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Showing posts from January, 2015

Odds & Ends

Although it's not likely to go anywhere in this Republican Congress, it's important to point out that President Obama's budget for FY2016  eliminates the sequester cuts. In the United States we've pretty much forgotten about Ebola. That means that most people will fail to notice that there have been fewer than 100 new confirmed cases reported in a week in the 3 most-affected countries: Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. I usually try to ignore the idiotic things people say on right wing radio and Fox News. But  this guy's response to a female caller with bipolar disorder  seemed the very definition of sociopathic to me - i.e., "lacking in a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience." I think things are going to get very ugly as  Republicans ramp up their efforts  against the Social Security Disability Program. German Lopez points out that the 3 deadliest drugs in America are all totally legal . Notice the big goose egg above marijuana in t

How Do We Change Our Minds?

In his State of the Union Speech a week and a half ago, President Obama harkened back to the speech that launched his national career in politics - the one he gave at the 2004 Democratic Convention. You know, just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I said there wasn’t a liberal America or a conservative America; a black America or a white America -- but a United States of America... Over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that my presidency hasn’t delivered on this vision. How ironic, they say, that our politics seems more divided than ever. It’s held up as proof not just of my own flaws -- of which there are many -- but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided, na├»ve...  I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think the cynics are wrong. I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long. He's right, of course. Most people think t

Heading Towards a GOP Train Wreck

Does anyone else see a train wreck coming for this Republican Congress? One train is coming this way : House Ways and Means Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) will lead along with two other top committee chairs a Republican task force to come up with a plan in case the Supreme Court strikes a blow to Obamacare later this year... They will be tasked with working up an alternative plan if the Supreme Court invalidates tax credits in the 30-plus states that use, as well as a more general Obamacare alternative if the law were to be repealed... Coming in the opposite direction is this train : There is internal dissent on whether Republicans ought to come up with an alternative. One congressional GOP health aide, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly, said his party is as determined as ever to fight Obamacare, and will remain so as long as it exhibits failure. He said devising an alternative is fraught with the difficulty of crafting a new benefits structure that doesn'

About Those Speech Rules

There's been a lot of talk lately between bloggers/pundits about "political correctness." I'm not going to delve into the back and forth of that conversation, but I'd like to share some of my own thoughts and experiences. As a white person, much of my learning about what racism looks like in this country today came from hanging around small blogs written by people of color about eight years ago. They have mostly all gone inactive, but back then it was fascinating to simply listen to people talking in forums that had never been available prior to the internet. One story a blogger named Donna told was a particular turning point for me. It starts off with her explaining that she was once part of a group for Native American women. They were open about who joined - as long as the reasons had integrity. One of the women who joined the group had Native American ancestors way back in her heritage and wanted to learn what she could about them. I'll let Donna pick

Quick Take

Charles Pierce has written a great response to this statement from Jim Webb. "I think they could do better with white, working people and I think this last election showed that," Webb said, referencing the 2014 midterms where Republicans took control of the Senate and added more power in the House. "The Democratic Party could do very well to return to its Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Andrew Jackson roots where the focus of the party was making sure that all people who lack a voice in the corridors of power could have one through the elected represented... You are not going to have a situation again where you have 96% of the African American vote turning out for one presidential candidate. ... We need to get back to the principles of the Democratic Party that we are going to give everyone who needs access to the corridors of power that access regardless of any of your antecedents. I think that is a fair concept." Go read Pierce's whole article and raise

A Walk Down Memory Lane on Washington's Dysfunction

For some of us its pretty galling to hear Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggest that the way to end dysfunction in Washington is for President Obama to move to the "middle," or to have to listen to a Republican presidential candidate opine about the lack of "adult conversations" in D.C. Here's a timeline that explains why we feel that way: 1993 - Bill Kristol writes a memo outlining a strategy for Republicans on President Clinton's health care reform proposal. Faced with forceful objections in the past, the [Clinton] Administration has generally preferred to bargain and compromise with Congress so as to achieve any victory it can. But health care is not, in fact, just another Clinton domestic policy. And the conventional political strategies Republicans have used in the past are inadequate to the task of defeating the Clinton plan outright. That must be our goal... Simple, green-eyeshades criticism of the fine so far as it goes. B

The Dangers of Hysteria

This article by Molly Knefel in Rolling Stone stirred up a lot of thoughts for me. In it, she reports that there is a bipartisan effort in Congress to re-authorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. That law, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), was passed in 1974 and has been updated and strengthened several times throughout its 40 years. In addition to establishing federal oversight for the states, it also set up core requirements for how states treat their youthful offenders – things like keeping kids out of adult prisons and addressing entrenched racial disparities – as well as a grant program to facilitate and incentivize states to meet those requirements. Since 2002, however, Congress has failed to reauthorize the law, and advocates say it's long overdue for an update. I'm pretty familiar with JJDPA because for almost 30 years I worked in community-based programs that were initiated back in the 1970's when it originally pa

Senator McConnell's Headaches

I suppose that Mitch McConnell actually wanted to be the Senate's Majority Leader. But as he's finding out pretty regularly lately - the job comes with a lot of headaches. In the first days of this new Congress, it seemed obvious that McConnell's new strategy would be to paint President Obama as the obstructionist by sending him bills that he had already promised to veto. So far - that veto pen hasn't been called on. And its looking more and more like the extra ink the White House might have ordered to keep up won't be needed anytime soon. That's not because of Democratic obstruction. It's entirely due to the fact that Republicans can't get their act together on actual governing. We've seen how Boehner and McConnell have been scrambling to get their members lined up to pass a DHS funding bill by the end of February (the deadline they self-imposed). But another HUGE headache is coming McConnell's way. It's clear from the hearings on th

This is what we love about Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

When people discuss President Obama's legacy, it is important to include the fact that he brought us Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. We've all be significantly impressed with her tenure so far - especially her insightful repudiation of Chief Justice Robert's opinion on the Voting Rights Act.  But she was in Utah today and reminded us why we don't just respect her...we LOVE her! During an informal question and answer session Wednesday at the University of Utah, Sotomayor didn't discuss any of the key issues before the Supreme Court the next session. She instead focused on imparting the lessons she's learned during her life that began by growing up poor in a Bronx housing project through her 2009 appointment to the nation's highest court. Sotomayor walked around while speaking, hugging and taking pictures with students whose questions were chosen. Sotomayor also went into the crowd to sit among giddy students. Here's some of the reac

Quick Take (updated)

You want to know why Speaker Boehner has decided to engage in a second attempt to sue President Obama - this time over his executive action on immigration? It's simple: he's trying to call off the lunatic wing of his party in order to get a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security passed by February 27th. In other words, now that they're in control of Congress - the whole hostage-taking thing is backfiring on them. They can't afford to bypass the deadline they themselves initiated and allow a shutdown of the Department that is tasked with protecting us against all those scary terrorists who are out to get us. < snark off > It's also why Boehner is going to allow yet another vote on repealing Obamacare . I'm thinking there is a betting pool available here to be exploited. How long do Boehner/McConnell drag this all out before they recognize that they have to go to Pelosi/Reid to bargain for votes from Democrats in order to keep DHS open? T

2016 Republican Presidential Brackets

Charlie Cook has done a pretty good job of breaking down the 2016 Republican presidential contest into four brackets. Its helpful because the field is so crowded right now that it's hard to sort out - especially if you only think in terms of establishment vs non-establishment. I'd place a couple of candidates differently, but otherwise (just for fun), here's how I see it playing out. 1. Establishment candidates - obviously this one is a battle of Jeb Bush vs Mitt Romney. Since voters in this category aren't going to be concerned about the whole "political dynasty" thing, my money would be on Bush. 2. Governor/Former Governor candidates - I suspect that the voters this group appeals to are those who are skeptical of the whole dynasty question, but aren't ready to go full-on tea party. Scott Walker wins this bracket. 3. Tea Party candidates - no questions here, Ted Cruz wins this one - hands down. 4. Social/Cultural/Religious candidates - this one i

Sweet Little Old Lady? Nah!!!

I officially qualify as an "old lady." So today I'm announcing that this is my new goal in life.

Quick Take

Occasionally I have a thought that's too long for twitter but too short for a blog post. I might start putting them up here as "quick takes." What struck me today is that, with things like Gov. Chris Christie's youtube channel , I'm not sure how Gov. Mike Pence is deviating that far from the current norm in creating his own news outlet. I'll bet Christie's short videos get WAY more eyeballs. That's why I think the more important story is that Pence is going to be the next "red state" governor to expand Medicaid .

Some Progressives Are Confused By the Long Game

President Obama's " pen and phone " strategy ( which he announced a year ago ) has confused a lot of progressives. The title of this article by Markos Moulitsas pretty well sums it up: " Imagine that: Obama decides he'll fight for people, approvals soar ." He's right that President Obama's approval rating has risen over the last couple of months and that the American people seem to like the fact that he is getting things done...despite Congress. Where the confusion shows is in assuming that the President has recently decided to "fight for people." Moulitsas includes a list of things Obama has announced recently. But as many of us have been pointing out, a lot of them (normalization with Cuba, executive orders on immigration, etc.) have been in the works for at least 1-2 years. It's true that free community college is a new proposal. But it was preceded by a proposal for universal pre-K in his 2013 SOTU. The President has consistently

Blessed Are The Peacemakers

President Obama pays homage to the peacemakers: Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Bishop Oscar Romero Nelson Mandela Cesar Chavez Mahatma Gandhi

Kudos to Secretary of State John Kerry

The immediacy of our 24/7 news cycle tends to view events in the isolation of the moment rather than reflect on how we got here or where we might be going. I'd like to buck that trend. Recently we heard about the historic agreement the Obama administration reached with China on global climate change. And then today comes this : President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Sunday that the two countries will work together to fight global climate change, laying out a set of goals that the two countries hope “will expand policy dialogues and technical work on clean energy and low greenhouse gas emissions technologies.” While not a concrete emissions reductions agreement like the one Obama reached with China this past November, the deal includes efforts to cooperate on reducing emissions of fluorinated gases, invigorate India’s promotion of clean energy investment, and partner to reduce the debilitating air pollution that has plagued many of India’s cities.

Dog Whistles from the Left (updated)

I've written before about how uncomfortable I am with the idea that Democrats need to figure out how to appeal to working class white voters. It's not that I object to building a bigger coalition. My concern is the often unspoken message that appealing to the unique concerns of people of color is the wrong message. In an op-ed in the NYT today, Noam Scheiber makes that often unspoken argument overtly. He's writing about Mayor Bill DeBlasio's drop in the polls. But I don't want to get distracted with analyzing DeBlasio's performance. Instead, let's pay attention to the overall message. From the get-go, Mr. de Blasio’s campaign fused two distinct strands of progressivism. The first was economic populism, not least his criticism that Michael R. Bloomberg had placed the interests of Wall Street and the wealthy above those of average New Yorkers. The second was what some have called “identity group” liberalism, which appealed to black and Latino voters as

Jeb Bush to Run as GOP's Version of Obama

While everyone is having fun poking at the lunatic wing of the Republican Party gathered in Iowa this weekend, I was struck by what Jeb Bush said at his first public address since throwing his hat into the ring for 2016. After reading about bits and pieces of his speech, I decided to watch the whole thing on cspan . In the part I found most interesting, Bush said that there was a lack of leadership in Washington these days. Here is the solution he offered: Two people can disagree and they can disagree vehemently. But if they see in each other an honest broker motivated by good intentions and sincere beliefs, they can find accommodation. He also said he would offer the "adult conversations" that are lacking in our politics today. That got me thinking immediately about what President Obama had just said three days before Bush gave this speech. Understand, a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine. A better pol

Obama and Clinton: Strategies For Change

It is going to pain me to say this (a lot!), but I think Ron Fournier is actually right about something. Friends and associates of the former secretary of State, including some who are preparing her for a likely presidential bid, say Clinton obviously will embrace Obama's progressive economic agenda. Middle-class tax cuts, judicial reform, paid sick leave, and free community-college tuition are the sort of policies that Clinton has previously supported—and would certainly push in the future. Clinton is not worried about being associated with Obama's policies, associates say. Her challenge is to convince voters that, unlike Obama, she can deliver on her promises... The Clinton team is discussing how to draw a contrast between Obama's leadership skills and hers—without overtly insulting the president. The assumption behind this kind of strategy is that Clinton will lose if she simply runs on a "third Obama term." I'll leave that one aside for now because

GOP Gridlocked With GOP

I predict we'll be seeing a lot of this over the next two years: GOP gridlocked over DHS funding . Top Republicans are exploring ways of escaping their political jam on immigration, with steps that could avoid a funding cutoff for the Department of Homeland Security while letting conservatives vent their anger at President Barack Obama. Abortion bill dropped amid concerns of female GOP lawmakers . House Republican leaders abruptly dropped plans late Wednesday to vote on an anti-abortion bill amid a revolt by female GOP lawmakers concerned that the legislation's restrictive language would once again spoil the party's chances of broadening its appeal to women and younger voters. For the past four years, the GOP strategy of obstruction allowed them to abandon policy proposals and simply be the party of "no." In order to end the hostage-taking situations Republicans created, Speaker Boehner was never able to put together a coalition in his own party to end the

An Open Letter to Chuck Todd

Dear Mr. Todd, After 6 years of watching President Obama from the vantage point of the White House Press room, you decided that he was " The Stranger ." In contrast to your conclusions, I'd like to offer a couple of examples of people who have watched/experienced him from a different perspective. First of all, Joshua Dubois described how the President interacted with family members of those who had been killed at Sandy Hook School in Newtown. In other words, at the most profound moment of loss they're likely to experience in their lives. Person after person received an engulfing hug from our commander in chief. He’d say, “Tell me about your son. . . . Tell me about your daughter,” and then hold pictures of the lost beloved as their parents described favorite foods, television shows, and the sound of their laughter. For the younger siblings of those who had passed away—many of them two, three, or four years old, too young to understand it all—the president wou

"Immigrants and Native Americans"

I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we’re a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen -- man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino, Asian, immigrant, Native American, gay, straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability. Everybody matters. President Barack Obama , State of the Union, January 20, 2015 I used that quote yesterday when I talked about President Obama's message that " Everybody Matters ." But there's something else I'd like to mention today. A few years ago I began to notice how often Native Americans are included when people list the racial/ethnic groups in this country. Let me simply report that it is a rare phenomenon. I can't even imagine what it's like to have to deal with the genocide/oppression Native Americans have suffered over the last few centuries. But to watch as - over and over again - your very existence goes unacknowle

President Obama Hasn't Moved On

I have to admit that I chuckled a bit when President Obama said this last night in his State of the Union speech. As Americans, we cherish our civil liberties, and we need to uphold that commitment if we want maximum cooperation from other countries and industry in our fight against terrorist networks. So while some have moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I have not. As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse. And next month, we’ll issue a report on how we’re keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy. That bolded sentence was a pretty subtle swipe at a news media that tends to hype whatever the current hysteria is about and then move on. After promising a fireworks show  and suggesting he'd saved the best for last, the Snowden/Greenwald revelations seem to have fizzled out with more pop

A Note to Future Black Presidents

Dear Future Black Presidents, First of all...congratulations! You are following in some mighty impressive footsteps. But I wanted to write to you in order to let you know that there are some unwritten rules that apply to you. This might be a bit confusing because they haven't applied to the white guys who preceded you. So I just wanted to give you a heads up. Here ya go... 1. You are not allowed to go on vacations. 2. You are not allowed to play golf. 3. You must always wear your suit coat when working in the Oval Office. 4. You must never, under any circumstances, wear a tan suit. 5. When giving a State of the Union speech, do not use the words "I," "me," or "mine. " Remember...just because President Reagan used those words about 55 times in a 35 minute speech (by my rough count), the rules change for you. Obeying them demonstrates your respect for white supremacy  those who came before you. Good luck with all that,

Everybody Matters

I want our actions to tell every child in every neighborhood, your life matters, and we are  committed to improving your life chances - as committed as we are to working on behalf of our own kids. I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we’re a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen -- man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino, Asian, immigrant, Native American, gay, straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability. Everybody matters. I want them to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true: that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America. President Barack Obama , State of the Union, January 20, 2015 walk.

A Better Politics

After President Obama's speech ended last night, I spent a few minutes listening to TV pundits react. The basic line was: "The President talked about a better politics. But he didn't offer any conciliation to Republican ideas." I had to turn the TV off after just a couple of minutes because I was so frustrated that none of them seemed to even remotely grasp what the President said. The assumption was that the only way to achieve a better politics was for him to agree with Republicans. Here's some of what the President actually said : So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes... Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different. Understand, a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine. A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears. A better politic

Back to Why He Ran

The White House referred to last night's State of the Union speech as "Turning the Page." And no, I didn't know that was going to happen when I posted this yesterday morning . But even as I wrote that, I didn't realize the import of that title. Here's how President Obama  described it in the introduction to his remarks. Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before. More of our people are insured than ever before. And we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years. Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over. Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 15,000 remain. And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9