Thursday, March 1, 2018

Thanks, Obama

It's no surprise that in the Age of Trump things are getting mighty precarious for the majority of Americans. It's getting so dicey, in fact, that people were holding a prayer vigil in Chicago Tuesday night.

(credit: Chicago Tribune)

The protest was not, however, part of the nationwide, Democratic Party-approved #Resistance rallies against President Trump. It was a bona fide grassroots uprising against former President Barack Obama and his refusal to promise that the poor, elderly and disabled won't lose their (barely) affordable housing when his $500 million shrine opens on previously publicly-owned parkland a few short years from now.

Activists in the Jackson Park Watch community group finally had a chance to confront him directly this week during his final push for approval of the Obama Center. They again asked him why he won't sign a contract which guarantees that they won't be pushed out of their neighborhoods either during construction or after the opening of the project, which will include a luxury hotel and a professional world-class golf course. (Such written agreements are standard when a major construction project, such as the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn, threatens to displace existing residents and local jobs. The written agreements then can become the basis of lawsuits when the developers fail to follow through on their promises.)

Obama's contemptuous answer when residents asked him to sign on the dotted line? Don't complain about what hasn't happened to you yet, especially when he can eventually attract celebrities like Jay-Z and Chance the Rapper to the premises. It's not like their depressing neighborhood is booming all on its own. And anyway, what could possibly be more important than economic development?

As reported by the Chicago Tribune, 
"A lot of times, people get nervous about gentrification and understandably so," he said. "It is not my experience ... that the big problem on the South Side has been too much development, too much economic activity, too many people being displaced because all these folks from Lincoln Park are filling in to the South Side. That's not what's happening.
"We have such a long way to go before you will start seeing the prospect of gentrification,” he said. “(My daughter) Malia's kids might have to worry about that. Right now, we've got to worry about broken curbs and trash and boarded-up buildings. That's what we really need to work on."
Nothing wins the hearts and minds of potential displaced persons like being sarcastically told by some fabulously rich property developer that since they live in a run-down trashy place anyway, they have nothing to complain about.  Nothing makes poor people feel better and more included than also having their worries flippantly compared to those of a privileged, set-for-life heiress.

While most of the $500 million cost of the Obama Center will be borne by private donors, the public will be on the hook for an estimated $175 million upgrade of surrounding infrastructure and roadways. Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Michael Chaffey said a new underpass will also be needed to allow for construction of the 18-hole golf course, to be designed by Tiger Woods.

Ever the neoliberal scold talking from both sides of his mouth simultaneously, Obama soothed,
 “Sometimes there’s a feeling of stuff being done to us and not for us.
Sometimes there’s a feeling of suspicion and concern and trepidation. That means you’re worried,” he said.
But he emphasized that the project can’t satisfy all constituents and said his team is eager to get moving into the construction phase.
“Twenty years from now, I want young people from across the South Side … to look at this center and say, ‘This is a sign that I count. This is a sign I can change the world,’” he said. “That is more important than any legacy I can ever have.”
The first step in gaslighting people into accepting something counter to their own interests is to diagnose them with an emotional problem; they have "feelings" rather than rational thoughts. The next step is to insist that the rich and the poor have the same core interests; in this particular case, Obama's personal glorification at their expense is couched in concern for generations yet to be born who will eventually flock to his Center like pilgrims flock to Rome, Lourdes, the Statue of Liberty, and Mecca. The final gaslighting step is to cast protesters as self-centered ingrates incapable of imagining a future Utopia in their own blighted back yard. You can't satisfy all the people all the time, so why even bother? As reported by Politico, Obama even groused that if he promised the South Side activists that they'll be taken care of, he'd be bombarded by too many "organizations" nitpicking him over boring things, such as lost jobs and public spaces and rising rents and and unaffordable property taxes. Their anxieties are absolutely nothing compared to the mythical hordes who will come to Chicago to be awed and inspired by a brutalistic monument to Obama's eternal greatness.

And as for the priced-out poor people in the neighborhood? Who needs a house when the Obama Center's more important purpose is to "send a message" that their lives really, really do matter to him? It's not an improved reality that should count. It's the "sign" and the symbols that should keep people hopeful and happy and resilient as they struggle to survive in a neoliberal landscape where the almighty "Market" has all but replaced policies for the greater social good.

Despite his lame weasel-wording, all indications are that Obama will get his way in Chicago. There's the support of his good pal the mayor, Rahm Emanuel, of course. And despite mild criticism of the almost paranoid secrecy surrounding the project and its glowing but unrealistic promises of future jobs and riches, the Tribune is editorializing in enthusiastic favor. Curbed Chicago even cynically gushes that the Obama Center will help future (as opposed to pesky current) community organizers to acquire more effective organizing skills:
The center wants to support those who have organizing experience and also those who want to get involved but don’t know how. Programs on everything from coding to athletics to the college application process are planned as well. Obama even mentioned bringing in Chance or Jay-Z to the recording studio to work with young artists.
Many of the anxieties felt by South Side residents were touched on throughout his speech. He validated these feelings but ultimately downplayed some concerns, reminding everyone that his intention is to create something that benefits the community and that he’s not profiting from this.
Whether or not you trust Obama’s abilities or intentions, his pitch for the center was heartfelt and clearly argued. He was asking for the people’s trust, and cited the politician that inspired him to come to Chicago in the first place.
“Here’s the thing. You can never make folks 100 percent happy. We want to be open and we want to listen. We are going to be ‘fairer than fair,’ to quote Harold Washington, in how we approach the design of this Presidential Center.”
Still missing Obama, liberals? This is the same right-wing "eat your peas" rhetoric employed during his austerity push after losing his Congressional super-majority in the 2010 mid-terms.  Unlike the widespread media panning of Trump's ignorant cruelty, though, Obama is still almost universally praised for being "measured," "heartfelt," and "thoughtful" even as he unleashes the relentless forces of sadistic neoliberalism against a historically oppressed population.

The shaming and the blaming of the poor, the elderly and the disabled will continue, no matter what faction of the Uniparty is in power. When South Siders complain and express their perfectly rational fears, they're told that they're letting Obama down. "Were the developer anyone other than Obama, whose deep roots on the South Side made it the only real choice for his presidential center," scolds the Tribune's Dahleen Glanton, "it is likely that he would have packed up his drawing board and gone elsewhere."

Such a patient man, parachuting down to the South Side for a minute to make his final, reasonable, irresistible offer. Any normal Trumpian greedster would have taken his marbles and his tax breaks and gone home by now. But not the long-suffering and intrepid and talented Mr. Obama.

Nevertheless, He Persisted


Anna Imaradicalova said...

Does Obama's crooked friend Tony Rezko own any adjacent properties? I'm sure developers who own properties in the vicinity (probably purchased after getting an early tip) are banking on gentrification. Obama can't let them down!

Here are a few other things to thank Obama for. From Esha Christmaswamy, along with her links to articles supporting them, at

3 days after inauguration, launches his first drone strikes
Even before inaugurated, has Citibank privately vet his cabinet
Bailing out Wallstreet but not people whose homes were foreclosed upon
Expanded the "state secrets" doctrine
Maintained and continued Bush's rendition policy
Escalates war in Afghanistan
Killed single-payer even with Democratic Congressional advantage
Legitimized coup in Honduras
Lobbied to LOWER the minimum wage in Haiti to 30 cents an hour
Droned Pakistan
Coup in Ukraine (watch video where he admits it)
Made Bush's tax cut permanent even with Democratic Congressional advantage, cuts which were set to expire automatically with no action. He ACTED to make them permanent
Labeled police brutality as "police acting stupidly"
Granted immunity to torturers
Ended Habeus Corpus
Insider Threats Program
NSA spying
Unprecedented crackdown on whistle blowers
Gave "Too Big to Jail" card to banks
Fast and Furious gun smuggling scheme
Executive Order banning Syrian and Iranian immigrants
Repeatedly reauthorized militarizing the police
Deporting children to "send a message" to their parents
Turning Libya from Africa's most prosperous nation to ISIS hellhole
Drone strikes in Somalia
Only Nobel Peace Prize winner in history to bomb another Nobel peace prize winner - Medicins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders
Drone base in Niger
Drone base in Cameroon
Drone base in Seychelles
Drone base in Chad
Drone base in Djibouti
Failed to reinstate Glass Steagall despite majority Democratic Congress
Syria bombing
Drone strike program that killed 90% innocent people in Afghanistan during 5 month campaign
Ordered assassination of American citizens
Doubled Bush export of arms
Droned a wedding convoy
Infiltrated Standing Rock
ACA unaffordable health insurance scam
Global Engagement Center - Ministry of Truth
Opened up offshore drilling
Cuts to food stamps while bailing out banks
Free pass on slavery given to Malaysia for the TPP
Turned blind eye to child soldiers and sold militia weapons to South Sudan
Arms deals to Saudis
Crackdown on Occupy to protect banks
HAMP mortgage relief program was designed to "foam the runway" for the banks, not help underwater home owners

Whew. I added a few of my own to hers, and I'm sure there are many more.

What exactly did Obama do for us anyway?

Jay–Ottawa said...

Ah, Annalova, it is so painful to look back at Obama's tawdry legacy; let us look forward with hope to the blank slate of the future.

$ 500 million for Obama's flashy mastaba ? That's all? As I recall, the target amount in the news before he left office was in excess of $ 1 billion. Did his collection drive among CEOs run out of steam? Were there not enough invitations to collect more $400,000 post-presidential speaking fees? Sad.

Whatever the size and final look of Obama's shrine, it will still achieve its main purpose: the act of endless self-preening that will drag on long after he is gone.

Why didn't Ozymandias, instead of raising a pile of dead stones begging to be pushed over, hit upon the idea of a busy pharonic library that would endure by simply inventing interactive programs over and over for generations yet to come, be they scholars, community organizers, or kids on school trips?

If Obama's heart is in the right place, he will simply turn over his papers to the National Archives and leave it to them to put his legacy on display. With the $ 500 million now in his pocket he might, for once, really do something worthwhile for the "folks" back home. He could make new all city plumbing on the South Side of Chicago––fresh water in, the sewage out. After that big dig would be over, he could repave all the South Side's roads and sidewalks, all such work to be done by South Side residents alone.

Talk about the jobs program Obama never quite got to while in office. He could walk in the footsteps of Jimmy Carter, who got more done after leaving office than he did while in the White House. In gratitude, the South Side might forgive Obama for screwing them over for eight years and show its gratitude by naming, quite pointedly, a forgotten cul-de-sac after him. Thanks, Obama.

stranger in a strange land said...

Jimmy Carter's national security advisor bragged about deploying 'riled up Moslems' as a proxy military force in Afghanistan. Obama's sin of 'turning Libya from Africa's most prosperous nation to ISIS hellhole' would seem to follow in those footsteps - a bloody path down which the U.S. continues to stumble in Syria. A pit of shame would be more appropriate a monument than a pile of stones. Tiger can still 'design' the golf course, whatever the fuck that means.

voice-in-wilderness said...

Let us hope Obama won't be able to raise the money for this monument. The attitude is in keeping with his other actions in office in his embrace of neoliberalism. Such as when scientists were trying to get real-time information during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Or his promotion of the super-secret Trans-Pacific Trade Treaty. Killing that is the one good thing that Trump has done.

Annalova said...

Has Obama found his walking shoes yet?

He was a no show for the Wisconsin teachers. He was a no show for Chicago teachers. Apparently he still can't find those community organizer shoes. He's probably saving them to display at his Chicago shrine.

What's keeping Obama from supporting the courageous West Virginia teachers?

Jay–Ottawa said...

Off Topic, but I just can't contain my excitement. The political saviour we've been longing for seems to be coming down the road with a great big smile.

In scanning the NY Times digital headlines this morning, I encountered three (1-2-3) advertisements for a children's book authored by Chelsea Clinton. The title of Chelsea's latest children's book is (you should know there are others) "She Persisted Around the World: Thirteen Women Who Changed the World."

To the extent that Amazon lets you peak inside the covers, I can see that the first few girls who persisted really did become remarkable women of great note, the first one, by the way, from Mexico. Until I rush out to buy my copy, I won't know whether Mother Hillary is included among the worthy thirteen. The NY Times lets you know this book is way, way up there in the NY Times bestseller list.

This is a great event in both politics and children's literature, but it's not clear whether these three adds in the Times are promoting the book or selling Chelsea. In the ad, her picture takes as much room as the book's cover. (I'll bet Don Draper had a hand in this.) Chelsea has the genes, the dough and the degrees (PhD Oxford) to go far. Like mother, who did so much for women, like daughter, who's now doing so much for children. Here's a quote from the blurbs:

Chelsea Clinton has always been interested in making the world a better place. When she was a child in Little Rock, Arkansas, one of her favorite books was 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth, and as a teenager in Washington, D.C., she led her school’s service club. While at Stanford, Chelsea worked as a reading and writing tutor and volunteered at the Children’s Hospital. Today, she is Vice Chair of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation where she helps lead the work of the Foundation across its various initiatives, with a particular focus on work related to health, women and ....

By now your antennae should be detecting the first youthful leader on the Democratic horizon in a long time, a woman following in the tracks of John Kennedy. With her latest children's book Chelsea is just about now at the "Profiles in Courage" stage of her budding political career.

Faster than Obama's rapid and somewhat mysterious rise to the top of the heap in 2008, Chelsea is rising faster than a bullet as the Democratic Party's anointed for 2020, a sure bet to give Trump the boot––or should we say the stiletto––as she steps up to serve as the next comeback kid for the whole Clinton clan.

Jay–Ottawa said...

I forgot to mention that Chelsea's dog is named Soren, as in Kierkegaard. Deep.

Erik Roth said...

Ah, Jay-Ottawa, so we now add Søren Kierkegaard's "Fear and Trembling" to Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing" to complete the description of our present condition.

To my U.S. House Representative Keith Ellison's survey today, in part I replied:

Obviously, and shamefully, in America everything comes down to money. The Supreme Crock (sic) rules that money is speech and corporations are people. The President apparently thinks emoluments are a skin lotion brand that he can acquire and reap rich rewards. The Congress is wholly owned and subservient to Wall Street and the Pentagon. The Republicans now brazenly strip and/or sell public land for private exploitation, bloat the budgets of the military, surveillance, and intelligence (sic) agencies to enforce the security of the plutocrats, while drastically shredding social services and civic institutions. Meanwhile, hypocritically, the Democrats support or enable every facet of the Republican agenda. Both parties are grossly at fault. Neither show sign of reform. Revolution is the only solution.

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” ~ John F. Kennedy

My answer to Ellison's final question, "what motivates you to be involved?" --

If you want it solved, you must get involved.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Yesterday, on the eve of the International Day of the Woman (IDW), Chelsea Clinton, by pure chance, came out with her book about 13 great women in history. There are still a few hours left to IDW in the Western Hemisphere, but I am shocked, shocked that this blog, pretty much like this morning's digital NY Times, has still not said anything celebrating women or their achievements.

In some newspapers from abroad it is said women intend to make their point today by going on strike, calling in sick, etc., just so it's clear how essential they are IN THE PUBLIC SPHERE. (Boys, girls and grown men already acknowledge how important women are in the home, those compliments usually being made on Mother's Day.) So maybe our dear blogger and her women commenters are on strike today.

Looks like it's up to us, guys, to celebrate women on IDW. For example, did you know that Fanny Mendelessohn was as brilliant a composer as her brother Felix, but that the family stifled her genius? The only way some of her compositions ever made it into the concert hall was under the name of her brother.

Remember those two guys, Watson and Crick, who got all the credit for discovering DNA in the 1950's? Well, as one of them later admitted (while dusting off his Nobel Prize), they stole key findings about the double helix from their fellow gal scientist, Rosalind Franklin.

And so it goes, more of the same to be found here:

anna imaradicalova said...

Speaking of Barack Obama, our first CIA President, here is a MUST-READ about a formation of Democrats with military-intelligence backgrounds all suddenly launching campaigns this year with military-like precision. The article is called 'The CIA Democrats'.

It's no wonder the Democrats and their media have been rehabbing and glorifying the military-intelligence Regime and war-mongering non-stop. It's all-of-a-piece. Thanks, Obama. Look what you and your buddies Brennan and Clapper started.

This development makes Trump's 3 Generals look like the warm-up act of a military-intelligence coup d'etat. I'm sure these candidates will get a boost from the [censored/classified] and from [censored/classified], maybe even enjoy a rocket ride to the White House like Obama.

'The CIA Democrats' is a 3-part article, and here are links to the first two. The third isn't up yet.

Jay–Ottawa said...

@ Radicalova

Seems like it's not just the old military-industrial complex that's giving us a headache anymore. As you say, those links describe a bold, in-plain-view yet slow-motion takeover of the government by a new crowd of militarists, spies and their IT helpers. Nothing much on the horizon to stop them.

Average people won't be choosing whether to be Republicans or Democrats. They will have to join one side or the other of a new, yet undefined, alignment of elites. I wonder whether the new class of power hungry militarists will ever find themselves at odds with the old money-hoarding corporate capitalists. They might tangle more seriously and more roughly than Democrats and Republicans ever did.

I must salute the DNC; those old greybacks have hit upon a course that will likely put them back in charge of Congress in 2020 without the bother of moving left under a Warren/Sanders banner.

Anne Imaradicalova said...

Guess whose candidacy NBC boosted in their news program tonight, ostensibly to honor women running for office? Elissa Slotkin, who's listed first in part 1 of 'The CIA Democrats'. The news only mentioned her Pentagon credentials, not the rest of her background which includes a stint with the CIA where, IIRC in part 2, she's mentioned as doing CIA undercover work in the Middle East and the USA! I thought that was illegal, but maybe it's SOP now that the Homeland is a designated battlefield.

From 'The CIA Democrats' about Slotkin:

"A case in point is Elissa Slotkin, a former CIA operative with three tours in Iraq, who worked as Iraq director for the National Security Council in the Obama White House and as a top aide to John Negroponte, the first director of national intelligence. After her deep involvement in US war crimes in Iraq, Slotkin moved to the Pentagon, where, as a principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, her areas of responsibility included drone warfare, “homeland defense” and cyber warfare."

"The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has designated Slotkin as one of its top candidates, part of the so-called “Red to Blue” program targeting the most vulnerable Republican-held seats."

Jay–Ottawa said...

correction: ... without the bother of faking left under a Warren/Sanders banner.