Friday, January 29, 2010

The GOP's Big Regret

President Barack Obama attended the Republican annual retreat today. The Republicans have been complaining that Obama hasn't listened to their concerns and wanted this opportunity to present their solutions. The Republicans are now regretting what they wished for.

House Republicans were fired up and ready to go for their conversation with President Obama at their annual retreat today. According to the New York Times, members of the conservative Republican House Conference said they were “itching to quiz the president and present their policy ideas rather than listen to another lofty presidential address.” Although such sessions generally occur behind closed doors, Republicans agreed to open it up after the White House said it was willing to do so. However, after Obama’s strong performance, some Republicans are now regretting that decision. As Luke Russert reported on MSNBC:

RUSSERT: Tom Cole — former head of the NRCC, congressman from Oklahoma — said, “He scored many points. He did really well.” Barack Obama, for an hour and a half, was able to refute every single Republican talking point used against him on the major issues of the day. In essence, it was almost like a debate where he was front and center for the majority of it. … One Republican said to me, off the record, behind closed doors: “It was a mistake that we allowed the cameras to roll like that. We should not have done that.”

Watch it:

“Accepting the invitation to speak at the House GOP retreat may turn out to be the smartest decision the White House has made in months,” writes the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder. “Debating a law professor is kind of foolish — the Republican House Caucus has managed to turn Obama’s weakness — his penchant for nuance — into a strength. Plenty of Republicans asked good and probing questions, but Mike Pence, among others, found their arguments simply demolished by the president.”

Ezra Klein notes that, “Apparently, transparency sounds better in press releases than it does in practice.”

Finally, the President is getting tough with the Republicans.

The bad news for the GOP is that President Obama not only took their tough questions, but he answered them -- and he was tough, forcing the GOP to confront the facts instead of their make-believe Fox News reality. In fact, to get a sense of just how effective President Obama was, Fox "News" cut off the Q&A session before it ended (CNN and MSNBC both carried the full event live).

You can view the full video here, but if you just want a taste of what it was like, check out this portion of President Obama's response to a question from Mike Pence, in which President Obama calls out Republicans who on the one hand condemn the stimulus but on the other "appear at ribbon cuttings for the same projects that you voted against." Watch:

President Obama's tone was calm, reasoned, and respectful -- but he did not give an inch, and did not let Republican lies go without challenging them. It was really quite extraordinary.

It's about time...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Control Issues

Merriam Webster dictionary

A southern California elementary school had pulled all copies of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary after a parent complained about a child stumbling across definitions for "oral sex."

Now the Menifee Union School District is forming a committee to review whether dictionaries containing the definitions for sexual terms should be permanently banned from the district's classrooms, a district official said Friday.

Free-speech and anti-censorship experts called the ban an overreaction.

"If a public school were to remove every book because it contains one word deemed objectionable to some parent, then there would be no books at all in our public libraries," said Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, of which The Press-Enterprise is a member. "I think common sense seems to be lacking in this school."

Whether banning a dictionary would actually violate free-speech laws is a complicated legal question, Scheer said. But the decision to remove the reference books "certainly offends free-speech principles and values that all public schools should hold dear," he said.

Via Think Progress about Texas curriculum and textbooks standards.
For months, the Texas State Board of Education has been hearing from “experts” about the direction of the state’s social studies curriculum and textbook standards. The advice to the 15-member board — which is composed of 10 Republicans — has included more references to Christianity, fewer mentions of civil rights leaders, George Wasington, and Abraham Lincoln.

On Thursday and Friday last week, the State Board of Education took up these recommendations in a lengthy, heated debate. Some highlights of what the Republican-leaning board ended up deciding, and the debates that went on:

— On a 7-6 vote, the board decided to add “causes and key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schafly, the Contract with America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, and the National Rifle Association” to the curriculum.

– The Republican majority voted against requiring Texas textbooks and teachers to cover the Democratic late senator Edward Kennedy, the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and leading Hispanic civil rights groups such as LULAC and MALDEF. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Thurgood Marshall, the country’s first African-American Supreme Court justice, will be taught.

– Republican Don McLeroy lost a battle to “remove hip-hop and insert country music in its place from a proposed set of examples of cultural movements.” Republican Patricia Hardy said that while she disliked hip hop music, pretending it wasn’t around was “crazy.” “These people are multimillionaires, and believe me, there are not enough black people to buy that,” she said. “There are white people buying this. It has had a profound effect.” Country music was added as a separate measure.

– “McLeroy was successful with another of his noteworthy amendments: to include documents that supported Cold War-era Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his contention that the U.S. government was infiltrated with Communists in the 1950s.”

– “Republican board member Cynthia Dunbar unsuccessfully tried to strike the names of Scopes monkey trial attorney Clarence Darrow and Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey from the standards. Asked by another member about her opposition to Garvey, Dunbar explained, according to the Texas Tribune: “My concern is that he was born in Jamaica and was deported.”

– The board “included a requirement for students in U.S. history classes to differentiate between legal and illegal immigration.”

Unable to reach to reach complete agreement last week, the board unanimously decided to “suspend debate on the standards until March, when they will take up other social studies subjects such as government and geography.”

This debate is important not only because it will dictate how the state’s 4.7 million schoolchildren are taught social studies, but also because Texas “is one of the nation’s biggest buyers of textbooks.” Publishers are often “reluctant to produce different versions of the same material,” and therefore create books in line with Texas’ standards. “Publishers will do whatever it takes to get on the Texas list,” one industry executive told the Washington Monthly.


The Dallas Morning News has the story about a banned children's author.

What do the authors of the children's book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and a 2008 book called Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation have in common?

Both are named Bill Martin and, for now, neither is being added to Texas schoolbooks.

In its haste to sort out the state's social studies curriculum standards this month, the State Board of Education tossed children's author Martin, who died in 2004, from a proposal for the third-grade section. Board member Pat Hardy, R-Weatherford, who made the motion, cited books he had written for adults that contain "very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system."

Trouble is, the Bill Martin Jr. who wrote the Brown Bear series never wrote anything political, unless you count a book that taught kids how to say the Pledge of Allegiance, his friends said. The book on Marxism was written by Bill Martin, a philosophy professor at DePaul University in Chicago.

It seems that the problem is significant.

For some, however, the mix-up is an indicator of a larger problem with the way the elected board members have approached the update of state curriculum standards. [...]

The social studies standards update, which started last spring when groups of educators met to suggest revisions, has brought criticism from the right and the left about politicizing the process. As trustees worked their way through a draft this month, political ideas like imperialism, communism and free enterprise were at the heart of some of the changes.

When the issue of children's school books becomes political or religious, then free speech and civil rights certainly become victims.

We Need a New Direction Says Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders says that Fed Chief Ben Bernanke:

He's Part of the Problem

agrees with Sen Sanders that it's up to progressives to Take Action!

Not since the Great Depression has the financial system been as unsafe, unsound, and unstable as it has been during Ben Bernanke's tenure. The failed Fed chair is up for re-appointment this week.

Sign Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) petition to oust him!

Monday, January 25, 2010

What You Don't Know About Shrimp

The environmental impact of shrimp can be horrific. But most Americans don't know where their shrimp comes from or what's in it.
Jill Richardson at AlterNet tells us "Shrimps Dirty Secrets: Why America's Favorite Seafood Is A Health And Environmental Nightmare."

Americans love their shrimp. It's the most popular seafood in the country, but unfortunately much of the shrimp we eat are a cocktail of chemicals, harvested at the expense of one of the world's productive ecosystems. Worse, guidelines for finding some kind of "sustainable shrimp" are so far nonexistent.

The environmental impact of shrimp can be horrific. But most Americans don't know where their shrimp comes from or what's in it.

In his book, Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood, Taras Grescoe paints a repulsive picture of how shrimp are farmed in one region of India. The shrimp pond preparation begins with urea, superphosphate, and diesel, then progresses to the use of piscicides (fish-killing chemicals like chlorine and rotenone), pesticides and antibiotics (including some that are banned in the U.S.), and ends by treating the shrimp with sodium tripolyphosphate (a suspected neurotoxicant), Borax, and occasionally caustic soda.

Upon arrival in the U.S., few if any, are inspected by the FDA, and when researchers have examined imported ready-to-eat shrimp, they found 162 separate species of bacteria with resistance to 10 different antibiotics. And yet, as of 2008, Americans are eating 4.1 pounds of shrimp apiece each year -- significantly more than the 2.8 pounds per year we each ate of the second most popular seafood, canned tuna. But what are we actually eating without knowing it? And is it worth the price -- both to our health and the environment?

What Does This Mean?

Understanding the shrimp that supplies our nation's voracious appetite is quite complex. Overall, the shrimp industry represents a dismantling of the marine ecosystem, piece by piece. Farming methods range from those described above to some that are more benign. Problems with irresponsible methods of farming don't end at the "yuck," factor as shrimp farming is credited with destroying 38 percent of the world's mangroves, some of the most diverse and productive ecosystems on earth. Mangroves sequester vast amounts of carbon and serve as valuable buffers against hurricanes and tsunamis. Some compare shrimp farming methods that demolish mangroves to slash-and-burn agriculture. A shrimp farmer will clear a section of mangroves and close it off to ensure that the shrimp cannot escape. Then the farmer relies on the tides to refresh the water, carrying shrimp excrement and disease out to sea. In this scenario, the entire mangrove ecosystem is destroyed and turned into a small dead zone for short-term gain. Even after the shrimp farm leaves, the mangroves do not come back.

A more responsible farming system involves closed, inland ponds that use their wastewater for agricultural irrigation instead of allowing it to pollute oceans or other waterways. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program, when a farm has good disease management protocols, it does not need to use so many antibiotics or other chemicals.

One more consideration, even in these cleaner systems, is the wild fish used to feed farmed shrimp. An estimated average of 1.4 pounds of wild fish are used to produce every pound of farmed shrimp. Sometimes the wild fish used is bycatch -- fish that would be dumped into the ocean to rot if they weren't fed to shrimp -- but other times farmed shrimp dine on species like anchovies, herring, sardines and menhaden. These fish are important foods for seabirds, big commercial fish and whales, so removing them from the ecosystem to feed farmed shrimp is problematic.

Additionally, some shrimp are wild-caught, and while they aren't raised in a chemical cocktail, the vast majority is caught using trawling, a highly destructive fishing method. Football field-sized nets are dragged along the ocean floor, scooping up and killing several pounds of marine life for every pound of shrimp they catch and demolishing the ocean floor ecosystem as they go. Where they don't clear-cut coral reefs or other rich ocean floor habitats, they drag their nets through the mud, leaving plumes of sediment so large they are visible from outer space.

After trawling destroys an ocean floor, the ecosystem often cannot recover for decades, if not centuries or millennia. This is particularly significant because 98 percent of ocean life lives on or around the seabed. Depending on the fishery, the amount of bycatch (the term used for unwanted species scooped up and killed by trawlers) ranges from five to 20 pounds per pound of shrimp. These include sharks, rays, starfish, juvenile red snapper, sea turtles and more. While shrimp trawl fisheries only represent 2 percent of the global fish catch, they are responsible for over one-third of the world's bycatch. Trawling is comparable to bulldozing an entire section of rainforest in order to catch one species of bird.

What Can We Do?

Given this disturbing picture, how can an American know how to find responsibly farmed or fished shrimp? Currently, it's near impossible. Only 15 percent of our total shrimp consumption comes from the U.S. (both farmed and wild sources). The U.S. has good regulations on shrimp farming, so purchasing shrimp farmed in the U.S. is not a bad way to go. Wild shrimp, with a few exceptions, is typically obtained via trawling and should be avoided. The notable exceptions are spot prawns from British Columbia, caught in traps similar to those used for catching lobster, and the small salad shrimp like the Northern shrimp from the East Coast or pink shrimp from Oregon, both of which are certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. However, neither are true substitutes for the large white and tiger shrimp American consumers are used to.

The remaining 85 percent came from other countries and about two-thirds of our imports are farmed with the balance caught in the wild, mostly via trawling. China is the world's top shrimp producer -- both farmed and wild -- but only 2 percent of China's shrimp are imported to the U.S. The world's number two producer, Thailand, is our top foreign source of shrimp. Fully one third of the shrimp the U.S. imports comes from Thailand, and over 80 percent of those shrimp are farmed.

The next biggest sources of U.S. shrimp are Ecuador, Indonesia, China, Mexico, Vietnam, Malaysia and India. Together, those countries provide nearly 90 percent of America's imported shrimp. Interestingly, Ecuador's shrimp industry exists almost entirely to supply U.S. demand, with over 93 percent of its shrimp coming up north to the U.S. The vast majority of those shrimp (almost 90 percent) are farmed. Sadly, shrimp production is responsible for the destruction of 70 percent of Ecuador's mangroves. Farming practices in other countries range from decent to awful, but there's currently no real way for a consumer to tell whether shrimp from any particular country was farmed sustainably or not.

Geoff Shester, senior science manager of Monterey Bay's Seafood Watch, says that ethical shrimp consumption is a chicken and egg problem. On one hand, the solution is for consumers to show demand for responsibly farmed and wild shrimp by eating it but on the other hand, ethical shrimp choices are not yet widely available. Seafood Watch is working with some of the largest seafood buyers in the U.S. to help them buy better shrimp, but it's currently a major challenge.

The first challenge is that labeling and certification programs do not yet exist to identify which farmed shrimp meet sustainable production standards. The second challenge is that even when such programs are in place, the U.S. demand will likely greatly exceed their supply.

Shester's advice to consumers right now is "only buy shrimp that you know comes from a sustainable source. If you can't tell for sure, try something else from the Seafood Watch yellow or green lists." Knowing that many will be unwilling to give up America's favorite seafood, he advocates simply eating less of it and keeping an eye on future updates to the Seafood Watch guide to eating sustainable seafood.

If you are a vegan or if you are Kosher than this is not a problem. But if you do want to eat shrimp, at least understand the situation. Find out where your shrimp comes from and how they are raised. It will help the environment as well as your body.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Conservatism, Government Failure and the Democrats

"What conservatism in this country is about is government failure. Conservatives talk about government failure all the time, constantly. And conservatives, when they're in power deliver government failure."
Bill Moyer asks Thomas Frank: How is it that the people who are responsible for the mess that Obama inherited are getting away with demonizing him when he's only had less than a year to clean it up. Let me show you just a sample of commentators railing against the President.
RUSH LIMBAUGH: President Obama and the Democrats are destroying the US economy. They are purposefully doing it, I believe.

GLENN BECK: This is a well-thought out plan to collapse the economy as we know it.

JONATHAN HOENIG: The president has, I think if you listen to what he says, a hatred for capitalism. Where do jobs come from? They don't come from the government, they come from the profit seeking self-interest, from what I hear and see, the President never misses an opportunity to smear and [no audio] slap!

RUSH LIMBAUGH: This guy is a coward. He does not have the gonads or the spine to even stand up and accept what he's doing! All of this is his doing. He cannot even probably say, you should like this -- you may not like this, but I'm telling you it's the best thing for you, it's the best thing for me. No! He knows it's a disaster, he has to slough this off, on his previous-- or his predecessor, the previous administration.

SEAN HANNITY: It's his stimulus. It's his record deficit spending. He quadrupled the debt in a year. You know, how many more are the Democrats going to say, "Well, it's George Bush's fault"? This is Obama's economy now.[...]
THOMAS FRANK: Well, that's the disease of our time. You know, that sort of instant forgetting.

BILL MOYERS: But what does it do to our politics when the very spokesmen for what some people have called a decade of conservative failure. I mean, remember before Obama, they turned a budget surplus into a deficit. They took us to war on fraudulent pretenses. They borrowed money to fight it. They presided over a stalemate in Afghanistan. They trashed the Constitution. They presided over the weakest economy in decades--[...]

THOMAS FRANK: Think of all the crises and the disasters that you've described. And I would add to them things like the, what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. And the Madoff scandal on Wall Street. And, you know, on and on and on. The Jack Abramoff scandal. The whole sordid career of Tom DeLay.

All of these things that we remember from the last decade. I mean, some of them that we're forgetting. Like who remembers all the scandals over earmarking, anymore? And who remembers all the scandals over Iraq reconstruction? All that, you know, disastrous, when we would hand it off to a private contractor to rebuild Iraq. And it would, you know, of course, it would fail.

Those things have all sort of been dwarfed by the economic disaster and the wreckage on Wall Street. But I would say to you that all of these things that we're describing here are of a piece. And that they all flow from the same ideas. And those ideas are the sort of conservative attitude towards government. And conservative attitudes towards governance. Okay?

Inferior government is by design.
THOMAS FRANK: Yeah. Well, or you know, do away with it altogether, de-fund it. Look, the beginning in the 1980s, President Reagan came to office and came to power, and you remember the kind of rhetoric that he used to use in denouncing the Federal workforce. He hated the Federal workforce. And this is an article of faith among conservatives.

There's something called the pay gap that they used to talk about a lot in Washington, D.C. Which is, back in the '50s, '60s, and up into the 1970s, Federal workers were paid a comparable amount to what people in the private sector earned. Okay? So, if you're a lawyer working for the government, you got about as much as a lawyer working in the private sector.

Not as much, because government benefits are considered to be much better. Okay. Under Reagan, you had this huge gap open up between Federal workers and the private sector. I asked around. And I found out a government attorney makes $140,000 a year on retirement. After he's been there all his life. In the private sector law firm in Washington, you'd be making $160,000 starting salary. That's first year. Right out of law school.

BILL MOYERS: So what's the consequence of this pay gap you described? Or, do we get inferior government because of it?

THOMAS FRANK: Absolutely. It keeps the best and the brightest out of government service, unless you're really dedicated to a cause.

But let me go one step further with this, Bill. When I say this is done by design, I'm not exaggerating. And this is one of the more surprising things that I found when I was doing the research for "The Wrecking Crew," is that there's a whole conservative literature on why you want second-rate people in government, or third-rate.

I found an interview with the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from 1928, where he said-- this quote, it's mind-boggling to me. But he really said this. "The best public servant is the worst one." Okay? You want bad people in government. You want to deliberately staff government with second-rate people. Because if you have good people in government, government will work. And then the public will learn to trust government. And then they'll hand over more power to it.

And you don't want that, of course. Your Chamber of Commerce. And I thought, when I first read this, "That's a crazy idea. I can't believe that sentiment." And then I found it repeated again and again and again. Throughout the long history of the conservative movement. This is something they believe very deeply.
Part of the problem is what the Democrats don't do!
BILL MOYERS: Why? So, part of the problem with America is the Democratic Party?

THOMAS FRANK: A huge part of the problem, because look, the conservatives have for decades now made their-- the whole point of their party is to attack government, attack the state, encourage cynicism about government. And then wreck it when they're in charge, right?

Democrats never defend the state. They never come out and say, "No, no. It's important to have, you know, government. It's important to have a Department of Labor. These are, you know, having government actually-- a good government increases your freedom. It doesn't ruin it." They never fight back consistently.


THOMAS FRANK: I think they're-- some of them do. You've got members of Congress here and there that do. But by and large, the prominent leading Democrats in our society don't do that. Why is that? Because I think that would get them in trouble with their funders. I mean, the power of money is huge in the political system. You know, despite all the efforts that have been made over the years to get money out of politics. It's still immensely powerful.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Democrats Wake-UP!

You need Balls to pass health care reform.

The Blame Game

There have been many progressive voices in and out of the blogosphere complaining about the Obama Administration as it relates to health care , the bank bailout, Afghanistan or the election in Massachusetts.

Bernard Avishai at TPM believes that the Massachussets voters, particularly the "undecideds" saw Coakley as being completely insincere.
I wish I had a bluefish dinner for every time Coakley referred to the health package as "not perfect." It all came out so forced and fake.
But his real gripe seems to be against the 'real' progressives and the Democratic party.
And we can look no further than Howard Dean, and MSNBC, and Arianna Huffington, and, yes, some columnists at the Times and bloggers here at TPM — you know, real progressives — who have lambasted Obama again and again since last March over arguable need-to-haves like the "public option," as if nobody else was listening. They've been thinking: "Oh, if only we ran things, how much more subtle would the legislation be," as if 41 senators add up to subtle. Meanwhile the undecideds are thinking: "Hell, if his own people think he's a sell-out and jerk, why should we support this?"
Kevin Drum at Mother Jones sees discontent with Obama from the left as being 'inevitable.'
The frustration on the left with Obama — and with healthcare reform specifically — was almost inevitable. During the campaign, a lot of people chose to see in him what they wanted to see, pushing to the back of their minds not just the obvious signs that Obama has always been a cautious, practical politician, but also the obvious compromises and pressures that are forced onto any president. It was a recipe for disappointment. The striking thing to me, though, is how fast the left has turned on him.
Did the mere image of Obama become the 'Hope" that he was selling. It wasn't only the right that labeled him a 'liberal.' It was also the left that really wished and hoped that Obama would become the 'liberal' President they were waiting for. In reality he was and is not as progressive as the right labels him to be and as the left wishes he would be.

Given the reality of the Obama presidency, Drum still feels we need to give President Obama a chance.

I've got all sorts of complaints about Obama. He's been weaker on civil liberties than I'd like. His approach to bank regulation has been far too friendly to financial interests. I'm not thrilled with his escalation in Afghanistan. He hasn't moved as quickly on gay rights as I hoped. And he hasn't used the bully pulpit nearly as effectively as I think he's capable of. He could afford to attack obstructionism and conservative retrenchment far more directly than he has.

Still, none of that comes within light years of providing a reason to turn on him. The national security community has tremendous influence; the financial lobby has a stranglehold on Congress; Obama told us explicitly during the campaign that he planned to escalate in Afghanistan; his caution on gay rights is quite likely smart politically; and he certainly gave us fair warning about his dedication to reaching across the aisle and trying to work with Republicans. The fact that they've spent his entire first year in a raging temper tantrum is hardly his fault. Given the cards he was dealt, he hasn't done badly. I think Andrew Sullivan — writing in his Dr. Jekyll persona — gets it about right here.

Obama is a liberal pragmatist in politics and a traditional conservative in his understanding of the presidency. Once you grasp this, his first year makes much more sense.

He has marshalled conservative constitutional norms - against the radical claims of Bush and Cheney with respect to the presidency - in defense of a liberal restoration of the importance of government. This has made for a frustrating year for those who want instant results - because he has often deferred to Congress; or those who want short-term tactical political coups - because he prefers strategy to tactics. But for anyone taking the long view, it is hard to see where Obama has really gone wrong. [...]

Did Obama make a mistake by sticking with his campaign pledge to reform and expand health insurance in such a perilous economic time? My view is: no. He crafted a compromise bill that would provide insurance to 30 million people, reduce the deficit, and bring the drug and insurance companies along. Such a result enraged the left, and sent the right into a tizzy of fury - but it will endure as the biggest social reform since Lyndon Johnson if it survives the Massachusetts special election. Did he err by allowing the Congress to take the lead? Well: the Clintons tried dictating to Congress and look how that turned out. No president has succeeded in this area before, in good times and bad. Obama got his reform in a year of economic crisis. The further you remove yourself from this, the more impressive the achievement is.

One interesting comment left by Anonymous to Drum's analysis of who's to blame, is also relevant in this discussion.

Mr. Drum reminds me of the Queen Alice in Wonderland: he gets everything reversed.

The problem isn't the Left, who have been totally ignored by the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership . . . the problem is the "centrists", who are little more than political whores always with their finger up in the air tracking the latest poll and focus group study results: the American people, completely disgusted with the behavior and failures of "centrist" Democrats, shouted a resounding "NO!!!!" to Obama and the DLC.

If the Democrats want to win, they have to earn a win. That means real change. That means principle. That means doing a U-turn from the "Turn Right" sign they have been following, and GO LEFT.

1. Mr. Obama has, for the most part, embraced or expanded Bush policies. He's a Democrat with a black skin and a white Wall Street soul.

2. Polls have shown, time and time again that Americans don't want this freak of a health care bill, which that mandates people are forced to buy products from the same insurance companies that are responsible for the miserable state of America's health care, they want a single payer system similar to other developed countries which has proven far superior to the present American system.

3. The American people don't want to escalate the war in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen.

4. The American people don't to bail out Wall Street and billionaire bankers.

5. The American people don't want political hacks like Rahm Emanuel and Wall Street crooks like Larry Summers and Bob Rubin controlling Obama administration policy.

6. The American people voted for real change, and they're sick of getting empty promises and Madison Avenue pabulum.

Where does the truth lie in all this analysis? Probably somewhere in between.

Prof. Robert P. Watson, Coordinator of American Studies, Lynn University, has put together two lists of accomplishments of President Obama that the media has not reported on. The first is a list of 90 accomplishments of Obama in the first six months of his presidency. The second is a list of 159 accomplishments in President Obama's first year.

Yes, Obama is a " liberal pragmatist in politics". It is true that Coakley ran her race for the MA Senate seat without fire in her belly. The Democrats bear some blame in not getting the Blue Dogs in line. The Blue Dogs should stop calling themselves Democrats and just become the Republicans they vote with. President Obama bears blame in not taking into consideration the progressive viewpoint on health care and the economy. The progressives bear some blame for not organizing and screaming as loud or louder than the right wing-nut pundits and birthers.

Now that the 'Blame Game' has been played. What will the next step be in order to piece this mess together?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

FINALLY...Some Change to Believe In!!!!

Proposal Set to Curb Bank Giants

Obama Seeks To Return to the Spirit Of Glass-Steagall

WSJ: President Obama meets with Paul Volcker and proposes new banking firewalls in the "spirit of Glass-Steagall."
Mr. Obama's proposal is expected to include new scale restrictions on the size of the country's largest financial institutions. The goal would be to deter banks from becoming so large they put the broader economy at risk and to also prevent banks from becoming so large they distort normal competitive forces. It couldn't be learned what precise limits the White House will endorse, or whether Mr. Obama will spell out the exact limits on Thursday.

Mr. Obama is also expected to endorse, for the first time publicly, measures pushed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, which would place restrictions on the proprietary trading done by commercial banks, essentially limiting the way banks bet with their own capital. Administration officials say they want to place 'firewalls' between different divisions of financial companies to ensure banks don't indirectly subsidize 'speculative' trading through other subsidiaries that hold federally insured deposits.

The White House's proposal, one aide said, wouldn't resurrect the exact limits put in place by the Depression-era Glass Steagall Act, which essentially walled off commercial banks from investment banks and was repealed in 1999. Instead, the White House proposal would seek to return the "spirit of Glass Steagall," meant to limit large banks from becoming too big and complex that create enormous risk.
This is the path for change that will truly help regulate the billionaire banks. Self-regulation never works.

The Private Option Wins!

The public option for dummies

I can see clearly now!

Where Does the Blame Lie?

Les Leopold has an interesting perspective of who to blame for the the loss in Massachusetts. He says that the initial blame might fall on Obama but that progressives need some introspection in order to see that they didn't do enough.

The Obama administration bears much of the responsibility for the debacle in Massachusetts. It didn't go hard enough against Wall Street, and it didn't recognize the depth and breadth of the jobs crisis -- and the connection between the two.

But don't stop there. Much of the failure also rests with the progressive community which is clueless about how to respond to our new billionaire bailout society.

Over the past thirty years we've gone from a quasi-social democratic/capitalist economy to a full-fledged billionaire bailout society whose primary purpose is to maintain the wealth and prominence of a tiny handful of elites, even if it means raiding the national treasury to protect, restore and enhance its riches. [...]

When it all came crashing down, we still didn't realize, until too late, that that we had entered a new billionaire bailout society. The crash should have produced immediate investigations and drastic reforms. The big bankers were on their knees groveling for funds. That was the time to address "too big to fail" by breaking them up so they never again could crash the entire system.

It didn't happen. It's still not happening.

Instead, we bailed them out without asking for anything significant in return. [...]

To drive home the reality of what a billionaire bailout society really means, the biggest banks, (which are still major beneficiaries of billions of dollars of public largess even after they payback TARP) are declaring near record profits and bonuses again while nearly 30 million people are without jobs or forced into part-time work. And to rub it in, the banks are using their new found wealth to lobby against any and all reforms that might stand in their way. (Isn't it nice to see the stock market rally as Obama's reform agenda is further wounded?)

What did progressives do? What are they doing now?

Not nearly enough. We put our faith in Obama and now are moaning about how he failed to take on Wall Street and the insurance giants. We concentrated on shaping the health care bill, but did little to shape the outrage against Wall Street and the anxiety about job loss.

The moment was missed. The American public truly became outraged at the Wall Street rip offs, but progressives failed to mobilize on Main Street. Instead the terrain was abdicated to the Tea Party, a loose collection of right wing populists who stirred up a potent brew of anti-Obama, anti-government resentments and anti-Wall Street anger.

In a matter of months the Tea Party has gained more popular appeal than either of the two parties. Unbelievably, it is becoming the party of Main Street. [...]

Where is all that new progressive Internet organizing that was supposed reshape American politics? Where is that virtual mass movement that supposedly got Obama elected? Did we expect to tweet our way into reforming Wall Street? [...]

Unfortunately, the crisis also is revealing how tied progressive are to the Democratic establishment, and how meek our protests seem, just when our nation most needs our loudest voices and most spirited reforms.
Another example of a lost moment. Progressives waited for Obama. The wait is over. It is time to mobilize and set a new course.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Under-Achievement is the Culprit

"Democrats are being told (and telling themselves) that they over-reached, but what became clear as the months dragged on is the Democratic party under-achieved, and so did its president."
Coakley's loss in Massachussets is now being analyzed and picked apart by pundits and politicans alike to understand what happened that a blue state went red. William Greider of The Nation has a compelling and right-on-point article, Coakley's Loss; Pie in the President's Face.

The humiliation, I decided, could become a good thing for this presidency if it forces Obama to rethink his political strategy and rearrange his governing order. For all his brains and talent, for all the brainy people around him, the Obama White House seems tone-deaf and blind on many aspects of the popular reality. Too full of itself to listen closely. Too condescending to recognize the rage and fear are about more than right-wing frothers.

On healthcare, Obama played coy while his White House aides cut private deals with the drug industry and other sectors. The legislative process was drawn out month after month in an addled bargaining marathon with hostile Republicans (who stiffed him in return) and industry-leaning Democrats (who got whatever they demanded). The liberal base was conned, ignored and bullied, as its vital issues were one by one discarded. Labor unions were stroked and intimidated by the White House, then double-crossed as Obama's reform extracted greater costs from union members than it demanded from the drug makers. People at large were confused, then frightened. They could not understand what reform would do for them, and some of their doubts were well-founded. The longer it went on, the more people wondered why Democrats weren't talking about their problem--jobs and incomes.

Obama's mild-mannered faith in bipartisan deal-making seemed strangely out of touch. Didn't he realize Republicans were going to maul him at every turn?

The bankers, meanwhile, did their own tap dance on the new president, putting a paw on his shoulder while gobbling up public resources. Obama kept holding meetings with them, urging them to do the "right thing." They practically laughed in his face.

People were meanwhile agitated by the swelling budget deficits and easy prey for right-wing propaganda. Instead of explaining the economic necessity of deficit spending in a straightforward way, Obama adopted these worries as his own. He has promised to reduce spending, but he cannot deliver on this if he truly expects recovery.

Obama's style became an inadvertent formula for sapping the life out of the political majority that elected him, deflating the reach of reform and turning off the electoral base that came together in 2008. Democrats are being told (and telling themselves) that they over-reached, but what became clear as the months dragged on is the Democratic party under-achieved, and so did its president.

Obama's most disturbing quality is that he evidently intended this from the start. Soaring rhetoric notwithstanding, he managed the presidency as a pragmatist in search of the possible. The real goals for change were minimalist, not visionary. This has to change and soon, if he is to revive his presidency.

Obama, in other words, has to change himself. That may sound too wishful and maybe it is. But we know he is a brilliant politician, astute in his political vision. The great politicians, when faced with new circumstances, revise themselves. We will see if Obama can.

First, he has to clear out the cobwebs of his hopeful aspirations and take on the fight. To do so, he also has to clear away a lot of the people around him. If Rahm Emmauel was the chief strategist, the guy who made the private deals and told the senators what they could accept, he failed big-time and should be replaced. Find a new manager whose thinking was not shaped by cynical triangulation in the Clinton era.

The president chose Larry Summer and Timothy Geithner to speak for the administration on the economy. Can you imagine finding anyone less convincing? Both are active advocates of the Wall Street status quo, neither has any feel for what's happening in the country. The bean counters led the president into the trap he now faces. Permissive bailouts created flush financial giants that sit on their profits and ignore the public need for lending. Dump the bean counters now.[...]

If comprehensive healthcare reform is out of the question, Obama Democrats can break it down into smaller pieces and try to pass worthy measures one by one. A bill to prohibit insurance companies from banning people with pre-existing ailments? Pass it the House and try to pass it in the Senate. If Republicans want to filibuster, make them filibuster. A measure to allow cheaper drug imports from Canada? Let Republicans vote against that. Repealing the antitrust exemption for insurance companies--Democrats support it. Democrats need to start a fight on taxes too. Do Republicans want to tax Wall Street banks or not? Obama has proposed it, let's have a roll call. The attack strategy will focus on all the reforms people want and need and create a new political dynamic.

Read the complete article here.

I find it interesting that the media seems to be taking the Republican talking point that Coakley lost because people don't want sweeping health care reform. It really is just the opposite. People do want health care reform. They just want reform that will benefit them and not the insurance companies. What Congress has passed, especially the Senate, has chipped away at a robust package and created a broken bill.

Ask yourself, what is President's Obama's position on health care? My point exactly...I don't know. Under-achievement is the culprit!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Vote for David Hoffman in IL

With glowing endorsements from the Chicago Tribune, the Sun-Times, and the Daily Herald, see why David Hoffman has what it takes to be the next U.S. Senator from Illinois.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Ezra Klein
wants to "put the health-care bill into perspective."
It's time for some real talk on health-care reform. By the standards of what Congress generally does in a year, this bill is very big. But by the standards of the health-care system, it's not that big at all. It goes two-thirds of the way on covering the uninsured. It makes a courageous, but insufficient, start on cost control. This is the beginning, not the end, of reform. [...]

So that's really what we're talking about here -- a health-care expansion that's a slight fraction of overall spending. Let's go even further: It's an expansion that most people won't notice in 10 years. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate bill will change the insurance of about 40 million people by 2019, about 30 million of whom would have been uninsured. The other 10 million will come from the employer or individual markets in search of more affordable options. About 8 percent of the country will still be uninsured, though that falls to 6 percent if you exclude illegal immigrants. Ninety percent of Americans will be exactly where they'd otherwise be. [...]

But changing the growth of the health-care system is a lot harder than just cutting a few dollars here or there. It requires us to change how doctors practice medicine, or how much medicine people buy or how much they need -- or maybe all three. We're doing a lot on health-care reform this year, but we're not doing that much. And we shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking otherwise.
Putting aside the fact that this bill is anything but robust, the legislation, in whatever form it passes, won't go into effect until 2014.

It's Time to "Repower America"

The Alliance for Climate Protection released a new national television ad, Do Right, encouraging Americans to support the path away from foreign oil and toward clean energy now.

Read more

God and War


A shocking article by ABC News reports that U.S. military weapons are being inscribed with secret 'Jesus' biblical codes.

Coded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus Christ are inscribed on high-powered rifle sights provided to the United States military by a Michigan company, an ABC News investigation has found.

The sights are used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers. The maker of the sights, Trijicon, has a $660 million multi-year contract to provide up to 800,000 sights to the Marine Corps, and additional contracts to provide sights to the U.S. Army.

U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious "Crusade" in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents.

One of the citations on the gun sights, 2COR4:6, is an apparent reference to Second Corinthians 4:6 of the New Testament, which reads: "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

Other references include citations from the books of Revelation, Matthew and John dealing with Jesus as "the light of the world." John 8:12, referred to on the gun sights as JN8:12, reads, "Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Trijicon confirmed to that it adds the biblical codes to the sights sold to the U.S. military. Tom Munson, director of sales and marketing for Trijicon, which is based in Wixom, Michigan, said the inscriptions "have always been there" and said there was nothing wrong or illegal with adding them. Munson said the issue was being raised by a group that is "not Christian." The company has said the practice began under its founder, Glyn Bindon, a devout Christian from South Africa who was killed in a 2003 plane crash.

'It violates the Constitution'

The company's vision is described on its Web site: "Guided by our values, we endeavor to have our products used wherever precision aiming solutions are required to protect individual freedom." [...]

"It's wrong, it violates the Constitution, it violates a number of federal laws," said Michael "Mikey" Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group that seeks to preserve the separation of church and state in the military.

'Firearms of Jesus Christ'

Weinstein, an attorney and former Air Force officer, said many members of his group who currently serve in the military have complained about the markings on the sights. He also claims they've told him that commanders have referred to weapons with the sights as "spiritually transformed firearm[s] of Jesus Christ."

He said coded biblical inscriptions play into the hands of "those who are calling this a Crusade."

"This is probably the best example of violation of the separation of church and state in this country," said Weinstein. "It's literally pushing fundamentalist Christianity at the point of a gun against the people that we're fighting. We're emboldening an enemy."

It is time to get religion out of the military and out of the government!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hell Yes!

Retribution comes in many forms.

Pat Robertson had some biting words about the Haitian people and the cause of the recent earthquake which has caused devastating destruction. "[The people of Haiti] got together and swore a pact to the devil."


In response to Pat Robertson's condemnation of the Haitian people, a Pat Robertson voodoo doll is being sold on Ebay, 100% of proceeds to benefit the Red Cross:
Finally! What you've all been asking for! A one of a kind, handmade PAT ROBERTSON VOODOO DOLL.

After an exclusive deal with devil, we are finally able to bring black magic into your very own home! The lucky winner of this auction will attain the soul of Televangelist PAT ROBERTSON in a hand held figurine comprised of the finest straw, cloth, and other organic natural materials!

Ever wanted to cause Pat Robertson a massive headache? give him back pain? jab him in the crotch? Of course you have! Well then BID NOW to own your very own physical representation of the dark, dark soul of Pat Robertson.

'Atonement' for Pat Robertson.

Palin Hits the Jackpot

The New York Post reports that Sarah Palin received $100 for her magazine photo. Sarah Palin and her daughter, Bristol, earned an eye-popping $100,000 for their new In Touch Weekly cover, sources say.

For just eight hours' work at her own home, Palin pocketed nearly as much as her $125,000-a-year salary as Alaska governor. It seems her decision to quit her political role is making big financial sense. Palin also reportedly earns $100,000 per public-speaking engagement, while she has a multiyear deal as a Fox News Channel analyst.

Gottafaff at The Political Carnival has a tongue-in-cheek analysis of the Palin family.
Tripp, Trigg, Trak, Truck, Trek, Drek, Heck. They're all just one big happy family living off of their Paris Hiltonesque fame.
All Bristol had to do was give birth and stand next to her mom at conventions and such.
All Barbie had to do was talk about Bristol giving birth, speak in tongues, fail at potential Veepitude, acquire an odd accent that doesn't represent Alaska, talk about her lipstick, forget O'Biden's real last name, incite hatred, have her ghost writer write, and then charge a whole bunch of money for talking incessantly about all of that and other stuff.
The family that exploits together is maladroit together.
Watch out Sarah, too much exposure could be damaging.

Lies, Truth and Newspeak

Glenn Greenwald has a compelling article in Salon, The Fundamental Unreliability of America's Media. Greenwald laments about the role journalists now play in the dissemination of false information.

Consider the record of the American media over the last two weeks alone. Justin Elliott of TPM documents how an absolute falsehood about the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing -- that Abdulmutallab purchased a "one-way ticket" to the U.S., when it was actually a round-trip ticket -- has been repeated far and wide by U.S. media outlets as fact. Two weeks ago, Elliott similarly documented how an equally false claim from ABC News -- that two of the Al Qaeda leaders behind that airliner attack had been released from Guantanamo -- became entrenched as fact in media reports (at most, it was one, not two). This week, Dan Froomkin chronicles how completely discredited claims about Guantanamo recidivism rates continue to be uncritically "reported" by The New York Times and then inserted into our debates as fact.

As I documented two weeks ago, government claims about which "top Al Qaeda fighters" were killed by our airstrikes turn out to be untrue far more often than not, yet are always mindlessly featured by our media, ensuring little questioning of those actions; and now, at least two of the three Top Terrorists claimed to have been killed by our recent airstrikes in Yemen -- and possibly all three -- are quite likely alive. As Greg Sargent writes, one of the most provocative and inflammatory claims of the trashy Halperin/Heilemann gossip book -- that Bill Clinton told Ted Kennedy that Obama would have been "getting us coffee" just a couple years earlier -- is not only completely unsourced (like virtually every one of their sleazy claims), but also "paraphrased."

Aside from falsity -- and the fact that they become irreversibly lodged in our political culture as fact -- what do all of these deceitful reports have in common? They're all the by-product of granting anonymity to people and then repeating what they claim as fact, with the falsehood-disseminators protected by "journalists" from any and all accountability for their falsehoods.
Greenwald claims that "unjustified anonymity -- especially when mindlessly repeating what shielded government sources claim in secret -- is the single greatest enabler of false and deceitful "reporting."

David Sirota in his article, Right is not Center, but 2010 resemble 1984, has another perspective of the problem of truth in journalism when he says, "newspeak can destructively alter the public’s perception of acceptable and unacceptable, possible and impossible."

“War is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength” — more than a quarter century after those oxymorons were supposed to pervade an Orwellian 1984, today’s media make such newspeak even more preposterous: On economic issues, we are often told that right is center, center is left, and left is fringe.

For a year, national reporters (with help from conservative talk-radio goons) have depicted the center-right Obama administration and its corporatist policies as quasi-Marxist. We’ve heard that a government-run public health care option is a “liberal” cause, even as polls confirm that most Americans — not just liberals — support the idea. We’re told that legislators backing no-strings-attached bank bailouts are mainstream “centrists,” while bailout opponents are extremists — even as public opinion surveys say the opposite.

This is Washington’s “fair and balanced” journalism (or “journalism,” as it were) and as two of the most respected metro newspapers show this week, its distortions can bleed into local coverage.

The problem of false information is really more pervasive. Even without journalists, lies get disseminated through the web at the speed of light.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Matt Taibbi on Obama’s Economy

Obama’s Big Sellout

Via Rolling Stone
In “Obama’s Big Sellout”, Matt Taibbi argues that President Obama has packed his economic team with Wall Street insiders intent on turning the bailout into an all-out giveaway. Rather than keeping his progressive campaign advisers on board, Taibbi says Obama gave key economic positions in the White House to the very people who caused the economic crisis in the first place. Taibbi also points to the ties Obama’s appointees have to one main in particular: Bob Rubin, the former Goldman Sachs co-chairman who served as Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton.
The Hope of Change has Fizzled....

Monday, January 4, 2010

Draconian Security Measures vs Civil Liberties

The news media, news pundits, talking heads and politicians are all yaking about fear, terrorism, racial profiling and full-body scanners. Gavin Dahl at Raw Story focuses on the issue of, "'Experts' justify profiling, body scanners with familiar paranoid rhetoric."

In the wake of the failed Christmas Day attack on a Detroit-bound flight, a large number of so-called experts have raised the ire of civil libertarians in their pursuit of increasingly draconian security measures.
Appearing on Fox News Saturday, a retired U.S. general called for "very serious, harsh profiling," singling out in particular all 18-28 year old Muslim men, calling for them to be "strip searched" at airports.
As new TSA regulations take effect, passengers flying into the country from abroad will be subject to random screening or so-called "threat-based" screens.
Retired Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney set up his egregious recommendation by claiming first that "in the next 30-100 days," there is "very high probability a US airliner will come down."
When the host blandly objected that racial profiling would not go over in the United States, he replied, "I agree, that's the problem."
The issue of civil liberties.

The desire to violate American ethical and legal standards, supported by alarmist rhetoric, is reminiscent of the scandalous domestic Pentagon propaganda carried out over the US airwaves under Defense Secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates.
Turns out McInerney is not even the first surveillance advocate this week seen hawking serious violations of civil liberties on cable news under the guise of expertise and authority.
What is missing in this conversation is a discussion about alternative means of screening.
In fact, there are currently at least two other known alternatives to full-body scanners up for consideration.
American Civil Liberties Union is advocating the use of the “Puffer,” a machine that analyzes puffs of chemically-sensitive air blown around an individual. Greg Soule, a spokesman for TSA told The Christian Science-Monitor 18 Puffer machines, originally developed by General Electric, across the US but are being phased out due to maintenance issues.
Another potential alternative is the “Guardian,” an “explosive trace-detection portal machine” more advanced than the Puffer. Chris McBee, director of sales and marketing for Syagen Technology, told CS Monitor, "We have a better mousetrap. There are solutions out there that are viable alternatives to whole body imaging and that have superior detection characteristics."
Conflict of interest has become an issue in this debate.
Last week Michael Chertoff played "a little fast and loose with the public trust" using his former government credentials to advocate for a product that benefits his clients. He was talking up whole-body-imaging technology as an airline security solution when the conflict of interest came up in a Wednesday interview on CNN. His Washington Post editorial cautions against, "privacy ideologues, for whom every security measure is unacceptable."
Reporters in Britain have discovered that new airport scanners touted by PM Gordon Brown would not have detected the underwear bomber, leading The Independent to ask if the entire plan is a scam. "The solution is to acknowledge that there isn't a single technology out there that is an answer to the whole problem," security expert Kevin Murphy told the paper.
...Current Defense Secretary Robert Gates oversaw the continuation of a domestic propaganda program created to build support for the US invasion of Iraq. Donald Rumsfeld recruited military analysts with US taxdollars to espouse optimism and spin on unquestioning TV networks and NPR, even when the analysts suspected the information was false or stood to profit from weapons contracts, according to a bombshell report in The New York Times.

The message is to slow down and evaluate this situation without fear tactics while maintaining our basic civil liberties.