Archive for January, 2010.
Either outcome of January 19’s special election would have left us wondering what Democrat would step up to challenge the junior senator from Massachusetts. The fact that Scott Brown won, while unfortunate in every other way, probably produces a stronger field than would have been willing to primary a sitting senator, however clearly she needed to be primaried. As it is, the entire party will be looking to unseat Brown. Brown had two pretty clear paths to choose from: he could legislate as he campaigned, as a teabagger senator, then cash in Palin-style after a certain 2012 loss; or he could try to get reelected. The strong indications are that he’s chosen the latter path: the Boston Globe reports that he’s hired at least one of Ted Kennedy’s constituent services staffers, and he’s emphasizing that he told Senate Republican leadership that he’s going to “vote how I want to vote.” There’s plenty of time for him to screw up massively, but as we learned a couple weeks ago, we should never underestimate Scott Brown. A strong Democratic candidate is necessary, and that candidate should come loaded for bear. Massachusetts typically has a deep but boring Democratic bench, consisting largely of Irish-American men. In 2006, Deval Patrick vaulted over all the candidates of whom it could be said that it was “their turn,” coming from nowhere with an exciting campaign. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been as good at governing as he was at campaigning, which could have a dampening effect on voters’ willingness to go for another mold-breaking candidate. On the other hand, it was pretty much Martha Coakley’s turn, and we saw how that turned out. Any of the candidates defeated by Martha Coakley in December could run again, of course. Rep. Michael Capuano came in second in that primary, with 28%, and remains a viable possibility. As I noted in previewing December’s primary, Capuano has strong legislative ratings from a range of progressive organizations, from the AFL-CIO to the League of Conservation Voters to Planned Parenthood. He campaigned last fall as a strong populist. Capuano is only one of a few possible challengers coming from the House, though in a regular election, of course, any of them would have to give up their House seats. Ed Markey is another House member with a strong, across-the-board progressive record whose name is always mentioned in relation to Senate seats opening up. Markey is 63 years old now, however, and while 66 is not old to be in the Senate, it is old to enter the Senate; that may play in his thinking or his prospects. (That said, it’s not as though most of the possibilities mentioned here are wee young’uns — most are in their 50s.) Stephen Lynch considered running for Kennedy’s seat, but did not do so amidst speculation that his hesitation to support a health care reform bill with a public option was hurting him with unions. That was particularly significant since Lynch, a former Ironworker, has always had strong union support. Running statewide, he’d be weakened by his anti-abortion stance, though if he got through a primary that would obviously be no issue against Scott Brown. If, after the Coakley example, statewide elected officials were interested in testing their luck, Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin would be a logical “it’s his turn” kind of candidate. He’s been Secretary since 1994, so his name recognition should be high, in an innocuous way. Hope springing eternal, expect one or more Kennedys to be mentioned: That could be Victoria Reggie Kennedy, former Rep. Joe Kennedy II (Robert Kennedy’s eldest son), or even, among the real dreamers, Joe Kennedy III. Many people had hoped that Joe II would run this time around, and had he done so, most of the primary field would have cleared. Joe III is young — just 29 now — but has amassed the kind of public service record that, when combined with the Kennedy name, well prepares one for getting elected. Of course, it’s possible that one or more outside the box candidates could emerge. Two such candidates ran in the December primary: Steve Pagliuca , a wealthy self-funder with a history of Republican campaign contributions; and City Year founder Alan Khazei , who was endorsed by the Boston Globe in the primary. One name that’s already been floated for 2012, in a Boston Globe op-ed, is that of Elizabeth Warren : If all this made Warren a household name among progressives, it was the economic crisis that catapulted her onto the national stage. As chairwoman of the TARP Oversight Committee, she’s been responsible for examining the bank bailouts and the regulatory response. Warren has vocalized the concerns of many Americans - but not many politicians - who are outraged by the rampant greed that led to the crisis, and the refusal of Wall Street to take responsibility. “I think the problem has been all the way throughout this crisis, that the banks have been treated gently and everyone else has been treated really pretty tough,” said an exasperated Warren last fall, echoing what so many others - in both parties - have come to believe. These people need someone of Warren’s stature. The timing is perfect: her term at TARP Oversight will come to an end in the spring of 2011, just as a Senate candidate would have to be ramping up. First-time candidates running for major office can struggle with gaffes as they adjust to having their words and actions under a microscope for the first time; Warren, at least, has significant experience in the media and as a public spokesperson. There’ll be no shortage of candidates, possible and actual, for the seat. But whoever enters the primary had damn well better be prepared to fight to the end.
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MA-Sen: Looking to 2012
In 2008, 17-year-old Bristol Palin was thrust into the spotlight by her mother’s selection as John McCain’s sassy sidekick. Forced to travel the country, modeling her baby bump, with her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend at her side, Bristol found herself remade in her mother’s image. Sure, she’d tossed aside all the teachings about abstinence and purity and whatnot, but at least the part about not using contraception had kicked in, and, as she boasts on a recent cover of InTouch magazine, along side her mother, she’s glad she “chose life.” But it wasn’t enough for Bristol (or for her mother, anyway) to have her awkward fifteen minutes of fame and then fade back into Wasilla obscurity with the challenges of being a young single mother (albeit, a young single mother with a wealthy family, whose mother’s lawyer helped her create her very own corporation to “provide lobbying, public relations, and political consulting services.” Ah, every teen mother’s dream.) Last year, Bristol agreed to become an ambassador for the Candies Foundation. “I am so happy to have this opportunity to work with The Candie’s Foundation on spreading the message of teen pregnancy prevention. I feel that I could be a living example of the consequences of teen pregnancy.” Palin added, “If I can prevent even one girl from getting pregnant, I will feel a sense of accomplishment.” Candies is the company that purveys hooker-wear for teens with mixed messages like its “Be Sexy Tees” line. (Get it? Be a sexy tease? Funny!) The tee shirts, which come in a range of sizes, from skin-tight to super skin-tight, say, “I’m sexy enough…to keep you waiting.” (Get it? She’s sexy, but since she’s a “good girl,” she won’t give it up. Except that, statistically speaking, she probably will.) Candies wants to help fight teen pregnancy, but not in any way that might actually, you know, work. Its whole strategy is to tell teens to wait. Wear sexy clothes, but don’t have sex. Just don’t have sex. Its page of “tips” are all about sex — not safe sex, mind, you, but how most teens who end up pregnant hadn’t really considered the consequences of sex. So, you see, just don’t do it, and then you won’t have that problem. Naturally, Bristol is the perfect spokesperson for this campaign. Because even though she had sex, and we all know it, there’s no law that says she can’t pretend she didn’t have sex and that her vows of abstinence won’t be true in the future. And that’s exactly what she’s promised -– before God and her mother and Oprah and everyone. “I’m not going to have sex until I’m married. I can guarantee it.” And when pressed by Oprah, she insisted that her pledge is not unrealistic because, dang it, this time she means it. Why does this matter? Why should anyone care what Bristol Palin has to say about the weather, let alone about sex? Because Bristol Palin embodies the kind of counter-productive, over-politicized and downright stupid policies that have led to an increase in teen pregnancy rates for the first time in a decade. The U.S. teen pregnancy rate rose in 2006 for the first time in more than a decade, reversing a long slide, a U.S. think tank reported on Tuesday. … “It’s interesting to note that this flattening out of the rate and the increase in the rate is happening at the same time that we’ve seen substantial increases in funding for abstinence-only programs…We do know that when we saw the big decline in the ’90s, that a lot of that decline was due to improved contraceptive use among teens.” After years of warning the Bush administration and social conservatives that abstinence-only education does not stop teens from having sex, nor does it prevent teen pregnancy, a new study by the Guttmacher Institute confirms what many have feared: that deliberately misinforming teens about sex can have serious consequences and that comprehensive sex education, in addition to the availability of contraception, is the best way to reduce teen pregnancy rates. The significant drop in teen pregnancy rates in the 1990s was overwhelmingly the result of more and better use of contraceptives among sexually active teens. However, this decline started to stall out in the early 2000s, at the same time that sex education programs aimed exclusively at promoting abstinence—and prohibited by law from discussing the benefits of contraception—became increasingly widespread and teens’ use of contraceptives declined. The study’s authors were careful to point out that it is too soon to tell whether this reversal is merely a “blip” or part of a long-term increase. When President Bush took office, he aggressively promoted abstinence-only education, investing more than a billion dollars in these programs during the course of his presidency. In 2004, Rep. Henry Waxman released a report that abstinence-only programs were actually teaching false and misleading information to teens about sex and contraception. Many American youngsters participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person’s genitals “can result in pregnancy,” a congressional staff analysis has found. At the time, Waxman was criticized by proponents of abstinence-only education, including Joe S. McIlhaney Jr., who ran the institute that developed much of the abstinence-only “education” material, and Alma Golden, a deputy assistant secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services, who claimed Waxman’s report was a “political document” that did a “disservice to our children.” But it turns out that the real disservice to children was teaching them false information, denying them access to contraception, and insisting “just say no” was sound policy. In 2004, a study by Columbia University found that even those teens who have taken chastity pledges — promising to forgo sex until marriage — don’t actually abstain. A whopping 88 percent of teens who take such pledges still engage in premarital sex. That means that despite Bristol’s promise to abstain (this time), the very strong likelihood is that she won’t. And because she still refuses to learn about contraception or teach other teens that contraception, rather than empty promises, is the best way to prevent teen pregnancy, she’s setting herself up for another big surprise. And she’s doing her best to make sure other girls end up in the same position. So while Bristol enjoys her fifteen minutes as the poster child for this-time-I-really-mean-it abstinence, collecting payments through her very own corporation, and helping her mother’s political ambitions by continuing to spew the party line, other teenage girls who don’t have her good fortune will find themselves in a world of trouble if they listen to her. And there are some rather harsh realities that Bristol, and her corporate sponsor, apparently want to overlook, to the very real detriment of all the young girls who want to believe that a sexy tee and “just say no” attitude will protect them. It’s a very good thing that our current president has cut government funding for abstinence-only education. But as long as celebrities continue to tell girls that all they have to do is “just say no,” our culture has a long way to go in combating the outright ignorance and misinformation that leads to so many unplanned pregnancies. Because these stupid policies don’t prevent teen sex; they just lead to stupid teen sex. The bottom line? “Just say no” doesn’t work, no matter how much Bristol Palin and the Candies Foundation and George W. Bush and all the social conservatives might wish it were so. Real, fact-based, comprehensive education does. Period.
It’s the Stupid Sex, Stupid
Newly elected Senator Scott Brown deflected discussion of running for president in 2012 but didn’t give a Sherman-esque denial either during an appearance on ABC’s ‘This Week.’ “I have to tell you. I don’t even have a business card,” the Massachusetts Republican said. “I haven’t even been sworn in. And it is very humbling and flattering but my job is to do the best possible job I can, very quickly — hopefully sooner rather than later — to represent the people of Massachusetts.” In an interview that touched the entire political waterfront, Brown discussed everything from “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (he wants to hear from the generals before weighing in on repeal) to his nude photo-spread in Cosmopolitan Magazine several decades ago. On former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Brown said he did believe she had the capacity to hold the office of the president. “I mean she’s been a mayor and a governor and has a national following,” he said. “But I think the more people in a presidential race the better. The caveat to that is I never met her. She’s never contacted us and vice-versa. I know she’s very popular and has a new book out. I haven’t read it and hope to someday.” On abortion policy, he acknowledged that he still was a supporter of Roe v. Wade, though wanted to make it more difficult for abortions to tale place. “I feel this issue is best handled between a woman and her doctor and her family,” he said. “And on the marriage issue that you brought up, it’s settled here in Massachusetts, but I believe that states should have the ability to determine their own destiny and the government should not be interfering with individual states’ rights on issues that they deal with on a daily basis.” And on health care reform, he insisted that the entire package should be shelved in favor of a more transparent and open process. “I think it was on its last legs before I even got elected,” he said, “because the Democrats even were upset at the backroom deals, for example, in Nebraska. And they want a chance, I believe, based on just what I’m hearing — and I can’t — I’m not going to quote anybody directly — that to go back to the drawing board and do it in a transparent, bipartisan manner — that’s the big difference between Massachusetts and Washington.”
Scott Brown To Barbara Walters On 2012 Talk: ‘I Don’t Even Have A Business Card’
In my house, we can recite lines from Clueless at whim, so to see Alicia Silverstone all grown up among the formidable theater talents in Donald Margulies’ new play, Time Stands Still, is an Occasion. This fine Manhattan Theatre Club production, superbly directed by Daniel Sullivan at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre opens with Sarah Goodwin (the excellent Laura Linney) in a full leg cast with facial wounds, a war photographer who has been badly injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq, entering the Williamsburg loft she shares with James Dodd (the equally excellent Brian D’Arcy James), a war journalist. Particularly attentive to her, and admittedly feeling guilty because he left Iraq before the incident, he has retrieved her from hospital in Germany. With silver tipped hair, Richard Ehrlich (an excellent Eric Bogosian), Sarah’s former lover and editor, arrives with his new girlfriend Mandy Bloom (Silverstone, who also originated the role in the LA production), toting cheery silver “Get Well” and “Welcome Home” balloons. A glowing signal of the generation gap, along with some telling dialogue referring to Brazil, Terry Gilliam’s classic movie, not the country, the gesture suggests that Mandy’s sense of history may stop at Madonna, as her taste conjures the iconic Clueless teen Cher Horowitz that made Silverstone so famous. My matinee date, my daughter, whispered: Silverstone is playing true to type. Confronted, accused of robbing the cradle, Richard, a “survivor” of a relationship with an intellectual closer in age, says he is happier than he has ever been, now with this uncomplicated party planner. Margulies’ nuanced dialogue is of the historic moment, raising questions about the moral imperatives of making art from others’ devastation, as when Sarah recounts an instance when a grieving mother, a victim of a terror attack, insists the photographer put away her camera and get help. Pondering the violation, she concludes: I was there to record life, not to change it. When she says, “All I see is the picture,” you are aware of her human limitations, all the while that she is held up as an artist, a noble risk-taker. The main drama may turn on Sarah and James’ future together now that injuries have grounded them, or professional rivalry for the couple as Sarah is clearly the star, but for my daughter, the play concerned the contrasting women, the conflict of devoted ambition vs. soft domesticity. That Silverstone could make her breezy, compassionate Mandy understandable and appealing, a worthy voice in this quartet, speaks to the excellence of her performance. You can see this post on Gossip Central
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Regina Weinreich: Alicia Silverstone in Time Stands Still
In my house, we can recite lines from Clueless at whim, so to see Alicia Silverstone all grown up among the formidable theater talents in Donald Margulies’ new play, Time Stands Still, is an Occasion. This fine Manhattan Theatre Club production, superbly directed by Daniel Sullivan at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre opens with Sarah Goodwin (the excellent Laura Linney) in a full leg cast with facial wounds, a war photographer who has been badly injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq, entering the Williamsburg loft she shares with James Dodd (the equally excellent Brian D’Arcy James), a war journalist. Particularly attentive to her, and admittedly feeling guilty because he left Iraq before the incident, he has retrieved her from hospital in Germany. With silver tipped hair, Richard Ehrlich (an excellent Eric Bogosian), Sarah’s former lover and editor, arrives with his new girlfriend Mandy Bloom (Silverstone, who also originated the role in the LA production), toting cheery silver “Get Well” and “Welcome Home” balloons. A glowing signal of the generation gap, along with some telling dialogue referring to Brazil, Terry Gilliam’s classic movie, not the country, the gesture suggests that Mandy’s sense of history may stop at Madonna, as her taste conjures the iconic Clueless teen Cher Horowitz that made Silverstone so famous. My matinee date, my daughter, whispered: Silverstone is playing true to type. Confronted, accused of robbing the cradle, Richard, a “survivor” of a relationship with an intellectual closer in age, says he is happier than he has ever been, now with this uncomplicated party planner. Margulies’ nuanced dialogue is of the historic moment, raising questions about the moral imperatives of making art from others’ devastation, as when Sarah recounts an instance when a grieving mother, a victim of a terror attack, insists the photographer put away her camera and get help. Pondering the violation, she concludes: I was there to record life, not to change it. When she says, “All I see is the picture,” you are aware of her human limitations, all the while that she is held up as an artist, a noble risk-taker. The main drama may turn on Sarah and James’ future together now that injuries have grounded them, or professional rivalry for the couple as Sarah is clearly the star, but for my daughter, the play concerned the contrasting women, the conflict of devoted ambition vs. soft domesticity. That Silverstone could make her breezy, compassionate Mandy understandable and appealing, a worthy voice in this quartet, speaks to the excellence of her performance. You can see this post on Gossip Central
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Regina Weinreich: Alicia Silverstone in Time Stands Still
Arizonans are not very happy with John McCain. According to a statewide poll conducted this month by Behavior Research Center in Phoenix, only 41% of those polled said McCain was doing a good/excellent job, the lowest marks McCain has received since January of 1994 when the Senator was suffering the fallout from his involvement in the Keating Five scandal. The biggest surprise could be his numbers among Independent voters where his favorability was even lower, at 38%. McCain will be facing at least one opponent from his own party; former Arizona Congressman JD Hayworth. Although not yet officially declared, Hayworth’s resignation from his conservative talk radio show was a clear signal that he will soon enter the race, and he re-affirmed that decision in robocalls this week . While McCain’s conservative standing has sometimes been in question , no such doubt exists about Hayworth, who’s been a vocal Tea Party supporter and a featured speaker at Arizona Tea Party events . When discussing a possible Hayworth Senate run, one conservative blog praised the former Congressman for his staunch right-wing ideology, saying that during his time in Congress Hayworth had “a history of rushing in where RINOS (Republicans In Name Only) fear to tread.” In an attempt to bolster support among conservatives and Republicans, McCain announced that Sarah Palin will be campaigning with him in Arizona this spring. But when Palin used her Facebook site to announce her intention to support McCain, her supporters flooded the page with anti-McCain comments and begged her to reconsider. John McCain might take some comfort from one finding in this latest poll: the other Arizona Republican Senator scored even worse. Senator Jon Kyl’s favorability stood at 35% statewide, 34% among Independents. More on Sarah Palin
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Marlene H. Phillips: Latest AZ poll: McCain’s favorability at 16 year low
While some of the nation’s most conservative lawmakers have made last-minute decisions to back out of next week’s National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, the headliner is still planning to pick up her check. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin told Fox News on Thursday evening that, unlike Reps. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) , she still intends to speak at the convention, despite the growing controversy over the obscure for-profit entity running the event. “Oh, you betcha I’m going to be there,” Palin told Greta Van Susteren . “I’m going to speak there because there are people traveling from many miles away to hear what that tea party movement is all about and what that message is that should be received by our politicians in Washington. I’m honored to get to be there.” Palin is getting $100,000 to deliver the keynote address at the conference. The 2008 vice presidential candidate insisted that her fee will “go right back into the cause” in the form of donations “to people and to events, those things that I believe in that will help perpetuate the message, the message being, Government, you have constitutional limits. You better start abiding by them.” Asked by Van Susteren whether she thinks the Republican Party would be best served by merging with the tea party movement, Palin replied with an enthusiastic endorsement of the idea. “They need to merge,” she said. “Definitely, they need to merge. I think those who are wanting the divisions and the divisiveness and the controversy — those are the ones who don’t believe in the message. And they’re the ones, I think, stirring it up. We need to ignore that and we need to forge ahead with a cohesive message. It’s a common sense message. It, again, is, Government, limit yourself so that the private sector, our families, free individuals can grow and thrive and prosper and enjoy America’s freedom!” More on Sarah Palin
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Palin Urges GOP-Tea Party Merger, Re-Commits To Convention
Some would say that any attempt to guess what humor will look like in the future is pretentious and doomed to failure. On the other hand, betting on future economic developments is equally futile, and yet it is done all the time. Omri Marcus shares his two cents on what he’s betting humor will look like in 30 years’ time, and how new media will change what makes us laugh. Perhaps the best way to ascertain what will make us laugh 30 years from now is to consider what made us laugh 30 years ago. To do so, let us use two completely random and very different examples: two comedy television shows that were broadcast in dozens of countries around the globe, exactly 30 years ago, in 1980. The British “Benny Hill Show”, which was broadcast on ITV, and the American “Three’s Company” which aired on ABC. A recent British documentary attempted to answer the question, “Is Benny Hill still funny?” A focus group of 20-year-olds was seated in a screening room and watched a compilation of scenes in which the dirty old man chases young women. Sorry for the spoiler, but the result at the end of the movie was, yes, Benny Hill is still funny. Big time. The obvious conclusion is that seeing a man in a suit taking a surprise whack to the face with a frying pan will always be funny. Watching the charmingly naive “Three’s Company” on the other hand, barely induces a smile. The punchline rate is less than one per minute, and when they finally do arrive they are completely predictable. The enjoyment to be had from watching the show is like Suzanne Somers’ bosom: You’d rather remember how fun it was to see in 1980, and not spoil it by watching it today. The difference between the two shows is the motivation for laughing. With Benny Hill, the laughter comes from a timeless place, devoid of cultural context. It’s schadenfreude, which seems to transcend time and cross cultures and generations. The man in the suit stands sure of himself (he could be defined as the setup for the joke) and then something happens to him, which was completely unexpected (the punch), and he gets whacked in the face with a frying pan. Classic slapstick comedy. You don’t get to know the guy. There is no need to get to know him, no prior knowledge is required to understand the joke. “Three’s Company” is rooted much more deeply in the conceptual and cultural world of early ’80s America. A viewer in his 20s, who wasn’t alive at the time, will have a hard time connecting to the plot setup, such as Jack being stuck in the house for days because he’s waiting for a phone call, not to mention the comic engine driving many of the series’ episodes: how and why is it so significant that the landlord thinks his tenant is gay, when in fact he is straight. The purpose of these examples is not to praise “The Benny Hill Show”, or to criticize “Three’s Company.” In 30 years’ time, when we look back at “Two and a Half Men” we won’t necessarily see why it’s funny.
Omri Marcus: Humor 2.0: What Will Be Funny in the Digital Era?
President Obama State of the Union speech shows little understanding of the time we’re in or of the daily experience of real Americans. Maybe it comes from being in DC for a solid year now. In the last 18 months, Wall Street nearly brought the world economy to its knees, paid itself huge bonuses, and, with the boldness of a gambler backed up by the U.S. Treasury, is out doing more of the same. The American people, meanwhile, are suffering from joblessness, housing foreclosures, unaffordable and complicated health insurance bureaucracies, and an economy that continues to stumble, with no reason to believe it will recover. The window of time we have to confront our climate crisis is closing, and the impacts on our economy, security, biodiversity, agriculture, access to water, and the habitability of our coastlines is just starting to be felt. Desperately needed action is being stalled by special interests. The war in the Middle East threatens to expand, the casualties continue to grow, and the military budget keeps ballooning, while no one in the administration can say what we can reasonably expect to accomplish there. To deal with these and other crises, Obama will have to overcome the influence of powerful special interests, who work overtime to block any progress that could threaten their quarterly profits. He can only overcome those powerful interests when he partners with the American people. Early on, I was encouraged that a president who came up as a community organizer would know how to do that. Even before Inauguration day, he was holding health care house meetings across the country to create a foundation for action. And when the workers at Republic Window and Door, who were laid off without the pay they were owed, occupied their factory, Obama reached out a hand of support. But the insider disease seems to have taken over. Obama’s health care proposal was already a compromise–keep private insurance companies, but offer the public a strong public option. But it was repeatedly compromised until it is now more give-away to health insurance companies and PHARMA than benefit to Americans. The mass movements pressing for single-payer health care (which at the time enjoyed majority support) weren’t invited into the process to balance the special interests and ideological opponents of a strong public option. Instead, they were excluded from White House summits and systematically ignored. When Wall Street greed threatened to crash the economy, Obama’s inner circle wrote blank checks to some of the worst offenders, establishing a precedent that the most risky global gambling is backed by the American taxpayer. Obama’s recent announcement that he is dealing with the “too big to fail” issue is promising, but the details will be what counts. And precious time and momentum have been lost. So yes, Americans are furious. The Massachusetts vote disproved what Democratic Party insiders have said–you can take the progressives for granted. After all, where can they go? To the Republicans? To the Greens? Here’s the answer. If they are excluded from the process, progressive voters, and the activists who built the grassroots Obama campaign, have shown they can stay home on election day. President Obama, it is not too late to make common cause with the American people. Instead of feeding them a list of policy tweaks–a tax credit here, and new commission there–go back to the vision of “change we can believe in.” Admit the mistake of trying to placate Wall Street and recalcitrant Republican ideologues. Show you can fight for the American people, and the American people will stand with you. You’ll have to start by taking on the corporate special interests that crippled our economy, undercut the promise of health care reform, and stalled desperately needed action on climate change. Partner with the young people, the working people, state and local government, small business, the grassroots leaders who believed in change. Work with those who don’t mind telling the truth about the effectiveness of single-payer health care, even if you don’t agree with them. Get rid of your Wall Street economic advisers, and bring in a team that is rooted in the real, Main Street economy. Tell the story of what is happening to our country, with the clarity and unity of purpose that you are so good at. It’s not too late to bring us together, not by scolding partisanship, but by helping us see our common purpose and how we can take courageous action, together, to make change more than a belief–to make it a reality. YES! Magazine executive editor Sarah van Gelder wrote this piece as part of a series of responses to the State of the Union which will be posted at www.yesmagazine.org. More on Afghanistan
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Sarah van Gelder: Can We Still Believe in That Change Obama Ran On?
There were lots of specific proposals in President Obama’s State of the Union speech last night, and as it relates to fiscal policy, this passage contained one of the best: To help working families, we will extend our middle-class tax cuts. But at a time of record deficits, we will not continue tax cuts for oil companies, investment fund managers, and those making over $250,000 a year . We just can’t afford it. Economically, I don’t think it makes sense to worry about the deficit until we are well on our way to economic recovery. Indeed, the best way to narrow the deficit is to grow the economy — thereby increasing revenues. Given that President Obama disagrees — likely on both fiscal and political grounds — it’s good to see that he’s not putting all his eggs in the discretionary domestic spending freeze basket. Over the long run, President Bush’s tax cuts on the wealthy were reckless fiscal policy, and letting them expire must be part of any deficit reduction strategy. Again, the best way to bring down the deficit is to strengthen the economy. But to the extent you are going to spend any cycles in 2010 worrying about how to bring the budget into balance, you can’t just look at spending. You also have to look at revenues. Over the past decade, Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest 5% of Americans cost $1 trillion — more than four times as much as the freeze proposal. The fact that President Obama is willing to do both is a major difference between his approach to fiscal policy and that of Republicans like John McCain and Sarah Palin. His approach isn’t perfect — but it is better than theirs, by a wide mile.
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President Obama’s renewed pledge to end Bush’s tax cuts for wealthy
The State of the Union rebuttal is one of the lousiest gigs in all of politics. Until my colleague Sam Stein reminded me that Virginia Senator Jim Webb had done a halfway decent job with his in 2007, I couldn’t think of a single one that was at all well-executed. The last time a Virginia governor was tasked with the rebuttal, it was Tim Kaine, and the big takeaway was that the DNC was going to have to add a line item for eyebrow wrangling into their operational budget . And eleven months ago, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal turned in a ” Kenneth from 30 Rock , Down with volcano monitoring ” performance that earned him the cover of Career Suicide Quarterly . But, like I said, it’s a tough and thankless gig, one that usually falls to someone with an emerging political profile, who’s subsequently left stranded alone in a room with a camera pointed at them, bereft of the ceremonial pomp of the State of the Union. And let’s face it: it’s never a real rebuttal . The opposition party doesn’t really have the time to get into a whole lot of specific counterproposals and refutations. Typically, it’s a mix of generic opposition, laced with party platform cliches. Tonight, the rebuttal duties fell to newly-elected Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell , and — as many observers have already noted — he was armed with a pretty good plan to overcome the limitations of the gig . Rather than orate alone in front of a camera, McDonnell took refuge in the Virginia House of Delegates Chamber, and performed in front of an audience that wrapped around to the rear of his perch. It was a bit of stagecraft borrowed right from the Obama campaign, and it vastly improved the optics of the delivery. And McDonnell even had one advantage Obama didn’t have. Where Obama had to deliver his speech in front of both Republicans and Democrats, the chamber was filled not with the actual Virginia House of Delegates, but with about 300 hand-picked McDonnell supporters, eager to provide encouraging applause. I wonder if the Virginia House of Delegates Chamber can be rented out for Bar Mitzvahs and Oscar Night parties? This is just something I’m going to have to check on. Nevertheless, the decision to inject a little bit of stagecraft into the rebuttal ended up being a wise choice, one that I imagine will become standard, going forward. From there, McDonnell basically decided that he was not going to do anything else that might damage his career, by launching into a speech that could best be described in three words: safe, safe, and safe. McDonnell began with a shout-out to Thomas Jefferson, praise for the president, and a self-deprecating joke (tame to the point of tranquilization) about how his sons were hoping he’d be quick, so that they could watch SportsCenter. From there flowed a river of standard-issue bromides. More jobs would be nice. More taxes would be doubleplusungood. Obama’s spending freeze proposal was “a laudable step, but a small one.” The “excessive growth of government threatens our very liberty and prosperity.” Health care bills should have fewer pages than the Twilight series. And if you want to know more, be sure to hit up the GOP and the RNC on Twitter and Facebook, and Friendster…are you still using Friendster? No? Okay, then forget about it. We’ll probably never be asked to consider the inherent conflict of this statement of McDonnell’s: “Today, the federal government is simply trying to do too much.” As Matt Yglesias pointed out earlier today : At any rate, a conservative state-level politician in Virginia talking about national politics more-or-less has to engage in massive hypocrisy. The economic engine of Virginia is the DC suburbs, with their prosperity driven by the federal government leviathan that directly and indirectly employs so many Virginians. And yet you can’t very well do a Republican SOTU response without sneering at the idea that big government could ever possible bring about prosperity or improve anyone’s lives. Naturally, even more predictable than the hypocrisy is the fact that none of the TV pundits on after his speech will note it. Matt’s correct, especially on the matter of this rather obvious observation being entirely lost on the political media. McDonnell, naturally, offered the standard-issue GOP response to health care reform: Republicans in Congress have offered legislation to reform healthcare, without shifting Medicaid costs to the states, without cutting Medicare, and without raising your taxes. We will do that by implementing common sense reforms, like letting families and businesses buy health insurance policies across state lines, and ending frivolous lawsuits against doctors and hospitals that drive up the cost of your healthcare. Those two ideas fall from the lips of Republican lawmakers like a broken record. But without strongly enforced Federal standards, deregulating the insurance markets in such a way would touch off a ” race to the bottom ” as insurers set up shop in the states which permitted the most lax consumer standards. And tort reform would lead to a miniscule drop in costs — as Igor Volsky points out , “Malpractice costs represent less than half of 1% (0.46 percent of total health care expenditures).” But the good news, I guess, is that you can read all about this on Facebook. The inherent problem of having to rebut a speech you haven’t heard yet cropped up in another portion of McDonnell’s address, specifically his call to energy independence: All Americans agree, this nation must become more energy independent and secure. We are blessed here in America with vast natural resources, and we must use them all. Advances in technology can unleash more natural gas, nuclear, wind, coal, and alternative energy to lower your utility bills. Here in Virginia, we have the opportunity to be the first state on the East Coast to explore for and produce oil and natural gas offshore. But this Administration’s policies are delaying offshore production, hindering nuclear energy expansion, and seeking to impose job-killing cap and trade energy taxes. Now is the time to adopt innovative energy policies that create jobs and lower energy prices. While Obama professed nominal support for his cap and trade plan, the fact that the President had also enumerated an “all-of-the-above” approach to energy independence sort of stole the wind from McDonnell’s sails in advance. From there, McDonnell expressed agreement with Obama’s education policy, agreement with Obama’s Afghanistan deployment, and a muted break with the decision to try terrorists in civilian courts. Then there was a shout-out to Scott Brown, a shout-out to Scripture, a generic call for unity, and everyone was free to switch over to SportsCenter. So: short, safe, packed with bromides, and infused with stagecraft that far outpaced McDonnell’s predecessors in SOTU rebuttal. All in all, it’s not a piece or oratory from which people will be grabbing significant pull-quotes. But it won’t be easily turned into a joke, either. Basically, McDonnell succeeded in showing up, being handsome, avoiding saying anything remotely teabaggy, and offering a generic and presentable face of the GOP to the public. It was nothing too terribly dramatic. But if you’ve been paying attention to recent special Senate elections, you’ll recognize that lately, for the GOP, that’s been enough. [Would you like to follow me on Twitter ? Because why not? Also, please send tips to email@example.com -- learn more about our media monitoring project here .] More on State of the Union
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GOP Rebuttal: McDonnell Changes Optics, Plays It Safe
Serena Ng and Liam Pleven get no respect. Nor do Maurna Desmond, David Henry or Matthew Goldstein, for that matter. The cognoscenti have relegated their work, published in The Wall Street Journal , Forbes and BusinessWeek , to the dustbin of oblivion. Their crime: Refuting the dominant media narrative. On November 12, 2008, Ng and Pleven wrote “New AIG Rescue Is Bank Blessing” for the Journal, explaining how bailout of AIG’s CDO n Banks “will be compensated for the securities’ full, or par, value in exchange for allowing AIG to unwind the credit-default swaps.” Their story caused quite as splash at the time, especially on blogs like Naked Capitalism and Seeking Alpha . Three days later, in Forbes , Desmond wrote that an AIG spokesman confirmed, “that a $35.0 billion company set up by the insurer and the Fed to resolve the issue would pay face value for the securities.” The point wasn’t lost on Maria Bartiromo, told Hank Paulson on December 16, 2008, “The Fed bought CDOs from counterparties at AIG, paid par , surprising some people who said the [value] had to be much lower than that.” Three days after Maria confronted Paulson, Henry and Goldstein laid it all out in their story for BusinessWeek , titled, “Bernacke’s Backdoor Bailouts.” The banks were paid in full for securities that were virtually impossible to sell in the marketplace,” they wrote, based on AIG’s contemporaneous SEC filings. Specifically, a December 2, 2008 filing said that counterparties received $46.1 billion in exchange for CDOs with a face value $46.1 billion. Three weeks later, a December 24, 2008 filing said that banks received $16.1 billion in exchange for CDOs with a face value $16.1 billion. For anyone following the AIG bailout, the 100-cents-on-the-dollar payout to the CDO counterparties has always been a really big deal. The two are synonymous, like Richard Nixon and Watergate. Gillian Tett, of The Financial Times , remembers that it just over a year ago when a senior banker sent her an e-mail tagged “wow!”. “No haircut on AIG?” the banker wrote, “How can you explain that??!!” So when Bloomberg falsely reported, 14 months after the disclosure was made, that Geithner’s Fed had withheld information on the exchange of “100 cents on the dollar for credit-default swaps they bought from the firm,” my first reaction was, “Withheld from whom, Sarah Palin?” Even she could have understood the illustrations in the Journal and BusinessWeek , below. (The conceit of the Bloomberg article was that a Federal Reserve lawyer suggested that SEC filings used different words to say the same thing.) Bloomberg’s reputation for financial reporting is stellar, so I always wondered why it would promote a story with a pretty flimsy pretext. And then I stumbled on to the source of the urban legend. In big bold letters on page 21 of the SIGTARP document , “Federal Reserve and FRBNY Did Not Initially Disclose…Their Decision to Pay Effectively at Par Value.” Of course, Barofsky offers nothing to back up his allegation. And the contemporaneous reporting, plus the SEC filings, prove its falsity. Most people would assume that statements made by the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program in a written document would be truthful. As it turns out, Neil Barofsky, the head of SIGTARP, packed his report with lies and other dishonest claims. If his report were an SEC filing, he’d be prosecuted for securities fraud. The fact that he continues to hold on to his position is truly dangerous. The following is an incomplete list of Barofksy’s lies and fraudulent claims, with the the requisite explainers: 2. Confident that a private sector solution would be forthcoming, FRBNY did not develop a contingency plan; How much dishonesty is packed into 15 little words? Let’s go through the different ways: a. Up until the morning of September 16, 2008, the government’s policy was that it did not bailout private companies. This was not a policy set by the New York Fed; it was Paulson’s policy. Barofsky dissembles to make it seem that Geithner was reckless, when in fact Geithner was following a policy set by the guy who appointed Barofsky, Hank Paulson. b. Barofsky makes it seem as if Geithner had an unrealistic optimism about the attempt by Goldman and JPMorgan to put a deal together, even though he had not seen any formal deal proposals when, after the beginning of talks among the banks and Paulson’s deputies, who led the charge in representing the government, Geithner left the meeting. That same day Geithner was also dealing with the global panic from Lehman’s declared bankruptcy, and a growing fear that WaMu and Wachovia would not survive. Geithner was “confident that a private sector solution would be forthcoming”? Maybe it was a failure-is-not-an-option confidence. c. The technical term for developing a contingency plan in direct violation of an express policy set by the Secretary of the Treasury: “insubordination.” d. Contingency plans are developed when you have time to plan for them. There was no time, as set forth in the chronology recounted by the GAO report : Sept. 11 or 12: AIG approaches FRBNY with two concerns (1) AIG had lent out investment-grade securities for cash collateral, which was invested in illiquid mortgage- backed securities. Consequently, AIG would not be able to liquidate its assets to meet the demands of its counterparties. Since AIG is not regulated by the Federal Reserve, the agency is not aware of the company’s financial problems. (2) Because AIG is facing a downgrade in its credit rating the next week, it needs immediate liquidity help. Sept. 12: S&P places AIG on CreditWatch with negative implications and notes that upon completion of its review, the agency could affirm the AIG parent company’s current rating of AA- or lower the rating by one to three notches. AIG’s subsidiaries, International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC) and American General Finance, Inc. (AGF), are unable to replace all of their maturing commercial paper with new issuances of commercial paper. As a result, AIG advances loans to these subsidiaries to meet their commercial paper obligations. Sept. 13-14: AIG accelerates the process of attempting to raise additional capital and discusses capital injections and other liquidity measures with potential investors. AIG also meets with Blackstone Advisory Services LP to discuss possible options. The Federal Reserve examines AIG to determine if it is systemically important. This is the same weekend that Lehman Brothers goes into bankruptcy. Sept. 16: AIG’s plans for the secured lending facility fail. To provide liquidity, both ILFC and AGF draw down on their existing revolving credit facilities, resulting in borrowings of approximately $6.5 billion and $4.6 billion, respectively. AIG is notified by its insurance regulators that it will no longer be permitted to borrow funds from its insurance company subsidiaries under a revolving credit facility that AIG maintained with certain of its insurance subsidiaries acting as lenders. Subsequently, the insurance regulators require AIG to repay any outstanding loans under that facility and to terminate it. Determining that AIG has no viable private-sector solution to its liquidity problems, the Federal Reserve extends the facility to AIG to prevent systemic failure. AIG’s Board of Directors approves borrowing from FRBNY based on a term sheet that sets forth the terms of the secured credit agreement and related equity participation. 3. Not preparing an alternative to private financing, however, left FRBNY with little opportunity to fashion appropriate terms for the support, and believing it had no time to do otherwise, it essentially adopted the term sheet that had been the subject of the aborted private financing discussions; Barofksy’s other big lie was that he attributes all deal negotiations exclusively to the New York Fed, when in fact they were led by Hank Paulson’s deputy, Dan Jester, a former Goldman banker who represented the government at the negotiating table when Goldman and JPMorgan tried to put together a private deal. Jester also took over the structuring process when he selected counsel to refashion the banks’ term sheet into a government led deal. Barofksy’s refusal to acknowledge the role played by Paulson’s deputies throughout the process is breathtaking. Here’s how Andrew Ross Sorkin reported, in Too Big To Fail, on the opening of discussions for a private bank deal on the morning of September 15, 2008: “Look, we’d like to see if it’s possible to find a private-sector solution,” Geithner said addressing the group. “What do we need to do to make this happen?” For the next ten minutes the meeting turned into a cacophony of competing voices as the banks tossed out their suggestions: Can we get the rating agencies to hold off on the downgrade? Can we get other state regulators of AIG’s insurance subsidiaries to allow the firm to use those assets as collateral? Geithner soon got up to leave, saying, “I’ll leave you with Dan,” and pointed to Jester, who was Hank Paulson’s eyes and ears on the ground. “I want a status report as soon as you come up with a plan.” And once Paulson gives the green light for a government-led deal: Jester and [Paulson's assistant Jeremiah] Norton were poring over all the terms…To draft a rescue deal on such short notice, the government needed help, preferably from someone who already understood AIG and its extraordinary circumstances. Jester knew just the man: Marshall Huebner, the co-head of insolvency and restructuring at Davis Polk & Wardell who was already working on AIG for JP Morgan and who happened to be just downstairs. Nowhere in his report does Barofsky give any indication that Treasury played an active role in the process. That’s not an oversight. That’s fraud. 4. In other words, the decision to acquire a controlling interest in one of the world’s most complex and most troubled corporations was done with almost no independent consideration of the terms of the transaction or the impact that those terms might have on the future of AIG. Another flat out flat out lie. The New York Fed had hired Morgan Stanley to advise it on the feasibility of a short term financing. Also, the government never said that the initial financing terms were cast in stone as a long-term or permanent solution, only as a bridge to stabilize the firm in response to a liquidity crisis. 5. A significant cause of AIG’s liquidity problems stemmed from its obligations to post collateral (cash payments that equaled the drop in value of the securities) in connection with AIGFP’s credit default swap contracts. Not really. No one could agree on the drop in the value of the credit default swaps on the CDOs, which were the subject of contention. There was no market benchmark for valuation, as noted by AIG’s and the Fed’s accountants. So there was no clear-cut need to fork over new cash in the middle of a liquidity crisis. Barofksy ignores two critical aspects of the situation that tied the Fed’s hands. First, on October 7, 2008, AIG, under a new CEO personally selected by Paulson, handed over $18.7 billion in cash to the CDO banks in exchange for nothing . Once the banks held cash for most of the face value of the CDOs, the bargaining power shifted from the government to the banks. BlackRock’s briefing slides confirm this point. Second, AIG’s liquidity problems stemmed from its ratings downgrades and from a screw-up by someone in AIG’s treasury operations. In September 2008 invested cash proceeds from its securities lending operations into illiquid mortgage securities, which could not be reconverted into cash. Barofsky ignores all the facts except those which support his false narrative. 6. In pursuing these negotiations, FRBNY made several policy decisions that severely limited its ability to obtain concessions from the counterparties: it determined that it would not treat the counterparties differently, and, in particular, would not treat domestic banks differently from foreign banks — a decision with particular import in light of the reaction of the French bank regulator which refused to allow two French bank counterparties to make concessions ; The false insinuation here is that a 15-month-old impasse between AIG and the banks could have been resolved, on a bank-by-bank basis, just when AIG was running out of cash and the rating agencies were warning that they would soon downgrade AIG further, and thereby trigger an explosion of new collateral calls, because the issue of this contingent liability had not been resolved. 7. Similarly, the refusal of FRBNY and the Federal Reserve to use their considerable leverage as the primary regulators for several of the counterparties, including the emphasis that their participation in the negotiations was purely “voluntary,” made the possibility of obtaining concessions from those counterparties extremely remote. Leverage to do what? Abrogate an individual contract? Barofksy, a lawyer, knows better. In general, regulators are able to exert leverage over banks whenever they demonstrate that all parties are being treated the same, which is the opposite approach than that suggested by Barofsky. Ask any banker or lawyer who has participated in a major debt restructuring. he will tell you that the overriding principle, the only way that the deal can work, is that all creditor parties receive the same treatment. 8. Stated another way, by providing AIG with the capital to make these payments, Federal Reserve officials provided AIG’s counterparties with tens of billions of dollars they likely would have not otherwise received had AIG gone into bankruptcy. And stated the correct way, if AIG had gone into bankruptcy on November 6, 2008, the Federal government, which had committed $180 billion to prop up AIG, would have lost many times more than the $27 billion being negotiated with the banks. (Again, of the $62 billion CDO portfolio, $35 billion in cash collateral had been paid out before Geithner was brought in on November 6, 2008 to negotiate anything. If the Special Inspector General of TARP is dishonest and/or incompetent, then we’re all in big trouble. Barofsky should be fired immediately. More on Wall Street Journal
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David Fiderer: Neil Barofsky’s Eight Fraudulent Claims in His Report on the AIG Bailout
First of all, let me stress that the question “what color are you” is about political ideology, not race. Second, I am choosing to post this today as a follow-up to the Massachusetts Goes Purple post of Monday, which seemed to ruffle a few feathers. Looking through the comments, there were plenty of people who said that Massachusetts had not “gone” purple, but has been purple for a long time now. There were others who emphasized that the state was as blue as ever, and that my assertion otherwise was indicative of my never having set foot in the state (although I’ve been there numerous times). So, I thought a little enlightenment about the red-blue divide was in order. Hope you enjoy it. By now, we’re all accustomed to the readily applied labels of red states and blue states. In fact, pretty much since the closely contested 2000 Presidential election, most of us can easily envision the map of the United States broken out into the two colors. The west coast and the the northeast are blue (i.e., liberal) states, while the rest of the country tends to consist of red (i.e., conservative) states. Of course, if we break things down further, we see that even within red states, the large cities tend to be blue. There are patterns to all of this. There are powerful stereotypes of red and blue voters, too, and the book Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State by Andrew Gelman uncovers it all. Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science at Columbia University, and he recently sent me a review copy of the revised edition of his book. I finished it a couple of weeks ago, and am just now finding the time to get a quick review up on the blog. If you watch Fox News, or take in the fervor surrounding “everywoman” Sarah Palin, you’ll get the sense that the Republicans are the party of the common people–the hardworking, salt-of-the-earth, Walmart shopping, God-fearing, gun-toting backbone of America. You might also get the sense that the Democrats are well-educated, wealthy, Volvo-driving, Starbucks-sipping, atheistic elites who are out of touch with mainstream America. When you then consider that the Republicans’ policy positions–especially their economic ones–typically favor not the average citizen, but the very well off, and that the Democrats’ policy positions–again, especially their economic ones–typically favor redistribution to aid the less-well-off, you find a paradox. It’s only a paradox, though, because the image you have of Republicans and Democrats is wrong. As Gelman shows using a wealth of data, high-income individuals are more likely to vote Republican than Democrat–no matter where they live or anything else about them (like their race, religious beliefs, etc.). The reality is that this effect of income level on voting preference matters less in states that are wealthier on average than it does in states that are less wealthy. That’s the central finding of Gelman’s work. Of course, he walks through a variety of other arguments and controls for a variety of other factors, finding some (e.g., race and religion) fairly important, and others (e.g., income inequality) less so. The book goes a long way in explaining the partisan divide in this country–and as someone who hails from the ultra-conservative deep south, but has morphed into more of a left-leaning moderate over time–I’ve got to say every story Gelman tells made sense to me. You should pick up a copy and give it a read. It’s full of great graphs, which will make that easy for you. Plus, you might be pretty surprised to find out how easily you can be put in a box on the basis of just a few relevant factors. I know I was. Subscribe to Wright on Health to see what else I have to say during the week. You can also contact me here .
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D. Brad Wright: What Color Are You? What Color Is Your State?
As John Stewart said last week, the Democrats still have 59 votes in the U.S. Senate, more than George Bush ever had when he did whatever the f**k he wanted. In the U.S. House , 14 Republicans have announced their retirement while only 12 Democrats are looking for the exits. And among the 50 state governors , Democrats hold a commanding majority that is unlikely to fall very far, if at all. To top it all off, President Obama’s average approval rating during his first year is 57%, better than Bill Clinton and the same as Ronald Reagan in their first years . Nonetheless, one would think that the Democrats’ sky has fallen down around their ankles and that the Republicans’ impressive wins in the Massachusetts Senate race last week, combined with wins for governor in New Jersey and Virginia last fall, mean there’s no stopping that tea party express anymore. Git ‘r done! Look who’s buying this poppycock. Right-wing talk radio and Fox News. Lots of lefty bloggers . The analysts in the mainstream press . Good grief. Let’s all go jump off a bridge, huh? One year into Democratic rule, it’s already over. Right? Go home, Nancy. Get out of town, Harry. Vacate the premises, Barack. Twelve months ago, a black man with the middle name Hussein was inaugurated President of these United States. Ten months from now, Americans will decide how big a majority the Democrats get to keep in Congress. Do the math. This means we are about equidistant between that historical day last year and the elections this year. And think how far we have come and how much has changed politically in that time. We simply can’t know what’s going to happen in this November’s elections. But we could sit on our hands and fret. Or worse, we could copy the Republicans and re-ignite a Democratic civil war that will do nothing but make it all worse. So, here’s your question: how in the world do all these smart people know — just simply and irrefutably know, as sure as the sun’s gonna come up tomorrow — that the Republicans are on the way to 1994 all over again? (I think I see Newt Gingrich riding on a white horse out on the horizon…) Here’s another: why do folks think that Barack Obama — who beat the next president of the United States (at least she was in 2007), Hillary Clinton, and then beat John McCain in states like Indiana and Virginia that no Democratic presidential candidate had won since 1964 when our president was watching Saturday morning cartoons and playing with Lincoln Logs — is not going to figure things out ? Where is that bridge from which to launch ourselves? (I’m getting impatient!) No doubt, the White House and the Democratic Senate have spent a lot of political capital trying to get the country out of the mess that the GOP has put us in. They have simultaneously pursued an agenda that prioritizes middle class economic opportunity (and tax cuts, too! no way.), health insurance reform (do you know how much your health care costs are going to rise without a change?), a new way on energy & climate (Mother Nature bats last, ladies & gentlemen, not Limbaugh & Palin), and foreign policy (no more democracy at the end of a bayonet, no sir). As a good friend of mine likes to say, with President Obama we are debating health care and climate change and with President McCain we would be debating more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and when to invade Iran. Change has indeed come a knockin’. So, as the Republicans continue to pretend that George Bush was never president (when was the last time you heard one of them mention his name without prompting?) and with a strategy that even they admit has no coherent message (only a ” stop Obama ” objective), a White House that will learn and pivot, and an economy that is improving day-by-day … Mark this: the Republicans are enjoying their highest political point now. Right now. But the GOP has problems — short on money and (even more than the Democrats) fighting a civil war as purist jihadists fight their leadership. Come this November, the Democrats will still hold the chairmanships of those really cool committees in the House and Senate. And a Democrat will still have the keys to the White House. Apparently, that bridge you were looking for leads nowhere. — Donnie Fowler San Francisco More on Barack Obama
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Donnie Fowler: The Republican Zenith is Now
As teabaggers sniff around for any hint of ideological deviancy from Republican candidates, there’s no doubt that they should keep a close eye on Republican Gov. John Hoeven of North Dakota, now running for Senate. In 1996, while running North Dakota’s socialist bank (the only state-owned bank in the nation), Hoeven kicked around the idea of running for governor. Needing to choose a party to run under, Hoeven decided that his values were best represented by the Democratic Party. Writing to the North Dakota Democratic-NPL chair at the time, he wrote : The recent call for me to seek elective office has caused me to reflect on political party affiliation. I’ve thought very carefully as to the long term part commitment I should make, and have decided that I belong in the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party. I have worked closely with and developed great respect for Democratic-NPL Party leaders. I believe the Party supports small business, quality jobs, education and a safety net for those who need it. For those reasons, I am joining the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party. North Decoder has the original letter, and has scanned and posted it on their site. But that letter wasn’t the only expression of love for Democratic values. At the time, rumors abounded that he might run as a Republican, and Hoeven was deeply offended at the insinuation! The effort to cast me as a member of the Republican Party is being engineered by partisan people who do not want to see me enter the governor’s race. The truth is, I have not been to a Republican convention, even as an observer, other than one time as a young boy when my father attended I was hired into my current job by two of the state’s leading Democrats, Heidi Heitkamp and Sarah Vogel. They hired me because of my work in economic development and community service, upon the recommendation of other Democratic-NPL leaders with whom I’ve worked closely and respect very much. People like Sen. Kent Conrad, Sen. Byron Dorgan, state Sen. Rolland Redlin, former state Sen. Larry Schoenwald and Rep. Everett Dobrinski. I have always been moderate in my political views, but now that I am considering elective office, I realize I must join a political party and stick to it. I have decided to join the Democratic-NPL Party because I believe that is the best fit for my views. Hoeven may have believed in the Democratic Party, but he believed even more in getting elected, so he ditched the Democrats for the GOP in 2000. But that wasn’t a decision born of conviction, but electability. The guy is a weasel. Still, he hasn’t been a party line conservative in his tenure as governor — now the longest serving in the nation. He has been solidly conservative (at least in rhetoric) on abortion and gay marriage, but on economic issues he veers into decidedly progressive territory. Last year, Hoeven was more than happy to take stimulus money, and still features the spending prominently on his website (it’s the top “highlight” on the upper-right hand corner here .) He has presided over massive new government spending in his state, up 25 percent in each of his last two budgets, angering fiscal conservatives in his state. But he’s not afraid to defend the role of government in making people’s lives better: As the nation struggles through a severe national recession, most North Dakotans continue to work and raise their standard of living. They do so, in large measure, because of our state’s aggressive economic development efforts in recent years, many of which link our universities with the private sector. It would be infinitely better to have a Democrat retain the seat, if just for the social issues, but as far as Republican successors, you can’t do much better (for us) than Hoeven. In a diminished Senate majority, Hoeven should be one of a handful of go-to “moderate” Republicans as Democrats look for bipartisan support on economic matters. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Hoeven becomes the Democrats’ favorite Republican. Or, long term, a future Arlen Specter-style party switcher.
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ND-Sen: Hoeven, closet Democrat
Well, if you want to know the story behind the latest news on Obama’s spending freeze , it’s a hail Mary to the independents. Case in point was a letter posted on Real Clear Politics yesterday that summed up the mood Pres. Obama is facing at the State of the Union on Wednesday , but also in the 2010 mid-terms. I am a registered Independent. I voted for Barack Obama. And for that, I am sorry. [....] Before John McCain unwittingly picked a tabloid-magazine cover girl for his running mate, I was leaning toward going Republican this time around. I did the second time Bush was on the ballot and I very nearly did the first time, too. But as soon as Palin climbed out of her igloo and onto the national scene, well, there was no turning back for me. You see, I felt my choice was to risk McCain dropping dead and letting the world’s most well-known hockey mom run this country, or to believe that Obama would surround himself with educated people and that he was smart enough to take their advice. I was right. He is smart enough to seek counsel. I’m just outraged at the counsel he’s seeking these days. Key financial leaders who are tax cheats come immediately to mind, but as the recent terror attack made clear to me, the idea that a president of the most powerful nation in the world could think it was OK to have a Homeland Security chief with such a loose grasp of what terrorism is and how it works is troubling. Robert Gibbs revealed another problem with Obama and the White House team in a conversation with Ed Schultz . SCHULTZ: I told him he was full of sh*t is what I told him. … And then he gave me the Dick Cheney f-bomb. … I told Robert Gibbs, I said “And I’m sorry you’re swearing at me, but I’m just trying to help you out. I’m telling you you’re losing your base. Do you understand you’re losing your base?” Now Obama is taking on his base, which will likely get raves from the “Morning Joe” crowd, who’ll fall for this, no doubt, without knowing they’re being played. There is not one voter out there who doesn’t remember how Barack Obama came into office and the good will he enjoyed from all quarters. He was going to be different. That’s been turned on its head. As for independents, it’s going to take more than cheerleading politics to get them back, because fool me once shame on you… People were once willing to believe and join in a leap of faith. This isn’t 2008 anymore. Now comes a spending freeze, not to include national security items , of course, the ultimate cynical ploy to appease independents, while throwing a life line to the Blue Dogs. What it does long-term to the economy is not Obama’s problem. He won’t be around when it hits the fan. Taylor Marsh is a political analyst, with podcasts available on iTunes. More on Barack Obama
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Taylor Marsh: Barack Obama, Cynic in Chief
NEW YORK How long does it take to dismantle a billboard? Close to three weeks, apparently. The outerwear company that mounted a giant billboard in Times Square showing President Barack Obama in one of its jackets, prompting a call of protest from the White House, says it’s finally removing the offending sign on Wednesday – and it hopes Sarah Palin will agree to take Obama’s place. Weatherproof hasn’t heard from Palin yet on whether she’ll serve as a model – this time, they’re asking permission – but that’s not even all the news on the Times Square billboard brouhaha front. The AMC network, seeking to grab a piece of the spotlight for one of its TV shows, has mounted its own, even bigger billboard next to the Weatherproof sign, replacing the president with the main character of “Breaking Bad,” who just happens to be a drug dealer. Still with us? The second billboard features Walt White, a high school chemistry teacher suffering from terminal cancer who turns into a drug kingpin in an attempt to ensure his family’s financial security. The show’s third season premieres March 21, and AMC was looking for an edgy and interesting way to advertise it, said the network’s president, Charlie Collier. “We saw that first billboard, and we thought, wouldn’t it be great if we were the ones to replace it?” said Collier. But apparently Weatherproof wasn’t in a huge rush to remove it, so the company decided to place its own billboard next to it. The original billboard – Weatherproof’s, that is – uses an Associated Press news photo from Obama’s trip to China. It features Obama standing by the Great Wall, wearing a Weatherproof jacket, with the tag line: “A Leader in Style.” Weatherproof had purchased the right to use the photo, but the agreement required the company to seek any necessary clearances for use. A White House lawyer contacted the company on Jan. 8 and asked that they remove the billboard. On the AMC billboard, Walt White (played by actor Bryan Cranston) is also pictured against the backdrop of the Great Wall of China. But where Obama went bareheaded, Walt White wears a gas mask, “the most critical accouterment in the drug-making biz,” according to a release from AMC. Instead of “Weatherproof,” it reads, “YouGotNoProof,” a reference to his drug dealing. And instead of “A Leader in Style,” it reads: “A Dealer in Style.” Weatherproof plans now to continue with a presidential theme, says its president, Freddie Stollmack, using Abraham Lincoln, for example, as a model in one of its ads. But it really wants Palin, and has even done an internal mock-up of how the former Alaska governor and Republican VP candidate might look hawking the new women’s collection. “It would just be a little move to the right,” quips Stollmack. More on Barack Obama
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Sarah Palin Weatherproof Billboard? Obama To Come Down, Company Wants Palin Ad In Times Square
The Republican win in the special Senate election in Massachussetts has been compared to a powerful earthquake that could transform U.S. politics as we know it, pointing out to a forceful populist uprising that reflects the rage of the economically distressed and politically frustrated American voters who are ready to storm the barricades and get rid of the crooked politicians on Capitol Hill and the Fat Cats in Wall Street. According to the conventional wisdom, much of this populist fury has been fostered by the members and the groups that constitute the Tea Party movement — who had backed Republican Scott Brown in the Senate race in Massachusetts — and have created a political backlash against the growing government intervention in the American economy under President Obama and the Congressional Democrats, that has taken the form of the bailouts of the big banks and the auto companies, the costly fiscal and monetary policies (the economic stimulus program and the injection of liquidity into the financial system), and of course, the much derided health-care reform plan. It is not surprising that Americans who according to opinion polls are feeling worried about unemployment, the value of their homes, and the availability of credit are being energized to take political action. What is intriguing, however, is that at a time when the U.S. military has been fighting two very expansive wars in the Broader Middle East (Afghanistan and Iran — and soon perhaps another one with Iran) while terrorism continues to be seen as a threat to American security, the populist insurgents seem to have been relatively silent when it comes to dead-end American foreign policy and the high costs in blood and treasure of the never-ending U.S. global interventionism. They have been castigating the political and economic elites - as they should. But why do the foreign policy and military elites seem to be immune to the wrath of the new populists? Interestingly enough, opinion polls indicate that most Americans are growing disenchanted with American global interventionism. Indeed, when Americans were asked in a recent survey of American attitudes conducted by the Pew Research Center and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), whether the U.S. should “mind its own business internationally,” 49 percent said they agreed with that sentiment. That was up sharply from 30 percent in 2002, and was the highest reading found since the Gallup Survey first asked the question in 1964. These results seem to be compatible with the findings in other opinion polls that reflect continuing public disillusionment with the Iraq War and a clear support for a gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops from both Mesopotamia and Afghanistan. So in a way, it seems that as many Americans are unhappy with Wall Street’s bailout and the health care reform bill as they are with the military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet while the domestic policy issues seemed to have been the focus of the debate during the Senate race in Massachussetts, America’s wars has received much less attention. If anything, the Republican Brown ended-up attacking Obama’s foreign policy from a more pro-interventionist perspective when he called for sending all the additional troops that General Stanley McChrystal had requested. Similarly, some of the stars of the Tea Party movement like former Alaska Governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and news show host Glenn Beck have accused President Obama of projecting weakness in dealing with the threat of terrorism and have appealed for more assertive U.S. policy vis-Ã -vis Iran, North Korea and Russia. At the same time, another political figure that has been much admired by many of the new populists is Dr. Ron Paul, Dr. Ron Paul (I served as one of his foreign policy advisors during the campaign), the Republican-libertarian Representative from Texas who has been a staunch opponent of the decision to invade Iraq and has called for U.S. military disengagement from the Middle East as well as from other parts of the world — not to mention his long-time criticism of much the rising power of the National Security State. It is possible that one of the main reasons why foreign policy issues, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have not dominated the tea Party events has to do with the fact that new populists may have strong disagreements over the role that the United States should play in the world as well as over immigration and trade and social-cultural issues. Hence, my sense (which is based more on anecdotal evidence than on the results of any major opinion poll) is that while most of the new insurgents project a Lou Dobbs-kind of attitude on immigration, the Perot-type populists among them have been supportive of a more economist nationalist approach on global trade issues — like many progressive populists on the political left — and of a less interventionist foreign policy, not unlike the followers of Ron Paul among the Tea Party members (On social-cultural issues, “Peroites” and “Paulites” very much like left-wing progressives tend to embrace a more liberal/libertarian perspective in contrast to the Sara Palin wing of the Tea Party that includes members of the religious right). If we apply the foreign policy typology proposed by diplomatic scholar Walter Russell Mead it would be safe to argue that there are very few Wilsonians aka neoconservatives fantasizing about the democratization of the Middle East or Hamiltonians seeking to promote U.S. business interests abroad among the Tea Partiers. Instead, one could suggest that most of the new populists are either nationalist Jacksonians - who have no problem using force in defense of the country but are opposed to launching ideological global crusades — or the more isolationist Jeffersonians - who are worried about the negative effects that foreign interventions would have on America’s political and economic freedoms. While the non-interventionist/ Jeffersonian approach represented by Paul and other libertarian figures and outlets and the populist/Jacksonian position advocated by the Peroites and Pat Buchanan may be popular among the new populists, the main reason that they have failed to have more of an impact on the right-wing populist insurgents has to do with the strong influence of the elites controlling the Republican Party and the official conservative movement — as opposed to, say, the views represented in The American Conservative magazine (I write for it) - which continue to promote the interventionist foreign policy principles advocated by the neocons and the religious right with their emphasis on the need to escalate the war against “Islamofascism,” That explains why the majority of the Republicans and conservatives are still in favor of an interventionist U.S. foreign policy, a reality that is not going to change until the Jacksonians and the Jeffersonians start using their intellectual and political resources to advance their agenda. Unfortunately for President Obama and the Democrats, the White House’s decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan and to pursue a Bush/neoconservative-Lite foreign policy makes it difficult for them to try to exploit the populist sentiments by trying to project a less interventionist foreign policy. More on Sarah Palin
Leon T. Hadar: The Populist Insurgency and Foreign Policy: Why Non-Interventionists are Marginalized?
The recent Supreme Court decision upholding the right of “personhood” for corporations and unions, and allowing them unlimited spending in elections appears to have had an immediate effect on the next presidential contest in 2012. Previous polls had shown Mike Huckabee leading the race for the Republican nomination, with Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin close behind. However, a poll conducted this week by the Presidential Polling Organization shows a new leader: AT&T Inc. ExxonMobil is now in second place, followed by the National Rifle Association. Huckabee, Romney and Palin have dropped to single digits. In a robo-tweet sent out to 18 million Twitter users, AT&T said that it was gratified by the support of Republican voters and that this validated their decision to spend $1 billion on marketing so early in the campaign. On the Democratic side, Barack Obama, who had been considered a shoo-in for the nomination, now finds himself 3 percentage points behind Goldman Sachs and in a tie with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Jumping right into policy issues, AT&T issued a press release announcing its intention, if elected, to disband the Secret Service and replace it with Blackwater/Xe. Not to be outdone, Goldman Sachs announced that if it took over the White House, it would eliminate the Pentagon. The War in Iraq would be handed over to World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. and the War in Afghanistan to the World Boxing Council (WBC). This decision caused great controversy, but it died away when Goldman Sachs promised Yemen to the World Boxing Association (WBA). In response to the changed playing field, left-leaning progressives and right-leaning Tea Partiers held a joint press conference to announce the creation of a third party: the Traditional Human Being Party (THB), which will only nominate a candidate who “has a heart and/or sexual organs.” AT&T and Goldman Sachs released their own joint statement, dismissing the THB as a “Walkman-era publicity stunt in an age of iPods,” adding, “Corporations have been running the country for decades anyway. The Supreme Court ruling just makes it easier.” Original post at AllGov.com More on Tax Day Tea Parties
David Wallechinsky: Supreme Court Decision Shakes up 2012 Presidential Race; Poll Shows New Leaders
In forming his administration, President Obama abandoned the movement that had begun during his campaign for deal-making and a pragmatism that hasn’t worked. That movement is still possible and needed now. Here is look at what is required, and how a version of it is forming in California. We begin with this week’s triple whammy. Freedom vs. The Public Option Which would you prefer, consumer choice or freedom? Extended coverage or freedom? Bending the cost curve or freedom? John Boehner, House Minority Leader, speaking of health care, said recently, “This bill is the greatest threat to freedom that I have seen in the 19 years I have been here in Washington….It’s going to lead to a government takeover of our insurance] for you.” This is exactly what Frank Luntz advised conservatives to say. They have repeated it and repeated it. Why has it worked to rally conservative populists against their interests? The most effective framing is more than mere language, more than spin or salesmanship. It has worked because conservatives really believe that the issue is freedom. It fits the conservative moral system. It fits how conservatives see the world. The Democrats have helped the conservatives. Their pathetic attempt to make any deal to get 60 votes convinced even Massachusetts voters that government under the Democrats was corrupt and oppressive, not just inept, but immoral. All politics is moral All political leaders argue that they are doing the right thing, not the wrong thing, that their policies are moral, not evil. Conservatives understand this, liberals tend not to. Conservatives know a morality tale when they see it: Greedy Wall Street bankers, who have cost people their homes, their jobs, and their savings get billion-dollar bailouts from the government, while those honest hard-working people get nothing. Corruption. Oppression. A threat to freedom. The conservatives are winning the framing wars again — by sticking to moral principles as conservatives see them, and communicating their view of morality effectively. In the 2008 election, Barack Obama ran a campaign based on his moral principles and communicated those principles as effectively as any candidate ever has. But the Obama administration made a 180-degree turn, trading Obama’s 2008 moral principles for the deal-making of Rahm Emanuel and Tim Geithner, assuming it would be “pragmatic” to court corporations and move to the right, in the false hope of bipartisan support. A clear unified moral vision was replaced by long laundry lists of policy options that the public could not understand, and that made ordinary folks feel they were being bamboozled. And in many cases, they were. Even the language was a disaster. Liberals thought that conservatives would like consumer choice. That’s why they used “public option.” As Harry Reid said, “It’s public and it’s an option — a public option.” But what did a conservative hear in the words “public option?” Say “public” and he hears “government.” “Option” is a policy-wonk term, from the language of bureaucracy. Say “public option” and the conservative hears “government bureaucracy.” The results of deal-making in the name of pragmatism have been considerably immoral, as documented thoroughly by progressives like Drew Westen , Matt Taibbi, Robert Kuttner , and many others. Advice on what to do instead has not been lacking from other progressives. Advice is all over the blogs. Guy Saperstein is an excellent example. We progressives are long on factual analysis, critique, suggestion — and ridicule. Rachel Maddow is one of the best, and her popularity is well-deserved. What’s more fun than ridiculing Tea Party-ers, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and the like, by showing the factual errors, the flaws in their logic, and the cruelty of their positions. But we have been dealt a triple blow. A year of failed deal-making by our side, the Tea Party win in Massachusetts, and worst of all, the 5-4 Supreme Court decision to turn our democracy into a corporate plutocracy. This is serious. Democrats still have the presidency and a majority in the House and Senate, but the momentum is on the conservative side. Their victories in the framing wars have inevitably led to a crucial electoral victory and to a Supreme Court death threat to democracy itself, framed as free speech. Democrats have electoral power, but progressives have not created an effective movement to take advantage of that power. “Where’s the movement?” In the emerging Obama mythology, this is the question attributed to President Obama whenever he is asked to take the lead on a progressive issue. It is not an idle question. Leaders can only lead if there is a pre-existing movement for them to get in front of. Moreover, there are other conditions. The idea behind a movement, and the language expressing its goals, must also pre-exist in public discourse. In other words, the movement must already have: â¢ a popular base; â¢ organizing tools; â¢ a generally accepted morally-based conceptual framing; â¢ an overall narrative, with heroes, victims, and villains; â¢ a readily recognizable, well-understood language; â¢ funding sources; â¢ and a national communication system set up for both leaders and ordinary citizens to use. The base is there, waiting for something worth getting behind. The organizing tools are there. The rest is not there. That is the present reality. Expecting Obama to be FDR was politically unrealistic. And complaining that he isn’t doesn’t move anything forward. Howard Dean was right when he said, “YOU have the power.” What is needed is an organized activist public with a positive understanding of what our values are and how to links them to every issue. Barney Frank was only half-right when he said that the public gets active only when it is angry. That may be true for isolated issues — he was talking about regulating Wall Street. But anger is directed at isolated negatives. An effective movement must be positive, organized, and long-term, where an overall positive understanding defines the isolated negatives. And it must have all of the above. The California Democracy Movement We have the beginning of such a movement in California. The central issue in California is basic democracy. California is the only state in America where the legislature is controlled by a relatively small conservative minority. Because it takes a 2/3 vote in both the Senate and Assembly to pass a budget or any tax, 1/3 plus one - 34% — in either house can control the vote by saying no to measures that would finance public needs. Conservatives exercise that control for the simple reason that they don’t believe that government should serve public needs, that instead government should be privatized and shrunk to fit in a bathtub, as if governing would disappear with government. But governing doesn’t disappear when government shrinks; instead corporations come to govern your life — like HMO’s, oil companies, drug companies, agribusiness, and so on, with accountability only to maximizing profit, not to public needs. An overwhelming majority of Californians — over 60% — disagree. They believe that government should serve public needs, and they have elected sensible legislators. But they don’t quite make up 2/3. And so an extreme right-wing minority - about 37% — controls the state, its present and its future. Luckily, there is a way out for the majority in California. The initiative process that created this situation can get us out. I have proposed The California Democracy Act as an initiative in the November 2010 election. It changes two words in the California Constitution - “two-thirds” becomes “a majority” in two places. It can be described in one simple sentence: All legislative actions on revenue and budget must be determined by a majority vote. That ballot initiative needs only a majority to pass. It would return majority rule to the legislature on everyday economic issues, bringing democracy back to California. Those interested can join the campaign by clicking on www.CaliforniansForDemocracy.com Democracy is the central issue, and that is what our movement is about. We are setting up an infrastructure in California, with a statewide organization and a speakers’ bureau, for those who want to continue democratizing the state after the election. Democracy is The Issue The majority vote campaign gives us a chance to talk not only about this particular issue, but about democracy as it affects all issues. The clearest articulator of what democracy is about has been Barack Obama — the campaigner we cheered for, campaigned hard for, and voted for. Democracy, he has observed, is based on empathy — on citizens caring about one another. That’s why we have principles like freedom and fairness, for everybody, not just for the rich and powerful. True empathy requires responsibility, not just for oneself, but also for others. And since we, as individuals and as a nation, are far from perfect, empathy demands an ethic of excellence, of making oneself better, one’s family and community better, and one’s nation better. That view of citizenship in a democracy comes with a view of government. Government has two sacred moral missions: protection and empowerment. Protection goes well beyond police and the military and the fire department to consumer protection, environmental protection, worker protection, health care, investor protection, social security, and other safety nets. Empowerment is what the stimulus package was about: building and maintaining roads, bridges, public transportation, and public buildings; systems for communication, electricity, water; education, from pre-school through graduate and professional schools; scientific research and technological development; a banking system that works; a stock market that works; and a judicial system that works. No one earns a living or lives well without protection and empowerment by the government. That is what taxes pay for. And the more you make from what the government gives you, the more you should contribute to keeping it going. Tax Shifts When you cut taxes that pay for public needs, you are actually shifting taxes. You are taxing others. In California tax cuts for corporations last year led to cuts in the support for public universities, which led to 32% higher tuition and a drastic cut in the number of students educated. That 32% constituted a tax on those students and their parents, and when they had to borrow the money for college, interest payments on the loan effectively double the cost of the loan. That’s a very high tax shift. But an even higher tax is shifted onto students who cannot afford the higher tuition: the tax of a lost education lasts all one’s life and its cost is not only monetary, but a cost in human potential. It is also a cost to employers, who get less educated workers, and to society, which gets less educated citizens. The Movement We will be talking about all of this and more. Take economic democracy. California is the world’s seventh richest economy. It is ludicrous to say that there is no money in California. If the money for public needs is there, where is it? In California, the richest one percent owns more assets than the bottom 95 per cent. The money is concentrated at the top. Just about every issue comes down to the issue of democracy. That is why we are starting with the California Democracy Act, which would finally end the rule of the state by a small minority of ultra-conservative legislators. It would finally give the voters of the state a voice in their own future and the future of their children and grandchildren. If you live in California (one out of eight Americans does), then join the California Democracy Movement. If you live elsewhere, form your own democracy movement and unite with us. The principles are simple, and they are Obama’s: Democracy is about empathy — caring about your fellow citizens, which leads to the principles of freedom and fairness for all. Empathy requires both personal and social responsibility. The ethic of excellence means making the world better by making yourself better, your family better, your community better, and your nation better. Government has two moral missions: protection and empowerment for all. To carry them out, government must be by, for, and of the people. It’s only a paragraph. The principles apply to all issues. That’s the basis of a democracy movement. That’s what separates a movement from a coalition. Coalitions are based on interests. Movements are based on principles. We need a movement that transcends interests and goes beyond coalitions. Movements also transcend particular policies. The framing of moral principles comes first and the policies elaborate on the principles. The way to unite a movement is to form policies that carry out the principles in ways that everyone can understand. The time is now We have a triple disaster on our hands: the administration’s failure at deal-making in the name of pragmatism and bipartisanship; the Tea Party victory in Massachusetts fueling and propelling ultra-conservatism; and the anti-democratic 5-4 ruling of the Roberts Court. We can no longer sit on our hands and just criticize the President, or give him advice and hope he can do it alone. We have to provide the answer to his question: Where’s the movement? More on Barack Obama
George Lakoff: Where’s The Movement?
I just attended an excellent report-back from the Copenhagen climate talks fiasco. The speakers included Payal Parekh, climate director from my own organization, International Rivers , and representatives from other great Bay Area enviro organizations, 350.org, Rainforest Action Network and EcoEquity . The packed room spoke to the interest in the topic even on an El NiÃ±o-sodden Berkeley night. Jamie Henn showed videos of the inspiring work of 350.org in catalyzing demos and media stunts around the world, displayed stats showing the unprecedented spike in global media coverage of climate issues in December, and spoke rousingly of the fabulous energy of the growing youth climate movement and of the huge climate justice march in the streets of Copenhagen. A theme of the night was that Copenhagen, while disappointing, had not been a total failure, and that the task now was to transmit the activist energy and huge leap in global public awareness forward to the next big UN climate jamboree in Mexico in late 2010. The always thought-provoking and engaging Tom Athanasiou of EcoEquity bashed US climate activists for failing to “prepare the American people for the need to meet their obligations to the rest of the world.” Tom is one of the authors of the concept of Greenhouse Development Rights , a framework for calculating how much rich countries ought to pay the poor to help them convert to clean energy and adapt to the impacts of climate change. GDRs is a sophisticated approach in which the global effort needed to stabilize the climate is divided up on the basis of historical responsibility and capacity to pay. Tom, and the growing number of adherents to GDRs, and to the more general concept of ” climate debt ,” have an undeniable case when it comes to fairness. The high polluters have gotten wealthy using up the available carbon budget of the atmosphere and should compensate the low polluters for the damage caused as well as for the fact that the high-carbon development path is no longer available to poor countries if we are not to toast the planet. Unfortunately when it comes to politics, it would be a really bad idea for US climate activists to be shouting from the rooftops about how much money the US owes the rest of the world. Getting action on climate change in the US is, to say the least, not easy. And the centrists and independents who need to be persuaded to get on board with emission cutting action are going to be a lot less likely to do so if they’re simultaneously handed a massive bill for damages. And the bill for the US would be massive - $275 billion in 2020 according to the GDRs math. Of course leftists will rightly argue, and Tom and his colleagues do, that $275 billion isn’t a big deal compared with, say, a military budget of more than half a trillion a year. But, no matter how much we wish it were so, the US military budget is not about to be slashed in order to pay our planetary dues. Even in the era of big bank bailouts, $275 billion is still frighteningly huge, and especially so when state, local and household budgets are being slashed; millions of families have lost, or are losing, their homes; one-in-ten US Americans are unemployed; and the national debt is going into the stratosphere. The GDRs approach is not just a political non-starter in the US. It shouldn’t even be allowed to approach the starting blocks, probably not even enter the stadium. A public campaign for climate debt payments would not only fail to succeed in terms of generating the funds, but it would also help the climate wreckers discredit the more important job of cutting emissions. Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and the rest of the American Taliban would surely wet themselves with delight if there was any serious noise from the left calling for billions of dollars in climate reparations for poor countries. (Tom stresses that GDRs is not about paying a debt, but “is based on a notion of climate obligations - in the sense of ‘duty’ - that explicitly includes considerations of capacity and thus of class.” It’s an important distinction, though not one likely to keep Glenn and Sarah’s underwear dry.) In fact, as Tom himself has pointed out on his Grist blog, Chuck Norris, former martial arts movie star and darling of the looney teabaggers, has already started using discussion of climate funds as a foil for his paranoid populism. Norris said in November that the Copenhagen conference “was less about saving the planet and more about lining the pockets of globalist elites.” That the rightists haven’t made more hay on the climate debt issue is presumably because the “official” discourse on climate from Obama and liberal Democrats and environmentalists has been to stress green jobs, green jobs, green jobs, and energy security. And this is exactly what climate and energy messaging needs to be if there is to be any hope of action in the US remotely close to what is adequate. Tom argues that a global climate deal will only work if it’s fair, and a fair deal requires a huge amount of GDR-style reparations. My response is that a climate deal will only work if the US starts seriously cutting its emissions (a theme of the recent report-back in Berkeley was that the international negotiations were being held hostage by the inability of the US, the world’s largest historic polluter, to act on its capacity for ambitious emissions cuts). Of course the US does owe a whoppingly big climate debt. And some funds do need to be found for climate aid. Most important (and easiest to defend politically) is aid for climate adaptation for the poorest and most vulnerable countries. We helped make the lethal mess and we’ve got to help people cope with it. But even money for adaptation should not have a prominent role in public messaging on climate in the US. Tolstoy famously believed that it was the existence of the rich that was the real cause of Russian poverty, and that the best way for the rich to help the poor was not to come up with poverty relief projects, but to get off their backs. Likewise the first priority for the US in helping those who will suffer the most from climate change is to get off their backs by slashing our emissions - and by doing so bringing down the cost and furthering innovations in green technologies, building a “green tech” lobby to challenge the might of the “brown tech” conventional energy lobby, and showing that economic success and declining emissions can go hand-in-hand. And if the US public can be convinced that decarbonization is actually in their short term economic interest, it will greatly weaken the teabaggers, strengthen the economy — and eventually make it more politically realistic for the US to pay some of its climate debt. More on Copenhagen 2009
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Patrick McCully: Don’t mention the climate debt
1/18 to 1/24 The surprising new Senator-elect Scott Brown from Massachusetts descended on Capitol Hill to a celebrity’s welcome Thursday as he introduced himself to a Congress he says has lost its way. His suggested solution: to elect more has-been nude models with the patriotic courage to raise semi-talented offspring who fail to win on nationally broadcast reality shows. Amy Winehouse pleaded guilty Wednesday to drunkenly assaulting a theater manager at a family Christmas show and was ordered to pay her victim 185 pounds ($300) in compensation. Her counteroffer of a bottle of Jager, a quick feel and a couple of hits off her crack pipe was denied. Confirming what practically everyone already suspected, John Edwards confessed Thursday that he had fathered the baby born to his ex-mistress, Rielle Hunter. He then admitted what few had expected, that he was also guilty of injecting anaerobic steroids during his 2009 presidential bid, was responsible for giving Richard Heene the idea for the hoax involving his young son (now known as Balloon Boy ), and had most recently regrettably slept with Tiger Woods after an all-night bender with Bill Clinton (all three had escaped from sex rehabilitation clinic earlier in the day). A court commissioner on Friday approved Britney Spears’ request to donate the dress she wore to the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards so it can be auctioned, with the proceeds going to help Haitian earthquake victims. The initial offer of her underwear was rescinded, as she was belatedly reminded by her legal guardian that she wasn’t wearing any that night. It was formally announced this Thursday that Air America Radio, a radio network that was launched in 2004 as a liberal alternative to Rush Limbaugh and other conservative commentators, would be shut down due to financial woes. After further investigation it was determined that the network had actually stopped transmissions over two years ago but made the mistake of solely informing the public through their broadcast. Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for the failed attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas in a new audio message released this Sunday. The message also included other failed attempts he insisted on accepting responsibility for, including Martha Cloakely’s Senate run, Jay Leno’s disastrous move to 10 pm and Diane Kruger’s fashion faux pas of wearing a fuschia-colored dress to this year’s Golden Globes that just didn’t quite bring out the best in her skin tone The rock band Scorpions is bringing down the curtain on a career spanning more than four decades. The curtain will be provided to them by the Clackamas County Fair and Rodeo. A Michigan defense contractor will voluntarily stop stamping references to Bible verses on combat rifle sights made for the U.S. military, a major buyer of the company’s gear. Instead they now plan to inscribe Sarah Palin’s tweets concerning the upcoming Rapture on the handles. Here’s a new warning from health experts: Sitting is deadly. Scientists are increasingly warning that sitting for prolonged periods - even if you also exercise regularly - could be bad for your healllllllllllllllllllllllllljfad]psgo]a[ISJG[pj!!!………….PLEASE SEND HELP…..massghGPHWRQ8AFJG Read More of Warren’s Writing at: http://warrenholstein.wordpress.com/ More on American Idol
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Warren Holstein: Top Shtories: Week 3
Hugues de Montalembert was assaulted by thugs in New York in 1978 and lost his sight as a result of the attack. He never let this ordeal get the better of him and his book is a hymn to life, as well as a lesson in courage and resilience. It had been seven months since I entered the Lighthouse, a rehabilitation center for the blind located in the middle of Manhattan. Seven months trying to learn to read braille, to cook, to type, to walk straight, to give birth to this new self. Above all to learn how to walk alone in the streets. Seven months and yet Sarah, the mobility councillor, follows me outside, step by step, corrects me, or suddenly grabs me to avoid being run over by a car. To walk without seeing is a scary job. The enemy is not blindness, it’s fear. One night, for personal reasons, I wanted to see somebody and I said to myself: I’m sure I can walk alone in the street. I waited until three o’clock in the morning when the city is extremely quiet and you can use all the sounds. The night is warm, it touches my face, my hands. I stand still for a while, my long fiberglass cane held in front of me like a fencing foil ready for a duel with darkness. Immobile, I create a vacuum inside myself, I become a nocturnal animal blending into the night. Sounds of emptiness echo from the neighboring garage, sucking me in. I resist and follow a straight line. There’s the bank whose glass walls form the corner of my street, 63rd and Madison Avenue. I cross the avenue, to the west side, which I know better, and calmly begin to walk uptown. When my cane taps against the metal trapdoors that cover cellars under the sidewalk, I instinctively go around to avoid stepping on them. I hate anything that covers a void. At one point, I stop without really knowing why, my brain is flashing the danger signal. I put my hand out slowly and, a foot from my face touch a metal pole that my inexperienced cane had not detected. I am like a bat, obstacles reflect on my face. Yes indeed, good facial vision, as they say at the Lighthouse. A few blocks later, I hear voices, laughter, and a radio playing salsa music. My heart cringes. Memories of the attack, the mugging, the fight, the acid in the face which blinded me. They are coming towards me and sound slightly drunk or stoned. In any case, it’s too late to cross the street, and the worst thing would be to show my fear. I force myself to walk at a steady pace and to swing my cane from side to side in even arcs. My nerves are stretched to breaking point. A few yards from the group I hear the voices stop although the radio goes on. They have seen me. They are silent as I pass by them, then a voice says: - Hey, man! I answer: - Hi! Lovely night. Another voice says: - Yes, sir! But the tension has been so great that I have lost count of the streets. I don’t know whether I’m at 72nd, 73rd, or 74th. The only thing to do is to cross Madison again, and when I feel the rubber matt of the Hotel Carlyle under my feet, I know that I’m between 76th and 77th. I walk faster and faster, with enthusiasm for this newfound freedom. In fact, I am covered with sweat and my hand grips the cane as if trying to graft it onto my palm. I force my fingers to relax and I become aware of how much they hurt. When I reach 92nd Street, I search for a phone booth and find one a block further. A sleepy voice tells me that she’s much better, that she is sleeping, and that she will bring me some croissants in the morning. This is perfectly all right with me, and anyhow, the night is too exciting for me to be the least bit disappointed. You thought the important thing was to go and comfort that woman! You are forgetting what old sailor Abdul Jemal told you on the Flores Sea: “Of little importance is the port, it’s the voyage that counts.” On January 28, 2010, Hugues de Montalembert will be at the French Institute Alliance FranÃ§aise to speak about his just published book, Invisible , published by Atria, which he chose to write in English.
Hugues de Montalembert: First Steps
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Sarah Palin’s oldest daughter, Bristol, is seeking child support from the young man who fathered her 1-year-old son. Documents filed Thursday in Superior Court in Palmer show Bristol Palin is seeking $1,750 a month from 19-year-old Levi Johnston, her former fiance. Their son, Tripp, was born in December 2008. Palin attorney Thomas Van Flein said Alaska law makes clear that a parent of a child is obligated to provide support. “It is unfortunate Bristol has to seek court intervention in this regard,” Van Flein said. The details regarding child support come at the same time Bristol is seeking full custody of the baby. She filed a petition for sole custody in early November. Johnston, at the very least, wants joint custody, said Rex Butler, Johnston’s lawyer. The motion for child support says Bristol, 19, is providing nearly 100 percent of Tripp’s care and that Johnston has paid only $4,400 in more than a year. Palin’s oldest daughter also is seeking back child support of $18,350. The amount is based on an estimate of Johnston’s income last year. Alaska law mandates that at a minimum for one child the noncustodial parent is obligated to pay child support in the amount of 20 percent of that person’s adjusted annual income. The court filing says Johnston has earned more than $105,000 in 2009 for various media interviews and modeling assignments. It also says he has not provided the court information on his adjusted annual income as requested. Butler said on several occasions Johnston wanted to give Bristol money for the baby’s care, requesting that she bring Tripp with her, but she was a no-show. “He was prepared to meet her at the location she designated,” Butler said. “He was hoping to at least get a chance to see his baby.” Butler said the situation as far as visitation has improved, with Johnston now being allowed a few hours on Saturday to be with Tripp. “That is the highlight of the weekend for Levi,” Butler said. Butler said Bristol also is driving a brand-new $60,000 Cadillac Escalade, which he suspects is a gift from Sarah Palin, who recently finished up a book tour for her blockbuster “Going Rogue.” The former Alaska governor was the Republican candidate for vice president when it was revealed that her daughter was pregnant. Butler said he hopes Bristol and Levi can work out an agreement with a mediator where they would be free of “influence by outside forces.” “I have always maintained that if these two folks were left alone they could work out their own details,” Butler said. More on Sarah Palin
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Bristol Palin Child Support: Palin Seeks Support From Levi Johnston
PHOENIX, AZ — After months of speculation that popular talk show host and former Rep. JD Hayworth might challenge Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for his senate seat, Hayworth took the first concrete step by resigning from his talk radio show Friday night. Later, he told reporters that he is not ready to make a formal announcement but is “moving forward to challenge John McCain.” In late November, Rasmussen unleashed a torrent of speculation when they released the results of a poll that showed Tea Party supporter JD Hayworth, who had not indicated any serious interest in running, within the margin of error in a hypothetical primary race against McCain. Hayworth has been a vocal rival of McCain for years and often pans McCain on his talk radio show, even boasting sometimes about the possibility of challenging McCain for his senate seat. McCain, who has not faced a viable challenger in at least two decades, told reporters that he is taking the potential challenge seriously and got an early start on his campaign over the last few weeks. A couple of weeks ago, McCain began running attack ads (criticizing Hayworth’s previous Congressional voting record) on the same radio station that runs Hayworth’s talk radio show: JD Hayworth. That’s not what Arizona wants. He sounds conservative on the radio, but JD was one of the biggest spenders in Congress. In 2005 they passed a bill with 6,500 pork barrel earmarks worth more than $24 billion. JD voted for every one. He would be the wrong direction for Arizona. McCain is the right direction. Character matters. McCain has also become more vocal in the press and began taking steps further to the right on hot button issues like healthcare in recent weeks. Despite these efforts, McCain is clearly in trouble among the party faithful in his own backyard. McCain was clobbered in a straw poll conducted at the Maricopa County Republican Party (Phoenix metro) Convention. According to precinct committeepersons in attendance, McCain earned only 10.5 percent of the vote while Hayworth earned 68 percent. On Wednesday, just one day after Scott Brown was elected to replace Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), the McCain campaign was robocalling Arizona voters using a recording by Brown: Hello. This is newly elected United States Senator Scott Brown from Massachusetts. I am honored at the role that your Senator John McCain played in my election yesterday. When few thought I had a chance of winning, John stood by me and supported my campaign. He was the first one. I want to thank him for his support for me, and I want to encourage you to continue to support John. I look forward to joining him as he fights against wasteful spending and a government takeover of your health care. Please call his campaign today. Hayworth also announced this week that lawyers from his station’s parent company, Clear Channel, had ordered him not to discuss McCain or anything related to a potential senate race on his show. In fact, Hayworth was instructed not to even defend himself against the attack ads. This decision was handed down by Clear Channel’s legal department in response to a complaint filed with the FEC against Hayworth by McCain’s former Chief of Staff, Grant Woods. The complaint alleged that Hayworth illegally used his talk radio show to promote his potential candidacy. Under gag order on his own show, Hayworth appeared on another talk radio show on the same station to defend himself. Friday morning, Rasmussen released a new poll that was conducted right after McCain announced that his former vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, will be traveling to Arizona to campaign for McCain. Politicos had been speculating whether Palin would campaign for fellow Tea Party darling Hayworth or former running mate McCain. The new Rasmussen poll has McCain up by 22 points (53-31). Friday afternoon, Hayworth told fans to listen to KFYI at 6:06 PM for an important announcement. He began by recounting a meeting with a Clear Channel representative earlier in the day. Hayworth said he understood their position, “the station was between a rock and a hard place …. a broadcast license can be a very valuable thing,” and acknowledged difficulty following the guidelines, especially not being able to answer the attack ads that McCain is running against him on the same station. Rather than continue hosting his show under these circumstances, Hayworth announced that he is leaving talk radio “to prepare for my next great adventure.” He told his fans they would see him again in the public arena, explaining, “Another chapter begins. The call to public service remains …. sometimes public office offers the most tangible kind of public service.” In a statement that was clearly meant for McCain, Hayworth said, “Thank you for your service …. but it is time for you to come home.” More on John McCain
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Dawn Teo: JD Hayworth Resigns: Tea Party Talk Show Host WILL Run Against McCain
It would be fair to call this another busy day on the Wrap, but I have a funny feeling that there won’t be many light days on the Wrap between now and November. Heck, now even Fridays are no longer immune from the news crush…. CA-Gov: Dueling Polls Tell Dramatically Different Stories On this Friday, there are not one, but two, new polls out on the status of the hotly-contested open-seat gubernatorial race in the Golden State. A day after exploring the Senate race, the venerable Field Poll looks at the race, and finds Democratic AG (and former Governor) Jerry Brown with a somewhat comfortable lead. Against likely GOP nominee Meg Whitman (who has a nearly three-to-one lead over insurance commissioner Steve Poizner in the primary), Brown holds a ten-point edge (46-36). Poizner is even further behind, trailing 48-31. Meanwhile, Rasmussen also lands in the Golden State, and they find the Democratic lead to be much more perilous. Ras gives Brown a mere four-point edge over Whitman (43-39), while Poizner is several points further behind (45-35). Meanwhile, apparently Ras knows something the rest of the political world doesn’t know, because they also test Senator Dianne Feinstein as a potential Democratic nominee. In a sign of how toxic the US Senate has become politically, Feinstein actually does somewhat worse against the GOP. She leads Whitman by just a point (43-42) and Poizner by four points (43-39). AR-Sen: New Poll Confirms Lincoln’s Staggering Vulnerability There is nothing in a new poll out of Arkansas today that is going to make incumbent Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln happy, a status she is probably going accustomed to . This new poll, produced by Mason Dixon , has Lincoln losing to two of her main GOP challengers. She trails former state Senator Jim Holt (who she beat by double digits in 2004) by a six-point margin (43-37), and also trails state Senator Gilbert Baker by four (43-39). One sliver of silver lining, she does hold leads of 1-5 points over her lesser-known GOP rivals. In a stat that has to give her some pause, as well, she is held to just 52% of the vote in a potential Democratic primary with state Lt. Governor Bill Halter. Halter, who has been exploring both a Senate bid and a possible bid in AR-02, takes 34% of the vote despite not being an active candidate. In other Arkansas Senate news on this Friday evening, it looks like Republicans might finally have landed a first-tier opponent for the second-term Democrat: Congressman John Boozman , who has represented the bright red 3rd district in the northwestern quarter of the state, is now makng overtures towards seeking Lincoln’s seat in the Senate. UT-Gov: Mason Dixon Pours Cold Water on Dem Upset Theory Less than a week after local pollsters Dan Jones and Associates showed the Democratic challenger within striking distance of a GOP incumbent Governor in Utah (of all places), a new poll out today from Mason Dixon on behalf of the Salt Lake Tribune paints a different picture. They have incumbent Governor Gary Herbert (R) with a twenty-five point lead over his likely Democratic opponent, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon (55-30). Corroon announced last week that he would be seeking the governorship, which is only up in 2010 because Herbert assumed the uncompleted term of Jon Huntsman, who left the statehouse in order to serve as President Obama’s Ambassador to China. AZ-Sen: Rasmussen Has McCain Regaining Clear Lead Over Hayworth Back in late 2009, it was Rasmussen that put Grand Canyon State politics on its ear when it released a poll showing bombastic former GOP Congressman J.D Hayworth within just four points of longtime incumbent Senator John McCain. Their newest data shows McCain in a much more comfortable position. They have McCain leading Hayworth by twenty-two points (53-31), with just 4% for Minuteman activist and hard-right candidate Chris Simcox. The campaign seems to be on and cracking, by the way, as McCain is now running ads referencing Hayworth and accusing him of being a fan of profligate spending during his tenure in the House. WH 2012: Down Is Up and Up Is Down in Battle of Dueling Pollsters Looking ahead to the 2012 presidential race, we see two new sets of data, one from Fox News and one from PPP (which is, at least nominally, a Democratic pollster). The results, to say the least, defy conventional wisdom. It is Fox News that seems very bullish on Obama (PDF file) , giving the President large leads over everyone, including big leads over Mitt Romney (47-35) and Sarah Palin (55-31). The very next day, PPP released their monthly look (PDF file) at the race for the White House, and they see a very different outcome. For the first time since they have polled this question, they have President Obama trailing a GOP opponent (Mike Huckabee, who leads Obama by one point and was not polled by Fox News). Meanwhile, they also have Obama with dramatically smaller advantages over Romney (44-42) and Palin (49-41). IN OTHER NEWS…. KS-Gov: After scrambling for a good long while, it looks like Kansas Democrats are finally on the precipice of landing a candidate to face likely GOP nominee Sam Brownback in a very uphill battle to hang onto the Kansas statehouse. Tom Holland , a state senator, is sounding more and more like a candidate. Democratic Governor Mark Parkinson, who assumed the office upon Kathleen Sebelius’ entrance into the Obama cabinet, has already made clear that he will not be a candidate for re-election. IL-Gov: With just days until the Illinois primaries, we see an unseasonably late candidate exit, in the form of Republican candidate Bob Schillerstrom. The county official, who had been towards the back of the pack in the race, chose to endorse one of the frontrunners (former Attorney General Jim Ryan) on his way out the door. It’s generally believed that the GOP primary is a battle between Ryan, state Senator Kirk Dillard, and state party chair Andy McKenna. On the Democratic side, there is a major-league battle between incumbent Governor Pat Quinn (who took over after the ouster of Rod Blagojevich) and state Comptroller Dan Hynes. PA-Gov: Speaking of candidate exits, this one is much earlier in the process, and was a lot more predictable. After a week of speculation about his political future, Philly businessman Tom Knox announced his exit from the race. On his way out the door, he also made an endorsement, as he announced his support for Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato. Not surprisingly, his exit led to some fierce spinning, as both Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty and former Philly-area Congressman Joe Hoeffel proclaimed that the Knox exit would be a political benefit for their campaigns, because it reduced the number of candidates from the state’s eastern half. PA-Sen/PA-07: This is liable to ruffle more than a few feathers in the Keystone State. Pennsylvania Democratic Party chairman T.J. Rooney suggested that Congressman Joe Sestak follow the lead of Jim Gerlach and abandon a statewide bid in favor of running for re-election to the House. Rooney’s request is certainly curious, given that (a) Sestak was incrementally more competitive against Patrick Toomey than was Senator Specter, and (b) Gerlach might have signed his own death warrant with the switch back to his House race, where he still faces the prospect of a very well-funded primary challenge. That also seems to be an incredible slap in the face of Democratic state legislator Bryan Lentz, who has been fundraising respectably for his House bid in the Pennsylvania 7th. AR-01: Do Democrats have another retirement headache on their hands in a reddish seat? Some folks are trying to read a lot into a local radio interview conducted by Arkansas Congressman Marion Berry where he refused to rule out demurring from a re-election bid (the exact quote was “I am not going to make an absolute [commitment].”). Amid much buzz about the interview, Berry’s communications director said later in the day that Berry was planning on a re-election bid, and cautioned against reading too much into his radio comments. MA-05: Is a scorching case of Scott Brown fever breaking out among Massachusetts Republicans? Fresh on the heels of the big Senate upset on Tuesday, GOP Attorney John Golnik headed south to DC, in order to have conversations with the NRCC about challenging Niki Tsongas in the Lowell-based 5th district. Despite going heavily for Obama in 2008, this district qualifies as one of the more conservative in the state, and Tsongas herself had a bit of a scare in winning this seat in a 2007 special election, where she defeated Republican Jim Ogonowski by just six points (51-45). MA-06: Speaking of Scott Brown, his first “endorsement” might have been a little less enthusiastic than previously believed. Attorney Bill Hudak (R), an attorney who is challenging longtime Democratic Rep. John Tierney, was forced to apologize and backtrack on his claim that Brown had endorsed him . Apparently, Hudak had taken Brown’s words of encouragement for his candidacy as a formal endorsement, and trumpeted it loudly. No word on whether Brown will actually issue a formal endorsement somewhere down the line, but Hudak’s fringier moments (he is an unabashed birther who likened Obama to Osama bin Laden during the 2008 campaign) might give the newly minted U.S. Senator-elect some pause. NJ-03: Last but not least, the fun story of the weekend is a little object lesson in creative accounting. Republican Jon Runyan , the millionaire NFL offensive lineman who is setting up a challenge to freshman Democratic Congressman John Adler, has an interesting tax issue. Runyan owns a sizeable plot of land in western New Jersey. On the five acres around his home, he paid an eye-popping $57,000 in property taxes. On the remaining acreage? An equally eye-popping $468. How did he manage that? By claiming the rest of the land as farmland, which allows for a property tax exemption. So what is it that Farmer Jon cultivates on that land? Livestock, in the form of four donkeys, as well as about $800 worth of firewood. Clearly, Runyan was not contemplating a political career until very recently. Otherwise, he would have been cultivating elephants rather than donkeys.
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Polling and Political Wrap-Up, 1/22/10
Finally, Klansmen and Nazis have a league of their own. At least, this may be the only major fan-base for a new league, the “All-American Basketball Alliance” (AABA) that has been circulating press releases about its start-up in the South. The league will be only open to caucasian (white) players: “It has come to the attention of the principals of the AABA that white basketball players are essentially “shut out” of conventional professional basketball due to the proliferation of non-organized play on the court. With players on other professional teams carrying guns, attacking fans in the stands, and going through the motions of playing the game, fundamentally sound white players are a vanishing species. Fans have spoken to the AABA asking to restore on court sanity to the game of basketball. Their pleas are our mission. Only players that are natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league.” Helmed by a man identifying himself as Don “Moose” Lewis, the president of the International Wrestling Union (IWU), Lewis has also had some involvement in boxing, he has claimed, in interviews with Georgia papers, that his rationale isn’t racism, but opportunity. “There’s nothing hatred about what we’re doing,” he told the Augusta Chronicle. “I don’t hate anyone of color. But people of white, American-born citizens are in the minority now. Here’s a league for white players to play fundamental basketball, which they like.” Mr. Lewis differentiates ‘fundamental’ basketball from the street-ball played by what he qualified as “people of color.” This, and the crudely-written press release, would be laughable if Mr. Lewis was just kidding. “When I heard about the AABA, I couldn’t believe that it was serious. They are serious. And they should be ashamed of themselves,”said Joe Newman, CEO of the ABA. What Moose proposes is to take the sport of basketball backward to the separate-but-equal days of baseball’s shameful segregationist past, a place which the sport of basketballl thankfully missed. To get there, not only does he have to find backers, but he has to find white players who either dye-in-the-wool racists OR who have to admit to the world, by their taking the court for the AABA, that they are not good enough to play in a league open to people of all races and creeds. Players who play in such a league might find it hard to play elsewhere. “I cannot imagine any basketball player with character being a part of this league, and we would certainly question their ever playing in the ABA.” said Newman. Assuming that Mr. Lewis can tear enough people away from their 8mm movie festivals of Leni Riefenstahl movies glorifying Nazi Germany and TV reruns of “Birth of a Nation” to fund this league, he would still run head-long into the brand-name infringement with the American Basketball Association. His clubs would be fighting for turf in some markets with the ABA and the IBL. The ABA is having its lawyers look into whether the AABA name will infringe on their brand. Sadly, if Moose can put together the money to launch whites-only basketball, the concept may well find traction in the South. “There probably is an audience for it, which is a shame,” agreed Newman “I thought our country was past that.” I have seen a lot of minor leagues come and go over the last 11 years. What I can tell you is that leagues that survive find a niche, a hook if you will. Racism is a big hook. Right now, in the “Oh my God we have a black president for REAL” backlash from last year’s election, we have seen the submerged currents of racism running through our society leak out in everything from the Tea-Bagger movement to Sarah Palin’s white-fright love-fests. People who want “their country back” may also pay to see “their game” come back to them as well. “Would you want to go to the game and worry about a player flipping you off or attacking you in the stands or grabbing their crotch?” he told the Chronicle. I guess that Moose missed tennis star John McEnroe’s salad days. The answer of cleaning up conduct-league wide in a racially-blind manner apparently is not good enough for this wrestling entrepreneur. Having a white-only league is his white God-given right. “That’s the culture today,” he continued, “and in a free country we should have the right to move ourselves in a better direction.” I have to agree. We’re free to move ourselves in a better direction. Personally I will be moving away from Moose and the blatant racism for which he stands. I’m for one nation, indivisible. Which will keep MLN Sports away from covering a league that knowingly espouses segregation. My shiny two. - Reprinted with Permission from the ” MAJOR BLOGS of Minor League News ” More on NBA
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Brian Ross: New League Proposes White-Only Pro Basketball
The following is purely bi-partisan in its vitriol, but the crystallizing moment occurred on Tuesday when a former nude model with a truck beat a boring, arrogant annointee of the Massachusetts Democratic Party. I don’t blame the electorate for gagging on the Kennedy heir designate though I wish their disgust could have been rewarded by something more than a face with nothing more to recommend him than Palin worship. While hardly the nail in the coffin of needed reform, Senator Scott Brown is a fine symbol for the delusions sweeping America. Please read on and feel free to weep. Delusion One: A defeat for healthcare reform is good for America. Actually, it’s a disaster. We’re speeding toward 20% of GDP being spent on the sector, which is much like putting a very fat man in the corner of a rowboat. The overconcentration is enough to tip the whole thing over and everyone gets wet. We will have to reform healthcare; the only real question is whether we want to do it from the boat or the water. Delusion Two: China will lead the way out of this mess. True, it’s growing again at over 8% annually, but perhaps that has something to do with a $560 billion stimulus and what’s obviously a growing real estate bubble. And just as always happens, ‘experts’ are happy to tell us why the Chinese case is different from every historical precedent and that the bubble won’t pop. They’re right in that China is different, but wrong about their prognosis. Bubbles always pop, just never for an expected reason. And when that happens, the dragon will fall on its face, just like all the other superpowers before them. Delusion Three: The banking system is healthy again, so we should leave it alone. Real unemployment, including the underemployed, is near 20%. Small business lending has not increased. Home foreclosures are accelerating. Meanwhile anyone who isn’t too big to fail is left to his own devices, and the same practices that caused the worst economic disaster in nearly a century are left in place. Logic we suggest that we should act before history is allowed to repeat itself. Delusion Four: This is Barak Obama’s fault. To my friends on both the left and right, I would remind you that he is a mere mortal (neither heaven sent or demonic). Obama is constrained by a little something called the separation of powers, which we all used to think a good thing. He’s made plenty of mistakes, but not nearly so many as the collections of self-serving job-preservationists that inhabit both houses of Congress. By way of proof, I offer a single opprobrious example, Senator Arlen Specter. Delusion Five: We’re dealing with this mess at the ballot box. Actually, we allow the parties to put up all manners of yahoos. Once elected, they invariably cozy up to one kind of special interest - the well-funded kind - so as to get the funding to stay in office. Perhaps we should insist on better candidates, go to the inconvenience of voting for them, and then ask them to leave - via term limits - before they outstay their welcome. More on Careers
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Michael B. Laskoff: Five Popular Delusions Castrating America
This is one of those absurdly busy days in the campaign world. Thus, it stands to reason that the Wrap is only slightly shorter than “War and Peace” tonight. So, without further hesitation, let’s launch into it. GA-Gov: Barnes Looking Competitive In His Comeback Bid Kudos to Rasmussen Reports (yes, you heard right…) for being the first pollster to actually venture past the gubernatorial primaries in the Peach State and poll the general election. The verdict: former Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes makes it a race . Against GOP frontrunner John Oxendine, Barnes trails by just two points (44-42). Against either GOP Sec. of State Karen Handel or arch-conservative Congressman Nathan Deal, Barnes holds an infinitesimal edge of a single point (43-42). PA-Sen: Ras Feeling A GOP Pickup in Keystone State The Ras-a-Palooza continues today in the state of Pennsylvania. Their general election polling in the Senate race provides an interesting quirk: despite a solid lead in the Dem primary, incumbent Senator Arlen Specter actually does slightly worse than against likely GOP nominee Patrick Toomey than does primary challenger Joe Sestak. Rasmussen claims a nine-point lead for Toomey over Specter (49-40), while it claims that Sestak is not only closer to Toomey, but also holds him much farther under 50% (43-35). MO-Sen: Ras Sees Lead For Blunt in Critical Open Seat In a race that every pollster has had as pretty much a coin flip, Rasmussen is seeing at least a sliver of daylight in the Republican candidates’s favor. The race is the critical toss-up in the Show Me State, where Rasmussen has a six-point edge for Republican Roy Blunt over Democrat Robin Carnahan (49-43). Most polls have had the race dead-even, or given Carnahan the slightest of advantages. NY-Gov: Ras Sees A Lazio Surge In The Empire State This could be one of those “grain of salt” polls for Rasmussen, as they head into the state of New York and look at the gubernatorial race. In a state where nobody has had likely GOP nominee Rick Lazio within thirty points in a heads-up battle with Democrat Andrew Cuomo, Rasmussen has Lazio within 19 points of Cuomo in their latest poll (54-35). In Rasmussen’s defense, however, this is the same poll where they had Kirsten Gillibrand leading a generic Republican despite the inclusion of Harold Ford Jr. as an Independent candidate. Meanwhile, in the unlikely event that incumbent Democratic Governor David Paterson survives an expected Cuomo primary, he would trail Lazio by seven points (45-38), according to the House of Ras. CA-Sen: New Entrant Campbell Looks Like GOP Frontrunner There are two items in the Wrap tonight that may well explain why former Congressman Tom Campbell switched last week from the GOP gubernatorial primary in California to the Senate primary. The first is new data from the Field Poll , the venerable California firm that has been polling the Golden State since Hiram Johnson was a lad. The Field Poll gives Campbell a lead of five points in the Republican primary (despite him being arguably the most “moderate” candidate in the field). He has 30% of the primary vote, leading Carly Fiorina at 25% and hard-right candidate (and preferred choice of Sen. Jim DeMint) Chuck DeVore, who sits well back at 6%. In the general election, Campbell is also the most competitive candidate against Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer. The good news for Dems: Boxer has a double digit lead over all of them. Campbell trails by 10, while Fiorina and DeVore trail by 15 and 17 points, respectively. The second reason why Campbell seems to have chosen well in his campaign switcheroo. GOP gubernatorial frontrunner Meg Whitman announced that she has tossed another $20 million into her campaign kitty, bringing her self-funding total to (holy Michael Bloomberg, Batman!!) a grand total of $39 million. IL-Gov: Is The Democratic Primary Legitimately Competitive? A new internal poll for Democratic state Comptroller Dan Hynes implies that his primary challenge to incumbent Governor Pat Quinn may well be tightening noticeably. Hynes’ poll claims that Quinn, who had a twenty-ish point lead in public polling several weeks back, now leads Hynes by just seven points (44-37). He also claims that the campaign has exacted a pound of flesh from Quinn’s favorables, which are net negative. The campaign has been occasionally nasty and, without question, expensive . Both Quinn and Hynes spent over $5 million in the last half of 2009 alone. The primary is now less than two weeks away, coming around on February 2nd. The GOP primary, meanwhile, is a coin flip, with several viable candidates, including former state AG Jim Ryan, state senator Kirk Dillard, and former state GOP chairman Andy McKenna. NC-Sen: Good News/Bad News–Burr Wounded, But Still Leading Dems If the Democrats fail to pick off freshman Senator Richard Burr in North Carolina, it is bound to sting. Burr is languishing with a job approval rating in the 30s, but he still holds a lead (PDF file) over leading Democrats, according to a new poll by PPP. Democratic Secretary of State Elaine Marshall comes closest, but still trails Burr by seven points (44-37). Former state Senator Cal Cunningham (45-36) and attorney Ken Lewis (46-34) trail by slightly larger margins. Burr narrowly won election in 2004 over former Clinton administration bigwig Erskine Bowles. CT-Gov: Post-Bysiewicz “Q” Poll A Bit of A Democratic Killjoy A quick read of the new numbers for Quinnipiac in the state of Connecticut is going to leave a lot of Dems wishing Susan Bysiewicz hadn’t ejected from the gubernatorial campaign (although facing two self-funders is one heck of an incentive). While the Democrats still lead in this new Q poll , the margins have been seriously truncated. Ned Lamont leads the Democratic primary, and he also leads likely GOP frontrunners Tom Foley (38-36) and Michael Fedele (41-32). Dan Malloy also leads the GOPers, with leads of 4-6 points over Foley and Fedele. Undecided is the big leader in both primaries to date, especially the GOP primary, where Foley leads the field with just 17% of the vote. IN-09: FDL Sees Dire Democratic Straits in Hill-Sodrel Part V The FDL/SurveyUSA Campaign Polling/Democratic Buzzkill tour rolls into southern Indiana today, as the latest poll shows Republican Mike Sodrel staked to an eight-point lead over Democratic incumbent Baron Hill (49-41). This is the fifth meeting between the two men, as Hill won in 2002, 2006, and 2008, while Sodrel scored the upset in 2004. NY-23: New Poll Says If Hoffman Wants GOP Nod, He’s The Favorite Finally, an interesting set of numbers out of upstate New York. The Gouverneur Times, which occasionally seemed to be a branch office of the Hoffman for Congress campaign during last fall’s special election, is flogging an internal poll from Team Hoffman claiming that he holds a 56-22 lead over Barclay, with no other prospective GOPer getting more than 4% of the vote. IN OTHER NEWS…. TX-Gov: The surrogates are lining up quickly in the Lone Star State, where the “Clash of the Titans” between Republican Governor Rick Perry and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is picking up steam. Lining up behind Hutchison is former President George H.W. Bush (”41″), while Sarah Palin is planning on stumping for Perry on Super Bowl Sunday. Meanwhile, here is an interesting indicator that Democrats might find Perry to be their favored opponent. One of Perry’s single largest contributor (to the tune of fifty grand) was an Austin donor who has contributed almost exclusively to Democrats over the past few years. KY-Sen: Saying that the Brown upset had less to do with a rising GOP tide and more to do with voter anger over Washington not getting tough on things like Wall Street malfeasance, state Attorney General Jack Conway officially filed for the United States Senate. Conway has been locked up in a tight Democratic primary against state Lt. Governor Daniel Mongiardo, while the GOP primary looks to be a fascinating battle between Sec. of State Trey Grayson and physician Rand Paul, the son of Texas Rep. Ron Paul. WI-Sen: A new article late last night from Politico hints that former GOP Governor Tommy Thompson might be back into the 2010 electoral sweepstakes after all. He’d arguably be the strongest Republican alternative against three-term Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, although some polling in late 2009 implied that even the presence of Thompson might not make this race a toss-up. A November poll from PPP had Feingold leading Thompson by nine points (50-41). AL-05: First his staff turned their back on him, and now it appears that newly-minted GOP Congressman Parker Griffith is getting the cold shoulder from his new party. A second party committee in his Northern Alabama district has made it clear that they are disinterested in Griffith representing their party as its nominee in 2010. Griffith is facing a serious GOP primary challenge from Mo Brooks and Les Phillip. Dems are still casting about for a candidate in this district. MA-03/MA-05/MA-10: Apparently, the Brown victory in Massachusetts has the GOP feeling their oats a little bit. The GOP is talking seriously about gunning for a trio of Democratic House incumbents in the Bay State. Democrats have held all ten House seats in Massachusetts for more than a decade. One potential big name in the mix: former state treasurer Joe Malone, who confirmed that he is extremely interested in challenging Bill Delahunt in the 10th district. Northeastern Massachusetts Rep. Niki Tsongas and Worcester Rep. Jim McGovern are also evidently on the target list. MS-01: Never let it be said that Fox News is anything other than fair-and-balanced. One of their political talkers, Angela McGlowan , is in conversations with the NRCC about making a Congressional bid against Democratic Rep. Travis Childers. This could get a little complicated for the NRCC–they have already shown a great deal of affection for state legislator Alan Nunnelee, who has raised a ton of cash for his bid against Childers. By the way, if you are wondering who has called it quits in Campaign 2010, the team at Swing State Project is all over it, having updated their “Open Seat Watch”.
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Polling and Political Wrap, 1/21/10
Consider it must-see opera. In a first for the Hayden Planetarium, it will stage Joseph Haydn’s comic opera Il Mondo Della Luna through Jan. 28. Trimmed to 100 minutes sans intermission, the intimate setting, which utilizes a 180-degree dome and gorgeous light projections, fuses opera and stargazing in a night to remember. The production, from the Gotham Chamber Opera, is masterful — thanks to a remarkable cast and Anka Lupes’ outrageously inventive costumes. Director Diane Paulus, a Tony winner for Hair , keeps the action, performed on an elevated platform, lively. The intricacies of laser technology co-mingle with this fanciful 1777 work, which boasts glorious music augmented by the harpsichord. Plus, a Zeiss Mark IX Star Projector recreates the night sky. Il Mondo is an extraordinary way to experience the medium. The story concerns a lascivious but strict nobleman (Marco Nistico ) with two daughters (Hanan Alattar and Albina Shagimuratova) who denies them marriage to their true loves. But thanks to a fake astronomer (Nicholas Coppolo), who tricks the pompous fool into believing he is on the moon, the women get hefty dowries and the husbands they desire. For music buffs, it’s a chance to enjoy a rarely done opera; Haydn wrote for EsterhÃ¡zy princes and staged his efforts in royal summer retreats. Neal Goren, the founding artistic director of Gotham Chamber Opera, wrote in a program note: “This is not only the best of Haydn, this is the best of music.” For fans of the Hayden Planetarium, it’s a second opportunity to enjoy the museum’s space shows. Its ongoing wonder — Journey to the Stars — features extraordinary images of space, coupled with Robert Miller’s exhilarating score. During this singular adventure, which details celestial happenings over billions of years, viewers get a solar education. Il Mondo gives the setting a whimsical twist. On a more earthly plane, Capitol Steps will launch its 2010 season at Town Hall, Feb. 19. The bipartisan troupe, whose specialty is political satire, will feature songs from their latest album “Obama Mia.” The group, whose claim to fame is that they put “the mock in democracy,” happily slams both sides of the political aisle. Formed in December 1981 by a group of congressional staffers, it has subsequently performed on stage, TV, NPR and recorded 29 albums. Many current cast members, 31 in all, are drawn from former staffers who collectively served 11 senators and seven congressmen of both parties. Performer and co-writer Mark Eaton joined Capitol Steps in 1993; he worked on the Hill for 10 years before becoming a lobbyist. “We’re currently taking shots at anything in the headlines,” he says. “Sarah Palin’s book tour and move to Fox News, the health-care debate, auto bailouts and Tiger Woods.” While Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart hit comic gold with George W. Bush, Eaton says Obama doesn’t supply the same amount of material. But he quickly adds the president has surrounded himself with “plenty of funny, gaffe-prone people, including Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. We’ve always said our show’s greatest enemy is a competent government. Therefore, we should be around for a long, long time.” The ongoing success of Comedy Central’s late-night kings, as well as Capitol Steps’ success, underscores Eaton’s point: “People love to laugh at the rich and powerful; they are the best targets for satire. It makes us feel a bit better to knock a politician or public figure down a few pegs.” The Capitol Steps perform every Friday and Saturday year-round in Washington, D.C. at the Ronald Reagan Building. Next month, New Yorkers get a chance to see them in action. More on Barack Obama
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Fern Siegel: Stage Door: Il Mondo Della Luna, Capitol Steps
Well, that was a game-changer! But don’t misinterpret it (and don’t blame Martha Coakley’s lackluster campaign). Scott Brown’s victory was not about the principles of either party, nor was it about the size of government, nor even about health reform, except indirectly. It was about disillusionment and anger with government. When Obama became president, there was a euphoric sense that we really would see “change you can believe in.” Yes, there were unrealistic expectations — in the words of John Stewart’s “senior black correspondent,” a belief in “miracle Negroes,” even though they’re “just guys.” But for the most part, people did not expect overnight solutions. What they counted on was that Obama would set to work keeping his campaign promises, and do so in a forthright and transparent way. So what happened? Right out of the chute, he signaled that there might be very little change. After appointing the usual Goldman Sachs crowd as advisors, he showered money on Wall Street unconditionally, while doing relatively little for people who were losing their houses and jobs. Nor did he do much for the states, whose budget woes people feel directly and are a big part of what happened on Tuesday. He did some good things, of course, but they were mostly small and on the margins. And the campaign promises? We still have both wars raging, with about the same number of troops, just re-distributed from Iraq to Afghanistan. We still have Guantanamo, we still have indefinite imprisonment without charges, and we almost certainly still have torture. As for transparency, there’s still not much of it. And the federal deficit continues to climb, despite the lack of palpable relief for Main Street. Not everyone knows all of this, or cares, but some people know each of these things, and together, they add up to a lot of disillusioned people. As for health care, not many of the angry voters understand all the provisions of the Senate bill (who does?). But they do know that Obama has “pissed away” a year on it, as Theda Skocpol says, much of it devoted to obsequious courting of the likes of Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman and Olympia Snow. That raised real questions about his abilities as a leader. And most people under 65 know that the reform would require them to buy commercial insurance, a prospect nearly everyone dislikes. Finally, they almost certainly have some inkling that the bill was written by lobbyists. After all, last spring the White House hosted a highly publicized photo-op and jamboree with the health industries, at which they pledged to work together. Liberals are wrong to think that opposition to health reform is a rejection of big government. If health reform consisted of extending Medicare to everyone, people would be delighted. There are millions of 64-year-olds out there who can hardly wait to be 65. (And if the government created lots more jobs, they would be delighted by that, too.) It’s not the size of government; it’s how well it works and on whose behalf. Many people no longer trust Obama to work in their interests, or even to tell the truth. They vote for Republicans mainly because they’re the only other game in town. But I don’t think that means they subscribe to Republican principles. In Massachusetts, Republicans constitute about 11 percent of voters, and I doubt whether that number will increase by much. People are rejecting both parties in droves and becoming independents, because they no longer believe government works for them, no matter which party is in charge. The same dynamic that swept Obama into office might well sweep him out. It’s also mistake to lump all the protesters together as Sarah Palin yahoos. There are many of those, of course, but in addition there are many people who, even if they’re confused enough to vote Republican, have legitimate concerns, not all of them the same — including Ron Paul libertarians who want out of Iraq and Afghanistan, deficit hawks who worry about saddling their kids with more debt, and ordinary people who are just worried or desperate and don’t see any relief coming from government. If they don’t draw the wrong lessons from the Scott Brown debacle, the Democrats might still recover. The problem is not that Obama tried to do too much, but that he compromised away his principles. More on Barack Obama
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Marcia Angell, M.D.: Message from Massachusetts
In the special election to replace Edward M. Kennedy, Barack Obama and the Democratic Party leadership were handed their heads in the most stunning, avoidable repudiation of ineptitude in recent political memory. Obama’s reaction, which was given through an interview with George Stephanopoulos, as translated by Paul Krugman today is: In short, “Run away, run away”! It’s not like Obama didn’t know Massachusetts might be a rough one. Virginia and New Jersey were warnings, with the added reality accompanying these shots that independents were scurrying from Democratic sights by the dozens. Sen. Jim Webb responded quickly to Coakley’s defeat, no doubt speaking for more than himself; Rachel Maddow read Barney Frank’s statement out loud, though he’s since flip flopped on it. Now we’ve lost Massachusetts to the Republicans, emboldening them further, dreams of defeated Dems dancing across their heads. Rubio in Florida the first to get a boost, Blanche Lincoln further endangered, with Harry Reid’s days now surely numbered, if they weren’t already. Imagine that sight come November. It will make Daschle’s thumping by Thune, seen today as a possible presidential contender, look like a blip. All of this manifesting after the welcome relief of voters finally getting rid of the Bush-Cheney regime, which had sullied the doorstep of our democracy on every front, the people eager and ready for the change and hope promised from Barack Obama. Who walked into Washington with the wind at his back, the press at his feet, and the world waiting for him to begin delivering on all that his candidacy promised. Certainly expectations were high, way too high, but it wouldn’t have taken much to appease the anxiousness everyone felt at what we all knew was possible, because Democratic policies were just what the voters had ordered. Instead, Barack Obama reached across the aisle and let the Republicans stymie the Democratic agenda on the altar of Let’s Make A Deal, which they had no intention of doing. For one full year Pres. Obama has laid back, waited, and let things spin completely out of control until even Ted Kennedy’s old seat has been squandered on the altar of bipartisanship. The President pretending he wasn’t a Democrat so much as some mediator in a policy dispute, making sure not to pick his own side over the other. Obama’s promise unfulfilled, the voters decided to seek another kind of change for themselves. The urgency of personal plight waits on no politician. Drew Weston at HuffPo : The White House allowed the health care narrative to be all about process, and the process the American people saw wasn’t pretty. It scared seniors, who worried what would happen to their Medicare. It scared workers, who worried about what would happen to the plans their unions had negotiated so hard for in lieu of salaries. It scared middle class Americans with good health insurance plans, who had–and have–no idea whether their plans will be deemed–if not today, in three or four years–Cadillacs, which will first be taxed and then discontinued, leaving them with exactly what Frank Luntz told them it would leave them with: a bureaucrat between them and their doctor. And worst of all, it seemed to most Americans that the reason they were being asked to make such potentially big sacrifices was so that health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and millionaires wouldn’t have to. It seemed not only risky but unfair. So in that sense, the story of health insurance played right into the story that lies behind the looming tsunami that swept away Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat and will sweep away so many more Democratic seats if the Democrats draw the wrong conclusions from this election. The White House just couldn’t seem to “get” that the American people could see that they were constantly coming down on the side of the same bankers who were foreclosing people’s homes and shutting off the credit to small business owners, when they should have been helping the people whose homes were being foreclosed and the small businesses that were trying to stay afloat because of the recklessness of banks that were now starving them. Americans were tired of hearing Obama “exhort” bankers and speculators to play nice as they collected their record bonuses for a heckuva job in 2009. It took him a year to float the idea of making them pay for a fraction of the damage they had done, and at this point, few Americans have any faith that a tax on big banks will ever become law or that the costs won’t just be passed on to them in new fees. Still, over the evening after Scott Brown won, messages drifted in to me that it wasn’t Obama’s fault, that it was only Coakley, that is was –insert the excuse here– and that Obama wasn’t to blame. The ObamaforAmerica crowd escaping their panic in the ObamaForever bubble, with the reality too much for the unthinking, uncritical, unconcerned, because Obama simply can’t fail, though he had, once again sending out their message of more time is needed, it’s everyone’s fault, just not his . Never mind that it hardly matters the mistakes of Martha Coakley’s campaign, because the boss gets paid to see these things coming. The boss and party leaders expected to understand the symbolic importance of Teddy Kennedy’s seat, which even Teddy always treated as the people’s seat and worked his heart out to deliver for them; no one knowing more than Kennedy that coattails are an illusion, as he and John Kerry couldn’t even deliver for Barack. Vicki Kennedy may take last night’s blow as a final insult and rise up to take it back, but nothing can undo the damage done. That replacing Kennedy with a Republican went beyond the right’s hopes and dreams of Virginia and New Jersey, because now they’d deprived Democrats and their bright shining political star, Barack Obama, of a Senate seat that meant more than any single number. They took down Democratic history and did it in a walk, putting the President’s plans in limbo, because there was no Plan B. Like when Ted Kennedy was dying and neither Obama or the Democratic leadership felt the urgency to pass health care before he himself passed. All in due time, they chanted, even when time ran out. The “fierce urgency of now” now rendered to just words . The huge good will Barack Obama walked into Washington now been frittered away, as the Democratic leadership stood by and watched it happen, starting with health care. First August came and went, then Sarah Palin’s “death panels” came and went, and now the super majority Pres. Obama believed he needed to pass health care has come and gone. Reconciliation or bust? On which bill? Because conservative Democrats now have a place to take refuge, on the porch biding time for survival. With foreign policy the other casualty; the strength Obama showed towards Israel and their obligation to freeze settlements looming large beyond, the weakening on the domestic front likely to empower the status quo crowd, who have simply waited out the inevitable. The previews of what was coming feeding their patience. The promises at Cairo a mere memory. We can only hope that one year after Obama took office, his win putting the very question of conservative relevancy into question, that the Democratic leadership will wake up. That the stark reversal of fortunes sent through the message of independents who have manifested two party disgust by outnumbering both sides now, aided by many Democrats as well, will make a dent. But if the last year has taught us anything, it’s that Democrats will double down on reaching out and going right to where they can nurse their own caution, instead of digging in and getting what was promised done sending the sign that they got the message. Instead, Obama’s first instinct is to “run, run away,” as Paul Krugman writes today. We’ve been showing the way for months on health care, but Obama wouldn’t listen. He still isn’t. Peter Daou wrote about this the other day. I was writing the same thing at the very same time, because it’s true. We told you so. Taylor Marsh is a political analyst, with podcasts available on iTunes. More on Barack Obama
Taylor Marsh: The Obama Brand Implodes
My daughter, Mavis Spencer is 18, six feet tall and size zero. She’s got the long-limbs, big eyes and head-of-hair kind of beauty that causes people to stare and ask, “Are you..somebody?” When she and her mother - who is ’somebody’ (Alfre Woodard, two-time nominee, winner 1998, Miss Ever’s Boys ) - walk around together, especially all dressed up like they were on Sunday night at the Golden Globes, it’s a powerful sight. And speaking of the Globes: because of aforementioned limbs, eyes, height, hair, not to mention uncanny poise and celebrated mother, Mavis qualified for, and then was chosen to be, Miss Golden Globe, 2010. So, picture this: Two generations of gorgeous, big-eyed, multi-talented babes, seemingly impervious to the raindrops, bringing the glam, one interview after another, on their way down the crowded, soaking wet red-carpet toward the glittering ballroom. Now picture the pair of sweating, tuxedo-clad umbrella bearers behind them. That’s me, and Mavis’ brother, Duncan. If we seem less than dazzled by all the eye-candy and fame around us, it’s because we’re working. Handbagging is an honorable profession. We’re the non-celeb companions who guide and provide, deflect and protect, amuse and excuse the well known and well lit women to whom we are attached. I’ve been at it for decades, but this year’s Golden Globes would have been my first double handbag assignment. Thank God Duncan was there because…well, let’s just say I was really glad Duncan was there. As he and I elbowed our umbrellas into position, in front of one microphone jockey after another, we chuckled and muttered with fellow handbaggers about the thankless nature of our work. And we played the old handbagger game that I just made up called “Real Answer.” Red Carpet Question: “Are you excited to be here?!” Daughter;”YES! I’m here with my mom, and it’s such an honor to have been chosen, etc. etc…” Wife, “YES! Especially since I’m here with my daughter, and it’s a chance to celebrate, see friends, etc. etc…” ‘REAL’ (WHISPERED) ANSWER: Husband: “Sure, walking around in the rain wearing a gown made of Kleenex is awesome.” Brother: “Yeah right, grinning and wobbling on stilettos wondering if my hair’s gone all Bride of Frankenstein is totally G.” Oh how we chuckled. Oh how they glared. Oh the humanity. Once inside the situation improved, slightly. Mavis was relieved to get through the chatter-gauntlet and go do the actual job of being Miss Golden Globe: A combination of award-bearer & onstage traffic cop. And Alfre, Duncan and I got to enjoy a well deserved quaff and eat some food…or so we thought. Picture us arriving at our table just as polite, hardworking and very speedy wait-staff whisk away all food and booze, except for one bottle of champagne. Pause. (Toootally understandable) celebrity reaction: Outrage. Indignation. (Momentary) loss of perspective. Handbagger reaction: Dude, there’s champagne. Yeah, and we’re not being glared at. Wait, yes we are. So now we’re sitting at our table, which seems Siberian in it’s remove from the most hotly lit part of the room, but is, in fact, the best seat in the house. Why? Okay, you know how the winners finish - or are musically obliterated if they take too long - and then have to leave, right? So imagine being at the very first table they pass once they step off stage. It was perfect. We got to say hello to friends who won, applaud others we liked, and express wilted enthusiasm for those we did not. Note: Only handbaggers get to express wilted enthusiasm. It’s part of the job actually, to proxy frown on behalf of a celebrity who must express delight no matter how she really feels. Handbaggers are free. We express truth, like poets. And best of all, on Sunday we got to salute Mavis every time she made the u-turn back onto the stage. In hindsight whoops and fist-pumps was probably too much, but it was a Magnum of champagne, and the only food that wasn’t cleared away was chocolate. You do the math: Two squirrelly handbaggers, one table, three hours, and nothing to sustain us but the ingredients for a truly delicious speedball. We deserve medals is what we deserve. Medals. The GG’s are more fun to attend, and to watch, than all the rest of the award shows combined because it’s an actual party. On Sunday it got close to becoming a Partaay. We did our best. A word about poise: Some are born with it; Obama, Streep, Buddha. Others acquire it over time: McEnroe, Lassie, Palin. (Kidding, sheesh.) Mavis got it at birth. As a baby she even drooled elegantly for chrissake. So, on Sunday, all Duncan and I got out of her, no matter what we did, was an occasional discreet eye roll. Well done, Mavis. From a professional handbagger’s perspective, the night was a home run. No screw-ups, a lot of useful loot in gift-bags, warm acknowledgment from our clients, and the usual silvery laughter when we mentioned that a nice tip might be in order. Why is that funny? The fact that, after we got home, the hem of Alfre’s dress may have accidentally lingered in a tiny pool of urine left by Mavis’ adorable brain-free dog can hardly be blamed on either of us. She was wearing it at the time, after all. The Dress. Not the dog. The dog was not wearing… the dog never got anywhere near the dress, okay? More on Award Season
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Roderick Spencer: Notes on Double Handbagging at the Golden Globes
The fair and balanced network has a little problem, I believe, and one that the media never seem to address. If they are just another news organization and are defended by Howard Kurtz and Jack Tapper as such , then why do they employ almost the entire field of Republican presidential candidates for 2012? At this point in time the leading candidates for the GOP nomination are: Mitt Romney. Mike Huckabee. Sarah Palin. Newt Gingrich: So far Romney isn’t on the Fox News dole yet, but how long will it be before he gets his own time slot in some form before 2012 rolls along? Huckabee has his own one hour show on weekends, Sarah Palin juts got hired and is making the rounds on the FNC shows so she can be trained for the future, and Newt is a fixture on the network as the conservative basher-in-chief and thought to be the next Reagan by some of their hosts. Let’s not forget that they immediately hired Karl Rove as their master strategist when he left George W. Bush’s side. This is just plain wrong in so many ways. And the media remains silent except for quick mentions about it. Howard Fineman rightly calls Ailes a “kingmaker” and you can see that that’s his goal. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum–which is why God created Roger Ailes. The president of Fox News is, by default, the closest thing there is to a kingmaker in Anti-Obama America . And that, in turn, makes him the de facto leader of the GOP. In a relentless (and spectacularly successful) hunt for cable ratings, Ailes has given invaluable publicity to the tea partiers, furnished tryout platforms to GOP candidates, and trained a fire hose of populist anger at the president and his allies in Congress. While Beltway Republicans wring their hands or write their tracts, Ailes has worked the countryside, using his feel for Main Street resentment to attract and give voice to this year’s angriest–and most powerful–voter-viewers: those who hate the Feds, the Fed, and the Ivy League. It was Ailes who put the “party” in the tea parties by giving them a round-the-clock national stage. Next month Fox will have priority access to the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville. Ailes already has been leading the charge to tear down President Obama and has been very successful at that so far. In a year they have changed the political narrative when conservatism and the GOP were in shambles and the country was in meltdown. They were aided by a horrendous economy created by Bush and his conservative cronies of course that Obama inherited. The president has also left his base in the dark too, but FOX News is a real threat to the democratic process in America. PERIOD. I’m not just talking about having a conservative point of view. They created an entire political movement called the tea party movement and not a word from the media about this. Even on TV today, pundits and pols call them a wild card in politics, but that’s silly, They make Newt Gingrich look like a moderate republican. When has a media outlet ever turned into an activist organization for one political party and recruited members by sending their hosts on location to do so? I haven’t heard the media complain either that FOX is the only network that has access to the teabagger convention. Once again the Aile’s machine chugs along and our country suffers for it as the MSM remains mute.
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John Amato: Fox News has almost every Republican presidential candidate for 2012 on its payroll. Are they the Kingmakers?
The mainstream media gets denounced on cable news programs, corporate talk radio, best-selling books and behemoth blogs every day. This strangely doesn’t seem to bother the mainstream media at all as it heroically absorbs all the jabs thrown at it from, well, itself. It’s stoically unfazed. Admirable in its immunity. Yes, this code word for “liberal media,” or “not liberal enough media” or “not-the-person-on-the-television-at-that-moment media,” is like rice deploring white. The ocean against wet. Trees condemning shade. It’s an epic struggle of hyperbolic proportions. It seems some media conglomerates like the one owned and influenced by Rupert Murdoch, News Corp just don’t trust other media conglomerates. No honor among major media shares. And MSNBC feels like they’re not with the other two of the three 24-hour news networks and their multiple sub-networks because they often claim they counter the “mainstream media.” So it appears the entire mainstream media is against the mainstream media. Almost poetic, isn’t it? But the mainstream media won’t tell you this. No you’ll have to check out ham radio, smoke signals or the cork board at the YMCA to find this out. Right after the nation was aghast that Christian Broadcasting Network’s televangelist Pat Robertson stated the people of Haiti made a pact with the devil to get rid of the French as his explanation for the catastrophic earthquake, (described by one Haitian tweeter as a “natural holocaust”) Joe Scarborough was quick to criticize the “mainstream media.” Joe whose Twitter handle is @JoeNBC, literally meaning “the only Joe at the National Broadcast Network” pounced into his “I’m an outsider” schtick, “MSM will now obsess over Pat Robertson’s ‘devil’ comment but will pay no attention to his organization’s remarkable relief work worldwide.” And then Joe, host of Morning Joe watched by nearly half a million people every day, long time member of what’s called the mainstream media went on to list Robertson’s good deeds excusing Robertson’s pro-colonial/pro-slavery stance. Of course this made Joe’s first statement therefore, incorrect. There was someone in the MSM paying attention to Pat’s good deeds: it was Joe. If you can complain about the mainstream media from a national platform, it’s akin to being a ventriloquist act without the dummy: you’re bantering with your own voice. Speaking of which, also-ran veep candidate Sarah Palin loves bashing the mainstream media. She does so from an enormous national platform, a far bigger platform than most people who consider themselves members the mainstream media. So when she’s pleads with the “press” (people who make their living from the media) to “quit making things up” she’s technically addressing herself. She’s one of the mythmakers she battles against on her new gig as a paid Fox News Channel contributor. But she won’t just “quit making things up,” that would be letting the mainstream media tell her what to do. The media, mainstream or not, is not a monolith. American Idol is a monolith. It has one singular goal, millions of devotees and a small group in charge of its content. The press in its entirety may have been a giant uniform mass years ago. But today, it’s especially fractured with general interest newspapers failing and more and more newscasts being broadcast to compete with other broadcasts. It’s getting to the point where one can absorb oneself in “media” all day long without ever stumbling upon one single idea with which one can disagree. The alleged mainstream media is the Sasquatch of media criticism: a myth perpetuated by the fact it’s still being talked about. It’s a rhetorical tick, a throwback to when there weren’t millions of blogs, hundreds of newspapers, dozens of news channels all live-streaming on Twitter. Not that the press shouldn’t be criticized. It should. Just not in sweeping generalities where no one can possibly be held accountable. My plea is to everyone in the media: unless you put the “mainstream media” in the same category with unicorns, leprechauns and ethical bankers - stop talking about the mainstream media. This piece originated at True/Slant More on Barack Obama
Tina Dupuy: The MSM Doesnt Exist…Not Anymore
Quick, pop quiz: Where does the United States rank on female participation in government? In the top ten? In the top 20? In the top 50? Answer: America ranks somewhere around #71 worldwide, below Pakistan and Cuba, when it comes to the share of women in political office (in the US Congress, it’s less than 17 percent). That statistic tells just part of the story. At one time, Margaret Thatcher seemed to be the rare example of a female head of state, the isolated exception to the worldwide rule of male-dominated law. Now there are numerous women running countries — from Angela Merkel (Germany) to Michelle Bachelet (Chile) to Cristina Kirchner (Argentina) to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia) to Luisa Dias Diogo (Mozambique) along with a handful of others. Many places — except the United States, where two women seeking national office lost in 2008 and the only woman even mentioned as a possible presidential contender in 2012 is Sarah Palin, with what appears to be a difficult road ahead if she decides to run, which is far from certain. Is it really that much easier elsewhere? And does the U.S. even care about electing women, to the presidency or Congress or any other office? Is that very question some sort of politically correct throwback? In sitting down to write “Notes from the Cracked Ceiling: Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin and What It Will Take for a Woman to Win,” my goal was to chronicle what we saw women do and experience as candidates in the 2008 presidential election, and to try to assess what lessons could be drawn for future US campaigns. It did not seem wise, at least initially, too extrapolate too much from foreign elections. Other countries have quotas, and parliamentary systems, providing a glide path for women to rise in their parties’ ranks. We run things differently here, prizing rugged individualism, and anyway we’re a young country on a learning curve. Perhaps, as I heard time and again, the “right woman” just hadn’t come along in America yet. Then, too, I heard from academics who study comparative politics and have reached the conclusion that having women in office makes little difference in terms of policies. Women are no less hawkish than men on foreign policy, they told me, and sometimes pay less attention to domestic issues because they’re overcompensating — fearful of looking like head of the “Mommy party.” Still, two foreign examples were intriguing, and seemed potentially relevant here: that of Sirleaf, of Liberia, and Johanna Sigurdardottir, the newly elected prime minister of Iceland. In both Liberia and Iceland, women recently won for the first time after years of terrible missteps by male leaders. Sirleaf campaigned both on her experience and her womanhood in a country torn apart by civil war. Everywhere her pollster (an American) went throughout Liberia, he said he heard the same thing from voters: “Men are too violent, too prone to make war,” or “Men have failed us.” Iceland was much the same story, with voters booting out male leaders in favor of the first lesbian head of state anywhere in the world — in the wake of the country’s economic collapse after the worldwide fiscal meltdown. “Iceland’s women are blaming men for the financial crisis that has brought the country to its knees,” Der Spiegel, the German newspaper, wrote last April. “They are now looking for a female solution to clean up the mess.” Hillary Clinton made a similar case during her 2008 bid, but often invoked her husband in the process, saying it took “a Clinton to clean up after a Bush.” In the runup to her ascendance in 2006, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was much more explicit about feminine virtues, essentially arguing in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandals that it takes “a woman to clean out the House.” But by and large the virtuous woman argument has not taken off in the United States as it has elsewhere. Nor do most voters seem even aware of the #71 ranking for the United States, which came from the Inter-Parliamentary Union in late November of 2009. In fact, when it comes to women in politics, having Hillary Clinton out of the running means the global discussion has mostly shifted to other countries. As one expert, Aili Mari Tripp of the University of Wisconsin Madison, put it, most Americans “don’t seem to realize that we’re not part of the discussion at all.” More on Sarah Palin
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Anne E. Kornblut: Women Leaders — Anywhere But Here?
In Touch paid a pretty penny for the Palins, but the Palins didn’t deliver. After the gossip magazine paid $100,000 for a cover featuring Sarah Palin and daughter Bristol — with their respective sons and the cover line, “We’re Glad We Chose Life” — the cover flopped on the newsstand, the New York Post’s Page Six reports : Despite Palin’s huge book sales and TV ratings, sources said In Touch sold about 500,000 copies on newsstands, about half the number it sold a few weeks ago with the late Brittany Murphy on the cover. See the full cover below: More on Magazines
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Sarah Palin’s In Touch Cover FLOPS
There will be two main narratives explaining the Democrats’ loss of Ted Kennedy’s former seat. Washington insiders will argue that Obama and the Democrats moved too far too fast with a “liberal” agenda and must now trim their sails, tack to the corporate center, and focus on deficit reduction. Others will argue that Obama and the Democrats have been too cozy with Wall Street and have followed in George W. Bush and Hank Paulson’s footsteps to shovel hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars at Wall Street banks and gotten nothing in return as far as lending to create jobs and save homes. I’m going with the second narrative. Martha Coakley may have run a poor campaign. But if the Massachusetts Senate election were taking place on November 7, 2008 instead of January 19, 2010, a donkey could have held onto the Democratic seat. What’s happened since then is that Barack Obama won on a promise to change the cozy insider game between Washington and big business but instead has done little to challenge the power of America’s corporate oligarchy. After promising to negotiate health care reform on C-Span, he made a series of insider deals with big pharma and the insurance industry in exchange for campaign cash. He appointed Wall Street insiders like Larry Summers and Tim Geithner to his top economic posts and did little to challenge the power of big Wall Street banks or to make them recycle the hundreds of billions given them by the taxpayers by lending to job-creating businesses or restructuring the mortgages of struggling homeowners. He proposed a too-small stimulus package and then negotiated too much of it away in the name of a false bipartisanship. Despite his rhetorical powers, he never effectively made the case of the need in a Great Recession for government to stimulate demand in order to create jobs; as a result job-creating stimulus money and bank bailouts got conflated in voters minds as one big deficit-creating waste of their money by a profligate government. In short, he opened himself up to faux-populist attacks by Republicans like Sarah Palin and Scott Brown. I believe that most Americans do want a government that helps solve their problems, encourages job growth, takes on the big banks, and leads to greater economic security. But if Democrats are seen as using their tax dollars to subsidize big banks, then voters will turn back to the tired old Republican tax-cut message that got us into this mess in the first place. Obama and the Democrats need to fight faux-Republican populism with real populism. And a little bit of anti-bank rhetoric from Obama won’t do the trick. It requires strong policies that rebuild a sustainable economy and creates jobs. Here are some the things they should be proposing: • Support, and fight for passage, of the McCain-Cantwell bill that restores the Glass-Steagall Act’s wall between commercial banks and investment banks/hedge funds which protected the financial system from collapse from 1933 until it was repealed in 1997 by a coalition of Congressional Republicans and corporate Democrats like Robert Rubin and Larry Summers. This would break up the power of the financial supermarkets like Citigroup (which then paid Rubin $126 million), Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase and make them choose whether to be banks or hedge funds; prevent their gambling consumer’s deposits in the global financial casino; and make clear that while the deposits or ordinary consumers and businesses in commercial banks will be protected by the Federal government, taxpayers will never again be called on to bail out “too big to fail” Wall Street behemoths. As I’ve previously written , since this move is supported by the likes of McCain, Alan Greenspan, and The Wall Street Journal , let Republican Senators try to filibuster it. • Join our British and French allies in imposing a 50% tax on 2010 bank bonuses. After bailing out the banks with hundreds of billions in taxpayer dollars, taxpayers will not easily forgive an administration that does little about the big banks rewarding themselves with over $200 billion in bonuses. And Obama’s newly proposed $9 billion a year bank tax is way too puny to do the trick. • Support, and fight for passage, of the bills introduced by Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich to let the General Accounting Office audit the Federal Reserve’s funding facilities. This shouldn’t be allowed to politically interfere with the Fed’s independence on monetary policy, which would spook markets. But the American people are sick of the lack of transparency behind the taxpayer-funded bank guarantees being dished out by Ben Bernanke’s Fed and Tim Geithner’s Treasury Department. A majority of House members, both Democrats and Republicans, are now co-sponsoring this measure–With White House support, it could pass. Without White House support, the Democratic leadership will probably block a vote. • Fire Tim Geithner and Larry Summers and replace them with economic policymakers who’ve demonstrated that they understand and care about the problems of ordinary Americans more than Wall Street. • Focus like a laser on policies that create jobs. Leo Hindrey has suggested some of these policies in The Huffington Post here and here . Among his suggestions: “Fund a 10-year program of significant public investment to upgrade and rebuild our nation’s major infrastructure, which would immediately create 18,000 new jobs for each $1 billion we spend. This program should include a new National Infrastructure Bank, incentives for private funding of public infrastructure, a multi-year green transportation program funded through an increase in gasoline taxes, and targeted federal government spending in improving energy efficiency.” • What to do about Obama and Congressional Democrats’ botched efforts at health care “reform” is a subject that I’ll be thinking and writing about more in coming days. But it’s clear, after the Massachusetts election, that it would be a disaster for Democrats to ram through the current corporate-friendly “comprehensive” health care bill that polls show is now opposed by 48% of voters and supported by only 33%. Most likely, the best solution would be to offer a series of bills incorporating the most popular elements of health care reform and challenge the Republicans to filibuster these measures if they choose to. Among these are: banning insurance companies from rejecting people for pre-existing conditions or cancelling their policies; providing subsidies for working and middle class Americans to voluntarily buy health insurance, but without a mandate; creating a public option (which was supported by a majority of Americans) that citizens can choose to buy into; allowing Americans to purchase cheaper drugs from Canada and other countries; ending the ban on Medicare negotiating lower prices with pharmaceutical companies; abolishing the insurance companys’ exemption from anti-trust laws; and allowing people over 55 to buy into Medicare. In the long run, Democrats need to make the case for Medicare-For-All– As Laurence O’Donnell has pointed out, if Democrats had done so after the defeat of Hillarycare, we might have it by now. If Obama and the Democrats can reset their compass in a genuinely populist direction that shows they support policies which help the American people instead of Wall Street, they can regain the mantle of change which is being stolen by the faux-populist Republicans and reclaim the 2010 elections. If not, the Democratic Party and Barack Obama, not to mention the country, is headed for disaster. More on Health Care
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Miles Mogulescu: Time for a Reset: Obama and Dems Must Take on Wall Street and Create Jobs or Lose
Democracy worked tonight in Massachusetts. The citizens of the Bay State, in which Democrats outnumber Republicans three-to-one, which doesn’t have a single Republican in its U.S. House delegation, and whose citizens just 14 months ago voted for Barack Obama by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent , elected Republican Scott Brown, who happily accepted tea party support and questioned whether Obama’s parents were married , over Democrat Martha Coakley for Ted Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat. The people of Massachusetts, a state that was ahead of the curve in providing its citizens with health insurance and allowing same-sex marriages, has decided to send to the U.S. Senate as their representative someone who will align with the party of Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin. If this was about health care, even though they get coverage in their commonwealth, the people of the Bay State will have sided with insurance companies and drug manufacturers over the the tens of millions of uninsured Americans, as well as the tens of millions more suffering from increased premiums and decreased coverage. They threw in their lots with those that would invent death panels, and decided their U.S. Senator should side with the caucus whose leader claimed that passing health care reform with a public option could “cost you your life.” Maybe Bay Staters were hoping Brown’s Senate seat would be near his new colleague from Alabama, who wrote to one of his constituents that health care legislation would “directly subsidize abortion-on-demand,” “rations health care so that our citizens are withheld important and potentially life-saving treatments,” and “requires taxpayer dollars to fund health benefits for illegal immigrants.” Yup, democracy works. No, I’m not joking. In fact, as I’ve written often, I think democracy, again and again, proves that it is a system that works in giving voters exactly what they ask for. By 2004, George W. Bush had proven to be an intellectually lacking, incompetent fear monger who duped the country into an unnecessary war with no exit plan, and then botched the occupation. And yet, the American people voted him back for a second term. In exchange for making that decision, Bush was able to continue to run the country into the ground, weakening the military, getting stuck in a quagmire in Iraq, neglecting the war in Afghanistan, and culminating in the near financial crash in September 2008. Democracy worked perfectly. And now we will get to see democracy in action again. Now we will watch as the Republicans in the Senate do exactly what they’ve been doing since the day Obama was sworn into office. They will obstruct. They will say no. They will lie and try and scare Americans to make sure the president doesn’t get what they view as any political victories. And, most of all, they will continue to look out for corporate interests over the average American. Only now, with 41 votes, they will have the power to block every single initiative the president and the Democrats in Congress propose to address the pile of problems left to us by the incompetency of the Bush administration. Democracy worked perfectly. Bush spent eight years running the country into the ground. The issues that seemed to bother Massachusetts voters (the economy and the abuses on Wall Street) not only originated and/or were encouraged under Bush, but the current Republicans in Congress have no desire to help on either of these counts. They oppose stimulus or anything else to help put Americans back to work (no, more tax cuts for the rich won’t accomplish that goal), and they have even less interest in reforming financial regulation (they’ve come out against consumer protection and re-regulating the industry). In effect, the voters of Massachusetts decided that even though it took eight years of Republican rule to create these problems, the Democrats should have solved them in 11 months (even as the Republicans tried to block solutions at every turn). And for the Democrats’ failure, the state should send a Republican to Washington who has no interest in fixing the problems his party created in the first place. And again, the result will be 41 Republicans blocking any Democratic programs aimed at fixing the financial industry or unemployment. Democracy worked perfectly. The blame game has already started , as fingers are pointed at Coakley’s uninspired campaign and the complacency of Democratic leadership. But in this Internet-fueled era, in which information is available to all, especially in a relatively prosperous state like Massachusetts, it was up to the citizens of the state to choose which path to take. So the attention has to be paid not to the Coakley campaign or the White House, but to the voters of Massachusetts. They chose a candidate that, based on all available information, doesn’t share the beliefs of a majority of the commonwealth’s citizens. Put another way, the voters cut off their noses to spite their faces. They chose to put blame on the party that inherited the mess, and to make a statement by giving power to the party that created the problems in the first place. The spotlight should be on the citizens that cast ballots tonight. Because they made their choices, and they (and all of us) now have to live with the consequences. Tonight, democracy worked perfectly, as it always does. But working doesn’t mean we got what’s best, only what we deserve. More on Financial Crisis
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Mitchell Bard: Democracy Worked in Massachusetts, Now We Have to Live with the Consequences
I don’t know if you’ve heard the news, but Martha Coakley is running for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts and tomorrow is election day. So it should be no surprise that with 24 hours to go until voting begins, Martha Coakley asked people for their votes when she made a campaign stop at a breakfast honoring Martin Luther King. But her Republican opponent, Scott Brown, thought Coakley’s actions were reprehensible. Or at least that is what he claimed : Scott Brown blasted his rival Martha Coakley for invoking the legacy of Martin Luther King in asking for votes at the Boston Martin Luther King Day breakfast this morning. “I thought it was inappropriate when she started asking for people’s votes when they’re trying to remember Martin Luther King Jr.,” he said. “I didn’t know this was a rally for Martha.” What a toolish thing to say. Instead of whining about Coakley asking people for their votes, Brown should be doing the same. And if he really believes in not using King, will he attack the GOP and Sarah Palin for claiming King would have opposed health care reform? While he’s at it, perhaps he can explain why he opposes President Obama’s proposal to tax big banks until they’ve repaid every last dime of the bailout.
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Brown gets on high horse, attacks Coakley for asking people for their vote
It is now a given that if he wins a Massachusetts Senate seat on Tuesday, Scott Brown will destroy the Democrats’ plan to pass health care reform. But he will also destroy the Republicans’ not-so-secret plan to pass health care reform. In Washington, where everyone is desperate to know what’s happening behind closed doors, all you have to do to keep something secret is do it out in the open, preferably on C-Span. Mitch McConnell did exactly that when he entered a unanimous consent agreement with Harry Reid about how to proceed on the health care bill. McConnell knew that agreement was going to make it impossible for Republicans to amend the bill and would put it on a fast track toward passage. McConnell accepted an agreement brilliantly designed by Reid that required 60 votes to pass an amendment. McConnell did that without anyone noticing anything odd after a year of saturation coverage of the importance of 60 votes in the Senate. Everyone outside the Senate now thinks it takes 60 votes to do anything. Not amendments. Amendments pass by a simple majority, 51 votes. Amendments are usually debated for a couple of minutes or hours or days, then voted on. Once in a while, a 60-vote cloture motion is needed to end debate on an amendment. What McConnell agreed to was an implicit cloture motion in every vote on every amendment, thereby completely surrendering the minority’s real power. In all my years in the Senate, I never saw a leader make such a mistake. If it was a mistake. There are no real filibusters in the Senate anymore. The way you “filibuster” a bill that you want to kill is offer an endless stream of reasonable sounding amendments that have to be debated and voted on. It’s easy to come up with one amendment per page of legislation. That’s why the Republicans offered hundreds of amendments during the Senate committees’ debates on the bill. When the majority leader brings up a two thousand page bill, the minority would normally come up with at least five hundred amendments that could drag out the debate for several months. That’s what the Republicans did in 1994 when they killed the Clinton health care reform bill on the Senate floor. No filibuster, no forcing the Democrats to clear 60-vote procedural hurdles, no forcing a reading to the bill, just an endless stream of reasonable sounding amendments — so reasonable that some of them passed with votes of 100 to 0. And the Democrats, seeing this could go on forever, surrendered. Fifty-seven Democrats were defeated by forty-three determined Republicans. This time, Republicans tried to look obstructionist. To the media, the Tea Partiers, and Sarah Palin, it sure looked like Republicans were pulling out all the stops — forcing a reading of the bill, forcing a frail elderly senator to vote in the middle of the night. But the Republicans only offered four substantive amendments along with five hopeless motions to send the bill back to the Finance Committee. One Republican amendment actually got 51 votes, but didn’t pass because McConnell’s 60-vote agreement with Reid sabotaged it. A Democratic amendment on re-importation of prescription drugs got more than 50 votes but did not pass. It would have shot a hole through Harry Reid’s bill, as would other Democratic amendments that got more than 50 votes and failed. McConnell’s unanimous consent agreement with Reid made Reid’s bill impenetrable on the floor. There are no columnists or pundits who understand Senate parliamentary procedure. There are actually very few senators who do. McConnell knows that. He knew everyone would fall for the silly stunts that looked obstructionist while he was surrendering all his power to Reid. And now the strategy becomes clear: Repeal it! That is the Republican Party battle cry for the 2010 election. Repealing Obamacare is going to be the centerpiece of their campaign to take back the House and Senate. But how can you repeal it if they don’t pass it. Hence, Mitch McConnell’s enabling. President Obama threatening to violate a campaign pledge by taxing workers’ health care plans is one thing, but actually doing it is a dream come true for Republicans. They know the health care reform bill has a handful of taxes like that, none of which were mentioned by any Democrat in the last campaign. They can’t wait to campaign to repeal those taxes. The internal Republican strategy debate now is should we repeal the whole bill or maybe leave some of the more popular sounding bits alone? But how can they run on any kind of repeal if Scott Brown wins in Massachusetts and steps into the Senate just in time to kill Obamacare? If that happens, and the Democrats then scale back their dreams on cap and trade and other liberal ideas, then maybe moderate independents — including some of Scott Brown’s voters — might think Mitch McConnell has all the Republicans he needs to keep the Democrats on the moderate course those voters prefer. So who is Mitch McConnell really rooting for in Massachusetts?
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Lawrence O’Donnell: Will Scott Brown Ruin Republicans’ (Secret) Plan to Pass Obamacare?
This week in the business of politics: American Taliban leader Pat Robertson blamed Haiti’s pact with The Devil for the island nation’s utter destruction ; Sarah Palin inked a multi-year contract with The Devil’s advocate ; The National Tea Party Convention lost one of its sponsors amid concerns over financial arrangements; and Liberty University withdrew as a sponsor of CPAC for fear of catching teh ghey from a fellow sponsor.
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Sunday Talk - Deal or No Deal
The other day, Sarah Palin announced that she will be working for Fox News. She said one of the reasons that she is excited about working there is because it is a place “… that so values fair and balanced news.” As an opinion columnist, nobody expects me to be “fair and balanced,” but news shows were once. But she actually called today’s Fox News “fair and balanced?” Obviously, the people at Fox may represent the conservative, right wing viewpoint if they want just as MSNBC presents the left wing, liberal viewpoint. But I certainly wouldn’t call either of them “fair and balanced.” That would be as silly as saying, “I can see Russia from my house.” Like many people, I couldn’t resist watching her debut on the “The O’Reilly Factor.” I gave into the “must look at a car accident” impulse. Some of her rambling sentences seemed longer than her job as Alaska’s governor. There should have been a button to push to get a simultaneous English translation. She made up words like, “uncomfortableness.” But everybody makes little mistakes when they’re on TV, so let’s not linger on her lack of elementary school grammar. When it came to discussing facts, she seemed to obfuscate the issue (Sarah, if you’re reading this, don’t be embarrassed to look up “obfuscate”). However, it was clear that she implied that except for her, everyone who was involved in her campaign is lying now. It would be nice to see her take responsibility for something. After all, the buck elk stops with her. In the past, several people have used television to help make them stronger political candidates. Ronald Reagan is a good example. However, I remember seeing Ronald Reagan on television, and you, Madame, are no Ronald Reagan. The Fox announcement said that Palin will appear on several shows, rather than merely being on just one program. This got me thinking. If she has an overall contract with Fox, maybe she’ll also appear on shows that aren’t news programs. “24″ has been a guilty pleasure of mine for years, and it would be perfect for Palin. Its lead character doesn’t let liberal, wishy-washy things like personal liberties and Constitutional limitations get in his way. “The Simpsons” might be a match for someone that many people consider a cartoon character. “Fringe” probably has the most appropriate title for the former governor. And to many, she is an “American Idol.” Actually, my speculations might not be all that far-fetched. On the same day that Fox announced that Palin would be joining them, they announced that Simon Cowell, the acerbic co-host of “American Idol,” will be leaving after this season. Coincidence? Maybe. But don’t you think she’d be perfect for the show? It would be a great forum for this millionaire celebrity to continue to push her image as a “just folks, regular person like you and me.” Can’t you just hear her after someone’s singing performance? “We don’t have an opera house in Wasilla, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know good singing when I hear it because, like a lot of real Americans, I still sing in our choir, and your voice reminds me of some of the birds we heard when we went hunting last week and saw a bald eagle that’s no longer on the liberal, tree hugging endangered species list. You know what should be on the endangered species list? Middle class Americans who work hard, have kids, pay their bills, and don’t want the government to be in their lives except when it comes to Medicare, Social Security, and not paying a penny more than a fair price for all the American flags made in China. And I am 100% pro-life except when it comes to killing innocent animals, but we eat therefore we hunt so I don’t think this is the right time to raise taxes, especially on a young woman like you who has the chance to be a singing star in the greatest country in the world.” In another amazing coincidence, on the same page of the newspaper that announced Sarah Palin’s signing with Fox News, there was an article that said that scientists have now determined that watching too much TV can actually shorten your life. So, if I didn’t have a good enough reason to avoid watching Sarah Palin on television before, I do now. Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from “Sesame Street” to “Family Ties” to “Home Improvement” to “Frasier.” He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Check out his website at lloydgarver.com a nd his podcasts on iTunes. More on Sarah Palin
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Lloyd Garver: Sarah Palin: American Idol?
Sarah Palin recently nabbed the spotlight in another news cycle regarding her upcoming speech at the National Tea Party Convention. Politico reported that the ex-Governor rakes in “$100,000 for each speech she delivers, though she gives a $75,000 discount for West Coast appearances,” and has “reportedly waived her fee for speaking at some charitable events.”. That’s some serious cash for the raging populist from Alaska. In the ensuing backlash (tickets to the Tea Party Convention cost several hundred dollars), Palin has declared she will charge no fee for her appearance - the press is uninvited, of course. Amidst the current news cycle, we have learned of Palin joining FOX News—a veritable cornerstone of the mainstream “gotcha” media, where she will surely reap an enormous salary for sitting in front of a camera and crowing (the norm for roughly 96 percent of cable news anchors). As a liberal I’ve long since burned away my Palin ire, and now see her as a legitimate political figure, her approval ratings, and, as such, she is almost certain to crash and burn as a Republican/third party candidate for president (her disapproval ratings) or settle into comfort as yet another FOX demagogue. Palin’s appearances with Bill O’Reilly aren’t the stuff political dreams are made of, but are a far cry from her disastrous interview with Katie Couric in ‘08, though some of the old Palin resurfaced during this exchange with Glenn Beck. When asked who her favorite Founding Father was, she hemmed and hawed like only classic Palin (or maybe Caroline Kennedy) can and answered “all of them.” Beck presses the question, and here is her answer , emphasis mine: They were led by, of course, George Washington. So he’s got to rise to the top. Washington was the consummate statesman. He served, he turned power to the people. He didn’t want to be a king. He returned power to the people. Then he went back to Mount Vernon. He went back to his farm. He was almost reluctant to serve as president too and that’s who you need to find to serve in government, in a bureaucracy—those who you know will serve for the right reasons because they’re reluctant to get out there and seek a limelight and seek power . They’re doing it for the people, that was George Washington. “Reluctant” is hardly a word anyone would use to describe Palin’s relationship with the spotlight. These minor developments in the Palin saga are significant in the context of how her defenders treat her. And by defenders I mean right-of-center thinkers making honest attempts to reconcile her explosive popularity with her obvious shortcomings. It’s an all too common dance—with an obvious parallel with President Obama and the liberal blogosphere re: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; the Defense of Marriage Act; military tribunals; and the escalation of the war in Afghanistan. But the struggles intelligent conservatives face, concerning Palin, are a world away from the liberals’ issues with Obama. Those seeking to find a middle ground with Palin inevitably twist themselves in irrevocable knots. My case in point appeared at Front Porch Republic, a wonderful salon-style online publication that traffics in deeply thought-out libertarian, conservative, local and similar issues. Jeff Taylor, writing from Jacksonville, AL, (the site almost always attaches datelines to its articles, as if such analytical and theoretical columns were dispatches from the real America) put down nearly 6,000 words on Sarah Palin —the spillover from a 3,000-word review of Going Rogue that ran in The American Conservative (also not a terrible place for the left-thinking). The review opens , I want to like Sarah Palin. But to borrow a title from Hitchcock, I feel like The Man Who Knew Too Much—about The Woman Who Knew Too Little. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t care that Palin is not a policy wonk. In some ways, that’s a plus . It takes Taylor all of 49 words before he’s tiptoeing around the rational—she’s not a policy wonk—and the irrational—he wants to like her. Everything that ensues in the review and the spill column falls along those lines. He makes an admirable attempt to view her strengths and weaknesses in as fair a light as possible—characteristic of a lot of the reasoning going on at those two outlets, regardless if you agree with the conclusion or not—but simply can’t avoid using broad strokes to skirt around larger issues nor the tendency to present straw man binaries. Before I get into those I want to mention “Sarah Palin the Moose Killer,” wherein Taylor offers perhaps the most cogent analysis of the trope: All of us have heard about Sarah the moose slayer. Not everyone is charmed by the image. I recently received an email from an impassioned critic: “Sarah Palin is a wolf killer. She is also a bear killer. Sarah Palin is a destroyer and a murderer. Sarah Palin is despicable.” In response, I told the writer that while I, too, support animal rights, the vast majority of Americans do not. They see nothing wrong with shooting a wolf (from an airplane or the ground), or killing a moose, bear, deer, cow, pig, or chicken. There’s no use trying to hold Palin to a higher standard. In my book, the gratuitous killing of a goose by a costumed John Kerry for the sake of a campaign photo op is more disgusting. I’m guessing the two hours he spent in an Ohio cornfield and the bloody goose he hauled out lost him more votes than he gained. At least Sarah Palin hunts without inviting the press. It’s hard not to mention the ridiculous turkey slaughter clip , but his point is well taken. But later on Taylor concludes that Palin was over-prepped for the infamous Couric interview and the VP debate, to which one can only ask, “Really?” Even if she was force-fed talking points she was still unable to regurgitate them in any coherent way and mostly without any regard for syntax. Deep in the review Taylor goes on a great run of observations: her parallels with Pat Buchanan’s frontier populistm; glowing profiles from The Weekly Standard , purebred elitist Bill Kristol’s message vehicle; and his comparison of her to other populists: A folksy demeanor does not make one a populist. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are folksy. Neither is a populist. Lyndon Johnson was down-to-earth to the point of being crude. It did not stop him from being a willing servant of Wall Street. Richard Nixon’s middle-class resentment of the wealthy was a chip on his shoulder, yet as president he surrounded himself with Rockefeller Republicans and Ivy League graduates. The run ends with Rod Dreher’s near perfect description of Palin’s populism: She is “selling a personality, not a platform.” And yet, Taylor just can’t help himself when he segues with, “And yet. Sarah Palin has so many of the right enemies.” In the spillover piece, Taylor’s civility cracks slightly when he writes, People don’t like to be talked down to or have their communities dismissed as fly-over country. There is a reason why we find a sea of red with islands of blue, mostly representing the metropolitan centers, when we look at a map of U.S. counties for recent presidential elections. Maybe talk of “real Americans” is the revenge of the demeaned. When compared to cosmopolitan elites, there is an element of truth to it. How he follows “revenge of the demeaned” with “there is an element of truth to it” is simply beyond me. Is Palin’s potential as a fired-up populist who leaves liberals (and not a few conservatives) almost literally foaming at the mouth just too much to deny? There is a whiff of resignation in Taylor’s pieces, one of, “Well, she’s here and a lot of people like her so we might as well try to reconcile her tangible negatives with her intangible positives.” Since she quit the governorship she lost any accountability—she’s a FOX pundit now for god’s sake—and so her statements and speeches exist solely in the echo chamber. Obama catches flack on the far left for the issues listed above, but he’s an elected official leaving behind policies both good and bad in his wake. On the topic of Palin leaving the Alaskan statehouse, Taylor twists himself around reality and projection once again: Admittedly, resigning the governorship is a strange move when you have 1½ years left in your term—years, not months. Having over one-third of your time left is not lameduckery! At the time, there was speculation that a scandal or indictment would soon follow, but the other shoe has not dropped. Maybe it does have something to do with Palin’s unsophisticated maverickhood. Perhaps she really did want to allow Alaska government to move on without being tangled up in political controversy, simultaneously freeing her to pursue her national ambitions without being tied up back home. The resignation may have been a mistake, and it’s doubtful that she was completely honest about her reasons, but it does reinforce her reputation as an unconventional politician. For someone who considers Palin’s character as her “strong suit,” that Taylor thinks she was full of crap about her intentions for leaving the governorship is pretty transparent. He writes, near the end of the spill piece, “With typical lack of nuance, Sarah caused a stir when she accused Obama health care reform as paving the way for ‘death panels’ which might pass judgment on imperfect babies and ill grandparents.” What Taylor perceives as a “typical lack of nuance” is amoral fear mongering, deliberately coercing and lying to her supporters with demonstrably false information. In the conclusion of his review, Taylor switches back to level-headed mode: The contradiction of populism is that the sincere champion of the common people must be better informed, more astute, and more steadfast than the people themselves in order to serve them effectively. Identification with the people must coexist with discernment about the world of power and wealth. Or, as the Galilean said long ago to His disciples, “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Spiritually and politically savvy yet true in intention and pure in action. That is a high calling, and it remains to be seen if Sarah Palin has what it takes. I have seen no evidence of any savvy from Palin outside of scoring cheap political points on the issues of the day. What I’m left with at the end of these 10,000 words is the repeated feeling that this good-intentioned, freethinking conservative is in a bind. Palin isn’t a non-starter, but she’s far from a finisher—the notion that she can improve or better verse herself in the issues is pretty close to saying, “she’ll be prepped and handled better and will spin better.” Palin’s speaking fees and move to FOX only say one thing: She looks out for Sarah, either in the form of money-power-respect or straw polls. The twisting and over-rationalization isn’t going to stop anytime soon—and I fully recommend reading both of Taylor’s pieces to the end. Overall, his commentary is a good lens for the broader conversation: what we look for in a leader. More on Bestsellers
Andrew Sargus Klein: It’s Painful To Watch a Level-Headed Conservative Defend Sarah Palin
By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger Climate change legislation is off the table for now, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is still working to regulate greenhouse gasses. The organization is up against strong opposition from Republicans and some Democrats. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is heading the charge, with the assistance of Bush-era EPA officials, now lobbyists with clients in the energy industry. The EPA and the Clean Air Act In April 2009, the EPA found that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gasses pose a hazard to public health. This finding obligated the EPA to regulate these pollutants under the Clean Air Act, a responsibility the Bush administration fought to avoid. The power the agency now has to limit carbon emissions extends far beyond its usual scope, and the EPA’s decisions will have a lasting impact on environmental regulation in this country. As the agency moves to act, everyone from Sen. Murkowski to the state of California is protesting the changes. Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones reports: “The California Energy Commission last month sent a letter to the EPA asking it to slow down on implementation of regulations on greenhouse gas emissions….The CEC argues that phasing them in too fast could hurt efforts in the state to expand use of low-carbon energy.” Opponents in Congress are taking action to shut down the EPA’s attempts to curb greenhouse gasses, Sheppard writes. Both Sen. Murkowski and Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) have filed bills that would delay or stop the EPA’s regulatory process. Attempting to ‘gut the Clean Air Act’ Grist’s Miles Grant is also keeping a close watch on opponents of the regulation. “At first it seemed like simply one bad idea from Sen. Lisa Murkowski,” he writes. “But now we know the real story–a tangled web of public officials, polluter lobbyists, and efforts to gut the Clean Air Act.” It emerged this week that Murkowski had help in drafting her bill from EPA administrators from the Bush administration, as first reported by the Washington Post. These former officials now work in Washington as lobbyists and represent clients like Duke Energy and the Alliance of Food Associations on climate change matters. “Every day it seems we’re learning more,” says Miles. “More about the revolving door between the Bush administration and polluter lobbyists; more about their influence with senators and their staffers; and more about who’s really pulling the strings on efforts to block climate action–Big Oil’s MVP, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK).” Even the American Farm Bureau Federation… Another opponent, as Care2 notes, is the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the country’s largest farm group. The organization approved a special resolution during its four-day convention on Sunday. The resolution supports legislation like Murkowski’s or Pomeroy’s that would “suspend the EPA’s authority to regulator greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.” During a speech, AFBF president Bob Stallman said that American farmers and ranchers “must aggressively respond to extremists” and “misguided, activist-driven regulation.” “The days of their elitist power grabs are over,” he said. More opportunities to improve climate policy The EPA’s new power is not the only opportunity that the Obama administration has to improve U.S. climate policy. David Roberts , also reporting for Grist, writes about $2.3 billion in new tax credits for clean energy manufacturing companies, announced last Friday. “There were 183 projects selected out of some 500 applications; one-third were from small businesses; around 30% are expected to be completed this year. The winners are spread across 43 states,” Roberts reports. Roberts calls it “better than usual industrial policy.” The credits are meant to give a boost to the new green energy economy. But Roberts warns, “It’s also absurd that clean energy industries still depend on capricious, short-term extensions of tax credits. … Obama has called on Congress to cough up $5 billion a year for these credits, but how enduring will yearly appropriations be the next time Congress changes hands?” Iowa and the biodiesel tax credit The answer likely depends on how much support these projects get from the representatives of states that will benefit from the tax credits. In Iowa, for instance, the state’s three Democratic Representatives have asked the House leadership to prioritized a 2010 renewal of the biodiesel tax credit, as Lynda Waddington reports for the Iowa Independent. “If members of the U.S. Senate do not act on last year’s program extension, however, it might be a moot point,” Waddington writes. The renewal has gotten stalled in the Senate, where both Iowa Senators are blaming the opposite party for delays. From policy to people When politicians jockey over regulations and renewals, climate change work in Washington can seem very abstract. But people like John Henrikson, a forester who’s committed to farming 150 acres of trees in sustainable ways, help ground lofty policy ideas down in reality. “Henrikson’s approach embodies a new way of thinking about our relationship with forests. For years he has been processing his own trees into trim and molding, sold through a broad network of local businesses,” reports Ian Hanna for Y es! Magazine. “Five years ago he got his forest certified to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards, a global system for eco-labeling sustainably managed forests and the products derived from them. And, most recently, he’s developed a project to sell rights to the carbon sequestered on his property.” Without strong policy coming out Washington, it’s harder for entrepreneurs like Henrikson to make green business a reality. If legislators like Sen. Murkowski and groups like the AFBF don’t block them, the EPA’s new rules are going to begin coming out in March. There’s a major action to combat global warming that the U.S. can take before then, though–for example, we could officially commit to our promise to reduce emissions 17% from 2005 levels by 2020. The deadline for registering climate pledges under the new Copenhagen Accord is the end of this month. This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium . It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter . And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit , The Pulse , and The Diaspora . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets. More on Green Energy
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The Media Consortium: Weekly Mulch: EPA, Clean Air Act Facing Opposition
One of the nation’s more closely watched races in 2010, the March Republican primary for Governor of Texas, pits a sitting U.S. senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison, against a sitting governor, Rick Perry. Judging by their first encounter Thursday night, broadcast statewide on PBS and nationally on C-SPAN2, they both lost to a Tea Party darling named Debra Medina. A gun totin’ and property rights supportin’ libertarian-Republican from the boondocks, Medina came off like Dick Cheney’s long lost twin sister. She was calm and collected, but her message was red meat for the masses on the Right. With some decent fundraising, she could cost Perry part of his base. On guns: Medina always carries. She did admit honoring the Texas concealed law that barely disallows taking a gun anywhere at any time. She regretted, however, that she can’t pack heat at her local grocery store. This is obviously because she wants everyone else at the grocery store armed and dangerous, too. Everyone loaded, everywhere, is her read of the Second Amendment. On property taxes: Medina supports the notion of ending all property taxes, period. She’d replace this massive lost revenue with massive sales tax increases, which would eat the poor, bust the state budget, and impact all but the super-wealthy. Indeed, such a scheme would batter the middle class, yet there is support for it within the base of the Republican Party in Texas, and elsewhere, despite the fact that most Republicans (Tea Partiers, too) are hardly wealthy. Although both the Republican senator and governor largely share Medina’s philosophy, they didn’t dare touch it in such a public setting. They sniped at each other while leaving her alone to cleanly express her views. Hutchison did smartly engage Medina at one point to tag-team Perry on jobs. He survived. He also leads Hutchison in the polls, so the race didn’t really change anything. And there was obviously no counter-viewpoint from the other side. This was, after all, a primary debate. Everyone on stage was far right…and far righter. Take Perry. Americans know him as the guy who threatened last summer to secede from the Union, claiming a bizarre constitutional ability to do so that simply doesn’t exist, according to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Perhaps he thinks his 22 million constituents are better off as foreigners, doing without federal spending on things like defense ($30 billion alone in 2004, third most behind California and Virginia), disaster relief ($3.4 billion since he became Governor in 2001, the most of any state), and research grants to hospitals and universities. Don’t forget the student loan program. Then there’s Medicare and Medicaid; Texans lose those, too, with secession. Clearly, Rick Perry isn’t the brightest light in the Lone Star sky. Then there’s Kay Hutchison. A senator since 1994, she’s considered the “moderate” in this field of conservatives despite positions almost identical to Perry on every issue. But instead of playing to the middle, she’s tacked starboard for this race. The problem is that she can’t possibly out-troglodyte Perry with conservative voters who comprise the state’s Republican Party base. Why would they choose her over the devil they know and love? They wouldn’t. She can’t win the primary unless she beats the living hell out of him in aggressive TV ads and debate performance. So far, she’s done neither, and he’s supposedly bringing in Sarah Palin next month. The Wasilla Wonder (population 6,000 when she was mayor), couldn’t finish one lousy term as governor in a state with only 680,000 people. Still, she’s a rock star with Perry’s crowd, and her appearance will probably ice his re-nomination. With one Tea Partier flipping a congressional seat in upstate New York to a Democrat, and another one biting at the heels of Florida governor Charlie Crist in his Florida bid for U.S. senate, who knows where this goes? The Democratic candidate for governor, Bill White (recent mayor of Houston), could well be the recipient of this GOP in-fighting come November, facing a wounded opponent. Keep in mind that President Obama won the major cities in Texas in 2008, and the state is more purple than red, despite how the nation perceives it. Stay tuned. More on Rick Perry
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Jackson Williams: U.S. Senator Hutchison And Governor Perry Lose Televised Debate To Texas Tea Partier
Selections from the Harper’s Index for February (not yet on-line): • Percentage tax rate that Goldman Sachs paid on its profits for year 2008 : 0 . 6 • Chance that a child in the United States will be on food stamps at some point during his or her upbringing : 1 in 2 • Percentage of Republican voters who say they would seriously consider voting for Palin for President : 65 • Percentage who think she is qualified for the job : 58 • Ratio of the minimum number of medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles to the number of Starbucks : 4:1 • Percentage of Americans who think that women are more “intelligent” and “honest” than men, respectively : 38, 50 • Percentage who think they make better political leaders : 6 • • • • • • If you have not been engaged in the incredible Daily Kos effort to help the people of Haiti, I urge you to visit several diaries on the subject. Kossacks at our best. Thanks to all the diarists and everyone who has offered advice about how to help and who has made contributions: DallasDoc ’s Can We Stop Bickering While People Are Dying? TexMex ’s Daily Kos Shelter Boxes! we have 22 boxes+ . Betson08 ’s Helping the Victims of the Haiti Earthquake Day 3 . mindoca ’s Liveblog Q & A: An Insider’s View of Disaster Relief — Bring your questions on Haiti! You might also be interested in looking at earlier diaries, such as the ones by cosmic debris and Norbrook .
Open Thread for Night Owl, Early Birds & Expats
HuffPost political reporter Sam Stein was a guest tonight on Hardball , with Chris Matthews, to discuss the lengthy interview that Sarah Palin gave to Glenn Beck. Matthews focused on Palin’s initial reluctance to name her favorite Founding Father, after being asked by Beck, before finally settling on George Washington. Stein argued that the exchange was illustrative of Palin’s extreme caution and hesitance to say anything that might offend a part of the Republican party. Ultimately, Stein said, it was redemption for Katie Couric: It’s a very cautious answer. It’s not trying to get in trouble, is my opinion. But does it remind you of the newspaper answer? She didn’t want to say a newspaper that could possibly get in her in trouble with Republicans… I think this is redemption for Katie Couric, who got nailed by Sarah Palin for sking a ‘gotcha’ question. The subject then turned to Harold Ford’s shaky testing of the waters for a run against Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in New York. Stein called Ford’s initial forays “disastrous”: Harold Ford’s rollout has been totally disastrous. He’s asking [Gilibrand] to oppose health care reform, which is not going to endear him to anyone in the party. WATCH: More on Chris Matthews
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Huff TV: Sam Stein Discusses Palin-Beck Interview, Harold Ford On Hardball (VIDEO)
By Alison Hamm, Media Consortium Blogger Over 100,000 people are believed dead after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck near the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, on Tuesday afternoon. The quake buried countless buildings, from shantytowns to the presidential palace. All hospitals in Port-au-Prince have been leveled or abandoned. The United Nations headquarters and the city’s main prison have collapsed as well. Thousands of residents are homeless and without food, water, or electricity. On the ground in Port-au-Prince Haiti is in a state of chaos, as Kayla Coleman reports for Care2. “The streets…are flooded with the rubble of collapsed buildings and displaced people. … The earthquake has destroyed much of the already fragile and overburdened infrastructure.” Because all hospitals have been destroyed, there is nowhere to take the injured. According to Coleman, the United Nations says it will immediately release $10 million from its emergency fund to aid relief efforts. Haiti before the earthquake And though Americans are now paying attention to Haiti in the wake of this disaster, little to no attention was paid to the “daily chaos and misery” that plagues the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, as James Ridgeway writes for Mother Jones . “It is hard to imagine what a magnitude 7 earthquake might do to a city that on any ordinary day already resembles a disaster area.” Ridgeway also cites a 2006 New York Times report that details how the Bush administration helped destabilize Haiti in the years leading up to the 2004 coup. Ridgeway writes: “For the most part, Europe and the United States have continued to sit by as Haiti has grown poorer and poorer. When I was there you could find the children just outside Cite Soleil, the giant slum, living in the garbage dump, waiting for the U.S. army trucks to dump the scraps left from the meals of American soldiers. There they stood, knee deep in garbage, fighting for bits of food. As for the old, they people every street, gathering at the Holiday Inn at Port-au-Prince in wheelchairs, waiting at the doorway in search of a coin or two. They have no social safety net. And nobody with any money–no bank, no insurance company, no hedge fund, no mutual fund–ever makes any serious investment in the country.” Will prevailing attitudes towards Haiti change? At RaceWire, Michelle Chen writes that Haiti, a place “where buildings have been known to suddenly collapse on their own, even without the help of a natural disaster,” was still trying to recover from the severe tropical storms last spring that leveled hundreds of schools and left tens of thousands homeless. Now the situation is desperate. “There will be an outpouring of sympathy across borders, a spasm of humanitarian aid,” Chen writes. But “will there be an attitude shift in the power structures that have long compounded natural disaster with politically manufactured crisis?” ‘Supporting the right kind of aid’ For those in Haiti, outside help is crucial. The country is in need of search and rescue volunteers, field hospitals, emergency health, water purification, and telecommunications. To ensure that you are supporting the right kind of aid–”the kind that builds local self-resilience, strengthens the local economy, and fosters local leadership,” as Sarah van Gelder details for Yes! Magazine –donate to one or more groups with a proven track record, such as Doctors without Borders , Grassroots International , Partners in Health , and Action Aid , among others. Hip-hop artist and Haitian native Wyclef Jean has led efforts to help Haiti for years through his charity Yele Haiti . Jessica Calefati at Mother Jones reports that Yele spends $100,000 a year on athletic programs for Haitian children and helps feed 50,000 people a month with food donated by the UN. When Jean received word of the disaster, he immediately acted, sending a “flurry of tweets” for people to donate $5 by texting 501501. He has already returned to Haiti to help. How you can help For more details about how you can donate effectively, check out Yes! , Mother Jones , Care2 , and The Nation ’s roundups. You can also watch Free Speech TV’s action update video for more information. GritTV aired a segment on Haiti featuring Danny Glover, Marie St. Cyr, and a performance by the Welfare Poets. The video (below) covers the devastation in Haiti after the quake as well as the state of the country prior to the crisis: How not to help For an example of how not to help in a time of crisis, take a look at televangelist Pat Robertson, who claimed yesterday that the quake was Haiti’s payback for a “pact with the devil” that slaves made to obtain independence from French colonials. As a rebuttal, Afro-Netizen points out how Haiti’s liberation greatly benefited the United States, and Tracy Viselli at Care2 writes that “if there is a god, Pat Robertson is one of the devil’s pied pipers.” More coverage of the crisis For more information about relief efforts in Haiti, what you can do to help, and some historical context, check out the below list of coverage by Media Consortium members . Video from the Real News Network on how World Bank policies led to famine in Haiti. Garry Pierre-Pierre of Inter Press Service reports on humanitarian efforts of Haitian-American leaders in New York. Monica Potts explains why Americans should concentrate on our policies toward Haiti for The American Prospect . Erin Rosa at Campus Progress writes about Ansel Herz, a young journalist that is on the ground at Haiti. Video from The UpTake of President Obama’s pledge to send aid. This post is a special report on Haiti and features links to the best independent, progressive reporting by members of The Media Consortium . It is free to reprint. For more updates, follow us on Twitter . And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit , The Mulch , The Pulse , and The Diaspora . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets. More on Haiti Earthquake
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The Media Consortium: Special Report: Haiti After the Quake + How to Help.
In its “advance” monthly report released this morning, the U.S. Census Bureau stated that retail sales dropped slightly from November to December. The decrease was unexpected and at odds with what private trackers of retail sales have been saying. Meanwhile, first-time unemployment claims unexpectedly rose , although the four-week running average that is considered a better barometer continued a trend that began early last spring and dropped to its lowest level since August 2008. Jeff Bater, Sarah N. Lynch and Luca Di Leo at The Wall Street Journal reported : Retail sales declined 0.3%, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires forecast a 0.5% increase. November sales, however, were adjusted upward, to a 1.8% increase from a previously reported 1.3% gain. October sales also rose strongly, up 1.2%. Excluding the car sector, all other retail sales in December fell 0.2%. Economists expected a 0.3% increase. The numbers were a disappointment for the economic recovery. The retail sales data are an important indicator of consumer spending. Consumer spending makes up 70% of GDP, which is the broad measure of U.S. economic activity. Thursday’s report suggests high joblessness is restraining consumers and will mute the recovery. While the upward revisions in estimates of retail sales in October and November offered some good news in contrast to the unexpectedly bad December sales, these month-over-month comparisons provide only a narrow view of what is actually going on. The October-November sales showed an improvement over 2008, but it’s an unfair match-up considering that that year saw the steepest three-month plunge since the Census began keeping statistics on retail sales in 1992. When December sales in 2009 are compared with 2007, they don’t look good at all, a 6% decline. In fact, retail sales in October-December 2009, including motor vehicles and gasoline, were lower than they’ve been since 2005. And that’s just in nominal dollars not adjusted for inflation. When inflation is added in, retail sales were lower in October-December 2009 than in every year since 2001. Likewise, retail sales for all 12 months of 2009 were lower, when adjusted for inflation, than in every year since 1999. Chalk up another “lost decade” to go along with the ones in wage, employment and stock market gains. (See chart.) Click for larger image . While the majority of leading economic indicators continues an upward trend that began by early summer last year, most observers keep saying we’re in for a tepid recovery. That view was reiterated Wednesday in the Federal Reserve’s beige book . In The Wall Street Journal ’s biggest duh moment of the week so far: Some economists fear that the high unemployment rate will hold steady for much of this year unless companies start hiring again. No hiring, no jobs? Really? The government’s economic stimulus had its greatest impact on growth in the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2009 and, without additional spending, that impact will continue to fade. Under such circumstances, the probability of an oxymoronic “jobless recovery” is reinforced. And the term “double-dip recession” is being heard more frequently again. Not exactly good news with at least 26 million Americans out of work or working part time because there aren’t enough full-time positions. But we keep being told that the pot of jobs is just over the horizon at the end of the happy-talk rainbow. Meanwhile, as more and more people spend down their savings, exhaust their unemployment benefits (if they were lucky enough to have them in the first place) and lose their houses to foreclosure, the underlying structural problems of the economy, including a still vastly under-regulated banking industry, myopic trade policy and anti-progressive tax policy, seem destined to remain in place, ensuring that the next crisis will be even worse and may begin before the current one is over.
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Sales Down, Benefit Claims Up, Stats Still Jiggly
See a pattern? Boston.com’s Scott Brown slideshow expresses how much national candidates, in our infotainment culture, look straight out of central casting. I’m not saying the GOP’s Massachusetts hopeful is a lightweight, but his particulars (both he and his TV wife are former models; he’s well remembered as the Cosmo stud; he’s a long time, and oft-photographed National Guardsman; his daughter — a visible campaign presence — was an American Idol finalist) have “eye candy” writ everywhere. Of course, the media has been fully collusive in these affairs. For example, just consider Wednesday’s NYT coverage of carpetbagger Harold Ford’s potential NY Senate run. The pic above (left/middle) was on yesterday’s front page, and the shot on the right/bottom accompanied the continuation, and the on-line article . With an almost unintelligible Sara Palin also joining FOX news yesterday, call it the fashion of the times. For a breakdown of the latest visual spin, visit BAGnewsNotes.com . (NYT photos: Ozier Muhammed)
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Michael Shaw: Reading the Pictures: Model Candidates
WASHINGTON — A House committee probing bailout deals has subpoenaed the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for correspondence from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other officials. The House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee is examining New York Fed decisions that funneled billions of dollars to big banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley. Geithner was president of the New York Fed at the time. He approved decisions involving the money from the bailout of failed insurer American International Group Inc., according to an earlier watchdog audit. On Wednesday, committee chairman Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y. formally invited Geithner to testify this month about his role in the AIG bailout and the decision not to disclose what banks benefited. In a statement, Towns said he had subpoenaed the New York Fed for documents about the decision to pay off AIG’s business partners and keep their names secret. The subpoena demands e-mails, phone logs and meeting notes from Geithner; Stephen Friedman, who succeeded him as New York Fed president; New York Fed general counsel Thomas Baxter; and Sarah Dahlgren, the New York Fed’s top manager on AIG. The November audit said the bank payoffs might have cost taxpayers billions more than necessary because Geithner did not demand concessions from AIG’s business partners. Towns has called for Baxter to testify with Geithner. It remains unclear whether either will appear. Towns criticized the deals’ secrecy, saying in a statement that they protected Wall Street at taxpayer expense. “When average people were losing their homes and their jobs, the Bush administration decided to use taxpayer dollars to give a backdoor bailout to the biggest players on Wall Street,” Towns said. “We need to understand why and how taxpayer dollars were used to bailout the same people who helped cause the financial crisis in the first place.” The subpoena also demands correspondence about the Fed’s decision not to name the banks that benefited from the deals. Federal Reserve officials refused to name the banks that benefited from AIG’s money. They said releasing the names would undermine market confidence and make it harder to recoup the money committed to AIG, which eventually totaled $182 billion. When the Fed reversed course and released the details, the financial markets took it in stride, the November audit pointed out. California Rep. Darrell Issa, the top Republican on the committee, asked Towns to subpoena the New York Fed after the Fed blocked a separate request for documents. Administration officials have defended Geithner in the AIG matter by saying he wasn’t involved in the e-mails released last week. But the subpoena makes clear that the committee probe involves separate decisions Geithner made. A Treasury spokesman did not respond to requests for comment. A New York Fed spokesman said in a statement that the bank “will work with the committee to provide relevant information as appropriate.” Issa’s office had asked the bailout watchdog, Neil Barofsky, for documents he used to prepare the report on AIG’s payments to other banks. Barofsky has said the Fed “has directed us not to provide you with the documents that it has provided to us.” That prompted Issa’s call for the subpoena. More on The Fed
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Geithner Subpoena: House Committee Wants AIG Emails, Phone Logs
The end is nigh. Watching Bill Kristol’s Eliza Do-nothing struggle to dress up her red-meat-tea-party talking points in snarkily delivered, barely comprehensible, pseudo-intellectual jargon on Fox News , as she is coaxed by Bill O’Righty like an over-eager poodle pup makes me think this Frankenditz might be the harbinger of the Rapture she’s spent her entire charmed life preparing for (AKA God’s Plan). I’d rather be exposed to Glenn Beck after a full-blown Healthcare-Is-Fascism hissy fit, eyes streaming crocodile tears, rocking back and forth in the fetal position with his thumb in his mouth and a pool of drool dripping down his moisturized chinny chin-chin (actually high-fructose corn syrup, but it works for the camera) than this former second-string Miss Alaska smarmily playing pretend at punditry. It’s like being forced to listen to your overzealous eight-year-old niece’s rousing rendition of Oklahoma’s Pick a Little, Talk a Little at the Thanksgiving table. As she mangles the song by sputtering and stuttering and over-confidently mugging, going from moderately cute to overly grotesque in the ten minutes it takes for turkey to get cold and the mashed potatoes to grow a hardened crust. And yet there Sarah is, being paid to spew lukewarm air and mutilate the English language on a national “news” network. Exhibit A (On Obama’s poll numbers) : I-It was just a matter of time before more of that reflection of the people’s uncomfortable… ness that they feel towards this administration is manifesting in these poll numbers. What??? How is it possible that she has a degree in broadcast journalism? I mean this is what she is allegedly good at, folks! Exhibit B (On Harry Reid’s controversial remarks) : I come from a very diverse state. My family is very diverse. I’m married to an Alaskan Native. A lot of us don’t think along those lines that somebody’s skin tone would be criteria for, a-a qualification for the presidency. So his- his thinking and articulating of that that thought was-is quite perplexing, is quite unfortunate and is unacceptable. I myself have many 1/8th Alaskan Native American friends (like her hubby Todd whose mother is a whole one-quarter Yup’ik). And far be it for me to argue that Alaska is not in fact the poster state for diversity… just as Iran is the poster nation for Zionism. However, I do find her unflagging support for the Tea Bagger Movement, whose fringes so blatantly assert that somebody’s skin tone should be “criteria for, a-a qualification for the presidency”, a tad bothersome. Palin’s Bread n’ Butter Wonder if she’ll be at the keynote address? Fingers crossed. Man, as if the creepy, self-satisfied croak of ole Spin Lizzy Cheney wasn’t bad enough to bear, Fox had to go and up the ante with this brainless Barracuda . Could it possibly get any worse? Certainly! Let’s not forget that Palin has recently begotten Prejean, opening the floodgates for any bimbo with a bathing suit, baton-twirling act, fully realized implants and a dream. Why, Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has already suggested to TMZ (that other bastion of Fair and Balanced reporting) that Prejean could be a serious contender in the political arena, stating that: “[Carrie] has the ability to draw crowds and if she has a strong message to go with that, who knows what she can do? She has star power which can open doors.” Sound familiar? Hey, at least her video footage is mite more interesting to look at. If George W. Dunderhead has succeeded in lowering the bar for any black-sheep trust-fundian screw-up with a powerful papa in politics to have a clear shot at being leader of the free world, then Sarah has certainly out-limboed the former Commander-in-Puppet by shattering the glass basement for both women and humanity alike. Good thing Rupert Murdoch snatched her up. Feel Free to Read More of Warren’s Writing at: http://warrenholstein.wordpress.com/ More on Health Care
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Warren Holstein: Fox’s Barracuda Jumps the Shark
BOSTON — What for weeks had been a polite – even sleepy – race in Massachusetts to fill the late Edward M. Kennedy’s Senate seat has turned negative as the contest tightens, raising the stakes for both parties and the White House in next week’s special election. In a 48-hour span: _Democrat Martha Coakley, who had been heavily favored, unleashed a TV ad attacking her GOP opponent, Scott Brown, as “in lockstep with Washington Republicans.” _The national committee charged with electing Senate Democrats rolled out an ad claiming Massachusetts voters know little about Brown and imploring them not to let him “take them for a ride.” _The Service Employees International Union went on the air with a spot that says Brown “calls himself independent, but voted with Republican leadership 96 percent of the time,” opposes abortion rights and is backed by some of Sarah Palin’s supporters. The late-game strategy: use Republicans as a foil in a Democratic state to undercut Brown, who has cast himself as an independent and downplayed his conservative credentials. The onslaught of negative TV ads and arrival of out-of-state operatives underscore Democrats’ worry that their hold on the seat in a solidly Democratic state is in jeopardy – and that they could lose the pivotal 60th Senate vote needed to pass President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul and other legislation. Republican-allied groups have gone negative as well, reaching for a long-shot upset and sensing that Brown has momentum in a difficult political environment for Democrats. “Coakley supports massive new spending and the tax increases to pay for it,” says one commercial by the conservative American Future Fund. The Republican National Committee and the GOP’s Senate campaign committee are working behind the scenes to help elect Brown but aren’t pouring TV money into the race, raising questions about whether they really think Brown can win or whether they are afraid of reminding voters that Brown is a Republican. They also have withheld campaign appearances by national GOP figures who could hurt Brown, although former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani will visit Massachusetts on Friday to vouch for the candidate’s anti-terrorism credentials. Public opinion polls and internal candidate and party surveys show a race fluctuating between a 15-point lead for Coakley to a 2-point lead for Brown. Among the biggest unknowns is voter turnout, since this special election will take place the day after the Martin Luther King holiday weekend when many voters will be traveling. The Boston Globe endorsed Coakley on Wednesday. Kennedy’s widow, Vicki, sent out a fundraising e-mail Wednesday that Coakley aides say raised at least $400,000 in four hours and crashed their computer server. Democrats say all the late national attention could undercut Brown – and save health care for Obama – by energizing complacent voters in the traditionally Democratic state. Both candidates have vulnerabilities that could provide fodder for more negative ads in the final week. Coakley said during a debate Monday night that she favored a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan because terrorists harbored by the Taliban “are gone.” She added: “They’re not there anymore. They’re in, apparently, Yemen and they’re in Pakistan. Let’s focus our efforts on where al-Qaida is.” Obama cited a continuing terrorist threat late last year in justifying his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan. Brown, meanwhile, was silenced in the debate when the independent candidate in the race, Joseph L. Kennedy, noted he has been calling for a “JFK-style” across-the-board cut in federal taxes – but opposed a proposed rollback in the Massachusetts income tax two years ago. Brown also seeks a presidential line-item veto to reduce government spending, but as a state senator he has repeatedly voted to override gubernatorial spending vetoes – many issued when Republican Mitt Romney was governor. With a week to go in Massachusetts, it’s unclear whether Obama will travel there to campaign for Coakley. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs has repeatedly said Obama is not scheduled to make a campaign visit on behalf of Coakley, but Democrats say it’s a possibility if her new, more aggressive stance doesn’t beat back Brown’s challenge. That Obama would be dispatched to essentially save Coakley wouldn’t look good for the White House. And a loss could be devastating, raising questions about the president’s political cache. In the final week, candidates, national parties and interest groups are spending on TV ads alone what both Republican and Democratic strategists estimate could total more than $5 million. That doesn’t count literature filling mailboxes or phone calls filling voicemail. Both sides also are heavily engaged in turnout efforts, encouraging party activists to make phone calls and travel to the state to canvass neighborhoods for votes. ___ Sidoti reported from Washington. More on Senate Races
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Senate Race For Ted Kennedy’s Seat Turns Negative In Massachusetts
Political pundits are like astrologers and psychics: They get away with making outlandish predictions and are remembered when lightning strikes and they guess right, but rarely are they called to account for a litany of missed calls that would put weather forecasters and stock market analysts to shame. We were told to be nervous about Barack Obama, but after one year in office, it should be clear to all but President Obama’s most partisan critics that he has been good for Israel. Prior to the 2006 election, our Republican friends bombarded us with emails about how terrible it would be for Israel if the Democrats regained control of Congress. But the Democrats did regain control of Congress, and Congress remains as pro-Israel as it has ever been, with many key committees chaired by staunchly pro-Israel members of Congress . Bi-partisan support for Israel in Congress is strong. The House of Representatives passed the Iran Refined Sanctions Petroleum Act by margin of 412-12 in December and passed the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act by a margin of 414-6 in October. For a comprehensive look at the 2009 achievements of the Democratic-controlled Congress from a pro-Israel perspective, click here . However, rather than celebrate America’s bi-partisan commitment to Israel, our Republican friends continue to use Israel as a partisan football. During the 2008 campaign, they returned to their tired old playbook and bombarded us with emails about how terrible it would be for Israel if the Democrats regained control of the White House. Most of us, or at least 80% of us , saw through those lies and voted for Obama. Obama took office nearly a year ago. His record as President is as consistently strong on Israel as he and his supporters in the pro-Israel community promised it would be. Only last month, we learned that Israeli officials have been singing the praises of President Obama for his willingness to address their defense concerns and for actions taken by his administration to bolster Israel’s qualitative military edge– an edge eroded, according to Israel , during the final year of the George W. Bush presidency. (The Bush administration violated security related agreements with Israel in which the U.S. promised to preserve the IDF’s qualitative edge over Arab armies.) Prior to Obama’s election, our Republican friends told us that we should ignore Obama’s statements on Israel, ignore Obama’s perfect record on Israel, ignore Obama’s vigorous outreach to the Jewish community, and instead find him guilty by distant association. They told us that Obama was like the Manchurian Candidate, and once he was elected, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, Rashid Khalidi and other fellow travelers would be running the country and dictating policy on Israel. They told us that Obama might not even be committed to Israel’s survival (I may have missed the retraction when Obama told the Arab world that America’s bond with Israel is ” unbreakable “). They told us that Obama does not believe that Israel is a sovereign state (even though Obama espoused the same view of Israeli settlements that George Bush espoused). We replied that the pro-Israel community had always judged candidates on words and deeds, not guilt by distant association. We replied that there is a bi-partisan consensus on Israel, and that while Obama had significant policy differences with Bush/Cheney and McCain/Palin, Israel was not one of those differences. Yes, the rhetoric probably would be more cerebral–how could it not be–but the policy would remain essentially the same. So who was right? I’m sometimes asked what it would take for me to conclude that Obama was not pro-Israel. If Obama had forced Israel to withdraw from territory it justifiably held, if Obama had suspended arms sales to Israel , if Obama had backed UN resolutions condemning Israel , if Obama had honored the graves of Nazi soldiers , if Obama had used loan guarantees to pressure Israel , if Obama had denied Israel arms and airspace to attack Iran, if Obama had pressured Israel to allow Hamas to participate in Gaza elections, thus conferring on it a legitimacy it could never have otherwise earned , I’d be concerned. Previous Presidents have done exactly that (click on the links for details). But not Obama. When we said that American policy toward Israel under Obama would remain essentially unchanged, we meant it. Many in the pro-Israel community, including me, have criticized American policy on settlements. Reasonable minds can differ, and I happen to believe that pressure on Israel regarding settlements is morally wrong and counterproductive. But that’s been American policy since 1967. Some say that Obama is different because he’s put American policy on settlements front and center. Maybe what’s really different is that Obama’s critics have put American policy on settlements front and center for partisan gain. The reality is that for eight years, the Bush Administration was also at odds with Israel over settlements, including in Jerusalem and including natural growth . It’s ironic that many who rightly complain when Israel is held to a different standard hold Obama to a different standard. If you want to know what real pressure on Israel, look at what Eisenhower , Reagan (also here and here ), Bush 41 , and Bush 43 did . So what has Obama done? Here is a partial list of his tangible accomplishments. It’s long, but that’s the point. It’s an impressive record for less than one year in office. The next time you hear someone questioning Obama’s pro-Israel bona fides, remind that person that Obama now has a record, and it’s one we can be proud of. As you read this list, ask yourself if this is the record of a man whose views on Israel are informed by ” radical Palestinian” activists . • No Administration in history has come into office with a Vice President, Secretary of State, and Chief of Staff with stronger pro-Israel credentials than this one. • Steve Rosen, AIPAC’s director of executive branch relations for 23 years, wrote that Obama’s appointments are no cause for concern from a pro-Israel perspective. • Rosen was very concerned about Chas Freeman, but that appointment by Dennis Blair was never final and was rescinded –exactly what we’d expect from a pro-Israel administration that listens to the pro-Israel community. • Obama fulfilled his campaign promise to boycott Durban II unless ALL of our conditions were met. • On May 1, Obama renewed sanctions against Syria because it posed a continuing threat to US interests. Obama, in a letter to Congress notifying it of his decision, accused Damascus of “supporting terrorism, pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, and undermining US and international efforts with respect to the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq.” • Obama was the first President to host a seder in the White House . To my right wing friends who try to read “signals” the way the ancients read animal entrails: What signal do you think Obama was sending to the world? • President Obama issued a proclamation deeming May Jewish American Heritage Month, the fourth year the president has issued such a proclamation since the House and Senate, spearheaded by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), passed resolutions urging that May be marked in such a manner. • Obama will fully fund the development and production of the Arrow 3 ballistic missile defense system . United States officials told Israel of its decision on May 20 during a strategic dialogue between the two countries. The Arrow 3 will be a longer-range version of the Arrow system that the IDF currently operates, capable of intercepting missiles at a farther distance and a higher altitude from the Jewish state. • The Obama administration reiterated that it will maintain the US policy of ambiguity on regarding Israel’s nuclear weapons (5/21/09). • On June 4 in Cairo , President Obama told the Arab and Muslim world that America’s bond with Israel is “unbreakable.” He told the Arab and Muslim world, a world rife with Holocaust denial, that to deny the Holocaust is “baseless, ignorant, and hateful.” He told them that threatening Israel with destruction is “deeply wrong.” He said that “Palestinians must abandon violence” and that “it is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus.” And he said that “Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.” • Dennis Ross , a key pro-Israel advisor to Obama during the campaign, will be playing a major role in Middle East matters in the Obama administration, the Washington Post reported on June 24. • The Obama administration assured Israel it will continue defending Israel at the United Nations despite the allies’ dispute over West Bank settlements, Israel’s U.N. ambassador said on June 29. • On June 30, the United States reapproved loan guarantees with Israel. • On July 5, Vice President Biden said that the United States would not stand in Israel’s way if Israel decided to attack Iran . Also here .. This is not a green light for Israel, but it’s an improvement over the Bush administration’s clear opposition to action by Israel . • On July 8, the House approved foreign aid to Israel. For the second time in three years, a majority of Republicans voted against the foreign aid bill , but the bill passed with Democrats voting in favor 242-9 . The bill included more than just foreign aid . It also prohibited aid to a Palestinian unity government unless all ministers in the government publicly accept the Quartet conditions, while maintaining all current restrictions on aid to the West Bank and Gaza; prohibited the Export-Import Bank from using funds to guarantee, insure or extend credit for companies that supply Iran with refined petroleum resources; and required status reports from the State Department on sanctions against Iran and on the administration’s diplomatic efforts with Iran regarding its nuclear program. • On July 13, President Obama met with 16 Jewish leaders from 14 key organizations and explained that forceful pressure is being applied to the Palestinians to move forward on the peace process and that he has been very specific with the Arab world on incitement, violence, commitments on accepting the reality of Israel and conveying that to their street. • In its meeting with Jewish leaders on July 13 and in Hillary Clinton’s speech on July 15, the Obama administration left no doubt that it will do all that it can to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. • On July 31, Obama extended sanctions against Syria. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3754953,00.html • Obama is not the first President to host a Ramadan dinner at the White House–Bill Clinton started the tradition and George W. Bush continued it–but on Sept. 1, Obama became the first President to invite Israel’s ambassador to the White House Ramadan dinner. To my right wing friends who try to read “signals” the way the ancients read animal entrails: What signal do you think Obama was sending to the world? • On Sept. 23, President Obama softened his insistence that Israel freeze settlements, stating that conditions will not be imposed on the parties. • On October 12, the U.S. pulled out of joint military exercises with Turkey after Turkey excluded Israel. • On October 21, 2009 the IDF and the U.S. military began a major joint air defense exercise , highlighting military ties between the two allies at a time of heightened tensions over Iran’s nuclear program. The maneuver underlines the strong alliance between the US and Israel . • On October 22, Israel’s ambassador to the United States said the Obama administration backs the Jewish state in opposing the Goldstone report . • On October 22, President Obama repealed the import tariffs on Israeli dairy products , making it easier for American consumers to purchase kosher dairy products. The tariffs still apply to most other countries. • On November 1, AIPAC applauded Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s praise for Israel’s “unprecedented” willingness to restrain settlement construction. • On November 23, senior Pentagon official Jon Schreiber said that the United States has offered to add Israeli systems and munitions to a new U.S.-built fighter jet, the F-35, and deliver it to Israel by 2015. Schreiber said that the United States is committed to maintaining Israel’s “qualitative” military edge over any regional rival. • On December 16, The Forward reported that Israeli officials have been singing the praises of President Obama for his willingness to address their defense concerns and for actions taken by his administration to bolster Israel’s qualitative military edge– an edge eroded, according to Israel, during the final year of the George W. Bush presidency. • On December 21, President Obama signed a defense spending bill that includes $202 million in funds for Israel’s missile defense programs. ” We are tremendously pleased with the ongoing cooperation between the United States and the State of Israel in the area of missile defense,” an Israeli official said after Obama signed the bill. • On January 11, Ha’aretz reported that the U.S. Army will double the value of emergency military equipment it stockpiles on Israeli soil, and Israel will be allowed to use the U.S. ordnance in the event of a military emergency. An American defense official told Defense News that the U.S.-Israel agreement reflects the Obama administration’s continued commitment to Israel’s security . The agreement is expected to aid Israel in its effort to bolster its weapons stockpiles for use in an emergency. Israel’s stores of aerial and artillery ammunition were depleted during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, nearly reaching levels the IDF considers dangerously low. And for the record… Rahm Emanuel never linked progress on Iran to Israel’s willingness to create a Palestinian state. The Obama administration did NOT spend $20 million on resettling Palestinians with ties to Hamas in the United States . Obama has been clear that it is NOT his place to decide Israel’s security needs and that no options are off the table regarding Iran. Obama does NOT believe that the Holocaust and Palestinian suffering are morally equivalent. Obama’s position on settlements IS virtually identical to George W. Bush’s . Bush rejected Israel’s request for arms needed to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. More on Barack Obama
Steve Sheffey: Obama’s First Year: Pro-Israel
CARY, N.C. — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Wednesday he considers himself among the top Republican prospects for the 2012 presidential election, adding that he believes there will be plenty of GOP options for voters to consider. “I think I’m probably on a list of seven or eight possible candidates at this stage,” Gingrich said. “We have a lot of people around the country who would like to have somebody who represents a commitment to replace the current failed programs and to develop a set of solutions that are practical and workable.” Gingrich listed several current and former goverors who he thinks might enter the race. They include former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. He said he will discuss his possible candidacy with his wife early next year before making a decision about whether to run. Gingrich also suggested that governors Mitch Daniels from Indiana, Haley Barbour from Mississippi, Rick Perry from Texas and Bobby Jindal from Louisiana, as well as South Dakota Sen. John Thune could run. The former lawmaker from Georgia talked to reporters before speaking to hundreds of conservatives in North Carolina, a state that went to the Democrats in 2008 for the first time in three decades. Gingrich said the political environment is favoring Republicans and that the party could regain a lot of power in this year’s mid-term election. A key conductor of the GOP’s takeover of the U.S. House in 1994, Gingrich encouraged his party to revisit the “Contract for America” brainstorm that helped swing the election that year. More on GOP
Gingrich 2012: Former Speaker Considers Himself A Top Presidential Prospects
One of the many claims in Halperin and Heileman’s new book Game Change is that during a briefing session, Sarah Palin said several times that Iraq and Saddam Hussein were behind the 9/11 attacks. Although this particularly story is new, we’ve already known for quite some time that Palin believed Iraq was behind 9/11. As you’ll see in this video, even though Palin now denies ever having made the connection, she made at on at least two occasions during the 2008 campaign, first on September 11 when she said Iraq was home to “the enemies who planned and carried out” 9/11 and again on September 25 when, standing at Ground Zero, she said we were fighting in Iraq “to not let them attempt again what they accomplished here , and that was some destruction, terrible destruction on that day”. Watch: So yes, even though she now claims otherwise, if you’re going to be completely fair and balanced, Sarah Palin did link 9/11 and Iraq. Moreover, while Halperin and Heileman do shed new light on Palin’s complete ignorance, we’ve known the basic facts since the 2008 election, because she was making the claim while on the campaign trail. Perhaps the strangest aspect of this whole thing is Sarah Palin’s new spin. She’s adamant that she never said what the video proves she said, but she does now concede that until the 2008 presidential campaign she didn’t know where the 9/11 hijackers came from and had to ask McCain staffers to find out. I did talk a lot to Steve Schmidt about the history of the war, and about where, perhaps, the 9/11 terrorists came from, and could there have been any connection to Saddam. So I admit that I asked questions. That is a shocking fact. In Palin’s own words, she didn’t know where the 9/11 hijackers came from. Basically, her defense is that she was a total moron who had no idea who attacked us on 9/11. As bad as that makes her look, it reflects even more poorly on John McCain and his staffers whose thirst for power was so great that they were willing to put this utter fool within a heartbeat of the presidency.
Palin’s defense: I’m a moron
What magic spell has Sarah Palin cast over John McCain? Since bringing her onboard as his vice presidential running mate on that fateful summer night in August 2008, he has been like a man possessed. He has repeatedly cast aside every last vestige of personal dignity and professional credibility to adamantly assert, even as the evidence stares him straight in the face, that Palin is the smartest, brightest and best hope for America, and he is proud to call her friend. In the words of his former campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, “You know, it’s the equivalent of saying down is up and up is down. It (is) provably, demonstrably untrue.” In the meantime, Sarah Palin seems to have no qualms about insulting, if in a runabout way, her former boss. In Going Rogue: An American Life , for example, she trashes nearly every single member of McCain’s presidential campaign team - people, we assume, he personally and carefully selected; some of which, we assume, are his closest friends and professional allies. Palin calls them liars and cheat, incompetent, clueless, chauvinistic, and, in the case of Steve Schmidt, “rotund.” She might as well have said her former boss was a bumbling idiot when it came to identifying truly qualified people, since he obviously surrounded himself with the dregs of the political world. A man of McCain’s stature, with such an extensive and commendable record of political accomplishments, should have taken exception to the accusation. To paraphrase Rep. Joe Wilson, he should have yelled, “Madam, you lie!” Or at least, in the words of Schmidt, “you are not accurate.” Instead, McCain weakly defends his people, saying he had “the highest regard” for them; then immediately proclaims, “I’m still really proud of her and the campaign she ran.” A Capital Offense Later, Palin was photographed wearing an old campaign cap on which McCain’s name was crudely blacked out. At minimum, it was in poor taste and demonstrated a lack of good judgment. Palin denied any disrespect, saying she was just trying to “be incognito” on her vacation. McCain laughed it off, saying, “I don’t blame her.” Perhaps the ultimate - and most disconcerting - example of McCain’s persistent and mystifying defense of Palin came in the recent interview with Matt Lauer. Lauer mentioned the charges made in the new book, Game Change , in which authors John Heilemann and Mark Halperin condemn the vetting of Sarah Palin as “woefully inadequate.” Lauer wondered whether that was really the case. McCain responded, “I wouldn’t know.” Lauer was incredulous. In essence, McCain was proudly proclaiming his ignorance about the vetting process for his vice presidential running mate. He was dismissing as unimportant the question of how they came to qualify the woman who would have been a heartbeat away from the most powerful job in the world. Imagine if Barack Obama had been asked how Joe Biden came to be selected as his running mate, and he answered, “I wouldn’t know.” An understandably nonplussed Lauer exclaimed, “You were the presidential candidate!” McCain stood his ground: “I wouldn’t know what the sources are nor care….The fact is that I’m proud of Sarah Palin….I will always be grateful for having her as my running mate.” The change in McCain since he took up with Sarah Palin has this political observer truly bothered and bewildered. More on Barack Obama
Mario Almonte: The Bewitching of John McCain
We just read Conan’s statement to the people of the Earth . We are so with you, Conan. Us gals at Bitches on a Budget stand in solidarity with your standing up for yourself and your principals. Galactically speaking, we need more people just like you. It got us to thinking about late night and bedtime in general and of course the woes of the last man standing in the 11:30 time slot–Letterman. After all, more was exposed after the unfortunate Letterman affair(s) than just the size of his… libido. This scandal drew our attention to bigger inequalities. All these men on network late night television and virtually no women. More to the point, has there ever been a woman even whispered about to take that late night slot? We make up more than fifty percent of the population. Is it that by 11:30 most of us are too exhausted from our day to watch? Nah. Not likely. Is it that no one woman can be a great host? Even less likely. Rosie and O and Ellen showed women can host talk shows… what precludes a woman from hosting a big network show after dark falls? Seems like there’s an unspoken, long-standing myth dominating our entertainment culture: that women aren’t as funny as men. That bathroom humor in the writer’s room is men-only. Trust us, being wry and suggestive is not exclusive to men ( have you read our book yet? ). Are we still viewing the vestiges of prehistoric thinking on network television? Now we walk upright and don’t carry clubs. It’s a new era. When we think funny, we think women. We think Sarah Silverman and Kristen Schaal and Wanda Sykes and Chelsea Handler. We think Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks, the geniuses behind Go Fug Yourself. We think Amy Sedaris. We think Jane Lynch, now creating havoc on Glee, Rachel Dratch, and Kristen Wiig, and for god’s sake Tina Fey. We’re not going to go on. That we must make a list only reinforces the inequity. Another myth: that women can’t be funny and attractive as well. That humor is the booby prize for women who don’t meet society’s absurd beauty standards. No more. Women can be smart and funny and gorgeous (and “gorgeousness” comes in all packages) and have curves, and luminous hair, etc. etc. etc. Steve Allen. Jack Paar. Johnny Carson. Jay Leno. Conan O’Brien. What do you notice? Five white dudes. Funny dudes, yes, talented dudes. But it’s time to get with the progam. Message to network: want to find a way to stand out? Want some new attention? Hire a woman. P.S. We love you Conan. But we’re left to wonder, could all this have been simply avoided by a new hairdresser? More on Fashion
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Rosalyn Hoffman: Five White Guys Walked Into a Studio…
Sarah Palin has joined Fox News. I’ll give you a moment to be shocked at this stunning, unexpected career move with the AP News story that accompanied her debut. NEW YORK — Sarah Palin accounts for the controversy she attracts by saying her opponents don’t like the “commonsense, conservative solutions” she represents. Debuting as a Fox News analyst, the 2008 vice presidential candidate and former Alaska governor was the guest of Bill O’Reilly on Tuesday’s edition of “The O’Reilly Factor.” On the claim made on “60 Minutes” that she didn’t understand the nature of her son’s mission when he was shipped to Iraq, she said, “I think that these are the political establishment reporters who love to gin up controversy and spin up gossip. The rest of America doesn’t care about that kind of crap.” However, she did partially admit to one story that came out of the new book “Game Change” — that she thought Iraq was behind the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. O’Reilly told her she now has a forum with Fox News that allows her to “immediately neutralize ‘60 Minutes’” - he snapped his fingers - “like that.” He invited her back on his show any time she wants to set the record straight. Well, you didn’t need tea leaves or a Ouija board to see this coming. There isn’t a mediagenic soul on the face of the earth who didn’t chart Glenn Beck’s rise from grating curiosity at CNN to Fox News demagogic gabllionaire and think, “how can I jump on that gravy train?” The day she quit her job in Alaska was the day everybody figured out this was only a matter of time. I’m sure there’s a lot of cheering on the right, and hand wringing on the left, regarding Palin finally taking the job she was destined for. But for me, for someone who is - to be polite about it - not a fan, I thank the God Sarah feels has chosen her for greatness she finally found her home. Fox didn’t hire her for her critical thinking skills. They didn’t hire her for “fairness” or “balance.” They’re paying her to do what she always does - take a story, squeeze it through the play-dough fun factory of her mind - and crap it out in the shape that best fits her brand. You might find yourself amused or stunned by what she has to say, but you’ll never be shocked by what side of the issue she falls on. Whether it’s weekly, daily or hourly, she’ll swoop on down from Alaska with a fistful of talking points and toss a couple of “you betchas” in there to make herself sound folksy. Unfrozen Caveman Pundit. And this is a good thing. Before, she was placed out there in the big wide world for everyone to choke on. For a brief scary moment, we all had to think this person could be one McCain heartbeat away from the Presidency. Had Obama lost, we would have been stuck with Palin for at least four years - on our TV’s, at the White House, speaking for the public… representing “regular America.” For many, this was reason enough to turn the car to the left and vote for Obama. Even now, I throw up a little in my mouth at the very thought. Which is why we should all welcome Ms. Palin to her fancy new pen at Fox News. For her: It’s safe, it’s warm, and nobody will ask any tough questions. Never again will she be subjected to an unflattering outtake, or be forced to think on her feet to a challenge or unwelcome debate. Her easy and expected critiques of Obama will fall somewhere in between Beck, Ingram, Hannity, Van Susteren and… well, every other right-leaning pundit. And for her detractors: She’s about to become as relevant as a fart in a skunk house. One more voice in a very loud choir where she’s not even the lead vocal. She’s walled off in a gated community of like minds. For those of us that have detached from the 24 hour news cycle and get our news from the internet, the only time we’ll see her is in funny little snippets where Jon Stewart eviscerates her the way Joel McHale guts “Jersey Shore” on “The Soup.” She is no longer part of my world. And for that, Fox News, I thank you. More on Sarah Palin
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Steve Marmel: Thank You, Fox News, For Taking Sarah Palin Off My Hands.
Is it a sin for a Jew to hate Sarah Palin? Jennifer Rubin, a contributing editor for Commentary, sort of argues that in a piece for the magazine. The article, titled “Why Jews Hate Palin,” has set off a spat in literary circles, with Jonathan Chait, a writer for The New Republic, penning an acerbic response headlined “Jews Who Hate The Jews Who Hate Palin.” More on Sarah Palin
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Conservative Claims Jews Have A Problem Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin has always served as great fodder for David Letterman and her joining the staff of Fox News proved no exception. Jumping on the move, Letterman presented the “Highlights of Sarah Palin’s First Day at Fox News.” Turns out there was an incident involving winking at the camera, a pistol whipping, and a let down upon finding out that “there was no actual fox to hunt.” WATCH: Get HuffPost Comedy On Facebook and Twitter! More on David Letterman
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Letterman Mocks Palin’s Move To Fox News In Top 10 (VIDEO)
MIAMI — Dozens gathered at the Veye-Yo community center in Little Haiti embraced, trying to comfort each other as they desperately tried to reach relatives in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. A pastor led them in prayer Tuesday and they took turns discussing what they could do to bring aid to the impoverished island nation that cannot seem to escape turmoil caused by natural disasters and political upheaval. Tony Jeanthenor, 50, said a friend he reached in Haiti described hearing people cry out for help from under debris. “The level of anxiety is high,” he said. “Haiti has been through trauma since 2004, from coup d’etat to hurricanes, now earthquakes.” Haitian-Americans in Miami, New York and other U.S. cities tell a similar story of frantically trying to get through to relatives and friends to see if they survived the largest earthquake to hit the Caribbean nation in 200 years. Communications were widely disrupted, making it impossible to get a full picture of damage and casualties as powerful aftershocks shook the desperately poor country where many buildings are flimsy. “Everyone is in shock right now. No one can get through,” said the Rev. Robes Charles, pastor of St. Clement Church in Wilton Manors. About 275,00 Haitians live in the South Florida metro area. Danglass Gregoire headed to Florida for a business trip Tuesday, leaving his wife and young daughter behind in Haiti, close to the epicenter of the 7.0 earthquake. When he arrived at Miami International Airport, the 41-year-old said he wasn’t sure if they were alive. “I call. I call. I call. No one answers,” he said. West Palm Beach firefighter Nate Lasseur tried to reach family and the firefighters he trains in the capital of Port-au-Prince, which has largely been destroyed. He was doing training through his International Firefighters Assistance in November 2008 when a school collapsed, killing nearly a hundred people. He described chaos then – firefighters pushing through panicked crowds, digging through the debris. “They are not prepared as far as equipment and training goes for something of this magnitude,” Lasseur said. “Their adrenaline and pure will to save their families – that only lasts for so long.” Others sought ways to get aid to the country. In the Chicago suburb of Evanston, about 25 members of the Haitian Congress to Fortify Haiti gathered to pray and make plans to help. “It’s a little somber, we’re trying to figure out what to do. We’re trying to get facts, come together, hold each other up and go beyond our own limitations and try to build collective support,” Lionel Jean-Baptiste, chairman of the organization and alderman of Evanston’s second ward, told the Chicago Tribune. The Archdiocese of Miami is accepting donations for earthquake victims. Other South Florida Haitian relief groups have not announced their efforts but planned to meet Wednesday. Not only are major organizations planning aid. King Moshe, 43, who works at Chef Creole in the Little Haiti area of Miami, said he will speak with local groups about collecting food, clothing and money. “Right now is a time to come together to help the unfortunate ones,” Moshe said. Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian-American author whose books about the country have won the National Book Award and the Pushcart Prize, gathered family and friends at her Miami home, which has become something of a command center. “Some people are online, some are watching CNN, some are listening to Haitian radio,” she said late Tuesday night. “There’s a huge sense of helplessness about it. You want to go there, but you just have to wait. I think the hardest part is the lack of information.” She said that for years, Haitians wondered with trepidation what would happen if an earthquake hit. “Life is already so fragile in Haiti, and to have this on such a massive scale, it’s unimaginable how the country will be able to recover from this.” ___ Associated Press writers Tamara Lush in Tampa, Christine Armario, Lisa Orkin Emmanuel and Sarah Larimer in Miami and Adam Goldman in New York contributed to this report. More on Natural Disasters
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Haiti Earthquake: Haitian-Americans Await Word From Families
In the words that follow, you will find analysis on a couple of new polls (including one with…gasp…good news for a swing-region Democrat), as well as more headlines in a campaign cycle that seems to grow busier by the day. Quiet days seem less likely to found as we head into the Tuesday edition of the Wrap… MA-Gov: Patrick Maintains Perilous Lead, According to PPP The general trend in the data coming out of the Bay State in recent months has been flagging job approval numbers for Democratic Governor Deval Patrick, tempered a bit by the fact that he maintains a lead in a three-candidate field. PPP confirms the trend, but has Patrick in a much more tenuous position than other pollsters . When matched with GOP health care executive Charlie Baker, PPP finds Patrick win just a two point lead (29-27), with Democrat-turned-Independent Tim Cahill trailing with 21% of the vote. Against 2006 Indie candidate Christy Mihos, Patrick only does marginally better. He leads Cahill by three points (28-25), with Mihos bringing up the rear at 21%. PPP finds the job approval rating for Patrick to be truly circling the drain (22/59), which is far lower than the job approval numbers posted by the Boston Globe poll yesterday. NC-08: One Dem Incumbent Is In Decent Shape, According to PPP PPP takes a break from statewide polls to do a little House polling in their own backyard. Unlike recent House polls, which have shown Democrats in perilous positions in red-to-purple districts from South Dakota to Arkansas, PPP finds the Democratic incumbent in NC-08, Larry Kissell, in strong position for re-election. Kissell has a respectable job approval split of 55/40, and has leads over his Republican opponents ranging from 14 to 18 points. Kissell’s district moved fairly sharply to the Democrats in 2008 (when it was carried by Barack Obama). Obama has a middling 47/50 job approval in the district, while Congressional Democrats fare worse. IN OTHER NEWS…. CA-Sen/CA-Gov: It has been rumored for weeks, but now it appears to be a fait accompli : former Congressman and “moderate” Republican Tom Campbell is going to leap from the California Gubernatorial election to a Senate bid . Apparently, Campbell thinks that Carly Fiorina is an easier mark than Meg Whitman in a primary election. Campbell also had to struggle with a self-funder in the gubernatorial primary, as state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner was already committing to self-funding his bid to the tune of eight figures. IA-Gov: In a sign that his path through the Republican Primary in the Hawkeye State will be far from a coronation, former GOP Governor Terry Branstad was rebuffed by the Iowa Family PAC , which swings with some serious weight among Iowa conservatives. The PAC decided today to endorse right-wing insurgent candidate Bob Vander Platts. What’s worse for Branstad, the group of influential social conservatives flatly proclaimed that they will sit out the general election if Branstad is the nominee. CT-Gov: This one is a pure head-scratcher. Connecticut’s Democratic Secretary of State, Susan Bysiewicz, had established herself as the front runner for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, and polls released last week made her a clear front runner for the general election, as well. So, it is going to catch some people off guard that she is apparently going to announce tomorrow that she is abandoning her gubernatorial campaign. She will instead choose to run for Attorney General. This leaves 2006 Senate nominee Ned Lamont (who raised an underwhelming $77,000 in the final quarter of ‘09) and former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy as the most recognizable names remaining in the race. AL-02: In news that should be at least somewhat reassuring to House Democrats, Congressman Bobby Bright reiterated today that he is not intending to switch parties. Interestingly, he said that he has not talked to Parker Griffith since Griffith’s defection to the Republican Party during the week before Christmas. AR-01: In what could be construed as a positive sign for Democrats, one of the longtime incumbents considered most likely to retire at the end of this term seems to have fundraised like a candidate. Marion Berry , who has represented the 1st district in northeastern Arkansas since 1996, raised six figures in the final quarter of 2009. Berry represents a purple-to-red district that would be a challenging hold for Democrats were he to leave it open. SC-01: The Republican primary to fill the open seat being abandoned by the retiring GOP Congressman Henry Brown is going to now have two marquee Palmetto State pedigrees in the field. “Tumpy” Campbell, the son of the late Governor Carroll Campbell, is already making a bid. He will now apparently be joined by Paul Thurmond, the thirty-something son of former Governor and Senator Strom Thurmond (yes, for those doing the math: Thurmond was in his early 70s when his youngest offspring was born). 2008 nominee Linda Kentner is still the leading name contemplating a bid on the Democratic side. VA-09 : It sure seemed like longtime Democratic incumbent Rick Boucher was out of the woods last week when GOP state legislator Terry Kilgore decided not to challenge the fourteen-term incumbent in 2010. Well, another name from the deep GOP legislative bench in Virginia seems to be contemplating a challenge . Morgan Griffith, who is the Majority Leader in the House of Delegates, told the Roanoke Times that he is flirting with a Congressional bid. Griffith actually lives in the neighboring 6th district, but is close to the district boundary–in a Palin-esque rhetorical device, he told the reporter that he could see the 9th district by looking out his window. VA-11: The field to face freshman Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly is about to get more crowded. Despite the presence of self-funding 2008 nominee Keith Fimian in the GOP field, Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herring is going to announce that he will run for Congress tomorrow . Herring narrowly lost a bid for County Chairman in early 2009, and enjoys pretty wide name recognition from that bid. Connolly defeated Fimian by twelve points (55-43) in 2008 in a district that has moved steadily towards the Democrats over the last few cycles. VA-SD 37: Democrats, who at this point are pretty starved for good electoral news, got some from the Commonwealth of Virginia tonight. In a special election to fill the State Senate seat of Ken Cuccinelli (who was elected Attorney General in November), the Democrats scored a pickup, with state delegate Dave Marsden scoring a 51-49 victory over Republican Steve Hunt tonight. This gives Democrats a 22-18 majority in the State Senate, which could prove critical during what promises to be a contentious bout of redistricting in 2011-2012.
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Polling and Political Wrap-Up, 1/12/10
God is a busy guy. I know He’s omnipotent and all that, but still, it’s gotta be exhausting to have a to-do list like His. On any given day, you can Google God under the news tab and find all sorts of claims about what the Almighty is up to. Athletes keep God especially busy. He has to make touchdowns for them, score buzzer-beaters, and win all of the mercurial Serena Williams’ matches for her. Sometimes, as we just learned from Mark McGwire, God’s work gets really tricky. According to McGwire , all through the ’90s God had to neutralize the effects of the steroids McGwire took and then substitute His own magic touch to make the dingers fly. Meanwhile, this week in London, the Rev. Canon David Parrot kept the Good Lord on the line awhile to bless parishioners’ iPhones, laptops, and websites . Even the Lord Mayor of London reportedly held his BlackBerry aloft to receive a blessing. These represent the playful side of ‘the man upstairs,’ as McGwire likes to call Him. There is a dark side to God’s work. In his Allah robes, He’s also been busy directing the faithful in Malaysia to burn churches . In Egypt, He’s deeply involved in deadly clashes between Muslims and Copts — according to both sides. And let’s not forget how much time He devotes to managing Sarah Palin’s career . God knows what she’ll do in 2012! What’s going on here? Science often produces counter-intuitive results, but Nicholas Epley, professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago, turned out confirmation of the glaringly obvious when he published a research paper showing that people project their beliefs on God . If Sarah Palin thinks she should be Veep, then by golly so does God! Evolutionary biologist and anthropologist David Sloan Wilson, one of the most insightful people I know on the subject of religion, characterizes this kind of thinking as part of an ” adaptive belief systems .” Even if you’re not a believer, it’s easy to grasp how this works: if you truly believe that God is on your side, you feel confidence in your every decision, and even as you assert your authority you can attribute it to God and thereby deflect jealousy, argument, and challenge. Power equates with control of resources and choice of mates. Picture yourself in a hunter-gatherer clan. It’s not hard to see genes predisposing a person to feel the power of the Holy Spirit (or its cultural equivalent) would propagate down the generations — along with genes for the rational losers who have to figure out another way to make a living and found a family. Let’s suppose that David Wilson’s right, that belief in a Great Puppetmaster in the Sky who pulls strings for certain lucky people evolved as an adaptive feature of the human personality — let’s call it George W. Bush syndrome — does that mean we should respect it? Not at all. Wolfing down as much fat and salt as we can also evolved as an adaptive trait, but it’s totally dysfunctional now. By the same token, just because there is a dysfunctional mental trait floating around in our collective gene pool does not mean that all God-beliefs are false. It is possible, indeed, relatively easy to use science to discredit superstitious beliefs about God . To pick a simple example, there was a time when lightning might have plausibly seemed like a weapon wielded by an angry god. Today, however, we know that there are 6,000 lightning strikes per minute . Does God need to enter an anger management program? We also know that there is no discernible moral pattern to lightning strikes or any other natural disaster. Moreover, if we accept the findings of science — the laws of quantum contingency and conservation of energy, for example — they appear to leave no room for supernatural action in the world. Such insights have led many well informed people to declare that atheism is the onlly intellectually justified postion. But they are wrong. God is real in at least one sense, and may be real in others as well. Just as I accept the reality of evolution, money, and math, I accept that God is a real mental construct that has powerful effects in the world. (Richard Dawkins would call this a meme.) If you think that is a trivial statement, think again. Immaterial entities such as those I’ve just mentioned are undeniable, indispensible, and deeply powerful aspects of our world. Even if God amounts to nothing more, God is no small thing. Yet, it may be that God is indeed more. On this question, I am agnostic. Some people — usually atheists of the smarty-pants subtype — claim that it is not possible to be an actual agnostic, that it is just a chickenhearted way of masking atheism. To them I ask, is there any difficulty about being agnostic concerning the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe? Do the people working at SETI have to make their minds one way or the other? Of course not. In just such a way, I am agnostic about the existence of an intelligent creator of our Universe. What I am certain of is that there is no credible evidence of any supernatural action in our world — not now, not in the past. If God there be, and if God acts in the world, it is through the minds of believers. And there you have the foundation stones of a rational, science-compatible religion. Much else can be built on this foundation, and I believe that science can guide the architecture, but it doesn’t have to. All that is necessary for religion to be rational in the light of science is that it not make assertions that violate the laws and findings of science. So what is religion anyway? There is no agreed-upon definition. This should not surprise us, and is no reason for contempt. What, after all, is education? There, likewise, we have no single definition, yet that does not leave us helpless to understand the concept. All the same, for our purposes here, we need a working definition. Here is mine: religion is a cultural and institutional response to shared perceptions of ultimate reality. This definition embraces everything from animism to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, to Buddhism to the sacred naturalism of Ursula Goodenough and others. Can the world’s many religions adopt a scientific worldview and yet see beyond to whatever vision of ultimate reality they may hold? God help us if they cannot. More on Sports
Clay Farris Naff: Mark McGwire and the Man Upstairs
Not content with its lapdog coverage of President Bush over the past decade, the Beltway press has adopted a new, super-soft way to deal with Bush’s former vice president, Dick Cheney, as well as GOP media star Sarah Palin. Journalists have set aside what had been decades’ worth of guidelines and embraced special new rules for how Cheney and Palin get treated. In a word, it’s stenography. That’s how too many scribes have covered Cheney and Palin in recent months, allowing them to dispense tightly controlled pieces of information, which journalists then trumpet as breaking news. And yes, the trend is unprecedented in modern day American politics. It’s actually a two-fer. First, it’s unprecedented because the Beltway press has never showered attention on political losers, such as Cheney and Palin. Meaning, the press has never cared what a former VP had to say about current events right after leaving the White House (think: Dan Quayle), or what a failed VP candidate had to say just months after losing in a landslide (think: Geraldine Ferraro). Traditionally, pundits and reporters disdain political losers (think: Mike Dukakis). But for Cheney and Palin, the rules have been generously reworked. The second oddity is that journalists now allow Cheney and Palin to completely dictate the media ground rules and afford them the chance to have one-way relationships with the press. Palin, for instance, perhaps still bruising from her woeful 2008 media performances, still hasn’t allowed herself to be interviewed by a single independent political journalist since she launched her book in November. Instead, she mostly communicates with the mainstream media via Facebook. And now that she’s signed on to join the Fox News staff, the chances of Palin ever speaking with the serious press seem to be less than zero. That lack of openness stacks the deck and leads to dreadful bouts of stenography; of literally recording what controversial Republicans say, and nothing more. Read the full Media Matters column here . More on Dick Cheney
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Eric Boehlert: Stenography 101: How the Press Let Palin and Cheney Rig the System
Part of Roger Ailes’ master plan at Fox News and grand design for American politics is to get as many potential Republican candidates for president as he can on his payroll. Hence, Sarah Palin signed on yesterday as a Fox contributor. Ailes has several operations going here. He wants to be a kingmaker–actually, he believes he is a kingmaker. He believes that conservative candidates are successful when they take up the Fox line (not vice versa)–and that they will be more successful if they follow his advice. He has, on several occasions, gotten in journalism-ethics trouble for seeming to advise conservative politicians. He solves that problem if they are his employees. He can be their personal political tutor; he’s the director. Indeed, he’s the boss. It should not be underestimated how good he is at this job. He can shape an incredible performance. And, finally, he wants to be paid for this. The tragedy of the political consultant, which Ailes once was, working for Nixon and Reagan, is that consultants can never fully monetize their success. Ailes has solved that problem: He’s turned conservative politics into a paying show. All this comprises an astounding development in American politics. But the even larger development is that Ailes was fired on Sunday . Matthew Freud–the son-in-law of News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch–claiming to representing the controlling shareholders of News Corp., which owns Fox News, said Ailes’ is, in essence, a contemptible grotesque whose association soiled the company. Continue reading on newser.com
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Michael Wolff: To Repeat: Roger Ailes Is Done
It sure is great being right. About three hours after Sarah Palin announced that she was resigning as governor of Alaska, I posted the following on Huffington Post: Sarah Palin: Next Stop Fox? Speculation about the reason behind Sarah Palin’s surprise resignation as governor of Alaska has centered on her national political ambitions, possible unrevealed legal problems and maybe yet another pregnancy. More likely, Fox News or another TV network has made her an offer she can’t refuse. Why settle for being the governor of a state with a population the size of Columbus, Ohio, when you can have triple the audience with your own show on Fox News? And why settle for the paltry salary of a state executive when you can make millions on television? When you’re a politician and you want to spend $150,000 on clothes, you get in trouble, but spend the same amount on clothes as a talk show host and it’s a legitimate tax write-off. Let’s face it, being a government official is a hassle. Say something stupid and half the country makes fun of you. Say something stupid on television and your ratings go up. Punish your personal enemies and you’re accused of ethical violations. Do you same in the world of TV and you fit right in. Good luck, Sarah. We’ll see you in prime-time. Okay, she won’t be having her own show–that’s probably too darn hard for Palin–but I got everything else right. Consultancy firms and media outlets in need of prognosticators can reach me via www.allgov.com . More on Sarah Palin
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David Wallechinsky: Sarah Palin and Fox News…I Told You So
NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) - One day after announcing that she would be a commentator on the Fox News Channel, the network revealed that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s appearances would be simulcast in English. “We are delighted that Gov. Palin will, for the first time, be understandable to the English-speaking audience,” said Fox News chief Roger Ailes. “This should create a whole new fan base for her.” Gov. Palin praised the decision, adding, “I know many Americans will be interested in understanding what I have to say and I will also too.” In a related story, Fox said it had “no interest” in hiring funnyman Conan O’Brien, explaining, “Sarah Palin takes care of our comedy needs.” More here . More on Sarah Palin
Andy Borowitz: Fox: Palin’s Appearances to be Simulcast in English
CHICAGO (The Borowitz Report) - Hours after being quoted as saying that he is “blacker than Barack Obama,” former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said that he had been “misunderstood by the white media,” adding, “It’s a black thing, you wouldn’t understand.” But even as Mr. Blagojevich tried to explain his controversial comment, he may have dug a deeper hole for himself, telling reporters, “When I said that I was blacker than Barack Obama, I wasn’t singling him out - I am, in fact, the blackest man in America.” Raising the ante, Mr. Blagojevich urged reporters to consult an authority on the subject of blackness: “Don’t take my word for it — ask Harry Reid.” Reached for comment, Sen. Reid (D - Nev) said he was agnostic on the matter of Mr. Blagojevich’s blackness, but added, “For a black man he does look rather light-skinned to me.” Elsewhere, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said that God was responsible for her candidacy but neglected to mention He was also responsible for locusts. More here . More on Sarah Palin
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Andy Borowitz: Blago Defends Remarks: ‘It’s a Black Thing, You Wouldn’t Understand’
In light of the news that Sarah Palin will join intellectual luminaries such as Karl Rove , Dana Perino , and Mike Huckabee as a Fox News Network contributor, I just want to offer FNC head honcho Roger Ailes a heartfelt “thanks.” We all know that Fox News is somewhere to the right of the teabagging hordes and even in non-political stories doesn’t have half the journalistic integrity of The Onion. Sure, Fox does its level-best to support the reactionary right, but as the hiring of Sarah Palin demonstrates, Fox is first and foremost a business, and this is a decision that Ailes hopes will make him a billion dollar earner. There’s no question that Fox is providing the fuel that keeps conservative rage burning, but that doesn’t mean that Fox is ultimately good for the political right. Nothing demonstrates that better than their embrace of Sarah Palin. Like the rest of “The Fox Nation,” Sarah Palin believes ‘her America’ is under siege. She sees herself as a victim, under constant assault from a Godless, amoral, anti-American cabal. Sarah Palin may think she’s one of the last few “Real Americans” to grace our country, as evidenced by her continual whining about how the media has victimized her. But Palin has no way of explaining why, when given the choice between the Obama-Biden ticket and the McCain-Palin ticket, the American public overwhelmingly chose Barack Hussein Obama and Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. to lead the federal government. In the most intensely-watched presidential election in our nation’s history, covered from all angles on blogs, internet media sites, cable tv, network tv, and newspapers, Sarah Palin had her chance and lost. She wasn’t rejected by some tiny America-hating elite. The media did not cost her victory. She was rejected by American voters, not Katie Couric. From the start, Sarah Palin lived in a conservative bubble, but since her 2008 defeat, she’s moved deeper into wingnut territory. At this point, the only suitable home for Palin is in the virtual political world manufactured by Fox News, an alternate reality in which she can continue to feed that big chip on her shoulder. It’ll be crazy entertaining to watch (death panels, you betcha’), it will boost her political profile within the Republican Party (Going Rogue, 2012!), and it while it will further cement Fox’s role as the go-to network to see what the right-wing noise machine is up to, it won’t do a damn thing to enhance their credibility. So for all that and the many laughs Sarah Palin’s new gig will no doubt provide, thanks, Rog. We appreciate it. Join the discussion in clammyc’s (snarky) recommended diary, breakingest: Palin resigns as FOX contributor .
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Thank you, Roger Ailes
Christopher Pike’s debut young adult title, the instant bestseller “Slumber Party,” came out in 1985. Its premise is hardly groundbreaking: six busty young ladies are snowbound in their luxurious winter vacation rental, gory mayhem ensues. Most of his earlier books mirror “Slumber Party”’s horror-movie cliches, with varying batches of stranded teenagers harboring lascivious urges, dark secrets, and psychotic persons in their midst. He soon turned his sights on the supernatural, penning a prodigious series of wildly imaginative and occasionally ludicrous stories of adolescents battling the forces of evil. His books are rampant with an oddball mashup of Christian moralizing and new-age woo-wooishness, and his characters spend the bulk of their time in a frenzy of hormones and senioritis‚ that is, when they’re not trying to solve their own murders from beyond the grave or survive the attentions of various demons. In today’s celebrity-obsessed public culture, Pike’s fanatical reclusiveness seems almost quaint. His biography on his publisher’s website is a terse “Christopher Pike is the author of over forty teen thrillers.” He has no blog, no Facebook page, and the closest thing to a Christopher Pike website is his “unofficial” online fanclub , where devotees can purportedly contact the author (although the site’s author bio is cribbed from answers.com). Despite a career spanning two decades and dozens of bestsellers, the most extensive online article about him is his Wikipedia entry. Pike was writing about vampires and the adolescent girls who (didn’t) love them nearly twenty years ahead of Stephenie Meyer’s curve. In comparison with the flat and uninspired protagonists of most contemporary paranormal young adult fiction, his sturdy heroines read like cutting-edge feminist paragons. Despite tending toward the preternaturally buxom and shiny-haired, they’re often feisty and insightful. They care about their friends, worry about their siblings, long for sporty — and living — young men, and, if the occasion calls for it, take out a variety of aliens and the undead by any means possible (shotguns, homemade gasoline bombs, their wits). They have no illusions about undying love and no interest in Bella and her ilk’s self-abnegating and heavily gendered ideology of devotion. They’re teenagers. They want to lose their virginity, score a hot date for prom, and party down in their senior year, and if they have to mow down a couple of zombies to get there, so be it. Pike’s monsters are even more striking. These are no angst-ridden softcore Goths mooning over underage vixens. They’re genuinely terrifying: hellbent on wreaking havoc, tearing out throats, throwing a veil of darkness over the earth — you know, monster-y sorts of things. Whether they’re lizard people from a different planet or your garden-variety Martian vampire, they’re people-eating nightmares that must be stopped at all costs. Though they’re often seductive and charismatic, there’s nothing lovable about them. Witness the undead football team of the (aptly named) Monster; one look at the iconic 1992 cover tells you all you need to know. They’re like Ken dolls on bad speed. Their eyes glow red, they want to eat you, and they won’t be gnawing upon forest animals to stave off their hunger for the human objects of their undying affections. Sure, the “Twilight” series’s staggering success and its legions of successful imitators indicate that plenty of people long for the dated, damp, and eternal romance of pasty-faced Edward and feeble, hapless Bella. But Christopher Pike’s demon-slaying babes have been hitting the New York Times Bestsellers list regularly since 1985. Simon Pulse, his publisher, has already reissued most of his early backlist, and the “Thirst” Volume One, the 2009 re-release of his decade-old “Last Vampire” series (with Volume Two pubbing in 2010) spent over ten weeks in the Times’s top ten. Pike’s novels, for all their over-the-top cheesiness, are refreshingly honest and surprisingly modern in their approach to the complexities of the teenage mind. Odd as it sounds, there’s a realism at the heart of his books that is never quite lost in the improbable plot turns and occasional outer-space shenanigans. Pike’s teenagers are confused, horny, tough, and, most of all, human. Somebody’s gotta be. More on TWILIGHT FEVER
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Sarah McCarry: Christopher Pike’s New Old Horror
It’s hard to believe this could happen in America — former McCain political strategist Steve Schmidt, on Sarah Palin: “There were numerous instances that she said things that were — that were not accurate that, ultimately, the campaign had to deal with. And that opened the door to criticism that she was being untruthful and inaccurate. And I think that that is something that continues to this day,” he said. Palin lied, which gave rise to people calling her a liar. Freaking liberal media.
From the Palin files: no one could have anticipated …
Interpersonal experts believe that basic communication is over 80% non-verbal. We watch facial cues and body language to see how our audience is reacting to our message. After non-verbal cues, we listen. Vocal inflections deliver emotional values as well as information. What we see and hear helps us to determine our actions and reactions within the conversation. In marketing, just as it is in most of the business world, lighting fast key strokes and a quick press of SEND can seem the model of client/agency efficiency. The more e-mails we write or answer, the better of a job we’re doing. If the message is overlooked, misinterpreted, in need of further explanation or lost, however, we’re anything but efficient. And, if our feigned efficiency has taken away the opportunity for conversation and persuasion, the marketing product as well as the client/agency relationship may be in jeopardy. We must keep in mind we’re in the business of sales, not speed, no matter how seemingly inconvenient a notion this might be. When we rely on e-mails to do agency/client business, we risk misunderstanding what colleagues are really thinking. An e-mail can’t replace a phone conversation. A phone conversation can’t replace a video conference. A video conference cannot replace face to face. When we lose the visual and vocal cues, we risk missing the meaning entirely. Certainly, the need for time efficiency in our business society is of critical importance. When it comes at the price of true efficiency (getting a good job done expeditiously with the minimum amount of back and forth commentary and unnecessary revisions), e-mail and voice mail and texting may not be appropriate solutions. If you’re fast and fail, after all, you’re not being efficient. Agency/client interpersonal communication builds trust in ways that emails can’t. E-mail doesn’t lend itself to persuasion or debate or explanation and doesn’t fully afford the opportunity to share expertise. Often it takes longer through email to get to a finished product, wasting valuable time and effort that could be better spent growing the client relationship and looking for new sales opportunities for the agency. E-mail misinterpretation could be a book onto itself. It seems everyone has a story about the email that was given emotional value it didn’t deserve or wasn’t understood as intended. Even though it may seem interactive, an e-mail chain is a series of one-way conversations linked together on the internet. Certainly, this is not the best way to form a discussion about important business issues. Further, unlike phone conversations or face-to-face meetings, emails may be forwarded. We lose control over the messages we email the moment we send them, and may have no idea who else will be privy to the information. It’s often said that time constraints make it impossible to speak with clients on the phone or see them in person. Clients, overburdened by their workloads, might not even afford agencies time for a visit or call. Yet, by being too busy to meet away from the computer, the client maybe doing a disservice to the product/service by inadvertently racking up unnecessary agency hours. “If progress keeps progressing,” a colleague lamented, “we may get to a point where we don’t get any work done at all.” There is a big difference between sharing expertise and order taking. When agencies limit their exposure in front of clients, they risk losing their place as experts in the room. E-mails and voice mails are information sharers, not conversations. Client business is rarely won through email, but it most certainly can be lost. Some have perfected the art of the CYA (Cover Your Butt) emails. If we’re using e-mail for self-protection, we need to look at a bigger client/agency or colleague issue. Fear of confrontation with or presenting to clients can also make email seem like a viable option. Instead, it can adversely affect the client/agency relationship. “If you want to grow business”, I was told by an agency veteran years ago, “you’d better walk your client’s halls.” In today’s challenging economy, it’s even more critical that we put in the leg work. More on Small Business
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Sarah O’Leary: Client Death by E-mail
CHICAGO — A new study has found that five times as many high school and college students are dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues than youth of the same age who were studied in the Great Depression era. The findings, culled from responses to a popular psychological questionnaire used as far back as 1938, confirm what counselors on campuses nationwide have long suspected as more students struggle with the stresses of school and life in general. “It’s another piece of the puzzle – that yes, this does seem to be a problem, that there are more young people who report anxiety and depression,” says Jean Twenge, a San Diego State University psychology professor and the study’s lead author. “The next question is: what do we do about it?” Though the study, released Monday, does not provide a definitive correlation, Twenge and mental health professionals speculate that a popular culture increasingly focused on the external – from wealth to looks and status – has contributed to the uptick in mental health issues. Pulling together the data for the study was no small task. Led by Twenge, researchers at five universities analyzed the responses of 77,576 high school or college students who, from 1938 through 2007, took the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, or MMPI. The results will be published in a future issue of the Clinical Psychology Review. Overall, an average of five times as many students in 2007 surpassed thresholds in one or more mental health categories, compared with those who did so in 1938. A few individual categories increased at an even greater rate – with six times as many scoring high in two areas: _ “hypomania,” a measure of anxiety and unrealistic optimism (from 5 percent of students in 1938 to 31 percent in 2007) _ and depression (from 1 percent to 6 percent). Twenge said the most current numbers may even be low given all the students taking antidepressants and other psychotropic medications, which help alleviate symptoms the survey asks about. The study also showed increases in “psychopathic deviation,” which is loosely related to psychopathic behavior in a much milder form and is defined as having trouble with authority and feeling as though the rules don’t apply to you. The percentage of young people who scored high in that category increased from 5 percent in 1938 to 24 percent in 2007. Twenge previously documented the influence of pop culture pressures on young people’s mental health in her 2006 book “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled – and More Miserable Than Ever Before.” Several studies also have captured the growing interest in being rich, with 77 percent of those questioned for UCLA’s 2008 national survey of college freshmen saying it was “essential” or “very important” to be financially well off. Experts say such high expectations are a recipe for disappointment. Meanwhile, they also note some well-meaning but overprotective parents have left their children with few real-world coping skills, whether that means doing their own budget or confronting professors on their own. “If you don’t have these skills, then it’s very normal to become anxious,” says Dr. Elizabeth Alderman, an adolescent medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City who hopes the new study will be a wake-up call to those parents. Students themselves point to everything from pressure to succeed – self-imposed and otherwise – to a fast-paced world that’s only sped up by the technology they love so much. Sarah Ann Slater, a 21-year-old junior at the University of Miami, says she feels pressure to be financially successful, even when she doesn’t want to. “The unrealistic feelings that are ingrained in us from a young age – that we need to have massive amounts of money to be considered a success – not only lead us to a higher likelihood of feeling inadequate, anxious or depressed, but also make us think that the only value in getting an education is to make a lot of money, which is the wrong way to look at it,” says Slater, an international studies major who plans to go to graduate school overseas. The study is not without its skeptics, among them Richard Shadick, a psychologist who directs the counseling center at Pace University in New York. He says, for instance, that the sample data weren’t necessarily representative of all college students. (Many who answered the MMPI questionnaire were students in introductory psychology courses at four-year institutions.) Shadick says his own experience leaves little doubt more students are seeking mental health services. But he and others think that may be due in part to heightened awareness of such services. Twenge notes the MMPI isn’t given only to those who seek services. Others, meanwhile, say the research helps advance the conversation with hard numbers. “It actually provides some support to the observations,” says Scott Hunter, director of pediatric neuropsychology at the University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital. Before his current post, Hunter was at the University of Virginia, where his work included counseling a growing number of students with mental health concerns. While even Twenge concedes more research is needed to pinpoint a cause, Hunter says the study “also helps us understand what some of the reasons behind it might be.” He notes Twenge’s inclusion of data showing that factors such as materialism among young people have had a similar upswing. She also noted that divorce rates for their parents have gone up, which may lead to less stability. Amid it all, Hunter says this latest generation has been raised in a “you can do anything atmosphere.” And that, he says, “sets up a lot of false expectation” that inevitably leads to distress for some. It’s also meant heartache for parents. “I don’t remember it being this hard,” says a mother from northern New Jersey, whose 15-year-old daughter is being treated for depression. She asked not to be identified to respect her daughter’s privacy. “We all wanted to be popular, but there wasn’t this emphasis on being perfect and being super skinny,” she says. “In addition, it’s ‘How much do your parents make?’ “I’d like to think that’s not relevant, but I can’t imagine that doesn’t play a role.” ___ On the Net: Twenge’s site: http://www.jeantwenge.com/ ___ Martha Irvine is an AP national writer. She can be reached at mirvine(at)ap.org or via http://twitter.com/irvineap More on Health
Youth Mental Health Problems On Rise
We’re trapped in a world That’s troubled with pain. But as long as a man Has the strength to dream, He can redeem his soul and fly. - Elvis Presley Another scandal is breaking on Wall Street. When AIG was bailed out by the taxpayers, Timothy Geithner’s New York Federal Reserve allegedly told it to alter a Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure. The Federal Reserve bureaucrats did not want Americans to know that AIG was funneling some of the bailout money to pay off debts at Goldman Sachs. At 100 cents on the dollar. Geithner is now Secretary of the Treasury for the United States of America. His friend and predecessor was Henry “Hank” Paulson, who left his job at Goldman Sachs to become Secretary of the Treasury. There might be a connection here. A connection that cost American taxpayers billions of dollars. The same week AIG was bailed out, Paulson let Goldman’s rival, Lehman Brothers, go bankrupt. I guess Lehman didn’t owe Goldman Sachs any money. It looks like Paulson and Geithner took extra care, and apparently gave improper or illegal instructions, to make sure Goldman stockholders got the best of it. In the era of Watergate, what AIG and the New York Federal Reserve did was called a cover-up. People went to jail. President Nixon was forced to resign. It would seem that the AIG story could be bigger than Watergate. The amount of money involved is much larger. Normally when a public company lies on an SEC filing, like Enron did, you would be expecting regulators to be hauling people off to jail. If they were told to lie by government officials, the bureaucrats should be breaking rocks somewhere, too. But we are not seeing that on the AIG front. So far, at least. Insider Washington is blowing off the AIG story. The paper that broke the Watergate scandal, The Washington Post, has the AIG story buried on an inside page. Its lead story is whether or not Senator Harry Reid racially slurred President Obama two years ago. Whatever Reid said or didn’t say, taxpayer billions are not involved. The “watchdogs” in the Washington media and become so jaded about insider “back scratching” that something like the AIG scandal apparently doesn’t get their interest. When you read books like Andrew Ross Serkin’s, Too Big Too Fail , you learn something that some of us figured out long ago — that Wall Street and Washington operate as an insider, “good old boys club.” The rest of America is not invited to the party. But the rest of America is expected to pick up the tab. Washington and Wall Street only think about Main Street when they fear that some non-insider might notice their actions. That is why the AIG cover-up was important. It was the type of outrageous act that might incite Americans to march on Washington and demand change. It takes a lot for the average American to get inspired into political action. Few people have the time. Most of us are busy earning a living, feeding our families and trying to figure out how to cope in a rapidly changing economy. For decades, the Washington and Wall Street crowd has counted on us being distracted. They have been able to pass legislation to help their insider pals, soak up campaign contributions and hope that we stay distracted with trivial issues and “gotcha” campaign ads. In the real lives of real Americans, what difference does it make what Harry Reid said two years ago? Please. I don’t care if we can’t find Obama’s birth certificate. If they boot him, Biden takes over. I don’t care what the father of Sarah Palin’s grandchild has to say about anything. Both stories have had way more “inside the beltway” attention than the possible cover-up at AIG and the Federal Reserve Board. Distracting us with meaningless trivia has worked for Washington and Wall Street for a long time. Then they pushed matters too far and let the economy go to hell. Once people started losing their jobs, their houses and their retirement plans, they got interested in Washington and Wall Street. And they don’t like what they are seeing. Peggy Noonan wrote a brilliant column in the Wall Street Journal about how President Obama has squandered his political capital on issues like health care reform and climate control, instead of focusing on the economy. Noonan, a Republican, notes that the Republicans have not been shining stars, either. The GOP strategy has been to let Obama fail but not to offer alternative ideas. Too much time is spent on gamesmanship. Not nearly enough is spent on solutions. Those of us on Main Street want to start hearing some answers. Or, at least, see a glimmer that the inside dealings between Wall Street and Washington are slowing down. Obama wants to blame George W. Bush’s administration. Bush wanted to blame Clinton. All are correct. Previous presidents screwed-up big time. It is time for someone to step up to the plate and start fixing the problems we have. I’m not looking for leadership from the insiders in either the Democratic or Republican parties. Both have the same fat cat campaign contributors. Both have former staff members, friends and family members who serve as lobbyists. Both have too much invested in the status quo. But there is an echo of hope coming from the outer fringes of both parties. Most great movements start on the fringes of the political spectrum and eventually become mainstream. Very often movements will boil under the surface and then flash in an instant. The civil rights movement sparked when a tired Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. A conservative grassroots movement sprung up when CNBC commentator Rick Santelli sparked the Tea party movement with some heart-felt comments. I happened to be watching CNBC when Santelli made his remarks, and the reaction was stunning. He hit a nerve. Arianna Huffington is sparking a movement from the left side of the political spectrum. She is encouraging people to take all their money out of “too big to fail” banks and put them smaller banks in their communities. Arianna is on to something. Martin Luther King, Jr. organized a boycott of the buses in Montgomery after the Rosa Parks incident. He learned that when you smack a politician or business in the wallet, you get their attention. . I would like to participate in Arianna’s movement but I am way ahead of her. Since age 16, I have always banked in community banks. My first was the Bank of Ludlow, Ky. The bank president was a family friend. He taught us how to save and how to borrow responsibly. We knew the name of every person in the bank and they knew us. Ever since, I have managed to find banks where I have a personal relationship with the local president or a high ranking officer. Customer service makes up for not having a branch in Hong Kong. Also, community banks don’t have the ability to funnel tons of campaign money into Washington. As Arianna has pointed out, just getting the money out of the hands of Citigroup, Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, and other “too big to fail” banks gives the average Americans leverage. The other thing that would give average Americans clout is tearing up their credit cards. Almost all credit cards are directly or indirectly issued by the big banks. I don’t see why banks need government bailouts when they are making 36% in interest and charging huge fees. You will be doing yourself, and all of America, a favor when you tell the credit card companies to kiss off. The Washington Post is telling us to not bother. A headline in the business section says, “Ordinary Americans Lack the Power to Hurt the Big Banks.” The gist of the article is that banks are “too big for Americans to hurt.” Therefore, we shouldn’t even try. If the banks are supposedly so strong, why did they need the American taxpayers to bail them out last year? The article quoted a banking consultant and a guy who used to write for Portfolio Magazine. Not exactly objective sources. I don’t think the Post is going to be picking up any Pulitzers for hard-hitting exposes on the bailout or AIG scandals. Like the rest of Washington, they hope those of us on Main Street will quietly go away. Something tells me it is not happening this time. Too many people are hurting. Washington and Wall Street keep ignoring Main Street and keep promoting their own agendas and funneling more money to their buddies. It has to stop. We can elect new leaders, make some noise and move our money to banks who appreciate us. Elvis Presley had it right. As long as people have the strength to dream, they can redeem their souls and fly. They can dream of honest government where the concerns of the average American are being heard. That dream comes from Americans voting at the ballot box, voting with their pocketbooks and voting by to move their money to banks that care. Elvis came from a small town and changed the entertainment world. If we are going to change the financial and political world, leadership needs to come from small towns too. Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is one of the world’s leading authorities in helping people deal with “Big Money” issues. McNay is an award winning, syndicated financial columnist and Huffington Post Contributor. He will be launching a syndicated radio show on the Wallingford Broadcasting network in the next few weeks. You can read more about Don at www.donmcnay.com McNay founded McNay Settlement Group, a structured settlement and financial consulting firm, in 1983 and Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC in 2000. You can read more about both at www.mcnay.com McNay has Master’s Degrees from Vanderbilt and the American College and is in the Eastern Kentucky University Hall of Distinguished Alumni. McNay has written two books. Most recent is Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win The Lottery McNay is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table and has four professional designations in the financial services field. More on Fox News
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Don McNay: A Dream that Main Street answer Wall Street and Washington
No, not that kind of feminism. Not the theory of women’s equality or the history of suffrage or the First Wave or the Third Wave or 18 million tiny cracks in the glass ceiling. I’m talking about Feminism TM , as in the largest feminist advocacy organizations in the country raising millions of dollars to fight on behalf of women. And I’m wondering if Feminism TM is really such a good investment. You know those emails? The ones from NOW and NARAL and Emily’s List that declare, with great urgency and lots of ALL CAPS and exclamation marks, that you must give money right now ? Stop this bill! Block this nominee! Protect Roe! Save the Supreme Court! And give, give, give!!! And since you often agree — why yes, I do want to stop this bill; why no, I do not want that nominee confirmed — you click and give. It won’t stop this bill or block that nominee, but you will get another email at the next crisis. And it’s always a crisis. Even under a Democratic president, with a Democratic supermajority in Congress, the nation’s biggest feminist organizations are in crisis mode, raising money but unable to deliver results. They’re just as effective as they were under Bush. Which is to say, Not. At. All. The one legislative accomplishment we’ve seen in recent years was the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act . Good legislation, certainly, and better than nothing, but that’s it. Still, you can bet that come Fall, the Democrats and the feminist organizations that support them will be reminding us, ad nauseum, that at least they did that one good thing. Sure, ladies, we sold you out on reproductive health care — again — but hey! You get to sue your boss when you find out he’s paying you less than your male counterparts. You’re welcome! Don’t forget to vote Democrat to protect women. And give, give, give!!! In the last decade, we’ve seen more restrictions on women’s reproductive health, more government-funded sex (mis)education, and budget cuts everywhere — for after school and early education programs, for employment and training programs, for programs to fight domestic violence — all of which directly and disproportionately impact women. And at every step backwards, the major feminist organizations have been powerless to stop it. Or just plain absent. Look at how Emily’s List tried “stop Stupak.” Despite Bart Stupak’s July letter announcing his (and eighteen co-signers’) intent to submit an amendment to health care reform further restricting American women’s reproductive rights, Village insider Ellen Malcolm waited until [November 14] to sound the alarm, while list-building and fundraising on a purported petition to Harry Reid to “Stop Stupak.” In other words, Emily’s List didn’t bother to raise awareness of the threat to reproductive rights when it might have mattered. You know, before Congress voted on the Stupak Amendment. Over the summer, while members of Congress were speaking with their constituents about what should and shouldn’t be included in the health care bill, where were the feminist organizations? They weren’t mobilizing the millions of women across the country who would have been only too glad to raise their voices in opposition. Guess it just wasn’t a good time. No, they were busy sitting on their hands, apparently waiting for the eleventh hour, waiting for it to be a crisis. Meanwhile, the nation watched wall-to-wall coverage of teabaggers screaming nonsense about socialist death panels. And that tiny fringe of teabaggers, with their signs and their slogans and their stunts, was so effective that they actually succeeded in killing the part of the bill they found objectionable. Score? Teabaggers: 1, Feminists: Big, fat zero. In the Senate, it was worse. It was an embarrassment. Senators Boxer and Murray, who went to the Senate in 1992 with huge support from these very same feminist organizations, both fought for the Nelson “compromise.” They didn’t care that all of these organizations lined up against the Nelson Amendment. And they certainly didn’t care about stopping any further restrictions on access to reproductive health. See, Boxer and Murray are from two blue, liberal, pro-choice states that probably won’t opt out of abortion coverage. So Senators Boxer and Murray know they won’t be receiving calls from their constituents. Nah, let the senators from the virulently anti-choice states deal with the fallout when their constituents get screwed. Besides, what are the feminist organizations going to do — send urgent emails to raise money to take a stand against that awful enemy of women, Barbara Boxer? After all, if women can’t trust Barbara Boxer, just where are they supposed to go? Maybe it’s a good thing Ellen Malcolm, President of Emily’s List, just announced her retirement . Better to jump from the sinking ship and save herself than have to answer to all the women who were completely taken by surprise when the Democrats tossed them under the bus in the name of health care reform because, well, Emily’s List, among others, couldn’t be bothered to lift a finger until after the fact. This is the pattern we’ve watched for years — too little, too late, with nothing to show for it. Wanna guess what these same feminist organizations consider one of their biggest accomplishments during the Bush years? A march . Yep, a march. Like the March for Women’s Lives in 1986. And 1989. And half a dozen other marches where women carried the same signs and chanted the same slogans that haven’t won any converts in a generation. In fact, last year’s Pew Research Center showed support for abortion rights has actually decreased in recent years. Yet organizers called the march an “overwhelming success,” claiming to have sent a powerful message of “No more” to the president. No more? Try four more years. Bush was re-elected later that year — with greater support from women than he received in 2000. Another few decades of “overwhelming successes” like that, and we’ll all be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, wistfully remembering the old days when they used to let us vote and own property. So much for “No more.” But here, have another urgent email. Donate another ten bucks. It won’t stop a damn thing, but maybe it’ll make you feel a little better. And hey, it’s great for the bottom line of Feminism TM . And maybe the bottom line is what matters. Remember way back in the fall of 2008, when one clever person decided to donate to Planned Parenthood in “honor” of Sarah Palin? “Make a donation to Planned Parenthood,” the anonymous e-mail message urged. “Of any amount. In Sarah Palin’s name.” The message, which began circulating widely on the Internet last week, had one more instruction: request that the personalized thank-you card from Planned Parenthood be sent to Ms. Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee and a vocal opponent of abortion, at the McCain-Palin campaign headquarters in Virginia. So far, the scheme seems to be getting a strong response. As of Friday, Planned Parenthood had taken in $802,678 in donations from 31,313 people, said a spokesman for the organization, Tait Sye. More than two-thirds of the individuals are first-time donors to Planned Parenthood, Mr. Sye said, and money came in from all 50 states. Nearly a million dollars raised for women’s health care, not by any of these organizations asking for money, but by one anonymous email. If it really is about the bottom line, if feminist advocacy has been reduced to how much money can be raised, what purpose do these organizations serve that can’t be achieved by one person with a good idea and dial-up? Perhaps it is time for women to examine whether the largest organizations that claim to represent them are really delivering on their promises. They’ve failed to organize the millions of supporters they have into a coherent and powerful movement. ‘Cause when your movement looks like an amateur mess compared with the “keep your government hands off my Medicare” teabaggers, you’re doing something wrong. They’ve failed to frame the debate and influence how we talk about issues that affect women’s lives. While they’re still arguing about “choice” — a word that persuades no one and narrowly focuses the conversation on abortion instead of the full spectrum of reproductive health — opponents are thinking up clever new phrases to use incessantly and force into the public consciousness until they become law. “Partial birth abortion.” ”Rights of the preborn.” ”Culture of life.” They’ve failed to make women’s rights a legislative priority for the very representatives they help send to Congress. And if their supposed allies don’t worry about losing support of the feminist organizations, certainly their opponents don’t lose a lot of sleep over invoking the almighty wrath of the feminists. What’s the worst they can do? Organize another march? Hey, that might actually be great news for Republicans! They’ve failed to adapt their movement and their message to a new era and a new generation of would-be feminists. Where are the bumper sticker slogans, the tactics, the refreshed, revised 21st century approach to a problem as old as time? Are they using the internet for anything more than urgent emails and processing donations? Where are the clever YouTube videos by a new generation of feminists talking about how this or that bill affects them? Where is the television presence? Where are the bloggers? (Oh, there are plenty of feminist bloggers out there, but they’re not being supported or promoted or elevated by the feminist organizations, who still think the internet is primarily for sending email. For example, guess who the “featured blogger” on Emily’s List is? Why, it’s Ellen Malcolm, the president.) They’ve failed –- time and again, in any number of ways, under Republican and Democratic administrations. And if they don’t figure that out, and figure out how to change it, they will become irrelevant. We already know how to raise money with the internet, and we don’t need Ellen Malcolm, or her successor, or any of her Feminism TM counterparts to do it. We know all of this. Apparently, they don’t. But if they don’t find a way to start delivering on those promises and offering something in exchange for the donations given in moments of crisis, eventually, women won’t respond to those urgent emails with more money. Instead, they’ll just demand a refund.
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Sarah’s the Tea Party queen of 2010. But are they a third party movement, Republican pest or Democratic gift? Who knows? But they’re representative of the mood out there right now, which is also hitting Martha Coakley in Massachusetts . Just don’t worry about Sarah Palin, because she’s got this all mapped out. Tea Party convention is in, but CPAC is out. Going rogue has paid off so far so why should Sarah stop now? The first time I heard about their convention it was through an ad on a conservative blog. Christian Science Monitor wrote about their rise last week: .. But with an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll ranking a generic “Tea Party” as more popular than either Democrats or Republicans, and Palin herself rivaling the charming Mr. Obama in poll popularity, many experts see the Tea Party event as a potential milestone for a mounting, even transformational, force in US politics. …
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Taylor Marsh: Sarah Palin Taps Into Tea Partiers
All right, it was a hecka long holiday season. I’m tired and you’re tired. And neither of us has the energy to go through the whole post- modern deconstructionist explanation as to why you’re reading a predictions column here. Yes, I’m doing a predictions column. What’s the matter with you people? It’s the beginning of a new year. Hell, it’s the beginning of a new decade. That’s what journalists do: prediction columns. It’s a festive tradition. Like mistletoe or Hopping John or calling hospital emergency rooms when Uncle Bud goes missing in the wee hours of Boxing Day. And no, I don’t care that we’re already deep enough into January that most of our resolutions lie broken on the calendar floor like branches of a discarded Noble fir on the shoulder of a logging camp approach road. C’mon people, what am I, flying solo here? Deal with it. Or don’t. Because here they are: a list of predictions of what we can or should expect from various people during the 1st year of the second decade of the 21st century. I PREDICT THAT IN THE YEAR 2010: The Airline Industry will make every effort to rid the skies of the most dangerous security threat known to man: panties. Charlie Sheen will attempt to hire whoever is responsible for Tiger Woods’ damage control. Steve Jobs will evacuate a series of smooth, light and aerodynamically curvaceous clumps of waste, which will be reported upon at great length. Barack Obama will finally purge himself of that overabundance of expectations for a bit of Congressional assistance. Tiger Woods will win the Masters evidencing such a triumphant links return that other PGA wives will be encouraged to take 9 irons to their husbands’ Escalades . Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will direct his security detail to check out the firm responsible for Charlie Sheen’s damage control. Termed out California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will band together with Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal to form The Seniors Action- Star Film Series . The US Congress will outline a plan to fix the Social Security problem once and for all that may or may not involve raising the retirement age to 83. In order to thwart further underwear bombing plots, the TSA will perfect the speedy implementation of the two handed wedgie . The Teabaggers will actively set out to find someone in their movement involved in popular culture sufficiently to help them vet a new name. Law & Order Producer Dick Wolf will create his own network and fill each and every prime time slot with Law & Order & Law & Order spin-offs including a posthumous CGI enhanced Law & Order featuring fan favorite Jerry Orbach . Joe Biden will undergo intense personal training to learn how to shut the hell up during moments of silence at Arlington National Cemetery . Hillary Clinton will finally spit out that piece of meat stuck in her craw. Jerry Brown will receive a clean bill of health from his paleontologist and go on to win the California gubernatorial election after being recognized as the biggest goober in the race. George Steinbrenner will convince the Commissioner to award the 2010 World Series championship to the Yankees before the season starts to save wear and tear on his expensively fragile lineup. CEO of the CIA, Leon Panetta will get a piece of meat stuck in his craw. Former Vice President Al Gore will continue to cultivate a high profile in order to finally realize his dream of becoming a permanent cast member on Saturday Night Live . Sarah Palin will actually finish, nah, never mind. Will Durst is a San Francisco based political comic, who writes sometimes; this being a sterling example. Catch Durst in stand- up mode at The Pipeline Café in Honolulu on Wednesday, January 13th.
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Will Durst: 2010 Predictions
HONOLULU — Cash-strapped Hawaii can’t afford to pay for an election to replace a congressman who is planning to step down next month to run for governor, potentially leaving 600,000 urban Honolulu residents without representation in Washington. Budget cuts have left the state Office of Elections with about $5,000 to last until July, with a special election costing nearly $1 million, interim Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago said. Until the state finds money or this fall’s regularly scheduled elections occur, one of Hawaii’s two seats in the House of Representatives will remain vacant. “Democracy depends on representation of the people,” Jean Aoki, legislative liaison for the Hawaii chapter of the League of Women Voters. “I can’t imagine the citizens of our state not wanting representation in the highest body in the land to make laws. It’s just unthinkable.” Elections officials are hoping to hold a vote-by-mail special election May 1 if they can get the $925,000 it would cost. An election with walk-in voting would cost $1.2 million. Whoever wins would become the favorite to take on the job permanently following November’s general election. U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, announced last week he will resign Feb. 28 after 19 years so he can dedicate his time to the gubernatorial race. His two-year term was set to expire in January 2011. His departure opens up the possibility that Hawaii’s all-Democratic congressional delegation could be broken up for the first time since 1991. Candidates for the winner-take-all special election include Democrats Ed Case, a former congressman, and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, as well as Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou, a Republican. The elections office faces a series of additional hurdles. It is considering consolidating nearly 30 percent of the state’s 339 precincts next year with adjacent precincts, and it has to obtain new voting machines because of a ruling that the state overpaid on its prior contract. “We’re not where we want to be, but I don’t see us not being able to catch up,” Nago said. Some state legislators have suggested saving money by delaying the special election until the regularly scheduled primary election in September. The idea of putting off the election for that long may run up against federal laws and the U.S. Constitution, Attorney General Mark Bennett said. “I believe there would be a federal obligation to do it,” Bennett told lawmakers last week. “They don’t want the states to go without representation.” Others like Democratic state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim question whether the money might be better spent on education and social services, both of which have been slashed during the economic downturn. “I haven’t seen too many votes in the House that have been decided by a one-vote difference,” said Kim, chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should be without representation, but given everything that’s going on, we have to prioritize.” Several recent bills in the House have won by a slim margin – most prominently, the Democratic-written health care bill that passed in November, 220-215. Federal money may be available to help Hawaii pay for a special election. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission hasn’t issued an opinion on whether federal money could be used, but it may be allowed under a law passed to upgrade voting systems after the 2000 presidential election, said commission spokeswoman Sarah Litton. Hawaii would have to ask the commission to decide whether the money can be spent in that way, Litton said. Separately, about $1.3 million may be available because of a recently discovered accounting error. The money was distributed to Hawaii by the federal government in 2003 to reimburse the state for new voting machines, but it was put into the wrong account, elections officials said. “I’m an optimist that we’ll get through this. Maybe not as elegantly as some people would like, but we’ll get through it,” said state Elections Commission Chairman William Marston. “If you got any money, we’ll take a contribution.” More on Financial Crisis
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Hawaii Budget Crisis: State Can’t Afford Congressional Election
While the newswires crackle with Dick Cheney’s latest display of cowardice and Sarah Palin’s victimhood, the most important event of 2010 will hardly be mentioned: the dawn of the age of regenerative medicine, a new era for healthcare, and an even greater imperative for healthcare reform. Sometime this year, ophthalmologists in the United Kingdom–where, we might recall, CT-scanners, MRI-scanners, and monoclonal antibodies were ‘invented’–will inject human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) into the retina of a patient suffering macular degeneration, a leading cause of near-blindness in the elderly. Currently, there are nearly 2 million people in the US with the disease, expected to grow to 3 million in just 10 years. Studies with hESCs in an animal model of the disease have shown improved vision. When the first patient from the UK study demonstrates improved vision, the era of regenerative medicine will have been launched. Oh, yes, by the way, the UK also ‘invented’ in vitro fertilization, now a routine procedure worldwide, and from which the source–frozen embryos that are to be discarded–of the hESCs arises. Of course, the UK need not have been first with hESC therapy, except that the US was saddled for 8 years with George Bush and for 6 of those years with the radical rightwing Republican Congress who not only divined that hESCs derived after a certain date in August 2001 were ungodly, but (and here is where the Republican Congress shone so brightly) passed two bills in the House making all hESC research illegal and authorizing the arrest of any US citizen who traveled abroad for hESC treatment. Just a wonderful crowd, weren’t they? And, so focused on terrorism, weren’t they? [Anyone who wants to remove the filibuster from the US Senate ought to consider what would have happened had the Republican Senate that had more than 50 votes, had blessed us with similar divine guidance]. Also this year, in the United States, patients with spinal cord injuries that would destine them for lives in wheelchairs will receive an injection of hESCs into their injured spinal cords. Studies of hESCs in animal models of spinal cord injury have shown remarkable recovery of function. When the first of these human patients wiggles his toes, the prospect of fulfilling Christopher Reeve’s vision of walking again will become closer to reality–unfortunately, the hypocritical radical religio-politics of the “naughts” helped delay it so that Christopher himself could not live to experience it. Further, but not too much further, on the horizon will be hESCs transformed to pancreas cells to cure the diabetes of childhood, help treat the diabetes of adulthood, and, together, reduce the projected costs of medicare by about 20-25%. That ain’t hay. That will be followed by hESCs that have been transformed into heart-muscle cells to repair the damage of heart attack. These breakthroughs will make healthcare reform even more important than it is now. The human suffering relieved will be incalculable–and even less defensible making access dependent on financial status. Moreover, the costs incurred from not treating people with chronic diseases definitively are so prohibitive that it will be fiscal disaster not to have a system in place that guarantees access to the best treatments for all. Caution: the early studies may fail. Phase I trials are not designed to show therapeutic effect, but rather to establish the limits of safety so that the next stage of study, phase II, may be designed to try to show that therapeutic effect at safe doses. Moreover, there are likely to be as-yet unknown problems that these early applications of regenerative therapy will reveal that have to be improved upon. But, 2010 will mark the beginning of the end of some of the more painful, tragic and debilitating conditions afflicting mankind—and, we will save trillions to boot! The ‘naughts’ were a big fat zero; the ‘tweens’ can be truly transformational. Of course, all that may be stunted again if we re-elect a Republican Congress determined, for their twisted version of the grace of god, to consign people to hell on earth.
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Paul Abrams: Bigger than Anything Else in 2010: The Age of Regenerative Medicine Begins, A Healthcare Revolution.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says he’s accepted an apology from the Senate’s top Democrat for calling him a “light skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” Obama, the first black president, said in a statement on Saturday that he accepted the apology for the “unfortunate comment. Obama said he knows what’s in Sen. Harry Reid’s heart and says the Nevada Democrat has shown “passionate leadership” on issues of social justice. A book set to be released on Monday quotes Reid as saying in private discussions that the country was ready to put a black in the White House, especially one like Obama. The racially tinged comments prompted Reid to issue a public apology for the comments earlier on Saturday. THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below. WASHINGTON (AP) – The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate apologized on Saturday for comments he made about Barack Obama’s race during the 2008 presidential bid and are quoted in a yet-to-be-released book about the campaign. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada described in private then-Sen. Barack Obama as “light skinned” and “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” Obama is the nation’s first African-American president. “I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words. I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African-Americans for my improper comments,” Reid said in a statement released after the excerpts were first reported on the Web site of The Atlantic. “I was a proud and enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama during the campaign and have worked as hard as I can to advance President Obama’s legislative agenda.” Reid remained neutral during the bitter Democratic primary that became a marathon contest between Obama and then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom Obama tapped as the United States’ top diplomat after the election. Reid’s comments are included in the book, obtained Saturday by The Associated Press and set to be published on Monday. “Game Change” was written by Time Magazine’s Mark Halperin and New York magazine’s John Heilemann. The book also says Reid urged Obama to run, perceiving the first-term senator’s impatience. “You’re not going to go anyplace here,” Reid told Obama of the Senate. “I know that you don’t like it, doing what you’re doing.” In another section, aides to Republican nominee John McCain described the difficulties they faced with their vice presidential pick, then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Steve Schmidt, a senior member of Sen. John McCain’s presidential team, is quoted telling Palin’s foreign policy tutors: “You guys have a lot of work to do. She doesn’t know anything.” The authors also quote Obama’s initial reaction to McCain’s selection of a little-known governor: “Wow. Well, I guess she’s change.” Vice presidential nominee Joe Biden was direct. “Who’s Sarah Palin?” the book quotes the then-senator as asking as they left the nominating convention in Denver. Reid, facing a tough 2010 re-election bid, needs the White House’s help if he wants to keep his seat. Obama’s administration has dispatched officials on dozens of trips to buoy his bid and Obama has raised money for his campaign. Recognizing the threat, Reid’s apologies also played to his home state: “Moreover, throughout my career, from efforts to integrate the Las Vegas strip and the gaming industry to opposing radical judges and promoting diversity in the Senate, I have worked hard to advance issues.” Even before his ill-considered remarks were reported, a new survey released Saturday by the Las Vegas Review Journal showed him continuing to earn poor polling numbers. In the poll, by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Reid trailed former state Republican party chairwoman Sue Lowden by a 10 percentage points, 50 percent to 40 percent, and also lagging behind two other opponents. More than half of Nevadans had an unfavorable opinion of Reid. Just 33 percent of respondents held a favorable opinion. More on Barack Obama
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Harry Reid ‘Negro’ Comment: Reid Apologizes For ‘No Negro Dialect’ Comment
By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger The next United Nations climate change conference is almost a year away, and health care is still dominating the legislative agenda in Washington. That means climate reform opponents, from the coal industry to the global warming skeptics, have plenty of time to work, out of the spotlight, to derail progress. Here’s a glimpse of the enemies of reform–and the companies and individuals that are still fighting for change in 2010. Take the case of Cape Wind, an offshore wind farm planned for Massachusetts’ Nantucket Sound, as an example. The project faced yet another roadblock this week, when the National Park Service said the site could be listed as a historical place, prized by Nantucket’s Native American tribes. But as Kate Sheppard writes in Mother Jones , the park service’s decision counts as a victory for a less sympathetic opponent as well. William Koch is the founder and president of the Oxbow Group, a privately-held group of companies, and he has laid out more than a million dollars to fight Cape Wind. “Koch … has made his fortune off mining and marketing coal, natural gas, petroleum, and petroleum coke products,” Sheppard explains. “He’s the son of Fred Koch, founder of oil and gas giant Koch Industries, and brother of David and Charles Koch–who have supported conservative groups like Citizens for a Sound Economy (which later merged with another group to form FreedomWorks) and Americans for Prosperity, which has campaigned against both climate legislation and health care reform.” Mother Jones is also on the case of the Atlas Foundation, a think tank that promotes climate change skepticism (and also receives funding from Koch). Josh Harkinson examines this group and other foundations that are supporting “a loose network of some 500 similar organizations in dozens of countries” and that are in turn financed by “carbon-spewing American industries.” The Atlas Economic Research Foundation alone has supported more than 30 other foreign think tanks that buy into climate change skepticism, Harkinson reports. “The foreign groups’ finances are opaque, yet an Atlas Foundation spokesman acknowledges that some of them wouldn’t exist without dollars being pumped in,” Harkinson writes. “In the coming months, these groups will lead the fight in their own countries to derail the shaky deal made in Copenhagen–which will likely prompt American skeptics to cite widespread international opposition to taking action on climate change.” Of course, the skeptics do have opponents, including the solar and wind power industries that stand to gain from climate change legislation. One group that can be added to that list: Farmers. Lynda Washington of the Iowa Independent reports that “most, but not all, [agricultural] producers will benefit from the package passed earlier this year by the U.S. House of Representatives,” according to a new study by Kansas State University (KSU) researchers. The American Farmland Trust, which funded the KSU study, will have plenty of strange bedfellows as it lobbies Congress on climate change legislation. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! reports that the groups joining the battle on Capitol Hill include “venture capitalists, the natural gas lobby, America’s most iconic soup maker Campbell Soup,” according to a new analysis of federal records. “The sheer range of interests registered to lobby on climate change is expected to create further delays in the Senate’s effort to complete a successful bill to curb fossil fuel emissions,” Goodman explains. Over the next year, the fight for strong climate policy won’t just take place in Washington. On a state and local level, governments, independent organizations and individuals will work towards turning back global warming. As Mark Herstgaard points out in The Nation : “Hundreds of local and regional governments have also implemented ambitious green energy programs ahead of federal policy. A pioneer of this effort, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced in Copenhagen the formation of the R-20 Group–twenty regions around the world that will ’set high standards for cutting carbon and creating green economies, then invite others to join them,’ in the words of Terry Tamminen, the California governor’s former environment adviser.” And in Yes! Magazine , Tara Lohan writes that some cities “have long been ahead of Congress and the White House on climate commitments … committing to Kyoto goals in 2005 through the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.” “But the community climate movement goes beyond local government initiatives,” Lohan explains. “It’s a cultural shift involving people at all levels of the community, from tiny rural towns in red states to major metropolitan areas.” In one California town, that shift promoted Catherine Sutton to start Transition Albany, a project that encourages the town’s residents to consider new ways to face climate change and dwindling oil supplies, reports Pamela O’Malley Chang at Yes! Magazine . And in Iowa, “Lonnie Gamble, who lives in a solar and wind powered straw bale home in this Jefferson County community, hasn’t paid a gas or electric bill in two decades,” writes Beth Dalbey for the Iowa Independent. Gamble is just one resident of Fairfield, IA, who is helping to “institutionalize sustainable living”, while “”blazing a trail” for other small Iowa cities,” Dalbey reports. One small thing anyone can do to move towards climate change reform: This winter, remind everyone, as Cord Jefferson does at Campus Progress, that, yes, it’s cold, but that doesn’t mean global warming isn’t real. “As the World Meteorological Organization has said for years,” Jefferson reminds us, “global warming and cool temperatures go together like cocoa and marshmallows.” This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium . It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter . And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit , The Pulse , and The Diaspora . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets. More on Climate Change
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The Media Consortium: Weekly Mulch: Climate Reform’s Good, Bad, and Ugly
Are Democrats doomed in 2010, with an energized Republican Party capitalizing on a backlash against a young president’s ambitious agenda to seize control of Congress a la 1994? Not likely — particularly if Democratic candidates learn from the Obama campaign and use the internet to help make sure that their supporters are the ones who show up to vote in November. First, the background: the party of the president in office essentially always loses seats in the mid-term elections (2002 was a post-9/11 one-off), a tendency likely to be reinforced in 2010 by the fact that so many Democrats rode the Obama wave to win marginal districts in ‘08. Plus, this year many progressive activists are turned off by what they perceive to be a failed healthcare reform bill, while others oppose Obama’s expansion of the war in Afghanistan. Add into the mix on the other side a fired-up movement of Tea Partiers and Sarah Palin fans and you have what looks like the recipe for a massive Democratic defeat in eleven months. But appearances are deceiving, and in 2010 the Democratic base vote is likely to be a candidate’s best friend or worst enemy. First, off-year elections are usually low-turnout elections , giving a huge advantage to the candidate who can motivate his or her supporters to get off their butts and vote. And despite criticism from progressive activists , liberal voters in particular seem to be sticking with Obama, with most of the erosion of the president’s support coming from independents and conservative Democrats . Even better for progressive prospects, relatively few incumbent Democrats will face challengers in the primaries this year, saving money and allowing them to focus on building support for the longer term. In fact, the party with a divided base in 2010 is the Republicans: the Tea Partiers may have energy, but they primarily seem to employ it against other Republicans , particularly those in the party establishment, even when they’re not squabbling amongst themselves . Many mainstream Republicans will face ideological primary challenges in 2010, forcing them to spend scarce resources early on and to take positions that could box them into a corner in the Fall. And with the RNC short on cash , individual candidates can’t count on the party bailing them out even if they do manage to shrug off the rightwing rabble. With turnout likely to be low and the Tea Partiers potentially a wash for the Republicans, the onus will be on Democratic campaigns to get their people to the polls. Fortunately, they don’t have to look far to find out how: the Obama campaign provides a perfect example of internet’s ability to help campaigns find supporters, establish connections with them and convert their money and volunteer time into votes. Though individual candidates can’t rely on Obama’s national political machine to mobilize the masses this time around, they CAN use online video, social media and above all email to organize their own turnout operations across the country. If all politics is ultimately local, the 2010 results will turn on the dynamics of thousands of unique races up and down the scale. But if Democrats want to survive the results of a bad economy and a disillusioned electorate, it’s almost certain that turning out their base will be absolutely critical. And as Obama showed in 2008, online organizing equals real-world results, provided that you focus on what actually works . Let the pundits worry about the mega-trends of 2010 — winning candidates will concentrate on locating and motivating their own voters in their own districts. – cpd
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Colin Delany: How Democrats Can Avoid Disaster in 2010: Organize Their Base Online
Since I wrote a sketch about Yemen 4 years ago and a joke about Bush causing attacks on NYC & DC in August 2000 , I consider myself a bona fide soothsayer. Therefore, better late than on time, here are 10 ‘10 Predictions: Girls will be girls, boys will be boys, and a popular singer will be both. Sarah Palin will tweet that the Sun rotates around the Earth. It will be at the top of the leading blogs. An article on the blog coverage of the tweet will be on the front page of several major newspapers. Frank Rich will blow his brains out. From Jersey Shore to CNN: “The Situation” will appear on The Situation Room. Wolf Blitzer’s beard will come alive and mate with Andersen Cooper’s hair. Their offspring will be worn by Lady Gaga. A politician, an athlete, a businessman, and a movie star will get caught cheating. They will apologize, retire, fake their own deaths, and reemerge as columnists for the New York Post . A white man will get an obscene amount of money for doing very little - i.e. running a bank, bribing a Senator, writing a book. In a sign of progress, a black man will, too (though he’ll be a socialist). A marginally attractive actress with an excellent publicist will be the hot new thing. Several celebrities will die. There will be much rejoicing. Someone will do something stupid. We’ll be there to catch it. Four words: Joe Biden sex tape. More on Sarah Palin
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Jeff Kreisler: 2010: The Year of These Things
Our organization, the Center for Democracy in the Americas, works on straightening out U.S. policy toward the region. We’re trying to understand how and why the Obama administration has gotten off track in its relationship with the hemisphere. Our Cuba policy associate, Collin Laverty, has written the following essay on where things stand. When Barack Obama was elected president, the people of Latin America, as with citizens across the globe, immediately sensed an opportunity for improved relations with the United States, less hostility and war, more engagement and peace, and ultimately, improved conditions in the region and the world. Although Obama was elected to represent the interests of the U.S., and not those of the Western Hemisphere, the air was filled with expectations, hopes and aspirations about a new chapter in relations between Washington and a region whose history is marred by U.S. interference, covert operations, and support for dictators. The Summit of the Americas in April of 2009 provided Obama with an early opportunity to make clear his goals for a new policy. Obama awed the regions’ leaders in attendance when he announced the U.S. would seek an “equal partnership,” one without senior and junior partners, and launched a new chapter of “engagement based on mutual respect and common interests and shared values.” He even shook hands with Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez and spoke publicly about the thousands of Cuban doctors serving in the region. Just prior to the summit, President Obama ended restrictions on Cuban Americans’ ability to travel and send remittances to Cuba. In June, the U.S. conceded to demands by the region for Cuba’s readmission to the Organization of American States, ending a 47-year suspension from the organization. Soon after, Cuba and the U.S. announced the restoration of bilateral migration talks canceled in 2003. Obama’s early Latin America policy consisted of cautious engagement with Cuba, reducing rhetoric toward adversaries, and supporting Mexico’s fight against drug trafficking. Latin America’s leaders, aware of Obama’s ambitious domestic and global agenda, waited patiently for concrete signals of the new partnership he announced at the summit. Unfortunately, Obama’s “change you can believe in” soon began to look like “more of the same.” On June 28th, Honduras’ democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya was kidnapped at gunpoint and exiled to Costa Rica. President Obama and the State Department originally spoke out against the coup and called for Zelaya’s restoration. However, the coup regime quickly hired powerful lobbyists and PR firms to lobby Congress and the executive and to influence mainstream media coverage, arguing the removal of Zelaya was constitutional. Republican Members of Congress applauded the coup, labeling it a victory against Chavez, and used brass-knuckled political tactics, such as stopping confirmation votes on Obama’s Latin America nominees, to wield influence over the policy. The administration soon began to backtrack, refusing to officially label what happened in Honduras a coup, and remained silent about human rights violations. The rest of the region, still fresh with memories of coups and military-installed regimes, forcefully opposed the coup and refused to recognize the results of the November 2009 elections in Honduras for a new president. Yet, the U.S. quickly recognized the election results. Also in June, reports began to surface about a secret agreement between the United States and Colombia to allow U.S. access to seven military bases in Colombia. News of the deal broke not through diplomatic outreach, but from a Colombian newspaper report. Countries throughout South America, including Brazil and Chile, immediately called on the U.S. and Colombia to produce a text of the agreement, which they refused. Despite objections and demands for more transparency, the deal was signed in late October. As Brazilian President Lula da Silva has expressed many times, U.S. policy toward Cuba has become the litmus test for U.S. relations with Latin America. Despite initial movement, the Obama administration has returned to the same policy of conditionality - demanding improvements in human rights and democracy in exchange for the loosening of US policy - that has prevented engagement in the past. The executive order allowing Cuban Americans to travel freely to Cuba failed to include authorization for academic, religious and other “purposeful travel.” The Obama Administration has not responded to Cuba’s request to include counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism and hurricane preparedness and response on the agenda for future talks. Finally, Obama has continued a USAID program focused on regime change, which is counterproductive, antagonistic, and puts the integrity and safety of those involved, on and off the island, at risk. The Obama administration’s refusal to develop and implement a new Cuba policy - one based on U.S. national interests with a goal of fully normalizing relations - exemplifies continuity in the way the U.S. views the region, and vice-versa. A quick 180 degree turn on Cuba may be the only way for Obama to win back some goodwill with our neighbors and create the partnership he hoped to establish. After all, it was U.S. military expansionism - the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the reactivation of the Navy’s Fourth Fleet to patrol the Caribbean - and support for the coup in Venezuela that upended President George W. Bush in Latin America. Obama despite his early promise is heading in the same direction. - Collin Laverty More on Latin America
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Sarah Stephens: Why Latin America is disappointed with Barack Obama
As I approached day number six of a full on “chemotherapy detox” process in the peaceful isolation of the Tucson desert, I was reminded how noisy and all consuming the mind is. The parallels of healing disease, addiction and racism had never penetrated my brain before receiving a diagnosis for stage four uterine cancer two years ago. Similar to facing addiction or admitting racism, upon confrontation of the sobering pronouncement of malignancy came utter shock, disbelief, denial, sadness, acceptance and eventually, grief. However odd to say, fighting a life threatening disease was the perfect assignment for someone who identified themselves as a soldier of peace. Until cancer, I gave dutiful lip service to silence and contemplation but mostly devoted my attention and energy to combating injustices — whether racial, social or environmental — and very loudly. My personal outrage fit perfectly with a 24-hour news cycle that cranks out grievances that pummel us into accepting celebrity infidelity scandals, embittered political “battles” or technological developments (that drive us farther from ourselves) as worthy of our undivided fixation and obsession. For some — depending on political and ideological identification — the transgressions of Tiger Woods, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and the latest healthcare reform debacle can feed the cancerous rage within. Not unlike multiplying white blood cells in a compromised immune system, noxious headlines in rapid succession inhibit our discernment and inspire a fight of flight response — anger and retaliation. Like cancer cells feeding on sugar, with every toxic news morsel we fuel a craving for more indignation. Outraged by Tiger’s infidelities and yet can’t stop watching for updates claiming he is beyond rehabilitation or redemption? Still reeling from the latest Palinist book tour faux pas or Rush-ism with racial overtones? No fear, the next installment of Keith Olberman might just assuage the sting and even the score. And if you hate all things Obama and fear we are careening our way to hell in a hand basket of socialism just flip on Fox to Bill O’Reilly and feel the relief. What is the essence of our addictive outrage? Are we capable of looking beneath the spin of Tiger Wood’s alleged “harem” and what inspires our deepest disdain? Are we compelled to peek underneath the collective racial rug for the debris where many of our fears and biases have been hastily swept away now that we have a black president? Perhaps whites and blacks alike suppress grievances hovering just under the surface. That Tiger has publicly denied his African American heritage is a source of great disappointment and sadness for many blacks and yet perhaps part of the very reason so many white institutions wholeheartedly embraced him as the ‘face of golf.’ That all of Tiger’s mistresses who have stepped forward thus far are identified as white certainly unearths biases, fears and unrecognized pain for everyone involved. Is it possible that there is some ‘extra’ delight in chastising and ridiculing him because of what lies both unacknowledged underneath the rug? Before chemo I accepted ‘fighting’ was the only way to effect change and had made a name for myself taking on issues with a vengeance — which made a cancer diagnosis the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the ‘inner warrior’ persona I cultivated for many years. It wasn’t until chemotherapy that I understood that although endurance is essential, rather than engaging in battle, what is required for healing and change is respect, submission and surrender. Respect for a lethal cocktail of drugs that would take me to the edge of death without actually killing me, submission to a protocol that required absolute trust and faith in healthcare providers and surrender to the internal grief of of my life B.C. (before chemo). B.C. it had never occurred to me there might be a link between grievances, grief and healing. That the toxicity of grievances–whether personal, societal or cultural–beckons us inward to reconcile not only what is no longer–perhaps even what never was. How humbling to recognize that my response to the external world of injustices was far more instructive than the events themselves. Counter to the prevailing vernacular often used to describe encountering cancer, for me it was (and is not) a battle, struggle or a fight to win. It is not a ‘war’. Although the treatments involved with cancer are certainly violent, cancer, for me was the opposite of war. Cancer is an invitation that demands humility and a willingness to take fearless inventory of our lives thus far. It can also be a discovery of the grievances harbored within that are reflected in our reactions to the social, political and cultural battles we engage in. How disarming to learn that a crusade ‘against’ illness doesn’t foster healing and change any more than waging war on poverty, violence or racism bring about peace, justice or equality. The paradox is that without vulnerability we may never muster the courage to confront ourselves and as a result, continue to obsess and demonize the ‘enemy’. Without ample reflection our all-consuming outrage and judgment of others is often a cover for our own disappointment and shortcomings. Why for some is Tiger Woods meant to exemplify faithfulness, fidelity or purity? The man is a golfer who created a fortune by attaching his name to products that make billions in an industry dominated and catering to (predominately) wealthy men and women who love one thing. Golf. Interestingly enough, imposed on Woods are conditions, expectations and projections of a public incensed by deceit and outrage for his marital betrayals. And yet, powerful, wealthy men addicted to privilege have throughout history indulged themselves sexually — with or without the agreement of their partners as a condition of the relationship. What if instead of umbrage at a celebrity for betraying his wife, we glance at the infidelity within ourselves? What if we allowed ourselves to grieve the part of us that has betrayed another? Whether it is a marital partnership, business collaboration or a relationship with a particular community. What if the question became: how does Tiger Woods reflect our own personal infidelity? Where have we become untrustworthy? After a few moments of reflection, is there any outrage to spare? What if before responding and identifying the enemy ‘over there’, we look inward for the residing conflict–at the ‘inner Rush Limbaugh’ if you will — in order to grieve the part of us that is angry and subtly (or not so subtly) reinforcing hostility in the guise of righteousness? When we embrace, ingest, consume and internalize every news headline in a feeding frenzy without self-reflection, we engage in a collective addiction that feeds on sensationalism, dishonesty and distraction. Under the guise of being informed, engaged and politically astute some of us nourish ourselves with toxic reports feeding a tumor of contempt and disdain until a stage four-diagnosis demands submission. Healing involves the courage to be vulnerable and the willingness to look beneath the surface of the wounds to unearth the root causes of illness–collective and personal. Our addictions to political conflicts, celebrity betrayals and racial privileges are only symptoms of what keeps us embroiled in daily battles. This in no way suggests that we should not vocalize opinions about political matters, perceived injustices or refrain from taking action. Just that cancer, racism and addiction are equally toxic and reside within all of us. By surrendering to the grief beneath our grievance we can then speak and take action with strength, compassion and clarity. Anything else is just illness speaking. More on Barack Obama
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Molly Secours: Illness Speaks: Healing from Cancer, Addiction and Racism in the Age of Rush Limbaugh
Whatever happened to the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)? Is it dead? I remember sitting in a meeting last May with Senate staff who said that after Al Franken was sworn in, EFCA would be an eight-week fight and then a vote in the Senate. It has been nearly eight months and there still has been no vote, not even in committee. What happened? Why does the bill now appear to be all but forgotten despite the massive effort of the labor movement, the blogosphere and progressive allies to push it against incredible odds? All that effort seems to have gone to waste because the Obama administration has hardly lifted a finger on behalf of the 30,000 workers who are fired every year for trying to join a union. Obama has never given a national address on the need to reform labor regulations as he has on education reform, financial reform, infrastructure improvement, small business assistance, or a variety of other subjects. At first, I thought, surely Obama must have made a few speeches about EFCA. Maybe I had missed something since I don’t keep a TV in my office as many DC political operatives do. So, I called around to the communications departments of several labor organizations throughout DC. They all responded similarly: the administration has neglected labor. Every now and then, Obama gets asked by a reporter or town hall questioner about it and he mumbles under his breath that he supports the EFCA. He has given no major speeches on the subject of restoring workers’ rights in this country. The last time Obama mentioned the EFCA as part of prepared remarks was nearly four months ago at a Labor Day picnic in Ohio in front of 20,000 union members. Then, he only dedicated a measly two sentences on EFCA. It seemed he only did it because not mentioning the EFCA in front of 20,000 union members could get ugly (like, think Sarah Palin giving a speech at a Planned Parenthood convention ugly). In fact, some labor officials have speculated the administration probably only mentioned EFCA to keep labor from attacking the administration over a weak health care reform bill. As Sam Stein recently quoted one labor official on health care reform: “So union leadership is being squeezed from the bottom by members who don’t want a shitty bill and from the top by Rahm holding the [Employee Free Choice Act] over their heads.” Obama has considered this issue too political risky, despite the fact labor law reform would expand the base by making more people member of unions, whose members voted 60-40 for Obama. For this reason, The Chamber of Commerce made it clear that defeating the EFCA was more important to them than defeating climate change and health care reform put together. They will launch a massive campaign, spending millions of dollars campaigning against it in the hopes of keeping a few conservative Democrats on board. If the president had just gotten up in front of the nation and argued for it in a prime-time addresses, we could have passed it by now. Tell me which teabagger doesn’t hate his boss for, for example, for being fired unfairly from his job on trumped-up reasons? President Obama could have won wide support for the EFCA had he just gotten up and campaigned for it. Instead, he kept mum about workers’ rights, and, as history shows, presidents who have keep silent on workers’ rights have often caused their own political suicides. Sure, abandoning workers’ rights won’t lose the votes of workers in and of itself, but standing up for workers’ rights has been the saving grace of presidents who have blundered and gone astray from their base. Harry Truman was saddled with an economy with massive inflation, declining wages and staggering unemployment as a result of recovering from a transition from a war-time economy. There were over 5,000 strikes in 1946 alone (the greatest number in our history) of workers fed up with the conditions and lack of meaningful employment. Truman, much like Obama, inherited an economic mess that he was unable to control, and, as a result, Republicans gained 55 seats in the House in 1946. Truman looked as if he were certain to lose re-election in 1948. He had a 36 percent approval rating. His own party tried to dump him with FDR’s son, James, attempting to persuade Eisenhower to run on the Democratic Platform. Unsure of whether Truman could win, the Democratic Party splintered. Strom Thurmond, upset over Truman’s call for civil rights, led away the southern base, running as a third-party candidate on the Dixiecrat platform. Henry Wallace, FDR’s previous vice president, led away the left wing of the party on the Progressive Party ticket. Meanwhile, Thomas Dewey, the governor of New York and the nation’s most popular politician, was running on the Republican Party ticket. Public opinion polling at the time showed that Dewey was going to beat Truman in a landslide. Dewey’s victory against Truman with a divided party was seen as so imminent that several newspaper printed headlines saying, “Dewey Defeats Truman.” Truman’s own wife did not think he could win re-election. Truman knew he could because he had stood by workers in a big way. The previous year Truman had vetoed the notoriously anti-labor Taft-Hartly Act, which made it tougher for Americans workers to join a union than it is for workers in most of the third world. Truman’s veto was ultimately unsuccessful, with Congress overriding it. Truman didn’t give up his fight against Taft-Hartley. He dug in his heels and went around the country in 1948 on a 22,000-mile whistle-stop train tour, campaigning against big corporations that wanted to strip workers of their rights as part of his broader Fair Deal program. Workers remembered what a fighter Truman was from his fight against Taft-Hartley and stuck by him, delivering an unexpected Electoral College landslide, with Truman winning 303 electoral votes to Dewey’s 189. Truman never was successful in repealing Taft- Hartley. However, it was a battle worth losing because, in the process, he won the larger war as being a champion of the working class. However, two Democratic presidents, both saddled with similarly bad economies, didn’t learn the lesson of Truman that advocating vigorously for workers’ rights was a path to political victory, and they suffered staggering defeats. In the late 1970s, catastrophic plant closing waves began to occur, inflation was running wild, oil embargoes occurred and there were gigantic gas lines as it appeared America was headed towards economic apocalypse. Jimmy Carter had previously pledged to sign a bill allowing construction workers to more easily picket works sites without fear of getting heavily fined. However, he instructed his own Georgia delegation to keep it from passing, taking him off the hook from ever having to sign it! Then, the House passed a bill making it easier for workers to join unions without fear of being fired, only to die in an anti-labor Senate filibuster. Jimmy Carter likewise didn’t lift a finger to stand up publicly for workers’ rights. This contributed to a larger view of Carter as a president who was out of touch with basic issues and ineffective as president. Had he made a passionate stand for workers’ rights, perhaps he could have saved himself as the similarly somewhat hapless Truman did. As longtime United Electrical Workers (UE) Political Action Director Chris Townsend recalls of his experience in the battle: The defeat was devastating. The hapless Carter was driven out of office in a rout, Reagan blew in, with some official union support but also with too much rank-and-file support. Carter could not be defended by the unions, so many members went over to Reagan. Clinton came to office, like Carter and Truman, with an economic mess on his hands. Once again, with the election of Clinton and a Democratic Congress after 12 years of Republican rule, the door for labor law reform was opened a little more. In 1994, the “strikers’ rights” bill was introduced, that would have banned permanent scabs that replace striking workers in strikes. While it passed the House, the Clinton administration wouldn’t lift a finger to push it along, and in the end it died, unable to reach the magic 60 votes needed in the Senate. In 1994, Democrats were subsequently swept out of both houses of Congress in one of the biggest political routs in history. While Clinton had blundered on both NAFTA and health care, above else, he had failed to save himself by defining himself as a workers’ champion by vigorously advocating for workers’ rights as Truman had. Truman likewise had blundered and tilted to the right on several issues, even faced a left-wing challenge from former Vice President Wallace. He was able to save his presidency by sticking with working people, who, in turn, stuck by him. Clinton was forced to go along with the Republican agenda for the rest of his career as he was saddled with a Republican Congress. He threw millions of children into poverty with the passage of so called Welfare Reform, overseeing the biggest monopolization of the media with the Telecommunications Act and passing the largest financial deregulation in this country’s history, which led to the crisis we are in today. This brings us to our current situation. The President’s approval ratings are dropping dramatically as a result of the economic mess we are in, the making of which is not his fault. This administration has treaded tepidly in denouncing conservative ideology and advocating for an economy based on the needs of working people and not fat cat CEOs. They have failed to advocate passionately for workers’ issues, whether against the bailout of Wall Street, unfair trade laws or on matters such as restoring workers’ rights through the EFCA. It’s true we might not win the fight over the EFCA. The Chamber of Commerce will pull all the stops in order to knock off a few Southern Democrats on this bill. They will find a village in Kenya to come out and claim Obama was born there. They will secretly fund the nasty personal attacks against Obama in addition to the hundreds of millions they will pump into killing the bill outright. We might lose the fight over the EFCA because of the power of big corporations to perversely influence the debate. However, it’s a fight on which we must persevere. As Truman’s example shows, even if we don’t win at first, we can win over the long term. Obama’s popularity will soar and he will be endeared to the working class of this nation. In his State of the Union speech next month, Obama needs to go before Congress and advocate vigorously for Employee Free Choice. Not just a giveaway sentence or two in favor of it, but a full scale declaration of war against bosses who illegally fire their workers for expressing their democratic right to join a union. If he does this, the working class of this country - union members and teenagers alike - will see him as a hero willing to fight for the working class against special interests. The biggest problem that the Democratic Party faces now, after going along with the Wall Street bailout, is that they are seen as a party of special interests. A recent Wall Street Journal poll showed that more Americans have a more favorable view of the Tea Party Movement than both the Democratic and Republican parties. Obama could make the Democratic Party the workers’ party once again. By advocating forcefully for workers’ rights and against the unlimited ability of big corporation to push their workers around, Obama could win back over the mass of people disaffected with the Democratic Party. We might very well lose this fight, but over the long run, we will have won the war to bring the working class over to our side. More on Barack Obama
Mike Elk: Abandoning EFCA Is Obama’s Political Suicide: Lessons From Three Presidents on Workers’ Rights
One Sunday afternoon in 2000, my twelve-year-old self wandered into one of Saint Louis’ hipster consignment stores and found a pair of poppy red DKNY bell bottoms I was convinced would change my life. In the sea of pastel North Face fleeces, denim miniskirts and whatever the precursor to Uggs were, my bright red pants, which I so preternaturally paired with a black turtleneck and brown clogs, would ricochet me right out of the stylistic hemisphere of my junior high, and into the life of the other “Best Dressed” of 2000 I’d read about in the Vanity Fair magazine I had just started reading. Fashion Week, St. Petersburg, and Oscar afterparties were in my immediate future, I was sure. Now in 2010, I remain confident such adventures are right around the corner, but have come in the past decade to realize that perhaps the poppy pants I once thought held the key, do, in fact, not. In the past decade, my style has metamorphed from poppy panted punk to peasant skirted hippie (before Sienna, thankyouverymuch ) to an uncomfortable period where I toyed with maybe-I-should-be-suburban-preppy-too, finally arriving in college at the conclusion that the women who looked the greatest followed their instincts and didn’t think too much about their clothing after that, preferring instead to go lead interesting lives, which has lead to a lot of neutrals, a lot of sequins, and a lot of fur in my closet. A lot can change in a decade, both in stylistic abilities and aesthetic perceptions of what is aspirational. If I have evolved somewhat from my preteen days, I believe our general sartorial consciousness has as well. I offer below the ten women who did the most to bring us from red hiphuggers to the Roger Vivier flats and shift dresses I’m so in love with now, and thank them for pushing our wardrobes up to happier heights– 1. Enough cannot be said about the freedom, the taste and the daring that Anna Wintour has given the fashion world at the helm of American Vogue. Plenty of magazines have always decreed it “okay” to mix high and low, spring and fall, print one with print two. But Anna, and her creative director Grace Coddington, proved it and exalted it again and again in their ethereal, exuberant spreads each month. Market editor Meredith Melling Burke finds items, from paisley picnic baskets to tribal bib necklaces to Thakoon flowered tunics, that go far enough beyond the smorgasbord of stilettos and skinny belts in other magazines to make them look like the Jersey Shore counterpart to Vogue’s West Village cool woman. Anna’s lives her magazine’s spirit in a uniform of fur thoughtlessly and perfectly matched with silk florals, real and candy jewels against each other, and knee high croc boots. Anna and your team at Vogue– thank you. 2. Lest I start to seem like a one trick pony, I herewith dispense of Michelle Obama references after this post for at least the rest of January, but cannot leave her off this list. Michelle walked a fine tightrope during the campaign of appearing inoffensively, powerfully, uniquely and chicly dressed, and she pulled it off for the most part with aplomb. At a barbecue in middle America wearing an H&M shift dress with a cardigan around her shoulders, Michelle didn’t look like she had given a second thought to what she was wearing, although she looked great, and this was absolutely appropriate for the moment. During her inaugural dance with Barack in fairy-tale Jason Wu, she looked elated to be wearing her dress, but more excited to be with Barack. Michelle, as evidenced by her penchant for excellent emerging designers- Wu,Thakoon, Maria Cornejo , Isabel Toledo- is sophisticated. What makes her most aspirational is how truly complimentary rather than primary fashion is to Michelle’s life of purposeful leadership in her personal and professional life. Michelle wears fashion, it never wears her. 3. With the same promise of a January moratorium on mentions after this post, a nod to Carla Bruni. Whether strumming her guitar on the piano bench of the Paris apartment she shares with President Sarkozy in jeans and a cashmere sweater or wowing the world in purple Dior skirt suits during a visit to London, Bruni lives Diana Vreeland’s dictate that elegance is refusal. Undoubtedly, most stylistically inclined women envy the closet they imagine she has, but one of the last things that seems to interest Bruni is shopping. Perhaps this is somewhat the French in her- shopping seems to be a sport for many American women, and Bruni gives the impression that she has more interesting things to do, like gallivant around Egypt with her presidential husband and purr out songs about her fifty past lovers. Merci, Carla, for proving that your life might look more fashionable if it isn’t solely dedicated to fashion. 4. Anne Hathaway is one of the most elegant spirits of her generation. Calm and Kors shiftdressed in the wake of a breakup that would have reduced many women to sweats, a hoodie and Converse every day, Anne seemed to continue on her elegant trail not in a vindictive “see-what-you-screwed up” sort of way, but simply because it’s who she is. Her nice, neutral fabrics, straight brown hair, and occasionally risky necklines and hemlines embody the Ludwig Mies van der Rhode quote stenciled on the Design Within Reach store near my office that I love- “To have an interesting plainness is the most difficult and precious thing to achieve.” 5. A tie between Sienna Miller and the Olsens for bringing in the grunge of the aughts, this time not dependent on flannel and Doc Martens, but on looking like you’ve just slumped out of a night of partying in Morocco, Milan or Miami in a combination of American Apparel, your jetset mama’s closet, and an Hermes boutique. Also, for the ethos that showering is for people with way too much time on their hands. These girls stuck it to the concept that you have to spend a lot of money to be chic, and ushered in an era of having fun in your fashion outside the confines of a haute nightclub that reverberates to this day. Also, although Intermix recommends every week without fail in it’s “Luxe List” that I buy something from Mary Kate’s brianchild Elizabeth + James, copious amounts of credit should go to Ashley for The Row- a truly useful, timeless and highly edited collection of thoughtless chic that makes for excellent investment shopping. 6. Anne della Russo, fashion editor at large at Vogue Nippon, is simply unable to do, wear, or create something unspecial. A recent perusal of her Sartoliast and Garace Dore shots shows her in massive one-shoulder Lanvin at a 9AM fashion show, strolling down the street in feathered skirts and a penchant for the Balmain studded wrap heels before, during and after their time as The Balmain Studded Strap Heels. Without ever looking precious or too done up, della Russo manages to always, always look like she wants to. There will be no paparazzi shots of her caught off guard in something awkward, and one suspects this is less because she takes an amount of time to prepare that the Olsens would scoff at and more because she knows herself unequivocally, and won’t put something in her closet that doesn’t hold up to her exacting, exuberant standards. 7. Aerin Lauder Zintenholfer’s choices are never flashy or over the top, but always looks perfectly suited for a moment one would want to be in- a turn in a convertible out to the beach, a garden party, a stroll around Central Park on a Sunday afternoon. Without looking like a caricature out of a Slim Aarons photo, Aerin’s style embodies the good life for those not particularly interested in adventurous fashion but with looking polished, appropriate and most importantly, looking happy. If a man’s crisp button down, khaki flat fronts and Chanel flats don’t say happy day with my family, I don’t know what does, and no matter what she wears, Aerin always has this air. 8. Tory Burch proved several things during the past decade, but most notably that ubiquitous didn’t have to mean safe. Legions of women clamored for her Northern African and Middle Eastern inspired tunics, dresses and later her lifestyle products, and she thereby gave everyone license to be unique, even in their lemmingness. I like to think of Tory as the advanced option for the Ugg -North Face-denim miniskirt girl from my, and I suspect your, junior high school. Props also to Tory for creating an empire based on something so simple as the ballerina flat, and for giving it a kick that hordes of subsequent imitators have failed to match. 9. Even after she stopped blessing our living rooms as Carrie Bradshaw on ‘Sex and the City,’ Sarah Jessica Parker continued to teach us what Carrie had- that a tutu will earn you a first glance walking down the street during daylight hours, that a silk skirt looks cooler with a t-shirt, that if you’re going to wear a nameplate necklace, you better be damn proud of it, and that just about anything looks better with a touch of irreverence. 10. Liya Kebede has been one of the decades rising and most interesting talents. Originally tapped by Tom Ford for an exclusive contract to walk his Gucci Fall/Winter show in 2000, Kebede has since then graced countless magazine covers and runways, become the first African-American representative Estee Lauder has ever had, served as a World Health Organization ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, and has most recently launched a children’s clothing line called LemLem . Her substance augments her style, which is fierce and confident without being brash, and she serves as an excellent role model for young women looking to merge high form and high function. Another look I (very) briefly flirted with from the red pant thrift store was a bright red t-shirt with the word “Hucci” emblazoned in gold across the front in the classic Gucci font. I was getting ready for an eighth grade dance, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. It is now the single most cringe-worthy thing I’ve ever festooned my body with, and was worn with hooker boots and black pants, natch. It quite vigorously ended up back at the same thrift shop I’d bought it from (Avalon Exchange in St. Louis, if any of you are now inspired to go shopping) probably less than a week after I’d purchased it. Similarly, it’s not that the decade hasn’t offered up as many turquoise polyester tube tops and Britneys as it has Aerin Lauders and inspired Lanvin/Gap getups, it’s just that they are not the taste I’m left with as a new decade begins, not what I’ve culled, and not where I’ll return. So let’s all move onward and upward, do the ladies who’ve inspired us these past ten years proud, and perhaps try and usurp them in the next decade with something a bit better than poppy-colored hiphuggers. More on Sex and the City
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Elizabeth Nicholas: What The Aughts Taught Us: The Decades Most Stylish Women
Sorry, I’ve just lost the will to blog. Maybe it happened New Year’s Day when I found a piece of confetti in my stool. Or maybe it was brewing sometime before that epic event, when the realization that, in our country as we now experience it, the febrile intoxication of hope and change has reaped the cold despair of thwarted expectation and bitter frustration. Happy new year! Government has finally revealed itself to be professional wrestling for ugly people in business suits (except for that hunky John Thune. Wouldn’t he and Sarah Palin throw some good looking calves? I see a future first couple!). It’s very exciting but staged to within an inch of its approximation of life: lots of rivalries and fouls with occasional moments of authentic drama, but at the end of the day the outcome seems lamely predetermined. Did we really think the young man from Chicago would actually change the way the game is played, merely by being inspiring, articulate, highly educated, benevolently ambitious and a vaccination against every diseased policy the previous administration and its grassroots apparatchiks spewed forth? I belch a resounding “yes”. But the game, it seems, is bigger than him, bigger than all of The People. Because it uses The People. It uses them as fuel and as fodder; it bleeds the hope from them and substitutes it with fear; it is run by tyrants steeped in a tradition of oppression. Only they don’t oppress with the immediate application of armies and gulags and stormtroopers. They oppress gradually, slowly, steadily…with sugar. They suppress with intoxicants. They dazzle the eye with semblances of old pride and faded glory, both too diluted to have any practical effect upon a sated and dispirited population. They have successfully bamboozled The People into having faith in a system which is incapable of reciprocation. And so my president, for whom I have the utmost respect, is the most visible of dupes. Hell, given his savvy, he probably even knows he and his country have been rendered incontrovertibly, tragically superfluous. Yeah, it’s easy to lose the will to blog when the game’s in the bag.
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Steven Weber: Blah-g
In the year ahead, national campaign coverage will be focused almost entirely on the Congressional midterm elections. With Republicans poised to win a substantial number of seats in the House, and at least a few in the Senate, much of what happens in November will dictate the extent to which Obama will be able to push the rest of his legislative agenda through the final two years of his first term. But with regard to the long term sustainability of Democratic majorities on the hill, the race that matters most in November isn’t one for Congress at all. It’s the gubernatorial race playing out in the unlikely state of Texas. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, one of the state’s most popular Republicans, is challenging Gov. Rick Perry, the first time ever that a sitting Senator has come home to challenge a sitting Governor. That primary is expected to be well-funded and brutal. The right is already taking sides - Dick Cheney is sticking with Hutchison. Sarah Palin is for Perry. Hutchison had originally intended to resign her seat in the Senate to concentrate on the governor’s race, which would have set up a special election to replace her. With a runoff system instead of a nominating contest, that would have given Democrats their best possible chance of taking that Senate seat. Houston Mayor Bill White, with his 80% approval ratings and excellent fundraising ability, seemed the perfect candidate. But pressure from her party and lagging poll numbers convinced Hutchison not to resign her seat. White, in turn, pulled out of the now non-existent special election, and turned his sights toward the governor’s race, where he will take on the winner of the Hutchison/Perry rough-and-tumble. If Bill White wins that race, he will be the first Democrat in the governor’s mansion since Anne Richards. And he’ll be the first in 20 years to preside over a statewide redistricting process. That can have huge implications for the national Democratic party. The 2010 midterms are by far, the least important of the decade. They occur in the same year as the census, just a year before the redistricting process in which districts will be completely redrawn for 2012. Some members of Congress are running in 2010 for seats that won’t exist come 2012. How that redistricting plays out is far more important than the outcome in 2010. And that’s where Texas comes in. The Census Bureau recently released population projections that suggest that Texas could pick up as many as four Congressional seats after the census. Those will have to be placed where the population growth occurred, which is invariably among minority communities in major urban areas. These will be Democratic districts. It’s also an opportunity to rid the state of the Congressional map drawn mid-decade by Tom Delay and the Republican-controlled state legislature, a map which caused Democrats to lose 7 seats through gerrymandering shenanigans. All told, if the Democrats have a seat at the negotiating table during the Texas redistricting process, they could pick up as many as 10 seats, perhaps more. Bill White is the best chance Democrats have to get that seat at that table. The state legislature draws the map, subject to the governor’s veto. The Republicans solidly control the state senate, but only hold a two vote margin in the state house. Democrats could find their seat at the table be retaking the state house in 2010, but in this political climate, the odds of that are relatively slim. It will no doubt be an uphill climb for White, as well. Texas is going through major transformational changes, to be sure. It’s a majority-minority state; all of its major cities voted for Obama except for Forth Worth. Obama lost the state by only 10 points without ever campaigning there. But the transformation of Texas from red to solidly purple is not yet complete, and the impact of the changes that have already taken place is least on display during an off-year election. Depressed turnout among minorities and young voters is exaggerated, leaving Democrats to contend among a much more hostile electorate. Still, if anyone is up to the challenge, it may be White. As mayor of Houston, he was seen as a business-friendly moderate with strong management skills and a keen ability to execute effectively. Among the many styles of Democrats, his may be the only one palatable statewide. In the end, he may not be able to win the seat on his own, but if Rick Perry emerges from the primary bloodied by his formidable opponent, it might just give White the outside shot he needs. Win that race, and much of the damage done during this year’s midterms will be sure to be erased just two years down the line. More on Rick Perry
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Dylan Loewe: The Most Important Race of 2010
Well, the answer is ambivalent, bemused, but also a bit flattered and, in a certain perverse way, validated in my argument. In a recent article in The Weekly Standard.Com with the headline “Kristol: Merry Christmas from the Huffington Post!” neoconservative intellectual, and sometimes advisor to George W. Bush, John McCain and Sarah Palin, William Kristol writes : “In the generous and forgiving spirit of Christmas, let me recommend an article from The Huffington Post. It’s an interesting piece by Miles Mogulescu, on “The Democrats’ Authoritarian Health ‘Reform’ Bill and the Ascendency of Corporatism in the Democratic Party,” and suggests an increasing degree of left-right agreement in diagnosing and disdaining President Obama’s corporatist liberalism.” Kristol then provides an extensive redacted quotation from my referenced recent article in The Huffington Post in which I express concern about the growing corporatism in the Democratic Party and the increasing appearance that Obama is as much President of Wall Street as of Main Street; warn that, as a result, Obama may be losing not only the left but the center; and caution that the political effect could be a revival of the seemingly brain-dead Republican Party in the 2010 and 2012 elections. Kristol then quotes the end of my article : “And Mogulescu concludes: ‘I worry for the future not only of progressives and Democrats, but of the country. President Palin in 2012?’ To which I [Kristol] say: From the Huffington Post’s website to God’s ear! Merry Christmas!” To which I respond: Nominate Palin in 2012? From the Weekly Standard’s website to God’s ear! Happy New Year, Bill! Aside from Kristol’s failure to acknowledge the irony of my quotation on Palin, I only hope that the Republican Party is so stupid as to nominate her for President in 2012, or for Palin’s success in the Republican primaries to force the eventual nominee so far to the right that he or she becomes unelectable. That may be the necessary ingredient in energizing the Democratic base and getting it to the polls, as well keeping independents in the Democratic column–even if both are somewhat disillusioned with Obama–and ensuring the reelection Barack Obama, even if his popularity has declined from 2008. And yes, even if Obama continues to govern as more of a corporatist liberal than a progressive liberal, Obama’s reelection would be far preferable to the election of a right-wing Republican or the return to the Bush years of absolutist free market economics and neocon foreign policy. So go ahead Bill, nominate Palin–or a Palin-influenced candidate–and make my day. That said, Kristol, one of the leading neocon intellectuals, makes some interesting points that Democrats and progressives ignore at their peril: 1. Kristol implies that Democrats passing a corporatist health “reform” bill which subsidizes private health insurance and drug companies and uses the power of the IRS to force citizens to buy a private product may not be perceived by voters as advancing their interests and could help revitalize the Republican Party. Kristol uses too many ellipses (…) in quoting from my article , so let me quote the key passages on the health care bill more completely. “If Barack Obama and today’s Congressional Democrats were passing Social Security for the first time, instead of creating a public program, they would likely be mandating that every American buy an annuity from a private, profit-driven Wall Street firm like Goldman Sachs (who would keep 15 for overhead, profits and executive salaries) with the IRS serving as Wall Street’s collection agency… Democrats and liberals once stood for providing a social safety net through government programs like Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance, which were administered by government employees for the benefit of the American people and not by private companies for the benefit of their shareholders… Democrats in Congress, under the leadership of Barack Obama, have now turned that principal on its head and made health care neither a right, nor a privilege, but an obligation for individual citizens and a government mandated profit center for private corporation. For the first time in American history, Democrats are about to pass a bill that uses the coercive power of the federal government to force every American–simply by virtue of being an American–to purchase the products of a private company. At heart, the Democrats’ solution to 48 million uninsured is to force them to buy inadequate private insurance–with potentially high deductibles and co-pays and no price controls–or be fined by the federal government. In effect, this represents an historic defeat for the type of liberalism represented by the New Deal and the Great Society and the ascendancy of a new type of corporatist liberalism.” Somewhat ironically, there’s a degree of agreement between the libertarian right and the progressive left that government coercion to buy a private product is wrong. But the agreement ends there. Conservatives like Kristol believe that health care should be left to the free market. Progressives want a stronger role for government, ideally supporting the extension of Medicare to all Americans, and at least demanding a robust public option to compete with private insurance and reduce premiums. Regardless, from a practical political point of view, Kristol may be right to gloat that, when average voters eventually realize the coercive corporatist nature of the Democrats’ health “reform” bill, the result could be a revival of Republican fortunes. 2. From a broader political perspective, Kristol may be correct that the ascendancy of corporatism in the Democratic Party may reinvigorate support for Republicans. He quotes my Huffington Post article again: “As it increasingly appears that Obama is the President of Wall Street, and not the President of Main Street, he is losing not only the left but the center. It’s a myth that the path to winning the popular center in American politics is moving to the corporate center. If the only political choice given to American voters is using their taxes to help big government subsidize wealth corporations, or the Republican message of shrinking the size of government and cutting their taxes, many who voted for Obama will return to the fold of the seemingly brain-dead Republican Party.” In our roles as objective political analysts, Kristol and I foresee the same results from a corporatist-dominated Democratic Party. Of course as political partisans, Kristol sees it with glee and I see it with dread. 3. Perhaps the most interesting and provocative note in Kristol’s article is the suggestion that there may be “an increasing degree of right-left agreement in diagnosing and distaining President Obama’s corporatist liberalism.” Oddly enough, progressives and certain conservatives may agree with each other more than they do with corporatist Democrats and Republicans in opposing many of the economic policies of Geithner, Summers and Bernanke in their continued use of taxpayer-backed funds to subsidize the toxic assets of the big financial institutions who in turn pass-out multi-million dollar bonuses while being asked to do little for the country in return. On specific issues, there may even be opportunities for left-right alliances. As progressive blogger Jane Hamsher has pointed out , “Many recent measures have been bringing liberal progressives and conservative libertarians together to join forces in opposition…Individuals on both sides of the political spectrum agree on very little, but they do share both a tremendous concern for the corporatist control of government that politicians in both parties seem hell-bent on achieving.” Among the examples cited by Hamsher: • Liberal Democrat Alan Grayson and Conservative Republican Ron Paul co-sponsoring a bill with 317 House co-sponsors to audit the Federal Reserve, which passed the House Financial Service Committee 43-26 over the objections of the Treasury Department. • The liberal Campaign for America’s Future sponsoring letters to the Senate opposing the reconfirmation of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke until such an audit is conducted, signed by such liberals as progressive economists James Galbraith and Dean Baker, liberal blogger Chris Bowers of OpenLeft, and Campaign for America’s Future President and Huffington Post blogger Robert Borosage, and by such conservatives as Grover Norquist of the right-wing Americans for Tax Reform and Phyllis Schafley who founded the conservative Eagle Forum. • A December 21 letter opposing health care mandates which was signed by the likes of Tim Carpenter of Progressive Democrats of America and Bob Fertik of Democrats.com on the left, and Grover Norquist and Duane Parde of the National Taxpayers Union on the right. • Conservative Senator Jim Bunning and America’s only democratic socialist Senator Bernie Sanders joining in placing a hold on the Bernanke nomination until the Fed has been audited. Now this budding left-right alliance needs to move beyond prominent individuals signing letters to the grassroots. For example, when I was a young progressive community organizer in Minneapolis soon after I graduated college some years ago, I helped form a left-right alliance between anti-tax conservatives (the precursor of the current tea party movement) and progressive liberals to defeat a proposal supported by corporatist Democrats and Republicans to use taxpayer money to subsidize the profits of the Minnesota Vikings by building them a heavily government-subsidized domed stadium. Low-tax conservatives and anti-corporate progressives–over the objections of the established Democratic and Republican Parties–convinced a majority of Minneapolis voters that their taxes shouldn’t be used to subsidize the profits of a private corporation. (I’ll be writing more about this experience, and its implications for today, in a coming Huffington Post article.) So, in the generous and forgiving spirit Christmas and New Years, I’d like to challenge Bill Kristol to join together with progressives and principled conservatives to support a movement to a reenact a version of the Glass-Steagall Act to break up the big financial institutions like Citicorp, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs andto separate federally insured commercial banks from speculative investment banks, as well as joining with the British and French in putting a 50% excise tax on 2009 bank bonuses, over the opposition of corporatist Democrats and Republicans alike. How about joining a left, right and center alliance to bring a million Americnans into the streets this spring to protest the greed of the big banks and their enablers in Washington? Happy New Year. (Note: I’ll be writing a continuing series of blogs and articles on the dangers corporatist liberalism in the Democratic Party in The Huffington Post and elsewhere in 2010. Please look for them.) More on Health Care
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Miles Mogulescu: How Does it Feel to be Praised by Bill Kristol for Critiquing Corporatism in the Democratic Party?
20th Century Musical Geniuses… Sir Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999) was a Jewish American-born violinist, violist, and conductor who spent most of his adult life in the United Kingdom. He began playing the violin at age three, and his first public performance, with the San Francisco Symphony, occurred when he was only seven. During World War II, he performed more than 500 concerts for the Armed Forces, which earned him the French Legion of Honor and Croix de Lorraine, the Belgium Order of the Crown and Order of Leopold, the Order of Merit from West Germany, and the Order of the Phoenix from Greece. He also received more than fifty additional honors, including an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II (England’s highest honor for a non-British subject). Due to ailments he experienced from the strain of performing and traveling, he began practicing yoga and meditation and using homeopathic medicines. He became the honorary president of the Hahnemann Society, a leading British homeopathic organization. In early 1988, I sent him a copy of a book I had written on homeopathy. He responded: Homeopathy attracted me because it is so subtle, so discreet and so effective in approach to the whole human being, and I have certainly met some remarkable people who practice it. For me it is a personal preference as I try to steer clear of all doctors, as few have this commitment, and it is because I find that the world deals these days so much in terms of size and mass and volume and is always striving for bigger mass and bigger volume. The mentality that seems to dominate is meeting one mass with a greater one in order to overcome the lesser. This is, of course, nonsense, as any thinking human being knows, for it does not apply to human life. Many people close to me have benefited from homeopathy. (July 5, 1988) More publicly, he asserted with great succinctness: “Homeopathy is one of the rare medical approaches which carries no penalties–only benefits.” Sir Yehudi further acknowledged that homeopathy’s survival has not been easy as it has had to “withstand the assaults of established medical practice for over 100 years” (Kindred Spirits, 1989). Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993) was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, singer, and composer. Along with Charlie Parker, Gillespie was a major figure in the development of bebop and modern jazz, and played a major role in defining Afro-Cuban jazz. After being introduced to homeopathic medicine by his protégé, Jon Faddis, Dizzy had such remarkable experiences that he once told Faddis: “I’ve had two revelations in my life. The first was bebop; the second was homeopathy.” Ravi Shankar (1920-) is a Bengali-Indian master musician of the sitar. He played a seminal role in the introduction of classical Indian music to Western culture. Ravi Shankar was another appreciator of homeopathy who not only sought homeopathic treatment wherever he lived but also on the road doing concerts. One Boston homeopath who treated him after a concert remarked how open he was with all around him about his strong preference for homeopathic treatment over all other forms of medicine. Tina Turner (1939-), often called the queen of rock & roll, is an American pop, rock, and soul singer who has won seven Grammies. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It is hard to imagine, but during the early 1970s this powerful woman was literally brought to her knees by a diagnosis of tuberculosis. She initially sought conventional medical treatment, but continued to suffer, until she sought care from Chandra Sharma, MD, a homeopathic doctor in England. Tina considered him her doctor and her friend. He passed away in 1986, and she wrote in her autobiography: “I miss him more than I can say.” Tina also noted: “Fortunately, his son, Rajandra, was his protege and is carrying on his work” (Turner, 1986, 156). In 1985, Vogue magazine reported on Tina’s longtime interest in homeopathy and Buddhism: “Tina Turner looks about thirty-six, and her skin is flawless. She does not deprive herself. She sips wine at dinner, does not diet, does not take vitamins. If she’s feeling particularly stressed, she consults a homeopathic doctor” (Orth, 1985). In her autobiography, she wrote: “Life in the fast lane wore me down, changes in my diet and homeopathy saved me. Thanks to my Homeopathic physician, for bringing me back to health and always being available for me” (Turner, 1986). Paul McCartney (1942-), formally known as Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE, is best known as a member of the Beatles, and later, as leader of Wings. He is a British singer, musician, and songwriter who the Guiness Book of World Records lists as the most successful composer in popular music history. He has written or co-written more than fifty top-ten hits, and innumerable other music artists and orchestras have recorded his songs. Paul’s first wife, Linda Eastman (1941-1998), introduced her husband to vegetarianism in 1975, and she authored several best-selling vegetarian cookbooks. In a 1992 interview, Linda McCartney asserted: “We never go anywhere without our homeopathic remedies. We often make use of them–and that goes for Paul too” (Glew, 1992). Linda’s interest in homeopathy began when a friend broke her arm, and Linda was duly impressed at how fast the injury healed with homeopathic treatment. But it wasn’t until she had her own case of tonsillitis that she actually tried homeopathy herself. She was prescribed a round of antibiotics that worked but only temporarily. She then went to a homeopathic doctor. Not only did her symptoms go away rapidly, they never returned. She said, “We couldn’t cope without homeopathy.” Sadly, Linda McCartney died in 1998 due to breast cancer. Roger Daltrey (1944- ) is the lead singer for The Who. In May, 2008, Daltrey revealed to the Times of London that homeopathic medicine saved his infant son (Naith, 2008). Daltrey revealed, “I had a very, very dramatic experience with my son when he was nine months old. He had gastro difficulties, started throwing up, could not keep any food down and turned into skin and bone. At the hospital, they did every test to him, and in the end they just handed him back to me. My wife and I were in bits. My poor baby. The kid was dying. It was terrifying. I thought, there’s got to be something. I’d heard of homeopathy, so I found a local guy in the Yellow Pages and took my boy there. He gave him some powders. Within two weeks he was putting weight on, keeping the food down. The trouble recurred periodically for a couple of years, but he’s now 27, a fit and healthy young man.” Daltrey further explained that he has seen other miraculous results from homeopathic treatment, “The bizarre thing is that I’ve got a chiropractor friend in LA whose baby landed up in exactly the same state. He thought he was about to lose him. But I recommended homoeopathic remedies, and he recovered too. That’s God’s honest truth. Now I bet doctors would say, ‘Oh they’d have got better anyway’. But I can’t believe that.” Pete Townshend (1945-) is an influential English rock guitarist and songwriter who is best known as guitarist for The Who. Townshend has authored more than 100 songs, and the rock opera Tommy. Townshend suffers from partial deafness and tinnitus due to exposure to loud music during concerts and through the use of headphones. His condition is attributed in part to an infamous 1967 television appearance during which fellow Who musician, Keith Moon, set off a large amount of explosives inside his drums while Townshend was standing in front of them. In 2000, Pete told a magazine reporter: “I’ve had some treatment for it. I found a homeopathic practitioner who has really helped reduce it tremendously” (Wilkerson, 2006, Chapter 18, note six). Cher (1946-) is a total entertainer and has won a Grammy (1999), an Oscar (1989), three Golden Globe awards (1974, 1984, and 1989), and an Emmy (2003). In 1987 Cher was struck by a debilitating viral illness that manifested in chronic fatigue and bouts of pneumonia. She was disabled from working for two years: “I tried regular medicine and it just didn’t work. Doctors said any illness was all in my head. People thought I was crazy.” Then she decided to do something different: “I turned to a Sikh homeopathic doctor, almost in desperation. He started doing homeopathic stuff with herbs and vitamin therapy. Many doctors didn’t believe in all that back then. Within four months, he’d got me up and back on the road again.” In addition to seeking care from this unnamed Sikh doctor, Cher sought treatment from a French homeopathic doctor, Dr. Marcel Dinnet. According to famed gossip columnist Liz Smith, Dr. Dinnet is reported to have 10,000 devoted patients in Los Angeles, including Sarah Ferguson (the Duchess of York) and Elizabeth Taylor (Smith, 1988). Cher pledged her support for the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital after seeing a TV news report that the government was slashing the city’s health budget by 58 million pounds (around $100 million). She intended her donation of $24,000 to encourage others to pledge cash to help keep the hospital open. The hospital treats 500 in-patients a year. The hospital’s staff and patients have sharply criticized the budget reduction for both medical and economic reasons. They asserted that closing this important natural medicine hospital could lead to higher health care costs for the Greater Glasgow Health Board. Cher further asserted: “I’m not quite sure exactly what that will mean but I’d be prepared to do anything I can to help.” (Sloan, 2004). (NOTE: The purpose of the above article is not to discuss or provide details about the scientific evidence for homeopathy. For readers who want references to scientific research on homeopathy, I encourage you to visit my other blogs on clinical subjects (especially my blog on ” Respiratory Allergies ” and ” Medical Child Abuse “). People with a serious interest in homeopathic clinical research will benefit from subscribing to my eBook, Homeopathic Family Medicine: Evidence Based Nanopharmacology , which provides reference to and description of almost 200 clinical trials. People who want references to and descriptions of several hundred basic science studies (including research on plants, animals, in vitro, and physics and chemistry studies), go to: http://avilian.co.uk/. Clearly, people who assume that there is “no research that confirms the biological activity or the clinical efficacy of homeopathic medicines” are simply showing their ignorance of the body of scientific evidence.) References Albrecht, T. Letters to Beethoven and Other Correspondence. Vol. 3: 1824-1828. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1996. Beethoven, L. van. Briefwechsel Gesamtausgabe, Band 6, 1825-1827. Munchen: G. Henle, 1996. Beethoven, L. van. Ludwig van Beethovens Konversationshefte, Band 8, Heft 91-103. Leipzig: VEB Deutscher four Musik, 1981. Collins, S. The man who wants to make Tina Turner live until she’s 120, Sunday Mirror, November 7, 1999. Glew, J. “We couldn’t cope without homeopathy,” Health and Homoeopathy, Summer 1992, 6-7. Hayden, D. Pox: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis. New York: Basic Books, 2003. Hellenbroich, A. In Celebration of Ludwig van Beethoven’s 225th Birthday, Fidelio, Winter 1995. In Style, November 2004. Kindred Spirits, Daily Telegraph, August 12, 1989. Mai, F. Diagnosing Genius: The Life and Death of Beethoven. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University, 2007. Maretzki, T. W., and Seidler, E. Biomedicine and naturopathic healing in West Germany: a historical and ethnomedical view of a stormy relationship. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, December 1985, 9,4:383-421. Naish, J. Homeopathy Saved My Son. The Times. May 1, 2008. http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/celebrity/article3857464.ece Orth, M. Tina, Vogue, May 1985, p. 318. Schweisheimer, W. Beethoven’s Physicians, Musical Quarter, 1945, 31:289-298. Sloan, B. Cher’s Ward Rage: Exclusive Star’s Fury Over Bid to Close Scots Homeopathic Hospital, Sunday Mail, May 16, 2004. Takacs. 2007. http://ums.org/assets/programbooks/Takacs_Programbook.pdf Turner, T. I, Tina. New York: Avon, 1986. Ullman, D. Homeopathic Family Medicine. Berkeley: Homeopathic Educational Services, 2009. (This is a comprehensive and regularly updated review and description of clinical research in homeopathy. Available as a one-time download or as a subscription from www.homeopathic.com.) Ullman, D. The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy. Berkeley: North Atlantic, 2007. Ullman, D. The Curious Case of Charles Darwin and Homeopathy. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2009 Oct 29. Wagner, R. My Life, Volume I. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1911. Watson, D. Richard Wagner: A Biography. New York: McGraw Hill, 1979. Wilkerson, M. Amazing Journey: The Life of Pete Townshend. Lulu Press, 2006. (This specific story was told to Q Magazine’s David Cavanaugh in January 2000.) Dana Ullman, MPH, is America’s leading spokesperson for homeopathy and is the founder of www.homeopathic.com . He is the author of 10 books, including his bestseller, Everybody’s Guide to Homeopathic Medicines . His most recent book is, The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy . Dana lives, practices, and writes from Berkeley, California. More on Health
Dana Ullman: 20th Century Musical Geniuses Who Loved Homeopathy
I have to admit that each time I watch a re-run of Sex and The City , I’m jealous of Carrie Bradshaw’s friendships. The foxy quartet seems to have infinite time and opportunity to sit, talk, and laugh. For me, carving out time to meet a friend for a leisurely lunch feels like a guilty indulgence even before I look at the menu. To tell the truth, I’m so pressured by the unfinished tasks on my to-do list that I even hesitate to take the time to catch up with friends by phone. Feelings like this are eerily reminiscent of the days when I was a student weighed down by homework assignments. Now, I’m still driven by deadlines and responsibility. I know what you’re thinking: A “friendship doctor” who doesn’t have time to nurture her own friendships? Mea culpa. It’s easy to get caught up in the stuff of life and forget what’s important. Even Sarah Jessica Parker isn’t the same person as the character she plays in the series either. In a recent interview in USA Weekend , the busy wife, mother, actor and producer admits that she, too, is envious of Carrie. “One of the many differences between myself and Carrie Bradshaw is that it’s as if she has 48 hours in the day,” she says. “She can really luxuriate in her friendships and nurture them by virtue of the choices she had made in terms of career and family.” Certainly, the friendship patterns of the last two generations of women are infinitely more complex and dynamic than the ones that preceded them. Our lives are filled with more possibilities. When I surveyed more than 1500 women for my book, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend , women repeatedly echoed the sentiment that having one best friend isn’t enough—particularly if that best friend moves away, gets married, changes careers, gets divorced, has children, becomes widowed, retires or her life circumstances change significantly. The dynamic lives of two close friends rarely follow parallel paths. There is abundant research that suggests that close friendships are essential to a woman’s health and emotional well-being; these vital ties enable them to become better wives, mothers, daughters, and workers. To maintain these relationships, though, women need to create and maintain face-to-face rituals with their female friends. This can take the form of a book club, cooking club; planning regular get-togethers; joining a civic, political or religious group; having a weekly game night (bridge, Scrabble, Bunco, or mah-jongg); or planning periodic girlfriend getaways (if your friends are out-of-towners). One woman told me that she and her best friend have a regular “date night,” penciled in on their calendars each week. The choices we make depend on our personalities, interests and life situations. But to make life-affirming and joyful friendships that stick, there’s no substitute for putting in the time. We all need to develop routines to incorporate friendships into the ordinary fabric of our lives and make them a priority–just like Carrie and the girls. More on Sex and the City
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Dr. Irene S. Levine: Why Sarah Jessica Parker is jealous of Carrie Bradshaw
In 2000, my first year living in New York City, I attended over two hundred different theater productions. This year, I clocked in barely a hundred. Below are my top five in no particular order. In The Next Room or the vibrator play : A beautiful production (directed by Les Walters) that examines the marriage of a doctor who invented an early electric vibrator. Sarah Ruel offers a smart and funny look at how technology can affect our personal lives on many levels. Currently playing at Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre, closes Jan. 10th. Surrender : The International WOW Company produced this fully immersive military experience. The cast led the audience through basic training (complete with push ups) and into a simulated war environment. Afterwards, we’re integrated back into society. While occasionally a tad heavy-handed, it was a profound experience. Performed Jan. 7th to Jan. 25th. Read my interview with director Josh Fox. The Temperamentals : A fascinating Mad Men-esq look at Harry Hay, an often forgotten character in gay history, and the early Los Angeles gay rights movement. Reopening at New World Stages on Feb. 10th, prior limited run June, 10th ‘09 through Aug. 23rd 2009. Ruined : A powerful tale of women struggling to live in the Congo won the Pulitzer Price and deserved a Broadway transfer. Performed Feb. 10th to Sept 6th at Manhattan Theatre Club. My Wonderful Day : Alan Ayckbourn’s new play is a surprisingly contemporary tale from a 70 year-old playwright/director. Ayesha Antoine’s winning performance as an 8 year-old observing adult chaos was a delight. Played Nov. 11th - Dec. 13th at 59E59 Theaters. Looking forward to what New York City theatre has to offer in the year & decade ahead.
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Ryan J. Davis: Best Theatre of 2009
Worst decade: The Republican Party, from Karl Rove’s pronouncement of a “permanent majority” to total collapse and minority status. Worst performance of the year: The Democratic Party , who after securing the White House and a Democratic majority have been so brazenly arrogant and politically incompetent as to have allowed a conservative comeback one year after people thought, said and wrote that conservatism was dead. Biggest winner of 2009: Sarah Palin . No man could have bailed on his governorship to find himself in national news continually, with supporters growing daily, while orchestrating it all from a Facebook page, and putting so much fear into the DNC that they put out an oppo memo on her, even though she’s not running for anything (until 2012, that is) . Biggest winner of the decade: Hillary Clinton. There are no equals for this one. After being dragged in front of Starr’s tribunal in the 1990s, previously pronounced dead after “Hillarycare,” Mrs. Clinton became a highly approved New York senator, which she jettisoned into a presidential candidacy, landing as Secretary of State (a job she’s managed far better than she did her ‘08 campaign) , because even after the brutal primary battle Pres. Obama knew she was invaluable to have at his side, ending the decade with an approval rating higher than Barack Obama’s is today. Most wonderful to watch in 2009: First Lady Michelle Obama, who has re-envisioned what it means to be first lady, from her guns to White House garden, not to mention her community service and the outreach to the DC community, amidst a whirling schedule as a mom of two wonderful girls. Mrs. Obama has exhibited pure, unadulterated class, non-pretension and female power in a way that no other first lady has done. Biggest credibility collapse of the decade: John McCain, who began the decade as a maverick, much sought after Republican renegade, but who is now nothing more than a fading shadow of his former independence. Disappointment of the decade: That Al Gore didn’t take the oath of office in 2001. Biggest fall: Tiger Woods, because a cheating louse is one thing, but a sex addicted wee hours troll, while his kids grow up with an absentee dad, is inexcusable. Highest ride of the decade: Fox News Channel. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, no one can beat ‘em. Schmuck of the decade: John Edwards, whose story is so filled with embarrassing, mortifying and stupefyingly irresponsible elements that anyone who ever bought into his con should be unqualified to work in politics. Biggest disappointment of 2009: Sen. Russ Feingold, for voting against mandatory coverage of pap smears and mammograms, because preventative care for women is too expensive. Most powerful of 2009: Nancy Pelosi, who, love her or hate her, stood on a line to lead. Biggest audience “screw you” of the decade: “The Sopranos” ending, with any number of choices possible other than the lame ass, lazy, cop out, unimaginative, ruined the whole series, won’t buy the DVDs, ending that David Chase & company delivered to the show’s devoted fans. (Preferred ending: They all land in Sicily where Tony can exact revenge against Furio, unless Carmella runs away with him first.) Most wonderful discovery of 2009: The way people in Virginia decorate their homes at Christmastime. Not with bright lights, though some do that; and not with big extras on the lawn, though a few do that too. Most simply reclaim a smidgen of colonial times by putting wreathes in every window, some adding lights, with spotlights on front doors, taking the onlooker back to when the Commonwealth of Virginia became so great. Biggest rise of the decade: New media, those of us who exist beyond your brother’s blog, and who helped take out traditional media , with the heights that we can climb still unseen. Most stupendous comeback after aortic valve replacement: Robin Williams, in a tour de force for HBO that will knock you out. Best political performance of the decade: Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. Most important news show of the decade: Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show.” Best TV pleasures of 2009: It’s a tie: “True Blood” and “Glee,” with “Dexter” close behind. Worst ending of 2009: The Hollywood film industry. Most sobering realization this decade: The U.S. doesn’t make squat anymore and no one has the vision of John F. Kennedy to jump start an innovation economy, green or otherwise, to turn the sinking ship of the U.S. of A. economy around. Walk softly and carry a big stick award of the decade: SecDef Robert Gates. Rise of the decade: From talk radio to Senator Al Franken, a man who went on to show Democrats how power is used, while infuriating Rush Limbaugh in the process, as Franken fought to pass the rape law against private contractors, standing up for women in the military. Suckers of the decade: National Organization of Women, and Planned Parenthood, who got beat by a guy named Bart Stupak. Most overwrought reaction of the decade: The political left’s bellyaching about Jack Bauer and “24.” Scariest moment of the decade: George W. Bush’s reaction when he found out we’d been hit on 9/11. Happiest moment of 2009: The Beltway Christmas blizzard; where a wonderland of snow transported us into an alternate universe; where neighbors became friends and no other place existed, time seemed to stop, work wasn’t so important, cocktails tasted juicier and wine fuller, difficult recipes delivered in a snap, while the fireplace burned brightly; all of which was gone in the rain that fell the day after Christmas, delivering us all in a slow slide back into reality, shifting the two feet of holiday snow and white wonder to an always accessible dream now tucked carefully away in a safe space in our minds, making us wonder if it had actually happened at all, though we knew it did, because when we shut our eyes we can still see and sense its magic. The year is over. The decade done. Grab a new dream and deliver it to yourself. Happy New Year to everyone at Huffington Post. It’s hard to imagine what we’d all do without you. Taylor Marsh (video) is a political analyst, with podcasts available on iTunes. More on Sarah Palin
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Taylor Marsh: Best & Worst, From Sarah Palin to ‘The Sopranos’