Saturday, March 31, 2012

That's Amore

This is a pretty clever ad. But it stands out to me because its also a pretty ballsy statement from the Democrats. They must have calculated that Rep. Ryan and his draconian budget proposal are enough of a political liability that associating him with Mitt Romney would do some damage. I think that's a good call.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Change is...

Change is the first bill I signed into law -- a law that says women deserve an equal day’s pay for an equal day’s work, because I want our daughters treated just like our sons.

Change is the decision we made to rescue an auto industry that was on the verge of collapse, even when some said let Detroit go bankrupt. One million jobs were at stake, so we weren’t going to let that happen. And today, GM is back on top as the world’s number one automaker, reported the highest profits in 100 years -- 200,000 new jobs over the last two and a half years. The American auto industry is back and it's making cars that are more fuel-efficient. So that’s helping the environment, even as we’re putting people to work.

Change is the decision we made to stop waiting for Congress to do something about our oil addiction. That’s why we finally raised our fuel-efficiency standards. By the middle of the next decade, we will be driving American-made cars that get almost 55 miles to a gallon -- saves the typical family more than $8,000 at the pump. That’s what change is.

Change is the fight we won to stop handing $60 billion in taxpayer giveaways to the banks who were processing student loans. We decided let’s give those student loans directly to students -- which meant we could make college more affordable to young people who need it. That’s what change is. That happened because of you.

And, yes, change is the health care reform that we passed after over a century of trying. Reform that will finally ensure that in the United States of America, no one will go broke just because they get sick. Already -- already 2.5 million young people now have health insurance who didn’t have it before because this law lets them stay on their parent's plan. Already millions of seniors are paying less for their prescription drugs because of this law. Already, Americans can’t be denied or dropped by their insurance company when they need care the most. Already, they’re getting preventive care that they didn’t have before. That’s happening right now.

Change is the fact that for the first time in history, you don’t have to hide who you love in order to serve the country you love, because we ended "don't ask, don't tell."

Change is the fact that for the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. We refocused our efforts on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. And thanks to the brave men and women in uniform, al Qaeda is weaker than it has ever been. Osama bin Laden is no more. We’ve begun to transition in Afghanistan to put them in the lead, and start bringing our troops home from Afghanistan. That’s what change is...

...I know that for all the things we’ve done, we’ve still got so much undone. And sometimes the change we fought for hasn’t always come as fast as we wanted. And when you see what's been going on in Washington, I know it’s tempting sometimes to get discouraged, to kind of think, well, maybe change just isn’t possible. Maybe it was an illusion. But I want you guys to recall, I did say back in 2008, real change -- big change -- it’s hard. It takes time. It takes more than a single term and more than a single President. What it takes is ordinary citizens who are committed to keep fighting and to keep pushing, and inching us closer and closer and closer to our country’s highest ideals.

And you know something else I used to say in 2008 -- I said, I am not a perfect man -- Michelle will tell you that -- and I'll never be a perfect President. But I made a promise to you then that I would always tell you what I believed and I would always tell you where I stood, and I would wake up every single day fighting as hard as I know how for you. And I have kept that promise...

So if you’re willing to keep pushing with me through all the obstacles, through all the naysayers; if you’re willing to keep reaching for that vision of America that we all have talked about -- that commitment you didn’t just make to me or I made to you, but that we made to each other -- I guarantee you change will come.

- President Barack Obama, University of Vermont, March 30, 2012

Women's reproductive health is a men's issue

I'm not one so I can't speak from experience, but from what I've heard, heterosexual men are pretty interested in having sex with women. I even hear that its on their minds a lot.


Well, if that's the case, I'd suggest that one of the ways for them to achieve that goal is to fight for women's reproductive health. In other words, help women get access to birth control and be able to have sex knowing that we'll have choices about when to have a child.

Speaking on behalf of women, that sorta frees us up (whether married or single) to want to engage.

Just sayin...I've always wondered why this is typically cast as a "women's issue." I'd think the other half of the equation has just as much at stake.

Beyond the games and power plays

We all know that politics is a contact sport where power is too often the only end game. And while I would take issue with some of the things Nathan Fletcher (who is a California assemblyman running for Mayor of San Diego) said in this announcement about leaving the Republican Party, it struck me powerfully on many levels.

In today's political environment you're expected to play the game...I could care less about playing games. Because I don't believe this is a game. If you're a small business owner who's struggling to barely make payroll, you don't think its a game. If you're a teacher at one of the schools I visited where I've seen 38 kids crammed into a classroom, you don't think its a game. If you've lost your home, your health insurance, your hours have been cut or your jobs gone completely, you definitely don't think its a game.

Ezra Klein strikes the same note about the health care reform debate.

As the thinking goes, if the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act and then Medicaid gets cut by a third, that’s bad for President Obama and the Democrats and good for Republicans.

That’s true, so far as it goes. But if health-care reform gets overturned, that’s primarily bad for the uninsured. Obama and the Democrats might be disappointed, but odds are they and their families will continue to enjoy health-insurance coverage. They’ll likely even continue to enjoy political success. It’s very easy to imagine health-care reform getting overturned in June and Obama and most incumbent Democrats getting reelected in November. It’s very hard to imagine health-care reform getting overturned and the 30 million people it’s expected to cover getting insured.

Getting sucked into the games and power plays is addicting when it comes to politics. I've felt myself do it in conversations on blogs. It becomes more about winning and/or taking down your opponent than it is about conversation...much less what might actually improve a situation. Based on that experience, I can only imagine the pulls and pressure elected officials feel to engage in the game for the game's sake.

I think that's why - after over 3 years - President Obama continues to end his day by reading letters from every day Americans.


I also think its why he tends to shun the glad-handing in DC and prefers to spend time either with his family or everyday Americans. He's not only trying to keep his focus on his North Star...

So, my job is to make sure that we have a North Star out there, what is helping people live out their lives; what is giving them more opportunity; what is growing the economy; what is making us more competitive. At any given juncture there are going to be times that my preferred option, what I am absolutely, positively sure is right, I can’t get done. And so then, my question is, does it make sense for me to tack a little bit this way or that way because I am keeping my eye on the long-term and the long fight. Not my day-to-day news cycle, but where am I going over the long-term.

...he's also trying to preserve his soul - as Alice Walker reminded him right after his election.

Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

SCOTUS: All or nothing on ACA?

On Monday I talked about the four arguments SCOTUS would hear about health care reform: anti-injunction act, the mandate, severability and medicaid. While the arguments on the constitutionality of the mandate were perhaps the cornerstone, it appeared yesterday that the issue of severability is likely to shape much of the outcome.

What the court will have to decide is, IF they determine that the mandate is unconstitutional, how does that affect the rest of ACA? To me the argument hinges on the role of the court. Their job is to rule on constitutionality. The only sections of ACA that are being questioned on those grounds are the mandate and medicaid expansion (we'll leave that one alone for now). The problem is that the mandate is the funding mechanism by which many of the other measures are made possible. And so the court's options are as follows if they find the mandate to be unconstitutional:

1. Throw the entire ACA out. I think this is troubling for much of the court because it was clearly legislative intent to pass the law and this would be a HUGE over-reach of the court.

2. Leave the rest of the law standing. This would cripple the insurance companies because so many provisions are unaffordable without the mandate. It would demand immediate legislative action to forestall the collapse of the entire health care system.

3. Pick and chose which provisions to let stand. There was apparently a lot of discussion about this in court yesterday with justices asking what criteria they should be expected to use. Reading about that demonstrates how it leads the court into extra-judicial territory.

Some experts say that this dilemma makes it less likely the court will rule against the mandate.

The Supreme Court spent 91 minutes Wednesday operating on the assumption that it would strike down the key feature of the new health care law, but may have convinced itself in the end not to do that because of just how hard it would be to decide what to do after that. A common reaction, across the bench, was that the Justices themselves did not want the onerous task of going through the remainder of the entire 2,700 pages of the law and deciding what to keep and what to throw out, and most seemed to think that should be left to Congress. They could not come together, however, on just what task they would send across the street for the lawmakers to perform. The net effect may well have shored up support for the individual insurance mandate itself.

As I said on Monday, I'm not going to get into the business of predictions here. The truth is - we're going to have to wait until June to hear the outcome. But I do suspect that this severability issue will have significant impact on the decision.

The other thing that came out of the hearing yesterday is actually something I find pretty depressing. Apparently during the discussion of how to decide what provisions of ACA to let stand if the mandate is found to be unconstitutional, Justice Scalia wanted to take something from the bill to use as an example. What he chose to talk about was the so-called "cornhusker kickback"...something that was removed from the bill before it was passed.

What this indicates is that at least one justice is deciding what is perhaps the most important SCOTUS decision of our lifetimes without actually knowing what is or is not included in the legislation. Since that issue was a favorite right wing talking point as ACA was being drafted, it is clear that Justice Scalia paid more attention to things like Faux News than to what actually happened in Congress. What we know about people like that is that they'd be better informed if they got no news at all. It's a strong red flag signal that when it comes to Scalia's vote - it will be one of ideology trumping actual information. I guess that comes as no big surprise, but its pretty telling nonetheless.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A contrast in campaign styles

As we watched happen in the 2008 election, President Obama's opponents tend to depend on campaign methods that have failed. As the LA Times points out, Romney is continuing that tradition.

The spending data and interviews with campaign officials suggest that a Romney-Obama race would be a clash between distinct political philosophies, one that would test the power of an aerial bombardment through television ads against an in-person voter mobilization months in the making.

They also produced a chart showing where the 2 campaigns have spent their money so far.


Notice that the biggest expenditure for the Obama campaign ($20.3 million) has been on staffing (payroll) while Romney has only spent $5.3 million. On the other end of the spectrum, Romney has spent the most ($14.7 million) on media buys and production while Obama has only spent $4.3 million. That pretty much tells the story.

Romney's 2008 Iowa chairman let loose with a quote that suggests the kind of message the campaign will be relying on with all those media buys.

"For the Republicans, what's going to drive turnout is not going to be Mitt Romney — it's Barack Obama," Gross said.

They don't seem bothered by having an "etch-a-sketch" candidate because its not his message they are going to campaign on. In other words, they'll motivate their voters by tapping into "Obama derangement syndrome."

I say that because I think we need to be prepared. This is going to be one ugly campaign the Republicans are planning to wage. Those who've watched what Romney and his Super PACs have done via media buys against his primary opponents should know that all that fury will be coming against President Obama very soon. What we already know from Romney as well as people like Karl Rove is that, when it comes to attacks, lies are more useful to them than the truth. And they won't hesitate to use the former.

What we're also likely to see is the same approach from Obama that he used in let these folks hang themselves with their lies and distortions before coming in to knock it out of the park with his own brand of truth. So expect a repeat from the left about cries that the President needs to "punch back" and wails about how ineffective he is in political combat.

But we've been down that road before and should know better this time. He knows what he's doing and has been pretty damn effective at doing things his way.

Our job is to be that army on the ground he's depending on to combat the lies Republicans will tell via the airwaves. And to learn from his example that we can rise above it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Prepare yourself for the great American health care reform "debate"

I suspect that the political news this week will be consumed by the debate at the Supreme Court about health care reform. Its probably a good thing that we get it all out now - but frankly, I'm not looking forward to the spin that is sure to ensue. The reality is that the real news won't happen for months...the actual ruling from SCOTUS. And in the meantime, the pundits will have a heyday predicting the outcome and spinning those meaningless predictions ad infinitum.

So I've hesitated to read much in the lead-up because it will all be a test of mental gymnastics for awhile now and I simply am not up for the hysteria.

But this morning I decided to take a look at Ezra Klein's column and found a very helpful primer on what the issues are by Sarah Kliff. I hadn't seen it all broken down this succinctly before so I thought I'd share the whole thing with you.

Apparently there are 4 arguments in the case - each to be heard separately.

Anti-Injunction Act

What it is: The Court opens its oral arguments with a debate over whether it can even issue a ruling on the Affordable Care Act since its penalties for not carrying insurance have not come into effect yet. Under a law passed in 1867, the Anti-Injunction Act, a tax cannot be challenged until someone has actually had to pay it. Health reform’s penalties don’t start until 2015.

What they’ll argue: One weird quirk of this provision is that neither the defendants or plaintiffs think it applies: Both sides think the Court should be able to rule right now . So the court appointed an outside lawyer, Robert Long, to argue on their behalf. Long will likely look to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals for precedent. It ruled, in September, that the Anti-Injunction Act prevented it from issuing a ruling on the health law.

When it happens: Monday, March 26, 10-11:30 a.m.

Why it matters: The Anti-Injunction Act gives the Supreme Court an opportunity to put off its decision for at least three years, potentially diffusing the law slightly as a 2012 election year issue. This could be a mixed-bag for health care supporters: On the one hand, it gives the law three more years to be implemented. On the other, it would still make the law’s fate seem uncertain, and likely extend the national debate around the Affordable Care Act.

The individual mandate

What it is: The most-contested part of the health reform law, the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate requires nearly all Americans to carry health insurance. The legal question centers on whether such a regulation is permissible under the Commerce Clause, which allows the federal government to regulate interstate activity.

What they’ll argue: Health reform opponents contend that the decision not to do something — namely, not buy health insurance — is economic inactivity, rather than activity, and therefore not a behavior the federal government can regulate. Health reform supporters argue that the decision to not purchase health insurance has an economic effect. An individual without coverage, for example, may not have the money to pay for an emergency room visit, sticking hospitals or taxpayers with the bill.

When it happens: Tuesday, March 27, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Why it matters: With no penalty for not purchasing health insurance, but a requirement for insurers to accept anyone still standing, many expect the costs of insurance would skyrocket. Congress could, theoretically, replace the individual mandate with another policy that doesn’t run afoul of the activity-inactivity distinction but it is unlikely that congressional Republicans would permit such a fix, at least in the near term.


What it is: The question of whether the health reform law can stand without the individual mandate — in legal parlance, whether the individual mandate is “severable” — is a pretty crucial one. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on if it could strike down that part of the law, while letting the rest of it stand.

What they’ll argue: The Department of Justice says that if the court strikes down the mandate, it should also repeal the health reform law’s guaranteed issue provision, which requires insurers to accept all customers regardless of their health-care status. The argument there is that the mandate is so integral to making insurance work - by getting the healthy people to sign up - that, without it, insurance markets could no longer accept all applicants. Opponents of the law go even further. They contend that because of how the law was written - without a clause that specifically noted that individual provisions could be severable - that the whole thing should fall with the mandate.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals came to an opposition conclusion: It overturned the mandate, but allowed the rest of the law to stand, even the parts that the Justice Department says should have fallen.

When it happens: Wednesday, March 28, 10 - 11:30 a.m.

Why it matters: If the Court finds the individual mandate unconstitutional, then severability will become a key issue in determining how much of the law falls with it. It could decide that just the mandate falls, leaving the insurance industry with a pretty big challenge. Or it could rule that the mandated purchase of health insurance is so critical to the health reform law that if it goes down, it takes other key parts of the Affordable Care Act with it.

Medicaid Expansion

What it is: The health reform law expands Medicaid to cover everyone under 133 percent of the federal poverty line (about $14,000 for an individual) in 2014. Medicaid is run as a state-federal partnership and, right now, states are only required to cover specific demographics, groups like low-income, pregnant women and the blind or disabled.

What they’ll argue: The states contend that this provision is too onerous: They’ll be responsible for footing part of the Medicaid expansion’s bill, and say they can’t afford the costs. The federal government, for its part, has centered its argument on the fact that states voluntarily participate in Medicaid. If they don’t like the new expansion, they could pull out of the program.

When it happens: Wednesday, March 28, 1-2 p.m.

Why it matters: Since states’ participation in Medicaid is voluntary, Supreme Court watchers widely expect the justices to find this part of the law constitutional. There is worry though, that if they were to strike down this part of the law, it could set sweeping new precedent for how state-federal partnership programs function.

The first one today on "anti-injunction" was specifically requested by the Court. Some people have speculated that perhaps they asked for this argument to be made in order to enable them to delay a ruling on the law's constitutionality until 2015. That's an important thing to watch for.

The last one on Medicaid expansion seems like a no-brainer to me. If Medicaid was unconstitutional, that would have been decided by now. So the crux of the matter comes down to the individual mandate. And IF it is declared unconstitutional, does that invalidate the whole ACA.

So there you have it - a summary of what everyone will be talking about for the next 3 days. But unless you have the ability to do a Vulcan mind-meld with Justice Kennedy, don't expect much actual news. The real story will happen in late June when the Court announces its decision.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A question for you while I'm heading home

Vacation time has come to an end and I'm actually writing this on the airplane heading home. Its been an absolutely marvelous week and I am reminded once again just what a lucky human being I am!

As I was packing up this morning, I read this article by Reniqua Allen titled The first black president has made it harder to talk about race in America.

I think Ms. Allen has a point. Basically she's finding that white people want to be off the hook about racism now that we've elected a black president.

I have encountered many people who seem to believe, subconsciously or not, that Obama’s win is proof that America has reached the mountaintop. What more is there to say about race, they ask me, after this country so proudly and overwhelmingly elected a black president? They cite success stories as disparate as Oprah Winfrey, Jay-Z and former Time Warner chief Dick Parsons. But Oprah’s billions don’t counteract the dire poverty and unemployment rates in the black community.­

But as Ms. Allen points out, black success stories have been having this affect on white people since long before Barack Obama was elected president.

I suspect that this is more the issue for Ms. Allen:

Once Obama became president, I thought he might be able to somehow help us break through the status quo of awkwardness and silence on race.

I think this is a fairly common expectation from many on the left - the assumption that we were electing a movement leader rather than an executive head of government. I have to wonder just what she imagines President Obama doing to "break through the status quo of awkardness and silence on race." I happen to think Obama is smart enough to know that a president can't effectively do that. And if he tries, he won't be in office for long.

Ms. Allen seems to know that as well when she admits just how hard the conversations can be.

I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle with starting these conversations myself when I have personally seen so much progress from my grandparents’ generation to my own. But there is still so much to talk about.

How do I articulate that it’s harder for me to find jobs with a “ghetto sounding” name, when a man with a “funny sounding” name holds the highest office in the land?

How do I explain how it feels to have almost every accomplishment that I’ve ever achieved be attributed to affirmative action? Most recently, a white PhD student in my program told me that I would sail through graduate school and land a wonderful gig, despite the difficult job climate, because of the “black thing.”

Or how can I not think of redlining’s impact when I, with my good credit and sizable down payment, receive notification that I, too, had been a victim of a discriminatory lender when I bought my condo?

Yep, the conversations are hard and I suspect that someone giving a speech from the comfort of distance won't cut it. We're going to have to dig in to the awkwardness and silence ourselves and take it on person to person.

Those are some of my thoughts in response to Ms. Allen's very provacative article. My question for you is "how do you think the first black president has affected the conversation about race in this country?" I'd love to hear what you think!

Friday, March 23, 2012

What a little empathy for Republicans can get you :-)

One of the things that keeps liberals feeling defeated and disappointed is that they are often so wrapped up in their own struggles they fail to see the challenges faced by the opposition. There is a kind of empathy that they miss in not seeing the world through Republican eyes.

So lets take a moment to check out what the political world looks like right now for Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader McConnell. First...a bit of a trip down memory lane.

Last summer the Republicans decided to take the world economy hostage by refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless their demands for deficit reduction were met. In the end, a deal was reached, Speaker Boehner declared that he'd gotten 98% of what he wanted and WAY to many liberals bought into that line because it affirmed their defeat and disappointment.

But yesterday Speaker Boehner was singing a different tune.

Republicans in the House, Boehner confirmed, will advance legislation to replace automaatic cuts to the defense budget from taking effect on Jan. 1.

“We should never have had the sequester,” Boehner told reporters at his weekly press availability Thursday. “I always thought that the Super Committee had a real chance to do good work, to produce savings so that the sequester wouldn’t kick in... And hopefully in some time near in the future the Congress will really act to deal with our long term spending problem and our deficit problem."

As a reminder, the debt ceiling deal set up a Super Committee to identify ways to reduce the deficit. The committee failed to reach agreement because Republicans insisted on only cutting spending while Democrats insisted on a balance approach that would also include raising revenue. As a result, automatic cuts (called sequester) are set to kick in starting Jan. 1, 2013 that include huge reductions in defense. To avoide that, Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader McConnell will have to find a way to get legislation through both the House and Senate, then signed by President Obama, in order to restore the defense spending.

But that's not the only thing they'll have to get done in the next 9 months. The Bush tax cuts also expire on Jan. 1, 2013. So they'll have to pass legislation to extend them or all their 1% buddies will face a massive tax increase.

Some liberals who are wedded to their defeatism and disappointment see all of this as reason to crow about their supposed prescience in defining this deal as a "win" for Republicans. But you have to wonder if they've looked at this from Speaker Boehner or Minority Leader McConnell's point of view. Have they watched lately how incompetent Boehner has shown himself to be in getting his Republican caucus to do anything? Have they noticed that Democrats still hold a majority in the Senate that will surely require 60 votes to restore the defense spending and/or extend the tax cuts? Have they listened to President Obama threaten to veto any attempt to undo the sequestration minus a balanced approach (ie, spending reductions AND tax increases) to deficit reduction?

The days of Republicans merely obstructing Democrats are over. They are not only reneging on a deal they made to end a crisis they created in the first place. Their talk of deficit reduction as a primary cause is over when what they really want to pass are spending increases and tax cuts. And to accomplish all that - they'll need Democrats to work with them as well as sign-off by the President.

See what a little empathy for Republicans can get you? Poor babies have a total uphill climb over the next 9 months. And Democrats who can see that can also see the win this has been for our side all along.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The invisible man as President

Yesterday as I was reading what Leonard Pitts wrote about the killing of Trayvon Martin, I was struck by how his words on invisibility apply to President Obama.

That's one of the great frustrations of African American life, those times when you're standing right there, minding your own business, tending your house, coming home from the store, and other people are looking right at you, yet do not see you.

They see instead their own superstitions and suppositions, paranoia and guilt, night terrors and vulnerabilities. They see the perpetrator, the suspect, the mug shot, the dark and scary face that lurks at the open windows of their vivid imaginations. They see the unknown, the unassimilable, the other.

They see everything in the world but you.

It's not hard to see in that description to roots of birtherism, President Obama as Kenyan socialist, and the attempts by Republicans to paint him as some radical out to steal our freedoms. Whether or not those who perpetuate these lies actually believe them or not is beside the point. What matters is that they find a comfortable "home" in the minds of too many Americans who have been conditioned for generations to see some kind of threat in every black face.

But it's not just wingers who too often succumb to this kind of invisibility of the man we elected President. Paul Glastris summed it up well in one sentence.

In short, when judging Obama’s record so far, conservatives measure him against their fears, liberals against their hopes, and the rest of us against our pocketbooks.

To me, this is where racism mixes with our authoritarian tendencies about wanting a "daddy" figure to fix all these problems and single-handedly make the world right. Just as the winger's blindness about the actual man in the office can always be counted on to ignite fear, this one is bound to leave liberals in their comfort zone of defeatism and disappointment.

In thinking about all this, I realized why the production of the video "The Road We've Traveled" was such an important opening salvo for the Obama campaign. That's because it dealt with the reality of what the President faced as he took office and the very concrete things he's accomplished. In other words, for those who watched it, the invisible was made visible. It dealt with the man we actually elected President and what he has done.

The truth is - no one can be forced to see what they will not see. But lets be clear, it's the fears/hopes that blind us to what this President...this flesh and blood man...has actually accomplished.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The tangle and the weave

Here's another bit of wisdom from "The Healing" by Jonathan Odell.

Polly Shine is teaching her apprentice Granada the art of healing. She tells her that her mother's people in Africa were the finest weavers in the world.

"She told me the secret...what made them so fine, mother after daughter after grandaughter, all the way down the line."

"What was it Polly?"

"She say, the difference in weavers is, some see the tangle and others see the weave. The ones that can't take their eyes off the tangle, they never rise above it."

If there is anything resembling a legacy I'd like to strive for in blogging, it would be that I tried to see the weave.

The Invisible Boy

I have been waiting to read what Leonard Pitts had to say about Trayvon Martin. Not just because Pitts lives in Florida. But because he's one of those people that has a wisdom about these kinds of things that takes a hard look at reality and helps us see it for what it is. That, to me, is where justice will be found - not only for Trayvon and his family - but for all of us...if we'll listen.

So here's what Pitts has to say.

They do not see you.

For every African American it comes as surely as hard times, setbacks and tears, that moment when you realize somebody is looking right at you and not seeing you - as if you had become cellophane, as if you had become air, as if somehow, some way, you were right there and at the same time not.

Ralph Ellison described that phenomenon in a milestone novel that began as follows: "I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those that haunted Edgar Allen Poe. Nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasyms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bones, fiber and liquids - and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because you refuse to see me."...

That's one of the great frustrations of African American life, those times when you're standing right there, minding your own business, tending your house, coming home from the store, and other people are looking right at you, yet do not see you.

They see instead their own superstitions and suppositions, paranoia and guilt, night terrors and vulnerabilities. They see the perpetrator, the suspect, the mug shot, the dark and scary face that lurks at the open windows of their vivid imaginations. They see the unknown, the unassimilable, the other.

They see everything in the world but you.

And their blindness costs you. First and foremost it costs your sacred individuality. But it may cost you a job, an education, your freedom. If you are unlucky like Trayvon Martin, it may even cost your life.

He lay bloody and ruined in wet grass with nothing in his pockets but $22, a can of lemonade and a bag of Skittles, not a type, not a kind, but just himself, a kid who liked horses and sports, who struggled with chemistry, who went out for snacks and never came home.

Visible too late.

I pray for the day we all start seeing Trayvon before it's too late. That's the justice I'm looking for.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A "prick the skin" reminder

I haven't written yet about the killing of Trayvon Martin. The reason is that I can't seem to begin to think about it without crying. The senseless shooting of that beautiful young boy is overwhelming. But it goes beyond that. Remember the quote I used last night?

"I did my best to teach the master about slaves. Told him a hundred times when he was a boy that it wasn't a black skin that made a man a slave. It's the other skin, the one that grows on the outside, that second hide made of fear and obedience. What a good master does is every once in a while, prick that skin to remind folks that it's still there and always will be. I told him that if a slave was to molt that outside skin, you no longer have a slave. 'Mark my words," I said, 'when a man's not afraid, then he's hoping. And that's when all hell breaks loose.'"

The killing of that young boy is the "prick the skin" reminder to every African American boy - as well as his father/mother/brother/sister/aunt/uncle/grandmother/grandfather etc. - that the fear is very real. Whether that's what Zimmerman intended or not is beside the point...its the reality that has been reinforced once again.

What does it mean to raise an African American child in this country today? It means that once you get over the miriad of ways that the education, health and justice system are filled with inequities, you have to fear the idea of him getting shot while walking home from a trip to the convenience store. There's only so much a parent can do to try to protect their child. So as a white person I try to imagine what its like to be a mother under those circumstances. And that's when I know what a long road we have yet to travel when it comes to racism in this country. The particular bar I set is that we'll know we got there when a mother of an African American boy can sleep soundly at night and leave the fear for her child behind. Until then, I'll brook no talk about a "post-racial America."

Monday, March 19, 2012

"That's when all hell breaks loose"

I spent a good portion of the day today reading "The Healing" by Jonathan Odell. I haven't finished the book and will likely have much more to say about it when I do. But today I read a portion that struck me as a powerful statement about what we see going on today.

The setting is a Mississippi plantation. Silas, who has been the Master's right-hand slave since he was a boy, is troubled by the appearance on the plantation of Polly Shine...a healer who Silas suspects is subtly challenging the status quo.

"I did my best to teach the master about slaves. Told him a hundred times when he was a boy that it wasn't a black skin that made a man a slave. It's the other skin, the one that grows on the outside, that second hide made of fear and obedience. What a good master does is every once in a while, prick that skin to remind folks that it's still there and always will be. I told him that if a slave was to molt that outside skin, you no longer have a slave. 'Mark my words," I said, 'when a man's not afraid, then he's hoping. And that's when all hell breaks loose.'"

The Breitbart crew's latest "vetting" of an Obama administration "radical," AG Eric Holder

I'm still enjoying the Breitbart crew's so-called "vetting" of President Obama and his administration. Their latest entry: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The right has been after Holder from the beginning of this administration. That's why I created the tab up top to document the work of the DOJ under his leadership. We need to be armed with the facts.

But this latest attempt to smear AG Holder is as amusing as the rest of the revelations from this crew. They have video of then US Attorney Holder in 1995 (serving the District of Columbia) making a speech about his thoughts on how to curb gun violence amongst young people.

Holder was addressing the Woman's National Democratic Club. In his remarks, broadcast by CSPAN 2, he explained that he intended to use anti-smoking campaigns as his model to "change the hearts and minds of people in Washington, DC" about guns.

"What we need to do is change the way in which people think about guns, especially young people, and make it something that's not cool, that it's not acceptable, it's not hip to carry a gun anymore, in the way in which we changed our attitudes about cigarettes."

So he wasn't talking about a government intrusion into constitutional rights. He was talking about affecting the culture that makes it cool to carry and use guns on the streets of D.C. Of course this crew uses the scary word "brainwashing" to describe what Holder is suggesting. Its as if that were something bad. One is left with the idea that young black people in Washington D.C. killing each other is something these folks would rather not see impeded. I know that's harsh, but what else do we make of this kind of nonsense?

In the end I am once again encouraged to hear about the history of wisdom and commitment coming from people in the Obama administration. Our Attorney General has been fighting the good fight on these issues for decades.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sometimes its best not to say anything at all

Yes, I made it to my vacation destination. I wanted to show you the view from which I'm blogging but apparently I can't download pitctures from my ipad (I'll work on that later). Suffice it to say that, as I type, I'm overlooking the Pacific Ocean in all its graduer. YEAH!

But this morning I'm once again struck by a question I used to have as a child. I'd ask my mom what would happen one day if there was no news. She'd be dismissive and tell me that would never happen. I guess that now I know what she meant. People will ALWAYS find something to report on - even if there's no "there" there. That's what I thought when I read this article at TPM.

The author is trying to predict the future of the Obama campaign from the themes addressed in "The Road We've Traveled." And pulls a total fail. That's because the video was about the past we've all been through - not the future the President will campaign on.

There's a cool chart showing how many minutes the video spent on each issue it addressed. And one of the conclusions is accurate...the Obama campaign will spend a lot of time touting the success of the auto bailout. That's because it is one of the concrete things the President has accomplished where the results are obvious to all of us. In contrast, the author says the video addresses the benefits of ACA but leaves out the elements that have not been completed yet...duh. Its a video about the past.

The author also claims that gays and Latinos got short shrift. The film does talk about DADT, but doesn't mention marriage equality. And it doesn't talk about immigration reform. The conclusion is therefore implied that the campaign will not address these issues. At the risk of being repetitive...the video is about the past. Those things haven't happened yet.

All in all, the entire article looks to me like an attempt to fill up space. Gawd forbid we simply wait to see the outlines of the campaign as it unfolds and understand that a video titled "The Road We've Traveled" is simply a look at the past. Sometimes - when you have nothing to say - its best not to say anything at all.

Friday, March 16, 2012

"It's Raining Mitt"

Just in case you thought any gaff by Romney during the primaries would be be forgotten.

I hear President Obama looks pretty good in the rain :-)

IOKIYAW (It's OK if you are white)

I'm borrowing the acronym IOKIYAR (It's OK if you are Republican) to illustrate a great question posed by Steve M. He wants to know if you can name the person who said this:

... I hope to stand for a new harmony, a greater tolerance. We've come far, but I think we need a new harmony among the races in our country. And we're on a journey into a new century, and we've got to leave that tired old baggage of bigotry behind.

Some people who are enjoying our prosperity, are forgetting, have forgotten what it's for. But they diminish our triumph when they act as if wealth is an end in itself.

And there are those who have dropped their standards along the way, as if ethics were too heavy and slowed their rise to the top. There's graft in city hall, the greed on Wall Street; there's influence peddling in Washington, and the small corruptions of everyday ambition....

I wonder sometimes if we have forgotten who we are...

I want a kinder and gentler nation.

He contrasts that with the freakout ("he hates you") at The Gateway Pundit for this line from President Obama talking about racism back in 1990 that I mentioned yesterday.

“Hopefully, more and more people will begin to feel their story is somehow part of this larger story of how we're going to reshape America in a way that is less mean-spirited and more generous,” Obama said.

So OK, Bush is a Republican and Obama is a Democrat. But we all know that's not the real story of why the former can be praised for saying the exact same thing the later is vilified for...certainly not when the subject is race.

Thanks for the catch Steve M. It is perhaps the most clear-cut example of how race factors in to the reaction to President Obama.

"The Road We've Traveled"

If you know anyone who hasn't seen this video - please make sure that they do.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

If Republicans don't stop messing with women, somebody's gonna get mad

The upside to uncovering Obama's "radical" past

As most of you are aware, the late Breitbart's crew thinks there's some hay to be made by digging up minutia about President Obama's past. Their first effort revealed that he had been a panelist in Chicago at a play about the life of community organizer Saul Alinsky. And next they unveiled the video tape of the first African American President of the Harvard Law Review introducing Harvard Law Professor Derrick Bell.

For those of us who care about the effects of racism in this country, what they're doing is providing us with a collection of President Obama's long-term and deep commitment to these issues (you paying attention Tavis and Cornel?)

For example, the latest efforts are about President Obama's deep ties to fellow Harvard Law School grad Cassandra Butts. Oh my! We learn that she's actually committed to affirmative action and thinks race is a factor in the health disparities between blacks and whites in this country...and she's a close friend and advisor to the President. Apparently she helped in the selection of "wise Latina" Sonja Sotomayor for the Supreme Court and also worked with AG Holder on the case against voter ID's (short update here: Take all that in for a African American Harvard Law grad helping the first African American President pick the first Latina on the Supreme Court and providing support for the first African American Attorney General in fighting voter suppression. WOW. And you wonder why the haters are running scared?)

Here's how they end the article about her:

...despite the wishes that Obama would be a “post-racial” president, Butts told The Wall Street Journal just days after Obama’s election that he doesn’t consider himself “post-racial.”

“When people say that, they seem to suggest that we are beyond the issue of race, that issues of race don’t matter,” she said. “I don't think that is necessarily the case. I don't think Barack considers himself post-racial in that way. He will tell you he thinks race does matter.”

Having worked to remake the judicial branch in harmony with Bell’s theories, Butts is now at work remaking American development aid as Obama’s appointee to the Millennium Challenge Corporation, doling out millions in American taxpayer dollars.

She is both a symptom, and a cause, of the important role Critical Race Theory plays in the Obama administration's governance.

Contrary to what they're trying to accomplish, it warms my heart to hear things like this and know that profoundly wise people like Cassandra Butts are involved in the important work of this administration.

But the Breitbart crew are not the only ones digging up these gold mines. Over at The Gateway Pundit (sorry I'm not going to provide a link to that one), they've unearthed a 1990 article in the Daily Herald titled "Harvard student tackles racism at core."

“There’s certainly racism here. There are certain burdens that are placed, more emotionally at this point than concretely,” Obama said.

“Professors may treat black students differently, sometimes by being, sort of, more dismissive, sometimes by being more, sort of, careful because they think, you know, they think that somehow we can’t cope in the classroom,” he said.

Obama sees the inner cities as the front lines of racism.

“It’s critical at this stage for people who want to see genuine change to focus locally. And it is crucial that we figure out how to rebuild the core of leadership and institutions in these communities,” he said.

For five years before law school, Obama took on that task in Chicago. As the director of a program that tried to bring South Side churches, unions and block associations together on projects, Obama was not trying to solve local problems, he said. Instead he sought to construct something more lasting — a forum for the community, “I’m interested in organizations, not movements, because movements dissipate and organizations don’t,” Obama said.

America suffered when the movements of the 1960s dissipated, he said. Those movements succeeded in raising doubts about harmful traditions of sexism and racism, but failed to offer a viable alternative.

“Hopefully, more and more people will begin to feel their story is somehow part of this larger story of how we’re going to reshape America in a way that is less mean-spirited and more generous,” Obama said.

Fascinating stuff! The part about being interested in organizations rather than movements perhaps explains why he decided to enter politics.

Its interesting to me that its the haters digging this stuff up and spreading it around rather than people on the left exploring and extolling President Obama's roots. But I'll take it where I can get it. I hope they keep it up!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It's a good thing nobody's paying me for this

Since there's no paycheck involved in this blogging thing for me, I can do what I want when I want...which is cool. And to be real honest with you, my head isn't in the political game today.

Fair warning...I leave to go on vacation Saturday. All I can do lately is think about sipping margaritas while enjoying views like the one in the picture up above. That's where I'm headed for a week.

So tomorrow is my last day of work, Friday is prep day and Saturday is travel day.

I'll likely be blogging throughout. But I suspect it might be lighter fare from a different perspective. We'll see.

I'm going to a resort I've stayed at many times. I remember one year I was enjoying my peace and quiet out by the pool staring at the waves when some young people arrived. They had their boom box going and it pissed me off. And then this song came on. Every time I hear it now I'm transported in my mind back to that gorgeous place. In a couple of days, I'll be there in body as well as spirit!

What would conservatism be without the hate?

This morning I ran across an interesting editorial by a Republican woman in Iowa.

I am a proud evangelical Christian Republican and a native of Mississippi. I moved to Iowa and fell in love with the political process here during caucus season...

2011 was a big year for Republicans. We saw leaders emerge and saw candidates drop out. We saw job creation and education being seriously debated, and I felt that the concerns of the American people were heard — for the most part.

What I didn’t hear much of this year was support for marriage equality from the Republican front-runners. I support marriage for gay and lesbian couples and have been vocal about my support, even when it hasn’t always been the popular thing to do in my party.

I heard a lot of rhetoric about gay and lesbian Americans that didn’t fit with what I know to be true and what many Republicans believe. As an evangelical Christian Republican, I know many people who hold conservative values like equality and freedom, but those voices were lost this year. However, I believe in my heart that things are changing. If it weren’t for the loud voices of a few in our party, I do believe more Republicans would stand up in support of marriage equality.

I didn’t always feel that way and my journey toward full support has been a long and intensive one. One of the things that changed my mind on this issue was my children. I used to watch my kids and wonder why equality is a non-issue with them. They love and support their friends, regardless of their sexual orientation, race, gender or religion.

Then I realized that I was tired of watching adults judge each other while my children could embrace the differences in their friends. After all, that is what being a Christian is all about.

It made me realize that I'd like to hear more from Republicans like that. What was it she liked about what she heard on issues like job creation and education? And that led me to the question that is my title...what would conservatism be without the hate?

We all know that there have been some tectonic shifts in party alignment on many issues over the last 50 years. The first was the result of the Civil Rights movement and the embrace by the Republicans of a Southern strategy. But less commented on is the tempering of the Democratic message following the leftist heyday in the 60's and 70's. In many ways this co-opted much of the previous Republican Party platform. Democrats no longer believe that federal spending is the sole answer to EVERY problem and have, when given the opportunity, showed that we are actually the party that knows how to balance the budget. After a few years of promoting the idea of law enforcement as "pigs," we now believe in law and order as a primary responsibility of government when tempered with justice and oversight. And now, President Obama is demonstrating that a strong hand against our opponents in foreign policy can be coupled with the idea of partnerships rather than world domination.

In other words, what the Democratic Party has done is adopt a both/and response to traditional party divides and the Republicans have chosen to respond by:

1. Continuing the either/or message by moving to the right on issues,
2. Running against what Democrats used to be (ie, Obama as socialist) rather than what we are now, and
3. Ramping up the hate.

I suspect that without these strategies folks like me and the woman who wrote that editorial could actually have a meaningful conversation about things like job creation and education. I'm not suggesting we would necessarily always agree. But we could at least talk to each other. And I suspect that at times, we could even find some common ground.

I recognize that many people think its a pipe dream, but I also continue to believe that this is what then-Senator Barack Obama meant when he said this:

Our goal should be to stick to our guns on those core values that make this country great, show a spirit of flexibility and sustained attention that can achieve those goals, and try to create the sort of serious, adult, consensus around our problems that can admit Democrats, Republicans and Independents of good will. This is more than just a matter of "framing," although clarity of language, thought, and heart are required. It's a matter of actually having faith in the American people's ability to hear a real and authentic debate about the issues that matter.

P.S. I'd suggest that there is nothing the Republican establishment (and some Democrats) fear more than the possibility of that actually happening.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Way to bust a meme on GOP campaign cash

I just LOVE it when people challenge conventional wisdom! And that's exactly what Dan Eggen did in a recent article about GOP spending on the current presidential campaign.

Lost amid all the talk about millionaires influencing the 2012 election is a striking fact: The Republican primaries are shaping up as the cheapest and most financially depressed presidential nominating contests in years.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and the other Republicans vying to take on President Obama in November have raised and spent about half as much money as the GOP field did four years ago, campaign disclosure data show. The trend doesn’t stop there: Republicans in 2000 and Democrats in 2004 posted stronger financial numbers than this year’s crop of GOP challengers have.

Even adding this year’s spending by super PACs — a new kind of independent group that can raise millions of dollars at a time — the Republican contenders spent more cash in 2008 all on their own.

In all our howling about the undue influence of Super PACs, we've missed the story about why this is happening.

The totals also underscore a persistent enthusiasm problem that has dogged this year’s GOP presidential hopefuls, most of whom haven’t come close to raising as much money as the top candidates did in 2008.

And lest anyone accuse me of being insufficiently outraged about Super PACs, I agree 100% with Eggen on this.

Few expect the fundraising drought to last into the general-election campaign, which still appears likely to rank among the most expensive ever. Once the Republican nominee is chosen, most strategists predict, party donors will quickly rally around the candidate and produce a surge of money to go up against the Obama campaign. The surge will be augmented by money from super PACs and other outside groups, which will have an easier time raising money than they did in previous election cycles.

But lets face it...the Romney campaign has $ problems - the same ones Hillary Clinton faced when she ran against Obama in 2008. Big donors can't make up for the the shockingly small amount of Romney's fundraising that has come from small donors. Paul Waldman tells us why that's a problem.

It may be harder to find a hundred people who'll give $25 than that one donor who'll give the legal maximum of $2,500, but they give you something the fat cat doesn't: you can come back to them again and again and ask for more money, something the Obama campaign did very well in 2008. Once the fat cat maxes out to the campaign, he's done, and the only other way he can help is through super PACs.

And money raised by the Romney super PACs will be less influential than money raised by the campaigns. He will no doubt be able to find plenty of big donors who will give his super PAC a million bucks or so each. When a donor does that, the million bucks gets spent on TV ads and mailers, which is all well and good. But it doesn't support volunteers (no one is volunteering for a super PAC) who make phone calls and knock on doors, and multiple studies by political scientists in recent years have demonstrated that personal contact is far more persuasive than things like TV ads.

President Obama's most important advantage against Mitt Romney, his monied friends, and their Super PACs is us - and that means you. As Waldman puts it:

The message is that you are living in historic times, and history depends on you.

So let's get out there and make some history!


Obama administration tackling the school to prison pipeline

The problem was documented well by ABC News years ago:

Last summer, the Obama administration's Departments of Justice and Education came together to form the Supporting School Discipline Initiative.

A new undertaking from the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education targets school discipline policies that end up pushing children into the juvenile-justice system for crimes and rule-breaking on campus—and keeping them from pursuing their education.

Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan unveiled the Supportive School Discipline Initiative at a meeting of a Justice Department committee meeting Thursday afternoon.

"When our young people start getting locked up early... they start to move out of schools, out of the pipeline to success," Mr. Duncan said. He recalled how when he led Chicago public schools, he found that 7 percent of schools were responsible for more than half of the arrests of young people in the city. A small group of principals were calling the police too often to deal with minor disciplinary issues, he said, while schools with similar demographics handled the same behavior problems in other ways.

"People wanted to do the right thing. They just didn't know better," he said. "So many of these children need assistance. What they don't need is to be pushed out the door."

And now we learn that the Department of Education, which began to collect information on civil rights and education back in 1968 but stopped during the Bush administration, has started collecting data once again, including for the first time information about school referrals to law enforcement. This week they are releasing that data...and results are alarming.

In a more focused analysis of school systems with more than 50,000 students enrolled, the data showed that African American students represented 24 percent of enrollment but 35 percent of arrests. White students accounted for 31 percent of enrollment and 21 percent of arrests...

Additional data is equally troubling.

Although black students made up only 18 percent of those enrolled in the schools sampled, they accounted for 35 percent of those suspended once, 46 percent of those suspended more than once and 39 percent of all expulsions, according to the Civil Rights Data Collection’s 2009-10 statistics from 72,000 schools in 7,000 districts, serving about 85 percent of the nation’s students. The data covered students from kindergarten age through high school.

One in five black boys and more than one in 10 black girls received an out-of-school suspension. Over all, black students were three and a half times as likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers.

And in districts that reported expulsions under zero-tolerance policies, Hispanic and black students represent 45 percent of the student body, but 56 percent of those expelled under such policies...

While the disciplinary data was probably the most startling, the data showed a wide range of other racial and ethnic disparities. For while 55 percent of the high schools with low black and Hispanic enrollment offered calculus, only 29 percent of the high-minority high schools did so — and even in schools offering calculus, Hispanics made up 20 percent of the student body but only 10 percent of those enrolled in calculus.

And while black and Hispanic students made up 44 percent of the students in the survey, they were only 26 percent of the students in gifted and talented programs.

The data also showed that schools with a lot of black and Hispanic students were likely to have relatively inexperienced, and low-paid, teachers. On average, teachers in high-minority schools were paid $2,251 less per year than their colleagues elsewhere. In New York high schools, though, the discrepancy was more than $8,000, and in Philadelphia, more than $14,000.

Many of the nation’s largest districts had very different disciplinary rates for students of different races. In Los Angeles, for example, black students made up 9 percent of those enrolled, but 26 percent of those suspended; in Chicago, they made up 45 percent of the students, but 76 percent of the suspensions.

As the saying goes..."Houston, we have a problem." These statistics tell us why we are seeing other disparities - like the fact that over half of African American males don't graduate from high school on time and yet are significantly over-represented in our juvenile justice system.

In terms of responses, Thomas Sowell captures how too many in this country react. He thinks that paying attention to these statistics is "a hoax."

The latest example of this hoax is the joint crusade of the Department of Education and the Department of Justice against schools that discipline black males more often than other students. According to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, this disparity in punishment violates the "promise" of "equity."

Just who made this promise remains unclear, and why equity should mean equal outcomes despite differences in behavior is even more unclear. This crusade by Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is only the latest in a long line of fraudulent arguments based on statistics.

If black males get punished more often than Asian American females, does that mean that it is somebody else's fault? That it is impossible that black males are behaving differently from Asian American females? Nobody in his right mind believes that. But that is the unspoken premise, without which the punishment statistics prove nothing about "equity."

As Sowell goes on to describe his take on things, he uses words like "disruptive hoodlums" and "thugs" to describe the students who are being disciplined. It becomes pretty clear that he has no problem with tossing increasing numbers of African American children aside and feeding them to the prison industrial complex.

Of course, these issues have much deeper and more complex roots than simply the idea of individuals not behaving appropriately in the classroom. I know this because the organization I run places staff in middle schools to deal directly with these kids. In other words...we not only hold them accountable, we listen to their stories.

If we really want to tackle these issues - we've got a lot of work ahead of us. Like dealing with the fact that:

* Most of these students live with poverty, violence and trauma as every day occurrences
* Most of their teachers are white suburban women who frankly, are more scared of them than compassionate and who, as this data shows, are inexperienced and underpaid
* As this country went from imprisoning 300,000 people in 1972 to 2.3 million (mostly as a result of our failed war on drugs), we sent their fathers, uncles, brothers to jail and taught them this was their fate in life

That list could go on with increasing details. But the reality is that we have a choice to we continue to lay the blame for these failures on our children and simply throw them away when they fail? Or do we get busy and at least act like we care?

For me - this is the ultimate "long game" for the Obama administration. It's about throwing a lifeline out to the next generation.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tim Wise takes on the attacks against Prof. Derrick Bell

As you might expect, Tim Wise does an excellent job of taking on the Breitbart crew's recent attacks on Professor Derrick Bell. I highly recommend that you follow that link to read the whole article.

At one point he captures the bigger picture of an overall attempt to shut down any conversation about racism in this country.

To mention racism makes one racist. To speak of injustice in your own nation makes you un-American...

If the right wants to argue the points made by persons like Bell, Wright, most all folks of color or those of us in the white community who echo their concerns, so be it. They are free to do so. Decent people can disagree about the extent and force of racial discrimination in the modern era. But to suggest that it is by definition racist against white people to believe in the persistence of racism against persons of color is intellectually obscene. It is an argument intended to shut down debate, to cow people of color into remaining silent about their own lived experiences, to make whites into victims of black and brown reality — in other words, it is an attempt to invert the structure of oppression, by suggesting that whites are more victimized by the feelings of people of color than people of color are victimized by the actions of white people and the institutions within which we exercise so much disproportionate control. It is an attempt to make it, in effect, an inexcusable moral crime to merely engage in thinking while black.
(Emphasis mine)

Anyone who has attempted to call out racist words/actions has experienced this, no doubt. What you've likely heard in response is how incredibly offensive it is to call someone/thing racist. And now the right wing in this country has taken it one step call out racism is to be racist.

I continue (perhaps naively) to be an optimist when it comes to our ability to talk about race. But when I see this kind of thing happening, I can't help but think of Ta Nehisi-Coates' reaction to the whole Shirley Sherrod debacle.

Expecting an American conversation on race in this country, is like expecting financial advice from someone who prefers to not check their bank balance. It's not that the answers, themselves, are pre-ordained, its that we are more interested in answers than questions, in verdicts than evidence...

It's not so much that we don't know--it's that we aspire to not know. The ignorance of the African-American thread in the broader American quilt--the essential nature of that thread--is willful, and the greatest evidence that the spirit of white supremacy walks with us. There was a lot of self-congratulation around the justice done on Shirley Sherrod. It's premature. The thing will happen again. Race isn't a "distraction" from Obama's agenda--it's the compromised, unsure ground upon which this country walks everyday. It is the monster, and it will not be evaded writing Shirley Sherrod off to the machinations of the 24-hour news cycle.

Talk is overrated. There can be no talk with people who've conditioned themselves out of listening.

Now I'll do my Scarlett O'Hara imitation...I'll get back to my optimism tomorrow. Today I'm just sick and tired of our inability to listen.

"Their lack of newness"

I just read an interesting review by Steve Weinberg of the book The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right by Arthur Goldwag. Not having read the book myself, I can't comment on it in totality. But Weinberg presents some quotes that I find intriguing.

First of all Weinberg points out that most of the writing from the left about the populist right has been angry "screeds featuring the dangers and hypocrisy of the New Right," but that Goldwag takes a different approach.

Goldwag wants to understand the origins of the hostility in his new book. Here is perhaps his best explanation: “The New Hate is at once the expression of a quixotic desire to turn back the clock to a mythical golden age when women and minorities and gays and foreigners were less troublesome than they are today; when the government only gave and never took; and a cynical ploy to up the turnout of Republican voters. Most of the time it’s reflexive and vindictive to its core.”

That ploy has been going in since our country's founding - as Tim Wise so brilliantly covers in this speech (I know, its 9 1/2 minutes long. But if you haven't seen it before, please take the time to watch).

Weinberg ends his review of the book with this.

Goldwag comes to realize that what stands out most about contemporary paranoids and conspiracists is, ironically, their lack of newness: “The most depressing thing about the demagogues who tirelessly exploit it – in pamphlets and books and partisan newspapers two centuries ago; on websites, electronic social networks, and 24-hour cable news today – is how much alike they all turn out to be.” They cannot, will not, look inside themselves for the source of their perceived or real suffering. Finding conspiracies to blame is their default position.

Perhaps at least some of the haters are somewhat self-aware. As Goldwag concludes, “Though millions of Americans claim to believe that Obama is a Muslim and a foreigner, and some of them hate him because of the color of his skin, most of them know that the real issue isn’t what Obama is, but what they increasingly fear they’re not.” What they are not is part of the ruling class, despite the privilege they believe being born a white American should bestow.
(Emphasis mine)

Boy, does that ring true in my experience! The inability to look inside oneself as the source of both suffering and the potential for freedom from it is the crux of much that ails us. That is an age-old story that should provide us not only with an understanding of hate but a cautionary tale to guide us in overcoming it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

What a Wonderful World


The subtle racism of ascribing success to luck

For a couple of years now the chattering class has been characterizing President Obama as weak. What's interesting is that now that his political fortunes are improving, there seems to be a meme developing that he's lucky.

From Rolling Stone on the contraception controversy:

If this were a political mistake, Barack Obama seems impossibly lucky to have stumbled into it. Every repercussion is redounding to his favor.

Dana Milbank on the economy:

In politics, it’s better to be lucky than good, and Obama has come into an unexpectedly large quantity of luck. Five straight monthly drops in the unemployment rate have boosted consumer confidence and stock markets.

Gary Younge on his opponents:

Barack Obama has often been lucky with his enemies...

Now, as he heads for reelection, he must be saying a prayer every day in thanks for Mitt Romney...

The principal beneficiary would be Obama. The president should be fighting for his life. Instead, he's living on his luck.

So what they're saying is that the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review, the skinny black guy with the funny name who beat the Clinton machine, the first African American President of the United lucky.

It certainly couldn't be that he handled the whole contraception controversy masterfully. It couldn't be that his commitment to wake up every day fighting for jobs and an economic recovery is actually beginning to pay off. And it certainly couldn't be that stalwarts in the Republican Party decided to sit this presidential race out because Obama has managed to maneuver the Republicans into an ever more extremist corner without much of a chance in a national election.

Oh no, it couldn't be any of that.

I'm not saying that President Obama is perfect or that his actions alone have resulted in any of those successes. The world is much too complex for that. But its even more ridiculous to ascribe his successes to luck.

This President has had to traverse all kinds of racist minefields that are simply ignored by this kind of analysis. After we've taken that into account, how about recognizing that he took office when we were involved in two wars and suffering from the worst recession since the 1940's? Upon taking office, he faced the most partisan obstructionism we've seen in our lifetimes. And you want to ascribe his ability to maneuver all that and still be looking good for re-election to luck? Really?

Sorry chattering class. But your racism is showing.

You've seen the poll numbers, now hear their words

The New York Times talked to some of the moderate Republican and Independent women voters who are abandoning the Republican presidential candidates in droves.

“We all agreed that this seemed like a throwback to 40 years ago,” said Ms. Russell, 57, a retired teacher from Iowa City who describes herself as an evangelical Christian and “old school” Republican of the moderate mold.

Until the baby shower, just two weeks ago, she had favored Mitt Romney for president.

Not anymore. She said she might vote for President Obama now. “I didn’t realize I had a strong viewpoint on this until these conversations,” Ms. Russell said. As for the Republican presidential candidates, she added: “If they’re going to decide on women’s reproductive issues, I’m not going to vote for any of them. Women’s reproduction is our own business.”...

“Everybody is so busy telling us how we should act in the bedroom, they’re letting the country fall through the cracks,” said Fran Kelley, a retired public school worker in Seattle who voted for Senator John McCain over Mr. Obama in the 2008 election. Of the Republican candidates this year, she added, “They’re nothing but hatemongers trying to control everyone, saying, ‘Live as I live.’ ”

She continued, “If Republicans would stop all this ridiculous talk about contraception, I’d consider voting in November.”...

Last week Joyce Kimball, a retired secretary in Greenville, Ill., who voted for Mr. McCain in 2008, said she had recently become “fed up,” adding that it was not out of the question for her to vote for a Democrat in November. “I’m looking to hear how the candidates propose to put people back to work, not what they think about contraception,” she said. “I hope to God they stop talking about this.”...

Even more than Mr. Romney, Mr. Santorum has made himself a champion of the traditional family with two parents, arguing in speeches that single motherhood increases a child’s chances of poverty and related problems.

The stance particularly vexes Meredith Warren, a Republican strategist in Andover, Mass. “Well, guess what?” she said. “There are a lot of single moms out there. That’s reality. I don’t think he does himself any favors denigrating that situation.”...

“I’m looking for a candidate that will be honest, that will come out and say, ‘Yes, I support women, I want you advanced and not trampled upon,’ ” said Ms. Stevens, 63, who lives near Myrtle Beach, S.C. “I want answers desperately. I want candidates to tell me, ‘I’m not overturning Roe v. Wade.’ It’s there. Leave it there.”

Ms. Russell, who changed her political views at the baby shower, said she was impressed with how Mr. Obama handled his administration’s compromise over the much-debated birth control policy, saying, “I think he’s more of a women’s candidate.”

Mr. Romney’s reaction to Mr. Limbaugh’s statements about the Georgetown student cemented a negative view of him. “I expected him to have the guts to stand up and say what Rush did was wrong,” she said. “Wrong, wrong, wrong in every sense of the word wrong.”

As we hear the shrillness of the political chattering class ramp up, its important that we keep in mind that there are women all over this country - Democrat, Republican and Independent - who are not going to put up with this crap. The misogyny is sounding pretty loud right now. But come November - the women of this country will speak!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Strange bedfellows...the case for bipartisanship

If I were to pick one person on the political scene that I disagree with the most, Pat Robertson would certainly be a contender. And yet this week he re-affirmed something he's said in the past that I agree with.

“I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol,” Mr. Robertson said in an interview on Wednesday. “I’ve never used marijuana and I don’t intend to, but it’s just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded.”

On the other hand, if I were to pick the person on the political scene I most often agree with, President Obama would be tops on that list. And yet, on this one issue, I am more in agreement with Pat Robertson than I am with him.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs later clarified Mr. Obama's position: "The president opposes the legalization of marijuana…he does not think that's the right plan for America."

What does that tell us?

First of all, it points to the danger of single issue politics. I can't imagine anything much more disastrous than Pat Robertson in the White House. On the flip side, I can't imagine anyone better than President Obama right now.

But secondly, it also tells us that we never know where allies on single issues might come from. The truth is that as long as people like Senator McConnell remain committed to total obstruction all the time, there aren't likely to be any bipartisan successes when it comes to legislators. But as this one demonstrates, we never know when opportunities might arise elsewhere.

Greenwald does it too

I'm going to use Glenn Greenwald as an object lesson. The truth is, I don't care for his style much as has been demonstrated by some of my writing. But I'm going to pick on him today mostly because he thinks of himself as morally superior to those of us who support President Obama. And yet he engages is the very thing of which he accuses us.

To demonstrate, I found his last two posts at Salon to be breathtakingly hypocritical. In the first one he criticizes the authoritarian mind as evidenced by Davis Guggenheim's lack of criticism for President Obama.

Guggenheim explains that nothing critical can or should be said of our President other than the fact that he is so Great that his Greatness cannot be sufficiently conveyed in a single film; other than noting the obvious — how creepy his Leader worship is and how perfect of a guest-host he’d be for several MSNBC shows — all I can say is that this is the pure face of the Authoritarian Mind, but it is as common as it is repellent:

Of course Greenwald is exaggerating what Guggenheim actually said simply to make a point. But we find out in the very next column Greenwald writes just how repellent he thinks this kind of "creepy Leader worship" really is. Apparently not so much when it comes time for him to talk about his hero Dennis Kucinich.

In sum, Kucinich was one of the those rare people in Washington whose commitment to his beliefs outweighed both his loyalty to his Party and his desperation to cling to political office. He thus often highlighted the severe flaws, deceit and cowardice of his fellow Democrats and their Party as well as the broader political class.

I doubt that many of you are interested enough to read Greenwald's whole article devoted to the greatness of Kucinich. But it you care to give it a go - I challenge you to find one word in there reflecting anything negative about the Congressman.

So in the end, does Greenwald suffer from "the authoritarian mind" too? Perhaps. But I don't think that's what is at play here. He agrees with Kucinich and finds him under attack. The response is to defend. We all do it. That's mostly because when someone we agree with is under attack is NOT the moment to pile on.

Since Greenwald STILL fails to see the difference between Republicans and Democrats (all I can say is OMG!), he feels no need to defend someone like President Obama from the constant onslaught that has been unleashed against him. As those of us who do see it rise to defend the President, he feels free to label us as "authoritarian." But when the tables are turned, Greenwald does exactly the same thing.

I write this because Greenwald isn't the only one who has tossed out these charges against those of us who defend President Obama. I don't know about the rest of you - but I've certainly heard it many times from different people. What this example shows is the truth of the old saying about the principle at work here..."it depends on whose ox is being gored."

Friday, March 9, 2012

He's been a socialist all along!

I can't wait to see what the Breitbart crew does with this damning evidence of our President's complicity in radicalness!

I cried my last tears yesterday (reprised)

As we witness the hate exploding around us, I think it's important to remember that this is nothing new to this country. And it's certainly not new to an Obama campaign. What follows below is something I wrote about four years ago during a very similar situation. Re-reading it this week helped ground me. So I thought I'd share it again with you.

I must admit that this has been a hard week for me. As if the collapse of the global economy weren't enough, we've witnessed a presidential campaign successfully stir up the hatefulness that lies underneath the veneer of our so-called "color-blind" society.

I decided that it was time to take a tour of the diversosphere to see what they were saying about all of this. The condemnation of the McCain/Palin strategy was not that different from what I read in the rest of the progressive blogoshere. But I did find something that was amazing and just what I needed...a reservoir of strength and determination.

For most people of color, this election is about a struggle they've been fighting for generations. The fact that it engenders hatefulness is nothing new to them. They've been dealing with it their whole lives. And now, just when we are about to cross one of the most significant milestones in our nation's history, they are not about to be intimidated. To get an idea of what's at stake, just look at the picture that is at the top of the page on Jack and Jill Politics.

So I'd like to share a little of what I found with you. First of all, at RaceWire, there is a video of Donna Brazille during a panel discussion at the New Yorker Festival.

I’m gonna say it and get it off my chest, because for the next thirty days, I’m gonna be the best Catholic woman ever….As a child who grew up in the segregated Deep South, we’ve come so far in this country….But I remember when I used to get on the bus: my mother would tell me, “Donna, when you get on the bus, you and your brothers go all the way to the back, and don’t look at anybody.” We have changed. This is a more tolerant, open, progressive society. And yet, we’re having this conversation because [Obama] is biracial. He spent nine months in the womb of a white woman. He was raised…by his white grandparents…He got out of school and went to Harvard, and all of a sudden he’s “uppity” and there’s something wrong with him? What is wrong with us?…You can vote against him, but don’t ever put me in the back of the bus. I’m not going to the back of the bus! I’m not going to be afraid! My black skin does not make me inferior! And may I add: being a female does not make me dumb!

Carmen D. over at All About Race gives a shout-out to Richard Trumka, the Secretary Treasurer of AFL-CIO, and his courage to take a stand.

I say to all of my friends, of all skin colors, you must not tolerate racism in your space. If you want things to change, you must change. You must dig deep for the courage to say how you feel...Why should a racist comment be given more room to breathe and to grow than one that confronts it down? I know it can be scary, but there are others like you, like us, on the front lines here.

And your voice is needed.

Listen to Richard Trumka and know that you are not alone in the journey to creating a better America.

But I've saved the best for last. Al Giordano at The Field posted an email he received from a reader with the subject line: "I Cried My Last Tears Yesterday."

Dear Al,

The words in the subject line are from a gospel song by Mary Mary:

I feel that way. I write to you because I think you know how I feel, where I am coming from, and the struggle that we have all been on for so long.

If it matters, I am an African American single mother-This election means more to me than I can find the words to describe. I love this country despite all of our history.

And yesterday, I cried my last tears, after I watched the venomous, vile, and vitriolic display at the McCain-Palin rally unfold over the last few days. I was raised in a Southern Baptist church, and I was taught as a young child when things look bleak and you are backed up against a wall you just let go and let God. We as AAs have been subjected to the system and have the philosophy ingrained that we have to accept the things that we can not change.

Well here and now damn it--I have cried my last tears yesterday. I am going to fight!

These folks are standing up to say that they are not going to the back of the bus, they are not going to stay silent, and they are going to fight. I am humbled by their strength and motivated by their perseverance. So I'll join the fight...if not for ourselves, then at least for the children.

In this country, justice can be won against the greatest of odds; hope can find its way back to the darkest of corners; and when we are told that we cannot bring about the change that we seek, we answer with one voice - yes, we can.

- Barack Obama, Raleigh, North Carolina, May 6, 2008

When it comes to the presidential race, are polls all that matter?

A little more than five months from the 2024 presidential election,  conventional wisdom  suggests that  Biden is losing . But according to ...