September 26, 2008

Let’s Play ‘Wall Street Bailout!’

An excellent speech on the floor of the House from Representative Marcy Kaptur (D – OH) which I think sums up the bailout in excellent terms:

[ Let’s Play ‘Wall Street Bailout!’ ]
Source: CSPAN Junkie

Explaining White Privilege to the Deniers and the Haters

Now here’s probably one of the best descriptions of white privilege I’ve ever had the fortune to read. Tim Wise, writing at Redroom, has an excellent description of what white privilege really is and how exactly we as a society should be dealing with it – and here’s a hint, the answer isn’t “ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist.”

I guess I should have expected it, seeing as how it’s nothing new. I write a piece on racism and white privilege (namely, the recently viral This is Your Nation on White Privilege), lots of folks read it, many of them like it, and others e-mail me in fits of apoplexy, or post scathing critiques on message boards in which they invite me to die, to perform various sexual acts upon myself that I feel confident are impossible, or, best of all, to “go live in the ghetto,” whereupon I will come to “truly appreciate the animals” for whom I have so much affection (the phrase they use for me and that affection, of course, sounds a bit different, and I’ll leave it to your imagination to conjure the quip yourself).

Though I have no desire to debate the points made in the original piece, I would like to address some of the more glaring, and yet reasonable, misunderstandings that many seem to have about the subject of white privilege. That many white folks don’t take well to the term is an understatement, and quite understandable. For those of us in the dominant group, the notion that we may receive certain advantages generally not received by others is a jarring, sometimes maddening concept. And if we don’t understand what the term means, and what those who use it mean as they deploy it, our misunderstandings can generate anger and heat, where really, none is called for. So let me take this opportunity to explain what I mean by white privilege.

Of course, the original piece only mentioned examples of white privilege that were directly implicated in the current presidential campaign. It made no claims beyond that. Yet many who wrote to me took issue with the notion that there was such a thing, arguing, for instance that there are lots of poor white people who have no privilege, and many folks of color who are wealthy, who do. But what this argument misses is that race and class privilege are not the same thing.

That’s especially beautiful. A number of people like to try and dissect the issue and see discrimination where they choose to and see race when it’s obvious and class everywhere else – and specifically where they choose not to see race (like the current presidential election).

What always amazes and entertains me is exactly how angry some people – usually those who are white and privileged because of it but underprivileged in another way (female, poor, middle-class, blue-collar, etc) get over the notion that they inherently have privilege because of the color of their skin. It’s remarkable.

Let’s continue:

That’s all I’m saying about white privilege: on balance, it pays to be a member of the dominant racial group. It doesn’t mean that a white person will get everything they want in life, or win every competition, but it does mean that there are general advantages that we receive.

So, for instance, studies have found that job applicants with white sounding names are 50% more likely to receive a call-back for a job interview than applicants with black-sounding names, even when all job-related qualifications and credentials are the same.

Other studies have found that white men with a criminal record are more likely to get a call-back for an interview than black male job applicants who don’t have one, even when all requisite qualifications, demeanor and communication styles are the same.

Others have found that white women are far more likely than black women to be hired for work through temporary agencies, even when the black women have more experience and are more qualified.

Evidence from housing markets has found that there are about two million cases of race-based discrimination against people of color every year in the United States. That’s not just bad for folks of color; the flipside is that there are, as a result, millions more places I can live as a white person.

Or consider criminal justice. Although data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicates that whites are equally or more likely than blacks or Latinos to use drugs, it is people of color (blacks and Latinos mostly) who comprise about 90 percent of the persons incarcerated for a drug possession offense. Despite the fact that white men are more likely to be caught with drugs in our car (on those occasions when we are searched), black men remain about four times more likely than white men to be searched in the first place, according to Justice Department findings. That’s privilege for the dominant group.

That’s the point: privilege is the flipside of discrimination. If people of color face discrimination, in housing, employment and elsewhere, then the rest of us are receiving a de facto subsidy, a privilege, an advantage in those realms of daily life. There can be no down without an up, in other words.

And that last sentance is such a simple concept, yet so many people have such a hard time with it. Let’s move on to a topic of personal importance and significance for me:

None of this means that white folks don’t face challenges. Of course we do, and some of them (based on class, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, or other factors) are systemic and institutionalized. But on balance, we can take for granted that we will receive a leg-up on those persons of color with whom we share a nation.

And no, affirmative action doesn’t change any of this.

Despite white fears to the contrary, even with affirmative action in place (which, contrary to popular belief does not allow quotas or formal set-asides except in those rare cases where blatant discrimination has been proven) whites hold about ninety percent of all the management level jobs in this country, receive about ninety-four percent of government contract dollars, and hold ninety percent of tenured faculty positions on college campuses. And in spite of affirmative action programs, whites are more likely than members of any other racial group to be admitted to their college of first choice.* And according to a study released last year, for every student of color who received even the slightest consideration from an affirmative action program in college, there are two whites who failed to meet normal qualification requirements at the same school, but who got in anyway because of parental influence, alumni status or because other favors were done.

Furthermore, although white students often think that so-called minority scholarships are a substantial drain on financial aid resources that would otherwise be available to them, nothing could be further from the truth. According to a national study by the General Accounting Office, less than four percent of scholarship money in the U.S. is represented by awards that consider race as a factor at all, while only 0.25 percent (that’s one quarter of one percent for the math challenged) of all undergrad scholarship dollars come from awards that are restricted to persons of color alone. What’s more, the idea that large numbers of students of color receive the benefits of race-based scholarships is lunacy of the highest order. In truth, only 3.5 percent of college students of color receive any scholarship even partly based on race, suggesting that such programs remain a pathetically small piece of the financial aid picture in this country, irrespective of what a gaggle of reactionary white folks might believe.**

In other words, despite the notion that somehow we have attained an equal opportunity, or color-blind society, the fact is, we are far from an equitable nation. People of color continue to face obstacles based solely on color, and whites continue to reap benefits from the same. None of this makes whites bad people, and none of it means we should feel guilty or beat ourselves up. But it does mean we need to figure out how we’re going to be accountable for our unearned advantages. One way is by fighting for a society in which those privileges will no longer exist, and in which we will be able to stand on our own two feet, without the artificial crutch of racial advantage to prop us up. We need to commit to fighting for racial equity and challenging injustice at every turn, not only because it harms others, but because it diminishes us as well (even as it pays dividends), and because it squanders the promise of fairness and equity to which we claim to adhere as Americans.

It’s about responsibility, not guilt. And if one can’t see the difference between those two things, there is little that this or any other article can probably do. Perhaps starting with a dictionary would be better.

I’ve essentially blockquoted Wise’s entire article here, but those latter points strike a specific tone with me. There’s this persistent white fear that affirmative action somehow “takes jobs away” from them, that it takes “spots in good schools” away from them, and that somehow they’re “paying for the sins of the past” in which they would have had nothing to do. But that’s just not the truth, and it’s irrational to even fear it, much less rail against it.

Just like Wise says, it’s about responsibility, not guilt.

[ Explaining White Privilege to the Deniers and the Haters ]
Source: RedRoom

Did Sarah Palin Really Say She Wouldn’t Hire Blacks?

Oh hell, even I hope this isn’t true, but Earl Ofari Hutchinson hasn’t led me wrong yet:

On April 29, 14 black leaders in Alaska, including prominent ministers, NAACP officials, and community activists, met with Palin to voice their complaint over minority hiring and job opportunities. During the meeting she allegedly said that she didn’t have to hire any blacks. Even more damning, she purportedly said that she didn’t intend to hire any.

Gwen Alexander, president of the African-American Historical Society of Alaska, initially reported Palin’s quip. This charge is so racially incendiary that it sounded like yet another one of the legion of Palin urban legends that have fueled the cyber gossip mill from the moment Republican presidential contender John McCain put her on his ticket. The charge had to be confirmed or denied. If Governor Palin or any other public official flatly said that they had no intention to hire blacks, that would be politically unpardonable. And for a potential vice-president, it would and should be the kiss of death.

In a phone message to this writer, Megan Stapleton, a Palin spokesperson with the McCain-Palin campaign committee, vehemently denied that Palin ever said that she would not hire blacks. Sharon Leighow, communications spokesperson in the Alaska governor’s office, also disputed the allegation. She said that Palin’s press secretary was part African-American and that two of her senior advisors were Filipino and Korean.

Emphasis mine. Oh, and just as a side note for Stapleton? That’s probably the worst possible defense you can put up. Really? The old “some of my best friends are black” was the best you could do? I mean, maybe you were in a pinch, but damn.

But in a phone conversation, Gwen Alexander of the African-American Historical Society of Alaska stuck by her contention that Palin made the racially charged retort. She also charged that Palin did not support or even officially acknowledge the group’s annual Juneteenth Commemoration.

June 19 is celebrated as the date of slave emancipation in Texas. Alaska is one of 13 states that has designated it an official holiday. Other Alaska governors have sent the traditional greetings and acknowledgements to the Society. Alexander says Palin snubbed the group.

Well then. Even Hutchinson says that the accusation should still be taken with a grain of salt at this stage, and I’ll gladly repeat the warning and give Ms Palin at least some benefit of some doubt, but frankly, coming from a woman who thinks that the war in Iraq is “God’s will,” pays with self-described witch hunters, called Henry Kissinger an idiot on national television, and by all accounts is a religious nutjob and half-assed politician, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s true.

[ Did Sarah Palin Really Say She Wouldn’t Hire Blacks? ]
Source: Alternet

Goldman Sachs Socialism

This is the perfect opening – and descriptor – for a story about this financial crisis:

Wall Street put a gun to the head of the politicians and said, Give us the money–right now–or take the blame for whatever follows. The audacity of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s bailout proposal is reflected in what it refuses to say: no explanations of how the bailout will work, no demands on the bankers in exchange for the public’s money. The Treasury’s opaque, three-page summary of plan includes this chilling statement:

“Section 8. Review. Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.” In other words, no lawsuits allowed by aggrieved investors or American taxpayers. No complaints later from ignorant pols who didn’t know what they voted for. Take it or leave it, suckers.

This statement has raised the ire of more than a few people over the amount of power it puts in the hands of the Treasury Secretary to “get the authority he needs to do the job,” as it was so put in this week’s Congressional hearings. Of course, Democrats want no part of that and want an oversight board to make sure that the taxpayer money is being spent well and that Congress gets regular reports and audit authority over the process, but we’ll see how long that takes.

The very subject, “Goldman Sachs Socialism” makes me giggle, because the same entity, the same capitalist structure that went happily about its business making money and fleecing millions out of billions of dollars and simultaneously lobbied the government for years to deregulate, turn the other way, put down the whistleblowers, and let them do whatever they want has now come, hat in hand, to the same people they begged to not keep an eye on their activities, now begging for money. In a way, I wish we could really just say “you made your bed, you sleep in it,” but I think we all know that won’t work, and this same system is set up to make the everyday American hurt for the mistakes of the corporate capitalist system. Tax a business and they just pass it on to the consumer, regulate them and they invent reasons why the regulation won’t work – usually punative in nature.

Even now as we hear that part of the compromise legislation that the House and Senate have put together changes the bankruptcy code back to the way it was several years ago before the Bush Administration gutted it and gives bankruptcy judges the authority to reset mortgage intrerest rates so people can stay in their homes (after all, the market said they could handle the forclosure crisis on their own and that they’d reach out to distressed homeowners without government pressing – the government gave them the benefit of the doubt and studies now show that the banks are only working with less than 1% of homeowners in trouble) and the mortgage companies are saying things like “well that’ll make it harder for people to get loans in the future,” (translation: we’ll punish you by irrationally tightening the belt on credit to your constituents if you pass this law) and “it’ll raise interest rates in the long term” (translation: we’ll irrationally raise interest rates and hurt you by making the people’s wallets hurt too).

Despite its size, the gargantuan bailout is still designed for the narrow purpose of relieving the major banks and investment houses of their grief, then hoping this restores regular order to economic life. There are lots of reasons to think it may fail. The big boys are acting, as usual, in self-interested ways since the government allows them to do so. Washington’s money might pull firms back from the brink–at least the leaders of the Wall Street Club–but that does not guarantee the banks will resume normal lending, much less capital investing. The financial guys may well hunker down, scavenge the wreckage for cheap profits and wait for the real economy to get well. Likewise, global investors–China, Japan and other major creditors–have been burned and may step back from pumping more capital in the wobbly house of US finance.

Secrecy and opacity are crucial to achieve Wall Street’s purposes. It could allow Paulson to overpay his old pals for near-worthless assets and slyly recapitalize the damaged banks while telling public and politicians the money is to save the system. To achieve this, Wall Street needs to keep control of the process whoever is elected president (the Wall Street Journal recommends John Thain, ex-chief of the New York Stock Exchange to succeed Paulson). Not everyone will be saved, of course, but high on the list of endangered nameplates is Goldman Sachs, Paulson’s old firm. The high-flying investment house looks doomed by these events. The Fed quickly agreed to convert Goldman and Morgan Stanley into banks. Think of Paulson’s solution as Goldman Sachs socialism.

The most hopeful comment I heard from an astute economist was by Nouriel Roubini of NYU, who has been darkly prescient during this crisis. The bailout should help, he told the Times. “The recession train has left the station, but it’s going to be 18 months, instead of five years,” he said. Hope he’s right, but voters are unlikely to regard this as fair return on their $700 billion. The bandits will be back in business and partying, while the victims are still gasping for air.

If Paulson’s gamble fails–just as possible–then maybe government will finally undertake forceful intervention rather than friendly solicitude for Wall Street. Washington should literally take control of the banking and finance sector and employ its emergency powers to oversee and direct these private, profit-making enterprises. If any bankers do not wish to play, cut them off from any public assistance (and wish them good luck). Then government can exercise temporary supervisory powers that force banking to cooperate with economic recovery by sustaining lending and investment to the real economy. Washington can put profit on hold.

That right there- that’s what I’d like to see happen. The markets are saying “we want government money and the keys to a virtually unlimited supply of government money – by the way with no guarantee that this will work and no promises we won’t come back for another trillion – but we don’t want government oversight or accountability for any of those funds.”

In other countries, we call this infusion of government funds “nationalism,” or “socialism.” I heard those terms bantied about by a few back when the government siezed control of IndyMac Bank, and again-albeit quieter-when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fell. Where are those calls – and where are the so called “never interfere with the markets/we trust the markets with everything/the markets are way better at everything than any government anyway” libertarians now?

Likely grousing because the current financial crisis and the culture of deregulation around Wall Street all but proves that their entire philosophy is so far wrong that it’s about to cost the American taxpayer close to a trillion dollars.

[ Goldman Sachs Socialism ]
Source: The Nation

10 Things You Should Know About Bush’s Trillion Dollar Fleecing Plan

Alternet has been very good at these multi-point roundups lately, and this one’s no exception. It’s a valuable read on some important things that the American people should know before they’re willing to take on the trillion dollar debt brought on by the Bush Administration’s financial policies and the party that’s been going on on Wall Street while Main Street crumbles under our feets and our jobs, salaries, and communities have been withering away.

Here are some highlights:

1. Shock Doctrine: Profiting from Crisis

Robert Borosage of Campaign for America’s Future invokes Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine in asking whether we’re going to “get fleeced in this crisis” …

Call it extortion. Every American is told to ante up $2,000–an estimated $700 billion in all–to bail out the banks from their bad bets, or they’ll bring down the entire economy.

In a speculative frenzy that allowed the Masters of the Universe to pocket millions personally, the banks filled their coffers with toxic paper that no one wants to buy. Now they sensibly don’t want to lend money to each other, since no one knows if the other is solvent. So they go on strike, and threaten to trigger a global depression, if they don’t get rescued.

The bailout will happen simply to avoid that depression. But depressions have some salutary effects – the scoundrels go belly up, the weakest get purged, and in the wake of the disaster, people demand strict regulation of the money lenders to keep their greed and predatory behavior in check, and government spends money on the real economy to put people back to work.

2. Has a “Consensus” Really Formed Around the Idea That Something Must Be Done?

Martin Crutsinger of the Associated Press reports that “economists” — implying, troublingly, all economists — see the Bush Bailout as”Necessary.”

But Atrios — economist Duncan Black’s blog handle — has some questions about how everyone got on the same page so quickly …

7. What Would a More Progressive Bailout Look Like?

Economist Dean Baker offers up some “Progressive Conditions for a Bailout” at TPM:

Principles to Guide the Bailout

1) Financial institutions should be forced to endure the bulk of the losses with taxpayer funds only used where absolutely necessary to sustain the orderly operation of the financial system.

2) The bailout must be designed to minimize the opportunity for gaming.

3) The bailout should be designed to minimize moral hazard.

4) In the case of delinquent mortgages that come into the government’s possession, there should be an effort to work out an arrangement that allows the homeowner to remain in her house as owner. If this proves impossible, then former homeowners should be allowed to remain in their homes as renters paying the market rent. This should be done even if it leads to losses to the government.

5) There should be serious efforts to severely restrict executive compensation at any companies that directly benefit from the bailout.

For the full list, head over to Alternet. It’s a worthwhile read – call it the “fine print” of this bailout.

[ 10 Things You Should Know About Bush’s Trillion Dollar Fleecing Plan ]
Source: Alternet

Where’s Our Bailout?

Even as I write this, our representatives in Congress are likely working late – or having their respective staff members work late – on the compromise plan that will sink over $700 billion taxpayer dollars into a bailout of Wall Street.

I’m no idiot, and I understand the gravity of the financial crisis that we’re facing, and I understand that it’s primarily due to the greed of the financial firms on Wall Street looking to make money (which is their obligation in a capitalist society) while simultaneously taking advantage of the fact that so many people were so caught up with making that money that no one bothered to point out that what they were doing didn’t make sense and could collapse at any moment – or if they did they were dismissed, all while the regulatory agencies and groups set up to monitor this activity, call out the bad activity, and protect the taxpayer from the same fate we face now were gutted of their oversight responsibilites, power, and whistleblowing authority.

I hear in the media frequent statements like “well, a whole bunch of smart economists on Wall Street didn’t see this coming, how could the government,” with regard to regulatory oversight, but the problem with that statement is that there were plenty of people who saw this coming – in their offices, in their cubicles, at the SEC and the Treasury, and either a: no one said anything because this was making them rich, or b: they spoke up and were quickly squashed by those who were lining their pockets on this.

Now the American taxpayer is being asked to take on the financial burden of Wall Street’s greedy mistakes so they can go back to business as usual while the Treasury tries to offload all of this bad debt and hopefully make some of the American people’s investments back. It just doesn’t make sense.

A number of people are petitioning their representatives not to give Wall Street such a massive bailout, to at least provide them some relief from the things that ail ordinary Americans who are losing their jobs and losing their homes, or at best, give them a little bit of that $700 billion to pay off their own personal debt (seriously, I could use a couple thou), which brings us to the question: Where’s Our Bailout? Surely the American people are as deserving as Wall Street, especially if we continue to be told that it’s our consumption habits that keep the economy alive, right?

The legislation would have included $20 billion or so for infrastructure projects, plus additional funding for the food stamp program, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and state Medicaid subsidies.

This stimulus effort was resisted by the White House and by congressional conservatives, one of whom—House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R‑Mo.—groused that “bailing out the states on their Medicaid problems or providing $25 billion worth of infrastructure spending are not stimulative and everyone knows that.”

“Everyone knows that?” No. What “everyone knows” is that when ordinary people have good jobs—whether they are created by private investment or public investment—they are able to buy the houses, cars and other goods and services that help keep the economy afloat. In particular, a program of spending public dollars on a range of job-producing activities—from fixing roads and bridges to “greening” our public buildings with renewable energy and conservation—would go a long way toward stabilizing the faltering middle class of this country. What “everyone knows,” or ought to realize, is that doing nothing to interrupt the falling dominoes of spending cutbacks at the federal, state and local levels is a recipe for continued economic erosion.

President Bush today addressed the nation and called for bipartisan support for a bailout plan for Wall Street. But there was nothing in his speech that answered the question that is probably on the minds of millions of Americans who are struggling on Main Street: “Where’s our bailout?”

Even as Sen. John McCain has been forced to backtrack on his repeated assertions that the economy’s “fundamentals” are strong, conservatives still seem determined to stand back, arms folded, as the fortunes of working-class families continues to erode.

That’s worth remembering when you go to the polls this November. Who was willing to stand up for the welfare of the American people? Was it Wall Street? Nah – when the American People were threadbare, they came up in their suits begging for the keys to our treasury with no promises on giving that money back, and of course, we’re going to help because our fates are intertwined. Was it Government? Not specifically – even the conservatives who oppose bailing out Wall Street also don’t particlarly really see the need to help the people out either. It’s the Democrats and progressives in Congress who are willing to give the American people some relief from the sharks in the water, and for that they deserve to be congratulated.

[ Where’s Our Bailout? ]
Source: Campaign for America’s Future

September 25, 2008

How John McCain Lost Me

It never ceases to amaze me how many of John McCain’s supporters have been defecting in droves because of his behavior during this campaign. I too can freely admit to being someone who – while never willing to vote for the man – definitely respected him, but his behavior during his primary and now the general election campaigns have been eye-opening and almost frightening for me.

Elizabeth Drew, writing for Politico, explains how John McCain lost her as a supporter and an admirer:

When Bush, issued a “signing statement” in 2006 on McCain’s hard-fought legislation placing prohibitions on torture, saying he would interpret the measure as he chose, McCain barely uttered a peep. And then, in 2006, in one of his most disheartening acts, McCain supported a “compromise” with the administration on trials of Guantanamo detainees, yielding too much of what the administration wanted, and accepted provisions he had originally opposed on principle. Among other things, the bill sharply limited the rights of detainees in military trials, stripped habeas corpus rights from a broad swath of people “suspected” of cooperating with terrorists, and loosened restrictions on the administration’s use of torture. (The Supreme Court later ruled portions of this measure unconstitutional.)

McCain’s caving in to this “compromise” did it for me. This was further evidence that the former free-spirited, supposedly principled, maverick was morphing into just another panderer – to Bush and the Republican Party’s conservative base.

For Drew, author of a pro-McCain book and someone who publicly and vocally defended him against the Republican behind the scenes worries in 2004 that he was too unstable for the presidency, what really turned her off from McCain was the fact that he really did exhibit the qualities that people liked about him so much in the past, and seemed to shed them and move toward the right to pander to and get the support of the party’s conservative base instead of sticking to his ideals and his principles. This is the same thing that’s turned off centrist Republicans and Democrats from him at the same time, and it’s what makes his positions seem so hollow today, even as he tries to carry the banner of being a “maverick” and an “individual thinker” over his head.

He may claim that Obama never challenges or stands up to his party on issues, but McCain has dug himself a hole worth using to rebut that position: at least Obama never challenged his party and then returned to them with his tail between his legs because he didn’t have the political stomach to stand by his word and his opinion.

[ How John McCain Lost Me ]
Source: TruthOut (courtesy of The Politico)

What Privileges Do McCain and Palin Receive Because They’re White?

One of my favorite topics is the point of white privilege, and what it actually means. A number of people vehemently deny that such privilege even exists, a point I’ll address in another post. Even so, while the media is ducking and covering under allegations from the Republicans this campaign season that Obama is enjoying some special status because he’s black and that any criticism of Sarah Palin is sexist, it’s worth taking a look at what privileges in the public eye McCain and Palin receive due only to the color of their skin, and Alternet has an excellent roundup. Here’s a few high points:

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at 17 like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you’ll “kick their fuckin’ ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-size colleges, and then governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. senator, two-term state senator and constitutional law scholar means you’re “untested.”

It’s remarkable- and while Alternet is likely preaching to the choir here, it’s worth getting out into the open anyway. It’s remarkable how race and gender can be framed up as part of the debate but manage to miss the point of the debate itself entirely. Here’s another one of my favorites:

White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do — like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the eight-hour workday, or an end to child labor — and people think you’re being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small-town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college — you’re somehow being mean, or even sexist.

Yeah, that about sums it up, doesn’t it?

[ What Privileges Do McCain and Palin Receive Because They’re White? ]
Source: Alternet

September 12, 2008

Why Obama’s Message Resonates With Millions

It’s true that Barack Obama is saying a lot of things that Democrats have been saying for years – we need government reform, we need to put our money where our mouths are, as in education, health care, infrastructure, and domestic priorities, that we need to revive the American Dream, we need equal rights and justice for all Americans, not just some, not just the privileged, and so on. At the same time though, Obama’s message seems to ring more clearly this election year. Is it the fact that we’ve just lived through 8 years of misery and are still fondly remembering the 8 years of peace and prosperity before that? Or maybe it’s something different:

But I’m not sure there is a mask when it comes to Barack Obama. It sounds crazy, but he might actually be this guy, this couldn’t-possibly-exist guy, inside and out. I heard Joe Lieberman talk about his middle-class dad, I heard Hillary plaster every corner of Pennsylvania with talk about her grandfather’s sojourn in the lace factory, I heard John Edwards tell everyone who would listen, and even some who wouldn’t, about what being the son of a millworker meant to him, and in every case I could feel the cold hand of political calculation crawling up my shirt as they spoke.

Then I hear Obama tell audiences about his grandmother and her time working on a bomber assembly line during World War II. Intellectually I know it’s the same thing — but when you actually watch him in person, you get this crazy sense that these schlock ready-for-paperback patriotic tales really are a big part of his emotional makeup. You listen to him talking about his grandfather waving a little American flag on the Hawaiian beach as he watched the astronauts come in to shore, and you can almost see that these moments actually have some kind of poetic meaning for him, and that he views his own already-historic run as a continuation of that pat-but-inspirational childhood story — putting a man on the moon then, putting a black man in the White House now.

It’s not just charisma folks. It’s because he’s real. It’s remarkable how many people keep looking for something they won’t find, and because they can’t find it they just think it’s all fake. Sorry to dissapoint, but it’s all right there – it’s all real, and it’s all honest. That’s why – that’s why people turn out in droves, that’s why he can fill an 80,000 seat stadium, and that’s why 38 million people tuned in on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” to listen to him accept the Democratic nomination for President.

And that’s why we need to elect him, that’s why we need him in the oval office.

[ Why Obama’s Message Resonates With Millions ]
Source: Alternet

McCain’s Integrity

I always love it when a conservative, someone who I would likely disagree with on just about every core political issue we discussed, can come to terms with the fact that certain political activities are out and out atrocious. For example, conservative blogger and journalist Andrew Sullivan has some choice words for John McCain, for letting his guard down and allowing himself to be seduced by the type of Rove-ian tactics that may win him the election, but will strip him of any and all credibility as a politician and a leader.

For me, this surreal moment – like the entire surrealism of the past ten days – is not really about Sarah Palin or Barack Obama or pigs or fish or lipstick. It’s about John McCain. The one thing I always thought I knew about him is that he is a decent and honest person. When he knows, as every sane person must, that Obama did not in any conceivable sense mean that Sarah Palin is a pig, what did he do? Did he come out and say so and end this charade? Or did he acquiesce in and thereby enable the mindless Rovianism that is now the core feature of his campaign?

So far, he has let us all down. My guess is he will continue to do so. And that decision, for my part, ends whatever respect I once had for him. On core moral issues, where this man knew what the right thing was, and had to pick between good and evil, he chose evil. When he knew that George W. Bush’s war in Iraq was a fiasco and catastrophe, and before Donald Rumsfeld quit, McCain endorsed George W. Bush against his fellow Vietnam vet, John Kerry in 2004. By that decision, McCain lost any credibility that he can ever put country first. He put party first and his own career first ahead of what he knew was best for the country.

And that’s about that. Sullivan has a brilliant piece on this, and on how badly John McCain has dissapointed him. Frankly, I agree with him on this – and this is the reason that, as far as I’m concerned, the gloves are off with McCain. He used to be a man who – while I wouldn’t have voted for him – I would have at least thought we would have been better off with him as President than we are now. Now I’m very very frightened for our country if he manages to pull out a victory.

[ McCain’s Integrity ]
Source: The Atlantic (courtesy of Truthout)