Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Some dank cave of the American Id"

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


Let's not kick out the darkness...Make the LIGHT Brighter!!!

Some good news about the midterms

Over the last few days we've been inundated with bad news about the midterms when it comes to polls. Yesterday Nate Silver wondered if it was time for the Democrats to panic. I say a resounding "NO!" to that one. Instead, Democrats need to do what Derek Willis documents that they're doing.
With a strong possibility that Democrats could lose control of the Senate in the midterm elections, they are investing heavily in voter turnout efforts.

In states too close to call like Alaska, Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina, Democrats are making much greater investments in the ground game than Republicans.
So while Republicans continue to spend their money on television ads and direct mail, Democrats are focusing on getting voters to the polls. The difference in expenditures on staff and voter contact operations is dramatic.
According to the Upshot’s tallies, Dem outside groups, parties and candidates are outspending their GOP counterparts in Alaska ($1.9 million to $224,800); Colorado ($4.4 million to $556,100); Iowa ($1.4 million to $105,000); Michigan ($1.4 million to $767,400); and North Carolina ($3.2 million to $835,000).
Greg Sargent points out the critical issue.
The crucial thing here to watch is whether Democrats have success in registering — or inducing early voting by — people who might otherwise not be inclined to vote. In a year when core Dem voter groups appear less inclined to vote than core GOP voters do, anything that can marginally shift the electorate in a Democratic direction could conceivably make a difference.
Basically, if the electorate in 2014 mirrors the electorate of 2010 (in other words, if the status quo is maintained), Democrats will likely lose. The only way to ensure that doesn't happen is if more women, young voters and people of color show up in November. And the way to do that is to invest heavily in the ground game.

President Obama demonstrated to the political world that an effective ground game can change the course of both presidential primaries and general elections. At least in the states discussed by Willis, we'll soon learn whether or not the same thing can be said for midterms.

You're not going to hear much hoopla about this in the media. But I'm extremely happy to learn that Democrats are doing EXACTLY what they need to do to.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bust a meme: President Obama's approval ratings

I can understand why Republicans want to spread a false meme that President Obama's approval numbers are tanking. Their whole goal in the midterms is to nationalize the election and ramp up the Obama derangement syndrome with their base.

But one has to wonder why some liberals are so intent on doing the same thing. Case in point: Elias Isquith at Salon. He sites polls taken recently in California and New York showing that the President's approval ratings have dropped in those blue states and then opines:
Put simply, my guess is that a growing number of liberals have decided that after nearly six years, and with no reason to believe a Democratic congress is on the horizon, Obama’s done nearly all he’ll ever do and the verdict is in. And although Obamacare seems to be a policy success, and Dodd-Frank is reportedly working better than many expected, many liberals have concluded that these balms are not enough to soothe the lingering pain of their unmet expectations.
Ahhh...the old "disappointed liberal" meme. Its interesting how that one tends to always come up right before an election. These folks are always sure that THIS TIME President Obama has finally crossed the rubicon and lost the support of his liberal "base." Isquith lays the blame this time on his decision to delay action on immigration and the fact that he's "acquiesced in the face of the U.S.war machine." Surely these polls are proof that the President has finally lost liberals.

But are they? I thought I'd take a look. The first thing I noticed is that both polls he referenced are state polls that also serve the function of polling local elections. As such, the results they report about the drop in presidential approval rating come at the same time that polling firms tend to switch from polling "registered voters" to "likely voters." Could this explain the results he's focusing on?

One way to check that is to take a look at Gallup's presidential approval polling. First, a disclaimer. A lot of people have pointed out problems with Gallup's polling and they make important critiques. But whenever a pollster consistently uses the same (however flawed) methodology while asking the same question, you can trust the trend lines, even if you don't trust the actual numbers.

With that said, President Obama's approval amongst liberal Democrats is currently at 85% and has hovered in the low 80's for over a year now. In other words, there has been NO drop as a result of his policies lately.

Overall, the President's approval rating has been remarkably steady except for surges upward at the time of his inauguration in 2009 and re-election in 2012. I'd propose that those are the only times during his tenure that the American people actually had an alternative to compare him to.

So whether its conservatives trying to twist the data to pretend like the country is turning against President Obama or liberals suggesting (once again) that he has lost "his base," they are both opinions in search of facts to back them up. Lets bust that meme, shall we?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Nancy confronts her naiveté

I've spent the morning reflecting on how naive I was 4-5 years ago. You see, back then when poutragers were busy railing about how President Obama dropped the public option from health care reform and his stimulus bill was too small and he had abandoned the effort to end DADT, I thought that the success of this President's pragmatic policies would lead them to take a second look at the assumptions they were making about him.

Now here we are years later and its clear that Obamacare is both reducing the number of people without health insurance while is slows the rise in costs. It turns out that the things President Obama fought for - like Medicaid expansion, the medical loss ratios and competition on the exchanges - have all been at least as important (if not more so) than the public option would have been.

Not only has Michael Grunwald educated us on the "hidden story of change" contained in the Recovery Act via his book The New New Deal, President Obama got a "second stimulus" in exchange for temporarily extending tax cuts for the wealthy. All told, he was successful in getting over $1 trillion to boost the economy.

On ending DADT...


Nuff said. 

My early expectations were never that these critics would agree with the President. I simply thought that these successes would entitle him to some respect that would be demonstrated by a willingness to give his ideas a second look before jumping into nefarious assumptions about him. Didn't happen.

I know...you're all going to lecture me about how its way past time to have given up on this hope. And it didn't just fall in one fail swoop recently. But when you see things like Michael Moore saying that President Obama's only legacy will be that he is the first African American president and Tavis Smiley says that on every measure blacks are worse off than when Obama was elected, I can't help but scratch my head and wonder what reality these folks are living in. Its certainly not the same one I inhabit.

Frankly, I see very little difference between those statements from Moore/Smiley and the tea partier's ongoing belief that Barack Obama is a Kenyan Muslim socialist. Neither one bears any resemblance to the facts. 

The recovering therapist in me wants to delve into trying to understand this phenomena. But I'm not sure that's a good use of my time. Suffice it to say that the human mind is an incredible and complex thing - with an amazing capacity to cling to distortion in order to avoid the dissonance of reality.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

How money corrodes our public discourse


The argument we're used to hearing is that the tremendous amount of money in politics these days corrodes our politicians. There is obviously a lot of truth to that.

But lately I've been seeing how it also corrodes our public discourse. That happens when an argument is made that people disagree with and the response is to assume that the person making it doesn't really believe what they're saying but has simply been influenced by money. It happens ALL THE TIME. I'd invite you to begin to notice how often.

While I've been aware of this for awhile, I was motivated to write about it when immigration activists actually pulled it on none other than Delores Huerta because she suggested that they avoid criticizing President Obama for delaying action on immigration until the end of this year.
On the whole, Obama’s Latino defenders all have a financial stake in his regime. They are all recipients of largesse either from the administration directly or through his party or allied private foundations. They belong to the corrupt patronage system and have gladly accepted their proverbial role as house peons who run to save the master’s burning house faster than the master himself. The most immoral observation about their behavior is the lack of transparency about their personal moneyed interests and positions as they implicitly defend massive deportations of historic dimension.
That literally makes me sick. I don't personally know Ms. Huerta. But I know of her legacy with the Latino community. And when/if you decide to go after her with garbage like that - you better have something more than rage to back it up!!!

The fact of the matter is, these activists and Ms. Huerta disagree about how to respond to President Obama's delay. But rather than discuss those differing arguments, these folks decided to simply trash her and claim she has personal moneyed interests that drive her opinion.

We see this happen all the time. The other place its popping up a lot lately is from the people who are mad at AG Eric Holder for not prosecuting Wall Street. Rather than researching reasons for his decisions, they simply claim that it was all about Wall Street money and patronage. All you need to know, these folks claim, is that he worked for big corporations at one time. There...that's proof. It reminds me of the kind of arguments the tea partiers make (i.e., he palled around with terrorists). As an alternative, they might actually address the reasons an expert in the field - Jed Lakoff - outlined. Of course that would take time and thought. You might also have to challenge some of your own assumptions about Holder. Its much easier to claim that he was simply bought off.

It could be that then-Mayor Cory Booker made his inept remarks about investment firms during the 2012 election cycle because he was bought off by them. Or it could be that he was very aware of the fact that thousands of working and middle class employees of his city depend on them for their pension and retirement funds.

It could be that Sen. Mary Landrieu has been bought off by the oil companies that operate in Louisiana. Or it could be that she is aware that thousands of her constituents depend on their work for those companies to put food on their table and a roof over their heads.

When we simply jump to the former argument in each of those cases, we fail to get to the issues that underly the latter. In other words, when we make one group of people (bankers, oil companies) the "enemy" that needs to be destroyed, we fail to see the interconnectedness that will lead to unintended consequences. And those most often fall on "the least of these" that we, as liberals, claim to care about.

The truth is that - whether we like it or not - money plays a powerful role in all of our lives and the decisions we make. I'll just take a moment here to recommend that you read one of the best books I've ever come across about that subject: The Soul of Money by  Lynne Twist. While we need to keep working to limit the influence of money in our politics, we shouldn't give it more power than it actually has. Because that robs us of the kind of conversations in which we need to engage.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The choice: fear or hope?

Imagine with me for a moment that the United States elects a new president seven years after 9/11 while we are engaged in 2 wars in the Middle East that the voters want to end. All this is happening while the mastermind of the worst terror attack on our country continues to plot against us.

Now, imagine that president ending those wars and approving a high-risk plan to take out the mastermind - and its successful.

Further, imagine that this president assembles a coalition of 40 countries to go after a new threat that arises from Middle Eastern terrorists.

And yet, 55% of the country disapproves of his handling of foreign policy while some actually buy into the idea that he's is a secret Muslim sympathizer (warning: wingnut link).

OK, so you don't have to imagine it at all. That's the true story of President Barack Obama.

What blows my mind is how - in an age when data and information are universally available in a way we've never known before - so many people buy into mythologies and propaganda that have zero grounding in facts. Why are they so quick to believe the lies and distortions?

This all goes WAY beyond a basic disagreement about policies. If that were all this was about we might be able to discuss how Presidents Bush and Obama agreed about how to end the Iraq War and that is one of the primary reasons Obama kept Gates on as his Secretary of Defense. But that kind of rational analysis is not possible in this environment, is it?

We see the same dynamic on the economy. Despite the fact that even Forbes Magazine says that Barack Obama is the best economic president of the modern era, 55% disapprove of his handling of the economy while some Republicans continue to insist he's a socialist out to destroy our country.

There are probably complex reasons for this dissonance. But I'd suggest that its mostly based on fear...fear of a changing world and a changing country that is currently being run by a black man (i.e., he's not really one of us).

And so, President Obama was right the other day when he said that we're at a crossroads between fear and hope. The challenges that face the globe will continue and the changing demographics of America will not be altered. Those are simply the facts we have to deal with. It is on each of us to decide whether we respond out of fear or join the President in saying...
For America, the choice is clear. We choose hope over fear. We see the future not as something out of our control, but as something we can shape for the better through concerted and collective effort. We reject fatalism or cynicism when it comes to human affairs; we choose to work for the world as it should be, as our children deserve it to be.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Eric Holder: A nation of cowards

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

Why there will be no American boots on the ground

In one of my favorite articles about Barack Obama before he became President, Ryan Lizza tells this story about his time as a community organizer in Chicago.
Not long after Obama arrived, he sat down for a cup of coffee in Hyde Park with a fellow organizer named Mike Kruglik. Obama's work focused on helping poor blacks on Chicago's South Side fight the city for things like job banks and asbestos removal...

On this particular evening, Kruglik was debriefing Obama about his work when a panhandler approached. Instead of ignoring the man, Obama confronted him. "Now, young man, is that really what you want be about?" Obama demanded. "I mean, come on, don't you want to be better than that? Let's get yourself together."

Kruglik remembers this episode as an example of why, in ten years of training organizers, Obama was the best student he ever had.
You might wonder what that story has to do with my title above. Lizza points out that Obama didn't ignore the panhandler. But an even more important point is that he didn't simply hand him some money. What Obama DID do was challenge the man to do better for himself. That's exactly the same thing he is saying to Iraq today.


President Obama made it clear that the United States would not join an offensive movement against ISIS unless and until Iraq had formed a government that would be inclusive of both Shia and Sunnis who need to work together in order for the country to stabilize. In other words, he didn't just jump in to rescue them,  he said: "come on, don't you want to be better than that? Let's get yourself together." 

Yesterday at the United Nations, the President made a similar point more broadly about sectarianism and extremism in the Middle East.
Ultimately, the task of rejecting sectarianism and extremism is a generational task – a task for the people of the Middle East themselves. No external power can bring about a transformation of hearts and minds.
When you see people assuming that President Obama is simply repeating what George Bush did in Iraq (like this absurd cover of The Economist) or when they suggest that he is not sending in ground groups due to political considerations, just remember that those folks are too lazy and/or ignorant to be able to grasp the strategy here. I suppose we could ask them the same question: "come on, don't you want to be better than that?" ;-)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Crossroads


In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly today, President Obama opened with this:
We come together at a crossroads between...

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

There are ancient prophecies that suggest that this is indeed an era of powerful potential.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Start Close In

As I was writing the previous post about crafting the steps necessary to reach our vision, I was thinking about this poem.


Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
question,
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something
simple.

To find
another’s voice,
follow
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
listening
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

~David Whyte

Never mistake a paragraph with the entire story

Have you ever known someone who had a great vision for the future but was completely clueless about how to get there? I sure have. They tend to make grand promises but very rarely follow through with actual progress. Real leadership requires not only vision, but the skills to develop strategies that form steps towards the goal.

In the beginning, an awful lot of people were inspired by Barack Obama's vision for America. Since then, too many have become discouraged that he hasn't gotten us there yet. I would suggest that they missed this part of his victory speech on election night 2008.
The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.
First of all, he was clear that it was never "Yes He Can," it was always "Yes We Can." But secondly, there was that part about "block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand." He was talking about the step-by-step strategies that would be necessary to enact our vision.

President Obama explained his own process of breaking goals down into strategies when he addressed the young people at his town hall meeting on the My Brother's Keeper initiative.
And the truth is I still set goals every day. Every morning, I’ve got a checklist of here are the things that I need to get done. And it starts off with big goals -- so let’s just take My Brother’s Keeper. My goals is to make sure that every young person in America, if they’re putting in the effort, they can succeed, and they’ve got ladders of opportunity to take them where they want to go regardless of what their talents or interests are. So that’s a big goal. That’s a 40,000-foot goal.

But if I just stay there, I’m not going to get it done, right? So then I’ve got to break it down into, well, what are the component parts of that? Well, number one, I’ve got to make sure the school system works well. So then I’m going to talk to my Secretary of Education and I’m going to say, what are our goals this year in terms of improving whether it’s early childhood education, or making sure that young people can read at grade level by the time they’re in 3rd grade, or what have you.

But then it’s also there’s a criminal justice component to it, because I’m trying to figure out how do we get more young men into college and fewer of them into jail, which means that I’ve then got to talk to the Attorney General, Eric Holder, and I’ve got to say, what are our goals for trying to revamp how we think about the interaction between law enforcement and young men of color.

So I’ll break it down into those parts. But that’s still not at the best level, because now I’ve got to say, what’s our specific plan to do it and what am I going to be doing this week, what am I going to be doing this month, and what am I going to be doing this year to get that done. And so you keep on breaking it down from the very general down to the specific. And ideally, what I’m producing then is every day when I wake up I’ve got a checklist of here are the specific things I’m going to do today to achieve my goal.
I would suggest that much of the disappointment we're seeing today comes from those who have failed to make the connection between what is on President Obama's "to-do list" today with that grand vision. You've probably heard the old adage about the difficulty of turning the poetry of campaigning into the prose of governing. That's exactly the challenge I'm talking about. A single step viewed in isolation often bears very little resemblance to the vision at the end of the journey - but that's where it has to start.

Because President Obama's vision is about building rather than destroying, it is a slower and more deliberative process. He is also secure enough in himself to be able to incorporate a vision that will last beyond his own tenure in the White House.
“I think we are born into this world and inherit all the grudges and rivalries and hatreds and sins of the past,” he said. “But we also inherit the beauty and the joy and goodness of our forebears. And we’re on this planet a pretty short time, so that we cannot remake the world entirely during this little stretch that we have.” The long view again. “But I think our decisions matter,” he went on. “And I think America was very lucky that Abraham Lincoln was President when he was President. If he hadn’t been, the course of history would be very different. But I also think that, despite being the greatest President, in my mind, in our history, it took another hundred and fifty years before African-Americans had anything approaching formal equality, much less real equality. I think that doesn’t diminish Lincoln’s achievements, but it acknowledges that at the end of the day we’re part of a long-running story. We just try to get our paragraph right.”
We should never mistake a paragraph with the entire story.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Photo of the Day: Solidarity

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


This one is not the media's fault


Folks that read here regularly know that I'm not hesitant to criticize our media. But I won't be joining the chorus complaining about how they didn't cover the Climate March that took place in New York (and other cities) yesterday. The reason they didn't cover it is because it wasn't really "news." Sure, it looks like 300,000 people showed up. But then what? 

The mantra of a lot of activists is that "we need to take it to the streets." In our era, most often that is assumed to mean a march like the one that happened yesterday. As a pragmatist, I am inclined to ask some simple questions about how that works. I start with: what are the goals of the march? If it is to bring together like-minded people to energize them for a cause - then a march that attracts 300,000 is a success. But if the goal is to reach the skeptics and opponents of your cause, its a waste of time. And frankly, if the goal is to challenge the power structures that fights change, this is a MUCH more effective action.
...on Monday, a collection of institutional investors that manage $50 billion among themselves will announce that they will divest entirely from fossil fuels. Prominent among the group is the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, whose assets were accumulated by the Rockefeller family’s many decades of producing petroleum, first under the Standard Oil brand and later under Exxon. “John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, moved America out of whale oil and into petroleum,” explained Stephen Heintz, President of the Fund. “We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy.”

“One announcement alone isn’t going to tip the balance, but when one announcement is followed by another and then another, that gets CEOs to pay attention,” Tom Steyer, the billionaire climate activist who has funded numerous electoral campaigns on behalf of climate action, told The Nation. “CEOs pay a lot of attention to their shareholders, just like everyone pays attention to what their boss thinks. So actions like this send a powerful message.”
I remember thinking the same thing during Occupy Wall Street. Activists got SOOO angry when Wall Street executives watched them from a balcony while they drank their champagne. But that should have been a message...the occupiers were posing ZERO threat to the financiers. Meanwhile, one young woman organized a movement to get people to take their money out of big banks and put it in smaller ones and/or credit unions. THAT'S where the seeds of change were really happening.

In the end, even if the media is to blame for not covering the march yesterday, I fail to see the point of simply complaining about that. Its time to accept the fact that the media doesn't cover marches and - if the goal is to get their attention - be creative in coming up with actions that will.

Frankly, for years now I've been totally bored with the left's apparent love affair with the tactic of marches. I finally realized why that was when I read Al Giordano reporting on the consultations the resistance movement in Honduras received from members of Otpor! in Serbia. Giordano relates their answer to the question "How do you give your opponent a headache." Right away you know this is going to be good - because they're asking a fascinating question. Marches - even ones attended by 300,000 people - give no one a headache. Instead, Otpor! talked about creating a dilemma for the authorities.
During our struggle, every morning when we would get together we would ask ourselves the same question: how can we give the regime a headache today?

What matters now is who is going to make the next move.

If the regime makes the next move, you have to react.

If you make the first move, then they have to react.

The whole game is to calculate the next steps, to put the adversary in a position where he can’t react well...

What we wanted to have is something that is going to provoke a response and make the regime look stupid. This is what we called a “Dilemma Action.”
I'll let you click on the link if you want to read further about the dilemma action Otpor! came up with to challenge the authorities. Suffice it to say that it included a barrel and a picture of Milosevic.

If your goal is to attract more people to your cause rather than give the authorities a headache, Giordano came up with a great suggestion...flashmobs. Emma Goodman was right: "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution."


Giordano:
Add a coherent political message, banners, leaflets, a dance tune that resonates with the message, and such to a dancing musical flash mob like these and you have the seeds of a new, more effective, kind of protest than the tired old marching around in circles of the last century that has ceased to win any cause for anyone.
The truth is that the possibilities are endless. All it takes is a little creativity.

But if people on the left want to keep doing the same thing over and over again, then complain when the media doesn't find it interesting anymore,  I just have one question for you...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Women's Tales

I'm going to do something a little different since it's the weekend...give you some entertainment recommendations. But first a little background.

As I embarked on my 30's during the mid-1980's, my reading habits underwent a pretty dramatic change. I found that I could not read any more books by or about men. It was as if I'd spent my life up until that time starving for real stories about real women and had to do everything I could to feed that hunger. And so for the next few years, I indulged myself.

I'm currently undergoing something similar when it comes to television and movies. A few months ago I gave up subscribing to television and am now dependent on Netflix for home entertainment. So as the guys revel in their super heroes and the kids all seem to be into vampire tales, here's what I've been watching:


At the top of my list would be the BBC series Prime Suspect staring the amazing Helen Mirren. The cops in this series tackle some difficult social issues - which makes it worth watching. But Mirren's character is strong, smart, and perhaps even more importantly - a flawed human. 


Speaking of flawed human beings - along comes Glenn Close in the series Damages. This one is so well-written and acted, you wind up rooting for Close's character - even though she is cast as "the evil one."


Set in post-WWII England, the BBC series Bletchley Circle finds four women who secretly worked as code-breakers during the war setting out to use their skills to track down a serial killer. 



The Honorable Woman is the story of a Jewish heiress whose father made his fortune as an Israeli arms dealer. She decides to use her inheritance to build opportunities that benefit both Israelis and Palestinians. If you've ever questioned why the tensions between these two countries are so intractable, this story will give you a pretty good understanding of the complexities involved.


I'm not normally into sci-fi, but I love the CBC series Continuum partly because the main character played by Rachel Nichols is a bad-ass cop from 2077 with very human emotions and limitations. But its also fascinating because the time travel back to 2012 provides all kinds of interesting morality questions about the choices we're making today.


At first, the storyline of Last Tango in Halifax is just sweet. Its about two 80 year-olds who were sweethearts as children and find each other again after their grandchildren get them signed up on Facebook. But the acting and plot gets much deeper as it also tells the story of their two adult daughters.


Sarah Lancashire (who is becoming one of my favorite actresses) plays a cop in the BBC series Happy Valley. She's also a 50-something divorcee who is raising her grandson after her daughter committed suicide. 


The Assets tells the story of Soviet spy Aldrich Ames from the point of view of the two female CIA officers who were primarily responsible for tracking down the mole in their midst. 


Another BBC series - Hit and Miss - sounds really bizarre. It's about a transgender woman who works as an assassin and finds out that she has a son from a previous relationship whose mother recently died. But even with all that, it's both entertaining and provocative.


Finally, there's Grace and Frankie - the only comedy on the list. Sure, it's worth watching just to see Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston play a gay couple. But the real story is about the growing friendship between two 70 year-old women who are total opposites. Priceless.

That's some of the best in women's tales that I've been watching. I'm always looking for more, so what are your recommendations?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The journey to integrity

If you haven't already read Charles Blow's excerpt from his book Fire Shut Up in My Bones in the New York Times today, please do so immediately.

The particulars of Blow's life are unique. But the journey he describes is universal.
My world had told me that there was nothing worse than not being all of one way, that any other way was the same as being dead, but my world had lied. I was very much alive. There was no hierarchy of humanity. There was no one way to be, or even two, but many. And no one could strip me of my value and dignity, because no one had bestowed them. These things came into the world with me.

I had done what the world had signaled I must: hidden the thorn in my flesh, held “the demon” at bay, kept the covenant, borne the weight of my crooked cross. But concealment makes the soul a swamp. Confession is how you drain it.

Daring to step into oneself is the bravest, strangest, most natural, most terrifying thing a person can do, because when you cease to wrap yourself in artifice you are naked, and when you are naked you are vulnerable.

But vulnerability is the leading edge of truth. Being willing to sacrifice a false life is the only way to live a true one.
I was immediately reminded of a poem by David Whyte titled: Revelation Must Be Terrible.

It is the people who have had the courage to take that journey that I respect and trust. Because it is the only path to integrity.

Friday, September 19, 2014

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

You have to know its a good day when a tweet from Glenn Greenwald sends you to one of the best things you've read on the internet in weeks.
Of course, that was enough to send me on my way to check it out! The title of the article turned out to be: "Smarter than the President? Not me. I'm too smart not to know how dumb I am." Given the source of the referral, at first I assumed that the writer was engaging in one massive snark to be revealed at any moment. But I was wrong. So I had to start over and read the whole thing again...straight this time.
I’ve said it before, it was a lot easier to be smarter than the President when the President was George W. Bush.

A major change in the tone, tenor, direction, and focus of this blog occurred sometime in the late summer of 2011 when it dawned on me that this President is smarter than me.

Way smarter.
Lance Mannion - the author - goes on from there to describe how he realized that he had been blogging "off the top of his head" prior to this awareness and knew that if he was going to continue, he had to study a little harder to keep up with this President. And then he actually types this:
Which brings me back to the President and on to ISIS.

I have no idea.
OMG - did he really just say that? On the internet?

In looking for answers, Mannion isn't finding much assistance on the lefty blogosphere.
There are others, though, who’ve based their case on the bumper sticker-profound idea that War is Never the Answer and plenty of others whose arguments are based on a vague and circular logic: “This reminds me of what George Bush did in some way I can’t put my finger on but it must be wrong because of that or else I wouldn’t be reminded of George Bush.”
He ends with some questions - which I'm sure must be illegal or something because NO ONE EVER DOES THAT in a political discussion on the internet!!!

And so I am now following Lance Mannion on twitter and I've linked his blog on my list over there ===>>>. He claims expertise on Shakespeare, Discworld and superhero movies. I'm sure to ignore what he writes on those topics because - to be totally honest - I don't care about them. But anyone who admits on the internet that they have "no idea" what to do about something as complicated as ISIS in the Middle East gets my support.

:-)

What's not in the news

I'm going to have to give Republicans some props. In the lead-up to these midterm elections, they've had to show an amazing amount of flexibility.

For instance, remember when the main issue in the election was going to be Obama scandal-mania? They were placing their bets on Benghazi, the IRS, the VA and - for some poor souls - even Fast and Furious. And now here we are a few weeks away from the election and Trey Gowdy can't get anyone to pay attention to his hearings (if you don't know who Trey Gowdy is - you just made my point).

Next up was a shift to Obamacare. Following the troubles with the initial online rollout, Republicans were sure this was going to be the ultimate weapon to use against Democrats. That was until the web site was fixed, enrollment surged beyond predictions, the rate of uninsured dropped, and health insurance premiums didn't skyrocket. Oops, time to change the subject again.

Anyone remember the short-lived focus on "President Obama as tyrant" and Boehner's stupid law suit? Nah, that one didn't last long.

This summer's surge in unaccompanied children arriving on our border from Central America was sure to get the nativist's blood boiling and keep it that way through the election. But then President Obama asked for help from Congress in addressing the situation and they bailed. Now the surge is over and its back to business as usual.

So now what? NBC noticed that the NRCC - in a move that invokes the "spirit" of 2002-2004 - is now going for the "Democrats aren't tough enough on terrorists" line. In other words, when fear-mongering about everything else fails, ramping up the idea that the terrorists are at our doorstep is always a great fall-back position.

Given the speed with which Republicans have cycled in and then out of these various issues as "THE ONE" on which the midterm election will hinge, I expect at least one or two more in the coming weeks.

The point is that the GOP is addicted to the hysteria of the moment. As our President tackles one challenge after another, they keep thinking THIS will be the one that does him in. But minus all the drama, he just keeps thoughtfully and systematically taking them on and finding the best resolution possible - usually with zero assistance from Congress.

It would be nice if we had a media that noticed this trend. But the hysteria approach is more lucrative when it comes to link-bait. So it will be up to folks like us to remind the American people that we got exactly what we wanted when we elected President Obama - a no-drama pragmatist that plays the long game.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Don't ever touch me (again)

I invite you to take a few minutes to listen to this amazingly powerful song by Dionne Farris.

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


Perhaps its because she knows a thing or two about organizing vs activism:
“We have to look at the big picture and don’t get caught up in saying we want it now,” she said, referring to action on immigration. “We’ve been waiting—we are a community that can wait. And we have to have faith in our president, because the Republicans have shown their hand. We know what they want to do.”
UPDATE: When Ms. Huerta says that "we have to have faith in our president," this is the one she's talking about:

The roots of violence

I've had to take a bit of a break from the internet lately as the rage explodes about the issues of domestic violence and child abuse following the cases involving NFL players. Its not that these issues trigger personal experiences for me. Having spent my professional life dealing with both child and adult victims of violence, I can't engage in a rage-fest where both sides simply scream at each other in an attempt to ensure that their views dominate the discussion. Ultimately, it accomplishes very little - if anything at all.

But today I'd like to put a couple of thoughts out there for all of us to ponder. They were sparked by these words from Michael Eric Dyson.
The point of discipline is to transmit values to children. The purpose of punishment is to coerce compliance and secure control, and failing that, to inflict pain as a form of revenge...
Regular readers here know that I talk a lot about the difference between partnership as a form of leadership as opposed to dominance. Much of that comes from the work of Riane Eisler who has talked about those two forms of relationships more generally. Here is how she summarized it in her book The Chalice and the Blade:
The root of the problem lies in a social system in which the power of the blade is idealized - in which both men and women are taught to equate true masculinity with violence and dominance and to see men who do not conform to this ideal as too soft or effeminate.
She outlines how children learn about violence and dominance early on.
When children experience violence, or observe violence against their mothers, they learn it's acceptable- even moral-to use force to impose one's will on others. Indeed, the only way they can make sense of violence coming from those who are supposed to love them is that it must be moral.

Terrorism and chronic warfare are responses to life in societies in which the only perceived choices are dominating or being dominated. These violent responses are characteristic of cultures where this view of relations is learned early on through traditions of coercion, abuse, and violence in parentchild and gender relations.
Domestic violence and child abuse are the direct result of a culture where dominance (and the fear it engenders) is idealized over partnership.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Working on that "genius" thing

I see that they've recently awarded the 2014 Genius Grants. Obviously, I didn't get one.

But don't worry, I haven't given up. I'm just going to keep working on it ;-)

Is the glass half full or half empty?


Two recent headlines about the exact same information are a perfect illustration of why President Obama keeps reminding us that cynicism is a choice.



Both stories (the first at WaPo's Wonkblog and the second at Think Progress) are about this recently released report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. But they can't both be accurate, can they? 

Here's what you need to know:
  1. The information in the BJS report includes data on both state and federal prisons. 
  2. The second article focuses on the raw number of inmates - which has gone up slightly for states and down for the federal system. 
  3. As the population of the U.S. grows, a better gauge over time is the rate of inmates per U.S. resident. That number has fallen - as reported in the first article.
If we look at the rate of inmates/100,000 residents, here is what has happened over the last five years.

2008 - 506
2009 - 504
2010 - 500
2011 - 492
2012 - 480
2013 - 478

Those numbers might not look dramatic. But they represent a huge change in the trajectory we've seen over the last 40 years.
As Keith Humphreys (who wrote the first article) says:
The U.S. established mass incarceration over decades, and it will not be unmade overnight. Moving in the right direction for five straight years is splendid, but I believe we could pick up the pace while still protecting the public. My hope is that the many sentencing reforms passed in states in the past couple years have not yet had time to make as much impact as they will in the future; President Obama and AG Holder’s recent efforts at the federal level could well be in the same boat. Like the Dalai Lama, I choose to be optimistic because I cannot think of a better alternative.
So its interesting to wonder why Think Progress - normally an excellent source of news - would chose to ignore the positive trends.  Humphreys, who has been writing about them, recently answered that question. Apparently he got some push-back from prison reform activists for reporting that the glass might actually be half full.
But a small group of people are upset that I have engaged in what might be called “airing clean laundry”. Their argument is that by letting the public know that incarceration rates are going down, I am effectively declaring that mass incarceration is over (even though I have repeatedly said just the opposite) and implicitly encouraging everyone to move on to some other social problem.

The consequentialist argument against sharing good news regarding a longstanding social problem is that it invariably undermines further reform by reducing the public’s sense of urgency. I am not convinced that this hypothesis is correct. Ignoring evidence of positive change can increase despair and thereby reduce the willingness of advocates to keep trying. In contrast, showing evidence of success builds hope and confidence. Further, highlighting the achievements of reformers brings them attention and respect, which can help sustain them in their difficult work.
This is EXACTLY the issue President Obama is addressing when he says that cynicism is a choice - and that hope is a better choice.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

There's a method to Jindal's madness

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

Here's how it works: Republicans are - in fact - science deniers. That is a demonstrably true statement. But now we have Jindal making an argument that sets up the possibility of an equivalency with the Obama administration. What they want the casual observer to hear is: "Democrats accuse Republicans of being science deniers and Republicans accuse Democrats of being science deniers. We report. You decide." There is no truth, there are only politicized arguments.
The point of this new propaganda is not to persuade anyone, but to keep the viewer hooked and distracted...to leave them confused, paranoid, and passive—living in a Kremlin-controlled virtual reality that can no longer be mediated or debated by any appeal to ‘truth.’
Karl Rove, with his addiction to projection, is the one who originally mastered this type of propaganda. Steve Benen captured this very well a few years ago (you can find links to all these examples there).
Rove has spent his professional life engaged in political sleaze, so he's accused Obama of adding "arsenic to the nation's political well." Rove ran a White House that embraced a "permanent campaign," so he's accused the Obama team of embracing a "permanent campaign." Rove embraced the politics of fear, so he's accused Obama of embracing the politics of fear. Rove relied on "pre-packaged, organized, controlled, scripted " political events, so he's accused Obama of relying on "pre-packaged, organized, controlled, scripted" political events. Rove looked at every policy issue "from a political perspective," so he's accused Obama of looking at every policy issue "from a political perspective." Rove snubbed news outlets that he considered partisan, so he's accused Obama of snubbing news outlets that he considered partisan. Rove had a habit of burying bad news by releasing it late on Friday afternoons, so he's accused Obama of burying bad news by releasing it late on Friday afternoons. Rove questioned the motives of those with whom he disagreed, so he's accused Obama of questioning the motives of those with whom he disagrees.
And so it should come as no surprise to anyone that Karl Rove is currently spending his money on ads suggesting that Democrats are cutting spending on entitlements.

This is the kind of propaganda environment that Fox News and right wing radio set out to create. Getting the rest of the media to go along with it by threatening to label them as "liberal" if they didn't adhere to the "Republicans say this _____, and Democrats say this ______" framework made their efforts successful.

It is true that in many areas the things we disagree about are simply opinions. But that's not always the case. Sometimes there are things that we know to be true and/or have learned to accept because of what President Obama calls "hard-earned wisdom." Believing otherwise is simply to swallow the propaganda.

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

When President Obama first came into office in 2009, many people (including the President) talked about the fact that the United States was involved in two wars: Iraq and Afghanistan. I have always tried to point out that this was a mistake. There was actually a third war underway - the one Bush called "the global war on terror" that President Obama re-focused as the "war on al Qaeda." This is the one that people either didn't want to acknowledge or has been discussed as if it was all about civil liberties (i.e., targeted drone strikes) instead of war.

Because so few people have talked about this war on al Qaeda, the strategy announced by President Obama to degrade and destroy ISIS is too often discussed as if it was a re-engagement of the war in Iraq. The President has been clear that it is not.
I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.
This explains why, within the Obama administration, there has been some confusing rhetoric over whether this is a "counterterrorism campaign" or a "war." Back in May 2013, President Obama suggested that it was time to get ourselves off a "war footing" when it came to dealing with terrorism.  He even suggested that Congress should revisit the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force that provides the president with the authority to wage war on al Qaeda. He said that it was time to end the indefinite war and develop  an ongoing counterterrorism strategy.

I am struck by how closely his remarks last week resemble what he said last year. For example, here's what he said about the nature of the threat back then:
So that’s the current threat -- lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates; threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad; homegrown extremists. This is the future of terrorism. We have to take these threats seriously, and do all that we can to confront them. But as we shape our response, we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11.
And here's what he said last week:
Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat. We can’t erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. And that’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge. 
His references to "before 9/11" are an attempt to get us out of a fear-based mode with regard to an examination of the current threats. Meanwhile, folks like Sen. Lindsay Graham are doing everything they can to stoke irrational fears to keep the indefinite war going.

The Obama administration has always been clear that they have the authority to wage a "war on al Qaeda" (and its affiliates) based on the 2001 AUMF. Cass Sunstein made the argument that this is the authority President Obama has to wage war on ISIS, for those who missed the fact that the President identified them as a "formerly al Qaeda affiliate" in his statement last week.

But here's what bothers me about all of that. Until Congress grapples with developing an ongoing counterterrorism strategy that respects the separation of powers (the way President Obama asked them to do back in May 2013), any president going forward will have the authority to wage this as an indefinite war.

This is exactly why I've been so frustrated with the way the left has mischaracterized the current situation (focusing on questions about civil liberties instead of war) and avoided taking a position on these difficult questions. And now pundits and journalists are all over the map in misunderstanding the core questions involved.

I suspect that President Obama is no more optimistic than I am that Congress will take up these questions in a meaningful way. Meanwhile, it rests on his shoulders to develop a strategy to deal with ISIS. But I am seriously concerned about the baton he'll be passing on to his successors.
So America is at a crossroads. We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us. We have to be mindful of James Madison’s warning that “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

President Barack Obama, May 2013

Monday, September 15, 2014

"This is something that even ISIS cannot stop"

The article below about how President Obama plants the seeds of hope was inspired by an article I read yesterday titled: Arab World's Relentless Crises Boost Citizen Journalism & Freedom of Expression as TV Ratings & Film Box Office Rise (hat tip to @AlanMandel).
“The only revolution that has really succeeded since the start of the Arab Spring is that of freedom of expression,” says Syrian producer Orwa Nyrabia. “This new generation is so motivated to engage creatively through writing, film, music, cartoons. This is something that even ISIS cannot stop.”...

Nyrabia, who was imprisoned by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces following the start of the Syrian revolution, has been at the forefront of the rise in citizen filmmaking and journalism by those who refuse to be beaten into silence by the extremists. He co-produced Return To Homs, which won the Sundance World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for documentary earlier this year, as well as Silvered Water, Syria Self Portrait.

Both films exemplify the huge number of documentaries and short form content now being produced from areas virtually inaccessible to many mainstream journalists.

Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait, for example, was co-directed by exiled Syrian filmmaker Oussama Mohammed and young Kurdish activist Wiam Simav Bedirxan. The film was crafted from thousands of hours of footage secretly filmed by Bedirxan while under siege in Homs, and edited by Mohammed in Paris. The finished film received its world premiere in Cannes and its North American premiere at Toronto.

All of this is enough to remind you of Orson Welles’ quip in The Third Man about terror, warfare, murder and bloodshed in Italy under the Borgias giving us the Renaissance — while 500 years of democracy and peace in Switzerland gave us the cuckoo clock.
Here is a clip from the documentary Return to Homs:


I guess it should come as no surprise to all of us that our "cuckoo clock" media can only tell us about the horrors of ISIS and have missed the much more interesting story that's been captured here by Ali Jaafar - who covers the region's TV and film industries - and the artists/journalists he introduces us to.

If we were to learn more of this story, we might realize that its not all about us...its mostly about them.

President Obama plants the seeds of hope

Here is one of my favorite quotes of all time from Rubem Alves.
What is hope? It is the presentiment that imagination is more real and reality less real than it looks. It is the suspicion that the overwhelming brutality of fact that oppresses us and represses us is not the last word. It is the hunch that reality is more complex than the realists want us to believe, that the frontiers of the possible are not determined by the limits of the actual, and that, in a miraculous and unexpected way, life is preparing the creative events which will open the way to freedom and to resurrection.

But, hope must live with suffering. Suffering, without hope, produces resentment and despair. And hope, without suffering, creates illusions, naiveté, and drunkenness. So, let us plant dates, even though we who plant them will never eat them. We must live by the love of what we will never see.
I am reminded of that quote when I realize that wherever President Obama goes around the globe, he always makes sure to address young people. It is clear that in them, he sees the seeds of hope that will outlast his time on the international stage. Here are just a few examples of what he's had to say.

Cairo, Egypt 2009
The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world that we seek -- a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God's children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.

I know there are many -- Muslim and non-Muslim -- who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort -- that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There's so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country -- you, more than anyone, have the ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 2011
But for our two nations, for the United States and Brazil, two nations who have struggled over many generations to perfect our own democracies, the United States and Brazil know that the future of the Arab World will be determined by its people.

No one can say for certain how this change will end, but I do know that change is not something that we should fear. When young people insist that the currents of history are on the move, the burdens of the past can be washed away. When men and women peacefully claim their human rights, our own common humanity is enhanced. Wherever the light of freedom is lit, the world becomes a brighter place.

That is the example of Brazil.
University of Cape Town, South Africa 2013
Madiba’s words give us a compass in a sea of change, firm ground amidst swirling currents. We always have the opportunity to choose our better history. We can always understand that most important decision -- the decision we make when we find our common humanity in one another. That’s always available to us, that choice.

And I've seen that spirit in the welcoming smiles of children on Gorée Island, and the children of Mombasa on Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast. That spirit exists in the mother in the Sahel who wants a life of dignity for her daughters; and in the South African student who braves danger and distance just to get to school. It can be heard in the songs that rise from villages and city streets, and it can be heard in the confident voices of young people like you.

It is that spirit, that innate longing for justice and equality, for freedom and solidarity -- that’s the spirit that can light the way forward.
Jerusalem 2013
We bear all that history on our shoulders. We carry all that history in our hearts. Today, as we face the twilight of Israel’s founding generation, you -- the young people of Israel - must now claim its future. It falls to you to write the next chapter in the great story of this great nation.

And as the President of a country that you can count on as your greatest friend - I am confident that you can help us find the promise in the days that lie ahead. And as a man who’s been inspired in my own life by that timeless calling within the Jewish experience -- tikkun loam - I am hopeful that we can draw upon what’s best in ourselves to meet the challenges that will come; to win the battles for peace in the wake of so much war; and to do the work of repairing this world.
Brussels, Belgium 2014
And it is you, the young people of Europe, young people like Laura, who will help decide which way the currents of our history will flow. Do not think for a moment that your own freedom, your own prosperity, that your own moral imagination is bound by the limits of your community, your ethnicity, or even your country. You’re bigger than that. You can help us to choose a better history. That’s what Europe tells us. That’s what the American experience is all about.
President Obama has given that same message numerous times to young people during commencement addresses here in the United States. But he has never articulated it more powerfully than he did at his campaign headquarters the day after his re-election in 2012.

Over the last four years when people ask me "how do you put up with this or that - with the frustrations of Washington" - I just think about you. I think about what you guys are gonna do. And that's the source of my hope. That's the source of my strength and my inspiration.
People who seek positions of leadership simply to fill their own ego needs can only see the results in the "now" of their accomplishments and failures. Real leaders know that it also includes planting the seeds of hope...for the future.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Obama Hugs!!!

According to my twitter timeline, this week Rachel Maddow made a most outrageous statement that CANNOT go unchallenged!

Now...I'll grant you that Michelle Obama might hold the title of "Hugger-in-Chief." But our POTUS is no slouch in that department either. Hence, I come with photographic evidence.

But before we begin, please note that quantity is not the only measure of a world class hugger. Quality matters as well.


With that in mind, let us begin.






















And last, but surely not least, we have the hug heard round the world.


So with that Rachel, I'll await your apology :-)