NDN Blog

Stem Cell Innovation in NY

In NDN's Agenda for Hope and Progress, we urge our leaders to "invest in and encourage the extraordinary promise of the knowledge revolution in science and medical care."

Now, a good friend, Gov. Eliot Spitzer is stepping up and fighting NY's legendary legislative inertia in the effort to make NY a leader in the important field of stem cell research.  Read more, and note the emphasis on a post-ideological, new politics that meets the governing challenges of our time. 

In his first address to the Legislature, Gov. Eliot Spitzer called this month for passage of a $2 billion 10-year bond initiative for research and development, at least half of which would be set aside to pay for stem cell research. And the project is being tailored as an economic development effort in the hopes of attracting support from upstate Republican lawmakers.

Politically Motivated Firings at the Justice Department?

At least seven United States attorneys are being fired for no apparent reason, and Senator Diane Feinstein (see video below) is not happy about it.  Among those being dismissed is Carol Lam, the top prosecuter in the Duke Cunningham case.  Conservative Congressman Darrell Issa said that her work on the bribery case against Republican Cunningham was "a credit to her leadership and her office."  So why are she and six other qualified prosecutors being fired?  The NYT points to the answer:

Ms. Feinstein said the departmentmight be removing the prosecutors to take advantage of a little-noticed provision in the 2006 reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act that expanded its authority to make indefinite interim appointments.

Previously, a federal judge would appoint an interim United States attorney to serve until the Senate confirmed the president’s nominee. Now the attorney general can nominate someone to serve without confirmation for the remainder of Mr. Bush’s term. Ms. Feinstein, Mr. Pryor and Mr. Leahy have introduced legislation to restore the role of naming interim prosecutors to the judiciary.

Update 1/17/06 at 5:55pm:

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) has admitted that he inserted the provision that makes these unconfirmed appointments possible - at the last second, when members of Congress wouldn't have a chance to review it - into the Patriot Act.  No explanation at to why he did so. 

Also, Josh Marshall raises the excellent point that if these firings go through, there will be six new prosecutors with supena power, hand-picked by the Bush Administration.  Just when you thought there couldn't be any new abuses of executive authority...

Shapiro speaks on globalization at EPI

One of the most important governing challenges facing our nation is to ensure that American corporations, capital and people all prosper together in this age of ever more intense globalization.

To that end, last year NDN established a new Globalization Initiative led by Dr. Robert J. Shapiro, a former Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs in the Clinton Administration. On our website you can find an overview of the project and its work, including video of our major events, speeches, studies, policy recommendations and essays.

Last week, Rob Shapiro was a featured speaker at the Economic Policy Institute's forum: Agenda for Shared Prosperity, where he spoke about "The Challenges of Globalization":

If we don’t step up to plate with serious answers to reduce the rapid increases in health care, pension and energy costs – three areas in which the current administration has been missing in action for six years – the U.S. job creating machine will stall out, and the incomes of a majority of Americans will slowly fall for the next generation. If we don’t step up to the plate with a serious training and education strategies that can ensure that Americans can do their jobs more efficiently than anyone in any developing country –another area where this administration has checked out – offshore outsourcing, especially in the new areas of services, will hollow out part of the American middle class.

You can find his complete remarks, reflecting his latest thinking on our website, and feel free to weigh in with comments here on our blog.

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Related links:
Watch
EPI's Ross Eisenbray at a recent Globalization Initiative event

Obama Running? Part 2

Below is the video of Sen. Barack Obama announcing his decision to form an exploratory committee:

Related news: Simon's quoted in this FT/MSNBC article on Senator Obama's decision, saying:

"This is the most open presidential contest in living memory," said Simon Rosenberg, director of the New Democratic Network, a centrist group. "The fact that we have such a weak White House that will bequeath a troubling legacy to the next president is also driving this early campaign."

For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.

Senator Allard (R-CO) Not Running in '08

Markos Moulitsas (Kos at Dailykos.com) is fast becoming an authority on the electoral map.  His take on Wayne Allard's decision not to run for re-election, and how that helps Democrats, is below.  And stay tuned for in-depth analysis from NDN on demographic and political changes in the increasingly progressive West.

Senate Republicans are weeping today.

Sen. Wayne Allard said today he will honor his term-limits pledge and leave at the end of 2008, creating a replacement fight that should turn Colorado into one of the country’s biggest electoral battlegrounds.

"I just didn't think I could back away from the (term limits) commitment. It is a matter of integrity and keeping your commitments. I have never wavered on that," Allard told the Rocky Mountain News.

Colorado was already the Democrats' top pickup opportunity, with Allard winning his two terms with razor-thin margins and a Blue wave sweeping the Rocky Mountain state.

Rep. Mark Udall, who represents the CO-02 district, announced his candidacy back in 2005 when he bowed out of the governor's race. The popular scion of the long-serving political family should have a clear shot through the primaries.

On the Republican side, former Gov. Bill Owens has said he won't run. Tancredo is running for president, though could pivot and shoot for the open Senate seat. That wouldn't just create a competitive open seat race in CO-06, but would also exacerbate fierce divisions in the state's GOP on immigration. Bigoted Rep. Marylin Musgrave barely survived her own race in 2006, and will be hard-pressed to stay in Congress, much less get a promotion in the Senate.

Former Rep. Scott McInnis has expressed interest in an open seat race, and would be no slouch. But remember, the rising star of the Colorado GOP, the guy they pinned their future on, was Rep. Bob Beauprez. And here's what happened to his gubernatorial bid this past November:

Beauprez (R) 41%

Ritter (D) 56%

That demonstrates better than anything else the dismal state of the Colorado Republican Party.

This will be a Democratic pickup in 2008.

Dr. Robert J. Shapiro's Remarks on Globalization at EPI

The Challenges of Globalization
Remarks to the Economic Policy Institute
by Robert J. Shapiro, Director NDN Globalization Initiative
January 11, 2007

Jeff and I may not see eye to eye about how trade deficits affect jobs; but we do agree that globalization is real, its effects are enormous, and it’s creating increasing costs and burdens for American workers.

Over just the last 15 years, the share of everything produced in the world that’s traded across borders has risen from 18 percent to 30 percent, to the highest levels and largest increases ever recorded. And while trade accounts for less of our economy than any major European country, nevertheless, we are the world’s most globalized advanced country.  Some 44 percent of our exports go to developing nations, and 50 percent of our imports come from developing nations – roughly twice the shares for the EU, which mainly trades with itself.  The same holds for our foreign direct investment – about 28 percent of our FDI is now in developing nations, compared to about 12 percent of Europe’s FDI. 

So far, globalization’s effects are most clear in those countries – China, Taiwan, the Czech Republic, Korea and some others -- that opened themselves not only to that foreign investment, but also increased domestic competition and upgraded their transportation, communication, education and public health systems.  And the greatest beneficiaries have been the people in many of the world’s poorest countries.  In China and India, average incomes more than doubled over the last decade – and that includes hundreds of millions of desperately poor Chinese and Indians living in rural areas untouched by all these changes.  

Globalization also changes the basic needs of modern corporations.  For centuries, large national and international companies used their heft to get sweet deals on their most basic resources, capital and labor.  Modern globalization makes labor and capital much more easily and cheaply available, so their business strategies no longer focus there.  Instead, their most critical resource has become the intellectual capital of their patents, brands, business methods and the knowledge and relationships of their professionals and managers.

This “idea-based” economy has been a metaphor for a while, but globalization has made it real.  Since the mid-1990s, U.S. companies invested as much in intangibles -- mainly the intellectual property of patents and trademarks, but also databases, branding, organizational changes and the training to use these ideas – as in all physical assets, from equipment to land and buildings.  This shift towards intellectual capital is also clear in the way investors value public companies.  Twenty years ago, the market value of the physical assets of the top 150 U.S. companies accounted for 75 percent of the total value of their stocks.  A firm was roughly worth what its plant, equipment and real estate could be sold for.  Today, the book value of the top 150 U.S. corporations accounts for just 35 percent of the total value of their shares.  Today, nearly two-thirds of the value of a large company comes from what it knows and the ideas and relationships that it owns.

This is America’s great advantage in globalization, because we remain the world’s largest and most powerful idea-factory.  In effect, we represent the other pole of globalization from China – they’re becoming the world’s largest production platform while we produce the ideas that give value to what they produce.  If there’s any doubt about that, consider that half of our imports from China come from the Chinese subsidiaries of U.S. companies.

This is great for American companies.  The potential market for what they do best – developing new products, materials, technologies, coming up with new ways of financing, marketing and distributing goods and services, as well as new ways of doing business generally – has become global.  And to a large extent, they now have the entire world to pick the cheapest and most reliable sources of materials, parts, labor and everything else. Revenues, productivity and profits are all high, and the U.S. economy has grown at very healthy rates.

But globalization has also produced a nasty surprise for working Americans.  As overall growth has expanded smartly, the relationship between how fast the economy grows and how many jobs it creates has weakened badly.  Take jobs.  The 2001 recession cost us about one-half percent of GDP – by historical standards, that should have cost us 500,000 jobs.  Instead, we lost 3 million.  After the 1991 recession, it took us 18 months to get back to pre-recession job levels; this time, it took 52 months.  And even today, we’re creating jobs at half the rate we did at the comparable point in the 1990s expansion.

The same thing is happening in the link between productivity and wages.  Over the last four years, productivity has grown 3 percent a year – the best record since the 1960s – yet both real wages and total real compensation have virtually stagnated.

The problem is not the overall economy, which is doing quite fine. The problem lies in the transmission mechanisms between that macroeconomy and the lives of most working people. And globalization is what’s changing those transmission mechanisms.

It begins with China, traveling a long and complicated path to reach the United States. Let’s start with some numbers.  China’s merchandise exports went from $62 billion in 1990 to $750 billion in 2005, and they’re still growing 25 percent a year.  At those levels, China’s exports now swamp those of its rivals in other developing nations – almost two-thirds more exports than all the rest of East Asia, for example, and almost 30 percent greater than all of Latin America. 

Here are some examples of what happens.  Zhejiang Forging Company, a Chinese manufacturer of forged metal parts, expands its production of motorcycle parts, at prices that undercut producers in Thailand; while Sunpower Enterprises, a large Chinese producer of hotel furniture, undercut rival producers in the Dominican Republic.  As customers around the world learn of it, some of the less productive producers of metal parts and hotel furniture in Thailand and the Dominican Republic are squeezed out of business – so on the margin, capital and expertise in those countries shift to other industries, such as basic electronics or more sophisticated equipment.  The new capital and expertise makes those industries a little more competitive -- and that puts new pressures on their rivals in, say, Korea and Brazil.  This process repeats itself, and on the margin capital and expertise in those economies shifts again to, say, LCD makers in Korea and auto producers in Brazil. This time, the new competitive pressures may begin to squeeze LCD producers and auto makers in the United States. 

China’s manufacturing sector is so big and diversified that these dynamics intensify competition across scores of industries in scores of countries, ratcheting up competitive pressures across the world. When these competitive pressures reach us, there’s no other place to transmit them, so here the result is just that companies find it harder to raise their prices, even when their costs increase.  Now, U.S. health insurance and energy costs have risen more than 60 percent since 2001, and for many companies pension costs are up sharply as well.

On top of that, globalization has another effect: It expands the pool of workers much more than it expands the pool of capital.  The consequence is that the return on capital goes up.  So even as companies feel; squeezed between more intense competition and rising costs, financial markets tell them that they have to show higher profits.  So businesses have taken what’s probably the easiest way out: They’ve found other costs to cut, starting with jobs and wages.

This is what’s happening in the United States, and it’s the great political challenge posed by globalization.  If we don’t step up to plate with serious answers to reduce the rapid increases in health care, pension and energy costs – three areas in which the current administration has been missing in action for six years – the U.S. job creating machine will stall out, and the incomes of a majority of Americans will slowly fall for the next generation.   If we don’t step up to the plate with a serious training and education strategies that can ensure that Americans can do their jobs more efficiently than anyone in any developing country –another area where this administration has checked out – offshore outsourcing, especially in the new areas of services, will hollow out part of the American middle class.

We couldn’t roll back globalization, even if we wanted to.  I also suspect that we can’t much affect the pace of global trade.  Markets and global companies can make the mincemeat of trade provisions as they do of tax provisions. What we must do is restore the links between growth and jobs and between productivity and wages, so American workers can benefit from globalization as much as the companies they work for.

Obama Running?

Sen. Barack Obama will file papers to form a presidential exploratory committee. Be sure to keep updated by visiting his website. As to what's ahead, he says:

For the next several weeks, I am going to talk with people from around the country, listening and learning more about the challenges we face as a nation, the opportunities that lie before us, and the role that a presidential campaign might play in bringing our country together. And on February 10th, at the end of these decisions and in my home state of Illinois, I'll share my plans with my friends, neighbors and fellow Americans.

(Also, Rep. Tom Tancredo filed papers to form his exploratory committee. For more information, check out his website here)

For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.

Why is the Administration surprised that Iran is gaining regional influence?

After our country was attacked in 2001 there were many ways our government could respond.  The path we choose - of the many we could have chosen – removing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein from power and establishing a Shiite-led government in Iraq was almost certainly going to strengthen the regional hand of Iran.

I wrote a long post about all this recently, so I won’t repeat it here. While I am not excited about the idea of Iran’s growing regional influence, that our government is responding to this very predictable regional development, of our own making, with belligerence and outrage is another moment of almost unbelievable American arrogance and folly.

Here’s the chief architect of our global policy of arrogance and folly waking up to the new regional political dynamic his strategy has created:

On Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney argued that America’s actions were intended to protect allies in the Persian Gulf — though it is far from clear that Iran’s Sunni Arab neighbors have signed on to the strategy. “If you go and talk with the gulf states or if you talk with the Saudis or if you talk about the Israelis or the Jordanians, the entire region is worried,” Mr. Cheney said on “Fox News Sunday.” He described how the Iranians “sit astride the Straits of Hormuz” and its oil-shipping channels, and how they support Hamas and Hezbollah. “So the threat that Iran represents is growing,” he said, in words reminiscent of how he once built a case against Mr. Hussein. “It’s multidimensional, and it is, in fact, of concern to everybody in the region.”

One of the areas that Senator Biden and Representative Lantos should explore in their ongoing Congressional hearings is what exactly did we our government believe was going to happen when we eliminated two of Iran’s most significant adversaries, established in Iraq the first Shiite-led Arab government in the region’s history and helped place at the helm of the Iraqi government political parties and leaders close to Iran?

This same Times’ piece has some interesting, and let’s say less than satisfactory insights into all this:

For more than two years after Saddam Hussein’s fall, the war in Iraq was about chasing down insurgents and Al Qaeda in Iraq. Last year it expanded to tamping down sectarian warfare.

Over the past three weeks, in two sets of raids and newly disclosed orders issued by President Bush, a third front has opened — against Iran.

Administration officials say the goal is limited to preventing Iranians from aiding in attacks on American and Iraqi forces inside Iraq. But in recent interviews and public statements, senior members of the Bush administration have made it clear that their agenda goes significantly further, toward foiling Iran’s dream of emerging as the greatest power in the Middle East.

In an interview on Friday, before she left on her latest Middle East trip, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described what she called an “evolving” strategy to confront “destabilizing behavior” by Iran across the region. Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, said Sunday on the NBC News program “Meet the Press” that the United States was resisting an Iranian effort “to basically establish hegemony” throughout the region.

Even some of Mr. Bush’s fiercest critics do not question that the administration’s conviction that Iran’s ambitions are large is correct. A few midlevel administration officials wondered even in 2003 whether Iran was a far more potent threat than Mr. Hussein.

Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, administration officials argued that deposing Mr. Hussein would send a powerful signal to Iran and North Korea, the two countries that Mr. Bush identified along with Iraq in his 2002 State of the Union address as part of an “axis of evil.” “You heard this argument in meetings all the time,” a senior official on the National Security Council, who has since left the administration, recalled recently. “Iraq would make the harder problems of Iran and North Korea easier."

But the opposite happened. North Korea tested a nuclear device in October. And Iran has sped ahead with a uranium enrichment program. Now, despite the urging of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group to engage with Iran, Washington is moving in a more confrontational direction. It is stationing more naval, air and antimissile batteries off Iran’s coast; has persuaded many international businesses to cut off dealings with Iran; and it has interfered with Iranians inside Iraqi territory.

“The administration does have Iran on the brain, and I think they are exaggerating the amount of Iranian activities in Iraq,” Kenneth M. Pollack, the director of research at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, said Sunday. “There’s a good chance that this is going to be counterproductive — that this is a way to get into a spiral with Iran that leads you into conflict. The likely response from the Iranians is that they are going to want to demonstrate to us that they are not going to be pushed around.”

Administration officials say ignoring Iran’s activities will only lead to escalation with the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “There’s no question that everything that has gone wrong in Iraq has made life easier for the Iranians,” one senior White House official said recently. “The question is what you do about that.”

The answer, shaped in the National Security Council, is for the American military to make targets of Iranians whom they believe are fueling attacks, a decision that Mr. Bush made months ago that was disclosed only last week.

Yes, the question indeed, is what do we do about that – but the that is not Iran but a group of discredited and desperate leaders running our country no longer capable of managing our interests around the world.     

Letter from Birmingham Jail

There are many ways to celebrate and honor the legacy of Dr. King.  I have made it an annual ritual to reread one of the most inspirational speeches I've ever read, his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail.  The Letter is particularly important for members of our community to review.  Its views have had a profound influence in setting my own political course these last few years. 

There are many places on the web where one can pull it down.  Our version today comes from the Nobel Peace Prize site, and what follows is a particularly compelling passage:

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fan in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with an its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.

I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "An Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely rational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this 'hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to 6e solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At fist I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self-respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best-known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do-nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle.

If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble-rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black-nationalist ideologies a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides-and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist.

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that an men are created equal ..." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we viii be. We we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime---the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jeans Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some-such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle---have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger lovers." Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation....

Bush's Iraq narrative is "incomplete, oversimplified and possibly untrue"

Via Susan G at Daily Kos, Mark Seibel of the McClatchy News Service takes on the President's new Iraq narrative (the piece is worth reading in its entirety):

WASHINGTON - President Bush and his aides, explaining their reasons for sending more American troops to Iraq, are offering an incomplete, oversimplified and possibly untrue version of events there that raises new questions about the accuracy of the administration's statements about Iraq.

President Bush unveiled the new version on Wednesday during his nationally televised speech announcing his new Iraq policy.

"When I addressed you just over a year ago, nearly 12 million Iraqis had cast their ballots for a unified and democratic nation," he said. "We thought that these elections would bring Iraqis together - and that as we trained Iraqi security forces, we could accomplish our mission with fewer American troops.

"But in 2006, the opposite happened. The violence in Iraq - particularly in Baghdad - overwhelmed the political gains Iraqis had made. Al-Qaida terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's election posed for their cause. And they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis.

"They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam - the Golden Mosque of Samarra - in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shia population to retaliate," Bush said. "Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today."

That version of events helps to justify Bush's "new way forward" in Iraq, in which U.S. forces will largely target Sunni insurgents and leave it to Iraq's U.S.-backed Shiite government to - perhaps - disarm its allies in Shiite militias and death squads.

But the president's account understates by at least 15 months when Shiite death squads began targeting Sunni politicians and clerics. It also ignores the role that Iranian-backed Shiite groups had in death squad activities prior to the Samarra bombing.

Blaming the start of sectarian violence in Iraq on the Golden Dome bombing risks policy errors because it underestimates the depth of sectarian hatred in Iraq and overlooks the conflict's root causes. The Bush account also fails to acknowledge that Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite groups stoked the conflict.

President Bush met at the White House in November with the head of one of those groups: Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. SCIRI's Badr Organization militia is widely reported to have infiltrated Iraq's security forces and to be involved in death squad activities.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recited Bush's history of events on Thursday in fending off angry questioning from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., about why Rice had offered optimistic testimony about Iraq during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in October 2005.

"The president has talked repeatedly now about the changed circumstances that we faced after the Samarra bombing of February `06, because that bombing did in fact change the character of the conflict in Iraq," Rice said. "Before that, we were fighting al-Qaida; before that, we were fighting some insurgents, some Saddamists."

She cited the version again in an appearance later that day before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "This is a direct result of al-Qaida activity," she said, asking House members not to consider Iraq's sectarian violence as evidence that Iraqis cannot live together.

Bush's national security adviser Stephen Hadley used the same version of events in an appearance Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Much like the administration's pre-war claims about Saddam's alleged ties to al-Qaida and purported nuclear weapons program, the claims about the bombing of the Shiite mosque in Samarra ignore inconvenient facts and highlight questionable but politically useful assumptions....

Why is Rice still the Secretary of State?

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