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Obama's Violin

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  • DB
    I m not sure but I m thinking this:
    Message 1 of 71 , Feb 28 8:56 AM
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      I'm not sure but I'm thinking this:

      <Fuzzy wuzzy was a bear.
      Fuzzy wuzzy had no hair.
      Fuzzy wuzzy wasn't fuzzy,
      Was he?>

      might have something to do with analyses like this:


      Obama's Violin
      by Paul Street

      This article reviews Barack Obama's record since the day of his
      election. That record, we shall see, is deeply consistent with his
      record-setting corporate election funding, including more than $900,000
      from Goldman Sachs and $37.5 million from "FIRE" (the finance, real
      estate, and insurance industries), and with the fact that like, George
      W, Bush in 2004, small donors (people giving a total of $200 or less)
      accounted for just a quarter of his total campaign finance haul.

      It matches former Clinton administration official David Rothkopf's early
      post-election observation that Obama was following the "violin model:
      you hold power with the left hand and you play the music with the right."

      It fits New Yorker writer Larissa MacFarquhar's description (in May of
      2007) of Obama as a "deeply conservative" individual who "values
      continuity and stability for their own sake, sometimes even more than he
      values change for the good" and Ryan Lizza's portrait (also in The New
      Yorker, in July of 2008) of Obama as someone who has been "marked" at
      "every stage of his political career" by "an eagerness to accommodate
      himself to existing institutions."

      If reflects well on the left black political scientist Adolph Reed Jr.'s
      following description of Obama at the very beginning of the future
      president's political career in 1996: "a smooth Harvard lawyer with
      impeccable credentials and vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal politics."

      It fits the comment by a leading Washington lobbyist, who told
      journalist Ken Silverstein in 2006 that big donors would not be helping
      out Obama if they didn't see him as a "player" for "What's the dollar
      value of a starry-eyed idealist?'" (Ken Silverstein, "Barack Obama,
      Inc.: The Birth of a Washington Machine," Harper's, November 2006).

      It jibes nicely with the formerly left Christopher Hitchens' onetime
      description of "essence of American politics" as "the manipulation of
      populism by elitism" and with Edward S. Herman's observation (in an
      article titled "Democratic Betrayal") that Democratic presidential
      candidates make "populist and peace-stressing promises and gestures that
      are betrayed instantly on the assumption of power" (Edward S. Herman,
      "Democratic Betrayal," Z Magazine, January 2007).

      It speaks favorably to Laurence Shoup's argument that U.S. politics are
      structured so that "electable" candidates are vetted in advance by "the
      hidden primary of the ruling class" so that the rich and privileged Few
      continue to be the leading beneficiaries of the American system."
      (Laurence H. Shoup, "The Presidential Election 2008," Z Magazine,
      February 2008).

      It matches Sheldon Wolin's recent description (in his haunting book
      "Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted
      Totalitarianism") of U.S. culture as a form of incipiently totalitarian
      "corporate-managed democracy" wherein both wings of the "one-and-a-half
      party system" operate within a profoundly narrow spectrum that prohibits
      relevant substantive criticism of business and militarist rule.

      It fits former Richard Nixon strategist Kevin Phillips' description of
      the Democratic Party as "history second-most enthusiastic capitalist
      party" and with the Marxist author Lance Selfa's recent historical
      depiction) of the Democratic Party as "one of the chief pillars of the
      [capitalist] system that perpetuates oppression and exploitation" (The
      Democrats: A Critical History [Chicago: Haymarket, 2008], p.198).

      It is consistent with the following judgment in a report issued by
      research analysts with the leading Wall Street investment firm Morgan
      Stanley one day after Obama's presidential election victory: "As we
      understand it, Obama has been advised and agrees that there is no peace

      It is in harmony with former Obama advisor Samantha Power's description
      (in an interview in February of 2008 with television talk show host
      Charlie Rose) of one of Obama's key tasks once he attained the highest
      office: "expectation calibration and expectation management" (something
      Power said "is essential at home and internationally"). As The New York
      Times candidly noted on February 12, "since Election Night, when he
      warned of 'setbacks' and 'false starts,'" Obama "has assiduously managed
      the politics of the moment with an eye toward tempering [popular]

      And it fits the following observation recently sent to me by a friend
      who works as a substitute teacher in an inner-city public school system:

      "Today, I asked a class for which I was subbing (high-school English
      students, about a dozen, all-black, at one of the system's actually nice
      high-school facilities) what they thought of Obama. Their initial
      reaction was one of, for lack of a better way to say it, pride and joy."

      "But upon closer inspection, this turned out to be a rather shallow
      sentiment. For when I asked them if they expected any real changes under
      Obama, they all said no."

      "So while they are (currently) happy he is in the White House, they know
      full well that he will be no different from any other president -- and
      it's not something they only know 'deep down.' They know it pretty close
      to the surface."

      As President Elect (November 4, 2008-January 19, 2009)

      The highlights of Obama's violin performance as President-elect included
      the following:

      * A conservative Election Night speech that said nothing about rampant
      and rising poverty and economic (or racial or gender) inequality and
      made a point of dampening down popular expectations with warnings of
      "setbacks and false starts." Obama's victory oration claimed that
      "change has come to America" because of "this election" and that his
      ascendancy proved that "democracy" was still "strong" in the U.S.

      * A many-sided slew of highly conservative corporate- and
      military-friendly Cabinet appointments, including noted war Hawk Hillary
      Clinton as Secretary of State and Iraq invasion Surge architect Robert
      Gates (carried over from the arch-criminal Bush administration) atop the
      "Defense" (empire) Department. As top economic advisor Obama gave the
      nod to Lawrence Summers, a leading neoliberal corporatist and the
      onetime leading architect (under Bill Clinton and Clinton's Treasury
      Secretary Robert Rubin) of the financial deregulation that has recently
      blown up in the world's economic face - a pick that leading progressive
      economist Dean Baker likened to "putting Osama bin Laden in charge of
      the [so-called, P.S.] war on terror."

      * An economics speech (at George Mason University) claiming that
      "everyone is going to have to give" - a fascinating comment in a nation
      where the top 1 percent owns 40 percent of the wealth, 57 percent of all
      paper claims on wealth (along with a probably larger share of the
      nation's leading policymakers and politicians) while tens of millions of
      Americans live beneath the notoriously inadequate federal poverty level
      and go without health insurance and as the real unemployment rate
      (including involuntarily part-time workers and those who have quit
      trying for jobs) climbs toward 20 percent.

      * Hypocritical silence on the U.S.-Israel slaughter of innocents trapped
      in the Gaza strip. Obama tried to justify this silence of complicity
      with claims that "institutional constraints" and the need to have just
      "one president at a time" even as he made regular proto-presidential
      statements on the economy and wasted no time denouncing the terrorist
      attacks in Mumbai.

      * A "blacklisting of progressives" (as veteran liberal Washington- and
      Obama-watcher David Sirota noted in Open Left) like Joseph Stiglitz,
      Paul Krugman, James Gailbraith, and Dean Baker from top economic posts
      and advisory positions in preference for neoliberal, Wall
      Street-approved corporate Democrats like Summers (who as chief World
      Bank economist once argued that Africa was under-polluted since people
      didn't live very long on that continent) and Summers' unimpressive
      protégé Timothy Geithner (the new Secretary of the Treasury).

      * A threat, issued "right before he came into office," to "veto any bill
      that Congress passed rejecting or limiting more bailout funds from going
      to Wall Street" (Sirota, speaking on the Public Broadcasting System's
      "Bill Moyers' Journal" on January 23, 2009).

      As President (January 20-February 27, 2009)

      The highlights of Obama's violin performance as President have included
      the following:

      * An uninspiring and conservative Inaugural Address that avoided the
      critical and rising problems of poverty, inequality, and the urgent need
      (consistent with the 1965-68 counsel of Obama's purported hero Dr.
      Martin Luther King, Jr.) to transfer resources from the "defense" (war
      and empire) budget to the meeting social needs. This speech claimed that
      the current economic crisis is a product of "our collective failure,"
      failing to acknowledge the culpability of the financial industry and
      (for advancing financial deregulation) elite policymakers including top
      Democrats like Bill Clinton, Rubin (a leading Obama advisor during the
      campaign and transition), and Summers. It said that America "will not
      apologize for our [heavily imperial, militarist, unequal,
      mass-consumerist, plutocratic, and ecologically disastrous - P.S.] way
      of life;" trumpeted "unity "over "discord" (a profoundly authoritarian
      sentiment since democracy depends on open public and political
      conflict); argued that the "goodness of the market" is an issue beyond
      serious question; claimed that the U.S. was "ready to lead [the world]
      once more" (with Obama at the helm); and praised the U.S. War on Vietnam
      as an effort to advance American "liberty" and "prosperity." Last but
      not least, Obama's first presidential oration cynically called for
      (certain unnamed) global others (primarily Iran and Hamas and those
      violently resisting illegal U.S. occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan) to
      "unclench their fist[s]" while coldly he ignored Israel's murder of
      Palestinian civilians and praised "those brave souls who patrol distant
      deserts and forests" - that is, the Armed Forces engaged in the colonial
      invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

      * A rapid launching of U.S. attacks that have killed a large number of
      civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, helping build support for the
      Taliban and terrorist activities in both countries - this in defiance of
      Afghan President Karzai's repeated pleas for the U.S. not to hurt
      innocents and of various calls and opportunities for a peaceful
      settlement. These provocations are extremely dangerous when it comes to
      nuclear-equipped Pakistan, which is now, Noam Chomsky notes, "partially
      under the control of the radical Islamist elements that [Ronald] Reagan
      helped install there" (ZNet, February 16, 2009).

      * A January 22nd State Department address in which Obama praised "the
      Arab peace initiative" for containing "constructive elements" that could
      help facilitate peace between Israel and the Palestinians, called for
      Arab states to "support the Palestinian government under President Abbas
      and Prime Minister Fayyad," and stated that "America is committed to
      Israel's security. And we will always support Israel's right to defend
      itself." Obama knowingly deleted the inconvenient facts that The Arab
      League proposal calls for normalization of relations with Israel only in
      the context of a two-state solution (with an independent Palestinian
      nation), consistent with "an international consensus, which the U.S. and
      Israel have blocked for over 30 years, in international isolation, and
      still do so." Obama said nothing about the Palestinians' right to defend
      themselves against the significantly greater threats posed by Israel on
      a regular basis in the occupied territories. He ignored the actual and
      democratically elected Palestinian government led by the Islamist
      party's Hamas (Abbas and Fayyad are with the defeated Fatah Party),
      lecturing that party on its failure to renounce violence and recognize
      Israel's right to exist. He said nothing about Israel's regular and
      savage use of violence against Palestinians and its refusal to consider
      a two-state settlement including a Palestinian state. As Chomsky has
      noted, the "carefully framed deceit" in Obama's State Department
      statement "surpasses cynicism." (N. Chomsky, "Obama on Israel-Palestine:
      Carefully Framed Deceit," Z Magazine, March, 2009)

      * The sending of tens of thousands of U.S. troops to that famous
      "graveyard of empires" Afghanistan ("Obama's Vietnam"), where the new
      administration is more committed to violence than the last one but still
      no clear plan. The cost of Obama's "good war" (equivalent to $775,000
      per U.S. troop according to The Center for Budget Analysis) promises to
      undermine Obama's promise to cut the national government's giant deficit
      in half over the next four years. It will further hamstring his efforts
      to counter the current deepening and epic recession

      * A decision to appease military commanders by (in policies to be
      announced on February 27th) maintaining "relatively high troop levels"
      in Iraq through December of 2009, keeping "combat troops" (just half the
      total U.S. force presence in occupied Iraq) in that nation for 19 months
      (instead of the 16-month withdrawal promise Obama campaign on), and
      (most callously of all), leaving as many as 50,000 troops there after
      the withdrawal date of August 2010. As anonymous administration and
      Pentagon sources told The New York Times, this considerable "residual"
      force will include "combat units reassigned as ‘Advisory Training
      Brigades'" (P. Baker and T. Shanker, "Obama's Iraq Plan Has December
      Elections as Turning Point for Pullout," New York Times, February 26,
      2009, A10).

      * The crass violation of Obama's pledge not to appoint corporate
      lobbyists through the designation of "defense" industry lobbyist William
      Lynn as Under Secretary of Defense.

      * The attempted nomination of former U.S. Senator Tom Daschle to
      advocate for "health reform" as the head of the Health and Human
      Services Department (HHSD) - this despite the fact that Daschle traded
      in on his former legislative positions to "earn" $5.3 million in
      speaking and (lobbyist) consulting fees (largely paid by corporate
      interests) over the last two years

      * Advancing as Surgeon General CNN's "television doctor" Sanjay Gupta, a
      dedicated opponent of single-payer health insurance (a policy long
      supported by most Americans), a loyal servant of the pharmaceutical
      industry, and a leading figure in dominant corporate media's obfuscation
      and denial of the nation's key health care problems.

      * The endorsement (through his Attorney General) of the Clinton-Bush
      rendition policy and (through his Solicitor General) of Bush's "enemy
      combatants" policy.

      * An attempt to appoint a Republican (U.S. Senator Judd Gregg) as
      Commerce Secretary under an arrangement (worked out with the Democratic
      governor of New Hampshire) whereby Gregg's vacant seat would have been
      filled (via gubernatorial appointment) by a Republican (Gregg rescinded
      his acceptance of the post, citing "irreconcilable differences" with
      Obama's economic stimulus package).

      * The decisions to continue the reactionary Bush policy of providing
      federal grants to community and social service programs operated by
      "faith-based" (religious) organizations and to equivocate on a campaign
      promise to condition such assistance on religious organization's
      agreement not to discriminate in hiring.

      * An Obama visit (as part of his economic stimulus sales job) to the
      Illinois headquarters of Caterpillar, Inc. despite widespread protests
      over that company's knowing provision of bulldozers used by Israeli
      authorities to crush Palestinian homes (and occasionally to kill
      activists like the U.S. peace militant Rachel Corrie)

      * The placement of Vice President Joe Biden atop a "Middle Class Task
      Force" dedicated to making sure that "the middle class is not left
      behind" by the American economy. No equivalent task forces were formed
      or contemplated to study and attack the problems of poverty and economic
      (or related problems of racial and gender) inequality

      * The holding of a carefully choreographed first press conference in
      which Obama evaded the question of whether he would press investigation
      of Bush administration crimes. The new president said that "people
      should be prosecuted if there are clear instances of wrongdoing" (as if
      there was any serious doubt that monumental crimes against law and
      morality occurred under the Bush-Cheney administration) and stated his
      preference for looking "forward" not "backwards" (as if prosecuting past
      executive crimes does not create progress towards more ethical
      presidential behavior in the present and future). Another telling moment
      in his inaugural press conference came after the new president finished
      stating some standard U.S.-imperial boilerplate criticizing Iran for
      funding terrorist organizations and pursuing a nuclear weapon. When the
      venerable reporter Helen Thomas asked him, "Do you know any nation in
      the Middle East that has nuclear weapons?" Obama said "I don't want to
      speculate about that" and then waited for his aides to silence Ms.
      Thomas. It is of course an open secret that Israel has an impressive
      nuclear arsenal.

      * A diplomatic trip to Canada in which Obama reassured that nation's
      conservative "leadership" that he had little intention of acting on
      faux-populist campaign rhetoric meant to garner working class votes by
      calling for significant adjustment of the regressive, corporate-friendly
      North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

      * Repeated and continued statements (carried over from the campaign and
      the President-Elect period) attributing the current economic crisis to
      "the failed economic policies of the last eight years," ignoring the
      critical role of corporate-Democratic Clinton-era financial deregulation
      led by Rubin and Summers.

      * An inadequate economic stimulus plan that even The New York Times
      called "considerably leaner that what is now needed." The scale of the
      plan and its promised job creation (3 million) comes nowhere close to
      meeting the real job creation and needs of the American people (of whom
      13 million are now officially unemployed, with joblessness rising by a
      half-million per month). The plan is loaded with regressive tax cuts
      (mostly directed at business interests and spread across a decade) that
      will do little to stimulate recovery but plenty to appease the
      arch-plutocratic Republicans and reward the affluent. According to the
      left economist Jack Rasmus notes, "Not only is the magnitude of the
      Obama program insufficient, not only is too large a portion of the
      program wasted on tax cuts, but even the composition of the spending
      proposals are not structured to retain or create jobs" (J. Rasmus,
      "Obama's Economic Plan vs. An Alternative," Z Magazine, March 2009, p. 28).

      * An anti-home foreclosure program that falls far short of real need
      given the dire state of the economy. This plan "does not," even the
      Times' editors note, "forcefully address the fact that 13.6 million
      homeowners - and counting - are stuck in mortgages that have balances
      that are higher than the [deflated] values of their properties" (New
      York Times, February 19, 2009, A22),

      * Essential continuation of the Bush-Paulson policy (which Obama voted
      for as a U.S. Senator in the late summer of 2008) of bailing out the
      giant financial institutions (the same entities that triggered the
      current economic crisis and led the way when it came to financing
      Obama's campaign) and denying citizens meaningful input into and
      oversight of the massive resulting Wall Street Welfare package. The New
      York Times candidly reported that Obama's corporate-Democratic Treasury
      Secretary Timothy Geithner's bailout plan (still to be fully detailed as
      of this writing) reflected a triumph for unfettered capitalist
      prerogatives inside the new White House. Times reporters Stephen Labaton
      and Edmund Andrews noted that Geithner "prevailed in opposing tougher
      conditions on financial institutions that were sought by presidential
      aides, including [top Obama political advisor and media expert] David
      Axelrod." Geithner fought successfully "against more severe limits on
      executive pay for companies receiving government aid." He overcame
      "those who wanted to dictate how banks would spend their money." And he
      "prevailed over top administration aides who wanted to replace bank
      executives and wipe out shareholders at institutions receiving aid." The
      new Treasury chief (whose nomination was heartily applauded by Wall
      Street) "expressed concern that too many government controls would
      discourage private investors from participating." According to
      administration and congressional officials, Geithner told Obama that his
      government assistance (for the rich) plan "would not work" if it was
      burdened with "too much government involvement in the affairs of the
      companies" - corporations whose reckless behavior has undermined the
      basic economic and social security sought by ordinary citizens whose
      needs supposedly (under democratic theory) guide the actions of
      government. (S. Labaton and E. Andrews "Geithner Said to Have Prevailed
      on the Bailout," New York Times, February 10, 2000, A1, A16).

      Geithner's trepidation over the negative impact of the allegedly popular
      government was apparently shared by Obama. It won out over more
      image-sensitive Obama aides (including even Axelrod, to whom Obama owes
      his office) who worries, The Times reported that "rising joblessness,
      populist outrage over Wall Street bonuses and expensive perks, and the
      poor management of last year's bailouts could feed a potent political
      reaction" if the new White House failed to "demand sacrifices from the
      companies that receive federal money."

      "For all its boldness," Labaton and Andrews observed, the Obama bailout
      "largely repeat[s] the Bush administration's approach of deferring to
      many of the same companies and executives who had peddled risky loans
      and investments at the heart of the crisis and failed to foresee many of
      the problems plaguing the markets."

      A "Reaganesque Exhortation to American Resilience"

      On February 24th, Obama gave a nationally televised speech to a Joint
      Session of Congress. Interrupted by frequent and loud Democratic
      applause and standing ovations, this de facto "State of the Union
      Address" tried to restore hope in the failing U.S. profits system. It
      also aimed to sell the president's tepid recovery scheme and his
      escalated bankers' bailout plan while promising to cut the federal
      deficit in half by 2013 and recommitting the U.S. to an aggressive and
      (though he did not say so) expensive posture in the war against
      "terrorists" (and unmentionable civilians) in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

      Described by The Times as "a Reaganesque exhortation to American
      resilience," Obama's speech failed to advance or mention numerous basic
      parts of any reasonably or genuinely progressive responses to the
      economic crisis. Among many policies and ideas deleted, ignored, and
      unmentioned: a poverty and/or inequality task force; the urgent need for
      universal health care on the superior single-payer model (required to
      eliminate the more than $1 trillion Americans pay each year to
      non-health care providers including above all insurance companies); the
      need to re-legalize unions (starting with passage of the EFCA); a
      commission to investigate the causes of the current epic financial and
      economic crisis; a moratorium on home foreclosures; a call for the
      rollback of usurious credit-card interest rates; the need to restructure
      global trade agreements in accord with principles of economic and
      environmental justice; the need to adequately and fairly fund (and
      thereby easily protect) Social Security; an infrastructure bank to
      adequately focus rebuilding investments; the urgent need to drastically
      reduce carbon emission with a goal of reducing them 90 percent by 2030;
      major campaign finance reform (including significant new public
      financing measures) to rollback the wildly excessive influence of big
      private money on public elections and policy; the need to nationalize
      leading financial institutions and place them under real citizen
      control; the need to fire (not simply shame and admonish) leading bank
      and investment executives; the restructuring of corporate charters to
      re-direct the nation's leading economic institutions in accord with
      democratic principles and service to the common good; the need to undo
      the vicious and regressive (Bill) Clinton-(Newt) Gingrich welfare
      "reform" (elimination); immediate large-scale and socially useful public
      works/jobs programs on the model of the New Deal Civilian Conservation
      Corps and the Works Progress Administration; the rapid withdrawal of ALL
      U.S. military forces (including so-called "residual" divisions) from
      illegally occupied Iraq AND Afghanistan; a massive reduction of the
      nation's gigantic "defense" (empire) budget (more than $1 trillion per
      year), which maintains more than 760 military bases in more than 130
      "sovereign" nations and accounts for nearly half the military spending
      on Earth; the fatal ecological limits of "economic growth" on the
      capitalist (private profit-oriented) model.

      Throughout, Obama has remained amazingly silent on his campaign promise
      to advance the critical and overdue labor law reform - the Employee Free
      Choice Act (the EFCA) - that is required to re-legalize unions and
      restore strength to the labor movement (aptly described by John Edwards
      during the primary campaign as "the single greatest anti-poverty program
      in American history"). The EFCA is loathed by key segments of the
      business class and is therefore not currently on the table of recovery

      Jack Rasmus has recently proposed a superior alternative recovery plan
      properly sized and progressively calibrated to meet the current epic
      recession. This plan includes: the resetting of mortgage rates and
      housing loan balances; direct federal lending to homeowners and small
      businesses; a 1-year moratorium on foreclosures and defaults; an
      optional program for monthly mortgage payment reduction; the restoration
      of previous federal ceilings on monthly interest rates charged by credit
      card lenders; $300 billion for infrastructure jobs with an early
      emphasis on labor-intensive projects; $200 billion for healthcare and
      related services and for manufacturing; $300 billion for government
      jobs; $125 billion a union- and ecology-friendly bailout of the auto
      industry; $125 billion for emergency unemployment assistance;
      retroactive windfall taxes on oil and energy companies; capital income
      tax rate rollbacks to 1981 (not 1993) levels; repatriation of $2
      trillion from offshore tax havens; a 6.25 FICA tax on all forms of
      income reported by the wealthiest 1 percent; nationalization and pooling
      of employer-provided 401K retirement plans; de-privatization of student
      loans; and the introduction of a single-payer health plan for the 91
      million U.S. households earning less than $160;000 per year (Rasmus,
      "Obama's Economic Plan).

      Obama's address insisted that his bailout plan (likely to require many
      hundreds of billions more tax dollars) is "not about helping banks, it's
      about helping people." This claim is likely to face considerable
      justified skepticism as long as he and his neoliberal economic team
      refuse to fire top financial executives and place the nation's
      commanding financial heights under some reasonable measure of popular
      control and as long as they continue to advance a recovery plan that is
      not correctly scaled or progressively structured to meet popular needs.

      In the current moment of crisis, Obama said during his February 24th
      address, "we cannot afford to govern out of anger, or yield to the
      politics of the moment." This comment deserves a useful translation:
      "policy- and opinion-makers must not act in accord with widespread
      majority progressive sentiment for reducing the dangerous and undue
      wealth and power of the financially privileged Few and for transferring
      resources from the military to the meeting social needs." This was a key
      hidden message behind his February 24th speech's progressive-sounding
      shaming of bank executives' excessive salaries and perks and the Charles
      Dickens-like praise (in that address) he gave to a wealthy banking
      executive who recently gave away much of his most recent bonus to his

      Tellingly enough, Obama mentioned creating "tax-free universal savings
      accounts" for all Americans. As the Times' editorial board noted, this
      was "a nod to the Republican desire to create some kind of investment
      vehicles as they consider overhauling Social Security." It was a nod
      also to the Democrats' many "Blue Dog" deficit hawks, to whom Obama has
      promised "fiscal responsibility" and the bipartisan pursuit of
      "entitlement reform" (Orwellian language for the regressive rollback of
      Social Security and Medicare).

      Obama's call for change and recovery through positive government action
      stood in conflict with his "Blue Dog" promise to cut the nation's
      federal deficit in half by 2013.

      Guns Over Health Care

      One day after his celebrated speech to Congress, Obama won praise from
      the liberal progressive economist and New York Times columnist Paul
      Krugman for advancing a "commitment of $634 billion to health care
      reform.....It's beginning," Krugman wrote on his widely read blog, "to
      look as if Obama's really going to go through with this --- and if he
      gets us to universality, his legacy will be secure" (Krugman's blog,
      "Economics and Politics," February 25, 2009, 5:45 pm).

      But Obama's first budget proposal, released on February 26, spreads that
      $634 billion (less than two thirds of the annual Pentagon budget) over
      10 years. As the Associated Press reported, the total amount comes to
      just "a little more than half the money needed to ensure that every
      American gets medical care." (R. Alfonso-Zalvidar and A. Taylor, "Obama
      Seeks $634 Billion Over 10 Years for Health Care," AP, February 25,
      2009). The new administration proposes to raise the first half of this
      relatively modest outlay by slightly scaling back an especially
      egregious and regressive tax (on itemized deduction) enjoyed by
      Americans in the nation's highest tax bracket. The other half will come
      from "cost savings in Medicaid, Medicare, and other health programs," in
      accord to some degree with the promise of "entitlement reform." (J.
      Calmes and R. Pear, New York Times, February 26, 2009, p. A1).

      Meanwhile, the Obama administration said it would ask Congress for an
      additional $76 billion for the two U.S. imperial wars (on top of the $66
      already approved for the rest of the current fiscal years. The Times
      notes that Obama "builds $130 billion in expenses for the wars into the
      2010 fiscal plan" - a sum (the Times did not note) more than double his
      proposed annual investment for incremental progress not-so universal
      health care ($64 billion) on a highly flawed model that dysfunctionally
      (given the new administration's refusal to challenge corporate power by
      advancing the widely supported single-payer option) leaves critical
      cost-inflating power in the hands of the nation's leading,arch-parasitic
      insurance corporations. Overall, the Times briefly and barely reports
      Obama's budget outline advances an "increase in military spending" (J.
      Calmes and R. Pear, "Obama Plans Major Shift in Spending," New York
      Times, February 27, 2009), consistent with Morgan Stanley's report to
      investors last fall.

      The president's long-term deficit-reduction projects are based to no
      small degree on two highly optimistic assumptions: (1) that the costs of
      the empire's Southwest Asian wars (of invasion) will fall significantly
      over the next three years (an expectation that stands in sharp conflict
      with Obama's military escalation in Afghanistan-Pakistan); (2) that the
      recession will end next year and give way to impressive economic growth:
      3 percent next year and 4 percent or more over the next three years.
      There is little basis for the this economic projection, thanks in part
      to the administration's refusal to embrace the bold sort of financial
      intervention - involving nationalization - required to restore credit at
      the rate that such expansion would require.

      "None of This Should Surprise Us": OUR Challenge, Not Obama's

      Mass protest would seem to be indicated as Obama's passionate promise of
      democratic "change we can believe in" translates into the escalated and
      monumental taxpayer rescue of the Few while recovery and "reform" plans
      fall far short of what is necessary and just. The gargantuan "defense"
      budget ($1 trillion a year) - set to increase under the supposed
      (according to a parade of "progressive Democrats") "antiwar president" -
      remains beyond question (since the new president "agrees there is no
      peace dividend," as Morgan Stanley reassures investors) while the rising
      problem of poverty seems stuck on the margins of "mainstream" political
      discourse. The "world's greatest democracy" grants its populace no
      meaningful control over the nation's financial institutions even as vast
      public monies are handed over to the very investment and banking houses
      whose reckless conduct in service to the rich and powerful Few drove the
      economic system off the cliff. As the distinguished left intellectual
      Noam Chomsky notes, "If the government - in a functioning democracy, the
      public - does not have a degree of control, the banks can put the public
      funds into their own pockets for recapitalization or acquisitions or
      loans to government-guaranteed borrowers, thus undermining the alleged
      purpose of the bailout. This is what has happened, though details are
      obscure because the recipients refuse to say what they are doing with
      the gift from taxpayers. Indeed, they regard the question as
      outrageous..." (N. Chomsky, "Elections 2008 and Obama's ‘Vision,'" Z
      Magazine, February 2009).

      Meanwhile, destitution is expanding as (a Times headline reported)
      "Newly Poor Swell Lines at Nation's Food Pantries," visited now on a
      regular basis by "a rapidly expanding roster of child-care workers,
      nurse's aids, real estate agents and secretaries facing a financial
      crisis for the first time." Demand at food banks rose by nearly a third
      in 2008 and "instead of seeing their usual drop in customers after the
      holidays, many pantries in upscale suburbs this year are seeing the
      opposite." (New York Times, February 20, 2009, A1). Badly damaged by a
      vicious 1990s welfare "reform" (elimination) that Obama has repeatedly
      praised as a great policy success, the nation's public family cash
      assistance system has not matched the rising destitution across America
      even as the new chief executive and the rest of the liberal Washington
      establishment advances a new level of Wall Street Welfare.

      The liberal economist Robert Kuttner, who hoped passionately for a
      progressive and "transformative" Obama presidency, is sorely
      disappointed, noting that the new chief executive is advancing
      "conservative solutions to radical problems." Kuttner's thwarted dreams
      for Obama summarized in a rapidly written book published before the
      election under the title "Obama's Challenge"

      Progressive citizens and activists are right to be angered about the new
      president's short but already clear hope-"calibrating" record of
      centrist imperial and state-capitalist governance and "expectation
      management." Still, Obama's post-election trajectory is unsurprising
      given well-known limits in the dominant U.S. political culture and
      "tradition" and in light of numerous warnings about the Obama phenomenon
      that various Left activists and intellectuals (see especially the
      excellent writers at the weekly black-left weekly Black Agenda Report)
      over recent years (please see my own officially invisible but readily
      available book "Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics"
      [Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2008]). Furthermore, all on the progressive Left
      (however and whenever we came or come to a realistic assessment of the
      new presidential administration's captivity to Empire and Inequality,
      Inc.) need to take a certain reasonable degree of responsibility for
      Obama's behavior to date. Real progressive change is our challenge, not
      Obama's. The esteemed radical historian Howard Zinn reminded us of a
      basic point in an essay titled "Election Madness" last March:

      "Let's remember that even when there is a "better" candidate (yes,
      better Roosevelt than Hoover, better anyone than George Bush), that
      difference will not mean anything unless the power of the people asserts
      itself in ways that the occupant of the White House will find it
      dangerous to ignore.....Today, we can be sure that the Democratic Party,
      unless it faces a popular upsurge, will not move off center. The two
      leading Presidential candidates have made it clear that if elected, they
      will not bring an immediate end to the Iraq War, or institute a system
      of free health care for all."

      "They offer no radical change from the status quo. They do not propose
      what the present desperation of people cries out for: a government
      guarantee of jobs to everyone who needs one, a minimum income for every
      household, housing relief to everyone who faces eviction or foreclosure.
      They do not suggest the deep cuts in the military budget or the radical
      changes in the tax system that would free billions, even trillions, for
      social programs to transform the way we live."

      "None of this should surprise us. The Democratic Party has broken with
      its historic conservatism, its pandering to the rich, its predilection
      for war, only when it has encountered rebellion from below, as in the
      Thirties and the Sixties."

      As John Judis (no "far leftist," as Obama's radical critics are commonly
      described by his "progressive" supporters) recently argued in the
      liberal-centrist journal The New Republic (in an essay titled "End the
      Honeymoon"), a major reason that Obama has gone forward with a
      conservative and inadequate economic plan "is that there is not a
      popular left movement that is agitating for him to go well beyond where
      he would even ideally like to go. Sure, there are leftwing intellectuals
      like Paul Krugman who are beating the drums for nationalizing the banks
      and for a $1 trillion-plus stimulus. But I am not referring to
      intellectuals, but to movements that stir up trouble among voters and
      get people really angry. Instead, what exists of a popular left is
      either incapable of action or in Obama's pocket." By Judis' analysis,
      the U.S. labor movement and groups like "Moveon.Org" are repeating the
      same "mistake that political groups often make: subordinating their
      concern about issues to their support for the party and its leading
      politician." Consistent with Judis's critique, Moveon.Org's Executive
      Director Justin Duben responded to Obama's recently qualified Iraq
      "withdrawal" plans by telling the Times that "activists are willing to
      give Obama the benefit of the doubt." Duben docilely says that "people
      have confidence that the president is committed to ending the war...this
      is what he promised" (Baker and Shanker).

      Hope: Real and Fake

      Depressing? Perhaps, but we must always start with harsh truths, which
      cannot be transcended if they are not first acknowledged and understood.
      And there is real inspiration to be found in interesting developments
      suggesting real movement toward progressive change beneath and beyond
      the false "Hope" (a master keyword in Bill Clinton's successful 1992
      presidential campaign as well as Obama's in 2008) propagated for
      self-interested purposes by politicians: a daring and largely successful
      workplace occupation (to secure severance benefits and wages from an
      absconding employer)on Chicago's North Side (at the Republic Window and
      Door plant on Goose Island) last December, rising popular resistance to
      rampant foreclosures and evictions; student occupations at the New
      School and New York University, plans for a major antiwar march, calling
      Obama out on his rehashed imperialism and "defense"(empire) budget and
      on his deadly escalation of the United States' criminal war on
      Afghanistan (and, more fatefully perhaps, Pakistan) in Washington this

      Obama has long been riding a wave of popular anger and excitement that
      goes far beyond his "deeply conservative" world view and agenda. He has
      done his best to contain and co-opt that popular and progressive energy
      but he can't help but also dangerously feed citizen excitement for goals
      that transcend his commitment to "existing institutions." His lofty
      political rhetoric, containing occasional populist slivers and strident
      calls for democratic change, channels popular expectations that may go
      beyond the political class's capacity for top-down management and control.

      Obama can surf the people but the inverse is true as well. Progressive
      activists and citizens can escape the clutches of Obamanist "repressive
      de-sublimation" - the containment and exploitation of their hope and
      anger to re-legitimize dominant oppression structures and - by riding
      and steering the Obama wave into places (both within and beyond or
      beneath electoral politics) closer to true progressive ideals.

      Left progressives might productively think of "the Obama phenomenon" as
      a sort of (watered down and strictly electoralist) bourgeois revolution:
      it will fail to deliver on democratic promises made to a populace it had
      to rally to defeat the old regime. Now that populace is supposed to
      return quietly (and hopefully) to remote and divided private realms,
      doing their little jobs and buying stuff and watching their Telescreens
      while the new system-maintaining coordinators do their serious work,
      consistent with the absurdly arrogant Lawrence Summers' comment (last
      January) to NBC's David Gregory on how ordinary Americans should think
      about the economic crisis and the new administration: "President Obama
      [‘s]...call for an age of responsibility in what government does for all
      of us as we manage our own finances, as we do our own jobs is, is so
      very important. People need to work hard, they need to play by the
      rules, and those of us with responsibility for economic policy need to
      do everything we can to make the economy work. And I've got no doubt
      that our economy's best days are ahead of us...."

      Interesting commentary from an "Osama bin Laden" of the neoliberal
      financial deregulation that has born such fine economic fruit in the
      last two years!

      There is left-progressive potential in Obama's false promises and in his
      ongoing and impending failures. The energy and hopes he rode and
      channelled will need more genuinely democratic, liberating, and
      anti-authoritarian outlets than an Obama (or a Hillary Clinton or a John
      Edwards) presidency could ever have been expected to provide. As David
      Harvey has recently argued, the new team's economic plan is doomed to
      broad failure thanks to the conservative constraints of the dominant
      U.S. political culture and to related "deep tectonic shifts in the
      spatio-temporal disposition of capitalist development" (D. Harvey, ‘Why
      the U.S. Stimulus is Bound to Fail," The Bullet: Social Project
      E-Bulletin, February 12, 2009, read at

      It's up to citizens and activists, not politicians, to carry through on
      progressive promises Obama is unable and/or willing to fulfill and then
      to move forward (as we must) to what Dr, Martin Luther King Jr. called
      (in a posthumously published essay titled "A Testament of Hope") the
      "real issue to be faced" beyond "superficial" questions: "the radical
      reconstruction of society itself." As Obama himself noted (along with
      John Edwards) repeatedly noted during the campaign, in a comment that
      has not fallen from his lips since he reached the White House, "change
      doesn't happen from the top down. Change happens from the bottom up."

      Among the many reasons we don't hear that very much any more from Obama
      or other top Democratic politicians, one deserves special mention amidst
      the current remarkable capitalist breakdown. People engaging in change
      from the bottom up are often wont to imagine and act on their often
      previously hidden desires g for "a world turned upside down" - for a
      life beyond pre-historic oppression structures (race, class, gender,
      political authority, ethnic and eco-hierarchy and domination) any new
      head-of-state is bound to support. Long live the permanent revolution.
    • val2160
      ... $900,000 ... early ... right. The right hand is created out of confidence and is meant for work. The left hand is created out of love and is made for
      Message 71 of 71 , Mar 10, 2009
      • 0 Attachment
        --- In anthroposophy_tomorrow@yahoogroups.com, DB <laquerencia33@...> wrote:
        > I'm not sure but I'm thinking this:
        > <Fuzzy wuzzy was a bear.
        > Fuzzy wuzzy had no hair.
        > Fuzzy wuzzy wasn't fuzzy,
        > Was he?>
        > might have something to do with analyses like this:
        > http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/20702
        > Obama's Violin
        > by Paul Street
        > This article reviews Barack Obama's record since the day of his
        > election. That record, we shall see, is deeply consistent with his
        > record-setting corporate election funding, including more than $900,000
        > from Goldman Sachs and $37.5 million from "FIRE" (the finance, real
        > estate, and insurance industries), and with the fact that like, George
        > W, Bush in 2004, small donors (people giving a total of $200 or less)
        > accounted for just a quarter of his total campaign finance haul.
        > It matches former Clinton administration official David Rothkopf's early
        > post-election observation that Obama was following the "violin model:
        > you hold power with the left hand and you play the music with the right."

        The right hand is created out of confidence and is meant for work. The left hand is created out of love and is made for blessing. -Rudolf Steiner

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