NDN Blog

Missed this morning's roundup

Sorry friends.  Will have a real good one tomorrow.  

And did not get picked for jury duty.   While I've enjoyed my past service on a jury, the timing on this one was not so good with our upcoming NPI event this week, and lots of other things going on. 

More tomorrow. 

Monday morning roundup

Am blogging here from the Courts in DC, as I wait to see if I get to serve on a jury trial.

Didnt get to do my normal scan of the news today, but the most interesting pieces I found came from the Times, and report on the growing regional fear in the Middle East of Iran and its Shiite allies. From the first piece:

"With the battle between Israel and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah raging, key Arab governments have taken the rare step of blaming Hezbollah, underscoring in part their growing fear of influence by the group’s main sponsor, Iran. Saudi Arabia, with Jordan, Egypt and several Persian Gulf states, chastised Hezbollah for “unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts” at an emergency Arab League summit meeting in Cairo on Saturday."

From the second piece: "As sectarian violence soars, many Sunni Arab political and religious leaders once staunchly opposed to the American presence here are now saying they need American troops to protect them from the rampages of Shiite militias and Shiite-run government forces.

The pleas from the Sunni Arab leaders have been growing in intensity since an eruption of sectarian bloodletting in February, but they have reached a new pitch in recent days as Shiite militiamen have brazenly shot dead groups of Sunni civilians in broad daylight in Baghdad and other mixed areas of central Iraq."

While there is much to be debated about American foreign policy these days, there is growing global concern about the rise of Iran, the main sponsors of Hezbollah. I offered some additional thoughts on Iran on Saturday.

 

Sunday Roundup

We've written a great deal about the Middle East these past few days, so today's focus is on other news today:  

The Post's lede editorial today begins with this remarkable graph: "The world last week seemed almost to be spinning out of control. From Lebanon to North Korea to Darfur, from Baghdad to Bombay, the news was frightening or depressing or both. Hundreds of innocent people died. Oil prices soared, stock prices fell. It's been some time since global affairs seemed so bleak."  They then raise the vital question - is the world spinning out of control because of the weakness of the Administration, or despite it?  The answer to this question is one of the most important ones of our time. 

Thinkprogress captures the well-reported exchange between Bush and Putin, where, at a low moment for our country, the Russian autocrat bests an American President in a discussion of the meaning of democracy. 

The Post reports how worried GOP leaders are that the immigration debate could do long term damage to their Party.  NDN agrees that they should be worried.

The Times previews this week's Senate stemcell debate. 

On the subject of Presidential power, talkingpointsmemo offers an interesting take on what happened this week with FISA and Arlen Specter.  Glenn Greenwald, author of How Would a Patriot Act? has had a series of thoughtful posts on the subject this week. And in a related editorial, the Times weighs in hard:

"It is only now, nearly five years after Sept. 11, that the full picture of the Bush administration’s response to the terror attacks is becoming clear. Much of it, we can see now, had far less to do with fighting Osama bin Laden than with expanding presidential power.

Over and over again, the same pattern emerges: Given a choice between following the rules or carving out some unprecedented executive power, the White House always shrugged off the legal constraints. Even when the only challenge was to get required approval from an ever-cooperative Congress, the president and his staff preferred to go it alone. While no one questions the determination of the White House to fight terrorism, the methods this administration has used to do it have been shaped by another, perverse determination: never to consult, never to ask and always to fight against any constraint on the executive branch.

One result has been a frayed democratic fabric in a country founded on a constitutional system of checks and balances. Another has been a less effective war on terror."

And finally, the Times Magazine has a piece that I've haven't read yet - but will tonight - on the possible return of nuclear power

Saturday Morning Reflections

I will do more of a news roundup tomorrow, but today wanted to reflect upon the rising violence in the Middle East.   Here we go:

Iran is a big problem - At the heart of Israel's actions this week is a needed and important challenge of the efforts of Iran to become a regional hegemon.  Iran is a significant funder of both Hezbollah and Hamas; they are developing nuclear weapons against the objections of the world; they have a new powerful beachhead in Iraq; their current leader is perhaps, should we say, "unstable:" with oil revenues surging, they have the money to project greater power; and I believe they have, along with the Russians, decided to create instability in the Middle East to drive up the price of oil to both weaken the West and reinforce their power. 

Iran should be viewed as a classic regional aggressor, acting outside the norms of the International Community.  As we are tied down in Iraq, and with reduced money, international credibility and troops, America is at this moment ill-equipped to lead a multi-year effort to contain Iran's ambitions.  Israel sees all this, and is taking aggressive action to begin challenging Iran before they grow too powerful, knowing that the America and the world at this point are unlikely to be effective at checking the dangerous rise of Iran. 

The high cost of oil is creating global instability - While much has been made of the environmental impact of our dependence on fossil fuels, it is time to begin a public conversation about the security challenges it poses.  Several oil states - Russia, Iran, Venezuela - buoyed by high oil prices, are becoming exporters of instability.  As the providers of something all growing nations are deeply dependent on, they literally have the world over a barrel.  Challenge Russia as the Europeans wanted to, and Putin threatens to cut off natural gas supplies.   Bush goes to Russia for the G-8, and is muted in his criticism of the growing authoritarianism of Putin and his team. 

Remember that when Hamas was elected Russia joined Iran as one of first nations to provide monthly aid.  Hamas's leadership visited Russia in their first trip outside the Middle East.  There is clear evidence of a growing deep and strategic relationship between Russia and Iran.  The provocative acts by Hamas and Hezbollah came at a time when Israel and the moderates in the Palestinian government were making progress on talks to have Israel pull out of the West Bank as it did in Gaza, a core plank of Olmert's recent campaign.  

The provocative acts by Hamas and Hezbollah appeared strategic and coordinated, designed to create instability and possibly regional war.  But who would want this? Certainly not the Palestinian or Lebanese governments, as they were benefiting from the recent peace.  Not the Saudis or Jordanians.  It sure makes sense to believe these actions were encouraged by Iran.  Both Hamas and Hezbollah are enemies of Israel, are bankrolled by Iran, and the actions themselves seemed more designed to create instability then to achieve a concrete outcome - and who benefits from instability in the Middle East?  Those who own the oil - Iran, Russia - and those who have a vested interest in fostering instability in the region. 

The question facing our government, great friends of the US oil industry, is do they believe the high cost of oil to be a problem for America? Sure doesn't seem that way by their actions.  And fundamentally, if we cannot accept as a nation that our dependence on fossil fuels is becomg a one of our greatest societal and security threats, then our government is no longer serving the interests of the American people.   

Friday Morning Roundup

Lots in the news today about the growing regional conflict in the Middle East.  Michael Young, writing in the Times, suggests: ISRAEL’S incursion into Lebanon after the kidnapping on Wednesday of two Israeli soldiers by the militant group Hezbollah is far more than another flare-up on a tense border. It must also be seen as a spinoff of a general counterattack against American and Israeli power in the region by Iran and Syria, operating through sub-state actors like Hezbollah and the Palestinian organization Hamas."

The Washington Post's editorial page writes: "WHEN ISRAEL withdrew its troops from southern Lebanon in 2000 after more than two decades of occupation, it also issued a warning: Any cross-border provocations by Hezbollah, the militant Shiite group, would elicit a severe military response. So there can be no surprise at the violent reaction to Hezbollah's ambush of an Israeli patrol Wednesday, in which three soldiers were killed and two others taken captive by the guerrillas. And there can be no doubt that Iran and Syria, Hezbollah's chief sponsors, bear responsibility for what has instantly become the most far-reaching, lethal and dangerous eruption of cross-border fighting in the Middle East in recent years."

And EJ Dionne correctly points out that the whole Bush strategy in the Middle East, here described as the Big Bang theory, has failed: "But when the Big Bang (invasion of Iraq)happened, the wreckage left behind took the form of reduced American influence, American armed forces stretched to their limit and a Middle East more dangerously unstable than it was at the beginning of 2003. Whether one ascribes these troubles to the flawed implementation of the Big Bang Theory or to the theory itself, what matters now is how to limit and, if possible, undo some of the damage."

As I wrote a few days ago, the Bush era foreign policy has failed.  The escalation in the Middle East, shines a light on what has been perhaps our greatest failure, our strategy to bring democracy and stability to the Middle East.   

But this is a familiar theme these days.  Katrina showed our Homeland Security strategy has failed; declining wages, rising health care cost, energy, college tuition and interest costs, coupled with the largest deficits in history has shown that our economic strategy has failed; a core piece of our strategy on how to fight the war on terror has been repudiated by the Supreme Court, and now in degrees by the Administration. 

In talking to many friends over the past two days, it is clear that people are worried by what is happening in the Middle East, but more worried that there is so little we as American can do about it.  Our extraordinary failure in Iraq has shaken our faith, and I would add the faith of the world, in America's ability to tackle difficult international challenges.  It feels very much like we need a new leadership team, a new strategy and a new direction at what is a very critical time for the nation.  But how is that to happen?

Thursday Morning Roundup

Short one today, am traveling.  

- The move by the Democrats to make raising the minimum wage a major issue in the campaign is a good one.   As we've discussed in our globalization initiative, the average family is making $1,400 less today than five years ago.  Costs like health care, college tuition, energy and interest payments have risen.  It is has become much harder to make it in today economy.  Faced with this, what is the governing party looking to do? Eliminate the estate tax for the very wealthiest Americans, and give themselves a pay increase. 

This let them eat cake strategy of the governing party is unacceptable, and has left a vast opening for the Democrats.  We clearly need to do more than raise the minimum wage, but this is a very good and important start.  It says to those Americans struggling to get by that we know of your struggles and are working to make it better.  

- The Times has an important piece showing how much Iran is behing the recent military actions against Israel.   The Post previews the G-8, and the troubles following Bush there.  Most papers today have stories about the Russians waning committment to democracy at home. 

- USA Today has a front page piece on the efforts to mobilize Hispanics in response to the current immigration debate.  It features El Cucuy, a powerful California based DJ at the very center of the education and mobilization effort.  In our spring immigration radio campaign, NDN advertized extensively on Cucuy, and another vital DJ, El Piolin.  In a related story, the Post had a must read piece about the rise of Spanish-language radio, now the 3rd most listened to radio format in America.    

Wednesday Morning Roundup

The headlines from today’s paper are not reassuring: terror in Mumbai, Baghdad boils, the Israeli incursion into Gaza continues, and spreads into Lebanon, Russian secret police publically arrest dissenters during an international conference about democracy, election troubles continue in Ukraine and Mexico.

Add to all this the troubling developments of the last few months – the Supreme Court’s challenge to much of the legal theory behind Bush’s war on terror, the growing belligerence of Iran and North Korea, the election success of Hamas, rising anti-Americanism in Latin America, the collapse of the Doha round of trade talks – and it is clear that American foreign policy – whatever today’s rationale is for it - is not achieving what we need it to. 

Josh Marshall at Talkingpointsmemo has had a series of thoughtful posts this week about the utter failures of Bush.  As he wrote last night: “Put simply, do we not detect a pattern in which the foreign policy neoconservatives strike out boldly on some foreign policy adventure, flop right down on their faces and then present the cause of their undoing as a novel insight wrestled from the maw of history when in fact, to everyone else except for them, this 'insight' was completely obvious and predictable from the start?"

Yesterday EJ Dionne had what I believe was a polite column, suggesting that the debate over the Bush era will be a challenging and difficult one for the 2008 Republican Presidential candidates.  He’s right.  The failure of the modern conservatives to do the basics – keeping the world safe and secure, fostering broad-based prosperity, paying our bills, resisting corruption – has been astonishing.  At a very simple level they’ve just blown it, big time, and a lot of what we have to do now in America is set a new course while cleaning up the mess they’ve left.   Bush’s recent admission that bringing the troops home from Iraq would be something left to his successor was in its own way an admission of failure, a throwing up of his hands, a nod to that they given it their best shot and had failed.

Our view here is that the monumental failure of conservative government is the most important political and intellectual story of our time, one with profound consequences for America and our future, and is something we as progressives must put front and center in the fall elections and beyond.   I reprint a portion of an essay we released hours before the State of the Union earlier this year (this essay and other ones on the topic of the conservative movement can be found at our Meeting the Conservative Challenge page):

“Tonight the President reports to the nation on the State of the Union. We will hear soaring rhetoric, powerful words, a President resolute and determined. We will hear of victories, progress, and pride. He will tell a compelling story – and very little of it will be true.  The truly compelling story of this decade is one that Bush doesn’t want told – the rapid and dramatic failure of conservative government.

Finally in a position of virtually unchecked power after decades in the political wilderness, modern conservatives have failed quickly and utterly at the most basic responsibilities of governing, leaving our nation weaker and our people less prosperous, less safe and less free.  Seduced by the temptations of power, these movement ideologues also quickly came to believe that the rules of our democracy did not apply to them. The result is one of the farthest-reaching episodes of corruption and criminal investigations into a governing party in our history.

To fully appreciate the State of the Union, we need a deep understanding of the conservative movement and its rise to power. Jumpstarted a little more than fifty years ago by William F. Buckley’s National Review, the conservatives began their long march to power by investing billions of dollars in a modern infrastructure to combat the entrenched position of progressives in government. They used this infrastructure – think tanks, for-profit media, superior and innovative forms of electioneering – to defeat an aging progressive movement, and now have more power than at any time since the 1920s.

In recent years America has learned what life is like under a true conservative government. With near absolute power, conservatives have pursued their agenda with little compromise or input from progressives. The latest chapter of the great conservative story – the Bush years – may have been one of political victories, but it has also been one of disastrous governance. The broad and deep failures of the Bush government should cause all Americans to reappraise the virtue of this grand conservative experiment, recognizing that even after 50 years and untold billions of dollars, they have yet to come up with a true alternative to 20th century progressive government -- which did so much good, for so long.”

I hope the NDN can make getting this conversation into the public debate one of our highest priorities for the remainder of the year. 

Tuesday Morning Roundup

This one is a little longer than usual, as we have a few good ones left over from the weekend.   

The Times starts the day with an editorial questioning the President’s economic cheerleading, reminding us that deficits are still way too high and the governing Party has little so say about the central economic issue of the day, the decline in wages for most Americans. 

Ratings are in for the World Cup, and they exceeded everyone’s expectations.  Even though Spanish speakers are somewhere between 5-7 percent of the overall population, Univision scored at a third of all the Sunday’s final viewers.  The extraordinary performance of Univision throughout the Cup validates the strategic intent of the NDN Political Fund’s 5 month long "mas que un partido" campaign to speak to Hispanics using the powerful metaphor of soccer.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, a close Bush ally, says in a letter to the President that some of the domestic spying by the Administration may have been “illegal;” Talkingpointsmemo has two worth reading: first a reprise of a post from the New Republic blog about the growing sectarian violence in Iraq; second, a compelling entry about an LA Times piece about the utter failure of the Iraqi police.

Gary Kasparov challenges the West to stop coddling the increasingly autocratic Russians; the Post’s Sebastian Mallaby has another in a series of thoughtful op-eds, this one challenging the notion there is little to do to stop global climate change; and as we battle over immigration, a thoughtful NY Times op-ed reminds us that the first permanent settlements of what is now the United States were Spanish.

Appropriately a judge finds the seizure of documents from a Member of Congress’ office legal; the McCain led takedown of Grover Norquist continues, as assertions of his corruption change a conservative movement leader’s reach; a LA Times education blogger discovers the $100 laptop, a device that could change education as we know it.  If Democrats are looking for big ideas I think putting “a laptop on every desk” of every child would be a very 21st century update of a “chicken in every pot.”

And in New York magazine this week, John Heilemann discusses the rise of Kos and the battle over Lieberman.  Features a few quotes from an NDNer. 

Let us know if we missed anything. 

  

Ruth Marcus on the Lieberman race

I've already weighed in heavily over the past few days on the Lieberman race, so I won't be commenting that much more on it other than to comment on the commentary itself.  So much of what has been written about this race has been inaccurate.  An exception was a piece Ruth Marcus had in the Post today.  

In the piece she hits both sides with inconvenient truths.  For the Lieberman world, she makes it clear that the opposition and concern she felt while in Connecticut was something Connecticut voters themselves feel, not something cooked up by outside bloggers or Lamont.  

The Lieberman campaign seems still to be struggling to figure out exactly what happened up there.  But the math is pretty simple.  A third of the country opposed the Iraq war when it happened in 2003.  That means that perhaps as much as half of all Connecticut voters opposed the war when it happened; and this certainly means that more than half of all Democratic primary voters opposed the war three years ago.  And things have dramatically worsened since then. 

For the last three years Senator Lieberman has made his steadfast support of our troubled occupation perhaps his signature issue.  He just wasn't that he stood by the President.  He criticized other Democrats who did not share his view.  

So, he firmly identifies himself as a national spokesman on perhaps the most salient issue of the day; his position is deeply unpopular at home with all voters, particularly Democrats; rather than acknowledging the concerns of voters, and working to accomodate them somehow, he begins his campaign with an ad saying that we will have to agree to disagree on this one; and then gets insulted and angry that people aren't looking beyond this one issue to the totality of his career. 

But don't candidates lose all the time for being on the wrong side of a single, powerful issue?Don't people lose over voting for a tax increase, being anti-choice, even for just being a Democrat? Isn't this part of the game? And aren't all elections about the what you will do for the voters, not what you've done? Ask Winston Churchill, or Al Gore Sr. 

The righteous indignation of Senator Lieberman on the ability of Democrats to challenge him for his public stance on the war is a little much to take.  On this issue, whether he is right or not (and that certainly is not clear), he is wildly out of touch with his constituency back home.  But in her piece today Marcus also points out that the national community of internet activists, bloggers and moveon seemed to have become overly obsessed by this race, and that I agree with.  With so many critical races around the country for Senate, House, Governor and beyond, why is the one battle, over a safe seat, so important?  Much has been written about why the amount of energy put into defeating Lieberman has been worth it.  I think most of it is unconvincing. 

I agree that the way Lieberman scolded his fellow Democrats over the Iraq war, and then last week started collecting signatures for an independent run, have been two extraordinary mistakes - big enough mistakes to prevent him returning to as a Senator.   But given the limited resources we has as a movement, I also believe the amount of national effort going to be oust him is also an unfortunate occurrence.  I wish the passion, the energy, the time, the effort going to oust Joe had been directed in many other places.   But we are way beyond that now. 

It's Italy!

And I was right this am.  Zidane's name is more famous, or perhaps infamous, than ever. 

Hats off to the Italians for overcoming a great deal, and playing a great tournament. 

Your reax to the World Cup?

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