Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Blogging Slow Down

By Ben Trott

Between now and the New Year, I'll be taking a bit of a break from the blog. Posts will be slightly less regular than has been the case between the election and now. More regular posting, running up to inauguration day on January 20, will recommence around January 5.

David Plouffe Interview

By Ben Trott

The business magazine Portfolio has a fairly rare interview with Obama's primary and presidential election campaign manager, David Plouffe.

In the interview, he touches on the battles against Clinton and McCain; the challenges posed by Reverend Wright-gate; the relative weight they placed on the 'ground campaign' as opposed to advertising buys; what it is which set the Obama campaign apart; and his own book plans.

The interview can be found here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Foreign Policy Will Remain Largely Unchanged, Claims Rice

By Ben Trott

The FT ran a short article yesterday quoting the outgoing Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, as saying that Obama's foreign policy - on Israel-Palestine and North Korea, as well as Iran's nuclear programme - would be similar to that of the Bush administration's. She is quoted as saying,
'The reason why there might be some elements of continuity is that what we’ve tried to do is to arrange or organise international groupings that can first manage and then resolve these very difficult problems in a multilateral way.'
Meanwhile, John Nichols at the Nation today criticised the nomination of 'free-trade absolutist' Ron Kirk as US Trade Representative over Xavier Becerra. Becerra is described as 'one of the most consistently progressive members of the House.'

Nichols argues that Becerra,
'had backed some trade deals in the past, but in recent years he had emerged as a savvy critic of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the "Fast-Track" model for negotiating new trade deals. In particular, he had been outspoken with regard to the need to include guarantees of protection for union organizers in new agreements with countries such as Colombia.

'Becerra's commitment to human rights and labor rights troubled business interests, and they made their concerns known to the Obama camp.'

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Obama Announces Top Scientific Advisors

By Ben Trott

The Observer today heralded Barack Obama's appointment of his most senior scientific advisors a 'revolution on climate change'.

Obama's announcement came during his weekly YouTube address - oft lauded as the 21st Century version of FDR's radio addresses to the nation during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The Huffington Post reported,
'John Holdren and Jane Lubchenco are leading experts on climate change who have advocated forceful government action. Holdren will become Obama's science adviser as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Lubchenco will lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees ocean and atmospheric studies and does much of the government's research on global warming.

Holdren also will direct the president's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. Joining him as co-chairs will be Nobel Prize-winning scientist Harold Varmus, a former director of the National Institutes of Health, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Eric Lander, a specialist in human genome research.'
The New York Times commented,
'Like Steven Chu, the energy secretary-designate, Drs. Holdren and Lubchenco advocate mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions, which the Bush administration opposed. Both served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Holdren said last year that the world needed to undertake “a massive effort to slow the pace of global climatic disruption before intolerable consequences become inevitable.”'

Friday, December 19, 2008

Labour Secretary Announced

By Ben Trott

Obama's choice for Labour Secretary was yesterday announced as Democratic Congresswoman Hilda Solis. The immediate response from organised labour has been tremendously positive. The following article at the Huffington Post contains numerous links to statements of support from labour organisations, including the Service Employees International Union and Change to Win.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What's the Rick Warren Fuss All About?

By Ben Trott

Objections to Rick Warren's invitation to direct the invocation at the inauguration are getting louder and louder. See the following articles for an overview of what is wrong with Warren here and here.

To summarise, though, here are a few of the most prominent objections to have been raised so far:
  • He was a prominent proponent of Proposition 8, attached to the November 4 ballot in California overturning the right to same-sex marriage
  • He refers to those who are pro-choice as 'Holocaust deniers', and compared efforts towards abortion reduction (rather than abolition) to 'Schindler's list'
  • He does not believe in evolution and thinks dinosaurs and humans inhabited the Earth (which he believes is only a few thousand years old) at the same time
  • He has said that the only difference between himself and Focus on the Family radio producer James Dobson is one of tone (for an overview of some of Dobson's views, see the following Wikipedia entry)
Journalist and filmmaker Geoffrey Dunn has a powerful piece on this issue at the Huffington Post. He explains that he has been hesitant to criticise Obama so far, despite some problematic choices made in his nominations for cabinet posts, but the news that Warren will deliver the invocation is 'simply an outrage.'

LGBT Protests Over Obama's Invocation Choice

By Ben Trott

There has been widespread concern amongst and protest from LGBT groups regarding Obama's decision for evangelical pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his January inauguration.

The Guardian report that,
'Warren, the author of The Purpose Driven Life and pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, was an outspoken proponent of a ballot measure [i.e. Proposition 8] to rescind the right of California same-sex couples to wed, and has compared homosexuality to incest and paedophilia.'
Sam Stein at the Huffington Post wrote of the first real rift emerging between Obama and progressives around this issue.
'Ever since Barack Obama was elected president, the media has been pining to write a story about liberal dissatisfaction with his transition efforts. By and large, the meme has been blown out of proportion, as the press overestimated how divisive Obama's cabinet choices were for progressives.

'The press may now have its conflict moment. And it comes in the form of the spiritual leader chosen to launch Obama's inauguration.'
The LGBT organisation, Human Rights Campaign's President Joe Solmonese wrote the following open letter to Obama.
Dear President-elect Obama -

Let me get right to the point. Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans. Our loss in California over the passage of Proposition 8 which stripped loving, committed same-sex couples of their given legal right to marry is the greatest loss our community has faced in 40 years. And by inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table.

Rick Warren has not sat on the sidelines in the fight for basic equality and fairness. In fact, Rev. Warren spoke out vocally in support of Prop 8 in California saying, “there is no need to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population ... This is not a political issue -- it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about." Furthermore, he continues to misrepresent marriage equality as silencing his religious views. This was a lie during the battle over Proposition 8, and it's a lie today.

Rev. Warren cannot name a single theological issue that he and vehemently, anti-gay theologian James Dobson disagree on. Rev. Warren is not a moderate pastor who is trying to bring all sides together. Instead, Rev. Warren has often played the role of general in the cultural war waged against LGBT Americans, many of whom also share a strong tradition of religion and faith.

We have been moved by your calls to religious leaders to own up to the homophobia and racism that has stood in the way of combating HIV and AIDS in this country. And that you have publicly called on religious leaders to open their hearts to their LGBT family members, neighbors and friends.

But in this case, we feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination. Only when Rev. Warren and others support basic legislative protections for LGBT Americans can we believe their claim that they are not four-square against our rights and dignity. In that light, we urge you to reconsider this announcement.


Joe Solmonese
Human Rights Campaign

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Chavez Expects Improvement in Venezuelan-US Relations Likely

By Ben Trott

There is an article on the Venezuelanalysis.com blog by Erik Sperling reporting on Hugo Chavez's cautious optimism that relations between Venezuela and the US will improve with Obama as President and Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

Secretary of Transport Announced, Still No Secretary of Labour

By Ben Trott

It seems that Congressman Ray LaHood, who Michael Tomasky describes as a 'moderate-ish Republican', has been selected Secretary of Transportation.

Alongside Robert Gates, who will stay on as Secretary of Defense, LaHood will make up the second Republican in the Obama administration's cabinet.

I believe the only senior position this now leaves open, after the announcement of Secretaries of Agriculture, Education and Interior earlier this week, is Secretary of Labour. Whether or not anything can be read into the relatively late selection of Labour Secretary in terms of the importance the role will play in an Obama administration is unclear.

New School in NYC Occupied

By Ben Trott

Only two days after the nomination of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education, and with ongoing student (and school pupil) protests taking place across Europe - most spectacularly in Greece - the New School for Social Research in New York City was yesterday occupied. The occupiers have cast their action not only in the context of the 'corporatization' of the university and the 'impoverishment of education', but the general crisis in housing, employment and elsewhere in New York.

The following is the full text of an email issued from the occupation.

From New York City:

We have just occupied New School University.

We liberate this space for ourselves, and all those who want to join us, for our general autonomous use. We take the university in explicit solidarity with those occupying the universities and streets in Greece, Italy, France and Spain.

This occupation begins as a response to specific conditions at the New School, the corporatization of the university and the impoverishment of education in general. However, it is not just this university but also New York City that is in crisis: in the next several months, thousands of us will be losing our jobs, while housing remains unaffordable and unavailable to many and the cost of living skyrockets.

So we stress that the general nature of these intolerable conditions exists across the spectrum of capitalist existence, in our universities and our cities, in all of our social relations. For this reason, what begins tonight at the New School cannot, and should not, be contained here.

Thus: with this occupation, we inaugurate a sequence of revolt in New York City and the United States, a coming wave of occupations, blockades, and strikes in this time of crisis.

Be assured, this is only the beginning,

With solidarity and love from New York to Greece,
To Italy, France and Spain,
To the coming insurrection.

- New School Occupation Committee

Environmental Concerns About Interior Secretary Nomination

By Ben Trott

A number of news outlets are today reporting concern amongst environmentalists over the appointment of Ken Salazar as Secretary of Interior. The New York Times reported,
'Environmental advocates offered mixed reviews of Mr. Salazar, 53, a first-term Democratic senator who served as head of Colorado’s natural resources department and as the state’s attorney general. Mr. Salazar was not the first choice of environmentalists, who openly pushed the appointment of Representative Raul Grijalva, Democrat of Arizona, who has a strong record as a conservationist.

'Oil and mining interests praised Mr. Salazar’s performance as a state official and as a senator, saying that he was not doctrinaire about the use of public lands. “Nothing in his record suggests he’s an ideologue,” said Luke Popovich, spokesman for the National Mining Association. “Here’s a man who understands the issues, is open-minded and can see at least two sides of an issue.”'
The article quoted Keiran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity as saying,
'He is a right-of-center Democrat who often favors industry and big agriculture in battles over global warming, fuel efficiency and endangered species ... He is very unlikely to bring significant change to the scandal-plagued Department of Interior. It’s a very disappointing choice for a presidency which promised visionary change.'
Meanwhile, the Nation have run a piece arguing,
'Environmentalists wanted him to choose representative Raul Grijalva of Arizona, a progressive Latino who had fought the Bush administration's campaign to dismantle conservation laws and regulations. Salazar has compiled an 81 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters, so he's no Gail Norton [Bush's first Secretary of Interior]. But he endorsed Bush's selection of Norton to run interior in 2001, according to a statement by the Center for Biological Diversity, the nation's leading NGO on endangered species. The CBD also accused Salazar of having voted in Congress against better fuel efficiency, for off-shore drilling along the Florida coast and for continued subsidies for ranchers, miners and other commercial interests exploiting public lands.'
In the environmental news website Grist's coverage of the controversy around the nomination, Kate Sheppard argues that,
'Many activists, particularly among grassroots conservation groups in the West, are criticizing the pick, while some industry interests and big, mainstream green groups are praising Salazar.

'The opponents have been the most outspoken so far.'

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Guess Who's 'Time' Person of the Year?

By Ben Trott

In 2006, it was 'You' (or more precisely, Web 2.0). This year, Barack Obama is, predictably enough, Time magazine's Person of the Year.

Pakistan: Obama's Nightmare

By Immanuel Wallerstein

On the evening of Nov. 26, 2008, a small group of 10 persons attacked two luxury hotels and other sites in central Mumbai (India) and, over several days, managed both to kill and hurt a very large number of persons and to create massive material destruction in the city. It took several days before the slaughter was brought to an end. It is widely believed that the attacks were the work of a Pakistani group called Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), a group thought to be similar in motivation to al-Qaeda, perhaps directly linked to it. The world press immediately called the Mumbai massacres the 9/11 of India, a repetition of the attacks al-Qaeda launched against the United States in 2001.

The motivations and strategy of al-Qaeda in 2001 were largely misunderstood in 2001, both by the U.S. government and by analysts. The same thing risks happening now. Al-Qaeda in 2001 was of course seeking to humiliate the United States. But this was, from a strategic point of view, only a secondary motivation. Al-Qaeda has always made clear that its primary objective is the re-creation of the Islamic caliphate. And, as a matter of political strategy, it has considered that the necessary first step is the collapse of the governments of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Al-Qaeda considers that these two governments have been the essential political supports of Western (primarily U.S.) political dominance in the greater Middle East, and therefore the biggest obstacles to the re-creation of the caliphate, whose initial geographic base would of course be in this region.

The attack of September 11 can be seen as an attempt to get the U.S. government to engage in political activities that would put pressures on the Saudi and Pakistani governments of a kind that would undermine their political viability. The primary actions of the U.S. government in the region since 2001 - the invasion first of Afghanistan and then of Iraq - certainly met the expectations of al-Qaeda. What has been the result?

The Saudi government has reacted with great political astuteness, fending off U.S. pressures that would have weakened it internally, and has been able thus far to minimize al-Qaeda political success in Saudi Arabia. The Pakistani government has been far less successful. The regime in Islamabad is far weaker in 2008 than its predecessor regime was in 2001, while the political strength of al-Qaeda-type elements has been on a steady rise. The Mumbai attacks seem to have been an effort to weaken the Pakistani state still further. Of course, LET wished to hurt India and those seen as its allies - the United States, Great Britain, and Israel - but this was a secondary objective. The primary objective was to bring down the Pakistani government.

In Pakistan, as in every country of the world, the political elites are nationalist and seek to further the geopolitical interests of their country. This objective is fundamentally different from that of al-Qaeda-like groups, for whom the only legitimate function of a state is to further the re-creation of the caliphate. The persistent refusal of the Western world to understand this distinction has been a major source of al-Qaeda's continuing strength. It is what will turn Pakistan into Obama's nightmare.

What are Pakistan's geopolitical interests? Before anything else, it worries about its principal neighbors, India and Afghanistan. These concerns have fashioned its geopolitical strategy for the last sixty years. Pakistan sought powerful allies against India. It found two historically, the United States and China. Both the United States and China supported Pakistan for one simple reason, to keep India in check. India was seen by both as too close geopolitically to the Soviet Union, with whom both the United States and China were in conflict.

In the 1990s, with the end of the Cold War and the momentary geopolitical weakness of Russia, both the United States and China sought tentatively to obtain closer relations with India. India was geopolitically a more important prize than Pakistan, and Pakistan knew this. One of the ways Pakistan reacted was to expand its role in (and control over) Afghanistan, by supporting the eventually successful Taliban takeover of the country.

What happened after 2001? The United States invaded Afghanistan, ousted the Taliban, and installed a government which had elements friendly to the United States, to Russia, even to Iran, but not at all to Pakistan. At the same time, the United States and India got still cozier, with the new arrangements on nuclear energy. So, the Pakistani government turned a blind eye to the renewal of Taliban strength in the northwest tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. The Taliban elements there, supported by al-Qaeda elements, renewed military operations in Afghanistan - and with considerable success, it should be noted.

The United States became quite upset, pressed the Pakistani army to act militarily against these Taliban/al-Qaeda elements, and itself engaged in direct (albeit covert) military action in this region. The Pakistani government found itself between a rock and a hard place. It had never had much capacity to control matters in the tribal regions. And the attempts it made as a result of U.S. government pressure weakened it still further. But its inefficacy pushed the U.S. military to act even more directly, which led to severe anti-American sentiment even among the most historically pro-American elites.

What can Obama do? Send in troops? Against whom? The Pakistani government itself? It is said that the U.S. government is particularly concerned with the nuclear stockpile that Pakistan has. Would the United States try to seize this stockpile? Any action along these lines - and Obama recklessly hinted at such actions during the electoral campaign - would make the Iraqi fiasco seem like a minor event. It would certainly doom Obama's domestic objectives.

There will be no shortage of people who will counsel him that doing nothing is unacceptable weakness. Is that Obama's only alternative? It seems clear that pursuing his agenda, as he himself has defined it, requires getting out from under the unending and geopolitically fruitless U.S. activities in the Middle East. Iraq will be easy, since the Iraqis will insist on U.S. withdrawal. Afghanistan will be harder, but a political deal is not impossible. Iran can be negotiated. The Israel/Palestine conflict is for the moment unresolvable, and Obama may be able to do little else than let the situation fester still longer.

But Pakistan requires a decision. If a Pakistani government is to survive, it will have to be one that can show it holds its own geopolitically. This will not be at all easy, given the internal situation, and an angry Indian public opinion. If there is anywhere where Obama can act intelligently, this is the place.

Note: Copyright by Immanuel Wallerstein, distributed by Agence Global. For rights and permissions, including translations and posting to non-commercial sites, and contact: rights@agenceglobal.com, 1.336.686.9002 or 1.336.286.6606. Permission is granted to download, forward electronically, or e-mail to others, provided the essay remains intact and the copyright note is displayed. To contact author, write: immanuel.wallerstein@yale.edu

Anti-War Demos to Coincide with London G20 Meeting in April and Obama's First UK Visit

By Ben Trott

The UK-based Stop the War Coalition and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) have announced plans for an anti-war demonstration during the April 2009 G20 meeting in London. The demonstration is planned for April 2 and will coincide with what will be President Obama's first visit to the United Kingdom - and most likely Europe.

A post to the Stop the War website reads,
'This meeting will be a vital opportunity for the most powerful countries in the world to break from the policies of war and neoliberalism that have caused such devestation around the world during the Bush years.'
Obama and many of the other leaders expected to meet in London will immediately travel on to the NATO meeting in Strasbourg where further protests are planned.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Secretaries of Education and Interior

By Ben Trott

The Washington Post are reporting that Obama is expected to announce Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education later today. The paper also announces that Democratic Party Senator Ken Salazar is likely to be nominated Secretary of Interior later this week. They commented that this means 'all but finalizing his selections for major Cabinet posts.' The top positions in Agriculture, Transportation and (crucially!) Labour will, however, still remain unfilled.

Obama's announcement of his energy and environment team yesterday went as expected. The Guardian America site has a profile of the recent appointments in this department. Grist, the environmental news and commentary website's coverage of the announcement is here.

Both the Guardian and the New York Times now have extensive online profiles of those appointed or nominated to the top positions in the incoming administration.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Housing Secretary Announced

By Ben Trott

In his weekly address earlier today, Obama announced his nomination for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan.

The New York Times have a profile on Donovan here.

Slowing Down on Iraq?

By Ben Trott

Robert Dreyfuss has an article on the Nation website looking at recent comments made by top Obama advisors on military and foreign policy issues. It would appear that many are currently 'urging caution' against a hasty withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and the seeing through of Obama's 16-month withdrawal pledge in particular.

I imagine the question that many will be asking over the next couple of months, particularly in light of Gates' recent announcement about increased troop deployments to Afghanistan, is to what extent will the anti-war left - within the Democratic Party, as well as organisations such as MoveOn.org who played a major role in Obama's election campaign, and beyond - be able to influence the President-elect's emerging foreign policy? Without a major mobilisation - which amidst the current euphoria surrounding Bush's departure, looks rather unlikely - I imagine the answer to be: very little indeed.

Peter Tatchell Urges Obama to Support LGBT Rights

By Ben Trott

President-elect Barack Obama, nominee for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the US Congress are being urged by Peter Tatchell of the LGBT rights group OutRage! to speak out in support of the UN statement on the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

The statement, which not only calls for decriminalisation but condemns all human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, urges the protection of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, and calls for those who violate these rights to be brought to justice.

The statement will not be subject to a vote, but will be presented to and read at the UN's General Assembly. This is expected to take place sometime between December 15 and 20.

Singatories so far are said to include Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Peter Tatchell criticised the US' failure so far to sign the statement. He argued, 'The failure of President Bush to approve this UN statement is a shabby betrayal of the humanitarian values that the US claims to represent and defend.'

'I urge Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the US Congress to speak out in support of the forthcoming UN statement on LGBT human rights,' the statement from Tatchell read. 'To draw a line under the homophobic policies of the Bush administration, they need to publicly endorse this UN initiative.'

The following is the full and final text of the statement.
We have the honour to make this statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity on behalf of [.]

1 - We reaffirm the principle of universality of human rights, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights whose 60th anniversary is celebrated this year, Article 1 of which proclaims that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights";

2 - We reaffirm that everyone is entitled to the enjoyment of human rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, as set out in Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 2 of the International Covenants on Civil and Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as in article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

3 - We reaffirm the principle of non-discrimination which requires that human rights apply equally to every human being regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity;

4 - We are deeply concerned by violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms based on sexual orientation or gender identity;

5 - We are also disturbed that violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatisation and prejudice are directed against persons in all countries in the world because of sexual orientation or gender identity, and that these practices undermine the integrity and dignity of those subjected to these abuses;

6 - We condemn the human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity wherever they occur, in particular the use of the death penalty on this ground, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the practice of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, arbitrary arrest or detention and deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health;

7 - We recall the statement in 2006 before the Human Rights Council by fifty four countries requesting the President of the Council to provide an opportunity, at an appropriate future session of the Council, for discussing these violations;

8 - We commend the attention paid to these issues by special procedures of the Human Rights Council and treaty bodies and encourage them to continue to integrate consideration of human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity within their relevant mandates;

9 - We welcome the adoption of Resolution AG/RES. 2435 (XXXVIII-O/08) on "Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity" by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States during its 38th session in 3 June 2008;

10 - We call upon all States and relevant international human rights mechanisms to commit to promote and protect human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity;

11 - We urge States to take all the necessary measures, in particular legislative or administrative, to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention.

12 - We urge States to ensure that human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity are investigated and perpetrators held accountable and brought to justice;

13 - We urge States to ensure adequate protection of human rights defenders, and remove obstacles which prevent them from carrying out their work on issues of human rights and sexual orientation and gender identity.
On the Post 'Call in Gay!' Below...

A couple of people have complained that the link to MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann's defense of the right to same-sex marriage in the previous post was not given enough prominence. So for those of you who missed it, here it is again.

Olbermann made the statement on November 10, a little under a weak after Proposition 8 was passed. He did s on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, the most watched show on the liberal-leaning MSNBC channel.

The full text of Olbermann's statement is here.

The video is below.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Call in Gay!

By Ben Trott

Yesterday, on the 60th anniversary of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, gay and lesbian groups in the US were asking people to '
Call in Gay' and take the day off work. The Day Without a Gay campaign (a nod to the Day Without an Immigrant one-day strike on May 1, 2006) was in response to the passing of Proposition 8 in California. 'Prop 8' was attached to the November 4 election ballot and removed the right of same-sex couples to marry in the State.

In the weeks which have followed, protests have taken place against Prop 8 and its equivalents elsewhere across the United States. California-based gay media reporter, Rex Wockner, has been reporting on the protests, the largest of which so far took place on November 15 in all fifty states.

A growing number of prominent personalities in the US have spoken out against the legislative change - although many of them only after the ballots were cast. The video below is one of the more lighthearted protests.

Obama and Nukes

By Ben Trott

What with the reports of Steven Chu as Energy Secretary who, as I mentioned in a post earlier today, will be responsible for maintaining and developing the US' nuclear weapons (as well as energy policy, of course) and the announcement from Defense Secretary Gates of an increase in troop deployments to Afghanistan, I thought it an opportune moment to take a quick look at the UK Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament's (CND) website. There is no response as yet, but Kate Hudson, CND's Chair, posted a blog entry to the site a couple of days after Obama's election. She was optimistic about the possibilities of progress for nuclear disarmament - at least in comparison to under the Bush administration - but stressed the need for pressure from campaigners and the anti-war movement.

Disappointment at a Kept Promise

By Ben Trott

Whilst there has been disappointment on the left at Obama's seeming to go back on his pre-election pledge to place a windfall tax on big oil profits, many were hoping that his promise to increase troop deployments to Afghanistan would turn out just to be election rhetoric. The belief was that maybe, just maybe, it was merely a strategy so as not to seem too reluctant to use America's 'hard power' next to Clinton and then McCain.

The retaining of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, formally announced earlier this month, gave the first definite indication this was more than just bluster. Today, however, news officially broke of the plan for a sustained troop build up (an "uplift" rather than a "surge") of well over 20,000 additional US troops.

What will the response of the anti-war left be?

Energy and Environment Team Shapes Up

By Ben Trott

The New York Times report that transition staffers have announced Obama is set to nominate Steven Chu as Energy Secretary and Nancy Sutley as White House Council on Environmental Quality. Obama's formal announcement of these and other energy and environment nominations are said to be scheduled for next week and will follow the closure of the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznań, Poland.

Chu won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1997 and will be responsible not only for domestic energy policy, but also the maintenance and development of the US' nuclear weapons. Liberal blogger Michael Yglesias is pleased with the choice and has posted a YouTube video of a talk given by Chu on climate change. Sutley is currently Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles. According to a Politico article, she was a member of Hillary Clinton's California Lesbian, Gay and Transgender presidential steering committee.

According to the Times article,
'Mr. Obama also appears ready to name Carol M. Browner, the E.P.A. administrator under President Bill Clinton, as the top White House official on climate and energy policy and Lisa P. Jackson, New Jersey’s commissioner of environmental protection, as the head of the E.P.A.'
While we are on the issue of climate change...

Some of you might be interested in taking a look at the following document. It's called '20 Theses on Green Capitalism' and discusses the connection between the current world economic crisis (which brings with it the end of the hegemony of neoliberalism) and emergent spaces of accumulation and forms of political regulation (the 'Green New Deal') being discussed not only by some of those connected to Obama, but numerous green parties around the world. The text discusses the limits of what it calls 'green capitalism' from both a social and ecological perspective and offers up some ideas as to the ways in which the left could relate to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen next year. The text was written by Tadzio Mueller (one of the Turbulence editors) and Alexis Passadakis (from attac Germany). It was distributed amongst NGOs and others attending the ongoing meeting in Poznań.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Is Jackson 5?*

By Ben Trott

As I mentioned very early on in the life of this blog, my goal here is to try and aggregate news and comment on Obama's candidacy - and now the period of transition - of direct relevance to the left. There are of course far better places to find more general news coverage, and there are a number of links to a variety of sources in the right hand column of this blog.

That having been said, I feel I would be remiss not to flag up the currently breaking news that Jesse Jackson Jr. is being discussed as the potential mysterious 'Candidate Number 5' who is currently at the centre of the scandal over the alleged plan to sell Obama's Senate seat. 

*To be fair, I should probably admit I paraphrased this headline from a post Michael Tomasky wrote on this issue a little earlier.

What Future for EFCA?

By Ben Trott

Labour journalist, lawyer and ex-union organiser Steve Early has a piece on the Monthly Review Zine website. He speculates that the implementation of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) - one of the key current demands from labour and a condition placed on Obama in return for the Change to Win Federation's endorsement - may be slipping off the President-elect's agenda.

Early explains that not only did the introduction of EFCA not feature in his November 25 presentation of his senior economic team, but Rahm Emanuel, who will serve as Obama's Chief of Staff, is said to have refused to state whether the White House would support the legislation when pressed on the issue in early-November.