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Showing posts from April, 2014

Democracy: Balancing private wealth with public voice

Today I found myself re-reading something Marshall Ganz wrote years ago about the historical roots of organizing in this country. Given our concern about the recent court cases that have magnified the problem of money in politics, his opening quote is even more profound today. “Democracy is based on the promise that equality of voice can balance inequality of resources.” Prof. Sidney Verba, Harvard University, 1993. Next, he quotes de Tocqueville. In democratic countries, knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all the others. In commenting on de Tocqueville's observations about our civic associations, Ganz says: In other words, he saw that we had learned that the choices a few people make about how to use their money could be balanced by choices many people make about how to use their time. He then goes on to summarize various movements in our history. What de Tocqueville observed was soon challenged by a

Sticking with the O-man!

Just a quick thought... Remember when the triple threat scandal of Benghazi, IRS and NSA meant the sure death of the Obama Presidency? And then along came . POTUS was as doomed as Obamacare. That's just what we've been subjected to in the second term. There's no doubt that our media is addicted to hysteria. And that means that most of the time, they get it wrong. So the one thing we can learn is that it doesn't pay to buy into the hysteria. And it never hurts to bet on the O-man ;-)

Racists pick the wrong target

A couple of tweets got me thinking... State Farm is pulling its sponsorship of the Clippers. Wow. Others expected to do the same. — Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) April 28, 2014 Mayor Johnson told us the players are waiting for Comm. Silver to gather the facts, make a ruling and then they will speak & speak loudly. — Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) April 27, 2014 Ever since the Republicans dreamed up the Southern Strategy, the targets they've used to inflame racism have been the "welfare queen" and the "street thug" - both groups that have very little money and/or political clout. What Donald Sterling did was go after current and former NBA players - and that's likely to mean a whole different outcome. He went directly at Magic Johnson , who has spoken out clearly. And as some have noted, this incident even inflamed Michael Jordan . Its clear that a lot of current NBA players are keeping quiet until Commissioner Silver announces his rulin


Rest is the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be. Rest is the essence of giving and receiving...To rest is to give up on the already exhausted will as the prime motivator of endeavor, with its endless outward need to reward itself through established goals. To rest is to give up on worrying and fretting and the sense that there is something wrong with the world unless we are there to put it right; to rest is to fall back literally or figuratively from outer targets and shift the goal not to an inner static bulls eye, an imagined state of perfect stillness, but to an inner state of natural exchange. The template of natural exchange is the breath, the autonomic giving and receiving which is the basis and the measure of life itself. We are rested when we are a living exchange between what lies inside and what lies outside, when we are an intriguing conversation between the potential that lies in our imagination and the possibilities for making that internal i

What has brought the Bundy's and Sterling's out of the woodwork? (updated)

Lately it can feel like: another day, another racist unleashed. All the oxygen these days is being soaked up by the recent remarks of Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling. But the truth is - over the last few years we've been exposed to a pretty endless stream of this noxious stuff. Its no coincidence that this is happening on the heels of electing our first African American president and as the demographics of this country are rapidly changing. But I'd like to look a little deeper and ask what it is these milestones have unleashed. To answer that, I go back to something I've quoted here many times - the words of Derrick Jensen in his book The Culture of Make Believe . I have spent the past several hours now thinking about the notion that masters "shall be entitled to their labor," and at the risk of overstating, it seems to me that entitlement is key to nearly all atrocities, and that any threat to perceived entitlement will provoke hatred... From the

What divides us about racism: intent

Even Sean Hannity agrees that Cliven Bundy's comments about "the negro" are racist. He called them "beyond repugnant." One thing the Civil Rights Movement gave us was near universal agreement that skin color does not determine a person's humanity and that intentional discrimination against someone on that factor alone is "beyond repugnant." For many people in this country, that near universal agreement means that the job of ending racism is done and we can all be "colorblind" now. That's why the Roberts Court did away with the section of the Voting Rights Act that applied only to states that had traditionally denied the franchise to African Americans via Jim Crow laws. Its also why they struck down Michigan's affirmative action program this week. According to Robert's embrace of colorblindness , "the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." All of this is b

No Commentary Required (not about Cliven Bundy edition) 4/25/14

Here are a few of the things you might have missed during our national Cliven Bundy obsession. From Mark Kleiman  at the appropriately titled Reality-Based Community comes the quote-of-the-day. “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” It’s not by accident that the party of global-warming denial and poll unskewing is also the party of torture. ***** For a taste of the kind of racism conservatives never acknowledge, here's George Will basically calling President Obama "boy" in a column titled: Barack Obama: The Adolescent President . Nuff said. ***** I challenge you to not go verklempt over this one . ***** HBO is premiering a documentary about Ann Richards on Monday. In case you've forgotten some of her more memorable moments, check this clip out. ***** U.S. solar energy capacity has grown an astounding 418% since 2010 (thanks mostly to President Obama's American Recovery Act). The future is arri

Having a wise Latina on the Supreme Court matters

We all saw what happened when President Obama said, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon." No other American president could have uttered those words. I was reminded of that when I saw this part of Justice Sonia Sotomayor's dissenting opinion on the recent Supreme Court decision about Michigan's affirmative action program. Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter the neighborhood where he grows up. Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, “No, where are you really from,” regardless of how many generations her family has been in the country. Race matters to a young person addressed by a stranger in a foreign language, which he does not understand because only English was spoken at home. Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: “I do not be


If I had to pick one song that is my number one favorite of all time, it would probably be this one: The whole thing is packed with wisdom, but think about this line for a moment. Freedom, oh freedom, well that's just some people talking. Your prison is walking through this world all alone. I initially fell in love with this song when I had come to care very deeply for a young woman I was working with in a group home who was experiencing all the pain and hunger that come with being a desperado. She, like many other teenagers, clouded her pain in a desperate cry for freedom. But I think we can broaden the application of this song and think about it as a lament for much of our political discourse these days. We're constantly subjected to cries from the libertarians and conservatives about "FREEDOM." I don't necessarily have a problem with that. But as an emphasis that excludes our need (as human beings) for each other, it is just another prison of its own

Kids these days

Just imagine what kinds of messages we're sending our kids these days!

What the clemency initiative tells us about President Obama

At the end of his first term, President Obama had granted clemency to one person. Of course this led many people to conclude that he didn't care about criminal justice reform or correcting the racial disparities in that system - especially those created by our "war on drugs." As of this week, we know those conclusions were premature . The shift started early in the President's second term when he basically announced an end to the war on drugs saying, "we simply cannot incarcerate our way out of the drug problem." Then last December, he commuted the sentences of eight federal prisoners who were serving long sentences due to crack cocaine convictions prior to the Fair Sentencing Act . Of course there were plenty of progressives who took that as an opportunity to talk about the thousands of others who were not granted clemency and lecture President Obama about the importance of courage. But this was never about a lack of courage. Instead, its about a cult

This Earth Day: Soundbites or Impact?

On this Earth Day, I have to wonder if many progressives are making the same mistake on climate change that they did on health care reform. If you remember back in 2009/10, while the wingers were screaming about "death panels," all progressives could talk about was the public option (which would have made a public health insurance option available on the exchanges). Hardly anyone mentioned the fact that the ACA actually included the largest expansion of Medicaid eligibility in the program's history. When the public option was dropped from the bill because it didn't have 60 votes in the Senate, many progressives started attacking President Obama and weakening support for reform (some even advocated that Congress should "kill the bill"). Today, anyone who is listening to progressives talk about climate change will hear mostly about their fight against the Keystone Pipeline. It has become THE national rallying cry for environmentalists. While there are l

President Obama initiates the "Clemency Project 2014" (updated)

Liz Goodwin tells Barbara Scrivner's story to highlight a major initiative by President Obama. She's already served 20 years of a 30-year sentence for selling a few ounces of methamphetamine. Thousands and thousands of people like Scrivner are serving punishingly long sentences in federal prison based on draconian policies that were a relic of the "tough on crime" antidrug laws of the '80s and '90s. Thirty years after skyrocketing urban violence and drug use sparked politicians to impose longer and longer sentences for drug crimes, America now incarcerates a higher rate of its population than any other country in the world. This dubious record has finally provoked a bipartisan backlash against such stiff penalties. The old laws are slowly being repealed. Now, in his final years in office, Obama has trained his sights on prisoners like Scrivner, and wants to use his previously dormant pardon power as part of a larger strategy to restore fairness to the cri

What makes President Obama so divisive?

Bernard Goldberg sums up a lot of conservative thinking these days by suggesting that President Obama is stoking resentments. He points to the President's speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention where he captured our attention by saying, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is a United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America, a Latino America, an Asian America, There is a United States of America.” But then Goldberg asserts: I suspect he meant that we could all achieve this wonderful, post-partisan, can’t-we-all-just-get-along America if – but only if – Republicans saw things the way he does; only if conservatives jumped on his liberal bandwagon and helped him “fundamentally transform the United States of America” — the way he thought it should be transformed. Lets examine the record for a moment, shall we? Here's what President Obama's "liberal bandwagon" looks like: Health care reform that was origi

Who was the actual "Deporter-in-Chief?"

People have been throwing lots of numbers around to compare the records of Presidents Bush and Obama when it comes to deporting undocumented workers. Nora Caplan-Bricker has done the best job I've seen of helping to clear up the confusion.  It can be summed up with this chart. The blue part of the graph (removals) represents those who have been deported as a result of a court appearance and the red part (returns) are those who were simply returned to their home country without a court hearing (what the Bush administration so disrespectfully called "catch and release"). What you can see is that the number of "removals" has gone up - but the number of "returns" has gone down dramatically. What strikes me immediately is the question: which is more in keeping with our legal standards - to simply send someone back without access to a judicial hearing, or to allow them their day in court? Its not surprising that our President's history with const

When obstruction meets pragmatism

Those posters highlight just a few facts about the success of Obamacare. You can find a lot more here . All of that creates a pretty big dilemma for Republicans who - from day one of the debate about health care reform - have chosen to simply obstruct anything President Obama and the Democrats tried to do. As David Frum told them 4 years ago, by refusing to even participate in the discussion, they were buying into creating their own Waterloo. No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal? We followed the most radical voices in the party and the m

Up Top

Up top. #NationalHighFiveDay — Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 17, 2014 OK, so lets kick it with the High-Fiver-in-Chief!

Why Taibbi's brand of linkbait works

Perhaps by now you've heard that Matt Taibbi went on Democracy Now to promote his latest book and gin up that old emo meme about how President Obama is worse than Bush - this time its about not holding Wall Street accountable for the crimes that led to the Great Recession. So he managed to get our attention and probably sold a lot more of his books. Taibbi and his pals at Democracy Now trot out all the inflammatory reasons for why the Obama administration didn't go after the perpetrators. So, I mean, it’s—you have a whole bunch of people sort of at the top of the regulatory agencies, whether it’s Justice, the SEC, the CFTC, maybe the Enforcement Division of the SEC, who all came from these big banks or from law firms that represented these big banks. And it’s a very incestuous a result of this kind of merry-go-round of people who all work for the same companies—and they’re going to go to government for a while, then they’re going to go back to the corporat

Not buying the hysteria or the cynicism

During his speech on voting rights a few days ago, President Obama said something that we should all take a minute to absorb. If your strategy depends on having fewer people show up to vote, that’s not a sign of strength, that’s a sign of weakness. Wait a minute! Did he just suggest that the Republican Party is weak? Yes mam, he sure did. But, you might ask, how can he say that when they've managed to obstruct almost everything he's tried to do for the last four years and the pundits are predicting bad news for Democrats in the 2014 midterms? I'd suggest two reasons for it. First of all, you have to be someone who sees the long game in order to understand what he's saying. If you are addicted to the 24 hour hysteria-inducing media, you might miss it. Interestingly enough, one person who has recently shown that he gets it is Markos at Daily Kos. His latest is titled: Liberalism has won, which is why conservatives do what they do . In it he points out that Republ

Sweet Darkness

 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 by David Whyte

President Obama: Defending voting rights is a two-way street

On Friday President Obama gave an impassioned speech about voting rights. He promised that he and Attorney General Eric Holder will do what it takes to challenge the restrictions Republicans are attempting to put on those rights. President, I’m not going to let attacks on these rights go unchallenged. We’re not going to let voter suppression go unchallenged. So earlier this week, you heard from the Attorney General -- and there’s a reason the agency he runs is called the Department of Justice. They’ve taken on more than 100 voting rights cases since 2009, and they’ve defended the rights of everybody from African Americans to Spanish speakers to soldiers serving overseas. And yes, he pointed out that its not Democrats who are attacking the franchise. But it’s a fact this recent effort to restrict the vote has not been led by both parties -- it’s been led by the Republican Party. And in fairness, it’s not just Democrats who are concerned...I want a competitive Republican Pa

The problem with single payer

When President Obama was asked about why, during the debate about health care reform, he said "If you like your insurance you can keep it," he had an interesting response. He pointed out the fact that the status quo prior to reform was unacceptable, but that calls for things like single payer would be too disruptive. He took a middle ground that didn't upend the way all Americans get their health insurance - just those who's only choice was to buy it on the individual market. You often hear the opposite when you talk to the proponents of single payer. Their claim is that the current system of private insurers is the problem and the least disruptive option would have been to insure everyone via something like Medicare for all. Who's right? We're about to have a test case on that question. The entire country is in the midst of adjusting to Obamacare, so we're experiencing how disruptive that change will be. But there's one exception. The state of Ver

The Doctor is in

Its good to know these two guys are covered :-)

An open letter to my "disappointed" Democratic friends

Dear Disappointeds: Back in 2010 you told us that you were disappointed in the President you helped elect. And because of that, you weren't motivated enough to vote in the midterms. While I don't share your disappointment, I want to say that I hear you. Now we're facing another midterm election and we have the benefit of hindsight to tell us what changed as a result of your lack of enthusiasm. Sure, you might have wanted single payer and a larger stimulus package. But you have to admit that Obamacare is doing an awful lot of good. And perhaps you should read Michael Grunwald's book The New New Deal to learn how the American Recovery Act was way more than many of us thought it was at the time. Of course the list of legislative accomplishments during those first two years goes beyond those two milestones to include things like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and an end to Don't Ask Don't Tell. But since 2010, take a look at what has (or better yet, hasn&

Why we can't have nice things

Fox News has a conversation about Race in America: Republicans hold a hearing about women's reproductive health: White House Press Corp criticizes the Obama administration for lack of diversity: Nuff said...

What we can learn from LBJ

We are right to honor President Lyndon Johnson on this 50th anniversary of the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Its also fitting that we honor him for working so hard to pass the Voting Rights Act, launching things like Medicare/Medicaid and initiating the Great Society. That is a powerful progressive legacy. Perhaps its true, as Adam Serwer implies , that it took a racist white southerner to do all that in the 1960's. But before we go wishing for a return to that kind of leadership - as some have done recently - lets also remember that the same heavy hand that accomplished all of that is the one who was driven out of seeking re-election by chants of "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" The same man who muscled legislation through Congress by doing things like giving Sen. Richard Ruseell "the treatment"... the one who lied to Congress about the Gulf of Tonkin in order to escalate the war in Vietnam. An argument can be mad

A coup in the GWB White House?

You won't find many liberals/Democrats who want to talk about this. We tend to be much more interested in vilifying the Bush administration than understanding what went on. But for a while now we've been seeing evidence that the George HW Bush realists implemented a coup inside the George W Bush White House sometime in 2006. I'm not going to try to guess at their motives or tactics, but it came right on the heels of the midterm election. The most public event that signaled the coup was the "resignation" of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense . And now, from the leaked report  of the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into the detention and interrogation practices (ie, torture) of the Bush administration, comes this: The CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program ended by 2006 due to legal and oversight concerns, unauthorized press disclosures and reduced cooperation from other nations. Its also true that by January 2007 , the Bush administr