<link rel="me" href="https://www.blogger.com/profile/03426553259254449750" /> <link rel="openid.server" href="https://www.blogger.com/openid-server.g" /> <!-- --><style type="text/css">@import url(https://www.blogger.com/static/v1/v-css/navbar/3334278262-classic.css); div.b-mobile {display:none;} </style> </head><body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d8620239607566445088\x26blogName\x3d1,369+lightbulbs\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_HOSTED\x26navbarType\x3dBLACK\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttp://www.1369lightbulbs.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://www.1369lightbulbs.com/\x26vt\x3d-7701273094786727802', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

Monday, April 4, 2011

Believe it or not, Republican State Senator Dan Hall's most stinging criticism of Minnesota public education in the video above is not when he claims
“I watched Minneapolis get destroyed, so I not only didn’t want my kids in the school system. I took them out of Minneapolis because they ruined our neighborhoods with integration and [de]segregation.”
Mr. Hall made his argument for segregation last Thursday (and right in time for April 4!) in support of H.F. No. 934, also known as the K-12 omnibus bill. Later that day, it passed in a party-line vote in the Minnesota State Senate. As reported by the Minnesota Independent, that bill "would take funding from integration and desegregation programs in the Twin Cities and Duluth and shift them to statewide programs for literacy. [It] also repeals the unfunded portions of Minnesota law dealing with desegregation." In short, it aims to address the racial achievement gap in the state's schools by rewarding schools for improving literacy and taking away money for desegregation.
Perhaps Mr. Hall's personal experience led him to believe that literacy is more urgent than desegregation -- that the two are somehow in competition. Perhaps his constituents are asking him to vote this way. However, that's not the argument he makes, nor the people whose support he cites. He cites his "best friends," who Mr. Hall claims are "minority."
“They think integration is foolish. It’s a ploy, it’s to get more money....It’s disrespectful to tell my friends, my minority friends, they can’t make it without extra special help.”
These "minority" best friends are merely the fulcrum of Mr. Hall’s rhetorical argument, one that uses the vocabulary of opposing affirmative action to oppose integration. What's next? Lunch counters? Water fountains?
Still, even that wasn't the strongest shot taken by Mr. Hall at public education in Minnesota. That comes right at the beginning:
“I am a product of the Minneapolis school system, completely, all of my years, many of the different schools. I graduated with a sixth-grade reading ability. I struggled my whole life.”
Even if there are problems with reading levels in Minnesota's public schools stretching back to Mr. Hall's era, even if the funds for the Republican initiative must be taken from integration programs (and they don't have to be), was it necessary to scapegoat integration in this way? Must one be the antagonist of the other?
When this bill reaches Governor Mark Dayton's desk, it will curious to see if he signs it into law, or asks for a new bill that truly strengthens public education without doing so at the expense of racial progress.

0 comments / trackback

Monday, March 14, 2011

Yesterday morning, I visited Mother Bethel A.M.E., my Philadelphia church home -- and the sermon touched on something we at TRMS have also been looking at recently. The title was "The Ripple Effect," and brought front and center Pennsylvania's new governor, Tom Corbett, and the budget cuts he proposed last week. Our pastor, the Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler

What bothers me most about the current discourse and conversation in our nation around budgets and finance is that it seems that people continue to forget about the ripple effect...We are connected to one another, and when we create financial distress in one place, you can’t control what happens when the ripples come.

On TRMS, we've covered how Republican governors in states like Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan would "solve" that problem. We've also examined the rather magical approach that Florida Governor Rick Scott has for his budget issues: reducing public education funding by nearly $2 billion and giving almost all of those reductions away in tax cuts.

In Pennsylvania, Governor Corbett has a twist on Mr. Scott's approach, directing the money saved by harsh cuts in education (and state worker rights) to something else: prisons. Public education? Slashed more than any other area. Funding for the state university system, including Penn State? Literally cut in half. Funding for the state's Department of Corrections? Increased by 11 percent, a total of around $186 million, despite its existing burden on the state's budget.

Judging by the moans and groans that followed that part of the sermon, the church didn't like this at all. Neither did financial reporter Ben Waxman, writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Pennsylvania's prison population has grown by 500 percent since 1980 despite few changes in crime patterns....Throwing the book at minor offenders is a policy choice made by state lawmakers.

If Corbett were serious about cutting all costs, including prisons, he'd identify the problem as our drug-sentencing laws. Instead, he's throwing money at a broken system and claiming it's out of his control.

It's not easy to fill a $4 billion hole, but the first step is correctly identifying the problem.

Governor Corbett was one of the new quote-unquote fiscally conservative Republican governors elected last November, and his rhetoric was party boilerplate: smaller, less expensive government; deficit hawk; no new taxes

But this is no longer about crowd-pleasing campaign rhetoric. It is about how these brand-new Republican governors are now actually governing. These budget proposals are the stones tossed into the water. Governors like Tom Corbett speak through their budgets, telling students it is more prudent to invest in their future incarceration than in their education. What will be the ripple effect?

3 comments / trackback

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

(You know how some people post spoiler alerts for movie reviews? This post is about sexual assualt, so I'd like to warn those for whom stories like this serve as a trigger for past trauma. Still with me? OK, here we go.)

Police in Cleveland, Texas, have determined that an 11-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in late November by a group of 18 men and boys in an abandoned trailer. The New York Times published an article about it today:

The police investigation began shortly after Thanksgiving, when an elementary school student alerted a teacher to a lurid cellphone video that included one of her classmates...

Five suspects are students at Cleveland High School, including two members of the basketball team. Another is the 21-year-old son of a school board member. A few of the others have criminal records, from selling drugs to robbery and, in one case, manslaughter. The suspects range in age from middle schoolers to a 27-year-old.

The shaming of the victim has already begun. The Times cited residents of the community where the girl was raped who claim that the victim "dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s."

“It’s just destroyed our community,” said Sheila Harrison, 48, a hospital worker who says she knows several of the defendants. “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.”

That same thread appears in an AOL article about the case:

Some are pointing a finger at the victim's parents.

"Where were they when this girl was seen wandering at all hours with no supervision and pretending to be much older?" Cleveland resident Kisha Williams told the Chronicle.

International Women's Day was yesterday, yet the shaming of sexual assault victims rolls on unabated.

I say this as someone who benefits daily, directly or indirectly, from male privilege. Nothing about my appearance will make me more apt to be raped, but yet an 11-year-old girl who may have worn some makeup and "dressed older than her age" is a target for those reasons? There is no gender equality if this idea continues to thrive, especially in the minds of women like those two who were quoted.

Pause and take a step back: if an 11-year-old girl who was raped by more than a dozen guys is being blamed, at what point does it not become the victim's fault? How many perpetrators does it take? How does she need to have been dressed at the time? And how young does she need to be to not only not be blamed, but to get sympathy?

“These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.”

Those poor guys. They must feel really awful.

2 comments / trackback

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

During the 2008 election season, "11th-dimensional chess" became a convenient, at times lazy phrase useful for making sense of the machinations of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. It was pure exaggeration, of course -- but as a shorthand, it said as much about the few-steps-ahead savvy of Obama's strategy as it did about his opponents being checkmated in ways they'd figure out later.

In last night's TRMS, Rachel took a look at the latest political opponent that the President has put in check. On Monday, he touted the essence of the bipartisan Empowering States to Innovate Act, which would allow states to come up with their own health reform solutions a full three years earlier than the Affordable Care Act. He did so before an audience of America's governors, many of them Republicans who oppose the federal health reforms he fought to make law. If they want to opt out, the President did everything but literally say "go for it":

If your state can create a plan that covers as many people as affordably and comprehensively as the Affordable Care Act does — without increasing the deficit — you can implement that plan. And we’ll work with you to do it. I’ve said before, I don’t believe that any single party has a monopoly on good ideas. And I will go to bat for whatever works, no matter who or where it comes from.

This is like the scene in "The Social Network" in which Mark Zuckerberg tells the three guys claiming he stole the idea for Facebook away from them: "If you guys were the inventors of Facebook...you'd have invented Facebook." The same framework applies here. If Republican governors think they can do better, great. But why didn't they "do better" before now, or before health reform was passed?

As Rachel pointed out with guest Ezra Klein, if any of these Republican governors run for president in 2012, this essentially removes their ability to use health reform as a wedge issue. In the end, they have to offer some policy. If their initial reaction to the President's remarks is any indication, I wouldn't suggest holding your breath.


The President's challenge wasn't open only to Republican governors. The left is seizing upon this as a chance to advance more progressive health reforms in states like Vermont, where the new governor, Democrat Peter Shumlin, is putting forth an option many liberals favored during the national health care debate:

Vermont’s third option would be a single-payer system with a twist. The state would create an independent public board to oversee the health care system, and the board would contract out the administration of claims. The claims administrator could be either a public or a private entity. Private insurers could compete for this largely clerical work, as they have done for years to administer the Medicare program...

Vermont’s entire Congressional delegation — Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch — supports Shumlin’s efforts and they have already begun the process of requesting a waiver.

Considering the President’s willingness to cut states some slack and the hundreds of waivers the government already has granted to insurers and corporations from various provisions of the law, they might just get the waiver they’re seeking.

1 comments / trackback

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

By now you'd expect House Republicans to ignore jobs in favor of demagoguing on a social issue like abortion. It's become a familiar playbook. But what they're doing now is very different, and considerably more dangerous.

Republicans as prominent as Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor are backing a new measure sponsored by vocal anti-abortion Congressman Chris Smith. It is  H.R. 3, The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.  

The bill promises to just what it says it will: make the Hyde Amendment permanent; prevent tax breaks from going to insurance consumers (employers or the self-insured) if the insurance they're buying covers abortion. Anti-abortion legislative goals, in boilerplate language, designed to give the impression that the government pays for abortions willy-nilly (when the facts tell a very different story, particularly for low-income women).

However, in his update yesterday, TPM reporter Evan McMorris-Santoro detailed the bill's effects on rape victims:

...the widest criticism of the bill comes in its exemptions for rape -- provisions that would allow federal money or private insurance to be used to cover an abortion. H.R. 3 says those provisions would kick in only in cases of forcible rape, a distinction from other forms rape of that is largely undefined but seems to suggest that a rape that doesn't include violence wouldn't count. The bill would also limit the incest exemption to women under the age of 18 -- meaning a victim of incest who was legally allowed to vote wouldn't have her abortion covered by Medicaid and would likely have more limited access to private insurance than she does today.

Long story short? Rape, in Republican Newspeak, is only rape if you get hurt. Huh?

Pro-choice activists are relentless and out in force, staging the #DearJohn campaign on Twitter to get Speaker Boehner's attention. So are the many Democrats who don't already support H.R. 3., including Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who said, "I consider the proposal of this bill a violent act against women." Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado highlighted the Act's extremism by noting that it goes "far beyond the current law." It also goes far beyond the English language.

Rape is violence. Whether it happens to someone during a home invasion, a woman in a relationship who ends up having sex with her boyfriend after she's made clear she didn't want toa minor even with her consent, or to an intoxicated woman accosted in a seedy bar, it's rape.

Real talk: a group of mostly male Republicans is using stunt legislation to prioritize the agendas of anti-abortion zealots and health insurance companies. And in doing so, they're making the very definition of rape a topic for debate.

The tweets on #DearJohn are coming from women (and not enough men) who are from this country, who live in this country, and are subject to this latest Republican exhibition of "small government." Will Republicans listen to these Americans, or only the ones who keep them powerful?

0 comments / trackback

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Past events create expectations, fairly or unfairly. Reading reports, from people on the ground, that today's massive marches throughout Egypt have been peaceful has been admittedly a bit surprising. From what I've been able to gather, there have been no reports of violence from among the protesters today, or from the state against them.

Great news, right? But isn't that something we should expect, especially of an allied government? That sentiment should go right into the "Captain Obvious" file. The Department of Defense apparently disagrees.

Writing for Wired's Danger Room blog, Spencer Ackerman was likewise struck by the lack of violence, but was really taken aback by what he calls an "unalloyed 'attaboy' " to the Egyptian troops from the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen. First, those props, in a DoD podcast:

"So far, the Egyptian military have handled themselves exceptionally well," he said. "You can see that just from the pictures that have been displayed, in terms of how they have been accepted by their people."

Second, Ackerman touches on the messaging:

Mullen’s big-up for his Egyptian counterparts -- "a stabilizing influence," he said -- is a sharp contrast with four days' worth of rhetoric from senior Obama administration officials. The military is now the only entity in Egypt that the administration has unambiguously praised.

Third, it's been clear, despite earlier reports of protesters being fired upon, that the military was more inclined to hold the center than to get involved either way. Our government giving the Egyptian army dap for not shooting its citizens was a backhanded compliment; it implies America's assumption that there would be violence.

Yes, past events create expectations, but it's disheartening to see that in a time in which Egypt and the Arab world are showing their real potential, we still expect the worst.

0 comments / trackback

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

There are some stories that just might as well have "It's a slow news cycle" written on their foreheads. Case in point.

I regret that it even matters that President Obama believes that quarterback Michael Vick receiving a second chance in the NFL is a good thing, but when he's asked about people like Snooki, I guess this is a step up. (That the President phoned the NFL owner who signed Vick and expressed said belief probably should be an even smaller deal.) However, as race, privilege and a strangely self-sustaining public anger at a famous convict are tossed into the aforementioned slow news cycle, away we go.

Avoiding cynicism, we actually can glean something important from this episode.

As Laura noted, I was tweeting a little bit about this with Ezra Klein yesterday. The White House's explanation for the call to the Eagles owner may be, as I told Ezra, sauteéd bollocks dipped in weak sauce. Klein's convinced that was the case; I don't think it'd be so unbelievable for a President to call the Eagles about alternative energy use in sports arenas, considering what the team is doing and how much energy these stadiums actually consume. Reading their posts, I disagree with both Ezra and Laura in different respects: Vick is hardly an example to cite when discussing diminished earning power of those who've been incarcerated, and I think those who are still angry with Vick are more concerned with dogs than money. All that is a distraction from the real reason this is still news, so never mind those bollocks.

To revisit: Yes, Vick's crimes were ruthless and nauseating. (I'd stop short of calling them inhuman, since what humans do to animals we don't keep as pets makes his acts quite human.) And yet, the root and true meaning of the word "penitentiary" is obvious in its first eight letters. Why so many of my fellow Americans feel the need to punish him forever is beyond my capacity to explain. Whether Michael Vick is truly reformed, only he can know. He's given every indication of late, both on and off the field, that he's learned his lesson.

Still, there are those like Fox News' Tucker Carlson, who want to kill Michael Vick for what he did. Carlson's is the latest, loudest manifestation of privilege and anger, judging casually with inflammatory rhetoric. (And on the flipside, no, Michael Vick is not being "lynched" in the media, or anywhere else. If he were actually being lynched, Carlson would already be satisfied.)

I have lost family members (for significant time) to jail, and lost one (forever) to people who are now in jail. In that latter experience, I actually know what it's like to want someone to die for their crimes. But I'm no longer interested in judging those who've already been judged, nor belching forth exaggerated anger and enforcing some sort of social imprisonment on them because I found their crimes particularly horrific. Ostracizing those who've done their time can lead only to recidivism, and calling for it is a luxury that we can't afford. If there's anything we can learn from this now much-too-famous phone call, it's that the President clearly understands that.

(Image: Paul Sancya/AP)

0 comments / trackback

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Luthor for PresidentThe comic novel Luthor offers a fresh perspective on an old relationship, one you've likely figured out by now -- that of a hard-working, civic-minded Metropolis industrialist desperate to protect humanity from this so-called "Superman," an all-powerful alien who will not share his power and symbolizes the end of human aspiration. Oh, that's not exactly the narrative you had in mind?

Well, Lex Luthor is the same guy in this book that Superman fans have come to know -- crooked, murderous, and obsessed. But letting us see it from inside his head at least allows Luthor to make his case. And frankly, I can see where some might agree that he has a point.

How we understand someone's deeds depends greatly on our understanding of the motivations involved. But what happens those motivations lead people to adopt the tactics of those they fight against?

During Rachel's interview last night with economist Nouriel "Dr. Doom" Roubini, he used four words to encapsulate what's motivating Republicans in their economic philosophy these days:

"The worse, the better."

Dr. Roubini made note, correctly, that this saying has Leninist origins. It was originally used, apparently by one of Lenin's mentors, to signal that the worse that socio-economic conditions became for the poor, the more inclined those poor would be to stage a Communist revolution. It was a rallying cry for Leninists.

Considering both their rhetoric and their curious mathematics, revolution by the underclass doesn't seem to be the Republicans' goal.

But the idea that Republican policy and rhetoric have, indirectly, appropriated the tools of the same scary Communists they tell us to fear? That is instructive, to say the least. I'm not suggesting that Republicans are emulating Lex Luthor to the letter -- sometimes a metaphor is just a metaphor. That said, Luthor does one thing that Republicans also do: ask us to respect their argument, regardless of its roots. I remain unconvinced, on both counts.

(Image: DC Comics. A special thanks to Joan Hilty for the book.)

0 comments / trackback

Monday, December 20, 2010

Letter to Sandy Tsao

In the text of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's historic "I Have a Dream" speech, the word "homosexual" does not appear once. Neither do the more colloquial terms "gay" and "lesbian." Yet words from that speech were what first leapt into my mind Saturday afternoon as I watched the Senate vote to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".

To many, Dr. King is not so much a person as an avatar for American justice and equality, and never more so than in those several minutes of videotape. So perhaps it was a Pavlovian response to the rare experience of seeing, live before my eyes, long-overdue justice finally delivered to targets of discrimination.

"No...no, we are not satisfied," Dr. King said that day, "and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."

The note pictured above was a handwritten response from President Obama to Sandy Tsao, an Army officer who'd informed her superiors that she was gay and written subsequently to the President to request his help ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." She received his response in May. Of 2009.

Justice rolls down like waters. Righteousness like a mighty stream. That sounds pretty fast. And to many, this process seemed anything but. Including, this note shows, the President himself.

Undeniably, the President's "long game" worked in this case, and he'll be within his rights to remind us of that. (Perhaps he'll do so during the 2012 re-election campaign should the failed DREAM Act prove to be his political Obi-Wan Kenobi, a more powerful force in death than in life.)

But for all the anger over the 17 years "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was allowed to stand, the now-successful struggle for repeal proves that the "long game" is not just a presidential strategy, but a sad reality in an America where such discrimination can be removed from the law and yet continue to thrive -- as if to spite the progress made.

There are not yet any rolling waters, nor any mighty streams. Are you satisfied?

(Image via ThinkProgress.)

0 comments / trackback

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas falls on a Saturday this year, but many, many Americans whose jobs require them to work on or around that day will push through. Snow-plow drivers will be be plowing streets and driveways; waiters will attend to families that don't want to cook; retail workers will be there to exchange that Cosby sweater your mom gave you that morning. And that's actually on Christmas Day. As it turns out, a Republican in the United States Senate is ticked that he'll have to work two whole days after Christmas.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is resolute that Democratic priorities such as the DREAM Act, the ratification of the new START treaty and the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will be dealt with before the end of the 111th Congress on January 4. If that means keeping his fellow Senators in session all the way through until then, so be it. So how did Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona respond to this?

Naturally, by insinuating that Harry Reid and Democrats are insulting Christians. Tumbling down the rhetorical rabbit hole:

"It is impossible to do all of the things that the majority leader laid out without doing -- frankly, without disrespecting the institution and without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians and the families of all of the Senate, not just the senators themselves but all of the staff."

Set aside for a moment the pass-the-buck nature of Kyl's comment, the idea that it's "impossible" to get the same things done that Republicans have made a habit of obstructing (as Rachel and Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico explored in the segment above).

Reid isn't asking them to work on Saturday, the 25th. It's the week after, when quite a lot of us have to go back to work. But Kyl says to request that the Senate do so as well is "disrespecting" Christians, and he's implicitly asking Christians to share in his indignation. (Imagine the scene of a snow-plow driver on Christmas morning, steamed not that he has to work on Saturday, but that Jon Kyl and his Senatorial ilk will have to work on Monday. Heathens, those Democrats!)

Who knew fake outrage was in the holiday spirit?

0 comments / trackback

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The "Tea Party" movement is, by definition, rather without definition. During the recent November elections, likening it to the Republican Party that spawned it seemed like comparing jelly to marble. The structures could not be more different because, for one, there seemed to be virtually no Tea Party structure at all.

Though it was easily disproved, we were told that the force behind the Tea Party movement was organic, furious and, most of all, pure. We were told that there was a purity of political and fiscal philosophy (with a dash of the moral thrown in), but we learned these were just a more attention-grabbing way of articulating what essentially were Republican arguments, with President Obama serving as an avatar for their discontent.

In their post-election incarnation, those claiming the Tea Party label have shown several contradictions in their supposed fiscally conservative and socially libertarian principles. But if what we've been told is to be believed, you'd think this would jar them:
House Republicans on Wednes­day promoted Bachus to chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, which has wide jurisdiction over banks, capital markets, housing, consumer credit and the overall health of the American fi­nancial system.

No, it's not Congressman Bachus' promotion that should shake those folks. It is what Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-Alabama) said. Seriously, read these two paragraphs (emphasis mine):
Bachus, in an interview Wednesday night, said he brings a "main street" perspective to the committee, as opposed to Wall Street.

"In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks," he said.

Bachus' quote is notable for its frank admission of what many likely suspected, but I'd guess that a Tea Party movement worth its salt would find this objectionable, since we've been told that they helped put Republicans in charge to avoid exactly this kind of pandering to power.

Or perhaps the only thing that was ever pure about the Tea Party movement was its desire to see Republicans (of varying extremes) elected. And it's not as if Republicans have pretended to be anything but what Congressman Bachus articulated. So actually, Tea Partiers have to be thrilled, right? This is what they asked for. They are who we thought they were.

0 comments / trackback

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Perhaps too often politics lends itself to pop-culture references. It's a lazy tool that we media types love to use in order to make our copy, well, pop. And with all that stipulated, I'll beg your forgiveness as I offer another.

President Obama used the word "fight" or some variation thereof more than a dozen times at his Tuesday presser, mostly in the context of not fighting Republicans now, but promising to do so in the future. Witness this passage from the press conference:

I will be happy to see the Republicans test whether or not I'm itching for a fight on a whole range of issues. I suspect they will find I am.

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio told Rachel this week that President Obama didn't fight hard enough, that it was presumed that Republicans would cave on unemployment benefits before Christmas. So why was the President was talking about fighting, over and over again? Cedric the Entertainer may hold the answer.

In the concert film "The Original Kings of Comedy," Cedric's set opens with a (somewhat profane) reference to what he calls the "wish" factor: that while some may hope things don't go wrong, some actively WISH for something bad to happen to give us an excuse to fight. Forget about "hope" -- it's now all about "wish." Translated for general audience, Cedric's wish creed goes something like:

"I wish [that nice human being] over there would [do something that give me cause for fisticuffs]."

This tax deal's far from done, so President Obama is asking for a fight that's already here. Will he keep on with his "wish" factor, or will he start scrapping for real this time? A lot of folks wish he would.

(Thanks to Will Femia for the image tweak.)

0 comments / trackback

Monday, December 6, 2010

The English language can be, at once,  a wonderful and terrible thing. Our peculiar politics exhibits that dichotomy in double entendres and what an old teacher of mine used to refer to as "simultaneous definition." Take, for instance, a word that has come to mean two very different things in Washington: "compromise."

The Democrats think they're compromising now, specifically concerning unemployment benefits and the extension of the (political and fiscal time bomb that is) the Bush tax cuts. In return for what? A "probably."

What is blackmail to one person becomes compromise to the other. This we've seen played out many times in Washington, and frankly, it is indeed played out. The Obama administration can claim all it wants that they are doing what needs to be done in order to get the unemployment benefits that were blocked to the families that need them, but that ignores, conveniently, the overarching narrative of surrender. When any hint of Democratic fortitude in the face of Republican threat becomes, in and of itself, newsworthy -- something is awry.

Let's just boil this down: Republicans have stated, openly, that their number-one priority is ensuring President Obama is not re-elected. So much so that in the midst of the holiday season, they'll block unemployment benefit and use them as leverage for the benefit of their most ardent constituency, the wealthy. Any victory for the President is unacceptable, the country's benefit be damned. And yet, we get "compromise": one that will cost the country $60 billion over the next two years. (To say nothing of the political price he'll pay in two years when the expiration of this two-year extension becomes an election issue. You can't say he wasn't warned.)

Yes, there is a numbers game at work in Congress, and there will be even more of one once the 112th Congress begins work next month. That said, the issue begins with the President.

We've all heard cries from so many asking, "Where is the man I voted for?" Those cries come largely either from disappointment in the continuation of abhorrent policies, or perceptions that President Obama's being duped or pressured by Republicans to become someone wholly different from the leader he promised to be. However, I think that gets it backward. President Obama is exactly the guy America elected, and at time he is that guy to a fault.

Obama's belief in a Washington that could be free of partisan games has survived two years of unprecedented opposition from the Right. It's not the Right saying, "No, Barack, you're wrong, it can never be like that -- and let us show you why." It's "Barack, you're in our chair."

The President is not naive. He's simply so dedicated to the ideal of compromise that he's not taking the steps needed to achieve it. In the context of double meanings, he's forgetting to do the right thing. Instead, he's doing the Right thing. Alas.

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

1 comments / trackback

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Political differences are funny things. Especially examined by people like Dennis Prager, who treats said differences as a doctor would psychological trauma in his latest for the National Review. Citing a couple polls that he doesn't link and a two-year-old book, Prager presents his new finding: conservatives, quite naturally, are happier than liberals.

Then rather than asking a liberal for a response, he conjures one:

Liberals respond this way: “If we’re unhappier, it’s because we are more upset than conservatives over the plight of those less fortunate than ourselves.”

Pivoting off this invention, the column is fascinating in one particular respect. Prager's gig as a conservative radio host and syndicated columnist has no doubt given him exposure to any number of opinions from any number of Americans, but he tries to employ supposedly data-driven studies (who knows, since he doesn't link them) in the service of rhetoric that isn't based on anything but his own political assumptions and prejudices.

Witness his concern for African-Americans, and our happiness:

It makes perfect sense that a black American who is essentially happy is going to be less attracted to the Left. Anyone who has interacted with black conservatives rarely encounters an angry, unhappy person.


Because the liberal view on race is that America is a racist society. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, a black American must abandon liberalism in order to be a happy individual. It is very hard, if not impossible, to be a happy person while believing that society is out to hurt you. So, the unhappy black person will gravitate to liberalism and liberalism will in turn make him more unhappy by reinforcing his view that he is a victim.

He could've made his point so much more efficiently by simply writing Black + Liberalism = President Obama = ANGRY! = BOO! Perhaps that would've lacked the sophistication Prager's argument clearly possesses.

There's more, but Prager's argument isn't even original: essentially, this same column was written four years ago by George F. Will in the Washington Post. Maybe I can write this post again in 2014. Wonder if I'll still be this unhappy and angry then.

(Image: Huey Freeman of "The Boondocks".)

Cross-posted on The Maddow Blog.

0 comments / trackback

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Overt bigotry has made one hell of a comeback in our politics. Witness most of the right in this country buying votes with a down payment of fear and xenophobia, appealing directly and loudly to our basest weakness -- the fear of what is unfamiliar. But what's truly dangerous is that those who pimp racism for political profit threaten to distract American voters from those that continue to use so-called "soft bigotry" and drift it further into the mainstream.

Enter Virginia Congressman and Minority Whip Eric Cantor, deliberately and awkwardly, into the debate about the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" now set to be built two blocks from the site where the World Trade Center towers once stood. Many political figures, particularly on the Right, have spoken up both for and against the idea that a recreation center -- which would include a mosque -- go up in the shadow of what is, for many, a burial ground.

Cantor arrived in the discussion today with this weak sauce: "Everybody knows America's built on the rights of free expression, the rights to practice your faith, but come on."

"...but come on!" Come on? To where, exactly?

Maybe it was into Eric Cantor's house, where, with this statement, he casually opened the door for Big Bigotry to come in and get comfortable.

0 comments / trackback

Friday, July 16, 2010

A friend from Nebraska recently wrote to me in response to my request that she explain Senator Ben Nelson, who has announced that he will be filibustering the climate bill:
Well, to begin with, let's just say that you're right - it is a mix - but the answer is much more complicated than that. This is definitely one of those situations where the details don't fall into a nice soundbite. But then, Rachel's always been good about digging into and trying to explain the details of something.

Where to start......

I don't know if you ever saw it, but during the health care debate, when all the progressive groups and blogs were all out there in full force, Nelson was getting hammered on a regular basis. Markos Moulitsas did a poll (yes, I know they now have Research 2000 problems) and while it showed that some Conservative Dems were not really matching the pulse of their states, Nebraska was different. More voters mirrored his conservative approach than didn't, and Kos even wrote that Nelson appeared to be an exception and was representing the views of the voters of his state. That's just an example for you.

Nelson has always been a more conservative Democrat. We have a history in this state of pretty independent thinking politicians. That is, at least the most liked, most respected ones have been. Nebraska is also the only state with "non-partisan" Unicameral, which encourages finding ways to force politiicans to be more independent in their thinking (but more and more, party politics are having an influence). Recent years have seen the same sorry trend as the nation where rubber stamp Republicans take over, but before them we had people like Jim J Exon, Bob Kerrey, and even Chuck Hagel. You can even go back to the days of William Jennings Bryan and George Norris. There are many more, but these are the names most recognized. They were representatives that didn't toe a party line on a regular basis. Yes, Hagel did side with his party most of the time, but you could always get a straight answer from him, and he'd boldly step up and vote against his party on things that were really important to him. Ben Nelson falls into the mold of the independent trend.

Nelson was actually a pastor in his early years. Not many people know that. He also worked in the insurance industry and has generally had a conservative approach to business issues all his life. But over time, he has become a savvy politician who does understand the diversity of Nebraska.

To understand Nelson, one has to understand Nebraska. During the health care debate, Nelson was in a position I personally don't envy. No matter what he did, he was going to get attacked in Nebraska and be criticized. It's ironic that at times one could read on Nebraska blogs the exact same criticizisms from some of the Nebraska liberals and progressives that were being made by the far right neo-cons in the state. If he supported the more liberal version of HCR, he'd get hit hard by the right. If he went too conservative, he'd get hit by the far left - with the help of a lot of outside progressive groups that a lot of native Nebraskans don't take kindly to. If he stuck to the center more, the right hated him for supported HCR, the left hated him for not giving enough to their side of the argument.

Nebraska voter registration hovers around 48% Republican, 34% Democrat, 18% Indy/Other. As you look at the map, the further left you move on the map, the further right the electorate moves. The 3rd District (in the top ten of most conservative districts in the country) gets high voter turnout fairly consistantly. Even the Democrats in the west tend to be more moderate to conservative than their counterparts in the big cities of Lincoln and Omaha. And Independents, which contain some left-leaning Greens, tend to lean more right than left. Most voters (the ones not as active or not at all active in party politics, but simply vote) you will find are part of the party of the parents before them. Many of the Democrats in the more rural areas are Dems because they or their parents before them became Dems in support of FDR and rural electification. Likewise, you get some Republicans who were more Eisenhower Republicans. A big chunk of the voters will vote for person first, party second, but both sides of the spectrum have those that will only vote party line.

Any politician who is going to suceed in this state as a Democrat has to gain the support of moderate Republicans. If they don't do that, they have no chance of winning. The 3rd District is even harder - there, the voter registration is around 58% Rep, 28% Dem, 14% Indy.

Nelson pays attention to politics in the state. He has a race coming up in 2012. His challenger IS going to be current Governor Dave Heineman. Even though Heiny is running for reelection now, he just lost his Dem Challenger and Dems have to post up a sacrificial lamb for the elections at the state convention in a couple weeks. Heineman was recently challenged by the press (a rarity in this state) to make a pledge to serve his full term his comment? "No comment". And he's going after Nelson and speaking more on national issues, so his 2012 run has begun. This gives you the groundwork for the "Cornhusker Kickback". Heineman made a valid arguement regarding the unfunded mandate on states. Nelson brought it up with Reid. Since they were at the point of passing the bill, they inserted an exemption with Nebraska, but Nelson and Reid did say it was a "placeholder", and something they would work to get for ALL states (which they did). Back here in Nebraska, there was a brief back and forth in the news between Heineman and Nelson. Republicans got the national media to go after Nelson and it backfired on him. If it had stuck to just local media, Nelson was winning the arguement (mainly the hypocrisy of Heineman) in the local news until that happened.

Like I said, the answer on Nelson requires a lot of initial groundwork. To understand Nelson, one has to know Nebraskans. Nelson is losing a lot of support from Democrats and progressive/liberals in the state, but they make up only a small percentage of the voters. What he's losing with them, there's a chance he's gaining more moderate Republican support.

2 comments / trackback

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Terence Blanchard, "Sing Soweto".

0 comments / trackback

Friday, November 6, 2009

Famed White House correspondent Helen Thomas waxes poetic on the state of modern journalism to Greg Mitchell:
The changes are immense, no noise of clicking
teletypes and typewriters, obsolete technology,
little real editing unfortunately, instantaneous
communication and more superficiality,

competition based on personality
instead of content in depth, insecurity
about where newspapers are headed,
money a big factor in all things

talk show hosts peddling disinformation,
lack of transparency
by even Obama administration,

blocking torture photos,
calling reporters the night before
presidential news conferences to tell them
they will be called on,

Hope all is not lost
in our great business.

0 comments / trackback

Friday, October 16, 2009

Here we go again. I just can't find my rhythm. Perhaps I'm being too hard on myself for my intermittent sojourns away from this blog. Rather than curse the burdens of my day job, or blame Twitter, I feel like I need to return to the source - pardon the Matrixpun - and recharge. And since I find that the same way I felt over a year ago is how I feel now, this bears repeating:
In the past few weeks, I've (re)discovered that blogging is essentially a rhythmic exercise. It can be likened, I suppose, to something as rudimentary as lifting weights. One can visit a gym and "lift" - but if he or she not lifting the proper weight at the right angle, with the pacing and intensity required, the benefits will be fewer...and if done wrong, a person can actually do harm. In search of a metaphor for why I stepped away from the blog this week - the first sustained break I've taken in four months - didn't come because I was simply breathing heavy after a long workout, basking in an exhaustion borne of fruitful efforts. I've been lifting the wrong weights, with poor form and pacing, for weeks now. And the muscle that I've been seeking to work out has suffered as a result.

When I started this blog, I did so out of pure emotion. Jeremiah Wright had gotten on my last nerve, and the space that I'd set up months previously and had done nothing with suddenly had life. Since I was new to this whole thing, I modeled the blog after other political sites that I'm a fan of, thinking more of fitting in as a way to get myself noticed. I was inconsistent at first, but figured out soon that simply posting smaller items in between longer essays worked as a way to ensure that the blog was always offering something new, something topical to that day's events both in the macro (the world at-large) and the micro (my own life). And that seemed to work.

But it can become a crutch, quoting other posts or articles at length and offering brief rejoinders - and it had lately, resulting largely from a sudden lack of time to devote to longer posts, my weariness at this poll-obsessed, negative-meme-driven campaign for our nation's highest office and a general disinterest in writing for the first time in months. I'd just become sick of it all, and throwing up a blurb about Obama's latest campaign stop, the Olympics or Maureen Dowd's latest column wasn't making it anymore.

Pure emotion driving the majority of my writing here has its pitfalls, and when I lost interest in doing things in the conventional political-blog fashion, it really became pointless to offer my opinion about events that mattered very little to me. If blogging is like going to the gym, throwing stuff up just for the sake of attracting traffic and reminding folks that I'm not dead is like running for 10 minutes, doing five push-ups and then heading to McDonald's for your post-workout meal. No nutrients, nothing earned and growth in all the wrong ways.

I decided that I needn't post again until I really had something to say. Really, isn't that the whole point of writing?

Something else occurred to me during this respite: despite having my privileged education, I'm not nearly as well-versed in the world around me as I need to be in order to have the informed opinion that would inspire both constructive debate and appreciation for my particular worldview. I wasn't proud of the stuff I was putting up. It hit me when I went back to read some of my earlier posts. What had happened?

For one, I'd been listening to all the wrong voices. I haven't read nearly enough books of late, spending much too much time investing myself in the musings of columnists, pundits and other assorted loudmouths whose acerbic take on the world had begun to disillusion me and poison my writing. Part of that has been my now-consistent effort to maintain this page, writing as much as I can when I can, but offering up the musings not just of people whose viewpoints interested me, but also the usual suspects who seemingly everyone had posted on their blogs. Instead of offering a fresh perspective, I was merely following the crowd. That speaks only to laziness on my part.

I listened once again to one of my favorite Stevie Wonder songs, "Feeding Off the Love of the Land" today, in which the master laments how man's narcissism, misuse of prayer and inability to listen to the will of the Lord (much less heed it) robs the true essentials - love, beauty - from the world. It's a song that I think of often when I reflect upon the hazardous political discourse that serves as the mode by which we choose our most important leaders, men and women who truly fit Stevie's description of "fools {who} are even more foolish". But even in that kind of cynicism, I only repeat mistakes that I've been making with this blog. By falling in line with that discourse and bringing nothing unique to offer a more healthy alternative, my presence (however small) in the blogosphere had become more problematic than helpful.

So, as I continue to use this blog as a place to revive a muscle that had been largely dormant for over a decade, I will be more judicious with how I work that muscle out. To paraphrase Jerry Maguire, there'll be fewer posts, less news here at 1,369 lightbulbs. This is not to say I won't post the occasional YouTube that makes me laugh, or the random sports item that doesn't necessarily move forward the great national discourse about a particular pressing item of our time. But I consider the right to voice my opinion and inspire debate a gift from the Creator, and I pray that He grants me to ability to be increasingly disciplined in my use of that voice.

Perhaps I might add something after all.

1 comments / trackback

Friday, September 18, 2009

@jsmooth995 tells us how to calm down, breather and tell a motherf..a person that they sound racist. Not that they are racist.

A very important distinction:

0 comments / trackback

Monday, September 7, 2009

The speech President Obama will give to schoolchildren all over America tomorrow - at least those whose nutty parents haven't pulled them out of school - is now online. Mediaite debunks the crazy:
This is really it. It’s very much a pep talk for kids to do their homework, mixed with some “Chicken Soup For The Soul” and a dash of stump speech rhetoric. Parents who complained about not wanting Obama to impart his political beliefs on their children have nothing to worry about. It’s apolitical and beyond mild.

Of course, this will be an enormous media story all day today and likely for the rest of the week.

Which is an enormous, and continuing, failing of the mainstream media. They're more stenographers and gossip-mongers than reporters these days as it is, but it's there job not to just say, "Oooh, look at the crazy", and to say, "Hey, everyone - these people are crazy. Here's why."

This Week in Race has already taken a stab at explaining it:
Adults talk to our children everyday without our input: teachers, firefighters, police officers, other children's parents on "career days," etc. Presumably there is no opposition to such speakers because those folks are not "strangers" -- they are members of our community. In the past, presidents of the United States were very much considered to be members of our community -- even largely in communities of color.

But this president will never be accepted as "family" or even as legitimate to many Whites. Once that is understood, it is not surprising that parents would not want their children to hear what he has to say unless and until they approve the content ahead of time. If you are not "one of us," you do not get to talk to our children.

Perhaps Obama should get Biden to do the speech. You know, to make these racists more comfortable. Because, at the end of the day, it's clear that that is what's most important to them. Using their kids as political pawns? A means to an end.

0 comments / trackback

Friday, September 4, 2009

There's a very thin line, as we all know, between explanations and excuses. They are first cousins; at times looking very much alike, but mostly, easily distinguished by how they look and sound. What I'll say now could look like either. I'll leave it to you to decide what it is.

I haven't written here for over four months. I'd been foundering in this space, trying to assess the real value of my writing. When all it seemed like I was doing was reacting to the latest thing I was supposed to be pissed off about - whatever Glenn Beck said, tea-baggers, the latest GOP lie, it didn't seem inspiring to me, or to anyone else (I thought). I'd had serious internal debates about changing the name of the blog (which I will not do, thanks to inspiration.) Since then, there have been many more incidents, many more things to react to in our changing world, under our new President - Skip Gates, Afghanistan, the health care debate - but I didn't think it would make much of a difference if I spouted off about it in this space. Hell, I didn't know if anyone was even listening.

But what i've discovered is, that concern is secondary.

About nine days ago, on Twitter (yes, I know; more on that later), I crossed paths with a young conservative. We were discussing one of my greatest political worries these days - the nutjobs like Chris Broughton who, inspired by even crazier nutjobs, bring guns and other weapons to events where Obama is appearing and, as we later discovered, openly pray for his death. My attitude was, and is, that I can discuss this with my fellow liberals, my fellow Olbermann/Maddow viewers, ad infinitum. Whatever you want to call them - Republicans, conservatives, #tcot - I'm not reaching that audience, the one that a) really needs to hear it; and b) may actually be able to do something to stop it, since the true wingnuts only listen to their own. (And yes, that goes for both the Right and Left.)

It was a long conversation, but the crux of it was this: when I asked the young man what he was doing, now, to quell the hatred on the Right that is stifling needed dialogue and (let's be real) threatening the life of the President. (All things that would have landed your face on a "Treason!" poster if done a year ago, against Bush 43. But I digress.)

He replied,
idrawrobots @JamilSmith oh believe me, I am just buying time. If and when I can raise my voice loud enough it will help bring true change

To say the least, I was unmoved.
JamilSmith @idrawrobots: "Buying time?" Are you fucking kidding me? When will you speak up against these RWNJs - after one takes a shot at POTUS? #tcot

The highlights of me taking his ass to task can be found here. I was angered not by his politics, but at his casual tone. As in, yeah, I'll get to that. Uninspiring, at the least. How can you see blatant injustice, have the unique power to speak to it, and not act?

Then I remembered this blog.

It's rare that we are given the opportunity to speak loudly, and it's even rarer when we make that opportunity for ourselves. Perhaps you'll interpret that last sentence as me going soft on that 24-year-old conservative for not speaking out. Hardly so. It's just that in reminding him of his responsibilities, I am also reminded of mine.

For the last four months, I've been "buying time". Perhaps for even longer than that. All the rally posts I have made in the past, including that one immediately preceding this one, were flailing grasps at the reason why I started writing here in the first place, like a rope just out of reach. Now, I believe that I've finally taken hold of it.

There are too many problems in the world for me not to use what I've been blessed with to try to solve them. Whether it be the insane paranoia on the Right or the panic and lack of backbone on the Left, I feel that there's a need for many, many voices. Add mine to the coming cacophony. I encourage you to add yours as well, reader, for there can never be enough people trying to make sense of the world we occupy. There really can't.

I hear many debates about the value of this kind of media. I think the real question is not about its value, but its purpose. I spent too much time worrying about the value of every post on this blog, and when I concerned myself too greatly with how my writing looked as opposed to what I was writing about. My purpose for starting this endeavor was much clearer: to provide a strong, educated opinion on issues confronting our world; to examine myself and grow as a writer; and to call the powers that be to account.

How I let worries about being reactionary, or whether people would understand what the hell "1,369 lightbulbs" even meant, break me, I'll always regret. I can't get those four months back. But I can move forward with purpose in my stride, pep in my step. I have work to do.

0 comments / trackback

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lately, I've been taking my old collegiate column handle, "Invisible Man", a bit too literally. As my father would say...it's been a minute since I wrote.

Once or twice, I have pondered what I'm even doing here, in this space. There have been so many different things I've done with my time here, I don't really know if there's a way to fit it all into one category. Maybe I shouldn't be looking to. That's been part of my problem - reconciling that. Blogging is a medium to which I'm still adjusting to, and I still have my issues with its basic tenets. And part of my reticence with writing, admittedly, is due to the lack of any perceived readership, outside of a few dedicated friends. (maybe that shouldn't bother me, but I'm not just talking, per se, to hear the sound of my own voice. I love to inspire debate, and thus far I haven't accomplished that.) But those issues shouldn't keep me from writing, and I apologize for being as absent as I have been.

I owe you an explanation.

To put it short and sweet, I've been in the process of determining what the future of this blog is. I have been writing in this space for nearly a year now, but have been pulled in a number of different directions creatively since the election. Some have limited my time, some have broadened my horizons. The result is a delightful confusion that has sparked ideas for where to take this space, but a lack of focus concerning keeping this page vibrant in the meantime.

That ends today.

I have some things in the works, and I can assure you that major changes are in store for this blog. There will be a new direction, and I'm hopeful that it will lead to my making a more significant contribution.

In the meantime, hang with me. I'm not going anywhere.

3 comments / trackback

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Glenn Beck's been diagnosed:

2 comments / trackback

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sullivan classifies the forthcoming April 15 pity parties:
As a fiscal conservative who actually believed in those principles when the Republicans were in power, I guess I should be happy at this phenomenon. And I would be if it had any intellectual honesty, any positive proposals, and any recognizable point. What it looks like to me is some kind of amorphous, generalized rage on the part of those who were used to running the country and now don't feel part of the culture at all. But the only word for that is: tantrum.

These are not tea-parties. They are tea-tantrums. And the adolescent, unserious hysteria is a function not of a movement regrouping and refinding itself. It's a function of a movement's intellectual collapse and a party's fast-accelerating nervous breakdown.

Rachel Maddow had almost too much fun with this on her show last night. (For those that don't get the joke, this should help.) Although I laughed with her, I did so hesitantly. This isn't purely folly, adolescent in nature and easily dismissed like so many Republican antics these days. I'm taking these much more seriously than either she or Andrew are.

I'll write more on this next week.

1 comments / trackback

This guy is apparently an authority on what's moral and what's not. Who knew?

On the issue of President Obama's invitation to speak at Notre Dame's May 17 commencement, watch the inimitable Lawrence O'Donnell tear Buchanan a new one here. It's really a shame that Mike Barnicle cuts this debate short at the end:

It's not worth going into it in-depth, as O'Donnell remarked correctly that this is largely a made-up controversy engineered by much fewer people than the protesters would have you believe. However, O'Donnell hot fire in this segment lays bare the intellectual dishonesty of the Republican "pro-life" movement. (I prefer its more factual, less pious name: "anti-abortion", but let's use "pro-life" for the ironies it brings out.) In calling out Bush's support of the death penalty during his time as the Governor of Texas, O'Donnell played his trump card right away and completely set the tone for what came afterward. Buchanan was on his heels, relying more on Republican philosophy than actual Catholic dogma. He's like an attorney who wants to convict someone, but hasn't shared evidence through discovery with the defendant. And like most current Republican mores, Buchanan's position is fraught not only with contradiction, but with the celebration of ignorance.

It's one thing to avoid answering a question for 10 minutes because you don't know the answer. Quite another to not only know the answer, but attempt to convince your questioner that he's too knowledgeable for his own good. It's almost as if Buchanan tries to convince O'Donnell that if only used less complicated thinking to arrive at his conclusions, that he'd see the light of day.

Doesn't seem too, well, smart, does it? That's a strategy more likely seen coming from a Bond villain than a political operative. While I've never held high esteem for Buchanan's intelligence, I thought he'd be smarter than this.

The thing that's truly offensive both about the base position of the Catholic Church on abortion and those that twist its interpretation for political gain is that they apply a strangely subjective classification for murder that contradicts the ones understood not only by polite society, but also by the Bible. "Thou shalt not kill" is certainly open to interpretation, but how can people like Buchanan argue that abortion is murder and yet, we're justified in killing anyone who breaks the law in particular ways we find abhorrent?

My faith in the Lord is strong, and I believe killing is wrong, no matter whom. But I also don't believe that (most) abortion is murder, and I guess that's where Buchanan and I part ways. But O'Donnell makes the central point here: to try to bar one President who believes in something the Church opposes despite the knowledge that another President who also believed - and actively practiced - another thing that the Church opposed is nothing but hypocrisy.

0 comments / trackback

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"I’m telling you, those Cavs...they’ve only lost one game all year at home. Thirty-five and one."

"And they have home court advantage. That’s pretty impressive," President Barack Obama.

0 comments / trackback

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

One of TPM's best commenters says we gots to chill:
Well, I'm just shocked. Who could possibly have foreseen that the Republicans would find a way to score major political points after Democrats and liberal bloggers tossed aside all sense of perspective and tore into this thing like a pack of rabid weasels?

By "perspective," I would mean the fact that they're trying to pull us out of a dealth spiral somewhere on the good side of 10% unemployment, a death spiral caused by a multi-trillion dollar hole in the economy, and yet everyone has their dudgeon on over the failure to devote all their attention to making sure a lousy couple of hundred million from flowing into the pockets of the evildoers.

Jesus people, if this is the worst thing or the most important thing that happens in this ongoing economic shitstorm, count yourselves lucky.

It's like being mad at a fireman working inside a burning house because he didn't stop to put out a cigarette left burning in an ashtray because cigarettes are so horrible and reprehensible.

Eyes on the prize. I'm guilty, too. Look at my last post, for goodness' sakes.

1 comments / trackback

This is indeed something you don't see every day.

But to paraphrase Egon Spengler, I'm furious beyond the capacity for rational thought. So excuse me if this isn't the most coherent post.

There's a metaphor for this in Mr. Stay-Puft. (Stay with me a sec while I talk it out, in hopes of finding it.) Here we have a huge marshmallow dude, evil to the core. (Ahem, cough, AIG, cough, ahem.) He's been conjured by a well-meaning guy (i.e., Ray). Now Ray knew that things were bad, and knew he was faced with an impossible choice (i.e., which crappy Wall Street firm to trust with his money). So, unable to suppress his dreams, he puts his trust in an image that brought him peace in his childhood, with hopes that this image is so benign that it couldn't possibly destroy us. Next thing you know, AIG, er, Mr. Stay-Puft's crushing everything in its path with abandon, all while wearing the biggest grin you've ever seen.

Only this time it's not a church he steps on. It's your house.

Normally, I don't get too upset when I see rich people being drained by other rich people. It always seemed to me that people like that operated in their own, distinctly separate United States economy - much like the high-end casinos on the Vegas Strip. All the while, a high percentage of us have been stuck at the $5 blackjack tables in A.C. or pulling slot levers in Reno. Most of America wasn't been invited to the party. We just foot the bill for the biggest parlor game in the world.

The question with AIG, for me, doesn't lie in the amount these architects of disaster were paid in bonuses. The how much doesn't bother me. I'm furious because of the why.

"Retention bonuses"? Are you kidding?

Look, I know little about Wall Street, admittedly. But if you're telling me that its firms are thriving to the point where MILLIONS of dollars need to be paid in lump sums to their traders merely to discourage them from leaving? (Even that didn't work, apparently.) To say that "I wish my employer did that for me" would be irrelevant; I wish my boss could "franchise" me in the manner of an NFL player, paying me the average of the top 10 producer salaries in America - ain't happenin'. I realize that it's a different world than where I come from. But I thought that you get rewarded for good work, not incompetence that has your superiors holding out the tin cup under the President's nose, asking "please, sir, I'd like some more".

Eliot Spitzer knows dirt when he sees it (natch), and is as pissed as I am:
Everybody is rushing to condemn AIG's bonuses, but this simple scandal is obscuring the real disgrace at the insurance giant: Why are AIG's counterparties getting paid back in full, to the tune of tens of billions of taxpayer dollars?

It all appears, once again, to be the same insiders protecting themselves against sharing the pain and risk of their own bad adventure. The payments to AIG's counterparties are justified with an appeal to the sanctity of contract. If AIG's contracts turned out to be shaky, the theory goes, then the whole edifice of the financial system would collapse.

The appearance that this was all an inside job is overwhelming. AIG was nothing more than a conduit for huge capital flows to the same old suspects, with no reason or explanation.

This is exactly the kind of shit Jon Stewart was talking about.

I'll turn it over to people who are much calmer, and are dealing with this from a real-world perspective. Megan McArdle:
The employees of AIG know which traders are good, and which ones are idiots who made a bad mess worse. But they're not going to tell us--or rather, they'll tell us, and the idiot traders will point the finger at someone else. From what I understand, you can't even just ask which traders lost money--some of the traders will be able to argue, with justice, that they lost money because they were helping the company cut its risk exposure rather than taking bets they might win. Others made good trades that were Overtaken By Events.

Why not just say "no bonuses for anyone at AIG"? To hell with the bums! Well, we now own the company. If we hasten the flight of quality employees out of the company, that will cost us money. The answer might be some kind of performance bond. But as in other financial firms, traders often take as bonus what should be salary, which means that they need at least part of their bonuses to maintain their lifestyle. If they're faced with bankruptcy, the traders who are talented will go elsewhere--the financial market is shrinking, but the top traders still have other opportunities. AIG has a lot of positions to unwind. Do we want to leave the job to the dregs of the organization?

The New York Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin (who upon first glance this past Sunday on the "Chris Matthews Show", appeared to be a huge douche) actually makes a good point, whether we like it or not:
Here is the second, perhaps more sobering thought: A.I.G. built this bomb, and it may be the only outfit that really knows how to defuse it.

A.I.G. employees concocted complex derivatives that then wormed their way through the global financial system. If they leave — the buzz on Wall Street is that some have, and more are ready to — they might simply turn around and trade against A.I.G.’s book. Why not? They know how bad it is. They built it.

So as unpalatable as it seems, taxpayers need to keep some of these brainiacs in their seats, if only to prevent them from turning against the company. In the end, we may actually be better off if they can figure out how to unwind these tricky investments.

Great. March on, Mr. Stay-Puft.

0 comments / trackback

Dahlia Lithwick on Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham slinging mud back and forth with Meghan McCain, and what kind of, um, image that presents:
You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. This is the female version of the Rush Limbaugh-Michael Steele-David Frum smackdown for the soul of the GOP? One skinny blonde attacking another skinny blonde who is angrily defended by a third skinny blonde, after which everyone retires in a huff to their favorite health blogs to angrily discuss the importance of a positive body image and the need to support a healthy body mass index?

Ever wonder why some men think women are less than serious political thinkers? It certainly helps explain why so many men continue to believe that when it comes to "political discourse," women are all long, sprawling legs and silky blond hair in a tangle on the dessert cart. It's one thing to air your dirty laundry. But are we really stupid enough to be having a front-page battle over a plus-size thong?

One would think not. More from Dahlia:
If you're going to fight about politics, fight about politics. Here's a useful litmus test: As long as the media continue to cover women's political differences in their "Health" sections, we are probably doing something wrong. Just as Michelle Obama has been reduced to a perpetual fashion story, the fight for the future of young women in the GOP has now become a body-image story. Well done, ladies! Way to get your thoughts and preferences taken seriously!

0 comments / trackback