Saturday, June 30, 2012

Help Elizabeth Warren win!

This deadline matters
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Mindy Myers, Sat, Jun 30, 2012 at 10:31 AM

This is the most important deadline we've got.
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Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts

$450k by Tonight.  Donate.
For most people, a June 30th fundraising deadline doesn't mean a whole lot.
But for us, this is the most important deadline we've got.
This deadline is about more than sending paperwork to a government office building. It's about planning what the critical next four months of Elizabeth's campaign are going to look like.
We truly believe: This race won't be won by a last-minute cash infusion in October. It's going to be won by the person who invests in a ground game now.
Your support helps our team hire more organizers, recruit more volunteers, and go door-to-door in every corner of the Commonwealth, talking to people about the choice they have in this election. That's how Elizabeth will win.
We can't make those investments without your help. Will you please chip in $15 -- or whatever you can afford -- by our deadline at midnight tonight?
We can't kid ourselves: Scott Brown still has a big fundraising advantage right now -- and he's been getting money from Wall Street like a fire hose is aimed in his direction.
But Elizabeth's got one thing he doesn't have: You.
This deadline matters. Thank you for doing your part.
Mindy Myers
Campaign Manager
Elizabeth for MA

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Secretary of State Clinton arrives in Russia (video)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton embodies gravitas as she arrives in Russia. Watch the video:

The Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare

One cannot begrudge the affirmation of the right of all Americans to health care coverage as provided in the Affordable Health Care Act, upheld this morning by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Washington Post offers complete coverage of the decision and how the provisions of this landmark healthcare act will continue to unfold:

The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s health care law, including the most disputed part: the mandate that virtually all Americans have health insurance or pay a fine. The mandate was upheld under the federal government’s power to levy taxes.

The ruling put some limits on the law’s plan to expand the Medicaid insurance program for the poor, a joint effort of the federal government and states. It says the U.S. government cannot threaten to withhold a state’s entire Medicaid allotment if it doesn’t participate in the expansion.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s four liberal justices — Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — to form the 5-4 majority.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Urging leaders to tell the truth in an era dominated by social media

It’s Sunday morning, and a good question for the day is “What would happen if leaders told their followers the truth?” Tom Friedman at the NY Times concludes that the radical notion of truth telling by our leaders may be the best response to the rise of popularism in the era of Facebook and Twitter. Friedman’s column begins:

TRAVELING in Europe last week, it seemed as if every other conversation ended with some form of this question: Why does it feel like so few leaders are capable of inspiring their people to meet the challenges of our day? There are many explanations for this global leadership deficit, but I’d focus on two: one generational, one technological.

Let’s start with the technological. In 1965, Gordon Moore, the Intel co-founder, posited Moore’s Law, which stipulated that the processing power that could be placed on a single microchip would double every 18 to 24 months. It’s held up quite well since then. Watching European, Arab and U.S. leaders grappling with their respective crises, I’m wondering if there isn’t a political corollary to Moore’s Law: The quality of political leadership declines with every 100 million new users of Facebook and Twitter.

The wiring of the world through social media and Web-enabled cellphones is changing the nature of conversations between leaders and the led everywhere. We’re going from largely one-way conversations — top-down — to overwhelmingly two-way conversations — bottom-up and top-down. This has many upsides: more participation, more innovation and more transparency. But can there be such a thing as too much participation — leaders listening to so many voices all the time and tracking the trends that they become prisoners of them?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

On Sandusky’s conviction: victim’s mother, “Nobody wins. We’ve all lost”

As with the Catholic Church, the trial of Jerry Sandusky has revealed how the reputation of an institution too often takes  precedence over the protection of young children from sexual abuse. (Penn State Logo on right.)

Jerry Sandusky’s conviction and possible life imprisonment does not alleviate the harm his victims have suffered. The mother of Victim 6 knew this when she responded to the guilty verdict concluding Sandusky’s trial: “Nobody wins. We’ve all lost.”

The AP reports:

Jerry Sandusky was convicted Friday of sexually assaulting 10 boys over 15 years, accusations that shattered the Happy Valley image of Penn State football and led to the firing of Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno.

Sandusky showed little emotion as the verdict was read. The judge ordered him to be taken to the county jail to await sentencing in about three months. He faces the possibility of life in prison.

The judge revoked Sandusky's bail and ordered him jailed. In court, Sandusky half-waved toward family as the sheriff led him away. Outside, he calmly walked to a sheriff's car with his hands cuffed in front of him.

As he was placed in the car, someone yelled at him to "rot in hell." Others hurled insults and he shook his head no in response.
The accuser known in court papers as Victim 6 broke down in tears upon hearing the verdicts in the courtroom. Afterward, a prosecutor embraced him and said, "Did I ever lie to you?"

The man, now 25, testified that Sandusky called himself the "tickle monster" in a shower assault. He declined to comment to a reporter afterward.

His mother said: "Nobody wins. We've all lost."

Almost immediately after the judge adjourned, loud cheers could be heard from a couple hundred people gathered outside the courthouse as word quickly spread that Sandusky had been convicted. The group included victim advocates and local residents with their kids. Many held up their smartphones to take pictures as people filtered out of the building.

Eight young men testified in a central Pennsylvania courtroom about a range of abuse, from kissing and massages to groping, oral sex and anal rape. For two other alleged victims, prosecutors relied on testimony from a university janitor and then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary, whose account of a sexual encounter between Sandusky and a boy of about 10 ultimately led to the Paterno's dismissal and the university president's ouster.

Sandusky did not take the stand in his own defense.

After the verdict was announced, defense attorney Karl Rominger said it was "a tough case" with a lot of charges and that an appeal was certain. He said the defense team "didn't exactly have a lot of time to prepare."

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hillary celebrates the color purple (video)

This YouTube video shows Hillary Clinton demonstrating her sense of humor while swearing in her Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs, Mike Hammer.Subscribe to the Associated Press:

(When I watched the video at YouTube, it was preceded by a very toxic ad attacking President Obama. Whatever our politics, we should refrain from such maliciousness. You do have the option of skipping the ad, which I advise.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The “unspeakably boring election so far”

2008: McCain vs. Obama.
2012: Romney vs. Obama.

Confession: when I read Roger Simon’s post at Politico this morning titled “The ‘meh’-ing of the president,” I had to Google the meaning of  'meh' in the urban dictionary, and I quote: “An interjection used to imply indifference towards a subject; ‘verbal shrug’.

Well, yeah, the 2012 presidential campaign is boring, but not more so, I would argue, than the general election became in 2008 after the Democratic primary ended, and we were subjected to the sparring between Obama and McCain, spiced up occasionally by Biden’s gaffes and Palin’s naïve pizzaz.

Anyway, Simon’s injection of humor into the boring, if not tragically uninspiring, presidential campaign of 2012 between Obama and Romney offers momentary relief and encourages reflection on our choices this November. Simon asks:

Where is the fun? Where is the excitement? Where is the sheer heart-pounding, loin-stirring, thrill-going-up-the-leg tingle that is the hallmark of a U.S. presidential race?

Nowhere. The New York Times Magazine made it official Sunday on its “Meh List,” which each week catalogs those aspects of American life that are unspeakably boring.

And there it was at No. 3: “The election so far.”

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Politically motivated or not, Obama’s immigration order contributes to the common good

The Minn. Coalition on Immigration holds a Faith Action at the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center in St. Paul. Photo credit:  Virginia Bergman

America’s treatment of undocumented immigrants has been a source of much suffering on the part of many.  I’ve attended a few monthly vigils at area detention centers held by The Minnesota Interfaith Coalition on Immigration.

One cannot help being moved by the Coalition’s reports of ill treatment undergone by immigrants separated from their families and thrown in with the general criminal population.

It’s possible the Coalition’s efforts, along with those of other humanitarian groups around the country, helped motivate President Obama’s recent decision to protect 800,000 immigrants from deportation. However, even if Obama’s primary motivation was political – wooing the Hispanic population in an election year – and even if it exceeds or expands presidential power, it can be best understood as a humanitarian act.

Reuters reports Obama’s recent order:

In a move that seemed to be aimed at Hispanics whose enthusiasm for voting in the November 6 election could be crucial to Obama's re-election chances, the president acted to potentially protect 800,000 people from deportation proceedings for at least two years.
Obama, who previously was reluctant to impose such an order even as Republicans in Congress blocked immigration reform bills he supported, called his action "the right thing to do."

His announcement was on the 30th anniversary of a Supreme Court decision that said children of illegal-immigrant parents were entitled to public education in the United States.

It allowed Obama, whose administration has faced criticism from some Hispanic groups for deporting about 400,000 illegal immigrants a year, to draw a sharp contrast between himself and Republican Mitt Romney, his opponent in the election. Romney, in trying to appeal to his party's most conservative voters, has taken a harsh stance against illegal immigration.

Read more:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

“The president of the United States is not the Godfather”

Official White House photo by Pete Souza.

It’s odd, you know, when I first read in the NY Times of President Obama’s personal culpability in selecting targets for death by drone, I was stunned.  I believed this would effectively end Obama’s hopes for a second term. Americans simply would not stand for this. 

After all, Obama was originally elected on the basis of his anti-war speech as an Illinois state representative. Recall also that shortly after his inauguration, he received a Nobel peace prize for his lofty vision. We had a right, I thought, to expect this man to lead the nation toward a more ethical and just role in the world.

So then I began to read accusations from Republicans that the Administration intentionally leaked the story to the Times to bolster Obama’s image as a tough, macho leader who had no qualms about dealing death to alleged enemies and any noncombatants who happened to be within range of his drone-fired missiles.

Could this be true?

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen writes:

What is remarkable about the recent leaks is the coincidence -- it can only be that -- that they all made the president look good, heroic, decisive, strong, and even a touch cruel -- born, as the birthers long suspected, not in Hawaii but possibly on the lost planet Krypton. The leak that displayed all these Obamian attributes was the one that said the president personally approves the assassinations of terrorists abroad. He gives his OK and the bad guys are dispatched via missiles from drones.

Cohen continues:

The leak that troubles me concerns the killing of suspected or actual terrorists. The triumphalist tone of the leaks -- the Tarzan-like chest-beating of various leakers -- not only is in poor taste but shreds a long-standing convention that, in these matters, the president has deniability. The president of the United States is not The Godfather.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Given a second term, would Obama dare confront Congress?

President George W. Bush (center), meets with (from left) former President George H.W. Bush, President-elect Barack Obama, and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office on January 7, 2009. This picture is in the public domain.

At the New Yorker, Ryan Lizza poses a thoughtful question as the 2012 election campaign proceeds – “What would Obama do if re-elected?”

In November, 1984, President Ronald Reagan was reëlected in a landslide victory over Walter Mondale, taking forty-nine states and fifty-nine per cent of the popular vote. The Reagan revolution was powerfully reaffirmed. Soon after, Donald Regan, the new chief of staff, sent word to a small group of trusted friends and Administration officials seeking advice on how Reagan should approach his last four years in office. It was an unusual moment in the history of the Presidency, and the experience of recent incumbents offered no guidance. No President since Dwight D. Eisenhower had served two full terms. John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Lyndon Johnson, overwhelmed by the war in Vietnam, had declined to run for reëlection in 1968. Richard Nixon resigned less than seventeen months into his second term. Gerald Ford (who was never elected) and Jimmy Carter were defeated. By the nineteen-eighties, it had become popular to talk about the crisis of the Presidency; a bipartisan group of Washington leaders, with Carter’s support, launched the National Committee for a Single Six-Year Presidential Term.

Regan’s effort to foresee a successful second term is documented in a series of memos at the Reagan Library. President Obama, who in November could face one of the tightest bids for reëlection in history, has periodically spoken of his admiration for Reagan. “Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory for America,” he told a Reno, Nevada, newspaper in early 2008. “He just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity, we want optimism.” From the inception of his Presidential bid, Obama has sought to present himself as a leader with far-reaching ideas, and has prided himself on his ability to look past the politics of the moment. To the degree that he is able to ponder his strategy for the next four years, it’s natural to think he might steal a glance at the Reagan playbook. Responding to Regan’s confidential memo, Tom Korologos, an adviser to every Republican President from Nixon to George W. Bush, told the Reagan White House that the second term should be viewed from the standpoint of the President’s intended legacy.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Calming the fearful mind…

My meditation group recently decided to read and discuss Thich Nhat Hanh’s Calming the Fearful Mind: a Zen response to terrorism. 

I was nearly finished with the book when I decided to get some exercise yesterday afternoon and take a walk in my apartment building. 

I saw my neighbor, a three times per week dialysis patient, seated in the alcove near the elevator. She looked disconsolate, so I stopped to visit with her. 

She had lost her keys and was locked out of her apartment. Her granddaughter had an extra set of keys, but she was without a phone to call her. I happened to have my cell phone in my pocket. 

Another neighbor joined us as we waited until the granddaughter arrived with her grandmother’s extra keys, and we saw her safely enter her apartment.

When I returned to Calming the Fearful Mind, I read the following paragraph:

You can’t feel safe if you’re not in good communication with the people you live with or see regularly. You can’t feel safe if those around you don’t look at you with sympathy and compassion. In the way you speak, sit, and walk, you can show the other person that she is safe in your presence, because you are coming to her in peace… Safety is not an individual matter. Helping the other person feel safe guarantees your safety.

Thich Nhat Hanh continues:

We can bring the spiritual dimension into our daily life, as well as our social, political, and economic life. This is our practice. Jesus had this intention. Buddha had this intention. All of our spiritual ancestors, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist had this intention. We can display the light of wisdom and come together in order to create hope and to prevent society and the younger generation from sinking in despair.

We can learn to speak out so that the voice of the Buddha, the voice of Jesus, the voice of Mohammed, and all our spiritual ancestors can be heard in this dangerous and pivotal moment in our history. We offer this light so that the world will not sink into total darkness…

May it be so.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A blue spot of consolation for Wisconsin Democrats

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Jason Stein reports:

Madison - A triumphant Gov. Scott Walker will meet with his cabinet Wednesday on jobs and start planning a Wisconsin-style bipartisan summit with lawmakers over brats and beer.

But for at least five months, it appears that he could have to accommodate a newly Democratic Senate. Republicans needed to win all four state Senate recall races Tuesday to hold onto that house but were declared winners in only three of those contests.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Should the right to hate speech be guaranteed?

Anonymous commenters on various message boards across the Internet repeatedly argue that they are entitled to freely express their opinions regardless of how slanderous or hateful they might be. Stanley Fish’s column in the NY Times on this topic effectively rebuts such harmful contentions:

Jeremy Waldron’s new book, “The Harm in Hate Speech,” might well be called “The Harm in Free Speech”; for Waldron, a professor of law and political theory at New York University and Oxford, argues that the expansive First Amendment we now possess allows the flourishing of harms a well-ordered society ought not permit.

Waldron is especially concerned with the harm done by hate speech to the dignity of those who are its object. He is careful to distinguish “dignity harms” from the hurt feelings one might experience in the face of speech that offends. Offense can be given by almost any speech act — in particular circumstances one might offend by saying “hello” — and Waldron agrees with those who say that regulating offensive speech is a bad and unworkable idea.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Voter suppression reported in Wisconsin

I just received this message:
Urgent Action Needed: We've confirmed reports of voter suppression calls to recall petition signers. These calls tell signers that their "job is done" and that they don't need to vote on Tuesday.

This is a disgusting attack on our democracy and we need your help to fight back. Post this photo to your Facebook timeline and tell your friends that we need every eligible voter to cast a ballot for Tom Barrett -- including recall petition signers.

I have good friends in Wisconsin who worked hard to gather recall petitions and who will be working hard to get out the vote tomorrow. Do your part - Wisconsin needs you! 

Scott Brown’s efforts to weaken the Dodd-Frank law

Sen. Scott Brown (R), photo via Boston Globe

Scott Brown has by no means served his constituents as a Right-wing extremist/Tea Partier in his first term as Ted Kennedy’s replacement in the Senate; that may explain why he and Elizabeth Warren are currently engaged in such a tight race up there in Massachusetts. Still, the Boston Globe has done voters a favor this morning by revealing how Sen. Brown first voted for the 2010 Wall Street overhaul and then worked to weaken major provisions.

Noah Bierman and Michael Levenson write:

E-mails between Brown’s legislative director and US Treasury Department officials show that Brown advocated for a loose interpretation of the law so that banks could more easily engage in high-risk investments. 

While the law, known as Dodd-Frank, sets broad parameters for how the financial industry must behave, the interpretation of the law, and the rules that follow, will govern Wall Street’s daily business.

At issue in Brown’s e-mails is the Volcker rule, a particularly contentious provision of Dodd-Frank. The rule, championed by Paul Volcker, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, prevents commercial banks from speculating heavily in higher risk 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

What’s wrong with the President checking a list and deciding whom to kill?

Photo credit: Pete Souza, White House.

It’s hard to even think about it. The way our nation has morphed into a ruthless machine, even finding ways to make it okay to kill noncombatants who stumble into a strike zone. It gets uglier all the time.

Obama’s “kill list” is another step down the road of America becoming the terrorists it is determined to eliminate. Is this what we want? Read Amy Davidson’s post at the New Yorker titled “The President’s Kill List,” and you tell me:

What is wrong with the President sitting in a room, looking at lists and portraits of people—a Somali man, a seventeen-year-old girl, an American citizen—and deciding whom to kill? That, according to long and troubling articles in both the Times and Newsweek, is a job Barack Obama has assigned himself. His aides, notably John Brennan, his counter-terrorism adviser, portray it as a matter of taking responsibility—if we are going to assassinate someone, or call in a drone strike to take out a camp in Yemen, the President should make the call—as if our only alternative were some sort of rogue operation, with generals or C.I.A. agents shooting at will. But responsibility involves accountability, which is something, in this case, that appears to be badly lacking. Obama has not taken on a burden, but instead has given the Presidency a novel power.