Still Without Power – Also Maureen Dowd on Chris Christie and President Obama!

Dear Commons Community,

I am still without power and down to the last few minutes on my laptop before I have to find someplace to recharge it.  In any case, I hope everyone is doing fine and safe as we weather Sandy and its aftermath.

Never have I seen such devastation from a storm.  The road I live on has about eight  trees, a couple of utility poles and wires down within a three-quarter mile stretch.  You have to weave your car in and off the shoulder, under trunks of trees, etc.  to get by.

If you have electricity, are connected to the Internet and have time you might want to read Maureen Dowd’s column in today’s New York Times where she is  in awe of the new relationship between Governor Chris Christie and President Obama.   Here is an excerpt:

“Gov. Chris Christie, the fleece-wearing, order-barking Neptune of the Jersey Shore, was all over TV Tuesday, effusively praising the president for his luminous leadership on Hurricane Sandy, the same president he mocked last week at a Romney rally in Virginia as a naif groping to find “the light switch of leadership.”

As Romney roams the Midwest and Florida struggling to stay relevant, miming coordinating storm response with G.O.P. governors and collecting canned goods to send East, his fair-weather pal Christie failed to give Mittens any disaster relief.

On ABC, CBS and NBC, Christie hailed Obama as “outstanding.” On MSNBC, he said the president “has been all over this,” and on CNN, he called Obama “incredibly supportive.” The big guy even tweeted his thanks to the slender one.

Most astonishing of all, the New Jersey governor went on Fox News and spoke words rarely heard on that network: “I have to give the president great credit.”

“I spoke to the president three times yesterday,” Christie gushed. “He called me for the last time at midnight last night, asking what he could do.”

Christie also extolled FEMA, even though Romney has said it is “immoral” to spend money on federal disaster relief when the deficit is so big.”

If it takes the hurricane of the century to bring Republicans and Democrats together, so be it!

Stay safe!





Dear Commons Community,

The story today on the East Coast is Hurricane Sandy.   Here in New York City, low-lying areas have been evacuated, the subways and commuter railroad lines are not running, public schools and colleges are closed.  Everybody is hunkering down.  If we pay attention to our emergency service providers, hopefully we will all get through this safe and sound.


The Price of a Black President: Frederick Harris Op-Ed Piece!

Dear Commons Community,

With less than nine days left before the presidential election we are seeing endorsements of candidates from major individuals and media outlets.  The New York Times for instance endorsed Barack Obama for a second term this morning.  However, while African-Americans will support and vote for the re-election of President Obama in record numbers, there are questions as to how beneficial his presidency has been to their needs and causes.  Frederick C. Harris, a professor of political science and the director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University,  sees disappointment in what Obama’s presidency has meant to the African-American community.  In an op-ed essay, he states:

“When African-Americans go to the polls next week, they are likely to support Barack Obama at a level approaching the 95 percent share of the black vote he received in 2008. As well they should, given the symbolic exceptionalism of his presidency and the modern Republican Party’s utter disregard for economic justice, civil rights and the social safety net.

But for those who had seen in President Obama’s election the culmination of four centuries of black hopes and aspirations and the realization of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of a “beloved community,” the last four years must be reckoned a disappointment. Whether it ends in 2013 or 2017, the Obama presidency has already marked the decline, rather than the pinnacle, of a political vision centered on challenging racial inequality. The tragedy is that black elites — from intellectuals and civil rights leaders to politicians and clergy members — have acquiesced to this decline, seeing it as the necessary price for the pride and satisfaction of having a black family in the White House.

These are not easy words to write. Mr. Obama’s expansion of health insurance coverage was the most significant social legislation since the Great Society, his stimulus package blunted much of the devastation of the Great Recession, and the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul added major new protections for consumers. His politics would seem to vindicate the position of civil rights-era leaders like Bayard Rustin, who argued that blacks should form coalitions with other Democratic constituencies in support of universal, race-neutral policies — in opposition to activists like Malcolm X, who distrusted party politics and believed that blacks would be better positioned to advance their interests as an independent voting bloc, beholden to neither party.

But the triumph of “post-racial” Democratic politics has not been a triumph for African-Americans in the aggregate. It has failed to arrest the growing chasm of income and wealth inequality; to improve prospects for social and economic mobility; to halt the re-segregation of public schools and narrow the black-white achievement gap; and to prevent the Supreme Court from eroding the last vestiges of affirmative action. ..and  cannot distract us from facts like these:

28 percent of African-Americans, and 37 percent of black children, are poor (compared with 10 percent of whites and 13 percent of white children); 13 percent of blacks are unemployed (compared with 7 percent of whites); more than 900,000 black men are in prison; blacks experienced a sharper drop in income since 2007 than any other racial group; black household wealth, which had been disproportionately concentrated in housing, has hit its lowest level in decades; blacks accounted, in 2009, for 44 percent of new H.I.V. infections.

Mr. Obama cannot, of course, be blamed for any of these facts. It’s no secret that Republican obstruction has limited his options at every turn. But it’s disturbing that so few black elites have aggressively advocated for those whom the legal scholar Derrick A. Bell called the “faces at the bottom of the well…”

Harris’ conclusion:

“To place policy above rhetoric is not to ask what the first black president is doing for blacks; rather, it is to ask what a Democratic president is doing for the most loyal Democratic constituency — who happen to be African-Americans, and who happen to be in dire need of help. Sadly, when it comes to the Obama presidency and black America, symbols and substance have too often been assumed to be one and the same.”

Much to think about!



The Republican Backlash to Colin Powell’s Endorsement of President Obama!

Dear Commons Community,

Colin Powell’s endorsement of President Obama earlier this week was not unexpected.  He endorsed the President in 2008.  However, members of the Republican hierarchy decided to counter the endorsement by attacking Powell.  For instance, Senator John McCain attacked Powell’s record while he served as secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration.  However, the most vicious comments came from John Sununu, a co-chairman of the Romney campaign, who said on Thursday, during an interview on CNN:

“When you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or whether he’s got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama.” … “I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.”

Sununu’s comments can only be taken as pandering to racist elements.  As Charles Blow describes in his column today:

“Sununu was basically saying that he was applauding Powell’s inability to see past the color of his own eyelids.”

Sununu has apologized, somewhat, for his racial attack on Powell’s motives. But what should we make of all this?

“We have a very racially divided electorate. As The Washington Post reported Thursday, “Obama has a deficit of 23 percentage points, trailing Republican Mitt Romney 60 percent to 37 percent among whites, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News national tracking poll.”

The report pointed out that nearly 80 percent of nonwhites support Obama, while 91 percent of Romney’s supporters are white.

I worry that Sununu’s statements intentionally go beyond recognizing racial disparities and seek to exploit them.

What does that say about Romney, and what does it say about his campaign’s tactics?

Remember: A man is known by the company he keeps.”


CEOs of the Nation’s Largest Corporations Call for Tax Increases!

Dear Commons Community,

The Wall Street Journal reported today that the CEOs of more than 80 of the nation’s largest corporations, including Aetna, AT&T, Dow Chemical, GE, Merck, and Microsoft have signed on to a statement calling for a deficit reduction deal that includes both money-saving reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and a “pro-growth tax reform” which lowers rates and raises more revenues?

Significantly, the statement cites recommendations issued in December 2010 by President Barack Obama’s bipartisan deficit reduction commission, which ostensibly would have cut the projected deficit by $4 trillion by 2020, as “an effective framework for such a plan”.  Not coincidentally, the CEOs’ statement was coordinated by the Campaign to Fix The Debt, an organization founded by the co-chairmen of that deficit commission, former Wyoming Republican Senator Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles…

In their statement, the CEOs call the debt “a serious threat to the economic well-being and security of the United States” and describe it as “urgent and essential” that a bipartisan plan be put in place to stabilize federal debt as a a share of the economy and get it on a downward path.”

However,  some of the same business leaders who now sincerely want a deal, have helped create the Washington gridlock blocking a deal by funneling big bucks to organizations and candidates including Mitt Romney emphatically opposed to any tax increases as part of a compromise.

As Washington Post economics columnist Steven Pearlstein wrote last July:

“The reality now facing practical, pragmatic corporate executives is that their Washington lobbying apparatus has become one with a Republican caucus on Capitol Hill that is dominated by ideological zealots and uncompromising partisans. So if they have now concluded that the most important issue for American business, and the economy, is getting a reasonable bipartisan compromise on taxes and spending, their only choice is to bypass that apparatus.”




Special Olympian with Down Syndrome Shames Ann Coulter for Calling President Obama a “Retard” !

Dear Commons Community,

Ann Coulter was shamed yesterday by a Special Olympics athlete with Down Syndrome for using the word “retard” in referring to President Obama.  Ms. Coulter,  desperate for attention from any media outlet besides Fox News, after the Presidential debate on Monday, tweeted “I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard”.   Despite widespread outrage about the tweet, Coulter doubled down on her word choice on Tuesday.

“If he’s ‘the smartest guy in the room’ it must be one retarded room,” she wrote about Obama.

In reply, Special Olympian John Franklin Stephens wrote in a blog post.

“Come on Ms. Coulter, you aren’t dumb and you aren’t shallow…So why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult?”

Stephens, 30, told Coulter that he has “struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow.”

“I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you. In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.”

In his open letter, Stephens wondered whether Coulter had used the word to suggest that President Obama was “bullied as a child by people like you” or that he “has to struggle to be thoughtful about everything he says.”

“After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me,” he wrote. “You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.”

“Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor,” he said.

Stephens invited Coulter to attend the Special Olympics, challenging her to “walk away with your heart unchanged.”

Good for you, John!


Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Richard Mourdock Declared Pregnancies Conceived in Rape “is something that God intended to happen.”

Dear Commons Community,

Various news media reported this morning that Indiana Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock declared Tuesday night he opposes aborting pregnancies conceived in rape because “it is something that God intended to happen.”

Debating Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) in their final Senate race showdown, a questioner asked them and Libertarian candidate Andrew Horning to explain their views on abortion.

All three said they were anti-abortion. But Mourdock went the further, putting himself in territory near Missouri GOP Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin, the anti-abortion congressman who infamously asserted that women don’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape.”

“The only exception I have to have an abortion is in the case of the life of the mother,” said Mourdock, the Tea Party-backed state treasurer. “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Will the true God(s) please save us from this insanity.


Mitt Romney Has Made so Many Compromises…He Doesn’t Have a True Self Anymore!

Dear Commons Community,

Maureen Dowd has an interesting post-presidential debate column today in the New York Times.  She takes shots at both President Obama and Mitt Romney.

On Obama:

“Obama’s endless odyssey of self-discovery, where he rattles around in his own head, trying to figure out who he is…”

On Romney:

“If Romney gets to the Situation Room, will we see Cipher Mitt, the vessel of the neocons? Or will we see Moderate Mitt, chastising the hawks…It’s impossible to know. Mitt may have made so many compromises to get the prize that he doesn’t have a true self anymore. And that’s the scariest thought of all.”

Dowd also suggests that a fitting conclusion to this election would be if it ended in an electoral college tie with Mitt Romney then being elected president by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Joe Biden elected vice president by the Democratic-controlled Senate.  “And we can count on good ol’ Joe devoting himself to tormenting President Mittens” for the next four years.



Third Presidential Debate: We Have Fewer Horses and Bayonets!

Dear Commons Community,

The third presidential debate of this election year between President Obama and Mitt Romney was held at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.   I gave the evening to President Obama.   CNN’s poll of registered voters gave Obama a 48% to 40% edge over Romney.  CBS in a poll of uncommitted voters gave the debate to Obama also.

The debate was moderated well by correspondent Bob Schieffer, host of Face the Nation. 

The questions/topics covered the Middle East extensively including Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  There was some mention of China but absolutely no references to the economic problems in Europe.

Most of the debate saw President Obama answering questions with more resolve while also attacking Mitt Romney’s positions.  Romney went out of his way to avoid any conflict with Obama and agreed with him a great deal.  I would even say that Romney sounded dovish at times which must have irked some of his Republican and Conservative supporters.  The most memorable line of the evening was when in response to Romney’s claim that we are cutting the military budget and that the US Navy has fewer warships than it had in 1917, President Obama said “we have fewer horses and bayonets too” but that is because the nature of modern warfare has changed and we rely much less on battleships.

A good not a great debate with President Obama attacking a bit too much and Romney agreeing with the President’s policies a bit too much.

Below is the New York Times take on the debate which leans heavily in favor of President Obama




New York Times Editorial

The Final Debate

Mitt Romney has nothing really coherent or substantive to say about domestic policy, but at least he can sound energetic and confident about it. On foreign policy, the subject of Monday night’s final presidential debate, he had little coherent to say and often sounded completely lost. That’s because he has no original ideas of substance on most world issues, including Syria, Iran and Afghanistan.

During the debate, on issue after issue, Mr. Romney sounded as if he had read the boldfaced headings in a briefing book — or a freshman global history textbook — and had not gone much further than that. Twice during the first half-hour, he mentioned that Al Qaeda-affiliated groups were active in northern Mali. Was that in the morning’s briefing book?

At other times, he announced that he had a “strategy” for the Middle East, particularly Iran and Syria, and really for the whole world, but gave no clue what it would be — much like his claim that he has a plan to create 12 million jobs and balance the budget while also cutting taxes, but will not say what it is. At his worst, Mr. Romney sounded like a beauty pageant contestant groping for an answer to the final question. “We want a peaceful planet,” he said. “We want people to be able to enjoy their lives and know they’re going to have a bright and prosperous future and not be at war.”

He added that the United States “didn’t ask for” the mantle of global leadership but was willing to wear it. We wondered what Ronald Reagan would have thought of that.

Mr. Romney’s problem is that he does not actually have any real ideas on foreign policy beyond what President Obama has already done, or plans to do. He supports the planned withdrawal from Afghanistan — and was quick to insist on Monday night that he would pull out by 2014. He thinks there should be economic sanctions on Iran, and he thinks the United States should be encouraging Syrian opposition forces that seem moderate. Mr. Romney said he would work with Saudi Arabia and Qatar on this, but those governments are funneling arms to the jihadist groups that he says he abhors.

The president kept up the attack at virtually every opportunity, showing no sign of the oddly disconnected Barack Obama who lost the first debate. When Mr. Romney called for spending more money on the military than the United States can afford or the military wants, Mr. Obama moved in: “You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets.” Mr. Romney tried to revive the Republican claim that Mr. Obama conducted an “apology tour” at the start of his presidency, which Mr. Obama correctly called “the biggest whopper” of a campaign that has been filled with them. And he took a dig at Mr. Romney’s recent world travels. “When I went to Israel as a candidate,” he said, “I didn’t take donors, I didn’t attend fund-raisers.”

Mr. Romney tried to say that the president had “wasted” the last four years in trying to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program. But Mr. Obama said, “We’ve been able to mobilize the world. When I came into office, the world was divided. Iran was resurgent. Iran is at its weakest point, economically, strategically, militarily.”

Mr. Romney tried to set himself apart from Mr. Obama on Iran, but ended up sounding particularly incoherent. At one point he said he would indict President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on genocide charges. He gave no clue how he would do that; like many of his comments, it was merely a sound bite.

Mr. Obama hit Mr. Romney hard on his ever-shifting positions on world affairs, including comments he made in 2008 disparaging the idea that killing Osama bin Laden should be a priority. “You said we should ask Pakistan for permission,” Mr. Obama said. “If we had asked Pakistan for permission, we would not have gotten it.”

Mr. Romney’s closing statement summed it all up. He said almost nothing about foreign policy. He moved back to his comfort zone: cheerfully delivered disinformation about domestic policy.