If there's one thing the media loves, it's a nice round number. Unlessyou had chosen this week to play Henry Thoreau, you probably noticed thatthe United States population passed the 300 million mark at some pointin the last few days. Local newspapers rushed to declare one of theirown the 300 millionth soul and nearly every media outlet from NPR to CNNto The News Hour devoted air time to explain to the their viewersWhat It All Means.
All the attention brought into high relief just how absent demography isfrom our routine political discussions. Well, with some notableexceptions. On October 18, I got an e-mail from the Federation for AmericanImmigration Reform (FAIR) with the subject "300 Million and Counting!"--complete with the obligatory black-and-white photo of a crowded citystreet at rush hour: Hell is other people. "Can the US sustain thiscontinued increase in its population or will this growth suffocate aonce thriving nation?," the e-mail asked. It wasn't really a question.
It's a strange quirk of the anti-immigration movement, that while thebase is animated largely by xenophobia, the leadership, like FAIR, Numbers USA and others aredriven by the far more esoteric concern of population growth. Much ofthis is the legacy of John Tanton, the eccentric, brilliant opthamologist from Petoskey, Michigan who founded FAIR and pretty muchsingle-handedly started the modern anti-immigration movement. Tanton'sworldview was formed at a time when demography was a major concern,thanks to Paul Ehrlich's landmark book The Population Bomb, whichpredicted the world was about to breed itself out of existence. As theUnited States' native-born birthrate leveled off in the 1960s, Tantonturned his attention to the source of the nation's continued growth,which was propelled by immigrants and their offspring. The rest ishistory.
So that explains why Dan Stein, head of FAIR, was everywhere last week,from MSNBC to the op-ed pages of USA Today making the case that300 million was an ominous milestone and the culprit was our porousborders. For FAIR, the rare spotlight on population growth was a goldenopportunity to make their case. "Overcrowded schools, congestedhighways, environmental stresses: We are a nation paving over itswildernesses while depending on our enemies for vital resources," Steinwrote in an editorial in USA Today. "Why? Because Americans havebeen blindsided by a government-mandated mass immigration program that'sfueling this nation's runaway population growth. This growth was neitherplanned nor expected, but we feel the consequences every day."
Stein's partly right. There is little official policy that sets out anideal US population, but images of crowded streets and traffic jamsaside, the fact remains that the US is still a very big place, andrelatively sparsely populated. With thirty-two people per squarekilometer, the US ranks 172nd in the world in density. Amsterdam andSouth Korea, just to name two, are each more than ten times as dense.
But of the world's richest nations, the United States is also the onlyone with a robustly growing population. Most of Europe has been caughtin a much-discussed population drought, a birthrate so far belowreplacement rates that countries like Italy and Spain could lose halftheir population in the next fifty years. But thanks largely to higherbirth rates of America's immigrants, the US faces no such problems.
Is that a good thing? There are arguments on both sides, but ultimatelyit's the wrong question. Some in the anti-immigration movement point outthe environmental effects of the increased resource consumption comefrom increased population, but if that's your concern, there's no reasonto wall off the United States and let, say, Mexico slide intoenvironmental ruin. And while it's true that once people come to the USthey burn a lot more carbon, that logic would also imply that it's agood idea to keep the rest of the world poor, which doesn't quite seemfair. The fact is that population growth isn't really a problem for theUS. As one environmentalist told me, "It's not that we have too manypeople--we have too many cars."
Of course, you can't very well win elections or raise much money demonizing cars. Groups like FAIR figured that out long ago.
"This is fantastic- I cannot believe what a great idea this is and I am so grateful to Trudeau for conceiving of it and instituting it.
I am a member of Military Families Speak Out and though I do not speak for my organization, I know enough about the agonies that all of us face on a daily basis with regard to lack of honesty and reality with regard to this heinous war.
The degree of agony that all of us feel- and the nature of the deception, the atrocities commited against our own children with lack of medical care and even the lack of dignity as to the nature of their sacrifice is almost unbearable. If others can come to understand the futility and the disgrace of our foreign policy in Iraq and elsewhere perhaps we can overturn the likes of the propaganda as in this week's comments by our vice president about how much progress we are making there. How do we make progress on a war based upon lies and certainly a war that could never be won at any level. My child and your children and all of your loved ones are at risk- we are killing not only the Iraqis and our soldiers- we are killing America."
Posted by nanachalfont at 04:59 PM : Oct 19, 2006
In 2004, Houston multimillionaire Bob Perry was the largest donor to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. In 2006, he's using his money to "swift boat" MoveOn.org.
Perry's given $1 million this cycle to the Free Enterprise Fund's "Stop MoveOn.org" campaign, which is running television ads attacking the online organization. Both ads try to link MoveOn to "radical billionaire George Soros," who appears in the spots looking like a crazed burglar.
"MoveOn.org has a radical agenda of tax increases, expanding the welfare state, global governance and socialized government run healthcare," reads a Free Enterprise Fund fundraising pitch. "And since they already own the Democrat [sic] Party, they now want to buy Congress and put their puppets in power."
(Like the Swift Boat Vets, accuracy has never been a strong point of the Free Enterprise Fund. An ad they ran about the estate tax was called "blatantly false" by FactCheck.org.)
MoveOn has become a convenient scapegoat for desperate right-wingers. If only the group had as much clout as conservatives imagine. "They present us as the all-powerful puppeteer of the Democratic Party," jokes MoveOn Executive Director Eli Pariser. "We wish."
But MoveOn has been effective, which is the real reason it is attracting so much scorn from the right. The Free Enterprise Fund admits as much. "Before MoveOn.org's ads [Congresswoman] Thelma Drake in Virginia had a 9% point lead," the fundraising letter states. "This race is now dead even."
In April MoveOn began running a series of ads tying four vulnerable GOP Representatives--Drake, Chris Chocola, Deborah Pryce and Nancy Johnson--to corporate welfare and Republican corruption. The negative ratings of the Republicans rose and their leads began to vanish. Even Majority Leader John Boehner admitted that the ads "certainly have had some impact." The group recently targeted three more GOP Congressmen: Charlie Bass, Randy Kuhl and John Sweeney.
And MoveOn's going beyond the ad market to try and get-out-the-vote for progressive Democratic candidates in the final weeks before the midterms. The group hopes its 3.2 million members will make 5 million phone calls to prospective Democratic voters in 30+ targeted House and Senate races. They've dumped $4 million into the "Call for Change" program, making it one of their most ambitious projects yet.
If MoveOn's successful this November, expect the Right to pay even closer attention.
Last week, The Nation and The National Interest held a public discussion to explore whether these days foreign policy realists of the right could make common cause with foreign policy idealists of the left. (The event was titled, "Beyond Neocons and Neolibs: Can Realism Bridge Left and Right" and can be viewed here.) After all, both groups share an opposition to the messianic crusaderism and bullying interventionism of the neocons that has yielded the Iraq war. Speaking for the left were Kai Bird, co-author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Sherle Schwenninger, a senior fellow of the World Policy Institute and a regular contributor to The Nation. The hardheaded crowd was represented by Dov Zakheim, an undersecretary of defense from 2001 to 2004 and now a vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton (who supported the invasion of Iraq), and Dmitri Simes, a former Nixon adviser and now publisher of The National Interest
The presentation showed there was not a lot of territory to share. In his opening remarks, Bird noted that Henry Kissinger had been wrong about everything, and he referred to Vietnam and the US support of the military junta that in 1973 overthrew Salvador Allende, a democratically elected socialist, in Chile. Invoking Kissinger as the embodiment of all that has been wrong with U.S. foreign policy for decades was a deep insult to the conservative realists. Kissinger is the honorary chairman of The National Interest. Bird's salvo prompted Zakheim to defend Kissinger, particularly on Chile. (Nixon and Kissinger, via the CIA, had backed efforts to topple Allende.) "Chile," Zakheim said, "doesn't look to me like a failure....Quite a success. It wasn't doing that well in the 1970s." Simes then chimed in: "I'm not appalled by what Kissinger and Nixon have done in Chile. I'm not aware of them ever endorsing torture."
There's realism; then there's callousness. More than 3,000 Chileans were killed by the junta that was encouraged and then supported by Nixon and Kissinger; millions of Chileans lost all their political rights for years, as well. That's hardly "quite a success." And Simes is wrong to suggest that Kissinger was unaware of the abuses of the Chilean regime. The coup occurred on September 11, 1973. A quick search at the website of the National Security Archive, a nonprofit outfit, produced a November 16, 1973 cable from Jack Kubisch, the assistant secretary of state for Latin America, to Secretary of State Kissinger that noted that the Chilean junta had carried out "summary, on-the-spot executions." The cable also reported that military and police units had engaged in the "rather frequent use of random violence" in the post-coup days.
Weeks earlier, at an October 1 meeting Kubisch told Kissinger about a Newsweek story that maintained that over 2700 Chileans had been killed by the junta and added that the government had only acknowledged 284 deaths. Kissinger noted that the Nixon administration did not "want to get into the position of explaining horror....[W]e should not knock down stories that later prove to be true, nor should we be in the position of defending what they're doing in Santiago. But I think we should understand our policy--that however unpleasant they act, the government is better for us than Allende was."
Here were some early indications for Kissinger of the brutality of the Chilean junta. He obviously cared little about what was happening to Chileans apprehended by the junta. And he tacitly went along with the regime's violent means. Two years later, he showed his scorn for human rights concerns when he met with the Chilean foreign minister. At the start of that meeting, according to a State Department memo, Kissinger pooh-poohed the human rights issue. He told the Chilean, "Well, I read the briefing papers for this meeting and it was nothing but human rights. The State Department is made up of people who have a vocation for the ministry. Because there were not enough churches for them, they went into the Department of State." Kissinger added that it was a "total injustice" to fixate on Chile's human rights record.
In August 1976, according to another State Department document, Kissinger was briefed on Operation Condor, a secret project concocted by the Chilean junta and other military dictatorships in South America to conduct "murder operations" against opponents of those regimes. By the way, two months later, Kissinger met with the foreign minister of the military regime of Argentina, which at that time was conducting a dirty war that would come to "disappear" at least 10,000 people (and maybe over 30,000), and Kissinger took a rather casual attitude toward the abuses in that country. As a State Department memo recounted, Kissinger told the Argentine,
Look, our basic attitude is that we would like you to succeed. I have an old-fashioned view that friends ought to be supported. What is not understood in the United States is that you have a civil war. We read about human rights problems but not the context. The quicker you succeed the better… The human rights problem is growing one. Your Ambassador can apprise you. We want a stable situation. We won't cause you unnecessary difficulties. If you can finish before Congress gets back, the better. Whatever freedoms you could restore would help."
In other words, get your abuses over with quickly, while I look away. Unfortunately, the fascistic and anti-Semitic Argentine military regime would continue to disappear and torture its citizens for another seven years.
I'm all for reaching across the ideological divide, seeking common ground, making alliances. And Simes--unlike Zakheim--advocated working together whenever possible. Referring to the current course in US foreign policy, he noted, "This republic is facing a mortal damage," and the Bush administration is "pursuing policies that make us more vulnerable."
But foreign policy intellectuals should not forget about the past as they move ahead. I appreciate the fact that realists fancy being hardheaded. Simes noted that he was aghast at the corruption and state violence he saw when he recently visited Russia. But he added that since the United States needs Russian assistance in dealing with Iran and North Korea a realistic approach has prevented him from insisting that Washington pressure Moscow too forcefully on issues of corruption and political rights.
Such calculations--whether correct or not in the particulars--are understandable. They have a logic to them (whether you agree or not with that logic). But, please, let's be realistic about past decisions and calculations. It's not realism to whitewash history and to deny responsibility for actions taken. Those who distort the past cannot be expected to save American foreign policy from those who distort the present.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT HUBRIS: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPIN, SCANDAL, AND THE SELLING OF THE IRAQ WAR: Tom Brokaw says "Hubris, the new best-seller by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, is a bold and provocative book that will quickly become an explosive part of the national debate on how we got involved in Iraq." Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor of The New Yorker notes, "The selling of Bush's Iraq debacle is one of the most important--and appalling--stories of the last half-century, and Michael Isikoff and David Corn have reported the hell out of it." For more information on Hubris, click here.
In some ways, amid the internecine bloodletting, torture, spiking American casualties, death-dealing confusion, general mayhem, and especially the recent coup rumors that Robert Dreyfuss has been taking the lead in reporting, here's all you really need to know about the Iraqi "government" of Nouri al-Maliki. When the Prime Minister wanted to check on whether he was going to hang onto his position or be overthrown, he didn't go to parliament or to the Iraqi people, he checked in with the President of the United States. What he needed, it turned out, was George Bush's vote of confidence.
Here's the exchange as White House Press spokesman Tony Snow described it:
"Q So he [Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki] is concerned about talk of a timetable for withdrawal, or any specific –
"MR. SNOW: It's not -- no, no, no, it's not a timetable for withdrawal. The way it was portrayed is, we're giving them two months, or we'll go for somebody else. This was a timetable for his government, not for withdrawal. So thank you for positing that.
"Q Tony, is this stuff that came out of the [Senator John] Warner visit or –
"MR. SNOW: No, I think it's -- the answer is I'm not entirely sure, but I believe it refers to the report that said -- that there was a rumor that there were going to be attempts to replace him if certain things didn't happen in two months. And the President said the rumors are not true; we support you.
"Q The President initiated the call?
"MR. SNOW: Yes.
"Q So what was the level of concern that caused the President to pick up the phone?
"MR. SNOW: It's not a level of concern. Here you have the central front in the war on terror, which the President has been talking about, and he's made it clear that he wants to consult with the Prime Minister regularly."
Try, for a second, to imagine the situation in reverse. The American president, fearing a coup d'etat or some other move to throw him out of office, turns to the prime minister of Iraq to discover whether his job is still safe, whether he still has "support."
Of course, that's a ludicrous thought, but it highlights the ongoing inability of the Bush administration to set up an Iraqi government that might have legitimacy and meet its desires as well. Instead, what you have, practically speaking, is the worst of both worlds: a government that lacks legitimacy and is incapable, not to say unwilling, to meet the needs of the President and his advisors. In such a situation, a vote of confidence from one man may end up looking like the kiss of death to another.
You still sometimes hear periodic laments from progressives over the apathy of today's students in the face of major political turmoil. The Nation's investigations, however, have turned up a new generation of student activists engaged with the issues of the day and creatively and courageously working against the forces of reaction the magazine regularly chronicles.
Sam Graham-Felsen's new Nation magazine piece detailing the accomplishments of the group Students for a New American Politics (SNAP) helps demonstrate that students are not currently lacking in either political commitment or savvy.
Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle recently helped make the same point. Citing the efforts of students to promote clean energy and efficiency as influential in his decision, Governor Doyle announced a massive five-year program to make four University of Wisconsin campuses completely energy independent.
The program – endorsed by the Wisconsin Student Public Interest Research Group -- comes in the wake of significant student action. Students across the University of Wisconsin system have been active for several years at both the campus and local level, promoting sustainable policies and educating students and the general public about clean energy solutions.
The program will ensure that 100 percent of each campus's energy supply comes from clean sources like wind and solar, as well as biomass, which has significant potential as a homegrown fuel in Wisconsin. Details of the energy independence program can be found by clicking here.
Meanwhile, in Maine Bowdoin College has been powered by renewable electricity since July, after a student-run campaign last spring succeeded in securing a commitment from President Barry Mills and Treasurer Catherine Longley for the purchase of one hundred percent "clean" renewable energy on its campus. The school is now buying 12 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power per year from Miller Hydro Group -- the owner of the only certified low impact hydroelectric facility in Maine.
At the College of the Atlantic (COA), as Ben Adler reports for Campus Progress, the environmental movement received a jolt that could reverberate last Friday when new COA president David Hales announced a commitment to making the school a "Net-zero" emitter of greenhouse gases. "If institutions across the country begin to follow suit," Adler writes, "the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions--and the concomitant reduction in global warming--could be significant."
In Colorado students are also in the forefront of fighting for their futures, starting with the state's House Bill 1147, which would establish energy efficiency programs for Colorado consumers. Republican governor Bill Owens has already vetoed the bill once, but he's in an increasingly tight race to keep office this November, so there's still hope that he'll sign the popular bill if it gets re-submitted by the Colorado Legislature. As the student-run CoPirg's useful fact-sheet notes, the bill would enable utilities to give consumers rebates on new efficiency products, and require the utility companies to reduce energy consumption twenty-five percent by 2011. (If you're a Colorado citizen, click here to ask the governor to support the bill.)
If you're a student and want to help move your campus toward energy independence, check out the Campus Climate Challenge (CCC) website. The CCC--which I wrote about last August--isa project of more than thirty environmental and social justice groups in the US which runs clean energy drives on campuses nationwide as well as taking part in municipal and state-level advocacy and public education campaigns. If you're not a student, don't dis the kids. Celebrate and support what they're doing.
Former Deputy Secretary of State (and Valerie Plame leaker) Richard Armitage called for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq yesterday. Sort of.
"We notify the Iraqis that we're going to be drawing down a reasonable but careful percentage of our troops over a reasonable interval of months--just for example, 5 percent of troops every three months," Armitage told students at New Jersey's DeSales University.
Under Armitage's plan, US troops won't leave Iraq until 2011.
The Army has its own plan to keep the current number of US forces in the country until 2010. And President Bush told Bob Woodward that he'll stick with the war even if only Laura and terrier Barney support him.
But at least Armitage is talking about leaving. That's more than you can say for most Republicans these days, including Armitage's latest foreign policy advisee, John McCain.
When historians look back on our times and try to pinpoint the moment when the American century became the Chinese era, they may emphasize a recent battle over labor practices. To be specific, the Chinese government has drafted a law to strengthen the rights of unions to organize and fight workplace abuse while the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai has lobbied against reform, threatening to discourage the opening of US factories in China if the law is passed.
It is an important moment because it represents the first time in the last three decades that the Chinese have questioned the American neoliberal model of economic development and sought to chart their own course. Responding to the vast inequality and social unrest created by what has essentially been Robber Baron capitalism, the Chinese, especially its New Left intellectuals, may well be rediscovering the role of social justice, collective organizing, the welfare state, and workers' rights.
This moment also exposes the fundamental cynicism of American multi-national corporations. Having already used the cheap labor supplied by Chinese factories to undermine US labor unions and lay off hundreds of thousands of American workers, they are now employing similar tactics in China.
What with the passage of legislation sanctioning torture and, now, US multinationals signing onto crushing domestic and overseas labor unions--so much for America's moral authority.
I often disagree with TNR's Peter Beinart. But his latest essay, debunking the myth that George W. Bush isn't really a conservative, is dead on.
"Rarely has so widespread a view been so wrong," Beinart writes. "In fact, Bush is not merely conservative; he is more conservative than Ronald Reagan, the man whose ideological legacy he has supposedly betrayed."
The argument being peddled by conservative intellectuals is as disingenuous as the argument made by liberal hawks that they didn't know Bush would screw up Iraq so badly.
It's a convenient excuse for movement conservatives. The governing philosophy isn't the problem, the man is. Yet it's factually inaccurate and a gross misrepresentation of history.
In fact, Bush's policies were always the problem. "Conservatives aren't turning on Bush because his policies aren't conservative," Beinart writes. "They are turning on him because his policies, from Iraq to Hurricane Katrina, have dramatically failed--and failed policies, by definition, cannot be conservative. Poor George W. Bush. His supporters fear the Democrats, but they fear cognitive dissonance far more."
A group of venerable moderate Republican millionaires are starting a new group, Republicans Who Care. As Ellen Miller writes on TPM Cafe, "Does that mean that the rest of the Republicans are members of 'Republicans Who Don't Care'?"
And what precisely do the moderates care about? According to Bloomberg News, the group is raising money for "Republicans who favor balanced federal budgets and believe government should take a hands-off approach on such issues as abortion." The candidates they're planning to help include Senator Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island and Reps. Chris Shays, Nancy Johnson, Rob Simmons, Martha Rainville and Deborah Pryce.
But do these candidates stand up on the aforementioned issues? Take abortion. Pryce had only a 40 percent rating from NARAL last year and is the fourth-ranking Republican in a GOP leadership that is adamantly pro-life.
The rest of the aforementioned Republicans voted for the Bush tax cuts that bloated the federal deficit.
And if Lincoln Chafee is re-elected to the Senate, he'll vote for Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, hardly a moderate.
It doesn't seem like the rich Republican "moderates" are getting too much bang for their buck.