Sunday, August 17, 2008

Some recent items 8-17

Aziz in City of Brass, "Obama's Muslim Outreach Advisor Resigns":

Chalk up another victory for the scalp-hunting Islamophobe right: Mazen Asbahi, appointed as national coordinator for Muslim American affairs by the Obama campaign, has resigned from his volunteer position because of claims that he has "ties" to the Muslim Brotherhood, and served on the board of advisors for an Islamic fund at the same time (8 years ago) as another member, Jamal Said who is a fundamentalist imam. Asbahi actually resigned from that position after only a few weeks, once he learned of allegations against Said. In other words, Asbahi got the jihadi cooties, which are kind of like a mixture of anthrax and herpes.

Obama continues to disappoint on this score. He still remains unable to state publicly that "no, I am not a muslim but it would make no difference even if I were." It would have truly been a hope-inspiring change to see him defend Asbahi and take on the whisperers, because caving to them makes them all the stronger. That would be audacity I can believe in.

Yes, 12% of voters still think Obama is muslim (incidentally, 1% think he's Jewish). So whats the better strategy? Try to distance yourself from muslims at all costs to try and make that 12% think, "hmm. ok so he threw his volunteer outreach guy under the bus. I'm convinced!" ? Or to try and undermine the reasoning that says "if Obama is muslim, then I cannot vote for him, because muslims are not acceptable" ?

If any politician had the power or the pulpit to take on the ugly, dark side of American culture that Islamophobia represents, it's Obama. Given the confluence of events of war and energy and security, a sane outreach to Islam is in our collective best interest. Yet Obama runs away. Again.

This item from "Dr iRack" of Abu Muqawama very succinctly frames the issue of the fight regarding provincial elections in Iraq, which are tentatively scheduled for this fall:

Back on June 23, a guest poster on Abu Aardvark (now revealed to be Sam Parker at the United States Institute of Peace) usefully framed Iraq's central political cleavage as a clash between the "Powers That Be" (PTB: Dawa, ISCI/Badr, IIP, the Kurds) and the "Powers That Aren't" (PTA: Sahwa/tribes/SoIs, Sadrists, independents, secularists, etc.). This paradigm overlaps with, but greatly complicates, the standard Shia vs. Sunni and Arab vs. Kurd dichotomies typically used to define ongoing communal struggle in Iraq.
He goes on to recommend:
1. Reidar Visser's excellent discussion of the Kirkuk issue, provincial elections, and the PTB/PTA paradigm.

2. Michael Gordon's NYT Magazine article on the PTB/PTA clash within the Shia community.

3. A very good WaPo piece by Sudarsan Raghavan and Ernesto Londono on how the PTB/PTA conflict plays out regionally across Iraq.

The security improvements in Iraq are real but reversible. They cannot be sustained if the PTBs lock the PTAs out of politics. Period.

Joe Bageant quotes an anonymous political consultant regarding the Obama phenomenon in "Life in the Post Political Age"

Insofar as the style-over-substance post-political age we supposedly live in is a construct imposed on voters by elites, the degree to which people buy into it is debatable. Large numbers of people don't vote, and large numbers of the people who do vote do so in spite of lacking confidence in the basic health of the system, thinking they have no other choice. But it's worth reading-- an excerpt:

The underlying social change that led to the Obama victory is the unprecedented extent to which the narrative of popular consumer culture, and the media that drives it, has become the dominant influence on how Americans think, formulate their ideas and understand the world around them.

The most important result of this process has been the steady and consistent depoliticization of American society, to an extent that we can make the case that we are living at the dawn of the post political age.
The two primary features of the post political age are a politics completely drained of all its contents and ability or willingness to be used as an agent of change in social or economic policy, and its full integrations into the world of American popular, consumer and entertainment culture.[...]

It is a result of this dynamic that the two consistent winners in American politics over the last 30 years have been the cultural left and the economic right.

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