Obama Versus Art

McLinlock Court - Art Institute of Chicago
McLinlock Court – Art Institute of Chicago

What an asinine criticism of the President. There are plenty of valid criticisms of Obama, from both right and left wing perspective, such as drone strike killings without due process, the fact of marijuana still being a Schedule 1 Narcotic, etc., but not doing “more for the arts”? What is he, a Medici?

The Obama image turned out to be misleading. All evidence points to the president being indeed thoughtful, even perhaps too thoughtful, if one believes critics who say he intellectualizes problems that demand more visceral responses. But there is little indication that Obama regularly indulges the particular relationship to art that this photograph implied: solitary contemplation of the inherited canon of paintings, sculpture, music, dance or theater. He is interested in culture, to be sure, but it is the living culture of our time, often the celebrity culture of popular music and commercial theater, but rarely the stuff people used to call “high” culture. Or that, at least, is the image his handlers have crafted.

So Obama didn’t visit the National Gallery of Art during his presidency (at least so far), and first lady Michelle Obama has been only once, and that late in the last term. The Kennedy Center reports that the first family hasn’t taken much advantage of the presidential box, and the president’s visits have been mostly limited to the annual Kennedy Center Honors. The president has also begged off attending an annual gala at Ford’s Theatre that has been a standard for his predecessors. If one adds to this the long periods that he left the chairmanships of both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities empty, his desultory picks for other important cultural positions, his choice of a librarian of Congress who doesn’t come from the tradition of the belles-lettres or serious scholarship, his record on culture is dispiriting at best.

That has caused some significant cognitive dissonance among people in the arts world who are otherwise full-throated champions of the president. Indeed, the arts offer some of the friendliest territory for the current administration, full of mainly left-wing coastal types who cherish values they believe the president embodies: intelligence, education, tolerance, cosmopolitanism, and a welcome embrace of ambiguity and complexity when parsing political and social problems. The dinner party consensus is thus: He is one of us, so why hasn’t he done more for the arts?

(click here to continue reading The arts community embraced Obama — but he never truly embraced the arts – The Washington Post.)

The dinner party consensus? Really, I guess the dinner parties I’ve gone to in the last eight years must have been filled with rubes and philistines, as I’ve never once heard anyone sob tearfully in their hors d’oeuvres that “Obama needs to do more for the Arts”. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, remember him? Big arts guy, right? Bush always listened to Stravinsky and John Cage at high volume while watching football games with the commentary turned off, went to the opera every Wednesday with his daughters, even dabbles in painting himself. And if the universe hates us and Donald Trump becomes the 45th president, the arts will flourish like never before.  

Caravaggio Medusa
Caravaggio Medusa

The Election 2012 is Over

Finally, the never ending 2012 election is over, and the anti-American GOP lost. Whew. Take a deep breath, and let’s start speculating who will run in 2016! Kidding, sorta…

Thank You For Voting
Thank You For Voting

Electoral College prediction

Electoral College prediction

(double click to embiggen)

I did pretty good guessing which state’s electoral votes would go to President Obama – the only state I guessed incorrectly was North Carolina, and that was an optimistic guess that I didn’t really expect to happen. In the official count, as of this exact moment, Florida is not declared, so either there is going to be a recount, or they are just taking their sweet time. From the reported votes, Romney lost Florida too.

Actual Electoral College Results 2012

Actual Electoral College Results 2012

(double click to embiggen)

The New York Times reports that with 100% of Florida counted, the totals are:

  • Barack Obama Dem. 4,129,502 49.8%
  • Mitt Romney Rep. 4,083,441 49.3%

No matter, President Obama won…

Truth and Mister Rogers

Election 2012

Barack Obama is way too far to the right to be my ideal candidate, yet in America’s binary system, there is no way I’d vote for anyone else. Mitt Romney is a travesty, and his sort of politician is anathema to me. When I was 22, I might have voted for the Green Party’s Jill Stein, but since the Electoral College matters in a way it shouldn’t – in an ideal world – I’ll cast my vote tomorrow for Barack Obama. 

Please  Vote
Please Vote


Congratulations to Barack Obama
Congratulations to Barack Obama

No electioneering beyond this point
No electioneering beyond this point

Talk About Wasting Money
Talk About Wasting Money

Thank you for voting
Thank you for voting

Thank You For Voting 2011 HipstaPrint
Thank You For Voting 2011 HipstaPrint

Obama palooza
Obama palooza

Dewey Defeats Truman
Dewey Defeats Truman

We Will Vote
We Will Vote

Let Amercia go in the crapper - Vote Mitt
Let Amercia go in the crapper – Vote Mitt

Early voting ballot receipt
Early voting ballot receipt

IBEW Local 134 - polling location
IBEW Local 134 – polling location

Tomorrow We Vote
Tomorrow We Vote

Rolls Royce dealer, Chicago
Rolls Royce dealer, Chicago

Bedtime Story - drawing by Barry Blitt
Bedtime Story – drawing by Barry Blitt

I Think I'll Wait For The Movies
I Think I’ll Wait For The Movies

Old White Men For Obama
Old White Men For Obama

No Corporate Welfare for The Ricketts
No Corporate Welfare for The Ricketts

Fist Bumps
Fist Bumps

Obama 2008 - Pilsen Paletero
Obama 2008 – Pilsen Paletero

Obama for America Illinois Headquarters
Obama for America Illinois Headquarters

Ricketts family Screws Up

 Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs

Talk about stupid moves: the New York Times reported today that Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade, and patriarch of the family that owns Wrigley Field, is planning to spend at least $10,000,000 on attack ads targeting President Obama, bringing up old smears, and doing whatever nasty tricks the PAC can come up with to defeat Obama.

 Except that the Chicago Cubs are trying to get money from former Obama Chief of Staff, and current Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, to pay for renovations on Wrigley Field. Ooops.

The Cubs are trying to work out a deal with the city that would involve using $150 million in city amusement taxes for a $300 million renovation of Wrigley Field.

The presidential campaign issue was widely viewed as threatening to upend the delicate talks between the family and city and state government. A mayoral aide said Emanuel was furious when he read about the anti-Obama ad proposal.

At City Hall, it did not go unnoticed that part of the Ricketts family is asking for taxpayer support while gearing up to spend millions on a presidential campaign. The mayoral aide described that as hypocritical.

The Emanuel aide said the Ricketts family has tried to contact Emanuel to discuss the situation, but the mayor declined the overture. Publicly, Emanuel did not have an immediate comment on how the effort by Joe Ricketts might affect those talks. “I’ll have some conversations on that later — comments rather,” Emanuel said.

(click here to continue reading Ricketts family moves to control fallout on Obama attack ad – chicagotribune.com.)

Assholes. I hope they don’t get a single dime of taxpayer money. In fact, the city ought to use the power of eminent domain, and seize control of the stadium until the Ricketts divest from it. Sell the Cubs to Mark Cuban, he’s much smarter than these tone-deaf idiots. 

Las Vegas Showgirls
Las Vegas Showgirls

The media buy for the proposal (source document here – PDF) includes advertising on Meet the Press, Face the Nation, the History Channel, the Weather Channel, TNT, Anderson Cooper’s show on CNN, Fox and Friends, of course, aerial banners to fly over the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, blanketing the Charlotte airport with 15 screens running this clap-trap four times an hour, full page 4-Color newspapers ads, and more. 

No Corporate Welfare for The Ricketts

more from the NYT on the Rickett plan:

Timed to upend the Democratic National Convention in September, the plan would “do exactly what John McCain would not let us do,” the strategists wrote.

The plan, which is awaiting approval, calls for running commercials linking Mr. Obama to incendiary comments by his former spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose race-related sermons made him a highly charged figure in the 2008 campaign.

“The world is about to see Jeremiah Wright and understand his influence on Barack Obama for the first time in a big, attention-arresting way,” says the proposal, which was overseen by Fred Davis and commissioned by Joe Ricketts, the founder of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade. Mr. Ricketts is increasingly putting his fortune to work in conservative politics.

The $10 million plan, one of several being studied by Mr. Ricketts, includes preparations for how to respond to the charges of race-baiting it envisions if it highlights Mr. Obama’s former ties to Mr. Wright, who espouses what is known as “black liberation theology.”

The group suggested hiring as a spokesman an “extremely literate conservative African-American” who can argue that Mr. Obama misled the nation by presenting himself as what the proposal calls a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.”

A copy of a detailed advertising plan was obtained by The New York Times through a person not connected to the proposal who was alarmed by its tone. It is titled “The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama: The Ricketts Plan to End His Spending for Good.”

The document, which was written by former advisers to Mr. McCain, is critical of his decision in 2008 not to aggressively pursue Mr. Obama’s relationship with Mr. Wright. In the opening paragraphs of the proposal, the Republican strategists refer to Mr. McCain as “a crusty old politician who often seemed confused, burdened with a campaign just as confused.”

“Our plan is to do exactly what John McCain would not let us do: Show the world how Barack Obama’s opinions of America and the world were formed,” the proposal says. “And why the influence of that misguided mentor and our president’s formative years among left-wing intellectuals has brought our country to its knees.”

The plan is designed for maximum impact, far beyond a typical $10 million television advertising campaign. It calls for full-page newspaper advertisements featuring a comment Mr. Wright made the Sunday after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “America’s chickens are coming home to roost,” he said.

The plan is for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., to be “jolted.” The advertising campaign would include television ads, outdoor advertisements and huge aerial banners flying over the convention site for four hours one afternoon.

The strategists grappled with the quandary of running against Mr. Obama that other Republicans have cited this year: “How to inflame their questions on his character and competency, while allowing themselves to still somewhat ‘like’ the man becomes the challenge.”

Lamenting that voters “still aren’t ready to hate this president,” the document concludes that the campaign should “explain how forces out of Obama’s control, that shaped the man, have made him completely the wrong choice as president in these days and times.”

(click here to continue reading G.O.P. ‘Super PAC’ Weighs Hard-Line Attack on Obama – NYTimes.com.)

Look, if Papa Ricketts wants to attack the president with his own TD Ameritrade money, well, I don’t like it, nor their moronic intentions, but I don’t object. However, the Ricketts simultaneously having their hands out to take my tax money is just wrong, and I hope Mayor Emanuel tells them to fuck off, in those words.  If I had a TD Ameritrade account, I’d close it right away. You should close yours right away.

The Buffett Rule (fka The Reagan Rule)


Shouldn't That Be a Right Turn?
Shouldn’t That Be a Right Turn?

Obama calls for some fairness in our tax policy, meaning those most able to pay more taxes, should pay more taxes.

I’m not the first President to call for this idea that everybody has got to do their fair share.  Some years ago, one of my predecessors traveled across the country pushing for the same concept.  He gave a speech where he talked about a letter he had received from a wealthy executive who paid lower tax rates than his secretary, and wanted to come to Washington and tell Congress why that was wrong.  So this President gave another speech where he said it was “crazy” — that’s a quote — that certain tax loopholes make it possible for multimillionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary.  That wild-eyed, socialist, tax-hiking class warrior was Ronald Reagan.

He thought that, in America, the wealthiest should pay their fair share, and he said so.  I know that position might disqualify him from the Republican primaries these days, but what Ronald Reagan was calling for then is the same thing that we’re calling for now:  a return to basic fairness and responsibility; everybody doing their part.  And if it will help convince folks in Congress to make the right choice, we could call it the Reagan Rule instead of the Buffett Rule.

(click here to continue reading The Buffett Rule (aka The Reagan Rule) | The White House.)

The President believes we should build an economy where everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules. That’s why he proposed the Buffett Rule. It’s simple: if you make more than $1 million a year, you should pay at least the same percentage of your income in taxes as middle class families do. On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year – like 98 percent of American families do – your taxes shouldn’t go up.


Barack Obama, Post-Partisan

Obama and Stuart Levine
Obama at Gene & Georgetti’s

President Obama was never going to be a fire-breathing liberal, no matter what quasi-socialists like myself wish. When he was representing Illinois in the Senate, he was a moderate, why should his presidency be any different? Unfortunately, the right wing has been conducting scorched earth policies, and (nearly) everything  being accomplished in Washington that is partisan in nature.

Obama’s homily about conciliation reflected an essential component of his temperament and his view of politics. In his mid-twenties, he won the presidency of the Harvard Law Review because he was the only candidate who was trusted by both the conservative and the liberal blocs on the editorial staff. As a state senator in Springfield, when Obama represented Hyde Park-Kenwood, one of the most liberal districts in Illinois, he kept his distance from the most left-wing senators from Chicago and socialized over games of poker and golf with moderate downstate Democrats and Republicans. In 1998, after helping to pass a campaign-finance bill in the Illinois Senate, he boasted in his community paper, the Hyde Park Herald, that “the process was truly bipartisan from the start.”

A few years later, Obama ran for the U.S. Senate and criticized “the pundits and the prognosticators” who like to divide the country into red states and blue states. He made a speech against the invasion of Iraq but alarmed some in the distinctly left-wing audience by pointing out that he was not a pacifist, and that he opposed only “dumb wars.” At the 2004 Democratic Convention, in Boston, Obama delivered a retooled version of the stump speech about ideological comity—“There is not a liberal America and a conservative America; there is the United States of America!”—and became a national political star.

In 2006, Obama published a mild polemic, “The Audacity of Hope,” which became a blueprint for his 2008 Presidential campaign. He described politics as a system seized by two extremes. “Depending on your tastes, our condition is the natural result of radical conservatism or perverse liberalism,” he wrote. “Tom DeLay or Nancy Pelosi, big oil or greedy trial lawyers, religious zealots or gay activists, Fox News or the New York Times.” He repeated the theme later, while describing the fights between Bill Clinton and the Newt Gingrich-led House, in the nineteen-nineties: “In the back-and-forth between Clinton and Gingrich, and in the elections of 2000 and 2004, I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the Baby Boom generation—a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago—played out on the national stage.” Washington, as he saw it, was self-defeatingly partisan. He believed that “any attempt by Democrats to pursue a more sharply partisan and ideological strategy misapprehends the moment we’re in.”

If there was a single unifying argument that defined Obamaism from his earliest days in politics to his Presidential campaign, it was the idea of post-partisanship.

(click here to continue reading Barack Obama, Post-Partisan, Meets Washington Gridlock : The New Yorker.)

Saul Alinsky: who is he and why does Newt Gingrich keep mentioning him

Fist Bumps
Fist Bumps

Sadly, I wondered the same thing. All I knew about Saul Alinsky is that he was once a community organizer in Chicago…

Unless you’ve been paying close attention to the undercurrents of right-wing US politics over the last five years, you might have missed an obscure name from the 1960s who has been hoisted into a hate figure: Saul Alinsky.

Alinsky died nearly 30 years ago but thanks to a tenuous link to Barack Obama, his name has been raised as evidence of Obama’s radical roots. Newt Gingrich, the current front-runner for the Republican nomination, repeatedly denounces Obama as “a classic Saul Alinsky radical” on the campaign trail.

When Gingrich won the South Carolina primary on Saturday, his victory speech sought to distinguish what he called “American exceptionalism versus the radicalism of Saul Alinsky” of Obama.

Gingrich has merely tapped into a fulmination against Alinsky – who was what passes for a left-wing radical in American politics, agitating for better living conditions for the poor in the slums of Chicago and New York – that has been filtered through the likes of right-wing talkshow hosts such as Glenn Beck and Mark Levin.

The connection with Obama is that his career as a community organiser included work for an Alinsky-inspired group in Chicago, while a profile of Obama by Ryan Lizza in the New Republic in 2007 said Obama “taught Alinsky’s concepts and methods”:

(click here to continue reading Saul Alinsky: who is he and why does Newt Gingrich keep mentioning him? | World news | guardian.co.uk.)

I should read Rules For Radicals, at least once…

In Rules for Radicals, for example, he responds to the demands by youth frustrated at the continuation of the Vietnam war by the Democratic party after the political battles and riots of 1968:

It hurt me to see the American army with bayonets advancing on American boys and girls. But the answer I gave to the young radicals seemed to me the only realistic one: “Do one of three things. One, go and find a wailing wall and feel sorry for yourselves. Two, go psycho and start bombing – but this will only swing people to the right. Three, learn a lesson. Go home, organise, build power and at the next convention, you be the delegates.

Much of Alinsky’s advice about to bring about change in modern political climate is now so mainstream that it would hardly be recognised as radical.

The President on the Picket Line
The President on the Picket Line

From Nicholas von Hoffman:

Dead almost forty years, Saul Alinsky is still with us. The political genius who invented community organizing is given the credit (or the blame) for such left-leaning organizations as ACORN and the United Farm Workers. Now the election of the first African-American president is often ascribed to him.

But lately it’s the rightwardly inclined who are running around with copies of Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals in their back pockets. During the battle for healthcare reform and its bitter aftermath, the Tea Partyers used Alinsky’s Rules as a recipe for brewing the mayhem that has won them so much attention. Alinsky has even been made recommended reading by such reactionaries as Dick Armey, who says Alinsky “was very good at what he did, but what he did was not good.”

A year and a half into President Obama’s term, Alinsky’s fame on the right continues to grow while his influence on the administration has faded. Were he around today, Alinsky in his turn might look askance at the failure to create a people’s administration, an opportunity made possible by Obama’s unique campaign organization.

Alinsky believed that the beginning of everything political was to know yourself and the terrain you were operating on. So he probably would have cautioned Obama that all the power of the presidency—its prestige, that damn bully pulpit, the helicopter and those gleaming marines saluting at every doorway—would not suffice. Obama, who had promised an enormous agenda for change, would not have the power to deliver the goods his strongest supporters were hoping for. Alinsky would have predicted that Obama could not rely on a Democratic Party whose fitful loyalties are shaped by the ravenous conflicting interests members of Congress answer to.

Without a doubt Saul, a battler himself, would have admired Obama’s battle to get the healthcare bill passed. Not since Woodrow Wilson’s national tour to win US acceptance of the League of Nations has a president fought so hard for a significant measure as did Obama. The attempt broke Wilson’s health and that, Alinsky might have said, underscores the impossibility of a president, even such an eloquent and energetic one, carrying the whole load alone. What Obama needed was Organizing for America, the once dynamic, self-starting group of street-level campaign workers that got him elected president but has degenerated into an ordinary political organization taking its marching orders from Washington.

(click here to continue reading Advice From Saul Alinsky | The Nation.)

Does Obama Use the I Word More Than Other Presidents?

Fist Bumps

Of course not. But that doesn’t stop bloviators like George Will from repeating this lie, nor does it stop the Fox News Enemies-of-Rational-Thought from repeating the lie either. Facts are not important to these people. So if you hear the allegation spewed somewhere, instead of just rolling your eyes, here’s an answer from the reality-based world:

But here’s one more tedious bit of fact-checking, based on a nearly-complete sample of the texts of weekly radio addresses delivered by Barack Obama and George W. Bush, and a newly collected sample of about 10% of Ronald Reagan’s weekly radio addresses. (I didn’t have time to clean up a more complete set for Reagan, but this temporally-random sample should generalize fairly well.)

As expected, Obama’s rates of “I” and of FPSPs in general are slightly lower than the other two presidents — and in fact George W. Bush alone has almost three times more I’s in total than Obama, since his higher rate was maintained for two full terms rather than for 3/4 of one term. Similarly, if we project Reagan’s rate to his full set of radio addresses (which tend to run longer in terms of word count as well), we expect his total I-word count in weekly radio addresses to be more than three and a half times greater than Obama’s:

# of addresses Total words “I” (%) Total 1st pers. sing. pro. (%)
Obama 99 77,555 704 (0.91%) 834 (1.08%)
Bush 2 230 223,305 2095 (0.94%) 2686 (1.20%)
Reagan 23 26,125 258 (0.99%) 340 (1.30%)

So the idea that Barack Obama “uses the I word more than … all presidents have used it collectively in the two hundred and some odd years of our nation” is a preposterous fabrication. But it’s only the most extreme version (so far) of a meme that has spread like pond scum through the stagnant waters of wingnut punditry since George Will popularized it in 2009.

Frankly, I’m disappointed in these people. Can’t they invent new fabrications instead of tediously repeating old ones?

(click here to continue reading Language Log » Flaming Napalmed Knickers.)


Republican Pettiness, Part the 234,364th

Natural Science
Natural Science

Paul Krugman makes a joke, and Paul Ryan is one…

The Truth Has A Well-Known, Well, You Know

Greg Sargent takes us to Paul Ryan’s latest speech, in which Ryan expresses outrage over what President Obama is saying:

Just last week, the President told a crowd in North Carolina that Republicans are in favor of, quote, “dirtier air, dirtier water, and less people with health insurance.” Can you think of a pettier way to describe sincere disagreements between the two parties on regulation and health care?

Just for the record: why is this petty? Why is it anything but a literal description of GOP proposals to weaken environmental regulation and repeal the Affordable Care Act?

I mean, to the extent that the GOP has a coherent case on environmental regulation, it is that the economic payoff from weaker regulation would more than compensate for the dirtier air and water. Is anyone really claiming that less regulation won’t mean more pollution?

So Ryan is outraged, outraged, that Obama is offering a wholly accurate description of his party’s platform.

Let me add that this illustrates a point that many commenters here don’t seem to get: criticism of policy proposals is not the same thing as ad hominem attacks. If I say that Paul Ryan’s mother was a hamster and his father smelt of elderberries, that’s ad hominem. If I say that his plan would hurt millions of people and that he’s not being honest about the numbers, that’s harsh, but not ad hominem.

(click here to continue reading The Truth Has A Well-Known, Well, You Know – NYTimes.com.)


Fed Setting Their Hair on Fire

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

Surprisingly, Paul Krugman liked President Obama’s speech:

First things first: I was favorably surprised by the new Obama jobs plan, which is significantly bolder and better than I expected. It’s not nearly as bold as the plan I’d want in an ideal world. But if it actually became law, it would probably make a significant dent in unemployment.

Of course, it isn’t likely to become law, thanks to G.O.P. opposition. Nor is anything else likely to happen that will do much to help the 14 million Americans out of work. And that is both a tragedy and an outrage.

Before I get to the Obama plan, let me talk about the other important economic speech of the week, which was given by Charles Evans, the president of the Federal Reserve of Chicago. Mr. Evans said, forthrightly, what some of us have been hoping to hear from Fed officials for years now.

As Mr. Evans pointed out, the Fed, both as a matter of law and as a matter of social responsibility, should try to keep both inflation and unemployment low — and while inflation seems likely to stay near or below the Fed’s target of around 2 percent, unemployment remains extremely high.

So how should the Fed be reacting? Mr. Evans: “Imagine that inflation was running at 5 percent against our inflation objective of 2 percent. Is there a doubt that any central banker worth their salt would be reacting strongly to fight this high inflation rate? No, there isn’t any doubt. They would be acting as if their hair was on fire. We should be similarly energized about improving conditions in the labor market.”

(click here to continue reading Setting Their Hair on Fire – NYTimes.com.)

And if you had the intestinal fortitude to watch the latest GOP debate12 – you heard the GOP repeatedly criticize the Fed, without having any factual reasons to do so…

Now, however, leading Republicans are against tax cuts — at least if they benefit working Americans rather than rich people and corporations. And they’re against monetary policy, too. In Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate, Mitt Romney declared that he would seek a replacement for Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, essentially because Mr. Bernanke has tried to do something (though not enough) about unemployment. And that makes Mr. Romney a moderate by G.O.P. standards, since Rick Perry, his main rival for the presidential nomination, has suggested that Mr. Bernanke should be treated “pretty ugly.”

So, at this point, leading Republicans are basically against anything that might help the unemployed.

  1. I watched about half, and then ate a pound of laxatives []
  2. not really []

Obama Administration Abandons Plan to Change Bush Pollution Policy

Stack for Fisk Generating Station
Stack for Fisk Generating Station

Such a cynical strategy: screw the liberals, because when it gets down to two candidates, and one is a Tea Bagger Know-Nothing, who are liberals going to vote for? Of course, that was Al Gore’s strategy too, and he lost1

Obama better be careful, if all the liberal enthusiasm is drained away, voter turnout will be anemic, and he won’t be reelected.

WASHINGTON — President Obama abandoned a contentious new air pollution rule on Friday, buoying business interests that had lobbied heavily against it, angering environmentalists who called the move a betrayal and unnerving his own top environmental regulators.

The president rejected a proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency that would have significantly reduced emissions of smog-causing chemicals, saying that it would impose too severe a burden on industry and local governments at a time of economic distress.

Business groups and Republicans in Congress had complained that meeting the new standard, which governs emissions of so-called ground-level ozone, would cost billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs.


(click here to continue reading Obama Administration Abandons Plan to Tighten Air-Quality Rules – NYTimes.com.)

Satanic Gift
Satanic Gift

And I know Obama was never a very strong supporter of the environment2, but I reject this argument. Pollution controls are not going to cost jobs any more than lowering taxes on the rich is going to create jobs.

If the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute is applauding your actions, you are doing it wrong.

Reaction from environmental advocates ranged from disappointment to fury, with several noting that in just the past month the administration had tentatively approved drilling in the Arctic, given an environmental green light to the 1,700-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Texas and opened 20 million more acres of the Gulf of Mexico to drilling.
Daniel J. Weiss, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said, “Today’s announcement from the White House that they will retreat from implementing the much-needed — and long-overdue — ozone pollution standard is deeply disappointing and grants an item on Big Oil’s wish list at the expense of the health of children, seniors and the infirm.” The center is a liberal research group with close ties to the White House.

Bill McKibben, an activist leading a two-week White House protest against the pipeline project which has resulted in more than 1,000 arrests, said that the latest move was “flabbergasting.”
“Somehow we need to get back the president we thought we elected in 2008,” he said.
Cass R. Sunstein, who leads the White House office that reviews all major regulations, said he was carefully scrutinizing proposed rules across the government to ensure that they are cost efficient and based on the best current science. He said in a letter to Ms. Jackson that the studies on which the E.P.A.’s proposed rule is based were completed in 2006 and that new assessments were already under way.

The issue had become a flashpoint between the administration and Republicans in Congress, who held up the proposed ozone rule as a test of the White House’s commitment to regulatory reform and job creation. Imposing the new rule before the 2012 election would have created political problems for the administration and for Democrats nationwide seeking election in a brittle economy.

Leaders of major business groups — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute and the Business Roundtable — met with Ms. Jackson and with top White House officials this summer seeking to moderate, delay or kill the rule. They told William M. Daley, the White House chief of staff, that the rule would be very costly to industry and would hurt Mr. Obama’s chances for a second term.

Green Zone
Green Zone

Environmental activists can barely contain their fury at Obama’s craven actions:

John D. Walke, clean air director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group based in New York, likened the ozone decision to a “bomb being dropped.”
Mr. Walke and representatives of other environmental groups saw the president’s actions as brazen political sellouts to business interests and the Republican Party, which regards environmental regulations as job killers and a brick wall to economic recovery.

…the president could face political repercussions in subtler but nevertheless corrosive ways: from losing volunteer enthusiasm to tying up his allies in fights with him instead of with his enemies. “Energy from part of the base will now be directed at communicating with the White House and not with the public about the administration’s record,” said Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal research group with close ties to the White House.

Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, who does extensive work on public perception and the environment, said the real threat to the president’s reputation stemming from the ozone decision went far beyond environmentalists.

“It could play into an emerging narrative in his own party that he is caving too quickly to Republican pressure,” Dr. Leiserowitz said. “It is a dangerous narrative in your own base because it cuts down on enthusiasm and it is a narrative that his opponents will pick up on.”

In fact, it is a lesson that some environmental groups have already learned, and they are preparing to act accordingly.

“I think that two-plus years into Obama’s presidency is more than enough time for him to have established a clear weak record,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, which has been battling the president on endangered species.

“The environmental movement needs to keep piling the pressure on and realizing playing nicey-nice won’t work,” Mr. Suckling said, adding that more public actions and lawsuits are the way to get Mr. Obama’s attention.

(click here to continue reading Obama’s Retreat on Ozone Standards Angers Environmentalists – NYTimes.com.)

  1. well, Gore actually won, but not by as much as if he had campaigned as a liberal instead of a DNC acolyte, and thus Bush was able to finess a victory with the help of the Supreme Court []
  2. with the exception of maybe from spring to fall of 2008 []

Saying Goodbye to Afghanistan

Whipped Into A Frenzy
Whipped Into A Frenzy

Our never-ending war with the Muslim world doesn’t sound like it is going so well in Afghanistan. What’s our end game? Why are we pissing away lives and dollars in this forsaken backwater? Once we leave, and we will leave eventually, if only to invade some other failing country, what happens then?

Dexter Filkins reports, in part:

And then there is President Karzai himself, who appears to be increasingly estranged not only from his NATO allies but also from reality. For years, American officials put up with Karzai’s excesses and even apologized for them; in so doing, they encouraged him to become more and more delusional. In a speech earlier this month, Karzai suggested to an audience of his countrymen that NATO forces were using nuclear weapons in Afghanistan, and accused them of killing innocent civilians and damaging the environment. He said of the Americans, “They have come to our country for their own goals and interests, and they are using our country.”

It will not be difficult to say goodbye to a man like this. But what of the thirty million other Afghans? The premise that anchored counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan—and in Iraq—was never explicitly humanitarian. The idea was that America could succeed only by helping these countries find a way to stand on their own. Otherwise, the places would collapse, and we’d have to go back. In Iraq, after many years of bloodshed, the Americans seem to have found a formula for maintaining rudimentary stability. In Afghanistan, after years of mismanagement and neglect, we manifestly have not. The country remains riddled with violence, and negotiations with the Taliban—a last-resort option—have led nowhere. It is not hard to imagine a repeat of the Afghan civil war, which engulfed the country after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union, and which ultimately gave rise to the Taliban. Bloodied but unbroken, the Taliban hardly seem like an army preparing to beg for peace. Their leaders greeted Obama’s words with a swift promise: “Our armed struggle will increase.”

For the moment, the prospect of all-out civil war in Afghanistan rests safely on a distant horizon. Even after the thirty-three thousand troops have departed, by the end of 2012, the Americans and their NATO partners will have nearly a hundred thousand soldiers there. The effects of the drawdown might not be visible for years. But the moment of maximum American influence is passing without very much to show for it. “These long wars will come to a responsible end,” the President said toward the end of his speech. That’s an appropriately tortured construction for two badly managed occupations. As a prediction for Afghanistan, though, it seems more like a prayer

(click here to continue reading Saying Goodbye to Afghanistan : The New Yorker.)

Instead, we should invade urban blight in America, and rebuild there (here).


President Barack Obama hasn’t forgotten that 2003 Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parade

Mary Wife of JD Bourke

Slightly more on fellow Irishman, Barack O’Bama of Moneygall, Ireland

It was the story of the downtown parade in March 2003, a tale that staffers of the time have heard many times.

“A few volunteers and I did make it into the parade, but we were literally the last marchers,” Obama recalled. “After two hours, finally it was our turn.”

As they rode the route, smiling and waving, the city workers were right behind them, cleaning up the garbage.

“It was a little depressing,” he said. “But I’ll bet those parade organizers are watching TV today and feeling kind of bad, because this is a pretty good parade right here.”

The newly discovered family records are welcome, said Obama, even if they come a little after the fact.

“I do wish somebody had provided me all this genealogical evidence earlier because it would have come in handy back when I was first running in my hometown of Chicago,” he said, “because Chicago is the Irish capital of the Midwest.”

(click here to continue reading President Barack Obama hasn’t forgotten that 2003 Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parade – chicagotribune.com.)


I Think I’ll Wait For The Movies

Shot with my Hipstamatic for iPhone
Lens: John S
Film: Kodot Verichrome
Flash: Off


Original photo of Barack Obama in an Iowa bookstore, taken by Doug Mills, graced the front page of today’s New York Times.

Such a beaming grin; a man comfortable in his own skin, as the saying goes.

An account by the pool reporter, Carol Lee of Politico, who was traveling with Mr. Obama, offers the details. (To decode just a little bit for the average reader outside the Beltway, POTUS is the code name for the president of the United States, the Gibbs referred to is Robert Gibbs, his press secretary, and your “pooler” means Ms. Lee, the reporter assigned on this day to cover the president as part of a small contingent of print and TV journalists as well as photographers who are among the White House correspondents rotating pool duty, which requires sharing their reports.)

Here’s the pool report:

“Well, this used to be my favorite place,” Obama told the owner as she showed him around.

He remarked how as president he can’t really mosey around bookstores anymore, and said the office comes with the good and bad.

Obama walked around the store apparently in pursuit of the children’s/young adult section.

Along his way, he picked up “No Apology” by Mitt Romney and “Courage and Consequence” by Karl Rove.

“What do you think, guys?” he asked the pool, holding up a hardback copy of each in his hands before setting them back down

[Click to continue reading Obama Stops to Browse at a Bookstore – The Caucus Blog – NYTimes.com]

Health Care Vote Finally

Let the finger-pointing begin, looks as if Congress has the necessary votes to pass the long argued Health Care Reform bill, or whatever it’s called1.

¡Viva Obama! 2008

The House on Sunday took the most critical step yet toward adoption of legislation to overhaul the nation’s health care system and guarantee access to medical insurance for tens of millions of Americans, all but assuring a hard-fought but politically risky victory for President Obama and his party.

By a vote of 224-206, the House approved the key procedural measure necessary to pass the legislation, showing that Democrats and Mr. Obama had succeeded in cobbling together the votes they need to achieve a goal sought by presidents and progressives for more than a half-century.

[Click to continue reading Democrats Predict Slim Margin in Health Vote Sunday – NYTimes.com]

Don’t see how it can be halted now.

The main bill before the House was passed by the Senate on a party-line vote, and if the House approves it Sunday, it would go to Mr. Obama for his signature. Assuming the Senate passes the separate package of changes, possibly as soon as this week, that measure would then also go to Mr. Obama, whose signature would bring the process to an end.

Obama 2008 - Pilsen Paletero

What will it actually mean to you and me? Only the Noodly Appendage knows. I haven’t read the damn thing, have you?

The bill would require most Americans to have health insurance, would add 16 million people to the Medicaid rolls and would subsidize private coverage for low- and middle-income people, at a cost to the government of $938 billion over 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office says.

The bill would require many employers to offer coverage to their employees or pay a penalty. Each state would set up a marketplace, or exchange, where consumers without such coverage could shop for insurance meeting federal standards.

The budget office estimates that the bill would provide coverage to 32 million uninsured people, but still leave 23 million uninsured in 2019. One-third of those remaining uninsured would be illegal immigrants.

The new costs, according to the budget office, would be more than offset by savings in Medicare and by new taxes and fees, including a tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health plans and a tax on the investment income of the most affluent Americans.

  1. H.R.3590 – Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
    An act entitled The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act []