Category Archives: Politics

I promise you – we as a people will get there.

out of many, we are one

out of many, we are one

Remarks of President-Elect Barack Obama—as prepared for delivery
Election Night
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
Chicago, Illinois

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he’s fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation’s promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation’s next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House. And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics – you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you’ve sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to – it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington – it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn’t do this just to win an election and I know you didn’t do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor’s bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers – in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America – that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

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John McCain, Neo-Cons, and the Legacy of W

The continuing legacy of Pax Americana

The continuing legacy of Pax Americana

We’ve heard a lot of talk about whether or not John McCain represents a change from the policies of the Bush administration. The platform of the McCain campaign seem to be essentially (to be fair, not exclusively) built upon the following pillars:

Experience, Bi-Partisan Reform of the Culture of the Washington Elites (which is likewise tied to McCain’s “Maverick” record in the legislature), Foreign Policy Expertise, Military Experience and Expertise, and faith in the “Fundamentals” of Trickle-Down Economics.

At first blush, this platform looks markedly different from that of the Bush administration. Bush made no attempt at bi-partisan reform; had no real foreign policy or military expertise when elected; and was not a supporter of trickle-down…no wait… there is no difference there. But I am not going to focus on economics (ideologically) in this comparison between the president and John McCain. Their is much to concern ourselves with on that regard, and there is no question that economic ideology necessarily informs the design of every other sphere within the realm of political policy. But I will let that reality make itself evident as the evidence dictates.

This is not about the meltdown on Wall Street, however unfortunate that necessarily proves to be, at a time when the primary concern of the people of the United States. The McCain campaign has repeatedly stated that they wish to avoid discussion of the economy in this election. They do, however, hope to focus the majority of their attention on defense, the wars in the Middle East, and the experience of the candidates. No, this is about the militaristic policies of a Neo-Conservative think tank that defined the actions of the Bush administration, and in the process, undermined the very ideals of a Pax Americana that they sought to sustain.

Below are sections taken from a document entitled: Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century. The document was written by “the Project for the New American Century is a non-profit, educational organization whose goal is to promote American global leadership”, which was established in the spring of 1997. As an interesting, though perhaps merely coincidental, side-note, among the names of those signing off in support of the projects “Statement of Principles” are Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Dan Quayle, Steve Forbes and Jeb Bush. I think that offers enough evidence to suggest that this document was indeed a major contributor to the policies and ideologies of the administration of George W. Bush. You can access the document in its entirety by following the link at the beginning of this paragraph. I am including a few passages from the document below to convey its general gist.

The point of this post is not merely to demonstrate the premeditated and catastrophic designs of a select few, that have plunged this nation into multiple wars, international ridicule, and an economic collapse of the highest severity. I would also ask the reader to think critically about electing a presidential candidate, that despite his many exasperated objections, clearly represents “more of the same”. Before you begin furiously typing your own objections, I would ask you to watch the tape of the second presidential debate, so that you might include in your objection an explanation for how John McCain’s stated intent to freeze funding to every government program — except the military — represents anything but a continuation of the imperialist war machine that our nation has become, thanks to the policies of the Bush administration as an extension of the ideologies of this document.

Excerpts from Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century:

“As the 20 century draws to a close, the United States stands as the
world’s most preeminent power.  Having led the West to victory in
the Cold War, America faces an opportunity and a challenge:  Does
the United States have the vision to build upon the achievement of
past decades?  Does the United States have the resolve to shape a
new century favorable to American principles and interests?
“[What we require is] a military that is strong and ready to meet
both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and
purposefully promotes American principles abroad; and national
leadership that accepts the United States’ global responsibilities.
“Of course, the United States must be prudent in how it exercises its
power.  But we cannot safely avoid the responsibilities of global
leadership of the costs that are associated with its exercise.  America
has a vital role in maintaining peace and security in Europe, Asia,
and the Middle East.  If we shirk our responsibilities, we invite
challenges to our fundamental interests.  The history of the 20th
century should have taught us that it is important to shape
circumstances before crises emerge, and to meet threats before they
become dire.  The history of the past century should have taught us
to embrace the cause of American leadership.”
– From the Project’s founding Statement of Principles

————————————-

“The challenge for this coming century is to preserve and advance this “American Peace”… In particular we need to:”

ESTABLISH FOUR CORE MISSIONS for U.S. military forces:
• defend the American homeland;
• fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars;
• perform the “constabulary” duties associated with shaping the security environment in
critical regions;
• transform U.S. forces to exploit the “revolution in military affairs;”
To carry out these core missions, we need to provide sufficient force and budgetary
allocations.  In particular, the United States must:
MAINTAIN NUCLEAR STRATEGIC SUPERIORITY, basing the U.S. nuclear deterrent upon a
global, nuclear net assessment that weighs the full range of current and emerging threats,
not merely the U.S.-Russia balance.
RESTORE THE PERSONNEL STRENGTH of today’s force to roughly the levels anticipated in
the “Base Force” outlined by the Bush Administration, an increase in active-duty strength
from 1.4 million to 1.6 million.
REPOSITION U.S. FORCES to respond to 21st century strategic realities by shifting
permanently-based forces to Southeast Europe and Southeast Asia, and by changing naval

deployment patterns to reflect growing U.S. strategic concerns in East Asia.

MODERNIZE CURRENT U.S. FORCES SELECTIVELY, proceeding with the F-22 program while
increasing purchases of lift, electronic support and other aircraft; expanding submarine
and surface combatant fleets; purchasing Comanche helicopters and medium-weight
ground vehicles for the Army, and the V-22 Osprey “tilt-rotor” aircraft for the Marine
Corps.
CANCEL “ROADBLOCK” PROGRAMS such as the Joint Strike Fighter, CVX aircraft carrier,
and Crusader howitzer system that would absorb exorbitant amounts of Pentagon funding
while providing limited improvements to current capabilities.  Savings from these canceled
programs should be used to spur the process of military transformation.
DEVELOP AND DEPLOY GLOBAL MISSILE DEFENSES to defend the American homeland and
American allies, and to provide a secure basis for U.S. power projection around the world.
CONTROL THE NEW “INTERNATIONAL COMMONS” OF SPACE AND “CYBERSPACE,” and pave
the way for the creation of a new military service – U.S. Space Forces – with the mission of
space control.
EXPLOIT THE “REVOLUTION IN MILITARY AFFAIRS” to insure the long-term superiority of
U.S. conventional forces.  Establish a two-stage transformation process which
• maximizes the value of current weapons systems through the application of advanced
technologies, and,
• produces more profound improvements in military capabilities, encourages competition
between single services and joint-service experimentation efforts.
INCREASE DEFENSE SPENDING gradually to a minimum level of 3.5 to 3.8 percent of gross
domestic product, adding $15 billion to $20 billion to total defense spending annually.

Perhaps your convictions line up with this prioritization of the military industrial complex as the best means by which to secure our position of global dominance. In response to that possibility, I ask you:

Have the actions and events of last eight years really increased our position in that regard?

Keating 5 Scandal – Something to think about…

I don’t have time to comment extensively on this just yet, but I will edit the post later with my thoughts.

This is a short documentary (released by the Obama campaign for the sake of full disclosure) that argues that John McCain directly contributed to the creation of the conditions for the banking collapse through his involvement with the deregulation of the Lincoln Savings and Loan in the 80s. It is also suggested that Charles Keating who ran the savings and loan previously made a significant financial contribution to McCain’s campaign. Like I said, more to come later, but at first blush I feel pretty confident when I say (nothing more, nothing less than) that I believe that the economic policies of John McCain are systematically incapable of solving the economic crisis long term.

How to Gain Friends and Influence the Market

I read a very eye-opening blog piece today that supports a notion that’s been developing in my head over the last year or so, namely, that the dominance of the capitalist ideology has been built upon the “misdirection play”, or to put it another way, by mastering the magician’s “slight of hand” technique.

“It’s magic!!!” Well no, not really… it’s just that we missed the coin dropping into the magician’s sleeve.

The premise of the argument is that the “deferred compensation” plan that drives the 401Ks and IRAs we’ve all become so dependent upon for retirement isn’t so much about putting ownership in the hands of the laborers, as it is about giving us that impression. I preface the link to this essay by openly admitting that it is highly contingent upon opinion, and a relatively small sample of citation for support. The author readily admits as much. If I ever manage to find some time of my own, I intend to do a little follow-up and check the credibility of the sources. But I also suggest that the argument makes logical sense, and furthermore, that many of the truths we now hold as self-evident themselves began as mere opinion, or hypotheses. For the time being, I’m willing to say that I’m reasonably convinced of the article’s premise. I will also say that if I am presented with convincing evidence that contradicts the premise, I’m willing to rethink the issue.

The conclusion of the essay is posted below. You can find the rest of the essay here: No Deal

Try not to dismiss it outright if you happen to dislike the website on which it was posted. There is a lot of material on these partisan blogs that is exaggerated and one-sided. That goes for the Left as well as for the Right. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t, at times, well thought out, logical positions containing truth from time to time. Our political culture would be much more palatable if we all conceded that.

Broad ownership of deferred compensation plans has greatly changed how we view the stock market and made us more willing to take action that benefits the market. It’s likely that not only the $700 billion bailout, but much of the deregulation that made that bailout necessary, would not have been possible without the change in attitude created through deferred compensation plans. We were willing to let them get away with being weasels, because we thought we would gather part of the benefit from their activities.

This is, of course, an illusion. This impression that stocks are now in the hands of average Americans is a thin veneer over the situation as it has always existed. The median amount of money Americans hold in retirement accounts is around $35,000 – hardly a stock market bonanza — and even this number fails to capture the real situation. For Americans below the 60th percentile on income, the amount held in retirement accounts is around $15,000. For the top 10%, the number is $182,000. Similar numbers apply to direct stock ownership. Around 85% of all stock is owned by those families in the top 10% income bracket. The top 1% owns over half.

What Reagan said in 1975 is still true – a very small number of Americans own the means of production, while the rest work for them. The difference now is that we think we are among the owners, which has been a tremendous benefit to that handful of “real capitalists.”

They turned the pension system into a weapon that worked to their benefit, both at the bank and in the polling booth. Which is why they’re so anxious to do the same for Social Security.

Science and the Politics of Economics

The following is taken from The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 3rd ed (1996 [1962]), by Thomas Kuhn:

“Few people who are not actually practitioners of a mature science realize how much mop-up work this sort of a paradigm (an accepted model or pattern for scientific research/methods) leaves to be done or quite how fascinating such work can prove in the execution. And these points need to be understood. Mopping-up operations are what engage most scientists throughout their careers. They constitute what I am here calling normal science. Closely examined, whether historically or in the contemporary laboratory, that enterprise seems and attempt to force nature into the preformed and relatively inflexible box that the paradigm supplies. No part of the aim of normal science is to call forth new sorts of phenomena; indeed those that will not fit the box are often not seen at all. Nor do scientists normally aim to invent new theories, and they are often intolerant of those invented by others. Instead, normal-scientific research is directed to the articulation of those phenomena and theories that the paradigm already supplies.” (24)

It seems to me, in light of my recent thinking and writing on economics and the political impact on them, that we have a fairly concise analogy for the current state of American economic policy located Kuhn’s argument above. Are we not currently “mopping-up” the messes of the American free market capitalism economic paradigm? When the politicians talk of revitalizing the economy, aren’t they merely suggesting conducting further experiments that adhere to, and more importantly, hope to legitimize that economic theory? Are we stuck in a box that refuses to recognize or tolerate new theories? It has been argued that democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s economic and health care policies are partially influenced by socialist theories. So within the framework of Kuhn’s understanding of paradigms, one could argue that Obama’s policies should be dismissed (or perhaps even charged as theoretical heresy) as flights of fancy that fall outside of the box of how economics work. Is what we need now as a nation simply a matter of reinforcing the box with packing tape? Or do we presently need (as I have regularly argued) to consider the possibility that the box’s integrity has been compromised, and there is a very real possibility that the bottom could fall out. Is this a time for cosmetic cover-ups and blind faith in a paradigm in which the rich are routinely rewarded for causing the financial struggles of the rest of us? Or can we at least begin to entertain the notion that the trickling down of promised economic prosperity might not be able to penetrate the top of the closed box? But I am no scientist, nor am I an economist. So who am I to question the present paradigm? It’s not like we’re still dealing with the inequalities of feudalism, when access to the lands great resources were reserved only for the elite nobility who grew fat off the labor of the working class… wait a minute.

Live from New York! – Millennium Development Goals Summit

Leaders of the Free World

Leaders of the Free World

So the Cubs have clinched back to back division championships for the first time since our nation’s last depression. Talk about a harbinger of the apocalypse… Obama’s own city is writing Palin’s script. And while we’re putting lipstick on pigs and buying 50cc scooters, our government spends hundreds of billions of dollars to revitalize bad business practices. Didn’t AIG’s ousted CEO get $8 million in severance pay as a thanks for killing our economy? America, America… so full of grace.

Well at least we’re not French. Freedom Fries for everyone! Those lefty fruitcakes are talking about re-colonizing Africa! Who would pour capital into a continent so devastated by famine and disease? Quite possibly the French.

Oh, and over a million Chinese.

“It’s a rich continent: zinc, copper, oil, gas, silver, gold, diamonds… Just for its resources Africa will play a critical role in how the 21st century is shaped.” (Bono: MDG Blog) This is all sounding so familiar. A weakened populace looking only to make a living. Endless resources available to anyone willing to do the work to extract them, and with that endless opportunity for advancement, even riches.

Lost in war, politics, and subprime lending, I wonder how many of us knew that the Millennium Development Goals summit was going on right now? I wonder how many of us actually believe that capitalists would rather invest in American labor and resources than the untapped, exploitable resources and labor in Africa.

I’m excited that Bono and One.org are having success influencing so many world leaders to take action in Africa. I’m equally excited that he’s found a way to demonstrate a symbiotic relationship between social amelioration and profit that the capitalists and leaders of state can buy into. Wait…

Bono

I realize that the best hope for the people of Africa is massive foreign investment in infrastructure and production. I realize that the people of Africa should benefit immensely from this program. And yet…

Bono also said “All kill their inspirations and sing about their grief.” I hope we’re not grieving too hard for imperial conquest. That’s an inspiration that needs to stay out of the historiography of resurrection narratives. So I’m guardedly optimistic, though with the move to history this fall, a lot of this is looking familiar. And not in a fun, “Hey remember when we egged that cop car!” kind of way.

Jeffrey Sachs

I’m linking Bono’s blog today from the MDG  just below, and I’ve also set up an RSS feed for it in the sidebar to the right. Bono and Columbia University Economist Jeffrey Sachs will be posting updates for the duration of the summit in New York City.

WHY EUROPE NEEDS AFRICA

A Call for Progressive Ideas (and Ideals)

There has been much talk in the last few weeks — with the collapse of Lehman, Fannie May and Freddie Mac, and now AIG — of an impending economic crisis that could potentially match the scale of 1929s total market crash. John McCain, of course, thinks that the structure of our economy is strong, that if we cut the wealthy capitalist fat cats running our “free market” economy some tax breaks, that we will recover as the saved money (say it with me) trickles down to the everyday American. Two GLARING issues with that position:

1. Free market institutions can’t be held accountable for their actions and speculative risk… even in their total failure. The market must be free!  The failures of giant financial corporations is clearly a result of elements beyond their control!  Therefore the government must ensure the survival of these short sighted, bloated, and broken corporations so that they can regain the trust of the American people… trust that pads the pockets of the rich — AIG’s CEO is getting an 8 million dollar severance package to reward him for his outstanding leadership — and watches the earnings of the rest of us trickle down the gas tank.

2. The goal of free market capitalism is to generate more profit. If you are the owner of a private, deregulated corporation, and the government cuts your tax burden, are you going to pay your employees more (which counters the very foundation of traditional desires for “low overhead” in market capitalism), or call it a successful quarter and pocket your additional profit?  Perhaps you will use the extra capital to invest in new assets, but in the financial world, seldom if ever, is the labor force recognized as an asset.

What we need to do is admit that present day American free market capitalism is systemically broken.

We need to dream it all up again. I’m not suggesting that substituting another contemporary system, like socialism for example, is the answer. But there clearly needs to be a New Deal approach to turning the country around. We need bold, progressive leadership that is unafraid to be strong in the face of blind tradition and habit. We need someone willing to tread new ground; to stand up and own up to the sad realities of deregulated free market ideology, and begin writing the next chapter in the history of the great ingenuity, leadership, and resolve of American democracy. It’s time to turn the page.

Some additional reading on the subject:

“The Fruit of Hypocrisy” – Joseph Stiglitz

“Obama’s Challenge” – Robert Kuttner

Kuttner discusses his book on Tom Ashbrook’s “On Point” NPR radio program. An audio link will be available after 3pm on Sept. 17.

Kuttner NPR Link