Monday, January 21, 2013

Inoculation Day

Today is Martin Luther King's birthday as well as the anniversary of the Great March on Washington. Today is also the beginning of  Phase Two of the Age of Obama. Above all, today is the day we need to administer a giant booster shot in order to inoculate ourselves  against a new outbreak of an old disease sweeping over the land of the erstwhile progressives. And it ain't the flu. Because in this Age of Obama, progressivism has been pathologized into a form of wimpy pragmatism. Today does not augur well for us if we happen to be normal, everyday struggling people. This day of sick pomp and circumstance is being hyped as a day to celebrate the small, incremental achievements of one man, as well as a day to bury all the bad memories, forget the betrayals and sell-outs, and in the words of Stephen Colbert, hope for a better tomorrow, tomorrow.

Today, if Paul Krugman's column is any indication, we are at the cusp of Stage Four of Glenn Greenwald's prescient forecast of how pseudoliberals will cope and react in Phase Two of the Age of Obama.  I suspect that Krugman got a call from The White House and probably an advance copy of the president's speech. Because his column, on the theme of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the watered-down and non-existent, dutifully pimped out a laundry list of all the president's alleged accomplishments. It ends thusly: "Still, maybe progressives — an ever-worried group — might want to take a brief break from anxiety and savor their real, if limited, victories."

Even Krugman's most stalwart fans and Obama's usual defenders have taken issue with that little bit of defeatism.

We saw a hint of Krugman's resigned defeat/co-optation yesterday when he publicly disagreed with Joseph Stiglitz's excellent and universally lauded piece on income disparity in the Age of Obama. Krugman just doesn't see income inequality as putting a damper on recovery. Krugman, methinks, has been herded into the brand- spanking new veal pen known as Organizing for Action, which is a direct offshot of the Obama campaign apparatus, and which seems cynically designed to pre-empt any real populist dissent, such as Occupy, from resurging during Phase Two of the Great Sellout.

Inoculation Day is still young, and I will be adding to this blogpost at intervals, depending on how successfully I am able to withstand an onslaught of hyperemesis inawgyration, a symptom of overindulgence on brass bands, politicians in their finery, platitudes, bromides and a general assault of red, white and bluedom. Stuff like this:

Katy Perry Performing at Inawkwardal Children's Ball

Update: Some thoughts on the Inaugural Address. The delivery, of course, was superb. He was kind of forced into acknowledging Dr. King, and I about fell over when he actually mentioned the P word (poverty) once. But then he also felt compelled to acknowledge the deficit, effectively cancelling poverty out, as far as I'm concerned, by once again indulging his "balanced approach" addiction. At least, he gave no hint of a grand bargain of safety net cuts. But how could he even dare, given that vast sea of diverse faces in the crowd, many of whom no doubt traveled to the event from the Anacostia neighborhood, where every other child lives below the poverty level. All in all, it was a speech as far divorced from history or from future plans as any aspirant to a high score on the Machiavellian Scale could strive for. Some excerpts:
The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed. For more than two hundred years, we have.
(Why, why why did he say this? Income disparity under the Obama regime is at its most extreme level in history. During the time of the Founders, colonial life was surprisingly egalitarian, even given the existence of slavery.
Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.
Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.
Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.... No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores.
(Revisionism to the max. We discovered that the market thrives when there are rules. When the economy crashed in 1929, due to wild unfettered speculation, only the Glass-Steagall Act passed in the next decade, the Age of FDR, put us on the path of ensuring fair play. A bipartisan cabal repealed all that during the Clinton regime, paving the way for the Crash of '08. We resolved, through the New Deal and the Great Society programs, that protecting the vulnerable is who we are. Obama has attempted on several occasions to dismantle those very programs in the name of austerity. In the penultimate sentence, in any event, he again cancels out his whole mendacious thought by dog-whistling to the plutocrats his conservative mantra of hard work and personal responsibility and free enterprise (read: risk, free trade and job-killing globalization.) Finally, he singles out math and science as the sole core curricula that will serve to enrich the ruling class. He never says a word about the necessity to study art, literature, political science, the humanities, or history. We. Must. Not. Learn. To. Think.)
This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. (Applause.) An economic recovery has begun. (Applause.) America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together. (Applause.)
(The reign of American state-sponsored terror is only beginning. See the Disposition Matrix, the Kill List, the new invasions and incipient occupation of the African continent. An economic recovery has begun... for the top One Percent, who have amassed 94% of all the wealth recovered since the 2008 crash. But he gets the last part right: more reckless risk for the Greed Brigade as it endlessly reinvents ways to enhance the harsh reality of life for most of us. Look at JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who lost $6 billion in a risky trade, got his annual pay cut in half to a measly $11.5 million, but retains his stash of Chase shares worth an estimated $263 million.) 
We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own. (Applause.)  
(This is where I will stop the parsing for now, because this is the part that perfectly encapsulates the Machiavellian bromides that pass for policy in this Administration. Obama, in his first campaign, had advocated  a national minimum wage of $9 an hour. Now he is reduced to spewing aspirational pablum, never once calling for any actual legislation that would serve to lift his generic little girl out of the bleakest poverty. When it comes to social mobility, the United States ranks dismally low. If you're born to wealth, you stay rich. If you're born in poverty, you tend to stay poor. That little girl could have a genius IQ, but her chances of success are far, far below those of a dolt born to the likes of Lloyd Blankfein.


Obama kills children said...

In remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his nonviolent movement. Pres. Obama, you are no Dr. King, and you are a disgrace to the Nobel Peace Prize presented to you.

Obama kills children, the body count:
Adam Lanza, Sandy Hook school shooting: 26, including 20 children
Pres. Barack Obama, civilian drone killings: Between 282 and 535 civilians have been credibly reported as killed including more than 60 children

Unfortunately Pres. Obama wins the body count by a landslide, accomplished with your tax dollars. Nancy Lanza provided her child a weapon of mass destruction. You the American taxpayer provided Pres. Obama his weapons of mass destruction.

Story by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, February 4, 2012, "Obama terror drones: CIA tactics in Pakistan include targeting rescuers and funerals"

Speaking publicly for the first time on the controversial CIA drone strikes, Obama claimed last week they are used strictly to target terrorists, rejecting what he called ‘this perception we’re just sending in a whole bunch of strikes willy-nilly’.

‘Drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties’, he told a questioner at an on-line forum. ‘This is a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists trying to go in and harm Americans’.

But research by the Bureau has found that since Obama took office three years ago, between 282 and 535 civilians have been credibly reported as killed including more than 60 children. A three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. The tactics have been condemned by leading legal experts.

Will said...

I'm quite comfortable with patriotic pinup girl Katy Perry for obvious reasons. The other stuff, especially today? I wouldn't watch it if you put an assault rifle to my head. Good luck, Karen, and thanks as always for doing the dirty work for us.

James F Traynor said...

I just finished reading Nick Turse's book Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. Someone finally got around to documenting the whole bloody mess. And a truly horrible mess it was and still is. I don't think we can really get a handle on where and why we're in our present position, militarily and politically, without backtracking to this horrific event.And it started at the highest levels.

Sorry to have digressed Karen, but without the national guilt over Vietnam and Reagen's use of it in creating a backlash of great political denial in the American people, both about Vietnam and our domestic racism, the climate for financial deregulation would not have come about. The hip bone's connected to the thigh bone...

Denis Neville said...

Karen, excellent commentary! As was your response today to Krugman’s “The Big Deal.”

Yea, those White House calls to Krugman are paying dividends. He has, as you say, been herded into the brand- spanking new Obama veal pen. Today he disciplines progressives for not being sufficiently conformist.

“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” – Abraham Lincoln

Krugman is a subtle propagandist, but not that subtle. Propaganda is about repetition. What is repeated becomes familiar. What is familiar begins sounding reasonable. What sounds reasonable is taken in whole or in part as being true. The neoliberal fairyland is shoveled by useful fools to serve the purposes of the ruling plutocracy. It’s not about our general welfare. It’s about their dominance. Does Krugman think the rentier class will change? Did the French aristocracy under Louis XVI change?

As Glen Ford @ Black Agenda Report writes, “Were Martin alive, he would skewer the putative leftists and their “lesser evil” rationales for backing the corporatist, warmongering Obama.”

Another “elephant in the room,” (recall Obama’s admiration of Reagan)

“A new national security consensus emerged based on the conviction that the United States military could dominate the planet as Reagan had proposed to dominate outer space. In Washington, confidence that a high-quality military establishment, dexterously employed, could enable the United States, always with high-minded intentions, to organize the world to its liking had essentially become a self-evident truth. In this malignant expectation — not in any of the conservative ideals for which he is retrospectively venerated — lies the essence of the Reagan legacy.” - Andrew J. Bacevich, The Limits of Power

“A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.” -Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Glenn Greenwald:

“One of the best decisions the US ever made was to commemorate King's birthday as a national holiday. He's as close to a prophet as American history offers. But the distance between the veneration expressed for him and the principles he espoused seems to grow every year. When it comes to King's views on US militarism, nothing more potently illustrates that distance than the use of King's holiday to re-inaugurate the 44th president.”

"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Denis. I think a lot of people were gobsmacked by Krugman. I think he is more infected by the Beltway disease than even he realizes. But I was even more pleasantly surprised when the majority of readers didn't join in with a chorus of "Way to go, Krugman!" Maybe there is hope for us yet.

Outsida said...

Did you know that MLK's legacy is now SERVICE, per Obama's orders?

Obama has re-designated the federal holiday honoring MLK into the 'MLK Day of Service'. It is no longer about MLK's words, his nonviolent protests, or his powerful messages about poverty, injustice and the "triple giants of racism, materialism, and militarism".

No, Obama has co-opted MLK Day, his message, and most importantly his movement, and is recruiting for his new army/movement of 'Drum Majors For Service'. MLK's march for freedom and justice has become BHO's parade for service, a feel-good movement of people 'giving back' to their communities.

MLK said "Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary." Obama must have cut that class.

Check out and associated links to get a sense of Obama's re-creation of MLK Day. Say goodbye to the social safety net, here comes the Obama Drum Majors For Service to take up the slack.

How long will it be before MLK's name gets dropped entirely from the MLK Day of Service (formerly known as MLK Day) and it becomes simply The National Day of Service? First the word 'poverty' bit the dust, and now MLK's life and message is being whitewashed to obscurity.

Obama's Drum Majors For Service will fit right into his new personal army called Organizing For Action. I can clearly see Obama as the Very Model of a Modern Major-General.

RIP, MLK. We miss you.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Well said, all of you, on the reactions read so far.

The celebration on the Mall is flat inappropriate. Like many of you, I have not tuned in to watch the parades or hear the speech from lips no one can believe. Today, mourning would be fitting. MLK has been superceded by BO. The New Deal, the Great Society, the Constitution itself are sliding beyond the reach of most of us. We’re like Trask in “The Ice Age” forever reaching in vain for the Acorn. Yet close to a million average citizens are predicted to rouse themselves, crowd around the best and brightest fakes in government and cheer for the last four years and the next four years. I’m glad I’m not young.

We headshakers stand on the fringes, very much apart. The most polished press at the center of things adores the emperor’s new clothes. In this morning’s electronic NYT there is a supposed accounting, balance sheet style, of what Obama promised and what Obama delivered: “First-Term Promises Made, Kept and Broken.” The Obama Scandals List (see blog roll), which went silent a year ago, is more up-to-date.

Karen has already described Krugman’s sad turn into full co-optation. It’s as though lights were going out, one by one, all across the press in the US.

“The New Yorker” is so typical. It always was snobbish and plutocratic. Just look, since forever, at the big spreads advertising SUVs, banks and banks again, and Hiltons. At least occasionally, it used to advance the “old liberal line,” before Chris Hedges felt obliged to redefine “liberal.” I confess I keep going back to the mag, but now only for the fiction. A “new liberal line” prevails. The cover (Jan 21) is appalling. We see from the back a tall, thin Obama going uphill. He leans on a shepherd’s crook as he climbs, presumably ever upward. He is surrounded by more than a score of indifferent, self-absorbed felines. The title: “Herding Cats.” What dedication, what perseverance, what leadership.

James F Traynor said...

I think Krugman missed the point. Stiglitz was saying that inequality has hollowed out the middle class and without a renewed middle class there cannot be a true recovery, a status quo ante. Krugman got hung up on the idea that you can have a full recovery (defined as full employment) with our existing inequality. Depends on your definition of recovery. Both are right - based on different definitions of recovery. There was full employment on antebellum southern plantations.

Pearl said...

I am watching the Obamas walking down Pennsylvania Avenue with crowds
screaming, reporters besides themselves and thinking this is the new homage
to American Royalty which like the real thing in Great Britain, supports a
fantasy financially and personally. People being paid for doing nothing.

Thank you dear fellow readers of Sardonicky for saying it like it is and for
you Karen for your brilliant comments in Krugman's column (there were two
more as well in replying to readers). I cannot get over Krugman
scolding we progressives for complaining and supporting the faux liberal
thought processes at this particular time. Fortunately, many responders
refuted his comments and the supported health care fiasco which he turned a
blind eye to was a major topic among his commenters (including myself).

What can one say? We have a tough row to hoe and must continue to punch
holes in the fairytale that has taken over our thought processes. MLK's
ghost haunts this day and I tuned in to an interview with Jesse Jackson when he was trying to point out to Wolf Blitzer how much we have left to do for the American people while being continually interrupted by Wolf
crying out the names of every person of importance arriving for the
inauguration. This interview finally ended abruptly in mid sentence while Jackson
was still trying to get an important message across - symbolic of what and
whom is considered important by the media.

As I watch the Obamas parading in their tasteful clothing, I suddenly see them stark naked, walking along unaware of their state of undress. I must be beginning to hallucinate. I had better have my delayed lunch to bring the blood back to my brain!

Karen Garcia said...

During the very last leg of the promenade, I noticed that Michelle was acting more excited than she had been all day. Lots of thumbs-ups, hand-clapping, dougie dance moves, and such-like to the crowd. Then the announcer mentioned they are marching past all the big corporations and big-wig donors in the million-dollar bleachers!(Or as the invites spelled it, "bleechers.") Then they all went into the White House before the parade for a pee break. And then Judge Judy came back on to yell at black people.

Kat said...

Aspirational pablum indeed. We are way beyond the point when we ask why everyone should not have some measure of economic security. If you are insecure, you must transcend your class. I guess aspiration is the lubricant of the capitalist machine.
Did Thomas Friedman write some of this speech with its paeans to reinvention, working harder, and risk takers?
I kid of course. The speech may have been duplicitous, but it was coherent.

Yuno Hu said...

As I read about Obama's goals for his second term, I am reminded of what Valerie would say: Obama is often willing to advocate for social policies that the public has already led on and which don't actually cost anything in terms of the federal budget. If it has a price tag and isn't military related or profitable for corporations, forget it.

Pearl said...

Obscure: indistinct, lacking clear delineation
Ambiguous: susceptible of multiple interpretation, doubtful or uncertain
Enigmatic: an obscure riddle

Now that I have watched the various pundits' comments along with excerpts
from the Inaugural speech and can concentrate on how people interpreted Obama's words, it is obvious that it was an exercise in the above descriptions.

A conservative commentator interpreted the speech as echoing the beliefs of Martin Luther King, meaning a turn to the left and all that entails. A black pundit stated that Obama referred to MLK's belief that all people are created equal and entitled to life, liberty and the creation of happiness that includes all political parties and so on and on. Then there ensued a heated discussion of what Obama meant by his various statements which no one could agree on and made me wonder if Obama himself was clear about what he was saying if everyone saw something else in the meaning of his words.

Whether it was a deliberate all compassing speech to make everyone feel included in his plans for the future is another enigma. When Karen mentioned to me after reading Krugman's article that she said she felt that he had been sent a copy of the speech before its delivery begins to make sense. This might explain his sudden stepping out of the box in his column to speak more supportively of Obama who he felt was headed in the right direction. He then had to smooth any possibility of him being taken for a wild eyed progressive by his 'friendly' criticism of many of us who have been fairly critical of Obama..

So, we are left with a vision of Obama, fitting into the above descriptions which may describe his convoluted mind. I think he is playing it all by ear to see where the cheers will be coming from and that is what makes it all so dangerous. He is a centrist without a center.

Jay - Ottawa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay - Ottawa said...

Amazing how Obama can with a splash of words resurrect the hope he slew with a smile again and again in plain view over a period of four years. Seconds, anyone?

Stev-o said...

Jay-Ottawa commented on the New Yorker. I subscribe because of the cartoons. The day it arrives I sit down read the first part of Talk of the Town and then page through - back to front for the cartoons. That may be all.