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Showing posts from November, 2014

Something deep persists

Obviously the Civil Rights Movement brought about some important changes. But something deep persists. Then... And now... Unless we change it for the future...

The story that makes last year's roll-out of look like a model of success

Here's the story from New Jersey : Gov. Chris Christie's administration has pulled the plug on a seven-year-old $118.3 million contract for what had been billed as a “comprehensive and cutting-edge” computer system to make Medicaid, food stamps and other social welfare programs easier to manage, including some that have been hobbled by backlogs, NJ Advance Media has learned. The state Department of Human Services’ contract with Hewlett Packard to produce the Consolidated Assistance Support System, better known as CASS, “has been terminated, and an analysis is in progress to determine next steps,” department spokeswoman Nicole Brossoie confirmed. It reminded me that  something similar happened in Indiana several years ago. Indiana has ended its troubled $1.3 billion deal with IBM to provide welfare services to the state's neediest families. For months, 13 Investigates has shown you how the largest contract in state history has failed to deliver... Daniels said IB

"Until Justice Rolls Down Like Waters"

Once again we find ourselves reckoning with the reality that we live in a country where justice is applied unequally. But the truth is - unequal justice is no justice as all. To keep our "eyes on the prize," it might be helpful to step back and envision just what it is we mean by the word "justice." Back in 1963, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at the memorial service for the four little girls who had died in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Imagine with me for a moment if he had said these words about the killing of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, or Tamir Rice. And so this afternoon in a real sense they have something to say to each of us in their death. They have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows. They have something to say to every politician who has fed his constituents with the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of

I'm grateful for the sun!

Today is one of those days that we pay a price for living in "the tundra." Its 3 degrees outside with hardly a cloud in the sky. My thermostat is set at 66, but its 71 degrees inside because all my windows face south.  For the last few months I've been chronicling the journey of the sun to the south through this window. Here's what it looked like in August. September In October, I had to change the angle to get it all.  Only 24 days till the sun begins its journey back to the north. But who's counting? LOL

Someone we should all be listening to: Bryan Stevenson

Today I was in my car running some pre-Thanksgiving errands and listening to Minnesota Public Radio between stops. I was absolutely blown away by a speech they were airing and kept wondering "who IS this guy?" It wasn't until the end that I heard it was Bryan Stevenson, founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative . Once I got home, I located the speech on MPR and listened to the whole thing uninterrupted. I know you are all going to be busy with family and loved ones over the next few days. But if you have an hour to spare, I can't imagine a better way to spend it that listening to this one. Here's a link where you can do that . Bryan tackles all the difficult issues we face in this country around race and the law enforcement/criminal justice system. But he doesn't just bring facts and he doesn't simply fuel our rage. He inspires with his heart and his own stories. In a most meaningful way, he tells us what we can all do to make a difference

News from the insurgency

A few days ago it crossed my mind to think about what the 2015 State of the Union speech will be like. Given the results of the recent midterms and the way the GOP rhetoric has been ramped up in response to President Obama's action on immigration, it occurred to me that the disrespectful "You lie!" from Rep. Joe Wilson during the 2009 SOTU speech might be child's play. But honestly, I never even contemplated this possibility . “Yes, there’s a risk to overreacting, but there’s a risk to underreacting as well,” said Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. “And I fear that’s the way the congressional leadership is leaning.” Mr. Lowry suggested one way Congress could react. “If I were John Boehner,” he said, referring to the House speaker, “I’d say to the president: ‘Send us your State of the Union in writing. You’re not welcome in our chamber.’” Apparently, this is becoming "a thing " within the tea party   confederate insurgency . What better way to

President Obama talking about race

CNN has put together this video with snapshots of the many times President Obama has talked about race. Its a helpful reminder - even though the clips really can't give you the depth of what he said on those occasions. But make no mistake, President Obama has been clear about his views on racism and how we can move forward as a country. This might be a good time to go back and listen again to his speech on the topic during the 2008 primaries. I'd like to highlight one part of that speech where he got specific in terms of recommendations. But I have asserted a firm conviction — a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people — that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union. For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insi

"The most intense, aggressive face I've ever seen" (i.e., black)

From Darren Wilson's testimony , after the altercation in the car was over and Michael Brown had started to run away, he says this: When he stopped, he turned, looked at me, made like a grunting noise and had the most intense, aggressive face I've ever seen on a person. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon. That's how angry he looked. According to Wilson's testimony, that's when he started shooting. It sounds an awful lot like South Carolina State Trooper Sean Groubert's initial testimony about why he started shooting at Levar Jones after pulling him over for a seat belt violation. Before I could even get out of my car he jumped out, stared at me, and as I jumped out of my car and identified myself, as I approached him, he jumped head-first back into his car … he jumped out of the car. I saw something black in his hands. The only problem for Groubert is that in that case, that there was an actual video of what happened. In the case

The perversion of a grand jury process

Years ago I sat on a federal grand jury. Over the course of 12 months, we heard evidence on dozens of cases. At the end, I was totally frustrated by the process and completely understood why former New York state Chief Judge Sol Wachtler famously remarked that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.” We were even told by one of the prosecutors that we could count on never being seated on a trial jury because defense attorney's don't trust someone who has been a member of a grand jury. When we think of jury duty, we normally envision the kinds we've seen in the news or on TV dramas - complete with a judge who ensures fairness and two opposing lawyers who present their case. What we need to remember about a grand jury is that, first of all, there is no judge present. Secondly, there is no adversarial process. Only the prosecutor gets to present evidence. Witnesses are not even allowed to have their lawyer present. Under those circumstances, in

4.5 Minutes of Silence for the Protection of All Children

Here is the statement from Michael Brown's parents: God bless them and God bless the children.

Just SAY IT, Charles Blow

In many ways, Charles Blow nailed it it his column titled: Bigger Than Immigration . Don’t let yourself get lost in the weeds. Don’t allow yourself to believe that opposition to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration is only about that issue, the president’s tactics, or his lack of obsequiousness to his detractors. This hostility and animosity toward this president is, in fact, larger than this president. This is about systems of power and the power of symbols. Particularly, it is about preserving traditional power and destroying emerging symbols that threaten that power. This president is simply the embodiment of the threat, as far as his detractors are concerned, whether they are willing or able to articulate it as such. But does anyone else get the feeling like he's trying to say something while walking on egg shells? His message is basically the same one I talked about in: Understanding the Threat of a Confederate Insurgency . But he hides behind words like &qu

What Hillary Clinton Could Learn From Al Gore

Now that the 2014 midterms are over, it is - of course - off to the races for 2016. I find myself amused by a lot of the "advice" that Hillary Clinton is getting about how to position herself for another presidential run. For example, Dylan Scott  suggests that Sec. Clinton faces a dilemma between distancing herself from President Obama and appealing to what has become known as "the Obama coalition." They are of course linked: If Obama is unpopular, a Clinton campaign will be tempted to present a sharp contrast. At the same time, the President will likely remain popular with the core Democratic base that she needs to harness. But the record tells us that, however the Obama presidency is faring like in its final months, it's going to influence his aspiring successor's White House ambitions. Former Clinton staffers Douglas Schoen and Patrick Caddell make no bones about where they come down on that one. They weigh in with: Obama is Damaging Hillary's C

Odds & Ends

Here are some stories that caught my eye today. One of the most frustrating things about Republicans over the last few years is their adoption of "post-policy" positioning." That's why Kimberly Strassel's op-ed is revealing. She's having some fun positing that if President Obama can claim the kinds of powers she identifies, why not the next Republican president too? And then she unleashes what the agenda would be. Holy cow!!!! Suffice it to say, "Social Security? What Social Security?" All I can say is... please Bibi, don't do it! The good news of the day is that the incoming Nevada House Speaker Ira Hansen has decided to step down after his racist/sexist remarks were made public. While everyone is distracted, slowly but surely the Obama administration is transferring detainees out of Gitmo. Unfortunately for the Republicans, their 2016 field of hopefuls is not as popular with the general public as they are with their base. And

Are Americans "Stupid" or Uninformed?

Republicans are making hay out of Jonathan Gruber's suggestion that those who crafted Obamacare thought the American public was stupid. While that was a politically incorrect (and stupid) thing to say, we've all seen enough "man on the street" interviews where too many people don't know which party controls Congress or who the current Vice President is to simply dismiss it as untrue. But a more relevant question would be to ask whether or not the American public is "stupid" (inferring a lack of intelligence) or uninformed. That is the question sparked by this recent Gallup poll. They found that - while the violent crime rate has dropped dramatically since the early 1990's (from 80 incidents of violent crime/1000 people to 23/1000), 63% of Americans think that violent crime is increasing. Back in the 1990's I attended a workshop on the effects of television on young people. The presenter asked the audience, "What is the purpose of televi

"If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs"

I'm going to give Colbert King the benefit of the doubt and assume that he had the best of intentions when he wrote  The lessons of November 1963 . But seriously...comparing our current situation to the moments after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated is WAY over the top and dangerously inflammatory. Right now, President Obama and the Democrats are going about the business of governing in a terribly polarized political environment. On the other side of the isle is a party with no solutions that is having a massive freak-out. Some of their people are comparing temporary relief to 5 million undocumented immigrants to Japanese internment camps , suggesting the possibility of ethnic cleansing and warning of violence and anarchy . Instead of all the hype, these guys could simply do what President Obama has suggested over and over again...Pass A Bill (i.e., try governing themselves). The very last thing we need right now is for people to start comparing all that to a presid

A Response From POTUS :-)

Anyone remember that last summer I wrote a letter to President Barack Obama ? Well...hold on to your hats. Because he just wrote me back. OH MY!!!!! If my letter kept him going for just one tiny moment in time, I am over-the-top THRILLED. So yeah, this is me right about now.

Photo of the Day: Lunch Meeting

On this day when most of us should be reminded that we're immigrants to this land, President Obama had lunch with the one group for whom that isn't true...Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Youth. I don't know if they planned it this way, but I LOVE the juxtaposition of this as a prelude to his announcement about immigration tonight!

Hey pundits, you might want to listen to Jorge Ramos

Here's my latest tweet: If you’re prognosticating about PBO’s action on immigration & not listening to Jorge Ramos…whiff — Nancy LeTourneau (@Smartypants60) November 20, 2014 It was inspired by this article from Michael Scherer about Ramos. This morning as I was reading the usual prognosticators about President Obama's announcement tonight on immigration, I noticed how few of them are incorporating the reaction of Latinos and/or immigrant rights activists into their opinions. Case in point... NBC's First Read . I have to wonder if (mostly white) pundits made the same mistake back in 1994 when California Republicans went all-in on Proposition 187 . ...a 1994 ballot initiative to establish a state-run citizenship screening system and prohibit illegal aliens from using health care, public education, and other social services in the U.S. State of California. Remember last week when I talked about how the West Coast states went from r

On tape: Republicans dodge the question

For the last couple of days I've been focusing on the big gaping hole in the Republican position on immigration - the one question that needs to be asked and answered : "what do you propose to do with the 11 million undocumented workers who are currently in the country?" Yesterday I pointed out how the post-policy punditry has avoided holding Republicans accountable - making a bipartisan solution impossible. Imagine my surprise when the one pundit who came through on that one is none other than Mark Halperin (we'll just leave that one alone for now). If you want to know how badly Republicans are trying to avoid answering that question, just watch Rep. Tim Huelskamp squirm while Halperin pushes him on it. Lay this one alongside the right wing hysteria on Gruber's comments about the Democrats "deceiving" the American public about health care reform. Who's doing the deceiving now? No matter how hard they try to dodge the question, there are th

Learning to glide

This poem by Rainer Maria Rilke titled The Swan always puts me at ease with myself. The labouring through what is still undone, as though, legs bound, we hobbled along the way, is like the awkward walking of the swan. And dying - to let go, no longer feel the solid ground we stand on every day is like his anxious letting himself fall into the water, which receives him gently and which, as though with reverence and joy, draws back past him in streams on either side; while, infinitely silent and aware, in his full majesty and ever more indifferent, he condescends to glide. I suspect that President Obama has learned to glide. And that's what allows him to - as Michelle describes - play the long game. 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

President Obama has always favored Congressional action

To the chagrin of many LGBT activists back in 2010, President Obama demonstrated that he preferred Congressional action to Executive Orders on ending DADT. They simply assumed the former would never happen. But President Obama held out - and with majorities in both the House and Senate - he got it done. That's exactly why he's given Speaker Boehner over a year to act on the bipartisan immigration reform bill passed by the Senate. He prefers Congressional action. But at some point, you simply have to recognize its not going to happen. In both cases, there is a reason why the President prefers for Congress to act. That's because Executive Actions =/= Congressional Actions. This is a point I expect President Obama to make very clearly when he announces what he's going to do on immigration. The latest right wing talking point we're hearing about is that - in the past - President Obama said that he could not legally do what he is planning to do now . The assumption

Post-Policy Punditry

Over a year ago, Steve Benen wrote about how the Republicans were practicing  post-policy politics . Perhaps the best (and shortest) summary of how that works came from Sen. Lindsay Graham. Anytime you challenge the president, Obama, it’s good politics. In other words, Republicans don't need to bother saying what they are FOR. It works for them to simply be against anything President Obama wants to do. And yes, that worked pretty well for them in the 2014 midterms. But the reason it did is because it was coupled with a post-policy media. BooMan put it pretty well when he called it "an election about nothing." I've actually been watching almost no politically related television for the simple reason that almost none of it has anything to do with the upcoming elections, let alone actual issues that might be taken up by the next Congress. The media has been keeping the country almost in an election blackout, with coverage mostly related to conflict in the Middle

I Won't Give Up

I've posted this song before. But for a whole host of reasons both personal and political, I think the time is right to do so again. I hope it speaks as deeply to you as it does to me. I don't wanna be someone who walks away so easily I'm here to stay and make the difference that I can make Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use The tools and gifts we got, yeah, we got a lot at stake And in the end, you're still my friend at least we did intend For us to work we didn't break, we didn't burn We had to learn how to bend without the world caving in I had to learn what I've got, and what I'm not, and who I am I won't give up on us Even if the skies get rough I'm giving you all my love I'm still looking up, still looking up.

The question Republicans must answer...

"What would you do about this?" You can read more about Diane Guerrero's story here. She doesn't say how long her parents lived in the U.S. before they were deported, but we know that they came here from Columbia before she was born and were deported when she was 14 years old. They fled from chaos and did everything they could once they got here to legalize their status. But instead, they were eventually deported and she was left on her own to grow up without them. In a rare moment of honesty, even Newt Gingrich said that doing this to families is not right. "I don't see how the party that says it's the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter of a century," said Gingrich. While our pundit class simply sees all this as a power play between Republicans and Democrats, its important to keep in mind that it is the lives of children/young people like Diane that are at sta

Understanding the threat of a confederate insurgency

Rev. William Barber captured the moment we are living in by talking about a Third Reconstruction. Doug Muder expanded on that idea with an article titled:  Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party . Muder's point is that in order to understand the Tea Party today, we have to realize that  - unlike what our school history books told us - the south didn't really lose the Civil War. Much like George W. Bush preemptively declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq, the Civil War didn't end when Lee surrendered at Appomattox. After the U.S. forces won on the battlefield in 1865 and shattered the organized Confederate military, the veterans of that shattered army formed a terrorist insurgency that carried on a campaign of fire and assassination throughout the South until President Hayes agreed to withdraw the occupying U. S. troops in 1877. Before and after 1877, the insurgents used lynchings and occasional pitched battles to terrorize those portions of the electorate st

Will pundits finally acknowledge President Obama's intelligence?

Over the last six years what I've noticed is that when President Obama succeeds, pundits have tended to call him "lucky" and when he fails, they call him "naive." I've found both labels to not only be wrong, but offensive - based on how intelligent this President happens to be. As a result, I've looked a little deeper into what his strategies might be. We all know that as a lawyer in Chicago, Barack Obama taught classes on power and conflict. From a pragmatic point of view, he's obviously thought more deeply about those topics than your average political pundit. So whether he succeeds or fails in his exploration of "the viability of politics to make change" ( how Michelle Obama described his foray into politics ), I've found it fascinating to assume his intelligence and try to understand what he's up to. This column from Paul Waldman is one of the first I've seen in a very long time that goes a little bit deeper to assum

Oh, this is rich! Conservative pundit accuses President Obama of extortion this one from Rich Lowry broke my irony meter this morning. In a fit of postelection modesty, President Barack Obama is offering not to take executive action to amnesty millions of illegal immigrants — provided Republicans do his bidding on immigration. It is extortion as conciliation. New Jersey governor Chris Christie often invites comparisons to The Sopranos, but it is President Obama who is making a tactic taken out of the HBO mob drama his major postelection initiative. His bipartisan outreach now ends with a pointed “Or else . . . ” This offer Republicans can’t refuse includes the stipulation that the president will revoke his executive action in the event they pass legislation to his liking. How generous of him.  As an aside, if you had trouble reading that first sentence like I did, its because conservatives have fallen so in love with the word "amnesty" that they've started using it as a verb as well as a noun. But my bigger point is to notice t

When Dubya responded to Congresstional legislation prohibiting torture with: "Meh..."

Just imagine with me for a moment what it would be like if our media had an institutional memory that could recall events that happened less than a decade ago. If that were the case, we might be reminded - in the midst of all this furor over potential presidential overreach on the part of Barack Obama - of something like this from July 2006 . A panel of legal scholars and lawyers assembled by the American Bar Association is sharply criticizing the use of "signing statements" by President Bush that assert his right to ignore or not enforce laws passed by Congress. In a report to be issued today, the ABA task force said that Bush has lodged more challenges to provisions of laws than all previous presidents combined. The panel members described the development as a serious threat to the Constitution's system of checks and balances, and they urged Congress to pass legislation permitting court review of such statements. "The president is indicating that he will no

When Congress overstepped its constitutional authority

Congressional Republicans are promising to go to battle with President Obama over his upcoming executive action on immigration. They claim he is overstepping his constitutional authority as president. We're hearing things like perhaps they'll sue him, or try to impeach him, or perhaps shut down the government in response. What didn't capture as many headlines was the time President Obama said that Congress had overstepped their constitutional authority. don't remember that happening? When signing the National Defense Authorization Act in 2013, President Obama included statement that outlined the various ways provisions in that bill impeded his constitutional authority as Commander-in-Chief. That included things like limiting his ability to transfer Gitmo detainees to another country and disrupting his ability to implement provisions of the START Treaty with Russia on nuclear weapons. The President didn't decide to sue Congress or shut down the gover

Two things neither liberals nor conservatives will tell you about our improving economy

Ever since the economy began its slow recovery from the Great Recession, liberals have been pointing out that - as the unemployment rate drops - the labor force participation rate is also in decline. This is usually interpreted to mean that more and more people are so discouraged about finding work, they aren't even trying anymore. Lately conservatives have picked up on this and are using it to discredit the recovery we've been seeing under President Obama's leadership. But today Pew Research released some fascinating information about those who are " outside the labor force entirely ." By far the biggest chunk of people not in the labor force are people who simply don’t want to be, according to data from the monthly Current Population Survey...Last month, according to BLS, 85.9 million adults didn’t want a job now, or 93.3% of all adults not in the labor force. Pew goes on to take a look at a subset of those who have dropped out of the labor force - those th

Republicans think voters are stupid

Jonathan Gruber sure stirred up a lot of talk lately. He suggested that voters are stupid and that the passage of Obamacare lacked transparency. I'll leave that last part to Brian Beutler to dismantle. The essence of what Gruber said about voters is that the Democrats crafted the ACA in a way that hides its revenue (a "tax") by calling it a mandate for everyone to buy health insurance. In other words, they counted on voters being too stupid to not recognize that they amount to the same thing. But that is actually a tactic that the "no new taxes" Republicans invented. I don't know about you - but this idea of calling new revenue "fees" instead of "taxes" is something local Republicans have been doing around here for years. For example, here's Tim Pawlenty making the case for why he should be the next GOP presidential nominee. At every level, governments are facing big deficits as the weak economy diminishes tax revenues at the

The Bear Is Loose!!!!

This is pure speculation on my part, but I think that the cowardly Democrats who were running in the midterms not only asked President Obama to hold off on executive orders about immigration, they asked him to step back on doing much of anything during the campaign. I say that as someone who follows this administration closely. Over the last couple of months - except for trying to quiet the fear-mongering about Ebola - President Obama didn't initiate much. I actually found myself somewhat bored in trying to decide what to write about. But boy - ever since the elections were over last week, I can't keep up. We've seen: Loretta Lynch nominated to be our next Attorney General Recommendations on net neutrality An historic agreement with China on climate change Then there are the more subtle/symbolic things, like the nominees for the Medal of Freedom and today's announcement of a White House Report on Women and Girls of Color . Waiting in the wings are:

Success on climate change is a result of President Obama's new team

I have to wonder if Dana Milbank and Noam Scheiber feel a little foolish this morning. While they were busy engrossing themselves in back room school-girl chatter about people like Valerie Jarrett, a HUGE announcement on the success of climate talks with China  and a whole boatload of executive actions to address climate change have been in the works. Here's what Scheiber wrote the other day : Jarrett’s work behind the scenes served the president well so long as people like Larry Summers, Rahm Emanuel, and Robert Gibbs . . . remained inside the building. She diversified the views he received without stifling internal debate. But then, one by one, the big personalities left. Milbank added this : Of course, there is a danger in bringing in big personalities rather than loyalists, and Obama has suffered the consequences of his first-term “team of rivals” in the kiss-and-tell memoirs by Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and, particularly, Leon Panetta. Yet he has done himself more