By Ray LeMoine

A friend of mine is writing a paper on images from the War on Terror and asked me to send some over. I remembered Chris Hondros’ stuff from Tal Afar, Iraq, 2006. US troops fired on a car for not slowing down. A family was in the car. The parents were killed, but the daughter survived, forever scarred. No one wants to look at American kids killing a family. Yet this has happened thousands of times in Iraq. 

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A party celebrating a 900-page novel by an 81-year-old…

By Ray LeMoine
From the National Book Awards, held at Cipriani’s Wall St (funny locale, no?) , as reported by the NY Observer’s Leon Neyfak and Jonathan Liu:

“I dunno if they did it consciously but it certainly is a lot more glam than it was last year,” said the 33-year-old agent Jud Laghi, while getting a drink at the open bar on the banquet floor toward the end of dinner. As many others did throughout the evening, Mr. Laghi noted the irony of capping this tumultuous year in book publishing at a regally decorated restaurant in the thick of the Financial District.

Hosting the afterparty at Socialista? Grove/Atlantic boss Morgan Entrekin, famous for his 80s Brat Pack cocaine-ing. The party went late, and the long dispatch ends like this:

…a strange sort of tribal frenzy took over. Upstairs and downstairs, an expertly curated playlist turned a place called Socialista safe for the bookish: “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” New Order, “Common People,” “Paper Planes.”

Dancing commenced, on furniture, on bodies, even on the books laid out as party favors by Grove and Weinstein. Things had gotten fun, and as the hour sailed towards 3am, people started talking about how they didn’t want to go home. It wasn’t fiction, but it wasn’t half-bad, either.

You have to hand it to the NBA for choosing Wall St and a club called “Socialista” as their party sites. By unleashing an all-night rager, the book industry basically stuck a big middle finger up bankers’ assholes: “Who’s dancing on tables now bitches?”

Dave Brundage for changing the design. More coming soon, maybe.

The Battle For Foggy Bottom

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By Ray LeMoine

Hillary Clinton plans to accept the job of secretary of state offered by Barack Obama, who is reaching out to former rivals to build a broad coalition administration, the Guardian has learned.

A British paper getting an unsourced scoop like this has left many scratching their heads. NYMag.com are “skeptical,” but note the Brits do know gossip.

Every other news organization is writing about Bill Clinton’s sketchy dealings. I understand all the controversy surrounding Bill and his world traveling, billionaire hanging out with, money taking from questionable autocrats style. But had Hillary beat Obama it wouldn’t have stopped her from the presidency, and thus makes all this “vetting” mute. Lil Annie Lowrey writes a great piece defending the selection, also in the Guardian:

Today, managing Foggy Bottom means managing a vast bureaucracy prone to infighting, particularly since the rise of the National Security Council, national security adviser and other executive-branch agents. Hillary ran a rocky campaign, so might she falter in dealing with the other entities and people managing American diplomacy, let alone her department?

Hillary ran a good campaign and runs an excellent Senate office. She surely would consult with Obama as to the next national security adviser, and already works well with fellow foreign-policy leader vice-president-elect Biden. She may not have extensive experience managing a massive bureaucracy, but few members of Congress do. More importantly, she surely possesses the leadership skills to criticise her own work and seek excellent managers within State.

Others complain about the choice highlight O’s and Hill’s differences on Iran and Pakistan policy, and point out the Obama campaign disliked Hillary. Politico:

“The specific policy area at issue seems to be one in which the two of them aren’t all that well-aligned,” wrote the liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias.

During the primary, top aides like David Plouffe and Robert Gibbs developed a particular distaste for all things Clinton, one that filtered down through the campaign.

Yes, early during the primaries, Obama said he’d talk to Iran “without preconditions.” And Hillary called him “naive.” But since then Obama’s position has moved closer to Hillary’s. Also, Obama has said he’d unilaterally attack Pakistan, a policy that’s already in place and is failing to halt the Taliban’s comeback. So shifting that position won’t be hard. On Iraq, both want the war to end, blah.

On the second point, let’s remember that Plouffe is likely not coming to DC and Gibbs is a dick. A more important Obama sage, David Axelrod, has worked with Clinton.

And of course the “progressives” are weighing in:

One writer on Daily Kos called Clinton “too centrist, too collaborationist, too accommodating.”

Wait, isn’t that what people said about Obama when he was a state senator? “Progressives” need to wake up and realize they voted for a guy who is to the right of Clinton domestically. Did they really think he wouldn’t possibly edge to the center on foreign policy as well? Not that it matters. Saying Hillary Clinton is “too centrist” on foreign policy forgets that US policy has remained largely the same for both parties since WWII—containment/Wilsonian internationalism—save a brief flirtation with Bush doctrine. If anything, the Clintons’ legacy is that of humanitarian intervention, which succeeded in ending the Balkan wars. 

I must admit being shocked by this whole thing, however. On the Sunday before the election, Hillary wrote an oped in the NYDN saying Obama would bring “all Americans” health care. That’s a distinct shift from the plan Obama had been offering, which would leave 15 million uninsured. I assumed a deal between the Clintons and Obama had been made, but never thought it involved State.

Conservatism Moves Left?
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Kristol and Will are admitting the GOP’s faults while trying to save conservatism…

By Ray LeMoine
The humbling and fragmentation of the Republican Party is so refreshing. As they try to redefine their movement, conservative columnists are having a moment of stunning clarity. Yesterday George Will called out his party for practicing socialism, even though they were accusing Obama of being a “socialist.” Today Bill Kristol writes about the free-market gone wild and—weirdly, scarily—makes a lot of sense:

I don’t pretend to know just what has to be done. But I suspect that free-marketers need to be less doctrinaire and less simple-mindedly utility-maximizing, and that they should depend less on abstract econometric models. I think they’ll have to take much more seriously the task of thinking through what are the right rules of the road for both the private and public sectors. They’ll have to figure out what institutional barriers and what monetary, fiscal and legal guardrails are needed for the accountability, transparency and responsibility that allow free markets to work.

And I don’t see why conservatives ought to defend a system that permits securitizing mortgages (or car loans) in a way that seems to make the lenders almost unaccountable for the risk while spreading it, toxically, everywhere else. I don’t see why a commitment to free markets requires permitting banks or bank-like institutions to leverage their assets at 30 to 1. There’s nothing conservative about letting free markets degenerate into something close to Karl Marx’s vision of an atomizing, irresponsible and self-devouring capitalism.

Neo-liberal free-market principals, as defiend by unending deregulation and globalization, have defined conservatism since Reagan. Admitting policy failure could lead to a major revolution in conservatism.

Kristol’s recommending government regulation of markets, not to mention agreeing with Karl Marx. And Will’s calling the Bush/Paulson bailout socialist. These are definitive left-ward turns. For me, anytime Republicans move left, the world wins.

By Ray LeMoine
You know it’s a weird day when I’m loving George Will but hating on Obama. Anyway, Will writes a column titled “‘Socialism’? It’s Already Here.” On socialism, he says:

America can’t have that, exclaimed the Republican ticket while Republicans…and their administration were partially nationalizing the banking system, putting Detroit on the dole and looking around to see if some bit of what is smilingly called “the private sector” has been inadvertently left off the ever-expanding list of entities eligible for a bailout from the $1 trillion or so that is to be “spread around.”

Then he echoes what I said Friday:

The Depression, which FDR failed to end but which Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor did end…

WWII, first lean lease then our direct involvement, not the New Deal, pulled America from Depression.

Of course, Will closes his column arguing against further government intervention in the private sector. And I’m obviously way more a fan of social democracy than conservatism. But it is nice to hear Will speaking some truths to GOP power.

Obama’s Dr Evil
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Parc Grove, a housing project Valerie Jarrett failed at running, is now back in federal hands. Pic by me.

By Ray LeMoine
Chicago power broker Valerie Jarrett has been named Obama’s “senior adviser and assistant to the president for intergovernment relations and public liaison.” Whatever the fuck that means…

Jarrett may have been number three during the campaign, just after the Davids in terms of influenece, but she was barely reported on. On election night, the campaign trotted Jarrett out on every network—the face of the new America.

Yesterday Gawker got all love-y:

Are we about to fall in love kinda like we did with Condi Rice but only for real this time?

…she’ll be a breath of fresh air to the country at large.

Before we worship Jarrett, let’s remember she’s hated on Chicago’s South Side by the local black community. When she spoke at U Chicago on MLK day this year, protesters disrupted the event. Why? Because Jarrett’s long been a controversial figure tied to the real estate crew—Rezko, Allyson Davis, Marty Nesbit—that gave Obama his initial political seed money.

In the mid-90s, that crew pushed Obama to back private-public housing policies from which they reaped tens of millions in federal tax credits. The crew took the money and flipped it into condo and parking lot development. As CEO of Habitat INC, Jarrett ran several housing projects back into federal hands, leaving residents worse off than before.

The Boston Globe ran a 4000 word story about these failed policies this summer, but few others—including the GOP—took note. In all my reading about Obama, the Jarrett-Nesbit-Davis-Rezko nexus were as sketchy as he got. The GOP likely didn’t touch this Swift Boat-style because it would backfire: “Obama f–ks over inner city blacks” is a message like that would’ve actually helped Obama attract Swift Boat-target honkies.

Sure, Obama won, and the glow surrounding the end of the Bush era feels unreal and amazing, but let’s cast off the deification for a moment. Chicago is hardly a town of political purity and insiders like Jarrett demand skepticism.