The Progressive editor, Matt Rothschild interviews Bill V. Mullen, the author of "Afro-Orientalism" and "Popular Fronts: Chicago and African-American Cultural Politics." They talk about Obama's political background and his prospects including an informative discussion of the role of race in 21st Century America.
Recommended Audio: Progressive Radio for 19 January.
The Progressive editor Matt Rothschild interviews Jennifer Loewenstein, the Associate Director of the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a leading expert on the impact of Israeli policies on Gaza and the West Bank, where she’s been many times. They discuss the recent aggression against Gaza in detail and analyze the West's understanding of Hamas.
Tom Daschle and the Populist Revolt
Robert Reich writing for Robert Reich's Blog states: "Tom Daschle's surprise withdrawal today shocked most Washington insiders - after all, Daschle had been a key figure in the Senate, was Obama's pick for a major role in the new administration, would very likely have done a superb job getting a new health-insurance system enacted, and, probably could have mustered enough votes to be confirmed. So what happened? My guess is that official Washington underestimated the public's pique at what appeared to be the old ways of Washington."
The Daschle Dilemma
Katia Bachko writes for the Columbia Journalism Review: "Earlier today, former senator Tom Daschle—embroiled in controversy over $128,000 in unpaid taxes—withdrew from consideration for the Secretary of Health and Human Services post, after several days of persistent reporting on the tax issue by news organizations across the country. Calling for Daschle to step down, a Times editorial today dedicated its first six paragraphs to Daschle’s accounting errors, and the last three to the ultimately more important and more questionable issue of Daschle’s financial relationships with various health care organizations. Yet these relationships were the best reason to question Daschle’s nomination, regardless of the tax issue."
Getting There from Here: How Should Obama Reform Health Care?
Atul Gawande writes for The New Yorker: "The stories become unconscionable in any society that purports to serve the needs of ordinary people, and, at some alchemical point, they combine with opportunity and leadership to produce change. Britain reached this point and enacted universal health-care coverage in 1945, Canada in 1966, Australia in 1974. The United States may finally be there now. In 2007, fifty-seven million Americans had difficulty paying their medical bills, up fourteen million from 2003. On average, they had two thousand dollars in medical debt and had been contacted by a collection agency at least once. Because, in part, of underpayment, half of American hospitals operated at a loss in 2007. Today, large numbers of employers are limiting or dropping insurance coverage in order to stay afloat, or simply going under - even hospitals themselves."
Iraq: Elections Have Come and Gone
Salam Adil reports for Global Voices: "Elections have come and gone in Iraq. With reports that the day passed peacefully, the whole process could have been seen as the most boring national event after the war. Najma highlights this in a rambling post which ends with:
'The day before yesterday a car bomb exploded close to our house, but we were warned and expected it so there were little damages (a single window). No human losses in the neighborhood, thank God.World Social Forum: "Globalization Is Destroying Itself"
Oh, I almost forgot what this post was supposed to be about :)
Yesterday I finally got to vote on something without having a fight (that something being Ninevah's Provincial Council's Elections). I was feeling dizzy, and it pretty much felt like going to an exam without studying, and I proved quite dumb at the voting room: I was about to put my ID in the voting box instead of the voting card, I didn't know which finger to put in the ink pot, and finally, I almost took the voting pen home! but I FINALLY DID IT and voted! Now I have a violet finger and it shocks me every time I see it, until I remember.'"
Agency French Press reports: "The world economic crisis spells the death of globalization and action is needed to protect the poor, said organizers of the World Social Forum as it wrapped up in Brazil on Sunday. 'We have come out against neoliberal globalization, and now that this globalization is destroying itself we have to define the world we want,' the founder of the event, Candido Grzybowski, told AFP."
World Social Forum: 'Stateless Peoples' Defend Diversity
Intre Press Service Reports: "The presence of 1,900 indigenous people representing 190 ethnic groups as well as 1,400 Quilombolas (people of African origins living in traditional communities) was conspicuous among the 133,000 participants from 142 countries. They had their own tents, discussions and celebrations at the event. For the first time, there was also a tent for the Collective Rights of Stateless Peoples, initiating a reflection at the WSF about a "radical democracy" that upholds the self-determination of peoples, said Arnau Flores, a Catalonian journalist responsible for communication at the Escarré International Centre for Ethnic Minorities and Nations (CIEMEN)."
When Did We Stop Caring about Civilian Deaths in War Time?
Robert Fisk comments for The Independent (UK): "I wonder if we are 'normalising' war. It's not just that Israel has yet again got away with the killing of hundreds of children in Gaza. And after its own foreign minister said that Israel's army had been allowed to "go wild" there, it seems to bear out my own contention that the Israeli "Defence Force" is as much a rabble as all the other armies in the region. But we seem to have lost the sense of immorality that should accompany conflict and violence. The BBC's refusal to handle an advertisement for Palestinian aid was highly instructive. It was the BBC's "impartiality" that might be called into question. In other words, the protection of an institution was more important than the lives of children. War was a spectator sport whose careful monitoring – rather like a football match, even though the Middle East is a bloody tragedy – assumed precedence over human suffering."
Waste, Fraud in Iraq Being Repeated in Afghanistan
Richard Lardner reports for The Associated Press: "The US has devoted more than $30 billion to rebuilding Afghanistan. Yet despite the hard lessons learned in Iraq, where the US has spent nearly $51 billion on reconstruction, the effort in Afghanistan is headed down the same path, the watchdogs told a new panel investigating wartime contracts. 'Before we go pouring more money in, we really need to know what we're trying to accomplish (in Afghanistan),' said Ginger Cruz, deputy special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. 'And at what point do you turn off the spigot so you're not pouring money into a black hole?'"
Helping Afghan Women and Girls
Katrina vanden Heuvel writes for The Nation: "As the coalition I'm working with - Get Afghanistan Right - continues to make the case that the Obama administration would be wise to rethink its plan to escalate militarily in Afghanistan, I've tried to engage the arguments made by some feminists and human rights groups who believe that such an escalation is necessary to protect Afghani women and girls. I share their horror when I read stories like this one by New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins describing an acid attack against girls and women - students and their teachers - at the Mirwais School for Girls. But how will escalation or increased US troop presence improve their security or make their lives better?"
The Looming Crisis at the Pentagon: How Taxpayers Finance Fantasy Wars
Chalmers Johnson writes for TomDispatch.com: "Like much of the rest of the world, Americans know that the US automotive industry is in the grips of what may be a fatal decline. Unless it receives emergency financing undergoes significant reform, it is undoubtedly headed for the graveyard in which many American industries are already buried, including those that made televisions and other consumer electronics, many types of scientific and medical equipment, machine tools, textiles, and much earth-moving equipment -- and that's to name only the most obvious candidates. They all lost their competitiveness to newly emerging economies that were able to outpace them in innovative design, price, quality, service, and fuel economy, among other things. A similar, if far less well known, crisis exists when it comes to the military-industrial complex."
How to Rescue the Bank Bailout
Joseph E. Stiglitz comments for CNN: "America's recession is moving into its second year, with the situation only worsening. The hope that President Obama will be able to get us out of the mess is tempered by the reality that throwing hundreds of billions of dollars at the banks has failed to restore them to health, or even to resuscitate the flow of lending. Every day brings further evidence that the losses are greater than had been expected and more and more money will be required."
Doing the Recovery Right
Robert Pollin writes for The Nation: "For most of the past generation, the aims of environmental sustainability and social justice were seen as equally worthy, yet painfully and unavoidably in conflict. Tree huggers and spotted owls were pitted against loggers and hard hats. Fighting global warming was held to inevitably worsen global poverty and vice versa. Indeed, the competing demands of the environmental and social justice agendas were frequently cited as a classic example of how public policy choices were fraught with trade-offs and unintended consequences - how you could end up doing harm while seeking only to do good."
It's Not Going to Be Okay
Former Community Bridge guest Chris Hedges writes for Truthdig.com: "The daily bleeding of thousands of jobs will soon turn our economic crisis into a political crisis. The street protests, strikes and riots that have rattled France, Turkey, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Iceland will descend on us. It is only a matter of time. And not much time. When things start to go sour, when Barack Obama is exposed as a mortal waving a sword at a tidal wave, the United States could plunge into a long period of precarious social instability."
Health and Human Rights: A Journalist's Perspective
Rory O'Connor writes for the Media Channel: "In 1995, after producing a successful weekly TV program about apartheid in South Africa against all odds, we broadcast an edition of a new series that explored revolutionary ideas about human rights, such as those then being formulated by a visionary at Harvard named Jonathan Mann. In our show, called Rights & Wrongs: Human Rights Television, Dr. Mann laid out in typically brilliant fashion the crystal-clear thinking behind his vision of human rights – and in particular, his then (and still) controversial notion that health and human rights are inextricably linked, that access to quality health care is a self-evident, inalienable right shared by all human beings, as recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted without dissent by the entire United Nations sixty years ago."
FAIR Study: Human Rights Coverage Serving Washington's Needs
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting: "Any evenhanded comparison of the Colombian and Venezuelan governments’ human rights records would have to note that, though Venezuela’s record is far from perfect, that country is by every measure a safer place than Colombia to live, vote, organize unions and political groups, speak out against the government or practice journalism. But a new survey by FAIR shows that, over the past 10 years, editors at four leading U.S. newspapers have focused more on purported human rights abuses in Venezuela than in Colombia, and their commentary would suggest that Venezuela’s government has a worse human rights record than Colombia’s. These papers, FAIR found, seem more interested in reinforcing official U.S. policy toward the region than in genuinely supporting the rights of Colombians and Venezuelans." To download the PDF file of the report click here.
Tennessee Coal Ash Disaster Raises Concerns About Similar Sites Nationwide
Tom Bearden reports for the PBS NewsHour: "Even today, it's difficult for anybody who hasn't been to Kingston, Tennessee, to understand how big the problem is. Video just doesn't do it justice. In the pre-dawn hours of December 22, 5.4 million tons of ashes created by 50 years of burning coal to generate electricity here burst through a dike, spreading like an avalanche for more than a mile, burying 300 acres of riverbank several feet deep, spilling out into the nearby river itself."
Biofuels More Harmful to Humans than Petrol and Diesel, Warm Scientists
Alok Jha reports for the Guardia UK: "Some biofuels cause more health problems than petrol and diesel, according to scientists who have calculated the health costs associated with different types of fuel.The study shows that corn-based bioethanol, which is produced extensively in the US, has a higher combined environmental and health burden than conventional fuels. However, there are high hopes for the next generation of biofuels, which can be made from organic waste or plants grown on marginal land that is not used to grow foods. They have less than half the combined health and environmental costs of standard gasoline and a third of current biofuels."
Water - Another Global "Crisis"?
Richard Black reports for the BBC News: "If you look at the numbers, it is hard to see how many East African communities made it through the long drought of 2005 and 2006. Among people who study human development, it is a widely-held view that each person needs about 20 litres of water each day for the basics - to drink, cook and wash sufficiently to avoid disease transmission. Yet at the height of the East African drought, people were getting by on less than five litres a day - in some cases, less than one litre a day, enough for just three glasses of drinking water and nothing left over."
Let's Talk About Sex
Alison Lobron reports for The Boston Globe: "In eighth grade, Luke Detwiler, of Natick, and his friends saw graphic pictures of people having sex. The photos contained 'close-ups of various body parts and sex acts,' remembers Detwiler, now 16. But the kids weren't furtively flipping through a nudie magazine swiped from somebody's dad. They weren't sneaking onto pornographic websites after school. They were in church on a Sunday morning, and their parents had signed them up for the experience."
Kansas State Rep. Mike Burgess Introduces Modern Day Poll Tax
From KansasJackass: "Rep. Mike Burgess will make a case Wednesday for voter identification legislation vetoed last year by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Burgess, a Topeka Republican, said the bill up for a hearing in the House Elections Committee would stipulate that all voters present an ID at polling stations and when obtaining an advance ballot. There would be limited exceptions."
Washington Reporters' Mass Exodus
Megan Tady writes for In These Times: "There’s a problem with journalism when a newspaper lays off a reporter like Phil Dine. For 20 years, Dine doggedly covered the labor beat for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, first from St. Louis, and then from the nation’s capital. His work was nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize, and he has landed a laudatory list of awards, including first place for investigative reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists. This year, Dine published his first book, State of the Unions: How Labor Can Strengthen the Middle Class, Improve Our Economy, and Regain Political Influence."
Debating the Ban on Domestic Propaganda
Diane Farsetta writes for the Center for Media and Democracy: "'I want to make sure that we strengthen prohibitions against domestic covert propaganda campaigns aimed essentially at breaking down the Constitutional barriers between who controls policy and who makes war,' stressed Representative Paul Hodes. 'It's an important point, given the recent history.'"