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Showing posts from May, 2013

From too spineless to too stubborn

OMG...for years folks have been screaming that President Obama is "spineless" because he "caves" to Republicans all the time. But now that its the media's ox getting gored over the leaks investigations, apparently President Obama is too "stubborn." Stubbornness in the defense of being right is no vice, Obama could rightly note looking back on his political career and most of his time in the White House. And yet, Obama’s stubbornness regarding the ongoing controversy surrounding the Department of Justice and, in particular, Attorney General Eric Holder may not be his best strategy... The mentality is simple: We are not going to cave to what political Washington demands because political Washington is often (always?) wrong. You're right. President Obama is not going to "cave"  to your whinny (white) asses when it comes to AG Eric Holder. And he shouldn't. These folks have NEVER understood this President. And its looking incre

Apparently its not just MSNBC that's in trouble

Yesterday I wrote about the challenges facing major media outlets. A lot of the talk lately has been about the bad news MSNBC got recently about their low ratings. Well, it seems as if the liberal-leaning cable network isn't the only one in trouble. Check this out from Digby : ...but I must point out that it's not just MSNBC. The online left has seen a steep decline in traffic since the election as well... We've been through a number of elections, crises, other ups and downs over the past decade but I've not seen anything like the drop in interest over the past few months. If it was just me I'd attribute it to my little project having run its course but it's happening across the liberal media spectrum. Digby didn't provide any names regarding which online left sites she's referring to other than her own (its certainly not this one), but a look at her blogroll might give you some idea (hint: there is only one site she includes that is listed here

But for some, there's only one problem...

Media in trouble - blame Obama

It's obvious that with the advent of the internet as well as other technologies, both the printed press and television news are struggling to find a fiscal model that works. Surely everyone knows that it won't be long before the paper media is dead. And finding a way to make money off of internet publications via advertising and subscriptions has proven to be a challenge. The major networks still run evening news shows, but I'm not sure anyone is watching. And their morning installments are more gossip tabloids than anything resembling real news. Cable networks are struggling too. Fox seems to have found a stable "geezer crowd" that is loyal. But its hard to imagine how they continue that business model into the future. And we're learning that CNN and MSNBC are struggling to find their footing recently. In often hair-brained attempts to deal with all that, the media has faltered with everything from exploitative reporting following the Boston marathon b

Early report card on Obamacare looking good

I remember back in 2010 arguing with both Democrats and Republicans about the importance of Obamacare. One of the things I heard all the time is that the President took his eye off the ball on the economy in order to pass health care reform - and lots of folks thought that was a big mistake. But take a look at what t he President said in his speech to Congress about the need for health care reform in September 2009 : We spend one and a half times more per person on health care than any other country, but we aren't any healthier for it. This is one of the reasons that insurance premiums have gone up three times faster than wages. It's why so many employers -- especially small businesses -- are forcing their employees to pay more for insurance, or are dropping their coverage entirely. It's why so many aspiring entrepreneurs cannot afford to open a business in the first place, and why American businesses that compete internationally -- like our automakers -- are at a huge

No, the President didn't admit he was wrong about drones

Here's how Adam Serwer reacted to the news about President Obama's speech last week on counterterrorism. This seems like an admission that the drone critics were right, and the administration's defenders were wrong.… — AdamSerwer (@AdamSerwer) May 23, 2013 That argument fails to take the historical record into account. When President Obama took office, the legacy he inherited from Bush/Cheney was that we were involved in THREE wars that were being mismanaged. He needed to get us out of Iraq, refocus the efforts in Afghanistan and narrow the "global war on terror" into a "war on al Qaeda." In case anyone has forgotten, Osama bin Laden was still alive and actively plotting attacks. People like al Awlaki were preparing "underwear bombers" and sending people to blow up U.S. cargo planes. The President could have simply ignored all that. Or he could have invaded Pakistan and Yemen. He went into great detail in his s

Greenwald struggles with cognitive dissonance (updated 2x)

After writing this , I think its important to acknowledge that Glenn Greenwald has apparently wiped enough egg off his face to comment on President Obama's speech on counterterrorism. As is his wont, he uses hundreds of words to basically say, "Obama doesn't mean it." Until one sees actual changes in behavior and substance on those issues, cheering for those changes as though they already occurred or are guaranteed is the height of self-delusion. I guess that's the best he can do with the cognitive dissonance he's feeling after declaring that the "war on terror" cannot end  only to hear the President say its time to end it . Greenwald seems to base his entire response to the speech on the idea that we can't believe what the President says. How many times does Obama have to deliver a speech embracing a set of values and polices, only to watch as he then proceeds to do the opposite, before one ceases to view his public proclamations as pred

Photo of the Day: Pragmatism and slogans don't mix

This cracked me up! Via Go Left

What has he done for me lately?

I remember years ago when I first heard about "The Dreamers" I questioned their strategy. These were young people who had grown up in the United States, but were undocumented. They were pushing for a law that would allow them to becomes citizens if they attended college or joined the military. My concerns about all this initially were that we needed comprehensive immigration reform in this country. I wondered whether the Dream Act was a distraction. And then I heard what Pete Seeger said about Rev. Martin Luther King's decision to start with a bus boycott in Montgomery, AL. Why did he start with a bus boycott? Why didn't he start with something like schools, or jobs, or voting? Couldn't a bus boycott come later? When you face an opponent over a broad front, you don't aim at the opponent's strong points. You aim for something a little off to the side. But you win it. And having won that bus boycott...13 months it took him to do it...then he moved o

The long game on post-partisanship

Let's pretend like you were elected President of the United States of America based mostly on rhetoric like this: Now let's assume that immediately after your inauguration, you learn that the Republicans have decided to use this against you and are going to oppose anything you try to do - not simply when they disagree, but even when they might otherwise support your proposals on principle. How would you proceed to try to "change the culture of Washington?" You could - as many partisans suggested - dig in your heels and further entrench the partisan warfare. I suspect that's exactly what the Republicans were hoping for. Their job of painting your presidency as that of a soshulist Kenyan Muslim would have actually been much easier under those circumstances. But no. You decided to stick with it and no matter what the issue being confronted - you reached out to try to compromise and find common ground with your opponents. That left them with a

Get Over It!

As a musical accompaniment to my musings about victimhood today, here's one of my favorite songs from The Eagles. But to demonstrate that Don Henley isn't just a mean old bastard, remember that he's also the one who wrote what I think is the most powerful messages ever about healing from pain. The Eagles- Desperado (Farewell Tour Live From Melbourne, 2005) from TheLenaOrbit on Vimeo .

Speaking of victims...Tavis Smiley SOOO wants to join that party

I just finished writing about the need to empower victims when I ran across this story about Tavis Smiley . Smiley contends that members of the Obama administration, whom he didn’t identify, have pressured sponsors to drop their support of his projects, including his anti-poverty initiatives. Oh puhleeze! Does Tavis really think the White House cares about his sorry-ass "projects?" And just what "anti-poverty initiatives" is he talking about? The only one I've heard about lately is that he and his buddy Cornel West wanted us to petition the White House to sponsor an anti-poverty conference . You where guys like them could preen for the cameras to TALK about how horrible poverty is without DOING a g-d thing about it. And what sponsors are they that Smiley thinks the White House might be trying to pressure? Of course he won't say. But perhaps he's talking about his relationship with the plutocrats (one of West's favorite words) at Well

More on Morehouse

There's something that's been ruminating in my head all week. And I think I'll take a lazy Saturday morning to see if I can put it into words. It has to do with President Obama's speech at Morehouse  and those who are criticizing it . What I've been thinking about is that over the years, we've developed certain rules for how we're supposed to deal with victims of oppression/violence/racism. One of those rules is "never blame the victim." I totally agree with that rule. For the sake of comparison though, lets imagine that we're talking to a victim of domestic violence. It is important to always affirm that she is not at fault. But the truth is - she has some choices to make about how to deal with her situation. Part of our job should also be to empower her to make those choices...for herself. To simply focus on her as a victim of her circumstances robs her of that choice. Empowering a victim to make their own choices doesn't mean that

President Obama 1 - Glenn Greenwald 0 (zilch, nada)

I just can't help myself. Some of you will remember that a few months ago I wrote about the fact that Greenwald said the "war on terror" cannot end . And yet, here's the headline from the NYT editorial board following President Obama's speech yesterday. The End of Perpetual War That's gonna be some MAJOR cognitive dissonance for the self-proclaimed "anti-authoritarian" to maneuver. Perhaps that's why he has not - as of yet - written anything about the President's speech but has instead chosen to spend all his time tweeting shit like this : I can`t even care enough even to write about his speeches anymore. Before he tackles what the President said, he's going to have to do something about this:

Signs of success for President Obama's long game

I can't help but notice that scandal mania just might be dying as news of success on several fronts of President Obama's long game emerge. A few examples will follow. Perhaps you've heard that both Oregon and now California are seeing great news when it comes to health insurance costs as they finalize the exchanges established by Obamacare. You'll not want to miss what Matt Yglesias wrote about this. It will come in handy when Republicans try to ramp up their campaign against the law's implementation. ...the aspirations of the law are quite high, and the status quo quite bad. That means any time the situation improves but doesn't improve as much as the Obama administration wanted things to improve, that will tend to be covered as "bad news for ObamaCare". That tendency will be reenforced because Republicans will be eager to trumpet ObamaCare's shortcomings (to make Obama look bad) and advocates for the poor will also be eager to trumpet Obam

President Obama on drones

As I said yesterday, the big picture take-away from President Obama's speech on counterterrorism was that he laid the foundation for ending the indefinite war . Part way through the speech I began thinking to myself that he wasn't hitting that message hard enough. But then I realized that he wasn't just speaking to people on the left who have been screaming about drones - he was talking to the American public that had been traumatized by 9/11 and had their fears exploited ever since. In other words, he was laying the groundwork for all of us to let go of those fears and move forward. But the President addressed a lot of policy in this speech as well. Specifically, he talked about the use of drones. As was true in previous armed conflicts, this new technology raises profound questions -- about who is targeted, and why; about civilian casualties, and the risk of creating new enemies; about the legality of such strikes under U.S. and international law; about accountabilit

Ending the war: a refutation of fear

There is no doubt. For me, today is one of the most important days of Barack Obama's presidency . As regular readers here know, for quite a while now I've been writing about the need to end the indefinite war . I must admit that over the last couple of years, I've felt a bit lonely in championing that cause. But I've always had a feeling that this is where the President was going - even as all the talk on the left ignored the fact that we were at war and focused instead on civil liberties as a concern. Today...headlines like these tell the story: The End of the Perpetual War Obama Lays Out Plan To End The War Against Al Qaeda 'This war, like all wars, must end' OMG - all of the sudden I don't feel so alone anymore. And if those titles don't represent a summary of your take-away from President Obama's speech today, you are clearly missing the forest for the trees . Here's what the President said about that: So America is at

"Taking Obama to task for sounding like my father is way, way over the top"

That's what Jack White writes in response to the people who are criticizing President Obama's commencement speech at Morehouse College. They're determined to find fault with Obama even when he does something right -- and in this case at least, they are as out of touch as the president's right-wing opponents. That's the conclusion I reached after rereading Obama's Morehouse remarks in light of the strong critiques from Coates and Kai Wright, my esteemed former colleague at The Root. I didn't hear the "convenient race talk" that Coates detected or the browbeating that troubled Wright. I didn't even hear the voice of a politician. I heard the voice of my father. Stop. Take a breath. Grab a kleenex. Read on. It could have been my dad lecturing me across the dinner table when Obama declared, "You have to work twice as hard as anyone else if you want to get by." And again, when he admonished the graduates to "be a good rol

President Obama's base won't desert him

Don't Hold Your Breath Waiting for Public Opinion to Turn Against Obama : The president has a base of loyalists that won't quit... Given the noise level on Capitol Hill, cable TV, and social media, Obama's 50 percent-plus showings in recent polls from CNN, Pew, and ABC/Washington Post seem somewhat surprising. But two veteran political pollsters, one from each party, say that Obama can expect to maintain his standing as long as there's no evidence that he was involved in the two big furors of the moment... Republican Bill McInturff and Democrat Stan Greenberg agree that Obama is in a relatively strong position short of "a real set of facts that implicates the president," as Greenberg put it. The reasons include Obama's steadfast coalition of blacks, Latinos, and young people ... The president's core base has kept his approval rating in the mid-40s or higher through the five years of his presidency, McInturff says, and won't desert him. You

President Obama pivots towards ending the indefinite war

For someone like me who has been writing for quite a while now about ending the indefinite war , tomorrow is a HUGE day. President Obama will give a speech that begins the process of delivering on the promise he made almost exactly a year ago . My fellow Americans, we have traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon. The Iraq War is over. The number of our troops in harm’s way has been cut in half, and more will be coming home soon. We have a clear path to fulfill our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al Qaeda... This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end. I've been so excited about this speech that I'm jumping on some of the news that is coming out about what he'll have to say. In his first major speech on counterterrorism of his second term, Mr. Obama hopes to refocus the epic conflict that has defined

Rosen sought leaks in order to influence foreign policy

This week the Washington Post broke the story about Fox News reporter James Rosen being investigated due to national security leaks he received from State Department employee Stephen Jin-Woo Kim. Their reporting was based on an affidavit submitted to a federal judge  seeking a search warrant for Rosen's email. The WaPo article links to and quotes heavily from the affidavit. Tommy Christopher reviewed the affidavit and noticed something pretty interesting. In an email to Kim, Rosen lays out what it is he wants to accomplish with the information he receives. Let’s break some new[s], and expose muddle-headed policy when we see it – or force the administration’s hand to go in the right direction, if possible. Can we finally dispense with the "whistleblower" crap? Its interesting to me that WaPo left that little bombshell out of their article. One other thing that struck sounds like Rosen knew Kim enough to be confident that they were of like mind when it come

If the press wants special protections, they need to come to the table too

I get what all the howls are about in the press on the "chilling" effects of being investigated. The first amendment that guarantees a press free from government interference is a bedrock principle for any democracy. So I agree that there is an issue here that needs to be resolved. But its not enough for them to simply point the finger at the Obama administration as the party that is in the wrong here. For example Eugene Robinson's article today sounds like it was written in some reality that no longer exists (and perhaps never did). Obviously, the government has a duty to protect genuine secrets. But the problem is that every administration, without exception, tends to misuse the “top secret” stamp — sometimes from an overabundance of caution, sometimes to keep inconvenient or embarrassing information from coming to light. That’s where journalists come in. Our job, simply, is to find out what the government doesn’t want you to know. That kind of thinking doesn&#

Is Sharyl Attkisson CBS's Jonathan Karl?

CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson has been in the news quite a bit lately. For example, the Washington Post did a story recently about her as the one major news network journalist who has reported extensively about Benghazi. And then yesterday, she went on the radio show of right winger Chris Stigall  to imply that the Obama administration had been hacking her computers . CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson said on Tuesday that her personal and work computers have been "compromised" for over two years. Attkisson told a local Philadelphia radio station that she has been working with investigators to discover the source of the activity. "There has been an issue in my house and there has been an issue with my computers that's gone on for quite a long time that we're looking into," she said. So its been going on "for quite a long time" but she still doesn't have any definitive answers about these "issues" with her computers. And yet

"Nothing is more important"

Apparently President Obama ad libbed the addition  of "or your boyfriend" to his prepared remarks...a HUGE shout-out to our gay brothers in the audience. Then he went on to say this: I know that when I am on my deathbed someday, I will not be thinking about any particular legislation I passed; I will not be thinking about a policy I promoted; I will not be thinking about the speech I gave, I will not be thinking the Nobel Prize I received. I will be thinking about that walk I took with my daughters. I'll be thinking about a lazy afternoon with my wife. I'll be thinking about sitting around the dinner table and seeing them happy and healthy and knowing that they were loved. And I'll be thinking about whether I did right by all of them.

How journalists get played

Here's how Karen Tumulty responded to the story yesterday about Stephen Jin-Woo Kim leaking classified information to Fox News reporter James Rosen . The alternative to "conspiring" with leakers to get information: Just writing what the government tells you. @ jamesrosenfnc — Karen Tumulty(@ktumulty) May 20, 2013 Now, I'm not a paid reporter. But even I can imagine that there are alternatives somewhere in between just writing what the government tells you and just writing what a leaker tells you. Imagine this...what if a journalist actually knew their history and had a bit of curiosity? For example, what if they had questions about why a State Department employee was interested in sharing classified information only with a Fox News reporter? I know real journalists aren't supposed to ask those kinds of questions. But everyone with even a modicum of a brain knows that Fox News has an agenda. There's a story there and only the willfully blind would ignore

Photo of the Day: A teacher's love

A teacher hugs a child at Briarwood Elementary school after a tornado destroyed the school in south OKC Oklahoma City, OK, Monday, May 20, 2013.

President Obama on being black in America

President Obama in his speech to the 2013 class of Morehouse: As Morehouse Men, many of you know what it’s like to be an outsider; know what it’s like to be marginalized; know what it’s like to feel the sting of discrimination. And that’s an experience that a lot of Americans share. Hispanic Americans know that feeling when somebody asks them where they come from or tell them to go back. Gay and lesbian Americans feel it when a stranger passes judgment on their parenting skills or the love that they share. Muslim Americans feel it when they’re stared at with suspicion because of their faith. Any woman who knows the injustice of earning less pay for doing the same work -- she knows what it’s like to be on the outside looking in. So your experiences give you special insight that today’s leaders need. If you tap into that experience, it should endow you with empathy -- the understanding of what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, to know what i

Deal with it!

I'm going to talk some more about President Obama's speech at Morehouse later. Suffice it for now to say that it was clear that his passion came from feeling "at home" with that group of powerful young black men and the entire Morehouse tradition. In a perfect display of exactly how that unnerves some people, here's Drudge's headline today. You got that right Drudge. And even though he never actually uttered the words you chose to put in quotes, today was a magnificent celebration of THE BLACK MAN THAT IS OUR with it!

Photo of the Day: Obama v the Matrix


Rep. Issa blows up GOP talking point on IRS

Now that the attempt to create a controversy over the Benghazi story has pretty much fallen apart, the Republicans are going all-in on the IRS "scandal" to see if they can gin up something there that will hurt President Obama. We saw Nate Silver's takedown of Peggy Noonan's attempt to do that yesterday. The thing that's making that difficult for Republicans is this statement in the Inspector General's Report . We asked the Acting Commissioner, Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division; the Director, EO; and Determinations Unit personnel if the criteria were influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS. All of these officials stated that the criteria were not influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS. Instead, the Determinations Unit developed and implemented inappropriate criteria in part due to insufficient oversight provided by management. Specifically, only first-line management approved references to the Tea Part

The strange contours of Republican outrage

Apparently Governor Bobby Jindal is going to give a speech to Virginia Republicans today and (surprise, surprise) Politico got a scoop on what he's going to say. A couple of quotes stood out to me. “It won’t do to have a few lower-level staffers in the Tucson field office lose their executive washroom privileges,” he’s planning to say. “This is much bigger than that.”... “The President of the United States must have the moral authority to go around the globe and call out tyranny when he sees it,” he’s slated to argue. “He must be able to be freedom’s evangelist. He cannot do that if he tolerates basic constitutional violations right under his own nose.” I couldn't help but think that perhaps Jindal is referring to something like this : But no, he's talking about how a few overworked IRS agents engaged in what might be best referred to as "political profiling" to determine whether or not a tax exempt organization could keep their donors a secret .

Noonan vs Silver...its a rout!

If there was a picture in the dictionary next to the term "pearl-clutching," it would have to be one of Peggy Noonan. She has perfected the art of "oh my, isn't it awful." But the veneer is only skin deep. Underneath she wields a brutality of lies and innuendoes based on the most extreme partisanship. All of this was on display yesterday in her column titled This is No Ordinary Scandal . She comes out swinging with this opening statement: We are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate. Yeah, right. I thought the Republicans were going to work on that "overreach" thing. Guess not. Of course she engages about the scandal trifecta the Republicans are insistent on exploiting...Benghazi, AP/DOJ and IRS. But its the latter that she really wants to focus on. And she gets pretty creative in ginning things up. The IRS scandal has two parts. The first is the obviously deliberate and targeted abuse, harassment and attempted suppressi


The REAL reason why this picture should cause a stir...It deprived us of more images like this. No more abuse of umbrellas Mr. President! ;-)

Wow, what a difference a day makes!

Before moving on from scandal mania, I'd like to suggest that we all take a moment to think about how fast the narrative of a news cycle can change. Just 48 hours ago, the headlines were all screaming about a White House in trouble! I don't need to go into detail about all that - do I? There were calls for heads on platters and everyone was just sure that the Obama administration was doomed. The entire narrative has now flipped. It seems that everyone is talking about how the Republicans need to be careful about overreach . Yes, its too bad that things haven't flipped (yet?) to the fact that there's a real scandal about the media and the Republicans who lied to them to gin up much of this controversy. But I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Glenn Greenwald's wet dream about an Obama administration under attack from the media seems to have been a bit premature. And on the flip side of that same coin, Breitbart News (sorry, no link will be provid