Tag archive for Barack Obama

Blame the media: the national political sport

Sarah does it — blame the media — although her attacks have become so reflexive and removed from reality  that the insults have lost their sting, methinks:

Hey Gobsmacked Lamestream Media

Bernie does it:

And I think if we had a media in this country that was really prepared to look at what the Republicans actually stood for rather than quoting every absurd remark of Donald Trump, talking about Republican Party, talking about hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks for the top two tenths of 1 percent, cuts to Social Security and Medicare, Medicaid, a party which with few exceptions, doesn’t even acknowledge the reality of climate change, let alone do anything about it, a party which is not prepared to stand with women in the fight for pay equity, a party that is not prepared to do anything about a broken criminal justice system or a corrupt campaign finance system, I think, to be honest with you — and I just don’t, you know, say this rhetorically, this is a fringe party.  It is a fringe party.  Maybe they get 5, 10 percent of the vote.

Barack does it:

A job well done is about more than just handing someone a microphone.  It is to probe and to question, and to dig deeper, and to demand more.  The electorate would be better served if that happened.  It would be better served if billions of dollars in free media came with serious accountability, especially when politicians issue unworkable plans or make promises they can’t keep.  (Applause.)  And there are reporters here who know they can’t keep them.  I know that’s a shocking concept that politicians would do that.  But without a press that asks tough questions, voters take them at their word.  When people put their faith in someone who can’t possibly deliver on his or her promises, that only breeds more cynicism.

And the afore-unmentioned candidate unmentioned by the Prez, Trump of course, has turned blaming the media into a post-modern form of national bullying. The Donadld’s attacks have become extraordinarily personal and vicious, and the candidate for the most powerful position on earth leads a frightening virtual mob of supporters against members of the press, as shown in this Vocativ graphic.

Megyn Kelly’s crime? She was to be a question of The Donald and other GOP candidagtes in a debate. For doing her job his followers used these words in tweets and messages to her accounts, Fox News said:




















Interestingly Hillary has not attacked the press, to my knowledge, perhaps because she’s more aware than male candidates of how unfair these attacks can be.

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What Obama has in common w/JFK…and Kurt Cobain

In a recent interview with Franklin Foer of The New Republic, Barack Obama said he liked to shoot:

FF: Have you ever fired a gun? 

BO: Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time.

FF: The whole family?

BO: Not the girls, but oftentimes guests of mine go up there.

In this Obama is much like past presidents, including John F. Kennedy Jr., who in this picture, taken at Camp David before his inauguration, went skeet shooting with Gore Vidal and Tennessee Williams. JFK, Gore Vidal, and Tenn Williams

Or, in the words of Kurt CobainLoad up on guns and bring your friends

[pic via BeschlossDC

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Dylan and Barack: The Times They Have a-Changed

Not because Dylan performed "The Times They Are a-Changing" at the White House. Because the White House now has a Flickr feed


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Translating the G20 “Triumph”

The G-20 meeting in London was widely considered a triumph for Barack Obama and the West. (Even Paul Krugman said so.) The Guardian's George Monbiot sees it differently, He writes:

Here is the text of the G20 communique, in compressed form.

the Leaders of the Group of Twenty, will use every cent we don't
possess to rescue corporate capitalism from its contradictions and set
the world economy back onto the path of unsustainable growth. We have
already spent trillions of dollars of your money on bailing out the
banks, so that they can be returned to their proper functions of
fleecing the poor and wrecking the Earth's living systems. Now we're
going to spend another $1.1 trillion. As an exemplary punishment for
their long record of promoting crises, we will give the IMF and the
World Bank even more of your money. These actions constitute the
greatest mobilisation of resources to support global financial flows in
modern times.

Oh – and we nearly forgot. We must do something
about the environment. We don't have any definite plans as yet, but
we'll think of something in due course."

Perhaps the collapse of the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antartica will remind the world of what is at stake — nothing less than the planet we know (and presumably love) today.

Oh, right. I'm dreaming. Never mind.


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Weirdest Right-Wing Obama Taunt

Lately I've heard a new insult directed at Barack Obama by right-wing outlets…claiming that without his teleprompter, he's lost. Unable to pronounce words. Hopeless in front of a crowd with a mic.

No, I'm not kidding. The allegation is that Barack Obama is stupid. Take a look at this genius post from the super-popular right-wing site Powerline, which begins:

Everyone knows that Barack Obama is lost without his teleprompter…

…and goes on to mock him for mispronouncing a word. The post then puts up a YouTube rant, supposedly from the teleprompter to the Prez, in which "the one who bails your ass out night in and night out"  demands better treatment, a private heated compartment, top billing, etc.

Right. The President, who was mocked repeatedly by his Republican opponent during the fall debates for his "campaign of eloquence," now has been struck dumb, and cannot articulate his own thoughts.

This despite the fact that, for instance, a couple of weeks after taking office he took questions from the national press live for forty-five minutes, without a single misstep of the slightest consequence. 

To such a criticism this Democrat can only say: Wow.

With enemies like that, who needs friends?

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Barack, Your Climate Rhetoric Needs Work

I can't claim to be fully objective when it comes to Barack Obama, who is one of the best speakers I've ever heard, perhaps the best. But perhaps my fandom will make the following point a little sharper.

Mr. President, when you speak about the climate, you really haven't found your way. When you speak of terrorism, and the "false choice" between security and civil liberties, we thrill to your idealism. When you speak of the hard times we face, and challenges we must meet, we admire your sobriety, and your insistence that we are all in this together; red states, blue states, rich, poor, white, black, native and immigrant. When you allude to the criticism you often hear from your beautiful and accomplished wife, we understand your humility.

But when you speak of the climate, you haven't found an effective voice.

On June 3rd, in a speech marking your victory in the Democratic primaries, you said that "this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." 

The phrasing was widely mocked on the Right, and with justification. It over-reached and over-promised. We can hope that an Obama administration will slow the inexorable rise of greenhouse gas emissions, and that such will mark the high-water mark for sea level rise, but the numbers say no.

In your Inaugural address, you declared that "With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the
nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet."

This somewhat less grandiose statement seemed to go over a little better, but it's a poorly mixed metaphor — how does one roll back a ghost? And if climate change is a ghost, is it really necessary? 

Mr. President, this is not to imply that you don't know the subject. Your answers to questions on the campaign trail show that indeed you understand.

"There's no reason we can't do the same thing on climate change that we did on acid rain," you said in New Hampshire. "You remember everybody said it couldn't be done, it's too expensive, it's going to cost too much? But year after year we reduced those pollutants, and you don't hear much about acid rain any more. Because when we decide to tackle a problem, it gets solved. But we've got to make a decision collectively. As a people." 

This is the crux of the matter: our willingness to act, or, in Al Gore's phrase, our ability to find the political will. And, to be fair, some climate advocates admired the boldness of the inaugural address.

I disagree. As long as the climate issue is made part of the energy issue, it will be enslaved to the rise and fall in energy prices. Nothing will be done when gas prices are perceived to be too high, as we saw last summer, and the issue will be ignored when prices are low, as we see now. Given the division on the issue among the public, may I suggest, Mr. President, that you will need to find a better metaphor with which to inspire that political will on climate, because what you have said so far just isn't working.

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Barack Obama is Not a Hippie

Which is probably why he won't go for this "White House organic farm" idea.

Barack Obama is a liberal Democrat but not a hippie. He prefers jet planes to busses, cuts his hair about as short as a politician can, dresses immaculately but simply, and speaks admiringly of traditions such as faith, hard work, and scholarship. Although some of his ideas appeal to the left, part of the secret of his success, sez me, is his willingness to be neat, sleek, and respectful to old-fashioned America. That's why a lot of Republicans like him, I think, because he's actually a square.

So two idealists who went into debt to buy a "symbolic" bus called Topsy-Turvy from ice-cream millionaire hippie Ben Cohen and set out across the country in an effort to convince Obama to replace the White House lawn with a garden will not succeed. It's a shame. It's an excellent idea, even if an upside-down bus is a strange vehicle with which to carry the message. But perhaps that's what a person needs to do to attract attention in our busy world.

As this story in the food section of the Washington Post explains, the idea has been floated before, by California food mavens Michael Pollan and Alice Waters. Two veterans of the Peace Corps, Dan Simon and Casey Gustorarow, decided to make a crusade of it, and have been gardening on top of the bus, blogging, and solicting signatures for a petition for a White House farm as they drive across the country to D.C. You have to admire their idealism. And, as the story points out, Eleanor Roosevelt did plant a victory garden at the White House, so the "WHOfarm" is not beyond the bounds of possibility.

But Barack is not a hippie…and, methinks, is not going to associate himself with anything like this bus.


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Hansen predicts temps to set record in Obama’s first term

At his presentation after his lecture to the scientific masses at the American Geophysical Union, Jim Hansen was asked this week if, given that 2008 was cooler than a couple of recent years, if he would hazard a prediction for the near future of global temps. He jumped at the opportunity to go on the  record. He said:

During Barack Obama's first term, global temperatures will exceed prior records, and that will help get people to pay attention to the issue, but I hope we don't have to wait for significantly higher temperatures before we act to reduce the risk.

Here's the slide Hansen likes to show of the global temperature average….showing peaks in l998 and 2005, and a slight downturn since…but a clearly upward trend. 

Global Temps since 1880

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Mr. October

Many have noted Barack Obama's cool, no-drama campaign style, but few have noticed how he resembles a professional athlete in his demeanor.

"I can get to the rim on anyone," he has reportedly said, a basketball phrase with a precise meaning. He doesn't claim to be the best; simply that he can score on anyone — repeatedly.

He doesn't get too "up" when his stats look good; he doesn't get too "down" on himself or his people and and panic when things aren't going well. He's level-headed, cool under pressure, like a great slugger.

Mr. October, courtesy of Steve Brodner and The New Yorker (here).

Mr. October Fin

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Why the GOP has Lost the Elites: Michael Barone

Well-known political analyst Michael Barone looks closely at Pennsylvania, concludes Obama will win, and explains why McCain thinks he has a chance.

More importantly, he explains (here) why centrist voters  around the country have turned against the Republicans.

McCain is running even with or better than Bush in most of
Pennsylvania but is running far behind in metro Philly. My sense is
that the McCain campaign just can't believe this is true. Metro Philly,
after all, in 1988 split evenly between George H. W. Bush and Michael
Dukakis; the four suburban counties' Republican margins matched the
Democratic margins in the city of Philadelphia (conveniently
coterminous with Philadelphia County). As I've noted over the years,
affluent suburban territory like the Philly suburbs trended Democratic
in the 1990s on cultural issues and stayed there up through 2004.
(Ethnic change played a minor role. There are more blacks in the
suburban counties than in 1988, but metro Philadelphia has not had huge
population change in the last 20 years.) Now, if SurveyUSA is to be
trusted, the Philly suburbs are about to give Obama a significantly
larger percentage than the 53 percent John Kerry won there in 2004.

Why? My hypothesis is that that is because places like the Philly
suburbs are places where the recent decline in household wealth has
been most conspicuous. Housing prices mean a lot more to you when your
house started off at $400,000 and declined to $290,000 than they did
when you started off (as may be typical of Scranton or a blue-collar
town in metro Pittsburgh) at $140,000 and declined to $110,000.
Newspaper coverage of our current economic distress focuses on the very
poor (like a recent Washington Post story on North Carolina,
which focused on an ex-convict in a cheap motel in Charlotte), but the
people who are getting hurt most visibly in their lifelong project of
accumulating wealth are the more affluent. They're the ones whose house
values have most visibly and spectacularly declined, and whose 401(k)
accounts and stock portfolios have tanked in the last few months as
well. Folks in Scranton or in the cheap motel in Charlotte didn't
expect to live comfortably ever after off their increased house values,
401(k)'s, and Merrill Lynch accounts; a $700 monthly check from Social
Security is about what they have long expected and that's not in danger
(yet). Folks in the Philly suburbs did expect to live comfortably off
such assets.

I noted long ago in the introduction to my 1994 Almanac of American Politics that
George H. W. Bush's percentages declined between 1988 and 1992 by the
greatest amount in southern California and New Hampshire—places that
had "a spectacular collapse of residential real estate values" between
those two years.
You couldn't go to New Hampshire in the run-up to the
1992 presidential primary without hearing people tell you how the house
that used to be worth $350,000 was worth only $210,000 now. I concluded
that the economic factor most important in voting behavior was
switching from short-term income to long-term wealth. These
Pennsylvania numbers tell me that I was on the right track but that the
explanation is a little more complex. High-income, high-education
voters in the suburbs of big metro areas, my hypothesis goes, are
preoccupied with long-term wealth accumulation—and react sharply
against the Republican Party when their wealth is suddenly sharply
diminished when there is a Republican president. Modest-income,
modest-education voters in less affluent surroundings, it seems judging
from McCain's relatively good showing in Pennsylvania outside the
heavily populated southeast, react much less sharply, because they have
never expected to accumulate all that much in the way of wealth anyhow
consider themselves reasonably well protected by the existing safety
net and feel free to vote (as more affluent Philly suburbanites have
done in better times) on the basis of their opinions (conservative in
their case) on cultural issues. The affluent are less afraid of the tax
increases that Obama promises them than they are shocked by the
negative effect on their wealth from the collapse of the housing bubble
and the sharp decline in stock prices.

This argument makes a lot of sense. Barone goes on to argue that Obama will, like John Lindsay in New York, fail as a politician because he won't recreate the wealth under his administration that these voters lost under Bush.

This isn't convincing. Voters today I'm sure just want to see things getting better; they're not expecting miracles, like an overnight recovery. Obama warned Ohio today that it wouldn't be quick and it wouldn't be easy and the irony is, probably that's exactly what they wanted to hear. 

[photo by David Planchet]


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