Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Obama gives the young brothers a tip

Here's how acityonthemove, who posted the video, describes it:

You sorta knew that Barack Obama had a level of confidence that was special. As US Senator, at a democratic rally in East Orange, NJ. He recognized Dionne Warwick and sang one of her songs. She was delighted as well as those in attendance. Senator Obama also gave a tip to the young men.

What's my culture?

Back in 1992 I attended a 3-day training on "Undoing Racism" by The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond. I credit those 3 days with starting a journey in my life to understand racism. It laid a powerful foundation for an ongoing process of learning that has now lasted for almost 20 years. As an aside, not too long ago I learned that the same training launched Tim Wise's career in this work.

While on a break during that training, I posed a situation I had just experienced to one of the leaders and asked for his advice. His answer has been something I've pondered ever since. First, let me tell you about the situation, then I'll let you know about his wise advice.

I had been asked to sit on a committee to give our city's mayor some feedback about what to look for in a new police chief. One day while the committee was meeting one of the older African American men was pontificating (sermonizing if you will) about the very real needs in his community and wound up saying "Black men are the most oppressed group in this country."

That didn't sit well with me. Not that I would disagree about the oppression of Black men. But what about Black women, or Native American men, or...?

Since then I've heard this kind of thing referred to as "oppression olympics." That was part of the problem I had with his statement. But I was also very aware that there were no Black women or Native American people in the room - whether or not they would have spoken up at that point, I don't know.

But I didn't say anything. And it haunted me afterwards. On the other hand, I'm a white woman and didn't really think it was my place to say anything.

So I asked this training facilitator (a Black man) what he thought I should have done. His answer floored me. He said, "When you know your own culture and have confidence in that, you'll be able to say anything you need to in any circumstance in which you find yourself."

What did he mean by that? I've been pondering it ever since.

I'll just add that the next day one of our assignments was to bring something from our culture to share with the group. It was interesting to watch the reaction of participants. Most of the people of color were thrilled at the idea and had fun talking about what to share. The white people went into a panic...MY culture? What culture is that?

To date what I've taken from that exercise and his response to my situation is that one of the biggest aspects of white privilege is that we don't have to spend much time contemplating a concept like culture. Ours is the default...the air we breath. Whereas people of color are always being confronted by the reality of their culture - in opposition to the default. In many ways, its what sustains them.

The facilitators were telling us white people that there's no such thing as "multicultural" until we come to terms with our own and have something to bring to the table (something other than privilege).

Doing so is one of the ways we begin to recognize what white privilege is all about.

Salon notes DOJ's focus on investigating police brutality

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about DOJ's Civil Rights Division and their focus on investigating police brutality. Because this hasn't gotten much media attention, I was glad to see that Justin Elliot has written about it at Salon.

In a marked shift from the Bush administration, President Obama's Justice Department is aggressively investigating several big urban police departments for systematic civil rights abuses such as harassment of racial minorities, false arrests, and excessive use of force.

In interviews, activists and attorneys on the ground in several cities where the DOJ has dispatched civil rights investigators welcomed the shift. To progressives disappointed by Eric Holder's Justice Department on key issues like the failure to investigate Bush-era torture and the prosecution of whistle-blowers, recent actions by the DOJ's Civil Rights Division are a bright spot.

In just the past few months, the Civil Rights Division has announced "pattern and practice" investigations in Newark, New Jersey and Seattle. It's also conducting a preliminary investigation of the Denver Police Department, and all this is on top of a high-profile push to reform the notorious New Orleans Police Department -- as well as criminal prosecutions of several New Orleans officers...

The man who is at least partly responsible for crackdown on police misconduct is Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. In the 1990s, Perez, the son of Dominican immigrants, was a prosecutor in the division working on police misconduct cases; he later served as special counsel to Ted Kennedy on civil rights issues...

The DOJ's investigations of troubled large departments "sends a message to the whole field," says Sam Walker, an emeritus professor at the University of Nebraska who studies police accountability.

"The primary victims of police misconduct are African-Americans and Latinos. The Bush administration simply wasn't interested in this," Walker says. "The Obama-Holder DOJ puts a very high priority on this."

Monday, May 30, 2011

What it's like to know your core

I remember back when then-Senator Hillary Clinton voted to support the Iraq War. We all knew she'd be running for President and the polls showed that voters supported Bush overwhelmingly in his plans to invade Iraq. Hillary went along.

But when it came time for the 2008 primaries, things had changed. Democrats (and some Republicans) who may have gone along with the emotionality of the moment had seen the debacle of that war unfold. And Clinton's support for it became a liability.

You can't help but wonder what might have happened to her presidential hopes if she'd opposed it. We'll never know.

I thought of that when I read this about Senator Bill Nelson of Florida.

Six months ago, in the wake of the wipe-out midterm elections, moderate Florida Sen. Bill Nelson privately vented that President Barack Obama, weighed down by his health reform effort and muddled messaging, was “toxic” for Democrats back home.

Yet Obama’s approval rating has surged from 42 percent to 51 percent in the last month, and Nelson is now openly embracing the president, pronouncing himself dutifully “fired up” at an Obama-hosted Miami fundraiser this spring.

What’s changed? …Obama’s biggest asset in a critical swing state he won by a mere 2.8-percentage-point margin in 2008 might be Rick Scott, the wildly unpopular Republican governor Democrats are casting as Lex Luthor to Obama’s Clark Kent.

When you don't have core convictions - or don't stick to them - you wind up having to swing with the wind as Senator Nelson is doing right now.

I think many of the frustrati have/or will experience the same thing. We saw it play out with some of them on the repeal of DADT. People like Rachel Maddow were open about it. Others dug their heels in and are forced to defend more and more ridiculous positions (has Glenn Greenwald commented yet on Obama's threat to veto the defense appropriations bill? I don't think so.)

Anyway, when I read things like that about Senator Nelson, one of my reactions is to feel vindicated in my steadfast support for this President. I know that the "long game" will eventually demonstrate that it was a good call. But it takes patience and a commitment to your core.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

"There are heroes all around us, all of the time" (updated)



It was Dean Wells, a husband and father who loved to sing and whistle in his church choir. Dean was working a shift at the Home Depot, managing the electrical department, when the siren rang out. He sprang into action, moving people to safety. Over and over again, he went back for others, until a wall came down on top of him. In the end, most of the building was destroyed, but not where Dean had directed his coworkers and his customers.

There was a young man named Christopher Lucas who was 26 years old. Father of two daughters; third daughter on the way. Just like any other night, Christopher was doing his job as manager on duty at Pizza Hut. And then he heard the storm coming.

It was then when this former sailor quickly ushered everybody into the walk-in freezer. The only problem was, the freezer door wouldn’t stay closed from the inside. So as the tornado bore down on this small storefront on Range Line Road, Christopher left the freezer to find a rope or a cord or anything to hold the door shut. He made it back just in time, tying a piece of bungee cord to the handle outside, wrapping the other end around his arm, holding the door closed with all his might.

And Christopher held it as long as he could, until he was pulled away by the incredible force of the storm. He died saving more than a dozen people in that freezer.

You see, there are heroes all around us, all the time. They walk by us on the sidewalk, and they sit next to us in class. They pass us in the aisle wearing an orange apron. They come to our table at a restaurant and ask us what we’d like to order.

Just as we can’t know why tragedy strikes in the first place, we may never fully understand where these men and women find the courage and strength to do what they did. What we do know is that in a split-second moment where there’s little time for internal reflection or debate, the actions of these individuals were driven by love -- love for a family member, love for a friend, or just love for a fellow human being.

That’s good to know. In a world that can be cruel and selfish, it’s this knowledge -- the knowledge that we are inclined to love one another, that we’re inclined to do good, to be good -- that causes us to take heart. We see with fresh eyes what’s precious and so fragile and so important to us. We put aside our petty grievances and our minor disagreements. We see ourselves in the hopes and hardships of others. And in the stories of people like Dean and people like Christopher, we remember that each us contains reserves of resolve and compassion. There are heroes all around us, all the time.

And so, in the wake of this tragedy, let us live up to their example -- to make each day count -- to live with the sense of mutual regard -- to live with that same compassion that they demonstrated in their final hours. We are called by them to do everything we can to be worthy of the chance that we’ve been given to carry on.

- President Barack Obama, Joplin, Missouri, May 29, 2011

How to avoid an argument about ideas - attack motives

A few weeks ago I posted Jay Smooth's video about how to tell people they sound racist. The heart of what he says is that its important to confront people with what they "did or said" and not about "who they are."

With some slight modifications, I think that point applies to other areas as well. For example, I get really tired of the professional lefties who, in a discussion they pretend is about policies, jump immediately to suggesting that anyone who doesn't agree with them is sold out to corporatists.

This is perfectly illustrated in a column this week by Chris Hedges in which he defends Cornel West. The title sets the stage: Why Liberal Sellouts Attack Prophets Like Cornel West. But he does it over and over in the article.

The liberal class, which attempted last week to discredit the words my friend Cornel West spoke about Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, prefers comfort and privilege to justice, truth and confrontation. Its guiding ideological stance is determined by what is most expedient to the careers of its members. It refuses to challenge, in a meaningful way, the decaying structures of democracy or the ascendancy of the corporate state. It glosses over the relentless assault on working men and women and the imperial wars that are bankrupting the nation. It proclaims its adherence to traditional liberal values while defending and promoting systems of power that mock these values.The pillars of the liberal establishment—the press, the church, culture, the university, labor and the Democratic Party—all honor an unwritten quid pro quo with corporations and the power elite, as well as our masters of war, on whom they depend for money, access and positions of influence. Those who expose this moral cowardice and collaboration with corporate power are always ruthlessly thrust aside.

And that's just the opening paragraph.

There are some places I'd probably agree with Hedges in his analysis of the root of the problem. Where we mostly disagree is in how you go about changing things. But he's labelled me a "sellout" for not being in complete agreement with him and its kind of hard to have a conversation that starts off on that premise.

In the end, this is the same thing we run into with many folks on the right...the demonization of your opponent. It works real well to fuel the kind of meta wars we see on so many progressive blogs these days. But it does precious little to promote reasoned discussions or shed any light.

What to expect as the 2012 race heats up

Jack White over at The Root, talks about something I have been saying for awhile now...he is predicting that the 2012 Presidential race will be "the nastiest, most racially charged presidential campaign in decades, perhaps even since the Civil War." But rather than that being about the specific Republicans who are going to run, its about "the underlying social context in which the race will unfold."

White lists three reasons for this prediction:

White people are really angry. According to a hugely publicized study by Tufts University researchers, a growing number of whites believe that race relations are a zero-sum game in which every inch of black progress is offset by an increase in discrimination against whites...The most obvious symbol of black progress -- and of their own setbacks -- is none other than the man who will be at the top of the Democratic ticket next year: the first African-American president.

This first reason is all about the man Barack Obama himself - the "other" that threatens the very heart of white privilege.

The Republicans don't have winning issues. The triumph of Democrat Kathy Hochul this week in a special election in a historically conservative district in upstate New York underscores my belief that when right-leaning Republicans actually spell out what they stand for, independent voters flee in droves...

...the Republican nominee will have no bold new ideas to push. The much ballyhooed job-creation plan that the GOP released this week is just more of the same-old, same-old combination of tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations and a pullback on regulation that got us into this economic mess. And with the death of Osama bin Laden, any attempt to paint Obama as a weak commander-in-chief chief will be an exercise in futility.

This is something I've talked about before. White adds the important piece about the death of Osama and how that takes much of the Republican attack line off the table. They really are left with nothing to defend when it comes to policies the voting public can embrace.

Finally, Obama's critics on the left have opened the floodgates. One of the unintended consequences of Cornel West's impassioned recent attack on Obama is that by sinking into ad hominem claims about the president's character, he implicitly sanctioned the validity of similar charges from the right.

WOW! That's the most powerful critique I've seen of West's diatribe. The fact is that he joined the Tea Partiers in putting President Obama's race on the table as a topic for discussion when evaluating his performance. In other words, he joined them in the "othering."

The only thing I'd add to White's analysis is the work that Ron Brownstein did conflating our changing demographics with 2008 voting and race. His conclusion was that the only way the Republicans could win would be to keep Obama's share of the white vote under 40%. How they're likely to do this - given their dearth of policy ideas - will be to send out racial dog whistles to raise the level of fear and division.

So I'd suggest that we batten down the hatches and get ready for a bumpy ride. I can think of no other leader in my lifetime who is more prepared and skilled at handling this kind of thing than our current President. It wouldn't surprise me if before this is over, he finds himself needing to give another speech on race. Until that happens, perhaps we can take some direction from what he said last time.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit...

It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

This is what President Obama has called his North Star. I believe that he was telling us that in the midst of all of these heated distractions, we should "keep our eyes on the prize."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Back to work in Lordstown, OH

We all know that there's still a lot to do in getting people back to work. But the people of Lordstown, OH aren't questioning President Obama's commitment to working class Americans.

What's a Momma Grizzly to do?

Excuse me if I get a bit unserious right now. But WTH, its Saturday morning on a holiday weekend.

The truth is, I haven't been paying much attention to Sarah lately...who has? So I'm a little late to the party on this story.

Mounting evidence that Sarah Palin may have bought a $1.7 million home in Arizona has sparked speculation she will run for president next year.

But it seems the real reason for the move could be more personal - to keep tabs on her daughter, Bristol.

The Tea Party politician is reportedly furious at the 20-year-old's new relationship with Disney's Kyle Massey, who she met on Dancing with the Stars last year.

For those of us who are out-of-touch with the "culture scene" and don't know who Kyle Massey is, it still doesn't seem like that much of a story...until you see a picture of the young man in question.


I'll let Jesus General take it from there.

At first, I couldn't figure out why Sister Sarah is so angry about Bristol's new boyfriend, Kyle Massey. I mean, hey, he ain't Levi, and Bristol needs a good man to practice abstinence with anyway. You'd think that'd be enough.

But then I saw the suitor's photo and immediately understood Mrs. Palin's rage. It's all there in Mr. Massy's eyes: the anti-colonialism, the Muslimishness, the crypto-Kenyanicity, the secret socialism, and a latent proclivity to produce birth certificates that can't pass the Taitz test.

It's no wonder Sister Sarah is so pissed off. This man is going to steal her daughter's innocence by teaching sweet Bristol how to fist bump.

It's all there, in his eyes.

Yeah, its all about the eyes...that's the ticket.


Friday, May 27, 2011


When art communicates what words sometimes can't.

A sane response to Cornel West

I really appreciate what Fredric Mitchell wrote in support of Cornel West over at Jack and Jill Politics. The only way we'll reach any sanity in these kinds of discussions is if we take it out of the personal and begin to look at the policies.

In doing that, Mitchell asks himself 5 questions that emerge from what West had to say. I'd like to take a shot at responding to each of them.

1. Has the President championed ideas and programs that specifically target poor and working people?

I think he has. The first thing out of the box for this administration was the Recovery Act. It focused on creating/maintaining jobs for working people. The auto bailouts were clearly aimed at doing the same thing. The expansion of Medicaid and subsidies to purchase insurance that were contained in ACA are certainly focused there as well. His definitive stand in protection of Medicare and Medicaid should be mentioned here as well - especially the later. I could go on. But suffice it to say that I believe almost everything Obama has done in terms of his domestic agenda has been about addressing the needs of poor and working people.

2. Has the President addressed, in any speech or recommendation, ideas to reduce disproportionate incarceration of poor Black men?

This is one where I'd have to agree with West. Its my biggest area of disagreement with Obama and his administration. I remember reading The Audacity of Hope and waiting with each page for him to address the topic and being so let down when it never really came up - at least not with any kind of substance. I disagree then, with the lack of action. But I choose not to judge Obama's motives in this. I don't know why he hasn't done more because he hasn't really talked about it. So I don't know what his thinking is. If I was ever blessed with some time to chat with him, I'd certainly devote some of my time to asking him to talk about this subject.

With that said, I'd also like to add that this is why I'm so interested in the work that Eric Holder is doing to build up DOJ's Division of Civil Rights - especially when it comes to investigating police departments for brutality. Its at least one arena where this administration seems to be having an impact on these issues.

3. Has the President proposed taking any percentage of the war budget to combat ANY of these issues?

The amount we're spending on wars is a concern of mine (I'd add defense spending in general). President Obama did address this in his speech about the deficit.

The second step in our approach is to find additional savings in our defense budget. Now, as Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than protecting our national security, and I will never accept cuts that compromise our ability to defend our homeland or America’s interests around the world. But as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, has said, the greatest long-term threat to America’s national security is America’s debt. So just as we must find more savings in domestic programs, we must do the same in defense. And we can do that while still keeping ourselves safe.

Over the last two years, Secretary Bob Gates has courageously taken on wasteful spending, saving $400 billion in current and future spending. I believe we can do that again. We need to not only eliminate waste and improve efficiency and effectiveness, but we’re going to have to conduct a fundamental review of America’s missions, capabilities, and our role in a changing world. I intend to work with Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs on this review, and I will make specific decisions about spending after it’s complete.

My overall feeling is that President Obama is a bit more "hawkish" than me. But that's likely to be true of anyone who can achieve that office and might be related to things they know that I don't.

4. Do I feel that the President has a sense of urgency about these issues and that they are true priorities on his agenda?

My response to this one would mirror the previous questions. When it comes to the needs of poor and working class people - I'd say yes, Obama has a sense of urgency about those issues. When it comes to the incarceration of black men - he doesn't seem to, and when it comes to military funding - a pretty mixed bag.

5. Have the needs of those who need it most been communicated as a higher priority than those who do not?

This is a fascinating question to me. It really gets to the heart of the issue I have with many progressives. And what it boils down to is that I don't think that we can afford to think in such binary terms. The truth is that - whether we like it or not - our fortunes are at least partly tied together.

The other day I recommended the HBO movie Too Big to Fail. One of the points that was addressed in that movie is that if the government had let the banks fail, the entire economy would have collapsed. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize who is hurt the most in a time of economic chaos. Everyone who was part of the decision to bail out the banks would have rather let them fail - they deserved it. But the people who would have been most affected by that failure didn't deserve it. And that's why they were bailed out.

If someone has a better idea of what could have been done in a situation like that to protect poor and working people, I'd like to hear it. Most of the lefties I talked to at the time just said "let them fail, chaos is what we need to create real change." Interestingly enough, that would have been the course I would say is dismissive of the real needs of poor and working class Americans - and it came from the leftists who claim to care so much about them.

These are the real dilemmas that a responsible politician or public official must face when it comes to questions like this. They don't fit neatly in the binary way we often pose them and its why pragmatic rather than ideological thinking is often required to govern well.

So overall on these questions, I'd give President Obama a B+. I doubt that's how West would grade him. And its why I tend to disagree with him on the policy side of his critique.

Thanks Fredic for posing such thoughtful questions that provide much more fertile ground for productive discussion.

The Obama Method Applied to I/P?

I have written several times about the Obama method of conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy. Today there is a diary on Daily Kos by The Troubadour which indicates that perhaps President Obama is having some influence on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to give it a try.

Today, we learn that Abbas is now pushing hard to form a unity government of technocrats that will explicitly adhere the the Quartet demands, one of which being the explicit recognition of Israel.

Not impressed? Let me explain why you should be.

Sources for Haaretz in Israel are indicating that Abbas plans to form a government, with Hamas representatives, that will accept American demands. And sources also indicate that Hamas, despite its virulent views (such as calling for the destruction of the Jewish state) is going to, for the first time, have representatives that go along with acceding to American demands. Namely: recognition of Israel's right to exist.

The profundity of this, if it indeed occurs, cannot be overstated...

What is happening right now is playing out exactly as Netanyahu hoped it would not, and exactly how the Palestinians and the White House would like. If the Palestinians indeed form a unity government that recognizes Israel, and Netanyahu does not make a good faith effort to return to the bargaining table according to the Quartet's demands (and his Congress speech showed he would not), then this is what will likely follow:

1. The Palestinians will be able to say, "Look, we tried. We did what we had to, we got Hamas to recognize the need to negotiate with Israel, to recognize Israel as legitimate, and see where it got us? Our only choice now is the United Nations."

2. Obama and the administration, which will publicly reject the Palestinians' United Nations declaration of statehood – a declaration that will be approved – will, in the aftermath, say, "Look, we opposed this. But it is a matter now of international law, and must be respected. A path must be found."

This stage is being set for both the Palestinians to declare statehood and for the Obama administration to circumvent Netanyahu's obstructionism. All the while not going toe-to-toe with America's conservative Israel lobby.

Obama and the Palestinians are about to box Netanyahu in a corner. It will be his move. For Israel's sake, let us hope that he chooses to keep his word: that he will negotiate with a unity Palestinian government that recognizes Israel.

And who is partially responsible for putting Netanyahu in that corner? Quietly, is is Obama.

Let me say that there is a good bit of speculation in all of this. But it sure rings true to the kind of approach President Obama would take. Almost all of the focus in the US has been on Netanyahu and his intransigence. That is a given and seems to lead to a stalemate. So would it surprise any of us that Obama is aware of that too and would take a different path towards finding a way to work with Abbas? And if Abbas pulls this off, where does that leave Netanyahu? In the same position that most of Obama's opponents find themselves...with the option to either join the conversation in a productive way or be further marginalized. Its classic conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy.

Barack is not a politician first and foremost. He's a community activist exploring the viability of politics to make change.

- Michelle Obama, 2005

It's the jobs, stupid

The Republicans have managed to capture the media narrative that says our biggest problem is the budget deficit (you know, the one they created).

But reporter Jim Tankersley, reminds us that the real story is about people like Jason Muhlhauser.


Nearly 6 million people—43 percent of those who are unemployed—have been searching for more than 27 weeks. That number includes Muhlhauser, a 37-year-old single father...

This week, Muhlhauser shared his job-search story with a reporter. Here it is, as told to NJ:

In high school, I was told to go do something you like to do, and I really liked cars. After high school, I went to Ivy Tech [Community College] and got an associate’s degree in automotive. I was a mechanic at a few dealerships on the southeast side of Indy. My dad worked on the engine side of the Navistar plant. They had lottery drawings for family members. I won the drawing. I started there in September 1997.

It was a union job. I made $21 an hour. I had plenty to provide for my daughter. I was in the melt department, pouring the blocks and heads for the Ford Power Stroke diesel engine. The work was hard, and it was hot, but the surroundings, as far as the people I worked with, it was like family. I had a lot of pride in what I did. I bought a Ford Power Stroke truck, a black F-250. I still have it. It’s been paid off for five years.

In ’08, Navistar lost its contract with Ford for diesel motors. That was our bread and butter. At that point, we started to realize it was coming to an end. I was laid off in December 2009. I started to collect unemployment. I’m still on extended benefits.

The union worked hard to set up training programs for us. I took some computer classes. I started in an advanced manufacturing program in May 2010. I’ll be done in August. I’ll be trained to operate an advanced [computer numerical control] machine. I might be able to find a job running one for $6 or $7 less per hour than I made at Navistar. The final part of the training program is through Ivy Tech. It’s a little bit of a joke. Sometimes we can’t get instructors; we can’t get rooms. We’re kind of treated like red-headed stepchildren.

Since I lost my job, life has been very stressful. It’s been very hard. I’m not just worried about myself, I’m worried for my daughter. I lost my insurance, so my daughter and I haven’t had insurance. She’s a pretty healthy little girl, thank God. She loves dolls and being outside with her dad. Her mom is working a few hours a week, making minimum wage.

My daughter has a birthday coming up. I’d like to be able to buy her a big old swing set. I can’t do that. I want to just let her be a kid and have fun, you know? She likes to go to Chuck E. Cheese’s, but by the time you’re done there, you’ve spent an arm and a leg, so I can’t do that.

I was supposed to get recalled [to Navistar] next week, but I got a call saying the truck market took a dump, so now it may not be until next year—if then. I might quit school and take a job now, with Alyssa’s mom’s dad. He does sewer readings. It pays probably $10 an hour, no health insurance.

It’s really scary because my unemployment benefits are going to be up in August, so I have to do something. That’s why I may have to take this job. It pays nothing, but I might have to do it.

I used to work 60 hours a week and be fine. Now, I’m just worn out, mentally drained, all the time. I’m sure it’s depression.

I go to church. That helps.

I always think: It could be a whole lot worse. I’m lucky to have what I have.

What would help would be Republicans who give half a damn as much about people like Jason as they do their Wall Street buddies (who get bailouts), or oil company buddies (who get subsidies), or wealthy folks (who always need more tax cuts). Jason could use a hand too folks.

Deja Vu all over again

Perhaps you've heard that yesterday the Republicans put out a "jobs plan." But not to worry, you don't need to spend a lot of your precious time getting information about what it is they want to do. Its the same-old same-old ideas they put out no matter what the problem... massive tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation, more coastal oil drilling, and huge cuts to public investment. Sound familiar?

Here's the perfect summary from Steve Benen:

Indeed, the most glaring problem with the GOP jobs agenda is that it won’t work, but nearly as painful is the realization that it’s already been tried, over and over again, to no avail. They either haven’t heard the famous axiom about trying failure repeatedly and expecting a different result, or they don’t care.

The agenda is the agenda...Good times and bad, deficit or surplus, war or peace, it just doesn’t matter.

It’s as if someone bought an iPod, uploaded one song, and hit “shuffle.”

Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's about a loss of white privilege

You may had heard the news this week about a study by researchers at Tufts University's School of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Business School.

The authors of "Whites See Racism as a Zero-Sum Game That They Are Now Losing" found that both whites and blacks agree that anti-black racism has decreased over the last 60 years. That sounds pretty reasonable. But the kicker is that whites surveyed believe that anti-white racism has increased and is now a bigger problem than anti-black racism.

I guess that to some people this is news. But to those who have been listening to the conversation over the last couple of years whenever racism comes up, its no surprise. And this is not the first time research has shown this phenomena.

We're going to have to grapple with this - as distasteful as it may be. And to do so, we have to understand what's happening. It certainly isn't about racism. Its about white people beginning to feel their loss of white privilege.

Leonard Pitts did a good job of explaining it a couple of months ago.

If you didn't know better, you'd think white kids were being funneled into the criminal justice system in obscenely disproportionate numbers (as black ones are) or that the unemployment rate among white workers stood at 15.3 percent (as it does nationally among blacks). But if the perceptions of four in 10 Americans and six in 10 tea partyers suggest estrangement from objective reality, they also suggest a certain ability to read the writing on the demographic wall.

The Census Bureau says that within 40 years, there will no longer be such a thing as a racial majority. All of us will be minorities. While such fundamental change will challenge every American, it seems to have already panicked some of those Americans for whom being a minority will be a new experience.

Sympathy is in order. It cannot be easy to go from being lead actor to a member of the ensemble — from Gladys Knight to a Pip, as it were. Thus we find ourselves in this odd new paradigm. Those who have felt marginalized by the color of their skin, the name of their God, the double-X of their chromosomes, find themselves joined in their choirs of the put upon by newcomers who feel marginalized by the loss of their primacy.

Nobody knows the trouble they've seen. And, Lord have mercy, we're all victims now.

I hope you get a sense of how deeply his tongue is planted in his cheek when he suggests that "sympathy is in order." But the truth is that, as I've written before, the game is changing a bit. Our movement towards "a more perfect union" when it comes to racial equality has now moved into a phase where "whiteness" is loosing its power as the default assumption about our culture. As Pitts says, we're (white people) going to be feeling our "loss of primacy." What we're seeing in this kind of research is the backlash to that reality. And we should be prepared to name it for what it is.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Michelle Obama's second visit with students from Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School

Back in 2009, Michelle Obama visited Elizabeth Garrett Anderson secondary school. It was an emotional moment that created a lasting bond.

Apparently Michelle has kept in touch with the school and arranged a very special meeting today with some of the students at Oxford University.

Addressing the youngsters she said: "How are you doing? It's good to see you again."

The 37 girls were picked for today's event because they were interested in science but not reaching their full potential.

Their meeting with the US president's wife came after a day of activities for the pupils, including campus tours, career discussions and mentoring sessions.

The trip - arranged at Mrs Obama's suggestion - was designed to encourage the girls to think about studying for a degree.

Since visiting EGA in 2009, Mrs Obama has kept in touch with the school, writing letters and encouraging the girls in their studies.

To be honest, when I got to the part of that article where it said that the girls "were picked because they were interested in science but not reaching their full potential," I teared up. Of course not many girls get to meet the First Lady of the United States. But when it does happen, usually they are picked because they are the high achievers. For Michelle to arrange this kind of thing with the very girls where it could have the biggest impact moved me beyond words.

Here's some of what she said to them:

Look around. I mean, just look at this, a renowned university that has trained so many of the world's brightest minds and greatest leaders.

And I'm not the only one who's excited to see you all here today. Students and faculty at this university were eager to visit with you all, as well.

And there's a reason for that. It's because all of us – and it's important for you to know that – all of us believe that you belong here; that this is a place for you, as well. We passionately believe that you have the talent within you, you have the drive, you have the experience to succeed here at Oxford and at universities just like it across the country and across the world...

...all of us who brought you here today don't just think that universities have a lot to offer you. We believe that you all have a lot to offer these universities – your talent, your passion, your unique life experiences. And we very much want you to believe that's true, as well.

And I want you to know that you have everything you need to succeed at a place like this. You just have to work hard. That's it. You have to push yourselves. That's the only thing. This does not come easy for anyone. Everyone here, regardless of their background, got here because they worked hard. And you stay here because you work hard. But more importantly, you have to believe in yourself. You have to mentally believe that you can be here. You have to paint that picture for yourself.

And most of all, when you eventually get to a place like Oxford, I want every last one of you to reach back and to help others get here, too...

I look forward to seeing all of you fulfill whatever dreams you have, and I know they're big. So I want to see you all in the future, visiting me somewhere around the world, doing great things.

No wonder these girls love her...she believes in them with all her heart.

But enough with all the words, how about some pictures?








One last thing...

Years ago I mentored a teenage girl for over 5 years (she's in her 30's now with 2 teenage sons and I still hear from her every now and then). One day when we were talking, she asked me what I look for in a man. I'll never forget it because it seemed like a critical moment. I think its something most young girls want to ask the women they trust. Here's how Michelle talked about that today.

Too Big to Fail

If you are an HBO subscriber, I highly recommend watching the movie they just released this week titled "Too Big to Fail." Check the schedule for when it will air or watch it at your leisure on HBOGO (which is what I did last night).

The movie portrays the events leading up to the economic crash, focusing mainly on what the Treasury Department did while it was all happening. I feel pretty educated after watching it because it didn't seem like they were trying to demonize anyone except the bankers who deserved it...although McCain's stunt about halting his presidential campaign to go back to DC to disrupt the negotiations that were well underway to pass TARP was pretty telling.

Having all lived that moment in history - its pretty gripping drama as well.

Obama unplugged

The downside of the 2010 elections is that not much is going to happen legislatively with split government. But perhaps there's an upside as well.

I've talked before about how the Republican strategy is better at campaigning than governing. We've seen that at work lately with the Ryan budget plan. And now we've seen that inability to govern begin to affect elections with the victory yesterday of Democrat Kathy Hochul in a very red district in NY.

But is anyone else noticing a bit of change in President Obama's strategy? It came first with his unqualified rejection on the Ryan plan. Then yesterday, he threatened to veto the Defense Appropriations bill currently being discussed in the House.

The White House is threatening to veto the annual must-pass House Defense Authorization bill over language limiting his ability to transfer detainees overseas or try them in civilian court, among other issues.

In addition, the White House is taking strong exception to language dramatically expanding the president's power to wage the war on terror indefinitely, among other provisions.

As I mentioned previously, yesterday we also learned that he will fight back against Indiana's legislation to pull funding from Planned Parenthood in that state.

The first 2 of these (Ryan budget and Defense Bill) either already have or are likely to pass the House, but not the Senate. So he's not fighting FOR something where he needs to build a coalition with centrist Democrats and Republicans. He's fighting AGAINST legislation that he finds unacceptable. In that sense, he's letting Democratic Senators know that he "has their back" on voting against these bills. The Planned Parenthood provision in Indiana has already passed. But the administration is fighting against implementation - something that doesn't require Congressional involvement.

What we're seeing then is President Obama freed from the need to negotiate in order to pass legislation. I hope the poutragers are paying attention. It might give them a clue about who they're dealing with.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


President and Michelle Obama both looking GORGEOUS at a State Dinner in London hosted by the Queen.

The Obama administration fights back on behalf of women

From the New York Times.

The Obama administration is raising serious objections to a new Indiana law that cuts off state and federal money for Planned Parenthood clinics providing health care to low-income women on Medicaid...

The changes in Indiana are subject to federal review and approval, and administration officials have made it clear they will not approve the changes in the form adopted by the state...

If a state Medicaid program is not in compliance with federal law and regulations, federal officials can take corrective action, including “the total or partial withholding” of federal Medicaid money...

Administration officials said the Indiana law imposed impermissible restrictions on the freedom of Medicaid recipients to choose health care providers.

The impact of "three strikes"


The passage of the three strikes law in California in 1994 was major news. If you haven't seen the folly of it, check out this video.

Families to Amend California's Three Strikes Law have produced a list of facts about the law. A couple that stand out to me:

23,511 to 173,000
The change in California's prison population from 1980 to 2006 (almost a seven-fold increase).

21 and 1
The number of prisons and colleges/universities built in California since 1984.

The result of this and other "get tough" laws in California is that the prison system in that state is unsustainably overcrowded. Yesterday, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that orders the state to remedy the situation.

Conditions in California’s overcrowded prisons are so bad that they violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday, ordering the state to reduce its prison population by more than 30,000 inmates.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in a 5-to-4 decision that broke along ideological lines, described a prison system that failed to deliver minimal care to prisoners with serious medical and mental health problems and produced “needless suffering and death.”

Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr. filed vigorous dissents. Justice Scalia called the order affirmed by the majority “perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation’s history.”...

“A prison that deprives prisoners of basic sustenance, including adequate medical care, is incompatible with the concept of human dignity and has no place in civilized society,” Justice Kennedy wrote on Monday.

All of this comes when the country is experiencing a historic decline in crime.

Crime levels fell last year compared to 2009, continuing a downward trend that saw a 5.5 percent drop in the number of violent crimes last year and a 2.8 percent drop in the number of property crimes.

Figures released by the FBI Monday also showed that there were declines in all four categories of violent crime in 2010 and all categories for property crime went down as well.

"In a word, remarkable," said James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University...

Violent crime last increased in 2005. Property crime last increased in 2002.

The fact that crime is decreasing during the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression is something that should be of note. We should be asking ourselves what has worked and build on those efforts.

And yet, amidst all the talk at the state and national level about budget deficits, we hear almost nothing about proposals to reduce the ineffective and inefficient practices of our drug war and prison industrial complex.

I think its high time we started that conversation.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Hello, Ireland! My name is Barack Obama -- of the Moneygall Obamas. And I've come home to find the apostrophe that we lost somewhere along the way.

- Barack Obama, Dublin Ireland, May 23, 2001

When I wasn't working today, I've been trying to stay up on all the news about the Obama's visit in Ireland. The joy was palpable. And couldn't we all use a bit more of that in our lives?

Anyway, I haven't had time to write much. But here are a few of my favorite photos from the day.










Today's the BIG Day!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Into the fire

Just days after his speech on the Middle East followed by the chilly reception with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Obama gave a speech at AIPAC today.

We've seen him do this before. He gave a speech about abortion at Notre Dame and one about corporate responsibility at the Chamber of Commerce. Its called stepping into the fire. And every time he's stated his positions fearlessly without demonizing his opponents.

Today was no exception.

I didn't expect anything good to come out of President Barack Obama's AIPAC speech today. I was wrong.

The President strongly endorsed "two states for two peoples" and explained to a skeptical crowd that the status quo is Israel's worst enemy.

Politely and nicely, he stuck it to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu by explaining that Bibi's faux-outrage over the '67 lines is utterly bogus...

And AIPAC applauded. Strongly.

The President did a masterful job. The neocons are outraged. And I expect that Netanyahu, seeing AIPAC's reaction to their President, will cut his losses and back down.

Bravo, Mr. President. You even brought out the best in AIPAC.

You gave us all -- Americans, Israelis, Palestinians -- reason for hope.

No need for chest-thumping when you regularly display courage like that.

Some of my favorite pictures this week

President Obama, ipad, and blackberry

President and Michelle Obama attend a meeting at Malia's school the morning before he hosts Netanyahu at the White House...priorities.

Michelle Obama shows up to help paint a mural at a youth center. LOVE the sneakers!

The team.

How do you run against a pragmatist?

This is the question facing GOP presidential aspirants (and perhaps why so many of them are bowing out). First of all, lets define "pragmatist."

Pragmatist: a person who takes a practical approach to problems and is concerned primarily with the success or failure of her actions.

A pragmatist isn't so concerned about fighting an ideological battle, but in finding solutions that work. Its clear that President Obama doesn't disagree with GOP policies as a matter of ideology. After all, an individual mandate as part of health care reform was originally a Republican idea. Obama rejected it during the campaign. But when he got to the specifics of crafting health care reform that would work, he realized the error of his ways and changed his mind. That's what a pragmatist does.

Its interesting to watch Republicans try to figure out a tactic to run against someone like that. On the issue of health care reform, it looks as if any Republican who has actually tried to be pragmatic about the issue has come to the same conclusion. We're very aware of what Mitt Romney did in Massachusetts as Governor. And now, we learn that Jon Huntsman reached the same conclusion as Governor of Utah.

As soon as Huntsman was sworn in, the administration convened a group on health care to hash out a reform plan. They met for regular dinners at the house of a supporter who lived near the governor’s residence. The group concluded, Sundwall said, that you couldn’t do reform without a mandate.

The governor, he added, signed on to the idea. “He was supportive,” Sundwall said. “It was something he would have liked to have happened.”

So what's a Republican to do? Your choices are either to join with President Obama in agreeing that mandates are necessary or flip-flop and lie. Of course, it looks like Huntsman is choosing the later - how else can you be a viable candidate to Republicans at this point?

We've seen this same thing on issue after issue. The other big one these days is the Republican lie about what created our deficits. As just a reminder about that, here's the truth.

One final example for today is the twisting of what Obama actually said about Israeli/Palestinian negotiations. Most of us have already heard about the dispute over his language on the 1967 borders. But Steve Benen finds another doosey from none other than the master-deciever Karl Rove. Here's the quote from Rove.

[L]ook, the language is there. I mean, when President Obama talks about Israel ‘occupying,’ you know, ‘you can’t have a vibrant democracy as long as you depend upon occupation’ — that’s the language of the left. That is the language of those who hate Israel and why he adopts it is beyond me.

And Benen's response.

I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, Obama was practically asking for it when he said last week, “There should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967. The agreement must establish a Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people.”

Wait, did I say Obama said that? Actually that was George W. Bush — Rove’s former boss — in 2008.

The truth is that the truth is not something the Republicans can employ in their battle to take on President Obama. That's the gauntlet that a pragmatist lays down against their opponents.

So all we have to do in the 2012 campaign is tell the truth. And all the Republicans have are lies, distortions and divisions.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

If you've never heard Eva sing this classic, take a listen. And be blessed.

Rapture Ready

It comes as no surprise that Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station is the one who could bring this recovering fundamentalist to tears of laughter with his take on 10 reasons why Doomsday will be awesome.

1) Hell Finally Freezes Over: I.e. if the world ends now, the Cleveland Indians go out on a winning streak!

2) Free Shit: I call dibs on Kirk Cameron’s house, let’s go see if he left behind any cool Growing Pains memorabilia. Also, you find a car with a Jesus Fish on it, it’s yours – of course you’ll have to peel off the Bush/Cheney stickers, but what the heck, right?

3) Rapture Balloons: Get yourself some stout string. Cut it into six-foot lengths. Make a slip knot on one end. As soon as you see somebody starting to lift off, slip the loop around their ankle and hook the other end to something heavy. Rapture balloon. Collect the whole set.

4) Free Space Program: Lash a bunch of Rapture Balloons together like a raft. Add cargo. What? They’re going right past the International Space Station anyway, it’s not like it’s out of the way.

5) Funniest Home Videos: You’ve got to expect that a bunch of screaming naked people getting sucked up into space is going to be pretty damned hysterical. Word of advice though, try not to stand underneath them – seagulls are bad enough, just saying, and you know, a lot of these people are afraid of heights.

6) Mini Golf: By definition everybody left behind is damned. Heaven is closed. Period. Not much point in keeping all those churches then, is there? That’s a lot of prime real estate. What do we do with it? Mini Golf. Jesus loves the Giant Windmill, just saying.

7) Equality for all: Monday morning we’ll be issuing all the gay marriage licenses you like. No bitching. No bullshit. Be happy and congratulations.

8) Improved Education: We can finally teach biology in school without interruption.

9) Skeet Shooting: Yes, that’s right, skeet shooting. I live on a hill. I’ve got a shotgun and a couple of cases of buckshot. All I need is a lawn-chair and a cooler of beer. The rest of Saturday should pretty much take care of itself. What? It’s not like you can hurt them, they’re saved right? Send up another Rapture Balloon!

and finally,

10) Fewer Selfish Assholes. Less crowed highways. There’ll be a bunch of job openings. Less trolls on the Science forums. You can sleep in on the weekends without some Evangelical Rapture Monkey banging on your door at 8Am to sell you The Jesus.

There's way more over there to see. Like I skipped the part where he lists his schadenfreude fantasies and his real life encounter with the Campers. So go check out the whole thing.

But one story before you do. I spent a couple of years of high school in a christian fundamentalist boarding school. One time my dorm mother made the case that we should always keep our rooms clean and tidy because if the rapture happened, we'd want to leave a good witness behind. NO LIE!!!!! Of course, since those who might see it would all be damned to eternal hell anyway, I'm not sure why it mattered. But that didn't seem relevant to her.

Anyway, here's a song for all the disappointed rapturists who are stuck here on earth with the rest of us.


As I was reflecting a bit on my last post about Obama's long game, I had some additional thoughts about the danger of backlash when change is too quickly forced.

On a very personal level, I thought about a couple of young women I worked with in my career as a youth worker and therapist.

First is a 14 year old who was very angry. She had good reason to feel that way and her lashing out at me and her mother was an attempt to protect herself from further harm.

As is often the case, her anger was the outward manifestation of some very deep pain. One day in a therapy session with she and her mother I found the buttons to push back on the anger towards the pain. In retrospect, I now know that I pushed too hard. She broke down and wept uncontrollably. In most cases, that is viewed as a success in therapy. But it was not in this situation. It was too much too quick. She still needed that defense of anger and I had taken it from her. The backlash was that she never came to see me again and I suspect that she put most of her energy into shoring up that anger to defend against ever making herself vulnerable again.

Another case involves a 17 year old that was living in a residential program where I worked. One day another staff person pushed her too hard and she ran away. She was living in a "flop house" inhabited by street people and drug dealers.

In an attempt to stay connected to her, we invited her to go on a camping weekend we were planning with some of the female residents. She really wanted to go, but spent all of one day contemplating whether to join us or not. In the end, she turned us down. She had the insight and maturity to tell us why though. It was because she knew that in the environment she was living in, she needed to be tough. Spending the weekend with us would "soften her up" and it would be that much harder to come back and survive in her world...she was protecting herself against a change that would come too quickly and threaten her survival.

Almost all human behavior is protective of something - even the most disturbed. And as organic beings, we resist change that makes whatever it is we are protecting vulnerable. When we push too hard for change, that survival instinct kicks in and creates a backlash against the change. Unless you are prepared to deal with that backlash, its best to recognize the perceived vulnerability and offer protection as the slow steady change occurs.

Michelle Obama talks about "the long game"

If there's been a theme to my blogging about President Obama, its that he embraces the the long game guided by a North Star. My favorite allegory for this administration is the story of the Tortoise and the Hare.

And now First Lady Michelle Obama reinforces that.

Here's the thing about my husband: even in the toughest moments, when it seems like all is lost, Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal. He never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise, even if it comes from some of his best supporters. He just keeps moving forward.

And in those moments when we're all sweating it, when we're worried that the bill won't pass or the negotiation will fall through, Barack always reminds me that we're playing a long game here. He reminds me that change is slow — it doesn't happen overnight.

If we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight and doing what we know is right, then eventually we will get there.

We always have.

There's so much wisdom in those few words, isn't there?

First of all, you have to be grounded in your goal - your North Star. Without that, the chatter and noise will get to you because its such a powerful call-out to grab your attention. Pretty soon you're zigging here and zagging there. And its very easy to lose site of your North Star with some pretty shinny object that appears on the scene.

In my work as the director of a small non-profit, I find myself regularly presented with crises to tackle or opportunities to pursue. Its the mission statement of the organization that grounds me at those times.

In the case of the tortoise - he might have been slow - but he always knew where the finish line was and never veered from putting one foot in front of the other to get there.

I think that our fast-paced culture has caused us to lose site of the fact that real change is slow - especially when you're talking about a representative democracy of 300 million people. Quick change is often not sustainable. But more importantly, anyone who has read The Audacity of Hope recognizes that Obama is very well aware of the backlash that erupts after quick change. In the long run, it can do more damage to your efforts to substantially reach the finish line.

While dazzling promises can win over a lot of people during an election campaign, the mark of a truly historical leader is to not make the ones you don't feel confident you can keep. This is what instils the kind of confidence many of us are developing in President Obama.

Has your confidence ever been shaken by someone who talks big but doesn't follow through in the long run? Mine has. But as Obama's presidency continues, I'm finding that more and more I'm prepared to dismiss the fears and distractions and move forward in the confidence that we have a leader who knows where he's going and is prepared to slowly but surely do what it takes to get to the finish line.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Outta Your Mind

What could be better on a Friday night than a Black hip-hopper and an Asian ballet dancer knocking it out to "Get outta your mind?"

First Grandma


Marian Robinson certainly doesn't seek the limelight. But its clear that she plays a powerful role in making the Obama Presidency possible.

Here's what Michelle had to say about Marian as a mother.

My mom is an incredibly intelligent and insightful person about life in general. From the time we could talk, she talked to us endlessly about any and everything with a level of openness and fearlessness that made us believe that we were bright enough to engage with an adult, that we were worthy enough to ask questions and to get really serious answers—and she did it with a level of humor. There were many times when we were in the midst of getting spanked or disciplined and she would start cracking up. She taught my brother and me not to take things so seriously; to work hard, but to learn to laugh at situations and laugh at yourself and then to move through it.

And here's what Marian had to say when she was asked whether or not she's enjoying her life in the White House.

“I really am,” she said. “You want to know why? Because my children are good parents. It makes it very easy to be a grandmother when your children are good parents.”

So here's a small photo tribute to the First Grandma.

I'll start with one of my favorite pictures of the entire Obama journey. Photography is at its most powerful when a picture can tell a story. And this one from election night 2008 would be a best-seller in book form.


I'll let the rest of them speak for themselves.











That last one reminds me of something President Obama said at the Women's Leadership Forum.

I was a little confused when they told me I was coming here to address the Women’s Leadership Forum, because I address a women’s leadership forum every night at dinner. I just left a women’s leadership forum.

It's good to remember the role that several strong women play in this man's life.

The arc of history bending

From Gallup.



The Field Negro weighs in on Cornel West

From The Field.

This is a good discussion to have on Malcolm's birthday; is O in the house? Personally, I don't think so. I think he visits it quite often and is comfortable when he is in there, but that is not where his heart is. I think his heart is outside in the fields. ( I think)

I love The Field's bluntness. This really is the question West raised, isn't it? Is Obama of "the field or the house?"

At the end, he goes deep.

I am not sure what you Negroes who were waiting on the Magic Negro expected. O can't work miracles and make your lives better. I hate to sound like a conservative, but government can only do so much. If you thought O was going to get into office and your lives were going to change overnight, you have another thing coming. Urban terrorist are still going to rob and steal, greedy polititicksters on the local and national level are still going to line their pockets, first. And the corporate machine of greed that drives A-merry-ca isn't going anywhere. In short, it's business as usual in A-merry-ca. If there is going to be any change it's going to have to come from within each and every individual who really wants it.


John Lithgow interprets "The Newt"

There are no words for how funny this is.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Fuss Box

Years ago I taught a parenting class based on the work of Jean Illsley Clarke. In addition to her overall content, she provided many simple tools for parents. Today I've been thinking about one of those that she called the "fuss box."

The idea is that you put a lidless box somewhere in your house. When someone is angry, they can go stand in the box and have total freedom to say anything they want. No one is allowed to interrupt, attempt to sensor, or take anything you say personally. The only rule is that once you're done "fussing," you step out of the box and have to say at least one thing you are going to do about the situation. It can't be what someone else needs to do - that just feeds the feeling of victimization - it has to be something YOU can do.

There are many things about this idea that I just love. And it came up for me today because we spend so much of our political conversations being angry at some one/thing. The truth is, when it comes to blogging, ranting has become an art form.

We rant because we're angry. And there's nothing wrong with that. The problem comes when/if that's all we do. I believe that the constructive part of anger is that its motivating. But absent any action, it simply feeds on itself and becomes addictive.

The truth is that its not just the poutragers that like to rant. We pragmatists get angry at their rants and write our own in response. Like the fuss box, I don't think there's anything wrong with that - unless we buy into the addictive nature of it and let that be all we do.

This week I had my own experience of getting in the fuss box. While I didn't make a public statement about my intentions after letting off steam, the end result is that I listened to what other people had to say about the situation and learned some things about race and culture (particularly from Adam Serwer and the anonymous poster at Andrew Sullivan's blog). There's not much I love more than learning, so that's a pretty wonderful outcome for me.

GOP Madness

Its time for the office pools. My only question is whether or not someone from the "crazies" bracket can emerge to take on the "RINO" winner. Since I'm beginning to question whether or not Palin will get in the game - I guess its up to Bachmann.

And so the Republicans are left with hoping that Mitch Daniels can provide them with an adrenaline boost.

For Republicans, its about politics not governing

As I read the news this morning, the big story seems to be the total collapse of The Newt. Much of the coverage - especially from the right - is about blaming Gingrich the bomb-thrower. There's a lot of truth in that.

But I think it also goes a bit deeper. The biggest flap was over his condemnation of Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to end Medicare as we know it - followed quickly by his apology and embrace of the same. Long before Newt's particular brand of flip-flop though, the entire GOP was back-tracking, equivocating, and supporting it - depending on the day in question and the audience. You would assume that much of this waffling is a result of being able to read the polls about Ryan's plan (Americans hate it!) and the shellacking they got when they rolled it out at town hall meetings recently.

But what's a Republican to do? David Roberts names their strategy "post-truth politics."

For decades Republicans have single-mindedly pursued a few core goals: reducing taxes on the wealthy, dismantling the post-war social welfare state, and freeing corporations from regulatory restraints. Sometimes that has meant short-term compromises and half-measures, sometimes it's meant exploiting culture war resentments, sometimes it's meant a pose of moderation (compassionate conservatism). Very often -- almost always -- it's meant couching the agenda in other terms, since it is, if you poll it directly, wildly unpopular with the public. Americans want to tax the rich more, protect entitlement programs, and put tighter rules on corporations.

Republicans thus talk about "taxes" and "spending" and "regulation" in the abstract, since Americans oppose them in the abstract even as they support their specific manifestations. They talk about cutting the deficit even as they slash taxes on the rich and launch unfunded wars. They talk about free markets even as they subsidize fossil fuels. They talk about American exceptionalism even as they protect fossil-fuel incumbents and fight research and infrastructure investments.

In short, Republicans have mastered post-truth politics. They've realized that their rhetoric doesn't have to bear any connection to their policy agenda. They can go through different slogans, different rationales, different fights, depending on the political landscape of the moment. They need not feel bound by previous slogans, rationales, or fights. They've realized that policy is policy and politics is politics and they can push for the former while waging the latter battle on its own terms. The two have become entirely unmoored.

The problem is - post-truth politics can work pretty well at winning elections. But it sucks when it comes time to govern. That's what Ryan's plan is attempting to do. And its exactly why its failing so miserably (not to mention causing HUMONGOUS headaches for presidential candidates).

Steve Benen explains why this same problem has ended the work of the Senate's bipartisan "Gang of Six" as well as any other "gang" the Senate has attempted over the last couple of years. And he ends with this:

The “structural issue,” then, is Senate Republicans putting elections above governing. Bipartisan talks have to fail, or the GOP’s strategy falls apart. The goal isn’t to strike deals, it’s to kill deals and blame Dems for a lack of bipartisanship. Create favorable electoral conditions so the GOP can win is the only thing that matters. Period. Full stop.

As the Senate Republican leader has admitted, “Our single biggest political goal is to give our nominee for president the maximum opportunity to be successful.” Is it any wonder, then, that bipartisan negotiations keep falling apart?

The truth is that the Republicans have nothing - at least nothing the American public is willing to buy. So you can count on the fact that for the next year and a half, we'll be treated to attempts to obfuscate and divide. Its their only hope.

The contrast with Obama couldn't be clearer. Here's one of the best summaries I've read in a long time. (h/t to Blackwaterdog).

At the White House correspondents dinner, while Obama was whipping the crowd into laughter at Trump’s expense, there was a steely edge to the president’s voice.

Watch it again. Obama is chuckling, but his stare could cut glass.

It is easy to forget sometimes, with high unemployment and the constant criticism from Republicans, that Obama is a master political pugilist.

He’s the same man who outdueled and outlasted Hillary Clinton and the establishment Democratic Party. He is battle-tested, hardened and, most damaging to his opponents, presidential.

The race for the presidency, despite all its quirks and entertainment, is a game for adults. That’s what Obama wants to remind voters every day.

"With fear for our democracy, I dissent."

My title is how Justice Sonia Sotomayor concluded her dissenting opinion to the Supreme Court case granting presidents criminal immunity for...