Monday, September 19, 2011

Obambaid

So now with Obama's numbers in the toilet and a few Democratic stalwarts saying maybe a primary challenge might not be so crazy after all, and James Carville telling him to panic, the president hoisted himself up and went all populist this morning. It's a mere 14 months to Election Day, and it must be time to throw out not only some progressive crumbs, but whole slices of bread.


But did a military band really have to play "Stars and Stripes Forever" at this hybrid of a policy speech/campaign rally?  And what about that part where Obama says he will veto any cuts to Medicare and Medicaid UNLESS he gets his Buffett Tax on Millionaires too?  How about he will veto any cuts to Medicare, period? How about getting rid of the Homeland Security boondoggle? In other words, hold the TSA gropers hostage instead of the dying old ladies they torture!

The reviews of today's speech are mixed between those who feel it's too little, too late and a big fat fake, to those who are experiencing renewed hope that our beleaguered president has finally grown a spine, has drawn a line in the sand and thrown down the gauntlet and is fighting for the people.  I tend to go along with the former.  Obama should be leaving the deficit out of it. He should be leaving the social safety net out of it.  He should be calling for higher taxes in order to create jobs, period. Working people will bring down the deficit once they're allowed to work. I am glad the congressional progressive caucus is taking note of the presidential stealth attack on the New Deal.
It took me awhile to finally figure this quid pro quo out. At first you think he's vowing to protect Medicare and Medicaid. But what he's really setting up is a perverse inverted hostage situation. He may as well have snarled: "If you want your Death Panel, Republicans, gimme the money. Otherwise I won't stiff Grandma." Or, he is the kidnapper who calls the parents and promises he will keep the kids alive and well unless the parents pay the ransom.

He reminds me of Martin Sheen and two of his famous political roles. There's the heroic, humanistic and pragmatic president in "West Wing."  That's the one the White House wants us to see.  Then there's the sinister, bellicose, fake populist future president in Stephen King's "The Dead Zone".  At best, Obama is simply being disingenuous in offering up the poor and the sick and the old as payment in kind for the rich people paying more taxes. He knows nothing will pass, so he might as well squeeze in his austerity bona fides while he's at it. At worst, he is among the most corrupt presidents we have ever had. Killing us softly with his smile.

It gets worse. The New York Times reports that Budget Director Jacob Lew is bragging that far from this being a Class War, there is pain enough for everybody. Medicare deductibles will go up. Homebound elderly people receiving visiting nurse services will have to fork over a co-pay for each visit. Payments to teaching hospitals and rural hospitals will be reduced. This should make the wealthy feel so much better, knowing that disabled and impoverished widows will not be receiving all that self-indulgent treatment on the backs of Lloyd Blankfein and most of the millionaire politicians in Congress.  The budget, by the way, also lowers veterans' benefits, but in no way affects the health or retirement packages of the President and Congress. 

The mainstream media are, however, willing stenographers of the narrative du jour. MSNBC is jubilant, while Fox is pouting. Today, the triple play theme is: "The Republicans are Screaming Class Warfare!", "The President Finds His Mojo!", and "Chuck 'I Wanna Be Majority Leader' Schumer Says Happy Days Are Here Again." 

I had written a response to Paul Krugman's "The Bleeding Cure" column last night before Sousafest (it was not accepted for publication) about how the austerians are bleeding the economy dry. I laid part of the blame at the feet of the abysmal corporate media: 

Until the journalistic class gets over its obsession with “fair and balanced”, the medieval economic austerians will be granted equal time and continuing credence. The media feel compelled to compensate for their nonexistent “liberal bias” with reactionary drivel. The talk shows (you can't call them news) are filled with bipartisan deficit hawks more concerned with the debt than the jobs crisis. The corporate sponsors of these shows invariably include oil companies, drug companies, G.E. -- all with a vested interest in loopholes, free trade and continued control of the government. 
In the bubble of Washington, the conventional wisdom (an oxymoron if there ever was one) dictates that token stimulus spending must always be offset by a gleefully relentless gutting of what’s left of the New Deal. Notwithstanding that his jobs bill is a small step in the right direction, President Obama still finds it necessary to reassure the jittery investor class and “job creators” that every penny spent on jobs will be more than matched by his Grand Bargain of Severe Cuts to programs for the old, young, sick and poor. The headline in Sunday’s Times announced that the president “would ask” millionaires to pay just a tad more so their minimum wage employees won’t feel so bad and maybe re-elect him. Notice the abject, pleading, apologetic tone. Instead of “J’Accuse!” aimed at the banksters, we get “Pretty Please.” Instead of calling for shared prosperity, he harps on shared sacrifice. He just can’t ask good old Uncle Warren Buffett to pay just a tad more without insisting the rest of us share the pain. 
Not only are the people in charge bleeding the country, they’re letting the wounds they create fester, dooming the patient. The bandaids they are applying are simply hiding the results of rampant corruption instead of attacking the source: deregulation, and a permanent war machine -- and money, money, money subsuming our democracy.


Stickin' it To the People!


Economist Robert Reich is not impressed with the Buffett Plan either. In his latest blog post, he writes:
But this is Barack Obama, whose idea of negotiating is to give away half the house before he’s even asked the other side for the bathroom sink.
Apparently Obama will propose that people earning more than $1 million a year pay at least the same tax rate as middle-class earners. That’s aiming mighty low.
Glenn Greenwald is also leery of Obama's true motives, and answers the question why the president is suddenly embracing populism and lefty ideals after three years of showing his base utter contempt: (thanks to Marie Burns for the link),
Some Democrats are honest and cynical enough to acknowledge that Obama is doing all these things purely for political gain and -- because his re-election is their top priority -- to celebrate it even while acknowledging it will never become reality....   I at least appreciate the candor of those...  who acknowledge that this will not become reality and is not even designed to, but celebrate it because it will help Obama get re-elected by making the GOP (rather than him) look like the servants of Wall Street.  It's the ones pretending that this eleventh-hour election-time awakening is reflective of some sort of substantive significance that are hard to bear.

41 comments:

Anne Lavoie said...

At first I thought this was a small victory, with Obama throwing us a bone, although a bare bone, due to his realizing the disillusionment of his base and Democratic leaders. Now I think otherwise.

First, everyone knows the Republicans will not pass any bill with tax increases. Second, everyone also knows Congress is filled with millionaires of both parties who aren't going to put much effort into this, although they'll put on a good show of it. It is DOA with a *wink* *wink* to Wall St.

I believe that Obama is simply carving out a bone to prance around the country in his mouth, showing the public what a good dog he is for his re-election campaign only. It is a prop for his use, not seriously intended to help us or the country. He's just a shallow politician looking out for himself.

Obama has so starved us of any measures to help average Americans, not even giving lip service via the bully pulpit, that the average American is hungry for even empty promises as long as they are new ones with lots of passion thrown in. He thinks as a result we will gobble up anything, even a bare bone with no meat on it. He's not offering us anything real or new.

It reminds me of how employers have us over a barrel. People are starved for jobs, and corporations know applicants are appreciative of any kind of job, even with part-time hours, low wages, and no benefits. Now we are so eager for Obama to show a pulse that we will get excitedly behind him once again. He hopes.

Paraphrasing Rick Perry, I am offended that he thinks I/my vote can be bought so cheaply. It's going to take real actions, not more empty words and broken promises.

To me he's like a cheating spouse - I have lost my trust in him, and that is the hardest thing to win back (if it even can be), especially when he doesn't realize that he's even lost it. In that respect, he's still looking like a loser to me.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Great post, Karen.

Whether examined from the standpoint of what he is actually doing, or when he is doing it, or what his ulterior motives likely are, Obama's actions are nothing for a progressive to celebrate.

However, while I agree with your "Stickin' it To the People!" subtitle on the Band-Aid box sporting Obama's picture, the flower there is much too kind (and suggests '60s flower power). In keeping with a medical theme, an old painting or drawing of surgery prior to the discovery of general anesthesia would more accurately describe what is being done to the American people. For example:

http://www.chemheritage.org/discover/magazine/articles/29-1-painless-dreams.aspx

On a different but related subject, the McClatchy newspapers published an article (run yesterday in my local paper, perhaps earlier elsewhere) on how most members of the amputation --- I mean debt-reduction --- supercommittee are still doing and/or scheduling fundraising since being named to the committee. Google the phrase "Hours after convening the first working meeting of Congress' "supercommittee" Tuesday", and you'll find many links for the article.

Also, opensecrets.org has an interactive page dealing with contributions to the supercommittee:
http://www.opensecrets.org/news/reports/supercommittees.php?ql2

William said...

@My Fellow Comrades of The Radical Left

Our Fearless Leader, Chris Hedges, has posted his weekly Marching Orders for all to see. I've provided the link below. You know what to do. We'll discuss matters in more detail at this Friday's Potluck Dinner held at our favorite Undisclosed Location.

http://www.truthdig.com/chris_hedges

Valerie said...

@Anne,

Your dog with a new bone analogy really gave me a good laugh. I have to say I am in agreement with your whole comment. Obama is going to have to do more than lean slightly to the Left to get my vote. And I think all of us have should have learned from the campaign, that we need to watch Obama's actions, not his words.

Karen Garcia said...

@Fred,
Thanks. The Hello Kitty theme was meant to be show he has a soft, feminine side... to counter all those nasty rumors in the Suskind book that the White House is a hostile workplace for women. Didn't you know he has a habit of calling women "Sweetie?" He got in trouble for it during the campaign, and had to apologize to a female reporter in his usual "aw shucks, that was a bone-headed thing for me to say, hardy har har."

Kate Madison said...

@Karen-

I must say that I am a "victim" of being called "Sweetie," by Obama during the 2008 campaign. I was in a VIP seat at a town hall near Salem, OR (which I got because I was an Oregon organizer). He was charming and adorable, as was his brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, who is the basketball coach at OSU.

What I figured out then was that this was a "habit" of his, and that I was not picked out of the rope line because I was special. Believe me, I am no Monica Lewinsky. But there was a sense of humanity I perceived in this man--which seems to have vanished as he has become imprisoned in the presidential bubble. Too bad. Jeremiah Wright speaks about this to Chris Hedges in his article in Truthdig: "Obama's Fall From Grace."

My family systems' view is that Obama started out as his mother's son--with empathy and awareness, since he refused to run against Carol Mosley Braun if she were going to be in the Illinois senatorial race. When he got into the bubble he rather quickly morphed into being his father's son--narcissistic, ambitious and over-confident. A shame. I guess the lesson should be: NEVER LIVE IN A BUBBLE! But, since every President has, what is the answer to this dilemma?

Pat Reynolds said...

If I may chime in with a postal worker perspective, Obama is now backing eliminating Saturday delivery and "other measures" to save the Post Office. "Other measures" include closing 300+ mail processing facilities. These closures would require congressional approval for the following reasons: 1) Service standards would have to be scaled back, i.e. delivery delays galore. And it's derided as snail mail now! 2) In order to close this many facilities the contract that was inked between management and the APWU a mere 4 months ago would have to be rescinded, and massive layoffs would abound. I look for these things to be signed off on by the president in a matter of months if not weeks.
From where I sit it's hard to swallow the lefty crumbs he's tossing out.

Hester Prynne said...

When Obama was elected Ralph Nader asked a question; would Obama be an "Uncle Tom" for the corporations? After three years in office we have an answer.I have no other explanation for Obama's about face and slap in the face to the progressives who helped elect him. His "Buffet tax" is not really a promise for anything since the tax cuts for the wealthy will soon expire. and jobs? Please, he is not going to get the tea party controlled congress to do anything. And he knows it. This "change" in Obama's strategy is a pathetic ploy. Nothing more. He should save his breath. You'd think his job's "czar" Immelt would be out supporting Obama's sudden interest in unemployment. The people I know that helped Obama get elected are so deeply disappointed they have told me they will not vote for him again. Never mind the people who rightly think that their vote doesn't count. Because the evidence proves it doesn't. Obama didn't do anything I thought he would, he danced to Wall Street's tune and the lobbyists. (remember when he said lobbyists wouldn't be allowed in the white house?} There is no way I think Obama is going to do a thing for anyone who isn't a member of the moneyed class. If only I had seen through his outright lies and phony promises. I know that politicians are liars. However, this is the first time I have voted for someone who told me he was a democrat and then morphed into a republican. I would really like to know who the hell would vote for him? Maybe Boehner? Paul Ryan? I think the democratic party and the republican party should join together and form the "Rob You Blind" party. Just come out and say it. That would be a "change" I would believe.

Denis Neville said...

Obambaid

Or, “An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.” - George Eliot, Felix Holt

@ Kate Madison - I have often wondered what Obama’s mother would think of him today.

Again, read Ken Silverstein’s Barack Obama Inc. Birth of a Washington Machine:

“For Barack Obama…mounting a successful career, especially one that may include a run for the presidency, cannot even be attempted without the kind of compromising and horse trading that may, in fact, render him impotent…

“How quickly Obama’s senatorship has been woven into the web of institutionalized influence-trading that afflicts official Washington. He quickly established a political machine funded and run by a standard Beltway group of lobbyists, P.R. consultants, and hangers-on. Obama’s top contributors are corporate law and lobbying firms, Wall Street financial houses (Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase), and big Chicago interests. Obama immediately established a “leadership PAC,” a vehicle through which a member of Congress can contribute to other politicians’ campaigns—and one that political reform groups generally view as a slush fund through which congressional leaders can evade campaign-finance rules while raising their own political profiles…

“In the unstinting and unanimous adulation of Barack Obama today…[there is]the obvious: that big donors would not be helping out Obama if they didn’t see him as a ‘player.’ The lobbyist added: ‘What’s the dollar value of a starry-eyed idealist?’

http://www.harpers.org/archive/2006/11/0081275

I remember my mother’s admonition to never do anything that I would be ashamed of later in my life.

Chris Hedges’ "Obama's Fall From Grace," reminds me of Thomas Moore, “For Wales? Why Richard, it profit a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. . . but for Wales!” in Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons in Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons.

“Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” - Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

Kat said...

Hey Folks,
So, what can we do?
Besides getting involved with movements such as MoveToAmend ( I am!) some simple education helps. To this end, I would suggest writing letters to your local paper and presenting some very simple facts about raising marginal tax rates. It has come to my attention that LOTS of people are not aware that when you raise taxes on say, the over 250K crowd you are only raising taxes only on the income in excess of 250K. I was not aware just how many people thought that that entire 250K would be taxed at the higher rate! We need to get the facts out there if we are going to make our case for raising taxes.
Dean Baker has written a book available for free download titled "The End of Loser Liberalism". (available at www.cepr.net. I have not downloaded it yet (donations are accepted) but have purchased his "The Conservative Nanny State". He is absolutely your go to guy for making economic policy concepts understandable and helping you to make them teachable to others. He refuses to accept the terms of the debate set by conservatives (Obama has--as Karen points out)
I really, really like Dean Baker. If only we had been listening to him a long time ago (as much as I like Krugman, I'm not sure anything would be different but the size of the stimulus if he had a say in policy-- I don't think he would have provided much pushback to Clinton's neoliberal economic policy.
I guess I'm writing this because a commenter posted about giving to charity as a way to make change. I'm sure most of us here give to charity, but I have to say it is precisely at the times when I give to charity that I feel the most helpless. I feel what I give is just a drop in the bucket and know that what we need is a robust social safety net provided by government. What we need is a government that protects the private sphere.

n1ck said...

It sounds a lot like David Brooks in here.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/20/opinion/brooks-obama-rejects-obamaism.html?_r=1&hp

Kat said...

Umm... meant a government that protects the "public" sphere.
@n1ck, why does it sound like David Brooks in here?

n1ck said...

There seems to be a general: damned if you do, damned if you don't attitude. If Obama puts a bill forward that might have a chance of passing, it's too Republican and Obama is a traitor. If he puts forward a bill that is more "liberal", it has no chance of passing, hence just a campaign ploy.

By all means, criticize the President. He deserves it. But if "liberals" can't get behind a bill that is at least somewhat liberal, what chance does he have of doing ANYTHING?

Obama will probably end up just like Carter. Ineffectual because the people who should support him will just sit at home pouting that he was ineffectual. Looks like we're stuck in a vicious circle. Say what you want about the Tea Party/Koch Brothers, but they've definitely defined this Presidency, not only to Republicans, but also to the Democrats.

Stick a label on something and repeat it enough, and it becomes a truth in the culture, regardless of whether it is or not.

Anonymous said...

@Nick:
"Obama will probably end up just like Carter. Ineffectual because the people who should support him will just sit at home pouting that he was ineffectual."

To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen:
I remember Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter was my President. He was a good man. AND he was ineffectual. But Obama, he's no Jimmy Carter.

Carter had values. He still has values. Carter said ugly truths during his presidency.

As for the Kochs defining the President, it's not been without O's active cooperation.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Crumbs or No Crumbs: that is the question. Whether 'tis better to starve slowly or starve swiftly, but -- either way -- to starve for sure after 2012? Unless it truly is possible to tighten the belt past the waist size of the lively ant. The Republicans say it IS possible, even desirable. And now the Democrats mostly agree.... Do they lie? Do they dream? Fie on the gods who left us to figure it out for ourselves.

This I know: I hereby out myself as one of the Fellow Comrades of the Radical Left (Purist Division), along with William (who implicates himself above) and the rest of you chatty agitators, some of whom will (the insufferable purists) and some of whom won’t (the savvy pragmatists) vote for Prez-O, TLOTE, our former comrade (we thought) but now fallen from grace -- according to yonder polls -- and yet not so lacking in grace as Rick, Ron and all the other Reps.

Our motto at Sardonicky: United we stand in criticism; divided we fall in holding Pres-O’s feet to the fire with negligible consequences for his serial lies. (I will come back to the “lies” business anon.)

I further confess to being a devoted subscriber to Monday’s weekly column by Chris Hedges, the last of the great prophets sent unto a stiff-necked people.

Aside: I’m not sure whether it’s owing to my mother or my father how I got to be this way. Footnote: These details, and so much more, are available for psychoanalysis in my file somewhere in the Washington Bubble. Or through close examination by the priests and priestesses adept at interpreting the chicken entrails of my many comments, which no doubt fall into a pattern that will cause me great embarrassment when revealed. Perhaps that is why I spend so much time alone at this keyboard and no longer dare to show my face to the sun, the moon and the stars outside my door.

Zounds! I tarry too long at navel gazing -- but only out of charity, to lighten the burdens of the Freudian guild forever at their work. Never have so few made so much of so little. In defiance of the obvious.

Back to issues of the moment. When it comes to changing minds, Fact in the form of Fiction is far superior to bald and balanced reporting in the MSM. Allow me to draw on my extensive playwriting experience (I lie) to raise the curtain on the following ten-second play. About truth. The quotes form the heart and soul of the Rev. Wright’s account to Hedges about Prez-O when O was just O in campaign mode (after O forsook his North American mommy’s genes in favor of his African daddy’s genes).

And now --- THE PLAY (Still untitled)

The time, April 2008. The lighting, dim. Wright and Obama in leather chairs sit across from each other leaning forward, their heads almost touching. Both men stare blankly the floor. The conversation is closing, intimate yet portentous.

O: “You know what your problem is?”

W: “What is that?”

O: “You have to tell the truth.”

W (looking up in surprise): “That’s a good problem. That’s a good problem.”

CURTAIN DOWN

Remember that scene when you part the curtain of the voting booth in 2012.

Valerie said...

Actually, @N1ck, if Obama were like Jimmy Carter, his base would be 100% behind him. Jimmy Carter ALWAYS acted in the best interest of the American people. He was willing to fight the good fight and he had integrity. I don't see Jimmy Carter crawling into bed with the giant corporations and bankers. No, he would have willingly stood up to them. The only thing Carter lacked was charisma - and sadly it is an invaluable quality that a President must possess in our superficial culture. If you go back and listen to Carter's speeches, and I highly recommend you do, you will find wisdom and leadership. He used his bully pulpit to communicate important ideas to the American public and to explain what the America was up against and why he was pursuing policy and legislation on their behalf. I give Carter an A for his presidency and I give Obama a D - not because he tried and failed - I would be an Obama apologist if that were the case - but because he has never tried to do the right thing.

Hester Prynne said...

@ Valerie, how right you are. I voted for Jimmy Carter in my first ever voting experience, I voted for Obama. Guess which vote I regret?

Anonymous said...

@Val,
How right you are on all those points about Carter. The man wasn't perfect, I think he was slow to come 'round on some important issues, but he was and is a good man.
I often wish we could have had Carter's brain with Reagan's charisma.
I still remember the positions he took, and how prescient he was about energy independence. What a lost opportunity for us. I wasn't old enough to vote for him, but he's the first President I had a real awareness of. My family was furious with him on so many points, but there's no denying the man was right.
Jimmah!

n1ck said...

Obama has never tried to do the right thing? You can't be serious.

I hope you're just exaggerating.

Anonymous said...

@Nick,
Technically, it would be difficult to assess effort, so there's little point in arguing that particular point by Val.
What it comes down to is this:
For you, Obama is acceptable.For Val, he is not.
I doubt very much that you'll sway her opinion, nor she yours.
Your best bet, if you truly believe her position is so unreasonable, would be to let her vent. Because your weak defenses of the man aren't at all convincing to those who've seen enough. They simply confirm in our minds that he's a lost cause.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

N1ck,

You are what is called a “Yellow Dog” Democrat - voting Democratic at all costs no matter what your politician has done and not acknowledging that the party of FDR is a totally different party today. You basically give Obama a free pass for all his collusion and dishonesty when you vote for him despite his perfidy. You are right about one thing you said in a different comment. What good is all our talk - our complaining – and bringing out all Obama’s betrayals if we don’t vote? The difference between you and me is that you slavishly give your vote to Obama for nothing and I am holding out for some meaningful leadership and legislation that will actually benefit the people of this country BEFORE giving my vote.

And, no I am not exaggerating. There is ALWAYS another side to everything Obama does that benefits his corporate masters far more than it benefits those he is purporting to help.

Kate Madison said...

@n1ck-

I think you do not realize that many posters on this blog would rather see Obama lose and Perry or Romney win to prove how lost a cause Obama is--as if we need more proof! My grandmother called it: "cutting off your nose to spite your face." Call it what you want. There are more than a few progressives who are so pissed at Obama (aren't we all?) that they think if a Republican wins, tough shit--we can "rise from the ashes" in 2016. Incredibly naive IMHO, but understandable, because he IS maddeningly passive. But not so much that I would welcome a President Perry or Romney! Besides, I worry about Shamus, the poor Irish Setter Mitters strapped (in his cage) to the top of his Volvo when he took the family on vacation several years ago. You certainly know the middle and end of THAT story! You ain't seen nothin' yet.

n1ck said...

There's the labels. Of course, you don't know my stance on the issues, but hey, what does that matter? We seem not to agree, and I'm not reaching for a high-five.

I'm a slave to Obama, because I still don't see the point of letting Republicans win elections. If Kate M. is right, you're fine with Republicans winning in 2012, because everything will be OK until 2016 when you'll vote for a "real" Democrat who will deliver big-time hope and change. Yeah, let's hope that the Republicans are just a wacky bunch of know-nothings. I personally believe they do everything for a specific reason and that they're actually close to accomplishing their long-awaited plans. I see Republicans and their "corporate masters" as an aristocracy-in-waiting. Maybe I'm just paranoid. We'll see.

You might have been able to divine that I'm more opposed to sitting an election out, or not voting for the lesser evil, than I am about defending Obama. But I think your contempt of Obama has colored how you view anyone who doesn't agree with you. Or more specifically, someone who doesn't agree with you on procedural issues.

About that last bit of "reasoning" that anything Obama does benefits his corporate masters.

I think getting rid of DADT was a good thing. Of course, I guess some corporate master benefited from that too? Or you could criticize the fact that Obama worked from within the system to get it repealed, rather than by doing through executive order his first day in office. Either way it is done. Finally.

If you agree with me on that, then yes, you were exaggerating. Exaggeration is just one of many enemies of reason. Be careful when using it. Usually, it's only really effective as clear sarcasm.

I'll continue to argue that people should vote for the lesser evil. Because if not, you're letting the greater evil win by tacit consent. I could quote Burke, but I won't. I will address one label though. The only time I'll "defend" Obama is here: NO politician does everything they say they will. Not even FDR, my all-time favorite President, who it seems you admire too (great choice!).

Sometimes you have to compromise. Sometimes you even have to retreat. Pyrrhic victories may feel good, but they are counter-productive. I think that Obama has pushed so far to the right as a strategy to show just how out-of-touch the Republicans really are, so that the Democrats might retake the house and even a Senate seat or two. You can complain about the policies, which I do myself, but he couldn't have passed anything else, bully pulpit or not. Half of this country is NOT going to give Obama the time of day. And that percentage is increasing. I just wish my argument could be met with a counter-argument, instead of a label.

Since I've been labeled a lot of things without being asked about how I actually stand on ANY issue, or what MY opinion is of any number of positions Obama has taken, it's pretty clear that most of you are here to cheer each other on in your contempt of Fuhrer Obama (hopefully that was clear sarcastic exaggeration). Whether I ask a question, or state my disagreement, it is always met with a label of who I am with no actual attempt to discuss a thing. Every. Time.

Labels are convenient. But using labels to dismiss out-of-hand something you disagree with isn't really convenient for a discussion.

I won't get in the way of your club anymore. Sorry for taking up your time. Continue the chest-bumps and high-fives over Obama's many, many treasons.

Karen, I'll continue to enjoy your blog and other writings. Your post destroying Brooks for his "editorial" on morality deserved it's own op-ed in the Times for journalistic integrity alone, never mind your excellent framing of the essay and subsequent refutation of everything Brooks hoped to slip by as some neutral "study".

Brilliant as always.

Kat said...

@Valerie,
Of course I agree with everything you say. I would also add that how do you take seriously any argument that trots out the tired old meme that Nader is responsible for Gore losing the election in 2000? It is such a fundamentally anti-democratic argument. Why not direct your anger at all the efforts to disenfranchise voters in Florida?

Anonymous said...

@Kate,
I think "cutting off one's nose to spite one's face" would have been an accurate description for those who refused to go to the polls in 2010. But I know of no "progressives" who sat that one out. And at this point, that expression is better used to describe those who support a Republican-in-Democratic-Clothing than Valerie.

I do think, to ref Nick, that your obsession with labels obscures Obama's policies for you. Had he an R after his name, you might call it for what it is.

Lastly, I wish everyone would stop using the term "progressive". I'm with Val, and I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat. So was pops and mom, grandma & gramps and their folks. Traditional Democratic values like fair taxation are supported by the majority of this country.
We lost ground on traditional Democratic values under Clinton, but were saved by a bubble economy.
Val simple recognizes that Obama is giving away the store.

I note that Nick's swan song invokes the repeal of DADT. I agree that repeal is an important thing. But when you've given tge henhouse to the foxes on regulatory issues and the safety net, when you gut clean air policies, then DADT is mere window dressing. It's important, but it's a q-tip in place of a beam.

From the pup-tent, one more time:

It's. The economy.

God willing, give us Warren.

Anne Lavoie said...

@Nick

DADT was the result of a lawsuit the government was on the verge of losing. They had no choice but to implement it before the courts handed the administration an embarrassing loss. That is fact.

Please read Jay-Ottawa's guest post called 'In Praise of Name Calling' of August 13 and the subsequent comments. Just so you don't feel that anyone is singling you out!

@Valerie

Agree with you (and Kat). I am sick of the tired old memes of Carter being a bad President, of Nader causing Gore to lose, of the 2010 elections turning out badly because liberals (or is it 'radical left') allegedly did not vote, that liberals/radical left are not going to vote this time, and I am sure there will be one blaming liberals/radical left for Obama's loss next year instead of blaming him. The candidate is never at fault.

And in regard to labels (aka 'name-calling'), labels are merely shorthand. We can use one word 'Obamabot' for instance, or many words such as: "someone who comes to a website that is obviously critical of Obama and attempts to convert readers to become Obama supporters and when they don't they get angry and threaten to leave the website, blaming the anti-Obama people for calling them names (labels), thus responsible for driving them away."

We've been reading comments long enough to see 'Obamabots' come and go, and I do mean come and go. They threaten to leave but always come back saying how wicked we are, and still trying to convince us to vote for Obama. It wouldn't surprise me if they emailed Karen privately to ask her to censure us. They've pretty much done the equivalent in comments. Nuanced, of course.

Anonymous said...

FDR - Japanese internment.

FDR - Did not bomb rails lines into concentration camps.

Truman - Hiroshima AND Nagasaki.

A lot of terrible things are done by great presidents.

Ned

Anonymous said...

With regard to opposing ideas and opinions, there is little we can settle. However few, there are some matters of fact that can be settled. @Karen, have you ever received a note asking you to censure someone?

As one in opposition of the general view here, I can certify that I am not in the employ of Messina or Obama. Does anyone believe that Kate may be? Or offer support that any who disagree here are paid by Obama?

The preference for pejorative and repetitive labels and their rationalization as "shorthand" makes for a hostile environment. I like the exchange of ideas and views - not names.

Serious question - would you prefer that no opposing views or arguments be posted?

Ned



Have you ever received a note asking you to censure ANYONE?

Anonymous said...

Sorry. the repetitive and final line was an editing error.

Ned

Karen Garcia said...

@Ned,
No, I have never been asked to censure anyone. Who would dare. I do reject comments once in awhile if they are personally abusive toward me or other contributors, or if they are grossly inflammatory or blatantly untrue. But I never ban people themselves.
New rule: Please don't blanketly accuse Obama supporters of being OFA sock puppets just by virtue of being Obama supporters. By the same token, please don't assume that Obama critics are closet Tea Partiers.
When I do find threads devolving into repetitive back and forths, I tend to shut down the comments. We can all disagree without being disagreeable, said the old biddy sanctimoniously.
Thanks, and have a great day.

Anne Lavoie said...

@Ned

Good points about the Presidents. If Presidents followed their consciences instead of political pressure from corporate lobbyists, we might have more great Presidents and our country and the world would be in far better shape.

In the case of Germany in WWII, Lockheed-Martin was already selling weapons of war to Germany, working both sides of the equation (see 'Lockheed-Martin, Prophets of War). Perhaps some of their weaponry was on those trains in addition to prisoners.

The Military-Industrial Complex was doing so well and growing so powerful even back then that President Eisenhower felt a need to warn us about them in his farewell address in January of 1961:

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

"We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

The Military-Industrial Complex is even more wealthy and powerful now. They have succeeded in purchasing our government with their war profits through bribes aka 'campaign contributions' and lobbyists. The proof is in the pudding: enormous defense budgets and multiple costly endless wars.

When any President takes his marching orders from powerful corporate interests, it can only bring trouble for our country and our people. Voters should not allow party loyalty to blind them, no matter who the President is.

Anne Lavoie said...

Oops, dummy me! I meant 'censor' nor 'censure'. Who would dare ask for censure, indeed!

Thanks, Karen, for so artfully pointing out the difference without seeming to do so.

I stand humbly corrected.

Anonymous said...

Beating a dead horse here, but the following should never be left off the list...

FDR Firebombing of Germany and Tokyo

Arguments about MIC all valid, but something else is a work here (fire bombing). My thoughts tend to be too simplistic...man's inhumanity and indifference to horrific acts perpetrated on "the other". I tread in dangerous waters here, but I wonder if there is any interest in talking about the change in how the war today is conducted versus WWII.

Ned

Valerie said...

@Kat

Not sure what you meant in your post. But let me clarify my position. I don't think Nader cost Gore the 2000 election. I think I once did, but I changed my mind about Nader a long time ago. In fact, the longer Obama is in office, the more prescient I realise Nader was. He was right; there is fundamentally no difference between the two political parties. I didn't vote for Ralph Nader but I wish I had. I think he is a great American – a true patriot selflessly working for the good to the country - and I admire him immensely.

Anonymous said...

Censure vs Censor. Had to look it up....

Censure is a "formal rebuke" or "official displeasure." It is done by someone, usually some kind of assembly, in authority. Censure can be either a noun or a verb, though the verb is more common. Noun example--"The censure of Sen. McCarthy effectively ended his career." Verb example--"The Synod voted to censure the priest for his unauthorized activities."

Censor means "to regulate or prohibit writing or speech." This is normally a verb. When used as a noun, censor is "a person who censors." Verb example--"Soldiers' letters from war zones are frequently censored to avoid passing on sensitive information." Noun example--"The soldier would have to carefully word his letter so that it would pass the censor.

Anybody out there think we all indulge in a bit of censure?

But my original thought still stands...Karen does not censor except under her stated circumstances.

Ned

Ned

Anonymous said...

Ned,

I didn't realize until I viewed McNamara's apologia in "The Fog of War" that the firebombings of Japanese cities were so much worse than the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even though Vonnegut's account of the firebombing of Dresden, which he survived as a U.S. soldier, had made such an impression on me in high school.

Thucydides does a pretty good job of illustrating the inhumanity of man to his fellow humans in his Peloponnesian War history. The Melian Dialogue comes to mind. What a clusterfuck THAT was. But a classic, unabashed screwing over of one people by a more powerful group.

But with or without an MIC, "Thucy" makes clear that there is always someone who profits (or thinks they will profit) from war.

The difference is the amount of destruction that could be wrought in the fifth century BC and today. The Spartans, for all their fury, eschewed even the technology of bows and arrows. The Athenians did not. (And oddly, the berserkedly martial Spartans were one of the most feminist groups in the ancient world, but that's another story.)

There's a fable attributed to Aesop, which I have never been able to find in the Penguin collection. So I always wonder if it ever was Aesop. It's called: "The Siege of Athens." Our uncles used to tell it to us outside of the context of war: A soldier appears in the agora as Athens is preparing for a rumored attack by the mighty Persian army. A professional army vs. a volunteer army - basically a million to one proposition. The poor young Athenian must find the requisite equipment for battle (since the state does not equip individual soldiers - thus setting up the familiar trend of poor men surviving war worse than rich men.)

The swordmaker, the shield maker, the helmet maker, the sandal maker: each in turn tries to convince the poor Athenian that the item made by him is THE essential survival tool for battle. These sales pitches go on for a long time, and while the poor Athenian citizen is trying to decide how best he should spend his money, the gates of the city come crashing down and the Persians pour through the gates and slit everyone's throats.

What is the moral of the story? To me, it was always "don't trust salesmen." But our uncles always said it was this: "Sometimes it is very hard to see what is right in front of your nose."

Some moral! Nonsensical to us. They were cynical men, and we were always relieved when they got back in the Buicks and left.

Signed,
Your tented friend.

Kat said...

Valerie,
I wasn't saying that you had trotted out that argument. Other posters had. I've grown so tired of it. I did vote for Nader. I voted for Kerry in 2004. I'm in Ohio. That election was stolen, pure and simple but I just don't see anger from TLOTE camp directed at that fraudulent election that I do at Nader.

Valerie said...

@Kat

Very good point. I agree, I feel far more anger directed at me and the rest of my sanctimonious purist brethren for not toeing the party line than I do at Obama & Co. for alienating his base. The DNC and other Democrats should be all over HIM for that- not us - and they aren't.

As for name calling, I hardly think calling someone an Obamabot, Obama apologist, a yellow dog Democrat or even a blue dog Democrat is pillorying that person - any more than calling me a leftist pinko liberal, sanctimonious purist, angry leftist and a few other descriptors I can't recall. I am called a Carter Apologist all the time and quite frankly; I wear it as a badge of honour. I have had fellow progressives say I issue "threats" which is a bit of a loaded word. And I don't have a cow about it. It is ridiculous for someone to come onto a political site, blatantly espouse a different point of view, exhibit frustration at the other commenters who don't agree and then be thin-skinned if there is a little push-back to his relentless pressure to do as he says.

I was just pointing out to @N1ck that he exhibited the qualities of a yellow dog Democrat which is to carry the party line message no matter what. And quite frankly, I did it out of exasperation. He has one argument: the other side is worse, be afraid and vote my way. After trying to discuss this in a reasonable manner over many threads, there wasn't a lot more to say. I thought I was being pretty clear about both our positions. I suppose I could have called myself a pink dog Democrat to make things even. In fact, feel free to do so!

And for those who are supporting Obama as the Lesser of Two Evils. I know you are frustrated with the "stubborn 5%" for not being pragmatic enough. But we are frustrated with you. I have read that Progressives make up 14% of the Democratic Party. If we had stuck together and threatened NOT to vote for Obama unless he gave us some of what we wanted, 14% is enough of a block to have pushed/scared the Obama camp into meeting some of our demands. Announcing that despite his perfidy, you were going to vote for him was not helpful. In fact, because so many people have done this it has emboldened Obama to keep on doing what his corporate friends want because he can count on our vote. I can assure you, Obama IS responding to threats from his banker "supporters" that they will take their money elsewhere if he doesn't toe THEIR line.

Chris Hedges is right. Presidents and all our elected officials need to fear the electorate – fear that if they disappoint us (betray us) that we won’t give them our vote.

Personally, I think it is too late for Obama even if he were to radically change his ways. First, the Republicans and Tea Baggers have the bit between their teeth and know they can run all over him. It is like a permissive parent trying to get their adolescent brat under control after tolerating his/her bad behaviour for years and caving into his/her tantrums. Obama would have to be doubly strong to push back and have it mean anything and I just don’t see that happening. Second, he has lost the trust of his base. Even pragmatic Progressives (I hope that is not seen as a mean name) who are going to vote for him don’t trust him. We really need to demand another candidate if the Democrats are going to win in 2012 and turn some of the damage Clinton/Bush/Obama have done to this country. I really don’t think the Stubborn 5% is going to be able to do this on our own. So I reach my hand out to people like you, Ned. Join us in our fight for justice and a more compassionate Democratic Party. Stand with us.

Anne Lavoie said...

@Valerie

Re: name calling. Let's be perfectly clear about this - President Obama started it! I didn't know who he meant by sanctimonious purists, but I do now, and it isn't you or I after all.

I don't know about you, but I feel a bit of chill in the air, and my knuckles hurt. First it is accusations of 'threatening', then it is 'makes for a hostile environment' (see previous comment above).

There is no better way to seek a blunting or censoring of opinions than by leveling legally loaded terms as accusations. The only thing worse than 'hostile environment' is calling someone's comment 'actionable', which occurred on another occasion as Karen informed us awhile back.

When I suggested that there were nuanced attempts to censor opinion, this is what I meant. Dropping legal terminology and harping over and over again about being 'negatively' labeled is an attempt to stifle or censor opinions. Karen has now created her first 'rule' for our comments.

Most importantly, those names being exchanged by both sides are only 'negative' or 'derogatory' if you happen to disagree with them. No one used the word racist or bigot or anything else along those lines. The labels used are not inherently bad words. Call me a Radical anytime!

I would also like to say that all it takes is one clarification if someone does not feel that Yellow Dog, Obamabot, Tea Partier, or Radical Leftist does not fit them. Personally, I don't even bother. Who cares? It's just an opinion of how that person interprets our remarks. It's subjective. No big deal.

The issues are what I care about, and being able to freely express opinions without worrying about someone suing me. The last time we went through this, the same person provided a LIST of previous comments by others over the weeks or months that he considered outrageous opinions that he disagreed with but regretted not rebutting.

To me, keeping a list is far more offensive than using labels and names. That strikes me as being something the Obama AttackWatch reporting site might approve of. I think that is evidence suggesting that person might be an Obamabot, but we can't go there anymore. So be it.

Anonymous said...

You're kind, Valerie, but a little tough on n1ck. Nevertheless, my picture of the future differs from yours. There is not, and there will not be a Progressive candidate. The economy will be a shambles and unemployment will be ungodly. Democrats are looking realllly bad.
I watched the debate tonight. And I wouldn't touch one of those teabaggers with a ten foot pole. I'll say no more lest I be guilty of scaring you. However, one bright spot on which we can agree. Warren is looking terrific.

Ned

Anonymous said...

@Valerie, Jimmy Carter was perhaps our most moral president. And our most courageous with regard to his position on Israel. But what about FDR? That's a very complicated picture. I think the question has been asked - where's our FDR? be like FDR! Seventy years of Social Security and the Depression work programs notwithstanding, how does one deal with internment, unbombed crematoriums and creating firestorms in cities?

Anybody?

Ned