Sunday, August 2, 2015

Quote of the Day: Optimist

Perhaps this is what Emma Goldman meant when she said, "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution." Ya think?

Hamilton: A New Look at Our "Founding Fathers"

I have to admit to taking a certain amount of pleasure in the fact that - as tea partiers attempt to appropriate our "Founding Fathers" in support of their current political aspirations - the biggest thing on Broadway is a hip-hop musical in which Black and Brown Americans portray the lead characters in our country's origins.

Have you heard the buzz about Hamilton? If not, here's how Chris Hayes introduces his interview with its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Six years ago, Lin-Manuel Miranda was invited to perform during an evening of song and poetry at the White House. The writer, composer and performer was fresh off of a Tony Award win for In the Heights, his debut hip-hop- and salsa-inflected coming-of-age musical about life in the working-class Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights. But instead of doing something from that show, he debuted a rap about Alexander Hamilton, inspired by Ron Chernow’s landmark biography. Miranda introduced the number by saying that the life of the orphaned, immigrant, obsessively verbal Hamilton “embodies hip-hop,” pointing to the fact that he “caught beef” with every other Founding Father. The room chuckled at first, but by about four bars in, it was clear that Miranda had channeled something both completely new and utterly classic. The song was a masterpiece in miniature. A cutaway camera caught President Barack Obama smiling and nodding his head to the beat.

Six years later, that song has become Hamilton on Broadway. The two-act musical, written by and starring Miranda, opens with that same tune, nearly unchanged, now performed by a dazzling cast almost entirely made up of performers of color in period costume. The show is, from start to finish, a revelation, easily the most celebrated and anticipated new musical in a generation. It is destined to immediately enter the canon of American theater, indeed of American art, cannily revealing how much -- and how little -- has changed in America since its founding, from political campaigning to debates on immigration to the role of the United States abroad.
Here's a video of that initial White House performance.

Patrick Healy suggests a connection between Hamilton's Broadway opening and the first Republican debate of the 2016 campaign season.
How fitting that the Republican presidential candidates will hold their first debate this Thursday on the same night as the Broadway opening of “Hamilton,” the groundbreaking new musical about the founding fathers. At a time when so many American politicians are sanitized, cautious, even boring, the characters on the debate stage and the Broadway stage are remarkably in sync: brazen, unpredictable, even outrageous.
But the similarities come to a pretty quick halt.
Like the Republican candidates now positioning themselves as unwavering opponents of President Obama, decrying his nuclear deal with Iran and his diplomatic opening to Cuba, characters in “Hamilton” stake out unyielding positions against their political enemies during the drafting of the Constitution and early in Washington’s presidency. But the art of compromise eventually becomes a focal point for the creator of “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda, a close student of politics as the son of a Puerto Rican immigrant who became a powerful Democratic strategist in New York.

Ron Chernow, whose biography of Hamilton inspired the musical, said that compromise was the timeliest theme in the musical. “What Lin is showing is that it’s very easy when you’re in the political opposition to take extreme ideological positions, but when you’re dealing with real power, you have to engage in messy realities and compromises to move forward,” Mr. Chernow said.
Oh, that the Republicans would learn something from that truth about our Founding Fathers!

A Carrot and Stick Approach to Climate Change

By now we all know that this Congress will do nothing to combat global climate change. And so, what we see happening is that President Obama will use his "pen and phone" strategy to institute both a carrot and stick approach to begin the process of addressing this issue.

On the carrot side, this week the President's American Business Act on Climate Change initiative made a pretty big announcement.
US corporate giants including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Berkshire Hathaway and Goldman Sachs are looking to invest at least $140bn to shrink their carbon footprints, according to media reports...

The committed funds will be utilised to cut emissions, provide financing to environmentally-focused companies, reduce water consumption, and produce 1,600 megawatts of new, renewable energy, which is enough to power nearly 1.3 million homes.

The announcement comes as part of the Obama administration's efforts to bolster private commitments to climate change, ahead of a summit in Paris later in 2015. The White House expects to announce a second round of similar pledges later from more companies, Bloomberg reported.
Take a look at that number: $140,000,000,000. That's not chump change. With more to come.

Tomorrow, President Obama weighs in with the stick.
In the strongest action ever taken in the United States to combat climate change, President Obama will unveil on Monday a set of environmental regulations devised to sharply cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plants and ultimately transform America’s electricity industry.

The rules are the final, tougher versions of proposed regulations that the Environmental Protection Agency announced in 2012 and 2014. If they withstand the expected legal challenges, the regulations will set in motion sweeping policy changes that could shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants, freeze construction of new coal plants and create a boom in the production of wind and solar power and other renewable energy sources...

“Climate change is not a problem for another generation, not anymore,” Mr. Obama said in a video posted on Facebook at midnight Saturday. He called the new rules “the biggest, most important step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change.”
Yes, coal companies will scream bloody murder, some red states will refuse to comply, and court challenges will be initiated. But the battle will be joined, culminating with the increasing likelihood of a global climate accord in Paris this December.

As Oliver Willis put it:
The lame duck continues to quack, and it sounds like a roar.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Republican Projection

One of my favorite articles from the archive of Steve Benen's time at the Washington Monthly is this article from 2011 titled: Karl Rove and the Affection for Projection. Here's how he begins:
Karl Rove has a special, some might call it "pathological," quality as a political pundit. More than anyone I've ever seen or heard of, Rove identifies some of his own ugliest, most malicious, most pernicious qualities, and then projects them onto those he hates most.
Perhaps it is the fact that I am a "recovering therapist" that draws me to this kind of intersection of politics and psychology. But I think it can be very helpful as a way to understand political dynamics.

We are currently witnessing an example of how projection plays out in a much wider way in Republican politics. As a case in point, I'd simply remind you that over the last seven years we've been subject to all kinds of crazed conspiracy theories about "Obama the tyrant." These have come in the form of everything from death panels to FEMA camps to Jade Helm. And they are not simply coming from the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party. Sen. Chuck Grassley bought into the idea that there were "death panels" in Obamacare and the Republican Governor of Texas took the whole Jade Helm nonsense seriously.

But now, perhaps as a result of Trump-mania, we are getting a chance to witness the roots of those conspiracy theories. First of all, Ed Kilgore is right to suggest that when Donald Trump says that as president he would deport all 11 million undocumented workers, the only way he could possibly "manage" that is via police raids and box cars. Not to be outdone, this week Mike Huckabee said that, as president, he wouldn't rule out using the FBI and federal troops to stop abortions (which, by the way, have been ruled constitutional by SCOTUS. But never mind...)

I think it's safe to say that neither of these men will ever be President of the United States. But at least now, when we hear conspiracy theories about the current occupant of the White House being a tyrant, we know that those machinations come from the fevered brains of would-be tyrants.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Tension Liberals Can't Avoid

It is gratifying to see Glenn Greenwald - one of President Obama's harshest critics from the left - write in support of the Iran nuclear deal against neocons who are trying to sabotage it.
As usual with neocons, they are being deceitful about their actual intent. They don’t want a “better deal”: at least not one that’s plausible. They want to keep Iran isolated and demonized and ultimately to depose its leadership through war or other means of aggression. They hate the Iran deal precisely because it’s likely to avert that aggression and normalize the world’s relations with that country, making the war they’ve long craved much less likely.
That bolded phrase is probably the closest you're going to get to a Greenwald statement in support of an Obama foreign policy position. So it's worth noting.

But paying attention to what Greenwald has to say about the Iran deal is instructive for the bigger picture as well. That's because almost three years ago he wrote a scathing critique of the strategy that was used to get Iran to the negotiating table in the first place: sanctions.
So horrific is the human suffering brought about by such sanctions regimes that some are beginning to argue that killing Iranians with an air attack would be more humane. That was the argument advanced several days ago by the managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine, Blake Hounsehll, who mused that he was "beginning to wonder if limited airstrikes on Iran may actually be the more morally sound course of action."...

In essence, the same mentality that drives Democratic support for drones sustains Democratic support for sanctions: they tacitly embrace the unexamined assumption that the US is inevitably going to engage in aggression and kill Muslims, and then pat themselves on the back for cheering for the way that kills the fewest (I support drones because they're better than full-scale invasions; I support sanctions because they're better than air strikes). They are seemingly incapable of conceiving of a third alternative: that the US could or should refrain from killing innocent people in predominantly Muslim countries...

Even if it were true that sanctions produces less civilian harm than all-out air strikes on Iran, that would not justify sanctions. But as evidence of the sanctions-caused human suffering in Iran mounts, even the premise of that claim, irrelevant though it is, seems less and less convincing.
It would be interesting to hear Greenwald's thoughts on that today.

But I'd like to take this farther than simply pointing out the inconsistency of Greenwald's position. That's because his earlier critique, as measured by the final result, is something that all liberals must grapple with when we confront real world challenges.

The question we must face is whether a deal with Iran that "normalizes the world's relations with that country, making war much less likely" would have come about without the sanctions. I can't imagine anyone making the argument that it would. And so we get into the messy reality of justifying one form of human suffering in order to avoid much worse human suffering (an argument Greenwald casually dismissed in the middle paragraph up above).

A few years ago I wrote that I'd like to introduce Greenwald to Reinhold Niebuhr - the philosopher who is most commonly known for suggesting that we have to live in the world as it is, rather than as we want it to be. Here's how I ended that article.
Niebuhr would tell us that facing the world as it is involves giving up the comfort of surety and learning to live with the tension, doubt and collateral damages of our choices...all while remaining resolute in our commitment to our ideals.
Considering actions that lead to human suffering as a way to avoid worse human suffering is exactly where the tension and doubt they must. It's an awful prospect to have to consider. But ultimately the only way to escape it is to retreat from engagement and cling to pure ideals while the world rages on. In the face of fascism, Niebuhr was unable to do that - and so he ultimately gave up his commitment to nonviolence.

Here is how President Obama addressed this tension in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:
So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace. And yet this truth must coexist with another -- that no matter how justified, war promises human tragedy. The soldier's courage and sacrifice is full of glory, expressing devotion to country, to cause, to comrades in arms. But war itself is never glorious, and we must never trumpet it as such.

So part of our challenge is reconciling these two seemingly inreconcilable truths -- that war is sometimes necessary, and war at some level is an expression of human folly.
I believe that this is why Obama reveres Abraham Lincoln as our greatest president...because he struggled so deeply with the tension between the horror of slavery and the horror of war. There was no path of purity available to him. He had to make a call - knowing that it would mean human suffering on a massive scale with no guarantees of success. That's what it means to lead in the world as it is. And that's the tension that liberals can't avoid.

Donald Trump: The Republican Id

I have to admit that there are times I'm tempted to agree with George Will that Donald Trump is just trolling Republicans. But whether intended or not, he is demonstrating what happens when you take Republican rhetoric to its logical (?) conclusion.

What is it that Trump is suggesting he would do on the issues the Republicans are so concerned about. When it comes to Obamacare, he'd "repeal it and replace it with something terrific." Sounds good, huh?

And when it comes to the 11 million undocumented workers in this country, just round 'em up and get rid of them. If you think that Mexican immigrants are nothing more than rapists and murderers, that sounds good too, doesn't it? But don't bother fretting your pretty little head about how to go about doing that. Donald will "manage" it.

As I said, this is the "logical" conclusion of the path Republicans have taken. Climate change...deny it. Iran nuclear deal...oppose it. tough, but don't get into specifics. Their own party leaders are admitting that their agenda is being set by a conservative media that "doesn't give a damn about governing."

All of these issues - health care, immigration, climate change, foreign policy - are complex and require a lot of thought. Donald is just not into that. What he is appealing to has nothing to do with actual solutions. It has to do with emotions like fear and anger. In other words, what Freud called the "id."
The id (Latin for "it") is the unorganized part of the personality structure that contains a human's basic, instinctual drives...It is the source of our bodily needs, wants, desires, and impulses, particularly our sexual and aggressive drives.
The group of people that Trump is appealing to are scared and angry. They have an idealized view of America where white men are in charge, authority is unquestioned, and the world bows to our dominance. The fact that things are more complicated than that pisses them off.

Back in 2010, Republicans fanned the flames of that fear/anger and rode it to victory on the simple promise that they would stop anything the "Kenyan socialist" tried to do. Now The Donald is tapping into all that and showing what a scam its been all along.

Donald Trump will never be President of the United States. But what he is doing right now is embarrassing the Republicans because he is demonstrating the vacuity of their approach to politics over the last 7 years. Whether he believes his own hype is immaterial.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Same Root

You see...this is precisely why I admire our President so much. Nuff said.

Republican Leaders Complain About Conservative Media

Jackie Calmes has written a paper for the Shorenstein Center titled: They Don't Give a Damn About Governing: Conservative Media's Influence on the Republican Party.
If leaders of the Republican Party are not setting its agenda, who is?

As many of them concede, it is conservative media – not just talk-show celebrities Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham, but also lesser-known talkers like Steve Deace, and an expanding web of “news” sites and social media outlets with financial and ideological alliances with far-right anti-government, anti-establishment groups like Heritage Action, Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth and FreedomWorks. Once allied with but now increasingly hostile to the Republican hierarchy, conservative media is shaping the party’s agenda in ways that are impeding Republicans’ ability to govern and to win presidential elections. “These people, practically speaking, are preventing the Republican Party from governing, which means they’re really preventing it from becoming a presidential party as well,” said Geoffrey Kabaservice, author of Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, from Eisenhower to the Tea Party, and himself a Republican.
I'm not sure this is a huge revelation to anyone. But what is most interesting is that her research was sparked by a conversation with former Senator Trent Lott and even though many refused to go on record, the complaints about conservative media came almost exclusively from Republican leaders.

For most of us, it's hard to be very sympathetic to their complaints when "party leaders" kicked this whole thing into high gear by doing things like this...

...and this.

Five years ago Republican David Frum warned them about what they were doing.
I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.
President Obama practically begged Republicans in Congress to work with him on things like health care reform and a Grand Bargain to reduce deficits. He went so far in making concessions to elicit their cooperation that an awful lot of liberals still haven't forgiven him for it. But Republican leaders went with the escalated rhetoric of conservative media and said "no."

So now they want to complain (in whispers behind closed doors) that they have lost control of the agenda to a conservative media that doesn't give a damn about governing. Playing the victim card on this one is definitely NOT a good look for them.

Obama Administration Works on Both the Front and Back End of Criminal Justice Reform

Recently I wrote about Evan McMorris-Santoro's profile of Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. In the course of describing her work on mandatory minimum sentences, he explains something interesting about the politics involved in criminal justice reform.
The divide is now between so-called front-end advocates, who want changes to sentencing laws and penalties given to criminals when they first enter the system, and so-called back-end advocates who would rather leave sentencing alone and focus on parole eligibility and anti-recidivism programs.

The politics are simple, and crucial. Front-end changes are more risky, opening up politicians to attack ads saying they favored lower sentences for criminals and reduced penalties for drug dealers. The most ardent criminal justice advocates are pushing front-end changes. Back-end changes are an easier sell politically, but have much less impact on prison populations, according to advocates. They’re usually the most favored solution by politicians who are still closely tied to the tough-on-crime model of criminal justice that produced mandatory minimums for drug crimes in the first place.
It's important to note that while Deputy AG Yates is focused almost exclusively on ensuring that front-end changes are included in any criminal justice reform legislation, the Obama administration is not ignoring back-end reforms. For example, the ongoing work of the Clemency Initiative that has already commuted the sentences of 89 prisoners is an example of back-end changes.

Josh Mitchell and Joe Palazzolo report that the Obama administration is about to announce another back-end reform.
The Obama administration plans to restore federal funding for prison inmates to take college courses, a potentially controversial move that comes amid a broader push to overhaul the criminal justice system.

The plan, set to be unveiled Friday by the secretary of education and the attorney general, would allow potentially thousands of inmates in the U.S. to gain access to Pell grants, the main form of federal aid for low-income college students. The grants cover up to $5,775 a year in tuition, fees, books and other education-related expenses.
They go on to explain that this will be a 3-5 year experimental study on the impact of education on recidivism rates. That is mostly due to the fact that in 1994 Congress prohibited state and federal prisoners from getting access to Pell grants, but the Dept. of Education has the authority to temporarily waive rules in order to study their effectiveness.

I'd suggest that there's not much doubt about what the results will be.
A 2013 study by the Rand Corp. found that inmates who participated in education programs, including college courses, had significantly lower odds of returning to prison than inmates who didn’t.
It is encouraging to watch as, one by one, the reactionary policies of the war on drugs and the 90's era "tough on crime" craze are challenged and revoked.

Alternative Media and Campaign Finance

Yesterday Ed Kilgore commented on an article by Steven Shepard titled: The Television Election. I too found it interesting, but reached some slightly different conclusions.

Shepard's suggestion that 2016 will be a "television election" isn't as clear as his title suggests. That's because he is simply reporting on how candidates will spend their money - not on how successful the television ads they buy with it will be.
Between campaigns and independent groups, television-ad spending during the 2016 elections is projected to top $4.4 billion. That’s more than a half-billion more than in 2012. And it’s at least four times what campaigns and groups are preparing to spend on their online strategies.
Based on the last few election cycles, we might be seeing a similar distinction between how big money works in presidential vs midterm elections as we're seeing between Democratic and Republican advantages. Case in point, a big story coming out of the 2012 presidential election was that big donors to SuperPacs got almost nothing for their money.
A study Wednesday by the Sunlight Foundation, which tracks political spending, concluded that Rove's super PAC, American Crossroads, had a success rate of just 1 percent on $103 million in attack ads -- one of the lowest "returns on investment" (ROIs) of any outside spending group in this year's elections...

American Crossroads spent heavily, not just on Romney, but on attack ads on behalf of GOP Senate candidates in eight states -- thanks to mega contributions from conservative donors like metals magnate Harold Simmons ($19.5 million), Texas homebuilder Bob Perry ($7.5 million) and Omni hotel chief Robert Rowling ($5 million.)...

The American Crossroads debacle was only the most dramatic example of the limits of big money in this election, according to the Sunlight Foundation report. About $1.3 billion was spent by outside groups overall -- about two-thirds on the Republican side -- and for the most part their returns were equally low. The Chamber of Commerce, for example, spent $31 million-and had a 5 percent return, according to the Sunlight study. The conservative American Future Fund spent $23.9 million and also realized a 5 percent return. The National Rifle Association spent $11 million, and got shut out.
Then in the 2014 midterms, all of that was turned on its head.
Rove's groups—American Crossroads, a super-PAC; and Crossroads GPS, its dark-money-funded sibling—spent heavily in 10 Senate races. The Republican won in at least six of those elections. If Republican Dan Sullivan defeats Sen. Mark Begich in Alaska (Sullivan was leading the vote count the day after the election) and GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy ousts Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana's runoff next month, Rove will end up 8 for 10. The Sunlight Foundation calculates Crossroads GPS's return on investment—that is, the success rate of GPS's spending to elect or defeat candidates—at an impressive 96 percent.

The Koch brothers' flagship organization, Americans for Prosperity, had an equally stellar Election Day. At least five of the nine AFP-backed Senate candidates won. The Kochs' Freedom Partners Action Fund recorded an 85 percent ROI, according to the Sunlight Foundation.
In other words, Rove's SuperPacs went from an ROI of 1% in 2012 to 96% in 2014. I'm sure Karl would want to take credit for that unbelievable turn-around by suggesting they did a better job in 2014 after learning from their mistakes in 2012. But I think its a bigger story than that.

To break it down, it is first of all important to point out that "outside groups" spend their money almost exclusively on PR - mostly direct mail and television ads. That's because they are technically barred from coordinating with individual campaigns - who are the ones responsible for things like hiring staff to implement a "ground game."

Here's a graph that tells you who those television ads are reaching.

Now...add that information to the fact that voters in midterms skew older than in presidential elections and you might begin to get a picture about why big money spent on TV ads seems more successful in the former. Of course the question remains as to whether or not TV ads made a difference in 2014, or whether the outcomes would have been the same with or without them due to the make-up of those who turned out to vote.

Perhaps Shepard is right that 2016 will still be a "television election." But in the years to come, those older voters who grew up watching television will eventually be replaced with those who grew up streaming online. And the expensive TV ads will lose the impact they might have had once no one is watching.

The implications of this for campaign finance are going to be interesting to watch. Unless/until the Supreme Court re-visits decisions like Citizens United, I'm sure that people will continue to assume that money is a critical factor in election outcomes. There will be no shortage of billionaires who want to try to influence them. But as Shepard notes,
“It’s very difficult to spend massive amounts of money on digital,” said Elizabeth Wilner, a senior vice president at Kantar and former NBC News political director. “It’s cheap.”
But what will the campaigns and their SuperPacs spend all that money on? Shepard seems to indicate that they haven't figured that out yet...hence, continued spending on TV ads.
But even if there is an increased emphasis on digital in 2016, campaigns and their affiliates will so well-funded that they will still spend record amounts on TV.

“It’s all up to the ability of the candidates to raise the money,” said Tracey. “Spending it won’t be a problem. If they can raise it, they’ll find ways to spend it.”

Monday, July 27, 2015

Barack Obama on Faith and Politics in 2006

Here is a speech Barack Obama gave in 2006 on the topic of "Faith and Politics." In it he echoes many of the same themes he addressed during his commencement speech at Notre Dame in 2009.

My favorite part comes towards the end when he cautions those who claim that we are a "Christian nation" that if we really took the Sermon on the Mount seriously, our Defense Department might not survive :-)

Corporate Giants Commit $140 billion to Address Climate Change. #ThanksObama

In the immortal words of VP Joe Biden...this is a BFD!
US corporate giants including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Berkshire Hathaway and Goldman Sachs are looking to invest at least $140bn to shrink their carbon footprints, according to media reports...

The committed funds will be utilised to cut emissions, provide financing to environmentally-focused companies, reduce water consumption, and produce 1,600 megawatts of new, renewable energy, which is enough to power nearly 1.3 million homes.

The announcement comes as part of the Obama administration's efforts to bolster private commitments to climate change, ahead of a summit in Paris later in 2015. The White House expects to announce a second round of similar pledges later from more companies, Bloomberg reported.
That's $140,000,000,000 - seeing a number like that written out can begin to help us understand what a huge financial commitment this is.

Here's a White House fact sheet on The American Business Act on Climate Pledge - yet more evidence of the impact of President Obama's "pen and phone" strategy.

What Obama Learned as a Community Organizer

I recently ran across this article that Barack Obama wrote back in 1988 while he was still a community organizer. The closing paragraph speaks not only to what he learned during those years, but it is a great example of why so many people talk about his amazing talent as a writer. Just imagine what it would be like if we had a President who wrote about urban Americans like this :-)
In return, organizing teaches as nothing else does the beauty and strength of everyday people. Through the songs of the church and the talk on the stoops, through the hundreds of individual stories of coming up from the South and finding any job that would pay, of raising families on threadbare budgets, of losing some children to drugs and watching others earn degrees and land jobs their parents could never aspire to — it is through these stories and songs of dashed hopes and powers of endurance, of ugliness and strife, subtlety and laughter, that organizers can shape a sense of community not only for others, but for themselves.

Chamber of Commerce to Go After Incumbent Republicans

One of the things a lot of people have been watching is what the business community - which has typically been pretty conservative - does in response to the Republican dissent into extremism. A lot of the shenanigans pushed by the tea partiers (i.e., debt ceiling crisis) are terribly destabilizing and that is not good for business.

According to Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman, the Chamber of Commerce has about had enough with the nonsense. It's interesting to note what finally pushed them to that point. It wasn't the total obstruction employed by Republicans from the beginning of Obama's presidency - or even the constant hostage crises they created. It's something that has come more recently.
The early discussions by top-level Chamber operatives like Rob Engstrom and Scott Reed reflect a broad consensus among companies with business before Congress that the political dynamic needs to change on Capitol Hill.

The theory is simple: The Chamber spent some $70 million in 2014, mostly to help Senate Republicans build their majority. But many of their legislative priorities — immigration reform, the renewal of the Export-Import Bank and a long-term highway bill — have been held up by a clutch of conservative lawmakers in the House.
Apparently these business people thought that by giving control of Congress to Republicans - gridlock would end and some things would actually get done. They put the blame for that not happening on the kind of Republicans who joined the House Freedom Caucus and have made Speaker Boehner's life miserable. And so the Chamber is in the midst of developing a political strategy to challenge them in their re-election.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is gearing up to challenge some House Republicans in primary elections, frustrated after much of its agenda has been stymied by a small pocket of conservative GOP lawmakers.

The influential and well-heeled business group is already eyeing several races, but the plans are still in their infancy and the targets have not yet been decided upon, according to more than a half dozen Republican sources on K Street and Capitol Hill.

The group’s apparent new willingness to engage in hand-to-hand political combat to take out sitting Republicans would represent a major shift for the business community, which has largely shied away from targeting sitting lawmakers.
This will be an interesting story to keep an eye on over the next few months. It speaks to the growing divide in the Republican Party in its march towards extremism. What various entities with traditional ties to the Party do in response will likely tell us whether the GOP can survive and morph into something new or goes the way of the Whigs.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

President Obama Articulates a Feminist Foreign Policy

Recently I've been writing about what a feminist foreign policy would look like and noted that First Lady Michelle Obama articulated it well during her recent visit to England. Here is President Obama doing the same thing in Nairobi, Kenya.

"Treating women as second-class citizens is a bad tradition. It holds you back. There’s no excuse for sexual assault or domestic violence. There’s no reason that young girls should suffer genital mutilation. There’s no place in civilized society for the early or forced marriage of children. These traditions may date back centuries; they have no place in the 21st century." —President Obama in Kenya:
Posted by The White House on Sunday, July 26, 2015
Treating women as second-class citizens is a bad tradition. It holds you back. There’s no excuse for sexual assault or domestic violence. There’s no reason that young girls should suffer genital mutilation. There’s no place in civilized society for the early or forced marriage of children. These traditions may date back centuries; they have no place in the 21st century.

These are issues of right and wrong in any culture. But they're also issues of success and failure. Any nation that fails to educate its girls or employ its women and allow them to maximize their potential is doomed to fall behind in the global economy.