Quantcast

The Nation

August 25, 2008
Christopher Hayes

The last seven years have been strange ones for American Muslims in politics. That much was evident at this morning's first ever Muslim Democratic Caucus meeting. Aftab Siddiqui, a member of the Texas Democratic Muslim Caucus, walked me through the recent history. Prior to 2000, Muslims hadn't been, as a group, particularly active in national politics. But in the run-up to 2000, a coalition of Muslim groups got together and decided to make a serious play for national political prominence and put feelers out to both the Bush and Gore campaigns. Bush met with them and Gore didn't. They endorsed Bush. (NB: This story is unconfirmed, though there were scattered news reports at the time backing it up.)

Then 9/11 happened and, at what Siddiqui called "our moment of need," the Republican party "wanted to have nothing to do with us." The irony is that like many immigrant communities, the affluent second generation of Muslims, those with professional degrees, living in the suburbs, had been fairly reliable GOP donors. But no longer, according to Siddiqui "It's very hard to find Muslims who say they are Republican now," he told me. "Now they say they're independent. When you meet a Muslim who says he's an independent, it means he used to be a Republican."

So now many Democratic Muslims are trying to organize within the Democratic Party: hence the morning breakfast, which was kicked off by a Koranic invocation (in Arabic, then English), followed by the presentation of the colors by a boy scout group and a quite beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Keith Ellison, who was elected to represent Minnesota's Fifth Dongressional District in 2006, and became the first Muslim ever elected to Congress, was the headliner. "America, our great country, needs the Muslim community," he said. "The fact is we have achieved an amazing success simply convening this meeting."

18403
August 25, 2008
Katrina vanden Heuvel

As the Democratic party gathers in Denver one issue that should be frontand center is the staggering inequality of our times. And one of the most damning symbols of our New Gilded Age is exorbitant executive pay.

In 2007, the average S&P 500 CEO's pay package was $10.5 million, 344times greater than the typical US worker.  The top fifty private equity andhedge fund managers pocketed an average of $588 million--19,000 timesgreater than the typical US worker. Thirty years ago, the averageexecutive salary was just thirty to forty times greater than the average American worker's pay.

Senators Barack Obama and John McCain both propose greater shareholder say over CEO pay.  But when it comes to taking realaction to close the loopholes that subsidize these obscene, reckless,and super-sized salaries neither candidate is aggressive enough.

66
18402
August 25, 2008
Christopher Hayes

Coming back from two weeks in the woods to the manic energy of Denver ismaking my head spin, so I'm still adjusting to re-entry. I'll be blogging here at Capitolism for the duration of thisweek and next, from Denver and then St. Paul. Covering a convention issomething of a challenge when you know that 14,999 other journalists arerunning around more or less doing the same thing you are. Even if youlimit yourself to just the other progressive journalists here, includingother magazines like The Progressive, Mother Jones and the Prospect, andblogs and websites like FireDogLake, TPM and the Washington Independent,there's probably at the very least 100 other progressive journalistshere, blogging, writing, looking for stories.

All of which is to say: novelty can be hard to come by. Which is whymembers of the media have a strange love/hate relationship to theconventions. They love going (lots of free booze!) but resent the dearthof actual "news" being produced.

But part of the problem is that the DNC isn't one unified event. Infact, it contains a series of nested events, all happening within eachother and simultaneously in the same city. Conversing with a colleaguelast night, I was forced to answer the surprisingly difficult questionof "What is the Democratic National Convention?" Here's a partiallist:

18
18401
August 25, 2008

So the Chinese turned Beijing into a stage set for the Olympics, and the mass media went along with the deceptive reality show. NBC's camera operators kept their lenses so carefully away from the horizon that even during the marathon run through the city I could only occasionally get a glimpse of the grey soup obscuring nearby buildings.

The front-page Olympics wind-up story in The New York Times sounded as if the writer had suddenly become a psychoanalyst, hoping that the Games had provided renewed confidence and self-esteem to the Chinese so they could loosen up their police state. Times sports columnist George Vecsey that reporters had tried to get Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, to comment during his last press conference about China's refusal to allow any public protests during these games; police even arrested two elderly women whose Catch 22 crime was applying for a permit to protest. Vecsey side-stepped making any criticism himself, instead asking readers to wonder how we would feel if Rogge had been asked to comment on our unprovoked war with Iraq.

Let me answer. I'd feel proud. I'm proud that we still can criticize our government any time, and almost any place (not the Great Lawn in Central Park, of course, or outside the actual venue of an event, as police-state thinking chips away at our liberties). Our freedom to assemble and dissent and to use the legal system against our government at all levels has saved us from the environmental destruction now suffered by the Chinese. I'm thankful for the Green Peace volunteers who put their bodies in the way of polluters and hunters of endangered species. I'm grateful to the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the many other organizations of their kind who've worked so hard to keep us all from being poisoned by pollution.

2
The Notion
18400
August 25, 2008
Dave Zirin
Dave Zirin

My hotel in Denver is a block away from the 16th Street Mall--a ruler-straight stretch of Starbucks, Sunglasses Huts and Western-themed souvenir shops selling ceramic bald eagles paralyzed in mid-flight. At one end the state capitol building; at the other Union Station, near where the Big Tent will host bloggers throughout the week--in between, the Champs Elysees of middle America. It's a fitting temporary home, since my impression so far of the DNC is that every huckster is here peddling something. Most obvious, the street venders hawking Obama t-shirts, buttons, bumper stickers and key chains next to their usual wares--Jesus is My Designated Driver and World's Greatest Grandma fashions. The answer to the question--who buys this shit?--is everyone.

Or at least, Denver teems now with political tourists--delegates and Democratic Party volunteers corsaged with nine different kinds of Obama jewelry and bearing wide, relentless smiles. For these folks, the DNC is the culmination of a long year of work and worry, and they are here not so much to convene but to vacation. They have cameras, guidebooks and kids in tow. They wear Bermuda shorts, "athletic" sandals and floral print shirts. And they partake liberally, of the non-stop public lectures and free drinks in return for which they play an easy audience, primed at the pump to laugh heartily at even the lamest of McCain jokes thrice told.

I walked into one lecture during a wave of cheers, and it was only after a moment that I realized the speaker was rattling off a list of the Bush Administration's worst crimes: torture (applause), gutting the Constitution (applause), voter suppression (loudest applause)! An uninitiated watcher would think he'd stumbled onto an honest meeting of Cheney fans (huzzah for executive secrecy!), but so overwhelming is the spirit of optimism here that even outrage finds its release in ovation. More than anything, this "transformation" may be Obama's greatest accomplishment and his best weapon against McCain; it certainly was against Clinton and Edwards, who said more or less the same thing as Obama, but in a grimmer voice.

32
The Notion
18399
August 24, 2008
Dave Zirin
Dave Zirin

 

Not since Marco Polo has anyone traveled so far up China's Silk Roadwith such amoral élan. But there was Jacques Rogge, president of theIOC, knight of the court of King Leopold's Belgium, three-timeOlympian in the grand sport of yachting, standing astride Beijing atthe close of the 2008 Olympic games. In front of 90,000 at the Games'he said, "Tonight, we come to the end of sixteen glorious days which we will cherish forever. Through these games, the world learned more about China, and China learned more about the world."

 

 

But what did the world really learn? From NBC's coverage we learnedthat China is totally awesome, Michael Phelps can really swim andUsain Bolt is way fast. Oh, and there are pandas there. some of whom diedin the Sichuan earthquake. We can't forget about the pandas.

 

 

As the Washington Post's veteran columnist Thomas Boswell wrote in his last missive from Beijing:

25
The Notion
18398
August 24, 2008
Katrina vanden Heuvel

The conventional wisdom is that with a new cold war looming and global conflicts upon us, Barack Obama needed a Vice-President with foreign policy experience. Most establishment pundits buy the view that Joe Biden provides it.

But on one of the key issues relating to US-Russian relations, Biden has been wrong. He has been a fervent champion of NATO expansion, a bipartisan policy whose disastrous consequences we witnessed in the recent and ongoing Russia-Georgia conflict. It is a policy that has done more to damage US-Russian relations than almost any other policy between the two countries.

When Biden traveled to Tbilisi during the conflict in August--presumably to flex and highlight his foreign policy credentials for the Obama campaign--he presumably told Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili of his support for that country's early admission to NATO. (The New York Times reports that the conflict did in fact boost Biden's veep prospects.) What does this say about Biden's foreign policy judgment that he would immediately reward Saakashvili's reckless behavior with a promise of early admission to NATO?

70
18397
August 24, 2008
Ari Melber
Ari Melber

Sometimes tailgating is even better than the game. The Democratic National Convention starts Monday, but thousands of delegates, activists, operatives, protesters and members of the media have already flooded Denver. The media started pre-partying in earnest on Saturday night, in a blowout reception at a local amusement park; the bloggers began pre-funking Sunday afternoon, at the 8,000 square foot Big Tent "new media center"; and Democratic pols are tailgating Sunday night at several welcoming receptions, from a DNC museum gala to a concert at the famous Red Rocks amphitheatre. There's even a DLC party for self-doubting Democrats.

Parties are central to the party conventions, as The Nation's Ari Berman explains in a new video, and we're hitting our share. Gov. Ed Rendell dropped by a small Salon loft party last night, where he chatted with guests about his intention to cast his first ballot for Hillary Clinton, if there is one. Put Clinton's desires aside, Rendell said, and it's simply in Obama's interest to give voice to Clinton supporters this week, since some could still jump ship. The McCain campaign obviously agrees, given their new Clinon ad. (Rendell also thinks she'll run again, but that's another story.)

As delegates mingle, the buzz is focused on Biden, naturally, along with excitement for the first big speeches on Monday, from Michelle Obama and Ted Kennedy. Hardcore delegates are also sizing up the convention floor map, which the DNC released Sunday, 2008-08-24-Picture1.png showing which states have the best positions and revealing, supposedly, the party's national pecking order. On Sunday morning, organizers moved the Delaware delegation to the front of the hall. "Honoring of the home state delegation of the Vice Presidential nominee is a Convention tradition," explained a solemn announcement from the convention committee. While Delaware moved up, most of the convention floor was dotted with staffers and security officials making last-minute preparations on Sunday. The Obama campaign "boiler room," outfitted with a dedicated phone line for every state delegation, was piled high with homemade Obama signs shipped in from around the country.

4
The Notion
18396
August 24, 2008
John Nichols
John Nichols

Democratic National Conventions have come a long way since the last time the party's delegates met in Denver. In 1908, when the party met in this western city, African-Americans sought but did not get a civil rights plank in the party platform. They had some allies within the party establishment. But Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, fearful that doing so might lose him votes in the segregationist south, would not even allow the document to include a denunciation of lynching.

This week, after a century of progressive activism on behalf of civil rights, an African American will be nominated for president. And he got that nomination after a remarkable nominating contest that saw more than 18 million Americans vote for a woman.

In 1908, women and most African Americans were denied the right to vote.

30
John Nichols
18395