Quantcast

The Nation

March 21, 2009
Roane Carey
Roane Carey

On Friday I went to the anti-separation wall demo in Ni'lin in the West Bank, the same village where International Solidarity Movement activist Tristan Anderson was critically wounded last week. Several hundred villagers were accompanied by Jewish Israeli activists (most with Anarchists Against the Wall ) and ISMers, plus a few journalists like me. The IDF started firing tear gas at us even before we got close to the wall. The shebab (Palestinian youth) responded with stones, and the game was on: back and forth street battles, with the soldiers alternating between tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and occasional live ammunition, often fired by snipers, and the shebab hurling their stones by slingshot against the Israeli Goliath.

The IDF often fires tear gas now with a http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/15/israel-hamas-gaza-weapons "> high-velocity riflethat can be lethal, especially when they fire it straight at you rather than pointed up in the air. Pointed straight, it comes at you like a bullet. That's what seriously wounded Anderson. I saw these projectiles coming very near us, and saw how dangerous they could be. Not to mention the live ammo they occasionally fired--but they fired live rounds only at the shebab, never at the Jews or internationals. After a few hours, the clashes died down. Six were injured, one critically. Me, I just coughed and teared up from the gas on occasion. (In simultaneous demos in the nearby village of Bi'lin, three were injured, including two Americans.)

I mistakenly thought the army would be less aggressive on Friday, and not only because of the negative publicity surrounding the shooting of Anderson (the killing of Palestinians is of course routinely ignored in Western media; in Ni'lin alone, four villagers have been killed in the past eight months, with hundreds injured). The day before Friday's march, revelations from Israeli veterans about war crimes they'd committed in the recent Gaza campaign made http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1072475.html "> world headlines .

58
The Notion
19044
March 20, 2009
Katrina vanden Heuvel

Of his many promises during the 2008 Presidential campaign, one of themost appealing was Barack Obama's pledge to make his administration "themost open and transparent in history." The democratizing tools masteredat MyBarackObama.com and the inspiring grassroots enthusiasm forthe Obama campaign opened the door to a Presidency that--instark contrast to the eight years before it--could be an honestconversation with the American people. Thisweek we are launching anew projectto continue that effort; more on that in a moment.

Like many of the issues that Barack Obama now confronts as President,prioritizing his campaign promise of open government and meaningfuldialogue with citizens has proved challenging. After someinterestingforays into interaction at change.gov during thetransition, The White House itself has not yet found it's wayforward on interactivity.

As newspapers struggle nationwide, and citizens demand more transparencyin the wake of unprecedented government action on the economy, I believethis is a critical moment to advance participatory, bottom-up journalismand citizen engagement. Interest in our new President is at a peak, andinstituting an independent and sensible way for the people to have aplatform at the highest levels of government is essential to informeddebate and progress on the changes many of us hope to see over the nextfour years.

52
19043
March 19, 2009
Richard Kim
Richard Kim

The growing populist rage (see http://www.thenation.com/blogs/notion/419581/oh_no_populism ">Eyal's post) at exorbitant corporate bonuses, especially at the $165 million AIG gave mostly to execs in its financial products division, made me think of Imelda Marcos' shoes and the 1986 People Power Revolution in the Philippines. For long years, the Filipino people had endured the brutal dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, who in addition to ordering martial law and broad scale political repression, had plundered the country's wealth, including taking a cut of $28 billion in IMF loans. By the late 70s, in a country where 80 percent of the population subsisted on less than $2 a day, the Marcos family had accumulated over $35 billion in assets.

Tales of their profligacy were well known: the $5 million shopping trips to Rome and Copenhagen, the acquisition of vast patches of Manhattan real estate, the art collection that included works by Botticelli and Michelangelo. Imelda once reportedly dispatched a plane to Australia to pick up tons of white sand to adorn a private beach resort. But nothing quite prepared the Filipino people for what they would discover when, after a heady but peaceful four-day revolution, they stormed Malacanang Palace and sacked Imelda's closet--65 parasols, 15 mink coats, 508 gowns, 888 handbags, 71 pairs of sunglasses and, most legendarily, 1,060 pairs of shoes.

What was so potent about those shoes? What did they symbolize? Gross inequality, corruption, the staggeringly brazen looting of public resources--for sure (all qualities also evident in the AIG bailout). But something else too was represented by that collection of ruby slippers, a kind of insane magic by which Imelda transformed herself into something more than human. She could never wear all those shoes. They were beyond utility or even fashion. They existed only to represent the idea of excess itself, like The Simpson's Montgomery Burns' wardrobe made from the pelts of endangered species. As Time's Lance Morrow http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,961002,00.html ">wrote at the time:

60
The Notion
19042
March 19, 2009
John Nichols
John Nichols

President Obama, formerly of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, is currently looking for a new spiritual home. In the meantime, he is reportedly taking religious counsel from several pastors, including the Rev. Jim Wallis.

How much counsel the president is taking from the president and chief executive of Sojourners magazine and key player in a Washington-based activist network that takes the same name remains to be seen.

But we can only hope that Obama is listening to Wallis on the question of how the United States should proceed in Afghanisatn.

14
John Nichols
19041
March 19, 2009
Eyal Press

There is a whiff of populism in the air and so, not surprisingly, some liberals are scared. Over at The New Republic, Walter Shapiro has written a piece warning that the real threat to the Obama administration may come not from Republicans on the hard right but from "a corrosive anti-establishment rage" that's spinning out of control. Shapiro frets over a poll in late February that revealed (gasp!) that "only 30 percent" of Americans believe "most successful people on Wall Street deserve to make the kind of money they earn." If the anger doesn't die down, the article suggests, "pitchfork-wielding voters" will block future bank bailouts and bring the Obama administration to its knees.

This is, to put it plainly, nonsense. It's certainly true that populist rage against elites in America has sometimes taken ugly forms (see, for example, Father Coughlin, or the variety of examples Richard Hofstadter documents in The Age of Reform). But, as E.J. Dionne notes here, leaning on the fine historian Michael Kazin, disgust and anger at unrestrained greed has also been channeled into constructive movements that have exposed corruption and enhanced the "common welfare."

For all the "pitchfork-wielding voters" supposedly out there, Obama remains immensely popular. His bank bailout plan may not be, but that's not because voters have become too enraged to think - it's because they are justifiably worried money may be tossed at institutions that don't deserve it, with taxpayers left to pick up the tab. This purportedly irrational fear is shared by, among others, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, who has described the administration's latest bank rescue plan as a "heads-you-win, tails-we-lose proposition" for investors - one that will not, in his view, solve the credit crisis. If Krugman is right, and the plan doesn't change, there will indeed be plenty of populist rage at the Obama administration, but the administration will have only itself to blame.

51
The Notion
19040
March 19, 2009
Christopher Hayes

Laura Dean attended the local Take Back the Economy protest today and files this dispatch:

Quite a crowd had gathered outside AIG's K street offices despite the dreary weather for today's "Take Back the Economy" rally sponsored by the SEIU, MoveOn and ACORN among others. The action was one of over a hundred scheduled across the country to protest the AIG bonuses and corporate excesses.

There were hoarse chants and lively percussion – everyone shook cans of change chanting, "AIG! You can't hide! We can see your greedy side!"Young organizers in purple union hoodies joined seasoned members who bellowed new chants when energy lagged, inspired passersby, and even Rocky Twyman, founder of Prayer at the Pump.

35
19039
March 19, 2009
Christopher Hayes

I think there's a fascinating cultural difference between the way that Democratic politicians view the progressive base (as something to keep distance from, to be triangulated against) and the way Republicans view the conservative base (something to be paid regular tribute)

Lester Feder catches an interesting example of this dynamic in action while talking to Chuck Grassley:

Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and others recently launched a smear campaign against a provision in the stimulus bill designed to gather research that will help doctors and patients choose the treatments that work the best, and avoid unnecessary spending. This, said Fox, "appear [s]to set the stage for health care rationing for seniors, new limits on medical research, and new rules guiding decisions doctors can make about your health care."

9
19038
March 19, 2009
Eric Alterman
Eric Alterman

Big Alter-media week: We've got a new called "Think Again column called"Remember Real Journalism," and it's here.

We did a BHTV episode with our new conservative buddy Reihan, calledWhat's on a Man's Mind?" hereand we appeared on a panel at the 92nd street Y on Monday night called "Why WeNeed a Liberal Israel Lobby," and that's on video here and Phil Weiss has agreat deal to say about it here and then I gave a few quotes to MichaelCalderone of Politico for this story--note the only fellow in the cartoon scowling--which has the right wing internetzbuzzing with much enjoyable hysteria. Were one to read too much of it,one would lament the fate of western civilization, such as it is. Oursmart new conservative friend Reihan, has a good post here as does Peter Suderman hereand, oh, this one is funny too. I have nothing much to say though. I proposed it as a column for my editors. They said no. You getwhat you pay for, literally (See below). Suffice to say that if we werereally conspiring to run the world, we'd do a better job of things.

Siva found this: Merle Haggard & Johnny Cash

19037
March 19, 2009
Christopher Hayes

As promised here's my comment in this week's issue on the AIG bonus issue. It's behind a sub-wall, but I'm just gonna yank it out and post it here:

The infamous letter from AIG CEO Edward Liddy to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner--the one in which he informs the good secretary that whatever the administration's preference might be to the contrary, the company will be paying $165 million in bonuses to its financial products division--is destined to be studied years from now as the perfect text for this strange moment in American capitalism. Facially supplicant yet substantively defiant, its rhetorical posture is that of a bank robber who calls the teller "ma'am" before asking her calmly to put the money in the bag. "On the one hand, all of us at AIG recognize the environment in which we operate and the remonstrations of our President for a more restrained system of compensation for executives," Liddy writes. (Nice touch, the use of "remonstrations" to describe the president's attempts to rein in Wall Street with moral suasion.) "On the other hand, we cannot attract and retain the best and brightest talent to lead and staff the AIG businesses--which are now being operated principally on behalf of the American taxpayers--if employees believe that their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury." This is the language of someone who has sized up what an organizer would call "the power relations" and believes they are balanced in his favor.

The question is, Was his calculation correct? At this writing, Liddy is appearing before Congress, sitting in the proverbial hot seat. On Capitol Hill there is unanimous agreement that the proposed bonuses are an intolerable insult to taxpayers. They certainly are. But one learns to mistrust unanimity in Washington. There's something vaguely redolent of the earmark foolishness in the dramatic expressions of anger from elected officials--what might be called the Law of Small Numbers. When it comes to money, trillions of dollars is a statistic, but $165 million is an outrage. Then there's the fact that much of Washington, including, sadly, the Obama administration, was complicit in setting the stage for this drama. Ron Wyden and Olympia Snowe co-sponsored an amendment to the recovery act that would have required TARP recipients to pay back bonuses in excess of $100,000 or face tax penalties. It was mysteriously removed from the final bill just before passage. Geithner and Larry Summers, meanwhile, have both reportedly worked internally to water down statutory limitations on executive compensation for bailed-out firms.

2
19036