Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Torturing Obama

Poor Barack. Everybody's piling on.

First, Leon Panetta, and now even mild-mannered fellow Nobelist Jimmy Carter is chiming in while still constructing Habitat houses at age 90. The drone president of peace is being portrayed as a paranoid bumbler and anathema to his own party. Pretty much all he's good for these days is acting as the main bag-man for all that campaign cash. The Dems don't want to be seen with him, but they're only too happy to accept the bribery money of plutocrats and entertainers just as eager to shell it out for a quick bite and photo-op schmooze with their president and fellow performance artist.

Oh, but here comes Paul Krugman to the rescue. In a new Rolling Stone O-pologium at least partially inspired by Cornel West's recent scathing Salon piece, the erstwhile New York Times columnist takes a wee break from dissing Paul Ryan and the Republicans, and takes direct aim at the left: 
They (Cornel West and unnamed "others") are outraged that Wall Street hasn't been punished, that income inequality remains so high, that ''neoliberal'' economic policies are still in place. All of this seems to rest on the belief that if only Obama had put his eloquence behind a radical economic agenda, he could somehow have gotten that agenda past all the political barriers that have con- strained (sic) even his much more modest efforts. It's hard to take such claims seriously.
Criticizing the Obama administration for its failure to prosecute a single big banker in the worst financial fraud in American history is just going too far, continues Krugman, who essentially defends the Obama/Holder/Geithner Too Big to Fail/Jail policy, while carefully weasel-wording that yes, we might have another crisis, but it might not be quite as bad. He's right: it won't be at all bad, for him. The ingrained corruption of the political system and the outsized influence of the fabulously wealthy go unmentioned.

 Even creepier, in my view, is that Krugman specifically singles out a piece by a black public intellectual. West discusses all the ways that people of color are actually doing worse (job loss, home loss) under a black president. He calls out the collusion of the erstwhile progressive Black Congressional Caucus with Obama's centrist, corporatist agenda as part of the "the death of the black prophetic tradition," which has historically advocated for social and economic justice.

So Krugman, like Jonathan Chait, now also falls into the cringe-worthy category of "whitesplainer." (a centrist caucasian pundit who instructs a leftist black pundit that his or her criticism of Obama is way out in left field and "hard to take seriously.") That Krugman singles out only Cornel West as a "trash-talker" from the left is actually pretty stunning. That Krugman indirectly bashes the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. is also testament to the right-wing drift of the "conscience of a liberal" in the Age of Obama.

  Regarding the surveillance state, Krugman lamely blames his own lack of expertise for his refusal to give a strong opinion, except to say that Romney and McCain would probably have been a lot worse. Obama's ramping up of Perpetual War, his drone assassinations, his abysmal domestic civil liberties record, his abuses of press freedoms, record deportations, the war on whistle-blowers and his secrecy fetish (see: Trans-Pacific Partnership) go unmentioned. If you still had any doubt that the good professor is quickly achieving parity with his pseudo-nemesis David Brooks in the intellectual laziness department, read the whole article, and weep. Or yawn, or throw up, as your fancy takes you.

Meanwhile, everybody else who's a Somebody is all obsessively abuzz over Panetta, who's had the effrontery to write a book about the Obama administration while Obama is still out there collecting cash and giving jingoistic speeches about American exceptionalism. It is apparently a breach of loyalty and a violation of the unwritten rule (described by Elizabeth Warren in her book) that insiders don't criticize other insiders. I haven't read the book, but the juicy bit getting the most attention is yet another F-bomb tirade by former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel -- this one about that still-suppressed CIA torture report. Reading between the lines of the various synopses of "Worthy Fights," it appears that Barack has been striving mightily to protect his CIA careerist pal John Brennan from exposure. Brennan, Panetta's eventual replacement, remains at his post as agency director, despite calls for his ouster after he admitted spying on Senate investigators.

According to Panetta, he'd made a deal with Senator/CIA Moll Dianne Feinstein to release findings of torture abuses by the agency during the Bush administration. But then, he writes,
 “I was summoned down to a meeting in the Situation Room, where I was told I would have to ‘explain’ this deal to Rahm… It did not take long to get ugly....
’The president wants to know who the f**k authorized this release to the committees,’” Rahm said, slamming his hand down on the table. ‘I have a president with his hair on fire, and I want to know what the f**k you did to f**k this up so bad!’”
Then-director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair asked in vain who'd set Obama's hair on fire. Blair was later fired and replaced by admitted perjurer and now-NSA director James Clapper. Feinstein is still withholding the torture report because it's been redacted into near-meaninglessness by Obama, Brennan, and other CIA functionaries named within its pages.

Jimmy Carter, in an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, again slammed Obama over his drone assassination program and other human rights violations, as well as for ignoring the rise of ISIS:
“I really object to the killing of people, particularly Americans overseas who haven’t been brought to justice and put on trial,” he said. “We’ve killed four Americans overseas with American drones. To me that violates our Constitution and human rights.”
(And then he proceeded to cancel himself out by vowing to support war-hawk Hillary Clinton, should she win the Democratic nomination. Oh well.) 

All this public dissing comes right on the heels of a judge ordering Obama to release video of the force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, as well as deny his anti-democratic request that the ongoing trial be closed to the public. The judge, Gladys Kessler, astutely noted (in so many words) that the administration's national security excuse is simply their fear of being exposed as barbarians on the world stage -- at the very same time they're trying to foment public outrage at the video barbarism of ISIS as the latest casus belli.

There is plenty of inhumanity to go around, even from -- and especially from -- exceptional America, homeland central of the centrist elites.

Read more here:


Zarathustra said...

Barack O-bummer.... the 'Lame-douche' President.....

David said...

Part of Obama's problem - perhaps the biggest part of it - is the people he trusted. Many of us have had doubts about them, and though Obama's biggest failure is that he has fired no one, no matter how incompetent....or as it turns out, malevolent.

With friends like these...

Pearl said...

Students Walk Out After Attack on 'Union that Defends Public Education' -

Let's hope this is the start of a revolution in the ranks of the students who are becoming educated to reality.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Thanks, Karen, for calling my attention to the absurd defense-of-the-indefensible piece by Krugman published in RollingStone. (The RollingStone article subtitle: "The Nobel Prize-winning economist, once one of the president’s most notable critics, on why Obama is a historic success"). Actually, Krugman does a similar dance biennially, at the height of the national elections cycle, but this one is by far the worst. It's part of the now standard-formula schizophrenic Democratic campaign strategy: 1) try to convince the rank-and-file that Democratic politicians are actually pretty good (never mind that they didn't even attempt one-tenth of what they should have in a time of great financial crisis and therefore great opportunity for genuine progressive reform, and in fact were often complicit in reactionary political moves), and 2) scare their base about the opposition, so that even if the base isn't all that fond of the Democratic candidate, they'll vote for him/her as the lesser-of-two-evils.

Interestingly, the Republican base, rightly or wrongly, has frequently seemed to have been able to move their party a considerable ways towards representing them (though perhaps only illusorily, simply because of the congruence between the current beliefs of that base and those of the moneyed string-pullers). In contrast, progressive Democrats have been almost completely ineffective, partly because their fundamental beliefs are opposed by many of the Party financial backers and politician-toadies, partly because of the delusions, hopes, and fears that they allow themselves to be controlled by. The progressives have allowed themselves to be both manipulated and taken for granted by the Democratic Party, and as long as such attitudes continue, the rightward slide of both the party and the nation will continue.

Regrettably, I think only a significant defeat might progressively revitalize the Democratic party --- and even then, such revitalization might well not occur, the party might just double-down on its move rightward. Regrettably, I've almost definitively concluded that the only solutions to our national problems and the corruption of the political process lie in independent progressive candidates and/or a new progressive political party.

Denis Neville said...

@ David, who said...”Part of Obama's problem - perhaps the biggest part of it - is the people he trusted…With friends like these...”

Total Bullshit!!!

Obama is a flim-flam president. Obama was a brand designed to make people feel good about their government and their future, while the corporate kleptocracy looted. Brand Obama peddled a liberal line, which the sheeple bought hook, line and sinker, while President Obama, the useful tool of the corporatist power center, which controls both parties, did their bidding.

Obama was the only senator who spoke at the launch of the Hamilton Project, the temple of neoliberalism led by Robert Rubin, as an enthusiastic fellow traveler in 2006:

Adolph Reed’s 1996 assessment of Obama, shortly after Obama won his first Illinois state senate race:

“In Chicago, for instance, we’ve gotten a foretaste of the new breed of foundation-hatched black communitarian voices; one of them, a smooth Harvard lawyer with impeccable do-good credentials and vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. His fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process over program -- the point where identity politics converges with old-fashioned middle-class reform in favoring form over substance. I suspect that his ilk is the wave of the future in U.S. black politics, as in Haiti and wherever else the International Monetary Fund has sway. So far the black activist response hasn’t been up to the challenge. We have to do better.” - Adolph Reed, “The Curse of Community,” Village Voice, January 16, 1996

Read Ken Silverstein’s Barack Obama Inc. Birth of a Washington Machine:

“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?’

As Paul Street said, “Despite oceans of evidence, many self-described ‘progressives’ still refuse to recognize Barack Obama as the warmongering servant of Wall Street that he is. They continue to hover like flocks of groupies, eager to debase themselves for a politician that despises them.”

voice-in-wilderness said...

How can people take Rahm/Rambo Emanuel seriously when he launches into one of his theatrical tirades? What keeps them from laughing at him and begging him to do better, that he's only used the f-word 10 times so far!

I don't know if it is nature or nurture, but now that I'm aware of his brother-the-doctor's recent attention-getting riff, I'm tempted to believe they both see themselves as actors first and foremost!

Denis Neville said...

Martin Smith is the recipient of the 2014 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism, presented by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Pam Martens @ Wall Street on Parade singles out how Smith’s “The Retirement Gamble” uncloaked Wall Street’s asset stripping of the average worker’s 401(k) plan:

“Under a two percent 401(k) fee structure, almost two-thirds of your working life will go toward paying obscene compensation to Wall Street; a little over one-third will benefit your family – and that’s before paying taxes on withdrawals to Uncle Sam.

“To put it another way – you work for Wall Street. You are their slave, their lackey and as long as their toadies dominate in Congress, nothing is going to change on the legislative front to stop the looting. Wall Street seized millions of homes through illegal foreclosures and stripped the equity from the owners. They got away with it. Some Wall Street firms further enriched themselves making bets that the housing market would collapse, using their inside knowledge of the bogus loans they had made. They got away with that also. Now Wall Street is busy asset stripping the retirement plans of the working class in America while President Obama proposes to cut Social Security benefits through a discredited calculation called Chained CPI – conveniently causing people to save more in their 401(k) plans to make up for the potential loss. But the more you save, the more Wall Street asset strips.”

As well as another Smith program, “The Untouchables,” which revealed that Obama’s Justice Department, under its Criminal Division chief, Lanny Breuer, didn’t even made a pretense of a real investigation against the powerful Wall Street firms for their role in the financial collapse.

"Since the finance aristocracy made the laws, was at the head of the administration of the state, had command of all the organized public authorities, dominated public opinion through the actual state of affairs and through the press, the same prostitution, the same shameless cheating, the same mania to get rich was repeated in every sphere, from the court to the Cafe Borgne to get rich not by production, but by pocketing the already available wealth of others, Clashing every moment with the bourgeois laws themselves, an unbridled assertion of unhealthy and dissolute appetites manifested itself, particularly at the top of bourgeois society- lusts wherein wealth derived from gambling naturally seeks its satisfaction, where pleasure becomes debauched, where money, filth, and blood commingle. The finance aristocracy, in its mode of acquisition as well as in its pleasures, is nothing but the rebirth of the lumpenproletariat on the heights of bourgeois society." - Karl Marx, The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850

With Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and the victory of Wall Street Democrats, the Democratic Party sold its soul. Ready for Hillary???