Thursday, February 26, 2015

Same Old Record, Different Recording Artist

Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin recently revealed that when Senator Elizabeth Warren met, at Hillary Clinton's request, in December at the Clinton home in Washington, D.C.

Mrs. Clinton solicited policy ideas and suggestions from Ms. Warren, according to a Democrat briefed on the meeting, who called it “cordial and productive.” Mrs. Clinton, who has been seeking advice from a range of scholars, advocates and officials, did not ask Ms. Warren to consider endorsing her likely presidential candidacy.

Good thinking, Hillary.  Tuesday, Reverend Al Sharpton asked Warren  "you had a meeting with Hillary Clinton, and I`m not even going to ask you about your private meeting, you didn`t invite me, but a lot of progressives have question about whether she`ll be a progressive warrior. What would you say to them?"

The Massachusetts senator responded "You know, I think they`re told what we`ve got to see. I want to hear what she wants to run on and what she says she wants to do. That`s what campaigns are supposed to be about."

Coincidentally, on that same day, Mrs. Clinton had appeared at the first annual Waterrmark Silicon Valley Conference for Women in Santa Clara, California, for which she was paid $300,000. In a question-and-answer session, Clinton, the New York Times reports, "called for a variety of policies like equal pay for women, paid leave, a higher minimum wage, and incentives for corporations to provide better wages and benefits to workers."

If you think that's fairly tepid stuff, you probably heard also

She spoke at length about bipartisanship and promoted her record of working with Republicans in Arkansas and as a senator from New York. Her objective, should she run for president, would be to end partisan gridlock, she told Ms. Swisher.

“I’d like to bring people from right, left, red, blue, get them into a nice warm purple space where everybody is talking and where we’re actually trying to solve problems,” Mrs. Clinton said.

This should sound familiar.  Campaigning with vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden in August, 2008, Senator Obama asserted "After decades -- after decades of steady work across the aisle, I know he'll be able to help me turn the page on the ugly partisanship in Washington so we can bring Democrats and Republicans together to pass an agenda that works for the American people."

We all know how that turned out.  That probably is among the reasons Senator Warren (unrelated video, below) has chosen to be non-committal about an HRC run for the presidency, now that even President Obama is getting the message.  At his town hall meeting, co-sponsored by MSNBC and Telemundo Wednesday

Obama rejected accusations that he failed to act to get immigration done early in his administration while Democrats controlled Congress. He got a little piqued when a member of the public accused Democrats and Republicans of playing "political ping pong" with immigration.

"That's just not true … Democrats have consistently stood on the side of comprehensive immigration reform. Democrats have provided strong majorities across the board of comprehensive immigration reform," Obama said. Suggesting no one was focused on the issue, said Obama, was a "disservice" because "then you don't know who is fighting for you and who is fighting against you."

President Obama, uncharacteristically, stood up for Democrats and called Republicans out. It might be the new Obama, who after after six years which included two devastating mid-term elections, no longer needs to be clubbed over the head with a baseball bat to realize that Repubs believe the way to electoral success is to throw a temper tantrum against anything Democrats propose.

And now, we have the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee maintaining- with a straight face and without fingers crossed (as far as we now)- “I’d like to bring people from right, left, red, blue, get them into a nice warm purple space where everybody is talking and where we’re actually trying to solve problems."

While far less eloquent, that sounds a lot like someone who declared "Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America." Four and a half years later, he became President of the United States of America. He now realizes- however the rest of his second term may play out-  that was a pipe dream.    Either Hillary Clinton is merely blowing smoke, is naive enough to believe what she said, or is signaling another center-right Administration. Unless it's the first, we're in trouble.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

It's For The Children. Don't Argue.

Wrong again, Keith.  It's hard to believe that ESPN host Keith Olbermann (photo way below from Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images) was dead wrong in getting into a Twitter scuffle with a few Penn State students- and wrong in his apology. Quite a trick.

It started when one Penn State alumnus (with two Nittany Lion alumni) sent to Olbermann a link to a charity event held annually at the college. She accompanied it with a tweet reading "We are!"  (as in We are... Penn State). Olberman responded ".... Pitiful."

Short and to the point, albeit overly general and with a capital "P" where a small "P" would have been more appropriate, the tweet should have been the last one from the Cornell University graduate.

But oh, no.   What followed was a series of tweets between Olbermann and one or another Penn State apologists- uh, er, students, including Olbermann's "Dont make shit up, Sonny. You'll wind up running Penn State."

Both funny and well off point, it suggests the problem with Penn State University is not its students but the current Administration. However, you may recall in November, 2011That was both funny and well off point because- as Olbermann well understands- the problem with Penn State University is not its current Administration but many of its current (or very recent) students.   You may remember in November, 2011

After top Penn State officials announced that they had fired Joe Paterno on Wednesday night, thousands of students stormed the downtown area to display their anger and frustration, chanting the former coach’s name, tearing down light poles and overturning a television news van parked along College Avenue.

The demonstrators congregated outside Penn State’s administration building before stampeding into the tight grid of downtown streets. They turned their ire on a news van, a symbolic gesture that expressed a view held by many: that the news media had exaggerated Mr. Paterno’s role in the scandal surrounding accusations that a former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, sexually assaulted young boys.

“I think the point people are trying to make is the media is responsible for JoePa going down,” said a freshman, Mike Clark, 18, adding that he believed that Mr. Paterno had met his legal and moral responsibilities by telling university authorities about an accusation that Mr. Sandusky assaulted a boy in a university shower in 2002.

Demonstrators tore down two lampposts, one falling into a crowd. They also threw rocks and fireworks at the police, who responded with pepper spray. The crowd undulated like an accordion, with the students crowding the police and the officers pushing them back.

An orderly crowd first filled the lawn in front of Old Main when news of Mr. Paterno’s firing came via students’ cellphones. When the crowd took to the downtown streets, its anger and intensity swelled. Students shouted, “We are Penn State.”

But of course, they are- or, in most cases, were- not Penn State, only symbolic of the reaction of the student body.  The view in "Happy Valley" (that's what they call it, I swear) seems to have changed little in the intervening 3+ years. Nonetheless, Olbermann still was painting with an overly broad brush.

While real, the apology he delivered was way off-mark. "I apologize," the big guy tweeted, "for the PSU tweets. I was stupid and childish and way less mature than the students there who did such a great fundraising job."

How about this instead: "I was stupid and childish and way less mature than most of the students at Penn State and the vast majority of young people."   He does not know about the students who did the fundraising. Nor is it likely he knows much about where the money goes and to what use it's applied. That is the way it generally is about charity- very few people ask questions. If you say "charity," you've blocked most questions. If you say "for children," you've completely eliminated them and can await a "thank you for your service."

Don't take it from me, but by someone much younger and closer to the college who positively nailed the controversy  (the article with the tweets she includes, here; the full twitter conversation, here):

What kind of jerk criticizes students who raise money for kids with cancer?

Keith Olbermann makes no secret of the disgust he harbors for Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal; in January, he declared the NCAA and PSU “the worst in sports.” His well-documented disdain for the institution is probably what inspired a Penn Stater to mention him Sunday in a proud tweet about the 2015 Penn State Dance Marathon, an annual fundraiser (known on campus as THON) that raises money for children with cancer.

“We Are!” refers to the Nittany Lion chant “We are … Penn State.” And Four Diamonds—an organization that helps families pay for cancer treatment, funds research, and more—is the recipient of the THON money.

Olbermann responded to the “We are” tweet with one word: “…Pitiful.”

Soon Penn State students and others were attacking him, and he was hitting right back.

The pompous, elitist tirade earned him a suspension from ESPN. (Olbermann, if you’re wondering, went to Cornell—ever heard of it?) As a Penn State alumna who knows the difference between your and you’re, I’m pleased to see him get spanked on this one. But I also think that he wasn’t entirely wrong to roll his eyes at attempts to use THON to deflect criticism about the university.

THON is billed as “the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.” Groups and organizers spend the fall semester and first month of the spring semester preparing for it. On designated “canning” weekends, clubs, Greek organizations, and other clusters of students fan out from State College, Pa., to stand at street corners and collect money. At the main event, held this past weekend, more than 700 students serve as “dancers” who go 46 hours without sitting or sleeping. The idea, as I understand it, is to give the dancers a taste of the pain that kids with cancer endure.

It’s a noble goal. But when I was on campus, as THON got closer each year, the scent of self-congratulations grew stronger. The THON slogan is FTK—“for the kids.” In my more cynical moments, I sometimes thought that it should be “FTT”—“for the T-shirt.”

In the Deadspin comments, another alum put it nicely:

THON had great results, but to me it always seemed to serve as a vessel for fraternities, sororities, and those that crave attention to pat themselves on the back. There are a lot of people who participate selflessly, but the most vocal element are those that want the attention for “doing a great thing.” To boot, most of the fundraising doubles as a social/ pledge event for a lot of the greeks. TL; DR - great results, questionable means.

The results are great, and many of the participants are entirely sincere. But still, some students, especially Greeks, use it to excuse a lot of things: You can’t criticize fraternities—we raise money for kids with cancer!

It’s unfair for Olbermann to condemn the entire university because of the child sex abuse scandal (or because a few students on Twitter made grammatical mistakes that are widely accepted on the platform). Though the campus culture went too far in worshipping football, the ones to blame for the abuse are Jerry Sandusky and the handful of men who shielded him—including, yes, Joe Paterno. I railed about my alma mater’s moral hypocrisy after the scandal broke, and I remain furious about it. But it’s also illogical and disingenuous for Penn Staters to use THON as a shield against criticism. What did the original tweeter expect from Olbermann? I can’t imagine that she genuinely thought he would say, “You’re right. I’ve been unjust all along.”

Despite his presumably ESPN-mandated apologetic tweet, I doubt that Olbermann will emerge from his suspension with a greater respect for the school. And he’s right not to change his mind based on a fundraiser.

The net benefits, usually overstated, of charity events need to considered on their own. They are not valid excuses for the behavior of Jerry Sandusky, and the wink and a nod given it by the late, but then all-powerful, coach Joe Paterno.  Most people- probably even most PSU students- understand that. There still are many students there who do not, and despite his hostility to the university, Keith Olbermann may not, either.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Rice Bows Out. California Wins.

At first, Condoleezza Rice appears humble.  Amid considerable criticism of Rutgers University's decision to give a platform to one of the architects of Gulf War II, Ms. Condoleezza graciously decided not to give the commencement speech in spring 2014 at New Jersey's state university. Now according to Politico 

It is a testament to the dormant state of California’s once mighty Republican dynasty that the only GOP candidate either party gives a shot at capturing Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat upon her retirement next year is the one who is resolutely refusing to run: former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Last week, Rice topped a statewide Field Poll of 18 potential candidates, drawing the support of 49 percent of likely voters, compared with 46 percent for state Attorney General Kamala Harris, the only declared Democratic candidate so far. That sparked a fresh flurry of speculation about a Rice candidacy — and the latest emphatic denial from her chief of staff that she has any interest in the race.

Evidently, unless her arm is twisted, the woman affectionately called "Condi" (isn't that sweet!) will not be running for a US Senate seat from California.

Wise decision, that, not to relinquish what little credibility is still attached to the former National Security Adviser and Secretary of State.  On January 10, 2003 Secretary Rice gravely warned "there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." She played a leading role in trying, largely successfully, to convince voters of the likelihood that Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program. But it's not only that Rice was grotesquely wrong about Saddam Hussein's intentions. In March, 2013 the newspaper of the University of Texas-Austin reported

Two days before the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, a conflict that resulted in the deaths of 4,488 U.S. soldiers and thousands of civilians, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reaffirmed her support for the war and the ouster of former President Saddam Hussein.

“I would have overthrown Saddam Hussein again,” Rice said to a packed house at the Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium on Monday.

No, Ms. Rice, you did not overthrow Saddam Hussein- the American military overthrew him, Then you and the other propagandists, and architects, of an arguably unprecedented American foreign policy fiasco thoroughly botched the aftermath (Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson with Lawrence O'Donnell in 2013, video below),

The adventure itself was based on false pretenses, and the reconstruction of Iraq suffered because of the rush to war and the blithering incompetence of the Administration, Condoleezza Rice included.

ISIL probably never would have arisen without the Bush's Administration invasion of Iraq. But even before we were alerted to this newest threat in the Middle East, at the time of the Rutgers commencement controversy, Juan Cole summarized 

As for Iraq, she left it a broken country, with hundreds of thousands dead, 2 million displaced abroad, 4 million displaced internally, likely 400,000 badly wounded, where car bombings and sniping still take some 800 lives a month and where radical Sunni al-Qaeda affiliates have established themselves and Iran-linked radical Shiite militias have free play. She hinted around at an al-Qaeda link to Iraq before she invaded it, but there was none. She brought al-Qaeda to Iraq and it has killed far more Iraqis than the 3000 Americans whose lives it took on September 11. Iraq never had anything at all to do with al-Qaeda, but she made it a scapegoat so as to get at its petroleum resources.

Yet, Ms. Rice still claims the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was strategically beneficial to the United States,  She is either delusional, lying, or less aware of foreign policy than your typical dogcatcher, who fulfills one of a many jobs- including US Senator- Condoleezza Rice shouldn't be trusted to perform.

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