Archive for October, 2011

Things I read on Occupy Wall Street – mostly about how who is really occupying Wall Street is different than how the “mainstream” media is portraying it, and how labor and the occupiers are forging bonds:

Ezra Klein @ Wonkblog: The 99% and 1%: Not so different, after all

This helps to make the point, I think, that though the Occupy Wall Street folks are right that Wall Street has done a lot of damage to the economy and the top 1 percent have developed a curious ability to prosper while most Americans fall behind, in the long run, almost everyone’s interests are aligned here. Banks and corporations might be able to prosper in a bad economy for a couple of years, but they can’t do it for very long. Indeed, it seems like time might already be running out for Wall Street.


Greg Sargent @ The Plum Line: What if working class Americans actually like Occupy Wall Street?

The movement is still very young, and it’s very hard to gauge support for it. But one labor official shares with me a very interesting data point: Working America, the affiliate of the AFL-CIO that organizes workers from non-union workplaces, has signed up approximately 25,000 new recruits in the last week alone, thanks largely to the high visibility of the protests.

Karen Nussbaum, the executive director of Working America, tells me that this actually dwarfs their most successful recruiting during the Wisconsin protests. “In so many ways, Wisconsin was a preview of what we’re now seeing,” Nussbaum says. “We thought it was big when we got 20,000 members in a month during the Wisconsin protests. This shows how much bigger this is.”


Harold Meyerson @ The American Prospect: How the Times Have Changed, Part 386

On Wednesday afternoon, within a few minutes of one another, many of America’s leading unions—the Service Employees, the Teamsters, the American Federation of Teachers—not to mention labor’s omnibus federation, the AFL-CIO—all released endorsements of Occupy Wall Street and its ongoing demonstrations in New York’s (and the world’s) financial center. Nothing surprising here—other individual unions and numerous local unions had already released statements of support for OSW, and the AFL-CIO itself has held several demonstrations on Wall Street since the financial collapse of 2008.

But for geezers like me, who came out of the student left of the ‘60s that found itself in various pitched battles with organized labor, the difference between then and now couldn’t be greater….

Laura Clawson @ Daily Kos: Occupy Wall Street spurs support for unions among the working class

Beltway wisdom would have it that Occupy Wall Street protesters are pierced, pot-smoking hippies reviled by heartland Americans. That view hasn’t been supported by polling; several polls have found positive favorability for Occupy Wall Street, and when PPP polled the issue for Daily Kos, people earning less than $50,000 had a net positive view of the protests, as did people earning more than $100,000.


Just a note:  I love it that Rachel Maddow regularly uses the word “grok” in her show.


The woman is 28 years old, and uses – on a nationally aired show with a huge audience – an obscure, made-up term borrowed from a 1961 sci-fi cult classic, a book published when I was merely six, and she was still a dozen years from being born.

Lord love a nerd.

HermanCainBanner-croppedHerman Cain, campaigning for the Republican nomination in the 2012 race to the White House, is gaining in the polls despite his over-simplistic and middle-class-hitting “9-9-9” tax plan.  For whatever non-sensical reason, conservative voters are giving him a thumbs up, at least for the time being, and at least in relation to the other GOP potentials.  I think he’s ridiculous, and that his policies can’t win him the nomination, but clearly the dude has some appeal.  Conservative voters seem to trust him, to some degree, and his simplistic talking points apparently appeal to many voters.  I’m sure that his business background is part of the draw – not a plus in my view of what it takes to govern, but many conservative voters seem to assume a biz career provides a better model for governing than an actual career in governing at the state and local level.  He also has a good sense of humor, which makes him somewhat less awkward on the stage or at a podium, and comes off as a “real person” rather than a manufactured candidate, ala Romney.  He has a great smile, too.  Physically, he comes off as a very warm, down-to-earth rich guy.  I wouldn’t vote for the man in a million years, but I do understand, to a limited degree, what his appeal might be for voters very unlike myself.


The main reason I believe he can’t win the Presidency, and therefore is unlikely to win the GOP nomination, is that he’s black.  I just don’t think voters, Republican or otherwise, will put two black men in a row in the Oval Office. 

Call me cynical.  Call me racist.  Call the voters racist.  We probably are.

But I truly believe it:  were Cain the Magic Candidate, with carefully crafted policies appealing to Left, Right and Center, he couldn’t get the votes.  Too many people – white people – will balk at the idea of another non-white-guy in the Presidency.  That Cain is black only compounds this – we might, maybe, as a nation, go for a Hispanic, Asian, or maybe even Native president.  Maybe even a woman (white, presumably, this time around).  But with the level of discomfort around Obama’s “blackness” these last three or four years, there is just no way, no how, that the voters will install a second black dude.  Doesn’t matter that Obama and Cain have completely different perspectives, politics, backgrounds, styles, or any thing else.  Too many voters would be wary of some kind of imagined trend in which people of color start takin’ over the highest office in the land.

We’re just that stupid.  We look at the surface more than the depth, even when we shouldn’t.

So, sorry, Herman Cain.  Your fifteen minutes may stretch to fifteen months, but you just aren’t going to get the votes.

In no particular order:


30 Sept 2011 – Andrew Sullivan:  The Un-Bush

Last fall, the Dish hosted an impassioned debate about the morality and ethics and prudence of targeting US civilians who have joined the Jihadist enemy in seeking to attack the US. My own position is that we are at war, and that avowed enemies and traitors in active warfare against the US cannot suddenly invoke legal protections from a society they have decided to help destroy.

And so my response to the death of Anwar al Awlaki is obviously not going to be Glenn Greenwald’s, although I respect his consistency and integrity on this question, even though I think his position minimizes the stakes of the conflict, and misreads the nature of war.

My response is to note what the Obama administration seems leery of saying out loud – in line with its general response to al Qaeda which is to speak very softly while ruthlessly killing scores of mid-level and high-level operatives. This administration actually is what the Bush administration claimed to be: a relentless executor of the war in terror, armed with real intelligence and lethally accurate execution. Sure, Yemen’s al Qaeda is not the core al Qaeda of Pakistan/Afghanistan – it’s less global in scope and capacities. But to remove one important propaganda source of that movement has made all of us safer. And those Americans who have lived under one of Awlaki’s murderous fatwas can breathe more easily today.


29 Sep 2011 – Steve Benen:  On leadership

I remember taking a class on leadership and being surprised, as a naive grad student, how complicated it was. Leadership at a conceptual level seems straightforward and obvious — a person steps up, presents a vision, and encourages others to follow him or her. There is, however, far more to it than that, and there are even different models of leadership (transactional vs. transformational, for example).

But for the purposes of conversation, the notion that Barack Obama is a “bystander,” too overcome by “paralysis” to do “big things,” isn’t just wrong, it’s ridiculous. Indeed, as far as the right is concerned, the attack is itself in conflict with the conservative notion that Obama is destroying American civilization with his radical agenda. One can be a bystander and one can be a radical activist hell bent on gutting our cherished traditions from within — but one cannot be both.

And on a related note (Benen references this article in the above post)


28 Sep 2011 – John Dickerson: Leading Bystander

The leadership critique obscures the real questions that should be asked about the sitting president or the person who wishes to replace him. Simply being a leader doesn’t tell you much. George W. Bush used to say "a leader leads" as if simply taking action should absolve him of criticism. That didn’t get him off the hook any more than Obama should be off the hook now.

The questions should be about effective leadership. Does he pick the right fights? Does he have the skills to succeed, or at least mark up a qualified success? If his leadership has not been effective, is the president the only one to blame? America does have a divided government. The president is not king. Is it Obama or Republicans in Congress who deserves the greater share of the blame? Or, as Christie suggested in his speech, is it both?

29 Sep 2011 – Greg Sargent: Americans reject the right’s bogus `class warfare’ charge

It’s become an article of faith among conservatives — and even some neutral commentators — that Obama’a newly aggressive populism and call for tax hikes on the rich is “class warfare,” a nakedly partisan play for the Democratic base that is divisively pitting one group of Americans against another.

Obama’s new tack is “anti-millionaire populism” from a “self-proclaimed class warrior,” laments Charles Krauthammer. “Pitting one group of Americans against another is not leadership,” adds John Boehner.

Frightful stuff indeed. But two new polls suggest that the American public isn’t buying it.

Fox News is out with a new poll that seems designed to gauge the public’s attitude towards Obama’s new posture. For those making the “class warfare” argument, these results won’t be encouraging….

29 Sep 2011 – Andrew Sullivan again: Are Suspect Sketches Worthless?

Mostly. According to Lillian Marx, "victims who assist in creating a composite sketch of their assailants are nearly 50 percent less likely to correctly identify a suspect later":

quoting from the study, Sullivan includes this paragraph:

["T]he act of creating a composite sketch confuses the hell out of the victim. Your memory is actually very suggestible, thanks to a phenomenon called source amnesia, which basically means the brain remembers facts, but doesn’t remember where we learned them. That means if the artist gets something wrong in the sketch (the suspect’s nose is too big, or he has too many eyes), the victim literally starts to think that’s what the suspect looks like. The brain doesn’t remember if you first saw that feature in the real face or on the sketch. So the cops drag in a guy who looks like the inaccurate sketch and you say, "That’s him!"


And on a lighter note,

Andrew Sullivan:  So ‘90s

You have to see the video to get that one…

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