Monday, July 18, 2011

Confidence Fairytale Theater

Obama pal David Cote, the multimillionaire union-busting CEO of the criminally convicted polluter Honeywell International, went on "Meet the Press" yesterday to talk about his lack of confidence.  He's hoarding his record obscene profits, he says, because he is just too uncertain about the future.  In order to Win the Future like his president wants, he has to have reassurances from government  that it'll find a way to not tax his company's offshore billions and also do something about all that annoying regulation.  The multimillions in fines from his record number of SuperFund toxic waste sites and the radioactive sludge episode have left him feeling mighty unconfident.

Since the topic of the Sunday talk fest was Jobs and the Economy, the alleged moderator (David Gregory) didn't bother asking Cote (which Gregory pronounced "Cootie") about his lockout of whistleblowing unions and his company's recent criminal conviction.  Nobody in the mainstream media has ever challenged him about this.  Gregory eagerly asked, "Are politics unable to meet the challenges we (meaning corporations) face?"

From the transcript, Cote's reply:  
It's the sort of thing that scares me is -- we're -- I'm -- Honeywell 's a global company , 37 billion in sales, got 130,000 people, half our sales and people outside the USA. Traveled the world a lot and the world has changed, we went from a billion participants in the global economy to four billion over the last 20 years, yet we still act like we did 20 years ago. And we need an American competitiveness agenda that gets our finances right, gets energy policy , math and science education , infrastructure, and we can't even do something like this. It's very scary as a businessman.
And later.....

I always find it interesting when I hear government say "We need to create jobs."  And I say, "No, actually, government doesn't create jobs.  Government can create an environment where jobs can be created.  And I think it's important to distinguish between the two."

Cote, who is a Republican, was supposed to have gotten his chance to ask not what he can do for his country, but what his country can do for him, at a special lunch with Democratic senators a few weeks ago.  But then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Illinois Sen.Dick Durbin got a letter from the President of the United Steelworkers Union:
Honeywell - one of the nation’s largest multinationals - would seem a poor choice for such a discussion since the Company has engaged in a lockout of 228 USW members at Local 7-669 in Metropolis, Illinois since June 2010, seeking drastic concessions from our members. For years this Honeywell facility has put USW members and the community at risk innumerable times because of multiple health and safety standard violations cited by OSHA, the NRC and the EPA. If CEO Cote really desires to create jobs in the U.S. he could immediately create 228 good paying jobs by simply ending this disastrous lockout of our members in Metropolis, Illinois.

The meeting was subsequently cancelled. But Durbin, whose constituents include those locked-out workers, also appeared on "Meet the Press" Sunday.  Although he was in a different segment than Cote (with whom he also served on the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction "Catfood" Commission) I like to imagine that the two of them met in the Green Room and exchanged pleasantries.  Both of them wholeheartedly agree, by the way, that Social Security needs to be "fixed." 

From the Durbin interview transcript, words evidently failed him as he choked up recounting the consensual awesomeness of Obama: 

David, let me tell you, if you could've been in the White House Cabinet Room , as I was, for six separate meetings and watched this president of the United States patiently listen to each member of the leadership in Congress lay out their ideas of where to go and how we can do this together, if you know that he started the meeting saying, "I'm putting everything on the table so that we can have a reasonable, comprehensive approach to it," you saw real leadership in action. I can't think of another president in my memory...


"It's Very Scary as a Businessman".... Now Eat Your Peas, Pod People!


Anonymous said...

Brilliant post. Where else but here could we read about this?
Thank you, Karen.
-Draft (still can't sign in!)
p.s. I love the Donald Sutherland pic. Did you ever think how strange it is that Donald Sutherland and Martin Sheen, who really embodied a 1960's ethos of questioning the status quo - I'm thinking of DS in Altman's "M.A.S.H." and Sheen in "Apocalypse Now" - gave us such strange children? That is, Kiefer Sutherland of "24" pro-torture-and-pro-war-on-terror notoriety, and Charlie "Winning! Regressive!" Sheen?

Karen Garcia said...

Yeah, it's another generational thing David Brooks could really sink his teeth into. And speaking of M.A.S.H., perhaps Obama can introduce a new theme song for his re-election campaign: "Suicide is Painless".... with predator Drone graphics and of course, peas.

Ciara said...

Karen, we are running out of superlatives for your posts. ;-)

Cote says:
"And we need an American competitiveness agenda that gets our finances right, gets energy policy, math and science education, infrastructure, . . . " Those are actually rather good ideas. Too bad no one in power seriously favors them.

Ciara said...

Words to live by, from wordsmith K. Garcia: "the consensual awesomeness of Obama"

John in Lafayette said...

Sent a letter to Obama a couple of days ago letting him know that, because of his abandonment of Elizabeth Warren, I would not be voting for him in 2012, nor would I be sending him any money (yes, I drank the kool-aid in 2008).

I've written to him any number of times in the past, but this time I checked the little box saying "request reply." Here are some snippets from that reply:

"...that is why I was proud to sign into law the most comprehensive package of financial reforms in decades, including the strongest consumer protections in our Nation's history."

Yeah. He just refuses to enforce them.

"Wall Street reform brings greater security to hardworking people on Main Street..."

Again, it's the job of the executive to ensure the laws are faithfully executed. If you won't back your nominees, what good are the laws?

"Because of these reforms, the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for the excessive risk-taking of some on Wall Street."

Pardon my French, but bull****. The reforms, such as they were, weren't meaningful, nobody's enforcing them, and when the next catastrophe takes place - and it will - we'll bail the banks out again. The banks that were deemed too big to fail a few years ago are now too BIGGER to fail.

On mortgages: "While many Americans have received help, far too many are still unable to refinance their mortgages or obtain loan modifications."

That's because your executive branch is sitting on the money that was set aside to assist homeowners in avoiding foreclosure. And gee, I wonder why.

It goes on, but I won't take up any more space. I don't know which is worse; the fact that whoever "read" my letter is responding to points I never raised, or that these little talking points insult my intelligence by being such blatant falsehoods.

Draft Warren in 2012. Apparently she needs a job.

Janet Camp said...

I do not watch Sunday morning TV--actually I don't watch TV at all--actually I don't own a TV. Your synopsis tells me I am on the right path. I'm much better off getting your rundown on this than watching something so dumbed down and demeaning and then having to bang my head on the coffee table for an hour afterward.

Thanks. I don't know how you do it--a) watch such crap, b) so brilliantly dig up the real story behind the crap.

@John in Lafayette

Obama doesn't care if you or I (or Karen) vote for him. He wants the Independents --the ones who see the debt debate as a "partisan" issue with "both sides at fault". tThe ones who want everyone to "get along" and such. Who ARE these people? Do they stand for anything?

VLT said...

I would LOVE to have someone of Liz Warren's smarts and integrity on the 2012 ticket and would certainly vote for her and send her as much money as I could spare - but sadly, I think Lafayette and I are dreaming.

I have become quite discouraged about the whole Rupert Murdoch thing as I compare how it is being handled in the U.S. as compared to Britain. This scandal has certainly ignited "the spark" in the British public and the politicians are clamouring to show they are as outraged as the public. Yet, here we sit with our Mainstream Media promoting crap under the guise of news.

Meet the Press? - more like Meet the Collaborators.

Marina said...

I love Warren, but she couldn't possibly win a presidential election, now that elections are just auctions.

Kat said...

Jesus! Honeywell? GE? How far down in the muck does Obama have to reach to find his "job creation" advisers?
I guess it makes sense when the only government programs not facing austerity are those in the business of killing.

Napoleon said...

Sen. Durbin, like secretary of state Clinton during last year's discussions leading up to the second 'surge' by president Obama in Afghanistan, is too enamored of process, with respect to mediation, when substance is what is key. We can all be pleased with the manner in which a coach, or teacher, stops a brawl amongst kids playing soccer but we still expect the soccer league and parents to proclaim what is and what is not proper conduct.

Although mediating skills are wonderful to have and are often crucial in particular settings, they can, like all things, be carried to an extreme, and instead of being beneficial result in unjustified harm.

President Obama seems to carry his mediating skills to an extreme in 3 ways. First, he sees himself initially, and perhaps throughout, as mediating between Democrats in Congress and Republicans in Congress, and not as a leader of the Democratic elected leadership negotiating with the Republican elected leadership.

Second, he surprises the elected Democratic leadership with his proposals rather than sit down with them first to come together with agreed upon recommendations. Sometimes, the surprise is a double whammy as when the president informs the Democratic leadership after he has negotiated with the Republicans.

Third, the president, in his mediating posture, loses sight of the value of educating the US public on what the Democratic Party has stood for and the positive gains this has achieved for the country. Instead, the president morphs this potential into " I believe..", "I will.." "As I said, I am ..", etc., a non educational moment.

The Democratic leadership in turns makes mistakes just as bad. When Obama acts in accordance with the script above, they may or may not register dissent. What they don't do, and need to do, is go public and state that the president did this without their knowledge, agreement, or involvement, and thus is acting solo and not as leader of the Party and as a result they owe no allegiance to the unilaterally declared proposals, and in any event they can't support the proposals because they are contrary to the values, programs, traditions, and goals of the Democratic party.

This would be an educational moment, would get the president's attention, and presumably would deter him from acting this way again, given the likelihood repeated explicit public rebukes. In any event, it would allow members of the Democratic leadership, such as Durbin (who is a fine senator), who are enamored with process to remain so focused but doing so in a manner that drags in substance as the final arbiter.

Kat said...

@ Napolean
Perhaps we need to start calling Barry "Obroder".

Anonymous said...

@ Nap,
"This would be an educational moment, would get the president's attention, and presumably would deter him from acting this way again, given the likelihood repeated explicit public rebukes."

The key word is "presumably."

I like your suggestions, but I do worry that they have a "can't-see-the-forest-for-the-trees" quality.

Like Winning Progressive, you seem to uphold on faith alone that Obama's intransigence is related to some procedural or tactical error, rather than acknowledging another, more obvious possibility: Obama has no commitment to what he claims to support.

-DraftSpitz (still with the sign-in problem)

Karen Garcia said...

President Obama, as head of the Democratic Party, sees himself as post-partisan and in the process is destroying the Democratic Party. I agree with Napoleon that the failure of the party to oppose him in anything, or even break with him entirely, does not bode well. All those billions Obama is bundling are not just for his own re-election campaign: that money will only be shared with loyal Dems willing to toe his conservative line. That is why we're not hearing too much dissent from even the "progressive" caucus: they want to keep their jobs.
Obama's only principle is pragmatism for its own sake, which means taking the path of least resistance and pretending that negotiating with rigid, extreme right wing ideologues is somehow virtuous. He either unintentionally or deliberately mistakes process for policy. The result, of course, is the triumph of unfettered capitalism over democracy. Not enough people are hurting enough yet to fight back. But we're getting there.

Karen Garcia said...

Correction - should be millions, not billions -- at least not yet.

James F Traynor said...

Write in Bernie Sanders for president in 2012.

VLT said...

Traynor - Seriously, that IS my plan. Bernie is by far the most qualified Democrat to represent the needs of the American people and to be president. Of course, if Dennis Kucinich runs in the Primary he will get my support – as usual.

Nap and Karen - I also think, as well as needing the money for re-election, the members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus has also gotten discouraged. Here are a bunch of decent politicians trying to do the right thing who have organised themselves into a group, have a message and an agenda that is simple, clear and reasonable and they get NO media attention - proving once again THAT our media is already bought and sold. Like Elizabeth Warren, it must be discouraging to fight for a Middle Class that doesn’t even know you are out there fighting for them because the media has either perverted your reasonable message and goals or has neglected to cover the story entirely. I had big hopes for the NYT with their new Editor In Chief, but so far the paper is producing the same old, same old.

I don't know who mentioned it in the last posting but that person is right, the only voices writing against the status quo in the MSM are some of the genuine commentariat in the comments section. I, too, often skip the articles (particularly Dowd who pretty much writes drivel unless commenting on the Catholic Church) in favour of reading the most popular reader comments. Even the ones they select for the “blue box” are rarely as good as the ones the readers choose. You would think the NYT would take note of this. Whoever, I think it was Janet, came up with the idea of guest columnists had a brilliant idea. By now the moderators should have a good idea of who the readers like and dislike.

Another great post, Karen. Too bad our MSM doesn’t have the courage and interest to cover the REAL news – thank God for blogs like Sardonicky.

Anonymous said...

"I agree with Napoleon that the failure of the party to oppose him in anything, or even break with him entirely, does not bode well."

And yet, what if they did? We have seen, in fact, some mild rebukes of Obama from Feinstein as early as 2009. We had seen more serious rebukes from Anthony Weiner.

He's been rebuked by everyone from Paul Krugman to Simon Johnson to Paul Volcker.
What's the result? Nothing. That doesn't let Senate and House Dems off the hook, but it also explains their reticence.

I too would like to believe, as WP and Napoleon suggest, that Obama is somehow salvageable. But at this point, I think it stretches credulity.

I wonder to what extent it's responsible to move forward on the obviously false premise that Obama is a Democrat.


The Black Swan said...

Does anyone think we have gone past the point of no return? I just can't see how getting Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders or any other progressive candidate on any ballot is going to change anything. Corporate governance is too entrenched and has done too much harm already. Right now the House is trying it's damnedest to gut funding for every environmental agency we have left. The wars look like they will be going on forever, we have no sane energy policies, no health care, a twisted and sick food supply, the list goes on and on. I don't see these problems ever being solved by the government in its current form, and I don't see the government changing through our current political process. I am just old enough to run for elected office, and have thought a lot about it. How do we fix this mess? What can I do? Could I make a difference in Congress? I don't at all think there is any chance. Our house is infested with termites, even if we eradicate them, the damage is done. This country, and this world need a shock. Not a 'spark', but a shock. Who knows what form it will take, but just reforming the system will never be enough. We need to replace it.

There seem to be enough smart people in this comment section and around the blogosphere, that instead of pointing out the failings of the current system and its players and instead of trying to fix the irreparable, we need to look beyond. I am at the forefront of the youth (age-wise) in this country and I want to create a better future for myself, my peers and all mankind. There is a lot of time ahead of me (hopefully) and I want to know that everyone who could, did what they could to make this world a better place.

PS. Sorry for hijacking the comments a little, but it is rare to find an audience that is both knowledgeable and open minded.

PPS. Don't stop pointing out the lies and mistruths. It is an important and valuable service and I am very thankful people like Karen are out there doing this work.

Anonymous said...

Karen et alia:

Check out the responses to the Times article on Obama's campaign team's scramble to figure out how not to lose:

Napoleon said...

"Like Winning Progressive, you seem to uphold on faith alone that .."
"I too would like to believe, as WP and Napoleon suggest, that Obama is somehow salvageable."

My faith in most things is quite limited. It's practical however to offer resistance to a power causing unjustified harm.

I, of course, don't know if Obama, or any given circumstance, is "salvageable".

Experience suggests that presidents generally don't want the leaders of their Party consistently correcting them, or accusing them of (1) acting like a lone ranger, (2) acting contrary to the Party's consensus or values, (3) reaching agreements with the opposition without prior discussions with supporters and Party leaders, (4) harming the Party and making it likely its members will lose elections, and (5) not abiding with promises made during the presidential campaign.

Perhaps, this president is particularly sensitive to criticisms of this form from Democratic Party leaders, or perhaps he is mostly immune to such criticisms. Still, it may be worth a try. However, Karen raises a good point about the Democratic Party leaders' willingness to engage in such open criticism.

Anonymous said...

"Experience suggests that presidents generally don't want the leaders of their Party consistently correcting them, or accusing them of (1) acting like a lone ranger, (2) acting contrary to the Party's consensus or values, (3) reaching agreements with the opposition without prior discussions with supporters and Party leaders, (4) harming the Party and making it likely its members will lose elections, and (5) not abiding with promises made during the presidential campaign."

But as I and others have pointed out, Obama has already shown himself resistant to criticism from Democratic congressmen and senators. Thus, your suggestion is merely shifting blame to Congress. It's not that they are without blame, but that your proposed solution has already been proved not to work.

I think trying to convince anyone here that Obama is salvageable is a dubious proposition. Of greater concern to those who are invested, financially, politically, or emotionally, in a second term for Obama, is the looming reality that it will be even harder to convince independents and centrist Democrats that Obama is salvageable.

Napoleon said...


When I referred to leaders of the Democratic Party, I really did mean to refer to leaders of the Democratic Party. I don't think Pelosi, Reid, and others in the chain of leadership of the Democratic Party in the Senate and the House, or governors, have made such public criticisms or done so repeatedly. A few other Democrats in the Senate and House, not counting the Independents, have done this but it is important that they get their leadership to do it as well, and that they repeatedly try to get their leadership to do it.

VLT said...

Black Swan,

I have had all the same thoughts - but I feel as long as there is a ray of hope, I have an obligation to "fight the good fight."

Right now, as I see it, we have two things we can do. We can work to get Progressive Candidates elected to Congress with the goal of strengthening the Congressional Progressive Caucus – giving them a louder voice and more legitimacy. We should also be working at the State and Local level – even on school boards, for Representatives that are in favour of a Progressive agenda.

We could also join together and vote as a block of voters. Big Labour did this for years in America and it is done in Parliamentary systems all over the world. We would choose members to speak for us and to negotiate - for our block of votes we want a number of Progressive policies in return. This should (hopefully) have the effect of moving the Democratic Party more to the left. But we have to be willing to stand our ground as well as agree on an agenda. If the Democratic Party won’t play ball, then we let it be known that we are open to forming a coalition with others – presumably a Third Party Candidate.

I don't know how these types of coalitions could work in a two party system - how we could insure those bargains could be honoured - but it would be worth a try. We can't just sit around wringing our hands and discussing how much we hate what is going on in our country. We have to hit the streets, make a loud (non-violent) noise, and have a plan for some kind of action - even if that action is a pledge NOT to vote Democratic unless our demands are met.

In the end, it would take courage and commitment to see something like this through – meaning, no chickening out and voting for Obama at the eleventh hour if the Democrats don’t cave. I encourage you all to check out the New Progressive Alliance. They seem to be thinking along these lines.

citizen625 said...

Dave is Gregory is so vacuous and insufferably pro-corporate, I haven't watched him three times since he got the big chair. The only thing Cote and Immelt understand is cash. I can't buy what I don't know I want. The only reason these corporate titans get to retire HUGE and jet around from golf course to golf course is because we buy their stuff. Denial of Stuff is denial of power to those frat-boys turned self-congradulatory megalomaniacs. Their kind has pushed the bar of insight/education so low that most people no longer realize that surmounting the curb of the sidewalk is really not a grand achievement. I bet they laugh with glee when they see the fine baubles of titillation that are displayed at Murdoch's toy store. Gregory, Chris Wallace, George S, or George Will are just lapdogs for the rich and powerful who get paid with a life of ease and absence of discomfort. The number one thing all these guys fear is random mobs of unemployed young people with no mortgage, no family and no hope.