Progressive Calendar 01.07.10
From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)
Date: Thu, 7 Jan 2010 13:12:44 -0800 (PST)
              P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   01.07.10

1. Eagan peace vigil  1.07 4:30pm
2. Northtown vigil    1.07 5pm
3. Salvador           1.07 6pm
4. Africa/film        1.07 7pm
5. Capitalism doomed? 1.07 7pm

6. Gaza freedom       1.08 11am
7. Palestine vigil    1.08 4:15pm
8. Marx/Engels        1.08 7pm

9. Charles Davis - EXCLUSIVE: Obama orders air strikes on Guantanamo Bay
10. Paul Street  - On realism and revolution

--------1 of 10--------

From: Greg and Sue Skog <family4peace [at] msn.com>
Subject: Eagan peace vigil 1.07 4:30pm

PEACE VIGIL EVERY THURSDAY from 4:30-5:30pm on the Northwest corner of
Pilot Knob Road and Yankee Doodle Road in Eagan. We have signs and
candles. Say "NO to war!" The weekly vigil is sponsored by: Friends south
of the river speaking out against war.


--------2 of 10--------

From: EKalamboki [at] aol.com
Subject: Northtown vigil 1.07 5pm

NORTHTOWN Peace Vigil every Thursday 5-6pm, at the intersection of Co. Hwy
10 and University Ave NE (SE corner across from Denny's), in Blaine.

Communities situated near the Northtown Mall include: Blaine, Mounds View,
New Brighton, Roseville, Shoreview, Arden Hills, Spring Lake Park,
Fridley, and Coon Rapids.  We'll have extra signs.

For more information people can contact Evangelos Kalambokidis by phone or
email: (763)574-9615, ekalamboki [at] aol.com.


--------3 of 10-------

From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at] mtn.org>
Subject: Salvador 1.07 6pm

El Salvador Report
Thursday, January 7, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. University of Minnesota, Walter
Library, Room 101, 117 Pleasant Street Southeast, Minneapolis.

Topics covered will be issues facing new President Funes, recovery from
Hurricane Ida and the rains, plans for the 30th anniversary of the
assassination of Archbishop Romero, and what has happened to the findings
of the Truth Commission. Antonia Dempsey, who works with CIS in San
Salvador, and Duane Krohnke, who has been a pro bono attorney for
Salvadoran asylum seekers, will be presenting.  Sponsored by: Centro de
Intercambio y Solidaridad (Center for Exchange and Solidarity). Endorsed
by: WAMM. FFI: Call Gary Ellis, 612-701-4719.


--------4 of 10--------

From: Allan Hancock <ahancock.gp [at] gmail.com>
From: lynn santacaterina <lmsantacaterina [at] yahoo.com>
Subject: Africa/film 1.07 7pm

This award winning film runs Thursday at the Bell Museum.

Film:What Are We Doing Here? <http://www.whatarewedoinghere.net/synopsis>
Thursday, January 7, 2010, 7 p.m.
Free with museum admission*

Three American brothers and their cousin travel across Africa in a quest
to understand the continent's seemingly endless cycle of poverty and
hunger. The complex web they unweave is jaw-dropping and suggests that the
past five decades of foreign aid may have actually prolonged famine and
political corruption. You'll never look at African charities the same way
again. Join two of the documentary filmmakers after the screening for a
brief discussion and take a self-guided tour


--------5 of 10--------

From: Peter Rachleff <rachleff [at] macalester.edu>
Subject: Capitalism doomed? 1.07 7pm

The Caux Roundtable
presents
Is American Capitalism Doomed? A Possible Pre-Mortem Discussion

Peter Rachleff, Macalester College
Steve Young, Caux Roundtable
Ian Maitland, University of Minnesota
Rich Broderick, Moderator

Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 7 pm
At The University Club of Saint Paul
420 Summit Avenue Saint Paul, MN         [not the MetroDoom]

Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO, says his firm is "doing God's work" in
Washington; Michele Bachmann calls for protest and thousands come to take
on the system; Wall Street bonuses are up this year as in unemployment and
home foreclosures. Is this any way to run a modern railroad? Is the system
rotten at the core? Who can save capitalism from itself?

Peter Rachleff is an alert and articulate spokesperson for the progressive
left. Steve Young proposes a "moral capitalism"; Rich Broderick, a
St. Paul writer and poet, sees through it all. Ian Maitland, professor of
business strategy and former candidate for Congress from St. Paul, is wise
and perceptive on how capitalism really works.

Open to the Public
Although this is a free event, please R.S.V.P. to the Front Desk at The
University Club of Saint Paul at 651-222-1751 to reserve your space.

The Caux Round Table is an international network of principled business
leaders working to promote a moral capitalism. For more information on the
Caux Round Table, please visit their website at:
www.cauxroundtable.org


--------6 of 10--------

From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at] visi.com>
Subject: Gaza freedom 1.08 11am

Fri.Jan. 8,11am KFAI Radio: "Catalyst:politics & culture"
Minnesotans on Gaza Freedom March in Egypt
Hear from Twin Cities activists who recently returned from Egypt.

 SYLVIA SCHWARZ, eyewitness to the recent GAZA FREEDOM MARCH, on the
border of Egypt and Gaza. She will also explain the important CAIRO
DECLARATION that resulted from this international action.
 SOREN SORENSON explains the campaign for BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT & SANCTIONS
(BDS) working to get Israel to follow international law and to move a REAL
peace process forward that respects Palestinians' rights and independence.
 "Catalyst" is hosted & produced by Lydia Howell, Minneapolis independent
journalist, winner of the 2007 Premack Award for Public Interest
Journalism.

KFAI 90.2 fm/106.7fm in the Twin Cities, MN
all shows live-streaming & archived for 2 weeks after broadcast on the
CATALYST page at
http://www.kfai.org


--------7 of 10--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net>
Subject: Palestine vigil 1.08 4:15pm

The weekly vigil for the liberation of Palestine continues at the
intersection of Snelling and Summit Aves in St. Paul. The Friday demo
starts at 4:15 and ends around 5:30. There are usually extra signs
available.


--------8 of 10--------

From: jtmiller jtmiller <jtmiller [at] minn.net>
Subject: Marx/Engels 1.08 7pm

Friday, Jan. 8, 7:00 pm
Working Democracy Meetup Group Book Club:
"Communist Manifesto, Part II" by Marx & Engels
MayDay Bookstore


--------9 of 10--------

EXCLUSIVE: Obama Orders Air Strikes on Guantanamo Bay
by Charles Davis
January 6th, 2010
Dissident Voice

WASHINGTON - A series of U.S. predator drone strikes just after dawn this
morning killed at least 220 suspected terrorists, many presumed to have
ties with al-Qaeda, at the naval detention facility in Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba, according to two senior White House officials.

"We hit the jackpot," said one official who requested anonymity because of
the sensitivity of the matter. "We killed a whole damn bunch of them there
terrorist sons of bitches," the source said, the sound of clinking glasses
and celebratory gunfire audible in the background.

The strikes come just days after the attempted Christmas Day attack on a
Northwest Airlines flight by a 23 year old Nigerian man alleged to have
received ineffective crotch bomb training in Yemen. President Barack Obama
himself authorized the mission, according to the officials, upon receiving
word that nearly half of the men based at the Guantanamo Bay facility were
Yemeni nationals, some of whom were suspected of being Muslim and having
maintained an interest in herding sheep, possibly in order to recruit them
as suicide bombers.

In launching the attack, Mr. Obama has not only diffused a perceived
threat to U.S. national security, but he has fulfilled a key campaign
pledge to shutter the Guantanamo detention facility, which had become an
object of widespread international condemnation. Meeting the pledge had
proved difficult, however, in the face of congressional opposition, with
GOP lawmakers and centrist Democrats seeking to block the planned release
of the Yemeni men housed there to their native country, where they argued
it would be more cumbersome and expensive to bomb them.

While the U.S.'s legal authority to imprison men and boys at the
Guantanamo detention center has been a matter of some dispute, its right
to conduct drone attacks against targets it deems potential threats has
provoked little controversy either at home or abroad, at least in
countries populated with white people. Indeed, even as Mr. Obama has
overseen a significant escalation in drone attacks, authorizing strikes in
Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, in addition to U.S. wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, he's received a Nobel Peace Prize, a recognition of his
efforts to promote peace through war.

Given international acceptance of the drone attacks, the Obama
administration expects the same level of support for today's strikes,
which likewise took place on foreign soil - as it happens, in a country
deemed by the U.S. government to be a state-sponsor of terror. As one
American official put it, "if we can kill 'em without trial in Yemen, why
the hell couldn't we do the same a whole heckuva lot closer to our own
shores?"

Though questioned by some human rights groups long considered hostile to
freedom, the Guantanamo attack has been met with overwhelming praise from
those who actually matter, with political analysts predicting a healthy
boost in the Mr. Obama's approval ratings among the general public as
well.

"The president has shown that he's tough, a regular blue collar guy not
afraid to throw a few punches and kill a couple hundred bad guys trapped
in cages when he needs to, which is really going to help him win those
independents come 2012," said University of Virginia professor Larry
Sabato in an interview. "You can't overestimate the electorate's hunger
for mass killing. Monday Night Football's got nothing on Shock and Awe".

Cable news commentators were similarly aflutter with praise for Mr. Obama.
"Can't you just imagine this guy's masculine musk? I mean, I just want to
douse myself in whatever his sweat glands are emitting," said a visibly
aroused Chris Matthews on his afternoon MSNBC program, Hardball.

But not all praised the president's decision. In a fiery speech on the
Senate floor, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Mr. Obama's challenger during the
2008 election, denounced the administration's approach to the war on
terror as timid, "gook league" and lacking in theatrics.

"Why weren't these men doused in acid and set ablaze amid fireworks and
the loud and proud blaring of the national anthem? C'mon," McCain
thundered. "Why was their no consideration of the history books, here - or
pay-per-view? And frankly, my friends, why weren't these men killed the
moment our intelligence agencies learned they were actively living in the
Middle East?"

A couple of other people also disagreed with the president's decision,
questioning the morality and wisdom of handing one fallible man the
unilateral power to order the death of anyone he chooses, but no one
really takes them seriously.

Charles Davis is a journalist based in Washington, DC. More of his work
may be found on his Web site. Read other articles by Charles.

This article was posted on Wednesday, January 6th, 2010 at 9:01am and is
filed under Military/Militarism, Obama, Satire.


--------10 of 10--------

On Realism and Revolution
Confronting Liberal Objections to Left Criticism of Obama,the Democrats
and the Profits System
By Paul Street
January 05, 2010
ZNet

In the spring of 1967, after he went public with his principled opposition
to the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King, Jr. was approached by liberal and
left politicos to consider running for the U.S. presidency. King turned
the activists down, saying that he preferred to think of himself "as one
trying desperately to be the conscience of all the political parties,
rather being a political candidate...I've just never thought of myself as
a politician."[1] The minute he threw his hat into the American
presidential ring, King knew, he would be encouraged to compromise his
increasingly left message against what he called "the triple evils that
are interrelated:" racism, economic inequality/capitalism, and militarism.
[2]

Reflecting on his chastening confrontation with concentrated black poverty
and class oppression in the "liberal" urban North and his shock at the
horrors of U.S. policy in Southeast Asia [3], King had come to
radical-democratic conclusions. "For years I have labored with the idea of
refining the existing institutions of the society, a little change here, a
little change there," he told journalist David Halberstam that spring.
"Now I feel quite differently. I think you've got to have a reconstruction
of the entire society, a revolution of values." The black freedom
movement, King told a crowd at the university of California-Berkeley, had
shifted from civil rights to human rights, moving into "a struggle for
genuine equality" that "demands a radical redistribution of economic and
political power."[4] By this time, King had identified the U.S. government
as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today" [5] and
denounced U.S. support for U.S.-investment-friendly Third World
dictatorships, all part of "the triple evils."[6] "The evils of
capitalism," he told the congregation at Riverside Church one year before
his assassination (or execution [7]), "are as real as the evils of
militarism and evils of racism."[8]

As Dr. King certainly knew, these were not exactly "winning" ideas in
America's plutocratic and imperial political system. They were moral
observations with radical implications that led well beyond the barriers
of existing U.S. politics.

       "They Know, They Just Have Different Priorities"

Again and again during the first year of his presidency, "hard left"
critiques of the Barack Obama administration have been met by a standard
"left-liberal" objection. Obama, many of his "left" and "liberal"
apologists have told me, is doing all he can for progressive values under
the existing system of business and military power and in a context where
the right-wing Republicans still exercise a great degree of power. Obama
is imprisoned by the system he claimed in the name of democratic "change."
Corporate and military Washington, the argument goes, leaves little room
for progressive maneuver.  Poor "progressive" President Obama, victim of
those nasty plutocrats, the military industrial complex and those terrible
Republicans!

This is an unimpressive defense on two levels.  First, it misses the fact
that the "deeply conservative" Obama [9] isn't actually a progressive,
something he himself has indicated to those willing to look.  At a certain
point, one has to wonder about the intellectual and/or moral competence of
those who claim to be "left" and yet continue to cling to the brand over
the reality when it comes to "understanding" Obama in the world of power.
The comforting, self-pacifying notion that Obama - a president who often
goes farther than required to appease corporate and military masters -
really wants to transform America in genuinely progressive sorts of ways
is simply unsupportable in light of what can easily found and shown about
his political career and world view.

Second, while it is certainly true that Washington policymakers are
captive to the interlocking directorates and revolving doors of wealth,
money, power, and empire, that captivity raises an obvious point suggested
in the Dr. King story I just related. Even if he was the progressive
populist and peace champion so many of his left and liberal supporters
want to believe, Obama would still be detained and directed by the power
elite and the corporate-managed fake democracy.

So, maybe it isn't about running for president and getting behind
presidential candidates.  Maybe it isn't about scaling to the top of the
authoritarian American system and helping that system re-brand and
re-legitimize itself as a "democracy" where "anything is possible." [10]
Maybe citizens and activists who are serious about democracy and
progressive change should heed an all-too forgotten pearl of wisdom from
The Bible: "Do not put your trust in princes."[11] Or, we might add, in
the United States' narrow-spectrum big-money/big-media electoral process,
subjected as it is to the "hidden primary of the ruling class" (Laurence
Shoup) and the "unelected dictatorship of money" (Edward S. Herman and
David Peterson).[12]

Maybe its really about re-building and expanding social movements and
grassroots citizens' power beneath and beyond the spectacular,
melodramatic corporate-crafted mass-marketed narrow-spectrum and
candidate-centered (and candidate-obsessed) "electoral extravaganzas" [13]
the power elite and its dominant  media stage for us every four years.

"Elected officials," Adolph Reed, Jr. noted in the fall of 2007, "are only
as good or as bad as the forces they feel they must respond to.  It's a
mistake," Reed observed, "to expect any more of them than to be vectors of
the political pressures they feel working on them."  Reed cited a then
recent conflict the black and historically progressive U.S. House of
Representatives Judiciary Chair John Conyers (D-MI) and antiwar activists
who accused Conyers of being a "sell out" for failing to aggressively
pursue the impeachment of George W. Bush.  By Reed's instructive account
and analysis:

"His critics accused him of betraying the spirit of Martin Luther King.
But that charge only exposes their unrealistic expectations.  Conyers
isn't a movement leader.  He's a Democratic official who wants to get
reelected.  He's enmeshed in the same web of personal ties, partisan
loyalties and obligations, and diverse interest-group commitment as other
pols.  It was the impeachment activists' naive error, and I suspect one
resting on a partly racial, wrongheaded shorthand, to have expected him to
lead an insurgency."

Instead of railing against Conyers' predictable failure to embody King's
legacy in the compromised realm of American electoral politics and policy,
Reed argued, activists would have served their cause better by trying to
organize effective citizen force for the policy outcome they sought.
Underlying many progressives' sense of demoralization and defeat, Reed
observed, was a terrible misunderstanding about leading Democratic
politicians: "the belief that they just don't know what we want and how
important these things are to us."

"They know;" Reed noted, "they just have different priorities" [14] (Obama
is no special exception to this harsh reality, which does not change, in
accord with what Reed called "a racial shorthand," simply because he
happens to be African-American.)

Given these harsh realities,  Reed argued with no small justice that Left
progressives should focus less on elections and more on building social
and political movements for democratic change from the bottom up across
and between elections:

"It's a mistake to focus so much on the election cycle; we didn't vote
ourselves into this mess, and we're not going to vote ourselves out of it.
Electoral politics is an arena for consolidating majorities that have been
created on the plane of social movement organizing. It's not an
alternative or a shortcut to building those movements, and building them
takes time and concerted effort. Not only can that process not be
compressed to fit the election cycle; it also doesn't happen through mass
actions. It happens through cultivating one-on-one relationships with
people who have standing and influence in their neighborhoods, workplaces,
schools, families, and organizations. It happens through struggling with
people over time for things they're concerned about and linking those
concerns to a broader political vision and program. This is how the
populist movement grew in the late nineteenth century, the CIO in the
1930s and 1940s, and the civil rights movement after World War II. It is
how we've won all our victories. And it is also how the right came to
power."[15]

Reed's point on the need for activists to concentrate first and foremost
on the building of movement capacities was seconded by Howard Zinn's
comments on the "election madness" he saw "engulfing the entire society,
including the left" with special intensity in the year of Obama's
nomination for the presidency in the early spring of 2008:

"The election frenzy seizes the country every four years because we have
all been brought up to believe that voting is crucial in determining our
destiny, that the most important act a citizen can engage in is to go to
the polls and choose one of the two mediocrities who have already been
chosen for us. "

"...Would I support one candidate against another? Yes, for two
minutes - the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting
booth."

"But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be
spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the
workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to
build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when
it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White
House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and
social justice."

"Let's remember that even when there is a "better" candidate (yes, better
Roosevelt than Hoover, better anyone than George Bush), that difference
will not mean anything unless the power of the people asserts itself in
ways that the occupant of the White House will find it dangerous to
ignore....."

"The Democratic Party has broken with its historic conservatism, its
pandering to the rich, its predilection for war, only when it has
encountered rebellion from below, as in the Thirties and the Sixties."
[16]

One can bemoan the failure of President Obama to act in accord with the
antiwar sentiments he seemed (it was an illusion [17]) to articulate when
speaking to his "progressive base" during the campaign. The simple cold
fact of the matter is that the U.S. antiwar movement does not possess the
capacity (whether it possesses the willpower is a separate but related
question) to hold mainstream politicians' elected officials' feet to the
fire in ways that command respect at elite levels. Peace activists lack
structures and active constituencies remotely strong enough to make Obama
and other Democrats accountable from below.  They lack the power to compel
leading politicians to reconsider commitment and captivity to the powerful
entrenched interests and deadly culture of imperial militarism. They are
not too "dangerous to ignore."

Building that power and capacity between and across the election cycle is
a more worthy endeavor than picketing the offices of elected Democratic
war supporters.  It is a more productive progressive project than accusing
Democratic officials and politicians of betraying or (following the
argument of the widely read liberal linguist and political consultant
George Lakoff) failing to adequately "frame" a Left-progressive
ideological commitment they do not really share and which (in any event,
even if some of them do) does not serve their interests under the existing
political system.

The same point can and should be made not just for foreign policy but also
for numerous other and related issues of special concern to Left
progressives: women's rights, climate change, economic justice, gay
rights, racial equality, and so on. On these and other issues and on their
totality, there is no independent left in the US worthy of its name.

       False Dichotomy: Social Movements or Political Reform

Having heard and/or read my argument (sketched above and hardly original)
for focusing on building and re-building rank and file social movements
over and above for focusing on elections and candidates, some fellow
progressives raise what at first seems to be a reasonable objection. Why,
such comrades ask, accept the disempowering dichotomy between social
movements and electoral politics imposed on progressives by the currently
reigning corporate-military U.S. political system and culture? The
Reed-Zinn (and Chomsky-Charles Derber-Frances Fox Piven [18]) case for
grassroots activism beneath and beyond corporate-managed "demonstration
elections" tells us nothing, this critique observes, about how we might
change our political system and culture so that left progressives (who
often accurately represent majority progressive sentiment on numerous core
societal and policy issues) might actually win real victories in the
electoral arena. Is there nothing that could be done that would make it
possible for an ambitious politico to see where his or her sense of
"good," self-interested political "decision-making" might be positively
aligned with truly left -progressive ideals and agendas? As people who
raise this criticism know quite well, of course, there's quite a bit that
might be introduced in that regard, much of it proposed by an ongoing
tradition of serious progressive electoral reformers.  Here are some of
their good proposals:

* Take private money out of public elections through the full mandatory
equal and public financing of federal campaigns

* Introduce proportional representation in the election of state and
congressional representatives.

* Provide extra public resources and public access - a form of political
party affirmative action - for third, fourth, and fifth parties that have
been discriminated against in the past.

* Introduce a parliamentary system whereby the chief executive is selected
by and ultimately subordinated to the representative branch of government.

* If a presidential system remains, introduce "instant run off" voting - a
mechanism requiring permitting third and fourth parities to avoid
functioning as "spoilers" by requiring that winners must receive at least
50 percent of the total vote. Let all voters mark their second and third
favorite choices, hold an instant run off between the top candidates until
one candidate secures at least 50 percent plus one.

* Permit "fusion" voting, whereby voters are free to support a major party
candidate in the name of their own favorite third (or fourth, etc.) party.

* Mandate free media advertisements for all candidates.

* Remove candidate debates from private media corporations and hand them
over to publicly funded, publicly elected, and publicly overseen citizen
committees.

* Activate antitrust laws to break up the current corporate media
oligopoly and distribute political news and information across a broader
and more diverse range of print and media outlets.

* Require that media campaign coverage spend a designated relevant amount
of time on policy and ideological differences between and among candidates
and parties.

I agree with the criticism at one level. I support each of these reforms
and in fact argued for them (and more) at the conclusion of Barack Obama
and the Future of American Politics (2008). But there's a big problem with
setting up a dichotomy between social movement activism and this sort of
radical electoral reform (as I mistakenly did in my 2008 book, I should
add [19]). Doing so begs the important question of how and why the
existing political order's currently entrenched elites would be any more
prone to introduce such major political reforms than it would be to end a
war or corporate subsidy in the absence of significant and highly
mobilized grassroots pressure from the bottom up. Expecting the political
class and its well-heeled, deep-pockets sponsors to bring about any
significant measure of progressive electoral reform in the absence of
relevant radical mass protest and activism is naive.

            "Are You Trying to Elect Sarah Palin in 2012?"

"You're only helping Republicans.  What's the matter with you? Do you want
Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty in the White House in 2013?" I
have heard this criticism, too, again and again, from so-called left
liberals since Obama's early months in the White House.

In order to rally meaningful progressive social movement and anti-war
activity against the persistently center-right corporate, financial, and
military policies being conducted in the name of "change" by the current
White House, it is necessary to break through "Obamaitis" - the paralysis
inflicted on liberals and progressives by the childish illusion of Obama
as some of sort of progressive-left actor. Critical distancing, elementary
due-diligence research, and truth-telling is required.[20] You have to
separate the real Obama team from the illusory branding.[21] You have to
be willing to see Obama in the world of "power as it is, not as many of us
wish it to be."

The results of doing that are not pleasant, as much of my previous writing
on ZNet and at Black Agenda Report has tried to demonstrate without
apology.  My own research and reporting, including my forthcoming book The
Empire's New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (Paradigm,
June 2010), even at times show Obama going beyond the Bush-Cheney regime
in advancing the combined and interrelated imperatives of empire and
inequality at home and abroad. It has not been a fun volume to write.

Many Democrats are of course reluctant to see the shroud taken off the
"Dalai Obama."  They are not ready or willing to look at what is exposed
when the new emperor's clothes are removed.  They are embarrassed, some of
them, at the enthusiasm and even passion they heaped on his candidacy and
presidency in the name of progressive and democratic ideals.. They are
worried, some of them, about losing real or perceived access to power and
funding (and even employment) if they join me and others on the left in
seeing and speaking the terrible truth about the corporate-imperial and
authoritarian Obama presidency.  They are incapable, some of them, of
seeing Obama as anything other the progressive hero they imagined him to
be (with no small help from Team Obama's expert niche-marketers) or of
understanding left criticism (which hardly enjoys access to dominant media
and educational institutions) or of imagining Obama as anything than the
left-leaning actor they and the right wing noise machine insists (against
elementary and ubiquitous, overwhelming evidence to the contrary) he must
be.

And, of course, many frightened progressives are convinced that any
substantive and serious, sustained criticism of their "liberal"
standard-bearer is a vote for the dangerous right-wing Republicans. In the
Manichean, black or white "all or nothing" world of American
"winner-take-all" politics, they sense, there is no room for anything
beyond the most marginal and respectful criticism of Empire's New Clothes.
To get real about Barack Obama and the rest of the corporate-imperial Wall
Street Democrats is, they fear, to give the game back to the dreaded
G.O.P. in America's  narrow-spectrum two-track winner-take-all pinball
machine of a party system and political culture.

Three important points get badly lost in this last, fear-based argument.
First, the right wing might as well have won the last election anyway when
progressive and "left" forces are unwilling and/or unable to meaningfully
protest right-leaning policy on the part of a not-so "liberal" White
House. "When you start in the center (on, say, healthcare or Afghanistan)
and readily move rightward several steps to appease rightwing politicians
or lobbyists or Generals," the progressive journalism professor Jeff Cohen
noted last November, "by definition you are governing as a
conservative."[22] As Mumia Abu-Jamal wrote after FOX News and the
Republicans essentially fired the black environmental activist Van Jones
from the White House in September of 2009, "If racists can ostensibly lose
an election, and still dictate policy, then, have they really lost?"[23]
One would write much the same sentence substituting the words
"corporatists" or "imperialists" or "militarists" or "police state
advocates" or "enemies of sustainable ecology" for "racists" and also make
a relevant point about the Obama administration.

And if the more openly right wing party were to return to power in 2012 or
2016, some radicals add (with no small justice in my "cynical"[24] view at
least the "conservatives" would be running the show without the confusing
and pacifying faade of "liberal" rule.  This might spark more
"progressives" to actively oppose policies and structures that many of
them seem inordinately reluctant to resist as long as Democrats and "Brand
Obama" hold the top elected offices.)

Second, one probably hurts rather than helps Obama's chances of having a
second term and the Democrats' chances of keeping a majority in Congress
by turning a blind eye to the rightward, Bush-re-branded policy trajectory
of the current White House. That trajectory, richly continuous with
Obama's "mushy" ideological record, goes against the grain of majority
American opinion, which stands well to the left of both of the nation's
major business parties.[25] By graphically failing to fulfill their
campaign promises to (essentially) act in accord with that opinion, Obama
and his party mates walks the usual treacherous corporate-military
Democratic line between (i) doing the bidding of Washington's real-world
capitalist and military masters and (ii) so alienating the populace as to
endanger their electoral chances in 2010 and 2012.  The danger is
escalated amidst an epic economic downturn marked by stubborn mass
joblessness and deepening poverty and inequality that the federal
government is unable or unwilling to meaningfully reverse and in light of
an expanded military commitment to futile colonial war in Afghanistan
(along with adjacent Pakistan), a legendary graveyard of empire - not to
mention the continuing occupation of Iraq and war president Obama's
related escalated campaigns in Somalia and Yemen.

Third, progressive "Obamaitis" [26] is a gift to the far right in a
different but related way.  In the absence of meaningful anger and protest
on the left, the dodgy, arch-regressive and messianic-militarist
Republican right wing and its still-potent "noise machine" is absurdly
left to soak up and express much of the legitimate "populist rage" (to use
the corporate media's pejorative term for understandable working class
anger) that ordinary Americans naturally feel over Washington's continuing
captivity to concentrated wealth, corporate-direction, and the
military-industrial complex.  This is dangerous. Popular resentment abhor
a vacuum and there are more than enough "educators" and activists on the
corporate-funded far right - e.g. Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck et al. - who
are ready, willing, and able to step into void left by pathetic "left"
quiescence and irrelevance.

    "A Chasm Has Opened Up Which We Must Leap Across to Survive"

As Noam Chomsky observed four years ago, "One commonly hears that carping
critics complain about what is wrong, but do not present solutions. There
is an accurate translation for that charge: 'they present solutions and I
don't like them.'" [27]

Again and again in 2008 and 2009, I have heard "liberals" and centrists
accuse "hard left" critics of Obama and the Democrats of being hopelessly
alienated and negativistic "gripers" and "antis."  We are supposedly just
harsh opponents of "reality" - "cynics" and "ideologues" (our supposedly
"reality-based" liberal critics purport to have transcended ideology)  who
are all about being "against" and are not actually "for" anything real and
"pragmatic" and "practical" in the real world.

Consistent with Chomsky's point, however, my 2008 "Obama book" ended with
a detailed list of action and policy proposals that are widely supported
on much of the really existing "hard left."  The policies recommended
included radical electoral reform, the socially progressive re-chartering
and egalitarian reconstruction of the modern corporation, checks on
corporate globalization, a serious policy attack on institutional racism,
substantive universal health reform on the progressive single-payer model,
labor law reform (the rapidly forgotten Employee Free Choice Act, for a
start), the re-building and expansion of the union movement, removal of
troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, a rollback of the Pentagon System and
the global U.S. Empire in connection with a major domestic and global
peace dividend, and the dismantling of the "national security" police,
surveillance and (globally unmatched) mass incarceration state built
around the related official "wars on terror and drugs."[28] At the same
time, Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics was not content to
call only for reforms, even radical reforms.  It also called for something
more drastic - revolution:

"In trying to work creatively with the Obama moment, people engaged in
progressive political action should not be afraid of demanding something
along the lines of revolution.  King's 'radical restructuring' and
reordering of national and global priorities is a matter of increasing
urgency and indeed survival for the democratic ideal and for sustainable
human existence. 'Reforms will not suffice' and capitalism and democracy
are two very different and indeed fundamentally opposed beasts."[29]

The demand for radical, even revolutionary change naturally strikes many,
probably most of Obama's more intellectually inclined liberal and
progressive supporters as hopelessly "utopian" and "unrealistic" - as off
the charts of serious consideration. The real progressive thing, the
properly "practical" and "pragmatic" course, such Democrats think, is to
carefully and incrementally push for small steps on the long, slow path to
a better world.[30] As Obama likes to say, "we must not let the perfect be
the enemy of the good."

But for many on the actual historical Left, the honest and truly informed
calculation of what is realistic is profoundly different.  Leaving aside
the important fact that many of Obama's "reforms" are simply (far worse
then being merely "less than perfect"!) "just no damn good"[31] (for
example the current ongoing corporatist "health reform" without even a
shred of a public alternative to the rule of the for-profit insurance
mafia) even just from a mildly progressive liberal perspective (the
perspective of say, a John Conyers), we have a very dissimilar sense of
practicality and reality.

As we see it, the currently reigning profits system - every bit as
entrenched and intact under the "leftist" Obama and a (corporate-)
Democratic congressional majority as it was with Bush and Republicans in
the saddle (possibly more entrenched now thanks in part to the
superficially left cover provided by "Brand Obama") - is thoroughly
incompatible with basic human needs and democratic principles. The really
fantastic, actually deadly illusion, for us, is to believe that the U.S.
and humanity can build a desirably democratic and sustainable future
without implementing an egalitarian alternative to the capitalist order -
to the so-called "free market" system to which Barack Obama has repeatedly
pledged his allegiance [32] and on whose financial chieftains he has so
strongly relied.

Increasingly grave ecological issues, particularly those connected with
the largely U.S.-driven problem of global warming call into question the
"pragmatic" wisdom of pursuing nothing more than the "incremental change"
that many Obama fans laud the president for embodying. As Ricardo
Levins-Morales noted in an important reflection on the Left strategy and
prospects last summer, the cautious "one small step at a time" approach to
progressive change loses credibility when the existing order is posing
ever more imminent existential questions of survival [33] for the species.
Honest appreciation of realistic imperatives calls for a more radical
approach:

"If the road we are on leads to a precipice, then a shift in our strategic
orientation is overdue. If the Obama administration proposes modest
green-oriented initiatives and then waters them down to mollify corporate
interests, we will still (it can be argued) end up further along than we
were to begin with. If we envision ourselves as advancing across an
expanse of open field, then we can measure our progress in terms of
yardage gained and be satisfied that we are least moving in the right
direction. If, instead, a chasm has opened up which we must leap across to
survive, then the difference between getting twenty percent versus forty
percent of the way across is meaningless. It means we have transitioned
from a system of political letter grades to one of 'pass/fail.'  We either
make the leap or not."[34]

As the world enters a period of epic mass structural unemployment and
(most urgently of all) related, potentially fatal ecological crisis [35]
that is directly traceable to - and fundamentally rooted in - the profits
system [36], it's long past time for millions of Americans to embrace (as
some recent polling suggests many do, in fact [37]) the conclusion that
Obama's left cheerleader Michael Moore had reached half way into the first
of his candidate's presidency:  "Folks, capitalism's got to go. Because we
can't have a system where the richest 1 percent own as much as the bottom
95 percent. That just isn't democracy. That's not America. That just isn't
democracy. That's not America."[38]

The filmmaker had a point, whatever his often irrational commitment to
Obama, who clearly disagrees (FOX News fantasies notwithstanding) with
Moore's filmmaker's judgment on the profits system. "The rich," as the
French environmental writer Herve Kempf has demonstrated at length, "are
destroying the Earth."  Their continued privileged, opulent, and
controlling existence and their toxic, powerful mass-consumerist "growth
ideology" - ubiquitously disseminated by their cultural and communications
apparatus - is transparently incompatible with humanity's social and
environmental carrying capacity as we move into the second decade of the
21st century.[39] And the notion of a capitalist system without a
super-opulent wealthy Few - their remarkable concentration of wealth
standing in inherent deep conflict with democracy - is a theoretical and
practical absurdity.[40]

In one of the many wryly humorous moments in his 2009 movie Capitalism: A
Love Story, Moore examines a copy of the U.S. Constitution at the National
Archives.  He asks a guard to show him the part of U.S. Constitution which
mandates that the U.S. organize its economic life on a capitalist basis.
It's a purposefully ridiculous request, of course.  No such section or
passage exists in the Constitution or, for that matter, in The Declaration
of Independence (DOI). The term "capitalism" was not in use in late 18th
century North America or Europe, in fact.

Still, both of these documents can be reasonably cited in opposition to
the corporate profits system that later overtook the nation's economic and
political life, instituting the aforementioned "unelected dictatorship of
money." The Constitution requires federal officeholders, including the
president, to work "to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice,
ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the
general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty for ourselves and our
Posterity." The DOI states that humanity possesses the rights to "Life,
Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."  It says that governments "derive
their [only] just powers from the consent of the governed" and proclaims
the popular right of revolution when "any form of government becomes
destructive of these ends."

More than being merely different from the nation's founding principles of
popular government and common good and absent from its founding documents,
capitalism is opposed to those core precepts.  Its key characteristics
include:

* A consistent drive towards the ever-greater concentration of wealth and
power.

* The relentless subordination of the majority populace to employee status
(to wage-and salary-slavery).

* Harshly authoritarian and hierarchical division, command, and
stultification of the human work process.

* The contingency of employment on business-class profitability.

* The insidious drowning of basic egalitarian human sentiments and
life-ways in the "icy waters of egotistical calculation" (As Karl Marx and
Frederick Engels put it in 1848).

* The soulless hegemony of exchange value over social and human use value.

* A constant and unequal battle between the wealth of the capitalist Few
and the income, security, autonomy, health, and sanity of the working
class Many.

* A relentless profit-addicted, "cost externalizing" business assault on
livable ecology.

* The private ownership and biased control of core opinion-forming
communications sectors.

* Disproportionate political and ideological influence for the capitalist
elite, with its wealth concentrated and protected in giant, impersonal
corporations, whose directors are legally mandated to privilege investor
profit over any and all other basic democratic and civil concerns.[41]

None of these and other characteristics of the modern profits system can
be meaningfully reconciled with either the pre-capitalist republicanism of
the United States' venerated founders or modern democratic ideals. The
last thing any administration claiming to represent "We the People" in a
democracy should be doing in the name of "change" is acting on Obama's
model to (following the admonitions of Wall Street moguls like Orin
Kramer, a top Obama bankroller [42]) sustain the capitalist system - a
system which threatens to bring the human experiment to a close sooner
than many of even the darkest of us had imagined.


Paul Street (paulstreet99 [at] yahoo.com)is the author of many articles,
chapters, speeches, and books, including Racial Oppression in the Global
Metropolis (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), Empire and Inequality:
America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2004), Segregated
School: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York:
Routledge, 2005); and Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics
(Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2008). Street's next book is titled The Empire's
New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (Boulder, CO:
Paradigm, 2010 - spring).

NOTES

1 David Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King and the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference (New York, NY: 1986), p. 562).

2 Martin Luther King., Jr. "Where Do We Go From Here?" (1967), p.250 in A
Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther
King, Jr., ed. By James M. Washington (San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins,
1991); Michael Eric Dyson, I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin
Luther King, Jr.(New York: Touchstone, 2000), pp. 82-89;  Paul Street,
"The Pale Reflection: Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., and the
Meaning of the Black Revolution," ZNet Magazine (March 16, 2007), read at
http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=12336; Paul Street,
"Martin Luther King, Jr: Democratic Socialist," ZNet Sustainer Commentary
(January 14, 2006):
http://www.zmag.org/Sustainers/Content/2006-01/14street.cfm and Black
Commentator (February 2, 2006):
http://www.blackcommentator.com/169/169_street_mlk_democratic_socialist.html
Paul Street, ".Until We Get a New Social Order': Reflections on the
Radicalism of Martin Luther King, Jr." ZNet Magazine (January 16, 2007),
read at http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=11871.

3 For some chilling reflections on U.S.-imposed mass death and devastation
in Southeast Asia, see William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's
Only Superpower (Monroe, ME: Common Courage, 2005),  pp. 66, 114, 117-118,
138-139, 174; Noam Chomsky, Year 501: The Conquest Continues (Boston, MA:
South End, 1993)pp. 251-274;  Ward Churchill, On the Justice of roosting
Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and
Criminality (Oakland CA: AK Press, 2003), pp.132-149.

4 Garrow, Bearing the Cross, p. 562.

5 Martin Luther King, Jr., "Where Do We Go From Here?" 1967, reproduced in
King, Testament of Hope, p. 250.

6 King, "Where Do We Go From Here?"

7 William F. Pepper, An Act of State: The Execution of Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr. (New York: Verso, 2003).

8 Mumia Abu-Jamail, "Just War? Or Just War...," ZNet (January 3, 2010),
http://www.zmag.org/zspace/commentaries/4096,quoting from and citing
Vincent Harding, Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero (New York:
Maryknoll, 1996).

9  Larissa MacFarquhar, "The Conciliator: Where is Barack Obama Coming
From?," The New Yorker (May 7, 2007); Paul Street , Barack Obama and the
Future of American Politics (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2008), pp. ix-163;
Paul Street, "Audacious Deference to Power," ZNet Magazine (January 24,
2007), read at http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=11936;
Kevin Baker, "Barack Hoover Obama: The Best and the Brightest Blow it
Again," Harper's Magazine (July 2009).

10 Paul Street, ".We Will Not Apologize For Our Way of Life': Left
Reflections on Barack Obama's Not-So Non-Ideological Inaugural Address,
"ZNet (January 24, 2009), read at
http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/20356.

11 Psalms, 146:3

12 Laurence H. Shoup, "The Presidential Election 2008," Z Magazine
(February 2008); Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, "Riding the .Green
Wave' at the Campaign for Peace and Democracy and Beyond," Electric
Politics, July 22, 2009.

13 Noam Chomsky, Interventions (San Francisco: City, Lights, 2007), pp.
99-100.

14 Adolph Reed Jr., "Sitting This One Out," The Progressive (November
2007).

15 Reed, "Sitting This One Out." Reed is a longstanding left critic of
Obama's centrist, the first intellectual to note (more than eight years
before the Obama phenomenon burst across the national and global stage
from the floor of the 2004 Democratic National Convention) Obama's
neoliberal centrism. Curiously,  the less radical black academician and
major Obama fan Cornell West - an early and vocal  member of "Progressives
for Obama" who advised the Obama campaign and spoke more than once of his
"love" for the future first black president during the campaign year of
2008- made a similar point in 1990.  Real and substantive "social motion
and movements in America tend," West wrote twenty years ago, "to be
neither rooted in nor sustained by campaigns for electoral office, no
matter how charismatic the leader....Despite the symbolic and cathartic
electoral victories of liberal women and people of color, all remain
thoroughly shackled by corporate priorities in the economy and in
debt-ridden administrations.  Under such conditions, the plight of the
ill-fed, ill-clad, and ill-house tends to get worse." Two decades before
the great, identity-politicized Hillary-Obama-McCain-Palin battle to
embody the Re-Branding of America, the future Obama fan and black-academic
celebrity West argued that merely symbolic change through bourgeois
electoral victories for outwardly liberal minority or female candidates
were inadequate to produce significant progressive change.  The real
"social motion," he knew, came from social movements. See Cornel West,
"The Role of Law in Progressive Politics" [1990] in David Kairys, ed., The
Politics of Law: A Progressive Critique (New York: Basic, 1998), pp.
712-713.

16 Howard Zinn, "Election Madness," The Progressive (March 2008).  For
similar and related reflections, see Chomsky, Interventions, 99-100.

17 See Street, Barack Obama, "Chapter 4: How Antiwar? Obama, Iraq, and the
Audacity of Empire," pp. 123-163.

18 See Charles Derber, Hidden Power: What you Need to Know to Save Our
Democracy (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2005); Frances Fox Piven and
Richard Cloward, Poor People's Movements (New York: Pantheon, 1977).

19 Street, Barack Obama, pp. 202-03.

20 That's what I tried to provide progressives from the ground in Chicago
and (during the big primary/Caucus build -up) on ZNet, on Black Agenda
Report, and in Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics.  The
leading left-liberal outlets would not pay heed.

21 "Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us
feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the
Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by
armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip
and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is
about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like
our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products
spun out from the manipulative world of.... Brand Obama is a marketer's
dream. President Obama does one thing and Brand Obama gets you to believe
another. This is the essence of successful advertising." Chris Hedges,
"Buying Brand Obama," Truthdig (May 3, 2009), read at
http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20090503_buying_brand_obama/

22 Jeff Cohen, "Get Ready for the Obama/GOP Alliance," ZNet Sustainer
Commentary (November, 2009), read at
http://www.zcommunications.org/zspace/commentaries/4058.

23 Mumia Abu-Jamail, "Imagine Being Van Jones," ZNet (September 22, 2009),
read at http://www.zcommunications.org/zspace/commentaries/3990.

24 "The power of accurate observation," the Irish dramatist and socialist
George Bernard Saw once said, "is commonly called cynicism by those who
have not got it."

25 For sources and details, see Paul Street, "To Save the Capitalist
System: Reflections on Orin Kramer's Understanding of Barack Obama's Duty
to America," Z Magazine (December 2009), pp. 35-36.

26 In late September of 2009, the progressive television show "Democracy
Now" interviewed with Kehban Grifter, a young activist who was among a
modest number protesting the corporate-globalizationist G 20 summit in
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. "What we're here doing this week," Grifter said,
"is distributing our work and trying to talk to people about coal and
climate change and globalization. And unfortunately, it seems like a lot
of folks aren't turning out for these sorts of mobilizations as much
anymore. Maybe they're depressed, maybe they're cynical, maybe they've
still got Obamaitis. We're on the outside here. There's like this huge
arena and tons of space where they thought lots of people who might care
might show up, and we're on the outside of it with cops harassing us,
because that's what happens usually at events like this." Reading Ms.
Grifter's comment online, I was immediately reminded of an e-mail exchange
I had with a left academic who made passing reference to what he called
"the Obama disease."  This point of his disparaging terms was that Obama
was a standard corporate and military regime Democrat, but one with an
extraordinary ability - greater than Bill Clinton - to convince
progressives that they would somehow be in power if he was to become
President of the United States.

Ms. Grifter's worries about "Obamaitis" were consistent with sad reports
from attempted mass antiwar marches in Washington last March.  Led by the
once formidable United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), the protest was
poorly attended.  It drew only a few thousand even as Obama transparently
escalated and expanded imperial violence in "Af-Pak," after he made clear
his determination to increase the Pentagon budget and sustain the Iraq
occupation, and even as he went forward with a highly unpopular bailout
package for the wealthy Wall Street Few.  Dejected organizers reported
difficulty getting significant numbers of people to turn out against a
White House that was perceived as "left" and antiwar. United for Peace and
Justice's (UFPJ's) outgoing director Leslie Cagan reported that her
"progressive" and "activist" people weren't protesting anymore because
"its enough for many of them that Obama has a plan to end the war and that
things are moving in the right direction."

Ms. Grifter's comment also reminded me of brief discussion I had with a
highly intelligent young antiwar activist - perhaps I should say, former
activist - in Iowa City in March of 2009. The election of Obama, the
activist told me, had taken all the starch out of the local campus-based
University of Iowa Antiwar Committee (UIAC).   The group had received an
impressive boost in numbers the previous summer, the activist noted, in
connection with UIAC's participation in protests at the Republican
National Convention in Minneapolis -St. Paul in August of 2008. Once the
Republicans were defeated, however, many of the group's members simply
could not wrap their minds around what the activist felt to be the
elementary fact that Obama was "every bit as much of a war president as
Bush." The activist agreed with me that Denver, Colorado, site of the
Democratic National Convention, would have been a more appropriate
destination for the group's protest activities but he doubted that any but
a few of the groups' dwindling number of members was able and/or willing
to see Obama in the real world of imperial power. The UIAC's potential
recruits had fallen prey to "Brand Obama," which induced millions to
believe - against a mountain of evidence to the contrary - that he was a
progressive and antiwar politician. The Iowa City activist, for his part,
had learned his lesson on the irrelevance of left progressive activism. He
was "moving on" to graduate studies and foresaw little future
participation in the antiwar struggle. Seven months later, the UIAC .s
weekly Thursday meetings pulled in four demoralized attendees, none of
whom had the slightest sense of how to dent the local university and
community's torpor in regard to Obama's expanding military campaign in
"Af-Pak." For Ms. Grifter's comment, see Democracy Now, "Headlines for
September 24, 2009," at http://i3.democracynow.org/2009/9/24/headlines

27 Noam Chomsky, Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on
Democracy (New York: Metropolitan, 2006), p. 262.

28 Street, Barack Obama and the Future, pp. 193-220.

29 Street, Barack Obama and the Future, p.206.

30 See John K. Wilson, President Barack Obama: A More Perfect Union
(Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2009), p. 126 and passim.

31 "The president and his supporters often throw around the old cliche
about not letting the 'perfect become the enemy of the good.' That's their
way of defending the fatal compromises Obama keeps making with the
right-wing before the fight has even begun. Whether because of lack of
gumption or lack of real commitment on Obama's part, this refusal to
confront Power is what has brought us to the current health care debacle
in Congress. It's not a matter of the perfect being the enemy of the good,
but that the health care legislation shaped by the White House and its
allies in Congress is just no damn good." Glen Ford, "John Conyers: 'There
is No One More Disappointed Than I am in Barack Obama," Black Agenda
Report (August 4, 2009), read at
http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=content/conyers-%E2%80%9Cthere-no-one-more-disappointed-i-am-barack-obama%E2%80%9D.

32 For two among many examples, see Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope:
Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (New York: Crown, 2006), pp.
149-150; "President Obama's Inaugural Address: The Full Text" (January 20,
2009), read at
http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1872715,00.html

33 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, "Climate Change Odds Much Worse
Than Thought: New Analysis Shows Warming Could be Double Previous
Estimates," MIT News, May 19, 2009, read at
http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2009/roulette-0519.html#; Christian
Schwagerl, "Obama Has Failed the World on Climate Change," Spiegel Online
(November 17, 2009), read at
www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,661678,00.html

34 Ricardo Levins-Morales, "Revolution in the Time of Hamsters," ZNet
(September 18, 2009).

35 For a chilling and comprehensive reflection by the environmental editor
of the leading French newspaper Le Monde, see Herve Kempf, How the Rich
Are Destroying the Earth (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2007).
For recent data that ought to give pause, see Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, "Climate Change Odds."

36 Istvan Meszaros, Socialism or Barbarism: From the "American Century" to
the Crossroads (New York: Monthly Review, 2001)

37 Last April, the national polling firm Rasmussen Reports asked 1000
randomly selected American adults a simple question: Which is better,
capitalism or socialism? Only 53 percent picked the profits system. Among
younger adults (18 to 29-year-olds), just 37 percent preferred capitalism,
33 percent socialism, and 30 percent were undecided (Rasmussen Reports,
April 9, 2009).These were remarkable findings in light of decades of
ongoing Red Scare propaganda in this country.

38 David Germain, "Michael Moore: I May Quit Documentaries," Huffington
Post (September 15, 2009), read at
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/15/michael-moore-i-may-quit-_n_286854.html

39 Kempf, How The Rich Are Destroying the Earth. Among other things, Kempf
demonstrates that capitalism' super-rich underwrite dissemination of the
core Western notion that growth is the solution to social crises resulting
from inequality, poverty and unemployment. A "rising tide lifts all
boats," the standard Western maxim (carried over from the New Deal era
into the neoliberal age) maintains, making "angry" comparisons between the
Few's yachts and the Many's rowboats obsolete. "Expanding the pie," the
conventional top-down economic wisdom still asserts, abolishes the
supposedly irrelevant question of socioeconomic redistribution - of how
the pie is shared out.  "To escape any reevaluation," Kempf notes, "the
oligarchy keeps repeating the dominant ideology according to which the
solution to the social crisis is production growth.  This is supposedly
the sole means of fighting poverty and unemployment."  Abundant data over
the last three-and-a-half decades shows that economic growth does not in
fact reliably undo those and other social evils. But so what? The notion
that material growth is the answer lives on because it induces societies
plagued by structurally imposed poverty and idleness "to accept extreme
inequalities without questioning them." Besides being demonstrably false
on its own terms, moreover, the reigning doctrine ignores growth's giant
negative impact on an increasingly fragile environment. The toxic
ecological costs of increasing total consumption far outpace whatever
gains are achieved in per-unit ecological efficiency within and beyond
"advanced" economies.

40 See Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary Unabridged (New York:
Simon and Schuster, 1979), p. 269: "capit-tal-ism, n." Lester Thurow, The
Future of Capitalism (New York: Penguin, 1996), p. 248; Ellen Meiksens
Wood, Democracy Against Capitalism: Renewing Historical Materialism
(Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1995); David Montgomery,
Citizen Worker: The Experience of Workers in the United States With
Democracy and the Free Market During the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge,
MA: Cambridge University Press, 1993); Paul Street, "Capitalism and
Democracy .Don't Mix Very Well': Reflections on Globalization," Z Magazine
(February 2000): 20-24; Paul Street, "Hitchens, Orwell, Capitalism, and
the Real Threat to Democracy," Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural
Studies, Volume 26, Number 1 (January-March 2004): 61-68.

41 Street, "To Save the Capitalist System;" Street, "Democracy and
Capitalism." On ideological influence: some "unreasonable" thinkers have
noted  that the United States' free speech and civil libertarian
traditions inherited from the late 18th century are an invitation to
corporate-totalitarian thought-control and propaganda when they exist side
by side with the profit system's stark socioeconomic inequalities.
Precisely because Americans can't be dominated in purely coercive ways,
they must be controlled in more subtle and less overtly oppressive
fashion. Because they are "free to speak their minds," their minds must be
influenced by those who wish to maintain existing extreme disparities of
wealth and power.   Thus, there is a huge capitalist investment in the
U.S. in what Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman call "manufacturing
consent," what Herbert Schiller called "mind management," and what Alex
Carey called "Taking the Risk Out of Democracy." See Alex Carey, Taking
the Risk Out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda Versus Freedom and Liberty
(Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1997); Herbert Schiller, The
Mind Managers (Boston: Beacon, 1973); Noam Chomsky and Edward S Herman,
Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media
(1988/2002).  See also Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control
in Democratic Societies (1989); Noam Chomsky, Letters From Lexington:
Reflections on Propaganda (1990/2004); Robert W. McChesney Corporate Media
and the Threat to Democracy (1997); Robert McChesney, Rich Media, Poor
Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times (2000); Robert
McChesney and John Nichols, It's the Media Stupid (2000); and  Howard
Friel and Richard Falk, The Record of the Paper: How the New York Times
Misreports U.S. Foreign Policy (2004); Anthony Dimaggio, When Media Goes
to War (New York: Monthly Review, 2010).

42 Here are fifty fascinating words from Kramer, a leading member of the
U.S. financial aristocracy and political class, captured and reproduced in
a front-page article in The New York Times last October 20th: "There is
some failure in the finance industry to appreciate the level of public
antagonism towards whatever Wall Street symbolizes. But in order to save
the capitalist system, the administration has to be responsive to the
public mood, and that is a nuance which can get lost on Wall Street." The
reason Kramer gave for why Obama must demonstrate responsiveness to public
feelings was to save the mogul's cherished profits system. Not because we
claim to live in a democracy where the populace and the government are
supposed (in theory) to be identical. Not because the popular majority is
understood to be the ruling force in a nation that purports to be based on
the principle of one person, one vote. No, the point, for Orin Kramer, was
to "save the capitalist system," as if Obama and his team had taken an
oath to honor, defend, protect, and preserve the private system of
socioeconomic management, not the U.S. Constitution.


----------------------------------------------------------------------------

   - David Shove             shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu
   rhymes with clove         Progressive Calendar
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