Thursday, April 30, 2009

Larry Summers Does Not Equal Robert Reich

From Obama's NY Times Magazine interview: (Via David Sirota)
Q: I want to talk broadly about policy. When you and I spoke during the campaign, you made it clear that you had thought a lot about the economic debates within the Clinton administration. And you said that you wanted to have a Robert Rubin type and a Robert Reich type having a vigorous debate in front of you...But in your inner circle, it really is dominated by Rubin protégés...

THE PRESIDENT: Not entirely. But, I mean, the fact is that Larry Summers right now is very comfortable making arguments, often quite passionately, that Bob Reich used to be making when he was in the Clinton White House.

When you cite Larry Summers as as the liberal end of your administration's economic spectrum, that's not a good sign.

And as Sirota points out, how does Reich himself grade the part of the administration Summers is the most responsible for?
The last grade is for the bank bailouts. I give them an F. I'm a big fan of this administration, but I've got to be honest. The bailouts are failing. So far American taxpayers have shoveled out almost $600 billion. Yet the banks are lending less money than they did five months ago. Bank executives are still taking home princely sums, their toxic assets and non-performing loans are growing, and the banks are still cooking their books. And now the Treasury is talking about converting taxpayer dollars into bank equity, which exposes taxpayers to even greater losses.
Larry Summers as the new Robert Reich?

Yeah, Not so much.

Reasons I love Alex Ovechkin

Today: (via DCsportsbog Twitter)
Asked about the perception that the league promotes Crosby more than him, Ovechkin cracked, "He's superstar. Me, I'm just like you guys."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Caps Win First Playoff Series in 11 Years, Will Face Hated Pittsburgh in Next Round

This is what I wrote one year ago, after the Washington Capitals lost Game 7 of last year's first round series against the Philadelphia Flyers after fighting back from a 3-games-to-1 deficit:
I guess I got so caught up in the excitement of having playoff hockey around again that I forgot to mention a few things. First, that as exhilarating and fun as the playoffs can be, they can be equally as devastating when you lose. In a game filled with dubious calls, including one which gifted Philadelphia a power play goal in OT, to lose at home after clawing all the way back from a 3-1 series deficit... well, it just sucked, quite frankly.

The other thing I neglected to mention, probably out of fear of bad karma, was that the words "Playoffs" and "Disappointment" have gone hand in hand throughout the Capitals' history. Apart from one magical run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998 (which we lost, 4-games-to-0, to the Detroit Red Wings), Washington was known for blowing the big games. I thought it would be different this time because those teams of the past never had Alex Ovechkin, but I found myself reliving the same familiar memories from elementary school of a first or second round exit for the Caps.

Last night's 2-1 win over the New York Rangers effectively saw playoff hockey karma pay back the Capitals and their fans after dealing us such a devastating circumstance 12 months ago.

Being in the building with JJ, I can assure you that an entire fan base released all the pent-up frustration and anxiety from last year's loss as soon as Sergei Federov - the elder statesman - scored with 4:59 remaining in the 3rd period, and that release of emotion lasted until the final whistle. To find ourselves back in a 3-1 hole in the first round, after witnessing what happened last year, not to mention watching as overtime approached with the teams knotted at 1-1, well it felt like déjà vu all over again.

However, the stakes were even higher this year. Last year's loss was so crushing since we were so, so close to advancing after nearly not even making the playoffs. This year, though, there were a ton more expectations for this team to succeed, to build on the foundation and the experiences of last year and ascend to that next level of greatness. A first round loss this year would have hurt more. Staring that reality in the face for three consecutive games and staving it off is a truly heroic feat.

Lost in all the madness of this win and our upcoming opponents, the Pittsburgh Penguins, is the fact that the Caps haven't advanced past the first round since we went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998. In essence, last night's win wasn't just about exorcising the demons of last year; it represented a return to form 11 years in the making. It's one thing to make the playoffs on a regular basis, but it basically means squat if you can't advance even one round.

With that being said, we haven't won the Stanley Cup yet. While it's great to win a playoff series, that isn't enough to consider this season a success. Missing the playoffs this year would not have been just inexcusable, it was not even a possibility for this team, as stacked as it is. Losing in the first round would have been an utter failure, without question. This team is good enough to play for the Eastern Conference title, which would make a second round loss even a disappointment.

I will write an entirely different post about the Caps-Pens heated, albeit lopsided, playoff history. But if you're going to truly measure yourself against the best teams in the league, you want to travel through the most difficult road possible to glory. Playing New Jersey would have been nice and would have undoubtedly helped our chance of advancing to the conference finals. But if this season really is about redemption, then we have bigger demons to overcome than just a first round exit and the biggest and baddest demon of them all is the Penguins in the playoffs.

I will never forget last night's game. The incredible noise inside the building. The jubilation on F Street and all around Chinatown after the game. But the Capitals' playoff journey continues on Saturday at 1 p.m. and, in my opinion, our real test of mettle well and truly begins.

Bring it on.

Redemption in Game 7

One year after one of the most crushing losses I can remember, DCJonesy and I were in attendance for last night's beyond belief game 7 win over the Rangers. The constant deafening noise in the building for the last five minutes is one of the most incredible things I've ever witnessed.

Enjoy it for a day, then bring on the Penguins!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

So Arlen Specter Still Wants to be a Senator...

Senator Specter's(PA-Whichever way the wind is blowing) statement from earlier today:
I have been a Republican since 1966. I have been working extremely hard for the Party, for its candidates and for the ideals of a Republican Party whose tent is big enough to welcome diverse points of view. While I have been comfortable being a Republican, my Party has not defined who I am. I have taken each issue one at a time and have exercised independent judgment to do what I thought was best for Pennsylvania and the nation.

Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.

When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.

Since then, I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.

I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary
My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans. Unlike Senator Jeffords’ switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (Card Check) will not change.
Just like his flip flop on Employee Free Choice a few weeks back, this is about as naked a political calculation as you see. Michael Steele actually had an incredibly awesome statement in response to the switch: (pigs flying, hell freezes over)
"Some in the Republican Party are happy about this. I am not. Let's be honest-Senator Specter didn't leave the GOP based on principles of any kind. He left to further his personal political interests because he knew that he was going to lose a Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record. Republicans look forward to beating Sen. Specter in 2010, assuming the Democrats don't do it first."
Nothing like a Republican pissing match. Steele is dead on about this being solely to further his political interests and to the batshit insane Republican party of Pennsylvania, I bet they actually believe Specter has a left wing voting record. But that's besides the point, because Pat Toomey will prove just how popular a nutjob ideology is come November 2010. Our friends over at Resistnet will be breathlessly awaiting the results!

But other than the joy of watching Republicans shitting on their now former college, (more of that here), I'm not really convinced that this is a great thing. For starters, the whole "if we just get 60 votes" thing is largely a myth, especially when you have some massive douchebags in your caucus, and they've already decided to form their own caucus (Something tells me they just found a new member!!!).

Second, he sucks. He didn't support Obama's budget, he maintains he won't vote cloture on Employee Free Choice, he's currently blocking Dawn Johnsen, a key Justice department nominee, and those are just things that have happened in the past couple weeks. I realize the idea is that he'd have to change some things to win the primary, but if attempting to force an uncontested primary was part of the deal, he has zero motivation to stop sucking.

We need a committed primary challenger to his nomination as quickly as humanly possible. Someone who will not bow to Rendell (and everyone else's) pressure to drop out, and hopefully someone strong enough to possibly earn labor's support. If Specter won't commit to cloture, labor's support would be there for the taking, and you've got to believe they'd be willing to throw the kitchen sink at Specter after his douchery on EFCA. Whether they can beat him or not, we need a credible challenger that at least makes this self righteous asshole nervous about losing. If today's move showed us anything, it's that he's willing to put keeping his job above whatever semblance of principles the David Broaders of the world keep telling me he has.

This situation has the potential to be a positive one for progressives, but only if he's forced to stay in line with his new party on some key votes, and then has to battle for his life in the 2010 primary. If we act giddy that there's a D next to his name and let Arlen be Arlen, we will have enabled a douche bigger and douchier than King Douche himself, and that is a fucking scary thought.

I want to believe we'll do what's right for the party, but looking at the recent douche enabling actions of both the Senate Majority Leader and the President, I'm less than convinced they'll take advantage. Only time will tell where this soap opera goes, but the opportunity for serious progress is there, and it's up to us to make it count.

Great Moments in Journalism

Joe Scarborough: (via Atrios)
"if planes go into buildings...blame Dana Priest" for exposing use of waterboarding

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tim Geithner in One Sentance

We've talked a lot about Tim Geithner's faults on this blog, but one quote in this massive (and pretty fucking damning) NY Times piece perfectly explains my worries:
“I don’t think that Tim Geithner was motivated by anything other than concern to get the financial system working again,” Mr. Stiglitz said. “But I think that mindsets can be shaped by people you associate with, and you come to think that what’s good for Wall Street is good for America.”
Read the whole piece if you have the stomach, but if you were worried about Geithner's ties to wall street execs before, it sure won't calm any of your fears.

So Everyone Thought John McCain Was Crazy...

Remember when John McCain weirdly decided to suspend his campaign because the economy was tanking? Remember how completely insane and stupid it seemed at the time?

Barack Obama to Harry Reid, after the suspension stunt:
"Harry, what's John up to? It sounds crazy."
Nice to know we weren't the only ones who thought so.

This is the Opposition?

“$140 million for something called ‘volcano monitoring’? Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.”
-Bobby Jindal, Republican governor of Louisiana.

“On January 30, 2009, scientists from the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) warned that an eruption was imminent, sending experienced Alaskans shopping for protection against a dusty shower of volcanic ash that could descend on south-central Alaska.

Mount Redoubt erupted explosively late in the evening of March 22, 2009.”
-The real world.

“Does it belong in this bill, should we have $870 million [for flu pandemic preparedness] in this bill? No we should not.”
-Susan Collins, R-ME

"What makes this so difficult is we may be somewhere between an important but yet still uneventful public health occurrence here — with something that could literally die out over the next couple of weeks and never show up again — or this could be the opening act of a full-fledged influenza pandemic," said Michael Osterholm, a prominent expert on global flu outbreaks with the University of Minnesota. "We have no clue right now where we are between those two extremes. That's the problem," he said.
-The real world.

"I believe the federal government has become oppressive. I believe it's become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of its citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state."
-Rick Perry, Republican governor of Texas (who later went on to say that Texans might consider leaving the union).

“Gov. Rick Perry today in a precautionary measure requested the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide 37,430 courses of antiviral medications from the Strategic National Stockpile to Texas to prevent the spread of swine flu.”
-The real world.

Yeah, damn the oppressive federal government, intruding into the affairs of his state! As a gesture he should consider not using any of the antiviral medications provided by the National Stockpile- those fascists! Also he should probably consider trying to establish a solely Texan version of the CDC- I’m sure Texas could easily fund its own agency with the same level of resources and capabilities as the CDC, right? I think having each state create their own would be way more efficient than having one large one, if ongoing Republican yowling about states rights and the oppressive federal government is to be believed.

And how about Bobby Jindal? I was also confused by money going towards ‘volcano monitoring’- what does that even mean?! He was right to be confused by that term, it’s not like the state of Louisiana has ever had problems with natural disasters, perhaps ones whose aftermath could have been averted if people had received (and acted on) more advanced warning. If you have a moment, check out this nifty map of places that would have to deal with the fallout of a volcanic eruption in the United States, and ask yourself, Jindal-style, why anyone would ever want to ‘monitor’ these ‘volcanoes’:

(Hint: the answer has something to do with the fact that millions of people live in that area. If any of you see Mr. Jindal please let him know about this.)

Which leaves us with Susan Collins. There’s a good chance that the swine flu will fizzle out and end up quickly being forgotten- but if she knows what flu viruses have done in the past and the extent to which modern transportation would aid their spread in the present, I’m really curious as to how she would justify calling that money a waste. As The Political Carnival pointed out: “Even now, Collins continues to use her official website to highlight the fact that she led the fight to strip the pandemic preparedness money out of the Senate's version of the stimulus measure.”

Last week I made fun of the Teabaggers for being unable to grapple with the real world on any level- their complaints were by and large purely fantasy, wild claims that at no point intersected with reality. It’s good to take a moment and remember that plenty of their politicians are just as far gone. The 2010 elections are still a long way off, but if this is the best the Republicans can do as an opposition party it looks like the Democrats just might be able to pull off a hat trick. That itself is all the more reason for progressives to lean on Obama and make him live up to the expectations- if he doesn’t have to worry about a realistic threat from the right, maybe the left can get his attention for just a few minutes?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Train of Thought - Summer Heat Wave Explosion

Greetings Friends;
For those in the DC area, I hope you are all enjoying the current heat wave. As a gift to those suffering from allergies, and the early week drag I present some uplifting, thumping summer trance to get you motivated.

I meant to do a post last week about Armin Van Buren's A State of Trance episode 400 72 hour straight webcast, but was unable to. It was good, DAMN good though. This track I'm posting was one of the highlights, and has become my early summer fight song. Enjoy Sander Van Doorn's Mix 2 of The Killers' Spaceman. If the build-up is too much, skip ahead to the 1:50 minute mark.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Train of Thought Lounge: Morris Day and The Time

I couldn't find the clip from Purple Rain due to lame copyright laws, so this will have to suffice. Don't you EVER say another unkind word about The motherfuckin' Time!!!

Law & Order: War on Terror Unit

In response to a BAGnewsNotes post about Leibovitz's hilarious portrait of the Bush Administration major players (entitled "Cabinet Room," reproduced above), Wilson Paul Dizard IV dramatically opines:

In the War on Terror, the enemy combatants and American citizens are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups: the spooks, who torture the combatants held in secret without charges; and their bosses, whom the American people never elected in the first place. These are their heavily redacted stories.

DCJonesy's Awesome Guide To Watching the NFL Draft

I'm so excited I can hardly contain myself, which means one of two things; either Tracy Wolfson is conducting a sideline report, or the NFL Draft is here! Some of you out there may be in need of some tips, maybe even some strategies, as to how to watch the draft in the best way possible. After all, it is two jam-packed days of action, some 10+ hours of programming in total. With my help, you can decipher and track all of this information without falling asleep from utter and absolute boredom by the 21st pick of the first round!

First, you'll need to study up on the many potential draftees in the days and weeks ahead (although it's sort of too late to do that now, as the draft is tomorrow). Make sure to take stock of the various, plentiful mock drafts on the web, even though they rarely accurately predict what will actually happen.

Be sure to take the word of sites like as... you know, gospel. It's not just an NFL Draft Torah, or even an NFL Draft Qu'ran, it's a bible! Nevermind that they falsely reported and then failed to retract that players had failed drug tests for steroids and marijuana prior to the draft, even after the reports were disproved. I'm still pretty sure most of the other stuff they report is pretty legit. I mean, it's a bible!

Finally, once the clock strikes high noon on Saturday, the time has finally arrived for the draft to begin. You've done all the necessary prep work, listened to the experts break down every last draft-day scenario and you're ready to get locked in for a long day of name-calling, podium-walking and hat-wearing.

At this point, you should leave your house now. Right now. Like, literally go outside. Go for a walk to the nearest, nicest park to you. Bring a book with you. Read it. If you live in the D.C. area, it will be 85 degrees and sunny. Do you have a bike? You could go for a bike ride.

Honestly, do anything that keeps you away from a television screen for six or seven hours. Now, go print out the list of who got drafted online. Congratulations! You have just won the NFL Draft.

Sleeping Through Credit Card Reform

Awesome news:

WASHINGTON — President Obama threw his support on Thursday behind legislation that would keep banks from imposing higher fees and interest rates on credit card users, and said terms must be “written in plain language and be in plain sight.”

“The days of any-time, any-reason rate hikes and late-fee traps have to end,” the president said at the White House after meeting with top executives from the nation’s largest credit card companies, a session Mr. Obama called “constructive.”

“No more fine print, no more confusing terms and conditions,” the president said, following up on campaign pledges to try to curtail high fees and rates and chop away at the thickets of fine print in credit card statements.

The meeting came as the House was preparing to adopt new restrictions on credit cards. Lawmakers said on Thursday that they had agreed to make some amendments to the legislation that were being sought by senior White House officials. One provision would require the credit card companies to apply consumer payments first to any debt that has the highest interest rate.
That sounds like a great idea! Wanna guess what administration member wasn't so interested in cracking down on the credit card companies?

President Obama met with credit card industry officials in the Roosevelt Room. You have a list of who was at the table, with Geithner to Obama's right in the middle of the table and Jarrett to his left. At either end were Summers and Romer. Also in the room seated behind Obama were Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Gene Sperling, who serves as counselor to Geithner. You will soon have Obama's remarks or can see them on TV.

One thing to note is that Summers appeared to be nodding off near the beginning of Obama's remarks. And then he DID nod off, doing the head on the hand and then head falling off the hand thing. Photogs seemed to be having a field day. All other officials in the room appeared fully awake.

What a fucking joke. Something tells me he wasn't nodding off at the "give failed banks billions of dollars with no strings" meetings.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Semi-Comprehensive Argument for Torture Prosecution

As a follow-up to JJ's two previous posts, I'm going to throw my meager weight into the ring on the "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" issue. You can probably guess what I'm going to say:

1. Waterboarding a human being hundreds of times or placing them in a box with an insect after it had been revealed that this was a particular fear – months after any information they had would be relevant, I remind you – is TORTURE. To quote John McCain, "It's unacceptable. It's unacceptable. Once is too much. Waterboarding is torture. Period."

2. One hundred prisoners held by the United States have died during the War on Terror. At least eight, and possibly as many as twenty-six, of those were killed during the application of enhanced interrogation techniques. No, these techniques were not safely used to "scare" prisoners into talking.

3. Torture and homicide are illegal. The effectiveness of the techniques – which is doubtful, in any case – is not even relevant. They are illegal. Period. And not just illegal, but war crimes.

The fact that there are a range of culpable actors involved, and in a wide range of capacities, certainly complicates the assignment of blame. Until all of the facts are on the table – if they ever are all on the table – we cannot know exactly who was primarily responsible. And even if and when everything is known, we can debate whether the CIA agents who carried out the torture should be held blameless because they were merely following orders, or whether they are the most responsible of all.

But at this point, we can say this much: everyone whose name is on these memos should be in jail. That's Jay S. Bybee, John C. Yoo, Robert J. Delahunty and Steven G. Bradbury. Probably Condoleezza Rice as well. And possibly even Dick Cheney (PDF).

Lord knows who else. But I cannot be clearer about this: those people should be in jail. They're murderers. No, that's not hyperbole: that's precisely what's at stake here: they knowingly worked around the rule of law to justify serious bodily assault that ended up killing eight or more people. It does not matter that the tortured were suspected terrorists with potentially life-saving information. It does not matter. To quote Fox News commentator Shep Smith: "We are AMERICA! We do not fucking torture!"

At the very least, these four people could be convicted of war crimes and then pardoned in the interest of partisan reconciliation. What matters is that their guilt be crystal clear and arrived at through the established legal procedures that we have for dealing with war criminals. In the meantime, they should be stripped of their posts (Bybee has been appointed a federal judge; John Yoo teaches law at the University of California).

As for the Kos diarist JJ talked about, who argued that we should just let this slide so as to spend political capital elsewhere: people like that are what made the crimes of the Bush Administration possible in the first place.

In this respect, I like the position being developed at the Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Andrew Sullivan: that to view prosecutions as a mere expenditure of political capital, rather than the pursuit of justice that would bring America back under the rule of law, is shockingly narrow thinking. Strong action on this issue, by an administration as symbolically powerful as Obama's, in a way that makes us more safe, is exactly what this country needs on every level. This is not a political liability, it is an opportunity to do what is very deeply right.

In any case, it's not Obama's decision: it's Eric Holder's, or that of the special prosecutor he could choose to appoint. There's no need to make this a political issue at all.

Jail, motherfucker. Let's make this happen.

At the Highest Levels

Prosecute them:
WASHINGTON — A newly declassified narrative of the Bush administration's advice to the CIA on harsh interrogations shows that the small group of Justice Department lawyers who wrote memos authorizing harsh interrogation techniques were operating not on their own but with direction from top administration officials, including then-Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

At the same time, the narrative suggests that then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell were largely left out of the decision-making process.

The narrative, posted Wednesday on the Senate Intelligence Committee's Web site and released by its former chairman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., came as Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters that he'd "follow the evidence wherever it takes us" in deciding whether to prosecute any Bush administration officials who authorized harsh techniques that are widely considered torture.

I don't know, enforcing the law could end up being a pretty partisan affair.

Count me out.

"Moralizing" About Torture, Regardless of the President

This past Sunday, Rahm Emmanuel said this:

STEPHANOPOLOUS: The President has ruled out prosecutions of CIA officials who believed they were following the law. Does he believe the officials who devised the policies should be immune from prosecution?

RAHM: Yeah, what he believes is, look, as you saw in that statement he wrote. And I think, just take a step back. That he came up with this, and he worked on this for four weeks. Wrote that statement Wednesday night, after he made his decision, and dictated what he wanted to see and then Thursday morning I saw him in the office, he was still editing it. He believes that people in good faith were operating with the guidance they were provided. They shouldn't be prosecuted.

STEPHANOPOLOUS: But what bout those who devised the policies?

RAHM: But those who devised the policies --he believes that they were -- should not be prosecuted either. And it's not the place that we go -- as he said in that letter, and I really recommend that people look at that full statement. Not the letter, the statement. In that second paragraph: This is not a time for retribution. It's a time for reflection. It is not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back, and in a sense of anger and retribution. We have a lot to do to protect America. What people need to know, this practice and technique, we don't use any more. He banned it.

As annoying as that was, it just was just backing up Obama's previous rhetoric on the matter on a larger stage. What pissed me off more was the completely predictable reaction among certain sections of the netroots that has driven me insane over the past couple months.

I say predictable because early on Monday morning I made a bet with myself on when the first diary trashing those in favor of prosecuting torture would appear on the dailykos rec list.

I guessed 3 pm.

Nope! Try top of the rec list at 1 PM!

A summary of the diary, titled "I call BS on all this torture(d) moralizing. . ."

I don't like torture either, but stop bitching!
Health care is important! We can't have HHS working on a health care plan while the justice department looks into who should be prosecuted. If you enforce international law here, progressive agenda fails. DO YOU WANT THAT?!!1!

If you really think it's worth torpedoing the progressive agenda for those causes, then you should make him do it.
So unless you've actively mounted an campaign against something that happened two days ago, then you should shut up because you're a moralizing jackass.
And if you think I'm exaggerating, go and read the diary yourself. He manages to take two sentiments I strongly believe in (FDR's idea of "make me do it", and people bitching and moaning about bitching and moaning) and completely bastardizes them in order to fit his/her point.

First off, if you're talking about the "make him do it" dynamic, that usually doesn't apply for an idea that already has massive amounts of public support. Second, people HAVE taken action in the form of petitions, letters, and calls to congress, so the whole "stop bitching and do something" argument doesn't really fly.

There are two trends that have become commonplace in some corners of the netroots since the election, and they are beginning to drive me out of my mind:
  • Criticizing the administration automatically leads to accusations of harming the message/administration/agenda, regardless of the criticisms' merits. People will tell you they agree with the criticism, but that the person should not be saying it because it makes them look bad. This could just be me, but I tend to lay blame with the person who made the crappy decision, rather than the person who pointed out how crappy the decision was.

  • The overwhelming attachment to personalities rather than core beliefs and values. Put it another way, if President Hillary Clinton had made this decision, the dairy above would never have been written, and there would be several scathing indictments of the Administration in it's place. (In fairness, some rec-listed diaries attacking the one above showed up later in the day) I'm not making this argument to say that Hillary Clinton would have done something differently (in fact I'm nearly 150% sure she would not have), but to make the point that the person making the decisions should not radically change your perceptions. If Dennis Kucinich or Howard Dean told me that we should give a trillion dollars of our money to hedge fund managers, it doesn't change the merits of the idea. If John Edwards or Russ Feingold tells me that we shouldn't investigate those who legalized torture, it DOESN'T CHANGE A FUCKING THING.
Some politicians are far better than others, but at the end of the day they are vehicles and nothing more. You give them a pat on the back when they do something you like, and you raise hell when they do something crappy. That's the power structure these people understand. This idea that if you cheer loudly for all aspects of someone's agenda - they will magically push through a more progressive agenda was borderline insane when it was suggested a few months ago, and it's just as nonsensical today.

We have a president who is shockingly honest about what he believes (for politician standards), and he shares quite a few goals with the progressive movement. Let's applaud and assist him when he shares our values, and let's raise hell when he does crap like this.

Update: Apparently some form of pressure has worked in keeping this issue alive, and forcing Obama to tweak his statement, now saying that Eric Holder will look into what to do next. We'll see what happens with this specific issue, but my main point about the relationship between Obama and the Netroots remains true. There is arguably no more critical dynamic for progressive politics going forward for (hopefully) the next 8 years, and it will be intretesting to see if the relationship evolves.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Duncan Black For the Win

Atrios never disappoints:
Dear Jane,

If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.


All the people illegally wiretapped in the program you repeatedly supported.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Thanks DNC! Of Course I'll Pay Back Hillary's Debt!

An email sent out to the DNC mailing list:(h/t wb)
I wanted to pass along an exciting opportunity to stand up for an important leader in our party, Hillary Clinton.

When she ran for President, Hillary Clinton showed America just what kind of party we are -- one that believes in breaking new ground, with opportunities for everyone to reach our highest office. She blazed a trail for women across the country and represented the values and ideals of all Democrats.

Make a donation of $5 or more now to win one of these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

As someone who's been around political campaigns and candidates for quite some time, I can tell you that running for president isn't easy. It involves sacrifice, resilience, and an undying commitment to something larger than yourself.

And when President Obama and Hillary Clinton came together after a competitive primary and teamed up to take America in a new direction, they showed millions of Americans that Democrats will always unite to better our country.

Now, as she carries out the immense task of building alliances, confronting global threats, and securing America's position of leadership in the world, let's stand up and show our appreciation for her leadership and commitment to our party. I wanted to pass along an exciting opportunity to stand up for an important leader in our party, Hillary Clinton.

When she ran for President, Hillary Clinton showed America just what kind of party we are -- one that believes in breaking new ground, with opportunities for everyone to reach our highest office. She blazed a trail for women across the country and represented the values and ideals of all Democrats.

Now she needs our help. When Hillary agreed to join President Obama's administration, she made the decision to continue her lifelong commitment to serving our country. But with that commitment came the reality that she could no longer be personally involved in paying down the debt from her historic campaign.

If you stand up for Hillary Clinton now -- as she's done for this party -- you could win one of three exciting opportunities, including spending a day with former President Bill Clinton.

Make a donation of $5 or more now to win one of these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

Thank you,


Jen O'Malley Dillon
Executive Director
Democratic National Committee
Think Mark Penn isn't rich enough? Wanna help companies fight back against union organizing drives? Wanna give your money to the CEO of a company that does PR for Blackwater and AIG? Well the give your money to a multi-millionaire couple who could easily pay back the debt themselves!

Completely mind-blowing idea: Instead of one of making on of the prizes spending the day with Bill Clinton... have Bill Clinton do two or three public speeches that pay for the debt without asking small donors to do it for them! I know it's not as attractive an option as making other people foot the bill for your fuck ups, but when you've raked in 40 million dollars in speaking fees over the last several years, I think you can handle it.

Few things enrage me more than Barack and now the DNC lending their mailing lists to this effort. If people wanted to pay for Mark Penn's poll scamming, they would have signed up for Hillary's mailing list and gotten bullshit like this every couple of days. I know it was some grand gesture of hers to stop attempting to steal the election and acknowledge that she lost, but people shouldn't be rewarded because they stop acting like ass clowns. Oh wait, I think I'm sensing a trend.

The good news is that they tried this before with Obama's mailing list, and judging by the fact that they're asking again, I'm guessing it didn't work out so well. And why should it? Nothing has changed! Here's what I wrote back in June, after the first ask:
Unity, I'm all for it. It's usually not a big deal for someone to concede when they lose, but hey, some people are clearly a little more special than others and need a couple of weeks to figure that out. But your millions of dollars of debt you incurred because you spent money like a drunken sailor? No no no, I'm no you rapper, that shit is your mess to clean up. You honestly going to expect people to give their hard earned money to a multi-millionaire couple? To a campaign that race baited, tried to cheat, and gave 14 million dollars to a union busting asshole? From the bottom of my heart, you can go Cheney yourself.
Yep, none of that has changed. Just because Barack decided to turn his cabinet into an orgy of rewarding fuck ups, does it make it any more acceptable to use small donors to pay off a multimillionaire couple's debt?

No, it does not.

Any organization or person that lends their email lists to this cause loses all credibility, and should never be given money again. Take that DNC! Try running a functional organization without the 25 dollars I gave 2 years ago because Howard Dean had a plan!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Time to Step it Up

Sports Bog, Via Japers Rink

Brooks Laich:
"If you're a skater, skate a little bit harder. If you're a shooter, make sure you shoot the puck. Find a way to the net, don't just hope to get it to the net. If you're a guy that goes in front of the net, plant yourself there, don't get moved out of the way. Just bear down and get the job done."


A Quick Comment on Teabagging vs. Anti-War Protests

In the midst of this fervor over teabagging, there have been any number of comparisons between the inefficacy of the "tea party" crowd and the inefficacy of the anti-Iraq War protests of the last 5+ years.

While I hesitate to dignify the teabaggers by putting up another post about them, I think it's important to clarify something that everyone seems to be forgetting. Namely, that the most substantial reason for protesting the war was to show division in the country on a scale large enough for the rest of the world to see. This larger purpose had a number of sub-goals: To free Americans traveling abroad from the stigma created by our last administration. To, in the words of a friend currently working in Israel and the West Bank, make room for ex-pats to be classed as "one of the good ones." Above all, to make it possible for an end of the war and a change in American foreign policy to be taken seriously by other countries.

In that respect, they served their purpose admirably. I'm not really sure if there's a comparable reason for these "Tea Parties." Particularly as they seem considerably crazier, more partisan (in the sense of irrational team loyalty) and less coordinated than the Left has been in recent years.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Teabagging: A New Republican Hobby

Hopefully the fledgling tea party movement will take off- these things are an unbelievably rich source of comedy. After years of seeing liberals show up en masse for any number of causes, this week conservatives finally got their chance. Even if the results were numerically disappointing (plenty of liberal protests in recent years have managed to get far more people in one place than the tea parties had at all of their locations combined- so much for the claim of "representing the silent majority"), at least there were a good number of statements being made. Actually, good isn’t the right word- the scattershot, random assortment of complaints on display pretty much ruined any chance of making a coherent, sensible statement. The astro-turfing companies behind this should take note- next time you guys should provide the signs! Naturally I wasn’t able to witness one in person, but luckily a number of goons managed to go and take lots of pictures (documented in this thread).

So what were these protests about? Let’s allow the teabaggers to tell us, in their own words. This is the most generic sign I've seen, with a vague anti-taxing message and the usual pictures of Obama, Reid, and Pelosi:

Alright, so the problem here is taxes. Oh wait, it's actually about illegal immigrants:

No wait, it's about "ACCORN" and the census!
Did I say ACCORN? What I meant to say was that it's about the ever-elusive secular forces which seek to destroy our totally "division between church and state"-less society:

Actually now that I think about it, it's all about birth certificate conspiracy theories! Forget the rest of this stuff, SOMEONE GET THIS MAN A BIRTH CERTIFICATE!

Although some others assure me that it's all about gay people and socialism:

Heh, gay people are icky! I know it was about socialism a second ago but now it's about fascism:

Maybe we can start a movement for impeaching Obama? Not sure what the exact reason would be (or why the eye from the Illuminati decided to show up), we can figure that out later:

Stop the presses, I just remembered the real reason these protests are happening: guns! One can never be crazy enough in support of guns:

Hm, now if only there was some way for the oil companies to get someone to protest on their behalf. Oh wait, Drill Baby Drill! That was one of the pivotal moments on John McCain's Road To Defeat, but this time will be different:

Perhaps this would be a good time to rage about the media, too? Intense media coverage is the only reason these things got off the ground, and the media has mostly been kind enough not to make a big deal about how it's all astro-turf, but a persecution complex is a hard thing to beat:

How silly of me to forget, the real issue at hand is the House of Saud (it's ok for conservatives to complain about them now, hopefully everyone has forgotten about the Bush family and the Saudis being BFF):

Who wants to bet in whether or not this next guy is actually one of the mythical Captains of Industry? Also, would you like to place a bet about whether he'll actually go off the grid and raise crops for the rest of his life, or if he'll put down the Rand sign and continue to live his life exactly the same way he did during the Bush years?
Finally, this guy showed up to protest the act of people helping other people:

If you see a poor person on the street, it is your DUTY as an American to punch them in the face and tell them to go to hell!

This isn't all to say that liberal protests were always narrowly-focused lasers, sticking to the exact same message. Plenty of people showed up to press their own pet issues- that's what happens when you get half a million or more people to march in the same place. The crazy thing here is that there is no central message. The entire thing is a mish-mash conglomerate of completely unrelated topics. Was there any kind of group chant?

"What do we want? A bunch of different things, some of which are mutually contradictory and/or make no sense in their own right! When do we want it? Now, or in the past, or in the future, depending on what specific crazy issue I've chosen to raise! What do we want? All kinds of nonsensical crap! When do we want it? Whenever!"

I won't even get into the irony of the Johnny-come-latelies who are suddenly concerned about civil rights and liberties now that it's politically convenient- the same people who bent over backwards to engage in apologetics for Bush have now come to the conclusion that maybe these things are important? Welcome to the club guys, could have used your voices over the last few years.

I'll wrap it up here with this awesome example of a teabagger. See if you can spot what some might call "mind-blowing insanity" somewhere in there:
After a lifetime of working, paying taxes
and raising three children on her own,
Wilder is struggling.

She said she retired on disability from
M&T Bank three years ago after
undergoing knee replacement and back
surgeries. She lives on her Social Security
and disability benefits. Last year, she
petitioned the bankruptcy court for protection
from creditors.

She said she did not have to pay federal income
taxes last year because her income was too low.

"I don't want to see this country turn into a
welfare, nanny state, where we stand in line for
groceries, and we're in welfare lines, and in
socialized medicine lines," Wilder said.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Not Your Call

Glenn Greenwald:

Barack Obama, yesterday:

In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution.

Eric Holder, yesterday:

It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department.


Convention Against Torture -- signed by Reagan in 1988, ratified in 1994 by Senate:

Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law (Article 4) . . . . The State Party in territory under whose jurisdiction a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is found, shall in the cases contemplated in article 5, if it does not extradite him, submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.

No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture. . . . An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

Geneva Conventions, Article 146:

Each High Contracting Party shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts.

Charter of the International Tribunal at Nuremberg, Article 8:

The fact that the Defendant acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior shall not free him from responsibility, but may be considered in mitigation of punishment if the Tribunal determines that justice so requires.

U.S. Constitution, Article VI:

[A]ll Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.

I'm sorry the Obama Administration believes that "nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past", but that's not their decision to make. Unlike the way Larry Summers lied about it a few weeks ago, we actually are a "nation of laws"(and in this case international treaties), even though being president is super awesome, it doesn't let you choose what laws you will and won't inforce. It was very couragous to stand up to the CIA and release these documents despite their stauch objecitons. Now that you've shown us the evidence, you need to prosecute those who broke the law.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Train of Thought Lounge: A Tribe Called Quest

Today, we're taking back with some classic ish. Tribe. Real hip-hop. 'Nuff said.

Happy Friday, Traininites.

1nce Again - A Tribe Called Quest featuring Tammy Lucas


Fucking sweet:
President Barack Obama called Thursday for the country to move swiftly to a system of high-speed rail travel, saying it will relieve congestion, help clean the air and save on energy. Appearing with Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Obama said the country cannot afford not to

invest in a major upgrade to rail travel. He said he understands it necessarily will be "a long-term project" but said the time to start is now.

The president allocated $8 billion in the enormous $787 billion economic stimulus spending package for a start on establishing high-speed rail corridors nationwide.

Obama said, "This is not some fanciful, pie-in-the-sky vision of the future. It's happening now. The problem is, it's happening elsewhere." He cited superior high-speed rail travel in countries like China, Japan, France and Spain.

The rail upgrades are critically needed, Obama said, because the nation's highways and airways "are clogged with traffic."

The money will go to high-speed rail development as well as a parallel effort to improve rail service along existing lines _ upgrades that would allow faster train travel.

The White House said funding will move into the rail system through three channels, first to upgrade projects already approved and only in need of funding, thus providing jobs in the short term. The second and third channels would focus on high-speed rail planning and then a commitment to help in the execution of those plans far into the future when the stimulus funds are no longer available.

Transportation Department officials say about six proposed routes with federal approval for high-speed rail stand a good chance of getting some of the $8 billion award. Those routes include parts of Texas, Florida, the Chicago region, and routes in the Southeast through North Carolina and Louisiana.

A Map of potential routes:

Send Bush To Gitmo, part 903455834583458345893452347

Obama has finally released four of the documents left from when Bush and company were debating exactly how much they like torture. They're fairly long, so it may take some time for people to fully mine through them, but just to get started here's a nice quote from (Bush-era) Office of Legal Counsel director Steven Bradbury:

The Convention Against Torture does not apply
outside the United States, or anywhere where
the US does not have de facto control: hence,
it does not apply to CIA “black sites”, which
are in other countries. Therefore, the CIA can
torture people there and not have to worry about
the law.

I must have misread that, let's take another look:

Therefore, the CIA can torture people there and
not have to worry about the law.

(This space intentionally left blank, all attempts to fill it resulted in illegible gibberish.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Teabagging Fail


But a funny thing happened en route to a visually pleasing Tax Day protest. The National Park Service said the tea party protesters didn't have the proper permit to dump their bags.

. . .

"We have a million tea bags here, and we don't have a place to put them because it's not on our permit," said Rebecca Wales, lead organizer of D.C. Tea Party.

. . .

A local think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said it would allow the dumping of the tea bags in its 12th floor conference room instead. Not quite the same impact, though.

Not all is lost for those teabagging in DC, this guy showed up:

What a human hero.

Assembling a Team of Assholes

It's been a while since we've heard from former Hillary Clinton campaign destroyer manager/union buster Mark Penn. To the surprise of no one, he still sucks:
Dana Perino, President George W. Bush's last White House press secretary, will join Clinton administration adviser Mark Penn at public-relations firm Burson-Marsteller, where she will be "chief issues counselor."

Mr. Penn, the firm's CEO, said Ms. Perino's experiences in Mr. Bush's second term make her a valuable addition to the team of battle-tested public-relations veterans he is assembling. Mr. Penn writes a "Microtrends" column for The Wall Street Journal Online.

"She's been through some incredibly difficult experiences at some of the highest levels, and comes out of that an extremely skilled practitioner," Mr. Penn said in an interview
. . .
Other key members of Burson-Marsteller firm include Don Baer, a former Clinton administration communications director, Josh Gottheimer, a former Clinton speechwriter, and Karen Hughes, Mr. Bush's counselor who also served as undersecretary of State for public diplomacy.
For the record we would have been mocking Penn's "Online only Microtrends column" as a weekly feature if it wasn't on the pay part of the WSJ site. It's probably not worth paying for the rantings of a completely discredited pollster who just about singlehandedly lost the primary for an overwhelming favorite with every instituional advantage on her side. I wish I was at the meeting where the editors pitched his column. So he's a "strategist" who takes random small segments of people, gives them stupid names (Office park Dads! Archery moms!), and then rigs a poll to make them seem important? Sign me up!

Oh yeah, and if you though that "archery moms" was so stupid that it couldn't be real, it is. It's an entire chapter in his book. How anyone (much less a former president) ever took him seriously is beyond belief.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Six Days

That's how long it took for this post from a right wing message board:
ACORN is "gate busting" Tea Parties nationwide. These far-left goons are attending them and mispresenting their allegiance. They are getting petitions signed, misrepresenting them as opposition to the Obama agenda. They explain something different than that written on the petition. More fraud, and lies from Obama Acorn people. Please be careful when signing your name to anything at these Tea Parties. We are still not sure what these whackjobs are using the names for, these people are known for violent criminal acts,bullying tactics, fraud and harrassment (just to name a few). Groups like ACORN and CODEPINK are nothing but Anti-American criminal organizations. BEWARE.
I just stocked up on Pepper spray at JUST IN CASE
To be treated as a legitimate story by

(A Screen Cap from 30 Minutes ago, Front Page of

Sadly, the Fox News story leaves out the source's call to stock up on pepper spray from Christmas stores.

Wild Things

To continue our apparent trend of wild animal suits and presidents, I present to you my much-needed, late-night break:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Strange Bunny Gets White House Access

Meeting President Obama:

And last year, creepily stalking former president Bush:

If I were president I would keep that bunny creepily wandering around the White House all year round, just to keep people on their toes. Although we can probably add that to the ever growing list of reasons I will never be president, right next to "Annexation of Northern Virginia" and "Forced secession of any state that names a park after a klan leader".

Oh yeah, and if anybody can find an image of the entire bunny, we're having a Harvey inspired photoshop contest for "funniest picture after adding a strange human-sized rabbit".

Fox News and the Teabagging

I realize that Fox News acting as a PR arm of the right is nothing new, but you'd think this would be getting a little more mainstream attention/criticism:
Despite its repeated insistence that its coverage is "fair and balanced" and its invitation to viewers to "say 'no' to biased media," in recent weeks, Fox News has frequently aired segments encouraging viewers to get involved with "tea party" protests across the country, which the channel has often described as primarily a response to President Obama's fiscal policies. Specifically, Fox News has in dozens of instances provided attendance and organizing information for future protests, such as protest dates, locations and website URLs. Fox News websites have also posted information and publicity material for protests. Fox News hosts have repeatedly encouraged viewers to join them at several April 15 protests that they are attending and covering; during the April 6 edition of Glenn Beck, on-screen text characterized these events as "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties." Tea-party organizers have used the planned attendance of the Fox News hosts to promote their protests. Fox News has also aired numerous interviews with protest organizers. Moreover, Fox News contributors are listed as "Tea Party Sponsor[s]" on Media Matters for America has compiled the following analysis of Fox News' promotion of the tea-party protests. (Most transcripts are taken from the Nexis database.)
While it would be nice for Democratic officials to take a stand and not grant access to a network that exists solely to attack their policies, I'm not gonna hold my breath. Instead I'll take the next couple days to enjoy the comedic gold that these protests give us. Thanks to media matters, a sample of what we can expect on the 15th:

Ladies and gentlemen, your modern day Republican party!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Train of Thought Field Trip: Free Republic Revisits China

Real life has been taking up a lot of my time lately- in lieu of writing the next entry in the Conservative Movie series we’ll go on a quick field trip instead. A few months ago we gasped in horror at the grim spectacle of freepers talking about China (racism and general ignorance ruled the day- who would have thought?!), and now it’s time to head over there once more. A quick keyword search for “China” revealed that these guys haven’t learned much since our first visit:

First comes this thread, about how a jihadist journal has urged the Uyghur people of Xinjiang province to make war on the Chinese government. That isn’t a particularly surprising call given that Xinjiang is already pretty restless, although nationalism has traditionally been a far bigger motivator than religion over there. Who will freepers side with, the ~*Communist*~ Party of China or the (Muslim) insurgents trying to reclaim their homeland? Vladimir998 solves this conundrum immediately:
I’m no fan of the Chi-coms, but I have to admit
that they know how to deal with jihadists.
They kill them.
Are you fighting against an occupying power that persecutes you constantly and plans to use the magical power of demographics to erase your home forever? If so congratulations, you deserve death! I get the feeling HiTech RedNeck wishes we could be more like the Chinese government:
Sometimes the Chinese also torture them.
All of our problems would melt away if we could just torture like the Chinese do. Markos33 continues this wistful train of thought:
The ChiComs won’t play around with the towel
heads... they’ll send them to meet their virgins.
UGH WHY CAN’T WE JUST DITCH HUMAN RIGHTS AND KILL ANYONE WHO OPPOSES US? Mathurine somehow gets every single fact backwards:
Why would anyone do that to the lovable and
engaging mohammedan terrorists? All they want to
do is live peacefully with the people they
subjugate, whilst beheading your occasional
Just to be clear, this guy writes in support of an authoritarian government which has subjugated an unwilling population and kills them for any reason or no reason whatsoever- and this is acceptable to him because they’re Muslim. Not content with swooning over the deaths of Muslims in just one thread, this one describes the execution of two Uyghur men found guilty of killing policemen last summer. Presumably freepers are aware that even “kangaroo court” is far too kind a term to use on Chinese courts, and the article also mentions that the government has sentenced two Tibetans to death for the riots last year. Will sham trials and dead Tibetans change the minds of our freeping friends? AM by beef doesn’t think so:
You have to give them credit for administering
swift justice, something we only give lip service
to. I also like their method. Fast, practical, no nonsense.
Ahahaha “justice,” that’s great. Niuhuru agrees:
I admire it too. Say what you will, their
government treats criminal filth like criminals.
Evidence, fair trial, jury of peers? All these things do is get in the way of summarily executing people you don’t like- a method which freepers apparently find preferable. Finally we visit this thread, where the news that China has developed an anti-aircraft carrier missile riles up the (admittedly easily-riled) posting populace. Wuli really ought to change his handle, sounds like he might be a you-know-what:
Great news, particularly coming on the day that
Gates, the defense secretary, is about to tell
us all the weapons systems programs he wants to
end or cut back, in line with the blind belief
that “asymmetric”wars like Afghanistan are all we
need worry about.
Yeah, the news that the Chinese have developed a carrier-killing missile means we should spend more money on weapons to fight symmetrical wars- like aircraft, and maybe some carriers to carry them with! Maybe the Chinese will just eventually get sick of sinking them and surrender. SunkenCiv has an easy, practical solution:
Dropping an asteroid on ‘em would pretty much
fix all these problems. Smaller ‘roids would
fix each of the 56 or 57 Muzzie states.
To be serious for a moment: people like SunkenCiv are the reason why we (as a species) can’t have nice things. WYKayaker comes out of left field at the last minute to secure the Field Trip Award For Outstanding Achievements In The Field Of Incoherent Posting, an award I’ll be giving out once per update if any posts have sufficient merit:
I don't fear the enemy in my sights! It's the
poseur in the White House, with all the ACORN
goons and Socialists Washington Pols, who are
most to be feared.
China will be just as strong next year.
I doubt we will be...
A thread over there really isn’t complete until someone finds an ACORN connection. I’m just disappointed that they didn’t manage to explicitly link the anti-carrier missile with ACORN- the existence of these two completely unrelated things can’t be a coincidence!

Will Free Republic ever throw off the shackles of racism and rampant stupidity? Maybe we’ll find out next time.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Michelle Obama is Awesome

Old news, I know. But there's a nice article by Patricia J. Williams in this week's Nation that lays out some of the historical perceptions of black women in this country, then details the ways in which Michelle transcends them:

And so Michelle Obama represents a more comprehensive identity for all women, but particularly for black women. Even when she's just holding court at the head of the White House dinner table, she is a "black woman" performing a "white lady" role--a picture that still causes cultural confusion and anxiety. But Obama is at no risk of being sidelined as perpetual hostess; hers is a well-rounded life, one of multiple roles and layered humanity. She is powerful yet approachable, highly educated yet colloquial, bare-armed but modest, playful but consummately civilized.

Media (and White House) squawking about her mom-hood or her bare arms aside, the national treatment of such a powerful black woman has been surprisingly positive. From where I'm sitting, Mrs. Obama's symbolism may be more powerful than her Mr.'s, or Hillary Clinton's during Bill's presidency. And while no single person can transform race or gender relations, there seems to be something, well, different, about the way that stories about her play out.

Nor, Williams notes, is her symbolic presence only impressive to Americans like me:

If we do not always appreciate this at home, consider how she reflects upon our collective image abroad--and I do not mean whether her wardrobe competes with Carla Bruni-Sarkozy's. She projects a powerfully modern image to conservative constituencies around the globe, whether in the Muslim world; or in Israel, where ultra-Orthodox newspapers recently airbrushed out all the women from a photo of Netanyahu's new cabinet; or in China, where male children are so fetishized that each year thousands of boys are kidnapped and sold...

The queen [of England] is old school, however. So when Michelle Obama casually put her arm around the royal shoulders, the act risked being the order of misfortune that ensued when George W. Bush massaged Angela Merkel's neck. Instead, the palace quickly issued an uncharacteristically warm pronouncement that no protocol had been breached. What was truly remarkable, however, was that the queen, for the first time in her public career, had reached out her frail, white-gloved, little-old-lady hand, the one heretofore used only for waving, and encircled Michelle Obama's waist. For many throughout the British Commonwealth, particularly in South Asia, the Caribbean and Africa, this was a mime of egalitarianism, an unexpected kabuki theater of respect and mutual regard. Michelle Obama had somehow pulled off a superlatively graceful transgression--a symbolically charged moment of the kind that quietly turns a bit of the old world upside down, yet leaves us smiling at the new world glimpsed beyond.

It is really stunning. For one of the first times in my entire life, I have hope that America can affect positive change on an international level, not with its weapons or its money or its ideology, but simply by example.

I know it's a lot to read into a little gesture. But annoying and inscrutable as it can be from the outside, Britons' meticulous concern with the tiniest details of protocol makes small gestures into something truly important: Royal behavior, particularly if it is strongly emphasized, has a way of establishing the guidelines for the behavior of even the most reactionary British citizens. The Queen, with her arsenal of etiquette techniques, could have greeted the new first lady without stepping out of the previously established bounds. That she chose to direct unprecedented warmth towards a member of a demographic that has faced a perfect storm of discrimination, on ever level, in both the US and the UK, reads as part of a long-needed and beautiful sea change. All the more so because the act was instigated by Michelle herself.

Of course, we need only recall Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton to be reminded that neither the symbolism nor the real responsibilities of being a powerful first lady are sufficient to guarantee acceptance on her own terms.

So here's hoping that there has been real change. Here's hoping that the future holds something truly big for Michelle Obama.