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Showing posts from April, 2012


I had the pleasure of hearing Tina perform this song as part of her "Private Dancer" tour. After all the years of knowing every word and note, I felt like I heard it for the first time that night.

Why we don't need a CEO-in-Chief

We've already talked about how Mitt Romney is planning to abandon any effort to  challenge President Obama on the "likability" front.  Instead, he seems poised to make the case that he'd be a better  CEO-in-Chief. I've posted this video a couple of times before. But I think its very instructive about why that won't work. We should remind the American public that in 2010, we tried this experiment in several states with CEO-type approaches to governorships. When faced with opposition from legislatures and the public, what have governors like  Scott Walker, Chris Christie, and Rick Scott done?  They've done what most CEO's in that situation do - they've taken "executive action" to pull a power play. Here's a perfect description of how that came down with Gov. Scott in Florida. The heart of the problem was that Scott was deliberately turning down thousands of jobs in a state with high unemployment, and turning his back

Obama's second term agenda

OMG - the wingers are right. Last night President Obama finally revealed his secret agenda for a second term. ;-)

The trap of either/or thinking

When I wrote my previous post about  Obama campaigning on going after al Qaeda,  I hadn't read Peter Bergen's article from yesterday titled  Warrior in Chief . But he makes some of the same arguments I did. None of this should have surprised anyone who had paid close attention to what Mr. Obama said about the use of force during his presidential campaign. In an August 2007 speech on national security, he put the nation — and the world — on alert: “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will,” he said, referring to Pervez Musharraf, then president of Pakistan. He added, “I will not hesitate to use military force to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to America.” While Bergen seems to applaud President Obama's approach, he makes some of the same mistakes the liberal critics tend to employ by equating the President's approach to that of his predecessor George Bush. In the end though, he provi

President Obama campaigned on going after al Qaeda

I wonder how many of you have heard President Obama's critics on the left suggest that he has strayed from his campaign rhetoric in his actions against al Qaeda in places like Pakistan. The most recent experience I've had with that was watching a video of Glenn Greenwald and David Frum  in which they discussed their various theories about why the President would change his tune so dramatically once he got into the White House (if you're interested in watching that discussion, click on the bullet point below the video titled "Has Obama realized that Bush was right on national security?) Trouble is...he didn't change at all. And this video mash-up of things the President said during the debates with Sen. McCain demonstrates that all along he said that al Qaeda was the threat (not Iraq!) and that he would go after them in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In other words, he told us during the campaign exactly what he was going to do...and has done. The qu

Romney concedes on "likability" - will run on his "credentials"

From the  Wall Street Journal : Mitt Romney may be conceding — the likability battle, that is. Eric Fehrnstrom and Peter Flaherty, senior advisers to the Romney campaign, acknowledged in the starkest terms yet that instead of trying to win the likability race against President Barack Obama, they’ll focus on their candidate’s credentials. So lets take a look at what the Romney campaign will have to work with when it comes to credentials. In the arena of public service, Steve Benen  demonstrates that Romney has the least experience of any presidential candidate since the 1940's. (click  here for a larger view .) And using this metric, Romney has only four years under his belt. He served one term as the governor of Massachusetts -- and that's it. This makes Romney the least experienced major-party presidential nominee since Republican Wendell Wilkie lost to FDR in 1940. If Romney wins, he'll be the least experienced president since Woodrow Wilson, who won exactly

No commentary required (ok, well just a little) 4/28/12

Here are a couple of stories that caught my eye today. Tonight is the annual White House Correspondent's Dinner. While last year's was a highlight - with President Obama's taking on Trump mano-a-mano - the truly most memorable one for me featured the all-time greatest smack-down of a politician by a comedian... Steven Colbert roasting Bush. Last night Colbert was at it again at  Time's 100 Most Influential People Event.  This time he took on David Koch - eyeball to eyeball. Enjoy! Of course, all of us should be honored to be listed on the TIME 100 alongside the two men who will be slugging it out in the fall:  President Obama, and the man who would defeat him, David Koch. Give it up everybody. David Koch. Little known fact -- David, nice to see you again, sir. Little known fact, David's brother Charles Koch is actually even more influential.  Charles pledged $40 million to defeat President Obama, David only $20 million. That's kind of cheap, Dave.

Romney needs a game-changer

I know its early and that a lot can change between now and election day. But I can't help myself. As a political junkie, I can't seem to tear myself away from the polls and what they tell us about how this race is going. First of all, we need to constantly be reminded that this is NOT an election where the popular vote is the deciding factor. All those national polls are interesting and instructive in their own way. On that front, may I remind everyone that  Gallup  continues their daily tracking poll and as of yesterday its Obama 50% and Romney 43%. Since just two weeks ago they had Romney up by 2 and that was big news of a Romney surge, are we now hearing about a huge shift towards Obama in the election? Not so much. But the real news is in the electoral college. The best take on that I've found is actually at  Huffington Post  (I know what a mess that site is, but go take a look. This one is instructive.) They have President Obama at 269 electoral votes - one shy of

Thoughtful centrists send out a wake-up call to America and the press

There are those who pose as centrists observers to our political system - people like Tom Friedman and organizations like Americans Elect. And then there are the real thing - people like  Norm Ornstein  (with the American Enterprise Institute) and  Thomas Mann  (with the Brookings Institute). Yesterday, the later two wrote a column for the Washington Post  that sent out a wake-up call to the American people and the press.  Its true that nothing they've written is likely to be news to any readers here. The importance of this article is not what they're saying but who is finally saying it. Take a look. We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party. The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in Americ

Republicans can't handle the Obama advantage

We've already established that President Obama has a HUGE advantage over Mitt Romney. Just as a reminder, here it is in graph form. And this week, the President reminded everybody just how "cool" he is too :-) ( Go ahead and watch it KNOW you want to .) But Rove and Co. need to do something about that, now don't they? What's a Super PAC to do with all those millions against something like that?'s what. Hey Karl - thanks for the memories. But 4 years ago it was YOUR GUY who was busy making a mess of things. Peggy Noonan gets in on the act too. What was the WSJ doing when they gave her most recent column this title:  A Bush League President ? Note to WSJ Editorial Page: reminding people of our most recent Bush League presidency is probably NOT a way to discredit Obama. But all that aside, I found it fascinating how she tried to tackle this issue of Obama's advantage. ...this president is always out there, talking. Bu

Senator Franken honors Sheila Wellstone

Yep...that's my Senator. And I couldn't be more proud of you than I am today! I believe that Senator Franken gets up every day vowing to do whatever he can to honor the legacy of his good friends Paul and Sheila Wellstone. That's probably not a bad way to live your life. Sometimes I think that I still have faith in the possibility of honest politicians because I once had the honor of being represented by the Wellstones. Sheila - with all the support Paul could provide - worked tirelessly on behalf of women who are the victims of domestic violence. I have to believe that while she'd be celebrating todays Senate reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, she'd also be a bit furious that it was even controversial. So I join you today Senator Franken in remembering the legacy of this great American couple.  I also join you in getting a little teary when I think about how very much we miss them.

Can we talk?

Julian Sanchez calls it  epistemic closure . One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they’re liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!)  Unfortunately he only focused on this phenomenon as it affected contemporary conservatives. But I'm here to tell you that it is also affecting liberals. Perhaps not to the same extent, but its definitely an issue. Sometimes its a function of geography. If you live in a liberal urban area like I do, you experience politics very differently than someone living in suburban Dallas (those are simply two places I&#

A thought experiment for the tea baggers

OK, so no one has every accused the tea baggers of thought. But still...lets take a little trip on their logic train - shall we? We all know that when it comes to the tea bagger crowd -  birtherism just won't die.  What they suggest is that President Obama's short-form (and for some, his long-form) birth certificate is a forgery. We also know that the federal government accepted it as proof of his place of birth when he applied for a passport and that either the passport or his birth certificate were enough to get a driver's license. So if Barack Hussein Obama can get a passport and a driver's license based on a forged birth certificate, who's to say anyone can't do it? And if we can get a fake picture ID, why would anyone have any confidence in them as proof of status for voting? This is REALLY something someone should look into, don't you think? < snark off >

Romney for "fairness"...really?

We all know that for months now, President Obama has been talking about "fairness." Here's  what he said in his  State of the Union speech. "We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules," he told a joint session of Congress gathered in the chambers of the House of Representatives. "What's at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. We have to reclaim them." So I find it fascinating that last night in his big speech on basically winning the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney  made a stab at trying to co-opt the theme. Romney outlined an agenda aimed at combating what he called “unfairness” in government, spinning a phrase often employed by Democrats as they make the case that wealthier Americ

Is this the face of a criminal?

That's a picture of 6 year old kindergartner Salecia Johnson  who was arrested and handcuffed recently at her elementary school. Salecia Johnson cannot sleep at night. According to her mother, Constance Ruff, the 6-year-old wakes up repeatedly through the night screaming, "They're coming to get me!" Last week the kindergartner was handcuffed and arrested by police at Creekside Elementary School in Milledgeville, Ga., and taken to the police station for having a temper tantrum after school officials called the authorities. She is traumatized. Seriously...this has GOT TO STOP! Salecia... has had an early ride on what we call the schoolhouse-to-jailhouse track. They, like millions of other children in this country, are victims of the school-to-prison pipeline -- a system of zero-tolerance policies in schools across the nation that takes an unyielding approach to student discipline and in which children of color are punished more often and more severely for mino

Hispanics front and center in 2012 election

As Mitt Romney begins his  etch-a-sketch  moves on immigration issues, President Obama launches Latinos for Obama  and the Supreme Court hears the challenge to Arizona's racist immigration law, there's no doubt that - at least for now - the Hispanic vote is front and center in this year's election. But there are a couple of stories that aren't hitting the headlines. For example, a recent poll by the Morrison Institute  found Arizona to be basically a tie between Obama and Romney. According to the poll of 488 registered voters, 42 percent said they would vote for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, while 40 percent said they would support President Barack Obama and 18 percent were undecided. Because the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent, if the election were held today the contest for Arizona’s 11 electoral votes would be a “toss up.” The poll found that the electorate is divided along party lines: 80 percent of Republicans said they wo

About that Gallup poll...

Remember just a week ago when the big news was that Gallup's new tracking poll had  Romney leading Obama 47-45? Now - a mere 7 days later you'll never guess what happened. In that same Gallup tracking poll,  Obama leads Romney 47-44. The truth is that a 2-3% lead in most polls is within their margin of error. And as we've already seen,  Gallup has some questions to answer about their sampling. The problem is with the news media making a big story out of nothing.

This one means a me

President Obama hugs Ellie Wiesel during ceremonies at the Holocaust Museum I was first introduced to the writings of Ellie Wiesel while I was in seminary. At the time, I was in the middle of questioning almost everything I had come to believe. In his book  Night , which is based on Wiesel's own experiences in a Nazi concentration camp as a young man, one of his characters tries to console another during a particularly gruesome episode. Reacting, the one questions the existence of God and how he can let this evil happen. The other responds by telling him that God isn't causing this - he is experiencing it. That hit the root of where so much of my confusion was buried. Now I'm one of those people that thinks we create our gods in our own image. Is it any wonder then, that we create gods that lust for power more than love and empathy? That's what this man opened my eyes to a very long time ago. I hope I'm a better person for it. Thank you Ellie Wiesel. And

Is a Grand Bargain still possible?

If you remember during the debt ceiling negotiations last summer, President Obama was pushing for a "Grand Bargain" on our federal deficit that would include Republican demands to cut spending and Democratic demands to increase taxes on the wealthy. When negotiations on that failed, the deal struck included a Super Committee in Congress to give in another try - which also failed.  The fallback from the original deal means that as of January 1, 2013, spending cuts kick in (with HUGE reductions in military spending) and the Bush tax cuts expire. So is a Grand Bargain still possible?  John Harwood  thinks so. ...beneath the campaign noise, some elected officials and policy experts see improving odds for 2012 to end up yielding much more, including progress toward a deal on tax and budget issues that have confounded Washington’s divided government. Some say the campaign dialogue could even bring a deal closer. The optimists include leading stakeholders in Washington’s oft-

Ha! John Yoo agrees with Glenn Greenwald

If you've ever questioned my suggestion that the left/right political spectrum in this country is not linear, but that the two ends of the extremes eventually meet - then do I have a story for you! The headlined article on The Daily Caller (wingnuts extraordinaire) this morning is titled  Former Justice Official: Obama worse than Bush on civil liberties . Of course the "former justice official" is none other than torture-memo-writing John Yoo. The Obama administration’s use of executive power has gone further than the Bush administration’s toward diminishing Americans’ civil liberties, author John Yoo told The Daily Caller... Yoo said the anti-war movement has not criticized President Barack Obama, despite his administration’s formalization of a process for “targeted killing[s]” of American citizens without trial. “You don’t see the same critics who so thrashed President Bush, for allegedly thinking he was a king, making the same arguments and engaging in the sam

Claire de Lune

I'm not sure why thinking about Earth Day reminded me of a song about the moon. But there you have it. For a long time now I've thought that this is perhaps as close to perfection as music gets. When I close my eyes and just listen, I fall immediately into that place inside myself that feels like home. Usually the tears start to come as I recognize how long I've been away and how good it feels to come back. So on this Earth Day, I invite you to take a trip back home with me.

Obama vs Romney on Energy Policy

The folks at  Think Progress  have put together a handy chart comparing Obama and Romney on energy policy. You can find their sources at the link above. Of course this doesn't touch on what I believe is President Obama's most important contribution to renewable energy - the fact that  DoD is going green.  But its still a handy tool for demonstrating the choice we face on this issue.

Who's feeding political polarization and why: Steve Pearlstein joins the wankers

You might suggest that  Steven Pearlstein  should stick to economics and business reporting. And you'd have a point. People have often said the same thing about Paul Krugman when he wanks about politics instead of sticking to economics. To demonstrate, I'm going to have a go at Pearlstein's latest article at WaPo - its so full of fail that I can't help myself. Its abundantly clear that he drank the D.C. village kool-aid when he starts off his column by laying out the false equivalency premise as his starting point. To say politics has become polarized is another way of saying that the politicians we nominate and elect have moved away from the ideological center, that the Democratic Party has become more liberal and the Republicans more conservative, with little or no overlap. Liberal Republicans are all but extinct, and conservative Democrats aren’t far behind. Genuine bipartisan compromise has gone from standard practice to quaint anomaly. This one has been do

The blind men and the elephant

In a perfect example of how two people can look at the same information and draw opposite conclusions, take a look at two headlines from the biggest newspapers in the country on President Obama's fundraising to date for the 2012 election: First, from the New York Times:  Obama Sees Steep Dropoff in Cash From Major Donors . From Wall Street to Hollywood, from doctors and lawyers, the traditional big sources of campaign cash are not delivering for the Obama campaign as they did four years ago. The falloff has left his fund-raising totals running behind where they were at the same point in 2008 — though well ahead of Mr. Romney’s — and has induced growing concern among aides and supporters as they confront the prospect that Republicans and their super PAC allies will hold a substantial advantage this fall. Now, for the Washington Post:  Big money in a big way for Obama's reelection campaign . President Obama’s reelection campaign has been rapidly increasing the number of

The quickening art

This is an excerpt from a documentary titled  Alive Inside . NEVER underestimate the power of music!

Driving the Republicans Crazy

I'm going to recommend that you head over to Daily Kos and read Vyan's diary titled  What is Driving Repubs Crazy?  I think you'll find a lot of themes there that I've been talking about for awhile. And he's put it all together beautifully. This isn't about policy, which is why they [Republicans] don't put forward policies that might actually gain popular support or be GOOD FOR PEOPLE which would keep them in office on the basis of  merit , it's about maintaining power  by force and coercion . They're out to take as much ground as possible right now... because they know soon - they're going to lose it.  All of it. They're afraid that if Democrats - who have the audacity to believe that Government is actually  good for something  manage to be successful - then people will want more of that success.  The kind of success that Bill Clinton had with the economy and the budget.  If people get more of that, if we actually have a efficient and e

Obama continues to reform campaign finance

It is my contention that, absent meaningful campaign finance laws, President Obama has been reforming our system simply by the way he's raising money for his own campaign. To demonstrate that, I'm likely to write about this topic regularly as the 2012 race rolls out. The web site Open Secrets  has now updated their information as a result of incorporating FEC filings from the candidates through the end of March. So lets look at the Obama/Romney race from several perspectives. Amount Raised The total amounts raised so far for each campaign are as follows: Obama: $191, 671,860 Romney: $86,631,381 Obviously President Obama has the advantage here with having raised over twice the amount Romney has. But in the post-Citizens United world, that can be deceiving because it leaves out the fact that Romney-supporting Super PACs have dwarfed Obama's in the amount of cash they're bringing in. We can be sure that they'll more than make up for the difference. What th

The most telling poll question of all

This week's  CNN poll  contained the most telling information about this presidential election that I've seen. They asked Obama supporters whether their vote was more FOR Obama or AGAINST Romney: For Obama 76% Against Romney 23% Then they asked Romney supporters whether their vote was more FOR Romney or AGAINST Obama. For Romney 35% Against Obama 63% There's an awful lot you can do with those results. For one thing, it could explain the problem Republicans are having with an  enthusiasm gap.  For another, it tells us why the Romney campaign will be more focused on making this a referendum against Obama rather than presenting a competing vision for the country. But the most interesting thing I see in those poll results is a pretty clear definition of the size of each party's extremist wing. In other words, the 23% who will be voting against Romney are likely those who have spent the last 3+ years complaining about President Obama but are at least aware that

"He's a nice guy, but..."

We've already established that  President Obama  has an advantage over Mitt Romney when it comes to personal characteristics such as being likable, trustworthy, and in touch with middle class issues. We've also seen how  Karl Rove,  who tends to go after his opponents strong points, will try to paint Obama as partisan, petty, and untrustworthy. But some folks are noticing what Mitt Romney is doing with this challenge. Conservative WSJ columnist  James Taranto  suggests he's embraced a "he's a nice guy, but..." strategy. Monday night Romney was crisscrossing Ohio, when he spoke about the President and opened up a can of . . . friendliness: "This is a failed presidency," Romney was quoted as saying. "He's a nice guy, but he's in over his head." Though we'll never know if Romney actually believes any part of that unsult, we do know that "Nice guy" has become the candidate's favorite setup when taking a dig at his

Another crack in the (Republican) wall

Poor Republicans. These days their party seems to be coming apart at the seams. And today we saw another crack in the wall. Last night I wrote about how Obama ain't playin' when it comes to expecting Republicans to honor the terms of the debt ceiling deal. He promised to veto appropriations bills that didn't adhere to what they agreed to for next year's budget - which would shut down the government in September. Knowing that the House has already approved Rep. Paul Ryan's budget - which basically trashed what everyone had agreed to last summer in the debt ceiling deal - its time now to hear from Senate Minority Leader McConnell. At a Thursday hearing to set federal funding levels for next year, 11 of 13 GOP appropriators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, voted to support capping annual spending at the level the parties agreed to during last summer’s fight over raising the debt limit. House Republicans, by contrast, were forced by their conservative