Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When will Minnesotans master winter driving conditions?

A snow scene from last winter. Hey, it happens at least once every year. Photo credits: Virginia Bergman.

Year after year Minnesotans, who should know better, continue to drive during winter storms as if they just immigrated here from the tropics. They were at it again within the past 24 hours and will probably continue throughout today and tomorrow. Paul Wash at the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:

After a day of drenching rain, Twin Cities commuters saw the slowest going of the winter season this morning as a snowfall of several inches took hold and lingered through midmorning.

The State Patrol reported many dozens of crashes and spinouts from Tuesday evening through the morning drive in the metro.

Romney takes Michigan and Arizona

Okay. My curiosity about the battle between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in the Mich. primary got the better of me. I went to bed early, but awoke later and couldn’t get back to sleep. So here I am posting Romney’s decisive win in Ariz. and his slim victory margin in Mich. – still, it was a victory margin sufficient to prevent Santorum from full-throated gloating over a win in the Romney family’s backyard. And in my opinion, the Republican Party lucked out as far as the odds in the general election are concerned.

Here’s the scoop from Politico's Alexander Burns:

TOLEDO, Ohio — Mitt Romney took a big step toward setting himself back on a path to the Republican presidential nomination, thumping Rick Santorum in the Arizona primary and fending off the potential nightmare scenario of a loss in his native state of Michigan.

Romney was the projected winner in Arizona as soon as the polls closed at 9 p.m. ET. Shortly after 10 p.m., The Associated Press and television networks called the tighter race in Michigan. With 67 percent of precincts reporting, Romney had 42 percent to Santorum’s 37 percent. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich trailed with 12 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Breaking: PBS NewsHour applauds Secretary Clinton! (video)

Secretary Clinton at the London Conference on Somalia.

I’ve noted time and again the obvious negative bias repeatedly shown on PBS toward Bill and Hillary Clinton. The recently aired, so-called documentary on Bill Clinton was just the latest anti-Clinton ugliness sponsored by the PBS network. 

Consequently, I was startled by Friday night's edition of the PBS NewsHour when first conservative David Brooks and then liberal Mark Shields praised Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her response to the worsening situation in Syria:

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mitt Romney, the jokester?

Mitt Romney, official portrait.
Having lived in Michigan around the time (1963) that George Romney was elected governor, I continue to feel an affinity toward the Romney family, including Mitt. (It’s okay to like someone with whom you disagree.) So it was with some amusement and pleasure this morning that I read the Caucus (NY Times) report on the lighter side of the struggling GOP candidate. Michael Barbaro writes:

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — He riffed on the space program. He hammed it up over the housing market. He even cracked wise about burial plots.
Mitt Romney may be known as a hyper-scripted, ever-so-careful public speaker, but on Friday night, during an appearance at Western Michigan University, he was something else entirely: a deft and genuinely funny jokester.

Below, a sampling of his stabs at humor from the event:

On his father’s frugality:

“My parents’ grave sites are there in Brighton. My dad — trust my dad. My dad is a very frugal man. And he checked all over for where the best deal was on a grave site. And he found a place in Brighton — because we didn’t live in Brighton. It’s like, ‘how did you pick Brighton, Dad?’ ‘Well, best price I could find in the whole state.’ So if you’re looking for the best deal on a grave site, check Brighton, they got a good, got a good spot, and you’re near the former governor and the former first lady.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Standing with Planned Parenthood

Image courtesy of Planned Parenthood.

I had some firsthand experience a couple of years ago with the opponents of Planned Parenthood, and I possibly helped defuse a confrontation between a group of locals protesting the establishment of an area clinic by that venerable organization.

But feminist senatorial candidate Shelley Berkley is right. Today’s Republican Party has gone too far in its attacks on Planned Parenthood. I signed the petition linked to in the letter from Berkely, forwarded to me this morning by the Nation. 

I hope Katalusis readers will also take this opportunity to stand up for the rights of all women to adequate health care:

Dear Fellow Progressive,

The Republican Party wants to put Planned Parenthood out of business.

Already, the GOP’s witch hunt gave right-wingers at the Susan G. Komen Foundation cover to withdraw their support of Planned Parenthood’s cancer screenings for low-income women, nearly ending hundreds of thousands of breast cancer screenings and mammogram referrals for woman across the country.

It’s sick. It’s ugly. And if we don’t stop it, women are going to die.

Let’s be very clear: This isn’t about abortion. After all, just three percent of Planned Parenthood’s work is abortion-related.

This is about preventing low-income women from getting basic health services without permission from radical right-wing social conservatives. Ninety percent of what Planned Parenthood does is preventative care -- including 770,000 pap tests, 4 million tests for sexually transmitted diseases, and, yes, 750,000 breast exams just last year.

The bottom line: You know women who are alive today because of Planned Parenthood.

But it seems that the radical right-wingers behind this witch hunt care more about controlling women's bodies than they do about keeping those women healthy or even saving their lives.

It’s hard to believe that, in the year 2012, a group of right-wing men are out to stop women from getting breast exams because of their radical ideology.

It's hard to believe that, in the year 2012, elected officials care more about a political agenda than saving women's lives.

And I refuse to believe that we are going to let them get away with it.

Thank you for taking action to protect women in America.

Paid for by Berkley for Senate
Contributions or gifts to Berkley for Senate are not tax deductible

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Commercial drones for hire in the land of the free

The photo on the right shows an armed drone,
America’s current weapon of choice; 
so far, the recently authorized commercial drones are unarmed.

It had to happen, I guess. Once the Obama Administration embraced the hunt down and kill capacity of armed drones in the skies over Pakistan and elsewhere, commercial interests in America would seize on the unmanned aircraft for its own purposes. 

And it being an election year and our malleable president eager to please the people with the bucks, it's understandable that he would hasten to sign a law making it legal for your local real estate agent to check out your back yard without your knowledge, much less your permission.

The New York Times reports this morning:

A new federal law, signed by the president on Tuesday, compels the Federal Aviation Administration to allow drones to be used for all sorts of commercial endeavors — from selling real estate and dusting crops, to monitoring oil spills and wildlife, even shooting Hollywood films. Local police and emergency services will also be freer to send up their own drones.

But while businesses, and drone manufacturers especially, are celebrating the opening of the skies to these unmanned aerial vehicles, the law raises new worries about how much detail the drones will capture about lives down below — and what will be done with that information. Safety concerns like midair collisions and property damage on the ground are also an issue. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

PBS continues its anti-Clinton diatribes

Alessandro Machi, Owner/Instructor at, raised a good question in his comment posted in response to the Inquisitr’s report on the new PBS documentary on Bill Clinton’s relationship to Monica Lewinsky. Machi wrote:

I wonder if Soros is involved in some way in this "documentary" coming out. I bet this was planned just in case the media could not thwart the cry for Hillary Clinton to replace Barack Obama. Soros is tight with PBS, I bet they planned this documentary a couple of years ago, just in case.

Machi’s suspicions are well-founded. According to CNN, billionaire financier George Soros, a well-known Obama campaign donor, is now considering whether or not to create a super PAC to help the president win re-election.

Soros money also helps fund PBS, a network that boasts of its corporate sponsors, while self-righteously claiming “unbiased” news coverage. For example, in 2008 (a presidential election year), Soros’s Open Society Foundation gave NPR a $1.8 million grant.

And don't forget that during the 2008 Democratic primary, the NewsHour blatantly denigrated Hillary and Bill Clinton while fawning over Barack Obama. For example, Ann Taylor Fleming concluded one of her PBS NewsHour essays on Hillary Clinton by stating, “We want a woman president, but not this woman.”

The NewsHour staff has since continued to express its contemptuous attitude toward the Clintons at every opportunity. Machi is right. The PBS decision to run an anti-Clinton documentary during the 2012 presidential campaign is highly suspicious.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The hypocrisy of the Left

Peter Daou wants to know if Democrats and so-called liberals are hypocrites on civil liberties. Peter effectively answers that question, while leading off with another:

Glenn Greenwald has spent the duration of Obama’s presidency asking a fundamental question of the left: why are George W. Bush’s transgressions acceptable when President Obama embraces – and expands – them?

Glenn’s latest post on the topic goes directly at the intellectual dishonesty he sees reflected in a new Washington Post poll:

During the Bush years, Guantanamo was the core symbol of right-wing radicalism and what was back then referred to as the “assault on American values and the shredding of our Constitution”: so much so then when Barack Obama ran for President, he featured these issues not as a secondary but as a central plank in his campaign. But now that there is a Democrat in office presiding over Guantanamo and these other polices — rather than a big, bad, scary Republican — all of that has changed, as a new Washington Post/ABC News poll today demonstrates. …

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A heart-warming valentine from Elizabeth Warren

This heartwarming message from Elizabeth Warren to her supporters arrived in my inbox this morning:


Valentine's Day is always special for me, and this year it is extra special: Today would have been my mother's 100th birthday.

My mother loved her special connection to Valentine's Day. I have a stack of valentines that my father gave her, even back from when they were teenage sweethearts. And, from the time I was a little girl, I've always baked my mother a heart-shaped birthday cake. I still have those heart-shaped pans.

When my mother died, those heart-shaped pans took on a special meaning. She had been in the hospital recovering from surgery, doing great, and scheduled to go home the next morning. It was evening, and my father was holding her hand. She sat up in bed and said, "Don, there's that gas pain again," then slumped back. She'd had a massive heart attack, and the doctors concluded she had suffered from heart disease for years.

These days, I still use the heart-shaped pans to bake a Valentine's Day cake in honor of my mom. We're in a big campaign right now, but I baked a cake in honor of my mother this year and wanted to share the picture with you.

I also wanted to ask you, as I've asked my friends every year, to remember that heart disease isn't just an "old man's disease" -- it's the number one killer of women in America. We need to invest more in the innovative medical research that can lead to breakthroughs that save both lives and money.

Take care, and happy Valentine's Day!

Elizabeth Warren


A special wish for a happy Valentine's Day to Katalusis readers!


Sunday, February 12, 2012

The birth control debate: The Right wing’s selective support of Catholic teachings

St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican. Photo courtesy of
Juan Cole at Informed Comment calls to account Rick Santorum and others on the Right for their selective support of Catholic teachings:

The right wing Republican politicians who have been denouncing the requirement that female employees have access to birth control as part of their health benefits as an attack on religious freedom completely ignore the church teachings they don’t agree with. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are both Catholics, and wear their faith on their sleeves, but they are hypocritical in picking and choosing when they wish to listen to the bishops.

2.The Conference of Catholic Bishops requires that health care be provided to all Americans. I.e., Rick Santorum’s opposition to universal health care is a betrayal of the Catholic faith he is always trumpeting.

3. The Catholic Church opposes the death penalty for criminals in almost all situations. (Santorum largely supports executions.)

4. The US Conference of Bishops has urged that the federal minimum wage be increased, for the working poor. Santorum in the Senate repeatedly voted against the minimum wage.

5. The bishops want welfare for all needy families, saying “We reiterate our call for a minimum national welfare benefit that will permit children and their parents to live in dignity. A decent society will not balance its budget on the backs of poor children.” Santorum is a critic of welfare.

7. Catholic bishops demand the withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian territories occupied in 1967. Rick Santorum denies that there are any Palestinians, so I guess he doesn’t agree with the bishops on that one.

8. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops ripped into Arizona’s law on treatment of immigrants, Cardinal Roger Mahony characterized Arizona’s S.B. 1070 as “the country’s most retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless anti-immigrant law,” saying it is based on “totally flawed reasoning: that immigrants come to our country to rob, plunder, and consume public resources.” He even suggested that the law is a harbinger of an American Nazism! Santorum attacks ‘anchor babies’ or the provision of any services to children of illegal immigrants born and brought up in the US.

9. The Bishops have urged that illegal immigrants not be treated as criminals and that their contribution to this country be recognized.

10. The US Conference of Bishops has denounced, as has the Pope, the Bush idea of ‘preventive war’, and has come out against an attack on Iran in the absence of a real and present threat of an Iranian assault on the US. In contrast, Santorum wants to play Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove and ride the rocket down on Isfahan himself.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The dark future foretold by drones: detaching brutality from humanity

The Reaper drone. Photo credits: Public Domain.

In A Brief History of Drones at The Nation, John Sifton points out the frightening linguistics associated with America’s unmanned aircraft:

The weapons’ names suggest ruthless and inhumane characteristics. The first drone aircraft deployed by the CIA and Air Force after 2001 was the Predator, a rather coarse name even for a weapons system, suggestive that the enemy was not human but merely prey, that military operations were not combat subject to the laws of war but a hunt. (Some of the computer software used by the military and the CIA to calculate expected civilian casualties during airstrikes is known in government circles as Bug Splat.) The Predator’s manufacturer, General Atomics, later developed the larger Reaper, a moniker implying that the United States was fate itself, cutting down enemies who were destined to die. That the drones’ payloads were called Hellfire missiles, invoking the punishment of the afterlife, added to a sense of righteousness.

Sifton continues:

But the real issue is the context of how drones kill. The curious characteristic of drones—and the names reinforce this—is that they are used primarily to target individual humans, not places or military forces as such. Yet they simultaneously obscure the human role in perpetrating the violence. Unlike a missile strike, in which a physical or geographic target is chosen beforehand, drones linger, looking precisely for a target—a human target. And yet, at the same time, the perpetrator of the violence is not physically present. Observers are drawn toward thinking that it is the Predator that kills Anwar al-Awlaki, or its Hellfire missiles, not the CIA officers who order the weapons’ engagement. On the one hand, we have the most intimate form of violence—the targeted killing of a specific person, which in some contexts is called assassination—while on the other hand, the least intimate of weapons.

This characteristic, the distance between targets and CIA executive officers at Langley, is the defining characteristic of drones. They are the zenith of the technological quest that runs back to the invention of slings and arrows thousands of years ago, efforts of the earliest perpetrators of violence to get away from their victims. That process, which brought catapults and later artillery, reached its first peak with the development of intercontinental nuclear missiles; but those are weapons of limited tactical use and have never been used. Drones allow all the alienation of long-range missions but with much more flexibility and capacity for everyday use. The net result is everyday violence with all the distance and alienation of ICBMs. This is disturbing perhaps because alienation is disturbing.

Sifton concludes:

The issue is not that armed drones are more terrible or deadly than other weapons systems. On the contrary, the violence of drones today is more selective than many forms of military violence, and human rights groups recognize that drones, in comparison with less precise weapons, have the potential to minimize civilian casualties during legitimate military strikes.

Nor is the issue the remote delivery of weapons: alienation from the effects of violence reached a high-water mark in World War I. What makes drones disturbing is an unusual combination of characteristics: the distance between killer and killed, the asymmetry, the prospect of automation and, most of all, the minimization of pilot risk and political risk. It is the merging of these characteristics that draws the attention of journalists, military analysts, human rights researchers and Al Qaeda propagandists, suggesting something disturbing about what human violence may become. The unique technology allows the mundane and regular violence of military force to be separated further from human emotion. Drones foreshadow the idea that brutality could become detached from humanity—and yield violence that is, as it were, unconscious.

In this sense, drones foretell a future that is very dark indeed.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

America terrorizes others in its take no prisoners strategy in the war on terror

This photo released on Dec. 8, 2012 by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, claims to show the US RQ-170 Sentinel drone captured by Iran.

Katalusis readers already know how I feel about America’s current weapon of choice, the deadly unmanned Predator drone. This morning the CS Monitor reports the Obama Administration’s resumption of drone attacks in Pakistan after a brief hiatus following the NATO air strike in November that mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Ariel ZirulnickStaff writer, reports:

A US drone strike killed a senior militant in northwestern Pakistan today, one of two drone attacks on suspected militants this week.

Pakistani intelligence officials and Pakistani Taliban members told Reuters that the strike in the town of Miran Shah killed Bador Mansoor, a leader of a faction of the Pakistani Taliban with close ties to Al Qaeda. At least three others were killed in the strike, which came on the heels of a strike yesterday that killed 10 people.

Mr. Mansoor led a group of more than 200 Pakistani Taliban fighters in North Waziristan (see map here), a key sanctuary for militants, an insurgent told the Associated Press. Intelligence officials said they could not confirm for the AP that Mansoor was among those killed in the strike on Miran Shah’s bazaar.

So we continue to kill off our enemies with these antiseptic air strikes that remove us from the messiness of human death and the complications that arise from taking prisoners and bringing them to trial.

And even though Iran recently captured one of our drones and may now be able to repair and replicate it for its own use, the Obama Administration continues to pursue this immoral use of force. 

Has it never occurred to President Obama or our military leaders that one day Americans may be targeted by a “made in the USA Predator drone?”

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

True believers of conservative dogma victorious

Yesterday, Republicans voted for conservative extremism over sanity and moderation. (Katalusis eschews extremism from either the left or the right.)

Paul Begala at the Daily Beast reports Rick Santorum’s big wins in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado:

Rick Santorum's impressive victory in the nonbinding Missouri "beauty contest" began an ugly night for Romney. Mitt, who garnered 29 percent in Missouri in 2008, limped in with 25 percent—fewer than half the votes Santorum earned (55 percent).

Then came Minnesota, where Romney lost again. Big time. He won the state four years ago—earning 41 percent, But Tuesday night, he won only 17 percent, for a stunning third-place finish behind Santorum and Ron Paul.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Santorum’s positions or have forgotten where he stands on important issues, here’s a quick update from his Wiki page:

Santorum holds socially conservative positions, including opposition to same-sex marriage.[2][3][4] On fiscal issues, his record is more mixed; in Congress, Santorum used earmarks and supported big government programs in education and transportation,[5][6] but had a leading role in enacting welfare reform,[7] and voted for tax cuts, a balanced budget amendment, and cuts in entitlement spending.[5][6] As a presidential candidate, he has supported fiscal restraint and a ban on earmarks,[5][6] and has expressed hawkish views on foreign policy, including Iran–United States relations.[8]

Following Obama’s example in 2008, Romney has waffled on some issues in order to woo extremists in his party’s base, but as shown on his Wiki page, the record of the former governor of Mass. tends toward more moderate positions:

Romney was elected Governor of Massachusetts in 2002 but did not seek re-election in 2006. He presided over a series of spending cuts and increases in fees that eliminated a projected $3 billion deficit. He also signed into law the Massachusetts health care reform legislation, which provided near-universal health insurance access via subsidies and state-level mandates and was the first of its kind in the nation. During the course of his political career, his positions or rhetorical emphasis have shifted more towards American conservatism in several areas.

The true believers of extreme conservative dogma continue to dig in and demonstrate their strength as the Republican primary heats up.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Connecting people to nature through photos and stories: The Spirit of the Swan

Mary Lundeberg holding a juvenile swan for banding.
Update: The Spirit of the Swan currently ranks in Amazon's top 100 bird e-books for children.

The mission of Nature Connections, the imprint of The Spirit of the Swan, is “connecting people to nature through photos and stories.”  Co-authors and wildlife photographers Mary Lundeberg and Tammy Wolfe fulfill that mission beautifully in this children’s book in which the text is artfully illuminated with stunning photographs no illustrator could ever hope to match.

Responsible parents and educators concerned about the environment will welcome The Spirit of the Swan as a compelling story that will not only hold the interest of elementary school age children, but will also help them better understand and appreciate the natural world.

The Spirit of the Swan is based on the news account of an illegally shot Trumpeter Swan restored to health, released into the wild, and reunited with his mate. Lundeberg and Wolfe remind their readers that Trumpeter Swans have been reintroduced in the Midwest after being hunted to extinction.

Mary Lundeberg at a gallery reception of her swan photos.
The fictional account of the incident begins with the mating of the two swans, Cob and Penny.  Penny's heart is captured by Cob's "music, strength, and courage." Readers  catch a glimpse of how the male protects his mate and her eggs from predators. In this case, despite Cob's brave intervention, only one egg survives the invasion of an otter. Cob and Penny teach their single offspring Ziggy the spirit of the swan: "strong and joyful."

The family of three is migrating to their winter home when Cob, the leader of the flock, is shot. We witness the rescue of the wounded Cob and the courage of Penny and the young Ziggy, as despite his grief, he continues to grow and develop until his father’s joyful return.

The story concludes with the mating of Ziggy and Sarah and in keeping with the recurring theme of music, we read: “The cycle of life continues as swans sing again in the Midwest. The majestic birds multiply and music fills the marsh.” 

The Kindle edition of The Spirit of the Swan is now available at A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will support the Crex Meadows Wildlife area in Wisconsin.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Politicizing the positive jobs report

It’s unfortunate that the media is primarily presenting a positive jobs report in terms of the 2012 presidential election campaign instead of first seeking to inform the public of what the new numbers may mean for America’s struggling families.

Politico’s Alexander Burns and Ben White offer a typical analysis of the latest development on the economic front:

President Barack Obama hasn’t unfurled a “Mission Accomplished” banner just yet. But Friday’s jobs report showing unemployment dropping to 8.3 percent, the lowest level of his presidency, is an unexpected boon for Obama’s reelection bid and a serious hurdle for his top competitor, Mitt Romney, who has staked his campaign on a jobs-and-economy message.

While 8 percent-plus unemployment is still a perilous number for any incumbent, the clear downward trend in the jobless rate complicates the Republican narrative that Obama is an out-and-out economic failure who has no hope of turning around the economy.

You have to read further before the article mentions in passing how the recently released jobs numbers might be received by those whom they most critically affect:

“Those numbers are good news for the country and they are good news, politically, for the president,” said Steve Schmidt, who ran John McCain’s 2008 campaign. “It puts particular pressure on Mitt Romney as the nominee to offer a big, bold, sweeping agenda of reform and economic growth and contrasts with the president’s vision. He’s simply not going to be able to run a campaign built on a foundation of criticism.”

Friday, February 3, 2012

Wis. Gov. Walker in more hot water

The Caucus (NY Times) reported Friday evening that Wis. Gov. Scott Walker (R) is facing even more problems in addition to a likely recall election:

Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, will meet with a prosecutor who has been investigating the behavior of workers in his previous public office, at the helm of Milwaukee County, Mr. Walker’s campaign office said Friday.

The investigation, which has gone on for 20 months and is seen as a potential problem for Governor Walker in a likely recall election later this year, has led in recent weeks to charges against several close former workers and appointees of Mr. Walker when he served as Milwaukee County executive, before his election as governor in 2010.

The investigation, which led in some instances to charges related to politicking on county time, is secret, so the context of Mr. Walker’s expected conversation with the Milwaukee County district attorney is uncertain.

Read more:

Will Obama take his cue from Elizabeth Warren in his reelection campaign?

Put aside the fact that President Obama caved to Republican resistance in his failure to nominate Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau she created and consider this:  
Paul Starobin at the New Republic now suggests that President Obama take his cue from the scrappy defender of the middle class in his reelection campaign.

Pointing out that the women’s vote may be even more critical in 2012 than it was in 2008, Starobin writes:

Elizabeth Warren is poised to thrash Scott Brown in their marquee U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts, and the reason is simple: Women voters love her. In the most recent poll, in December, Warren and Brown were virtually tied amongst men, but Warren led by 13 percentage points, 51 percent to 38 percent, amongst women.

Warren’s commanding lead is not about her gender (Masssachusetts has never before elected a woman to the Senate or governor’s office: Brown defeated Martha Coakley just two years ago) or even her party (the state has a history of voting for GOP moderates like Brown: Think ex-Governor Mitt Romney and, further back, Senator Ed Brooke.) Rather, she owes her ascendency to the fact that her communitarian message resonates so strongly with females.

President Obama ought to pay heed: Warren’s campaign can offer important lessons to his own. He too will need to secure women voters if he wants to earn re-election. And he, too, could do so by adopting Warren’s proud communitarian appeal.

Starobin continues:

THE PUREST DISTILLATION of the Warren message can be seen in the video, shot back in August during her appearance at the Massachusetts home of a supporter, which went viral on the Internet and alternately met with applause amongst liberals and apoplexy amongst conservatives.

It’s easy to see why. With evident passion, Warren weighs in against George Bush’s “tax cuts for the rich” and, hands knifing the air, rejects the notion that she is stirring up “class warfare.” Not at all, she says. “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate…” It was a riveting performance that proved her skill as a retail politician, someone able to relate to regular folks—there was not a trace here of the Harvard Law professor with a specialty in bankruptcy statutes or the policy wonk whose 5,000 word treatise in Democracy led to the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Communitarianism emerged in the 1980s as a response to the limits of liberal theory and practice. Its dominant themes are that individual rights need to be balanced with social responsibilities, and that autonomous selves do not exist in isolation, but are shaped by the values and culture of communities. Unless we begin to redress the balance toward the pole of community, communitarians believe, our society will continue to become normless, self-centered, and driven by special interests and power seeking.

Starobin concludes:

… Communitarianism is not only about ideals, but about practical action. Obama needs to talk more about his particular policy proposals and how they link up with America’s “underlying social contract,” in Warren’s phrase. That’s perhaps the most promising way to reconnect his campaign, so far lacking in any sense of grand aspiration, with its natural demographic base.

Congratulations to Elizabeth Warren for igniting a conversation in the public domain about a too long-neglected topic: the American social contract.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow

Groundhog photo credit: public domain.

Groundhog Day is a whimsical holiday, and I’ll bet most of us smile – even those of us who are surviving another Minnesota winter – when we hear of Punxsutawney Phil’s latest prognostication, whether or not he sees his shadow. The Huffington Post's Green section reports:

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. -- Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his lair to "see" his shadow on Thursday, in the process predicting six more weeks of winter.

But, at this rate, that might not be so bad.

The groundhog made his "prediction" on Gobbler's Knob, a tiny hill in the town for which he's named about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
Temperatures were near freezing when he emerged at dawn – unseasonably warm – and were forecast to climb into the mid-40s in a winter that's brought little snow and only a few notably cold days to much of the East.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Update: Bachmann denies reports of endorsing Romney

In a follow-up to his earlier post at Political Intelligence (, Glen Johnson reports that Michele Bachmann denies any intention of endorsing Mitt Romney:

CHICAGO - Former Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann today denied any plans to endorse frontrunner Mitt Romney when he visits Minnesota this afternoon, following a Globe online post suggesting the possibility.

The Minnesota congresswoman noted she would be in Washington while Romney was appearing in Eagan, Minn. She also said that while she has had discussions with her formal rivals, she has no immediate plans to endorse any of them.

Romney courts Michele Bachmann

Bachmann and Romney. Photo courtesy of the Guardian.
A progressive who has appreciated the efforts of moderate Republicans in their efforts over the years to promote sane government at both the state and federal levels, I'm disappointed this morning to learn that coming off his Florida victory, Mitt Romney headed for Minnesota

As governor of Mass., Romney helped put the state on a firm financial footing, and he signed into law the Mass. health care reform legislation, the first of its kind in the nation. 

Now we learn that Romney is seeking the endorsement of radical Minnesota conservative, Michele Bachman, in order to win over the Tea Party faction of the Republican party.

Glenn Johnson, blogging at Political Intelligence ( reports:

TAMPA, Fla. - Mitt Romney is carrying a full head of steam after winning the Florida primary, but the Republican presidential contender isn’t headed first today for Nevada or Maine, the next two states to vote.
Instead, he is jetting off this morning to Minnesota for what is billed as a “grassroots rally.”


Michele Bachmann, it seems.

Aides to Romney and the Minnesota congresswoman have been in conversation in recent days about securing the candidate’s endorsement by the Tea Party favorite and forceful public speaker, The Boston Globe has learned.

Not only would it add to the impression of Romney consolidating the GOP base after rebounding in Florida from his South Carolina loss, but it could help Bachmann by earning her an ally to help her pay off her lingering campaign debt.