Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Running against a phantom

E. J. Dionne wrote an interesting article in which he tried to describe the Republican's strategy in this presidential election.
For conservatives, this is a go-for-broke election. They and a Republican Party now under their control hope to eke out a narrow victory in November on the basis of a quite radical program that includes more tax cuts for the rich, deep reductions in domestic spending, big increases in military spending and a sharp rollback in government regulation...

In the process, the right hopes to redefine middle-of-the-road policies as “left wing,” thereby altering the balance in the American political debate.
He goes on to suggest that the reason this strategy is making Romney competitive is because of 3 things:
Conservatives have their opening not because the country has moved far to the right but courtesy of economic discontent, partisan polarization and the right’s success in defining Obama as standing well to the left of where he actually does.
That's why we keep hearing Republicans use words like "foreign," "socialist," and hostile to American ideals.

The NRA is trying to convince people that the President has a secret plan to take away their guns and wingnuts are pimping a book by Stanley Kurtz about how he's out to destroy the suburbs.
Since the 2008 campaign, Stanley Kurtz has established himself as one of Barack Obama’s most effective and well-informed critics. He was the first to expose the extent of Obama’s ties to radicals such as Bill Ayers and ACORN.

Now Kurtz reveals new evidence that the administration’s talk about helping the middle class is essentially a smoke screen. Behind the scenes, plans are under way for a serious push toward wealth redistribution, with the suburban middle class—not the so-called one percent—bearing the brunt of it.

Why haven’t we heard more about policies that will lead to redistribution? In part, of course, because controversies over Obamacare, unemployment, and the exploding budget deficit have taken the media spot­light. But the main reason, according to Kurtz, is that Obama doesn’t want to tip his hand about his second term. He knows that his plans will alienate the moderate swing voters who hold the key to his reelection.
What utter fabricated nonsense!!!!

All of this is designed to do 2 things: First of all, it keeps the focus off their actual candidate and his policies (which the majority of Americans do NOT support) and secondly, it stirs up fear (the ONLY thing Republicans have to work with).

And so we'll see in November whether or not Americans are gullible enough to buy the phantom incumbent president Republicans are trying to create.

Between now and then, Romney and his VP candidate will have to go face-to-face with the real things in President Obama and VP Biden in debates. I'd predict that's when this Republican strategy will show itself for the charade it is. And I can't wait!

Monday, July 30, 2012

So...Romney wants to equate economic success with superior culture and providence

Of all the things Mitt Romney has said, this one that he uttered in Israel yesterday has to rank up there as the most stupid and offensive.
I was thinking this morning as I prepared to come into this room of a discussion I had across the country in the United States about my perceptions about differences between countries. And as you come here and you see the GDP per capita for instance in Israel which is about 21,000 dollars and you compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority which is more like 10,000 dollars per capita you notice a dramatic, stark difference in economic vitality. 
And that is also between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States. I noted that part of my interest when I used to be in the world of business is I would travel to different countries was to understand why there were such enormous disparities in the economic success of various countries... 
And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things. One, I recognize the hand of providence in selecting this place.
With one swipe, he managed to offend not only the Palestinians, but the people of Ecuador and Mexico. My gawd, even Netanyahu acknowledges that the Israeli occupation has devastated the Palestinian economy.

But just for giggles, lets bring Romney's analysis home to the U.S. Here are the top 10 states according to their per capita GDP in 2010: Delaware, Alaska, Connecticut, Wyoming, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Washington and Colorado.

See that? 6 blue states, 2 red states and 2 swing states...all exhibiting a superior culture and the hand of providence.

Just to finish the picture, lets look at the bottom 10: Mississippi, Idaho, West Virginia, South Carolina, New Mexico, Alabama, Arkansas, Montana, Kentucky and Michigan.

Ruh-roh, we have 8 red states exhibiting inferior culture and no hand of providence.

I'd suggest that perhaps Romney is on to something here. But the truth is, he's just a bigoted snob.

ACA mandate does not require people to buy for-profit insurance

Overall I love BooMan's article defending the ACA and its benefits to those who cannot afford to buy health insurance.

But there's one correction that I'd like to make to what he said. This is a pretty common mistake many liberals make when critiquing the law.
Now, I hate the mandate because it attempts to compel people to buy private for-profit health insurance...
It may sound like I'm nitpicking, but I think its an important point to remember that the exchanges set up by ACA for people who don't get insurance through their employer (as well as small businesses who tend to pay higher group rates) will be required to include at least one plan offered by a non-profit health insurer.

In addition, ACA provides $4.8 billion in funding for the development of non-profit health insurance co-ops.
...to foster the creation of non-profit, member-run health insurance companies in all 50 states and District of Columbia to offer qualified health plans. To be eligible to receive funds, an organization must not be an existing health insurer or sponsored by a state or local government, substantially all of its activities must consist of the issuance of qualified health benefit plans in each state in which it is licensed, governance of the organization must be subject to a majority vote of its members, must operate with a strong consumer focus, and any profits must be used to lower premiums, improve benefits, or improve the quality of health care delivered to its members.
To me these are key provisions in the ACA that tend to mitigate some of the concerns about not having a public option available through the exchanges. Its important for liberals to know that there will be options available to the for-profit health insurance industry.

"Vetters" offer reward to prove Obama has an open mind

I don't usually weigh in on Israeli/Palestinian issues because it tends to be a landmine better left to those who are more informed than I am.

But I will say that it causes me no concern whatsoever when I hear reports that there is obvious tension between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. It suggests that the President is applying pressure to a man who has proven that he cannot be trusted...and that's a good thing. It is, of course in contrast to Mitt Romney, who speaks Netanyahu's words.

While Romney was in Israel, the Breitbart crew used the occasion to continue their efforts to "vet" President Obama - this time on his past with regards to the I/P issue. They're offering a $50,000 reward to anyone who produces a tape of then state senator Barack Obama speaking at a farewell event in 2003 for Rashid Khalidi - founder of the Arab American Action Network and advocate for Palestinian rights.

This is something the wingers have been screaming about for years. The LA Times reported on the event in 2008.
A special tribute came from Khalidi's friend and frequent dinner companion, the young state Sen. Barack Obama. Speaking to the crowd, Obama reminisced about meals prepared by Khalidi's wife, Mona, and conversations that had challenged his thinking.

His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been "consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases. . . . It's for that reason that I'm hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation -- a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid's dinner table," but around "this entire world."
I suppose that the wingers think they can make hay out of our President having an open mind to potential blind spots and biases he might have about the plight of Palestinians under Israeli occupation...oh, the horrors!

In case you haven't read it - David Maraniss - who recently published a biography of President Obama - had a word to say about these so-called "vetters."
In the introduction to my book, I took note of a sick political culture where “facts are so easily twisted for political purposes and where strange armies of ideological pseudo-historians roam the biographical fields in search of stray ammunition.” That sentence is now cited on right-wing Web sites as evidence that I hold them in contempt. True enough, one of the few accurate things that I’ve read from them. I do hold some of them in contempt, not because of their politics, nor because of their dislike of Obama. Political debate and disagreement are the lifeblood of American democracy. No, I hold them in contempt for the way they disregard facts and common sense and undermine the role of serious history as they concoct conspiracy theories that portray the president as dangerous, alien and less than American.

What drives them? Some of it can be attributed to the give-and-take of today’s harsh ideological divide. Some of it can be explained by the way misinformation spreads virally to millions of like-minded people, reinforcing preconceptions. And some of it, I believe, arises out of fears of demographic changes in this country, and out of racism.
I'll simply say..."ditto to that."

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ruh-Roh - Newsweek cover: Mitt the Wimp (updated x 2)

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UPDATE:

The content for the cover story isn't available online or in print yet. But you can access it via an ipad application.

The full article is available here.

As the covers says, the article is by Michael Tomasky. The title of the article inside is "A Mouse in the White House? Mitt has bowed to reporters and cowered from the right. He's a candidate with a serious wimp problem."

Ouch!!!!

Tomasky alludes to #romneyshambles right away and then summarizes this way:
The episode highlights what's really wrong with Romney. He's kind of lame, and he's really...annoying. He keeps saying these...things, these incredibly off-key things. Then he apologizes immediately - with all the sincerity of a hostage. Or maybe he doesn't: sometimes he whines about the subsequent attacks on him. But the one thing he never does? Man up, double down, take his lumps.
I personally think that a lot of men (including Tomasky in this article) still have a lot of work to do in figuring out what "man up" means. For example, he takes a shot at Romney in this article for letting his wife Ann drive the jet ski.

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Hint to Tomasky: women like men who recognize that its ok for a woman to be in charge.

On the other hand, he totally nails it with this:
And what kind of presidential candidate whines about a few attacks and demands an apology when the going starts to get rough? And tries to sound tough by accusing the president who killed the world's most wanted villain of appeasement? That's what they call overcompensation, and its a dead giveaway; it's the "tell." This guy is nervous - terrified - about looking weak. And ironically, being terrified of looking weak makes him look weaker still.
That could be a serious problem in a president.
But if Romney is elected? Be nervous. A Republican president sure of his manhood had nothing to prove...But a weenie Republican - look out. He has something to prove, needs to reassert that "natural" [Republican] advantage. That spells trouble more often than not.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fierce Olympians





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Is the GOP exodus showing up in Ohio and Florida?

Over the last few weeks, I've been highlighting stories of individuals who have announced their exodus from the Republican Party. Some might counter that in a country this large, a handful of people don't necessarily signify a trend.

That's why a poll released yesterday in Ohio by the GOP firm We Ask America is so interesting. Their findings are that 19% of Republicans in that state plan on voting for President Obama (8% are still undecided and 2% say they're voting for Gary Johnson).

I don't think its ever a good idea to put too much stock in one poll. But there are two reasons to pay attention to this one. First of all, its coming from a GOP pollster. But secondly, its clear that this result surprised them, so they double-checked.
What pops out immediately is the high percentage of self-described Republicans who say they will vote for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney. An outlier? Perhaps. But we went back into the field last night to test it again. The results: almost identical.
Of course we don't know why over a quarter of Republicans in Ohio would not be rallying around their presumptive nominee. But from the anecdotal evidence we've seen,  its the teahadist lunatics who are chasing the more sane folks away.

Meanwhile, it looks like there is a battle royale going on in Florida between the teahadists of Gov. Scott's camp and the allies of former Gov. Crist - just in time for the Republican convention in Tampa. Former Party Chair Jim Greer is letting loose.
In a wide-ranging deposition that spanned two days in late May, former Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer denounced some party officials as liars and "whack-a-do, right-wing crazies'' as he described turmoil in the months before his resignation.

Greer said some GOP leaders were meeting to discuss ways they could suppress black votes while others were constantly scheming against each other.
Just imagine how this kind of mess is likely to be affecting the party's outreach and ground game. That might help explain why polls in Florida have gone from tipping barely towards Romney to a slight edge for President Obama.

There's still a lot of conjecture in all of this. But if Republican extremism winds up costing them both Ohio and Florida (add in the split in Nevada between the Ron Paultards and GOP establishment) in the November election, they're toast.

Friday, July 27, 2012

All in a day's work

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And now its off to the opening ceremonies...all in a day's work.

"The incredible randomness of it all"

Today David Frum wrote an interesting article focusing in on the context in which President Obama made his remark about "you didn't build that."
Obama's second idea is that success is to a great extent random, a matter of luck. You think you succeeded because you were smart or hard-working? Listen—a lot of smart and hard-working people don't succeed...

In this particular election cycle, the argument that the successful are almost by definition deserving and that the unsuccessful are correspondingly undeserving has exploded into noisy public controversy.

The president appears to have heard that argument, and it irks him.
That's pretty close to what I was suggesting when I wrote about those statements being a veiled reference to white privilege.

Frum is suggesting that President Obama was talking about randomness or luck. Reading what he said reminded me that I had wanted to go back and find something that Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote about this a while ago. I think it perfectly captures what the President was talking about.
...one of the most depressing things about being black and "making it" is the incredible randomness of it all...

When you're black, and likely when you're Latino, and likely when you're a kind of white, you see brilliant people all the time--and they get taken out in the most horrific ways. They have kids too soon. They get shot on the way home from school. They get hooked on crack. They go to jail. And then there is that one kid who makes it, who despite the wages of race in this country, goes on and does something big.
Many white people can fool themselves into thinking we live in a society where you can draw a nice straight line from intelligence and hard work to success. The very real lives of African Americans in this country say there is a lot more to it than that.

WSJ columnist explains the dog whistle in Romney's "you didn't build that" attack

First of all, lets remind ourselves that when it comes to the overall message that sparked all of this, President Obama and Mitt Romney agree.

So you have to wonder why conservatives and the Romney campaign are working so hard to make this dreamed-up controversy such a focal point.

Kimberley Strassel fills us in via the WSJ:
The Obama campaign's bigger problem, both sides are now realizing, is that his words go beyond politics and are more devastating than the Romney complaints that Mr. Obama is too big-government oriented or has mishandled the economy. They raise the far more potent issue of national identity and feed the suspicion that Mr. Obama is actively hostile to American ideals and aspirations. Republicans are doing their own voter surveys, and they note that Mr. Obama's problem is that his words cause an emotional response, and that they disturb voters in nearly every demographic.
Yep, that's exactly what dog whistles are designed to do - illicit an emotional response and disturb people. They're not really sure exactly what bothers them...but there's something.  And just to help that along, take a look at the photo they picked to accompany all that.


Oh my - Angry Black Man...scarrrrryyyy!

I'm not sure what "nearly every demographic" covers in Ms. Stassel's mind, but its clear from this ad put out by American Crossroads that they all have one very glaring thing in common. See if you can guess what that would be. They're not even trying to be subtle.

These Guys

OMG, you gotta see this. Its a story you think you've heard before...until the end.



Thanks to DerFarm for sharing this in the comments.

State of the Race: #romneyshambles

Just before Romney let loose with his incompetence in London, Markos did a good job of capturing his dilemma.
How does someone go on a "foreign policy tour," yet refuse to talk about foreign policy?

How does someone claim to be running based on knowledge of business, then refuse to talk about his business?

How does someone carry the banner of the moralist Republican Party, yet refuse to talk about his own faith?

How does a former governor run for president, yet does everything in his power to erase those four years from the debate?

You strip away those things, and what's left? The fact that he has perfect hair?
And now, with #romneyshambles in full swing, the Republican nominee has managed to step all over the one message on foreign policy he hoped to communicate.
Undergirding Mitt Romney’s trip to Europe and Israel this week was a single concept: President Obama has weakened the view of America in the eyes of foreign leaders thanks to a policy of appeasement and “apology.” How the world views America is important, Romney said, and he’s going to see to it that America’s reputation overseas is bolstered on his watch.

Within 24 hours of Romney landing abroad, that premise had unraveled and Romney’s own top surrogates were scoffing at the notion that foreign opinions of America mattered at all  to American voters.
Of course we know that Romney's counting on one thing other than his "perfect hair"... his ability to convince American voters that "Obama's bad." The prospects of him being able to do that were challenged by a Pew Research poll released this week that didn't get much attention (probably because it didn't contain a horse-race number on the election).
When it comes to Barack Obama, 90% say they already pretty much know what they need to know about him; just 8% say they need to learn more.
In other words, when it comes to President Obama, people have made up their minds.

That speaks to something I've been saying for awhile now and that Nate Silver weighed in on this week.
We’ve now been running our presidential forecast model for almost two months, but very little has changed in our analysis of the race. Each day, we have shown Barack Obama as a modest favorite to win re-election.
The picture that this paints is that the burden is on Mitt Romney to change the dynamics by increasing the number of people who support him. "Obama's bad" isn't going to cut it. That's why I started off with that quote from Markos...he's got nothin' and the little he does have, he's too busy stepping on.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign continues their pivot to highlighting the choice in this election with this ad that will air during the opening ceremony of the Olympics tonight...



...and First Lady Michelle Obama shows the Romneys what grace and diplomacy look like.

What a team!!!!!!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

If I Were A Boy

"Presto, two-term President Obama"

It looks like today is going to be my day for short takes (two posts below). But I just read something that I HAVE to endorse.

The topic p m carpenter is discussing this morning is the Republican penchant for wanting it all...tax cuts and huge defense spending. But he's predicting that Romney is going to have trouble with that one.
Furthermore, Romney's opponent is no Carter, no Mondale, no Gore and no Kerry. Barack Obama won't be intimidated and he doesn't panic; he refuses to tactically flop around like a mackerel in the moonlight; he sets a strategic course and he sticks to it, reflecting an inner confidence and determined calm that noticeably frustrate the bejesus out of bullies like Romney.

Presto, two-term President Obama.
KABOOM! Outta-the-park!
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Can you imagine if Obama had said that?!

When Mitt Romney was interviewed by Brian Williams, the topic of what happened in Aurora and the need for gun reform came up. Here's what Romney said:
"Well, this person shouldn't have had any kind of weapons and bombs and other devices and it was illegal for him to have many of those things already. But he had them," Romney said, although the guns used in the shooting were all purchased legally.

"And so we can sometimes hope that just changing the law will make all bad things go away. It won't. Changing the heart of the American people may well be what's essential, to improve the lots of the American people."
Most people commenting on this have done what this article did...point out that the guns (and ammunition) used in this instance were purchased legally.

But its that last sentence that stuck out to me. WTH was Romney saying? That it is "the heart of the American people" that is responsible for what happened in Aurora?

My gawd, just imagine what conservatives and the Romney campaign would have done if President Obama had said something like that!

Obama's "you didn't build that" a lesson in white privilege

The Republicans are stepping up the attack on President Obama's "you didn't build that" statement by saying that the context actually makes the statement worse. Here's an ad the RNC put out yesterday to demonstrate.



When I watched the isolation of this part of the President's remarks, it struck me that this is a message that most people of color in this country understand from day one because what he's alluding to (especially when he talks about the fact that there are a lot of hardworking smart people out there) is essentially white privilege. Its another way of saying "you were born on third base and thought you hit a tripple." The inference of his remarks is that there are a lot of smart hardworking people who DON'T make it.

I'm not suggesting that white privilege is what President Obama was consciously addressing. But as a black man in this country, this awareness about all the smart hardworking people who don't make it is a fact that he lives with every day. The American dream has always come with caveats to African Americans. But its a very hard thing for many white people to acknowledge.

With that awareness, I'm beginning to understand why the President's remarks hit such a sore spot. Even this veiled reference to white privilege (a reverse dog whistle if you may) is more than they can handle.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

As a Mother...

There will be many campaign ads that get a lot more attention that this one. But listening to Michelle talk - as a mother - speaks very deeply to me. What I see in the Obamas are people who are grounded in who they love and know where their priorities are. That means that the work they do isn't meant to fill their own needs, but is given freely for the benefit of others.

America is not just broken, we're delusional

I tend to agree with BooMan.
If America has a problem it is that it has evolved to a point where the political natures of the two major parties are not able to co-exist in a functional way. Our system works when party loyalty is weak. But, right now, party loyalty is strong. No one can govern in an ideologically rigid system where you need 60% of the Senate to move legislation and no party has anywhere near 60% control.

There are only two ways out. Either the parties will become more fluid, or one party must be crushed underfoot.
The delusional part is that every 4 years the country has one massive conversation trying to decide which one of two candidates can solve our problems with hardly a whisper about what's actually broken.

No matter what promises President Obama made, the truth is that for the last 2 years (since Democrats lost their 60 vote majority in the Senate and Republicans took control of the House), about the only things he's been able to get done are those he has the executive power to do.

And yet here we are in the midst of an election and just about all anyone can talk about is Obama vs Romney. The media, in their commitment to false equivalence, won't highlight the fact that Republicans - on inauguration day - vowed to do everything legislatively possible to halt any attempt by the President and Democrats to work towards solutions. And the public is starved for a Daddy to fix it all - giving Romney the opportunity to stay competitive by blaming it all on Obama.

The reality is that President Obama has introduced the "fluidity" that BooMan talks about. He demonstrated time and again that his style is to define the goals we all can agree on and then be open to ideas from either party that can be shown to reach them. For his efforts he's been pilloried by the left and obstructed by the right.

We're at a stalemate until the Republicans either join him with some fluidity or get crushed underfoot.

On the possibility of the former, The American Conservative has an interesting article titled Obama's Right Wing in which they talk to some Republican defectors.
If these criticisms of capitalism and plutocracy seem underdeveloped, they are. The truth is that these thinkers long for intellectual leadership.

Why not go left? After all, the experience of the Bush era seemed not only to dislodge commitments to the conservative movement, but also to loosen the convictions that went with membership in it. Bartlett is open to the idea, but he finds the prospects dim. “I think one of the things liberals could do for dissident conservatives is what the right did for dissident communists and dissident liberals,” he says. “They nurtured them. Those conservatives understood that these apostates were powerful allies. But the left is too stupid to recognize the opportunity that is there.”...

“The problem with Burkean conservatives is there are not enough of us and not enough rich ones. There’s a paucity of structures and institutions, but there could be more,” offers McConnell.

“One of the things intellectuals love to be is on the cutting edge,” says Bartlett. “We now have to write off the last 30 or 40 years and go back and start from scratch, and do what those guys [Buckley and Irving Kristol] did, although now in essence we are fighting against our own this time.”
I agree that the left has been too stupid to nurture dissidents from the right. We seem to find too much enjoyment in merely pointing out the extreme wing's lunacy.

I also think Bartlett is right in saying its time to start from scratch on a new conservative approach and that's likely to take years to develop. The problem is that the challenges we face right now can't wait that long.

What we're left with is either crushing Republicans in November or an ongoing stalemate while conservatives get their act together.

I'm rooting for the crush.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hey lefties...how bout walking your talk?

I have tremendous respect for the tenacity of people involved in things like the Brady Campaign who fight the good fight on gun reform even when no one else is paying attention. Mayor Bloomberg also gets kudos from me for his commitment to Mayors Against Illegal Guns. I loved it when he and Boston Mayor Tom Merino made this ad for the 2012 Superbowl.



But what pisses me off are the lefties who can't be bothered to talk about gun reform until the country is in an emotionally reactive state and the issue hits the headlines. Then all of the sudden its all on President Obama and other politicians who haven't done anything.

So this morning I had a little vision. Over at Daily Kos, there are liberals who are both gun reform advocates and gun rights advocates. There's even a fairly active RKBA group (Right to Keep and Bear Arms). What if a site like that sponsored a conversation to see if those two groups could come to some agreement about sensible gun reform? They could then propose the results as a model for what's possible. But perhaps even more important than that - they could show the country what its like to actually have a reasoned conversation about the issue.

If we want to break out of the logjam on this and many other problems that divide us, that would be a much more productive approach than simply yelling at politicians to do it for us.

Why Allie and Stephanie matter



After visiting with Allie and Stephanie yesterday, President Obama told their story.
When the gunman initially came in and threw the canisters, he threw them only a few feet away from Allie and Stephanie, who were sitting there watching the film. Allie stood up, seeing that she might need to do something or at least warn the other people who were there. And she was immediately shot. And she was shot in the neck, and it punctured a vein, and immediately she started spurting blood.

And apparently, as she dropped down on the floor, Stephanie -- 21 years old -- had the presence of mind to drop down on the ground with her, pull her out of the aisle, place her fingers over where she -- where Allie had been wounded, and applied pressure the entire time while the gunman was still shooting. Allie told Stephanie she needed to run. Stephanie refused to go -- instead, actually, with her other hand, called 911 on her cell phone.

Once the SWAT team came in, they were still trying to clear the theater. Stephanie then, with the help of several others, carries Allie across two parking lots to where the ambulance is waiting. And because of Stephanie's timely actions, I just had a conversation with Allie downstairs, and she is going to be fine.
He's done that before at times like this. At the memorial following the shootings in Arizona, he told us the stories of heroism that happened that day. And then he said this:
These men and women remind us that heroism is found not only on the fields of battle. They remind us that heroism does not require special training or physical strength. Heroism is here, in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, all around us, just waiting to be summoned -– as it was on Saturday morning. 
In the midst of events like what happened in Tucson and Aurora, the shooters remind us of the worst that we - as human beings - are capable of. That amplifies all of our angers and fears.

But Stephanie and Allie (as well as all the other heroes of a day like that) remind us that we are also capable of tremendous strength and courage and compassion.

The thing that separate those two sides of human nature are the choices we make...every day.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

When President Obama initiated a conversation about gun laws

While some on the left suggest directly and indirectly that President Obama hasn't done anything about reforming our gun laws, I think its important to remember something he did do.

Two months after the shootings in Arizona, the President published an op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star suggesting that it was time for us to have a grown-up conversation on the topic.
I know that every time we try to talk about guns, it can reinforce stark divides. People shout at one another, which makes it impossible to listen. We mire ourselves in stalemate, which makes it impossible to get to where we need to go as a country.

However, I believe that if common sense prevails, we can get beyond wedge issues and stale political debates to find a sensible, intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place.
This is such a typical approach to an issue like this from President Obama. First of all, he waited 2 months until the rest of the country had moved on from their emotionally-driven responses. Then he went back to the community that had been hurt the most by that particular tragedy and invited them into a conversation. He knows that whenever we talk about this on a national level, folks like the NRA mobilize their minions with fear tactics ("they're coming to take your guns away!") But perhaps if everyday regular Americans could talk without that kind of influence, we'd find more that unites us than divides us.

But of course it didn't work. A simple look at the comments to his editorial will tell you that the fear has been too powerfully stoked to allow for meaningful conversation. How we get around that is the question of the hour. But simply suggesting that the President can do it on his own is an abdication of our responsibility.

What happens to Republicans when they don't have to pander to their lunatic base?

To answer the question in my title: They get sane.

A great example of that is former Senate Minority Leader Bill Frist. Remember...he's the doctor-turned-politician that diagnosed Terri Schiavo on the floor of the Senate after watching a video tape. Total lunacy.

But he's not a Republican politician anymore and so he doesn't have to cater to their lunatic base. As a result, he wrote an article this week basically telling the GOP governors to get off their duffs and create the exchanges called for in Obamacare.
Enacting some sort of exchange establishment legislation is expected to be crucial to receiving federal approval for a state-run exchange. And though some GOP governors refuse to set up an exchange of their own, I see little advantage for states to default to the federally designed, one-size-fits-all exchange when they can design and run their own.

The silver lining is that with much planning left to do, there is still time to get involved and design the exchange in your state. I urge everyone — citizens, small businesses, health industry stakeholders, churches, large employers — to actively participate in shaping your exchange so that it reflects your state's values, economy, and common sense. Then, starting in 2014, we can see a variety of big ideas and small tweaks all working together to show our nation what works and what doesn't.

Simply put, state exchanges represent a distinctly American opportunity to improve our local communities and at the same time help our nation avert a major crisis. Let's take the plunge.
In case you've forgotten, that's what a sane Republican sounds like folks.

I don't know what it will take to get voices like that back in charge of the Republican Party. Surely a resounding defeat at the polls this November would empower the voices of sanity, wouldn't it? Seems to me like if the leadership can't steer the ship away from the lunacy, perhaps its up to the voters.

State of the Race: Stable

A few months ago I made the case that the electorate is not as volatile as we are often led to believe in national elections. Today, Larry Sabato makes the same argument.
Three months of close-to-zero movement in the presidential race calls into question our obsession with horse race political coverage. Neither millions of dollars in television advertising nor three weak monthly job reports in a row have moved the needle very much; the supposed gaffes that dominate the daily news cycle have even less effect.
The truth is, the majority of people have already made up their minds.
While it is fashionable for voters to call themselves “independent” - both in how they respond to surveys or in their voter registration - polling data tell us that most people who claim to be independent really are not...Political science research suggests that the real proportion of independents in the November electorate will be even smaller, perhaps 5% to7%.
I would go one step further and suggest that the 5-7% are the ones who won't be paying attention until this fall.

And so as the media world obsesses over the ads and the jobs reports and the gaffes, the needle doesn't really move one way or the other. President Obama still has a small lead in the national vote (2-3%) and a commanding lead in the electoral college. Its true that this week his lead in Virginia seemed to narrow. But at the same time, its looking more possible that he might win Florida - which would pretty much put the race out of reach for Romney.

Some have suggested that the stability of the race shows that the Obama campaign's charges against Romney's finances and history at Bain have "not worked." That, of course, assumes they were designed to win voters over to President Obama. As I've said before, I think they were more designed to ensure that the race is cast as being a choice rather than a referendum. And in that sense, they were meant to keep Romney from gaining ground  by blaming President Obama for the weak economy. Their success is demonstrated by the fact that the President has maintained his lead despite the lackluster jobs reports.

Prepare yourselves for the one time we will see a bit of volatility - Romney will gain some in the polls following the Republican convention. But then it will be our turn at the Democratic convention followed by Romney finally having to face the President mano-a-mano in the debates. That presents another rock/hard place for Romney...will he continue his lies about the President or risk looking "weak" to his base? We'll see.

The final step in all of this is the one that's up to us - turnout. Here's Sabato on that.
... the key question this November will be less the destination of the hard-core independents than the relative enthusiasm of Democrats versus Republicans. One side will run up the score in Election Day turnout...
Its all about the ground game, baby!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Different Americas?

I remember not long after Bill Clinton was inaugurated as President, he and Hillary attended an event that included a performance by Stevie Wonder. I watched on TV as the President and First Lady sang along.

It was such a powerful moment for me. After Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush, it was the first time a POTUS could sing along with "my music." I realized that my generation had finally grown up.

I thought of that moment when I read this article about a rich old white lady suggesting that President Obama represented a "different America" because he sang "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green.
“It’s the difference between the songs that they’re singing,” Mrs Welch said. “Mitt Romney didn’t exactly do a beautiful job on that song, but think about what he’s singing, OK? I mean it’s that patriotic song and he goes all the way through it. Then you’ve got the very cool Barack Obama singing Al Green. That is the two different Americas. Isn’t it?”
Let me put this as clearly as I can to Ms. Welch...no, you're full of shit. The only place those "different Americas" exist is in your racist ageist mind.

Of the many things that are offensive about what Ms. Welch said, one of them is the inference that patriotic songs are the purview of people in "her America." WRONG!!!!!!!



Greenwald to The Guardian

Here's a little mindless minutia for a Saturday afternoon: 

Some of you may have heard by now that Glenn Greenwald will be leaving Salon next month and taking up writing residence at The Guardian. I suppose that it shouldn't come as a shock to anyone that when a British paper goes looking for a columnist to headline their expanding U.S. edition, they pick someone who writes about U.S. politics from Brazil ;-)

But actually I'm looking forward to it.

A couple of years ago I started commenting on Michael Tomasky's blog at The Guardian. Tomasky does a pretty good job of keeping his ear to the ground about what's driving the political conversation in this country. Whether I agreed with his take or not - talking about what he's writing about means that you're in the thick of the fault lines in American politics.

But the other thing that drew me there was that he had assembled a group of commenters that spanned the range on the political continuum. These days with our polarized media, there aren't many places you can have meaningful discussions (not necessarily agreement) with people who are everything from extreme leftists to moderates to blue dogs to conservatives to extreme rightists. But that's what I found there.

And then Tomasky left and went to The Beast. Back at The Guardian, they tried replacing him with Anna Marie Cox (she of Wonkette fame). I knew that was going to be a major fail the minute I heard about it. Ms. Cox tends to embrace cynicism as her point of departure and then focuses her writing on whatever seems obscure to the general public.

So The Guardian has been trying to find a way to jump start this new U.S. edition and will now build it around Greenwald. You can be sure that GG will bring his crew of bots along with him from Salon. On that front, his new employer will reap the benefits of more clicks and eyeballs. But they also now brand themselves firmly in the camp of the very small contingent in American politics that cling to progressive poutrage. They'll be catering to that ever shrinking market that doesn't see any difference between Republicans and Democrats. In other words, the margins of the political conversation in this country.

What I'll look forward to is engaging in the comments section. Its the reason I went to The Guardian in the first place...I love dissenting opinions. Heaven knows that with GG there - I'll find plenty of those.

Cheney vs Norquist

The beauty of having a President who is former community organizer and knows a thing or two about power and leverage is starting to show.

As a result of the debt ceiling deal agreed to last summer, we're about to witness a showdown between the two most powerful factions in the Republican Party - the military industrial complex (as represented by Dick Cheney) and the no-taxes group (as represented by Grover Norquist).

The genius of President Obama and the Democrats was to time the automatic spending cuts agreed to in the debt ceiling deal (which include $55 billion/year to defense) to the exact same day (January 1, 2013) that the Bush tax cuts expire. Remember, those things happen if Congress does nothing. So this time the old tried-and-true tactic of Republican obstruction won't work. They have to proactively pass something to stop it.

The line the Democrats are drawing is that in order to stop the cuts to defense spending, Republicans will have to agree to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. In other words, they're saying that Republicans will have to pick one - they can't have both. That's what sets up the Cheney/Norquist duel.

We all know that last week Cheney went to Capitol Hill and argued on behalf of his Haliburton buddies against allowing any defense cuts. Meanwhile, Grover Norquist vows to fight on.
He said the example of a deficit grand bargain with entitlement reforms in exchange for a “penny” in tax increases is a “bizarre straw man” that does not exist. Instead, Democrats are seeking trillions in tax increases that must be resisted, he said.
Personally, I'd put my money on Cheney winning this one (much as it pains me to say it that way). That's essentially how Bruce Bartlett (former Reagan advisor) put it in the Financial Times this week.
The obvious way out of this dilemma is simple: raise taxes instead. Achieve the same amount of deficit reduction but by through higher revenues rather than defense spending cuts.
But more than anything, I love how he described the situation.
Therefore, Republicans are between the rock of defense cuts that they view as unpalatable and the tax pledge hard place...

Republicans are not yet ready to embrace a tax increase even to prevent defense cuts. But it is clear that they are ultimately going to have to choose one or the other.

So sit back, grab the popcorn, and enjoy the Cheney vs Norquist show. While you're at it - give a shout out to our President and Democratic members of Congress for setting it up.

So you want to talk about guns?

We all know this story well because we've lived it over and over again. Something tragic happens like what took place in Aurora, Colorado yesterday. Pretty soon people are screaming at each other trying to point the finger of blame. That screaming past each other is called a conversation and goes on for a few days until we find the next thing to get hysterical about. Nothing changes.

Unfortunately, it is only within that context that we ever talk about guns. And that's why we never do anything sensible about them. At a moment like this, not many people are interested in facts and reason.

But I'm going to take this opportunity to give it a go and present some of the facts I've found about them.

First off is a chart I found a few years ago that challenges the narrative we tend to create about the problem.  Please click through to take a look at it. If I post it here, it gets too small to read.

This chart was created following the Virginia Tech shootings and relies on gun deaths in 2004. But I doubt the overall situation has changed much since then. First of all the shocker...that year 81 people died every day as a result of guns. The gray bullets indicate homicides, the pink represent suicides and the yellow either accidents or police shootings.

When we're not reacting to a tragedy like what happened in Aurora yesterday, the media usually focuses on the 12 black men between the ages of 18-39 that are killed each day with guns. But what this chart tells us is that the real death toll is the 36 white men who commit suicide with a gun every day - the vast majority of whom (25) are over 40 years old. Just imagine what a different conversation we'd be having about guns if that story were told!

Following the shootings in Arizona, Richard Florida pulled together some fascinating data about gun deaths. First of all, a breakdown of how many/100,000 people by state.
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The concentration is in states we don't normally hear about - Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Nevada and Alaska.

Then Florida took this information and charted statistical correlations between gun deaths per state and other factors...noting that this speaks to correlation, not causation.

The things that correlate strongly with gun deaths are (1) states that voted for McCain, (2) poverty level, (3) an economy dominated by working class jobs, and (4) rates of high schoolers carrying weapons on school grounds.

That doesn't paint the picture we most often think about when we talk about gun violence.

I present this information not because I'm pushing any particular solution, but to challenge the narratives in our heads about gun deaths in our culture. If we want to get serious about what to do - we first need to know what the problem looks like.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Day for Hugs





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So here's one just for YOU!

What if the GOP always reacted to their wingnuts this way?

Perhaps you've heard that Rep. Michele Bachmann has been doing her best impersonation of Joe McCarthy lately.
The Minnesota Republican, joined by Republican Reps. Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Thomas Rooney and Lynn Westmoreland, sent letters to the inspectors general of five government agencies responsible for national security to demand they investigate infiltration by the Muslim Brotherhood into the highest reaches of the federal government. In particular, Bachmann singled out Huma Abedin, the wife of former congressman Anthony Weiner and a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In case Abedin hasn’t already been through enough already, Bachmann is now questioning her loyalty to the U.S. by asserting that Abedin has three family members who are connected to the Muslim Brotherhood (Abedin is Muslim). She’s been targeted before by anti-Muslim activists, and Bachmann notes that Abedin’s position “affords her routine access to the Secretary and to policy-making.” Bachmann also claims the state has “taken actions recently that have been enormously favorable to the Muslim Brotherhood and its interests.”
I think its important to note that the GOP did not take one of their usual positions which would have been to either join in or do everything they can to ignore her. Several of them stood up and spoke out.

Senator John McCain:
“The allegations about Huma Abedin and the report from which they are drawn are nothing less than an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable citizen, a dedicated American and a loyal public servant,” the Arizona senator continued. “These attacks have no logic, no basis and no merit. And they need to stop. They need to stop now.”

“When anyone — not least, a member of Congress — launches specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation and we all grow poorer because of it,” he added.
Speaker John Boehner:
I haven’t seen the letter, but — I don’t know Huma, but from everything I do know of her, she has a sterling character. And I think accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous.
Former Bachmann Campaign Manager Ed Rollins:
“I have been a practitioner of tough politics for many decades,” Ed Rollins wrote in an op-ed for FOX News. “There is little that amazes me and even less that shocks me. I have to say that Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s outrageous and false charges against a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin reaches that threshold.

“Her unsubstantiated charge against Abedin, a widely respected top aide to Secretary Hillary Clinton, accusing her of some sort of far-fetched connection to the Muslim brotherhood, is extreme and dishonest,” he continued...

“Having worked for Congressman Bachman’s campaign for president, I am fully aware that she sometimes has difficulty with her facts, but this is downright vicious and reaches the late Senator Joe McCarthy level,” he wrote.
I am more than happy to give credit where its due and so I'll gladly acknowledge that these guys got this one right.

But... (you could tell there was one coming, couldn't you?)

This is hardly the first time a Republican member of Congress has said something incendiary. There really are too many to chronicle. But as an example, Rep. Allen West has certainly thrown around his fair share:

Many Congressional Democrats are communists

Rep. Keith Ellison (the only Muslim member of Congress) is the antithesis of this country's founding principles

Comparing Democrats to Nazi propagandists

And we won't even get into what some GOP spokespeople have said about President Obama (ei, Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh, etc).

Where has the outrage been? And just imagine the effect it would have had on our public discourse if you'd been calling shit like this out all along.

I'm happy to watch the GOP shut down the vile Bachmann was spewing. I hope its a sign of more of that to come. A party that was truly committed to what American stands for would do nothing less.

To Everything There is a Season

Just so you know, I won't be writing about the shooting in Aurora today. I also won't be watching the news about it. To everything there is a season and this is a time for weeping and mourning.

Time for a pivot (updated)

It felt good to see the Obama campaign throw some knockout punches at Romney, didn't it? That kind of thing can be effective in revving up the base - especially those who don't see the more subtle blows that President Obama tends to land on the GOP all the time.

But my guess is that the reason the campaign went after Romney so directly has not been about making the base feel good. In order to understand why that approach was necessary, its important to first understand the only strategy available to Romney in this race.

Its been obvious since the beginning that the goal of the Romney camp has been to make this election a referendum on President Obama. Since the Republicans have been able to successfully block any action that would have improved the economy, the idea was to hang that failure around the neck of the President and suggest that Romney's past in the private sector was all voters would need to know to think he would do a better job.

By spending so much time talking about Romney and raising doubts about his record at Bain Capital, what the Obama campaign has done is to ensure that this election is not simply a referendum on the President, but that its a choice between Obama and Romney.

Now its time to start working on closing that deal by focusing on the choice. This is the kind of thing I'm talking about.



Other than Bain and his taxes, the one thing Romney doesn't want to talk about is the specifics of what he would do. As I've noted before, there are several reasons for that. First and foremost is that most voters don't agree with him. Secondly, on many issues he needs to muddy the water because clarity would expose the deep divisions in his own party.

So I'd suggest that we'll be seeing a bit of a shift in the Obama campaign strategy in the coming weeks. Continuing the tit-for-tat attacks would only aid the Republicans as voters get more cynical about the whole process. Its time to clarify the choice. And instead of a focus on the candidate's past, its time we started to look...


UPDATE: Its nice to know that a couple of really smart guys who tend to get things right agree with me.

Jonathan Chait:
The Obama campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s business record and personal finances will probably continue for a long time. But I think that, when the campaign is remembered in history, they will not be seen as the central element but rather as a prelude. The main event is going to be a fight over the priorities of the Paul Ryan budget.

Steve Benen:
The larger effort is intended to be cumulative, building one argument on top of another. Phase I was intended to discredit Romney's controversial past; Phase II appears intended to discredit Romney's plans for the future.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Oh, this is rich!

If you're Paul Ryan:

First, you hold the global economy hostage by threatening to not pass an increase in the debt ceiling without massive spending cuts to domestic programs, including Social Security and Medicare.

The people you're negotiating with want some tax increases on the wealthy to go along with spending cuts. But you refuse. Stalemate. U.S. credit rating is downgraded.

The opposition offers you a deal...along with some domestic spending cuts, agree to either a tax increase on the wealthy or defense spending cuts.

You chose the defense cuts.

Six months before those defense cuts are set to kick in - you start squealing like a stuck pig and accuse your opponents of not caring about national security due to cuts YOU VOTED FOR because of a crisis YOU CREATED.
The Obama Administration has yet to specify how they would implement current law, while refusing to demonstrate leadership in replacing the arbitrary cuts to core priorities...

The arbitrary, across-the-board sequester cuts would have a devastating impact on our national security and key domestic priorities.

Senate Majority Leader Reid and other leading Senate Democrats, unwilling to advance solutions, have effectively endorsed crippling cuts to our national defense...Americans deserve answers from our chief executive on the consequences of the deep reductions from the sequestration process and the specific steps that he will take to address these concerns.

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Winning the Crybaby of the Year award is no small feat. But that, my friends, is exactly how you do it!

A tale of two quotes

What Mitt Romney said yesterday.
There are a lot of people in government who help us and allow us to have an economy that works and allow entrepenuers and business leaders of various kinds to start businesses and create jobs. We all recognize that. That's an important thing...

I know that you recognize that a lot of people help you in a business. Perhaps the banks, the investors. There's no question your mom and dad. Your school teachers. The people that provide roads, the fire, and the police. A lot of people help.
What President Obama said last Friday.
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.
So we all agree then. Great.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sununu's attack was no accident

The degree of panic in the Romney campaign these days was demonstrated when they sent out John Sununu to try to change the subject.



What he dished out there are all the old tropes from the lunatic base about President Obama...not American, drug-taking, socialist community organizer.

We've heard it all before.

But it sounds like this might be exactly where the Romney campaign is going to go.
"[Romney] has said Obama's a nice fellow, he's just in over his head," the adviser said. "But I think the governor himself believes this latest round of attacks that have impugned his integrity and accused him of being a felon go so far beyond that pale that he's really disappointed. He believes it's time to vet the president. He really hasn't been vetted; McCain didn't do it."...

In the next chapter of Boston's pushback — which began last week when they began labeling Obama a "liar" — very little will be off-limits, from the president's youthful drug habit, to his ties to disgraced Chicago politicians...

The reference to Obama's past drug use seems to suggest that former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu wasn't going off-script after all when he dinged the president for spending "his early years in Hawaii smoking something" during a Tuesday morning Fox News appearance.
One person who will be thrilled with this approach is half-term governor Sarah Palin. It will also be great news for the Breitbart crew who continue with this fantasy that President Obama was never properly "vetted" during the 2008 campaign. That phrase is nothing more than a dog whistle stand-in for birtherism.

If that's where the Romney campaign wants to go, I'm sure they'll manage to firmly tie up the lunatic vote. More power to 'em. He will finally have made a decision on which path to take.

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And the exodus will continue.

Geez, you might think someone planned it this way ;-)

P.S. Perhaps Romney should give Sarah Palin a chance to address the Republican Convention. She might just give him a moment like Pat Buchanan served up in 1992. Go for it Mitt!!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Let's have this fight!

One of the big stories today is that the Republicans have taken a quote from President Obama's speech  in Roanoke, VA at a fire station last Friday totally out of context and are using it as an attack. Romney is so desperate to vilify the President and change the subject that he's created a video and dedicated a whole page on his website to the lie.

In case you've missed it, here's the quote out of context: "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."

And here's what President Obama actually said - with lots of context:
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t -- look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the GI Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President -- because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.
This is something that the President talks about all the time. And it strikes me as one of great divides between liberals and conservatives these days.

Many times when President Obama talks about this he makes a moral argument that we are our brother/sister's keeper and have an obligation to look out for one another.

This time he was making more of a pragmatic argument...there are some things that we just can't do on our own.

If, as Republicans would have us believe, we're on our own, then divisive polarized politics is good enough.

But if there are reasons to come together and accomplish things we otherwise couldn't tackle on our own, then we have to do that through a government where we can ultimately sit down and talk through our differences.

So to the Republicans who are harping on this today, I say...bring it on! This is what the fight is all about.

From "welfare queens" to "roaches"

Republican Ronald Reagan's administration is most often credited with crafting the image of people on government assistance as "welfare queens" and loaded that phrase with screaming dog whistles.

I suppose it should come as no surprise that our current crop of lunatic Republicans would take it one step further. Enter Mike Huckabee.
“It’s basically just a transfer of money from the taxpayer to the government, from the government to people who become beneficiaries of the government, because that way the government can own these people,” Huckabee said on “Fox and Friends.” “It is a trap, and it is like the roach motel. Once you get in, but you never get out.”
Absolutely disgusting!!!!!!

That's about all I can say on this one at the moment without joining Mr. Huckabee in the gutter.

Obama's second term

I suspect you've heard people suggest that when (not if!) President Obama wins a second term, he won't have to worry about being elected again and we'll see all kinds of wonderful progressive stuff from him. I know I've heard people say that.

But I don't buy it. The assumption of course is that there's some inner progressive in him that he's kept in hiding for political reasons. First of all, that analysis misses how President Obama has often been to the left of his critics already. And secondly, he's let it be known throughout his whole life that when it comes to traditional lefties, he's just not that into them. The man is nothing if not a died-in-the-wool pragmatic.

So when I first saw this article about how President Obama will take on the totally ineffective drug war in his second term, I just assumed it was more of the same kind of wishful thinking.
According to ongoing discussions with Obama aides and associates, if the president wins a second term, he plans to tackle another American war that has so far been successful only in perpetuating more misery: the four decades of The Drug War.

Don't expect miracles. There is very little the president can do by himself. And pot-smokers shouldn't expect the president to come out in favor of legalizing marijuana. But from his days as a state senator in Illinois, Obama has considered the Drug War to be a failure, a conflict that has exacerbated the problem of drug abuse, devastated entire communities, changed policing practices for the worse, and has led to a generation of young children, disproportionately black and minority, to grow up in dislocated homes, or in none at all.
The author doesn't claim that these "aides and associates" of the President have given him any specifics about what exactly Obama would do. So you're left with wondering "what's the plan?"

But then I read this article about what President Obama is already doing to slow down the war on drugs.
“Don’t expect miracles,” Ambinder cautions, and that’s where he gets it wrong. The miracle has already happened. Here’s the answer that Ambinder’s anonymous sources failed to leak to him: the pivot point for Obama’s new direction is homegrown marijuana, and it’s already started.

The presidential request for the FY13 budget deals a mortal blow to the helicopter-powered marijuana eradication umbrella. It does so by cutting in half the funding for the U.S. National Guard Counterdrug program, the Defense Department’s contribution to the marijuan-eradication effort that has, for the past 20 years, limited the size of domestic marijuana patches and increased the demand for “blood pot” imported by ultraviolent Mexican drug cartels—while doing nothing to stem the supply to anyone who wants to get high...

Without a fully functional eradication program, the feds cannot keep domestic pot production down. So even if it remains illegal, domestic production could boom during FY13, the first growing season of Obama’s potential second term.
I'm not sure what to make of all of this. If it really is a pivot on the drug war as this author suggests, we still have the rather troubling reality of federal prosecutors going after medical marijuana growers in states like California to deal with.

But I'm not quite as ready to blow it all off as I was initially. After all, what we have learned about this President is that he's always playing the long game and almost never initiates a fight he can't win. As we saw in the 2008 California ballot initiative to legalize marijuana, it might be that the country isn't ready to take that kind of thing on directly. But small unnoticed steps to begin the process...? Who knows?

Monday, July 16, 2012

State of the Race: Not the game-changer Romney was hoping for

As I've been saying for awhile now, Mitt Romney is in trouble in this race. To get some idea of that, check on the no toss-up states electoral college map at the conservative site Real Clear Politics. What it suggests is that if the election were held today, President Obama would win 332/206 (interestingly enough, the exact same prediction as Nate Silver.) That means that in the next couple of months, Romney needs to pick up 64 electoral votes to have a shot at this thing...not a pretty picture.

The other thing I've been saying for awhile now is that - given this picture - Romney needs a game-changer...something that can shake this race up. Lately he's been getting one of those. Only its happening in the exact opposite direction he wants.

The questions being raised about Romney's taxes, business and finances are coming close to uniting the divisions in the Republican Party - against him. Establishment groups were certainly anything but supportive yesterday on the Sunday talk shows. We've already seen that the teavangelicals haven't been won over yet. And now the Tea Party itself is grumbling openly.
What galls the Tea Party activists is the sense that Romney represents a lost opportunity for their agenda of less government, flatter taxes, and constitutional restraint. Facing a vulnerable president saddled with a bad economy and a crisis in the public sector, they feel stuck with a guy served up by Republican elites who speaks conservatism with an establishment accent. Worse, in this view, Romney seems incapable, or unwilling, to even defend himself, as the Obama campaign machine highlights his offshore bank accounts and his career at Bain Capital.

“Romney’s just not a fighter,” says Jenny Beth Martin, head of the Tea Party Patriots, the largest of the activist groups.
Ouch!!! There's that "weak" thing popping up again.

Romney needs to change the subject...fast. I suspect that's why reports are leaking that he'll announce his VP pick this week rather than wait until just before the Republican Convention. And while that will certainly take the focus off his Bain record for awhile, its hard to imagine how a Pawlenty or Portman or Thune repairs the damage - much less quiets the storm in the grassroots.

We've got two weeks to go until the election takes a back seat to the 2012 Olympics. Then it will be time for the conventions and we're off to the races with the fall campaign where its Mitt Romney vs President Obama mano-a mano in the debates. Clocks ticking Mr. Romney...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Frum levels the most devastating Romney critique of all

The title of David Frum's post today says it all: Romney: Too Weak?
It's not just his arguments that are weak. For the past year, we have watched him be pushed around by the radical GOP fringe...

...at every point, Romney has surrendered to the fringe of his party. Weak. And now in his first tough encounter with Barack Obama, Romney is being shoved around again. This is not what a president looks like - anyway, not a successful president.
While many of us have admired Frum's sanity lately, its important to remember that he is a Republican. And perhaps more importantly, he's been a strong supporter of Mitt Romney. So when he levels a charge like "weak" at his preferred candidate, people should take note.

Its also important to keep in mind that the Republicans have completely wedded themselves to manly white heterosexual men as their base. Being weak to these folks is nothing short of anathema.

I tend to think that BooMan is right...Romney doesn't have a choice. He's taking the only road he has available to someone with his past and platform. That means he either continues to take the path he's been on and look weak, or he blows up his whole campaign. Which one will it be Mitt?

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Class warfare: Its not about bad people...its about power

In a couple of my posts from yesterday, conservative commenters showed up to basically demonize poor people as lazy drags on society who simply need to buck up and take care of themselves rather than ask for handouts from the government. In other words, pretty standard stuff from them.

It got me thinking about the fact that we liberals tend to demonize rich people in much the same way. We talk about them as if they are all selfish greedy people who only care about profits - not people.

The thing about it is that I've lived long enough to know some rich people who really are assholes. But I've also known some poor people who are assholes too. I've also had the privilege of knowing some rich people who were unbelievably selfless and generous. And I've known some poor people who are inspirational in their strength through struggle.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the amount of money someone has doesn't seem to me to be determinative of what kind of person they are. And so I don't think the kind of class warfare we're in the midst of right now has to do with good or bad people. That is a distraction from the real issue...which is all about power.

Throughout history, rich people have found ways to ensure that money = power. And every now and then, poor people have recognized that there is another form of power...numbers. There are more of us than there are of them. That can give us the advantage in battle, but also via the ballot box in a democracy.

We are watching all of this play out as Republicans try to use their money advantage in this election to divide and conquer the majority. They're trying to pit white people against people of color and the working class against the poor with their demonizations of "the other." And just in case that doesn't work, they're trying to rig the game by reducing our numbers advantage with voting restrictions.

What Republicans are trying to do with all that is take away our one source of power - the fact that there are more of us than there are of them. When we let them divide us with their demonizations about "bad people," they win.

Anything we can do to bridge that divide means we win.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

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"Because of the values we share, I believe in you"

Yesterday I got to watch President Obama speaking in Virginia live. What struck me was that he really seemed fired up! Some of that is probably because he's pissed off at the Republicans. Yessirree, everyone is getting to see the "then I will crush them" side of this president.

But it was how he ended the speech that both moved me and tells me where his fighting energy comes from. I wanted to write about that but didn't get around to it. This morning I woke up to find that the amazingly talented Chipsticks had put it in a video. So here it is.



We are so fortunate to have this man fighting for us. These words would never be able to come out of Mitt Romney's mouth. And even if he tried, not a soul on the planet would believe him. As we've learned more and more about President Obama's background, its clear that this is the heart and soul of this man.
I made that promise because I saw myself in you, and I saw Michelle in you. And when I look at your kids, I see my kids. And when I look at your grandparents, I see my grandparents. And because of the values we share, I believe in you. And I hope you still believe in me.
Yes we do Mr. President...yes we do!

Is the Tea Party going to cost the Republicans a Senate seat pick-up...again?

Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl (D) is retiring. So there is an open race to fill his seat. For the Democrats, the nominee will be the Congresswoman who currently represents Wisconsin's 2nd district, Tammy Baldwin.

There is primary race taking place to chose her Republican challenger. Since former WI Governor Tommy Thompson put his hat in the ring, everyone has assumed that he would not only be the Republican nominee, but that he would likely do a good job of challenging Baldwin.

Things got a little complicated on that road to Oz!

Thompson is going to have to get by 3 challengers to win the nomination - Eric Hovde, Mark Newman and Jeff Fitzgerald. Earlier this week, Public Policy Polling found Hovde leading Thompson 31-29.
It's the Tea Party putting Hovde over the top. Non-Tea Party Republicans split evenly between Hovde and Thompson at 31%, but Tea Partiers give Hovde an 18 point advantage at 39-21.
And then a couple of days later, the tea party group FreedomWorks endorsed Hovde.

While its true that Hovde is no Christine O'Donnell (hasn't claimed to have dabbled in witchcraft...yet), he's likely getting some traction for these remarks during a Q&A at a Chamber of Commerce event where he was stressing his concern about the national debt.
I see a reporter here. I just pray that you start writing about these issues. I just pray. Stop always writing about, ‘Oh, the person couldn’t get, you know, their food stamps or this or that.’ You know, I saw something the other day — it’s like, another sob story, and I’m like, ‘But what about what’s happening to the country and the country as a whole?’ That’s going to devastate everybody.
Sob stories my ass!!!!! I guess we can take it for granted that Hovde's never been hungry or had to struggle to feed his kids.

But just like the Republican presidential primary, I won't claim to have a dog in this race. What I will do is continue to document the chaos the Republicans unleashed on themselves when they empowered the extremist wingnut base of their party.