Archive for June, 2011

Look, I don’t care what words Mark Halperin says on TV. Whatever.

I even kind of agree with Halperin’s sentiment. President Obama, in calling out Republicans yesterday, behaved a bit like a dick — intractable, abrasive and unfriendly. But he should! Sometimes, the President has to act like a dick in order to assert his/her authority. If being a dick means accusing your opponents of insincerity and cravenness, then Presidents have a responsibility to do so when it comes to preserving the nation. Being friendly has gotten him a whole lot of nothing.

Truman was a dick to the steel industry, Joe Stalin, and Southern Democrats. Johnson was a dick to just about everybody, from hippies to Yankee Republicans to Southern Democrats to big city bosses. Being President sometimes means being a dick and getting what you want.

An appropriate (and thoroughly NSFW) video below:

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Iron Chef America is clearly inferior to its Japanese predecessor. But there’s something I love about the American chairman yelling out “ARCTIC CHAR!”

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Brian Beutler at TPM says that Senate Democrats will be in a tight spot if they can’t get a bipartisan debt ceiling increase:

Translation: give us what we want, or we’ll leave it to you to avoid default, then spend the next year and a half running against you on the grounds that you voted to give President Obama a blank check for massive government spending.

As the title alludes, there is an easy way out actually. Vote for the debt ceiling increase. Just… vote for it. Whether a Senator wins their seat in 2012 will have almost nothing to do with one vote to raise the debt ceiling and everything to do with whether or not the global economy has imploded. If the GOP filibusters the debt ceiling increase, well, let’em. I mean, really, let them filibuster.

The point is that this would never ever happen, because of the need for the bipartisanship fairy to anoint the legislation and keep the debt ceiling increase around Republicans’ necks as well. Yet, at this point, who cares? The Republicans have no problem playing chicken with the U.S. economy to extort various demands. In order to get a compromise, Senate Democrats have to be willing to go it alone. (The House is another story.)

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Bending towards justice

Obviously I was quite glad to see the news out of New York this past weekend. Yesterday, I went to the Pride parade in SF for the first time. As you might expect, it was pretty fabulous, with its fair share of naked men, costumes, music, and glitter. But overall it was a much more stately affair than I expected.

I liked seeing many members of the SFPD walking down Market Street, hand-in-hand with their same sex partners. I liked the message that the very people who enforce our laws – laws that historically have been vehemently anti-gay – are themselves populated with gay people. They always have been, and so they will continue to be. I liked seeing a group of veterans marching. Gays have fought and died to protect their country, a country that has not always lived up to its ideals in protecting its citizens as equal under the law. I liked seeing almost every religious group you can imagine – from orthodox Jews to Lutherans and many more – marching in support of LGBT people. There are plenty of deeply religious people who still live up to central teachings of virtually every world religion to love one another.

When gays achieve political victories it makes me happy, and when they suffer defeats – as with California’s Prop 8 – it disappoints me. But neither event makes me that excessively happy or disappointed. Because I’ve seen this story before, and I know how it ends. From wealthy men to those who didn’t own land, from men to women, from whites to blacks, and now from straights to gays; the march towards the expansion of rights in the U.S. is unidirectional. Each day old people – who massively oppose gay marriage – are dying. And each day younger people, who overwhelmingly support gay marriage, are turning 18 and will vote in the next election for the very first time. And in the meantime, more and more people in between are changing their minds. As of April 2011, self-identified Democrats support gay marriage 64-35. Obama’s cynical and pandering opposition to gay marriage is a disappointing failure of leadership, but by 2016 the Democratic nominee for President will probably not be able to win the nomination without publicly supporting gay marriage any more than s/he would without supporting other key Democratic platforms like a woman’s ability to get an abortion. Or, as the Onion puts it:

DECATUR, IL, THE YEAR 2083—According to students in Mr. Bernard’s fourth-period U.S. history class, it’s “really pathetic” how long it took for early-21st-century Americans to finally legalize gay marriage. The classroom of 15-year-olds at MacArthur High School—all of whom were born in the late 2060s and grew up never questioning the obvious fact that homosexual couples deserve the right to get married—were reportedly “amazed” to learn in their Modern U.S. History: 2081 Edition textbooks that as late as the 2020s, gays and lesbians actually had to fight for the constitutional right to wed.


Here is a nice graphic of progress I was looking for. The elimination of the red corresponds to the Lawrence v. Texas decision. The spike and then dropoff of green is due to California’s legalization and subsequent removal of rights.

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As hopes for immigration reform dim, an article like this one is a reminder that behind the rhetoric, this is what life is like for undocumented Americans.

Jose Antonio Vargas, the author and subject of the New York Times piece, steps into the open as an undocumented worker, ready to accept the consequences. (As a side note, he is a great writer, and wrote the New Yorker profile on Mark Zuckerberg.)

It’s reminiscent of the sit-ins by high school graduates in Congressional offices to try to force the issue of immigration into the open.

What struck me about the article is how indelibly American its story is. As much as xenophobia taints any American discussion of immigration (as it always has), Vargas’s story is fully American in nature — not just his actions but also those of the people around him who supported him.

In any case, take some time this weekend to read the whole thing. It’s well worth your while.

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Yeah, I don’t have much to add. But Lin-Manuel Miranda is fantastic.

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…but honestly, Obama’s big announcement isn’t news at all. For all the hand-wringing that this constitutes a huge troop withdrawal that could destabilize Afghanistan, all it does is bring home the troops from the 2010 surge. This was all planned from the beginning of the surge itself, and Obama set the timetable in advance for a July 2011 withdrawal. If anything, this constitutes an even more extended timetable than originally intended.

I mentioned a variation of this thought to Linus the other day — if we are giving Afghanistan giant piles of money and tons of military assistance to fight the Taliban, isn’t it in the Afghan government’s best interests to keep the Taliban alive? If there’s no incentive to become self-sufficient, why would Afghanistan — or specifically members of the Afghan government who benefit from our largesse — ever want us to leave?

UPDATE: This helpful graph from ThinkProgress illustrates that Obama’s “withdrawal” plan isn’t much of a reduction in troop numbers, relative to troop numbers for the war as a whole.

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