Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
A raucous debate over the shortage of cheap housing and the demolition of 4,500 public units is sweeping the city and likely to become more intense.The update in the original diary is a link to an in depth take on the situation by Loyola of New Orleans Law Prof. Bill Quigley:
Protesters planned to disrupt a meeting Thursday of the City Council, where members were expected to approve demolishing dozens of buildings - a move that would open racial and class divisions. People entering the council chamber had to pass through metal detectors and handbags were being searched.
The City Council vote is a critical moment in a protracted fight between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and residents, activists and preservationists.
HUD wants to demolish the buildings, most of them damaged by Hurricane Katrina, so developers can take advantage of tax credits and build new mixed-income neighborhoods.
HUD says the redevelopment, in the works before Katrina hit, will mark an end to the city's failed public housing experiment that lumped the poor into crime-ridden complexes and marooned them outside the life of the rest of the city.
But critics say the plan will shrink the stock of cheap housing at a time when housing is scarce and drive poor blacks out of the city. They also say the buildings are, contrary to popular opinion, mostly handsome brick structures that will outlast anything HUD builds in their place.
Every one of the displaced families who were living in public housing is African-American. Most all are headed by mothers and grandmothers working low-wage jobs or disabled or retired. Thousands of children lived in the neighborhoods. Race, class and gender are unstated parts of every justification for demolition, especially the call for "mixed-income housing." If the demolitions are allowed to go forward, there will be mixed income housing - but the mix will not include over 80 percent of the people who lived there.This is the most recent development in probably the most unreported story of the last two years: The selective "rebuilding" of New Orleans. It is a key example of what Naomi Klein has referred to as disaster capitalism in her latest book, The Shock Doctrine. The rebuild after Katrina was done solely by guidelines of a broken ideology, and as a result have completely ignored the needs the victims of the storm themselves.
This absolute lack of any realistic affordable alternative is the main reason people want to return to their public housing neighborhoods - or be guaranteed one for one replacement of their homes. Absent that, redevelopment will not help the residents or people in the community who need affordable housing.
The "rebuilding" of New Orleans and Iraq: Blind adherence to Neo-Liberal economics at its finest... and the results speak for themselves.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
These are Wall Street Republicans, hungry for big federal contracts, less business regulation, increased immigration, happy foreign trading partners, and the protection of the established corporate elite.
Government spending: Pro
Aggressive foreign policy: Against
Traditional values: Irrelevant
Notables: Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Wall Street Journal editorial board
This are the old-school anti-communist, anti-immigrant, John Birch Society types. They loathe foreign entanglements, government spending, affirmative action, and multiculturalism.
Government spending: Against
Aggressive foreign policy: Against
Traditional values: Pro
Notables: Ron Paul, Robert Novak, Reagan Democrats, Pat Buchanan
This is the Christian Coalition/Moral Majority crowd, desperate for the wedding of state and religion, desperate to prevent the wedding of same sex couples. Unafraid to spend tax dollars on "faith-based" initiatives, while seeing immigrants as a replenishing source of new converts and religious foot soldiers.
Government spending: Pro
Aggressive foreign policy: Against
Traditional values: Pro
Notables: Mike Huckabee, Pat Robertson, James Dobson
These are the pointy headed "intellectuals" holed up at think tanks like the Project for a New American Century, moving their little armies around a Risk gameboard. Paranoid of the boogeyman under the bed, they feel secure only when dropping bombs on brown people overseas and are obsessed with keeping others as scared as they themselves feel.
Government spending: Pro
Aggressive foreign policy: Pro
Traditional values: Irrelevant
Notables: John McCain, Dick Cheney, Joe Lieberman, the Washington Post editorial board
Looking at these different factions and their widely varying agendas, it's a miracle that they've been able to get anything done right? The difference is leadership, and the willingness to whip your members into shape based on a firm long term commitment to their ideology.
The democratic party has no progressive leaders anywhere near the party's power positions, too many members without the balls or commitment to stand up for core progressive principles, which is partially because in the depressing feedback loop that is democratic party, there are no leaders to light their asses on fire if they start fucking up.
True progressive change cannot occur until that cycle is broken, and it's not gonna happen overnight.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Penn reminds me of that type of jackass that we've all met at some point, who would rather make cheap smart ass comments about republicans then actually think/talk about anything of substance. (I swear, the college democrats must breed these people, Rahul knows what I'm talking about)
Just look a the way he responds to Joe Trippi calling him out. Penn uses the mature and classy debating style of "We never intended to bring up the cocaine issue"(which is about as subtle as the joke example of a loaded question: "So, do you still beat your wife?")
To finish it off, he comes back at Trippi with the ever mature response of "I think you're saying cocaine, I think you're saying it".
Mark Penn. As always, a class act.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
What strikes me at the moment is just how devoid of true, inspirational leaders the current party is. We've got nobody, at least not that is a household name. Kennedy? A longtime liberal and a fine speaker, but hasn't been able to accomplish a whole lot. Byrd made some fine speeches a few years ago, but between those speeches he's always been erratic at best. Reid seems like he's so miserable in the majority that he wants to just crawl under a rock, and I can't tell if Pelosi is being screwed by her subordinates, is screwing them, both, neither, is being screwed by the conservative Dems, or is suffering from something entirely different that I can't even grasp, but in her role as Democratic leader she is about as inspirational as a bowl of room temperature soup.Read the whole thing if you have a chance, it's an articulation of the frustration felt by many (myself included) at recent events, and as well as a look at what the future holds. This isn't going to be a quick fix, and but the online progressive movement is going to be key in rebuilding the democratic party into a viable vehicle for any sort of meaningful change.
Hillary Clinton seems to studiously avoid even the shadow of a hint of a larger vision, and Edwards could not get the press to like him if he personally had sex with every one of them. Obama is indeed a fine speaker, but is at his best in well-crafted speeches in service to no particularly concrete or substantive goals -- and those goals he does most passionately espouse, like chastising fellow Democrats for not more emphatically embracing religion, are the stuff of uninspiring Broderesque conventionality. We have faced the most incompetent, corrupt, scandal prone, and indictment-laden administration in recent history, and yet we still must from all corners hear paeans to working together with the worst of the worst, and compromising with the bigoted, and bridging the gap between our moderate party and the one that has been purged of nearly all but the most single-minded of extremists.
Even if elected, it seems improbable that we could hope for more than moderate Dem caretaker status, in the presidency -- a partial rollback of Bush-era abuses, but not a full rollback, a healthcare plan cobbled together in some fashion as to make sure the insurance companies are well taken care of, and only moderate screwing of unions instead of full-bore screwing of unions. It will be a hell of a lot better than being shipped to Abu Ghraib in a duffle bag, but it is not really something to get giddy over.
The blogs are one of the few sources of fire in the entire party. We've got no political generals like the Republican Party's Rove/DeLay/Hastert axis of brutal enforcement and lacerating strategic competence, and we've got no agenda-setting ideologues like Norquist, Dobson, or the other increasingly far-right activists that can and do play the Republican party like a fiddle. The Republican Party has been remade in service to their most conservative, most bigoted, most aggressive, and most extreme members: we, on the other hand, have yet to figure out how to get the Democratic party to give the time of day to the vast majority of their supporters -- even though their supporters hold the majority positions, according to the polls, on nearly every one of the most important issues.
We've only got the blogs and other not-terribly-powerful activists. That is the only source of unapologetic ideology, of long-term vision, or of passion for a common good. We have no leaders except ourselves.
Monday, December 10, 2007
This week that award goes to Steny Hoyer:
House Democratic leaders could complete work as soon as Monday on a half-trillion-dollar spending package that will include billions of dollars for the war effort in Iraq without the timelines for the withdrawal of combat forces that President Bush has refused to accept, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said yesterday.
"We have to get to a point where the American public more clearly perceives our policy position and is not confused by whether or not the Democrats intend to support the troops that we've sent to Iraq. I don't think there's an option on that," Hoyer said.Lets have a look at this logic. The vast majority of the country wants to end the war, the democrats have the power to end the war, and instead doing something to... wait for it... end the war, they decide that it's more important to shield themselves against mean republicans calling them pussies. Rather than explain how amoral/cowardly/stupid this whole mess is, I'll defer to a great clip of Ben Affleck on Bill Maher explaining the stunning logic behind these decisions.
If all of that wasn't enough, the article ends with another gem, showing the complete and utter idiocy of the democratic leadership:
Hoyer struck a pragmatic tone, pushing for Congress to adjourn for the year by the end of next week. He suggested that Democrats need to divorce their goal of ending the war from the battle over funding.Let me make sure I understand this. The democrats should put away the only tool they have to end the war... so that they can get to work on ending the war! Good one Steny! At least now that you've revealed your master plan it makes a little more sense how you've been so completely and utterly worthless at getting anything accomplished.
That was a disgusting act by Steny Hoyer and its unfortunate that we had it on our air live.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Even though quite a few of these pieces have been brought to you by the same idiots who got us into this catastrophe, it has become enough of a talking point that we should let Juan Cole clear up a few of these misleading arguments.
First, let's give perspective to Iraq's shifting benchmarks:
The current "good news" campaign from the Bush administration regarding the troop surge is only the latest in a long history of whitewashing the war since the 2003 invasion. First, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld denied that there was massive looting following the fall of Baghdad. Then he denied that there was a rising guerrilla war. Then, after the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani maneuvered an unwilling Bush administration into holding relatively free elections, the victory of Shiite fundamentalists close to Iran was obscured by the "purple thumb" good news campaign. That is, the administration focused on the democratic process and relative success of the voting, diverting attention from the bad news that the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq had taken over.Second, and most importantly: The original goal of the surge. The whole point of the surge was to allow "space"(Read: "an absence of constant violence") for the political process to advance. The reason you haven't heard much about that front is, well, there hasn't been any progress to report:
Later, it was good news when the Iraqi parliament produced a theocratic constitution with all the weaknesses of the U.S. Articles of Confederation, even though all three Sunni-majority provinces rejected it in the subsequent referendum. What was in the constitution was not important, only that it existed. The Bush administration has heralded any number of such "milestones" reached, but not whether they led to worthwhile results.
Obscured by these "milestones" is that the orgy of violence in Iraq has displaced 2 million persons abroad and another 2 million internally, and left tens of thousands dead. But now the "good news" is that the guerrillas appear not to have been able to keep up the pace of violence characteristic of 2006 and early 2007, even if the pace they maintain today is horrific.
In recent days, parts of northern Iraq have been invaded by Turkey, an ally of the United States. In Baghdad, Sunni members of parliament staged a walkout to defend their leader, whose bodyguards were implicated in fashioning car bombs. Proposed legislation reducing sanctions against Sunni Arabs who once belonged to the Baath Party nearly produced a riot in parliament. Meanwhile, Britain and Australia, among Bush's few remaining allies with combat troops in Iraq, are planning to depart in 2008, raising questions about security in the key southern port city of Basra, the major route for the country's lucrative oil exports.The greatest problem with the surge remains the classic question of war: What are we fighting for? If our increased presence is not to causing the political process to improve, then what on earth are we doing there?
What the recent publicity about the "success" of the troop surge has ignored is this: The Bush administration has downplayed the collapsing political situation in Iraq by directing the public's attention to fluctuating numbers of civilians killed.
Cole ends on an even more ominous note for Iraq's future:
Obviously, if the U.S. military wants to stop car bombings by banning vehicular traffic to certain markets, it can do so, especially using thousands of extra troops concentrated in specific areas. But although there has been a relative lull in violence in the U.S.-reinforced Baghdad, the U.S. military acknowledges that the Iraqi capital is still a very dangerous place. One question is whether the violence will explode again when U.S. forces inevitably withdraw. But the far more important question is this: How much longer can Iraq limp along as a failing state before it really begins to collapse?
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
So you decide which makes more sense: Entrust our country to someone who is ready on day one ... or to put America in the hands of someone with little national or international experience, who started running for president the day he arrived in the U.S. Senate?-Hillary Clinton, December 3rd, 2007
To Recap: Hillary Clinton is criticizing someone for having long-time ambitions to run for president, and for having little national or international experience.
Somewhere Alanis Morissette is smiling. Oh wait, I forgot, she doesn't understand irony either.
Monday, December 3, 2007
From the earliest stages of the presidential primaries, I have been intrigued by Mike Huckabee's candidacy. However, with him now rising in the polls, and even leading in Iowa, I have become more and more concerned that he could pose a much different, and more dangerous threat than any of the other republican candidates in the 2008 election. In an unfortunate turn of events, the original reason that I began to notice Huckabee's candidacy in the summer has become the issue that makes me fear him in the general election: Populism.
In a move that has placed him in stark contrast with the economic rhetoric of rest of the republican field (and party as a whole), Huckabee has embraced a populist frame on many economic issues.
On the Republican party's traditional economic position:
"I understand that the economy for every American is not just whizzer-bang fantastic," he says. "I'm not necessarily in total sync with the small universe of Republicans who are the CEOs of Wall Street companies, although many of them know what I'm saying is the truth. But I'm very much in sync with the guys who work up and down the factory line."On Unions:
“The real fact is, unions are going to take a more prominent role in the future for one simple reason: A lot of American workers are finding that their wages continue to get strapped lower and lower while CEO salaries are higher and higher.On trade:
And the reality is that when you have the average CEO salary 500 times the average worker, and you have the hedge fund manager making 2,200 times that of the average worker, you're going to create a level of discontent that's going to create a huge appetite for unions.
So unions are the natural result of workers finally saying, ‘Look, I can't go from a $70,000 year job to a $15,000 a year job and feed my family of four.’ That's when unions are going to come back in roaring form.”
"Free trade has to be fair trade. We are losing jobs because of an unlevel, unfair trading arena that has to be fixed. Behind the statistics, there are real families, real lives, and real pain. I'm running for President because I don't want people who have worked loyally for a company for 20 or 30 years to walk in one morning and be handed a pink slip and be told, ‘I'm sorry, but everything you spent your life working for is no longer here.'"
After quotes like that, I should point out that many of Huckabee's actual proposals (such as the national sales tax) are about as far from helping the working class as you can get. But as we know the media and pundits will often value well spoken rhetoric over substance and actual policy.
And this is the reason that Mike Huckabee is a threat. Even though there is extraordinary discontent with republicans nationwide, his candidacy has the potential to change the debate, and make the election a referendum on economic issues. Although the current position of the democratic party appears to be in a strong, the unspoken division and "soft underbelly" of the party is their deep internal divide on economic issues. NAFTA, the Bankruptcy bill and the Peru Free trade agreement are just some of countless examples where the democratic caucus and the party as a whole have been shamefully split between the corporate wing of the party and the true progressives. My fear has always been that at some point, a Republican candidate would take advantage of this divide to blur the lines between the parties on economic issues, which is what Mike Huckabee is in a pole position to do. There is a strong undercurrent of populist sentiment throughout the country, and it has the potential to be an electoral gold mine for any candidate who decides to tap into it.
It should also be said, that our choice as nominee will largely determine the effectiveness Huckabee's rhetoric in the general election. A DLC/Bob Rubin style candidate (Read: Hillary Clinton) would be the most vulnerable to this line of attack, whereas someone who has taken stronger stances on these issues would make it much harder to blur the lines between the parties.
If he wins the nomination, his populist rhetoric and strong support from the religious right would make Mike Huckabee a more dangerous opponent than any of his challengers. But if the democratic nominee decides to ignore these economic issues and allows a republican candidate to use them against us, then they we have no one else to blame but ourselves.