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Help us update the NDN Agenda: National Security

NDN needs your help to update our agenda. Two weeks ago, we began the important process of updating the NDN Agenda for Hope and Progress, the document that defines our governing philosophy and is at the center of all our advocacy work. This week we are asking for your feedback on the foreign policy and homeland security sections of the NDN agenda "Assert Responsible Global Leadership" and "Protect the Homeland."  After you read the sections below, sign-up for an NDN Blog account, if you haven't already, and share your ideas with us in the comments section. 

From NDN's Agenda for Hope and Progress...

Assert Responsible Global Leadership: Win the war on terrorism and end international conflicts that threaten our interests and values; foster security and democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan; ensure that America's military is the strongest, most agile, and best equipped in the world and our nation honors the service of our veterans; combat AIDS and other pandemics that threaten global stability; and work together with our allies and international organizations to advance democracy, human rights, liberty, free markets, opportunities for women, and rising standards of living across the world.

Protect the Homeland: Implement a comprehensive homeland security strategy; improve our nation's counter terrorism intelligence capabilities and performance; ensure that those on the frontlines have the very best tools, training and support to protect our communities; secure our nation's borders and ports without impeding the free flow of goods and people; and fight to protect the civil liberties for all Americans that have long been the envy of the world.

Read and comment on the entire agenda here.

Read Simon Rosenberg's oped "Time Warp" from The New Republic for an example of NDN's foreign policy work.

Simon Rosenberg at the Tufts Democrats' "Issues of the Future" Symposium on Immigration

Simon gave the keynote address at Tufts University’s annual Issues of the Future Symposium.  Coverage from the Tufts Daily is here and excerpted below.

Concern about immigration is "one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century," Rosenberg said.

But a "durable and sustainable" approach is necessary, he argued, since migration is unlikely to let up. "As the pain of immigration is lessened due to the ease of travel and transition, migration will increase globally," he said.

In this climate, the United States' current stance leaves a lot to be desired, he said. "No one is happy with our current stance on immigration," Rosenberg said.

Passing progressive legislation, he said, is a necessary step in reforming current policies.

He said that an example of such legislation is the Kennedy-McCain immigration bill that made it through the U.S. Senate last year. He called it "an oasis of sanity."

NDN hosts Vali Nasr in NYC

Last Thursday, NDN hosted Vali Nasr, author of The Shia Revival, in New York City. Below are a few pictures from our event.



Another general disses Bush and the neocons

In the debate prior to Bush's decision to "surge," there was a remarkable campaign by our military leaders to pursuade the Administration to head the warnings of the ISG report and invest greater energy in diplomacy and regional politics.   In the Post today, retired Marine Corps General John Sheehan repeats this criticism of the Administration in an op-ed about why he did not take a new position with Bush:

The third strategy takes a larger view of the region and the desired end state. Simply put, where does Iraq fit in a larger regional context? The United States has and will continue to have strategic interests in the greater Middle East well after the Iraq crisis is resolved and, as a matter of national interest, will maintain forces in the region in some form. The Iraq invasion has created a real and existential crisis for nearly all Middle Eastern countries and created divisions among our traditional European allies, making cooperation on other issues more difficult. In the case of Iran, we have allowed Tehran to develop more policy options and tools than it had a few years ago. Iran is an ideological and destabilizing threat to its neighbors and, more important, to U.S. interests.

Of the three strategies in play, the third is the most important but, unfortunately, is the least developed and articulated by this administration.

The day-to-day work of the White House implementation manager overseeing Iraq and Afghanistan would require a great deal of emotional and intellectual energy resolving critical resource issues in a bureaucracy that, to date, has not functioned well. Activities such as the current surge operations should fit into an overall strategic framework. There has to be linkage between short-term operations and strategic objectives that represent long-term U.S. and regional interests, such as assured access to energy resources and support for stable, Western-oriented countries. These interests will require a serious dialogue and partnership with countries that live in an increasingly dangerous neighborhood. We cannot "shorthand" this issue with concepts such as the "democratization of the region" or the constant refrain by a small but powerful group that we are going to "win," even as "victory" is not defined or is frequently redefined.

It would have been a great honor to serve this nation again. But after thoughtful discussions with people both in and outside of this administration, I concluded that the current Washington decision-making process lacks a linkage to a broader view of the region and how the parts fit together strategically. We got it right during the early days of Afghanistan -- and then lost focus. We have never gotten it right in Iraq. For these reasons, I asked not to be considered for this important White House position. These huge shortcomings are not going to be resolved by the assignment of an additional individual to the White House staff. They need to be addressed before an implementation manager is brought on board.

Hispanics are becoming increasingly secular

The Times has a fascinating piece on the increasing secularization of Hispanics in the U.S.  It starts, of course, with the Hispanic immigrant's passion for soccer:

RICHMOND, Va. — On Sunday afternoons, when the local Roman Catholic church holds Mass for Spanish-speaking Catholics, Edgar Chilín is playing soccer in a league with hundreds of Hispanic players.

“Church is not very popular,” said Francisco Hernandez, a pastor for a Pentecostal congregation in Richmond, Va.

As a child in Guatemala, Mr. Chilín attended Mass every Sunday. But after immigrating to the United States 25 years ago, he and his family lost the churchgoing habit. “We pray to God when we feel the need to,” he said, “but when we come here to America we don’t feel the need.”

A wave of research shows that increasing percentages of Hispanics are abandoning church, suggesting to researchers that along with assimilation comes a measure of secularization.

Several studies show that Hispanics are just as likely as other Americans to identify themselves as having “no religion,” and to not affiliate with a church. Those who describe themselves as secular are, without question, a small minority among Hispanics — as they are among Americans at large. But, in contrast to many of the non-Hispanic Americans who identify themselves as secular, most of the Hispanics say they were once religious.

The Roman Catholic Church, the religious home for most Hispanics, is experiencing the greatest exodus. While many former Catholics join evangelical or Pentecostal churches, the recent research shows that many of them leave church altogether.

“Migrating to the U.S. means you have the freedom to create your own identity,” said Keo Cavalcanti, a sociologist at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., and a co-author of a recent study that found a trend toward secularization among Hispanics in Richmond. “When people get here they realize that maintaining that pro forma display of religiosity is not essential to doing well.”

A separate study of 4,000 Hispanics to be released this month by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Hispanic Center found that 8 percent of them said they had “no religion” — similar to the 11 percent in the general public. Of the Hispanics who claimed no religion, two-thirds said they had once been religious. Thirty-nine percent of the Hispanics who said they had no religion were former Catholics.

Hispanics from Cuba were the most secular national group, at 14 percent, followed by Central Americans at 12 percent, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans at 9 percent, and South Americans at 8 percent, the Pew poll found. Mexicans in this country were the least likely to say they had no religion, at 7 percent.

A larger survey, called the American Religious Identification Survey, a study of 50,000 adults, including 3,000 Hispanics, found that the percentage of Hispanics who identified themselves as having no religion more than doubled from 1990 to 2001, to 13 percent from 6 percent....

Gonzales steps up the plate, and wiffs

The Attorney General makes his case in the Washington Post today.  Not sure what you think of it, but to me if this is his best shot he is gone.  His argument is comically simplistic.  Read for yourself here.

Nielsen to track video "wherever it goes"

Another sign of how video and television are being transformed:

Television networks like ESPN, CBS and CNN have complained for years that out-of-home viewing was not counted because they are generally paid by advertisers only for the viewers counted by Nielsen. The move by Nielsen is a step in the rating company’s larger plan to measure television viewing everywhere it occurs, whether on televisions, computers and mobile devices.

“Nielsen has a mandate to follow the video wherever it goes,” said Sara Erichson, executive vice president for client services at Nielsen Media Research North American, a unit of the Nielsen Company. “A lot of where video is going is outside the home.”

The ratings will be calculated using cellphone tracking devices that recognize programs by sounds. The cellphone will be provided free to 4,700 participants, who will be paid a small fee each month. The participants pay their own cellphone bills. Integrated Media Measurement has recruited 3,000 people who are in six cities — New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Denver and Houston — and Nielsen will recruit 1,700 others, aiming for them to be demographically representative...

The Week That Was 4-13 Edition

This summary of the week's news will be posted every Friday, as part of our new "Week-in-Review" for NDN News members.  To join the NDN News list, click here.   

The week began with President giving a major speech on immigration in Yuma, Arizona.  The location was telling, a brand new border patrol station, part of the enforcement-only plan backed by many conservatives.  "Congress can pass a comprehensive bill, and I can sign it into law this year," Bush said.  But he did not offer any specific proposals and has yet to publicly pressure his own party’s Congressional leadership to support the comprehensive immigration reform bills in Congress now.  In fact, leaked White House documents show that the administration is actually moving away from their previous strong support for comprehensive immigration reform. 

Over the weekend, Senator Barack Obama announced he would not participate in the Congressional Black Caucus Democratic Presidential debate hosted by Fox News.  He joined Senator John Edwards in avoiding the debate, almost guaranteeing that it won’t happen.  This follows last month’s boycott of a Nevada Democratic Party debate that was to be hosted by Fox News, making it clear that Democratic Presidential candidates don’t want to be subjected to Fox’s anti-Democratic party bias. 

The President flip-flopped on working with Congress, first offering to work with Democrats on Iraq and then clarifying, through spokeswoman Dana Perino, that he was not willing to negotiate over the Iraq and Afghanistan military spending supplemental bill and that Congress should pass the funding bill without benchmarks or other stipulations.  At the same time that the Bush Administration was talking tough with Congress, they were getting rebuffed by at least three retired generals who were offered the position of “War Czar” with direct oversight for the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  One of the three who turned down the position, Marine General (Ret.) John J. "Jack" Sheehan put it best:  “The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going…So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks.’”

Senator John McCain gave a policy speech on Iraq at the Virginia Military Institute.  In it he reiterated his support for the President’s Iraq policy and took shots at Democrats in Congress, earning strong rebukes from Democrats including Senator Chris Dodd: "We don't need a surge of troops in Iraq. We need a surge of diplomacy.  The Bush/McCain Doctrine is not succeeding. It is failing."

Finally, the White House has a new scandal that threatens to envelope the US Attorneys one.  Senior White House staff members have admitted to using two separate email accounts, one ‘whitehouse.gov’ one and one ‘gwb43.com’ one set-up and run by the RNC, ostensibly for political work.  It is known that Karl Rove, for one, primarily used the RNC operated account, and now the White House is reporting that it accidentally deleted thousands of emails from those ‘gwb43.com’ accounts and that they may be irretrievable.  That wasn’t good enough for Rep. Waxman Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee or for Senator Leahy who said "They say they have not been preserved. I don't believe that!...You can't erase e-mails, not today. They've gone through too many servers…Those e-mails are there; they just don't want to produce them. We'll subpoena them if necessary."

Thinking About Our Trade Deficit With China

As the United States files a major case at the World Trade Organization charging China with wholesale piracy of U.S. intellectual property, especially copyrights covering books, music and videos, let’s pause and think about our trade deficit with China.  The administration is entirely right to file the case – though a little late, given that it’s only our third complaint with the WTO over intellectual property violations since George W. Bush took office, compared to fifteen cases filed at the WTO by the Clinton administration in its second term alone.  We’ll get to why those violations matter economically, but first let’s look at an even bigger picture.

It may not be politically satisfying, but the truth is, we cannot blame any other country’s trade practices for the size of our trade deficit.  We run trade deficits for one reason: We consume more than we produce and then purchase the difference from abroad.  When China sells paper or t-shirts for less than they cost to produce and ship them here, it increases our imports of Chinese paper and t-shirts, hurting American workers and companies that still produce them here. But if China charged three times as much, and we bought more paper and t-shirts from American or other foreign suppliers, it could affect the composition of our trade deficit, but not its overall size: That’s because the size is locked in by how much we consume of everything, relative to how much we produce of everything.  The only way to reduce the trade deficit is to either consume less – which is what economists mean when they say that the answer is to save more – or to produce more. It’s used to be the case that the two were closely linked: In order to produce more, you had to invest more, and to invest more, you had to save more (and so consume less).  Global capital markets have changed that for the United States, where everyone wants to invest: Now, we can invest more even without consuming less – we just have to borrow the investment funds from foreign savers. There’s a big cost down the road, since foreigners end up owning more of our companies and real estate, and then taking home their profits and rent – but at least we get to invest.

Force China to play fair with her trade policies (if we can, which is often doubtful), and we’ll end up importing a little less from China and exporting a little more to China. But unless we also begin to consume less overall or to produce more overall, it won’t affect the total trade deficit at all.  There is one, possible way it could do so -- if demand for our exports to China goes up, it may lead to greater production at home to fill the need (after it had led to greater investment to expand production) -- and the increase in our production can bring down the trade deficit.

The one exception to all this is what the administration is finally focusing on -- foreign violations of the intellectual property rights of American producers.  If we could get China, India, Russia and Brazil (the four biggest offenders) to stop appropriating or pirating our pharmaceuticals, software or music and films, it would directly reduce our trade deficit. Our own consumption wouldn’t change, but foreign payments back to U.S. companies would increase, just as if our production had increased and all been exported. Stealing our intellectual property, in short, has the effect of reducing our production (more precisely, taking part of our production and pricing it at nothing), which in turn drives up the trade deficit.

So, now there are two reasons to crack down on intellectual property violations by our trading partners.  It’s the only cost-free way to reduce our trade deficit, and it should increase the returns and incentives for producing more of it, at a time when globalization and technology make intellectual property a central factor in U.S. economic growth and progress.

One more word on our trade deficit with China: Half of it comes from U.S. companies bringing back products they’ve produced in China by their Chinese subsidiaries. China’s currency is undervalued by all the standard economic measures. But if China does revalues its’ currency, so its exports become more expensive, it will raise the price of products produced by American companies there for sale here – and by itself can’t affect the overall trade deficit.

Op-ed on "The Democratic Opportunity"

The Politico asked me to write an essay on what advice I would give to the Democratic Presidential candidates.  It is running today and is below.   Would love your thoughts. 

The Democratic Opportunity

Simon Rosenberg
April 11, 2007 05:28 PM EST

As we look to 2008, it is clear the two parties face a vastly different political landscape than anything we’ve seen in recent years. For the first time in a generation, the Republicans are in retreat, their brand damaged and ideology discredited. The Democrats won a resounding national victory in 2006 and according to a recent Pew Center poll, have opened up an extraordinary 15 percentage point advantage in party identification.

It is now reasonable to speculate that if Democrats win the presidency in 2008 it could be the beginning of a sustained period of Democratic control of government, akin to their run in the middle of the past century. President George W. Bush, meanwhile, is looking more like a 21st century version of Herbert Hoover each day.

Thus the stakes in 2008 are very high. It is not just about the control of the White House, but whether Democrats can take advantage of a profound mishandling of government by the Republicans, and build the foundation for a 21st century majority as strong as it had in the 20th.  
To do so, Democrats will have to apply their values to a new set of realities that are making the new politics of this new century different from the one just past; requiring us to offer a new agenda that meets the challenges of our time, master the new technology and media that is changing the way we all communicate, and speak to and engage the new American population of this new century, one very different from Americas of previous generations. 

A New Governing Agenda That Tackles The Emerging Challenges Of Our Time
When in power during the 20th Century, Democrats succeeded by tackling the great challenges of that time. Abroad, we defeated fascism, were instrumental in the triumph over communist totalitarianism, and constructed an international system based on FDR’s vision of a United Nations, bringing unprecedented liberty and prosperity to the people of the world. At home, we rescued America from its greatest economic crisis, the Depression. We further created Social Security and Medicare, and spearheaded the civil rights, consumer, labor, women’s and environmental movements that have helped make America not just great, but good. And, when we last held presidential power in the 1990s, progressives oversaw the greatest economic expansion in our history. It is a record to be proud of.

In the years ahead, our leaders will face a new set of tough 21st century governing challenges. We must keep the world peaceful and our country safe, restore broad-based prosperity in a much more competitive age of globalization, invest in infrastructure and people to ensure future prosperity, address global climate change and move toward greater energy independence, modernize our health care system while guaranteeing that all Americans have access to health insurance, manage the retirement of the baby boom, get our federal budget under control, and reform our broken immigration system. These are no small set of challenges.

For Democrats, success in 2008 will require offering real solutions to these great challenges, something the current governing party has utterly failed to do.

A New Post-Broadcast Media And Communications Era
As FDR mastered early broadcast radio and JFK excelled on the new technology of his time, television, future success will depend on the mastery of an emergent post-broadcast communications environment. We are in the very early stages of a whole new era of political communications, which is more personal, iterative, participatory, mobile, fragmented, digital, networked – and whose rate of change is accelerating.

In 2003, we saw how an unknown candidate, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, used these new 21st century tools to leapfrog his competition among rival Democratic presidential candidates. In 2004, we saw the DNC use them to raise more money than the RNC for the first time in recent memory. And in 2006, we saw the early power of viral video help take down GOP Sen. George Allen in Virginia, giving Democrats control of the Senate.

The rise of the broadband internet, cable and satellite television, mobile telephony and media and their increasing use is radically changing the way the American people connect and communicate with one another.  In response, we must radically alter our approach to media and political communications. For Democrats, success in 2008 will require replacing the 20th century model of political communications, with a new spirit of experimentation, and a new set of political tools.

The American People Themselves Have Changed
Since FDR built the Democratic Party’s last great majority electoral coalition, the American people have changed a great deal. In recent decades America has become increasingly suburban and exurban, Southern and Western, Hispanic and Asian, immigrant and Spanish-speaking, aging Boomer and Millennial, and more digital age in our orientation towards life and work than industrial age.  We live in literally what is a new America.

These new demographic realities have created a new 21st electoral majority strategy for Democrats, one that was used to win the Senate and House in 2006, and that has now produced 42 states with either a Democratic senator or governor. This new map starts with Democratic strengths in the Northeast, Midwest and Coastal West, and seeks to consolidate opportunities in the Inter-mountain West, the Southwest, the Plains and the South.

Democrats start the hunt for the presidency with much more strength at the Electoral College level than is widely understood; having what could be considered perhaps a high floor but low ceiling. The party has received 250 Electoral College votes or more in the last four national elections, a feat last accomplished in the FDR era.

While Ohio alone may give the Democrats the presidency in 2008, a great new Hispanic opening has emerged with what may be a permanent degradation of the Republican brand resulting from the terrible immigration debate in 2006. Exploiting this opening could flip Arizona, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Nevada, and give the Democrats another 56 electoral votes. What is remarkable is that this new Electoral College strategy is essentially the same way Democrats won the Senate and House, creating for this old party a very new, achievable and durable way of holding power in this new century.

What’s Next
So how are Democrats doing so far in mastering this new politics of the 21st century? Well, after years of failed conservative government, Democrats have put big issues – restoring broad-based prosperity, fixing Iraq, health care for all, reforming immigration, global climate change and energy independence – on the agenda. Our presidential candidates have already embraced powerful new tools like viral video and social networking, and are using these and other new tools to involve already close to a million people – an extraordinary number – in their campaigns.  Our party’s emerging leaders – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, DNC Chairman Dean – look like 21st century America, and hail from the region’s critical to locking in this 21st century electoral majority.

Our new primary calendar includes states from the fastest growing regions of the country, the South and West, which will allow African-Americans and Hispanics to participate in our primary process as never before. Our 2008 convention is in Denver, at the epicenter of the most important new strategic opening in this election, the Southwest, and will be chaired in part by the compelling Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado, a member of a new generation of Hispanic leaders.

There is much at stake in 2008. Only one political party, the Democrats, built a sustained majority coalition in the 20th century. The historic failures of the Bush era have made it possible for Democrats to imagine replicating this success in our new century. And while a great deal of attention will go into winning the 2008 elections, it is critical for us to also be looking ahead at a much more strategic level, and recognize that by mastering this new politics of the new century we may be taking the critical early steps in building a majority coalition as robust and durable as the one FDR built more than 70 years ago. 

Simon Rosenberg is the President of NDN, a progressive think tank and advocacy organization.

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