Friday, April 22, 2011

President Obama is DFER's Ed Reformer of the Month

It's hard to believe, but the 2012 Presidential campaign has, for all intents and purposes, already begun.  I will be supporting President Obama again.  Yes, he's made some mistakes and I sometimes wish he'd fight harder for certain principles I know he believes in, but I think 90% of what people criticize him for isn't his fault.  The best analogy I can give is a bridge player who's dealt terrible cards and then has to choose the least-bad card to play each time, with his mortal enemies screaming "You bum!" at him every time he's forced to play a bad card.  


Take the economy: it was in a state of complete collapse when he was elected, yet today, 2 ½ years later, it's recovering nicely.  I never would have believed it, given that there was utter panic in the markets and we were on the verge of another Great Depression.  Obama deserves tremendous credit for getting the big calls right: he engineered a big government stimulus/liquidity injection (to be fair, Bush deserves credit for initiating this), he intervened to help the automakers get back on their feet, yet didn't nationalize the banks (those who accuse him of being a socialist have yet to explain that one).  Yes, under- and unemployment remain a big problem and he should have been much tougher on the banks/Wall St., but I think it's a minor miracle that we are where we are today.


And on education, my big issue, President Obama been exceptional.  He appointed and has fully supported a true reformer, Arne Duncan, as Secretary of Education, and backed a revolutionary program, Race to the Top, a competitive distribution of nearly $5 billion of federal education funding.  For this reason, Democrats for Education Reform has made him Ed Reformer of the Month (and "he's really more like the education reformer of the decade.").  I just donated $2,500 to his reelection campaign and hope that if you choose to donate as well, you'll do so via the DFER web page at  Here's a letter from DFER's Joe Williams:


Dear Friends,


OK, he's really more like the education reformer of the decade. But after the 2009 stimulus yielded the largest federal education investment in history, sparking unprecedented state and local reforms, and on the heels of a tough budget fight in which he managed to protect key education reform initiatives, who but President Obama could be April's Ed Reformer of the Month?


The recent deal cut billions from the federal budget but the administration doubled down on their signature program, Race to the Top (RTTT). During 2010, 47 states applied for RTTT funding, affecting dramatic reforms throughout the country. That the President fought for $700 million to continue the program speaks volumes about his priorities.


It's pretty surreal because, a few years ago, electing a reform-minded president seemed like a long shot. Successfully agitating for a reformer like Arne Duncan to be named education secretary was unprecedented. And any kind of competitive distribution of federal education funding was a total pipedream.


Yet RTTT has already eclipsed the total collective discretionary funds available to all prior education secretaries. Implementation hasn't been perfect but it's still pretty impressive.


We don't always agree with the administration on education policy. Sometimes they yield too much ground to the status quo, like in recent comments by both the President and Secretary Duncan on the overhaul of No Child Left Behind. All the more reason to buck them up and demonstrate how much we support their education reform efforts.


It's time to saddle up. Right now is, in many ways, the best time to give. By showing up early for his campaign, we can show the President that we appreciate his priorities. Having a lot of donors is just as important as a lot of money (probably more important), so please go to and give whatever you can.


Thanks again,




Behind the Abortion Warr

I hope the Republicans spend a lot of time and energy on things like abortion and whether Obama was born in the U.S. – their extremist views may energize their base, but it completely alienates moderates in the middle, the 10% of voters who determine every close election.  Here's Gail Collins with an op ed about Republican attacks on abortion, which is really an attack on contraception:

Beyond the science, there's the fact that many social conservatives are simply opposed to giving women the ability to have sex without the possibility of procreation.

"Contraception helps reduce one's sexual partner to just a sexual object since it renders sexual intercourse to be without any real commitments," says Janet Smith, the author of "Contraception: Why Not."

The reason this never comes up in the debates about reproductive rights in Washington is that it has no popular appeal. Abortion is controversial. Contraception isn't. A new report by the Guttmacher Institute found that even women who are faithful Catholics or evangelicals are likely to rely on the pill, I.U.D.'s or sterilization to avoid pregnancy. Rachel Jones, a lead author of the report, said the researchers found "no indication whatsoever" that religious affiliation has any serious effect on contraception use.

What we have here is a wide-ranging attack on women's right to control their reproductive lives that the women themselves would strongly object to if it was stated clearly. So the attempt to end federal financing for Planned Parenthood, which uses the money for contraceptive services but not abortion, is portrayed as an anti-abortion crusade. It makes sense, as long as you lay off the factual statements. 


April 13, 2011

Behind the Abortion War


Part of the price of keeping the government operating this week is another debate over the financing of Planned Parenthood. Whoopee.

At least it'll give us a chance to reminisce about Senator Jon Kyl, who gave that speech against federal support for Planned Parenthood last week that was noted for: A) its wild inaccuracy; and B) his staff's explanation that the remarks were "not intended to be a factual statement."

This is the most memorable statement to come out of politics since Newt Gingrich told the world that he was driven to commit serial adultery by excessive patriotism.

Evidence Aside, State Lawmakers Debate ‘Birther’ Bills

And here's an article about the birther issue:

Investigations have concluded that President Obama was, in fact, born in Hawaii in 1961, as he has always said.

Just this week, on the news program "Good Morning America" on ABC, George Stephanopoulos produced a copy of the president's Certification of Live Birth, causing a potential presidential aspirant, Michele Bachmann, the Republican congresswoman from Minnesota, to say that the issue appeared settled. In 2008, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging that proof.

But the so-called birther controversy stubbornly refuses to go away.

The issue, which has simmered at the fringes of the nation's political discourse for years, even got a recent burst of attention when it was adopted as a talking point by Donald Trump, a potential Republican presidential candidate.

The result is that what had been a wispy tale of purportedly buried documents and cover-ups designed to hide the president's supposed birth in Kenya — a tale that has been dismissed by most mainstream members of both political parties — now appears to have staying power as the political season lurches toward 2012.

A New York Times/CBS News Poll released Thursday found that 57 percent of adults surveyed nationwide said they thought Mr. Obama was born in the United States, versus 25 percent who said he was born elsewhere. 

But digging deeper into the numbers shows striking disparities along party lines and regions of the country. Among Republicans, for instance, 33 percent said they thought Mr. Obama was born in America, while 45 percent said his birth occurred in another country. The nationwide telephone poll, conducted April 15-20 with 1,224 adults and a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points, said that majorities in all regions of the nation think the president was born in the United States, but that those majorities were smaller in the South and Midwest than in the Northeast and Far West.

Around the country, the issue has proved to be a sure winner for the conservative base, with bills popping up in more than a dozen state legislatures to force future presidential candidates to prove their citizenship. Those legislatures, though, have been much more reluctant to turn this issue into concrete law.

Birther bills have foundered or fallen dormant in at least five states and are still being debated in more than a half-dozen others. In Arizona, where both legislative chambers passed one such bill, Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, vetoed it this week, calling it "a bridge too far."


Evidence Aside, State Lawmakers Debate 'Birther' Bills

Published: April 21, 2011

OKLAHOMA CITY — Investigations have concluded that President Obama was, in fact, born in Hawaii in 1961, as he has always said.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Is there any end to the anti-Obama anger? I can't even talk politics with my friends anymore

The NY Daily News published on its web site a column I wrote about my concerns about the political polarization that’s taken place in our country:

For someone as optimistic and energetic as I am, it's a very strange feeling being totally pessimistic about the future of our country. The political polarization has reached such an extreme that I find that I can't even have a conversation with people who don't share my general political views.

On the rare occasion that I do have such conversations - often with good friends whom I really respect, and whom I think are moderate and thoughtful people - I'm stunned by the vitriol they express toward Democrats in general and President Obama in particular. They genuinely, passionately believe that Obama is a liar, a socialist, a hater of Israel and a terrorist appeaser.

It's nothing short of bizarre and it fills me with despair. If I can't even have talk about politics with good friends, then there's no hope for any kind of unity and compromise in our political system, which we so desperately need given the enormous challenges we face. Instead, I see us going down the road of Kenya (which I'm familiar with because my parents and sister live there), in which politics is tribal and it's kill or be killed (sometimes, literally), and where no tactics, no matter how despicable, are off the table.

We're still a long way from this, of course, but the trend is troubling - and if it doesn't reverse, I fear we are doomed to a future of political paralysis which will lead to stagnation and mediocrity, like Japan in recent decades. We will always be an enormously wealthy country - as Japan still is (it has 10 times the GDP per capita as China, for example) - but if my fears prove correct, we will not be the dynamic, vibrant, inspiring, truly great country we once were.


Is there any end to the anti-Obama anger? I can't even talk politics with my friends anymore

Thursday, September 23rd 2010, 1:30 PM

Too Many Hamburgers?

Tom Friedman in his column today is so right – and I’m so pessimistic that we can come together to meet our challenges:

Studying China’s ability to invest for the future doesn’t make me feel we have the wrong system. It makes me feel that we are abusing our right system. There is absolutely no reason our democracy should not be able to generate the kind of focus, legitimacy, unity and stick-to-it-iveness to do big things — democratically — that China does autocratically. We’ve done it before. But we’re not doing it now because too many of our poll-driven, toxically partisan, cable-TV-addicted, money-corrupted political class are more interested in what keeps them in power than what would again make America powerful, more interested in defeating each other than saving the country.

“How can you compete with a country that is run like a company?” an Indian entrepreneur at the forum asked me of China. He then answered his own question: For democracy to be effective and deliver the policies and infrastructure our societies need requires the political center to be focused, united and energized. That means electing candidates who will do what is right for the country not just for their ideological wing or whoever comes with the biggest bag of money. For democracies to address big problems — and that’s all we have these days — requires a lot of people pulling in the same direction, and that is precisely what we’re lacking.


September 21, 2010

Too Many Hamburgers?


Tianjin, China

To visit China today as an American is to compare and to be compared. And from the very opening session of this year’s World Economic Forum here in Tianjin, our Chinese hosts did not hesitate to do some comparing. China’s CCTV aired a skit showing four children — one wearing the Chinese flag, another the American, another the Indian, and another the Brazilian — getting ready to run a race. Before they take off, the American child, “Anthony,” boasts that he will win “because I always win,” and he jumps out to a big lead. But soon Anthony doubles over with cramps. “Now is our chance to overtake him for the first time!” shouts the Chinese child. “What’s wrong with Anthony?” asks another. “He is overweight and flabby,” says another child. “He ate too many hamburgers.”

That is how they see us.


Disappointed Supporters Question Obama

I’m not the only Obama supporter feeling depressed (Jon Stewart devoted six minutes of his show last night to this town hall and it’s well worth watching:  It’s not his usual highly partisan thing – Jon Stewart is feeling depressed and let down too…):

It was billed as “Investing in America,” a live televised conversation on the state of the economy between President Obama and American workers, students, business people and retirees, a kind of Wall Street to Main Street reality check.

But it sounded like a therapy session for disillusioned Obama supporters.

In question after question during a one-hour session, which took place on Monday at the Newseum here and was televised on CNBC, Mr. Obama was confronted by people who sounded frustrated and anxious — even as some said they supported his agenda and proclaimed themselves honored to be in his presence.

People from Main Street wanted to know if the American dream still lived for them. People on Wall Street complained that he was treating them like a piñata, “whacking us with a stick,” in the words of Anthony Scaramucci, a former law school classmate of Mr. Obama’s who now runs a hedge fund and was one of the president’s questioners.

“I’m exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for,” said the first questioner, an African-American woman who identified herself as a chief financial officer, a mother and a military veteran. “I’ve been told that I voted for a man who was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class and I’m waiting sir, I’m waiting. I still don’t feel it yet.”

A 30-year-old law school graduate told Mr. Obama that he had hoped to pursue a career in public service — like the president — but complained that he could barely pay the interest on his student loans, let alone think of getting married or starting a family.

“I was really inspired by you and your campaign and the message you brought, and that inspiration is dying away,” he said, adding, “And I really want to know, is the American dream dead for me?”

The extraordinarily personal tone of the session, coupled with more substantive policy questions from the host, John Harwood of CNBC and The New York Times, reflects the erosion of support for Mr. Obama among the constituencies that sent him to the White House two years ago.


Disappointed Supporters Question Obama

Published: September 20, 2010

WASHINGTON — It was billed as “Investing in America,” a live televised conversation on the state of the economy between President Obama and American workers, students, business people and retirees, a kind of Wall Street to Main Street reality check. 

If only Obama had...

Before we completely despair, it’s important to note that Carter, Reagan and Clinton all had LOWER approval ratings at this stage of their Presidencies:

What if Obama had done not-X? Would things really be better for him? How do we know they wouldn't be worse?

Sadly, we can't hit rewind on the cosmic VCR and persuade Obama to do the other thing in the name of science. But we have had a number of presidents who did very different things, and that gives us some basis on which to make judgments. Let's start with approval ratings. Gallup's system will let me compare only four presidents at once, so I chose the last three presidents who entered office amid a recession and didn't have a country-unifying terrorist attack in their first year. That gives us Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. The dashed line is an average of all recent presidents.

Obama's current approval rating of 44 percent beats Clinton, Carter and Reagan. All of them were between 39 percent and 41 percent at this point in their presidencies. And all of them were former governors who accomplished less legislatively than Obama has at this point in his presidency.



If only Obama had ...

The Angry Rich

Krugman thinks the rabid anger toward Obama is mostly rooted in the rich hating him for wanting to raise their taxes, which I think is too simple (though it’s certainly a factor).  The point he makes about “normal rules of civilized (and rational) discourse no longer apply” is spot on, however:

Anger is sweeping America. True, this white-hot rage is a minority phenomenon, not something that characterizes most of our fellow citizens. But the angry minority is angry indeed, consisting of people who feel that things to which they are entitled are being taken away. And they’re out for revenge.

No, I’m not talking about the Tea Partiers. I’m talking about the rich.

These are terrible times for many people in this country. Poverty, especially acute poverty, has soared in the economic slump; millions of people have lost their homes. Young people can’t find jobs; laid-off 50-somethings fear that they’ll never work again.

Yet if you want to find real political rage — the kind of rage that makes people compare President Obama to Hitler, or accuse him of treason — you won’t find it among these suffering Americans. You’ll find it instead among the very privileged, people who don’t have to worry about losing their jobs, their homes, or their health insurance, but who are outraged, outraged, at the thought of paying modestly higher taxes.

The rage of the rich has been building ever since Mr. Obama took office. At first, however, it was largely confined to Wall Street. Thus when New York magazine published an article titled “The Wail Of the 1%,” it was talking about financial wheeler-dealers whose firms had been bailed out with taxpayer funds, but were furious at suggestions that the price of these bailouts should include temporary limits on bonuses. When the billionaire Stephen Schwarzman compared an Obama proposal to the Nazi invasion of Poland, the proposal in question would have closed a tax loophole that specifically benefits fund managers like him.

Now, however, as decision time looms for the fate of the Bush tax cuts — will top tax rates go back to Clinton-era levels? — the rage of the rich has broadened, and also in some ways changed its character.

For one thing, craziness has gone mainstream. It’s one thing when a billionaire rants at a dinner event. It’s another when Forbes magazine runs a cover story alleging that the president of the United States is deliberately trying to bring America down as part of his Kenyan, “anticolonialist” agenda, that “the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s.” When it comes to defending the interests of the rich, it seems, the normal rules of civilized (and rational) discourse no longer apply.


September 19, 2010

The Angry Rich


How Obama Thinks

I was so stunned by what Krugman said Dinesh D’Souza wrote in Forbes that I figured Krugman must have taken a sentence out of context so I looked it up (below and at: and it’s even MORE despicable than Krugman says!  You really have to read it to understand how stunning it is that a mainstream Republican would write this, and that a mainstream publication would publish it.  Here are the last two paragraphs:

Colonialism today is a dead issue. No one cares about it except the man in the White House. He is the last anticolonial. Emerging market economies such as China, India, Chile and Indonesia have solved the problem of backwardness; they are exploiting their labor advantage and growing much faster than the U.S. If America is going to remain on top, we have to compete in an increasingly tough environment.

But instead of readying us for the challenge, our President is trapped in his father's time machine. Incredibly, the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation's agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son. The son makes it happen, but he candidly admits he is only living out his father's dream. The invisible father provides the inspiration, and the son dutifully gets the job done. America today is governed by a ghost.

Obama barely knew his father!


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On The Cover/Top Stories
How Obama Thinks
Dinesh D'Souza, 09.27.10, 12:00 AM ET

Barack Obama is the most antibusiness president in a generation, perhaps in American history. Thanks to him the era of big government is back. Obama runs up taxpayer debt not in the billions but in the trillions. He has expanded the federal government's control over home mortgages, investment banking, health care, autos and energy. The Weekly Standard summarizes Obama's approach as omnipotence at home, impotence abroad.

Who's the Con Man?

Maureen Dowd’s take on this travesty is spot on, especially her conclusion: “It’s Newt and D’Souza and their ilk who put America at risk.”:

Gingrich praised D’Souza’s article in Forbes, previewing an upcoming book called “The Roots of Obama’s Rage.”

Newt told The National Review Online that it was the “most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama” and said D’Souza shows that the president “is so outside our comprehension” that you can only understand him “if you understand Kenyan, anticolonial behavior.”

Newt added: “This a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president.”

So the smear artists are claiming not only that the president is a socialist but that he suffers from a socialism gene.

“Our president is trapped in his father’s time machine,” D’Souza writes in Forbes, offering a genetic theory of ideology. “Incredibly, the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation’s agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son.”

Playing into the bigotry of birthers and haters who paint Obama as “the other,” D’Souza writes that the president was raised offshore, spending “his formative years — the first 17 years of his life — off the American mainland, in Hawaii, Indonesia and Pakistan, with multiple subsequent journeys to Africa.” The ominous-sounding time in Pakistan was merely a visit when Obama was a college student.

…If it wasn’t so sick it would be funny. It’s worse than a conspiracy theory because this conspiracy consists of a single dead individual. The idea that there’s something illegitimate about anticolonialism on the part of a Kenyan man in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s is stupid. And it’s inconsistent to accuse a president who’s raining drones on bad guys in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen of having an inherited anticolonial ideology.

It’s also really low. D’Souza and Gingrich are not merely discrediting the president’s father’s ideology. They’re discrediting his character and insinuating that the son inherited not just his father’s bad ideology but a bad character, too.

…This fear-mongering is ugly. D’Souza and Gingrich employ the tactics the Bush administration used to get us into Iraq — cherry-picking, insinuation, half-truths and dishonest reasoning.

If the conservatives are so interested in psychoanalyzing father and son relationships, why didn’t they do so back when W. was rushing to avenge and one-up his father by finishing what daddy started with Saddam?

On their Web site, Callista and Newt tout “Gingrich Productions” and promote an apocalyptic movie with the same kind of scary music that Fox uses, suggesting that the Obama administration is weak in the war against “radical Islam.” The movie and the Web site are called “America at Risk.”

It’s Newt and D’Souza and their ilk who put America at risk.


Who’s the Con Man?

Published: September 14, 2010


Aren't We Clever?

Friedman with a powerful example of how China is kicking out butts because of our political paralysis:

Aren’t We Clever?

Published: September 18, 2010

What a contrast. In a year that’s on track to be our planet’s hottest on record, America turned “climate change” into a four-letter word that many U.S. politicians won’t even dare utter in public. If this were just some parlor game, it wouldn’t matter. But the totally bogus “discrediting” of climate science has had serious implications. For starters, it helped scuttle Senate passage of the energy-climate bill needed to scale U.S.-made clean technologies, leaving America at a distinct disadvantage in the next great global industry. And that brings me to the contrast: While American Republicans were turning climate change into a wedge issue, the Chinese Communists were turning it into a work issue.

“There is really no debate about climate change in China,” said Peggy Liu, chairwoman of the Joint U.S.-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, a nonprofit group working to accelerate the greening of China. “China’s leaders are mostly engineers and scientists, so they don’t waste time questioning scientific data.” The push for green in China, she added, “is a practical discussion on health and wealth. There is no need to emphasize future consequences when people already see, eat and breathe pollution every day.”

And because runaway pollution in China means wasted lives, air, water, ecosystems and money — and wasted money means fewer jobs and more political instability — China’s leaders would never go a year (like we will) without energy legislation mandating new ways to do more with less. It’s a three-for-one shot for them. By becoming more energy efficient per unit of G.D.P., China saves money, takes the lead in the next great global industry and earns credit with the world for mitigating climate change.

So while America’s Republicans turned “climate change” into a four-letter word — J-O-K-E — China’s Communists also turned it into a four-letter word — J-O-B-S.

“China is changing from the factory of the world to the clean-tech laboratory of the world,” said Liu. “It has the unique ability to pit low-cost capital with large-scale experiments to find models that work.” China has designated and invested in pilot cities for electric vehicles, smart grids, LED lighting, rural biomass and low-carbon communities. “They’re able to quickly throw spaghetti on the wall to see what clean-tech models stick, and then have the political will to scale them quickly across the country,” Liu added. “This allows China to create jobs and learn quickly.”

Message to Muslims: I'm Sorry

Nick Kristof argues correctly that the right’s attacks on ALL Muslims are not only immoral and contrary to what our nation stands for, but also massively contrary to our self-interest, as it dramatically increases the number of people who want to harm us.

Many Americans have suggested that more moderate Muslims should stand up to extremists, speak out for tolerance, and apologize for sins committed by their brethren.

That’s reasonable advice, and as a moderate myself, I’m going to take it. (Throat clearing.) I hereby apologize to Muslims for the wave of bigotry and simple nuttiness that has lately been directed at you. The venom on the airwaves, equating Muslims with terrorists, should embarrass us more than you. Muslims are one of the last minorities in the United States that it is still possible to demean openly, and I apologize for the slurs.

…Radicals tend to empower radicals, creating a gulf of mutual misunderstanding and anger. Many Americans believe that Osama bin Laden is representative of Muslims, and many Afghans believe that the Rev. Terry Jones (who talked about burning Korans) is representative of Christians.

Many Americans honestly believe that Muslims are prone to violence, but humans are too complicated and diverse to lump into groups that we form invidious conclusions about. We’ve mostly learned that about blacks, Jews and other groups that suffered historic discrimination, but it’s still O.K. to make sweeping statements about “Muslims” as an undifferentiated mass.


September 18, 2010

Message to Muslims: I’m Sorry



Saturday, September 18, 2010

Join me at Jon Stewart's RALLY TO RESTORE SANITY in DC on Sat., Oct. 30th

I checked to make sure that this is real, not some elaborate hoax, and it’s really happening: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are hosting a rally on the mall in Washington DC on Saturday, Oct. 30th.  Called the “Rally to Restore Sanity” (Colbert hilariously calls his “The March to Keep Fear Alive”), I actually think this is going to be a VERY important political event, a powerful statement for sanity and moderation, and against the radical right, which is threatening to hijack our country by spreading hatred and divisiveness – plus it will surely be a BLAST, as Stewart and Colbert are the two funniest men alive!  I can’t wait to hold up the signs they will be providing, including ‘I Disagree With You, But I’m Pretty Sure You’re Not Hitler,’ ‘I’m Not Afraid of Muslims/Tea Partiers/Socialists/Immigrants/Gun Owners/Gays…But I Am Scared of Spiders,’ ‘Got Competence?,’ ‘9/11 was an OUTSIDE job,’ and ‘Take It Down a Notch, America.’


So, yes, I’m going and bringing my entire family – it’s a great opportunity to start getting my three girls politically active, plus show them the sights.  Susan and I have taken them around this country and the world, but they’ve never been to DC so we’re looking forward to visiting the White House, the Air and Space Museum, etc.


To see the hilarious segment announcing the rally on The Daily Show this week, see (starts at 0:55).  And here’s Colbert: (starts at 2:30).  High comedy!


Here’s an excerpt about the rally their web site,


"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

Who among us has not wanted to open their window and shout that at the top of their lungs?

Seriously, who?

Because we're looking for those people. We're looking for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn't be the only ones that get heard; and who believe that the only time it's appropriate to draw a Hitler mustache on someone is when that person is actually Hitler. Or Charlie Chaplin in certain roles.

Are you one of those people? Excellent. Then we'd like you to join us in Washington, DC on October 30 -- a date of no significance whatsoever -- at the Daily Show's "Rally to Restore Sanity." Ours is a rally for the people who've been too busy to go to rallies, who actually have lives and families and jobs (or are looking for jobs) -- not so much the Silent Majority as the Busy Majority. If we had to sum up the political view of our participants in a single sentence... we couldn't. That's sort of the point.

Think of our event as Woodstock, but with the nudity and drugs replaced by respectful disagreement; the Million Man March, only a lot smaller, and a bit less of a sausage fest; or the Gathering of the Juggalos, but instead of throwing our feces at Tila Tequila, we'll be actively *not* throwing our feces at Tila Tequila. Join us in the shadow of the Washington Monument. And bring your indoor voice. Or don't. If you'd rather stay home, go to work, or drive your kids to soccer practice... Actually, please come anyway. Ask the sitter if she can stay a few extra hours, just this once. We'll make it worth your while.


Below are two articles about the rally.  The exact time on the 30th isn’t set yet, but you can sign up to get info as it becomes available at:


I hope to see you there!


PS—The cheapest way to get to DC from East Coast cities (NYC, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore) is one of the express bus services like MegaBus ( or BoltBus ( – there are busses to/from NYC almost every hour and the prices are ridiculously low, ranging from $8-$23 each way.  I took MegaBus a few months ago and it was comfortable and had free wi-fi – what’s not to like?!


Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert D.C.rally has a deadly serious purpose

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It may have started out as a game and a joke but the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert rally in Washington D.C. may be the most important political event this year.

The political stage has been completely dominated this election season by Glenn Beck and other right wing commentators and the various Tea party rallies.

Can Stewart and Colbert prove there is a major alternative American voice out there as the mid term elections approach and the Tea Party is running rampant?

The October 30th "Rally to Restore Sanity" ,coming just a short time before those elections could prove to be a rallying cry and a Woodstock for the millions of liberals and moderates whose voices, with the exception of Stewart and Colbert, have not been heard.

Stewart in particular has shown an ability to articulate the sheer puzzlement and occasional despair at the charges being flung from the right against the Obama administration and others.

He skewers the worst excesses nightly as does Colbert in a more complex fashion.

But who do they speak for, and will the people they speak for turn up on the mall and give voice to the reality that while both are comedians, what they are addressing is deadly serious?

Time will tell but it will be a fascinating exercise in power politics, behind all the grins and one liners.


Stewart, Colbert Plan Competing DC Rallies

By Erik Hayden | September 17, 2010 8:47am

Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Stewart, Colbert Plan Competing DC Rallies 

Not to be outdone by Glenn Beck, Jon Stewart has announced a DC rally on the National Mall October 30th. Entitled the "Rally To Restore Sanity," it is aimed at people who normally don't attend rallies (people with "shit to do," he explains). Not to be outdone by Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert has also announced a DC rally on the same day, cheekily dubbed "The March To Keep Fear Alive." The moves, evidently calibrated to combat Glenn Beck's huge "Restoring Honor" event last month, also are conveniently timed a few days before election day 2010. Not only do Colbert and Stewart cash in on the political fever before the midterms, they can perhaps even make a political statement or two while lampooning. Critics call it a savvy move.

·         Pre-Announcement Buzz Melissa Bell at The Washington Post details the build up to the announcement: there were "a number of 'pre-announcement announcements' on the show and an online campaign started by The users on Reddit called for Stephen Colbert to match Glenn Beck's 'Restoring America' march with one for 'Restoring Truthiness.' They even raised $239,075 for schools on Colbert's behalf. Stewart said the date of the show has no significance--a reference to Glenn Beck's rally falling on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's speech."

·         Stewart's Event Seems Like 'A Direct Response' to Beck observes Michael O'Brien at The Hill, who notes that Stewart described it as a "million moderate march" against ideological extremists in both parties. But both Stewart's and Colbert's rallies, "ostensibly have the purpose of mocking some of the more strident rhetoric members of both parties have employed in political debates over the past decade."

·         Is It a Comedy Rally or a Rally Against 'Extremism'?  The New York Times Bill Carter hedged, "The rally will clearly have some comedy elements (as well as likely guest stars, Mr. Stewart said), and his partner on the Comedy Central cable channel, Stephen Colbert, appeared on the show in his usual conservative blowhard persona to threaten to infiltrate the rally. Mr. Stewart also promised to supply the crowd with signs if they did not bring their own, including as examples, 'I Disagree With You, But I’m Pretty Sure You’re Not Hitler,' and 'Take It Down a Notch, America.'"

·         'It's Unclear If the Rallies Will Actually Take Placereports Aliyah Shahid at The New York Daily News, "but Stewart will be in D.C. that week to host his show on Oct. 25-28. And he insisted on the show that he had already reserved a spot on the National Mall, declaring 'the forms have been filled out, the checks have been written.'"

  • The 'Timing and Message Are Undeniably Politicalwrites The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder. "I'd imagine that these rallies will draw counter-rallies, and that smart conservative folks will try to incorporate them in a way that helps Republicans as well....Depending on how the media covers the run-up to these rallies, Stewart and Colbert could generate interest and enthusiasm among the type of voters who have so far been turned off by the independent conservative resurgence."



"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

Who among us has not wanted to open their window and shout that at the top of their lungs?

Seriously, who?

Because we're looking for those people. We're looking for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn't be the only ones that get heard; and who believe that the only time it's appropriate to draw a Hitler mustache on someone is when that person is actually Hitler. Or Charlie Chaplin in certain roles.

Are you one of those people? Excellent. Then we'd like you to join us in Washington, DC on October 30 -- a date of no significance whatsoever -- at the Daily Show's "Rally to Restore Sanity." Ours is a rally for the people who've been too busy to go to rallies, who actually have lives and families and jobs (or are looking for jobs) -- not so much the Silent Majority as the Busy Majority. If we had to sum up the political view of our participants in a single sentence... we couldn't. That's sort of the point.

Think of our event as Woodstock, but with the nudity and drugs replaced by respectful disagreement; the Million Man March, only a lot smaller, and a bit less of a sausage fest; or the Gathering of the Juggalos, but instead of throwing our feces at Tila Tequila, we'll be actively *not* throwing our feces at Tila Tequila. Join us in the shadow of the Washington Monument. And bring your indoor voice. Or don't. If you'd rather stay home, go to work, or drive your kids to soccer practice... Actually, please come anyway. Ask the sitter if she can stay a few extra hours, just this once. We'll make it worth your while.

Watch Jon's call-to-reasonableness on The Daily Show.

Keep checking back for updates and rally information.



Monday, January 19, 2009

The Long, Lame Goodbye

Maureen Dowd with a scathing (and accurate) summary of who we're bidding good riddance to:

As Barack Obama got to town, one of the first things he did was seek the counsel of past presidents, including George Bush senior.

As W. was leaving town, one of the last things he did was explain why he never sought the counsel of his father on issues that his father knew intimately, like Iraq and Saddam.

When Brit Hume did a joint interview last week with Bush father and son, dubbed “41st guy” and “43rd guy” by W., the Fox anchor asked whether it was true that “there wasn’t a lot of give and take” between them, except on family matters.

“See,” the Oedipally oddball W. replied, “the interesting thing is that a president has got plenty of advisers, but what a president never has is someone who gave him unconditional love.”

He talks about his father, the commander in chief who went to war with Saddam before he did, like a puppy. “You rarely have people,” he said, “who can pick up the phone and say, ‘I love you, son,’ or, ‘Hang in there, son.’ ”

Maybe he wouldn’t have needed so many Hang-in-there-sons if he had actually consulted his dad before he ignorantly and fraudulently rammed into the Middle East.

January 18, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist

The Long, Lame Goodbye


As Barack Obama got to town, one of the first things he did was seek the counsel of past presidents, including George Bush senior.

Inaugural Celebration Concert

A friend's comments on the Inaugural Celebration Concert yesterday:
I watched the concert as I cleaned and made dinner, though I got choked up a few times.  The actors reading quotes and tributes to America's great principles and Lincoln, the Roosevelts, and Kennedy were alternately stirring and flat.
But the musical performances, though not always musically great, were very moving.

Bruce Springsteen doing "The Rising" (with a gospel choir, fantastic), and at the end with Pete Seeger and Seeger's grandson doing "This Land is My Land".  Amazing to think all of what Seeger has seen in this country.
Beyoncé singing "America The Beautiful"
John Mellencamp doing "Pink Houses" with the big choir, also very moving when you think about the ambivalence in the song, the way Mellencamp cites some of the Everyman ironies of life here but embraces it all anyway.

Mary J Blige doing "Lean on Me" - yes, Bill Withers, the Obama of music?

Betty LaVette doing "A Change is Gonna Come".... And Jon Bon Jovi ?!?!?!? doing somewhat tortured duet with her. She still kept it wonderful.
Garth Brooks: "Shout" = so-so. "american pie" = better. Never loved his music, but infectiously fun fellow.

U2 – doing Pride, and City of Blinding Lights — wasn't the best musically, Bono's voice didn't quite his his old highs, but was still beautiful.
Bono took a moment to shout that the dream of "In the name of love!" included Israelis and, pointedly, Palestinians. A nice gesture, just to acknowledge what's gone on, and say their name from that stage (the Lincoln Memorail) is meaningful, without being divisive or making it too political.  Somehow I was hoping for some other rock star moment from him to signify the moment but the words and music were enough.

James Taylor  ("Shower the people you love with love") and Stevie Wonder ("Higher Ground") were probably the best musically, both had guest singers. Shakira was a strange choice for Stevie, and she didn't fit in well vocally. But he is so solid it didn't matter.

I was never the bggest James Taylor fan, but it's a beautiful song and worked beautifully with the guest singers (John Legend...).

You can skip the Marisa Tomei intro, but this is a gorgeous moment. Watch it in 'high quality'
Here are some other links I found on YouTube to performances at the concert:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Great humor from The Daily Show

Y'know, after a lot of therapy (not really -- but maybe I should have!), I'd stopped thinking about the soon-to-be-departed-worst-President-ever.  He's going to disappear into well-deserved obscurity on Tuesday (as Palin already has) and what's the point of sitting around hating him for doing so much damage to this country -- and the world?  The damage is done, everyone knows he's responsible (with a big assist from Cheney and a handful of other cronies) and thank goodness there will FINALLY be a capable, smart, good man in charge who will start to heal the damage that's been done.
But after watching clips from Bush's press conference on The Daily Show on Tuesday, I got furious all over:  He's not just trying to spin history -- he's totally off-his-rocker, delusional!  Here are some quotes:
"[Iraq] not having weapons of mass destruction was a significant disappointment...Abu Ghraib was a huge disappointment...I've thought long and hard about Katrina.  Could I have done something differently, like land Air Force One in New Orleans or Baton Rouge?  The problem with that is that law enforcement would have been pulled away from the mission and then your questions, I suspect, would have been, 'How can you possibly have flown Air Force One into Baton Rouge and police officers who were needed to expedite traffic out of New Orleans were taken off the task to look after you.'" 
Jon Stewart's comment: "You have no idea why people are mad at you about Katrina, do you?  You thought it was the plane landing/flyover?  You're like the guy whose wife comes home and catches you banging her sister and you think she's mad at your for not telling her you were coming home early."  LOL!
You gotta watch this starting at 9:10, where the press conference becomes "just plain weird".
Also, while you're at it, the first five minutes of Monday's Daily Show is a hoot, contrasting Obama's and Bush's vastly contrasting styles at press conferences:

He's Leaving. Really.

Gail Collins with a nice good riddance column:

The White House has promised that in his final address, the president will be joined by a small group of everyday American heroes, which means that the only person on stage with a history of failing to perform well in moments of stress will be the main speaker.

Bush is going to devote some of his time to defending his record, although there has been quite a bit of that already. Over the last few weeks we have learned that he thinks the Katrina response worked out rather well except for one unfortunate photo-op, and that he regards the fact that we invaded another country on the basis of false information as a “disappointment.” Since Bush also referred to the disappointments of his White House tenure as “a minor irritant” it’s perhaps best to think of the weapons of mass destruction debacle as a pimple on the administration’s otherwise rosy complexion...

...History does suggest that Bush performs best in venues like this one, in which he has a long lead time and virtually no actual role in preparing the words he is about to say. But still, what could he possibly tell the country that would change anybody’s opinion about the last eight years?

“My fellow Americans, before I leave you next week I want you to know that ...

A) “Although things have gone very wrong, I take comfort in the realization that Dick Cheney was actually in control from the get-go. Honest, I never even knew half the people in the cabinet.”

B) “Laura and I have come to realize that all things considered, retirement to a mansion in Texas is just totally inappropriate. And so we take our leave to begin a new life as missionaries at a small rescue station in the Gobi desert ...”

C) “Surprise! This has all actually been a bad dream. It’s really still November of 2000 and tomorrow Al Gore is going to be elected president.”

Otherwise, the best possible approach for a farewell address might be for Bush to follow his father’s lead and just not give one.

January 15, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist

He’s Leaving. Really.

Tonight President George W. Bush bids adieu to the American people.

Excitement mounts.

The man has been saying goodbye for so long, he’s come to resemble one of those reconstituted rock bands that have been on a farewell tour since 1982. We had exit interviews by the carload and then a final press conference on Monday, in which he reminisced about his arrival on the national stage in 2000. “Just seemed like yesterday,” he said.

I think I speak for the entire nation when I say that the way this transition has been dragging on, even yesterday does not seem like yesterday. And the last time George W. Bush did not factor into our lives feels like around 1066.

So far, the Bush farewell appearances have not drawn a lot of rave reviews. (Most striking, perhaps, was a critique of that final press conference from Ted Anthony of The Associated Press: “It all felt strangely intimate and, occasionally, uncomfortable, in the manner of seeing a plumber wearing jeans that ride too low.”) A Gallup poll did find that his approval rating had risen slightly since they began, but this was probably due to enthusiasm for the part about his going away.

How to turn Obama's success into gains for black boys

An outstanding editorial in the USA Today last week about how to turn Obama's success into gains for black boys, which mentions both KIPP as well as one of the REACH schools, Frederick Douglass Academy:

Learn from successful schools

Few African-African boys have access to elite private schools such as Washington's Sidwell Friends, where the Obama girls started classes Monday. But several inner-city schools are showing impressive results. At the Key Academy in Washington, D.C., a charter that is part of the successful KIPP group, black boys arrive in fifth grade reading two grades behind the girls. By seventh grade, they pull even. Their success is related to a persistent focus on literacy skills, even in science and math classes.

At New York's Frederick Douglass Academy, a regular public school where two-thirds of the students qualify for the free lunch program, students take courses that rival the rigor of anything offered in the best suburban schools, and nearly all go on to college.

Nice plugs for Arne Duncan and NCLB as well:

Obama has signaled that he intends to be more than a role model. His biggest education issue, ramping up the federal role in offering high-quality preschools, could have a huge impact on black boys, especially if he launches research into making preschools work as well for boys as they do for girls.

The president-elect's promise to double funding for effective charter schools such as KIPP mirrors reform efforts in Chicago, where his choice to become the federal Education secretary, Arne Duncan, served as schools chief for the past seven years.

Most important, Obama has resisted calls from the teachers' unions to dismantle President Bush's No Child Left Behind school-reform law. Whatever the law's shortcomings, No Child's relentless emphasis on data forces school districts to come clean about the poor job they have done with black boys.


How to turn Obama's success into gains for black boys

USA Today editorial, 1/6/09

You can see the message on brick wall murals in inner cities: Yes we can. You can hear it in the music of Black Eyed Peas' frontman Yes we can.

The Confidence Surplus

David Brooks a week ago on Obama's stimulus plan.  Re. the last line, he'll be a great president:
The Confidence Surplus
Published: January 8, 2009

Christina Romer is Barack Obama’s choice to lead his Council of Economic Advisers. In 1994, Romer and her husband, David, wrote an essay entitled “What Ends Recessions?” In the first paragraph, the Romers noted that “economists seem strangely unsure about what to tell policy makers to do to end recessions.”

The Romers surveyed the recessions of the previous 50 years to try to reach some conclusions about what works. “Our central conclusion is that monetary policy alone is a sufficiently powerful and flexible tool to end recessions,” they wrote. Automatic spending policies like unemployment insurance have sometimes helped. Discretionary policies, like tax cuts and stimulus plans, have not been of much use. As they put it: “Discretionary fiscal policy, in contrast, does not appear to have had an important role in generating recoveries.”

The Romers briefly described how different administrations responded to recessions. All the administrations, Democratic and Republican, resisted large-scale fiscal stimulus plans. They didn’t believe they could time a stimulus correctly. They didn’t trust Congress to pass the bills quickly or cleanly. They decided they shouldn’t be making policy in what Kennedy administration economists called “an atmosphere of haste and panic brought on by recession.”

The Romers’ essay exemplifies the economic doctrine that reigned up until a few months ago: fiscal stimulus plans that try to time a recession are dangerous, unproven and unnecessary.

That doctrine has suddenly vanished. But not because we suddenly know how to create effective stimulus plans. Last year, the Congress passed a $165 billion plan that seems to have done almost nothing for the economy. The doctrine has vanished because this recession is deeper than the others and we’ve run out of other stuff to do.

Today there is wide support for fiscal stimulus. It’s just that there is no historical experience to tell us how to do it, and there is no agreement on how to make it work. The economists’ prescriptions are all over the map.

Obama is compelled to jump into unchartered territory, with no compass or guide. He could have chosen to spend the big money that is apparently required in cautious ways. He could have chosen to pick out a few easily implemented policies that could be enacted in a way that is targeted, temporary and timely. He could have chosen to merely cut the payroll tax, boost aid to the states and do infrastructure projects.

But the Obama presidency is going to be defined by his audacious self-confidence. In Thursday’s speech, he vowed to do everything at once. He vowed to throw the big things into the stimulus soup — tax cuts, state aid, road and bridge repair — but also the rest of the pantry. He proposes broadband projects, special education programs, a new power grid, new scientific research, teacher training projects and new libraries.

This will be the most complex piece of legislation in American history, and as if the policy content wasn’t complicated enough, Obama also promised to pass it via Immaculate Conception — through a new legislative process that will transform politics. The process, he said, will be totally transparent. There will be no earmarks, no special-interest pleading. In a direct rebuttal to Federalist No. 10, he called on lawmakers to put aside their parochial concerns and pass the measure in weeks.

And as if that isn’t enough, he promised next month to make repairing Social Security and Medicare a “central part” of his budget. “I’m not out to increase the size of government long-term,” he told John Harwood of The Times.

This is daring and impressive stuff. Obama’s team has clearly thought through every piece of this plan. There’s no plank that’s obviously wasteful or that reeks of special-interest pleading. The tax cut is big and bipartisan. Obama is properly worried about runaway deficits, but he’s spending money on things one would want to do anyway. This is not an attempt to use the crisis to build a European-style welfare state.

The problem is overload. Four months ago, no one knew how to put together a stimulus package. Now Obama wants to use it to rush through instant special-ed programs and pre-Ks. Repairing the power grid means clearing complex regulatory hurdles. How is he going to do that in time to employ workers in May?

His staff will be searching for the White House restrooms, and they will have to make billion-dollar decisions by the hour. He is asking Congress to behave and submit in a way it never has. He has picked policies that are phenomenally hard to implement, let alone in weeks. The conventional advice for presidents is: focus your energies on a few big things. Obama just blew the doors off that one.

Maybe Obama can pull this off, but I have my worries. By this time next year, he’ll either be a great president or a broken one.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A Cook County Political Tale In Three Acts

Quite a remarkable story:
You may think today's story is about the crooked Illinois governor
selling Obama's Senate seat. What you don't know is how the Bush Justice
Dept. probably steered Obama away from disaster even before taking
office. Here's how the pieces of the puzzle fit, based on the known
facts as well as those alleged in the Criminal Complaint, my knowledge
of federal criminal case management and protocols, and some deductive
A Cook County Political Tale In Three Acts
This written by Dan Westerbeck, retired lawyer from Chicago , former
quarterback at Ohio State U, and all around good guy.

Since most of you do not understand the " Chicago way" of doing things
and come from places that are, relatively speaking, governed by
elections, you may need an interpreter for news from Chicago , especially
about Cook County politics. That's why I'm here.

Ex-Detainee of U.S. Describes a 6-Year Ordeal

Stories like this, which Dick Cheney is defending to this day, are a complete disgrace and make me ashamed for my country (watch the video at if you have any question whether Mr. Iqbal is telling the truth).  And anyone who thinks this was an unusual case, please let me know, as I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you...  Obama can't close Guantanamo fast enough...
When Muhammad Saad Iqbal arrived home here in August after more than six years in American custody, including five at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, he had difficulty walking, his left ear was severely infected, and he was dependent on a cocktail of antibiotics and antidepressants.

In November, a Pakistani surgeon operated on his ear, physical therapists were working on lower back problems and a psychiatrist was trying to wean him off the drugs he carried around in a white, plastic shopping bag.

The maladies, said Mr. Iqbal, 31, a professional reader of the Koran, are the result of a gantlet of torture, imprisonment and interrogation for which his Washington lawyer plans to sue the United States government.

The coming administration of President-elect Barack Obama is weighing whether to close the Guantánamo prison, which many critics have called an extralegal system of detention and abuse.

But the full stories of individual detainees like Mr. Iqbal are only now emerging after years in which they were shuttled around the globe under the Bush administration's system of extraordinary rendition, which used foreign countries to interrogate and detain terrorism suspects in sites beyond the reach of American courts.

Mr. Iqbal was never convicted of any crime, or even charged with one. He was quietly released from Guantánamo with a routine explanation that he was no longer considered an enemy combatant, part of an effort by the Bush administration to reduce the prison's population.

"I feel ashamed what the Americans did to me in this period," Mr. Iqbal said, speaking for the first time at length about his ordeal during several hours of interviews with The New York Times, including one from his hospital bed in Lahore.


Ex-Detainee of U.S. Describes a 6-Year Ordeal

Published: January 5, 2009

LAHORE, Pakistan — When Muhammad Saad Iqbal arrived home here in August after more than six years in American custody, including five at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, he had difficulty walking, his left ear was severely infected, and he was dependent on a cocktail of antibiotics and antidepressants.