Thursday, February 24, 2011

Praise for Rolling Stone's Michael Hastings and Matt Taibbi

I've been a  fan of the journalist Matt Taibbi for a while now, though I cannot quite remember how I first came across his work.  And I admit that I was not at all familiar with Michael Hastings until his bombshell of a story on Gen. Stanley McChrystal, which essentially ended his military career (my post here).  I mention these two journalists, because they have given me a reason really to pay attention to the political stories coming out of Rolling Stone magazine.  Both of these guys have a no nonsense approach to their subjects that I truly appreciate, especially Taibbi.

I have two articles that I hope you will read.  The first is from Taibbi, and it is an explanation as to why we likely will not see any real criminal prosecutions out of Wall Street (or even the right's beloved "Fannie and Freddie") for the Crash of '08.  The second is from Hastings on a general's efforts to use propaganda to influence American members of Congress into continued financial support for aspects of the war in Afghanistan. 

When I finished both articles, I was reminded that all too often the arguments between the regular folks on the left and the right are pretty useless.  Between the antics of the super rich and the purveyors of the military-industrial complex (civilian and active duty), we are not paying attention to what is actually happening to our country, and all of us regular folks are bitching with one another over crumbs.  And those who have tried to make the argument to look in the direction of those who mean truly to fuck us over are often dismissed completely.  So, I will just keep trying to see if there are folks out there who are willing to report what's happening.  Taibbi and Hastings are among those folks.

UPDATE 2.27.2011:  Regarding Hastings, I found this post by Glenn Greenwald to be interesting, since we are now talking about another U.S. general.  And here is a link to a post over at Huffington that covers Jon Stewart's take on what happened in the media the first time Hastings made a splash.

Wisconsin III: "Punk'd"

I leave town for an overnight, and when I get back I discover that the governor of Wisconsin got a prank call

So, I was not surprised by much of what I heard during that conversation.  And I am more than confident that absolutely nothing that Walker said will change the minds of his supporters.  Instead, I believe that their support only will increase as a result of this, because they will not get beyond the fact that Walker got played by a "liberal."  Naturally, that is enough to cut off a discussion of what actually was said.

Meanwhile, the fact that the breaking of the public sector unions is more important than the actual fiscal issues surrounding the Wisconsin budget (remember that the unions have offered to accept the financial part of the GOP's proposed bill) is beyond clear.  So, can we now stop talking about the fiscal angle on this story, because it no longer applies.  I suggest that the stories now shift to how we have reached the point where those on the right (and the Harold Ford, Jr.s of the center/left) are more than happy to lay blame for the aftermath of the '08 crash at the feet of any group, except those on Wall Street who actually fucked it up and will get away with it totally.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Libyan Chaos

It seems like there is total free fall in Libya right now.  And once again, I find myself playing catch up with regard to a foreign country.  The only things that really stand out in my mind about Libya are their responsibility for the bombing Pan-Am flight 103, and the recent shady release of the person held responsible for the bombing.  And in this instance, I don't think that there is virtually anything we can do, except condemn the violent state actions being taken against the Libyan people.  There is no telling how this will turn out.

Wisconsin II

I was just over at The Daily Dish, and saw something that I didn't expect.  Apparently, former governor Doug Wilder signed into law a bill banning collective bargaining in Virginia back in 1993.  It will take me some time to research what was going on back in VA in '93 on this issue (I was more focused on getting into grad school that year, and left VA in '94).  In all honesty, I think I'd assumed that Virginia was a state that didn't recognize any unions at all, which has been typical in the South since the idea of labor unions emerged in force in the U.S.

And I am still trying to sort out when this notion that corporations should be revered and labor unions reviled really came about, especially since most multi-generational middle class Americans are more likely to have union members among their ancestors than a corporatist.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I haven't weighed in on the situation in WI yet, because I wanted to wait and see if the presence of the Tea Party Republicans would change the atmosphere in Madison.  From what I can tell, it had not changed it very much at all.  So here it goes.

I found it particularly ironic that this whole situation is happening in the very place where the reforms of the U.S. Labor Movement were really implemented for the first time, by Republicans no less, and with great effect.  Considering the current conservative perspective, I am sure that the old Wisconsin Idea looks like a nightmare, with all of those undeserved (though they will say unaffordable) benefits to workers.

I think that most people would agree that public sector unions, in times like these, could put in more money to help alleviate costs.  Interestingly, that very proposal is on the table in WI.  The unions there have offered that concession.  However, I recognized that after this concession, a big one mind you, was offered, and the GOP rejected it outright, that this was about more than fiscal conservatism.  No labor union I can think of would be willing to give away their collective bargaining rights; one might as well dissolve the union altogether.  And therein rests the actual issue, in my opinion.  This is an effort to bust unions.

Rachel Maddow gave an excellent explanation the other day.

I will likely write more about this very soon.

UPDATE:  As I was reading up on Wisconsin, I found this tidbit from Politifact addressing a statement, and a big one, the Maddow made regarding the claim that the budget deficit was created by the actions of the new governor.  Politifact says that Maddow's claim was false, and they provide an excellent analysis as to why.  With that said, I still think that Maddow's history of WI's role in the labor movement in this country, and how WI policies have impacted U.S. policy regarding workers is solid.  I also still believe that the end game is union busting, because, again, collective bargaining rights do not appear to have little to do with this crisis.

Rep. Weiner Has a Point

I was scrolling through the blog Joe.My.God., and found a post of his that was highlighting Rep. Anthony Weiner.  Weiner is recommending exactly what I think should be recommended.  If "government run" health care, which the health insurance reform law is not, is so bad, then members of Congress should abandon it, legislatively for all federal workers, if only out of principle.  If it is bad for me, then isn't it bad for them too? 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Talk About a Real "Curveball," Even Though We Should Have Seen it Coming

At this point, I don't think I will be surprised by anything that is revealed about the lead up to the Iraq War.  I disagreed with the premises offered for going to war back then.  I remember talking with a student of mine, a self professed conservative freshman, who was surprised by my admission that I had no problem with the idea of assassinating Saddam Hussein (he really was a bad guy); I felt that that was really what President Bush wanted to do, but he knew that saying that was politically untenable, if not illegal.  I did, however, tell my student that I felt that the official reasons we were being told that we needed to go to war were bullshit.  I reminded him, even then, that there was no evidence linking Saddam and 9/11, or Saddam and bin Laden.  And I was pissed at the time that we were taking our eyes off the bin Laden prize.  But there was nothing I could do to stop anything, and I resigned myself to that, and we went to war.

So, of course I wasn't surprised to hear that one of the main individuals we used to bolster our central reasons for going to war was a total and complete liar.  Of course the Bush administration sought someone who would provide them with a rationale it wanted to do what it did (any administration will do that).  Of course the lies that Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, aka "Curveball," told us would end being presented to the United Nations, though not by our UN Ambassador, but instead by our then Secretary of State Colin Powell.  Here is an interesting interview with Powell's then Chief of Staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson.

And of course, I am not surprised that this is not major news being discussed in full detail in our media, because our media, for all intents and purposes, were cheerleaders and water bearers for the Bush administration during the run up to the Iraq War. Of course, the vast majority of Americans, particularly supporters of President Bush, simply do not care about what really happened, and why we really went to war.  Remember, it was unpatriotic to question the veracity of the claims by the Bush administration at the time. And of course, nothing will come of this as revelation after memoir after revelation emerges regarding that period.

Sometimes, I really can understand why folks retreat into pure cynicism.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Marriage Equality Coming to Hawaii

Congratulations to the folks in Hawaii!  Hmm, it looks like I have another state to consider moving to permanently, if I am lucky enough to find someone I would want to marry (though DC is still first on my list, with Massachusetts coming in a very close second).

Monday, February 14, 2011


I have might have a bridge to sell  to anyone who actually believed that anyone in Washington, regardless of party, is ready to deal with our budget, from the President on down.  And this is not one of those occasions when Washington "got it right," because everyone is pissed off; it's quite the opposite.  Well hang on.  The wealthiest among us have gotten mostly what they've wanted from Washington, and they have the receipts from all of their spending on the '10 elections to prove it.  What is clear is that we can do nothing that would infringe upon their ability to take (and occasionally make) more money from the rest of us.

Now the Pigford (Black Farmers') Case is Interesting

Yesterday, I was reading The Daily Dish, and I saw this post by Conor Friedersdorf regarding the growing outrage tied to the remedy for the infamous Pigford v. Glickman case filed by a group of black farmers who were discriminated against by the Department of Agriculture.  Friedersdorf focused on a National Review article that examines potential fraud tied to the settlement process, and I agree with Friedersdorf that it is always good to call out and examine governmental fraud when it is alleged or occurs, regardless of the political side bringing the issue to light.  However, Friedersdorf was bothered by the fact that interest in the Pigford case seems only to be about the settlement's fraud allegations, and not about the fact that the federal government, between 1983 through 1997, discriminated against black farmers.

Now, I'd debated not writing a post on the Pigford situation raised by The Dish, but I changed my mind when I saw Ta-Nehisi Coates' post title on the subject (reference Friedersdorf's post):  "Somewhere, Someone Black Is Getting Away With Something."  That title made me stop.  I had to read that post, and it is an interesting one.  Coates does a second post on this issue, and it is worth reading as well.

Coates made a point that I found particularly interesting, and one that I am sure my conservative friends may not like.  Here is the quotation from Coates' post that stood out for me:  "This is where you see "conservative" effectively becoming a synonym for "white populist." You would think that the government discriminating against a class of farmers over 15 years, under three different presidential administrations, from two different parties, not in the distant, but recently, would be a pet cause for people disturbed by the overreach of government. In fact those who claim that banner, are disturbed by the remedy applied--not the problem, itself." 

So, Can We Stop Talking About Birth Certificates Now and Focus on Jobs?

I found out on Politico today that at least 10 states have introduced legislation requiring candidates seeking to be on the ballot in presidential elections to show some a birth certificate.  Naturally, this legislation will help to ease the budget short falls that so many states are experiencing across the nation.  And, I suppose someone will have to be hired in the state election office to verify the veracity of the documents submitted by those seeking the top spot in the country, so does that qualify as job creation for those 10 states?

Brilliant jobs strategy.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hip Hop Remembrances: Guy

I was in the car yesterday, and one of my favorite songs of all time came on:  "I Like" by Guy.  You know how you get that smile on your face, and you can't help but sing along?  The memories from college parties came flooding in.  "Groove Me" was an excellent introduction to Guy's music style (proto-New Jack Swing), and one of the best songs to dance to in the '80s.  Here are some of my favorites:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Following Egypt VI: History Made

While I was out this morning, history was made in Egypt.  I have to admit that I was completely surprised that Hosni Mubarak resigned his office today.  I was worried deeply that I would return home to scenes of bloodshed, because the tensions seemed so high.

I am happy for the Egyptian people.  Clearly this is something that they wanted, and it was important for the U.S. to maintain precisely the right distance from this situation, so as not to have enemies use us as a bogeyman against those seeking for democracy.  But we also needed to be in the ear the Egyptian government to remind them that broad based violence against the protesters would not be tolerated (and to use our aid as leverage).  It was a delicate dance, and at times it wasn't pretty, but now we have a day ending with people cheering in the streets of Egypt.

I agree fully with President Obama that this marks a new beginning for Egypt, not an end, and Egypt has a long way to go.  The dangers are real, as is the potential for failures.  Americans just happen to have a little experience in that arena 

Good luck!

Weeksville: An African American Historic Place That Should be Better Known

Back in 2005, I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the renovated historic houses along Brooklyn's Hunterfly Road at the Weeksville Heritage Center.  I had no idea, when I arrived at this fascinating historic site that I would meet the likes of (then) Sen. Hilary Clinton, and Representatives Major Owens and Anthony Weiner, as well as many local residents who came out to support the historic site, but it was great to know that Weeksville was so important to so many.
James Weeks purchased the land that became the free black community of Weeksville in 1838.  It served as a place of refuge for African Americans escaping the madness of the New York Draft Riots in 1863.  As Brooklyn grew around Weeksville, the community fell into disrepair, and it wasn't until 1968 when the last remaining homes were discovered.  It was through the vision and efforts of the Weeksville Society's first Executive Director, the late Joan Maynard, that we know Weeksville today.  And today, the current Executive Director, Pamela Green, has expanded on Maynard's vision with great success.

Weeksville really is an incredible historic site with a fascinating history.  It should be included in your list of places to visit when you are in Brooklyn, NY.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Who Knew the Egyptian President Understood "Punk'd?"

Clearly, I am not the only one who just knew that Hosni Mubarak was rolling out of office today.  I even caught that breaking news from MSNBC, CNN and Fox.  I am sure the folks in Tahrir Square were waiting in anticipation for news that they essentially had won.  But, Mubarak seems to have had a trick for everyone, and it was not funny (and no Ashton).

What is So Wrong with Michael Vick's Redemption Efforts?

For the most part, I've not really dealt with much related to Michael Vick.  I think most reasonable people can agree that his past actions with dogs were reprehensible.  If I am correct, Vick rightly did time in prison for his crimes.  And if I am still correct, Vick rightly has been working to rehabilitate his image, and he has expressed regret for his past actions.  And if I am still correct, Vick rightly has been working with animal rights groups as a part of his redemption effort.

Of all of the various famous people who have done terrible things, criminal acts, why is Vick held to a seemingly impossible standard?  Is there nothing he can do for his detractors to believe that he is working to change, beyond going back to jail, getting hurt on the field, or being executed?  Many of us have been taught to forgive and forget (though I always had difficulty with the forgetting).  But I have always felt that it is important to acknowledge and support people who genuinely are trying to change their lives for the better.  I think Michael Vick has been doing that. 

Let him.

Sen. Webb's Surprising Announcement

I was surprised by Sen. Webb's announcement that he was not seeking re-election for two very different reasons.  First, I was surprised because I am sure that Webb knows there is a real chance that he will not be succeeded by a Democrat.  Second, I was surprised, because Webb did what so many politicians claim to support, until they actually get elected:  serving one term of office.

I think it would be amazing if a good solid independent candidate emerged in this race.  Mind you, I have no real faith that anything like that will happen, but it is nice to dream on occasion.  I am guessing that the scenario will play out that Virginia's "macaca (though I don't really know what that means) loving" former U.S. Senator will go right back to Washington and do as much as he did when he was Senator before:  occupy space.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Following Egypt V: Interesting Voices

I think that so many Americans are interested in the events in Egypt because we really don't know what's going on.  We don't have a real sense of the causes of the protests (not from an Egyptian point of view anyway).  And after a decade of stoked fears in almost all things Islamic, most of us are ill equipped to envision what could happen in the aftermath beyond some variation of jihad.  So, I was glad to see three opinion pieces from individuals who have far greater knowledge on this subject than I ever will:  Ayaan Hirsi Ali of the American Enterprise Institute, Kate Seelye of the Middle East Institute, and Roxane Farmanfarmaian of Cambridge University. 

I know that I will be reading other perspectives on where this Egyptian Moment can lead, but so far, I've found those three pieces very contextually informative and quite interesting.  Enjoy.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

NYC's Latest Smoking Ban

Okay, I am not a smoker.  I've never even been so inclined as to put an unlit cigarette or cigar in my mouth, let alone one that was actually lit.  I cannot stand the smell of cigarette smoke (and cigar smoke is patently worse, as my brother, a cigar smoker, has heard me say repeatedly).  With all of that said, I think it is absolutely crazy that New York City has approved a smoking ban for its parks and beaches.  This is just overreach, and I am confident that New York City has a host of health issues that need a little more attention than the occasional discomfort of second-hand smoke in a local park or beach.

Will Being Gay in Uganda Lead to Execution or Imprisonment? XII

From what I understand, the events in Egypt postponed a planned segment from The Rachel Maddow Show on the murder of David Kato, a leading gay rights activist in Uganda who was murdered recently. Here is the segment (and it is well worth watching):

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"Rape" or "Rape-ish"

Though I am sure that debating whether or not to redefine rape so that the government can be ensured that it doesn't pay for abortions (which is already the law) is just another means of finding those promised jobs, I think that it was a good move on the part of the GOP to let that issue go. But before they did, The Daily Show covered this important issue quite handily.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rape Victim Abortion Funding
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

Following Egypt IV: As Only The Daily Show Could Do It

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Arabian Fights
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

So, Can We Stop Talking About Health Insurance Reform Now and Focus on Jobs?

When the discussion about health care reform, which was merely health insurance reform, started, I was not convinced that the time was right.  Yes, I wanted to see actual health care reform, but I think most rank and file people of either party were singularly focused on someone, and anyone creating jobs.  I think it is more than fair to say that the GOP did everything within its power to prevent the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress from passing anything that seemed even close to meaningful there.  But, I think it is also fair to say that the administration and the Congress did not tackle job creation aggressively.

Now, I know that I am just one guy trying to make it on my own as a consultant in very tough times, but I was practically screaming for someone in Washington to pick up a fucking history book and turn to the pages related to FDR and the Great Depression.  I know that the GOP derided temporary government based jobs (like the Census workers), but those were paying jobs, and I am sure that every single person who had that Census job was glad to have the money to pay their bills and feed their families.

I did a post suggesting that we should create a 21st century Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and another post reiterating the CCC and adding a 21st century Works Progress Administration (WPA).  I even wrote a post following (and modifying) Chris Matthews suggestion that the Obama administration create a jobs program in the Gulf Coast region to help with clean up following the massive oil spill last spring, and make BP pay for it.  I am sure that each of these ideas would have been attacked savagely by the GOP, but the Democrats had the majority, if they'd known how to use it.  And the Democrats lost an opportunity to prove to the nation that government can provide solutions, even if they were temporary (even a short term job is better than no job).

I am convinced now that most people in Washington, regardless of party, could care less about the wide swath of the American population.  I do believe that we have been in the midst of class warfare, and unlike the conventional wisdom, it has been the top that has been beating down on the rest of us (and taking our money to boot, and demanding that we give them even more, which we did), and not really creating jobs on top of all of that.  So much now is simply about bottom lines and profit margins, but I am straying from my primary point.

It is clear that we need jobs in this country.  It is also clear that we need genuinely creative leaders who are both interested in helping the lower rungs of the economic ladder find their footing, and willing to take political risks to help bring this situation under some semblance of control.  I'm not too confident.  But I am sure we can prepare for yet another symbolic vote on repealing health insurance reform, or redefining rape, or going after legal abortion, or joking about climate change, or denouncing evolution, or railing against the gays, or voter fraud, or whatever doesn't create or even save a job.

Marriage Equality Support from Surprising Corners

Two people, recently, have come out in support of civil marriage equality:  former First Daughter Barbara Bush and current Maryland State Senator Allan Kittleman.  Bush's direct ties to the former Presidents Bush have made her announcement newsworthy. It is important to note that she does not hold elective office, and because I've never heard where she falls politically, I think that her support of marriage equality is both great and representative of her generation (like Meghan McCain, who is a Republican), but not necessarily politically moving. 

Kittleman on the other hand is a sitting Republican State Senator, and Maryland is in the process of actually considering marriage equality.  He is planning to vote for marriage equality.  That, in my mind, is even more important than joining a campaign (though it is a campaign I fully support).  I was moved by his full statement that is published in this article in the Washington Post.  I doubt that I agree with Kittleman on too many things politically, but I like to give credit where credit is due.  And, I think that every straight Republican who is ambivalent about supporting marriage equality should consider reading Kittleman's statement.

(h/t Towleroad)

Following Egypt III: Tide Turned

It would not surprise me if President Mubarak organized this opposition that has appeared out of the blue, and dispatched them to make this previously peaceful display of civil disobedience into a violent outburst.  It just feels so manufactured, so orchestrated, so timed.  Here is a roster reactions that I've been reading over at The Daily Dish.

Alexander Twilight (Never Heard of Him, Right?)

In a past life, I worked on a project where the goal was to find ways the bring academic institutions and African American historic sites together to help meet some of the challenges that those historic sites faced.  While working on that project, I was on the hunt for African American historic places around the nation.  One of the my most surprising discoveries was the Brownington Village Historic District in Brownington, VT. 

Brownington had the distinction of being the home of Alexander Twilight (1795-1857), a Congregational Minister, educator, and the builder of the Old Stone House, a former dormitory for the Orleans County Grammar School.  Twilight was also the first African American to graduate from an American college, having earned his degree from Middlebury College in 1823.  Twilight was also the first African American elected to a state legislature, having been elected to the Vermont General Assembly in 1836.

Discovering people like Twilight, and places like the Brownington Village Historic District has only reminded me that I chose the right field, and that it is important to share what I learn.