Barbara's Blog

Tiger Woods speaks

February 19, 2010 by barbara

barbara writes

For as long as this has been playing out in public, I've resisted writing about Tiger Woods et al. So I’m not absolutely sure why I decided to watch him deliver his public statement this morning about his epic infidelity. And as I clicked CNN’s online link, I felt pretty much like a voyeur. Why the hell was I doing this? And why did it bring me to real, true, heart-tears? Rhetorical.

By the time you read here, you’ll have seen clips and transcripts of Tiger’s remarks, likely countless times. You'll read about the evident discomfort of those assembled in the room where he delivered his first public remarks. And you’ll have seen those remarks sliced, diced, dissected, inspected, corrected, critiqued and otherwise examined. I have chosen to disregard the aftermath and focus on what I saw, what I felt as I watched. I am entirely too susceptible to aftermath, I’ve learned. Read on.

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Really a Rogue?

February 03, 2010 by barbara

Alan Anderson writes:

Sarah Palin warned us she is going “rogue.” Her book describes her roadmap: In order to progress, “we must return to our founding principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and strong national defense.” To that end, SarahPAC is devoted to supporting “fresh ideas and candidates who share our vision for reform and innovation.”

This week, we learned that her PAC has raised $1.3 million dollars. According FEC filings highlighted by the National Journal’s Hotline, Palin’s PAC spent more money on her Going Rogue book than on conservative candidates. She spent almost $48,000 buying books from Harper Collins to give to donors (hoping they will give to her), and $43,000 on conservative candidates seeking federal office. So much for supporting candidates.

This certainly places her in the rogue category, but I’m not sure that’s exactly where she wants to be. I find it interesting that she insists on being rogue, since I’m not sure she really knows what that means. Suffice it to say I wouldn’t want to be labeled rogue if I wanted to be President of the United States.

The dictionary reveals several meanings for rogue. Few of them are flattering. For example: a rogue is an unprincipled person; a scoundrel. Rogue also refers to being mischievous and a rogue’s gallery is a “collection of pictures of criminals maintained in police files used for making identification.”

For a Republican, rogue is especially unbecoming, because it references a “lone, violently aggressive wild elephant, separated from the rest of the herd.” Read on.

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A first-year comparison

January 26, 2010 by barbara

Guest post by Alan Anderson

(cross-posted at the mnpACT web site.)

Obama’s first year is complete. He gives his State of the Union address tomorrow night. And so it’s time to consider how well he has done, especially given that he inherited world-wide mistrust of the United States, the worst economy since the Great Depression and two wars that are killing us in both financial and human costs.

What happened in President Bush’s first year? Not much. He lowered taxes on the rich by an astronomical amount (which has helped to increase our deficit). He failed to prevent the 9/11 attack, even though he had many warnings about Osama Bin Laden’s plans. He took a month’s vacation on the heels of warnings about potential air strikes. The stock market plummeted 3,000 points and we fell into a few years of recession. Bush’s policies set in the first two years are largely responsible for the economic crash of this nation in 2008, with much of the $5.9 trillion dollars he added to the national debt initiated in the first year of his presidency. All in all, a pretty awful first year for the American people.

For President Obama, things seem better.

Having inherited a terrible economic situation, he enacted policies that prevented the U.S. economy from collapsing. The stock market rose 3,300 points, restoring retirement money lost by millions of people. He stabilized the banking industry. He followed through on Bush’s bailout by adding more economic stimulus money to help salvage many businesses, banks, and assist most states in reducing their deficits. The stimulus helped many keep their jobs and created new opportunity for others. He signed a long awaited Credit Card Holders Bill of Rights, helping millions to avoid usurious credit card rates.

He provided a stimulus to the auto industry through the Cash for Clunkers program. Nearly a million cars were sold and the auto industry bounced back from the edge of disaster. He signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, helping to ensure that women are paid a fair wage. He also lifted President Bush’s ban on federal funding for stem cell research, providing hope for millions with diseases that potentially will benefit from the research.

President Obama has restored a balance between security and liberty in his handling of terrorists and alleged terrorists. He ended the abusive treatment of detainees by reversing the Bush/Cheney policy on torture. He sent a clear message to other nations that the United States is committed to its values and its self-defense, and he's gone a long way toward backing up both with his actions. He has helped to keep us safe with beefed-up security and acted to reduce troops in Iraq and begin the withdrawal process. Read on.

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I will not back across this line

January 25, 2010 by barbara

barbara writes

(Cranky alert: barbara is somewhat riled.)

Tomorrow (Tuesday), for the first time in a very long time, I’m heading out to do an activist gig.

MoveOn leaned on its members to show up at Al Franken’s office to underscore the fact that the time for Dems’ backpedaling needs to come to a halt. (10:00 a.m., 60 East Plato Blvd., Suite 220, St. Paul.)

Particular focus this time around is on health care reform. Signals from the White House (and what’s up with the signals thingie anyway? One if by land, two if by Drone?) and elsewhere apparently suggest they’re prepared to back off even farther from the once-lofty heights this legislation was supposed to represent.

Here's a question. Did we or did we not learn something – anything? – in Massachusetts last week? Did we not finally and for all time come face to face with the absolute futility of attempting civil discourse and collegial legislating with Republicans? I mean, really, did we? This transcends just askin’. Read on.

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W = Watchful and Wary Waiting

January 23, 2010 by barbara

barbara writes

leftymn and I were jawing as we sometimes do about the political landscape and the economic terrain. He said he wouldn’t burden me with his economic analysis. But you know what? He’s a whole lot savvier about that than I am, so I asked him to lay it out for me. Now I’m laying it out for you.

leftymn writes:

The TARP and the stimulus salvaged the base of our freely operating credit economy. Things could be much worse. In something of a rarity, world leaders actually worked together to effect stimulus in Europe, Asia and Latin America. Also Central bankers in most countries that matter most economically slashed rates to zero, basically to keep liquidity alive. This essentially restored us to status quo.

Most importantly, in 2008 after the crisis stopped its gradual exchange rate tightening, China simultaneously loosened bank lending and eased its interest rates. And they went on a public infrastructure spending program, with money flowing and public jobs still sanctified (although hundreds of thousands did lose jobs in some export industrial works). Within about six months, the Chinese were up and running and ginning their domestic economy.

As usually happens in China, speculative investment in real estate and hard assets began. Copper has escalated in world markets strictly as a result of Chinese buying. Commodities stabilized and turned around. The Chinese bought soybeans as though there were no tomorrow, soybean-wise. This in spite of the fact that they could not sell their own surplus soybeans in their domestic markets since the domestic prices were higher than imported soybeans. This all resulted in stimulating both the Chinese and the world economy. Read on.

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Gong Show, writ large

January 20, 2010 by barbara

barbara writes

Amazing. Simply amazing. In one swell foop, the Democrats and Martha Coakley yesterday ceded Teddy Kennedy’s Senate seat to the Republicans. Cosmo's Scott Brown triumphed in the special election in Massachusetts.

Now the rabble is into full frontal dithering, as one might expect.

The blame game is on, Big Time. Obama’s fault. Martha Coakley’s fault. Obama’s fault. Rahm Emanuel’s fault. DSCC’s fault. Obama’s fault. The Clintons’ fault. Obama’s fault. The liberal bloggers’ fault. The conservative Twitterers' fault. Massachusetts’ voters fault. Teddy Kennedy’s fault. Obama’s fault. Wall Street’s fault. (Its little subset, the corporatists’ fault.) Fox “News’” fault. Obama’s fault. Sarah Palin’s fault. Brangelina's fault. (Okay, I made that up.)

Full disclosure: I am not, nor have I ever pretended to be, a sagacious political analyst. I don’t have the wherewithal, including a sufficiency of smarts, to delve into the bowels of political machinations and make meaning of it. (Now there’s a thoroughly disgusting metaphor.) But like everyone else who blogs, I do have opinions. Sometimes I form opinions after the fact. Kind of retro forward motion (five yards, automatic first down). And btw (in case you haven’t noticed), I am crazy about parenthetical cross-talk. Also, it takes me a while to warm up and get to the point.

My point is this. There is a kind of systemic rot in what used to be called the political party of liberals. Of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Of Teddy Kennedy.

There’s nothing woo-woo about it. Exorcism is not called for. But it is time to take out the Sorting Hat and reassign the peeps. Read on.

UPDATE: Please catch this Robert Reich piece about the significance of the Scott "Cosmo" Brown victory. (h/t LeftyMN)

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Help Haiti Today

January 13, 2010 by barbara

UPDATE: A great place to consider for your donations:

From Micahel Kieschnick of CREDO Action via The Seminal:

Doctors Without Borders operates one of the only free trauma centers in Port-au-Prince as well as an emergency hospital in the capital for pregnant women, new mothers, and newborn children. All three of its primary medical centers have collapsed, but DWB/MSF has already set up temporary shelters and is offering emergency care on the ground. For more info on their work in Haiti click here. To make a donation click here.

prairie writes with barbara p.s.

You can help the people of Haiti. Huffington Post is building a comprehensive list. As one commenter there noted, you can make sure your money goes to a charity that will really help the people by checking charitynavigator.org..

In the early days of Prairie Sun Rising, I wrote "Let Them Eat Mud Cookies" about the dire everyday poverty of Haiti.

Now, the island has been devastated by an earthquake. For those who have so little, even a little contribution will go a long way. And it only takes a little time.

A Fargo group sponsored by Triumph Lutheran Church was already in Haiti on a service mission. They’re okay. But they’re going to be busy. I know of medical volunteer teams who have given of their own time to go over the years.

But the truth is, the need, the poverty, the circumstances of life in Haiti is so dire that these groups can’t begin to do what needs doing alone. And now, the earthquake jolts us. We get caught up in our daily lives, the issues we care passionately about. But we can all help, even in the comfort of our own homes.

For the least of our brethren….remember? The lesson we were supposed to learn from Katrina?
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crossposted at Prairie Sun Rising and The Seminal.

P.S. from barbara

I had absolutely no idea this had happened until I read Prairie’s post a few minutes ago. Obviously, I’ve given up on MSM as my main source of news.

Please, please, let us bestir ourselves into action. However critical we/I are of our nation, one of the things we do best as citizens is to reach out in a major way when there’s trouble somewhere else on this fragile planet. When push comes to shove, we set aside our fractious ways and help humans in a world of hurt and difficulty.

We know the drill. Let’s do it.

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An idea whose time has come!

January 10, 2010 by barbara

barbara writes

I have a theory about traditional terrorism (as opposed to Frank Rich’s excellent case for economic terrorism – see Prairie’s post below).

My working definition of terrorism is a situation where a small group of individuals causes a large group of individuals (say, an entire nation) to completely lose its marbles. Occasionally, there is just cause. But generally, the net result is that our over-the-top response simply provides comic relief for those living in caves. We are exceeding their expectations. We are, effectively, terrorized by them, and they needn’t do much of anything to keep us scared. Remember, they have the radical right’s support in the "oooh, oooh, oooh" bidness.

The goal of terrorists is, of course, to do something horribly destructive that will make big news. Big news, followed by massive, knee-jerk dithering and frenetic overkill. In his own way, the Christmas Day castrato succeeded in his otherwise spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to bring down Flight 253. Succeeded how? Look at us.

Once again, we are into sky-is-falling mode, this time seeking ways to ramp up underwear checks at airports and expose people’s privates to scrutiny.

Hairspray and toothpaste inspection. Shoes. Underwear. What next, I wonder.

Wait, wait! I have an idea! Read on!

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Prairie's Reading: Rich on Econ-terrorism

January 10, 2010 by barbara

Prairie writes:
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Oh, he doesn't call it that—econ-terrorism—in his column, The Other Plot to Wreck America. But in fact, Frank Rich lays out a compelling commentary on the destructive economic tactics titans of Wall Street have wreaked, unchecked, on all of the rest of us. And fully expect to keep on doing. Unless.

This could be, should be, the most important news of coming days — initial hearings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, its chairman former California treasurer Phil Angelides.

One presumes that a public official from the state arguably hardest hit by the Enron corruption would bring his own compelling case to the destructive chaos that is the current state of the economy. (and one would hope the willfully myopic, malfeasant Larry Summers Read on.

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