"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you”


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Extended Honeymoon

Rasmussen reports that nearly two-thirds of Americans continue to place blame for the nation's economic troubles on Bush, providing Obama much-needed manuevering room to take dramatic steps (nationalizing a bankrupt GM, for instance) to put the economy on a more solid footing.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cheney, Cheney, Everywhere

I remember fondly the days our former Vice President Dick spent holed up in his "undisclosed location." Today, I am flicking across the channels on the teevee and lo and behold, there he is again. He's at an event honoring Gerald Ford at the National Press Club and he's pontificating about 9/11, terrorism, North Korea and nuclear proliferation. Now, I'm not going to deny him his right to free speech, but I wonder does the traditional media need to put him on camera each time he opens his mouth?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Making it Personal

The most personally wrenching moment in the Oscar-nominated film "Hotel Rwanda" occurred for me not during the scenes depicting the horrific barbaric butchering that terrorized the central African nation. It was a scene during which the voice of American President Bill Clinton emanates from the radio. His declaration that the United States did not believe a genocide was occurring in the war-ravaged nation.

It's a powerful scene. By denying the reality of the horror all around them, Clinton's message essentially extinguished the hopes of rescue for the poor souls barracaded in the hotel. The world had determined there was no political will to engage, so it was simply decided to deny reality.

At that moment my anger, outrage and disgust at the inhumanity of the crisis was transformed into a profound shame. No longer was watching this movie a historical experience. Sure, movies about prior genocides, like Schindler's List were eye-opening and soul-wrenching. But there was always the distance of time. Besides, in most of the stories we are taught in our youth, Americans are on the side of justice.

Now, however, here was something I could not depersonalize. The comfort of time and distance evaporated in an instant. A man I had cast a vote for, a man I believed would do the right thing (especially when confronted with evidence of genocide), chose the politically expedient option. I felt dirty, ashamed. At that point, I became responsible.

Now, with US Army General Antonio Taguba (the one who investigated the Abu Ghraib crimes) revealing the contents of the photos President Obama has chosen to keep from the public, a sinking feeling overcomes me. Is another president putting political expediency over doing what's right? To make it worse, the potential crimes were committed by Americans against prisoners. And they were done in the name of keeping me safe.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gay Marriage Fight Creates Strange Bedfellows

When former Bush II Solicitor General Ted Olsen unites with his former Bush v. Gore adversary David Boies one realizes how dramatically the politics of marriage equality have shifted.

I'll say this again, although it isn't all that popular. The passage of Proposition 8 was a pivotal event in the fight for LGBT civil rights. A community has been transformed. Yesterday's court decision is another important step forward, despite the defeat. The public debate (although at times ugly and nasty) is creating more support for equality more quickly than any court-ordered mandate ever could have accomplished.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mitch's Filibuster Flip Flopping

Mitch's band of Roadblocking Senate Republicans are elevating hypocrisy to new levels. Three years ago, they hyperventilated over the prospect Democrats might filibuster Bush judicial nominees, decrying the move as unconstitutional. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, they're singing a different tune.

Thanks to Media Matters, we've got video footage of these fools.

Will They Listen to the Generals Now?

Recall the Republican argument used to disarm Democratic opposition to the 2007 Iraq surge? They paraded the military leaders, led by Gen. David Petraeus in front of Congress, the television cameras and challenged Democratic politicians to "listen to the generals."

Now that Petraeus has come out in support of closing Gitmo, will they follow their own advice? Or will Rush, Hannity and Beck pillory their once-beloved general to protect Darth Cheney?

"Torture and Abuse Was Counterproductive to What We Were Trying to Accomplish"

Dick "Four Deferrals" Cheney doesn't know what he's talking about:

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Sunday Muse, Memorial Day Edition

Random clippings from this week's news:

Business/The Economy

Wall Street: This is what happens when a political party devoted to small government and lax regulation is in charge:

The Securities and Exchange Commission abandons investigations for lack of resources, allows corporate wrongdoers to skip fines and drops cases because of a bureaucratic culture of risk aversion, according to a recent federal report...

The report raises questions about how well the SEC can do its job protecting investors with such glaring deficiencies.

The number of SEC enforcement attorneys declined 11.5 percent from 2004 to 2008 while cases were closed prematurely or not investigated at all, the report says.

Although a wide range of cases is pursued, "one attorney told us of closing several cases that were promising but which could not be pursued for lack of resources," according to the report.

With such lax oversight, how can investors and American taxpayers regain the confidence in the financial system necessary to revive the global economy?

Detroit: It was once unthinkable, but now seems inevitable.

Capitol Hill: The Roberts Court does corporate America's bidding.

Science/The Environment:

Has anyone checked the temperature in hell lately?

Republican talking heads, full of hot air and blinded to science.


GOP 2012: In the race to crazy that is the GOP nomination fight, Sarah proves she's still in the game.


The Golden State's tarnished future: California's kids
to pay the price for political failure. The draconian spending cuts now facing the state's school districts is an unconscionable abandonment of the state's children, it's most important resource.

Foreign Policy/Military Affairs:

South Central Asia: As President Obama goes "
all in" in AfPak, I find myself wondering if anyone has clearly defined America's end goals in a region known as the graveyard of empires.

Capitol Hill: Disappointing the anti-war left that propelled them to power over the past two elections, a Democratic Congress
passes another "no-strings attached" Iraq/AfPak war supplemental funding bill. But this year, it's a Democratic President who launched his national career as the anti-war candidate who receives the money. Was this the change we had in mind?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Senate Scaredy-Crats

Many of us hoped Karl Rove's post 9/11 fearmongering political strategy had become a relic of the past with the Democratic victories of 2006 and 2008. We viewed the ridicule that greeted "A Noun, A Verb, 9/11" Guiliani's stillborn presidential campaign as a sign the electorate had grown wise to being manipulated by images of terrorists on every corner. Surely, the landslide election of a president who rose to prominence through his opposition to a war launched on false claims of imminent mushroom clouds allowed us to dream the voters had seen through the Republicans' scare tactics.

Turns out all of that was nothing more than wishful thinking, if the behavior of Senate Democrats is any indicator. They are still acting as if this were Memorial Day Weekend 2002.

How else could one explain the ever-shrinking Republican minority's ability to successfully return to their "Terror, Terror, Everywhere!" playbook and masterfully play Master Harry and his spineless caucus. Cowering to the specious specter of terrorists running rampant through the streets if America followed through on President Obama's first-day-in-0ffice pledge to close Gitmo, the Senate Scaredy-crats abandoned their Commander-in-Chief and disappointed their political base.

Gitmo - and the enhanced interrogation techniques that unfolded there - will be remembered as one of the more shameful chapters in American history, alongside the Alien and Sedition Acts and the WWII Japanese internment camps. Closing the prison is a critical step in restoring America's moral standing, at home and abroad. Gitmo is not merely a "taint" on America's image, it's continued existence makes us less safe. With each passing month Guantanamo remains open the terrorists ranks expand. Osama bin Laden's most effective recruiting tool must be closed.

But under Harry Reid's intrepid leadership, fifty Democrats (including the two independents) joined with every single Republican (there's the bipartisanship Rush Limbaugh was looking for!) supporting an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations Bill barring the transfer of Gitmo detainees to prison facilities within the United States.

Sensing he may have boxed himself in and needlessly created a political problem for the president, Harry the Decisive quickly backtracked. As Greg Sargent reports, despite his embrace of Republican talking points and apparently unequivocal statement, “You can’t put them in prison unless you release them. We will never allow terrorists to be released in the United States,” Reid is now searching for wiggle room.

Wishy-washy, which-way-is-the-wind-blowing decision-making is embarassing, Senator Reid.

You have to wonder how the President - who wants to move past the sins of the Bush era as quickly as possible - views the recent missteps by Pelosi and Reid that have only served to put a spotlight on the issues he wants to put in the rearview mirror?

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Purity Purge Continues

Charlie Crist's decision to jump into the Florida Senate race threatens to open a deeper rift between the party's conservative base and leadership in DC. NRSC Chair John Cornyn's endorsement of Crist (the Obama hugger) over conservative Marco Rubio has enflamed the base. Red State's Erick Erickson is urging party donors to withhold funds (@ Not One Red Cent) from the NRSC.

In the past, most party committees stayed on the sidelines in primary fights. After losing over a dozen seats in the past two elections (and the possibility of losing 3-5 more in 2010), Cornyn finds himself in desperate circumstances, so he chose to back the popular moderate governor who has a substantial lead in early polls. But by rejecting a young conservative Hispanic did he risk further alienating a critical voting bloc?

Dueling Banjos

The media fascination over the past twenty-four hours over the Dueling Banjos played by President Obama and former Veep Dick Cheney makes it clear how difficult moving forward without looking back is going to be. Beyond the fact the chattering class has legimitized Cheney's tired and worn-out fearmongering (didn't Americans reject this approach during the most recent election?), it's clear that the absence of torture investigations HASN'T made it easier for the nation (or the Administration) to focus on the domestic agenda.

In fact, it may have emboldened the former Vice President to continue his crusade.

Denouncing the president's approach to closing Gitmo and ending torture as American policy as "recklessness cloaked in righteousness," Cheney continues his aggressive and unprecedented attacks. I wonder if his cage-rattling might be making some in the Obama Administration reconsider their desire to turn the page on torture investigations.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Never Having to Say Your Sorry

Embattled RNC Chair Michael Steele will rally the irrelephants today by declaring,

"The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over. It is done," Steele said in remarks prepared for delivery Tuesday to state party chairmen. "We have turned the page, we have turned the corner. No more looking in the rearview mirror. From this point forward, we will focus all of our energies on winning the future."

I have no problem with a party leader talking about the future (that is his job, afterall) but I am perplexed. Did I miss something? When has anyone in the Republican Party actually admitted responsibility for the disasters of the Bush Administration?

Monday, May 18, 2009

George Bush's Holy Crusade

GQ reveals the religious cloak Rumsfeld's Pentagon used to push the invasion of Iraq at Bush's White House.

Is it any wonder the Islamic world eyes American military policy as a 21st Century Crusade when Intelligence updates to the President use biblical verses like, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." ~ Joshua 1:9

I shudder when I see how Rumsfeld reinforced Dubya's belief he was Chosen as an instrument of God by quoting Peter, "It is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men."

How can we not tremble at America's role in this clash of civilizations when "Onward Christian soldiers!" is the White House's marching orders for the military?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday Muse, May 17

This Week in Politics:

While planet Earth burns, the Republicans
continue playing their fiddles.

The Republican noise machine remains potent. Remember that DHS report on
Right Wing extremism? In the immortal words of Gilda's Emily Litella, "Never mind."

No one escapes his wrath. Rush Limbaugh
lashes out at McCain's elderly mother.

Does Obama's
decision to revive military trials for Gitmo detainees threaten his left flank?

Predictable, yet diabolical. Hannity is falsely comparing Obama's plans to appoint his own US Attorneys to the Rove/Bush regime's politically motivated 2006 firings of nine US Attorneys.
Insiders blogging on DC's
coming summer blockbuster.


Older Americans feeling the pinch from this recession
less than younger generations.

From the "What Else Did You Expect?" File:

More trigger-happy mercenaries working for The Company Formerly Known as Blackwater
find themselves in hot water in Afghanistan.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ignoring that Face In the Mirror

As the nation's media has become increasingly distracted by the "She Said, He Said" Pelosi/CIA foodfight, I have one question: When did what she knew become more important than what was done? Lost in this diversionary storyline is the fundamental fact: America has endorsed torture. When a democracy allows its government to embrace the tools of tyrants and despots and holds no one accountable, we risk becoming that which we claim to detest.

The way I see it, our nation faces a fundamental question about who we are as a society. How do we reconcile the use of torture in our names?

Do we choose, as our president seems inclined to do, to move forward by turning the page without another glance? Politically, it's the easiest option. From the White House perspective, stirring up partisan rancor is to be avoided at all costs as the administration works to solve the recession, reform healthcare and address climate change. Focusing on the past will only undermine the agenda of change, or so the argument goes.

I see it quite differently. It is less a question of looking backwards than a matter of looking honestly in a mirror. Any path to health (whether as an individual, a family, or a society) requires this step of self-awareness. Its the fundamental first step of any recovery. If you view what happened as torture (as the Red Cross does), it's unconscionable to simply shrug our shoulders and say, "what's done is done."

If we choose expedience we willingly forfeit our moral standing internationally. It is outrageous that as Americans we are actually debating torture as a viable policy. A democratic society cannot survive if we embrace the tactics of tyrants and despots. By sweeping our sins under the rug, how can we ever hope to relight the beacon of hope that America once represented to the world's masses?

I'll use vocabulary the Right understands.

Torture is evil.

Evil is never justified.

Torture violates domestic and international law. What's so difficult to understand?

Failing to acknowledge these crimes committed in our names could rank as one of the biggest mistakes any administration has ever made. I make this statement fully understanding America's original sin of slavery, our deliberate genocide of the indigenous population of this continent and the long tradition of civil liberty infringements throughout American history during times of war and conflict.

We must understand this: the immediacy and scope of global communications changes the stakes. Failing to address this sin quickly will forever stain us in the eyes of a much more attentive world. The eyes of the world are on Obama. I expect his global admirers are going to be much more disappointed in this inaction than the "angry liberal bloggers."

As for Democrats who fret about the risk of taking our eyes off the ball and derailing the domestic agenda, I simply do not believe this administration is incapable of addressing the economy, healthcare reform and education while torture investigations are underway. This president's team is a hive of multitasking overachievers. Besides, the White House would not be the locus nor the focus of the investigation.

Might it threaten to alienate Republicans we need to enact meaningful reform? Perhaps, but a far different outcome may emerge as investigations proceed. We only need one or two Senators to move the agenda forward. And, I firmly believe there are a handful of Republicans here in DC who do have a conscience and are likely to become extremely squeamish in defending torture once those currently hidden pictures became public.

And why? Because it's becoming increasingly clear that torture wasn't used to keep Americans safe, as Cheney keeps claiming. It was used as part of a desperate search to validate the invasion of Iraq.

That sounds like tyranny.

Take Me To Your Leader

Rasmussen is polling Republican voters about who they view as the leader of the rapidly shrinking GOP. Compared to Rasmussen's March 2009 numbers, the search for a new leader reveals a roster of golden oldies emerging to fill the power vacuum. Who has stepped forward to become the leading Goposaur?
John McCain5%18%
Michael Steele5%14%
Sarah Palin1%10%
Mitt RomneyN/A8%
Rush Limbaugh2%6%
Dick CheneyN/A4%
No Clear Leader68%37%
Not Sure17%

Earlier this month, Rasmussen reported deep dissatisfaction among the Republican faithful regarding their congressional leadership, with 69% saying they have lost touch with their base nationally.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Big Oil Extracts First Blood

David Hayes, Obama's pick to be number two at Interior, became the Party of No's first victim, as his nomination was defeated simply to send a message to the Obama administration on behalf of the oil and gas interests who underwrite the campaigns of some powerful Western Republicans. Proving once again they are unwilling to acknowledge their 2008 defeat, the empty rhetoric of last year's GOP campaign chant, "Drill, Baby, Drill!" echoes across the barren wasteland that is the Republican Party.

Can We Afford to Look Away?

Over at DailyKos is one of the better posts, This is Us, I've read about Obama's decision to prevent the torture photos public release. I understand the fear of igniting the tinderbox that is Pakistan at this critical point, but preventing a long, hard look at what has been done in our names (and by default allowing Dick Cheney to frame a debate on the ethics and efficacy of torture) is a tragic mistake.

If karma does indeed exist, then America's got serious worries.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Scars That Won't Heal?

Despite President Obama's Team of Rivals embrace of his vanquished primary foe, former surrogates are trying to stir up the old intraparty rivalry in this year's most critical Democratic primary - the Virginia gubernatorial race. The Clinton's uber-fundraiser and former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe is using his high-profile relationships to raise oodles of money. His path to vicotry depends on using that money to increase voter turnout beyond the traditional primary electorate. The off-off-off year elections in Virginia typically attract only the most committed partisans. Brian Moran, on the other hand, is hoping to claim Obama's message of change and motivate the liberal activists to carry him to victory.

Despite the apparent unwillingness of Obama to engage in this skirmish, it's fascinating to see whether activists and the grassroots still cling to old loyalties. Will a McAuliffe victory be viewed by Hillary allies as a restoration of the old Democratic order? Will some see a Moran triumph as a final Clinton smackdown? What would a Creigh Deeds victory mean?

A Failure to Communicate

Perhaps this explains why Democratic leaders have put Cap & Trade legislation on the back burner. From Rasmussen:

Given a choice of three options, just 24% of voters can correctly identify the cap-and-trade proposal as something that deals with environmental issues. A slightly higher number (29%) believe the proposal has something to do with regulating Wall Street while 17% think the term applies to health care reform. A plurality (30%) have no idea.

According to this poll, Democrats are less likely to accurately describe Cap & Trade as proposal to address climate change than their Republican or independent cohorts. What does this say about Democratic leadership's messaging efforts if they're own supporters are clueless on one of their top priorities?

Gregg's Judgment Day

If Judd Gregg – a man we know to not be a man of his word – listens to his colleagues entrities and decides to “unretire” next year and run for his New Hampshire Senate it could cause heartburn for the Republican Senate leadership. Democrats, who are currently eyeing Gregg’s open seat as a likely pick-up opportunity will still view the Granite State seat as competitive even with Gregg defending in the race.

But if Gregg does manage to retain the seat CQ Politics tells us it could scramble committee assignments among the GOPosaurs in the US Senate. The handshake deals between senior Republicans Chuck Grassley and Jeff Sessions could be in jeopardy if Gregg sticks around and asserts his seniority. While I'd rather see Gregg shuffle off to an early retirement in favor of a New Hampshire Democrat, it might be entertaining to watch the GOP feathers fly.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Obama in a Word

Pew Research has another cool interactive graphic showing the public's changing impression about President Obama. Top six words used to describe the Commander in Chief:
  • Intelligent
  • Good
  • Socialist
  • Liberal
  • Great
  • Confident

Coming in at #7 was "Inexperienced." Thirteen respondents described the president as such in April 2009, a dramatic fall-off from the 55 respondents who used the term last September.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The GOP's Tar Heel Troubles

Richard Burr, already suffering anemic approval numbers as he approaches his 2010 reelection campaign appears to be positioning himself to challenge Arlen Specter and Jim Bunning as this cycle's most vulnerable Republican incumbents.

Following on their success in knocking off Liddy Dole, the DSCC has this put together this ad attacking Burr:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Nobody Likes a Sore Loser

It looks like two closely contested elections are going to be decided soon in favor of the Democrats. In Minnesota and Upstate New York, Republicans hopes of grasping an electoral victory on which to pin their "we're on the rebound" talking point are rapidly evaporating. But the news is worse than the simple loss of a Senate and House seat. Republican strategists "win at all costs" approach have been dangerously short-sighted, threatening to undermine their future viability in critical swing regions.

Former Senator Norm Coleman's stubborn insistence to continue fighting for a seat even conservatives now believe has been lost is alienating voters. Will his inability to "do the right thing" have repercussions for current and future Republican candidates in the North Star State? Beyond the local ramifications, his intransigence has put the squeeze on Gov. Tim Pawlenty's presidential aspirations. One of the more moderate voices in the modern Republican Party, Pawlenty is forced by Coleman's refusal to throw in the towel into a difficult political dilemma as to whether or not to sign the looming election certificate. Refusing to sign (and ignoring state law) would delight the conservative base but undermine his moderate credentials.

In New York state, the bizarre and desperate attempts to challenge multiple absentee ballots shines the spotlight on the ugly reality of bare-knuckled political fighting. While both parties always look bad in tight tussles, the tactical blunder of challenging the legitimacy of Sen. Gillibrand's ballot scars the Republicans most deeply. If a Republican resurgence is possible in the northeast, it is in the traditionally conservative regions of Upstate New York. At this point, it looks like that renaissance is a remote possibility.

The Irrelephants by the Numbers

Pew Research provides more statistics revealing just how far Karl Rove's Permanent Republican Majority has sunk.
Among registered voters, 28% call themselves Republicans, a decline of five points since 2004 and only a point above a record low level of Republican self-identification in 16 years of polling by the Pew Research Center, found in March 2008.

It gets worse for the party of no solutions:

Among voters who now identify as Republican or Republican-leaning, roughly two-thirds (68%) identify themselves as conservative, and of the conservatives, three-quarters think the party should turn further to the right. While a majority of moderates and liberals within the party advocate a centrist approach (66%), they make up fewer than a third (31%) of Republican voters overall. As a result, 60% of all Republican voters support a more conservative direction for the party.

As the country shifts toward the left, the opposition party hurtles to the right. Will a moderate voice emerge within the Republican Party?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dana's New Gig

Could this be a sign the economy may have bottomed out? Former SpinMaster Dana Perino lands a job as a "chief issues counselor" with Hillary's Microtrends mastermind, Mark Penn's firm Burson-Masteller.

Not sure what a "chief issues counselor" does, but apparently Perino's experience on the frontline defending the Bush administration's endless string of second term fiascos and tragedies prepared her for the new gig:

"She's been through some incredibly difficult experiences at some of the
highest levels, and comes out of that an extremely skilled practitioner," Mr.
Penn said in an interview.

So, we've come to this. Perfecting the Press Secretary Sidestep - stonewalling the press, protecting elected officials from scrutiny and defending inept policy implementation - all while looking kinda "hot" in a Sarah Palin-like manner makes Perino an "extremely skilled practitioner" worthy of joining a Democratic pollster's global PR firm. One might be tempted to view this as a sign of the new era of bipartisanship, but uber-Bush insider Karen Hughes has been a "Burson Person" since last summer.

As to whether this signals an end to the Bush recession, perhaps we should look to another Bush alum; last I heard Gonzo was still looking for work.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Accountability Anyone?

Amid the deluge of pink slips flooding Main Street, the rising tide of foreclosures drowning the heartland and the rapidly evaporating 401Ks threatening to destroy America's middle class, the Titans of Wall Street have thus far escaped retribution.

The Titans - responsible for much of this economic mess - have yet to even acknowledge their complicity in the financial meltdown, although it appears the Goldman Sachs' Chairman Lloyd Blankfein recently

took the first trip through the public confessional, acknowledging that "the past year has been deeply humbling" for an industry that held itself out as expert but disappointed customers and shareholders by taking actions that "look self-serving and greedy in hindsight."

In hindsight? Aren't they still extorting millions from the public treasury while demanding minimal oversight? When will these Masters of the Universe be held accountable?

Monday, April 6, 2009

When Does the Right Cross the Line?

A month ago, I wrote a post "Wingnut Get Your Gun" about a frightening email I had received under the Human Events banner. I feared the right wing was fomenting panic among its base in the wake of the Democratic ascendancy in Washington. This past week, The New York Times took notice of this rising apocalyptic rhetoric. With mass shootings peppering our national newscasts on a seemingly daily basis, one wonders if our nation has become unhinged. Is anyone - beyond the shooter - responsible for these irrational acts?

The violence seems to go beyond the all-too-common tragedies of relationship breakdowns and economic dislocation. On Friday, when I heard the Binghamton shootings occured in a facility devoted to assimilating immigrants, I feared our worst xenophobic impulses had turned deadly. In North Carolina a gunman terrorizes a nursing home. In Oakland and Pittsburgh, police officers are gunned down with impunity.

It is the assassinations of the Pittsburgh officers that is most troubling, especially for those of us watching the dangerous rise of right wing panic about guns. Under the guise of defending the Second Amendment, the ultra-conservative base has taken to arming itself at an unprecedented pace.

The extreme right has spawned many native-grown terrorists. Is the next Eric Rudolph or Timothy McVeigh listening to the ravings of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Michelle Bachman, plotting the next outrage? Will the hate-mongers on the right accept their role in cultivating these terrorists?

No Panic Button in Obama's White House

Watching our president stride across the world stage as an equal among equals is extraordinary. This is the change we all knew could be possible.

The G-20 summit revealed the possibilities of diplomacy and proved our new president is up to the task of leading a multi-polar world into the 21st Century. His softly spoken words proved far more powerful than Dubya's wildly damaging big stick. He accomplished more than most had anticipated - and received kudos from world leaders.

When France's Sarkozy declared "I trust him," it exposed President Bush's fatal flaw - his loss of integrity. The trustworthy Obama erased the Bush/Cheney regime's "you're either with us or against us" mentality our thoughtful and pragmatic leader has moved our nation back into it's necessary role of world leadership. The Right will scream about the abandonment of American "exceptionalism" but this chant rings hollow in an era roiled by economic hardship created in large part by America's elites.

Obama's first international crisis - North Korea's missile launch over the weekend - revealed a refreshing and welcome response from President Obama. Rather than pushing the PANIC button and employing the tired rhetoric of the 9/11 president, he seized the opportunity to talk about nuclear disarmament.

I, for one, am delighted this man is the one answering that 3 AM phone call.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday Muse, Palm Sunday Edition

Political Scene:

Congressional approval inches up...but the belief that congresscritters are corrupt is much more prevalent. A majority predict more partisanship in DC this year.

GOP insanity alert: GOP Governors continue jockeying for 2012 presidential poll position.

GOP sanity search: Mitt Romney warns Republican donors, “I also think its important for us to nod to the president when he’s right. He will not always be wrong.”

Foreign Affairs:

"Hello, Mr. Fox, welcome to the henhouse:"

Former Bush national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley is heading to the U.S. Institute of Peace -- the congressionally created and funded outfit that focuses on international conflict management, as a senior adviser for global affairs. He'll co-chair -- with former Clinton national security adviser Samuel R. Berger -- a working group on the Middle East.

The drug cartel violence raging south of the border could prove President Obama's most difficult political challenge:

The potential for this Mexican crisis to trigger the worst kind of demagoguery in U.S. politics is great, which is why the administration needs to keep intelligently addressing the problem now, before political campaigns reach a fever pitch next year...

Given the severity of the economic recession and the fear, anxiety, and frustration that Americans are already feeling from our many domestic challenges, the danger is very real that the Mexican crisis will give rise to U.S. demagoguery and racism that blind us to the real question: Would we rather send greenbacks today or Green Berets tomorrow?

The Weekly Planet:

Are flame-retardant chemicals on our coasts endangering young children?

The path to clean energy, Google-style.

The Economic Update:

Is GM's Wagoner only the first corporate CEO to be getting a pink slip from the American taxpayer?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Muse, 3/29/09

Obama's full plate:

Could the axiom "all politics is local" derail the president's green jobs agenda?

Obama skips the Gridiron dinner but appears on 60 Minutes...is he risking offending the Beltway elite?

The recession ripples outward:

Will Congressional micromanaging of financial change the American professional sports stage?

Some local officials worry the foreclosure crisis could result in severe undercounting in next year's census. California could actually lose a seat for the first time since it entered the Union.

Fundraising totals are plummeting for all the campaign committees; will the recession mean more self-financed Congressional candidates in 2010?

Is anyone paying attention?

It looks like all those fears about Diebold being able to highjack our democracy weren't misplaced.

An Amnesty International report describes America's immigration system a virtual black hole of human rights abuse.

Our military men and women are paying a high price for the Bush/Cheney wars.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

DCCC Dancing Circles Around Tedisco

Underdog Democratic candidate Scott Murphy has surged ahead in the NY-20 special election to replace now-Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, threatening GOP hopes of reversing the Democrats' electoral momentum. Solidifying their hold on a once rock-ribbed Republican district will deny the GOP the "we're on the rebound" talking point so desperately needed to revive party morale and motivate donors. It could also be the death knell for Michael Steele as RNC Chair.

The DCCC has been successful in attaching the "Just Another Albany Politician" label to the the Republican candidate Jim Tedisco:

Regardless as to the outcome of the election, political chatterers inside the Beltway will chatter about the "national implications" of this race. A Democratic victory will be proclaimed a validation of President Obama's first two months in office and a repudiation of the Party of No on their home turf. A Republican win of any size will be trumpeted by the noise machine as the exact opposite - and will fuel the media's desire for a compelling narrative about a nation unsure of it's new leadership and direction.

After viewing the DCCC ads, I would caution Democrats in particular about reading too much into a Murphy victory. The winning message (if Murphy does indeed win on Tuesday) seems to be one of a "throw the bums out!" anti-incumbent populist anger.

If this is the case, there may be reason to worry for officeholders of both parties come 2010.

No Laughing Matter

When the President spends forty minutes discussing the critical issues facing the nation during an interview with 60 Minutes' Steve Kroft, how does the media spend the next news cycle focusing on his "laughter"?

Media Matters has the answer:

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Neocons' New Lair

Thought the neocons were defeated once and for all in the Republicans' 2008 electoral defeat?

After highjacking America's foreign policy, launching preemptive and unecessary wars helping to bankrupt the global economy, you would be forgiven for thinking the Bill Kristols and Robert Kagan's would slink off into the dustbin of history. But you would be wrong.

They have found a new home. And it's called the Foreign Policy Initiative.

The organisation’s mission statement argues that the "United States remains the world’s indispensable nation," and warns that "strategic overreach is not the problem and retrenchment is not the solution" to Washington's current financial and strategic woes. It calls for "continued engagement - diplomatic, economic, and military - in the world and rejection of policies that would lead us down the path to isolationism."

The mission statement opens by listing a familiar litany of threats to the U.S., including "rogue states," "failed states," "autocracies" and "terrorism", but gives pride of place to the "challenges" posed by "rising and resurgent powers," of which only China and Russia are named.

Their prominence may reflect the influence of Kagan, who has argued in recent years that the 21st century will be dominated by a struggle between the forces of democracy (led by the U.S.) and autocracy (led by China and Russia).

A foreign policy dominated by fear and motivated by conflict? Perhaps this is out of step in the first months of an Obama Administration, but these characters know the current climate is unlikely to last for long. They may have retreated, but they've hardly surrendered.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Losing the Argument on Taxes

Despite widespread agreement among economists that tax cuts are the least stimulative option in the government's arsenal to stimulate an economy in recession, Rasmussen tells us "More Voters Than Ever Say Tax Cuts Help the Economy." Sixty-three percent believe cuts are helpful to the economy while 51% believe tax increases would be detrimental to the economy.

I realize these numbers are from Rasmussen, so I'm skeptical of putting too much weight in their importance, but progressives still have a huge task in front of us to educate Americans about tax policy if the Obama Administration is going to have the leeway to advance it's ambitious reform agenda.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

With Friends Like These...

Who needs enemies?

Congressional Republicans are telling Dick Cheney to go back to his undisclosed location and leave them alone to rebuild the Republican Party without his input.

Displeased with the former vice-president's recent media appearances, Republican lawmakers say he's hurting GOP efforts to reinvent itself after back-to-back electoral drubbings.

Here's to hoping Dubya's Rasputin doesn't find the directions back to his infamous "undisclosed location" any time soon. The power vacuum at the top of the Republican Party is one of the new president's greatest advantages.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Is That the Best the Press Can Do?

I tuned in to watch President Obama's second prime time press conference curious to see how he plans to push his budget proposal through a reluctant Congress, respond to the ongoing AIG bonus scandal and the upcoming G20 Summit. Instead, I was numbed by the performance of the representatives of the Fourth Estate. Honestly, the man gets better questions at town hall meetings populated by average Americans.

If this is the best group of reporters we can assemble for a White House press conference, it's obvious why Americans are as ill-informed as we are. How do I get my press pass? I'm confident I can ask a more productive question than the one Anne Compton asked.

Did anyone else get the feeling the President was getting a little annoyed with the inane questions? Shouldn't he expect college-level inquiries? Instead, he's got junior high heathers pushing GOP talking points about embryonic stem cells and charitable tax deductions for the wealthy.

I admit putting the press in their place - "I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak" -makes me feel good, but wow, he bruised some fragile egos in the room. Public smack downs of people who have cameras, mics and twenty four hours of television airtime to fill may not be a smart strategy.

One thing I wish the President would say is, "Yeah, the Republicans seem to have a short term memory problem. But, you know what? So does the press." I understand why he can't, but just wish he could. Their role in helping Republicans push the Bush presidency into our collective memory hole is yet another example of journalistic malpractice right up there with their cheerleading our way into the invasion of Iraq.

The New Teflon President?

Americans are outraged at greedy financiers. Congresscritters are indignant. They're passing ill-advised, hastily prepared legislation. Sensing chum in the water, the pundits are circling around the Obama presidency like ravenous sharks.

And yet, the public is NOT taking it's anger out on Obama.

Holding a City Hostage

Apparently, overturning the District's handgun control laws last summer wasn't enough to appease House Republicans' NRA masters. The Republicans are extracting a heavy price from DC residents, dividing citizens and politicians.

As they inch closer to achieving their decades-long campaign for a vote in the House, the Party of No (along with some Dems who are entangled by the NRA's bipartisan tentacles) is demanding the city further water down its gun laws in exchange for supporting its passage:

The gun amendment would repeal many of the District's gun control laws -- including the registration of firearms -- and sharply limit its ability to impose new ones.

Having spent most of my adult life as a District resident, I am willing to swallow the poison pill compromise in order to get representation in Congress. Whether or not the bill will pass Constitutional muster is another question, but it will serve to illustrate the inequality that is life in the nation's capital.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Muse, Spring Has Sprung!

Browsing through this week’s news clippings, a few thoughts on a Sunday morning:

Anyone else out there going to be planting their inaugural vegetable garden this year? Gotta love

Ditto Barney Frank, the first congress critter for whom I ever voted. Turns out he possesses
supernatural powers over hapless Republicans.

More from the circular firing squad once known as the Republican Party:

· When the Governator - the leader who makes Californians wish for the
good old days of Gray Davis and rolling brownouts (the definition of Epic Fail in the Golden State - is one of the few Republicans making sense on the stimulus, you know the GOP is DOA.
· Sometimes this Bush Legacy effort is sad. Other times, its tragic.
This is simply laughable.
· When will Michael Steele realize he should simply
shut his mouth? Here's to hoping he never does. Long live Chairman Mike!
· As Republicans decry Obama's "lurch to the left," has
Rahm emerged as the new Rove?

From the "Well, duh!" File:
· Former Bush official admits
abstinence only doesn't work.

In the “The FUBAR File” or, Just a Few More Things on Barack's Plate:
· Is the Afghan war about to become
a regional conflagration?
· While it may not go the way of the Italian lira and Greek drachma, the days of the Almighty Dollar
are coming to an end.

Just wondering, have we reached a tipping point in
our nation's war on drugs?

More on our planet in crisis:

· The power of multinational lobbyists is coopting the democratic will of the people resulting in governmental inaction when all science points to the urgency of the moment. NASA climatologist James Hansen argues for
civil disobedience as perhaps the only hope in preventing climaticide.
· Are we a generation away from
global water wars?
· Could Manhattan be
underwater by the end of the century?
Ending on a positive note, giving credit when credit is due:

Despite Congress' ham-handed efforts to rein in rogue financiers (and the stampeding to pass legislation to tax bonuses that should've never been paid out), sometimes they do things right.
Promoting national service is one of them.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

March Madness for Political Junkies

Besides revealing how cool he is, President Obama’s public release of his NCAA “Baracket” selections on ESPN yesterday got me to thinking. How many of the teams reside in Democratic House districts? How many are located in districts that voted for Obama? The sportscasters can debate the primacy of the Big East (did they really deserve three Number One seeds) over the ACC and the down years for the SEC, Pac 10 and Big Ten. That ground has been covered.

If we look at the bracket through the lens of the Red/Blue divide that permeates our political discussions (I know, I know, this isn’t the post partisan change Obama promised, but just let me have my fun here, OK?) how does the tournament stack up? And, did the president calculate the political ramifications in making his selections?

First, a few observations about the President’s Baracket. Despite the punditocracy’s growing chorus about the president’s aggressive agenda, the president’s bracket is extremely conservative. Pragmatically embracing the status quo, the Commander-in-Chief has four top seeds (UNC, Pitt & Louisville) and one # 2 (Memphis) reaching the Final Four in Detroit. In fact, he’s only got the lower seed winning NINE games (out of 63!) in the entire tournament. In the first round, he’s got two # 11s (Temple and VCU) and a #10 (Maryland) knocking off higher seeds along two #9s (Butler & Tennessee) emerging with victories over #8s. He's got an entire Region (the Midwest) playing to form with every game won by the top seed. There is no Cinderella in his bracket.

Forty-four of the sixty-five teams are represented by Democrats in the House. Regionally, the partisan breakdown looks like this:

Midwest WEST
16Alabama StAL-02DMcCain16ChattanoogaTN-03RMcCain
Morehead StKY-05RMcCain
8Ohio StOH-15DObama8BYUUT-03RMcCain
9SienaNY-21DObama9Texas A&MTX-17DMcCain
N. Iowa
4Wake Forest
Cleveland St
13Mississippi St
6West VirginiaWV-01
Utah St
14N. Dakota StND-ALDMcCain14CornellNY-22D

7Boston CollegeMA-04DObama7
Michigan St
15Robert MorrisPA-18
Cal St- Northridge





North Carolina



E. Tennessee St








Oklahoma St

















Florida St














W. Kentucky











Portland St













Arizona St

























Stephen F. Austin
































Morgan St




House4 R6 R4 R7 R
13 D10D12 D9 D
08 Result7 McCain7 McCain5 McCain9 McCain

10 Obama

9 Obama
11 Obama7 Obama

Tournament Total
House Delegation: 21 R 44 D
2008 Results: 28 McCain 37 Obama

The East (Boston) and Midwest (Indianapolis) are the bluest regions with the South (Memphis) the reddest. The Midwest Region has the most “purple” districts, purple being defined as a district that gave its vote to a house candidate that was from the opposite party of the district’s winning presidential candidate. Of the nine swing districts only one (Michigan State’s 8th) was won by Obama yet held by a Republican.

Obama’s 44 schools represents 67% of the field, far outpacing the 53% of the popular vote he won in November and exceeding the 59% of House districts the Democrats currently control. This might reflect the presence if many urban schools in this year’s tournament. Or, it could it be validation that America’s colleges and universities are brainwashing our nation’s youth with liberal ideology? I prefer to think it merely represents Beck’s Epic Failure to surround us.

Its clear Obama isn’t picking based on a state’s battleground status, as he’s most often taking the ‘safer’ choice by selecting the higher seed. Wonder if he’ll venture to make his bracket public during the 2012 tournament when he’s gearing up for reelection? As Obama’s picks move into later rounds, his Blue to Red ratio remains constant until the Elite Eight, when only Michigan State remains from a Republican-held district. But, keep in mind, Obama did win this district last fall.

Among the Democrats, the Blue Dogs find themselves outflanked by the Progressive Caucus. Three Blue Dogs are represented in the tournament (Utah’s Jim Matheson, Kansas’ Dennis Moore and FSU’s Allen Boyd). The Progressive Caucus, on the other hand, has lots of teams in the Big Dance: Arizona, California, UCLA, USC, Butler, BC, Morgan St, Minnesota, Wake Forest, Cornell, Binghamton, Cleveland State, Temple, Memphis, Washington and Wisconsin all play in districts represented by members of the Progressive Caucus.

Other fun Partisan Big Dance factoids:
Only two districts are represented by two teams in this year’s tournament:

  • Tobacco Road’s David Price (NC-08 - Duke and Carolina)
    Upstate New York’s Maurice Hinchey (NY-22 – Cornell and Binghamton)

Thirty-two states (and the District of Columbia) are represented in the field of 65. Seventeen states (AZ, CA, IN, KY, MD, MI, NC, NY, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA and WI) are represented by more than one team. California, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee lead the way with four teams each in the tourney. Of these 32 states, Obama won 18 (representing 302 electoral votes- including DC) to McCain’s 13 (127 EVs)

The most populous state without a home team to root for is Georgia. Conversely, the smallest state sending a team this year is North Dakota.

The only state (aside from DC and North Dakota) to have all of its districts represented is Utah.

If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for indulging me two of my passions – March Madness and political minutiae. Totally pointless, I know, but a wonderful diversion from economic meltdowns, Wall Street Ponzi schemes and Octo-Mom.

Enjoy the madness!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Muse, Ides of March Edition

Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
Cry "Caesar!" Speak, Caesar is turn'd to hear.

Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.

Caesar: What man is that?

Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
Julius Caesar Act 1, scene 2, 15–19

As if Team Obama didn’t have enough on its plate already:
· Sea level rise caused by melting Antarctic ice sheets and Greenland glaciers could inundate Florida by the end of the century.
· Could the raging drug war south of the border become the defining foreign policy crisis of the Obama Presidency?

From the Economic FUBAR File:
· Wonder what Harry “The Buck Stops Here” Truman would think of the Alan Greenspan’s "The Fed Didn't Cause the Housing Bubble" drivel?
· Does anyone else think NBC's censorship to protect GE’s bottom line no worse than Fox News' regurgitating of GOP talking points?

With campaign 2008 still not resolved in Minnesota, the politicos are already revving up for Election Day 2010. Can the Democrats break through and win a filibuster-breaking 60 Senate seats? The bigger question is, “Do they really want to?”

They could break the threshold by enticing Arlen Specter to abandon the dwindling herd of Irrelephants in the Senate. As we debate the possibility, the wingnuts at Human Events provide their hunting list of RINO Senators. You know it’s bad when Utah’s Bob Bennett and Mississippi’s Thad Cochran make their top ten.

Pure drivel from CQ Politics about the tough place Harry Reid finds himself in:

As Senate majority leader, he juggles a myriad of competing political interests. He also has to balance those against his own best interest as he gears up for a potentially tough re-election battle in 2010.

Lately, the Nevada Democrat has been putting some daylight between his positions and President Obama’s. It’s a strategy that might help him avoid the fate of Tom Daschle, who was defeated for re-election in South Dakota in 2004 despite being the Senate’s top Democrat.

Reid, 69, recently has made a point of saying he’s working with
Obama, not for him.

Right. Nevada’s voters backed President Obama last fall and kicked out one of their two Republican house members. The incumbent Republican governor is one of the least popular in the nation and the administration has moved to abandon Yucca Mountain, removing Nevada politics’ most radioactive issue and Harry Reid is afraid of running as part of the President’s team?

The analogy to Tom Daschle who ran in a Deep Red state against a very popular president riding the post-9/11 Terror Train is intellectually lame. If Reid is indeed frightened of the specter of Daschle’s defeat, Democrats should be worried about the quality of our Senate leadership.

Change I Can Believe In:
· Breaking the stalemate: Pat Leahy threatens to name names.
· Restoring the Constitution: Confounding Republicans, Democrats show they understand the Founding Principle of the three co-equal branches of government. After years of rubberstamping Dubya's policies, GOPers are perplexed by congressional Democrats fulfilling their Constitutional role.

From the “Wishful Thinking” File:
Doomsday Clock May Finally Stop Ticking

Ending on a positive note: Americans love our new First Lady.

Friday, March 13, 2009

"Socialism!" or Greed is Good

The graph on the right (from Washington Monthly via MoveOn) exposes the Gordon Gecko greed behind the ridiculous Republican chorus of "socialism!" over Obama's plan to roll back the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans.

Returning the top marginal rate to 1990s levels (when the Clinton economy boomed and we created budget surpluses) would still tax the rich at levels below those during Reagan's first term and much lower than the 91% levied during the Eisenhower years.

The combination of Bush's irresponsible tax cuts and Cheney's military misadventures has proven a lethal combination to the American economy. Trickle Down economics simply didn't work. As the rich got more, the rest received less. Middle class families have paid a high price for this failed ideology. In the current recession they have lost millions of jobs. Their nest eggs have disappeared as the market crashed and the housing bubble burst.

And the Republican response to this chaos? Cry "Socialism!" when all that's being asked of the rich (many of whom are the titans of finance that brought us to this precipice) is that they pay a marginally higher tax rate to help fix our shattered economy.

Gordon Gecko would be proud.

If There Was One Word...

This one might be a few weeks old, but it's pretty interesting to see how the public's perception of President Obama transformed between his last days as a candidate and his first weeks as president.

Pew Research asked respondents to name the one word that best describes Barack Obama. The first cloud reflects survey results from February 2009 and the second shows responses provided in September 2008 :

What a difference an election (and an economic meltdown) makes.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jonah Goldberg: Tell Me Lies, Great Big Lies...

The latest from Jonah Goldberg provides another glimpse into the alternative reality that is modern Republicanism:

The real scandal is that this administration thinks crises are opportunities for governmental power-grabs...

...the White House tactic isn't funny at all. It's scary. Its amorality is outweighed only by the grotesque and astoundingly naked cynicism of it all.

Apparently, it's the last part - "the naked cynicism" that really irks Jonah. He compares Republican opposition to Obama's aggressive agenda to progressive criticism of the neocon's use of 9/11 to terrorize a traumatized nation into launching the invasion of Iraq.

Recall that not long ago, the first item on the bill of indictment against the Bush administration was that it was "exploiting" 9/11 to enact its agenda. Al Gore shrieked that President Bush "played on our fears" to get his way. In response to nearly every Bush policy proposal, from the Patriot Act to the toppling of Saddam Hussein, critics would caterwaul that Bush was taking advantage of the country's fear of terrorism.

The Bush administration always denied this, and rightly so. If the president admitted that he was using a national calamity for narrow partisan or ideological advantage, it would be outrageous.

Get that? It would be outrageous if the president admitted he was manipulating people's fear to advance a partisan agenda. Lying about terror threats, weapons of mass destruction and about Nigerian yellow cake is righteous and noble as long as you tell the people your motives are pure.

In contrast, look at how blatant the Obama administration has been during the first six weeks in office!

Well, now we have the president, along with his chief aides, admitting -- boasting! -- that they want to exploit a national emergency for their preexisting agenda, and there's no scandal. No one even calls it a gaffe. No, they call it leadership.

It's not leadership. It's fear-mongering.

Beyond the jaw-dropping hypocrisy and repugnant revisionist history in this article, let's just say this: Bush's terror-manipulating lies resulted in thousands of American and Iraqi dead, a bankrupt global economy and the collapse of America's moral authority. Obama's honest assessment of the dangerous economic crisis (created by his predecessor's lies) offers the promise of healthcare access for millions, a greener planet, a better educated workforce and the hope of economic growth for generations to come.

I'll take Obama's honesty any day.

Monday, March 9, 2009

In God We Trust...NOT

America, long one of the most religious of western industrialized nations, has undergone a rapid transformation over the past two decades according to a new ARIS study reported in USA Today:

It finds that, despite growth and immigration that has added nearly 50 million adults to the U.S. population, almost all religious denominations have lost ground since the first ARIS survey in 1990.

Twenty-first century Americans are much more likely to embrace spiritual options outside organized religion. Considering the theocratic nature of the modern Republican Party, this is devastating news for the GOP as it struggles to find a path forward.

• So many Americans claim no religion at all (15%, up from 8% in 1990), that this category now outranks every other major U.S. religious group except Catholics and Baptists. In a nation that has long been mostly Christian, "the challenge to Christianity … does not come from other religions but from a rejection of all forms of organized religion," the report concludes.

Check out USA Today's cool interactive graphic illustrating the nation's religious shifts. Catholic numbers are dropping in New England and the midwest. The study attributes this to the sexual abuse scandals that rocked many Catholic dioceses over the past fifteen years. As the region aborbs emigrants from across the country, Baptists no longer dominate the South as they once did.

One of the survey's co-authors, Barry Kosmin's comments must cause Republican strategists to quake in fear at their long-term electoral prospects:

"More than ever before, people are just making up their own stories of who they are. They say, 'I'm everything. I'm nothing. I believe in myself,' " says Barry Kosmin, survey co-author.


Kosmin concluded from the 1990 data that many saw God as a "personal hobby," and that the USA is "a greenhouse for spiritual sprouts."

Today, he says, "religion has become more like a fashion statement, not a deep personal commitment for many."


This demographic shift gets right to the heart of the division rending the Republican Party.

Will increased intermingling of religious and spiritual experiences lead to more tolerance in our national dialogue? Or, will conservative reactionaries see this tapestry of faith traditions as a threat to the "American Way of Life" and continue to try to divide Americans along religious lines?