Sunday, March 30, 2008


It appears Hillary Clinton is gearing up to try to win her nomination via seating the Michigan delegates (in the race everyone said they would not campaign and almost everyone managed to take their names off the ballot) and the Florida delegates (in another race everyone promised not to campaign and everyone except her kept that promise) and thereby eke out some kind of backroom deal.
Even if the GOP had managed to select Rudy or Mitt I don't think I could have swallowed this kind of crap, but considering that the GOP settled on McCain, who is at least acceptable, then there's no way I'd end up voting her way. It would have been different if she managed to win fair and square. In that case, even with her many flaws, my desire to punish the GOP and see the kind of good housecleaning you only get with a change of party would have made me hold my nose and vote for her.
Now, my lonely little vote might not count for much, but here is something that should give the Democrats pause: If Clinton were to win that way, there is no way that black Americans would regard the affair as anything less than stealing the election away from Obama.
Largely, this is because the perception would be accurate!
If Obama manages to win pluralities in every category and she wins by cheating, the the Democrats will have managed to do the impossible and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Scott Horton on torture

One of the writers doing the best work on this topic has been Scott Horton. His latest is here:

If anyone in this administration is ever held to account for their war crimes (and let's be 100% clear here, authorizing torture is a war crime. We established that more than 50 years ago.) it will be because of Horton and a few other individuals who have tried to uphold the honor of the United States.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Fortunate sons

Reading one of Alexander McCall Smith's novels in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency brought to mind how important founding fathers can be. The novel's main protagonist, Precious Ramotswe, is fond of quoting Botswana's first president Seretse Khama, whom she regards as an exceptionally wise man. She might compare him to George Washington, if she had ever heard of Washington.
By all reports Khama was, indeed, an exceptionally wise and effective leader. Botswana, almost alone among the newly independent states of Africa from the 1960s has been prosperous and peaceful. In large part this is because Khama invested in education and instilling a tradition of honest, corruption-free government.
It's widely accepted these days that corruption is one of the main factors hindering development in third-world nations, but Khama apparently realized it decades ago. The result is that Botswana has leaped from one of the world's poorest countries to its middle ranks in little more than two generations. It's probably the biggest success story in Africa. It is stable and safe. About the only major problem, albeit a very big one, is the AIDS crisis afflicting more than a third of the adult population.
Botswana's success contrasts starkly with so many African disasters, such as the current one in Zimbabwe, and shows the opportunities lost. It also highlights how important the right leader is at the start.
Usually in governments and societies leaders operate within the structure they inherent. Change is limited and incremental and the result of the interaction between many actors.
But every so often the social and political order starts anew, due to revolution, a war for independence or decolonization. When this happens, the leader at the top makes all the difference. The currents of history rarely bring exceptional leaders to the fore at these times. Its usually some ordinary person and too often a nefarious one.
How different would America have been without George Washington? As a group America's founding fathers were better than average, but even among themselves they recognized that Washington was the only indispensable man. As vital as his leadership was during the Revolution, it was as president he performed his most lasting service. There were many generals who could have won the war, but only he had the sense of duty, honor and uncommon good sense to be its first president.
Despite his flaws and the flaws of his country, can there be any doubt that Nelson Mandela was an indispensable man in the history of South Africa? Against all expectations he led his country through as delicate a transition as ever seen in history.
Every nation faces its own challenges, and while Khame may not have faced difficulties quite as steep as Mandela's or Washington's, the track record of Africa's other independence leaders shows that his success was clearly against long odds.
So Botswana is clearly a land of fortunate sons (and daughters) to have had such a founding father.

Those against single-payer need an answer to this sort of thing ...

... if they think they're going to hold it off much longer.

When such gut-level unfairness is allowed to happen then things will change.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

New media embarasses the old

The Smoking Gun website exposes a major L.A. Times story about Tupac Shakur by a prize-winning investigative reporter as being based on a con-man's hoax. The paper apologizes and will almost certainly be facing major league lawsuits which it might very well lose.

The apology here:,0,2043351.story

The Smoking Gun here:

For those who doubt that the new media is eclipsing the old, this should be exhibit No. 1 to shake that belief.
This is a big deal from the media standpoint. In the newsroom I work in there has been some reluctance to take web media seriously, but I think that reluctance is misplaced. Naturally one can't accept everything that appears in an online report as accurate, but that's also true of print media. I had a friend's grandmother once who swore that what she read in The National Enquirer must be true because they wouldn't have printed it if it weren't true. That was a touching bit of faith but it wasn't true then and isn't true now. Just because something is committed to the printed page doesn't make it so.
The key to credibility in print as well as online media is transparency. In the L.A. Times story, as so many that get into trouble, there's a lot of reliance on unnamed sources. A lot of the big national media outlets have gotten into a bad habit of routinely using unidentified sources. This simply has to stop. There are rare times when you need to use somebody who can't be identified, but when the rare becomes routine it's a problem.
This is less of a problem with more regional and local papers, which very rarely rely on unidentified sources. I've worked at four different small to mid-size daily newspapers and at all of them there was a very high bar to using an unidentified source. It might get OK'd once or twice a year at such a paper.
Especially in stories out of Washington, a look at the N.Y. Times, L.A. Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal you will find unidentified sources almost every day. In many cases it's not obvious why the privilege has been granted. There are partisan attacks and self-serving administration statements given the dignity of print while not giving the reader the means to evaluate the source.
Guys, stop it!
If the source won't allow an ID then don't use the comment! It's as simple as that. Rove needs you to print his spin a lot worse than you need to use it. Really.
If the print media and national broadcast media is to retain any shred of credibility (which, in turn, is its only real edge over the new media) it has to tighten up.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A lie too far?

Have the Clinotn's stretched the truth one too many times? The Tuzla tale seems to have considerable legs.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Why do officials insist on saying self-evidently stupid things?

What brings this up is the continued insistence by airline and government officials that the passengers and crew of US Airways flight 1536 were not endangered when a pilot's gun "accidentally discharged" and punched a whole in the plane while it was landing on Saturday.

This could only be true in the narrowest possible sense. In other words, it was only true in the sense that at that exact moment when the gun fired it didn't happen to be pointed at anybody or any vital part of the plane.

But by any commonsense understanding of the term, of course everybody was endangered. Anybody who has ever handled firearms or been on a firing range knows that there's no such thing as a "safe" accidental discharge of a weapon. Any time a weapon is fired when it wasn't meant to be fired it is a dangerous situation. The only thing preventing tragedy when this happens is pure luck.

I do not find it comforting when government officials assure the public there was no danger when there clearly was a danger. They either think we're too stupid to know the difference or they're too stupid to know the difference. Neither option is reassuring.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

The world is always full of news of war, famine and cruelty. There will be no prefection here.
But Easter gives us hope because of God's love.
Happy Easter.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Wright, Till were the same age

Obsidan Wings has an excellent post helping to put Wright in context. Wright was born in 1941, making him about th same age as Emmett Till!
The past is not so long past as some people think.

Carville ought to understand Judas

If there's a nastier political operative on the scene today than James Carville then I have yet to see him.
It's certainly an illuminating glimpse into the mindset of the Clintonites that one of them could liken Richardson's decision to endorse Obama instead of Clinton to Judas' betrayal of Christ. The sense of entitlement is palpable. How dare that uppity you-know-what not wait his turn and let Hillary have what is rightfully hers? How dare he?

I will be soooo glad to see the Clintons retire into graceful obscurity when Obama wins. The only downside is if McCain manages to pull it out, because then the Clintons will be in full I-told-you-so-mode.
Fortunately the Republicans seem determined to continue their self-destruction, not to mention seem doomed to reap a full measure of whet Bush as sown, so I think there's a good chance Obama will do it.

Richardson endorses Obama

I think Obama's small kindness to Richardson during the Democratic debate, when he gave him a stage whisper hint when Richardson missed hearing the moderator's question about Katrina probably played a very big role in his decision to endorse Obama.
It was a very decent thing to do, and I think it provides a small peek into what kind of person Obama really is.

Friday, March 21, 2008


Vice President Dick Cheney's reaction to a question about Americans being against staying in Iraq.
Stands on its own, I think.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ineffective protests

Code Pink and similar folks have perfected protest as street theater, but by enhancing the symbols so much they have robbed them of effectiveness. While the Iraq War is at least as unpopular as Vietnam ever was, they have utterly failed to mobilize effect measures against it. This may very well be because they're mired in the past, every bit as much as the Cold Warriors are.

Over in the American Prospect this point is made by Paul Waldman:
What worked for the civil-rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s is not going to work today. And the truth is that comparing the civil-rights marches to a bunch of people carrying signs with "No more war!" on one side and "Free Mumia!" on the other is an insult to everyone who took part in the civil-rights movement. The civil-rights activists weren't just looking to feel good about themselves. The political actions they undertook were carefully planned and well executed. They knew exactly which levers of mass and elite opinion they needed to press and how to do it. They weren't trotting off for a Sunday to hang with some friends and speak their minds -- they were engaged in a deadly, serious enterprise, one with enormous personal risks, and they approached it with the seriousness it required.
Any effective political movement has to engage its participants in a way that makes them feel their contributions are meaningful and redefines their sense of self. But if those contributions aren't actually meaningful, if they amount to an extended series of circle jerks that accomplish nothing, then the movement will inevitably be confined to a small group of self-deluding members with a lot of time on their hands. There are tens of millions of Americans who want to end the war in Iraq. But how many of them see something like Code Pink protesting a Marine recruiting station and say to themselves, "I want to be a part of that"?

The whole thing is here:

The war, five years on

Taken on the terms it was framed by back in 2003 there's little doubt the Iraq War has been a complete failure.
The best way forward is, admittedly, unclear.
McCain has legitimate fears that withdrawing will be seen as an emboldening defeat of America and we must therefore continue the fight. What he has no answer for is the question of when and how we could ever leave.
Obama argues that the cost is too high, the results too meager and staying is simply too dangerous because it prolongs our vulnerability and the damage being done to our military, our economy and our moral leadership. What he has no answer for is how do we withdraw without it becoming a defeat that will haunt us for a generation?
What is clear, is that America was profoundly let down by its leaders in 2003, especially President Bush. When rational, clear and pragmatic thinking was required. When divining an appropriate strategy, effective tactics and achievable objectives was needed, we got none of that.
Von Clausewitz cautioned statesmen that their very first duty in war was to figure out what kind of war they were fighting. They failed.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Interesting naval photo: Ships from five navies

Naval vessels from five nations sail in parade formation for a rare photographic opportunity at sea. From top row left to right: the Italian Navy (Marina Militare) ship Maestrale Class Frigate MM MAESTRALE (F 570), French Navy Tourville Class Destroyer DE GRASSE (D 612), Nimitz Class Aircraft Carrier USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74), US Navy (USN) Ticonderoga Class Cruisers USS PORT ROYAL (CG 73), French Navy Charles de Gaulle Class Aircraft Carrier CHARLES DE GAULLE (R 91), Royal Navy Helicopter Carrier, Her Majestys Ship (HMS) OCEAN (L 12), French La Fayette Class Frigate SURCOUF (F 711), Aircraft Carrier USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV 67), Netherlands Navy Karel Doorman Class Frigate Her Majestys Netherlands Ship (Harer Majesteits) (HNLMS) VAN AMSTEL (F 831), Italian Navy De La Penne (ex-Animoso) Class Destroyer, MM LUIGI DURAND DE LA PENNE (ex Animoso) (D 560). The coalition forces are deployed in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. (Released to Public)
DoD photo by: PH3 ALTA I. CUTLER, USN Date Shot: 18 Apr 2002

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A good explanation of what is at stake with the wiretapping law

One of the most amazing things to me is how blind so-called conservatives haven been to the danger the wiretap law represents. It's explained in detail here:,1,5756030.story

But, simply stated, the danger is this: Sooner or later, inevitably, the government will abuse this power for political ends and against its political opponents.

Conservatives have been foolish because, apparently, it's never occurred to them that their political opponents may someday have the power. Do they really want President Hillary to have the power to spy on them? Do they think she will exercise restraint!?

Obama's speech " A More Perfect Union"

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008/ 10:17:53 ET
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”
Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787. The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.
Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.
And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.
This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren. This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people.
But it also comes from my own American story. I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.
It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans. This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.”
We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well. And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.
On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.
I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain.
Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.
But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam. As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.
Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity: “People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”
That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.
And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love. Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias. But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American. Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.”
We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.
Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.
Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.
A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.
This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted.
What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.
But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.
And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.
In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time. Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.
Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding. This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years.
Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so na├»ve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own. But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union. For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life.
But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family.
And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.
Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.
The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen – is that America can change.
That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper. In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.
For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies. We can do that.
But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change. That is one option.
Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.”
This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy.
Not this time. This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together. This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.
This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.
I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country.
This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected.
And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.
There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta. There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there. And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.
She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat. She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.
Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue.
And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”
“I’m here because of Ashley.”
By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children. But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

Barack addresses race

Today Obama will face his biggest challenge yet, facing down the race question. Despite his best efforts, America won't let the first black candidate for president dodge the Big One. America and its relationship with the race question won't be denied.
In his more reflective moments, Sen. Obama must wonder at the irony of it all, because, in truth, he's much less a part of the issue than most black Americans. His personal history brought him down an unusual, if not unique path as a biracial child who spent important parts of his life in multi-racial societies like Indonesia and Hawaii.
I'm pretty sure Chicago was as much of an education for him as it would have been for me, despite his skin color.
Still, it doesn't matter that his personal journey is so different than most black Americans because in fundamental ways that has never mattered. Ask any West Indian, African, Cape Verdean, biracial or even south Asian and you'll quickly find that in America melanin sooner or later trumps everything else. You don't need to be an illiterate gang member from some inner city slum to know that. You can be an Ivy-league educated, middle-aged, immigrant with a professional job and be reminded of it.
So Obama has to face the Big Issue and how well he does will probably determine not just his chances of being elected, but how well he'll be able to lead the country afterwards as well.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fifth anniversary of the war

Like most people, I saw the war start in CNN, even though I was on my way to the war zone. Or at least, I was trying to get a ride to the war zone, as I was in Colorado Springs at Ft. Carson.
I eventually managed to get to Iraq, after stops in Germany and Romania, although I didn't stay in Iraq very long -- just 35 days in country.
I will admit that I was very, very wrong about the war, which I supported at the time.
I was wrong because I assumed that Saddam did have some WMDs hidden away. It seemed like the most logical explanation for his odd behavior. What all of us failed to remember was that Saddam and logic were not good friends.
I was wrong because I assumed that, because Bush was betting his entire presidency on the outcome. he would everything possible to ensure that it would succeed. What I failed to recognize was ideology would be married to incompetence to create a perfect storm of ineffectiveness.
I was wrong because I assumed that the need to win he war would cause Bush to hold people accountable. In fact, the only people ever punished by Bush were people who were insufficiently loyal to the official line. Mere incompetence, corruption or partisan blindness were no problem, so long as you were loyal.
I was wrong to trust the government.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I'm no economist

So I listen to people smarter than me. (Just like I don't attempt to be my own doctor).
This post at Daily Kos does a good job at explaining where we stand right now in detail:

But the summary version is this: We haven't seen any real economic gain over the past eight years despite appearances because the weakening dollar has masked the true state of affairs. Basically we have collectively done the following things simultaneously: Cut taxes. Started an expensive war. Deregulated the financial sector. Rode a credit/housing bubble.
Now the bill is coming due.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Discuss among yourselves

An excellent summary of an important strategic issue: Should the U.S. strive to keep hegemony?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Torture cannot be contained

As the invaluable blog American Torture points out here:, if any part of the government is allowed to torture, it will inevitably spread.
Water torture learned in the Phillipines by U.S. soldiers came back to be used on prisoners in the U.S., mostly in the South. Naturally the most vulnerable suspects will the first to get it, but they won't be the last.
For a similar recent example, look at how Tasers have rapidly mutated from being a weapon of last resort to be used only when the alternative was shooting someone into one of the first tools in the police officer's toolbox as soon as someone is slow to do exactly what the officer wants, even when it's unreasonable.
It's clear that Bin Laden succeeded far beyond his wildest dreams with his terror attacks on 9/11.
Bin Laden already won, folks.
The loss of life and property damage were horrific enough, but he also distorted U.S. policy so much that the America's moral standing has been shot, our economy has been twisted out of shape by the costs of the war, our military hollowed out and rule of law corrupted. Our fundamental rights have been put in danger to an extent never seen because of the way the government has reacted to this threat.
Yep, Bin laden won. With a little luck and a lot of effort we can start recovering from this disaster in 2009.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Uh oh, Fallon is out

There's no question that Fallon's comments as reported in the Esquire magazine article put him in a tenous position. Bush, for better or worse, (I know it's worse) is the Commander in Chief and Fallon was clearly chafing against the limits of what is allowable dissent by a subordinate officer.
On the other hand, Fallon was performing a useful and patriotic role to the extent he saved the U.S. from a strategic blunder of an Iran war.
The question is whether or not this means there will a war with Iran after all. It's very worrisome if this clears the way for a war.

"I was a Republican until they lost their minds"

"I was a Republcian until they lost their minds." Charles Barkley
This is the single best quote summing up my feelings about the Bush-led GOP

John Cole over at Balloon Juice points out some more of the stupidity thta passes for "conservative 'thought' these days. Disclaimer: Yes, I know there's plenty of stupid liberal comment. No kidding, we already knew that! The conservatives used to be the master of the rational argument.

Ace o’ Spades, proudly carrying the banner for today’s conservative movement, carefully explains why his selective prudery isn’t anywhere near as cravenly hackish as it appears:

"I know what the liberals are asking: Why is [Spitzer] such a big deal, and Sen. David Vitter’s previous experience with call girls isn’t?

Shut up, that’s why."

Bill Buckley wept.

Spitzer tumbles

It's tough when you build your political career on self-righteousness. Just about the only truly mortal sin in politics is hypocrisy.
I do feel bad for his wife, though. She looked like she was going through agony at the press conference today. Frankly, I think he should have spared her from the spectacle.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Bush plans to veto ban on torture

For someone who is supposedly trying to burnish his legacy, Bush is certainly going about it a strange way.
The idea that a president would veto a ban on torture is utterly shameful.
However, it also might create a vulnerability for an eventual war crimes prosecution should he ever be incautious enough to travel abroad. While he could never be realistically held to legal account in the U.S. for exercising his constitutional prerogative of a veto, it might be the kind of overt act that a foreign court would consider subject to prosecution under international law.
Considering that there's no statute of limitations for war crimes, Bush may find his foreign travels circumscribed.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Racial harassment by reading a book

Talk about trivializing something serious by being utterly stupid:

Clintonian Crap

Here we go again.
Already the Clintons are starting up their crap. They say there are "unanswered questions" about Obama's relationship with Rezko. (Obama said all questions have been answered and I'd like to hear what question, exactly, is still outstanding)
Meanwhile Clnton will not release her tax returns and there are a lot of questions (unanswered ones, by the way) about how they suddenly became so rich they could lend their campaign $5 million. There response is to attack the right to ask the question.
Well, the biggest problem of the last four presidential terms (two Clinton and the last two Bush) has been this sense that somehow the rules don't apply to the King. I, for one, don't want four more years of that crap. Pretty soon we'll have a whole generation of voters who don't know an era when the President was accountable under the law like everyone else. Instead we're getting our own politics Putin-ized.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Alternate Reality

Maybe Rove living on one of the "Infinite Earths" of comic book fame:

Well, we were not involved in the world before 9/11, and look what happened. ~Karl Rove

As noted by Larison

Monday, March 3, 2008


Buffet calls it a recession.
Like so much in politics these days, it's hard for the average citizen to sort through the data on the economy.
Unfortunately the credibility of the government on this important area, like so many, is low right now. There's reason to suspect, for example, that the reported inflation numbers are too low. For one thing, the government focuses on the so-called "core inflation" figure, excluding food and fuel because they are "too volatile."
The problem is that for actual families, food and fuel are major expenses and when they go up it has a definite impact on their bottom line. They get less of a benefit when those prices go down, because the downside never seems to be as dramatic. Prices are "sticky" as they say, and the downward pressure is less than upward, especially at the family budget level.
Because the government isn't addressing the costs appropriately, it's not capturing peoples' anxieties about those costs.
Frankly, so far the government seems to be behind the curve on these things. Things are getting worse faster than the government seems able to react to.
Another good example is the housing crisis. So far the solutions proffered have been worse than useless. For example, Clinton proposes a 30-day foreclosure delay to give time for workouts. Well, this is too short a time to make any difference at all. It takes more time than that under good circumstances, and these are not good circumstances. Even if lenders wanted to be more flexible on loans they wouldn't have the staff available to do it. Not that there's any real evidence lenders are motivated to make any adjustments.
Likewise there've been aid plans put out that are completely inadequate. Here in Connecticut the state offered a plan to help distressed mortageholders and in the first couple of months only four or five people were eligible to take advantage of the program. Not good enough.
Some of these proposals are simply stupid. They require, for example, that people be in distress solely because their rates reset. They require people not be late on any other bills. These kinds of requirements do not recognize how real life works. People normally juggle their bills when they are late as they struggle to get by. Most people are, perhaps, too optimistic about how soon they'll "get out from under." If they knew how things were going to end they might do thing s differently.
It might be the smart strategy to stay current in all your bills except for a couple and just let those get real late. But that's not how people think. You got the bill collectors calling you, so you send a little to one and a little to another. You end up being somewhat late with everybody. Most people would consider it more responsible to attempt to pay everybody you owe at least some of what you owe them.
But the way the credit system works it's better for you to just blow one or two big creditors completely off and pay everybody else on time.
Given that these plans seem to be drawn up by people who have never struggled to pay their bills, they seem doomed to be inadequate to address the problems. If the objective is to keep people in their homes, then there will have to be a lot less worrying about how people got in the hole and more concern payed to how they might climb out of it.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Will she blame the weather?

They are predicting bad weather in Ohio Tuesday. Will Hilalry blame the weather if she doesn't win or doesn't win by much.

Slate - Encyclopedia Baracktannica