TV and radio appearances by Nation writers and editors, big Nation announcements.
On the seventh day of protests in Egypt, Democracy Now!’s Sharif Kouddous circumvented the Mubarak regime‘s Internet blackout to report on the ongoing unrest in the streets. Kouddous, who is from Cairo, talks about returning home to “a different country than the one I had known my entire life."
Kouddous declares: “Egypt has been reborn. This is not Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt anymore. And no matter what happens next, it will never be again.”
Kouddous discusses the curfew, the military jets buzzing protesters, lack of access to outside news, the looting and violence and the “unbelievable feeling of community now, of people coming together.”
Nation contributor and author of Engaging the Muslim World Juan Cole appeared on Democracy Now! this morning to explain how the uprisings taking place in Egypt are part of a larger movement in the region. A series of Arab nationalist regimes that have been mostly secular have become “sclerotic,” Cole explains, and in Egypt's case, the government now exercises great control over its people through a “state elite.”
“Egypt is a praetorian regime,” Cole says, and suggests Mubarak, who has been ruling for thirty years, is a leader defined by his military background. On Vice President Joe Biden's suggestion that Mubarak is not a dictator, Cole says that Biden seems to be making that conclusion based on "the responsible role" Egypt plays in in international world and not by domestic politics in Egypt.
On US military aid to Egypt, which host Amy Goodman notes is about $2 billion annually, Cole explains the aid is a “bit of a shell game.” Congress ensures that all aid provided comes from US corporations. He talks about how the aid was initiated “because Egypt made a peace treaty with Israel” and it is how Congress more or less bribes Egypt into remaining on good terms with Israel.
The Nation's Ari Berman joined MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell yesterday to discuss his meeting with Obama strategist David Axelrod on the president’s plans to move forward on economic policies. The meeting came in response to this week’s State of the Union address, in which Obama called for investments in technology, education and infrastructure together with a five-year domestic spending freeze.
Axelrod, Berman says, argued the speech had something for all progressives—technology, labor, infrastructure and education—with policy outlines that stand in favorable contrast to the Republican's mantra of “cut, cut, cut.”
Berman sees this as an attempt by Obama to better position himself politically so that the Democrats can effectively oppose GOP cries for specific program cuts. Author Richard Wolffe and New York Times blogger Nate Silver also weigh in on Obama’s speech and the president’s next steps.
For more on Berman’s meeting with Axelrod, check out his post “At White House, Axelrod Outlines Obama’s Post-SOTU Strategy.”
The Nation's John Nichols joined MSNBC’s The Ed Show yesterday to explain how Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will spin the State of the Union in his official Republican response to Obama’s address. Nichols says Ryan plans to take Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare and “squeeze the life out of them.” He mentions that Ryan has voted for free trade deals that have resulted in jobs leaving America and that Ryan wants to “balance the budget” without putting pressure on Wall Street or the super-rich.
“Paul Ryan is a very Reaganesque figure and folks are actually gonna like him. He’s going to come off very well,” explains Nichols. “You’re not going to hear the Sarah Palin/Michelle Bachmann lock-and-load rhetoric. Ryan will come off very smooth, very appealing but you got to go beyond the style and listen to what he says.”
For more on Ryan, read Nichols’s Nation post “The State of the Union Responder: Paul Ryan, R-Wall Street.” Also, to read about what Nichols thinks President Obama will say tonight in his State of the Union speech, read Nichols’s most recent post, “SOTU Signals: What Will Obama Say on Social Security, Trade and Green Jobs?”
William Hartung, author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military Industrial-Complex and the recent Nation article "Is Lockheed Martin Shadowing You?" appeared this morning on Democracy Now! to discuss his book and the 50th anniversary of President Eisenhower's farewell address which he used to warn of the rise of the military-industrial complex. Of the address, Hartung says Eisenhower was "concerned not just about the size, not just about the budget but that it was going to undermine our democracy." Hartung adds, "I think that's what Lockheed Martin is about in many ways."
Hartung describes Lockheed Martin as a "full-service government contractor, which really is involved in every aspect" of Americans' lives. He lists off the CIA, FBI, IRS and the Census Bureau as some of the many agencies where one can find Lockheed Martin. And he says he wrote a book on the military industrial-complex that centered around Lockheed Martin because he thinks "they're the largest, they're the most corrupt and they have the most political influence" in the United States.
Go here to watch the second part of Hartung's conversation on Democracy Now!
The west has developed a culture of reckless risk-taking: our leaders entangle us in wars with no exit-strategies, the financial industry overestimates the viability of our market and companies like BP neglect to account for the sensitivity of the global ecosystem. And in this video, recorded at the 2010 TEDWomen conference in Washington, DC, Naomi Klein argues that our highest-stake gamble is the decision to not adequately respond to climate change.
We have entered an era of extremes in the search for energy, Klein says. She points to the Canadian-Alberta tar sands, which are projected to become the primary source of imported oil to the US this year. The process of turning this petroleum-infused sand into crude oil contributes three times more greenhouse gas pollution than it does to produce conventional oil in Canada.
“We are frantically digging to get at the dirtiest, highest-emitting stuff imaginable,” she says. “This is how civilizations commit suicide—by slamming their foot on the accelerator at the exact moment they should be putting on the breaks.”
While our society historically has a narrative of exploiting resources as if there is no limit, Klein says, we need to develop stories of direct action, such as hundreds of young people willing to get arrested for blocking dirty power plants or fighting mountain-top removal coal mining. Klein's recent report from the Gulf of Mexico,“The Search for BP’s Oil,” examines the evidence that the impact of the 2010 spill will be long-lasting.
As discussion about whether violent rhetoric influenced the shooting in Arizona this past weekend continues, Frances Fox Piven—professor, Nation writer and author, most recently, of Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America—joined Democracy Now! to talk about Glenn Beck’s suggestion that she has plotted violent overthrow of the US government, bears responsibility for the financial crisis and is comparable to the right-wing Hutaree militia.
Piven says that “right wing operatives” recently visited her home to interview her for a video that would be part of their “term paper." The "operatives" turned out to both be individuals working for Andrew Breitbart’s blog. According to Piven, Beck “picked” her (and her late husband, Richard Cloward) because she wrote “a little article” for The Nation last year talking about the problems in organizing the unemployed, so the unemployed can have an impact in American politics.
“Unnerved” by these Beckheads but not “afraid,” Piven concludes that Glenn Beck does not deserve to be singled out. For Piven, Rupert Murdoch has done much more to create an atmosphere in which Beck's rhetoric is accepted, and has taken advantage of the tragedy "to create a demonology in which it is the left, the Democratic left, that is the source of many of our troubles.”
Eric Alterman, columnist for The Nation and author of the new book Kabuki Democracy: The System vs. Barack Obama, appeared on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show this morning to comment on the shooting in Arizona, his book and President Barack Obama. He explains how American “democracy has become so corrupt, in fact, that while it looks like a democracy from far away and the motions that people go through are the motions that people would go through if there were a democracy…it contains none of the substance of a democracy." Specifically, he cites money in politics and the power of right wing media as reasons why our democracy is so dysfunctional.
On the shooting, Alterman explains that although Jared Lee Loughner, who has been arrested for the shooting in Arizona, didn’t seem to have listened to Glenn Beck on Fox and then gone out to shoot to people, Americans “don’t live in a society of only sane" people. America is a society with “lots of disturbed people who have access to an amazing amount of firearms,” Alterman explains, because, for example, people can get weapons that used to be banned under the Clinton crime bill.
When pushed by host Brian Lehrer to explain why he was so critical of President Obama and the people of this country in Kabuki Democracy, Alterman clarifies: “I don’t think I’m very critical of Barack Obama. I think I’m very sympathetic to Barack Obama.” A “very strong Obama supporter” during the campaign, Alterman also explains that the reason Obama has made a lot of mistakes and failed to fulfill certain campaign pledges is because of obstacles presented by our political system itself.
Jeff Biggers, a Tucson-based journalist whose recent piece for TheNation.com, "What's the Matter With My Arizona?", charts the trajectory of his state's increasingly-deregulated gun culture, appeared on Democracy Now! Monday to discuss Jared Lee Loughner’s assassination attempt of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona. After the act of violence, which killed six people, including a 9-year-old girl, and wounded others, Biggers describes his childhood in Arizona: “This is a gun state. I think across the nation, not only in Arizona, we all grow up with guns. I had my first gun—fired my first gun when I was eight years old at a summer camp with the YMCA here in Tucson, Arizona. And, I cut my political teeth, for example, when I was 17, with Congressman Morris K. Udall, who was a very proud member of the NRA, who defended gun rights.”
In a following segment with the co-author of Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, Chip Berlet, Biggers addressed how the violence might impact democracy: “We have a radical right state legislature who is really obsessive and hell-bent on having some sort of confrontational defiance of federal authority. And many people here in Tucson are really trying to come to grips [with] how there can be more public events to have greater access to politicians, and that really has been jeopardized.” Biggers predicted, “Ultimately in the future, we’re going to be having less access to our elected officials and more influence, even more influence with the gun lobby and other lobbyists.”
With Rahm Emanuel back in Chicago running for Mayor, President Obama this week appointed financial executive and former Clinton administration official William Daley as his new White House chief of staff. Daley, the Midwest chair of JPMorgan Chase, a board member of Merck and former head of SBC, also served as Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, and will likely lead Obama's 2012 re-election drive.
The problem with Daley? As The Nation's Ari Berman writes, "He shares the corporate centrism of Emanuel and, when it comes to economic issues, may be worse." In another move sure to please Wall Street, Obama plans today to name former Goldman Sachs consultant Gene Sperling to lead the White House National Economic Council, the post recently vacated by Lawrence Summers. Berman joined Democracy Now! this morning to explain what these appointments mean for Obama's presidency and the future of our economy.