NDN Blog

Do you need to know how to use a computer to be president?

Watch for John McCain's response about 30 seconds in. Is this his "grocery store scanner" moment?

Last year, NDN's Globalization Initiative released a paper proposing univerisal access to computer training through our nation's community colleges. Senator Obama embraced the proposal as part of his community college plan. Under a hypothetical Obama Administration, John McCain might want to consider signing up to take classes.

H/T Matt Ortega at the DNC.

Crises in Flushing and the Middle East

First off, I'd like to echo Simon's lament. I too am a Mets fan and was at Shea yesterday, watching the Mets get eliminated from the playoffs at the end of a historic collapse. 9 men on a field playing a boys game someone can feel larger than life. Unfortunately, yesterday, that left me feeling like I'd been punched in the gut, while other fans were celebrating just an hour and a half down the Jersey Turnpike. For Mets fans like us, the long wait until spring begins today. Congratulations to the Phillies, they earned the right to play under the bright lights of October.

More importantly - although it doesn't feel like it at the moment - is Sy Hersh's new article in this week's New Yorker "Shifting Target's The Administrations plan for Iran." It's an explosive and insightful piece that details dangerous changes in our Iran policy. Part of what elevates the piece is the contribution of a close friend of NDN's, Professor Vali Nasr of the Fletcher School of International Law and Diplomacy. (You can see Simon's in-depth interview with Professor Nasr here.)

Professor Nasr is quoted repeatedly in the piece, and one section that stood out is his detailing of the risks of our current strategy of arming Sunni tribes in Anbar Provence, ostensibly to fight Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia:

Vali Nasr, of Tufts, called the internal displacement of communities in Iraq a form of “ethnic cleansing.”

“The American policy of supporting the Sunnis in western Iraq is making the Shia leadership very nervous,” Nasr said. “The White House makes it seem as if the Shia were afraid only of Al Qaeda—but they are afraid of the Sunni tribesmen we are arming. The Shia attitude is ‘So what if you’re getting rid of Al Qaeda?’ The problem of Sunni resistance is still there. The Americans believe they can distinguish between good and bad insurgents, but the Shia don’t share that distinction. For the Shia, they are all one adversary.”

As usual, Professor Nasr is a step ahead of everyone, including it would appear the people setting American policy towards the Middle East. I hope to hear more people asking these critical questions: are the short term gains derived from arming Sunnis in Anbar worth the medium and long term risks? And, are we really qualified to 'distinguish between good and bad insurgents?'

Bob Novack piles on the GOP

There is a great column from Bob Novack today and I say that well aware that NDNblog readers may not be used to seeing great and Bob Novack in the same sentence very often.

His underlying point that “never before have I seen morale within the [Republican Party] so low” is backed up by facts that should be familiar to readers of this blog. And remember, with a “half-century of reporting in Washington” under his belt, Novack has been offering his conservative brand of pundit journalism for more years than most, if not all, of the bloggers on this sight have been alive. It serves to give him some insight into the waning fate of the GOP…

On immigration:

During the past summer, a female acquaintance of mine in her 70s who had been a faithful Republican during her long life was solicited by a GOP cold caller as a previous contributor to the party. Not this time. She informed the fundraiser that President Bush's position on immigration was the last straw. She would not give the Republicans another dime -- not now, maybe never. So, she told him, stop calling me!

On the state of the Bush Administration:

… melancholic Republicans yearn for a leader. It cannot be George W. Bush, an unpopular lame duck. The party's many presidential candidates pretend that Bush does not really exist, not mentioning his name during debates.

On the Senate in 2008:

The decision by Sen. John Warner announced Friday not to seek a sixth term from Virginia at age 80 was no surprise but still a disappointment. Former Gov. Mark Warner, no relation and a Democrat, is an overwhelming favorite to win in Virginia next year. Republicans privately estimate that this will be one of four Senate seats they will lose in 2008, giving Democratic Leader Harry Reid a real working majority.

On the endless tide of GOP corruption and hypocrisy:

If so many people knew Craig was an accident waiting to happen, why was he not eased out of office? How many other examples of scandalous behavior are known but hidden?


Rep. Rick Renzi, investigated by the FBI, announced he would not seek a fourth term for the highly competitive Arizona northern district that could go Democratic. That represents a double whammy for Republicans. Renzi, investigated for receiving an alleged kickback in a land transaction, is but one of at least half a dozen House Republicans under federal inquiry.


Mitt Romney approached the calamitous atmosphere last week by asserting that Sen. Craig, until last week his Idaho state chairman, is part of the capital's corruption that only a real outsider -- specifically, the former governor of Massachusetts -- can cure. Past candidates have succeeded in pointing to corruption in Washington, but always by the opposite party. The Republican Party's next leader faces a more complicated problem.

Two Links

Hello, NDNblog readers.  This is Aaron Banks, a very proud former NDNer making my first return to this site since leaving NDN to join the ONE Campaign as their new Online Campaign Coordinator, where I'm very closely involved with our historic ONE Vote '08 initiative.  You can learn more about that campaign on the front page of Daily Kos, which has a great post today by DemFromCT on ONE Vote '08 and our newly released poll numbers out of NH.

But I'm not here to talk about me.  The real reason I'm posting today is to embarrass my former boss, Simon Rosenberg, who GQ just named the 37th Most Powerful Person is Washington.  For those of you keeping score at home, that's 7 spots ahead of Ed Feulner and he's been the head of the mighty Heritage Foundation for 30 years!

Well, that's 5 links after I promised to only send 2.  I hope to be back as often as you'll have me, sharing items that I think NDNblog's readers might find interesting.  And to everyone at NDN, keep up the great work. 

Tough trade talks with China

Next week's US-China trade summit may be more acromonyous than Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson had hoped for, according to the WAPO:

On the eve of high-level economic talks in Washington next week, Chinese leaders are increasingly bitter about what they see as bullying behavior by the United States on trade issues, potentially complicating efforts to tackle disputes on such matters as technology exports and intellectual property.

In the span of three months this year, under the pressure of domestic politics, the United States moved aggressively against China for trade violations, filing two lawsuits and imposing steep tariffs on imports. The actions have so incensed China that Vice Premier Wu Yi, the leader of its delegation to next week's talks, apparently considered boycotting them.

On the surface, the Chinese are likely to play the role of grateful guests. Friday, in a slight concession to American arguments, they loosened controls on the value of their currency, the yuan. The Chinese are expected to bring with them $4.3 billion in high-technology contracts for American products.

But Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and the heads of nine Cabinet-level agencies are sure to encounter a more combative China when they sit down at the table this time. The Chinese are so mad there had been talk Wu might stay home to show "dissatisfaction and anger," said Xu Mingqi, an international economics professor at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, a government-affiliated think tank.

Immigration reform deal's discontents

The deal announced last Thursday is a disappointment to the business community, one of the key groups involved in the push for immigration reform.  Now the question is will the bill be changed enough during debate in Congress to bring business back on board.  The NYT has the details:

“A merit-based system for allocating green cards may sound good for business,” said Mr. Hoffman, who is co-chairman of Compete America, a coalition of high-tech companies. “But after reviewing the proposal, we have concluded that it is the wrong approach and will not solve the talent crisis facing many U.S. businesses. In fact, in some ways, it could leave American employers in a worse position.

“Under the current system,” Mr. Hoffman said, “you need an employer to sponsor you for a green card. Under the point system, you would not need an employer as a sponsor. An individual would get points for special skills, but those skills may not match the demand. You can’t hire a chemical engineer to do the work of a software engineer.”

David Isaacs, director of federal affairs at the Hewlett-Packard Company, said in a letter to the Senate that “a ‘merit-based system’ would take the hiring decision out of our hands and place it squarely in the hands of the federal government.”

Employers of lower-skilled workers voiced another concern.

“The point system would be skewed in favor of more highly skilled and educated workers,” said Laura Foote Reiff, co-chairwoman of the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, whose members employ millions of workers in hotels, restaurants, nursing homes, hospitals and the construction industry.

And business is far from the only group that has serious reservations about the proposed reform bill.  Immigrants themselves are concerned:

Under the shade of a mesquite tree here one morning this week, waiting for work that did not come, Elías Ramírez weighed the hurdles of what could be the biggest overhaul in immigration law in two decades.

To become full legal residents, under a compromise Senate leaders announced Thursday, Mr. Ramírez and other illegal immigrants would have to pay a total of $5,000 in fines, more than 14 times the typical weekly earnings on the streets here, return to their home countries at least once, and wait as long as eight years. During the wait, they would have limited possibilities to bring other family members.

“Well, it sounds difficult, but not impossible,” said Mr. Ramírez, 24, a native of Chiapas, Mexico, who has been here a year. “I would like to be here legally in the future, so these things are what I might have to do.”

Another man among the group gathered outside a church here that serves as a hiring site for day laborers overheard Mr. Ramírez and approached with disdain.

“It’s almost impossible to bring your family,” he said, rattling off information he had gleaned from a Spanish-language newspaper. “You have to go back first, and what are you going to do in Mexico while you are there and there is no work? I’ve been here 20 years and I still work and support my family, so why would I do any of these things?”

And then there are two other groups that have concerns, pro-comprehensive immigration reform advocates and conservatives.  Clearly, we have a lot of work to do.

Eye on Afghanistan

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is in Crawford, Texas for meetings with President Bush about the crumbling security situation in Afghanistan and trials of keeping the NATO alliance together under pressure:

Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Bush are to meet Sunday and Monday at the president's ranch in hopes of solidifying NATO's efforts in Afghanistan. Some experts worry that the international effort is fraying as the violence in Afghanistan has intensified in the past year, exposing fissures between alliance members.

The 26 NATO member nations have assumed vastly different levels of risk in the Afghanistan mission. Countries including Germany, Italy and Spain have largely had their troops deployed in nonviolent areas of Afghanistan, leaving the volatile south to allies including Americans, Canadians, British and the Dutch.

"This mission, which was supposed to be where the alliance regained its solidarity, is not turning out that way," said Thomas Donnelly, a defense analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.

As the Taliban has resurfaced as a major force in southern Afghanistan over the past year, NATO forces have been increasingly targeted in suicide attacks and other violence. The attacks have contributed to a sharp escalation in violence as well as erosion in efforts to stabilize the country, as extremists also have targeted aid and reconstruction workers.

To compound problems, in recent weeks dozens of civilians have been killed as NATO forces or the separate U.S.-led task force battling the Taliban have engaged extremists, triggering protests by Afghans and threats by Parliament members to expel foreign troops.

NPI Director Peter Leyden in the Washington Post

Jose Antonio Vargas has a piece in the Washington Post today that picks up on an idea that the New Politics Network has been talking about for some time, that Democrats and progressives more generally are opening up a digital gap over Republicans:

Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute, a San Francisco-based think tank that in recent months has been advising Democratic members of Congress and their staffs on how to take full advantage of the Web, argues that the culture of Democrats is a much better fit in the Internet world.

"What was once seen as a liability for Democrats and progressives in the past -- they couldn't get 20 people to agree to the same thing, they could never finish anything, they couldn't stay on message -- is now an asset," Leyden said. "All this talking and discussing and fighting energizes everyone, involves everyone, and gets people totally into it."

Swift Boat Slowdown

H/T to Paul Bedard of the US News & World Report who shares that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is fed up with the Bush Administration's recess appointments of controversial figures, as a way of avoiding Senate confirmation and is going to do something about it.  He plans to hold pro forma sessions in the August recess (staffed by a local Senator) in which unconfirmed appointees like John Bolton or the more recent Swift Boat ad-funder turned next Ambassador to Belgium, Sam Fox, would be called to the Senate for a later hearing date. 

Broder on the trade deal

Make sure to see Broder's look at Democrats and the trade deal announced last week.  His reporting skills are put to use in taking the tempreture of some key Democrats:

Levin said that the government in Colombia, which is allied with the United States in opposing the influence of Venezuela's leftist Hugo Chávez, must do more to curb violence targeted at union organizers. And Levin, representing an auto district, wants South Korea, which ships thousands of cars to the United States, to open its doors to American-made vehicles.

Nonetheless, both Levin and Schwab describe last week's agreement as "an important first step" toward rebuilding a bipartisan coalition behind a trade policy that expands the volume of shipments into and out of this country -- but that raises labor and environmental standards instead of degrading them.

That is what Levin calls "expanding the circle of those who benefit from globalization," a healthy step beyond the old and futile debate between "free trade" and "protectionism."

But there are some forces in the Democratic Party and elsewhere reluctant to abandon the old rhetoric -- or the old fights. Bloggers such as David Sirota and interest groups such as the U.S. Business and Industry Council condemned the new agreement and vowed to fight the issue.

Because most Republicans are on the side of liberalizing trade, the key question is how many Democrats will support trade agreements negotiated by a Republican administration. When I asked Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, his answer was "maybe 60 to 90," substantially less than half the Democratic membership but perhaps enough to make a majority with Republican votes.

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