Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2013

Will 2014 be the year we finally end perpetual war?

This year one of the most important articles I wrote was about the reduction in the number of drone strikes . But that was way back in February. On May 23rd President Obama gave a speech about our counterterrorism efforts and focused specifically on our policy about the use of drones. In the Afghan war theater, we must -- and will -- continue to support our troops until the transition is complete at the end of 2014. And that means we will continue to take strikes against high value al Qaeda targets, but also against forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces. But by the end of 2014, we will no longer have the same need for force protection, and the progress we’ve made against core al Qaeda will reduce the need for unmanned strikes. Beyond the Afghan theater, we only target al Qaeda and its associated forces. And even then, the use of drones is heavily constrained. America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists; our

How bad are things for the GOP? Their new mantra is "no fools on our ticket."

Lots of people are making predictions about what is going to happen in 2014. My suggestion is that we all join Stephen in stocking up on popcorn to watch the battle that is about to be waged in the Republican Party. It promises to be highly entertaining. After years of pandering to the lunatics in their ranks as a way to gin up Obama Derangement Syndrome, the 1%ers in the party have had enough. And of course, their response is to assume that they can buy the party back from the lunatics if they just spend enough money. Why would that surprise any of us coming from the folks who think money can fix anything? And so on Christmas day, the Wall Street Journal told us that the Chamber of Commerce plans to spend $50 million "to support establishment, business-friendly candidates in primaries and the general election." But what was really amusing is how low they've set the bar. "Our No. 1 focus is to make sure, when it comes to the Senate, that we have no loser can

Color Commentary

When you look at a picture like this, what stands out to you? If, by chance, you noticed how overwhelmingly "white" the White House Press Corp is, then give yourself a gold star. The closer the people in the photo are to the front row, the more you're seeing the group of folks who have made it to the top ranks of the profession of journalism...and the less likely you are to see a person of color.  Given the fact that in just a few years time, white people will lose their majority status in this country, you'd think that this would be changing. Well, according to Politico , you'd be wrong. They recently published a list of the 10 journalists to watch in 2014 and there's not a person of color to be found apparently. David Dennis noticed. And he came up with a pretty good reason for why this continues to happen. A few months ago, I wrote a commentary for the Guardian about how unpaid internships create an unfair funnel system to media outlets. They crea

Retired anchor affirms what's wrong with the media

Its become standard fare these days to complain about the media. And like almost everything else, those complaints have become politicized with liberals complaining that the media is controlled by conservatives and conservatives complaining about the liberal media. I personally think that both accusations are wrong. What's wrong with the media is the same thing that is wrong with much of the corporate world...everything is about the bottom line of profit. Here's David Simon talking about that in the larger context: If we don’t exert on behalf of human dignity at the expense of profit and capitalism and greed, which are inevitabilities, and if we can’t modulate them in some way that is a framework for an intelligent society, we are doomed. It is going to happen sooner than we think. I don’t know what form it will take. But I know that every year America is going to be a more brutish and cynical and divided place. And so it came as no surprise to me when a retired anchorman

May I remind you?

Before the Duck Dynasty idiot spoke up, this happened: And so, may I remind you that the more we win, the more ridiculously stupid things these people are going to say. Better get used to it because we're winning on this one...big time!

Wallace, Oscar, and Trayvon

GQ Magazine chose Michael B. Jordan as one of the "breakout men of the year" in 2013 for his role as Oscar Grant in the movie Fruitvale Station .  Perhaps because he cast Jordan in the role of Wallace in the HBO series The Wire , they asked David Simon to write the accompanying article. For those of you who either didn't watch The Wire or have forgotten, Jordan's character meets the same end there as he does in the true story about what happened at Fruitvale Station . In the former he is shot at the hands of fellow drug dealers and in the latter, it was a cop. Simon makes the connection: The drug war? Stop and frisk? Racial profiling? Black-on-black violence? Our separate Americas? All that is commentary. If you need white folks to actually feel something, it pays to aim a handgun at Michael B. Jordan’s delicate and nuanced humanity and pull the trigger. Suddenly the risks of being young and black on an American street are apparent... Now Michael B. Jord

Racism: "America will not elect two African Americans in a row"

When white people find themselves in uncomfortable discussions about racism, they'll often say things like "I don't see race," usually followed up by a vow of allegiance to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Of course the idea that we can be colorblind is a lie.  Even though the whole concept of "race" is based on an unscientific illusion , we've all be conditioned our whole lives (both consciously and unconsciously) to "see" race. Don't believe me? Then check out this conversation I had recently on Daily Kos in one of the endless discussions amongst liberals about who the Democratic presidential candidate will be in 2016. I mentioned that if Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick ran, I'd support him 100%. The immediate reply I got had nothing to do with his rec

2013 Most Memorable Moments

If you haven't already, please check out the collection of posts by people at The Obama Diary showcasing their most memorable moments of 2013. Its a wonderful reflection on the last 12 months as we begin to get ready for the new year. Chipsticks was gracious enough to allow me to join them with a guest posting of my own most memorable moments. In case you missed it, here it is. 10. Big Sis As someone who has a big sister and knows how trying that relationship can be at this age, I LOVED this one. 9. A wise and empathetic Latina on the Supreme Court This year Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor published her book "My Beloved World." I read it immediately. It moved me beyond words to think that we have someone on the Supreme Court who has lived her life. During her book promotion tour, this happened : "At her Wednesday night book talk here, Justice Sonia Sotomayor glided through her audience of 700, dispensing homespun wisdom through a cordless micro

"Let me tell you something about the Jesus that I know"

This post by  kid oakland  is a tradition for me on Christmas. I can think of no better way to honor the birth we celebrate tonight. Let me tell you something about the Jesus that I know. He was a real man. Born in a poor region to working poor parents. He loved learning, he loved his mother and his father. But he left them and spent his life with the poor, the outcast, the rejected, the defiled, the sick, the sinners, the bedraggled, the bereft, the self-hating, the lonely, the banished, the foul, the miserable, the desperate and finally, those sick with their own power. He did this, not because of his ideology or his creed. He did this not because of his doctrine. He did this, quite simply, because he loved them. He preferred them. Their company, their stories, their lives, their environs, their plight and their faith. And they loved him. Because he touched them. He looked them in the eye and believed in them. Because, at the end of the day, when they looked to him they s

Why the media didn't fact-check Snowden/Greenwald

I see that Edward Snowden is following the lead of George W. Bush in prematurely claiming Mission Accomplished . Someone might want to tell him that it didn't work out so well for the guy who said that last time. But politicians and pundits from all across the political spectrum are lining up to canonize the guy. All of this totally ignores some very inconvenient facts related to the lies and misinformation that have been spread by Snowden/Greenwald. I might remind you that one of Snowden's opening statements was that he could wiretap the President's phone from his desk if he wanted to. Not true . There was that whole PRISM thing about "direct access" that turned out to be a hoax. Of course there were also the lies of omission. Like the fact that the Snowdenistas have produced zero "revelations" on the NSA's policies - enforced by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court - about the minimization procedures that are in place to protect the pr

Inequality is first and foremost a moral question

Over and over again, President Obama has said that income inequality is the defining issue of our time. Lately we've seen that issue being engaged...whether it was OWS screaming at Wall Street or Mitt Romney dismissing the 47% of "takers." As the battle over policies to improve or worsen the situation is engaged, I think its important to ground ourselves in the moral arguments that are being made. Recently, Timothy Egan did a good job of summarizing some of the things Republicans have said about that. The message is that the poor are morally inferior. “The explosion of food stamps in this country is not just a fiscal issue for me,” said Representative Steve Southerland, Republican from Florida, chief crusader for cutting assistance to the poor. “This is a defining moral issue of our time.” It would be a “disservice” to further extend unemployment assistance to those who’ve been out of work for some time, said Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky. It encourage

The Republican's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad 2013

According to most pundits and the White House Press Corp , the big story right now is that 2013 was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year for President Obama . Of course they have facts like the botched rollout of and his low poll numbers to back up that claim. But one way to demonstrate the distorted lens through which the media tends to look at things like this is to think about how 2013 looked for Republicans. Their primary goal lately has been to see Obamacare fail. They were given an assist on that when the web site launched so badly. And BOY, did they run with it! As anyone who is interested in more than a few days of our frenzied media market knows, a web site can be fixed...and it has been. Now what? They can freak out all they want over Pajama Boy , but the reality is that come January, millions of Americans will have affordable health insurance. And there's nothing they can do to stop that. What about the rest of 2013? It all started with th

"Sweet Darkness" on the Solstice

Sweet Darkness When your eyes are tired the world is tired also. When your vision has gone no part of the world can find you. Time to go into the dark where the night has eyes to recognize its own. There you can be sure you are not beyond love. The dark will be your womb tonight. The night will give you a horizon further than you can see. You must learn one thing. The world was made to be free in. Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong. Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you. -- David Whyte

President Obama commutes the sentences of 8 people. A lesson in outrage vs organizing ensues

Perhaps you've heard by now that this week President Obama commuted the sentences of 8 people convicted of using crack cocaine under the former disparate sentencing guidelines. Here is part of his statement : Commuting the sentences of these eight Americans is an important step toward restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness. But it must not be the last . In the new year, lawmakers should act on the kinds of bipartisan sentencing reform measures already working their way through Congress. Together, we must ensure that our taxpayer dollars are spent wisely, and that our justice system keeps its basic promise of equal treatment for all. Right on cue come the howls of "THAT IS NOT ENOUGH!" Here's Meteor Blades at Daily Kos : No president, no attorney general can fix all that is wrong with our sentencing laws, even just our drug-sentencing laws. But in the case the crack-cocaine convicts, the president could wipe the slate clean without waiting for Con

President Obama doesn't want to defeat his opponents, he wants to co-opt them

I've always thought that this interview of President Obama with Jeffrey Goldberg  on Israel and Iran contained subtexts that help us understand this president's overall strategy. Particularly revealing is how he talked about his approach with Iran. I think it's entirely legitimate to say that this is a regime that does not share our worldview or our values. I do think...that as we look at how they operate and the decisions they've made over the past three decades, that they care about the regime's survival. They're sensitive to the opinions of the people and they are troubled by the isolation that they're experiencing. They know, for example, that when these kinds of sanctions are applied, it puts a world of hurt on them. They are able to make decisions based on trying to avoid bad outcomes from their perspective. So if they're presented with options that lead to either a lot of pain from their perspective, or potentially a better path, then there'

The cultural lens that distorts the media's perception of President Obama

Part 1: The patriarchal lens that distorts the media's perception of President Obama Part 2: The racial lens that distorts the media's perception of President Obama I'm not a reporter and I don't play one on the internet. But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that the media in this country is in trouble. Print media is dying, cable TV is losing subscribers and no one has figured out the formula for making money off of internet journalism. Then along comes Fox News, conservative talk radio and right wing web sites demonstrating that one way to survive is to cater to a niche market and we're off to the races. In his seminal piece that got him kicked out of the conservative intelligentsia, David Frum wrote about the effects this was having on the Republican Party. But I'd suggest that it fits pretty well as an overall critique of our current professional media. I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doi

The racial lens that distorts the media's perception of President Obama

This is part 2 to:  The patriarchal lens that distorts the media's perception of President Obama . We've all witnessed the racial backlash to the election of this country's first African American president. What I want to talk about is not the obvious racism of the teapublicans with their birther conspiracies about the Kenyan socialist. There's something more insidiously racial in how the mainstream press covers this President and the effect their analysis has on our conscious as well as unconscious biases. So what I want to talk about is all the subtle (and not so subtle) ways the media portrays President Obama as incompetent. Right on cue comes pearl-clutcher-in-chief Peggy Noonan's latest column which she so aptly titles Incompetence . Of course all she's really got to work with is the botched roll-out of But boy, does she run with it. recent weeks I have begun to worry about the basic competency of the administration, its ability

When real progressives took on the national security apparatus

"In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything...There would be no place to hide. "...I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return." Want to know who said that? No, it wasn't Glenn Greenwald or any other Snowdenista. It was Senator Frank Church in August 197

The hardest part of following President Obama's example

Many of us have watched President Obama's brilliance over the last 5+ years. We appreciate his pragmatism, intelligence, compassion and commitment to the long game. But there's one part of his message that remains difficult for many of us. That would be his refusal to demonize his opponents. When it comes to political debate in this country, that tendency to demonize the opposition is almost a knee-jerk reaction. If someone disagrees with us, it MUST be because they are evil - or at least have evil intentions. This is why political debate - whether its Democrats vs Republicans, Obamarox vs Obamasux, or any other variation - becomes so personal and toxic. It is assumed that we not only disagree, but that our opponent exhibits moral failings that must be called into question. Once that kind of discussion gets going, our job is to find as much evidence as possible to caricature our opponent's moral failings and put as much distance as possible between them and us. Our ulti

The patriarchal lens that distorts the media's perception of President Obama

Years ago the world of media and pundits landed on a frame for understanding the difference between our two national parties...Republicans are the "Daddy party" and Democrats are the "Mommy party." While that framework bore some resemblance to the truth (Daddies are associated with structure and Mommies with nurture), it places the same kinds of limits on the lens through which we view politics that patriarchy places on men and women. Its an either/or frame that distorts our perceptions. Over the last few years we've seen that frame applied to President Obama as various pundits try to understand him. How that mostly plays out is that they come off as children in search of a Daddy. No one does this better than Maureen Dowd. But other pundits from across the spectrum have told him he needs to "man up," gone in search of his leadership defects for failing to dominate the Republicans, and labelled him as weak in negotiations that sought compromise on bot

Barack Obama on Social Darwinism and Collective Salvation circa 2005/06

After some people reacted to President Obama's speech on income inequality by suggesting he was a newcomer to the topic, I went back through some of his earlier speeches as President to demonstrate the consistency with which he has approached the topic. And then I saw this tweet from David Axelrod: Anyone who thinks-or writes-POTUS focus on economic polarization & plight of middle class is new ought to go back and read '04,'05 speeches. — David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) December 13, 2013 That got me curious. So I dug back a little further. An example of what I found is the speech then-Senator Barack Obama gave at Knox College in 2005 . Because the Great Recession hadn't happened yet, he talked about it a little differently back then. But overall, the message was pretty much the same. Here in Galesburg, you know what this new challenge is. You've seen it. You see it when you drive by the old Maytag plant around lunchtime and no one walks out anymore. I saw