Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Obama Principle

Tim Kaine in accepting the DNC chair today, defined the organizational principles of the Obama campaign. Note them well: “An organization built around a pretty basic principle—the principle that everybody matters. You don’t have to be a big donor for your donation to matter. You don’t have to be a phd or a foreign policy expert for your idea to matter, and you don’t have to be a full time campaign worker for your effort to matter.”
Where it's always Groundhog Day

Update 1/10: The UN's most senior Human Rights official said Israeli forces may have committed war crimes in Gaza, and Naomi Klein is calling for a South Africa-style boycott of Israel.

A long time ago I concluded that the perpetual wild card of the future was the intractable conflict in the Middle East between Israel and everybody else, which could rapidly spark thermonuclear war. Over the past 40 years, "everybody else" has contracted somewhat--there are leaders and states in the region willing to establish peace, and have been acting that way. But the basic conflict with the Palestinians remains, and if possible, has grown worse.

The Israeli bombing and invasion of Gaza is the latest tragic case in point. A few years ago President Carter received widespread criticism for his critique of the state of things there, chronicled in a documentary I saw recently. Last night on Charlie Rose, I heard Bob Simon--eminent reporter for CBS, a Jew who has lived in Tel Aviv, and who spent 40 days in Iraqi prisons during the first Gulf War--say essentially the same thing: Israel has organized what is essentially an apartheid regime in Palestinian areas, and because Israel controls and has essentially closed borders in and especially out of Gaza (with the cooperation of Egypt), he calls Gaza the world's largest prison.

The only good news Simon had about the current invasion is that it will certainly be over by January 20, so as not to piss off the new President. President-elect Obama has expressed "deep concern over civilian deaths"--which overwhelmingly victimized Palestinian civilians, including many children--and (as others speculate) his silence likely indicates his own views are much different than those of the current President Bush, whereas when he made a public statement on the terrorist attacks in India, he was supporting the views of the soon-but not soon enough-to be former administration. Bush is capping his awful regime with his usual chicken hawkishness, more hawkish at times that even Israel, with no consequences to him or the people he represents.

Simon was very pessimistic about peace in the region, since Israel has flooded Palestinian areas with their own settlers, now probably impossible to remove as part of a two-state deal. But he notes that in 20 years or so, the Palestinian population will be larger than Israel, and some solution short of an official South Africa kind of apartheid regime will be needed. One doesn't like to suggest that killing Palestinian children now is meant to delay that day, but I wonder if a state has the right to "defend itself" by any means it sees fit, if it is perpetrating gross injustices and making no effort to end them. But then, I'm not a Middle East expert and have no desire to be one. Fatalism remains my basic attitude about the place.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Back to Work

Whatayaknow, politics is back...Bill Richardson de-appoints himself as Commerce Sec because of a grand jury investigation will go on past his confirmation hearings. Could also be because he realized he doesn't really want the job. One report says Team Obama didn't expect him to take it. But there's a lot of jibber jabber out there right now.

Like the leak of Leon Panetta for CIA Director, which a couple of reporters (including Ambinder) say didn't come from Team Obama, which planned to do it later, and the reason Sen. Feinstein wasn't consulted is that they just hadn't done it yet. Andrea Mitchell reported that Panetta was actually interested in Commerce. Well, there's formally nothing stopping Obama from switching. But despite the no-specific-spook-experience mantra, Panetta's name is getting good response for his uncompromising on the record anti-torture stance. Which is buttressed by other national security and legal nominees.

Others note Panetta's strengths as human resource manager, and that as White House Chief of Staff he learned what the President needs in terms of intelligence. If he can only stifle his need to say "obviously" at the beginning of every sentence, he should win confirmation.

Israel has to stop bombing children.

Meanwhile, as the elements of the Obama economic recovery package are discussed in Washington, news that auto sales continued to tank in December, with all carmakers (except Subaru) experiencing decline of more than a third--including Toyota. (Though they couldn't beat Chrysler, down by more than 50%.) Toyota is closing plants for awhile in Japan, and the worldwide slowdown includes China, where the government is expecting mass political protests.