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Showing posts from July, 2014

Busting a GOP meme

Here are three fascinating tweets I ran across yesterday.
Obama approval over full term. Strikingly stable since late 2010, trend within just a 10 point range. 1/3: pic.twitter.com/B0Alb22cUZ
— Charles Franklin (@PollsAndVotes) July 30, 2014
Obama approval vs other post-war presidents. Notably less variation for Obama than others, even Ike. 2/3: pic.twitter.com/mbHBvHpvIg
— Charles Franklin (@PollsAndVotes) July 30, 2014
And Obama vs Bush in 2nd term, years 5 & 6. 3/3: pic.twitter.com/kLLIcTx9Px
— Charles Franklin (@PollsAndVotes) July 30, 2014
If you were to listen to political pundits, this might come as a bit of a surprise. The conservatives have been pretty successful in pushing a meme about President Obama's falling poll numbers. Just take a look at how Bill Kristol slides that assumption into the column I talked about earlier today.
The president's approval rating is slipping to historic lows. Let it continue to slide. That's a bald-faced lie. So lets bust that m…

Republicans: The "Do-Nothing" Party

Speaker Boehner is once again having trouble with his own party's lunatic caucus. He'd like to pass a bill that purports to do something about the current border crisis. But he's facing some opposition stirred up by Speaker Senator Ted Cruz. We'll see how all that plays out today.

In the midst of all that chaos, Bill Kristol has been honest enough to lay out the real Republican agenda. He's applying it to the issue of immigration. But I think it pretty well summarizes what they've been up to for years now.
If the GOP does nothing... the focus will be on the president. Republican incumbents won't have problematic legislation to defend or questions to answer about what further compromises they'll make. Republican challengers won't have to defend or attack GOP legislation. Instead, the focus can be on the president...And with nothing passed in either house (assuming Senate Republicans stick together and deny Harry Reid cloture today), immigration won&#…

Chuck Todd is finally embarrassed

Oh...so I see that Chuck Todd is finally embarrassed by Washington because of all the impeachment talk. I have a few questions for Mr. Todd:
Were you embarrassed by the fact that our first African American President was required to produce a birth certificate?Were you embarrassed when Rep. Joe Wilson shouted "You lie" to President Obama during a SOTU speech?Were you embarrassed when the Republicans decided that 60 votes were required to pass ANYTHING in the Senate?Were you embarrassed when a Vice Presidential candidate claimed that Barack Obama "palled around with terrorists?"Were you embarrassed when Republicans made up the lie about death panels in Obamacare?Were you embarrassed when the Republicans held the global economy hostage over raising the debt ceiling?Were you embarrassed when the Republicans shut the government down in an attempt to repeal Obamacare?Were you embarrassed when Republicans politicized the death of 4 Americans in Benghazi?Were you embarrasse…

"I'm the guy doing his job"

A few months ago President Obama gave Speaker Boehner an option: either pass immigration reform before the August recess, or he would take executive action. I think Boehner was listening to the Chamber of Commerce and actually wanted to pass something. But the teapublicans stopped that from happening.

And so today we're hearing reports about what kind of executive action the President will take. The only question remaining is "how far will he go?" I think Greg Sargent found the sweet spot:
I tend to doubt that Obama’s move will be as ambitious as even some of the reports are indicating. But in the end, I hope the administration makes its decision based solely on what it genuinely determines is legally, rather than politically, possible.  As Sargent points out, the legal options have actually been provided to President Obama by Congress.
What Obama has done so far on immigration and what he’s likely to do in the future can be justified on the theory of prosecutorial discr…

Is the world really exploding?

You don't even need to read the article. Michael Tomasky's column today is titled: Is it just me or is the world exploding? So why isn't Obama doing more? I'm going to pick on Tomasky. But he's hardly the only one. The Very Serious People in the media have created a reality out of world events that they want us to ponder. What Tomasky did was pretty much summarize it all in a headline.

But I'm not buying it and here's why:

First of all, lets consider whether or not the world is really exploding. Its true that several "hot spots" have developed in the Middle East. I'm not going to minimize the seriousness of what is going on in Israel/Gaza, Syria or Iraq. I'd simply point out that, for some reason, the U.S. seems to get fixated on what happens in that region of the world. We tend to pay precious little attention when the same kinds of things happen all over Africa, for example. And we certainly don't have columnists who declare that the…

Racism is a white people problem

I've always found it interesting that most anti-racism initiatives tend to be about helping people of color overcome the effects of racism. I have no problem with that. But the truth is - if we're ever really going to end racism, its white people that need to change.

That's why one of my favorite authors is Jonathan Odell. He is a white gay man who was raised in Mississippi. As if that wasn't enough of a challenge, he's also a recovering alcoholic. And so he makes a rather interesting comparison.
I am a Mississippian as well as my family’s most notorious drunk. But six years into sobriety, I discovered that alcohol wasn’t my only addiction. Even more insidious was my soul-crippling dependence upon whiteness. I couldn't get through the day without seven or eight stiff shots of feeling superior. That began to change when I decided to write novels about Mississippi. I knew very little outside the white-bubble in which I was raised, and therefore was blind to the s…

President Obama's search for his North Star

I read Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father just after his speech to the 2004 Democratic Convention. At the time a lot of people were suggesting that he could be the country's first African American president. But not many folks thought that would happen in four short years - I certainly didn't.

What seemed important to me about the book at the time was that it was one young Black man's search to find his own identity. While Obama's journey was unique in its particulars, it is a road that most of us have to traverse at some point if we are interested in something more than simply following the herd.

I specifically remember how Obama described his teenage years and his attempts to "try on" various identities to see if they fit. At one point he considered Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam. But that was before Malcolm's hajj experience when he was still preaching a rejection of the white race. The young Barack considered what that path meant for his rel…

A Field Full of Roses

If I had another life I would want to spend it all on some unstinting happiness.
I would be a fox, or a tree full of waving branches. I wouldn't mind being a rose in a field full of roses.
Fear has not yet occurred to them, nor ambition. Reason they have not yet thought of. Niether do they ask how long they must be roses, and then what. Or any other foolish question.
Mary Oliver

The Great American Freak-Out

Ever since the BP gulf oil spill we've needed a name for how we tend to respond to immediate crises in this country. I'll nominate "The Great American Freak-Out" for the honor. But if you have a better idea, I'd love to hear it.

The general pattern goes something like this:
The media airwaves are saturated with stories about the crisis.Conservatives scramble to find a way to cast it all as Obama's fault.Liberals wring their hands over the President's lack of decisive action.Pundits pontificate about whether or not this is "Obama's Katrina" and are convinced that this will be the one thing that dooms Obama/Democrats in the next election. Meanwhile, the Obama administration keeps plugging away at analyzing the problem and working on ways to resolve it. But in the end no one notices what they've actually done because by then everyone's bored with it all and has moved on to the next Great American Freak-Out.

The Republicans have exploited…

Best read of the day

No shade needed - The 8 greatest times #EricHolder kept it completely 100: http://t.co/momtJgSXWDpic.twitter.com/vveuQ8YShH
— The Root (@TheRoot) July 24, 2014 Here's my favorite: Number 5
No one trash-talks like a New Yorker. And so it’s no surprise that Holder found it preposterous that anyone would suggest that a guy from Hawaii, President Barack Obama, was better at basketball than a baller like himself, from the mean streets of Queens, N.Y.

“He’s from Hawaii. I’m from New York. You figure out who has the better game.”

The good news about Obamacare you might have missed (updated)

While almost everyone is focusing on the recent Halbig decision by a federal court, you might have missed some good news that was just announced about Obamacare. As background, I've been paying a lot of attention to what I think is one of the most important insurance reforms included in the legislation - the medical loss ratios. They require insurance companies to spend 85% (80% for those in the small group market) of premiums on healthcare. If they spend more than 15-20% on administration/profit, they are required to pay it back in a rebate to their customers.

The Department of Health and Human Services just announced that those rebate checks will be in the mail shortly.
U.S. health insurers will send out about $330 million in rebates to employers and individuals this summer under President Barack Obama's healthcare law, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said on Thursday...

The rebates will go to about 6.8 million people and have a value of about $80 per family…

Some food for thought

In some ways, Rep. Steve King is right

Apparently Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) went on a racist tirade against President Obama recently.
“His vision of America isn’t like our vision of America. That we know,” King said about Obama at an immigration rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, according to Buzzfeed. It was racist in that he went on to say that President Obama's experience was not "an American experience." But the truth is, he was right in saying that his own "vision of America" is different from Obama's.

As a white person, I can only speak for myself is saying that my experience of America never included:
having my qualifications for a job questioned until I proved my citizenshipbeing racially profiledan assumption that I got into college only because of affirmative actionbeing called "gangsta" if I got angryhaving to carry my papers with me in case of a traffic stopregularly being followed by security in storesthreatened with my life if my music was too loud in my caran assumption that I…

Four Simple Questions

In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions:
When did you stop dancing?When did you stop singing?When did you stop being enchanted by stories?When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence? Let's see...it seems I've heard something similar from a great man. Where was that? Oh yeah, here:

"It is music and dancing that makes me at peace with the world...and at peace with myself."
Nelson Mandela

The most unrecognized element of President Obama's legacy

When people consider President Obama's legacy, most often they'll talk about health care reform or saving us from another great depression. But rarely do people cite what BooMan talked about.
I have a theory that when the Republican Party finally collapses as a national party it will happen suddenly and without much warning. It could happen as early as this November, although I am not ready to make that prediction just yet...

But the game is nonetheless up. The best movement conservatism can hope for at this point is a flash in the pan confluence of bad news timed at just the right moment to give them the unlikeliest of national victories. This country has totally moved on from their ideology. Actually, the country moved on from their economic and foreign policy ideology after the disaster of the Bush/Cheney administration. On cultural issues, it was just a matter of time.

But it didn't have to be this way. From the beginning, President Obama reached out to Republicans to …

Photo of the Day: What the world needs now...

Will Bunch writes that "What the world needs now is more like this guy...James Garner." He goes on to quote this from a 2011 interview with Garner. Garner is what he calls a "bleeding-heart liberal," having participated in the 1963 civil rights March on Washington and later advocating for a number of progressive causes. He voted for Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952, he writes, but never cast a ballot for a Republican again. He voted for Adlai Stevenson in 1956, and calls him "the most intelligent presidential candidate we've ever had. I think Obama runs a close second." And then Bunch adds his own commentary about current events.
Yes, the world needs some replacements for James Garner, and it also needs, in the words of the song, some love, sweet, love. One reason I posted this photo tonight is that it struck me as the antidote to the last week -- to the brute force and continuing stupidity in eastern Ukraine, to the non-stop killing in Gaza, to the hater…

Building a moral fusion movement

I know a lot of you will think that you don't have an hour to listen to Rev. William Barber's speech at Netroots Nation. The media ignored it because he's not likely to be a presidential candidate in 2016. But if you want to be inspired to build a fusion movement that takes our political discussion above the snake line to the moral high ground, I suggest you find the time. Lordy...this man is just what our spirits need these days!

How my grandmother learned to be racist

My maternal grandmother was raised in Kentucky. She was a church-going woman with basically a good heart. And yet as a child, I remember her saying things like, "When a chigger becomes a chigero, a n*gger will become a negro." How does one reconcile that?

Peter Smagorinsky provided some insight that helps answer that question. He recently ran across a 1906 elementary school textbook titled Frye's First Steps in Geography that contained things like a chapter explaining the world's five racial groups. Included was a picture of the "ideal head."

Smagornisky goes on to summarize: According to this textbook, the white race is the most advanced in the world. Most other races, schoolchildren were taught, tended to have a “savage” character, living in remote areas without industry and Western-style education. This is the kind of thing my "good-hearted" grandmother would have learned when she was in elementary school.

I grew up pretty blind to how all of th…

The real deal

I remember a scene on West Wing where Josh Lymon tracks down Sam Seaborn, who is working at a law practice, to discuss whether or not they want to get back into politics. Josh is thinking about going to work for Jed Bartlet's presidential campaign. He tells Sam that he's going to check Bartlet out and will get back to him. After doing so, Josh calls Sam to tell him this guy is "the real deal."

I've looked for a clip of that scene on youtube and can't find it. So I'm going from memory. But it stood out to me because that's how I feel like I've spent most of my time following politics...looking for the real deal. One of the reasons I've followed President Obama so closely is that I finally felt like I found just that.

The real deal doesn't come along very often in politics. But I had that same reaction today when I watched this video of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick talk about his plans to work with the federal government to provide s…

What Republicans need to learn from Putin

I have always maintained that Republicans faced a crossroads in 2008. Bush/Cheney policies - both foreign and domestic - had proven to be a disaster. Their choice was to either go back to the drawing board and think things through or double down and cling to a failed agenda.

Of course they chose the latter...with a twist. They decided to play the power game of obstruction to anything President Obama proposed. This meant that as he offered an outstretched hand to them, they painted themselves into an ever more extremist corner and fanned the flames of hysteria amongst their base. And so we found ourselves dealing with everything from birth certificates to death panels to accusations of his socialist agenda and - most recently - the idea that the president is a tyrant.

Occasionally this hysteria has bubbled into potentially explosive confrontations (i.e., Bundy ranch). But mostly its been limited to rhetoric - like the talk about "second amendment remedies." Nevertheless, by r…

What we've learned from the Snowden revelations: The difference between abuse and the potential for abuse

Much of the heat produced by the Snowden revelations has started to calm down. I thought it might be a good time to take a look at the big picture and see what we've learned.

We've learned a lot about the methods/programs NSA uses to collect information: metadata, PRISM, XKeyscore, etc. Its true that all of them provide fertile ground for the potential of abuse by the government. What we haven't learned about are any actual examples of abuse.

Its true that last August Bart Gellman reported that an internal NSA audit found that there were "thousands of 'incidents' or violations of the rules or court orders" under which the agency operates. But there is a significant difference between operator/typographical/computer errors and abuse. That report contained nothing to document the latter.

Recently Glenn Greenwald attempted to demonstrate abuse by reporting on five Muslim leaders the FBI and NSA spied on. But he failed to provide two pieces of important data …

Pundits join Putin in 19th century thinking

An awful lot of pundits these days seem just as stuck in the 19th century as Vladimir Putin. For example, check out this jaw-dropping commentary on the Israel/Palestinian situation from Cokie Roberts on ABC's This Week:
It's a real absence of the American leadership in the region...We haven't made a strong enough presence in that region to have people be afraid of this country. So I think there's a sense that they can get away with anything they want to get away with. So much criticism of President Obama for not going in, conducting the air strikes against Syria. Its almost hard to know where to begin. In the end, her point seems to be that if President Obama had bombed Syria he could have prevented the current escalation of the situation in Israel/Gaza. And that's - of course - because there aren't enough people in the Middle East who are afraid of us. So lets go bomb some more brown people over there because they're sure not going to get mad about that an…

Just sayin'...

Its time to leave home

In 1981 Bernice Johnson Reagon gave a speech that I believe was prophetic titled: Coalition Politics: Turning the Century. She begins by summarizing the impact technology has had on our social constructs:
We’ve pretty much come to the end of a time when you can have a space that is “yours only”—just for the people you want to be there...To a large extent it’s because we have just finished with that kind of isolating. There is no hiding place. There is nowhere you can go and only be with people who are like you. It’s over. Give it up. David Simon captured how the re-election of Barack Obama sealed this change when he talked about the death of normal.
America will soon belong to the men and women — white and black and Latino and Asian, Christian and Jew and Muslim and atheist, gay and straight — who can walk into a room and accept with real comfort the sensation that they are in a world of certain difference, that there are no real majorities, only pluralities and coalitions. The Americ…

Photo of the Day: What's on this young man's mind?

Photo by Ayman Mohyeldin - July 12 | Beit Lahia, Gaza. A young Palestinian boy sits on a grave at the local cemetery staring at the skyline. Off in the distance is a plume of black smoke rising from an Israeli strike. On Saturday, in this one cemetery, local residents buried five bodies. All of those killed were from the same neighborhood killed in Israeli airstrikes overnight.
This photo has been on my mind since I saw it this morning. I just can't shake the feeling that whatever it is that this young man is thinking about what he's seeing/experiencing could be predictive of the future. Is he contemplating revenge? Is he thinking "this shit has GOT to stop!" 
Yesterday I heard a report on NPR that the median age in Gaza is 18 (compared to 37 for the US). The future of the Middle East will be decided by whatever it is young men like this decide to do about what is happening in their home.

Why President Obama isn't doing a photo-op

I have to say that I'm disgusted when a supposed liberal pundit writes crap like this:
Still, this is the kind of situation where the people who voted for Obama want him to do...something. They understand the political constraints. They know he can’t do a lot. But a Pope Francis-esque gesture of some kind: As the pope washed the feet of women, would it be too much for Obama to go to one of these horrid shelters and read these children a story? Kick a soccer ball with them? Would that really kill him in the polls? Most liberals aren’t unrealistic, contrary to what you normally read. But they want to see little manifestations of courage from the man they voted for. This is a prime moment for exactly that. Perhaps some of my revulsion is a result of the years I spent fundraising for a non-profit that worked with troubled kids. The philanthropists always wanted us to parade a young person we had helped in front of them to tug their heart-strings wallets. It pissed me off because these…

The lesson of an open door

Watching and listening to the reaction of people in this country to the children from Central America who are fleeing violence and murder in their home countries has reminded me of a powerful book I read years ago: Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed. It is the story of how Andre Trocme - a protestant minister - and his wife Magda inspired the small village of Le Chambon, France to take in refugees from the Nazi's - mostly children. They saved thousands of lives in the process.

Prior to those events, Andre was arrested and questioned by a Vichy police captain. Here is how the author of the book (Phillip Hallie) describes his reaction:
This was a moment Trocme would never forget. In fact, his overnight stay in the police station in Limoges changed his view of mankind. He discovered people like the captain - patriotic, sincere, but above all, severely limited. These people were capable of repeating hate-ridden cliches without any concern for evidence or for the pain of others. Before he ent…

President Obama plays tortoise to the media's hare. And we know who wins that one!

I've often thought that the best metaphor for the Obama presidency is the fable about the tortoise and the hare. Of course - in the role of the hare is our linkbait-obsessed media that runs from one form of hysteria to another in a constant quest for "Obama's Katrina," only to tire almost immediately before the story's conclusion. The role of the tortoise is played by our President, who is always focused on the long game ("slow and steady wins the race"). As FLOTUS once said:
Here's the thing about my husband: even in the toughest moments, when it seems like all is lost, Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal. He never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise, even if it comes from some of his best supporters. He just keeps moving forward.

And in those moments when we're all sweating it, when we're worried that the bill won't pass or the negotiation will fall through, Barack always reminds me that we're playi…

They are all "our" children

I believe that it is wired into humans to protect children. But we have developed a mechanism for avoiding that instinct by defining "our" children (who are to be protected) and "their" children to whom we have no obligation. We do that by excluding the ones that don't look like us (black and brown) and then blaming their parents for their condition.

I've seen all of that on display as we discuss what to do about the children who are coming into this country illegally from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Lately I've been finding myself wanting to scream..."These are f*cking CHILDREN we're talking about!!!!" Can we take just a moment to remember that and think about what's going on here before we simply plug them into our politically polarized narrative about how every problem we face is a plot by President Obama to ruin this country?

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has no interest in playing our political games with this is…

What are the 2014 midterms going to be about?

NBC has posted a fascinating set of questions about the 2014 midterms.
Now less than four months until Election Day 2014, everyone is so sure about what is going to happen in November. Republicans are either going to have a good night (picking up four to six Senate seats), or a great night (picking up more than six, including in blue and purple states). And yet, given this apparent certainty in the Acela Corridor about how the elections are going to play out, here is something to ponder: We still don’t know what the fall campaign is going to be about. Is it health care? (Premium increases could be news in fall; then again, health care hasn’t received much national attention in the last two or three months). Will it be about the economy? (Maybe, maybe not -- see below for more on its limited midterm impact in the past.) What about immigration? (Possibly, but we haven’t seen Democratic or GOP campaigns eager to run on this subject, especially Democrats in the red states) Foreign policy?…