Saturday, February 24, 2007

Kos v. Kucinich

Max Sawicky's take on Kos's attempt to dismiss Kucinich's candidacy is good reading. The one sentence version is "DK is a romantic, and MM is a cynic." The conclusion:
Hear me now and believe me later: mockery of Dennis Kucinich is founded on fear of progressive politics, either from enemies on the right, or those who feel it threatens electoral viability and professional interests on the left.
Reading the whole of Kos's diatribe, the only point of his that may have merit, in my opinion, is Kucinich's late-found belief in abortion rights. (Kos's point was not, as Sawicky makes it seem, that Kucinich is pro-life, but rather that Kucinich is not sincere, or is just flaky.) The rest is just ridiculous.

Update: More from MaxSpeak about "The Kase Against Kucinich."

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Welcome to the new Blogger!

Giving in to the dictates of corporate America turned out not to be so bad. Not the getting a Google ID part of it anyway. It did not require me to do anything more than choosing an ID and password. Heaven knows what sort of data mining my posts and comments will now be subject to by Google, but I suppose it was unavoidable. So I have joined the Google-Borg. Resistance is futile. I have been assimilated, and can no longer use the lack of a Google ID as an excuse for not posting. Back on the soapbox, now I just have to think of something to say...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Some (Parting?) Thoughts About '08

When ambivalent_maybe told me the other day that the blogger site is not letting him post here anymore without getting a google account, I was confused. Because I was still able to post freely. But now it appears that I will soon be forced into the same dilemma (I've been warned this may be my "last time" to log on through the old blogger system). I'm not sure what we're going to do...maybe we'll find another way to host the blog, or maybe we'll just give in and create google accounts. We'll see.

In any event, I do want to post just a few of my latest thoughts about the '08 presidential election, since there's a lot of buzz these days about who to support. I've mentioned before that I enthusiastically volunteered for Kucinich in '04 and still admire him greatly. I still think he takes the most authentic and visionary stands on just about every issue out there. He is, in a sense, the "prophet" of the Democratic Party. He's not afraid to sound crazy, while he is actually the one who isn't afraid to challenge the ridiculous assumptions on which so much of our political rhetoric is based. For example, on the issue of high military spending, which I raised in my last post, he is calling us to seek a world of peace and interdependence instead of global military domination. And he just simply says we need to extend Medicare to everyone. He is, indeed, a wise, if misunderstood, prophet of our times, reminiscent of the great prophets of the Bible. But I just don't see his campaign taking hold the second time around. Given the extreme difficulty we had getting his message out last time, it is hard to believe people will take it more seriously on a repeat run--even though he was right on so many issues, such as the war. As long as there are other more viable candidates out there, I am hesitant to go with Kucinich again.

As I've said before, Edwards is my top choice right now, and I really admire how he has come around on so many issues (Iraq, health care, etc.)--and continued honing his message on economic issues that were his strength in '04. He is not afraid to take on the elites and powers-that-be in order to fight for ordinary working Americans. In Edwards, I see a real chance for a likeable, electable progressive to truly transform America in a good direction.

There are other candidates I could be persuaded to support...Clark or Richardson, perhaps, if Edwards doesn't catch fire. But the most likely alternative would be Obama. I like Obama in many ways, and he does have many pluses. My greatest concern with Obama is exactly the theme he has made so central to his campaign: "unity".

Why does all the talk about "unity" and "governing from the center" rise to such a fever pitch whenever progressives look poised to make significant gains? The conservatives didn't remake America by advocating centrism and "uniting" left and right.

Obama may be a progressive at heart, but this rhetoric about "unity" is, I fear, playing into the hands of conservative and corporate interests that might wish to slow down progressive reforms. This is how David Sirota put it recently: "I’ve written a lot about Obama, including a major piece for The Nation magazine last year. In my time studying his career, it became obvious that this is a person who wants to do the right thing and has genuinely strong convictions. But he also seems to believe that the reason our country has such challenges is because all sides of every issue have not come together in unity ... The problem with this outlook is that it fundamentally misunderstands why we are at this moment in history. Forty-five million Americans are uninsured, and millions more underinsured not because low-income health advocates and the insurance industry haven’t sat down together and sung Kumbaya. It’s because, unlike every other industrialized country in the world, we have a government that has been bribed into allowing the insurance industry to profiteer off sick people. Our global warming problem did not happen because environmentalists and the auto industry refused to hug each other. It happened because the auto industry has bought off enough politicians to make sure we don’t increase fuel efficiency standards."

I suppose that joining together in solidarity to oppose corporate power is a kind of "unity," but I worry that making unity the central theme for its own sake threatens to dilute and neutralize all that we are working for. It's kind of like "circling the square," as Christopher Hayes puts it in THE NATION, pointing out that Obama's model hero, Abraham Lincoln, was not afraid of polarizing on the crucial issues of his day. Obama may be inspiring, but he is trying to be both a progressive movement candidate and use centrist talk about "unity" that blurs the stark differences between ideologies and parties.

I do have to admit there is one big reason to support Obama: to keep Hilary Clinton from getting the nomination. If it comes down to Barack vs. Hilary, I'll go with the inspiring candidate trying to have it both ways over the known triangulator and big money/elite insider candidate.

But until then, I think we need less posturing rhetoric about a "new politics of unity" and more bold talk about taking on elite power in the interests of hard working people everywhere. THAT'S progressivism. I want to know, as the old union solidarity standard asks, "Which Side Are You On?"

A Fiscal Calamity and a Moral Calamity

I've been thinking for a long time about posting again on an issue that I believe is increasingly central, though it is avoided by most leading Democrats and Republicans: the obscenely high level of U.S. military spending.

Now recent events are giving me the nudge. More specifically, the Bush Administration has released its budget request for Fiscal Year 2008. Far from trying to lower U.S. military spending, it does the exact opposite. We are pouring huge sums of our tax money into the production of high-tech killing machines--many of them originally designed with Cold War adversaries in mind...but never fear, the big defense companies are still bleeding our government dry.

As reported by the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation: "The Bush Administration is requesting $484.1 billion for the Department of Defense in Fiscal Year 2008, which begins on October 1, 2007. This is $49 billion more than the current level of $432.4 billion, an increase of 11.3 percent, and inflation-adjust ("real") increase of 8.6 percent. This figure does not include funding for the nuclear weapons activities of the Department of Energy, which is considered part of total Defense Department spending. Nor does this figure include the costs of ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan."

During the past election cycle, I saw the expediency of running lots of "pro-military" candidates as Democrats and even lionizing such long-standing Pentagon hawks as Murtha who had seen the light and articulated the folly of the Iraq War. And I know that Democrats in general are loathe to appear "weak on defense" or to stake their careers on cutting the defense budget. But we're going to have to face the fiscal and the moral realities of our dire situation sometime. The Republicans aren't going to do it. They're owned and controlled almost completely by the "Petrodollar and Weapondollar" coalition (to quote Bichler & Nitzan's terminology). I would say this is the "elephant in the middle of the room," but that would be unfair to elephants. (And everyone knows that elephants are Republicans anyway, right?) As advocates of progressive change within the Democratic Party, we have to push for a renewed courage to address the greatest discretionary drain by far on our federal budget.

If we want to have any money to do anything about all the worthwhile issues out there--and here I will just mention three BIG ones: forestalling adverse global climate change and fossil fuel depletion, eradicating poverty in the U.S. and abroad, and providing universal health care--we're going to have to face down our fear of cutting the military budget. (Are you listening, John Edwards, my favorite Presidential candidate?) We're going to have to swallow hard and be ready to explain the situation to the American people honestly and truthfully.

We don't just need to cut the "defense" budget, we need to cut it DRASTICALLY. The U.S. has such a great military advantage over the rest of the world combined that we have to take the lead to make the world a more peaceful place. No other country can do it. We are the big power, and we can't afford to be the overwhelmingly dominant power any more. It will be good for us to waste less of our money on the military, and it will be good for the world to have less fear of U.S. power. We can and must make a DRASTIC reduction in U.S. military spending a top priority. Everything else depends on it.

Does anyone know of any good activist groups that are out there are working to drastically cut U.S. military spending? I already know of a few such groups, but I'm curious if any readers have suggestions. We need to start building coalitions among the many groups that stand to gain from big cuts in military spending (which is pretty much everyone except the arms industry, and possibly the oil industry). If we don't act, I fear it will be both a fiscal calamity and a continuing moral calamity. I want to live in an America that stands for doing good things in the world, not one that is known most for having a huge, formidable military (which, nevertheless, cannot stop terrorists from attacking with simple technologies when sufficiently motivated) that kills and maims thousands around the world. If we want to be a moral beacon, and not an imperial war machine, we have to take on this taboo issue of high U.S. military spending.

In attacking the high U.S. military budget, I don't mean this as against the troops at all. I support fully funding their armor, health care, and speedy redeployment out of imperialistic wars. Of course, any attempt to drastically cut U.S. military spending will inevitably be attacked as "against the troops." The Masters of War depend on hiding behind the rank-and-file soldiers and sailors for political cover whenever their evil designs are opposed. It's time to call them on it. I cringe every time a Democrat uses the same framing language (i.e. "We can't cut off funding for the Iraq War, because it would 'hurt the troops'..."), and it is time to hold them all accountable. We will, of course, want to cut not just the obscenely expensive high-tech weapons systems that enrich the arms industry so much but also the size of the armed forces. But so many of those fighting overseas are National Guard and Reservists anyway, we can easily let them go back to their normal jobs and families. Over time, we can recruit fewer into the standing army and move towards a less militarized society. We can thank those who have gone into war for their willingness to serve and beg their forgiveness for sending them into such a terrible situation with such little chance for success. And then we can wish them well in their civilian lives. They have suffered enough for the sake of our leaders' misguided policies. We will still have to make hard choices about military bases (I propose as a first step closing mostly overseas bases--why should we need to project so much power around the globe in a multipolar, interdependent world anyway?) and I hope we can convert some of the domestic bases into well-funded centers for alternative energy research and other worthy endeavors. But we have to begin this conversation and start to deal with the fiscal and moral realities of our over-inflated military budget.