To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
--- George Orwell

Monday, September 30, 2013

Rwandan Security Assaults Cooper Union Heckler In Front of Elie Wiesel---'Is This America?'

At the level of spectacle, I find hecklers entertaining---on TV. In person though I find them pretty obnoxious and have accepted that their ejection is now pretty standard.

So I had little complaint with security officers at a panel discussion at Cooper Union last night giving the 86 to a guy in his late twenties/early thirties who got up and heckled Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Along with “America’s Rabbi” Shmuley Boteach and Holocaust humanitarian Elie Wiesel, Kagame was appearing on a panel  about preventing genocide, which was pegged to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of poison gas in August and to the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan slaughter. “Do the Strong Have An Obligation to Protect the Weak,” was the keynote question, with American reluctance to launch military strikes against Syria hanging in the air.

What I DO have a BIG problem with is the fact that the security officers who hustled him out of the Great Hall were Rwandans in Kagame’s security detail stationed around the room; that they roughed the guy up pretty badly, with at least one of them throwing a rabbit punch at the guy’s head, even though he wasn’t putting up much resistance; AND that they were allowed to do so even though the US Secret Service was there in considerable number, as well as security personnel from Cooper Union, owing to Kagame’s presence as a head of state in town for United Nations week. I was sitting in the press section not more than 20 feet from the violence. I was not the only one who thought the incident was handled excessively. 

Kagame is rightfully praised for ending the Rwandan genocide, but since then, his regime has come under legitimate criticism for human rights violations in the Congo and other forms of repression in Rwanda itself, as Newsweek explained, asserting that Kagame really deserves “an indictment" instead of honors. Which was what the heckler was addressing, albeit loudly and rudely. (The fact that Kagame has become a darling of some on the far right of the pro Israel community, I’ll leave for another post.)

But to have Kagame’s thugs go after the guy so viciously, even as the Secret Service looked on, seemed to me totally unacceptable. “Is this America?” the guy shouted as he was being bounced out of the room. Hecklers are given to overstatement, especially after being punched in the head from behind. However shrill though, he had a point.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sheldon Adelson Is a Yankee Doodle Dandy Now: 'Dual Loyalty' or Mere Doublespeak?

Calling himself the “richest Jew in the world,” international casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson has spent considerable sums in support of Israel, more than any single individual in the history of Zionism. In the US, he’s backed Newt Gingrich and then Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election, but only after both paid fealty to his ultra-hawkish, culturally chauvinistic pro- Israel views. He’s also contributed generously to the network of organizations loosely (sometimes too loosely) called the Israel lobby and to Senators and congressional representatives who stand behind it, such as Illinois Senator Mark Kirk and South Carolina’s Senator Lindsay Graham.  On the Hill, politicians in the lobby’s good graces get a lot of money and political protection, especially from primary challenges. Adleson is the biggest wallet around, its influence only expanding after the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United that lifted limits on individual contributions to political action committees under the aegis of free speech. According to most reliable sources, Adelson spent $100 million last fall trying to defeat Obama and other Democrats.

In Israel, Adelson supports the most conservative factions of the Likud government, and has condemned the “Two State” solution for peace with Palestinians. He’s also defended Israel’s illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, as well as the expansion of these settlements, toward the realization of Greater Israel, as envisioned by the more militant and messianic elements of the Israeli right wing.  

In early 2012, shortly after announcing his $10 million contribution to Newt Gingrich, but only after Gingrich reversed many of the positions he held on Israel in the past, Adelson was the subject of a report by NBC investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff. The NBC report highlighted videotaped remarks he had made back in 2010 to an audience in Israel which disparaged his own US military service. "While Adelson and Gingrich have bonded on the issue of a hawkish Mideast policy, especially over the threat of a nuclear Iran, some of the casino mogul’s comments could prove embarrassing,”Isikoff explained. The report continued:

In a talk to an Israeli group in July, 2010, Adelson said he wished he had served in the Israeli Army rather than the U.S. military—and that he hoped his young son would come back to Israel and “be a sniper for the IDF,” a reference to the Israel Defense Forces.

(Videotape of Adelson at a podium)

"I am not Israeli. The uniform that I wore in the military, unfortunately, was not an Israeli uniform.  It was an American uniform, although my wife was in the IDF and one of my daughters was in the IDF ... our two little boys, one of whom will be bar mitzvahed tomorrow, hopefully he’ll come back-- his hobby is shooting -- and he’ll come back and be a sniper for the IDF," Adelson said at the event.

"All we care about is being good Zionists, being good citizens of Israel, because even though I am not Israeli born, Israel is in my heart,” he said toward the end of his talk.

Adelson’s money did attract a lot of attention in campaign coverage, some of that attention noting that foreign citizens are under current law prohibited from making direct contributions to candidates and political action committees. Although Adelson is not an Israeli citizen, his wife is. John McCain, who is now on the receiving end of Adelson’s largesse, told PBS, “Obviously, maybe in a roundabout way, foreign money is coming into an American campaign.” But for the most part, the implications of Adlelson’s remarks, the issue of Adelson's underlying loyalty, went unexamined in the mainstream media. 

However, Adelson’s unprecedented financial role in the 2012 campaign did prompt Eric Alterman of the Nation to write:

If a Jew-hater somewhere, inspired perhaps by The Protocols of the Elders of Zion , sought to invent an individual who symbolizes almost all the anti-Semitic clich├ęs that have dogged the Jewish people throughout history, he could hardly come up with a character more perfect than Sheldon Adelson.

In a piece headlined, “Adelson, Gingrich and the Selling of America,”  blogger Justin Raimondo wrote:

That someone pursuing the agenda of a foreign country can hide behind some benign-sounding PAC and pour unlimited amounts of anonymous cash into our elections represents a real threat to our national security – and ought to make one think twice about our current campaign finance laws. Furthermore, it is a national disgrace that Miriam Adelson – who has not renounced her Israeli citizenship – can write a $5 million check and hand it to a candidate who is beating the war drums day and night on Israel’s behalf. Political contributions from foreign sources are illegal, and that’s the way it ought to be: but what about dual citizens? Should they be allowed to influence the American political process in favor of their other allegiance – and, while we’re on the subject, why do we allow dual citizenship, anyway?

These kind of frontal assaults seem to have triggered a shift in Aldeson’s messaging. Adelson's money has become central to the network of neoconservative, pro-Israel organizations led by Bill Kristol.  Insinuations that Adelson is an "Israel-Firster" cast these groups in an unfavorable light. My guess is that Kristol sent a memo and that Adelson might have read it. 

In an exclusive interview with National Journal given earlier in the month after Obama sent a proposal to launch missile strikes against Syria as punishment for the use of chemical weapons, Adelson announced that he “would be willing to help” Obama on Syria because American credibility was at stake and because "America has to back up their commander in chief. ” This, National Journal found newsworthy in light of the antipathy Adelson had expressed for Obama in the past, and the huge load he had spent on unseating him during the 2012 election. Adelson:  

Would I have set the red line? Probably not. Would I hope that he didn't set the red line? Maybe. But the fact is, he did. He set it for our country…. I love our country. I'm a patriot; I'm a citizen; I'm a veteran. And so I'd like to do what is in the best interests of our country.

Even if Adelson is not an Israeli citizen, his remarks from 2010 certainly raise questions that his more recent patriotic utterances, surely calculated to address those remarks, don't quite dismiss. Whether this indicates “dual loyalty” however, is hugely complicated to determine and whether that actually matters in his case is something I find hard to assess, the matter of motivation in any individual hard to discern in what is really a matter of the heart. And, historically speaking, there is a very valid reason why the issue is considered an anti Semitic canard.      

But we are in a new more transnational age dictating that the question really should be on the table for discussion when the facts or remarks justify it--- and where an excessive deference to the historical canard discourages the candor that the US debate on Israel now lacks.

The issue of dual Israeli-American citizenship, which is different from the question of dual loyalty but often fuels questions about it, should definitely be part of the conversation too, for the sake of transparency at the very least. There are figures playing central roles in the American debate on Israel---some in politics, others in journalism, others in academia—who have dual citizenship but don’t think it relevant, taking refuge in the claim that the US-Israel relationship has some transcendent, “exceptional” quality that makes nationality unimportant. Am I wrong to be somewhat annoyed by people who tell me how to think about the US –Israeli alliance but imply bigotry when I ask about the passports they hold, why they chose to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces but not in the US military or if they plan someday to join close relatives in Israel who have made aliyah?  It certainly doesn’t have to negate their professionalism, their perspective or their reporting. But by implying that only someone believing in “ZOG” or some other dark conspiracy would ask these questions, or that it is a strictly personal matter, as some have, they do undermine some of their credibility. 

More on this soon. It’s fraught territory and it gets very personal for some. But I think it's necessary to acknowledge the issue, though the long history of European and American anti Semitism mandates that any exploration be conducted with the utmost sensitivity and nuance.   


Friday, September 20, 2013

Diversity Trouble In Luxury Class At Harvard Business School

Although progressives may spurn it, there’s a very good case to be made that the cultural left’s fixation on diversity and identity politics over the last twenty years has represented a significant distraction from more far-reaching issues of income inequality, class stratification, and the broader decline of the American middle class. 
I don’t think it’s fair to say that diversity has caused these things, but in the complicated calculus at play in American politics, diversity is definitely a factor. It has certainly undermined the wider sense of “community” necessary to address social inequality, as well as a sense of common purpose. People with an inadequate sense of connection to one another just aren’t inclined to care enough to support increased social spending, even for programs that might benefit their own self-interest: The What’s the Matter With Kansas syndrome. 

Yet among liberals over the last twenty or so year, the preoccupation with diversity has definitely trumped class, monopolizing valuable energies which should have been focused on more central things. This has put the country behind the curve of issues liberals should have been out in front of, both by inclination and by organizational emphasis.

The recession of 2008 has woken us all up to the fact that the American Dream of social mobility is in jeopardy, but all it essentially did was call attention to structural forces, like falling median income that have been evident since the 1970s. Liberals are now on the job, warning of the massive gap between the one percent and the rest of us, witness Paul Krugman writing about “the different social and material universe” the wealthy now inhabit. The right has weighed in too, with Charles Murray highlighting the problem of an elite raised in a privileged “social and cultural bubble,” closed off from realities of people from other rungs of the socio-economic ladder and unable to empathize with them.  

But the forces in work here have a lot of momentum behind them. We might have passed a tipping point already.  And lingering social anxiety surrounding this, especially in the professional class, impairs the ability to acknowledge and address the class issue as directly as it requires. There’s still a lot of denial and avoidance.

This dynamic is particularly sharp in academia, where diversity has been the number one institutional priority for more than two decades, leaving its stamp on almost every facet of higher education, from tenure decisions, admission criteria, the hiring of deans and reforming the curriculum.

The administrative bureaucracy behind diversity is huge, bolstered by an orthodoxy that is almost religious in nature. A friend of mine who teaches at a university on the West Coast describes faculty senate meetings where the trinity of “race, ethnicity and gender” is invoked so incessantly that he has started making the sign of the cross, inside his head of course.  Woe betide him were he to do so openly: the deep intolerance of anyone voicing criticism or raising questions about this orthodoxy, or pointing out its internal contradictions, makes even those with tenure hold their tongues.

Meanwhile despite academia’s preening, higher education has grown inexorably more unaffordable, threatening the whole machinery of American social mobility at just the time  when middle class success in globalized economy depends on getting a degree. Tuitions have surged at triple the inflation rate, saddling graduates and parents with crippling loads of debt. Student debt has topped a trillion dollars and threatens another financial meltdown.  Making loan payments to banks every month and with no ability to dissolve the loan obligations through bankruptcy, most graduates in the Millennial Generation have put off buying cars and houses, and have delayed forming families. This threatens the process of economic recovery in the near term and, long term, challenges one of the most important pillars of the consumer economy: consumer spending.  America now has less social mobility than Europe, where higher education is far less expensive. And it will get only worse in the future, as we come face-to-face with an deep structural issue with vast implications for he country we think we are, with shrinking access to high education eroding the defining American ideal of democratic equality. 

Even as academia was preening about the moral justice of its diversity crusade, higher education has devolved into a deeply illiberal institutional force, making for some interesting ideological contradictions.  Confiscatory tuition fees and the debt they create have surely damaged working class and middle class interests as much as the trickle down, supply side economics that favor the rich—and which academia largely regards as a pox. Higher Education has also shown its antagonism to middle class interests by reaching out to the “international student pool” who can pay full freight, in effect embracing a model of globalization where “off-shoring” is central. For a while, anyone in academia who had pangs of conscience about soaring tuition took refuge in the mantra of “needs blind admissions.” But you don’t hear so much about “needs blind admissions” anymore. Instead, it’s Higher Ed to Horatio Alger: Hock yourself to the eyeballs. With a credential as valuable as what we’re selling here, you can’t afford not to. And btw, have you thought about military service as a way to pay?

Recent New York Times reporting on the Harvard Business School is an unlikely place to find evidence of how Diversity has overshadowed more important underlying issues of class. But after a largely laudatory report on the school’s ambitious “gender makeover” effort, aggressive feedback from HBS students and recent graduates prompted the Times to follow up with a second piece on toxic class dynamics at the school. Such skewed class dynamics were said to be more formidable than anything tied to a climate hostile to women; they emanated the culture of conspicuous spending among the school’s substantial community of ultra-wealthy foreign students. 

HBS was never a bastion of social equality of course. But if the kind of class stratification depicted in the article is true, it would be wise to see an allegory where there is one. As one more egalitarian-minded HBS alum from the 1970’s told Times reporter Jodi Kantor,  “Maybe what’s changed isn’t so much HBS but America.”

Kantor's first piece, Harvard Business School Case Study: Gender Equity described HBS’s ambitious effort to “remake gender relations” at the business school through “changing its curriculum, rules and social rituals to foster female success.” The initiative was aimed at “ a seemingly intractable problem,” Kantor explained.  “Year after year, women who had arrived with the same test scores and grades as men fell behind. Attracting and retaining female professors was a losing battle; from 2006 to 2007, a third of the female junior faculty left.” HBS's corrective effort ranged from setting up new courses to coaching female students how to raise their hands assertively in class.

Kantor described the initiative as a response to a misogynistic campus climate where “men commandeered classroom discussions and hazed female students and younger faculty members, and openly ruminated on whom they would “kill, sleep with or marry” (in cruder terms).  

Like much done in the name of diversity, especially when done at Harvard, there was no shortage of grandiosity and sanctimony. Frances Frei, the dean of faculty recruiting, exclaimed “We have to lead the way, and then lead the world in doing it.”  School administrators, Kantor explained, thought the initiative could “have an untold impact at other business schools, at companies populated by Harvard alumni and in the Fortune 500, where only 21 chief executives are women.”

Kantor’s disquisition ran at nearly 5000 words. But even though the piece described how students felt overwhelmed by the wealth that coursed through the school, the way it seemed to shape every aspect of social life,” it prompted dissatisfaction from readers who made their dissatisfaction known on the Times’ website. Many felt that Kantor had ignored the class inequities that had become so entrenched at the school, much of them generated by children of the ultra wealthy, as well as the large pool of rich international students. The feedback led to a second piece two day after the first: Class Is Seen Dividing Harvard Business School. As one high tech entrepreneur and class of 2010 alum who attended the school on scholarship and now runs a high tech start up told Kantor: “Class was a bigger divide than gender when I was at HBS.”

This article put the onus on an informal group of wealthy international students known as “Section X. ” According to students, Section X was the focus of “enormous resentment” on the campus.

Section X members were “mostly male and mostly international students from South America, the Middle East and Asia,” Kantor reported. They organized that one student said were “the real parties, the parties where it’s a really limited list.” Section X was also said to be responsible for weekend trips to places like Iceland and Moscow, among other lavishness.

Kantor explained that the school had been putting a lot of effort “to draw students from a wide array of economic backgrounds, but these effort shave been blunted by the rise of a global elite that has been accumulating far more wealth and the American income divide has been growing." She did not detail the size of the international student body, however---one third of every 900-student class (HBS is a two year program)--- which is a significant percentage that has grown by leaps and bounds over the last two decades.  Nor did she characterize it as a diversity-related phenomenon. Although the outreach to foreign students helps enhance the school's global influence, it also boosts the school’s racial and ethnic profile and the all-important diversity statistics that accompany it.

But Kantor definitely made it clear that Section Xers had an adverse impact on the school’s sense of community:

Many Harvard business students and readers were especially troubled by Section X and the idea that even within the extremely elite confines of one of the nation’s premier business schools, the ultrawealthy are segregating themselves.

More than once I heard that ‘the only middle-class students here are the Americans,'” another recent graduate said.

The piece closed with illuminating insight into the careerist imperatives that blocked students from speaking out on the issue more forcefully, making it “hard to say if Harvard Business could ever mount a true effort to resolve class issues on campus along the lines of the one on gender,” as Kantor put it. 

Many of the school’s top donors and alumni are members of the same ultramoneyed culture that some students criticize. And because many students attend business school in the specific hope of building a network of influential contacts, they tend to fear offending anyone, especially wealthy classmates who might one day provide connections and financing.

The No. 1 thing you should take away from the comments section on this post is that no one is putting their real name,” one member of the class of 2013 wrote on, citing fear that strong opinions “could limit future options.”

There are plenty of people, most in fact, who don't give a rat's tail about Harvard Business School and the class complaints among its rarified .01 percent. But as the alum from the seventies said: Maybe what’s changed isn’t so much HBS but America.  


Sunday, September 15, 2013

‘Average’ Is So Not Over

I always have to be careful when I’m reacting to an argument I don't like that I am distinguishing between whether the argument is sound or if I just don't want to hear it. Lots of things out there I'd prefer not to hear, and none of them are going to change, soon at any rate.

I'm thinking of this after reading NPR’s excerpt from the new Tyler Cowen book, Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation. As the NPR gloss says, the book “Describes the post-recession job market that is erasing the middle range, leaving only high-earning jobs that utilize machine intelligence and data analysis and low-earning jobs for those who are not learning and adopting the new technologies.”

According to Cowen: “The maxim (“Average is Over”) will apply to the quality of your job, to your earnings, to where you live, to your education and to the education of your children, and maybe even to your most intimate relationships. . . . They will either rise to the top in terms of quality or make do with unimpressive results.”

Given current trend lines in the global economy, I think there’s a lot to Cowen’s argument, and if it challenges our culture of mediocrity and our culture of complacency, it'll be doing necessary work. Still, I really don’t like to entertain some of the implications of what he’s saying.  

In the wrong minds, this kind of thinking justifies an undesirable sort of elitism, Tiger Momming, and cut-throat educational competiveness. It leads to the kind of elite myopia and moral disconnection that either fosters indifference to the broader social welfare or concocts schemes in its name that work against it. As much as it might encourage a "cult of achievement," it also might promote a fecklessness toward those who don't have the advantages to join it. And just on its face, dissing "the average" might not be exactly the right intellectual basis upon which to launch a much discussed "middle class revival."  

The disparagement of average certainly runs against the grain of democratic politics, the ideal of "community"  and the core egalitarianism that is part of, or at least has been part of, the American identity and ethos. As George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) said in It’s a Wonderful Life:Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? “ Among other conveniences, for those willing to consign people to a future of structural unemployment---which is no small problem, now or in the future--- the end of average seems just too convenient.

It also seems just plain untenable. Not everyone can be “above average,” the residents of  Lake Woebegone notwithstanding. To predicate a society on that ignores a basic truth about human existence--- social existence at any rate. 

Hearing people jibber about the end of average reminds me of the How Thick Is Your Bubble,” quiz in Charles Murray's Coming Apart, which scores your level of social and class insularity. A response to the notion that “average is over” might be added to the questions on Murray's list.  

I’m as much concerned for the argument's literary and artistic implications, however. What about the understanding and acceptance of the “average”--- indeed its celebration, to the point of apotheosis--- that swells inside Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, Paddy Chayefsky’s Marty, James Joyce’s Ulysses and almost every song ever written by Bruce Springsteen?   

There’s genius in the ordinary, great art to be located in “the average.” Cowen is probably right, but there's a cynicism that follows in the wake of his argument that makes the world a lesser, and certainly less lyrical place. This makes me melancholy.

So it was buoying to read Leon Wieseltier’s take in the New Republic (“Oprah Lied at Harvard,” August 9) although he writes in a far more evocative and beautiful way than I. The man can be a horrible literary snob. But the soul on display here is a powerfully democratic one.

According to Leon (like Madonna, he's a first-name-only phenomenon), the notion that  “average is over,” is “the catchphrase of our age,” reflecting a “lack of interest in unglamorous existence, which is to say, (a) collapse of sympathetic imagination.” He explains:

Cowen is concerned that we are not prepared for the new economy, which will require a high level of digital competence, and I am not here to gainsay his concern. I am here only to say that average will never be over. We will never be a nation of innovators and consultants. (Neither will China.) There will always be schoolteachers and nurses and shopkeepers and cooks and mechanics and custodians and the old-economy rest; there will always be people who do not write code (how else will the hapless codewriters get through life?); there will always be people who work for other people. The sum total of all these people, and their skills and their labors, is called a society. A society is not an economy, and an economy is not an activity of futurist geniuses.

The ferocity about economic competitiveness, its promotion into a standard by which to measure things it cannot measure (“intimate relationships ... to the top in terms of quality”), is resulting in a loss of respect for ordinary work and a soft contempt for ordinary people. What sort of imprecation, exactly, is “average”? Sometimes it sounds like the talk of a snob. Average, with respect to what? The cult of “achievement” has blinded many people to the diversity of the realms in which we may achieve. Economic mediocrity is not human mediocrity. There are men and women whose “intimate relationships” are “to the top in terms of quality” who spend their days driving cabs and cleaning houses. The streets are crowded with lovers; there are thinkers on the subways. The other day I found this in the galleys of a gorgeous “prayer journal” by Flannery O’Connor, from 1947: “Can we ever settle on calling ourselves mediocre—me on myself? If I am not this or that that someone else is, may I not be something else that I am that I cannot yet see fully or describe? ... Maybe I’m mediocre. I’d rather be less. I’d rather be nothing. An imbecile. Yet this is wrong. Mediocrity, if that is my scourge, is something I’ll have to submit to.” What humility, what lack of utility.

The streets are crowded with lovers; there are thinkers on the subways.

These are giant things, however pedestrian. We make ourselves and our world smaller by losing sight of them.  

Laura Ingraham: Unquiet American

I’ll be posting more about the massive popular resistance to President Obama’s proposal to launch an American military airstrike to punish Bashar al-Assad’s for his use of chemical weapons. That popular opposition was heard quite forcefully in Congress, and certainly played a big role in handing AIPAC and other organizations in what has been called the “Israel Lobby” a major defeat, although the opposition reflects factors more complex that any single issue. The lack of popular support was widely attributed to the country’s “war weariness," which became the focus of disappointment and disparagement by a wide array of necon war hawks, who, once again demonstrated a longstanding political and cultural distance from the broad mainstream of American society as well as an alarmist sense of history in comparing the decision on Syria to Munich 1938 and the isolationist mood in America prior to World War II. Whether it’s legitimate to believe or not, many Americans feel we were manipulated into war in Iraq, or that the stated grounds for going to war, such as WMD, were at some level erroneous. They are, accordingly, leery of being rushed into another Middle Eastern conflict for reasons other than the vital national security interests of the US and have a weather eye out for groups that are seen as doing so. Among other things, I think this says a lot about increasing popular impatience with a dysfunctional American elite, broad frustration tied to the waning of the middle class American Dream and a realization that the "national interest," as well as a wider sense of national "community," has been undermined by well-endowed special interests.  

In the meantime on Friday September 6th, we had Laura Ingraham laying it out loud and clear as a substitute host on the O’Reilly Factor in the show’s introductory Talking Points segment, which was titled on air as "The People vs. The Establishment." She also made similar points on a visit to  Fox and Friends earlier that week week.

One of charges made in the usual case against populism, particularly the kind that prevails on Fox News, is its lack of nuance and its bluntness. In speaking such such high-proof “truth to power” as Ingraham does here, however, she shows that eloquence and directness aren't mutually exclusive. Coming from someone with extremely good contacts in the American military, Ingraham’s assessment speaks volumes about the distemper in the national mood and the limitations it imposes on military adventurism. Those without such contacts might pay attention.

The People vs. The Establishment: 
Today at the G20 meeting in Russia, President Obama acknowledged the steep hill he has to climb for military action in Syria, and his planned address to the nation on Tuesday may not do him any good. When the President tried to explain why he went to Congress, he conceded that Assad does not pose an 'imminent and direct threat to the United States.' Bingo! That is one of the main reasons the American people are vehemently against blowing one dime in Syria or jeopardizing the lives of our military personnel there.There are major questions the administration can not adequately answer - questions about the identity and motivation of the rebels, about how we would pay for all of this, about what our real objectives are and whether they are achievable. 

With the exception of a coterie of Washington elites, left, right, and center are united against military action. So will our representatives be guided by the bipartisan demands of the people, including most veterans and active duty military? Or will they continue to follow a path of endless spending on wars to enforce 'international norms,' even though the rest of the world strongly opposes such wars. The time has come for the American people to draw their own red line. The establishment has failed us on many fronts - a jobless recovery, skyrocketing debt, porous borders, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that accomplished very little. They should stop trying to sell us more wars against nonexistent threats and start doing their jobs on the home front. A stronger, more prosperous America, not more establishment wars of choice, will lead to a more stable, peaceful world.

At this point, regardless of whether you like Obama or not, this has nothing to do with whether we like Obama or not, this question is a question of whether this is good for the United States of America. The idea that the Republicans, and John McCain and Lindsey Graham march out of the White House yesterday and say, well the president really screwed all this all up, and we should have done a lot more, we should have armed these rebels, but we really have to move forward because our credibility is at stake. No, no, no. Our credibility is not at stake. The president's credibility is at stake. 

What's good for our country and what's good for President Obama politically are two separate things. And I think he has made things very difficult for himself and for our country, but it doesn't mean that we make things worse by getting involved in a conflict where apparently we're going to be arming people who are screaming 'Allahu Akbar' as they shoot down a jet or whatever it is they're doing over there.

For the neoconservatives to say, our credibility is at stake, I would submit to them that our credibility might be at stake because of very confused foreign policy over the last 12 years, let alone over the last 12 months.

In the last 10 years, we’ve gotten involved in two major military actions. Our country is poorer, we have more unemployment, we have Barack Obama as president. We wouldn’t have Obama as president, sadly, if we didn’t go into Iraq.