November 2008 Archives
Nicholas Kristof has highlighted the acid-attack war against Pakistani women . It's a war stretching from Afghanistan through Cambodia that is prosecuted by husbands, rejected suitors and even their own brothers and fathers. The video clip that he narrates vividly illustrates this war which is not generally acknowledged or covered in the western press. Kristof notes that there have been more than 7800 acid-burnings of women in the Islamabad area since 1994.
And just this last month in Afghanistan, "men on motorcycles threw acid on a group of girls who dared to attend school. One of the girls, a 17-year-old named Shamsia, told reporters from her hospital bed: "I will go to my school even if they kill me. My message for the enemies is that if they do this 100 times, I am still going to continue my studies."" There's more video on that attack from CNN.
This is the chart that caught my attention:
Seriously, anybody who presumes to hold an opinion on America's defense needs, defense spending, and long term military strategy really has to read "America's Defense Meltdown," available in free 2MB pdf download here.
From a prior review that Fallows did:
This is a guide on how to think about, pay for, reconfigure, equip, deploy, withdraw, modernize, simplify, support, strengthen, lead, motivate, inspire, and in all other ways improve America's military establishment. [...]
What is most remarkable about the book is the array of authors who have joined to produce this anthologized volume. If I started listing a few, I would have to name them all (PDF of full list here.) They include the closest colleagues and collaborators of the late Air Force colonel John Boyd plus leading defense analysts and practitioners of the next generation. They have amply earned the right to be listened to. What I said in a blurb on the book's jacket* is, if anything, not enthusiastic enough:The talent, judgment, and insight collected in this book are phenomenal. Over the last generation, the authors have been more right, more often, about more issues of crucial importance to American security than any other group I can think of. It is a tremendous benefit to have their views collected in one place and concentrated on the next big choices facing a new Administration. This really is a book that every serious-minded citizen should read.
More food for thought from the preface of the book:
- America's defense budget is now larger in inflation adjusted dollars than at any point since the end of World War II, and yet our Army has fewer combat brigades than at any point in that period, our Navy has fewer combat ships and the Air Force has fewer combat aircraft. Our major equipment inventories for these major forces are older on average than at any point since 1946; in some cases they are at all-time historical highs in average age.
- The effectiveness of America's "high-tech" weapons does not compensate for these reduced numbers. The Air Force's newest fighter, the F-35, can be regarded as only a technical failure. The Navy's newest destroyer cannot protect itself effectively against aircraft and missiles, and the Army's newest armored vehicle cannot stand up against a simple anti-armor rocket that was first designed in the 1940s.
- Despite decades of acquisition reform from Washington's best minds in Congress, the Pentagon and the think tanks, cost overruns in weapon systems are higher today, in inflation adjusted dollars, than any time ever before. Not a single major weapon system has been delivered on time, on cost and as promised for performance. The Pentagon refuses to tell Congress and the public exactly how it spends the hundreds of billions of dollars appropriated to it each year. The reason for this is simple; it doesn't know how the money is spent. Technically, it doesn't even know if the money is spent. Even President George W. Bush's own Office of Management and Budget has labeled the Pentagon as one of the worst managed agencies of the entire federal government.
There's more. Go read it here.
Obama announced a special economic recovery advisory board which will be chaired by Paul Volcker (NYT bio). It will meet for 2 years and its renewal for another term considered at the 2 year point. Austan Goolsbee (NYT bio) will serve as the staff director as well as one of Obama's 3 economic advisors on the Council of Economic Advisors. Per Obama,
This board is modeled on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board created by President Eisenhower to provide rigorous analysis and vigorous oversight to our intelligence community by individuals outside of government -- individuals who would be candid and unsparing in their assessment. This new board will perform a similar function for my administration as we formulate our economic policy.
So what's the difference between the National Economic Council which is the group that Larry Summers (NYT bio) will head up and the President's Council of Economic Advisers which UC-Berkeley professor Christina Romer (NYT bio) will head?
Per this NPR report the Council of Economic Advisors was created by legislative decree in 1946 and it's a small group of experts who advise the president on economic policy -- a small White House think tank. The National Economic Council was created by executive order shortly after Clinton took office and its purpose is to bring together agency and department heads to coordinate economic policy, somewhat like the National Security Council.
Obama made it clear that their commission is to review the budget line-by-line and come up with a smarter budget with programs that address today's needs.
This isn't about big government or small government. It's about building a smarter government that focuses on what works. And that's why I will ask my team to think anew and act anew to meet our new challenges.
On Monday Obama introduced his economic team and it was a crowd of heavy hitters. The video of his announcement and the press Q&A session that followed along with a transcript are here.
On stage with Obama was Tim Geithner (NYT bio), his nominee for Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers (NYT bio) to head up the National Economic Council, Christine Romers (NYT bio) to lead the Council of Economic Advisors, and Melody Barnes (NYT bio) as director of the Domestic Policy Council. During the week the Obama team also announced Heather Higginbottom as deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council. I had a little bit of contact with Heather when I worked on the Kerry website in 2006-2007 and she was Sen. Kerry's Legislative Director.
Comments from President-Elect Obama during his third press conference highlighted how he's approaching the formation of his team and the chatter about the Clinton administration alums present in in his selections.
I suspect that you would be troubled and the American people would be troubled if I selected a Treasury secretary or a chairman of the National Economic Council at one of the most critical economic times in our history who had no experience in government whatsoever.
What we are going to do is combine experience with fresh thinking. But understand where the -- the vision for change comes from first and foremost. It comes from me. That's my job, is to provide a vision in terms of where we are going and to make sure, then, that my team is implementing it.
Obama's management of the 3 days before Thanksgiving and retail's traditional "Black Friday" sales events was reassuring. The amount of work that's already occurred which allowed him to stand up and assure the American people that his administration "hit the ground running." From Tuesday's press conference:
Given the extraordinary circumstances that we find ourselves in, however, I think it is very important for the American people to understand that we are putting together a first-class team and for them to have clarity that we don't intend to stumble into the next administration. We are going to hit the ground running. We're going to have clear plans of action. We intend to have the kind of economic recovery plan that is going to put 2.5 million people into jobs. We are going to make sure that we start focusing on energy, on health care, on revamping our education system so that it's competitive in the 21st century, and as I'm talking about today, that we are not going to back to business as usual when it comes to our budget.
When the 3 press conferences and the Q&A sessions are taken as a whole, they reveal a well-thought out plan for addressing the leadership issue during a most unusual time of transition. It's reassuring to see though there's still much turbulence to be navigated. And I know I'm in good company when Paul Krugman is pleased that "the grownups are coming" and Nouriel Roubini says, "The choices are excellent."
We baked the pumpkins on Tuesday and scooped them out. And then we made the pies from scratch yesterday: two pumpkin and one cherry. We toasted the pumpkin seeds too and made the cranberry sauce. Got up this morning and made the stuffing for the turkey and heaved it into the oven a little while ago. Later we'll make the mashed potatoes and the acorn squash and the corn and the brussel sprouts and of course, the gravy about which we'll have the family debate on whether it's better with mushrooms or without. We've discussed the paucity of "good" football games to watch. So while we wait for Thanksgiving dinner to appear, some of us are going for a hike in the park after my husband has cleared the last of the leaves that dared trespass on his arduously cleared lawn (last weekend's chore). We'll miss the family members that aren't here today but we're thankful that everyone is healthy and happy and safe where they are.
There's much to be thankful for this year. And chief among them, is the election of a president who is approaching this time of crisis with the intelligence, forethought and vision that's been missing for so long.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, wherever you are, with whatever friends, family and strangers who become friends with whom you share this special day.
~ Check out this Visual Guide to the Financial Crisis. Per Barry Ritholz, it's missing a few causation items but it's well-done graphically. What were they thinking?
~ Want to see what the "common wisdom" on the election will look like? Go read Elizabeth Drew's article in the New York Review of Books, "The Truth About the Election". It's readable. It's fairly thorough. But I couldn't help feeling as I read it, that it was just too trite at some points. If I had more time to pull it apart, I'd highlight them but I'm not sure that it's worth the expenditure of time. In any case, it is an interesting read and no doubt, we'll see this view propagated in the traditional media.
~ If this statement by Hamid Karzai is any indication, Afghanistan will be an even stickier mess to sort out. Not that we aren't all cognizant of its reputation as a generally ungovernable region of clans in competition, but having the leader of the democratic government we've supported, railing against the US and NATO doesn't bode well for future success.
~ Josh pointed out the Boston Globe picture book of the Obama campaign as the best of the bunch he's seen. It's good though I still like Callie Shell's amazing photo-journal of the entire Obama campaign the best. Just remember to keep clicking on "Show more images" at the bottom of whatever pictures you're looking at and keep scrolling down.
~ Another Obama story. A dkos poster from Indonesia reports on the conversation that Obama had with the Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and how the Indonesian president reported it to the reporters around him.
When the presidential flight touched down at Nagoya airport in Japan on Tuesday, Yudhoyono made a statement to reporters over the airplane's intercom.
"He addressed me with, 'Apa Kabar Bapak President?' (How are you Mr. President?), with his fluent Indonesian language," Yudhoyono said.
Obama was missing several local delicacies such as nasi goreng (fried rice), rambutan and bakso (meatball soup), he added.
Yudhoyono had congratulated Obama's election as U.S. president and suggested he visit Indonesia after attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Singapore next year.
The dkos poster Ajipon sums it up talking about how exciting it will be when Obama does visit Indonesia and how many thousands of people will turn out to cheer for him. It is interesting to reflect on our new President being at least somewhat conversant in the language of the country with the largest Muslim population in the world and anticipating how they will welcome him. What a welcome change.
Headlining President-Elect Obama's third consecutive day of economic team rollout is Paul Volcker. Per the WSJ:
President-elect Barack Obama will appoint former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker on Wednesday to be the chairman of a new White House advisory board tasked with helping to lift the nation from recession and stabilize financial markets, Democratic officials say. [...]
The board's mission won't be to supplant the policy-making role of the Treasury Department and other agencies, but to give Mr. Obama an official forum for getting expert advice outside the normal bureaucratic channels. It will give briefings to the president.
The panel, called the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, is modeled on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board established by then-President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, at the height of the Cold War, when officials worried that that the existing bureaucratic structure was inadequate to help the U.S. keep pace with the Soviet threat. The financial crisis has drawn similar worries that the government isn't properly organized to monitor and respond to modern financial markets. [...]
The board's tasks will be broad: to help design and implement short-term programs to jump-start the economy, raise wages and living standards and confront the housing crisis. It will also address the delicate task of bolstering Washington's oversight of the financial markets in the wake of a Wall Street collapse that has taken down many of its most venerable institutions.
I'm glad to see that Obama is going reap the benefit of Mr. Volcker's knowledge and leadership. This combined with the two prior economic team announcements puts out the notice that the Obama administration is organized and ready to go in a transition that is already remarkable in many ways. [via]
Barry Ritholz has found a way to bring a little reality to just how big the bailout may be. He notes that the current total cost, including the Citi bailout, "now exceeds $4.6165 trillion dollars".
People have a hard time conceptualizing very large numbers, so let's give this some context. The current Credit Crisis bailout is now the largest outlay In American history. Jim Bianco of Bianco Research crunched the inflation adjusted numbers. The bailout has cost more than all of these big budget government expenditures - combined:
• Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion
• Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion
• Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion
• S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
• Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion
• The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)
• Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion
• Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion
• NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion
TOTAL: $3.92 trillion
Just look at all the items added up and know that their sum is less than the current fiasco. That's a big number. [via]
Here's another way to look at what's in the bailout, courtesy of the New York Times.
-- Charles Homans at the Washington Monthly has an excellent post up on the extent of secret record-keeping within the Bush-Cheney administration and how much information has potentially been excluded by Bush's executive orders. The whole thing is worth reading to understand the impact of this point:
Cheney's papers are the Amazon rain forest of Bush administration records: they are of immense importance to the big picture, and there is a real risk that they will be lost before we know exactly what's in there.
Scott Horton, New York attorney specializing in human rights law and the law of armed conflict, and regular contributor to Harper's; Suzanne Spaulding, lawyer specializing in national security issues, including homeland security, intelligence, and terrorism; Daniel Larison, Ph.D student at the University of Chicago and host of the blog, Eunomia; Mickey Edwards, former congressman (R-OK), lecturer at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson school, and Vice President of the Aspen Institute; Anne Weismann, Chief Counsel at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington; and finally, Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies.
-- Jon Chait wrote an interesting piece in January 2007 about the US economy titled "Feast of the Wingnuts - How economic crackpots devoured American politics.". Another one of those people who should have been featured more prominently in our media. We were warned but we weren't listening.
-- Unitary Moonbat has done another one of his terrific History for Kossacks posts and this time it's on Kenya. If you've not read one before, check out this highly readable nugget on the history, economy and politics of Kenya. If you're a history aficionado, check out the Progressive Historians blog where he posts along with other amateur (and some professional) historians.
--Via Sully, more from The Man Who Got It Right, Peter Schiff. His outlook still isn't cheery.
-- For those interested in the designer of the Obama campaign signature logo, there's two articles about him and his now-famous design in the Philadelphia Daily News and the New York Times.
President-Elect Obama introduced his economic team at noon today in Chicago and then took questions from the press. The first clip is his statement on the economic plans that they are developing for the nation. The second clip is the press Q&A portion. Staff bios and transcript of Obama's comments courtesy of Ben Smith.
And if you haven't seen it yet, here's President-Elect Obama's 11-22 Saturday address which also addresses the economic crisis:
The editor and publisher of the Moroccan newsweekly magazines TelQuel and Nichane, Ahmed Benchemsi, has an interesting post in Newsweek about Obama and al Zawahri's video message last week. He makes three very good points. First:
The video message from Al Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in which he called Barack Obama a "house Negro," demonstrates, if anything, that the terrorists are always damn good in PR. You feel disgusted? Horrified? That's exactly their aim. In this regard, Zawahiri's diabolical comparison of Obama and Malcolm X ("an honorable American who converted to Islam," as Zawahiri put it) is an even bolder move: not only do they insult the American president-elect, but they rub it into one of America's deepest wounds--the racial divisions and the profound antagonisms generated by Malcolm X's radical claims. In terms of "hatred arts," this is just brilliant. Those who are shocked by Zawahiri's words have merely to remember: spreading hate is the terrorists' job. Hating you is not enough; they also need you to hate them, so the struggle goes on unchallenged.
Al Qaeda and all its followers badly need to perpetuate Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations" paradigm. The West and Islam are deadly enemies, in the radicals' view. The more irreconcilable the former, the happier the latter. In this regard, the agenda of Bush and the neocons was a true blessing for the terrorists.
His second point:
Al Qaeda's true problem with Obama has indeed nothing to do with the color of his skin. By proposing to meet Iran's Ahmadinejad without preconditions instead of just bombing him out, the American president-elect thinks outside of the confrontation box. The radicals just hate that. And above all, they hate the idea of the United States resuming the chase of Al Qaeda operatives in the mountains of the Pakistan-Afghanistan borders. He's coming to them, how could they not react fiercely?
And his third point which underscores Obama's transformational impact on the perception of America by non-citizens, and in particular, moderate Muslims in other countries of the world.
There is something else, which I witness everyday in the streets of Casablanca, where I live: Muslims tend to claim Obama as their own--because he's black, because he comes from an oppressed minority, because his middle name is Hussein. ... Not that they think Obama is a Muslim himself--he made clear that he was not. Yet he could have been. His father was. Anyway, this man looks like a "brother" to many Muslims, which is indeed a good thing for the prospect of global peace.
Not surprisingly, Zawahiri's video message targeted this specific point: "Obama is not a Muslim, he's a renegade who abandoned his ancestor's religion to embrace the 'crusaders faith' and the 'Zionists' ideology'," Zawahiri suggests. The genuine message being: please don't like him!
Well, too bad for them: we do. We will like him more, of course, if he keeps his promise of backing out of Iraq within 16 months and putting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process back on track. Meanwhile, let's all of us, Muslims and Westerners, take advantage of the honeymoon period. And let's enjoy the terrorists' embarrassment: it's a rare occasion.
It's good to see a presumably moderate Muslim speaking out on the hate-mongering of al Qaeda and pointing out how Obama's approach undercuts it. We need more like him.
-- A MarketWatch post by Paul Farrell from March 2008 details the dangers of the derivatives market including a warning from Warren Buffett from 2002:
"In our view, ...derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction, carrying dangers that, while now latent, are potentially lethal.
Both Buffett's 2002 warning and the March 2008 timestamp on the MarketWatch article highlight that there were people who saw this debacle coming. The last segment of Farrell's article tagged "World's newest and biggest 'black market'" is exceedingly clear in identifying what we've just seen unfold in September and October. The question is why weren't the financial and economic powers-that-be alert to this danger and taking steps to prevent it? Is greed the only answer? Stupidity? [via]
-- The Economist comments on the Republican party's re-invention as "the stupid party". It's a pretty harsh assessment, though not undeserved.
-- Nate Silver has an interesting thought piece on conservatives, the Republican party and how right-wing talk radio has contributed to their inability to persuade.
-- Occams Hatchet has posted a pictorial tribute to the Bush presidency titled "The New Ozymandias"
-- Via dkos, here's another cause worthy of support and at a minimum, an opportunity for insular Americans (and other world citizens) to educate themselves on how different life is for some people in our world. The post is titled "We Are All Pakistani Women Now."
Obama does not believe in interfandom fighting. Kirk versus Picard? Joel versus Mike (or the modern version, Cinematic Titanic versus Rifftrax)? He is above that. He wants to bring fandoms together, not tear them apart with fearmongering and wank.
Obama knows more Star Trek trivia than you ever will. He just doesn't see the need to talk about it and scare off the women.
Obama would spend his time with Michelle and the girls whenever he came home from the campaign. And then would stay up all night watching MST3K episodes when they went to sleep.
Obama does not buy into all this sparkly vampire bullshit. He does love Growing Up Cullen, though.
-- Ta-Nehisi gets it exactly right on Lieberman:
It's also amazing how "ending the partisanship" is always code for "I am right" when Lieberman is speaking, like crossing party-lines is somehow, in and of itself, valuable. Lieberman is an opportunist of the highest order. I understand why they didn't take him down yesterday--it really isn't Obama's way. My man is focused on getting shit done--I really believe that--not meting out justice. But there is a time and place for meting out justice. 2012. Connecticut.
Count on it.
-- James Fallows praises Terry Gross for an interview that she conducted with Bill Ayers.
But a broadcast I just heard was not only a reminder that she is, in fact, truly a great interviewer but also a demonstration of what that means in practice. [...]
What she does instead, and what she shows brilliantly in this interview, is: she listens, and she thinks. In my experience, 99% of the difference between a good interviewer (or a good panel moderator) and a bad one lies in what that person is doing while the interviewee talks. If the interviewer is mainly using that time to move down to the next item on the question list, the result will be terrible. But if the interviewer is listening, then he or she is in position to pick up leads ("Now, that's an intriguing idea, tell us more about..."), to look for interesting tensions ("You used to say X, but now it sounds like..."), to sum up and give shape to what the subject has said ("It sounds as if you're suggesting..."). And, having paid the interviewee the respect of actually listening to the comments, the interviewer is also positioned to ask truly tough questions without having to bluster or insult.
If you have this standard in mind -- is the interviewer really listening? and thinking? -- you will be shocked to see how rarely broadcast and on-stage figures do very much of either. But listen to this session by Gross to see how the thing should be done.
-- Also from James Fallows who's currently living in China:
Outsiders who follow Chinese events have known for years about Roland Soong's EastSouthWestNorth site*, which draws from Chinese-language and English-language sources for reports and analysis.
I've just seen this post, from a few days ago, which strikes me as something that people who don't normally follow Chinese events should know about. It's the text of a speech Soong prepared for last weekend's annual Chinese Bloggers conference (but did not deliver, for family-emergency reasons). In it, he discusses the differences the Internet has, and has not, made in the Chinese government's ability to control information and maintain power within China.
NBBooks wrote this comment in a recent dkos diary. It deserves a little more attention than just that of a throw-away comment.
I was covering and writing about deregulation and financial derivatives back when one of the very few Congressmen to oppose the deregulation of the savings and loans, Texas Democrat Henry Gonzales was chairman of the House Banking Committee (read Molly Ivins' November 2000 obituary of Gonzalez here) and Richard Breeden was chairman of the SEC. Many of you probably know the general outline of the history of these issues the past 30 years. But in the late 80s to mid-90s, I was in some of the hearings where these ideas were debated in the Congress, in the SEC and CFTC and in some of the think tanks back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I saw how Wall Street got its way over and over and over again.
For me, opposing Wall Street came down to one central idea - it's the real economy that's important, and the banking and financial system should always be kept in a position of subservience to it. It's the real economy that produces and distributes the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the houses we live in, the cars and buses and trains and planes we ride in. The real economy provides what people need to survive; by contrast, you can't eat a debenture or a bond. And in the 1980s, the real economy, as I saw it, was being sacrificed to and looted by the banking and financial system.
Does anyone remember "It doesn't matter whether we produce potato chips or computer chips" ? I was among the Cassandras that were shouted down when we tried to warn such foolishness would bankrupt our country. Yeah, too damn bad we had to wait twenty years to show you the proof.
The financial catastrophe that has occurred under George W. Bush is only the logical result of the "post industrial" policy trends of the past three decades, but some people still don't get it. I find it hard to believe there are people, so called "progessives," here - here of all places! - that are in favor of allowing the auto industry and at least one million working class jobs to disappear.
No one I have seen yet has challenged the estimates that a million jobs would be lost to begin with. Some estimates go as high as three million jobs lost. It will take years, and millions of lives lost to despair, hopelessness, misery, and the amplified affects of deteriorating mental and physical health, before we would climb out of this disaster.
Yet, many people appear anxious to pay this extravagant price. To punish auto's management for making bad decisions. To punish industrial workers for abandoning the Democrats and supporting Reagan and both Bushes. To punish organized labor for making more money than they do.
To punish mankind for having the arrogance to tame and harness nature so that ninety percent of kids no longer die before they're five years old.
What stupidity. What short-sighted, unthinking, vengeful moronbasity.
Well, people who have had their heads up their ass for the past twenty years, are about to have their asses handed to them. Too bad the innocent are going to get the same treatment.
I left my journalistic position in 1996, feeling very tired, belittled, jaded, cynical, and completely marginalized. Meanwhile Wall Street led the country on a tear of false prosperity that my fellow Americans can now see was nothing but debt, debt, debt, piled on more debt. This is my "I told you so," moment, but what effing good does it do?
What I can do that might do some good is to tell you what I think is coming next.
The Obama administration will spend around 12 to 24 months try to find a solution to the new world depression within the confines of neo-liberal economic thought.
Meanwhile the suffering and misery is going to get worse, and worse, and worse. The Rethugs will be grinning from ear to ear.
I'm hoping the street organizer in Obama will come to the fore at that point, and we can begin to crack down on the financial markets and their addiction to hot money. In other words, saving the real economy is going to require destroying all the offshore tax havens and imposing a tax on financial transactions that chases out short-term speculation.
Basically, we are either going to force the financial system to eat the losses of its deflated bubbles, or the financial system is going to force us to cut wages, pensions, Social Security, national healthcare and the standard of living.
Most people, including Obama I fear, don't understand this yet. We are going to waste a year or two floundering about trying to avoid both massive economic pain and panicking the markets, before we finally figure out it is impossible to do both.
I hope that his conclusion about Obama's team is not true but his point about the auto-makers and the real economy is very important. As he put it, there is a huge difference between potato chips and computer chips, and the loss of potentially 3 million jobs related to the auto industry is not an acceptable option. Once people understand that, this should no longer be a discussion about the foolishness of auto-industry CEOs but a focus on rebuilding the real economy in the US.
Noam Scheiber has an interesting post at TNR's The Stump on why Tim Geithner is a great choice as Treasury Secretary.
Geithner is one of the most able technocrats to have risen through Treasury's ranks, which makes him the perfect pick to run its sprawling bureaucracy; Summers is one of the top two or three economic minds of his generation, which makes him a guy you want in the room with the president.
But, beyond the pairing of person and job, it's the way these guys complement one another that's really key here. Geithner is the rare bureaucrat with the smarts and the self-confidence to effectively challenge Summers when he's off base. [...]
The two men also developed an incredibly effective good cop/bad cop routine, which I'm guessing they might reprise:
Summers was the bad cop--the outspoken sheriff with strong views about how to structure the international financial system. Geithner was his antidote--a master of process and protocol and Treasury's ambassador to global forums like the G-7.
Scheiber goes onto speculate on how the team of Geithner as Treasury Secretary and Summers as chief economic adviser will divide the labor. It's interesting, and if it comes to pass, promising.
Sometime ago I subscribed to the Al Jazeera English channel on youtube. It is interesting to see world news coverage from their perspective. Here's a selection from their coverage of the last 5 days. The last one called Street Food (2 parts) is absolutely fascinating -- a bit of history, current events, tourist, and culinary taste trip through Mumbai all in one.
Just imagine some of this coverage on US media channels.
-- Al Jazeera English reports (video) on the tearing down of a Hare Krishna temple and dispossession of land in Kazakhstan.
Human rights groups have put Kazakhstan in the spot light for its treatment of religious minority groups.
A long running dispute between the authorities and Hare Krishna followers could end with the destruction of the country's only Hindu temple.
Robin Forestier Walker reports from Kazakhstan.
-- More reporting from Al Jazeera English on South Korea's "Fighters for a Free North Korea" activists. It's an interesting story.
-- The story on voting in Kashmir, India -- a part of Al Jazeera's Inside Story series.
Voters in Indian-administered Kashmir started heading for the polls on Monday, November 17, amid tight security. Voting for the 87 assembly seats comprising the state government is being held in seven stages until December 24, 2008.
So far, around 55 per cent of Indian-controlled Kashmir's 6.4 million strong electorate have turned out to vote, including many Muslims, who separatists and rebels are urging to boycott the elections to protest against New Delhi's hold over the Himalayan region.
Indian-administered Kashmir was put under direct federal rule in July, after the state government collapsed following its controversial decision to donate land in to a Hindu pilgrim trust. About 70 per cent of the region's population is Muslim. This year has seen some of the biggest anti-India protests in the Kashmir Valley since an insurgency began in 1989.
Part 1 --
Part 2 --
-- Al Jazeera English reports on how the world financial credit crisis has impacted Hungary's economy.
-- Street Food: "In the first of a new series Al Jazeera's Divya Gopalan attempts to understand the real Mumbai by taking a culinary journey through its Street Food."
An extensive federal report released Monday concludes that roughly one in four of the 697,000 U.S. veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War suffer from Gulf War illness.
Here's a short clip from CNN on Gulf War Syndrome:
There's much more in the post. Go read.
Our vets deserve better.
-- Good for the Indian Navy. Glad to see them taking on the pirates.
-- Here's a heart touching story by a photo-journalist who reunites 2 young Congolese girls with their family.
-- And al-Zawahri is such an "expert" on who's a "good" black and who's a "bad" black in the US. What an idiot.
-- Mike Huckabee needs a refresher course on homophobia and the violence that gays have to deal with. He seems to have forgotten about Matthew Shephard and Harvey Milk and their compatriots.
-- Shannyn Moore pens a valiant defense of Alaska and Alaskans. We haven't all washed our hands of you, Shannyn. We're just a little tired of Sarah right now.
-- According to the WSJ editorial board, Obama gets 1 year's grace period to clean up the Republican's mess. After that, it's all his fault. What arrogance.
-- Great story from JR on his day with The Terrorist who bought him coffee.
-- All you need to know about Lawrence Eagleburger and his opinions:
"I don't think the President-Elect knows a foreign policy from a hole in the wall."
A quote from his talking head appearance with Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC.
-- About Lieberman and the Democratic Caucus -- I think that Nate Silverman has it about right.
We discussed this at some length during dinner at our house and the joint conclusion is that Lieberman now owes Obama big time. And, even as much as we dislike him as CT voters and will not vote to return him to office, Obama played this correctly as far as achieving his goals are concerned.
-- Evidently the feds can now locate a cellphone user without involving the telecommunications companies ... hence no need for a warrant or judicial review.
-- Bill George at BusinessWeek predicts a new paradigm arising from the Obama campaign:
A new style of "bottom-up, empowering" leadership focusing on collaboration will sweep the country. A new wave of 21st century authentic leaders will take oversee U.S. institutions of every type: business, education, health care, religion, and nonprofits. These new leaders recognize that an organization of empowered leaders at every level will outperform "command-and-control" organizations every time.
-- Here's an interesting review of mybarackobama.com as an ARG game by Gene Koo at techpresident.
-- Andrew Sullivan highlighted an Atlantic article by Gregg Easterbrook written in May 1983 about union workers voting for job loss rather than accepting any reduction in benefits. It's interesting to see what's changed and what hasn't. [via]
-- Rupert Murdoch on the future of newspapers:
I like the look and feel of newsprint as much as anyone. But our real business isn't printing on dead trees. It's giving our readers great journalism and great judgment. It's true that in the coming decades, the printed versions of some newspapers will lose circulation. But if papers provide readers with news they can trust, we'll see gains in circulation--on our web pages, through our RSS feeds, in emails delivering customized news and advertising, to mobile phones. In short, we are moving from news papers to news brands.
The challenge is to use a newspaper's brand while allowing readers to personalise the news for themselves--and then deliver it in the ways that they want.
I think he's nailed it. Let's hope the NY Times and others figure it out soon. [via]
Barack and Michelle Obama appeared on 60 Minutes last night. In the first segment, Steve Kroft interviewed Barack alone. Barack handled his inquisitor skillfully. That Barack has studied past presidents closely was evident in his comments. The segment with both Michelle and Barack underscored their strong relationship, their normalcy and their commitment to their kids.
It happened again. I lost an hour.
I was checking out Andrew Sullivan and decided to flip over and see what Ta-Nehisi Coates was commenting on today. And Ta-Nehisi credited J Starr for an Ebony cover on "The Twenty-five Coolest Brothers of All Time" and of course, you know who was on the cover as the coolest of the cool. So I clicked on J Starr's blog and went to his home page and noticed that he had Hendrick Hertzberg on his blogroll list. J Starr's blogroll is selective - something I always have trouble with. It includes several of my daily blog reads which made me look more closely at the other two he chose to list: Chapati Mystery and Enigmakaty.
Chapati Mystery has a very interesting pedigree and anyone who takes the time to translate Dr. A.Q. Khan's latest literary effort into English for the rest of us, deserves some note in my book. Scrolling through the rest of the posts currently up on the front page gives me the urge to collect this nugget of a blog.
Onto J Starr's next entry.
Enigmakaty is an artist with words and colors and images. She puts your head in a completely separate place from politics and economics. Having lived in the Madison area for a while when I was in high school, her remembrances strike a special chord for me. But even if you've never been there, her vivid posts bring it alive. And the food sounds really good too.
Deep breath. Go get some tea.
Back to J Starr ... scrolling down. The rest of the pictures and the text in the post Ta-Nehisi linked to underscore something we discussed at the dinner table the other night -- that Obama makes being smart cool again for lots of kids -- adults too, for that matter. J Starr then mentions Attackerman's post on Obama and Iran. [Do go read it for its own value. It's good.]
Which leads me to Spencer Ackerman's Attackerman blog and his blogroll which is eclectic and longer and may take a few days to process.
At which time I began to realize that I could spend hours surfing from one blog list to another, finding new nuggets. But it raises another question. How do I decide which to add to my blogroll? And how do I avoid losing track of the nuggets that I find? And ultimately, I must admit that that's one reason I started my own blog -- so I would have some place to put all these interesting places to wander.
Where do you like to wander? What draws your eye?
There's a remarkable column in BusinessWeek by Shoshana Zuboff that starts like this:
This column is dedicated to the top managers of American business whose policies and practices helped ensure Barack Obama's victory. The mandate for change that sounded across this country is not limited to our new President and Congress. That bell also tolls for you.
Professor Zuboff goes on to clarify the scope of the mandate:
Millions of Americans heard President-elect Obama painfully recall his sense of frustration, powerlessness, and outrage when his mother's health insurer refused to cover her cancer treatments. Worse still, every one of them knew exactly how he felt. That long-simmering indignation is by now the defining experience of every consumer of health care, mortgages, insurance, travel, and financial services--the list goes on.
Obama was elected not only because many Americans feel betrayed and abandoned by their government but because those feelings finally converged with their sense of betrayal at the hands of Corporate America. Their experiences as consumers and as citizens joined to create a wave of revolt against the status quo--as occurred in the American Revolution. Be wary of those who counsel business as usual. This post-election period is a turning point for the business community. It demands an attitude of sober reappraisal and a disposition toward fundamental reinvention. If you don't do it, someone else will.
Anyone who has read nyceve's ongoing diary series on health care and lack of access to health care, knows that Zuboff has hit the nail on the head as to the level of frustration and despair. She underscores the connection to business with this bit of information.
After World War II and right through most of the 1970s, American businesses understood themselves as part of the social fabric. In the mid-1950s, 80% of U.S. adults said that Big Business was a good thing for the country, and 76% believed that business required little or no change (Roper, August, 1954). Business was lauded for job creation, its effectiveness as a mass producer, the development and improvement of products, payment of big taxes, and support of education (University of Michigan Survey Research Center, July, 1951).
In 1966 55% of Americans had a great deal of confidence in the leaders of big companies (Harris Poll #22, Feb. 28, 2008). By 2006 only 5% of Americans said corporations do right by their consumers and only 7% voiced a high degree of trust in corporate leaders (Lichtman/Zogby, May, 2006). In those 40 years an unbridgeable chasm had opened between corporations and the people who depend upon them as employees and consumers. What happened to the trust? Unlike the illusory wealth of financial engineering, it didn't vanish overnight. It was worn down, agonizing step by step, over decades.
The current management of the big 3 auto-makers epitomizes this evolution. Why have they not made production of fuel-efficient cars a major priority? How could they possibly have been so short-sighted as to not make it a priority? And given that they didn't and weren't in a position to capitalize on them when the price of fuel rose, why is that management team still in place?
They clearly are not competent enough to responsibly manage an industry that has such impact in our economy and environment. Bob Lutz represents the nadir of this industry management. Why isn't he gone already? Thomas Friedman made some great points in his column on this topic including his highlighting of Paul Ingrassia's advice in the WSJ.
The woes of the auto industry support Professor Zuboff's point of how corporate America has moved away from recognizing that a healthy economy, a healthy environment and a healthy citizenry are essential to being a healthy company and that those factors must be a part of standards against which they measure every corporate action.
When American corporations started thinking of themselves as divorced from any responsibility towards their customers and the communities within which the corporations exist as a significant part of their business decision-making, the seeds of this disaster were sown.
Thank you, Professor Zuboff, for this article. Let's hope it serves as a wake-up call for those with the wisdom to hear.
-- A German doctor reports that a leukemia patient has been cured of AIDS.
For two years now, Dr. Gero Hütter has found no trace of the virus in the 42-year-old American living Berlin, whom he has treated for leukemia at the city's Charité hospital. The man is AIDS-free despite the fact that he stopped taking his medication for AIDS after the treatment, the paper reported, calling the development a "sensation."
Hütter gave him a bone marrow transplant - a standard leukemia treatment - but with a twist. The doctor used bone marrow with a natural variant of the CCR5 gene, known since the 1990's to protect about one percent of Europeans from AIDS infection.
-- Spencer Ackerman writes about Obama's relationship with the military and what may be anticipated by both sides.
-- Pentagon will be briefing the Obama Transition Team with "a rundown of "key decision points" it will face in his first 90 days as commander in chief, a senior official said Thursday."
-- Ed Kilgore has an excellent analysis piece at TPMCafe on the discussions about the future of the Republican party in "The Anatomy of Conservative Self-Deception". He notes that "the war may be over before it began".
-- Congratulations to General Ann Dunwoody, the first female 4-star general in the history of the US Army.
"It was clear to me that my Army experience was just going to be a two-year detour en route to my fitness profession," she added. "So when asked, 'Ann, did you ever think you were going to be a general officer, to say nothing about a four-star?' I say, 'Not in my wildest dreams.'
"There is no one more surprised than I -- except, of course, my husband. You know what they say, 'Behind every successful woman there is an astonished man.'"
-- As a geek at heart, I found this post by Marc Ambinder about the different campaign technology tools that the Democrats and the Obama campaign employed very interesting. You've been warned. It's geeky.
[KGO talk radio host Gene] Burns has consistently opposed impeachment proceedings against George [Bush] and [Dick] Cheney as frivolous and unwarranted: these men have not, to his mind, committed impeachable offenses. Challenged by callers contending that these men approved the torture of fellow human beings, Burns has maintained that the United States has not tortured; even waterboarding, to him, does not constitute torture.
Wednesday night, all this changed. After viewing on his local PBS affiliate the documentary Torturing Democracy, Burns told his listeners, he realized he had been wrong. The United States has tortured. It has also engaged in extraordinary renditions, for the purpose of torture. While Burns still believes impeachment to be a non-starter, he has concluded that, in the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and in other sites overseas, Dick Cheney is guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and should be brought to trial before an international tribunal at The Hague.
I've always said that I've thought that even at Guantanamo Bay the United States was careful to stay on this side of torture. In fact, you may recall that on a couple of occasions we got into a spirited debate on this program about waterboarding, and whether waterboarding was torture. And I took the position that it was not torture, that it was simulated drowning, and that if that produced information which preserved our national security, I thought it was permissible.
And then I saw Torturing Democracy.
And I'm afraid, now that I have seen what I have seen, that I was wrong about that. It looks to me, based on this documentary, as if in fact we have engaged in behavior and practices at Guantanamo Bay, and in these illegal renditions, that are violations of the international human rights code.
And I believe that Dick Cheney is responsible. I believe that he was the agent of the United States government charged with developing the methodology used at Guantanamo Bay, supervising it for the administration, and indulging in practices which are in fact violations of human rights. [...]
I really found this documentary, Torturing Democracy, very, very disturbing. And I guess the reason that heretofore I have not been such an easy mark on the matter of this kind of charge is that I don't think I ever saw an organized, systematized review of what we did, and how we did it, as well presented as it was in this documentary.
And it grieves me to say, as an American citizen, that I believe the leadership of our country is responsible for crimes against humanity. But, you know, we can't be trumpeting about the behavior of others, like Milosevic, and others, if we do not expect ourselves to be held to a similar high standard.
And no matter our desire to preserve and protect our national security, which is uppermost in the minds of all of us, and something which our leaders are sworn to do by oath, if to do that we have to engage in torture, we should not do it.
The complete documentary is available online here along with a schedule of local stations and additional supporting material and documentation.
After hearing that Paulson is abandoning the plan originally agreed upon by Congress and the Bush administration with regard to the $700b bailout, the following screed from September 20th by Afferent Input takes on new meaning.
Bailouts, all. A lot has already been said, of course. But there are two things that I wanted to add to the conversation.
First, folks on the left and the right have referred to the recent onslaught of government bailouts as "socialism". On the surface, it may seem that way, given that government now "controls" vast swaths of the nation's financial system. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Let me say it more plainly; this is not socialism. Socialism is a form of government that seeks to equalize the playing field for all, insuring that that the fruits of labor are shared equally (but not fairly, necessarily. That's one of the major reasons why socialism doesn't work). Does anyone seriously think that captains of finance have embraced the philosophy of "workers of the world, unite!"? The same guys with multi-million dollar "golden-parachutes", sometimes taking home more than a billion dollars in a year. The same guys who have embraced shady accounting practices so that they and their companies pay as little in taxes as possible, sometimes percentages of income far less than the average American worker. The same guys who have broken union after union over the decades. We're supposed to believe that just this week this crew has decided to abandon Friedman and embrace Marx with open arms? Come on...
Let's look at it another way; does anyone seriously believe that the average American stands to benefit financially from the actions taken this week? That the profits of AIG, or BS, or Fannie and Freddie will be split equally amongst the masses? Of course not. Instead, tax payer money will flow from the Treasury to shore up the accounts of what should be insolvent corporations. Essentially out of your pocket and into the hands of Wall St, only making a quick pit stop in DC. Or worse, putting it on the national credit card by selling even more treasuries. This is not socialism. Instead, this more resembles a different form of societal structure: kleptocracy.
Second, how did we get to the point that simply the failure of one company would mean utter chaos for society at large? This fact alone illustrates very nicely that the financial system ceased to be a free market long before last week. The lifeblood of free markets is competition. Competition gives birth to fair pricing of goods and services as well as efficiency of commerce. If one business fails, another takes its place.
The fact that these corporations were too big to fail means they were too big. Period. If AIG couldn't hack it, then some other corporation would have stepped up to the plate. That is if the market place was truly free. But clearly it was not. Instead, what existed was, at the very least, a pseudo-monopoly. Many markets left to themselves will gradually evolve into monopolies, and one of the roles government needs to play is to insure that monopolies don't get to the point where they distort free markets to the point where they aren't really free anymore. Obviously government failed to meet that obligation in the financial sector the last few years.
I suppose that's what happens when the foxes are put in charge of the hen house. Only time will tell if the foxes can keep fooling everyone into believing that there are still some hens left.
The new favorite activity in Washington and elsewhere is speculation on who will be where in the new administration of Barack Obama. Some interesting lists and flowcharts have been developed.
-- MSNBC's First Read blog offers up their list of potential Cabinet members.
-- Then there's Paul Bedard's mysteriously sourced flowchart on Washington Whispers blog which will take a while to peruse.
-- CBS News published some speculation a few days ago in Brian Montopoli's article, "Breaking Down Obama's Cabinet Contenders".
-- eugene's well-written post on mandates, health care and health insurance is an excellent place to start if you haven't delved into the topic yet.
-- Steve Clemons has an interesting post addressed to the Obama administration titled "What Barack Obama Should Learn From Dick Cheney" that urges Obama to develop and promulgate the "Obama Way" in much the same way Dick Cheney extended his influence throughout the administration and federal government. An interesting premise but it needs more thought.
-- Tom Watson on Personal Democracy Forum has posted a thoughtful essay on the longer term implications of Obama's volunteers and methods and their impact on the non-profit and social justice sector.
-- Christine Harper of Bloomberg interviews Americans around the country about what they think of the bailout funds being used to pay bonuses among other things. Henry Blodget noted it on his blog and asked for comments which are interesting in and of themselves. There's definitely a few commenters on there who feel entitled to taxpayer's money.
-- Naomi Klein weighs in with a piece in Rolling Stone about the bailout profiteers and their efforts to snag part of the taxpayers' generosity to Wall Street and the banks. The tag line on the article reads: "The Wall Street bailout looks a lot like Iraq -- a "free-fraud zone" where private contractors cash in on the mess they helped create." It's not pretty.
After yet another story on how the Senate Dems were going to talk to Joe Lieberman about his standing in the Democratic Caucus and as a Connecticut resident, I felt compelled last week to call Senator Dodd's office and express my opinion that Lieberman had completely betrayed the Democrats and in no circumstances whatsoever did he deserve to retain a chairmanship or any position of standing within the Democratic Caucus. I ended the call with a statement on the order of "If there were any way to remove Joe Lieberman from office right now, I'd do it." Evidently I got loud enough to bring my daughter out of her room to comment on how strongly I felt about it.
When my husband walked in the door that evening, he started the conversation with "What do you think about Lieberman in the Senate?" Before I could reply, my daughter laughingly informed him that I'd already called Dodd's office. When I think that we could have had this man in the Senate instead, I am angry all over again at the Connecticut voters that allowed themselves to be taken in by Joe Lieberman.
Robert Greenwald and BraveNewFilms, among others, share my outrage and they've done something about it including creating a website, Lieberman Must Go, and compiling some video clips which underscore just why Lieberman no longer merits any consideration by Democrats.
They've compiled more information on Lieberman's record along with the phone numbers of the Democratic leadership who will be responsible for deciding his future in the Democratic Caucus. Do go check it out and make a call whether or not you live in Connecticut.
Kossack nutmegan's Dutch friend emailed:
You have given us hope in a way that only Americans can: against all odds.
That's the essence of why this election was so important to the world. This interview with Fareed Zakaria from July 2008 underscores the point. (transcript)
If the CNN video doesn't work for you, the Fareed Zakaria interview of Barack Obama is available on youtube: part 1 - part 2 - part 3 - part 4
Obama's response to Zakaria's query about the problem of Islam demonstrates the thought, education and upbringing that our new President-elect brings to the table.
OBAMA: I think the problems of terrorism and groups that are resisting modernity, whether because of their ethnic identities or religious identities, and the fact that they can be driven into extremist ideologies, is one of the severe threats that we face.
I don't think it's the only threat that we face.
OBAMA: I think the problems of terrorism and groups that are resisting modernity, whether because of their ethnic identities or religious identities, and the fact that they can be driven into extremist ideologies, is one of the severe threats that we face.
I don't think it's the only threat that we face.
ZAKARIA: But how do you view the problem within Islam? As somebody who saw it in Indonesia ... the largest Muslim country in the world?
OBAMA: Well, it was interesting. When I lived in Indonesia -- this would be '67, '68, late '60s, early '70s -- Indonesia was never the same culture as the Arab Middle East. The brand of Islam was always different.
But around the world, there was no -- there was not the sense that Islam was inherently opposed to the West, or inherently opposed to modern life, or inherently opposed to universal traditions like rule of law.
And now in Indonesia, you see some of those extremist elements. And what's interesting is, you can see some correlation between the economic crash during the Asian financial crisis, where about a third of Indonesia's GDP was wiped out, and the acceleration of these Islamic extremist forces.
It isn't to say that there is a direct correlation, but what is absolutely true is that there has been a shift in Islam that I believe is connected to the failures of governments and the failures of the West to work with many of these countries, in order to make sure that opportunities are there, that there's bottom-up economic growth.
You know, the way we have to approach, I think, this problem of Islamic extremism, which is real and (ph) there, is we have to hunt down those who would resort to violence to move their agenda, their ideology forward. We should be going after al Qaeda and those networks fiercely and effectively.
But what we also want to do is to shrink the pool of potential recruits. And that involves engaging the Islamic world rather than vilifying it, and making sure that we understand that not only are those in Islam who would resort to violence a tiny fraction of the Islamic world, but that also, the Islamic world itself is diverse.
And that lumping together Shia extremists with Sunni extremists, assuming that Persian culture is the same as Arab culture, that those kinds of errors in lumping Islam together result in us not only being less effective in hunting down and isolating terrorists, but also in alienating what need to be our long-term allies on a whole host of issues.
This interview reflects just one facet of the support that Obama gathered together to win the presidency. Given his calm consideration of the challenges facing the US in the economy, in energy independence, in climate change response and the #1 domestic issue of health care, many anticipate Obama's thoughtful, informed, intelligent leadership in foreign policy and it brought such a reaction from around the world.
More world reaction in youtube videos here, here, and here. And from the University of Sydney on election day.
UPDATE: Kossack pensivepenguin has done a round-the-world survey of newspaper articles and editorials reviewing Obama's election and asking the question, "Where is our equivalent of Obama?" It's fascinating reading. Obama's impact may go well beyond his own initiatives by how the fact of his election changes how others look at democracy within their own countries.
Bill Ayers comments on the just completed campaign and the use of his name to create a false image with which to hammer Barack Obama. As the professor which he is, he goes on to draw some lessons from the experience.
In a robust and sophisticated democracy, political leaders--and all of us--ought to seek ways to talk with many people who hold dissenting, or even radical, ideas. Lacking that simple and yet essential capacity to question authority, we might still be burning witches and enslaving our fellow human beings today.
Maybe we could welcome our current situation--torn by another illegal war, as it was in the '60s--as an opportunity to search for the new.
Perhaps we might think of ourselves not as passive consumers of politics but as fully mobilized political actors. Perhaps we might think of our various efforts now, as we did then, as more than a single campaign, but rather as our movement-in-the-making. [...]
Yet hope--my hope, our hope--resides in a simple self-evident truth: the future is unknown, and it is also entirely unknowable.
History is always in the making. It's up to us. It is up to me and to you. Nothing is predetermined. That makes our moment on this earth both hopeful and all the more urgent--we must find ways to become real actors, to become authentic subjects in our own history. [...]
In this time of new beginnings and rising expectations, it is even more urgent that we figure out how to become the people we have been waiting to be.
The Obama campaign taught many people that it's possible to take their country's future into their own hands. It goes back to the premise behind the founding of the Democracy Cell Project which grew out of the Kerry-Edwards blogging community:
We can do amazing things when we choose to do so.
Yes We Can.
Newsweek has just published part 6 in "a seven-part in-depth look behind the scenes of the campaign, consisting of exclusive behind-the-scenes reporting from the McCain and Obama camps assembled by a special team of reporters who were granted year-long access on the condition that none of their findings appear until after Election Day."
You can start with whichever chapter you want and you'll find it fascinating. I started with ch. 6 and then went to ch. 5 and then back to ch. 1. Wherever you start, you'll go back to the rest to find out more about what makes our new President-elect tick and how he carried out his amazing campaign.
Kudos to Newsweek and the team of reporters who covered this.
From Chapter 1:
In the first quarter of 2007, Obama put the political world on notice when he raised $24.8 million, more money than any other Democrat except Hillary Clinton, and drew huge crowds at his early rallies. But he was a tentative, awkward presence in the endless Democratic debates through the spring and summer of 2007. He didn't really seem to have his heart in it; he appeared to lack the required, almost pathological drive to be president. The campaign strategist, David Axelrod, told Obama he worried that the candidate was "too normal" to run a presidential campaign, and Obama began wondering himself. He missed going to the movies and reading a book and playing with his kids. He worried about "losing touch" with "what matters." To a NEWSWEEK reporter he said, "I'm not trying to say that I'm some sort of reluctant candidate--obviously this is a choice I made. But there was some tension there in my own mind." [...]
[Axzelrod] liked Obama in part because he could see that the candidate was unusually intelligent (especially, in his experience, for a politician coming out of the Illinois Statehouse), and because Obama seemed uninterested in and unimpressed by the mindless tit-for-tat of modern political campaigning.
From Chapter 5:
Holder, a former deputy U.S. attorney general in the Clinton administration and an old Washington hand, was struck by Obama's half-open, half-inscrutable manner during the nearly eight hours of meetings they spent together going over potential veeps. Obama was diligent, bringing up small morsels of information hidden in the fat briefing books, and he acted like a law professor who calls on reluctant pupils ("I haven't heard from you," he'd say to anyone around the table who had been silent too long). A lot of politicians pretend to be inclusive; Obama actually was. But "at the end, you didn't know where he stood. When you got down to the final judgment, I had a sense, but I didn't have any kind of certainty." Holder thought Obama was being shrewd to not signal his intentions too clearly--since "people want to say what the boss wants to hear, and if they don't know, you'll get more honest advice."
From Chapter 6:
Never one to wing it, Obama studied for the three official presidential debates, scheduled for roughly once a week from late September to mid-October, as if he were taking the bar exam. [...]
At Obama's debate rehearsals, held repeatedly through the late summer and with increasing frequency and intensity in September, the role of McCain was played by Gregory Craig--the ace Washington lawyer dubbed as one of "the Kool-Aid boys" by a bemused Obama back in 2006. [...]
Obama's debate coach, Michael Sheehan, a veteran of many campaign psychodramas over the years, was struck by the senator's calmness. The candidate was always in control of his feelings. During one afternoon prep session, Obama begged off. "I'm a little tired and a little cranky," he told a roomful of aides. "I'm going to my room for a half hour and I'll be in better shape to work with." He reappeared 30 minutes later, ready for work. Obama was, as ever, self-possessed--his own best judge of his mood and strength. After a full-dress mock debate in the evening, when it was time to review the tape of his performance, Obama turned to Sheehan and said, "Michael, I'm tired." He was not complaining, Sheehan recalled; he was just being matter-of-fact. Nothing seemed to rattle Obama. He had a way of retreating into his own little world. During one of the debate preps, the lights blew, flickering on and off like a strobe light from the 1970s disco craze. Obama stood behind the podium, quietly singing the song "Disco Inferno," last popular in the heyday of "Saturday Night Fever."
Rahm Emanuel has inspired lots of words both inside and outside the beltway and with his acceptance today of the Chief of Staff position for Barack Obama, there will no doubt be more anecdotes about Rahm passed around. Articles about him invariably contain the words intense, driven, abrasive, and usually get around to effective, efficient, ruthless, take-no-prisoners and occasionally, foul-mouthed, profane, and loud.
The Washington Post and Rolling Stone both have lengthy articles about Rahm though they are dated and more recent articles usually note that having kids has mellowed Rahm a little. Rahm started with fund-raising for Mayor Daley "where he learned how to twist arms and knock heads."
Donors were used to giving $5,000 -- but Daley needed more. "Rahm took it up a notch," Daley's brother William recalled several years ago. "He told many of them they easily had the ability to give twenty-five grand." When contributors didn't pony up, Emanuel would tell them he was embarrassed that they'd offered so little and hang up on them. The shocked donor would usually call back and sheepishly comply. In thirteen weeks, the thirty-year-old raised $7 million -- an unprecedented sum at the time. His fund-raising skills eventually earned him a job in the Clinton campaign.
His work with the Clinton campaign led to a position in the Clinton White House which he eventually left and headed back home to Chicago where he ran for Congress in 2002.
His selection by Nancy Pelosi to head the DCCC during his second term as congressman demonstrates the vivid and effective impact he's had during his tenure in the House. The October 2006 Washington Post article notes his rapid rise with the following:
Pictures and video tell the story so powerfully. Though there are so many videos to be viewed, I think this one will stand in well for all the others. The people who spontaneously gathered in front of the White House serenaded the smiling police and security people with a rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. The video quality isn't great but it more than makes up for it in enthusiasm. [via]
DemocraticLuntz was on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House and wrote this:
Thousands of young people, pressed against each other, not for a rock concert or a countercultural event, but to celebrate the end of our 8-year national nightmare and the election of the next President of the United States, Barack Obama.
The fervor there was not something I can adequately put into words, but I did find a 10-minute Youtube; while it's a poor substitute for being there, it's better than nothing.
The photographers were out in force Tuesday night and a number of news organizations and bloggers have put together compilations and slideshows that show all aspects of Tuesday night's historic celebration.
MSNBC has assembled 3 slide shows all of which are accessible here. The first is historic photos from Tuesday in Chicago and around the US, the second is photos of celebrants around the world and the third is of voters across the US casting their ballots in an amazing variety of locations.
International Newspaper Announcements - Zain put together a diary with photos of newspaper front pages from around the world announcing Obama's victory. Kula followed up the next morning with her regular Morning Reaction diary featuring photos, newspaper headlines and editorial excerpts from all over the country and the world. Al Rodgers put together an amazing set of photos as well.
The New York Times has a wonderful set of pictures that covers the arc of the campaign.
The NYT editor also slyly notes that "For a day, at least, newspapers were cool again." and presents a slideshow of newspaper buyers, sellers and readers on Nov. 5th.
Huffington Post has a number of slide shows including:
President Obama: Election Night Celebration (SLIDESHOWS)
And there are many more here.
And many, many more here in the Yahoo News photo gallery collection of Election 08 photos.
And then there's hope ... the fuel of the Obama campaign ... so well summarized in this video, posted with thanks from the Obama video crew.
Remarks of President-Elect Barack Obama--as prepared for delivery
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.
It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.
It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.
It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.
It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.
Here's the poll closing times tonight courtesy of the Swing State Project.
And while we wait for the election results, take a look at all the people who've worked over the last 20 months to make today happen.
And now it's off to do the last bit of GOTV for this election.
Happy Voting Day!
"Democracy is no easy form of government. Few nations have been able to sustain it. For it requires that we take the chances of freedom; that the liberating play of reason be brought to bear of events filled with passion; that dissent be allowed to make its appeal for acceptance; that men chance error in their search for the truth."
Robert F. Kennedy, February 19, 1966
Get ready to sustain our democracy! Let's vote for the quiet heros caught in a perfect storm all across our country. Let's vote for our future and make our votes count.
From lawyer Adam B at Daily Kos
If you see something weird or discomfiting or arguably illegal going on at your polling place tomorrow, ...you've got two choices tomorrow as to where to phone in your information, and I'm going to advocate doing both. First off, there's Obama Voter Protection:
Alternately, or in addition, I strongly encourage you to call Election Protection, a nonpartisan organization:
- For immediate assistance, call the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline.
- To report problems to Election Protection's state teams through Twitter, use these guidelines.
- Track incident reports received through the hotline at OurVoteLive.org
- Keep an eye on voting issues as they are reported at the OurVoteLive Blog
- Follow breaking voting news and issues at the 866OurVote Twitter account
We all love being able to break news here about what we're seeing, but what matters most tomorrow is giving that information to people who can do something about it . And then ... wait, what are you doing at a computer in the first place on Election Day? Get out there. Do More Than Vote.
Senator Obama told us on a conference call the other night that we're on the five yard line, and we need to bring it into the end zone. He told us that he's proud of the work we're doing, and that we have to work hard for just a little bit longer -- that we have to keep going until the polls close on Tuesday night. If you're a volunteer, you know he's right, and as tired as we all are, this is not the time to slow down. If you're not a volunteer, you can still be part of this historic election. Do it now. It's not too late.
The ugliness of the McCain campaign has been discouraging to all of us. They've cheapened the political process, divided Americans, and damaged their own party. In the battleground states, misleading ads and mailers are flooding our airwaves and mailboxes. Republicans have thrown not just the kitchen sink at us, but a fake plumber, too.
So, our work is not done. We need to fight back against the smears and lies, and continue to let voters know how much better off we'll all be with a President who will bring all sides to the table to resolve our difficulties together.
Senator Kerry was out doing his part again yesterday morning on Meet the Press, recapping the reasons why Barack Obama is the right choice for the country.
If you're a volunteer, just hang in there a little longer. We need to get out the vote, and if we do, we're going to win this election.
We're on the five yard line. Our goal is in sight. If we keep going, we'll all be able to celebrate this victory together.
Cross-posted from KerryVision.net