Sunday, September 30, 2012

Krugman’s public service reminder: “Simpson Bowles is terrible”

Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles

Today is Sunday, and I hadn’t planned to post anything new, but Paul Krugman’s public service reminder about Simpson Bowles shook me up, and I felt obligated to link to it this afternoon:

Nate Silver gives Mitt Romney a 16 percent chance of winning, and gives Republicans a 22 percent chance of taking the Senate. A month is an eternity in politics, it ain’t over until it’s over, yada yada, but the main suspense right now is whether the Democrats can retake the House — I’m eagerly waiting for Nate’s take.

And what this means is that in DC thoughts are turning to … Simpson Bowles.

You know what will happen if the expected result materializes and Obama is reelected: all the Very Serious People will clamor for him to return to the pursuit of a Grand Bargain, built around S-B.

Read more:

Saturday, September 29, 2012

How NY Times columnist and amateur psychologist David Brooks supports the NRA

The urbanity of NY Times columnist David Brooks, author of The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, conceals at times the underlying crassness of his positions on issues, e.g., when he glibly spouts psychological nonsense in support of arming the populace. Allen Frances, professor emeritus of Duke University, would like a word with Brooks:

I have an offer for David Brooks. If he promises to stop being an amateur psychologist, I promise to stop being an amateur columnist.

What Brooks doesn't know about psychology is a lot. Everything he says about it has a shallow ring, is misinformed, and displays the same bias and ulterior motive. Brooks is a complacent apologist for the status quo. Whenever events scream out that there is an obvious defect in one of his cherished social policies, Brooks comes to its defense with a muddled pop psychological explanation -- hoping in the process to deflect attention away from any serious policy discussion of what has gone wrong and what can be done to correct it. The consistent tactic is to rationalize a failing public policy by putting all the blame on messed up individual psychology.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Despite the swirl of rumors regarding her plans in 2016, Secretary Clinton toils on

Secretary Clinton at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. U.S. State Department photo.

While Campaign 2012 rages on in its full negativity mode and rumors swirl about a possible Clinton candidacy in 2016, the AP reports that hardworking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on the job trying to calm Asian waters:

NEW YORK — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged China's top diplomat on Thursday to peacefully resolve increasingly tense maritime disputes with Japan and its smaller neighbors in Southeast Asia.

A senior U.S. official said Clinton had pressed Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on the importance of settling its conflicting claim with Japan over the Japanese-held Senkaku islands, called Diaoyu by China, along with numerous competing claims in the South China Sea with members of the Association of South East Asian Nations.

The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the private discussion between Clinton and Yang on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly and therefore requested anonymity. Clinton was expected to make the same case to Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba when she meets with him in New York.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

All we want are the facts, Sir!

Detective Joe Friday in Dragnet.

Many of us remember Detective Joe Friday’s insistence on the facts in the 1950s tv series, Dragnet. Today’s websites devoted to fact-checking unavoidably remind us of that earnest detective. But the facts being checked are not criminal (we hope), but rather political, during yet another heated presidential campaign in which the truth is too often a casualty.

The Nation’s Ari Melber discusses the impact of fact-checking on the Obama and Romney campaigns:

A tabulation of recent rulings from PolitiFact, a prominent but increasingly controversial website devoted to fact-checking candidates' claims, found that “statements by Mitt Romney and other Republicans” were rated false “twice as often as statements by President Obama and other Democrats.” That's a lot more false statements by Republicans, which makes it harder to cling to the false equivalency that “both sides do it.”

Or maybe not.

A snap poll of conservative reactions shows that the study of Politifact, from George Mason's Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA), proves the conservative theory that the fact-checkers are out to get Republicans.

“This discrepancy is not because the Romney campaign is egregiously truth-challenged,” explains The Weekly Standard, “but because the 'fact checking' enterprise is more often than not partisan.” When you're done attacking the messenger, go for the refs! That approach may be welcomed by CMPA, however, which has played up its past studies as proof that life is hard for the GOP. (Press release headlines include “GOP Candidates Were Big Joke to TV Comics in 2011,” “TV News Coverage Helped Sink Santorum…”, and, for good measure, “Arab Media Boost Obama.” Oh that Arab Media—it just loves American presidents.)

In the end, it's true that your view of the findings depends on your view of Politifact, though, because if you think they generally get it right, then cumulative data like this is still bad for the right:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Teaching Democrats to fight for working class people once more

Elizabeth Warren is waging a tough campaign against incumbent Scott Brown in the Mass. senate race. We can only hope Warren wins. It’s time for someone who understands economics and gets what working class people are up against to assume a leadership role in Congress.

In her weekly column for the Washington Post, Katrina vanden Heuvel describes Warren as the people’s champion:

She called herself the “warm-up act” for Bill Clinton at the Democratic Convention, but Elizabeth Warren electrified the crowd by delivering the fierce heat of the truth straight from the heart:

“People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here’s the painful part: they’re right. The system is rigged. Look around. Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies. Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. Wall Street CEOs — the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs — still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors and acting like we should thank them. Anyone here have a problem with that? Well I do.” 

Running for the Senate against a popular incumbent in Massachusetts, Warren is an unlikely candidate. She’s a Harvard law professor, and looks the part with her glasses and no nonsense hair, and sounds it as she speaks naturally in full paragraphs, not sound bites. She made her name studying bankruptcy laws, and exposing how that system was rigged against the struggling middle class families who hit the wall after an illness or the loss of a job.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mitt Romney and the Confidence Fairy

Romney. Credit: Public Domain.

A win by Mitt Romney this November would free the Confidence Fairy to miraculously cure the U.S. economy. Over at the NY Times, Nobel winning economist Paul Krugman explains:

Mitt Romney is optimistic about optimism. In fact, it’s pretty much all he’s got. And that fact should make you very pessimistic about his chances of leading an economic recovery.

As many people have noticed, Mr. Romney’s five-point “economic plan” is very nearly substance-free. It vaguely suggests that he will pursue the same goals Republicans always pursue — weaker environmental protection, lower taxes on the wealthy. But it offers neither specifics nor any indication why returning to George W. Bush’s policies would cure a slump that began on Mr. Bush’s watch.

In his Boca Raton meeting with donors, however, Mr. Romney revealed his real plan, which is to rely on magic. “My own view is,” he declared, “if we win on November 6, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We’ll see capital come back, and we’ll see — without actually doing anything — we’ll actually get a boost in the economy.”
Are you feeling reassured? 

Read more:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi receives Congressional Gold Medal (video)

Secretary of State Clinton met Aung San Suu Kyi in Myamar last year. Credit: State Department photo/ Public Domain.    

We’re occasionally fortunate enough to get a glimpse of someone who is truly heroic and deserves whatever honors are bestowed upon her or him. Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi is a truly heroic woman. America honored her today by presenting her with the Congressional Gold Medal; in turn, she honored us by traveling to Washington to accept the medal.

The AP reports:

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers united by their respect of Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi  have presented her with Congress' highest civilian honor in a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda.

Suu Kyi described it as one of the most moving days of her life.

She was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2008 while under house arrest for her peaceful struggle against military rule.
Her long-awaited visit to America finally provided an opportunity for her to receive the honor Wednesday in person in Congress' most majestic setting, beneath the dome of the Capitol and ringed by marble statues of former U.S. presidents.
Secretary Clinton’s remarks honoring Aung San Suu Kyi (video)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Wisconsin anti-union law declared null and void

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker starred at the Republican convention  just days ago. Convention attendees celebrated the young governor’s apparently successful attacks on the rights of public service employees. 

Yesterday, a Wisconsin circuit court judge pulled the rug out from under Walker, and  it was time for the state’s educators, police, firefighters, et al to celebrate:

A Wisconsin judge on Friday struck down the state law championed by Gov. Scott Walker that effectively ended collective bargaining rights for most public workers.

Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas ruled Friday that the law violates the state and U.S. constitutions and is null and void.
The law took away nearly all collective bargaining rights from most workers and has been in effect for more than a year.

Read more:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A sober analysis of the tight 2012 presidential race

If you doubt whether or not unifying the various factions of the Democratic Party will make a difference in this year’s tight presidential race, read the analysis by the Christian Science Monitor’s Brad Knickerbocker. More specifically, if you believe the nation will be better off under a Democratic Administration for the next four years, Knickerbocker’s report is enough to bring home the most seriously alienated Clinton supporters from the 2008 primary – that would include yours truly. (Even though I continue to be amused by the recent turnaround of the media from denigrating the Clintons in 2008 to praising them in 2012.)

Here’s Knickerbocker:

Early returns are in, and it looks like President Obama got more of a poll bounce right after his party’s convention than Mitt Romney did out of the GOP’s big event.

Gallup’s daily tracking poll for Friday put Obama's job approval rating at 52 percent, the highest it’s been since the killing of Osama bin Laden. Obama has also moved to a three-point lead over Mitt Romney among registered voters (48-45 percent), up from Obama's one-point margin over the last nine days.

“It is possible that these upticks are short-lived and that the race will devolve back to a parity by next week,” Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport wrote in his morning-after analysis. “On the other hand, if Obama builds on and sustains his higher job approval rating and lead over Romney, it could signal a possible resetting of the presidential race as it enters the remaining three-and-a-half weeks before the first debate on Oct. 3.”

By comparison, Romney’s standing bounced not at all after last week’s Republican convention.

Morning-after convention polls can evaporate pretty quickly, and Friday’s grim jobs report just hours after Obama’s convention speech Thursday night may hasten that. Plus, post-convention bounces going back to 1964 have averaged a healthier five points. Still, an upticked three point plus for Obama in a very close race can make the difference between a second term in office and packing his bags for Chicago come January.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

After rejecting the Clintons in 08, liberal punditry now bows to Bill and Hillary

Bill and Hillary rise again.

In the wake of the 2012 conventions this Saturday morning, the punditry (even conservative David Brooks) appears to be in agreement that the Democrats outscored the Republicans and while Bill Clinton’s nominating speech reached historical greatness, Barack Obama’s acceptance speech, at a more mundane level, accomplished what was required of it.

(Keep in mind this is the same punditry that did its best in 2008 to banish Bill and Hillary Clinton from politics forever in order to elevate the Obamas to heights no human beings would ever be able to reach.)

Joe Conason at RCP writes:

Bill killed.

Nominating Barack Obama for a second term, the former president brought to bear the full weight of his political experience and forensic skill Wednesday night, on behalf of a man who was once his adversary. Rewritten up until the final hour before he took the podium, this was among his finest campaign speeches, even surpassing the address he delivered at the last Democratic convention in 2008. Clinton presented an exhaustive argument for Obama (and against the Republicans) with four key elements:

A lesson in presidential economics delivered in professorial style, acknowledging complexity while at the same time presenting issues in an understandable and even simple style. There has been no political leader since FDR with Clinton's capacity to perform this rhetorical magic, and there is none today who can match him. He possesses a singular authority to discuss employment, spending and debt, having proved his GOP opponents wrong so decisively in the past that they now attempt to cite him as a model.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Time for Democrats to set aside their differences

Photo courtesy of the Daily Kos.
It's time for Democrats to follow the example set by Bill Clinton when he nominated Barack Obama the other night and put aside our differences. As Bill points out in the letter below, the stakes are very high in the 2012 election:

Virginia --

The stakes couldn’t be higher in the 2012 election.

The outcome will determine the direction our country takes for the next generation.

The last thing we want is to wake up the day after the election regretting that we didn’t do enough to prevent the Republican Party from winning the White House and maintaining their grip on Congress.

Donate $3 or more today to win a Democratic majority and help President Obama achieve the change we need for America.

Let’s take this opportunity to show the full force of our grassroots strength.


Bill Clinton

Paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee | 430 South Capitol Street SE, Washington, DC 20003
(202) 863-1500 | | Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

Watch: Gabby Giffords leads Pledge of Allegiance at Democratic Convention

Accompanied onstage by DFL Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Gabby Giffords looked terrific as she led the Pledge of Allegiance at the Democratic Convention last night. Watch the video:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Look: Hillary watches Bill's convention speech

U.S. State Department Photo.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in East Timor, but that didn't prevent her from watching her husband's convention speech.

Let’s give it up for Elizabeth Warren and Bill Clinton!

Courtesy of

For this lifelong Democrat who re-registered as non-affiliated after witnessing the onslaught of sexism and misogyny endured by Hillary Clinton, the nation's first viable female presidential candidate, last night's speeches by Elizabeth Warren and Bill Clinton went a long way toward healing leftover wounds.

In her opening remarks, Mass. Senate candidate Warren described Hillary Clinton as “one of the coolest women on the planet.”

In his memorable speech that will likely get Barack Obama re-elected, Bill Clinton rocked the hall with his emphasis on cooperation over obstructionism. In perhaps his most quoted comment in this morning’s press coverage, Clinton said: ‘“We believe ‘we’re all in this together’ is a better philosophy than ‘you’re on your own.’”

Zeleny and Landler in the New York Times offer highlights of Clinton’s speech:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former President Bill Clinton and President Obama hugged onstage Wednesday night after Mr. Clinton delivered an impassioned plea on behalf of Mr. Obama’s re-election, the 42nd president nominating the 44th to a second term with a forceful and spirited argument that Democratic values would restore the promise of the middle class.

The former president delivered a point-by-point rebuttal of the arguments made during the Republican National Convention last week, warning against Republicans taking back the White House and declaring, “We can’t let it happen.”

He offered an equally detailed affirmative case for the re-election of Mr. Obama, saying there was no question the country was in a better position than it was four years ago.

“We simply cannot afford to give the reins of government to someone who will double down on trickle down,” Mr. Clinton said, repeatedly bringing the crowd at the Democratic convention to its feet. He added, “I love our country so much and I know we’re coming back.”

Read more:

For a transcript of Elizabeth Warren’s speech, go here.
For a transcript of Bill Clinton’s speech, go here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Who will stand up for the poor in the 2012 presidential election?

Courtesy of

While the rest of the punditry swoons over the dress Michelle Obama wore last night and her “hitting it out of the ballpark” convention speech, Jim Wallis reminds us this morning of those whom both our Democratic and Republican political leaders too often overlook:

We've got a problem in this country. I know it, you know it, and the politicians know it too, but most won't even say it out loud: poverty. We're bracing ourselves for next month's release of the 2011 numbers -- most economists predict that we're looking at the highest rates of poverty in fifty years.

In the years before the recession, we were making some strides. We had programs like Head Start that helped build strong kids from the get-go. We had high employment, and things were moving in the right direction. But even then, when we had budget surpluses, we couldn't get the nation's political leaders to focus on a real commitment to significantly reducing poverty in America. Then the recession hit, and everything changed. Many of those who were in poverty last decade were pushed into "deep" poverty (less than half of the poverty line) and we have an emerging group called the "newly poor"-- those suburban families whose houses are under water, who can't pay their gas, and whose six-figure jobs dissolved when the bubbles burst. The face and the type of poverty in this country is changing rapidly: suburbs in the largest metro areas saw their poor populations increase 25 percent from 2000 to 2008 -- almost five times faster than in the cities, according to Brookings.

If you're not poor, and you don't have friends who are poor, you might have little clue about what it's like to be in poverty. For too many people before the recession, poverty was about "them." About "those people." Now, poverty is "us" -- those sitting next to us in the pews, fellow workers laid off, brothers or sisters with their houses underwater. We have a whole group of hardworking people, through no fault of their own, who are slipping through the cracks and under the poverty line. According to the Census, nearly half of Americans are under the poverty line or barely above it: they are one paycheck, one health crisis, one breath away from falling below that line. Folks who used to donate their used clothes to Salvation Army are now shopping there; families who used to donate to food banks are standing in their ever-growing lines.