See you there.
|How I see it|
|Nate knows. And, really, Mitt does, too.|
“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is a gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”Earlier today, Mourdock tried to walk the comments back, saying:
"I said life is precious. I believe rape is a brutal act. It is something that I abhor. That anyone would come away with any meaning other than what I said is regrettable, and for that I apologize."But I have to confess I am very confused and actually somewhat surprised that Mourdock's quote last night has caused such outrage. To be clear, I think it's a terrible thought, completely devoid of humanity, compassion, and understanding. I also think it's just plain wrong. I disagree with it in every sense, and suspect that Mourdock is the worst kind of hypocrite.
|Paul Ryan and his colleague Todd Aiken|
“I’m very proud of my pro-life record, and I’ve always adopted the idea that — the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life,” Ryan has said.Paul Ryan, Richard Mourdock, Todd Aiken, these are all guys on record as supporting a ban on abortion in cases of rape. And if you asked Paul Ryan, and he was honest or just politically stupid, why he thought a raped woman should carry her pregnancy to term, he'd give you some speech about the sanctity of human life. And if you asked him whether he thought God has a hand in creating human life, and whether God's plan plays a role in his belief, I bet he'd say something very similar to what Mourdock said last night. Ryan is clear that his faith in God informs his view on abortion policy. The idea that every pregnancy is a gift from God is completely in line with his stated beliefs. Even if Ryan only believes some variation of Mourdock's statement, we know he agrees with the important part.
|Only Clint Eastwood could have lost this debate|
|Obama looking at Bush 41's watch|
|He's probably still going to win, though|
It's been a long time since my last post on SAM Online, but I thought I'd return to honor the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
I remember the first time I heard Ted Kennedy speak. I was 12 years old and listening to talk on the radio about Kennedy's race against the first serious challenger (after 32 years) to his Senate seat- young venture capitalist Mitt Romney. It was 1994, and polls were tight, but the buzz that morning was that Kennedy had put the up- start away in the previous night's debate.
They went to a clip of an excited Kennedy laying into his rival. A bombastic Boston brouge pierced through my clockradio's modest speakers. I was shocked at his volume, and at how articulate and how passionate he sounded.
You have to understand, if you grew up outside of Massachusetts in the early 90s you knew of Ted Kennedy as something of a punchline. Those years were not particularly kind to Kennedy as his drinking and carousing hit their peaks. His legendary brothers, whose pictures hung on the walls of my bedroom, only exaggerated his flaws.
Kennedy's voice, used tirelessly to advocate for the down trodden, shocked me that morning. I couldn't believe it, but it was equal to his family's incredible legacy. It was big, proud and instantly recognizable- like the man himself. That moment I first heard it, I gained new respect and reverence for Senator Kennedy. And the more I heard him speak and learned about his life and work the more my respect grew. An unabashed liberal, Kennedy rose the minimum wage, passed laws for the disabled, and got poor children health insurance. He made government work, used it to improve society.
I never met Ted Kennedy, but he seemed like my favorite type of person. He seemed to love life, and to be unashamed to live it boldly. He did great things, made some terrible mistakes, and had an impact. He and his family chose the public arena, fought for causes worth believing in and were rarely mere spectators.
Tonight we are without Ted Kennedy's voice, but we should never lose his ideals or the spirit with which he chased them.
In his latest film, "Public Enemies", Michael Mann ("The Last of the Mohicans", "Heat", "Collateral") has put up a mirror to our modern society, and in a mature manner consisting of historical perspective and a desire to put the soul of our society on trial, asks simply: Do the ends justify the means. Of course, for Mann, the definition of "ends" begets the means, regardless of answer. Does the Federal Bureau of Investigations stop John Dillinger, a tact bank robber whose only loyalty is to self, comrades and his girl, not his country? Or do they stop, what is at the time, a growing conglomerate of criminal enterprises, working "coast to coast", illegally making upwards of $70,000 a day, circa 1934? Do we stop bin Laden and al-Quaeda? Or do we do something about the Saudi Royal family, the Husseins of Jordan, Mubarak of Egypt, et cetera? Legitimate questions that, to a larger degree, explains the kind of nation we are as much as that which we once were.
In short, "Public Enemies" is about John Dillinger, the consummate criminal, pulling off jobs, evading the FBI and trying to find, in the dark, the outlet from which he could pull the plug on his activities and call it a day. The film provides no detailed background to the life of Dillinger, his partners, nor the G-Men hunting them down. No explanations are needed, as the purpose of the movie is of the moment. With each new bank robbery, or brazen act of defiance by the criminals, or prison break, the stakes get higher for the FBI. From the men they recruit, to the methods they employ, Mann wants us to be the fly on the wall as Director Hoover takes in suggestions and issues newer, more draconian methods. The films pace and tensity make us understand the desperate nature failure produces among results-oriented men; results that, for obvious reasons, must be positive.
Yet, there are more than one set of criminals in the film. Alongside, then opposite, the bank robbers, are the organized criminals. They run the numbers game and sports books, sell the drugs and prostitutes, payoff the authorities, manage the unions, and maintain a level of fear so as not to disrupt the order they have created. By and large, they are the bigger threat to the FBI, indeed the nation. They sell the alcohol during prohibition, while the money Dillinger steals is guaranteed by the Federal Reserve Bank. The unions they run have profound impacts on several industries nationwide, while bureau offices and local police stations devote vast resources to catching one team. It is the mafia and its activities that will infiltrate the very bloodstream of America, from New York City to Chicago to Las Vegas to Los Angeles. Their invisible hand infiltrates political machines, judicial processes and public safety policies. Yet, it is in their favor, possibly on their behalf, that the government, and all its full force, hunts down Dillinger. (And I'll be damned if that hunt itself is not gangsta.)
The techniques the FBI employs is a what's-what of surveillance techniques. They get the phone companies to listen in on telephone conversations, recording them on vinal players, without warrants. They torture members and associates of Dillinger's team to get vital information that proves correct, but the obvious point is the limits to which that information is obtained: How many times would you slap a woman to get what you wanted to know? And what would that do to you? They realize prison cannot hold Dillinger, so it becomes a hunt to kill, not prosecute, which in itself changes the very nature of procedures and narrows logic. All of these techniques Mann shows are meant to hearken back the post-9/11 period; from the hunt of bin Laden (still ongoing), to the government tapping phone calls and bank accounts (still ongoing), to torture and its necessary qualities (possibly still ongoing), we forget just how much of the Constitution we were willing to suspend in order to achieve safety.
Of course, as with bin Laden, John Dillinger is not the problem, but the symptom. Desperate times produces desperate people, and when you get enough of them, someone is bound to be a stone-cold tactician. Bank robberies then, like terrorism now, are quite difficult to prevent. People are not frisked on their way into a mall on a sunny Saturday anymore than they were put through metal detectors on their way into a bank Monday morning. Funds are replenished as buildings get rebuilt. Lives are taken in the process as people become collateral, and the taking of human beings become the ultimate goal.
Still, in the film, as now, it is amazing just how far the governments will go to keep our collective eyes focused on one hand, while the other exchanges the goods and services they want kept off the books. The money earned through oil pays for Wahhabi teachings in Saudi Arabia, which is no fan of Western ideals and mores. Thus, bin Laden and al-Quaeda may be defeated, but they will always be replaced. There's a scene when a paid officer assures a leading mafioso that he has a way to stop Dillinger, whose activities are leading to a national crime bill that will federalize interstate criminal activity. The very next scene has the cop speaking with an informant, then agents, and a plan is materialized.
Terrorism, indeed Islamic funded, backed and initiated-terrorism, must be fought diligently and to a firm conclusion. It is a difficult task that will have us visit gray areas more than once. Yet, the roots of issues are where solutions can be found, not in the reactions. As much as Afghanistan must be passified for the world's benefit, not much is stopping a plan from being hatched and carried out from across your street (assuming you live in the States, Europe, or other liberally open societies). The goal must be to recruit their recruits away from that lifestyle. People with secure jobs and responsibilities rarely involves themselves in geopolitical matters in such crudely extreme manners. Would John Dillinger exist sans a Great Depression? Would bin Laden be influential sans the Saudi royal family? No one knows the answer, but we do know this: The man behind the curtain, yeah, that guy. Let's start paying some attention to him, and see where that takes us.
I'm not sure Sammag is ready for a religious sermon from the Sheehanator but its going to get one....here is what I posted on foxnews.com
"I'm a devout Catholic going to mass every week, confession every month, going decorate the church tomorrow for the Easter weekend etc. I am also absolutely against abortion, I'm thrilled Obama is coming to ND. I am getting really tired of Catholics who clearly do not understand their own religion. Jesus did not come to this earth to talk with those who thought like him. He invited the most harden sinners to his table and accepted them no matter what their past or beliefs. He came to teach and to show the way. Why not invite Obama to ND, raise the abortion debate and allow Jenkins to discuss the pro life view as I am sure he will? To suggest that ND should only invite those that agree with the Catholic teaching is as snobbish as it is impossible. Where were all you staunch Catholics when Bush spoke at ND even though he was a huge advocate of the death penalty....right nowhere to be found. Whatever happened to judge lest not ye be judged, and judgment is mine sayith the lord? And how about hate the sin and not the sinner......oh I guess those don't count when you throw in politics. The Catholic understanding is that you are to accept and respect all people and not to condemn anyone. This is the same embarrassment as Catholic bishops thinking that it is within their right to deny ANYONE the Eucharist and its saving grace. That isn’t to say that you don’t stand up and scream at the top of your lungs for the downfall of abortion. But to make the next step and condemn a man for seeing it the other way IS NOT (Catholics are you listening) NOT Christ’s teaching. I applaud my alma mater."
After 19 months and over 700 posts, SAM Online is going dark.
I started this site during law school for two primary reasons: to offer friends, family and the occasional stranger a place to exchange ideas, and as an outlet for my political energy. The site was more successful on the latter goal, but I hope that everyone enjoyed reading my posts even nearly as much as I enjoyed writing them.
SAM Online isn't dead, I'll be back from time to time and hope that others with permission to post continue (or start). So check back in now and then.
But now I have another outlet for my political energy, indeed all of my energy, a job with Sen. Chuck Schumer. (Working for Schumer is not a job so much as it's a lifestyle).
This has been a fun and interesting experiment. The passion I had for writing about this stuff kind of surprised me, and certainly helped inspire me to pursue a political career after graduation. I'm grateful for that and for anyone who checked the site out.
So please, if you enjoyed the site or want to keep it going in my stead email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay classy, Planet Earth.
Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, the nation's youngest governor, delivered the GOP's response to President Obama's speech to Congress. Over the past few weeks Jindal has emerged as his party's newest, and perhaps brightest, star. He also showed a willingess to lead with attempts to decline certain portions of the new economic stimulus package.
The media has picked up his scent and the Q&A at the recent governors' meeting in DC looked more like a Jindal press conference.
Many threw around his name last year as a possible VP nominee, but he wisely (or perhaps luckily) stayed off the ticket. At 36 he was just too young to be palatable. During tonight's speech, Jindal showed potential but is still too wooden for my taste. That will improve though, and we'll be hearing a lot more about Bobby Jindal in the years ahead.
This is an amazing parody video from FunnyOrDie.com of the award winning pic The Wrestler. In these economic times, Uncle Sam himself stars as the beaten down lead character, Alissa Milano does a dead on Marisa Tomei as Lady Liberty, and Uncle Sam's daughter portrays the middle class.
This is awesome:
A version of the stimulus bill will pass in the Senate later today, it will then be sent to conference for a compromise with the House version. A preliminary vote had 61 Senators in favor, which includes the support of just three Republicans.
So, out of 219 Republicans on the Hill only three support a path to recovery endorsed by economists of all ideological stripes and the staunchly pro- business US Chamber of Commerce.
When Rush Limbaugh made waves with his "I want Obama to fail" boasts last month, I rolled my eyes and lamented the attention he received. But now, it seems that dangerous sentiment is something of the official position of the Republican party.
Republicans are in the midst of a kind of identity crisis, left to wonder how their "permanent majority" became so thoroughly dismantled. Apparently, many see the rising deficits and increased spending of the Bush years as he party's main problem.
Now, they've found ideological purity at a time when rapid spending of this type is exactly what our country needs.
Alas, this is not a genuine disagreement, but an attempt at sabotage through disingenious allegations of "socialism" and "partisanship" to score political points. This sort of gamesmanship is not new, but it's unfotunate to see it at such a crucial time for our country's near and long- term future.
Oh, and, lest you think Republicans are just purely obstructionist, their alternative? More tax breaks, beyond the $400+ bn guaranteed in the current versions (though that is mostly middle- class relief), and a battle to keep the president from instituting temporary CEO pay caps. Leave our infrastructure to crumble; do not create jobs directly; keep our buildings and schools and medical records inefficient and out of date.
But go and cut income taxes again, cause that worked out so well the last time.
I realize that this is way dated, but for all the clips from late- night shows I put on this blog, I never posted one of my favorite skits about the 2008 presidential election. So, I decided to right this inconceivable wrong:
Ladies and gentlemen, Hall & Oates sing the election:
The debacle over Hillary Clinton's Senate seat mercifully ended, but not without significant political fallout. It was an unfortunate affair for pretty much everyone involved, particularly Governor David Paterson, who has been roundly criticized (and outright mocked) for his handling of the situation.
Caroline Kennedy's interest in the assignment was clearly problematic for Paterson. An accidental governor, he was sure to face a tough reelection battle in 2010 and probably a primary challenge as well. The Senate seat provided Paterson a way to clear a Democratic rival with designs on his job-- I'm thinking specifically of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, son of popular former Governor Mario, but I'm sure there are others-- but Kennedy's hat in the ring threatened that chance.
My expectation was for Paterson to wait for Kennedy to lose momentum and hopefully fall out of favor with the electorate, which never knew her as a pol. Things appeared to be headed that way as she struggled in initial interviews, and polls said voters preferred the attorney general for the job.
But then things took an ugly and surprising turn.
Just as Hillary Clinton was set to be confirmed as Secretary of State, whispers circulated that Kennedy would withdraw her name for personal reasons. Paterson could have left it at that. Instead, sources close to the governor trashed Kennedy, saying the Paterson would not have nominated her anyway because of nanny and/or tax and/or marriage problems. Though he denied knowing who was behind the leaks, Paterson was derided by everyone from Maureen Dowd to David Letterman, and the New York Post's Fred Dicker called him a liar in a detailed report.
Perhaps stranger still, Paterson did not nominate Cuomo, but chose Kristin Gillibrand instead. A one term Congresswoman with (according to Dowd) a less than stellar reputation in the House, Gillibrand has been a friend to the NRA, and stood with former Senate Republican Al D'Amato at her annoucement. However, She fills two of Paterson's main public criteria: She's a woman and from upstate. Presumably, this is Paterson's attempt to build support in the region and appeal to female voters.
But she fails on another key component. As an unfamiliar name, Sen. Gillibrand will have difficulty raising the money or generating the enthusiasm necessary for what will be at least three elections in two years: a primary battle before a special election in 2010, the election itself and the race when the seat's actual term expires in 2012.
She also leaves the 20th district ripe for a Republican pick- off in 2010.
I understand the desire for upstate influence, but about 63% of New Yorkers live in the city, on Long Island or in Westchester county. Picking a woman to fill the seat is also commendable, but Gillibrand's gender is not enough to ensure female support, and any gains may be outweighed by the fallout from liberals and those upset over the Kennedy smears.
Gillibrand deserves a fair shot as senator, and upstaters deserve a voice. But Paterson's decision remains curious. If he wanted to avoid naming Cuomo, who had a messy divorce from Kennedy's cousin Kerry in 2003, out of respect for the Kennedy clan, why the disparaging leaks? If he wanted to use the pick as a political opportunity why not a) pick Cuomo, b) pick Kennedy (with her Obama and Bloomberg ties, deep pockets and wealthy friends) or c) pick a place- holder closely allied with Hillary like my rep. Nita Lowey (although she denied interest in the job).
Whatever the answers, interesting questions abound. And the next couple of years in New York politics should be unpredictable.
Let's look at the winners and losers:
The losers are obvious.
Chistopher Hitchens on what turned out to be a great day for a conflicted city. (Slate)
Paul Krugman treads through some of the disingenuous reactions to Obama's stimulus plan. (NY Times)
In a long overdue move, auto emission standards are on the rise, thanks to President Obama. (NY Times)
Alberto Gonzales doesn't think the new administration will prosecute him. (Huffington Post)
Just before their new album drops, the E Street Band reflects on the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. (Rolling Stone)
On Feb. 7 I'm going with a friend to see Will Ferrell's one man Broadway show, You're Welcome America, where he plays our 43rd president.
George W. Bush was inaugurated on January 20, 2001. I was 18 years old, and politically aware and interested but not ideologically developed. The vote I cast for Al Gore remains my proudest. Before Bush took the oath of office, I had a conversation with my high school girlfriend's father. He'd voted for Bush, and I told him that after Bush was through the country would be worse off economically and socially. He disagreed.
On this, the last night of the Bush presidency, I want to take a look back at his time in office.
Just in case the above anecdote makes me seem like a know it all, indulge me one more. After 9/11, my friend and I were sitting in his dorm room watching ex- presidents and dignitaries file into the National Cathedral for a mass marking the tragic event. Gore was on screen and I remarked, "Man, I voted for him, but I'm really glad that he's not president right now. We need Bush in there." He agreed.
Bush's bravado and cowboy style comforted a nation that had its sense of invincibility rocked. He was a man who would punish those responsible and restore order to our world. Check out this SNL clip, where Ferrell plays the president just after 9/11. The cheers and hoots are remarkable and almost startling.
We craved this kind of call- out, we wanted revenge. Seven years later, this clip is more sad than funny. If you'd told the members of SNL's studio audience that night that bin Laden would be on the run and releasing tapes in 2009 I don't think they'd have believed you. I certainly wouldn't have.
But Bush was his best in those early days, even if he didn't actually accomplish anything. I'd argue the two best moments of his presidency came in late 2001:
Here, Bush is confident and well spoken, even eloquent. He's not giving prepared remarks, but reacting to the emotion of the moment and words of workers at Ground Zero.
I don't like George W. Bush, and I hate the New York Yankees. But this was pretty cool--
Bush executed the War on Terror in a reckless way that was often politically motivated. The Senate's vote for use of force against Iraq was held right before the '02 midterms, which turned it into a political issue.
Dick Cheney executed his "unitary executive" theory, which gave the president new power at the expense of civil liberties and international law. Neo- Cons executed their Iraq- as- Petri dish experiment for American hegemony in the 21st century unfettered, at the expense of American servicemen and women, uncounted civilians and America's alliances.
And the president wasn't curious enough or interested enough or competent enough to stop them.
The Iraq War was, as John Kerry famously put it, the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. But with improved security in the country it has become Bush's best chance at lasting achievement, and the only thing that could rescue his name from historians' bottom tier of presidents, where he now seems destined to be remembered. A stable democracy in the heart of the Middle East, and the dismantling of an abhorrent dictator is a potential game changer for our world.
But it was sold under false pretenses and done on the cheap. And when it wasn't working, Bush didn't react. The failures in Iraq can fill books. And so it can never be a source of pride for Bush. But it does have potential.
For much of Bush's eight years in office, before the economy collapsed in on itself, the country seemed to be doing quite well economically. Unemployment was stable near historic lows, the stock market routinely broke records, and home ownership was at its highest level ever. However, polls routinely showed that Americans didn't feel good about the economy. People didn't feel good about it because it wasn't working for them. Inequality skyrocketed during the Bush years, to levels that surpassed even the "Roarin' 20s."
Through tax cuts and loop holes corporate earnings and income for the wealthiest individuals were unprecedented. Yet the benefits failed to trickle down to the rest of us. And when inflated housing numbers popped they brought the DOW down too, and Bush's signature economic accomplishments were undone while he still lived in the White House.
In Paul Krugman's 2007 book The Conscience of a Liberal the economist distinguishes the Republican party of Eisenhower, Nixon and Bush 41 from that of George W. Bush. Bush 43 emanated from what Krugman calls"movement conservatism," and one of its main tenets is patronage based on loyalty rather than expertise.
That became evident as figures drifted from the administration to companies they were supposed to be regulating and back. It was clear after the utter incompetence of horse breeder turned FEMA director, Michael Brown who still enjoyed George Bush's loyalty even as people suffered through the federal government's incompetence.
Bush's presidency might be best understood through the lens of what's known as the Peter Principle. It holds that in a hierarchy, members are promoted so long as they work competently. Sooner or later they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their "level of incompetence"), and there they remain.
George Bush rose to a level for which he was simply incompetent.
However, his presidency is not so much a personal failure, I think, as it is a failure of ideology and a corrupt politics. George Bush's disposition and personal character and story made him somewhat of a blank canvas on which movement conservatives could project their vision of government. For eight years we endured that vision.
Now, thanks to that experience, eroding racism and a shift in demographics movement conservatives have turned the Republican party into a mostly regional force. When the party returns to national prominence, we can expect it to look very different.
So perhaps Bush's legacy is that he made today possible. He helped elect the most progressive government since the 1930s. And I firmly believe our country will be better off for it. What's more, he put the country in a place where it was finally ready move past, not so much its racial divisions, but the cultural roils that defined the baby boom generation. Now that our first post- Boomer is in the White House we can close the book on George W. Bush's presidency and that tumultuous age.
So, thank you, George W. Bush.