January 2008 Archives

Obama: the world's candidate

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The Moderate Voice highlighted a website called Watching America whose tagline is:

"Discover What the World Thinks About U.S.
With Translated Foreign News Available NOWHERE Else In English
"


Robin Koerner's post on The Moderate Voice reviews the world's fascination with Barack Obama and his symbolic importance.

The prospect of a black leader is engaging the world's media for some very important reasons.


First, the selection of a leader from an ethnic minority is extremely progressive prima facie.

Second, it would be all the more dramatic following a period of extreme liberal retreat and toothlessness.

Third, the choice faced by America has a special poignancy and self-defining importance by virtue of the brutality and deep cultural importance of the still-raw history that defines the place of African-Americans in the United States.

Fourth - and this is the reason that might be less obvious from the media rooms of these States but may be the most interesting - every open country faces its own huge questions around the integration and enfranchisement of its minorities, and have their own cultural groups which could not easily be imagined as providing a leader: this huge choice for America could, in a way, propel the developed world's bastion of conservatism, Bush's United States, to a beacon of progressive societal choice, which would, by its existence alone, shine a new light on racial issues particular to countries very far away, both geographically and politically. And for that reason, whether explicitly stated or not, the foreign press watch Obama's journey to the White House as closely as they've watched any.

The list of articles she points to come from Germany, Nigeria, South Africa, Australia, Israel, Canada and the UK.


Cross-posted from Dwahzon's Village

Channeling

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Channeling. Mahablog does it again. BTW, Vegetable is also known as David Brooks. Looks like he eventually found his way to the right parking lot. At any rate, Mahablog sets him straight on his column today:

Because, dear Vegetable, it's not about ideology.

For the past several years, "bipartisan" has meant "agreeing with Republicans," with Republican defined as "an ideologically blinkered whackjob who takes marching orders from Richard Mellon Scaife and who would sell out the Constitution in an eyeblink for the sake of more power and some tax cuts." And the effect on America -- nay, the world -- of this "bipartisanship" has been devastating.

Now bobbleheads like the Vegetable are trying to redefine "bipartisan" as a requirement that right-wing ideology must be honored and included in all policy decisions, even though a majority of the American people are rejecting it wholesale. And we must do this because, you know, it's nice. It's like when you were seven and your mother made you share your toys with Cousin Maggie even after she deliberately popped the heads off all your Ken dolls.

Brooks's idea is that, out of some sense of etiquette, politics and policies coming out of Washington must honor some ideological mean. Obama's idea is that government ought to be responding to what a majority of Americans want it to do.

To me, that's always been the foundation of progressivism -- government that genuinely responds to the will of We, the People. It's not about loyalty to a menu of policies like cutting or raising taxes or growing or shrinking government. If We, the People, genuinely want to starve government of tax revenues so it can be drowned in a bathtub, fine. If the majority really want our domestic needs ignored for the sake of becoming an unstoppable imperialist might, then so be it. [...]

But just as his appeal is not about ideology, it's also not about policy. It's about democracy that's not in name only. As Digby wrote the other day,

When people say they want change it's not because they are tired of "partisan bickering" (which basically consists of derisive Republican laughter.) They're sick of a government that does exactly the opposite of what they want it to do.

The experience of the past several years is that Republicans expect to be congratulated for making government do the exact opposite of what you want it to do. Democrats may express regret for it, but government still does the exact opposite of what you want it to do... why do we have to put up with the wingnuts and their failed policies at all? [...]

I suspect the Obama surge isn't about Obama. I think it's about long-growing, pent-up frustration with unresponsive government. Obama is becoming the rallying point for people who want real change, dammit, not promises and apologies.

Though I think the Obama surge has something to do with Obama, I think she's onto something there. People voted for change in November 2006. The message was not received very clearly in Washington, DC.

Just think of it as the people turning up the amplifier.


Cross-posted from Dwahzon's Village

A Challenge for the Washington Post and the New York Times

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It's time for them to step up to the plate and put their journalistic muscle to work proclaiming the accurate facts about Barack Obama.

This incident should not have happened.

Mark Halperin has posted a press pool report that recounts a scene in Iowa today where Barack Obama faced still more questions about his religion from voters who have no idea that he's a Christian:


He reached over the counter and shook hands with workers at the Subway sandwich shop.

Zanata Moore-El asked Obama if he was an atheist.

"I'm a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ," Obama replied. "Don't read e-mails."

E-mails have circulated in recent weeks saying Obama is a Muslim or an atheist or took his oath of office on a Quran instead of a bible, none of which his true.

"I hated having to ask him that," Moore-El said. "But I heard he was like an atheist. I don't want a president who's an atheist. I'm a firm believer in God. I just really wanted to make sure because I really wanted to vote for him and he has some good topics and everything."

Just to hit this point again, this sort of stuff reminds us just how much is at stake -- and how much may be at stake again soon -- when we do things like demand that The Washington Post state firmly and unequivocally that rumors of Obama's Muslim past are false.

This could only get more pressing, not less. A recent poll found that more than 80% of Americans don't know that Obama is a Christian. If Obama becomes the Dem nominee you can bet that the rumors of his shadowy Muslim past will ratchet up a thousand fold. And if you don't think that this sort of thing can make a difference in a general election, you're kidding yourself.

As Greg Sargent noted "if one big news org's report aggressively call the rumors out as false, another report will follow suit, and another, and another, and so on. And just maybe we might end up with an electorate that's at least a tad informed on the question."

Here's a challenge to the Washington Post and the New York Times and the other influential news organizations of our country to step up to the plate and set the record straight in unequivocal terms.


Cross-posted from Dwahzon's Village

The Economy in One Picture

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I found this graph to say more about the US economy and the welfare of the average citizen than anything I've seen in a long time.




What's the basis for the figures? AfferentInput crunched the latest numbers income distribution from the CBO per this post which has a very straightforward explanation of what he did. [H/T to Jamess at dkos for the original graph and his reference to Mike Caulfield at Blue Hampshire for his post which is also worth reading.]


Take another look at the Y-axis. That's -30 on the bottom.

Afferentinput has a newer post up in which he comments:

My previous posts focused on change in share of income over time. Those posts showed that the highest 5% of income earners have greatly increased their share of total income, whereas the bottom 90% has actually decreased in share of income. That's a bit meta, given that it doesn't take into account overall increases in total income. I decided to create some new figures that just focus on income.

Some notes about what I did, first. I used the data that the CBO released last week. I used after-tax income; this is important because it is a more conservative assessment of income. If I used pre-tax income, the differences I show below would be even more exaggerated. In addition, given that some groups don't pay any federal income taxes, I felt it was probably better to use after-tax income so that we're comparing apples to apples. The data came from page 1C in their spreadsheet.

He goes onto give more detail about his analysis and then provides this chart which is equally interesting, IMO.

The fig below shows percent change in income since 1979 adjusted for inflation. As you can see, every group is making more money now than they did in 1979. Yet some groups are doing a little bit better than others.


incomegrowth

Do check out his other related posts.

The widening divide

If America had $100 and 100 people...

More on Income Inequality

Change in income over time


Cross-posted from Dwahzon's Village

USAF's Cyberspace Command

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This headline from Washington Technology, an IT Contractors news site, caught my eye: USAF wants to build Cyber Control System. What does that mean? The article describes it as "a command and control system that would support defensive and offensive operations in the event of an all-out attack on the country's information infrastructure."

Cyber forces "must be capable of producing real-time analysis and developing courses of action in shorter periods of time in order to execute selected [courses of action] and assess the impacts of their actions...before any potential adversary has time to react," the document states.

Like traditional command and control systems, the Cyber Control System would generate various products, including tasking orders, battle damage assessments and incident reports.

The Air Force is in the process of building a Cyberspace Command under the jurisdiction of the 8th Air Force, with plans to formally establish it in 2008.

I'm sure others more expert than I will be wondering just what impact this will have on our civilian version and on things like a citizen's right to privacy which is already under such heavy assault.

Paging the EFF and whoever else would monitor something like this. How about Congress? Would that we had a Congress that actually did investigate and then shut down actions which are clearly against the peoples' will.


Cross-posted from Dwahzon's Village