Thursday, January 29, 2009
On Wednesday, President Obama announced that there wasn’t a “moment to spare” with regards to Congress passing his stimulus plan. The fear-inducing language worked, and on that same day the House passed the $819 billion package with a vote of 244 to 188. This version of the plan passed by the House now heads to the Senate for approval. The package includes funding for numerous projects including $79 billion to establish a state fiscal stabilization fund, $87 billion to help states close their budget gaps created by Medicaid expenditures, $43 billion in unemployment benefits, and $275 billion in tax cuts.
Missing from the package, however, is the $200 million from the original plan marked to help provide birth control for low-income women. This provision was cut from the package because House Republicans refused to define such a provision as an economic stimulus. They argued that the Democrats were only trying to monopolize on the economic downturn and push their moral agenda, but the Republicans were wrong. The birth control provision would have helped to better living standard’s for those currently suffering - a goal of the stimulus plan. The allocation should have remained in the package
It’s not a question of moral agendas. It is simply a question of economics. The following examples illustrate the general principle on which I make my argument. If you have five miles2 of land and five people, each person gets one mile2 to live off of - this includes space to build a home and grow sustenance. But now imagine that you have ten people for the same five miles2, the amount of room and the amount of food available for each person gets cut in half. Suddenly, they are all worse off and their living standards have decreased. In the second example there were too many people trying to use the available resources and everybody suffered.
Currently, like the land available in the above example, the United States has a limited amount of resources available to assist struggling families. When a household loses its income, as many are doing in these economic times, the state carries the burden of allocating a part of the resources pie to the additional household. It makes it all the worse when parents incapable of providing for their family of four, become a family of five - in some cases not because they choose to but because they cannot afford any form of pregnancy prevention. The additional person represents an additional drain on the state’s resources. We can see this problem in the stimulus package passed on Wednesday. The House allocated billions of additional dollars to fund welfare services such as Medicaid, unemployment, and food stamps. As the number of people in need of these services increases with each additional child born, so does the cost to the state, and in reality, the tax payer. As the cost of these services continues to rise because of additional and sometimes unwanted births, tax payers suffer and money that could otherwise be used for other forms of economic stimulus is drained from the state.
The point is that by providing birth control to lower-income women, the state provides economic relief to everyone in society. Essentially, providing birth control has the same effect as providing the $275 billion in tax relief that Republicans insisted be part of the package. This conversation does not revolve around morality, but instead the serious economic hardship of a society deep into a recession.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I'm curious to here what my fellow bloggers and readers think about the Gov. Blagojevich proceedings.
When the scandal first broke, we got to hear snippets of the recorded phone calls between Blagojevich and others - but we haven't heard everything. I am extremely curious to see what comes out during the trial. From what we have heard so far, I am not so convinced that Blagojevich did anything illegal - immoral to be sure - but not illegal. He was playing the political game. He had a very valuable piece of political capital that he wanted to turn into a political war chest - a trade of political assets.
This media tour he is now going on though, oy vey. I read that he is trying to taint to jury people - make himself seem likeable (and hopefully not-guilty-looking) to people out there who could sit in the jury box that decides his fate. To do this tour, he is boycotting his impeachment trial in the Illonois legislature. Dude, show up!
Governor Blagojevich -
You say the legialture is being unfair and not letting you call witnesses, yada yada yada. It doesn't matter, you have to show up to the trial! You owe it to the citizens of Illonois. Regardless of whether you committed a crime, you were dubious and dirtied the Governor's office. You owe the voters something. After this is all over, right your book and do your media tour. Right now, try not to make this whole debacle more of a joke than it already is.
P.S. Telling the world that you wanted to appointment Oprah to the Senate does not make you more likable. I sincerely hope that you don't think that you can manipulate Oprah's primary audience - women- with such a revelation. We aren't that malleable.
Monday, January 26, 2009
I will admit that I don't follow the media game particularly well--I'm a faithful blog reader, but pretty much only watch The Daily Show and Rachel Maddow--so I can't say that I'm well-equipped to assess this list on its merits. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Andrew Sullivan both thoughtfully criticize Forbes' definition of "liberal" but I'd like to address another observation.
Of the twenty-five people on this list, just four are women:
Maureen Dowd (#15)
Rachel Maddow (#7)
Oprah Winfrey (#6)
and Arianna Huffington (#2)
Just four are women, and two of those four are Maureen Dowd and Arianna Huffington, who are not exactly paradigms of measured, intelligent discourse. The list contains bloggers and columnists, newspeople and authors. There weren't a few more liberal women in any of those positions with substantial influence?
The lack of women in the liberal blogosphere has been documented. And the sense that there are too few women in media generally exists, even if it's not more tangibly articulated.
The gender gap puts the Democratic party over the top wherever it makes it over the top. Women, as compared with men, are more likely to vote for Democratic candidates. Women are more likely to vote period than men. But, it seems, somewhat less likely to be considered an influential presence in the media.
We need to create a space for women in the liberal media, and in the "liberal movement," insofar as it exists as a collectivity. Women who talk about women ought not to be marginalized. "Women's issues" must move beyond the realm of a specialized interest ("special interest," even) to the political mainstream, and feminist analysis (or at least female analysis) has to find its way into the day-to-day workings of how we think about public policy and the political system.
For that to happen, there need to be women--loud women who are allowed to speak as women--on the airwaves and on our RSS feeds and in our editorial pages. And not just mine.
This list, however oddly it defines liberal, and however inconsequential it is in reality, reminds us that we're not there yet.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Don't forget to tune into to KRLX FM (88.1) or here. KRLX.org
We'll be breaking down the economic stimulus package, news about Obama's executive orders, Senators Gillibrand and Franken, as well as some strikes on Pakistan.
Great show 4:30-5:00 PM.
Update: You can listen to the show here.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Even if you don't have anything you want to contribute, take a look at the comments. This is a rare space for people to talk about oppressions that many of us--particularly those of us who grew up in Lutheran cornfields--are too rarely compelled to see.
On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women's health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman's right to choose.
While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services.
On this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work; and to have no limits on their dreams. That is what I want for women everywhere.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Norm Coleman (R) has taken a job with the Republican Jewish Coalition while contesting Democrat Al Franken’s lead in the Minnesota Senate race, his campaign confirmed Thursday.
In what could be seen as a sign that Coleman thinks his bid to return to the Senate may be lost, he has signed on to do consulting work for the group, which is comprised of a number GOP leaders.(emphasis added)
Many groups are talking about what this means for Coleman's efforts to regain his seat, and what it says about his hopes. You can find stuff about that here, here, and here.
Instead of working that angle, let's take a moment to look at the organization that Coleman now calls his home, the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC).
First, this is an organization that has long been a friend of Norm Coleman, conveniently the DFL has outlined all of this in a memo, which shows that the RJC has financed over 13,000 dollars in trips for Norm Coleman:
January 31-February 2, 2003: In First Trip as Senator, Coleman Traveled from Washington, D.C. to Boca Raton, FL; Republican Jewish Coalition Paid $2,254. Less than two weeks after Coleman was sworn in, he took his first privately funded trip from Washington, D.C. to Boca Raton, Florida to be a guest speaker at the Republican Jewish Coalition conference. The Republican Jewish Coalition reimbursed Coleman for $1404.00 in transportation costs, $700.00 in lodging expenses and $150.000 in meal expenses. [Secretary of the Senate, Office of Public Records]
June 26-28, 2003: Coleman Traveled to Orange County and Los Angeles, CA; Orange County Republican Party of California and the Republican Jewish Coalition Paid $688.70. From June 26-28, 2003, Coleman traveled to Orange County and Los Angeles, CA to be the keynote speaker at a the Republican Party of Orange County event and two RJC events in Orange County and Los Angeles. The Orange County Republican Party of California and the Republican Jewish Coalition Paid $688.70 for Coleman’s lodging expenses. [Secretary of the Senate, Office of Public Records]
December 16-17, 2003: Coleman Traveled to New York, NY; Republican Jewish Coalition Paid $500. From December 16-17, 2003: Coleman traveled to New York City to be the keynote speaker at the Republican Jewish Coalition Hanukah event. The Republican Jewish Coalition reimbursed Coleman $200 for transportation and $300 for lodging expenses. [Secretary of the Senate, Office of Public Records]
February 19-21, 2004: Coleman Traveled to Palm Beach, FL; Republican Jewish Coalition Paid $555.40. From February 19-21, 2004, Coleman traveled to Palm Beach to be a guest speaker at the Republican Jewish Coalition winter meeting. The RJC reimbursed Coleman $405.40 for transportation and $150.00 for meal expenses. [Secretary of the Senate, Office of Public Records]
August 6-10, 2004: Coleman Traveled to Tel Aviv, Israel; Republican Jewish Coalition Paid $7,175. From August 6-10, 2004, Coleman traveled to Tel Aviv, Israel with the Republican Jewish Coalition. The RJC reimbursed Coleman $5,950 for transportation, $1,000 for lodging, and $225 for meal expenses. [Secretary of the Senate, Office of Public Records]
March 12, 2005: Coleman Traveled to West Palm Beach, FL; Republican Jewish Coalition Paid $515. On March 12, 2005, Coleman traveled to West Palm Beach, Florida to be the guest speaker for the Republican Jewish Coalition winter meeting. The RJC reimbursed Coleman $515 for transportation expenses. [Secretary of the Senate, Office of Public Records]
July 9-10, 2006: Coleman Traveled to Los Angeles, CA; Republican Jewish Coalition Paid $1,689.37. From July 9-10, 2006, Coleman traveled to Los Angeles to be the keynote speaker at RJC Annual summer Celebration. The RJC reimbursed Coleman for $1131.60 for transportation, $491.77 for lodging and $66.00 for meal expenses. [Secretary of the Senate Travel Records; Star Tribune, 1/21/06]
The group has a stated purpose which is not much in dispute:
We seek to foster and enhance ties between the American Jewish community and Republican decision makers. We work to sensitize Republican leadership in government and the party to the concerns and issues of the Jewish community, while articulating and advocating Republican ideas and policies within the Jewish community. We are committed to building a strong, effective and respected Jewish Republican voice in Washington and across the country.
The dispute lies in the methods that the RJC uses to pursue its failed goal of scaring Jewish voters to vote for Republican candidates.
On September 16, 2008, Salon.com, in collaboration with the Nation and other sites reported that the RJC commissioned a poll to test some very negative messages about Candidate Barack Obama, which some confused as a push-poll. From Salon:
This week, reports began bubbling up about Jewish voters in potential battleground states being called and asked to participate in a poll that featured some unusually negative questions about Barack Obama. Those reports were confirmed when The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn received a call. Now the Republican Jewish Coalition is taking responsibility for the survey.
Some observers -- including Cohn -- initially believed that what was happening is what's known as a push poll. Push polls aren't real polls; they're conducted by people who aren't interested in actually judging voters' opinion so much as they're interested in moving it, and use loaded questions to do so.
Certainly the questions used in this case seemed to have been designed with that in mind. For example, Cohn reported that he was asked whether it would affect his vote if he knew that "Obama has had a decade long relationship with pro-Palestinian leaders in Chicago" or if he knew that "the leader of Hamas, Ahmed Yousef, expressed support for Obama and his hope for Obama's victory."(emphasis added)
and from Tikun (9/19):
The Republican Jewish Coalition admits it funded at least 750 push poll calls to Jewish voters in swing states testing out which lies and smears would be most effective against Barack Obama. I’ve already reported the types of “questions” asked. But The Forward yesterday came up with a few new, and even more infamous ones. One caller asked how the voter would feel about Obama if he knew Mahmoud Ahmadinejad endorsed him; or if Obama’s advisors were “pro-Palestinian.”
This is also a group that flooded Jewish media with advertisements that used unfair and untrue implications such as the the following:
You can see more of these ads at the RJC website.
The RJC also attacked the famously pro-israel Joe Biden as being a risky candidate.
This is also a group that has smeared pro-Israeli democrats over and over.
This is the group that Norm Coleman has chosen to go to work for? Sounds like a good thing that Minnesotans chose Al Franken.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
In case anyone has forgotten: the Chief flubbed the oath when he placed the word "faithfully" in a constitutionally incorrect position - twice.
No video cameras were allowed in the Office to film the shotgun ceremony but there should be some pictures coming shortly.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says there'll be no move to seat Democrat Al Franken on Thursday.
Spokesman Jim Manley also says Senate Democrats may not make any move for a few weeks. In an e-mail to The Associated Press, Manley says no decisions had been made.
Franken came out on top of Republican Norm Coleman by 225 votes in a recount of their U.S. Senate race. But Coleman has filed a lawsuit challenging the result, and the trial is due to begin Monday.
Reid met with Franken in Washington on Wednesday and said Democrats would try to seat Franken, but he didn't say when.
Fresh from the AP, Senate Democrats will try to seat Democrat Al Franken (making him Senator Franken!). Find the article from the AP, and a comment from Majority Leader Reid all from Polinaut:
WASHINGTON (AP) -It's no joke: Senate Democrats are moving toward letting comedian Al Franken join the chamber while Republican Norm Coleman's election lawsuit is pending.
"We're going to try to seat Al Franken," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters on Wednesday, a few hours before he posed with Franken for photos just off the Senate floor. "There's not a question in anyone's mind, an assertion by anyone, that there's been any fraud or wrongdoing in this election."
Coleman's lawyers are challenging the results of the election and the re-count in a trial set to begin in state district court on Monday. A three-judge panel that will hear the case is considering Franken's argument to dismiss it altogether.
Franken finished the re-count ahead by 225 votes. But Coleman's campaign said it will push for a review of all 12,000 absentee ballots that were not counted in the race. Coleman's attorneys said the new proposal could bring as many as 7,000 ballots to the race.
Reid did not say when Franken would be seated provisionally, but he said the two were meeting to hash out the agenda and Franken's committee assignments. (Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Franken will soon be the next Senator from the great state of Minnesota. Weeks ago, the bipartisan Minnesota state canvassing board has fairly counted all votes and certified Al Franken as the winner. It is important that we start talking about the issues important to the people of Minnesota so their new Senator can hit the ground running. We will talk today about:
our economic recovery plan to strengthen our economy now and strengthen our nation in the long term; and on which committees Mr. Franken can best serve his constituents and the country.
Friedberg, a talented criminal defense attorney, pitched in defending Coleman's late father in an unflattering criminal case several years ago, and years earlier, the Republican (then-Democrat) Coleman came to Friedberg's aid in a bar fight.
Now Friedberg is the lead attorney in Coleman's bid to persuade a three-judge panel to throw out the state Canvassing Board's conclusion that Democrat Al Franken earned 225 more votes on Election Day than Coleman for the U.S. Senate seat.
That would make Friedberg Coleman's most important supporter. Except he's not a supporter. Friedberg's a Democrat, and he often disagrees with his friend's politics.
"I would do anything for Norm, except vote for him," Friedberg said in a Pioneer Press interview before the election. "And I’ve told him that."
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
During the luncheon for Congress and President Obama which took place directly after the inauguration ceremony, both Senators Kennedy and Byrd required medical attention. Senator Kennedy has reportedly suffered a seizure and had to be take away by an ambulance. No word on Sen. Byrd (D -WV)
the condition of
Sen. Kennedy (D - MA)
Update 1/21: They're both fine. Senator Kennedy was released from the Hospital. Obviously scary but good news thus far.
When expectations are extraordinary, it is more than likely that one will be unable to meet them. The expectations for President Obama are certainly unprecedented. Two million people showed up in Washington D.C. today, while millions more watched from home, desperate for a change in government and a new direction for the country. We have put our hopes one the shoulders of one man and I would only expect his knees to buckle a little form the weight. When they do buckle, and I can only expect that they will, I hope we remember that we asked to much of him in the first place. I believe that he will do great things for us but I cannot expect it immmediately and I certainly cannot expect him to create a perfect solution for all of my problems.
Expectations play a large role in politics. During the debates, campaign staffers for the Vice President could be heard trying to talk down Biden's experience and knowledge while praising Governor Palin. Biden's people worried that he would lose the expectations game. When expectations are set too high for one candidate in a debate, his opposition only has to show up and prove that she can in fact get out a sentence, to win.
I return back to the expectations for President Obama. I hope we do not throw him under the bus when he cannot deliver in a week or a month. It will take a long time for him to deliver but I voted for him because I believe that he will work tirelessly and intelligently to eventually bring us to a higher level of citizenry and government.
Barack Obama's first official statements as the 44th President of the United States:
My fellow citizens:
I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.
So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.
These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.
We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.
For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.
For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.
For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.
Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.
This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.
Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.
What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.
As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.
Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.
For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.
This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.
So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:
“Let it be told to the future world…that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].“
America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
Monday, January 19, 2009
On Oprah today Dr. Jill Biden accidentally revealed that her husband, Vice President-elect Joe Biden, was given the option of Vice Present or Secretary of State in an Obama White House. Depending on the President, the Vice President job can either lack luster or require a policy wonk. By law, the Vice President's job is only to keep his heart going, which leaves a lot of room for a President to create the job for his Number 2 guy. While in discussions over Biden's role in the administration, Biden asked Obama if the Vice President could be the "last guy in the room" - meaning that he would be able to have serious discussions with Obama when important decisions needed to be made.
As we know, Biden was extremely qualified for the job of Secretary of State. He was Chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee - the number one guy for foreign relations in Congress. His expertise will still be extremely useful to his role as Vice President, but we'll have to see if he made the right choice.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
No such luck. In a speech that was filled with references to the kitchen table but limited on specifics, Pawlenty offered little evidence of innovative ideas:
Cut spending. Cut taxes. Rinse. Repeat.
We should be used to a lack of vision on the part of the Governor. Pawlenty's only current major economic initiative, the JOBZ tax-free business incentive program for Outstate Minnesota, is "unfocused" and poorly administered according to the nonpartisan Office of the Legislative Auditor.
For someone hoping to run for President in 2012, today's speech was a disappointing performance. But it's even more disappointing to five million Minnesotans who deserve better. Let's hope that the DFL majorities in the State House and Senate can demonstrate the leadership Tim Pawlenty lacks.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Well, Flynn's comments could look sillier in light of this intense condemnation of the resolution over at Juan Cole's blog. Cole's blog is easily one of the most informed blogs on the middle east, and this post has some real bite. Sarah Shields is the author and she doesn't hold back. She sees the resolution that was passed as an action against civilians and against further peace in the middle east. You should really read the full post here, but here's a great nugget:
I accuse you [the 390 who voted for the Resolution] of making our ally, Israel, less secure than ever before, as the orphans of today seek vengeance in the future. Instead of seeking a real peace, a peace of mutual security and prosperity, you have chosen to support only one side in this ongoing struggle, condemning the others to enormous suffering.
I accuse you of putting politics before humanity, of condoning the slaughter of innocents, of supporting war crimes instead of standing up for the most basic human right: the right to live without the terrifying fear of immediate death.
I accuse you of putting politics before humanity, of condoning the slaughter of innocents, of supporting war crimes instead of standing up for the most basic human right: the right to live without the terrifying fear of immediate death.
I hold you responsible, each of these 390 members of America’s 111th Congress. I accuse you of complicity in the most serious transgressions that humans can commit.
I don't agree with all of it, but it is one of the strongest statements (the full text) that I've read in a while. Polemics are useful, if only for clarifying what you believe. Where do you stand?
From the Horse Race:
The White House, through its Press Secretary Dana Perino, has asked major television networks for time on Thursday night for the President to give a farewell address to the nation," CBS News' Washington Bureau Chief Chris Isham reports.
Perino asked for approximately ten to fifteen minutes for the outgoing president to "reflect on his time in office and to look forward to challenges facing the country."
Really? He needs 10-15 minutes to reflect on his time in office? I would be curious about the number of hours he spent (compared to other, more competent people) on each project that he claims as a success as compared to his many many failures.
Here we have former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell explaining how he could not be gay, if he ever had the urge to be anything other than not gay.
Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a leading candidate for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee (RNC), is coming under fire Monday for making remarks this summer that gays and lesbians suffer from a "compulsion" that can be "restrained."
"You can choose to restrain that compulsion," Blackwell told radio host Michelangelo Signorile, a gay and lesbian advocate, this summer during the Republican National Convention. "And so I think in fact you don't have to give in to the compulsion to be homosexual."
"I've never had to make the choice because I've never had the urge to be other than a heterosexual," Blackwell added, "but if in fact I had the urge to be something else I could have in fact suppressed that urge."
I hope he wins the
Monday, January 12, 2009
Minnesota legislative leaders today discussed their top legislative initiative, a bill designed to maximize Minnesota’s participation in the federal stimulus and recovery plan.
“Economic recovery is at the top of our agenda. We will work to create jobs both in the public and private sector that help Minnesotans and our state work its way back to prosperity,” said House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher.
“As a new administration takes office, it is very important that Minnesota is prepared to act quickly and in cooperation with our federal partners,” said State Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller. “Our plan also includes accountability measures so there will be no question taxpayer money is being used properly and effectively.”
The leaders say the legislature will take steps to encourage the private sector growth.
“As we’ve listened to Minnesotans, it’s become clear we need to do more to help businesses in our state,” said House Majority Leader Tony Sertich. “That could mean streamlining a permitting process for companies looking to do business here.”
“The key to fixing this financial mess is getting people back to work. When people are working they can take care of their families and need less help from the government, said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark. “We also want to make sure Minnesota is getting its fair share. Right now we only get back about 70 cents for every dollar we send to Washington.”
Legislative initiatives will continue to be brought forward throughout the session as House and Senate committees work on each area of the state budget.
Head Start is our nation’s premier early childhood education program. While considered a “school readiness program,” Head Start is unique in that it is also a parent empowerment program, a health care program and an anti-poverty program. Since 1965, Head Start has served 25 million children and their families. Unfortunately, our nation no longer seems to care.
For six years, the Head Start program has suffered from decreased funding. Currently, funding is 22% below the level it was promised in the December 2007 program reauthorization. Because of this, Head Start programs across the country are having to cut vital services and reduce enrollment.
With a new Congress and a new administration planning an Economic Recovery Package, we have an immediate opportunity to make sure that Head Start gets the financial support it needs. The National Head Start Association is requesting $4.3 billion from the Economic Recovery Package.
Given all the proposals that Congress is considering, Head Start must be recognized as an essential community strategy for economic recovery. The money requested will create jobs as it is used to fix buildings, buses and playgrounds to improve services for the students. Additionally, by supporting Head Start programs, the funding will help more families get back to work by ensuring that their children have safe, high-quality programs to attend during the work day.
To make sure that Head Start is included in the package, your members of Congress need to hear from you! Go to www.SaveHeadStart.org to send an email to your members of Congress. The website also has information on how to call your local Congressional delegation.
Thanks to all of you for your support. The local Northfield Head Start and all those across the country appreciate your help.
For more questions about Head Start and what you can do, contact Laura Myers at email@example.com.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
She then adds:
Asked in another interview, “Which moments from the last eight years do you revisit most often?” he brought up “the compassion, love and determination of the families to make sure that the commander-in-chief hears their stories and knows their pride.”
Then he launched into a passionate description of another moment: “I think about throwing out that pitch at the World Series in 2001. My heart was racing when I got to the mound. Didn’t want to bounce it. Didn’t want to let the fans down,” he said. “I never felt that anxious any other time during my presidency, curiously enough.”
That’s more than curious. It’s painful that he puts himself at the center of the families’ grieving and that he felt more nervous on the pitcher’s mound than in the situation room starting a war.She nailed it. Read the full article for more. If someone can provide some kind of mitigation for this comment, please post below. Either way, 8 days to Bush's departure.
Flynn wrote what is possibly his most ludicrous post earlier this evening. You can read it below (emphasis mine):
Congressman Keith Ellison and Congresswoman Betty McCollum took the strange, bizarre and downright reckless step of voting “present” in the U.S. House on Friday on a resolution supporting the right of Israel to defend itself as well as supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
The amazing thing here is that both Ellison and McCollum, who are self described proponents of peace, are now on record not even supporting the peace process.
The biggest problem with their actions on this vote is that a “present” vote might as well be a “no” vote. They did not have the backbone to just turn their back on Israel, they instead took the cowards way out.
If rockets were flying into the United States, would Ellison and McCollum vote present?
Huh? How did we get from two present votes to questioning how Reps. McCollum and Ellison would vote if "rockets were flying into the US"?
Flynn didn't even take the time to find out why Reps. Ellison and McCollum voted present instead of yes or no.
I went ahead and spent three minutes and two clicks to find out their reasons. From Minnpost, we find out some of Ellison's reasons:
"I come to the floor today torn about this resolution," said Ellison, a Democrat who became the first Muslim member of Congress in 2006 and represents Minnesota's 5th district.
Ellison mentioned his first-hand encounters during a trip to Israel with the "physical and emotional destruction" caused by Hamas, but added that the United States needs "to have compassion for the people of Gaza and the tremendous human suffering there."
"For the U.S. Congress to simply reiterate its statement that Israel has a right to defend itself, to me misses the critical issue before the world at this moment, which is the humanitarian crisis," Ellison said.
and McCollum's reasons:
"I recognize Israel's right to protect its citizens from the persistent and growing threat of rocket attacks," McCollum said from the House floor. "However, as an unwavering proponent of peace, and as an advocate for the rights and security of the Israeli and Palestinian people, I seriously question the proportionality of Israel's response."
McCollum added that the resolution did not go far enough in immediately calling for a cease-fire. Instead, McCollum said, the resolution "justifies Israel's bombardment of the citizens of Gaza, sanctions the incursion of Israeli troops into Gaza to clear this occupied territory of Hamas fighters regardless of the human cost, and calls for "supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process" while innocent Palestinian women and children are being killed in Gaza."
You might not agree with their reasons, but you can see how they see themselves between the yes and no votes, which was a position shared by 20 other representatives including Republican representative Ron Paul. I'm not quite sure what's cowardly about voting your conscience instead of following the vast majority (390 reps in favor), or misrepresenting your views with a no vote. I'd say there's nothing cowardly about that. Or maybe there is something cowardly about not voting for a bill supported by the Speaker of the House and all of your party's leaders? Didn't think so.
Flynn claims that voting present is the same as voting no, which is not true, they mean different things procedurally and as reflections on one's position. In practice, it is true that voting present can have the same effect as voting no (the same is true for missing a vote, but you didn't hear Flynn mention the 8 Republicans who did that). However, in this instance the vote was 390 in favor, with 5 voting against, 22 voting present, and 16 absent. Additionally, the vote was on a non-binding resolution, which means that a present vote did little more than say that they neither support the resolution in its entirety, nor did they wish to defeat it.
Reps. McCollum and Ellison were anything but reckless, instead they were thoughtful and voted their conscience on an important resolution that gave them less than a day to consider their vote (it was introduced on 1/8 and the vote was at 1:40 pm on 1/9). You can read the full resolution they had to consider here.
Ryan Flynn needs to save the reckless label for himself.
Update 1/12: Flynn responds to criticism:
I stand by this post, by saying that they might as well have voted no means that they hid behind the option of voting present, that is the coward’s way out.
I of course read both of their statements before writing this post, and again I feel the statements are something else to hide behind so they can point and say, “but look at what I said.” [sic] Actions speak louder than words.
As I explained above, there is nothing cowardly about voting present on this non-binding resolution. If he read the statements before writing the post, he should have at least referenced them for the reader (there was not as much as a single link in the original post). Actions do speak louder than words, but that best applies when someone's actions and words don't match. In this case, Representative Ellison and Representative McCollum, said one thing and acted in the same manner. Showing themselves to be both thoughtful and consistent.
Friday, January 9, 2009
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Two Minnesota state legislators are proposing instant runoff elections as an alternative to recounts to decide super-close state-wide races. The legislative sponsors of this measure emphasize the increased perception of openness, clarity and trust in an electorate-centric runoff election as opposed to a bureaucrat-centric recount.
While this article cites only the high cost of a second, complete election (they put the tab at "at least a few million dollars"), IRV is more than just financially impractical.
Basically, instant runoff elections work by a system of ranking. Using the U.S. Senate election as an example, each individual voter would rank each of the candidates (we'll use Franken, Coleman, and Barkley for the purposes of this exercise) either 1, 2, or 3, 1 being the most favorable. Then, whichever candidate receives the fewest first-place votes in the first round of voting is eliminated, and whichever of the two remaining candidates has the most first place votes (with the third candidate removed) wins the election. Thus, every time the winning candidate will win with more than 50% of the vote.
There are two reasons in particular that this method seems more desirable than a plurality-wins election. First, it increases the likelihood that individuals will vote their actual preference--especially if that is a third-party candidate--because even if their preferred candidate gets very few votes, their vote can still "count;" that is, their preference is not eliminated from the actual calculus of the race just because their vote went to a candidate who received very little support.
Second, it allows us to vote for more than one candidate if more than one candidate is palatable to them. Suppose you approve of both Al Franken and Dean Barkley, but hate Norm Coleman. Your vote is the "anyone but Coleman" vote, and you could potentially vote for both of the candidates you support, doubling your chances of avoiding the candidate you dislike.
Assuming that the end goal of the democratic process is representation that best reflects the desires of the community, this method, on its face, appears to limit strategic voting, and allow individual voters to offer their electoral support to each candidate they find representative of their will.
In reality, not so much.
The ranking process of IRV has its own set of screwy outcomes. Because it gives second-choice candidates the same weight no matter the preference, several voters may end up offering their votes to candidates they do not actually support. If you were a Barkley voter who hated both Franken and Coleman, for example, you would end up supporting your second-choice Franken just as would a gung-ho Franken voter, or a Barkley voter who also liked Franken. Perhaps this could be fixed by making the ranking system optional, but then your vote for a third party is often eliminated anyway, reinforcing the same strategic voting issues as plurality-wins.
Furthermore, suppose most of the electorate placed either Coleman or Franken in first place, but also approved of Barkley, placing him second. Barkley still loses in the first round because so few put him first, even though the majority of voters thought Barkley could represent their views reasonably well.
And maybe somewhat more cynically, even though Minnesota has the highest voter turnout in the nation, still, just about 77% chose to express one preference. The education costs to create an accurate ranked preference might be significant, and this model works best assuming that individual voters have a clear preference and can articulate it.
This is not to say that IRV is on some level worse than a plurality-wins model, only that it trades in old issues for new issues, and costs a whole heck of a lot to implement in the way these legislators have suggested. Over all, it seems that a more clear and streamlined election process--in either case--would ensure that more individuals are better able to express their preferences in the first place.
Which is interesting first insofar as it's not true, but moreover insofar as it's the continuation of a narrative coming out of the White House in a pretty desperate attempt to absolve themselves of responsibility for incompetent, dangerous, misinformed, or outright malicious decision-making.
John McCain said something similar this past spring, regarding Iraq and WMD this time. It was not a new line for proponents of the war. The President's used it a few times himself.
And I suppose as a (somewhat cynical) student of politics, this oughtn't surprise me, nor am I enough of a party shill to suggest that this is a conservative phenomenon. But, quite simply, the Bush administration messed up. They didn't listen to dissenting (and ultimately correct) voices, and maybe it's time to come clean instead of this childish frustration that the reality doesn't fit the theory.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
A woman ran for President last year. A woman was nominated for Vice-President this year. A woman serves as the Speaker of the House, third in the line of succession. A higher percentage of women vote than men.
And not only is this new language inclusive of women, it eliminates gendered pronouns altogether, consciously or not including those who identify outside the male-female binary.
This is small, but exciting. No matter how you vote, it's high time to dispense with the absurd assumption that every federal position will be filled by a man.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Stealing a page from Ronald Reagan's book, president-elect (14 days) Barack Obama plans to appoint celebrity physician Sanjay Gupta to be Surgeon General. :
Gupta has told administration officials that he wants the job, and the final vetting process is under way. He has asked for a few days to figure out the financial and logistical details of moving his family from Atlanta to Washington but is expected to accept the offer.
Below is the picture of the nation's first celebrity surgeon general, Reagan's C. Everett Koop (looks funny right?). Also, above is Sanjay.
Monday, January 5, 2009
“It has been a remarkable couple of months. Our recount brought national attention to Minnesota, and what Americans saw is that we take our democracy seriously. Our recount process was long, it was fair, and it was thorough. We should all be proud of our state, and we should all be grateful for the incredible hard work and dedication of all of our elections officials, from the state canvassing board and the Secretary of State’s office to the officials in the cities and counties and precincts of Minnesota.
“After 62 days, after the careful and painstaking hand inspection of nearly 3 million ballots, after hours and hours of hard work by elections officials and volunteers across the state, I am proud and humbled to stand before you as the next Senator from Minnesota.
“This victory is incredibly humbling - not just because it was so narrow, but because of the tremendous responsibility it gives me on behalf of the people of Minnesota.
“While the recount process played out, the challenges facing our state and our nation have only grown. With tensions in the Middle East reaching the boiling point, our economy facing its worst crisis since the 1930s, and Minnesota’s middle class families being squeezed harder than ever, it’s clear that we have a lot of important work to do.
“I want you all to know that I’m ready to go to Washington and get to work just as soon as possible. And I look forward to joining President-Elect Obama and Senator Klobuchar in getting our country moving in the right direction again.
“I know this is not an easy day for Norm Coleman and his family, and I know that because Franni and I and the kids have had plenty of time over the past two months to contemplate the possibility that this election would turn out differently. Norm has worked hard for this state and this country, and I hope to ask for his help to ensure that Minnesotans can continue to count on receiving excellent constituent services from their two Senators without interruption.
“I also know that this was a hard-fought victory, and that I didn’t win the support of every Minnesotan. I’m going to have to earn it by being a Senator who fights for every Minnesotan, whether you voted for me or not. And I want every Minnesotan to hear me say: I work for you now. And I will work hard to earn your confidence.
“There may still be additional legal proceedings related to our recount. But I’m now in the business of serving the people of Minnesota. And the best way I can serve the people of Minnesota right now is to focus all my attention and all my energies on getting to work for them on the issues we’ll be facing together.
“I would like to close by doing something I wish I’d gotten a chance to do properly on Election Night, and that is to thank some people. My amazing staff and supporters across the state who made this victory possible and stuck with us this whole way. All the volunteers who woke up the morning after Election Day and got right back to work to help our recount effort. Our state’s dedicated elections officials, our tremendous congressional delegation, and our fantastic Senator, Amy Klobuchar, who continues to be a mentor and an inspiration. And, of course, my beautiful wife Franni and our amazing family.
“For our state, today marked the end of a long process that will forever be a part of Minnesota history. But today is also a beginning. The history of our country will be forever altered by what we do together to address the challenges we face together. So, with tremendous gratitude for the victory we have won, I’m ready to get to work.
The lead from USA Today:
Democrat Al Franken has been certified as the winner of the Minnesota U.S. Senate election, but incumbent Republican Norm Coleman's office says a legal challenge "is now enevitable."
The state Canvassing Board certified the recount this afternoon, showing that Franken had won by 225 votes. But no election certificate can be issued for at least a week.
MINNEAPOLIS - A Minnesota board on Monday certified results showing Democrat Al Franken winning the state's U.S. Senate recount over Republican Norm Coleman, whose lawyer promised a legal challenge that probably will keep the race in limbo for months.
The Canvassing Board's declaration started a seven-day clock for Coleman, the incumbent, to file a lawsuit protesting the result. His attorney Tony Trimble said the challenge will be filed within 24 hours. The challenge will keep Franken from getting the election certificate he needs to take the seat in Washington.
"We had hoped that the canvassing board would refrain from reporting out with unanimity a recount total today. That did not happen," said Trimble during a conference call with reporters Monday.
So, now we wait. I don't think that Coleman has much ground for the lawsuit, but we'll find out.
From the Star-Tribune:
The state Canvassing Board was posed to certify the results of the recount in Minnesota's grueling Senate election in Al Franken's favor — but that doesn't mean the race is definitely over.... you can rest assured that lawsuits will be filed. It's been a long road, but we just might be reaching a conclusion.
The board was to meet Monday and was expected to declare which candidate received the most overall votes from nearly 3 million ballots cast. The latest numbers showed Franken, a Democrat, with a 225-vote lead over Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.
But after the announcement, there will be a seven-day waiting period before an election certificate is completed. If any lawsuits are filed during that waiting period, certification is conditional until the issue is settled in court.
From the Washington Post:
"The Coleman team has laid the groundwork for a real, substantive challenge in front of the Minnesota Supreme Court," said Vin Weber, a former member of Congress from Minnesota and now a lobbyist in Washington. "The race is still a ways from being over."
Democratic strategists, however, say that even if all of Coleman's challenges -- the 654 absentees, the double-counting and the church ballots -- fall the Republican's way, he still will not be able to overcome Franken's lead.
So, why won't Franken be a senator later today? Because of pending legal challenges that the incumbent's campaign thinks can sway the outcome -- the most important of which, dealing with the inclusion of 654 allegedly wrongly rejected absentee ballots (from largely pro-Coleman territory), will be decided by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
"We remain convinced that this process is broken and, as a result, the numbers being reported will not be accurate or valid," said Coleman's campaign manager, Cullen Sheehan.
Even if the state's highest court disallows the counting of those 654 ballots, expect Coleman's legal team to formally contest the recount, citing alleged irregularities that include the double-counting of roughly 150 votes and the inclusion of 133 ballots (cast, in a Dickensian twist, at a Minneapolis church) that disappeared between election night and the manual recount.