Notes from The Nation Magazine seminars, Oct. 2010
This is not a comprehensive rundown of the proceedings but simply what struck me as most interesting and worthwhile. It was a lot to take in, too. So consider this a partial view.
Among the Nation Magazine participants were Calvin Trillin, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Jim Hightower, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Christoper Hayes, John Nichols, Richard Kim, Mary Battari, Jeremy Schahill, Victor Navasky, Robert Gard, James Perry and Stephen Cohen . Amy Goodman was scheduled to attend, but storm conditions and transportation problems kept her from making it to the ship. She did, however, communicate her apologies to the participants.
I missed one key presentation by Katarina vanden Huevel and Stephen Cohen on conditions in the former Soviet Union.
Introduction: Areas of concern:
Chris Hayes talked about the obstructive tactics of the Republicans in Washington and the role of lobbyists. He said the worst thing about filibusters is that they waste time.* This sort of stalling serves to reduce government efficiency.
As a matter of fact, he says, everyone hates the current campaign financing system except the lobbyists. [He did not talk about the massive amounts of money being thrown into campaigns after the Roberts Supreme Court decision.]
Melissa Harris-Lacewell mentioned charter schools. She says that after Katrina, the public school system was scrapped and replaced by charter schools.
John Nichols says that Congress now operates "in the dark." The media no longer cover Congressional activities.
Jeremy Schahill links private contracts to the escalation of war (s). The war industry likes profits and contributes to politicians, both Republicans and Democrats. Much of the war (s) effort is bipartisan.
Obama and Foreign Policy
Stephen Cohen: The Russian-Georgian War was a Russian/ American proxy war fought on Former Soviet Union soil. The Georgian Army was set up and financed by the U.S.
The U.S. is not the "sole remaining superpowe .Today there is no superpower. This is difficult for Americans to accept. Russians now look to Germany and China as being more important to them. Russia does not need us. They just want us to stay out of their face.
Jeremy Schahill: believes that China could take down our our military through cyberwarfare.
John Nichols: says Australia is going with China. He also says that "jobs creation" is a poor excuse for increased militarization.
Panel on economics**
[I don't always know who said what here, but this was a discussion with ideas bouncing back and forth.]
Where did all the money go? $14 trillion have just disappeared. No one has been held accountable.
As a general rule, providing information about things is powerful. People don't act, or don't know how to act, for lack of knowledge.***
Mary Battari has a website called Bankster, U.S.A.
Mellissa Harris Lacewell[now Melissa Harris Perry] : The "ownership society" was supposed to make possible home ownership for all. One motive of this project was to stop public housing construction on the basis that everyone could be a home owner. Public housing has been under attack for a long time, and Katrina was the perfect excuse to take a lot of it out in New Orleans.
Mellissa Harris Lacewell works a lot with Planned Parenthood.****
Related to reproductive rights and family policy she calls for these reforms, based on re-organizing the tax structure and entitlements:
-more from the rich
-paying people for work they have been doing for free (parents and other family caregivers)
-tax on stock markets, a transaction tax. Every time a stock changes hands, a small fee should go to the feds to be used for social programs.
Afternoon discussion with Melissa Harris Perry
Melissa Harris Perry emphasizes structure; imagery grabs the attention in race matters, however. She talks about what race means to Blacks: "double consciousness" means thinking of oneself as Black and American, not just American. This is why the election of the first African American Presidnet was so "viscerally" meaningful to Blacks. For this unitary moment, Afrrican Americans could think, "A Black man is president. We are all just plain Americans!" Didn't last long, but it remains a strong feeling and a promise for a better future.
She brings up the issue of "respectability" and points out that it won't save black men. Look at what happened to the highly respectable Henry Louis Gates. This is because of the structural nature of racism which assigns all black men to the role of "scary outsider."
The demographic shift: Immigration has changed the dynamics of race and racism.
Chris Hayes on the "crisis of authority"
It's been a bad decade. What is the most trusted insititution in the country? The military. The second most trusted? The police.
Where has the Obama Adminstartion fallen short? What could Obama do now?
Chris Hayes: He writes chiefly on domestic policy. He says his biggest disappointment is on the issue of civil rights in Obama's administration. He was spineless on Acorn and Sharrod. We need some standards for our friends as well as for our enemies.He was really caught up in the Obama thing and is disillusioned by what has happened. He is suffering from what Naomi Klein refers to as a "hopeover." Obama has paid no attention to his base; he does not bother to cultivate them and their support the way the right wing cultivates and supports its base. He mentions again the Republican tactics of keeping Al Franken out of the Senate, which cost the Obama administration a lot.
Jeremy Schahill. Author of Blackwater. He writes mostly about domestic security. He points out that there are a lot of hawkish Democrats includking Joe Biden. He mentions an article by Bartlett and Steele in Vanity Fair on the corporate takeover of the U.S. And he mentions the Fair Elections bill, now in Congress.*****
Jeremy Schahill: Soldiers on the ground are killing people in Yemen. Make no mistake: "Obama is hitting harder militarily than Bush and Cheney ever did and backing it up legally." [direct quote] Anti-war Democrats are being kept out of the loop. McKrystal is a covert operator who has 2,000 people on a kill hit list. And apparently the Obama administration is OK with this. McKrystal also ran Camp Nama, a brutal torture facility. But Obama, like most Democrats, is right wing. He is principled in that he is doing exactly what one would expect of a person like him. The Democrats are a corporatist party. However, a caveat: It isn't all about Obama, and a lot of the criticism of him is racist.
The New McCarthyism; Navasky, Richard Kim, Chris Hayes
Navasky mentions Oppenheimer, Westbrook Pegler, and his own's book, Naming Names, about the Hollywood Five, HUAC, and Hollywood Cold War propaganda, all matters that those of us up in years remember well.
Richard Kim is a cultural historian. He attributes much of what is happening politcally now to right-wing hysteria and "magical thinking" over the failure of the Bush Doctine, which was supposed to bring democracy to the middle east. Bin Laden is still at large. Whites are experiencing economic stagnation. Concentrating on trivia and lies like the "Ground Zero" mosque and the Sharrod blowup and so on is very attractive to thise groups who are losing out socially and economically right now. It is comforting to believe that it's all gone wrong because "immigrants are taking your jobs, are out to kill us", an so on. Progressives need to provide a "different narrative" to replace the ones at large now.
Chris Hayes says it's comforting to pick on powerless people and to demonize them. This is one aspect of McCarthyism that has carried right through to today. Right wing conservatives have "outsourced" this activity to Fox News
Someone mentioned that although Progressives seem to be losing ground, we are actually gaining. The Nation Magazine is now a powerful voice on the Left compared to what it was in the 50's when Carey McWilliams was editor.
Question from the audience: Where are all the FBI files on this era? To this day, people don't know whether they were being spied on or not.
Question from the audience: What about self censorship on this cruise about the Palestine question?????? ******.
Notes on ERA: Contrary to what we have been hearing, the ERA is NOT dead. It has been ratified in 35 states [Hawaii is one of them] and it can be resuscitated without starting all over.
John Nichols We need party building based not so much on winning elections as on programs: jobs, etc. We should back politicians based not on their popularity but on whether they actually have done what they were elected to do. We should create movements around issues such as corporate campaign finance. Even if we lose on the issue, we have created a movement. This was the strategy the Republicans used after Roe v. Wade to build a movement, even though they did not get what they wanted. So support movement building!!!
New Orleans after Katrina.
Melissa Harris Lacewell: Katrina gave Obama his moment and made his presidency possible.
James Perry: Perry is a New Orleans native and Head of Fair Housing Action Center in New Orleans. He says lack of progress in housing is the worst problem in New Orleans. He talks about the realities of discriminination. Not much has changed. For instance, Blacks who left New Orleans were labelled "refugees." There were classified ads in the places they went that blatantly stated that they preferred to rent to whites. And there was no housing in New Orleans or St. Bernard Parish.
This hearkens back to the historical problems Blacks have always had in the housing market. For instance, Black veterans were not able to get FHA loans after WW II, although these were generously handed out to white vets. *******
Charter schools: No one really knows how they are doing, although we hear they are doing well. The fact of the matter is that all the schools in New Orleans are performing miserably. If the charter schools are in fact a little better, it's because they can kick out students.
New Orleans folks now understand that they need a way out and can't rely on government to help them.
John Nichols interviews Jim Hightower
Hightower "grew up" in populism. People worked and built for good but modest lives. Rebellion against railroads and banks were the foundation of populism in the beginning. Populism was a farmers' movement. This was not a pose or an attitude but a culture, a way of life. The 1880s were the heydey of the movement. It was really over by the beginning of the 20th Century. The mechanism to revive populism is in place, but people are not connected.
-a newspaper, news outlets
-Money (rich people, etc.)
-Running people for office and running them again until they win and then reminding them who they're with and what's supposed to be accomplished [or, as Molly would put it, "Dance with the one that brung you."]
-Run for "down ballot" offices (such as school board) and use them as platforms.
Hightower's main area of concern these days is agriculture: pesticide regulation, organics, and so on.
Right now all the elements for a populist revival exist, as he says, but they are fragmented, split up. We need to appeal, somehow, to the "common good."
The health care issue was badly framed. It should have been called Medicare for all. It could have been simply framed and simply explained. It could have been put this way: Lower the age to zero for Medicare.
He has a book out now called *Swim Against the Current.* Some other titles by him are Pops of Populism and Hightower Lowdown.
The Texas Observer is the Texas populist magazine that he writes for, as did the late Molly ivens (sorely missed). And Hightower publishes a monthly column in the Progressive Magazine.
He suggests reading Bob Herbert on the demise of the middle class.
Pix forthcoming but need some work.
*Delaying Al Franken from taking his seat in the Senate was also an effective tactic. Although he was eventually seated, the Republicans were able to make some gains in the way of keeping Franken from exercising his office.
**Our port of call, Bermuda, is the world center of re-insurance and where their money comes from. Bermuda has the highest per capita income in the world.
*** I think this is such an important point to make in our current atmosphere of blaming victims for their "failure."
****She reminds me that the best term for describing women's relationship to their bodies around sex, pregnancy, childbirth, and bringing up children is REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS. This is an area that needs a lot of defending also on the left side of the spectrum from people who don't understand the importance of supporting women both in reproductive matters, allowing women themselves to decide whether to have children and aiding them in their decisions, whatever they may be, and in their work as mothers.
*****This is one of the League of Women Voters' core issues.
****** I do know that Crhis Hayes has an article on Gaza in the current Nation which is pretty hard hitting.
******* My father got an FHA loan as a WWII vet with which he bought our first family home.