Friday, August 29, 2008

Obama's Speech and Sarah Palin

Did you watch Obama’s acceptance speech before 75,000 in Denver last night? 38 million Americans watched. The suggestion that John McCain’s surprise announcement of Sarah Palin as his running mate was timed to distract the public from the impact of Obama’s speech is doubtless true. I’ll get to his choice below. But first Obama’s speech: there was much in it that McCain wanted people to forget before they had a chance to absorb. What did you think about it?

I was deeply moved and encouraged about Obama’s prospects in November. He did the
two things he had to do in this speech: he laid out his vision for the country in the specific measures he would set himself to accomplish as president, and he demonstrated that he can put John McCain on the defensive.

The criticism that Obama talks about “change” without saying what he means was never true, but it will be a charge even more difficult to level after last night’s speech in which he spoke about it in as direct and simple a manner as I have heard from him. From the economy to the wars with education, health care, and the environment in between, the specifics of his agenda were there, all set the context of what those issues mean for the non-wealthy.

He took the fight to McCain. On McCain’s record he
John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.
On the economy, he said
Now, I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans; I just think he doesn't know.

For over two decades -- for over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy: Give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else.
His critique of McCain’s judgment was sharpest on what McCain claims is his greatest strength—
national security.
If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament and judgment to serve as the next commander-in-chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have...

You don’t defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq. You don’t protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can’t truly stand up for Georgia when you’ve strained our oldest alliances. If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice, but that is not the change that America needs.
In one of the most compelling elements of the speech, Obama pledged not to say that McCain takes his positions for political purposes—a frequently used tactic of McCain against Obama.
But what I will not do is suggest that the senator takes his positions for political purposes, because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and each other's patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain.

The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and independents, but they have fought together, and bled together, and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a red America or a blue America; they have served the United States of America.

So I've got news for you, John McCain: We all put our country first.

What of Sarah Palin’s selection as McCain’s running mate? She’s popular as governor in Alaska and, at least until a month ago, has enjoyed an unblemished reputation as a reformer. That’s no mean achievement in a state now known more for the corruption of its officials than its spectacular scenery. A month ago, however, Palin was accused of abusing her authority in firing the state’s public safety commissioner over his reluctance to fire a state trooper who was involved in a messy divorce and child-custody battle with Palin’s sister. In July, the state Legislative Council, a bi-partisan group that tends to legislative matters between sessions, voted to spend $100,000 on an outside investigation of the case. Palin has said she would cooperate. When this came to light at the end of July, the speculation about Palin’s long-shot chances to be picked as McCain’s running mate died. That “death,” it turns out, was premature.

Palin’s presence on the Republican ticket is widely assumed to be to attract unhappy supporters of Hillary Clinton and other women. She will probably gain some supporters because of being a woman, although the first woman I spoke to about it today said it was a cynical ploy to get women voters and that most women would see how Palin is being used.

The Alaska governor also has liabilities. Until 20 months ago she was mayor of a town of 6,500 people forty miles north of Anchorage. She had little statewide experience and has no national experience. In 2007 she was interviewed by the Alaska Business Monthly and asked about the
war in Iraq

Alaska Business Monthly: We've lost a lot of Alaska's military members to the war in Iraq. How do you feel about sending more troops into battle, as President Bush is suggesting?

Palin: I've been so focused on state government, I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq. I heard on the news about the new deployments, and while I support our president, Condoleezza Rice and the administration, I want to know that we have an exit plan in place; I want assurances that we are doing all we can to keep our troops safe. Every life lost is such a tragedy.

Palin is strongly opposed to pro-choice and an advocate of teaching “Creationism” in schools, both positions that bring cheer to the hearts of many right wing Republicans. The reaction to her selection by her Republican colleagues in Alaska was mixed.

One of the key consequences of her selection is that it removes the teeth from McCain’s main attack theme against Obama: his lack of experience.

What did you think of Obama’s speech last night? And what do you think about Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Time for Un Cambio!

Seventy-five year old Inocencia Coto in South Florida who has always supported Republican candidates in a district of predominantly Cuban Americans who usually vote 90% Republican in national elections won’t be supporting the Republican in her district this year. She’s actively working for the Democratic challenger, Raul Martinez, who is within four percentage points of eight term Republican incumbent, Mario Diaz-Balart.

Coto and many of her friends say the same thing.
"The cost of living, the war, health insurance--too many things are getting out of hand," says Coto, fixing a yellow flower in her hair as Martinez tours the center. "It's time for un cambio--a change."
I have a love/hate with Bill Clinton, as I suspect many of you also have. He fought to a standoff the right wing of the Republican Party that would have gutted laws protecting workers, environmental protection, endangered species, and more. When I think about what kind of a president he could have been had he been able to keep his pants zipped, I get angry all over again.

That said, in his speech to the convention last night, I think he made one of the best and cases for why we dare not elect John McCain.
Bill Clinton was respectful, succinct and used precisely the tone that I believe will appeal to undecided voters:
“The Republicans will nominate a good man who served our country heroically and suffered terribly in Vietnam,” he said. “He loves our country every bit as much as we all do. As a senator, he has shown his independence on several issues. But on the two great questions of this election, how to rebuild the American Dream and how to restore America’s leadership in the world, he still embraces the extreme philosophy which has defined his party for more than 25 years.”

“They actually want us to reward them for the last eight years by giving them four more,” he said. “Let’s send them a message that will echo from the Rockies all across America: Thanks, but no thanks.”
Clinton underscored a point that is often missed. This year, more than any other, “party” matters. The reason it is more important this year is that more Republicans and Independents recognize its importance and the bankruptcy of the Republican Party. It is not just John McCain who is running for the presidency; it is the Republican Party. I cannot bring myself to believe that the electorate will opt for four more years of the last eight. Life-long Republican Inocencia Coto gives me hope. “It’s time for un cambio.”

I’m looking forward to Obama’s acceptance speech at the stadium tonight. Hope you will be watching it too!
- Milo

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What Did You See in Beijing?

The Beijing Olympics ended as a global public relations success. Everyone who watched filtered what they saw and heard through the prisms of their own experiences. From my experiences here in the United States and from my years in Taiwan I couldn’t help but watch with a cautious eye.

China went all out on the Olympics. The decision to award the games to China was made seven years ago, two months before 9/11.
Thomas Friedman talks about how China used those seven years:
China did not build the magnificent $43 billion infrastructure for these games, or put on the unparalleled opening and closing ceremonies, simply by the dumb luck of discovering oil. No, it was the culmination of seven years of national investment, planning, concentrated state power, national mobilization and hard work.
I don’t know if the Chinese actually succeeded in altering the weather for the games but they tried. I can imagine that they were a source of pride for Chinese as the Chinese news media reported, except of course for those who were moved out of their homes to make way for the games, the farmers who didn’t get water for their crops so Beijing would have enough, and for the few protesters that wanted to protest in the area designated for them but were refused or arrested for asking. Those folks probably didn’t feel much of a swelling chest of pride. All in all, I thought the television coverage by NBC was pretty fair, acknowledging China’s achievements and recognizing some of its warts.

The games themselves had their own stories. It is natural that NBC would feature U.S. participation. I suppose other nations did the same. The Chinese won the most gold medals. An interview with a Chinese professor said it well, “The Chinese teams were the best that money can buy.” That’s also an old American trait isn’t it? Speaking of American traits, I wasn’t surprised by the attention NBC gave to women’s beach volleyball, but I was surprised by the Chinese contribution of scantily-clad cheerleaders to accompany those events. I guess they didn’t want attention focused exclusively on the athletic achievements in the sand. The Chinese really went all out!

Friedman lets his mind wander from what he saw in Beijing to the United States:
As I sat in my seat at the Bird’s Nest, watching thousands of Chinese dancers, drummers, singers and acrobats on stilts perform their magic at the closing ceremony, I couldn’t help but reflect on how China and America have spent the last seven years: China has been preparing for the Olympics; we’ve been preparing for Al Qaeda. They’ve been building better stadiums, subways, airports, roads and parks. And we’ve been building better metal detectors, armored Humvees and pilotless drones.
Comparing the investment the Chinese made in national infrastructure in the past seven years compared to what the United States has not done, Friedman wonders who is living is a Third World Country.
Yes, if you drive an hour out of Beijing, you meet the vast dirt-poor third world of China. But here’s what’s new: The rich parts of China, the modern parts of Beijing or Shanghai or Dalian, are now more state of the art than rich America. The buildings are architecturally more interesting, the wireless networks more sophisticated, the roads and trains more efficient and nicer. And, I repeat, they did not get all this by discovering oil. They got it by digging inside themselves.
China’s putting it all together in such grand style will make it difficult for London and others to follow when they have the games. It is easier to do when you have the centralized authoritarian government that China does. It is not just that they are Communist. China has in its long history a tradition of such governments.

Now that the Olympics are over, one wonders if life will be any different in China. Will the people who had to move be helped to find other housing? Will farmers now get water for their crops? What will happen to all those who were detained? Will infrastructure construction move from the cities to the countryside? What now of Tibet? What of Taiwan?

My years in Taiwan gave me pause at how continental Chinese have viewed the island historically and the justifiably suspicious way
Taiwanese have viewed them. The Chinese have over a thousand missiles pointed at Taiwan, while at the same time preparing to send planeloads of Chinese tourists beginning in September visiting to Taiwan on a regular basis.

Friedman is impressed, as I am, with China’s economic progress and how they did it on their own. I wonder if he is as impressed with Taiwan. Although only 23 million people on an island about the size of Maryland and Delaware combined, as compared to China’s 1.3 billion people. Taiwan ranks 24th among the world economies.
Taiwan’s GNI per capita is $17,230 (U.S.) compared to China’s $1,740. Taiwan has achieved this as it became a genuine democracy over the last twenty years.

Taiwan is the kind of success story one would think that the U.S. government would applaud. The island nation has for all practical purposes been independent for half a century, but China regards it as a rebel region that must be reunited with the mainland - by force if necessary. So, we don’t hear any stories about the incredible growth of the Taiwan economy and its democratic government.
Jerome Keating puts it this way:
It is now over sixty years since the end of World War II and Taiwan has created for itself a vibrant democracy. Ironically while the US State Department willingly celebrates the democracy of Georgia and its independence from Russia, on the other hand it officially states that Taiwan's status is still "undetermined." It won't even touch Taiwan's independence from China. Undetermined, that is the answer you get when US state officials are deeply pressed. More often than not however, they mouth the mantra of "we have a one-China policy." It is a policy whose actual meaning is fully understood by only a few. In practice, the majority acquiesce to China's interpretation of what "one China" means. The media, in the USA and in the world are party to this acquiescence; few have the integrity to challenge this utterance.
We do well to reflect on the China we’ve witnessed over the past few weeks. We would also do well to focus some attention on Taiwan. Don’t count on NBC or any of the other networks to do it for you.

- Milo

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Georgia, South Ossetia, Russia, US Crisis—Another Point of View

The question is: why would Georgia's president Saakashvili invade a sworn enemy, which has a Russian peace keeping force stationed there to defend Ossetia's autonomy? It would appear to be a suicide mission.

Likely reasons: Either Saakashvili was totally deluded, and/or he gambled that Russia would not stand behind their word to the Ossetians, and/or he believed that the U.S. would support him and Georgia in a war against S. Ossetia and possibly Russia.
These are the words of Sharon Tennison, friend of a good friend of mine. They have spent time together in Russia. My friend introduced me to Sharon’s website
“Russia: Other Points of View.” She is the founder and president of the Center for Citizen Initiatives, who explains her group this way:
We, the Center for Citizen Initiatives (CCI) began the first steps of our work as independent American investigative citizens who didn't expect to found an organization. We traveled to the USSR to meet the enemy face to face in 1983, to educate ourselves. The Cold War was in full force. The Korean airliner 007 has just been shot down by Soviet MIGs. Traveling around in the Soviet Union, we experienced a system that was deplorable, but a people who were obviously good human beings and actually more similar to ourselves than we ever would have expected. This began the saga of trying to comprehend the differences between the two mindsets, expectations, and values of the two superpowers.
On Wednesday after returning to the U.S. from Russia, Sharon posted, “The Georgia/South Ossetia/Russia/US Crisis.” I found it worth reading, a good reality check on what we are hearing from the Bush administration and from much of our press.

Undeniable Facts Regarding The Georgian/S. Ossetian/Russian Crisis:

* Georgia made an unprovoked military attack on S. Ossetia on August 7 - a fact which is virtually ignored by U.S. media - most reference it as the "invasion by Russia into Georgian territory." This tells us something. Why is the invading country not faulted? Bush/Rice have castigated Russia for a "disproportionate" response. Can you think of a response to any invasion which has been "proportionate"?

* Russia counter attacked on August 8 after 1400 civilians and Russian peace keepers were killed. The capital city was in shambles, with refugees streaming toward Russia to seek refuge.

* Since Georgia became a free state in 1991, S. Ossetia has had de facto independence and has operated as an autonomous area. The media reports as though these facts don't matter.

* Josef Stalin drew the dividing lines between the two Ossetian communities and placed half of the Ossetians in Georgia, and the other half in Russia. It made no sense. What need is there today to honor Stalin's whim about carving up ethnic groups.

* Ossetians are a totally different ethnic group, they are not Georgian. Many Ossetians are Russians - and many hold Russian passports.

* Ossetians despise and distrust Georgians and want nothing to do with them.

* The South Ossetians fought a vicious war with Georgia in 1991-93 after first Georgian President Gamsakhurdia, a rabid nationalist, stripped them of their autonomy and sent militia in to establish Georgian dominance. The Ossetians finally won and since then have governed themselves.

* Russia to date has insured their autonomy for which South Ossetians are grateful.

* Russia has kept a "peace force" in Ossetia for years which was originally approved by Georgia, the US and others, to keep peace in this micro-region where tempers flare frequently.

* Ossetia's autonomy was approved in 1993 by presidents Yeltsin and Shevardnadze, the then head of state of Georgia. Nothing about this fact has changed since.

* There has been continuous low-level sniping and firing between both Ossetian and Georgian villagers for decades.

* It would be impossible for Georgia to manage a successful takeover of the Ossetians. They would have to raze Ossetia to the ground to beat them into submission.

* U.S. and Israeli military have been stationed in Georgia, providing military hardware and training Georgians in battlefield tactics for some time now.

Despite US media coverage, this situation is not about a "big bad nation" (Russia) beating up on an "innocent little nation" (Georgia). Georgia initiated this all-out war, which they and US advisors could have predicted would turn ugly in a hurry.
Go to the website to see her narrative about the meaning of these facts. She will give you pause in the “news” we have been seeing and hearing. She doesn’t pretend it to be the only perspective on the matter. I assume that’s why they call their website, “Russia: Other Points of View.” I think she makes sense. What about you?

- Milo

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Who Is John McCain?

While we were all told growing up that anybody can become president, the reality is that most U.S. presidents have come from the upper class. Forbes says that John F. Kennedy and George Washington were among the superrich; only a couple, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, were born poor.

John McCain’s campaign has been doing its best to present Barack Obama as an elitist, out of touch with ordinary people. Since McCain made the charge, isn’t it fair to ask the same questions about him?

Washington and Kennedy were able to shed the blinders of their social class and wealth enough to see and act in the best interests of rich and poor. Kennedy
put it well:
The Republicans "talk about their prosperity, but it is a prosperity for some, not for all. And it is an abundance of goods, not of courage. We have the most gadgets and the most gimmicks in our history, the biggest TVs and tailfins, but we also have the worst slums, the most crowded schools, and the greatest erosion of our natural resources and our national will. It will be for some an age of material prosperity, but it is also an age of spiritual poverty." March 28, 1960
John McCain soars around the country in his wife’s personal jet presenting himself as a regular guy who can empathize with Americans facing an overwhelming economic crush. McCain is a multimillionaire who owns ten luxurious homes. Frank Rich has
argued well that McCain is “the candidate we still don’t know.”
What is widely known is the skin-deep, out-of-date McCain image. As this fairy tale has it, the hero who survived the Hanoi Hilton has stood up as rebelliously in Washington as he did to his Vietnamese captors. He strenuously opposed the execution of the Iraq war; he slammed the president’s response to Katrina; he fought the “agents of intolerance” of the religious right; he crusaded against the G.O.P. House leader Tom DeLay, the criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff and their coterie of influence-peddlers.

With the exception of McCain’s imprisonment in Vietnam, every aspect of this profile in courage is inaccurate or defunct.
Voters need to have a sense about whether McCain can shed the blinders of his wealth to see and act on behalf of our country’s money-strapped majority.

I received a note from Robert Greenwald about a new
short video he has directed titled, The McCain Mansions. The video juxtaposes McCain’s wealth and his policies against the reality of a woman about to lose her home. Take a look at it see if you think John McCain is the regular guy he presents himself to be.

McCain doesn’t compare himself to JFK. With some pride he says with regularity, “I am a Teddy Roosevelt Republican.” As Bob Herbert said in today’s New York Times

That’s about as elastic as the facts can get. In June, Mr. McCain (“We’re gonna drill here! We’re gonna drill now!”) got a big boost in donations from oil industry executives after he reversed course and came out strongly in favor of offshore drilling. A Washington Post headline pointedly said: “Industry Gushed Money After Reversal on Drilling.”

To put it mildly, that was not very Rooseveltian. Around the same time that the McCain campaign was pocketing its oil industry windfall, the historian Douglas Brinkley was poring over letters in which Roosevelt, running for his first full term as president in 1904, was indignantly ordering his campaign to return a $100,000 contribution from the Standard Oil Company…

Roosevelt believed passionately in regulating industry and curbing the excesses of the great corporations. He favored the imposition of an inheritance tax and fought his party’s increasing tendency to cater to the very wealthy. And, of course, he was a ferocious protector of the environment.

John McCain is no Teddy Roosevelt Republican. He sounds a lot more like George Bush than Teddy. Isn’t it time we find out who he really is?

- Milo

Friday, August 15, 2008

Unmasking a Paper Tiger 紙老虎

The U.S. response to Russia’s invasion of Georgia would be laughable if not so ominous for the future. I read the statements of the President, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Defense. With the subsitution of a few nouns I saw how the past is coming back to bite. Indulge me:
"Russia {The U.S.} is putting its aspirations at risk by taking actions in Georgia {Iraq} that are inconsistent with the principles of those institutions," Bush said.
“Those institutions” refers to “international institutions” in which Russia desires to be a major player.
Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State, said:
"This is not 1968 {2003} and the invasion of Czechoslovakia {Iraq}, where Russia {the U.S.} can threaten a neighbor, occupy a capital, overthrow a government and get away with it," she said. "Things have changed."
Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, in a news conference Thursday
said the actions by Russia {U.S.} in Georgia {Iraq} threaten to
"adversely affect for years to come the relationship between the U.S. and Russia."
I wonder if any of the three sensed any sense of irony in their statements. Probably not.

And, then, there were the words of Senator John McCain, speaking to reporters about the situation in Georgia, Sen. John McCain denounced the aggressive posture of Russia by with the
"but in the 21st century nations don't invade other nations.”
Unfortunately for McCain, the words weren’t taken out of context. See and listen to them for yourself. Sam Stein made this
It was the type of foreign policy rhetorical blunder that has regularly plagued the McCain campaign and could have diplomatic ripples as well. Certainly the comment was meant in innocence. But for those predisposed to the notion that the U.S. is an increasingly arrogant international actor, the suggestion by a presidential candidate that, in this day and age, countries don't invade one another -- when the U.S. is occupying two foreign nations -- does little to alleviate that negative perception.
The Bush administration took office months before 9/11 with the arrogance of imagined unlimited power firmly imbedded in its leadership. The vision of a “
Pax Americana” was of permanent U.S. military and economic domination of every region on the globe, unfettered by international treaty, allies or enemies. For those who have eyes to see, the events that have unfolded since 2002 have demonstrated that U.S. “unlimited power” was only a fantasy.

Others saw it as fantasy long before the present. Mao Tse-tung, July 14, 1956 in a
talk to visitors from Latin America used an ancient Chinese image to characterize the United States: a paper tiger (zhǐ lǎohǔ).
In appearance it is very powerful but in reality it is nothing to be afraid of, it is a paper tiger. Outwardly a tiger, it is made of paper, unable to withstand the wind and the rain. I believe the United States is nothing but a paper tiger.
The events of the last few days in Georgia suggest that “paper tiger” may be an apt image. First, being bogged down as occupying forces in two nations, the whole world knows that our military options are severely limited. President Bush
insisted that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected.
Yet Bush's statement, along with the moderate measures that came with it, served to underscore the limited options available to the United States, which has neither the wherewithal nor the willingness to enter into a military conflict with Russia on its territorial border.
Bush’s statement about “territorial integrity” was literally laughed away by the Russian leadership. We don’t know what the Bush administration’s counsel to the Georgia government was before it sent forces into the area that wants to separate itself from Georgia. We don’t know if the U.S. would have been willing to intervene in this conflict under any circumstances. But what we can know with certainty is that the Russian leadership was assured that we didn’t have the military capability to do anything had we so desired. That made their decision to invade much easier.

The second reason why the paper tiger image may be apt is, contrary to what the Bush leadership imagined about our going our own way no matter what our allies thought, we know now that we need our European allies. James Rubin put it
this way:
We learned in recent weeks that when Europe and America are united, Russian opposition is neutered. On missile defense, NATO has come together and Russia's complaints have quieted. It was the split in NATO over Georgia, a split that a McCain approach would have widened, that gave Russia reason to believe the West would acquiesce in its military aggression.
The right will continue to bash Obama for his popularity in Europe as somehow un-American.
Which brings us back to the politics of war. In the run-up to the Iraq debacle, John McCain was as outrageous as Donald Rumsfeld in denouncing our European allies for not supporting an early invasion. He has not been a consensus-builder in NATO. He has been a fiery defender of the neo-conservative line.
As at no other time in our history, we need to restore that relationship, something Obama can do but which McCain cannot.

Seeing the U.S. exposed as a paper tiger over this issue has consequences far beyond the Russian invasion of Georgia. Gates
said that at the very least Russia was punishing Georgia for its close relationship to the United States and its attempts to join NATO.
"I think that the Russians' further message was to all of the parts of the former Soviet Union, as a signal about trying to integrate with the West and move outside of the longtime Russian sphere of influence," he said.
The absence of any U.S. military muscle to flex and the still not healed relationships with European nations are not only incentives for Russians but for other nations as well. The lesson of the Russians in Georgia will not be lost on Chinese leaders as they think about Taiwan. (See my earlier posting on “
Invisible Taiwan.”)

But the United States is not your everyday garden-variety “paper tiger.” In July, 1963, at a meeting of 81 Communist parties in Moscow, Khrushchev
said of Mao’s statement
"Although the U.S. is a paper tiger, it has nuclear teeth."
I don’t know if that is a comfort to you, but it is not to me. Seven years of combined arrogance and ignorance of the Bush administration has to be a concern as long as they are in power.

Before there is a new administration six months from now, the Bush administration faces its biggest challenge. In the days, weeks and months ahead will it do what it steadfastly refused to do in the previous seven years: recognize the limitations of its power, and a) begin serious repair of our relations with our European allies; and b) begin learning to practice the fine art of diplomacy with our enemies? I have some hope that Robert Gates is a voice for sanity in the administration. If his voice doesn’t prevail in the Cabinet, the world is a less safe place than it was even two months ago.

As for presidential election, John McCain has demonstrated once again why he is not the one we want answering the phone at 3 a.m. in the morning. We need Obama’s measured judgment and his understanding of the world.
- Milo

Monday, August 11, 2008

Limbaugh’s China-Envy, the Wrecking Crew, and Economic Growth

If China’s leaders took note of it, which they probably didn’t because they are too busy presenting themselves as “the Middle Kingdom” (the “middle” between Heaven and Earth) to the rest of the world, they would doubtless have been amused by Rush Limbaugh’s case of China-envy:
See, the ChiComs need their economy growing. They need people driving around, moving around. They need people to be able to afford fuel, so they're subsidizing fuel. They're not bailing people out of stupid home mortgage messes. They're buying their gasoline for them, because they need an economy. Know what energy means to this, the whole subject of economic growth. So meanwhile, the ChiComs, a country certainly growing, certainly on the rise, but it ain't the United States of America.
Presumably, what Rush would like is for the U.S. to subsidize gas so that people in the U.S. could live large like the Chinese leaders and fuel our economic growth.
How does it make you feel that Zhang Linsen has a big Hummer with nine speakers blaring as he pulls out into a four-lane road with so much smog he basically can't see the car in front of him, and you are trading in all of your cars and trying to go out and find basically a lawn mower.
Thanks to Andrew Leonard on Salon I discovered that Rush’s rant was too much even for some conservatives. Clark Stooksbury on The American Conservative responded:
It’s amazing what passes for conservatism these days. The market is currently dictating that Americans become more fuel efficient, which Limbaugh apparently disapproves of. Imagine the uproar if Obama or Clinton said that the U.S. should become more like China.

If rightwingers should ever wonder how they got into their current predicament, they should start by looking at their AM radio dials.
Daniel Larison concurred with Stooksbury:
Actually, it makes me feel relieved that I don’t live in smog-infested cities where marathoners collapse and die because of the pollution. Limbaugh offers here the absurd spectacle of “conservatism” as the embrace of endless consumption and degradation of nature, and really what this reveals is a desire to belong to something like a pink subsidy state (a modified version of what James has called the pink police state). The implication here seems to be that if the market can no longer accommodate sufficient levels of consumption, the state should come in to subsidize that consumption and over-consumption, but above all it is a declaration that egregiously conspicuous consumption has something to do with national status and power. Of course, if you were to suggest to a mainstream conservative that support for consumerism is a common or accepted view among them, you would be immediately denounced as a closet socialist who wants to impoverish everyone, unlike all those high-minded economic conservatives who just happen to defend all forms of consumption out of respect for freedom.
I was reluctant to give Rush Limbaugh this much attention because, more than anything else, he is an entertainer. But in our time the line between entertainment and responsible political commentary has been blurred beyond recognition. I believe that Entertainer Rush is not an insignificant contributor to sentiments expressed in the polls made public Sunday showing that 63% of the public favor oil drilling in U.S. coastal waters; most also favor drilling in wilderness areas (ANWR); and, 44% support nuclear power, still not a majority but ten percent higher than three years ago, higher than at any time since the 1980s. (Let it also be said that the same poll also found that a majority reports personal conservation efforts, support for stricter fuel efficiency standards and new taxes on oil company profits.)

In my view, two other voices need be heard in this conversation. Unfortunately, I fear that you won’t hear their names much in the mainstream media because they are not sufficiently entertaining and both come from a left perspective. I commend them to you because if you have read this far you might also be willing to look at what they have to say.

The first is Thomas Frank and his new book, The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule, published on August 5th. I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ve read his lengthy essay adapted from the book in the August issue of Harper’s Magazine. What Frank adds to this conversation is perspective on how we got to where we are now. In his previous book, What’s the Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (2004) Thomas Frank explained why working America votes for politicians who reserve their favors for the rich. In The Wrecking Crew, Frank examines the blundering and corrupt Washington those politicians have given us.
Journalistic coverage of the Abramoff affair has clung reliably to the "bad apple" thesis, in which the lobbyist's sins are carefully separated from the movement of which he was once a prominent part…

The correct diagnosis is the "bad apple" thesis turned upside down. There are plenty of good conservative individuals, honorable folks who would never participate in the sort of corruption we have watched unfold over the past few years. Hang around with grassroots conservative voters in Kansas, and in the main you will find them to be honest, hardworking people.

But put conservatism in charge of the state, and it behaves very differently. Now the "values" that rightist politicians eulogize on the stump disappear, and in their place we can discern an entirely different set of priorities—priorities that reveal more about the unchanging historical essence of American conservatism than do its fleeting campaigns against gay marriage or secular humanism. The conservatism that speaks to us through its actions in Washington is institutionally opposed to those baseline good intentions we learned about in elementary school. Its leaders laugh off the idea of the public interest as airy-fairy nonsense; they caution against bringing topnotch talent into government service; they declare war on public workers. They have made a cult of outsourcing and privatizing, they have wrecked established federal operations because they disagree with them, and they have deliberately piled up an Everest of debt in order to force the government into crisis. The ruination they have wrought has been thorough; it has been a professional job. Repairing it will require years of political action.
Even in the Harper’s fourteen page essay, Frank meticulously details the rise of this movement with attention to names and events: the “Regan Revolution,” College Republicans, Jack Abramoff, Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist, Pat Buchanan, Tom DeLay, Oliver North, Jack Kemp, Karl Rove, and many other names you may not know but should. This is Frank’s conclusion:
Canny career moves are just about all we can expect from conservative government these days: tax breaks for wealthy benefactors, wars started and maintained for the benefit of American industry, fat contracts granted to the clients of the right consultant. Like Bush and Reagan before him, John McCain is a self-proclaimed outsider, but should he win in November he will merely bring us more of the same: an executive branch fed by, if not actually made up of, lobbyists and other angry, righteous profiteers. Washington itself will remain what it has been—not a Babylon that corrupts our pure-hearted right-wingers but the very seat of their Industry Conservatism, constantly seething and effervescing, with tens of thousands of individuals coming and going, each avidly piling up his own tidy pile but between them engaged in an awesome common project.

Take a step back, reader, and see what they have wrought.
The other voice I hope will be heard in this discussion is that of Joseph Stiglitz, who brings impecable credentials to any discussion of economic growth. He was the recipient of the 2001 Nobel prize in economics. His most recent book, co-authored with Linda Bilmes, is The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Costs of the Iraq Conflict (2008), the only serious critiques of which have been that he and Bilmes may have underestimated the cost of the war.

Last Wednesday, Stiglitz wrote a column in the Guardian titled “Turn Left for Growth.” I find it significant that it was not published in the U.S. “left” in the title is enough to insure its being ignored in the mainstream U.S. media. If that were not enough, his low-key non-polemic tone will probably insure silence about it. All of which is unfortunate because its clarity and brevity are enough to make it a basic primer for anyone who wants to cast their vote for a presidential candidate most likely to insure economic growth.

Stiglitz says that there are three major differences in growth strategies between today’s left and right. The first difference is how growth itself is conceived.
Growth is not just a matter of increasing GDP. It must be sustainable: growth based on environmental degradation, a debt-financed consumption binge, or the exploitation of scarce natural resources, without reinvesting the proceeds, is not sustainable.

Growth also must be inclusive; at least a majority of citizens must benefit. Trickle-down economics does not work: an increase in GDP can actually leave most citizens worse off. America's recent growth was neither economically sustainable nor inclusive. Most Americans are worse off today than they were seven years ago.
The second major difference is the role of the state in promoting development.
The left understands that the government's role in providing infrastructure and education, developing technology, and even acting as an entrepreneur is vital. Government laid the foundations of the internet and the modern biotechnology revolutions. In the 19th century, research at America's government-supported universities provided the basis for the agricultural revolution. Government then brought these advances to millions of American farmers. Small business loans have been pivotal in creating not only new businesses, but whole new industries.
The third difference in economic growth strategies is that the left now understands the role markets can and should play in the economy, while the right doesn’t.
The new right, typified by the Bush-Cheney administration, is really old corporatism in a new guise…

By contrast, the new left is trying to make markets work. Unfettered markets do not operate well on their own – a conclusion reinforced by the current financial debacle. Defenders of markets sometimes admit that they do fail, even disastrously, but they claim that markets are "self-correcting." During the Great Depression, similar arguments were heard: the government need not do anything, because markets would restore the economy to full employment in the long run. But, as John Maynard Keynes famously put it, in the long run we are all dead.
Stiglitz concludes:
Today, in contrast to the right, the left has a coherent agenda, one that offers not only higher growth, but also social justice. For voters, the choice should be easy.
With the near universal dismay with where the Bush administration and the years of Republican majorities in Congress have taken us, it would seem that Stiglitz’s argument is a no-brainer. It would also seem that the public is willing to listen to the story Thomas Frank is telling about why we are where we are now.

Still, American historic distrust of anything with a “leftist” scent, an even greater lack of confidence in Congress than in the Bush administration, and Russia flexing its growing military muscles, will continue to give openings to the right and its entertainers like Limbaugh, even when he becomes hysterical with China-envy. That’s why we need to be telling Frank’s story and making Stiglitz’s arument to our friends and whoever else will listen.
- Milo

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hiroshima: New Questions about Old Rationalizations

Every year around the first of August, Ivy would bring a couple of well worn books to my office, a shawl, and a few articles to put on a table near the worship center on the first Sunday of August. “People need to remember the horror of nuclear weapons” she would say referring to the anniversaries of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9. Ivy was a Japanese American woman, a natural born citizen of this country who had been interned with thousands of others during the Second World War. Every year some would complain that Ivy’s displays were inappropriate for a worship setting: “using those bombs saved thousands of lives,” some would say. Most passed the displays by without a glance. These are not days marked on the calendars of many U.S. citizens. Not remembering may be to our peril.

John Pilger certainly thinks so, and for a lot more reasons than Ivy brought her memorabilia to church. Ivy just wanted to remind us of the horror and suffering that the use of atomic weapons brought to Japan. Pilger, who has twice won British journalism’s highest award as Journalist of the Year, in Wednesday’s Guardian, challenges all of the rationalizations that we have learned in this country about the decision to use the bombs: use of the bombs shortened the war, saved thousands of U.S. soldiers’ lives, and perhaps saved thousands of Japanese lives as well.

On August 6, 1945 the nuclear weapon “Little Boy” was dropped on the city of Hiroshima. While Japan was still trying to comprehend this devastation three days later, the United States struck again, this time, dropping “Fat Man” on Nagasaki. According to
RERF (Radiation Effects Research Foundation), a cooperative Japan-US research organization, by the end of 1945 as many as 140,000 had been killed in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki, about half being killed on the day of the bombing. Since then, thousands more have died from injuries or illness caused by exposure to radiation released by the bombs. In both cities, the overwhelming majority of the dead were civilians.

According to Pilger, the first big lie about the bombings was that people had only been killed by the blast and not by radiation poisoning.
In the immediate aftermath of the bomb, the allied occupation authorities banned all mention of radiation poisoning and insisted that people had been killed or injured only by the bomb's blast. It was the first big lie. "No radioactivity in Hiroshima ruin" said the front page of the New York Times, a classic of disinformation and journalistic abdication...
The second, and according to Pilger “the most enduring”, lie is the old rationalization that the bombs were dropped to save lives that would be lost in an invasion when, in fact, the objective was not as much the unconditional surrender of Japan as it was to intimidate Russia.
"Even without the atomic bombing attacks," concluded the United States Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946, "air supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for invasion. Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that ... Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated."

The National Archives in Washington contain US government documents that chart Japanese peace overtures as early as 1943. None was pursued. A cable sent on May 5, 1945 by the German ambassador in Tokyo and intercepted by the US dispels any doubt that the Japanese were desperate to sue for peace, including "capitulation even if the terms were hard". Instead, the US secretary of war, Henry Stimson, told President Truman he was "fearful" that the US air force would have Japan so "bombed out" that the new weapon would not be able "to show its strength". He later admitted that "no effort was made, and none was seriously considered, to achieve surrender merely in order not to have to use the bomb". His foreign policy colleagues were eager "to browbeat the Russians with the bomb held rather ostentatiously on our hip". General Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project that made the bomb, testified: "There was never any illusion on my part that Russia was our enemy, and that the project was conducted on that basis." The day after Hiroshima was obliterated, President Truman voiced his satisfaction with the "overwhelming success" of "the experiment".

I don't know if Pilger's charge is true or not, but he clearly touches the nerve in the U.S. psyche in which we see ourselves as the unblemished "good guys" and that we used the nuclear weapons only as a last resort.

Pilger is not simply interested in the war over sixty years ago. He believes that these old unexamined rationalizations are bringing us to one of the most dangerous nuclear crises since 1945: the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran.

In defiance of UN resolutions, Israel is today clearly itching to attack Iran, fearful that a new American administration might, just might, conduct genuine negotiations with a nation the west has defiled since Britain and America overthrew Iranian democracy in 1953.
So, if you missed the opportunity to reflect on the catastrophe visited on Hiroshima on Monday, you have a chance on Saturday, the anniversary of dropping “Fat Man” on Nagasaki. What is needed may not be as much an exercise in “remembering” as in “futuring.” We may wish we had paid more attention to Ivy’s displays.

- Milo

Monday, August 4, 2008

Truth, Rumors, and Lies

I have some friends who feel obliged to circulate “revealed truths” that dropped into their email boxes forwarded to them from someone else, usually with an urging at the end that they are not really a person of faith, a friend, a patriot, or a caring human being if they do not forward these messages on to everyone in their address books.

I have some other friends who, like me, are irritated by these forwards that are usually untrue in part or whole. They often send me the forward to ask if I will check out the claims in the email, something I am quite happy to do.

How do I check them out? First I go to Snopes is sites that does nothing else but check out rumors and “urban legends” that circulate on the Internet. In the upper right hand corner of the page you will see a “search” slot. Type in a couple of key words from the email that was forwarded to you and then hit the “go” button. That should take you to information about the email you received. If you don’t turn it up on the first search select a couple of other key words and try again. Only once have I searched and not found information for which I was looking.

Over the past weeks I have received a lot of bogus messages. The most recent one I received was one
claiming that on Obama's recent trip to Afghanistan he “blew off” U.S. soldiers. I went to Snopes and used the key words “Obama” and “Afghanistan.” That brought up the page you will find if you hit the hyper-link (underlined) above. You will not only find an explanation of the false charges but documentation and links to other sources. You will be equipped to judge for yourself if the email was truth or lies.

I received another about Obama (actually, I’ve received a number about him, all of which were untrue), but this one
purports to quote lines from his two books that show him to be racist. I found the Snopes explanation of this one by searching for “Obama quotes from his books.” The quotes listed are taken completely out of context and reworded to make them say what the writer wants to prove. What Snopes does is show each of the quotes in the paragraphs they came from. They have given you the means to decide for yourself if the email you received is a distortion.

In case you are wondering, Snopes checks out rumors not only about politicians but about almost anything you can think of, including
one on whether the flush toilet was invented by a man named Thomas Crapper. (I’ll leave you to check that one out.) But it is no secret that malicious rumor mills have made Obama a target so that the greatest numbers of “urban legends” are about him.

A number of emails have been forwarded to me about how
religious symbols in the Capitol and words of our founding fathers demonstrate that we are a “Christian nation.” I found Snopes’ explanation of this one by doing a search for “religion founding fathers.” Each assertion is put in its proper context so you can judge for yourself about the claims of the email.

Let me make this clear. I like to receive emails in which friends express their opinions, even when they are opposed to mine. But I do not like to receive somebody else’s opinion (nearly always anonymous) forwarded to me. If you think my political, religious, scientific or other views are in need of correction, please write me and tell me in your own words; and tell me the sources that support your views. I will be glad to talk with you about it.

The people who originate these forwarded emails are usually persons who know that what they are writing is not true but have convinced themselves that lying for a cause they believe in is justified. When you pass on a message whose truth you have not checked, you are a gossip; and worse you may be aiding and abetting a malicious liar.

If you receive a forwarded email that urges you to forward to others, check it out first. I’ll be glad to assist you.
- Milo
PS: Some of the worst of these forwards start with something like "I've checked this on Snopes and it is true," put there by the author to keep you from going to Snopes yourself. Advice? Don't believe it until you've verified it yourself.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Obama and the Demons of Racial and Religious Bigotry

(Updated Saturday, August 2. See Update below.)

On January 2, 1960, John F. Kennedy announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States. A month later—on February 1st, 1960—four African American college students asked to be served in an all-white restaurant at Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina, an act that gave birth to the Sit-In movement. Those two events had a great impact on me at the time and have since then, but there is no way I could have imagined how they would cast forty-eight year old shadows across the presidential election of 2008.

In my first year of graduate school in a Methodist seminary in Dallas, Texas, the 1960 presidential election was my first opportunity to vote. My social ethics professor, the one who a year later would take me to hear Dr. Martin Luther King at a voter registration rally, was also instrumental in getting me involved in JFK’s campaign in Dallas. When I volunteered to help, I was given a car full of JFK/LBJ signs to give to friends who would put them up in their yards. I didn’t know anybody but students in Dallas and so didn’t do a very good job. But I was committed to the JFK candidacy and embarrassed by the anti-Catholic bigotry all around me.

On September 12, 1960 Kennedy
addressed the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, just a couple hundred miles down the road from Dallas. I cheered when he said
I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured -- perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again -- not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me -- but what kind of America I believe in.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President -- should he be Catholic -- how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.
His words, “the real issues in this campaign have been obscured -- perhaps deliberately,” sound eerily prescient for this 2008 presidential election. But I am not ready to talk about the present just yet.

In April the Sit-In movement reached Dallas. One of my classmates was a black Baptist minister from East Texas; Marshall was the only African-American student in the seminary. I don’t know how we became friends; we just did. He confessed that I was his first white friend and I acknowledged that he was my first black friend. At the point we met and became friends, neither of us were social activists, that despite the fact that the South was aflame with the Civil Rights Movement. Sit-in demonstrations were beginning in Dallas, but neither of us was participating.

One day after classes four of us decided to go eat lunch together. Marshall was one of the four. In our enthusiasm we never thought about the possibility that he might not be welcome at a German deli/restaurant just off campus with the best hot potato salad I had ever eaten. Marshall knew, but he agreed to go when we assured him that he would be welcome there. When we got in line inside the deli, the owner came up to Marshall and said, “You can’t eat here. I’m German. We’re not prejudiced. But my customers… You understand don’t you?” Marshall quietly responded, “No, I don’t understand.” The four of us left the restaurant angry and embarrassed. There were sit-ins going on at strategic locations throughout the city of Dallas and every day the demonstrators were being arrested. We decided we would organize our own sit-in at the deli. The next day we went back and took up a couple of tables and just sat there, while the owner decided whether or not to call the police. After an hour or so of just sitting and receiving hostile stares and words from other customers, the manager said we could be served. We went through the line, got our food, and ate. Just to be sure there was no reneging on the breakthrough we went back at least once a week for the next month or so. But there was no more resistance.

Those were heady days! In his 1995 book, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, Barack Obama
remembered the changes that seemed to have taken place in racial attitudes in the 60s:
“The stories gave voice to a spirit that would grip the nation for that fleeting period between Kennedy’s election and the passage of the Voting Rights Act: the seeming triumph of universalism over parochialism and narrow-mindedness, a bright new world where differences of race or culture would instruct and amuse and perhaps even ennoble. A useful fiction, one that haunts me no less than it haunted my family, evoking as it does some lost Eden that extends beyond mere childhood.” (pp. 25-26)
It seems to me that in 2008 Obama may be haunted by the twin demons of racial and religious bigotry.

Kennedy had the demon of religious bigotry with which to contend. Even though he had eloquently confronted the religious issue in his September 1960 appearance before the Greater-Houston Ministerial Association, anti-Catholic feeling remained a
wild card in the campaign.

Kennedy must have thought a lot about another Catholic before him. In 1928, Democrats nominated the Catholic Governor of New York, Al Smith, but he lost to Herbert Hoover. In an
intriguing piece of remembering and speculating, John Judis asks if “Obama is Al Smith or John F. Kennedy?” The answer, he says, is by no means clear, but by looking at historical parallels, one can begin to appreciate the enormous obstacles that Obama faces this November. Judis concludes his analysis on a disquieting note.
In the end, though, Obama faces hurdles at least as great as those that Kennedy faced. Kennedy never fully overcame anti-Catholic prejudice during his campaign. It was only in the aftermath of his victory that the country fully accepted a Catholic politician as an ordinary American politician. In November, Obama may lose far more than he gains from the sheer fact of his being an African American. If, in October, the country is still discussing Obama's relationship to Reverend Wright and not the Republican record on the economy and foreign policy, he is likely to suffer defeat--not as decisively, certainly, as Al Smith did, but defeat nonetheless.
Although Judis doesn’t say it, the issue with Reverend Wright is not simply one of race; it is also one of religion. Many whites are suspicious of the black Church and have been since the days of slavery and the days of the Civil Rights Movement. For them, the black Church is not really Christian. Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin point out in Politico how religion and race are cleverly interwoven in McCain’s new attacks on Obama’s patriotism.
Whatever his motives, McCain’s new hit on his foe’s patriotism hints at two years of whispered, viral rumors and myths about Obama centered on his patriotism and American values, or, more to the point, his lack thereof. The e-mails —cataloged in's lengthy Obama section and Obama's own “fight the smears" page — often have contradictory particulars, but the thrust is clear: Obama, various false e-mails claim, is not really a natural-born American citizen, is not really a Christian and refuses to pledge allegiance to the American flag.
Will the demons of religious and racial bigotry continue to haunt this election? If the McCain ads continue, if the emails of forwarded racial/religious attacks on Obama continue, and if the experience of friends who are working voter registration tables for Obama, where they hear the slurs and see the looks of passersby continue, there is no question but that the demonic spirits are alive and well.

As I see it, the exorcism of these demons in November will require what elected Kennedy in 1960: a) Money for Obama’s campaign to combat the attacks, so if you haven’t contributed to a political campaign this is the time to begin; b) Thoughtful and direct response to the racial and religious innuendos spoken in your presence or sent to you by email; c) Talking to your friends about the campaign and how you see the issues; this is no time for silence; d) Supporting the Obama campaign in your community in whatever ways you can.

Our optimism in the early 60s may have been misplaced, but not the determination to see a new day come round. On August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I believe Dr. King
spoke to our day just as surely as he spoke to his:

When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Let freedom ring this November!

- Milo

In Saturday’s New York Times, Bob Herbert wrote a column titled, “
Running While Black.” Here is a sample to entice you to read his whole column:
Gee, I wonder why, if you have a black man running for high public office — say, Barack Obama or Harold Ford — the opposition feels compelled to run low-life political ads featuring tacky, sexually provocative white women who have no connection whatsoever to the black male candidates.

Now, from the hapless but increasingly venomous McCain campaign, comes the slimy Britney Spears and Paris Hilton ad. The two highly sexualized women (both notorious for displaying themselves to the paparazzi while not wearing underwear) are shown briefly and incongruously at the beginning of a commercial critical of Mr. Obama.

The Republican National Committee targeted Harold Ford with a similarly disgusting ad in 2006 when Mr. Ford, then a congressman, was running a strong race for a U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee. The ad, which the committee described as a parody, showed a scantily clad woman whispering, “Harold, call me.”

Both ads were foul, poisonous and emanated from the upper reaches of the Republican Party. (What a surprise.) Both were designed to exploit the hostility, anxiety and resentment of the many white Americans who are still freakishly hung up on the idea of black men rising above their station and becoming sexually involved with white women.

The racial fantasy factor in this presidential campaign is out of control. It was at work in that New Yorker cover that caused such a stir. (Mr. Obama in Muslim garb with the American flag burning in the fireplace.) It’s driving the idea that Barack Obama is somehow presumptuous, too arrogant, too big for his britches — a man who obviously does not know his place.
Read it; refute it (I'll print your refutation); or be deeply shamed by the racism still being used to exploit voters. (I'll also print your outrage.)