Nation editor-at-large and host of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes.
Made me physically sick to my stomach. That is all.
Congress is out on spring break until the end of the month, so here at J Street we won't be posting our regular weekly previews and round-ups of legislative action.
If the economy is the "number-one issue" in this current election, here at TBA, Barbara Ehrenreich and William Gates, Sr. are arguing that a better way to frame it may be inequality.
In 1982, someone on Forbes' list of the richest 400 people held an average wealth of $400 million. Today, that figure is $3.9 billion.
As Gates noted--to scattered chuckles from the audience--it's far past time for Americans to break our committed faith in the link between merit, virtue and wealth. Sheer nonsense, he says. If you're wealthy, he notes, "a basic reason…is that you were born in America," benefited from certain public investments, and got lucky upon the way. Which is why when you die, you owe it to your country to pay some of that luck forward.
Maybe it's been my choice of panels, but thus far, the events I've attended here at Take Back America have felt curiously subdued. Under the pall of the plummeting economy and the Iraq War's fifth anniversary, there's not much people seem to feel that sanguine about. "Crisis is opportunity," said Rob Johnson yesterday. But in light of how neither Clinton or Obama look poised to take on Wall Street (given the contents of their campaign coffers), and how narrowly focused the left has been for years on simply kicking Bush out of office, according to Johnson, "Right now, progressives aren't prepared to seize that opportunity."
What surprises me more about TBA, though, is the complete lack of programming that directly addresses the criminal justice system. There are few institutions that better represent the entrenched nature of race and class in America, or do more to replicate those inequalities over time. And even at a minimum out of political self-interest, I'd think TBA would be more engaged with the issue (nationwide, 5.3 million have lost the vote because of felony convictions--a figure that may very well have cost the Democrats the White House in 2000). One of TBA's organizers tells me that the schedule filled up too quickly with groups representing other issues, but that absence still seems like a conspicuous oversight.
946 references to Obama's ties with Rezko. 352 references to McCain's ties with lobbyist Iseman.478 references to Farrakhan's endorsement of Obama.123 references to the McCain-Hagee relationship.
Also, in absolutely inane op-ed today, Roger Cohen--voila! has discovered that Obama has a half-brother in China. Cohen evidently here is taking on the heavy responsibility of trying to preemptively deflect right-wing attacks on Obama because to date, "not enough has been written about Obama's family." (Hasn't he read the book? Or a newspaper over the past year?) I'd like to think there's some kind of knotted logic that makes the not-very-sensational fact that Obama has a half-brother who lives in China an even plausibly credible news hook, but if it's there, I'm not seeing it.
Camilo Mejia, speaking just now at TBA. (Quickly transcribed as he was speaking, so it may be imperfect):
When you go half way around the world to brutalize a country, the pain does not stay in Iraq. It's an atrocity-producing situation...It is not inherent in human nature to kill, so you have to dehumanize the enemy. You don't kill Ahmed father of two, taxi driver who likes soccer. So you call him hajji, you call him raghead. You have all these names that are part of this strategy to turn human beings into killing machines. The problem with that approach is, number one, the cost to the people of Iraq. But also the dehumanization cannot be turned off when we get home. In order to survive the mission we dehumanize the enemy. When we came home and try to reconcile the person who did those things on the war front with the person here trying to be a brother, a friend or father. It is almost impossible to do that, because we are not the same person anymore. We are finding the necessity to rebuild ourselves.
When Bill Kristol was inexplicably hired by the New York Times, the fear many of us on the left had was not that he'd bludgeon the paper's readers with his turgid prose and hackish self-justifying views, but that it would be impossible to trust Kristol to carry out the basic rudimentary duty not to use his column to spread politically motivated falsehoods. In other words, while there are conservatives who might say things I disagree with or even despise, I can at least know they are written in good faith. Not so with Kristol. Today comes word that he spread an incendiary lie about (surprise!) Barack Obama. It will be interesting to see how the Times handles this.