Saturday, September 24, 2011

Troy Davis: Less than innocent, but an injustice occurred in executing him

A friend at work suggested I read Charles Lane's column in the Washington Post on the topic of Troy Davis' guilt in the murder of Officer McPhail. I read the column, which helpfully linked to Judge Moore's 174 page decision denying Davis' petition to seek to avoid the death penalty assessed against him.

After reading Lane's column, and more importantly Judge Moore's decision, I concluded there is reason for people to have concluded that Troy Davis was guilty of murdering the off-duty police officer McPhail. However, I also concluded that Troy Davis' original trial was problematic in how evidence of another crime on the same night was used against Davis, and that Judge Moore's weakest argument was his belittling of the various witnesses' affidavit and live testimony that another person, Coles, was the shooter.

In my opinion, Judge Moore should have given Davis' lawyers time to rectify their failure to subpoena Coles. This hearing was not a low impact, soft tissue car accident case where a person who loses just loses some money. This was a case involving a man's life. So what that the lawyers for Davis failed to initially call Coles as a witness. Pushing the case back a week to let the lawyers subpoena Coles would not have prejudiced the prosecution, who also could have subpoenaed Coles in light of the expected testimony from other witnesses that Coles' "confessed" to the murder.

Judge Moore, at page 154, footnote 87, stated that if Coles testified, he'd have either admitted the truth of the hearsay statements offered by the other witnesses or disputed them. Judge Moore forgot about a third possibility: that Coles, if called to the witness stand, could have invoked the 5th Amendment and refused to testify (Under Georgia law, there is no statute of limitations for murder). If he did, Coles would have been deemed "unavailable" and Judge Moore would have had reason to give more weight, in this fairly unusual style of hearing, to all third party witness statements of Cole's "declaration against interest." For a "declaration against interest" is an exception to the hearsay rule, and could have allowed Judge Moore to take the statements more seriously than he did.

Reading this article from The Daily Report, a law oriented magazine from Georgia, which article reports on what was occurring in the hearing before Judge Moore before his ultimate ruling, Judge Moore was quite transparent that he was not interested in revisiting his ruling on the hearsay issue. That is what I found troubling.

Still, we need to keep in mind that Judge Moore's job was to determine if there was sufficient evidence to "clearly establish( ) petitioner's innocence..." In other words, it was not enough for Davis and his lawyers to prove there was doubt about his guilt. Davis and his lawyers needed to prove Davis was clearly innocent. That, folks, is one tough burden.

Judge Moore's 174 page decision is curious to me because I might well have started with the Coles-as-shooter evidence if I was not results oriented. For if one believes Coles is the shooter, that would surely be clear evidence of innocence. Yet, Judge Moore placed that discussion near end of his opinion, and was clearly looking for ways to minimize that evidence in a way that could lead a reasonable observer to analogize the situation to the constable who says "Nothing to see here..."--when there is something to see.

Judge Moore also wrote extensively about witnesses identifying Coles as wearing a yellow shirt--a tank top--and Davis wearing a white shirt--a t-shirt. But the witness testimony he cites finds them distinguishing on the basis of the shirts' colors, not whether one was a t-shirt and one was a tank top. Yet, Judge Moore never asked in his opinion, "Is it possible for people to mix yellow and white t-shirts at 11:30 at night?" Judge Moore never asked in his opinion "Why did the prosecution try to pin the earlier in the evening Cooper shooting on Davis? Was it because the prosecution knew it was prosecuting a young man, Davis, with no previous felony assault or shooting charges? Isn't there something to the fact that the fellow who shot Cooper was wearing a white 'Batman' shirt--and none of the witnesses who saw Davis at the scene of McPhail's murder said he had a white 'Batman' t-shirt?"

Judge Moore was definitely troubled by the weak ballistics evidence, and rightly denigrates the prosecution's lame attempt to cite to evidence not brought out in trial about supposedly bloody shorts worn by Davis. As Judge Moore noted, there was no testing to show (1) whether there was, in fact, blood on the shorts, (2) if there was blood, whose blood was on the shorts, or (3) how the blood, if it was blood, got there. Davis was present when McPhail was shot, after all, but is that evidence he was the shooter?

I say this because, if Judge Moore was troubled by the prosecution's very weak ballistics evidence, he should have been troubled as well about the prosecution using the Cooper shooting to taint Davis in front of the jury. This was already a highly charged case since the murder was of a police officer, even though he was off duty and acting as a private security officer. Nobody, black or white, likes people who shoot police officers, and you can count me in that sociological observation.

But once Judge Moore was admittedly troubled by those circumstances, it is difficult to support Judge Moore in his construction of his decision, where he relegates to the end of his decision the issue of Coles' confessions to various people--and deciding it was of little consequence. Again, much of Judge Moore's reasoning concerns reading Coles' mind in ways to exonerate Coles. If Judge Moore thought Coles' mind needed to be read, he should have continued the trial for another week to get Coles to the witness stand--and see if he invoked the 5th Amendment against self-incrimination.

Lane's column is important because, despite pronouncing Davis guilty, he recognizes the Georgia Board of Parole acted unjustly in not commuting the sentence to life without parole based upon the overall testimony of the various persons and that eyewitness, not objective, testimony formed the crux of the guilty finding.

Overall, Lane overstates the level of guilt of Troy Davis. But reading Judge Moore's decision, I am more convinced it would be wrong for anyone to say Troy Davis was innocent. He was probably guilty, which is a long way from clearly innocent. I write this blog post because I am now far less than impressed that Davis' case presented a situation where "7 out of 9 witnesses recanted." Sorry, the recanting evidence was far weaker than I expected, and Judge Moore's analysis of the allegedly recanting witnesses' testimonies is the most convincing aspect of his opinion.

I am now convinced, more than I was before, that Judge Moore owed Davis a week's continuance of his petition hearing to see if his lawyers could subpoena Coles to the stand. It would have been important to see if Coles tried to testify, or invoked the 5th Amendment. Had Coles testified, and was credible on his own behalf, it would have been the final reason to conclude Davis was the shooter and obviously guilty. If, however, he testified and was not credible, that would have, in turn, given more credibility to the witnesses who said Coles confessed to them. If Coles invoked the 5th Amendment, Judge Moore would have had a harder time denigrating the third party witness testimonies, both in affidavits and live testimony.

Judge Moore's failure to grant a short continuance, however, pales in comparison with the Georgia Board of Parole, which had the power (not the governor, at least in Georgia) to commute Davis' sentence to life without parole. If Coles, at the end of his life, comes forward and admits he was the killer, there will be shame on us all, but none more so than the Board of Parole, which should have exercised its discretion to commute Davis' sentence to life imprisonment or even life imprisonment without parole. The Board of Parole should have been a failsafe, but it failed.

Notwithstanding the conclusion regarding the Board of Parole, it is mistake for opponents of the death penalty or those opposed to Davis' execution to say Davis is innocent. Davis was already in the wrong place at the wrong time, and among people who were less than credible due to life's hard knocks. There is, however, something wrong with our death penalty system, and the older I get, the more I see its arbitrariness. I have always favored the death penalty as a general proposition (Think Manson, think Dahmer, think Bundy, etc.). But the exceptions to invoking the death penalty get wider in scope the more one sees DNA evidence exonerate people who were previously found guilty and sentenced to death. We can now add cases like this one, where a guy like Davis is likely guilty of murder, but we cannot be so sure that we ought to have executed him.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If only "The Twilight Zone" came to Georgia tonight...

The State of Georgia must have learned from this "Twilight Zone" episode. Execute 'em at night.

If only "The Twilight Zone" could have stopped Troy Davis' execution tonight...At least, in the "The Twilight Zone" episode, the guy admitted he killed the other guy.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hit and Run Tuesday Night

I bought this book at Costco--yes, Costco!--in Poway, CA this past weekend. I was so shocked to find it, I had to buy it almost sight unread. And lo and behold, I'm about 80 pages in and find it fascinating, informative and very well written. It is even exciting for me to read: The private lives of Jenny and Karl Marx. Who'da thought?

A largely positive review appears in Salon.com here. I will see whether I agree with the reviewer's ultimate view that the book is not warm enough. So far, I think it is plenty warm in a great way, and the author Mary Gabriel's analysis of Marx's writings is far above the norm, and, in a word, excellent. She does not cite Michael Harrington, but she grasps his insight that Marx was essentially democratic in a 19th Century radical's sense, a position that might even sound libertarian in some funky ways.

(I have completed the first seven chapters, and strangely enough, I find the summarized and quoted correspondence between Jenny and Karl Marx to resemble...Abigail and John Adams. It is an eerie feeling, and quite extraordinary...)

____


And for news that is ambiguously tragic, consider the case of Troy Davis. The State of Georgia is going to execute him tomorrow. 7 of 9 witnesses have recanted, and 1 of the 2 who have not may have been the actual killer. Lots of people, from right-winger turned libertarian, former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) and former FBI Director William Sessions think this fellow should not be executed. People like to ask in these situations? Is he guilty? The answer is, "Who knows?" The murder weapon was not found. There is no ballistic test strongly, let alone conclusively, tying him to the murder. There is no DNA testing that can be done to acquit or convict him.

I admit to not being a criminal prosecutor or defense lawyer, and so do not carry that level of expertise. Still, I wonder whether the Georgia Parole Board should have been a bit more lenient and commuted the sentence to life imprisonment, and to see about investigating the other fella for murder in a more fruitful way. And if there is reason to commute further, do it then. If not, at least we spared someone's life who maybe possibly...did I say maybe...didn't kill the police officer after all. There is a slim chance President Obama can call for a federal investigation and slow down the process even further--it's gone on for nearly 20 years--and that's about it. The Governor of Georgia has no right to commute or pardon; it's only up to the Parole Board who have again ruled against Davis.

___


I also have to admit having some sense of "I told you so" when reading this NY Times account of Ron Suskind's new book about Obama. To say that Obama failed to show political saavy and leadership as president is something I've long said (though I am not alone in saying that, too). I also never thought I'd agree with the likes of political adviser, James Carville, who said Obama should be panicked about how he failed as a president thus far. Still, it does worry me that a right ward thinking libertarian, Steve Chapman, has written in the Chicago Tribune that Obama should not run for re-election...which readers of this blog and elsewhere note I have said for quite some time...

Are Obama's newest plans, both for some increased infrastructure spending and higher taxes on rich folks, a step in the correct direction? Yes, but it's still too little, too late. One can feel Obama gritting his teeth as he attempts to speak a language that is a faint echo of anything that would resemble a new New Deal. As people are figuring out in reading Suskind's new book, Obama simply does not believe in the New Deal. He passively accepts right-wing talking points spoon fed from the right side of Milton Friedman's spoon. That's still a failure of leadership because he allowed things to happen. He didn't make things happen. He was not transformative. He was simply reactive.

___

While I am pleased for the grocery store union workers in Southern California that they reached a deal with the grocery chain bosses, there is only one negative: We missed the opportunity to see a strike that might have given southern Californians a chance to openly side with fellow workers, and maybe even give Obama one more chance to stand with workers during a strike--something he has not done since the period just after his election and before he took office. In my wildest dreams, I'd love to have seen a general strike at least once during my lifetime. As I have Ralph Yarborough say in my novel, "Nothing brings a community together like a general strike..." It's a propagandistic tongue-in-cheek to some extent, but the statement does help us appreciate a perspective quite different from the propaganda which often emanates from corporate media.

It bears repeating that the executives at the big grocery store chains knew that a strike was bad for their bottom line. They learned from last time a strike happened. Steve Burd, CEO of Safeway, declared war on his grocery workers in 2003, saying he needed to save $130 million to compete against Wal-Mart. The strike he precipitated cost Safeway $325 million and his company lost 20% marketshare to Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and yes, Wal-Mart, among other places. Heckava bargain you made there, Steve. And of course, he kept his job as head of Safeway. Capitalism sure rewards efficiency and competence, eh?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Eclectic Carl Ogeslby, R.I.P.

There remains intriguing about the worldview and writings of Carl Ogelsby, who died the other day at the too young age of 76.

He was a libertarian lefty who supported minimum wage laws, and recognized, as he became older, that one of his profound misunderstandings during his leadership of th student movement in the 1960s had been to attack the middle class life his father and his father's generation had fought for during the New Deal era of the 1930s and 1940s. See this interview from a PBS miniseries on the 1960s.

The best eulogies on Ogelsby are coming from libertarian fellows, starting with Jess Walker at Reason.com and Eric Garris at Antiwar.com. Bill Kauffman at Reason.com had interviewed Ogelsby in 2008 and it was a great interview, showing Ogelsby's interesting mind at work.

My view of Ogelsby is that he was more than a stopped clock--right twice a day--but not much more. His thesis of "Yankees and Cowboys" has some general appeal about the nature of regional elite politics, but it fails to explain the particulars and worse, descends into a Manichean conspiracy world view.

Contrary to Ogelsby, JFK was not going to avoid escalation of US military action against the people of Vietnam. See Chomsky's devastating attack on the so-called Newman Thesis, where Chomsky reveals the government memos in 1962 and 1963 that so impressed Newman provide JFK with more escape hatches for escalation than one can point a pencil at. See also my post from a few years ago on JFK and alternative history if JFK had not been assassinated.

Ogelsby never lost his hatred of LBJ as some sort of usurper, which weakens his analysis. Ogelsby never saw what Robert Dallek was one of the first historians of Ogelsby's generation correctly saw about LBJ: that LBJ was a hellava legislator who truly believed in New Deal domestic policy values, and truly believed in promoting civil rights for blacks and other "minorities" in American society. Ogelsby never recognized how LBJ skillfully used JFK's martyrdom to get enough support to pass legislation JFK never would have passed in three terms, let alone two. In foreign policy, however, LBJ was in fact a reluctant warrior and had strong doubts about escalating the Vietnam War. LBJ never acted on those doubts because he, like Nixon and JFK, came of political age during the "Who lost China?" debate that right-wing forces promoted in the early 1950s. No way was LBJ, Nixon or JFK going to stop that escalation (even assuming Nixon, not Kennedy became president in 1960).

Yes, there was a likely conspiracy with regard to JFK's assassination, but it was more narrow and was organized through the Mob, as I've noted in other blog posts (see this book by David Kaiser for what may be the most recent and best summary of that evidence).

Nixon's fall was the result of a combination of forces, and while some may have been the contempt for Nixon that existed in the elite press--where the feeling was mutual, and where Nixon continued attacking that press with "enemies' lists" and governmental abuses--it was finally the result of Nixon having begun to create his own secret government--something the elites throughout the nation could not abide.

Ogelsby's thesis also falls short when it comes to Reagan and Clinton. The Yankees embraced Reagan almost from the get-go, particularly as "Nancy Fancy," as the H.L. Mencken-successor Nicholas Von Hoffman called her at the time, purchased new dinnerware ("china") for the White House, and brought back elegant elite parties hosting both Yankee bankers and Cowboy oil bidness execs. It was such a relief for the permanent DC villagers after that horrid peanut farmer had slinked out of town. Yes, elements of the Yankee establishment never liked Bill Clinton (The NY Times did more to fan the flames of the phony "Whitewater scandal") but most of the Yankee elite rallied against the Cowboys--or was it the third element, the Southern Pig Farmers?--who should have embraced Clinton on that regional basis.

To make the general point against Ogelsby, the stakes were never so great between the Yankee and Cowboy elites as to support murder conspiracies or coups. They were mostly in general agreement with each other, and ultimately worked together to maintain the USA sponsored global Empire, and ensured American workers were reduced, decade by decade starting in the late 1940s, to sheepish consumerism with weak and disintegrating unions--and worked to politically further ensure there would never be another New Deal. These elites have worked so well together that even when Bill Gross of PIMCO and Warren Buffett call for some semblance of a new New Deal, the system developed over decades simply ignores them.

There are no "conspiracies" necessary in this view of modern American History. The way the system worked was simply to spend the money on the suitable candidates, control the scope of discourse in broadcast media and...well, what more did these elites really need?

My other critique, even more damning, of Ogelsby and too many 1960s radicals is their ultimately elite-based hatred of the middle class, which allowed them to sit in rooms with business execs and laugh derisively together about folks in the "flyover states" and metropolitan suburbs. No matter how many cops protected the eventually aging radicals in their suburban lives starting in the 1970s, such cultural lefties continued to speak condescendingly of the police. I was always a middle class guy, who never agreed with the cry of pampered white people who said "Drop the pig!" and such epithets against police officers. I knew various cops in our town growing up, and respected them for their willingness to lay down their lives for the rest of the community for pay that was a lot less than a business executive earns. I also learned as a teenager, when reading works of sociologists and reading portions of the Kerner Commission report, why a black or Latino person would have reason to despise the police, due to police brutality and abuse. And the same with those same white radicals who were protesting throughout much of the 1960s. But white folks living in the suburbs? Not so much, and often, not at all. I also never agreed with the counterculture's attack on civic pride and parades, and, unlike many in the counterculture of that time and into the 1970s, I saw quite clearly that the drug culture was destructive, not productive--even for artists. Frank Zappa understood this in real time, but not too many others.

Ogelsby dreamed of a Left-Libertarian alliance that I have always had a hard time with, due to most libertarians' hyperbolic hostility to government programs such as Social Security, unions and Medicare for all....Still, the anti-Empire stances of libertarians such as Rothbard and yes, Ogelsby are often more eloquent and salutary than most political figures on the liberal-left side. It's just a shame that, outside of Ron Paul (R-Texas), most Republican political figures are unable to even begin to recognize the legitimacy let alone the persuasiveness of the Rothbardian position in that regard. People like Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann scream against Social Security, but they seem to like wars and torturing and executing people.

Despite the criticisms, Ogelsby remains an interesting American intellectual figure. His writings, compared to most modern corporate media pundits, move the debate forward to a level that promotes a deeper understanding of American culture, the American Empire and even the American economy.

Gershom Gorenberg agrees with me...

See Gershom Gorenberg's latest article in The American Prospect regarding the upcoming UN vote for a Palestinian state.

See my post about two weeks ago...

Too bad the President will listen to neither of us and will order the US Ambassador to the UN to veto the resolution. Netanyahu shows once again he is more powerful than the president of the United States. Meanwhile, the US takes one more step toward irrelevance--and Israel misses yet another opportunity for peace it will later come to regret, and slip deeper into theocracy.

Gershom, this US president is neither wise nor clever. And Netanyahu is just an Israeli version of Rick Perry.

Oh well. We'll catch up...some other time.

Obama: The most moderate Republican in the rece

This fellow's post (hat tip to Crooks & Liars) nails what ails the modern GOP. But the post backs into the reason a New Deal Democrat like me is so frustrated. For he leads us back to Obama being to the right of Eisenhower and even to the right of Hoover--and essentially no different than Reagan.

Oh, and Barack Hussein Obama, I know Abraham Lincoln. And sir, you are certainly no Abraham Lincoln. James Buchanan, maybe, in terms of not facing up to the American realities. But again no Lincoln.

Still, stalwarts of the Republican Party have a lot to answer for these days...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

God bless "60 Minutes" on CBS tonight

CBS' "60 Minutes" interviewed the Lebanese born US FBI interrogator of Al Queda operatives who blew open (once again) how non-torture methods of interrogation were at least as effective, and likely more effective, than the torture methods.

It also did a wonderfully uplifting, if still poignant interview with the first responders, and the doctor (Dr. Luft) who has treated them, and also let them tell their stories as first responders.

These were not wallowing reports tonight, but were instead focused on reminding us of the public policy issues which continue to be unresolved, whether they concern the use of torture or the failure to provide sufficient care for those who went into the dust and debris ten years ago today.

At the end of the interview with the former FBI interrogator, Ali Soufan, my wife and I simultaneously concluded that Soufan probably knows more than he is saying about what he and the FBI or CIA might have been able to do to have stopped the 9/11/2001 events from occurring. That may be why he is so haunted and emotional even today.

It was great television and an exception to what I saw earlier and in the days leading up to today.

9/11, Pearl Harbor and the Security Policy Issues We Largely Ignore

The tenth anniversary of the most heinous foreign attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor is receiving a treatment from corporate media that is more akin to a death cult than a sober reflection, which unfortunately is not surprising.

For those who may think, "Well, the Japanese government's attack against Pearl Harbor probably received similar treatment in corporate media on December 7, 1951, right?"

Well, no. See UC Irvine and Nation contributor Jon Weiner's column on the subject of corporate media treatment of Pearl Harbor ten years on.

Weiner's article proves to us once again that when corporate media wants to downplay something, it simply downplays it and the discussion dies down and fades away. On the tenth anniversary of the Japanese government's attack at Pearl Harbor, our corporate media were propagating continued support for US involvement in the civil war in Korea, and propping up Japan as an American ally against the new supposed menace of International Communism. Corporate media saw no need for any religious symbolism and interviews with those who lost loved ones in that attack, nor any need to commemorate the event in any but a perfunctory manner. As Weiner notes, one media outlet expressly said it was time to move on.

Today, in contrast, our established leaders, and corporate media executives who follow their lead in matters of Empire and power over our fellow citizens, are propagating for the continued US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Even though Bin Laden was captured, killed and disposed of at sea, corporate media continues its drumbeat for America to continue the war in Afghanistan. Even though Iraq was a dyslexic if not overtly fraudulent adventure undertaken in 2003 against a nation which had nothing to do with the attack against the US on 9/11/2001, we are still there, and young American soldiers continue to die there. And responsible and irresponsible media pundits agree that we must somehow and for some reason continue a "presence" in Iraq.

Since that awful day ten years ago, we have become a people who have traded some of our civil liberties for further security. Yes, our airports are safer for travel than they were ten years ago, and really, thank goodness for that. However, the more sober public policy question is whether we need the overall security apparatus that has developed and mushroomed these past ten years.

The ACLU has provided a comprehensive analysis that, regardless of whether we agree or disagree with each of its specifics and proposals, is a worthy starting point for a public policy discussion in this nation.

As we read the report, we should sober ourselves with the recognition that the US, Russia, England and to some extent France, vanquished Hitler and Mussolini and their Nazi and Fascist governments, and the US largely vanquished Japan and its war lord supported Emperor, in less than five years from the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is also a sobering thought that by 1951, we were then engaged in the type of war that everyone currently alive from age 80 on down to children now recognizes as a twilight war that was to last decades and be amorphous enough to be applied nearly anywhere around the globe. During that time, we accepted an increasing militarization in our society based upon a generalized ideological threat. Still, we should recognize the Russians never detonated any bombs in our land, as the terrorist organization Al Queda did, and some attacks have been thwarted against us since that time. That is why we need a sober assessment, not an ostrich like response of either "Let's trust the government in a 'time of war'" or "We will promote pure civil liberties for all."

As the ACLU notes early in its report:

Confronting the threat of transnational terrorism unquestionably involves both military and law-enforcement resources. Certainly no one advocated deploying the New York Police Department to Kandahar in 2001 to battle Al-Qaeda-trained militias; by the same token, no one (or almost no one) would advocate that Navy Seals conduct a night raid in Brooklyn to capture or kill a U.S.-citizen terrorism suspect. The question is not whether to employ a military or law-enforcement response, but rather where to draw the appropriate line between the two. And in the last decade, we have allowed the superficial rhetoric of a “war on terror” to solidify into a set of policies that have degraded the rule of law.

Thus was an American citizen seized by the military from a New York jail, branded by President Bush as an “enemy combatant,” and locked away in a Naval brig without charge or trial. Thus did President Bush, claiming war powers, secretly assert the authority to violate congressional prohibitions and ignore the need for judicial authorization in ordering the electronic surveillance of American citizens. Thus has President Obama claimed the unchecked authority to use lethal force against a United States citizen, far from any battlefield, on the basis of his own unilateral determination that the citizen poses a threat to the nation. And thus has Congress passed laws intended to detain prisoners at Guantanamo indefinitely, even though the prison is a blight on our nation’s conscience and history and a recruiting tool for our enemies.


The report is worth reading, particularly for those of us who value our cell phones, and do not realize how the phone companies are compromised by federal, state and local governments' demand to track our minute by minute movements when those governments wish to do so. David Brin's transparency credo and analysis of watching the watchers may be our best hope as we continue to have no true discourse in US corporate media to stop the data mining that is continuing under a president who promised he would be a bulwark against the Bush Jr. administration's encroachment of our civil liberties. One cannot read the report without being reminded once again how Obama continued most of Bush Jr.'s anti-civil liberties policies, and in some cases, expanded the reach of those policies. If there is a Republican president next time around, we in the progressive community who did not stand taller against this Democratic Party president will rue that failure.

I wish the report contained specific policy proposals in bullet points, the way a business oriented report would do. Still, it is a jumpboard for such policy proposals to be made. Glenn Greenwald provided a nice summary of the report and quoted a 34 year veteran CIA official and lawyer, John Rizzo who said Obama changed virtually nothing, and "most [Bush] policies remain core elements of our national security strategy today."

One thing in the report I found terribly distressing was that our European allies are not cooperating as much as we would hope--because they recognize the change in our security policies that undermine civil liberties. The ACLU report states:

Our indefinite and overbroad military detention policy and our use of discredited military commissions are already obstacles to our allies’ willingness to cooperate with us. Abiding by their own international and domestic law obligations, key allies have refused to extradite suspected terrorists to the United States for military detention or military prosecution, and require assurances that prosecution will take place only in our federal criminal justice system. (footnote omitted)Some countries even refuse to provide intelligence information or other evidence if it will result in military detention or prosecution of a suspected terrorist already in U.S. custody. (Footnote omitted) In Afghanistan, where the Obama administration has continued the Bush administration’s policy of detaining individuals for years without charge or trial based on secret evidence and without access to a lawyer, our NATO allies refuse to transfer captives to U.S. custody. If Congress makes military detention and trials mandatory for terrorism suspects, extraditions of those suspects to America for trial, and our allies’ willingness to provide us intelligence information, may come to a halt."


It was a sad moment in American journalism that when Obama's Attorney General, Eric Holder, had initially sought civilian trials for some terrorist suspects, the corporate media more often re-enforced the hysterical response from the petty political motivations of poison talk radio and television pundits. Compare again, for example, the way corporate media told us to move on ten years after Pearl Harbor to the current way it promotes emotional responses on the tenth anniversary of the destruction of the Twin Towers. How are we to have a policy discussion regarding security in such a media-generated environment?

Instead of a sober analysis of public policy, corporate media, as it has for the past two weeks, will likely spend most of its time today interviewing survivors of the events of that day, people who lost loved ones and again treating the day as if it was some sort of religious commemoration--which, ironically, we may be certain followers of Bin Laden will view this anniversary. The acts on 9/11/2001 that were perpetrated against American citizens and on American soil were a terrorist crime of international proportions. They should not, from our nation's perspective, be seen through a lens of religion and religious-tinged symbolism. Just because Bin Laden saw it as "jihad" does not mean we should. We should remind everyone that he was wrong. It was a monstrous crime that was horribly based on a distortion of religiosity.

Instead, ten years after those horrific criminal events, we need to re-evaluate whether our nation should continue the wars begun in the aftermath of that attack. We need to re-evaluate the security apparatuses our nation's leaders have enacted. We then need to begin to discuss and pursue policies that promote our better values to the rest of the world.

We won't, though, and we know it. And we won't because we continue to accept the status quo as non-changing, when things do change with the appropriate leadership. What future historians will see, as they sift through the wreckage that continues seep deeper into our society, is a failure of will among the elites to protect American society, our economy and our physical land--the latter not just in terms of security, but of its environmental sustainability and yes, its grandeur.

(Edited)

Thursday, September 08, 2011

I wish he'd just say he was not running for re-election...

I was still deeply disappointed in the president tonight. More tax cuts than anything else, and the only real promise he will follow through on is to further dismantle and undermine Social Security and Medicare. He provided a little more rah-rah in his tone, and of course the professional chattering class on television confused that tone with substance.

I admit I was amused to hear the president use the word "thread" to discuss a historical pattern. I wonder if one of his speechwriters read my novel, which has RFK delivering his first inaugural address in January 1969 on the "threads of history..." and talking about the Founders, the Civil War and its threads through RFK's time.

Oh well. Limited time tonight on the Internet...Another night is here, another day has passed....

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Obama will never learn...

So I read all over the Internet that Obama is going to propose a $300 billion plan to help the jobless. Then, we get the fine print:

According to people familiar with the White House deliberations, two of the biggest measures in the president's proposals for 2012 are expected to be a one-year extension of a payroll tax cut for workers and an extension of expiring jobless benefits. Together those two would total about $170 billion.


Thus, more than half the plan will consist of (1) tax cuts that are meaningless to employers faced with lack of demand for their goods and services and (2) extending job loss benefits to help people merely tread in the water of unemployment and despair while they wait for the confidence fairy to wave a magic wand for a private sector job to appear.

This is the same nonsense Obama has believed all along. He will never learn.

And anyone who does not support a primary against this guy is being naive in thinking Obama's election prospects in 2012 are anything other than a weak maybe and probable loss--even to the likes of Perry, Bachmann, and especially Romney.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Today, Professor Julian Lewis delivers a lecture...

When I wrote my alternative history novel back in the period of 1998-2002, mostly in 1998-2001, and some editing after 9/11/01 and into 2002, I had the appendix be a speech from a fictitious professor, Julian Lewis, explaining that what had just occurred during the RFK timeline--where RFK survives and becomes president--was all inevitable and mostly expected. When our time's historian Kevin Starr read that speech at the end of the manuscript, he called it one of the best attacks on historiography he'd ever read. "Devastating," was how he termed it. "Contingency does rule, is what you are saying."

Yes.

Anyway, the date of Professor Lewis' speech or lecture was September 6, 2011. One of the things he said was happening in his time was the completion of the merging of the phone, television and computer, which is almost but not quite upon us in terms of how people are generally using those instruments. Funny that...

On the other hand, I consciously made him a "triumphalist" for the RFK liberal-left, made sure he was wrong in some fundamentals and particulars and was also showing how the winners write history more often than not, even when they are wrong in their suppositions, wrong in their analyses and sometimes just plain wrong factually. This way, a more conservative reader, and even a pro-RFK reader, may recognize how a Chomsky feels when he reads a mainstream corporate media writer, historian or politician talk about the fall of Communism, Ronald Reagan, etc.

One reader called it a Zen moment, where the entire premise of the book is shaken, which was also intended. I mean, it is called "A Disturbance of Fate," after all. And I wanted fate to be disturbed even in the RFK timeline.

Also, there is admittedly an Ayn Randian element to the book, but I wanted my novel to be more ironic, more willing to hear a different perspective and more willing to recognize there are very few essential truths for all time. The professor is not stupid, and is allowed some profound statements. It is just that he is blinded by the fact that he basks inside the political ideology which has "won" as opposed to the ideology which has "lost." And that makes him, well, more flabby in his thinking than if he was on the outside looking in.

Well, today is the day he delivers his lecture. Would that we could see it...

Monday, September 05, 2011

About 1/7th of "Stimulus" went to infrastructure rebuilding

Krugman has a blog post today on the stimulus, which he had correctly foreseen would be too small to help the American economy.

Still, Krugman doesn't give us enough understanding of just how small the stimulus was with reference to rebuilding and building new infrastructure. See this Wikipedia entry which breaks down the stimulus package actually passed. Note that the stimulus package was approximately $787 billion (not a trillion). Tax cuts were nearly $300 billion, or nearly 40% of the sum. Infrastructure rebuilding was $105 billion, with another $11 billion to build health care facilities for the military and the National Institute for Health (NIH), and maybe another $3 billion elsewhere, for a true total of $119 billion. Think about that: $3 in tax cuts for every $1 in infrastructure spending. Worse, the infrastructure spending hardly got off the ground before Republicans took over the House in 2011 because Obama did not know how to call state and local officials or even his federal officials to get past any delays in starting projects. As the NY Times admitted in an article on June 18, 2010:

For all the talk of “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects when the stimulus first passed, construction projects made up a comparatively small slice of the package, and many required considerable administrative spade work — planning, permitting and contracting — before actual dirt could be turned. The stimulus initially injected money into the economy mainly through tax cuts and aid to states and individuals.

Also, corporate centrist economist Mark Zandi (Moody's Chief Economist at the time) said when Obama signed the stimulus bill into law, the stimulus package would halt the slide, but not solve any problems and would have to be revisited...

So, let's not assume Keynesian economics failed here. What failed again was the scheme that says tax cuts significantly stimulate the economy. Tax cuts might significantly stimulate the economy if we were lowering the income tax and capital gains rates from 90% to 70% on the margin and there was nearly full employment under most economic metrics, but not at the tax rate levels we have lived with for the past three decades, nor where unemployment is as significant as it's been for the past few years.

Happy labor day to those unemployed and want to work

We know it's tough out there. We've been there, too, and we wish all working folks the best.If anyone feels down, they may have good reason to feel down, especially when having to compete for a job with those who want to go from part-time to full time work, those who have been out of the labor market and want to get back in, and those who already have jobs, but want a different job. See this article which shows why again our president has not done right by those unemployed, and why we should realize too that Republican politicians are worse...

Woody Allen once said that life is divided between the miserable and the horrible. And as The Smiths sang, "Heaven Nows I'm Miserable Now."

Personally, I don't even feel miserable these days. I feel lucky I'm working and that I am personally valued at my work. On the other hand, I have to drive a heck of a lot and for a lot less pay than four or five years ago. My book is finally being re-released after many years, by a publisher in New York, who is releasing a new edition we prepared for ereaders and in soft cover. But unless it's promoted, there is no thought of quitting the day job to get past the second chapter in my second book...:-) My health has improved greatly, and the medications I am on are working better than in many years. While I'm on my son to get his college applications going, I'm proud of him in many ways as he starts senior year in high school. My daughter is starting her last year of middle school with a much better attitude than she had for most of last year, and my wife's employment situation at the new school she is working at as an aide is working out well for her. Heck, the dog seems content, too. So, we're lucky.

I think it's something akin to survivor syndrome that I have such anger at the president's refusal to promote a New Deal set of policies. My sister remains unemployed as does a dear cousin of mine. And a set of neighbors who I greatly respect have seen their small business, largely connected to the real estate construction industry, essentially fail. All employees have been laid off and it's just them trying to survive. Not a month goes by when I hear of people with whom I am acquainted losing a job, taking jobs for much less pay and sometimes with no benefits.

It's a Republican world, I say, and we just try to survive in it. And when I see great bargains for products, I call it "America' s Going out of Business Sale." For we don't produce very much as a nation anymore. Too often, we're a bunch of financiers, lawyers, hairdressers and delivery service people.

Last night, my wife and I watched "Executive Suite", for a sort of Labor Day weekend film night. I love the speeches at the end of the film. The film, released in 1954, nails the issue of what has now happened in our society, when our business leaders became more obsessed with finance than producing things. Obama believes the rhetoric of the controller (Frederic March), while those of us who are New Dealers understand deeply what William Holden's and Walter Pidgeon's characters are talking about. While a pro-labor person would still be in tough negotiations on a contract renewal with Holden's or Pidgeon's characters, we can at least understand the pride Holden and Pidgeon are describing. My wife and I were also struck, as we watched the film, how many jobs have been lost to automation after all, and how there is a sense of foreboding on the factory floor even before that automation has kicked in.

Ernest Lehman's (probably somehow related to the Lehman brother's families) screenplay is a great adaptation of Cameron Hawley's outstanding novel, I should add. I read one of Hawley's other novels, too, "The Lincoln Lords," that is also a knock-out (The book also has an interesting sub-plot about the lingering anti-Semitism in the corporate and even banking worlds). Hawley reveals the drama in the business world, at an even more sophisticated level than my general literary hero, Sinclair Lewis. Hawley is not for everyone, as his books probably appear too dry for most literature readers. There's hardly any sex in the books, and it's all "off camera," while there is a sharp, fast dialogue that does not spoon feed people about business operations.

A Happy Labor Day to everyone, and to my sister and cousin, and others with employment challenges, please try to keep faith...

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Get out the pitchforks, hammers and maybe a sickle...or maybe try Hamilton's Federalist Paper no. 11?

Pharyngula, a science oriented blog, explains (citing another link from here) that if Apple hired American workers to assemble the iPhone here in the US, and paid $10 an hour, it would still make a 50% profit on its phones. Pay $20 an hour, and it would make 20% profits (more overhead for benefits I figure).

That's still enough profit for one company, isn't it?

While I am a big Steve Jobs fan, for the reason of the beautiful architecture and design of his products, and for starting Pixar, the greatest single animation studio of the past sixty years, there is something deeply disturbing and Nikean (my word of the day) about Apple's profits, especially when we can put in tariffs to incentivize Apple to build assembly plants right here in the good ol' USA.

Something to think about this Labor Day when we hear Americans "can't do manufacturing" anymore...

Responding to Obama-bots like former Obama administrator (and Republican) Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys, a Stanford psychiatry professor, has become a defender of Obama even though earlier in some posts of his, he admitted he was a Republican. Good for him to support a Republican oriented leader like Obama. However, he makes the fatal mistake of thinking it is ridiculous that those of us who are New Deal Democrats are not actively defending and supporting Obama at this point in his administration.

First, Humphreys posted a particularly initially nasty personal attack on those who have come to oppose Obama from inside the Democratic Party (see here). My response in the comments to him, and to the ridiculous Jonathan Alter was as follows:

Here is what I wrote to Mr. Alter, who obviously doesn’t understand American history or how leaders actually lead (which is why his short book on FDR was so pedestrian). And sadly, neither do you, Keith:

Obama promised to be transformative. He is reactive. He continued Bush II’s policies in Iraq, expanded Bush II’s policies in Afghanistan, continued Bush II’s policies of rendition and far away torture, kept open Guantanamo, kept Gates, Bernanke, Patreus. Pushed through a stimulus that was mostly tax credits and bailouts for financiers, his true campaign donor base since he entered national politics. And kept the Bush II tax cuts for the rich going, while undermining Social Security/Medicare with payroll tax cuts (you can’t claim, as he does, that the Soc Sec/Medicare systems don’t have enough revenue, and then cut revenue further…:-().

He never even tried to get “card check” passed. He dropped the ball, willingly, on the public option. He never showed up at a labor strike. He had the audacity to say we couldn’t do more infrastructure reinvestment and rebuilding because they were not “shovel ready”–as if he couldn’t call some local government officials to expedite some things to make things shovel ready.

He is a failure the way Hoover, Carter and Buchanan were failures. They accepted from the start that whatever was in around them at the time, that is the way it is and always will be. The interesting thing is that the president that followed each of those failures was transformative: FDR, Reagan and Lincoln.

If Obama had any guts, he’d announce on television, as did LBJ, that he is not running for a second term. We need a Democratic Party candidate who believes in the New Deal and makes it happen. The nation is ready, despite you wine sipping Beltway herd members making fun of it. Since Obama doesn’t have the guts to protect his party and nation from further failure, and the catastrophe of a Republican (other than possibly Romney) winning in 2012, then there should be someone in the Democratic Party with some guts to take this failure on and push him to the side of the road where he belongs.


And boy did the fur fly at the comments at Alter's column--far more than at the Humphreys' site, which he shares with some other academics like Mark Kleiman and Jonathan Zasloff. At the comments section for Alter's column, I ripped right back at the Obamabots, who were reduced to FoxNews type of attacks against me, all the while proclaiming it was me who had attacked those individuals first...It was a pathetic performance from the Obama-bots and it shows how sad they've become.

Humphreys then tried another line of attack, by citing neo-liberals like Jonathan Chait of The (Often Odious) New Republic, Ezra Klein and, again, Jonathan Alter who say, "The Republicans are too strong, and there is no way things could have been better performed. Let's clap our hands for Obama!" As if those fellas are going to impress folks like me with such an argument...

So of course, I demurred. In the comments section to Humphreys' more reasoned post, I was still not done with the attack the elitist Humphreys made against those of us who lack his income level, his ability to consume wine and brie, and live a stable and secure, and cushy life at an elite university. I stated:

Poor Keith, sitting there eating brie, drinking wine in his ivory tower (inside joke for Keith), wondering why we poor benighted lefties can’t see there is no bully pulpit, at least when liberals come to town. In mid-December 2000, Republican House Speaker Denny Haestert (now there’s a trivia question for ya) publicly said that Bush Jr should not push for federal income tax cuts because there is simply no enthusiasm on Capitol Hill, especially in light of the way Bush Jr “won” the 2000 election. Suddenly, the president-elect and others in the incoming administration started to lay out a case. Then, the most harsh version was put forward, debated strongly and well, well, well…there you go. Federal income tax cuts galore for the upper brackets of income.

Obama had the wind at his back in the beginning of 2009. He could have seized the moment, looked Republicans in the eye, and said, “I’ll seek a Grand Bargain, but let’s have a Grand Public Debate since these guys still don’t get it.” He should have directly challenged Boehner or any of these other yahoos for a public debate on the way we must move forward. Heck, call out Limbaugh for a debate if the Republican leadership cowered, and hung Limbaugh right around their necks by noting how often they genuflected to Limbaugh. The message was ready and built for him: Big. Government. Spending. Infrastructure. Get. America. Back. To. Work. And as for the Democratic Senator Nervous Nellies, like Blanche Lincoln and the Nelson Boys (NE- and FL-), a meeting with them that said, “You want a primary, you’ll get one,” and shaming them by coming to their town with rallies that say, We Want Jobs Now. The primary threat is exactly FDR did to Gore Vidal’s Grandfather, Senator Thomas P. Gore (D-OK), for not supporting the initial New Deal. And it is what LBJ said to various Southern Senators and Congressman, where enough listened.

Keith, honestly, have you ever lead anything? Ever led any civic organization that was in trouble, and needed a new direction? I know it sounds arrogant and naive to you, but really, Obama has failed the leadership test. And he really needs to get out of the way before further disaster strikes.

Final note: I’ve been re-reading the 1962 reissue of the 1942 book by Stanford historian, David Potter, about Lincoln, the Republicans and the secession crisis of 1860-1861. It is fascinating reading, and it revealed once again how Lincoln began to draw lines in the sand in the weeks after his winning the plurality election of November 1860. Lincoln, unlike some in his own party, saw the significance of the Southern leadership’s plans to expand slavery by extending the American Empire south into Mexico, Cuba and the Latin American continent. It is why he rejected extending the Missouri Compromise to the Pacific Ocean and why he rejected the Crittenden “Compromise” as no compromise at all. He simply wanted a status quo agreement of no extension of slavery into other territories, and later only compromised by giving the South the territory of the now State of New Mexico, which failed to pass Congress.

Lincoln’s only failure was to grasp how militaristic the Southern leadership had become, and hoped there were enough Unionist supporters in the South who would realize the need for something closer to the status quo. But he knew how not to give in–compared to NY Senator Seward, who was a firebreather for the North, but wanted to get along with his Southern colleagues in the Senate. Lincoln, a trial lawyer (not a law professor), knew where the pieces were on the chess board, and moved them as well as any American leader before or since. He was not afraid of a war in the face of the military actions the South was taking, even though he was up against far more serious odds than Obama faced in 2009. The South was not withdrawing from the Union in 2009, despite Perry’s bombast, and if Obama brought jobs to the South, he’d have gotten far more wind at his back than he had at the start of his administration.

If anything, Obama resembles my beloved John Qunicy Adams and his administration (1825-1829), whose naive belief in post-partisanship made his one term presidency a failure. JQA delivered one of the greatest programmatic inaugurals ever, but the Southern Democrats, and Jackson supporters in the West, and a few in the North (led by future Jackson VP, Van Buren), openly stymied Adams’ initiatives. They did so even when they otherwise agreed with the policies before Adams started to push for them. And Adams, poor guy, never stopped trying to appease the Jacksonians, as if they would eventually compromise. They didn’t, and then ran against a do-nothing Adams administration, and walked into the White House in 1829. Does this sound somewhat familiar? Adams went on to become a fiery Congressman, where he was admittedly driven in part by a sense of vengeance. And there, he became well respected and sometimes feared as the years went on.

History does repeat itself in various, though not exact ways…There are patterns to American history, and we are foolish if we stick with a guy who resembles Hoover in the refusal to believe in transformative leadership, who resembles Adams without Adams’ clear vision.


Keith is not happy with such comments (I think he deleted a more pointed response to yet another post, but who knows?). He never once engaged the facts and historical analysis I offered--though he was not averse to responding to others in the comments sections in his posts. Reading his impressive resume at Stanford, he is definitely a "made guy"--but I doubt he's truly ever led any organization, and certainly not one in crisis. And, ya know, it would have been nice of Dr. Keith to remind his readers that he served in the Obama administration on drug policy for at least a year.

This is a critical time in our nation's history. There is a void of leadership at the elite level. And people like Keith Humphreys are truly a part of the problem. They are as weak as Neville Chamberlains and Weimar Republic officials. And they are not acting to arrest and reverse the decay and decline of our society and our national government (Unlike Keith, I'm not a "made guy" in the elite corridors of American society.). Instead, in a style more attuned to FoxNews, they attack as naive and fantasists those of us who dare set forth more aggressive and more politically attuned alternative. Humphreys writes as if he thinks folks like me don't know the facts on the ground and that Obama is likely to still be the Democratic Party's nominee in the summer of 2012. I know that, but dammit, we need to at least engage the topic and push for an alternative in the early fall of 2011. We should not simply wring our hands and say there's nothing we can ever say or do to change things. It's what blogs are for, at the least.

Some great labor day reading about income inequality

See Frank Pasquale's excellent and link-laden (in a great way!) post at Balkinization, a normally lawyers' oriented blog.

He refers to Lasch's "Revolt of the Elites" (1996), which is a great book (read the reviews for a better understanding of the book). However, Bob Kuttner's "Revolt of the Haves" (1980) is even better--but it is rare and out of print. Kuttner lays out at the dawn of income tax cut mania, what the end game was for those pushing it. And man, it is prescient as to what we are seeing nowadays...

Did he or didn't he?

Some obviously blinded scholars are trying to blame Thomas Jefferson's brother Randolph for having sex with and fathering children from Thomas Jefferson's slave, Sally Hemmings.

What the article fails to note is a very important reason why it far more likely to have been Thomas, not his brother, Randolph, and it's a reason fraught with poignancy and sympathy for Tom and Sally: Sally was most likely the half-sister of Tom's beloved and deceased wife, Martha (born Martha Wayles).* There are those who say there was enough of a resemblance to the two women that one could see how Jefferson was attracted to somewhat light-skinned Sally. Regardless, Sally was a house slave member of the Wayles family before arriving at Monticello with Martha when she married Thomas.

That Thomas would allow his brother Randolph such free reign over his beloved wife's slave, who was herself caring for Thomas' children, is more difficult to believe than to simply conclude Thomas is the father of a few of Sally's later children.

* There's been no DNA testing on Sally Hemmings or TJ's father-in-law John Wayles, and there is some evidence that initially one of Sally's children said her father was a white English sea captain.

Labor Day Weekend September 2011

As we approach tomorrow's Labor Day, we see that labor union leaders have realized that Obama does not care about labor or workers, and are acting accordingly. No support for the House of Labor, Mr. President? Then, no money from that house, sir. You want money for re-election? Get it from your financier friends who you serve so faithfully and well.

It remains a paradigmatic example of the fecklessness of this president that he can travel pretty much anywhere, everywhere he pleases. But he's never stood at the "ground zero" where there is a strike or where labor unions are under attack. Never.

And when Obama says there are no "shovel ready" projects and never were, this blog post from WYNC (sent to me thanks to a cousin from NJ) proves there were and definitely are shovel ready projects. And if there were or are any bottlenecks from local officials, in terms of environmental regulations to follow, then you make some calls, put more engineers on the project, and you move past the bottlenecks. And if we have to set aside or waive an environmental regulation or two, then do that, but most of the time, it's more about getting an economic incentive to the contractor or adding contractors or employees. It's not about needing to hurt further the environment most of the time.

You want flair? You want leadership? If there is a particularly recalcitrant local official who won't expedite projects in his or her jurisdiction, you take the entourage, get out there, and with a bull horn and a shovel at your side, and the large crowd that will come out with you, you yell, "Let's get this work started now! Repeat after me! Let's get this work started now!"

And you think that local official won't be shamed into acting? And you think "independent" voters won't be impressed with you?

Obama campaigned on "Yes, we can." He governs like "No, we can't--and you people who thought bold? Well, just shut up."

No, we won't shut up. And you, Mr. President, need to get out of the way. You don't know how to lead. And you have no vision. If we have to vote for a "Weimar Republic" or "Herbert Hoover" Democratic Party incumbent like Obama next year, because the Republicans nominate Perry or Bachmann, we may likely do so. But it is ridiculous, on Labor Day weekend, 2011, not to try and rouse people and some other leaders in or near the Democratic Party to run a primary against Obama.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

And so the Palestinians declare themselves a state...and?

There is so much apprehension in official Washington and among the American-Jewish political organizations that the UN will recognize a Palestinian state in a couple of weeks.

For the past couple of months, I have scratched my head, and with derisive laughter have been saying to anyone who buys into that official fear, "So you're saying you're not for a two state solution?"

And they invariably respond, "Huh?"

"What are the practical borders of this soon-to-be-declared Palestinian State?" I ask.

"Well..." they stammer.

"No matter what the Palestinians say, it looks like something close to what a final agreement will likely end up being...though not necessarily the Palestinian dream of regaining East Jerusalem..." is what I reply to the stammer.

And as they stammer again, I add, "And if there's a State, then the Palestinians are now in a homeland, and the refugee question starts to fade, doesn't it?"

And then I smile. Because really, this initiative is in many ways long overdue for anyone who truly believes in a two-state solution.

What's really funny is that there are now competing legal opinions starting to emerge on the Palestinian side where they are feeling like they are in a "Twilight Zone" episode where the people get what they want, but it is not what they expected--well, they get some of what they expected, but with a bigger surprise of the unexpected.

Too bad the people who are the true believers on both sides are strapping the instruments of war to themselves. That is the only continuing danger, but it still should not change the policy that needs to be pursued, which is jump starting serious peace talks--now. And if the UN declares Palestine a State, keep talking. The UN will support both sides continuing to talk about contouring the borders of each of the two States, and if Hamas wants Gaza as a separate State, maybe a three-state solution. Two snarling Palestinian States may be an advantage to Israel during the interregnum between the temporary and permanent peace among Arabs and Jews in a land that is supposed to be "holy."

Friday, September 02, 2011

United the working class: Rich Trumka for President

It is one of the canards that those of us who have called on Barack Hoover Obama to not run for re-election that we are somehow part of the wine and brie crowd. The people who that description fits are those who say, "Oh, I'm a social liberal, but fiscal conservative."

Rich Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, lays out a new New Deal here.

See here and here for some background of Trumka. And this book by Thomas Georgehegan provides some added background of a guy who grew up as a miner's son, and started his work life in the mines to become a lawyer, and then work his way up the miner's union to the head of the AFL-CIO.

Once Trumka started speaking around the country, once people got a look at him, it would be really hard to convince workers that he was some elitist. People are ready to re-learn the value of a union as we slowly catch on to living in the Second Gilded Age. Corporate media pundits and news readers would finally reveal their fangs against workers in a way that would finally reveal the bias that is corporate--as opposed to defining "liberal" and "conservative" first and foremost by symbols and sex issues. And that would do more to arrest this slow, steady decline of our discourse than anything else...

Oh, and once Obama realizes he will have a harder primary fight than the one he endured in 2008, he'll finally see the wisdom of following LBJ's lead in March 1968.

So come on, Rich. It is time for a presidential candidate who is from the heart of the working class. Haven't seen that in a long, long time...