Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wikileaks to release Afghanistan documents

Wikileaks is the same organization that posted the video of US helicopter gunships gunning down some innocent people on the ground in Iraq, including a journalist -- see: this blog. Tomorrow the site will post thousands of previously unavailable documents -- some classified -- about the course of the war. Wikileaks made these documents available several weeks ago to several newspapers worldwide (The Guardian, Der Spiegel, the New York Times). The Times has published a summary HERE. This is relatively big news and I am sure there will be a lot more about it tomorrow and thereafter.

I read some of the "leaks" as well as the Times article. I wouldn't say "I am shocked, shocked" but it certainly reinforces the opinion that many of us have that the war was not going well, especially in relation to the actions of the Karzai government and our supposed ally Pakistan. To be fair, the documents were all from the time before the President's adjustments in war strategy, which included a beefing up of troop strength and the appointment of Gen. McCrystal -- since fired.

Of particular interest is the information that several allied helicopters were brought down not by small arms fire, as the military has reported, but by heat-seeking missiles. These Stinger missiles were supplied by the U.S. (under Reagan?) to enable the mujahedeen, the predecessors of the Taliban, to fight the Soviets who invaded Afghanistan in 1979. This is classic "blowback." No surprise, though. Everyone knew, or should have known, that the Taliban and even Al Qaeda were using weapons at one time supplied by the U.S.

In spite of the usual huffing and puffing by officials who never like to see anything leaked -- unless they do the leaking -- it seems to me from what I could glean from the Times' report that there were no documents that put Americans (or anyone) at risk. I suspect that the Taliban and its allies know a good deal more about the war than appears in these papers -- perhaps more than the allied military, sad to say.

A few more tests from Obama

The President recently asked liberals (YouTube Netroots Video) to continue supporting him and working with him. We would first like to see some action on his part which shows more courage than his adminstration's recent bullying of USDA employee Shirley Sherrod -- an act that also showed how quick he and his cronies are to cave to right-wingers. Andrew Breitbart, who helped smear Sherrod, claims he didn't edit the video or even know it was taken out of context. The National Review of course believes him. I don't. Breitbart was also responsible for the highly-edited posting of the video that smeared and ultimately destroyed ACORN -- an community organizing agency long a thorn in the side of right-wingers. Breitbart seems to have no scruples about bending the truth: he is an unprincipled liar and coward -- pretty typical of the so-called "conservative" crowd.

Anyway, back to Obama. Here's what I and other "liberals" would like him to do to prove that his heart is in the right (correct) place.

1. He should immediately appoint Elizabeth Warren to had up the Consumer Protection Agency created by the recent Financial Reform measure.

2. He should make it crystal clear that he will live up to his campaign promise of letting the Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthy (incomes over $200,000) expire.

3. He should make it crystal clear that he will live up to his campaign promise of integrating the Armed Forces -- i.e. eliminating "Don't ask don't tell." In fact, forget the "crystal clear": Just Do It. (Truman integrated our armies -- racially -- single-handedly and unilaterally).

There are other things he should do, of course, but these are things that he can do easily without a major congressional effort involving filibuster-breaking.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Is the Tea Party movement "racist"?

Anyone who has ever been to a Tea Party demonstration has seen the various racist signs dotting the crowd. They certainly are not a majority of messages, but they are obvious; I've seen them live in Boston and on the local and national news.

Does that make the Tea Partiers racist?

I think it is important to remember the warning that the civil rights movement has given us: We are all capable -- and even likely -- to harbor some racist views. These can vary from out-and-out beliefs in the inferiority of some or all non-white people to hidden condescension based on the suspicion that maybe blacks are somewhat less smart, or more physically than cleverly athletic, or ... well, you know what I mean. The way to deal with this is to be constantly questioning our beliefs and actions, asking ourselves why we think and act in certain ways. Of course, it's not just "race" (a very difficult to define term), but also culture and religion. What do we really believe about, say, Catholics or Jews? Why? Only saints -- of which there may be none -- are free of prejudices, but we must strive, by careful scrutiny, to be as fair as possible.

Which brings me to the Tea Partiers. If ever there was a non-reflective, non-introspective movement, this is it. All is either bad-guys or good-guys for them. The folks in Washington, the "ins", are plotting with Big Government, to take away our rights and privileges. On the other hand, the "outs" who want to replace them will help us return to the "good old days" as Glenn Beck and others would have it. The Partiers supposedly hate the Big Business bullies at the banks; yet, they support deregulation of these very same banks and have, up and down the line, allied themselves with the very corporate interests that have been corrupting our government. The Tea Screamers are wildly condemning of affirmative action and any kind of healthcare reform associated with government -- the later position, of course, being exactly the position of Big Pharma and the big insurers who have been effectively rationing healthcare here for at least half a century. In other words, the Screamers are effectively taking the positions of the very oppressors they claim to be defying.

There is no way that a movement that is so superficial and so non-critically-believing of just about anything that pits "us" against "them", can fail to harbor racist positions. You can only stamp out racism by seeing it and hating it -- in all its big and little manifestations. The same goes for chauvinism -- of both the national and sexual kinds. The same goes for age-ism and all the other isms that prevent us from viewing and dealing with people as individuals.

So, while the Tea Partiers don't literally advocate racist positions, their no-nothingism and intellectual disconnects make them a fertile ground for some very bad beliefs -- racism being only one of them.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Support Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren has been one of the most eloquent and informed advocates for the recently created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She is a professor of law at Harvard and chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel on TARP. Here is a link to the Wikipedia article about her.

She is a natural candidate to lead the Bureau, but rumors have been circulating (see, e.g., the HuffPo article) that Geithner opposes her nomination; there's a good chance that Larry Summers does as well. Both Geithner and Summers are, of course, prominent members of the President's economic "team" and generally considered to be Wall Street "insiders". On the other hand, she is supported enthusiastically by Barney Frank (among other Dems in Congress).

It's probably a good idea to sign one of the petitions circulating on the 'Net -- for example, THIS ONE sponsored by Progressive Change. Obama sometimes needs a public prodding to do the right thing.

(Incidentally, Robert Reich has an interesting critique of the recently-passed financial reform bill on his blog: here's the link.)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Scott Brown

For what it's worth, here's my take on the junior senator from Massachusetts. It is based on articles I've read about him and on statements and speeches he has made.

First of all, Brown is more of an opportunist than a dyed-in-the-wool right wing ideologue. He supported several progressive bills while a state senator here, including the Massachusetts version of health care reform -- a measure very similar to the national healthcare bill passed recently but opposed by Brown. Listening to him talk, he sounds moderate at first, but passes out all the usual TPR buzzwords like "overreaching" (for the Fed. Gov't) and "individual initiative" and "burden of taxes" (on "small" business). No original thinking here. He owes his election to the lumpen-conservatives -- mostly the TeaScreamers -- who's highest level of political awareness seems to be: "throw out everyone who's 'in' [no matter how good] and elect anyone who's 'out' [no matter how bad]." This, combined with a very poor campaign by Martha Coakley got him elected.

Brown is young and, from his speeches, pretty shallow politically. He describes defending unpopular people in court as "lawyering [them] up," and has repeated every silly Republican attack against Obama's health care plan. On the other hand, he knows that he is from a fairly progressive, traditionally Democratic state, so he can't be perceived as a total stooge of Mitch McConnell and still win re-election. His bosses in the PTR know this also. Thus, he could become one of a tiny handful of "old style" reasonable Republicans like Ed Brooke and Jacob Javits who crank out the usual lines about taxes and individual responsibility, yet who are not anxious to sell the entire country to Big Business.

It would be nice to see Brown, Snowe and Collins -- the three Republicans who voted for both the Stimulus package and the new Wall Street reregulation -- form the nucleus of this kind of Republican caucus -- a group which puts the country ahead of partisan gain.

We shall see.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Home again home again

Jiggity Jig.

Dear friends,

Good to be back to the world of Internet connections -- though I have been able to check my mail in Central Maine. I look forward to blogging again within the next few days.