The Audacity of Ambivalence

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Twenty-three years ago, I was transformed by the presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson.  I became the political animal that haunts this blog with sporadic amounts of humor and cynicism.  The campaign became a coming of age that should define a generation of us in our mid-thirties. The rhetoric of the campaign was uplifting and edifying in a spiritual way and inspired a new generation of African American politicians great and small.    

In his convention address, Jesse said, “No generation can choose the age or circumstance in which it is born, but through leadership it can choose to make the age in which it is born an age of enlightenment, an age of jobs, and peace, and justice. Only leadership — that intangible combination of gifts, the discipline, information, circumstance, courage, timing, will and divine inspiration — can lead us out of the crisis in which we find ourselves. Leadership can mitigate the misery of our nation. Leadership can part the waters and lead our nation in the direction of the Promised Land. Leadership can lift the boats stuck at the bottom.” 

After seven years of movement conservative disaster, America is looking for a leader that can heal our land and lead us toward what Dr. King described as the beloved community, “We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” The beloved community is an ideal founded on the biblical principle embodied by the commandment to, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” The opening salvos of this Presidential campaign was a period of assessment in which we could go to our quiet place, commune with ourselves, and reflect on what it is that our President should embody besides white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.   

Over $100 million dollars has been raised by just two of the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination and I find myself wondering, “is this it?”  “Is this shit all there is?”  I really don’t need to hear more deceptive rhetoric masquerading as courage and understanding. Quoting Big Mama’s favorite bible verse is not gonna cut it this year. I need to get a sense that there is a plan for progressive transformation behind the Machiavellian mask.  

Hiding deep in the recesses of their rhetoric should be some amalgamation of the hopes, fears, and wild aspirations of the average working class person.  What we’ve all been hearing for the last six months is the emotionless recitation of the same broken promises that we threw our votes away for the last four times.  Playing it safe in order to keep power is what got us here to start with and placating the establishment so that it facilitates the rise to the ultimate power of the Presidency is not my idea of radical transformation.   

Creeping up inside of my listless and dispirited soul is a powerful melancholy because we’ve been on the smooth glide path toward plutocracy for over a century and nothing in the last twenty-five years has slowed down the process.  Instead, what we’ve seen is an acceleration of the total corporate hegemony over our democracy.  

I am incapable of realizing the eminent death of our democracy and the moribund nature of national democratic leadership while smiling optimistically into the face of Barack Obama as the physical embodiment of my youthful idealism and the personification of my adult ambivalence.   

While Rev. Jackson paid homage to this nation’s diversity, America is not like a blanket — one piece of unbroken cloth, the same color, the same texture, the same size. America is more like a quilt: many patches, many pieces, many colors, many sizes, all woven and held together by a common thread. The white, the Hispanic, the black, the Arab, the Jew, the woman, the native American, the small farmer, the businessperson, the environmentalist, the peace activist, the young, the old, the lesbian, the gay, and the disabled make up the American quilt.” 

“Even in our fractured state, all of us count and fit somewhere. We have proven that we can survive without each other. But we have not proven that we can win and make progress without each other. We must come together.” 

Obama tipped his hat to a white vision of race-less, class-less American-ness, “…there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”  

Common ground can never be reached by a pander bear reaching out to people blinded by willful ignorance and deliberate racial amnesia.

I am angry that  Rev. Jackson has bequeathed the legacy of his progressive imprimatur to a man with the audacity to deny the necessity for slave reparations.    

I am angry that Obama is content to go through the motions of opposition while leaving reactionary power arrangements intact. 

I am angry that Obama claims the mantle of the biblical Joshua and then secretly  dons the robes of a Pharaoh.  

I am angry that our system of presidential selection is a closed process of capitalist kabuki dancing that is all calibrated to telegraph the non-threatening intentions of the contenders to the white power structure so that they may choose the most willing corporate whore.  

I am angry that my voice no longer matters and that the hunger for true leadership is turned against us so that we’re forced to accept Wall Street’s favorite ventriloquist dummy as our President.  

I am angry that identity politics is no longer a means of empowerment but an instrument of our oppression.  

I am angry that my youthful idealism is in reality a childish delusion.  

I am angry that I am losing my willingness to stay in this country and fight the forces of reaction that are devouring our planet and killing our people.  

I am angry that my writing and local activism isn’t enough.   

I am angry that the one man that speaks to my frustration, Dennis Kucinich, is marginalized, belittled and ignored.

I am angry that I am still just one lonely voice as powerless after 225,000 site views as I was the very first day I posted over a year ago when nobody was listening. For me, the thrill of politics, the driving passion of my life, is gone.

Hillary and Barack tensions simmer underneath surface pleasantries

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 — They work in the same building. They slog through the same rigorous travel schedule. Along the way, they often cross paths several times a day.

But Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama have barely spoken to each other — at least in any meaningful way — for months.

The tension between the two Democratic presidential hopefuls, which has spilled into public view in the last three weeks, has been intensifying since January. It is clear that the genteel decorum of the Senate has given way to the go-for-the-jugular instinct of the campaign trail.

As the Senate held late sessions of back-to-back votes before its summer break, the two rivals kept a careful eye on each other as they moved across the Senate floor. For more than two hours one night, often while standing only a few feet apart, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama never approached each other or exchanged so much as a pleasantry.

The scene repeated itself the next evening, a departure from the clubby confines of the Senate, where even the fiercest adversaries are apt to engage in the legislative equivalent of cocktail party chitchat.

When the cameras are on them, they can make a point of showing good sportsmanship. At a Democratic forum Saturday in Chicago, Mrs. Clinton smiled and moved her hands as though she was conducting a choir when an audience of liberal bloggers sang “Happy Birthday” to Mr. Obama, who was turning 46.

By the end of the event, Mr. Obama had called her “Hillary” in a sharp tone, criticizing her for accepting contributions from lobbyists.

The Clinton-Obama watch has become something of a parlor game, for their colleagues in Congress as well as for the scribes in the gallery above the Senate floor.

Consider a scene from the Capitol on a recent evening. It was a few minutes after 8 p.m. when the side doors of the Senate swung open and three Democratic candidates walked through.

Mrs. Clinton, of New York, and Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut came first, laughing as they made their way to the Democratic side of the aisle. A few paces behind was Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, who quickly joined them. Mr. Obama, of Illinois, entered the Senate floor alone. He glanced at the other three, then pulled out his BlackBerry and paused for a few seconds before taking a seat next to three freshman senators. As the evening passed, Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton each spoke to several Republicans and to nearly every Democrat — except each other.

It was not always this way.

When Mr. Obama was running for the Senate in 2004, Mrs. Clinton once sat on the tarmac waiting out a lightning storm to fly to Chicago for a fund-raiser on his behalf. After he arrived in Washington in 2005, he studied her first year in office and worked to keep a similarly studious and low profile. After Hurricane Katrina, he joined Mrs. Clinton and former President Bill Clinton as they visited storm evacuees in Houston.

The relationship began to change when Mr. Obama began musing aloud about a presidential bid. The day he opened his exploratory committee, several Senate observers said, he extended his hand and said hello on the Senate floor. She breezed by him, offering a cool stare.

One week later, after the State of the Union address, the two senators found themselves doing back-to-back interviews on CNN. Mr. Obama went first, with Mrs. Clinton pacing a few feet away. Finally, an aide escorted her completely around the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building, avoiding walking directly by Mr. Obama.

Many Senate observers, even those close to Mrs. Clinton, say they believe she set the less-than-collegial tone. But Mr. Obama offered a glimpse into his own competitiveness two years ago when a Chicago television reporter told him about snagging a hallway interview with Mrs. Clinton.

“I outpoll her in Illinois,” Mr. Obama said. Then, realizing how his remark might sound, he added, “That was a joke!”

Now, with both candidates under Secret Service protection, their entourages are larger and they are less likely to have face-to-face encounters. One of the last times an impartial Senate observer could remember the two standing together without tension was when lawmakers gathered around a television in the cloakroom as Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of another Democratic presidential contender, John Edwards, announced that her cancer had returned.

In the public spotlight, they can be gracious toward each other. When asked at a debate last month in South Carolina what they liked and disliked about their opponents, Mrs. Clinton said of Mr. Obama, “I admire and like very much Barack, as I do with all of the candidates here.”

A moment later, Mr. Obama defended Mrs. Clinton against a bad fashion review Mr. Edwards had jokingly directed at her. “I actually like Hillary’s jacket,” Mr. Obama said.

As he walked through the Capitol recently, Mr. Obama paused for a moment to answer a question about their relationship.

“She’s said hello a couple times,” Mr. Obama said, a slow grin spreading over his face as he walked away.

Turning back, he added, “It’s been fine.”

Yet another reason why Clinton-Obama will never happen.

Dixie Dianne’s Betrayal

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Dianne Feinstein The Battle Flag of the Confederacy 

Some Democratic Senators are lackluster, some are unreliable, and some, like Dianne Feinstein, are unpredictable.  Civil Rights groups like People for the American Way and the Alliance for Justice were blindsided Thursday when Feinstein voted for another of Trent Lott’s Brooks Brothers suited racists to assume a lifetime appointment to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

People for the American Way, The Alliance for Justice, and The Leadership Conference for Civil Rights can usually be depended upon to bring their A game and effectively rally folk to block bigots of this caliber.  They failed this time. However, the fight isn’t over.  There is the option to mount a filibuster on the floor; the problem is that once nominations are reported out of committee, they become harder to kill.

 

For unfathomable reasons, Dianne Feinstein has made a deal with the Devil and punched the ticket for one of his malevolent minions to serve for life as a federal judge.  For a San Francisco Democrat, there is nothing liberal about cutting deals with a man who reveres segregationists and longs for the good ole days of massive resistance. 

All of this for a judge who makes light of the fact that he ordered the reinstatement of a white female state employee that called a black female co-worker, “a good ole nigger.”  As I’ve said before, there is no circumstance where it is ever acceptable for a white person to call a black person a nigger in freakin’ Mississippi.  Never.  For this betrayal, I shall resurrect the moniker given to her by local Marxists during a dispute over the confederate flag flying at the civic center in San Francisco: Dixie Dianne.

During her tenure as Mayor of San Francisco, the Marxists had the temerity to oppose the flying of the confederate flag because it is a symbol of hate and white supremacy and they cut down the flagpole rather than allow her to have the flag hoisted up again.  

African Americans are a beleaguered but cohesive minority in California and it is time for the progressives in our community to let Dianne know how we feel about her collusion with the enemy.  If you live in California, you can call her Senate Offices at 202 224 2841.  This should be Dixie Dianne’s last term given her advanced age, but if she runs one mo’gin in 2012, somebody should primary her.

Yard Sign Only

 Obama Logo Window Sign (blue)

Dixie Dianne’s betrayal has had one fortuitous consequence.  She has provided the Democratic frontrunners in this contest one more opportunity to prove their progressive fealty or their politically expedient treachery.  Judge Southwick’s nomination is coming to the Senate floor whether we like it or not. If the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the Majority Leader green light a filibuster, it will happen.  Even if they don’t concur, Hillary and Barack have the power to force one.  We will see if they oppose this bastard because they have too or because his nomination is an offensive stench in the nostrils of freedom loving people everywhere.

Reading an obligatory statement into the record will not do.  Voting against cloture will not do.   Putting up an aggressive fight and making several lengthy statements on the floor and to the media that make it clear that their opposition is not merely for show; and their active and visible participation in floor strategy that kills this nomination, that’s what we must demand. 

I’ve had family in Mississippi since about 1840.  My mother’s family was enslaved on the Watkins and Dove plantations near Newton and Jasper counties.  This fight is personal for me.  Upon entering Mississippi, one notices the distinct smell of oppression in the air.  It is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced if you weren’t raised in the south.  Just a few days in Mississippi changed me in ways I still can’t explain.  What black people have endured over the course of the state’s history is really mind blowing.  Elevating another instrument and facilitator of that same oppression will not be tolerated.  Enough is enough. 

   

Obama’s war plans

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 Senator Obama speech

photo by radiospike

Hat Tip: Dan Balz, Washington Post

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama today pledged an aggressive war against Islamic extremists, calling for the deployment of at least 7,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to combat the growing Taliban influence and promising to order U.S. forces into Pakistan if necessary to seek out and kill known terrorists.

“When I am president, we will wage a war that has to be won,” Obama told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. He added, “I will not hesitate to use military force to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to the United States.”

Obama’s speech represented the most comprehensive outline of his approach to Islamic terrorism. He said ending the war in Iraq is crucial to success in the broader struggle against terrorism.

“The terrorists are at war with us,” he said. “The threat is from violent extremists who are a small minority of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims, but the threat is real.”

The Illinois senator offered a biting critique of President Bush’s foreign policy decisions after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, while seeking to reassure Americans that his long-stated opposition to the war in Iraq would not make him hesitant to vigorously pursue extremists who threaten the United States.

He repeated a pledge to double U.S. foreign aid to $50 billion, provide $2 billion to combat the influence of Islamic madrassas and launch a more ambitious public diplomacy initiative that he said he would personally lead. He also called for additional steps to protect the homeland from possible attack.

Obama said that, as president, he would make U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional on the success of President Pervez Musharraf’s efforts to shut down terrorist training camps and prevent the Taliban from using the nation’s territory as a staging ground.

“Let me make this clear,” Obama said. “There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again . . . If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”

Bush, he said, squandered national and international unity in a reckless war in Iraq that has compromised American values, undermined U.S. influence and left the country less secure.

“Because of a war in Iraq that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged, we are now less safe than we were before 9/11,” Obama said.

He also took a thinly veiled swipe at his principal rival for the Democratic nomination, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, with sharp words of criticism for the Congress, which he said had “rubber-stamped the rush to war” in 2002. “Congress became a co-author of a catastrophic war,” he said.”

Clinton, who voted for the Iraq war resolution, last week had described Obama’s willingness to meet with leaders of rogue nations without pre-conditions as “irresponsible and frankly naive.” That sparked a days-long argument between the two about diplomacy and the presidency.

In his speech today, Obama said the “lesson of the Bush years is that not talking [to hostile nations] does not work,” and signaled his desire to take a different approach.

“It’s time to turn the page on Washington’s conventional wisdom that agreement must be reached before you meet, that talking to other countries is some kind of reward and that presidents can only meet with people who will tell them what they want to hear,” he said.

Obama accused the Bush administration of undermining American values and said that if he becomes president, “we will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers and that justice is not arbitrary.”

He said he would prohibit torture “without exception,” assure that any intelligence gathering adheres to the letter of the law and close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Obama said he would end the Iraq war as president if Bush has not done so by the end of his second term. That, he said, would free up resources for fighting terrorism in Afghanistan. He pledged at least two additional brigades for the effort there and said he favored sending the Afghan government an additional $1 billion in non-military aid.

Obama courts black voters

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Associated Press Writer

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is reaching out to fellow blacks in his first advertising effort in South Carolina, a minute-long spot scheduled to begin airing Wednesday on 36 radio stations with predominantly black listenership.

The Illinois senator has been careful not to be defined strictly as a black candidate and risk alienating white voters, but he and rival Hillary Rodham Clinton are in a close fight for the black voters who traditionally make up half of the Democratic primary turnout in South Carolina. The radio ad allows Obama to target his appeal to black audiences.

Presidential hopeful, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., waves at supporters after speaking at the National Council of La Raza conference in Miami Beach, Fla., on Sunday, July 22, 2007. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Clinton enjoys strong support in the black community and is married to former President Clinton, who is wildly popular among black voters. Obama’s advisers say their biggest challenge is introducing him to voters who certainly know who Clinton is, but may not know much about Obama or even that he is black.

The ad makes it clear with excerpts from Obama’s speech to the NAACP. He ticks off problems facing the community — more black men in prison than in college, serious illnesses disproportionately affecting blacks and the argument that it takes a hurricane to show the rest of the country about problems of race and poverty.

“I know what you know,” Obama says. “Despite all the progress that’s been made we have more work to do.”

Soft jazz plays in the background as a deep-voiced announcer describes Obama as a Christian family man, a former civil rights lawyer and state legislator. “It’s time for Barack Obama,” the announcer says repeatedly.

Obama is running two ads on television in Iowa, but the radio spot is his first in South Carolina.

A poll of South Carolina adults by CNN/Opinion Research Corp. conducted last week found Clinton leading with 39 percent, followed by Obama with 25 percent. A poll last month by a different pollster, Mason Dixon, had Obama narrowly ahead.

CNN Debate Tonight

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The first of six officially sanctioned Democratic debates will be held tonight with CNN and Youtube as co-sponsors.  Tonight’s debate will be availble in its entirety on this space as soon as Youtube makes it available and I can put it up.  

The pundit class has been chattering actively that its put up or shut up time for Barack Obama.  Senator Clinton continues to solidify her poll numbers even as Obama outraises her.   She, however, has plenty of cash to end his Presidential aspirations and enough street cred with African American women to prevent him from solidifying and expanding his base with black folks.  Mama is perfectly positioned to take her place as the head of the Clintonista’s in this era of dynastic politics.

It would take a pretty big applause line and counterattack on Obama’s part, and a weak comeback on Hillary’s, to make this debate seem more than routine.   I’m not looking for any surprises.   Debate time commences in less than one hour.  Stay tuned here for a re-cap.

UPDATE: the debate has been lively and intersting. The questions sent in via Youtube have been excellent.  From Reparations to Iraq, from Same-Sex marriage to Darfur, they have truly been great.  Gravel drew some blood from Obama pointedly revealing the fact that despite Obama’s good government spiel, he has the CEO of foreign owned UBS bank bundling contributions for him.

Obama also dodged the reparations question deftly as did Edwards-Kucinich came out for it strongly.   Edwards stumbled on the same-sex marriage question by a North Carolina minister and they had the minister in the audience do a follow up and said that he didn’t really answer.

Senator Gravel’s point about following the money in this race is important and it says more about the state of our democracy than we think.  In 2008, a candidate willing to raise money under federal campaign finance guidelines to receive matching funds cannot win the Presidency.  The state of our Union is rotting from the inside out and an honest candidate willing to rise or fall by trusting the people cannot be elected.

Obama feeds labor a line

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Hat Tip:  By MIKE GLOVER, Associated Press Writer/photo by jay mallin

Democrat Barack Obama is telling union activists he would walk a picket line as president if organized labor helps elect him in 2008.

The Illinois senator also criticized President Bush’s policies toward working people.

`We are facing a Washington that has thrown open its doors to the most anti-union, anti-worker forces we’ve seen in generations,” Obama said in remarks prepared for delivery Saturday night. “What we need to make real today is the idea that in this country we value the labor of every American.”

Obama was scheduled to speak to Iowa’s largest union representing more than 20,000 state workers.

Four other Democratic presidential candidates have courted activists at the annual convention of Council 61 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Like his rivals, the Illinois senator challenged Bush’s labor policies and said he was committed to union causes.

“I stood on the picket line and marched with workers at the Congress Hotel in Chicago last week,” Obama said. “I had marched with them four years earlier and I told them when I left that if they were still fighting four years from now, I’d be back on that picket line as president of the United States.”

In his prepared remarks, Obama cited his years as a community organizer in Chicago. Because of that experience, Obama said he has closer ties to people who are struggling. He asked union activists to keep that in mind in choosing a candidate to support in January’s Iowa caucuses, which begin the presidential nominating process.

“So I want you to remember one thing, because you’ll hear from a lot of candidates between now and January,” Obama said. “When I talk about hope, when I talk about change, when I talk about holding America up to its ideals of opportunity and equality, this isn’t just the rhetoric of a campaign for me, it’s been the cause of a life — a cause I will work for and fight for every day as your president.”

Obama portrayed himself as a political outsider, saying it takes a new figure in Washington to break the gridlock.

“We’ve heard promises and slogans about change before,” said Obama. “The road to Washington is often paved with good intentions, but it always ends in the same divisive, polarizing politics that’s blocked real progress for so many years.”

The union plays an important role in Iowa Democratic politics. In addition to campaign money, the union’s endorsement brings into play a legion of talented organizers throughout the state.

Former Sen. John Edwards, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chris Dodd and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson also spoke to the union leaders.

Dodd, D-Conn., told delegates at a lunch that he had supported labor issues during his 30-plus years in Congress and urged them to consider backing candidates not now in the top tier of the crowded field.

“I hope over the next 180 days you’ll give us all a chance to be heard,” Dodd said. “I know I’m not as well known as some of the people you’ll be seeing, nor am I as well-heeled financially.”

I am so tickled that the laughter is hard to stifle.  The idea of a sitting President walking a picket line is almost radical.   Barack has clearly veered off his mainstream talking points and will be reigned in any minute now.   If he keeps trying to steal Edwards’ applause lines, he might actually become a progressive and then his money will dry up.