Who is Saul Alinsky?

Newt Gingrich is calling President Obama a “Saul Alinsky radical”.  Clearly this is something bad.  You can tell because the President is a radical, a community organizer, maybe a communist, and probably a supporter of European socialism.  But I doubt that any of the Gingrich audiences have ever heard of Alinsky or know anything about him.  As Ina Jaffe points out in her profile broadcast on NPR, Alinsky wasn’t particularly interested in ideology of any strip.

Here’s the connection Gingrich wants you to make: President Obama proudly talks about his days as a community organizer in Chicago, and the late Chicagoan Alinsky “wrote the book” on community organizing. Two books actually. The most famous is Rules for Radicals, published in 1971. But despite that title, there was really nothing terribly ideological about Alinsky, says his biographer, Sanford Horwitt.

“He wanted to see especially lower-income people who were getting pushed around to exercise some influence and even power over decisions that affected their lives,” Horwitt says.

Professional organizer Saul Alinsky in 1966, on Chicago's South Side, where he organized the Woodlawn area to battle slum conditions. Newt Gingrich has referred to Alinsky numerous times in recent speeches.

 

So what are the Rules for Radicals? 

Rule 1: Power is not only what you have, but what an opponent thinks you have. If your organization is small, hide your numbers in the dark and raise a din that will make everyone think you have many more people than you do.

Rule 2: Never go outside the experience of your people.
The result is confusion, fear, and retreat.

Rule 3: Whenever possible, go outside the experience of an opponent. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.

Rule 4: Make opponents live up to their own book of rules. “You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.”

Rule 5: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It’s hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.

Rule 6: A good tactic is one your people enjoy. “If your people aren’t having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.”

Rule 7: A tactic that drags on for too long becomes a drag. Commitment may become ritualistic as people turn to other issues.

Rule 8: Keep the pressure on. Use different tactics and actions and use all events of the period for your purpose. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this that will cause the opposition to react to your advantage.”

Rule 9: The threat is more terrifying than the thing itself. When Alinsky leaked word that large numbers of poor people were going to tie up the washrooms of O’Hare Airport, Chicago city authorities quickly agreed to act on a longstanding commitment to a ghetto organization. They imagined the mayhem as thousands of passengers poured off airplanes to discover every washroom occupied. Then they imagined the international embarrassment and the damage to the city’s reputation.

Rule 10: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. Avoid being trapped by an opponent or an interviewer who says, “Okay, what would you do?”

Rule 11: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.

Alinsky’s style of organizing is confrontational, not cooperative.  In many ways, Gingrich is a much better user of Alinsky tactics than Obama.  He uses Rule 5 a great deal.  And, as Jaffe points out, the right is currently using Alinsky tactics also. 

There were a lot of slums in Woodlawn, says [Reverend Leon] Finney, and their organization had gotten no help from the city, the courts or the landlords.

“So Saul’s idea was we’re going to get some of our black Negro people to drive to the suburbs where the property owners live and we’re going to go door to door and we’ll say to the neighbors, ‘Will you call “Joe Adams” and tell him to fix up his buildings?’ ” Finney recalls.

This tactic is still used today, and sometimes by conservatives. Opponents of abortion rights, for example, have picketed the homes of abortion providers.

And Gingrich?  Jaffe points out

But in a debate in Florida last week, Gingrich’s claim to be the “big ideas” candidate was belittled as “grandiose” by rival Rick Santorum. Gingrich embraced the criticism.

“I accept the charge that I am an American and Americans are instinctively grandiose because we believe in a bigger future,” Gingrich said in the debate, to cheers from the audience.

So, Gingrich took Santorum’s attack and turned it into something positive for himself — a page right out of the Saul Alinsky playbook.

 

Tony Kushner accepts a Puffin

Tony Kushner, the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, was awarded The Nation Institute Puffin/Nation prize for creative citizenship on December 5, 2011.  He won the Pulitzer for “Angels in America” in 1993.  Last June Kushner was first awarded, then not awarded and finally awarded a honorary degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, part of the City University of New York System.   The controversy centered on Kushner’s alleged failure to support Israel.  The process of being chosen for the Puffin had a lot less drama , but his acceptance speech had it all:  drama, humor and a call to citizenship.  Published in the Nation, it is well worth reading or viewing.

So what is citizenship?  Kushner defines it this way

…the whole point of citizenship is that one admits to a personal stake, and to the potential derivation of benefit, in giving to and sacrificing for the community. One recognizes one’s self in the community, one identifies an important part of the self, a part that deserves tending and nurturing and attention, even therapeutic attention, as much as does the selfish self, which of course receives infinite attention, tending, caring, nurturance. When we step into our citizen selves, we step into that part of our lives, our souls, that exists only in relationship to others. As a citizen, one occupies that part of one’s life, soul, self that is at least as communal, collective, social and contractual as it is monadic, individual, replete.

Citizenship, in other words, is not simply a duty, though of course it is that, nor is it merely a privilege, though it’s that too. It’s a blessing, by which I guess I mean that there is beauty, grace, magic, charisma, charm in citizenship; it’s a gift handed down to us from generations of forebears who thought and fought and struggled and died to create this thing we inherit and advance, this recent, numinous evolutionary phase of humanity.

Kushner, who is working a film about Abraham Lincoln, continues

…Maybe it’s because I’ve spent the better part of five years trying to make up a plausible version of Abraham Lincoln, that utterly implausible man. Maybe because of the time I’ve spent with his words and his life and the inexplicable fact of his existence, I’ve come to consider what Walt Whitman said may have been Lincoln’s greatest virtue, his “longwaitingness,” as a cardinal principle of democratic progress. Maybe because of Lincoln, I’ve come to believe that an unexamined, reflexive excess of even righteous impatience is an unaffordable means of keeping oneself warm in the chilly climate of democratic politics. Maybe it’s Lincoln’s fault that I’ve come to believe that electoral politics, and all that goes with it, is the last, best hope we have.

(Here I interrupted my prepared speech and risked spontaneity in response to seeing Jesse Jackson seated at a nearby table. His campaign for president in 1984 had been mentioned by the evening’s host, Melissa Harris-Perry, and I took the chance to thank Reverend Jackson for his speech at the Democratic convention that year. I’ve often quoted him admonishing those on the left who were considering not voting: “Don’t you walk away from that vote! People died for the right to vote!”)

All of which is to say—and this is what my whole speech was going to be about, but instead maybe I’ll write an essay and submit it to The Nation: In the upcoming election, we must must must hang on to the Senate, we must must must recapture the House, we must must must must must must must re-elect Barack Obama President of the United States of the Reality-Based Community! And a goddamned great president—yes, I said it, I said it out loud!—a great president he is!

(A great president, by the way, is not the same as a great progressive. A great president is a plausible progressive who achieves significant and useful and recognizably progressive things, which is very, very hard to do in a democracy, and which President Obama has inarguably done. We can argue about that later.)

And almost best of all is what he is doing with his prize money

…So, for the sake of my soul and my psyche and in the name of creative citizenship, I’m going to donate this mortifying, beautiful money [$100,000] to establish an endowed scholarship at John Jay. I was dazzled by the students I met at the John Jay commencement last June; they’re as impressive and promising and brave and inspiring and awe-inspiring as the CUNY board of trustees isn’t. At John Jay I’ve met students and faculty committed to thinking about law and order in larger contexts, to understanding law as it relates to community and to social and economic justice; they’re committed to building, to creating, to citizenship, to progress, to justice.

Tony Kushner has come full circle. 

 a puffin in Maine.

Two Women from Arizona meet the President

In the last 24 hours, President Obama has had encounters with two women from Arizona.  One, Gabrielle Giffords, Congresswoman at the State of the Union Address.  The other, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer when he landed in Phoenix this afternoon. 

Giffords who missed last year’s speech after being shot in the head has made an amazing recovery.  Here is how the New York Times described last night

There is no protocol to announce a member of the House as she enters the House chamber on the night of the State of the Union address, so Representative Gabrielle Giffords slid in quietly, flanked by two other Arizonans, Representative Jeff Flake, a Republican, and Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, a Democrat, who led her gingerly to her front-row seat on the Democratic side. Ms. Giffords clutched the hands of both lawmakers as applause

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also made a beeline for Ms. Giffords after she entered the chamber, as did Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who placed his hands on Ms. Giffords’s face and kissed her.

Her final visitor at her seat was President Obama, whom she clung to, eyes shut, swaying a little, before he kissed her cheek and made his way to the lectern.

Giffords announced her resignation today bringing many, including John Boehner to tears.  Must one almost die to bring unity to Congress?

Then this happened today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a lot of speculation as to what they were saying to each other, the President and the Governor.  It is reported that the President was not happy about Brewer’s book, Scorpions for Breakfast.  According to Politico.com, the President didn’t think she had accurately describe their meeting in the White House.  Whatever.  This picture makes her look  angry and the President slightly bemused.

In 24 hours, the President has had two very different encounters with women from Arizona.

Obama and Gingrich: The Cool and the Hot

South Carolina is over and Newt Gingrich is the winner – the big winner.  Some are predicting that Mitt Romney can’t come back from this self-inflicted near death experience, that he doesn’t have the personal or political skills to fix the way he has handled the non-release of his tax returns.  (Note to Mitt:  So your 2011 returns aren’t ready yet.  Just release the last 5 or 6 years.)  Romney’s saving grace may be Florida where there has been early voting and a lot of Republicans (this is a closed primary) and many have voted before all this drama.  Since Romney has been working to get his folks out, maybe that will save him, but if it is Newt who ends up the nominee, is it bad for the President’s reelection?

My husband thinks that Newt is dangerous and could get enough people to buy into what he is saying to prevail.  I think it will be a hard election no matter who the Republican nominee is but one thing is for certain – if it is Obama and Gingrich the contract in styles will be stark.  Gingrich is a bomb-thrower while the President is calm and methodical.  Roger Simon writing in Politico this morning says “Anger, umbrage and bitterness are so much a part of Gingrich’s public persona that he likes to attack the very concept of happiness.”  In contrast you have the President playing what Andrew Sullivan calls “the long game.”    (Sullivan’s long article for Newsweek is well worth reading no matter which side you are on.)

Simon goes on to say

Gingrich, like other candidates for the Republican nomination, has a fondness for quoting the Founding Fathers, but he now says that when they wrote “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence, it did not mean what we think it means.

“Happiness in the 18th century meant wisdom and virtue, not hedonism,” Gingrich says without a scintilla of embarrassment, even though he, himself, has pursued a fair amount of hedonism in his lifetime.

And they promised us the right to pursue,” Gingrich continues. “There is no provision for a Department of Happiness. They issued no happiness stamps. And if you said that you were going to take happiness from some and distribute it to others, the Founding Fathers would have asked by what right?”

So if we don’t have happiness to look forward to, what does Gingrich offer?

Work. Effort. Struggle.

“Work is something you need,” Gingrich says. “I don’t think it’s inappropriate for a 12- or 13-year-old to push a mop.

Americans don’t want sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. They want blood, toil, tears and sweat. They want a dependably gloomy man in the Oval Office. They want Newt!
 
Newt Gingrich gives his victory speech in S.C. | Reuters
 
 
This is a man with big ideas.  Remember the Contract with America?  Gingrich is not a patient man and I understand that his campaign is not well organized.  Look at his failure to get on the ballot in his new home state of Virginia.  He has also said he wants to be able to haul judges before Congress to testify if they make rulings he doesn’t like.  This doesn’t bode well for District Judge John A. Gibney if Gingrich gets elected.  Gibney issued the ruling denying Perry, Gingrich, Santorum and Huntsman access to the Virginia Republican Primary ballot. 
 
Will Gingrich’s anger continue to play well?  Will the American voters in November, assuming he is the nominee, want a President who is angry? 
 
On the other hand, the President has a style that may be difficult to sell for another term.  He plays what Andrew Sullivan calls the long game.   
it remains simply a fact that Obama has delivered in a way that the unhinged right and purist left have yet to understand or absorb. Their short-term outbursts have missed Obama’s long game—and why his reelection remains, in my view, as essential for this country’s future as his original election in 2008.
Sullivan goes on to talk about why it seems to take the President so long to do things.
 

What liberals have never understood about Obama is that he practices a show-don’t-tell, long-game form of domestic politics. What matters to him is what he can get done, not what he can immediately take credit for. And so I railed against him for the better part of two years for dragging his feet on gay issues. But what he was doing was getting his Republican defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to move before he did. The man who made the case for repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was, in the end, Adm. Mike Mullen. This took time—as did his painstaking change in the rule barring HIV-positive immigrants and tourists—but the slow and deliberate and unprovocative manner in which it was accomplished made the changes more durable. Not for the first time, I realized that to understand Obama, you have to take the long view. Because he does.

And last week we got another example of the President’s style in the proposed reorganization of the six agencies that deal with business.  Joe Davidson had an interesting piece in his Federal Diary column in the Washington Post.

When President Obama detailed proposals to reorganize and streamline certain government functions last week, some folks wanted to know why it took nearly a year to develop the plan.

One reason is the involvement of federal employees.

No, they didn’t gum up the bureaucracy or sit on their hands or hinder progress, as is too often the unfair and inaccurate caricature of government workers.

Instead, they were a valuable part of a long process leading to Obama’s announcement that six agencies dealing with business and trade would be consolidated into what is now the Commerce Department. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which takes the largest part of Commerce’s budget and includes the National Weather Service, would move to the Interior Department.

The reorganization proposal, which must be approved by Congress, took time, Jeffrey D. Zients, the administration’s chief performance officer, told reporters last week. “We talked to hundreds of businesses, reached out to federal employees,” he said. “This is very rigorous work, and we wanted to make sure we got it right.”

So now, the employees of the agencies concerned have a stake in what happens.  It is all about buy in. 

If November is Gingrich v. Obama we will have a clear contrast in styles.  I wonder if Gingrich sings.

 

President Barack Obama at the Apollo Theater on Thursday The President at the Apollo Theater

Photo: Shahar Azran/WireImage

Obama sings. Maybe that is the President’s secret weapon.

Leap Seconds

The rotation of the earth is slowing down and so we add a second to our clocks every once in a while.  The last time this happened was in 2008.  Another will be added this June 30.

A leap second is time added or subtracted to the atomic clock.

A leap second is a second, as measured by an atomic clock, added to or subtracted from Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) to make it agree with astronomical time to within 0.9 second. It compensates for the slowing in the Earth’s rotation and is added during the end of June or December. It is important to look at how seconds are used in relation to modern time keeping to gain an understanding of the concept of the leap second and why it is used.

The International Earth Rotation and Reference System Service (IERS) observes the Earth’s rotation and nearly six months in advance (January and July) a “Bulletin C” message is sent out, which reports whether or not to add a leap second in the end of June and December.

IERS schedules a leap second as needed to keep the time difference between atomic clocks and Earth’s rotation to below 0.9 seconds.

 

Leap Second Lives On, at Least Another Week

 

 

 

 

Seems pretty simple.  But somehow it has become controversial.  According to the New York Times

Opponents of leap seconds, led by the United States, say the sporadic addition of these timekeeping hiccups is a potential nightmare for computer networks that depend on precise time to coordinate communications.

But nations like Britain that wish to keep the current system say that eliminating leap seconds might create bigger problems.

They also oppose the uncoupling of time from the notion that the length of a day is tied to the motion of Earth and Sun. Because Earth’s rotation is gradually slowing, days are lengthening. Without leap seconds, noon on the clock would slide earlier and earlier in the morning.

This is a fight between nature and technology.  The decision about adding another leap second has been put off for three years but the leap second will be still be added in June.  This is how this will happen.

UTC Date UTC Time Local time world-wide
2012-06-30 23:59:57 Corresponding times
2012-06-30 23:59:58 Corresponding times
2012-06-30 23:59:59 Corresponding times
2012-06-30 23:59:60 Leap second added
2012-07-01 00:00:00 Corresponding times
2012-07-01 00:00:01 Corresponding times
2012-07-01 00:00:02 Corresponding times

 

Those Wild and Crazy Republicans

So where are we with about 24 hours to go until the South Carolina Republican primary?  Yesterday we learned that 1)  Iowa Republicans can’t find some of the ballots and so they can’t certify the results (or maybe they can – the Chairman can’t decide), but it looks like Rick Santorum beat Mitt Romney.  2)  That Newt wanted to stay married to Marianne while having an on-going affair with Callista.  3) Rick Perry left the race and endorsed Gingrich.  4) Gingrich is leading the the South Carolina polls.  Makes my head spin!

If you are a conservative with what are generally referred to as family values who do you support?  Do you vote for Santorum and let Romney have the nomination or do you hold your nose and vote for Gingrich?  Speaking of noses, don’t let Newt pinch yours!

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, pinches the nose of Bonnie Ellison, 78, of Easley, S.C. while shaking hands with supporters at Mutt's Barbeque in Easley, S.C. Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/The Independent-Mail, Nathan Gray) THE GREENVILLE NEWS OUT, SENECA NEWS OUTRepublican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, pinches the nose of Bonnie Ellison, 78, of Easley, S.C. while shaking hands with supporters at Mutt’s Barbeque in Easley, S.C. Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/The Independent-Mail, Nathan Gray)

What is that all about?

Oh, and Mitt has not lived in Washington but has lived on the streets.  This from Politico

But the combination of the tax return issue, reports that his former firm parked assets in Cayman tax shelters and his own rhetorical missteps is beginning to paint him as a plutocrat rather than “someone who’s lived in the real streets of America,” as he described himself at Thursday’s debate.

If Newt wins South Carolina it means that the race will go on to Florida with the remaining four.  But it probably means that South Carolina will not have picked the nominee who will probably be Romney. 

Don’t know about you, but I think this is the best reality show on TV!

Colbert, Stewart, and Super PACS

If you haven’t seen the Colbert/Stewart Better Tomorrow Tomorrow Super PAC aka The Definitely Not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super PAC ad yet, take a look.  Here is the link on the Colbert Report website:  http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/405930/january-15-2012/colbert-super-pac-ad—attack-in-b-minor-for-strings?xrs=share_copy

Notice that it is called the Attack in B Minor for Strings and features the voice of John Lithgow.

You may recall that Stephen Colbert handed over his PAC to Jon Stewart in a live ceremony in the presence of a lawyer explaining the rules after Citizens United.  As the New York Times wrote

Mr. Colbert has used his PAC — called either “Americans for a Better Tomorrow Tomorrow” or “The Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert Super PAC” — to mock the loopholes in the nation’s campaign finance system. Last week he announced he was handing over control of the PAC to his fellow Comedy Central host Jon Stewart so he could run for “president of the United States of South Carolina” without legal complications. A super PAC is not supposed to coordinate with the campaign it is supporting.

In a statement announcing the ad’s debut on Sunday, Mr. Stewart said, “Mitt Romney claims to be pro-corporations. But would you let him date your daughter’s corporation?”

A few days ago, I wrote about Citizens United and three approaches to overturning the decision.  We can add this as a fourth.

Colbert 2008 Shirt from the last election.

 

Leslie Savin writes in The Nation about his appearance on This Week with George Stephanopolus.

You know how hard it is to give away your baby?” Colbert bemoaned  on This Weekwith George Stephanopolus on Sunday. “Now imagine if that baby had a lot of money.”

It is clear that Colbert knows how to talk like a candidate, specifically a certain front-runner. “Excuse me, George, I was talking,” he said at one point, and of the PAC ad in question, he claimed, “I have not seen this ad.” Colbert also took umbrage whenever Stephanopoulos referred to his “campaign” for president, explaining that he is not “campaigning” but forming an “exploratory committee.” “I’m a one-man Lewis and Clark.”

Explorer Stephen, of course, wholeheartedly believes that corporations are people, but when Stephanopoulos wouldn’t agree, Colbert went further than Mitt or even Newt would dare: “You won’t weigh in on whether some people are people? That’s seems kind of racist, George.”

As for the ad’s controversial contention, Colbert said, “I don’t know if Mitt Romney is a serial killer. That’s a question he’s going to have to answer.”

Do you think any of the Supremes thinks this is funny?  Will it help them think of a graceful way they can get us out of this mess they have gotten us into?  This is more than Pat Paulson running for President.  This is serious business.