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Thursday, November 27, 2008

now be thankful

The Obama's helped distribute food on Chicago's South Side:

from the press pool report:

The First Family-to-be were positioned at the start of the food line; their job was to hand out white plastic bags filled with fresh chicken. Recipients then moved down the line to receive bags of potatoes, apples, loaves of bread and large boxes of staples including macaroni and cheese, tomato sauce, peanut butter, canned corn, oatmeal, Miracle Whip, mixed fruit and other items.

Obama called out: "We're ready, let's go, bring 'em on in," and the distribution began.

Clearly, those lining up for food hadn't been told they had an importangt guest helping out. this day. Many of them lit up; some shrieked with delight and hugged one or more of the Obamas. One elderly woman bowed; all seemed very appreciative. One and all were greeted with handshakes, hugs, and hearty "Happy Thanksgivings."

One sixty-something neighborhood resident named Daryel Namdan was asked how it felt to have Obama there. "It makes me feel very special," he said, before choking up.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 24, 2008

gobble gobble

"and wouldn't it be dumb if all their atrocities were just forgiven"
-Wayne Coyne


Better than nothing?: Obama is considering creating a commission, along the lines of the 9/11 commission, that would investigate our use of torture and report its findings. The catch is no one would be punished for their actions. But at least we would know the truth and it would be out in the open for everyone to judge.

(Salon reported on this first)


The Atlantic Monthly considers
how to deal with a rogue presidency. Addressing wrongdoing carries risk, but turning a blind eye could be riskier.


out with the dithering:


and more:


Robert Reich on Obama's economic team:

All have several things in common. They're relatively young, in their late 30s or 40s, representing a generational change and a fresh start. Despite their youth, they're also experienced; almost all were up-and-comers in the Clinton Treasury, NEC, and OMB.

All are pragmatists. Some media have dubbed them "centrists" or "center-right," but in truth they're remarkably free of ideological preconception. All have well-earned reputations as hard workers, well-versed in the technical details of public and private finance. They are not visible veterans of the old battles over supply-side economics or deficit reduction, nor are they well-known to the public. They are not visionaries but we don't need visionaries when the economic perils are clear and immediate. We need competence. Obama could not appoint a more competent group.


Obama introduces his economic team:


Rachel Maddow (who rules!):


NYT on Clinton/Obama:

The thaw in the resentful relationship between the most powerful woman in the Democratic Party and her younger male rival began at the party's convention this summer, when Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton gave such a passionate speech supporting Senator Barack Obama that his top aides leapt out of their chairs backstage to give her a standing ovation as she swept past.

Mr. Obama, who was in the first steps of what would become a strategic courtship, called afterward to thank her. By then, close aides to Mrs. Clinton said, she had come to respect the campaign Mr. Obama had run against her. At the least, she knew he understood like no one else the brutal strains of their epic primary battle.

By this past Thursday, when Mr. Obama reassured Mrs. Clinton that as secretary of state she would have direct access to him and could select her own staff, the wooing was complete.

"She feels like she's been treated very well in the way she's been asked," said a close associate of Mrs. Clinton, who like others interviewed asked for anonymity because the nomination will not be formally announced until after Thanksgiving.

In the Obama-Clinton relationship, advisers say, the relatively smooth nature of their talks about the secretary of state job indicate that both, for now, have a working chemistry. The advisers say that Mr. Obama was clearly interested in bringing a rival under his wing, and that he also recognized that Mrs. Clinton had far more discipline and focus than her husband.

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton first spoke after their primary fight on a flight in June to Unity, N.H., their first stage-managed appearance after he won the nomination. As they settled into their seats on his plane, the conversation, according to people on both sides, was far less awkward than they had feared. Over the passing weeks, the relationship gradually improved.

"They got past this long before their supporters and the party activists did," said one Democrat who is close to both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton.


Ezra Klein sees a paradox:

My working model of the distinction between the Clinton and Obama campaigns during the primary was that the Clinton campaign was somewhat more boldly progressive on domestic issues, notably health care, and quite a bit more conservative on foreign policy. At the end of the day, this seemed to cut in Obama's favor, as the executive has fairly little autonomy on issues like health reform (Congress decides it), but quite a bit on foreign affairs.

Since winning the election, however, Obama's choices have demonstrated rather the opposite. On domestic issues, and health care in particular, Obama's appointments have been individuals understood as passionate and unyielding advocates of comprehensive, and universal, health reform. This is true for Tom Daschle, the new health czar, and true for Peter Orszag, the new director of the OMB, and it's even true for Larry Summers, who'll be a senior adviser in the White House. Conversely, Obama's foreign policy picks have been aggressively centrist. Obama ran against Clinton's conventional foreign policy instincts in the primary, but is ready to elevate her to secretary of state. And all reporting suggests that Robert Gates may well remain as secretary of defense. Both may be good choices, but they're a sharp break with the campaign's primary posturing.


Davod Sirtota:

the reason endangered politicians of both parties start airing populist progressive themes around election time is because they know those themes are popular among rank-and-file voters (thus the definition of "populism") - they know, in other words, that this is a decidedly center-left country, and when they have to answer to that country come election day, they go left. But once these politicians get into office and are far away from all of us, the unwashed masses, the pressures of money and media - ie. the Establishment - unleashes incredible pressure for them to actually write the details of policy in a way that preserves the conservative status quo.


Chris Bowers is frustrated:

Let's say that all of the leading contenders for Obama's national security team end up in his administration. This would give him a core foreign policy team of Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Janet Napolitano, Jim Jones, and Robert Gates. That is, overall, a center-right foreign policy team lacking any clear progressives (at least, foreign policy and national security progressives). All of them, with the possible exception of Jones, supported the Iraq war from the outset. At least two of them, Gates and Napolitano, opposed withdrawing troops as recently as 2007 (although the new agreement with Iraq has rendered that debate moot). Also, two members of this group, Gates and Jones, supported McCain. This team would oversee roughly 60% of discretionary federal budget spending, military operations, and all diplomatic relations.

I know everyone is obsessed with the "team of rivals" idea right now, but I feel incredibly frustrated. Even after two landslide elections in a row, are our only governing options as a nation either all right-wing Republicans, or a centrist mixture of Democrats and Republicans? Isn't there ever a point when we can get an actual Democratic administration? Also, why isn't there a single member of Obama's cabinet who will be advising him from the left? It seems to me as though there is a team of rivals, except for the left, which is left off the team entirely.


Christopher Hayes of The Nation chimes in:

Not a single, solitary, actual dyed-in-the-wool progressive has, as far as I can tell, even been mentioned for a position in the new administration. Not one. Remember this is the movement that was right about Iraq, right about wage stagnation and inequality, right about financial deregulation, right about global warming and right about health care. And I don't just mean in that in a sectarian way. I mean to say that the emerging establishment consensus on all of these issues came from the left. There's tons of things the left is right about that aren't even close to mainstream (taking a hatchet to the national security state and ending the prison industrial complex to name just two), but hopefully we're moving there.

And yet, no one who comes from the part of American political and intellectual life that has given birth to all of these ideas is anywhere to be found within miles of the Obama cabinet thus far. WTF?


Matt Yglesias has a different perspective:

Honestly, I'd like to see some more hard-core liberals in the cabinet — and maybe we'll get 'em at Energy, Interior, etc. But in some respects this is the genius of picking a relatively moderate cabinet. We've got Rahm Emannuel promising to "throw long and deep" on health care and energy, Tom Daschle spearheading the charge for universal health care, the president-elect talking about hundreds of billions in new stimulus spending, and endless reiteration of the idea that there will be no retreat from the campaign's ambitious goals on carbon curbs. Putting reassuring faces on an agenda of ambitious policy change strikes me as dramatically preferable to appointing a lot of liberals whose job is to sell the progressive base on the need to trim and abandon campaign commitments.


Steve Benen takes a similar approach:

So why aren't I more frustrated? Several reasons, actually.

First, even with the near-certain names that have been leaked, I don't have the foggiest idea who'll fill more than half of Obama's cabinet. I'm inclined to wait and see. We'll have a much better sense of the rest of the team soon enough.

Second, cabinet secretaries won't be the only ones with access to Obama's ear, and some of the top aides in the White House -- Gaspard, Rouse, Schiliro, Axelrod -- include some great people I do consider pretty liberal.

Third, I'm not especially surprised by any of the choices thus far. The truth is, Obama campaigned as a pragmatist. He seems to like wonks and technocrats, and has always emphasized competence and results while downplaying ideology. That's who he is; it seems to work for him.

And fourth, my goal is to see Obama push progressive policies; whether he uses progressive people to achieve these goals is important but secondary. Is Tom Daschle a dyed-in-the-wool liberal? Probably not. But if his role at HHS helps make a major healthcare reform initiative more likely -- and I believe it does -- his position on the ideological spectrum is less consequential.

Indeed, in the three weeks since the election, I've seen little evidence that Obama's progressive policy agenda has changed in any meaningful way. He still appears committed to a national healthcare push; he gave a video address on climate change last week that sounded very encouraging; and he spoke just this morning about an economic stimulus effort that includes considerable spending on infrastructure. This doesn't sound like a move to the "center"; it sounds like a set of ambitious, progressive ideas.


Ross Douthat (the rare intellectually honest Republican) has an interesting point about Gates/HRC... that this may really be about providing political cover for what what is sure to be a messy withdrawal from Iraq:

As Iraq has grown more stable and the rest of the world more chaotic, it's become easy to lose sight of just how difficult disentangling ourselves from our Mesopotamian occupation may turn out to be. Both his own promises and the agreements we've made with the Iraqi government bind Obama to make the attempt: We will not, I'm certain, withdraw with the kind of haste that he promised in his primary campaign, but we will withdraw nonetheless. But there will be difficulties - maybe a lot of difficulties - along the way, and it's very easy to imagine a scenario in which the withdrawal from Iraq ends up dominating the foreign-affairs side of the ledger in Obama's first term, and not necessarily in a good way. And by putting the job in the hands of Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton - a Republican appointee and a primary-season rival who attacked him from the right on foreign policy - Obama has effectively given realists and liberal hawks partial ownership of whatever happens in Iraq between now and 2011. In a best-case scenario for progressives, Gates and Clinton will play the role Colin Powell played in the run-up to the Iraq War (except with a better final outcome, obviously): Their association with the policy will help keep non-progressives on board when things get dicey, and then once the job is done they'll be pushed aside and someone like Susan Rice will take over Obama's post-occupation foreign policy.

Obviously I don't really think it will work out quite like that. But just as the neoconservative agenda was better-served, at least in the short run, by having Powell as one of the public faces of Iraq War hawkery (rather than, say, John Bolton), I think there's at least a plausible scenario in which the progressive movement ends up being better off in the long run if Hillary Clinton, rather than someone to her left, is at the helm when a spasm of violence pushes Iraq back on to the front pages, and Republicans start accusing the Obama Administration of squandering the Bush-Petraeus gains with a too-precipitous withdrawal.


since these were written one actual "died-in-the-wool" (as they say) liberal has been appointed. Meet: Melody Barnes


A year ago Barnes proposed an inaugural address for a new President. Check it out.


Katrina Vanden Heuvel:

I think that we progressives need to be as clear-eyed, tough and pragmatic about Obama as he is about us.

President-elect Obama is a centrist at a time when centrism means energy independence and green jobs and universal health care and massive economic stimulus programs and government intervention in the economy. He is a pragmatist at a moment when pragmatism and the scale of our financial crisis compel him to adopt bold policies. He is a cautious leader at a time when, to paraphrase New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, caution is the new risky. The great traumas of our day do not allow for cautious steps or responses.

this is the moment for progressives to avoid falling into either of two extremes--reflexively defensive or reflexively critical. We'd be wiser and more effective if we followed the advice of one of The Nation's valued editorial board members who shared thoughts with the Board at our meeting last Friday, November 21.

1. It will take large scale, organized movements to win transformative change. There is no civil rights legislation with out the movement, no New Deal without the unions and the unemployed councils, no end to slavery without the abolitionists. In our era, this will need to play out at two levels: district-by-district and state-by-state organizing to get us to the 218 and 60 votes necessary to pass any major legislation; and the movement energy that can create public will, a new narrative and move the elites in DC to shift from orthodoxy. The energy in the country needs to be converted into real organization.

2. We need to be able to play inside and outside politics at the same time. I think this will be challenging for those of us schooled in the habits of pure opposition and protest. We need to make an effort to engage the new Administration and Congress constructively, even as we push without apology for solutions at a scale necessary to deliver. This is in the interest of the Democratic Party --which rode the wave of a new coalition of African Americans, Latinos, young people, women, etc-- but they have been beaten down by conservative attacks and the natural impulse will be caution and hiding behind desks.

3. Progressives need to stick up especially forcefully for the most vulnerable parts of the coalition --poor people, immigrants, etc --those who got almost no mention during the election and will be most likely to be left off the bus.


The WSJ has more on the Obama/Scowcroft connection.

I have mixed feelings about this: On the one hand I have a lot of respect for Brent Scowcroft, he's a relic of an earlier time when Republicans treated foreign policy seriously, rather some glorified game of "Risk." He was right about the Iraq war, and was shunned by W.'s admin for it. By reaching out to Scowcroft and bringing his circle into his own Admin Obama is being bipartisan without obliging the GOP hacks that have screwed everything up so badly. BUT: I would really like Obama to act like liberals might know what they're doing when it comes to foreign policy, because as it is he is further feeding the narrative that only Republicans understand foreign policy. Furthermore the "Realist" foreign policy strand is quick to turn a blind eye to atrocities and even genocide unless there is some clear material or strategic interest for our own country for doing so. James Baker casually dismissed the genocide in the Balkans by saying "we don't have a dog in that fight." I would prefer an approach like Bill Clinton's, which had an eye towards stopping injustice in the world, so long as clear objectives and an exit strategy could be identified. Hopefully Obama will find a place for Samantha Powers in his administration, since this is the defining focus of her life's work. Obviously I don't think we can "rid the world of evil" like John McCain and George W. Bush seem to think, but the "realist" model can be incredibly cold-hearted. Obama needs to find some middle ground. And to do that he need look no further than the tenure of one William Jefferson Clinton.


Woodward on Bush:


When I read that Obama wasn't planning on looking at changing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" any time soon I had to laugh. Considering how focused these guys have been on not repeating the early mistakes of the Clinton Administration, DADT is probably about as attractive as the plague. Nate Silver, however, takes the contrary view and suggests Obama should go ahead and fix it right away. He makes some good points, although I still think it's an issue probably best set aside for the time being.


More racism:

Barely three weeks after Americans elected their first black president amid a wave of interracial good feeling, a spasm of noose hangings, racist graffiti, vandalism and death threats is convulsing dozens of towns across the country as white extremists lash out at the new political order.

More than 200 hate-related incidents, including cross-burnings, assassination betting pools and effigies of President-elect Barack Obama, have been reported so far, according to law-enforcement authorities and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups. Racist Web sites are boasting that their servers are crashing under the weight of exponential increases in page views.

Even more ominously, America's most potent symbol of racial hatred—the Ku Klux Klan—has begun to reassert itself, emerging from decades of disorganization and obscurity in a spate of recent violence.

I continue to point this stuff out not to be pessimistic, because really I'm incredibly optimistic that we are making great strides in improving racial harmony in our country... but this stuff doesn't just vanish with a wave of a wand. I fully expected a "last gasp" of the worst kind of racism if Obama was elected, and I think we're seeing just that. But I do believe progress is being made. Obviously racism exists on many levels, and a completely non-racist society may just be a platonic ideal we can only strive for but never actually reach... but I do think we are witnessing the dying throws of the most heinous forms of racism (KKK, "white power," etc.). In the meantime, however, people could get hurt, and we need to be aware of that. This stuff needs to be confronted head on.


Ezra Klein on Bill Kristol's latest


TNR is happy about the Geithner/Summers appointments


I remember in my U.S. History from WWI to WWII class (taught by the best teacher I ever had, and I think Diana will back me up on this guy) that the key flaw of the New Deal was that it didn't go far enough. In this time of crisis I hope we will consider the actual history and not just George Will's historical imaginings.


more news



The day in 100 seconds:

Align Center


The NYT on Citigroup

economists respond to the Citigroup bailout

and more here (I don't understand, but maybe you do)

The New Yorker on the Anatomy of a Meltdown

Fareed Zakaria looks for a silver lining


Noam Chomsky on the significance of the election


Valerie Jarrett is perhaps Barack Obama's most trusted advisor (other than his wife). She offered O 21 "life lessons," which she allowed the NYT permission to publish:

1. To thine own self be true.
2. All leaders are passionate about their beliefs, even the ones you don’t like.
3. Trust your gut after you have listened, studied and learned from those with a diverse range of opinions
4. You never know who is watching, so work as hard as you can regardless of the assignment.
5. Don’t stay in your comfort zone too long.
6. As my grandmother would say: put yourself in the path of lightning.
7. Be flexible because opportunities rarely knock at the most opportune moments.
8. Take time to be kind to everyone.
9. Focus on your priorities.
10. In order to lead, someone must follow.
11. Effective leadership depends on your ability to connect and motivate people, not on your title, position or power.
12. Set high standards for yourself and your team (lead by example).
13. Take the time to develop personal relationships all along the way, and really cultivate those upon whom you depend. In order for them to help you, they must know you. And you must know what will motivate them. Nurture them so they can help you lead. They must believe in not just your ideas, but you.
14. Good will matters.
15. Women are particularly good at listening and studying their audience.
16. Have the courage to make tough decisions.
17. When you lead, not everyone will follow, and that’s okay.
18. You will fail. Don’t take your failures or your success too seriously. Learn to laugh at yourself. Trust me. It helps.
19. Affiliate yourself with worthy institutions, lead by good people who share your core values.
20. You can have it all, just not at the same time, and in the proportions you may want.
21. To those who much is given, much is expected.


I'm going to take a few days off, as I'm heading down to Fla for Thanksgiving. Everyone have a great holiday!!!


Saturday, November 22, 2008

stay positive


Given the urgency of current events, along with a desire to downplay the issue during the campaign, I really think there's actually been a shortage of people expressing, in better ways, the basic "holy fucking shit we just elected a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama" point.

He won Indiana!!


Illustration by KAL

The Economist (no liberal rag!) on "the stupid party:"

JOHN STUART MILL once dismissed the British Conservative Party as the stupid party. Today the Conservative Party is run by Oxford-educated high-fliers who have been busy reinventing conservatism for a new era. As Lexington sees it, the title of the “stupid party” now belongs to the Tories’ transatlantic cousins, the Republicans.

Energy? Just drill, baby, drill. Global warming? Crack a joke about Ozone Al. Immigration? Send the bums home. Torture and Guantánamo? Wear a T-shirt saying you would rather be water-boarding. Ha ha.

Many conservatives continue to think they lost because they were not conservative or populist enough—Mr McCain, after all, was an amnesty-loving green who refused to make an issue out of Mr Obama’s associations with Jeremiah Wright. Richard Weaver, one of the founders of modern conservatism, once wrote a book entitled “Ideas have Consequences”; unfortunately, too many Republicans are still refusing to acknowledge that idiocy has consequences, too.



Obama lobbying for Chicago to host 2016 Olympics. Would be quite a way to cap off his tenure as president.


Palin talks turkey:

and we love her for it!:


Al Qaeda threatened by Obama


Obama's super-duper top secret plan to shut down talk radio (Shhh!!)

Along the same lines I hear weapon sales are soaring on account of all the people who think Obama's gonna try to take their guns away. Have fun fighting those bogeymen guys!


What will be the future of the Obama movement? Here's what Marshall Ganz (civil right organizer / Harvard professor / architect of Obama's grassroots organization) had to say:

Ganz makes three really important points: The first is that we've never had a president enter office with an organizing social movement attached to him, and there's no precedent for thinking about how the participants in that movement have a voice in his presidency. The second is that this movement isn't going away, and the critical question isn't "who's going to get the list" but how will this movement govern itself. The third, which is somewhat of an open secret, is that there is a group of organizers meeting in Chicago right now trying to figure this out, and Ganz believes that their deliberations should be more open. "I think it's important to create the public space for this kind of discussion," he told me.