Friday, August 31, 2012

This is how you change the world

Yeah, I'm feeling a little proud about something. So I'm going to tell you about it.

One of the young men I work with spends his days from 7 am - 3 pm working in a middle school with students who are chronically suspended for behavior problems. And here's what he does with the rest of his day.

Every year our local NBC affiliate picks 11 volunteers in the Twin Cities Metro Area to honor for their commitment to the community. Carlos was one of those 11 this year.

Its because of people like Carlos that I have so little patience for those who sit on the sidelines and complain about all that is wrong in the world. Carlos doesn't have time for complaining. He's too busy working his ass off making things better in his little corner of the planet.

More on Eastwood - MHP NAILS it!

OK, I have to add one more word on Eastwood last night. That's because I want to go on record as being 100% with what Melissa Harris-Perry wrote about it.
Eastwood may have been ignorant of the fact he was joining those who delegitimize Obama's very presence, but he's in that league now. As Jamelle Bouie said last night, an old white man arguing with an imaginary Barack Obama was an apt metaphor for how the Romney campaign runs against a Democratic record they've made up out of whole cloth.

Watching Eastwood reduce the President to an invented entity in a chair, I couldn't help but wonder what Ralph Ellison would say about all this. The author of the literary classic Invisible Man articulated the metaphor of black invisibility better than anyone ever did previously or since. My best attempt at describing it came in a collegiate column I wrote over 15 years ago:
Invisibility is hard to battle because it's not a construction of your mind, but of those who look upon you. As Ellison's title character states in the Prologue, it lies in a person's inner eyes, which they use to look upon and evaluate their physical reality. Invisibility is something a person can be the victim of and not even realize it.
That biweekly column was titled "Invisible Man" because of the experiences I'd had growing up, experiencing a social -- and at times, physical -- invisibility amongst my white peers. I say physical not because I possessed Harry Potter's cloak, but because I'd have people literally looking me dead in the face and walking into me as if they considered me an apparition and planned to pass through me. (Ellison's title character describes a similar incident on the novel's first page.) I've had the "n-word" sent in my direction a number of times, but at least that hatred necessitates a minimum level of recognition. Invisibility can be an even greater insult, unless the invisible use that to their advantage.

I have no doubt we'll see the President and his party attempt to do exactly that, at their convention next week and throughout the rest of the campaign. I say through the rest of the campaign because while Romney wasn't so clownish as to address an empty chair, but he has been running against an imaginary Barack Obama who doesn't exist, a neo-Jimmy Carter one who went on an "apology tour" in foreign countries, exploded the deficit all on his own, and more specifically, closed GM plants before he was even President and changed the welfare-to-work laws to give those lazy "welfare queens" a break. All that stuff is lies, invented to give Republicans the latest version of the Obama Bogeyman. That guy Romney and running mate Paul Ryan are running against sounds fairly awful in some respects -- but as Ellison might say, that Obama is like a ghost that haunted Edgar Allan Poe, or a Hollywood-movie ectoplasm, sharing more in common with fantasy than reality.

If this economy is so bad, and the absence of presidential leadership so stark, why is there a need to invent someone worse to run against?
If Melissa and I had been schoolmates, I would have been one of those people she describes as making her invisible. I know it because I did it all the time. I say that in shame. But also to say that she is right on in describing how it all goes down.

And so my question to the Romney/Ryan campaign is: "Do you make up your fantasy Obama out of desperation? Or because you literally don't see the reality that's right in front of you?"

I suspect its the former. But they're attempting to play on voters immersed in the latter.

Sons of famous fathers

Warning: With this one I'm going to pick up my "recovering therapist" hat and put it back on. That could lead to bullsh*t. But who knows? ;-)

As I watched some of the attempts to "humanize" Romney last night at the RNC convention, what struck me is that he is likely dealing with the "sons of famous fathers" syndrome.

I've spent a bit of time thinking about this one because it is a syndrome that has pretty well defined my own father. Certainly my grandfather was not famous on the level of George Romney. But he left a powerful legacy my father has spent his life trying to live up to.

Having watched that play out in my own family, I appreciated the movie "A Few Good Men" on a level that many people did not. Beyond the specifics of the story, it is a tale of the struggles of Daniel Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise) about living in the shadow of a famous father. Adding another layer to the movie is that it was directed by Rob Reiner, son of Carl Reiner. It was that struggle that attracted Reiner to the story in the first place.
"In all my films," said Mr. Reiner, who had struggled for years to move out of the shadow of his own father, the writer and director Carl Reiner, "I've got to find something I can hook up with, connect with. Kaffee is in the same business as his father; I'm in the same business as mine. Everywhere I went when I started out, it was 'Carl Reiner this,' 'Carl Reiner that.' He's the nicest man in the world, incredibly sweet-natured, but it was frightening to be compared to him."
Listen to how this article describes the various iterations of that struggle.
The son said that it took years for him to distance himself from his father. "When I was a little kid, I wanted so badly to be like him I once said to him I want to change my name. And he said, 'To what?' And I said, 'To Carl.'...

Mr. Reiner's comedic instincts were evident in his very first movie, "This Is Spinal Tap," a satirical film about a fictitious rock band made up of sniveling English lunks. The 1984 film was critically acclaimed, but he now says it may have been too derivative of some of his father's television routines with Sid Caesar. Mr. Reiner considers his breakthrough to be "Stand by Me," a critically well-received movie about boyhood friendships that opened two years later.

"It was a rite-of-passage film," he said. "It was closer to my personality than anything I had done up to then, and it's something my father never would have come near. When I was making it, I kept thinking, 'Boy, I hope this works, because if it doesn't I'll be in serious trouble.' The audience would have been rejecting me when I was taking my first departure from my father, venturing into a new area."
I'm not going to try to get into Mitt Romney's head and figure out exactly how this dynamic is playing out in his own life. But its clear to me that it is the central feature of his personal identity. And it is certainly one area where his own life is mirroring that of George W. Bush. I would suggest that both of those men sought the presidency mostly in an attempt to prove to themselves that they are worthy of their father's legacy. Neither of them have reached the stage Reiner describes where they try to differentiate themselves from it.

I'll simply add that on a smaller scale this is something Barack Obama, Jr. had to deal with. It is the crux of the message in his book "Dreams From My Father." When it comes to this struggle, the difference between the two men running for president this year is that Obama had settled that struggle by the time he was 35 years old. In other words, he no longer lives in his father's shadow.

My response to the Eastwood debacle

I've been going back and forth in my head for awhile about whether to write about Clint Eastwood's appearance at RNC 2012 last night. I guess its obvious which side won.

The truth is, I have traditionally not been a big fan of Eastwood. Most of his movies relied way too much on high levels of testosterone for me to be interested. But with age sometimes comes wisdom. Lately he's seemed to get in touch with his heart a bit. Some of my very favorite movies include ones like "Grand Torino" and "Million Dollar Baby" and "Invictus" - all of which relied on Eastwood's eye for important stories.

I'm tempted to try to analyze what goes on in the mind of someone who can bring those stories to life and do what he did last night. When I go there I see a man who - in his younger days - was captured by the "make my day" form of machoism. And then went a little deeper into the very real struggles of life. Last night seems like a venture into senility - which makes it a truly sad moment when played out on national TV.

Perhaps I'll move on to being able to see the humor in it all later. But watching a human being self-destruct in front of your eyes was painful to me.

The other angle on all this is the political ramifications for Romney/Ryan. In that arena, I agree (surprise, surprise!) with Steve Benen.
Political conventions occasionally produce memorable moments that endure. The Chicago riots in 1968, Cuomo's "Tale of Two Cities" speech in 1984, Al kissing Tipper in 2000, Obama's "audacity of hope" in 2004 -- these are memories that quickly entered the political history books, reminding us why conventions still matter.

Last night, we saw another such moment, when Clint Eastwood decided to argue with an empty chair...

A month from now, no one will remember a word from Romney's speech, but a decade from now, we'll still be talking about the time a confused Clint Eastwood had a debate with an empty chair, and lost.
This is so true. All the work the Romney campaign put into presenting their candidate will soon be forgotten. What will remain in the annals of the history of conventions will be this Eastwood moment.

But its not only that. Conventions plan their schedules around the time that the networks pick up coverage. Only the truly dedicated political junkies watch anything else that goes on. Eastwood's big moment last nigh pre-empted the airing of the big Romney bio video that would have been otherwise shown as part of that network coverage. So instead of one last attempt at "humanizing" Romney, millions of Americans tuned in to see this debacle happen live in front of their cringing eyes.

I've talked before about this Romney/Ryan campaign being a clear example of the gang who couldn't shoot straight. We just got a whopper of an example of that last night.  

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fournier on racism and the Romney campaign

I don't have a lot of time this morning, so I'm just going to point you to the one thing you should read today if you read nothing else. Its Ron Fournier's article titled Why (and How) Romney is Playing the Race Card.

If you've had any questions about how the Romney ads lying about the Obama administration's welfare waivers are racist, he explains it all. And here's his conclusion:
Still, Romney and his advisors stand by an ad they know is wrong – or, at the very least, they are carelessly ignoring the facts. That ad is exploiting the worst instincts of white voters – as predicted and substantiated by the Republican Party’s own polling.

That leaves one inescapable conclusion: The Romney campaign is either recklessly ignorant of the facts, some of which they possess – or it is lying about why (and how) it is playing the race card.
And a Republican Senator actually admits what this whole mess is about.
“The demographics race we’re losing badly,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.). “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”
I can only hope that when it comes to this despicable Republican strategy, the old saying is live by the sword, you die by the sword.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"It's a matter of heart. It's who I am. It's what I care about."

No one has to work at "humanizing" President Obama.

I would suggest that's because he knows his heart and has integrity.

Romney (Ann) vs Christie

I basically agree with people who are saying that Gov. Chris Christie's speech last night was his opening salvo in search of the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. That much was clear.

But beyond that, it seemed to be a repudiation of the heart of what Ann Romney had just said in the previous speech. Let's take a look at their introductory remarks side-by-side.

Here is how Ann Romney defined the point she wanted to make.
I want to talk not about what divides us, but what holds us together as an American family. I want to talk to you tonight about that one great thing that unites us, that one thing that brings us our greatest joy when times are good, and the deepest solace in our dark hours.

Tonight I want to talk to you about love.
And then, less than 30 minutes later, here's how Christie summarized his point.
The greatest lesson Mom ever taught me, though, was this one: she told me there would be times in your life when you have to choose between being loved and being respected. She said to always pick being respected, that love without respect was always fleeting — but that respect could grow into real, lasting love.

Now, of course, she was talking about women.

But I have learned over time that it applies just as much to leadership. In fact, I think that advice applies to America today more than ever.

I believe we have become paralyzed by our desire to be loved.
Huh? Right about then my head was spinning. What's the deal here? Is love "what holds us together as an American family" or what's paralyzing us?

We know that the Republican Party is extremely divided these days. And so perhaps they actually planned to give opposing messages - one for each wing.

But I believe that's probably being too generous. I suspect this kind of confusion is more the result of a Romney/Ryan campaign that just illustrated once again last night that they really are the gang that couldn't shoot straight.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Spending "tails" and deficits

Fair warning: I'm going to get a bit wonky here, but I think this is an important distinction to make.

We all know that one of the Republican's favorite lines about Democrats is that we're the party of big spending. Of course that completely ignores that whenever Republicans have had the chance, they've outspent Democrats by a mile.

But there's also a difference in HOW a Democrat like President Obama has spent that often goes unnoticed. I see it all the time because on an infinitely smaller scale, I have to deal with spending and budgets at the nonprofit I run.

Most people who deal with organizational budgets talk about two kinds of spending...those with "tails" and those without. Tails refers to whether the spending is ongoing (therefore affecting future budgets) or one-time expenses.

For example, the biggest costs for almost any business is salaries. Adding employees is not only a current expense, but obligates spending in future years - so it has tails. On the other hand, hiring a contractor to perform a specific task is a one-time expense and doesn't have tails.

You can see the difference in these two kinds of spending played out in terms of current deficit projections very clearly in this chart.

The darkest blue area represents mostly spending on the Recovery Act. And you can see that it has almost no tails. Whereas the tails on the Bush tax cuts are huge.

This is one of the things that really drives me nuts about the Republicans lies about President Obama. They paint him as a big spender who is primarily responsible for our deficit as a result of 2 things: the Recovery Act and Obamacare.

First of all, the CBO has been clear...Obamacare is paid for and rather than contributing to the deficit, it reduces it. That's why it doesn't even show up in the chart.

And secondly, the Recovery Act (as well as TARP) funds have been spent. Their impact on our current deficit is almost nil (I suspect the small amount of on-going spending is small business and middle class tax cuts as well as unemployment insurance extensions).

So if we want to really get serious about balancing the current budget, the two things we have to do are improve the economy (bringing in additional tax dollars) and eliminate the Bush tax cuts. In other words, we need to get rid of the tails of the Bush years.

Another example of why Mitt can't get beyond his like-ability problem

One thing that has been consistent in the polls for months now is that Romney has a serious "like-ability" problem. The latest ABC/WaPo poll asked who "seems like the more friendly and likable person." The results: Obama 61% and Romney 27%.

So every now and then a candidate lets an interviewer look behind the scenes of their everyday life to combat this kind of problem. Romney did that yesterday and here's what they came up with.

Tip for the Romney campaign: Going behind the scenes only reinforces what a dick your candidate is. And it seems like the Romney family is so used to it that they don't even recognize when they reinforce it: "Grandpa's so cute when he's being an asshole."

Monday, August 27, 2012

Its not just buttons and t-shirts

Check out what I bought at the Obama campaign store.


Has Romney's "etch-a-sketch" moment finally arrived?

For the last couple of months, it looked to me like Romney was not going to employ the much-anticipated etch-a-sketch in any attempt to appeal to independent voters. But today I'm wondering whether or not he's possibly employing a two-pronged strategy including not only a full-throttle Southern Strategy but also an attempt to limit the damage his campaign has done to his support from women.

As an example, take a look at his interview this morning with Fox's Chris Wallace.

If you're like me and have trouble getting through 3 minutes of Mitt's mendacity, here are some highlights.
Well, first of all, with regards to women's health care, look, I'm the guy that was able to get health care for all of the women and men in my state. They're just talking about it at the federal level...

And then with regards to contraceptives, of course, Republicans, and myself in particular, recognize that people should have a right to use contraceptives. There's absolutely no validity whatsoever to the Obama effort to try and bring that up...

And with regards to the issue of abortion, that is something where men and women have alternative views on that or different views. We look at an issue like that with great seriousness and sobriety and recognize that different people have reached different conclusions. But it's not just men who think one way. Women also, in many cases, are pro-life. There are two lives at stake, the child, the unborn child, and the mom. And I care for both of them.
So not only is he touting Romneycare for the first time in the campaign, he's trying to sound supportive of contraception and gone all fuzzy on the issue of abortion.

And then later today, Romney talked to CBS's Scott Pelley.

Here's what he said.
My position has been clear throughout this campaign. I'm in favor of abortion being legal in the case of rape and incest and the health and life of the mother. But recognize, this is the decision that will be made by the Supreme Court. The Democrats try and make this a political issue every four years, but this is a matter in the courts. It's been settled for some time in the courts.
Whoah there nellie...did he just say that Roe v Wade is a settled matter in the courts?

I'm sure you'd join me in finding all kinds of crap from Romney in both of these interviews. But that wasn't my point in writing about this. I'm flying up high to look at the big picture and wondering if maybe we're seeing a shift in this campaign's strategy. Who knows - perhaps his etch-a-sketch moment has finally arrived.

If that's the case, this latest ad from the Obama campaign is not only entertaining, its prescient.

The facts on Romney/Ryan attempts to re-start the "death panel" scare

Romney and Ryan are attempting to re-start all the hysteria about "death panels" by suggesting that Obama implemented one for Medicare. They include it in almost every speech/interview. But as an example, in his speech to The Villages in Florida last week, Ryan said that Obamacare will put "15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in charge of Medicare, who are required to cut Medicare ... that will lead to denied care for current seniors."

They are referring to the Independent Payment Advisory Board slated to start next year.

For some background, Obamacare includes several attempts to slow the growth of Medicare spending. Targets have been set, and if they aren't met, the IPAB is tasked with finding other ways to control costs.

In terms of them being unaccountable, here are the facts:

• They’re appointed by the president and approved by the Senate.

• They can’t serve more than two six-year terms.

• Their recommendations can be rejected by Congress.

In terms of the IPAB leading to "denied care for current seniors," by law the board can’t ration care. It can’t change benefits. It can’t change eligibility. It can’t increase what seniors pay. As Michael Tomasky points out:
The IPAB will have a hell of a hard job: It will have to identify savings that do not harm care. The new law says expressly—on page 409, if you want to check it—that the IPAB’s proposals “shall not include any recommendation to ration health care.”
We've seen already from their lies about Obamacare finding $716 billion in Medicare savings that Romney/Ryan have a difficult time understanding the concept of reducing costs to save money. They seem to think the only way to save Medicare is to shift costs away from the program and onto the back of seniors (ie, vouchers).

But given the fact that our health care in this country costs almost twice per capita that of any country in the world - its clear that there are savings to be found in how its delivered. Tomasky gives us an example.
New approaches are desperately needed, like the promising Accountable Care Organizations—networks of doctors and hospitals that can, it is hoped, offer better-coordinated care to seniors that will keep them healthier while tamping costs down.
I've seen how this can be a problem with my own parents. They see all kinds of specialists for different ailments. And often the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing. That is not only costly, it can be dangerous and its just not good health care.

So the next time you hear someone worrying that Obamacare institutes a "death panel" for seniors, please combat that lie with some actual facts.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

When all else fails...there's always the Southern Strategy

We always knew it would come to this. Back in April 2011, Adam Serwer nailed it.
The Republican Party had a choice after 2008. They could continue to rely on a dwindling but still decisive share of the white vote to prevail, or they could try to bring more minorities into the party. While I'm not entirely sure how much of the decision was made by party leaders and how much is merely the unprecedented influence of Fox News, but whether it's pseudo scandals of the past two years, from birtherism to the NBPP [National Black Panther Party] case, the GOP's nationwide rush to ban sharia and institute draconian immigration laws, or characterizing nearly every administration policy as reparations, the conservative fixations of Obama's first term indicate that the GOP will end up relying at least in part on inflaming white racial resentment to close the gap.
Today, even the New York Times is calling it out.
Mitt Romney is heading into his nominating convention with his advisers convinced he needs a more combative footing against President Obama in order to appeal to white, working-class voters and to persuade them that he is the best answer to their economic frustrations...

Mr. Romney’s chances hinge to a large degree on running up his advantage among white voters in swing states who show deep strains of opposition to Mr. Obama but do not yet trust Mr. Romney to look out for their interests, Republican strategists say.

Many of those voters are economically disaffected, and the Romney campaign has been trying to reach them with appeals built around an assertion that Mr. Obama is making it easier for welfare recipients to avoid work. The Romney campaign is airing an advertisement falsely charging that Mr. Obama has “quietly announced” plans to eliminate work and job training requirements for welfare beneficiaries, a message Mr. Romney’s aides said resonates with working-class voters who see government as doing nothing for them.

The moves reflect a campaign infused with a sharper edge and overtones of class and race. On Friday, Mr. Romney said at a rally that no one had ever had to ask him about his birth certificate, and Mr. Ryan invoked his Catholicism and love of hunting.
In other words, when it comes to Republican strategy, nothing much has changed since 1970.
From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don't need any more than that...The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That's where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.

- Republican strategist Kevin Phillips

The state of the race: what could possibly go wrong in Tampa?

Oliver Burkeman wrote a hilarious article titled The Republican National Convention: What could possibly go wrong? When I first read it, I figured he'd pretty much covered all the bases ;-)

Even though it hasn't officially started yet, it looks like his numero uno "wrong" has already happened.
The hurricane scenario: will Hurricane Isaac, most recently reported as a tropical storm gathering strength in the Caribbean, wreak havoc in Tampa?...Hurricanes, Michele Bachmann and Pat Robertson agree, are generally signs of heavenly anger at profligate government spending, or feminists. So what will it mean if God smites Tampa? 
Kinda makes you wonder just what God's message is in wanting one less day of the Republican Convention, doesn't it?

OK, maybe not. Maybe its just a sign that planning a convention in Florida during hurricane season is not the greatest idea.

But Burkman missed some other headwinds that are blowing in Florida. By now you've probably heard that former Florida Republican Governor Charlie Crist endorsed President Obama today. He becomes perhaps the most recognizable former Republican to go public with his exodus from the party.
As Republicans gather in Tampa to nominate Mitt Romney, Americans can expect to hear tales of how President Obama has failed to work with their party or turn the economy around.

But an element of their party has pitched so far to the extreme right on issues important to women, immigrants, seniors and students that they've proven incapable of governing for the people.
Ouch...that one hurt! And moreso because it comes from the guy Public Policy Polling recently found would beat current Republican Governor Rick Scott in a head-to-head match-up.
Crist benefits from voters’ deep dissatisfaction with Governor Rick Scott in order to lead his successor in a potential 2014 matchup 44% to 41%.
And then there is the take-down of Romney by The Economist.
All politicians flip-flop from time to time; but Mr Romney could win an Olympic medal in it. And that is a pity, because this newspaper finds much to like in the history of this uncharismatic but dogged man...

But competence is worthless without direction and, frankly, character. Would that Candidate Romney had indeed presented himself as a solid chief executive who got things done. Instead he has appeared as a fawning PR man, apparently willing to do or say just about anything to get elected. In some areas, notably social policy and foreign affairs, the result is that he is now committed to needlessly extreme or dangerous courses that he may not actually believe in but will find hard to drop; in others, especially to do with the economy, the lack of details means that some attractive-sounding headline policies prove meaningless (and possibly dangerous) on closer inspection. Behind all this sits the worrying idea of a man who does not really know his own mind. America won’t vote for that man; nor would this newspaper.
To check on the political leanings of The Economist, I looked into their endorsements from previous presidential elections. Its a mixed bag.  In terms of Republicans, they endorsed Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, and George W. Bush (against Al Gore). On the other hand, they endorsed Bill Clinton (against H.W. Bush), John Kerry and Barack Obama in 2008. You get the very real sense from reading this editorial that they REALLY wanted to endorse Romney - but he's blowing it. We can thank the tea partiers and Romney's lack of character for that.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is having a little fun with it all.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fight for Your Mind

This is a long one - but its a GREAT way to jump start a rockin Saturday night...fabulous lyrics and the most kick-ass bass guitar EVA!

My "thank you" to Michael Grunwald

As most of you know by now, Michael Grunwald published a book this month titled The New New Deal that has changed the conversation (especially on the left) about the 2009 Recovery Act.

In a bit of brazen "pat yourself on the back" theatrics, I feel the urge to point out that I have been singing the praises of Michael Grunwald on this topic for a while now. But the truth is that this is a pretty common theme amongst us pragmatic progressives. While the poutragers scream about meaningless shortcomings of the Obama administration - we've often been busy uncovering the successes they ignore.

For that reason and several more, I found this discussion on Up w/ Chris last weekend to be fascinating.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

If you're able to watch the clip, the first thing you'll hear is Grunwald point out the following facts about the impact of the Recovery Act on poverty:

  • It lifted 7 million people out of poverty,
  • It made 32 million poor people less poor,
  • It reformed unemployment insurance for the first time since the New Deal, making it applicable to todays work force,
  • It included a program for the homeless that took 1.2 million people off the streets.
In an obvious attempt to find something to blame on President Obama, Chris Hayes' response is to ask "why don't we know all that?" What he expects to hear is that the President failed to tell us. 

But I will give Chris some credit, he eventually acknowledges that he is a reporter and that as such, he should have found and told the story. He didn't. Perhaps he was too busy discussing the myth about how President Obama could have gotten a bigger stimulus with all the other poutragers.

That exchange, perhaps more than any other, captures for me the way that the left has done more to thwart progressive policies than to support them. The reason more people don't know about the positive affects of the Recovery Act is that too many of them spent all their time critiquing it and almost no time looking at its benefits. The very same thing happened to Obamacare. 

And so I want to do a BIG SHOUT OUT to Michael Grunwald for taking a different route. And hope that perhaps Chris will learn the lesson.

Ruh-Roh, the GOP has riled up the Raging Grannies

Warning: Remember...these are Grannies. And we know from experience that once they put on those funny hats, they just might do/say ANYTHING!


Friday, August 24, 2012

Republican sexism...beyond reproductive rights

I find it interesting that right in the middle of the blow-up about Todd Akin's sexist remarks on rape and abortion, the flagship of conservative publications - National Review - ran one of the most sexist articles I've ever read.
What do women want? The conventional biological wisdom is that men select mates for fertility, while women select for status — thus the commonness of younger women’s pairing with well-established older men but the rarity of the converse. The Demi Moore–Ashton Kutcher model is an exception — the only 40-year-old woman Jack Nicholson has ever seen naked is Kathy Bates in that horrific hot-tub scene. Age is cruel to women, and subordination is cruel to men. Ellen Kullman is a very pretty woman, but at 56 years of age she probably would not turn a lot of heads in a college bar, and the fact that she is the chairman and CEO of Dupont isn’t going to change that.

It’s a good thing Mitt Romney doesn’t hang out in college bars.

You want off-the-charts status? Check out the curriculum vitae of one Willard M. Romney: $200 million in the bank (and a hell of a lot more if he didn’t give so much away), apex alpha executive, CEO, chairman of the board, governor, bishop, boss of everything he’s ever touched. Son of the same, father of more. It is a curious scientific fact (explained in evolutionary biology by the Trivers-Willard hypothesis — Willard, notice) that high-status animals tend to have more male offspring than female offspring, which holds true across many species, from red deer to mink to Homo sap. The offspring of rich families are statistically biased in favor of sons — the children of the general population are 51 percent male and 49 percent female, but the children of the Forbes billionaire list are 60 percent male. Have a gander at that Romney family picture: five sons, zero daughters. Romney has 18 grandchildren, and they exceed a 2:1 ratio of grandsons to granddaughters (13:5). When they go to church at their summer-vacation home, the Romney clan makes up a third of the congregation. He is basically a tribal chieftain.

Professor Obama? Two daughters. May as well give the guy a cardigan. And fallopian tubes.
Need I mention that the author is male - Kevin Williamson.

I hope I don't need to outline for anyone all of the many ways these few paragraphs demonstrate several forms of noxious sexism. But this is all a lead-up for Williamson to suggest that - rather than run FROM his wealth and status - Romney should run ON it. In the end, he sums up why.
Elections are not about public policy. They aren’t even about the economy. Elections are tribal, and tribes are — Occupy types, cover your delicate ears — ruthlessly hierarchical. Somebody has to be the top dog.
Sometimes I feel like the women's movement has confined itself to discussions about reproductive rights and equal pay while not articulating the way patriarchy is propped up by our equation of power with dominance. Williamson just tied that all up for us in the argument he's making for Romney's presidency.

In my ideal world, this kind of sexism would get as much blow-back as the kind recently espoused by Akin.

One of the few people I saw who wrote about this mess of an article was actually Markos at Daily Kos. His response to that shit about fathers and daughters...


There are times when Southern women say "bless your heart" and mean it. This is one of those times for me...bless your heart Markos.

Republican Women for Obama

My first thought was to add this video to the post below.

But its too important.

This one is too long to be shared via ads on TV. If its going to get out there - we're going to have to do it. So I suggest we share it with every woman we know and every man in our lives who cares about women (I suspect that would cover most all of them).

No commentary required: video edition 8/24/12

Today I'm finding that its videos more than the written word that are getting my attention. So here are a few that caught my eye.

First of all, I think Patrick Murphy - who is challenging Rep. Allen West - has found the perfect way to showcase just how unhinged many Republicans sound these days.

Secondly, most of the focus this week on Obama ads was about the one by Bill Clinton. But I loved this one by President Obama's sister - Maya.

Thirdly, yesterday when I was writing about the Martin/Malcolm struggle in the age of Obama, I forgot what a hilarious job Key and Peele have done in putting that on display. Here's their latest.

Finally, we've probably past the point where the "Call Me Maybe" covers are interesting. But I bet you'll be glad you watched this one.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Coates on the Martin/Malcolm struggle in the age of Obama

If you have any curiosity about what racism means in the age of Obama, you MUST - and I mean MUST - read Ta-Nehisi Coates' cover story in the latest edition of the Atlantic titled Fear of a Black President.

After reading it myself, I thought that the best thing I could do was link it, tweet it, and share it with my friends. Its a long complex piece and I feared that writing about it would do nothing more than demean the depths to which Coates takes us.

But then I watched the video embedded in the article where Atlantic editor Scott Stossel interviewed Coates. The things Stossel chose to talk about seemed to represent the triviality that tends to become so much the focus for many white progressives. I decided that this white girl - who is still in the process of learning about these kinds of things from people like Coates - needed to throw her take-aways from the article out there as an alternative. So here goes...

Coates starts out by telling the story of the murder of Trayvon Martin and notes the fact that initially it was cause for mourning from all sides...until President Obama said that "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon." Then all political hell broke lose.
The moment Obama spoke, the case of Trayvon Martin passed out of its national-mourning phase and lapsed into something darker and more familiar—racialized political fodder...

For most of American history, our political system was premised on two conflicting facts—one, an oft-stated love of democracy; the other, an undemocratic white supremacy inscribed at every level of government. In warring against that paradox, African Americans have historically been restricted to the realm of protest and agitation. But when President Barack Obama pledged to “get to the bottom of exactly what happened,” he was not protesting or agitating. He was not appealing to federal power—he was employing it. The power was black—and, in certain quarters, was received as such.

No amount of rhetorical moderation could change this. It did not matter that the president addressed himself to “every parent in America.” His insistence that “everybody [pull] together” was irrelevant. It meant nothing that he declined to cast aspersions on the investigating authorities, or to speculate on events. Even the fact that Obama expressed his own connection to Martin in the quietest way imaginable—“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon”—would not mollify his opposition. It is, after all, one thing to hear “I am Trayvon Martin” from the usual placard-waving rabble-rousers. Hearing it from the commander of the greatest military machine in human history is another.
KABOOM! THE POWER WAS BLACK...that's the story. It was one thing for white folks to grant legislative equality to black folks, as in the victories of the Civil Rights movement. Its a whole other thing for black folks to grab the power and run things. That sets off a whole different kind of fear in white people. And its the challenge President Obama has taken on.

So Barack Obama has power. To me, the crux of what Coates is writing about is how he got it and what he's doing with it.

After addressing some of the historical and present-day manifestations of racism, Coates gets to the heart of what I think is his own struggle with President Obama.
Obama offered black America a convenient narrative that could be meshed with the larger American story. It was a narrative premised on Crispus Attucks, not the black slaves who escaped plantations and fought for the British; on the 54th Massachusetts, not Nat Turner; on stoic and saintly Rosa Parks, not young and pregnant Claudette Colvin; on a Christlike Martin Luther King Jr., not an avenging Malcolm X.
I've seen this battle in Coates before. Here's how he talked about it shortly after Obama was elected.
Here is where Barack Obama and the civil rights leaders of old are joined -- in a shocking, almost certifiable faith in humanity, something that subsequent generations lost. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. may have led African Americans out of segregation, and he may have cured incalculable numbers of white racists, but more than all that, he believed that the lion's share of the population of this country would not support the rights of thugs to pummel people who just wanted to cross a bridge. King believed in white people, and when I was a younger, more callow man, that belief made me suck my teeth. I saw it as weakness and cowardice, a lack of faith in his own. But it was the opposite. King's belief in white people was the ultimate show of strength: He was willing to give his life on a bet that they were no different from the people who lived next door.
Coates might not be sucking his teeth anymore, but you can tell that the battle between the non-violent King and avenging Malcolm still rages on.

And why wouldn't it? I talked about this once in an article I wrote about What it means to be the first Black President...getting your buttons pushed. Here's a quote from Daily Kos writer Vyan that I used in that one.
Black People hear these Dog-Whistles. They know what they mean.

And they also know that all of these little attacks are intended to Goad them. To make them lose their cool, to make them lose their temper, to make them look irrational and angry.

The Irrational, Paranoid, Screaming Angry Black Man.

That's what they want to turn Obama into. The Angry Black President.

They want him to start Complaining and Whining about the Republicans not treating him nicely. They want him to start "Playing the Race" Card, just so that they throw it right back at him.

And that's also why he resists. It may be infuriating. It may be crazy making. But this is the double-bind that many Black people have had to face all the time when these slights and broadsides come at them with racial undertones, but few clear or logical overtones...

I've lived with that internal, mental battle my entire life - and I very nearly have reached the "Fuck IT/FUCK YOU!" point more than once. Generally speaking, it didn't help much.

That's not the road Obama intends or needs to go down, sorry.
All of that reminds me of a spoken word performance by Daniel Beaty. I first found this one years ago and hesitate to post it because I know that the language is likely to offend some. So if you would rather not hear a black man use the "n" word, perhaps you should skip past this one. But I think it captures this struggle in an incredibly powerful way.

Its not for me or anyone else to suggest how African Americans (and other people of color) should resolve this struggle - but to be aware of its existence and our role in perpetuating it.

In this article, Coates is both admiring and raging against his perception that President Obama has chosen the side of the "nerd" in this struggle. He knows that is the only way America can countenance a black president - and yet the rage, even at that, rages on.
In a democracy, so the saying goes, the people get the government they deserve. Part of Obama’s genius is a remarkable ability to soothe race consciousness among whites. Any black person who’s worked in the professional world is well acquainted with this trick. But never has it been practiced at such a high level, and never have its limits been so obviously exposed. This need to talk in dulcet tones, to never be angry regardless of the offense, bespeaks a strange and compromised integration indeed, revealing a country so infantile that it can countenance white acceptance of blacks only when they meet an Al Roker standard.

And yet this is the uncertain foundation of Obama’s historic victory—a victory that I, and my community, hold in the highest esteem. Who would truly deny the possibility of a black presidency in all its power and symbolism? Who would rob that little black boy of the right to feel himself affirmed by touching the kinky black hair of his president.

Yep, I think that's what its all about...Barack Obama has made the calculation that he'll do whatever it is he has to so that maybe one day little black boys and girls have the chance to grow up without all the rage.


Romney/Ryan on access to abortion for rape victims: "trust us"

Its pretty clear that when it comes to access to abortion for women who are the victims of rape/incest, the Romney/Ryan campaign is pulling another "trust us."

Here's a timeline of their various positions:

We all know that back in 2011, Rep. Ryan co-authored with Rep. Akin the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which allowed for taxpayers funds to be used for abortion only in the case of "forcible" (read: "legitimate") rape.

A few months later, as Mississippi was preparing to vote on their personhood amendment, Mike Huckabee asked Romney if he would have supported one in Massachusetts. The answer: "Absolutely."

After the amendment failed even in deep-red Mississippi, Mitt had some 'splainin to do.
Romney's current position? He supports, per spokeswoman Gail Gitcho, "a Human Life Amendment that overturns Roe vs. Wade and sends the issue back to the states" — which sounds like something short of a federal abortion ban.

"Mitt Romney is pro-life, and as he has said previously, he is supportive of efforts to ensure recognition that life begins at conception. He believes these matters should be left up to states to decide," she said.
Sounds like he does support a personhood amendment and just wants to overturn Roe v. Wade to allow states to implement them.

This is all important in this context because the advocates for personhood amendments are very clear that if embryos are considered to be persons from the moment of conception, abortion would always be illegal - even in the case of rape and incest.

It is interesting to note that the organization Personhood USA was thrilled when Romney chose Ryan as his running mate.
Personhood USA, the pro-life organization that earlier this year suggested GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney had a dubious record on abortion, has now come out to praise his recently announced running mate Paul Ryan as being a defender of human life...

"In supporting Personhood, Congressman Ryan has taken a consistent pro-life position, one that is called for by the Republican Party's own platform," added Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D., Legal Analyst for Personhood USA, in a statement.
And then came the whole Akin mess followed by the almost simultaneous inclusion of personhood language in the GOP platform.
“Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed,” said the draft platform language approved Tuesday, which was first reported by CNN. “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”
The Romney campaign watched the outrage at Akin and issued a statement.
"Governor Romney and Congressman (Paul) Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape," Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said.
As for Ryan, when pressed he backtracked on the idea of "forcible" rape but didn't address the issue of access to abortion.
Ryan said that Akin’s “statements were outrageous, over the pail. I don’t know anybody who would agree with that. Rape is rape period, end of story.”
That kind of waffling has certain elements of their base in an uproar.
“Personhood USA does not endorse political candidates, but we had hoped that Congressman Ryan would be a good influence on Governor Romney, considering Romney’s liberal abortion record,” explained Jennifer Mason, Communications Director for Personhood USA. “Reading today that babies conceived in rape should suffer the death penalty under a Romney-Ryan administration is extremely concerning, and indicates that Congressman Ryan’s pro-woman and pro-baby positions would have little influence if he wins the office of Vice President of the United States.”
Due to that, I don't expect we'll hear much more clarity from Romney/Ryan on this issue. They'll have to avoid it as much as possible - just like everything else their campaign is based on (other than "Obama bad"). So once again, voters will be asked to simply "trust us" when it comes to what Romney/Ryan would do.

Ain't gonna happen.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


"Its OK if you're a Republican"

The next time some winger tries to tell you how mortified they are that VP Joe Biden talked about the GOP putting people in chains, ask them what they think about what Sarah Palin said just yesterday.

No one bats an eye when Republicans say things like this because THEY DO IT ALL THE TIME.

And then they get the vapors when a Democrat gives a little of that back at them.

Republicans: Governing vs Campaigning

I remember that my biggest frustration during the Bush/Cheney years was that they didn't seem to give a shit what the American people thought. Cheney made that clear.

We saw that same thing from House Republicans after 2010 when they voted for one bill after another that was deeply unpopular with the American public. That's what they do when they have a majority and they simply obstruct when they're in the minority.

Now its time for an election. Proposing things that are unpopular isn't going to cut it. So what do they do? Be vague on specifics and lie.

Isn't it about time voters caught on?

A Test for Voters and Democracy

You know me by now - I like to look at the big picture sometimes rather than get too caught up in the day-to-day details.

And so when I look at this election, it strikes me that this - more than any other in our history - is a test for American voters and democracy itself.

Without an informed electorate, the very idea of democracy is a sham. That's one of the reasons that public education has been such a priority for so long in this country.

And yet we have the Republican Party's nominee running a campaign based on lies about their opposition and simply saying "trust us" when it comes to their own policies. They're not even trying to hide it.
Advisers say the campaign has no plans to pivot from its previous view that diving into details during a general-election race would be suicidal.

The Romney strategy is simple: Hammer away at Obama for proposing cuts to Medicare and promise, in vague, aspirational ways, to protect the program for future retirees — but don’t get pulled into a public discussion of the most unpopular parts of the Ryan plan.

“The nature of running a presidential campaign is that you’re communicating direction to the American people,” a Romney adviser said. “Campaigns that are about specifics, particularly in today’s environment, get tripped up.”
Let me spell that out for you. What they're saying is that they KNOW that the specifics of what they want to do (lower taxes for the wealthy, get rid of Wall Street regulations, voucherize Medicare, privatize Social Security, etc.) are terribly unpopular with American voters. So what they're going to do instead is lie about President Obama and offer vague platitudes about how they will make everything all better.

When Ronald Reagan ran on this kind of platform, "trickle down" economics was still pretty much a theory to most voters. So he talked about it and enough voters we willing to give it a try after the 1970's stagflation. But now Romney/Ryan know that we've seen it in action and watched it take us to the brink of another great depression. So they know it won't sell.

Romney's first plan was to simply sell the country on the idea that his business credentials meant that he knew how to fix a broken national economy. When that one got blown up by Democrats and the Obama campaign, he went with picking a running mate that "had a plan." Of course, Romney had to run away from the specifics of the plan by saying that he had one of his own - and won't give us the details...just "trust me."

This is the weakest presidential campaign I have witnessed in my lifetime. The truth is that if this election were based on that, President Obama would win re-election in a landslide.

But the Republicans have 3 things going for, racism and an alternative media that caters to the lies.

And so American voters and democracy are going to be tested this year. Will Republican money/media be able to fuel enough subterranean racism and lies to win? That's the bet Romney/Ryan are making.

I'm counting on the idea that voters are going to demand better than that.

We'll see.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"Deep poverty" and the failure of welfare reform

It's clear now that the Romney/Ryan campaign is going to be relentless in continuing to spread their lies about the waivers the Obama administration made available to state's implementation of welfare.

Part of that lie involves pretending that the welfare reform of the 1990's was unequivocally successful. I suppose that if you are a Republican and would rather get rid of welfare all together - there might be some truth to that. But as the article about poverty by Paul Tough that I wrote about the other day explains, welfare reform has been anything BUT successful for many children living in poverty.

Tough points out the distinction that is often made between "shallow" poverty and "deep" poverty.
The Census Bureau tracks a category that the government calls “deep poverty”; families are said to be in deep poverty if they earn less than 50 percent of the poverty line — which means around $11,000 a year for a family of four, not including food stamps or other noncash support. The number of families in deep poverty grew sharply during the recent recession and its aftermath, and in 2010, the share of Americans whose families made less than half of the poverty line hit a record: 6.7 percent of the population, or 1 in 15 Americans. The numbers are even higher for children, disturbingly so. In 2010, 1 in every 10 American children lived in deep poverty.
He then goes on to explain that the reason for the increase in deep poverty has less to do with the current recession than it does with legislative changes made over the last two decades.
In 1984, federal aid to poor families was progressive, in the literal sense of the term — the poorest families got the most help. Single-parent families below 50 percent of the poverty line received, on average, $1,231 (in current dollars) per month from the federal government. Those in what could be considered shallow poverty, between 50 and 100 percent of the poverty line, received $448. But over the following 20 years, that situation was reversed. Government aid to families in deep poverty fell by 38 percent on average, while aid to families in shallow poverty increased by 86 percent. By 2004, the government was actually giving more, each month, to families in shallow poverty than to families in deep poverty.
And of course, one of the biggest contributors to this shift was welfare reform. In a sense, it shifted resources to those who are able to find work. For those who can''re on your own.

Tough gets to the heart of the problem with this when he addresses what that means for the children involved - and how deep poverty gets passed on from one generation to the next.
There are now seven million American children whose families earn below 50 percent of the poverty line. And in the last decade, we learned quite a lot about what it does to children to grow up surrounded by the kind of everyday chaos that often accompanies life in a family that is earning less than $11,000 a year. Neuroscientists and developmental psychologists can now explain how early stress and trauma disrupt the healthy growth of the prefrontal cortex; how the absence of strong and supportive relationships with stable adults inhibits a child’s development of a crucial set of cognitive skills called executive functions.

In fact, though, you don’t need a neuroscientist to explain the effects of a childhood spent in deep poverty. Your average kindergarten teacher in a high-poverty neighborhood can tell you: children who grow up in especially difficult circumstances are much more likely to have trouble controlling their impulses in school, getting along with classmates and following instructions. Intensive early interventions can make a big difference, but without that extra help, students from the poorest homes usually fall behind in school early on, and they rarely catch up. When you cluster lots of children with impulse-control issues together in a single classroom, it becomes harder for teachers to teach and for students to learn. And when these same children reach adolescence...they are more likely to become a danger to themselves, to each other and to their community.
That, my friends, is one of the best descriptions of what is going on in pockets of urban American that you'll read anywhere. Now throw in zero tolerance policies in our schools that lead to the school-to-prison pipeline and you have a perfect storm for ensuring that large swaths of our children fail and that deep poverty gets passed on from one generation to the next.

As Tough points out, there are no easy answers when it comes to solving this problem. But the one thing we DO know is that the lying demagogic race-baiting of the Romney/Ryan campaign is the exact opposite direction we need to go.

The best offense against the Akin's of the world

No matter what Todd Akin decides to do today about his candidacy, we need to remember that the Republican Party supports some of the worst of what he talked about.
The Republican Party is once again set to enshrine into its official platform support for "a human life amendment" to the Constitution that would outlaw abortion without making explicit exemptions for rape or incest, according to draft language of the platform obtained exclusively by CNN late Monday.
As pragmatic progressives, we know that its not good enough to rant and rave about these kinds of things. Its up to us to DO something about it.

Other than re-electing President Obama, we need to ensure that he has a Congress that will fight for women's rights. And one of the best ways to do that is to elect more progressive and Democratic women to Congress.

On November 6th, I will have the distinct pleasure of voting - not only for President Obama - but for two outstanding women...Senator Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Betty McCollum. They are likely to both win handily - which is great.

But that means I can afford to do more. Regardless of the fact that I don't always agree with her, Mr. Akin has given us all reason to support Senator Claire McCaskill.

In addition, I'll be supporting two women who will be "firsts" if they are elected. Tammy Baldwin would not only be the first openly lesbian woman elected to the Senate, she would be the first woman to represent Wisconsin there. Right now she's trailing Tommy Thompson - who was able to beat the tea party candidates challenging him in the primary.

I've talked before about the other woman who would represent a first - Wenona Benally Baldenegro. She would be the first Navajo woman in Congress. Wenona faces a tough primary a week from today against the much more corporate-friendly Ann Kirkpatrick. So any support we can send her right now would be a huge boost.

That's where I'm going to channel my anger at the likes of Mr. Akin and the Republicans. Care to join me?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Romney/Ryan cuts to senior's health care

You know that lie Romney told about President Obama...

Oops, I guess I'll have to be more specific than that.

This time I'm talking about the one where he says that Obama cut $716 billion from Medicare when in reality Obamacare extended its solvency for an additional 8 years - all while closing the prescription drug donut hole and adding free preventative services. Yeah, that one.

In trying to sell that particular lie, both Romney and Ryan have promised over and over again that they won't touch Medicare for anyone 55 and older and that their plan ensures Medicare's solvency indefinitely into the future.

All those lies caught up to Romney's spokesperson Ed Gillespie yesterday when Chris Wallace - yeah, the same Chris Wallace who works for Fox News - asked some tough questions.

Here's how it all comes down. If Romney repeals ObamaCare - as he's promised to do - that means that Medicare starts to go insolvent in 2016. But Ryan's plan to voucherize Medicare (which they claim will make it solvent) doesn't start until 2023. That's so that they can make this promise to people 55 and up that they won't touch their Medicare.

Wallace picked up on that and asked Gillespie how Romney/Ryan would keep Medicare solvent during those intervening 7 years from 2016-2023.

Gillespie's answer revealed yet another lie.
Governor Romney supports increasing over time bringing Medicare eligibility in line with the Social Security retirement age. for those of us 55 and older there WILL be changes to our Medicare. We won't be eligible until we're 66 or 67. For those of us currently in the midst of planning our retirement - that might be helpful to know.

The other thing not many people are talking about is the $800 billion in cuts to Medicaid in Ryan's budget that would start next year. Right now over 6 million seniors rely on Medicaid to pay for their nursing home care. Those cuts amount to one third of Medicaid's projected spending over the next 10 years.

Sure, Ryan weasels out of all that by block granting Medicaid to the states so that they have to decide whether to deny health care to children, the disabled or seniors. But estimates are that - as a result - 14 million people will lose their health care and a significant portion of them will be seniors.

The "trust me" campaign

As we watched Romney role out his campaign, we saw someone who:
  • Had implemented health care mandates as governor have to denounce them as part of Obamacare
  • Had once been pro-choice suddenly become anti-choice
  • Had once supported an assault weapons ban come out against it
  • Had once requested welfare waivers to states now oppose them
  • Had once claimed to be progressive now assume the mantle of being "severely conservative"
It goes on and on.

Now that same candidate has chosen Paul Ryan (supposedly a "man of principles") as his running mate. And what have we witnessed?
  • Someone who had voted to increase the national deficit by $6.8 trillion now claiming to be a deficit hawk
  • Someone who was opposed to the Medicare savings in ObamaCare until he included them in his budget but now is opposed to them again
  • Someone who was against the stimulus bill until his constituents wanted some of the funding, so he wrote letters supporting the jobs that would be created, and then lied about it, and then had to admit that he'd done it
  • Someone who supported Bush's stimulus spending but now opposes the same thing when President Obama proposes it
And after all that flip-flopping, this is also the campaign that thinks we should just trust them when it comes to:
  • Romney's taxes
  • The specifics of how their proposals balance the budget
  • The specifics of what they want to do to Medicare
Trust is clearly NOT what a history like that inspires. Instead, they look like a couple of (really bad) con artists.

Akin exposes the misogyny of anti-choice

I'm sure you've seen/heard it by now, but here is what Rep. Todd Akin said yesterday:
[F]rom what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.
I appears as though the only thing Akin is re-tracting is the nonsense about the female body being able to shut down a pregnancy that is the result of rape. The rest stands as far as he's concerned.

That last sentence is a real whopper though, isn't it? Where the misogyny is laid bare is the fact that nowhere - in his analysis of the situation - does the woman's point of view have any merit.

I have my own views about the significant question on when life begins. But regardless of where you stand on that one - that fact is that a woman who has just been raped is a human being. To understand that requires us to take her experience into consideration. Akin doesn't do that. He only sees the perpetrator and the "child." Making women invisible in a situation like that is simply misogynist.

The question of "legitimate" rape has reminded everyone that last year Akin teamed up with our current VP nominee to try to legislatively define rape for those who are seeking an abortion.

I'm going to go where most pro-choicers won't and suggest that if guys like Akin and Ryan are able to outlaw abortion with exceptions in the case of rape and incest, women who are desperate to have an abortion will claim that it is a result of rape (whether that's true or not). Doubt me? Just take a look at all the women from years gone by who were willing to risk coat hangers and back alleys. That should give you an idea of the lengths to which women are wiling to go.

Facing up to reality like that gets us to the heart and soul of this question...who gets to decide? Carrying a baby to term in your own body is something women WILL have a choice about because we are human beings. We have a stake in this decision. To deny that is to make us invisible in the equation. That is the crux of this argument...and its why anti-choice = misogyny.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A couple of intelligent alternatives to Greenwald and Smiley

We all know that writers like Glenn Greenwald have been going on endlessly for the last few years critiquing how President Obama is conducting his war on al Qaeda. Most notably, he finds the use of drones to be a priori proof of the case he is trying to make. As I've said before, I find Greenwald's arguments on this to be over-simplified and lacking in much depth.

That's why today I was interested in an article by Peter Beaumont titled Are drones any more immoral than other weapons of war? (as an aside, the article appeared in the Guardian, where Greenwald will be writing as of tomorrow - make of that what you will). In it Beaumont begins to tackle some of the more complex questions raised by the use of drones. Rather than quote bits of it, I'll simply suggest you go read the whole thing. THIS is the kind of conversation liberals should be having.

Similarly, people like Tavis Smiley have been brutal in their critiques about President Obama not talking enough about poverty. Much like Greenwald, what I haven't seen from Smiley is any real discussion about the complexities - not only of dealing with poverty in general - but of doing so when the country is careening into a possible second great depression.

And so I would suggest that if you read nothing else today - take some time to exercise your brain a bit by reading this article in the NYT by Paul Tough. When it comes to the issues I care deeply about, I haven't seen anyone cover them any better. Its a bit longer than the article by Beaumont, but worth every minute of it!

Niether of these writers are setting out to be blind apologists for President Obama. In fact, they raise some difficult questions. But the one thing you will not get from Beaumont or Tough are easy answers. People like Greenwald and Smiley who imply that those exist when it comes to these topics are fooling themselves - most likely because of a personal agenda they should be keeping to themselves.

Much like the article Bill pointed me towards yesterday by Clay Claiborne, these two writers demonstrate what intelligent conversation can look like on the left. I'd like to do all I can to promote that and hope we see more of it in the future from writers like this.

Have we reached "peak idiocy" on the right yet? (updated)

Who knew you could outflank Michelle Bachman on the idiot front? That feat was just accomplished by Todd Akin who is running for the United States Senate against Claire McCaskill.

I'm going to try to hang on to some sanity by taming my desire to punch this ignoramus's lights out and remember that every time he does something idiotic like this, it might help us keep one more Senate seat in the Democrats column. But there are a whole lot of people that ought to be doing a face palm of shame today for supporting this guy.

UPDATE: Akin has released a statement saying that he misspoke. Its not clear what he is retracting, but I have a message for him about this:
I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action.
Dear Mr. Akin,

The next time you're pregnant as a result of being raped, we'll assume that you'll follow that deeply held belief. But the rest of us demand the right to follow our own deeply held beliefs in that situation. Thank you very much.


Time to re-think what it means to be a "tough guy"

Anyone who reads here regularly knows that one of my very favorite writers is Ta-Nehisi Coates. I'll read anything he has to say about race, culture, and politics.

But he blew it in his latest column in the New York Times. Sure, he starts off great...talking about how Republican bullies have changed their tune from calling President Obama weak in 2008 to casting him as the big divisive meanie this time around.
Among the ranks of bullies, the only fair fight is the one that ends with them laughing and kicking sand. And so, no longer able to portray Obama as weak, the authors of Willie Horton, swift-boating and modern day poll-taxing have been reduced to other tactics — among them wildly yelping, “Please, Mr. President, nothing to the face.”
But then he totally blows it by doing something that drives this woman crazy...he equates violence with strength and Obama to Cheney in that department.
Obama’s tough guy bona fides were largely built on the expansive bombing campaign he launched against Al Qaeda, a campaign that regards due process and the avoidance of civilian casualties as indulgences...

During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama earned the G.O.P.’s mockery. Now he has earned their fear. It is an ambiguous feat, accomplished by going to the dark side, by walking the G.O.P.’s talk, by becoming the man Dick Cheney fashioned himself to be.
First of all, I'd suggest that perhaps Coates has spent too much time reading the rantings of his fellow Atlantic contributor Conor Friedersdorf - who takes every opportunity available to cast President Obama as the heartless killer of innocents - and not enough time balancing that with someone like Daniel Klaidman - who literally wrote the book on the drone war.
In this overheated election season, Obama’s campaign is painting a portrait of a steely commander who pursues the enemy without flinching. But the truth is more complex, and in many ways, more reassuring. The president is not a robotic killing machine. The choices he faces are brutally difficult, and he has struggled with them—sometimes turning them over in his mind again and again.
But to compare President Obama to Dick Cheney...really?!!! The man who is probably MOST responsible for lying the country into invading Iraq and the killing of over 100,000 civilians, not to mention his reveling in the idea of the use of torture as an intelligence tool? That is simply unconscionable.

However, my biggest beef with Coates transcends all that. Even if you want to critique President Obama for his use of drone strikes against al Qaeda, I would dispute that as any kind of clear definition of "tough guy bona fides."

Dick Cheney was one of the world's best examples of a coward - someone who refused to fight himself - but was willing to risk the lives of others in a needless war.

And so I find the equation of this kind of violence with strength to be anathema. It is as if we equated a wife-beater with strength because he picked on someone half his size.

As we see from Klaidman's writing, the drone war is clearly a moral dilemma with which President Obama has struggled. It is in that very struggle that we might find an example of strength.

But President Obama demonstrated his strength to me a long time ago. He did that back in January 2010 when he took on the entire Republican congressional caucus at their Baltimore retreat. Or when he invited Paul Ryan to his speech on deficit reduction in April 2011 and then proceeded to tear Ryan's budget apart - while he looked him square in the eye.

Women have been working for a long time on re-defining what it means to be "feminine." But I'd suggest to Coates that men like him need to start working on what it means to be "masculine," especially in regards to "tough guy bona fides."

Saturday, August 18, 2012

"We've come too far to turn back now"

I don't know about you, but spending too much time wrapped up in all the lies and distortions coming from the other side can occasionally get me down. It's important to take them on, but it's also important to remember what we're fighting FOR - not just focus on what we're against.

Today the Obama campaign gave us a shot in the arm that we should revel in and soak up to its fullest so that we energize ourselves to keep on going.

THANKS...I needed that!

Fool me once...

The famous line that Bush mangled so terribly is "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

How can we not think about that one when yet another Republican presidential ticket comes along and tries to sell us on the idea that they're deficit hawks?

First of all, lets review the historical record. Here's a look at how much our federal debt has increased under the last 5 presidents.

Looks to me like red is the perfect choice of color to represent Republicans...they have been the masters of red ink.

But now along come Romney and Ryan promising that this time they really, really, really mean it! They are the ONLY ones who can be counted on to reduce the deficit.

Since Romney is the most inexperienced man to run for the presidency in generations, we don't have much of a record to review as far as he's concerned. But the Center for American Progress did take a look at Paul Ryan's record. They found that from 2001-2011 Ryan voted to add $6.8 trillion to our national deficit. Here's how it breaks down:
Notice that the biggest increases (by far) came in his support for various Bush tax cuts and defense spending.

So if we were to ever have an actual honest discussion about federal spending, it would be about how Republicans want to increase the debt by giving tax cuts to the wealthy and increase defense spending while the Democrats want to spend on investments in education, infrastructure, and innovation to grow the economy, maintain the safety net, and balance all of that by asking everyone to pay their fair share.

You have to wonder who we'd have to shame if we let the likes of Romney/Ryan fool us a fourth time.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Some thoughts for the left on hope, cynicism, imagination and power

Today one of the regular commenters here Bill tweeted me a link to this article by Clay Claiborne. It certainly got the tired old synapses in my brain going. I wanted to write something coherent about it. But the synapses haven't settled down enough for that. So I'm just going to expose you to a bit of my stream of consciousness. First, here's Claiborne:
For someone sitting on the very edge of survival, hope is extremely important. Often it is only hope, sometimes even false hope, that allows him to make it to the next day... Cynicism is deadly for someone on the edge of survival. Even in the darkest night, he cannot afford to be cynical. That cynicism just might push him over the edge.

Cynicism is a privilege. When practiced by those in a position to do it well, cynicism allows them to criticize the oppressor and sympathize with the oppressed without ever having to move out of their comfort zone. In fact, one of the main objects of this practice of cynicism is to make the cynic more comfortable. He may not, as yet, be wanting for much personally, but he can see the growing misery all around him so he has to think or do something. The cynic solves this dilemma by thinking that nothing can be done!

Hope is entirely a question of subjective attitude. So is cynicism, but cynicism pulls off its master trick by masquerading as objective reality. The cynic always tends to think things really are the way he thinks they are. Time and again you will see him substitute his subjective understanding, even when he knows it is limited(!) for objective reality.

In the United States, this type of cynicism has gained a strong hold on the left in the past decade or more...

Since the cynic is not looking for ways to attack the problem but for reasons to carry on as usual, it suits this scenario to make the New World Order, the Illuminati, or whoever, virtually all-powerful and quite capable of tricks we aren’t even aware of.

The people, on the other hand, are sheep.

Cynicism springs eternal, so the cynic carries on. He goes to anti-war rallies, he recycles, he does whatever he thinks is the right thing to do, and since he expects things to stay the same or get worst, he doesn’t question whether it is the most effective thing to do.
There is so much wisdom packed up in those few paragraphs, I hardly know where to start. But for those of you like me - who have run up against this kind of cynicism on the left -  I can imagine that it speaks very clearly.

Cynicism is indeed a privilege for those who can afford to embrace it. Those who can't have no option but to hope.

And look at what he did in that last paragraph...cynicism also tends to wed itself to ideology over pragmatism. We do what we've always done regardless of whether it works. Since failure doesn't really affect me in my comfort, it is always an option. 

So my thoughts went to one of my favorite quotes about hope.
What is hope? It is the presentiment that imagination is more real and reality less real than it looks. It is the suspicion that the overwhelming brutality of fact that oppresses us and represses us is not the last word. It is the hunch that reality is more complex than the realists want us to believe, that the frontiers of the possible are not determined by the limits of the actual...

- Rubem Alves
And then to contemplating imagination.

All power comes from the barrel of imagination.
Al Giordano, February 10, 2011

Since cynicism is the refuge of victims, power fueled by an imagination unleashed by hope is the antidote to cynicism.

The punch behind Obama's new Medicare ad "Facts"

You may have already seen the Obama campaign's latest ad about Medicare titled "Facts."

What struck me immediately when I watched it is that it relied almost completely on quotes from the AARP.

Why is that important?

To understand the punch you have to remember that a little over a year ago, House Republicans thought it would be a good idea to attack AARP - the organization that represents nearly 40 million seniors.
Newly empowered House Republicans are getting ready to renew their attacks against AARP over its support for the healthcare reform law, The Hill has learned.

The Ways and Means health and oversight subcommittees are hauling in the seniors lobby's executives before the panel for an April 1 hearing on how the group stands to benefit from the law, among other topics. Republicans say AARP supported the law's $200 billion in cuts to the Medicare Advantage program because it stands to gain financially as seniors replace their MA plans with Medicare supplemental insurance -- or Medigap -- policies endorsed by the association.

The hearing will cover not only Medigap but "AARP's organizational structure, management, and financial growth over the last decade."
Notice that the issue back then was the AARP's support for the same cuts to Medicare Advantage that Romney has been attacking this week. As I said before, those reductions cut off the gravy train to private insurers (the Republican's constituency) while reducing premiums for seniors.

And while those efforts to go after AARP seemed to have produced nothing - you'll never guess who continued to keep up the charge...Paul Ryan's Super PAC.
Ryan's Prosperity PAC sought to push back on attacks by AARP against the House Budget Committee chairman's 2012 budget, specifically its proposed changes to Medicare.

"Last week, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), a left-leaning pressure group with significant business interests in the insurance industry, launched a national ad campaign that intentionally misleads seniors about the Medicare debate," wrote Pat Shortridge, a senior adviser to Ryan's PAC, in an email to supporters.
Of course any group that wants to stop him from ending Medicare as we know it MUST be "left-leaning." (LOL)

I'd suggest this recent history is EXACTLY what the Obama campaign had in mind when they made this ad. They're telling Romney/Ryan "bring it on" when it comes to this discussion about Medicare and practically baiting them to go after AARP again. They are very aware (as are the folks at AARP) that when it comes to questions about Medicare, seniors know who to trust...and it sure isn't the R/R team (otherwise known as vulture/voucher).

Oh, and I'm also pretty sure that this is chapter 2 in the Obama gives Ryan a death hug book. What a great read that one is going to be!

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