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Guest Commentary

Guest Commentary (4159)

Monday, 25 August 2008 20:30

Jeff Fleischer: Biden - his time

by Jeff Fleischer

What with his obvious rhetorical gifts and youthful charisma, Barack Obama has drawn plenty of comparisons to John Kennedy almost since the day he emerged on the national political scene.

This past weekend, he ripped a page directly out of the Kennedy playbook.

In 1960, of course, Kennedy selected Lyndon Johnson, a former opponent from the primary process and one of his party's most effective and senior senators, to serve as his running mate. The image was a perfect pairing for the ticket, with the history-making young leader with lofty goals backed by the savvy, experienced pol with a track record of getting things done. Obama and Biden will have a better working relationship -- it would be hard for them not to -- but Biden completes Obama's ticket in the same way. And unlike Kennedy, who often ignored Johnson's advice once in office (Vietnam standing as the most obvious example), Obama has always said he would make his VP a key part of decision making in his administration.

"I am thrilled that Joe Biden will be my vice president," Obama said last weekend. "I think he can help shape a long-term strategy to keep America more secure after the disastrous economic and foreign policies that characterized the last eight years."

Few politicians in America -- not John McCain or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton -- can match Biden's foreign policy credentials, particularly his work regarding the former Yugoslavia. As chairman of the Senate Committee of Foreign Relations, he's long been considered the clear choice for Secretary of State in a Democratic administration and has a truly enviable wonkiness level when it comes to international affairs.

by Michael Winship

Another humid August, a long time ago, and I was working in my father's small town drugstore, the last summer before my first year of high school. Today, cash registers are as computerized as ATMs and tell you everything instantly, from the change owed and the status of inventory to the date, time, and wind chill factor in Upper Volta.

Back then, they were electrically powered at least, but you still had to do a lot of the calculating in your head, which is why my dad tended to keep his not-so-mathematically-inclined son in the back of the store, away from the receipts. With my nimble fingers on the register keys, I was capable of trying to charge you $1,398.06 for a pack of Camels.

by Peter Navarro

"So near to the truth, yet so far." That's the feeling I came away with after watching Bob Woodruff's recent China Inside Out documentary for ABC news. It's regrettable that a journalist of such a high caliber as Woodruff can get so close to a story and not really see it -- while helping to perpetuate a number of dangerous myths about China.

Woodruff's approach seemed very promising at first. He went to four different continents and countries to assess the global impacts of China, the countries being Angola, Brazil, Cambodia, and the United States.

The Angolan segment highlighted China's economic development model in Africa. The myth perpetrated in this segment is that the development has actually provided a net benefit to the people of Africa.

by Michael Winship

In a letter written in 1648, Swedish statesman Axel Oxenstierna, chancellor to both King Gustavus Adolphus and Queen Christina, counseled, "Know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed."

The fighting between Russia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia is an unnerving reminder of that, and of how quickly the balance of global power can be tilted from unexpected directions with barely a warning.

by Jeff Fleischer

With a pair of recent trips undertaken at the same time, two of the Democratic Party's most prominent voices set about rebuilding some relationships that have taken hits in recent years. Both were needed interventions if their party aspires to turn the wave election of 2006 into a longer-lasting majority and restore the country's standing in the world.

For obvious reasons, most of the press coverage focused on Barack Obama's successful trips to Europe and the Middle East. Now that the dust has settled on the silly television-news storylines of whether he'd commit a "gaffe" or whether the trip would create "Obama fatigue," the visit seems to have achieved its purposes.

Granted, in Europe, Obama's public speeches generally stuck to general policies. Further granted, the mere fact that he isn't George Bush makes the potential president popular abroad. Also, as Obama acknowledged at a press conference in London, "you're always more popular before you're actually in charge of things."

by Charles Knight
Key advisors to Barack Obama have put forward an Iraq withdrawal policy that they have labeled "conditional engagement." In their words:
"Under this strategy, the ... time horizon for redeployment would be negotiated with the Iraqi government and nested within a more assertive approach to regional diplomacy. The United States would make clear that Iraq and America share a common interest in achieving sustainable stability in Iraq, and that the United States is willing to help support the Iraqi government and build its security and governance capacity over the long-term, but only so long as Iraqis continue to make meaningful political progress." [from Colin Kahl, Michele A. Flournoy and Shawn Brimley, "Shaping the Iraq Inheritance," Center for a New American Security, June 2008.]

by Jeff Leys
Voices for Creative Nonviolence (co-coordinator)

August 9 was a day of preparation for Witness Against War: Preparation for the act of nonviolent civil resistance to take place the following day.

We gathered at the Lafayette Town Hall just north of Sparta. Our host's family goes back 7 generations on this land. His aunt and uncle donated the property on which the town hall now sits.

by Ed Kinane

Our Congressional representative James Walsh (R-NY) recently "lashed out at Iraq." Walsh, now in his 10th term, said Iraq should use its oil windfall sales to repay some of the $48 billion the United States has spent "rebuilding" there.

"We have delivered democracy for them.... The least they could do is step up to the plate and help out," Walsh opined.*

Let's not look too closely at that "democracy" we've "delivered." Let's not ask to what extent bombed-out medical facilities have been restored. Nor to what extent Iraqis, after five years of beneficent occupation, now have electricity and potable water. Nor how many Iraqi jobs any U.S. reconstruction has generated. Nor how much of that $48 billion lined the capacious pockets of Halliburton et al. Nor how much of the "re-building" fund goes to building permanent U.S. military bases.

by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

ABC News' political blog, "The Note," points out this week that Paris Hilton is issuing policy statements while John McCain nominates his wife for a topless beauty contest. The world's turned upside down. Who could blame a person for thinking that chronicling such oddness is beyond the skills of simple journalists? This is a job for the novelists.

Here, for example, is something straight out of Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities. Are you ready for this? The Wall Street Journal reports that, "At a time when scores of companies are freezing pensions for their workers, some are quietly converting those pension plans into resources to finance their executives' retirement benefit and pay. In recent years, companies from Intel Corp to CenturyTel Inc. collectively have moved hundreds of millions of dollars of obligations for executive benefits into rank-and-file pension plans. This lets companies capture tax breaks intended for pensions of regular workers and use them to pay for executives' supplemental benefits and compensation."

by Martha Rosenberg

The 90s had Cheers style bars where everyone knew your name; the 00s had Starbucks where everyone knew your Venti No Foam No Whip Double Mocha Skim Frappuccino.

How Bucks convinced millions of Americans they had a Macchiato deficiency that required $5 and 500 calories a day to treat is pure marketing genius.

Car designers molded "Grande grottos" into dashboards, "meals; other" became budget busters and caffeine residues in the waterways from coffee vendors -- and even coffee drinkers an hour after they drank -- made headlines in Portland.

Now as Starbucks closes 600 locations and the national Javathon peaks, what about these Starbucks' traditions?

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