October 17th, 2008

Chris Keeley

Barack Obama for President

Barack Obama for President

Friday, October 17, 2008; A24


THE NOMINATING process this year produced two unusually talented and qualified presidential candidates. There are few public figures we have respected more over the years than Sen. John McCain. Yet it is without ambivalence that we endorse Sen. Barack Obama for president.

The choice is made easy in part by Mr. McCain's disappointing campaign, above all his irresponsible selection of a running mate who is not ready to be president. It is made easy in larger part, though, because of our admiration for Mr. Obama and the impressive qualities he has shown during this long race. Yes, we have reservations and concerns, almost inevitably, given Mr. Obama's relatively brief experience in national politics. But we also have enormous hopes.

Mr. Obama is a man of supple intelligence, with a nuanced grasp of complex issues and evident skill at conciliation and consensus-building. At home, we believe, he would respond to the economic crisis with a healthy respect for markets tempered by justified dismay over rising inequality and an understanding of the need for focused regulation. Abroad, the best evidence suggests that he would seek to maintain U.S. leadership and engagement, continue the fight against terrorists, and wage vigorous diplomacy on behalf of U.S. values and interests. Mr. Obama has the potential to become a great president. Given the enormous problems he would confront from his first day in office, and the damage wrought over the past eight years, we would settle for very good.

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Chris Keeley


Dear Bob,
You may want to circulate the enclosed piece by Rob English to your email list.  It is the best article on what lies behind the Georgia-Russia conflict that I have seen.  (I was in Moscow during the Gamsakhurdia period.  We in the American embassy were apalled at what was happening in Georgia in 1990-91; our reporting led to President Bush's condemnation of "suicidal nationalism" in his address to the non-Russian Soviet republics on August 1, 1991.)
All the best,

New York Review of Books
November 6, 2008
Georgia: The Ignored History
By Robert English

Robert English is a Professor of International
Relations at the University of Southern
California, and the author of Russia and the Idea of the West. (November 2008)

Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Georgia's first post-Soviet
president, from 1991 to 1992, has been dead for
fifteen years. But in view of his responsibility
for initially provoking the South Ossetian
campaign to secede from Georgia,­ the conflict that
set off last month's war with Russia­ his brief
but tumultuous reign merits some fresh scrutiny.
Trying to understand the Ossetian, Abkhazian, and
other minorities' alienation from Georgia without
reference to the extreme nationalism of
Gamsakhurdia is like trying to explain
Yugoslavia's collapse and Kosovo's secession from
Serbia while ignoring the nationalist policies of
Slobodan Milosevic. Yet in all the debate over
the causes of the Russian­-Georgian war, Gamsakhurdia is rarely even mentioned.

Instead, when those responsible are cited,
Vladimir Putin invariably comes first. As Russian
prime minister he ordered Moscow's brutal
offensive into Georgia, and earlier, as
president, he tacitly supported both the South
Ossetian and Abkhazian secessionists. Next comes
Mikheil Saakashvili, the impetuous and vocally
pro-American Georgian president who gambled on a
lightning strike to retake South Ossetia under
pressure of escalating artillery fire from the separatists there.

Others fault President George W. Bush for
championing the further expansion of NATO­, already
viewed by Moscow as hostile, as well as a
violation of an implicit promise made at the end
of the cold war­ to include its strategically
vital neighbors Georgia and Ukraine. And then
there is Josef Stalin, the Soviet dictator who as
nationalities commissar in the early 1920s laid
the foundation for post-Soviet conflicts by
pitting subject peoples against one another
("planting mines," as Georgians say) to strengthen the Kremlin's control.

But lying between the immediate and the distant
past is the Gamsakhurdia era, beginning in the
late 1980s, the years of Soviet liberalization
and the rise of assertive nationalism that did
much to shape subsequent Georgian politics­ right
up to the present. Gamsakhurdia, then mainly
known in the West as a scholar and dissident, was
also a fiery Georgian nationalist who, like
Serbia's Milosevic, rode to power on a wave of
chauvinist passions. Both were demagogues who
manipulated justified popular grievances and
crude popular prejudices to demonize "enemies"­a
tactic that soon became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

While Milosevic's "Greater Serbia" was to be
built with territory seized from neighbors
Croatia and Bosnia, where Serb minorities were
supposedly in mortal danger, Gamsakhurdia's
"Georgia for the Georgians" would be established
by curtailing the rights and autonomies enjoyed
by Georgia's internal minorities, privileges he
saw as divisive vestiges of the Soviet system.[1]
And as he acted on that program ­rising between
1988 and 1991 from opposition leader to
parliamentarian to president, Georgian relations
with the republic's Abkhazian and Ossetian
enclaves went from being strained to being violent.

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Chris Keeley

Buy American. I Am.

Buy American. I Am.



THE financial world is a mess, both in the United States and abroad. Its problems, moreover, have been leaking into the general economy, and the leaks are now turning into a gusher. In the near term, unemployment will rise, business activity will falter and headlines will continue to be scary.

So ... I've been buying American stocks. This is my personal account I'm talking about, in which I previously owned nothing but United States government bonds. (This description leaves aside my Berkshire Hathaway holdings, which are all committed to philanthropy.) If prices keep looking attractive, my non-Berkshire net worth will soon be 100 percent in United States equities.


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