So let’s give it a try.
David Horsey, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for SeattlePI.com, considered yesterday the domestic politics of the American role in Libya. And while the article actually is quite interesting, part of his advice for liberals struck me as odd:
… the vision of neo-cons like Paul Wolfowitz was not as wrongheaded as many on the left contend. In the 1990s, Wolfowitz and others in conservative think tanks developed their own domino theory: a move toward democracy in one Arab country would lead to a toppling of dictators in many Arab countries. Yes, trumped up excuses were used to justify the Iraq War in an attempt to start the dominoes falling, but that does not change the reality that the theory has proven to be correct.
The idea of a domino effect is not in itself absurd, that much is true. But Wolfowitz, PNAC, and other neoconservative hawks pushed for a belligerent imperium; the idea that the United States could foment this change through belligerent agitation of the Muslim world is a bit less clear. Indeed, the proposition at least equally risked increasing anti-American sentiments not only in those nations, but also at home and around the world.
We might, then, juxtapose Horsey’s proposition against a certain other notion—that the Arab Spring came about in large part because of economics. In April, the Financial Times opined:
The fundamental dysfunction of Arab countries is that of the rentier state. In oil- and gas-rich countries, natural resources return far more than it costs to extract them. Capturing and controlling this surplus – economic rent – is the chief source of enrichment, hence both the means and the end of power. Meanwhile the tragedy of resource-poor Arab countries is that they create rent artificially when nature has given them none. Monopolies, regulation and bullying all serve to limit access to productive activity, which generates fantastic rewards for a favoured few at the cost of holding back whole nations.
Whatever the source of the rent, the rentier economy is a vicious cycle in which the concentration of economic opportunity and that of political power fuel one another. This is why dignity and livelihood are inseparable in the demands of the excluded Arab majorities that have finally raised their voice. It is also why the political revolutions across the region will succeed only if matched by economic transformations. Even as Egypt and Tunisia grope for political transitions, the economic challenge is urgent.
Dear Mr. Horsey:
I would only suggest that there is something amiss about this whole debate when you find yourself compelled to disclaim that “the fact remains that nothing has proven anybody’s words inspired Jared Loughner’s actions”.
I would ask everyone to stop and think for a moment. At the core of the question about violent right-wing rhetoric is an issue we’ve been tolerating in these United States for longer than I’ve been alive (thirty-seven years). Indeed, I’m sure if I looked back beyond the advent of rock and roll, I could find the same arguments.
Not all opponents of the Ground Zero mosque are motivated by anti-Islamic prejudice, to be sure. But relatives of 9/11 victims who object still are confusing Islam with terrorism.
They’d like the mosque to move somewhere else — but how far away from Ground Zero is acceptable? If two blocks is too close, would four be better?
Logically, if the mosque is meant as an exercise in “triumphalism,” it ought not be allowed in New York City at all.
The fact is that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had it exactly right when he said, “Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11 and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and Americans.
“We would betray our values — and play into our enemies’ hands — if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave in to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists — and we should not stand for that.”
And President Barack Obama had it right (the first time) when he said that America’s bedrock dedication to religious freedom “includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan.”
It’s a shame that Republican howls caused him to backtrack on the statement. And it’s a shame so many Republicans have forgotten the distinction between Islam and extremism so clearly delineated by Bush.
Would you believe that’s Mort Kondracke?
Well … okay, why not?
So they say, so they say:
The restructuring of society taking place, in the direct interests of the corporate-financial elite and at the expense of the working population, is not occurring unnoticed. The American and international working class will inevitably find itself drawn into struggle against the present, untenable form of social organization.
Hiram Lee invokes a recurring fantasy of the left, and while I do not scorn the underlying sentiment, I admit to a certain cynicism. Perhaps in other places around the world, populist anger might bring down governments, but the prestige and wealth of the United States is such that Americans are wary of risking it all for an unproven thesis.
While I may not agree with every detail of her construction, Tina Dupuy offers up a long-overdue theory to the political arena:
It seems everybody gets their own pet conspiracy these days: Birthers, Birchers, Deathers, Truthers and whatever you call the people who won’t get their kids inoculated. According to the theories, nothing is as it seems and everyone is in on it. Following this reasonable assumption, I’ve come up with my own. Here it is: former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, RNC Chairman Michael Steele and Congressman Paul Ryan from Wisconsin are all Democratic plants.
The rest of the article pretty much spells out the theory, and as conspiracy theories go, it’s probably less crazy than Truther conspiracies, and clearly less insane than Birthers. Continue reading
David Horsey, the Pulitzer-winning cartoonist for SeattlePI.com, noted the other day:
I’ve grown a pretty thick layer of teflon. The daily messages I get telling me I’m an idiot, a shill, a talentless drone and a hack pretty much bounce right off. Sometimes, sick as it may seem, I actually enjoy making people mad.
Apparently, I did that pretty successfully a few days ago with a cartoon that poked fun at the good people of South Carolina. On Wednesday, I got a call from a reporter at a Fox TV news affiliate in the Palmetto State. He asked me what I thought about the controversy my cartoon had stirred up. I had to ask him, “What controversy?” The reporter explained that my image of some non-union South Carolinian Boeing workers surrounded by various symbols of the Bad Old South was not getting many laughs in his part of the world.
The cartoon is something of a doozy, and definitely seems to constitute some form of “fightin’ words”, but this whole Boeing fracas has people’s sensitivities raw.
In the days that followed, I received numerous e-mails that made the displeasure clear. One, from someone who identified himself as a proud descendant of Confederate soldiers, said simply, “Oh, you poor ignorant bigot.” Another called the cartoon “racist,” although I’m not sure how that term could be stretched quite that far. A longer, impassioned missive came from Father Titus Fulcher, the pastor of the Charleston Melkite Greek Catholic Community. Here’s a bit of what he had to say:
As a ten year resident of the greater Charleston metropolitan area, I am deeply hurt and disappointed by your cartoon depicting five “non-union South Carolina workers” in a most offensive style and arrangement (the hound dog, Confederate Flag, Moonshine Still and hangman’s noose). It is understandable that the good people of Seattle would be disappointed at Boeing’s decision to build its plant in South Carolina versus Washington State; however, the projection of grossly inappropriate, bigoted and stereotypical images could seemingly only serve one purpose – to cater to a prejudicial view of “Southerners” as ignorant and racist lowlifes.
Father Fulcher concluded with a question: “And does not every State have in its past things it has long since abandoned as inappropriate?“
In an attempt to ease back into rhythm, a simple question. Paul Kane and Lori Montgomery bring us the news:
In a narrow vote, the House today rejected the most sweeping government intervention into the nation’s financial markets since the Great Depression, refusing to grant the Treasury Department the power to purchase up to $700 billion in the troubled assets that are at the heart of the U.S. financial crisis.
The 228-205 vote amounted to a stinging rebuke to the Bush administration and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., and was sure to sow massive anxiety in world markets. Just 11 days ago, Paulson urged congressional leaders to quickly approve the bailout. He warned that inaction would lead to a seizure of credit markets and a virtual halt to the lending that allows Americans to acquire mortgages and other types of loans.
This whole episode seemed sketchy from the outset. On the one hand, the economy does appear to be falling apart, and such an event falls well within the purview of the federal government’s concern. To the other, though, it seemed suspicious that, after waiting so long to acknowledge the situation, the Bush administration wanted Congress to pass a seven hundred-billion dollar solution in a matter of days.
Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman brings us, with his latest column, an assessment of Senator Barack Obama, considering the Democratic presidential candidate in the context of two other elections, those of 1980 and 1992:
It’s feeling a lot like 1992 right now. It’s also feeling a lot like 1980. But which parallel is closer? Is Barack Obama going to be a Ronald Reagan of the left, a president who fundamentally changes the country’s direction? Or will he be just another Bill Clinton? ….
…. Reagan, for better or worse — I’d say for worse, but that’s another discussion — brought a lot of change. He ran as an unabashed conservative, with a clear ideological agenda. And he had enormous success in getting that agenda implemented. He had his failures, most notably on Social Security, which he tried to dismantle but ended up strengthening. But America at the end of the Reagan years was not the same country it was when he took office.
Bill Clinton also ran as a candidate of change, but it was much less clear what kind of change he was offering. He portrayed himself as someone who transcended the traditional liberal-conservative divide, proposing “a government that offers more empowerment and less entitlement.” The economic plan he announced during the campaign was something of a hodgepodge: higher taxes on the rich, lower taxes for the middle class, public investment in things like high-speed rail, health care reform without specifics.
We all know what happened next. The Clinton administration achieved a number of significant successes, from the revitalization of veterans’ health care and federal emergency management to the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and health insurance for children. But the big picture is summed up by the title of a new book by the historian Sean Wilentz: “The Age of Reagan: A history, 1974-2008.”
While there are also fundamental differences in the context of the circumstances under which the Reagan and Clinton presidencies occurred, Krugman—who during the primary often criticized Obama—is not without a valid point. Having achieved the nomination, Obama has followed a trend disturbing to American liberals, one that suggests a transformation of the candidate into a different kind of political creature. His withdrawal from public financing, while understandable in a political context, is disappointing, to say the least, for liberals hopeful of a president of principles. And his support of the recent FISA “compromise” ranges into the realm of the frustrating.