Sunday, December 07, 2008

Ring of Fire


This article has been written before but I think this is one of the best.

From the Times.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Kettle of Hawks

Barack Obama has assembled a team of rivals to implement his foreign policy.
But while pundits and journalists speculate endlessly on the potential
for drama with Hillary Clinton at the state department and Bill
Clinton's network of shady funders, the real rivalry that will play out
goes virtually unmentioned. The main battles will not be between
Obama's staff, but rather against those who actually want a change in
US foreign policy, not just a staff change in the war room.

When announcing his foreign policy team on Monday, Obama said: "I didn't go
around checking their voter registration." That is a bit hard to
believe, given the 63-question application to work in his White House.
But Obama clearly did check their credentials, and the disturbing truth
is that he liked what he saw.
The assembly of Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, Susan Rice and Joe Biden is
a kettle of hawks with a proven track record of support for the Iraq
war, militaristic interventionism, neoliberal economic policies and a
worldview consistent with the foreign policy arch that stretches from
George HW Bush's time in office to the present.

Obama has dismissed suggestions that the public records of his appointees
bear much relevance to future policy. "Understand where the vision for
change comes from, first and foremost," Obama said. "It comes from me.
That's my job, to provide a vision in terms of where we are going and
to make sure, then, that my team is implementing." It is a line the
president-elect's defenders echo often. The reality, though, is that
their records do matter.

We were told repeatedly during the campaign that Obama was right on the
premiere foreign policy issue of our day – the Iraq war. "Six years
ago, I stood up and opposed this war at a time when it was politically
risky to do so," Obama said in his September debate against John
McCain. "Senator McCain and President Bush had a very different
judgment." What does it say that, with 130 members of the House and 23
in the Senate who voted against the war, Obama chooses to hire
Democrats who made the same judgement as Bush and McCain?

On Iraq, the issue that the Obama campaign described as "the most critical
foreign policy judgment of our generation", Biden and Clinton not only
supported the invasion, but pushed the Bush administration's propaganda
and lies about Iraqi WMDs and fictitious connections to al-Qaida.
Clinton and Obama's hawkish, pro-Israel chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel,
still refuse to renounce their votes in favour of the war. Rice, who
claims she opposed the Iraq war, didn't hold elected office and was not
confronted with voting for or against it. But she did publicly promote
the myth of Iraq's possession of WMDs, saying in the lead up to the war
that the "major threat" must "be dealt with forcefully". Rice has also
been hawkish on Darfur, calling for "strik[ing] Sudanese airfields,
aircraft and other military assets".

It is also deeply telling that, of his own free will, Obama selected
President Bush's choice for defence secretary, a man with a very
disturbing and lengthy history at the CIA during the cold war, as his
own. While General James Jones, Obama's nominee for national security
adviser, reportedly opposed the Iraq invasion and is said to have stood
up to the neocons in Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon, he did not do so
publicly when it would have carried weight. Time magazine described him
as "the man who led the Marines during the run-up to the war – and
failed to publicly criticise the operation's flawed planning".
Moreover, Jones, who is a friend of McCain's, has said a timetable for
Iraq withdrawal, "would be against our national interest".

But the problem with Obama's appointments is hardly just a matter of bad
vision on Iraq. What ultimately ties Obama's team together is their
unified support for the classic US foreign policy recipe: the hidden
hand of the free market, backed up by the iron fist of US militarism to
defend the America First doctrine.

Obama's starry-eyed defenders have tried to downplay the importance of his
cabinet selections, saying Obama will call the shots, but the ruling
elite in this country see it for what it is. Karl Rove, "Bush's Brain",
called Obama's cabinet selections, "reassuring", which itself is
disconcerting, but neoconservative leader and former McCain campaign
staffer Max Boot summed it up best. "I am gobsmacked by these
appointments, most of which could just as easily have come from a
President McCain," Boot wrote. The appointment of General Jones and the
retention of Gates at defence "all but puts an end to the 16-month
timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, the unconditional summits with
dictators and other foolishness that once emanated from the Obama

Boot added that Hillary Clinton will be a "powerful" voice "for
'neoliberalism' which is not so different in many respects from
'neoconservativism.'" Boot's buddy, Michael Goldfarb, wrote in The
Weekly Standard, the official organ of the neoconservative movement,
that he sees "certainly nothing that represents a drastic change in how
Washington does business. The expectation is that Obama is set to
continue the course set by Bush in his second term."

There is not a single, solid anti-war voice in the upper echelons of the
Obama foreign policy apparatus. And this is the point: Obama is not
going to fundamentally change US foreign policy. He is a status quo
Democrat. And that is why the mono-partisan Washington insiders are
gushing over Obama's new team. At the same time, it is also
disingenuous to act as though Obama is engaging in some epic betrayal.
Of course these appointments contradict his campaign rhetoric of
change. But move past the speeches and Obama's selections are very much
in sync with his record and the foreign policy vision he articulated on
the campaign trail, from his pledge to escalate the war in Afghanistan
to his "residual force" plan in Iraq to his vow to use unilateral force
in Pakistan to defend US interests to his posturing on Iran. "I will
always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our
security and our ally Israel," Obama said in his famed speech at the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee last summer. "Sometimes, there
are no alternatives to confrontation."

Jeremy Scahill
pledges to be the same journalist under an Obama administration that he
was during Bill Clinton and George Bush's presidencies. He is the
author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Meanie Novak Gives Near Death Interview

I should have written more about abortion and tax cuts!

Quite the epitath.

Read the interview here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Finance Capital

The enormous growth of the financial sector is one of the wonders of our age. In the 1960s the business of banking, broking and insuring accounted for just 10 per cent of total corporate profits in most developed economies. By 2005, this proportion had swelled to nearly 35 per cent in the US and roughly the same in Britain—the two countries that host the world's largest financial centres. Last year a staggering one in five Britons earned their living in finance.

Liberals at Prospect Magazine are nervous about the monster they helped create.

How finance will remain in charge if Obama picks Lawrence Summers.

Only in America?

Heard of Fujimori, Disraeli or Daniel Arap Moi?

American exceptionalism and Obama.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fidel Gets Religion

And a lousy one at that: Russian Orthodox!

From Fidel:

"The Church [i]s a spiritual force. It played a major role at critical times in the history of Russia. At the onset of the Great Russian War, after the treacherous Nazi attack, Stalin turned to her for support to the workers and peasants that the October Revolution had changed into the owners of factories and the land."

Read the entire dreadful article here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Did Palin Do Her Job?

What is a running mate's job?

Jazz the base.
Win a region or state.
Attract swing voters.
Don't do harm.
Attract women this cycle.

Palin did none of these.

Core Republican turnout declined 1.3 percent compared to four years ago, the Republican share of the electorate dropped five points from 2004 — and the depression of conservative voters was amplified in key states such as Ohio, where Obama won despite earning almost the same number of votes as John F. Kerry. The difference is that 300,000 people who showed up for Bush/Cheney decided to stay home for McCain/Palin.

Read the entire article here.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Big City

From on the big city vote.

Big City Barack
One nugget from Pew Research that I'd missed earlier: Barack Obama performed 9 points better than John Kerry among urban whites. This was not by any means the most important factor in his election, but it helps to explain the large improvements that the Democratic ticket made in states like Colorado and Nevada, where a great deal of the population is concentrated in Denver and Las Vegas, respectively, and why Republicans were at best able to tread water by targeting the rural areas of Pennsylvania, while Obama waltzed his way to winning large majorities of white and black voters in Philadelphia.

This also attests, of course, to the stupidity of bashing big cities. Roughly 82 million Americans live in cities of 100,000 persons or more, including 40 million in cities of 500,000 persons or more. This does not count smaller cities or suburban areas, which account for another 150 million Americans or so. (Don't neglect the fact, also, that many Americans who do have their residence in big cities may nevertheless work or play in them, and therefore think well of them). By contrast, only about 60 million Americans live in rural areas.

The Bush-Rove team of 2000 and 2004 understood the importance of appealing to suburban voters ... that is a viable strategy. Pitching your appeal to rural voters, on the other hand, probably will not work. They're outnumbered by the city dwellers in the first place, and if your attacks are strident enough that the suburbanites start to side with the urbanites, you've given yourself a big problem.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Generational Moment

With the sight of Jessie Jackson weeping in Grant Park Tuesday night (can't a brother get a Backstage Pass?), as Barack Obama gave his first speech as President-elect, we witnessed the proverbial generational baton being passed for the progressive movement in the United States. Obama's victorious campaign delineates a break with the political and social movements of the previous generation because although Obama rhetorically embraced the versions of the civil rights, labor, anti-war, LGBT and environmental movements that emerged from the 1960's his campaign was primarily based on a liberal candidate, that happened to be mixed race, as opposed to Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition approach to change that had at its center an African-American Civil Rights leader in alliance with the progressive movements of the day.

In Barack Obama's bid for the presidency merit and the American Dream were front and center, not an oppositional identity that was fighting for justice. This shift from a collective of identity/grievance/class to individualism and merit represents both promise and pitfalls for the left. For liberals it is in many ways the culmination of the American and French revolutions; all men truly equal before the law with equal opportunity. For those left of the liberals, class and social movements have always been the vehicle that pushed the liberal revolution from a system of liberty to a system of equality and justice. Working within the system they allied with labor or civil rights activists and tried to expose liberalism for what it is; an economic system of exploitation and a political system that gives the wealthy more access to the levers of power by design. This becomes more difficult when the leader of the system is an "oppressed" minority.

This moment is akin to the collapse of Stalinism when democratic leftists were freed from the ties to "actually existing socialism". It allowed a new model to be created but it also left a void of an existing model. With Obama's presidency leftists lose their critique of the liberal facade of equal opportunity but they also can now openly claim that liberalism is not enough. This moment creates an opportunity then for those of us who want more than public schools, a progressive income tax and a water utility owned by the city.

In this day after the election Obama has already put forward the name of Rahm Emmanuel as his Chief of Staff and floated Paul Volcker and Lawrence Summers as key economic advisors. To say these are cautious steps is an understatement. Emmanuel's major accomplishments are helping pass welfare reform and NAFTA for the Clinton's: Volcker's, the shock therapy of the early 1980's depression that helped destroy the industrial base of the upper Midwest and Summers a past World Bank President who once argued for the facility of dumping toxic waste in poor countries to maximize their comparative advantage. This cast of rogues is a harbinger of the extremely modest liberal platform of the new President.

If the left is to be at all relevant, a clear message must be agreed upon and stuck to. Universal health-care, pensions and union organizing are three that are winners and within the realm of accomplishment but will need to be fought for given the cautious centrism of the new President. Beyond this, a democratically controlled economy-socialism, building social movements is the proven tonic. And given that capitalism is now in true crisis, and both US political parties have come up with no answer except for throwing money at banks, the left's opportunity is now more then at any time in the last 40 years.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Liberalism's Apex?

From Orlando Paterson on the historic significance of an Obama presidency.

"Victory for Barack Obama on Nov. 4 would mark our democracy's triumph over half the problem of race in America. It would underscore the vitality of America's most distinctive and powerful master trend—assimilation, an invincible force that selects from, absorbs and integrates difference, not always kindly, but always to the profit of the nation's mainstream. But an Obama win would also highlight the stark paradox that is the other half of our racial problem: while black Americans have been fully incorporated into the nation's public life, they continue to be cut off from the private life of other Americans, a separation that accounts in good measure for blacks' besetting socioeconomic problems."

There's a lot of truth here but "a separation that accounts in good measure for blacks' besetting socioeconomic problems."?

The separation was not voluntary sir! Blaming the victim here?

"An Obama victory would mark, further, the completion of the process of mass democratic inclusion that began with the presidency of Andrew Jackson, another second-generation orphan, who came out of nowhere to lay the foundations of male, white suffrage on a historically unprecedented scale. What Jackson the slaveholder left undone, this historic election cycle has finished, whatever the outcome on Tuesday: it's now clear that blacks and women are ready, able and poised to lead the nation."

Thanks for the re-assurance!

A fine mind for sure, but always parsing for power, in this case white power.

Why not finish logically with moving forward with democracy into the economic sphere? We have won the liberal revolution, civil rights, now lets create a true democracy where all people share real power. Something Europe began 100 years ago.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Forest

One of the pleasant aspects of crisis is that it helps clarify, which side your on. WWI was one of those moments as well as Vietnam, Iraq and recently the bailout of the banks (with hindsight as a crutch I am 3 for 4-I waffled on the bailout but now see it as a horrible idea). This election has also shown that Democrats basically want the status quo and the Right would like to de-regulate and de-tax more so that the entire civilization can crumble under debt and the "business cycle!" To many on the Right it all started to go bad with Roosevelt, Teddy that is and communism ensued with the New Deal.

Read this nugget from Michael Barone of the centrist faction taking on the New Deal. He's no Grover Norquist but it shows how even the mildest forms of social democracy are seen as a threat by the plutocracy.

Humanitarian Imperialism

Chomsky on US intervention since the end of the Cold War:

Jean Bricmont’s concept “humanitarian imperialism” succinctly captures a dilemma that has faced Western leaders and the Western intellectual community since the collapse of the Soviet Union. From the origins of the Cold War, there was a reflexive justification for every resort to force and terror, subversion and economic strangulation: the acts were undertaken in defense against what John F. Kennedy called “the monolithic and ruthless conspiracy” based in the Kremlin (or sometimes in Beijing), a force of unmitigated evil dedicated to extending its brutal sway over the entire world. The formula covered just about every imaginable case of intervention, no matter what the facts might be. But with the Soviet Union gone, either the policies would have to change, or new justifications would have to be devised. It became clear very quickly which course would be followed, casting new light on what had come before, and on the institutional basis of policy.

The entire article in Monthly Review.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thomas Frank

Thomas Frank riffs on Joe the Plumber in this week's installment of his column in the Wall Street Journal. In it he describes how Nixon, Reagan, Newt, Palin and co. have made working class folk Red, White and Blue Republicans while at the time the GOP has driven down their wages, sent them off to war and left them holding the bill for the last 40 years of massive upward re-distribution of wealth.

The culture war that Joe the Plumber is a happy foot soldier in stands in the way of creating a decent society that we can easily achieve. It's the reason bright leaders like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama tack to the Right in every sentence and put forward policies that maintain the Empire and the plutocracy.

The ineptitude of the Bush Administration has put a crack in the edifice of the true blue. Here's an anecdote from Pennsylvania showing one of the hair line fractures.

"So a canvasser goes to a woman's door in Washington, Pennsylvania. Knocks. Woman answers. Knocker asks who she's planning to vote for. She isn't sure, has to ask her husband who she's voting for. Husband is off in another room watching some game. Canvasser hears him yell back, "We're votin' for the n***er!"

Woman turns back to canvasser, and says brightly and matter of factly: 'We're voting for the n***er.'"


Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Choice

Excellent summary of the election from the New Yorker.


I think the issues are deeper than the writers want to admit. Capitalism itself is in deep crisis, so is the empire. The use of US power-military, economic and political, has been a force for viscousness (Indonesia, Zaire, the Philipines, Haiti, Vietnam, Laos, Guatemala, Iran, Chile, I could go on...) for over 100 years at least and most people in the United States do not want to come to terms with the actual facts or our (the people) complicity. At home we have a system based on inequality and credit. The US decline will be faster than say Japan's because of this. The middling classes are leveraged to the hilt as well is the government, so there will be less consumer demand on the way down and more bankruptcy. The bill will have to be paid now, the bill collectors are now calling (China, Japan, et al...). How can this be done? By lowering wages or through inflation, or both or by shutting down the empire. The problem with both is that the voting classes are not in the mood for a reality check and they like the empire. They also benefit from it-the only real thing we make these days are planes, tanks and bombs, if we stop that we will have no industrial base.

Obama is a smart guy but even a cross between Nehru/Lincoln and Stephen J. Hawking can not get us out of this pickle.

I hope I am wrong.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Blaming Minorities for the Collapse of Capitalism

I have been wanting to write an article to this affect for some time but haven't had the skill. The market fundamentalists are looking for a scapegoat quick as their last barricade (really big government and Central Banks) bails them out by, uhm... market fundamentalists? It's been quite a sordid few months as Newt, McCain and the business press on down (some of the Right WIng blogs have become quite Hitlerish) have tried to pin the tail on the Donkey and minorities given that they worked so hard for the last 30 years to create the system that we now have. Not that the Donkey has not been part of the problem (overthrowing Glass-Steagall, cheering on Alan Greenspan's negative interest rates and ARM plans as well as protecting Fannie and Freddie) but blaming poor people and minority home owners for the meltdown of the financial system is like blaming a raindrop for the flood. It seems an extremely transparent ploy to divert attention from the roller coaster that is capitalism towards minorities and "big government" re. the part of government, in our case, that helps the poor and the oppressed as the culprits in the collapse.

Subprime Suspects
Read the entire article.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Paul Oneil!

Yikes! Of all people, listen to PO in the video section of Race for the White House talk about the bailout and the future of the economy.

The amazing part about this whole crisis is that we are finally having a real debate, not at the presidential level however, about how the fundamentals of the economy actually work. If only we had a movement that had a program to take it in a progressive direction.

Populists on both the right and the left have been nibbling but the plan is certainly not out there.

What plan?
Democratic control of the economy by strengthening labor so that demand is up.

Real infrastructure investment: rail, strategic industries like energy and transportation.

Hard cash for engineers and science.

A national pension.

A universal, nonprofit health care system.

A massive crackdown on the paper economy-if you buy a home you need assets, ending all funny money such as derivatives, hedge funds, 2nd, 3rd mortgages.

A balance of trade.

By the way this is a fairly moderate plan. They do it in Germany, France, Sweden, Finland....

Monday, September 29, 2008

We Would Have Voted For It....

But she called us names!

Maybe one of the most pathetic moments in US political history.

The Dismal Science

"What we are witnessing, in the broadest sense, is the bankruptcy of modern economics. Its conceit has been that we had solved the problem of stability. Oh, there would be periodic recessions, but the prospects of a major economic collapse were negligible because we knew how the system worked and could take steps to prevent it. What's been so unsettling about the present crisis is that it has not conformed to the standard model of business cycles and has not submitted to familiar textbook solutions."

Robert Samuelson's entire article.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Republicans Unite!

From the Republican platform:

"We do not support government bailouts of private institutions. Government interference in the markets exacerbates problems in the marketplace and causes the free market to take longer to correct itself. We believe in the free market as the best tool to sustained prosperity and opportunity for all."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Neoliberalism is Making You Poorer

$700 Billion is nothing to sneaze at. To put this amount of money in some sort of perspective, the entire GNP of Bolivia is $13 billion.

From a US government perspective the Carter Administration were the first major de-regulators. Reagan and Bush consolidated the orthodoxy and Clinton got the major legislation passed with the overthrow of Glass-Steagal. Bush Jr. wanted to cap it all off by dumping the last vestige of the New Deal, Social Security, but the ederly are still too powerful for that move.

Our current position is summed up well by Alex Cockburn here:

"By all rights, this last crisis has brought us to the crossroads where neoliberalism should be buried with a stake through its heart.
We’ve had thirty years worth of deregulation – the loosening of government supervision. This has been the neoliberal mantra preached by both major parties, the whole of the establishment press and almost every university economics department in the country. It is central to the current disasters. And if you want to identify symbolic figures in the legislated career of deregulation, there are no more resplendent culprits than the man at McCain’s elbow, Phil Gramm, and the man standing at Obama’s elbow at his press conference, Robert Rubin."

Rubin and Gramm (the implementer and author) of the de-regulation of our financial system are poised to rule. Little will change with these two characters in charge.

Read the entire article here.

Even liberals like Robert Kutner know this to be a collosal rip-off.

And some good old fashion red baiting:

The Socialists have taken over!!!!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The SubPrime Crisis Explained

In an entertaining way.

A Very Stable Race

There has been lots of chatter about the volatility of the race. It really ain't so. Take out the convention bounces, and remember what full life of a bounce does, and the race is pretty much where it was in June.

The idiotic "independent" is once again in the driver seat.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Is Palin Now a Liabilty?

Palin's average favorability score is now a +7 -- about 10 points behind Joe Biden's numbers. Perhaps more importantly, these numbers are 10-15 points behind where Palin's numbers were just a week or so ago. If voters come in not knowing very much about a candidate -- and the more they see of the candidate, the less they like of the candidate -- this is a major concern.

Is McCain in trouble?

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Palin Effect

It's real. It has jazzed the base. It is still early but it gives the gunners, Jesus lovers and bigots a reason to hold their nose and vote for McCain who they do not trust.

The culture war has always been a reality in America. Conventional wisdom traces the internal clash of civilizations to the 60's but right wing populism has always been around such as in the 20's (Scopes), at the turn of the 20th century (the progressives-notorious Jew haters and nose turners of the great unwashed), most Southerners were convinced the cosmopolitan North was a power hungry cabal of elite capitalists (they were), Jackson's appeal went right to the heart of the homespun Cider drinkers and Indian killers and we could probably come up with many more examples.

The problem for the United States left (we have a minuscule Left) is that liberals for the most part are elitists. It's the nature of the system. They tend to be better educated, higher income and appreciate the city life to shooting and praying, particularly the leadership. The backbone of the Democratic Party; organized labor, Blacks, Jews and most women are not of the upper class, sans Jews, but the folk that are trotted out as leaders have a definite urban, and urbane, bias (Kennedy, McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, Obama). Notice the 2 winners, Carter and Clinton, were southerners with some rural or HillBillary in them.

It's not that the Republican leadership are not of the upper class for the most part but if you look at the leaders of the populist right and the Republican Party they have the meanness and patriotism that appeals to men, white ethnics and the small business suburbanites.

Since organized labor has declined since the late 60's and the South has flipped parties because of race the Democrats must depend not only on urban folk and labor but also on the suburbs. This has made them the handmaidens of Wall Street, think Robert Rubin, and budget balancers. Not exactly the Huey Long "Make Every Man a King" program.

This is why the Palin's of the world do well. Because they bring home the pork, while talking tough on taxes and they pose at church and in the tree stand. Most folk will accept less government for city folk, thus vouchers there but not in the suburbs or rural areas but know that they are getting cops, prisons, roads and prescriptions so they continue to vote for the porky Republicans. That's why McCain alone would lose.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Luckiest Day

Friday the 13th is actually a luckier day than most contrary to the numeroligist mystic types. A Dutch study has looked at the numbers and has determined that traffic accidents, fires and theft are actually down on the infamous day.

Friday, June 06, 2008


A Slate journalist goes eco-touristing in Honduras. Who wins? How is it eco?

Machu Picchu

It looks like a German looted the Incan city earlier than thought.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Indigenous People

Was very captivated by the pictures of the indigenous people in Brazil that were photographed from the airplane that were making the rounds lately. Did a little Googleing and came up with this site on indigenous languages in the US.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Where's the Outrage?

The US government has now documented its own widespread torture both in Iraq and in sordid dungeons around the world in the name of the WAR ON TERROR. Where's the outrage?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Assasinated in Zimbabwe

The body of Tonderai Ndira was found this week, the 43rd Zimbabwean opposition activist to die in violence since elections in March. Journalist Farai Sevenzo looks back at his life and the circumstances leading up to his murder.

The death of an activist.

David, After a Short Stay in the US

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Saturday, May 10, 2008

How We Discipline the Poor

The United States prison system keeps marking shameful milestones. In late February, the Pew Center on the States released a report showing that more than 1 in 100 American adults are presently behind bars — an astonishingly high rate of incarceration notably skewed along racial lines. One in nine black men aged 20 to 34 are serving time, as are 1 in 36 adult Hispanic men.

An editorial from the NY Times.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

May 8

A salute to Mordecai Anielewicz on the anniversary of his death.

France 68

Philosophy in the streets. A BBC Radio documentary on the intellectuals of 68 in France.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Shut Down the Userers!

Why shutting down Payday and the like is a good idea.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Ennglish Only!!

Moyers on Wright

Behold the double standard: John McCain sought out the endorsement of John Hagee, the war-mongering, Catholic-bashing Texas preacher, who said the people of New Orleans got what they deserved for their sins. But no one suggests McCain shares Hagee’s delusions or thinks AIDS is God’s punishment for homosexuality. Pat Robertson called for the assassination of a foreign head of state and asked God to remove Supreme Court Justices, yet he remains a force in the Republican religious right. After 9/11, Jerry Falwell said the attack was God’s judgment on America for having been driven out of our schools and the public square, but when McCain goes after the endorsement of the preacher he once condemned as an agent of intolerance, the press gives him a pass. Jon Stewart recently played tape from the Nixon White House in which Billy Graham talks in the Oval Office about how he has friends who are Jewish, but he knows in his heart that they are undermining America. This is crazy and wrong -- white preachers are given leeway in politics that others aren’t.

Bill Moyers take.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

On the 40th Anniversary of My Lai

The logical outcome of a racist empire.

The BBC explores the destruction of villages and free fire zones in Southeast Asia in the context of the Vietnam War.

Friday, April 18, 2008


ABC's debate, bittergate and the Jeremiah Wright treatment have shown us how pathetic our political culture has sunk. And now the Democrats have internalized the narrative! Thanks Hilbillary and the DNC.

Three articles have caught my eye throughout this phase of the agitprop:

Bill Kristol's ominous "The Mask Slips" which exposes the centrist millionaire Obama as the closet Marxist that we know all silver tounged Ivy Leaguers are,

Paul Krugman's opportunistic "Clinging to a Stereotype" which "debunks" for the liberal set the tenuous link between the poor and backward ideas,


Mark Schmitt's "What's the Matter With Bitterness?"

All three articles take on the issue of economic stress and reactionary politics. One, Schmitt's take, embraces the link while the others shamelessly exploit the link for partisan political purposes. Schmitt's take goes to the essential politics of the time; if the Democratic Party is to even be a liberal party of the New Deal type they must look at the last 30 years as a time of speculation and supply side redistribution in the upward direction, including the Clinton years. Schmitt correctly realizes that if the US wants to maintain the standards of living and mobility for the working class that existed from 1945 to 1970 a new deal has to be dealt. He gives up on the answer but the below post on Germany is at least a swat in the right direction.

From Schmitt's article:

"While Tom Frank's claim was that Republicans had, in effect, tricked voters, Obama was suggesting something different -- that the Democratic Party had tricked them as well. "They fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate, and they have not," he said, in the context of explaining (to a supporter who was planning to go to Pennsylvania on his behalf) why people might be cynical about another 10-point plan or promise from a politician.

That's an indictment of the Clinton years as sharp as Clinton's indictment of Gore and Kerry. Obama is basically arguing that the 1992 campaign that promised "Putting People First," with a sharp, substantive agenda of public investment and health care -- the basic Truman/New Deal package -- instead put the bond market first, delivering balanced-budgets, NAFTA, welfare reform, and symbolic appeals to the suburban middle-class swing vote. The near-full employment economy of the Clinton years was a boon for many poorer areas and families -- many cities recovered from the crisis of the late 1980s, African Americans did well, and much of the Rust Belt economy improved. But it did very little for the coal, steel, and textile towns in the region that Gore lost, areas dependent on transferable industries disproportionately affected by globalization.

Why not bring that critique?"

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Social Democracy

The Euro has skyrocketed, regulations keep small and medium size businesses afloat through government regulation, taxes are high, unions are as powerful as ever and the public sector is thriving. A recipe for disaster? If you were to read the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, the New York Times or any other liberal western media outlet you would think that this a description of a country in the depths of crisis but alas I describe Germany and Northern Europe where the economies, although beginning to slow at the moment, maintain growing wages, trade surpluses and continuing growth BECAUSE of the above recipe of government planning and state intervention, not in spite of it.

German exports boom.

The US on the other hand has thrown over the helm to the speculator class. One does not have to read Monthly Review to get an understanding of the power of finance capital of late. The fight between finance and manufacturing capital was at least a fair battle from the 30's to the 60's but since then the movement of money and capital has become the national religion and we have all, but particularly the working classes in the cities, have paid the price.

Here's how we got here.

The 2008 election will not solve the serious issues that have been in the making for 40 or so years. One of the primary reasons is the bait and switch of racism that much of the white working class has bought into, why exactly are my wages on the decline? It must be those immigrants and welfare! The other reason is that much of the suburban types that hold sway in the Democratic party like Wall Street, they have bet the farm on it and Hillbillary and Barack represent, and have represented, them well. It will take a lot more than a vote to change the direction of this massively leveraged ship.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Big Finance

Kevin Philips on big finance:

Economic, financial and regulatory issues should dominate politics and government in the United States for the next two or three years, which is important enough. National discourse may also have a new and deserving bogeyman. Franklin D. Roosevelt had Big Business, Ronald Reagan had Big Labor, and my guess is that the new president inaugurated next January will have Big Finance.

True, finance has been whupped by presidents before. Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, for example. But that was in the quill-pen era when the financial sector was a pup. Today's financial services sector, by contrast, is a grasping, gargantuan combination of banks, stockbrokers, insurancemen, loan sharks, credit-card issuers, hedge fund speculators, securitization mavens and mortgage operators. Over the last five years, financial services has reached a swollen 20-21% of U.S. GDP -- the largest sector of the private economy.

Manufacturing led financial services by 2:1 back in the 1970s, but by 2006 beaten goods production had shrunk to just 12% of GDP.

Do most Americans understand this? Of course not. Newspaper front pages have shunned any discussion; 60 Minutes has not even spared the transformation sixty seconds, despite its vast implications. This upheaval is probably "the greatest story never told" about the two decades between, say, 1986 and 2006.

Nor was it an economic accident. Computerization was a prequisite, as was the rise of financial mathematics. However, I would say that the two most important underpinnings of financialization lay in the rise of public and private debt as a mainstay of American culture and economics and the perpetual liquidity and bail-out support of the Federal Reserve Board under Alan Greenspan. During Greenspan's 1987-2005 tenure, the sum of public and private debt in the United States quadrupled from just over $10 trillion to $43 trillion. Finance became the industry that was not allowed to fail but was permitted to enlarge and metastasize its behavior almost at will. Regulation was minimal. Favoritism was omnipresent.

The result, alas, has been all over recent headlines. America's biggest ever housing bubble, with 57 varieties of exotic mortgages and home prices now plummeting at rates unseen since the 1930s. The United States turned Credit Card Nation, with a citzenry in thrall to plastic, 20% interest rates and late fees for just about everything. Huge banks like Citigroup feel no shame in paying billion-dollar fines for colluding with Enron's tax and accounting deceits. And since mid-2007, national and world credit markets have been panicked and paralyzed by hitherto obscure instruments -- the stand-outs are collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) -- that not even their designers and packagers can explain.

The bit for his upcoming book.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Transcending the 60's

Yes, the Baby Boomer Generation is an annoying self-indulgent group and seemingly blatant hypocrites, have you seen Dennis Hopper hooking for Wall Street lately?, but one thing the Boomers did do is put on the table the hard issues of the time-poverty, identity, imperialism-even though they were maybe the most affluent generation of world history. They could have sat back and counted their change but many didn’t. So why does Barack Obama want to get beyond the debates of the Boomers and "the 60's?" Because the Right has neatly, and effectively, defined the 60's as a time of loose morals, America hating and pervasive lawlessness-read, black people in the streets rioting and committing crimes. So Barack Obama, cleverly, wants to redefine the debate so that he can benefit politically from, as the academics say, a paradigm shift.

Barack Obama wants to become a transcendent politician. He speaks about it all the time and he embodies the idea personally. It's a nice idea but what does it mean in the context of 2008? Two issues, race and empire, are at the center of why his task will be a difficult one.

The recent flare up about Barack Obama’s preacher bundled the issues neatly but earlier we have seen it on Tim Russert’s weekly chat with the powerful on NBC and his questioning of Barack Obama at the Democratic debate with Hillary Clinton a couple months ago. At the debate Russert wanted a denunciation of Louis Farrakhan and Jeremiah Wright and on Meet the Press in 2006 he asked Obama:

I want to talk a little bit about the language people are using in the politics now of 2006, and I refer you to some comments that Harry Belafonte made yesterday. He said that Homeland Security had become the new Gestapo. What do you think of that?

What’s Russert up to here? He seems like a nice muckraking type who asks the hard questions? But he is actually using the terms of the debate framed by the Right over the last 30 years or so. The Right wants to paint anyone who might question US foreign policy or question the institutional responsibility for millions of black and poor in the country as an America hater. There are many examples but the strategy has been so effective that wounded in action Vietnam Veteran John Kerry was easily dismissed as Ho Chi Minh’s secret agent even though the guy ran against a draft dodger. For Russert the way that he can show that he is a fair journalist is by outflanking anyone to the left of Joe Liberman by questioning their patriotism through association. And in this case the fact that his target of attack happens to be black helps link the idea that many black people are potential fifth columnists or sleeper cell Jihadi’s, isn’t that Barack Obama a Muslim? I am not saying that Russert is an active participant of the vast Right Wing conspiracy but that he has internalized the Right’s terms of debate and this makes him seem balanced in a media world that has been labeled liberal and biased.

Transcending race and empire then will be difficult for Obama then because of the way the Right has dominated the debate. If he brings up the issues of empire and the war in Iraq then he will be painted with the soft on “national security” angle. If he brings up race then he will be accused of playing the race card and being an angry black man that is soft on crime. The flag pin, no hand over the heart, is he Muslim flaps all are ways that these issues have been exploited. Combine these examples of Rosenberg type sabotage with a preacher on YouTube ranting “god damn America” and you have a decline in the polls for the transcendent hope.

The irony of the entire debate is that Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton for that matter, are no threat to the empire or fundamentally changing the way race is mediated in United States society. Obama is not calling for closure of the hundreds of bases around the world that help maintain US power across the planet, he actually is calling for an increase in US combat troops. He is not calling for a serious change in the way the economy is organized that concentrates poverty and incarceration in the minority population. He does have a plan that concentrates “a few billion” at rural and urban areas but an increasingly globalized capitalism will not be simply tamed by a few billion dollars and a Charter School in Detroit.

Obama will have difficult time changing our interventionist policies around the world and race relations for two primary reasons 1) his liberal program does not fundamentally alter the ends of US power internationally which supports the free movement of capital and a world of inequality and 2) the Right will challenge his patriotism and loyalty because they will oppose anyone who does not embrace their program of maintenance of an international war machine to support US corporate power and a policy towards race that blame the victim.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama Takes the Race Bait

Barack Obama made a fine speech yesterday but to paraphrase Bill Clinton on racial matters, he made it because of a “mugging” and he shouldn’t have had to have made it. The entire incident is a text book case of how the political class operates today and how woefully unprincipled many of them are both on an institutional and individual level. The news cycle is very quick these days and which issue has legs usually depends on the lack of “real” news-a major speech by someone in power, a celebrity/political sex scandal, explosions or a fast moving automobile in traffic, you get the idea. Not to say there isn’t enough chatter about all issues, at any given moment you could probably find a discussion on Canadian tariff policy on cable, but the news cycle is swift and if you get caught up in one you can easily be Spitzed.

Barack Obama’s “problem” with his middle class place of worship, the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, began in earnest with bluster from Fox News’s Offensive Noseguard Sean Hannity. Hannity’s researchers found some inflammatory rhetoric from a few years ago and off went running the usual suspects, including moral watchdog Bill Kristol who played it cool by saying Barack’s problem was not that he hangs out with radical Black Nationalist’s, which was Hannity and Tucker Carlson’s line, but that Obama is too much of a politician and Americans want more than that, this from the guy who supported George Bush. After the media storm front crashed down upon us the liberal types started the hand wringing at the New York Times, National Public Radio, and other sober bastions of normalcy. There line in general was that there is no place for such rhetoric in the United States where calm and balanced debate is the norm. Bull.

Contrary to what the political class is saying discussion of race in the United States is a raucous affair. At the workplace, at the bar, on call in radio, at school, at Thanksgiving dinner all types of people are having wide open, vulgar, racially insensitive, amusing, ignorant and insightful conversations about how the “other” lives. Debate out here with the hoople is honest, often ill informed and visceral. In everyday discussion people get annoyed, irritated and angry. Debate for the most part is a contact sport where bruises and scratches occur and most people have fairly stable positions that have been hardened over the years of investment. This is not to say that minds are not changed in this dialectic but rough point counterpoint is more the norm than a meeting of the minds.

That’s why the brouhaha over Obama’s former preacher is a red herring. Unless a complete tara-ra-goon-de-ay most people know that Black Nationalism is a major theme in discussion of race today. It’s a major theme in Hip Hop, in the academe, in literature and in the Black Church. It’s usually combined with a bit of self help; pick yourself up by your bootstraps rhetoric, a historical analysis of racial injustice and an appeal for social justice. It also has a little whitey bashing. Big deal. We all know this and to act as if it doesn’t happen, and worse needs to be denounced, is dangerous. It is actually a call for censorship. We all do not aspire to speak with the $8 words of William F. Buckley or speak in the mild tones of Tom Brokaw. Real debate makes people uncomfortable; it challenges the premise of your argument and hopefully in the long hall alters our views. In the 1960’s Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael demanded Black Power and made Martin Luther King look the moderate even though for the most part he was regarded as a trouble maker by the establishment. Without the pressure of social movements, both Right and Left, the center holds and nothing changes. Social movements are not led by the NPR types in the world.

Barack Obama is no radical and we all know it. He chose a moderate Black Church because he wanted some connection with his history. He is of both the white and black world and he has heard the honest discussion on both sides. Depending on where you work and live most of us have actually heard the honest debate. That’s actually a good thing. Let’s keep up that debate not try to be contained to the hushed tones of NPR. Otherwise nothing will change.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Capital likes to talk about about how they can solve problems but we know what they mean is that they can take advantage of a situation and make money. A case in point, the absolute disaster that is transportation in the United States. We certainly can get around fairly quickly except at rush hour when we actually need to get places quickly, except at Christmas time when time is most important. The cost of this system is mind boggling. Even capitalists know that it is slowing the accumulation of capital. But like our health care "system" certain interests that make huge profits can block the greater good.

Here's a decent article on the crisis in transport in the US.

We know how to change it but our political system makes it almost impossible.

The Presidential Election and the "Left"

"Today, we can be sure that the Democratic Party, unless it faces a popular upsurge, will not move off center. The two leading Presidential candidates have made it clear that if elected, they will not bring an immediate end to the Iraq War, or institute a system of free health care for all.

They offer no radical change from the status quo.

They do not propose what the present desperation of people cries out for: a government guarantee of jobs to everyone who needs one, a minimum income for every household, housing relief to everyone who faces eviction or foreclosure."

Howard Zinn's take.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Red Phone by Larry David

Here's an idea for an Obama ad: a montage of Clinton's Sybillish personalities that have surfaced during the campaign with a solemn voiceover at the end saying, "Does anyone want this nut answering the phone?"

How is it that she became the one who's perceived as more equipped to answer that 3 a.m. call than the unflappable Obama? He, with the ice in his veins, who doesn't panic when he's losing or get too giddy when he's winning, who's as comfortable in his own skin as she's uncomfortable in hers. There have been times in this campaign when she seemed so unhinged that I worried she'd actually kill herself if she lost. Every day, she reminds me more and more of Adele H., who also had an obsession that drove her insane.

A few weeks ago, I started to feel sorry for her. Oh Christ, let her win already...Who cares...It's not worth it. There's not that much difference between them. She can have it. Anything to avoid watching her descend into madness. So I switched. I started rooting for her. It wasn't that hard. Compromise comes easy to me. I was on board.

And then I saw the ad.

I watched, transfixed, as she took the 3 a.m. call...and I was afraid...very afraid. Suddenly, I realized the last thing this country needs is that woman anywhere near a phone. I don't care if it's 3 a.m. or 10 p.m. or any other time. I don't want her talking to Putin, I don't want her talking to Kim Jong Il, I don't want her talking to my nephew. She needs a long rest. She needs to put on a sarong and some sun block and get away from things for a while, a nice beach somewhere -- somewhere far away, where there phones.

The Democrats and the War

By Norman Solomon

Maybe it sounded good when politicians, pundits and online fund-raisers talked about American deaths as though they were the deaths that mattered most.

Maybe it sounded good to taunt the Bush administration as a bunch of screw-ups who didn't know how to run a proper occupation.

And maybe it sounded good to condemn Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush for ignoring predictions that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to effectively occupy Iraq after an invasion.

But when a war based on lies is opposed because too many Americans are dying, the implication is that it can be made right by reducing the American death toll.

When a war that flagrantly violated international law is opposed because it was badly managed, the implication is that better management could make for an acceptable war.

When the number of occupying troops is condemned as insufficient for the occupying task at hand, the White House and Pentagon may figure out how to make shrewder use of US air power - in combination with private mercenaries and Iraqis who are desperate enough for jobs that they're willing to point guns at the occupiers' enemies.

And there's also the grisly and unanswerable reality that Iraqis who've been inclined to violently resist the occupation can no longer resist it after the US military has killed them.

If the ultimate argument against the war is that it isn't being won, the advocates for more war will have extra incentive to show that it can be won after all.

If a steady argument against the war maintains that it was and is wrong - that it is fundamentally immoral - that's a tougher sell to the savants of Capitol Hill and an array of corporate-paid journalists.

But by taking the political path of least resistance - by condemning the Iraq war as unwinnable instead of inherently wrong - more restrained foes of the war helped to prolong the occupation that has inflicted and catalyzed so much carnage. The antiwar movement is now paying a price for political shortcuts often taken in the past several years.

During a long war, condemned by some as a quagmire, that kind of dynamic has played out before. "It is time to stand back and look at where we are going," independent journalist I. F. Stone wrote in mid-February 1968, after several years of the full-throttle war on Vietnam. "And to take a good look at ourselves. A first observation is that we can easily overestimate our national conscience. A major part of the protest against the war springs simply from the fact that we are losing it. If it were not for the heavy cost, politicians like the Kennedys [Robert and Edward] and organizations like the ADA [the liberal Americans for Democratic Action] would still be as complacent about the war as they were a few years ago."

With all the recent media spin about progress in Iraq, many commentators say that the war has faded as a top-level "issue" in the presidential race. Claims of success by the US military have undercut precisely the antiwar arguments that were supposed to be the most effective in political terms - harping on the American death toll and the inability of the occupying troops to make demonstrable progress at subduing Iraqi resistance and bending the country's parliament to Washington's will.

These days, Hillary Clinton speaks of withdrawing US troops, but she's in no position to challenge basic rationales for war that have been in place for more than five years. At least Barack Obama can cite his opposition to the war since before it began. He talks about changing the mentality that led to the invasion in the first place. And he insists that the president should hold direct talks with foreign adversaries.

The best way to avoid becoming disillusioned is to not have illusions in the first place. There's little reason to believe that Obama is inclined to break away from the routine militarism of US foreign policy. But it's plausible that grassroots pressure could pull him in a better direction on a range of issues. He seems to be appreciably less stuck in concrete than the other candidates who still have a chance to become president on January 20, 2009.


The documentary film "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death," based on Norman Solomon's book of the same name, launches its New York City theatrical premiere with an engagement at the Quad Cinema starting March 14.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Voucher Program Shows No Success

In the largest comprehensive study so far of the public funding of private, mostly religious, schools in Milwaukee researchers have shown no progress discernable whatsoever. Analyzing scores from the state standardized test, voucher schools did about the same as Milwaukee Public Schools (some grades were a little higher and other grades a little lower).

Monday, February 25, 2008

How far would they go?

GOP polls to see just how racist and sexist they can be without creating a backlash! You can't make this stuff up.

Oh, wait the above picture is most likely from the Hillary camp.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Kristol and Fear

Bill Kristol is a pundit with power. He is the voice of a very scary group of war mongers that has the ear of a significant segment of the rulers. Here's his advice to Hillary about BO, "use the politics of fear." This is a guy who helped Bush lie to the anyone who would listen about Iraq and is now on the warpath against Iran. It's a fairly telling bit.

Friday, February 22, 2008

McCain: A Maverick?

"A comparison might be useful. Over her time in the Senate, Hillary Clinton has voted with Republicans on any number of occasions. On several key issues, she is more centrist than most of her party—she supports the death penalty, she was a longtime advocate of NAFTA, and she is more hawkish on foreign affairs than most Democrats. Furthermore, if reporters wanted to, they could find plenty of officials from Washington-based progressive groups who would offer critical quotes of her position on a given issue as insufficiently loyal to progressive principles. Yet if a reporter referred to Hillary Clinton as a "maverick," his colleagues would laugh him out of town."

Paul Waldman on the maverick myth.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Problem with a Mixed Economy

Venezuela struggles with food shortages. Why? Producers either won't produce or don't sell. They blame the bureacracy and price controls.

Si Se Puede!

A week or so ago a video started making the rounds that put BO's words to music. I was called "Yes We Can." A parody is now available. Very amusing!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Wither the Surge?

An offensive in the offing against the Sunni Awakening?

If so McCain is in trouble.

Some Fun with Cockburn

"Looking ahead to a Ms. Clinton administration, should it come to pass, we'd guess that the political price tag of an expanded health insurance program will be the privatization of social security, which was proceeding rapidly forward under Bill Clinton until the day that Monica Lewinsky snapped her thong."


"Looking ahead to the fall, John McCain will have the hard task of selling his 100-year American presence in Iraq to a electorate that by a majority of about 70 per cent wants the troops home. If Moqtada al Sadr and the Shia decide to fight it out in a summer and fall campaign against the Sunni New Awakening, and the Surge's supposed success dissolves in a sea of blood he may fare even worse than Bob Dole against Clinton 1996."


"Hillary won eight states ­ Arkansas, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Obama won thirteen ­ Alaska, Alabama, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and Utah where polygamists presumably rallied for Obama in honor of his father."

The entire article.

Obama Fishes for Votes

Justin Elliott
Mother Jones
February 1, 2008

Last week, when Barack Obama became the first major candidate to break the silence on the situation in Gaza, he didn`t criticize Israel, whose blockade of a civilian population has been roundly condemned by human rights organizations, nor did he call for restraint from the United States` top ally in the Mideast. Instead, he fired off a letter to U.N. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad with a resounding message-one that could have been mistaken for words straight from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee`s (AIPAC) website. `The Security Council should clearly and unequivocally condemn the rocket attacks against Israel.... If it cannot...I urge you to ensure that it does not speak at all,` Obama wrote, adding he understood why Israel was `forced` to shut down Gaza`s border crossings.

The letter was notable not only because Obama had distinguished himself from the rest of the field (John McCain later sent a similar letter to Condoleezza Rice), but also because it was a far cry from the Obama of last March, who let slip a rare expression of compassion for Palestinians by an American politician: `Nobody`s suffering more than the Palestinian people` he famously said at a small gathering in Iowa. What ensued in the 10 months between then and now is an object lesson in the intense pressure under which presidential candidates stake out ground on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the extraordinary effectiveness of the self-styled `pro-Israel` movement. This high-pressured atmosphere goes a long way to explaining why the candidate with the most liberal foreign policy views went out of his way to take a hard line on Gaza.

Obama`s shuffle with the pro-Israel lobby follows in a long tradition of Democratic candidates facing a litmus test on the issue. Hillary Clinton, for her part, has enjoyed wide support among pro-Israel advocates, having made her peace with them back in 1999 after a controversy involving the lobby hurt her Senate campaign. And as Super Tuesday approaches-the day when many Jewish Democrats vote, in states like New York and California (where respectively 17 and 6 percent of primary voters identified themselves as Jewish in 2004)-Obama has aggressively moved to shore up his pro-Israel credentials, dispatching Jewish supporters to drum up support and hosting a lengthy conference call with Jewish reporters Monday. In part, the call was to counter chain e-mails, which have intensified in recent weeks, painting Obama as a `secret Muslim,` but he also used a chunk of the time to make it known that he was a friend of Israel: `I want to make sure that we continue to strengthen the enduring ties between our people and pledge to give real meaning to the words `never again,`` he said.

From the beginning, Obama has received more scrutiny on the issue of Israel than any other presidential candidate-something of a paradox given that he shares a uniformly pro-Israel record and policy platform with the major contenders from both parties. The suspicion of pro-Israel advocates for Obama was most recently captured in a January 23 Jerusalem Post op-ed in which Danny Ayalon, the former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., called the senator`s candidacy cause for `some degree of concern.` A memo by a top official at the American Jewish Committee, recently leaked to the Jewish Daily Forward, neatly outlined the roots of this concern: In the late 1990s Obama reportedly called for an even-handed approach to the conflict; his pastor had praised Louis Farrakhan; he has called for diplomacy with Iran; and, of course, he was once photographed breaking bread with the late Palestinian-American academic Edward Said.

There are plenty of other theories for why Obama has been so closely scrutinized on the issue Israel. `One, he is black, and in general it would be expected that black people are more sympathetic to the Palestinian people,` Ziad Asali, president of the American Task Force on Palestine, a group that advocates for the creation of a Palestinian state, told me in trying to explain the scrutiny on Obama. M.J. Rosenberg of the Israel Policy Forum, a dovish advocacy group, echoes Asali: `The more right-wing segments of the Jewish community are the least likely to be comfortable with an African-American president.` Two, Asali said, Obama is young and perhaps open to new interpretations of the conflict, and, `thirdly, his middle name is Hussein, so he`s more suspect than a John Smith.`

And no media outlet has done more to pressure Obama on the issue than the New York Sun, the de facto house organ of the pro-Israel lobby. Since its creation in 2002, the newspaper has been practicing a unique brand of gotcha journalism concerning Israel and Palestine. And Obama has consistently responded, no matter how trivial the issue. In March, after George Soros wrote an article calling for negotiations with Hamas, a Sun reporter took it upon himself to seek comments from several Democrats, including Obama. A spokeswoman issued a dissent from Soros and reiterated that the senator shared AIPAC`s position on the issue. A few months later, in response to a Sun query, the campaign distanced Obama from some members of his national church who had passed resolutions critical of Israel. Then, last September a Sun reporter noticed a small ad on the Amazon page of The Israel Lobby, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer`s book that critiques the lobby`s role in U.S. policymaking. Within hours of being contacted by the Sun, the campaign issued a statement slamming the book and had the ad-although it had been completely unintentional-pulled from Amazon`s site.

`[Pro-Israel advocates] have him in a position where he has to keep demonstrating his pro-Israel bona fides,` says Rosenberg. `This is done every four years, pretty much in every election. Whoever is deemed to be the most liberal candidate is put on the defensive on Israel.`

No one knows this better than the candidate deemed most liberal in 2004-Howard Dean. Like Obama, Dean was relatively new on the national scene and possessed liberal-leaning foreign policy views-parallels that help explain why in 2003 Dean faced an Israel problem all too similar to Obama`s today. But Dean went further on Israel, at least rhetorically, than any of the candidates have this cycle, saying the U.S. should be `even-handed,` that `it`s not our place to take sides,` and that `enormous` numbers of Israeli settlements would have to be dismantled. That talk prompted a barrage of negative press coverage and earned him a pair of scolding letters, one from Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League and another from 34 congressional Democrats. And, yet, strangely, Dean`s actual position on Israel was expressly in line with President Bush and his Democratic rivals. His campaign was co-chaired by former AIPAC president Steve Grossman. Nevertheless, as Grossman later acknowledged, Dean lost support over those comments. Sound familiar?

Obama experienced a mini-version of the Dean treatment after his statement about Palestinian suffering in March. When David Adelman, a prominent Iowa Democrat and AIPAC member, shot off a letter to Obama calling the comment `deeply troubling,` a spokesman scrambled to run damage control, telling the AP that Obama believes `in the end, the Palestinian people are suffering from the Hamas-led government`s refusal to renounce terrorism.` Aides met personally with Adelman, who told the Des Moines Register he was `satisfied with their response.`

The campaign let the quote stand for six weeks. Then, in the first debate, before a televised audience of around two million, Brian Williams asked the senator if he stood by his comment. Obama bailed. `Well, keep in mind what the remark actually, if you had the whole thing, said.... [N]obody has suffered more than the Palestinian people from the failure of the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel...` For the candidate who is selling hope, it was a fairly cynical move.

John Edwards, who has always hewed to the AIPAC consensus on Israel, received little sustained scrutiny on the issue. Hillary Clinton, for her part, settled her debts with the Israel lobby years ago. On a Mideast trip in 1999, the First Lady hugged and kissed her Palestinian counterpart, Suha Arafat, at an event where Arafat had accused Israel of using poison gas on civilians. The incident was pumped into a media firestorm and memorialized in a commercial taken out by the Republican Jewish Coalition. Hillary went on to win her Senate seat in 2000 with an unusually slim majority of New York`s Jewish vote. `The whole purpose of manufacturing that controversy when there was none was to put Hillary in a place where she would have to be hawkish on Israel,` Rosenberg says.` And Hillary has gone for it completely. She`s been compensating for it ever since.` Clinton now effectively outflanks Obama on the right with her call in September for `an undivided Jerusalem as [Israel`s] capital.`

It`s unsurprising, then, that Hillary is clearly the favored Democrat of the pro-Israel establishment. Since 2004 when Obama first ran for Senate, he has received $93,700 of pro-Israel PAC money, while Hillary has gotten $349,073 during the same period. In the 2008 cycle, while the numbers are still quite low, Hillary has attracted five times more pro-Israel money than Obama.

All the same, the Obama campaign`s loud protestations of support for Israel have been enough to placate the New York Sun`s editors, who penned an editorial in early January noting `he has chosen to put himself on the record in terms that Israel`s friends in America...can warmly welcome.` That piece, Politico reported, was `promptly and widely` circulated by Obama`s people.

Even if Obama has allowed himself to be painted into a corner on Israel, some hold out hope that his natural inclinations on the conflict are more moderate than his pronouncements. `Based on my conversations with Obama, I have a very strong belief that he shares the Tikkun perspective, which is pro-Israel and pro-Palestine both,` says Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of the progressive Jewish journal Tikkun. `I`m cautious in saying I`m 100 percent sure because there was a time when Hillary Clinton said, `Michael I`m totally with you and Tikkun on Israel/Palestine.` That was when I was supposedly her guru in 1993. Now, she went a very far distance from that later on.`

Lerner`s likely right to approach the issue with a degree of skepticism. This Thursday Marty Peretz, the pro-Israel New Republic editor, devoted an article to vouching for Obama, declaring he could be trusted by `friends of Israel.` And if the conduct of his campaign has shown anything, it`s that what Obama might believe `in his heart` and how a President Obama would approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are two very different matters. `Will he have the courage to stand up to the Israel lobby and push Israel toward peace?` Lerner asks. `I sincerely doubt it. I see no reason to believe that he will take on that struggle.`

Justin Elliott is an editorial fellow at Mother Jones.The article in Mother Jones.

Hillary has been the same on the Palestinian question by the way.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Obama Wins

In particular he won the REALLY white vote. The question is why did he win Minnesota, Idaho, North Dakota and Utah?

They've seen "Yes We Can" video and a name like Johansson carries a lot of weight out there.

Sheer boredom.

They sense they might actually be better dancers than Obama.

They don't know Obama's black.


This from
236 news.

In all seriousness Obama really did win Super Tuesday. He won more states and delegates!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


For left/progressives the line much of the time is, "if we just had the access to the media and money to get the anti-corporate message out there...."

With Edwards we had this.

Here's an analysis that I share:

Weekly Commentary -- Lessons from Edwards' Failure

Despite John Edwards’ talk of going all the way to the convention to take the country back from our corporate overlords, in the end it turned out Eli Manning had more fight in him than Edwards.

Though I personally find this unsurprising, given my perception that Edwards was a poseur and an empty suit, he certainly excited many progressives; it’s worth the effort to try to see what lessons we can learn from his failure.

For a long time, it’s been a majority view on the left that if only someone who had the right opportunities – i.e., had lots of money and mainstream respectability and didn’t believe in UFOs -- would stand up in an election season and promote a strong, anti-corporate economic populist message, the entire game would be changed. Part of the underlying belief was that the masses who don’t vote – usually 45+% of the voting-age population – allow servants of the plutocracy like George Bush to get elected because they are closet socialists and don’t want to sully themselves by voting for a mildly redistributionist pro-capitalist politician. And even for those who end up voting, the reasoning would go, very often it’s like playing eeny-meeny-miny-moe because they don’t get anyone who really represents their interests.

Well, John Edwards raised $44 million in 2007, he’s a former vice presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, and he has excellent hair. Nobody mocked him as a leprechaun or a vegan. And his words – all twelve of them, repeated over and over – were anti-corporate enough that Ralph Nader himself, famous for his claims that there’s no difference between the two main parties, called Edwards a Democratic “glimmer of hope” and said that this was, “the only time I've heard a Democrat talk that way in a long time.”

Well, it’s true that, as his wife pointed out, he had the handicap of being from that ultimate historically disadvantaged group, white males. As politically asinine and overall whiny as her comment was, it wasn’t exactly wrong – Edwards couldn’t really make himself interesting to most, especially when compared with Obama. And it’s true that the mainstream media gave him less attention than the other two – and later panned him for his “divisive” rhetoric.

Even so, he had absolutely the best chance in a long time of catching on with a populist message and it just didn’t fly. In fact, the message did considerably worse than it appears from his vote totals. If you look at exit polls from the primaries, you’ll find that in Iowa and South Carolina those who identified themselves as conservative voted for Edwards at twice the rate as those who identified as liberal, while in general Obama and Clinton spread pretty evenly across the categories. In South Carolina, it was clearest, when white men (the most conservative demographic group overall) voted largely for Edwards.

It’s possible that most of them really weren’t paying any attention to what he said. It’s possible that some of them picked up on his obvious homophobia (which differentiates him from Clinton and Obama). Or, perhaps, just the comforting fact that he was a white man with a Southern accent blinded the conservative voters to all else.

This is not a nicely controlled experiment. Edwards raised money from his hedge-fund cronies to run a populist campaign, he repudiated every single legislative stance he had ever taken, and he generally had difficulty projecting credibility with his new tack. On the other hand, Nader, who had all the credibility in the world in 2000, tried to run outside the two-party system, forgoing the massive institutional support that the system gives by design to the two parties.

Still, put it all together and the results suggest very clearly to me that we should give up on the fetishization of “If we could just get the information/message out” and realize that, even on what ought to be the slam-dunk issue of representing 80% of the people’s economic interests against those of the other 20%, the ground must be prepared.

The right wing has done this so well that even an insane message like “Cutting tax rates always increases tax revenues” seems automatically true to a significant chunk of the population, of media opinion-makers, and of politicians – and even with the rest, it doesn’t qualify you as a wingnut. We have yet to do this with even a much more intuitive message like “When corporations control your health care and are paid with fixed premiums, their profits will be higher the less care they actually allow.”

Until we can do that, we can forget about changing the game of electoral politics in this country.

From Rahul Mahajan's Empire Notes.