Thursday, May 31, 2012

PAC+ on Romney: "We intend to sink him"

Here is an ad sponsored by PAC+ that will be airing all over Arizona in both English and Spanish.



Please click on the link up above and learn more about PAC+.

Here's what staffer Kirk Clay says about them in an article titled The New Majority is the future, and the future has arrived.
Today, PAC+, a new national network of leaders focused on democratizing money and politics to give voice to America’s New Majority, will launch a television advertising campaign targeted at the Latino electorate. This is PAC+’s first ad in Arizona, the center of the right wing’s attack on Latinos, and the fastest growing sector of the New American Majority. The ad will be the first Latino-focused ad by an independent group this cycle...

“Romney has acknowledged that ‘he’s sunk’ if he can’t make inroads with Latinos. We intend to sink him, and to get the rest of the progressive community to join us,” said Steve Phillips, Chairman of PAC+...

“PAC+ will not allow Romney’s history of and continued disrespect of contributions of Latinos to our nation to be erased like an Etch a Sketch by his handlers, especially vis-√†-vis Latino voters. Romney’s words reflect his values and Latino voters must know what he truly thinks about the community and with whom he associates himself,” said Phillips. “PAC+’s ad will remind voters of this important fact.”

“It’s very telling that Romney’s Spanish-language ad is nowhere to be found on his website. PAC+ reminds Romney that he can’t have it both ways — excoriating Latinos on one hand, and acting like he’s welcoming them with the other,” said Martinez Ortega. “There is a saying in Spanish, ‘Dime con quien andas, y te dire quien eres’ (“Tell me with whom you associate, and I’ll tell you who you are”) and Romney’s key advisors, allies, and supporters comprise some of the most anti-Latino voices in Arizona and in the country.”
Gawd I LOVE these folks.  Bring on the New Majority!

Dolores Huerta: Yes She Did!

You may have heard that this week President Obama awarded the Medal of Freedom to Dolores Huerta. Many of us are familiar with the name and legacy of Cesar Chavez. But often we are not aware that Ms. Huerta was his partner from day one in founding the United Farm Workers of America. Please take a few minutes to watch this PBS interview with her as she reflects briefly on her life and work...the original "wise Latina."



Conservatives, in yet another move that demonstrates their determination to reject the Hispanic community, are now using this American icon of civil rights history to try to smear President Obama.
President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday to Dolores Huerta, an 82-year-old labor activist and co-founder of the United Farm Workers union.

Huerta is also an honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America.
As I look around the internet, this story is showing up on almost all of their sites..."OMG, he really MUST be a soshulist!"

Of course this tactic is likely to work with ignorant white people who know nothing of this powerful woman's leadership that continued the process of "forming our more perfect union."

But I'd suggest that all of us who honor Ms. Huerta and what she has done should take notice of who these people are trying to trash and what it says about them.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When the dog catches the car

In about a month we're going to hear what the Supreme Court says about Obamacare. This has posed an interesting dilemma for Republicans who have spent the last few years trashing the reform and voting more than once to repeal the whole thing.

If they get what they want and its ruled unconstitutional...then what? The "replace" part of repeal and replace comes to bear and that puts them in the position of having to actually govern rather than simply demagogue the issue. They're not very good at that.

Over the last few weeks we've seen some Republicans come out in favor of the most popular parts of Obamacare - the ban on denials for pre-existing conditions, young people up to 26 covered by their parent's insurance and the closing of the doughnut-hole in Medicare prescription coverage. Even the seriously disturbed Rep. Allen West says he would favor continuing those reforms. And as TPM reports, that seems to be the strategy Republicans are coalescing around.
Senate Republicans are echoing the House GOP’s shift in favor of some of the more popular “Obamacare” provisions, a sign that the party is uniting behind the strategy ahead of the election.

With a Supreme Court decision looming next month, House Republicans are privately weighing a plan to reinstate three popular elements of the law if it’s struck down — guaranteeing coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions, allowing young adults up to 26 years old to remain on a parent’s insurance policy, and closing the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap known as the “doughnut hole.”
This strategy presents two problems for them. First of all, it totally pisses off their base. As much as anything, it was the Republican lies about Obamacare that helped them mobilize their most rabid supporters to their successes in the 2010 mid-term elections. These are the people who have swallowed the line about Obamacare being the end of America as we know it and believe that compromise is actually a 4-letter word. They will see this move as nothing short of treason.

Secondly, it puts them in exactly the same position President Obama was in 3 years ago...how do you pay for these kinds of reforms (especially the one about covering pre-existing conditions)? The only answer other than truly "socialized medicine" is the individual mandate.

What President Obama will have done is to box the Republicans in. He took their one and only solution to our health care crisis - the individual mandate - and incorporated it in with other popular reforms. Of course they wanted to make this his "Waterloo," so they opposed it, lied about it, and scared the beejeebers out of the American people about it.

Now, if their dog catches that car, they'll have only a couple of options left. Drop the popular parts of the bill and go back to the status quo or lie their butts off about some half-assed alternative. I don't know about you, but I'd bet on the latter.

The other brilliant thing the Obama administration did was to push up the timing of the Supreme Court decision so that, if its declared unconstitutional, all of this discussion will happen during an election season. That means that American voters will actually be paying attention when these lies are called out.

My hope still remains with the Supreme Court deciding this law is constitutional. Regardless of the political fallout - that remains the best option for those millions of people who have already been affected by it.

But should the Court decide otherwise, the issue of health care reform goes right back to the top of the agenda for this election. That would put the Republicans and their nominee - Mr. Massachusetts Mandate -  in a very uncomfortable position.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The killing of al-Awlaki

On the same day that the NYT published the article I wrote about in my last post about President Obama's conduct of the war against Al Qaeda, Newsweek published an excerpt from a book by Daniel Klaidman titled Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency. I found this one provided even more history, context and detail about the drone strikes against Al Qaeda targets. So if you're interested in learning more about that issue, I highly recommend reading the whole thing.

But one section really stood out to me. In it, Klaidman covers the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki - the one that has created the most controversy amongst liberals.  I'm going to quote quite a bit of the story because this is the most detail I've seen about it anywhere.
In Barack Obama’s mind, Anwar al-Awlaki was threat No. 1. The Yemen-based leader of AQAP [Al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula] had grown up in the United States, spoke fluent American-accented English, and had a charisma similar to that of Osama bin Laden: soft eyes, a mastery of language, and a sickening capacity for terror. Obama told his advisers that Awlaki was a higher priority than even Ayman al-Zawahiri, who had succeeded bin Laden as al Qaeda’s top commander. “Awlaki had things on the stove that were ready to boil over,” one of Obama’s national-security advisers observed. “Zawahiri was still looking for ingredients in the cupboard.”

What worried President Obama most was Awlaki’s ingenuity in developing murderous schemes that could evade America’s best defenses. Already he had launched the Christmas Day plot, in which a Nigerian operative had nearly brought down a packed airliner by trying to set off explosives hidden in his underwear. Then, in October 2010, AQAP had managed to put improvised bombs—ink toner cartridges filled with explosive material—on cargo planes headed to the United States. (They were intercepted as a result of a tip from Saudi intelligence.) During the summer of 2011 Obama was regularly updated on a particularly diabolical plan that AQAP’s master bomb builder, Ibrahim Hassan Tali al-Asiri, was devising. The intelligence indicated that he was close to being able to surgically implant bombs in people’s bodies. The wiring was cleverly designed to circumvent airport security, including full-body scanners. AQAP’s terror doctors had already successfully experimented with dogs and other animals...

The capture of a Somali operative who worked closely with Awlaki produced key intelligence, including how he traveled, the configuration of his convoys, his modes of communication, and the elaborate security measures he and his entourage took. Finally, in the spring and summer of last year, U.S. and Yemeni intelligence started to draw a bead on him. A tip from a Yemeni source and a fatal lapse in operational security by the cleric eventually did him in.

The standing orders from Obama had always been to avoid collateral damage at almost any cost. In many instances, Cartwright would not even take a proposed operation to the president if there was a reasonable chance civilians would be killed. But as the Americans were closing in on Awlaki, Obama let it be known that he didn’t want his options preemptively foreclosed. If there was a clear shot at the terrorist leader, even one that risked civilian deaths, he wanted to be advised of it. “Bring it to me and let me decide in the reality of the moment rather than in the abstract,” he said, according to one confidant. 
In September, U.S. intelligence tracked Awlaki to a specific house in Al Jawf province, where he stayed for two weeks—often surrounded by children. On the morning of Sept. 30, however, Awlaki and several of his companions left the safe house and walked about 700 yards to their parked cars. As they were getting into the vehicles, they were blown apart by two Hellfire missiles.
There you have the case against al Awlaki and the fact that the military waited for 2 weeks - knowing where he was - but not doing anything about it until he left the presence of the children.

I recognize that no matter the circumstances, this kind of thing raises moral and precedent questions with which we need to grapple. In the world as we'd want it to be, we'd never have to deal with people like al Awlaki. But there he was, plotting to kill as many people as possible and, rather than meeting his opponent on a battlefield, surrounding himself with children for protection as he does so. That's the world as it actually is.

When critics can develop a more humane way of handling that situation - I'd be more than thrilled to hear about it. Until then, I'm not really interested in your armchair analysis of this President.

President Obama as Counter-Puncher (updated)

In the course of a week, we've now been privy to two behind-the-scenes looks at President Obama. The first one focused on the campaign and now we see one about his leadership on the war against Al Qaeda. What some people will say about these exposes is that they have been planted by the Obama administration. I'll agree. You don't get access to people like Plouffe, Axelrod, Messina, Brennan and Holder without a planned strategy. But I still highly recommend that you read both articles in their entirety because they provide very useful information about the man who is our President.

There's no way to easily summarize what you'll learn from reading these articles. But one thing did stand out to me - what moves President Obama. Each article describes a pivotal moment where the President's position and strategy either deepened or altered.

Here's the example from the first one about the campaign.
Even before heading away on holiday, Obama had arrived at a decision to reboot his presidency again. “One thing about him is that he always salvages something from defeat,” Axelrod observes. “He saw we were up against a nihilistic minority; if they were willing to plunge the United States into default, you had to conclude that reason’s not gonna prevail. And we had a fragile economic situation that was exacerbated by their antics. So, for reasons of politics and the economy, he needed to come out firing after Labor Day, lay out an aggressive plan, and take his case to the country. His conclusion was that if we’re gonna move the ball forward, we’re gonna do it by galvanizing the American people, not by trying to cut deals in quiet rooms.”
Most everyone who watches politics noticed this moment. The President's frustration with Republican antics that actually weakened our economic recovery was pretty visible for all to see.

The example from the second article was not as visible, but pretty stunningly described.
The attempted bombing of an airliner a few months later, on Dec. 25, stiffened the president’s resolve, aides say. It was the culmination of a series of plots, including the killing of 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex. by an Army psychiatrist who had embraced radical Islam.

Mr. Obama is a good poker player, but he has a tell when he is angry. His questions become rapid-fire, said his attorney general, Mr. Holder. “He’ll inject the phrase, ‘I just want to make sure you understand that.’ “ And it was clear to everyone, Mr. Holder said, that he was simmering about how a 23-year-old bomber had penetrated billions of dollars worth of American security measures.

When a few officials tentatively offered a defense, noting that the attack had failed because the terrorists were forced to rely on a novice bomber and an untested formula because of stepped-up airport security, Mr. Obama cut them short.

“Well, he could have gotten it right and we’d all be sitting here with an airplane that blew up and killed over a hundred people,” he said, according to a participant. He asked them to use the close call to imagine in detail the consequences if the bomb had detonated. In characteristic fashion, he went around the room, asking each official to explain what had gone wrong and what needed to be done about it.

“After that, as president, it seemed like he felt in his gut the threat to the United States,” said Michael E. Leiter, then director of the National Counterterrorism Center. “Even John Brennan, someone who was already a hardened veteran of counterterrorism, tightened the straps on his rucksack after that.”
I believe these two incidents paint a picture of President Obama that some of us have noticed for a long time now, but others have completely missed. As I've said before, those folks have gotten trapped in their either/or thinking and missed "Obama as the counter-puncher" who is always open to working with you. But when crossed, he'll crush you.

Update: I was remiss in not pointing out that both of these incidents tell us a lot about WHAT motivates the counter-puncher in President Obama. In neither case was it someone going after him personally. Both situations involved a threat to the American people. In the first case it was the Republican's political power plays threatening the economic recovery and in the second a very real physical threat to Americans by Al Qaeda. That also tells us a lot about who this man is.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Greenwald's authoritarian mind

After I mentioned Glenn Greenwald in my last post, I decided to head over to Salon and check out what he's writing about this Memorial Day weekend. In his piece from yesterday, he takes on the task of telling us all about the authoritarian mind.

What I found fascinating is that in the article, Greenwald demonstrates EXACTLY what an authoritarian does with information...he feeds you only what he wants you to hear.

Exhibit A is Greenwald relaying the interview Jake Tapper did with Sec. of Defense Leon Panetta yesterday morning. Here is the part he highlighted lifted directly from his article.
TAPPER: President Obama recently said that — recently told John Brennan, his counterterrorism adviser at the White House that he wanted a little bit more transparency when it comes to drones, which are the – is one of the approaches that you’re alluding to in Yemen.

And “The Times of London” reported last week that the civilian casualties in Yemen as a result of drone strikes have, quote, “emboldened Al Qaeda.”

Is there not a serious risk that this approach to counterterrorism, because of its imprecision, because of its civilian casualties, is creating more enemy than it is killing?

PANETTA: First and foremost, I think this is one of the most precise weapons that we have in our arsenal. Number two, what is our responsibility here?  Our responsibility is to defend and protect the United States of America.

And using the operations that we have, using the systems that we have, using the weapons that we have, is absolutely essential to our ability to defend Americans. That’s what counts, and that’s what we’re doing.
And here's Greenwald's comments afterwards.
Note that Panetta studiously ignored, rather than addressed, the question of whether the U.S. — by continuously killing Muslim civilians and thus intensifying anti-American animus — is creating more Terrorists than it is killing and thus making the U.S. less safe. That’s because there is no answer.
I decided that I'd like some context to the conversation he's commenting on, and so the first thing I noticed is that Greenwald - who usually is prolific in providing links - did not do so this time.

Nevermind...I can google with the best of them. So I found the transcript of the interview and waded through it until I got to this exchange.  I'll skip quoting Tapper's question again and simply give you Panetta's complete response.
PANETTA: First and foremost, I think this is one of the most precise weapons that we have in our arsenal. Number two, what is our responsibility here? Our responsibility is to defend and protect the United States of America.

There are those who have no other intent but to attack this country. We saw three potential bombers that were trying to get on planes to come here and attack this country. We've seen past attacks taking place. We've seen those that continue to – to indicate that they're planning every day to try to attack this country.

We have got to defend the United States of America. That's our first responsibility. And using the operations that we have, using the systems that we have, using the weapons that we have, is absolutely essential to our ability to defend Americans. That's what counts, and that's what we're doing.
Do you see what Greenwald did there? He left out the whole second paragraph and the first 2 sentences of the third. You know...the one's where Panetta gave examples of who is being targeted in Yemen.  Panetta DID answer the question about why these attacks are a priority for keeping Americans safe.

Now, Greenwald might still have had an argument to make that they are also creating a risk. But it would be a much bigger uphill climb with the concrete examples Panetta gave. So he simply left them out - and with no indication whatsoever that he had done so, ie < ... >.

Some might suggest that this was simply a transcription error. But honey, I wasn't born yesterday. Greenwald wanted to make a point and Panetta made that difficult. So he simply edited the transcript to suit his agenda.

More than anything else he said about "the authoritarian mind" in that article, Greenwald just demonstrated for us perfectly how it works.

Finally, a simple reminder to all...ALWAYS CHECK YOUR SOURCES when reading online!

Tortured Logic

I've often wished that people on the left like Glenn Greenwald and Conor Friedersdorf who criticize President Obama for his handling of the war against al Qaeda, would take a step more deeply into a discussion about the ethics of war. They seem to see clear lines of distinction where I see a morass of gray.

I've always preferred reading Adam Serwer's thoughts about these kinds of things. Even though I don't always agree with him, he doesn't seem to approach it all with the surety felt by those who are obviously suffering from Obama Derangement Syndrome (ODS). He recently took that step deeper into the ethics question and clearly demonstrates the problems we will inevitably find when the conversation turns to trying to link concepts like "morality" and "war."
There's a really important moral and legal distinction to be made between torture, which is always illegal and always wrong, and killing, which can occasionally be both justified and legal.
I suppose that we have to acknowledge that a statement like this is true. And yet, it begins the tortured logic of war, doesn't it? We've now established that its OK to take someone's life. The question remains, "who's life is it OK to take?" Here's how Serwer answers that one.
The laws of war exist to contain violence to combatants, who have consented to fight one another with the knowledge that doing so could lead to their deaths.
I would propose that that "law of war" was abandoned with the advent of arial bombing. At least the victims of places like Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Hanoi - not to mention Baghdad's "Shock and Awe" - would say so.

What Serwer is doing in this article though, is trying to make a moral case against what he calls "Obama's targeted killing," and so he pivots away from this particular argument of when its OK to kill  and when its not, to a comparison with President Bush's detention policies.
Bush's critics understood that the concept of membership in a terrorist group is far more nebulous than being a soldier in a uniformed military. Establishing that the individuals we're treating as terrorists are actually terrorists is therefore a moral imperative.

With targeted killing, the same issues are at play. Unlike detention, however, the results of targeted killing are irreversible. Dead is dead. And the collateral damage is considerably greater, because civilians can be killed along with the target.
I would say that it is in that pivot that Serwer lost me. As in any other war, "killing is irreversible. Dead is dead." And the fact is that in war, as I have already pointed out, there is always "collateral damage." So I think his original comparison is the apt - but troubling one.

I don't fault Serwer. He took a stab at some very difficult questions. I appreciate that and think we should all be struggling with them. But in my mind he failed.

That's why, ultimately, I've always argued that those who are troubled by these actions should do everything in their power to bring an end to this endless war.

I'd also suggest that as human beings, these gray lines of war will continue to haunt us. The only thing I can suggest in the meantime is that we elect a Commander-In-Chief who shares that struggle with us.
So part of our challenge is reconciling these two seemingly inreconcilable truths -- that war is sometimes necessary, and war at some level is an expression of human folly.  Concretely, we must direct our effort to the task that President Kennedy called for long ago.  "Let us focus," he said, "on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions."

Soldiers and War

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The soldier's courage and sacrifice is full of glory, expressing devotion to country, to cause, to comrades in arms. But war itself is never glorious, and we must never trumpet it as such.

- President Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech,  12/10/09

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Breaking: NYT Finds One Zealous Romney Supporter

I couldn't help but find this story in the NYT fascinating.
For the past year, Mr. Wilson has devoted himself with the single-mindedness of a college-age groupie to following Mr. Romney around the country in decidedly conspicuous style: driving a pickup truck festooned with 27 giant Romney for President posters. (The largest are the size of a refrigerator.)
Its not just that Mr. Wilson looks so lonely out there by himself being the one and only "zealous" Romney supporter. Its what motivates him. Is it the candidates compelling vision, personality and/or leadership? No.
He liked what Mr. Romney had to say about free enterprise and federal regulation, and he could never muster much interest in Newt Gingrich (“his time has passed”) or Rick Santorum (“a little whiny”). But more than anything, he hated what he believed Mr. Obama stood for: big government run amok.
I think that pretty well sums up what this presidential race is about for Republicans. Meh...I sorta like what Romney says. But more than anything I hate Obama.

Even the last Faux News poll confirmed that the number one thing motivating Romney's supporters to vote for him is that  he's "not Obama."

Is that enough for the win? Lets let conservative guru Bill Kristol answer that one.
A conventional, cautious, backward-looking GOP effort against President Obama is as likely to produce a close reelection for the president as a close defeat...

What’s the alternative? A forward-looking campaign, more like Reagan’s in 1980 and Clinton’s in 1992. Reagan and Clinton didn’t simply depend on unhappiness with the incumbent. They elaborated a different, and they claimed better, path ahead for the country.
In other words, no - its not enough. But its all they've got.

Racism: Coming soon to a theater near you

While the Rickett's plan to dredge up the Rev. Wright controversy during the Democratic Convention seems to have been dropped, we just learned that he's also bank-rolling a movie based on Dinesh D'Souza's book The Roots of Obama's Rage, which will be coming to a theater near you next month.



You can see from the trailer that the point of all this is to suggest that Obama has a dream from his anti-colonialist Kenyan father (complete with a scene of an African American family coming to blows over a game of Monopoly) whereas the rest of "America has a dream from OUR founding fathers."

And if that isn't enough "othering" for you, take a look at D'Souza's speech at CPAC this year introducing the film. He not only leads off by saying that "Obama is clearly the most unknown guy to enter the Oval Office in American history," and "three years later he remains a mystery," he trots out every dog whistle fog horn we've ever heard about Obama from Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers to questioning his attendance at Columbia University.

This, my friends, is what's coming. Its the stealth campaign the Republicans will be sponsoring while Mitt Romney tries to walk the fine line of distancing himself from it...but not too much (he is, after all, banking on fundraisers with birther extraordinaire Donald Trump).

We can sum up the message in just 8 words: THERE'S A BLACK GUY IN THE WHITE HOUSE! These fools have never gotten over that. No matter what the President does or says, it all comes back to that one.

What we need to do is see this for what it is and call it out. Beyond this, (as Blackman so often says in the comments) "they got nothin'."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Three Years Ago Today: A Wise Latina to the Supreme Court



Biden's Memorial Day Message: It gets better

Sometimes I think that our Vice President is incapable of telling anything but the truth. It gets him in trouble sometimes. At other times - its breathtakingly profound.

Mayors for Obama



I found this video interesting for several reasons. Of course one of them is because of the introduction by the great Mayor of Minneapolis - RT Rybak, who had the wisdom to be one of the first elected officials in the country to endorse our President.

Secondly, it has been our Mayors all over the country (but especially in our big urban areas) who have felt the direct heat of our economic problems. These are the men and women on the front line of hearing from citizens about the impact of job losses (both public and private) in their communities. So I appreciated hearing from them about what the Obama administration has meant in their communities.

And finally, how can you help but notice what our "farm team" looks like? The diversity of the Democratic Party on the front lines speaks very well to the future of our party - and our country.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Secretary Geithner on risk and heat

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I've always been pretty curious about Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. No one in the Obama administration walked into a tougher job and next to Attorney General Eric Holder, none has been so reviled. When conversing with the poutragers, it often seemed as though they thought all they had to do was say his name and the failings of the administration would be obvious.

I did my best to try to understand some of the advice Secretary Geithner gave the President and the choices that were available to him. The truth is - I think he's done a good job with the hand he was dealt. And yet even amongst the President's supporters, you rarely hear a positive word about him.

That's why I was intrigued when I read the commencement address he recently gave at his alma mater, the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. It gave me a little insight into the person behind the policies. Here are some excerpts you might find interesting.
You will find lots of people in public life who worry more about how they appear than what they accomplish, who fear the risk in any action, who let preoccupation with perception and politics get in the way of doing the right thing.

What you should take from this story is that if you are going to make a difference, especially in public life, you need to be willing to get close to the flame.  You need to be willing to take risk and feel the heat.   You have to keep your focus on the cause you are called to serve and the craft of doing the job well...

The damage from the financial crisis was greater because it hit an economy that had already been suffering from a slow-burning mix of other challenges.  The erosion in the quality of public education, the decline in public infrastructure, an alarming rise in poverty, a long period of stagnation in living standards for the median worker, the rise in public debt.

And these challenges are all magnified today by the paralysis in our political system—a paralysis that reflects and amplifies the deep divisions across the country about the role of government.

Our economic challenges are tough, but the critical test we face is a political challenge:  how to recapture what was for most of our history our defining strength: a political system that was able to marshal the wisdom to do wise and hard things, with a long-term view of what determines national economic strength...

If you choose to work in public service, and if you have the chance to work on the great economic challenges ahead, then you will learn, as I have, a few of the things that matter most in government.

Don’t put politics ahead of economics.  Polls may tell you what seems popular.  They can show you the political obstacles to reform.  But they cannot tell you what is the right thing to do.  They are not a reliable guide to good economic policy, particularly in a crisis, when all the options seem terrible to any sensible person.

Retain a healthy skepticism about the world, and a lot of humility.  You should be profoundly skeptical about the easy policy option.  Be skeptical of those offering excessive conviction on any issue. Don’t expect people to behave rationally.

Know that you will often have to act in areas where the fog of uncertainty is thick and heavy.  This should humble you, but you can’t let it paralyze you.

In government, you need to have a view, and to know what you are for, not just what you are against.  It is not enough to be able to explain the risks in any option.  You have to be able to decide and to choose.  Plan beats no plan.

In economic policy, your job is to try to relax the political constraints on policy, not simply to resign yourself to live within them.  But still, you have to govern with knowledge of the possible, and to be able to choose among the feasible alternatives, not be caught too long in the search of the theoretical ideal.

In confronting the financial crisis, we were fighting two battles—one to save the economy from collapse, and one to convince the American people that we were doing the right thing, the fair and the just thing.  We won the first of these battles, and we are still fighting the second.

At the height of the crisis, President Obama made a difficult and courageous choice.  He decided not to alter economic strategy to fit the demands for a more simple and compelling popular narrative—that we nationalize the banks, for example, or let them all burn. 
He did not let politics get in the way of doing the right thing, and that made all the difference.

So, graduates of the class of 2012—you already know you have to be prepared to take the risk and heat.

The political meta story that is being missed

We can add a new name to the list of conservatives who have parted ways with the wingnut takeover of the Republican Party. The list already includes former Republican administration officials David Frum and Bruce Bartlett; former Republican Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren; and former legislators like Chuck Hagel.

The latest entry to the list is Michael Fumento who wrote a scathing critique in Salon about the extremist's takeover of the current conservative agenda.
The last thing hysteria promoters want is calm, reasoned argument backed by facts. And I’m horrified that these people have co-opted the name “conservative” to scream their messages of hate and anger.
One of my reactions when I read about this kind of thing is to wonder whether or not these people  represent many other conservatives who are equally disgusted with the current nonsense coming from their side of the political spectrum. Given what we saw happen to Senator Lugar recently, I doubt we'll be hearing much of anything like that from Republicans who are currently in office or running for re-election. But I have to believe that the folks on this list represent many other conservatives who might not have a public voice, but are nevertheless wondering WTH has happened to their party.

This, to me, is the meta story about what is happening in our politics today. Its what future historians will be writing about these times we're living in. Centrists pundits like Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein finally said it - but not many folks are paying attention.

Instead we get crap like the story in Politico today, pundits who simply follow the electoral horse race and say over and over again what a tight race the 2012 election is going to be, and liberals screaming about every crack in the Democratic message while  ignoring the ongoing deep fissures on the right.

There are definitely times that, as I watch all this unfold, I feel like I'm living in another parallel universe to the one so many pundits (both paid and armchair) are seeing. But I know that my eyes are not deceiving me. Ornstein and Mann are right - the Republicans are currently in the grasp of a faction that is having ONE BIG HISSY FIT and a few brave souls from their ranks are standing up to say so. The country is still nervous about our economic future. And President Obama is calmly but surely showing us the way FORWARD.

Obama's Consistency

One of the things I recognized early on about President Obama is how consistent he's been in his approach to conflict. I first noticed this just after his election when I did some looking into his background - specifically his time as President of the Harvard Law Review. Quotes like this sound very familiar to how he has approached his current job.
Beyond his appearance, what set him apart was his approach to argument, the lifeblood of the law school and the constant occupation of the young lawyers-in-training. While other students were determined to prove the merits of their beliefs through logic and determination, Obama preferred to listen, seek others' views, and find a middle way.
Or how about this one.
...his first and foremost goal, it always seemed to me, was to put out a first-rate publication. And he was not going to let politics or ideology get in the way of doing that.
What I learned is - of course - that he's always been a pragmatist who is open to ideas over ideology.

I'd suggest that comes primarily from the time he spent while in college at Columbia thinking deeply about his own identity and the course he wanted his own life to take.  As we've heard recently, this was his conclusion.
The only way my life makes sense is if, regardless of culture, race, religion, tribe, there is this commonality, these essential human truths and passions and hopes and moral precepts that are universal. And that we can reach out beyond our differences. If that is not the case, then it is pretty hard for me to make sense of my life. So that is at the core of who I am.
I say all that because today Politico has published a pretty nasty article about how the Obama campaign has stumbled out of the gate when it comes to this election. Of course the hit piece is full of overheated nonsense. But this part expresses something we're hearing fairly often these days.
Some key Democrats say they have been dismayed watching Obama become a divider not a uniter...

“This guy’s narrative is to be big,” complained one veteran of the 2008 campaign. “How do you capture that in a campaign when all anybody is focused on is the daily tit-for-tat?
The DC village pundit crowd is into their "oh-no's" that the President is actually arguing a position and the poutragers are saying, "finally, he's dropped the bipartisanship and is fighting."

All of them are falling into the same trap of either/or thinking I wrote about before. What they don't seem to be able to grasp is that a human being can be BOTH a negotiator AND a fighter. When it comes to President Obama's approach, that applies not only to foreign policy - but how he deals with Republicans. We can take these same words he spoke at his inauguration to foreign leaders and (perhaps with a bit of editing) apply them to domestic politics as well.
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 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.
Or we can once again ask them to look at this video from way back in 2007 and suggest that President Obama has reached the "crush them" stage when it comes to dealing with Republican nonsense, but that his hand would still be extended to those who are "willing to unclench their fist."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sing It Loud

I, Too

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"
Then.

Besides,
They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.

 - Langston Hughes

This week one of my favorite writers, Leonard Pitts, reflected on that poem as he talked about three stories: the plan floated by a Romney Super PAC to revive the Jeremiah Wright story, the resurgence of birthirism in Arizona, and the news from the Census Bureau that - for the first time in the US - non-white babies outnumber white ones.
After all, President Martinez lies in an incubator even as we speak. President Chen has begun to toddle. President Muhammad is being toilet trained. And this idea that some of us are real Americans and some of us are Others is thereby doomed. It will probably not even work in 2012. It will definitely not work in years to come.

The conservatives who are still demanding a birth certificate they’ve already been provided, the ones taking applications for extremely literate African-Americans, the ones operating on bad food, no sleep and a surplus of panic, would be well advised to understand this and adapt accordingly. Their former business model — appeal to the fears, anxieties and resentments of aging white voters — is literally dying.

Meantime, the future is being born, audible in every new baby’s cry. Langston Hughes would have understood that sound for what it is — America, being sung.

Watching change happen

I want to veer from my usual practice and write something personal today. That's because yesterday was one of the proudest moments of my professional career.

First a little background. I am the executive director of a small nonprofit where we work with youth who are starting to get in trouble. That means connecting with and re-directing youth who are getting suspended from school, have been arrested for the first time, are having a family crisis or are developing delinquency patterns before they are 10 years old.

Focusing early on these kinds of behaviors means that our typical clients are young teens and working in an urban environment means that they're primarily African American. Given our mission, the majority of them are boys.

All of this also means that our staff is predominantly African American and male. So the testosterone can run high at times. I've found myself occasionally mentoring some of our young male staff about when they've crossed the line in attitudes that reflect sexism.

Overall, what makes me most proud is that we have created a work atmosphere where its possible to have difficult conversations - whether that be about race or gender. It means being comfortable with tension and continuing the conversation through the differences. It also requires a lot of trust and respect for one another.

Yesterday we put all that to the test. We had the executive director of an organization working with trans youth (who is transgender herself) provide a training on the topic of what we need to know in order to effectively work with youth who are facing barriers due to their sexual identity.

First of all, let me say that the trainer did a marvelous job. I think the key to that was that she presented factual information and never once approached anything with the defensive "chip on your shoulder" attitude that I'm sure would have been easy to slip in to given the pain she's experienced in her own life. So she made conversation possible.

But I also feel that "proud momma" kind of thing about how our staff responded. When they'd heard initially about the topic of the training we'd seen a lot of grimaces and/or questioning looks. But afterwards the trainer said she'd never worked with a group that had been that engaged on the topic. We weren't able to cover all the material she had come to present because the staff got so involved in asking questions/commenting. It was all done in a spirit of respect and openness to learning.

As I listened to the chatter in the office afterwards, conversations were happening everywhere with people talking about how much they'd learned and how much they appreciated the training.

I'm not sure if this story will mean anything to anyone reading here. But what I know is that yesterday I saw change happen. The people who walked into that training were different after it was over. In telling the story, I've tried to highlight several of the things that I think made that possible. I hope there's application to other change we'd all like to see happen.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Moodys predicts an Obama romp

First came this article from Bloomberg.
From extra shifts at auto and steel plants in Ohio to office buildings rising in Northern Virginia, the geography of the U.S. economic rebound is providing an edge to President Barack Obama’s re-election.

The unemployment rates in a majority of the 2012 battleground states are lower than the national average as those economies improve. Coupled with the growth of adult minority populations in those states, the trends create a higher bar for presumed Republican Party presidential nominee Mitt Romney in his quest to unseat Obama.
Looking at the electoral college, they break it down this way.
Nine states switched from supporting Republican President George W. Bush in 2004 to Democrat Obama in 2008. Leaving out Indiana, which both sides say is trending toward its Republican tradition, the remaining eight are again shaping up as the central election battleground.

Those eight states -- ColoradoFloridaIowaNevadaNew Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia -- have a combined 101 electoral votes. Romney must win at least 79 of those electoral votes to prevail if all other states run true to their 2004 and 2008 partisan preferences.
Then Moodys weighed in to say that they don't think Romney can do that. They put together an electoral map of what they predict will happen.



By way of electoral votes - that's 303 for Obama and 235 for Romney. As I've looked at the maps and the state poll aggregates, that's exactly the same scenario I've been seeing.

But just to show you what an uphill climb the current map is for Romney, if we took this scenario and added a win for him in Ohio - he still looses 285 to 253. Yes, you heard that right...Obama could lose BOTH Florida and Ohio and still have a pretty sure path to victory.

Now do you believe me when I say that all those pundits looking at national polls and saying its a tight race are full of sh*t?

Caveat: I'm NOT saying anything is in the bag. We still have 5 months to go and a lot can happen.

But our guy has the best hand right now AND the most talented campaign team AND the best ground game in the business.  We go into this fight knowing they're going to throw every dirty trick in the book our way. But we don't need to get distracted by all the hysteria they're going to try to produce.

Remember the "NO DRAMA OBAMA" team? Yeah, lets do that one again!

GOP: When the truth hurts...lie

I often try to imagine how this presidential race looks to those who don't follow every detail about it every day. Doing so helps me imagine what kinds of over-arching messages are the key to winning.

One of the things the GOP has been pretty successful at doing is getting a false message out there that President Obama is a typical tax-and-spend liberal. And that its his policies that are the cause of our federal deficits.

That kind of message resonates because its the kind of narrative people have grown to accept about Democrats for a long time. It becomes hard to break through what has long been accepted as conventional wisdom.

But its all a lie.

Trouble is, I don't think simply saying so is enough. When the truth goes against people's accepted narrative, they tend to dismiss it. And data simply bores them.

Perhaps one of the ways to get the truth out there is via visuals. Here are a couple that make the case pretty powerfully.

When it comes to spending, Marketwatch provides one that demonstrates that its actually Republican presidents who have been the big spenders.

Photobucket
Almost everyone believes that Obama has presided over a massive increase in federal spending, an “inferno” of spending that threatens our jobs, our businesses and our children’s future. Even Democrats seem to think it’s true.

But it didn’t happen. Although there was a big stimulus bill under Obama, federal spending is rising at the slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower brought the Korean War to an end in the 1950s...

Over Obama’s four budget years, federal spending is on track to rise from $3.52 trillion to $3.58 trillion, an annualized increase of just 0.4%.
Its true that we currently have a sizable federal budget deficit. So its important to look at what spending creates that. TPM covers that one.



...the main drivers of projected deficits over the next decade are the wars of the oughts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush tax cuts and the so-called “automatic stabilizers” — unemployment insurance spending, lower tax burdens — built into existing policy to combat economic downturns. Recovery measures by Bush and Obama caused a short-term spike in deficits but have mostly phased out and thus represent only modest fractions of the national debt.
Hear that folks? The bailouts and the stimulus spending are over...history. What is currently driving our deficits are the Bush tax cuts, the slow economy and the war in Afghanistan.

Of course the Republicans don't want the truth of this message to get out there. And so they lie.

Our job is to counter with the truth.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What do we need to know about Cory Booker?

I've been pleased to hear that as some people deal with their frustrations about what Mayor Cory Booker said on MTP over the weekend, they're following up by looking into his past to learn more about him.

Several years ago - and under much more positive circumstances - I did the same thing. I thought it might be helpful for me to share some of what I learned.

As far as I can remember, the first time I really paid much attention to Booker is after watching this interview with him in 2008.



What struck me was how similar he sounded to the young black professionals I work with every day. I noted a desire to honor the civil rights leaders of the past, but to recognize that todays leaders need to be prepared to develop their own responses to the challenges we face. This "roll up your sleeves and get to work" attitude is something I hear very often from the younger generation.

What I found when looking more closely at Booker was that understanding who he is needs to be grounded in the fact that - in becoming Mayor of Newark - he made some enemies. He defeated 5-term Mayor Sharpe James, who was incredibly corrupt. Eventually James was indicted by the FBI on 25 counts of corruption and convicted of 5, serving 27 months in prison. Much of the criticism of Booker in Newark comes from those who lost their hold on power when Booker came to office. I don't automatically discount what they have to say about him, but its important to see it in context.

If you've never watched the documentary Brick City, I highly recommend doing so. It is often compared to a real life version of the HBO series "The Wire." I agree. It will give you not only an idea of Booker and his work in Newark, but you'll learn a lot about the challenges that city faces and the tensions between the Booker/James camps.

Perhaps my favorite scene in that documentary is the story they tell about when Mayor Booker was the victim of a crime committed by a couple of young black men. He went to court and asked the judge to sentence them to a mentorship with himself. This - to me - is a person walking his talk.

I know that some people are hearing about Mayor Booker's support for school vouchers and find that troubling. I do too. But once again, I put it in the context of what I hear from the young black professionals I work with. We have this conversation often. They, like Booker, are tired of seeing their kids fail and have grown inpatient with the lack of progress in our public schools when it comes to issues like the achievement gap. While most of them work every day to do what they can to improve things, the idea of losing yet another generation of young people to a system that is failing leads them to look for whatever alternative is out there.

I believe this is a pretty common sentiment in urban black America and something Democrats need to wrestle with more directly than they have to date. I'll just note that President Obama has also faced a lot of push-back from education advocates for the same reason. He and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have embraced supported the whole charter school movement as an alternative.

Finally, Mayor Booker is simultaneously doing everything he can to improve public education as well. His work on getting and directing the $100 million gift to Newark public schools from Mark Zuckerberg is an example of that.

Lately I've seen several people link to a diary at Daily Kos taking on these and other issues about Booker. I would simply warn people that the source for much of the material in that diary comes from this article at The Black Agenda Report. I don't know if people are aware of that publication's point of view. But if not, you might want to take a look at what they say about President Obama. Its not that I would dismiss every thing they say. But videos like this (highlighted on their web site) provide the context for their agenda.

Perhaps the most common thing I'm hearing about Mayor Booker is people citing this article about contributions from the financial sector. I would caution folks that this is the very same argument we've been hearing from the poutragers for almost 4 years about President Obama's contributions from Wall Street firms in 2008. I didn't buy it then as a way to demonize the President and I don't buy it now as a way to do the same to Booker. I'd suggest we look at the man's record in both instances and make up our minds based on that.

I hope people will see this kind of information as a contribution to the discussion. I know feelings have been running pretty hot lately about Mayor Booker. I've tried to make it clear that, while I recognize the damage he did in his statements on MTP last Sunday, I'm committed to dialogue that embraces our differences without condemning the person. I hope people will be willing to place Booker's recent mistakes into the context of who/what he's been in the past.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Why Bain Matters



That's a quote from President Obama's press conference this afternoon when he was asked about the campaign ads on Romney's experience at Bain.

This morning Ezra Klein made a pretty similar point.
Romney says he was in the “job creation” business. He wasn’t. He was in the wealth creation business, and when that meant firing people, that’s what he did — , and he profited handsomely from it.

On the other hand, many of the companies that Romney closed needed to be closed. It was better for them to die quickly, and for the money to go to productive uses in the economy, than for them to decline slowly. The Obama administration has presided over layoffs in the federal government, not to mention the auto industry, and it would surely argue some of them were necessary.

At its best, private equity acts as an accelerant of needed creative destruction. At its worst, it’s a particularly heartless form of vulture capitalism that kills companies that don’t need to be killed in order to enrich investors who are already very rich...

But the real problem with Romney isn’t what he did at Bain. It’s what he didn’t seem to learn from it...

What he could have learned from that experience is that, just as creative destruction is important for moving an economy forward, a safety net is important for catching those who are left behind. As head of Bain, Romney fired a lot of workers who were perfectly good at their jobs, who were committed to their companies, who had families they needed to support. That was his job as head of a private-equity giant. But his job as president of the United States would also be to look out for those workers...

That’s why the ads in which laid-off steelworkers say Romney just doesn’t care about people like them are so effective. As head of Bain, it was Romney’s job not to care about them. But as a presidential candidate, it’s his job to show that he does care about them. So far, he hasn’t.
There's nothing inherently evil about private equity firms. What the Obama campaign will do in the future is tie Romney's past at Bain to his proposals on the economy - pointing out that he learned all the wrong things from that experience when it comes to being President of the United States.

Good News Monday

If you'd like to start your week off on a positive note, here are some stories that might do just that.

First of all, apparently U.S. manufacturing is coming home.
Two-thirds of big US manufacturers have moved factories in the past two years, with the most popular destination being the US, according to a survey being released on Monday by Accenture, the consultants.
Secondly, is Tennessee really in play now?
President Barack Obama has pulled into a virtual tie with presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney in traditionally conservative Tennessee, according to a new Vanderbilt University poll...

Bill Freeman, a top fundraiser for Obama in Tennessee, said the overall poll result reflects a “tightening” the president’s campaign had already noticed.

“We’ve been tracking it for some time,” Freeman said Thursday. “We’ve watched it go from a solid-Republican (state) to a leaning-Republican to, we believe, a toss-up state now. We think we’re just a point or two behind and that winning Tennessee is in our grasp. “And we’re especially excited about what that’ll mean to the down-ticket races across the state.”
Thirdly, you might be seeing some reports that indicate the Romney campaign is raising more money than the Obama campaign. They would be wrong.
Romney’s campaign had less than $10 million cash on hand at the end of April — less than one-twelfth the amount Obama’s campaign had.

The federal campaign finance reports due Sunday expound on the numbers reported by the campaigns themselves last week.

Romney’s campaign said it had raised $40 million total for the month, split between different entities. His campaign, though, raised just $11.7 million of it and has just $9.2 million on hand after a tough primary season (Romney was pretty clearly the presumptive nominee for most or all of April). 
Obama, meanwhile, raised $25.7 million for his campaign and had $115 million cash on hand at the end of the month. Obama raised a total of $43.6 million for his campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Finally, last week we saw Romney trying to pretend that Bill Clinton is his new BFF. And now we see Clinton's response...a fundraiser with President Obama. And you're invited.
Former President Bill Clinton will once again join President Obama on the stump.

The two presidents will fundraise together in New York City on June 4th, according to the Obama campaign...

Like previous win-a-dinner promotions, the Obama campaign is offering to fly one donor and a guest to New York City for the fundraiser.

Bain is the opening salvo, not the closer

In criticizing Cory Booker's statements on MTP yesterday, I heard several people suggest that the current  focus on Bain was the heart of the Obama campaign message. I agree that's what they're focusing on now and that Booker's comments were hurtful.

But I disagree that an attack on Romney's Bain record will be the heart of the Obama campaign. First of all, since when have we seen this President focus a campaign on the short-comings of his opponent? Its an important message to get out there in the early days in order to help frame the narrative on Romney. But its certainly not what President Obama will stake his campaign on.

We've all witnessed the precision with which someone like David Plouffe plans an effective campaign. I've written recently about the fact that they have very successfully controlled the narrative with well-timed roll-outs of what they want to talk about when.

The heart of the battle between Obama and Romney on our economy is yet to come. And it will not focus on the past. It will focus on what each of them plan to do in the future. President Obama has a very strong message there - its why the campaign adopted the word "FORWARD" as a slogan.

The Obama campaign will continue talking about the same things the President has focused on for the last 2 years - the need for investment, infrastructure and education when it comes to spending and fairness/balance when it comes to taxes and regulation.

The message about Romney will be that he wants to take us back to the policies that created this mess in the first place.  Here's how Michael Tomasky put it today.
I would guess that somewhere in the big, secret Axelrod playbook on some thumb-drive in Chicago there is a calendar by which they expect to introduce all these topics. But Romney isn’t going to be defeated by Bain or even by the auto bailout. Obama’s going to have to make a strong argument about Romney’s irresponsible economic “plan,” which will cut taxes on people making more than $1 million a year by an average of more than $250,000 (per year!) and will blow the deficit sky high. 
And note those two criticisms: The first is about unfairness, the rich getting another handout, an argument that’s good for the base. The second is about the deficit and will work with swing voters. He should certainly make both critiques. Romney would bring back—and indeed intensify—Bush economics. That will work with both groups.
When it comes to the all-important message in this campaign about the economy - that's the closer.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cory Booker can be wrong without being a "traitor"

So Mayor Cory Booker went on MTP this morning and said something dumb.

As Karoli has done at C&L, tell him it was a bad idea to say what he did.

But my twitter timeline is absolutely full of everything from calling Booker a traitor and yes, even a house negro, to saying he sold out and is likely waiting on a telephone call from Romney asking him to be his VP.

This is ridiculous folks. Why does someone disagreeing with us automatically invoke that kind of reaction? Its exactly what I was trying to write about yesterday.

I have tremendous respect for Steve Kornacki. But what he just wrote today about Cory Booker is wrong. First of all, since when does a hunger strike against open-air drug dealing and violence in public housing get reduced to "self-generated publicity?" If having friends from Ivy League schools and taking donations from elite donors is enough to tar a politician's reputation, then we're going to have trouble defending President (and Mrs.) Obama. And I'm not even going to go into the whole issue about the corrupt former Mayor, Sharpe James, that Booker defeated.

Before you go judging Booker as a sellout to Wall Street, please consider things like this:
  •  After getting his law degree from Yale, he didn't go after money. Instead he moved back to Newark and lived in Brick Towers, a low-income public housing complex, and ran for City Council.
  • President Obama offered Booker the position of being the first director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs and he turned it down...saying he hadn't finished his job in Newark yet.
Or go read what Baratunde Thurston said about Booker after following and studying him for over five years.

And finally, if you ever doubt Booker's commitment to the re-election of President Obama, take some time and watch him stumping for Obama 2012 recently in this speech in NH.

We're all human and therefore fallible. That includes people like Cory Booker. So get mad at him and tell him he was wrong. But there's no need to write him off as a traitor. 

I firmly believe that is one of the main things President Obama has been trying to teach us.
In fact, I would argue that the most powerful voices of change in the country, from Lincoln to King, have been those who can speak with the utmost conviction about the great issues of the day without ever belittling those who opposed them, and without denying the limits of their own perspectives.

"A single garment of destiny"

An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
 - Martin Luther King, Jr.
I would assume that Rev. King would say that wherever justice prevails is a cause for celebration.

And so I thought of that quote when I saw this cartoon at Daily Kos today. There were no words accompanying the cartoon. Only the title: "...and those other halos...?"



Its the depiction of the other parts of the democratic coalition as somehow angry at this historic moment that is so childish and divisive.  Not only that - its exactly what those on the right would like to see happen.

To be honest, I think its only a very small contingent on the left that buys into this kind of divisiveness. That's why the resolution by the NAACP in support of marriage equality is so important. Heaven knows that group still has a long way to go in their struggle. But they were able to see that we're all in this together.
The NAACP Constitution affirmatively states our objective to ensure the “political, educational, social and economic equality” of all people. Therefore, the NAACP has opposed and will continue to oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens. We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.  Further, we strongly affirm the religious freedoms of all people as protected by the First Amendment.
And that brings to mind a guiding principle of Rev. King's legacy.
All I’m saying is simply this, that all life is interrelated, that somehow we’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.

Protest Fail

I'm sure that as the NATO meeting gets underway in Chicago today, one of the stories we'll be hearing about is the protest and police response. Of course this one was taken up a notch yesterday with the arrest of three people for plots to blow up things like the Obama campaign headquarters and Rahm Emmanuel's house. Yeah, that's a good look for the left...NOT.

But overall, I think David Frum actually summarized pretty well why this kind of protest fails.
Your core problem is this: Your supporters seem to think of protest as an expressive activity, a way for them to tell the world how they feel. But protest is not an expressive activity. It is a communicative activity. If you crave self-expression, join a creative-writing class. If you want to relieve your feelings, see a therapist.

The medium is the message, as the saying goes. People won't hear what you have to say if they don't like how you behave. Or don't understand it.
I doubt its likely that you'll ever find another issue where David Frum and Al Giordano agree. But on this one they do. Back in the summer of 2010, Giordano wrote basically the same thing about the protests happening at the G-20 meeting in Toronto.
So what is left from these summit-hopping protests, beyond the tons of garbage and reaction that local movements have to pick up afterwards? Some brief media stories about violence – by police or by protesters, whether against people or merely against property, you can’t ever count on the mass media to distinguish between the two, and you ought to know better in advance that that will be the case – is about all that is left over when the show has packed up and gone. Nobody outside the event's own protagonists knows what the protest was about, or why it was done.
Of course the difference between Frum and Giordano is that the latter actually would like to see a positive message emerge. I remembered this article by him because - in typical Giordano fashion - he demonstrated in such a powerful way what a little creativity on the part of the left could accomplish.
And to think: At least twice in recent months, in the same city of Toronto, there were two creative actions – neither of them “protests, per se – that were designed, and succeeded, to win over hearts and minds and public support. They involved planning, discipline and a lot more fun than the tired summit protests offer, and they show us a possible path toward a new kind of protest that, rather than provoking automatic police repression, sneaks up on society with stealth and then disappears quickly avoiding any physical confrontation at all.
What was he referring to? This.


Add a coherent political message, banners, leaflets, a dance tune that resonates with the message, and such to a dancing musical flash mob like these and you have the seeds of a new, more effective, kind of protest than the tired old marching around in circles of the last century that has ceased to win any cause for anyone.
It kinda makes you wonder just when the left in this country got so consumed with anger and so g-d...boring.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Mitt Romney: The Demon Barber of Wall Street

With all due respect to Stephen Sondheim ;-)

What I learned while blogging

This is something that's been rolling around in my head the last few days and I thought I'd take a stab at writing about it. I'm pretty sure it will be interesting to no one but me - but hey, this is my blog so that's the fun of it. I get to please myself.

I first noticed blogs back in 2004. I've always been somewhat of a political junkie. But it was Howard Dean's campaign that introduced me to them as a way to connect with other political junkies online. I didn't participate - but I read and didn't feel so alone.

Like many liberals, the first community blog I found was Daily Kos. I started reading there around the time of the 2004 election and felt such relief in hanging out with others who were just as depressed and enraged as I was at Bush's re-election. Again, I didn't participate - just read.

And then the pie wars hit. It all started over a pretty sexist ad that made me somewhat uncomfortable, but I was willing to look beyond it. What rocked my world was the flame war that started in response and the incredibly sexist remarks my so-called "liberal brothers" made as the conversation turned away from the ad and became more generally about sexism. Call me naive, but I usually assumed those kinds of attitudes were restricted to our opponents on the right. So I had to do some soul-searching.

A bunch of refugees from the pie wars migrated over to BooMan Tribune. And I went with them. It was really a lovely community for a while. And it was there that in a matter of a day or two I signed up, made my first comment, and actually wrote a diary.

I won't go into any specifics, but after awhile both political and personality clashes started to happen between regulars there. It was finally those mostly related to personality that caused a blow-up and permanently fractured the community.

A few of us wandered around awhile on existing blogs and even created one of our own together that didn't last long. About that time Docudharma was formed by a crowd of Daily Kos writers. I found the site and settled in. As at BooMan Tribune, a wonderful community formed - although there were occasionally personal and political tensions.

The real rift for me came when Barack Obama was elected. I had become quite impressed with him but others on the site decided that they couldn't support him unless he prosecuted Bush/Cheney for torture. We had some pretty serious discussions about that and eventually I found that the personal relationships I had developed with folks there couldn't withstand the disagreement.

I went back to writing/talking at Daily Kos with one goal in mind - to see if people could actually talk to each other past their differences. I didn't want to give up what I believed and didn't expect others to either. I just wanted to know if we could still converse.

The result was that I honed my skills as a writer and debater, but overall it will come as a surprise to no one who witnessed the Obamarox vs Obamasux wars there that the experiment was a failure.

That's how I landed here. I had created this site on a whim between my time at BooMan Tribune and Docudharma - but hadn't used it very much. I finally decided that I just wanted a place of my own where I could say what I wanted.

What I learned from those travels comes down to basically 2 things:

First of all, the personal and the political are inescapably combined. It hurt to see friendships die as a result of political differences. And I suspect that I am much more cautious with sharing personally online as a result. I try not to go too far with that - but I'm here to talk politics. I truly enjoy the friendships I've made in the process, but perhaps you'll understand from all of the above why I might be a bit slow to "warm up."

Secondly, I learned that we are absolutely lousy at knowing how to disagree with each other. We take it all so g-d personally. If someone doesn't see things exactly like we do, they must be either blind or evil. And then our response is to either cut them off or trash them personally.

This is one of the many reasons I became such an Obamabot. What I see in our President is something I aspire to - the ability to be confident enough in your own self to be able to actually listen to others you disagree with respectfully. And to be open to the idea that they might not always be wrong.

This doesn't mean you don't get angry. It just means that you know your anger is about a disagreement, not a need to destroy or discard the other person. In that way you can stay engaged to either find some resolution or simply agree to disagree.

Let me just add that its those who discard you over differences that - to me - are even more painful than those who try to destroy you. That's because it tends to come from those you consider friends. The message is that their rigidly held beliefs are more important to them than you are.

So I'm still a work in progress on all of this. A comment by a reader at Andrew Sullivan's blog captured my aspirations.
Our culture has an overabundance of professional arguers: people with opinions firmly in place who set out to convert us to their way of thinking (or, more often the case, to increase our certainty in the way we already think).

What we don't have much of are writers who allow us to see their own uncertainty and who invite us to think along with them.