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Thread: The Obama Presidency

  1. #46


    Here again I'm accused of approving of the atrocities visited upon Native Americans? Do I hear the moral and ethical failures of past individuals used as an argument against liberty and self-ownership? The utilitarian argument that the ends justify the means?

    Zippy, willingness to share does hold the moral high ground - have I said otherwise?

    I take as axiomatic that property rights - what's mine is mine - are not exogenous to, but derive directly from the primacy of self-ownership. How can it be a moral failure to fail to share if one's self ownership and derivative property ownership is merely conditional and based upon the grace of state authority? Morality must be predicated upon free will - which logically demands self ownership.

    How is it that such a thing as a Church can exist since its finances depend entirely upon private voluntary donation? Based ostensibly on promoting moral and generous individual action, finding a sustainably functioning Church seems about as probable as finding a unicorn based upon many of the comments here.

    Let it be noted that 'individualism' is not what I'm referring to when I use the terms 'self-ownership' and 'individual liberty' - this appears to be the cause of some confusion.

    I'd rather not hijack this thread any longer, though the discussion is rewarding. To continue the discussion I suggest a separate thread entitled 'Self-Ownership Compatible With Government?'


    Back on topic.

    Economic Stimulus Amounts to Central Planning
    by Sheldon Richman, December 17, 2008

    ...real danger lurks in the Obama administration’s plan to use the recession as a cover for “transforming” the economy, particularly with respect to energy. “Transforming the economy,” of course, is a euphemism for the discredited idea of central planning. What Obama has in mind is not full-out central planning, but, given how pervasive energy is, government direction of that sector is not far from planning the entire economy. We should have learned from the Soviet experience that no one can plan an economy. The knowledge required to redesign something as complex as an economy is not available to anyone. An economic system is not a machine but a dynamic process resulting from countless micro decisions made by billions of producers and consumers worldwide. Much of the knowledge they act on is never written down or even discovered until they improvise in the face of unexpected market alternatives. How could a planner hope to succeed?
    by Jim Kunstler

    ...A key concept of the economy to come is that size matters -- everything organized at the giant scale will suffer dysfunction and failure. Giant companies, giant governments, giant institutions will all get into trouble. This, unfortunately, doesn't bode so well for the Obama team and it is salient reason why they must not mount a campaign to keep things the way they are and support enterprises that have to be let go, including many of the government's own operations. The best thing Mr. Obama can do is act as a wise counselor companion-in-chief to a people who now have to leave a lot behind in order to move forward into a plausible future. He seems well-suited to this task in sensibility and intelligence. The task will surely include a degree of pretense that he is holding some familiar things together and propping up some touchstones of the comfortable life. But the truth is we are all going to the same unfamiliar new territory.
    Will the 'Same old Deal' (still bigger government) Change anything?

  2. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by [URL=""
    Paul Moreno[/URL]]...Thus the real “change” for the American people, as Obama so candidly put it, is whether we want to repeal not just the Constitution, but the Declaration of Independence, in order to establish an entitlement state, or not.
    I feel that the world is at a crossroads when it comes to defining the need for and mission of a sovreign state. In the last thirty years, the nation-state has become secondary to corporate influence and power. The nation is the backdrop and a mine of resources for these multi-national corporations. The state of the world economy is collapsing under the actions of these firms that have roamed rampant fromplace to place looking for another nation state to ravage and sack.

    In some ways, we do need a footnote to our constitution and bill of rights. The mission of this country can longer be the rather quaint "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". At the time those words were written, we were still settling this continent. More than anything I else, I view them as a hard fast conviction to a libertarian form of government: don't hinder the citizens in their pursuit of good work and fair trade.

    The trouble with this country in this millennium is that every square centimeter of space on this planet has somehow been stolen, claimed as private property, and fees of use ascribed. Same for any form of food. All of the food in the world is grown and locked away from people, who must submit to a system that, at its most basic level, enslaves you to labor for money to get some food.

    There is no living off of the grid.

    Not everyone has it in themselves to succeed in this system and, so, we must commit to ensuring that those people survive - without penalty.

    I think ideology is out the window. As everyone of capitol hill lambasts the automakers about making changes and beats up on the Wall Street robber barons to make changes, it seems that the most potent signal of change would be the one going into office in January.

    You know the phrase, "Heal thyself, Physician". Well that's what the new administration & congress has to do.

    Personally, I find Obama's rhetoric evasive and annoying. He's making no commitments. He's just deflecting, deflecting, deflecting.

    He going into the presidency on much skakier ground, because his progressive/liberal base is growing more and more disillusioned with his statements, actions, and limited vision.

    Rick Warren is certainly a major stumble for him and, like George W., Obama is too arrogant to admit his mistake. Perhaps Warren will bow out of the inauguration, but, if not, Obama is going to alienate a lot of voters - not just the LGBT community, but other groups equally offended by having a hatemonger leading the inauguration.


    Personally, I'm back to where I was jusy days from the election: He has no record of accomplishments or legislation, no voting record, and I simply do not trust him.

    Oh..., but let's not talk about me. What do you think?

  3. #48
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    No matter what folks might want right now Obama will not be President -- and have the necessary power to effect change -- for another month.

    Obama cannot be expected to say now how he will proceed. Right now the Republicans still hold a lot of power and can and will put roadblocks in his way (as Bush is proving with his last minute Presidential "signings").

    Both Warren and Obama might have some of the rug pulled out from under them. Today the California Attorney General, former CA Governor Jerry Brown, filed a brief calling to Void the results of Prop 8 as being unconstitutional. Seeing as how the CA Supreme Court previously ruled in favor of the rights of all in CA to marry it would seem that there is a good chance that we will see the Nullification of Prop 8.

  4. #49


    BrooklynRider, your remarks about the food industry bring to mind an excellent article by Charles Eisenstein that is overall rather optimistic. An excerpt:
    The more anonymous the customer, the more money stands as the sole motivating force. In today's multi-level, automated, and standardized food production & distribution system, the consumer is almost totally anonymous to the farmer, the commodity buyer, the processing factory, and even the grocer. There is no reason to care about the wholesomeness of the product, except to the extent necessary to conform to whatever regulations are enforced, and whatever the public might find out about. No reason? Oh pardon me, I forgot about altruism. Yes of course, a company might make products better than they need to be out of a abstract altruism, but when the (very real) pressures of market competition come to bear, such altruism quickly degenerates into sloganeering and PR. Some version of "caring about the health of the consumer" surely appears in the mission statements of all the major food corporations, including the most egregious violators of the public trust. In other words, it is hard to genuinely care about someone you don't even know. Compassion in the abstract is almost always a self-deception. Much more reliable is the goodwill and mutual sense of responsibility that exists among neighbors who are bound together into a community, their good intentions enforced by social pressure and the intimacy of long association.

    In many areas of life, social mechanisms of enforcing responsible behavior have atrophied as communities have disintegrated. These have been replaced by legal mechanisms. The old mechanisms of gossip, ostracism, reputation, etc. have lost their power. No matter how much your neighbors dislike you, your money is still good at Wal-Mart. In today's anonymous society, we are little dependent on our communities, which have become mere collections of buildings. More and more, we are connected to our neighbors by proximity only. The increasing legalism and litigiousness of America is a symptom of unraveling communities, weakening connections. On a most basic level, we no longer make food for each other. All phases of food production, from the farm to the kitchen, are increasingly the province of strangers who are paid to do it.

    You cannot pay someone to care. You can pay someone to act as if they care; you can pay them to follow meticulous guidelines; but you can't make them really care.

  5. #50


    What Obama Doesn't Know
    Much has been hidden from the new president by the Bush team

    By Nat Hentoff
    Tuesday, December 16th 2008 at 2:21pm

    No presidential transition team in recent history has ranged as widely as Barack Obama's in its attempt to find out what minefields he may be walking into. For example, The Washington Post notes, 10 teams of 135 explorers, wearing yellow badges, have descended on dozens of Bush administration offices and agencies to look into their programs, policies, and records.

    However, I keep remembering a dark warning to the successors of the Bush-Cheney legacy in a January 3 letter to The New York Times by Arthur Gunther of Blauvelt, New York: "Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have so deeply embedded tacit approval for illegal acts in government agencies that wrongdoing by their philosophical sympathizers will continue in shadow operations for years to come."

    How many of those shadow sympathizers will remain deep in the CIA, the FBI, Homeland Security—and, as I shall later emphasize, in the omnivorous National Security Agency, with its creatively designed submarine that, on the bottom of the ocean floor, will be tapping into foreign cables carrying overseas communications, including those of Americans?

    Will the Obama sleuths be able to peer into plans of the military Special Operations forces around the world, whose SWAT-style moves can quickly inflame even our allies? Covertly authorized four years ago by Donald Rumsfeld, these warriors are empowered to attack secretly any apparent terrorist venture, anywhere. No press allowed.

    Will the new president, cognizant of the proliferation of retaliatory nuclear arms, presumably among our enemies, insist on signing off on each of those Special Operations forays?

    Back at home, will President Obama order the countermanding of the FBI's return to the unbounded surveillance practices of J. Edgar Hoover? In an order implemented as recently as this December—by FBI Director Robert Mueller (who says he'd like to stay on) and Attorney General Michael Mukasey—the FBI can start an investigation without requiring any evidence of wrongdoing. That is not change we can believe in.

    Among many Obama voters, much optimism is created when he pledges that we will not torture. But even if he makes his intent official, emphasizes Mark Kukis (Time, December 8), "the Executive Order would have to be sweeping and reach deep into the government's darker recesses. That's because the Bush team has written so many legal memos okaying various techniques for interrogators working at a wide range of agencies [not just the CIA]. Some of these opinions have been disclosed publicly, but an unknown number remain classified."

    It will be up to the new Attorney General, Eric Holder—not a notably passionate constitutionalist in his previous role in the Justice Department—to, as Kukis adds, "issue new legal guidance that supersedes all those legal opinions, seen or unseen, if he hopes to prevent a return to such practices in the future" (emphasis added).

    So, keep an eye on Mr. Holder. And if he does bury those John Yoo–style torture memos and other (and, here, I use the term loosely) "legal opinions," Holder should be tasked by the president to reveal what they permitted.

    For a long time, Senate Judiciary chairman Pat Leahy, a Democrat, and leading Republican member Arlen Specter have been trying to get those deeply hidden authorizations for war crimes that contradicted the broken-record insistence ("We do not torture!") of George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice.

    Of all our intelligence agencies, the most unabashedly un-American is the NSA, because it has the continually expanding technological resources to make George Orwell's Big Brother look like a cantankerous infant. No American president has come close to reining in the NSA, let alone bringing its officials up on charges of murdering our Fourth Amendment privacy rights.

    In case you've forgotten, those specific constitutional protections were a result of the general searches conducted by British soldiers that turned American colonists' homes and offices upside down. NSA's eavesdropping on our phones and Internet activities have largely destroyed some of our rights as mentioned in the Constitution: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall be issued but on probable cause. . . ." (Computers and the Internet are now included.)

    Of all the investigators of the formidably guarded privacy of the NSA, the most feared by these omnipresent spies is James Bamford, who for years has been penetrating their secrets in his books—Body of Secrets, The Puzzle Palace, etc. This year, he's gone much deeper into that bottomless cavern than ever before, in The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA From 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America (Doubleday). I hope President Obama reads this book himself and demands that his intelligence directors also plumb it and give him their reactions—or better yet, their confessions of complicity with NSA.

    There will be more on the "Shadow Factory" next week, as well as on Senator Obama's startling (to me) vote for the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Amendments of 2008—after he had insisted he would filibuster against its passage. In view of the sweeping spying powers that this law, championed by George W. Bush, provides the NSA, will President Obama be a dependable restorer of at least some of our privacy rights?

    John McCain, of course, would not have been.

    Bamford ends his new book by bringing back one of my Bill of Rights heroes, the late Senator Frank Church of Idaho, whose Senate investigating committee, during the 1970s, first uncovered the frightening range and depth of NSA’s spying on us. “That capability,” said Church, “at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such [is the NSA's] capability to monitor everything. . . . There would be no place to hide. . . . If this government ever became a tyranny . . . the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because resistance . . . is within the reach of the government to know.”

    After quoting that warning from Frank Church, Bamford ends: “There is now the capacity to make tyranny total in America. Only law ensures that we never fall into that abyss—the abyss from which there is no return.” Are you listening, President Obama?

  6. #51


    ^ Thanks.

    Last time I read anything by Nat Hentoff was in DownBeat Magazine.

  7. #52
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    The late Senator Frank Church of Idaho was a true American hero -- and sadly now remembered by few in this country even though he fought to re-instate many of the freedoms which had been hacked away during the Vietnam War years.

  8. #53
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Obama to use Lincoln Bible


    Photo: AP
    Obama will take the oath of office using
    the same Bible upon which President Lincoln
    was sworn in at his first inauguration.

    From the transition team:

    "Washington, D.C. - On January 20th, President-elect Barack Obama will take the oath of office using the same Bible upon which President Lincoln was sworn in at his first inauguration. The Bible is currently part of the collections of the Library of Congress. Though there is no constitutional requirement for the use of a Bible during the swearing-in, Presidents have traditionally used Bibles for the ceremony, choosing a volume with personal or historical significance. President-elect Obama will be the first President sworn in using the Lincoln Bible since its initial use in 1861.

    'President-elect Obama is deeply honored that the Library of Congress has made the Lincoln Bible available for use during his swearing-in,' said Presidential Inaugural Committee Executive Director Emmett Beliveau. 'The President-elect is committed to holding an Inauguration that celebrates America's unity, and the use of this historic Bible will provide a powerful connection to our common past and common heritage.' "

    More from the transition's release:

    "The Lincoln Bible will be available for a press viewing between 11:00 AM and Noon today in the Members' Room on the first floor of the Library of Congress' Thomas Jefferson Building at 10 First St. S.E. in Washington, D.C. Video and still cameras are permitted. Media should allow 10-15 minutes to clear security at the First Street entrance to the Jefferson Building. Clark Evans, who heads the Reference Services Section of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress, will also be available at that time to answer questions about the Lincoln Bible and the Library. High-resolution photographs of the Bible are also available upon request. RSVP is not required. Please contact the PIC Communications Office with questions.

    The Bible was originally purchased by William Thomas Carroll, Clerk of the Supreme Court, for use during Lincoln's swearing-in ceremony on March 4, 1861. The Lincoln family Bible, which is also in the Library of Congress's collection, was unavailable for the ceremony because it was packed away with the First Family's belongings, still en route from Springfield, IL, to their new home at the White House.

    The Bible itself is bound in burgundy velvet with a gold-washed white metal rim around the three outside edges of both covers. All its edges are heavily gilded. In the center of the top cover is a shield of gold wash over white metal with the words 'Holy Bible' chased into it. The book is 15 cm long, 10 cm wide, and 4.5 cm deep when closed. The 1,280-page Bible was published in 1853 by the Oxford University Press.

    Annotated in the back of the volume, along with the Seal of the Supreme Court, is the following: 'I, William Thomas Carroll, clerk of the said court do hereby certify that the preceding copy of the Holy Bible is that upon which the Honble. R. B. Taney, Chief Justice of the said Court, administered to His Excellency, Abraham Lincoln, the oath of office as President of the United States ...'

    The Lincoln Inaugural Bible will be on display at the Library of Congress February 12th to May 9th, 2009, as part of an exhibition titled "With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition." The exhibit will then travel to five other American cities. The Library is planning several other events and programming in commemoration of the bicentennial of the birth of the nation's 16th president, who was born on February 12th, 1809.

    On March 4, 2009, the 147th anniversary of Lincoln's first inauguration, the Library of Congress will also be convening an all-day symposium with several renowned Lincoln scholars."

  9. #54


    Photos of the Bible here.

  10. #55


    Here Come the Progressives!
    Watch out!

    By Justin Raimondo | December 24, 2008

    Well, well, well – it looks like our war-birds over at the American Enterprise Institute are getting kicked out of their very well-feathered nest, as Jacob Heilbrunn, author of a fascinating book on the neoconservatives, reports:
    "The neocon world has been rocked by recent events at AEI. Numerous neocons told me that a vicious purge is being carried out at AEI, spearheaded by vice-president for foreign and defense policy studies, Danielle Pletka. There can be no doubting that change is afoot at AEI. Recently, Michael Ledeen and Reuel Marc Gerecht have departed AEI. Joshua Muravchik is on the way out as well. Other scholars face possible eviction."
    It couldn't have happened to a more deserving bunch. Although Heilbrunn avers that Muravchik is one of the more "reasonable" neocons, in my book he's one of the worst. Here, after all, is someone who openly argues that we must start bombing Iran immediately if not sooner, and defends the tragic history of our invasion of Iraq – the lies, the pointless deaths, the horrific blowback. In an article published in Commentary, he accused anyone who so much as whispered the word "neocon" of spreading "conspiracy theories," and, of course, anti-Semitism. Ledeen is an outright loon, whose "faster, please" jeremiads – published even as the grandiose schemes of the neocons come crashing down on our heads – have only underscored how utterly clueless he's always been. As for Gerecht, he's typical of these legends in their own minds, with his ex-spook persona of world-weary intelligence "expert" and air of smug certainty while mouthing the worst whoppers as undisputed fact. He was even invited by the Cato Institute to palaver on one of their little-read Web sites, giving his pro-war, let's-invade-everyone spiel for the delectation of libertarians – as if this jerk didn't have endless platforms from which to spread his line of guff!

    It looks like Muravchik & Co. will retreat to the safety of the Hudson Institute, where Scooter Libby has gone to lick his wounds and write his memoirs. The Foundation for the Defense of the Democracies, whose made-in-Israel stamp was detected in an investigative report published in The American Conservative, has already taken in Gerecht, and others will certainly jump into this particular lifeboat. Whatever their fate as individuals, however, the neocons' brand of armed fanaticism will wind up in the same historical dustbin occupied by their intellectual progenitors and rivals, the Marxist-Leninists.

    So, can we say, with absolute certitude – and unabashed joy – that the neocons are over, and the War Party is through?

    Not by a long shot.

    Because what's rising on the left-end of the political spectrum is a new brand of neoconservatism, a "liberal" and even "enlightened" variety of the same old hubris-in-arms that animated the departed warmongers of AEI. You can forget AEI; it doesn't matter that much anymore, now that the Republicans are out of power – but get ready for PPI!

    What the heck is PPI? I can hear you asking that question, and the answer is simple: it's the neocons all over again, albeit this time in "liberal" drag.

    The Progressive Policy Institute was set up by the Democratic Leadership Council, a "centrist" Scoop Jacksonish group that aims to keep the Democrats on the pro-war straight-and-narrow: it is the War Party's intellectual outpost in the Democratic Party. These "national security Democrats" are just as unabashedly militaristic as their right-wing counterparts over at AEI, the only difference being rhetorical. Thus, PPI's chief theoretician Will Marshall avers, in a 2005 screed hailing "national service and shared sacrifice":
    "True patriotism is at odds with the selfish individualism that shapes the Republicans' anti-government ideology. It means accepting obligations to the community to which we all belong and must contribute if we are to enjoy the fruits of membership. In wartime, not everyone can fight, but everyone can find ways to sacrifice for the common cause. Bush has sent U.S. troops into battle, but he hasn't challenged the rest of us to do our part."
    Marshall's beef is that the Bush crowd wasn't warlike enough on the home front. Along with Marshall Wittmann, the ex-Trotskyist who went on to become chief public relations flack for the Christian Coalition and is now with PPI, the other Marshall spent the Iraq war years attacking the Bushian foreign policy from the right – it wasn't interventionist enough, and certainly not in a "smart" way.

    Now PPI is pushing for NATO expansion, addressing an open letter of "advice" to our new president and declaring openly the war agenda of the left-neocons: "The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is the most successful defense alliance in history," intones Commander Marshall. So it's time to declare victory, throw our hats in the air, and go home – right?

    Wrong, wrong, wrong – no government program, and especially not a transnational racket like NATO, is ever going to voluntarily dissolve the bureaucratic, financial, and cultural bonds that bind together the job-holders, the government contractors, and, in this case, the war profiteers. It's far too lucrative a business to give up, and certainly the thought never even crosses Marshall's mind. He bemoans the fact that "the alliance is stumbling badly," and informs President Obama that he "will face no more important task than defining a coherent mission for NATO in the 21st century – a mission that transcends the alliance's origins as a strictly regional pact and reinvents it as a force for global stability," i.e., a fresh rationale for endless meddling. You have to give Marshall credit, however. He thinks big:
    "You should seize the opportunity to lead NATO's transformation from a North American-European pact into a global alliance of free nations. By opening its doors to Japan, Australia, India, Chile, and a handful of other stable democracies, NATO would augment both its human and financial resources. What is more, NATO would enhance its political legitimacy to operate on a global stage."
    Imagine – we would be pledged to go to war in order to defend Chile. Against whom would we be defending it? Hugo Chavez? Oh, there are plenty of new enemies in our brave new world, according to Marshall's lights.

    While Russia merits a "watchful eye," China is seen as the new rising threat: they dare to tout their "market Maoism" as an ideological competitor with Western-style social democracy, and they're getting richer by the hour! While not yet "a direct threat" militarily, China's "stunning economic growth rates, sustained over two decades," are clearly a source of envy and irritation on Marshall's part, as if he despises the market part of what he calls "market Maoism" far more than the Maoist aspect. That's what being a left-neocon is all about. With the new crew in the White House committed to "fair trade," otherwise known as trade protectionism, it looks like we'll be confronting a new set of enemies: our economic competitors in the world marketplace.

    If you were the Chinese government, and you read Marshall's missive, realizing that PPI is tremendously influential in Democratic Party circles, the veritable voice of the party establishment, what would you do? I'll tell you what I would do: launch a preemptive strike.

    No, I wouldn't mount a military assault, but a much more effective and devastating economic attack – I'd dump my Treasury bonds, sell off my federal agency bonds, and call in all private-sector debt.
    The result would be a financial Pearl Harbor: the U.S. economy would sink so far below sea level that we'd wind up alongside Atlantis.

    What's scary about this PPI proposal is that its proponents aren't some fringe group, but representative of what passes for the "centrist" wing of the Democratic Party.

    John McCain may have lost the election, but his dotty neoconnish agenda lingers on in the form of this proposal, which resembles nothing so much as McCain's idea that the U.S. should organize a "Concert of Democracies," as a new instrument of intervention worldwide. In a piece for The American Conservative, I predicted that we would see this idea come up if Obama won the White House:
    "If NATO as an instrument of the new Cold War isn't working as the War Party hoped, then the Concert of Democracies is Plan B, one that will have appeal beyond the offices of the American Enterprise Institute and the Weekly Standard. Neoconservative internationalists, such as Robert Kagan, are reaching out to liberal internationalists, such as Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution: the two recently authored an op-ed in the Washington Post calling for the establishment of such a league to fulfill 'the responsibility to protect.' Daalder is an influential advisor to Barack Obama's presidential campaign, while Kagan, Newsweek noted, is 'McCain's foreign policy guru.'"
    Get ready for a new rationale for a massive military buildup. PPI calls for at least 100,000 more troops to beef up our ability to intervene anywhere and everywhere, and it demands more money for the "defense" budget. As the incoming administration takes the reins of power, watch for the "national security Democrats" to extend their talons. With the mad Keynesian professors at the helm in Washington, looking eagerly about for "projects" to lavish ever-depreciating dollars on, preparations for war with China, or some newly-declared "rogue dictator" (Putin?), will no doubt be factored into their "stimulus package."

    When people are poor and getting poorer, it's fairly easy to convince them that the evil "foreigners" are to blame – for stealing "our" markets and selling quality consumer goods to "our" people at prices that Americans can actually afford. Economic nationalism will be the War Party's new battle-flag. As a great libertarian economist once put it, "if goods don't cross border, then armies soon will."

    Look for the return of the "Yellow Peril" and the revival of a half-forgotten "progressive" tradition of left-wing anti-Chinese and anti-Japanese feeling. On the West coast, starting in the 19th century, the labor unions agitated against the importation of "coolie" labor, and anti-Japanese sentiment was also rife. This anti-Asian movement found political expression in the Asiatic Exclusion League and the Workingman's Party. The movement had enough clout in 1906 to pressure the San Francisco-based California state Board of Education to exclude students of Japanese descent from public schools white children attended.

    We hear echoes of this in Rachel Maddow's rants against that Republican congressman from a southern state who has a Toyota factory in his district, which Rachel referred to as if it were an invading army instead of a source of income for thousands of Americans. How dare he oppose the bailout of our sclerotic auto industry, which long ago deserved to go belly-up! What I want to know is where-oh-where do these people learn economics?

    In short, it's going to get increasingly ugly out there, as the Democrats take control and this kind of talk becomes more commonplace. Call it bread-and-butter imperialism – the War Party's appeal to the common working man. Full employment through global interventionism – yeah, that's the ticket!

    The names change, the rhetoric undergoes a subtle shift in tone, but from AEI to PPI is not a long road to travel. Those who are hoping for "change" – the mindless slogan relentlessly pushed by the Obama-ites until it becomes a mantra devoid of meaning – are in for a shock. What we'll see in the foreign policy realm is more of the same, including a fresh crop of neocons with considerable influence among key policymakers. As a new year dawns, it's the same old same old.

  11. #56


    December 26, 2008
    Op-Ed Columnist
    Barack Be Good

    Times have changed. In 1996, President Bill Clinton, under siege from the right, declared that “the era of big government is over.” But President-elect Barack Obama, riding a wave of revulsion over what conservatism has wrought, has said that he wants to “make government cool again.”

    Before Mr. Obama can make government cool, however, he has to make it good. Indeed, he has to be a goo-goo.

    Goo-goo, in case you’re wondering, is a century-old term for “good government” types, reformers opposed to corruption and patronage. Franklin Roosevelt was a goo-goo extraordinaire. He simultaneously made government much bigger and much cleaner. Mr. Obama needs to do the same thing.

    Needless to say, the Bush administration offers a spectacular example of non-goo-gooism. But the Bushies didn’t have to worry about governing well and honestly. Even when they failed on the job (as they so often did), they could claim that very failure as vindication of their anti-government ideology, a demonstration that the public sector can’t do anything right.

    The Obama administration, on the other hand, will find itself in a position very much like that facing the New Deal in the 1930s.

    Like the New Deal, the incoming administration must greatly expand the role of government to rescue an ailing economy. But also like the New Deal, the Obama team faces political opponents who will seize on any signs of corruption or abuse — or invent them, if necessary — in an attempt to discredit the administration’s program.

    F.D.R. managed to navigate these treacherous political waters safely, greatly improving government’s reputation even as he vastly expanded it. As a study recently published by the National Bureau of Economic Research puts it, “Before 1932, the administration of public relief was widely regarded as politically corrupt,” and the New Deal’s huge relief programs “offered an opportunity for corruption unique in the nation’s history.” Yet “by 1940, charges of corruption and political manipulation had diminished considerably.”

    How did F.D.R. manage to make big government so clean?

    A large part of the answer is that oversight was built into New Deal programs from the beginning. The Works Progress Administration, in particular, had a powerful, independent “division of progress investigation” devoted to investigating complaints of fraud. This division was so diligent that in 1940, when a Congressional subcommittee investigated the W.P.A., it couldn’t find a single serious irregularity that the division had missed.

    F.D.R. also made sure that Congress didn’t stuff stimulus legislation with pork: there were no earmarks in the legislation that provided funding for the W.P.A. and other emergency measures.

    Last but not least, F.D.R. built an emotional bond with working Americans, which helped carry his administration through the inevitable setbacks and failures that beset its attempts to fix the economy.

    So what are the lessons for the Obama team?

    First, the administration of the economic recovery plan has to be squeaky clean. Purely economic considerations might suggest cutting a few corners in the interest of getting stimulus moving quickly, but the politics of the situation dictates great care in how money is spent. And enforcement is crucial: inspectors general have to be strong and independent, and whistle-blowers have to be rewarded, not punished as they were in the Bush years.

    Second, the plan has to be really, truly pork-free. Vice President-elect Joseph Biden recently promised that the plan “will not become a Christmas tree”; the new administration needs to deliver on that promise.

    Finally, the Obama administration and Democrats in general need to do everything they can to build an F.D.R.-like bond with the public. Never mind Mr. Obama’s current high standing in the polls based on public hopes that he’ll succeed. He needs a solid base of support that will remain even when things aren’t going well.

    And I have to say that Democrats are off to a bad start on that front. The attempted coronation of Caroline Kennedy as senator plays right into 40 years of conservative propaganda denouncing “liberal elites.” And surely I wasn’t the only person who winced at reports about the luxurious beach house the Obamas have rented, not because there’s anything wrong with the first family-elect having a nice vacation, but because symbolism matters, and these weren’t the images we should be seeing when millions of Americans are terrified about their finances.

    O.K., these are early days. But that’s precisely the point. Fixing the economy is going to take time, and the Obama team needs to be thinking now, when hopes are high, about how to accumulate and preserve enough political capital to see the job through.

  12. #57


    Obama's Black Widow
    Thanks to Bush and Obama, the National Security Agency now knows more about you

    By Nat Hentoff
    Tuesday, December 23rd 2008 at 12:35pm

    Barack Obama will be in charge of the biggest domestic and international spying operation in history. Its prime engine is the National Security Agency (NSA)—located and guarded at Fort Meade, Maryland, about 10 miles northeast of Washington, D.C. A brief glimpse of its ever-expanding capacity was provided on October 26 by The Baltimore Sun's national security correspondent, David Wood: "The NSA's colossal Cray supercomputer, code-named the 'Black Widow,' scans millions of domestic and international phone calls and e-mails every hour. . . . The Black Widow, performing hundreds of trillions of calculations per second, searches through and reassembles key words and patterns, across many languages."

    In July, George W. Bush signed into law the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which gives the NSA even more power to look for patterns that suggest terrorism links in Americans' telephone and Internet communications.

    The ACLU immediately filed a lawsuit on free speech and privacy grounds. The new Bush law provides farcical judicial supervision over the NSA and other government trackers and databasers. Although Senator Barack Obama voted for this law, dig this from the ACLU: "The government [is now permitted] to conduct intrusive surveillance without ever telling a court who it intends to spy on, what phone lines and e-mail addresses it intends to monitor, where its surveillance targets are located, why it's conducting the surveillance or whether it suspects any party to the communication of wrongdoing."

    This gives the word "dragnet" an especially chilling new meaning.

    The ACLU's Jameel Jaffer, director of its National Security Project, adds that the new statute, warming the cold hearts of the NSA, "implicates all kinds of communications that have nothing to do with terrorism or criminal activity of any kind."

    Why did Obama vote for this eye-that-never-blinks? He's a bright, informed guy, but he wasn't yet the President-Elect. The cool pragmatist wanted to indicate he wasn't radically unmindful of national security—and that his previous vow to filibuster such a bill may have been a lapse in judgment. It was.

    What particularly outraged civil libertarians across the political divide was that the FISA Amendments Act gave immunity to the telecommunications corporations—which, for seven years, have been a vital part of the Bush administration's secret wiretapping program—thereby dismissing the many court cases brought by citizens suing those companies for violating their individual constitutional liberties. This gives AT&T, Verizon, and the rest a hearty signal to go on pimping for the government.

    That's OK with the Obama administration? Please tell us, Mr. President.

    Some of us began to see how deeply and intricately the telecoms were involved in the NSA's spying when—as part of an Electronic Frontier Foundation lawsuit—it was revealed by a former AT&T technician, Mark Klein, that he had found a secret AT&T room in which the NSA was tapping into the telecom giant's fiber-optic cables. On National Public Radio on November 7, 2007, he disclosed: "It's not just AT&T's traffic going through these cables, because these cables connected AT&T's network with other networks like Sprint, Qwest [the one firm that refused to play ball with the government], Global Crossing, UUNet, etc."

    What you should know is that these fruitful cables go through "a splitter" that, as Klein describes, "just copies the entire data without any selection going on. So it's a complete copy of the data stream."

    Under the new FISA Amendments Act, there are no limits on where this stream of data can be disseminated. As in the past, but now with "legal" protection under the 2008 statute, your suspicious "patterns" can go to the FBI, Homeland Security, the CIA, and state and local police that are also involved in "fusion centers" with the FBI.

    Consider the enormous and bottomless databases that the government—and its NSA—can have a ball with. In James Bamford's The Shadow Factory (Doubleday)—a new book that leads you as far as anyone has gone into the bowels of the NSA—he notes: "For decades, AT&T and much of the rest of the telecommunications industry have had a very secret, very cozy relationship with the NSA." In AT&T's case, he points out, "its international voice service carried more than 18 billion minutes per year, reaching 240 countries, linking 400 carriers, and offering remote access via 19,500 points of presence in 149 countries around the globe."

    Voilá! Also, he notes: "Much of those communications passed through that secret AT&T room that Klein found on Folsom Street in downtown San Francisco."

    There's a lot more to come that we don't know about. Yet. In The Shadow Factory, James Bamford quotes Bush's Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell as saying that this wiretapping program was and is "only one program of many highly secret programs approved by Bush following the attacks on 9/11" (emphasis added). McConnell also said of the NSA's nonstop wiretapping: "This is the only aspect of those various activities whose existence has officially been acknowledged."

    Come on, Mike. Bush acknowledged the NSA's flagrant contempt of the First and Fourth amendments only after The New York Times broke the story in December 2005. When the Times executive editor, Bill Keller, first decided to hold the explosive story for a year, General Michael Hayden—the former head of the NSA who is currently running the CIA—was relieved because he didn't want the news to get out that "most international communications pass through [these telecommunications] 'switching,' " Bamford reports. It would blow the cover off those corporate communicators. Now, AT&T, Verizon, et al., don't have to worry, thanks to the new law.

    There are increasing calls, inside and outside of Congress, for President Obama to urge investigations by an independently bipartisan commission—akin to the 9/11 Commission—to get deeply into the many American and international laws so regally broken by Bush and his strutting team.

    But there is so much still to find out about the NSA's "many highly secret programs" that a separate commission is sorely needed to probe exclusively into the past and ongoing actions of the Black Widow and other NSA lawless intrusions into our privacy and ideas.

    President Obama could atone for his vote that supported the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 by appointing such a bipartisan commission composed of technology experts who are also familiar with the Constitution.

    Bamford says that the insatiable NSA is "developing an artificial intelligence system designed to know what people are thinking." Here come the thought police!

    Copyright © 2009 Village Voice


    In a related note, the venerable Nat Hentoff has been laid off by the Village Voice.

  13. #58


    January 5, 2009
    A Pitch for Mass Transit

    Unlike President Bush, Barack Obama is going to enter office with a clear appreciation of the urgent problems of climate change and America’s growing dependency on foreign oil — and a strong commitment to address both.

    One way he can do this is to give mass transit — trains, buses, commuter rails — the priority it deserves and the full financial and technological help it needs and has long been denied.

    Mass transit has always played second fiddle to the automobile, so Mr. Obama will need strong allies. Ray LaHood, Mr. Obama’s choice for transportation secretary, must be not only an ally but a champion for mass transit. Mr. LaHood is a Republican and former member of Congress from rural Illinois, where farmers produce a lot of ethanol and where people mostly drive. His résumé on transportation issues is thin, and we fear he may need some coaxing in this new direction.

    Another important ally should be — and almost certainly will be — James Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat who is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

    For years, the division of transportation money in Washington has heavily favored cars and trucks — more than 80 percent of the big transit money from gas taxes goes to highways and bridges, and less than 20 percent to railroads or mass transit. Mr. Oberstar is leading the charge to change that formula and divide this money a little more evenly. This will not be easy. Automobiles will be with us a long time, and old spending habits die hard. But as part of the stimulus package now under discussion for transportation, Mr. Oberstar is proposing $30 billion for highways and bridges and $12 billion for public transit. That is certainly a far healthier mix.

    The new administration could further help mass transit by shelving the unfair “cost effectiveness index” that President Bush put in place several years ago for new transit programs. The net effect of this index was to make it easier to build highways and almost impossible to use federal money for buses, streetcars, light rail, trolleys — indeed, any commuter-rail projects.

    For Mr. Obama’s transit agenda and for Mr. LaHood, the next big challenge will be a transit bill that Congress must pass by September. Mr. LaHood is widely praised for his management skills and his ability to work well with others. Those abilities will certainly be needed if he and the Congress are to find and then finance the best, the most-efficient and the most-advanced ways for Americans to move around.

  14. #59

  15. #60


    US president-elect Barack Obama is widely expected to adopt a more even-handed approach
    to the Middle East conflict once he assumes office. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

    Obama camp 'prepared to talk to Hamas'

    Incoming administration will abandon Bush's isolation of Islamist group to initiate low-level diplomacy, say transition sources

    Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington, Friday 9 January 2009 00.31 GMT

    The incoming Obama administration is prepared to abandon George Bush's doctrine of isolating Hamas by establishing a channel to the Islamist organisation, sources close to the transition team say.

    The move to open contacts with Hamas, which could be initiated through the US intelligence services, would represent a definitive break with the Bush presidency's ostracising of the group. The state department has designated Hamas a terrorist organisation, and in 2006 Congress passed a law banning US financial aid to the group.

    The Guardian has spoken to three people with knowledge of the discussions in the Obama camp. There is no talk of Obama approving direct diplomatic negotiations with Hamas early on, but he is being urged by advisers to initiate low-level or clandestine approaches, and there is growing recognition in Washington that the policy of ostracising Hamas is counter-productive. A tested course would be to start contacts through Hamas and the US intelligence services, similar to the secret process through which the US engaged with the PLO in the 1970s. Israel did not become aware of the contacts until much later.

    A draft was agreed last night at the UN, calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire between Hamas and Israeli forces in Gaza, the head of the Arab League said. Amr Moussa said Arab countries want the security council to vote on the resolution. It was supported by the US, Israel's closest ally, and Arab countries with ties to Hamas.

    Richard Haass, a diplomat under both Bush presidents who was named by a number of news organisations this week as Obama's choice for Middle East envoy, supports low-level contacts with Hamas provided there is a ceasefire in place and a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation emerges.

    Another potential contender for a foreign policy role in the Obama administration suggested that the president-elect would not be bound by the Bush doctrine of isolating Hamas.

    "This is going to be an administration that is committed to negotiating with critical parties on critical issues," the source said.

    There are a number of options that would avoid a politically toxic scenario for Obama of seeming to give legitimacy to Hamas.

    "Secret envoys, multilateral six-party talk-like approaches. The total isolation of Hamas that we promulgated under Bush is going to end," said Steve Clemons, the director of the American Strategy Programme at the New America Foundation. "You could do something through the Europeans. You could invent a structure that is multilateral. It is going to be hard for the neocons to swallow," he said. "I think it is going to happen.

    But one Middle East expert close to the transition team said: "It is highly unlikely that they will be public about it."

    The two weeks since Israel began its military campaign against Gaza have heightened anticipation about how Obama intends to deal with the Middle East. He adopted a strongly pro-Israel position during the election campaign, as did his erstwhile opponent and choice for secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. But it is widely thought Obama would adopt a more even-handed approach once he is president.

    His main priority now, in the remaining days before his inauguration, is to ensure the crisis does not rob him of the chance to set his own foreign policy agenda, rather than merely react to events.

    "We will be perceived to be weak and feckless if we are perceived to be on the margins, unable to persuade the Israelis, unable to work with the international community to end this," said Aaron David Miller, a former state department adviser on the Middle East.

    "Unless he is prepared to adopt a policy that is tougher, fairer and smarter than both of his predecessors you might as well hang a closed-for-the-season sign on any chance of America playing an effective role in defusing the current crisis or the broader crisis," he said.

    Obama has defined himself in part by his willingness to talk to America's enemies. But the president-elect would be wary of being seen to give legitimacy to Hamas as a consequence of the war in Gaza.

    Bruce Hoffman, a counterterrorism expert at George town University's school of foreign service, said it was unlikely that Obama would move to initiate contacts with Hamas unless the radical faction in Damascus was crippled by the conflict in Gaza. "This would really be dependent on Hamas's military wing having suffered a real, almost decisive, drubbing."

    Even with such caveats, there is growing agreement, among Republicans as well as Democrats, on the need to engage Hamas to achieve a sustainable peace in the Middle East – even among Obama's close advisers. In an article published on Wednesday on the website Foreign Affairs, but apparently written before the fighting in Gaza, Haass, who is president of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote: "If the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas continues to hold and a Hamas-PA reconciliation emerges, the Obama administration should deal with the joint Palestinian leadership and authorise low-level contact between US officials and Hamas in Gaza." The article was written with Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel and an adviser to Hillary Clinton.

    Obama has said repeatedly that restoring America's image in the world would rank among the top priorities of his administration, and there has been widespread praise for his choice of Clinton as secretary of state and Jim Jones, the former Marine Corps commandant, as his national security adviser.

    He is expected to demonstrate that commitment to charting a new foreign policy within days when he is expected to name a roster of envoys to take charge of key foreign policy areas: Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, India-Pakistan, and North Korea.

    Obama has frustrated and confused those who had been looking for a more evenhanded approach to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict by his refusal to make any substantive comment on Israel's military campaign on Gaza, nearly two weeks on.

    He said on Wednesday: "We cannot be sending a message to the world that there are two different administrations conducting foreign policy.

    "Until I take office, it would be imprudent of me to start sending out signals that somehow we are running foreign policy when I am not legally authorised to do so." © Guardian News and Media Limited 2009

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