Monday, February 21, 2011

Wisconsin Protest Is Tea Party Of The Left: Obama's Genius

CBS News' Monday Early Show pointed to the Wisconsin Protests as the "Tea Party Movement" of the Left, and blogs like that of Kyle Drennen's at New Busters (a right-wing blog by the way), have picked up on the idea.

It reminds me of the late Harvard Economist John Kenneth Galbraith's concept of "Countervailing Power," as introduced in his book American Capitalism in 1952. All "Countervailing Power" is, is the eventual balancing of one set of market forces by another.

Thus, in the Wisconsin Protests, and in President Obama's focus on cutting entitlement programs, we're seeing the rise of a "Countervailing Power" to the Tea Party Movement. But you ask "What's Obama got to do with it?"

In suggesting that certain entitlement programs be cut, President Obama is smartly igniting those people and organizations on the left that were arguably asleep during the 2010 Midterm elections. Now, we have Liberal activists, bloggers, and TV pundits stating why these programs, some impacting education, are necessary and it comes right at the time the State of Wisconsin - or at least it's Governor Scott Walker's illogical attempt at limiting the negotiating rights of teachers. If Governor Walker gets his way, working conditions can just plain get as awful as can be and teachers will have to take it.

As of now, Governor Walker and Wisconsin Senate Republicans will not get their way. And Senate Democrats don't look like their coming back home any time soon.

More Protests In More States?

Protests on spending cuts and union power are threatening to spread to other states. As blogger Tom Hayes points out at, what we're learning is that the "vast majority of people like what the government is spending the money on."

And that's really the point, isn't it? We're at a place in America where we have to come to terms with our standard of living and how we maintain it. Republicans can't seek a decrease in spending when economic logic points to more spending if only to create jobs to cause the American economy to grow. We also have to maintain the safety net while we're growing the job base. But taking it away hampers the ability of many to maintain a basic living standard while America's economy is being rebuilt. That's why so many people who were almost inactive for the 2010 Midterm elections are protesting the legislative actions of Republicans today.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Olympic skier and luge slider find redemption

One year ago, when we were celebrating with patriotic gusto the 14 gold medals and 26 total Olympic baubles won by Canadian athletes, the country’s alpine skiers and luge sliders were left out in the cold.

Shut out on home soil, they were unable to party hearty with our beaming bobsledders, beer-chugging skeleton racers and cigar-puffing hockey players.

The skiers left Whistler shaking heads at their failure to handle the weight of expectation and the cruel fate of landing on the wrong side of the hundredths of a second. The lugers left fuming about the lowered start position that negated their home track advantage.

But in the space of an hour Saturday, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, and in Paramonova, Russia, gutsy Erik Guay and Alex Gough reached deep and found redemption.

And for that, they deserve to be celebrated every bit as much as Jon Montgomery, Joannie Rochette, Ashleigh McIvor et. al.

Guay, essentially the last man standing on an alpine team decimated by injury, shook off his own back woes and won the marquee event at alpine skiing’s world championships in Garmisch, the men’s downhill.

Gough, a disappointing 18th at the Olympics, won a women’s World Cup on the sport’s newest track, snapping Germany’s seemingly unbreakable 105-race, 13-year winning streak.

As Guay said of overcoming challenges: “It speaks to the fighting spirit we have. If you keep battling, good things will come.”

Guay’s win makes it back-to-back world downhill champions for Canada. John Kucera won in 2009, but broke his leg at the start of the 2009-10 season and still hasn’t returned to racing.

“I keep joking that Johnny wasn’t here to defend his title, so I’m just keeping it on ice for him,” said Guay in a conference call.

The Mont Tremblant, Que., native was fourth in the Super G at the 2006 Olympics (.10 seconds off the podium), fourth in the downhill at the 2009 world championships (.02 off the podium) and fifth in both the Super G and downhill at the 2010 Olympics, when he was just .34 and .33 out of the gold medal position.

He says those in the ski racing world know all about being on the right or wrong side of the hundredths of a second.

“I’ve always seemed to be on the wrong side, but last year I was on the right side [in winning the final two Super G races of the season to capture the] Crystal Globe,” he said. “If you persist and stay at it long enough, it will eventually go your way.

“This definitely is a monkey off my back. Nobody can say now I don’t perform at big events.”

Guay, the first Canadian male to win a world championship and a Crystal Globe, finished .32 seconds ahead of favorite Didier Cuche of Switzerland and .76 seconds ahead of Italy’s Christof Innerhofer.

European news agency Reuters, in its race report, called Guay a “rank outsider,” a strange choice of words given how comfortable he feels at Garmisch. In his previous four World Cup races at the Bavarian ski resort, he was third, first, third, first — the first three races all downhills.

Admittedly, Guay did have that wonky back, which had forced him to miss two races earlier in the season. On a conference call before the championships, he had said it was still affecting him.

But on Saturday, he conceded he overplayed that a bit to take some of the pressure off himself. “I don’t feel it when I ski.”

Guay said season-ending injuries to fellow Canadians Francois Bourque (knee), Manuel Osborne-Paradis (broken leg, knee), Robbie Dixon (concussion) and Louis-Pierre Helie (knee, concussion) had taken a psychological toll.

But he shook off those bad vibes and his own tendency to get too charged up in the start gate and skied with a new sense of calmness.

“A lot of times, I feel like I get overly excited and I want it too much. I’d tighten up instead of using my cat-like reflexes. Today I felt like everything was coming slowly almost. It’s a neat feeling. I call it ‘magic skiing’ when it feels like that.”

It was a magic day in Russia for Gough, a 23-year-old Calgarian.

“This is absolutely fantastic,” she said after her two-run combined time of one minute, 33.536 seconds beat out the 1:33.914 of Carina Schwab of Germany. Another German, Natalie Geisenberger was third in 1:33.935.

“I always knew this winning streak would come to an end one day. I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished.”

With their huge budget, state-of-the-art equipment and easy access to European tracks, the German women had been unbeaten in World Cups since Nov. 29, 1997.

But the new sliding track in Paramonova helped level the playing field. And the improving Gough took full advantage. She had three third-place finishes on the circuit earlier in the season and two weeks ago became the first Canadian ever to reach the podium at the luge world championships when she won bronze.

The Canadian program began to turn around three years ago. Aided by Own the Podium financing, the national luge federation recruited Wolfgang Staudinger out of Germany to be the head coach. He put in place a system that was designed to create consistency and repeatable performances.

“You cannot even imagine what it was like around the finish line when a Canadian finally ended this [German] streak,” he said. “This is not just history in Canada, but this is luge history in the world.”

Saturday may have come a year later than Gough and Guay would have liked. But a continent away from home, they made Canada proud.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Senate confirms first Obama-nominated federal judge in Texas

The Senate on Monday confirmed the first Obama nominee for a federal judgeship in Texas, more than two years into the president’s term.

Diana Saldana has served since 2006 as a federal magistrate in Laredo. She had support from the state’s Republican senators, John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison , and from Texas Democrats in the House.

The two sides have tussled for control of nominations since Barack Obama took office.

Apart from judicial vacancies, Obama has yet to fill any of four U.S. attorney posts in Texas. That has drawn complaints from the legal community and federal lawmakers in both parties.

The president nominated Saldana in July, and the Senate Judiciary Committee approved her in December. After her nomination expired without a vote by the full Senate, he sent up her name again.

Two other judicial nominees are pending for Texas.

In January, Obama nominated Nelva Gonzales Ramos, a state district judge in Corpus Christi. Marina Marmolejo, a partner at an Austin law firm, was nominated in July to replace Samuel Kent of Houston, who resigned in June 2009 after being imprisoned and impeached for lying about sexually abusing two employees. Obama renominated her last month.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Barack Obama 2012 starts at grassroots

President Barack Obama’s political operation is quietly using the afterglow of his State of the Union address to begin activating grassroots supporters as the start of a continuous wave of engagement that will culminate when he stands for reelection on Nov. 6, 2012.

The flurry of events is designed to help Democrats shake off the disappointment of the midterms and get excited about the second half of Obama’s term.

The Democratic National Committee’s Organizing for America project kicked off the drive with State of the Union watch parties in all 50 states, and now will follow that up with service events, letter-writing parties and phone banks.

Attendees were asked what they’d like to do in the weeks and months ahead, as a soft sell before they get asked to perform specific tasks.

One lesson Obama aides learned from his 2008 campaign was that grassroots organizing was in itself a selling point – that press coverage of local activity reinforced his appeal. So look for Obama’s reelection campaign to draw early attention to individual supporters and registration drives in key states.

Organizing for America officials tell us their focus this winter will include small business owners, community leaders, congregation leaders – opinion leaders in their communities who can help get bottom-up buzz going for Obama while his formal campaign staffs up in Chicago.

The initial message will focus on the five “pillars” of Obama’s State of the Union address, which had the broad theme of “Winning the Future”: innovate, educate, build, reform and responsibility.

Brad Woodhouse, the DNC's communications director, said: "The president has laid out a vision for winning the future that will sound familiar to millions of Americans and which resonates with his core supporters because it's consistent with the ideas, optimism and themes he's advocated for since he started running for president four years ago. The president's supporters are eager to get to work to win the future and ensure that the United States is globally competitive by out-innovating, out-educating and our-building the rest of the world."

The effort includes merchandise, starting with the “BIG THINGS” T-shirts, available in navy and gray. A shirt is free with a donation of $25 or more to Organizing for America.