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1  Politics / Politics / Re: Three Good Things for Progressives to Take From the Midterm Election Results on: November 03, 2010, 01:22:08 pm

How Obama lost his voice, and how he can get it back

Barack Obama went from being a transformational leader in the campaign to a transactional one as president. It didn't work, and he must reverse course.

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 Editorial: So far, President Obama hasn't approved a single request for a pardon or commutation of a sentence. That's a disappointment.
 Op-Ed: Did you love 'Toy Story 3'? Many did, and that should have told Democrats something — that Americans may like Obama personally but they aren't buying his agenda.
By Marshall Ganz
November 3, 2010
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President Obama entered office wrapped in a mantle of moral leadership. His call for change was rooted in values that had long been eclipsed in our public life: a sense of mutual responsibility, commitment to equality and belief in inclusive diversity. Those values inspired a new generation of voters, restored faith to the cynical and created a national movement.

Now, 18 months and an "enthusiasm gap" later, the nation's major challenges remain largely unmet, and a discredited conservative movement has reinvented itself in a more virulent form.

This dramatic reversal is not the result of bad policy as such; the president made some real policy gains. It is not a consequence of a president who is too liberal, too conservative or too centrist. And it is not the doing of an administration ignorant of Washington's ways. Nor can we honestly blame the system, the media or the public — the ground on which presidential politics is always played.

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It is the result, ironically, of poor leadership choices.

Abandoning the "transformational" model of his presidential campaign, Obama has tried to govern as a "transactional" leader. These terms were coined by political scientist James MacGregor Burns 30 years ago. "Transformational" leadership engages followers in the risky and often exhilarating work of changing the world, work that often changes the activists themselves. Its sources are shared values that become wellsprings of the courage, creativity and hope needed to open new pathways to success. "Transactional" leadership, on the other hand, is about horse-trading, operating within the routine, and it is practiced to maintain, rather than change, the status quo.

The nation was ready for transformation, but the president gave us transaction. And, as is the case with leadership failures, much of the public's anger, disappointment and frustration has been turned on a leader who failed to lead.

Obama and his team made three crucial choices that undermined the president's transformational mission. First, he abandoned the bully pulpit of moral argument and public education. Next, he chose to lead with a politics of compromise rather than advocacy. And finally, he chose to demobilize the movement that elected him president. By shifting focus from a public ready to drive change — as in "yes we can" — he shifted the focus to himself and attempted to negotiate change from the inside, as in "yes I can."

During the presidential campaign, Obama inspired the nation not by delivering a poll-driven message but by telling a story that revealed the person within — within him and within us. In his Philadelphia speech on race, we learned of his gift not only for moral uplift but for "public education" in the deepest sense, bringing us to a new understanding of the albatross of racial politics that has burdened us since our founding.

On assuming office, something seemed to go out of the president's speeches, out of the speaker and, as a result, out of us. Obama was suddenly strangely absent from the public discourse. We found ourselves in the grip of an economic crisis brought on by 40 years of anti-government rhetoric, policy and practices, but we listened in vain for an economic version of the race speech. What had gone wrong? Who was responsible? What could we do to help the president deal with it?

And even when he decided to pursue healthcare reform as his top priority, where were the moral arguments or an honest account of insurance and drug industry opposition?

In his transactional leadership mode, the president chose compromise rather than advocacy. Instead of speaking on behalf of a deeply distressed public, articulating clear positions to lead opinion and inspire public support, Obama seemed to think that by acting as a mediator, he could translate Washington dysfunction into legislative accomplishment. Confusing bipartisanship in the electorate with bipartisanship in Congress, he lost the former by his feckless pursuit of the latter, empowering the very people most committed to bringing down his presidency.

Seeking reform from inside a system structured to resist change, Obama turned aside some of the most well-organized reform coalitions ever assembled — on the environment, workers' rights, immigration and healthcare. He ignored the leverage that a radical flank robustly pursuing its goals could give a reform president — as organized labor empowered FDR's New Deal or the civil rights movement empowered LBJ's Voting Rights Act. His base was told that aggressive action targeting, for example, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee — where healthcare reform languished for many months — would reflect poorly on the president and make his job harder. Threatened with losing access, and confusing access with power, the coalitions for the most part went along.

Finally, the president demobilized the widest, deepest and most effective grass-roots organization ever built to support a Democratic president. With the help of new media and a core of some 3,000 well-trained and highly motivated organizers, 13.5 million volunteers set the Obama campaign apart. They were not the "usual suspects" — party loyalists, union staff and paid canvassers — but a broad array of first-time citizen activists. Nor were they merely an e-mail list. At least 1.5 million people, according to the campaign's calculations, played active roles in local leadership teams across the nation.

But the Obama team put the whole thing to sleep, except for a late-breaking attempt to rally support for healthcare reform. Volunteers were exiled to the confines of the Democratic National Committee. "Fighting for the president's agenda" meant doing as you were told, sending redundant e-mails to legislators and responding to ubiquitous pleas for money. Even the touted call for citizen "input" into governance consisted mainly of e-mails, mass conference calls and the occasional summoning of "real people" to legitimize White House events.

During the 2008 campaign, transformational leadership defied conventional wisdom. Funds were raised in wholly new ways. Organizers set up shop in states that no Democratic president had won in recent times. Citizens were engaged on a scale never before imagined. And an African American was elected president!

Now Obama must take a deep breath, step back, reflect on the values that drew him into public life in the first place and acknowledge responsibility for his mistakes. He must reverse the leadership choices of the first half of his term. His No. 1 mission must be to speak for the anxious and the marginalized and to lead us in the task of putting Americans to work rebuilding our future. He must advocate, not merely try to mediate in a fractious, divided Washington. And he must again rely on ordinary citizens to help us move forward.

Although the stakes are greater than ever, only by rediscovering the courage for transformational leadership can he — with us — begin anew.

Marshall Ganz helped devise the grass-roots organizing model for the Obama campaign. His most recent book is "Why David Sometimes Wins: Leadership, Organization, and Strategy in the California Farm Worker Movement." He is a lecturer in public policy at Harvard University.
Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

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Comments (19)Add / View comments | Discussion FAQ
visibleholstein at 9:49 AM November 03, 2010
This article ignores the 800 lb gorilla in the room.

Before the election, Obama campaigned on vague ideals with little concrete substance to his cries for "change".  In fact, one of the biggest criticisms levied against him by his opponents  was that he kept ranting about "change" without providing much detail on exactly how he would achieve all the dramatic goals he talked about - getting out of Iraq, fixing the housing crisis, easing unemployment, repairing our international image, helping small businesses and the middle class, providing health care for everyone, reforming the financial market system... the list goes on and on.

The reason he "lost his voice" is simply that NOBODY could accomplish all those things, and when faced with the hard realities of enormous debt, a true quagmire in Iraq, and an economy largely controlled by large corrupt interests, he started backpeddling - first by handing over huge sums of middle-class tax money to the large corrupt financial institutions that ripped us off in the first place, then bailing out corrupt auto makers who had dug their own graves with greed and inferior products, simply "bailing out" of Iraq, and finally slamming through a healthcare plan that provides almost none of what he promised until 2014.

He "lost his voice" because he didn't keep his promises.  Nobody could have.
theCanimal at 9:38 AM November 03, 2010
Obama must go.  He's no different than Bush.  They both are destroying the middle class.
EdtheC at 9:26 AM November 03, 2010
If Obama wants to stand a chance of being reelected in 2012 he will unload all those advisors who don't know Pelosi about how to run a country -- a city (Chicago) but not a country. Pelosi for brains Axelrod and Rahm Emmanuel should be the first to go and Eric Holder should be a close third!

The election results reflect as much dissatisfaction with the policies coming out of the White House as they do dissatisfaction with Congress.,0,486277.story
2  Politics / Politics / Re: Three Good Things for Progressives to Take From the Midterm Election Results on: November 03, 2010, 01:19:23 pm
Ryan Grim | HuffPost Reporting Become a Fan Get Email Alerts from this Reporter   
Progressives Fault Economy, Corporate Sell-Out For Election Wipe-Out
First Posted: 11- 3-10 01:58 PM   |   Updated: 11- 3-10 02:09 PM

In the face of a plummeting economy and escalating foreclosure crisis, Democrats compromised their principles with corporate interests and failed to persuade voters that the government was working on behalf of the middle class, progressive activists are concluding in the wake of Tuesday's electoral wipe out.

The anger over the economy, directed at the party in power, overwhelmed even Democrats who fought for progressive values. There had been hope that House members such as Tom Perriello (D-Va.), Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio) and Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.) would be able to hang on despite the sagging economy and voter rage and in the face of mountains of corporate spending. But all four went down with the ship.

Perriello is a thoughtful, charming, hard-working freshman whose progressive values are deeply held. He worked as hard as anyone in Congress, passionately articulated and defended his controversial votes, raised a ton of money and held endless townhalls while running a flawless campaign in his rural House district. Yet he lost to an country-club Republican who refused to take positions. He was swamped with corporate money. Shea-Porter, Kilroy and Grayson met similar fates, undermining the idea that running as a passionate and principled progressive-populist is enough to carry a candidate to victory. If voters are losing their jobs and their homes, it's simply not enough.

In a statement to his supporters, Perriello noted that his campaign outperformed many other Democrats who are in "safe" districts, despite the conservative lean of his own. "Because I come out of faith-based justice work instead of politics, I can see last night as a victory for conviction and hard work for the idea that when you fight for the people, the people win," wrote Perriello. "Consider this. We won Danville, Martinsville, Charlottesville, Albermarle, Prince Edward, Brunswick, Buckingham, and Nelson with stronger than expected turnout. Over 110,000 voters had our back last night. And when you compare us to other races across the state and nation, we dramatically outperformed others in "safer" districts and those where members had either dodged the tough votes or run away from them after. And we did not back away from this President when it would have been convenient, because in politics, I will stand with the problem solvers over the political game players any day."

Justin Ruben, the head of, which fought to protect progressive members, put out a statement Wednesday explaining the devastation.

Last night was devastating, no question. Our members spent months working tirelessly for our progressive heroes and to help Democrats keep the House--and the results are far from what we wanted.

We are glad our progressive hero, Barbara Boxer, will be returning to Congress, but we're deeply saddened at the losses of Russ Feingold, Tom Perriello, and Alan Grayson--all of whom have fought hard for progressive principles and the American middle class. These folks ran proudly on their records, but in the end, as Democratic incumbents, the combination of voter discontent and corporate cash was just too much for them to overcome.

We have seen significant accomplishments over the last two years --more children have health care, more Americans are protected from predatory practices on Wall Street, and more students can afford to go to college. But Republicans and corporate front groups like the Chamber of Commerce, aided by FOX News, systematically misled the American people about the nature of those gains.

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And then voters, desperate for a majority that would fight for the middle class instead saw lobbyists successfully protect Wall Street bonuses, strip the public option out of the healthcare bill, protect the insurance companies' antitrust exemption, kill "cram-down" legislation that could have helped homeowners, and mire the energy bill in gridlock. And whether they were motivated by self-interest, a genuine belief in their ability to strike a compromise, political calculation, or fear, far too many Democrats were willing to go along.

Democrats who decided to play ball with corporate interests found themselves friendless: not only did voters turn their backs on them, but so did the industries they sought to mollify. From Glenn Nye to Blanche Lincoln, play-it-safe Democrats have been sent packing. Corporate interests and oil billionaires poured unprecedented cash into political attack ads hitting not only front line Democrats, but turning previously safe seats into bitter fights for survival. This means we now have a Republican majority in the House of Representatives that owes its majority to big corporations and a small handful of wealthy donors. And, it suggests that claiming to support Democratic principles while quietly pandering to corporate interests is no longer a winning political strategy.

Our country still faces many challenges as we try to recover from the worst economic downturn since the 1930s. Last night's election was not a mandate for the Republican vision of America, which is built around tax cuts for the super-wealthy and privatizing Social Security and Medicare. Instead, last night we saw an anxious and frustrated electorate rejecting the status quo in the only way possible: by voting out those in power. And we saw their frustration effectively exploited by corporate front groups whose sole interest is promoting their own political agenda.

The problems our nation faces are not small, and neither are the solutions we need. Democrats do not hand over the reins of power today. They still have time to accomplish big things to help move our country forward before the Republicans takes control of the House. Now is not a time to cower. Now is a time for Democrats to show that they are truly committed to fighting on behalf of the middle class. Before turning over the gavel, Democrats must end the Bush tax breaks for the super-wealthy, and pass legislation to stem the flood of cash from corporations and anonymous billionaires that is corrupting our elections. If Democrats abandon their responsibilities and leave town without accomplishing these goals, they will not have learned the real lessons of this election.

Our members worked for change in 2004, in 2006, in 2008. Our members will now work to hold this new Congress accountable, and are more determined than ever to work again for change in 2012.

Adam Green, whose Progressive Change Campaign Committee backed a number of progressive Democrats who were swept away, released a similar statement Tuesday night:

Democrats lost because party leaders never truly fought for popular progressive reforms like the public option and breaking up the big banks, leaving voters uninspired to come to the polls and vote Democratic. What the average voter saw of Democrats was weak, watered-down change -- and weak Democratic leaders who cut deals with the very Wall Street banks and insurance companies they are supposed to be fighting.

It's unfortunate that bold progressives like Russ Feingold got dragged down in a national rejection of Democratic Party weakness. Progressives will be stepping up and insisting that the Democratic Party be bolder, not weaker. We will demand boldness, reward bold leaders, reject 'leaders' in name only, and hold Democratic politicians accountable when they don't fight for popular, progressive change.

In short, these next two years, progressives will push Democrats to fight strongly for popular progressive reforms -- and save the Democratic Party from its own incredible weakness that savaged Democratic candidates in 2010.

3  Politics / Politics / Three Good Things for Progressives to Take From the Midterm Election Results on: November 03, 2010, 01:13:46 pm

Mitchell BardWriter and Filmmaker
Posted: November 3, 2010 01:01 AM     
Three Good Things for Progressives to Take From the Midterm Election Results

It's been apparent for some time that Election Day 2010 would not be a good one for the Democrats. Midterm elections generally don't go well for the president's party, and when you throw in high unemployment and a sputtering economy, it becomes an especially tough hill to climb.

So I had no illusions about the 2010 midterms. But there are three things about the GOP gains this year that made me especially angry.

First, it's frustrating that public perception was largely based on lies about health care, stimulus and government spending. In addition to the more publicized fabrications like death panels (Sharron Angle was pushing the death panel lie as recently as last week), GOP ads also exaggerated the costs and effect on the deficit of the health care legislation (as determined by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office). The ads also exaggerated the nature of federal spending since President Obama took office.

As I often say, I'm happy to have a debate over government policy, but the debate should be based on the actual facts, not lies manufactured by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the right-wing propaganda machine.

Second, it's frustrating that Americans have such short memories. It was George W. Bush and a Republican congress who, over the course of most of the last decade, plunged the United States into the worst economic situation since the Great Depression, widening the gap between the wealthy and middle class to levels not seen for nearly a century. And it was traditionally conservative principles of deregulation and unfettered corporate power that created the housing bubble and nearly brought down the financial system.

But the voters are now trusting the same people responsible for leaving the country in tatters, who are proposing the same failed strategies again, to fix the problem? It makes no sense.

It's unreasonable to think the Democrats could fix this deep mess in less than two years. And it's even more irrational to punish the Democrats, who at least made efforts to start undoing the GOP-inflicted damage, while rewarding the Republicans, who practiced strategic obstruction, putting political gain over finding solutions that would help Americans in need.

Finally, it's frustrating that the dishonest campaign waged by Tea Party-dominated Republicans was funded by a post-Citizens United flood of millions of dollars of anonymous corporate and private money, with figures like Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and the Chamber of Commerce essentially buying the election.

Back in January, when the Supreme Court, in a fit of judicial activism, made new law in Citizens United, I wrote the following:

"Corporate interests, which already dominate Washington politics and prevent any meaningful change that would be helpful to average Americans (and who own too many members of Congress, especially on the GOP side but, unfortunately, from both parties), have now had their power reinforced and expanded. Citizens United is nothing short of a massive change in the way American politics will function."
The 2010 midterms showed the first signs of what the Supreme Court has done to our democracy.

Despite my points of anger, and despite a big victory for the Republicans on Election Day, I can find three positives to take from the midterm election results.

1. Mainstream Americans rejected the Tea Party. At first glance, you may well think that I've lost my mind with that statement. But answer me this: Can you name one contest for a U.S. House, U.S. Senate or gubernatorial seat in which a Tea Party candidate won a race that a mainstream Republican would have lost? I know I can't. And I'm sure you can't either. The Tea Party didn't earn a single seat for Republicans.

But if you reverse the question, you get a very different answer. The nomination of Tea Party candidates undoubtedly cost the GOP seats. Mike Castle would have been nearly unbeatable in Delaware, but when he was defeated by Christine O'Donnell in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, the party handed victory to Democrat Chris Coons. (A Democrat also defeated a Tea Party candidate for Castle's old House seat, making this a double loss for the GOP.) The Tea Party also improbably allowed Harry Reid to hold his seat in Nevada. The unpopular Senate majority leader surely would have been dispatched if the Republicans had put up any credible candidate. Instead, they offered Tea Party zealot Sharron Angle, and the result was a surprise Democratic victory. One has to wonder if West Virginia, which has voted for Republicans in the last three presidential elections, might have sent a Republican to Washington to fill Robert Byrd's Senate seat if the party had nominated a more mainstream candidate than John Raese. And if the less-than-popular Michael Bennett can hold off Tea Party extremist Ken Buck in Colorado, it will certainly only be because the Republicans didn't nominate a mainstream Republican.

Simply put, mainstream America's rejection of the Tea Party could have cost the Republicans control of the Senate.

And it's not just the races Republicans lost. In a red state like Kentucky, in a year like this one, a GOP Senate candidate should have won easily, but Rand Paul's race was fairly close, requiring the party (and its wealthy anonymous supporters) to pour millions into the state. In solidly red Alaska, what should have been a low-effort romp for incumbent Lisa Murkowski is now a free-for-all between Murkowski (now a write-in candidate), Tea Party Friend of Palin Joe Miller (who secured the GOP nomination over Murkowski) and Democrat Scott McAdams. And in Pennsylvania, Tea Partier Pat Toomey edged Joe Sestak for a Pennsylvania U.S. Senate seat. But given GOP victories elsewhere in the state (for governor and in the race for Sestak's old House seat), you have to wonder if a mainstream Republican would have defeated Sestak fairly easily.

In these and other races, the effect of the Republicans choosing a Tea Party candidate as a nominee was to give life to Democratic candidates that otherwise would have been easily dispatched.

Both of the gubernatorial candidates on my Tea Party All-Star team handed gifts to Democrats tonight. While Andrew Cuomo probably would have defeated Rick Lazio, it certainly would have been closer than the non-race with Tea Party crazy Carl Paladino. And Colorado elected Democrat John Hickenlooper after the GOP chose Tea Partier Dan Maes, who was such a disaster as a candidate that by election day he was polling in the single digits, far below a conservative third-party candidate (who is so extreme, he said that Barack Obama was more dangerous than al-Qaida).

In short, while the Tea Party was successful in essentially taking over the Republican Party, its nominees were not attractive to mainstream voters. The presence of a Tea Party candidate on a ballot improved the chances of the Democrat in that race.

2. It's easy to be tough when you are just talking. Tea Party-fueled Republicans talked a tough game in this campaign. They told us that Barack Obama was the problem. They told us they are going to cut everyone's taxes. They told us they are going to lower the deficit. They told us they are going to slash spending. They told us they are going to repeal health care reform. And they told us they aren't going to compromise.

But it's easy to talk. Now some of these firebrands will have to serve in the House and Senate. Which means they have two choices, neither of which bode well for them. Either they have to compromise with the president, the man they have told us is so horrible, and go back on their promises to essentially burn the political establishment to the ground. Or, they can stick to their word, but then they will have to cast votes that may not be as easy as they thought it would be. Are they going to shut down the government? (When Newt Gingrich did it in 1994, it cost the Republicans dearly, as the American people blamed the GOP.) People are always in favor of theoretically cutting government spending, but when asked about specific programs, these same people will often oppose the specific cuts. That is a lesson the Tea Party Republicans are about to learn the hard way. Sure, their constituents loved it when they promised to cut spending, but will the voters be happy when the cuts result in fired police officers, closed schools and reduced benefits? Doubtful.

When faced with a delicate balance of trying to shrink deficits, lower taxes and cut spending, these new Tea Party-fueled Republicans are going to find themselves trying to solve a puzzle with no easy solutions.

David Brooks argued in the New York Times Monday that there will be few Tea Party zealots refusing to compromise in the House, and Republicans will govern modestly. He's living in a wishful-thinking fantasy world. A look at the candidates winning many House and Senate races on Election Day paints a very different picture. The Tea Party zealots are there, and they've painted themselves into a corner.

3. Democracy works, even if you don't like the results. One of my favorite things about American democracy is that, time and time again, the system proves itself as effective. That's not to say elections always result in the best results for the country. Far from it. No, I mean that elections give the people exactly what they voted for. A great example is 2004. After four years of Bush's presidency, we knew everything there was to know about him, from his religiously-fueled extreme right wing beliefs, to his pro-corporate/pro-wealthy/anti-middle-class economic agenda, to his simple-minded and dangerous foreign policy, to his lack of respect for the rule of law. It was all there.

And yet, the American people chose to give him four more years in the White House. And what happened? Bush continued doing what he had done the previous four years, botching the war in Iraq so badly that voters handed both houses of Congress to the Democrats in 2006, and bungling the economy so thoroughly that Barack Obama was elected in 2008.

Similarly, every one of the major pieces of legislation Obama shepherded through Congress (namely, health care, stimulus, and financial reform) were the very policies he promised to work on if he was elected. Again, Americans got what they voted for.

So now, in 2010, the electorate has decided to hand control of the House and more Senate seats to Tea Party-controlled Republicans. And by 2012, we will see what that decision brings us. Based on the track record of the Bush presidency and the GOP obstructionism of the first two years of the Obama presidency, it doesn't bode well for the country.

It's been easy for the Republicans to spend the last two years demonizing and obstructing the president, blaming all the country's problems on his policies. Well now the GOP has a share of the power, and they can no longer just sit back and throw rocks at the president.

In fact, that is my favorite takeaway from the midterm results: The Republicans are on the hook for the country's problems now, too, every bit as much as the Democrats. Let's see how that works out for them, especially if they keep their campaign promises and try and impose their failed, right-wing agenda on the American people.

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4  Politics / the Barack Obama Administration / McChrystal recalled to Washington after controversial remarks on: June 22, 2010, 11:11:29 am

General recalled to Washington after controversial remarks in article
By the CNN Wire Staff
June 22, 2010 11:30 a.m. EDT

U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal speaks with envoys at a NATO meeting June 11.STORY HIGHLIGHTS
NEW: Sen. Kerry, D-Massachusetts, urges people to stay "cool and calm"
General summoned to Washington to attend meeting in person, official says
Rolling Stone article appears to show a general critical of administration
McChrystal apologizes, saying comments reflect "poor judgment"
(CNN) -- Gen. Stanley McChrystal, America's top military commander in Afghanistan, has been recalled to Washington after his controversial remarks about colleagues in a Rolling Stone article, officials said.

McChrystal was summoned to attend a meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan in person rather than by video conference, a senior administration official said Tuesday.

"He has been recalled to Washington," another official said.

McChrystal apologized Tuesday for the profile, in which the general and his staff appear to mock top civilian officials, including the vice president. Two defense officials said the general has also fired a press aide over the article, set to appear in Friday's edition of Rolling Stone magazine.

"I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened," McChrystal said in a Pentagon statement. "Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity. What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard."

In the profile, author Michael Hastings writes that McChrystal and his staff had imagined ways of dismissing Vice President Joe Biden with a one-liner as they prepared for a question-and-answer session in Paris in April. The general had grown tired of questions about Biden since earlier dismissing a counterterrorism strategy the vice president had offered.

Video: Kerry on McChrystal remarks
Stanley McChrystal
Afghanistan War
Joe Biden
Rolling Stone LLC

"'Are you asking about Vice President Biden?' McChrystal says with a laugh. 'Who's that?'"

"'Biden?' suggests a top adviser. 'Did you say: Bite Me?'"

McChrystal does not directly criticize President Barack Obama in the article, but Hastings writes that the general and Obama "failed to connect" from the outset after the president took office. Sources familiar with the meeting said McChrystal thought Obama looked "uncomfortable and intimidated" by the room full of top military officials, according to the article.

Later, McChrystal's first one-on-one meeting with Obama "was a 10-minute photo op," Hastings writes, quoting an adviser to McChrystal. "Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was. Here's the guy who's going to run his f---ing war, but he didn't seem very engaged. The Boss (McChrystal) was disappointed."

The article goes on to paint McChrystal as a man who "has managed to **** off almost everyone with a stake in the conflict," including U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Special Representative to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke and National Security Adviser Jim Jones. Obama is not named as one of McChrystal's "team of rivals."

Of Eikenberry, who railed against McChrystal's strategy in Afghanistan in a cable leaked to The New York Times in January, the general is quoted as saying, "'Here's one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, "I told you so.'"

Hastings writes in the profile that McChrystal has a "special skepticism" for Holbrooke, the official in charge of reintegrating Taliban members into Afghan society and the administration's point man for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"At one point on his trip to Paris, McChrystal checks his BlackBerry, according to the article. 'Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke,' he groans. 'I don't even want to open it.' He clicks on the message and reads the salutation out loud, then stuffs the BlackBerry back in his pocket, not bothering to conceal his annoyance.

"'Make sure you don't get any of that on your leg,' an aide jokes, referring to the e-mail."

The White House did not immediately issue public comment on the article. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, weighed in, however. Addressing the controversy at the start of a committee hearing on another subject, Kerry said his "impression is that all of us would be best served by just backing off and staying cool and calm and not sort of succumbing to the normal Washington twitter about this for the next 24 hours."

McChrystal is "a terrific soldier," Kerry said. But ultimately "it will be up to the president of the United States, as commander in chief" to decide how to respond.

A U.S. military official said Tuesday that McChrystal has spoken to Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and other officials referenced in the story, including Holbrooke, Eikenberry and Jones.

An official at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said Eikenberry and McChrystal "are both fully committed" to Obama's Afghan strategy and are working together to "implement" the plan. "We have seen the article and General McChrystal has already spoken to it," according to a statement from an embassy official, making reference to McChrystal's apology.

"I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team, and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war and I remain committed to ensuring its successful outcome," McChrystal said in the closing to his apology.

Rolling Stone Executive Editor Eric Bates, however, struck a less optimistic tone during an interview with CNN Tuesday.

The comments made by McChrystal and other top military aides during the interview were "not off the cuff remarks," he said. They "knew what they were doing when they granted the access." The story shows "a deep division" and "war within the administration" over strategy in Afghanistan, he contended.

CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report.
5  Genres of Film & Literature / Comic Books / First look at 'The Green Hornet' on: June 22, 2010, 11:07:23 am

June 22nd, 2010
11:02 AM ET
First look at 'The Green Hornet'
A trailer and a few movie stills from the upcoming feature, “The Green Hornet,” have hit the web, revealing Seth Rogen in a role that’s a little atypical for the “Pineapple Express” actor.

While we’re more used to seeing Rogen as the schlubby, fumbling, possibly under-the-influence leading man, this time around he plays the suave, wealthy, possibly under-the-influence playboy, Britt Reid.(Okay, so perhaps the casting directors weren't too far off.)

Within the first few scenes of the trailer, Britt is the responsibility-eschewing son of a newspaper mogul, partying it up with drinks in hand and bikini-clad women in the pool.

When his father is killed, Britt is left in charge of the media business, musing about whether or not he's done anything worthwhile with his life. Enter Kato, played by Jay Chou, and Reid’s plan to help the city by turning himself into the crime-fighting Green Hornet.

Cameron Diaz plays Britt’s secretary Lenore Case, and Christopher Waltz is the film's resident villain as Benjamin Chudnofsky.
6  Search for the Sacred / Wicca, Witchcraft, Paganism & Ritual Magic / The Spiritual Meaning of the Summer Solstice on: June 21, 2010, 11:13:02 am
Grove HarrisWriter, speaker, and consultant on religious diversity in America
Posted: June 21, 2010 02:56 AM BIO Become a Fan Get Email Alerts Bloggers' Index
The Spiritual Meaning of the Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, the shortest night, and a tipping point: from here on out the days get shorter and the nights get longer. The solstice, sometimes called midsummer because by now farmers have long done their planting, is technically the first day of summer. It both ushers in the warmest season, and reminds that the season is short, slipping away day by day. For those who revere nature, summer solstice may be celebrated by a bonfire, and staying up to greet the dawn. Celebration may be a small private event, or a large communal event such as the Pagan Spirit Gathering held on beautiful rural land in Missouri, with ritual, prayers, altars and sacred space.

Celebration may be among a broader spectrum of people, such as the 35,000 who gathered at Stonehenge last year. BBC's coverage of that event included an interview "with those who appreciate the solstice the most: 'We believe it is very important for people to move with the cycles of nature, and actually feel them. If you get up early in the morning and you watch that special sunrise, you've been a part of it. The rest of the year is shaped by that. And we think it's a really healthy thing to do, and a very spiritual thing to do.'" And clearly the large crowd shared at least some of this sentiment and journeyed to one of the world's most renowned sacred spots to observe the sunrise. For those for whom this is a religious practice, there are variations on the rituals or traditions. Some will burn a Yule wreath in a bonfire; some will dance, drum, sing, and pray. The variations are endless -- some rituals may be prescribed and ceremonial, while others will be more spontaneous: all are witnessing the turning of the wheel of the year. People attune themselves to the rhythms of the natural world and invite the seasons of waxing and waning, of birth, growth, death and renewal to reverberate more consciously in their lives.

Rituals for the day of longest light date back to ancient times, and Stonehenge is one of the most famous sites. Dating back to between 3000-1500 BCE, its main axis is aligned to the solstice sunrise. Many cultures and ethnicities have celebrated, from ancient Roman celebrations of Vesta to feast days in many cultures. In contemporary Goddess spirituality, the American writer Starhawk offers this litany for ritual:

This is the time of the rose, blossom and thorn, fragrance and blood. Now on this longest day, light triumphs, and yet begins the decline into the dark. The Sun King grown embraces the Queen of Summer in the love that is death because it is so complete that all dissolves into the single song of ecstasy that moves the worlds. So the Lord of Light dies to Himself, and sets sail across the dark seas of time, searching for the isle of light that is rebirth. We turn the Wheel and share his fate, for we have planted the seeds of our own changes and to grow we must accept even the passing of the sun. (The Spiral Dance, HarperCollins, 1999, p. 205)
While Pagans hold religious ritual on the solstice, there are many public celebrations that also acknowledge the turning of the wheel of the year. Summer is widely seen as a good reason to celebrate! In Detroit, the 2010 River Days festival culminates with fireworks on the solstice, meeting fire with fire. Such celebrations build community and focus on the pleasures of the warm season, but without a religious intention.

Honoring the solstice can remind us just how precious each day and season is, because the truth of its passing away is also acknowledged. Gifts need to be appreciated, not taken for granted. Some will use their religious ritual to raise energy for healing, for re-aligning and redressing environmental wrongs, or for strengthening the sense of being part of nature, not set apart and individual, but interconnected in a larger whole, including the past, present and future. Such is the power of participating in the turning of the wheel of the year.

7  Media & Film / Television / Helen Mirren at the BBC on: June 21, 2010, 11:04:06 am
SALE: Helen Mirren at the BBC: A 5 DVD, 810 Minute Mirren BBC Retrospective Collection
From the BBC's Review (excerpt)
From the BBC:

By the time Dame Helen Mirren won her Oscar® for The Queen and her Emmy® for Elizabeth I, she had been wowing theatre and television audiences for more than 40 years. Now take a front row seat at nine of her early, defining television performances, and rediscover a young actress already on her way to stardom. You’ll be swept away by her fresh and commanding presence in The Changeling, The Apple Cart by George Bernard Shaw, Caesar and Claretta, The Philanthropist, The Little Minister by J.M. Barrie, The Country Wife with Anthony Andrews, Blue Remembered Hills by Dennis Potter, Mrs. Reinhardt, and Soft Targets by Stephen Poliakoff, with Sir Ian Holm and Rupert Everett.

2007 Oscar winner Helen Mirren (Best Actress, The Queen) stars in nine historic productions from the BBC archives!

The Changeling (1974)
The Changeling featured Helen Mirren in one of her first breakout performances, as tragic heroine Beatrice-Joanna. Betrothed to Lord Alonzo De Piraquo, Beatrice-Joanna finds herself in love with nobleman Alsemero instead. Her decision to have Alonzo murdered puts into motion a heartbreaking chain of events with tragic consequences.

The Apple Cart (1975)
Helen Mirren and Prunella Scales appear in The Apple Cart, a Shaw play set forty years in the future, where the king must match wits with an unruly mistress and a cabinet seeking to transform the nation into a constitutional monarchy.

Caesar and Claretta (1975)
Robert Hardy and Helen Mirren star as Benito Mussolini and Claretta Petacci who spend their last night locked together in a small peasant cottage by Italian partisans.

The Philanthropist (1975)
Philip and his circle of friends talk philology, playwriting and everything in between. During the course of their party, couples form and love blooms as they socialize, insulated from the seismic events unfolding in the world around them. In The Philanthropist Helen Mirren appears in a showstopping performance as Philip’s fiancée Celia.

The Little Minister (1975)
Helen Mirren plays Babbie, a mysterious young gypsy girl who incites a Luddite riot in rural 1840’s Scotland. Drawn into this event is Babbie’s love interest Gavin Dishart, the new “little minister” of Thrums's Auld Licht church. But before the two can declare their love for each other, Babbie has a secret that belies her gypsy past.

The Country Wife (1977)
Horner, a first-class rake, devises a brilliant scheme to lure in the fine married ladies of London society under their husbands noses. But Horner soon meets his match when he becomes involved with Margery Pinchwife (Mirren), an innocent newlywed from the country.

Blue Remembered Hills (1979)
It’s 1943 England, and the end of World War II is still two years away. On a sunny afternoon, seven children play in the Forest of Dean. However, their innocent and carefree day suddenly turns deadly when a harmless prank goes horribly wrong. This Dennis Potter play is traditionally cast with adult actors as the children, and Helen Mirren does not disappoint as pigtailed Angela.

Mrs. Reinhardt (1981)
Helen Mirren is recently separated Mrs. Reinhardt, who meets a charming American during her trip to the south of France. Things are going very well until Mrs. Reinhardt can’t help but feel that something isn’t quite right.

Soft Targets (1982)
Alexei Varyov is a Soviet journalist who is paranoid of the British Home Office, certain that there is a conspiracy against him. However, he bumps into and can’t help being drawn to Celia Watson (Mirren), and is soon whisked into an unforgettable world of Sussex parties and society weddings, meeting all sorts of eccentric people along the way.

Special Features:

Helen Mirren Remembers, an exclusive made-for-DVD interview (30 minutes)
Michael Parkinson interview with Helen Mirren (16 minutes)

Read The Full Review >>>
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8  Media & Film / Television / BBC Classic Productions of Anton Chekov on: June 21, 2010, 11:03:23 am
Sale: BBC Classic Productions of Anton Chekov, 4 DVDs -- 1095 Minutes of the Russian Master, Box Set
By Anton Chekov's Review (excerpt)
Classic BBC productions of works by the master Russian playwright Anton Chekov.

"Includes: 1) Platonov ('71) Play adapted from fragments of Chekhov's first full-length play, sometimes known as the "Play without a Name" or Fatherlessness." Platonov is a village schoolteacher whose high ideals and unflagging criticism of provincial life render him iresistable to the women he meets. With Rex Harrison, Sian Phillips and Clive Revill. 2) The Wood Demon Play adapted for TV with Ian Holm and Francesca Annis. It is Leo ZHELTUKHIN's birthday, and friends and neighbors are joining him for lunch. 3) The Proposal ('59) One-act play about the tendency of wealthy families to seek other wealthy families to increase their estates by encouraging marriages that made good economic sense. 4) The Wedding (61) Story adapted for TV. A bridegroom's plans to have a general attend his wedding ceremony backfire when the general turns out to be a "lowly" naval captain. 5) The Seagull ('78) Play adapted for TV in which a struggling writer Konstantin becomes enamored by a visiting young actress Nina. With Anthony Bate, Stephen Rea and Michael Gambon. 6) An Artist's Story ('74) A film adaptation of the Chekhov short story in which an artist bored with country life challenges a charity worker's ideals. With Patrick STEWART. 7) Uncle Vanya ('70) Play adapted for TV with Anthony Hopkins, Freddie Jones and Ann Bell. When your life has been spent supporting a distinguished relative, what do you do when he turns out to be not so distinguished after all? Cool Uncle Vanya ('91) Studio production of Chekov's wistful masterpiece with David WARNER as the retired prof whose return sets in motion a typically Chekovian comic tragedy of lost hopes, stifled passion and noble ideas unrealized. With Ian Bannen, Ian Holm, Rachel Kempson and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. 9) The Three Sisters ('70) Play adapted for TV with Janet Suzman, Eileen Atkins and Michele Dotrice as the Prozorov sisters who dream of returning to Moscow after eleven years of living in a provincial Russian town. 10) The Cherry Orchard ('62) Madame Ranyevskaya returns to Russia after some years in Paris & finds that the family estate has gone to seed.Can the precious cherry orchard be saved from the axe? With John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft and Judi Dench. 11) The Cherry Orchard ('81)"

A masterful collection for the Chekov fan!

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9  the Arts / Music / Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: London Calling, Live in Hyde Park on: June 21, 2010, 11:02:15 am
New 2 DVD Set! Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: London Calling, Live in Hyde Park (2 DVD) (2010). The Rocket Fueled Energy in This Concert Could Power a Missile to the Moon.
"The Boss"'s Review (excerpt)

Fantastic newly released (June 22, 2010) Bruce Springsteen 2 DVD live concert in London! If you can't get enough of the "Boss," this has your name on it.

Filmed and recorded before an absolutely massive audience in Hyde Park in the summer of 2009, just released.

If you want a taste of the high-octane historic concert, view "Born to Run" here, and "Lonesome Day.

"Captured in London at the Hard Rock Calling Festival on June 28, 2009 in HD, the 163-minute film documents 26 tracks of live Springsteen that begin in daylight and progress through a gorgeous sunset into night. Viewers are able to see Springsteen spontaneously directing the E Street Band and shaping the show as it evolves. The set list spans from 'Born To Run' era to 'Working On a Dream' and includes rare covers such as The Clash's "London Calling," Jimmy Cliff's "Trapped," The Young Rascals' "Good Lovin'," and Eddie Floyd's "Raise Your Hand." Springsteen also performs fan favorite "Hard Times (Come Again No More)," written by Stephen Foster in 1854.

Brian Fallon from The Gaslight Anthem joins the band as a guest vocalist on Springsteen's own "No Surrender." GRAMMY and Emmy Award-winning producer and editor Thom Zimny and director Chris Hilson, both members of Springsteen's video team dating back over a decade, oversaw the film. Audio was mixed by Bob Clearmountain. Bonus material includes stunning footage of "The River" from Glastonbury, June 27; and the full music video for "Wrecking Ball," filmed at New Jersey's Giants Stadium.

DISC 1 1. London Calling 2. Badlands 3. Night 4. She's The One 5. Outlaw Pete 6. Out In The Street 7. Working On A Dream 8. Seeds 9. Johnny 99 10. Youngstown 11. Good Lovin' 12. Bobby Jean 13. Trapped 14. No Surrender 15. Waitin' On A Sunny Day 16. The Promised Land 17. Racing In The Street 18. Radio Nowhere 19. Lonesome Day

DISC 2 1. The Rising 2. Born To Run 3. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) 4. Hard Times (Come Again No More) 5. Jungleland 6. American Land 7. Glory Days 8. Dancing In The Dark 9. Credits (Raise Your Hand)Raise Your Hand (Instrumental) 10. The River (Glastonbury) 11. Wrecking Ball (Live at Giants Stadium)"

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