Roundup: Historian's Take
This is where we place excerpts by historians writing about the news. On occasion this page also includes political scientists, economists, and law professors who write about history. We may from time to time even include English profs.
SOURCE: Spiegel Online (11-11-08)
SPIEGEL: Mr. Ferguson, were you moved when you saw the future president, Barack Obama, in Chicago?
Ferguson: Yes, it was a very moving moment. It was similar to the release of Nelson Mandela. When Obama was born, in 1961, mixed marriages between blacks and whites were still illegal in one-third of the American states.
SPIEGEL: Historically speaking, that was yesterday,
Ferguson: Of course. But we are talking about ordinary discrimination, not just the legacy of slavery. And it had not disappeared. It is astonishing that the transformation from a racist America to an America that elects a black man to the White House was possible within that period of time. Even the world's most dogmatic conservative ought to be moved.
SPIEGEL: You initially favored John McCain?
Ferguson: I have become a convert in the last six months because of Obama's extraordinary combination of rhetorical genius, coolness under fire and organizational skills. This was the best election campaign we have ever experienced.
SPIEGEL: Which doesn't necessarily have to mean a great presidency.
Ferguson: What it means is enough: the death of racism, the end of the original American sin and, most of all, the right reaction to end the economic crisis. Obama can stimulate self-confidence because he is so calm and collected. He will not simply put an end to the crisis or ensure that banks lend money again. He is a politician, not the Messiah. But he can change the national mood. Americans are lucky that they were able to elect him now, just as the panic reached its climax. It is as if they had voted Roosevelt into office earlier, in 1930, and not in 1933.
SPIEGEL: Shouldn't the world have seen it coming, the economic crisis we are now experiencing?
Ferguson: Of course, it has been clear since 2006. I know that for many people it doesn't feel that way. They are horrified because they were taken by surprise, and they are in a panic because the enemy comes from within. The system is the enemy. And they don't understand the nuances of the crisis, which makes them afraid.
SPIEGEL: In retrospect, historians are usually right. What did you foresee in 2006?
Ferguson: Excessive debt. The debts of private households and the financial institutions reached levels that could no longer be offset. Then came the bubble in the real estate market, when prices doubled even though the houses weren't worth the money. But most of all, there was the ignorance of the bankers, hedge fund managers and financial experts in the political arena, who did not want to recognize something that was plain as day.
Ferguson: That a liquidity crisis could happen. That they would run out of money. "Impossible," everyone was saying at the time.
SPIEGEL: It sounds a little self-opinionated for you to claim that you had predicted all of this for years.
Ferguson: Oh, I've been wrong before. The thing I was wrong about was the trigger.
SPIEGEL: The trigger?
Ferguson: I had believed that the price of oil would be the cause of the world economic crisis, and that the necessary trigger would be a second defenestration, a second Sarajevo and perhaps even a war, a truly major war.
SPIEGEL: Iraq and Afghanistan don't count?
Ferguson: Too small. I had believed that a geopolitical event would lead to a credit crisis, but this crisis is so fundamental that it was capable of triggering itself. Money disappeared, and now companies can no longer refinance, can no longer borrow anything. Now it'll be bloody.
SPIEGEL: Are the bubbles happening with greater frequency than before, or is this just the way we perceive it? Or has the world economy consisted of a single super-bubble for some time now, as speculator George Soros says?
Ferguson: There have been bubbles large and small, again and again since 1700. First there was the tulip bubble and then, in 1890, it was all about the gold mines. No, we haven't even changed the rules of the game. If a central bank makes loans available to speculators at low interest rates, we have a bubble. Always, it's guaranteed. Yesterday, today and tomorrow again...
Posted on: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 12:24
SOURCE: CNN (11-10-08)
... [Joe] Biden has often said that his role model for the vice presidency is Lyndon Johnson, who served with John Kennedy from 1961 to 1963 before becoming president.
Biden has explained that "People knew -- as they know about me now -- that he understood politics in the broad terms of Congress, and he understood the detail of the legislation."
Biden has the right idea about what he could contribute as a long-term senator in the office of the vice president -- but has it wrong in terms of how he sees the history. Ironically, Lyndon Johnson should be a model for how the new administration should not treat the vice presidency.
Johnson was miserable during his time in the office and Kennedy did not use him well. LBJ could have been an enormous asset. He was a southerner and former Senate majority leader who could have helped Kennedy sell programs such as civil rights and Medicare in a Congress dominated by Southern conservative Democrats.
But instead of using Johnson as a legislative deal-maker, he isolated him from the political arena. Tensions between Johnson and Senate Democrats were partially to blame. Johnson's ego got in the way when he tried to keep his office in the Senate and suggested to Democrats that he should be invited to head their strategic meetings. His colleagues rejected the suggestion.
At the Democratic Conference meeting on January 3, 1961, Johnson was devastated when he heard colleagues who helped him gain power say they didn't want him there. Sen. Al Gore Sr. said, "This caucus is not open to former majorities."
Kennedy was also leery of Johnson's ambitions and circumscribed his interaction with Congress. Johnson's biggest roles were to help promote the national space program and to lead the White House Committee on Equal Employment, from which he pushed for civil rights initiatives.
Kennedy also sent Johnson on numerous overseas trips. According to his biographer Robert Dallek, "Kennedy was happy to have Johnson gather intelligence on what senators and representatives were thinking, but he had no intention of allowing him to become the point man or administration leader on major bills." Johnson bitterly remarked that the president was making no use of him in dealing with the Hill: "You know, they never once asked me about that!"
In the end, Kennedy did not have much success with legislation. Most of his major proposals languished in the congressional committee system and he was forced to use executive power to develop programs like the Peace Corps. The decision to constrain and isolate Johnson was clearly a mistake and didn't help his cause.
Johnson is also a negative example in terms of how, after becoming president when JFK was assassinated and then winning a race for the presidency in his own right, he treated his own vice president, Hubert Humphrey. From the start, Johnson understood that Humphrey could be an enormous source of strength with legislative relations.
The Minnesota senator had served as Johnson's chief liaison to northern liberals in the 1950s. He had proven enormously effective as Senate Whip at obtaining the votes needed for passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
But from the start of his vice presidency, the relationship was full of tension. One month after the election, LBJ said that Humphrey was constantly trying to appear in the press and, after letting him see a memorandum about rumors that Johnson was dying from liver disease, he said "You'd like that, wouldn't you Hubert...."
Initially, Johnson did use Humphrey to help him sell the War on Poverty. According to the Senate Historical Office, Humphrey, known by many as the "field marshal on Capitol Hill," regularly "delivered votes from lawmakers who seemed immune to blandishments from any other quarter." Humphrey chaired a number of key committees on civil rights.
But, like Kennedy, Johnson eventually excluded Humphrey and limited his role. The problem came when Humphrey expressed strong doubts about America's escalating role in Vietnam. In 1965, Humphrey privately told the president that if they ended up "embroiled deeper in fighting in Vietnam over the next few months, political opposition will steadily mount."
Johnson's response was brutal. He did not allow Humphrey to participate in deliberations over the war and stripped the vice president of many duties. According to one aide, "He was frozen out, really sent to purgatory for a full year."
Johnson eventually brought Humphrey back into the inner circles of decision-making in 1966, but only after Humphrey changed his tune and agreed to sell the war in Vietnam in Congress. The decision would undermine his chances for the presidency in 1968.
Obama should think about Lyndon Johnson as a perfect example when he decides what to do with Biden -- but not in the way that Biden has suggested. Obama needs to use Biden to strengthen the chances for the administration's programs as they make their way through the House and Senate during extraordinarily difficult times.
If Obama takes Biden's words to heart and replicates Johnson's experience, he will lose one of his best weapons.
Posted on: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 - 21:44
SOURCE: TheDailyBeast.com (11-11-08)
The presidential honeymoon is like the Tooth Fairy—it doesn’t exist, even though some people insist on clinging to the concept. There is no chance that President Barack Obama will enjoy any honeymoon period. This period allegedly occurs during the first one or two months after the inauguration when the media and political opponents supposedly give the new president time to set up his presidency and allow his initiatives to pass without criticism.
While approval ratings tend to be higher in the first months of office, there never has been the kind of honeymoon period often talked about. The sociologist Steven Clayman and his colleagues have reviewed the transcripts from White House press conferences dating back to 1953 and found that the White House press corps can be extremely assertive in the first few months, particularly if the economy is struggling.
When Bill Clinton began his presidency, the press was ruthless. Just two days after Clinton was sworn into office, NBC reporter Lisa Myers commented that “from up close, the Clinton White House looked like the ‘Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Players” while Fred Barnes, the conservative pundit, quipped that “he hit the ground back-pedaling.”
Obama has already come under attack. Conservative talk radio hosts jumped on remarks he made about Nancy Reagan, séances, and speaking to dead presidents. Obama called Mrs. Reagan to apologize for his remarks.
Nor does the opposition party like to sit still. When rumors surfaced in early February 1953 that the new president, Dwight Eisenhower, was considering a naval blockade of Communist China, Senator John Sparkman of Alabama, up and coming Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, insisted that the president needed to come clean, explaining if this meant “the first step toward global war.”
Sparkman said that if Eisenhower took actions without consulting Europeans, he could cause an “irreparable split with our allies….” The following week, Democrats openly criticized a statement from Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Benson, which suggested that the administration was planning to renege on its promise to provide price supports for perishable goods like meat and eggs.
After President John Kennedy delivered his State of the Union Address in January 1961, Senator Barry Goldwater called it “just a continuation of the Kennedy campaign speeches.” Though Goldwater said he admired Kennedy’s determination to fight communism, he added, “The President does not seem to understand the economy of the country. Either that, or he has been ill advised.” Representative Charles Halleck, the House Minority Leader, warned that Kennedy was pushing “spending proposals that will cost billions.”
When President George W. Bush spent his first day in office in January 2001 re-imposing restrictions on federal aid to international organizations that offered abortion counseling or assisted women in receiving abortions—the same day that he picked the anti-abortion Missouri Senator John Ashcroft to serve as Attorney General--Democrats and even some Republicans were furious. “It is ethically wrong and it is morally wrong,” said Representative Nancy Johnson, a Republican from Connecticut.
Indeed, President-Elect Obama has already come under attack. Conservative talk radio hosts jumped on remarks he made about Nancy Reagan, séances, and speaking to dead presidents. Obama decided to call Mrs. Reagan to apologize. Even among Democrats, the blogosphere has been buzzing with debates about his potential cabinet appointments, with strident differences emerging between the left and centrist Democrats over individuals such as Larry Summers for Treasury.
While a honeymoon period has never really existed, opening days are becoming even more contentious for new presidents. There are several factors at work. The 24 hour, seven days a week news cycle, accelerated by the Internet, has opened the door for instantaneous and unedited attacks. The fragmentation of news outlets in recent decades, as well as the open partisanship of on-air radio and TV personalities, has increased the number of journalists willing to attack and able to do so with relative ease.
Then there is the polarization of contemporary politics. Differences between the political parties has widened and intensified as the number of centrists in the Republican and Democratic parties has greatly diminished. Civility has often disappeared. Even though Obama was able to win votes in traditionally red states and appeal to some Republicans disaffected with the status quo, it remains unclear whether there is any true abatement of polarization.
After all, polarization stems from deep structural forces not susceptible to rhetoric, such as gerrymandering, congressional procedures, demographic change, and partisan imperatives. Assuming that polarization is alive and well, both parties will have more than enough of an incentive to attack, and to attack early.
Finally, there is the never-ending campaign. In recent years, the campaign season has become longer. Realizing the high cost of campaigning and importance of name recognition, potential candidates start earlier and earlier in the political season. Frankly, the campaign for 2012 has already begun. Politico has already reported that Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich will be speaking in Iowa at the end of the month to the Republican Governors Association. Mike Huckabee will be in Iowa to promote his new book and Governor Bobby Jindal will make his way to the caucus state to speak to a number of civic organizations.
The best bet for Obama is to accept that presidential honeymoons don’t exist. The fact he has brought in Rahm Emanuel, a tough, hard-nosed partisan to serve as his chief of staff, and that he made this appointment so quickly after the election, is a sign he is well aware of this history and ready to do battle in Washington.
Posted on: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 - 21:37
SOURCE: WSJ (11-11-08)
The conventional wisdom among voting-rights advocates and political scientists has been that whites will not vote for black candidates in significant numbers. Hence the need for federal protection in the form of race-based districts that create safe black constituencies where black candidates are sure to win.
But the myth of racist white voters was destroyed by this year's presidential election.
Although six out of 10 votes cast for Barack Obama came from whites, he did not win an overall majority of white votes -- he lost among this group 43%-55%. But no Democrat since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 has won the majority of whites. The reason is simple: Just as African-Americans and Hispanics are disproportionately Democrats, whites are now disproportionately Republicans.
Remember Mr. Obama's weak performance with working-class white voters during the primaries? Many speculated at the time, and right up to Nov. 4, that those voters who pulled the lever for Hillary Clinton would defect to John McCain.
Not so. Mr. Obama's 43% share of the white vote in the general election was actually a tad larger than that of John Kerry in 2004 (41%) or Al Gore in 2000 (42%).
So what happened to all those "racists" or "rednecks" that John Murtha spoke of so recently? If there had been that many of them, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Virginia and Florida would have gone the other way, and we would have a President-elect McCain today. Racism is the Sherlock Holmes dog that did not bark in the night....
Black candidates can win in multi-ethnic and even majority-white districts with color-blind voting. Mr. Obama should make it a priority to give more aspiring black politicians the opportunity to stand before white (and Latino and Asian and other ethnic) voters. He won, so can they.
American voters have turned a racial corner. The law should follow in their footsteps.
Posted on: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 - 20:41
SOURCE: Daniel Pipes Website (11-11-08)
Divisions among Palestinians generally do not receive their due attention, Jonathan Schanzer correctly points out, in the immense academic and journalistic coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Instead, an official, propagandistic, and inaccurate party line holds sway. To quote Rashid Khalidi, a former Palestine Liberation Organization employee now teaching at Columbia University,[i] a"uniform Palestinian identity" exists. The Palestinians are one—full stop, end of story.
This simplistic and ahistorical understanding largely dominates how outsiders see the Palestinians, to the near exclusion of other, more nuanced analyses, and the party line afflicts the whole history of the conflict—the period before 1948,[ii] the heyday of pan-Arabism, the emergence of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and especially the 20-year period, 1987 to 2007, that Schanzer studies in the following pages. As he puts it,"While the mainstream American media overreported the violence between the Palestinians and Israelis, the ‘other struggle for Palestine,' which began to play out between Fatah and Hamas, received little to no coverage in America."
Many differences divide Palestinians—Muslim and Christian, urban and rural, sedentary and nomadic, rich and poor, regional—but Schanzer, a highly talented historian of the modern Middle East, establishes here the nature, extent, and significance of two specific intra-Palestinian tensions: primarily that fight between Fatah and Hamas, for this has the most acute and immediate political importance, and secondarily the dichotomy between the West Bank and Gaza.
Hamas versus Fatah traces the history of the two groups' relations from the emergence of Hamas in late 1987 to the Hamas conquest of Gaza in June 2007, then surveys the implications of this hostile but subtle relationship. In summary, Schanzer traces the simultaneous weakening of Fatah and strengthening of Hamas over this period. By 2008, Fatah's leader, Mahmoud Abbas, is enfeebled,"no more than the president of the Muqata compound in Ramallah," while Hamas rules the roost in Gaza, threatens to seize power on the West Bank, sends hundreds of rockets into Israel,[iii] and even challenges the government of Egypt.[iv]
This dramatic shift in fortunes can be attributed to many factors, but perhaps most of all to the fact that whereas Yasir Arafat's Fatah was all things to all Palestinians, Hamas represents a coherent movement, with a fixed outlook and specific goals. Time and again Schanzer demonstrates how the discipline and purpose of Hamas has given it the edge over the corrupt and amorphous Fatah.
Palestinian self-destruction, neglected or not, ranks as a major U.S. foreign policy concern, especially since 1993, when Washington cast its lot with Yasir Arafat, Fatah, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Palestinian Authority, hoping against hope that Western backing would transform a revolutionary movement long allied with the Soviet Union into an agency of good government and status quo aspirations.
Among its many conceptual mistakes, this hope implied devoting too little attention to the competition raging between Fatah and Hamas since 1987 for the backing of the Palestinian street, a competition that impelled Fatah not be seen as going easy on Israel but as aggressively anti-Zionist as Hamas. Given that Fatah was in negotiations with successive Israeli governments and it had to make gentle noises to the Israeli and western media, the organization had to take a particularly ferocious stance on the ground. What American (and Israeli) policy makers tended to dismiss as incidental turned out to have deep and abiding consequences; suffice it to say that the Palestinian constituency for accepting Israel as a Jewish state has steadily lowered since the heady days of late 1993, to the point that it now represents only about a fifth of the body politic.
Schanzer also documents the cost for U.S. foreign policy of inattention to the Fatah-Hamas fitna (Arabic for"internal strife"). For one thing, it led to a misreading of the Palestinian mood in the period leading up to the January 2006 elections, causing Washington to keep promoting them in the happy expectation that its favorite, Fatah, would win; when elections came, the crushing victory by Hamas over Fatah came as a shock. For another, in early 2007, what Schanzer calls"relatively weak mainstream media coverage" of Fatah-Hamas fighting meant that the June conquest of Gaza by Hamas came as another surprise to the Bush administration. In brief, those responsible for American interests neither anticipated nor prepared for the two climatic events in Hamas's rise to power, a situation as embarrassing as it is revealing. So limited an understanding of the issues almost guarantees severe policy mistakes.
Why, given the extent of intra-Palestinian differences and their importance, has this subject been so rudely ignored? Schanzer prudently stays away from this sensitive topic, but what keeps researchers away in droves should at least be mentioned. I believe it reflects the fact that few academics have a genuine interest in the Palestinians. Rather, they devote outsized attention to this otherwise small and obscure population because it represents a convenient and potent tool with which to malign Israel.
Organizations intent on criticizing Israel's every move[v] by default become masters of tiny Palestinian grievances. They document in loving detail residential and transportation patterns in the West Bank, water and electricity grids in Gaza, and impediments to reaching holy places in Jerusalem. Those intent on showing Israel in a bad light must champion the Palestinians with allegations of mass executions, torture, denial of hospital services—but this should not be confused with genuine concern for the Palestinians. Nor does it lead to an understanding of Palestinian life.
It particularly pleases me that the author undertook some of his initial research for this study while at the Middle East Forum, the research institute I direct, notably his studies on Fatah versus Hamas,[vi] on comparative Palestinian uprisings,[vii] and on the Gaza–West Bank split.[viii] This last discussion, elaborated here in chapter 11, offers a particularly valuable review of the many and growing differences between the"two Palestines," a subject on which there is hardly anything in English but the writings by Jonathan Schanzer.
Most books on the Arab-Israeli conflict tread well-worn ground. Hamas versus Fatah offers an original analysis of a key topic.
i. Asaf Romirowsky and Jonathan Calt Harris,"Arafat Minion as Professor," Washington Times, July 9, 2004.
ii. For a recent and notable exception, see Hillel Cohen, Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917–1948 (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2008).
iii. Izz al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades Web site,"In January 2008 Al Qassam Brigades fired 540 rocket and missile and killed two Zionists," February 2, 2008.
iv. Cable News Network,"'Dozens Hurt' in Gaza Border Clashes," January 27, 2008.
v. An excellent case study of this phenomenon can be found in Erik R. Nelson and Alan F. H. Wisdom, Human Rights Advocacy in the Mainline Protestant Churches (2000–2003) (Washington, DC: Institute on Religion & Democracy, 2004).
vi. Jonathan Schanzer,"The Challenge of Hamas to Fatah," Middle East Quarterly (Spring 2003).
vii. Jonathan Schanzer,"Palestinian Uprisings Compared," Middle East Quarterly (Summer 2002).
viii. Jonathan Schanzer,"A Gaza-West Bank Split? Why the Palestinian Territories Might Become Two Separate States," Middle East Intelligence Bulletin (July 2001).
Posted on: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 - 17:53
SOURCE: Readex.com (11-1-08)
The debate over the Second Amendment has largely revolved around whether the right to bear arms protects an individual right to self defense or a collective right to keep arms for service in a militia. To date, most scholarship has sampled select quotations from a relatively narrow set of sources to determine the meaning of key phrases like “bear arms.” Readex has now made it possible to search the historical record in a systematic and comprehensive way. Indeed, digital archives with keyword search capabilities can help us understand the meaning of historical phrases with relative certainty.
My research into the Second Amendment, published in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, uses keyword searching to access the considerable volume of material in the Readex digital archives.2 The Early American Imprints series contains over 15,500 documents from the crucial period of 1763 to 1791, 273 of which contain the phrase “bear arms.”3 If we discard the many reprints of the Bill of Rights, all quotations of the text of the Second Amendment in Congressional debate, irrelevant foreign news, reprints of the Declaration of Independence and all repeated or similar articles, 111 hits remain, of which only two do not use the phrase to explicitly connote a military meaning.4 Using the same method of sorting results from the 132 papers published from 1763 to 1791, the Early American Newspapers database returns 115 relevant hits, with all but five using a military construction of “bear arms.”5
The sources prove that Americans consistently employed “bear arms” in a military sense in times of peace and in times of war. The results show that the militia and the common defense was a perennial concern often discussed in pamphlets and newspapers, unlike the individual right to self-defense. ...
Posted on: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 - 17:46
SOURCE: Times (UK) (11-11-08)
Imagine: in October 1918, Lloyd George’s Cabinet is planning for a prolonged struggle in 1919. Haig’s solution promises to avoid a confrontation even bloodier than the Somme or Passchendaele. The Government agrees. Germany’s main condition is to keep the vast swath of Russia that her troops have occupied since the Bolshevik revolution and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March.
With peace made with Germany on Haig’s terms by mid-October, the British troops already in Russia have a German ally to help them to crush what Churchill calls “the foul baboonery of Bolshevism”.
The even worse spectre of a Bolshevised Germany is also averted. German revolutionary activities in the ports, and in Berlin itself, are crushed by German troops from the Western Front.
The Kaiser re-enters Berlin before the revolutionary railway workers seize the junctions and prevent his return (as they intend to do in November). Hitler, returning from the hospital where he was treated for gas inhalation, finds not a demoralised Germany, but a confident, victorious one, of which he can be proud. Nazism never comes to pass.
In the Middle East an early peace with Turkey hardly dents British ambitions. General Allenby has been master of Jerusalem since the end of 1917. Only the French suffer, as Damascus is still under the Turks: but for Britain that is a bonus, forestalling French ambitions where they most clash with those of Britain. Lloyd George, with his prewar experience as Chancellor of the Exchequer, sees yet another benefit. Britain’s mounting war debt to the US grows no more. The Cabinet discussions of how the war would be fought in 1919 are against a background of growing British indebtedness. By making peace with Germany, Britain can destroy the eleven-month-old Bolshevik regime. Imperial Russia pays the vast war debts it owes Britain, debts that the Bolsheviks will refuse to pay.
With that money Britain really is able to build a postwar Britain “fit for heroes”...
Posted on: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 - 08:19
The exit polls left a mix of data that will keep analysts busy for a long time to come, especially since the Republican campaign for November 2012 began November 6. What else did Sightings observe? Catholic voters this time around switched, and their majority voted Democratic, as they did in olden days. It is hard to be sure about trends, however, since this time a large component in what a long time ago had been the Catholic bloc is made up of Hispanics, whose agenda is not the same as that of non-Hispanic Catholics. Anti-abortion rights and anti-same-sex-marriage rites are the two enduring warm-button issues for many Catholics, but only one-fourth of them say that the abortion issue is highly important for them, however their bishops instruct them to vote.
Mainline Protestants are always the hardest group to analyze; evidently a slight majority of them voted Democratic, but they do not line up so predictably on the two issues that keep Catholics and older Evangelicals "loyal." While mainliners tend to be very politically involved, in the main they do not choose their congregational or denominational affiliation on the basis of partisan directives on any issues, including the two which are up front on the right flank among the culture warriors. African-Americans went hugely for the Democrats, even though they are usually typed as "social conservatives." Their divided mind confuses the scene, creatively, I might add.
The Christian Right has been pronounced dead or dying after the elections of 1964, 1976, and 1988. Now their setbacks, intra-partisan divisions, and the re-settings of agenda priorities among "Evangelicals" and "the Born Again" may tempt some commentators to write first drafts of obituaries again. While their base is too small and their themes too narrow for them to attract coalition partners and thus win electoral majorities in any near future, it is firm enough to demand notice. Some of us who look for good signs in these bad economic times might hope that the desperate economic (and health-care and educational and foreign-policy) crises would push the warriors to the edges of the stage. Those who are wearied by the attack ads of the recent campaign and deafened by media distortions on the religious front all around might hope that political combat would replace culture wars.
Could we be so fortunate? While nobody asked me to formulate Laws, I offer my long-held observation and thesis, Marty's Law: No one ever wins culture wars. The political public may move on and return to other focuses. Those who think they have "won" religiously-based culture wars never really vanquish the opposition, and those who have "lost" come back to fight another day. When the dust of battle settles, nothing but that dust has been settled, and national life continues on bloodied ground.
Posted on: Monday, November 10, 2008 - 23:25
SOURCE: Gainsville Sun (11-9-08)
In 1948 when Harry Truman was asked to what he attributed his stunning upset victory over Republican nominee Thomas E. Dewey, he replied "Labor did it."
He was referring to the unprecedented commitment of financial and manpower support to his candidacy contributed by the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Congress of Industrial organizations (CIO), at that time separate national labor bodies.
The endless TV, newspaper, and Internet discussions in the aftermath of Barack Obama's remarkable victory brought Truman's quip to mind. Pundits have highlighted a number of factors to account for Obama's showing.
African-Americans turned out in massive numbers, awarding the Democratic candidate a remarkable 97 percent of their votes.
Obama, it appears, won the battle for the "hearts and minds" of Latino and Hispanic voters, seemingly by a two-to-one majority.
Fifty-five percent of women supported him, as apparently did a majority of voters earning over $200,000 in family income.
Virtually every expert has highlighted the vote of young people, noting both the massive turnout among those in the 18-to-29 year-old bracket and the 70 percent support they awarded Obama.
Neglected in most of these postmortems, however, is the role that organized labor played in the campaign. Indeed, in this election the AFL-CIO and its affiliated organizations conducted labor's largest political mobilization ever.
Consider these facts:
* Union members and their families comprised about 21 percent of the voting public.
* Union voters backed the Obama-Biden ticket overwhelmingly. Sixty-nine percent supported the Democratic candidate. In key battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio and Florida, Obama-Biden outpolled McCain-Palin by 41 points among union voters.
* More than 250,000 union volunteers walked the neighborhoods and distributed flyers. They made 70 million phone calls.
* The AFL-CIO's My Vote, My Right program protected voters from harassment and petty challenges by placing 2,700 union volunteer poll monitors at key locations.
* While McCain captured a majority among those over 65 years old, retired union members supported Obama by a 46 point margin.
* McCain won among veterans, but union veterans went for Obama by a 25-point margin.
Labor activist are well aware that President Obama and the Democratic congressional majority will face difficult issues and will have to be responsive to a wide diversity of viewpoints.
At the same time, however, working people and their unions do expect that their efforts in the campaign entitle them to sympathetic consideration of their legislative and political goals. They are determined to promote health care reform, more equitable taxation, and changes in economic policy that will benefit low-wage and middle-income families....
Posted on: Monday, November 10, 2008 - 22:49
SOURCE: TPM (Liberal blog) (11-9-08)
During the campaign, neo-conservatives such as Daniel Pipes and others of Obama's detractors thought it smart to highlight his paternal Muslim roots and associations. But now that he's won, anyone would have to be as naive as a neo-con to miss the nobility and world-historical gains this country would achieve if, having overthrown a bad Hussein, it installed a good one -- not in Baghdad, but in Washington.
Sure, the mind reels. Hussein is a title of honor applied to metaphorical descendants of the prophet Mohammed. An American president bearing that name proudly would enact what philosophers call a transvaluation of values -- a wicked case of cognitive dissonance for millions of people like Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh.
German minds reeled 65 years ago, too, at the ascendancy of an American named Eisenhower to command the allied forces and, five years later, to be president. After all, German-Americans had been a despised, persecuted minority here during World War I, less than three decades before Eisenhower's ascent.
To be sure, the situation now is even more polarizing for Muslims, here and abroad. Islamicists, confronted with a Hussein in the White House, will rage that the Great Satan has stolen and polluted a holy name. But where were they when the phony pietiest Saddam Hussein, an admirer more of Stalin than Mohammed, was butchering millions?
Unlike the rule of that Hussein and of oil sheiks, mullahs, and the Taliban, the very prospect of our Hussein's inauguration is raising millions of young Muslims' democratic hopes even higher than America has raised their material and sensual ones. (And, given present circumstances, it's telling that just when Obama's election was about to reflect Western democracy's deepest strengths, the iconically Western Gordon Brown was begging the Saudis to aid the International Monetary Fund.)
Notice, too, the symbolic and substantive impact Barack Hussein Obama is having on African-American youths' already waning attraction to the Nation of Islam, whose leader Louis Farrakhan lives a stone's throw from the Obamas in Southside Chicago. Farrakhan endorsed Obama with a kind of desperation last summer, only to be rebuffed. That tells us all we need to know, as I explained here then, successfully, to nervous Jewish voters.
Still other ironies in Obama's name are rich beyond measure. Barack is Arabic for the Hebrew Baruch, meaning "blessed" in both tongues -- another of the many achingly poignant, almost illicit, intimacies between the two languages and religions. The most famous Jew to bear the name was the medieval philosopher Baruch Spinoza, who crossed Christian and Jewish lines, blurring them in order to transcend them.
Obama's story draws all three lines of Abrahamic religion -- Christian, Muslim, and Jewish - into a convergence more promising than that drawn more than a century ago by the Rev. George Bush, a Presbyterian scholar, brother of our president's fifth-generation lineal antecedent, and the first teacher of Hebrew, Arabic, and other Semitic and ancient languages at New York University in the 1830s.
In 1844, the Rev. Bush wrote The Valley of the Vision, or The Dry Bones Revived: An Attempted Proof of the Restoration and Conversion of the Jews, which interpreted the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel to prophesy Jews' return to Palestine from all over the world in what Bush insisted was the not-distant future.
I doubt that our departing president has read his ancestor's exegesis, and if he doesn't know the Book of Ezekiel, Barack Obama certainly does. In his speech on race in Philadelphia last winter, Obama recalled that, for his black Congregational Church in Chicago, "Ezekiel's field of dry bones" was one of the "stories - of survival, and freedom, and hope" that "became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears."
Not incidentally, the Rev. Bush, who imagined the Jews' return to Palestine as a prelude to Armageddon, also wrote the first American book on Islam, a Life of Mohammed, declaring the prophet an imposter. That's two additional reasons why America's Christian, Jewish, and Muslim prospects are brighter with Barack Hussein Obama than with any of the George Bushes we've known, not to mention with Karl Christian Rove.
Obama may be no more a messenger of God than Rove or "W" are, yet at moments his campaign did flash intimations of the awful sublimity of the Hebrew God's thundering in history; of the Christian pilgrim's exalted, arduous journey; and of the Muslim ummah's bonds of communal faith.
And he does understand -- as did an Abraham who was called Lincoln -- that this republic should keep on weaving into its tough, liberal tapestry the threads of intrepid Abrahamic faith that have figured so strongly in its beginnings and triumphs. That Obama draws this understanding from intimacies with Ezekiel and Indonesia and Southside Chicago makes him providential enough.
Posted on: Monday, November 10, 2008 - 19:33
SOURCE: TPM (Liberal blog) (11-9-08)
Well, this time they did, and there is no doubt that women were a decisive factor in the election of Barack Obama.
To listen to the pundits, however, you'd think that only youth (bless them!) and minorities turned out in overwhelming numbers to stand on endless lines to elect the first African American and liberal and brilliant president.
Frank Rich, whom I admire tremendously, even missed the boat. In his Sunday New York Times column in The Week in Review, Rich never mentioned the amazing gender gap that catapulted a young and relatively unknown senator to become our 44th president.
Just take a serious look at the numbers. As the data in the Week in Review in the New York Times reveals, women constituted 53% of the electorate, while only 47% of men voted. Among those who voted for Obama, 56% were women and 43% were men. Among unmarried women, a whopping 70% voted for Obama.
There are many variables in this data that need to be explained. The extraordinary female vote almost certainly came largely from minority and young women. But even white, married women, who usually vote more conservatively, went for Obama.
Does this matter? Yes, and here's why. For years, women have been saying that we are invisible in this political culture. The consequence of this invisibility is that our poverty, our economic insecurity, our need for health care, child care, elder care, and equality in wages and training are also ignored.
So, with all due respect to those who are praising the young and minorities, and rightfully blessing their energy and enthusiasm, take a good hard look and notice that it was women who, in the end, sealed the deal.
Posted on: Monday, November 10, 2008 - 19:27
SOURCE: Huffington Post (Blog) (11-10-08)
Democrats in Washington are juggling their policy lineup. In preparation for January, President-Elect Barack Obama and the congressional leadership must decide which issues to roll out first and which should be left for another time.
The urban crisis should be at the top of their list. Much of this campaign centered on the middle class. Politically, it was a logical focus for Democrats who wanted to win the White House.
But the cities are in desperate need of repair. They cannot wait for another election cycle. The not-so big secret about Hurricane Katrina was that weather was not the main reason that the city was in shambles. The hurricane made things worse, but like so many other cities, decades of total neglect and harmful policies allowed racial and economic inequality to define life in the inner cities. In his award-winning book, The Origins of the Urban Crisis, the historian Tom Sugrue demonstrated how urban decline predated the riots of the 1960s, and was rooted in housing and employment discrimination, as well as the flight of jobs out of the cities, dating back to the 1940s.
With the current economic crisis, the situation will only get worse. Mayor Nutter just announced rather draconian budget cuts for Philadelphia which reveal how much worse conditions might get.
Why should President Obama make the urban crisis a top priority? Why take the risk? The first reason is that African Americans constituted a crucial part of President Obama's coalition. He was able to mobilize voters who for too long had been disaffected and disenfranchised from national politics. Obama has raised the hope that this time things will be different. Since the end of WWII, the African American community has been hit hardest in the inner cities. Job flight has left them without viable economic opportunities. Decaying educational systems, often made worse by the requirements of "No Child Left Behind," make it almost impossible to get ahead.
The second reason for making the issue a priority is more practical. America is currently suffering from a severe economic crisis, one that could easily get worse if the federal government does not act soon. Now is the time when politicians need to link Main Street to the "Corner," and not just link Wall Street to Main Street.
The support for government intervention in the economy is much stronger now than it has been in recent decades. Senator McCain's attacks on "socialism" didn't work this time. Many blue collar and middle income voters in states like PA and OH supported the Democrats, defying the so-called "Bradley Effect" and showing support instead for substantial economic assistance. There have even been some Republicans, including Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback, who have broken with their party and emphasized the centrality of tackling these issues.
This situation offers Democrats an opportunity to make urban renewal part of an omnibus economic package. Democrats finally have leverage to push for measures to deal with a variety of issues -- inner city schooling, job growth, sentencing and prison reform, and other challenges -- in exchange for the financial assistance sought by automobile makers, Wall Street investors, middle class homeowners and the rest of America.
The Obama-Biden campaign made broad promises about urban policy during the campaign. Their campaign said that Obama would establish a White House Office on Urban Policy to coordinate government efforts and make sure federal dollars were used well. The campaign also said it would back the creation of innovation clusters to boost local economies and strengthen workforce training. The Democratic campaign also discussed the distribution of capital through the Small Business Administration to bolster under-served businesses. Finally, they said they would create "promise neighborhoods" to deal with intergenerational poverty through a network of services and to work on programs to help poor Americans enter the work force.
At a minimum, the economic stimulus package should include infrastructure repair programs that place great emphasis on the cities and make certain that public jobs are allocated toward residents in those areas who are in need of gainful employment.
In the brilliant television show The Wire, viewers were able to see how deeply entrenched the problems are that plague the inner cities of America, where the drug trade is often the only economic game in town. Improving the cities will require a long-term effort and involve multiple interventions. But we must have the audacity to believe that conditions can be improved and do something to make that happen. Now is the time to begin the process.
Posted on: Monday, November 10, 2008 - 19:22
SOURCE: Richard Reeves Website (10-31-08)
The tone of the day's talk was set at the beginning by Akhil Reed Amar, a professor of law and political science at Yale. In a presentation I agreed with, Amar raised the possibility that the 2008 election could be remembered as the fifth "pivot point" election in the presidency's 219-year history.
In Amar's reading, history was changed and the United States was headed in new directions by the elections of 1800, 1860, 1932 and either 1968 or 1980, depending on whether you believe the conservative ascendancy we are living through right now began with Richard Nixon in 1968 or with Ronald Reagan in 1980. (I would choose 1980.)
In the 12 years following adoption of the Constitution, the new nation was governed by its Federalist founding fathers, led by George Washington and John Adams. Then, in 1800, Adams was defeated by Thomas Jefferson, a founding father but not a Federalist. Then, until 1860, the presidency was held by the Democratic Party created by Jefferson and institutionalized by Andrew Jackson — a reign interrupted only briefly by a few relatively unimportant Whig administrations.
In 1860, the new Republican Party, led by Abraham Lincoln, took office and held power for 72 years — with a couple of Democratic exceptions, Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson, neither of whom ever won 50 percent of the vote — until the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. Then, I would argue, with the exception of the above-party presidency of Dwight Eisenhower and the aborted presidency of Richard Nixon, the New Deal Democrats basically ran the country until the election of a Republican, Ronald Reagan, in 1980.
And for all practical purposes, Reagan is still president, represented now by a diminishing imitator, George W. Bush.
That is the thesis. Amar then expanded the idea by arguing that the "pivot point" elections were quite similar to each other — and to the election of 2008. Each of them, he says, was marked by the same conditions: economic decline, over-reactive wars or war talk that led to repression of civil liberties at home.
In 1800, John Adams ended Federalist rule by over-reacting to war fever and pushing through the Alien and Sedition Acts, which were the repressive Homeland Security laws of their day. The Jefferson-Jackson era lasted until the 1850s, when the country moved toward civil war because Democrats, many of them Southerners, proved incapable of finding a national policy to deal with the issues of slavery. Lincoln's party reigned until economic collapse led to the Great Depression and the election of Franklin Roosevelt. Failed wars in Southeast Asia and the Iranian hostage crisis led to the elections of Nixon and Reagan. The Democrats managed to elect two presidents in the Nixon-Reagan years, but neither of them, Jimmy Carter nor Bill Clinton, ever won 50 percent of the vote.
Amar believes that a significant inertia was produced after each of those pivot elections; the ideas that made presidents of Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan produced issues that kept their constituencies alive and well for years, even decades, after their own administrations.
And now 2008. The country is engaged in two unpopular and probably unwinnable wars, the economy is in dangerous decline, and civil liberties have been aggressively repressed by the Bush administration in the name of the war on terror.
Therein, historically, lies the strength of the candidacy of Barack Obama. Despite his obvious political talents, it is hard to imagine a young, black two-year senator rising toward the presidency if his Republican opponent could have preached the winning doctrine of peace, prosperity and low taxation.
But there is no peace. There is no prosperity. And, whether through taxes or borrowing, the voters are going to foot the bill for the misjudgments and mistakes of the last eight years. The next question, in Amar's terms, is how solid a coalition and how many Democratic terms might follow an Obama victory — or, to be consistent, a Bush-Reagan defeat.
Posted on: Monday, November 10, 2008 - 16:00
SOURCE: Special to HNN (11-5-08)
Broadly speaking, when justice and right are denied to a person over a long period of time, the person is left with two options: bear the situation patiently, or the reaction is anguish, and that reaction, in the process can culminate in terrorism. Besides other things, spreading of communal hatred, religious frenzy, separatist tendency etc. are the tools which terrorists generally use. Guns too are used to achieve the so-called specified mission. Fanaticism, extremism, radicalism, separatism, militancy, activism etc. are its other names or manifestations. This is one side of the picture of terrorism. (Terrorists fighting for a genuine cause i.e. liberating themselves, their society/country from the oppressor/ perpetrator.)
Another side of the picture is disgusting and questionable. Over the years terrorism has emerged as a systematic use or threatened use of violence to intimidate a population, community or government and thereby effect political, religious or ideological change just to achieve personal gains. Modern terrorism has resorted to another option of intimidation, i.e. influence the mass media, in an effort to amplify and broadcast feelings of intense fear and anger among the people. Needless to mention here that acts of terror are carried out by people who are indoctrinated to the extent of following a strategy of dying to kill. They are the ones who have become pawns in the hands of their masters who direct their paths, sitting in the comforts of far off places with all the facilities available to them. Masters have their vested political interests while as pawns seemingly have nothing to gain except suffer for a cause about which they themselves don’t know or know very little.
Terrorism in Kashmir is almost 18 years old now and has likeness to the second side of the picture. It has a history long enough to be traced from the date when partition was forced resulting in the emergence of two nations- India and Pakistan- after the sub-continent freed itself from the colonial rule of the British Empire. It may not be out of context here to probe into the consequences in detail that gave rise to terrorism in Kashmir. But again, before that, giving a brief introduction of this widely known beautiful valley would be too apt.
Kashmir-Paradise on Earth (the Switzerland of Asia) Nature’s grand finale of beauty is a masterpiece of earth’s creation of charm and loveliness. Famous for its beauty and natural scenery throughout the world and for its high snow-clad mountains, scenic spots, beautiful valleys, rivers with ice-cold water, attractive lakes and springs and ever-green fields, dense forests and beautiful health resorts, enhance its grandeur and are a source of great attraction for tourists. It is also widely known for its different kinds of agricultural products, fruit, vegetables, saffron, herbs, and minerals, precious stones handicrafts like woollen carpets, shawls and the finest kind of embroidery on clothes. During summer, one can enjoy the beauty of nature, trout fishing, big and small game hunting etc.; during winter climbing mountain peaks and sports like skating and skiing on snow slopes are commonly enjoyed. In addition to the above, Pilgrimage to famous religious shrines of the Hindus and the Muslims make Kashmir a great tourist attraction. About Kashmir Sheikh Sadie a great Persian poet is believed to have said, “If there is any heaven on earth, it is here in Kashmir, in Kashmir in Kashmir only.”
Apart from natural beauty, Jammu and Kashmir has a unique cultural blend which makes it different from the rest of the country (India). It is not only distinct in cultural forms and heritage, but in geographical, demographical, ethnical, social entities, forming a distinct spectrum of diversity. The people of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh, all follow diverse religions, languages and cultures. Its different cultural forms in art and architecture, fair and festivals, rites and rituals, seers and sagas, languages and literatures, embedded in ageless period of history, speak of endless unity and diversity with unparalleled cultural cohesion and amicability. Kashmir has been a great center of learning. A treasure of rich Sanskrit literature is to be found here. Early Indo-Aryanic civilization has originated and flourished in this land. It has also been influenced by Islam, bringing its traditions of Persian civilization, tolerance, brotherhood and sacrifice.
After the British withdrew from the Indian subcontinent in 1947 and India and Pakistan emerged as two separate countries, princely states were given an option to choose the country they wanted to stay on. Obviously, the states falling geographically within had no other option but to merge with the country they were situated. Border states like Kashmir, Jodhpur etc. took time to come out with their firm decisions probably because they wanted to enjoy the status of an independent statehood. In the case of Kashmir, where Maharaja (King) Hari Singh was the ruler, the situation worsened considerably. Territorial disputes over Kashmir had already started brewing, Pakistan claiming that Kashmir should go to its side since Muslims were in majority there.
Apprehending that Maharaja might opt for an accession to India, Pakistan prepared for aggression in a bid to capture the state forcibly hoping that masses, mainly Muslims, would support its mission. That didn’t happen. Secular forces headed by the then popular mass leader Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah fondly known as Sher-i-Kashmir motivated the Kashmiri people (Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs) to rise to the occasion and stand united to counter and frustrate the evil designs of the enemy who was marching to the capital city Srinagar indulging in bloodshed and mayhem. A new slogan echoed the entire valley: “Hamlavar khabardaar, hum Kashmiri hai tayaar---Hindu Muslim Sikh Ithaad, Naya Kashmir Zindabaad---“Beware you attackers! We Kashmiris are ready to counter you—Long live the Unity of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs-!!" At Hazuri Bagh, Srinagar before a large crowd on October 1, 1947, Sher-i-Kashmir proclaimed : "Till the last drop of my blood, I will not believe in two-nation theory." It was a rebuff to Mr. Jinnah-father of the nation of Pakistan, who was watching the developments so closely from his country's side. Finding their designs on Kashmir not fructifying, Pakistan rulers launched an armed attack on Jammu and Kashmir to annex it. Tribes in thousands along with Pak regular troops entered the state on October 22, 1947 from several points and indulged in looting, arson, rape, bloodshed and mayhem. Bowing before the wishes of the people and seeing his own regular army being out-numbered, the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession in favor of India on October 26, 1947 on the prescribed terms and conditions. This was accepted by the Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten the next day. The Instrument of Accession executed by Maharaja Hari Singh was the same which was signed by other rulers of the other princely states. Similarly, the acceptance of the Instrument of Accession by the Governor General was also identical in respect of all such instruments.
With J&K becoming legal and constitutional part of Union of India, Indian army rushed to the State to push back the invaders and vacate aggression from the territory of the state. The first batch of Indian Army troops arrived at Srinagar airport immediately after the Accession was signed. On October 30, 1947 an Emergency Government was formed in the State with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as its head. The Army fought a sustained battle with the tribals/Kabayilies and after several sacrifices pushed them out of the Valley and other areas in the Jammu region. (Earlier Brigadier Rajendra Singh Chief of State Forces with a small number of soldiers at his disposal fought valiantly with the enemy and laid down his life in the process.)
Meanwhile, the people of Kashmir under the towering leadership of Sher-I-Kashmir were mobilized and they resisted the marching columns of the enemy. Till the arrival of India troops, it was mainly the Muslim volunteers under the command of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who braved death. While the army pushed back the invaders, there were several instances where people put up a gallant resistance and stopped the advancing troops. The most conspicuous examples of people’s resistance were the martyrdom of Mohammad Maqbool Sherwani and Master Abdul Aziz, both staunch followers of Sher-i-Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah. Sherwani did not oblige the invaders when they inquired from him the route to Srinagar. Instead, he put them on a wrong track gaining time for troops to reach Srinagar from New Delhi. Somehow the tribesmen came to know about his tactics and nailed him at a Baramulla crossing and asked him to raise pro-Pakistan slogans. He did raise slogans but these were different. These were pro-Hindu-Muslim unity and in favour of Sher-i-Kashmir. Enraged by this, the ruthless tribesmen emptied their guns on him. The sacrifice of Master Abdul Aziz too was exemplary. The invaders who raped the nuns and wanted other non-Muslim women to be handed over to them, Master Abdul Aziz, a tailor by profession, held the holy Quran in his hand and said that they can touch the women only after they pass over his dead body and the holy Quran. The brutal killers did not spare him either.
On January 1, 1948 India took up the issue of Pak aggression in Jammu and Kashmir to the UN under Article 35 of its Charter. The government of India in its letter to the Security Council said: “…Such a situation now exists between India and Pakistan owing to the aid which invaders, consisting of nationals of Pakistan and tribesmen… are drawing from Pakistan for operations against Jammu and Kashmir, a State which has acceded legally to the Dominion of India and is part of India. The Government of India requests the Security Council to call upon Pakistan to put an end immediately to the giving of such assistance which is an act of aggression against India. If Pakistan does not do so, the Government of India may be compelled, in self defense, to enter into Pakistan territory to take military action against the invaders.” After long debates, a cease-fire was established at midnight on January 1, 1949. Eventually, India filed a complaint with the UN Security Council, which established the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP). Pakistan was accused of invading the region, and was asked to withdraw its forces from Jammu & Kashmir. The UNCIP also passed a resolution stating: “The question of accession of the state of Jammu & Kashmir to India or Pakistan will be decided through the democratic method of free and impartial plebiscite.” However, this could not take place because Pakistan did not comply with the UN resolution and refused to withdraw from the state. The international community failed to play a decisive role in the matter saying that Jammu & Kashmir is a “disputed territory.” In 1949, with the intervention of the United Nations, India and Pakistan defined a ceasefire line (“Line of Control”) that divided the two countries. This has left Kashmir a divided and disturbed territory up till now.
In September 1951, free and fair elections, as per the Constitutional modalities, were held in Jammu & Kashmir, and National Conference party under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah came into power. With the advent of the Constituent Assembly of the State of Jammu & Kashmir representing the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the regions became an integral part of India constitutionally. After Sheikh Abdullah; Bakshi Gulam Mohamad, G.M.Sadiq, Mir Qasim, Gul Shah, Mufti Sayed and Dr.Farooq Abdullah ruled as Chief Ministers. Mr. Gulam Nabi Azad is the current Chief Minister of the J&K state.
Though the governments ran smoothly over the years, continued instigations and arousing religious frenzy by Pakistan did not stop. The year 1965 saw a war between India and Pakistan claiming many lives on both sides. A cease-fire was established and the two countries signed an agreement at Tashkent (Uzbekistan) in 1966, pledging to end the dispute by peaceful means. Five years later, the two again went to war, which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh. Another accord was signed in 1972 between the two Prime Ministers — Indira Gandhi and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto — in Simla. After Bhutto was executed in 1979, the Kashmir issue once again flared up.
During the 1980s, massive infiltrations from Pakistan were detected in the region, and India has since then maintained a strong military presence in Jammu & Kashmir to check these movements along the cease-fire line. India says that Pakistan has been stirring up violence in its part of Kashmir by training and funding “Islamic guerrillas” that have waged a separatist war since 1989 killing tens of thousands of people. Pakistan has always denied the charge, calling it an indigenous “freedom struggle.”
In 1999, intense fighting ensued between the infiltrators and the Indian army in the Kargil area of the western part of the state, which lasted for more than two months. The battle ended with India managing to reclaim most of the area on its side that had been seized by the infiltrators.
In 2001, Pakistan-backed terrorists waged violent attacks on the Kashmir Assembly and the Indian Parliament in New Delhi. This resulted in a war-like situation between the two countries, with Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf asking his army to be “fully prepared and capable of defeating all challenges,” and the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee saying, “We don’t want war but war is being thrust upon us, and we will have to face it.”
Plight of Pandits (Hindus)
The Pandits, who are the Hindu community of Kashmir and have an ancient and a proud culture, have been amongst the most afflicted victims of the Pakistani-supported campaign of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Their roots in the Kashmir Valley run very deep. They are the original inhabitants of this beautiful valley. Their number being small and peace-loving by nature, they have been the soft targets of terrorists. Virtually the entire population of 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits have been forced to leave their ancestral homes and property. Threatened with violence and intimidation by Muslim fundamentalists, they have been turned into refugees in their own country leaving behind their shops, farms, cattle and age-old memories. As a matter of fact, Jammu and Kashmir has become a target of Pakistan, sponsored by religion-based terrorism. The persecution by Muslim extremists of the Hindu minority and the systematic religion-based extremism of terrorist elements has resulted in the exodus of these Hindu/Pandits and other minorities from the Kashmir Valley to other parts of India. Fundamentalists and terrorists have also targeted and assassinated Muslim intellectuals and liberal Muslim leaders too, who spoke of Hindu-Muslim unity and brotherhood. Terrorist acts by Kashmiri militant groups have also taken place outside Jammu and Kashmir.
India claims most of the separatist militant groups are based in Pakistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir (also known as Azad Kashmir). Some like the All Parties Hurriyat Conference and the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), demand an independent Kashmir. Other groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed favor a Pakistani-Kashmir. Of the larger militant groups, the Hizbul Mujahideen, a militant organization, is based in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Sources report that Al-Qaeda too has a base in Pakistani Kashmir and is helping to forment terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.
India is unwilling to lose even one additional inch of this land. New Delhi is also concerned that Kashmiri autonomy would set a precedent for breakaway movements in other Indian states (e.g., Punjab or Assam). To Pakistan, Kashmir is symbolic of its national ethos and commitment to protect Muslim interests against Indian encroachment. It believes that the creation of a separate, strongly sectarian nation is incomplete without contiguous Kashmir. In brief, Kashmir is a target of externally sponsored religion-based terrorism. The aim is to divide people on the basis of sectarian affiliation and undermine the secular fabric and territorial integrity of India.
However, as and now with the passage of time, the passion of the Jehad/movement which once had mass public support has started declining since it has turned out to be a movement run by those who are more interested in their own personal gains. Confusion within the separatist groups too has weakened the movement. The hard liners led by Jamat-e-Islami advocate total merger of Jammu and Kashmir, with Pakistan whereas the soft liners led by J.K.L.F (Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front) stands for total independence of J&K. This has given rise to a totally confusing and conflicting situation resulting in disillusionment, disarray and disinterest of the common man in Kashmir who has suffered a lot for the past 20 years and is not prepared to suffer any more.
Posted on: Sunday, November 9, 2008 - 20:57
SOURCE: Nation (10-29-08)
Readers of the Washington Post woke up one recent Friday morning to a remarkable juxtaposition of two ostensibly unrelated articles. The first was a news analysis titled The End of American Capitalism?, which heralded the apparent demise of laissez-faire as the intellectual underpinning of the nation's economic system. In the same paper was another story: Anger Is Crowd's Overarching Emotion at McCain Rally, which described a John McCain event characterized by hysterical crowd attacks on Barack Obama as an ally of terrorists, a "socialist" and other angry epithets. By coincidence, the thread that connected these two disparate stories could be found that morning in the New York Times, in an implicitly self-critical column by David Brooks. He wrote:
Modern conservatism began as a movement of dissident intellectuals.... Driven by a need to engage elite opinion, conservatives tried to build an intellectual counterestablishment with think tanks and magazines. They disdained the ideas of the liberal professoriate, but they did not disdain the idea of a cultivated mind.... But over the past few decades, the Republican Party has driven away people who live in cities, in highly educated regions and on the coasts.... What had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole.
Brooks--a nearly perfect product of the right-wingers' long-term investment in the fertilization of the conservative imagination, having done stints at the Wall Street Journal editorial page and The Weekly Standard before being invited to the Times and PBS's NewsHour--was unwittingly explaining the connection between the collapse of Friedmanite capitalism and the mindless fury of the Republican base. The upshot is that conservatives, having fed at the trough of power for the better part of three decades, are out of ideas and have targeted their appeal to a coterie of Americans remarkably similar to the minority coalition enjoyed by Barry Goldwater in 1964, with an angry, retrograde message that harks back to Joe McCarthy. McCain's baffling, fumbling performances at the presidential debates reflect this confusion. He didn't know whether to attack Obama or defend what remains of his reputation. Pathetically, he ended up accomplishing neither.
Liberals and progressives, however, are in the opposite position. Obama has proven an inspirational messenger, speaking to and for a public eager to embrace the kind of politics that has been demonized and trivialized for the past eight years by mainstream media desperate to deflect the right's accusations of "liberal bias." According to the Pew Center's extensive national survey, released well before this endless election got under way, roughly 70 percent of respondents believe that the government has a responsibility "to take care of people who can't take care of themselves." Two-thirds (66 percent)--including most of those who say they would prefer a smaller government (57 percent)--support government-funded health insurance for all citizens. Most also regard the nation's corporations as too powerful, while nearly two-thirds (65 percent) say corporate profits are too high--about the same number who say "labor unions are necessary to protect the working person" (68 percent). When it comes to the environment, a large majority (83 percent) back stricter laws and regulations, while 69 percent agree "we should put more emphasis on fuel conservation than on developing new oil supplies" and 60 percent say they would "be willing to pay higher prices in order to protect the environment."
Yet the MSM--with precious few exceptions--remain wedded to right-wing assumptions long since discredited by reality. We don't need to look at extremes like the infamous performance of ABC's George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson in the Clinton-Obama debate in January--one that may possibly have cost that network any hope of participating in the general election debates. Just examine the thrust of the questions asked during the Obama-McCain contests. Even absent distractions like lapel pins and preacher politics, virtually all questions regarding the financial crisis assumed that the meltdown calls for a drastic reduction in public investment--as if Keynesianism, rather than Friedmanite economics, were somehow at fault. And why was just about every foreign policy question predicated on the alleged efficacy of neocon-style threats of the use of force? Where were the questions about the need for collective action to combat climate change? Where were the debates about the causes and effects of the global migration and food crises? Why did we hear not a single inquiry about the challenges to labor and environmental standards arising from the billion or so workers in China, India and elsewhere, who stand ready to displace millions of Americans in our increasingly globalized workplace? And where were the questions about torture, wiretapping US citizens and restoring respect for our Constitution?
In a wonderfully apoplectic editorial titled A Liberal Supermajority, frightened Journal editors worried that an Obama landslide could presage "one of the most profound political and ideological shifts in U.S. history. Liberals would dominate the entire government in a way they haven't since 1965, or 1933." Among the coming horrors: "Medicare for all...[a] green revolution...ational, election-day voter registration...the end of Guantanamo and military commissions...'net neutrality' rules...."
America's liberal supermajority has watched as its country has been degraded and dishonored for the past eight years while many in the MSM have either cheered, acquiesced or looked the other way. If you ask me, the pundit with the greatest gift for political prophecy right now is the late, great Sam Cooke: "It's been a long, long time coming, but I know a change is [finally] going to come."
Reprinted with permission from the Nation. For subscription information call 1-800-333-8536. Portions of each week's Nation magazine can be accessed at http://www.thenation.com.
Posted on: Sunday, November 9, 2008 - 20:46
SOURCE: Times (UK) (11-10-08)
No event in the history of the Third Reich provoked such immediate outrage outside Germany as Kristallnacht: the destruction of synagogues and prayer houses across Germany and Austria, the looting of Jewish homes and businesses, and the murder of as many as a hundred Jews in their homes and in the streets. This orgy of destruction was followed by the immediate deportation of 30,000 Jewish men to concentrations camps.
Foreign journalists who witnessed the events of the night of November 9/10 reported in the fullest details to their newspapers. Foreign diplomats alerted their foreign officers to the anti-Jewish excesses of that night.
In response to the press coverage and parliamentary pressure, the British Government welcomed in more than 9,000 Jewish children before the escape routes were closed by the outbreak of war. Several thousand Christian families took these children into their homes.
History is the collective actions of myriad individuals, few of them well known or famous. Among those who showed that nobility of spirit that characterised the rescuers of Jews in those final ten months of peace were two teachers in the West of England, James and Kathleen Crossfield. They took in Pauline Makowski, a ten- year-old Jewish girl from Stuttgart.
Writing to me two years ago, Pauline Makowski recalled: “I was fostered by a Christian family from January 16, 1939 until I left their home in 1947 to train as a nurse. Their home was always regarded as my home and their children still regard me as their sister. They were exceptional people and their generosity of spirit should be acknowledged.” Pauline's parents did not survive the war: they were, in her words, “part of the lost six million”.
Another potential haven for Jews after Kristallnacht was Britain's Palestine Mandate. Largely as a result of the efforts of a British diplomat in Berlin, Captain Frank Foley, the restrictions on Jewish immigration were set aside or bypassed. Foley's work as British Passport Control Officer in the German capital was the “cover” for his Intelligence activities in Germany.
After Kristallnacht, Foley asked the British Mandate authorities in Jerusalem for extra certificates, including those for a thousand young Jews who would thereby be allowed to leave Germany. Benno Cohn, then a leader of the German-Jewish community, recalled how Foley “did everything in his power to enable us to bring over as many Jews as possible... One can say that he rescued thousands of Jews from the jaws of death.”
The rooms of the British Consulate where Foley had his offices were transformed into a shelter for Jews looking for protection. One witness recalled how the wives of those who had been taken to concentration camps were “besieging the consulate for a visa that meant liberation for their husbands. It was a question of life or death for several thousands.
During those days, Captain Foley's extensive humanity became obvious. Day and night he was at the disposition of those seeking help. Generously, he distributed every kind of visa, thus helping the liberation of many thousands from the camps.” Among those who saw Foley at work was a young Dutch Jew, Wim van Leer. “The winter of 1938 was a harsh one,” he later wrote, “and elderly men and women waited from six in the morning, queuing up in the snow and biting wind. Captain Foley saw to it that a uniformed commissionaire trundled a tea-urn on a trolley along the line of frozen misery, and all this despite the clientele, neurotic with frustration and cold, doing little to lighten his task.”
How does one pay tribute to efforts such as Foley's to save lives? On November 20, at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Foreign Secretary David Miliband will unveil a plaque, to commemorate - in the words of the plaque - “those British diplomats who, by their personal endeavours, helped to rescue victims of Nazi racial policy.” They include Foley, and the British Consul General in Frankfurt, Robert Smallbones, who made extraordinary efforts after Kristallnacht to process as many British entry visas as possible...
Posted on: Sunday, November 9, 2008 - 20:33
SOURCE: NYT (11-8-08)
Together they have probably been the most powerful engines of political change during the past half-century, but they have also exacted large demands from the two parties and their leaders. And it happened again in this election.
For Senator Obama, the fraught alliance between the civil rights movement and the Democratic Party was a persistent though unwelcome theme in this campaign — whether it was the crisis occasioned by the recorded sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright or the defeats Mr. Obama was dealt in the primary by blue-collar voters whose distrust of him seemed to replay the racial anxieties of the 1960s, when civil rights protest loosed a white “backlash” that divided the Democratic Party.
John McCain, for his part, was haunted by his uneasy and at times hostile dealings through the years with the movement conservatives who helped elect every recent Republican president. In choosing to solicit their support, Mr. McCain alienated the moderates and independents who ultimately deserted him.
The tangled nexus between movements and parties has been complicating American politics since the middle of the 19th century. To a great extent, both major parties owe their identities to movements.
The modern Democratic Party was shaped by the populism of the 1890s, the antibusiness reformism of the 1930s and the civil rights crusade of the 1960s. The Republican Party was formed by abolitionism in the 1850s, anti-Communism in the 1950s, antitax revolts in the 1970s and 1980s and the evangelical conservatism of the 1990s and 2000s.
In each instance, a movement and a party came together. But the partnership was seldom satisfactory to either side. This isn’t surprising. While movements are driven by specific causes (punishing “robber barons,” ending “big government”), parties stay relevant by adjusting to new conditions....
Posted on: Sunday, November 9, 2008 - 20:26
SOURCE: Boston Globe (11-9-08)
ON ELECTION NIGHT, Barack Obama addressed nearly 200,000 supporters in Chicago's Grant Park - the place where, just 40 years earlier, antiwar protesters, hippies, yippies and black radicals clashed with police during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Alternative visions of America had collided on Chicago's streets: dissent versus "America love it or leave it" patriotism, militancy versus law and order, sexual libertinism versus family values. Obama's Grant Park celebration - just like the election of 2008 - exorcized the ghosts of 1968, perhaps forever.
Campaigns in the 40-year period leading up to the election of Barack Obama hinged on the great question that Americans, both left and right, raised in the aftermath of the 1960s protests: "What side are you on?" Post-1960s politics fostered polarization: the "silent majority" versus raucous minorities, the Christian nation versus its libertine detractors, hard-working middle Americans versus welfare cheats, small-town gun owners versus latte-sipping urbanites, red states versus blue states. This year, John McCain attempted once again to turn the election into a plebiscite on the 1960s, from his first general election ad on the "Summer of Love," which contrasted McCain's military service and love of country with beaded and bearded protesters on the home front, to his campaign's attempt to brand Obama a socialist and pal of '60s fringe radicals like Bill Ayers of the Weathermen.
In 2008, however, the return to cultural warfare failed. Barack Obama distanced himself from the 1960s, reminding voters that he was but a child in Hawaii when America exploded in conflict. The activists who protested in the streets in the 1960s and the "silent majority" who railed against them are aging out. Their passions are mostly irrelevant to many younger people who grew up, like Obama, in the world that the 1960s made, a place where cultural differences were a source of pride, not conflict. Obama - and the voters who propelled him to victory (a majority of whom are his age or younger) - inhabit an ethnically and racially diverse America. Hippies and yippies are a thing of the past, but the values of sexual freedom and liberty have entered the mainstream; they even touched Sarah Palin's family.
Generation Obama has its own issues: global warming, worldwide epidemics, the threat of terrorism, and the collapse of the financial markets, to name a few. McCain's evocations of small-town values, of dissent and the silent majority and campus radicalism, left those problems unaddressed. Obama's rhetoric of unity - of common purpose and common cause - threw the dated politics of division and resentment into the dustbin of history. The cultural warriors, fighting over law and order, God, guns, and family values, will not be silent during the Obama administration, but they are increasingly relics of the past.
Posted on: Sunday, November 9, 2008 - 19:44
SOURCE: Boston Globe (11-9-08)
Thomas Jefferson's victory in 1800 was a deathblow to the Federalist Party and its goal of wedding the young Republic to the interests of its financial and mercantile elite. The election of 1828 ushered in the era of Jacksonian democracy, which far outlived its namesake's eight years in office. Lincoln's election in 1860 marked the end of slaveholder control of the federal government. McKinley's in 1896 created a Republican majority that lasted (with an interruption by Woodrow Wilson) until the Great Depression. The political alignments and attitudes toward public policy brought into being by Franklin D. Roosevelt after his victory in 1932 persisted into the 1960s. And Ronald Reagan's election in 1980 opened an era of deregulation, deindustrialization, anti-unionism, and the militarization of foreign policy - norms that the three presidents who followed did little to change.
Future historians may well view Barack Obama's victory as another of these critical elections, the end of the age of Reagan and the beginning of something substantially new. This is not primarily because of his race, although in view of our tortured racial history the election of the first black president indeed represents a watershed. Nor does it arise from the decisive nature of his victory - Jefferson had an extremely narrow margin and Lincoln received only 40 percent of the popular vote. Some landslides, like Eisenhower's in 1952 and 1956, do not mark the advent of a fresh political paradigm. Obama's opportunity rests above all on the fact that his victory arises from a powerful popular desire for change after one of the most disastrous administrations in American history and the wreckage of the ideology that has guided American politics since 1980. Perhaps the end of Reaganism came two weeks ago when Alan Greenspan, the high priest of deregulation during his years as Federal Reserve chairman, admitted that market fundamentalism had failed.
With its widespread use of today's technology - the Internet, cellphones, text messages - and its massive mobilization of first-time voters, the 2008 campaign will be viewed by future historians as a 21st century prototype. In his personal ancestry, Obama embodies recent social changes that point the way to tomorrow's America - a nation where the old black-white template has given way to a reconfigured landscape of race.
Obama has the bad luck to come to power in the midst of an economic crisis. He has the good luck to do so in a country yearning for strong leadership and a renewed sense of political possibility. No president can perform miracles. But if, like his most successful predecessors, Obama seizes the occasion by striking out boldly, articulating forcefully a new philosophy of governing at home and relating to the rest of the world, we will add 2008 to the very short list of elections that have truly transformed American life.
Posted on: Sunday, November 9, 2008 - 19:42
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (11-8-08)
In 1888, Republican Benjamin Harrison, who lost the popular vote to Grover Cleveland, but won the deciding electoral vote, declared that Providence had dictated his elevation to the highest office.
Providence indeed, a Republican Party boss sniffed, confiding that the new president "would never know how many people were compelled to approach the gates of the penitentiary to put him in that office".
Today, it is doubtful that more than a handful of Americans would know anything at all about Harrison, his election or what he did as president. Nor would most voters know much, if anything, about other more recent presidencies.
Occasionally, however, we get a landmark election that resonates for years. Barack Obama's victory was one of those moments. The first African American to win the presidency, the second youngest man ever elected to a first term (only John Kennedy was younger), and the largest voter turnout in decades add up to much more than a passing mention in the history books.
Of course, if Obama were to prove a great bust - an orator without a ground-breaking programme or the wherewithal to put across more than just the most commonplace legislative and foreign policy initiatives - he'd become another one of the many forgotten presidents, or at best an asterisk as the country's first black chief executive.
I'm betting otherwise. Like Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D.Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F.Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan - the most memorable of the 18 presidents who served in the last century - Obama seems likely to become an unforgettable personality who presided over a transforming administration.
All those presidents made themselves into household names by the power of their rhetoric and larger-than-life characters.
All of them had the gift of gab: Theodore Roosevelt used what he called the "bully pulpit" to bring Americans to his side, while Wilson gave speeches which some said were so lyrical that you could have danced to them.
FDR's "fireside chats" on the radio remain a yardstick for every aspiring politician to measure themselves against; Truman's "Give'em hell Harry" 1948 campaign stands as a model of how the spoken word can convert reluctant voters. JFK's brilliantly crafted inauguration speech and live televised press conferences have kept him in the country's memory for almost five decades; more recently, Reagan's charm and ability to reach mass audiences made him "the Great Communicator."
There is no better example of the power of presidential personality than the anecdote about the woman who stopped Eleanor Roosevelt on the street after FDR's death to say: "I miss the way your husband used to speak to me about my government."...
Posted on: Saturday, November 8, 2008 - 18:49