Endorsing Obama by Tom Hayden, More Pain For New Orleans
- Hi. I've know Tom Hayden since 1967, equally agreeing and not
on program and tactics. Certainly, our paths have been different,
but here, we share the analysis and hopes. And the poesy.
Here's what I wrote to a friend a couple of weeks ago . It still goes.
"I'm a realist, deep down. I'm glad Kucinich does what he does,
but he'll never go anywhere as a presidential candidate. Obama is
incredibly inspiring to the entire nation's young people, as was Bobby
Kennedy, and his brother before him. Imperial intentions aside, JFK's
peace corps was the training ground for Mario Savio, et al who then
turned to civil rights activity and leadership, then empowerment (the
FSM,) then anti-war, and on. That's reality. Obama is also riding the
effects of Katrina and Jenna and the many now-disgusted voters of
2006. This could begin a tidal wave, whether or not he gains the
presidency. He'd be hard pressed trying to shut down that force,
especially black people. If I were a Democrat I'd have voted Kucinich,
then Edwards, then, holding my nose and breath, Obama.
It's probably the best we're going to get out of all this, and it's a lot
better than now, isn't it. If Edwards becomes VP and holds firm on his
current anti-corporate politics, that would be a bonus. And don't be
too hard on Dennis. He probably has the same analysis I do."
by TOM HAYDEN
The Nation: posted Jan 28, 2008
With the California primary days away, it's time to decide. And for me,
it's not been easy.
My paramount concern is to prevent a Republican victory in November. Even
though it seems to be a Democratic year, no one can say which Democrat can
defeat, say, John McCain, the full-throated advocate of "winning" the Iraq
war. At stake are many issues beyond Iraq, not least is the appointment of
the next generation of federal judges.
I will vote without hesitation for the Democratic nominee, if only to stop
to the neoconservative usurpation of power that began in Florida in 2000.
One must choose a candidate based on the issues for which they stand, the
spirit they invoke and the people they are able to mobilize.
As for issues, the differences between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on
Iraq are difficult to pin down. Obama was against the Iraq war five years
ago, and favors a more rapid pullout of combat troops than Clinton. But both
would replace combat troops with an American counterinsurgency force of tens
of thousands, potentially turning Iraq into Central America in the 1970s.
Obama seems more supportive of diplomacy than Clinton, but he supports
military intervention in Pakistan's tribal areas. John Edwards favors a more
rapid pullout from Iraq, but is unlikely to prevail.
On Iraq, the antiwar movement has helped turn a public majority against the
war, a historic achievement. But the movement alone lacks much capacity to
forge anything beyond the slogan of "bring the troops home." Our most
achievable goal is a strong voter mandate for peace in November, the
election of more Congressional Democrats and spreading public awareness of
the dangers of counterinsurgency. The election of a Democratic President is
a necessary condition for ending the war, but sadly not a sufficient one.
So the choice remains.
I do not like the Hillary-haters in our midst. As President, her court
appointees alone would represent a relief from the present rigging of the
courts and marginal improvements for working people. On Iraq, I believe she
could be pushed to withdraw. She is a centrist, and it will be up to social
movements to alter the center.
Nor do I like the role being played by President Bill Clinton, who is
telling lies about Iraq and about Obama that are unbecoming to a former
Neither do I agree with Gloria Steinem's divisive claim that the gender
barrier is greater than the racial one. Who wants to measure slavery against
the Inquisition? In the case at hand, who among us would argue that the
barriers against Hillary Clinton are greater than those facing Barack Obama?
What is compelling is that most black women support Obama.
I respect John Edwards' campaign and the role he has played in driving the
Democratic Party towards a progressive agenda. At this point, however, I
cannot foresee a primary he will win.
That leaves Barack Obama. I have been devastated by too many tragedies and
betrayals over the past forty years to ever again deposit so much hope in
any single individual, no matter how charismatic or brilliant. But today I
see across the generational divide the spirit, excitement, energy and
creativity of a new generation bidding to displace the old ways. Obama's
moment is their moment, and I pray that they succeed without the sufferings
and betrayals my generation went through. There really is no comparison
between the Obama generation and those who would come to power with Hillary
Clinton, and I suspect she knows it. The people she would take into her
administration may have been reformers and idealists in their youth, but
they seem to seek now a return to their establishment positions of power.
They are the sorts of people young Hillary Clinton herself would have
scorned at Wellesley. If history is any guide, the new "best and brightest"
of the Obama generation will unleash a new cycle of activism, reform and
fresh thinking before they follow pragmatism to its dead end.
Many ordinary Americans will take a transformative step down the long road
to the Rainbow Covenant if Obama wins. For at least a brief moment, people
around the world--from the shantytowns to the sweatshops, even to the
restless rich of the sixties generation--will look up from the treadmills of
their shrunken lives to the possibilities of what life still might be.
Environmental justice and global economic hope would dawn as possibilities.
Is Barack the one we have been waiting for? Or is it the other way around?
Are we the people we have been waiting for? Barack Obama is giving voice and
space to an awakening beyond his wildest expectations, a social force that
may lead him far beyond his modest policy agenda. Such movements in the past
led the Kennedys and Franklin Roosevelt to achievements they never
contemplated. (As Gandhi once said of India's liberation movement, "There go
my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.") (our emphasis)
We are in a precious moment where caution must yield to courage. It is
better to fail at the quest for greatness than to accept our planet's future
as only a reliving of the past.
So I endorse the movement that Barack Obama has inspired and will support
his candidacy in the inevitable storms ahead.
This rated only a 3 inch -1 column "Newsbrief," Page A-19 in Thursday's
LA Times, now getting even slimmer and worse under the new ownership.
More Pain For New Orleans
By ADAM NOSSITER
NY Times: February 1, 2008
NEW ORLEANS - There is disappointment but little surprise here at a federal
judge's grudgingly absolving the Army Corps of Engineers of liability in the
flooding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Although the decision, issued Wednesday, was sharply critical of the corps,
the judge's finding has if anything only hardened the ill feelings against
the government that have hung over this city since the storm.
The plaintiffs in the class-action suit dismissed by the judge were many of
the hundreds of thousands of people who filed claims here against the corps
last year because of the levee breaches that flooded the city. They lined up
in cars and on foot and jammed the streets around the agency's district
headquarters, acting out what has been a loudly spoken article of faith
since the days in 2005 when water covered 80 percent of New Orleans and
ruined the homes of thousands: the corps - not nature, not a record-breaking
storm surge and not local politics or local negligence - was to blame.
The judge, Stanwood R. Duval Jr. of the Federal District Court here, a son
of South Louisiana, heartily seconded that notion on Wednesday, suggesting
that the corps was guilty of "gross incompetence." But Judge Duval said he
was powerless to rule favorably on the lawsuit because the Flood Control Act
of 1928 granted legal immunity to the government in the event of failure of
flood control projects like levees.
Kathy Gibbs, a corps spokeswoman, said the agency agreed with the dismissal,
but declined further comment because other suits over Hurricane Katrina
damage are pending, The Associated Press reported.
Local reaction to the ruling was muted. In part because the judge said last
year that he would probably have to find the corps immune from damages,
expectations appear to have been low, even as bitterness over the losses
festered along with a desire to fix blame on the agency.
"There was almost a general understanding that - guess what? - they're
exempt from prosecution," said Bari Landry, president of the Lakeview Civic
Improvement Association, in a neighborhood devastated by the failure of the
"We knew there was a very good chance this would not go forward," Ms. Landry
said. "I'm not at all surprised."
Ms. Landry was one of some 350,000 people who filed claims. The lawyers who
brought the suit dismissed Wednesday represented about 65,000 of those
claimants. They said Thursday that they would appeal, arguing that the corps
was not protected by the 1928 law's immunity clause, largely because a
change it had made to its flood protection plan for New Orleans had not been
authorized by Congress.
If Judge Duval's conclusion provided no comfort, his language did, echoing
in legal terminology what has been strong criticism of the corps by
activists, politicians and the local media.
"While the United States government is immune for legal liability for the
defalcations alleged herein, it is not free, nor should it be, from
posterity's judgment concerning its failure to accomplish what was its
task," the judge wrote. "This story - 50 years in the making - is
heart-wrenching. Millions of dollars were squandered in building a levee
system with respect to these outfall canals which was known to be inadequate
by the corps's own calculations."
Though the ruling spotlighted many missteps by the corps over the years, it
made little of other possible factors, including culpability of former local
officials overseeing levees and drainage, and particularly their rejection
of the corps's original plan for floodgates on the drainage canals that so
devastated the city.
Supporters of the claimants applauded Judge Duval's language, suggesting
that it might yet fuel their cause. "What we've had so far is just a
suspicion," said Joseph Bruno, a lawyer in the case. "You now have a U.S.
federal district judge who's had a chance to evaluate the facts and draw
legal conclusions. Now you've got a determination where a guy says, 'Look,
but for the nuances of the statute, these people will be called on to pay. "
Sandy Rosenthal of the activist group Leeves.org said: "Clearly Judge Duval
is frustrated by what he had to do. It's outrageous these levees were
fragile. He and I agree the corps was responsible for the failure of the
levees. It's a positive thing that Judge Duval outlined all those things in
The text of Judge Duval's opinion is online at www.nytimes.com/katrina.