Saturday, June 30, 2012

Revelation Must Be Terrible

Over the last few days I've been reminded of the journey I've taken in my life. I've been reminded of how utterly miserable I was - even though on the outside, hardly anyone could tell. I was living a lie and there was something deep inside of me that knew that. But I tried with every ounce of my being to be who it was I thought I was supposed to be.

Ultimately I couldn't silence the questions that kept surfacing...telling me that something was wrong. And so I had a moment of terrifying revelation. Here is how poet David Whyte describes it.
Revelation must be
terrible with no time left
to say goodbye.

Imagine that moment
staring at the still waters
with only the brief tremor

of your body to say
you are leaving everything
and everyone you know behind.

Being far from home is hard, but you know,
at least we are exiled together.
When you open your eyes to the world

you are on your own for
the first time. No one is
even interested in saving you now
 It was the realization that I was on my own that was so terrifying. I had been taught that I was weak, evil, sinful and that my only salvation was to do as I was told. Stepping out of that was perhaps the hardest thing I've ever done.

But here's the rest of the poem.
and the world steps in
to test the calm fluidity of your body
from moment to moment

as if it believed you could join
its vibrant dance
of fire and calmness and final stillness.

As if you were meant to be exactly
where you are, as if
like the dark branch of a desert river

you could flow on without a speck
of guilt and everything
everywhere would still be just as it should be.

As if your place in the world mattered
and the world could
neither speak nor hear the fullness of

its own bitter and beautiful cry
without the deep well
of your body resonating in the echo.

Knowing that it takes only
that one, terrible
word to make the circle complete,

revelation must be terrible
knowing you can
never hide your voice again.

Connect the dots...make your choice

Mitt Romney...

Or Barack Obama?

And one of the things I've done here, in addition to saying thank you to these firefighters, is to let them know that all of America has their back. One of the things that happens, whether it's a fire here in Colorado, or a tornado in Alabama or Missouri, or a flood or a hurricane in Florida, one of the things that happens here in America is when we see our fellow citizens in trouble and having difficulty, we come together as one American family, as one community...

...this is a good reminder of what makes us Americans. We don't just look out for ourselves; we look out for each other. And one of the things that I told these firefighters is that we can provide them all the resources they need, but only they provide the courage and the discipline to be able to actually fight these fires. And it's important that we appreciate what they do not just when our own communities are struck by disaster. It's important that we remember what they do each and every single day, and that we continue to provide support to our first responders, our emergency management folks, our firefighters, our military -- everybody who helps secure our liberty and our security each and every day.
The choice couldn't be more clear. It all comes down to whether we "just look out for ourselves" or "look out for each other." I would hope to gawd that we can figure that one out before its our town that is going up in flames.

I know that I'm very proud to be sticking with this guy.

Romney campaign embraces Breitbart/Drudge

In my last post, I talked about how President Obama's long game is about giving the Republicans the option of either working with him on solving the challenges we face as a country or careening off an extremist cliff.

If the folks at Breitbart are to be believed (I know, that might be a stretch), Romney has made his choice. They claim to have had an exclusive interview with Zac Moffat and Leonard Alcivar - members of Romney's PR team. Here are some of the things Moffat and Alcivar are reported to have said.
Drudge is the single most powerful force in the media today,...

I have two windows constantly up on my screen all day long, Twitter and the Drudge Report.

The rise of Breitbart, Drudge and others, combined with an aggressive Romney campaign is a powerful tool in the arsenal of the conservative movement.
Anyone who has been sentient for the last 5-10 years knows that Breitbart's crew and Drudge are the biggest liars and smear merchants in politics today. But if you need a reminder, there is Drudge's recent attempt to discredit Chief Justice Robert's ruling on health care reform by linking it to medication he might (or might not) be taking for seizures.

For the Romney campaign to embrace these people speaks MUCH more loudly than any attempt he might make to etch-a-sketch his way towards sanity.

Frum on Roberts v Scalia

The other day I speculated about how the SCOTUS ruling on health care reform may have vindicated President Obama's strategy as much as his policy.

Yesterday, David Frum posted a rather lengthy comment from a reader who clerked on an appellate court saying basically the same thing.

For some background, one of the main things the Court had to decide, if they were to find the mandate unconstitutional, was whether or not it could be "severed" from the rest of the law.

What we know from the 4 dissenters on this ruling (Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy and Alito) is that they were not willing to consider severability. They simply wanted the entire bill tossed out.

Frum's reader suggests that was a bridge too far for Roberts.
The following is speculation, but plausible, and would be an interesting parallel to the conservative legislative strategy. Any objective legal observer would tell you (and I'm trying to be one here) that the dissent's treatment of the severability issue is detached from 200 years of constitutional law. It's unsupported legally and it's a mess logically... In any event, rather than holding the mandate [un]constitutional and those portions of the bill inextricably linked with it (guaranteed issue/community rating), four members of the Court were primed to throw the whole bill out. That level of judicial activism, in a context like this one, would be nearly unprecedented.

I imagine the dissenters either had Roberts's vote or that Roberts left the post argument conference without commiting to a side and saying something to the effect of "let me see how it writes."... And he waited to see what was written.

What was written was not measured judicial analysis, but rather an opinion that started with a goal --- throw the bill out --- and then figured out how to get there, blowing by any precedent in its path...

That dissent intended to get his vote. It might have had it only struck a portion of the law. But Roberts correctly realized that he couldn't jump off that cliff without precedent or logic supporting him. Kennedy, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas went all in. And they lost their bet. Just like the conservatives in Congress.
In other words, the 4 dissenters took the same "total obstruction" strategy that we've seen from Republicans in Congress over and over.

Its no surprise that a conservative like Frum would recognize this as a failed strategy by the conservatives on the Court. It is exactly the same argument he made following passage of the health care bill that got him ejected from the Republican establishment.
A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision:...No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994...

This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none...

We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.
So if Frum's reader is right (and I suspect s/he is), Chief Justice Roberts just joined the few people on the right who have rejected the idea of total obstruction all the time, while justices like Scalia run ever faster off an extremist cliff.

Asking Republicans to make that choice is part of the long game President Obama is engaging. Score a win for him on this one!

Friday, June 29, 2012

No commentary required 6/29/12

Now that I've at least partially recovered from my obsession about the SCOTUS health care ruling, here are a couple of other stories that caught my eye.

I don't know why Peggy Noonan bugs me so much. Write it off to my own particular brand of neurosis. But I do love me a good Noonan smack-down. And Paul Waldman delivers.
When he began his still-brilliant show a few years ago, Stephen Colbert said, "Anyone can read the news to you. I promise to feel the news at you." And there's nobody who feels the news quite like Peggy Noonan, America's most unintentionally hilarious columnist. Pretty much every time she writes a column or goes on television, Noonan can be counted on to tell us about a feeling out there in the land. It's seldom a powerful feeling; instead, it's more often a stirring, an inchoate emotion still in the process of crystallizing. It might be a yearning, or an unease, or a doubt or a fear, but it lingers just out of our perception until Peggy Noonan comes along and perceives it for us.

On a couple of occasions, I have quoted this article by James Fallows about the basis of our democracy being not just rules - but norms. His fellow-writer at The Atlantic -  Ta-Nehisi Coates - has also written a response here and here. A short summary would not do Mr. Coates' thoughts justice. But to give you an idea of what he's exploring, here's a quote from the first link.
...I wonder at the strength and nature of our democratic norms. Was there ever a time where our representatives seriously placed loyalty to democracy over partisan interests? And granting that there was, what was that compromise, that sacrifice, premised on? What undergirded our democratic virtue? Was it the promise that, in a country explicitly understood as constructed for the white man, the majority could never sink as low as the cursed minority? If we grant that the past few decades have been a particularly trying time for our democracy, is it mere coincidence that this happens just as African-American power begins to morph into reality?
The Supreme Court ruling was not the only good news for President Obama this week. Although you wouldn't know if from the media, his polling numbers have seen significant improvement this week. Even Gallup's daily tracking poll today is at Obama 48 Romney 43 (Obama +5). And Nate Silver's model projects Obama's chance of winning at 67.8% - the highest its been so far. At this point on the electoral map, Silver has 303 electoral votes at 60% or better for Obama. And Florida, which had been trending towards Romney, is now a 50/50 tie.

If I was to have written a separate article on this story, I would have simply titled it "Duh."
The Justice Department declared Friday that Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to withhold information about a bungled gun-tracking operation from Congress does not constitute a crime and he won’t be prosecuted for contempt of Congress...

In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, the department said that it will not bring the congressional contempt citation against Holder to a federal grand jury and that it will take no other action to prosecute the attorney general.
So Rep. Issa and his friends had their little day in the sun (overshadowed, or course, by the SCOTUS ruling) and now the grown-ups are saying "enough!" Good for them.

Finally here are my two photos of the week...because I'm a sucka for adorable kids and dogs.

If SCOTUS says something is constitutional, is it constitutional?

Many on the left are making hay with Sen. Rand Paul's comments yesterday about the Supreme Court's ruling on health care reform.
The Supreme Court wrongly concluded that Obamacare can stand. But just because a majority of the Supreme Court declares something to be “constitutional” does not make it so.
Before we go too far with that, I'd suggest that it's important to think about how his statements differ from those we've heard from the left about Citizens United or Bush v Gore. Or how about going back in history and asking whether - in 1896 - it would have been correct to say that Plessy v. Ferguson was constitutional.

The truth of the matter is that when the Supreme Court says something is constitutional, in all practicality, it is constitutional. In other words, it becomes applicable law...end of story unless and until they change their minds.

That creates a tension because - since the Supreme Court is still made up of 9 imperfect human beings - they sometimes make the wrong call.

I think this tension is created because we tend to want to venerate what is constitutional to some rarified state of infallibility. I liken it to how some Catholics see dispensations from the Pope and how many Protestants view the Bible. As human beings we long for some set of rules that we can point to and say they are definitive.

But we're fooling ourselves when we go there. It doesn't take much reflection to see that even the Constitution itself was deeply flawed from the get-go. It is NOT the stuff of "divine inspiration." And to assume that either the document itself or its interpretations by the Supreme Court carries that kind of weight is a fools errand.

What we have in a democratic republic is instead - as James Fallows wrote - a set of norms with which we the people comply.
Liberal democracies like ours depend on rules but also on norms -- on the assumption that you'll go so far, but no further, to advance your political ends. The norms imply some loyalty to the system as a whole that outweighs your immediate partisan interest. Not red states, nor blue states, but the United States of America. It was out of loyalty to the system that Al Gore stepped aside after Bush v. Gore. Norms have given the Supreme Court its unquestioned legitimacy.
The risk - and potential danger - of questioning the constitutionality of what the Supreme Court declares is constitutional is that it undermines those norms. There might be a time and place for that. But we'd better be VERY aware of the consequences.

Let's be clear about ACA and taxes

It's clear that the Republicans are going to try to cash in on Chief Justice Robert's ruling that the mandate is constitutional because of Congress' taxing authority. The big line they're using is "See...we told you President Obama would raise your taxes!"

To those of us who know about what is in the health care reform bill, this is ridiculous. But just in case you run into people who don't have that information, here are some facts that might be helpful.

If you're part of the 85% of Americans who currently have health insurance...YOUR TAXES WILL NOT GO UP.

Of the remaining 15%, 26 million people (or 8% of the population) will be required to either buy insurance or pay a tax penalty (the rest will be exempt due to income, lack of affordable coverage availability, or because they are undocumented immigrants).

Of those 26 million, most will not have to pay for insurance themselves. Here's how it breaks down:
– 8.1 million will be eligible for free/close-to-free insurance through expansion of Medicaid under the law.

– 10.9 million will have to purchase coverage but receive subsidies to help with premiums

– 7.3 million (2 percent of population) will not be eligible for any assistance and will simply have to buy a plan or pay the penalty.
The 2% who will not be eligible for subsidies will be those with incomes over 4 times the poverty level (or $92,200 and above for a family of 4).

So all this screaming about tax increases comes down to the potential that 2% of the population might decide to pay a 2.5% tax on their income to avoid having to buy health insurance.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ignore the spin

Jonathan Bernstein says pretty much what I said a few days ago.
What happens at the Supreme Court tomorrow is not being overhyped: it really is that important. But a lot of what you may hear tomorrow will be spin from both sides about the political meaning of the outcome — and even worse, reporting and commentary on that spin.

Ignore it. Dig deep here for the substance, because it really is more consequential than the shouting matches would lead you to believe.

The Court’s decision will matter, substantively, in two ways. First, depending on what the Court says, either millions of people will soon be able to get health insurance, or they won’t. Either insurance companies will essentially be transformed into regulated utilities — no lifetime limits, no recissions, a tough standard for the percentage of premiums that go to benefits — or they won’t. Either the new efforts to limit the costs of Medicare will continue to be implemented, or they won’t...

The second way this will matter substantively is about the Constitution. The Court may take a major step towards implementing an agenda of returning the Constitution — and the government in general — to how it was before the New Deal. Or it may re-affirm current Constitutional precedents. The results have incredibly far-reaching, and not fully predictable, consequences for everything that government currently does or that future Congresses and presidents might want to do.

That’s what’s at stake, and none of it will change based on who wins a short-term advantage in the spin wars. It just won’t.
And Ezra Klein reminds us what matters most regardless of what SCOTUS decides.
I have no idea how the Supreme Court will rule. But I do have a prediction: given the ways they’re likely to rule, what will really matter for the Affordable Care Act is who the next president is.

Broadly speaking, there are three ways the Supreme Court could go today. They could uphold the law. They could overturn the mandate, and perhaps some related regulations. Or they could overturn the whole law...

If the Supreme Court overturns the whole law, all bets are off. But most observers think that’s a fairly unlikely outcome.

If the Supreme Court overturns the mandate and some related regulations, then the law is missing its core regulations of the insurance markets. But it retains most everything else, from its subsidies to its cost controls to its delivery-system reforms. If Mitt Romney is then elected president, he’ll almost certainly repeal the remainder. But if Barack Obama is reelected president, the law survives. And, even without the mandate, it begins providing insurance to tens of millions of people in 2014, at which point there is no way Congress wil be able to remove it. So, eventually, Congress and the president will have to figure out some way to make the law work, either by replacing the mandate with other policies or by using waivers to kick the issue to the states.

If the Supreme Court upholds the law, then the law is unchanged. If Barack Obama is reelected, it goes into effect as written. But if Mitt Romney is elected, it is likely to be fully or substantially repealed before it goes into effect in 2014.

So, in the long-run, whether the law is fully upheld or the mandate is overturned matters considerably less than who the next president is.
I agree with these two 100%. And so, unless what we hear this morning is a clear up or down on the whole law, I expect to take some time today on understanding exactly what the ruling is and will likely not be reacting immediately.

Catch ya later.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Let Obama BE Obama

Remember during the 2000 election when everyone wanted Al Gore to loosen up and be less "stiff?" All that nonsense reached its height when the story broke that Naomi Wolf was consulting with the campaign on how Gore could express a more "alpha male" personality. The only thing American voters got out of that was to see Gore look like an awkward phony.

Fast forward to 2012 and there is no end of people who, every time things look difficult for the Obama campaign, feel free to give their arm chair advice about how he needs to get angry. That advice is just as ridiculous as what Gore received.

Let's start with what we know about President Obama's personality. We've watched him now for over 4 years and have both seen how he tends to react and heard him spell it out for us. He doesn't have a temper and is best suited to being a "counter-puncher." Before he acts, he tends to think things through.

What we know about human beings is that whether those kinds of things are genetic or learned, they tend to be pretty deeply rooted by the time someone is the President's age. In other words, if he tried to act otherwise, he would come off as phony as Gore did.

Whether we like it or not, this is the President we have. And I tend to like it.

The truth is that when people want him to get angry, they're really telling us more about themselves than anything else. In other words, they're suggesting what THEY would do in any given situation.

What I would suggest is that they don't understand President Obama's reactions and it would behoove them to spend a little time being curious about that before they venture into telling him what he should do.

For example, some people who rush to judgement about all this make the assumption that he doesn't get mad because he's a coward and is afraid to fight. I seriously thought we had put that one to rest a while ago. The man has nerves of steel. He has clearly shown that to be the case.

So doesn't that make you just a little curious about his style? The way I see it, he has NO problem with fighting. Its just not his style to do so by trying to punch someone in the nose (figuratively).

While it may not be a good approach for everyone, we all could learn a thing or two from President Obama's approach to fighting. Thinking about that always takes me back to a magnificent diary by AikidoPilgrim in which he defined the President's style as bearing a lot of resemblance to the Aikido Way.

If you prefer to get mad and rage about the insanity of Republicans these days...feel free to do so. But let's let Obama BE Obama rather than try to make him over in our own image. If for no other reason, I respect him too much for that.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"No matter how hard you try, you can't stop us now" (updated)

Years ago I attended a 3-day training. On the second day, one of the African American men who was also a participant came dressed in a suit and tie. I'd known this young man for a long time and was aware that it was not how he usually dressed. So while getting some coffee during a break I asked him why. He said that the movie Malcolm X was premiering that day and it was his way of showing respect.

I thought of that conversation when I saw this picture of a young boy attending President Obama's speech in Boston yesterday.
I imagine that this young man had been "schooled" on the importance of this event...not just of going to hear the President of the United States speak, but the first African American President of the United States. His clothes as well as his expression show that he knows the solemnity of occasion.

I also think of the thousands of little black boys and girls all over the country that have been "schooled" about this. Their perceptions of their country and themselves are forever altered by that awareness.

And so the opening line to this song comes to mind..."No matter how hard you try, you can't stop us now."

UPDATE: In the comments, Blackman reminds me that the line in my title actually goes back to the Temptations in 1969.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Romney campaign has gone to dog whistle heaven

I don't agree with the folks who are suggesting that Romney is waffling on his reaction to the Supreme Court ruling today on Arizona's immigration law. When I read the transcript of the exchange between his spokesperson and the media, I thought he was very clear. You just have to be able to hear the dog whistles to get it. Here...let me show you.
The governor supports the states' rights to craft immigration laws...

The governor supports the states' rights to do this. It's a 10th amendment issue."...

The governor believes the states have the rights to craft their own immigration laws...

The governor supports the right of states, that's all we're going to say on this issue.

Again, each state has the right within the Constitution to craft their own immigration laws...

Look, again, I¹ll say it again and again and again for you. The governor understands that states have their own right to craft policies to secure their own borders and to address illegal immigration...

Again, Jim. The states have the right to craft their immigration policy...
Jeebus, I don't know how he could be any clearer. Romney believes that states have the right to do whatever the fuck they want to brown people. And no librul federal guvmit has any right to tell them what to do!

Let's see...where have we heard that one before?

The mandate is constitutional

Immediately following the oral arguments at the Supreme Court on health care reform, here is what President Obama said.
I’m confident that this will be upheld because it should be upheld. That’s not just my opinion; that’s the opinion of a whole lot of constitutional law professors and academics and judges and lawyers who have examined this law, even if they’re not particularly sympathetic to this particular piece of legislation or my presidency.
Bloomberg News demonstrated that he was right by surveying 21 constitutional law experts at the nations top 12 law schools.
The U.S. Supreme Court should uphold a law requiring most Americans to have health insurance if the justices follow legal precedent, according to 19 of 21 constitutional law professors who ventured an opinion on the most-anticipated ruling in years...

“The precedent makes this a very easy case,” said Christina Whitman, a University of Michigan law professor...

“There was certainly a lot of hostile questioning by the more conservative members of the court,” said Jesse Choper, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley who described the court as likely to support the mandate. “It’s relatively straightforward -- if they adhere to existing doctrine, it seemed to me they’re likely to uphold it.”...

“When you take the fact of a high-profile, enormously controversial and politically salient case -- to have it decided by the narrowest majority with a party-line split looks very bad, it looks like the court is simply an arm of one political party,” University of Chicago Law Professor Dennis Hutchinson said in an interview...

“I continue to find it extremely unlikely that Justices Roberts and Kennedy will support a 5-4 decision that has such an insubstantial basis in 75 years of Supreme Court case law,” said Yale University Professor Bruce Ackerman, the only respondent who said the court is very likely to uphold the insurance-coverage requirement...

“It’s become just a very partisan battle cry on behalf of an argument which a few years ago was thought to be completely bogus,” Fried, who represented Republican President Ronald Reagan’s administration at the Supreme Court as U.S. solicitor general from 1985 to 1989, said in a telephone interview. “For objective observers on all sides, this was thought to be a lousy argument and the only people who were making it were sort of the wing nuts.”
This reality prompted a couple of political writers to issue some pretty dire warnings if the Supreme Court finds the mandate unconstitutional. First of all, here's Kevin Drum.
If the court does overturn the mandate, it's going to be hard to know how to react. It's been more than 75 years since the Supreme Court overturned a piece of legislation as big as ACA, and I can't think of any example of the court overturning landmark legislation this big based on a principle as flimsy and manufactured as activity vs. inactivity...It would mean that the Supreme Court had officially entered an era where they were frankly willing to overturn liberal legislation just because they don't like it. Pile that on top of Bush v. Gore and Citizens United and you have a Supreme Court that's pretty explicitly chosen up sides in American electoral politics. This would be, in no uncertain terms, no longer business as usual.
And here's James Fallows.
Liberal democracies like ours depend on rules but also on norms -- on the assumption that you'll go so far, but no further, to advance your political ends. The norms imply some loyalty to the system as a whole that outweighs your immediate partisan interest. Not red states, nor blue states, but the United States of America. It was out of loyalty to the system that Al Gore stepped aside after Bush v. Gore. Norms have given the Supreme Court its unquestioned legitimacy. The Roberts majority is barreling ahead without regard for the norms, and it is taking the court's legitimacy with it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The other SCOTUS decision

In all the anticipation of the Supreme Court ruling on health care reform, lets not forget that we are also expecting a ruling on Arizona's dreadful immigration law - the one that allows local law enforcement to ask for "your papers" if they think you might be undocumented.

If that law is found to be constitutional, the Supreme Court will have given legal cover for racial profiling. That's it in a nutshell.

I'd like to introduce you to Lou and his family, some of the people in Arizona who will be affected by this decision.
Let me tell you a story about some MEXICAN IMMIGRANTS! My Tata Nacho and Nana Angelita immigrated to this country 92 years ago. Their legacy is profound. Contrary to popular belief these "Mexican Immigrants" were not terrorists, drug dealers or associated with crime. Instead they... worked hard, valued god and family, and passed those values on to all of us. Their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, great great grandchildren have fought and died for this country. None have ever gone to prison. We are all productive members of society, public servants, teachers, policemen, firemen, professors, successful business people, the list goes on.

They came to this country for freedom. For the opportunity to work hard, raise a family and have security. I am so fortunate to be a piece of this immigrant legacy and part of this vast family. We are part of something bigger than ourselves and hope that the same opportunity afforded to our family will continue to be afforded to others. BROWN OR OTHERWISE!
Given that no one involved with this law has been able to identify how people will be targeted - other than their race - Lou and his family are as likely to be profiled as anyone else.

We should all remember that, in the everyday lives of people of color, this one is as deadly serious as health care reform.

Politicizing SCOTUS

I truly have no idea what the SCOTUS decision on health care reform will be. We all know what Scalia, Thomas and Alito will do. But this decision isn't up to them any more than it will be up to Ginsburg or Sotomayor or Kagan or Breyer. What we're all waiting to find out is which way Justice Kennedy will go and whether or not he'll take Roberts with him.

Of course a lot of people are assuming the decision will be a bad one for Democrats. I think that alone is proof of what Jonathan Chait called our tendency towards despair. If we had an ounce of awareness we'd be out doing what President Obama did right after the oral arguments...suggesting that its inconceivable that SCOTUS would find this legislation unconstitutional.
I’m confident that this will be upheld because it should be upheld. That’s not just my opinion; that’s the opinion of a whole lot of constitutional law professors and academics and judges and lawyers who have examined this law, even if they’re not particularly sympathetic to this particular piece of legislation or my presidency.
What's interesting is that most of these same folks who have been wallowing in defeat for months now, are busy calling for President Obama and Democrats to scream bloody murder when it happens. Here's Michael Tomasky doing just that.
I expect, as I think most of us do, an unfriendly decision (from the Democratic point of view) on the health-care law. Can’t yet say how unfriendly; at the very least, an overturning of the individual mandate, and maybe more. Assuming that’s correct, the question immediately becomes how the president and the Democrats should respond. There’s very little they can do legislatively. But I’ll be watching for rhetoric, tone, even body language. And on those counts, they had damn well better dispense with the usual liberal woe-is-me hand-wringing and shoulder slumping and come out swinging. They had better communicate to their base that they stand for something, it’s important to them, and they’re pissed. And if they do it the right way, they can make the Supreme Court an issue this fall in a way that might even persuade some swing voters that the court overstepped its bounds.
See what he did there...predict defeat and then suggest that when it happens, Democrats should come out swinging at the Supreme Court. He then goes on to suggest how we should make SCOTUS an issue in this election.

Based on my observations of President Obama for over 4 years, I will predict that this is exactly what he will NOT do. Here's why.

The very thing that's wrong in our politics these days is the polarization of the last shreds of what used to bring us, educational institutions, religion, and yes, even the Supreme Court. That has been the game plan of conservatives from the get-go. Its why Faux News exists. If they can convince enough people that this is a "he said/she said" kind of argument, we are forever divided along those lines.

Since he first appeared on the national scene, this - more than anything else - is what President Obama wanted to change.

And so the last thing I expect from him is an attempt to politicize the Supreme Court by making it an issue in this election.

What I do expect is that, if the mandate or anything else in ACA is ruled unconstitutional, he will get to work doing what needs to be done to ensure the benefits of this legislation are preserved. In other words, he'll keep his eye on his North Star - which is to fight for what is best for the American people.

That's what most people say they want in a President. And that's what we've got right now.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Picking a target

Just for fun, lets assume you are a right winger who salivates at the idea of bringing down the Obama administration. Now lets pretend like your party just won the midterm elections - which means you are now Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee...YES!!! Since you've already decided that "this is the most corrupt government in our history," its just a matter of picking a target to go after and watch the house of cards fall. Here are your choices:

You really hated that stimulus package that President Obama passed within less than a month of coming into office. And there's that whole TARP thing going to the banks. So perhaps Sec. of Treasury Tim Geithner would be a good target. Nah.

But the stimulus included loan money going through Energy Secretary Chu - and there's that whole Solyndra thing to work with. So perhaps we can go that route and make a physicist look like a criminal. Nah.

The truth is - what we hated more than ANYTHING President Obama has done is health care reform. Our base is absolutely rabid about that one and would LOVE the red meat of Sec. Sebelius' hide. Nah.

Secretary Napolitano is the one who pointed the finger at home-grown domestic terrists instead of the great Muslim threat - so maybe we should go after her. Nah.

How about Sec. Clinton? She's the one that advocated for working with the U.N. on military intervention in Libya. Can't we find a way to make that one illegal? Nah.

What we need is someone folks will "buy" as a criminal without looking into the details too closely.

Hey, wait a minute. Its staring us right in the face. Let's go after the "dark one!" He's already busy making things difficult for us old white guys anyway...what with all his talk about civil rights and shit like that.

Bing...Bing...Bing. We have a winner.

Next up - Trade Representative Ron Kirk. We're on a roll now!!!!!!

P.S. It worked with Van Jones, didn't it?

(As President Obama once said in another context - "That was just a joke...sort of.")

Why It might be important to take our time with the SCOTUS health care reform decision

I mentioned yesterday that I don't do panic. So I'm anxious now as we await the ruling from the Supreme Court on health care reform. But I'm not going into panic mode - either now or when the decision is announced.

There are two possible ways this could go that won't require much time to sort through - if they declare the whole law constitutional or throw out the entire thing. Of course the first would be cause for celebration and the latter would be a disaster.

At this point I think the least likely option will be to throw out the entire law. The idea of negating items whose constitutionality is not even being questioned would be the height of judicial activism. We all know that's likely what Scalia and Thomas (and possibly Alito) want to do. But I'd guess they'll have a hard time rounding up a majority on the Court to go along with them. If they do, we have much bigger problems than the loss of health care reform. We'd have a Supreme Court run amok.

That's why I think the options come down to either finding the whole law constitutional or some breakdown of what stays and what goes. If its the latter, we're going to need to take our time in sorting through the details before we react.

The other day Jonathan Chait did a pretty good job of outlining the possibilities. He starts off by reminding us that ACA has two major goals: (1) cost containment and (2) coverage expansion. He then points out that the items in #1 are not being challenged at all. And as far as #2 goes, half of the coverage expansion includes those who will be added to Medicaid. While that expansion is also being challenged in terms of its constitutionality, it is unlikely that the Court will find that to be the case. And so he concludes:
So if you think of the law as half cost containment and half coverage expansion, and the entire cost containment and half the coverage expansion is almost certainly safe, the part that’s legally up for grabs is the other half of the coverage expansion, or about a quarter of the law.
The quarter of the law that he's talking about includes insurance reforms (ie, requiring insurers to cover those with pre-existing conditions),  the mandate, and subsidies for those who can't afford insurance on their own. In addition, there is a tax penalty for those who chose to not comply with the mandate.

With all this in mind, Chait outlines some of the various possibilities of what the Court might decide.
  1. Leave it all in place.
  2. Technically eliminate the mandate to buy health care while leaving in place the fine for not having health insurance. (Essentially upholding the fine as a tax while technically eliminating the requirement.)
  3. Eliminate the mandate, and the fine, but leave in place the regulations that insurance companies not discriminate against people with health risks and the subsidies for buying insurance.
  4. Eliminate the mandate, the fine, insurance regulations, and the subsidies.
  5. Nuke the entire law.
In options 2-4 you begin to see the possibility for a very complex ruling. That's why - if the Court decides to go there - we'll need to take our time in analyzing it all. Its also why, until we know the specifics, its pointless to strategize a response.

I would also agree with Chait that this kind of measured response will likely not be the norm.
The main point to keep in mind is that the most likely scenarios in which the Court finds the mandate unconstitutional still leave most of the law in place. That is not going to come through in the coverage, should this come to pass, because all sides are going to hype the importance of the decision: Conservatives tend toward triumphalism, liberals tend toward despair, and the news media tends to overplay the importance of whatever thing just happened.
And so I would simply ask that those of us who care about health insurance reform and support what President Obama and the Democrats have done to move that ball forward - please prepare to engage your brains along with your despair/anger/fear if this happens. We're going to need that now more than ever!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Is silence golden?

I wanted to take a moment to say I'm sorry that posting around here has been a bit sparse over the last few days. I'm not totally sure of the reason for that. But something is troubling me lately and I didn't want to say anything until I understood what it was.

This happens to me quite instincts tell me something and it can be days before my head catches up to understand what its all about.

The closest I've come to understanding what's up is that it has something to do with the tension many of us are feeling as we await a ruling from the Supreme Court on health care reform.

My reluctance to speak started when I read some articles by people at Daily Kos who had trashed President Obama and the Democrats every step of the way through the process of getting ACA passed and are now in full doom-and-gloom mode about it being overturned. On the one hand, they continue with their rants about it being the worst legislation ever while playing on the fears of what will happen to people if it is gone.

To tell you the truth - their approach sickens me. I have always had a very personal aversion to panic. I won't go there. To wallow in the fear of something that MIGHT happen does no good unless you get your jollies off of playing on other people's fears.

But I think my silence has been about more than that. We all know that there is an awful lot riding on this decision by the Supreme Court. It will not only mean much to the millions of people depending on it now, it has the potential to affect millions more in the future.

Beyond that, no matter what the decision is - the entire political conversation will change once its been announced. The possible variations in what the overall decision will be are so numerous and complicated that it doesn't do much good to strategize until we know the specifics.

So we wait for the shoe to drop and know that once it does, most of the things we're focused on today will be forgotten.

Who knows how I'll feel tomorrow. But as of today, I suspect that my pull towards silence has been my way of dealing with both the weight and wait of the moment.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Friedersdorf, Eric Holder is not your n****r either

On his first day as Chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee - prior to any testimony or investigations - Rep. Daryl Issa declared the Obama administration "one of the most corrupt" in history. It should come as no surprise that he would concoct a way to cite Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt. After all, he's been working his way towards this goal for almost 2 years, regardless of the facts.

But as I said back when I fist started focusing on the work of AG Holder and the DOJ, its not just the right that has been after him. He's also been the target of many on the left as well. Right on cue comes Conor Friedersdorf with his article titled The Real Reason Eric Holder Should Resign as Attorney General.

What Friedersdorf has done is to twist a story that was written up in USA Today about a conflict between federal laws regarding felons caught with guns and state sentencing laws in North Carolina to insinuate that DOJ is not doing anything to release "innocent" people from jail.

Without repeating all the details (please read them at the links if you're interested), I'll give you one example of how disingenuous these charges are. Friesdersdorf  includes this quote from the USA Today story.
Here's U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins: "We can't be outcome driven. We've got to make sure we follow the law, and people should want us to do that."
He presents that as an accusation that DOJ isn't doing anything to correct the problem. But of course he conveniently leaves out the very next sentence in the article.
She said her office is "looking diligently for ways, within the confines of the law, to recommend relief for defendants who are legally innocent."
If it weren't so maddening it would be funny to see these folks - who constantly accuse Obama supporters of propaganda - being the very ones to utilize it to prop up their Obama Derangement Syndrome.

But all that was just a warm-up act for Friedersdorf. Eventually he gets to his real beef.
Attorney General Holder didn't create this mess. But it sure looks like it's another injustice that he's failing to clean up. After President Obama and Harold Koh, perhaps no one in the Obama Administration has been a bigger disappointment to civil libertarians than Holder, so much so that Wil S. Hylton mused in a 2010 profile about whether there was any reason for him to keep his job. "He has promised to end the policy of indefinite detention at Guantánamo by prosecuting some of its most notorious detainees; to investigate torture by the CIA; and to revitalize the department's most neglected offices, like the long-suffering Civil Rights Division," Hylton wrote -- and he got a bigger budget and improved staffing for the Civil Rights Division.
We've been around the block on these accusations over and over again. I'm as tired of them as I am of Rep. Issa's nonsense. Its clear that Mr. Fridersdorf is clueless about the role Congress played in not allowing the closing of Guantanamo and how the Military Commissions Act of 2006 shielded the Bush administration against prosecution for torture and how Holder's re-invigorated Civil Rights Division is tackling things like police brutality, voters rights, nativist immigration laws, etc.

So I think I'll simply quote Brown Man again (with a slight adaptation) and say, "Friedersdorf, Eric Holder is not your n****r either."

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Long and Winding Road

So Paul McCartney turned 70 years old today. He'll forever be that young fresh-faced phenom  in my mind.

I was in 4th grade when the British invasion happened and got my first record player that year. The first album that came with it was Please Please Me. In other words, the Beatles were where it all began as far as I'm concerned.

Over at The Maddow Blog they're asking readers to name their favorite McCartney song. That's an easy one for me.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Why I'll CONTINUE to have AG Holder's back

Immediately following the 2010 midterms when Republicans gained a majority in the House, I started the page up at the top of this blog titled DOJ Watch after writing an article titled Why I'll have Attorney General Eric Holder's back. In it I cited a prophetic New York Times article.
When the Obama administration wakes up next month to a divided capital, no cabinet member will be facing a more miserable prospect of oversight hearings and subpoenas than Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr...

Mr. Holder is a particularly juicy target because he presides over issues that have served as recurrent fodder for political controversy — including using the criminal justice system for terrorism cases, and federal enforcement of civil rights and immigration laws.
Of course that prediction has come true. AG Holder is now facing the possibility of contempt charges from Rep. Issa's committee and the blog The Daily Caller (yes, the same one that is now praising their reporter for his disrespect towards the President) has made it their mission to bring down the Attorney General.

For weeks now I've been thinking I should write something about all this. But honestly, getting into the content of all the crap that's being thrown around is just something I haven't been interested in doing. Part of me is feeling guilty though because this man deserves defending.

Today I found the answer to that dilemma in a blog post by Brown Man titled Senatory Cornyn, Eric Holder is Not Your Nigger (I'll apologize now for the language - but sometimes these kinds of words speak the truth).
Eric Holder is not your nigger.

He is not going to play the role of the servile coon you and your ilk fantasize about, not going to bow or scrape or say “yassa Boss”, and he damn sure isn’t going to smile in your face and tell you what you want to hear. This man has testified NINE MOTHERFUCKING TIMES ON THE SAME MOTHERFUCKING TOPIC and you chump change, "wish this were Whitewater" motherfuckers want to act like Holder is holding out on you?

Eric Holder is not your nigger.

He is a grown ass man who has probably forgotten more shit than you and the top five members of your staff combined can remember, but you wouldn’t know that, because you can’t believe that even now black people who rise to the top in America have to know their shit backwards and forwards. Unfortunately for you, the shit he knows backwards and forwards is the law of the land, the same one you have to obey like everybody else. So what is this about, really? Because from where I sit, and white folks with good sense sit, and every Latino in the country who is not motherfucking Cuban sits, this looks like you can't make the president do what you want, so you will abuse your subpoena authority with the next ranking black man in the Obama administration.
Yep, that about nails it. To give these allegations any time or thought misses the point that is being made here.  Not only is AG Holder pushing every button these people have on voting rights, civil rights, and immigration...he's the "next ranking black man in the Obama administration." That, my friends, is the threat these people are responding to. And its why I will say proudly that "I have AG Holder's back!"


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Listen to your elders!



From the Latino Rebels Facebook page.

"Social Change at breakneck speed"

Ron Brownstein looks at the demographics of Reagan's 1984 landslide election against Walter Mondale to give us some idea of how much the landscape has changed.
When Reagan routed Democratic nominee Walter Mondale in 1984, the white working class dominated the electorate. White voters without a four-year college degree cast 61 percent of all ballots that year, and they gave Reagan 66 percent of their votes, the NJ analysis found. White voters with at least a four-year college degree cast an additional 27 percent of the vote, and 62 percent of them went for Reagan. Eighty-one percent of minorities backed Mondale, but they represented just 12 percent of all voters then.

By 2008, minorities had more than doubled their vote share to 26 percent. College-educated whites had increased their share to 35 percent. The big losers were whites without a college degree, who dropped from 61 percent of all voters to 39 percent—a decline of more than one-third from their level in 1984. That is social change at breakneck speed.
Comparing 1984 to 2008, noncollege whites dropped their vote share by 22% while college educated whites increased theirs by 8% and minorities by 14%. Overall, non college educated white voters went from being 2/3 of the electorate to just over a third.

I know we've been seeing this kind of information in varying forms for a while now. But that's as powerful a summary as I've seen.

Did Justice Ginsburg just poke Justice Scalia?

Most of you will remember that in oral arguments about the ACA, Justice Scalia actually used the ridiculous right-wing trope about being forced to buy broccoli if the Supreme Court finds the health care mandate constitutional.

Yesterday, Justice Ginsburg didn't give us any scoop on what the final ruling will be. But she did seem to take a bit of a poke at Justice Scalia.
Ginsburg noted that one ACA-related question the court must decide is whether the whole law must fall if the individual mandate is unconstitutional — “or may the mandate be chopped, like a head of broccoli, from the rest of it?”
She has always reminded me that men should never take for granted the power of small women who are old enough to have been around the block a few times and don't have much to lose.


Liberals as early adopters

As we watch political conversations about things like women's access to contraception, support for marriage equality and immigration, I find it interesting to put these issues into the context of what Everett Rogers called the diffusion of innovations - "a theory that seeks to explain how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures." It is usually accompanied by a graph that looks like this.

The blue line represents the rate at which various groups adopt the new idea/technology and the yellow line shows its market share.

When it comes to something like GLBT rights, we might think of activists such as Harvey Milk as an innovator. Liberals and/or Democrats were the early adopters who joined the cause - even with a minority of support. As the early majority was building, folks like Karl Rove took advantage and - knowing all he needed was 50%+1 - worked to put things like marriage equality on the ballots in several states in order to drive up Republican turnout. But as we've seen recently, support for marriage equality has passed from being accepted by the early majority into the late majority stage just this year.


I suspect that we could take any number of liberal causes and map through their diffusion processes over time.

What we might learn from this is that most politicians won't act on an issue until it begins to reach the late majority. That is only to be expected in a democracy where, in order to win an election, they need to get 50%+1 of the vote (and of course now that has moved to 60%+1 for legislation with the Republican's addiction to the filibuster).

In order to get to the place where politicians can act, we need activist leaders working to reach the early majority and get them on board. That's why you almost never heard of someone like Martin Luther King, Jr. focusing his efforts on getting politicians to pass civil rights legislation. His activism was all about opening the eyes of the early majority to the devastation of Jim Crow laws. The scales tipped into the late majority (mostly in Northern States) signing on to the message in the early 60's and hence, the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. That never would have happened when they started the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955.

For me, this explains a lot about why liberals often feel victimized in the sense that they are right about an issue and yet lose battles politically. Our efforts are better spent in reaching that early majority than they are in pressuring Congress and/or the President. And they are certainly better spent on that task than raging at the laggards who are behaving like a dying cornered beast.

In our polarized political environment, you might wonder where this early and late majority lies. I think it can be found in people like Michael Stafford, who I wrote about earlier this week. They don't get as much air time these days with our conflict-driven media. But they're out there...I would suggest in big numbers.

P.S. If you'd like to learn a little more about how to reach the early majority, take a look at this fascinating TED talk by Simon Sinek.

Friday, June 15, 2012

This is Obama's second administrative move on DREAM Act

In the context of today's announcement, I think its important to note that President Obama took administrative action a year ago that directed staff to exercise prosecutorial discretion in the "apprehension, detention and removal" of undocumented people based on some of the same criteria cited in the DREAM Act.

What he did today goes beyond that in shielding DREAMers from deportation and giving them the opportunity to apply for work permits. That's a BFD!
"It's just insane," the graduate student at Texas A&M University said. "I've been working on this for six years. It is just overwhelming."

Zelaya was electrified by news that the Obama administration would stop deporting illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children if they met certain requirements.

Zelaya came to the United States illegally from Honduras at age 14 to find his mother, who was already in the country, he said.

Without the change announced Friday, he couldn't get a job to help pay for school;  Zelaya, 25, is pursuing a master's degree in education with hopes of earning a doctorate and teaching middle school. He also couldn't consider the job offers that presented themselves. The uncertainty over what loomed after graduation spooked him.

"Now, maybe I will be able to work without being afraid that someone may deport me," he said. "There is no fear anymore."

"The people have the final say"

I know that many pundits are criticizing President Obama's speech yesterday as being too long and wonkish. But I see it differently. It was billed as a policy speech on our economy more than a campaign rally speech. He needed to do this to lay out the specifics.

And then came this:
So, Governor Romney disagrees with my vision. His allies in Congress disagree with my vision. Neither of them will endorse any policy that asks the wealthiest Americans to pay even a nickel more in taxes. It’s the reason we haven’t reached a grand bargain to bring down our deficit -- not with my plan, not with the Bowles-Simpson plan, not with the so-called Gang of Six plan.

Despite the fact that taxes are lower than they’ve been in decades, they won’t work with us on any plan that would increase taxes on our wealthiest Americans. It’s the reason a jobs bill that would put 1 million people back to work has been voted down time and time again. It’s the biggest source of gridlock in Washington today.

And the only thing that can break the stalemate is you. You see, in our democracy, this remarkable system of government, you, the people, have the final say.

This November is your chance to render a verdict on the debate over how to grow the economy, how to create good jobs, how to pay down our deficit. Your vote will finally determine the path that we take as a nation -- not just tomorrow, but for years to come.

When you strip everything else away, that’s really what this election is about. That’s what is at stake right now. Everything else is just noise. Everything else is just a distraction...

Governor Romney and the Republicans who run Congress believe that if you simply take away regulations and cut taxes by trillions of dollars, the market will solve all of our problems on its own. If you agree with that, you should vote for them. And I promise you they will take us in that direction.

I believe we need a plan for better education and training -- and for energy independence, and for new research and innovation; for rebuilding our infrastructure; for a tax code that creates jobs in America and pays down our debt in a way that’s balanced. I have that plan. They don’t.

And if you agree with me -- if you believe this economy grows best when everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules -- then I ask you to stand with me for a second term as President.
The day is coming soon when it won't any longer be an issue of what President Obama does/says any more than it will be about what Mitt Romney and the Republicans are doing/saying. It will be up to us. The focus will shift and it will be our chance to do something. We'll have a decision to make.

Without all the spin and lies the Republicans tend to employ, President Obama clearly laid out that choice for us when it comes to the different plans for our economic future. In other words, he asked us to think about our choices rather than simply react to the style of red meat Stephen Colbert calls truthiness.

I'm very aware that's not how most people see our politics these days. But President Obama promised a long time ago that he would work to change how we do politics in this country. He believes we're mature enough to move beyond the way the Republicans play to our fears and insecurities - that we can think and not just feel our way through these choices.

This is the antithesis of elitism...he believes in us. Those politicians/pundits who assume we'll only respond to gut punches demean us and the democratic process itself.

And so the people will have the final say. President Obama is asking us to think about that choice.

Republicans embarrass themselves with Latinos while Obama makes a bold move

The role of Latinos in the 2012 election is going to come into sharp focus over the next week as both President Obama and Mitt Romney speak at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials next Thursday in Orlando.

So lets remind ourselves where things stand right now based on a poll from Latino Decisions that I highlighted a few days ago.


To set the stage for Mr. Romney on this one, the RNC put up a new website, Only there was one problem. Here's the header they used for the site.


Think Progress nailed them., the Republican National Committee’s new website aimed at Latino voter outreach, uses a stock photograph of Asian children as its banner picture.

The stock photo found on Shutterstock is listed with tags including “asia, asian, cheeks, children, cool… interracial, japanese… thailand, together, trendy.” But the words ‘hispanic’ or ‘latino’ are nowhere on the page.
No racism there, huh? After all, they don't "see" color. Its simply "us white folks" and all of "them."

But that's not the end of it. TPM also found this on the site.
The main page features a straw poll asking visitors whether they’re disappointed with President Obama, a talking point Republicans have been pushing as part of their outreach effort. As of Thursday evening, however, Obama was winning the unscientific survey 55 percent to 45 percent — highly unusual on a partisan website.
This is what happens when you want to pretend to care about something but don't really give a shit. It shows.

Meanwhile, today President Obama will make a big announcement in the White House Rose Garden.
The Obama administration will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives. The election-year initiative addresses a top priority of an influential Latino electorate that has been vocal in its opposition to administration deportation policies.

The policy change, described to The Associated Press by two senior administration officials, will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who have lived in fear of deportation. It also bypasses Congress and partially achieves the goals of the so-called DREAM Act, a long-sought but never enacted plan to establish a path toward citizenship for young people who came to the United States illegally but who have attended college or served in the military.
Yep, he's tired of waiting for the obstructionist Republicans in Congress to move. So once again he's going to do what he can on his own. These young people will still need the DREAM Act in order to gain citizenship. But at least they'll be able to let go of the fear of deportation.

Any further questions about the stark CHOICE in front of us for this election?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I can't even begin to tell you how much I love these pictures

Just hangin' with the Prez.

The man in the arena

The opening line of Jonathan Capehart's column yesterday summed the last few days up pretty well.
No one does panic like Democrats.
Of course he was responding to the "hair on fire" reactions initiated by talk from James Carville and Stan Greenberg as captured in a column by Karen Tumulty.
Is it time for Democrats to panic?

That’s what a growing number of party loyalists are wondering, amid a rough couple of weeks in which President Obama and his political operation have been buffeted by bad economic news, their own gaffes and signs that the presumed Republican nominee is gaining strength.
My response is to remember the days when Mr. Carville went into a panic criticizing President Obama about his response to the Gulf oil spill. Two months later, he didn't exactly issue an apology, but was forced to eat a little crow.
Any fair assessment would have to conclude that in spite of some people's criticism of the early response, (and by "some people" I mean Ms. Nippy's firstborn son James), one also must give credit to a much improved and vigorous response to the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf...

I don't know many people -- and no Democrats -- who were as tough on the Obama administration as I was when the oil started gushing.

But for now I'll take Mississippi governor -- and chairman of the Republican Governors' Association -- Haley Barbour saying President Obama has "done more right than wrong." In fact, I'll up Gov. Barbour's bid one and say that as of late, President Obama has done a lot more right than wrong.
Its been a long time since I trusted James Carville - but that's a long story for another day. Suffice it to say that he has always been a critic of President Obama's approach to campaigning, be that because of having a totally different style, his loyalty to the Clinton's, or jealousy at being replaced by David Plouffe as the latest campaign guru in Democratic circles...who knows?

But these folks are just the tip of the iceberg. As Capehart alluded to, a whole bunch of Democratic pundits now see it as open season on panic and time to shower the Obama campaign with their "words of wisdom" about how things should be done.

Of course Politico is going to pounce on a story like that - even going so far as to bring back people we haven't heard from for awhile like Drew Westen (puhleeze!). And every pundit like Michael Tomasky, who has spent their life sitting on the sidelines commenting on what others do, is now all of the sudden a genius at strategy.

I figure that if every one of these yahoos would take a page from the book of someone like Steve Benen and just write about the issues rather than try to assume the role of "campaign consultant," we'd be doing a MUCH better job of getting the message we want out there. In other your f*cking job rather than constantly auditioning for Plouffe's.

Finally, I'm taken back once again to this marvelous quote from Teddy Roosevelt.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On the cognitive dissonance of being a thinking Republican

I know that a lot of people in this country are scared about the economy and that, when they haven't looked closely at who is doing what in Washington, that can dampen support for Democrats and President Obama.

But we have to remember that there are some Republicans who are watching what's going on with their party and not liking it one bit. Of course those who are in office or hope to run for office some day don't have the courage to express this. All they see is what happened to folks like Sen. Lugar and they know they'd better keep their mouths shut.

There are, of course, those like Sen. Lugar as well as Bob Bennett and Chuck Hagel who, after leaving office, have spoken out.

And there are others who have never held elective office but are seeing danger signs. Today I ran across an article by another one of them, Michael Stafford, who has been a Republican Party officer in Maryland.
I’m a life-long Republican. My political affiliation has been woven intrinsically into the very fabric of my being...

Today, however, I am a registered Republican no longer.

I came to the decision to leave the GOP not with a heavy heart, but with a broken one.

I reached this point through a long series of awakenings and realizations- a path marked by literally years of wrestling with, and finally accepting, the political implications of a number of difficult truths. It involved ever-increasing levels of cognitive dissonance, as I tried to square my experiences, concerns, and knowledge, with my continued loyalty to the GOP.

As a local GOP official after President Obama’s election, I had a front-row seat as it became infected by a dangerous and virulent form of political rabies.

In the grip of this contagion, the Republican Party has come unhinged. Its fevered hallucinations involve threats from imaginary communists and socialists who, seemingly, lurk around every corner. Climate change- a reality recognized by every single significant scientific body and academy in the world- is a liberal conspiracy conjured up by Al Gore and other leftists who want to destroy America. Large numbers of Republicans- the notorious birthers- believe that the President was not born in the United States. Even worse, few figures in the GOP have the courage to confront them.

Republican economic policies are also indefensible. The GOP constantly claims that its opponents are engaged in “class warfare,” but this is an exercise in projection. In Republican proposals, the wealthy win, and the rest of us lose- one only has to look at Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget to see that...

Ultimately, leaving the GOP was necessary in order to maintain my own integrity. Leaving is also a public act of personal protest. I am under no illusions about its broader significance- it will have no impact on the trajectory of the political narrative in this nation. But that does not make it futile. On the contrary, as the shadows lengthen, such minor individual acts of defiance and dissent are more critical now than ever before.

Perhaps, one day, a reformed and responsible Republican Party will reemerge.
I can identify with Mr. Stafford's journey of reconciling cognitive dissonance. Its a difficult one to take and requires tremendous courage.

Mr. Stafford doesn't say who he plans to vote for in the upcoming election.  As much as I'd like to see him become "one of us," I know that kind of journey can take some time. And so for now, I'll simply join him in hoping that one day "a reformed and responsible Republican Party will reemerge."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Just as I was leaving work today, a co-worker suggested that I check out an op-ed written by a teacher that appeared in our local paper today. Good advice. Grab a kleenex and take a look.
And just when, on the last day of school, at the most sacred hour (3 p.m.) I could almost hear the faint whisper of words most revered by a teacher (June, July and August), I was interrupted because ... they did it again.

Those same hooligans, who have given me premature gray hair and prompted my survival tactic of never turning my back to a crowd of adolescents, do the unthinkable.

They thank me. They say the words that erase all the pain, agony and defeat of the last nine months. Within the blink of an eye, all traces of frustration that Johnny could care less about reading, writing and arithmetic slowly disappear like the fading of the classroom bell. And all because of a word of gratitude ... from a teenager. Who knew that word was even in their vocabulary?

I never know where or when, but over time this year-end "thank you" always surprises me, and what astounds me most is whom it's from. One year it was a painfully shy young lady who, in a letter, thanked me for "placing her on top of my shoulders so she could view the world in a better perspective, which changed her from the inside out."

Another student whose only wardrobe hue consisted of black and whose hair color was various shades of blue, ran off the bus as it was pulling away on the last day and gave me a great hug, whispering, "You never let me settle for what I thought I could do. Your high expectations showed me what I never thought was possible."

And the latest? Well, it was last week, as I was wearily entering school on the last day, and a student whom I've known for three years -- and who had not yet learned the art of filtering obnoxious comments, met me at the door with a mischievous grin (one that junior-high teachers know all too well) and presented me with a dozen pink roses, saying, "Thanks for caring. Thanks for being interested in my life."

What I am amazed at, humbled by, is the fact that not one of these kids thanked me for teaching them prose or Punnet squares. Not one thanked me for bringing treats or for extra credit opportunities. They were appreciative, not for things, but for an adult taking the time to make a personal connection, soul to soul.
That's what teachers do Mr. Romney and Governor Walker. There are no words for it other than priceless.

Republicans questioning Romney's strategy

Its becoming clear that Mitt Romney thinks he can win this election by playing on doubt and insecurity while trashing President Obama. That's why he isn't bothering to develop a message of his own and is content to simply become a serial liar when it comes to Obama. He thinks this is a strategy for success in 2012.

But you can tell that the Republican intelligentsia is getting nervous about this approach. Here's a few that have voiced their concerns recently.

Bill Kristol
Which brings us to Mitt Romney. He’s had a good beginning to his general election campaign. But he could do more, it seems to us, to help mold public sentiment​—​to explain, to quote Lincoln again, “where we are, and whither we are tending,” so as to help us “better judge what to do, and how to do it.” He could do more to put his particular criticisms of the Obama administration in a broader context, and to frame his own proposals in a more comprehensive narrative. After all, Romney has to convince the American public that they need to do something they’re not usually inclined to do​—​replace a sitting president with a challenger.
Peggy Noonan
More important, when you're good at politics you know what you have to do, if not immediately then soon. Mr. Romney has to give us a plan. He has to tell us his priorities. To lead is to prioritize, to choose: "We will take this path, at this speed, toward this end." He hasn't done this yet.
Even Scott Walker
“I don’t think we win if it’s just a referendum on Barack Obama. I think people like Paul Ryan and others hope that he [Romney] goes big and bold,” Walker said. His comments broke from the standard Republican emphasis on making this year’s presidential race about Obama’s record in office.
I'm not so sure Romney can heed this advice. First of all, its clear he doesn't have any core convictions on which to base a vision. Jay Smooth recently captured this well in describing Romney as the "meh" candidate mostly resembling the lead character in Woody Allen's movie Zelig.

The second reason that Romney can't take this advice is that the minute he gets specific about a vision, he'll expose the very deep fissions within the Republican Party right now. The best example of this is how he's waffled on the issue of immigration since the end of the Republican primary. He's between a rock and a hard place with his need to win over Latino voters without losing the nativist teapartiers.

Finally, the minute Romney decides to start talking specifically about his vision for how to move the economy forward, it will become obvious to everyone that, as Bill Clinton said, all he's got is Bush policies on steroids. Most voters are still very aware that it was those policies that got us into this mess in the first place and (regardless of what the teapartiers say) don't want to go back there.

And so Mitt Romney is left with what even many Republicans are forecasting is a losing strategy of lies, distortions and blame. To quote Blackman from the comments..."they've got nothin'."

Numbers vs Doom and Gloomers

A few years ago the non-profit where I work decided to finally buy a building to house our operations after over 30 years of renting office space. It was a HUGE decision because it involved raising $1.4 million - not a terribly big amount for some, but for a small operation like us, it gave me nightmares.

As I struggled with the decision, I found myself constantly playing with numbers. I'd run all kinds of different scenarios based on "what if?" in order to see the outcome. My Board President - who often heard the results of this constant number-crunching - started to tease me about it. That's when I realized that part of how I deal with tension is to calm myself with numerical projections. If I can make the numbers work - I can calm down.

I say all that to explain why, when I read political pundits talking about how bad things look for President Obama, I turn to the numbers to see how incredibly hard they're trying to spin us emotionally rather than report what's actually happening.

Here's my take on that today.

I went to Nate Silver's place to check out his projections for each state (scroll down the page looking at the right-hand column). If you add up all the states he's projected that President Obama has a 60% or better chance of winning, you come up with 276 electoral votes - enough to win. I'd say that 60%+ odds are pretty damn good.

Now, if you add the states where he projects President Obama's chance of success at 50% or better - you get to 303 electoral votes. And if you throw in Florida - which is basically tied right now - you get 332 - approaching a real mandate.

I don't know about you, but for me, beating the Republicans is not enough. I want to see a strong message that the American people aren't buying their extremism and lies. So I'm hoping for 332 or better!

I'll throw in my usual caveat about that being where the race stands today. A lot can/will happen in the next 4 1/2 months. But it does tell us that those doom and gloomers have the story completely wrong. Its Mitt Romney and the Republicans who are in the hole and have to find a way to climb out.

So there...I feel better now. I don't know if numbers do that for other folks, but they're the sure antidote for me to our chattering class.

P.S. In case you're wondering, we successfully raised the $1.4 million - increasing our assets to about $2 million AND reducing our annual operating budget by about $25,000. I LOVE numbers like that!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Just for giggles




More here.

No commentary required 6/11/12

Here are some stories that caught my eye today.

How much do you think race played a role in the 2008 election? Apparently more than most people will admit.
Add up the totals throughout the country, and racial animus cost Mr. Obama three to five percentage points of the popular vote. In other words, racial prejudice gave John McCain the equivalent of a home-state advantage nationally.

Yes, Mr. Obama also gained some votes because of his race. But in the general election this effect was comparatively minor. The vast majority of voters for whom Mr. Obama’s race was a positive were liberal, habitual voters who would have voted for any Democratic presidential candidate. Increased support and turnout from African-Americans added only about one percentage point to Mr. Obama’s totals.

If my findings are correct, race could very well prove decisive against Mr. Obama in 2012. Most modern presidential elections are close. Losing even two percentage points lowers the probability of a candidate’s winning the popular vote by a third. And prejudice could cost Mr. Obama crucial states like Ohio, Florida and even Pennsylvania.
In what looks like a play for 2016, Jeb Bush finds a way to criticize the Republicans and blame President Obama. It really does boggle the mind.
"Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, as would my dad — they would have a hard time if you define the Republican party — and I don’t — as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement, doesn’t allow for finding some common ground," Bush said, adding that he views the hyper-partisan moment as "temporary."...

Bush called the present partisan climate "disturbing."

"It’s just a different environment left and right," he said of "this dysfunction."

And Bush also blamed President Obama for much of the conflict.

"His first year could have been a year of enormous accomplishment had he focused on things where there was more common ground," he said, arguing that Obama had made a "purely political calculation" to run a sharply partisan administration.
Do you think I should remind Bush that President Obama spent the first year of his term trying to ensure the country didn't fall into a second great depression (caused by his brother's policies) and proposing what had formerly been a Republican plan to reform health care? Nah...waste of time.

Please keep an eye on Nate Silver's election projection. As of today, his model predicts that President Obama will get 292 electoral votes (that's up 9 since June 1st) and his chance of winning the election is at 63% (up 5 since June 1st). Now imagine that, since the last unemployment report when the media started predicting doom and gloom for President Obama, Silver is  showing strong improvement in his odds of winning. Who are you gonna believe?

Finally, if you want to know how to make a rousing case for Democrats and the re-election of President Obama, let MA Gov. Deval Patrick show you how its done.

Thanks to Linda H. at what IS working for making this video.

The root of the problem is a theology that enables sexual abuse

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