January 25, 2009

In a week marked by historic firsts and flubs, an editorial appearing in the Jan. 20 edition of the Los Angeles Times stopped me in my tracks. For a minute I thought I had inadvertently stumbled across the pages of The Onion.

Writing on the occasion of Barack Obama's inauguration, the editorial staff of the LA Times celebrated the first African American elected to the presidency but cautioned, without a hint of irony, that this is "a moment in which we must pledge vigilance, not unqualified encouragement."

Perhaps the editorial staff was feeling guilty. After all, like the rest of the corporate media, the LA Times has been anything but vigilant these past eight years. Instead of serving as watchdogs, the U.S. press corps behaved like lapdogs for one of the most secretive and deceptive administrations in American history.

January 25, 2009

A new president, a new administration and renewed energy stemming from a fresh view of America -- it has indeed been a celebratory week across the nation. And it’s wonderful to see our cultural melting pot reflected in the many folks represented on TV, radio, and other media this past week.

Is it a fact that we are truly becoming an equally representative society? We hope so, and we say it’s about time! We watched much of the pre- and post-inauguration festivities, and while we certainly enjoyed the entertainment, some nostalgic and some uplifting, and want to believe that a new era has dawned, we can’t help but be a bit skeptical that all may be too good to be true.

It’s a start you say?! Yes indeed it is. And we’re not naysayers; we share in some of the excitement and anticipation of better things to come.

January 25, 2009

I don't think I've ever considered high-action Hollywood blockbuster movies a reliable source of political wisdom, but after renting and watching the Batman saga The Dark Knight, I just may have to re-evaluate my position.

But before I get into that let's rewind a bit to last Tuesday, Inauguration Day, and see if we can't set a context for our movie-going exegesis.

I've a tendency towards binary thinking, which is an ugly trait for a liberal. It makes one overly rigid and highly moralistic, which, again, are okay if you're a Republican but kind of the wrong point if you're a putative relativist like me.

There's a good reason why the phrase "law and order liberal" doesn't have much traction.

January 11, 2009

It's only eight years since I was last at the White House, but it seems like a hundred.

I don't frequent that place, but chanced to be there on Bill Clinton's last day. On one hand, it was a day of warm satisfaction, on the other hand, a dark, cold, ominous day.

My wife Dark Rain and I were in a group of scholars, historians, filmmakers, movers and shakers, and American Indians, who had spent years planning the upcoming 2003-06 bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Clinton's very last White House function was in the hour just before George W. Bush and his gang arrived to take over. Many of us felt that the incoming administration was illegitimate and were grousing as we were ushered in by the Marine guards. But we were happy with what Clinton was about to do before leaving:

January 11, 2009

In a spate of exit interviews with reporters, George W. Bush has been uncharacteristically coy on the subject of how history will judge his time in office. "The Decider" prefers to leave such judgments to future generations.

Of course, this hasn't prevented W. from running his presidency through one last spin cycle before he leaves office on Jan. 20. While the Bush administration spent the better part of the past eight years doing (self-inflicted) damage control, the past few months have been devoted to a historical whitewash.

January 11, 2009

It’s my birthday, and I thought it appropriate to use the occasion for an ode to my dad, the economist. And particularly so given that dad was old-school, flipping terms from a bygone era, terms like macro- and micro-economics. Terms like Keynes, and that great man’s theory of money, theory of interest and theory of employment.

For it was just yesterday that I watched our president-elect stand at the podium and outline to the nation his vision of what it would take to pull us out of this deepening malaise. And what he said I hadn’t heard said since my dad passed on, nearly three decades ago.

What the president-elect said was: Keynesianism. The simple notion that we humans are not tragically tied to an economic fate beyond our control. A notion that had somehow been discredited and forgotten by the emergent ideology of laissez-faire -- a bankrupt right-wing ideology that has now brought our great nation to the knee of a Greater Depression, surfing a seismic wave with the Chicago school at its epicenter, riding a board named Reagonomics, and crashing about a reef known on the charts only as runaway greed meets the ideology of the cancer cell.

December 28, 2008

AlterNet, the online news digest, is sponsoring a project that asks readers to write a 100-word essay that answers the following question: "What would you like Obama's first 100 days in office to look like?" In lieu of my regular column, I thought I'd give it a go.

December 14, 2008

"Brazen." "Staggering." "Outrageous."

Last week, the political class was working overtime consulting Roget's Thesaurus to find just the right word to express their indignation over Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's plot to sell a U.S. Senate appointment to the highest bidder.

Blagojevich's pay-to-play scheme has all the trappings of old school Chicago-style politics: influence peddling, backroom deal making and a would-be political boss with a vindictive streak.

But there's a twist. Until recently, the senate seat that was up for sale belonged to none other than President-elect Barack Obama. As if Obama didn't have enough to contend with already, even the hint of scandal surrounding this transition could doom his presidency.

As political theater it doesn't get much better than this. Even the transcript of telephone conversations between Blagojevich and his aides reads like something out of a David Mamet play: "I've got this thing and it's fucking golden ... I'm just not giving it up for fucking nothing."

December 14, 2008

More media attention than usual has been devoted to labor law and the potential for some badly needed changes since Barack Obama's election. During his campaign, Obama publicly supported the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), an amendment to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

But some in the business community have gone on the offensive to condemn changes in labor law as if the world was going to end if the EFCA passed in Congress.

The NLRA was passed in 1935 and gave workers the right to self-organization and protection if they desired to organize collectively to address workplace issues with their employers. It was a response to the effects of industrial strife and workplace disruptions of interstate commerce.

When employees believed they were being treated as commodities instead of as a people, strikes ensued, costing the economy, workers and employers much needed financial resources during the Great Depression.

November 16, 2008

It's Obama instead of Ol' Bomber. What a relief!

At last, after all these dark and terrible years, we might have a man in the White House who doesn't stoke our fears and look about for enemies to taunt.

The one advantage of that endless election campaign was that it gave us time to see that Obama is obviously sane. How refreshing!

He doesn't immediately brand as an "enemy" any country that disagrees with us. Everything isn't U.S. versus T.H.E.M. He doesn't feed the national paranoia that those Bush Crazies whipped up out of 9/11. He doesn't wave weapons and middle fingers when he's speaking of foreign policy.

As someone wisely noted: when things get hot, you want a cool leader. Obama is warmhearted but coolheaded. That's what we desperately need. If you don't believe that's what we need, look at the last seven years:

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