Posts Tagged ‘monthly

09
Mar
12

evening all

March 9: A volunteer signs up for shifts at the opening of the new field office in East Las Vegas, Nevada

Here

March 9: A supporter left a message for President Obama on the wall of a Florida field office.

Flickr

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Brad Plumer (Washington Post): There’s quite a bit of good news – and very little bad – in February’s jobs report …. The U.S. economy added 227,000 jobs last month …. And there were even more encouraging signs in the data revisions for previous months…..

Some of the broader indicators are encouraging, too …. There are also some reasons to think this recovery can sustain itself through 2012. Ever since the recession ended in mid-2009, the U.S. private sector has been consistently hiring workers. It’s just that the public sector has been hemorrhaging employees – around 500,000 government layoffs since Obama took office. But that trend finally appears to be winding down…..

The U.S. economy is still in a large hole. Right now, we’re adding around 250,000 jobs per month. If that trend keeps up, it’s enough to get us to 8 percent unemployment by election day. That would bode well for President Obama’s reelection chances. But 8 percent unemployment is still unnervingly high ….  but, for now, the economy looks to be in decent shape. As Justin Wolfers sums it up, “Let’s call it a recovery.”

Full article here

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WSJ: New York City employers in January added the highest number of jobs in a single month in 23 years, according to new figures released Thursday.

Some 31,200 jobs were added in the month, according to a seasonally adjusted analysis of new state Labor Department figures.

“It is an understatement to say that these gains exceeded all expectations,” said Barbara Byrne Denham, chief economist with the real-estate services firm Eastern Consolidated, who conducted the analysis.

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Paul Krugman never fails to amuse. Here he is today, trying – through gritted teeth – to sound pleased about the jobs’ news:

“OK, definitely a better jobs report than we have become used to. And terrific news for Obama; another six months of news like this and he’ll be in very good shape for reelection.

But still, this was just equivalent to an average month during the Clinton years. And we’re still a long way from full employment.”

(1) Full employment is, usually, defined as 3% unemployment …. so, you have to go back to Eisenhower in 1956 for ‘full employment’ in America. That, then, is the shiny new standard Krugman is holding PBO to. Seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

(2) Does Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, truly forget the state of the economy when PBO came to power? Or is he just, eh, forgetful about the facts?

(3) Will Krugman ever find it in his heart to forgive PBO for beating Hillary Clinton to the nomination?

Hillary has. Maybe it’s time for Krugman to move on?

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President Barack Obama talks on the phone with President-elect Vladimir Putin of Russia while aboard Air Force One en route to Richmond, Va., March 9, 2012. Alice Wells, Senior Director for Russian Affairs, is seated at right. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Washington Monthly

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March 9: Supporters in Alabama gathered with civil rights leaders past and present to mark the 47th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery.

Flickr

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President Obama speaks at a campaign event at Minute Maid Park, Houston, March 9:

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First lady Michelle Obama gets hugs from a pre-schooler at the Penacook Community Center, March 9, in Concord, N.H.

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NYT: The fragile gains Republicans had been making among female voters have been erased, a shift that has coincided with what has become a national shouting match over reproductive issues, potentially handing President Obama and the Democrats an enormous advantage this fall.

In the 2010 congressional midterm elections, Republican candidates ran evenly with Democrats among women, a break with long-established trends. That was a major reason the GOP regained control of the House.

Now, female voters appear to be swinging back to Democrats …. When the Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey asked last summer which party should control Congress, a slim 46-42 percent plurality of women said it should be the Democrats.

But in a survey released Monday, compiling polling since the beginning of the year, that figure had widened considerably to a 15-point advantage for the Democrats

More here

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Cagle

08
Mar
12

afternoon all

… with Hawa Abdallah Mohammed Salih of Sudan

…. with with Safak Pavey of Turkey

…. with Safak Pavey, the first disabled woman elected to the Turkish Parliament

Read about the 2012 Women of Courage here and here

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InsideHigherEd: … Roughly two-thirds of public and private college presidents say they plan to vote for President Obama in November, and only 1 in 10 believe the Republican candidates for the presidency have laid out a helpful vision for higher education.

…. 65.1 percent said that they planned to vote for the president this fall. Among sectors, support was stronger in public higher education (75 percent at public doctoral and master’s institutions, 85 percent at public baccalaureate institutions and 66 percent at community colleges). The lowest level of support was in for-profit higher education, where only 29 percent of presidents said they plan to vote for Obama this fall.

…. Only 10 percent of all college presidents believed that the Republican candidates have offered a higher education vision, but that figure is inflated by a high proportion of yes answers from for-profit higher education (44 percent). The figures are much lower for the rest of higher education – 4 percent among public doctoral institutions, 3 percent among public master’s institutions, and not a single private doctoral university president agreeing.

More here

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The Week

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Steve Benen: The general trend on initial unemployment claims over the last few months has been largely encouraging, though there have been occasional setbacks. Today’s report appears to be one of them.

Though still low by recent standards, filings went up over the last week, a little more than expected: “Jobless claims in the U.S. rose to the highest level in five weeks, climbing by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 362,000…”

….. when these jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it’s considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape. When the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are actually being created rather quickly. Though today’s report is disappointing, we’ve now been below 370,000 for five consecutive weeks, and six of the last eight weeks.

More here

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Link

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Charles Pierce: I have tried to avoid the mighty efforts of the heirs of Andrew Breitbart to make his name more of a synonym for “jackass” in death than it was when he was alive. So, instead, let’s just play a little Harvard bingo, shall we?

Barack Obama once went to the Harvard Law School. Derrick Bell once taught at the Harvard Law School.

…. In 1992, Derrick Bell thought that “none” was an insufficient number of minority faculty members at the HLS. He decided to make a little noise about it. At a rally, Barack Obama introduced him and, after doing so, hugged him….

…. This, of course, proves that Barack Obama is a lifelong coddler of, and sympathizer with, black radical revolutionaries.

Res ipse loquitur! QED! Scoreboard, bitches!

I expect a job offer from Big Something in the morning.

More here

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President Obama meets President John Evans Atta Mills of Ghana in the Oval Office, March 8

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TPM: President Obama enjoys massive leads in Maine, according to a new survey from Public Policy Polling (D) …. Obama leads both former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum by the same margin in the Pine Tree State, 58 – 35. Maine has voted for a Democrat for president in the last five elections, but that doesn’t mean Dems dominate the state – Republicans currently hold the governorship, both houses of the state legislature and the two US Senate seats (Snowe and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)).

More here

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The Week

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ThinkProgress: Questions about women and womens’ health have dominated the political debate over the past weeks, and at least one female Republican lawmaker is unhappy with her party’s record. New York Assemblyman Teresa Sayward (R), who is retiring after serving a decade in Albany, told the New York political program Capital Tonight that she does not support any of her party’s presidential candidates, because of their stances on women.

She also took an apparent shot at Republicans’ opposition to President Obama’s birth control mandate, saying, “It’s disheartening for me to see our party move away from what it was always about and that is to stay out of people’s lives, let them live their lives, don’t impose their religion on anybody else.”

Asked which Republican candidate she supports, Sayward replied: “I do not have a favorite in the presidential race, if I had to vote today, I’d vote for Obama.”

More here

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Political Cartoons

26
Jan
12

rise and shine

White House

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11:00: VP Biden delivers remarks in Rochester, N.H.

1:00: PBO delivers remarks at UPS Las Vegas South.

3:05: PBO departs Las Vegas en route to Buckley Air Force Base, Colo.

4:35: PBO arrives at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo.

5:30: PBO delivers remarks.

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AP: The number of people seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to a seasonally adjusted 377,000, up from a nearly four-year low the previous week. But the longer-term trend is pointing to a healthier job market.

Applications have trended down over the past few months. The four week average has declined to 377,500. When applications fall consistently below 375,000, it tends to signal that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate. Some economists say the figures suggest further job gains ahead…..

More here

Reuters: New orders for manufactured goods rose in December and a gauge of future business investment rebounded, while new claims for jobless benefits rose only moderately last week, suggesting the labor market was still healing.

Durable goods orders climbed 3.0 percent, the Commerce Department said on Thursday. Economists had forecast orders rising 2.0 percent …. Orders last month were buoyed by 5.5 percent increase in bookings for transportation equipment as orders for civilian aircraft surged 18.9 percent….

“What it does tell you about going into the new year is that there’s some momentum here,” said Jacob Oubina, an economist at RBC Capital Markets in New York.

More here

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Ed Kilgore (Washington Monthly): As Paul and Steve announced yesterday, I am taking on the daunting task of succeeding Mr. Benen at Political Animal. I read every single comment following Steve’s announcement of his new gig, and am awe-struck by the devotion he has inspired from a very well-informed readership.

Full post here

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TPM (thanks Loriah)

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Morning everyone, that was a very short Rise and Shine, but will catch up properly later ;-)

25
Jan
12

‘digital pamphleteer’

A 2008 film on Steve Benen

Steve Benen: And that’s a wrap ….  this is my very last post here at the Washington Monthly. I’ll start my new gig at MSNBC on Monday, Jan. 30…..

I am thrilled to be passing the torch to one of my very favorite writers …. Ed Kilgore will get started here tomorrow….

…. I wasn’t prepared to leave this job unless something truly special came along, and fortunately for me, something did. The chance to work for Rachel Maddow and MSNBC is a dream gig that I couldn’t be more excited about.

….  I lack the words to tell you how much I appreciate the support and encouragement.

And with that, I’m off. Be nice to the new guy – no hazing, please – and I hope to see you all on Monday morning.

Full post here

You can send your best wishes to Steve Benen at Twitter or in the comments at the link above

05
Jan
12

afternoon all

Iowa Democratic Party

Last week at Firebaggerlake:

:oops:

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USA Today: President Obama announced a new military strategy on Thursday that will cut the Pentagon budget by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade.

Speaking from the Pentagon, Obama said the plan is “smart, strategic” and sets priorities.

…. The new military strategy includes $487 billion in cuts over the next decade. An additional $500 billion in cuts could be coming if Congress follows through on plans for deeper reductions. The announcement comes weeks after the U.S. officially ended the Iraq War and after a decade of increased defense spending in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

More here

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President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta after the president spoke on the Defense Strategic Review at the Pentagon

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Washington Post

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Dana Milbank: If this is Mitt Romney’s idea of a victory rally, one shudders to think what would have happened if he had lost the Iowa caucuses. The day after his impossibly thin eight-vote victory …. he flew here for a town hall meeting at Manchester Central High School, where he was to bask in the endorsement of his 2008 arch rival, John McCain.

But the senator grimaced when he was introduced, and as Romney delivered his own stump speech, an increasingly impatient McCain pulled up his sleeve and checked his watch. McCain gave his endorsement address without mentioning Romney’s Iowa win until the end. “By the way, we forgot to congratulate him on his landslide victory last night,” he said, laughing. Romney ignored him.

….. Romney continued to wrestle with words when he took the stage … “What a, uh, big night we had last night, or what a big morning we had, uh, last morning, this morning, in, uh, Iowa,” he began…..

Full article here

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Randall Enos

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Ah, the Firebaggers just keep on embarrassing themselves …. from Firebaggerlake:

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Raw Story

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Washington Monthly: What If Obama Loses? … there’s a widespread assumption that extreme positions taken in the (GOP) primaries will fade in the general election as candidates “move to the center,” and will disappear entirely once the serious business of governing begins. Surely President Newt Gingrich would not get rid of child labor laws. Surely President Perry would not seek to eliminate three cabinet departments.

We don’t think that this year, with this GOP, those assumptions are warranted. And so we asked a distinguished group of reporters and scholars to think through the hitherto unthinkable: What if one of these people actually wins?

Full post here

Thanks BWD

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Chart of the Century:

Steve Benen (thanks Meta)

16
Dec
11

rise and shine

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2:00: First Lady Michelle Obama visits Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling

2:10: President Obama delivers remarks at the 71st General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism

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Thanks amk ;-)

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About today’s AP-GfK poll – OMG! Doom! Gloom!

As GOPolitico told us, white people hate the President!! Real bad!

The best bit was when they quoted Ron Fournier saying the President “only won 40%” of the white seniors’ vote in 2008 and “his approval rating with them now is 41%”. Em, I was never too hot at math ….. but is that, eh, not technically an increase? :???:

Any way, not surprisingly, the economy remains the number one concern of those polled. You’ll get all the bad news everywhere today, what will be largely ignored:

* After the jobless rate fell to 8.6% last month (its lowest level since March 2009), the President’s approval rating on handling unemployment rose 5% to 45% in the poll.

* 20% say the economy got better in the past month, up from 6% two months ago (64% said it stayed the same)

* 15% said it got worse, down from 49% two months ago

* Respondents describing the economy as “very poor” fell from 43% in October to 34% in the latest poll, the lowest since May.

* 60% say the financial situation in their own household is good, up 6%

* 30% blamed the President for the economy, compared to 43% who blame Bush

And:

* Despite the struggles with the economy, the President still beats Romney in a match-up: 47 to 46.

* The President beats the Newt 51-42.

* Among independents, it’s even better. The President beats Romney 45-41 and the Newt 54-31.

And buried in the last line in Time’s report on the poll:

“Among those with annual household incomes of $50,000 or less, Obama’s approval rating on unemployment climbed to 53 percent from 43 percent in October.

Get that? Climbed 10%.

* 60% approve of how the President is handling terrorism, 59% say he will “keep America safe”. Not bad for an appeaser, eh?

* 53% say he is a “strong leader”

* 76% say he is “likable”

There you go – the bits you won’t hear today. And hey, wait til the fella actually starts campaigning against Romgrich ;-)

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OFA: Headlines over the past few weeks have shown with hard numbers how President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is helping young people and seniors. The reform allows young people to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they turn 26 and helps Medicare recipients save money on prescription drugs.

Take a look at this infographic summing up how the Affordable Care Act is impacting millions of Americans – then share it to pass on the good news:

Link – pass it on!

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Oooops:

Texas Monthly: As most readers know, every January TEXAS MONTHLY picks a Bum Steer of the Year, an honor conferred on whatever individual we feel has been responsible for the biggest screw-up, gaffe, fumble, stumble, train wreck, or humiliation of the past twelve months. This year, as the above cover makes pretty darn clear, our Bum Steer of the Year is Governor Rick Perry.

More here

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Jonathan Chait (NY Mag): With Ron Paul ascending in Iowa, winning the hearts of independents, and even the endorsement of Andrew Sullivan, it’s worth pointing something out: Ron Paul is not a kindly old libertarian who just wants everybody to be free. He’s a really creepy bigot.

…. Paul comes out of an intellectual tradition called “paleolibertarianism,” which is a version of libertarianism heavily tinged with far-right cultural views …. Paul is tied in deep and extensive ways to neo-Confederates, and somewhat less tightly to the right-wing militia movement. His newsletter, which he wrote and edited for years, was a constant organ of vile racism and homophobia ….. Fear and hatred of blacks and gays, along with a somewhat less pronounced paranoia about Jewish dual loyalty, are fundamental elements of his thinking….

Full article here

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Link

I’m guessing you very lovely people might have been inspired by the wonder that is Donna Dem – you pushed The Obama Diary past its fundraising target at OFA – thank you soooooooooo much!

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Meanwhile, if you’d like to say THANK YOU to Donna Dem for last night’s gorgeous account of her phone call with the President, you can help push her towards her mindboggling $12,000 target – link

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Almost forgot, it’s Friday!

04
Nov
11

catching up (again)

Paris Match

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Harold Pollack (Washington Monthly): ….. Many progressives – me, for instance – worry that OWS will promote destructive alienation from the hard and sustained work of conventional politics. If a sizeable chunk of progressive youth are passive in 2012, that is the functional equivalent of a Nader candidacy.

The best way to prevent this is to find an aspect of conventional politics that can genuinely excite and move these protesters into positive action that serves their own values and long-term goals …. Perhaps earnest substantive emails about health reform should do that – given the Affordable Care Act’s impact on millions of low-income people….

Ari Berman’s fantastic reporting describes Republican efforts across the country to establish subtle (or not-so-subtle) roadblocks to hinder voting among minorities, poor people, ex-felons, and the young … This is an obvious effort to turn the 2012 electorate into an older and whiter group that resembles the 2010 electorate rather than the 2008 electorate that brought Barack Obama to the White House.

…. Occupy Wall Street organizers: I believe you should resonate with this issue. GOP officials are trying to disenfranchise people like you: college students with university IDs not gun permits, young people and minority urban residents who don’t drive, and so on.

Full post here

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Original video here

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President Barack Obama talks with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner during a break at the G20 Summit in Cannes, France, Nov. 4. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Week

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10
Aug
11

wednesday

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Ron Klain (Washington Monthly): Among the many misconceptions about Barack Obama is that he is cautious. In fact, it is hard to think of a modern president in recent times who has been more willing to take big risks, not because he is reckless, but because he is willing to suffer potential short-term setbacks to achieve a desired long-term result. It is in that context that the much-maligned debt-ceiling compromise must be understood.

…. One example early in his administration was his choice to “bail out” the automobile industry …. Obama took action by investing substantial funds, demanding important management and strategic changes, requiring bankruptcy filings, and painfully shrinking auto-dealer networks. All were risky steps that could have quickly unraveled.

Two years later, that choice is paying off: Car sales have risen, auto-industry employment is up, taxpayers are getting their money back, and U.S. cars are getting higher consumer ratings than ever.

Health-Care Overhaul: …. many of the president’s advisers urged him to abandon the push for a comprehensive bill, and pursue a far more limited approach. But Obama wouldn’t bend, and took a gigantic risk: He pressed for a House vote on a bill that was passed by the Senate the previous year and was unpopular with many House Democrats.

Obama could have easily, and visibly, lost. Yet, once again, his gamble paid off, achieving a victory that had escaped his predecessors.

Bin Laden Raid: …. the president once again rejected the play-it-safe advice of many advisers, and ordered SEAL Team 6 to carry out its heroic raid to kill Osama bin Laden. The safer alternative – a drone strike – would have minimized the fallout if the al-Qaeda leader wasn’t at the target, or if the assault went awry. But the president believed the bin Laden’s death could only be verified with a manned raid; once again, the risky decision was the right choice.

…. So now we come to the recent debt-ceiling deal … In accepting a deal that swapped an increase of more than $2 trillion in the debt ceiling for discretionary spending cuts that Republicans wanted – without balanced, revenue-increasing measures – the president didn’t give up on his goal, as some progressive critics have alleged. Instead, he gambled that he would be able to reach his objective later.

The key to this wager is the package of contingent cuts that will be triggered if Congress fails to pass additional deficit reduction after a so-called super-committee makes recommendations in November….. the White House should do everything possible to convince the widest spectrum of voters that the consequences of activation of the trigger would be unacceptable.

…Ultimately, the only way that Republicans will accept what they consider unacceptable – revenue increases – is if the alternative is even less acceptable: horrific defense and Medicare cuts.

…. Obama’s willingness to mark his time and double down may be vindicated, and the critics who are betting against him now may be proven wrong once again.

Full article here

Thank you Loriah

20
Jun
11

‘digital pamphleteer’

I posted this video a few months back, so in case any of you who missed it would like to see it … here it is again.

As you might possibly have guessed (!) from the number of times I post his stuff here, there are few political writers I admire more than Steve Benen (Washington Monthly). What I love most about him is that, unlike most self-described ‘progressives’, when he disagrees with President Obama on an issue there’s no hysteria or personal abuse, he just calmly, rationally and factually argues his point – and there are few people more persuasive than him.

This is a short film from 2008 about his work as a blogger, entitled ‘Digital Pamphleteer’. It includes footage of Mario Cuomo’s wonderful ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ speech.

Read Steve Benen here every day

14
Apr
11

a democratic president sounding like a democratic president!

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with the co-chairmen of the president’s deficit reduction commission, including Alan Simpson, right, April 14


Steve Benen: ‪Last week, much of the media establishment drooled all over itself while praising Paul Ryan’s right-wing budget plan. For most major news outlets, the far-right chairman of the House Budget Committee was “courageously” tackling an issue the media cares about – deficit and debt reduction – in a way they found satisfying (slashing health care for seniors and the disabled = “serious”).‬

‪Perhaps, then, the media would be pleased with President Obama’s debt-reduction plan. After all, he’s playing the game the establishment wants him to play – focusing on fiscal responsibility – and doing so with a sound, credible proposal that would actually do what it sets out to do. Best of all, the White House made sure the president’s numbers add up, which is more than we can say about Ryan’s plan.‬

‪But the media’s still not happy.‬ ‪Mark Halperin complained yesterday that Obama “failed to offer a bold, paradigm-shifting budget proposal”. What? A center-left Democratic president, saddled with a massive Republican debt, has a plan to reduce the budget shortfall by $4 trillion‬… ‪Is this not exactly what the media establishment said it wanted? Is the only acceptable plan one that hurts Medicare, Medicaid, and low-income families?‬

‪Politico chastised the president overnight for being “partisan” and hurting Republicans’ feelings…‬. ‪‪So, if a Democratic president sounds like a Democratic president, even while tackling an issue that’s allegedly critical to Republicans, it’s a failure. Obama’s job, apparently, was to address the Republican goal, in Republican terms, while touting Republican ideas…

…‪There’s no reason for so many in the media to be so annoyed. If I didn’t know better, I might think the establishment noticed that much of the left liked the speech, which necessarily led pundits to assume there was something wrong with it.‬

Full post here

13
Apr
11

reaction: ‘a spirited defense of a progressive vision’

President Barack Obama reviews his fiscal policy speech with advisors in the Oval Office. Pictured, from left, are: Rob Nabors, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs; Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling; Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew; and Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Steve Benen: …. As heartening as it was to hear President Obama’s full-throated condemnation of the House Republican budget plan – he didn’t pull any punches – what made his remarks this afternoon especially satisfying was his defense of the progressive vision.

…along the way, the president made a point of reminding his audience that government, the institutions of the modern welfare state, and the modern social compact are worthy of a spirited defense. Indeed, to hear Obama tell it, the progressive vision is the American vision.

See here for extract

There’s a word to summarize this approach to government. It’s called “liberalism.”

Jonathan Bernstein put it this way: “Liberals have wanted a full-throated affirmation of why government is a good thing? Obama delivered, with perhaps his strongest case for a liberal vision of government that he’s given so far during his presidency.”

The “sellout of the left” this wasn’t. What we saw today was an unapologetic defense of a progressive vision of government, cased in terms that were equal parts moral and pragmatic. America doesn’t hear it often enough, and Obama delivered it with passion and conviction today.

Read the full post here

Steve Benen: The President’s rousing rejection of Republican radicalism …. President Obama’s speech on the nation’s fiscal future was one of my favorites in a long while. It was exactly the sort of spirited defense of government and progressive values the nation desperately needed to hear right now.

…Last week, when the White House was criticized from the left for not having said more about the GOP vision, I wrote about my expectations for this week’s message: “I want to see a forceful, unapologetic response. I want a hearty defense of government. I want officials explaining why Paul Ryan’s plan is dangerous and ridiculous.”

This afternoon, in Obama’s address, I got all of those things …There were concerns among some of my fellow progressives going into this speech that the president may accept parts of the GOP plan or express some sympathies for the Republican vision. The opposite happened – this was a full-throated condemnation, not just of the radical Paul Ryan plan, but of the far-right goals it intends to pursue.

I know many hoped to hear this message from the White House last week, but from where I sat today, it was worth the wait.

Full post here

Greg Sargent (Washington Post): Obama made the moral case for what it means to be a democrat … For some time now, a bunch of us have been wondering when – or whether – Obama would step up and make a strong case for an expansive vision of Democratic governance … it’s fair to say Obama delivered.

Sure, the speech had flaws …but Obama did offer perhaps the most ambitious defense he may have ever attempted of American liberalism and of what it means to be a Democrat.

Crucially, right at the outset, Obama cast the battle with the GOP as one over whether we are going to maintain the social safety net and the national social contract as we’ve understood it for decades — and cast this question as central to our national identity. He used a key word — “commitments” — to describe Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance, insisting: “We would not be a great country without those commitments.” In other words, the social safety net and the liberal social contract are indispensable components of America’s greatness.

…We cannot know right now whether the steadfastness of Obama’s rhetoric in defending core liberal and Democratic ideals will be matched by equal resoluteness in practice when the battles heat up and the temptation to make deals and jettison core priorities intensifies. But Obama did tell us in clear and unequivocal moral terms what he thinks it means to be a Democrat, and those who have been waiting for him to do so should be quite satisfied by what they heard.

Full post here

04
Apr
11

laying the blame ….. in the wrong place

Steve Benen: Many in the media, and many more of President Obama’s detractors from the left, are hitting his administration pretty hard today for this reversal (the Obama administration has decided to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for his role in the attacks of Sept. 11 before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and not in a civilian courtroom). The development is obviously disappointing, but if we’re assigning blame, let’s at least direct at those responsible.

…Attorney General Eric Holder … told reporters this afternoon that his original decision was still the right one, but blamed Congress for “tying our hands.”

He happens to be right. Even today, Holder wants to do the right thing, and so does President Obama. And yet, Gitmo is open today, and KSM will be subjected to a military commission in the near future, not because of an administration that backed down in the face of far-right whining, but because congressional Republicans orchestrated a massive, choreographed freak-out, and scared the bejesus out of congressional Democrats. Together, they limited the White House’s options to, in effect, not having any choice at all.

There’s plenty of room for criticism of the administration, but those slamming Obama for “breaking his word” on this are blaming the wrong end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

More here

20
Mar
11

when they think “brazil,” they think “carnival”

Steve Benen: ….The good news is, the right has stopped obsessing over President Obama picking his favorites in the NCAA tournament. The bad news is, conservatives have moved onto something nearly as silly … President Obama landed in Brazil Saturday to learn about its booming economy, but conservatives called the trip a distraction from worldwide turmoil.

….This may be hard for conservatives to understand – when they think “Brazil,” they think “Carnival” – but Latin America has many quickly growing economies, and Obama is visiting the region to promote trade and open markets. The point is to take steps that will strengthen the U.S. economy, which the right should at least pretend to care about.

What’s more, the visit was scheduled months ago. It’s not as if the president woke up Friday morning and thought, “Fire up Air Force One; I’m in the mood to see Rio.”

I can appreciate why the timing of the trip may seem inconvenient, but the logistics of presidential travel abroad are laborious, and canceling would have proven problematic. Besides, there’s always weighty issues on a president’s to-do list, and if the White House had pushed off the Latin American visits until later in the year, there’d very likely be important developments going on then, too.

What we’re seeing from the right, then, is criticism for the sake of criticism. The discourse has reached the point at which Republicans and their media figures have to be whining about something at all times. Obama is stopping in Chile, Brazil, and El Salvador as part of a broader economic agenda, so the right feels the need to pretend to be outraged.

It’s quite sad.

Full article here

05
Mar
11

by george!

Freedom-crushing automobile-hating authoritarian

Conservative columnist George Will wrote a piece for right-wing comic Newsweek recently attacking President Obama’s support for high-speed rail.

Now, if Georgie’s main concern was cost, then you might say, ‘okay, that’s an argument’.

But no, as Steve Benen (Washington Monthly) put it, the column, which “featured a variety of errors of fact and judgment”, suggested that “liberals support high-speed rail (as) part of some elaborate, freedom-crushing, Ayn-Rand-inspired conspiracy.”

Seriously.

Okay, deep breath, here are a couple of extracts:

George Will: High Speed to Insolvency – Why liberals love trains.

“Generations hence, when the river of time has worn this presidency’s importance to a small, smooth pebble in the stream of history, people will still marvel that its defining trait was a mania for high-speed rail projects. This disorder illuminates the progressive mind…..

… Only an administration blinkered by ideology would persist … the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.

To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends …. automobiles encourage people to think they – unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted – are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make…….”

I know, I know.

Paul Krugman, who described the column as “truly bizarre”, made a similar point to Benen: “….it’s amazing to see Will – who is not a stupid man – embracing the sinister progressives-hate-your-freedom line, more or less right out of Atlas Shrugged; with the extra irony, of course, that John Galt’s significant other ran, well, a railroad.”

So, you’d imagine Georgie would disagree with this columnist who, in 2001 (after 9/11), wrote:

” ….Americans are impatient problem-solvers, so here are three things that should be done, the doing of which will assuage any sense the nation is having trouble gaining traction in the tasks at hand.

…..Third, build high-speed rail service.

…..A government study concludes that for trips of 500 miles or less – a majority of flights; 40 percent are of 300 miles or less – automotive travel is as fast or faster than air travel, door to door. Columnist Robert Kuttner sensibly says that fact strengthens the case for high-speed trains. If such trains replaced air shuttles in the Boston-New York-Washington corridor, Kuttner says that would free about 60 takeoff and landing slots per hour.”

Who wrote this? A liberal trying to take away your automobile freedom? Eh, no. Ready for this? Those are Georgie’s very own words, as reported by Sarah Goodyear (Grist).

Benen: “I don’t care that Will changed his mind; I care that he casually dismissed the substance of the debate in order to make the truly stupid case that high-speed rail is part of a liberal crusade to “diminish Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.”

On the merits, he was right the first time. To agree with Will circa 2001 is not to be a freedom-crushing authoritarian.”

****

So, Georgie was an enthusiastic supporter of high-speed rail….until he found himself on the same side of the issue as President Obama??

The amazing part is that this guy displays sense, occasionally – as Krugman said, “he is not a stupid man”, he has supported the President at times and has attacked the extremes of the GOP/Tea Party.

So what’s this nonsense and hypocrisy all about??

25
Feb
11

fair and balanced?

Steve Benen (Washington Monthly): We talked a few weeks ago about the very different ways in which the media responds to court rulings on the Affordable Care Act. Those upholding the constitutionality of the health care law get very little attention, while conservative rulings against the law are literally treated as front-page news.

Now that there’s a new federal court ruling – Judge Gladys Kessler ruled in support of the law on Tuesday, becoming the fifth to rule on the merits – let’s take a moment to reevaluate this.

Three federal district courts have said the Affordable Care Act meets constitutional muster; two have reached the opposite conclusion. Here’s how four major media outlets have covered the rulings, in the order in which the decisions came down: See here for statistics

…the discrepancy is overwhelming. In every instance, conservative rulings get more coverage, longer articles, and better placement ….  the Washington Post couldn’t bother to run a single article – not one – about the Kessler ruling…

…it seems very likely the public has been left with the impression that the health care law is legally dubious and struggling badly in the courts because that’s what news organizations have told them to believe.

Read full article here

24
Feb
11

making the economy worse, on purpose

Steve Benen (Washington Monthly): If federal policymakers want to make the economy worse, on purpose, all they have to do is approve the Republican agenda. The Financial Times has this report today:

“The Republican plan to slash government spending by $61bn in 2011 could reduce US economic growth by 1.5 to 2 percentage points in the second and third quarters of the year, a Goldman Sachs economist has warned……”

…Remember, this analysis comes a week after additional research found that the Republican spending cuts could lead to roughly 1 million job losses. (Asked about this, Speaker John Boehner replied last week, “So be it.”)

…We now have independent analyses showing that the Republican spending measure would push the economy back towards a recession and would deliberately make unemployment worse. If Democrats balk, the GOP will shut down the government.

Why this isn’t the lead story in every news outlet in the country remains unclear.

Update: I suppose the next question is why Republicans would pursue a plan they know would slow the economy. Among the possibilities … they have to hurt the country on purpose to undermine President Obama’s re-election chances … I’d love to understand the GOP’s motivations, but just as importantly, I’d love for the media to press the GOP on its motivations.

Read the full article here

13
Jan
11

there’s just no limit to the depths to which they sink

Steve Benen (Washington Monthly): To the delight of the audience at last night’s memorial service, President Obama told attendees that he’d just come from Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ bedside. “And I want to tell you – her husband Mark is here and he allows me to share this with you – right after we went to visit, a few minutes after we left her room and some of her colleagues in Congress were in the room, Gabby opened her eyes for the first time,” the president said.

In yet another disheartening display, some on the right would have us believe Obama wasn’t telling the truth. He was, but the accusation itself is a reminder of just what’s become of our discourse.

In one of the most cynical displays in recent memory, following the lead of Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft, several conservative websites … suggested that President Obama lied last night…

In a recently-completed press conference, Giffords’ doctor Peter Rhee explained that what Obama said last night about Giffords opening her eyes was “true” … the “lie” the right had uncovered wasn’t a lie at all.

…. Obama had heartening news about a congresswoman who very nearly died, and that news happened to be true. For some conservatives, however, this was not only an opportunity to catch the president in some kind of “gotcha” moment….

Is the right really this desperate? Do they hang on the president’s every word, wondering how to manipulate his every remark into some kind of cheap attack?

Good lord, these guys really need to grow up. This is just pathetic.

Full article here

09
Jan
11

‘surveyor’s symbols’

The Atlantic: Sarah Palin new media aide Rebecca Mansour sought to deflect attention from an electoral map Palin posted on her Facebook page last March in an appearance on Tammy Bruce’s radio show Saturday. The images long described as crosshairs or rifle sights were actually just surveyor’s symbols, Mansour said.

MANSOUR: I just want to clarify again, and maybe it wasn’t done on the record enough by us when this came out, the graphic, is just, it’s basically – we never, ever, ever intended it to be gunsights. It was simply crosshairs like you see on maps.

BRUCE: Well, it’s a surveyor’s symbol. It’s a surveyor’s symbol.

MANSOUR: It’s a surveyor’s symbol. I just want to say this, Tammy, if I can. This graphic was done, not even done in house – we had a political graphics professional who did this for us.

While there is no evidence the alleged Tuscon shooter ever saw the electoral target list – let alone took it to heart as an instruction – what is clear is that Palin’s history with weaponized rhetoric and imagery will be – and already has been – cast in a new light by the shooting in Arizona….

….the same day Palin posted the image with the scopes over congressional districts on her Facebook page, she tweeted, “Don’t retreat, Instead – RELOAD” and asked her followers to check out her Facebook page for details.

As well, there has been no national political figure in American life more eager to correct media misconceptions in real time that Palin, raising questions about why she did not object in the spring of 2010 when controversy erupted over her imagery, which even Giffords described on national television as representing gun “crosshairs.”

Thank you Ladyhawke for this link:

Washington Monthly: A ‘SURVEYOR’S SYMBOL’? …. the two did not discuss the fact that the image was immediately followed by Palin urging like-minded folks to “reload.” Of course, everyone knows surveyors’ equipment needs to be reloaded, too, right? Oh wait….

It’s worth emphasizing that the website for Palin’s political action committee was scrubbed yesterday, and offending materials related to Giffords and crosshairs were removed.

So, I have three related questions. The first is, if Palin’s materials were entirely defensible, why scrub the website? Isn’t this an implicit acknowledgement of an offense?

The second is, if the crosshairs were unrelated to guns – “Surveyor’s symbols”? Seriously? – why did Palin’s team wait to come up with this alternative interpretation until yesterday?

And the third question is, I wonder just how difficult it would be for Palin to simply acknowledge, “In retrospect, those crosshairs were inappropriate. I regret it.”

Read the full post here




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