Saturday, September 29, 2007

Looking backwards, "dreamers" often look most practical

David Moberg, one of our best labor-oriented writers, has posted a must-read article about how unions had tried to push industry to better use technology to create more fuel efficient vehicles in the 1950s, and to push for legislation to enact national health insurance legislation during the 1970s.

And here is Harold Meyerson, who I have admired since the early 1980s--back when our hero Michael Harrington would show up at a Democratic Party convention to talk about building a Debsian socialism with reference to utilities, automobiles, oil and gas, and building mass transit and revitalized labor movement--discussing how Americans are way ahead of elite politicians on the importance of seeking to reverse the trend of growing income inequality. Meyerson does not say, but I think he would agree that the three most important public policy proposals one should support to reverse income inequality are the following:

1. Enacting a single payer medical insurance program (aka Medicare for All). This frees workers from the fear of lost insurance, gives people a chance to take risks in their employment to pursue their dreams or at least better opportunities, etc.

2. Enacting labor law reform legislation to make it easier for workers to join unions and maintain union representation.

3. Restoring tuition subsidies for Americans to attend college for little or no money. Elite politicians and advisers have forgotten what elitists such as James Conant Bryant knew in May 1940: that upward mobility from the 1930s through the early 1970s was significantly helped through a tuition-free higher education. But lefty Stanley Aronowitz reminds us that we cannot turn over education policies to back-room, elite technocrats and expect results that will exceed the period of the 1940s through 1970s.

Finally, a last article from the great American Prospect magazine: Paul Starr, a sociologist who knows his stuff, provides an inside look at the debacle of Hillary Clinton's attempt to help her husband enact a national health insurance plan. The article is far nicer to Hillary than is warranted, however, and I remain on the side of the commenter "DrSteveB" who said the following in a comment responding to the article:

"They (meaning the Clintons) compromised with the insurance industry from before the beginning of negotiation, and got nothing guaranteed in return. They refused to even have single payer on the agenda. From as early as the pre-innaugural economic summit, single-payer was not even allowed to be discussed among the range of theoretical options. Their hope was to co-op the insurance companies and big business. There was a brief moment when they had some of big business, but they never had the insurance industry. It was classic triangulation, by seeming ever so moderate by writing off the left.

"But alas, they forgot to actually get the guarantee of agreement from the insurers ahead of time. In effect, they compromised without even negotiating.

"Meanwhile they lost the base and grassroots.

"One thing we have learned is that the insurance industry and republicans will oppose any plan. It does not matter if it is an already compromised plan such as a mandates, or a more rigorous plan such as single payer.

"Same is playing out in California: Kuehl's single-payer plan was sidelined by the Demoractic leaderhsip who passed a truly mediocre pre-compromised plan. That plan still got not a single Republican vote, is still opposed by the insurance industry, and will still be vetoed by the ever-so-moderate Republican governor.

"Meanwhile single payer is the only plan with a real grassroots movement.

"Oh and by the way, back in 1993-94, the CBO analyzed single payer as the plan making the most sense economically, the only way to cover everybody (universal) and provide real coverage for all that is needed (comprehensive) and control costs. That analysis is still true.

"Support Conyers HR-676, which has about 80 cosponsors including Rangel (chair, Ways & Means), Expanded and Improved Medicare for all (real unversal via single payer).

"p.s.: it is not 1994 anymore."


There are two telling stories that emerged during and after the health care debacle of 1993-1994: First, when Dr. David Himmelstein, a leader in the single pay movement, tried to explain the simplicity and effectiveness of a single pay plan, Hillary said dismissively, "Tell me something interesting, David." See, she knew what reality was--and David was a naive dreamer.

Then, a couple of years later, Hillary and Bill traveled to Italy and Hillary arranged for her and Bill to meet with Gore Vidal, who lived in Ravello, Italy at the time. Vidal, during their meeting, found Hillary to be a much nicer person in private than her public personna. But he took the opportunity to tell her she, not people like Himmelstein, are the ones who are naive. In this interview from Playboy magazine (sorry for that link, but Vidal did say this publicly elsewhere), Vidal even used the same word I used to describe her attempt to secure health insurance security: "debacle."

"PLAYBOY: Hillary Rodham Clinton visited you in Italy. You discussed the failed attempt at creating a national health service. What happened?

"Gore Vidal: The health care proposals of the Clintons and the subsequent debacle show corporate America at its most vivid, protecting its turf and destroying anyone who tries to discipline it.

"Of course it was a conspiracy, though Hillary's phrase, "right wing," hardly defines it. I said to Hillary, "If you had made the insurance companies public enemy number one, the advantage--and perhaps victory--would have been the public's." She said, "We tried to be fair to everyone." Challenged by an attempt to bring the U.S. into the civilized world--all other first-world countries have national health programs--the insurance and the pharmaceutical companies, together with some high-spirited members of the American Medical Association, vowed that the U.S. will never have such a service. Why? A third of the costs for most health care under the present system goes to insurance companies for filling out forms and filling up their bank accounts, with not a Band-Aid for us. Then, just to make sure no other politician would try to give the American people anything for their tax money, they set out to destroy the Clintons personally with various lurid charges--necrophilia is in the wings--while taking endless legal actions against them, to bankrupt everyone. Those involved have now got the message: This is America. No one challenges the rich and their corporations. The only public money that can be spent for the public is for military procurement--that's how we've accumulated $5 trillion worth of debt. The Clintons were taught an expensive lesson about their humble place in society. Just another pair of lawyers in a government of lawyers for the benefit of lawyers. It is unlikely any president will ever again try to give the people anything for their tax money. Other than a war, of course."

And what has Hillary learned from this? Nothing. She continues to think there is a need to be "fair" to behemoth international financial, insurance, oil and telecom interests. No, Hillary, that's not the way to frame the question. The question is not "Am I fair to every interest?" The real question is "What public policies are we going to pursue to undermine the power of international corporate behehmoths and increase public power and public rights?"

"Dreamers" like Kucinich understand that. Gore, and to a lesser extent, Edwards have learned to begin to understand that. And people we admire throughout American history, including FDR, Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Eugene Debs, Earl Warren, Jefferson and RFK understood that. What wealthy right wing jerks like to say of the poor applies far more to them: "It's for their own good."

(Edited)

Friday, September 28, 2007

On MoveOn and Blackwater

Oftentimes, there are enough other bloggers to comment on things like the Congressional outrage againt MoveOn.org or the Blackwater scandal, such that I don't think it worth making a personal comment. The following two posts by, respectively, Digby and Rick Perlstein, prove again why bloggers have more interesting and intelligent views than what normally shows up on most talking heads/opinion shows.

1. Digby: See here for her discussion how Bob Novak ripped into General Clark during the Kosovo intervention/offensive in ways that would make anyone with integrity blush if they were truly offended by MoveOn.org's ad about General Petraeus.

My comment about the MoveOn.org ad is that it was spot on. Cheney (Bush) fired at least three generals in the past four years, including the guys immediately preceding Patraeus who told the truth about what was happening from a military standpoint in Iraq. Patraeus reminds me of General Westoreland (see here and here), willing to sacrifice military truths to serve political masters. Also, Patraeus' own military superior can't stand the guy for being a political brown-nose and yet, somehow too many Congress persons got caught up in Republican propaganda. Good for MoveOn.org to call Patraeus "Betray Us," particularly since a particularly famous Republican mouthpiece had used the same pun to attack one of their own, Senator Chuck Hagel (see here: The essence of the attack on Hegel was, "There's General Patraeus, which makes Chuck Hagel 'Senator Betrayus").

2. Perlstein: A wonderful point about how Blackwater, the private military contractor, fits into the overall right wing agenda of destroying the efficacy and spirit of government service, particularly our own nation's military capabilities and leadership. It is time to recognize that the modern so-called "conservative" movement contains many in leadership positions who lack good faith in how they wish to lead our nation. Those who value their conservatism as a creed need to recognize "actually existing conservatism" and either denounce it or it will devour them.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The continued exclusion of Kucinich and Clinton's continuation of the Iraq War

So there was a Democratic Party presidential debate in New Hampshire last night. Reuters had a photo of several of the candidates, including Kucinich. However, the article from Reuters did not mention Kucinich's name.

The article was mostly about Clinton, but reported some nice jabs by Edwards. I'm sure Kucinich had some, but of course, reporters know he's not "serious," unlike the Senator from Delaware, Joe Biden--who often tracks lower in polls than Kucinich--who is mentioned.

Note, though, substantively, that the article discusses Clinton saying she won't rule out continued combat operations in Iraq and is already taking steps toward war with Iran. And what did Obama Barack say about that? Hardly a thing, one gathers from the article. Audacity of hope...not likely. My post from September 13, 2007 already looks prophetic.

For Democrats to support Hillary Clinton is to hand a powerful tool to the Republicans to squeak by with a Presidential victory. However, Americans are so fed up with Republicans that they may not even be able to win with the gift of Hillary. Heck, even the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is going broke.

Still, Democrats need to raise the bar and fight to elect someone who will truly and fearlessly speak for the people of the United States and this planet. Hillary and Obama are not those candidates. God, I wish Al Gore would jump in as he will take out the air from Hillary's and Obama's respective balloons. And at least he is free of corporate and narrow elitist influences at long last in his life.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Cancel and boycott AARP

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) just landed me as a member last month as I turned 50 years old. However, as of this morning, the organization just lost me as a member.

I canceled my membership in AARP this morning because last Friday, September 21, 2007, the AARP sponsored a Democratic Presidential debate/forum in Iowa where Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)was systematically excluded from the debate (former Alaska Senator, Mike Gravel, was also excluded). As noted in this post last week, Kucinich is polling higher than Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) and even former UN Ambassador/New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, in various polls, yet Kucinich alone among these candidates was excluded.*

Kucinich is the only major candidate (someone who is in Congress or was a governor) who supports a health insurance plan that excludes private health insurance companies, as nearly every other industrialized nation has for its citizens. Simply put, Kucinich supports a sort of "Medicare for All" type of plan, with even better coverage overall. Why would this proposal upset the AARP? Because the AARP is in the private insurance business as much as Blue Cross or Aetna.

Could the AARP have been this crassly motivated? It appears they were as they expressly refused to allow Kucinich to participate, even when Kucinich strongly requested he be invited to participate with the other candidates.

Bottom line: Don't join AARP. If you are a member, cancel your membership and take the returned money and donate it to Dennis Kucinich here.

Also, if someone knows another lobbying group, specializing in the concerns of the 50 plus year olds of America, to join, please let me know. For if we as populists, progressives, liberals, and lefties are thinking of creating a rival to AARP, now is the time to deal with this issue. I had not quite fully forgiven AARP for supporting Bush's Medicare reform plan that included the provision that outlawed Americans purchasing medications from Canada or elsewhere, but this event showed me AARP is fatally corrupted.

* I had figured (hoped) at the time that the AARP would back down. I am shocked that they did not, which proves its bad faith intent to exclude Kucinich.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Damn straight, man!

This short but vital post is well worth reading. Cheney (Bush) and his enablers in the Republican Party, media and even among the Hillaries and Obamas in the Democratic Party, need Ahmedinejad to say outrageous things. But now he is trimming his political sails and is trying to moderate himself for fed-up Iranian voters before the March 2008 elections in Iran. Heck, the whole bunch of mullahs are getting afraid of their own people, and have allowed Iranian television to show a docudrama that accepts the truth of the Holocaust and are working with Israel (!!) to find out why a plane crashed in Thailand that killed Iranians and Israelis.

Too bad too many American leaders still want to bomb Iran...

And people wonder why I am supporting Kucinich more and more?

(Edited)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Book Review Sunday

Book Review Sunday is late tonight. So, maybe we should think of this Sunday Monday Book Review...

1. Here , from the LA Times Sunday Book Review, is a fascinating, yet succinctly phrased article about Freud's last days in Germany and the last days of his life--and why his thoughts and writings from that time may be as profound as anything he accomplished at any other time. The reviewer is very much in control of his knowledge of Freud and his times. Here is a snip of the review of the book, "The Death of Sigmund Freud":

The Death of Sigmund Freud" also focuses on the psychoanalyst's last major project, "Moses and Monotheism," one of Freud's highly speculative works. In it he offered an argument about the origins of religion (in delusion and desire), the identity of Moses (he was really an Egyptian) and the historical destiny of the Jews (how they lived with the trauma of oppression). Some complained that the psychoanalyst was depriving the Jews of images of leadership and consolation when they needed them the most. It was 1938, after all, and a pogrom of unimaginable horror was getting underway.

But Freud labored on to complete it, and in forceful and concise terms, Edmundson shows us how this project challenged what was taking place in Germany: Freud deconstructed the desire for strong leadership and the group erotics of submission -- something all too relevant in the late 1930s. Edmundson knows that the Freudian reason for analyzing desires is to provide people with new possibilities for understanding them and, perhaps, for being free of their unconscious, compulsive dimensions. By rewriting Jewish history, Freud was offering the only gift he knew how to give: increased freedom through self-awareness.

That is an outstanding analysis. And purely and simply stated.

2. Sometimes a book review can be positive, but still prove why someone should not buy or read a book, especially when the reviewer reveals his own ignorance of the subject at hand. Case in point: Max Frankel's pedestrian, yet lavish review of the late David Halberstam's last book, on the subject of the Korean War. Frankel, as American-centric and "conventional wisdom" minded as they come, thinks the Korean War was started by the North Koreans because of a "collosal gaffe":

"...the failure of Secretary of State Dean Acheson in a routine speech to include non-Communist South Korea in America’s Asian “defense perimeter.” That oversight caused a reluctant Stalin to unleash North Korea’s army for what Kim promised would be a three-week blitzkrieg to reunite all Korea. He very nearly succeeded."

This is a classic example of American elite navel-gazing, courtesy of the New York Times. Contrary to Frankel, and as explained in much better books about Korea than Halberstam's (see, for example, "The War for Korea, 1945-1950," by Allan R. Millet (U. Press of Kansas, 2005) and Bruce Cumings second of three volumes of the history of Korea, "The Origins of the Korean War, Volume II" (Princeton U. Press, 1990)), there had been invasions and incursions by both South Korean and North Korean forces against each other from 1945 through 1949. The South looked weaker than the North by 1950 because of divisions among left and right in South Korea, and Kim Il Sung saw 1950 as his last chance to "unify" what was already becoming an already too difficult goal of unification of the two Korean sectors. Acheson's speech was only something that fevered Republicans and anti-communists in the US believed was significant--and naively lapped up by DC/NY axis reporters such as Frankel.

Also, as Krushchev's own memoirs published over thirty years ago had revealed, Stalin was more than a little duped by Kim because Kim made Stalin believe Mao in China was gung-ho for Kim's invasion, when Mao was just as reluctant to give any "green light" to Kim. Kim played off both dicatators into providing some materiel support, though, as Krushchev noted, Stalin removed most Soviet military advisers from North Korea before the North Koreans attacked. Frankel's phrasing about "Stalin unleashing" the North Koreans reveals Frankel's own ignorance and adherence to the most simplistic and silly Cold War nostrums.

It is a shame that Halberstam's last book should be a hackish work more like a later Stephen Ambrose book than anything else.

Note: In the Washington Post Book World, reviewer Stanley Weintraub thinks Halberstam's book is worthy because it demolishes the myth of MacArthur's judgment during the Korean War. That's setting the bar very low as most historians have already recognized MacArthur's delusions of grandeur had gotten the best him by that time.

It's too bad most historians, outside of Bruce Cumings, fail to see the brilliance of most of I.F. Stone's book, "The Hidden History of the Korean War" (Monthly Review Press, 1952). Stone's insight, other than being absolutely wrong in speculating who actually started the June 1950 invasion and war, is spot on in so many areas concerning that war--and Stone wrote and published his book before the war reached an official stalemate and armistice in 1953. For those who would like to read a journalist's book on the Korean War, Joseph Goulden's "The Untold History of the Korean War" is far better than Halberstam's surprisingly weak book (McGraw-Hill, 1983).

3. And finally, for the evening, the always intriguing George Scialabra on the latest books on the science and study of human language.

Well, that's all for now. Light blogging expected this week due to continuing Jewish holidays and a tough work week expected.

(Edited)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Support our troops. Support the Webb Amendment

Atrios has the video from Senator Webb here.

One aspect of this horribly wrong war that does not get discussed enough is how the Cheney (Bush) Administration has exhausted our troops as it keeps extending soldiers' tours of duty.

And related to the above point, here are two posts from sci-fi writer and astrophysicist David Brin (who is not a leftist by any means) discussing related issues that raise the legitimate question whether it is those who continue to pursue this mess in Iraq who are doing the most harm to America's interests. If there was a liberal or especially anti-war tilt in the pundit class on television and radio, Brin's points would be commonplace. Instead, our airwaves remain mired in the assumption that those who support the war in Iraq get a free pass as to the question of whether they are truly "supporting the troops"--when the truth is far closer to the opposite. The ones who truly support the troops and America's best strategic and military interests want our overextended troops home now.

Addendum September 20, 2007:

So the Senate Republicans filibustered again and defeated the Webb Amendment.

This has been their pattern all year. However, remember the Republican Senators' threats to end filibusters when the Republicans controlled the White House and the Senate?

I hope, if the Democrats gain even more seats in the Senate, and the Democratic Party's nominee for President wins the White House in next year's election, that the Senate Democrats simply abolish the filibuster. They should do it using the very quotes from the Republican Senators who wanted to end the filibuster a couple of years ago. Of course, the Republicans would sue, and Justices Scalia and Roberts and company would likely find the filibuster an implied right under the Constitution--which they would not do if they heard the case when the Republicans held the Senate and White House. Sorry, but that's how I feel about those Justices right now.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Are American Conservatives Deficient?

This William Saletan article at Slate, castigating the recent studies showing mental deficiencies in so-called "conservatives," strikes me as compelling and persuasive. There is simply no reason to reach any far-reaching scientifically based conclusion about conservatives vs. liberals in terms of mental acuity, at this point anyway.

Still, I have, over the years, begun to draw a distinction between those who claim to be "libertarian-oriented" and those who consciously claim to be "conservative," in terms of whether such persons possess empiracally based information and analytical skills when discussing public policy. The reason I have Reason on my blog roll to the right of this post (Scroll down) is because I find that many libertarians are fairly rigorous about specific public policy topics (They often fail to connect dots about how government creates superstructure which fosters business and growth in an economy; however, this latest article in Reason is outstanding, even if I find areas of disagreement). Whereas, my arguments about policy with people who consciously call themselves "conservatives" has often been frustrating because they often lack information and lack an ability to empathize with how another person arrives at a different conclusion. This is too sweeping, I know, but it's happened to me often enough that I have, in recent years, not bothered to discuss public policy questions with such persons.

This spot-on parody at The Onion, on the subject of the Iraq War, is a wonderful, yet sharply drawn, example because I have lived this--and lived it on this issue during the run-up to the Iraq War II in 2002 and 2003. Note the date of the article, March 26, 2003, and note the so-called "liberal's" position and the "conservative's" position and ask yourself if this happened to you, even if you were a "conservative" who was doubtful about the war at that time.

While there have been tremendous scientific advances in the study of our minds, we still have a long way to go--and I have a deep misgiving about getting there, especially knowing science's own history with ideas like eugenics. We need to be more consciously understanding with each other, but all of us need to come to a public policy argument better armed with a recognition that there is something called empircal data and there is something to thinking with a linear sensibility--and there is a possibility we could all be wrong. One should also not get too wrapped up in the edges of perception as to whether there is such a thing as empircal data and linear reality, especially as we strongly believe in the time and space curve. But, let's maintain some balance, eh?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday Book Reviews Roundup

In the New York Times Book Review this week, Rebecca Goldstein, herself an author of a very interesting book on Spinoza and modernity, reviews Mark Lilla's "The Stillborn God," a book which provides another wonderful example of the contingencies of history: This time the development of a sepration of church and state in the "Western" nations, which allowed for civilization to advance in terms of critical thinking, pluralism and technology. Bravo to the Times for something it does not do often: Find someone who knows the subject matter of a book to review the book.

Another excellent review is by David Leonardt of a new book called "Super Crunchers", which posits that maybe Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" is not as effective a method for decision-making as some of us may have concluded. (The review does not mention "Blink," a curious omission). My "intuition" is that intuition is important for maintaining common sense while one must, at some point, engage in a more spirited and rigorous analysis. Also, the ability of new software to analyze and crunch numbers is a growing and effective tool--though WalMart's success ought to be understood in terms of political economy, too. Leonardt, however, is not really good on that latter subject, as seen by his poor review, three weeks ago, of Amity Shale's frankly ignorant book on FDR and the Great Depression.

Here is a nice, survey article by Rachel Donadio about the growing disrespect for the Humanities in terms of college funding and perceptions in the context of the upcoming 20th anniversary of the publishing of Allan Bloom's "The Closing of the American Mind." The article quotes Martha Nussbaum, who penned the most amazing critique of Bloom's book. I wish the article had quoted from the review, which agreed with Bloom about the importance of the Western Canon, but showed Bloom's understanding of the richness and diverse interpretations of that canon was surprisingly limited and often cranky. What is poorly understood about the so-called "Canon Wars" is that folks such as Nussbaum and Gore Vidal were devoted to the primacy of the Western Canon, but knew it was subject to a rich interpretative history. Folks like Bloom, however, were less interested in what may be called a Talmudic discussion of that Canon, and more interested in top-down mythology regarding the Canon. You won't really get this from Donadio's article, but it is very helpful as an introduction to the issue--and raises awareness of the need to protect the Humanities from its enemies, and too many of its self-proclaimed allies.

The Washington Post Book World is also worth a read for at least the following review articles:

The start of the Space Race between the Soviets and the U.S. in the 1950s, and a separate but related book review about former Nazi and later U.S. scientist, Werner Von Braun. The latter review playfully, but properly quotes the wonderful Tom Lehrer song about Von Braun: "Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?/That's not my department, says Werner Von Braun." There is another line not quoted though that tells us much about the need for our scientists to at least ask the Humanities sorts of questions while gathering knowledge:

In German, in English, I know how to count down
Und I'm learning Chinese, says Werner Von Braun.


Amazing that was from Lehrer's song written in 1964...

And with that, have a wonderful Sunday read!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ingestion of corporate media propaganda is hazardous to our republic

Here is the latest from the Kuncinich for President email and web site. It shows how the Democratic Party has ingested the corporate media line about who is "serious" and who is not. I guess the candidate who most lines up with the American people, i.e. Kucinich, at least as far as polling data would suggest, is not "serious." He is also "unserious" since he opposed the Iraq War II from the beginning...

Here is the email reprinted below:

Iowa Democratic leaders trying to "rig the game" by excluding Kucinich, Presidential candidate charges

DES MOINES, IA – Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich said Iowa Democratic Party leaders and other groups aligned with the entrenched political power structure are "rigging the game in Iowa" by excluding him from two Presidential events this week.

"The whole purpose of the primary and caucus season is to provide voters with opportunities, not to enable a carnival of interest groups to subvert the process," Kucinich said. "When Party leaders and their allies pre-select which candidates they will allow the voters to hear, it's a disservice to the voters. Iowans deserve better than a rigged game."

Congressman Kucinich, (D-OH), was not invited to Sunday's Democratic Steak Fry in Indianola, nor to a Democratic Presidential Forum Thursday in Davenport. Representatives of both events have falsely claimed that Kucinich does not have a sufficiently "active organization" in Iowa.

However, statewide and national polls consistently show Kucinich running ahead of Senators Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd, who were invited to participate. A recent American Research Group poll in Iowa showed Kucinich getting 3% of the vote, ahead of Biden and Dodd, who were at the bottom with 1% each. In the Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll in Iowa two weeks ago, Kucinich and Biden were both at 2% and Dodd was at 1%.

In the most recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, Kucinich was at 3% nationally, Biden was at 2%, and Dodd was below 1%. Another national poll, Rasmussen Reports, showed Kucinich tied with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson in fourth place, behind Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and former Senator John Edwards. Richardson was also invited to participate in the Iowa events. Kucinich also won a post-debate poll on ABC's website after the last Iowa debate.

"We're doing better than some of the establishment candidates, and we're moving up," Kucinich said. "Instead of spending millions of dollars on high-priced consultants, and slick advertising, we have a highly motivated grassroots organization."

He also questioned the decision by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Iowa Public Television to exclude him from Thursday's Democratic Presidential Forum, which will focus on the issues of health care and financial security.

"The Presidential debate on health care has been largely fake, with phony claims from candidates that they are providing ‘universal health care’ when, in fact, they are preserving the for-profit system of private insurance companies who make money not providing health care," Kucinich said.

"I am the only Presidential candidate to offer a true universal healthcare plan for America, HR676, Medicare for All. It is a comprehensive, not-for-profit, national health insurance plan, and everyone is covered," Kucinich said. "No premiums, no deductibles, no co-payments."

"How can AARP and Iowa Public Television claim they are committed to educating and informing the voters of Iowa on the Number One domestic issue in this campaign when they deny a voice to the only candidate who is leading the effort to bring real reform to the health care system by ending the control of for-profit insurance and pharmaceutical companies? Since the AARP's own insurance sales interests would be affected by HR 676, serious questions must be raised about their decision to deny me a place on the platform," Kucinich said.

In one highly publicized incident in July, unaware that their microphones were still on and the cameras were still rolling, Clinton and Edwards whispered to each other on stage about eliminating some candidates from future debates. "It is most interesting," Kucinich noted, "that a number of post-debate analyses determined that I performed better than all the other candidates (AFL-CIO, ABC, Howard University, Logo Forum). I can well understand why the other candidates do not want competition, but the credibility of the Democratic process is at risk if sponsoring organizations join in the subversion of that process."

"You would think that the Iowa Democratic Party leaders, fighting to preserve the state’s status as the first caucus state, would be a little more careful about giving other states the impression that they and they alone have the right to determine who the next President will be." Kucinich said.


Donate to Kucinich. He at least deserves Americans' support.

Friday, September 14, 2007

For Rosh Hashana, a story of spirit

My Dad sent me this last night. An amazing story of believing in oneself, playing the cards we are dealt in life, and parents' dedication to their children.

My goodness, the things we all take for granted...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

1968 and 2008. Another quagmire...

As enough people still recall, in 1968, the Democratic Party nominated Vice President (and former Senator) Hubert Humphrey as its candidate for president. Humphrey was the nominee chosen to run against former Republican Party Vice President (and also former Senator), Richard Nixon, and Southern Democratic Governor George Wallace (D-AL), who ran as a third party.

Humphrey lost by less than 1.5% of the vote, with Nixon winning approximately 44% of the vote in a three way race.

Most historians, I beleive, would agree that Humphrey's failure to timely grasp and act upon the American people's desire to get our troops out of Vietnam contributed to his razor-thin loss to Nixon.

But what if Humphrey had won. Would he have immediately begun a significant withdrawal of troops from Vietnam and ended America's involvement in the war by 1970? Based upon my reading various sources over the years, I believe the answer is No.

Humphrey, like most politicians who held national office in the late 1940s and early 1950s, did not want to be a president who "lost" a war. Throughout the late 1940s and the entire 1950s, there was a lot of political handwringing and bad faith rhetoric turned against Democrats for "losing China" to the Communists, as if America really wanted to fight a war against Mao and his Communist cadres in order to stop Mao from assuming power over Chiang Kai-Shek (I still prefer the old spellings!). This created, among many national political contenders of both parties, from Nixon to John Kennedy to Humphrey to President Lyndon Johnson, a fear of presiding over a withdrawal that would be seized upon by one's opponent as having caused America to "lose" Vietnam. Looking backward at history instead of forward has caused most historians not to see that factual backdrop and cause them to assume Humphrey would have immediately made significant removals of troops, engaged in far reaching peace talks with the North Vietnamese and left Vietnam within a year or so of attaining the presidency.

Still think Humphrey would have acted boldly? Then, look again at Humphrey's dithering and support for Cold War priorities throughout his career, and then look forward from Humphrey's time without knowing the future. One will immediately see that Humphrey's own advisers would likely be saying to him throughout 1969 and into 1970, "Don't end America's commitment in Vietnam before the mid-term 1970 elections," and things like that. This would have kept the U.S. in Vietnam until at least 1971, meaning two full years after Humphrey assumed office in this alternative history.

Therefore, I believe, unlike the assumptions of most other historians, that Humphrey would not have acted boldly to end America's involvement in the war, as he had not acted boldly on Cold War matters in his previous years of national office holding. Instead, I believe Humphrey would have been influenced by cautious political advisers and, more particularly, General Wheeler's and General Abrams' plans to increase bombings in Vietnam and into Cambodian and Laotian border regions, decrease the number of American troops and continue to prop up, with more training, the South Vietnamese Army ("SVA"). This is the strategy Nixon and Kissinger followed, though Kissinger received most of the blame among those who opposed the war. See: Lewis Sorley's "A Better War" for an excellent discussion of the Wheeler-Abrams strategy, though Sorely believes the strategy was "working" to create a stable South Vietnam.

Sorley is wrong in this conclusion, however, because while the South VietCong (the Communist forces indigenous to South Vietnam) was significantly and adversely undermined during the execution of this strategy, the extensive bombing caused extensive destruction of the land of South Vietnam, and, most horribly, killed many, many civilians (Let's leave the destruction of Cambodia aside for this point). Worse, from a military strategy standpoint, the Ho Chi Minh Trail from North to South Vietnam continued working for the Communist forces as usual, with the result that there were more North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam by 1972, when Nixon and Kissinger decided enough was enough--based upon continued dissension even among Republicans (there was still a draft after all!) over continuing the war.

Why go into this in the context of the presidential elections of 2008?

Because the question I have for Democrats who want to support candidates starting with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and lesser candidates like Joe Biden and Bill Richardson, is this: Do you really think these people have the backbone to say, upon assuming office on January 20, 2009, that they are removing most if not all of American troops from Iraq in a matter of three or four months thereafter? And the corrolary question is this: Do you think they won't immediately be thinking of mid-term elections and being accused of being "weak" in the War on Terrorists--and therefore, they will hesitate to end America's invovlement in the war in Iraq?

Even if Hillary Clinton somehow ekes out a victory over the Republican candidate in 2008, the right wing tilt of political commentary in broadcast media will be reinvigorated with a Clinton in the White House, and the DC Villagers' chorus will focus on the fear of a loss in Iraq to Al-Queda, the way pundits in 1949 and through the 1950s, decided, after years of saying Chiang Kai-Shek was ineffective and a loser, that the U.S. lost China. People like Hillary, Obama and Joe Biden, as well as Bill Richardson, are deathly afraid of someone calling them "weak," a "peacenik" or "dirty hippie" or something along those lines. They want to always look "tough" and for some reason, that never includes standing up for the American people against a crackpot elite group of war mongering bed wetters who scream, "The Muslim hordes are at the gate!"

Hillary especially is playing a game with the Democratic Party's electorate, and the broadcast media are going along with the ruse, since they won't cover actual issues in a direct way. It's always about perception, horse race "analysis," and trivial issues regarding physical appearance, clothes, haircuts, etc. Too often, we voters fill in the blanks based upon these perceptions or overlook a politician's voting patterns and interactions among the business and media elites who permanently reside within the DC-NY-LA axis.

When viewed through this lens, Hillary and yes, the supposedly anti-Iraq War Barack Obama, are revealed as people who will not move to end the Iraq War, but instead get sucked into fighting a "better" war. Obama, as we know from articles in the past few weeks, is now aching as much as Hillary and Joe Lieberman to bait and then invade Iran. And fighting "better" includes instituting a military draft of young people, which will not be popular in the context of yet another quagmire and frustrating war--yet, these politicians will see it as "doing the right thing". Funny how doing the right thing does not include leaving Iraq.

People wonder why I support Kucinich and Edwards (Chris Dodd's looking better, but not enough better). I support them because they are clear as to where they are going with Iraq (among other reasons). They are even clearer than Robert Kennedy was with regard to the Vietnam War in 1967 and 1968, though RFK was fairly strong in his opposition to the continuation of the war--and saw ending the war as protecting his late brother's legacy. RFK was also tough enough to directly confront those who would accuse him of "losing" Vietnam. Is this speculation, too? Yes, but I think it is a reasonable hypothesis for us to view today's political landscape.

Edwards and especially Kucinich are not afraid to confront people regarding their position to end American military involvement in Iraq.

But, sadly, the American electorate, though agreeing with Edwards and Kucinich by wide margins, are caught in yet another circus of diversion and Hillary continues her ascent of "inevitability." Democratic Party voters are also internalizing a view that sees a vote for Edwards as taking votes away from Obama--instead of the other way around. Worst of all, Democratic Party voters have already ingested the propaganda that a vote for Kucinich takes away votes from an Edwards--instead of recognizing the strength that Kucinich exudes when he speaks and acts on behalf of the American people.

With this historical context, and analysis, the point is this: Bush has an exit strategy from responsibilty for the mess he created in Iraq. It is not an exit straegy from Iraq. In fact, Bush is determined to keep America bottled up in Iraq through his term of office. See what Digby says here (quoting from a lengthy LA Times article on the subject). And we are dreaming if we believe "President" Hillary Clinton, to take the lead example, is going to end the war anytime soon, either.

(Edited)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fools

When I learned UC Irvine was finally going to start a law school--though at this point, they are way late--and that they chose superstar law prof, Erwin Chemerinsky, to be the Dean of the school, I thought, "Wow! Going for the big time." Chemerinsky is a "quotable" on PBS and NPR, and in newspapers across the nation. And he is a decent human being who gets along well with right-wing colleagues--not merely those with whom he agrees about liberal politics.

So today I learn this from the LA Times: The Chancellor of UC Irvine up and fired Chemerinsky before he started.

I doubt the biggest donor to the school, Donald Bren, wanted to fire Chemerinsky, and would have given just as much money to the new law school--especially with the prestige Chemerinsky would have brought to a new institution. His ability to recruit strong conservative and liberal law profs would be far above most deans in most established schools, let alone a new school.

As John Eastman, the right-wing dean of the nearby Orange County law school at Chapman University said, this is "a serious misstep."

A blogger has helpfully quoted Article 9, section 9(f) of the California constitution which states:

"...The university shall be entirely independent of all political or sectarian influence and kept free therefrom in the appointment of its regents and in the administration of its affairs..."

Yeah, right (cough cough right-wing).

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A feast of articles on a variety of subjects

If people would read the latest issue of NY Review of Books, the level of our nation's public discourse would triple:

1. Citizen Gore--which posits that Gore has become genuine because he is free of his handlers and consultants, something I've posted about. Still, worth a read as it contains a fairly helpful summary of Gore's book, "The Assault on Reason."

2. Supreme Court Phalanx--Constitutional scholar extraordinaire Ronald Dworkin delivers a well-reasoned analysis of the radicalism of Supreme Court Justices Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas--and how they are not conservative in any judicial sense.

3. The Immigration Charade--One of our nation's best sociologists, Christoher Jencks, provides a nice summary of the fight among the corporate elements and right wing populists regarding the problem of employers who illegally hire undocumented workers. It's a bit dry, as Jencks has been in recent years, but I think it's helpful for many Americans who hear more noise than information on this subject. Me? I'm still pushing my Five in One plan...

4. Taking apart the fear mongering bedwetters: Ian Buruma lays out a case against the bedwetting war mongers while reviewing the leading bedwetter Norman Podhoretz's new book.

Oh, and away from New York Review of Books, I can't believe I'm saying this, but this George Will column may be the best he's written in years. It is essentially hackery-free, and makes a most valid point about the media's indecent and mean attacks on the young woman at the beauty pageant who had a problem with a geography oriented question. Will also reveals the self-centered arrogance of Gonzales' valedictory speech in a way most corporate media commentators appear to have missed.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Defeating Muslim fanatics and Euro-American bedwetting war mongers

A person I know sent me this article entitled "The Rape of Europe" by a right wing guy from Belgium named Paul Belien. The premise of the article is that Mulsim fanatical hordes are going to take over Europe because Europe is too soft and of course, these largely poor people are reproducing at rates that will overwhelm the European white folks.

Belien is a bedwetting war monger because he refuses to see that European policies have been too racist and harsh in placing Muslims who are from other nations into ghettoes where the equivalent of African-American separatists are in the Muslim mosques preaching the same separatism that Belien is preaching.

As I wrote to the person who sent me the article:

My view is that if these European nations begin to integrate the people who are Muslim into their societies, the fundamentalists will soon lose out. The Muslim people in these nations..., due to racism as much as other factors, are set into shtetls (better to say ghettoes, for an American cultural reference--MJF) that have allowed militant mullahs to stoke resentment and created a perverted support for segregation. It would be as if the Nation of Islam and Charles Garvey separatists had gained an even larger foothold over American African-American communities.

What this German author fails to understand is that blue jeans, the Internet and western values of freedom and openness are very powerful tools against fundamentalists. It is why the people of Iran stand poised to defeat the militant mullahs in their elections come March 2008--and Ahaminajad needs Bush to attack them as much as Bush needs to create a war to restore his power over the American people.

The dangerous time in America and Iran is unfortunately now because the storm is not upon us (, yet) we are vulnerable to those who wish to salt the clouds to create the storm.

Just as blue jeans, rock and roll, and all the things Pat Robertson hated undermined the authority of the Soviet Union leaders, so too will blue jeans, MTV, the Internet and what passes for rock and roll these days will undermine Iran and the Muslim fanatics that have power in Muslim shtetls in Europe.


(Parentheses and link added)

Here is an article from MSNBC about a feminist Muslim woman who is fighting against the anti-woman culture of the militant Islamic fundamentalists in France. She is the person we should support, but think a moment: Doesn't she sound like the people Rush Limbaugh called "femi-nazis"? Hmmm....

Final comment: Could Belien be proven correct? Yes, he could. But it will be more likely because we pursue his and Bush's policies than a policy of integration and openness.

(Edited)

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Silly rabbi, debating tricks are for hacks

Rabbi Steven Z. Leder is the Senior Rabbi at Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles, California. He is probably a decent person, and I'm sure lots of folks look up to him at his Temple. However, when it comes to political writing, Leder has revealed himself to be a political hack.

Read this essay he has just penned for Reform Judaism magazine ripping into the Union of Reform Judaism ("URJ") Executive Committee resolution that called for an "expeditious withdrawal of United States troops from Iraq..."

In the essay, Leder castigates the URJ Executive Committee for having the temerity to think they might know something that military leaders and Israeli leaders might know or not know, or recognize, about staying in Iraq. He says (and this was merely the first of several times in his essay):

"I don’t want the URJ deciding U.S. military strategy any more than I want the Pentagon weighing in on kashrut or editing prayer books for Reform synagogues and summer camps."


Funny, though, that later in the article, he admits the URJ Executive Committee had previously passed a resolution regarding the U.S. invasion of Iraq--but that was a resolution that supported the invasion. Leder writes in his essay:

"In 2002 the URJ Executive Committee determined that the effort to remove Saddam Hussein by force met “just cause” criteria: Saddam was brutal, Saddam gassed his people, Saddam paid Palestinian terrorists to murder Jews, Saddam had to go."


However, Leder did not say, in that instance, that the URJ Executive Committee had no business "weighing in" on matters of military strategy. The consistency, I guess, is that Leder just follows what the current holders of political or military leadership positions say. Or worse, he just likes war.

Sadly, Leder seems oblivious to the fact that several important military leaders in our nation had been against invading Iraq in 2002 and have never wavered including people such as General Zinni, General Scowcroft, and military advisers including Richard Clarke and William Odom, who began their military advising careers under President Ronald Reagan, a man not known for pacifism. It doesn't seem to concern Leder that his "We broke it, we should fix it" mantra has long been discredited, since fixing what many military analysts and political analysts recognize is a civil war is not something we can fix without killing a whole lot of people. But again maybe Leder likes war and more war.

What is really telling against Leder is that Leder is quoting current Israeli government officials in their public statements about why we should stay in Iraq--and never once bothers to wonder whether their judgment is sound based upon their past experience with military strategy (Olmert and Livni are not held in high regard among Israelis, as Leder must surely know) or question whether these leaders hold those same positions when speaking privately with U.S. government officials.

What we do know is that publicly, then-current Israeli leaders supported the US invasion of Iraq in 2002 and 2003. However, privately, Israeli military analysts in 2002 and 2003 were very skeptical of the Cheney-Rove (Bush) administration's desire to invade Iraq--and worried about Israel's security if the US invaded Iraq and overthrew Saddam Hussein. Also, some former military and political leaders in Israel even publicly voiced skepticism and opposition to the invasion before it occurred.

It is an old debater's trick to say, "How can you question the experts?," especially when you don't inform the reader that prominent experts were divided on the public policy question, both then and now. Worse, we know from our nation's experience in Vietnam, and now in Iraq, that lay people had a better understanding of information than so-called experts. Leder's debating trick seems innocuous in a specific application, but it is also a fundamental attack on democratic values, as it calls into question a citizen's right to voice his or her opinion. Yet, he claims he is ashamed of the URJ Executive Committee, when it is Leder who should be ashamed.

Final comments:

1. Here is an article Leder wrote in 2006 for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. Note its opening sentence: "I never preach or write about politics. I think it is inappropriate for the rabbi of a large congregation to do so."

The article is about the US war in Iraq and (what a surprise!) he supports the continuing U.S. war there. And, still, Leder has the gall to say that he is not engaging in politics, but is merely talking about "something" he claims to know: "...truth, justice and freedom." Perhaps Rabbi Leder is just naive--or so arrogant as to not recognize that, in his 2006 and 2007 essays, he is simply doing what everyone else does, i.e. voicing an opinion on the political issues of the day. I did, however, find it amusing where he says he's no "expert" and that, at his home growing up, politics was not discussed. Perhaps that is why his political views are so poorly reasoned, even if one were to agree with his views regarding the U.S. war in Iraq.

2. There is something else to say here that must be said: Rabbi Leder's essay is yet another example of how too many American Jewish leaders genuflect to every twist and turn of every Isareli political administration, the way American Stalinists genuflected toward whatever position the then-current Soviet Union leaders wanted disseminated. Shame on you, Rabbi, and a big thank you to the URJ Executive Committee for having the guts to back the American public, and oppose the public positions of too many current Israeli and American leaders.

(Edited)