June 26, 2008

Ralph Nader Nader Accuses Obama of “Talking White”

You know, the worst part about this is that I’m betting that Nader – as often – doesn’t and didn’t even realize exactly how bad he sounds here. He probably just doesn’t get it – I just don’t think it sunk in. He was trying to speak frankly, trying to make a point, and in the end it just came out sounding really really moronic. The point itself? Yeah – still moronic, but at least I can tell there was a point behind there somewhere.

The reason I can tell? I’ve been told ever since my adolescence that I “talk white,” “act white,” am an “oreo,” and so on, mostly because I personally rejected hip-hop culture and a number of the stereotypical identiifcation elements that make Black Americans “look” like Black Americans. I’m young, but even since my youth America has come a long way in what it interprets as “black” and “white,” and while a number of White Americans still grapple with the notion, most young people of all stripes understand that, for example, an affinity for hip-hop doesn’t mean you’re “acting black” any more than a desire to do well in school makes you “act white.”

Mark my words. As long as there are Black Americans who seek to lead, seek to educate themselves, and seek to climb the social ladder and smash those walls of social injustice, there will be people who claim they’re doing it all to “be white.” I get it on a regular basis, personally – from the offhand comment that I’m the “least ‘black’ black guy” that everyone knows to the same “you’re very articulate” crap that Obama got at the beginning of the primary, it’s real, and I see it every day.

That being said, Nader’s quote:

“He wants to show that he is not a threatening … another politically threatening African-American politician. He wants to appeal to white guilt. You appeal to white guilt not by coming on as black is beautiful, black is powerful. Basically he’s coming on as someone who is not going to threaten the white power structure, whether it’s corporate or whether it’s simply oligarchic. And they love it. Whites just eat it up.”

Oh Nader, that’s unfortunate. So what are you really driving at? Are you saying that White people should be threatened by Obama? Or – and far more likely – you’re giving away your own misguided interpretation of race in politics? You find it difficult to resist his appeal, so you have to come up with a reason why Jesse Jackson scares the living daylights out of you but Barack Obama doesn’t?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

[ Today in Incongruity: Nader Accuses Obama of “Talking White” ]
Source: Alternet

June 25, 2008

Tweens and Twenties See Future Led by Women

I saw this piece and I couldn’t pass it up. At the beginning of the Democratic primary season, I was a firm Hillary Clinton supporter; I didn’t think anyone else had what it took to wrestle the country from the hands of neoconservative failure on all levels. At the same time, I didn’t completely love Hillary Clinton; there are a few things I don’t like about her political stance – but that being said, it wasn’t until the Democratic debate really took shape did I firm up an allegiance away from her.

Even so, I’m both distressed at the loss of a female candidate for the White House as I am thrilled that she’s made significant inroads for women in politics. Women in American governance don’t need to feel that they have to listen to their conservative colleagues when they tell them to sit down, shut up, and go home. No one can tell America’s young women that they have any “place” that’s not every place they choose to be, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign has brought more women who are eager to be leaders to the fore.

When Amy Sewell and Susan Toffler set out to make a documentary about the next generation of female political leaders, they ran across seven women in their early 20s. This group became the focus of the film designed to promote young women’s participation in the electoral process.

The directors took the title of their movie – “What’s Your Point, Honey?” – from a cartoon that has two characters: Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is pointing to a globe showing all the countries where women are heads of state and a man is asking, “What’s your point, honey?” The title provided an ironic touch, but the message of the film, which debuted in New York on May 29, extends beyond the 2008 race.

“It’s about the day that we see seven up there that we can choose from and not have it become polarizing,” said Sewell, who is also creator of the 2005 documentary “Mad Hot Ballroom,” about a dance program in New York City public schools. “It’s about seeing seven women candidates the same way that we see seven men.”

I’m longing for that day as much as the next person, I think. The film brings out a number of issues, including a persistent belief among women that they’re somehow not as qualified than their male counterparts (a belief that’s nowhere remotely factual and is entirely socialized into young women: that running things is still a “man’s job”) and that women are less likely to receive support from political organizations and activist groups. (hopefully this is changing – at least on the left.)

Additionally, the film sits down with the leaders of a couple of activist groups looking to encourage women to get involved in leadership positions and politics on both the local, national, state, and federal levels. The project aims to – and I’m hoping to – return to the young women featured in the documentary in several years, when the youngest are eligable for a run at the Presidency, and find a number of them engaged in politics.

[ Tweens and Twenties See Future Led by Women ]
Source: Women’s eNews (courtesy of Truthout)

The Real McCain: Part II

Something tells me there will be a number of “The Real McCain” type posts (and articles) as John McCain’s true personality and political stand on a myriad of issues come to light. McCain is hardly the “maverick” darling that his supporters would claim he is, he’s voted with the Bush administration on an overwhelming majority of issues, and has shown himself to be an anti-choice, anti-family, anti-poor, anti-civil rights, anti-constitution conservative again and again.

None of that in and of itself is terribly surprising, but what is coming to light and is surprising is exactly how venomous he is about it:

But there is another, very different side to John McCain. Away from the headlines and the stirring speeches, a less familiar figure lurks. It is a McCain who plans to fight on in Iraq for years to come and who might launch military action against Iran. This is the McCain whose campaign and career has been riddled with lobbyists and special interests. It is a McCain who has sided with religious and political extremists who believe Islam is evil and gays are immoral. It is a McCain who wants to appoint extreme conservatives to the Supreme Court and see abortion banned. This McCain has a notoriously volatile temper that has scared some senior members of his own party.

Yeah, that’s frightening. Should this man become the leader of the free world, freedom-loving people around the world would have a serious problem on their hands: a religiously motivated, aggressive warhawk with anger issues at the helm of the United States and all of its military, economic, and political power. Haven’t we been down this road for the past 8 years?

McCain believes in projecting American military power abroad. So it is no wonder that the neoconservatives who pushed for war in Iraq have now regrouped around him. McCain’s main foreign policy adviser is Randy Scheunemann, who was executive director of the shadowy Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Other leading neocons on board include John Bolton, America’s belligerent former UN ambassador, Bill Kristol, editor of the Neocon bible the Weekly Standard, and Max Boot, who has pushed for a US version of the old British Colonial Office. Another close McCain adviser is former CIA director James Woolsey, who has openly advocated bombing Syria.

Such a group of warlike counsellors has raised fears that McCain may strike Iran to stop its suspected quest for a nuclear weapon, triggering a fresh war in the Middle East. The Republican candidate has openly joked about bombing Tehran.

That list of backers as potential cabinet members and policy leaders in a McCain administration is far more frightening than the cadre of hawks that President Bush trusted to get him through the war. Then again, these folks get you into quagmires, they don’t specialize in getting you out.

It doesn’t stop there though. Paul Harris dissects the war hero image that McCain glady thrusts upon himself, and picks apart McCain’s “pastor problem:”

Just look at McCain’s ‘pastor problems’. He has enthusiastically sought the political blessing of some of the most conservative religious figures in the country. McCain gave the 2006 commencement address at Falwell’s Liberty University, a college that has taught creationism alongside science. McCain also courted and won the endorsement of Texan preacher John Hagee, despite Hagee blaming Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans’s liberal attitude towards gays. Hagee believes the disaster was God’s judgement on the sinful city. Another McCain-backer, Ohio preacher Rod Parsley, has spouted hate about Muslims. Parsley, whom McCain called a ‘spiritual guide’, believes America was founded partly in order to destroy Islam. He has called Mohammed a ‘mouthpiece of a conspiracy of spiritual evil’ and has supported prosecuting people who commit adultery. Though McCain later repudiated the endorsements of Parsley and Hagee, he did so only after bad headlines threatened his moderate image. Most of Hagee’s and Parsley’s views were widely known from public speeches or books. It was not their bigotry that caught the campaign out, it was the reporting of it. ‘McCain has had links with these religious figures who are just way, way out of the mainstream,’ says Cliff Schecter.

There are other nasties, too. McCain is friends with G Gordon Liddy, one of the Watergate burglars. Liddy, who once plotted to kill a left-wing journalist, has hosted a fundraiser with McCain in his own home. McCain also endorsed and campaigned for Alabama politician George Wallace Jr in 2005, despite Wallace’s links to racist groups. Wallace has praised and spoken at meetings of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white-power group that opposes inter-racial marriage and promotes white racial purity. If a moderate voter were seeking to judge a politician by the company he keeps, then McCain keeps some very odd company indeed.

But it is not really that strange. McCain himself holds deeply conservative views, including proposing teaching the creationist idea of Intelligent Design in schools alongside evolution. McCain has also always been anti-abortion. He believes the landmark Roe vs Wade ruling that legalised abortion was a bad decision. McCain has vowed to continue the Bush policy of appointing extreme conservatives to the Supreme Court and many fear a McCain presidency will see Roe vs Wade overturned. ‘McCain is neither moderate nor a maverick when it comes to a woman’s right to choose. He’s just plain wrong,’ said Nancy Keenan, president of abortion rights group NARAL.

So we see who John McCain’s real friends are – racists, homophobes, fundamental Christians – with all of this data in hand, it’s actually somewhat surprising that even elements of McCain’s own base consider him too left-leaning for their votes.

And then there’s his feint to the left on environmental matters while maintaining a message to his base that he doesn’t really mean it:

On the environment, too, McCain is not the green warrior some might think. He has voted against tightening fuel efficiency standards for American cars. The League of Conservation Voters gives McCain an environmental rating of 24 per cent; Obama gets 86 per cent. ‘His rhetoric does not match his voting record on this issue,’ says David Sandretti, a director of the League. ‘McCain is better than Bush, but that’s not much of a yardstick, because the current president is abysmal.’

That sounds about right. If the American people are looking to go back to the old-school classic politics of leaders who say one thing to get your votes and then do something completely different and more in line with the people who fill their coffers and make sure their agendas are taken care of, then I think John McCain will be a perfect fit; but unfortunately, those of us looking forward to a brighter tomorrow can see McCain for what he is.

[ The Real McCain ]
Source: The Observer / Guardian UK (courtesy of Truthout)

June 18, 2008

McCain: Let’s Dot American Coastlines with Oil Rigs!

Changing positions again to suit the demand of the day, John McCain made one of his more preposterous propositions today; picking up the Bush rallying cry that the best way to help Americans feeling the pinch at the pump is to open up our coastlines to leasing and drilling by oil companies. Apparently the Republican campaign and party line on energy policy is “consume, consume, consume! We can just drill our way out of it!”

I can’t say this is a surprise, after all, Dick Cheney was the man who claimed that energy conservation is a “personal virtue,” and even though McCain distanced himself from that comment today, it’s no surprise that Bush and Cheney – both men who make loads of money from the rabid success of the oil industry in the US – are less about alternative energies, better fuel and consumption efficiency, and conservation, and are all in favor of finding new and interesting ways to put off actually dealing with our energy problems. What was that about not running for Bush’s third term, John? Funny – he certainly seems eager to pick up where Bush left off.

McCain has had his moments on climate change, and even said that while we should dot American coastlines on the east and west coasts with oil rigs and refineries (after all, when we have all that oil, now American drivers will have something to go see when they go to the beach instead of all that boring sand and sea life) we should leave the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge alone. Thanks for the bone there. What was that about trying to build a green image, John?

But here’s my question – while he’s all about this, and the Republicans are all but frothing at the mouth at the notion of even more giveaways to oil companies, the Democrats in Congress are pointing out something very very important:

Oil companies already hold the leases to over 65 MILLION ACRES on which they have failed to begin drilling. 65 million acres on which there’s every indication there’s enough oil underneath that they could produce enough to meet growing demand. But they’re not using it.

Why not? No one seems to have the answer to that question. Republicans are trying the old bait and switch, “there’s no oil under there,” which is hilarious in its idiocy: we already know there’s oil under there, and besides, even if we didn’t know already, the oil companies would be in more than a hurry to break their leases on all that land if they didn’t think they should have it. The trick? They just haven’t bothered to use it.

Some argue that oil companies have the technology and the know-how to drill on new areas cleanly and minimize environmental impact. I don’t doubt this is true – the technology exists and the oil companies have it. What’s wrong with that picture is getting them to use it. Let’s examine another industry that has the technology to do its business cleanly but simply fails to: the so-called “clean coal” industry: the ones that spend millions of dollars marketing themselves as the best option for the environment, replete with ads featuring sunny, red-faced children looking up at perfect skies? Yeah – when you ask those coal companies to implement that “clean” technology they tout in their ads, they fight you every step of the way. The oil companies are no different. They’re all for marketing their green credentials, but that’s as far as it goes. In some cases, they’re more willing to spend money on green marketing than green business practices.

So. In the face of all of the land that the oil companies currently don’t drill on, Republicans still want to give them more. Every President since the 80s has extended the offshore leasing ban, but McCain is more than willing to tow the Bush line and fill Bush’s buddies’ coffers with more taxpayer money by mortgaging our future and environmental security.

Add to this the fact that even if we granted all of the leases that Republicans want to hand out to oil companies tomorrow that Americans wouldn’t see relief at the pump for more than 5 years, and no serious oil supplies from those new regions for longer than that, and yep- you see where this is going – another bad idea from our friends, the experts at bad ideas.

Independent energy analyst Phillip Verleger agrees, but he says even if the moratorium were lifted, it would take years for new offshore rigs to produce any oil.

“It will not be in the term of the next president that we will see much significant increase in production,” Verleger said, “even if we were to change the moratorium, say, on Jan. 20, 2009.”

Verleger and other energy economists say the best way to address high gas prices is through conservation and improved efficiency.

“We’re only going to get out of this problem by using less,” he said.

For what it’s worth, that’s exactly what Barack Obama is saying we should do. Conservation should become a virtue, automobile and truck manufacturers have the technology to make more fuel efficient vehicles within months and years, not half-decades, and should be pressed into rolling those technologies out now instead of just making commercials about them, and America can create jobs and connect communities by investing in our infrastructure and public transit. Makes almost too much sense, doesn’t it?

[ McCain Energy Policy Targets Offshore Drilling ]
Source: NPR

[ McCain Seeks to End Offshore Drilling Ban ]
Source: The Washington Post

June 17, 2008

On the Economy Debate, The Gloves Come Off

This is an aspect of the upcoming Presidential election that I simply can’t wait for. There’s no doubt in my mind that Obama can run circles around John McCain when it comes to the economy – which by all accounts is going to be central if not critical for voters this fall. While McCain will likely be whining about Obama’s lack of “experience,” (by which he really means years upon years of being wooed by the types of lobbyists and special interests that McCain is all to familiar with) Obama will be able to cut straight to the heart of the matter: His proposals to send more Americans to school for higher education, job training to retrain blue-collar Americans who have seen their jobs shift overseas to match up to the new global market, kill the Bush tax breaks, and get the nation back on track to get war spending down and investment in the American people and our communities up.

While Rome burns and American communities are seeing more and more families kicked out of their homes, communities grow vacant, people who want to buy homes unable to get credit to get them, and federal dollars go to buy out Wall Street banks but not shore up flagging mortgage loans held by everyday Americans (hell, we saw quick movement to save Bear Sterns, but we can’t even get this Administration to act to even regulate the industry that allowed itself to get into this mess), John McCain claims we’ve been making “progress” and that the economy is pretty well off. Cost of gas is through the roof, food prices are going up, foreclosure rates are at all time highs, and the wallets of the middle and lower classes are being squeezed like never before, and John McCain claims everything is just fine. Which he should believe after all, he doesn’t have to worry about where his next meal will come from, or if he’ll be able to keep his home.

Monday in Raleigh, North Carolina, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama opened the general election fight, taking the gloves off against the “tired and misguided [economic] philosophy that has dominated Washington for too long,” and offering a clear challenge to the Bush-McCain economic misrule. In Washington before the National Federation of Independent Business, McCain counterpunched, suggesting the choice was between low taxes and “the largest tax increase since World War II.”

This argument will be the big kahuna in this election. Despite ritual boosterism, soothing rhetoric and quiet prayers by Wall Street pundits, the economy is foul and likely to get much worse. We’ve lost jobs for five months in a row. Gas, food, health care costs are soaring. For workers, the mess is worse than the stagflation of the 1970s. Then, growth was stagnant while prices and wages were spiraling up. Now we’ve got stagflation squared; growth and wages are stagnant and prices on basics are soaring, while the value of homes, the largest investment Americans have, is plummeting.

Many aren’t making it. Home foreclosures are the highest since the great depression. One in six homes in America is worth less than the mortgage. With prices down 14 percent from last year, Americans have seen $2.5 trillion in wealth erased. No wonder credit card debt has soared, and workers are rifling retirement accounts.

President Bush and John McCain say the “fundamentals are strong,” so the downturn is a “rough patch.” As the president left for Europe, he once more celebrated our “open and flexible” economy, with “some of the deepest and most liquid capital markets” [he’s apparently been AWOL the last months], arguing that the “long-term health and strong foundation of our economy will shine through and be reflected in currency values.”

Hear that sound? That’s John McCain repeating the same talking points that President Bush has been fiddling for the past 8 years, whether the economy was doing well or poorly – more frequently when the economy was doing poorly.

So we know the Bush-McCain strategy; do absolutely nothing. I’m fine, my buddies are fine, screw you guys down there. We get it. What does Obama have to say about it? Contrary to the belief of his detractors who seem to love claiming he doesn’t have substance, he has a very specific plan to help:

Why are we in this mess? Obama put the blame for this directly on the Bush-McCain economic strategy. The current crisis, he argued, wasn’t simply “some accident of history,” or “an inevitable part of a business cycle.” It was the “logical conclusion” of a “worn dogma” that has failed this country.

Obama called for a second, short-term $50 billion stimulus; for aiding homeowners facing foreclosure through no fault of their own; and for extending unemployment benefits for those workers caught in the economic ebb tide. Bush and Congressional Republicans have resisted these measures.

Obama’s a smart man. He knows that the first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole is that you stop digging. His colleagues on the other side of the aisle who have made millions off of the backs of the middle class, who have pissed on the heads of small and medium-sized business owners and told them it’s rain, are scared. And they should be.

[ On the Economy Debate, The Gloves Come Off ]
Source: Campaign for America’s Future

Upholding the Rule of Law

When President Bush got word of the Supreme Court’s decision that Habeas Corpus is alive and well in the United States, he said flatly that he had heard the Court’s decision, but that doesn’t mean he had to like it.

Frankly, Mr. President, we know already that you care little for the rights and liberties of Americans. Whether the intention is to create a type of security state with a populace so fearful of a dodgy, elusive “enemy of the week” that they’re compliant and not willing to speak up, or there’s some other, more sinister reason for trying to kill Habeas Corpus in the first place, the Supreme Court ruled by a 5-to-4 majority that detainees at the Guantanamo Bay facility are indeed on American soil and have the same rights as anyone else held in the United States for crimes during a time of war, including the right to contest their detention in civilian court and examine and refute evidence the government has collected against them.

The Bush Administration has, up to this point, tried to essentially arrest people and tell the courts, Congress, and other oversight organizations, both empowered and civilian, that they picked up a guy they can’t tell you about because he’s done some things they can’t tell you about and is planning something they can’t tell you about and they’ve collected enough evidence to keep him locked away for the rest of eternity that they can’t tell you about. The Supreme Court said that’s not good enough.

Make no mistake, the prisoners at Guantanamo are by all logical accounts not very nice people. But what makes America a stronger nation than its enemies, what makes America a freeer nation than the countries that incited these people into violence against a people they don’t know, is the fact that we follow the rule of law – we don’t break our own laws and we don’t rewrite the rulebook just because we have the bigger guns.

Can you imagine how this decision would have gone if there were more Bush appointees on the high court? Let that sink in a bit, and remember to vote this November.

I’ll let Justice Kennedy have the last say:

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay have rights under the Constitution to challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts.

The justices handed the Bush administration its third setback at the high court since 2004 over its treatment of prisoners who are being held indefinitely and without charges at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. The vote was 5-4, with the court’s liberal justices in the majority.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, said, “The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.”

[ Court Says Detainees Have Rights, Bucking Bush ]
Source: Associated Press (via Yahoo! News)

Million For Marriage

If you’ve followed Not So Humble for a while, you know that I have a mantra of sorts: Injustice is injustice, intolerance is intolerance, regardless of the form it takes, the rock it chooses to hide under, and the rights it chooses to attack.

In California, millions of GLBT couples finally have the legal right to something that should have been theirs long ago: the right to marry and enter into unions that frankly should have nothing to do with religion or “sanctity” or any of the other nonsense that the radical right wants to piggyback onto what really amounts to a civil ceremony joining two individuals into a partnership that’s recognized by the community.

The trouble now though is that the homophobes, perverting the banner of intolerance and claiming that by affording equal rights to all people, not just those like themselves, that somehow infringes on their own freedoms, are doing what any threatened group does when they’re forced to face the ignorance of their standpoint: they decide to try and use the bludgeoning power of a fearful and potentially ignorant mass to squash the rights of the minority. It happened when women wanted to vote, it happened when Black Americans wanted to own property, it happened when a Black woman and a White man tried to get married (see Loving Day), and it’s happening again now.

If permitted, they’ll get a measure on the ballot in California to amend the state constitution to essentially codify prejudice and injustice into it. The trick is to educate the masses before the intolerance and ignorance engine really starts to turn, and let people know that history can’t repeat itself here: every person should be allowed to love and be loved, and that the people won’t stand for individual relationships and private lives to be used as divisive social issues to wedge people from their neighbors or drive a religious agenda.

Sign the Million for Marriage pledge today:

[ Million for Marriage ]
Source: Human Rights Campaign