Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Free Market Ideology Must Be Dead----

if the free market votes for government intervention in the free market

Saturday, September 27, 2008

What I wish Obama had said last night, and why.

John, I'm so glad you've given me the opportunity to elaborate on what I meant when I said I'd talk to Iran with no preconditions. What I was trying to get at was I think we need to try to find a way to get out of the vicious circle of belligerence we've been caught up in the last eight years. Belligerence breeds belligerence, in foreign affairs and in presidential campaigns. I'm doing my best to avoid belligerence between us, and I can see how its not easy. Of course, its understandable that when we're threatened, or when ourselves or our loved ones are hurt or killed, we want to attack. Sometimes its justified too. But we need to avoid knee-jerk belligerence, we need to be able to think, to be smart, about our reactions to provocation. If we react impulsively, we're often playing into our adversaries hands. That's a big part of how we got into Iraq after 9/11, and why we're now more hated around the world than ever before, and how we squandered the good will we had after 9/11. We were overwhelmed with anger and sorrow, and we didn't make enough space to think so we could be smart as well.
When I said talks should be without preconditions, I should have said that the only precondition is that all parties to the talks commit themselves to listening to the others carefully and with respect. That doesn't mean accepting everything the others say. Threatening to wipe anybody off the face of the earth means complete lack of respect, and my preconditions would rule that out.
And, Jim, when you asked what I would cut to fund the 700 billion dollars that might be committed in the financial "rescue", of course I can't be too specific right now, but let me say this: we're going to have to give up the fantasy of the "new American century" in which we aim to establish supreme power over the whole world. Its unmanageably expensive to be the supreme power of the whole world, not to mention impossible except in video games. We need to find a way to have moral leadership in the world without being infinitely powerful, and, believe me, its a lot less expensive to exert moral leadership than it is to have supreme power.

Why do I wish Obama had said these things, aside from the fact that I wish he agreed with everything I believe? Because I think he's not naturally a belligerent person, but he seems to have felt he had to compete with McCain to sound tough. Since that's not his strength nor his inclination, he sounded lame, to my ears. But his thoughtfulness should have sounded like strength, not of the belligerent kind, but of the intelligent and smart kind. That would have come from speaking from his heart, as he said things that were true to what he feels and believes. Are the majority of the American people ready to hear that there's no bright line between evil and good in the world ,with us on the good side, and that unlimited power doesn't flow from being good and tough? Can the American people hear that we have a better chance of being a force for good in the world if we're ready to acknowledge our mistakes and have some humility? I don't know, but I wish they were presented with a good and strong case (perhaps citing the bible) to think about.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Is this a post-racial society?

White prejudice often shows up in the United States as white people speaking from their particular perspective as if it were universal, treating non-whites as if they were invisible or non-existent. With this point in mind, recent statements by white people in the context of the Obama candidacy that we live in a "post racial" society could mean just the opposite; when this view is held mainly by white people it could be evidence that race and racism are quite alive and operative, and that the form taken by racism and prejudice is predominantly of the insidious kind.  We will live in a post-racial society, paradoxically enough, when people make explicit the group perspective from which they are viewing the world. 

A case in point:  In the September 14th issue of the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Matt Bai argues that identity politics are a minor factor in this year's presidential race.  He claims that for younger voters issues of race and gender are minor: "It turns out that the biggest deal about racial and gender identity is that, especially to younger Americans who live and work in a vastly changed country, it isn't such a very big deal after all".  (p. 10)

I wonder which younger voters Bai is referring to; it seems to me that, given the overwhelming percentage of black voters of all age groups who, according to polls, plan to vote for Obama, he must be referring to white voters.  I suppose it is possible that 97% of black voters think Obama is the better candidate based on factors having nothing to do with race, while less than half of white voters think so.  But I think it is more likely that black voters of all ages have in mind, not only the history of systematic denial of opportunity and rights to black citizens in the United States, but also the hope that Barack Obama will pay more attention to the specific challenges faced by black people and families, as well as the ongoing race-based inequities in this country.

Consider that while blacks make up 13% of the US population, as of 1995 according to Human Rights Watch, they made up 30% of those arrested, 44% of those in jail, and 49% of those serving longer terms in prison.  About 1/3 of black men aged 20-29 were in jail or prison, or on probation or parole in that year, and 13% of black adult males had lost the right to vote because of a felony conviction.  In 2002, 5% of black men were incarcerated, compared to .6% of white men.  As of mid-1999 there were nearly 800,000 black men in prison, or 4.6%, 11.3% of black men aged 20-34, as well as 68000 black women.  

It seems to me that one can claim that we live in a post-racial society only by ignoring figures such as these, and others like them having to do with racial disparities in infant mortality, poverty, substandard housing, and the like. It is to be expected that blacks will be aware of and concerned about these inequities, since they affect black communities disproportionately.  But if we were indeed a post-racial society, that is, if we were indeed one country, under God, indivisible, then whites could not be rested comfortably unaware of such suffering among the people of one sub-group.  I imagine that one of the reasons why black people favor Obama in such overwhelming numbers is that they hope that as a black man, those 868,000 black men and women in prison, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces, are more likely to show up on his radar screen.  If the fact that Obama is running for President allows white people to believe that racially based inequities  are behind us, his candidacy in that particular way will have contributed, ironically, to setting us back in the effort to become a post-racial society.