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Showing posts from March, 2013

My rules

Some of you may not have noticed, but I've recently ticked off a few people by deleting their comments.

Its true that I've gotten quite a bit more picky about what kinds of comments I'll let stand. I figure its my place so I get to make that call. If you don't like it - tough shit.

Perhaps it would also be helpful if I explained some of my thoughts about all that. I won't claim to be consistent, but here are a couple of general themes that have surfaced so far:
I've recently set the controls so that if you comment on a post that's more than a day old, it will go into moderation. That's because the spammers tend to invade older posts. If there's a productive conversation going on in an older post I'll try to pay attention and approve comments as they come in. But generally I don't pay much attention to what's in moderation. So you're likely to stay there.If you come here to engage in dialogue - then I welcome dissenting opinions. But i…

Grace and beauty under fire

Over the last 4 years I've tried to chronicle the achievements of this historic presidency. But there are times that I also need to remind myself that this is the family that currently occupies the White House.

Being "the first" brings its own kind of special pressure. But I have to marvel at how beautiful and graceful they've all managed to be no matter what kind of hate/vitriol is thrown their way.

We know that no family is perfect. And yet these four people have had to live their lives as close to perfection as possible because THE MINUTE they lose their cool or make a mistake it will be magnified millions-fold.

In the long-term scheme of things we must never forget that - aside from all of his many accomplishments - the one that President Obama is pulling off along with Michelle, Malia and Sasha might just be one of the most significant.

What happens when Republicans don't have fiscal issues to talk about

Recently I read something (can't remember where now) about the fact that Republicans have to talk about the debt/deficit because when they go off that script, all hell breaks lose for them.

As I was catching up on the news this morning, I realized how true that is.

For example:

Republicans are tripping over each other lately to distance themselves from Rep. Don Young's comments about "wetbacks."

And then there's Dave Agema, Republican National Committee Member, who refused to backtrack on his hateful anti-gay Facebook posting.

There's also the problem with rising conservative star Dr. Ben Carson suggesting that gay marriage is some kind of slippery slope to bestiality.

In general, the lunatics are in quite a tither. Apparently the traditionalists are freaked out that the new Pope washed the feet of a couple of young women and Rush Limbaugh says that the fact that Americans aren't copasetic with what Dr. Carson said means that conservatives have lost the c…

It's a Beautiful Morning

Up here in the tundra we still have crusty old snow on the ground and nothing green has even begun to bud yet. But much of the talk this week was about the fact that spring is definitely in the air.

Easter always means that the long night of winter is coming to an end and...its a beautiful morning!



In other words - what a day for a daydream.



So Happy Keester everybody ;-)

Privacy is the era of Facebook

Here's an interesting story:
DNAinfo.com reports that the New York Police Department is using facial recognition technology to match photos of suspects with images in online databases like Facebook and Instagram. In what might seem to be a totally unrelated story, you have Glenn Greenwald trying to scare the shit out of people because their right to privacy is about to be obliterated due to surveillance drones.
In sum, surveillance drones enable a pervasive, stealth and constantly hovering Surveillance State that is now well beyond the technological and financial abilities of law enforcement agencies. I ran across the article by Al Giordano that I used in the post below because I was looking for something he said about all this in Facebook, Privacy, and The New Exhibitionism.
The democratization of public or semi-public exhibitionism has thrown traditional concerns about “personal privacy” out the window. Who needs the CIA anymore when everybody is out there blurting the kinds of …

Al Giordano warns us about becoming legal fundamentalists

My "break-up" with the group of emo's I used to hang out with online came back in 2008 when I decided not to join their crusade on insisting that newly appointed Attorney General Eric Holder prosecute Bush/Cheney for torture. Its not that I would have been against such a move by Holder. It was that I had serious questions about its efficacy as well as the idea of making it a priority.

Besides which, I've spent the last 25 years of my professional career working on the outskirts of our criminal justice system and I have lots of questions about what the basic conceptof "justice" means.

Those questions have surfaced once again in the context of national politics as I see so many liberals joining on the bandwagon of the need to prosecute the big banks for their activities leading up to the great recession. I'm not feeling like joining up on that one either.

And so it was interesting today to find an old column by Al Giordano that addressed some of those con…

Why public opinion - as demonstrated by issue polls - isn't enough

Anyone who read here in the lead-up to the 2012 election knows that I couldn't seem to stop myself from diving into the polling numbers. As it turned out - folks like Nate Silver did pretty well with his formulas in predicting the outcome.

But I've learned to have much less interest in polling on issues (as opposed to elections). Some of that is because polls about how Americans respond nationally to issues doesn't really seem to matter. Even in the election polls, the more accurate read was on the state polls. Politicians don't necessarily care what a majority of the people in the country say about an issue. They care what their constituents think. And even more narrowly than that - many Republicans care mostly about what primary voters in their districts/states think.

Jonathan Chait is even more cynical about it all than I am though.
Actually, since background checks command 90 percent in the polls but lack support from Republicans in Congress, pretty clearly millions…

The irony of giving the white guy credit for diversity

Perhaps you've seen this chart that Media Matters put together on the gender/ethnic diversity in Sunday talk shows. The far right column represents a tally of the guests who appeared on MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes.

That's pretty impressive work for Chris and its important to recognize that it didn't just happen naturally...he had to work at it.

But the irony is that Chris is followed on MSNBC on Sunday by - wait for it - a black woman named Melissa Harris-Perry. Her guest line-up wasn't included in the tally (hence, the irony), but based on what I've seen of her show, she'd even knock Chris Hayes' record out of the park.

I can't help but ask myself questions about why Media Matters didn't look at the demographics of Melissa's show. Is it because she's simply expected - as a black woman - to have more diversity on her show but when white men do it there's something to notice? Is it because a show hosted by a black woman doesn't ma…

As American as apple pie

Can Rand Paul succeed where his father failed?

We all know that the Republican Party is in its death throes. Even its chairman is doing a post-2012 autopsy to try to come up with a way for the party to remake itself. In the meantime, it seems as though Republican legislators are content to continue their obstruction while they scramble to find a coherent platform and/or come up with a leader to take the reins.

Into that breech has stepped Senator Rand Paul. While the neocons like Senators McCain and Graham are sidelined, he is clearly trying to make a case for his brand of libertarianism as the alternative that might save the Republican Party.

Of course Paul's challenge is how to grow a constituency large enough to take on the Democratic coalition that appears to be positioned for national prominence in the years ahead. Knowing that what Republicans have done in the past with things like their appeals to so-called "Reagan Democrats" (ie, Southern Strategy) won't work, Paul is taking a different approach.

Like his…

Is my position on the "war on al Qaeda" racist?

I made a promise to myself years ago that I would take any charge of "racism" thrown at me seriously and examine it fearlessly.

While he didn't refer specifically to me, Glenn Greenwald has suggested that the position of many of the people who I tend to agree with about our current war on al Qaeda is fueled by privilege.

So let me ask myself some probing questions to see if there is any truth to the charge.

When it comes to the war on al Qaeda, is it racist to struggle with the world as it is rather than attempt to live in a world as we want it to be?

Is it racist to be frustrated that a focus on due process is the wrong argument to be making considering the rationale being made for targeted killing has been articulated in terms of the "war" authorized by the 2001 AUMF?

Is it racist to see targeted killing as an improvement over invading countries based on lies?

Is it racist to suggest that we see our current situation in the context of this country's histo…

A couple of things to remember as SCOTUS takes up marriage equality

It will be fascinating to hear what happens in the Supreme Court today and tomorrow as oral arguments are heard about DOMA and California's Prop 8. But I'd like to remind you of a couple of things:

First of all, remember that after oral arguments on Obamacare, almost every commentator said it would be overturned. Of course...they were wrong. So the real news comes when the decision is announced, not today.

Secondly, I'd like to remind you of something I wrote about a while ago called the diffusion of innovations. It is basically a theory about how social change happens.

The blue line represents the rate at which various groups adopt the new idea/technology and the yellow line shows its market share.

When it comes to marriage equality, we are clearly now in the stage where the "Late Majority" is coming around. The question of the day is whether or not Supreme Court Justices like Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts are prepared to play the role of Laggards (I think we…

The topic of drones has hi-jacked the conversation we should be having

In response to 9/11, the Bush administration declared a war on terror. Many people - including the Obama administration - pointed out both the danger and the error of that response by suggesting that it was ridiculous to declare war on a tactic. President Obama refocused it as a war on the people who attacked us on 9/11 - al Qaeda.

What has been disheartening is to watch too many on the left make exactly the same mistake by focusing on drones as the tactic used in the war on al Qaeda. I believe that if we had focused instead on ending the war - and repealing the 2001 AUMF that authorized it - we'd be having a completely different conversation today.

As an example, there was a fair amount of discussion yesterday about the recent Gallup poll with regards to the use of drones.

As Adam Serwer points out, however:
Although most of the debate over targeted killing has focused on drones, the survey is of limited usefulness because it focuses on the method of killing rather than the autho…

Passing the baton

E.J. Dionne has written an interesting article about San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. Reading it will explain why it is that President Obama chose him to give the keynote address at the Democratic Convention last year.
What makes Mayor Castro especially interesting is the interaction of his pragmatism with the early radicalism of his mother Rosie, his first political mentor. She was a founder of La Raza Unida Party — she eventually returned to the Democratic fold — and a poster from his mom’s unsuccessful 1971 city council race hangs proudly in the mayor’s office.

Between his mother’s past and his own present, Castro embodies the full range of progressive impulses, from the most activist and visionary to the most practical and middle-of-the-road. Castro says it’s not surprising that his approach is different from his mom’s.

“I had the blessing of opportunity,” he says. As a result, he sees a balance in what is required to achieve change. “You need the folks in the boardroom who have c…

The audacity of trust

When I was in graduate school, there was a theology professor that I credit with my "re-birth" as a human being after years of growing up haunted by the dogmatism of fundamentalist christianity that seemed aimed at crushing my spirit. His name was Ray Anderson and he passed away about 4 years ago.

Anyone who knows me in real life has heard stories about the interactions I had with this man and how he woke up the cowed little girl inside of me. I've often summarized it all by saying that the healing came because he trusted me fearlessly.

I wasn't the only one he touched. A friend of mine spent time with him too. When she first started to interact with him, she told him that she feared she was about to jump off a cliff. His response..."can I go with you?"

Since those days I've often thought about the healing power of trust. It is a powerful elixir that most of us are too fearful to extend to others - much less ourselves. We are so broken inside from our d…

Because of Obamacare, Republicans are doomed on entitlements

Steven Benen noted this morning that Republicans seem geared up to try their hostage-taking strategy one more time in demanding serious cuts to entitlement programs in exchange for raising the debt limit sometime this spring/summer. He rightly notes that that train left the station a while ago and its unlikely anyone is going to take their threats seriously if they try it again.

I'm still not sure WTH is up with the Republican leadership. What I do know is that their lunatic base is still all fired up about things that are sure to doom them as a party.

But here's one thing that I DO know. If the Randians in their ranks really are serious about privatizing the big three - Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security - their window of opportunity is getting smaller by the day.

That's because the one thing they've used to convince the lunatic base to screw themselves over with these programs is to scare the shit out of them by saying they are going broke and need "reform.…

Keep speaking up!

The volume of articles I've posted lately has gone down. But there have been some stories in the last week or so that I thought were important enough for me to spend some time researching and writing about because they weren't getting much attention. That means I've been off the bandwagon on the really big stories lately. But then I figure you get enough of those stories elsewhere.

This morning I found a few others writing about some of the things I've been spending my time talking about lately. So consider this a bit of an update.

First of all, Adam Serwer has written a great article about the case the racists are making against Thomas Perez - President Obama's nominee as Secretary of Labor. If you'll remember, I wrote about Perez's efforts to uphold the principle of "disparate impact" in cases of civil rights violations. Serwer points out why that principle is so important to maintain.
Civil rights advocates were worried that if this case reache…

Brennan will end CIA drone program

President Obama picked John Brennan to head the CIA for a reason - he had a job for him to do.
Brennan is leading efforts to curtail the CIA’s primary responsibility for targeted killings. Over opposition from the agency, he has argued that it should focus on intelligence activities and leave lethal action to its more traditional home in the military, where the law requires greater transparency. And who would have thought that less that two weeks into his new job, Brennan is delivering.
At a time when controversy over the Obama administration’s drone program seems to be cresting, the CIA is close to taking a major step toward getting out of the targeted killing business. Three senior U.S. officials tell The Daily Beast that the White House is poised to sign off on a plan to shift the CIA’s lethal targeting program to the Defense Department.

The move could potentially toughen the criteria for drone strikes, strengthen the program’s accountability, and increase transparency. To understa…

Three years later Obamacare is looking better and better

President Obama's critics on both the left and right have taken issue with the fact that he prioritized health care reform so early in his administration. Those on the left claim that it was a distraction from the single most important priority at the time...stimulus and jobs. What that critique fails to address is that the President had just passed the largest stimulus in our nation's history and there was no way further action on that front was likely to occur at the time. It also fails to recognize that - in addition to the recession - both businesses and individuals were being bankrupted by the status quo with regards to health care.

On the right, the criticism mostly centered around the idea of taking on the costs of a whole new government entitlement program in the midst of a recession. No matter what the CBO said, these folks continued their denial about Obamacare actually REDUCING the deficit.

The truth is that when faced with that status quo on health care/health insu…

The case the racists will make against Thomas Perez: disparate impact and my hometown

As many commentators are noting, Republicans are beginning to gear up to oppose the nomination of Thomas Perez as Secretary of Labor.

While the lunatics are likely to be sufficiently riled up about the "scary black men" at a Philadelphia a voting site, the fact that Perez didn't have any role in that case being dropped is not likely to gain much traction outside their ranks.

What the really serious racists are likely to use against Perez is his embrace of something called disparate impact as a way of measuring whether or not the 1964 Civil Rights Act has been violated. Here's the definition:
Adverse effect of a practice or standard that is neutral and non-discriminatory in its intention but, nonetheless, disproportionately affects individuals having a disability or belonging to a particular group based on their age, ethnicity, race, or sex. Notice the key word there...intention. In other words, it might not be possible to demonstrate that an employer intends to discr…

I Know

This one goes out to all of you who are saying "that shit ain't gonna work this time" to whoever needs to hear it.

As talk about the "drone war" heats up, their use is actually going down (updated)

As all the talk about the "drone war" heats up, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at their actual use lately. Here's what I found...since February 1, 2013, there have been a total of 3 drone strikes and two of those are disputed.

For a little historical context, the use of drones in Pakistan peaked in 2010 with a total of 122 attacks (an average of over 10/month). Last year there were 48.  So far this year there have been 9. Six of those occurred in January and 3 in the month and a half since then (with 2 disputed). Similarly, their use in Yemen peaked in 2012 with a total of 84 strikes (an average of 7/month).  This year there have been a total of 6 strikes with all of those occurring in January. Since February 1st this year - there have been none.

Not being privy to the intelligence reports our Commander-in-Chief receives, it is hard to predict whether this pattern of the last month and a half will be sustained. But lets plug a couple of events here on t…

May I remind you

My suggestion: Sit down. Be quiet. Let this one ease into you.

This is what happens when you focus on a weapon rather than try to end a war

In case you missed Bob Cesca's take-down of Glenn Greenwald's fear-mongering about domestic surveillance drones, please go take a look at it here. Basically what it comes down to is that this is what we're supposed to be so afraid of...“It’s a radio controlled toy airplane with a fancy camera!”


But in addition to that, we're now supposed to be all hot and bothered that using a drone like that instead of a helicopter will actually save police departments money...oh the horror!!!! For one thing, helicopters are far more expensive than drones. "Manned helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft are expensive to acquire, staff, and maintain. A police helicopter costs from $500,000 to $3 million to acquire, and $200-$400 an hour to fly," according to the ACLU...

By comparison, the ACLU argues, "it’s easy to foresee a day when even a professional police drone could be acquired for less than a hundred dollars, including maintenance costs." Apparently for the ACLU …

"Doing the right thing for imperfect reasons"

I see that since I wrote about my reaction to Rob Portman's decision to support marriage equality, a whole meme about the role of empathy (or lack thereof) as a base for what divides us has emerged.

I must admit though, that I am a little uncomfortable with some of how that meme is developing. That's because, as I look at my own life, I can see that my journey towards trying to understand my white privilege began 30 years ago when I cared about someone who was constantly being harassed due to racial profiling. And I finally opened my eyes to my own homophobia when a friend who was gay wrote an excruciating letter to me outlining what it was like to try to live her own life in denial about who she was. In other words, it was the people in my life who changed me.

As a matter of fact, based on my own experience, I came to the conclusion that much of the progress we see today on the issue of GLBT rights is a result of Harvey Milk's efforts to coax gay/lesbian people out of the…

The most astounding fact...

How's that for a great way to start your weekend????

Could Obamacare make a grand bargain unnecessary?

Yesterday I wrote about why President Obama wants a grand bargain. Its all about rising health care costs combined with baby boomers' retirement and the effect all that will have on Medicare. At the same time, I wrote about the leverage the President has recently introduced into the budget negotiations by being willing to walk away from a deal.

Knowing that President Obama doesn't bluff, why would he be willing to walk away from something he's identified as so important?

The short answer might be that the Medicare costs controls included in Obamacare are being even more effective than was originally forecast. This morning Sarah Kliff wrote about an economic report released today by the White House. Included was a graph that showed the difference between prior projections for Medicare spending compared to projections if it grows at the same rate it has since 2009.

As an example, the report included the fact that the level of hospital readmissions for Medicare patients (whic…

Greenwald = Krauthammer

For folks who suggest that Obama = Bush, doesn't it also hold that Greenwald = Krauthammer?

For years now Greenwald has been arguing for transparency and due process in the use of drones. He even recently wrote an article outlining how the war on terror can never end. So in other words, his position seems to be that we need to codify the war rather than end it.

Krauthammer agrees:
It is time to rethink. That means not repealing the original AUMF but, using the lessons of the past 12 years, rewriting it with particular attention to a new code governing drone warfare and the question of where, when and against whom it should be permitted. Before any Greenwald acolytes get all hot and bothered, I don't really think that - other than in this particular way - Greenwald actually agrees with Krauthammer on most foreign policy issues. Its simply demonstrates how completely ridiculous it is to say that Obama = Bush.

Other people's kids

As you may have heard, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) has just come out in support of marriage equality and he roots that change of heart completely in the fact that his son is gay.
I’ve thought a great deal about this issue, and like millions of Americans in recent years, I’ve changed my mind on the question of marriage for same-sex couples. As we strive as a nation to form a more perfect union, I believe all of our sons and daughters ought to have the same opportunity to experience the joy and stability of marriage. While I welcome Sen. Portman to this cause, I can't help but notice that his motivation spells out the very reason we are often so polarized on these issues.

In that vein, I think Teagan Goddard might have authored the tweet-of-the-year:
This is newsworthy, but it wouldn't be if opponents of same-sex marriage thought of other people's kids politicalwire.com/archives/2013/…— Taegan Goddard (@politicalwire) March 15, 2013 That reminds me of a quote from then-Senator Ba…

How to win friends and influence Supreme Court Justices

I'll grant you, making legal arguments for discrimination is a tricky business. But that's the task some folks have taken on in arguing for DOMA and California's Prop 8 at the Supreme Court.

For example, check this one out from the Thomas More Law Center:
Reserving marriage to a man and a woman thus reflects the inherent distinction between those pairs capable of engaging in the act which can produce human offspring, and those pairs which cannot. The thing is, they're making that argument to a court made up of one woman who was never married, one who was married and divorced with no children, one man who is married with no biological children and one man who is married with two adopted children.

That last one happens to be Chief Justice John Roberts.
Chief Justice John Roberts is the father of two children, Jack and Josie, both 12. They were adopted four months apart as babies in 2000, after Roberts and his wife, Jane, then 45, spent several years trying to adopt. John…

Why President Obama wants a grand bargain

This chart from the Center for Budget Policies and Priorities explains the situation.



The chart represents the national debt (not deficit) as a percentage of GDP. The dark blue line is where we were headed prior to the debt ceiling deal in the summer of 2011. The light blue line is the projection after that deal. The yellow line shows the long-term picture after the so-called "fiscal cliff" deal and the red line is where we'd be heading with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings over the next 10 years.

A couple of weeks ago at his press conference, President Obama called the sequester cuts that just went into effect - providing an additional $1.2 trillion in savings - "dumb." The reason he said that is because they don't tackle the one thing that is driving those upward spikes...health care costs. Here's how Kevin Drum explained it.
In other words, we don't have a discretionary spending problem. We don't have an interest expense problem. Once w…

The Right Wing Nanny State

The fact is that much of the political/cultural angst we hear these days is rooted in projection: "a defense mechanism where a person subconsciously denies his or her own negative attributes by ascribing them to objects or persons in the outside world instead."

This morning I have a perfect example of that. We often hear right wingers whining about the "Nanny state." Lately this has been targeted at Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative that educates children about healthy eating and exercise.

As liberals, we often scratch our heads and wonder how they come up with this shit. When you find yourself asking that question, its probably a good idea to assume that it springs from their own impulses...in this case, to control what they view as negative behavior in the form of a Nanny State.

That's why one conservative woman felt the need to "educate" adults about what to wear/not wear to the CPAC conference. Take a look:


One you're …

I Wish

I don't know about you, but I've read about all I can handle on Paul Ryan's Edie Munster's social darwinist ideas about the federal budget.

So I'm ready to take a fucking break from all that.

And I found just the thing to brighten our day. Check this out from Yeo Inhyeok. All I've got is "WOW!"