Friday, March 21, 2008

Hope, PA

An Obama HQ opens in Scranton, PA as registration
for the primary soars. The Obama campaign is
urging Independents and Republicans to register as
Dems so they can vote for Obama. One who did: the
Republican mayor of Camp Hill, PA. PA RESIDENTS
. This page
will get you started....And here's some late/early
news: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to endorse
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Obama on the other costs of Iraq

On Thursday, Barack Obama gave his second speech on the Iraq war, this time about its relationship to the American economy and needs at home. He gave it in West Virginia, and this is just a small part of what he said:, I want to talk about another cost of this war – the toll it has taken on our economy. Because at a time when we’re on the brink of recession – when neighborhoods have For Sale signs outside every home, and working families are struggling to keep up with rising costs – ordinary Americans are paying a price for this war.

When you’re spending over $50 to fill up your car because the price of oil is four times what it was before Iraq, you’re paying a price for this war. When Iraq is costing each household about $100 a month, you’re paying a price for this war.

When a National Guard unit is over in Iraq and can’t help out during a hurricane in Louisiana or with floods here in West Virginia, our communities are paying a price for this war. And the price our families and communities are paying reflects the price America is paying. The most conservative estimates say that Iraq has now cost more than half a trillion dollars, more than any other war in our history besides World War II. Some say the true cost is even higher and that by the time it’s over, this could be a $3 trillion war....

The truth is, this is all part of the reason I opposed this war from the start. It’s why I said back in 2002 that it could lead to an occupation not just of undetermined length or undetermined consequences, but of undetermined costs. It’s why I’ve said this war should have never been authorized and never been waged. ...

Instead of fighting this war, we could be fighting for the people of West Virginia. For what folks in this state have been spending on the Iraq war, we could be giving health care to nearly 450,000 of your neighbors, hiring nearly 30,000 new elementary school teachers, and making college more affordable for over 300,000 students....

Instead of fighting this war, we could be freeing ourselves from the tyranny of oil, and saving this planet for our children. We could be investing in renewable sources of energy, and in clean coal technology, and creating up to 5 million new green jobs in the bargain, including new clean coal jobs. And we could be doing it all for the cost of less than a year and a half in Iraq...

These are the investments we could be making, all within the parameters of a more responsible and disciplined budget. This is the future we could be building. And that is why I will bring this war to an end when I’m President of the United States of America."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Winter Soldiers

Bush says the war is justified, and romantic to fight.
When a reporter tells Cheney that 3/4 of the U.S.
public is against the war, he replies, "So?" Meanwhile,
soldiers testify on the realities of war in the 2008 edition
of Winter Soldiers, ignored by the media except for a
few outlets, such as Democracy Now! When will we
ever learn.
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No Sixth Anniversary

After writing about the foolishness and tragedy of the oncoming war, both online and in print, for the months leading up to its war-feverish beginning, on March 14, 2003, I wrote this on the blog that became American Dash:

Just a matter of days... Before children die because some leader wants to convince some other leader to go away, or die.

Before our young die because the only solution our leader can fix on is to eradicate the Evil in his eyes. Before we begin paying and paying with our sweat and time for the means to begin and then continue for who knows how many years this reckless, destructive and self-destructive venture, and all that will follow from it.

Before he lets loose the dogs of war. And dogs eat dogs. A self-fullfilling prophesy, making the world the way they think it is.

But it isn't, not necessarily. It doesn't have to be. A new world is creating itself, within the skin of the old.

We, I, and even humanity, may not live long enough to see it walk the earth, if it ever gets that chance.

Are we then witnessing the partial-birth abortion of hope?

But hope is being reborn in 2008--the hope for example that there will be no sixth anniversary of an ongoing war in Iraq, with no end in sight.

Wednesday, on the fifth anniversary, Barack Obama spoke about Iraq in a national security context. Thursday he speaks on the war and how it relates to the economy and the health of the nation.

Here is some of what he said Wednesday:

" History will catalog the reasons why we waged a war that didn't need to be fought, but two stand out. In 2002, when the fateful decisions about Iraq were made, there was a President for whom ideology overrode pragmatism, and there were too many politicians in Washington who spent too little time reading the intelligence reports, and too much time reading public opinion. The lesson of Iraq is that when we are making decisions about matters as grave as war, we need a policy rooted in reason and facts, not ideology and politics.

It is time to have a debate with John McCain about the future of our national security. And the way to win that debate is not to compete with John McCain over who has more experience in Washington, because that's a contest that he'll win. The way to win a debate with John McCain is not to talk, and act, and vote like him on national security, because then we all lose. The way to win that debate and to keep America safe is to offer a clear contrast, and that's what I will do when I am the nominee of the Democratic Party – because since before this war in Iraq began, I have made different judgments, I have a different vision, and I will offer a clean break from the failed policies and politics of the past.

So when I am Commander-in-Chief, I will set a new goal on Day One: I will end this war. Not because politics compels it. Not because our troops cannot bear the burden– as heavy as it is. But because it is the right thing to do for our national security, and it will ultimately make us safer."
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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's Moment is Our Moment

Barack Obama earlier this week.
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Obama's Speech on Race: How It Plays

Note: If you haven't seen Obama's speech, you can access it through the Obama News gadget I've added to the left side column. That should also link you to the text, but if not, it's here.

The praise for Barack Obama's speech in Philadelphia on the subject of race is almost universal. But the tough talking pundits on cable news channels--who are basically the ones who fed the frenzy that made the speech necessary--now say yeah, we think it's great, but what will that white working class guy in Pennsylvania think?

It happens that within the white working class (or lower middle to middle middle class) in western Pennsylvania is where I grew up. It seemed to me immediately that there were several parts of the speech that will resonate, including one I haven't seen commented on in terms of how it will play with this group: Obama condemned those selected statements of Rev. Wright but he refused to disown his former preacher, in very strong terms. He was loyal, and that resonates. Loyalty is a prized virtue, especially within families and within communities, including "faith communities."

My testimony however is not the only possible evidence that this will resonate. In another and mostly more local controversy--his relationship and dealings with Chicago real estater Tony Rezko--Obama spent hours recently with reporters of the two Chicago dailies, answering literally every one of their questions. He explained to their satisfaction that he'd done nothing wrong or illegal, although he probably should have anticipated the appearance of conflict of interest earlier. He revealed also that his relationship with Rezko was closer than previously known--that they'd been friends.

The Chicago Tribune concluded that Obama's candor set a standard by which other politicians will be judged. But the columnist for the Sun-Times had an additional thought:

The second thing that struck me Friday had to do with loyalty. This could not be a more intense time for Obama as he slugs it out with Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. And it arguably would be a fine time to throw Tony Rezko under the bus.

But Obama remains grateful that Rezko supported him in his failed congressional race against Bobby Rush when, given a relationship with Rush, it wasn’t easy. “That was loyalty that I appreciated,” the senator said.
And so Obama still calls Rezko “a friend, with the caveat that if it turns out the allegations are true, then he’s not who I thought he was, and I’d be very disappointed with that.”

So, candor — though delayed — gives us a clearer view. And friendship — tested but not abandoned — looks more like a virtue than a fault.

By speaking of white working class grievances as well as black, by talking candidly about all of these issues in relationship to his own life, background and experiences, by being calm and direct, and with that hint of emotion when he ended his speech with the story of Ashley, the young white woman who inspired an old black man, Obama connected. But perhaps the most direct connection was this loyalty. Every working class family I know of has had to deal with the frailties or bad acts or mistakes of family members or even views or "lifestyles" they don't agree with, and whether or not to "disown." Mostly nobody gets disowned, even if things aren't ever the same again. Families can't exist otherwise. This extends beyond the family in certain cases, like churches. Even when people can't themselves live up to the ideal, they prize loyalty like this.

The message is about more than loyalty, of course. It is about coming together despite our differences. It is a profoundly Christian message, though not exclusive to that faith or philosophy. It is a profoundly American message. It is an immensely practical message. It is Obama's message, which he embodies.

The question was also raised whether Obama's speech was too complex for the non-elites. Obama talked about what people talk about around the kitchen table. It's elitist to think that non-elites can't handle complexity, especially when it affects their own lives. My last time back home last spring, I sat at the table with family and neighbors and people related in a variety of ways, gathered to celebrate the graduation of one of my nieces from college. They were talking about alternative energy, especially as it bears on the problem of high gasoline prices, with great practicality and interest--without the sort of political slant that's inevitable when such subjects are aired in the media.

Obama's speech was framed inside a very practical message: we have to confront these racial issues to get beyond them, because ultimately we must all work together to concentrate on getting done what needs to be done for everyone. That's something everyone at the kitchen table can understand these days.

Obama hinted that it is among the young that race (like gender and sexual preferences) is no longer a powerful divider. He gave today's public--and the media-- the choice of continuing to dwell on fear-mongering distractions, or getting beyond them to confronting the crucial problems of now. If we don't confront them, and solve them together, we will be destroying the future of those young people, and their children and grandchildren.

If we elect this man as our President, we have a chance to confront the consequences of our own mistakes, misunderstandings and failures. If we don't, we will compound the failures of the past by failing to take advantage of this rare opportunity. And we will have failed the future--the future of my nieces and their children.

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"Do I have to be 94 years old to remember these names? Are they otherwise erased from history?"

Studs Terkel, who at 94 complains that not even the recent past is remembered in what he calls the United States of Alzheimer's.

Cultural Genocide

The Dalai Lama calls for an international probe into
cultural genocide in Tibet, as China cracks down
with violence.
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Big Trouble in Tibet

What's really going on in Tibet is not precisely known, but it's likely to be very, very bad. Protests against what the Dalai Lama called "cultural genocide" have resulted in threats and violence by the Chinese government. According to Tibetan exile groups in India ( who "have provided some of the only reporting" from Tibet "since last Monday" said an ABC story), many have been killed.

"People have been saying they're shooting our people like dogs," Tenzin Norgay, the spokesman for the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, told ABC News, citing his sources inside Tibet.

The Times of London is reporting close to to 1,000 Tibetans are under arrest. Now the Dalai Lama says if Tibetans engage in violence he will resign.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government is accusing the Dalai Lama of ordering the rebellion, charging as well that it is an attempt to stop the Olympics from being held in China. China is also blocking YouTube so that Chinese can't see the only video coming out of Tibet. So the situation doesn't look like it's going to get better soon, and may get a great deal worse.

Over the recent past, China has been busily destroying ancient Tibetan structures, especially those associated with Buddhism, and turning cities like Lhasa into perverse imitation Tibetan shopping malls for tourists. They've apparently murdered thousands of Buddhist monks in the process.

China has proven that capitalism and totalitarian iron-fisted rule work pretty well together. They make most of what Americans buy, and they've financed the Bushite wars and tax cuts for the wealthy by buying up federal government debt. So it's no wonder that the Bushites recently removed China from the list of the world's top ten human rights violators.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

While the war goes on...

U.S. soldiers in Iraq
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U.S.: End Iraq War Marches Saturday

Photos from a few of what have sorrowfully become annual marches across the U.S. against the Iraq war--from Eureka and Hollywood, California; and Washington, D.C.

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Marches Around the World Saturday

Photos (by AP) from a few marches Saturday in Barcelona, Madrid, London and Istanbul.

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