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Showing posts from September, 2014

"Some dank cave of the American Id"

The other day I suggested that fear was at the root of much of the reaction we see to President Obama. Today Charles Pierce puts my writing skills to shame in response to the news that this President has had three times the number of threats on his life as past presidents. ...there has been a wildness in the air around this president ever since it became clear first, that he was going to be the nominee, and then, that he was going to be the president. It was as though the glowing enthusiasm and the occasionally embarrassingly messianic fervor of his supporters back in 2007 and 2008 summoned up a dark energy on the other side, a Nemesis out of some undying part of the national soul, out of some dank cave of the American Id. We all have tried to find ways to deal with that "dark energy." I don't you about you, but this one speaks as much to me today as it did six years ago. Let's not kick out the darkness...Make the LIGHT Brighter!!!

Some good news about the midterms

Over the last few days we've been inundated with bad news about the midterms when it comes to polls. Yesterday Nate Silver wondered if it was time for the Democrats to panic. I say a resounding "NO!" to that one. Instead, Democrats need to do what Derek Willis documents that they're doing. With a strong possibility that Democrats could lose control of the Senate in the midterm elections, they are investing heavily in voter turnout efforts. In states too close to call like Alaska, Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina, Democrats are making much greater investments in the ground game than Republicans. So while Republicans continue to spend their money on television ads and direct mail, Democrats are focusing on getting voters to the polls. The difference in expenditures on staff and voter contact operations is dramatic . According to the Upshot’s tallies, Dem outside groups, parties and candidates are outspending their GOP counterparts in Alaska ($1.9 million to $2

Bust a meme: President Obama's approval ratings

I can understand why Republicans want to spread a false meme that President Obama's approval numbers are tanking. Their whole goal in the midterms is to nationalize the election and ramp up the Obama derangement syndrome with their base. But one has to wonder why some liberals are so intent on doing the same thing. Case in point: Elias Isquith  at Salon . He sites polls taken recently in California and New York showing that the President's approval ratings have dropped in those blue states and then opines: Put simply, my guess is that a growing number of liberals have decided that after nearly six years, and with no reason to believe a Democratic congress is on the horizon, Obama’s done nearly all he’ll ever do and the verdict is in. And although Obamacare seems to be a policy success, and Dodd-Frank is reportedly working better than many expected, many liberals have concluded that these balms are not enough to soothe the lingering pain of their unmet expectations. Ahhh...

Nancy confronts her naiveté

I've spent the morning reflecting on how naive I was 4-5 years ago. You see, back then when poutragers were busy railing about how President Obama dropped the public option from health care reform and his stimulus bill was too small and he had abandoned the effort to end DADT, I thought that the success of this President's pragmatic policies would lead them to take a second look at the assumptions they were making about him. Now here we are years later and its clear that Obamacare is both reducing the number of people without health insurance while is slows the rise in costs. It turns out that the things President Obama fought for - like Medicaid expansion, the medical loss ratios and competition on the exchanges - have all been at least as important (if not more so) than the public option would have been. Not only has Michael Grunwald educated us on the "hidden story of change" contained in the Recovery Act via his book The New New Deal , President Obama got a &q

How money corrodes our public discourse

The argument we're used to hearing is that the tremendous amount of money in politics these days corrodes our politicians. There is obviously a lot of truth to that. But lately I've been seeing how it also corrodes our public discourse. That happens when an argument is made that people disagree with and the response is to assume that the person making it doesn't really believe what they're saying but has simply been influenced by money. It happens ALL THE TIME. I'd invite you to begin to notice how often. While I've been aware of this for awhile, I was motivated to write about it when immigration activists actually pulled it on none other than Delores Huerta because she suggested that they avoid criticizing President Obama for delaying action on immigration until the end of this year. On the whole, Obama’s Latino defenders all have a financial stake in his regime. They are all recipients of largesse either from the administration directly or through his

The choice: fear or hope?

Imagine with me for a moment that the United States elects a new president seven years after 9/11 while we are engaged in 2 wars in the Middle East that the voters want to end. All this is happening while the mastermind of the worst terror attack on our country continues to plot against us. Now, imagine that president ending those wars and approving a high-risk plan to take out the mastermind - and its successful. Further, imagine that this president assembles a coalition of 40 countries to go after a new threat that arises from Middle Eastern terrorists. And yet, 55% of the country disapproves of his handling of foreign policy while some actually buy into the idea that  he's is a secret Muslim sympathizer  (warning: wingnut link). OK, so you don't have to imagine it at all. That's the true story of President Barack Obama. What blows my mind is how - in an age when data and information are universally available in a way we've never known before - so many peop

Eric Holder: A nation of cowards

In honor of Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement today, I'd like to invite you to listen to the speech he gave to staff at the Department of Justice during Black History Month 2009. No U.S. Attorney General has ever spoken more boldly or acted more aggressively on behalf of civil rights for all Americans.

Why there will be no American boots on the ground

In one of my favorite articles about Barack Obama before he became President, Ryan Lizza tells this story about his time as a community organizer in Chicago. Not long after Obama arrived, he sat down for a cup of coffee in Hyde Park with a fellow organizer named Mike Kruglik. Obama's work focused on helping poor blacks on Chicago's South Side fight the city for things like job banks and asbestos removal... On this particular evening, Kruglik was debriefing Obama about his work when a panhandler approached. Instead of ignoring the man, Obama confronted him. "Now, young man, is that really what you want be about?" Obama demanded. "I mean, come on, don't you want to be better than that? Let's get yourself together." Kruglik remembers this episode as an example of why, in ten years of training organizers, Obama was the best student he ever had. You might wonder what that story has to do with my title above. Lizza points out that Obama didn't


In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly today, President Obama opened with this: We come together at a crossroads between... War and Peace Disorder and Integration Fear and Hope. Then he issued this challenge: Fellow delegates, we come together as United Nations with a choice to make...We can reaffirm our collective responsibility to confront global problems, or be swamped by more and more outbreaks of instability. Jennifer Bendery noted that in this speech President Obama used the word "collectively" 4 times, "together" 12 times, and "cooperation" 4 times. In other words, he suggested that we are at the crossroads of choosing between the blade of dominance and the chalice of partnership. There are ancient prophecies that suggest that this is indeed an era of powerful potential.

Start Close In

As I was writing the previous post about crafting the steps necessary to reach our vision , I was thinking about this poem. Start close in, don’t take the second step or the third, start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take. Start with the ground you know, the pale ground beneath your feet, your own way of starting the conversation. Start with your own question, give up on other people’s questions, don’t let them smother something simple. To find another’s voice, follow your own voice, wait until that voice becomes a private ear listening to another. Start right now take a small step you can call your own don’t follow someone else’s heroics, be humble and focused, start close in, don’t mistake that other for your own. Start close in, don’t take the second step or the third, start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take. ~David Whyte

Never mistake a paragraph with the entire story

Have you ever known someone who had a great vision for the future but was completely clueless about how to get there? I sure have. They tend to make grand promises but very rarely follow through with actual progress. Real leadership requires not only vision, but the skills to develop strategies that form steps towards the goal. In the beginning, an awful lot of people were inspired by Barack Obama's vision for America. Since then, too many have become discouraged that he hasn't gotten us there yet. I would suggest that they missed this part of his victory speech on election night 2008 . The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there. There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that governmen

Photo of the Day: Solidarity

The re-trial of Michael Dunn for the murder of Jordan Davis began today. In a powerful display of solidarity, Jordan's mother was joined by Oscar's uncle, Emmett's cousin and Trayvon's mom. 

This one is not the media's fault

Folks that read here regularly know that I'm not hesitant to criticize our media. But I won't be joining the chorus complaining about how they didn't cover the Climate March that took place in New York (and other cities) yesterday. The reason they didn't cover it is because it wasn't really "news." Sure, it looks like 300,000 people showed up. But then what?  The mantra of a lot of activists is that "we need to take it to the streets." In our era, most often that is assumed to mean a march like the one that happened yesterday. As a pragmatist, I am inclined to ask some simple questions about how that works. I start with: what are the goals of the march? If it is to bring together like-minded people to energize them for a cause - then a march that attracts 300,000 is a success. But if the goal is to reach the skeptics and opponents of your cause, its a waste of time. And frankly, if the goal is to challenge the power structures that figh

Women's Tales

I'm going to do something a little different since it's the weekend...give you some entertainment recommendations. But first a little background. As I embarked on my 30's during the mid-1980's, my reading habits underwent a pretty dramatic change. I found that I could not read any more books by or about men. It was as if I'd spent my life up until that time starving for real stories about real women and had to do everything I could to feed that hunger. And so for the next few years, I indulged myself. I'm currently undergoing something similar when it comes to television and movies. A few months ago I gave up subscribing to television and am now dependent on Netflix for home entertainment. So as the guys revel in their super heroes and the kids all seem to be into vampire tales, here's what I've been watching: At the top of my list would be the BBC series Prime Suspect staring the amazing Helen Mirren. The cops in this series tackle some diff

The journey to integrity

If you haven't already read Charles Blow's excerpt from his book Fire Shut Up in My Bones in the New York Times today, please do so immediately. The particulars of Blow's life are unique. But the journey he describes is universal. My world had told me that there was nothing worse than not being all of one way, that any other way was the same as being dead, but my world had lied. I was very much alive. There was no hierarchy of humanity. There was no one way to be, or even two, but many. And no one could strip me of my value and dignity, because no one had bestowed them. These things came into the world with me. I had done what the world had signaled I must: hidden the thorn in my flesh, held “the demon” at bay, kept the covenant, borne the weight of my crooked cross. But concealment makes the soul a swamp. Confession is how you drain it. Daring to step into oneself is the bravest, strangest, most natural, most terrifying thing a person can do, because when you cea

Its possible to write "I have no idea" on the internet. Who knew?

You have to know its a good day when a tweet from Glenn Greenwald sends you to one of the best things you've read on the internet in weeks. Essay for understanding how some liberals mentally interact with President Obama: (warning: not pleasant to read) — Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) September 19, 2014 Of course, that was enough to send me on my way to check it out! The title of the article turned out to be: "Smarter than the President? Not me. I'm too smart not to know how dumb I am." Given the source of the referral, at first I assumed that the writer was engaging in one massive snark to be revealed at any moment. But I was wrong. So I had to start over and read the whole thing again...straight this time. I’ve said it before, it was a lot easier to be smarter than the President when the President was George W. Bush. A major change in the tone, tenor, direction, and focus of this blog occurred sometime in the late summer of 2011 whe

What's not in the news

I'm going to have to give Republicans some props. In the lead-up to these midterm elections, they've had to show an amazing amount of flexibility. For instance, remember when the main issue in the election was going to be Obama scandal-mania? They were placing their bets on Benghazi, the IRS, the VA and - for some poor souls - even Fast and Furious. And now here we are a few weeks away from the election and  Trey Gowdy can't get anyone to pay attention to his hearings (if you don't know who Trey Gowdy is - you just made my point). Next up was a shift to Obamacare. Following the troubles with the initial online rollout, Republicans were sure this was going to be the ultimate weapon to use against Democrats. That was until the web site was fixed, enrollment surged beyond predictions, the rate of uninsured dropped, and health insurance premiums didn't skyrocket. Oops, time to change the subject again. Anyone remember the short-lived focus on "President Obam

Delores Huerta: We have to have faith in our president (updated)

Perhaps its because she knows a thing or two about organizing vs activism : “We have to look at the big picture and don’t get caught up in saying we want it now,” she said, referring to action on immigration. “We’ve been waiting—we are a community that can wait. And we have to have faith in our president, because the Republicans have shown their hand. We know what they want to do.” UPDATE : When Ms. Huerta says that "we have to have faith in our president," this is the one she's talking about: . @BarackObama "it is not a question of whether immigration reform will pass, but how soon" #Fast4Families — Fast4Families (@fast4families) November 29, 2013

The roots of violence

I've had to take a bit of a break from the internet lately as the rage explodes about the issues of domestic violence and child abuse following the cases involving NFL players. Its not that these issues trigger personal experiences for me. Having spent my professional life dealing with both child and adult victims of violence, I can't engage in a rage-fest where both sides simply scream at each other in an attempt to ensure that their views dominate the discussion. Ultimately, it accomplishes very little - if anything at all. But today I'd like to put a couple of thoughts out there for all of us to ponder. They were sparked by these words from Michael Eric Dyson . The point of discipline is to transmit values to children. The purpose of punishment is to coerce compliance and secure control , and failing that, to inflict pain as a form of revenge... Regular readers here know that I talk a lot about the difference between partnership as a form of leadership as opposed to

Working on that "genius" thing

I see that they've recently awarded the 2014 Genius Grants . Obviously, I didn't get one. But don't worry, I haven't given up. I'm just going to keep working on it ;-)

Is the glass half full or half empty?

Two recent headlines about the exact same information are a perfect illustration of why President Obama keeps reminding us that cynicism is a choice. U.S imprisonment rate has fallen for the fifth straight year. Here's why. United States has the largest prison population in the world - and its growing Both stories (the first at WaPo's Wonkblog and the second at Think Progress ) are about this recently released report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics . But they can't both be accurate, can they?  Here's what you need to know: The information in the BJS report includes data on both state and federal prisons.  The second article focuses on the raw number of inmates - which has gone up slightly for states and down for the federal system.  As the population of the U.S. grows, a better gauge over time is the rate of inmates per U.S. resident. That number has fallen - as reported in the first article. If we look at the rate of inmates/100,000

There's a method to Jindal's madness

I'll join ranks with those of you who want to point and laugh at Gov. Bobby Jindal's latest nonsense. “The reality is right now we’ve got an administration in the Obama administration that are science deniers when it comes to harnessing America’s energy resources and potential to create good-paying jobs for our economy and for our future,” Jindal said. “Right now we’ve got an administration whose policies are holding our economy hostage .” I'd also ask you to think about the fact that there is a method to this kind of madness. By accusing the Obama administration of being guilty of things that are true of Republicans, Jindal is engaging in exactly the kind of propaganda that Peter Pomerantsev wrote about recently: "If nothing is true, then anything is possible." Here's how it works: Republicans are - in fact - science deniers. That is a demonstrably true statement. But now we have Jindal making an argument that sets up the possibility of an equivalency

"We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us"

When President Obama first came into office in 2009, many people (including the President) talked about the fact that the United States was involved in two wars: Iraq and Afghanistan. I have always tried to point out that this was a mistake. There was actually a third war underway - the one Bush called "the global war on terror" that President Obama re-focused as the "war on al Qaeda." This is the one that people either didn't want to acknowledge or has been discussed as if it was all about civil liberties (i.e., targeted drone strikes) instead of war. Because so few people have talked about this war on al Qaeda, the strategy announced by President Obama to degrade and destroy ISIS is too often discussed as if it was a re-engagement of the war in Iraq. The President has been clear that it is not. I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fight

"This is something that even ISIS cannot stop"

The article below about how President Obama plants the seeds of hope was inspired by an article I read yesterday titled: Arab World's Relentless Crises Boost Citizen Journalism & Freedom of Expression as TV Ratings & Film Box Office Rise (hat tip to @AlanMandel ). “The only revolution that has really succeeded since the start of the Arab Spring is that of freedom of expression,” says Syrian producer Orwa Nyrabia. “This new generation is so motivated to engage creatively through writing, film, music, cartoons. This is something that even ISIS cannot stop.”... Nyrabia, who was imprisoned by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces following the start of the Syrian revolution, has been at the forefront of the rise in citizen filmmaking and journalism by those who refuse to be beaten into silence by the extremists. He co-produced Return To Homs , which won the Sundance World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for documentary earlier this year, as well as Silvered Water, Syria Self

President Obama plants the seeds of hope

Here is one of my favorite quotes of all time from Rubem Alves. What is hope? It is the presentiment that imagination is more real and reality less real than it looks. It is the suspicion that the overwhelming brutality of fact that oppresses us and represses us is not the last word. It is the hunch that reality is more complex than the realists want us to believe, that the frontiers of the possible are not determined by the limits of the actual, and that, in a miraculous and unexpected way, life is preparing the creative events which will open the way to freedom and to resurrection. But, hope must live with suffering. Suffering, without hope, produces resentment and despair. And hope, without suffering, creates illusions, naiveté, and drunkenness. So, let us plant dates, even though we who plant them will never eat them. We must live by the love of what we will never see. I am reminded of that quote when I realize that wherever President Obama goes around the globe, he always mak

Obama Hugs!!!

According to my twitter timeline, this week Rachel Maddow made a most outrageous statement that CANNOT go unchallenged! Really Rachel? PBO isn't a hugger? — Matt Murphy (@MattMurph24) September 12, 2014 Now...I'll grant you that Michelle Obama might hold the title of "Hugger-in-Chief." But our POTUS is no slouch in that department either. Hence, I come with photographic evidence. But before we begin, please note that quantity is not the only measure of a world class hugger. Quality matters as well. With that in mind, let us begin. And last, but surely not least, we have the hug heard round the world. So with that Rachel, I'll await your apology :-)