Monday, December 31, 2007

If Edwards wins or comes in second in Iowa...

The attacks on Edwards, if he is victorious or comes in a strong second in Iowa, will be (a) the haircut, (b) the large home he and his wife have, (c) the charity to fight poverty that supposedly and initially fueled his campaign and (d) the hedge fund he joined for awhile to work in the world of finance.

What I don't get is how come it is hypocritical for Edwards to want to promote anti-poverty programs and still want to live a wealthy lifestyle? Are we saying our nation should not have elected FDR and JFK, who were born into wealth (the Lucky Sperm Club)?

This is what happens when we allow the corporate media to focus on something it calls "Hypocrisy." And that is why, as I stated in this previous post, it is better for our understanding to focus on the elite for having only one principle, which is to do whatever it takes to maintain and exercise power. Such a line of attack gets us past the increasingly silly Tim Russert "gotchas" and demands that attention be paid to issues of inequality and wealth, and promoting a foreign policy that favors engagement, diplomacy and the rare but more effective use of military power.

Right now, I am praying that Democratic Party voters in Iowa come out to the caucuses to cast their votes for Edwards. Now is the time for action on that front. An Edwards win in Iowa wounds both Clinton and Obama, and it will be up to grass roots Democrats to take it from there.

Elite fears of Edwards and Huckabee fuel Bloomberg candidacy

Per this excellent post by Glenn Greenwald at, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has become the Ralph Nader third party candidate of the elite who so desperately fear Huckabee and...Edwards.

If this matchup of Huckabee v. Edwards occurs, watch how respectful corporate media will suddenly become to the concept of a "third party." Then, after Bloomberg starts polling 10% due to far more respectful corporate media attention than Ralph Nader received, Bloomberg will be invited to the debates of the two party major candidates. To those who say how dastardly the elite will be for engaging in such hypocrisy, I say, that's true. However, calling the elite hypocrites lets them partially off the hook. It is better to finally focus on the only principle such people have, which is maintaining and exercising power. That is the principle at work. And that is why so much punditry on broadcast corporate media is flack and diversionary. That is the function of such pundits, which explains the continued reference to Edwards hair and a single expensive haircut.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

What did Musharraf know and when did he know it?

Pakistan, as I have said before, is a mess.

And this morning, the mess got messier. This morning, the leading opposition candidate for president, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated. First, she was shot in the neck and chest, and, then, to be doubly sure she was killed, struck with the shrapnel from a bomb by a suicide bomber.

The assassination occurred in the backdrop of the elections scheduled for January 8, 2008. Current Pakistani leader, Musharraf, did not really want elections to occur, and was forced by U.S. leaders to have the election. Musharraf, again to appease American leaders, resigned from being chief of the military forces. Therefore, a loss in a parlimentary election (with Bhutto's party winning enough power for her to become prime minister) would have significantly diminished his power (I had originally stated, wrongly, in this post, that the presidential election was to be held on January 8, 2008 and that Musharraf's defeat would leave him completely out of power). Musharraf would not be the first dictator to allow one of his supporters--or enemies on the other side of him--to murder the most prominent opponent who could defeat him in an election or power struggle. See here for Stalin's role in the murder of his chief rival, Sergei Kirov, in 1934, which Stalin then used to institute the brutal murders of most Soviet leaders throughout the Soviet Union.

Therefore, the question should be: What did Musharraf's own intelligence sources know about this planned attack and when did they know it? Initial pleas of ignorance are not going to be sufficient this time.

Oh, but before we "martyr" Bhutto, let's understand she has been legitimately accused of being very corrupt--although her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was, in retrospect, better than his successors, but still far below what Pakistanis should be seeking for a stable government and society. Note the linked Wikipedia article says Zulfikar Bhutto was accused of being involved in the murder of a political opponent...and let's also speculate that his socialist policies were sufficiently alarming to U.S. leadership so that they did not really pressure General Zia, who took power from Bhutto in a coup, to not execute Bhutto in 1979. General Zia (and the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan) later died under mysterious circumstances in 1988, I should add.

Again, U.S. policymakers should reflect on the fact that, unlike India, where there have been various national and local leaders assassinated over the past six decades, Pakistan is highly unstable. Indeed, Pakistan is ripe for a fundamentalist revolution. Pakistan, however, is in serious need of economic reform that is inclusive for the people. However, I frankly don't see any leader on the horizon who is going to pursue a New Deal for the people of Pakistan. Nor do I see the current U.S. administration as having any sense of understanding of that need, and are more likely to oppose such a person in fealty to crass corporate power--much like previous U.S. administrations, it must be said.

Pakistan remains a mess which successive American administrations helped create.


As I said, what did Musharraf know and when did he know it?

See this article from Time Magazine (December 27, 2007) and this McClatchy news wire report (December 27, 2007). The Time magazine article contains criticisms of Musharraf for not providing sufficient security for Bhutto. The McClatchy news article states in part that the "police abandoned many of their posts" around the area where the rally for Bhutto was taking place.

This article from the New York Sun, normally a pro-Cheney (Bush) administration newspaper, says the assassination was a coordinated, multi-level and multi-person attack and speculates the attack came from internal Pakistani sources, not Al-Queda.

But here is an article from Spencer Abraham at Josh Marshall's investigative reporting blog, Talking Points Memo, which quotes, near the end of the article, an Italian paper which reports Al-Queda may have accepted responsibility for the assassination. My sense is that we should not jump to any conclusion that Al Queda is behind this assassination, due to the fact that Pakistan's history is far too violent and there are plenty of domestic Pakistani groups who could have perpetrated this murder.

Finally, this Washington Post article reveals once again that the Cheney (Bush) administration is the gang that still couldn't shoot straight as they brokered this return of Bhutto, but appears to have assumed Musharraf would do a good job of protecting her from harm.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

"A Disturbance of Fate" and its critics

For reasons I don't entirely understand, authors are not generally supposed to confront critics--except in the New York Review of Books, where long-time readers know it is essentially mandatory. Responding to critics at is perhaps unseemly, but that is largely an elitist view that one should not argue with the "masses."

Personally, I admit to being somewhat ambivalent, but realized, since I have this blog, why not respond to the criticisms my book has received? Since I am proud of the endorsements the book has continued to receive from historians, literary persons, and writers--and who my conversations with have shown me the endorsers really read the book (something that too often does not happen in the publishing world)--I should be willing to acknowledge and discuss the criticisms the book has also received.

So here is a short response to criticism of "A Disturbance of Fate":

I just saw a recent semi-negative review of my novel, "A Disturbance of Fate", at, which criticisms repeat those of a few other critics at regarding the book. The critics of the book are, in this author's view, wrong because the critics (1) are themselves "presentists" in attacking the what-if's, particularly in their unstated assumptions that the New Deal can't work better than Reaganomics or any other system, (2) miss what other readers can catalgoue in the book as RFK's errors, ignorance of the future, and ironic and difficult challenges he faces as a presidential nominee in 1968, and as president, (3) fail to see how past historians, such as Catherine Drinker Bowen, amalgamated history and with a writing style more like fiction back in the 1940s and 1950s, and (4) think the book is "too long," not realizing that if it was shorter, and did not deal with the interplay between politics, culture, economics, technology and various nations' interactions with each other (and most importantly gave voice to critics of RFK), it would be attacked as too shallow. See here for an attack on an RFK docudrama for not being "in-depth," for example.

That last criticism is often a sly attack by right wingers because the criticism reflects a frustration that they cannot touch the fact that the book gives voice to the conservatives of the time, from Goldwater to Reagan to Nixon and even Bob Dole, and deals with the dynamic between politics, culture and economics--and technology.

Another criticism, from a friendly reviewer as well as the less-friendly reviewers, is the book's use of accents for Chicago Mayor Daley, Ralph Yarborough and LBJ, but not RFK. In making this literary decision, I concluded that a Kennedy accent was so well known, and will be for another 50 years, that trying to write RFK's accent got in the readers' way almost universally. Whereas for the other three persons most often mentioned by critics, I have heard from an equal number of people that adding the accents brought those persons alive--especially for those who did not know Daley or Yarbough, for example. And anyway, I don't hear those critics ripping Steinbeck or Dickens for using accents for some, but not all of their "characters." It is the critics who are more often uncomfortable with the amalgamation of fiction and non-fiction who are most bothered by this literary decision, and this stylistic attack is a symptom of that discomfort.

The criticism I have fully accepted is that if I have the chance to do have a new edition published, that edition would remove the three or so references in the main text to our current time line. I had gotten rid of most of those references during the manuscript stage, and, in retrospect, I should have removed them all. The time line references belong in the endnotes of the book, pure and simple.

Overall, when it comes to stylistic attacks, everyone's entitled to an opinion. Everyone. There is really no need for much knowledge as stylistic arguments are more about how we "feel" about a book than anything else. What is easier to discuss with information and knowledge is the presentism of the relatively few critics whose own political cynicism, acceptance of capitalist primacy, or belief that individuals cannot significantly affect systems, or who bring other unstated assumptions to the table, before they even open a "what if" book such as mine. Directly confronting that presentism, and deciding whether or not I am more or less presentist than those critics, is a more rewarding and fruitful discussion. That discussion also opens the way to understand how familiar such critics are with the political, economic and cultural trends of the 1960s, what forces led to the "Sixties," how the "Sixties" affected our society thereafter, and how one or two changes in leadership during that transitional decade affected history--and how we analyze "History."

There. Got that off my chest! And now, let's see if anyone cares to debate things further. That was, after all, an important reason in writing the book.


Another haunting photo of RFK and what could have been

Every once in awhile, articles like this appear in newspapers. This latest one is from the Los Angeles Times from December 20, 2007, and is about photographer Howard Bingham's photographs from 1968, including his photos from the presidential campaign of then U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY, by way of MA). Please stop reading this post, for only a moment, to look at the photo. But when you do, look carefully at the joyous hope in the face of the dark skinned young girl, who Bingham says he's never been able to find. Look even more so at the three dark skinned men with RFK, and the hope on their faces.

Then, read the article and catch the haunting sense that pervades it that RFK represented something that was lost--but what?

Read it--or just skimmed it? Welcome back.

Let's now talk about what was lost, from a political standpoint. What was lost in the bullets that killed RFK was the New Deal coalition. RFK was the only candidate running for president that year who had the chance to hold it together. From a cultural standpoint, RFK was still a sexist male, but on race relations, was a healing influence, not as much a polarizer as Ronald Steel, and I'm sorry to say, Rick Perstein seem to think. From an economic standpoint, if a Democratic Party candidate was elected president that year, there was an excellent chance that labor law reform passed because, by 1969, there were enough Democrats and "moderate" Republicans to stop a filibuster by the likes of an Everett Dirksen (R-IN), who, in any event, died that year. Just think of the "liberal" legislation and regulations passed under Nixon, and start to think about RFK being president--and how RFK saw a postive political potential from a merger of the labor movement and the civil rights movement that no other leading politician saw in his time.

For African-Americans, the death of RFK was acute and profound. The hope in so many urban African-Americans for Robert Kennedy was real, and there was a reasonable chance that this particular Kennedy was going to inspire business leaders to invest in African-American communities (under the so-called "Bedford-Stuyvesant" program) in many cities, starting with IBM's Tom Watson.

The "what if" of RFK surviving continues to have profound effects on people of that era who are still alive almost forty years later. A timeline in which RFK survives is not utopia. Such a society where RFK, not Nixon is president in the late '60s and early '70s contains some equally profound challenges and problems, but there are important things to learn from thinking about the historically pivotal year of 1968, and separately, RFK surviving, and the effect of his surviving in that again pivotal year. And thinking about the "what if" of RFK may provide some of us with the hope and courage to move forward, including to fight for public policy changes that will serve us well in the coming years. The loss of RFK and the other events of the year 1968 continue to have reprecussions into our own time and are too often unremarked upon, as we move through the first part of this century.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fathers and Sons--and Public Intellectuals

From a link offered by Eric Alterman's Altercation, I read a wonderful essay by Michael Kazin, an historian who is the son of literary critic, Alfred Kazin. It provides a glimpse of the ambivalence a son has for a father who is renowned, and therefore not around as much to spend time with--something my two children are actuely aware of with my hectic life as a trial lawyer, writer-blogger and synagogue president.

Yet, it is nice to learn that Michael sees his Dad over his shoulder when he reads something in history or literature. In recent talks with my fourteen year old son, he appears to be doing that already.

The essay also led me to thinking again of how the jargon-laden New Critics have it so wrong in extolling Henry James, while attacking Sinclair Lewis (The influence of the New Critics in this regard is so pervasive that Michael mentions Upton Sinclair as a subject of his father's famous literary critic book, "On Native Grounds," but ignores his father's more important discussion of Sinclair Lewis). It also got me thinking again of the loss of the public intellectuals* of the 1940s and 1950s, and their far greater insight than the intellectuals of today--though I think modern intellectuals such as Martha Nussbaum and Michael Berube would more than hold their own with Irving Howe and Daniel Bell.

My personal view of Michael Kazin is that he is a good, not a great historian. His biography on William Jennings Bryan was, for me, a disappointment because he failed to appreciate the economics of Bryan's position. That may be owing to Michael Kazin assuming the truth of Robert Rubin's nostrums. The development of nations from an economic standpoint that is socialist- or mercantilist- based simply does not interest Michael enough. To put it another way, I have never had a sense that Michael Kazin ever read Michael Harrington's economic analyses carefully or closely. Harrington, a self-described Catholic atheist, was the honorary non-Jewish member of the post-war Jewish Intellectual Circle that was largely centered in New York, which makes Michael's obviously less than interested reading of Harrington all the more sad--and really mystifying.

*Here is a very insightful analysis by Scott McLemee regarding Russell Jacoby's book to which I had linked above. He understands Jacoby's book extremely well, and helps deepen people's understanding of the issues raised by Jacoby's book as it affect the public's level of discourse.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

McCain rising among Republican economic royalists

The Republican economic royalists, so afraid of Huckabee (and for good reason...), and disappointed in Guiliani and Romney, are circling back toward John McCain. See this LA Times article about McCain trying to rebound in New Hampshire following endorsements from the Des Moines Register, the Boston Globe and Joe Lieberman (Weasel Party of One-Connecticut).

Does this mean McCain can win the Republican nomination? Frankly, not really likely. Most grass roots Republican voters who are from the so-called religious right bloc have no use for McCain. Worse, McCain's pandering to the religious right has somewhat undermined McCain's image as a "straight talker"--though our nation's corporate-owned media has too often continued to spin a positive image for McCain to hide his hypocritical maneuvers from the public. I speak less of articles in newspapers and more about how broadcast media pundits spin for McCain on the talk shows.

My sense is that these endorsements are a sign of desperation among the economic elite of the Republican Party. Yes, this economic elite might coalesce around McCain against Huckabee. However, that in itself might trigger a backlash among religous right voters to solidify their support for Huckabee--with the result possibly being a divided and contentious convention for the Republican Party.

Might as well pass the popcorn, or for my taste, the Planter's peanuts...


Monday, December 17, 2007

Scientists who dispute significant human contribution to climate change

Over the weekend, this article appeared about four scientists who wrote an essay disputing significant human contribution to climate change.

I personally regard such a belief as akin to a belief in a flat earth. Emotionally, I find such a belief as too close to a territory which approaches something akin to Holocaust denial.

About 10 years ago, back when I was initially skeptical of the human contribution to climate change, I took the position that, regardless of whether the science fully supports the point that humans are significantly contributing to a warming trend in the planet, we should nonetheless support public policies which promote reduction in CO 2, wind and solar, and mass transit in places such as the US, China and India. These policies have the double benefit of being good for the economy and good for the planet (An interesting aside is that, but for the CO 2 deposits and what most scientists are saying is an excessive warming of the overall planet, the planet may have been heading into a cooling period over the next 20,000 years. See here).

Having said the above, if these four scientists are so wrong, then other scientists should be able to effectively respond. It would be wrong to ignore a report that appears in The International Journal of Climiatology.

Let's see what we find during the next two weeks...and if someone sees further support for these scientists, or an effective refutation of their findings and conclusions, please pass it along.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Fascinating article on a definitive Hollywood studio system censor

From The Jewish newspaper, the Forward, by way of Ha'aretz, a fascinating biographical essay on the infamous Hollywood studio system censor, Joseph Breen.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Baseball Execs Nurtured "The Steroid Era"

The reason I keep defending Barry Bonds is not to say he is innocent, but to say he was one of many players who baseball's management implicitly and sometimes explicitly endorsed while he was most likely using steroids.

Baseball's executives looked the other way because they were desperate to revive baseball among the fans following the devastating 1994 union strike.

This article in today's Los Angeles Times, which shows how complicit Dodger management was with respect to players' use of steroids, proves precisely what I've been talking about.

If we want to talk about asterisks next to the Home Run Record set by Barry Bonds, then place an asterisk next to most of the records during this time period from 1995 to 2004. Don't make Bonds the scapegoat. It is the Steroid Era, with juiced up players instead of juiced baseballs.

Postscript: Here is a prescient article from 2000 by a Chicago sportswriter, Skip Bayless.


Drive by thoughts on the state of the presidential primaries

Sitting here at a computer in Poway, California, I offer my thoughts on those who are running for president in the Democratic and Republican Parties:


Kucinich should be number 1 on the list for any Democrat who believes in New Deal values. He is at the top of my list of those running for president this year. However, Kucinich can't even get an invite to the dance at Iowa--while the hideous wingnut Alan Keyes received an invite from Republicans this week. Perhaps if there was a First Spouse debate, Elizabeth Kucinich would knock out everyone with her knowledge and passion for people and public policy, including Bill Clinton--who would probably be so charmed he'd forget he was supposed to be trying to destroy her.

Of the big three Democratic Party candidates, as decided long ago by corporate media, Edwards is the best by far. Hillary and Obama are corporate vetted and would govern like "good" Republicans instead of good Democrats. I am praying for an Edwards victory in the Iowa caucus that will give Edwards momentum to either win or place second in New Hampshire--and knock out Obama or seriously derail Hillary.

Still, I hope for a fractured convention that brings us Al Gore in a draft during that convention.


As for the Republicans, they are a mess, and appear to be staying that way. Huckabee is being exposed as less than honest with his previous opinions. Plus, too many of his previous and some current opinions are wacky. Huckabee's "nice" mask also appears to be falling off, revealing a mean and petty personna. The Villagers and corporate elite hate Huckabee's economic populist rhetoric (too bad there's no substance to most of it). Therefore, the Village and corporate owned media will eventually work to destroy him in the way they did with Buchanan, for example.

As for the others, Thompson is still asleep, Guiliani's failures as a public official are starting to seep into the consciousness of Americans, and Romney has support a mile wide and an inch deep. Ron Paul gets more respect than Kucinich from a corporate media that shares Paul's hatred of any governmental activity on behalf of the regular folks, but gets slammed among the (misnamed) "serious" Village talking heads for being too extreme for wanting to end the Iraq War and protect the values of our Constitution. And if you think Ron Paul is really someone you'd want to support over Hillary or Obama, just check out Ron Paul on the gold standard and varioius and sundry economic matters. Talk about wacky.

In a fractured convention, who is the person to step forward for the Republicans? General Petraeus? Newt Gingrich? Condi Rice in a weird, cynical fling to try and mess up a valued Democratic Party constituency? I frankly am at a loss here. Perhaps some Republican friends can help out here...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Israeli officials seek war, not peace with Hamas

On December 10, 2007, a spokesperson for Hamas wrote a conciliatory open letter to Secretary of State Rice about prospects for peace. A reporter for Ha'aretz immediately recognized this as an opportunity for Israel--with a headline that reads "Hamas--If we can kill them, we can talk to them."

Today, Israel invaded Gaza again and struck it with tanks and bombing. Plus, Israel's timing in announcing the building of over 300 homes near East Jerusalem is potentially undermining efforts to engage in successful peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

The leadership in Israel may think it is helping Abbas in invading Gaza, as Abbas continues to fight a rear-flank battle with Hamas. But Hamas is not going away and militant actions by Israel will only begat militant responses from those in Hamas who want to destroy Israel--which of course Hamas cannot accomplish in any event. Israeli officials are missing another opportunity for peace with the Palestinian people and this should be noted for those who claim that "the Israelis" only want peace and "the Arabs" only want war.

Media coverage alert
: The links above all came from Ha'aretz, the leading Israeli newspaper. Looking in both the LA and New York Times this morning, I saw the Associated Press article on Israel's incursion into Gaza, but nothing about Hamas' spokesperson's letter to Secretary of State Rice. If American corporate media really wanted to be critical of Israel's incursion into Gaza, it could easily have reported on Hamas' spokesperson's open letter and contrasted that to Israel's subsequent action. But both newspapers of record did not do so. The reason why may have to do with American elite wanting Americans to maintain the belief that Hamas is monolithic in order to help promote the Cheney (Bush) administration's foreign policies, particularly in helping Abbas. The actions of the Israeli government will likely strengthen the militants in Hamas to strike back at Israel, so that we may sadly expect another suicide bombing in the next ten days to two weeks.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Democratic Party leaders who enabled torture

This obviously White House controlled leak* is nonetheless important news for those of us who tend to support the Democratic Party and its leaders. What is clear is that in September 2002, there was such hysteria on Capitol Hill to "look tough" that too many Democratic Party Congressmembers supported the Cheney (Bush) Iraq War resolution--and four Democratic Party leaders--Pelosi, Harman, Rockefeller and Graham (the latter a big surprise to me!)--decided to give the Cheney (Bush) administration a cover for using torture, including waterboarding, as a secret policy.

As others, including those bloggers at Atrios' place, have stated, we now know why impeachment of Bush and Cheney are "off the table." The complicity of Pelosi and other leaders--maybe even Senate Majorit Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)--would also be revealed. I say let it be revealed and impeach Bush and Cheney. But, I'm not in power and neither are most Democratic Party grass roots supporters.

* To take some attention off the CIA destroying videos of waterboarding that members of Congress want to review.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Fallout from the NIE on Iran's nuclear ambitions

The political implications of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear ambitions are obvious and reveal how much the CIA estimators detest the lying, cynical Cheney (Bush) administration. More substantively, the release of the NIE report has effectively stopped, at least for the time being, the Cheney (Bush) administration's hope for a pre-emptive military strike against Iran.

However, I am struck by a disconnect between the analysts who prepared the NIE and the military intelligence coming out of Israel on one important issue: The Israelis agree with the NIE when it says Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003. However, the Israelis also state Iran has revived its nuclear program. The US government's NIE, at page 6 of its report, states the NIE estimators have "moderate confidence" that the Iranian government has not recently revived its program ("Moderate confidence", in the report's definitions at page 5, means they believe their sources, but don't have sufficient corroboration for the sources to give the CIA "high confidence." Still, the NIE places the level of "moderate confidence" at the highest level of confidence save "high confidence.").

The NIE report states Iran could still develop nuclear weapons as early as 2010, and as late as 2015 (page 7 of the report), while the Israelis say Iran is expected to develop nuclear weapons by 2009. This could be a major difference to the extent the NIE is providing a range, but there is only a one year difference, 2010 v. 2009, between the NIE's and the Israelis' shortest estimate of time for Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

I am against any attack on Iran for two reasons: First, the Iranians have so fortified their nuclear facilities that only a major land invasion or tactical nuclear weapons could destroy those facilities. It is obvious that we lack the troops to do that, as we are bogged down in Iraq--and further it would be immoral to "nuke Iran". Second, Iran's own citizens are tiring of Ahamadinejad and his hard line mullahs and we must see how the March 2008 elections go in Iran. If they go like the local elections did last December, the hard liners inside Iran are likely to be defeated.

Still, let's not delude ourselves with this NIE report: Many nations who have developed nuclear weapons did so by not telling the truth to the world public. Examples: The U.S. during World War II, Israel, South Africa, India, Pakistan, just to name a few. Why should Iran be any different? Also, the people in the U.S. who most demand we invade or bomb Iran are precisely the type of people in Iran who want to build a nuclear capability so badly. There is an almost phallic type of worship of nuclear weapons among such persons.

Therefore, I'm more convinced by Israeli officials that Iran is going to develop nuclear weapons sooner rather than later and that Iran has revived its nuclear weapons program. I am, however, more convinced than ever that the Cheney (Bush) administration and the current Israeli officials are morally, politically and dangerously wrong to want to bomb or invade Iran.

The saddest thing to me is that I now see that the initial and primary motivation of the Cheney (Bush) administration in holding the "peace conference" at Annapolis, Maryland was not to promote peace, but to see if the Cheney administration could convince enough Arabs to support a US-led war against Iran. To that extent, this war conference must be judged a failure by release by the NIE. Perhaps the failure of the war conference at Annapolis can lead to later and more successful peace talks among Palestinians and Israelis...On that score, only the participants on each of the belligerent sides can make that happen.

As a postnote, this article in the LA Times from December 1, 2007 states the U.S. and Iran are going to hold direct talks about protecting Iraq's security. This may be a brief interlude between war talk and action, but its closeness in timing to the release of the NIE report could be a sign of intelligent life in the Cheney (Bush) administration's universe.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Walter O'Malley, Robert Moses, Frank Wilkinson, and the ironies of history

Walter O'Malley, the wrongfully villified owner of the Dodgers, who moved the team from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958, was finally elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. See here and here.

For those who want to know why O'Malley was wrongfully villified, read Neil Sullivan's "The Dodgers Move West" (1987, Oxford U Press; Amazon link is to the paperback released in 1989). Sullivan's book used archival information and a few interviews to make the case that NY City Mayor Robert Wagner, and the odious City Architect Robert Moses, essentially chased O'Malley out of Brooklyn. Moses refused to let O'Malley buy publicly owned land in Brooklyn to build a stadium with only O'Malley's money. That's right, no subsidy from the taxpayers.

Then, after refusing O'Malley's request to build a new stadium in Brooklyn, Moses tried to stiff arm O'Malley into moving to nearby Queens--to build on land that later became Shea Stadium for the later and newer team, the NY Metropolitans (The Mets). Now, who was Shea, you may ask? Well, none other than a lawyer from a silk-stocking corporate and real estate law firm more nationally known as Shea & Gould--and a friend of Robert Moses.

Around this time, city leaders in Los Angeles heard about O'Malley's troubles in New York and contacted him to say, "We have this land known as Chavez Ravine for you to consider..." and the rest is history.

There is a backstory to Chavez Ravine, though, which includes the story about a wonderful man named Frank Wilkinson, a city employee who was building low income housing for poor folks. Wilkinson's story of trying to build new affordable housing in Chavez Ravine, how he and the citizens of that small community were caught up in Red-baiting politics of the early 1950s, and how the dream turned into a nightmare for the residents and Wilkinson, is best told through Culture Clash's wonderful play, "Chavez Ravine." I saw the play when it was in rehersals and when it was finished and it was outstanding both times.

I was also privileged to know Frank Wilkinson, and his wife Donna, through my membership of the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research. Its web site is here. I blogged about the passing of Frank Wilkinson here.

You know what would be a great photo? Donna Wilkinson, wife of Frank, and Peter O'Malley, son of Walter. Both are still among the living. I bet they'd understand each other better than most might think. Both saw their loved ones villified by newspaper writers in ways that were horribly unfair. Also, both Frank Wilkinson and Walter O'Malley had visions they pursued with passion and a desire to achieve greatness: Frank sought to build new homes for impoverished people, and Walter nationalized the game of baseball by taking the Dodgers to the West Coast. However, Frank failed to achieve his dream, getting caught up in a changing political climate and having nobody in power on his side. Walter, on the other hand, was firmly established among the elite, and when the political elite in New York spurned him, he found solace in a newer political elite in Los Angeles.

So congratulations and a toast to the late Walter O'Malley, but let's also raise a glass to toast again the late Frank Wilkinson.

Subprime mortgage crisis: Alternative thoughts

Dean Baker, one of the few economists who understands real life situations, has posted an excellent article that dovetails with my ambivalence over the subprime mortgage crisis. There are so many undeserving victims such as lenders, speculators and wealthy folks who were making or seeking profits through adjustable mortgage rates (AMRs) that it takes some subtlety to propose remedial policies that truly help those who would become homeless or financially wrecked in a way that cries out for government intervention.

My wife and I were among those the then Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan scoffed at in 2004 for poor investment strategies after we purchased a fixed rate mortgage for our home in or about December 2003 (Our loan is just under 6%). At the time, I believed the increase in the housing market was not going to last more than a few more years. I did not want my mortgage rate adjusted upward as home prices fell, which could lead to a recession where I lost my job and could not make even higher payments than I was making under a fixed rate mortgage (I tend to be very cautious about such things).

So, as I watch the wreckage through the subprime mortgage industry, I can't help but ask that we design remedial policies that don't primarily benefit those who profited during the fat years off ARMs, and those who could easily afford fixed rate mortgages, but chose to pocket the gains from having an ARM.

Government intervention to help corporations and the well-heeled are what we used to call "lemon socialism." (Subsidies for those at the top whose businesses are failing due to profligate or reckless behavior).


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Southern fried Colberts discuss the last Republican debate

These guys can be funny, sharp and ironic in that Stephen Colbert sorta way.

Keith Olbermann should give Jackie and Dunlap of Red State Update a platform every once in awhile. Their commentary is a heck of a lot more incisive than most of the pundits who show up on television news and opinion shows. Beneath their pundit-type discussions is a brilliant attack on the corporate media pundits and what those pundits choose to focus on.


Saturday, December 01, 2007

New meaning for "the birds and the bees"

Remember when talk about "the birds and the bees" meant sex?

Well, now it means endangered.

Earlier this year, we worried about the loss of bees. Now, we're exapnding our worries to the birds.

Sometimes it's important to worry about the little creatures and think about what we might be doing to either help them, or otherwise change some of our ways if we humans playing an unwitting or recklessly indirect role in the demise of these creatures.


A glove is removed in the writers' strike

NBC is the first of the networks to remove its gloves and has now fired striking writers, starting with The Tonight Show (Jay Leno) writers. As one of the strikers said, it is wrong to blame Leno, who has not been performing on The Tonight Show while the strike has been on--and who has stated his public and private support for the writers.

Western Europe, Canada and Japan--but not the United States--have laws that say an employer cannot fire an employee who goes on strike.

As we pull back the camera lens to secure a deeper and more general perspective beyond the particular current writers' strike, we should check out the following links:

Here is an enlightening article on the history of strikes in the US. It is a review of by noted labor historian Jeremy Beecher of a book on the subject.

Also, during a nationally covered strike, such as the writers' strike, Democractic Party representatives in Congress should use the occasion to re-publicize the need for labor law reform, starting with the Employee Free Choice Act.


ADDENDUM: Me bad. Turns out my first commenter who attacked me was right about the firings not being of the writers, but the rest of the staff. I read a small squib of an article in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, December 2, 2007, that stated the "non-writing" staff was laid off from the Leno show. This should be another reason why the Directors' Guild and other unions should unite with the writers (I know, I know, secondary boycotts are not legal anymore-but should be legal), and put pressure on the networks and other producers to settle.