Friday, May 29, 2009

President Obama, the Peanut, and More than 5 Million Others

Multiracial Americans Become Fastest-Growing U.S. Group

WASHINGTON (AP)— Multiracial Americans have become the fastest growing demographic group, wielding an impact on minority growth that challenges traditional notions of race.

The number of multiracial people rose 3.4 percent last year to about 5.2 million, according to the latest census estimates. First given the option in 2000, Americans who check more than one box for race on census surveys have jumped by 33 percent and now make up 5 percent of the minority population _ with millions more believed to be uncounted.

"Multiracial unions have been happening for a very long time, but we are only now really coming to terms with saying it's OK," said Carolyn Liebler, a sociology professor at the University of Minnesota who specializes in family, race and ethnicity.

More than half of the multiracial population was younger than 20 years old, a reflection of declining social stigma as interracial marriages became less taboo.

Interracial marriages increased threefold to 4.3 million since 2000, when Alabama became the last state to lift its unenforceable ban on interracial marriages. (The Supreme Court barred race-based restrictions on marriage in 1967.) About 1 in 13 marriages are mixed race, with the most prevalent being white-Hispanic, white-American Indian and white-Asian.

A Failure to Multitask

I've decided that this blog is a metaphor for my life. With, as a conservative estimate, dozens of things I could comment on here each day (between the personal and the political) I am constantly engaged in an insufficiently-productive process of trying to figure out how to prioritize and multitask. I can't do 19 things at once, yet there are at least 19 things at once that vie for my attention. There are a multitude of talented bloggers I'd like to read, online conversations I desperately want to join, but until somebody invents a way to circumvent time and physics (Mr. Fraulein is working on it; MIT graduates enjoy this kind of challenge) many of these goals will remain unaccomplished.

Everyone who juggles a full-time job and children yet has other interests they want to pursue in life knows exactly what I'm talking about. You consider it a good day when you manage to sneak in one 10-minute conversation with your significant other, in between bites of a too-rushed dinner, over the shouts of a four-year-old who's simultaneously dropping food on the floor, jumping up and down like a pogo stick, and doing her damndest to keep you from finishing a coherent thought. And this is after you get home from what in all likelihood is a typically frustrating day at work, with, for many of us, the threat of layoffs lingering in the air like poison gas. You try to keep moving, juggling more projects than you ever thought possible, just to prove your worthiness for the job you've already got.

Related to this is my recent conclusion that our modern society's incessant demand for us to work what feels like a million hours a week and do dozens of things at once is what's robbed us of a sense of community. I am 40 years old, and the suburban, middle-class world I grew up in, where many (though by no means all) moms had the luxury of staying home part of the time to deal with the kids and the house and the doctor's appointments, etc., is gone. Literally gone.

When I was a kid--even by the time I was in high school--it was still commonplace for people to host huge gatherings of family, neighbors and other friends most weekends. Now I can't remember even a casual dinner party with a couple of friends that didn't involve weeks of e-mail discussion to coordinate. I haven't seen the members of my extended family in one place in many, many years, because they are scattered from New Jersey to California and numerous places in between. The aunts, uncles, cousins and associated other characters who gathered around my parents' dining table and whose houses we frequented when I was a kid feel scattered to the wind now. This bothers me.

Maybe it's because I'm Italian. It isn't much of a stretch to assert that my people are happiest surrounded by loved ones of all ages, gathered around the table discussing everything under the sun. Arguing vociferously over coffee and dessert. My earliest memories, and some of my most vibrant, are of such gatherings. The volume was only exceeded by the passion with which this aunt, that neighbor's brother-in-law--the one who owns the butcher shop, and dropped by unexpectedly with some outstanding sausages and a bottle of red wine--would make a point. Defend it.

Maybe it's because I'm an only child. The extended family was my family. Last week we gathered around my sister-in-law's table near Los Angeles, everyone from the 4-year-old Peanut, who was the youngest, to my father-in-law, who's 85. Actually there were two tables. One was the "kids' table," for the Peanut and several of her cousins, ranging in age from 12 to 21. They have barely ever seen her, these California cousins, since we don't make the big trip west more than once a year. But they accepted her gifts of pre-school drawings and they played hide-and-seek with her, and she loved them for it. It reminded me of my family gatherings of a long time ago.

This is a highly unfashionable sentiment, but I kind of miss those days. If you asked my mother circa, say, 1980, about "multitasking," she would have defined it as getting me to do my homework while making sure the cats were fed, the house cleaned, the laundry done, and dinner underway. Which I think is more than enough for one day for most people. She didn't have to do all that while working full-time in a stressful environment and sitting fruitlessly in the car going to and from that job. There was still time for community back then.

Wouldn't it be nice if we somehow figured out a way to do meaningful, fulfilling paid work while still having enough time to enjoy our families, friends and neighbors?

Monday, May 18, 2009

This Ain't Your Ordinary Bush Military Tribunal

by Broadway Carl

Let's not get our panties all in a bunch. There's been a lot of talk about how the Obama administration is just a continuation of the Bush years, especially this last week with the reversal on releasing more detainee abuse photos (which I addressed earlier in the week) and now with President Obama's decision to continue military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees. But let's get one thing straight: Dubya and Dick aren't running things anymore.

Robert Gibbs: "...first and foremost the President of the United States is going to do what he believes is in the best security interests of the people of the United States.

I think military commissions have a long tradition in the United States. The President spoke in 2006 in his belief that military courts and commissions had a role to play in the detainees that were at Guantanamo Bay, but also spoke forcefully about the notion that the system that had been first set up and ruled unconstitutional, and then passed legislatively and largely ruled
unconstitutional again by the Supreme Court, wasn’t working. And I think the best way to understand why it wasn’t working -- and when I say "wasn’t working," I mean, wasn’t working in seeking swift and certain justice for families of victims as well as the American people because in about eight years -- a little less than eight years’ time -- exactly three cases had gone through military commissions.

The President, as I said, during the debate said that properly structured military commissions had a role to play. The changes that he is seeking he believes will ensure the protections that are necessary for these to be conducted in order to reach that certain justice as well as live up to our values.

...statements that have been obtained from detainees using cruel, inhumane, and degrading interrogation methods will no longer be admitted as evidence at trial.

Second, the use of hearsay will be limited so that the burden will no longer be on the party who objects to hearsay to disprove its reliability.

Third, the accused will have greater latitude in selecting their counsel.

Fourth, basic protections will be provided for those who refuse to testify.

And fifth, military commission judges may establish the jurisdiction of their own courts.

Again, if you look back through the arc of this process beginning back in 2001 and 2002 through Supreme Court making decisions in 2005, moving this to the venue of Congress in 2006, and the legislation that the President supported that came out of the Senate Armed Services Committee with strong bipartisan support -- four Republican senators joining all the Democrats involved -- in passing legislation that the President believes met the goals of instituting swift and certain justice and the protections adequate enough to be reviewed by courts, and believes so."

Stating that this is simply a continuation of the Bush policies without noting the changes is being disingenuous.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Another Reason Not To Visit Texas

The Great Zombie Fire Ant Plague of 2009. I howled during this entire segment.

I ♥ Rachel.

Politics and Pragmatism

by Broadway Carl

Yesterday was a rough day for me*. My usual weekend off (Mondays and Tuesdays) was negated due to special events at the theatre and an extra maintenance call... so no days off. I was on my eighth of twelve straight days of work which can tend to leave some people tired and moody, so it was a major disappointment to me when I learned that President Obama had decided to reverse his decision and attempt to block the release of the latest detainee abuse photos in a Pentagon case, in which the Pentagon had sided with the ACLU and agreed to release the photos.

The shoot from the hip response would rightly be, "So much for transparency" and that's what I've been hearing from friends, colleagues and what little I've read on the blogosphere. But since I didn't have constant access to The Internets™ yesterday, I was able to formulate some of my own theories on why the President chose to take this action. I've read his statement but haven't heard others' speculation, so forgive me if I'm repeating what has already been said.

Here is President Obama's statement:

Now, let me also say a few words about an issue that I know you asked Robert Gibbs about quite a bit today, and that’s my decision to argue against the release of additional detainee photos.

Understand these photos are associated with closed investigations of the alleged abuse of detainees in our ongoing war effort. And I want to emphasize that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib. But they do represent conduct that did not conform with the Army Manual; that’s precisely why they were investigated and, I might add, investigated long before I took office. And, where appropriate, sanctions have been applied.

In other words, this is not a situation in which the Pentagon has concealed or sought to justify inappropriate action. Rather, it has gone through the appropriate and regular processes. And the individuals who were involved have been identified, and appropriate actions have been taken.

It’s therefore my belief that the publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals. In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.

Moreover, I fear the publication of these photos may only have a chilling effect on future investigations of detainee abuse.

And, obviously, the thing that is most important in my mind is making sure that we are abiding by the Army Manual and that we are swiftly investigating any -- any instances in which individuals have not acted appropriately and that they are appropriately sanctioned. That’s my aim, and I do not believe that the release of these photos at this time would further that goal.

Now, let me be clear: I am concerned about how the release of these photos would be -- would impact on the safety of our troops. I have made it very clear to all who are within the chain of command, however, of the United States Armed Forces that the abuse of detainees in our custody is prohibited and will not be tolerated.

I have repeated that since I’ve been in office. Secretary Gates understands that. Admiral Mullen understands that. And that has been communicated across the chain of command.

Any abuse of detainees is unacceptable. It is against our values. It endangers our security. It will not be tolerated.

All right? Thank you very much, everybody.


As much as I hate that he used the line, "the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger," because it echos what we've heard before from the previous administration, the fact remains that we cannot disprove that statement. It is his opinion, most likely an informed opinion especially after reviewing the photos, that they could be used as a further recruiting tool for extremists and cause inflammatory actions against our troops. I'm not certain about this theory and I'm not happy about it either. But it can't be ruled out. Most of us agree that our continued presence in the Middle East and our imprisonment of detainees without habeas corpus and our treatment of them under the Bush regime has been a recruitment tool for Al-Qaeda. Why not more photos of abuse?


Nothing that the President does can be looked at in a vacuum. Every word he utters, every decision he makes has repercussions. Currently, there are congressional hearings on the use of torture techniques and their effectiveness, or lack of, going on. Just yesterday, FBI interrogator Ali Soufan was before a Senate hearing on the use of "harsh interrogation" techniques and how those techniques actually hindered intelligence gathering in his opinion. I think I'd rather watch the 24/7 news cable talking heads discuss that Senate hearing than get inundated with a slide show presentation of five or six released photos in a continuous loop every 15 minutes on MSNBC. Is this part of President Obama's thinking? That the release of these photos would only serve as yet another distraction rather than trying to get at the heart of the matter in terms of torture? I don't know, and neither does anyone else outside the walls of the West Wing.


What's the first image that pops into your mind the second you hear "photos of Abu Ghraib"? I think of two particular photos. The hooded man standing on a crate with electrodes on his hands and naked pyramids. That's what it's been reduced to in my mind. So I ask myself what good would it do to release these new photos? You would think that the actions of Abu Ghraib would have been enough for anyone to protest in the streets with pitchforks and torches, but the "outrage" lasted a month, maybe two, and after Donald Rumsfeld attributed it to "a few bad apples," it has been forgotten by the general public. I have no reason to doubt the President when he says, "these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib." We know abuse happened. We know there are factions in the government trying to cover it up. Why do we need to see the photos? Not only would it serve as a distraction to "future investigations of detainee abuse" but would anyone really care?


This is the theory I'm going with. Think about the position in which President Obama finds himself. He takes office in the worst recession (bordering on depression) since the Great Depression. We are fighting a war on two fronts. Job losses mount to the tune of 500,000 to 650,000 per month. The stock market declined 6,000 points in a year before his first day in office. Record home foreclosures are creating homelessness and making tent cities commonplace. The banking industry is tanking and he must take over a $700 billion bailout by the Bush administration. The US auto industry is tanking and he must take over a $17 billion bailout by the Bush administration. 48 million Americans have no health insurance.

To stop the bleeding, President Obama begins a Recovery plan to infuse $787 billion into the country to create jobs, including the largest middle class tax cut in US history, and needs all the support he can muster to reform the health insurance industry. Is this the best time to release these photos? It's very possible that they will be released by the courts anyway, so why should we expect President Obama to rock the boat while he's standing on the bow?

More and more details are coming out daily regarding the torture memos and Dick Cheney's deeper involvement than originally thought. Congressional hearings and investigations are coming to a head. I'm just a little too young to remember Watergate first hand, but I do know that investigative reporting and the hearings during Watergate took a long time to get the truth out. My prediction is that within 18 months, the current snowball of scandal will turn into an avalanche. There will be indictments, prosecutions and jail time for some of the big wigs that were involved in Torturegate, as well as the possibility of war crimes committed for starting a war on intentionally false pretenses. That all takes time.

I'm going to expect President Obama to prioritize and try and get something done for the near future. There will be enough independent investigation without Obama looking like he's out for partisan blood. The last thing we need is self sabotage by initializing investigations that will be misconstrued as partisan witch hunts which can derail his agenda by Day 114. I have to give him that time. I voted for change, but I'm realistic enough to know that change doesn't happen overnight... or over 114 nights.
* My day concluded with the Mets losing an 8-7 game in 12 innings, the Senate voting against the Credit Card bill and my softball game being rained out this morning. *Sigh*

Cross-posted on Broadway Carl's Blog-O-Mania

Off to La-La Land

Hopefully one day soon work will take a break from kicking my ass so I can pay a bit more attention to this blog! I have a doozie of a post I need to write on kindergarten early-entry chaos in my Boston-area suburb. Suffice it to say that with the Peanut being but four weeks too young to make the cutoff, I kind of figured they'd cut us a break and admit her this year, but no dice. Exact quote from the school district wonk: "We only take the most exceptional children." The Peanut is apparently not "exceptional" enough for these people, and so now we have to jump through a million hoops to figure out where she goes for kindergarten--AND she might have to do a kindergarten year twice. I really wish with every fiber of my being that day care could just go on forever. Our experience with public school so far has been frustrating beyond belief.

But the full story of this madness will have to wait until after our trip to sunny L.A. I'm leaving things in Broadway Carl's very capable hands for the moment.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Here Comes The Fauxtrage

by Broadway Carl

It seemed pretty quiet Sunday, the day after President Obama's first White House Correspondents' Dinner. What with comedienne Wanda Sykes joking at the expense of the Almighty Rush Limbaugh, leader of the Republican Party and Hutt crime lord, I thought there would be more initial fallout on Sunday. But, it was Sunday after all and Mother's Day to boot, so the blogosphere, although making occasional mention of Sykes comparing Rush to a terrorist, calling him a traitor and hoping he'd have kidney failure, was relatively subdued regarding this matter. After all, the wingnuts rest on the seventh day.

Here's the exact quote:

"Rush Limbaugh said he hopes this administration fails," Sykes said. "So you're saying, 'I hope America fails', you're, like, 'I don't care about people losing their homes, their jobs, our soldiers in Iraq'. He just wants the country to fail. To me, that's treason. He's not saying anything differently than what Osama bin Laden is saying. You know, you might want to look into this, sir, because I think Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker. But he was just so strung out on OxyContin he missed his flight."

Sykes then said, "Rush Limbaugh, I hope the country fails, I hope his kidneys fail, how about that? He needs a good waterboarding, that's what he needs."

Well it's Monday and the the fauxtrage* is now in full swing. Here is Joe Klein calling the whole notion that this was an affront to humanity ridiculous and calling bullshit on the Washington Times' Amanda Carpenter who named certain "inappropriate" jokes.

Good for Joe Klein to point out that it wasn't like Sykes was talking about Mother Teresa. She was dishing it back to a self-centered, self-important sonofabitch who routinely goes over the line on a daily basis, whether it be making fun of Parkinson's patients or suggesting that the only reason people voted for Obama, including Colin Powell, is because of his race.

What is wrong with these people? Where was the outrage during the 2004 WHCD when George W. Bush showed a slide show of himself searching under sofa cushions in the Oval Office looking for weapons of mass destruction while US soldiers and Iraqi civilians were dying by the thousands in the Middle East? What do they expect? It's a night of poking fun and hiring a comic that will probably be offensive to someone somewhere. If they want a fucking cotillion, then do that and cancel the fucking dinner.

As far as Limbaugh is concerned, that motherfucker can't take a debate in person. When have you ever seen him go head to head with someone of a different ideology? Answer: Never. He briefly had a television show and couldn't handle his own audience. He sits behind his desk spewing shit on a daily basis and has been for the last 20 years because he knows that as long as he has the power to cut off someone's microphone, there's no need to have an actual conversation with someone with a difference of opinion, someone who'll dissect his outrageous lies and give him the bitchslap of a lifetime - one that he's deserved for so very long.

I was about to say that once Limbaugh apologizes to Michael J. Fox for the horrendous mockery of his illness, I'll consider that he get an apology. But the truth is, what Wanda Sykes dished out to Rush Limbaugh last Saturday night doesn't even begin to make up for his 20 years of disgusting behavior. He deserved that and lots more.

Luckily for the Democrats, they don't have to answer to and grovel at the feet of Rush Limbaugh and apologize for disagreeing with him, belittling his status in the Republican Party or yes, even hoping his kidneys fail.

Stay tuned for more fauxtrage.
* Thanks for Armadillo Joe for introducing me to the word "fauxtrage."

UPDATE (4:10pm): Drudge leads the way not only in fauxtrage, but in picking a photo of President Obama laughing and pointing, inferring that moment to the Limbaugh-kidney joke.

4:40pm How soon before Bill Bennett apologizes to Rush Limbaugh for calling him an "entertainer"?

5/12/09 12:20am Malkin Fauxtrage

Adam Serwer: One word. Sweet.

Wanda Sykes' comedy routine at the White House Correspondent's Dinner was really offensive. In it, Sykes suggested that conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh is supported by Hamas, and that Islamists are "constantly issuing Limbaugh talking points." She joked about terrorists supporting conservatives in general, suggesting that recent violent events in Iraq are attempts by terrorists to swing the upcoming midterm elections in favor of Republicans.

Then she got really personal. She
joked that Limbaugh was a racist who doesn't want black people to "escap[e] the underclass." She accused him of being responsible for killing "a million babies a year," and aired her friend's theory that Limbaugh himself was a terrorist attack," a followup to 9/11. She also, most disgustingly, said that if conservatives kept apologizing to Limbaugh, they'd eventually contract "anal poisoning." She wondered when Republicans would finally stop "bending over and grabbing their ankles" for Limbaugh, and finally concluded that Limbaugh was just a "bad guy."

Oh wait. Wanda Sykes didn't say any of these things. These are things Rush Limbaugh has said about Obama or other Democrats in the past year, the kind of statements few reporters found
offensive enough to write about, despite the fact that most of them were said with the utmost seriousness. And while Sykes is a mere comedian whose influence on the Democratic Party is negligible, Limbaugh's influence in the party is so great that Republican leaders can't even criticize him without having to issue apologies after the fact.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Code Words - Empathy & Activist

by Broadway Carl
There has been nonstop cable chatter regarding President Obama's mention of searching for someone with "empathy" to replace Justice Souter on the Supreme Court. I've been hearing it everywhere, including MSNBC, that supposed "liberal," in-the-tank-for-Obama network. There are those who are opposed to what they perceive will be a choice by Obama to lean towards an "activist" judge because his preference is to choose someone who may have some street cred instead of blue blood.

Orrin Hatch: "It's a matter of great concern, if he's saying that he wants to pick people who will take sides. He's also said that a judge has to be a person of empathy -- what does that mean? Usually that's a code word for an activist judge.

...But he also said that, that, he's going to select judges on the basis of their personal politics, their personal feelings, their personal preferences," Hatch said, "Now, you know those are all code words for an activist judge who's going to be partisan on the bench."

Now, it seems to me that the Grand Opposition Party using the term "activist judge" is just code for pro-choice judge. It may also mean a non-white non-male, but that's for another post. But what did President Obama actually say? (1:56)

President Obama: "I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with peoples' hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes. I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our Constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limit of the judicial role. I will seek somebody who shares my respect for the Constitutional values on which this nation was founded..."

It's interesting to see the GOP oppose someone who hasn't even been named yet. But they're not the Party of No.

Monday, May 04, 2009

The GOP Communications Gold Standard

by Broadway Carl
...Former White House press secretary Dana Perino, former Bush counselor Ed Gillespie and former White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto are among those set to provide words of wisdom to House Republican press secretaries at their annual workshop this Friday.

GOP House Conference Communications Director Matt Lloyd said Perino, Gillespie and Fratto represented “the gold standard for Republican communications professionals” and were obvious choices to advise the party’s messengers.
So, to turn the page and recover from the Bush administration, they're looking for advice from the "gold standard" of communication officials and turning to... the Bush administration.

I just wanted to remind everyone of these stellar communicators.

Dana Perino:
...Appearing on National Public Radio's light-hearted quiz show "Wait, Wait . . . Don't Tell Me," which aired over the weekend, Perino got into the spirit of things and told a story about herself that she had previously shared only in private: During a White House briefing, a reporter referred to the Cuban Missile Crisis -- and she didn't know what it was.

"I was panicked a bit because I really don't know about . . . the Cuban Missile Crisis," said Perino, who at 35 was born about a decade after the 1962 U.S.-Soviet nuclear showdown. "It had to do with Cuba and missiles, I'm pretty sure."

So she consulted her best source. "I came home and I asked my husband," she recalled. "I said, 'Wasn't that like the Bay of Pigs thing?' And he said, 'Oh, Dana.'

She is so on top of things. How did she possibly figure out that the "Cuban Missile Crisis" had something to do with Cuba and missiles? Soooo smart, that Dana Perino.

Tony Fratto:

"That's true. No one could have anticipated [flying 767's into buildings on 9/11], or very few people."

Well, yeah... especially if you disregard a Presidential Daily Brief as far back as December of 1998 titled, "Bin Laden preparing to hijack U.S. aircraft and other attacks" for purposes of trading hostages for imprisoned terrorists that conspired in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

And of course the August 6th, 2001 PDB titled, "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US" that most likely wasn't read.

And the FAA report that "reviewed dozens of intelligence reports that warned about Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, some of which specifically discussed airline hijackings and suicide operations, according to a previously undisclosed report from the 9/11 commission." But other than that, no one could have anticipated planes being used as weapons.

So go at it, GOP! Seek advice from these beacons of the Bush administration; the same administration that led you to the place you currently reside. Hint: if you use a compass and remember that the sun rises in the east, you may find your way out of the wilderness sometime.