Saturday, November 22, 2014

More good news

Regular readers here might want to take a look at the Political Animal blog at The Washington Monthly. You might recognize a new writer there.

Just saying...


"If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs"

I'm going to give Colbert King the benefit of the doubt and assume that he had the best of intentions when he wrote The lessons of November 1963. But seriously...comparing our current situation to the moments after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated is WAY over the top and dangerously inflammatory.

Right now, President Obama and the Democrats are going about the business of governing in a terribly polarized political environment. On the other side of the isle is a party with no solutions that is having a massive freak-out. Some of their people are comparing temporary relief to 5 million undocumented immigrants to Japanese internment camps, suggesting the possibility of ethnic cleansing and warning of violence and anarchy. Instead of all the hype, these guys could simply do what President Obama has suggested over and over again...Pass A Bill (i.e., try governing themselves).

The very last thing we need right now is for people to start comparing all that to a presidential assassination and transfer of power. It invites us to join in the hysteria rather than provide an alternative. In other words, it inflames rather than enlightens.

A much better approach is the one that embodies exactly how President Obama tends to handle these kinds of things. It comes from the poet Rudyard Kipling.

If, A Father's Advice to His Son

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools...

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Response From POTUS :-)

Anyone remember that last summer I wrote a letter to President Barack Obama?

Well...hold on to your hats. Because he just wrote me back. OH MY!!!!!

If my letter kept him going for just one tiny moment in time, I am over-the-top THRILLED.

So yeah, this is me right about now.

"Let's love one another. I know we know how."

If you've ever had any doubts about the importance of immigration to this country, just imagine a United States without Carlos Santana :-)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Photo of the Day: Lunch Meeting

On this day when most of us should be reminded that we're immigrants to this land, President Obama had lunch with the one group for whom that isn't true...Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Youth. I don't know if they planned it this way, but I LOVE the juxtaposition of this as a prelude to his announcement about immigration tonight!

Hey pundits, you might want to listen to Jorge Ramos

Here's my latest tweet:
It was inspired by this article from Michael Scherer about Ramos.

This morning as I was reading the usual prognosticators about President Obama's announcement tonight on immigration, I noticed how few of them are incorporating the reaction of Latinos and/or immigrant rights activists into their opinions. Case in point...NBC's First Read.

I have to wonder if (mostly white) pundits made the same mistake back in 1994 when California Republicans went all-in on Proposition 187.
...a 1994 ballot initiative to establish a state-run citizenship screening system and prohibit illegal aliens from using health care, public education, and other social services in the U.S. State of California.
Remember last week when I talked about how the West Coast states went from red to blue? In hindsight, a lot of people credit that change in California to backlash from the passage of that proposition.

One of the effects of white privilege is that we tend to view the world through the lens of our own experience. The impact of someone like Jorge Ramos and the people he touches tend to not be on our radar screens. But if you want to prognosticate about how this country will react to President Obama's action on immigration, you might want to check out what he and his 10 million viewers are thinking/saying (in comparison, Bill O'Reilly gets about 3 million viewers on Fox).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On tape: Republicans dodge the question

For the last couple of days I've been focusing on the big gaping hole in the Republican position on immigration - the one question that needs to be asked and answered: "what do you propose to do with the 11 million undocumented workers who are currently in the country?" Yesterday I pointed out how the post-policy punditry has avoided holding Republicans accountable - making a bipartisan solution impossible.

Imagine my surprise when the one pundit who came through on that one is none other than Mark Halperin (we'll just leave that one alone for now). If you want to know how badly Republicans are trying to avoid answering that question, just watch Rep. Tim Huelskamp squirm while Halperin pushes him on it.

Lay this one alongside the right wing hysteria on Gruber's comments about the Democrats "deceiving" the American public about health care reform. Who's doing the deceiving now?

No matter how hard they try to dodge the question, there are three issues that need to be addressed when it comes to immigration:
  1. Border security
  2. Reforming our current system of legal immigration
  3. Doing something about the 11 million (or whatever number) of undocumented workers currently here
Any policy that avoids answering ALL THREE of those questions is incomplete and does not address the problem. Until Republicans are prepared to do that, President Obama is left with having to do so on his own.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Learning to glide

This poem by Rainer Maria Rilke titled The Swan always puts me at ease with myself.

The labouring through what is still undone,
as though, legs bound, we hobbled along the way,
is like the awkward walking of the swan.

And dying - to let go, no longer feel
the solid ground we stand on every day
is like his anxious letting himself fall
into the water, which receives him gently
and which, as though with reverence and joy,
draws back past him in streams on either side;
while, infinitely silent and aware,
in his full majesty and ever more
indifferent, he condescends to glide.
I suspect that President Obama has learned to glide. And that's what allows him to - as Michelle describes - play the long game.
Here's the thing about my husband: even in the toughest moments, when it seems like all is lost, Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal. He never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise, even if it comes from some of his best supporters. He just keeps moving forward.

And in those moments when we're all sweating it, when we're worried that the bill won't pass or the negotiation will fall through, Barack always reminds me that we're playing a long game here. He reminds me that change is slow — it doesn't happen overnight.

If we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight and doing what we know is right, then eventually we will get there.

We always have.

President Obama has always favored Congressional action

To the chagrin of many LGBT activists back in 2010, President Obama demonstrated that he preferred Congressional action to Executive Orders on ending DADT. They simply assumed the former would never happen. But President Obama held out - and with majorities in both the House and Senate - he got it done.

That's exactly why he's given Speaker Boehner over a year to act on the bipartisan immigration reform bill passed by the Senate. He prefers Congressional action. But at some point, you simply have to recognize its not going to happen.

In both cases, there is a reason why the President prefers for Congress to act. That's because Executive Actions =/= Congressional Actions. This is a point I expect President Obama to make very clearly when he announces what he's going to do on immigration.

The latest right wing talking point we're hearing about is that - in the past - President Obama said that he could not legally do what he is planning to do now. The assumption behind that one is that Executive Actions = Congressional Actions. They do not!

What the President is likely to propose is significantly short of offering a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented workers in this country. It will offer SOME of them temporary relief.

Its especially important that those of us on the left are clear about that. The whole situation got rather muddied when some Latino activists decided to go after the President for not acting on deportations. They failed to articulate the reason he continued to press for Congressional action. And now that failure is coming back to haunt us in the form of right wing talking points that obscure the difference.

And so, when President Obama announces his plan - which will include the kinds of things both Presidents Bush and Reagan did - an awful lot of undocumented workers will be able to breath a little easier. BUT - that's only temporary. We will need to press on for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Post-Policy Punditry

Over a year ago, Steve Benen wrote about how the Republicans were practicing post-policy politics. Perhaps the best (and shortest) summary of how that works came from Sen. Lindsay Graham.
Anytime you challenge the president, Obama, it’s good politics.
In other words, Republicans don't need to bother saying what they are FOR. It works for them to simply be against anything President Obama wants to do.

And yes, that worked pretty well for them in the 2014 midterms. But the reason it did is because it was coupled with a post-policy media. BooMan put it pretty well when he called it "an election about nothing."
I've actually been watching almost no politically related television for the simple reason that almost none of it has anything to do with the upcoming elections, let alone actual issues that might be taken up by the next Congress. The media has been keeping the country almost in an election blackout, with coverage mostly related to conflict in the Middle East and the Ebola virus.
But that kind of media coverage isn't limited to elections. As things heat up about President Obama's upcoming announcement about immigration, Ed Kilgore is one of the few people who is pointing out that there's a big gaping hole where the Republican position should be.
If you’re going to harshly criticize Obama for taking a more definitive position on prosecutorial guildelines, you need to identify some alternative strategy. Is it more police dogs and box cars? Is it random prosecution, hoping the fear of arbitrary state power makes life difficult enough for the undocumented that they “self-deport?” “Wait!” won’t cut it any more.
As I wrote yesterday, this is the question that Republicans should have to answer.

Instead, we get idiots like Ron Fournier and Chuck Todd writhing about how "both sides are to blame" because of the lack of bipartisanship. Here's Fournier:
This is an era of titanic challenges and tiny politics. On issue after issue, the Republican and Democratic parties preen and pose but ultimately duck their responsibilities to solve the transcendent problems of our times.

On immigration, we need durable new rules that give 11 million illegal immigrants some form of legalization without punishing those who followed the old rules, and that acknowledge the steep social costs of porous borders. In other words, true reform would be bipartisan, addressing credible concerns of conservatives and liberals alike.

Instead, we're about to get temporary half-measures issued by fiat from Obama.
And here's Todd cribbing off of Fournier.
But as we’ve noted before, what separates our current era of politics from past ones is the unwillingness to give the opposition ANY kind of “win.” Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill didn’t agree on much and fought over plenty, but they compromised enough on the low-hanging fruit for Americans to have faith in the political system. Ditto George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy when it came to education reform. Yet what’s different today is that there’s no compromise on the low-hanging fruit. And EVERYTHING now turns into a huge political battle, even on subjects that weren’t controversial decades ago...
 I have to give it to Paul Krugman, he nailed the idiocy of this kind of punditry.
Well, I’ve know for years that many political pundits don’t think that understanding policy is part of their job. But this is still extreme. And I’m sorry to go after an individual here — but for God’s sake, don’t you have to know something about the actual content of a policy you critique?
The truth is, Fournier and Todd don't really need to bother their pretty little heads with policy. A simple short-term memory on how we got here would suffice. Just last year a "gang of eight" Senators (4 D's and 4 R's) got together to hammer out the differences the two parties have about immigration reform: Republicans wanted more border security and Democrats wanted a pathway to citizenship for those who are undocumented. Bipartisanship reigned when they compromised and included both in a bill that passed the Senate 68-32.

Speaker John Boehner and the Republicans in the House have refused to act on that bi-partisan compromise. But they have also refused to act on anything related to immigration reform. We really don't know what their position is at this point. They talk a lot about border security but never mention what their plan is on how to deal with the 11 million undocumented workers already in this country. As Kilgore points out, the federal budget has never included enough funding to "deport 'em all" - leaving it up to the executive branch to prioritize. Which is exactly what President Obama plans to do.

As Matt Yglesias pointed out - it is the post-policy punditry of folks like Todd and Fournier that provides cover for obstructionist Republicans and makes the bipartisanship they pretend to pine for impossible.
The opposition party would like the president to not be associated with bipartisan initiatives. And the opposition party has it in their power to make sure that the president is not associated with bipartisan initiatives.

If you don't understand that, you'll never understand today's politics. Worse, you'll be consistently making bipartisanship less likely.
That might be one of the best summaries you'll see of why the politics of DC isn't working these days. Republicans aren't likely to change their approach as long as its "working" for them. But our post-policy punditry could get the ball rolling by recognizing that bipartisanship requires that both sides actually put their positions on the table.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I Won't Give Up

I've posted this song before. But for a whole host of reasons both personal and political, I think the time is right to do so again. I hope it speaks as deeply to you as it does to me.

I don't wanna be someone who walks away so easily
I'm here to stay and make the difference that I can make
Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use
The tools and gifts we got, yeah, we got a lot at stake
And in the end, you're still my friend at least we did intend
For us to work we didn't break, we didn't burn
We had to learn how to bend without the world caving in
I had to learn what I've got, and what I'm not, and who I am

I won't give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I'm giving you all my love
I'm still looking up, still looking up.

The question Republicans must answer...

"What would you do about this?"

You can read more about Diane Guerrero's story here. She doesn't say how long her parents lived in the U.S. before they were deported, but we know that they came here from Columbia before she was born and were deported when she was 14 years old. They fled from chaos and did everything they could once they got here to legalize their status. But instead, they were eventually deported and she was left on her own to grow up without them.

In a rare moment of honesty, even Newt Gingrich said that doing this to families is not right.
"I don't see how the party that says it's the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter of a century," said Gingrich.
While our pundit class simply sees all this as a power play between Republicans and Democrats, its important to keep in mind that it is the lives of children/young people like Diane that are at stake.

If Republicans don't like what President Obama proposes to do to stop this kind of thing from happening, then the least we should expect from them before they shut down the entire government is to tell us what they would do differently for people like Diane. And no, building a double-wide fence along our border with Mexico isn't going to do it for families that are already here.

The only thing that is keeping Republicans from having to answer this question is a news media that is consumed with the Washington D.C. game rather than the lives of people who are affected by what goes on there. Whether the village idiots like it or not, what happens to young people like Diane is FAR more important than the games they play.

President Obama knows this. He's acknowledged that the game isn't his forte. He simply wants to make sure than no more young people come home to an empty house because their parents have been deported. If Republicans don't like his answer to that, they need to come up with one of their own or STFU!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Understanding the threat of a confederate insurgency

Rev. William Barber captured the moment we are living in by talking about a Third Reconstruction.

Doug Muder expanded on that idea with an article titled: Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party. Muder's point is that in order to understand the Tea Party today, we have to realize that  - unlike what our school history books told us - the south didn't really lose the Civil War. Much like George W. Bush preemptively declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq, the Civil War didn't end when Lee surrendered at Appomattox.
After the U.S. forces won on the battlefield in 1865 and shattered the organized Confederate military, the veterans of that shattered army formed a terrorist insurgency that carried on a campaign of fire and assassination throughout the South until President Hayes agreed to withdraw the occupying U. S. troops in 1877. Before and after 1877, the insurgents used lynchings and occasional pitched battles to terrorize those portions of the electorate still loyal to the United States. In this way they took charge of the machinery of state government, and then rewrote the state constitutions to reverse the postwar changes and restore the supremacy of the class that led the Confederate states into war in the first place.

By the time it was all over, the planter aristocrats were back in control, and the three constitutional amendments that supposedly had codified the U.S.A’s victory over the C.S.A.– the 13th, 14th, and 15th — had been effectively nullified in every Confederate state. The Civil Rights Acts had been gutted by the Supreme Court, and were all but forgotten by the time similar proposals resurfaced in the 1960s. Blacks were once again forced into hard labor for subsistence wages, denied the right to vote, and denied the equal protection of the laws. Tens of thousands of them were still physically shackled and subject to being whipped, a story historian Douglas Blackmon told in his Pulitzer-winning Slavery By Another Name.

So Lincoln and Grant may have had their mission-accomplished moment, but ultimately the Confederates won. The real Civil War — the one that stretched from 1861 to 1877 — was the first war the United States lost.
Let that one sink in for a moment, white folks. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it all. That's what happens when it turns out that a story you've been told all your life doesn't really capture what happened. All the links to meaning that have been created by believing the story have to be re-examined as well. That is the path each of us must take if we're ever going to be successful at "undoing racism" in our own lives.

Muder goes on the make the connection between the mindset of the insurgent confederates and today's tea party.
The essence of the Confederate worldview is that the democratic process cannot legitimately change the established social order, and so all forms of legal and illegal resistance are justified when it tries...

The Confederate sees a divinely ordained way things are supposed to be, and defends it at all costs. No process, no matter how orderly or democratic, can justify fundamental change.
That is the sentiment we hear when both citizens and political leaders talk about "second amendment remedies" and rally round things like this:

I believe that - due to this country's changing demographics - this confederate insurgency would have eventually surfaced even if we hadn't elected our first African American president. But having done so, it has been released with a vengeance.

The basic right wing message we've heard for the last six years has been to challenge this President's legitimacy. We've seen that in everything from the birther movement and charges that he's somehow "un-American" to criticisms of Barack Obama that have never been leveled against a United States President (i.e., how much golf he plays, the fact that he takes vacations and that he signs executive orders).

Call me naive, but I don't believe that all white Republicans buy into this insurgency. But their leadership has used this message of illegitimacy to undermine President Obama and convinced too many people that he is somehow a threat to the country. To the extent that they (and the media) have bought into the lies, they have given credence to a movement that is dangerous to our democracy.

I am reminded once again of something Derrick Jensen wrote in his book The Culture of Make Believe.
From the perspective of those who are entitled, the problems begin when those they despise do not go along with—and have the power and wherewithal to not go along with—the perceived entitlement...

Several times I have commented that hatred felt long and deeply enough no longer feels like hatred, but more like tradition, economics, religion, what have you. It is when those traditions are challenged, when the entitlement is threatened, when the masks of religion, economics, and so on are pulled away that hate transforms from its more seemingly sophisticated, "normal," chronic state—where those exploited are looked down upon, or despised—to a more acute and obvious manifestation. Hate becomes more perceptible when it is no longer normalized.

Another way to say all of this is that if the rhetoric of superiority works to maintain the entitlement, hatred and direct physical force remains underground. But when that rhetoric begins to fail, force and hatred waits in the wings, ready to explode.
Change to our "social order" is coming, whether we like it or not. The traditions, economics, religion that mask our entitlement are being stripped away and the hate is becoming more perceptible. As a result, the confederate insurgency is threatening to explode.

Black people are noticing. But too many white people are in denial about what's really going on (including a lot of Democrats/liberals). We need to wake the f*ck up!!! I'm not suggesting that everyone needs to support President Obama's policies. But what I am saying is that we all need to recognize the threat posed by this confederate insurgency...and take on the task of ushering in a third reconstruction.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Will pundits finally acknowledge President Obama's intelligence?

Over the last six years what I've noticed is that when President Obama succeeds, pundits have tended to call him "lucky" and when he fails, they call him "naive." I've found both labels to not only be wrong, but offensive - based on how intelligent this President happens to be.

As a result, I've looked a little deeper into what his strategies might be. We all know that as a lawyer in Chicago, Barack Obama taught classes on power and conflict. From a pragmatic point of view, he's obviously thought more deeply about those topics than your average political pundit. So whether he succeeds or fails in his exploration of "the viability of politics to make change" (how Michelle Obama described his foray into politics), I've found it fascinating to assume his intelligence and try to understand what he's up to.

This column from Paul Waldman is one of the first I've seen in a very long time that goes a little bit deeper to assume President Obama knows what he's doing. In it, Waldman is exploring the possibility that Republicans will actually try to impeach the President over his upcoming executive action on immigration - even though their leadership knows it will come back to haunt them.
They [Republican leadership] really would be super-mad, not least because it would highlight their own impotence. In that state, they might well do something rash...And they'll be getting plenty of encouragement from the conservative media, for whom impeachment would be a ratings bonanza.

Barack Obama knows all this, of course. He obviously feels that the particular immigration steps he's contemplating are the right thing to do, and he understands that Republicans are never, ever going to pass a comprehensive reform bill that would be remotely acceptable to him. But he also knows that taking executive action will drive them batty, making some kind of emotional outburst on their part more likely. Which would end up being good for him and bad for them.
Whether you agree with Waldman's predictions or not, at least he is giving President Obama credit for knowing what he's doing. In other words, regardless of the outcome, Waldman is acknowledging that this President is neither lucky nor naive...just intelligent enough to have a strategy.    

Oh, this is rich! Conservative pundit accuses President Obama of extortion this one from Rich Lowry broke my irony meter this morning.
In a fit of postelection modesty, President Barack Obama is offering not to take executive action to amnesty millions of illegal immigrants — provided Republicans do his bidding on immigration.

It is extortion as conciliation. New Jersey governor Chris Christie often invites comparisons to The Sopranos, but it is President Obama who is making a tactic taken out of the HBO mob drama his major postelection initiative. His bipartisan outreach now ends with a pointed “Or else . . . ”

This offer Republicans can’t refuse includes the stipulation that the president will revoke his executive action in the event they pass legislation to his liking. How generous of him. 
As an aside, if you had trouble reading that first sentence like I did, its because conservatives have fallen so in love with the word "amnesty" that they've started using it as a verb as well as a noun.

But my bigger point is to notice that all of the sudden someone like Lowry thinks extortion in politics is a bad thing. This comes from the side of the isle that threatened to blow up the entire global economy by failing to raise the debt ceiling if President Obama didn't cave to their demands on the budget. Anyone else remember those days? Been there...collected the cartoons :-)
Of course, its important to point out that President Obama isn't threatening to blow up anything. He's been saying for months now that if the House fails to pass the bipartisan immigration reform bill from the Senate, he would move on his own to protect families who have lived here for years from being separated due to draconian deportation policies. In other words, nothing gets blown up but the obstructionist's egos. 

So I invite you to have a few laughs at Rich Lowry's expense this morning. I sure did.