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Showing posts from March, 2015

How the Media Miss the Story

A couple of times I've joked about having a "mind meld" with President Obama that has allowed me to predict when something is up...like I did recently when he had a convo with David Simon. But I'll let you in on my secret. It's not about a mind meld or even being a "smartypants." It's just about paying attention.

A lot of people in the media miss a story like this because they're lazy. I've seen a couple of articles (here's the worst) about the President's recent commutations and they all zero in on a narrative that was started a long time ago about him being stingy with clemency. All that was required to adopt that narrative was counting.

But if you read the President and Attorney General's comments when they kicked off the Clemency Initiative, you knew what had held things up in the beginning and what they were doing to change the process. It was inevitable that - before his second term was over - there were going to be some bi…

Did I Call It...Or What?!

Last week when President Obama sat down for a conversation with David Simon, I KNEW he was up to something. Today we got the first inklings of what that is:
Building on his commitment to address instances of unfairness in sentencing, President Obama granted 22 commutations today to individuals serving time in federal prison. Had they been sentenced under current laws and policies, many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society. Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years — in some cases more than a decade — longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime.

In total, the 22 commutations granted today underscore the President’s commitment to using all the tools at his disposal to bring greater fairness and equity to our justice system. Further, they demonstrate how exercising this important authority can remedy imbalances and rectify errors in sentencing. The article notes that these commutati…

Standing Up Against Misogyny and Islamophobia

This is a story that I believe should be getting more attention from those of us in this country who call ourselves feminists.
Running a human-rights-oriented foreign policy is a challenge, even for the Swedes. In October Sweden became the first Western government to recognise the state of Palestine. Margot Wallstrom, the foreign minister, was duly invited to address a meeting of the Arab League on March 9th. Ms Wallstrom wrote a rather anodyne speech exhorting the member states to live up to their commitments on human rights, particularly women’s rights. Saudi Arabia objected, and the league blocked her from speaking. Now Sweden’s relations with much of the Arab world are in shambles. Ms. Wallstrom is coming under some pretty heavy fire for her intentions to speak up for the rights of women. The Arab League publicly condemned her - calling her cancelled speech an offense, not only to Saudi Arabia, but to Islam.

It is the equating of standing up for women's rights to the current f…

Sununu's Lunacy

Sometimes I use the work "lunatic" to describe the right wing that has seemingly taken over the Republican Party these days. Believe me...as a former mental health professional, I don't use that term lightly. It is meant to describe things like this:


Yes folks, that is the former Republican Governor of New Hampshire and Chief of Staff for President George HW Bush suggesting that it is President Obama who is "inciting" birthers by making a trip to Kenya.

A sane person would recognize that it is the birthers who are responsible for their own nonsense rather than blame it on the object of their deranged obsessions. But that's not what we get from a leader of what used to be known as the "Grand Old Party" that once claimed the mantle of "personal responsibility."

Of course, lost in that discussion was also the fact that the President will be traveling to Kenya to attend the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit - the goal of which is to spur e…

A Ray of Hope

On a day when all eyes are on the celebration of the "Lion of the Senate" in Boston, I thought it might be appropriate to revisit this song dedicated to Ted Kennedy by The Rascals after his brother Bobby was assassinated.

Odds & Ends

In the event that Iran and the members of P5+1 reach a preliminary agreement on Iran's nuclear program this week, we can expect a release of sound and fury from conservatives about how it sets the world on fire. To prepare yourself for making your own determination about the value of any such agreement, Jeffrey Goldberg lists the five questions you should ask.

During the 1980's when Iran and Iraq were at war with each other, the Reagan and Bush administrations facilitated the selling of chemical agents and equipment to Iraq. Then during the first Gulf War, the U.S. bombed some of those chemical weapons facilities and more than 200,000 of our troops were exposed to nerve gas and other chemical agents. If you've ever questioned why President Obama hesitates to arm factions in the Middle East, you'll want to read the whole story by Barbara Koeppel.

One of the negative consequences to the delay in a Senate vote to confirm the nomination of Loretta Lynch as our next Attorne…

The Effects of Epistemic Closure

Back in 2010, Julian Sanchez did us all a favor by defining something he called "epistemic closure."
One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they’re liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!) This epistemic closure can be a source of solidarity and energy, but it also renders the conservative media ecosystem fragile...It’s not just that any particular criticism might have to be taken seriously coming from a fellow conservative. Rather, it’s that anything that breaks down the tacit equivalence between “critic of conservatives" and “wick…

Odds & Ends

Recently I wrote about how the Obama administration has strengthened the Civil Rights Division at DOJ. This week they made some big announcements:
A four-count indictment against Independence, Missouri police officer Timothy Runnels for "violating the constitutional rights of a minor who was in his custody and obstructing the subsequent investigation into the incident."An indictment against Graeme Phillip Harris on "one count of conspiracy to violate civil rights and one count of using a threat of force to intimidate African American students because of their race or color" when he hung a noose around the neck of the James Meredith statue on the campus of the University of Mississippi.An indictment against Madison, Alabama police officer Eric Sloan Parker who injured an Indian grandfather by slamming him to the ground. Yesterday Ed Kilgore wrote about the confusion Scott Walker's pronouncements have created over the use of the word "amnesty" amongst co…

Free Eric Holder

I can't tell you how much I LOVE this!
A new fashion trend is sweeping the halls of the Justice Department for spring – “Free Eric Holder’’ wristbands, an inside joke among Attorney General Eric Holder‘s top aides and supporters about the months-long political standoff over his successor.

The black rubber bracelets were the idea of Molly Moran, a senior Justice Department official, according to people who have received them. The wristbands, like the kind people wear to support various charities or causes, started appearing on staffers’ wrists a couple weeks ago, when it became clear there was no end in sight to the standoff over the nomination of Loretta Lynch...

Staffers have paid for the bracelets with their own money – not taxpayer funds – and have talked about making Free Eric Holder T-shirts as well.

“We’re hoping for a day we don’t have to wear these bracelets anymore, even if it takes a charity album,’’ joked one. One of the best ways to deal with the kind of insanity we&#…

What Minnesota and California Have in Common

I've probably done enough humble-bragging about my home state of Minnesota and Governor Mark Dayton. But I did appreciate the way this visual summed it up.

I was also reminded that the two states in the country that are getting a lot of attention right now for their robust economic recovery are Minnesota and California.
For years, business lobbyists complained about what they derided as "job killer" laws that drive employers out of California.

Rival state governors, notably former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, made highly publicized visits to the Golden State in hopes of poaching jobs.

But new numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tell a different story. Total jobs created in the 12 months ending Jan. 31 show California leading other states. California gained 498,000 new jobs, almost 30% more than the Lone Star State's total of 392,900 for the same period. Of course these two states have almost nothing in common. But there are a couple of things that stand out. …

The Two Men I Admire Most...In Conversation (updated)

As soon as I saw this, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven ;-)

Barack Obama and David Simon talked about The Wire and our failed war on drugs.


I also have to note that, in the midst of this conversation, President Obama points out something that I wrote about a few weeks ago: the fact that one of the reasons why the Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) remains low is that our over-incarceration during the war on drugs has produced a record number of Americans with felony records (mostly brown and black men).

UPDATE: Question: Why would President Obama do this interview now? He's laying the groundwork and setting the stage. Somethin's up.

The Lack of Consensus on GOP Foreign Policy

Over the last few elections, the centerpiece of Republican campaigns has been to blame President Obama and Democrats for the slow economic recovery from the great recession. But now that Americans are finally feeling the benefits of a stronger economy, that is going to be a tough sell.

For now, it appears that the big issue Republicans want us to all focus on for 2016 is foreign policy. Step one in that process is to convince us all that the "world is on fire" and we are threatened by "Islamic extremists." Step two is to suggest that this is all President Obama's fault and he is doing nothing to stop it.

If this were a rational approach to political differences, step three would be to promote an alternative strategy to address the problem. But other than truly deranged people like John Bolton (who actually laid out a plan for war with Iran), we get no specifics.

Unlike Republican attempts to hide their actual economic policies (see budget gimmicks), I would sug…

GOP Sanity? Oh No - We Can't Have That!

It's clear that the sanity expressed by Former Secretary of State James Baker on Israel and Iran that I wrote about yesterday has posed a bit of a problem for Jeb Bush. The so-called "establishment candidate" is already in trouble with the Republican base for his lackluster demonization of Common Core and his position on immigration reform. So it should come as no surprise that today the latest Bush candidate for president had to respond to Baker's speech with an op-ed in the National Review.

Jeb didn't really say anything noteworthy in his commentary. It contains all of the usual distortions about President Obama's actual positions and policies as well as being completely devoid of alternatives. But I have to say that this sentence is particularly absurd coming from someone named Bush.
And Iraq continues to fall further under Iran’s orbit — a surrender of American influence and an insult to the troops and commanders who sacrificed mightily to stabilize that …

Photo of the Day: Supergirls

President Barack Obama made some waves and warned the robots at the White House Science Fair on Monday, but it was the elementary-school Supergirls who captured his science-loving heart. Wearing red capes over their Girl Scout uniforms, the 6-year-olds from Tulsa, Oklahoma, showed off a page-turning robot, made from Lego blocks and designed for use by disabled people. Later, Obama confessed he was tickled by the kids' command of techno-lingo. "This is a quote. They said, 'It's just a prototype,'" he recalled.

Let's Run the Tape Back

Last week in Cleveland, President Obama said this:
It’s important to note that at every step that we’ve taken over the past six years we were told our goals were misguided; they were too ambitious; that my administration’s policies would crush jobs and explode deficits, and destroy the economy forever. Remember that? Because sometimes we don’t do the instant replay, we don’t run the tape back, and then we end up having the same argument going forward. The folks at NowThis pulled the tape so we could run it back.


It's a total unambiguous route for President Obama.

The Good Ol' Days When Republicans Were Capable of Sanity

I've often thought about how out of touch the George H.W. Bush administration would be with the current iteration of the Republican Party. That perspective was confirmed after reading former Secretary of State James Baker's remarks about Netanyahu. I am relieved that at least someone in the GOP is still capable of telling the truth.
Blasting “diplomatic missteps and political gamesmanship,” former Secretary of State James Baker laid in hard to the Israeli prime minister on Monday evening, criticizing him for an insufficient commitment to peace and an absolutist opposition to the Iran nuclear talks...

Baker, who was the chief diplomat for President George H.W. Bush and is now advising Jeb Bush on his presidential campaign, cited mounting frustrations with Netanyahu over the past six years — but particularly with comments he made in the closing days of last week’s election disavowing his support for a two-state solution and support for settlements strategically placed to attempt…

Blurring the Lines

Remember that time Maureen Dowd wondered why President Obama couldn't be more like the president Michael Douglas played in the movie The American President? And remember when President Obama's response was to point at her during the White House Correspondent's Dinner and laugh?

Well...I've got some material for the President's next comedy routine. Apparently the pollsters at Reuters/IPSOS have a bit too much time on their hands because they recently decided that it would be worth it to find out how President Obama's popularity stacks up against his television counterparts in pretend-world.

Seriously. I'm not talking about fake pollsters at Comedy Central. Reuters (supposedly a serious news outfit) really invested time and money to find out whether fake presidents are more popular than a real president.

I was reminded that John Stewart tends to react negatively when people compare him to real journalists. Even though he often packs more actual news into segm…

"There Can Be No Democratic Jewish State Unless There Is Also a Palestinian State"

As I mentioned recently, here is something President Obama said to Jeffrey Goldberg about a year ago:
What I’ve said to him [Netanyahu] privately is the same thing that I say publicly, which is the situation will not improve or resolve itself. This is not a situation where you wait and the problem goes away. There are going to be more Palestinians, not fewer Palestinians, as time goes on. There are going to be more Arab-Israelis, not fewer Arab-Israelis, as time goes on...

I have not yet heard, however, a persuasive vision of how Israel survives as a democracy and a Jewish state at peace with its neighbors in the absence of a peace deal with the Palestinians and a two-state solution. Nobody has presented me a credible scenario. For those who don't understand what he was talking about (i.e., Rep. Steve King), Dana Milbank makes it all perfectly and profoundly clear.
...for abandoning the idea of a Palestinian state will destroy the Jewish state just as surely, if not as swiftly, as…

GOP Projection

Sen. Marco Rubio:
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio says that if elected president, he would "absolutely" defy stalwart European allies if necessary in order to revoke an Iranian nuclear deal he might inherit from President Barack Obama.Sen. Lindsay Graham:
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned Thursday that he would slash U.S. funding to the United Nations if the body decides to lift its sanctions on Iran as part of a nuclear agreement.Sen. Tom Cotton:
Cotton, apparently unbowed by the outcry over his recent open letter to Iranian leaders, introduced a bill on Wednesday that would cut U.S. funding to countries that receive former Guantanamo detainees who are later suspected of terrorism. Yep. These are leaders of the same Party that says President Obama has caused the United States to lose the trust and confidence of our allies. At what point have we demonstrated that about 99% of what they complain about is simply projection?

Is the World on Fire?

Paul Waldman had the appropriate response to the whole kerfuffle about Sen. Ted Cruz scaring a child with his assertions that the world is on fire. Whether or not one child was scared is apparently debatable and mostly irrelevant. The real question is why Cruz would say such a thing in the first place (a statement like that is designed to scare people...that's the whole point) and whether or not it's true.

The Republicans have made it their business to scare people. I suspect that if it wasn't for ISIS, they'd find something else to use for those purposes (Ebola worked for a while, as did the children crossing our border from Central America). But for right now, ISIS is their weapon of choice. And according to the data Waldman provided from the latest CNN poll, it seems to be working.

What's interesting is to compare that with what John Simpson reports from Baghdad - a city that was feeling a real threat from ISIS just last summer.
After 12 years in which the worst…

Quick Take

I promise that I'm not going to waste my time commenting on every stupid thing a Republican candidate for 2016 says. But now and then, when one of them says something really ignorant, I might go with a quick take(down). Such is the case today with Sen. Marco Rubio.
If there are differences, they need to be dealt with privately, like you do with other allies. And more than anything else, they deserve to be treated with more respect, not less than the respect this President and this White House is giving the Supreme Leader of Iran. For he would not dare say the things about the Supreme Leader of Iran now that he is saying about the Prime Minister of Israel because he wouldn’t want to endanger his peace deal or his arms deal that he’s working out with them. When President Obama proposes to unite the world to impose global sanctions on Israel until they give up their nuclear weapons, perhaps we can talk about some kind of equivalency with Iran. In the meantime, your ignorance is showi…

I'm Not Buying O'Malley on Wall Street Reform

It is clear that Gov. Martin O'Malley is trying to position himself with people like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and portray himself as a "populist Democrat." To do so, he wrote an op-ed in the Des Moines Register titled: Prevent Another Crash, Reform Wall Street. I'm sorry to say that all he's done is demonstrate that he doesn't understand what caused the financial crisis of 2008 or the Wall Street reforms that have already been enacted.

O'Malley suggests the need for two structural reforms: (1) reinstatement of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, and (2) break up the "too big to fail" banks.

In order to understand why those two reforms are unnecessary, we have to understand what happened to create the Great Recession of 2008. Financial institutions (some of which included commercial banks and some who didn't) made a lot of risky investments without the capital to back them up if those investments failed. When they did fail, it became necessary for taxp…

The GOP's Repudiation of Bipartisan Precedents

If you're like me, you probably grew up occasionally hearing the phrase "politics stops at the water's edge" when it was time for American politicians to put their differences aside on the global stage and show a united front. It set a precedent for not airing our dirty laundry in public.

But I never knew the history behind that phrase. So today I decided to look it up. In 1948, the Truman administration was working on what would become the North Atlantic Treaty at a time when the Senate was controlled by Republicans. Senator Arthur Vandenberg (R-MI) worked with Truman's State Department to craft the Vandenberg Resolution, which paved the way for the United States to negotiate an agreement with our European allies.
As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he [Vandenberg] asserted that "politics stops at the water's edge" and cooperated with the Truman administration in forging bipartisan support. I am reminded that our current Senate M…

One More Time for Dale Hansen

By now you probably know about Dale Hansen - the Dallas sportscaster. In the past year he's called out homophobia and racism in sports. Well...he's done it yet again. This time he's calling out his hometown Dallas Cowboys for looking the other way on domestic violence.

Quick Take

You need no more evidence for how deeply Netanyahu stepped in it when he said there would be no Palestinian state on his watch than to see just how fast he back-tracked on it all as soon as he was re-elected. It's good to know the White House isn't necessarily ready to forgive and forget.
A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with White House policy, said that U.S. officials understood Netanyahu’s “need to tack to the right” during his campaign. “We get that those are tactics,” the official said.

But, the official added, referring to the prime minister by his nickname, “Bibi needs to understand that there are policy ramifications for the way he did this. You can’t say all this” about rejecting the two-state policy “and then just say, ‘I was just kidding.’”

Congress Has Abdicated Its Role on Foreign Policy

I have to admit to a fair amount of eye-rolling when liberals insisted that Congress get involved in approving a new Authorization For the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS or when they take a stand against fast-tracking trade authority on things like the Trans Pacific Partnership. Of course I have the same reaction to conservatives who insist that Congress weigh in if/when a deal is negotiated on Iran's nuclear program.

In a world where Congress can actually function, those demands would make sense. Unfortunately, that's not the world we currently live in. Case in point: the ISIS AUMF.
More than a month after the White House sought Congress’ blessing for the expanding war against the terrorist group, congressional action has gotten bogged down in partisan rancor and divergent viewpoints over what the war should try to accomplish, how long the administration should be authorized to wage it, and what level of force will be required. Some say that the liberals who insist…

A Different Way to Takle Money in Politics

A lot of people are commenting on the fact that President Obama said this yesterday in Ohio:
President Barack Obama on Wednesday suggested that if American voters want to “counteract” the role of money in politics, it may be worth making voting mandatory.

“It would be transformative if everybody voted,” Obama said during a town hall event in Cleveland, Ohio. “That would counteract (campaign) money more than anything. If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country.” What is interesting to me about this is not only the idea of mandatory voting as a way to counteract recent efforts by Republicans to restrict voting (which is the angle a lot of commentators took) but the President's stated reason for contemplating the idea - its affect on money in politics.

It strikes me that for too long progressives have focused only on legislative fixes to limit the role of money in politics. It's not that I would abandon those possibilities. But one thing…

Maintaining the Trust and Confidence of Our Friends

Here's one of Jeb Bush's favorite lines on the stump these days:
Under this administration, we...have lost the trust and confidence of our friends. We definitely no longer inspire fear in our enemies. That's why it is so jarring to hear this kind of thing from Sen. Marc Rubio:
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio says that if elected president, he would "absolutely" defy stalwart European allies if necessary in order to revoke an Iranian nuclear deal he might inherit from President Barack Obama. I guess you can at least give Rubio points for acknowledging that the negotiations aren't happening unilaterally between the U.S. and Iran (as Cotton's letter implied). But he's pretty clear that  he's ready to forgo the "trust and confidence of our friends" when it comes to a potential deal.

Of course many people hear a line like that one from Bush and assume that he's really talking about "friend" in the singular rather than plural and that i…

Scott Walker's Record

A few weeks ago, I suggested that the antidote to Scott Walker would be to compare his record to that of Gov. Mark Dayton in Minnesota. But it's also telling to see how his state's economy compares to the rest of the country.

Scott Walker's Wisconsin ranks:
49th in economic outlook,44th in private sector job creation, and44th in wage growth. That - my friends - is what conservative economic policies will do to a state. 
As for Scott Walker, his favorite punch line these days seems to be: "You don't have to go to the center to win the center." I'd suggest that once those in "the center" actually take a look at his record, he won't be going anywhere but home.

Really Bad Moves from McConnell

It's time for me to admit that I was wrong. In the past I've thought of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as uninterested in any particular policy issue, but pretty good at being strategic when it comes to the power games that often drive our politics. It's on that latter part that I've obviously been wrong.

Case in point: How he's handling the nomination of Loretta Lynch to be our next Attorney General.

You might have read by now that he slipped an anti-abortion poison pill into the Senate bill on human trafficking - which Democrats won't support. His position is that he will not hold a vote on the Lynch nomination until that bill is passed. In other words, his new hostage is confirmation of our next Attorney General.

Allow me to ditto what my friend Allan Bauer tweeted yesterday.
Dear Senate @GOP, the worst outcome of your current hostage crisis is that Eric Holder remains Attorney General, and we can live with that.
— Allan Brauer (@allanbrauer) March 1…

The People Who Want to Take our Country Back

Jeff Horwitt has an interesting take from the latest WSJ/NBC News poll.
Ninety-five percent of self-identified Republican primary voters are white. That’s among the findings of the latest Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll, as well as that 74% of all Americans age 18 and older are white, a figure that tracks with census data. This means that heading into 2016, the Republican primary electorate is dramatically less diverse than the country overall. The GOP primary electorate is even less diverse than the country was in 1916, when 91% of the voting-age population was white, according to historical census data.

Nominating a candidate for president from an electorate that is less diverse than America was a century ago, when voting rights were limited to men ages 21 and over, is not good for the Republican Party or its eventual nominee. Ya think?!!!

He then goes on to provide data about how out of touch these white Republican primary voters are with the rest of the country when it comes to …

Quick Take

The other day when I was reading Mehdi Hasan's article about ISIS and Islam, I began to contemplate the interplay between personal identity, culture and the gods we worship. I was reminded of this quote from the book, The Great Cosmic Mother, by Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor.
The world's definition of God is the self-definition of humanity...We do not know if a "God" is a true God or a false God until we see what kind of world is created in that God's image...

Because, as human beings, we not only worship our gods. We become them.

The Power of the Executive Branch to Bring Change

A comment someone made on Facebook after President Obama's speech in Selma has been rolling around in the back of my mind for a few days now. I'm not going to link to it because my purpose is not to call out the individual. But it captured some things we've heard before.

Basically this person was criticizing the President for not talking more specifically about how racial issues manifest themselves today or proposing policies that address them. Here's just a bit of it:
On such a stage as he had yesterday, I feel it would have been prudent for him to address the particular issues that we face. To detail the real world problems that the "long shadow" of racism has created and to bring to the table real policy positions that could address our present reality.

Instead, I feel, he offered only hopeful language and dazzling rhetoric. Regardless of whether you think the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Selma was the place for such specifics (I don't), th…

Odds & Ends

How about some good news on climate change?
Global emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector stalled in 2014, marking the first time in 40 years in which there was a halt or reduction in emissions of the greenhouse gas that was not tied to an economic downturn. Especially because I'm a bit of a tortoise fanatic, this was also really good news to me.
After more than a century without a single baby tortoise sighting on the Galapagos island of Pinzón, a small group of the tiny, shelled youngsters have been spotted again.

The recent births are helping to pull the critically endangered animals back from the brink of extinction after they were nearly laid to waste as a result of human activity. Baby tortoise seems to be a bit camera shy.


Former Mayor of Madison, Dave Cieslewicz, says the reason Scott Walker survived the recall and got re-elected is because he has mastered the art of playing on people's resentments.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg turned 82 today.

Humor and Sanity

As Republicans continue to lose their ever-lovin' minds, it's important to remember that humor can be a great tool for maintaining one's sanity when all about you are abandoning theirs. Leonard Pitt's expressed it well in response to the news that John Stewart was retiring from The Daily Show.
We tend to underestimate humor, but it has this way of clarifying that which is difficult and opaque. You can often make a more trenchant point with a joke than with a 10,000-word treatise, something Stewart proved night in and night out. Nowhere was that done more powerfully and adeptly than when Stephen Colbert challenged both the Bush/Cheney administration and the media at the 2006 White House Correspondent's Dinner.

Much has been written about how President Obama can be professorial. Not so much about his use of humor. Beyond appearances between two ferns, late night shows and Comedy Central, he has used it quite effectively on the campaign trail. Anyone remember Romnesia

Can I Make You Smile?

There is very little news today, so I thought I'd close out this edition of Saturday blogging by doing my best to see if I can make you smile.

The big question of the day is: Where is Vladimir Putin? If he's not really in Martin's basement (call me skeptical), then Max Fisher's idea is that we round up the kids from "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego" to go look for him.

Have you ever run across the work of Russian photographer Elena Karneeva? Her images of children and animals are so astounding that I've often wondered if they are real. Apparently they are. Here's one of my favorites.


Speaking of photographs, Pete Souza just released a lot of new ones. I call this one, "It's Mutual."


Finally, as humans, we still seem to be struggling with the issues of race and gender. Some of you might wonder where it all started. Here ya go. Enjoy!

ISIS and Islam

A few weeks ago Graeme Wood garnered a lot of attention for his article in The Atlantic titled: What ISIS Really Wants. Conservatives (like Peggy Noonan) used it to attack President Obama for his unwillingness to call ISIS "radical Islamists."

Mehdi Hasan has written a thorough and comprehensive response to Wood's assertions titled: How Islamic is the Islamic State? Not at All. This is a must-read article for anyone who not only has an interest in understanding ISIS, but who would like to avoid the whole idea of a "holy war" with the 1.6 billion Muslims on this planet.

Hasan gathers data from a variety of professionals who have studied Al Qaeda and ISIS to make her case that ISIS is far outside the mainstream of Islam. She includes psychiatrists, intelligence experts, theologians, a former radical, and pollsters. I'm going to pull a couple of quotes that stood out to me in the hopes that it will entice you to go read the entire article.
Sageman, the former …