Saturday, November 29, 2014

Something deep persists

Obviously the Civil Rights Movement brought about some important changes. But something deep persists.

Then...


And now...


Unless we change it for the future...



The story that makes last year's roll-out of healthcare.gov look like a model of success

Here's the story from New Jersey:
Gov. Chris Christie's administration has pulled the plug on a seven-year-old $118.3 million contract for what had been billed as a “comprehensive and cutting-edge” computer system to make Medicaid, food stamps and other social welfare programs easier to manage, including some that have been hobbled by backlogs, NJ Advance Media has learned.

The state Department of Human Services’ contract with Hewlett Packard to produce the Consolidated Assistance Support System, better known as CASS, “has been terminated, and an analysis is in progress to determine next steps,” department spokeswoman Nicole Brossoie confirmed.
It reminded me that something similar happened in Indiana several years ago.
Indiana has ended its troubled $1.3 billion deal with IBM to provide welfare services to the state's neediest families.

For months, 13 Investigates has shown you how the largest contract in state history has failed to deliver...

Daniels said IBM was fired for failing to live up to its $1.3 billion deal with the state despite months of warnings to fix the broken system.
But the truth is, its happening all over the country.
In recent years, computer errors have disrupted a wide range of government-run programs across the country, including Medicaid, unemployment benefits and child support payments...

Such errors happen for many reasons, experts say. States are short-staffed and lack technology experts. They rush out new computer systems before the systems are ready. They fail to oversee IT contractors.

The glitches often take months or even years to fix because technology for poor people is not considered a high priority, according to David Super, a Georgetown University law professor who studies government technology projects.

After hiring dozens of engineers and programmers from tech industry giants like Google and Oracle, the federal government largely fixed problems with the health-care website in about two months. But many states have taken much longer to fix computer errors with welfare programs. Colorado’s troubled system for food stamps and Medicaid has been plagued by glitches and delays for the past decade.
The names of companies associated with these failures read like a "who's-who" of corporate giants...Hewlett Packard, IBM, Xerox. But rather than fix the systems, the story seems to be that problems persist, contracts are eventually cancelled, and then the back-and-forth law suits begin to fly. Meanwhile, those depending on these programs suffer.

There are a lot of lessons we need to learn from all this. I doubt that we'll be able to avoid the reality that government will continue to partner with businesses when it comes to the use of technology. But the conservative mantra that private corporations are more effective than government in managing these kinds of programs is exposed as a lie.

Finally, when everyone's hair was on fire over the problems with the roll-out of healthcare.gov, it might have been nice for the media to provide some context for the challenges the tech field has faced in producing systems that actually work. In the end, it looks like Obamacare is a model of success.

Friday, November 28, 2014

"Until Justice Rolls Down Like Waters"

Once again we find ourselves reckoning with the reality that we live in a country where justice is applied unequally. But the truth is - unequal justice is no justice as all. To keep our "eyes on the prize," it might be helpful to step back and envision just what it is we mean by the word "justice."

Back in 1963, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at the memorial service for the four little girls who had died in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Imagine with me for a moment if he had said these words about the killing of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, or Tamir Rice.
And so this afternoon in a real sense they have something to say to each of us in their death. They have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows. They have something to say to every politician who has fed his constituents with the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism. They have something to say to a federal government that has compromised with the undemocratic practices of southern Dixiecrats and the blatant hypocrisy of right-wing northern Republicans. They have something to say to every Negro who has passively accepted the evil system of segregation and who has stood on the sidelines in a mighty struggle for justice. They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream.
When Dr. King quoted the scripture that says "Until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream," he was referring to something much bigger than what one police officer or one prosecutor does. And it was something much more audacious than what happens in a court room.

Now don't get me wrong. Dr. King said we should not "merely" be concerned about the murderers. Holding people accountable for their crimes is certainly a part of justice. But the truth is...he had a finger to point at all of us for our complicity.

Too many of us in this country have bought into the idea that jail = justice. If we just send the perpetrators to prison, we can wipe our hands clean and assume that justice has been done. That's one of the reasons this country has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Yes, I know that its also because of the failed "war on drugs." But that war was based on the idea that we can effectively deal with a problem by locking people up. So it is our addiction to prison as the solution that is at the root of the problem.

The idea that jail = justice is not something that is simply embraced by conservatives. It finds a home with liberals when we step away from what happens to the poor and start thinking about the crimes of the wealthy. For example, Bailey Miller writes: Can We Please Put Some Bankers in Jail Now? In it, Miller doesn't grapple with what justice would mean for the activities that led to the Great Recession. The assumption seems to be that - until the bankers are put in jail - justice has not been served.

But Miller does point out that for then-Deputy U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (and eventually the Bush administration), the idea of justice went beyond sending the specific perpetrators to jail.
One clue might be the contents of a memo written by Holder in 1999, during his stint as deputy U.S. attorney general. The document, “Bringing Criminal Charges Against Corporations,” urged prosecutors to take into account “collateral consequences” when pursuing cases against companies, lest they topple and take the economy down with them. Holder also raised the possibility of deferring prosecution against corporations in an effort to spur greater cooperation and reforms...
I would suggest that Holder's concept of justice is more in line with the one articulated by Dr. King. First of all, it took into consideration what justice would mean for all of the innocent people who would be impacted by the prosecution of a corporation. But secondly, more than sending perpetrators to jail, he had his eyes on reforming "the system, the way of life, the philosophy that produced" the crimes.

I'll leave it to another day to discuss the role prisons should play in our search for justice. Suffice it to say, I agree with Al Giordano.
Prison should always be a last resort, and only for someone who will put others at risk with predatory behavior. It doesn't work as a deterrent. As a punishment, it is barbaric. My concept of a just and better world has almost nobody in prison, not even people I hate or who have done bad things. The whole thing has to be rethought...
A re-thinking of what justice means would require us to consider the affirmative rather than simply the reactionary. One place to start might be with the words of Bryan Stevenson: "The opposite of poverty is not wealth. Its justice." When I think about what that means, it gets the brain synapses going in a whole different direction than jail = justice. And I can begin to imagine what it would mean for justice to roll down like waters.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I'm grateful for the sun!


Today is one of those days that we pay a price for living in "the tundra." Its 3 degrees outside with hardly a cloud in the sky. My thermostat is set at 66, but its 71 degrees inside because all my windows face south. 

For the last few months I've been chronicling the journey of the sun to the south through this window. Here's what it looked like in August.


September


In October, I had to change the angle to get it all. 


Only 24 days till the sun begins its journey back to the north. But who's counting? LOL

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Someone we should all be listening to: Bryan Stevenson

Today I was in my car running some pre-Thanksgiving errands and listening to Minnesota Public Radio between stops. I was absolutely blown away by a speech they were airing and kept wondering "who IS this guy?" It wasn't until the end that I heard it was Bryan Stevenson, founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative. Once I got home, I located the speech on MPR and listened to the whole thing uninterrupted.

I know you are all going to be busy with family and loved ones over the next few days. But if you have an hour to spare, I can't imagine a better way to spend it that listening to this one. Here's a link where you can do that.

Bryan tackles all the difficult issues we face in this country around race and the law enforcement/criminal justice system. But he doesn't just bring facts and he doesn't simply fuel our rage. He inspires with his heart and his own stories. In a most meaningful way, he tells us what we can all do to make a difference. Prepare yourself...these are no easy, quick-fix answers (there's a reason we call it "the struggle"). But I promise that you will not regret a single minute you spend listening to what he has to say.

I first became aware of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) years ago when I was appalled by the fact that we live in the only country in the world that sentences children/youth to die in prison.  EJI has been on the forefront of raising awareness about this and fighting it in our courts. These are the kinds of things to which Bryan has dedicated his life and work. Perhaps that's why he doesn't spend as much of his time pontificating in front of a camera. He's been in the trenches and brings that kind of perspective to us.

I suspect there are people like Bryan Stevenson working in the trenches all over this country. That's what brings me hope.

News from the insurgency

A few days ago it crossed my mind to think about what the 2015 State of the Union speech will be like. Given the results of the recent midterms and the way the GOP rhetoric has been ramped up in response to President Obama's action on immigration, it occurred to me that the disrespectful "You lie!" from Rep. Joe Wilson during the 2009 SOTU speech might be child's play.

But honestly, I never even contemplated this possibility.
“Yes, there’s a risk to overreacting, but there’s a risk to underreacting as well,” said Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. “And I fear that’s the way the congressional leadership is leaning.”

Mr. Lowry suggested one way Congress could react. “If I were John Boehner,” he said, referring to the House speaker, “I’d say to the president: ‘Send us your State of the Union in writing. You’re not welcome in our chamber.’”
Apparently, this is becoming "a thing" within the tea party confederate insurgency. What better way to cast the President of the United States as illegitimate than to deny him the opportunity that has been accorded to all modern presidents to address Congress at this historic event?

I keep going back and forth with myself saying, "the GOP leadership will squash that idea." And then wondering, "will they?" Worse yet, "can they?"

President Obama talking about race

CNN has put together this video with snapshots of the many times President Obama has talked about race.


Its a helpful reminder - even though the clips really can't give you the depth of what he said on those occasions. But make no mistake, President Obama has been clear about his views on racism and how we can move forward as a country. This might be a good time to go back and listen again to his speech on the topic during the 2008 primaries.


I'd like to highlight one part of that speech where he got specific in terms of recommendations.
But I have asserted a firm conviction — a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people — that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances — for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans — the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives — by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny...

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination — and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past — are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds — by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand — that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.
The other thing that most of the great religions teach us is that engaging in the struggle is redemptive. In the Christian tradition, the gospels tell us that "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." God is therefore not one to keep his distance. The life and death of Jesus chronicle the story of his willingness to "walk in our shoes"... to suffer the pain of isolation and rejection.

And so, it should come as no surprise to us that President Obama had a special message for the young black men at Morehouse.
As Morehouse Men, many of you know what it’s like to be an outsider; know what it’s like to be marginalized; know what it’s like to feel the sting of discrimination. And that’s an experience that a lot of Americans share...

So your experiences give you special insight that today’s leaders need. If you tap into that experience, it should endow you with empathy -- the understanding of what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, to know what it’s like when you're not born on 3rd base, thinking you hit a triple. It should give you the ability to connect. It should give you a sense of compassion and what it means to overcome barriers...

So it’s up to you to widen your circle of concern -- to care about justice for everybody, white, black and brown. Everybody. Not just in your own community, but also across this country and around the world. To make sure everyone has a voice, and everybody gets a seat at the table.

The path of hope and change does not come from nursing our grievances. No matter our ethnic heritage, it comes from acknowledging the pain and letting it open us up to gain some understanding of the pain of others. That's not just a spiritual imperative...its a political one as well. As David Simon said, we are on the verge of "the death of normal."
America will soon belong to the men and women — white and black and Latino and Asian, Christian and Jew and Muslim and atheist, gay and straight — who can walk into a room and accept with real comfort the sensation that they are in a world of certain difference, that there are no real majorities, only pluralities and coalitions. The America in which it was otherwise is dying, thank god, and those who relied on entitlement and division to command power will either be obliged to accept the changes, or retreat to the gated communities from which they wish to wax nostalgic and brood on political irrelevance.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"The most intense, aggressive face I've ever seen" (i.e., black)

From Darren Wilson's testimony, after the altercation in the car was over and Michael Brown had started to run away, he says this:
When he stopped, he turned, looked at me, made like a grunting noise and had the most intense, aggressive face I've ever seen on a person. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon. That's how angry he looked.
According to Wilson's testimony, that's when he started shooting.

It sounds an awful lot like South Carolina State Trooper Sean Groubert's initial testimony about why he started shooting at Levar Jones after pulling him over for a seat belt violation.
Before I could even get out of my car he jumped out, stared at me, and as I jumped out of my car and identified myself, as I approached him, he jumped head-first back into his car … he jumped out of the car. I saw something black in his hands.
The only problem for Groubert is that in that case, that there was an actual video of what happened.


In the case of the murder of Jordan Davis, Michael Dunn's basic defense was pretty much the same: Davis made him fear for his life. At least there was a jury trial on that one and Dunn was convicted of first degree murder (even though it took them two tries to do it).

In discussing the Groubert shooting, Leonard Pitts sums up what's going on in all three of these situations...at minimum.
So let us accord him the benefit of the doubt because in situations like this, people always want to make it a question of character. And the shooter’s friends always feel obliged to defend him with the same tired words: “He is not a racist.”

He probably isn’t, at least not in the way they understand the term.

But what he is, is a citizen of a country where the fear of black men is downright viral. That doesn’t mean he burns crosses on the weekend. It means he’s watched television, seen a movie, used a computer, read a newspaper or magazine. It means he is alive and aware in a nation where one is taught from birth that thug equals black, suspect equals black, danger equals black...

The Groubert video offers an unusually stark image of that fear in action. Viewing it, it seems clear the trooper is not reacting to anything Jones does. In a very real sense, he doesn’t even see him. No, he is reacting to a primal fear of what Jones is, to outsized expectations of what Jones might do, to terrors buried so deep in his breast, he probably doesn’t even know they’re there.
When I read Darren Wilson's words, it seemed obvious to me that he was also reacting to that primal fear buried deep in his breast. That's what most racism looks like these days. And that's why so many unarmed black boys are dying.

The perversion of a grand jury process

Years ago I sat on a federal grand jury. Over the course of 12 months, we heard evidence on dozens of cases. At the end, I was totally frustrated by the process and completely understood why former New York state Chief Judge Sol Wachtler famously remarked that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.” We were even told by one of the prosecutors that we could count on never being seated on a trial jury because defense attorney's don't trust someone who has been a member of a grand jury.

When we think of jury duty, we normally envision the kinds we've seen in the news or on TV dramas - complete with a judge who ensures fairness and two opposing lawyers who present their case. What we need to remember about a grand jury is that, first of all, there is no judge present. Secondly, there is no adversarial process. Only the prosecutor gets to present evidence. Witnesses are not even allowed to have their lawyer present.

Under those circumstances, in the dozens of cases I heard, the grand jury never once questioned the prosecutor or failed to provide him/her with the subpoenas or indictments s/he asked for...unanimously. If you'd like to hear how that process affected the Darren Wilson grand jury, watch this video.


No True Bill from Stlfilmmaker on Vimeo.

If your aim was to ensure that Darren Wilson never faced trial on criminal charges (he's very likely to still face civil charges), a grand jury presided over by Robert McCulloch was the perfect venue. The prosecutor's office is making a big deal about the fact that they shared all the evidence with the grand jury (which the lawyers in the video above point out is highly unusual). But that means the members of the jury had to sort through it all on their own - including 4 hours of testimony from  Darren Wilson - with no adversarial process to highlight an opposing position.

Of course people are outraged. This is not a process that produces justice!

Monday, November 24, 2014

4.5 Minutes of Silence for the Protection of All Children

Here is the statement from Michael Brown's parents:


God bless them and God bless the children.

Just SAY IT, Charles Blow

In many ways, Charles Blow nailed it it his column titled: Bigger Than Immigration.
Don’t let yourself get lost in the weeds. Don’t allow yourself to believe that opposition to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration is only about that issue, the president’s tactics, or his lack of obsequiousness to his detractors.

This hostility and animosity toward this president is, in fact, larger than this president. This is about systems of power and the power of symbols. Particularly, it is about preserving traditional power and destroying emerging symbols that threaten that power. This president is simply the embodiment of the threat, as far as his detractors are concerned, whether they are willing or able to articulate it as such.
But does anyone else get the feeling like he's trying to say something while walking on egg shells? His message is basically the same one I talked about in: Understanding the Threat of a Confederate Insurgency. But he hides behind words like "systems of power" and "power of symbols" and never gets around to saying anything about what those systems and symbols represent: racism.

Perhaps there's a method to his madness because everyone knows what kind of reaction the use of the "r" word gets these days. But lets be real...we all know exactly what he's talking about.

What Hillary Clinton Could Learn From Al Gore

Now that the 2014 midterms are over, it is - of course - off to the races for 2016. I find myself amused by a lot of the "advice" that Hillary Clinton is getting about how to position herself for another presidential run.

For example, Dylan Scott suggests that Sec. Clinton faces a dilemma between distancing herself from President Obama and appealing to what has become known as "the Obama coalition."
They are of course linked: If Obama is unpopular, a Clinton campaign will be tempted to present a sharp contrast. At the same time, the President will likely remain popular with the core Democratic base that she needs to harness. But the record tells us that, however the Obama presidency is faring like in its final months, it's going to influence his aspiring successor's White House ambitions.
Former Clinton staffers Douglas Schoen and Patrick Caddell make no bones about where they come down on that one. They weigh in with: Obama is Damaging Hillary's Chances.

I am reminded of the fact that Vice President Al Gore faced the same dilemma when he decided to run in 2000. President Bill Clinton had actually been impeached by the House of Representatives and it was unclear whether his involvement in a Gore campaign would help or hurt. As we all know now, Gore chose to "position" himself by staying mum on the issue.

What I think Hillary Clinton could learn from all of this is to avoid the whole idea of "positioning" yourself based on how the electorate might react. An awful lot of us cringed at the lack of authenticity in Al Gore's presidential campaign. That's why - whether they were true or not - stories about advice he got from Naomi Wolf about being a "beta male" rang true.  And when, in 2003, Gore let loose of all that and gave a barn-burner speech on how the Bush administration was trampling on civil liberties, we all wondered "Where was this guy in 2000?"

Of course running a presidential campaign requires positioning. But rather than catering to what someone thinks the electorate wants to hear, it has to be based on an answer to the question "Who is this candidate?" Looking back on how she ran in 2008, I'm not sure that Hillary Clinton has answered that question. That was highlighted by the fact that some people even thought that the tears she shed on the trail in New Hampshire were contrived.

If Hillary Clinton can find her core and speak to us from that place, she can toss out all the advice she's getting from folks about how to position herself vis a vis President Obama and his coalition. Whether or not she can do that...we'll see.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Odds & Ends

Here are some stories that caught my eye today.

One of the most frustrating things about Republicans over the last few years is their adoption of "post-policy" positioning." That's why Kimberly Strassel's op-ed is revealing. She's having some fun positing that if President Obama can claim the kinds of powers she identifies, why not the next Republican president too? And then she unleashes what the agenda would be. Holy cow!!!! Suffice it to say, "Social Security? What Social Security?"

All I can say is...please Bibi, don't do it!

The good news of the day is that the incoming Nevada House Speaker Ira Hansen has decided to step down after his racist/sexist remarks were made public.

While everyone is distracted, slowly but surely the Obama administration is transferring detainees out of Gitmo.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, their 2016 field of hopefuls is not as popular with the general public as they are with their base.

And finally, we can now replace all the other things we've been told to freak out about lately. The truly terrifying news of the day is that the earth is running out of chocolate.

Are Americans "Stupid" or Uninformed?

Republicans are making hay out of Jonathan Gruber's suggestion that those who crafted Obamacare thought the American public was stupid. While that was a politically incorrect (and stupid) thing to say, we've all seen enough "man on the street" interviews where too many people don't know which party controls Congress or who the current Vice President is to simply dismiss it as untrue.

But a more relevant question would be to ask whether or not the American public is "stupid" (inferring a lack of intelligence) or uninformed. That is the question sparked by this recent Gallup poll. They found that - while the violent crime rate has dropped dramatically since the early 1990's (from 80 incidents of violent crime/1000 people to 23/1000), 63% of Americans think that violent crime is increasing.

Back in the 1990's I attended a workshop on the effects of television on young people. The presenter asked the audience, "What is the purpose of television?" After a lot of responses that focused on entertainment, the presenter said that the purpose was to produce eyeballs...for advertisers. I would suggest that the same thing is now true of our news media. The perception of an increase in violent crime is likely a direct result of the old adage: "if it bleeds, it leads."

Media Matters recently produced a report showing that both cable and network news reporting on Ebola spiked in the days leading up to the 2014 midterms and then simply went to almost nothing afterwards. I don't buy the idea that this was some collusion between the media and Republicans. I suspect it had more to do with the way that fear of the disease spreading grabbed everyone's attention, and then a total elimination of coverage once it was clear that wasn't going to happen (at least not in this country). In other words, success at containing the spread of Ebola doesn't produce eyeballs.

Circling back to the subject of Obamacare, its interesting to note the effect all this has on the perceptions of the public.
Jon Krosnick, Wendy Gross, and colleagues at Stanford and Kaiser ran large surveys to measure public understanding of the ACA and how it was associated with approval of the law. They found that accurate knowledge about what’s in the bill varied with party identification: Democrats understood the most and liked the law the most, independents less, and Republicans understood still less and liked the law the least. However, attitudes were not just tribal. Within each party, the more accurate your knowledge of the law, the more you liked it.
These researchers found that in the unlikely event that the public had a perfect understanding of the law, approval of it would go from 32% to 70%. That's the price we pay for an uninformed public.

Its true that technology has allowed partisans and ideologues to chose media sources that confirm their beliefs. But those who simply want "the news" are pretty regularly fed a diet that inflames more than it informs. If you doubt that, take a look at one retired anchorman's reaction to the movie "Anchorman."

If we want this to change, we'll need everyone to think twice about what they do with their eyeballs.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

More good news

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

Just saying...

:-)

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

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

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

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

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

If, A Father's Advice to His Son

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Response From POTUS :-)

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

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


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

So yeah, this is me right about now.



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

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

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Photo of the Day: Lunch Meeting


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

Hey pundits, you might want to listen to Jorge Ramos

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On tape: Republicans dodge the question

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

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


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

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Learning to glide

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

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

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

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

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

We always have.

President Obama has always favored Congressional action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post-Policy Punditry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 17, 2014

I Won't Give Up

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


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

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

The question Republicans must answer...

"What would you do about this?"


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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Understanding the threat of a confederate insurgency

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Will pundits finally acknowledge President Obama's intelligence?


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

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

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

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

Oh, this is rich! Conservative pundit accuses President Obama of extortion

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 14, 2014

When Dubya responded to Congresstional legislation prohibiting torture with: "Meh..."

Just imagine with me for a moment what it would be like if our media had an institutional memory that could recall events that happened less than a decade ago. If that were the case, we might be reminded - in the midst of all this furor over potential presidential overreach on the part of Barack Obama - of something like this from July 2006.
A panel of legal scholars and lawyers assembled by the American Bar Association is sharply criticizing the use of "signing statements" by President Bush that assert his right to ignore or not enforce laws passed by Congress.

In a report to be issued today, the ABA task force said that Bush has lodged more challenges to provisions of laws than all previous presidents combined.

The panel members described the development as a serious threat to the Constitution's system of checks and balances, and they urged Congress to pass legislation permitting court review of such statements.

"The president is indicating that he will not either enforce part or the entirety of congressional bills," said ABA president Michael S. Greco, a Massachusetts attorney.
The most egregious of these happened when Congress passed a bill banning cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment (i.e., torture) of prisoners at U.S. detention centers. President Bush issued a signing statement basically saying, "Meh...I'll ignore that one when I want to." And of course we all know now that he DID ignore it. Those signing statements were part and parcel of Dick Cheney's commitment to the establishment of an "imperial presidency."

Perhaps the Republican's current obsession with what powers Barack Obama does/doesn't have as President means that they're ready to repudiate this notion. Or maybe they've come to recognize that their chances of winning a presidency in the near future are abysmal - so why not feign outrage at this one? Or - more likely - they'll just harp on President Obama and hope the media maintains its aversion to short-term memory when they want to re-establish a for-real imperial presidency.

When Congress overstepped its constitutional authority

Congressional Republicans are promising to go to battle with President Obama over his upcoming executive action on immigration. They claim he is overstepping his constitutional authority as president. We're hearing things like perhaps they'll sue him, or try to impeach him, or perhaps shut down the government in response.

What didn't capture as many headlines was the time President Obama said that Congress had overstepped their constitutional authority. What...you don't remember that happening?

When signing the National Defense Authorization Act in 2013, President Obama included statement that outlined the various ways provisions in that bill impeded his constitutional authority as Commander-in-Chief. That included things like limiting his ability to transfer Gitmo detainees to another country and disrupting his ability to implement provisions of the START Treaty with Russia on nuclear weapons.

The President didn't decide to sue Congress or shut down the government over this. He simply noted it and then went on doing his job to the best of his ability.

Just sayin'...

Two things neither liberals nor conservatives will tell you about our improving economy

Ever since the economy began its slow recovery from the Great Recession, liberals have been pointing out that - as the unemployment rate drops - the labor force participation rate is also in decline. This is usually interpreted to mean that more and more people are so discouraged about finding work, they aren't even trying anymore. Lately conservatives have picked up on this and are using it to discredit the recovery we've been seeing under President Obama's leadership.

But today Pew Research released some fascinating information about those who are "outside the labor force entirely."
By far the biggest chunk of people not in the labor force are people who simply don’t want to be, according to data from the monthly Current Population Survey...Last month, according to BLS, 85.9 million adults didn’t want a job now, or 93.3% of all adults not in the labor force.
Pew goes on to take a look at a subset of those who have dropped out of the labor force - those that are called "marginally attached." This includes those who want a job, but haven't looked for one in the last 4 weeks. Here are the reasons they give for that:

Based on that information, perhaps the most effective way of increasing labor force participation would be to make pre-K universal, provide family leave and improve our transportation systems. Hmmmm...who's been pushing those policies? 

The other issue with our economy that is getting a lot of attention lately is that - even with the number of unemployed dropping - wages are stagnant. Bloomberg suggests that might be changing in the near future. 
The number of unemployed vying for each available job is dropping to the point that bigger wage increases are probably in store for Americans.

About two jobless workers were pursuing each opening in September, the fewest since early 2008 and down from almost seven in July 2009 at the depths of the last recession, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from a Labor Department report issued today in Washington.

The 2-to-1 ratio is the threshold that typically leads to larger pay increases in about six months as employers compete for a dwindling talent pool, according to research by economists at UBS Securities LLC.
For some perspective on that, they provide this graph:
This isn't the kind of news that fires up the rage amongst ideologues. But its important information for us to have when it comes to evaluating the economic recovery that is underway and backing policies that will keep it going. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Republicans think voters are stupid

Jonathan Gruber sure stirred up a lot of talk lately. He suggested that voters are stupid and that the passage of Obamacare lacked transparency. I'll leave that last part to Brian Beutler to dismantle.

The essence of what Gruber said about voters is that the Democrats crafted the ACA in a way that hides its revenue (a "tax") by calling it a mandate for everyone to buy health insurance. In other words, they counted on voters being too stupid to not recognize that they amount to the same thing.

But that is actually a tactic that the "no new taxes" Republicans invented. I don't know about you - but this idea of calling new revenue "fees" instead of "taxes" is something local Republicans have been doing around here for years. For example, here's Tim Pawlenty making the case for why he should be the next GOP presidential nominee.
At every level, governments are facing big deficits as the weak economy diminishes tax revenues at the very same time that the bill is coming due on decades of irresponsible spending increases, entitlement promises and pension promises. As I proved in Minnesota, these problems can be solved without tax increases.
Ummm...just one problem, Tim. You must have forgotten about that $400 million in revenue from a cigarette tax fee you used to resolve your own budget crisis. Of course that was combined with a 2.5% tax fee on alcohol and 6.2% tax fee on rental cars. Pawlenty pretends he didn't raise taxes because a fee is obviously very different. In other words, he thinks voters are too stupid to recognize that the exact same amount is missing from your wallet - no matter what you call it.

When it comes to Obamacare, it was VERY clear from the start that those without health insurance were going to be mandated to buy it. But there was one big difference...the revenue would go to private insurers - not government. Even so, everyone knew that regardless of what you called it or where the money went, a requirement to buy insurance would mean money out of your wallet. If someone suggests that they were "lied to" because it was called a "mandate" instead of a "tax," perhaps they are stupid.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Fortunate Son

I'm just going to drop this one in here to have a chuckle about conservatives who can't tell the difference between anti-elite and anti-vet.

The Bear Is Loose!!!!


This is pure speculation on my part, but I think that the cowardly Democrats who were running in the midterms not only asked President Obama to hold off on executive orders about immigration, they asked him to step back on doing much of anything during the campaign.

I say that as someone who follows this administration closely. Over the last couple of months - except for trying to quiet the fear-mongering about Ebola - President Obama didn't initiate much. I actually found myself somewhat bored in trying to decide what to write about.

But boy - ever since the elections were over last week, I can't keep up. We've seen:
  1. Loretta Lynch nominated to be our next Attorney General
  2. Recommendations on net neutrality
  3. An historic agreement with China on climate change
Then there are the more subtle/symbolic things, like the nominees for the Medal of Freedom and today's announcement of a White House Report on Women and Girls of Color.

Waiting in the wings are:
  1. Those potential executive orders on immigration
  2. Whether or not negotiators will reach a deal on Iranian nuclear activities
  3. Announcements about the first-year results of President Obama's clemency initiative.
What am I missing?

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama said that this would be a "Year of Action" utilizing his "pen and phone strategy." This President keeps his promises. And that BEAR IS LOOSE!!!

Success on climate change is a result of President Obama's new team

I have to wonder if Dana Milbank and Noam Scheiber feel a little foolish this morning. While they were busy engrossing themselves in back room school-girl chatter about people like Valerie Jarrett, a HUGE announcement on the success of climate talks with China and a whole boatload of executive actions to address climate change have been in the works.

Here's what Scheiber wrote the other day:
Jarrett’s work behind the scenes served the president well so long as people like Larry Summers, Rahm Emanuel, and Robert Gibbs . . . remained inside the building. She diversified the views he received without stifling internal debate. But then, one by one, the big personalities left.
Milbank added this:
Of course, there is a danger in bringing in big personalities rather than loyalists, and Obama has suffered the consequences of his first-term “team of rivals” in the kiss-and-tell memoirs by Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and, particularly, Leon Panetta. Yet he has done himself more harm filling top positions with loyalists.
As I wrote months ago, those "loyalists" shared one legacy-making goal with President Obama: a desire to tackle climate change. For example, there is White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough:
Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff, is best known for two things: his national security chops—he had key roles on the White House National Security Council—and the high regard in which he’s held by President Obama. McDonough has been part of Obama’s inner circle for nearly a decade, and the president has called his new chief of staff one of his “closest and most trusted advisers.”

Here’s what a lot of people don’t know about McDonough: He has a background on climate change, and he takes the issue very seriously. “Denis McDonough understands the threat posed by climate change to national security more than any White House chief of staff in the 21st century,” said Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress.
And how about White House Counselor John Podesta?
The deal-sealer for Podesta, who has vowed to stay for only a year, was Obama’s assurance that he would be given broad oversight of the administration’s climate change agenda...And here is where the template for Podesta in action might first become apparent: With chances of major legislation on climate change all but dead given congressional opposition, Podesta will push for aggressive executive action, in addition to backstopping new Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy on controversial new emissions guidelines for power plants.
But perhaps the "loyalist" most responsible for the announcement of a deal with China today is Secretary of State John Kerry. Let's go back to something Coral Davenport wrote about that almost a year ago.
His goal is to become the lead broker of a global climate treaty in 2015 that will commit the United States and other nations to historic reductions in fossil fuel pollution...

“He’s pushing to get climate to be the thing that drives the U.S. relationship with China,” said Timothy E. Wirth, a former Democratic senator from Colorado who now works on climate change issues with the United Nations Foundation...

“It has not gone unnoticed that this administration is now much more engaged on climate change,” said Jake Schmidt, the international climate policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Every international negotiator understands it.” When Mr. Kerry took office, Mr. Schmidt said, “the dynamic changed quite a bit.”
I suppose there is a lot to be said for creating a "team of rivals." But its also true that it helps to have people on your team who share your vision. When it comes to climate change, we're starting to see the results of the latter.