Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Howard Dean: Obama's efforts to court conservatives are "a waste of time"

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has a message for President Barack Obama: Reclaim progressive voters or risk both re-election and the future of the Democratic Party for years to come.

Dean, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and one-time presidential contender, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Obama has "clearly upset members of his base" on issues including ending tax cuts for the rich and allowing not moving more quickly to allow gays to serve openly in the military. Obama stands to lose both the presidency and his party's credibility if he doesn't reverse course before 2012, Dean said.

"You take care of the people who sent you to the office," he said in an interview. "There are hundreds of thousands of people under 30 who slept on floors for two years to make sure Barack got elected. You can't turn your back on those people because if you do, it's going to be hard to find any friends."

Dean, whose 2004 presidential bid was largely fueled online by young, activist voters, is a prominent spokesman for the party's progressive wing. While he has frequently criticized the president, Dean announced through a spokeswoman earlier this month that he would not mount a primary challenge against Obama in 2012.

He dismissed Obama's efforts to court conservatives as "a waste of time" even as the president was meeting with Republican congressional leaders at the White House for the first time since the midterm elections.

Jim McDermott on The ED Show: "The Republicans don't care about the unemployed" (video)

MSNBC-ED Show, video (08:16).

Greenwald: "If you haven't, watch this BBC segment on WikiLeaks" (video)

Digby, with video (05:38):
Greenwald's commentary on the pushback against Wikileaks among our elite overlords is excellent and you should read the whole thing. Like him, the thing that leaves me the most gobsmacked is the media, which seems to be the most upset over the idea that the Government is having a hard time keeping its secrets. I think we can all see how odd that is --- journalism being a field which is ostensibly about speaking truth to power and all that drivel.

This may be the best illustration of the point, also courtesy of Greenwald, in which the "diplomat" is the one who argues for transparency while the "journalist" (the editor of the New York Times as it happens) defends clearing their reporting with the government before reporting it:

If you find this subject intriguing, I would highly recommend that you read this mindblowing essay on Julian Assange's philosophy. Yes, he has one. And it's radical and it's interesting although nobody seems to be interested in it. All I hear is the argument about whether or not it's good for national security or whether it can be called real journalism. What I don't hear about is what it is Wikileaks is trying to accomplish. I suppose most of the interested parties who lead our conversation aren't comfortable with that. And you can understand why, when you read it. MORE...

Ann Wright, Greenwald (and Digby) on Wikileaks (with video)

Glenn Greenwald:
In sum, I seriously question the judgment of anyone who -- in the face of the orgies of secrecy the U.S. Government enjoys and, more so, the abuses they have accomplished by operating behind it -- decides that the real threat is WikiLeaks for subverting that ability. That's why I said yesterday: one's reaction to Wikileaks is largely shaped by whether or not one, on balance, supports what the U.S. has been covertly doing in the world by virtue of operating in the dark. I concur wholeheartedly with Digby's superb commentary on this point yesterday:

My personal feeling is that any allegedly democratic government that is so hubristic that it will lie blatantly to the entire world in order to invade a country it has long wanted to invade probably needs a self-correcting mechanism. There are times when it's necessary that the powerful be shown that there are checks on its behavior, particularly when the systems normally designed to do that are breaking down. Now is one of those times. . . MORE...

Howie P.S.: GRITtv has this interview with Ann Wright, video (15:50):
"We were told as diplomats, 'Don't ever put anything in a cable you wouldn't want on the front page of a newspaper.' It shows that they're a lot of arrogant people, that the system itself wasn't checking itself," says Ann Wright, Retired United States Army Colonel and former State Department official, of the latest documents released from WikiLeaks.

"Unemployment Extension: Senate Democrats Introduce Yearlong Reauthorization Of Extended Jobless Aid"

Arthur Delaney (HuffPo):
Without a reauthorization, the Labor Department estimates that 2 million Americans will lose their benefits over the course of December, with 800,000 facing a cutoff this week alone.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Sunday that Democrats may try to use unemployment benefits as part of a bargain reauthorizing soon-to-expire tax cuts for the rich.

The progressive Economic Policy Institute estimates that reauthorizing the benefits through 2011 would cost $65 billion. That's about 1.7 percent of the White House's projected 2011 budget. MORE...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Democracy Now! Panel Covers Wikileaks (video)

Democracy Now! video:
The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has begun releasing a giant trove of confidential U.S. diplomatic cables that is sending shockwaves through the global diplomatic establishment. Among the findings: Arab leaders are urging the United States to attack Iran; Washington and Yemen agreed to cover up the use of U.S. warplanes to bomb Yemen; the United States is using its embassies around the world as part of a global spy network and asking diplomats to gather intelligence; and much more. We host a roundtable discussion with Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg; Greg Mitchell, who writes the Media Fix blog at The Nation; Carne Ross, a British diplomat for 15 years who resigned before the Iraq war; and As’ad AbuKhalil, a professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. [includes rush transcript]

"Supreme Court Justice Stevens Opens Up" (video)

60 Minutes, video (12:22).

Howie P.S.:
Bush v. Gore and other historic cases (Citizens United, for example) are the topics under discussion.

Jed Lewison: "President Gimmick"

Jed Lewison (Daily Kos-front page):
What a lede:

WASHINGTON -- President Obama plans to announce a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers later Monday morning in his latest move intended to demonstrate concern over sky-high deficit spending.

So...instead of actually doing something real about "sky-high deficit spending" (like pulling out of Afghanistan and Iraq ahead of schedule), we get a symbolic gesture that will reduce federal spending by less than 0.05 percent.

And with that symbolic gesture we witness President Obama's unfortunate alter-ego, President Gimmick. President Gimmick isn't serious about solving any of our problems, he's only serious about demonstrating his desire to solve our problems. MORE...

Howie P.S.: Chris Bowers piles on (also on the front page of Kos):
As Barb already discussed, the Obama administration has endorsed a two-year freeze in federal employee pay. The proposed freeze will run through December 31st, 2012, less than two months after the 2012 elections.

Freezing the income of millions of federal employees will have negative effects on President Obama’s re-election campaign. And no, this is not because it will anger left-wing groups or discourage the activist base. Rather, it’s because this policy move will reduce the real disposable income of millions of voters through the 2012 elections. MORE...

(Updated) Fineman on "The Politics of Wikileaks"

Howard Fineman:
The cables depict us in this world not just a wounded giant, but not a giant at all: begging countries to house our prisoners of war; busying ourselves with trivial tasks (collecting frequent flier numbers) while North Korea ships missiles to Iran; being lied to by Syrians; relying on the good will of Saudis even as they fund Sunni terrorists and demand that we destroy Iran's nuclear capability; fretting about Pakistan's loosely-guarded enriched uranium while remaining unable to influence what they do; elevating leaders in Afghanistan we know to be corrupt or insane or both.

The dominant impression is of an Obama administration full of good intentions and shrewd people, but dealing with raging, contradictory forces it cannot control or even fully understand. MORE...
Howie P.S.: "Wikileaks shows up our media for their docility at the feet of authority" (IndependentUK):
Perhaps the most curious aspect of the Wikileaks revelations is not that they have happened, but it took someone as mercurial as Mr Assange to be the conduit. Rather than throwing stones, newspapers should be asking themselves why they did not have the wherewithal to hold truth to power.

GuardianUK: "...there is no national jeopardy in WikiLeaks' revelations"

Simon Jenkins (GuardianUK):
Anything said or done in the name of a democracy is, prima facie, of public interest. When that democracy purports to be "world policeman" – an assumption that runs ghostlike through these cables – that interest is global. Nonetheless, the Guardian had to consider two things in abetting disclosure, irrespective of what is anyway published by WikiLeaks. It could not be party to putting the lives of individuals or sources at risk, nor reveal material that might compromise ongoing military operations or the location of special forces.

In this light, two backup checks were applied. The US government was told in advance the areas or themes covered, and "representations" were invited in return. These were considered. Details of "redactions" were then shared with the other four media recipients of the material and sent to WikiLeaks itself, to establish, albeit voluntarily, some common standard.

The state department knew of the leak several months ago and had ample time to alert staff in sensitive locations. Its pre-emptive scaremongering over the weekend stupidly contrived to hint at material not in fact being published. Nor is the material classified top secret, being at a level that more than 3 million US government employees are cleared to see, and available on the defence department's internal Siprnet. Such dissemination of "secrets" might be thought reckless, suggesting a diplomatic outreach that makes the British empire seem minuscule. MORE...
Howie P.S.: McClatchy: "Officials may be overstating the danger from WikiLeaks."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bob Herbert: "Winning the Class War"

Bob Herbert:
Anyone who thinks there is something beneficial in this vast disconnect between the fortunes of the American elite and those of the struggling masses is just silly. It’s not even good for the elite.

There is no way to bring America’s consumer economy back to robust health if unemployment is chronically high, wages remain stagnant and the jobs that are created are poor ones. Without ordinary Americans spending their earnings from good jobs, any hope of a meaningful, long-term recovery is doomed. MORE...
Howie P.S.: Long story short...greed is bad for business,

"Do Body Scanners Make Us Safer?"

Bruce Schneier (NY Times op-ed):
A short history of airport security: We screen for guns and bombs, so the terrorists use box cutters. We confiscate box cutters and corkscrews, so they put explosives in their sneakers. We screen footwear, so they try to use liquids. We confiscate liquids, so they put PETN bombs in their underwear. We roll out full-body scanners, even though they wouldn’t have caught the Underwear Bomber, so they put a bomb in a printer cartridge. We ban printer cartridges over 16 ounces — the level of magical thinking here is amazing — and they’re going to do something else.

Take all the money spent on new security measures and spend it on investigation and intelligence.

This is a stupid game, and we should stop playing it. MORE...
Howie P.S.: Bruce Schneier is a security technologist and author of several books on computer security, including "Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World."

"Why Do Americans Keep Getting Suckered By Right-Wing Lies?"

Danny Goldberg:
Research is seductive because it has the aura of rationality. But public opinion forms in mysterious ways. Attempts at persuasion require experimentation, the risk of failure, crazy ideas and temperamental creative personalities. But if progressives want to “make” the President or other Democrats do anything, they will need to rely less on math men and more on mad men. MORE...
Howie P.S.: Danny Goldberg was CEO of Air America Radio from 2005 until mid-2006. He is president of Gold Village Entertainment and has worked in the music business since the late 1960s.

"Coalition of Resistance conference | School Student | 27 Nov 2010"

adycousins, video (04:50).

Howie P.S.: The recent student protests in England are associated with an organization, "Coalition of Resistance," that just sponsored a conference where this speech was delivered. H/t to Billy Bragg for the hook-up to the video and to Heidi for the hook-up to Billy.

Nas & Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley Perform "Dispear" (video)

JimmyKimmelLive, video (04:38):
Nas & Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley Perform "Dispear" on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Howie P.S.: I hear the words "elitist groups" and "Wall Street forces."

"Dear First Lady Michelle,"

NY Times (op-ed):
Ever since Barack Obama’s inauguration, the staff members and tutors at our nonprofit writing programs have marveled at how this presidency has percolated through student essays, stories and poems.

And it’s not just the president who has captured their attention — his wife, Michelle, has, too. From our students’ perspective, Mrs. Obama is glamorous but accessible, maternal but cool. They trust her.

So, earlier this fall, 826 National hosted a series of workshops inviting students to write to the first lady. The results were collected in the book “I Live Real Close to Where You Used to Live: Kids’ Letters to Michelle Obama (and to Sasha, Malia and Bo).”

Here is a sampling of what they came up with; some letters have been edited for space. — LAUREN HALL, grants director for 826 National.

Dear First Lady,

I am very vexed and sad about animal rights. Some cruel people abuse them or throw them away, and lots of animals are close to being extinct. When I think of how they feel, I cry for their suffering. Instead of complaining I decided to write ideas.

For starters, let’s not hunt endangered animals. If we hunt these animals, they’ll be extinct before we know all the information about them. I know that saying that we should all be vegetarians is too much, so how about we could just eat basic meats like cows, pigs, chicken and turkeys? That would help.

— JINHEE JUNG, age 11, Seattle


Frank Rich: "Still the Best Congress Money Can Buy"

Frank Rich:
There are plenty of Americans who don’t endorse Stewart’s indictment of cable news; there’s even a reasonably large group that doesn’t buy Beck’s perceived shortfall in American religiosity. But seemingly everyone is aggrieved about the hijacking of the political system by anonymous special interests. The most recent Times-CBS News poll found that an extraordinary 92 percent of Americans want full disclosure of campaign contributors — far many more than, say, believe in evolution. But they will not get their wish anytime soon. “I don’t think we can put the genie back in the bottle,” said David Axelrod as the Democrats prepared to play catch-up to the G.O.P.’s 2010 mastery of outside groups and clandestine corporate corporations. MORE....

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"Thanksgiving of the Drones"

Brian Cloughley
Just before I arrived in Vietnam in 1970, as a young, gung-ho, kill-a-commie-for-freedom, Australian army captain, President Richard Nixon of the United States ordered the invasion of a neighboring nation. Not a neighbor of America, of course, but a place that was neighbor to the country that had been taken over by America.

During the ten years' war in Vietnam US Presidents and their foolish and supposedly 'patriotic' patsies in the House and Senate sent 58,267 of their fellow citizens to their deaths. The Vietnam Memorial in Washington is a wonderful tribute, but it's also a dire monument to the everlasting condemnation of wicked morons who imagined they were supporting 'Freedom' by sending so many of their country's soldiers to be killed.

Just like in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. MORE...

A Belated "Happy Thanksgiving, America!" from Canada

From The Province (CA-Vancouver, BC).

Friday, November 26, 2010

"Sarah Palin’s Presidential Strategy, and the Economy She Depends On"

Robert Reich:
Monday night, Sarah Palin watched from the audience as daughter Bristol danced on ABC. Twenty-three million other Americans joined her from their homes. Tuesday, the former vice-presidential candidate started a 13-state book tour for her new book, “America By Heart,” which has a first printing of 1 million. Her reality show on TLC, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” is in its third week. Last Sunday she was the cover story in the New York Times magazine.

It’s all part of The Palin Strategy for becoming president in 2012 — or 2016 or 2020.

Republican leaders don’t believe it. “If she wanted the Republican nomination she’d be working on the inside,” one influential Republican told me a few days ago. “She’d be building relationships with Republican Senators and representatives, governors, and state party officials. She’d be smoothing the feathers she ruffled by backing Tea Party candidates. She’d be huddled with GOP kingmakers.” When I suggested she has a different strategy, the influential Republican smiled knowingly. “That’s how it’s done – how McCain, Bush, and everyone has done it. That’s the only way to do it. But all she really wants is celebrity.”

The Republican establishment doesn’t get it. Celebrity is part of The Palin Strategy – as is avoiding the insider game. She doesn’t want to do what Huckabee, Pawlenty, Gingrich, or Romney have to do. She has an outside game. MORE...

"Obama's Business" (with video)

MSNBC-The Last Word (Chris Hayes), video (17:02).

Howie P.S.: Adam Green, Roger Hodge and Ari Berman discuss ObamaWorld post-"shellacking" with Chris Hayes. H/t to Digby who comments
I watch a lot of cable news (so you don't have to) and have heard so much conventional wisdom by now that I can recite entire exchanges without even turning the sound on. It's always the same people, saying the same things.

That's why today I'm thankful for Chris Hayes, who does consistently unexpected and interesting work both in print and on television. Filling in for Lawrence O'Donnell last night, he hosted a segment that made me come in from the kitchen while I was preparing dinner, sit down and pay attention. It was an extended analysis of the Obama administration from a perspective you rarely see fully aired on television(although those of us who read blogs are familiar with it.)

Thanks Chris, for the most interesting panel discussion I've seen on cable in quite some time.

Taibbi on "Goldman, Obama, and the Tea Party"

Denver Nicks (The Daily Beast):
How did you feel on November 3, 2010?

I thought it was really telling that the day after the election the Republicans started talking about repealing the Volcker rule, which was the thing that got passed over the summer that banned proprietary trading by the banks. That perfectly encapsulated everything the Tea Party was about. The Tea Party was all this political energy that was directed at the bailouts. It was a lot of people that were angry about government spending. The Volcker Rule was specifically designed to prevent bailouts. The whole idea is to prevent federally insured banks from engaging in risky gambling behavior. So the day after all this anti-bailout fervor wins an election, the first thing they do is give this big favor to Wall Street, or at least they tried to. I think that summed up perfectly what the Tea Party was all about. They captured the anger, but they’re going to use it for the opposite of what these people think they’re getting.

So are they just getting the wool pulled over their eyes? Are these people stupid? What’s going on here?

A lot of people that I’ve talked to in the Tea Party, their experience with government regulation is something like: they own a hardware store and they have to deal with a building inspector, or a tax collector, or an EPA inspector or something like that. It’s some minor financial nuisance, and that’s what their idea of regulation is, and they see it as just something taking money out of the pockets of ordinary people. So they conflate that with the idea of policing Wall Street. They just think that it’s the same thing, and they’re completely different universes. I just don’t think they understand it, because the one thing that’s easy to understand is that it’s incredibly hard to understand. MORE...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful Millionaires "We don't need more tax cuts."

Joe Conason (quoting from their letter to Obama):
We have done very well over the last several years. Now, during our nation's moment of need, we are eager to do our fair share. We don't need more tax cuts, and we understand that cutting our taxes will increase the deficit and the debt burden carried by other taxpayers. The country needs to meet its financial obligations in a just and responsible way. MORE...

"First Turkeys: A History Of White House Thanksgivings" (slideshow)

President Barack Obama in 2010.

TPM, slideshow.

Howie P.S.: If anyone can tell me why pardoning ONE turkey each year at a time when millions of them are being butchered isn't the most absurd and crazy thing, please do. On the other hand, for that ONE turkey, I guess it is a big deal. I would be remiss not to recall here the most famous turkey pardon of this or any century in our great nation's history.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Valerie Plame Wilson: "Arms Treaty Must Not Be Derailed"

Valerie Plame Wilson:
For me, the most bittersweet moment watching the new movie “Fair Game” comes when it shows my clandestine CIA work involving nuclear counterproliferation. I remain passionate about the issue of preventing rogue states and terrorist organizations from ever procuring a nuclear weapon. Since resigning from the agency however, I realize that much of what I had been doing may only have served to delay the inevitable. My thinking on proliferation has therefore evolved considerably, and I now believe that the best way to ensure our national security for the long term is to move to achieve the goal of total, global elimination of nuclear weapons.

Recently, I have read with increasing alarm about possible derailment of the Senate ratification of the new START treaty signed by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April. If a handful of U.S. senators succeed in their efforts to block ratification of the New START treaty this year, it could fray hard-earned Russian support for tough sanctions on Iran and disrupt important strategic initiatives with the Russians to secure all nuclear materials globally so they don’t fall into the hands of terrorists.

As a result of my counterproliferation work at the CIA, I believe that nuclear terrorism is the most urgent threat we face and locking down all nuclear materials is a national security imperative. But without Russia’s cooperation in those goals, an effective international effort may be impossible to achieve. MORE...

"Business: Record Profits Not Enough" (with video)

Jonathan Chait:
It's historically unusual enough that we live in a period of record corporate profits coinciding with stagnant incomes. What's amazing is that the business world views this situation as symptomatic of insufficiently pro-business policies, and, further, that this complaint has received a widespread and generally sympathetic hearing in the political media. MORE...
Howie P.S.: Here's video (00:09) of Ted Kennedy's question that seems to apply here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"What Obama 2010 Can Learn From Obama 2008"

Ari Berman:
A candidate who ran as a vessel for bottom-up politics assembled a surprisingly conventional, top-down, insider administration. "'Yes We Can' became 'Yes I Can,'" said Harvard University community organizing expert Marshall Ganz, a key adviser to Obama's campaign.

As a result, the spirit of grassroots organizing that animated Obama's campaign has been largely missing from his White House. His post-campaign arm, Organizing for America, became a mere afterthought and extension of the White House political operation. After running as change agents in '06 and '08, Democrats became the party of Washington and the status quo in 2010. They were punished accordingly. MORE...

GRITtv: Katrina vanden Heuvel: "Choosing Sides in Fight" (with video)

GRITtv, with video (13:49):
"Average people must look at the screens and see the disconnect—it's not left vs. right, it's top-down. It's establishment vs. people." So says Katrina vanden Heuvel of the average TV news show. She joins us, of course, here on GRITtv for our weekly partnership with The Nation magazine to bring you a different kind of political TV show. Katrina and Laura discuss the impending end of unemployment benefits for millions of Americans out of work, the members of Congress who will continue the fight for the people, real progressive taxation, and what Obama can do with his executive power to get around a gridlocked Congress.

"Introducing the Hack 30" (political pundits)

Alex Pareene (Salon):
Over the next three days, War Room will list (and diagnose) the worst pundits in America.

Think of the War Room Hack 30 as an all-star team -- or a rogues gallery. These are the most predictable, banal, intellectually dishonest and all-around hacky newspaper columnists, cable news shouting heads and political opinion-mongers working today. We compiled the list by reading blogs and Op-Ed sections and watching 24-hour cable news channels for about a decade, and then listing about 200 people who rarely fail to annoy us. We cut the list down to 30 people whose continued employment most baffles us, and then we ranked them in order of shamelessness.

We'll be counting down the bottom 30 all day today, tomorrow and Wednesday, so check back often.
Howie P.S.: It's Day Two of this three day series and I miss it already!

Snow Greetings from Seattle!

It's a big f@%&#in' deal when it snows in Seattle. We booted a mayor over it once!

Michael Moore Meets Wendell Potter on Countdown (video)

MSNBC-Countdown, video-Pt. 1 (09:12).

Pt. 2 (06:08).

Monday, November 22, 2010

"Psst: DADT repeal is still not quite dead"

Greg Sargent:
So that's where we are. Repeal isn't quite dead yet. But if it's going to happen, it will only be because the Senate leadership tries to make it happen. MORE...

Barack: "Can you hear me NOW?"

Eleanor Clift:
What he needs are some hard-nosed policies to rescue the millions of homeowners who are underwater, plus a vision to revive the nation’s manufacturing base to begin the long and painful restoration of jobs. He needs people around him who make him uncomfortable, who challenge his world view, and who have a better understanding of the workings of Capitol Hill, however dysfunctional it has become. The people around Obama caught the lightning in ’08, but they’ve been outmaneuvered by a party that two years ago was on the brink of extinction.

This is not the end of the Obama presidency, far from it, but it is time to take courageous stands on behalf of working people so these disaffected voters, whom we used to call Reagan Democrats, understand that their financial self-interest is with Obama and the Democrats and not with the Tea Party. Those voters will be a smaller portion of the electorate in 2012 as more young people and people of color come to the polls when the presidency is at stake, but their voices count, and if Obama doesn’t address their concerns, one party will benefit, and it won’t be the Democrats. MORE...

"Matt Taibbi, David Gergen and Peter D. Hart debate the Republican comeback"

President Obama walks to a press conference at the White House the day after midterm elections, November 3, 2010.

Rolling Stone:
Roundtable: The GOP Victory, the Tea Party Ascendancy — and Obama’s Next Steps---Gergen: If it were not for the extra boost of enthusiasm the Tea Party provided, I imagine the Republicans would have won only 40 to 50 seats, instead of the 60-plus they gained. But the Tea Party also makes it harder in the future for Republicans to maintain a coherent party. Matt is right that they will have a large voice in the nomination process in 2012. But one cannot discount that someone could arise, as Reagan did in the past, who can bridge the differences within the party and keep people united.

Taibbi: To me, the main thing about the Tea Party is that they're just crazy. If somebody is able to bridge the gap with those voters, it seems to me they will have to be a little bit crazy too. That's part of the Tea Party's litmus test: "How far will you go?" MORE...

"Saving Progressivism From Obama"

Robert Kuttner (HuffPo):
If politics continues on its present course, about the best one might expect for 2012 is that the Republicans will nominate such a nut-case that Obama will stagger to re-election. But unless he is re-elected with a mandate to carry out drastically different policies, we can anticipate continued economic pain and continuing drift of the electorate to the right. So what is the alternative? My audacious hope is that progressives can move from disillusion to action and offer the kind of political movement and counter-narrative that the president should have been leading. MORE...

"Obama follows Bush in defense budget" (with video)

PressTV with video (01:43):
Obama recently announced that the United States is going to invest USD 85 billion on modernizing its nuclear weapons.

"I think there is one thing we know from the Obama administration… there is not much sunlight between it and its predecessor, the Bush administration, when it comes to defense spending," Washington-based national security analyst Wayne Madsen told Press TV on Sunday.

"The defense budget is going up at the same time [as] the administration is considering massive cuts on social spending, on social security, Medicare, unemployment insurance," the expert added. MORE...
Howie P.S.: More good news on the foreign policy front:
A decision by US President Barack Obama to extend the presence of American troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 is likely to increase the remaining cost of the unpopular war to USD 413 billion.
Calculating costs based on USD 1.1 million per soldier per year, Harrison assesses that the new description of the deadline will cost the American taxpayers an additional USD 125 billion through 2014 alone.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"The story behind top progressive organizing success of 2010"

Chris Bowers with video (02:10):
Over the last two years, those of us engaged in legislative fights in Congress repeatedly saw the Senate either water down the decent bills passed by the House (such as the stimulus, the housing bill, health care) or just block those bills entirely (such as the energy bill, or the series of measures collectively known as the second stimulus).

There was, however, one time when the Senate actually passed a stronger version of a piece of major legislation than House: the financial reform bill. Even with all of the shortcomings of the financial reform bill kept in mind, passing a stronger, more progressive version of a major piece of legislation through the 60-vote threshold of the Senate is a remarkable achievement.

As such, with Republicans about to take control of the House, and see their numbers significantly increase in the Senate, it's time for a review of the tactics that allowed for this success. There are many lessons we can learn from these tactics that will be of use in all legislative fights to come.

Here were the five keys to success: MORE...
Howie P.S.: Not to nitpick, but most people don't think of the sausage-making as "organizing." In any case, key #4 involved Maria Cantwell:
In addition to staking out a strong position at the start of negotiations, you also to have to stake out a credible one that people know actually has a chance of being included in the final legislative package. Further, you can’t threaten to withhold your vote on something without severe blowback unless that is something your base actually wants you to do. It isn’t as easy as just saying “I’m going to vote against this unless you give me a huge list of demands.”

During the financial reform fight, however, Senator Maria Cantwell showed how it was done. Cantwell voted against the financial reform bill when it first passed the Senate. However, she stayed engaged with the leadership during the whole process, making it very clear that she had specific demands around the enforcement of derivatives. She ended up receiving most of those demands in the conference committee when the Democratic leadership needed to find a couple of new votes. A Republicans who had previously supported the bill--Charles Grassley--withdrew his support during the conference. Because Cantwell had held out, and because she had specific, deliverable demands, the Democratic leadership did not have to make further concessions to Grassley. Instead, they could cave to Cantwell, and make the bill stronger in the process.

"Obama Fix # 2 -- Get Rid of OFA"

Linnie Frank Bailey (HuffPo):
Time for OFA to be scrapped. At least as it currently exists.

I can't tell you how disappointed I was after all of our kick-butt, grassroots groups -- part of the 'social network' MYBO (mybarackobama.com) -- were morphed into the boring, unorganized, OFA (Organizing for America).

Some of us tried to stay on-board after the 2008 election. We were ready to take on our local city councils, our county boards, and our state houses!

WE had a mandate for change. Hell... we should have been the Tea Party!

We had the same anger and frustration as the Tea Party, we just know who the real culprits are, and it's not the poor, the old, the unemployed, the sick, OR people of color! We worked hard to elect Obama so that our country would not be BOUGHT!

But while OFA tried to figure out what to do next, the 'buyers' and their media reps used our slogans, our organizing tactics, and our Internet savvy to form the Tea Party. Their 'movement' wasn't a natural occurrence like ours... built from $5.00 and $10.00 contributions. Their movement is about exclusion. Our movement was about inclusion.

So where was OFA while the Tea Party was created and let loose in our suburban, rural, and southern towns?

OFA couldn't seem to figure what should come next after Obama won the White House. After a few months, they sent out some C-list organizers from the campaign to conduct 'listening' tours around the country. MORE...

"FELA! Musical (off Broadway)" (video)

thecolorfultimes, video (10:01):
FELA! is a new musical that is directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones with a book by Jim Lewis, in which audiences are welcomed into the extravagant, decadent and rebellious world of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti. Using his pioneering music (a blend of jazz, funk and African rhythm and harmonies), FELA! explores Kuti's controversial life as artist, political activist and revolutionary musician. Featuring many of Fela Kuti's most captivating songs and Bill T. Jones' imaginative staging, this new show is a provocative hybrid of concert, dance and musical theater.

Howie P.S.: Michelle Obama attended a performance of this show last week. How cool is that?

"Could She Reach the Top in 2012? You Betcha"


Frank Rich:
But logic doesn’t apply to Palin. What might bring down other politicians only seems to make her stronger: the malapropisms and gaffes, the cut-and-run half-term governorship, family scandals, shameless lying and rapacious self-merchandising. In an angry time when America’s experts and elites all seem to have failed, her amateurism and liabilities are badges of honor. She has turned fallibility into a formula for success.

(Updated) "Democrats in Congress worry that Obama will cave to GOP"

UPDATE (from Corrente):

Nothing on jobs at all, or foreclosures, or the banks. Quelle surprise. If you didn't know that the Ds threw the working class under the bus in 2008, now you really know it, eh? MORE...
David Lightman and Margaret Talev (McClatchy Newspapers):
...the tax cut extension is seen as the truest litmus test of whether the president is still willing to fight for his base. Liberals want to extend the breaks only for the working and middle classes — a stand Obama championed all fall — but the president has signaled recently that he may acquiesce to Republicans, who want to extend the tax reductions for the wealthy as well.

If Obama is open to compromise on his once-firm stand, that will amplify questions that Democrats have been asking for nearly two years — essentially, what does he stand for when his back's to the wall? — questions that were vigorously, at times angrily, discussed this week at closed party meetings on Capitol Hill.

Liberals argue that too often they've watched Obama compromise on health care, financial regulation, climate change and other issues. So now they want to know: What will he demand? How much of his own political capital will he stake to defend the principles he ran on in 2008? And what consequences will befall lawmakers who cross him?

Many liberals are openly disappointed and angry, and don't seem to fear the consequences of challenging the president.

"I think the greatest failing in this Congress was that the House ... enabled the White House, and the White House was not always right," said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.

After a raucous House Democratic caucus this week at which liberals vowed to push Obama harder, DeFazio said, "We're beginning to revisit our relationship with the White House. I think we've got to push harder from our position to do what Democrats need." MORE...

"Obama's Failures... and Ours"

Eric Alterman:
In a brilliant op-ed published in the LA Times immediately after the midterm elections, longtime educator and organizer Marshall Ganz observed that Barack Obama "entered office wrapped in a mantle of moral leadership. His call for change was rooted in values that had long been eclipsed in our public life: a sense of mutual responsibility, commitment to equality and belief in inclusive diversity. Those values inspired a new generation of voters, restored faith to the cynical and created a national movement. Now, eighteen months and an 'enthusiasm gap' later, the nation's major challenges remain largely unmet, and a discredited conservative movement has reinvented itself in a more virulent form." Borrowing categorical distinctions conceived by political scientist James MacGregor Burns in the late 1970s, Ganz (who played a role in mapping out the original organizing strategy for the Obama campaign) assessed that immediately upon becoming president, Obama abandoned the "transformational" model promised by his presidential campaign in favor of a "transactional" model. "'Transformational' leadership," Ganz explained, "engages followers in the risky and often exhilarating work of changing the world, work that often changes the activists themselves. Its sources are shared values that become wellsprings of the courage, creativity and hope needed to open new pathways to success. 'Transactional' leadership, on the other hand, is about horse-trading, operating within the routine, and it is practiced to maintain, rather than change, the status quo."

The nation was ready for change, but Obama picked the status quo. And so "much of the public's anger, disappointment and frustration has been turned on a leader who failed to lead." Ganz identified "three crucial choices that undermined the president's transformational mission": "First, he abandoned the bully pulpit of moral argument and public education. Next, he chose to lead with a politics of compromise rather than advocacy. And finally, he chose to demobilize the movement that elected him president. By shifting focus from a public ready to drive change—as in 'yes we can'—he shifted the focus to himself and attempted to negotiate change from the inside, as in 'yes I can.'" MORE...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Senator Bernie Sanders: "Now is the Time to Roll Back this Orgy of Greed"

Bernie Sanders:
We know what the billionaires and their Republicans supporters want. They've been upfront about that. But what about the Democrats? Will President Obama continue to reach out and "compromise" with people who have made it abundantly clear that the only agreement they want is unconditional surrender? Or, will he utilize the powerful skills that we saw during his 2008 campaign for the White House and bring working families, young people, the elderly and the poor together to fight against these savage attacks on their well-being? Will the Democrats in the Senate continue to pass tepid legislation, or will they use their majority status to protect the interests of ordinary Americans and, for a change, put the Republicans on the defensive? MORE...

"The decider-in-chief"

Eugene Robinson:
For what it's worth, my advice for Obama is to forget the Republicans. Not literally, of course - the new House leadership is going to make itself hard to ignore. But ultimately, it's the president who sets the agenda and who ultimately is held accountable for America's successes and failures. Obama's focus should be on using all the tools at his disposal to move the country in the direction he believes it must go.

A new report by the Center for American Progress - a think tank headed by John Podesta, former chief of staff to Bill Clinton - seeks to remind Obama that shepherding legislation through Congress is only one of the ways a president can get things done.

Presidents can issue executive orders, the report notes. They can use their rulemaking powers, working through federal agencies that already have broad mandates under law. They can forge public-private partnerships. They can shape world events through diplomacy and command of the armed forces.

"The ability of President Obama to accomplish important change through these powers should not be underestimated," Podesta said in a statement accompanying the report. "President Bush, for example, faced a divided Congress throughout most of his term in office, yet few can doubt his ability to craft a unique and deeply conservative agenda using every aspect of the policymaking apparatus at his disposal." MORE...

Cenk Uygur's "Message to Obama" (video)

Young Turks, video (03:45).

Nate Silver on "The 800-Pound Mama Grizzly Problem"

Nate Silver:
Ms. Palin may not be the front-runner in a traditional sense (although it’s not clear that any of the other candidates are either). But she literally commands as much of the public’s attention as the President of the United States, and the strategy for the other candidates will have to revolve around her to some significant degree. In fact, since it is uncertain whether she will run or not, they will effectively have to develop two separate sets of strategies, one contingent upon the assumption that she will enter the race and the other on the bet that she won’t. MORE...

"Obama's Democrats in disarray over expiring tax cuts"

U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement to reporters at the NATO summit in Lisbon November 19, 2010.


Liberals say Democrats are understating their negotiating power, citing polls that show most Americans favor their position.

"In general the Democrats should have the upper hand in this debate," said Jim Kessler, vice president of Third Way, a moderate Democratic think tank.

"The president ultimately is the person who will decide what he will and will not sign and that is a very strong leverage point." Kessler said.

"At the same time, Republicans have a completely unified position and, from what I can read, there are six different Democratic positions." MORE...

Friday, November 19, 2010

"Howard Dean Yale ’71 talks Tea Party, Obama"

Yale Daily News:
While Dean said he respects and trusts President Obama’s intellect, he said he is disappointed with how Obama and his staff have handled important political issues, particularly health care reform and the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

He said he thinks the health care measures were not radical enough, and were very similar to a plan moderate Republican Governor Mitt Romney implemented in Massachusetts in 2006.

“So what people call ‘Obama care’ really should be ‘Romney care’,” he said.

Dean said that he thinks Obama’s attempt to reach an accord with Congress over “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is doomed, especially now that the Republicans have taken the House of Representatives in the recent election. Using Lyndon Johnson’s legislative achievements as examples, Dean argued that the president needs to ignore or bypass Congress sometimes. MORE...

"Pin the Debt on the Donkey" (video)

MSNBC-Maddow, video (13:51).

Howie P.S.: Rachel delves into the question of which party does a better job reducing the deficit.

"Obama, Tax Cuts, And The Bully Bulpit"

Jonathan Chait:
Ezra Klein is ready for a Democratic Plan B on taxes:

Reid and Pelosi have settled on a strategy for the Bush tax cuts: Split them up. The tax cuts for income under $250,000 will come up for a vote, the tax cuts for income over $250,000 won't -- or will possibly get their own vote. But this strategy isn't expected to work: Republicans in the Senate are expected to join with a few conservative Democrats to block any effort that allows the expiration of the tax cuts for the wealthy.

If you define "working" to mean getting the Republicans to capitulate immediately, then no, it's not going to work. The plan will work only if President Obama makes clear that he will only accept a result that decouples the upper-bracket tax cuts from the rest. Then, when Republicans block an extension of tax cuts for all income below $250,000 -- and remember, rich people would benefit from such a tax cut, too -- then he has to hammer them for holding middle class tax cuts hostage. And he has to keep hammering them, using the power of the bully pulpit to set the agenda. MORE...

Howie P.S.: It's a sign of the times that even the TNR crowd is pushing on The President to show some fight back.

"Sam Stein Talks About Failed Extension Of Unemployment Benefits" (video)

Huff Post with video (08:11):
HuffPost's Sam Stein appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Friday to talk about Congress's recent failure to pass an extension of unemployment benefits.

"They did it in a way where they needed a two-thirds majority and there's gonna be quibbling over that, but you're right, the optics are terrible," Stein said. "We're talking about 12.5 billion dollars to help two million unemployed people, and in three weeks we're going to, most likely, be passing the extension of the Bush tax cuts which will cost much more than that." MORE...

Joan Walsh: "The myth of "independent" voters"

Joan Walsh:
Understanding the all-powerful bloc that Democrats are chasing, self-destructively.

Cornel West on Charles Rangel, Bush & Kanye West and Why Obama Admin "Seems to Have Very Little Concern for Poor People" (with audio/video)

Democracy Now! (with audio/text/video):
Princeton University professor and author Cornel West join us to talk about Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) being censured for ethics violations, President George W. Bush saying the worst moment of his presidency was when Kanye West called him a racist, and President Obama’s policies toward the poor. "The Obama administration seems to have very little concern for poor people and their social misery," West said. [Includes rush transcript]

"How should Obama handle new, emboldened GOP?"

Greg Sargent, quoting an email from Brookings scholar and Congressional expert Thomas Mann:
During his first two years in office, Obama had an ambitious legislative agenda to pursue. He had to adapt his strategies to the realities of Congress, most importantly the promiscuous use of the filibuster by Republicans in the Senate and the unreliability of support on many difficult issues of a half dozen or more Democratic senators. Repeated and extended efforts at negotiations with Republicans were essential, if only to deliver all 60 Democrats/Independents once Franken was elected and Specter switched parties. His campaign rhetoric on a postpartisan politics, however naive or disingenuous, had to be given a try.

The context in the 112th Congress is entirely different. With no expectations of passing important new legislation or of garnering anything from Republicans in Congress but political bait, he should pursue his substantive agenda where he can act on his own and use Congress as a place to submit a genuinely serious set of proposals to deal with the country's more serious challenges (with no expectation that any will pass) and couple them with high visibility straight talk to the American people about the course he is proposing.
Howie P.S.: Greg Sargent's full post is here.

Seattle Progressives: Check this Out!

"Dean Camp Courts Chicago Progressives" (NY Times):
As the influence of ward organizations wanes amid the larger decline of patronage politics in Chicago, followers of Howard Dean are trying to provide a new model for progressive activism in Chicago.

The city’s Northside Democracy for America group remains among the largest affiliates of the national organization, which began in 2004 as Dean for America, the grass-roots arm of Mr. Dean’s presidential campaign.

“Groups come and go, but this is one of the few that has been around for all six years, and they really carved themselves into the milieu of Chicago politics,” said Jim Dean, Democracy for America’s chairman and the brother of the former Vermont governor.

The Northside group interacts with the national organization, but it is registered as its own political action committee, said Ed Mullen, its chairman. The group has 120 voting members, each of whom had to attend at least three group meetings and volunteer for three campaigns before joining.

Sandra Verthein, a co-founder of the Northside Democracy for America, said progressives joined her group because they found the local Democratic Party inhospitable. For example, she said she found it difficult to meet with other political activists in the 48th Ward. “If you are a progressive activist,” she said, “you have no place to be involved.” MORE...

Delusion Points, Deception Points--You Decide!


"Democrats not liberal enough?" (video)

MSNBC-The Last Word, video (08:31).

Howie P.S.: Ari Melber plays 2-on-1 with O'Donnell and a guy from "The Third Way." You can guess who was the "one."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jim McDermott on The ED Show on today's Unemployment Insurance Vote (video)

MSNBC-ED Show, video (12:02).

Howie P.S.: Jim McDermott visits with ED and talks about the vote to block jobless benefits today in the House. But first, ED goes on a rant.

"Unemployment Extension Defeated In House"

Arthur Delaney (HuffPo):
The House of Representatives on Thursday voted down a measure that would have reauthorized extended unemployment insurance for another three months, leaving no clear path forward to prevent the benefits from lapsing on schedule on Nov. 30.

Without a reauthorization, the Labor Department estimates that two million long-term unemployed will prematurely stop receiving benefits before the end of the year.

"I think it's a sad moment," said Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) after the vote. "It appalls me that the Republicans keep pitching and pitching and pitching the tax cuts for the rich and won't join in a bill to help people keep their homes and not have to live in their cars."

The bill was brought to the floor under a "suspension of the rules," meaning it required approval from two-thirds of the House. It failed 258 to 154. MORE...
Howie P.S.: According to Ed Schultz, the 99ers were not addressed in this legislation. Schultz says Jim McDermott will be on The ED Show tonight on MSNBC to discuss this.

"Clinton Advisers Unload On Obama's Economic Message": 'What Were They Thinking?'

Sam Stein:
"Most kind of messaging is not very effective, it just goes in one ear out the other. This one, it went in one ear and right to the brain. What were they thinking? It was almost universal. And as opposed to saying 'These irresponsible, greedy people got us into this mess and we are the only thing between you and them, and we are fighting every day and we understand.' We kept telling them, don't tell them it's working... The White House had the best and brightest. But they mis-underestimated this."
A presidential cycle that still favored Democrats, they argued, could produce dramatically different results in 2012. Greenberg went so far as to insist that control of the House would be up for grabs in the next cycle. What was non-negotiable, the two offered, was sticking with talking points that, for voters, effectively "minimized" their current predicaments. "I don't think there is any reason why you can't reset and start over," said Greenberg. "Voters are pretty forgiving on leaders... They give you a lot of space and there is still a majority who want Obama to succeed." MORE...

(Updated) "Donald Trump for President? Don't Rule It Out" (with video)

UPDATE: More wisdom from The Donald, video (07:37), from the The Morning Jokesters.

E ONLINE, with video (00:45):
Will the Donald give Barack Obama a run for his money?

Appearing on Good Morning America today, Donald Trump revealed that after years of false rumors, he's considering running for president in 2012. And this time he means it.


According to Trump, the United States has become a "whipping post" for China to assert its control because of the nations' trade imbalance and China's currency manipulation, a problem he claims President Obama has tried and failed so far to address.

That would change under a Trump administration, says the real estate tycoon.


There's good news for Obama, however. Trump said if he runs, it'll be as a Republican and he would be willing to spend at least $200 million of his own money in a campaign. So watch out, Sarah Palin!

But it all depends on whether America "continues to be taken advantage of by the world."

"Would I rather be in the race or not be in the race? I can tell you, I love what I'm doing. I'm having a great time what I'm doing. I'd rather not be in the race," said the businessman. MORE....

Howie P.S.: I spoke with Ed Schultz live, on-air, on his radio show this morning about this in the last ten minutes of his first hour. We agreed that it would be helpful to raise the visibility of this issue. Schultz said the Republican party would not accept Trump as a candidate and he would have to run as an independent third party candidate.

"Dems to Obama: Let's NOT cave on Bush tax cuts!" (with video)

Greg Sargent:
Carrie Budoff-Brown reports that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are privately urging the President to stake out a tough and coherent position on the tax cuts. Other Dems are telling Obama not to waver publicly or telegraph weakness.

While that's a good message, it really is dispiriting to see this same old B.S., where Congressional Dems try to preemptively blame their own lack of spine on Obama's alleged failure to provide them with marching orders. Yes, the White House is important in setting direction and tone. But if Pelosi and Reid want a vote on extending just the middle class cuts, they can simply hold one. If you want a tough and coherent position in this fight -- as Pelosi surely does -- adopt one! Not rocket science.

Howie P.S.: Alan Grayson makes it clear, video (05:25), why the extension of the Bush tax cuts to the top 2% is a bad idea.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Rachel Maddow on Press, Policy, and Politics" (2010 T.H. White Lecture at Harvard) (video)

Boston Phoenix, video (41:52):
Confirmed: Rachel Maddow is still not running for Senate. The MSNBC host discusses why people hate the press, why opinion-driven media works, and why she never felt the old media spoke for her anyway. Plus: a feisty Q&A with the audience at the 2010 Theodore H. White Lecture on Press and Politics, delivered November 14, 2010 at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at Harvard University.

"Bush Photoshops Rove Out of Plame Scandal"

David Corn (Mother Jones):
In his book, Bush Photoshops Rove out of this scandal. By doing so, Bush doesn't have to explain why he took no action against Rove or justify why he did nothing after his press secretary falsely told the public that Rove was not connected to the Plame leak.

Bush ardently defends his decision to commute Libby's sentence without pardoning him, revealing that most of his advisers "believed that the jury verdict was correct and should remain in place." He recalls that this led to a showdown with Cheney. Libby had been Cheney's chief of staff, and the vice president was a forceful advocate of a pardon. At one meeting with Bush, Cheney declared, "I can't believe you're going to leave a soldier on the battlefield." Bush writes that in eight years he had never seen Cheney so worked up. But in Bush's telling, he stood his ground, striking a tough position only because he believed it was the right one. The whole point of this episode—which appears in a chapter called "Personnel"—seems to be that Bush was his own man in the Oval Office and was willing to say no to Cheney.

Yet the CIA leak case was about much more than Bush's ability to stare down the veep. The questions that remain concern Bush's willingness to tolerate a White House campaign to discredit an administration critic (a campaign that led to the exposure of a CIA officer who had overseen efforts to gather intelligence on WMDs in Iraq and elsewhere) and Bush's decision to do nothing about both Rove's involvement in that effort and Rove's attempt to cover up his role. Bush has nothing to say about any of this. (A much fuller and more accurate account of the CIA leak case can be found in the new movie Fair Game, even if this Hollywood picture fictionalizes aspects of the story.) For Bush, the Plame case is only a tale of a difficult decision about a pardon. It is not about political skulduggery or dishonesty at the highest levels of the government. MORE...