Friday, November 27, 2009

Gate-Crashers at White House Dinner

A couple of aspiring reality-TV stars from Northern Virginia appear to have crashed the White House's state dinner Tuesday night, penetrating layers of security with no invitation to mingle with the likes of Vice President Biden and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

Tareq and Michaele Salahi -- polo-playing socialites known for a bitter family feud over a Fauquier County winery and their possible roles in the forthcoming "The Real Housewives of Washington" -- were seen arriving at the White House and later posted on Facebook photos of themselves with VIPs at the elite gathering.

While some may find this to be just a harmless, but embarrassing prank, think of the possibilities. I shudder to think about the dangers President Obama faces every day and this incident gave me more cause for alarm. Wonder what price these gate-crashers will pay?

Source: Reliable Sources, Washington Post

Communications Changes at the RNC


Trevor Francis, the communications director at the Republican National Committee, is leaving his post and his departure suggests some level of turmoil within the GOP's chief campaign committee.

Steele's tendency to freelance makes him difficult to manage from a press perspective and, according to sources familiar with Francis's departure, that tension was part of the reason he decided to step aside

One Steele ally says there were frustrations from the chairman and his inner circle about the botched rollout of the RNC's new website — and the blog therein briefly named "What Up?" — as well as concerns that some media inquiries were being ignored, including from African-American outlets.

The collective sense expressed by GOP operatives in the anti-Steele camp is that he is as consumed with winning personal accolades as he is with rebuilding the party and defeating Democrats.

Alex Castellanos, a Republican media consultant, will take over as a senior communications adviser to RNC Chairman Michael Steele, according to a source familiar with the move. Castellanos, in an email to the Huffington Post, said reports of his RNC gig were overstated. He is "not replacing anyone" at the committee, "just helping out... as a senior advisor."

"Few things in life are permanent but I'm permanently a Republican," Castellanos said, when asked if the RNC post was long-term. "And [I'm] happy to serve as a senior advisor to the chairman whenever he asks."

Castellanos will continue to serve as an on-air personality for CNN despite taking on the consulting role. While the RNC gig may simply consist of a consulting gig, it could have major ramifications when placed in the context of the frantic debate over the future of the Republican Party. Castellanos just recently slammed two major GOP officials: Florida governor and U.S. senatorial candidate Charlie Crist and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Moreover, he has established a firm reputation for favoring highly personal political attacks -- a trait he seems likely to bring to an RNC desperate to produce major electoral gains in the 2010 elections.

Sources: The Fix Blog, Washington Post; Huffington Post

Tales from the Darkside-Meet Amy Holmes

As I watch the shows that explore day to day politics, I see a number of Republican Strategists and commentators, the talking heads if you will. Some present themselves as independents. While all seem to regurgitate the GOP party line without deviation, there are a few that amaze me every time they appear. I took some time to investigate their backgrounds, just to put their remarks in some perspective.

Amy Holmes
Amy Holmes is a CNN political contributor and conservative commentator. She appears regularly on The Situation Room and across all networks, including the network's prime-time line-up in programs such as Larry King Live and Anderson Cooper 360º.

Prior to joining CNN, Holmes served as senior speechwriter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) from May 2003 to July 2006, writing on topics ranging from economic and energy policy to judicial nominations and the Iraq war. Before that she worked for the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps, and helped build the non-profit Independent Women's Forum (IWF) as economic project director and campus project director. While at IWF, Holmes oversaw and edited the organization's labor statistics guide, "Women's Figures: An Illustrated Guide to the Economics of Women in America."

Holmes, a registered independent, is beconing a familiar face on television news and talk programs. She has guest-hosted ABC's The View and appears regularly on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. In 2002, she hosted Lead Story on Black Entertainment Television, where she interviewed administration officials, journalists and top newsmakers.

Holmes began her career on television as a Fox News Channel contributor and was later a commentator for MSNBC. She has appeared on PBS's To the Contrary, The Montel Williams Show, NBC Nightly News, CBS Early Morning Show and co-hosted PBS's Millennium 2000 broadcast.

From 1999 to October of 2001, Holmes wrote a monthly guest column for USA Today. She has also been published in The Washington Post and National Review. Her political commentary has been cited in numerous national publications, including Newsweek, Glamour, Mademoiselle, Honey and Harper’s Bazaar. In May 2000, she was named one of PEOPLE magazine's "50 Most Beautiful."

Holmes holds a degree in economics from Princeton University.

In a series of YouTube videos she explaines a little of her background. Amy was born in Africa in the country of Zambia to a Caucasian mother and an African father. Her mother divorced her father when she was 3 years old. After that, she and her mom moved back to Seattle where her mother grew up. Amy was then brought up on Rob Lowe movies, idolized Brooke Shields and now prefers to date only middle aged Jewish men.

Whenever I see Amy on television, I always wonder how could her mind be so mixed up. Frankly, most of the time I don't understand her logic and the arguements she presents. She's a registered independent, so I can't call her a Republican pundit, but her comments closely mirror the GOP party line. Her comments are not far from those of Rush Linbaugh and Glen Beck. She was a former classmate at Princeton with Rupert Murdoch’s son Lachlan. Interesting to note her first job was at Fox News, a Murdoch property. Maybe that's why she defended the infamous racist cartoon in Murdoch's New York Post.

You can't count on the opinion Amy spouts today being the same as the one she presents tomorrow. Don't count on the accurracy of her statements either. You can count on her selling anything that's anti-Barack Obama. She defended Sarah Palin’s intellect in her candidacy for VP but on the other hand questioned Barack Obama’s capacity for the office of the Presidency. Amy supported Sarah’s rally cry of “Barack pals around with terrorists" while saying Barack has a “Moses Complex”, wrongly quoting one of his speeches. She criticized Barack’s speech on race as being boring and chastised him for “outing” his grandmother for her racial biases.

When I see her I shake my head and remind myself that some folks will do anything for a buck. Amy’s attractiveness is clearly a factor in her popularity and she knows what to say to make herself marketable. I just have to remember that I'm listening to Tales from the Darkside.

Follow the Cost of the Health Care Debate

Here's an interesting article on the monies being spent on the Healthcare debate. It's mind-boggling!

The most important number in politics today
148.5 That's the number of dollars -- in millions! -- that has been spent this year on ads by the outside interest groups advocating for and against President Barack Obama's health care plan, according to a comprehensive document detailing the air wars over the legislation.

As of this week, groups favoring the bill have spent $73.5 million on ads while those opposing the plan have dropped $75 million -- a stunningly large total that shows the massive political stakes tied to the legislation.

For much of the fall, the groups opposed to Obama's plan -- led by the Chamber of Commerce and the 60 Plus Association -- drastically outspent those supportive of the legislation.

In the first week of November, the opposition spent $12 million to just $2.5 million for the those who support the package. That margin narrowed to a $600,000 edge for the opposition in the second week and widened again to a $4.5 million advantage in the third week.

But, then, the Senate voted last weekend to bring the bill to the floor and the tables turned. For this week, the pro-Obama bill side is spending roughly $1 million more than those who oppose reform thanks to significant increases in spending by the AARP and Americans for Stable Quality Care.

Allies of the White House paint the shift in spending as a sign of momentum for the bill as Senate Majority Harry Reid (Nev.) prepares to introduce it in the coming week.

The increased spending by those backing the President's plan comes in the nick of time for those hoping to pressure lawmakers to back the plan. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey earlier this month showed that, for the first time since the health care debate began in earnest, people had seen more ads opposed to the legislation (37 percent) than in favor of it (29 percent).

By Chris Cillizza | November 24, 2009; 2:53 PM ET
The Washington Post-"The Fix" Blog

Monday, November 23, 2009

C Street and the Family

As the Republican Party implodes, the public is becoming aware of a secretive Christian society known as the Family or the Fellowship. The group was founded in 1935 in opposition to FDR's New Deal and its adherents subscribe to a far right Christian fundamentalist and free market ideology. A minister named Abraham Vereide founded the Family after having a vision in which God visited him in the person of the head of the United States Steel Corporation (no, I'm not making this up). The Family has a connection to house on C Street in Washington, D.C., known simply as C Street.

Officially registered as a church, the building serves as a meeting place and residence for conservative politicians. S. C. Gov.Mark Sandford and
Senator John Ensign R-NV are two familiar names in recent news coverage who resided at C Street and received "coaching" about their extra marital affairs from other prominent residents.

C Street's stately red brick, $1.1 million building is subsidized by secretive religious organizations and is located a mere stone's throw away from the Capitol. Lawmakers who live there include Reps. Zach Wamp (R-TN); Bart Stupak (D-MI); Jim DeMint (R-SC); Mike Doyle (D-PA); and Sens. John Ensign (R-NV), Tom Coburn (R-OK), and Sam Brownback (R-KS). The lawmakers, all Christians, live in private rooms upstairs and pay an incredibly low rent -- a paltry $600 -- to live at C Street.

Tenants dine together once a week to talk about religion in their daily lives. Richard Carver, a member of the Fellowship's board of directors who served as assistant secretary of the Air Force during the Reagan administration, says "Our goal is singular -- and that is to hope that we can assist them in better understandings of the teachings of Christ, and applying it to their jobs." Senator DeMint, a Presbyterian who moved into C Street less than a year ago, says that members are wont to share a verse or a thought in Bible Study "but mostly it's more of an accountability group to talk about things that are going on in our lives, and how we're dealing with them."

The Family's current leader Doug Coe is secretive but enjoys considerable political influence as a spiritual adviser. When South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, himself a visitor and a kind of honorary alumni at C Street, compared his political difficulties involving his affair with an Argentine woman to those of biblical King David, the South Carolina politician was falling back on a central figure in Family theology. You could "almost hear Doug Coe's voice" coming out of Sanford, one resident remarks.

When they're not philandering and violating their own professed Christian morality, C Street members push for the projection of U.S. power abroad. As Obama went to Port of Spain, Trinidad for the Summit of the Americas in April, Ensign who criticized the president for shaking Hugo Chávez's hand. "I think it was irresponsible for the president to be seen kind of laughing and joking with Hugo Chávez," he said. Ensign, a big booster of corporate-style free trade, voted for the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in 2005. He also supports the coup government in Honduras and signed a letter to Secretary of State Clinton calling on the Obama Administration to revoke its support for deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.

C Street's real free trade messiah is South Carolina native son Jim DeMint, who just chastised the White House for supporting Zelaya, thereby carrying out what he called "a slap in the face to the people" of Honduras. Hondurans "have struggled too long to have their hard-won democracy stolen from them by a Chávez-style dictator," he remarked. The South Carolinian, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, went even further and attacked the Organization of American States for "trampling" over the hopes and dreams of a "free and democratic people." It's hardly surprising that DeMint would come out for the military takeover in Honduras given that he's been a long time booster of Central American free trade. In this sense, he shares the ideological views of newly installed Honduran President Roberto Micheletti, a former businessman and conservative politician who has supported CAFTA. DeMint has long been on the other side of the fence from the likes of Zelaya and Chávez. First elected to the House in 1998, he has been an eager promoter of far right-wing economic orthodoxy such as privatizing Social Security and abolishing the federal minimum wage.

In their own personal lives, C Street members have made a mockery of the group's Christian teachings. Yet when it comes to the far more important and consequential issue of foreign policy, these Republicans have stuck to their guns. From Chávez to Zelaya to free trade in Central America, they have been consistent in seeking to overturn progressive reform and in working to maintain U.S. imperial hegemony.

S.C. Gov. Sandford Faces 37 Ethics Charges

The details of 37 ethics charges against South Carolina Republican Gov. Mark Sandford were released Monday. Sanford has been under scrutiny since he vanished for five days over the summer before reappearing from a trip to see his Argetinian lover and admitting to an extramarital affair. He is accused of breaking ethics laws by using taxpayer money for airline seats, taking state planes for personal and political trips and occasionally using his campaign chest to reimburse himself for travel.

The civil charges, which carry a maximum $74,000 in fines, stem from a three-month investigation by the State Ethics Commission and could be pivotal in a push by some lawmakers to remove him from office. The state attorney general is deciding whether the governor would face any criminal charges.

Each of the counts claims Sanford used his office for personal financial gain and carries a maximum $2,000 fine if he is found guilty.

Sanford's attorney expressed confidence that the charges even with a finding of guilty do not "rise anywhere near to the traditional standard of impeachment".

Before his recent troubles, Sanford had been mentioned as a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2012.

The Wasilla Wonder-Sarah Palin

For the second time since Sarah Palin stepped into the national political spotlight, a photo of the former Republican vice-presidential candidate featured on the cover of Newsweek magazine is sparking controversy. Palin herself blasted the "out-of-context" cover as "sexist" on her Facebook page.

Palin took issue with Newsweek using a photo from an article about health and fitness to promote an analysis piece contemplating her relevance as a political figure:
"The choice of photo for the cover of this week's Newsweek is unfortunate. When it comes to Sarah Palin, this "news" magazine has relished focusing on the irrelevant rather than the relevant.
“The out-of-context Newsweek approach is sexist and oh-so-expected by now.”

The reaction to the Newsweek cover has predictably sparked outrage from conservative supporters of Palin and kudos from liberals who oppose her.

The current cover flap isn't the first time Newsweek has generated controversy with a photograph of Palin. The October 13, 2008, issue featured an extreme close-up of Palin that seemed to be devoid of the high-tech retouching often employed by magazines. Conservatives claimed this highlighted some of Palin's supposed "flaws," like wrinkles around her eyes.

Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham told Yahoo! News that the photo choice was simply the "most interesting image available":
"We chose the most interesting image available to us to illustrate the theme of the cover, which is what we always try to do. We apply the same test to photographs of any public figure, male or female: does the image convey what we are saying? That is a gender-neutral standard."

Personally, I thought the cover was a cheap shot. In my opinion, Newsweek lowered itself by using this particular photo on its cover and clouded the issue by allowing cries of sexism from the Palin camp. Why make Palin appear to be a victim of the media as she so often claims. There is enough substance for Palin detractors to latch on to without using a photo that allows her wiggle room to side step issues. But, that's just my take on the subject.

Source: Brett Michael Dykes,Yahoo! News Blog

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sisters in Power

It was only 32 years ago that President Jimmy Carter appointed Patricia Roberts Harris to serve as secretary of housing and urban development, making her the first black woman in the presidential line of succession. Carter later named Eleanor Holmes Norton head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and she recalls being "marketed" as the first woman to hold the position.

A cadre of black women were introduced to national politics during the Rev. Jesse Jackson's unsuccessful bids for the presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988. They included pollitical strategist Donna Brazile, the first African American to direct a major political campaign, and Minyon Moore, who was an assistant to Clinton and served as director of White House political affairs and the Office of Public Liaison. In their days in the Clinton administration, Moore would lean on Alexis Herman, the first African American woman to serve as labor secretary, and Hazel O'Leary, the first to serve as energy secretary.

"We kind of burst onto the scene," Moore said. "It became more normal to see an African American woman in a position of power."

President Bill Clinton appointed two black women to his Cabinet and several served in senior White House positions. President George W. Bush named Condoleezza Rice his national security adviser and later secretary of state, making her the highest-ranking black woman in the country's history.

Of late, black women have done better in Cabinet-level appointments and senior White House positions. Black women have been preparing themselves for this day. They are more than ready.

Here are some of the women of color who hold key positions in the Obama Administration.

Valerie B. Jarrett
Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement

Lisa P. Jackson
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator

Susan Rice
United States Ambassador to the United Nations

Mona Sutphen
Deputy Chief of Staff to the President Barack Obama

Cheryl Mills
Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Melody Barnes
Director, Domestic Policy Council

Dr. Margaret Hamburg (lead photo above)
Administrator, Food and Drugs Administration

Regina Benjamin
Surgeon General of the United States

"We are fortunate that we are in a time where it isn't new that African American women would have important roles in Washington. It is not becoming old hat, but it is something people are more comfortable with," Cassandra Butts, Obama's former White House Counsel said. "It is both absolutely as it should be, and it is also a bit surreal."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Good-bye, Lou Dobbs

CNN's Lou Dobbs, a lightning rod for criticism following his transition from a business journalist to an opinionated anchor on such issues as illegal immigration, told viewers on Wednesday that he was quitting his nightly show to pursue new opportunities.

"This will be my last broadcast," Dobbs said after giving the day's headlines. Dobbs, who hosts a daily radio show unrelated to CNN, said the network had allowed him to be released early from his contract.

Dobbs was a CNN original, signing on when the cable network started in 1980. For much of that time, he hosted a nightly business broadcast that became one of the most influential shows in the corporate world, and CNN's most profitable show for advertising revenue.

But Dobbs said his world view changed after the 2001 terrorist attacks and corporate corruption scandals, and he began to more freely express his opinions. He was particularly persistent in bringing the immigration issue to the fore, winning him both higher ratings and enemies. Latino groups had an active petition drive seeking his removal. His resignation was hailed by activists who were seeking his ouster.

His presence became awkward for CNN, particularly as it began emphasizing reporting and non-opinion shows. He angered management this summer by pressing questions about President Barack Obama's birth site after CNN reporters determined there was no issue.

CNN has announced that it will replace the freshly departed Lou Dobbs with veteran White House correspondent and State of the Union host John King. The new political show will begin airing next year in the 7 p.m. ET timeslot. King has been with CNN since 1997 and played a large role in the network's Peabody Award-winning coverage of the 2008 election. CNN promises a "definitive political hour that goes well beyond the surface of the day's top stories to provide in-depth analysis and context to key political movements in Washington and across the nation."

CNN's ratings have been sliding; Dobbs' swan song pulled in 879,000 viewers, up from last week's 810,000, but was outpaced by Fox News' Shepard Smith, who pulled in 2.7 million in the same timeslot. However, Dobbs was beating broadcasts from MSNBC's Chris Matthews and CNN's own Campbell Brown.

"For decades, Lou fearlessly and tirelessly pursued some of the most important and complex stories of our time," CNN U.S. President Jon Klein said in a statement. "Lou has now decided to carry the banner of advocacy journalism elsewhere. We respect his decision."

I'm sure we havn't heard the last of Lou Dobbs. The key phrase is "advocacy journalism". Take is from the likes of Sarah Palin, Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh, there's gold in them there hills.

Anita Dunn Leaves White House Post

Anita Dunn, the White House communications director who has tangled very publicly with Fox News, is leaving the White House at the end of the month. The switch had been expected; Ms. Dunn took the communications director job earlier this year on an interim basis and had expected to leave at the end of the summer, but President Obama persuaded her to stay on for a few more months. She will return to Squier Knapp Dunn, the media consulting firm where she is a partner, but will stay on as a strategic consultant to the White House.

Ms. Dunn, a longtime Democratic strategist who worked for Mr. Obama during his presidential campaign, kept a relatively low profile at the White House until recently, when she sparked a war of words with Fox News by calling it “the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party.’’

Glenn Beck, the Fox commentator, struck back, broadcasting a video of Ms. Dunn delivering a speech in which she called Mao Tse-Tung, the Chinese communist leader, one of her favorite political philosophers – a comment he called “insanity.’’ She said the reference was facetious.

Dunn's deputy will replace her. Dan Pfeiffer, 33, is a longtime Democratic strategist with experience working for some of the biggest names in the Democratic Party. He served as communications director for Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign, the communications director for Al Gore’s presidential campaign in 2000 and was an aide to Tom Daschle, the former South Dakota senator who was majority leader. He is married to Sarah Feinberg, a top aide to Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff.

Source: Washington Post

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day 2009

President Obama placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns on Wednesday as he paid tribute to America’s veterans at Arlington National Cemetery.

As light raindrops fell on a cool morning, the president bowed for a moment of reflection after laying a green wreath with red, white and blue flowers on the tomb. He placed his hand over his heart as a lone bugler played “Taps.”

The occasion of Veteran’s Day carried an extra weight of poignancy as Mr. Obama moves closer to announcing a decision for how many troops to send to Afghanistan. In a speech at the Memorial Amphitheater, speaking to an audience representing members from all branches of the military, the president paid tribute to the sacrifices of this generation and all those who came before.

“We don’t mark this day each year as a celebration of victory,” Mr. Obama said. “We mark this day as a celebration of those who made victory possible.”

Three hours after his appearance at Arlington National Cemetery, Mr. Obama was set to convene his war council in the Situation Room at the White House for one of his final meetings before revealing his military strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As we remember our throops, let us also pray for President Obama, that he is given the wisdom to make wise decisions in the difficult challenges and choices he faces.

Petraeus Treated for Cancer

General David Petraeus, the top U. S. Commander for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was diagnosed with prostrate cancer in February and has since undergone two months of radiation treatment.

Petraeus' diagnosis was not disclosed at the time because Petraeus and his family regarded it "a personal matter" that didn't interfere weith the performance of his duties, "said his spokesman, Col. Erik Gunhus.

The Pentagon termed his treatment "successful".

Some news reports have speculated that Petraeus may have interest in running for the presidency. Despite these accounts, Petraeus has categorically asserted that he has no political ambitions.

Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal Occtober 7, 2009

Blackwater in "Hot Water" Again

The company formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide is in hot water again, this time for $1 million in secret payments to keep Iraqi officials quiet. Four former executives of the firm are speaking anonymously about remittances that were intended to silence criticism from and buy support of Iraqi officials following an incident in 2007 where Blackwater security guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians. Blackwater's contracts in the country were worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Gary Jackson, the company's president at the time, allegedly approved the bribes, and chairman and founder Erik Prince didn't rebut the accusations when confronted by the company's vice chairman.

Blackwater is now known as Xe Services.

Source: The Daily Beast

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Official Obama Family Portrait

Just in case you missed it:
The White House's official Obama family portrait, shot by Annie Leibovitz on September 1, 2009.

Missing in Action: Civility and Common Sense

Here's another "Stop The Madness Moment".

Can you believe that this illustration was given to an eighth grade math class as part of an assignment? The picture, featuring a black man wearing a straw hat, shirt, and suspenders, with a toothless wide mouth grin, has the caption “Solving Equations Using Multiplication and Division. Under the black face photo are the words "no wai".

Matthew Curan, the teacher apologized, saying he “had no idea that I might offend anyone” with the picture. He said he got the illustration off the Internet and chose to use it because the term no wai “is a comment my students make when I require them to show each calculation.”

The mother of the only Black student in the eight-grade pre-algebra class at Lenape Middle School and NAACP leaders met with the principal to discuss the incident. The student was teased by the other students and was asked by other students "is that your father?" The Bucks County, PA NAACP is calling for disciplinary action for the teacher and sensitivity training throughout the Central Bucks School District.

How could this teacher not have thought this image was offensive? Well, we know that's bull, but in today's climate, civility and common sense are missing in action. Think about the negative slurs from the McCain-Palin political campaign. What about the images from the "Tea Party" gatherings? Yes, in today's climate, some politicans are even talking withdrawing from the Union. Remember the Obama bucks and other disrespectful racist gadgets? Listen to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. There are the "Birthers" and the "Death Camps" and talk of pulling the plug on Grandma. You can even interrupt the president's remarks to a joint session of Congress, shouting out "You Lie".

When there's no consequences for bad behavior, chaos rules. We need to "Stop the Madness".