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Sunday, December 13, 2009

From the Daily Kos..... Obama's Nobel Speech

The Audacity To Listen
by blackwaterdog

Share this on Twitter - The Audacity To Listen Sun Dec 13, 2009 at 02:34:17 PM PST
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference". (Reinhold Niebuhr).

blackwaterdog's diary :: :: It was both entertaining and sad to hear and read the reactions to Barack Obama's lecture during his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize. Entertaining, because sometimes it's nice to see how theories that were built on very little knowledge and a lot of hot air and prejudices - collapse within several seconds. Sad, because this was one more example to the deterioration in the quality of the political and public debate over the last decade.

The Left feels betrayed that Mr. Obama celebrated his Nobel Peace Prize with a speech of support in the concept of 'Just War'. And the Right is shocked that this weak Muslim who was born in Kenya and hates America, is actually not such a sucker. Both sides were caught with their pants down only due to various degrees of ignorance. Because the bottom line is that Mr. Obama didn't say anything new in Oslo. At least not new to those who were listening during two years of campaign - Really listening to the man, not to the slogans and the hype - and those who read his fantastic books – Both of them (Just like the Oslo speech) he wrote by himself.

Barack Obama was never a pacifist. He opposed the war in Iraq not because of some anti-war agenda. "I do not oppose all wars", he said already in 2003, "Only dumb wars". He supported the war in Afghanistan throughout, and anyone who really listened to all his big speeches and serious interviews, could never be surprised by his latest decision.

Those who really listened, knew exactly what they were getting on November 4, 2008: A complete new mutation. Hybridization of black and white, not only in the verbal sense. Combination of a Hot-Liberal-Heart, who dreams about peace, equality and justice for all, and Icy-Pragmatic-Brain, who looks at the world with realistic eyes. Idealist, but not ideologist, packed inside exceptional intellect and charisma that is impossible to buy. A man who operate almost like a computer. There are enough emotional citizens In the United States, and even more stupid ones. They need a president who is ice-cool and twice as intelligent.

Those who listened knew that he was dead serious when he said, again and again, that he's not going to let the perfect become the enemy of the good. The only thing that matters is to make progress. He abhors the 'all or nothing' attitude and have very little patience for the extreme and the absolute. Yes, universal health care is his top campaign promise, but this is something so difficult, that no president ever managed to get, so if he needs to compromise, he will without blinking, drive progressives crazy, while moving the progressive ball forward further than anyone else did in 45 years. The main point is to make progress.

This perception comes almost in entirety from a very clear philosophy. In 2000 George Bush was asked who is his fave philosopher. His answer? "Jesus, because he changed my heart". (Jesus, in response, crucified himself again).

Three years ago, in an interview with David Brooks, Obama was asked the same question and Brooks wanted to know if he ever read Reinhold Niebuhr:

Obama’s tone changed. "I love him. He’s one of my favorite philosophers."

So I asked, What do you take away from him?

"I take away," Obama answered in a rush of words, "the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn't’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away ... the sense we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard, and not swinging from naive idealism to bitter realism."

To Andrew Sullivan he said (also more than two years ago):

"You know, reading Niebuhr, or Tillich or folks like that—those are the people that sustain me. What I believe in is overcoming - but not eliminating - doubt and questioning. I don't believe in an easy path to salvation. For myself or for the world. I think that it’s hard work, being moral. It's hard work being ethical. And I think that it requires a series of judgments and choices that we make every single day. And part of what I want to do as president is open up a conversation in which we are honestly considering our obligations - towards each other. And obligations towards the world".
Andrew Sullivan: But you don't think we're ever going to be saved on this earth do you?

Barack Obama: "No. I think it's a ... we're a constant work in progress. I think God put us here with the intention that we break a sweat trying to be a little better than we were yesterday".

And this is how he finished his speech in Oslo last week:

"We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of deprivation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that — for that is the story of human progress; that is the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth".

Ooops. Looks very much the same.

This is why Michael Tomasky is kicking both sides for their sudden "suprise" by Obama's speech:

The speech was classic Niebuhrian liberal internationalism. If you know anything about the kind of 1940s liberal internationalism with which Neibuhr is associated (and Arthur Schlesinger and George Kennan, say), and if you're familiar with Obama's previous speeches and remarks on these matters, he said very little in Oslo that was new or surprising.

He has always been much closer in his views to 1948 liberal foreign policy principles than 1968 ones, if you know what I mean. The surprise -- the happy surprise among conservatives, and the anger among some on the left -- says less about Obama than it does about the presumptions of listeners in both camps...

...There was nothing neoconservative about the speech. He's continuing the war that was handed to him. As he always -- always -- said he would. But there was nothing in there to suggest that he would embrace the Bush Doctrine or so-called preventive war. If conservatives want to entertain the fantasy that that was in there, that's their choice. But a "just war" quite explicitly can be fought only to redress a wrong actually perpetrated. Afghanistan, yes (to many of us anyway). Iraq, certainly not.

And by the same token, Obama said, admittedly more emphatically than previously, what he has always said but what the left has never wanted to hear. On foreign policy, he is not a 1960s or 70s liberal. He's a 1940s liberal.

So he is undertaking here nothing less than a re-centering of American foreign policy theory, forcing the defenestration of the false categories of the Bush years and trying to reintroduce into our discourse that older foreign policy liberalism, which has been largely abandoned within the architecture of both political parties -- the Republicans because they've moved so far to the right; and the Democrats not so much because they've moved so far to the left, but because on the whole Democrats just kind of stopped thinking really seriously about foreign policy after Vietnam...

Barack Obama never disseminated false hopes. He did not promise to rescue the world, he wasn't trying to walk on water. He is an amazing orator with magnetic personality, so it was easy for people to hear what they wanted to hear, and after eight years of George Bush, it's hard to blame anyone.
But what Mr. Obama did disseminate was the audacity to hope: Aspire to make the best world that we can, because there's no such thing as a perfect world, it's the horizon that none of us will ever touch, but alas if we cease to try.
And so said Niebuhr:

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; there we must be saved by hope.

Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; there we must be saved by faith.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love.

No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our own standpoint.

Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness."

Tags: Recommended, Barack Obama, Reinhold Niebuhr, Nobel Peace Prize, War And Peace (all tags) :: Previous Tag Versions

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Pres -- Accepting the Nobel Peace Prize

The President's Nobel acceptance speech is being raved as being historic. He upheld America's place in the world which disarmed "reasonable" Republicans. Rather than platitudes, his intellectual approach to war and peace in this era provided a clarity and respect to his Nobel audience and the world. Accepting the "peace prize" and providing a clear moral rationale for a "just war" was intellectually and poltically honest.

The amazing thing about this award are all of the questions as to whether he deserved the award? That whole debate is silly. It was the decision of the Nobel Committee to name him the awardee. Their prize is something they value. They do not take this decision lightly. Who Obama is and what he stands for IS the "peace" they were looking for. For the first time in the history of the world, a "colonized minority" was elected as the leader of the "free world." The world's history is one of white nationalism and white dominance that has been a central feature on European expansionism. Obama's election with his intelligence, competence, and his appeal for a more just world are reasons he won the Prize. His Cairo speech and outrearch to world were bases for their naming him the laureate for this year.

There were a few who suggested that he not accept it or not show up. These people must have been born under a rock but they make millions as talking heads on TV. How insulting that would have been? What an embarrassment to the United States? RGN

December 11, 2009
Accepting Peace Prize, Obama Offers ‘Hard Truth’

OSLO — President Obama used his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize on Thursday to defend the idea that some wars were necessary and just, remind the world of the burden the United States had borne in the fight against oppression and appeal for greater international efforts for peace.

“We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: we will not eradicate violent conflicts in our lifetimes,” Mr. Obama said, addressing the paradox of receiving an award for peace as commander in chief of a nation that is escalating the war in Afghanistan as it continues to fight in Iraq. “There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”

He delivered a mix of realism and idealism, implicitly criticizing both the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as inadequately appreciating the dangers of the world, and President George W. Bush as too quick to set aside fundamental American values in pursuit of security. And he embraced the concept of American exceptionalism, the idea that the United States has a special role as a defender of liberty, even as he promoted multilateralism.

In that way, he continued a pattern evident throughout his public career of favoring pragmatism over absolutes.

The address — delivered at once to a European audience that has grown skeptical about American power and to a domestic audience watching closely to see how he would handle the acceptance of an award that even he acknowledged he did not yet deserve — represented one of the broadest declarations of his foreign policy doctrine. He said that others deserved the award more, noting that his “accomplishments are slight,” but he accepted the prize with a strong endorsement of America’s place in the world.

“Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this,” Mr. Obama said. “The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.”

The Nobel lecture, a 36-minute address that the president and his aides completed on an overnight flight from Washington, carried echoes of several American presidents, from Jimmy Carter to Mr. Bush, but Mr. Obama singled out one above all: John F. Kennedy.

Mr. Obama cited Mr. Kennedy’s focus on “not a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions.”

Mr. Obama called for more robust international sanctions against nations like Iran and North Korea that defy demands for them to curtail their nuclear programs.

Weeks after being criticized for not speaking out more publicly in defense of human rights while in China, he suggested that quiet diplomacy was sometimes the most productive path, even if it “lacks the satisfying purity of indignation.”

The ceremony was the focal point of a series of events celebrating Mr. Obama’s entry into the ranks of Nobel laureates. On Thursday night, the president and his wife, Michelle, appeared in a window of the Grand Hotel, waving to thousands of people below who had gathered for a torch-light parade.

Trumpets sounded when Mr. Obama walked down the long aisle of a soaring auditorium to deliver his address. He escorted his wife, who took her seat in the front row, before he assumed his position on the stage and faced the king and queen of Norway.

The Nobel chairman, Thorbjorn Jagland, opened the ceremony by explaining how the committee came to its decision two months ago. He said Mr. Obama’s leadership had been a “call to action for all of us.” As he invoked the story of Dr. King, the winner of the prize in 1964, he turned to Mr. Obama, saying, “Dr. King’s dream has come true.”

Mr. Obama pursed his lips and nodded gently as the audience applauded loudly. When he was presented his gold medal and Nobel diploma, he received a standing ovation that stretched for more than a minute. The crowd did not rise again until the conclusion of his remarks.

Mr. Obama’s speech was sober, with his remarks only sparingly interrupted by applause. He was applauded when he renewed his pledge to ban torture and close the prison at the American base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

“We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend,” Mr. Obama said. “And we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it is easy, but when it is hard.”

To a European audience of academics, diplomats and Nobel laureates, he said there was “a deep ambivalence about military action today,” which he said he suspected was rooted in “a reflexive suspicion of America.” But he offered a forceful defense of the United States, saying the lessons of history should ease those suspicions. And he urged his audience to envision a hopeful future.

“Let us reach for the world that ought to be,” he said, “that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls.”

He did not dwell on the specifics of his announcement last week that he would send 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan. But that decision, which attracted scores of peaceful demonstrators here, set the framework that Mr. Obama returned to again and again as he sought to explain his policy as an extension of the post-World War II system that contained the cold war.

“A decade into a new century, this old architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats,” Mr. Obama said. “The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsize rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.”

Mr. Obama, who is scheduled to stay in Oslo for about 26 hours, miffed some Norwegians by not participating in some of the traditional events surrounding the peace prize ceremony, including a luncheon and a concert.

Mr. Obama, sensitive to the criticism, explained the brevity of his visit. “I only wish that my family could stay longer in this wonderful country,” he told reporters, “but I still have a lot of work to do back in Washington, D.C., before the year is done.”

The president is scheduled to return to Washington on Friday.

Walter Gibbs contributed reporting.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Walters on the President and a Black Agenda

Ron Walters exposes an apparent "blind spot" when it comes to the President's economic agenda. When it comes to the severe problems facing black America, Walters points out that the President's position is that the best way to to address these problems is to help America in general. There are two recent posts on this blog that provide other perspectives on this debate. One says the President is making progress on a progressive agenda. The other says the black community faces a "depression." Evidently, making progress on a progressive agenda is not sufficient to address the dire conditions faced by the black community. Politically universalitic policies might be appealing but when such policies do not address severe problems faced by a particular community, particularly the black community, the appeals of the Congressional Black Caucus and Walters must be addressed. RGN

Obama Rejects Special Needs of the Black Community
By Ron Walters

It was somewhat painful to write the above headline, since I along with 16 million blacks who voted for Barack Obama did so, partly on the strength of the belief that he would indeed understand and take seriously the needs of the black community. Such headlines are sweeping the country depicting his response to the Congressional Black Caucus’s (CBC) challenge to his economic policies.

Last month Rep. Maxine Waters (CA) led ten of her CBC colleagues to vote against the Financial Services Bill coming out of committee. Their opposition was based on the clamor from heads of a large segment of the black economy: auto dealers, bankers, accountants, businesspersons, broadcasters and others who cannot get credit from banks and financial agencies – even those owned by the US government -- and are facing disaster. The CBC went into negotiations with Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s Chief of Staff, but little was accomplished. They then, held a press conference and announced as much, saying that broadly the White House was unresponsive and that “we have not been forceful in our efforts to protect the most vulnerable of our population,” and that the White House takes this part of its constituency for granted but is solicitous to Blue Dog Conservative Democrats. This action was taken, they explained, to educate those in the White House who do not advocate on behalf of blacks or the working class, since “we can no longer afford to have public policy defined by the world view of Wall Street.”

In an interview with Justin Hyde of the Detroit Free Press and Richard Wolfe of USA Today, President Obama was asked about the charges of the CBC and he said: “The most important thing I can do for the African American community is the same thing I can do for the American community, period, and that is get the economy going again and get people hiring again.” Then he continued, “I think it’s a mistake to start thinking in terms of particular ethnic segments of the United States rather than to think that we are all in this together and we are all going to get out of this together.” I had long thought that this was his governing philosophy but here are the words of it spelled out.

But there is a gross contradiction at the heart of his statement. If it is “mistake” to think about ethnic segments of the country in his governance, then why did he sign an executive order mandating that heads of executive agencies affect consultation with Indian tribal governments, or sign an executive order mandating the increased participation of Asians and Pacific Islanders in federal programs, or say in a speech to the Hispanic Caucus this year that when their unemployment number reached over 10% that was not just a problem for Hispanics, “it was a problem for the nation.” No such statement has been made by the White House about the 15.7% rate of official black unemployment.

Indeed, if Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Clinton had felt that considering ethnicity in governance was a “mistake” what would be the character of black progress? The issue here is that these presidents did not deal with African American issues out of the goodness of their own hearts, but because there was a national crisis that called for it, or because blacks pushed them to the wall. The latter has been one of the routine answers to the question of whether President Obama would deal earnestly with problems faced by the black community, given that many whites expected that he would conduct his administration by handing out favors to them. No doubt, Obama feels he must guard against that in order to maintain white votes, but it puts blacks in a box, the only route out of which is to “make him do it.”

The integrity of black political participation and the security of the black community demand a president who is responsive to their needs in exchange for the 97%investment in his presidency. His stated governing philosophy should also mean that the celebration is over and that we must make clear to him that we will not be taken for granted and we will not willingly be subject to the spoils of a trickle-down economic strategy that will take years to rehabilitate our communities. So, I think that since none of the members of the CBC, nor black economists, nor the Black Civil Rights leaders were invited to the White House Jobs Summit that in the month of January in honor of the defiant spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Congressional Black Caucus should host one and invite the people who should be there to affect a bottom up, urgent strategy.

The President has thrown down the gauntlet; black leadership must pick it up.

Dr. Ron Walters is Professor Emeritus of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland College Park. His latest book is: The Price of Racial Reconciliation (University of Michigan Press)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Report Card on Obama's Progressive Agenda...

As the President sends more troops to Afghanistan, many progressives are deserting him, accusing him of being a continuation of Bush-Cheney. To oppose sending more troops into harms way is the correct position, however, the politics of an immediate withdrawal may have been a bit more problematic. As progressive commentator Ed Schultz argues, the complexity of the problem leads him to support the President but oppose the policy.

On the domestic front, Nathan Newman argues that Obama's progressive agenda has been moving right along. He presents evidence that the President's policies are not "a continuation of Bush policies," as has been the charge. His arguments and "data" show that the election has brought about a fundamental change in orientation from that of Bush and America's right wing. At a Congressional hearing the Obvama's Justice Department Civil Rights Division exposed the Bush reactionary practices.

Obama was a member of an anti-racist, anti-imperialist black liberation theology congregation for 21 years. He was married in that concgregation, his children were christened in that congregation. While he has not renounced the "free market," there is not much in his history to suggest that he is just another member of the capitalist class out to attack the working class.

The issue is here is whether or not "the perfect" (i.e., revolutionary) left agenda is the enemy of modest (i.e., electoral) progress for the working class? Fundamentally, the question is: Is it possible for a progressive agenda to move from protest to politics, or even more governance in the context of what is argued to be a center-right nation? RGN

Progressives (and Obama) are Doing Better Than We Think -- and We Won't Know What We've Got 'Til It's Gone
By Nathan Newman - November 30, 2009, 9:01AM

Polls show the Democratic base is unmotivated to turnout in 2010-- and it's no wonder given all the rhetoric that Obama hasn't done much with his 2008 victory. Those attacks from the rightwing are understandable from a partisan position, but many progressives seem to oddly be aping similar rhetoric-- wallowing in glass half-empty complaints of what Obama and Congress haven't delivered while failing to actually educate the public on the successes they have. We should be able to demand more while publicly praising what we do achieve -- basic political walking and chewing gum at the same time -- but a lot of progressives seem not to have mastered the skill.

Maybe it helps that I had such low expectations of Obama's administration to begin with-- but then I thought significant federal reforms would fail due to the filibuster. So the progress actually made is a pleasant surprise. And those successes are large and profound. This post will summarize those gains, and even in summary form will be quite long, reflecting the incredible victories involved. Yes, we all wish for more, but the best way to get there is to educate the public -- and especially the progressive base -- about what we got in the last year and how replacing moderates and conservatives with more real progressives could deliver even more in the future.

Quick Summary of 2009 Progressive Victories (more explanation below)

For the full article click here

Progressives (and Obama) are Doing Better Than We Think -- and We Won't Know What We've Got 'Til It's Gone

By Nathan Newman - November 30, 2009, 9:01AM

Polls show the Democratic base is unmotivated to turnout in 2010-- and it's no wonder given all the rhetoric that Obama hasn't done much with his 2008 victory. Those attacks from the rightwing are understandable from a partisan position, but many progressives seem to oddly be aping similar rhetoric-- wallowing in glass half-empty complaints of what Obama and Congress haven't delivered while failing to actually educate the public on the successes they have. We should be able to demand more while publicly praising what we do achieve -- basic political walking and chewing gum at the same time -- but a lot of progressives seem not to have mastered the skill.

Maybe it helps that I had such low expectations of Obama's administration to begin with-- but then I thought significant federal reforms would fail due to the filibuster. So the progress actually made is a pleasant surprise. And those successes are large and profound. This post will summarize those gains, and even in summary form will be quite long, reflecting the incredible victories involved. Yes, we all wish for more, but the best way to get there is to educate the public -- and especially the progressive base -- about what we got in the last year and how replacing moderates and conservatives with more real progressives could deliver even more in the future.

Quick Summary of 2009 Progressive Victories (more explanation below)

•Three major health bills (SCHIP, tobacco regulation, and stimulus funds for Medicaid, COBRA subsidies, health information technology and the National Institutes of Health) enacted even before comprehensive reform
•Stimulus contained myriad other individual policy victories, not only preventing a far worse depression but also:
◦Delivered key new funds for education
◦Expanded state energy conservation programs and new transit programs
◦Added new smart grid investments
◦Funded high-speed Internet broadband programs
◦Extended unemployment insurance for up to 99 weeks for the unemployed and modernizing state UI programs to cover more of the unemployed
◦Made large new investments in the safety net, from food stamps (SNAP) to affordable housing to child care
•Clean cars victory to take gas mileage requirements to 35mpg
•Protection of 2 million acres of land against oil and gas drilling and other development
•Executive orders protecting labor rights, from project labor agreements to protecting rights of contractor employees on federal jobs
•Stopping pay discrimination through Lilly Ledbetter and Equal Pay laws
•Making it easier for airline and railway workers to unionize, while appointing NLRB and other labor officials who will strengthen freedom to form unions
•Reversing Bush ban on funding overseas family planning clinics
•Passing hate crimes protections for gays and lesbians
•Protecting stem cell research research
•Strengthening state authority and restricting federal preemption to protect state consumer, environmental and labor laws
•Financial reforms to protect homeowners and credit card holders
•Bailing out the auto industry and protecting unionized retirees and workers

Detailed-- Let's start with health care. Even if the public option doesn't make it, we are on the verge of passing a federal reform bill that, at minimum, is projected to add health coverage for 31 million Americans in the next decade, devoting $347 billion to add 15 million people to Medicaid and CHIP programs and $447 billion to subsidize coverage for other working and middle class families.

And remember, if passed, this will be the fourth major health care bill passed in Obama's first year in office.

•The first was the passage of the Children's Health Insurance Bill , which itself will expand coverage for an additional 4 million uninsured children by 2013 on top of continuing coverage for 7 million currently enrolled in the program. And for the first time, it allowed states to cover many documented immigrant children who previously were not eligible
•And Congress passed its bill to give the government the power to regulate tobacco, something progressives had been seeking since the early 1990s.
•And then there was the stimulus money for health care, which dedicated more than $145 billion to investments and reform of health care systems,including
◦$87 billion to states in just the next couple of years to maintain Medicaid programs
◦$25 billion to help laid-off workers afford their previous employer's health care via COBRA
◦$19 billion for Health Information Technology (HIT) deployment and
◦$10 billion in additional funds for the National Institute of Health.
Really, you should count the COBRA subsidies, HIT expansion and NIH funding as three additional health care bills passed, since each in a normal year would have been considered a profound and singular legislative achievements.

The Stimulus Plan as Multiple Progressive Achievements: But that's was one problem with the stimulus bill-- it was so large that it's treated as one thing, instead of a whole array of legislative achievements pulled together to also help save the economy from depression and collapse. So let's step back and pull the recovery plan apart into it's multiple progressive achievements. The list of individual programs may seem long, but when you are talking about billions of dollars for each one handed out over a relatively short period, they are worth remembering for their individual progressive achievement and for the billions committed, especially for many programs starved for funds for decades. I'll summarize some of these below, but you can see more details in Progressive States' Implementing the Recovery Plan.

•Stimulus Saving the Economy: Before going into all the individual programs, let's talk about the overall achievement of the recovery plan in stabilizing the economy. Most progressives will agree it should have been bigger, but key economists agree it was critical to staving off an economic collapse; as Paul Krugman wrote, without the stimulus plan, "we would have had a full Great Depression experience...Deficits, in other words, saved the world." Including not only direct jobs created but the ripples of jobs created through indirect stimulus, the Economic Policy Institute confirms the stimulus' was responsible for creating or saving from 1.1 to 1.5 million jobs since its passage. A large part of this effect was in preventing catastrophic layoffs of teachers, nurses and other state and local employees by offsetting revenue losses at the state and local level. While there seems to be some kind of sexist media meme that only highway jobs, presumably manned by manly men, count as "real jobs", the stimulus however has kept hundreds of thousands of teachers and nurses and child care workers on the job-- one of the most important anti-recession government employment programs of the last half-century.
•Education Funding: This emphasizes that along with being a major health care bill, the stimulus was one of the largest federal education bills in history. It devoted $139.24 billion to education funding over a couple of years, including:
◦State Fiscal Stabilization Fund of $53.6 billion to help state and local governments avert budget cuts
◦$39.5 billion in educational block grants allocated by student and general population measures
◦$5 billion for incentive grants and other purposes.
◦$24.8 billion for School Construction Bonds
◦$11.3 billion for special education
◦$10 billion for Local Educational Agencies
◦$3 billion for School Improvement Grants.
◦Higher education funding of approximately $30 billion was distributed directly to students and their families, but an estimated $15 billion for scientific research flowed partly to universities.

•Clean Energy and Transportation Investments: Estimates on potential green energy investments in the recovery package, including upgrading our transportation infrastructure, range from $70.6 billion to $113.5 billion depending on what is included, but the bottom-line is that this package is the largest investment in energy independence in American history. These included:
◦Over $14 billion for various State Energy Conservation Programs, including $5 billion for the chronically underfunded Weatherization Assistance Program to help low-income families reduce their energy costs by weatherizing their homes.
◦$11 billion for smart grid technology aimed at improving the energy efficiency of electrical grids around the country, a key to making alternative energy production and distribution viable.
◦The recovery plan was also a key "down payment on a new transportation vision," in the words of the coalition Transportation for America, including $27.5 billion allocated to the traditional highway program, $8.4 billion for public transportation, $9.3 billion for intercity and high-speed passenger rail, and $825 million for projects that will make our streets safer for walking and biking. Significantly, the law included unprecedented flexibility in using "highway" funds on ports, transit, passenger and freight rail, or other projects.

•Broadband Investments: The recovery plan allocated $7.2 billion to promote high-speed Internet programs for rural, unserved and under-served areas and for initiatives that expand public community centers' capacity and for the development of a national broadband map.

•Unemployment Insurance Extension and Reform: While the present recession is bad, one reason many unemployed workers and their families are better off than in past recessions is that help for the unemployed has been far more extensive due to the stimulus plan.
◦First, the stimulus plan included extended federal weeks of help for the unemployed (help which was recently further extended with a new law) to up to 99 weeks of help in the worst hit states -- compared to just 26 weeks normally available before the recession-based reforms and no more than 52 weeks in recessions over the last three decades.
◦While benefits are still too meager by international standards, the stimulus, over 17.9 million Americans will receive a $25/week increase in their UI benefits.
◦As importantly, $7 billion in incentive money was provided to states to modernize their unemployment insurance systems to including low-income workers, part-time workers and workers who had to leave jobs for compelling family reasons-- workers previously completely excluded from UI help in most states. The result has been what the National Employment Law Project calls an "unprecedented wave of state reforms" to expand access to state unemployment help.
◦Add in the 65% COBRA health care subsidies mentioned above and progressives have won broader and deeper relief for the unemployed than in any past recession.

•Supporting the Safety Net: And for those already suffering in poverty -- or plunged into it because of the recession -- the stimulus bill extended additional help as well:
◦Nutrition Programs: Over $20 billion was added to the Food Stamps program (now called SNAP), WIC and other food programs, and the law lifted restrictions on how long unemployed individuals without children can receive SNAP benefits.
◦Child Care: Over $4 billion was added for child care block grants, Head Start and Early Head Start programs.
◦TANF: $5 billion was added to basic TANF welfare programs. While not repealing the 1996 welfare law, provisions did roll back rigid rules that would have denied funds to states that couldn't find work for rapidly expanding caseloads of the poor.
◦Affordable Housing Aid: Added $13.5 billion in funding for a range of affordable housing and homeless prevention programs.

•Expansion of science investments-- Notably, between the stimulus and other budget spending, no less than the Wall Street Journal calls Obama's investments in science, especially green technology, a "once-in-a-generation shift in U.S. science," reinvigorating 17 giant U.S.-funded research facilities, from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, as well as university research facilities .
So those are many of the myriad program gains from the recovery plan (there are more whose dollar amounts were less but who mattered greatly to those effected). But there have also been additional policy gains outside the stimulus on the environment, labor rights, gay and abortion rights, and financial reforms.

Environmental Victories: Two notable victories promise to have long-lasting legacies for the nation, even before climate change legislation comes to a vote in the Senate:

•Victory on clean cars mileage rules-- For literally decades, automakers blocked higher federal gas mileage rules and the Bush administration blocked state laws seeking to establish higher standards in their states. Obama engineered a new rule that by model year 2016, the average mandated fleet fuel efficiency standard will be 35.5 miles per gallon. Add in the$2 billion in stimulus cash for advanced batteries systems and the nation should see significant fuel savings in the near future.
•Landmark U.S. conservation bill - Signing a package of more than 160 bills, Obama designating roughly 2 million acres -- parks, rivers, streams, desert, forest and trails -- in nine states as new wilderness and render them off limits to oil and gas drilling and other development.
Labor Rights: On labor rights, we haven't gotten the Employee Free Choice Act, but key Bush executive orders have been reversed, new personnel are being added to the National Labor Relations Board, and Congress has passed key new laws. These include

•Executive orders to allow use of project labor agreements on federal projects, requirements not to displace qualified (often unionized) workers when changing contractors, and require all federal contractors to notify their workers of their rights to form a union.
•Passage of the Lilly Leadbetter Law and Equal-Pay Legislation to protect workers from pay discrimination.
•The Federal Mediation Board has moved to make it far easier for rail and airline workers to form unions.
•Obama's appointees at the Labor Department and NLRB are some of the strongest labor advocates possible, most of them drawn from pro-labor organizations.
Social Issues: Progressive mades a number of advances on hot button "culture war" issues this year:

•Family Planning: Obama reversed George W. Bush's funding cutoff to overseas family planning organizations -- probably saving millions of lives.
•Hate Crimes: Congress passed a lawexpanding hate crimes protection to gays and lesbians.
•Stem cells: Obama signed an executive order removing research barriers.
Strengthening Authority of States to Build on Federal Reforms: For years, states have increasingly seen their hands tied by a federal government declaring that preemption voids state consumer, environmental and labor rights laws. The Bush administration in particular used its regulatory authority aggressively to block state law after state law. In May, the White House emphasized its new commitment to respecting state regulatory rules by issuing a broad Memorandum on Preemption to all heads of executive departments and agencies, ordering them to avoid the preemption language routinely included in Bush-era regulatory preamble statements or in codified regulations unless there is "full consideration of the legitimate prerogatives of the States and with a sufficient legal basis for preemption."

The administration's affirmation of state "clean car" authority, protection of higher state consumer health care protections, and ending Bush's war on medical marijuana in the states have all been part of this movement towards of collaborative federalism that will strengthen progressive power in the states for years into the future.

Financial Reforms: Even as more comprehensive financial reforms continue to move forward in the House, a couple of significant financial consumer reforms were passed earlier this year: •Helping Families Save Their Homes Act and the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act -these pieces of legislation make it easier for homeowners to access financial help, established protections for renters living in foreclosed homes, and established the right of a homeowner to know who owns their mortgage, while giving the Department of Justice the ability to prosecute at virtually every step of the process from predatory lending on Main Street to the manipulation on Wall Street.
•Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act (or Credit CARD Act) of 2009- limits when credit card interest rates can be increased on existing balances and allows consumers whose interest rates have been increased to reduce their annual percentage rates (APRs) to previous levels if they've been good and paid their bills on time for six months. It also limits when interest rates can be increased, bans universal default and double-cycle billing, and restricts credit cards for minors.

Auto Bailout- Saving a core industry of our economy and as many of its attendant jobs as we can should have been a no-brainer, especially as many construction and real estate jobs are inevitably disappearing forever. And the Obama rescue was done in an extremely progressive manner, liquidating the shareholders who tolerated terrible management while safeguarding retirees and preserving a strong union for workers remaining in the industry. The "cash for clunkers" plan may have been a bit of a giveaway to the industry, but then since the U.S. government owns a chunk of the industry, reviving industry profits means returning some of the money to the government itself as a shareholder..

And More to Come: Many more progressive achievements are within reach as well, moving through the meatgrinder political process too slowly for some progressives but still quite possible in the next few months. From fundamental student loan reforms to remaking banking regulations to climate change legislation to immigration reform to labor law reform, high profile progressive initiatives are still being promoted by both the administration and Congressional leaders.

Again, we should always be demanding more-- and planning electoral responses where possible against the Congressional repesentatives and Senators blocking better reforms -- but we also need to highlight what we've won, keep allies and the base of progressives excited so that they will have the energy to fight those fights.

Progressives have been winning in the last year. We just need to keep reminding ourselves and the public of how full the cup is-- and planning to fill it the rest of the way as we win more elections in the future. It's worth remembering that large parts of what we consider the New Deal were not enacted until many years into FDR's Presidency. Social Security and the National Labor Relations Act were enacted only in 1935, three years into his term, while the federal minimum wage was enacted only in 1938, in FDR's sixth year in office. But along the way, progressives won individual victories that continually fed progressive energy for the next fight. That's the challenge now for progressives, to claim existing victories and build on that energy for fights to come.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A "Depression" for Black America: Bold Responses Needed!!

This Washington Post report is not as surprising as it is sobering. Black America is mired in a depression. While that is not true for ALL of Black America but the marginalization and attacks on young African American males is unsustainable for a civil society. After 30 years of the right wing rule, including their creation is the economic disaster, it is time to institute recovery economic policies -- jobs, jobs, jobs. Now that healthcare is about to be a done deal, economic policies must take center stage. RGN

Blacks hit hard by economy's punch
34.5 percent of young African American men are unemployed

By V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 24, 2009

These days, 24-year-old Delonta Spriggs spends much of his time cooped up in his mother's one-bedroom apartment in Southwest Washington, the TV blaring soap operas hour after hour, trying to stay out of the streets and out of trouble, held captive by the economy. As a young black man, Spriggs belongs to a group that has been hit much harder than any other by unemployment.

Joblessness for 16-to-24-year-old black men has reached Great Depression proportions -- 34.5 percent in October, more than three times the rate for the general U.S. population. And last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that unemployment in the District, home to many young black men, rose to 11.9 percent from 11.4 percent, even as it stayed relatively stable in Virginia and Maryland.

His work history, Spriggs says, has consisted of dead-end jobs. About a year ago, he lost his job moving office furniture, and he hasn't been able to find steady work since. This summer he completed a construction apprenticeship program, he says, seeking a career so he could avoid repeating the mistake of selling drugs to support his 3-year-old daughter. So far the most the training program has yielded was a temporary flagger job that lasted a few days.

"I think we're labeled for not wanting to do nothing -- knuckleheads or hardheads," said Spriggs, whose first name is pronounced Dee-lon-tay. "But all of us ain't bad."

Construction, manufacturing and retail experienced the most severe job losses in this down economy, losses that are disproportionately affecting men and young people who populated those sectors. That is especially playing out in the District, where unemployment has risen despite the abundance of jobs in the federal government.

Traditionally the last hired and first fired, workers in Spriggs's age group have taken the brunt of the difficult economy, with cost-conscious employers wiping out the very apprenticeship, internship and on-the-job-training programs that for generations gave young people a leg up in the work world or a second chance when they made mistakes. Moreover, this generation is being elbowed out of entry-level positions by older, more experienced job seekers on the unemployment rolls who willingly trade down just to put food on the table.

The jobless rate for young black men and women is 30.5 percent. For young blacks -- who experts say are more likely to grow up in impoverished racially isolated neighborhoods, attend subpar public schools and experience discrimination -- race statistically appears to be a bigger factor in their unemployment than age, income or even education. Lower-income white teens were more likely to find work than upper-income black teens, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, and even blacks who graduate from college suffer from joblessness at twice the rate of their white peers.

Young black women have an unemployment rate of 26.5 percent, while the rate for all 16-to-24-year-old women is 15.4 percent.

Victoria Kirby, 22, has been among that number. In the summer of 2008, a D.C. publishing company where Kirby was interning offered her a job that would start upon her graduation in May 2009 from Howard University. But the company withdrew the offer in the fall of 2008 when the economy collapsed.

Kirby said she applied for administrative jobs on Capitol Hill but was told she was overqualified. She sought a teaching position in the D.C. public schools through the Teach for America program but said she was rejected because of a flood of four times the usual number of applicants.

Finally, she went back to school, enrolling in a master's of public policy program at Howard. "I decided to stay in school two more years and wait out the recession," Kirby said.

On a tightrope

The Obama administration is on a tightrope, balancing the desire to spend billions more dollars to create jobs without adding to the $1.4 trillion national deficit. Yet some policy experts say more attention needs to be paid to the intractable problems of underemployed workers -- those who like Spriggs may lack a high school diploma, a steady work history, job-readiness skills or a squeaky-clean background.

"Increased involvement in the underground economy, criminal activity, increased poverty, homelessness and teen pregnancy are the things I worry about if we continue to see more years of high unemployment," said Algernon Austin, a sociologist and director of the race, ethnicity and economy program at the Economic Policy Institute, which studies issues involving low- and middle-income wage earners.

Earlier this month, District officials said they will use $3.9 million in federal stimulus funds to provide 19 weeks of on-the-job training to 500 18-to-24-year-olds. But even those who receive training often don't get jobs.

"I thought after I finished the [training] program, I'd be working. I only had three jobs with the union and only one of them was longer than a week," Spriggs, a tall slender man wearing a black Nationals cap, said one afternoon while sitting at the table in the living room/dining room in his mother's apartment. "It has you wanting to go out and find other ways to make money. . . . [Lack of jobs is why] people go out hustling and doing what they can to get by."

"Give me a chance to show that I can work. Just give me a chance," added Spriggs, who is on probation for drug possession. "I don't want to think negative. I know the economy is slow. You got to crawl before you walk. I got to be patient. My biggest problem [which prompted the effort to sell drugs] is not being patient."

The economy's seismic shift has been an equal-opportunity offender, hurting various racial and ethnic groups, economic classes, ages, and white- and blue-collar job categories. Nevertheless, 16-to-24-year-olds face heavier losses, with a 19.1 percent unemployment rate, about nine points higher than the national average for the general population.

Their rate of employment in October was 44.9 percent, the lowest level in 61 years of record keeping, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment for men in their 20s and early 30s is at its lowest level since the Great Depression, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies.

Troubling consequences

Unemployment among young people is particularly troubling, economists say, because the consequences can be long-lasting. This might be the first generation that does not keep up with its parents' standard of living. Jobless teens are more likely to be jobless twenty-somethings. Once forced onto the sidelines, they likely will not catch up financially for many years. That is the case even for young people of all ethnic groups who graduate from college.

Lisa B. Kahn, an economics professor at Yale University who studied graduates during recessions in the 1980s, determined that the young workers hired during a down economy generally start off with lower wages than they otherwise would have and don't recover for at least a decade.

Elections Have Consequences: A Stroke for the Working Class

The Obama Labor department has struck a blow FOR the working class, specifically aspect of the working class that is the most exploited. We can only assume that this is a step towards reversing 30 some years on the workers. RGN

November 20, 2009
Labor Department Targets Wage and Hour Violations
The Department of Labor is cracking down on wage and hour violations.

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced yesterday that the department has hired an additional 250 wage and hour investigators, boosting staffing by one third to respond more quickly to complaints and undertake more targeted enforcement.

"There is no excuse for employers who disregard federal labor standards – especially those that are designed to protect the most vulnerable in the workplace," said Solis in a statement. "The failure to comply with these basic labor standards means that workers are not receiving the money they have earned."

In the past three months, the Labor Department has brought two enforcement cases that resulted in the recovery of nearly $2 million in back wages for 500 workers.

The Labor Department’s Wage and Hour division administers the Fair Labor Act, which sets standards for minimum wages, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor. The act applies to companies with at least $500,000 in annual business.

It also covers domestic service workers, such as day workers, housekeepers, chauffeurs, cooks, or full‑time babysitters, if they receive at least $1,700 in 2009 in cash wages from one employer in a calendar year, or if they work a total of more than eight hours a week for one or more employers.

Next year, the department plans to launch a national public awareness campaign titled "We Can Help" to inform workers about their rights.

Posted by Jenna Greene on November 20, 2009 at 11:43 AM | Permalink

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Kileen and Kabul: The connection

In the Op-Ed piece by Frank Rich below, a strong case is made to show the diabolical logic of conservatives when it comes to Islam. By making the link between an all out assault on all Muslims as a result of Maj. Nidal Hasan's slaying of 13 people at Ft. Hood and wining the hearts and minds of the Afghans in Kabul, Rich shows the contrdictions in their logic. In Rich's "connecting of the dots," we see a far more complex picture than that articulated by the white nationalist right. RGN

November 15, 2009
The Missing Link From Killeen to Kabul

THE dead at Fort Hood had not even been laid to rest when their massacre became yet another political battle cry for the self-proclaimed patriots of the American right.
Their verdict was unambiguous: Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an American-born psychiatrist of Palestinian parentage who sent e-mail to a radical imam, was a terrorist. And he did not act alone. His co-conspirators included our military brass, the Defense Department, the F.B.I., the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and, of course, the liberal media and the Obama administration. All these institutions had failed to heed the warning signs raised by Hasan’s behavior and activities because they are blinded by political correctness toward Muslims, too eager to portray criminals as sympathetic victims of social injustice, and too cowardly to call out evil when it strikes 42 innocents in cold blood.

The invective aimed at these heinous P.C. pantywaists nearly matched that aimed at Hasan. Joe Lieberman announced hearings to investigate the Army for its dereliction of duty on homeland security. Peter Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, vowed to unmask cover-ups in the White House and at the C.I.A. The Weekly Standard blog published a broadside damning the F.B.I. for neglecting the “broader terrorist plot” of which Hasan was only one of the connected dots. Jerome Corsi, the major-domo of the successful Swift-boating of John Kerry, unearthed what he said was proof that Hasan had advised President Obama during the transition.

William Bennett excoriated soft military leaders like Gen. George Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, who had stood up for diversity and fretted openly about a backlash against Muslim soldiers in his ranks. “Blind diversity” that embraces Islam “equals death,” wrote Michelle Malkin. “There is a powerful case to be made that Islamic extremism is not some fringe phenomenon but part of the mainstream of Islamic life around the world,” wrote the columnist Jonah Goldberg. Islam is “not a religion,” declared the irrepressible Pat Robertson, but “a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world.”

As a snapshot of where a chunk of the country stands right now, these reactions to the Fort Hood bloodbath could not be more definitive. And it’s quite possible that some of what this crowd says is right — not about Islam in general, but about the systemic failure to stop a homicidal maniac like Hasan in particular. Whether he was an actual terrorist or an unfathomable mass murderer merely dabbling in jihadist ideas, the repeated red flags during his Army career illuminate a pattern of lapses in America’s national security. Whether those indicators were ignored because of political correctness, bureaucratic dysfunction, sheer incompetence or some hybrid thereof is still unclear, but, whichever, the system failed.

Yet the mass murder at Fort Hood didn’t happen in isolation. It unfolded against the backdrop of Obama’s final lap of decision-making about Afghanistan. For all the right’s jeremiads, its own brand of political correctness kept it from connecting two crucial dots: how our failing war against terrorists in Afghanistan might relate to our failure to stop a supposed terrorist attack at home. Most of those who decried the Army’s blindness to Hasan’s threat are strong proponents of sending more troops into our longest war. That they didn’t mention Afghanistan while attacking the entire American intelligence and defense apparatus in charge of that war may be the most telling revelation of this whole debate.

The reason they didn’t is obvious enough. Their screeds about the Hasan case are completely at odds with both the Afghanistan policy they endorse and the leadership that must execute that policy, including Gen. Stanley McChrystal. These hawks, all demanding that Obama act on McChrystal’s proposals immediately, do not seem to have read his strategy assessment for Afghanistan or the many press interviews he gave as it leaked out. If they had, they’d discover that the whole thrust of his counterinsurgency pitch is to befriend and win the support of the Afghan population — i.e., Muslims. The “key to success,” the general wrote in his brief to the president, will be “strong personal relationships forged between security forces and local populations.”

McChrystal thinks we might even jolly up those Muslims who historically and openly hate America. “I don’t think much of the Taliban are ideologically driven,” he told Dexter Filkins of The Times. “In my view their past is not important. Some people say, ‘Well, they have blood on their hands.’ I’d say, ‘So do a lot of people.’ I think we focus on future behavior.”

Whether we could win those hearts and minds is, arguably, an open question — though it’s an objective that would require a partner other than Hamid Karzai and many more troops than even McChrystal is asking for (or America presently has). But to say that McChrystal’s optimistic — dare one say politically correct? — view of Muslim pliability doesn’t square with that of America’s hawks is the understatement of the decade.

As their Fort Hood rhetoric made clear, McChrystal’s most vehement partisans don’t trust American Muslims, let alone those of the Taliban, no matter how earnestly the general may argue that they can be won over by our troops’ friendliness (or bribes). If, as the right has it, our Army cannot be trusted to recognize a Hasan in its own ranks, then how will it figure out who the “good” Muslims will be as we try to build a “stable” state (whatever “stable” means) in a country that has never had a functioning central government? If our troops can’t be protected from seemingly friendly Muslim American brethren in Killeen, Tex., what are the odds of survival for the 40,000 more troops the hawks want to deploy to Kabul and sinkholes beyond?
About the only prominent voice among the liberal-bashing, Obama-loathing right who has noted this gaping contradiction is Mark Steyn of National Review. “Members of the best trained, best equipped fighting force on the planet” were “gunned down by a guy who said a few goofy things no one took seriously,” he wrote. “And that’s the problem: America has the best troops and fiercest firepower, but no strategy for throttling the ideology that drives the enemy — in Afghanistan and in Texas.” You have to applaud Steyn’s rare intellectual consistency within his camp. One imagines that he does not buy the notion that our Army, however brilliant, has a shot at building “strong personal relationships” with a population that often regards us as occupiers and infidels.

In a week of horrific news, it was good to hear at the end of it that Obama is dissatisfied with the four Afghanistan options he has been weighing so far. The more time he deliberates, the more he is learning that he’s on a fool’s errand with no exit. After Karzai was spared a runoff last month and declared the winner of the fraud-infested August “election,” Obama demanded that he address his government’s corruption as a price for American support. Only days later the Afghan president mocked the American president by parading his most tainted cronies on camera and granting an interview to PBS’s “NewsHour” devoted to spewing his contempt for his American benefactors.

Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and, until recently, a State Department official in Afghanistan, could be found on MSNBC on Thursday once again asking the question no war advocate can answer, “Do you want Americans fighting and dying for the Karzai regime?” Hoh quit his post on principle in September despite the urging of colleagues, including our ambassador there, Karl W. Eikenberry, that he stay and fight over war policy from the inside. But Hoh had lost confidence in our strategy and would not retract his resignation. Now he has been implicitly seconded by Eikenberry himself. Last week we learned that the ambassador, a retired general who had been the top American military commander in Afghanistan as recently as 2007, had sent two cables to Obama urging caution about sending more troops.

We don’t know everything in those cables. What we do know is that American intelligence continues to say that fewer than 100 Qaeda operatives can still be found in Afghanistan. We also know that the Taliban, which are currently estimated to number in the tens of thousands, can’t be eliminated. As McChrystal put it to Filkins, there is no “finite number” of Taliban, so there’s no way to vanquish them. Hence his counterinsurgency alternative, which could take decades, costing untold billions and countless lives.

Perhaps those on the right are correct about Hasan, and he is just one cog in an apocalyptic jihadist plot that has infiltrated our armed forces. If so, then they have an obligation to explain how pouring more troops into Afghanistan would have stopped Hasan from plotting in Killeen. Don’t hold your breath. If we have learned anything concrete so far from the massacre at Fort Hood, it’s that our hawks, for all their certitude, are as utterly confused as the rest of us about who it is we’re fighting in Afghanistan and to what end.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Muslim Soldiers Show Loyalty...

In the wake of the Ft. Hood Massacre, the right wing attacks on Islam poses a threat to Muslims in the armed services. This Detroit Free Press article shows some of the strains for Muslims in the service. RGN

Muslim troops aim to build trust in U.S. military

Forces contend with cultural pressures, allegiance questions



When Jamal Baadani, a native of Dearborn and U.S. Marine, was visiting his nephew a few years ago, he noticed the 5year-old boy didn't want to play with him as usual.

"What's the matter?" Baadani said he remembers asking him.

"You kill Arabs," replied the boy, apparently repeating what he heard adults around him utter.

It was a cold reminder to Baadani that some in Arab-American and Muslim communities are reluctant to have their children serve in the U.S. armed forces, partly because they would have to fight fellow Muslims.

But that attitude pushed Baadani to continue his effort to bridge the gap between the military and his community. He founded the Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in Military, APAAM, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. His mission was to help educate people about the importance of serving your country.

It wasn't always easy. Baadani started out going door to door in Dearborn dressed in his Marine uniform. Some ignored him, others gave him concerned looks, but slowly, he earned their trust, paving the way for the military and other federal agencies to actively engage Middle Eastern communities.

Today, the U.S. military has robust programs - especially in the Army and National Guard- that try to recruit Muslims and Arab Americans.

"The military has done a tremendous job to reach out," said 1st Sgt. Baadani, 45, now a Marine reservist who lives in Virginia. "The U.S. Army really respects our community and goes above and beyond to understand our community."

There are about 3,500 Arab Americans in the U.S. armed forces, both Christian and Muslim. And there are about 3,500 Muslims of various backgrounds - Arab, Pakistani, African American, among them- who serve. They make up a small percentage of the 1.4million members of the U.S. military. But as the U.S. military engages in a wide swath of the Muslim world - from east Africa to the Middle East to central Asia - their views and language skills are needed more than ever.

At home, some Muslims who serve face pressure from family or their peers about fighting against Muslims in other parts of the world. And after the Nov. 5 shootings at Ft. Hood, Texas, by a Muslim major, they face scrutiny from some who are questioning their loyalty to the United States. And so they are caught between two worlds, trying to carve out their own identity during a time of war.

"We're getting so much criticism from our own community for serving," Baadani said. "The No. 1 question I used to get was, 'Why do you want to serve a government that's going to kill your own kind?' " Baadani's response was: "The U.S. military did not go over there to kill your kind. They went over there to attack a threat that came to this country to attack us."

Moreover, Baadani stresses the importance of duty, of serving your country, even if you happen to disagree with the policies of an elected official. That sense of patriotism was seen last week inside Masjid Wali Muhammad, a mosque in Detroit that has the oldest African-American congregation of any Islamic center in Michigan. With a backdrop of U.S. flags and a picture of Islam's holy book, the Quran, the mosque held a Veterans Day celebration that was a vivid illustration of how Muslim veterans reconcile their two worlds.

The mosque had planned for a Veterans Day event before the Ft. Hood shootings, given that many of its members are U.S. veterans. Many of them had converted to Islam during the 1950s and 1960s, a time of racial and political change that compelled some African Americans to explore different religions and belief systems. At times, that clashed with the U.S. military, most notably in the case of champion boxer Muhammad Ali who - after converting to Islam in 1964 - refused to join the Army to fight in Vietnam. Ali had joined the Nation of Islam whose leader, Elijah Muhammad urged members of his black nationalist group not to serve in the U.S. military.

"Why am I going to fight over there for freedoms that you deny me here?" was the attitude among some at the time, said Ajib Rashadeen, 66, of Detroit, a veteran of the Army.

But those views softened over time with racial progress and the new leadership of the Nation of Islam upon Muhammad's death in 1975. Many of the veterans at the Detroit mosque were followers of Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, who replaced Muhammad, became an orthodox Muslim and said it was OK for Muslims to fight for the United States.

The new leadership allowed them to see that there was no conflict between being good Muslims and good American soldiers.

In March 2003, Sgt. Hasan Akbar, a Muslim, killed two of his fellow 101st Airborne soldiers and wounded 14 in a grenade attack near the start of the Iraq war; afterward, he reportedly said he feared Americans were going to kill and rape Muslims.

Muslim veterans say they're horrified by such violence.

"Islam has nothing to do with that," said Abdul Ali Sharrieff, 82, of Detroit, a Marine veteran. "Islam doesn't preach that."

Abdul (Ace) Montaser, 27, of Brighton agrees. Today a DJ with WKQI-FM (95.5), Montaser was with the Marines for six years, serving in Iraq in 2003.

Born to the son of Yemeni immigrants, Montaser said he was taught to respect all cultures and faiths.

While in Iraq, Montaser felt he was part of an important mission to stop a deadly dictator and help free a country. But at the same time, he said, he was reluctant to kill anyone, Muslim or not.

"Islam is a peaceful religion," he said. But there are some Muslim extremists who "have their own political agenda and use religion as an excuse ? because the religion doesn't preach killing."

There have been reports that the Ft. Hood shooting suspect, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, had expressed concerns about Muslims in the U.S. military going abroad to fight other Muslims in what some of them see as unjust wars.

Local Muslim veterans said his analysis was misguided because Muslims, like any other group, can break laws.

May photo by Jamal Baadani

Members of the Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in Military march in the Dearborn Memorial Day

Parade. Jamal Baadani said he founded the group to help educate people about service to their country.

Nidal Hasan: Connecting the Dots????

Below is a balanced treatment of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. Obviously, the event at Ft. Hood raises many questions as to what led this killer to do what he did. The racism of the white nationalists reduces Hasan's actions "Islamic terrorism." The report below by Scott Shana and James Dao provide an excellent overview of Hasan's development, including the contradictions and complexities in this tortured soul.

It is interesting that Dylan and Klebold of Columbine were kids gone wrong. The killer at Virginia Tech had serious psychological problems. But when it comes to a Muslim who was troubled by war and his faith, we have a case of "Islamic terrorism." A closer look does not support such a simplistic, bigoted reductionism. RGN

November 15, 2009
Investigators Study Tangle of Clues on Fort Hood Suspect


WASHINGTON — When Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan took his two handguns and headed for Fort Hood on Nov. 5, he left behind in his spartan apartment his new business cards. Now they are one more clue for investigators of the 13 killings he is charged with, hinting at the road not taken.

On the cards, ordered over the Internet after Major Hasan was transferred to the sprawling Texas base in July, the 39-year-old psychiatrist omitted the rank he had achieved in the Army he had served for most of his adult life. Instead, he included the cryptic abbreviation “SoA,” apparently “Servant of Allah” or “Soldier of Allah,” perhaps marking a symbolic shift of allegiance from his military profession to his increasingly consuming faith.

But a man plotting mass murder does not ordinarily plan to open a business. Whether Major Hasan hoped to moonlight as a private therapist specializing in Muslim patients or imagined that he might be permitted to exit the Army early, the cards and many other clues will be studied by Army and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents trying to answer the same questions that many Americans have debated over the last 10 days:

Was Major Hasan a terrorist, driven by religious extremism to attack fellow soldiers he had come to see as the enemy? Was he a troubled loner, a misfit who cracked when ordered sent to a war zone whose gruesome casualties he had spent the last six years caring for? Or was he both?

In his weekly address, President Obama vowed on Saturday that the administration would discover the full story of the massacre. “That investigation,” he said, “will look at the motive of the alleged gunman, including his views and contacts.”
Mr. Obama said investigators would also look for any missteps. “If there was a failure to take appropriate action before the shootings, there must be accountability,” he said.

Whatever led Major Hasan to act, it is clear that he felt under intense pressure. He had told family members for years about his fears of being sent to war, and his work at Walter Reed Army Medical Center had exposed him daily to the horrors combat could produce. He appears to have had few social ties; one fellow psychiatrist remembers him as “a man out on the periphery.”

In recent years, Major Hasan had focused intently on the conflict he believed some Muslim soldiers felt between their religion and their country’s wars in Muslim lands — though what some co-workers saw as a productive academic interest, others detected as a personal struggle.

Law enforcement officials who have been examining Major Hasan’s writings, including a Web posting on suicide bombing they have tentatively concluded was his, say he appears to have been grappling with a question widely discussed among Muslim militants since the Sept. 11 attacks: When, if ever, is the death of innocents morally justified?

The trail of evidence investigators are following suggests, so far at least, that both emotional problems and nascent extremism spurred Major Hasan, who survived the bullets of the police officers who stopped him and now is charged with 13 counts of murder.

Depression and stress alone can set off lethal attacks. In Baghdad last May, for instance, a despondent Army sergeant was accused of killing five fellow soldiers at a clinic.

But Dr. Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist in New York and an expert on mass murderers, said the emerging picture of Major Hasan suggests that militant religion “seemed to provide answers to a lot of the psychological problems already stirring around in him.”


Some experts on terrorism say Major Hasan may be the latest example of an increasingly common type of terrorist, one who has been self-radicalized with the help of the Internet and who wreaks havoc without support from overseas networks and without having to cross a border to reach his target.

Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown University professor who studies terrorism, said such cases had appeared at a growing rate in the last year, most of them involving people with no direct ties to foreign terrorists. The trend of self-radicalization, which leaders and allies of Al Qaeda have encouraged with a steady stream of inflammatory messages on the Web, is gaining momentum, he said.

“You’ve had all shapes and sizes, which is a challenge for law enforcement,” Mr. Hoffman said, citing a shooting at a Little Rock military recruitment center, synagogues targeted for attack in the Bronx and foiled bombing schemes in Illinois and Texas, among others.

While investigators are combing intelligence files for any foreign contacts Major Hasan may have had, the only significant connection the authorities have confirmed so far are a dozen or so e-mail messages he sent to a radical cleric now in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki.

While officials have described the messages as involving questions about Islamic interpretation, they presumably reflected the psychiatrist’s familiarity with Mr. Awlaki’s voluminous sermons and texts on the Web supporting violent jihad. But a counterterrorism analyst who examined the messages shortly after they were sent decided that they were consistent with authorized research Major Hasan was conducting and did not alert his military superiors.

Mr. Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and served as an imam in two mosques attended by three of the Sept. 11 hijackers, is known as a compelling speaker in English and Arabic whose influence has been documented in several recent cases of homegrown terrorism, including a plot to bomb government buildings in Canada and another to shoot up Fort Dix, N.J.

By December 2008, when he sent Mr. Awlaki his e-mail inquiries, Major Hasan appears to have been deeply engaged with applying religious values to violence. In the Web posting investigators believe was his, Major Hasan suggested that a suicide bomber might have just as noble a purpose as a soldier who throws himself on a grenade to protect his comrades.

“Your intention is the main issue,” the writer concluded.

Trouble Connecting

Major Hasan had spent a decade in the world of military medicine in and around Washington. He attended medical school and had a fellowship at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and he did his psychiatric residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

It was a scholarly life on leafy campuses, very different from his gritty childhood — his parents ran a notoriously rough bar in downtown Roanoke, Va. — and from the hard routine of an enlisted soldier. He often struggled, but just as often got academic counseling or other support.

His seeming inability to connect with people sometimes undermined his work. More than one patient said of him, “He meant well, he was kind, but he didn’t get me,” one former colleague at Walter Reed recalled. When co-workers went out to socialize, Major Hasan went home or to the mosque in Silver Spring, Md., where he regularly attended services.

“You could see who was buddy-buddy, and he just seemed definitely quieter and not part of that,” said Nancy Meyer, a social worker who was a contractor at Walter Reed.
When he did engage, he often seemed argumentative. When instructors or peers tried to offer advice that conflicted with his own views, he would become “passively rigid,” said the colleague, who asked not to be named because the Army is still investigating the case. Major Hasan opted out of the personal psychotherapy offered to residents as a routine part of psychiatric training.

“That was Nidal,” the colleague said. “He seemed to want to do things, but there was this hesitation there always, this avoidance.”

He told others he liked “the consistency” of the Army. But he was so concerned about being sent to war that at Walter Reed, relatives said, he began researching ways to get an early discharge. He abandoned the effort when he decided he could not succeed.

Part of his disenchantment was his deep and public opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a stance shared by some medical colleagues but shaped for him by a growing religious fervor. The strands of religion and antiwar sentiment seemed to weave together in a PowerPoint presentation he made at Walter Reed in June 2007. In that presentation, Major Hasan argued that the Koran forbids Muslims to kill other Muslims, placing Muslim American troops in an impossible position. Such soldiers should be allowed to receive conscientious objector status, he concluded.

If they are not, he warned, there might be “adverse events,” citing the case of Sgt. Hasan Akbar, who was convicted of killing two soldiers in Kuwait and wounding 14 others by throwing grenades into their tents and then opening fire on them in 2003.

The presentation created a buzz among residents, some of whom were shocked and angered by what they thought was evidence of radical Islamist views. But other residents and faculty members said they considered it a useful analysis of the dueling pressures on Muslims in the American military, and some were wary of appearing insensitive toward Muslim culture.

For a master’s program in public health, Major Hasan gave another presentation to his environmental health class titled “Why The War on Terror is a War on Islam.” Some fellow students found it inappropriate and troubling, and at least one complained to the professor, former students said.

By 2008, some senior faculty members at Walter Reed were questioning not only Major Hasan’s abilities as a psychiatrist, but also his loyalty to the country, people who know him said. It is unclear if anyone took the concerns to senior military officials. Others argued that with the proper guidance, he could become not just a capable psychiatrist, but a valuable researcher for the Army, given his understanding of the pressures facing Muslim troops.

From March to May this year, Major Hasan was sent back to work in an inpatient psychiatric ward at Walter Reed in what colleagues saw as a remedial stint. Lt. Eric Notkin, a nurse, often joined him on rounds, seeing patients who had been evacuated from Iraq or Afghanistan after suicide threats or attempts.

“The worst we saw were the patients who had shot themselves in the head or face and survived,” Lieutenant Notkin said. “They’d be stabilized and come to us.”

Lieutenant Notkin grew fond of the quiet, unpretentious psychiatrist, who did not have a desk like other doctors and did his paperwork at a long table with nurses and technicians. After a trip to Israel, the nurse said, he recalled chatting with Major Hasan about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Sept. 11 attacks and bias against Muslims. He detected no trace of radicalism.

Even at his mosque, Major Hasan formed no lasting friendships. Debbie Shankman, a non-Muslim who volunteers there, recalled spending an hour with him trying to calm a distraught woman who had just immigrated from India and spoke no English.

“At the time he seemed intelligent, compassionate and willing to help,” Ms. Shankman said. “What I thought was odd is that he never spoke to me again.”

A New Life at Fort Hood

In July, Major Hasan was sent to Fort Hood, the largest Army post, bustling with the work of war and surrounded by the scruffy trappings of an Army town: pawnshops and payday loan outlets, beer joints and tattoo parlors.

In his first weeks, Major Hasan seemed to be making long-term plans. He applied for a job as a liaison to Muslim soldiers. He printed up the business cards with his Fort Hood address for his moonlighting job as a therapist, permitted by Army rules as long as his superiors approved.

He became a regular at a Killeen mosque, frequently expounding on his view that Muslim soldiers should not be required to fight in Muslim lands. He prayed five times a day, people who knew him said. At some point, he learned he would be sent to Afghanistan.

By September, Major Hasan had purchased a handgun and had begun to visit the strip club next to the gun shop. The club’s general manager, Matthew Jones, said he stayed for six or seven hours the handful of times he visited, paying for lap dances in a private room.

The day before the shootings, Major Hasan began giving away belongings, including food, clothing and furnishings. To one neighbor, Patricia Villa, he gave two sport coats and a business suit still in a dry cleaning bag. “You should sell these,” he suggested. The rest, he said, should be given to the Salvation Army.

On the morning of the shootings, he stopped by the home of another neighbor, Lenna Brown, as she was sharing coffee with a friend. He gave them both brand new copies of the Koran and suggested that they read the verses on Maryam, Muhammad’s rendering of the Virgin Mary story.

“I asked him where are you going, and he said Afghanistan,” Ms. Brown said. She asked him how he felt about that, and he paused before answering.
“I am going to do God’s work,” he replied.

Reporting was contributed by Benedict Carey and Erica Goode in New York, David Johnston and Janie Lorber in Washington, and Serge F. Kovaleski and James C. McKinley Jr. at Fort Hood.

Friday, November 13, 2009

More than FDR, LBJ... Obama's Record

President Obama has been so savaged by the pundits, one would get the impression that his presidency is in jeopardy. This discourse is no more than a caving in to the Republicans and the white nationalists for measures of the president's success. The real importance is that these are the very people who "want Obama to fail." Of course the real problem is that know his success exposes their failed ideology. Below Robert Watson corrects this gross distortion. RGN

The author is Professor Robert Watson of Lynn University who was once a writer for the New York Times.

Professor Watson writes:

Hi friends,

I am always being asked to grade Obama's presidency. In place of offering him a grade, I put together a list of his accomplishments thus far. I think you would agree that it is very impressive. His first six months have been even more active than FDRs or LBJs the two standards for such assessments.
Yet, there is little media attention given to much of what he has done. Of late, the media is focusing almost exclusively on Obama's critics, without holding them responsible for the uncivil, unconstructive tone of their disagreements or without holding the previous administration responsible for getting us in such a deep hole. The misinformation and venom that now passes for political reporting and civic debate is beyond description.

As such, there is a need to set the record straight. What most impresses me is the fact that Obama has accomplished so much not from a heavy-handed or top-down approach but from a style that has institutionalized efforts to reach across the aisle, encourage vigorous debate, and utilize town halls and panels of experts in the policy-making process.

Beyond the accomplishments, the process is good for democracy and our democratic processes have been battered and bruised in recent years.
Let me know if I missed anything in the list (surely I did).

1. Ordered all federal agencies to undertake a study and make recommendations for ways to cut spending

2. Ordered a review of all federal operations to identify and cut wasteful spending and practices

3. Instituted enforcement for equal pay for women

4. Beginning the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq

5. Families of fallen soldiers have expenses covered to be on hand when the body arrives at Dover AFB

6. Ended media blackout on war casualties; reporting full information

7. Ended media blackout on covering the return of fallen soldiers to Dover AFB; the media is now permitted to do so pending adherence to respectful rules and approval of fallen soldier's family

8. The White House and federal government are respecting the Freedom of Information Act

9. Instructed all federal agencies to promote openness and transparency as much as possible

10. Limits on lobbyist's access to the White House

11. Limits on White House aides working for lobbyists after their tenure in the administration

12. Ended the previous stop-loss policy that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan longer than their enlistment date

13. Phasing out the expensive F-22 war plane and other outdated weapons systems, which weren't even used or needed in Iraq/Afghanistan

14. Removed restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research

15. Federal support for stem-cell and new biomedical research

16. New federal funding for science and research labs

17. States are permitted to enact federal fuel efficiency standards above federal standards

18. Increased infrastructure spending (roads, bridges, power plants) after years of neglect

19. Funds for high-speed, broadband Internet access to K-12 schools

20. New funds for school construction

21. The prison at Guantanamo Bay is being phased out

22. US Auto industry rescue plan

23. Housing rescue plan

24. $789 billion economic stimulus plan

25. The public can meet with federal housing insurers to refinance (the new plan can be completed in one day) a mortgage if they are having trouble paying

26. US financial and banking rescue plan

27. The secret detention facilities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere are being closed

28. Ended the previous policy; the US now has a no torture policy and is in compliance with the Geneva Convention standards

29. Better body armor is now being provided to our troops

30. The missile defense program is being cut by $1.4 billion in 2010

31. Restarted the nuclear nonproliferation talks and building back up the nuclear inspection infrastructure/protocols

32. Reengaged in the treaties/agreements to protect the Antarctic

33. Reengaged in the agreements/talks on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions

34. Visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any president in his first six months in office

35. Successful release of US captain held by Somali pirates; authorized the SEALS to do their job

36. US Navy increasing patrols off Somali coast

37. Attractive tax write-offs for those who buy hybrid automobiles

38. Cash for clunkers program offers vouchers to trade in fuel inefficient, polluting old cars for new cars; stimulated auto sales

39. Announced plans to purchase fuel efficient American-made fleet for the federal government

40. Expanded the SCHIP program to cover health care for 4 million more children

41. Signed national service legislation; expanded national youth service program

42. Instituted a new policy on Cuba, allowing Cuban families to return home to visit loved ones

43. Ended the previous policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions

44. Expanding vaccination programs

45. Immediate and efficient response to the floods in North Dakota and other natural disasters

46. Closed offshore tax safe havens

47. Negotiated deal with Swiss banks to permit US government to gain access to records of tax evaders and criminals

48. Ended the previous policy of offering tax benefits to corporations who outsource American jobs; the new policy is to promote in-sourcing to bring jobs back

49. Ended the previous practice of protecting credit card companies; in place of it are new consumer protections from credit card industry's predatory practices

50. Energy producing plants must begin preparing to produce 15% of their energy from renewable sources

51. Lower drug costs for seniors

52. Ended the previous practice of forbidding Medicare from negotiating with drug manufacturers for cheaper drugs; the federal government is now realizing hundreds of millions in savings

53. Increasing pay and benefits for military personnel

54. Improved housing for military personnel

55. Initiating a new policy to promote federal hiring of military spouses

56. Improved conditions at Walter Reed Military Hospital and other military hospitals

57. Increasing student loans

58. Increasing opportunities in AmeriCorps program

59. Sent envoys to Middle East and other parts of the world that had been neglected for years; reengaging in multilateral and bilateral talks and diplomacy

60. Established a new cyber security office

61. Beginning the process of reforming and restructuring the military 20 years after the Cold War to a more modern fighting force; this includes new procurement policies, increasing size of military, new technology and cyber units and operations, etc.

62. Ended previous policy of awarding no-bid defense contracts

63. Ordered a review of hurricane and natural disaster preparedness

64. Established a National Performance Officer charged with saving the federal government money and making federal operations more efficient

65. Students struggling to make college loan payments can have their loans refinanced

66. Improving benefits for veterans

67. Many more press conferences and town halls and much more media access than previous administration

68. Instituted a new focus on mortgage fraud

69. The FDA is now regulating tobacco

70. Ended previous policy of cutting the FDA and circumventing FDA rules

71. Ended previous practice of having White House aides rewrite scientific and environmental rules, regulations, and reports

72. Authorized discussions with North Korea and private mission by Pres. Bill Clinton to secure the release of two Americans held in prisons

73. Authorized discussions with Myanmar and mission by Sen. Jim Web to secure the release of an American held captive

74. Making more loans available to small businesses

75. Established independent commission to make recommendations on slowing the costs of Medicare

76. Appointment of first Latina to the Supreme Court

77. Authorized construction/opening of additional health centers to care for veterans

78. Limited salaries of senior White House aides; cut to $100,000

79. Renewed loan guarantees for Israel

80. Changed the failing/status quo military command in Afghanistan

81. Deployed additional troops to Afghanistan

82. New Afghan War policy that limits aerial bombing and prioritizes aid, development of infrastructure, diplomacy, and good government practices by Afghans

83. Announced the long-term development of a national energy grid with renewable sources and cleaner, efficient energy production

84. Returned money authorized for refurbishment of White House offices and private living quarters

85. Paid for redecoration of White House living quarters out of his own pocket

86. Held first Seder in White House

87. Attempting to reform the nation's healthcare system which is the most expensive in the world yet leaves almost 50 million without health insurance and millions more under insured

88. Has put the ball in play for comprehensive immigration reform

89. Has announced his intention to push for energy reform

90. Has announced his intention to push for education reform

Oh, and he built a swing set for the girls outside the Oval Office!

Robert P. Watson, Ph.D.Coordinator of American Studies
Lynn University

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fox Noise DISSED!!!

The White House is taking a strong stand on appearances on Fox News. It is amazing that authentic news organs are defending Fox News as if it was truly a news organ. Nothing could be further from the truth. Why should the administration have to itself defend the from lies and distortions committed to bringing down the presidency? The White House is right. The Tea-baggers were a creation of Fox. That's not news. That is agitation and propaganda. All of the information that Fox gets from the White House should be second hand. They are going to just make up what they want to say anyway. The research is clear, the more people watch Fox News the less they know. It was Fox that fanned the flames of racism is the Jeremiah Wright clips. On the weekend of Senator Kennedy's death Chris Wallace, that straight news anchor, equated the contribution of misanthrope Jesse Helms to Senator Kennedy!!! Let them rot in HELL. RGN

Democratic consultant says he got a warning from White House after appearing on Fox News

'We better not see you on again,' the strategist says he was told by a White House official. The White House communications director denies that officials urge such a boycott.

By Peter Nicholas
November 8, 2009
Reporting from Washington

At least one Democratic political strategist has gotten a blunt warning from the White House to never appear on Fox News Channel, an outlet that presidential aides have depicted as not so much a news-gathering operation as a political opponent bent on damaging the Obama administration.

The Democratic strategist said that shortly after an appearance on Fox, he got a phone call from a White House official telling him not to be a guest on the show again. The call had an intimidating tone, he said.

The message was, "We better not see you on again," said the strategist, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to run afoul of the White House. An implicit suggestion, he said, was that "clients might stop using you if you continue."

White House Communications Director Anita Dunn said that she had checked with colleagues who "deal with TV issues" and that they had not told people to avoid Fox. On the contrary, they had urged people to appear on the network, Dunn wrote in an e-mail.

But Patrick Caddell, a Fox News contributor and former pollster for President Carter, said he had spoken to Democratic consultants who said they were told by the White House to avoid appearances on Fox. He declined to give their names.

Caddell said he had not gotten that message himself from the White House.

He added: "I have heard that they've done that to others in not too subtle ways. I find it appalling. When the White House gets in the business of suppressing dissent and comment, particularly from its own party, it hurts itself."

Some observers say White House officials might be urging consultants to spurn Fox to isolate the network and make it appear more partisan. A boycott by Democratic strategists could help drive the White House narrative that Fox is a fundamentally different creature than the other TV news networks.

White House officials appear on Fox News, but sporadically and with their "eyes wide open," as one aide put it.

David Axelrod, senior advisor to the president, appeared on Fox News Channel last week to talk about the results of Tuesday's off-year elections. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also appeared on the network last week.

Still, the White House has on occasion avoided or taken an adversarial position toward Fox. When President Obama appeared on five talk shows one Sunday in September, he avoided Fox.

Last month, Dunn told CNN that Fox has acted, in effect, as an "arm" of the Republican Party. "Let's not pretend they're a news network the way CNN is," she said.

As the dust-up played out, Fox's senior vice president of news, Michael Clemente, countered: "Surprisingly, the White House continues to declare war on a news organization instead of focusing on the critical issues that Americans are concerned about like jobs, healthcare and two wars."

Fox's commentators have been sharply critical of the Obama administration.

After the president was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Sean Hannity, who has a prime-time show on Fox, said he got the award for "trashing America."

Fox's audience is by far the largest of the cable networks, with an average of more than 2.1 million viewers in prime time this year, according to the Nielsen Co. CNN is second, with 932,000 prime-time viewers.

The White House's critical stance toward the network leaves some Democrats troubled.

Don Fowler, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, said in an interview: "This approach is out of sync with my conception of what the Obama administration stands for and what they're trying to do.

"I think they'll think better of it and this will be a passing phase."
Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times