Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2014

"Pope Francis's message and tone are making Catholic Republicans a little uncomfortable"

A couple of weeks ago I wrote: Pope Francis, Catholic Conservatives and the Republican Party where I suggested that this Pope is likely to cause a strain in the relationship of Catholics with the GOP. Since then we've learned that, in his speech at the UN General Assembly, the Pope will issue an edict urging the world's 1.2 billion Catholics to do what they can to fight climate change.

And so today, Kevin Cirilli at The Hill writes: Pope Francis Drives a Wedge Between the Catholic Church, GOP.
Pope Francis is increasingly driving a wedge between conservatives and the Catholic Church.


The magnetic pope has sparked new enthusiasm around the world for the church and has flexed his political muscles internationally, most recently by helping to engineer a new relationship between the United States and Cuba.



But Francis’s agenda, which also includes calls to address income inequality and limit climate change, is putting him at odds with Republicans, including GOP Catholics in the…

Top 10 in 2014

Photo of the Day: All Grown Up

A lot of people have been talking about how President Obama has aged during his tenure in the White House. But the dramatic change has come elsewhere. Take a look at the family on election night November 2008.


Now take a look at them this month at the annual Christmas in Washington celebration.

Yes, the President has aged. But Malia and Sasha...OH MY!!!!

American Leadership

Most of us have forgotten by now, but at the time that President George W. Bush gave his 2004 inaugural address, it was considered to be the best speech of his presidency. A word cloud would undoubtably show that he used the word "freedom" more than any other.
We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the h…

"A Lot of the Work That We've Done Is Now Beginning to Bear Fruit"

During his interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep, President Obama rejected the idea that his recent actions have simply been a response to the defeat of Democrats in the 2014 midterm election and instead suggested that he is now "liberated" to tackle things that he didn't have the capacity to accomplish previously.
...I have spent six years now in this office. We have dealt with the worst economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression. We have dealt with international turmoil that we haven't seen in a lot of years.

And I said at the beginning of this year that 2014 would be a breakthrough year, and it was a bumpy path.

But at the end of 2014, I could look back and say we are as well-positioned today as we have been in quite some time economically, that American leadership is more needed around the world than ever before — and that is liberating in the sense that a lot of the work that we've done is now beginning to bear fruit. And it gives me an opport…

The Tangle and the Weave

As 2014 draws to a close, a lot of pundits are taking time for reflection on the last 12 months. I am particularly impressed with what Paul Krugman and Michael Grunwald have written along those lines. If you haven't already read what they have to say, I strongly suggest that you do so.

For an alternative view, take a look at what Daniel Drezner wrote in his 2014 recap.  He basically embraces an assumption that 2014 was awful...but it could have been a lot worse.
‘There have been worse years in recent history,” New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote, “but 2014 definitely stands out for the sheer variety of awfulness.” That sentiment captures the popular perception of a year that can’t seem to end soon enough...

But what if 2014 turned out better than expected? Thinking about what actually happened this past year may not be the best way to judge it. After all, an awful lot of smart people predicted a lot of even-more-terrible things that never came to pass. In recapping all of …

Jock vs Geek settled...I win!

I've had a long-running feud with Chipsticks about whether President Obama is a jock or a geek (nerd). Evidently the verdict is in.
When the cameras aren’t rolling, President Obama ponders honeybee colony collapse disorder, fusion energy, and climate change. In truth, he’s a real “science geek.”

That’s at least according to John Holdren, Obama’s chief adviser on science and technology. In an NPR interview reported by The Hill, Holdren said he believes Obama is the “most science-aware president since Thomas Jefferson.” So...its Nancy for the WIN!!! But don't worry Chipsticks, I won't rub it in too much.

;-)

Ten Memorable Photos from 2014

Here are some of my favorite moments from 2014.
10. This is exactly why I'm a dog-lover

9. The Listener-in-Chief

8. This year brought a lot of POTUS fashion commentary. I personally got a kick out of all the pearl-clutching over this one.

7. But the media went into full freak-out mode over this.

6. As a strong supporter of AG Holder, I was disappointed when he announced that he was leaving the administration. Not to worry...in steps Loretta Lynch.

5. A 2014 recap has to include something about the protests in Ferguson. I can think of no picture that demonstrates what it's all about better than this one.

4. I've always been a bit of a nut about Stonehenge. So of course, I enjoyed this day a lot.

3. The #PrezRezVisit was a true highlight of the year.

2. Nothing...and I mean nothing...captures the politics of 2014 better than this one.

1. And finally, the VERY BEST of 2014 - hands down, no contest!!!

Gender Bender-in-Chief

While all the kids are busy playing with their new toys, President Obama has been sending a message.

Girls can play ball.

And boys can wear tiaras.
:-)

What Would Jesus Say/Do?

On the night that we celebrate the birth of Jesus, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on some of the things he said/did during his life among us - especially as it relates to things that are topics of discussion today.

On the separation of church and state:
Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.

Mark 12:17 On prayer in public places:
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6:5-6 On income inequality:
Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

Matthew 19:24 On our obligation to the poor and oppressed:
Then the King will say to t…

Midday Music Break: 93 Million Miles and "Home" for the Holidays

OK. I'm finally going to admit it publicly...I have a ginormous crush on Jason Mraz. And he's not helping me get over it one little bit with this:


We are off the earth, for the earth. NASA and its international partners have successfully been living continuously on the International Space Station (ISS) for over 14 years. This “Home” in space gives us a tremendous view of earth our home. During 6 month missions to space, Astronauts and Cosmonauts are able to communicate with their families in their homes.

As NASA begins to explore beyond low earth orbit, “Home” will take on a whole new meaning. Home is inside of you, whether its mars, the ISS, earth, or where you hang your hat (space helmet). This video is set to the song “93 Million Miles” by Jason Mraz. Intermixed are selections of video that show the beauty of planet Earth (home) as seen from the space station and scenes of astronauts and cosmonauts performing science and day-to-day activities.

President Obama's to-do list: Lock in the Obama coalition for the Democrats

Ron Brownstein got a great quote from the White House.
One senior Obama adviser says the administration "To Do list" after 2012 included thinking "about how you lock in the Obama coalition for Democrats going forward. Because it's not a 100 percent certainty that they come out for the next Democrat." Part of the answer, the adviser said, was to pursue aggressive unilateral action on "a set of issues where we have an advantage … and believe are substantively the right thing to do" and dare Republicans to oppose him.  In one fell swoop that knocks out two recent narratives coming from D.C. pundits:
That Democrats should focus on winning back white working class voters. Really, people...talk about going backwards. That is exactly the dynamic that played out in the 2008 primary against Hillary Clinton and the general election against McCain. Take a look at who won!The more recent narrative that President Obama's executive actions are simply a reaction …

Why the Cuban Embargo Didn't Work - And Why it Never Would Have

I have to give BooMan an awful lot of credit for trying to see Sen. Rubio's arguments about Cuba from Rubio's perspective. This is exactly what President Obama has asked us to do.
“I am obligated to try to see the world through George Bush’s eyes, no matter how much I may disagree with him,” he wrote in Audacity. “That’s what empathy does—it calls us all to task, the conservative and the liberal … We are all shaken out of our complacency.” Doing this is the only way we'll ever break down the polarization that infects our politics today. And yes, we're the adults, so it doesn't work to simply say to the other side: "You go first."

But in acknowledging that normalization isn't likely to work in bringing democracy to Cuba, BooMan left out the one really big reason why the embargo was never going to work. We all join the bandwagon President Obama articulated in suggesting that if it hasn't worked for the last 50 years, its time to try something new. B…

Why I Write

I am starting to get used to the fact that on so many occasions - when I'm feeling alienated from the crowd and out on a limb about something - Al Giordano comes along to reinforce that  I'm exactly where I need to be.

It all started back when he noticed that there was something very different about this guy Barack Obama. Even though Giordano's politics were WAY left of this presidential candidate, he recognized a fellow community organizer and saw the possibilities so few people were able to envision.

Of course there was also the time he accurately predicted the split between progressive activists and organizers long before it actually happened. He is the one who invented the term "poutragers" for the former and also took to calling them "chicken littles."

So it comes as no surprise that today Al very eloquently articulated exactly why it is that I write about culture and politics. He was reacting to this article in Slate on The Year of Outrage 2014.

F…

Flame Throwers and Fire Fighters

It's obvious that the big story of the day is the murder of two NYC police officers yesterday. I'm always hesitant to comment on a story like this as its unfolding. Its better to wait for all the information, process it, and see what we can draw from it.

But as people are weighing in, there are those that are fanning the flames and those that are trying to tamp them down. For example, in the category of flame throwers:

Rudy Giuliani:
“We’ve had four months of propaganda starting with the president that everybody should hate the police,” Giuliani said during an appearance on Fox News on Sunday. “The protests are being embraced, the protests are being encouraged. The protests, even the ones that don’t lead to violence, a lot of them lead to violence, all of them lead to a conclusion. The police are bad, the police are racist. That is completely wrong.”George Pataki:
Sickened by these barbaric acts, which sadly are a predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric of #ericholde…

Learning From Fly-Over Country

For a couple of years now, I've been suggesting that we take our eyes off the coasts for just a while and focus on two states in fly-over country - Minnesota and Wisconsin. We might learn a thing or two about the results of Democratic vs Republican governance. About a year ago, Lawrence Jacobs did just that.
Minnesota and Wisconsin share much more than bone-chilling winters: German and Northern European roots; farming; and, until recently, a populist progressive tradition stretching back a century to Wisconsin’s Fighting Bob La Follette and the birth of Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

But in 2010 these cousin states diverged. By doing so they began a natural experiment that compares the agendas of modern progressivism and the new right...

A month after Mr. Walker’s inauguration in January 2011, he catapulted himself to the front ranks of national conservative leaders with attacks on the collective bargaining rights of Civil Service unions and sharp reductions in taxes a…

Odds & Ends

Speaking of Gitmo detainees, today the Obama administration announced it was releasing four more who are going back to Afghanistan.

In spite of all the pearl-clutching on both the right and the left about bank bailouts, the TARP program has officially ended - leaving taxpayers with a $15.3 billion profit.

It's probably too soon to celebrate, but the good news is that - backed by U.S. airstrikes - the Kurds have recaptured a large swath of territory from ISIS.

Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced that civil rights laws that provide workplace protection apply to transgender workers.

Having watched the bold moves President Obama has made over the last couple of months, a lot of people are trying to guess where the next one will come from. Some see a possible sign in the recent move initiating NLRB vs McDonalds.

Rand Corporation senior defense analyst Bruce Bennett screened the movie The Interview before all the commotion created by North Korean hackers. His take is that th…

Pope Francis, Catholic Conservatives and the Republican Party

One of the most fascinating parts of the negotiations between the United States and Cuba was the role Pope Francis played in both initiating the process and hosting a meeting at the Vatican. That story has been pretty well reported.

Much less noticed is the fact that recently Pope Francis offered to help the Obama administration place Guantanamo detainees who have been cleared for release.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the Holy See welcomed recent signs President Barack Obama appears to have accelerated efforts to close the controversial facility where some detainees have been held for more than a decade without charge and tortured.

He said the Vatican stood ready to "help find adequate humanitarian solutions through our international contacts" in order to help place detainees, adding that Parolin and Kerry had discussed the issue in depth. This is why many are seeing a "bolder vision of Vatican diplomacy" with this Pope.

During the Reagan era, fundament…

President Obama Plays the Long Game

The media is settling on a new narrative about President Obama. It's always interesting watching one after another join in that process. For example, Timothy Egan calls it Obama Unbound.
Perhaps the best thing to happen to him [Obama] was the crushing blow his party took in the midterm elections. Come January, Republicans will have their largest House majority in 84 years — since Herbert Hoover was president. Granted, no politician wants to join Hoover and history in the same sentence. But Obama is not cowering or conceding. He’s been liberated by defeat, becoming the president that many of his supporters hoped he would be.

He promised to be transformative. Instead, especially in the last two years, he’s been listless, passive, a spectator to his own presidency. Rather than setting things in motion, he reacted to events. Even Ebola, the great scare that prompted so much media hysteria it was awarded Lie of the Year by PolitiFact, was somehow his fault. No more. Of late, the presid…

President Obama's core

Jon Favreau, Obama's former speechwriter, tweeted this during the President's news conference today.
This last part of this last answer is why the President ran for office.
— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) December 19, 2014
I think Jon understands President Obama better than anyone outside his close circle of family and friends. So let's take a look at why he thinks Barack Obama ran for office. Here are the last few paragraphs of the President's remarks today.
The one thing I will say -- and this is going to be the last thing I say -- is that one of the great things about this job is you get to know the American people. I mean, you meet folks from every walk of life and every region of the country, and every race and every faith. And what I don’t think is always captured in our political debates is the vast majority of people are just trying to do the right thing, and people are basically good and have good intentions. Sometimes our institutions and our systems don’t work a…

Latin America, Torture and the Cold War

I am tempted to use the word "serendipitous" to describe the fact that within a matter of days, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on the investigation of the use of torture by the Bush/Cheney administration, Brazil's National Truth Commission released its report on the activities of its brutal military dictatorship, and President Obama announced the normalization of our relationship with Cuba.

Let me remind you of what Greg Grandin wrote back in 2007 when we were first learning about the extent to which torture had been used in the "global war on terrorism."
In fact, it was in Latin America that the CIA and U.S. military intelligence agents, working closely with local allies, first helped put into place the unholy trinity of government-sponsored terrorism now on display in Iraq and elsewhere: death squads, disappearances and torture. Countries all over South and Central America (as well as Africa) have held truth and reconciliation comm…

In which I agree with an Erick Erickson tweet

After all those years of feminists saying we need girls running foreign policy to make the world safer, we get Obama and now look at us.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) December 18, 2014
I sure do agree with that! Of course, not in the way he meant it.

Its true that using the power of partnership is often associated with females - although not exclusively (see: Nelson Mandela). The idea of dominance as the only form of power strikes many of us as a massive "dick-swinging" contest.

What Erickson is reacting to is the use of the power of partnership by a male president. Being a consummate dick-swinger - Erickson doesn't even begin to grasp what that means. So he simply resorts to calling it "girly."

But YES! Look at us now: finally ending the last artifact of the Cold War and watching Russia tumble into the abyss - all while we are likely to be within reach of an agreement with Iran on nuclear weapons, ISIS' momentum has been stopped (although they are not de…

President Obama to Congressional Republicans: Govern or Make Yourselves Irrelevant

A lot of pundits are noticing that since the midterm elections, President Obama has been the opposite of a "lame duck." Kevin Drum does a good job of summing up the significant actions this president has taken recently.
November 10: Surprised everyone by announcing his support for strong net neutrality. November 11: Concluded a climate deal with China that was not only important in its own right, but has since been widely credited with jumpstarting progress at the Lima talks last week. November 20: Issued an executive order protecting millions of undocumented workers from the threat of deportation. November 26: Signed off on an important new EPA rule significantly limiting ozone emissions.December 15: Took a quiet victory lap as Western financial sanctions considerably sharpened the pain of Vladimir Putin's imploding economy. December 16: Got nearly everything he wanted during the lame duck congressional session, and more. Democrats confirmed all important pending nominee…

Vermont gives up on single payer

Recently I noted that before the end of the year, Vermont's Governor Shumlin would lay out his proposal on how to pay for single payer health insurance. Today brought an unexpected announcement.
Vermont has long had a two-pronged approach to building a single-payer health care system. First, they would figure out what they would want the system to look like. Then, they would figure out how to pay for it.

The state passed legislation outlining how the single-payer system would work in 2011. And ever since, the state has been trying to figure out how to pay for a system that covers everybody. Most estimates suggest that the single payer system would cost $2 billion each year. For a state that only collects $2.7 billion in revenue, that is a large sum of money.

What Shumlin appears to be saying today is that the "time is not right" to move forward on the financing of the single-payer system. And that means putting the whole effort aside, with no clear moment when the debate…

It's not just about Cuba. Todos Somos Americanos

From President Obama's remarks today on the normalization of our relationship with Cuba:
Finally, our shift in policy towards Cuba comes at a moment of renewed leadership in the Americas. This April, we are prepared to have Cuba join the other nations of the hemisphere at the Summit of the Americas. But we will insist that civil society join us so that citizens, not just leaders, are shaping our future.

And I call on all my fellow leaders to give meaning to the commitment to democracy and human rights at the heart of the inter- American charter. Let us leave behind the legacy of both colonization and communism, the tyranny of drug cartels, dictators and sham elections.

A future of greater peace, security and democratic development is possible, if we work together, not to maintain power, not to secure vested interests, but instead to advance the dreams of our citizens...

Todos somos Americanos. For many countries in South and Central America, Cuba remained the "flash-point&quo…

Why Republicans Admire Putin

Jonathan Chait reminds us of the origins of the neoconservative movement in the Republican Party.
Three decades ago, right-wing French intellectual Jean-Francois Revel published a call to arms entitled “How Democracies Perish,” which quickly became a key text of the neoconservative movement and an ideological blueprint for the Reagan administration. Revel argued that the Soviet Union’s brutality and immunity from internal criticism gave it an inherent advantage over the democratic West — the United States and Europe were too liberal, too open, too humane, too soft to defeat the resolute men of the Iron Curtain.

“Unlike the Western leadership, which is tormented by remorse and a sense of guilt,” wrote Revel, “Soviet leaders' consciences are perfectly clear, which allows them to use brute force with utter serenity both to preserve their power at home and to extend it abroad.” This is what sparked a love-fest for Putin's tactics from Republicans immediately following his invasion…

Lights out

I can't fathom the idea of people who are willing to target the killing of innocent children to make a political point. I don't want to fathom it.

I can't talk about it. I don't want to talk about it.

I can't process it. I don't want to process it.

I can't understand it. I don't want to understand it.

There are times when the only thing one can do is grieve over the extent to which humanity can become depraved. This is one of those days.

So I'm going to turn the lights out here for awhile and do that.

The line dividing good and evil

From the Washington Post/ABC News poll:
By an almost 2-1 margin, or 59-to-31 percent, those interviewed support the CIA’s brutal methods, with the vast majority of supporters saying they produced valuable intelligence. I am reminded of this quote from Alexander Solzhenitsyn:
If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? That's also why Jesus said, "Let he who is without sin case the first stone." Rooting out evil is first and foremost a process of self-reflection.

What does "breaking up the banks" mean?

After the recent drama about the 2015 spending bill in Congress, a lot of people are talking about the "disarray" amongst Democrats. I was particularly intrigued by what Greg Sargent wrote about that today.
There is broad Democratic agreement that the party must come up with a more comprehensive response to stagnating wages and the failure of the recovery to achieve widespread, more equitable distribution. Dems mostly agree on a range of policy responses, such as a minimum wage hike, pay equity, expanded pre-K education, and big job-creating investments in infrastructure.

But there are clear divisions, too. Democrats like Warren, Sherrod Brown, and Bernie Sanders favor some form of breaking up big banks and back expanding Social Security; Sanders wants major reform to trade policies; and some Democrats oppose the big trade deals now being negotiated. I'm going to leave Social Security and trade deals alone for today. That's because, based on what I wrote earlier abou…

Wall Street Reform for non-experts

Bear with me for a moment because I'm going to delve into a topic that is not my area of expertise and that usually makes people like me exit from a conversation when our eyes glaze over. But as the conversation over the evils of Wall Street heightens once again, I think there are a few distinctions that are not being made that can help us all understand where our priorities should be.

Coming out of the Great Depression, a series of reforms were initiated to regulate banks...you know, the kinds of institutions we're all familiar with where we deposit our money for savings/checking accounts. This included things like the ability of the federal government to take banks into "receivership" if they appeared to be failing and insure the money that we placed in them against losses.

Over the years, financial institutions developed that went way beyond those activities and were therefore not subject to those regulations. During the financial crisis of 2008 - we heard about s…

Discarding the Master's Tools

I find it fascinating that the liberal's "go-to guy" on railing against Wall Street - Matt Taibbi - basically agrees with me that Blanche Lincoln's contribution to Dodd/Frank was not a significant part of Wall Street reform.
Is killing the Citigroup provision really worth the trouble? Is it a "Hill to die on"? Maybe not in itself. Instead, he has to rely on a "slippery slope" argument to defend his rant against what he calls The Blob ("a single furiously-money-collecting/favor-churning oligarchical Beltway party).
But the key here is that a victory on the swaps issue will provide the Beltway hacks with a playbook for killing the rest of the few meaningful things in Dodd-Frank, probably beginning with the similar Volcker Rule, designed to prevent other types of gambling by federally-insured banks. Once they cave on the swaps issue, it won't be long before the whole bill vanishes, and we can go all the way back to our pre-2008 regulatory Ni…

Hidden Trauma

A lot of black academics criticized President Obama for engaging in "respectability politics" when he did things like launch the My Brother's Keeper initiative. But when the President met with the young people involved in the Becoming a Man program in Chicago and during his visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation, he likely heard stories like the ones in this article by Sam P.K. Collins titled: The Hidden Trauma Plaguing American Kids.
While conversations about PTSD often focus on soldiers returning from combat zones, research in recent years has shown the development of symptoms in children who live in violent environments...

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies symptoms of PTSD as flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety and loss of trust in people. For children of color still reeling from the effects of crime, poverty, limited health care, and poor schools in their low-income neighborhoods, the mental disorder can take a toll on the mind...

O…