Monday, January 31, 2011

What is Wrong With This Picture?

"Rep. Weiner 'still pissed' about public option"

Michael O'Brien (The Hill):
Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) says he's "still pissed" that Democrats gave up on including a public option in their healthcare reform bill.

On the heels of a federal judge's ruling on Monday striking down the entirety of President Obama's healthcare law as unconstitutional, Weiner expressed regret that his party abandoned a government-run health insurance option.

He tweeted:
We know this : the public option is constitutional. #stillpissedwegaveuponthat

Weiner had been a leading proponent of the public option during the months-long healthcare debate in Congress. But his party's leadership had to cut it from the bill after centrist Democrats in the Senate refused to vote to advance legislation that included the controversial provision.

The federal judge's ruling likely would still have struck down a healthcare law, including a public option, as unconstitutional. Judge Roger Vinson said that the individual mandate — the requirement that each American have health insurance — was unconstitutional. Under his ruling, the entire law is unconstitutional, because that provision is not "severable" from the rest of the law.

Howie P.S.: Greg Sargent Michael O'Brien (The Hill): says
If conservatives do succceed in getting the whole of health reform junked, they should prepare for true armageddon: Dems trying to pass an expanded version of Medicare via reconciliation.

Jimmy Carter: “The United States wants Mubarak to stay in power, but the people have decided."

John Nichols (The Nation):
The former president is warning US officials to get on the right side of those events. And even those who may not approve of all the former president's positions should pay heed to his counsel on what is emerging as a critic test of US foreign policy.

Carter, who in the late 1970s oversaw the negotiations that established a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, understands the political, social and religious dynamics of the Middle East better than any US president, former or current. So it is no small matter when he predicts that popular opposition to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has grown so intense that “he will have to leave.” MORE...

60 Minutes: "WikiLeaks' Julian Assange" (video)

CBSNewsOnline, Pt. 1, video (15:00) and Pt.2 video (13:16):
Julian Assange, the controversial founder of WikiLeaks, speaks to Steve Kroft about the U.S. attempt to indict him on criminal charges and the torrent of criticism aimed at him for publishing classified documents.

"AZ Gun Show: A Glock. Three High Cap Mags. No Background Check. " (video)

gunshowundercover, video (02:12):
At a gun show in Phoenix , Arizona on January 23, 2011, an undercover investigator bought a Glock 9mm similar to the one used by the shooter in Tucson 15 days before and three 33-round extended magazines, no questions, no background check.

(Update I, II, and III with video) "The billionaires are coming: Obama's richest enemies to hold summit"

UPDATE III: "Koch Brothers v. the Left in Palm Springs" (Nancy Goldstein-The Nation):
There’s a good chance that readers of this page already have some idea who David and Charles Koch are, and what’s happening [1] this weekend, as the sugar daddies of the Tea Party throw a little party of their own in Palm Springs. Invitees include a pack of their billionaire friends, plus prominent pundits, Republican Party officials [2] and lawmakers, a number of whom benefited from hefty Koch contributions [3] this last campaign cycle.

Together they’ll strategize how to get rid of every regulation or politician that stands in the way of wealthy people becoming wealthier; namely, taxes, healthcare reform, environmental and financial protections, Obama and what little remains of the social safety net. Citizens United will undoubtedly energize the annual end-of-weekend ritual when all the donors—40 percent of them new [4]—whip out their checkbooks to underwrite these adventures in subverting democracy with an eye to their bottom line.

But there will also be, for the first time in the soiree’s eight year history, media attention [5], including a fair number of prominent bloggers, a panel discussion [6] including such luminaries as Robert Reich and Van Jones and a demonstration organized by Common Cause [7]. That’s actually pretty great, as Kert Davies [8], Director of Research for Greenpeace [9], reminded me. For years one of the Koch brothers’ greatest achievements was the fact that no one knew who they were or what influence they had in DC. MORE...

UPDATE II; "Protesters target Koch brothers at desert retreat, 25 arrested" (Reuters):

About 1,000 chanting protesters rallied on Sunday outside a California resort where conservative lawmakers and business executives met for a political strategy session hosted by billionaires Charles and David Koch.

About two dozen police officers in riot gear lined up in front of the Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in the upscale desert town of Rancho Mirage to keep the protesters away from the gated entrance.
Common Cause earlier this month asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether two U.S. Supreme Court justices who have attended past political retreats hosted by the Koch brothers should have recused themselves from a landmark campaign finance ruling last year by the high court.

The two justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, sided with the court's 5-4 majority in the Citizens United decision that lifted many of the restrictions once placed on campaign contributions by corporations and labor unions.

"The Kochs fund some of the sickness that has plagued our country, especially over the last 10 years," protester Diana Wu told Reuters. MORE...

UPDATE: GreenpeaceUSA with video (02:09):
Greenpeace today flew an airship with a banner reading "Koch Brothers: Dirty Money" over Rancho Mirage, California as oil billionaires David and Charles Koch convened their latest secret political strategy meeting. The aerial message to arriving attendees of the meeting highlighted the Koch Brothers' ongoing use of their vast oil profits to push a polluter agenda through campaign contributions, lobbying, and funding fronts groups and think tanks.

"Rightwingers, Wall Street chiefs and industrial magnates will discuss Barack Obama's 'anti-business' stance at Rancho Mirage, California." Photograph: Alamy

Ed Pilkington (Guardian-UK):
Amid great secrecy, about 200 of America's wealthiest and most powerful individuals from the worlds of finance, big business and rightwing politics are expected to come together on Sunday in the sun-drenched California desert near Palm Springs for what has been billed as a gathering of the billionaires. They will have the chance to enjoy the Rancho Mirage resort's many pools, spa treatments and tennis courts, as well as walk in its 240 acres away from the prying eyes of TV cameras.

But the organisers have made clear that the two-day event is not just "fun in the sun". This will be a meeting of "doers", men and women willing to fight the Obama administration and its perceived attack on US free enterprise and unfettered wealth.

As the invitation says: "Our goal must be to beat back the unrelenting attacks and hold elected leaders accountable."


But this year's reception will differ in one important regard: it will have an opposition. For the first time, a coalition of progressive and liberal groups has formed to try to counter the power of the Koch brothers.

The anti-Koch gathering will be staged down the road from the Rancho Mirage. It will hold its own – open, as opposed to secretive – panel discussion and a rally designed to highlight what its organisers see as the pernicious impact of the Kochs on the democratic process.

"We want to raise public awareness of the harmful influence of corporate money. The Koch gathering embodies all that we consider damaging to our democracy," said Mary Boyle, of Common Cause, a campaign group that has spearheaded the opposition. MORE...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

(WA): "Pot dispensaries sprouting statewide"

Brionne Corbray's West Seattle medical marijuana dispensary has many choices of pot in neatly arranged rows of jars for those who can legally consume it.

Jonathan Martin (Seattle Times-front page, above the fold):
Medical-marijuana dispensaries are opening across the state, exploiting a loophole in the state medical-marijuana law that neither explicitly allows nor prohibits them. Under pressure from all sides to clear the haze, the Legislature is considering a wholesale rewrite of the law that would legalize, regulate and tax dispensaries and create the state's first authorized commercial marijuana farms.

When Wes Abney and David Jablinske decided to open their own shop, they incorporated with the help of a lawyer, got city and state business licenses and insurance for their inventory and leased a former sports bar in North Seattle.

Then they invited the cops in for a visit. Their shop, after all, is a medical-marijuana dispensary called West Coast Wellness.

"We want to do everything out in the open, above board," said Jablinske, a needle-thin 20-year-old. Abney, 22, nodded, saying, "The police can come in anytime."

Depending on how you view the state's 12-year-old medical-marijuana law, Abney and Jablinske are innovative pioneers or numskulls looking to get arrested.

Either way, they're clearly not alone.

Washington's new "potrepreneurs" are suddenly serious about catching up with California and Colorado in the medical-marijuana dispensary industry. MORE...

Video: "Michele Bachmann, Take Two" (The "Saturday Night Live" version)

Chris Cillizza with video (04:15) from NBC-SNL:
This was probably inevitable.

In the wake of Michele Bachmann's tea party response to President Obama's State of the Union address, Saturday Night Live's Kristen Wiig offered her own take on the Minnesota Republican's speech.

Howie P.S.: Now that ED Schultz has dropped "PsychoTalk!" from his new show in primetime (Did Comcast make him do it?), I may try on occasion to fill that void.

"Ingraham Trees Start To Fall" (with video)

"Ingraham Trees Start To Fall" (Melissa Westbrook-Seattle Public Schools community blog) with video (03:05):
It's sad. Not only for the trees lost (because we are cutting down trees in this city at an alarming rate) but because the district didn't try to do the right thing. The right thing would have been to NOT send the district lawyer to meetings with the neighbors. It would have been good to find a mediator (someone neutral) to guide the discussions. I believe a resolution would have been found sooner. I recall a member of the BEX Oversight Committee asking if this had been done and you should have seen how mystified staff looked. Almost like it hadn't occurred to them. MORE...
Howie P.S.: There's a short jazz riff after the song on the video. I think it's by Miles Davis.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ken Schram: "It's time to legalize marijuana"

Ken Schram (
Washington state criminalized marijuana back in 1923.

The United States was well into the noble experiment of prohibition by then, as many held that the government knew best when it came to intoxicants and drugs.

It took 14 years and the rise of criminal enterprise before the admission that society would be better served if alcohol was licensed, regulated and taxed.

After almost a century, the same dawn is beginning to break on marijuana.

State Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson has a bill that would treat pot pretty much the same as liquor.

She believes it's time to get pot out of the hands of criminals.

She wants to regulate and license commercial growth.

She wants to sell it in state liquor stores, and she wants to tax it.

Dickerson estimates the state would earn at least $200 million a year with this.

This idea is long overdue and deserves the serious attention of state lawmakers.

And while any state law legalizing marijuana would be counter to federal law, remember this: It was individual states that began to reject the anti-liquor laws and ultimately forced Congress to give up the ghost on prohibition.

Time to do the same with marijuana.

"As Obama Plans to Move Forward, Progressives Wait for Specifics" (with video)

Sara Jerving (The Nation), with video (12:05) from MSNBC.
The Nation's Ari Berman joined MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell yesterday to discuss his meeting with Obama strategist David Axelrod on the president’s plans to move forward on economic policies. The meeting came in response to this week’s State of the Union address, in which Obama called for investments in technology, education and infrastructure together with a five-year domestic spending freeze.

Axelrod, Berman says, argued the speech had something for all progressives—technology, labor, infrastructure and education—with policy outlines that stand in favorable contrast to the Republican's mantra of “cut, cut, cut.”

Berman sees this as an attempt by Obama to better position himself politically so that the Democrats can effectively oppose GOP cries for specific program cuts. Author Richard Wolffe and New York Times blogger Nate Silver also weigh in on Obama’s speech and the president’s next steps.

For more on Berman’s meeting with Axelrod, check out his post “At White House, Axelrod Outlines Obama’s Post-SOTU Strategy [1].”

Howie P.S.: Meanwhile, Howard Dean is "jubiliant" about progressive hopes in the wake of the SOTU, video (05:52). Adam Green from the wanted a passionate defense of Medicare and Social Security from Obama and an indication of a willingness to fight more aggressively to protect them from spending cuts, video (04:24). Green wasn't entirely disappointed and he shares his "top six moments", video (04:50).

"Protesters now in Parliament Square"

Billy Bragg posted this photo on Facebook of students protesting against tuition hikes in London. From the article in the Irish Examiner:
Moritz Kaiser, a 17-year-old sixth-former from Oxford, was among those protesting today.

He said: “The tuition fee hike will affect my family quite badly and it is unnecessary when you look at how much is lost in tax avoidance.”

A dual British-German national, he now intends to head to the European mainland to avoid the additional bill.

“I was going to study here, but in Germany it is only €500 a year, and you get a free bus pass,” he added.

His friend, Lucio Pezzella, also 17 and at sixth-form college in Oxford, said the “wrong people were being punished” for the UK’s economic woes.

“Ordinary people shouldn’t have to pay for a crisis brought on by the bankers,” he said. MORE...

"Chanel 13 Video of Ingraham trees being cut.‏"

Steve Zemke (email), with video (02:54) from Q13:
It's going to take a long time to replace this canopy -70 year old 100 foot tall Douglas fir, western red cedar and madrone trees - part of an uncommon plant habitat in Seattle that has been further reduced. If voters had known the Seattle School District was going to remove some of the oldest trees in Seattle they would not have approved the bond issue for this building. Alternative sites existed on the Ingraham campus, which has 28 acres. It is the largest public high school campus in the city. Next time the Seattle School District wants a bond issue to build, voters need to ask them where, not just give them a blank check to destroy needlessly our diminishing urban forest.
Howie P.S.: Larry Lange has this story in this morning's PI: "Trees come down at North Seattle high school."Fans of the Seattle DJ who was recently rehired by The Mountain will recognize the voice of the announcer doing the ad on Q13 that precedes the news story.

Friday, January 28, 2011

"Papantonio: Obama Helps Perpetuate America's Sweatshop Capitalism" (video)

golefttv, video (09:38):
In his State of the Union address, President Obama stressed the need to create jobs in America. Unfortunately, he completely ignored the massive issue of offshoring American jobs. To make matters worse, he's meeting with the US Chamber of Commerce next month - A group that helps companies send jobs overseas while reaping huge US tax breaks. He was also silent on other issues in the last year that could have bolstered American job creation. Mike Papantonio and Ed Schultz sound off on what needs to be done to bring good jobs back to America.

Barbara Ehrenreich: "Why are Americans such wusses?"

Barbara Ehrenreich (LA Times, op-ed):
The reaction to Frances Fox Piven's essay urging the unemployed to protest for change shows that we are no longer a democracy but a tyranny of the heavily armed.---Why are Americans such wusses? Threaten the Greeks with job losses and benefit cuts and they tie up Athens, but take away Americans' jobs, 401(k)s, even their homes, and they pretty much roll over. Tell British students that their tuition is about to go up and they take to the streets; American students just amp up their doses of Prozac.
There are all kinds of explanations for how Americans lost their grass-roots political mojo: iPods have been invoked, along with computer games and anti-depressants. And of course much of the credit goes to the so-called populist right of the Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck persuasion, which argues that the real enemy of the down-and-out is not the boss or the bank but the "liberal elite" represented by people like Piven.

But at least part of the explanation is guns themselves -- or, more specifically, the recent and uniquely American addiction to high-powered personal weaponry. MORE...

Seattle: "Ingraham High School Trees to "Scream" on Friday! "

Steve Zemke (Majority Rules):
The Seattle School District is going to cut down 27 trees tomorrow Friday Jan 28, 2011 (about one quarter of the NW Grove) at Ingraham High School. For several days the School District has been assembling equipment and preparing to cut down the trees. Tomorrow students have the day off.

Tonight just before dark I went over to check things out once again and asked a worker in a hardhat when they were going to cut the trees down. His response was that "tomorrow the trees would be screaming". It's strange but I could not think of a more apt response for the trees.

If Seattle Mayor McGinn has his way, no trees in Seattle will be protected from destruction. Ingraham is only a precursor to many more trees being lost because Mayor McGinn is proposing to deregulate all tree protection in the city. Strange that someone who supposedly ran with a label as an environmentalist has no love for protecting Seattle's green infrastructure. When we tried to talk to McGinn and his staff about saving the Ingraham trees he choose to ignore us and wouldn't even schedule an opportunity for us to discuss the situation with him.
The Seattle School District had prepared an Ingraham Master Plan showing they could build the addition on the open lawn on the North side without having to remove any of the tree grove.

Yet the School Administration under Superintendent Goodloe Johnson and the Seattle School Board has turned a blind eye to environmental issues, choosing not to help increase Seattle's tree canopy but instead gouge a chunk out of it by removing some of the city's oldest trees. What a great lesson for Seattle students about how to live in a world where we are increasing threatened with drastic climate change and environmental degradation as our population and use of the world's resources increases to have an ever expanding economy based on consumption. MORE...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ron Paul Explains How Iraq Was Made Into An Enemy In Order To "Redesign The Middle East" (video)

MOXNEWS, video (04:37).

Howie P.S.: Paul uses some information from the WiikiLeaks disclosures to make his case.

"David Axelrod: Obama Will Be Jumping Into Gun Control Debate"

Amanda Terkel (HuffPo):
"I don't know exactly how we're going to approach it," he said when asked by The Huffington Post whether Obama would be giving a speech on it, "but obviously these issues are out there and have been extenuated by the tragedy in Tucson. And so we will -- he will engage in that ... debate."

Axelrod added that the reason the president omitted gun control from his State of the Union address was that he wanted it to be "focused as much as possible on the economy." MORE...

Valerie Plame Wilson on the media and WikiLeaks

The Gainesville Sun (FL):
In addition to taking questions about her life, Wilson was asked about current events such as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's release of classified documents. She said she was a strong believer that some material should be classified, but there is a great deal of information that is wrongly kept secret.

She said Assange was an unlikable character, but questioned the U.S. media's condemnation of him.

"Are they really believers in freedom of the press?" she said. "Or is it only if they get the leak it's good, if he gets the leak it's bad?" MORE...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rachel Maddow and Anthony Weiner on the SOTU and the GOP

MSNBC-Rachel Maddow, video (07:50).

Howie P.S.:
Rachel calls Paul Ryan "Debbie Downer" for the tone of his "response" to the SOTU.

"Obama's SOTU Bargain: Cut Government to Do More With Government"

David Corn (Politics Daily):
There's that old line about details and the devil. And the White House is now racing to complete the budget for the coming year, which will be released next month. Obama's grand bargain -- freezing government spending so the government can spend more in priority areas -- cannot be judged until it is known what will be squeezed from Peter to invest in Paul.

Ultimately, this speech, not full of punch, was the set-up for the political battle that will rage from now until Election Day 2012. Obama wants to use government to revive the U.S. economy. But he has calculated that he can only do so if Americans believe he is simultaneously tightening the belt of the bloated beast in Washington. The Republicans, meanwhile, will continue to reiterate their mantra: the only thing we have to fear is government spending and debt. A fundamental and ideological disagreement is at hand: government is evil, government can help. Obama is conceding part of the argument (yes, we must do something about spending) to win the argument (we must engage in communal action to survive and succeed in the global economy). To win the future -- and the next election -- the president has to hope that he has figured out the right cost/benefit ratio. MORE...

"Sensible Washington Files New Pot-Legalization Initiative, Despite Plea to Hold Off"

Nina Shapiro (The Daily Weekly):
Undeterred by last year's failure to pass a marijuana-legalization initiative, and a plea by national pot-advocacy groups to hold off until next year for another effort, Sensible Washington is filing a new initiative this afternoon with the Secretary of State. Douglas Hiatt, chair of the organization, says a lot of things are different this year. And activists in the group didn't want to wait.

Hiatt says various national activists, including Rob Kampia at the Marijuana Policy Project, asked him to wait until a new coordinated legalization effort could get off the ground in 2012. Peter Lewis, chairman of the insurance company Progressive and a funder of drug-reform causes, will then likely bankroll initiatives in several Western states, including Washington, Hiatt says he was told. The national activists also argued that legalization initiatives would have better luck in a presidential election year.

But Hiatt says that members of his group thought they were ready now. Last year, he says, the group had maybe 500 volunteers to collect signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot. That wasn't nearly enough to get the signatures they needed, but since then, Hiatt says, "thousands" of volunteers have stepped forward.

Hiatt also says he's going out of the gate with $50,000 already raised--$10,000 more than he got during all of last year.

The initiative itself is different from last year's. "It directs the legislature to adopt rules and regulations and, if appropriate, taxes at the earliest opportunity," Hiatt says. This, he contends, will forestall objections from the pro-regulation camp. Initiative backers can even point out that a pot regulation and taxation bill has already been submitted to the legislature, Hiatt says.

As Keegan Hamilton points out, the bill appears to be something of a pipe dream. Regardless, Hiatt seems pleased with this new trick of coming out in favor of pot regulation without having to deal with any of the complicated, legal issues that entails. "I'm able to have my cake and eat it too," he says.

Howie P.S.: I've always thought the The Weekly should be called The Weakly. Writing at the same location (referenced earlier above), Keegan Hamilton does offer this bit of strategic thinking:
"Anything that moves us toward the direction of people not going to jail or being arrested is a step in the right direction," says Ben Livingston, a member of the Board of Directors of the Cannabis Defense Coalition. "Whether the bill is going to pass is another thing. It's a good conversation starter, at least. I think that's more the intent than anything else."
The AP also had a story today, "New state initiative proposal to legalize marijuana" that has a slightly different perspective:
Marijuana activists are taking another shot at a ballot measure legalizing the drug for adults under state law - but they hope lawmakers beat them to it.

"Chamber, AFL-CIO Back Infrastructure Spending In Rare Joint Statement"

Sam Stein (HuffPo):
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, often bitter foes in conflicts between business and labor, released a rare joint statement Wednesday in support of President Barack Obama's call for additional infrastructure spending.

The business lobby and union conglomerate's respective leaders offered a united front in applauding the broad pitch for domestic development in Obama's State of the Union address.

"America's working families and business community stand united in applauding President Obama's call to create jobs and grow our economy through investment in our nation's infrastructure," their joint statement reads. "Whether it is building roads, bridges, high-speed broadband, energy systems and schools, these projects not only create jobs and demand for businesses, they are an investment in building the modern infrastructure our country needs to compete in a global economy.

"With the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO standing together to support job creation, we hope that Democrats and Republicans in Congress will also join together to build America's infrastructure." MORE...
Howie P.S.: I listened to some "conservative" talk radio today and they are NOT on board the "infrastructure" train, calling it more "government spending" and stressing the need to make cuts to reduce the deficit. The story also contains this nugget:
As Matt Stoller, a progressive strategist and former top aide to Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL.) noted on Twitter: "The Chamber "supported" the stimulus and delivered 0 GOP House votes."

Taibbi on the SOTU

Matt Taibbi:
Usually I find the State of the Union address boring. President (of either party) unveils laboratory-crafted, poll-tested speech, full of promises that over the next year will systematically be broken: opposing party reflexively blasts same speech as lie-filled horseshit, counters with bevy of wildly optimistic, totally insincere policy proposals that they know have no chance of being implemented. It’s pretty much the same situation every year. The twist this year is that both parties seemed genuinely humbled a little by the Giffords incident and toning down the rancor just enough to leave the door open for a little genuine bipartisan cooperation – which I suspect really will occur when it comes time to enact those corporate tax cuts. MORE...

Ari Melber: "Obama, You Had Me At 'Doubling Our Exports by 2014' "

Ari Melber (The Nation):
Barack Obama’s State of the Union address was fine.

He hit his usual bipartisan notes, crediting Republicans for their midterm mandate, but he also urged them to cooperate on divisive issues like immigration reform and clean energy. At times, Obama got loose, joking about TSA pat-downs, tweaking Joe Biden’s Scranton roots, and explaining his education plan, “Race to the Top,” by quoting Jerry Maguire. (“If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement,” he told state governments, “we’ll show you the money.”)

At several points, Obama got down, dirty and boring, wading into the weeds to outline goals like "doubling our exports by 2014," and shifting "80 percent of America's electricity" by 2035.

The address was also quite somber. In proposing an across-the-board spending freeze, Obama sounded like he was resigned to a necessary bummer, not ambitious about a new policy. Curiously, he also managed to step on a key applause line, following up a declaration about “bringing our troops out of Iraq” with a swift warning. “As we speak,” Obama added, “al Qaeda and their affiliates continue to plan attacks against us.”

Democratic efforts in Sudan and Tunisia got shout-outs, too, although not the late-breaking protests in Egypt. Finally, Obama advocated more education and innovation funding, trying to square the immediate jobs crisis with a long-term science, technology and infrastructure policy.

Given the president’s rebounding poll numbers, his measured address is likely to be neutral to positive. It may also cement the view, ratified by the very active lame duck Congress, that Obama is committed to getting things done in Washington, even if it means going more than halfway to satisfy his opponents.

The biggest problem, at least for liberals and close listeners, was the logical holes in Obama’s tax talk. He mentioned “tax cuts” twice: Once to claim credit for fattening paychecks with the tax compromise, and once to criticize the thought of making that same tax plan permanent. He vowed to eliminate the "billions" of tax benefits that oil companies currently receive, and then, after bemoaning the deficit, called for cutting "the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years." Two of the three biggest corporations in America are oil companies, by the way, so those reforms might cancel each other out a bit. Now guess which one the Republicans will act on first.
Howie P.S.: The words "damning with faint praise" come to mind. Robert Scheer is more direct with "Hogwash, Mr. President" while Paul Krugman goes after the Ryan response to the SOTU.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Sam Seder on Keith Olbermann" (with audio)

AMERICAblog, with audio (11:40);
This discussion is from Seder's new daily internet show, The Majority Report (v2.0). What's interesting is that (a) it's a sideways take from the politically obvious, and (b) it draws on Sam's admitted experience as a sometimes-difficult media person frustrated with his management.

Offered without comment, but well worth your ear:

Sam returns to the subject near the end of the show. You can listen here.

The Olbermann analysis need not be either-or, by the way; the political and personal could both be true.

Lakoff: What should progressives make of the "new centrism?"

George Lakoff:
First, they have to recognize the reality of bi-conceptualism. Adopting conservative language helps conservatism. Adopting conservative programs makes the world more conservative and so helps drive empathy from the world, and that is disastrous.

Second, progressives should recognize that the business of America is business - that there are successful businesses and businesspeople with progressive values, and they should be praised and courted - and separated from radical conservatives.

Third, progressives have to organize around a single morality, centered on empathy, both personal and social responsibility, and excellence - being the best person you can be, not just for your own sake, but for the sake of your family, community, and nation. All politics is moral; it is about the right things to do. Get your morality straight, learn to talk about it, then work on policy. It is patriotic to be progressive.

Fourth, progressives must understand the critical need for a communication system that rivals the conservative system: An overall understanding of conservatism, effective framing of progressive beliefs and real facts, training centers on understanding and articulating progressive thought, systems of spokespeople on call, booking agencies to book speakers on radio and tv, and in local venues like schools, churches, and clubs.

Fifth, it is progressive to be firm, articulate, and gentle. You can stand up for what you believe, while being gentlemanly and ladylike.

Sixth, progressives have to get over the idea that conservatives are either stupid, or mean, or greedy - or all three. Conservatives are mostly people who have a different moral system from progressives.

A new centrism that makes sense ought to be one that unifies progressives under a single moral system centered on empathy; that recognizes, and shows respect for, the progressive side of biconceptuals; that respects the intelligence of conservatives; that allies with progressive businesspeople as well as with unions; that builds a communication system that brings it in touch with most Americans; that calls upon the love of nature; that is gentle and firm; and that refuses to move to the right, either in language or action.

If you start adopting conservative language and/or positions, you become conservative-lite, or worse. MORE...

"Dan Savage lands MTV pilot" (with video)

Vanessa Ho ( with video (08:32):
Entertainment Weekly reported Monday that MTV has ordered a pilot that features Savage, the Stranger's editorial director and brash author of sex-advice column "Savage Love."

According to the magazine, the show will feature Savage as he tours college campuses, takes questions, and gives out advice, auditorium-style. In September, Savage launched the "It gets better" campaign on YouTube to support and encourage gay teens struggling with harassment and bullying.

Howie P.S.: Sounds like it's "Loveline" for the 21st century.

The media's definition of "centrism"

Greg Sargent:
Politico, The Hill, and other outlets are already rushing to interpret Obama's speech as a move to the "center," but as Jed Lewison notes, this says "more about their changing definition of `centrism' than anything else." MORE...
Howie P.S.: Is it just me thinking this is really just more spin?

Monday, January 24, 2011

From Matt Taibbi's Mailbag: "Why was Lloyd Blankfein at the White House state dinner for Chinese president Hu Jintao?"

Matt Taibbi:
Why was Lloyd Blankfein at the White House state dinner for Chinese president Hu Jintao? The NY Times had an article about how competitive it was to get seats at this state dinner. And there is the head of Goldman Sachs - taking a break from doing God's work, of course - at the dinner. I guess I know why he was there. Because he's corrupt and our government is corrupt. But it's still galling.

I think the short answer to that question is that the entire U.S. delegation that was there – from the president to Lloyd – was there to make sure that China will continue to be a good partner when it comes to the removal of the American manufacturing job market to a slave-labor state. Check out this Bloomberg story that talks about Goldman et al being there to talk about “expanding U.S. business interests in China.” All the banks are heavily invested in outsourcing jobs to places like China – I know Bernie Sanders, every time I’ve talked to him, he has mentioned that the reason he’s particularly averse to bailing out these companies is that they refuse to promise to stop moving jobs to China. Why are we subsidizing that effort? Why is Obama there helping these companies move jobs overseas? The whole thing stinks. MORE...

"Lawrence O'Donnell addresses Keith Olbermann's departure..." (video)

MSNBC-The Last Word, video (04:49):
...and his tremendous impact on television news.

GRITtv: John Nichols on Gabby Giffords: "The Right to Peaceably Assemble" (video)

GRITtv, video (02:15):
When Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' Congress on Your Corner event was attacked on January 8th, gunman Jared Loughner did more than just go on a shooting spree. John Nichols notes that he attacked the very right of U.S. citizens to peaceably assemble and communicate with their representative in the government. When the 112th Congress first met this year, their first order of business was to read the Constitution out loud, and Rep. Giffords was the one who read the portion of the First Amendment that deals with the right to peaceably assemble, and Nichols argues that we need to honor Giffords and those killed that day by standing up for that right.

"When Talk Radio Talks, Congress Listens"

Christina Bellantoni (Roll Call):
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow told Roll Call she believes the right “has long had a wider-reaching, more fully-formed messaging apparatus than the left.”

“It may be that there’s more rightwing media echo in their politics simply because the right’s echo-chamber works better,” Maddow said in an e-mail. “Comparatively speaking, messaging on the left is much more ad hoc, much less disciplined and repetitive, and much less wide-reaching.”

Rosenberg and other Democrats agreed there’s a less cohesive message on the left. Several said efforts by MoveOn to influence Democratic leadership end up providing fodder for conservatives in that ecosystem, proving the right’s echo chamber is more effective.

“It always seems that if you turn on Hannity or Beck or Limbaugh, you seem to be hearing the same things come from Representatives’ and Senators’ mouths in the next 24 hours,” said Stefan Hankin, a Democratic strategist. “The voices on the left just don’t have the same drumbeat.” MORE...

(Updated) "Blaming Rahm"

UPDATE: I just finished reading Heilemann's piece and it's worth reading from the beginning to this paragraph at the end:
Nowhere in the Constitution is the spinning of yarns enumerated as a responsibility of the president of the United States. Yet the most successful of them in our recent history—Roosevelt, Reagan, Clinton—were all masters of the art. For a variety of reasons, Obama lost his storyteller’s touch, and also his connection to what made so many vest so much hope in him to begin with: his apparent capacity to lift the country up and calm it down at the same time. Has he figured out how to reclaim that brand of mojo? Not yet, not fully. But at least he understands he must, which is a start. “It’s kind of like with a 12-step program,” says the grandee. “Before you can begin fixing your life, you have to admit you have a problem.”
Ben Smith:
John Heilemann writes, in a piece that seems to convey Obama's own view of what's going on around him, that the changes we've been seeing in the White House are manifestations of Obama taking control, and shifting, among other things, "president’s conception of his own role."

The scoop in there is a round of meetings -- arranged in part by Obama himself -- with Washington graybeards.

But here's another element: A revisionist history of the first two years, growing internally, that puts a lot of blame on Rahm Emanuel:

"Rahm always wanted to win the day, win the week, at the expense of a longer-term focus,” says a senior White House official. “So we’d set up a plan to drive the economic message for a week, and then something would happen, so we would switch and do something different. The legislative calendar was all over the place. Everything had a certain madhouse quality about it.”

And the antidote:

Plouffe, even more than Daley, is the obverse of the former White House chief of staff: Calm, cool, and relentlessly collected, he is the anti-Rahm. It may be that Emanuel’s manic energy and deal-making prowess were essential to Obama’s achievements in the first two years; certainly the president believes that. But he also clearly feels that in the phase ahead, he needs more of the rigor and discipline that Plouffe can provide.

The Emanuel era began just before the 2008 election with a jolt: The ill-timed leak, presumably from Emanuel, of the fact that he'd been offered the job. It was the first sign of a collapse in the discipline the campaign made almost a religion; and while Emanuel's legislative success is obviously huge, it came at a political cost.

Howie P.S.: In retrospect, "No Drama" Obama's choice of Rahmbo as COS seems weird. Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with Emanuel can testify to his thespian infrastructure.

"Did Obama Dye His Hair?" (photo)

UPDATE: My hair dye and photo expert tells me:
How dumb! The light source is different, the background is lighter, therefore hair and skin appears darker. Or someone decided to Photoshop a bit.
My hair looks silvery in some lighting, mostly dark in others.

And do you care? Photo from Gawker.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Frank Rich: "The One-Eyed Man Is King"

Frank Rich:
At its core, the new “True Grit” is often surprisingly similar to the first, despite the clashing sensibilities of their directors (Henry Hathaway, a studio utility man, did the original) and the casting of an age-appropriate Mattie (Hailee Steinfeld) in lieu of the 21-year-old Kim Darby of 1969. But what leaps out this time, to the point of seeming fresh, is the fierce loyalty of the principal characters to each other (the third being a vain Texas Ranger, played by Matt Damon) and their clear-cut sense of morality and justice, even when the justice is rough. More than the first “True Grit,” the new one emphasizes Mattie’s precocious, almost obsessive preoccupation with the law. She is forever citing law-book principles, invoking lawyers and affidavits, and threatening to go to court. “You must pay for everything in this world one way or another,” says Mattie. “There is nothing free except the grace of God.”

That kind of legal and moral cost-accounting seems as distant as a tintype now. The new “True Grit” lands in an America that’s still not recovered from a crash where many of the reckless perpetrators of economic mayhem deflected any accountability and merely moved on to the next bubble, gamble or ethically dubious backroom deal. When Americans think of the law these days, they often think of a system that can easily be gamed by the rich and the powerful, starting with those who pillaged Lehman Brothers, A.I.G. and Citigroup and left taxpayers, shareholders and pensioners in the dust. A virtuous soul like Mattie would be crushed in a contemporary gold rush even if (or especially if) she fought back with the kind of civil action so prized by the 19th-century Mattie. MORE...

"How Congress helped thwart Obama's plan to close Guantanamo"

Photo: Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press / MCT

Carol Rosenberg (McClatchy Newspapers):
Many factors worked to thwart Obama's plans to close the camps — from a tangled bureaucracy to fears that released detainees would become terrorists. But Congress' prohibition on resettling any of the detainees in the United States hamstrung the administration's global search for countries willing to take the captives in.

The U.S. refusal to take in the captives "comes up all the time," acknowledged a senior Obama administration official of U.S. efforts to find homes for released detainees.

"Were we willing to take a couple of detainees ourselves, it would've made the job of moving detainees out of Guantanamo significantly easier,'' said the official, who agreed to speak only anonymously because of the delicacy of the diplomacy.

Still, the Obama administration has managed to arrange the find new homes for 38 Guantanamo detainees in 16 countries, including Bermuda, Bulgaria, Palau and Portugal. MORE...

We interrupt political coverage for "National Pie Day 2011" (with video) with video (04:56).
January 23 is officially National Pie Day 2011. Celebrate by making what the American Pie Council reports are the top five pies: apple pie, cherry pie, pecan pie, pumpkin pie or banana cream pie. MORE...
Howie P.S.; The video link above makes it look easy. My personal experiences with pie-making mirror my experiences with other complex, sensual activities requiring manual dexterity and attention to detail (or any political campaign):
The payoff can be blissful, but the risk is heartbreak.

Colin Powell: "Defunding NPR Won't Solve Deficit Problem, Congress Should Look At Cutting Defense" (with video)

Amanda Terkel (HuffPo) with video (01:50):
"As we draw down from Iraq and as over the next several years as we draw down from Afghanistan, I see no reason why the military shouldn't be looked at," he said. "When the Cold War ended 20 years ago, when I was chairman and Mr. Cheney was secretary of Defense, we cut the defense budget by 25 percent. And we reduced the force by 500,000 active duty soldiers, so it can be done. Now, how fast you can do it and what you have to cut out remains to be seen, but I don't think the defense budget can be made, you know, sacrosanct and it can't be touched." MORE...

"Wash. debates big changes to medical pot system" (with video)

TVW, Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee hearing on SB 5073, video (02:00:53).

"Medical Marijuana Bill May Face "Huff and Puff" But--Surprise--Support from Many Activists" (Nina Shapiro-Seattle Weekly):
Steve Sarich, a dispensary owner and enfant terrible of the medical-marijuana world, thus says that the bill "will immediately kill all dispensaries in this state," at least until 2012. And he plans to voice his vociferous objections at tomorrow's hearing.

But what's more remarkable is that, all questions aside, many activists seem to be coming out in favor of a bill that they once viewed with considerable skepticism. "We're really happy with the direction this is taking," says Philip Dawdy, spokesperson for the Washington Cannabis Association, a trade group of dispensary owners. Like others, Dawdy was initially wary of bureaucratic meddling.
"Holmes Asks Olympia to Allow Legal Pot Stores in Seattle" (Dominic Holden-SLOG):
City Attorney Pete Holmes can't be in Olympia today at the hearing for a bill to allow medical-marijuana dispensaries. Instead he wrote a six-page letter (.pdf), arguing that pot stores should be allowed, sick folks shouldn't be arrested, and even that he's in favor of "legalization, taxation, and regulation of marijuana for adult recreational use along the lines that alcohol is currently legal, taxed, and regulated."
"Bill would make life easier for medical pot users in Wash. state" (Chris
The bill would provide patients and providers who qualify with "arrest protection" if they don't have more than 15 cannabis plants and 24 ounces of marijuana (the current legal limit), have documentation showing that they qualify to use medical marijuana and that providers aren't using their product themselves.

Patients who qualify would be allowed to grow up to 15 plants for their own use; gardens being used by up to 25 patients would be allowed to have 99 plants. MORE...
"Wash. debates big changes to medical pot system" (Curt Woodward-The Olympian):
A dozen years after voters approved Washington's medical marijuana system, state lawmakers are debating major changes that would give patients greater protection from arrest and bring the supply chain out of a legal gray area.

Patients and advocates packed Thursday's meeting of the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee, which was discussing a bill proposed by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle.

With a nod to federal policies that are now more tolerant of state medical marijuana laws, Kohl-Welles' bill would make sweeping changes while attempting to keep the supply chain from resembling the more wide-open markets seen in California.

"We don't want the big billboards. We don't want the neon lights in dispensaries," Kohl-Welles said.

A major element of her bill would give patients protection from criminal arrest. Current law offers less protection, giving authorized medical marijuana patients the ability to offer a defense in court if they're charged with possession.

Patients and doctors could enter information into a voluntary, secure database that law enforcement could access to check someone's authorization.

The bill also would address a conundrum in Washington's system: It's technically legal for a patient to possess pot, but the proper ways of getting the drug can be unclear. MORE...

Harry Belafonte on Obama, and more

Photo: Victoria Will/AP
Melinda Newman (Hitfix):
Give me your assessment of Obama and where you feel we are right now.

I’m very proud that he’s in office, but that’s about it. What I now understand is without us being completely active and engaged and taking charge, he will not move. This happened before. John Kennedy became John Kennedy because of the Civil Rights Movement. History made John Kennedy more than John Kennedy made history with the peace movement of the time, the civil rights movement, what young people did. When we got active, the president stepped into the space and did what he had to do. So did Johnson and I think the same thing is necessary for Barack Obama.

If he doesn’t have an active society, if he doesn’t have an active Black community, if he doesn’t have an active Native American community, if he doesn’t have an active women’s community, he doesn’t have to do anything but duck bullets from the opposition. And he should stop ducking and we should start rallying around him and give him things to work with. If I gave him things to work with and he failed, I can attack him. MORE...
Howie P.S.: For those readers unfamiliar with Mr. Belafonte, check this out.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"Olbermann Was In A War With His Bosses!" (video)

MOX News with video from CNN, (07:43).

NY Times: "NBC’s management had been close to firing Mr. Olbermann on previous occasions"

Bill Carter (NY Times):
MSNBC announced that “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell would replace “Countdown” at 8 p.m., with “The Ed Show” with Ed Schultz taking Mr. O’Donnell’s slot at 10 p.m. Mr. Olbermann did not discuss any future plans, but NBC executives said one term of his settlement would keep him from moving to another network for an extended period of time.

Mr. Olbermann signed a four-year contract extension in 2008 for an estimated $30 million. He had hosted “Countdown” at 8 p.m. since 2003 and it became the foundation of the channel’s surge to its status as the second-ranked news channel on cable television, after Fox News, surpassing the one-time leader CNN.

Mr. Olbermann’s outspoken, and sometimes controversial, support of liberal positions and Democratic candidates redefined MSNBC from a neutral news channel to one that openly offered a voice to viewers on the left, much as Fox News has done for conservatives. MORE...
Howie P.S.: Olbermann went to Cornell University as did Seattle native Ari Melber (law school). Meaningless trivia or Synchronicity?

Friday, January 21, 2011

"Keith Olbermann leaves MSNBC - sounds like he was fired " (with video)

John Aravosis (AMERICAblog) with video (03:11):
UPDATE: I've created a petition for folks to stand with Keith. I'm not usually a petition fan, but this deserves one. The message is simple: I stand with Keith.

Keith says he was told "this is going to be the last edition of your show." Here's the rather curt statement from MSNBC.

Wow. Not a smart move by MSNBC. More than a few folks on Twitter, and elsewhere, are noting the interesting coincidence of Comcast being given approval to take over NBC just three days ago. Rather interesting timing. It's also interesting that the Republicans take over the House and suddenly Keith is gone - perhaps MSNBC has decided it wants more conservatives, or at least to lose its fiercest liberals.

If I were CNN, I'd hire him fast. This is the kind of energy and intellect CNN needs in its evening shows (not that it doesn't have some good talent). But Olbermann knows TV. And he's no Glenn Beck, but at the same time is a perfect counterpoint to the Becks of the world.
Howie P.S.: John Nichols is more blunt: "MSNBC Drops Keith Olbermann:"
There was no further explanation from the network of the decision, which comes at the close of a week that saw Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department's anti-trust division approve the merger of Comcast and NBC.

Olbermann was not available for comment.

But, rest assured, this move will stir plenty of debate.

NBC knows that.

Corporations tend to release the really bad news late on Friday afternoon, when reporters are headed home.

But the really bad news they save for after 8 on Friday night.

The email from MSNBC was sent at 8:02 p.m. EST. MORE...

Katrina vanden Heuvel: "Reversing 'Citizens United'"

Katrina vanden Heuvel:
In just the past two years, corporate money can be blamed for watering down consumer protections and diluting health-care and financial reform. In truth, there is almost no conversation we have in American politics in which corporations don't occupy all the seats at the table. As Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) acknowledged while talking about big banks during last year's financial reform debate: "They frankly own the place."

Changing that dynamic might well be the central challenge of this generation. Reversing Citizens United is about more than any one issue or court case - it is, at its base, a question of whether American democracy itself can beat back a corporate takeover, whether our most cherished principles of self-government can ultimately prevail. MORE...

"Sarah Palin is the gift who keeps on giving."

Eric Alterman:
Obviously, many in the media share the blame, not only for ignorant and exploitative comments made above, but for paying so much attention to a figure whose views are decidedly marginal to those of the vast majority of Americans, and whose approval ratings bespeak little more than devoted cult. But any car crash is likely to attract attention and this last orgy of victimization by Palin and company serves not only to change the topic from the wisdom of their own violent rhetoric but gives their minions a chance to rally ‘round their leaders however illogical their complaints. I don’t expect this to happen, however. Palin is far more a symbol of the degradation of our political culture than its cause. MORE...

"We'll Be Talking About (Seattle) Cops on KIRO Radio" (@ 9:30am this morning)

Dominic Holden (SLOG):

Cienna and I will be on the Dave Ross show at 9:30 a.m. to discuss the week-long inquest into the shooting of John T. Williams, yesterday's split decision from the jury, that incendiary stuff in Seattle Police Officers Guild's newspaper, the police accountability forum we're holding on February 3, and the correct style of donut to compliment coffee.

That's KIRO at 97.3 FM (with live streaming audio and video---click on the photo of Ross and Burbank).

Watch live streaming video from mynorthwest at

"Q&A with former DNC Chairman Howard Dean"

Former Vermont Governor, presidential candidate, and DNC Chairman Howard Dean at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, DC, Jan. 5.

Christian Science Monitor:
Former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean discussed President Obama's choice for his new chief of staff, the Tea Party's likely impact in the 2012 presidential election, and his current role in the Democratic party at a Jan. 5 Monitor breakfast. MORE...