NDN Blog

U.S. broadcast efforts in Cuba worth the cost?

The Chicago Tribune offers a comprehensive profile of Radio and TV Martí, broadcasts directed to Cuba which have been funded and supported strategically by the United States. Speaking about the effectiveness of these programs, and the management over them by the Office of Cuba Broadcasting is Joe Garcia, Director of NDN's Hispanic Strategy Center:

But in addition to buying talent, passing out contracts also mutes community discussion of frequent criticism of OCB by outsiders, such as government watchdogs or members of Congress, said Joe Garcia, a former executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation, a leading anti-Castro exile lobbying group.

"If you're a Cuban-American journalist, there are no other markets to be in. It's a very limited market and they're a big employer in it. That's why people don't criticize it," said Garcia, now senior vice president of the New Democratic Network, a group of centrist Democrats.

Garcia said he strongly supports government broadcasting to Cuba, but believes that Radio and TV Marti have been mismanaged under Republican and Democratic administrations.

In October, NDN conducted the first major poll of the Cuban exile community. It revealed that 88% think that Castro will not return to power, while half of those polled expect democracy and liberation of Cuba within the next 5 years. More than three quarters want a peaceful and gradual transition. To view it, click here.

Joint Chiefs No on the "Surge"

The nation's military leaders reject the McCain strategy, and advocate a new mission for the troops in the Middle East. 

At some point the media is going to start writing about how McCain's stance on Iraq means big trouble for him in 2008.  He has been the staunchest defender of what has been arguably the greatest foreign policy disaster in American history, and an issue that helped sweep the Republicans from office in 2006. 

Tim Johnson

Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.  Like many, we wish him a speedy and successful recovery.

Vilsack uses the internet to listen

A large focus of Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack's interactive campaign website is his online listening tour. As a push to meet new supporters and listen to their comments, the tour features profiles of Gov. Vilsack on popular sites like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Party Builder, and on blogs like DailyKos and MyDD. You can "join the tour" by clicking here.

Gov. Vilsack introduces this "conversation" he hopes to have with folks across the nation via video blog, which will be his way of answering questions people leave on his site. (Check out his introductory video blog on his YouTube page here.)

Vali Nasr on Iran in the New Republic

A new favorite of mine, Vali Nasr, has a good piece in the New Republic this week.  An excerpt:

OOver the past three years, and with mounting alarm, Iran has steadily held Washington's gaze, gaining ever more notoriety as one of the most serious foreign policy challenges confronting the United States. An Islamist regime that was being written off on the eve of the second Gulf war is now asserting itself on the world stage and shows no sign of being subdued. Iran sees itself as a great power, and it is pursuing the nuclear capability that would confirm this self-image. It believes that it can play a global role and expects to be treated as a peer by the United States. Washington was certainly caught off guard by the surge in Iranian influence, and more so by the confident and provocative attitude that the country's hard-line leadership has lately put on display. As Iran has become more important to the United States, so has the problem of dealing with the Iranian question become the bugbear of the Bush administration. America's Iraq policy is becoming more and more overshadowed by America's Iran policy, whatever that is. The Bush administration has staked a very great deal on Iraq, but in the end it may be the administration's handling of Iran, more than of North Korea or even of Al Qaeda, that defines the Bush era in foreign policy.

First Draft of a National Health Care Plan – In California

This falls in the theme I have put out here before about California being the incubator of a progressive future. The State Senate’s top Democrat, and probably the second most powerful elected official in the state, announced a comprehensive plan to make sure all workers in the state have health insurance in the next few years. That’s 6.6 million uninsured, at an annual cost of about $7 billion.

Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said it was “fantastic” that the majority Democrats that control both legislative houses wanted to join him in overhauling health care. He’s been devising his own plan to really take the problem on first thing in the next session.

So now you have the progressive Democrats who control both houses putting concrete, comprehensive proposals on modernizing health care to the front of the debate. And you have the lone powerful Republican in the state, Arnold, trying to outdo them. I have argued elsewhere that Arnold can best be seen as a new kind of Republican that we have not seen for a long time, a progressive Republican. He’s making the early moves of what a progressive Republican will look like in the 21st century.

This could all be taken as idle talk if there had not been tremendous strides taken last session around a progressive agenda that really started to take on the  true challenges of the 21st century. The San Francisco Chronicle story of today put it this way:

Last year, Schwarzenegger and Democrats worked together on landmark  legislation to restrict greenhouse gases, raise the minimum wage and provide discounts on prescription drugs. If they can work together as well on changes in health care law, some believe the product could serve as a national model.

I’m one of those who thinks that California should be viewed as a model of what happens when progressives do take control of government in the early 21st century. With Arnold’s recent progressive shift, the whole state is controlled by progressives who are increasingly getting emboldened. They’re just really starting to catalyze the full agenda, and there are many missing parts. Plus their efforts are far from perfect and many things about California politics should not necessarily be emulated.

That said, there’s no better place to look to when we think about how, on a national stage, a Democratic progressive Congress might work with a new (progressive?) president to solve the real challenges of our times.

Peter Leyden

When the Outgoing Republican Congress Hands you Lemons...

...your best option is to make lemonade.  And that is just what Congressional Democrats are poised to do. 

I've been a frequent critic of the historically underwhelming work of the 109th Congress, particularly its failure to pass the basic spending bills that keep the Government running.  But rather than taking time to re-craft the nine unfinished spending bills, worth almost $500 billion dollars, further delaying action on the initiatives Democrats ran on, Appropriations Committee Chiefs Rep. David Obey and Senator Robert Byrd have come up with a much better idea.  Obey and Bird propose passing continuing resolutions for all nine bills, funding them at current levels through the 2007 fiscal year, and at the same time eliminating all federal earmarks

That's right, the pork projects which gave us the Abramoff and a dozen other still evolving scandals are going to take a one year hiatus.  And this proposal came from the king of earmarks himself, Senator Robert Byrd.  This isn't a permanent move, as much as a recognition that after the rampant appropriations corruption under the Republicans, the process needs a breath of fresh air.  Maybe that's why Byrd is willing to forgo $11 million for WV's Marshall University, as part of a total of $17 billion in savings.

I wonder if there are any outgoing Republicans scratching their heads right now and going, "I guess fiscal responsibility isn't all the tricky after all."

No Way Out

The postponing of the Administration's new plan for Iraq until next year makes it clear the Administration no longer has any idea what to do in the Middle East, and that their inability to let go of a discredited and failed strategy in Iraq is endangering our national security and driving the Middle East to further chaos.

At the core of the Administation's ideological struggle is their inability to admit there is no longer a way to solve the problems of the Middle East through war and military means. Everywhere one turns there is mounting evidence that one of the core recommendations of the ISG Report - a massive diplomatic effort to restore political and economic stability to the region - is an essential part of any future strategy, but that of course would mean the Administration would have to acknowledge the limits of the military path.

Lets review the dead-ends we keep hitting: The Saudis again warned that the region was about to descend into a Sunni-Shiite war. The Administation's idea of a "Shiite tilt," would certainly accelerate this regional war, and would of course strengthen the region's Shiites, including Iran and Hezbollah, no friends of America. The Iraqi PM this week announced that a significant increase in American advisors to the Iraqi police and military - an idea central to virtually every American plan for Iraq - was a non-starter. Gruesome killings and bombings continued this week. And things have become so bad that the Pentagon leaked a plan it is hatching to restart government run factories in Iraq to help tackle the 70% unemployment rate...so we have come to the point where our most conservative government in over a century is resorting to a Soviet-inspired public jobs program to bolster their prospects in Iraq.

So what is the one idea that seems to be gaining currency in the White House? More troops. But to do what? Crush the Sunni-led insurgency in the center and north? Disarm the Shiite militias, supported by Iran and a critical part of the current coalition government? Attack the growing Al Qaeda presence in Anbar? While important, it is certainly not a critical step to restoring stability to the country. How can 20,000 additional troops solve the political and economic challenges underlying the current descent of Iraq, and solve the problems we've been unable to solve these past 3 1/2 years?

As the Inspector General of the Iraq Reconstruction said this week: "The solution in Iraq is not primarily a military one. It is primarily an economic and political solution."

Until the Administation comes to terms with this essential reality, there is no way forward, and no way out, of our current terrible troubles in the Middle East. And as the ISG Report made plain, the current path leads to a diminshed America, a regional Sunni-Shite war, a renewed Al Qaeda in the heart of the Middle East and oil soaring to new and dangerous levels.

The Problem is Not Lack of Ideas

The Sunday New York Times magazine ran its 6th annual Year In ideas edition, which is the full magazine devoted to some of the most intriguing ideas to surface in the United States in the last year. Of course, the list is not comprehensive, and rather idiosyncratic. But what it does show each year is how fertile the intellectual terrain is out there in America.

This insight is not inconsequential for politics right now. Some of the frequent laments you hear is that no one in politics knows how to solve all these problems we face, or the Democrats have no agenda, or where are the big ideas? This is more a function of the state of Washington politics rather that the actual dearth of new ideas, or big ideas, or big solutions out there. Ideas and solutions are out there, they just haven’t permeated our political world yet. So the big progressive political ideas are to raise the minimum wage, or save social security – ideas that were innovative in the middle of last century. That’s not to say that we don’t raise the minimum wage, but we need to throw the net wider on possible solutions to the economic challenges of our time.

That’s where the Times edition is refreshing. It is not about  politics, though it  does have some applicable political entries, like “The Myth of the Southern Strategy,” or “The New Inequality.” But it shows how irrepressible American brains are as they try to figure out the 21st century, improve our lives, and reengineer the system to work better over time.

The good news is that the people-powered politics that is emerging is tapping into that same resource for politics. We’re starting to feel the effects too.

Peter Leyden

Winter Edition of the Democracy Journal

Democracy Journal is a new publication, but it is already a heavy-hitter in the progressive ideas business.  Founded by two of NDN's good friends Andrei Cherny and Ken Baer, this quarter's edition includes:

Peter Bergen and Michael Lind taking on the conventional wisdom on what makes someone a terrorist; a similarly iconoclastic piece by Aaron Chatterji and Siona Listokin on the problems with the corporate social responsibility movement; Jeff Faux's critical look at the development of the global economy; Erwin Chemerinsky on the problem with sweeping judicial theories; Kevin Mattson on what we lose when historians disengage from public life; a group of essays on American foreign policy by Joshua Kurlantzick, Gayle Smith, and Suzanne Nossel; and much more.

We'll have more on Democracy Journal later this week, but for now, visit their site to read articles, learn more about the publication and become a subscriber. 

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