sentences.

The most outrageous of cases includes:

...a Rice County man who was convicted of possessing child pornography as a juvenile and ended up at the program's Moose Lake facility when he became an adult.

Now I know that people freak out over sex crimes in a way that they don't over other criminal activity (seems to be true of "terrorism" as well). And the media has done a great job of convincing folks that "once a sex criminal...always a sex criminal," just as they created the myth of the super predator that sent thousands of (mostly black) young men to jail for life.

But whether you agree or disagree with the practice of indefinite detention for sex crimes, Glenn Greenwald is simply wrong when he suggests that its never been codified into our laws before.

For me, that doesn't make it right. Its simply yet another example of the selective poutrage by folks like Greenwald and why - until they embrace ALL of the victims of these kinds of practices - I'll simply write them off as ignorant at best and suffering from Obama derangement syndrome at worst.

Friday, December 16, 2011

President Obama as inspiration















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I have a story to go along with these.

Where I work we have 4 staff who work in middle schools with students who tend to be chronically suspended from school. Due to some of the factors that contribute to the cradle to prison pipeline those students are disproportionately African American boys.

After Barack Obama's election, one of our staff told us that when talking to these boys about their behavior, he would often ask them "What do you think Obama would do?" He found that when he did that, the boys would engage in the conversation and think about how it applied to their situation.

If, in handling himself with such intelligence and dignity at all times accomplishes nothing more than to inspire these young men to have the courage to make better choices in their lives, Obama will have been a transformational president.