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Showing posts from January, 2013

A short break

So its obvious that I took a break from writing today. Trouble is, I didn't plan it. But its likely I won't be able to write much tomorrow due to that thing I do for a paycheck. But I'll be baaaaaack. Meanwhile, here's something to think about.

To many Mexican Americans, we are the immigrants

As the debate about immigration reform heats up, it might be helpful to pay some attention to the history of how we got here. Lets face it - the real controversy in this issue is not about immigration in general - but about Mexican Americans. And though we don't pay much attention to it - this conflict has been going on for a very long time. The whole thing can be summed up in two words... Manifest Destiny. the belief or doctrine, held chiefly in the middle and latter part of the 19th century, that it was the destiny of the U.S. to expand its territory over the whole of North America and to extend and enhance its political, social, and economic influences. It was this belief that led President Polk to initiate the  Mexican American War in 1846  after Texas  declared independence from Mexico. At the conclusion of that war, Mexico ceded much of the Southwest to the United States. For the Mexicans living in those areas, it was the influx of European Americans who were the i

OK, now I see how Republicans think the sequester cuts are leverage

By now most people are aware that unless Congress acts, on March first $1.2 trillion of federal spending cuts (called "sequester') will take place as a result of the 2011 debt ceiling deal. Half of the cuts will come from domestic spending and half from defense. A while ago  I thought Boehner was bluffing  when he said that these sequester cuts were as much leverage as Republicans were going to get. In a way, he was. To read more about why, check out this recent article by  Ezra Klein. But both Ezra and I need to factor in two things. First of all,  the economy is now improving much faster than most people thought it would.  That creates a challenge for Republicans. How can they continue to induce fear of economic doom that can only be solved by draconian cuts to the social safety net if the economy gets better? Secondly,  Republicans (including Paul Ryan) are signaling that they'll let the sequester happen  (for how long is where the bluff comes in). And if they do,

Can you guess who said this?

This isn't a competition. But I'm going to provide you with a quote and ask you to guess who said it. ...I had my doubts that linking arms, chanting slogans, hanging effigies, and shouting at passersby were alway the most effective tactics. I could see that troubling the waters was occasionally necessary to bring attention to the urgency of some problem. But this style of political expression sometimes becomes an end in itself and can lose potency if used routinely. If you shout too loudly and too often, people tend to cover their ears...  Quiet pragmatism, of course, lacks the romance of vocal militancy. But I felt myself more a mediator than a crusader. My strengths were reasoning, crafting compromises, finding the good and the good faith on both sides of an argument, and using that to build a bridge. Always, my first question was, what's the goal? And then, who must be persuaded if it is to be accomplished? A respectful dialogue with one's opponent almost invaria

Conservatives offend brown people, progressives ignore them

Its pretty easy these days to point out the racism on the right. Between the election/re-election of Barack Hussein Obama and the changing demographics, those folks have put down the dog whistles and picked up the fog horns. Racism tends to look a little different on the left side of the political isle. But today I found a pretty good example  of how it plays out. That's a link to an article on the front page of Daily Kos. The author pulls up lots of statistics in an attempt to make the point that recent elections demonstrate that Democrats can now appeal to their liberal base and win. What's interesting is that nowhere in the entire article does the author attempt to define "base." It is taken for granted (as is shown in the comments) that he means those who dominate the discussion on Daily Kos -  white highly educated upper income progressives. People like that always ignore statistics like the one where President Obama only got 39% of the white vote in 2012.

Building the coalition vs destroying the enemy

Just in case you haven't noticed, I haven't commented at all about  former governor Sarah Palin  losing her job at Faux News or about former senator Scott Brown's  drunk tweeting (oops, I guess I just did). I'd be the last one to suggest that I don't feel a bit of schadenfruede at their expense. But in the big scheme of things, they really don't matter. Just like the baggers of fire don't matter. President Obama has made his intentions clear for his second term. He wants to engage the American people in a conversation about things that DO matter...reducing gun violence, reforming our immigration system, setting our fiscal house in order, and dealing with climate change. Oh...and he is also talking about ending our perpetual state of war. It is true that Republicans stand in the way of getting most of that done. The extremists on either side of the isle think that the President's success is dependent on focusing his energy on direct attacks to destroy

Why ideologues don't like "Zero Dark Thirty"

I mentioned yesterday  that I had seen  the movie Zero Dark Thirty . I highly recommend that you watch it too. As I'm sure you already know, the ideologues on both the left and right are pretty pissed about this movie. There's a reason for that...ideologues don't like complexity. And this movie is drenched in it. The word we sometimes use to describe ideologues is "purists." In their world there are clean lines between right and wrong with no space for moral ambiguity. That gives them the privilege to look down their noses in judgement of anyone who crosses their neat little lines. That's not how life actually works. Reinhold Niebuhr is right to point out that in order to truly engage, we must live in the world as it is - not as we want it to be. I don't tend to agree with the commentary that Zero Dark Thirty affirms that torture led to finding Osama bin Laden. But the movie doesn't draw a defining line that it didn't either. It tells a st

President Obama on the importance of telling the story

Yesterday I wrote about the current conversation taking place on  whether or not President Obama is changing the trajectory of the Reagan revolution.  Given that I'm the kind of person who naturally gravitates towards the  big picture and long game,  this whole question fascinates me. As I said yesterday, there is a meme developing on this one. And those are the kinds of things that have the potential to shape our thinking for years to come. So bear with me while I dig a little deeper. One of the people who expressed a dissenting view from the left on this topic is  Jonathan Bernstein.  Here's his conclusion. Add it all up and Obama, if he wants to be a president who really changes things for the better, should … well, it’s boring and obvious, but he should mostly focus on promoting good public policy. Not fighting the good fight or talking the good talk for liberal ideals, but just getting done whatever he can get done given all the constraints that surround him. Well-impl

From "Zero Dark Thirty" to "Lincoln"

Last weekend I watched these two movies almost literally back-to-back ( Zero Dark Thirty on Saturday and Lincoln on Sunday). I could write pages about the thoughts both movies sparked for me. But for now I'd like to simply comment on one aspect. As I'm sure you know, Zero Dark Thirty has received a barrage of criticism from liberals. Some of the things being said about it are justified. But watching both movies so close together makes one of the critiques most interesting. Poutraging about how the movie portrays the hunt for bin Laden allows Glenn Greenwald  to use what must be his very favorite word: hagiography - as in his title: Zero Dark Thirty: CIA hagiography, pernicious propaganda  (in other situations that is what those of us who support President Obama are engaging in). But  Ben Cohen  is a bit more rational with the same critique. ...given what the film didn’t cover, it can only be accurately described as a completely uncritical narrative that presented Ameri

From "Government is the Problem" to "We the People"

Following  President Obama's  inaugural address, that clip from an interview with then-candidate Barack Obama in January 2008 is stirring up a lot of conversation from pundits across the ideological spectrum.  The question is whether or not President Obama is changing the trajectory of our politics in the way Reagan did. Just to give you an idea about how much attention is being paid to that question, here are some of the pundits who have written a response (in no particular order). E.J. Dionne Michael Tomasky Greg Sargent Charles Krauthammer Jonathan Bernstein Matthew Continetti Philip Klein Ross Douthat Paul Waldman Xpostfactoid Those are just the ones I found - perhaps there are others. But its clear there is a meme developing here. The question is whether or not it is simply the hive mind type of groupthink we often see from the press or does it have some validity. The answer of course is that we can't know right now. It is a question that can on

A few GOP governors learn math

It became obvious during the last election that not only did many Republicans eschew science, they aren't very interested in math either. That's why I got such a kick out of a headline at the conservative site  Real Clear Politics  this morning: Medicaid Math Trumps Ideology for GOP Governors Just savor that one for a moment.  Call it the revolt of the West or, alternatively, the triumph of economics over ideology. Breaking ranks with Republican colleagues, four conservative GOP governors who preside in capitals west of the Mississippi River have decided to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid, the state-federal health care program for low-income families and the disabled. That's what a little pragmatism will do for you :-)

Photos of the Day: Hillary is not impressed

You go girl!!

The Obama legacy starts to take shape

By now we are all familiar with this powerful moment that happened after President Obama was re-elected. At 4:13: Your journey is just beginning. You're just starting. And whatever good we do over the next 4 years will pale in comparison to what you guys end up accomplishing for years and years to come. It kind of reminds you of what he said in his inaugural speech. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall. The President clearly has faith in the next generation's ability to carry the torch forward. Today I came across one pretty important way that's happening. President Obama's former field director, Jeremy Bird, is starting an organization called Battleground Texas. National Democrats are tak

Paul Ryan's challenge

Yesterday  Speaker Boehner  said that by April 15th Rep. Paul Ryan will have put forward a House Republican budget that will balance by the year 2023 - in 10 years. This might be just a hoax to get the lunatics in his party to vote today to "suspend" the debt limit until May 18th. But just in case they are actually serious, we should take a look at the challenge Ryan faces. First of all, its important to note that Ryan's last budget in 2011 didn't get to balance until 2040. So he's got to compress it all down even further. But Ryan and other Republicans have hammed themselves in with things they WON'T do on the budget: they won't raise taxes they won't cut military spending they won't cut Medicare and Social Security for people 55+ (is that something they're still committed to? If so, are they taking entitlement reforms off the table in these negotiations?) Jonathan Chait  gives us the bird's eye view of what that means. Accordin

"We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect"

Many progressives seem surprised at the progressiveness of President Obama's inaugural speech yesterday.  BooMan  is surprised at their surprise. I'm with BooMan on that one. It was surely a great speech, but nothing - in terms of ideas - that we haven't heard from him before. Even in terms of style,  xpostfactoid  documents President Obama's tendency to "to equate liberal priorities with the nation's founding principles and historical development." But as we've often seen, I suspect that many progressives are just ignoring this part of the speech that came after his enunciation of how  "our journey is not complete until..." We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall. Yesterd


I hate to get so mundane on such a wonderful day, but I have a quick announcement to make. This site has been getting overwhelmed with spam lately. The blogger filter system catches some of it - but not all. Anyway, its a pain in the neck. So I've changed the comment setting to require a word verification system. It doesn't look like it comes into play if you sign in with an existing account. But please let me know via email (in the "Contact" tab at the top) if you have trouble. I'm hoping this will discourage the spam-a-lots. I'll turn it off if it presents a problem though. Thanks for understanding. And just to keep this from being a total bore, here's a little eye candy.

Photo of the Day: Big Sis

There were all kinds of gorgeous images from today's ceremonies. But none is more beautiful to me than this one. Thanks  Chipsticks!

"Our journey is not complete until..."

From  President Obama's  inaugural speech: We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.  It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began.   For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.  Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.  Our journey is not complete until no citizen is force

President Obama: Ending perpetual war

From  President Obama's inaugural speech: A decade of war is now ending... We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war...But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war; who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends -- and we must carry those lessons into this time as well. The talking heads I've heard comment on this part of the speech have assumed that he was talking about Iran. But my take is that he was actually talking about ending the perpetual war  in which we are currently engaged.

President Obama channels Abraham Lincoln

Last night I finally watched the movie Lincoln (great timing, huh). What struck me was not only the gravity of the moment he faced. He also had to battle the racists on his right and the purity demands of those on his left in order to help the country take the one insufficient and yet important step forward of getting the  Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution  passed. In hindsight it was so inadequate...having to disavow the franchise of African Americans in order to end slavery. Painful to watch - especially knowing all the suffering that inadequacy foretold. We'll never know if we would have gotten to where we are today if President Lincoln hadn't been willing to help us take that one step forward. It meant having faith in future generations to take the next steps. That's exactly what  President Obama  said today. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial and that it will be up to th

I am - quite frankly - speechless

It wasn't just President Barack Hussein Obama's    speech - as marvelous as that was. It was the historical significance of Myrlie Evers-Williams'  invocation. It was the diversity and power of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir . It was the simple beauty of James Taylor's  rendition of America the Beautiful . It was the "you've come a long way baby" of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor  giving the oath of office to Vice President Joe Biden. It was the first openly gay Latino inaugural poet Richard Blanco  talking about who we are...together. It was the still-awkward girl from Texas - Kelly Clarkson  - singing My Country Tis of Thee . It was the benediction by Dr. Luis Leon  with a closing in Spanish. And it was Beyonce  rocking the house with her rendition of the National Anthem. Part of me was in tears the whole time as I saw the country of our collective dreams and aspirations on that stage. The other part of me knew that the dying b

Perfecting Our Union

History will once again unfold before our eyes today. As we wait for the ceremonies, I can't think help but think of my favorite part of the celebration four years ago. I'm pretty sure that many people watching weren't aware of the origin of Rev. Lowery's words at the beginning. But some were. They knew that he was marking that historic moment for the significant role it played in our history. That history moves forward today as we continue the work of perfecting our union.

The Look of Love

For quite a while now I've been struck by the way President Obama looks at Michelle. The look of love is in your eyes A look your smile can't disguise The look of love is saying so much more than just words could ever say And what my heart has heard, well it takes my breath away I'm not sure he could hide it if he wanted to. But the fact is that every now and then we are invited to share in the intimacy of their deep passion and partnership. Even as an outsider looking in - sometimes it takes my breath away.

The many faces of strength

In the poem  For Strong Women,  Marge Piercy describes strength this way: A strong woman is a woman who loves strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong in words, in action, in connection, in feeling; she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf suckling her young. Strength is not in her, but she enacts it as the wind fills a sail. This is a different kind of strength than we are used to hearing about in our patriarchal culture. But in my experience, when I've seen both women and men demonstrating true strength (as opposed to macho bluster), its been the type Piercy is referring to. Yesterday, when talking about  this kind of strength,  I ended with a song. In response,  @AlisaJass  tweeted to me that South African Singer Lira will be singing that very song for President Obama at the Ambassadors Inaugural Ball tomorrow night. Now there's a serendipitous moment for you! All that inspired me to make this video a

Republicans take a stab at

News coming out of the House Republican retreat  sounds like they might have learned a thing or two about pragmatism. “As Ryan very clearly articulated, we're the minority in Washington, [so] how do you impact real change when you only have the House and you don't have the Senate or presidency? It's pretty hard,” the source conceded. With Ryan’s conservative cache, leaders laid out a somber situation to manage expectations. That entailed telling rank-and-file Republicans no to “promise something you can't deliver on,” the source said. They pretty much blew all that to shreds with their latest nonsense about withholding Congress' pay if they don't pass a budget - raising questions about whether or not that is Constitutional. But here's the really amusing part. In their statements about all this, Republicans have focused on the need for the Senate to pass a budget. But under their proposal, the House will have to pass one too. Trouble is... they can

The air is thick with history

150 years ago 50 years ago 1 year ago While so much has changed, some things are still the same -  bigots will be bigots  (yeah, I'm looking at you Rush). But today I'm thinking of a small way that history is repeating itself - this time with a powerful dose of courage. Let me back up for a minute and tell the story. From all the news coverage of Newtown, there is one moment that devastated me more than any other. It was reading about the news conference of the coroner. I hesitate to write about it even now because it was so painful. We are all programmed to avoid that kind of thing. But the crux of it was that there were little babies with dozens (dozens????) of bullet holes. I imagine that is still what keeps those first responders who saw it awake at night. Should we shield ourselves from that nightmare? I'll tell you one person who would likely say "no." That would be a woman named Mamie Till.  She had the courage to not only face

Something inside so strong

This week I started reading Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's book My Beloved World.  She summarizes a big part of her motivation to write the book this way. There are uses to adversity, and they don't reveal themselves until tested. Whether it's serious illness, financial hardship, or the simple constraint of parents who speak limited English, difficulty can tap unsuspected strengths. It doesn't always, of course: I've seen life beat people down until they can't get up. But I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. It reminded me of a magnificent article by Eric Wattree titled Why I Love Being Black  (h/t to  Extreme Liberal  for tweeting a link). I'm only going to quote a bit of it here. But I hope that everyone will take a few minutes and go read the whole thing. I absolutely LOVE being Black - and I'm not just saying that because it's expected of me. While I

Obama's True Legacy

Other than the fact that  the Republicans totally caved on the debt ceiling fight,  the really big news of the day is the launch of  Organizing for Action.  I find it fascinating that it is Michelle Obama that made the announcement. But the fact that this is happening should come as no surprise to anyone who has actually been listening to the President. Last fall I suggested that  we should all be prepared to keep working after the election was over.  President Obama said it loud and clear... To Michael Scherer: But for me to get those accomplished, I do think I’m going to need to bring in the voices of the American people much more systematically, much more regularly. Finding the right mechanisms to do that is something that we’re going to spend a lot of time thinking about. Obviously, the Internet and the digital age helps. We’ve been able to do that on our campaign. We now need to translate that more to how our government works. But I think the American people are ready fo

Now its David Brooks' turn to feel the ruthlessness

Over the last couple of weeks, we've watched the "ruthless" part of  conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy  dawn on people like  Charles Krauthammer  and  Michael Gerson.  Now its  David Brooks' turn.  He has a new name for it..."Kill the Wounded." It’s more likely that today’s majority party is going to adopt a different strategy, which you might call Kill the Wounded. It’s more likely that today’s Democrats are going to tell themselves something like this: “We live at a unique moment. Our opponents, the Republicans, are divided, confused and bleeding. This is not the time to allow them to rebuild their reputation with a series of modest accomplishments. This is the time to kick them when they are down, to win back the House and end the current version of the Republican Party. “First, we change the narrative. The president ran in 2008 against Washington dysfunction, casting blame on both parties. Over the years, he has migrated to a different nar

Bending the arc towards sanity

Every now and then someone puts words to not only our own heart's ambitions but to the wisdom our souls have gathered over time. See if you don't agree that  Adam Gopnik  has done just that in talking about President Obama's remarks this week on gun violence. In the end, the President didn’t speak from the bully pulpit. He didn’t even speak from an elevated post. He just spoke from the mind, and from the heart, and he raised spirits still haunted by the image of twenty small, terrified children, heaped up in a pile of death, whose last breaths were spent in a state of terror because a madman got his hands on a military weapon that no one in a free country should ever be allowed to hold. Good and great causes don’t advance without resistance. First the thing is impossible, then improbable, then unsatisfactorily achieved, then quietly improved, until one day it is actual and uncontroversial. So it was with putting military weapons into the hands of openly homosexual soldier

Hoist on their own petard

I must say that I'm having a bit of fun watching the Republicans get hoist on their own petard. For example, there's this story from  Ashley Parker  about the "vote no/hope yes caucus." These are the small but significant number of Republican representatives who, on the recent legislation to head off the broad tax increases and spending cuts mandated by the so-called fiscal cliff, voted no while privately hoping — and at times even lobbying — in favor of the bill’s passage, given the potential harmful economic consequences otherwise. It would be reasonable to wonder why these representatives would vote no on a bill they secretly hoped would pass. Here's your answer: Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist and once the top spokesman for the former House speaker J. Dennis Hastert, a Republican, described the phenomenon thusly: “These are people who are political realists, they’re political pragmatists who want to see progress made in Washington, but are politicall


Via  Politico: House Republicans heard it loud and clear Wednesday: They are unpopular and need to change their ways. Speaker John Boehner’s House Republican Conference is more disliked now than when it took the majority two years ago, lawmakers and aides here found out. After taking a bruising in the 2012 elections, the Republican Party needs an image makeover and the GOP must learn to relate better to voters. That was the message delivered by the party’s most trusted pollsters during the first day of the House GOP’s retreat at the posh Kingsmill Resort on the edge of this colonial town, where the lobbyist-funded Congressional Institute is putting on the annual confab.... Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) will host two sessions: one that will serve as a strategy session for the first legislative quarter, which will be dominated by the debates over the debt ceiling, government funding and automatic cuts to federal spending. The other will be a broader discussion a

Keeping it real

President Obama has often lamented the bubble that tends to surround him in the White House. He does lots of things - both rewarding and painful - to keep in touch with the lives of people he went there to fight reading letters from ordinary Americans every night and visiting privately with the families of the children lost in Newtown. But when getting something done is especially important to him - he takes all that one more step. Remember Natoma Canfield? That's her on the right meeting with the President this past December. In 2010 she wrote him a letter about losing her health insurance during her battle with cancer. After the Supreme Court ruled on Obamacare, President Obama said he had carried her letter with him every day during the fight over health care reform. Now it hangs on a wall in the West Wing. Yesterday at the end of his remarks about gun violence,  President Obama  said this: When I visited Newtown last month, I spent some private time wit

And now we're down to the racism

I've been thinking about what Peggy Noonan said on This Week ever since I saw the clip a few days ago. You have to ask yourself what is the root of this anxiety/fear Noonan is talking about in all her unctuousness. Paul Krugman nailed it when he said that the reality of life in America is that its safer than its been in decades. So where is the fear coming from? About the same time this discussion was happening, Colin Powell was answering that question. America is changing. The "majority" will soon be a "minority." And not only that...the leader of the free world is an African American. I have long thought that we are passing through a milestone in this country's long march towards "perfecting our union." History might not judge it as significant as the Civil War or the Civil Rights Movement, but it represents a critical stage in our development. A black man is no longer simply leading African Americans, he's leading the country. Mov