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Showing posts from August, 2015

Dog Whistling the Rise of the Feminine

If the contest were between these two, who do you think the Republican base would go for today? That's what I thought of when I read saw this headline:  Donald Trump "Emasculating" Jeb Bush . Because let's face it, Jeb is just not the kind of guy you would ever associate with that image of his brother. But a heartbeat. We're hearing a lot these days about how boys/men are being emasculated. It has become a regular theme on Fox News  (who also call it the " wussification of America ") and talk radio . Why is that? The message aimed at boys is to suggest that the only way to be a "real man" is to be a bully. Whether it's with your fists, your bombs, or your words, it's all about putting others down as a childish way of lifting yourself up. But it's also a way of denigrating men who demonstrate the capacity for compassion, empathy, thoughtfulness and cooperation. In other words, men who display charactari

Inequality Starts in the Crib

One of the ways our new breed of " data journalists " tries to sell their wares is via headlines that say, "This Chart Explains Everything!" Although I am one who values data, that kind of thing tends to make me skeptical. But I have to say that this chart - while it might not explain everything about income inequality - is a bit of a show-stopper nonetheless. Here's how Matt O'Brien describes it. Even poor kids who do everything right don't do much better than rich kids who do everything wrong. Advantages and disadvantages, in other words, tend to perpetuate themselves. You can see that in the above chart, based on a new paper from Richard Reeves and Isabel Sawhill , presented at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's annual conference, which is underway. Specifically, rich high school dropouts remain in the top about as much as poor college grads stay stuck in the bottom — 14 versus 16 percent, respectively. Not only that, but these low-i

The End of Silly Season is in Sight

I got a bit of a chuckle this week when Kevin Drum wrote: TGIAS: Finally, August is Almost Over . Those who have been suggesting that Trump-mania is at least in part fueled by the fact that there hasn't been much else to talk about are not completely wrong. But silly season is about to come to an ignominious end. If you have any doubts about that - just look at the September calendar. Congress comes back into session this month and right off the bat, they'll have to tackle a vote on the Iran deal (it looks like Boehner will also throw in a vote in the House to block funding to Planned Parenthood - but since that already failed in the Senate, its all for show until government shutdown time arrives). The conversation about the Iran deal has shifted from whether or not President Obama will be forced to veto a show of disapproval to whether or not Republicans will have enough votes to override a filibuster. The countdown continues... Right on the heels of that vote comes a vis

One Good Word

Loaves and Fishes This is not the age of information. This is not the age of information. Forget the news and the radio and the blurred screen. This is the time of loaves and fishes. People are hungry and one good word is bread for a thousand.  - David Whyte

Something is Happening in Baghdad

That photo comes from the Facebook page of Ali Eyal . Reuters seems to be one of the few news organizations that is reporting on what happened yesterday. Apparently these demonstrations have been going on for a while now and Prime Minister al-Abadi has made some concessions. But this is the part of the Reuters report that caught my eye. The capital and many southern cities have witnessed demonstrations in recent weeks calling for provision of basic services, the trial of corrupt politicians, and the shakeup of a system riddled with graft and incompetence. Tens of thousands of demonstrators filled Baghdad's Tahrir Square on Friday in what a senior security official called the biggest protest of the summer. Thousands more rallied in Najaf, Basra and other cities across the Shi'ite southern heartland following a call from powerful Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Protesters' demands, which initially aimed at improving power supply amid a sweltering heatwave, have

Papers Please

Ed Kilgore is right to"skeptical" that Peggy Noonan has tapped into some great Latino love for Donald Trump. She found one Dominican who suggested that legal immigrants are just as angry as everyone else is at illegal immigrants. She believes him because that's what she wants to believe. But I'll give you one good reason why most brown people (Latino as well as other nationalities) in this country are terrified of what Donald Trump is saying he would do. It's because some of them (and a few of us) remember what happened the last time a Republican president decided to round up a bunch of illegal immigrants and ship them home. We remember because it wasn't that long ago. Here's what happened when ICE raided Howard Industries in Laurel, MS in 2008. ICE´s approach humiliated all Latino workers in the plant with their Racial Profiling. Witnesses said ICE provided all White and Black workers Blue Armbands. All the Latino workers were put i

Remembering New Orleans

Years ago I worked with a young African American man who had grown up in New Orleans and then traveled to a small town in northern Minnesota to attend college on a basketball scholarship. When I asked him why he had made that unlikely journey, he said, "Growing up in New Orleans I looked around at my friends and family and realized that if I was going to survive , I had to get out of there. And so I took the only chance I had." By the time I met him, he had graduated from college and earned a Master's Degree. We hired him to work with young urban middle school kids who were struggling in school. He was one of the most talented and gifted staff members I ever worked with. I learned a lot from him. But I can't help but think of all the other talented young people like him who didn't survive. All of that happened before Katrina. But I thought of the world that young man grew up in when I heard what President Obama had to say in New Orleans yesterday. And we ca

The Roots of Political Correctness

It seems that one of the issues that unites almost all the Republican candidates who are running for president is disgust with the idea of political correctness. It has especially become the rallying cry for Trump and Carson. When I think of the term, I am immediately reminded of how Lee Atwater described the Southern Strategy in 1981 (excuse the language - it is his, not mine). You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with

Our Democracy Is Only Rigged If We Let It Be

Cass Sunstein has written an important rejoinder to the idea that our democracy is rigged. Here’s the paradox: The U.S. is in a period of extraordinary reform, and many recent changes have been made to help those against whom the system is supposedly rigged. Without mentioning the Obama administration specifically, he lists some of the reforms we've seen over the last seven years: * Obamacare * Dodd-Frank (including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) * The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act * The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act * Repeal of "Don't Ask/Don't Tell * Aggressive fuel economy standards for cars and trucks * EPA rules on mercury and greenhouse gas emissions * Increased taxes on wealthy Americans * American Recovery and Reinvestment Act And then he concludes: A rigged system couldn't have produced such a range of reforms, many of them aggressively opposed by well-funded private interests.

Amelia Boynton Robinson

A heroine has passed. Civil rights leader Amelia Boynton Robinson died this morning at the age of 104. Ms. Boynton Robinson led an incredible life, getting her start as an activist when she was just a little girl during the fight for women's suffrage. It just so happens that today is also the 95th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Ms. Boynton Robinson was first registered to vote in 1934, an incredible accomplishment in and of itself in Alabama. In 1964, she became the first female African American to run for office in Alabama and the first woman of any race to run for the ticket of the Democratic Party in the state. She received 10% of the vote. Her place in history was further sealed when she became a key organizer of the Selma-to-Montgomery march in 1965. A photo of her beaten unconscious during Bloody Sunday went around the world. The march would lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Ms. Boyton Robinson remained an advocate for voting a

Trump and White Supremacists

“Trump, on a gut level, kind of senses that this is about demographics, ultimately. We’re moving into a new America.” He said, “I don’t think Trump is a white nationalist,” but he did believe that Trump reflected “an unconscious vision that white people have—that their grandchildren might be a hated minority in their own country. I think that scares us. They probably aren’t able to articulate it. I think it’s there. I think that, to a great degree, explains the Trump phenomenon." That comes from a fascinating article by Evan Osnos titled: The Fearful and the Frustrated . The particular quote is from someone named Richard Spencer. Here's how Osnos introduces him: Richard Spencer is a self-described “identitarian” who lives in Whitefish, Montana, and promotes “white racial consciousness.” At thirty-six, Spencer is trim and preppy, with degrees from the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago. He is the president and director of the National Policy Institute, a t

Reclaiming Morality

I know you are busy. But I'd like to ask you to take a few minutes and watch Rev. William Barber talk about morality. I have often found it frustrating that the word "morals" has been hijacked in our culture to spur only thoughts about sexual morality. Obviously Rev. Barber - who is the founder of the Morals Monday Movement - has a much more expansive view of the term. He grounds his belief in his Christian faith. But the moral justice he is talking about is something we all share, regardless of our religious tradition (or lack thereof). The reason I think this is so important is because we are currently witnessing a movement in our country that has no claim to morality. When two men assault someone because of his Mexican heritage , claim that their actions were based on their thinking that Trump is right, and Trump responds by saying his followers are "passionate about making America great again," he is not talking about the America I believe in. Dylann

Epistemic Closure Comes Back to Haunt the GOP

Five years ago Julian Sanchez did us the favor of defining a pattern among conservatives that 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...If disagreement is not in itself evidence of malign intent or moral degeneracy, people start feeling an obligation to engage it sincerely...And there is nothing more potentially fatal to the momentum

Jeb Bush Comes Out Swinging...Then Stumbles

The conventional wisdom that has developed recently about the 2016 Republican candidates is that they can't criticize Donald Trump and risk losing his supporters. The thinking has been that perhaps their SuperPacs can eventually do so while providing "plausible deniability" for the candidates themselves. Apparently Jeb Bush didn't get that memo. Here's a video the Jeb! campaign released yesterday. In just over a minute, it goes after Trump on his immigration proposal from the left for his plan to "deport 'em all," and then from the right for critiquing Mitt Romney's idea about "self deportation." That's a pretty direct hit on the number one issue that has come to define Trump's candidacy. But then yesterday  Bush had another gaffe moment that drew all of the attention away from this message. During a press conference in the border town of McAllen, TX, he got pretty testy when asked about his use of the term "ancho

Confusing Thoughtfulness with Cowardice

As I said previously, I had to take a break from the news for a couple of days because of the explosion of hate we're seeing from conservatives. But I have to admit that - in the midst of all that - articles like this one by Ryan Cooper contributed to sending me over the edge. Of all the powers of the presidency, the pardon is perhaps the most absolute. The president can pardon anyone for any or no reason, with an exception in the case of impeachment (so he may not pardon himself). It provides a kind of emergency valve for the criminal justice system, in which people who have been unjustly convicted can still appeal to common sense and decency. President Obama has been more stingy with this power than any president in American history. It betrays a rampant political cowardice in his administration, and a callous disregard for human rights. Presidents have been pardoning fewer and fewer people in recent history, but Obama has set a new record in pardoning just 64 people so f

Renewing Hope as the Hate Explodes

As you may have noticed by now, I took a break from the news over the last few days. I had to. The hate that is being unleashed by the candidacy of Donald Trump got to me. I found myself despairing for my country and needed some time to regroup. I have been reminded of how well Derrick Jensen captured what is happening. From the perspective of those who are entitled, the problems begin when those they despise do not go along with—and have the power and wherewithal to not go along with—the perceived entitlement… Several times I have commented that hatred felt long and deeply enough no longer feels like hatred, but more like tradition, economics, religion, what have you. It is when those traditions are challenged, when the entitlement is threatened, when the masks of religion, economics, and so on are pulled away that hate transforms from its more seemingly sophisticated, “normal,” chronic state—where those exploited are looked down upon, or despised—to a more acute and obvious mani

Trump's Appeal

It's been fascinating to listen to pundits try to capture just what it is that Donald Trump is tapping into with the extremist base of the Republican Party. You hear words like "populist anger" a lot. And the fact that he is appealing to white working class voters (mostly men). But I'd suggest that you take a minute to watch The Donald talk to Bill O'Reilly Tuesday night. See if you can count the number of lies that he tells. If rationality mattered to any of the people Trump appeals to, the following information might be important: * We are not experiencing a crime wave in this country. As a matter of fact, " crime rates in the United States have been on a steady decline since the 1990s ." *  First generation immigrants (including those who are undocumented) actually commit fewer crimes than those who are natural born citizens. * We are also not experiencing a wave of undocumented immigrants coming across our border. As a matter of fact, &

The Silliest of Silly Seasons

As I child, I used to pester my Mom with a question every now and then: "What would happen if there was ever a day with no news?" Her response was never very satisfying to me. She'd simply say that would never happen. I've always wondered why I was so curious about that as a child. Who knows, it must have had something to do with the budding political junkie in me. Because seriously, I think there are days when it really feels like there is no news. What? You want to suggest that Sen. Bob Menendez  finally announcing that he will not support the Iran deal is actual news? Or how about the fact that Sen. Marc Rubio thinks Donald Trump's immigration plan can't pass in Congress? Really?! But of course when there is no news, we can't say so...hence "silly season." And - due to the clown car that is currently running for the 2016 Republican nomination - this has GOT to be the silliest silly season EVER! For example, did you hear the one about ho

On Changing Hearts

There is a lot of discussion going on about this recently released video of Hillary Clinton talking to members of the Black Lives Matter movement - and rightly so. These are things we need to say to each other and discuss openly. I have to say that the minute I saw this, I thought about what Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said on this topic. Now the other myth is one that we hear a good deal and that is that legislation cannot solve the problem that we face in the area of civil rights and in the area of racial injustice, that you've got to change the heart. I'm sure that you've heard this. You can't legislate morality. You've got to change the heart, and often politicians use this to keep from passing fair housing bills and other legislation that's necessary to grapple with the problem. Now certainly I believe in changing the heart. As I said a few minutes ago, I'm a Baptist preacher, and that means that I'm in the heart- changing business. I preac

The Ripple Effect

An article I quoted the other day suggested that the Iran nuclear deal had "thrown a great stone in the region's waters." M.K. Bhadrakuar elaborates in the Asia Times : What we are witnessing is that the Iran nuclear deal has reset the power dynamic that is over three decades old. With the certainties that the ancient animosities had provided evaporating, it is as if the door has opened by itself in a haunted house... To be sure, there is a huge uptick of diplomatic activity all around. The Iran nuclear deal has shaken up old assumptions and there are signs of a new willingness by the Gulf players to cross the fences they had previously erected with deliberation. This is certainly going to be fascinating to watch. I recommend that you read the whole article to get somewhat acquainted with the cross-current of agendas that are at play. It's impossible to know what the end result will be. But there is no doubt that change is coming!!!

President Obama on Power and Change

I recently returned to a theme I've talked about a lot during Obama's presidency: conciliatory rhetoric as a ruthless strategy. This time I applied it to foreign affairs and the realignment we're beginning to see in the Middle East. In response, BooMan  is a bit skeptical and said he's still working on fleshing the idea out for himself. So perhaps with everyone on vacation in Washington, this is as good a time as any to take a deep dive into the topic and evaluate it's viability. The developing conventional wisdom about President Obama among liberals is that initially he was naive about Republicans and tried too hard to negotiate with them. This is usually followed by an assumption that his posture over the last year or so represents that "he FINALLY gets it!" There are a couple of very serious problems with that assessment. First of all, to assume naiveté on the part of a guy maned Barack Hussein Obama who rose up through Chicago politics to become t

Ben Carson - Oh, the Irony!!!!

Ben Cason isn't likely to ever be president of anything - much less the United States. And yet I couldn't help but point out the incredible irony he threw out there recently. Cason published an article in the Jerusalem Post that basically parrots all the Republican talking points against the Iran nuclear deal. But my jaw dropped when I got to this little tidbit about President Obama's speech at American University last week: Shockingly, his [Obama's] diatribe also was replete with coded innuendos employing standard anti-Semitic themes involving implied disloyalty and nefarious influences related to money and power. This...from the guy who is basically running on a platform AGAINST political correctness . When people challenge his comparison of the United States to Nazi Germany, Carson says we're demanding political correctness. Same thing happens when he compares Obamacare to slavery or ISIS to the founding fathers. But he accuses President Obama of "co

The Obama Interview

Before he went on vacation, President Obama traveled quite the circuit talking to reporters/news outfits about the Iran nuclear deal. Included were interviews with: Jon Sopel at BBC Ten reporters at the White House including Max Fisher from Vox , James Fallows from The Atlantic , and Fred Kaplan from Slate Jake Horowitz at  (which included questions from Israeli and Iranian youth) Tom Friedman at the New York Times Steve Inskeep at NPR Fareed Zakaria at CNN Now...that's what you call a "full court press." It's clear that the President is determined to do anything and everything to get his message out there. But - other than Zakaria - does anyone else notice who is missing from that list? I suspect that there are lots of backroom conversations going on about this in the major network and cable news rooms. None of their White House correspondents got "the Obama interview." But the list also says that President Obama knows how we'r

Trump Forces the Issue

In case you haven't noticed, Republicans are doing anything they can to avoid the question of what they would do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are currently in the country right now. The best example of that was this interview Mark Halperin did not long ago with Rep. Tim Huelskamp. Prepare yourself, it's painful to watch. Now, along comes " The Donald " to blow that all up. Donald Trump would reverse President Obama's executive orders on immigration and deport all undocumented immigrants from the U.S. as president, he said in an exclusive interview with NBC's Chuck Todd. "We're going to keep the families together, but they have to go," he said in the interview, which will air in full on NBC's "Meet the Press" this Sunday. Pressed on what he'd do if the immigrants in question had nowhere to return to, Trump reiterated: "They have to go." Given that coverage of the Republican presidential pr

Small Steps

When talking about the Iran nuclear deal, President Obama has rejected the Reagan notion of "trust, but verify." His position has been that this deal is not built on trust - but verification . The way we will know whether or not Iran negotiated in good faith is a step by step process that will play out slowly over time. That means noticing small steps like this : Iran has given the world's leading nuclear watchdog information about its past nuclear activities by an agreed upon deadline, according to news reports. The move is in keeping with an agreement reached by world powers last month to curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. As part of that agreement, Iran said it would provide answers to any remaining questions the international community had about its past nuclear activities, Reuters reports. The IAEA, a United Nations agency, confirmed that Iran submitted the requested information by the agreed upon deadline Saturday. I'm not s

Racism and Classism

It's clear that the reason Ben Carson got a jump in the polls after the first Republican debate is because he said this: You know, we have the purveyors of hatred who take every single incident between people of two races and try to make a race war out of it, and drive wedges into people. And this does not need to be done. What we need to think about instead — you know, I was asked by an NPR reporter once, why don’t I talk about race that often. I said it’s because I’m a neurosurgeon. And she thought that was a strange response. And you say — I said, you see, when I take someone to the operating room, I’m actually operating on the thing that makes them who they are. The skin doesn’t make them who they are. The hair doesn’t make them who they are. And it’s time for us to move beyond that. But then his whole campaign got derailed when it was made public that he had participated in research using fetal tissue from abortions . After attempting to make excuses for his blatant hypo

Post-Policy Republicans

Recently a public figure outlined these steps for dealing with ISIS in Iraq. Can you guess who it was? First, we must support the Iraqi forces... Second, we must give these forces the consistent advantage of American air power, to cover their operations and to strike with fierce precision... Third, we must make better use of the limited forces we have by giving them a greater range of action.  Fourth, we should provide more support to the Kurds, giving them decisive military power against ISIS. And finally, our strategy in Iraq has to restart the serious diplomatic efforts that can help that country move in the right direction. Only Iraq’s Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds can decide if they will live together and share power and resources in a way that will serve their interests, assuring the survival of their country. Other that some questions about that third point, one might have assumed that this came from President Barack Obama . But it didn't. It came from a Republican

What "Chill Hill" Learned From "No Drama Obama"

From the outset I have said that one of the main things I'll be watching for from Hillary Clinton and her campaign is whether or not she learned anything from Barack Obama in her failed 2008 campaign or her four years working with him as Secretary of State. So far, she's doing pretty well on that score. The recent memo  from her campaign manager Robby Mook telling Clinton's supporters to basically " chill...we've got this ," says a lot about that. The six-page memo, written by campaign manager Robby Mook and distributed in DC Monday by communications director Jennifer Palmieri, argues that there's no reason for Clinton's backers to panic. "Winning campaigns have a plan and stick to it, in good times and bad. President Obama endured significant pressure in 2007 to abandon his strategy, but his campaign remained focused on winning in Iowa and ultimately prevailed," Mook wrote. In order to "chill" when the going gets tough, you

"The Obama Method" and Potential Realignment in the Middle East (updated)

As I wrote previously , I was particularly struck by President Obama's description of his approach to the negotiations with Iran as a way to "find openings" that could lead to transformative change. I realized that I had missed how he talked about the same thing in an interview with David Remnick back in January 2014. Obama, who has pressed Netanyahu to muster the political will to take risks on his own, thinks he can help “create a space”—that is the term around the White House—for forward movement on the Palestinian issue, whether he is around to see the result or not. Right now it looks like the possibility of a space for movement on the Palestinian issue is not likely during President Obama's term. But it is interesting to note that his approach seems to be creating an opening when it comes to the ongoing civil war in Syria . With President Bashar al-Assad of Syria facing battlefield setbacks, diplomats from Russia, the United States and several Middle Easte