Who killed MyDD?

 

And will it ever come back?

 

What Next on HCR? [Updated]

(This began as a comment to Charles' diary on Clyburn's stupendous tactical blunder.  I post it here as its own diary because I think this site needs more discussion that goes beyond criticism and looks forward to framing strategies for the next phase, strategies that can bring us together to do a much better job as a left flank.)

The problem that progressives face, particularly on domestic issues, is an entrenched opposition that would be happy with nothing and has shown the ability to spin obstruction successfully as a victory.  But beyond belaboring the obvious, this leaves the democratic caucus with three options:

1. Vote down a bad bill and try to win the spin in order to regroup for a better version.

2. Take the "something is better than nothing" attitude.

3. Try to get a bill through that cracks open the door for further reform.

With regard to health care, I have advocated 3 for the last week or so.  I respect principled opposition based on critical analysis of the bill's flaws (option 1).  But there is a preponderance of opinion by those close to the process, both policy wonks and legislators, that even the senate bill can function as groundwork for further amendment and reform.  The public and legislative attention span is finite.  Going back to the proverbial drawing board seems a bad dice roll.  The idea that this bill is simply "better than nothing" (option 2) seems a form of cynicism or defeatism that will do nothing more than ultimately embolden the opposition and demoralize those who want real reform (I think that includes all of us here at MyDD).  Clyburn seems to be falling into this option.  Otherwise, why raise the white flag before convening conference?  

In a certain sense, the die has been cast.  It seems almost a done deal that we will get a bad bill resembling the senate version.  Regardless of which of these 3 options seems the best path, number 3 is where we are at.  What we must do now is look down the road:

1. We need to identify those legislators who actually put up a constructive fight for the PO, for repealing anti-trust, and for drug re-importation and make sure they know we have their backs.  

2. We need to identify those who urged passage based on the argument that there will be further opportunity to improve this bill and that there is more to be gained from passing than killing in the long run, and hold their feet to the fire.  I will be looking for Harkin to make good on his stated intention to push the PO in separate legislation next year.  We must remind him and others of this commitment and it should be coupled with a public campaign that makes this a critical issue for the midterms.

3. We need to do a much better job of confronting the anti-reform spin.  This is where we needed much more effective leadership from Obama.  We needed him to use his talents and charisma to cast reform in terms of identifiable "values" just as Reagan did with his tax cuts and Friedmanesque anti-governmentalism.  We can't rely on him for this.  He has disappointed on this account.  So we need to find a better way.  Maybe then he will get on board.  Presidents often lead when pulled and pushed.  It was true of FDR on the New Deal and with LBJ on civil rights.

4. We cannot successfully primary all those conservadems and those who have caved like Clyburn.  But we do need to identify one or two symbolic races where we can replace a centrist or a progressive with insufficient backbone with someone willing to fight, and make sure that it captures national attention.  This is what the teabaggers are doing effectively.  We don't need the same kind of rabid purity police that we see in the GOP, but we need to display some muscle or Obama will be having lunch with Lieberman, Nelson, and Specter all too often for the next three years.  The consequences of that will be bad if he wins reelection in that manner and even worse if he doesn't.  

Update [2009-12-29 19:42:58 by Strummerson]: I have been uninvolved in the debate here as my day has been devoted to vacation childcare and some precious work time. But there haven't been many openings for the discussion I wanted this diary to spark. Most of us actually share the same goals with regard to HCR. Yet instead of thinking ahead about how to push forward, the debate has once again fallen into personal sniping. I thought that the removal of a few bad actors from the conversation yesterday would have helped. I guess I was naive.

But again, the bill will most likely pass and resemble the Senate version, which most of us find flawed and deficient to varying degrees. We've got several options. Jed Lewison has a piece up at Dkos that outlines them as follows:

Broadly speaking, once it passes, there are three different positions one can take on health care reform:

1. Say that health care reform once and for all solves the national health care crisis ("Mission Accomplished"

2. Say that while health care reform is a major step on the path towards solving the national health care crisis, it doesn't finish the job and more must be done, particularly on cost containment/affordability ("Mend it")

3. Say that repealing health care reform is essential to addressing the national health care crisis ("End it")

For Republicans, the choice is between options #2 and #3 -- "Mend it" vs. "End it."

For most Democrats, the choice is between options #1 and #2 -- "Mission Accomplished" vs. "Mend it."

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/12/29/820155/-Mission-Accomplished-vs.-Mend-it-vs.-End-it

There are those among us who show no interest into efforts to mend it without rationale for why future efforts might succeed where current efforts fall short. I would rather frame the question as an inquiry into how further efforts might improve upon the present situation. This is how "progressives" pursue "progress." Analyzing how this bill falls short from a policy and a political perspectives should be preliminaries for trying to conceive further possibility, not for dismissing current and future efforts and not for sniping between fellow travelers. I am interested in /any/ suggestions that do not include declaring victory or defeat and walking away. Can't we do that with a bit of civility?

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Afghanistan, History, Racism, Poppies, and Schools

I open this short piece with two qualifications:

1. I am unqualified to articulate a responsibly comprehensive perspective on Afghan history and its contemporary complexities.

2. I do not intend to charge anyone in particular with racism.

3. I was ambivalent about the intentions Obama voiced during the campaign, with which his now official Afghan strategy seems coherent.  I remain deeply skeptical, though I am not prepared at this point to explicitly oppose it.

Nevertheless, I would like to offer, or more properly echo a caution with regard to our discussions of Obama's Afghanistan decision.  Those who oppose his strategy based on the claim that his goals are unachievable in this time frame may be correct.  But the implications in some comments here that Afghan citizens are somehow inherently ungovernable and corrupt, that their multi-ethinic tribal society cannot function coherently, seem flawed from two perspectives: they do not take history into account and they seem to rest on borderline racist assumptions.  Before anyone howls in defensive protest, let me clarify that I believe we are all affected to some degree by unconscious assumptions about those of different races and cultures, including myself.  

Let's keep in mind that Afghanistan functioned as a stable multi-ethnic state for much of the 20th century.  There is nothing in the ethnic or cultural make-up of Afghanistan to indicate that the vision of a stable Afghanistan is a fantasy.  

As far as I can tell, two central factors have changed since the 1970s, one material-economic and the other ideological.  The first is the influence of the international opiate market.  The other is the militant wahabbism that non-Afghan guerillas who came to fight the Soviets brought with them, the most [in]famous of whom is named Osama.  It seems to me that the latter capitalizes on the destabilizing effects effects of the former.  And these same factors also inform the context across the border in Waziristan.  It seems to me that fighting Taliban and al Qaeda militants without addressing poppies will prove both quixotic and sisyphean.  Thus we should be asking how Obama's strategy will offer economic alternatives to poppy production that the tribal leaders/warlords will embrace.  If they cannot answer that, and if we do not have a longer term strategy that involves the institutions proven to produce the most economic development and social stability, namely schools, then we are indeed urinating into a vicious nor'easter.  

But let's drop the stuff about how Afghans are a collection of ungovernable, endemically corrupt, primitive tribes of religious fanatics.  The problem may prove too big and the strategy insufficient, but let's focus the debate firmly and consistently on historically rooted social and economic factors and not "cultural" generalization that smack of under-examined assumptions.  

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Palestinian draft resolution on Goldstone, Gaza and Jerusalem

Forgive the brief diary.  No time today, but wanted to provide a  link to a pdf of the Palestinian draft resolution, obtained by Haaretz.  It's short and to the point.  Could it organize or stimulate more coordinated international pressure to push the peace process forward?  How should the US respond?  How will it?  Can it propel popular, grassroots activists?  

http://www.haaretz.com/hasite/images/iht _daily/D141009/palestiniandraft.pdf

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[UPDATED] Homophobic Murder in Tel Aviv

A different kind of terrorist atrocity hit Tel Aviv Saturday night. In Israel's most liberal and gay-friendly city, and also by some measures its largest, a gunman dressed in black entered the basement room of a gay and lesbian center where a support group of young people, ages 14-21, was meeting with facilitators.  He pulled a pistol and opened fire.  Nir Katz, 26, one of the facilitators, and Liz Troubishi, 17, were murdered.  15 others were injured, 10 hospitalized, 2 in critical condition.  The gunman remains at large.  A variety of articles provide more information at www.haaretz.com, including condemnations by both Netanyahu and Livni, leaders of the two largest political parties, and background that reveals this as a radical escalation of anti-gay violence here.    

Most assume that the perpetrator acted with a religious motive.  And indeed, the ultra-orthodox have become more actively hateful in recent years.  What I find astonishing about this is that despite the widely interpreted biblical prohibition on male-male anal sex, Rabbinic Judaism actually contains a legal mechanism that would not just enable, but mandate acceptance of homosexuality.  According to a principle called pikuah nefesh, any commandment, excluding prohibitions on murder, idolatry, and adultery, is superseded if a human life is potentially at stake.  Given what we know about the relationship between the closet--self-imposed and as a function of overt social repression--and suicide and murder, it seems to me that this biblical prohibition, which does not even hold for all gays or for any lesbians, should be considered null and void.  

Such a principle of reverence for human life, pikuah nefesh should guide the ethos of a state that calls itself "Jewish." Instead, it has been relegated to a parodic flexibility and inconsistency by those who claim to be the standard bearers of Torah Judaism.  Steven Spielberg's holo-kitch flick, Schindler's List, at least popularized the Talmudic maxim that one who saves a single life is like one who has saved a universe entire.  Following the concept that all humans are created in God's image found in the creations myths in Genesis, Rabbinic Judaism has always considered murder to be the gravest desecration of God's holy name.

Demonstrations have been announced.  I would love to see hate crimes legislation brought to the floor of the Knesset, if only to force the leaders of religious parties to take public responsibility for the incitement that has destroyed the young lives of Nir Katz and Liz Troubishi and so hideously and blasphemously desecrated the holy name of the God they claim to represent.

Update [2009-8-4 2:45:9 by Strummerson]: No, they haven't caught the murderer yet.  But this response from Yoel Marcus sums up much of what I tried to say here and places it effectively in both a historical and broader social context.

The bloodbath in a gay-lesbian club, shocking and upsetting though it was, is merely a part, or perhaps a result, of the general violence into which this country is descending. Hatred or intolerance for others' opinions leads to them dying by violence. There is a chilling similarity between what happened on Nahmani Street in Tel Aviv and what Yigal Amir did years ago.

...

For generations, Jews were considered a people that sanctified nonviolence in interhuman relations and lived by the the "law of the land." Our ancestors relied on God, but the modern-day Orthodox place less reliance on Him; they have fewer expectations of their prayers being answered. Instead - and it makes no difference whether we are talking about the Zionist ultra-Orthodox people from the illegal West Bank outposts or the non-Zionist ultra-Orthodox ones from the Mea She'arim outpost - they do exactly as they please. A time traveler from the past would ask himself: These are Jews? http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1105067.html

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Obama and Clinton: Work it Out

Although it's impossible to write anything on this subject without re-igniting the bonfire of primary cliches, any democrat concerned with foreign policy must be attentive to the relationship between the President and Secretary of State.  And it appears to me that something is amiss, particularly from the Oval Office side of things.  I, like many who supported Obama over Clinton for President, voiced enthusiastic support for Clinton's appointment as Secretary of State, despite recognizing that Obama would be losing a key player in the Senate on domestic issues such as health care reform.  

Some of us thought the trade-off worth it due to her proximity to the Northern Ireland process that resulted in the Good Friday agreement.  A historical breakthrough that has proven a stable and productive framework, it represents a signal post-war foreign policy triumphs.  Some thought this would be particularly helpful, together with her established credibility with both Israeli and Palestinian constituencies, in moving things along here (I write from Jerusalem at the moment).  When Obama added George Mitchell to the team, things looked even stronger.  Personally, I thought HRC's appointment a fabulous idea because of her signature "Women's Rights are Human Rights" moment in Beijing.  Clinton as Secretary of State is in an unprecedented position to address the situation of women and girls around the world, an end in itself but also crucial for processes of liberalization and democratization we should be supporting.  

Yet as the health care debate is heating up, the trade-off is looking bad.  For unless HRC is fulfilling a quiet coordinated role on foreign policy, Obama seems to have relegated one of his most talented players to a bench role.  As in the general election campaign, with an ability she had already demonstrated in the Senate, HRC has been a "loyal soldier" and impeccable "team player." But maybe a little too much of one.

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What Would Peace SOUND Like?

Here's a clip of my favorite Israeli songwriter (one of my favorites in general for that matter) Ehud Banai performing with two legendary Palestinian musicians, George Samaan and Salem Darwishe, on the shores of the Galilee.  The song is called Nitzotz Ahava or "Spark of Love." It contains the lyric:

"What for you is a dream, for me is awakening

What for you is a dream, for me is awakening

What for me is peace, for you is war

What for me is peace, for you is war"

These are sung back and forth responsively between them.  But it's followed by:

"The place you are going to, there I will also reach.

The place you are going to, there I will also reach."

 Maybe these three should be invited to lead the negotiations...

So what would peace here sound like?  A lot like this.  And pretty damn good I think.  Have a good weekend.  

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A Patriot for Peace

This is a short diary presenting a video that depicts the efforts of Peace Now to publicize the rate of continuing settlement activity and the occasionally violent resistance its activists face.  It focuses on Idan, a veteran of the IDF who was wounded in the line of duty, and who is physically abused by a security official of a settlement for filming in a public space.  Idan considers the work he does now as a patriotic imperative.

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Obama Must Come to the Mountain

On my way into the center of Jerusalem this week, I witnessed the proverbial "writing on the wall." An enigmatic call appeared in graffiti on the retaining wall of a park I pass through each morning.  Against the pale stone background someone had spray-painted in Hebrew: "If Obama will not come to the mountain; the mountain will come to Obama." Beyond the worrying placement of Obama's name where that of Muhammed usually appears, I am not sure what this scrawl defacing the picturesque park intends.  But an editorial by Aluf Benn in this morning's Haaretz clarified to me that in order to move forward here, it is time for the President to come to the mountain, to the original "city on a hill."

A huge omission lies in the American demand that Israel freeze construction in the settlements. President Barack Obama and his aides failed to stir an internal Israeli debate on the settlements and did not pose a political or public challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding his insistence that "natural growth" be allowed beyond the Green Line.

A Haaretz-Dialog poll published last Friday shows that the public is divided over what is best: construction in the territories or friendship with Obama. Nonetheless, no political force in Israel stood up to Netanyahu and called on him to "say yes to Obama - freeze the settlements." Not Tzipi Livni and Kadima, who missed an opportunity to challenge the prime minister because of the rift with the United States. Not Yuli Tamir and the other Labor rebels, who could have depicted Defense Minister Ehud Barak as a collaborator with the settlers. Even Meretz, which is trying to rehabilitate itself, did not take up the flag of struggle that Obama put out there.

During deliberations in the Knesset a week ago, some opposition MKs attacked Netanyahu for ruining our ties with the United States. But none of them, not even the Arab MKs, called on him to accept Obama's demand.

The left's silence is amazing if we recall the previous crisis in relations with the United States, during the era of George H.W. Bush. At that time Laborites demanded that prime minister Yitzhak Shamir "say yes to [secretary of state James] Baker," and when he refused, they disbanded the unity government. Two years later the left supported America when it conditioned loan guarantees to Israel on freezing settlements. This time, nothing. It's as if the left is saying: Let Obama and Bibi fight it out - we're going to the beach. It's summertime.

What happened? First, Obama did not try to communicate with the Israeli public and convince them that freezing settlements will be an important and positive step to contribute to peace and a better future. Obama addressed the Arabs and Muslims, but not the Israelis. His neglect increased concerns among Israelis that they do not have a friend in the White House. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1098 630.html

 

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Amnesty Gets it Right: Thuggery is Thuggery

To paraphrase Gerturde Stein: A Thug is a Thug is a Thug.

A report from Amnesty International identifies IDF and HAMAS actions as crimes.

In its first in-depth human rights report on the recent Israeli offensive in Gaza, Amnesty International accused both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during the fighting earlier this year. The group charged that the Israel Defense Forces killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians and destroyed thousands of Gaza Strip homes in attacks that amounted to war crimes, and denounced Hamas for firing rockets into civilian areas of southern Israel.
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1097 267.html

HAMAS response?  Quite predictable:

Hamas said in response that the report was "imbalanced and unfair."

In the mean time, the blockade of Gaza continues, preventing its civilian population from picking up the pieces.  Dueling diaries on this site concerning a ship carrying activists who sought to defy the blockade and draw attention to the plight of Gaza demonstrated a reciprocal hyperbole and partisan blindness that mirrors the conflict itself.  One diary labeled Israel's interception of the ship as an abduction and a kidnapping, as well as an effort to maintain the covert nature of an ongoing and very public military operation by a sovereign state.  The protesters were never hidden from public view and were escorted to the Israeli port of Ashdod, not stuffed away in some dark cellar or secret prison.  The other diary dismissed the activists as simply showboating and discussions resulted in proliferating obfuscations, including aspersions of anti-Semitism and accusations of narcissism.  Since the protesters were seeking publicity, it must be for themselves and their concern for Gaza's plight couldn't possibly by sincere.  Never mind that the very concept of civil disobedience almost always involves drawing publicity to what the protesters perceive as injustice.  Boy, those marchers on Sela were real grandstanding showboaters.  How could they have actually cared about civil rights?  Gazans are, in this view of the situation in question, merely instruments for the self-aggrandizement of anti-Semites.

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