March 24, 2009 archive

Greenwald On Liberal Dissent

Glenn Greenwald finds comfort in liberal dissent:

It’s certainly true that one has no difficulty finding cult-like liberal veneration for Obama – those who invoke Bible-like “he’s-a-master-of-11-dimensional-chess” clich├ęs to justify whatever he does (the Lord works in mysterious ways but even when we don’t understand what He does, we Trust that He is Supremely Good and more Wise than us and knows best); who declare, in Bush-like “with-me-or-against-me” fashion, all critics of Obama to be the Enemy; who pay homage to Kim Jong Il-like imagery such as this and this; who believe that “trust” — a sentiment appropriate for family and friends but not political leaders — should be vested in Obama and thus negate any concerns over how he exercises power.  Some overly-eager journalists and bloggers are devoted to carrying forth the administration’s message (usually delivered anonymously) in exchange for favorable treatment and/our due to a painfully excessive sense of devotion, and there’s a Democratic establishment with a built-in machinery to defend Obama no matter what he does.

But outside of those anonymity-granting blogger/journalists and Democratic apparatchiks, these drooling, worshipful, subservient sentiments are largely confined to the fringes.  With some exceptions, to find this right-wing-replicating blind loyalty to the Leader, one has to search blog comment sections and obscure diarists.  Many — arguably most — of the most vocal liberal Bush critics have kept their critical faculties engaged and have been unwilling to sacrifice their political values and principles at the altar of partisan loyalty.

It should be emphasized that mere criticism for its own sake is also not a virtue.  Those who reflexively and blindly criticize whatever Obama does (based on the immovable, all-consuming conviction that he is intrinsically Evil) are nothing more than the opposite side of the same mindless coin as those who reflexively and blindly praise whatever Obama does (based on the immovable, all-consuming conviction that he is intrinsically Good). Pre-ordained, overarching judgments of Obama that are detached from his actions and grounded in Manichean caricatures are irrational in equal measure, whether that judgment yields praise or condemnation.

A rational citizen, by definition, praises and supports political leaders only when they do the right thing (regardless of motive), and criticizes and opposes them when they don’t.  It’s just that simple.  Cheerleading for someone because they’re on “your team” is appropriate for a sporting event, not for political matters.  Political leaders deserve support only to the extent that their actions, on a case-by-case basis, merit that support, and that has largely been the behavior of progressives towards Obama.

Four at Four

  1. The NY Times reports China urges for a new money reserve to replace the U.S. dollar. Zhou Xiaochuan, the governor of the People’s Bank of China, “has called for the eventual creation of a new international currency reserve to replace the dollar.”

    In a paper, Zhou proposed “a new currency reserve system controlled by the International Monetary Fund could prove more stable and economically viable.” The proposal “indicates that Beijing is worried that its huge dollar-denominated foreign reserves could lose significant value in coming years. I think they’re right to be concerned. The dollar has already been devalued since Barack Obama took office and if you look at the dollar’s decline since Bush took office, you’ll cry.

  2. The Guardian reports Richard Holbrooke unveils parts of the U.S. strategy to halt Afghanistan ‘drift’. President Obama’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan outlined the U.S. policy to its NATO allies yesterday.

    The strategy defines a path to exiting Afghanistan and, according to Holbrooke, emphasises non-military aspects and a regional approach.

    The Washington Post adds Foreign Service jobs in Afghanistan to grow. The State Department will create an additional 14 Foreign Service posictions in Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The “surge” is part of Obama’s overall regional strategy that is expected to include “sending hundreds of U.S. civilian officials to Afghanistan, increasing the size of the embassy and its outposts by about 50 percent — to about 900 personnel.”

    “The new posts, and other expanded civilian operations, will probably require expanded security. Xe, the private security company formerly known as Blackwater, holds the State Department contract for diplomatic security in Afghanistan.”

    Meanwhile, McClatchy reports U.S. troops confront disciplined, wily, mobile Afghan foe.

    When the young American lieutenant and his 14 soldiers glanced up at the rock face, they thought that the major who’d planned the mission must have been kidding…

Four at Four continues with the worsening crisis in Sudan and Japan’s high speed rail.

Riki Ott: Reclaiming community after the Exxon Valdez oil spill

Crossposted at Air America Radio.

Photobucket   Photobucket

March 24, 2009 marks the 20th memorial of one of North America’s worst ever oil spill. Approximately 11 to 38 million gallons of crude oil from the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spilled into the pristine waters of Prince William Sound destroying a wide range of wildlife habitat and sea life. What we never hear is how the oil spill impacted Alaskan communities within Prince William Sound.

Riki Ott, author of “Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oi Spill” tells the story of Cordova, Alaska, a fishing village trying to recover from one of America’s worst environmental catastrophes. Ott, a resident of Cordova, chronicles the trials experienced by Cordova residents as they cope with the oil spill and one of the longest-running legal battles in the nation’s history. Ott argues that unless we can reinvigorate our democracy and reform a legal system that currently holds corporations above citizens, then America will remain vulnerable to outside corporate influence.

Ott is currently on a nationwide speaking tour and I recently interviewed her about the 20th memorial of the oil spill, Cordova, AK, and how communities can empower themselves from environmental catastrophes.

More below the fold.

Geithner’s “power grab.”

Cross-posted from Passive Ranting.

Read about it here.

Here’s the summary:

The crisis surrounding the American International Group was a near-tragedy that underlines the need for broad new government authority to regulate or even take control of financial institutions other than banks, the government’s top fiscal officials told lawmakers on Tuesday.

Geithner claims that if this power existed back in September, current measures such as endless bailouts and seven-figure bonuses for mentally-questionable financial fuck-ups would not have happened.

Some perspective please: Gowan’s piece in NLR

This is a review piece on Peter Gowan’s article “Crisis in the Heartland” in the Jan./Feb. 2009 issue of the New Left Review, in light of the significant number of diaries upon the most recent “toxic assets” plan of Treasury Secretary Geithner and in light of the foregrounding of Gowan’s article in the weblog Feral Scholar.  Perhaps the most meaningful way to resolve economic debates is to go back through history to examine what happened.  This is a diary about why the current economic crisis has happened.  Mainstream economics is typically obsessed with the present-day, at the expense of a longer view, and this is precisely what Gowan hoped to circumvent.

(crossposted at Big Orange)

Who Are The Ruling Class?

Many folks in the comments of Hard Not To Call It Evil voiced the same concerns. That by lumping people into a group or Class we are dehumanizing them, just as the Ruling Class dehumanizes everyone who is NOT in the Ruling Class.

These concerns and objections are extremely valid.  

Still, Forced Navajo Relocation at Big Mountain Continues

Vine Deloria Jr. in God Is Red uses the self explanatory phrases, “spiritual owners of the land” and “political owners of the land.” Now, it is the “political owners of the land” who have taken tribal lands by conquest and yet distort the historical record.

Three members from the Hopi Tribe arrived to give their testimonies as show support for their neighbors, The Dine. Their presence dispelled the public relations myth that the traditional Hopi and the Dine are involved in a Range War.”

Prosecuting Those Responsible, Senator Leahy.

If we want to successfully prosecute relevant members of the George W Bush administration for crimes against the US constitution or crimes against humanity, it is essential that we nail down precisely what they did wrong. More to the point — we need to nail down what they did that was illegal. Surely it seems obvious that something is awry when you look at the result. Our government detained innocent people and tortured them. They justified and started a war of choice in Iraq. Dick Cheney got authorization to initiate a sophisticated and domestic spying program before the end of the day on September 11. The executive branch assumed far more power than was given them by design. The Bush 43 administration altered the course of the United States, perhaps, more than any terrorist could.

My purpose here is to convince you that we should follow the larger pattern that appears in these of abuses of power rather than any individual act if we are going to effectively prosecute those who are really responsible. I think the group of abusers and pattern of abuse repeats itself, and if we watch that pattern carefully, we can shake out those who are primarily responsible.

The Official Obama Apologetics

It has taken a few days, but a new great wall of Obama apologetics has been laboriously constructed at the great orange fortress of wishful thinking called DKos. Let us bask in the freedom of Democratic incorrectness that Docudharma provides to summarize the official apologetics. Here they are in Q&A form:

Q: Why did Obama appoint Summers and Geithner, men deeply implicated in the undermining of the financial system for years, to “clean up” this huge mess?

A: No progressive economist (e.g., Stiglitz or Krugman) could possibly have passed the guard dogs of the plutocracy in the US Senate. Dangerous Socialists like Nobel-prize-winning Princeton economist Krugman could never have been confirmed.

Q: Why is Obama allowing Geithner to shovel trillions in taxpayer money into the bottomless pit of Wall Street?

A: Geithner believes that an overpaid and rapacious elite can manage the US economy far better than colorless bureaucrats who are merely public servants. Thus, Geithner needs to give Wall Street’s predators another chance to gamble away the future financial resources of the republic. Obama hopes that Geithner may get lucky, but he can replace him with another plutocratic guardian if he “fails.”

Q: Why is the government not aggressively investigating the quality of the dubious “toxic” assets so as to have a sound basis for estimating the magnitude of the damage and properly guiding the recovery policy?

A: Obama believes that it is his highest duty to manage public perceptions for the greater good of America, and if that management task requires concealing the magnitude of underlying cause of the current financial disaster, then it is a patriotic act to conceal the truth. The less the public knows about the magnitude of the toxic bubble, the better.

Q: Why won’t Obama simply nationalize failed banks, fire the bad management, and rebuild the banking system in a manner that serves the public interest.

A: Presidents who attempt to discipline the plutocracy don’t finish their term in office. Obama’s job is to give the people hope by slightly reducing the scale of looting of public funds.

Q: How can the people maintain their confidence in Obama?

A: Every time Obama betrays the public trust and fails to honor his campaign pledges, the people will be reminded of how much worse a McCain administration would have been.

So there we have it. Obama, our national savior, is protecting the rich from the poor and the powerful from the weak, and all the while he is making us all feel better about having change we can believe in: the pocket change that is all most of us will own when this is over.

Open Thread


How many threads must a man comment on

Before he can see a reply?  

Docudharma Times Tuesday March 24

Bill O’Reilly Is

Morally And Ethically Challenged

Is Not A Journalist And

Never Was

He Wouldn’t Know Fact

If It Bit Him


Tuesday’s Headlines:

Abortion provider’s trial opens in Kansas

Guardian investigation uncovers evidence of alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza

Back to Baghdad, for better or worse

Tata Nano: World’s cheapest car is India’s answer for cash-strapped drivers

China spearheads surge in state-sponsored executions

Nicolas Sarkozy held to ridicule for failing to mind his language

After years of plenty, Russia returns to earth

Sudan bombs Darfur rebels – and civilians – amid calls for a ‘no-fly’ zone

Zimbabwe cholera ‘past its peak’

Mexico offers $2-million rewards for top drug suspects

U.S. Seeks Expanded Power to Seize Firms

Goal Is to Limit Risk to Broader Economy

By Binyamin Appelbaum and David Cho

Washington Post Staff Writers

Tuesday, March 24, 2009; Page A01

The Obama administration is considering asking Congress to give the Treasury secretary unprecedented powers to initiate the seizure of non-bank financial companies, such as large insurers, investment firms and hedge funds, whose collapse would damage the broader economy, according to an administration document.

The government at present has the authority to seize only banks.

Giving the Treasury secretary authority over a broader range of companies would mark a significant shift from the existing model of financial regulation, which relies on independent agencies that are shielded from the political process. The Treasury secretary, a member of the president’s Cabinet, would exercise the new powers in consultation with the White House, the Federal Reserve and other regulators, according to the document.

An Ancient Culture, Bulldozed Away

China’s Attempts to Modernize Ethnic Uighurs’ Housing Creates Discord

By Maureen Fan

Washington Post Foreign Service

Tuesday, March 24, 2009; Page A08

KASHGAR, China — For hundreds of years, Uighur shopkeepers have been selling bread and firewood along the edges of Kashgar’s old town to families whose ancestors bought their traditional mud-brick homes with gold coin and handed them down through the generations.

Now, this labyrinth of ancient courtyard homes and narrow, winding streets is endangered by the latest government plan to modernize a way of life that officials consider dangerous and backward.

Left behind are piles of brick and rubble, houses without roofs and hurt feelings.


Latinos, blacks losing jobs at a faster rate

‘We don’t have those older roots to anchor us in the professional world’

Associated Press

The ax fell without sound or shadow: Tatiana Gallego was suddenly called into human resources and laid off from her job as an admissions counselor for a fashion college.

“The way people tried to explain it to me was, I was the last one hired so I was the first one out,” said Gallego, 25, who had worked there for 17 months.

Last hired, first fired: This generations-old cliche rings bitterly true for millions of Latinos and blacks who are losing jobs at a faster rate than the general population during this punishing recession.

Much of the disparity is due to a concentration of Latinos and blacks in construction, blue-collar or service-industry jobs that have been decimated by the economic meltdown.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Dream Catcher #10


The wheel turns

orbiting onward

progressing through

space and time


for the wanting

until the void


into reality

all generated

by those initial

hopes and dreams

of a better

world to come

Like a circle in a circle

a wheel within a wheel

the painted pony spins

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–March 24, 2009

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