Obama team claims record on Hispanic

Some say….that is impossible to satisfy everyone…and yet we must not forget those that helped us acquire power.
For that reason, it seems to me that Obama is making his appointments based on a “time-to-pay-back dues” mentality rather than picking his appointees for what they may bring to the table. He picked Hillary to satisfy her democratic voters who voted for Obama and Richardson to “payback” the Hispanic community.. the debate now is among Hillary’s supporters and the Hispanics who made the difference by voting and helped win Obama win presidency. It’s no longer a debate of which group made the difference in the elections but instead which group will get repaid better?
Yeah, I agree that by picking Richardson to be part of his cabinet, Obama has helped the Hispanic community make a progress but what are his real motives for his choosing each senator? These answers will remain unknown until we see action.

Obama’s new choice, Ken Salazar is senator with Hispanic background (his grandparents were Mexican-American) represents another progress in the Hispanic community but not a true representative; since although he may have a Hispanic background, a person cannot fully understand the struggles of a community if he hasn’t lived them or learned about them through a close relative.

I’m glad Obama choose another “Hispanic,” I just think it would have meant more to the Hispanic community if this new nominee were a true Hispanic like Bill Richardson.


Submitted by: Leon Wallace

 I feel as though this article is a in depth look into the Final Exam posted by Dr. Shalan which suggest the United States will be weaker in 2025 due to the emergence of China, Russia, and India, and also the failing climate.  In this article I posted from cfr.org (Council on Foreign Relations) headlined: Getting Along With China’s Military;  Admiral Keating of the US Pacific Command suggest that “it would be a giant leap of faith” to believe the US and China could develop a close relationship militarily.  Keating also touches on how oil consumption and climate change are gonna play as key factors in the Presidency of Barack Obama….

Expanding U.S. Military Partnerships in the Pacific


Admiral Timothy J. Keating, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
Greg Bruno, Staff Writer, CFR.org


December 12, 2008

timothy keatingAdmiral Timothy J. Keating, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, says it would be a “giant leap of faith” to believe the United States and China could develop a close military partnership any time soon. Keating, who commands U.S. forces responsible for an area ranging from New Zealand to Mongolia, says there will need to be more transparency, better understanding of Chinese intentions, and greater cooperation before the two sides could move toward a partnership. But Keating says the U.S. military in the Pacific continues to forge close relations with allies based on policies of mutual interest. Keating says the incoming Obama administration should “emphasize partnership, presence, and a military readiness” with allies while “acknowledging the environmental crises that are looming, to include global warming, to include energy demand.”

The new U.S. Pacific Command strategy you approved in November has been described as a subtle shift in vision, in which America’s assertive role in the region is deemphasized in favor of greater cooperation and collaboration. Elaborate on why you think this change was necessary now.

It is, I think, from our position, as much as an acknowledgment of the way of the world as recognition of the main elements of the strategy and their importance. We are working as hard as we know how to emphasize partnership, not just [military-to-military], not even just interagency to interagency, but government to government, non-government organizations to NGOs, commercial partners to commercial partners. It’s a fairly broad coalition, if you will, of not just the willing, but ‘the coalition, the committed,’ as the Tongans put it. So, there is an increase in awareness of, an emphasis on partnership, and an acknowledgment, not just from our bully pulpit, but enforced by all the conversations that I have in the twenty-eight-some countries we visited so far, of the desire for U.S. presence. So, that’s where you get a partnership, a presence and a military readiness. [It’s] not so much a new way of thinking about things as wrapping what has proven to be successful over decades out here with an eye on the way ahead.

So it’s not about a concern that U.S. image in the region needs an overhaul?

There is not in this headquarters and I get no sense of that in my discussions with military, governmental, and commercial partners all throughout the Asia-Pacific region. I don’t get that sense.

The new strategy seems to suggest that all players in the region should be treated as partners, not threats, but with regards to China, I wonder if there is a slight contradiction between your strategy and the Pentagon’s approach.

We don’t see it that way. I think it’s a giant leap of faith to think that in the near- to mid-term, we as a nation and the policy makers in particular would regard China as a partner, particularly, on a mil-to-mil basis. That said we hope that in the mid- to long-term we can be closer to that consideration than we are today. And to get from where we are–not a partner–to where we would like to be–more like a partner–is going to require more transparency, a better understanding of intention on our part of the Chinese, and to get there we would need more active cooperation with the Chinese.

A Chinese military official recently suggested China would be interested in acquiring an aircraft carrier. Staying with this question of intent, first, how far along is China in that acquisition process? Would China acquiring weaponry of this type be a significant strategic concern for the U.S., or is it more of a symbolic threat?

“Counter-terrorism efforts [are ongoing] throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, and other countries of South and South-East Asia, an area of significant effort on our behalf. But at the top of the list right now is India-Pakistan.”

China already has an aircraft carrier. They bought a discarded, which may be the word, or excess military equipment, ski-jump carrier from Russia. It wouldn’t take a whole lot for China’s military to get their hands on that platform and perhaps do some research and development testing to figure out whether they could return it to aircraft carrier status. Now, all that said, it’s a fairly rudimentary kind of carrier, it’s a ski-jump, very small flight deck capability and it’s old and the Russians gave it up for a reason I would assume. So to get to the larger issue of does China want to pursue the capabilities inherent in an aircraft carrier or a navy that has aircraft carrier capability? I believe they do. In discussions I had in our first visit to China over a year and a half ago, some senior Chinese official, he was a Navy guy at the two or three star level, said, “Hey you know, we’re thinking of building carriers and how about we make you this deal,” he said, I think in jest. He had a wry grin on his face but he nonetheless made the following statement: ‘”You keep your aircraft carriers east of Hawaii. We’ll keep ours west. You share your information with us; we’ll share our information with you. We’ll save you the time and effort of coming all the way to the Western Pacific.”

Did you take him up on it?

Well, my response was just as yours was. I chuckled, slightly, and said, no thanks. Then I went on to tell him: “it ain’t as easy as it looks and it’s taken us since before World War II to get our aircraft carrier technology and capability to where it is today.” Russia and other countries have discovered, once again: “It ain’t as easy as it looks.” So we’ll watch carefully if China chooses to pursue the development of aircraft carrier technology and capability. We will ask them to be transparent with us. We will ask them to share with us their intentions. But when we’ve done that in the past, the Chinese military and the government officials say  in response to my questions, “Well you need to understand, we only want to protect those things that are ours.” Fair enough, so do we, and so do all countries who have access to the maritime domain and the air domain.

A specific point of departure in our relationship with China is the Taiwan issue. How do you see the relationship between China and Taiwan today?

To be sure, the tensions have decreased. Both China and Taiwan have undertaken, in our view, fairly significant efforts to continue defusing the tension across the straits and some of these are in a way kind of almost pedestrian. They have had meetings to where they agree to share exotic animals for zoos. They have agreed on streamlining their postal system. They have agreed to increase cross-channel commercial flights. All of these are encouraging signs from our perspective. We tell both China and Taiwan, with equal enthusiasm, that we are very anxious to sustain stability across the straits. That we would like for them to work to achieve a solution that is mutually satisfactory. And we encourage as much dialogue as both countries can sustain.

Let’s move to an area where tensions are quite high, India. The attack over Thanksgiving I’m sure is something you’ve been following very closely. Can you comment on whether you’ve offered any assistance to the India government?

Let me answer it this way: It’s an ongoing operation so I can’t give you specifics. I’ve had conversations with members of our national command authority. [U.S. Central Command chief Gen.] Dave Petraeus and I have had multiple conversations. Our Pacific command staff is in constant contact with the Central Command staff and across the spectrum of military headquarters staffs. We’re keeping a very close eye on India-Pakistan. We’re sharing those perspectives with each other’s staff and with the national command authority and this is a situation that’s still unfolding.

As the India case illustrates there are many hot spots from rogue terror groups to friction in the Koreas, concerns over cyber security, climate change and impacts to island nations, and a host of others. I wonder if you could weigh in on what you see as the principle points of concern. What keeps you up at night?

“I think it’s a giant leap of faith to think that in the near- to mid-term we as a nation and the policy makers in particular would regard China as a partner, particularly on a [military-to-military] basis.”

When that question comes from our friends in the media or our colleagues on the Hill I answer the same and I don’t mean to be glib, but I sleep pretty soundly every night. But with that said, the obvious intention of the question is, what are the major areas of concern? Right now, it’s India-Pakistan. You touched on them. [Chief U.S. negotiator] Chris Hill just [returned] from a not entirely fulfilling Six-Party talks session [over North Korea’s nuclear program], and that’s hardly the first time an adjective like that or a phrase like that is applied to six-party talks. I think his spokesperson is saying that there was no progress made but there is still room for progress. So that’s North-South Korea. There’s the question of Kim Jong-Il’s health and the succession plan that we worked out, of course, diligently. Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf group activities in the Southern Philippines-we have six-hundred and some Special Forces there supporting armed forces in the Philippines operations. Counter-terrorism efforts [are ongoing] throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, and other countries of South and South-East Asia, an area of significant effort on our behalf. But at the top of the list right now is India-Pakistan.

You mentioned Southern Philippines. With Abu Sayyaf, there are indications that their activity is increasing. Is there more that the U.S. military can do to assist the Philippine government?

I don’t think so. We’ve got, as I said, a very large complement of highly trained special operations forces there. We’ve been there for over half a decade. We’re sharing intelligence with them. We’re providing tactics, techniques, and procedures with them. So I’m satisfied that our national level of support is appropriate for the task at hand in the Southern Philippines. Now that’s not to be dismissive of the challenge facing the armed forces in the Philippines, but they are demonstrating to us increased capability and increased wherewithal as they fight [Abu Sayyaf] in particular and Jemaah Islamiyah, secondarily.

Your new approach that you recently put into play seems to echo what the Defense Secretary Gates has been advocating: pay more attention to state building and governance issues. Do you have any advice to the incoming administration on how to strengthen U.S. military capabilities in this area?

I don’t know that I wouldn’t say anything different to the new administration than we’re saying to the current administration. You know, I’ve been in uniform for almost forty years now. We have enjoyed changes of administration, since I been at it, a bunch of times. So, we would hope to have a constant and convincing theme for President-elect Obama’s team, some of whom we’ve already met and have enjoyed significant discussions with, and it would emphasize partnership, presence, and a military readiness. Acknowledging the increased global market that was representing the Asia-Pacific area, acknowledging the environmental crises that are looming, to include global warming, to include energy demand, all the while, we would underscore the importance of security and stability based on our strategy, which we think is an effective way of sustaining that peace and stability.


Liberals For Pizza

We, of the blogging class, will be meeting for pizza this coming Thursday, December 18th.  All are invited.  Would somebody with more info than I have please let us know at what time and where?  It was a pleasure debating with you all in class.  I think we all learned a lot.  Thank you and good luck in the future,

Emma’s Brick Oven Pizza
101 N Union Ave
Cranford, NJ 07016
(908) 497-1881

Directions and Map

In recent weeks, I have found myself becoming increasingly unsettled about the economic situation not just in the US, but in the world.  Below is an article written by Michael Lewis (Bloomberg) in response to a letter he received from a recent college graduate and employee of a financial firm in NYC.  Although it is a bit long, it is an easy read. 


Lewis states that “We’re at the beginning of a recalibration of the role of finance in global economic life.”  This is an interesting point and it definitely gives me a new perspective on this economic crisis.  He goes on to say “ . . the same rule that applies to properly functioning financial markets applies to other markets: There’s a direct relationship between risk and reward. A fantastically rewarding career usually requires you to take fantastic risks. To get your seat at the table on Wall Street you may have passed through a fine filter, but you took no real risk. You were just being paid, briefly, as if you had.”  For the most part, much of what Lewis says hits the nail on the head.  He puts in words things I have thought about, but have never articulated.  I’ll let you be the judge . . .



A Wall Street Job Can’t Match a Calling in Life: Michael Lewis

2008-12-10 05:03:00.0 GMT


Commentary by Michael Lewis


Dec. 10 (Bloomberg) — Recently I received a letter from a young employee of a well-known financial firm, who asked that I not mention his full name, his employer or anything else that might give him away. Though a bit short on self-pity and self-dramatization, this letter was otherwise a fine example of a sort I’ve received often these past few months.


 “I am writing you for advice,” Anthony (let us call him) began. “I graduated in May of 2008 and since July have spent my time entangled in the culture of (his well-known New York bank). I’m thinking about leaving. My dad labored his whole life so I could have the opportunity to do something like this, so leaving isn’t exactly what I want to do. I know if I stay here I could work unbelievably hard and move through the ranks, or maybe move firms… (but) I guess I’m starting to question the whole securities industry.”


The young man went on to concede that what attracted him to Wall Street was the chance to get rich quickly, and the excitement — but that both of these things now seem gone forever.      “So I have this plan to go to Hollywood,” he wrote, but then instantly undermined himself. “I feel confused, a little stupid, but yet somewhat confident. I mean, I read your book, I figured out how to get to Wall Street from a non-Ivy League school, and I got here. The only question now is, if I leave, where do I go?”


Let me try to help sort it out:


Dear Anthony,


On several occasions I have taken my own advice and it has almost killed me, and so I’m a tad uneasy about offering it up to you. But if you promise not to take it any more seriously than I do, I’ll answer you as best I can.


Let’s start by putting your problem into perspective: You still have a job. You work at one of the world’s biggest banks. It’s true: The thrill and money is rapidly being drained from such places. Your big bank, like all the other big banks, seems to be in the process of being nationalized — thus the longer you stay the more you may find yourself in something resembling a government job.      But that’s not all bad: Government jobs are secure. You are also young, in your early 20s, and without a family to support. That is, unlike the vast majority of the people on and off Wall Street, you have the luxury to wallow in your misfortune.


Now let’s wallow. We’re at the beginning of a recalibration of the role of finance in global economic life. The excitement and the money that attracted you to Wall Street will probably not return for a long time. If these really are the only reasons you became a financier you probably should find something else to do with your life.


                          Hollywood Lurch


But before you go lurching into Hollywood let us make sure you aren’t simply repeating the mistake you made by lurching onto Wall Street. That is, let us focus less on your immediate condition — safely employed but disillusioned — to the habits and beliefs that led you into it.


You were never exactly wrong. If you’d been born 10 years earlier and behaved exactly as you have done, your career might well have made you as rich and seemingly successful as you imagined your father wanted you to be. You simply came to Wall Street too late, and are in the strange position of a man who won the lottery on the first day there was nothing in the pot. The mistake you made, in your view, is to have played the lottery on the wrong day. The mistake you made, in mine, was to have played the lottery at all.


There’s a question you might ask yourself: Am I looking for a job, or a calling? On the one hand the importance you attach to your career suggests a desire for a calling; on the other, your instinct to abandon your chosen career the moment it ceases to offer an easy path to fame and fortune, suggests that what you’re really in the market for is a job.


                          Job vs. Calling


The distinction is artificial but worth drawing. A job will never satisfy you all by itself, but it will afford you security and the chance to pursue an exciting and fulfilling life outside of your work. A calling is an activity you find so compelling that you wind up organizing your entire self around it – often to the detriment of your life outside of it.


There’s no shame in either. Each has costs and benefits. There is no reason to make a fetish of your career. There are activities other than work in which to find meaning and pleasure and even a sense of self-importance — you just need to learn how

to look.


Reading between the lines of your letter I sense that some of your anxiety is caused by your desire for the benefits of each — job and calling — without the costs. Perhaps that is what led you to Wall Street in the first place, and why your mind now turns to Hollywood.


                            Doing Well


What Wall Street did so well, for so long, was to give people jobs that they could pass off to themselves as well as others as callings. Such was their exalted social and financial status: Wall Street jobs made people feel special without actually having to be special. You never really had to explain why you were doing it — even if you should have.


But really, the same rule that applies to properly functioning financial markets applies to other markets: There’s a direct relationship between risk and reward. A fantastically rewarding career usually requires you to take fantastic risks. To get your seat at the table on Wall Street you may have passed through a fine filter, but you took no real risk. You were just being paid, briefly, as if you had.


So which is it: job or calling? You can answer the question directly, or allow time to answer it for you. Either way, I think you’d be happier if you stopped thinking of what the world had to offer you, and started thinking a bit more about what you had to offer the world. Real excitement isn’t just in whatever you happen to be doing, but in what you bring to it.


In the end, you have to look for it not on the outside, but on the inside. In my experience, if you find it, the other stuff will take care of itself.


(Michael Lewis, author of “Liar’s Poker,” “Moneyball,”

and “The Blind Side,” is a columnist for Bloomberg News. The

opinions he expresses are his own.)


To contact the writer of this column:

Michael Lewis at mlewis1@bloomberg.net


To contact the editor responsible for this column:

James Greiff at +1-212-617-5801 or jgreiff@bloomberg.net


The Long View: Final Exam

Here is the optional final exam assignment for the bold and daringly imaginative among you….

In the following article, Michael T. Klare, professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hamphire College, and Defense Correspondent for The Nation, responds to the recently released report by the National Intelligence Council, a government intelligence service, Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World. You can visit the site listed in the article and read the report yourself. But at 90 some odd pages, I won’t ask you to do so.

Rather, drawing on your now deft understanding of Obama’s policies, coupled with your assessment of his cabinet appointments, I’d like you to use Klare’s critical synopsis of the above mentioned report to imagine the United States’ position in the world in the year 2016 as Obama’s second term comes to a close– about midway between now and 2025.

How, for instance, under Obama’s leadership will the U.S. have begun to adapt to what the report identifies as the two key developments: “the decline of America’s global primacy and the growing international competition for energy”? (Klare) How will the U.S. have responded to the rise of powerful new global actors like China, India, and Russia? Will Obama’s presidency have represented significant steps in the right direction? What is the “right direction” in this context?


The Fall of Triumphalism


By Michael T. Klare

This article appeared in the December 15, 2008 edition of The Nation.

November 25, 2008

In a remarkable evocation of the strategic environment of 2025, the National Intelligence Council (NIC), a government intelligence service, portrays a world in which the United States wields considerably less power than it does today but faces far greater challenges. The assessment, contained in Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World (dni.gov/nic/NIC_home.html), was released November 20 and is intended to be read by President-elect Obama’s transition team as well as the general public. “Although the United States is likely to remain the single most powerful actor,” the council notes, “the United States’ relative strength–even in the military realm–will decline and US leverage will become more constrained.”

The report is devoted largely to an examination of the major trends–political, economic, military and environmental–that will shape the world of 2025. Many of these will be familiar to Nation readers: the rise of China and India as major actors in world affairs; Russia’s growing significance as a power broker in Europe; the increasing role of corporations, crime networks and other nonstate actors; and the growing impact of climate change. But two key developments, by the council’s own admission, stand out above all others: the decline of America’s global primacy and the growing international competition for energy.

One can, in fact, read this extraordinary report on two levels: as a forceful indictment of the policies that have governed US foreign and energy policy for the past eight years and as a clear-eyed look at the devastating repercussions of those policies stretching far into the future.

If the Bush/Cheney administration ever stood for anything, it was the perpetuation of America’s dominant international role for decades to come. This vision was first articulated during the Bush I administration, when Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz composed the infamous Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) for the fiscal years 1994-99. “Our first objective,” the 1992 document affirmed, “is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union.” Although this precept was repudiated by Bush I in 1992 after the DPG was leaked to the press and aroused a storm of international criticism, it was later embraced by his son, who declared in a key 1999 campaign speech that if elected, he would strive to preserve America’s paramount position “not just across the world but across the years.”

This vision of enduring primacy was sustained, of course, by a belief that US military power was more than sufficient to overcome any conceivable adversary–with or without the support of allies. And it was with this confidence, this swagger, that the Bush/Cheney team initiated the invasion of Iraq. No plans were made for the post-invasion occupation or the possibility of a persistent insurgency, because it was assumed that the “shock and awe” of American power would produce an aftermath conducive to US interests. Similarly, the reluctance of US allies to join the venture was considered irrelevant, given the overwhelming military advantage enjoyed by American forces and the presumed availability of Iraqi oil to finance the entire operation.

Now, following years of debilitating fighting in Iraq and the systematic depletion of the Treasury, the prospect of extending American dominance “not just across the world but across the years” appears to have vanished for good. “By 2025,” the NIC report suggests, “the US will find itself as one of a number of important actors on the world stage,” forced to share power with other key players, including China, India and Russia. Inevitably, “the multiplicity of influential actors and distrust of vast power means less room for the US to call the shots without the support of strong partnerships”–which will be that much harder to form, given America’s diminished clout and the competing interests of other players, including allies like Japan and Europe.

Another debilitating legacy of the Bush/Cheney years underscored in the NIC report is the nation’s continued reliance on imported petroleum. Along with the epochal shift in political and military power from the United States to its competitors, Global Trends 2025 points to the equally momentous shift in wealth taking place from the oil-importing countries to their major suppliers in the Persian Gulf and the former Soviet Union. “In terms of size, speed, and directional flow, the global shift in relative wealth and economic power now under way–roughly from West to East–is without precedent in modern history.” Much of this largesse is being deposited in so-called sovereign wealth funds, huge investment accounts controlled by governments and used (among other things) to acquire large stakes in American banks and corporations–acquisitions that could, in time, provide major leverage over US political and economic policies.

Our continued dependence on imported oil–actively fostered by the Bush/Cheney team in myriad ways–is also contributing to what the NIC report sees as a period of intense geopolitical struggle over diminishing energy supplies. “Perceptions of energy scarcity will drive countries to take actions to assure their future access to energy supplies. In the worst case, this could lead to interstate conflicts if government leaders deem assured access to energy resources to be essential to maintaining domestic stability and the survival of their regime.”

Not only will the United States be weaker in 2025 because of the hubris of Bush and Cheney; it will face a world of multiplied dangers, emboldened challengers and a paucity of reliable allies.

This is the reading/writing assignment for our final class.

The following is a series of mostly long excerpts from recent interviews with progressive journalists, academics, and activists on Democracy Now. This is not designed to be “fair and balanced.” Rather, it’s intended as a provocation, and as a follow-up to Leon’s post(s) and last week’s class discussion about Obama’s choice of Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State.

I’ve interspersed 12 reading questions below in bold print and upper-case type. Please come to class prepared to discuss these.

The following is from a Democracy Now interview with Robert Dreyfuss on Obama Cabinet Appointments:


ROBERT DREYFUSS: …it is important to point out that the people who are not named, the people were not picked by Obama or the people who were not on the stage yesterday with the president elect. There was nobody there from the anti-war wing of the Democratic party. There were none of the liberal Senators or even people like Jim Webb who spoke out against the war. John Kerry and Al Gore were not there. Bill Richardson was not there. You can go down a long list of people who he did not choose. Instead, he chose what the Wall Street Journal and many other publications are calling a war cabinet. The problem is, in order to fulfill his central campaign promise, which is to get our troops out of Iraq, he is going to have to do some direct hand-to-hand combat with people like Robert Gates and General Petraeus who has political ambitions of his own, Admiral Mullen at the Joint Chief and elsewhere, who are going to be urging him to slow down, to take a step back, to relax, and not mess up the surge that Gates has spent the last two years overseeing. I think he’ll be under a lot of pressure from the national security team that he himself is creating, to slow down the withdrawal from Iraq. He certainly left the door open for that. More generally, he pledged during the campaign to escalate the war in Afghanistan, which I think the rest of his team is fully in support of. Certainly, Robert Gates and general Petraeus have endorsed the notion of adding another 20,000 to 25,000 troops to that failed war, which I think is another catastrophically bad decision. He may find himself turning what had been Bush’s failed war in Afghanistan into his own failed war, especially if he carries it over across the border into Afghanistan. I think the problem here is that the Obama that tilted to the right during the election campaign, supposedly to protect himself against Republican criticism, in fact, turns out to be the real Obama. When he says, change comes from me, we are seeing the kind of change he believes in by appointing this centrist pro-military cabinet. That means, in effect, that it is change that they’re not neoconservatives, certainly they are not going to look like John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz and Doug Feif, but it will look very much like the national security establishment of the Cold War and the post cold war 90’s….

ROBERT DREYFUSS: Well, there are a few things to say here. First of all, there is a connection between national security and energy, and General Jones [Obama’s appointment for National Security Advisor] is at the very heart of that. When he was at NATO as the NATO commander, he did what he could to steer NATO in the direction of taking on responsibility of out-of-area action in regard to securing energy supplies, which points NATO in the same direction that the Bush Administration and of course many other administrations have gone in terms of taking military responsibility for the Persian Gulf and Central Asia, which is really what the aftermath of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is going to be about. To the extent the United States believes and NATO believes that it is responsible for securing that part of the world and protecting energy supplies. It is not necessarily a cooperative approach where we then go to the big energy users like Japan and China and India and talk to Russia as well about a cooperative effort to stabilize that part of the world, but a more unilateral one. That’s a concern.
The second point I would make, is that the people [appointed at] the next levels down at both the State and Defense Department is going to be very, very important. And there is no indication at all the Barack Obama intends to oversee that process. Who Robert Gates keeps on at the Defense Department, including some fairly troubling characters in important posts there, is something that we’re going to have to watch very closely, and as well at the State Department. Whether Hillary Clinton turns to people, including some of the muscular democratic hawks like Richard Holbrooke and in particular Dennis Ross, who is now ensconced at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which is an AIPAC spin-of, and brings these people in to help run the State Department is another big question. So, there’s a lot of aspects of managing a huge foreign policy apparatus that cannot reside in the hands of Barack Obama alone. He is not going to do this; change will not come from him personally except in the broadest outline. The implementation of foreign policy is going to come from the people that he picks.

[Question 1: How does Dreyfuss understand the relationship between cabinet appointments and foreign policy?]

AMY GOODMAN: It’s been interesting watching the networks now. I can’t figure out who is more laudatory in the discussions on the networks, the Democrats or Republicans, of Barack Obama’s choices. There is hardly any debate around this. I want to see what you think of this, Robert Dreyfuss, Steve Zunes piece on Alternet saying Hilary Clinton “allied herself with the Bush Administration and many of its most controversial actions, such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq, threats of war against Iran, support for Israel’s 2006 offensive against Lebanon and 2002 offensive in the West Bank, opposition to the International Criminal Court, attacks against the International Court of Justice, and support for the unrestricted export of cluster bombs and other anti-personnel munitions used against civilian targets.”

ROBERT DREYFUSS: Well, it is true that she supported all those things. In part, though, the trauma of 9/11 shifted politics radically toward the right and a lot of people–and I’m not excusing Clinton’s decisions, but a lot of people got caught up in that avalanche period. Obama distinguished himself by not being caught up in it. I think the fact that Clinton supported that long litany of things, is troubling to me and to many other people who are hoping for a clean break, to use a term the Bush Administration got caught up in, to make a clean break with a lot of those past policies. I think its going to be difficult for him to execute that pivot. I think its going to be a battle on many of these issues with Senator Clinton to make sure that she stays on message.

AMY GOODMAN: You have written about it possibly being a moment for Barack Obama to distinguish himself outside of the Cabinet he has chosen, that people could possibly be expecting this.

ROBERT DREYFUSS: I think people put too much faith in Barack Obama the person. I think he is asked us to make the leap of faith in thinking he can be the embodiment of the change of people have been hoping for. In fact, it cannot be done by one person. In fact, it is not clear yet that Barack Obama is the person to bring that change. I think the message of this war cabinet he has named is that critics of the Bush Administration policy and people in the peace and justice movements are going to have to continue to mobilize, that it is not a time to relax. It is a time for demonstrations and letter writing and grassroots of activities to make sure what we hope to be a more responsive administration to those kinds of activities will start to pay attention to them [unlike] the Bush Administration, [where] we were clearly knocking on a locked door….

[Question 2: According to Dreyfuss, what is the message of the foreign policy (“war”) cabinet that Obama has assembled?]

The following is from a Democracy Now interview with Ralph Nader on the same subject:


AMY GOODMAN: I want to stay with Ralph Nader…. Juan and I have some questions….

Just go through the cabinet picks—again, they have to be approved—of Barack Obama, your, well, former opponent. You ran for president, as well, Ralph Nader.

RALPH NADER: Well, it’s symbolized in an article in the newspapers a day or two ago. The headline was “Obama Turns to Consider Liberals for Cabinet Positions.” I mean, you know, after appointing all the heavyweights, keeping Gates as Secretary of Defense, Hillary Clinton at State Department, and other positions—Treasury, for example, coming from Wall Street—the article said, well, it’s time now to consider some liberal appointees. Well, what’s left? Department of Labor. Now, will David Bonior, who is a genuine progressive and spent many years in the House of Representatives from Michigan, get the job? That remains to be seen. It’s really interesting. As long as liberals and progressives gave Obama a pass during the election and didn’t demand anything in return, he knew that he had their votes and he had their support regardless and moved right, moved to the corporate. And that’s reflected in the appointments that he has been putting in place. Now we look forward to the second level. Who’s going to be Food and Drug Administration head? Who’s going to be the head of the Auto Safety Agency or EPA? Will so-called liberals and progressives get their share of the Obama administration at that second level? It remains to be seen. But the signs are not very auspicious.

[Question 3: What is the connection Nader draws between popular support for Obama during the election campaign and his top-level cabinet appointments?]

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, the New York Times was reporting today that he may name California Congressman Javier Becerra to be the US trade representative, and Becerra has been a critic of free trade agreements in the past. But, in general, have you been surprised by the number of former Clinton administration officials that he has named?

RALPH NADER: Who hasn’t? You know, he defeated Hillary Clinton in a close race, and now he’s reinstalling the Bill Clinton administration. Now, there are two interpretations, briefly, here. One, it could reflect his insecurity. That way, by putting Clintonites all over the government and keeping Gates, he is basically eliminating a lot of potential centers of criticism and challenge to his administration after January 20. The second interpretation is more benign, and that is that he wants to elevate the State Department, so it isn’t dominated by the Defense Department and the security apparatus, and push for a more benign foreign policy, with more vigorous diplomacy instead of brute force, more attention to infectious diseases, environmental issues, land erosion, agricultural cooperatives, etc., which are much cheaper than ballooning a huge wasteful military budget. And if that is his goal, then the fact that he’s put Gates there for at least a year means that there isn’t a new Secretary of Defense to build up a powerful base to dominate State Department, and putting Hillary, who’s a world-recognized figure, regardless of her policies, into State Department, which will elevate the State Department. That’s the more benign approach. But we’ll see how it plays out.

[Question 4: What are the two explanations/interpretations Nader offers for Obama’s decision to “reinstall the Bill Clinton administration?”]

AMY GOODMAN: What about Marine General Jim Jones nominated as National Security Adviser? Interestingly, President Bush’s first National Security Adviser, of course, was Condoleezza Rice. She came from the board of Chevron. That’s exactly where Marine General Jim Jones comes from. Jim Jones comes from Chevron and the board of Boeing and the chief executive of the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, which has been criticized by environmental groups for, among other things, calling for the immediate expansion of domestic oil and gas production and issuing reports that challenge the use of the Clean Air Act to combat global warming.

RALPH NADER: Well, Jim Jones is basically the representative of what President Eisenhower cautioned us about, the military-industrial complex. He is experienced. He’s clever. And now he’s in the White House. So the question is, who’s going to run what? Is Obama going to transform Jim Jones? Is Obama going to transform all these establishment appointees? Or are they going to, in effect, transform him, in contrast to his more liberal rhetoric?

It’s very hard to appoint people with fixed opinions, fixed constituencies around the country of vested power, and say, well, we’re going to use these to change America, because if they change, that will give great credibility, and that will offset the corporate power structure from Washington, D.C. You know, that’s never been done before, Amy. Usually, when you appoint people who have fixed positions, who have experience in set ways, who represent the power structure, they’re not about to be steered into a progressive path of hope and change by someone at the top in the Oval Office.

[Question 5: Why is Nader not optimistic about Obama’s cabinet appointments changing their views?]

The following is the link to an Alternet post by Stephen Zunes in response to Obama’s naming Rahm Emanuel his Chief of Staff, which is something we haven’t discussed. Zunes is a professor of politics and the Chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.


[Question 6: What are a few of the reasons Zunes is critical of Rahm Emanuel’s appointment as Chief of Staff?]

The following is from a Democracy Now interview with Naomi Klein, Robert Kuttner, and Michael Hudson about Obama’s economic appointments. Kuttner is a veteran economic journalist and the cofounder and co-editor of The American Prospect magazine. Klein is an investigative journalist and columnist for The Nation magazine. Hudson is president of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends and Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.


AMY GOODMAN: We welcome you all to Democracy Now! I wanted to begin with the appointments. This is how president-elect Obama introduced the next Treasury Secretary, if confirmed, Timothy Geithner.

BARACK OBAMA: Tim Geithner offers not just extensive experience shaping economic policy and managing financial markets, he has an unparalleled understanding of our current economic crisis in all its depth, complexity, and urgency. Tim will waste no time getting up to speed. He will start his first day on the job with a unique insight into the failures of today’s markets and a clear vision of the steps we must take to revive to them.

AMY GOODMAN: And Lawrence Summers, named the Director of the National Economic Council in the White House.

BARACK OBAMA: One of the great economic minds of our times, Larry has the global reputation for being able to get to the heart of the most complex and novel policy challenges. With respect to both our current financial crisis and other pressing economic issues of our time, his thinking, writing, and speaking have set the terms of the debate. I am glad he will be by my side, playing the critical role of coordinating my administration’s economic policy in the White House and I will rely heavily on his advice as to navigate the uncharted waters of this crisis.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin with Naomi Klein. Your response to these appointments, and what they signify. If you could begin with Larry Summers, the former Clinton Treasury Secretary.

NAOMI KLEIN: Hi Amy, its good to be with you. Well, I have to say it is a profound disappointment. It really does represent a very safe choice, but let’s remember Barack Obama won this election saying that taking the status quo, that staying with the same policies that have been governing the country for the recent past, was actually a very dangerous course. I think in many ways we are paying the price of the frankly intellectual dishonesty of the progressive liberal left during the Bush years. Because Obama said again and again during the campaign that the crisis on Wall Street represented the culmination of an ideology of deregulation and laissez-faire trickle-down economics that had guided the country for the past eight years.

And the truth is, it was not just eight years in which those policies guided US economic policies. They certainly guided them under Reagan and they certainly guided them under Clinton. That is where Larry Summers comes in because Larry Summers was the last Treasury Secretary under Clinton. And he along with Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin were really the key architects of the policies of deregulation that created the crisis that we’re living now. And those key policies, as you know, are the killing of Glass-Spiegel that allowed a series of very large bank mergers that created these institutions that are too big and too intermingled to fail we’re told again and again. The deliberate decision to keep the derivatives out of the reach of financial regulators- that was also a Summer’s decision. And also allowing the banks to carry these extraordinary levels of debt–33 to 1 in the case of Bear Sterns.

Now, in my book the Shock Doctrine I start a chapter with a quote from Larry Summers. The context in which he says it was 1992 and it was when he was making World Bank economic policy as it related to Russia, in the midst of a financial crisis. What he said and this is why I quoted him because it really shows the extent to which he is truly an ideologue, and truly a follower of the very ideology– not just a follower but a propagator of the very ideology that Obama ran his campaign against. And here’s the quote–this is Larry Summers in 1992: “Spread the truth. The laws of economics are like the laws of engineering. One set of laws works everywhere.” And then he laid out those laws a little bit later. He referred to the three “ations”, and those were privatization, stabilization, and liberalization. So he has been preaching the doctrine. He is by no means an innocent bystander. He is a dyed-in-the-wool privatizer, free trader. And he along with Tim Geithner, his deputy, played key roles during very important economic crises in Russia, during the Asian financial crisis, during the Mexican peso crisis. When these countries were suffering a profound economic crisis, created by deregulation, they preached more deregulation, more privatization and –this is key– economic austerity to disastrous results. So I think this is really troubling. One thing that Obama said is that Larry Summers set the terms of the debate for this financial crisis and that once again is very worrying. Because if Barack Obama thinks that these are the only terms, the parameters of the debate, then it’s very, very narrow.

[Question 7: Why is Klein so troubled by the appointment of Larry Summers as Director of the White House National Economic Council and Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary?]

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi’s assessment. But let me ask you something, Bob, William Greider had an interesting piece in The Nation. He said:

“On Monday, Geithner was busy executing the government’s massive rescue of Citicorp-the very banking behemoth that Geithner and Summers helped to create back in the Clinton years- along with Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin, Clinton’s economics guru. Now Rubin is himself a Citicorp executive and his bank is now being saved by his old protégé (Geithner) with the taxpayers’ money. Geithner has been a central player in the deal-making, from Bear Stearns to AIG to Citi. The strategy has not only failed, it has arguably made things worse as savvy market players saw through the contradictions and rushed out to dump more bank stocks.”

And “ultimately,” Mark Ames also in The Nation writes ,“Summers was one of the key architects of our financial crisis. Hiring him to fix the economy makes as much sense as appointing Paul Wolfowitz to oversee the Iraq withdrawal.” Your response, Bob Kuttner?

ROBERT KUTTNER: I basically agree. The only thing I can say, and maybe this is because I am a congenital optimist and because I have some faith in Obama’s own leadership, and intellect–although I have to contradict myself and say if he’s such a smart guy why did he appoint these fellows–I do think Timothy Geithner is a competent technocrat. He is not an investment banker himself. He’s been a civil servant for almost all of his career. And secondly, when he was pursuing these failed policies, he was doing so as part of a threesome that included Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson. And of the three, Geithner was the most inclined to tough regulation as the price of bailout. But Greider is absolutely right about the intense conflicts of interest of which Rubin is both the emblem and substance.

And the question is, whether Geithner and Summers- in very different historical moments- can turn into different kinds of people under the leadership of a president who knows his own survival depends on pursuing a recovery. I certainly wish other people had got these positions. I am not quite prepared to conclude before the man is even inaugurated that this dooms the Obama administration to failure, but it certainly would have been better if he had appointed more progressive people.

[Question 8: How does Kuttner defend Geithner?]

NAOMI KLEIN: Just coming back to what we can expect from Summers and Geithner. I think it is clear there’s going to be a major departure from the ideology of the idea the government cannot do anything. We’ll see major economic stimulus, major investments in infrastructure, as Michael was discussing, and one hopes that there will be a lot of investment in infrastructure.

But the key issue—we also want to be optimistic. Part of what causes it to the situation that seems to be very disappointed appointments is the fact we have not been honest about the legacy of the Clinton years. So much misinformation was spread during the election campaign, because it was a nice message to present the nineties as these wonder years in contrast to the Bush years. That is exactly what created the situation where you could have Summers presented as the wise man instead of going down with Alan Greenspan. When Alan Greenspan’s reputation was raked over the coals, it should have Rubin and Summers along side him. And I think we have nobody to blame but ourselves for that failure. So essentially, it was an electoral strategy and it was an electoral strategy that relied on intellectual dishonesty and now to continue to make excuses for Obama is a real mistake, because he is not running for election anymore. He has already won, so there is no reason to be pandering in this way.

[Question 9: what does Klein See as a popular misunderstanding of the Clinton presidency?]

In terms of the real issue here, yes there will be stimulus. But how will it be paid for? Obama ran an election campaign promising to increase taxes on the wealthy, and Rahm Emanuel has already hinted that he might not do that right away. We are already seeing hesitation about the commitment to not renew the Bush tax cuts. Then there’s a huge fight over capital gains tax and the kinds of taxes paid by hedge funds. Here I think it’s important to remember Larry Summers is coming straight from a hedge fund. He’s managing director of one of the most secretive hedge funds around. So the real question is not whether they will spend taxpayer money, they will on infrastructure, but the point is will they just rack up huge debt and deficits or will they actually pay for this with taxes on the wealthy, which is what they promised to do and what we’re seeing Gordon Brown begin to do in Britain. Because if they do not pay for this in an equitable way, in a progressive way, then what will happen is this huge investment in infrastructure will create huge economic crisis down the road. It will be blamed on Obama. And then there will be a wave of privatizations, these new investments in public spending. There will be a whole new bubble.

[Question 10: What does Klein predict will happen if Obama’s economic stimulus package is not paid for by increasing taxes on the wealthy?]

MICHAEL HUDSON: I think the idea that Obama will change his economic philosophy is quixotic. In Berlin, almost everybody there was sure that Obama would be another Gorbachev, somebody laying low, somebody going along with, seemingly conforming so that all of a sudden when he was in he could do a revolution. Almost everybody was hoping against hope that would be the case. And instead of looking like Gorbachev, now all of the sudden Mr. Obama is looking like Yeltsin. Just the umbrella for these kelptokrats to come back in. The point that Robert Kuttner made, the bottom line for that is the fatal alliance between the American auto industry and the oil industry. It was the auto industry that bought up public transportation in Los Angeles and other cities after the World War II, and tore it down some people would not have public transportation and would have to have oils to drive cars.

[Question 11: Why does Hudson suggest it’s not Gorbachev but Yeltsin who seems to offer a better analogy to Obama at the moment?]

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, when you were last on, you were talking about structural adjustment programs for banks in the auto industry. But if the U.S. taxpayers are going to bail out the wealthiest corporations and banks in this country, why aren’t demands being made, like, all the boards have to resign, the leadership has to be thrown out, and if the US has to inject money, sometimes the poorest people in this country, there have to be certain rules which include you cannot build another SUV? Naomi Klein.

NAOMI KLEIN: Exactly. The point I made before, when anybody comes looking for a loan, whoever has the money has the leverage. We know that from the International Monetary Fund and you know that from your local bank. They set the conditions for that loan. When you look at deals that have been negotiated, not just by Henry Paulson, but also by Tim Geithner, you know he’s the one that negotiated, really the key person on the JP Morgan-Bear Sterns deal. He was also central in the AIG deal. And what we see again and again, taxpayers have taken on enormous risks from these companies. But they have not been exerting control in terms of reregulating the sector as a whole. When exactly is the Re-regulation going to happen? This is the moment of high leverage. It is not just about firing the boss and seats on the board, it is about re-regulating exactly what Larry Summers and Tim Geithner de-regulated under the Clinton administration. The real question is, do these people have the humility to fix their own mistakes? My question is, is Larry Summers’ ego too big to fail? These guys should not be promoted at this point. Their reputations should really be destroyed by their own track records. All these people are constantly talking about how brilliant they are, despite their dismal track record in this country and other countries in which they have meddled, including South Korea and Russia.

The key issue here, I think, is whether Obama is coming to these decisions because he is under enormous pressure from above, Wall Street. How do you transition from a pro-Obama campaign movement to an independent social movement that puts counter-pressure on him from below? Those are the conditions under which Roosevelt sold the new deal as a compromise to elites. We do not have those dynamics right now. We have a situation where we have super-fans for Obama, constantly apologizing for every decision that he makes versus a gloves-off elite who are putting real pressure on him behind the scenes. And we are seeing the result.

[Question 12: in closing, klein sets up an opposition between Obama’s popular supporters and the elite? What is the basis for that opposition and why is she critical of his popular supporters?]

This is the full speech Hillary Clinton gave on accepting her newest position in the Obama administration. Whether you like Hillary or you don’t, whether you agree with her policies or not, her speech was very heartfelt, and I truly appreciate just how much she is willing to do for this country in crisis. I have to say – I wasn’t really always a fan of her. I became a fan of her about seven years ago during that whole Bill Clinton scandal. It was then when I saw her strength, sticking by a man who humiliated her in front of the entire nation, and making it through the days holding her head up high, despite the pain she was in. I watched as she gave her interviews and my heart really did feel for her, but Clinton has proven herself to be quite the woman, which is why I’m happy for her newest position in this administration. 

It’s almost sad how much harder a woman has to work in order to gain a place in society in comparison to a man. I honestly do think this country would have been royally screwed if Palin became our next vice president, but I wonder how much attention in the media she would have gotten, how much criticism she would have received, had she been a man. I don’t even think John McCain, the actual man running for the presidential office, got as much heat from the media as Sarah Palin did. There are many shallow and ridiculous people that I spoke to during the election, relatives of mine included, who did not know much of her policies or much of anything she stood for, but simply would not vote for her because she was a woman, and “no woman deserves a seat in that White House.” It’s pretty disgusting when I start to think of it. Then again, if people think women are ignorant and clueless, then throwing someone like Palin into the picture is just adding more fuel to the fire.

I believe Hillary Clinton is the counterpoint. She’s different. She doesn’t swallow what’s fed to her. She stands up for herself with a passion that has blown me away over the years. I really hope the media doesn’t give her as much heat as they gave Palin, even though I have no doubt she’d be able to handle it. After all, it’s nothing new to her. They say history repeats itself. In this case, I hope it doesn’t.