The Weblog at The View from the Core - Saturday, February 21, 2004
Because The Blog from the Core simply can't cover everything.
Noteworthy entries @ Catholic and Enjoying It! Dust in the Light, Catholic Analysis, Veritas, Dyspeptic Mutterings, Sed Contra, Lex Communis, Tim Blair, Catholic Analysis (again), The Curt Jester, One Hand Clapping, and Dust in the Light (again).
Because Rod's response below is so massive, I am only snipping out select remarks and replying to them. I urge you to go to the comments where Rod responds to me to get the whole context of what he has to say.
Rod writes after quoting Ut Unum Sint:
It is clear that the Pope is saying that he has a responsibility to be a watchdog over various areas of Christian life, including Church doctrine and discipline. When someone ignores Church doctrine or discipline in "pursuit of personal interests," the Pope has the duty to "admonish," among other things.
Which the Pope has done with the American bishops.
Now, "Ut Unum Sint" was released five months later. It is hard to believe that Rome would have moved in this way against Bp. Gaillot with the Holy Father putting finishing touches on an encylical that if Mark's view is correct would have effectively declared that the pontiff has no right to remove bishops.
That's not Mark's view. I don't believe the pontiff has no right to remove bishops. But what is more important (and really must be kept in view or you won't understand what I'm saying) I also don't believe *the Pope believes* he has no right to remove bishops. Remember: I don't write what I write because I agree with the Pope's prudential judgments here. I write what I write because it seems to me that most people are making the mistake of assuming the Pope thinks like they do. I don't think the Pope thinks like us. So the first task of prudence is to see things as they are, not as we wish them to be. The first task, therefore, in analyzing the Pope's behavior is to understand what he thinks he's doing, not what we would do if we were in his shoes. We can go on disagreeing with him if we like. But if we can't be bothered to try to understand him, then we cannot intelligently comment on things like his culpability or lack thereof in addressing the Situation....
Links to worthwhile pieces about gay marriage have begun to clog my bookmarks file, so I thought I'd put them all together in one post. They're all related, inherently, anyway.
Let me start with an anecdote. My wife teaches third grade, and the mother of one of the girls in her class mentioned that the gay marriage debate has found its way into her daughter's head. The girl saw something about it on the news and turned around to declare, "I don't see what the problem is. They're just people; let them marry." I haven't fully explored the implications, myself, but my initial reactions are to be bemused that many adults aren't managing deeper thought than that little girl and to recoil some from the reality that, to address the girl's question, one would have to skirt such topics as are known to sap innocence....
While our society is in constant social transition, we can sometimes witness the coexistence of vanishing forms of social activity with newer forms. You can still find fraternal organizations like the Elks or the local Moose lodge. You will still find the traditional social network of Catholic parish life surviving many times due to the deeply loyal participation of aging parishioners. Social association in clubs and fraternal organizations points to what the sociologists define as "social capital." Harvard professor Robert Putnam became famous in the nineties for his book Bowling Alone in which he pointed out the decline in Americans engaging in civic or social activities in the age of television. In one article, Putnam defined "social capital" as follows:
"social capital" refers to features of social organization such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit.
Putnam article, available at this link.
In typical academic fashion, Putnam gives us the sort of highly abstract definition that is the hallmark of the social science fraternity. In more concrete language, social capital is social cooperation: putting on the parish fair, the local Knights of Columbus raising funds at a spaghetti dinner or on the street, working on a political campaign, collecting signatures to ban partial-birth abortion. We have older forms of social cooperation that are in decline such as membership in PTA's, unions, or fraternal organizations. But we also have increasing participation in the Right to Life movement in churches, both Catholic and evangelical. Because of this variety, academics debate if social capital is really declining or if social capital is just being "redistributed" in new forms and guises....
Is the human embryo a human being, with all the rights and duties attendant to such beings? Any reader who even occasionally reads this blog knows that my answer is an affirmative one, and that I believe so based not on religious dogma but scientific fact.
The position I hold is articulated by a number of scholars. My friend and philosophy prof Patrick Lee, for instance, has a terrific book called Abortion and Unborn Human Life which uses embryology and other biological sciences to document this position; he also addresses the various philosophical arguments in favor of abortion.
Closely following Lee's biological argument is that of Robert George (the two have worked together on this issue). George lays out the position in his personal statement appended to the President's Council on Bioethics' report on cloning. George's statement, which can be found here, is worth quoting: ....
The event was memorable because it shouldn't be. I was in sixth grade, and was standing outside (under as much shelter as I could find) with my buddy Jeff after school let out. I was not remotely looking forward to walking the five required blocks to get home, and I didn't have a ride. It was a blustery November day, which in Michigan can be borderline lacerating, especially when it rains.
Partway into my "hope the weather changes" routine, Jeff's aunt pulled up his ride had arrived. Jeff bounded up to the car, and asked his aunt if she could drop me off at home, too. Sure, I was out of the way, but in my small rural hometown, distance is a very relative term Alma lines up at around three miles wide at its "longest" point and that estimate may be very generous. In other words, I was not that far out of the way.
Jeff came back, somewhat bemused, and gave a thumbs up. Hallelujah spared from the elements! I made sure to thank her profusely after she dropped me off.
I really didn't notice it at the time, as I was distracted by my efforts to present a smaller target for the gusts, but Jeff took rather longer to get approval than would normally be the case. Later, he told me why: she'd reacted with some hostility to my name....
First of all, sorry to all 11 of my readers about having been away from the weblog. As before, I have no excuse except that the other duties of life off the web have gotten in the way of writing to the web log.
Since the last time I wrote about this, the Massachusetts legislature has failed, so far, to write and pass a constitutional amendment that will define marriage in that state as between one man and woman and the mayor of San Francisco has decided that his city will simply ignore the California law that does the same and has begun issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.
On a side note, isn't it interesting that Judge Roy Moore could flout the the interpretation of the law from a federal Judge and keep the ten commandments in the Courthouse and the media was filled with commentary about how perniciously he had behaved and yet the mayor of a major U.S. city could decide to do the same with law on the books, not even a judicial opinion, and there is nary a peep of scorn from the Englightened Scribes of the Fourth Estate? The way this story has been covered is perhaps the best instance of media bias that I have seen in years.
For the record I think both are pernicious. We are a nation of laws, not men and women and certainly not personalities. If we don't like a law, we can work to change the law. But if you break a law deliberately you deserve to go to jail, as civil disobedients have chosen to do for years....
I'm watching a MSNBC analyst Lawrence O'Donnell castigate Ted Sampley of Vietnam Vets Against John Kerry for lying about whether John Kerry accused his fellow vets of war crimes.
Here's the passage that caught my eye:
I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, and say that several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit, the emotions in the room, the feelings of the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam, but they did, they relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do.They told the stories. At times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.
Kerry was explicitly accusing the American military systematically committing atrocities and war crimes as a matter of habit and routine. Kerry was clearly saying that such war crimes as occurred were not an aberration or a departure from the standards of conduct normally followed by American troops in Vietnam. [I know that the attempt has been made to argue that Kerry was simply reporting what he heard other's tell him, but I don't think that is a fair construction of Kerry's role. Kerry took an oath. Kerry testified. Kerry used his position to give these charges credibility. Kerry, in short, vouched for these claims in some role other than that of an advocate. If the Kerry felt that the charges were false, Kerry should have honorably distanced himself from them some time ago.] ....
Kerry beat Edwards in Wisconsin, but not by much:
John Kerry squeezed past hard-charging John Edwards on Tuesday to win Wisconsin's primary, gateway to a 10-state, two-man showdown March 2. Howard Dean, his candidacy doomed, considered endorsing one of his rivals.
From an Australian perspective, both leading candidates can go to hell....
The first stage of the sexual revolution that has engulfed the United States was centered around contraception. The introduction of the birth control pill plus the Supreme Court's 1965 decision in Griswold v. Connecticut which struck down state laws restricting contraceptives removed the fear of pregnancy that kept many middle class young women and their parents cautious in sexual matters. Strangely enough, the Griswold decision focused on married couples obtaining contraceptives (see legal history). But the ultimate effect of the decision was opening the gate for anyone, married or not, to obtain contraceptives. With the increasing secularization of American society, a strong moral foundation for chastity was already missing. Once the fear of pregnancy departed, the deluge of fornication and "shacking up" began which today is conventional, expected, and normalized.
Today's second stage of the sexual revolution has also unfolded as rapidly, if not more so, than the first. Again, the beachhead is marriage. In the sixties, the beachhead was contraceptive access for married couples. Today the beachhead is access to marriage by gay couples. The effect of striking down restrictions on contraception led to the fornication culture we have today. I submit that the ultimate effect of the crusade for gay marriage will be an increasingly bisexual culture for the future however distasteful it is for us to imagine this outcome....
(Roto Reuters) The age old bitter question about who was responsible for killing Christ has raised it's ugly head again with the upcoming Ash Wednesday release of Mel Gibson's the Passion of Christ. Details released about the movie is that in a close up of a Crucifixion scene where a pair a hands are shown nailing Jesus to the cross, are actually those of Mel Gibson's. Some have attributed the symbolism of this is that Mel is saying that he as others are the cause of Christs' death. A new group HAND (Hands Against Nail Defamation) have another take. Their spokeshand had this to sign "This close up is obviously a blatant attempt to blame hands for the death of Christ. That if it wasn't due to the hands capabilities and capable opposable thumb, that the Crucification could never have happened. Mel Gibson did not get permission from other hands before he did this and we think possibly his own hands were forced to act this out under orders from his nervous system." ....
Checking judicial overreach judges rule in a "Wonderland" mode, but remember, Wonderland was a tyranny
I don't know how Massachusetts will finally handle the controversy about homosexual marriage there. The state's Supreme Judicial Court ruled last November by one vote that denying homosexual couples the right to marry was contrary to the state's constitution.
The November 18 ruling gave the Legislature six months to rewrite the state law to conform to the ruling.The state Senate then asked the court whether the commonwealth could satisfy its constitutional concerns by granting civil unions to gays and lesbians, but forbidding them from obtaining civil marriage licenses.
To this, the court said no: marriage is what they said and marriage is what they meant. The court's ruling to permit homosexual marriages will go into effect this May regardless of what the legislature does. Even if the legislature passes today an amendment to the constitution prohibiting homosexual marriage, the earliest the amendment could take effects is late 2006.
In my opinion, this ruling is as clear a case of judicial overreach and activism as can be found. The idea is simply ludicrous that the constitution's framers - or the people of Massachusetts of their day - included homosexual union in their idea of what marriage was.
And the court's justices know this; they just don't care....
Donald Sensing reminds us that our governmental problem isn't just that the judiciary is grabbing power, but also that legislatures are willingly handing it over:
What's in it for the legislators or Senators? By applying political, rather than jurisprudential litmus tests to appointees, the elected legislators get to pass the buck for the political agendas off to unelected judges, using them as shields to hide behind when facing the voters. Knowing that major elements of such agendas would never pass the people's muster, politicizing the appointment process has enabled the legislatures to legislate through the judiciary rather than enactments.In so doing, the people are shunted aside. The power to make the most major decisions affecting the order of society are taken from their hands by subterfuge. Increasingly, our votes at the ballot have less and less effect on what happens in government and thus, what happens to us.
Frankly, I find the outlook bleak. Reclaiming the government is going to require sustained exertion of political will by large numbers of people. And I'm not sanguine about the chances of accomplishing that. The class that is pushing the change knows its game; usurpation is dressed up as new freedom; changes will be gradual, best-face-forward affairs. There probably won't be a notable leap into totalitarianism, as the Left claims to fear so much from the Patriot Act.
More likely, if the trend can't be reversed or diverted, what we'll see is the steady march of emotionally satisfying, but socially destructive, innovations couched in the terms of moral superiority, followed by invasive and ineffective strategies for handling the damage that results. Living in such a way as to feed superficial appetites with wonders of quick gratification will be facilitated, while life in pursuit of deeper satisfaction and larger meaning, with an emphasis on rational thought and mature policy, will be presented with obstacles and disincentives....
John Kerry on the Defense Budget 1984
"We are continuing a defense buildup that is consuming our resources with weapons systems that we don't need and can't use."
Are these genuine? I don't know. If they turn out to be forgeries, Faithful Reader, I'll let you know.
After the Iowa caucuses, I wrote that The Big News Out Of Iowa was "The pollsters blew it big time".
At CJR's Campaign Desk yesterday, Zachary Roth notes the same issues with this week's Wisconsin primary:
The story of polls, the press, and Tuesday's Wisconsin primary is not a pretty one, and there are no heroes.
In the smoking wreckage of the aftermath, it was painfully noticeable that pollsters and just about the entire campaign press failed to predict the late surge in Wisconsin that carried Sen. John Edwards to renewed prominence.
There was a precedent that reporters might have paid attention to here. In Iowa, polls taken even the day before the contest showed the race to be almost a four-way dead-heat, between Edwards, John Kerry, Howard Dean, and Dick Gephardt. Those polls didn't come close to predicting Kerry's margin of victory, particularly over Dean and Gephardt, who lost by 20 and 27 points respectively....
He continues by explicating that some folks both in media and among pollsters tend to like to emphasize poll results that make for a more interesting story, and that such preferences can give rise to very misleading analysis.
Terror in Israel
The Human Cost of Terrorism
"Taken for Granted?"
Newman's Two Hundred and Third Birthday
Ven. John Henry Newman was born this day, February 21, 1801.
Two Missives From an Alternate Universe
Democrats in Self-Destruct Mode CCI
First, an article by Tom Hayden at AlterNet, Feb. 17.
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The Democratic presidential candidates have adopted the broad goals of the peace and justice movements, becoming anti-war and pro-fair trade in the course of the primaries.
It's been a remarkable shift after the past decade of Democratic catering to corporate interests and conservative voters, Only one year ago, candidates John Kerry, John Edwards and Richard Gephardt had voted for the Iraq war resolution, and Gephardt alone, among the leading contenders, opposed pro-corporate trade agreements like NAFTA.
When Howard Dean's populist candidacy demonstrated the strength of Democratic anti-war sentiment, Kerry and Edwards changed course and opposed the Bush Administration's $87 billion war authorization. With Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton and Carol Mosely-Braun already anti-war, that isolated Gephardt as the last hawk until his defeat in Iowa.
But Gephardt's once-lonely advocacy of "fair trade, not free trade" the position of the AFL-CIO and the Citizens Trade Campaign caught fire in the Iowa primaries where activists like former Congress member Jim Jontz of national Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) were generating daily pressure at the caucus level.
Not only Iowans but voters across multiple primary states were outraged by millions of manufacturing job losses which they blamed on trade agreements which the Democrats had promoted just a decade before. On the 10th anniversary of NAFTA, the proponents were embarrassingly silent. No one wanted to admit that eccentric billionaire Ross Perot was more right than wrong in 1994. Now Democratic voters in states like South Carolina, Missouri, Arizona and Wisconsin overwhelmingly preferred candidates critical of the Democrats' own trade agreements. Even key Democratic insiders, like Mickey Kantor who wrote the Clinton Administration's pro-investor rules of trade, were admitting that it was now "correct to challenge some of the rules." (NYT, Jan. 31, 2004)
The climactic moment in the re-birth of a populist Democratic Party came on the eve of the Wisconsin primary. John Kerry reversed his previous course to declare that "I will not sign a trade agreement like the Central American Trade Agreement or the Free Trade of the Americas Act that does not now embrace enforceable labor and environment standards."
Howard Dean said "We've globalized the rights of big corporations to do business anywhere in the world. We did not globalize human rights, labor rights and environmental rights, and we need to do that."
John Edwards added to the chorus: "These environmental and labor standards in the text of the agreement, not in a side agreement, in the text of the agreement that can be enforced, really matter."
And Dennis Kucinich couldn't help saying, "I'm the only one up here so far who's been willing to say that I'll cancel NAFTA and the WTO."
The candidates' language was straight from the streets to the candidates' mouths. They could have been written by Lori Wallach or John Sweeney. There were no spoilers on hand to observe that the Democrats had embraced the Ralph Nader message four years too late. As for Nader, he apparently was too busy plotting another possible campaign to notice that his most compelling platform had been coopted.
Cynics on the left are correct to suspect these Democratic campaign-trail conversions. No candidate, after all, has proposed specific revisions to protect workers rights and the environment. Kerry has offered a 120-day review period that will undoubtedly be dive-bombed by corporate lobbyists. No one is certain how to create enforceable labor and environmental protections without torpedoing the essential rationale for the trade agreements, which was to protect investors seeking cheap labor and freedom from government regulations. Token reform won't end sweatshops. The current agreements cannot be fine-tuned by tacking on cosmetic language. But real reform may lead to the collapse of the WTO and NAFTA. An unpredictable re-negotiation of the American empire is underway. The challenge begun in the Democratic primaries creates a space for debate on how to achieve a more democratic and sustainable global order, something like imagining a New Deal for the world.
Another thorny question is whether Kerry, Edwards or Dean genuinely favor ending the occupation of Iraq, or whether their policies are conditional on a favorable outcome for American prestige and interests. Despite opposing the war, all these candidates can be expected to keep tens of thousands of US troops in Iraq. All (except the outsider Kucinich) are vulnerable to the familiar accusation that they will "cut and run." While they attack Halliburton contracts, none of them so far have questioned Washington's promotion of its handpicked government for the WTO, or the legalized stripping of Iraqis' control of their economy or natural resources. What, one wonders, would enforceable workers' rights look like in Paul Bremer's Iraq?
Only the peace movement can continue pressuring the candidates for clarity and accountability. Only the peace and justice movement can campaign for an alternative to the military and corporate empire envisioned in trade agreements, Pentagon strategic plans, and the extremist dreams of The Weekly Standard. The current presidential candidates only want to reform the American empire, not end it. They, along with the Democratic policy elites, favor "muscular internationalism." Only a social movement can pressure to end the occupation outright and, more important, define a long-term post-Empire paradigm for America and argue the case for its benefits. Candidates cannot carry the burdens of movements, just as movements cannot expect magical cures from politicians.
The good news is that the Democratic candidates have been ratifying a consciousness that Americans were deceived into invading Iraq, that the war itself is a many-sided blight on America's future, that Iraqi elections must be held quickly under international auspices, and that we need an exit strategy from quagmire.
None of these questions should muddle the fact that American politics is being realigned swiftly and unexpectedly in a progressive direction. On war and peace, jobs and trade, civil rights and civil liberties, and the environment, the Democratic Party is being shaped more by its own insurgent constituencies on the ground than by its internal leadership, consultants and pollsters, fundraising professionals, revolving-door law firms and their clientele.
Such a realignment was envisioned in the Port Huron Statement of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) when human hope was in the air 40 years ago. The early SDS strategy was that independent social movements (civil rights, students, peace and labor) could shape a progressive political majority, force white Southern conservatives from the party, and spark a new governing coalition in the tradition of the New Deal. Assassinations and the war in Vietnam ended those hopes. But now the same fault lines have appeared in American democracy once again, and those whose ideals were forged in the 1960s may have one last chance to, so to speak, accomplish their mission.
Tom Hayden writes on social movements and politics for AlterNet. He is an adjunct professor at Occidental College, a former California state senator, a six-time delegate to Democratic conventions, and a four-decade activist.
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The Blog from the Core asserts Fair Use for non-commercial, non-profit educational purposes.
Second, an article by Naeem Mohaiemen at AlterNet, Feb. 18.
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Two months ago, Howard Dean was the man to beat for the Democratic nomination. Then his campaign fell over a cliff, limping in as a distant second, third and even fourth, in the primaries. On Wednesday Dean officially ended his bid for the White House, telling supporters, "I am no longer actively purusing the presidency."
What happened? How could Dean's insurgent candidacy, which had energized and excited voters in every state, come to such a screeching halt?
The pundits claim Dean's "rage" undid him, that voters took a "second look," etc. etc. Nonsense really. The answer is much simpler. Howard Dean was assassinated in broad daylight. Unlike Kennedy's "grassy knoll," Dean's killers are not hiding it was the Democratic Party itself, and more specifically the DLC, that successfully went after, and sabotaged his candidacy.
Remember the 1980s, when the Democratic Party found itself facing unassailable Ronald Reagan, "It's morning in America" slogans and an era of go-go optimism? In three successive elections, the Democrats were felled by the memory of Jimmy Carter. Dems were seen as soft on the Soviets, mullahs, crime and welfare mothers. Although Carter's gentle ways secured the historic Camp David Egypt-Israel accord, most Americans remembered the Iranian hostages, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the infamous "malaise" speech.
In 1988, Dukakis went down to Bush I because Republicans successfully painted him with the "L" word "too liberal". Faced with a 12-year losing streak, a new generation of party activists took control of the party. Led by Bill Clinton and others, they formed the DLC a powerful group with the explicit intention of moving the Democrats away from the left to the centre, from where they would beat the Republicans. Bill Clinton was the DLC's first candidate, and his eight-year run solidified its hold on the party. Clinton's Commerce Secretary Ron Brown was another DLC heavyweight, and until he was killed in a plane crash, instrumental in moving the party away from "liberal" positions.
Nothing succeeds like success. Buoyed by Clinton's popularity, a balanced budget and an era of prosperity, the DLC became the standard-bearer for the Democrats' political identity. That is until 2000, when the DLC's next king-apparent, Al Gore, took a stumble in the Florida panhandle and was then hog-tied by the Supreme Court. When the dust had settled and King George was safely inside the palace, a recount revealed that Gore had actually won, but the damage was done. The DLC's critics now came out of hiding attacking the party for being too centrist, too cautious and too much like "Republican-lite." If you try to ape the right-wing of the nation, voters may decide to go for the "real thing"!
Howard Dean emerged within this specific context. From day one, he positioned himself as a reformer of the Democratic party the man who would bring the party back to its liberal roots. Dean hit headlines by being the anti-war candidate. But even within that position, most of his criticism was of his Democratic cohorts, for cravenly accepting the Iraq war. Dean took pleasure in flaying candidates like Kerry for voting in support of the war resolution. The party took notice when Dean got up on stage and announced, "I'm Howard Dean, and I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party!"
Another part of the Dean story, and threat to the party establishment, was his style and appeal. Howard Dean has often been labeled the "prophet of rage." It's certainly true that he was an angry man angry at Bush, the war, the budget deficit, the mushrooming unemployment cloud, at all things that had gone badly wrong in three short years. This anger hit a chord with the popular imagination dissatisfaction with Bush was high and Dean was the perfect protest candidate.
Another core part of Dean's appeal was his overwhelming support among young people. In 2000, one of the lowest voter turnouts was among young people. If you were under 24, you tuned out and stayed home in November. By contrast, the bulk of Howard Dean's support was among the youth of America. Energized by a strategy focused on Internet campaigning, "Generation Dean" or "Dean 2.0" spread across college campuses and gave a youthful aura to the man from Vermont.
Of course, the DLC did not take kindly to this direct challenge. The crucial dynamic in America today is that big companies, political parties and media are powerful businesses and they will do anything to crush new threats. The DLC reacted with fury to the Dean candidacy, going all out to torpedo his momentum. Although Democratic nominees soon piled on the "bash-Dean" bandwagon, earlier attacks were carried out by DLC operatives. There was even the smell of scandal when two top Democratic candidates were found sharing information about Dean in an attempt to slow him down.
This is where Dean lost a crucial ally the mainstream media also joined in on the anti-Dean feeding frenzy. In his early days, he had flayed big media for caving in to George Bush on Iraq, and media giants never forgave him for this. In the same week, Time and Newsweek ran "Who is the Real Howard Dean?" stories. One cover showed a face covered in dark shadows, another showed an incomplete jigsaw puzzle! Semioticians take note bad guys in westerns always have their faces obscured in shadows!
In the end, Dean threatened a troika of powerful institutions. He was a threat to the political parties (because he attacked Democrats' centrist drift), to media (because he criticized their cowardly reporting) and to big business (because he would roll back chummy tax-benefits for corporations). All three institutions responded with venom and destroyed Dean's candidacy. In 1968, a sniper's bullet ended Robert Kennedy's anti-establishment candidacy. In 2004, the methods used were more subtle, but just as effective.
America is riven by a strange schizophrenia. It is an entrepreneurial nation that prizes individuality and celebrates non-conformists. Especially in the area of business, mavericks like Ted Turner and George Soros have been able to define their own space. But in the area of politics, the establishment guards the doors zealously outsiders have no chance. In 1976 an unknown peanut farmer from Georgia came out of nowhere to capture the White House. Jimmy Carter was the anti-Nixon, his mantra was, "Trust me, I will never lie to you!" But insurgency candidates like Carter don't appear too often. People like Bernie Sanders have to run on Socialist tickets. Other voters are deserting the Democrats for the Green Party and Working Families Party, scoring small, incremental victories in local council elections across the nation.
Coming back to the 2004 elections, barring any surprises, John Kerry will get the nomination. If GIs keep dying in Iraq, if job losses continue, if popular anger over right-wing policies grow, Kerry has a shot. I'm part of the ABBA (Anyone But Bush Again) brigade. If Bush goes down to Kerry, I'll be the first to celebrate. But the Democratic Party is still waiting for a candidate who will help rediscover its soul.
Naeem Mohaiemen is the editor of Shobak.org.
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"The Bubble of American Supremacy"
Democrats in Self-Destruct Mode CC
An essay by George Soros at The Atlantic, Dec. 2003.
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It is generally agreed that September 11, 2001, changed the course of history. But we must ask ourselves why that should be so. How could a single event, even one involving 3,000 civilian casualties, have such a far-reaching effect? The answer lies not so much in the event itself as in the way the United States, under the leadership of President George W. Bush, responded to it.
Admittedly, the terrorist attack was historic in its own right. Hijacking fully fueled airliners and using them as suicide bombs was an audacious idea, and its execution could not have been more spectacular. The destruction of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center made a symbolic statement that reverberated around the world, and the fact that people could watch the event on their television sets endowed it with an emotional impact that no terrorist act had ever achieved before. The aim of terrorism is to terrorize, and the attack of September 11 fully accomplished this objective.
Even so, September 11 could not have changed the course of history to the extent that it has if President Bush had not responded to it the way he did. He declared war on terrorism, and under that guise implemented a radical foreign-policy agenda whose underlying principles predated the tragedy. Those principles can be summed up as follows: International relations are relations of power, not law; power prevails and law legitimizes what prevails. The United States is unquestionably the dominant power in the post-Cold War world; it is therefore in a position to impose its views, interests, and values. The world would benefit from adopting those values, because the American model has demonstrated its superiority. The Clinton and first Bush Administrations failed to use the full potential of American power. This must be corrected; the United States must find a way to assert its supremacy in the world.
This foreign policy is part of a comprehensive ideology customarily referred to as neoconservatism, though I prefer to describe it as a crude form of social Darwinism. I call it crude because it ignores the role of cooperation in the survival of the fittest, and puts all the emphasis on competition. In economic matters the competition is between firms; in international relations it is between states. In economic matters social Darwinism takes the form of market fundamentalism; in international relations it is now leading to the pursuit of American supremacy.
Not all the members of the Bush Administration subscribe to this ideology, but neoconservatives form an influential group within it. They publicly called for the invasion of Iraq as early as 1998. Their ideas originated in the Cold War and were further elaborated in the post-Cold War era. Before September 11 the ideologues were hindered in implementing their strategy by two considerations: George W. Bush did not have a clear mandate (he became President by virtue of a single vote in the Supreme Court), and America did not have a clearly defined enemy that would have justified a dramatic increase in military spending.
September 11 removed both obstacles. President Bush declared war on terrorism, and the nation lined up behind its President. Then the Bush Administration proceeded to exploit the terrorist attack for its own purposes. It fostered the fear that has gripped the country in order to keep the nation united behind the President, and it used the war on terrorism to execute an agenda of American supremacy. That is how September 11 changed the course of history.
Exploiting an event to further an agenda is not in itself reprehensible. It is the task of the President to provide leadership, and it is only natural for politicians to exploit or manipulate events so as to promote their policies. The cause for concern lies in the policies that Bush is promoting, and in the way he is going about imposing them on the United States and the world. He is leading us in a very dangerous direction.
The supremacist ideology of the Bush Administration stands in opposition to the principles of an open society, which recognize that people have different views and that nobody is in possession of the ultimate truth. The supremacist ideology postulates that just because we are stronger than others, we know better and have right on our side. The very first sentence of the September 2002 National Security Strategy (the President's annual laying out to Congress of the country's security objectives) reads, "The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom — and a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise."
The assumptions behind this statement are false on two counts. First, there is no single sustainable model for national success. Second, the American model, which has indeed been successful, is not available to others, because our success depends greatly on our dominant position at the center of the global capitalist system, and we are not willing to yield it.
The Bush doctrine, first enunciated in a presidential speech at West Point in June of 2002, and incorporated into the National Security Strategy three months later, is built on two pillars: the United States will do everything in its power to maintain its unquestioned military supremacy; and the United States arrogates the right to pre-emptive action. In effect, the doctrine establishes two classes of sovereignty: the sovereignty of the United States, which takes precedence over international treaties and obligations; and the sovereignty of all other states, which is subject to the will of the United States. This is reminiscent of George Orwell's Animal Farm: all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
To be sure, the Bush doctrine is not stated so starkly; it is shrouded in doublespeak. The doublespeak is needed because of the contradiction between the Bush Administration's concept of freedom and democracy and the actual principles and requirements of freedom and democracy. Talk of spreading democracy looms large in the National Security Strategy. But when President Bush says, as he does frequently, that freedom will prevail, he means that America will prevail. In a free and open society, people are supposed to decide for themselves what they mean by freedom and democracy, and not simply follow America's lead. The contradiction is especially apparent in the case of Iraq, and the occupation of Iraq has brought the issue home. We came as liberators, bringing freedom and democracy, but that is not how we are perceived by a large part of the population.
It is ironic that the government of the most successful open society in the world should have fallen into the hands of people who ignore the first principles of open society. At home Attorney General John Ashcroft has used the war on terrorism to curtail civil liberties. Abroad the United States is trying to impose its views and interests through the use of military force. The invasion of Iraq was the first practical application of the Bush doctrine, and it has turned out to be counterproductive. A chasm has opened between America and the rest of the world.
The size of the chasm is impressive. On September 12, 2001, a special meeting of the North Atlantic Council invoked Article 5 of the NATO Treaty for the first time in the alliance's history, calling on all member states to treat the terrorist attack on the United States as an attack upon their own soil. The United Nations promptly endorsed punitive U.S. action against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. A little more than a year later the United States could not secure a UN resolution to endorse the invasion of Iraq. Gerhard Schröder won re-election in Germany by refusing to cooperate with the United States. In South Korea an underdog candidate was elected to the presidency because he was considered the least friendly to the United States; many South Koreans regard the United States as a greater danger to their security than North Korea. A large majority throughout the world opposed the war on Iraq.
September 11 introduced a discontinuity into American foreign policy. Violations of American standards of behavior that would have been considered objectionable in ordinary times became accepted as appropriate to the circumstances. The abnormal, the radical, and the extreme have been redefined as normal. The advocates of continuity have been pursuing a rearguard action ever since.
To explain the significance of the transition, I should like to draw on my experience in the financial markets. Stock markets often give rise to a boom-bust process, or bubble. Bubbles do not grow out of thin air. They have a basis in reality — but reality as distorted by a misconception. Under normal conditions misconceptions are self-correcting, and the markets tend toward some kind of equilibrium. Occasionally, a misconception is reinforced by a trend prevailing in reality, and that is when a boom-bust process gets under way. Eventually the gap between reality and its false interpretation becomes unsustainable, and the bubble bursts.
Exactly when the boom-bust process enters far-from-equilibrium territory can be established only in retrospect. During the self-reinforcing phase participants are under the spell of the prevailing bias. Events seem to confirm their beliefs, strengthening their misconceptions. This widens the gap and sets the stage for a moment of truth and an eventual reversal. When that reversal comes, it is liable to have devastating consequences. This course of events seems to have an inexorable quality, but a boom-bust process can be aborted at any stage, and the adverse effects can be reduced or avoided altogether. Few bubbles reach the extremes of the information-technology boom that ended in 2000. The sooner the process is aborted, the better.
The quest for American supremacy qualifies as a bubble. The dominant position the United States occupies in the world is the element of reality that is being distorted. The proposition that the United States will be better off if it uses its position to impose its values and interests everywhere is the misconception. It is exactly by not abusing its power that America attained its current position.
Where are we in this boom-bust process? The deteriorating situation in Iraq is either the moment of truth or a test that, if it is successfully overcome, will only reinforce the trend.
Whatever the justification for removing Saddam Hussein, there can be no doubt that we invaded Iraq on false pretenses. Wittingly or unwittingly, President Bush deceived the American public and Congress and rode roughshod over the opinions of our allies. The gap between the Administration's expectations and the actual state of affairs could not be wider. It is difficult to think of a recent military operation that has gone so wrong. Our soldiers have been forced to do police duty in combat gear, and they continue to be killed. We have put at risk not only our soldiers' lives but the combat effectiveness of our armed forces. Their morale is impaired, and we are no longer in a position to properly project our power. Yet there are more places than ever before where we might have legitimate need to project that power. North Korea is openly building nuclear weapons, and Iran is clandestinely doing so. The Taliban is regrouping in Afghanistan. The costs of occupation and the prospect of permanent war are weighing heavily on our economy, and we are failing to address many festering problems — domestic and global. If we ever needed proof that the dream of American supremacy is misconceived, the occupation of Iraq has provided it. If we fail to heed the evidence, we will have to pay a heavier price in the future.
Meanwhile, largely as a result of our preoccupation with supremacy, something has gone fundamentally wrong with the war on terrorism. Indeed, war is a false metaphor in this context. Terrorists do pose a threat to our national and personal security, and we must protect ourselves. Many of the measures we have taken are necessary and proper. It can even be argued that not enough has been done to prevent future attacks. But the war being waged has little to do with ending terrorism or enhancing homeland security; on the contrary, it endangers our security by engendering a vicious circle of escalating violence.
The terrorist attack on the United States could have been treated as a crime against humanity rather than an act of war. Treating it as a crime would have been more appropriate. Crimes require police work, not military action. Protection against terrorism requires precautionary measures, awareness, and intelligence gathering — all of which ultimately depend on the support of the populations among which the terrorists operate. Imagine for a moment that September 11 had been treated as a crime. We would not have invaded Iraq, and we would not have our military struggling to perform police work and getting shot at.
Declaring war on terrorism better suited the purposes of the Bush Administration, because it invoked military might; but this is the wrong way to deal with the problem. Military action requires an identifiable target, preferably a state. As a result the war on terrorism has been directed primarily against states harboring terrorists. Yet terrorists are by definition non-state actors, even if they are often sponsored by states.
The war on terrorism as pursued by the Bush Administration cannot be won. On the contrary, it may bring about a permanent state of war. Terrorists will never disappear. They will continue to provide a pretext for the pursuit of American supremacy. That pursuit, in turn, will continue to generate resistance. Further, by turning the hunt for terrorists into a war, we are bound to create innocent victims. The more innocent victims there are, the greater the resentment and the better the chances that some victims will turn into perpetrators.
The terrorist threat must be seen in proper perspective. Terrorism is not new. It was an important factor in nineteenth-century Russia, and it had a great influence on the character of the czarist regime, enhancing the importance of secret police and justifying authoritarianism. More recently several European countries — Italy, Germany, Great Britain — had to contend with terrorist gangs, and it took those countries a decade or more to root them out. But those countries did not live under the spell of terrorism during all that time. Granted, using hijacked planes for suicide attacks is something new, and so is the prospect of terrorists with weapons of mass destruction. To come to terms with these threats will take some adjustment; but the threats cannot be allowed to dominate our existence. Exaggerating them will only make them worse. The most powerful country on earth cannot afford to be consumed by fear. To make the war on terrorism the centerpiece of our national strategy is an abdication of our responsibility as the leading nation in the world. Moreover, by allowing terrorism to become our principal preoccupation, we are playing into the terrorists' hands. They are setting our priorities.
recent Council on Foreign Relations publication sketches out three alternative national-security strategies. The first calls for the pursuit of American supremacy through the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive military action. It is advocated by neoconservatives. The second seeks the continuation of our earlier policy of deterrence and containment. It is advocated by Colin Powell and other moderates, who may be associated with either political party. The third would have the United States lead a cooperative effort to improve the world by engaging in preventive actions of a constructive character. It is not advocated by any group of significance, although President Bush pays lip service to it. That is the policy I stand for.
The evidence shows the first option to be extremely dangerous, and I believe that the second is no longer practical. The Bush Administration has done too much damage to our standing in the world to permit a return to the status quo. Moreover, the policies pursued before September 11 were clearly inadequate for dealing with the problems of globalization. Those problems require collective action. The United States is uniquely positioned to lead the effort. We cannot just do anything we want, as the Iraqi situation demonstrates, but nothing much can be done in the way of international cooperation without the leadership — or at least the participation — of the United States.
Globalization has rendered the world increasingly interdependent, but international politics is still based on the sovereignty of states. What goes on within individual states can be of vital interest to the rest of the world, but the principle of sovereignty militates against interfering in their internal affairs. How to deal with failed states and oppressive, corrupt, and inept regimes? How to get rid of the likes of Saddam? There are too many such regimes to wage war against every one. This is the great unresolved problem confronting us today.
I propose replacing the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive military action with preventive action of a constructive and affirmative nature. Increased foreign aid or better and fairer trade rules, for example, would not violate the sovereignty of the recipients. Military action should remain a last resort. The United States is currently preoccupied with issues of security, and rightly so. But the framework within which to think about security is collective security. Neither nuclear proliferation nor international terrorism can be successfully addressed without international cooperation. The world is looking to us for leadership. We have provided it in the past; the main reason why anti-American feelings are so strong in the world today is that we are not providing it in the present.
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"Conservatives' 'Vicious' Criticism Makes Soros Angry"
Democrats in Self-Destruct Mode CXCIX
Poor little rich boy.
Out of the depths of the backlog a CNS article, January 13.
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Billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros, who has pledged $15.5 million to liberal interest groups, said Monday he would likely up the ante in his quest to oust President Bush from the White House this November.
In a speech before the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C., Soros declined to say how much he would give or when he might make the next donation. But he said the attacks he has endured from conservatives the Republican National Committee and the Bush campaign are two of his biggest critics have fueled his restlessness.
"I've been really quite viciously attacked for doing what I'm doing," Soros told the packed audience. "It's got a rise out of me and that will probably [result] in a rise in the amount of money I'll devote to it."
Soros later added, "I'm not a politician. I can admit that it has really frustrated me and angered me."
Soros' donations totaling $15.5 million went to liberal causes that include activist groups America Coming Together and MoveOn.org, as well as the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
Monday's event served as the official release of his book, "The Bubble of American Supremacy," in which he attacks Bush's neoconservative-driven foreign policy and the war on terrorism.
Looking past the upcoming Democratic primaries, Soros said he doesn't have a favorite candidate to take on Bush. But he finds the views of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, retired Gen. Wesley Clark and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry most appealing.
"I'm not picking one candidate, but I am keen on Dean," Soros said when asked about the Democratic frontrunner's chances. "I think he can [win]. I think he probably has a more difficult time against his Democratic opponents ... than he will against President Bush. He has a very cogent and very fresh voice."
Republican National Committee spokeswoman Christine Iverson said if Soros continues to fill the coffers of liberal interest groups, it would solidify his position as a top ally of the eventual nominee. She said his liberal positions on an issue like drug reform could be a turnoff for voters.
"The fact that George Soros is able to give the enormous sums that he is able to give makes the future Democratic nominee very beholden to him," Iverson said. "He is the most powerful man in the Democratic Party today by virtue of the fact that he is able to make large donations to whichever candidate or candidates support his views."
Soros has said repeatedly that his quest hinges on changing America's foreign policy. Soros said it is not so much personal dislike of Bush, but rather the views the president brings to the table. "Many Republicans share my concerns," Soros said.
"If we elect Bush in 2004, we endorse the Bush doctrine, and we will have to live with the consequences," Soros said. "We shall be regarded with widespread hostility and terrorists will be able to count on many sympathizers throughout the world. We are liable to be trapped in a vicious circle of violence, which we already are in Iraq."
Rejecting Bush would illustrate to the world that the United States had undergone a "temporary aberration" during his term in office. Soros said this is analogous to the bubble that formed, and later burst, in the stock market.
In the book, Soros takes aim at the Project for the New American Century, a neoconservative organization committed to U.S. military, diplomatic and moral leadership. Soros claims the group has had an astonishing amount of influence at the White House because Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed the group's mission statement in 1997.
The organization's executive director, Gary J. Schmitt, flatly denied that charge. Schmitt recently appeared alongside one of the nation's leading neoconservatives, Richard Perle, at a Hudson Institute forum last month to defend the movement and its accomplishments.
In response to Soros' comments Monday, Schmitt said Bush's critics often fail to grasp the full impact of the president's work.
"If you look at where diplomatic initiatives are taking place now, whether it's North Korea, Iran or Libya, the reality is that President Bush set a new agenda after Sept. 11," Schmitt said. "It's really quite striking how much of the agenda he's set has become part of the global agenda."
Schmitt said for all of the complaining about that agenda in the United States and abroad, the Bush administration has attracted a number of allies in the global war on terror.
Soros, however, said the "future of the world hangs in the balance" with the 2004 election. He said he remains worried that the "Bush propaganda machine" would try to turn away from national security and trump the growing economy as its top campaign issue.
As for Iraq, Soros said the United States shouldn't pull out its forces. He also praised the capture of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
"I rejoice at the fall of Saddam," Soros said. "And I am particularly pleased that he has been captured in a rat hole without putting up resistance. But that doesn't change the fact that the invasion of Iraq was an egregious error."
Following his presentation, Soros was asked about his views on Bush's religion and the role religion should play in politics. After growing up as a Jew in Hungary during the Nazi occupation, Soros later in life said he was an atheist.
"There's nothing wrong with religion," Soros said. "I think that there is something wrong with the fundamentalist view of the world, because the fact that your opponents are wrong doesn't necessarily make you right. The fact that you are attacked by terrorists doesn't exempt you from criticism of the way you react to that threat. I'm afraid there is this fundamentalist fallacy, which should not be part of our political life."
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