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Showing posts from January, 2014

#RockEnroll Flashmob in Central Park

Four years ago, Al Giordano had some advice for the "protest movement" (yeah, I'm looking at you OWS). 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. Yesterday the young people of Generation Progress took it to Central Park with Donte Stallworth to encourage young people to "Get Covered." That's how its done, folks.

Pete Seeger: "A creature of stubborn, defiant and nasty optimism"

I can think of no better way to honor the passing of legendary Pete Seeger than by reposting  the video of Bruce Springsteen talking about him at his 90th birthday party. Despite Pete's somewhat benign grandfatherly appearance, he's a creature of stubborn, defiant and nasty optimism. Inside him he carries a steely toughness that belies that grandfatherly facade and it won't let him take a step back from the things he believes in. At 90, he remains a stealth dagger to the heart of our country's illusions about itself...He reminds us of our immense failures as well as shinning a light towards our better angels on the horizon where the country we've imagined and hold dear we hope awaits us. Rest in peace, Pete. Your stubborn, defiant and nasty optimism made us believe...we shall overcome.

President Obama is preparing us for a multipolar world

David Remnick has published some additional quotes from his interviews with President Obama. Here is one that I found particularly interesting. I do think that part of effective diplomacy, part of America maintaining its influence in a world in which we remain the one indispensable power, but in which you’ve got a much more multipolar environment, is for other people to know that we understand their stories as well, and that we can see how they have come to certain conclusions or understandings about their history, their economies, the conflicts they’ve suffered. Because, if they think we understand their frame of reference, then they’re more likely to listen to us and to work with us. What struck me was his reference to a more multipolar environment in the world. I first heard that word back when the neocon's dream of US dominance on the world stage was taking a beating because of the inept way Bush/Cheney had handled the invasion/occupation of Iraq. I found the discussion o

Not Ready to Make Nice

Like many women of my generation, I grew up being scared of anger. I remember the first time (in my mid-20's) when I let a good friend know that she'd done something that made me angry. She apologized and asked what she could do to make it right. I said, "I'm not sure there's anything you can do. I just think I'm going to be angry for awhile." Yeah, that was a totally honest response.

The Obama administration's stealth campaign on climate change

Back in 2010 when the Republicans were exploiting fears about the economy by suggesting that President Obama's policies were a failure and liberals we busy complaining about how the American Recovery Act was too small, one reporter dug in to really take a look at the largest stimulus package in U.S. history and told us a story no one else had noticed. His name is Michael Grunwald and he eventually published a book that changed the conversation about the ARA titled: The New New Deal . Here's something he wrote about all that for TIME magazine : For starters, the Recovery Act is the most ambitious energy legislation in history, converting the Energy Department into the world's largest venture-capital fund. It's pouring $90 billion into clean energy, including unprecedented investments in a smart grid; energy efficiency; electric cars; renewable power from the sun, wind and earth; cleaner coal; advanced biofuels; and factories to manufacture green stuff in the U.S. The a

Understanding President Obama

I've spent a lot of time over the last six years observing President Obama and trying to understand him. From a personal standpoint, that's because I find him to be a fascinating human being. But from a political standpoint, I also think that he is a unique figure in our history. We have the benefit of living that history in the present moment rather than reading about it in books. It has been my passion to take it all in and try to understand what is happening. Many people have commented that Barack Obama became a blank screen onto which people projected their own desires and fears. In watching the coverage of his presidency, I find that to be true. It has been frustrating to watch people simply put him into a pre-fabricated box of their own making rather than listen to what he says and watch what he does. On the extreme right, he has become the socialist demon and on the extreme left the corporate tool. That's what they expected and that's what they see. Every word

The big picture on surveillance

There was one moment in President Obama's speech on surveillance that stood out to me. ...after an extended review of our use of drones in the fight against terrorist networks, I believed a fresh examination of our surveillance programs was a necessary next step in our effort to get off the open-ended war footing that we’ve maintained since 9/11. In other words, his overriding goal in all this is "to get off the open-ended war footing that we've maintained since 9/11." Just as with this administration's position on the use of drones, what too many of the people who are concerned with civil liberties often miss is the impact our "open-ended war footing" has on these policies - both psychologically on the American public as well as legally. The President devoted much of his speech last May on counterterrorism to a discussion of how we might come to view these policies once we are prepared to end this indefinite war. Now, make no mistake, our natio

Dr. King's populist message: We are tied together in the single garment of destiny

Lately columnist Noam Scheiber has taken on the mantle of making a case for Senator Elizabeth Warren's brand of populism. It has become conventional wisdom these days to link Warren with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio as the " new new left ." But Scheiber  writes about the differences between the two . De Blasio’s rhetoric sounds more leftist, implying a relentless competition between underclass and overclass. But the substance of Warren’s agenda is far more radical. She wants to upend a fundamentally corrupt system, one in which big banks and other interests have coopted the apparatus of government. By contrast, de Blasio implicitly accepts “the system”—which in New York means an economy built around the financial sector and the real estate industry—and wants to mitigate its least desirable effects. Or, put differently, de Blasio accepts that today’s rich and powerful will continue to be rich and powerful; he just thinks they should do more to help the rest of us. Wa

Sometimes I wonder what keeps him going... I know.

Calling out the sexism

Recently I wrote about the fact that Fox New's obsession with the "wussification" of American not only degrades the feminine, it reinforces the equally patriarchal idea that boys/men need to prove their masculinity. And now along comes this commercial attempting to make the same point with a dash of humor. Cute, huh? Gawd forbid that a manly man use a product that is designed for women! And if he does so by mistake...he's got a lot to prove. Some idiot at the Federalist felt the need to weigh in. ...we know, deep in our lizard brains, that men and women are different. We know that we are designed to complement one another. Women nurture, men conquer. Woe be to the men who nurture and the women who conquer. Our "lizard brains" say that's all wrong. Perhaps its time for some evolution - for folks who believe in that kind of thing. Last weekend, Brit Hume joined the bandwagon by suggesting that Gov. Chris Christie's bullying was merely him bein

"Let's play hardball"

As you know, my title is how Chris Matthews opens his show on MSNBC. But the truth is that neither Matthews nor any other pundit spend much time examining the really ugly underbelly of the political game. Sure...they love to wallow in the hysteria that the gotcha game of hardball produces. But what they almost never do is critically examine their role in how it all works or call out the worst offenders. I was reminded of all that this weekend when Karl Rove suggested that Chris Christie has displayed the kind of leadership the Republicans want in a president. As BooMan points out, the whole bridge scandal comes right out of the Rove playbook. He demonstrates this by recalling the experience Ron Suskind had when he went to interview Rove in 2003. Eventually, I met with Rove. I arrived at his office a few minutes early, just in time to witness the Rove Treatment, which, like LBJ’s famous browbeating style, is becoming legend but is seldom reported. Rove’s assistant, Susan Ralston, s

Questions the Gates revelations raise about Hillary Clinton

It has become conventional wisdom that any liberal challenge to a potential run for president by Hillary Clinton in 2016 will come from the populism championed by people like Senator Elizabeth Warren and NY Mayor Bill di Blasio on the issue of income inequality. But I would suggest that there is an equally (if not more) troubling set of concerns that are raised by excerpts from the book by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Before getting to those, its important to remember that then-Senator Hillary Clinton voted in favor of giving Bush/Cheney the green light on going to war with Iraq. Less discussed is her 2007 vote on a bill  sponsored by Joe Lieberman that most believe would have allowed Bush/Cheney to invade Iran. And now come the Gates revelations. We know by know that , while Gates claims to agree with the final decisions made by President Obama, he was seriously disturbed that Obama was suspicious of military leaders and questioned their motivations. Gates interprets tha

"I'm not that different from Roger"

Back in July, when a jury acquitted George Zimmerman of murdering Trayvon Martin, President Obama responded by saying "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago." In other words, our President knows that - but for the grace of God - he could have been that young black man in the wrong place at the wrong time and wound up dead through no fault of his own. Although it was much less noticed, this week he did it again . Growing up, Roger spent some time in the foster care system before going to live with his mom, who was working two jobs to make ends meet. When Roger was in 6th grade, his mom entered his name in the Promise Academy Charter School lottery and prayed. And Roger won a spot. Now, the way I hear it, Roger, you were still having some problems sometimes. He was the class clown and acting out, and almost got himself expelled. But the teachers and the staff did not give up on him. They saw something in him. They kept pushing him. And then one summer w

History is much more nuanced than the partisan reaction to Gates

One of the things that often frustrates me is the way our partisanship tries to make everything so black and white while reality is much more nuanced. That has been my reaction to much of the reporting I've seen about Robert Gates' recent book. History is too often distorted by the need to either raise Gates up as a hero or make him the villain. In the end, I don't care much about how people view Robert Gates. What I do care about is that we get history right. So let me give you a couple of examples that I think are important to set the record straight. From the right, we're hearing charges that Gates is suggesting that President Obama never supported his own policy in Afghanistan - and therefore put our troops in harms way for a surge he never believed in. That is both a distortion of history and what Gates actually said. We all know that when Obama ran for president in 2008, he made it clear that we needed to get out of the war in Iraq and focus our attention on Afg

Christie with access to NSA? YIKES!!!

Someone finally made the argument I was expecting to hear as soon as this Chris Christie scandal broke. ...consider such an apparatus [NSA] under a President Chris Christie. If Christie's thugs will shut down a bridge to punish a Democratic mayor for not supporting Christie's re-election, imagine what they would do with access to NSA spying data on Democratic members of Congress. That's the bigger lesson here. The Chris Christie scandal is important on multiple levels. And one of those levels is what it tells us about the danger of the NSA's vacuum spying. Yeah, the thought crossed my mind. It scares the bejeesus out of me. But lets break it down a bit more, shall we? What we know is that NSA stores metadata on every phone call made in the U.S. - including those of members of Congress. In order to get access to the content of those phone calls, NSA must demonstrate that they meet search criteria that adhere to the guidelines set by the FISA Court. So if a potenti

The Obama administration isn't sitting still on the school-to-prison pipeline

One way to sit still while the machinery of racism rolls on is to ignore what is happening to black and brown children in our public schools. The truth is that as we approach the 60th anniversary of Brown vs Board of Education, we don't have a problem with public education in this country. What we have is a failure to adequately educate our black and brown children. Former President George W. Bush found a way to sit still on this problem. After over 30 years of collecting data on racial disparities in our public schools, his administration chose to simply discontinue the practice. There wasn't much push-back to that. It was simply a matter of "what we don't see doesn't exist." Early on in the Obama administration, that changed. The Civil Rights Office in the Department of Education began collecting the data again. And the picture wasn't pretty . 55% of high schools with low black and Hispanic populations offer calculus while only 29% of schools with

The machinery of racism...sitting still

One of the reasons that dealing with racism these days is so difficult is that we're still stuck in identifying it based on the kinds of things that happened during the Jim Crow era. If we're not calling someone the "n" word or refusing to serve black people, then we're not racist, right? Not so much. Ta-Nehisi Coates has identified what he sees as the "machinery of racism." To understand, you'll need a bit of the back story. A few days ago Coates identified Melissa Harris-Perry as "America's foremost public intellectual." Dylan Byers suggested that in doing so, Coates wasn't just wrong, but that he undermined his own intellectual credibility. When asked to name his own alternatives, Byers came up with five white guys. I'll let Coates take it from there. Dylan Byers knows nothing of your work, and therefore your work must not exist. Here is the machinery of racism—the privilege of being oblivious to questions, of never

Robert Gates' criticisms reflect well on our Commander-in-Chief

Instead of being filtered through Bob Woodward's bias , today we have former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in his own words via an excerpt of his book in the Wall Street Journal. One of the most interesting passages came when he was talking about the similarities between George W. Bush and President Obama. Both, I believe, detested Congress and resented having to deal with it, including members of their own party. But then two paragraphs down, Gates goes on to talk about what appears to be his biggest problem with Washington: Congress is best viewed from a distance—the farther the better—because up close, it is truly ugly. I saw most of Congress as uncivil, incompetent at fulfilling their basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned and prone to put self (and re-election) before country. Kinda makes you wonder who exactly it is that "detested Congress and resented having to

President Obama takes on the military and intelligence communities

In his speech on counterterrorism strategy last May, President Obama laid out some difficult ground for his administration to cover in the coming months - basically suggesting an end to the indefinite war that started after 9/11. Sometime this month he has also promised to give a speech outlining his administration's plans to reform the activities of NSA. Much of what he has and will propose won't be very popular with those involved in the military and intelligence communities. It has been my assumption for awhile that we terribly underestimate the pushback a Commander-in-Chief gets when he takes on those very powerful forces. And then along comes Bob Woodward with a review of the book "Duty," by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. While I'm sure that Woodward and his neocon buddies will relish Gates' criticism of President Obama, it only serves to reinforce the reality that any president who wants to bring about reforms in this arena is facing a hug

Republicans join the income inequality bandwagon with post-truth spin (updated)

For years we watched the Republican Party put everything they had into total obstruction in an attempt to de-legitimize President Obama and accomplish what Sen. McConnell said was their number one ensure that he was a one-term president. It didn't work. In the process of implementing that strategy of obstruction, Republicans were forced to embrace increasingly radical positions due to President Obama's consistent efforts to reach out to them. Eventually that led to an embrace of post-policy politics where the sum total of the Republican platform was to oppose anything the President supported. There are growing signs that at least the Republican leadership has recognized how badly this strategy has failed and are trying to come up with something new. The first signal came when Speaker Boehner called out the teapublicans and passed a bipartisan budget bill in December. All of the sudden instead of hostage-taking and threats, we heard pleas for "finding common

Why it doesn't pay to answer stupid questions from Senators

A couple of days ago, Senator Bernie Sanders asked a stupid question: Does NSA spy on members of Congress? I'll grant you, the response he got was in the "non-denial denial" category. "Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all U.S. persons," the spokesman said.  It all reminded me of the last time a Senator asked a stupid question - then it was Rand Paul. He wanted to know whether the Obama administration would target US citizens on American soil for a drone strike. To understand that as a stupid question, it helps to look at events both before and after he asked. On March 5, 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech outlining the legal rationale this administration uses to approve drone strikes - including under what circumstances an individual would be targeted. On February 4, 2013 an administration white paper on the same topic was leaked to Michael Isikoff. On March 4, 2013, Attorney General Holder wrote a letter directly

"Placing a bet on humanity"

Today Jon Favreau writes about Pope Francis. This is a man who washed and kissed the feet of Muslim convicts, handed out phone cards to Eritrean refugees, spent his birthday with the homeless, and reached out to atheists during a Christmas homily. In response to an inquiry about women considering abortion because of rape or poverty, Pope Francis said, “Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?” And in his answer to a question about gay men and women, he uttered what have become the most echoed words of his papacy to date: “Who am I to judge?” Through these very visible, intentional gestures, it seems as if the Pope is not just signaling tolerance or celebrating diversity but placing a bet on humanity . It is a bet that his core message of peace, love, service, and compassion for the least for these will find a receptive audience among people of differing races, faiths, orientations, backgrounds and beliefs. It is a bet that the existence of the Golden Rule in almost e

Trying to have a 21st century conversation about privacy on 20th century terms

Lots of folks are wanting to excuse what Edward Snowden did because the results of his leaking of classified information has started what they think is a productive conversation about privacy. Please excuse me if I don't agree. What we're having is a conversation about privacy based on what we assumed it was during the last century - not today. Let me provide you with a bit of background for that conclusion. First of all, from Al Giordano : 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 secrets it used to take surveillance to discover? Privacy didn’t disappear because Big Brother took it away. We gave it away! Freely! It fell aside to a greater impulse: the need to expose ourselves in public, to have an audience, and to keep it. Seriously, how often do you read something on your facebook timeline or twitter feed an